Sybil's "Strange Tales From Around The World"... Flora...

FLORA Giuseppe Arcimboldo 1589 (1364).jpg

 "Flora", the shortened name for Principessa FloraBella Gladioliisima (1535?-1629) who lived in Venice and numbered dozens of prominent politicians and artists among her lovers (including the young painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo). Fabulously wealthy from her merchant family's importing and trading ventures starting with Marco Polo, Flora spent her days learning new languages, improving her musical skills on seventeen different instruments, studying foreign cuisine, raising an enormous menagerie of beloved animals, and tending to her window box gardens which covered her palace on the corner of the Calle dell Forno and the Fondamenta Zorzi.

Since Venice is and always has been a "water city" with very little dry land to waste on open fields, municipal parks, or even private gardens, Flora early on discovered that she could spend days and days raising the most extraordinary plants from around the world just outside her windows, and the spectacular beauty of her home architecturally was only surpassed by what grew in the boxes and trailed down from them to the admiring crowds below. As she grew older though and her passions for the handsome lovers of all ages and origins that she had burned so brightly for began to mellow, she devoted more and more time to her “journeys of the mind” as she called them.

Towards the end of her life, she was able to converse, write poetry, and improvise naughty limericks in over forty-two languages. She had accompanied several of the Bachs on her seventeen instruments and composed a special Cantata for Two Harpsichords which she played herself simultaneously much to the wonderment of European royalty who honored and celebrated her with special gifts of jewels, titles, and land. Her animals were loved generously and housed in the greatest comfort alongside her extraordinary window gardens. Although not reclusive in the least, Bella’s great age began to confine her travels outside her walls more and more, and she was finally only able to drift from one window to another with her faithful and adoring servants who tended to the heavier chores of maintaining the plantings under her wise direction. It was never mentioned…never even whispered about in polite company, but, as the years passed, it was rumored later that the great FloraBella Gladioliisima, Principessa of Venice, had begun to become her flowers. Literally to become her flowers. Wherever she passed, there was said to be the most exotic and mysterious scents from faraway places …and that they would change from day to day….. and even more wonderfully, with those fragrances there would follow the deep feeling of peace and contentment that comes sitting alone in a garden... contemplating an opening blossom in the light of a setting sun… That special light and color that has been stored from a radiant day and is now blazing bright as night approaches….

[postscript: Flora lived to be quite old, especially by 16th century standards, but the greatest mystery of her life was actually her death… you see, she made fewer and fewer appearances even at her own banquets and costume balls held in her very own palace. Her loyal servants would make more and more excuses, quite believable, why the great and much beloved lady could not come down from her separate wing of the house. As the public counted the years and began to prepare for a great state funeral for Flora once she had passed, it was finally revealed that Flora had continued her metamorphosis into the very plants and flowers she loved so much… one servant after another related various stories of how a parlor maid had "found a beautiful little nosegay sitting at Flora's writing desk", that an elderly housekeeper had "discovered a gather of dried yarrows glowing bright yellow and wrapped in a gilded ribbon on a settee in the tea room", or that the under-butler while bringing her breakfast tray had come upon "a single sprig of verdant mint on her monogramed pillow, still fragrant and sparkling with morning dew"…. You see, she had indeed loved her gardens so dearly, even only as flower boxes hanging over the great city of Venice, that she had joined them….forever….] (for George Sweet)

Sybil's "TALES & TAILS!"... Comfort Animals on the Airlines...

Breaking News from the CNN News Desk!... Airlines issue new restrictions on "Comfort Animals"; goats, snakes, insects, ferrets, hawks, and hedgehogs. There ARE other animals that still qualify as for psychological support, and passengers are urged to consider them as replacements! They are as follows, top row left to right:

1) The rare Tangerine Monkey Lobster (cute as can be, but may pinch when petted to much! Likes peanuts and dancing to organ grinder music. Becomes violent near bisques and pots of boiling water.)                                                                                                                                                

2) The Wisconsin Water-Wombie (thought of as fictional for decades like Sasquatch and the yeti... likes to roam the aircraft aisles raiding other passengers' snack trays, also for peanuts, and for packets of mayonnaise and duck sauce.)

