Due to personal reasons, I didn’t post a blog yesterday ….so this …..although it should be Day 97 ….is being counted as Day 96.
Unfortunately, for the next few days, you will have to be content with some re-blogged stories and articles. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.
I have always loved the 1920s, the customs, the fashions, the whole era. And I adore the novels of F Scott Fitzgerald, ‘The Great Gatsby’ is my favourite and I have read it so many times that I think I know it by heart.
The main characters are wonderful, from the haughty Daisy Buchanan to the rather deceitful Jordan and the enigmatic Jay Gatsby. But I have always wondered about the minor characters, the ones with nary a ‘speaking part’. The fabulous mish-mash of humanity that rocks up on Gatsby’s lawn each weekend and dances with such abandon; drinks his drink; eats his canapes and carouses ’til the dawn. What of them ….. ?
So, when I sat, one week in February 2013, to write my entry for the Countdown Word Game, the words seemed to whisper this story ………………… a small homage to my hero.
THE LAVENDER GOWN
Mabel smoothed the dress over her slim hips and smiled at her reflection in the gilt, cheval mirror. Her heart gave a little leap as she gazed at the beautiful gown; it was perfect. The dim light in her humble room, caught on random beads and the whole dress appeared to sparkle and flash.
“Oh, if only they could see me now, those homely folk in Pocatello, Idaho”, she thought, as she twirled and posed.
” Little Mabel Brown in a Lanvin gown !!”
She remembered her excitement when the liveried chauffeur had delivered the huge, glossy, white box.
All the girlish chatter in the sitting room at Madame Grey’s Boarding House for Young Ladies, had ceased, as Mabel untied the white satin ribbon and carefully peeled back the many layers of soft, pink tissue, to reveal the sumptuous creation. A drop-waist, bias cut, knee length Lanvin gown , heavily covered in lavender crystal bugle-beads.
The card that accompanied the dress read simply;
” With kind regards, Mr. Jay Gatsby ”
Oh, yes, she vaguely remembered the name. There had been a party out in The Hamptons, or some such place a few weeks ago.
It had been Jane’s birthday and so the girls in the Boarding House had pooled their resources and gone to a dance in a fashionable hotel.
Very daring and “fast”, but these were the 1920s and they were “Modern” girls; independent and free.
They had champagne and joined a jolly crowd and, before long they were all in cars and racing out of New York to a party that someone had heard about.
Apparently, some millionaire out in West Egg held lavish parties every weekend and there was an open invitation to anyone who wished to drift in.
So, drift in they did and Mabel had somehow found herself caught up in the middle of a wild crowd; drinking and dancing the night away.
Unfortunately some sort of a feud had caused a fight and Mabel, an innocent bystander, had been accidentally pushed against a rose-bush and her cheap party frock had been torn. But it was such a little tear and Mabel was handy with a needle, so she had thought no more about it. She had never expected this…………
She twirled one more time, then glanced at her small, bedside clock. Oh, she must hurry, it was almost time to meet Jane and Lucille, in the lobby.
Tonight was exciting.
Tonight she was going on a blind date; safely in the company of her friends and their respective beaus……….. but a blind date, nevertheless. Something else that plain little Mabel Brown , back home in Pocatello, Idaho, would never have done !!
But then, living with her fragile Mother and hard-working Father she was just an anonymous waitress, longing to be an actress. Dreaming of being glamourous and beautiful……….like Louise Brooks, her heroine.
Mabel’s Mother and Father tried to keep her feet on the ground, but she knew she was destined for better things.
She had watched her Mother work her fingers to the bone, scrubbing other people’s floors.
She had watched her Father too, as he toiled long hours in his job as a French polisher. He was skillful and talented, but he earned a pittance………..that was not what Mabel wanted.
And so, she had diligently saved her tips until she had enough to buy a ticket. Then she had boarded the train to New York, without so much as a backward glance.
It seemed that the whole world had descended on New York and everyone was seeking fame and fortune. Mabel rented a room in Madame Grey’s Boarding House and began her quest.
She bobbed her hair and rouged her knees; even bought a cloche hat, just like the one Louise Brooks wore; but fame was elusive.
She scoured the theatres to no avail. There was so much competition and no-one wanted to hire a girl with no experience……especially one dressed in plain little dresses and drab little coats.
Soon she was cutting cardboard from discarded boxes, to line her shoes, in an attempt to keep her feet dry.
Broadway was a long, damp street, full of slammed doors and “No thank- you’s” and her thin coat was no protection against the bitter, winter winds. So Mabel took a job as a manicurist in the luxurious Plaza Hotel; she had to earn some money or she would starve.
Everyday, she would file and paint the nails of the privileged clientele; telling herself that this was just a temporary job…………. that soon she would be discovered.
Everyday, she watched in wonder as the rich and famous passed by. She gazed at the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his beautiful wife Zelda, sweeping through the marble lobby and into the Palm Court, followed by bustling, white-gloved porters and an obsequious Duty Manager.
The older, plumper, wealthy widows; their butts squeezed into couture clothes, as they waddled by dripping in furs, diamonds and Pekingese dogs.
Then there were the young, blonde starlets, with scarlet cupid’s bow lips; hanging adoringly onto the arms of obese film producers. Mabel had seen these girls slip behind the huge potted palms and take swigs from hip-flasks, which they then tucked back into their garter-belts. She envied them, despite their fixed smiles and haunted eyes.
But, after tonight, she will envy them no more. Tonight she is mixing with high society, with film stars and theatre producers, in the ballroom of the McAlpin Hotel.
Her blind-date is in show business, he has promised, through Jane’s beau, to consider Mabel for a part in a show, if she pleases him !
Jane has given her some white powder to take,
” Just sniff it ” Jane said, “It will steady your nerves, get you through whatever you have to do !”
So Mabel has done as she was told, but she has no nerves, after all, this dress will clinch it !
In this beautiful gown Mabel will be sassier and gassier than ever before. She will be dazzling and captivating and her partner will ignore the rest of the room, he will have eyes only for her.
“Yes,” she thought, she really must write to her kind benefactor, the mysterious Mr. Jay Gatsby.
Or, perhaps, when she is rich and famous, she could get her chauffeur to drive her out to the huge, white mansion, overlooking Long Island Sound and she could thank him personally.
“H’mmm,” she wonders as she closes her door and, completely relaxed, she wanders to the staircase. ” I wonder how he is, what he is doing now ?”
The singer, on the radio in the lobby, croons the latest song as Mabel glides down the stairs. The girls rush from the sitting room to marvel at the lavender-clad vision. They do not hear the newscaster interrupt the programme to announce a fatal shooting, somewhere in the suburbs.
Mabel revels in the attention, the “Ooohs” and “Ahhhs”, as she slowly spins, and the hallway is filled with crystal sparkle.
Tonight she leaves Mabel Brown behind ………. In this dress, she becomes Mae Belle, the famous actress.
My Word Challenge story this week is written with apologies to the great writer F Scott Fitzgerald, who is probably turning in his grave.
I don’t think he ever had the challenge of having to include a list of disparate words, though !
This week’s motley collection, courtesy of http://miblodelcarpio.blog.co.uk is;
TOILED, CEASED, POLISHER, FEUD, GASSIER, PAINT, RANDOM, LEAP, BUTTS, RELAXED, CROONS.