The Princess of Brighton Beach
by Diana Pollin
The Q at Canal
Cummmmmingout of the tunnel, folks. The blacktraineel goes brakescreeching TCHOUWAAA! A very fat farrt. Indy-yed. A Naga fart. Stand clear of the snapping doors please. Putrefaction of this aptly named Q train. Cummmingout of the tunnel lingus. I yam still looking for the veritable, not the virtual virgin.
Look Spot. See beetle. See bee. BeetleBee feed on carrion. Last stop Bee an’ Beetle City. Beach Brighton. Brighton Beach. They tunnelwork on decomposing bodies not yet corpses. Carry the carrion inandout like the blacktraineel. Unsullied the veritable virgin. I seek.
Gotta gonna S-Witch to the real world. And keep myeyz peeled like a stripped stripper. For Marion-Ruth. She gets on this train unsnapped and she opens this paypuh, the Metro, that Mother Madame Mim Morgane writes for. And I swear to you that is no coincidence. I sway to you.
Marion-Ruth is the most beautiful girl I have ever seen since I opal-zested Sonia Anastasia. What can I say to introduce myself in between CanalandFeduplaz?
Mademoiselle. Your beauty has overwhelmed me and although this gesture is not lacking in temerity, I feel sure that you can recognize that in the absence of a formal introduction I am obliged to violate the social graces and make myself known. I am the nuttyasputty although amazingly rich and handsome scion of the Dougherty family. Amazingly re-leased from Bellevue due to the intervendings of the Señora Antonia and Dame Dougherty whose column in the Metro your dark eyes have unDougherty alighted on. Bellevue, my dear, wuz not to my likin’ No finger lickin’ veritable virgins in sight and anyhow not one as pretty as you.
* * *
Nadia and the Forchoun Cooky
Homeward and bound. Sheez heard nothing but Chinese all the day in the hardware-n’tear store where sheezat the cash register. Slow business in hardware but the little wee packets of snoweepowerpowder in the blackback room keeps Fu Humane Chu going nicely. Lucky lucky! Fu is a humaneHan; he knows she knows but won’t tell the triads. And she knows that he knows sh’noz so they are in a contract as binding as a marriage until a death, deah, doth them part. Leaves the Bowery of bliss on the fivethirtythree at Canal. On the tunnelling blacktraineel, her pallor and dreamlike aloofness set her apart from the fatigue-teased rush-hour rats.
Sheez learned English from the Forchoun cookie slips of paper painstakingly extricated from the paper thin sides of the basic origami polyhedra forchoun cookie State’s Evidence all saying “Love and Forchoun will come your way, little Miss Nadia Kazakh.” Except one. “Make sure your Prince Charmin’ isn’t Harmin’”.
And they’ve all come up with a red-haired Lady Luck. Like the song sez, “All you gotta do is dream dream dree hee hemyum.” Like the strange dreamer she sees most days on the train. Funny guy. Knowz her hours. Always hunched over his subway seat. His eyez screaming, “Lemme follow you taHeavenorHell, Baby.”
Then the Red-Haired Angel comezinto her life. On the subway the Dream Paypuh told her that “two very distinguished ladies were CURRENTLY interviewing Eastern beauties to play a significant part in the life of a young man of fortune and education. CawCazhun beauties of the Fawmawly Soviet Eastin Republics preferred.” So what the heck, she shows up. Right at the splendiferous cavern of Ali Baba minus the forty thieves. On fiftyseventhan’fifth. Like Wow!
The tall and beautiful auburn-haired lady smiles at her and points to a plush cushion seat while another woman, a Cuban Indian variety with a cigar inning and outing her mouth stands at the window. The auburn-haired lady floats ovuh the room in a “deah deah Nadia. At last you have come. Do, do sit down.” The cigar lady studies the floating and “the - won’t - you - have - another - almond - caking” in the reflection of the window.
Nadia the cautious little Kazah lets herself drift with the fragrant jasmine tea and the subtle perfume in the air. “Only America,” she thinks, “could produce such fine ladies.”