3) The Frisking Beak Beppo (the only beaked canine allowed in the Westminster Kennel Club shows although the females do like to feather their nests with lint and sweater pickings!)

middle row left to right:

4) The Slate Grey Know-It-All (unusually tall for a comfort animal, they must be shorter than 6' and capable of administering CPR, delivering babies, and taking over the controls of the jet in case of emergencies.)

5) The Falkland Land Llama (friendly and willing to give children on the flight rides up and down the aisles. Must have water poured into its nose every ten minutes though.)

6) The Gund Cuddle Cuckoo (a remarkably cuddly creature despite the fact that it vacuums anything closer than 12" put in front of its face. Can be helpful with spilled crumbs on the carpet or seat cushions)

bottom row left to right:

7) The Two-Headed Shnur (a marsupial know for its intelligence and curiosity. Be aware that it will discuss its finds from your purse, pockets, or luggage in two different chirping voices, simultaneously. The airlines however HAVE restricted the Three and Four-headed Shnurs from "comfort" status.)

8) The Smirking Laotian Laobob (another clever little animal and perfect for traveling entertainment, although they are prone to pinching, groping, and reciting suggestive limericks and traveling salesman jokes to the unwary. Please keep them leashed at all times!)

9) The Giant Furless Thumb-Kitty (enjoys saucers of milk and being petted. Prone to chills though, so it should always have a knee-sock to cuddle in. Has a disturbingly loud purr which can be mistaken for the owner having indigestion and lower intestinal distress.)

Remember to register any of these animals with the airlines well ahead of your travel date, and be sure to carry any special foods arrangements with you as well. The flight attendants cannot be held responsible for their care.

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Sybil's "TALES & TAILS!"... The Thrill of Victory...

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If cats had their own OLYMPICS!!!..... Various competitions. Clockwise from top left:
1) Unprovoked Biting; Expensive Object Compulsories
2) Checking On The Weather & Seeing Things That Aren't There Medley
3) Rhythmic Tangling
4) Mixed Pairs Molestation Of Toys & Their Owners
5) Interminable Resting; Not To Be Confused With Actually Missing An Event
6) Scowling At Olympic Officials Without Fear Of Penalties

Medals in Bronze, Silver, and Gold will, of course, be awarded in each sport, although unsurprisingly, the competitors never seem to care, preferring to break things on the judges' tables....yawning... and then sauntering away....

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A New SYBIL'S "WHO'Z DAT?"... BEULAH BONDI (May 3, 1889 – January 11, 1981)

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Darlings! Mummy has made a decision! After reading dozens of posts and having hundreds of conversations with well-meaning folks who just don't know about the great CHARACTER actors who gave films the depth and genius that surrounded and supported the so-called "stars", I am going to post a regular, special entry called "SYBIL'S WHO'Z DAT?"....there'll be photos and a mini-bio, and the next time you see one of those familiar, fabulous faces that you just "can't quite place".......well, maybe these posts will help. Some of these actors worked more, had longer and broader careers, and ended up happier, more loved, and even wealthier than the "stars" that the public "worships". (I think there may be a metaphor in that! What do you think???).                                

