Posts Tagged ‘Paul’

honing: the quorum

Monday, December 9th, 2019

quorom shining sea

On a cold rainy morning two days before New Year’s Eve, Elisha Montoya, a beautiful woman with reddish brown hair, stands behind the counter of Mona’s, the one and only bakery/café in Carmeline Creek—the café doing a brisk business.

Elisha is the manager of Mona’s and works here five days a week from six-thirty in the morning until two in the afternoon. Her husband, Paul Windsor, seven years older than Elisha, is sitting at his customary window table having breakfast with two of the newest residents of Carmeline Creek, Tivona Descartes, sixty-seven, and her husband Ephraim Spinoza, seventy-one, arrived from Zurich, Switzerland barely a month ago.

The four of them—Ephraim, Tivona, Paul, and Elisha—have become fast friends and are on the lookout for three other people to fulfill the imperative of a dream Ephraim and Tivona had while living in Zurich, a dream they interpreted as a directive to leave Switzerland and settle in Carmeline Creek.

In that life-changing dream Ephraim said to Tivona, “Our first visitor will be one of the seven,” and Tivona replied, “And you and I are two of the seven.” And Ephraim said, “Leaving four to find.”

As it happened, Paul was the first visitor to Tivona and Ephraim’s new digs in Carmeline Creek, and three weeks later, on Christmas Eve, Tivona identified Elisha as the fourth.

And since becoming the fourth member of Ephraim and Tivona’s dream collective, Elisha has been on high alert for the fifth, though how she will recognize the fifth is a mystery to her.

“I’ll have a large oatmeal cookie, a baguette, a bran muffin, and a large cup of coffee,” says Ira Weinstein, an owlish man with black-framed glasses, his order never varying in the seven years Elisha has been serving him. “To go.”

Elisha hands Ira his bag of goodies and says, “If you had said ‘For here’ I would have anointed you the fifth.”

“The fifth what?” asks Ira, handing her the never-varying twenty-dollar bill.

“The fifth of seven,” says Elisha, handing him four dollars in change, all of which Ira puts in the tip jar as per usual.

“Seven what?” he asks, frowning quizzically.

“People,” she says, nodding. “But you never say ‘for here’ because you only come here on your way to work. And who knows where you go on weekends.”

“You’re being kind of weird this morning,” says Ira, grinning at Elisha. “And actually… I like not being sure what someone means. Doesn’t happen to me very often. Not being sure.”

“Oh it happens to me all the time,” says Elisha, laughing. “But there’s a wonderful sort of freedom in not being sure.”

“I’m late,” says Ira, giggling, “but this has been fun.”

Elisha watches Ira go out into the rain, and a brief interlude of nothing much happening precedes three people entering the café together—a man and two women, the words swashbuckling, exotic, and regal popping into Elisha’s head.

The man is tall and broad-shouldered with olive skin and longish black hair, clean-shaven with an impressive jaw, his heavy blue coat beaded with raindrops. Forty-two guesses Elisha. Fearless.

The older of the two women is nearly as tall as the man, her skin alabaster, her silvery gray hair cut in a boyish bob, her coat gray. Seventy-two guesses Elisha. Mother of the man. Fearless, too.

The younger woman is African and very pregnant, her black hair in many braids strung with yellow wooden beads, her coat magenta. Thirty-seven guesses Elisha. The man’s wife. Goddess of hope and happiness.

“Welcome to Mona’s,” says Elisha, nodding graciously to the trio. “How may I help you this morning?”

“We are famished,” says the younger woman, her particular British accent suggesting her first language is Swahili. “Dreaming of eggs and sausage and hash browns.”

“Eggs and sausage we have,” says Elisha, smiling into the woman’s huge brown eyes. “Baby potatoes, not hash browns.”

“We are saved,” says the man, his accent purely British, his arms stretched heavenward. “We’ll have piles of eggs and sausage and toast and gallons of coffee and orange juice. And then we’ll wait a bit and have lunch. What a beautiful place you have. Smells divine.”

“Just two breakfasts,” says the older woman, her accent British, too. “No eggs and such for me. Just one of these gigantic pumpkin muffins, please, and endless coffee.”

Elisha taps the keys of the cash register and says, “That will be forty-two dollars. Please find a table and we’ll find you when your food is ready. Help yourselves to coffee.”

The table the trio finds just happens to be adjacent to the table where Paul and Ephraim and Tivona are nibbling scones and drinking strong black tea and discussing the exigencies of fate. Thus when Elisha serves the goddess of hope and happiness and her two companions their breakfast and asks, “What brings you to Carmeline Creek?” and the man smiles magnanimously and says, “We’ve come to complete the quorum,” Paul and Ephraim and Tivona freeze mid-nibbling.

“Which quorum might that be?” asks Elisha, arching an eyebrow and making eye contact with Paul.

