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Authors: Suzan Still

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Literary, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Contemporary Fiction

Commune of Women

BOOK: Commune of Women
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or the publisher.

The Fiction Studio
P.O. Box 4613
Stamford, CT 06907

Copyright © 2011 by Suzan Still

Jacket design by Barbara Aronica Buck
Author photo © 2011 by Robert White

ISBN-13: 978-1-936558-16-2

Visit our website at
www.fictionstudiobooks.com

All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever except as provided by U.S. Copyright Law. For information, address The Fiction Studio.

First Fiction Studio Printing: July 2011

Printed in the United States of America

To David,
love of my life.

And to all beings who crave freedom.
May your hunger be peacefully and completely filled.

Contents

Cover Page

Title Page

Copyright Page

Day One

Day Two

Day Three

Day Four

Acknowledgements

A Conversation with Suzan Still

Reading Group Questions

Day One

Los Angeles International Airport
Los Angeles, California
Monday, 8:37 AM

Erika

The noise as Erika steps out of the cab is deafening. She’s screaming at Amelia, “Just call Dallas and tell them...” and the fucking phone cuts out. She spins around, hoping to pick up the signal again, but Amelia’s gone.

Erika imagines her sitting at her desk, yelling into the phone, “Ms. Reiner? Ms. Reiner?” like an idiot – like she’s never had Erika’s phone cut out before. It’ll take her ten minutes to settle down and remember that she already knows what she’s supposed to tell the Dallas office. They went over it yesterday.
Christ!

The cabby’s on Mexican time. He’s taking her bag out of the trunk like he’s doing it underwater. She’s got 40 minutes to dash through the terminal, get through fucking Homeland Security, and catch the flight to Berlin.

Come on!

No one tells you when you crash through the glass ceiling, that one of your job descriptions will be sprinting through airports in three-inch heels, pulling a carry-on. Another place where men have the distinct advantage.

Every loser in Creation is in her way. Why do most people look like genetic throwbacks? They mope along, looking dazed – no sense of direction; no focus. How do they manage to feed and clothe themselves? What must their sex lives be like?

She’s like a shark among guppies. If she has to, she’ll
bite
her way through this sea of zombies!

Heddi

The thing Heddi always hates about LAX is the frantic pace. Hotel airporters, taxis, police, breakneck Ninja motorcycles and private cars like theirs all swarm around entrances, exits and parking spaces like bees around a disturbed hive. Once she’s run that gauntlet, dealing with the mess inside the terminals is a piece of cake – relatively speaking.

Thank God Betty insisted on driving her today. It made it so much easier this morning to lock up the house and set out. The thing with Hal has her so upset! And this Wellbutrin’s so strong she wouldn’t trust her life or anyone else’s with her own driving right now. But Betty – big and solid as a navy-and-red mountain, her grip on the wheel like a strangler’s; her jaw, lost in a pudding-like sack of triple chins, firmly clenched in determination – is navigating the commute traffic like one of the Norns clutching the reins of the Car of Fate.

For the population of the L.A. basin, it’s business as usual, Heddi notes vaguely. Shopping malls are opening their doors and their parking lots are filling rapidly. School security officers scanning truants for weaponry at the gates must be relieved that, soon, they can grab some coffee in the staff room. Office buildings divided into hive-like cubicles should already be humming with the electronic honey-making that is business. Heddi watches it all slip by like water flowing past.

She usually doesn’t indulge her patients like this. And of course, neither one can know that the other
is
her patient. As a Jungian analyst, confidentiality is primary for her. She’s never let a patient drive her anywhere before and this is the first time she’s ever come to the airport to pick one up. (She did, once, early in her practice, deliver one to a jet that was taking him far, far away, much to her relief – but that’s another story!)

But Heddi has a special spot in her heart for this arrival. According to her own analyst, Dr. Copeland, Ondine represents some part of Heddi’s shadow – which is why Heddi always finds her so marvelously aggravating.