Here's our next guest!! Make way for a great lady of Hollywood! Beulah Bondi (May 3, 1889 – January 11, 1981). Bondi was born as Beulah Bondy in Valparaiso, Indiana, the daughter of Eva Suzanna (née Marble), an author, and Abraham O. Bondy, who worked in real estate. Bondi began her acting career on the stage at age seven, playing the title role in the play LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY in a production at the Memorial Opera House. She graduated from the Frances Shimer Academy in 1907 and gained her Bachelors and Masters degrees in oratory at Valparaiso University in 1916 and 1918. She made her Broadway debut in Kenneth S. Webb's ONE OF THE FAMILY at the 49th Street Theatre on December 21, 1925. She next appeared in another hit, Maxwell Anderson's SATURDAY’S CHILDREN in 1926. It was Bondi's performance in Elmer Rice's Pulitzer Prize-winning SREET SCENE, which opened at the Playhouse Theatre on January 10, 1929, that brought her to Hollywood at the advanced age of 43 for her movie debut as "Emma Jones" in (1931), in which Bondi reprised her stage role. This was followed by "Mrs. Davidson" in RAIN (1932), which starred Joan Crawford and Walter Huston.

She was one of the first five women to be nominated for an Academy Award in the newly-created category of "Best Supporting Actress" for her work in THE GORGEOUS HUSSY (1936), although she did not win. Two years later, she was nominated again for OF HUMAN HEARTS (1938) and lost again, but her reputation as a character actress kept her employed. She would most often be seen in the role of the mother of the star of the film for the rest of her career, with the exception of MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW (1937) as the abandoned Depression-era 'Ma' Cooper. She often played mature roles in her early film career even though she was only in her early 40s. Some of her favorite and most popular performances included THE SNAKE PIT (1948) and ON BORROWED TIME (1939).

For folks doubting the range of a "character" actress, you have only to watch her in Frank Capra's IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946). Bondi plays the ideal and iconic mother to Jimmy Stewart in several scenes and then transforms into a veritable psychopathic crone when she no longer recognizes him in the nightmare sequence. She appeared in many Oscar-nominated films over the years and played James Stewart’s mother four times: IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939), OF HUMAN HEARTS, and VIVACIOUS LADIES (1938).

In addition to consistent film work throughout the 1940s, she made the transition into television. Her television credits included Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Howard Richardson’s Ark of Safety on the Goodyear Television Playhouse. She made her final appearances as Martha Corinne Walton on The Waltons in the episodes "The Conflict" (1974) and "The Pony Cart" (1976). She received an Emmy award for her performance in the latter episode. When her name was called, it first appeared that she was not present, but she was given a standing ovation as she walked slowly to the podium, where she thanked everyone for honoring her while she was still alive.

Despite the fact that she was known for playing mother figures, Bondi never married nor had children in real life. Tragically, she died from pulmonary complications due to broken ribs suffered when she tripped over her cat on January 11, 1981. She was 92.

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Sybil Bruncheon's "FILM APPRECIATION CLASS... for Quadrupeds ONLY!"

Yes, Friends, after years of teaching my cinema history classes to marginally interested college students (and other adults of mixed abilities...and you know who you are!) I have moved on to conducting seminars to the most appreciative demographic of both film and its history; household pets!

As the semesters have unfolded, I have, in my research, discovered that the canine brain is most aligned with "buddy movies", adventure films (Harrison Ford in all his various franchises), and (sadly!) the huge library of dopey frat-comedies with an emphasis on Seth Rogen, Zach Galifianakis, Jonah Hill, etc., etc.

Cats, on the other hand, and I include the entire feline family from lions and tigers on down to ocelots, margays, caracals, and lynxes, enjoy ladies' romances (or chick-flicks), musicals, all vintage films, foreign movies (where, even if they can't understand the language being spoken, they pretend to!), and horror films, particularly very violent ones. Their scholarship in the field of suspense, thriller, mystery, and monster movies is famously extensive; so much so, that the front runner for Robert Osborne's replacement on the TCM network for a time was Pinky Godard, a famous tabby who, when turned away by TCM, went on to a triumphant career as an award-winning dog-food commercial director. Interestingly, Pinky, who was one of my best students, claimed that his secret when directing dogs (often outweighing him by 40 lbs) was to get them in line by spitting, yowling, and, if need be, a quick scratch to the nose. Here is part of Pinky's final Doctoral thesis; the Short Film Submission - NON-fictional category. Needless to say, I am very proud of my students! 

