THE FALL LINE
I am pseudo-intellectual, emotionally retarded, and I am financially irresponsible. In short: I am a writer. My name is Sammy Hane.
I took the job reporting for Underground River, assigned to the fashion page because Raluca Stoica had prior commitments. I guess they figured that the new guy could take the fall.
So I did: I took the Fall Line of young person’s Halloween costumes by Fall’s Angels.
Fall’s Angels is two young sisters who design Halloween costumes for the “one percent”, as the snarky say. Their mother manages them.
I have an interview with their mother, Nubia Katenatin. Nubia Katenatin is a striking black woman, tall and slender with haunting eyes and a captivatingly serene manner.
Nubia begins, “Hope is exhausting. Faith is a tease. Believe me you don't want two witches for daughters.”
I am thinking that this was a little harsh for a mother to say about her two successful daughters.
Nubia continues, “Hope will ask me, ‘Mom, tell us about how it was before the Fall?’ Hope is so sweet I can never resist.”
I clarify, “You mean before you founded Fall’s Angels?”
Nubia closes her eyes and smiles, slightly shaking her head, and she says, “Of course. See what I mean? My daughters refer to the age, I should say time (it feels like an age), before we founded Fall’s Angels Design, they refer that time jokingly as ‘before the Fall’. At that time I was a struggling ‘gofer’ working for Realm Cosmetics. It was an exciting form of poverty but when Hope and Faith were born I finally had to become ruthless.”
I ask bluntly, “Where is their father?”
Nubia is quiet for a minute and I can see the time traveling in her stare and she finally closes her eyes and says, “He was the Lighting Technician at Realm Cosmetics. His name was Olumorobo Numamo. Olumorobo was one of those beautiful black men who just illuminate a woman’s imagination. Everyone flirted with him, even the young men. One day he called me into his office and he said that he had a delivery for me. We made love on the roof. I, I remember thinking that he must know yoga. He made his penis undulate like a boa constrictor,” and Nubia stops, her eyes still closed.
Jesus, I am way too embarrassed to disturb her reverie but she finally continues, saying, “Olumorobo left Realm Cosmetics soon after that. I heard that he had taken a job with a competitor but he never told me and I never saw him again. He left me pregnant with Hope and Faith.”
I say, “So tell me about Hope and Faith.”
Nubia begins, “When I was in college I loved the poems of Emily Dickinson and I always remember one quote of hers: Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all. Hope was born first.”
What comes to my mind is the quote that I remembered from college, by Nietzsche: Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.
Nubia is saying, “I was exhausted after giving birth to Hope and then Faith took forever to be born. I would feel the contractions but Faith was reluctant to appear,” and Nubia laughs.
I join her laughter, saying, “Who would want to leave such a good thing in this life?”
Nubia looks at me oddly with those haunting eyes and then she continues, saying, “I had been afraid of my future when I was pregnant but I always remembered my own mother saying, Fear is a lack of Faith. So I chose the name Faith so that I always would have courage with me.”
I say, “It is hard to image you afraid.”
Nubia says softly, “Even Jesus was afraid when, on the cross, he thought God had forsaken him.”
What can I say? I file that one for consideration later over a drink.
Nubia continues, “To earn more money I made myself indispensable to the designers at Realm Cosmetics but I also began designing my own children’s clothing to save more money. When I would bring Hope and Faith to the daycare center at work people there started asking me to make clothes for their own children. Then they encouraged me to sell the designs online. They showed me how to market my designs by starting on the website Pinterest.”
I say, “I understand that Hope and Faith showed a genius for design at a very early age.”
Nubia nods and says, “Yes. I was a proud mother but that, that took me by surprise. It was supernatural. Can you imagine my awe when I saw Hope and Faith at six years old drawing dress designs? Dress designs that were novel? I was astonished and I was afraid.”
I ask, “Afraid? Really?”
Nubia nods, “Yes, afraid, at first. Their designs were other-worldly. They had ideas for make-up too.”
I ask, “Is that why you decided to market their designs as Halloween costumes?”
Nubia replies, “Hope and Faith both liked Halloween. Better than Christmas if you can believe it! They were inspired. They both told me that they wanted to have children wear their designs for Halloween. I knew that those designs were also haute couture in nature so it was my idea to market them to individual clients, to have them made-to-order, custom-fitted.”
I ask, “Whose idea was the Fall’s Angels name?”
Nubia tells me, “My publicist friend, Eleanor Kroes, did an article about Hope and Faith and described them as ‘Fall’s little angels’ and I liked that. Eleanor also got us our first celebrity clients.”
I ask, “What do Hope and Faith think of all this?”
Nubia replies, “My twin daughters are twins like the Moon and the Sun. Perhaps you would like to ask them yourself?”
I say, “Sure. Of course,” thinking ‘there it is; Nubia has never allowed her twin daughters to be interviewed; I am suddenly golden to my jaded unsuspecting editor’.
Nubia leans forward and reaches behind the enormous flower potted upon her elegant woven table. I had thought that the flower was artificial; it was so large and without foliage. But now I study the subtleties of coloration and I am not so sure. Nubia sees that I am studying the white cup of the inflorescence like an ivory shell and the long, undulated cigar-like appendage that arises white at the base then turns green ascending and which then finally climaxes in a lovely lavender tower nearly a foot tall.