“We never know,” says the older woman, sipping her coffee. “It’s something my husband used to say whenever we arrived anywhere new and were queried as you have queried us, and my dear son carries on the tradition. This coffee is divine, by the way, which I take as yet another good omen.”

Ephraim and Tivona and Paul hold their breaths, listening intently.

“We are pilgrims,” says the younger woman, holding her coffee mug with both hands as if it is a precious chalice. “Seeking a new world. With clean air and fertile soil and friendly neighbors and a good school for the child we’re about to bring into the world.”

“Forgive me for barging in,” says Paul, barging in, “but Carmeline Creek is blessed with excellent schools. Public, yes, but they might as well be Waldorf Montessori.”

“Please barge in,” says the man, turning to Paul and extending a hand. “I’m Terence Duval. This is my wife Adaugo and my mother Florence.”

“Paul Windsor,” says Paul, gripping Terence’s hand. “This is Ephraim Spinoza and his wife Tivona Descartes, and you’ve met my wife Elisha. Welcome to Carmeline Creek.”

“We were drawn here as if by a powerful magnet,” says Florence, looking from Ephraim to Tivona to Paul. “On our way to Canada, we thought.”

“But when we drove across the bridge,” says Adaugo, her eyes sparkling, “coming from the south, and we saw the river meeting the sea, the little town nestled on the headlands, we felt we were coming home.”

At high noon on New Year’s Day, the seven gather on the beach at the mouth of Carmeline Creek, the sun playing peek-a-boo with ragged gray clouds.

They face the shining sea, standing shoulder to shoulder, no one speaking—the ocean roaring eloquent.

Now Adaugo begins to sing a lovely wordless song, and in the next moment Tivona begins to sing, too, harmonizing with Adaugo as they invent the melody together. Now Ephraim joins in, now Elisha, now Terence, now Florence, now Paul.

They sing for a long time and continue to sing as they traverse the beach and climb the stairs and walk through town to Ephraim and Tivona’s place called honing—a splendid feast awaiting them.

Fin

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honing: arrival

Monday, November 18th, 2019

leaves on bench

In early November, someone from out of town leases the building three doors down from Mona’s, the only bakery and café in Carmeline Creek, a small town on the far north coast of California. The prospect of new tenants in the venerable old two-story building is of especial interest to Paul Windsor, a habitué of Mona’s, and his wife Elisha who is the manager of that delightful café, because they were seriously considering leasing that building themselves and opening a stationery store and tea shop on the ground floor while subletting the upstairs apartment.

The stately brick and wood building was built in 1907 and has been vacant for two years, the previous occupant a photographer named Ormsby Carfax who had an art gallery there called Watt. A middle-aged man with several cats, Ormsby exclusively displayed his own work: out-of-focus snapshots of people who came into Watt stuck with red and green thumbtacks on squares of corkboard framed with skinny sticks of driftwood.

Ormsby and his cats and snapshots held sway in the grand space for three years, having supplanted a sculptor named Darling Madison who also used the space as an art gallery: Context. Darling was there for ten years and hung paintings by local artists on her walls while using the floor space to display her sculptures, all of which were of a similar construct.

A giggly woman with graying blonde hair and two sweet mutts named Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Darling impaled unpainted wooden spheres ranging in size from grapefruits to basketballs on three to five-foot lengths of rebar arising from heavy blocks of wood, thus creating bouquets of wooden spheres with rebar stems.

Amy Carlyle, the realtor in charge of leasing the building, tells Paul and Elisha that the new tenants are Ephraim Spinoza and Tivona Descartes—Ephraim Spanish, Tivona French—and they are planning to live in the upstairs apartment.

When Amy asked how they intended to use the downstairs space, Ephraim replied, “We are forever refining our concept.”

On a cold morning in mid-November, two weeks after Amy leased the building to Ephraim and Tivona, Paul leaves his house and walks the five blocks to Mona’s for his morning stint of writing and socializing. A California native of Anglo-Ashkenazi origins in his late fifties with a humble coif of gray hair, Paul is in a cheerful mood and looking forward to seeing Elisha, though they only parted two hours ago.

As he comes into view of the storefront formerly known as Watt and Context, Paul sees a large sign affixed to the outside wall above the front door: the word honing in an attractive san serif font centered on a turquoise rectangle.

During her mid-morning break, Elisha goes with Paul to look at the honing sign. A graceful woman in her early fifties with reddish brown hair, her mother Spanish, her father Irish, Elisha has been very sad of late because her children, Conor, twenty-two, and Alexandra, nineteen, recently moved to Ireland—their absence a profound shock to Elisha.

“Another one-word gallery,” she says, gazing at the honing sign. “I wonder what it is about this space that inspires such brevity.”

“Could be a last name I suppose,” says Paul, honing sounding German to him. “And maybe it will be some sort of store and not a gallery.”

Elisha sighs. “Oh I wish Alexandra and Conor were here to make a movie of this.”