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Sybil Bruncheon's HIT-OR-MISS HISTORIES!... The HUG-ME-NOT!


            During Victorian times, as advanced as the Victorians (and indeed Queen Victoria herself!) considered themselves to be, there were still aspects of their lives that we in the 21st century would consider to be fairly primitive, and even, dare we say, “barbaric”. A case in point was the treatment of children. Above and beyond the fact that they “were to be seen and not heard”, they continued to be accidents, often unhappy ones since birth control was basically unknown, not understood, and certainly not acceptable, at least among “polite society”. Pregnancy (a word itself considered obscene and never spoken of, again, in “polite society”), was a stroke of very bad luck (but never admitted as such). Most women were expected by their families, society at large, and certainly their husbands (if they could afford it!) to be “fecund” (oh, that word!) and married couples with ten or more children were common even allowing for attrition caused by appalling infant mortality. 21st century people marvel that women at that time could even hold up under the crushing physical and emotional strains of pregnancy, child-rearing, and perpetual housekeeping. As to the lives and expectations of children at the time, they were the disposable tools and appliances of the growing Industrial Revolution and its hazards, and the playthings of a society that frequently neither valued nor protected them from dangers, often grotesque dangers. On those very rare occasions when a miscreant was finally pursued, tried, and convicted of crimes against minors, punishments might be whimsically applied or not at all.

           However, the now widely accepted concept of “Good Touches! Bad Touches!” began at that time, specifically on the night of Friday, June 17th, 1887 at approximately 8:19pm. The victim was 6 year old Moncrief Gantt and he was attending the newly opened Little Lord Fauntleroy Petting Zoo for Exotic Animal Friends. One of the janitorial-persons, a Mr. Jeremy Soamesberry, had surreptitiously lured the child away with promises of a banana-pineapple ice and some “Mrs. Marquay’s Marzipan Bisc-ettes”, a promise he did NOT make good on. While alone with the trusting and remarkably pretty little boy behind the Marsupial Maison, he suggested that Moncrief himself was one of the “animal friends” and should allow himself to be “petted”. The child was willing, very willing, according to the authorities and the court later at trial. He played the role with great aplomb, admitting that he had decided to be not only exotic, but perhaps fairly wild…. It wasn’t clear whether he was some sort of Uruguayan capybara or a huge blue-winged shoebill, or perhaps the unlikely offspring of both. At some point, Mr. Soamesberry’s “petting” had become a little too focused, and Moncrief’s fantastical creature decided that a small bite on the hand was in order… followed by a hearty yelp from his petter but more petting, followed then by a terrifying lunge and much gnashing of baby teeth and fingernail scratches from pudgy little 6 year-old hands. Indeed, once the hysterical shrieks and pleadings for rescue and forgiveness by the mangled janitor had been answered, many of little Moncrief’s baby-teeth were found embedded in Jeremy’s wrist, ankles, and forehead. Onlookers were torn between pointing and screaming…and pointing and laughing. Constables asked if they could have posed photographs with both victim and “beast” taken by the press and later autographed by all participants. Interestingly, Master Gantt was quite adept printing out his name in block letters with a fuchsia crayon, his favorite color. As the ambulance carried away the writhing Soamesberry (actually a Shetland pony cart drafted into service for the emergency) he yowled that he intended to sue Mr. and Mrs. Gantt, and Master Moncrief personally for damages, the possible amputation of his left thumb, and his missing eyebrows. The crowd at that point became enraged, and threatened to turn into a seething mob reminiscent of political catastrophes like the French Revolution or the misunderstandings surrounding the colonies about tea. He was hurried away to hospital in the pony cart with much obscenity and neighing. Sadly, the most convenient hospital was the Quadruped Infirmary where he was stitched back together by a bird veterinarian with little or no anesthetics that worked on humans.

