Next To Last Edendale: The House On Moreno Drive In Silver Lake
By Phyl M. Noir
The whirring blades of a police helicopter broke into the blue hour.
“That day,” he said putting his hands on his wife’s shoulders, “you brought tomatoes to my mother. Minda took you out on the balcony – what did she say to you?”
“She said that if I came back from New York for you that I was mistaken but I hadn’t come for you.”
“You came for me.”
“Perhaps I did,” she said but it wasn’t true.
A broad light beamed from the helicopter and illuminated their yard. Their dog ran from door to door, barking and trying to get out.
“Hey!” Bruno yelled at the dog.
“It’s a police state. Only the police organize the city,” Celia said. “It’s a pity.”
She opened the gate and stood in the beam of light and waved and smiled. She put up her hands with the first fingers meeting the thumbs to signal “OK.” The dog rushed out through the partially closed gate. He barked.
“Hey, moronic young men and women up there! Hey! You are idiots!” She yelled at the helicopter. The dog showed he agreed with her by barking louder.
The helicopter light went off. It headed across the sky in the direction of Frogtown.
“I’m going to mass. Do you need me to stay?”
Bruno stood at the stovetop looking at the burners. “No.” He laughed.
“Why are you laughing?”
“Do you ever want to turn the knob to the left to turn the burner off?”
“I keep doing that.”
“I’ve fried five tea kettles and I was going to do it again. I took the whistle off. They should make tea kettles that don’t work unless the whistle is on.”
Celia opened the front door. The burglar alarm voice said, “FRONT DOOR OPEN.” She hit it with her fist until it broke. The police arrived and suggested marriage counseling.
She walked down Silver Lake Boulevard. A black man wearing a white shirt with too long sleeves walked along the center dividing line waving his scarecrow arms and complaining. Cars slowed near him and the drivers went carefully by him.
She passed three storefront churches. In one of them she saw young women with their heads covered in white lace. The women wrapped their arms around their bodies facing the corners of the church, their backs to the street. It was Palm Sunday.
There was a store with two plate glass windows and inside one of the windows were four old men sitting at a table playing cards. In the other, a man stood at a counter polishing the silver neck of a beautiful green glass hookah. “Selam Aleiykum,” one of the men said to her.
A man was huddled asleep under a coat on the sidewalk. He was young. His hair was still black. He wore socks with holes in them. Old shoes stood next to his feet. Celia took money from her wallet and put it in one of the shoes. She hoped someone stopped and gave money to Malcolm wherever he was.
Above a store a thin cotton curtain like a dishcloth blew from a window and on the other side of the street was St. Francis of Assisi.
It was cool inside the church. She made the sign of the cross and entered the pew and kneeled and prayed until mass began,
At the conclusion of mass the priest passed between the aisles. He dipped a palm frond in holy water and his gesture scattered the water over the members of the congregation.
She genuflected at the end of the pew and left the church.
Celia climbed the municipal stairs to the street above Sunset. There were very big old houses from the 1920s, houses with small garages from when cars were narrow. A large white stucco apartment building showed four floors of windows and these were pleasant windows. At the corner stood tiny court cottages and through the window in one of the cottages she saw the oddments of an indigent life: a real estate calendar on the wall, a crucifix and dishes on a shelf.
One night bird trilled “Ptiu. Ptiu.” Someone young walked in the shadows. The balmy air held possibility behind the walls concealing 1920s houses and gardens.
She walked inside her house. Through its windows she saw Toonerville. Her husband sat at his computer. He looked sly and guilty.
“Please tell me,” she said, “you’re not doing the banking statements stoned.”
“Just the mindless things.”
“Tell me. Do you know why your brother left the house every night after your parents were asleep?” The phone rang.
“Hello?” she asked.
“This is Minda.”
“I’m calling for Bruno.”
Celia took the phone down to her husband and told him in a pleasant voice that the call was from Minda. He took the phone from her hand. She went downstairs and folded the laundry but through the window she heard Bruno telling Minda what a big mistake it had been to marry Celia.
Bruno hoped that Minda was going to say she loved him but she didn’t.
Celia came into the house. She heard Bruno saying good-bye. He came into the bedroom.
“Minda apologized for her lack of courtesy. She forgot your name.”
“That’s all right. I forgot her name.”
“You don’t have to be this way.”
“You can’t step into the river of time twice,” she said, “although we did.”
“What are you talking about? You can’t step into the river once.”
“How can you not be able to step in the river once?”
“Because the idea of river is static and a river in not. Even in the little tiny bit of time it takes to step into the river the river changed.”
“But everything is like that. Everything changes.”
“That’s correct. We should have no nouns. Nouns give people the wrong idea.”
That night when they were in bed she ran her hand over the scars on his back. The piece of plate glass window was still under the skin and it was shaped like a triangle.
He said, “I was in the shower and I suddenly realized I don’t know what neuron-transmitters are. “
“There’s one on our mirror.”
He leaned on his elbow and looked at the mirror at the end of the bedroom. “No. That’s a neuron.”
“We need to sleep.” She put her hand over his mouth.
“I always talk when I’m in bed with someone except if I’m alone with the dog and then I talk to the dog. The dog doesn’t say much.”
In the morning, Bruno looked over the banking records he had put together the night before and said, “We’re fucked.”
Celia left the house and walked down to the Hyperion Bridge. Ahead of her was the green hill with the long building and the cross on its roof.
The metal on the bridge light posts was deposited with verdigris. The city had concreted the spaces between the rectangles so there were no balusters. The floor of the river grew high stiff and ugly weeds and skeins of dirty plastic bags were caught in the ends of the weeds. She went back under the bridge and walked along Riverside Drive.
Won’s store was more rundown than it had been when she was young and the sign in front now read, “Aram’s.” She looked inside and saw a magazine rack and an Armenian man standing by a counter looking into space. She thought for a moment to ask if the Armenian knew her father. She walked down to the river and saw the stones left by storms in its bottom. The stones came down from the Santa Monica Mountains.