The sun in the west was making an over-rouged whore of the sky and still, the auburn-haired beauty keeps talking, as if Nadia has suddenly become more than a deah friend, a saviour for her son. How kind and sweeeet she is to ask Nadia to dinner but the cautious little Kazah refuses.
“But you HapSolooootely must come again, my deah, when owere little business is finished and come as my deah friend, and the deah friend of James!” Nadia will be paid handsomely, a full month’s salary just to let the lovesick young true American follow her.
Then one day he will give her a name and she must answer to it and then they will go to dinner at a bistro on the West Side. (Mrs. Dougherty gives Nadia an address in a highly respectable neighbourhood and encourages Nadia to “check it out”). James will “pour his heart out to her,” she will collect her check and that is it. The next day, she receives a note from Señora Antonia, inviting her to take tea her at “place of conference” that Sunday on Madison Avenue.
Nadia and the Señora
The Señora does not fancy the outpourings of Real American Wasp drawing room sentiment. She lets her guest find her seat but the tea and the little cakes are SOOOOO good.
“Yes, of course. I have made a very special tea for you, my dear. From my own herbal garden. I hope you find it to your liking. Also, have a cake. Or a cookie. I ask your permission to smoke.” Not waiting for it to be granted, she opens a cigar case.
“You know that nothing comes out of chance. You know that all things are foreordained. I knew that you would look at the ad I placed in The Metro and I knew the timing was right.” A long mysterious puff on the cigar. The Cheshire Cat smiles.
“I’m sorry Missus Antonia, what does all this mean?”
The Cheshire Cat looks cross. Must be simpler with a Kazakh immigrant.
“There is a God and I knew that HE would direct YOU to me, to Mrs. Dougherty and to James. There are no accidents in life and when you read that ad, you were reading something that God put in the paper to make you come to us so that you could help a poor young man. Now it is time to move on. Will you have some more tea?”
“Yes, I thank you. I am a little bit puzzle ...”
“The word is puzzled.” The Cheshire Cattily catsmiles.
“Yes, puzzled. What can I do for young man so sad? Why he sad or he crazy? If he crazy, I afraid. I want no trouble.”
“James,” the Señora’s saddest lipdrippin’ smile-sighs, “is most disturbed. The family is rich and happy and then the father at 54 meets the young secretary and leaves the wife, with most of his fortune, but also with a son. James, let me call him Jimmy. He needs a friend, a girlfriend, or someone very nice to talk with. (Ouch! The Señora’s hand hardsqueezes-quickpinches Nadia’s wrist!) We’ve interviewed dozens of people; but when you appeared we saw at once that it was you.”
“Call me Antonia.”
“Missus Antonia, what you want me to do? It seems strange what the Missus Dougherty wanted.”
“I think it is very simple. And I am here to make it more simple. I am going to give you a lucky charm. It is a way of telling Jimmy that you want to meet him. It’s a beautiful sash that will set off your figure and it will make your very oriental beauty even more beautiful.”
A coffer jack-in-the-boxes a black sash with gold thread dots.
“Please stand up,” the Señora orders as she whips Nadia’s slender waist into a Christmas present.
“Perfect ! This, is what you will be wearing tomorrow night. A magical belt. It speaks to Jimmy. It tells him that you are interested in him, that you want to listen to him, to like him, maybe love him. Maybe you are already in love with him. Have you seen him?”
“Yes, lady, he follows me every day.”
“I know, Morgane says that you will give him permission. Now, he wants to meet you but is too timid. This sash will tell him that he can approach you. Have you seen the bistro?”
“Yes, Name is Snow White Apple.”
“You mean Snow White’s Apple. Delightful name for a place where young lovers meet.”
“Lady, I go to meet young man; I don’t know I love him. Why be it so important?”
“Ah, but that is the thrill of it. He cannot wait for your first meeting. The sash belonged to a young woman he loved very desperately. Once, long ago. Drip drip of lip smigh.
“What happened to young woman?”
