Bucks County Writers Workshop
The Marry Month of May by Carmen Ferreiro
To Pirandello and his Six Characters in Search of an Author
don't want to write their story. Why should I care about their petty lives? Look at them. A sick old man sitting up in a huge mahogany bed that screams of money. His daughter, a lanky maid standing by the door looking in, not at her father, but at a woman of ample bosom and sensible shoes, who is attending to his bandaged foot.
What a pathetic bunch of losers. And this is supposed to be a love story?
I might as well kill them all and end their misery. Him at least, the selfish old man. He is old and sick anyway, and probably deserves it. I bet he made his money in ways I wouldn't approve, and here he is now, living in a big house his empty heart could never fill with a daughter he's never loved.
No one will mourn for him, that is for sure. He's scornfully arrogant towards his servants, a tyrannical father to his daughter. Besides, he has the money, the obvious motive for a murder.
But who would do the deed? I wonder. The daughter perhaps?
I look back at the woman standing by the door. She is tall and ugly, I can see now. Neither suited for marriage nor inclined to Church life--the only options for a woman of her time--her future is bleak.
Not that she would like to get married anyway. Men are not to be trusted. She has learned that much from her father's contemptuous behavior towards her mother when she was still alive. But even if she wanted, she stands no chance. Men, she knows from experience, only care about beauty or money. And she has neither. Not yet anyway. Not until her father dies. Then, at least, she'll have the money.
The hope of this money has kept her alive all these years while she waited on him, a pliant shadow, a virtual prisoner to his wishes. But now, as she watches him looking at this woman as if seeing her for the first time, fear has awakened in her. What if her father were to marry again? What would become of her, then? And the shadow of a plan starts growing in her mind. The seed of a murder?
Unaware that the daughter is watching them, the woman attends to the man's foot. She is not young anymore--hasn't been for years--but has kept her charms and knows how to use them to lure men to do her bidding. She has had her share of them along the way, and this one, for all his money, is not any different. If she does not mistake the signs, he's already responding to her advances. In a matter of days, he will be at her feet. But she must play her cards well. Nothing given until she has his word. He must marry her first. And then, well, he's sick already. It wouldn't take too much to push him over the line. This time, next year, she'll be the mistress of the house, and of the money.
Yes. A murder story is much more fitting if only...
"You forgot something."
Startled, I turn towards the voice. A man is standing by the window that is now a door opening into a garden.
Who are you? I'm about to ask him when I see the ice sitting at his feet. "The iceman, of course," I say aloud as I remember. "I did forget about you."
The man pushes the hair from his eyes with the back of his hand in an awkward way that seems so right, and stares at me. "Nah," he says. "Not me. You forgot it's May."
His eyes are blue, the color of the ocean in a cloudless day, and his hair, bleached blond by the salt of a million gales, has silver on it.
"May?" I say, my voice an echo of his own.
"Yeah. The story. It takes place in May, you know?" His words have a soothing cadence, a gentle drawl, that rises and falls like waves in the high sea.
"So?" I ask, still confused. "What is so different about May?"
"Come," he says, a flicker of amusement swimming in his eyes. "I'll show you."
He has moved so silently I haven't noticed and is now standing by my side. "Come," he repeats and, grabbing my hand into his callous one, takes me to the door.
The trees have grown over the night a crown of leaves where unseen birds are now singing, and on the carpet of grass that covers the ground, yellow and red and purple flowers are blooming. Further down, beyond the trees, a lonely path winds its way towards the mountains.
"Would you care for a walk?"
I jump, and turn again towards the man I had somehow forgotten. "Who are you?" I ask him.
The man looks at me, and the whole ocean seems to be dancing in his eyes, laughing. "Me?" he says. "I'm the iceman. Don't you remember?"
"But your name. What is your name?"
"I don't have a name," he says.
I stare back at him, confused by his answer. His face, weathered by storms and tavern brawls, is not the face of a stranger. It's the face that has haunted my dreams from a time long past. The face of the Norsemen my ancestors feared--the wolf-warriors of the North who raided their villages for food and gold and left behind the corpses of the men and their seed in the wombs of their dark-haired women.
I recognize his features. I have seen them before in the blue-eyed, golden-haired children playing in the valleys up in the mountains where their great-great-grandmothers ran to hide their shame.
I recognize his features: His high cheekbones, his cleft chin covered by the stubble of a day old beard, his deep-set eyes and hungry lips. They have been burned for centuries in the collective mind of my half-bred people. And his name.... His name is...
"Your name is Erickson," I say to him. "Olaf Erickson."
He repeats the words slowly rolling them on his tongue, as if trying them against his memories, and shakes his head, "No," he says. "That is not my name. My name is Hugo."
"But you said you didn't know your name."
He shrugs. "I know it now," he says. "Like I know there is a river further down, beyond the trees. And a pool at the feet of the mountains that fills with water when spring arrives, and then only for one day. It is full today, I know, or it will be, if only you'd care to come with me."
I hesitate for a moment, poised at the edge of love. I have been here before, I remember well. In another spring. The flowers were also blooming then as they are now. And the earth, pregnant with life, smelled this sweet. I have been here before at the edge of love, and I know that if I follow him, there is no return.
"Come," the man says in his gentle drawl. His arms have wrapped themselves around my body like ropes do around the prow when calling the ship to harbor. I feel his chest, under his shirt, raising and falling as he breathes. He has the salty smell that clings to sailors even when they are ashore. The smell of fish, and of seaweed, and of endless days at sea.
I look back over his shoulder at the characters frozen on the page where I have left them. The old man looking at the woman as if seeing her for the first time. And the daughter by the door watching them with fear in her eyes and the shadow of a plan forming in her mind.
"But the story," I say. "I'm supposed to write their story."
The man whose name is Hugo smiles. "Just tell them it's May," he says. "The Marry Month of May. They'll understand."
His upper lip curls up under the smile in the familiar way I knew it would. His eyes, washed blue by a thousand gales, are beckoning to me.
The rich old man and his tall, plain daughter, and the woman of ample bosom and sensible shoes forgotten, I close my mind and follow him.