“Offer her particular hospitality,” Dr. Copeland advised her. “She has much to teach you.”

How would Ondine feel, Heddi wonders, if she knew she’s paying 200 dollars an hour, so
she
can teach
Heddi?
Analytic psychology, she’s found over the years, really initiates one into paradox and irony.

Hospitality is one of the buzz words of depth psychology. It doesn’t mean putting Ondine up while she’s here, or feeding her well, or even doing what she’s doing now – which is fighting her way upstream like a salmon toward the reception area of the International Terminal through a clotted rapids of arrivals flooding out of Customs.

Hospitality means remaining open and receptive to the field of energy generated between them. Not to let it constellate her own complexes, which is what a good analyst is supposed to do, anyway. Except there’s always that damned countertransference!

The digital read-out of Arrivals says Flight 3742 from Paris is on time, probably taxiing up to Gate 34 at this very moment. Which means she has at least half an hour to use the loo and then read a few pages of the murder mystery that’s got her hooked – if she can hold Betty at bay – before she even has to start looking for Ondine in this mob.

And to make herself suitably hospitable, whatever that might entail.

Betty

Betty never thought she’d be the kind of person who’d go to a shrink. She’s as normal as apple pie. Dish water. Laundry soap. Whatever.

But things happen to you in this life; things you don’t expect and that are painful. That was a surprise. She grew up so normal and still that was no proof against suffering.

During their last session, Heddi said that Betty survived her normality by staying unconscious – not, like, out cold, but by not really thinking about the things that were wrong. That’s why things got so crazy – because Betty wasn’t bringing any of the stuff to consciousness.

Betty steals a sidelong glance at Heddi, so cool and aloof in her short blond do and pale blue silk pencil skirt that glints like surgical steel, so slender and self-contained, and she feels a shudder run through her. She’s not sure if it’s from pleasure at being of service to such a svelte, sophisticated creature, or from pure terror of her.

At their last session, Heddi also said that Betty has made a fetish out of plastic flowers. She says Betty is living in a very primitive state of religiosity. That
religio
is the root word, meaning
careful consideration
of the dangers.

“What dangers?” Betty asks.

“The gods,” Heddi says. “The gods will have their way with us.”

“Gods? I don’t believe in them.”

“It doesn’t matter. They believe in you.”

“So, what
is
a flower fetish, anyway?”

Betty watches Heddi, who’s always so classy, take a sip of her Pellegrino water and set the glass carefully back on the coaster that protects the pristine embossed leather of her French desk. “Primitive people make fetishes – of mud, feathers, bones, blood, whatever. Then they project the energy of the gods into the fetishes and believe that it is these things hanging around in their houses that have all the power. You’ve done that with your flowers: you’ve projected religious power into them and forgotten about the living gods.”

Betty doesn’t get it. She’s new at this. If her friend, Em, hadn’t sworn that this was the best thing for her to do right now to save her sanity, she’d quit.

Maybe Heddi’s right – Betty just doesn’t know. She says Betty’s adorned her house with amulets like some ancient goatherd. She asks these impossible questions: was Betty trying to ward off the evil eye of neighbors? Trying to bind her family to herself with some substitute for love?

It’s all a mystery to Betty, but at least she’s up out of the BarcaLounger and doing something positive – if navigating L.A. traffic, especially LAX traffic, can be considered positive. It does kind of perk her up, getting her adrenaline going like this. And Heddi’s surely in no shape to drive. Betty’s never seen her so somber. Maybe it’s this mystery person who’s arriving that she’s thinking about.

It doesn’t matter if Heddi doesn’t even say a word to her. Betty doesn’t expect her to use this time to give her extra therapy.

All Betty wanted was to get out of her house before she took a butcher knife and drove it straight through her own heart.