I ask, “Is that a ‘Jack-In-The-Pulpit’?”
Nubia smiles and says, “This is a Voodoo Lily, an Amorphophallus. That is Latin for ‘deformed male sex organ’.”
I parry, “I hate when that happens.”
Nubia informs me, “It is elsewhere known as Devil’s Tongue. The flower appears before the foliage, sometimes months before, and the flower develops the metabolism rate of a hummingbird. The flower warms-up and gives off a smell like rotten meat.”
I ask, “This is your conversation piece for parties?”
Nubia replies, “In the habitat of these flowers, in West Africa, the pollinating insects that this flower must attract are flies, carrion beetles, and other insects that normally seek decomposing animals.”
I mutter, “Charming. Why don’t I smell anything bad now?”
Nubia says cryptically, “Let’s say the Devil’s Tongue has been licked,” and she picks up from behind the Voodoo Lily’s ornamental planter two small figurine fetishes. They appear vaguely female in their distorted representations but they are alluring in an oddly symbolic manner.
Nubia kisses one fetish and then the other fetish and sets them down facing me on the woven table.
I am thinking ‘very dramatic’ when suddenly behind me I hear two female voices chime, “Mother?”
I am turning my head as Nubia looks past me and says, “Yes, my dears, you were summoned,” and then, to me, she amends teasingly, “by my personal secretary.”
They are two radiant young women but they are not identical twins in appearance. And then I hear Nubia say to me, “Fraternal twins. Hope…,”
The plump girl with clear eyes that look out innocently at the world nods slightly and smiles sweetly.
Nubia says, “…and Faith,”
I nod to the slender, angular girl with the eyes that look inwardly and only flit outward to acknowledge me briefly but still sweetly.
Nubia concludes her introduction saying of me, “…This is Mr. Sammy Hane, the reporter from Underground River.”
I say, “Ladies, I am very pleased to be able to speak with you. Thank you for the honor.”
Hope and Faith take their mother’s outstretched arms and they sit beside her, Hope at the left hand and Faith at the right hand.
Hope and Faith say together to me, “Merry Halloween.”
I grin wryly and reply, “Happy Hallowmas.”
Hope and Faith smile.
I get down to business, “So, ladies, what is the theme of the new Fall’s Angels Fall Line?”
Hope leans forward to deliver the news and as the words leave her lips she seems to be pushed back, saying, “Mummers Play.”
I repeat, “Mummers Play?” and I look at Nubia and I look at Faith and I look back to Hope and ask, “What is Mummers Play? Is it about mummies?”
Hope giggles and says, “Daddies, too.”
Nubia smiles and reproves Hope gently but earnestly, saying, “Mister Hane doesn’t have time for your torments, Hope.”
I say, “That’s OK, it was cute.”
Nubia turns to Faith and asks her, “Faith, would you tell Mister Hane what ‘Mummers Play’ means?”
Faith purses her smile and then softly enlightens me, saying, “Mummers Plays are European folk plays from the 18th century. Players wore masks that they called ‘mums’. The plays were about resurrection and duality…”
Hope adds, “Good and Evil…”
Faith continues, “Father Christmas and Beelzebub…”
Hope says, “Saint George and the Dragon…”
I interrupt and ask, “So it’s Mummer like ‘mum’, quiet?”
Hope says, “It’s Mummer like ‘mummer’, a disguised person.”
Faith asks Hope, mimicking me sweetly, “So, it’s Mummer like ‘mumiya’, an embalmed body?”
Hope pretends to disagree, saying, “No, it’s Mummer like ‘mummy’, medicine prepared from the tissue of mummies.”
Faith says, “So, it’s Mummer like the pigment ‘mummy brown’…?”
Suddenly the lights dim into a ghastly glow like dried blood.
I say, “Whoa!”
The tall stalk of the Voodoo Lily flower begins to undulate like a snake. From the white cup of the Voodoo Lily inflorescence a foul miasma blossoms and billows. The Voodoo Lily is vibrating. I hear the sudden buzzing of a thousand flies, louder, pulsing, throbbing, morphing into one deep chanting voice.
I leap to my feet, dropping my notepad, yelling, “What the fuck…!”
Nubia has grabbed her two daughters in her arms and pulled them back as far as she can lean upon the couch. They scream.
I hear a crash and I turn around and coming toward me are two enormous versions of the fetish figurines that Nubia had kissed and placed upon the table.
Behind them in the dim glow I can see other-worldly shapes and figures converging upon me!
A wet fleshy object coils across my neck and I scream.
Suddenly the lights return to normal and there is a chorus of laughter. The other-worldly figures and the enormous fetish figures remove the heads of their costumes and there stand my new co-workers, cameras flashing. My new editor yells, choking on his laughter, “Welcome aboard, Sammy!”
I turn around to Nubia and Hope and Faith and they are smiling
Hope and Faith are holding the stalk of the “Voodoo Lily” and they say, “Merry Halloween.”
Nubia says, “Welcome to the Fall Line, Mister Sammy Hane.”
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