lady cracker and daffodilby Amy Wright
lady cracker threw away, or gave away, or baked away her henny anger, and occasional lust. she lived in a town she called scotty, which was a shire once upon a long time ago, and now came to be, like a neck thick with fat, rather more comic than tragically unsocial. lady cracker was prone to laugh suddenly, startling the gentle privacy of daffodil with whom she lounged the better part of pleasanter afternoons. daffodil, who was prone to uncharity, would guff at lady’s mysterious, all-purpose joy, thinking the world to be rather a kind of woody mountain, and pinedark shadows. lady cracker, to be plain, was often sorely disappointed, but with her ever-redeemable optimism, remained amazingly resilient in her mean fistfight with the world, which she thought of as a kind of playful, if sticky, game of catch.
lady cracker likes to eat—primarily foods rich in color and pulp. she enjoys, for example, a great many mango and celery salads. there is little better than lots of crunch, she declares enthusiastically while daffodil sips her broth. solomon preferred soup, daffodil mentions. well give me carrots! lady enjoins crunchily.
it may seem strange that lady cracker is called lady cracker for she often behaves in quite an un“lady”like fashion, or at least in a fashion that is not entirely grown up. but that is her name and only one of the many things about lady cracker that are illogical or contradictory, or downright nonsensical, which brings about lady cracker’s favorite expression: “leave it to the sense of the nonsense”, which she exclaims proudly, for instance, when she is vacuuming the floor and the rug catches in the wheels and whisks up into the vacuum bag, and she is feeling gladly relieved to have one less rug to shake next time.
lady came to live in scotty as all things tend to come about—suddenly and with some disobedience. in lady’s case it was her inmost self she disregarded, and there is, she found, no more implacable critic. her inmost self was lobbying ferociously for tuscany, which although she had not seen, was steadfastly assured by the vivid depictions of her imagination would be precisely the place for her. in tuscany we will wear rag cotton skirts and take long walks through the hills and have a goat! but, lady’s practical self told her we will have a goat in scotty, and triumphed as easily as that.
but, we disservice poor scotty, which was a not-altogether-inadequate town. on Saturday mornings in the fall, for example, lady bicycled to the outdoor market and bought a quantity of peaches and herbs. lady cracker has a penchant for plants, blooming or green, as some people have an affinity for dogs or rabbits, whose love lady has written, perhaps unfairly, off as demeaning-to-both-parties need. her plants, however, with fewer heart sensations than a june beetle, spread, brighten, and loll over sill and stake. their very lack of concern for her, one might say, is what makes them so entirely convincing.
rolf the scottian goat produces delectable milk, which lady curdles into still-more-delectable cheese. as their interaction is built upon mutual need, they have a very strong relationship. rolf is not a picky eater, but he likes especially the sour apples from the orchard whose trees lady thanks graciously as she plucks their harvest, appreciating the interconnectedness of things in her microcosm. sometimes when no one is looking, and no one ever is, she mixes lemonade balm for their gnarly roots.
daffodil dislikes goat cheese, which is a pity. daffodil, in fact, dislikes a great many things, but she plays the celtic harp like an angel, relaying the world’s gloomiest songs. lady had met her at a new year’s milonga some years ago when each noticed the other’s slanted trilling dress to be a perfect foil of her own. lady’s was red with a black trimmed sash and daffodil’s was black with a red sash. they both danced beautifully, and their styles complimented each other on the floor. daffodil danced with the languorous sweep of the mississippi while lady’s dreamy reels conjured streams full and quick with snowmelt.
one day when the sun was just so, lady was doing laundry in the basement and making truffle tortes upstairs. as it is very hard to be in two places at once, she rushed to and fro with a busy mind. on one of her flights, her arms overfull with wash, she tripped on the stairs and went tumbling down ass over elbows like a carton of milk. it was a frightening thing to witness, and even more frightening to have happening. lady’s face, when one caught glances, was wide-eyed with horror, until the most horrific thing of all happened: she knocked her head against an unforgiving step, and her eyes went blank as a puddle while she sank to a fold at the foot.
her dearest ivy leaned against the radiant sun, while her firetail gave a little quake from the racket. but, the chairs and bureaus, in their safety, stood stark, determined and calm while our lady lay in ungainly repose. how much time passed, we can’t be sure for it was much too upsetting to wait helplessly at the top of the stairs.