Pearl

Ever since she lost her spot in front a Pop’s Diner, Pearl’s been a gypsy. She tried settin up at the pier, but either the wind was too sharp or the sun got ta her. Then she tried a couple a blocks back from the ocean, by the Safeway. But people was too busy, bustlin in, bustlin out. Nobody paid her no nevermind.

She went from a good, solid twenty-dollar day at Pop’s ta almost nothin.

It’s been two weeks an Pearl purdy near starved ta death, til José come along, him an his cab.

“Pearl, I been looking for you,” he says. “All over town.”

José was one of Pop’s regulars, an he never stiffed her. Ever single time he put somethin in her can – sometimes a dollar, sometimes two, or even five. Always with a smile an a “
Buenos dias, Madre
.”

Madre!
Callin the laks a Pearl
Mother!
Well, if that don’t beat Hell!

“What you are doing, now, Pearl? Where you are sitting?”

“José, I ain’t got no spot no more. Since Pop up an died on me, I’m double homeless. Ain’t got no home an also ain’t got no business establishment.”

“Dis is
turriblay
.” He rattled off them r’s lak he’d got a chill. “Terrible, Pearl. You got to come wit me.”

“Whar we goin?”

“I don’ know. You get in. We theenk about it.”

“What bout mah chariot? Cain’t leave mah cart behind.”

“You get in, Pearl. I poot eet een de trronk.” Pearl smiles at how these Mesicans can mangle the language.

And sure enough, he hefts that damn thing in thar lak it warn’t nothin, an off they go.

“Whar you takin me, José?”

“I don’ know, Pearl. We got to theenk. How about de pier?”

“Tried that. Most froze mah tush off.”

“How about de shelter?”

“Nope. Ain’t goin ta no shelter. If’n I gots ta sleep in the sand on the beach, I’ll do that. But I ain’t goin inta no shelter.”

By now, theys out on the freeway. Don’t ax her which one, cuz she ain’t never drove a car in her life. She barely done rode in one.

José is real quiet an Pearl’s thinkin he’s regrettin takin her up. But then he shouts, “I got it! Pearl, I know where you got to go! You have good business there.”

“Whar?”

“De airport!”

“Now how the Hell am I gonna get ta the airport?”

“I take you.”

“Now listen, young man. I don’t need no one-day gig. I gots ta do this ever day.”

“Jes. Jes, I understand. I take you every day.”

“Are you
crazy?

“No. Listen, Pearl. I got to go to de airport every day, anyways. That’s where most of my fares come from. I take you in de morning and pick you up, my last run at night.”

Well, Pearl argued a piece, but José was so enthusiastic, she finally done give in an said she’d give it a try. It’s illegal as Hell, she’s sure. But the amazin part is, she’s made more in the first hour then she usually makes all day.

She’s keepin a low profile – stashed her cart with José and jes kept her pack. Hangin out mostly in the bathrooms. She cain’t ratly believe how many a them suckers they is. They gots more bathrooms then a pig’s got poop.

Pearl figgered out rat away that she could take a paper towel an wipe the counter an the bowl, fore a lady washes her hands. She knows they laks ta plunk they purses down – an them wet spots jes gives em the shivers.

Some jes brushes her off, but more often then not, they’ll dig in a pocket or a purse an hand her some change, or even a bill.

Pearl cain’t hardly believe her good fortune. Only trouble is, she cain’t smoke her pipe. She’s gonna have ta do what them office workers do, lak she’s seen downtown – step out and have her a smoke, now and then.

Other then that, thins is lookin real good.

Ondine

When you lift off from Orly and climb above Paris, you can see the inner ring – the
Périphérique,
the freeway that follows the ancient fortifications of the city. It makes a huge mandala in the midst of the urban sprawl and confirms Ondine’s deeply held conviction that Paris
is
the Center of the Universe. And at its beating heart, on the tail of the
Île de la Cité
, the Great Mother is enthroned – Notre Dame Cathedral. That view never fails to bring tears to her eyes.

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