           A week later, he and the Gantts were brought to a high court, where little Moncreif was not only exonerated, but made the London Times weekly choice for Our Gracious Queen’s Hero of Tomorrow. He received a small bronze medal of Her Majesty in profile, a certificate of congratulations and thanks “from the Empire”, and one year’s supply of Mrs. Marquay’s Marzipan Bisc-ettes… in all seven flavors… including ginger and celery!

           Mr. Soamesberry, on the other hand was publicly mocked and excoriated, especially because some of the baby-teeth were still in his forehead for the entire courtroom to see. (Physicians had decided that it was too unsafe to remove them without a proper surgeon on hand…or a carpenter.) He was found guilty by a mixed jury of gentlemen, croquet club members, a furrier, a porcelain scholar, a pastry chef, a circus person (possibly a knife thrower), and someone from Ireland… or Cincinnati. The janitor was found guilty on all charges within 47 seconds of the men entering and suddenly exiting the jury room, and sentenced to a new but supposedly humane punishment suggested by the Queen’s own Privy Council On Weights, Measures, and Corporal Penalties. He was to be confined for six months to the newly designed “Hug-Me-Not”; a full-body suit of tolerable flexibility covered with spikes that would discourage uninvited caressing by sexual deviants, “physicality-felons”, and overly-affectionate holiday visitors, specifically “bosomy aunts on Boxing Day”, and politicians’ wives during ribbon cuttings and pie contests. The unfortunate and now publicly humiliated Mr. Soamesberry was forcefully wedged into the suit in front of a throng of hundreds in Trafalgar Square while ices, candies, and small-scale but frighteningly accurate toy facsimiles of the Hug-Me-Not suit were sold to spoiled little girls of society to inflict on their porcelain dolls…often to the sounds of breakage and subsequent weeping and slaps from angered parents…or passers-by.

            Mr. Soamesberry, a fairly robust man from his labors, had apparently gained a few pounds from his brief stay in Gentleman’s Gaol from the cuisine of the Warden’s wife Edna-Marie, particularly her delicious rendition of kidney, quince and quinine pie. The gaolers had to thoroughly lubricate poor but plump Jeremy with duck fat and shoe-polish to get him finally into the Hug-Me-Not, and he was then paraded through the streets and thence to a specially constructed platform in Piccadilly to be the target of eggs (soft-boiled only, please!), spoiled items from greengrocers stalls or pretzel carts, and suggestive limericks yelled in foreign accents. His sentence of six months was interrupted when a local troop of the Battersea Boy Explorers gave chase and hurled him off a bridge into the Thames. He became an instant celebrity and a millionaire when it was discovered that the Hug-Me-Not could double as a perfectly water-proof diving suit! Of course, there was the unpleasantness of lying in thirty-five feet of filthy brown water and mud and not being found for two days…but he made a fortune from the new national craze of exotic seashell, coral, and sponge collecting… and off his Soamesberry’s Soap & Sponge Salons at “all fine ladies’ emporiums”…. The royal family became avid customers and his products were sold “by Appointment to Her Majesty”…

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Sybil Bruncheon's HIT-OR-MISS HISTORIES!... "Inventions That Failed"...


This is the amazing "Emotion Wheel" first proposed by psycho-therapists Robert Plutchik and Kaitlin Robbs, to map the amazing array and range of emotional responses to stimuli in the modern world!.... Sadly, their psychological and philosophical research did not improve their OWN emotional dysfunction with colleagues or in the everyday workplace. They finally resolved to mount the wheel on a piece of cardboard, push a pin through the middle, and spin it in the morning as they left for their offices at Rockefeller University’s Advanced Psychological Studies Laboratories.