when we could bear to look again, some long hours later, the sun had swirled its frosted candy fingers over the edge of the world’s cake. daffodil, thank heavens, was cycling over with a knot of ginger roots. she very nearly left them strung to the knob, but gave a little knock so they weren’t left out overnight. when lady did not come and did not answer, daffodil lifted the latch and gave a furious clang. the house was quiet and bare. prone to impatience, she opened the door and gave a tremendous holler, noticing lady’s bike was leaning on the porch rail. at which, even daffodil, who considered worrying a foolish waste of time, began to fret her thumbnail. she smelled the tortes. she smelled detergent, and began peering tentatively around corners, calling for her friend. after a long time, which would have been made less agonizing if daffodil were a more aggressive personality, she found the crumpled lady, and gave a frightful shriek. daffodil had never shrieked so indelicately.
frantically daffodil called her brother and the paramedics, who loaded her friend, not looking at all the same, into their wagon. the brother was for her. he took daffodil to his house and made her drink lavender tea to quiet her jangling nerves while awaiting admittance to the fallen lady.
poor lady. she was alone in a fierce wood attempting conversations with centipedes skulking behind toadstools. she begged them to tickle her palms, but the centipedes shied cautiously away. she tried leaning against the great elms’ sturdiness, but her temples throbbed, and she had to sit down. it was a blue place, even for the lady who was unaccustomed to lonesomeness. solitary places she preferred, but this friendless wood was a different thing altogether. then suddenly she remembered, and cried out for daffodil, which though it sounded a tremendous echoing shout in her dreams manifested only a mumbly whimper. she went on calling out and looking for daffodil in this place until one of the nurses, a pretty one who braided lady’s hair so it wouldn’t knot against the pillow, began phoning around.
when reached at last, daffodil rushed to lady’s side, feeling herself lost and heartsick. in a tremendous display of maternal affection, daffodil sat by lady’s bed and sang Appalachian ballads. she crooned about school marms and hickoryhock. she warbled about soldier men and milkweed daughters. she canted all the songs she could remember, and then she started making them up. she fashioned a seamstress of tin and a boy with a hatchet; she spun laws and sheriffs and recipes. she patched a great quilt of characters that she tucked warmly around our fitful lady.
days passed. daffodil came loyally in earliest morning to sleepiest night. she patted lady’s hand and told her stories of her girlhood, which she hadn’t told anyone before. she told of the time a tire swing nearly killed her, and how she saved her money in a pasteboard aftershave box. she told her about accidentally dehydrating her hermit crab, who fell traumatizingly from his shell when she picked him up. she told about not wanting more possessions than she could carry on her back even though there was no rational need for that kind of nomadism. and finally she told her how sometimes, really fairly often, when lady was being lady, daffodil would forget for whole minutes at a time that she was herself, and that lady was another self, who was not her.
when lady began to moan and blink, it was apparent to only the astutest observer, that things would never be exactly the same. lady was groggy, but her friends, the townspeople, began to fill her hospital room like a child’s halloween treat sack. people she’d spoken to while selecting the prettiest peaches brought balloons and chilli dinners. the soapmaker from the market brought her bundles of sage, and her tango partners came full of music and concern. after the crowd thinned each night, daffodil would linger behind to pass the quietest hours of evening, fetching juice or noodles.
but, it was obvious to even the most casual observer that when lady cracker started asking for caramel apples and cherry blintzes, and nurses glanced her robe trailing speedily behind corners during her hall walks, that lady would soon be going home. and so she was gratefully released after two long weeks by the bully doctors into the safekeeping of daffodil, who wheeled her gingerly to her brother’s car.
lady was subdued—not in a way that indicated unhappiness exactly, but with the grand quiet that follows what st. john called the dark night of the soul. daffodil was tender as a mutton chop, but there was no reaching our lady, for she’d overwhelmed herself. it reminded daffodil of that feeling she would get at the onset of autumn, when the air carried in it the smell of leaves dying, and not yet the breath of snow. it always made daffodil feel a little frightened for and protective of the world so exposed in its vulnerability.
by the time daffodil pulled into lady’s drive, the night had shaken out its sheet of stars. lady could not remember appreciating a sight so much, as her eyes waded the creamy band of the milky way. how small and light she felt, and how strangely important to be worthy of consciousness of its beauty.
as lady hobbled past his fenced-off yard, rolf gave a little tap-shuffle that only the astutest observer would understand to be a rolfian rag. lady leaned against the fence to give his nose a pat. it was good to be home. the yard was in sore need of mowing. I’ll just make hay of it, she told daffodil, to line rolf’s shed. I should be able to rake by August. her optimism, then, was still intact. but there was something different about our lady. we can’t tell what it is yet. perhaps she can’t yet tell herself. but, it is very like the geese stopping over in their migration, made unfamiliar by things unseen and stories they come to hint at and not tell.