Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Something of a ghost story "The Bride"


"This Just What You've Been Looking For"

by Patricia Abbott



The #459 bus skidded on a patch of black ice that day, and although she was preoccupied with a book, Lena glanced up in time to see a small cake sitting in the middle of the road. Its improbable location made her giggle loud enough to disturb the drowsing passengers. She tilted her head toward the road, but by now the cake was no more than a pale glimmer in the rearview mirror.


“Oh, you missed it,” she said, looking around. “Pity.”


The heads around her bobbed in unison as the bus moved bumpily toward town.


Later, at her work station: fifth row, fourth desk, she thought about it—who’d put a cake in the middle of a country road? And why not a box to protect it? It’d be ruined in no time.


On the way home, the road was empty of anything other than imploded tires, Big-Gulp cups, and discarded shoes. She remembered the spot perfectly though—a stretch of birch trees stood across from it, a well-tended farm lay just ahead.


Two days later, the cake was there again and growing larger. It was now a two-layer cake with silky white frosting. A trail of pink roses circled it. It rested on a pale blue plate. A birthday cake perhaps? A surprise for a child on the way to school? Again, no one else seemed to see it. Was the cake there for her alone?


The cake had three-layers the next time she rode by. A pale green vine etched the frosting. A layer of thick cream topped it. She didn’t really want to share it, but her finger darted out to point at the cake before she could stop it. A schoolboy looked up, followed her finger, and made a face. His index finger circled his head. Daft. Perhaps she was daft.


Pillars held up the layers a few days later. The cake was very tall now, and she wondered how the bus driver managed to miss it. The blue plate had been replaced by a large silver tray. It was raining, but the cake seemed impervious to the damp, merely glistening a bit more than usual. The woman next to her gave a start, and for a minute, Lena thought someone else had the eyesight or attention or imagination necessary to see it. But the woman sneezed instead.


“Bless you,” Lena said.


A groom stood atop the cake on the next trip. Lena strained to see him. He was very handsome and wore the traditional attire but seemed lonely. He held out a hand as if waiting for a bride to join him. She rubbed her eyes, but he remained at attention. Alert.


On Saturday, Lena did her errands. A bridal shop was only a few doors from the shoe repair store, so on impulse, she stopped in. She tried hard to imagine what the bride might wear, but there was nothing suitable. It was all too modern.


"Contemporary," the clerk corrected her.


With a bundle of her mother’s clothes to donate, her final stop was the Thrift Store. Inside, she saw the perfect wedding dress—in a section at the very back. The sign over the rack said, “This is just what you’ve been looking for.”


And it was. The dress was in wonderful condition because, of course, it had only been worn once. She tried in on and it fit perfectly. The price tag was missing, and the clerk let it go for a song.


“I hope your day is as special as your dress,” the woman told her, her voice a trill.


Lena didn’t correct the clerk because she wasn’t sure herself. What was the dress for?


It seemed odd to wear her dress on the bus, and she covered it with a coat despite the warm temperature. She rang the bell as they approached the birches and the well-kept farm.


“Here?” the bus driver yelled. “You want me to let you off here?”


The passengers’ eyes swung left and right. Shrugs.


“Yes, if you don’t mind,” Lena said, walking down the aisle. Nobody noticed either her dress, nor the heels that went with it. Not the gloves, nor the flowers she’d tucked into her bag. Not her either. But no one ever had.


“Sure you got the right spot,” the driver asked again. “It's not your usual stop. There’s nothing here but an old farm.”


“It’s the right place,” she told him, feeling more certain all the time.


As the bus drove off, she worried for a moment that the cake wouldn’t be there. But when the fumes cleared, she saw it. It had a canopy now, and small birds perched on it. As she neared the cake, she saw the groom looked more handsome than yesterday. Wearing proudly his black tux with a red rose in his lapel. He looked expectant.


“I’ve been waiting,” he said, holding out his hand to her. She took it and climbed up.  “The dress is perfect,” he said. “You are perfect.”


No one had ever said such a thing to her before. But maybe it hadn't been true till now.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Monday, Monday

 Really enjoyed the French movie ANATOMY OF A FALL.Superlative acting and a riveting plot. The French criminal justice system or at least the way trials are conducted is so different.

I am not finding much to watch other than the last few episodes of ANNIKA. Why am I paying so much for streaming channels and not using them at all? MAX is a huge disappointment especially. I have been watching author interviews on you tube a lot, which I pay nothing for. LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY is not as good as the book and I wasn't crazy about the book. Although Brie Larson is perfect in the part. 