Their basic approach to their day would be left up to chance, and, being disciplined scientists, they would adhere strictly to what the wheel's choice had been for the both of them. It worked fairly well, although other scientists and their friends and family would notice a certain rigidity to their moods. It was often said the whatever their attitude was in the morning could not be altered at any point during the day no matter what the ups and downs that might come along. The good news was that if the day started cheerfully then not even the worst setbacks could shake them... a car accident after work was met with belly laughs and a jolly champagne dinner once they had gotten home from the hospital. On the other hand, the bad news was that both Plutchik and Robbs remained sullen and resentful even after they found out that they won the lottery on June 13th and only became grateful the following morning (courtesy of the wheel's random choice), though prone to excessive tears and unexplained introspection until the 15th. Month after month these strange mood swings went on and on without rhyme or reason or the public's knowledge of the cause. 

Eventually, the whole Emotion Wheel experiment came to a terrible end when accidentally, they spun for their moods separately. They had not realized that each had left the house without coordinating with the other on that fateful Tuesday in December. Robbs spun and received "Wildly Elated With Hints Of Mania", and Plutchik was given "Imploded Rage Armed With a Machete"..... well, you probably read the newspapers.....Remember? "HEADLESS CORPSE IN TOPLESS BAR!"....Robbs and his head were buried in Ronkonkoma, and Plutchik was confined to the Rikers Island Psychiatric Facility For The Mentally Whimsical......

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Sybil's Folk Tales From Around The World:.... The return of Spring!!


And so boys and girls, in the villages of қияр мұрын, people celebrate the beginning of Spring with festivals and banquets. The nice people believe that all the forest spirits that bring warm weather, and flowers, and green leaves are trapped all Winter inside a magic "Twinkle-Box" where they are thrown in the Fall by a bad Man-Badger named Мырза аң анус! He comes out of the mountains and tricks all the "Friendship Fairies" by offering them candies and fine jewelry, and when they come too close, he catches them in a giant net made out of spider webs and stretched out chewing gum. They are then squished down into the "Twinkle-Box" where they wait for the nice boys and girls to welcome them back with songs, poems, dancing, and funny faces. Each family brings a selection of fruit, nuts, specially baked cake-lettes, and dolls made out of lint, hair-combings, and old underpants to the town square where the official "Twinkle-Box" is opened!...And so Spring shows up right on time. (Of course, if Spring starts a little late, or a severe cold-snap returns after the festival, the villagers decide to be more severe with the "Friendship Fairies", and may try to hunt them down with pitchforks and loud yells! And the Daddies drink brown stuff out of jugs, and Mommies start to look like the bad Man-Badger named Мырза аң анус!) Now doesn't THAT sound like a nice way to celebrate Springtime every year! 

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Sybil Bruncheon’s “Strange Stories from Suburbia”...

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….it had all started so cheerfully. Marjorie had been shopping for a new hat for her first Spring in the big city... at Madame Whimsey's Chapeau-zeree on Fifth Avenue... when the nice young man came up to her and smiled oh so politely and introduced himself. He wasn't on the staff but was a customer himself and indeed a hat-designer too, or so he claimed. Gerald (or at least he introduced himself as "Gerald") whisked her quickly out of the shop in front of the vexed manageress. He brought Marjorie to his studio in a dingey corner of the East Village...At first she was concerned, especially when they descended the ramshackle staircase of loose boards and chipped paint in the back alley...but when he jiggled the rusted padlock loose and finally pried the creaking door open, she was stunned at what she saw.

An immaculate… no! ...A sparkling studio of polished shelves with beautifully carved hat stands everywhere made of exotic woods from the most extraordinary foreign lands. And on each one, a hat of such complexity and grace! Detailed and rich in both color and materials, but still timeless and not cheap or faddish. Truly works of art! Art, but meant to be worn, actually worn! Was it possible?!?