“We could make one,” says Paul, putting his arm around her. “I’m getting pretty good at shooting things with my little camera. Send something to the kids for Christmas.”

“Good idea,” says Elisha, the word Christmas bringing tears to her eyes.

 ∆

When Paul learns that Randy Collins, a local handyman, put the honing sign up, he arranges an interview with Randy for possible inclusion in his possible documentary.

Sitting at a table in Mona’s enjoying a peach scone and a cup of coffee, Randy, red-haired and freckled, tells Paul that the sign and eight enormous black screws were shipped from Zurich to his house via UPS.

“And about ten minutes after the sign was delivered,” says Randy, sipping his coffee, “Ephraim called me and told me exactly where he wanted it to go and how to attach it. He’d had the holes pre-drilled, which was lucky for me because that sign is solid steel a half-inch thick, four-feet-wide, two-feet-high, and incredibly heavy. And here’s the weird part. They wanted me to put it up at midnight on the night of the new moon, so I had to set up two big ladders and flood lights and hire Diego to help me lift the sign up over the door and hold it in place while I sunk the screws.”

At 6:20 in the morning on December 2, a light rain falling, Elisha arrives at Mona’s to get the café ready for the daily seven o’clock opening. Mona, the owner and baker of Mona’s, is bringing forth trays of just-baked scones and cinnamon swirls from one of the ovens, while Carlos, her boyfriend and able assistant, is loading the largest of the five ovens with forty-eight loaves of French bread to be baked in time for the morning rush.

Mona, fifty-five, has curly brown hair and red-framed glasses and speaks with the faintest of Danish accents. “Did you see the honing people are moving in?” she says to Elisha. “They were unloading a little moving van when we got here this morning.”

“I offered to help them,” says Carlos, forty-four, a burly Mexican guy with raven black hair and many tattoos, “but they said they didn’t have much to unload.”

“They seem very nice,” says Mona, smiling as Elisha picks up the phone to call Paul. “And they’re definitely artists.”

“How do you know?” asks Elisha, waiting for Paul to answer.

“Everything about them,” says Mona, nodding. “Sensualists.”

“The way they dress, you know,” says Carlos, closing the oven and checking the temperature. “Casual, you know, but sophisticated. And the way they move, you know. Like they’re dancing.”

“Maybe they’re dancers,” says Elisha, hanging up the phone when she realizes Paul must be walking the dogs.

At 9:53 in the morning on that same December 2, a hard rain falling, Ephraim Spinoza, seventy-one, a handsome man with olive brown skin and dark brown eyes and an impressive mop of curly gray hair, sits at a large table in the center of the otherwise empty room formerly known as Context and Watt. He is making sketches of OPEN and CLOSED signs with a black-ink pen on a six-foot-long piece of white butcher paper. He’s wearing wire-framed glasses, a long-sleeved peach-colored shirt, black corduroy trousers, an emerald-green belt, and beautiful red shoes.

Tivona Descartes, sixty-seven, a striking Moroccan with short black hair and brilliant blue eyes, gets up from her chair next to Ephraim and goes to an east-facing window to look out at the rain. She is wearing a long-sleeved black shirt, the sleeves rolled up to her elbows, blue jeans, and black boots.

“I love it here, my darling,” she says softly. “I loved driving across the bridge into town, how huge the waves in the bay.”

Ephraim looks up and smiles at his wife gazing out the window. “I love it here, too.”

“How lucky we are,” she says, her way of saying so a song.

“We were wise to follow our dreams,” he says, his reply a song, too.

Now someone knocks on the front door and Tivona goes to answer—several packages expected in the next few days.

“Hello,” she says, smiling at the man—Paul Windsor—on their doorstep. “I’m sorry but we are not yet open for business.”

“I didn’t think you were,” says Paul, returning her smile. “I’ve brought you a gift, apple yum my wife and I made from this year’s Goldens.” He proffers a small glass jar. “Welcome to Carmeline Creek.”

“Oh come in,” says Tivona, taking a step back to allow Paul to enter. “I am Tivona Descartes and this is my husband Ephraim Spinoza.”

“Paul Windsor,” he says, bowing to her. “My wife is Elisha Montoya, the manager of Mona’s. She can’t wait to meet you.”

“Apple yum, you say,” says Ephraim, coming to join them. “To spread on toast and put in our yogurt?”

“Or eat it right out of the jar,” says Paul, laughing. “Not too sweet, yet wonderfully sweet and gently spicy.”

“A pleasure to meet you,” says Ephraim, shaking Paul’s hand. “Come sit down. We’ll have some tea.”

“Our first visitor,” says Tivona, giving Ephraim a meaningful glance.

“A special moment,” says Ephraim, going to find another chair and put the kettle on.

“So…” says Paul, looking around the big room. “What will honing be?”

“Ah,” says Tivona, taking Paul’s hand as if they are old friends. “That is the question.”

fin

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