Lots of podcasts. My favorites are Cultural Gabfest, Books and Authors (BBC), Filmspotting, The Bulwark and all of the newsy and cultural ones from NPR, The New Yorker, and the NYT. 

Finished UNCLE PAUL, which I will have more to say about later. About to start the James McBride book, THE HEAVEN AND EARTH GROCERY STORY. I tried FEVER PITCH by Nick Hornby but it was just too much football for me. 

Going to the Detroit Symphony today (Sunday) to see Spanish music. Rain as usual. 

What are you up to?

Friday, October 27, 2023



I was very resistant to this book. On the face of it, it's Jane Eyre updated to the 1950s and set in Iceland and Scotland instead of England, but somehow seeming much the same. Does life never change in the U.K?

I stuck with it because the writing was so good. I have been a fan of Livesay since EVA MOVES THE FURNITURE. But for a long time, I kept asking myself why write a novel so similar to such a famous one. Mistreated orphans, death at a young age for a companion, finding satisfaction as a job well done--being a governess, a romantic employer, flight, closure.

And I can't tell you why this story eventually won me over. Again, the writing is superb and the blueprint from Charlotte Bronte is a winner. On the jacket, it claims to be an homage. But homages need to take flight on their own.

At some point, this book did and the pages turned faster and faster as I read into the night.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Short Story Wednesday-"The Pomegranite Seed" from THE NEW YORK STORIES OF EDITH WHARTON

This is a ghost story and you can probably find it in several places because Wharton stories are collected in various volumes. Charlotte is the new wife of a widower with two young children. Their marriage is proceeding happily enough in this affluent household except for the delivery of a gray letter every few months. 

Kenneth is upset when he sees the letter but does not share its contents with Charlotte. She has examined the envelope enough to decide it's a woman's writing. As the letters continue to turn up, Charlotte becomes more and more agitated but is unable to break their trust by opening one. She hides and observes him opening one one day and sees his reaction to what's inside is extreme. 

She enlists her sympathetic mother-in-law to help her and her mother-in-law opens a letter but cannot read the faint print. She fears it is from his dead wife. By this time, Kenneth has promised Charlotte a trip to make things up to her and the two women wait for his return. They wait on and on. 

I am a fan of Wharton's novels: AGE OF INNOCENCE, HOUSE OF MIRTH, ETHAN FROME and her stories are equally strong. The detail in this story makes it work but oddly such detail would probably be cut by an editor  today. 

"The details are not the details. They make the design." Charles Eames

Or in this case, story. 

George Kelley

Kevin Tipple 


Jerry House 

Jerry House 2 

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

THE BOY WHO WAS SENT BACK during the Blitz


Did I tell you this before? Maurice was in my writing group and he was working on a story about being one of the many children sent away to live in the countryside during the bombing of London during the war. He had made his way home at age 11, (after 3 years) knocked at the door and was greeted by his mother with the words. "Well, you'll be going back on the next train." He said he never recovered from these words. 

Well, I was glad to read his obituary and attend a funeral lunch for him and find out he had a very successful career and a family of his own despite being shunned by his birth family. I just wish he had had the time to finish the story. 

My gladness was a bit ruined though when his significant other (his wife died some years ago) told us his children had changed the locks on his door and barred her from entering the house where she'd lived with him. Perhaps genetics do play a role. It was great knowing him if only for a few months.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Monday, Monday


Another mostly rainy week but lots of indoor stuff. I saw a play at Meadowbrook (MORIARTY) which was well-acted but poorly written. Why do all plays about Sherlock Holmes have to be comedies? Aren't the books pretty dark? Only read THE HOUND but that's my impression

Hate to be sour about the ERAS tour too (and I thought it was the EROS tour) but way too long for how little diversity there is in her songs. Still she gives you a lot of costumes, sets, dancing so it's really my fault for thinking I was her target audience. My audience, on a TH pm, unlike George's, was two. I am sure a larger audience would have helped out enjoyment.

LOVE ANNIKA. And what I initially thought I would dislike (she talks to the audience) is my favorite thing because she says such clever and insightful things.Nicola Walker is an amazing actress. No one quite like her in the U.S. She is so terrific in RIVER especially.


Reading UNCLE PAUL, Celia Fremlin. Just reissued by Faber. The beach described in the book is not nearly as nice as the one on the cover. Very amusing, observant,  but also scary.

What about you? 