Gerald was thrilled at her delighted gasps and amazement and offered her tea and honey biscuits while she studied them all. Her questions tumbled out, about those silk flowers or these feathers, the gorgeous ribbons, netting, the velvets and satins....every detail,  and none of it escaped her attention. He seemed very pleased with her, and the afternoon went beautifully. After an hour so of laughter and chat and shared stories, he delighted her with the invitation to wear one of his wonderful bonnets for the Easter parade the very next morning! Marjorie was stunned! And what was even more wonderful?... he would make a bonnet especially for her!!

He sent her home and went right to work. Needless to say, Marjorie spent a sleepless night in great excitement and expectation! You see, she'd never had someone design something just for her! For her!...Little Marjorie May Merriweather from Mills Corners, Montana. And here she was in the big city of New York, on her first Easter parade in a special hat designed and created just for her!

And at 9 o'clock in the morning, there was Gerald smiling brightly, as brightly as the perfect April sun that shone down on them, holding the big striped lavender and lilac hat box proudly in front of him; holding it out to her! He placed it on the broad stone bannister of a townhouse staircase on the side street where she waited, and with a flourish, he swept the lid away to reveal his masterpiece. At first, she was confused, as if someone was playing a joke on her but not letting her in on the fun. She wasn't hurt, per se, but. ...well... baffled. And his warmth seemed so genuine, his delighted pride so winning, and his deep green eyes danced so merrily, she couldn't resist. It wasn't quite the hat she expected. ..or hoped for, but it WAS a gift, and her upbringing had been so very strict about courtesy, about "please" and " thank you"....She stood stock still as he carefully fitted it at just the right angle to flatter her eyes, her adorable ears, her shining auburn hair, her glorious skin....oh, he knew everything to say... and in minutes, she knew she was the loveliest girl going to the parade that morning. He stepped back and sighed admiring her and his "masterpiece"! That's what he called it... his "masterpiece".

Gerald escorted Marjorie down the block on that sparkling morning past the stern stone stoops of the townhouses standing in the early quiet, but as they neared the avenue, voices, music, laughter, and the bustle of New York began to drift towards them...towards their ears and their smiling faces. Gerald offered Marjorie to the gathering throng with the same flourish he had used on the hat box, and she spun out of his hands with a charming little pirouette and a girlish chuckle. She felt beautiful! Beautiful! ...beautiful as she had never felt before. Ever.....and then she moved into the gathering crowd of nodding smiling people, passing and chatting and smiling. She didn't even notice that Gerald slowly fell behind, still smiling, eyes sparkling...and knowing...something.

As Marjorie moved down a block or so, she saw that people as they passed, would smile, say "hello", and study her bonnet, glancing at first, but then study it. She felt flattered, even a little excited that she was creating what seemed like a bit of a stir. She moved on and on, suddenly remembering Gerald, but when she turned, he was gone or, no! There he was, standing on a stoop but too far back on the block. Too far back for her to call out a "thank you!" and too far back for him to hear her if she had. She could still see him,  and even at that distance, she could see that he was watching her, still watching... and smiling. She smiled and waved... and Gerald nodded and smiled back... and then, how funny! He gave her a thumbs-up sign and waved again. And then she moved on and lost him in the bustle and growing crowds... or was she lost herself?

And as she moved on, smiling and nodding,  in the glorious morning light, she didn't notice her hat had begun to change, slightly at first... only slightly. The large floret on the side had begun to turn, ever so slightly... and slowly, perhaps like a dial..or a wheel... or a gear. And the light lavender netting that rose out of the crown of the bonnet ruffled a little in the breeze, and  billowed... almost, was it possible?... like... smoke? It was... smoke. Smoke...rising, slowly rising... and the gear.. was that a faint clicking... or was it ticking?... ticking and a faint whirring. .. inside... whirring away inside. Little machine parts, clicking, and ticking, and whirring... and, was it possible? Were they... counting down? Was there counting down?...

That's what Marjorie felt... counting down... right before the sunlight, so bright and warm! Before it all became brighter and warmer... so bright! So very bright! Brighter than the sun itself. Brighter and hotter even than the sun itself.

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