“She killed herself because her father would not let them marry. Oh, please don’t ask. It’s a very complicated affair. Jimmy has been looking for someone to replace her and no one could do it until you appeared. (Tender squeeze of the hand free of teacup.) He will tell you the story. Tell me, do you know who Morgane Dougherty is?”
“She lady I meet three days ago.”
Liptipping laugh. “That’s all? Impossible! You must have read her column and not realised! She is the most popular society columnist in the city. She writes for the New York Metro, among other papers. Morgane has lots and lots of money and great influence with important people but the most important thing in her life is not money, not influence but beauty. Morgane seeks to surround herself with beauty. Only the tragedy of what happened to James...”
The Señora breaks nosedabbingly. The cigar has gone dead; she lights it and puffs a long mysterious puff. The smigh returns.
“My dear, you must forgive me. I also had a son who suffered. Well, that is too personal. If you permit me, I’ll read your hand. Don’t go to card readers, they are all charlatans. The only true lines of destiny lie in a person’s hand. Hold out the left one please.”
Snow White’s Apple
There’s like a screaming in my head. I cannot get it out of my head. I met her. I met Marion-Ruth. She is sitting opposite me in this bistro. She is wearing the belt of Venus. We’re in Snow White’s Apple. Mother always picks these bistros with names to damn a priest. Like the last one when she was onto my love for Sonia-Anastasia, the blonde Russian girl who bewitched me.
Sonia-Anastasia wore the magic broach of opal that my mother gave her after inviting her to tea. No, wait a minute. I’m sure it was the Señora Antonia who gave it to her. I hate opals and that broach was so big and large with all the pointy things sticking out of it. I knew what I was supposed to do and did it. Mother took care of the rest.
Now what is Marion-Ruth talking about? Her job. I’ll keep quiet. She’s actually telling me about the Chinaman and his little back room operation. What goes on in back rooms would make anyone’s skin crawl. Ply any Kazakh with drinks and they’ll open up. How does she not know that I won’t go to the police and squeal?
Maybe she thinks she is sharing. That’s what all these New York dames think in the end. Whether they were born in Kazakhstan or Brooklyn. She is playing a part. Which one? How will it end? What am I supposed to tell her? Oh yes, about that young woman I once loved and her Dad would not let us marry. The usual but with a little embroidery.
And now I’m deadest against women in general and hate them because they are all so beautiful and make me dream then I find out little things about them. Then they don’t appear so beautiful to me any more. The veritable virgin becomes the virtual virgin.
Like this one. This Nadia-ex Marion-Ruth, living next to a circus. Said that for tragic effect. The flower among the garbage. And they all want you to pull them out from under the garbage and live happily ever after. Well. They don’t see it.
Dad ran off with his hot little number and I have been trying to make it all up to Mom. Not getting older, only more beautiful.
The idea of her living next to a circus and not far from one of the famous New York Els has tragic possibilities. Tragic? Let us say dramatic. Sonia-Anastasia lived near Morningside Heights and went to Columbia. She was working the night shift at one of those greasy spoon joints. Or the language lab in the Russian Department. The ideal set up. Son of Sam Iyam.
That belt. Yes. Mother can’t stand rivals and this is her way of saying “Boy, I’m counting on you.” There is an El with reachable beams. A possible plot : The Chinese Mafia found out she blabbed and took care of it by themselves although I suspect they rape their women victims prior to...
Well anyway, there’s no such thing as the perfect crime unless your Mother is a highly mentionable media person. The hanging will be given a short article in the New York Metro, The News, the Post and all the other crap people gobble up everyday because we are a race of sub-worms that devour impure flesh and for the duration of the night, I am Chief Worm and Purifier of the Putrid.
It’s getting really riotous in here. Think we’ll move out to the door. She’ll be expecting a cab. Will ask the driver to stop near the Coney Island station for a romantic walk up the deserted boulevard. Hah!
Snow White’s Apple. No better name for it. The little Kazakh princess with hair as black as ebony and skin as white as snow. I’d be curious to know if a prince charming shows up between here and her castle at Brighton Beach.
Copyright © 2009 by Diana Pollin