PS Off to medical appt. Will return later

From Jeff

No, you - and we - are NOT Taylor's target audience. George, maybe.
Yes, ANNIKA is worth watching for her, as the mystery plots have been painfully obvious so far this year. We've seen her in so many things - an early JONATHAN CREEK (SPOILER - she was the killer), MI-5 (aka SPOOKS), where she came in the second series and stayed to the end, RIVER of course (so good), THE SPLIT. The one we gave up on was MARRIAGE with her and Sean Bean. Of course, also LAST TANGO IN HALIFAX and UNFORGOTTEN (which was not the same this season without her).
Went to see Shaw's ARMS AND THE MAN off-Broadway on Saturday, and the first act put me to sleep. The second was much better, so maybe it was me (but Jackie felt the same). It was his fourth play (after MRS. WARREN's PROFESSION), and "inspired" by something I'd never heard about, the Bulgarian War of 1885. According to the notes by the director, when Maurice Evans put it on, Shaw advised him to do it like an operetta and have the cast speak directly to the audience and introduce their characters. It did work well here, but I thought it was slight, and the ingenue daughter was extremely tedious. Still... Oh, and we did wear masks in the small theater, as did a lot of the other (mainly senior) theatergoers.
I went back and checked and this was the 16th performance of a Shaw play we've seen, of ten different titles, not to mention a couple of MY FAIR LADY productions. In order of writing, we've seen:
Mrs. Warren's Profession (twice, once with the bizarrely cast Ruth Gordon, with Lynn Redgrave as her daughter, and once with Cherry Jones)
Arms and the Man
Candida (twice, once in London in the '70s, with Deborah Kerr, and once in Canada with Phil & Patti Abbott)
You Never Can Tell (one of several Shaws that starred Philip Bosco, who was wonderful)
The Devil's Disciple (three times, once in London with John Wood)
Captain Brassbound's Conversion (early '70s in London; Ingrid Bergman was in it)
Major Barbara (twice; Philip Bosco again)
Pygmalion (twice, once in London with Alex McCowen and Diana Rigg)
Heartbreak House (Rex Harrison, Amy Irving, Philip Bosco)
Saint Joan (Lynn Redgrave)
This week we have Lucinda Williams in concert on Friday. We saw her last summer after her stroke, opening for Bonnie Raitt. Tomorrow is our Anniversary and we'll be staying over in the city Friday night.
Plenty of television, can't remember it all. Finished (finally) I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE (happy ending after six hours of misery) and the Italian DON'T LEAVE ME. Besides ANNIKA, started the British BODIES (which you have to watch closely as there are four timelines), LITTLE BIRD (which I am finding very disturbing; can't believe this crap went on in Canada) and BOSCH: LEGACY (series two, Freevee), which is also disturbing to me. First of all, the woman is a cop for crying out loud! She is investigating a serial rapist who gets into young women's apartments by cutting the screen on their otherwise open windows. Yet, she has no alarm, no security, and LEAVES HER WINDOWS WIDE OPEN so the rapist can get in and take her. Honestly, she is too stupid to live IMHO. As if her father didn't warn her often enough. And when she comes home, she doesn't check the apartment at all. Plus, the whole idea of someone buried alive in a coffin is nearly impossible for me to watch.

Thursday, October 19, 2023



Leila Slimani is the first Moroccan woman to win France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Goncourt, which she won for The Perfect Nanny. A journalist and frequent commentator on women’s and human rights, she is French president Emmanuel Macron’s personal representative for the promotion of the French language and culture. Born in Rabat, Morocco, in 1981, she now lives in Paris with her French husband and their two young children.

This is not your typical crime fiction novel written today. It is like a Simenon or perhaps Ruth Rendell. Louise is hired by a Yuppie could with two small children. Her devotion soon seems pathological to the reader, but the couple sees only her outward self.  The reader is in on just how miserable a life she has. This is a slim, scary book. It almost feels hot in your hand. You don't want to pick it up and you don't want to put it down.


Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Happy Birthday, Phil (79th)

Phil's favorite short story was "The Machine Stops"
by E.M. Forster. He used in many of his classes over the years. 
Happy Birthday.!!

George Kelley 

Kevin Tipple

Jerry House 


Todd Mason

My Alone House

This is my alone house

Where objects placed by

Moving men a year ago

Still turn up in odd places

Where wedding china

Teeters on shelves

Too high for my reach

 I still haven't found our yearbooks

Or the tartan tea cozy, the Delft tile

But I brought the books you loved

Who could abandon Freud and Thoreau

Though the marginalia is impossible to read

There’s the Slipware pottery you collected

And that’s your favorite chair by the window

Look how it’s never faded

This is my alone house

But since you won’t go 

We’ll have to live together 

In my alone house


*Regard this poem as cathartic rather than depressive.