AMPLE MAKE THIS BED – Chapter 5, Jan 15, 2020

by admin on January 15, 2020

3d (7)CHAPTER FIVE -PREVIEW

 

Hello Ama, it’s Ronnie. My agent said you left an urgent message – what is it, Ocean playing up again?’

‘I need to talk to you, Ronnie. Ocean’s in trouble.’

‘You are talking to me. What’s she done this time?’

‘No, I mean we have to meet – face to face, and decide what to do. I can’t handle this on my own this time. When can I see you – are you at home?’

‘I’m working on a TV pilot in Montreal, Ama. I can’t get away. On call all the time. Can’t it wait until I finish here? We should be done shooting in ten days or so.’

‘Absolutely not. She’s in trouble with the police and disappeared on me. If they find her, she’ll probably be arrested along with that thug she’s living with. This is serious, Ronnie. I need your help.’

‘You know I can’t leave in the middle of a shoot, Ama. It could ruin my career if I walked off a film set – nobody would hire me again…’

‘Jesus Christ, Ronnie! Can you for once think of someone else besides yourself. This is our only child and she could end up in jail, with a criminal record. What about her career?’

‘Calm down, Ama. Let me think for a minute. For a start, I have other responsibilities, too. Ocean may be your only child but I have two more now, remember? And this is news to me that Ocean has a career. What as – a hypochondriac or a drug addict?’

‘Ronnie, stop trying to weasel out of your duty as her father. When your child is in trouble you have to help her.’

For a minute there was silence. ‘Okay, Ama. If you want to meet me to talk about Ocean’s problems, you’ll have to come here to Montreal. We can talk between takes I guess, but I can’t leave the location. We’re shooting on the docks – you’ll see the green fluorescent signs posted when you get near. Phone me when you land and I’ll guide you here,’ he said. ‘When do you want to come?’

‘Right away – tomorrow. I’ll call you from the metro station downtown.’

‘Okay. Just remember you may have to hang around if I’m called on set, Ama.’

‘Ronnie do you have any idea where our daughter is? Have you spoken to her recently?’

‘Not for ages. Last time was when I met her on her birthday.’

‘That was March! It’s mid-August, Ronnie – what kind of a father are you, anyway?’

‘The kind that works hard to support his children. Don’t start lecturing me, Ama. I’m warning you. If you want my help….’

‘Goodbye Ronnie. I’ll see you in Montreal tomorrow – no excuses.’ She snapped her cellphone shut and sank to the stage floor, staring vacantly around. Tears of frustration smarted her eyes and she rubbed them away. ‘Goddamn you, Ronnie. You selfish bastard!’

She sat for awhile longer on the stage, attempting to recapture her mood before her ex-husband rang but it was no use. It all seemed irrelevant when she compared it to her only child’s predicament. She was never able to put her theatre career before her daughter’s welfare the way Ronnie did. How many times had she been forced to abandon a promising role when Ocean would disappear without a trace. Invariably Ama would drop whatever part she was doing to track down her wayward offspring.

At first, she had tried to enlist Ronnie’s help, but he made such a scene and raised so many objections to interrupting his acting career, that she gave up asking him. If she hadn’t felt so desperate this time and Kitty hadn’t been so persuasive, she probably wouldn’t have insisted on meeting him again. She knew he wouldn’t be much help, but was determined he would at least share in the despair that was overwhelming her. It was a cumulative feeling that had built up inside her for several years, as she watched Ocean sink deeper and deeper into her miasma over her deteriorating health.

 

From being initially diagnosed as a psychological problem attributed to Ama’s breakup and subsequent divorce, later re-assessments indicated Ocean had a physical illness, that no one wanted to put a name to, until more recently. When she began to exhibit symptoms that were variously similar to Parkinson’s, then multiple sclerosis and possible Lou Gehrig’s Disease, her behaviour became even more disturbing. At least to Ama, who bore the brunt of most of it. But this time, she was going to insist Ronnie play his part as Ocean’s father, one of the few roles he ever turned down. She picked herself up off the stage floor, left the theatre and drove back to her house-sit.

 

Cooking was never one of Ama’s passions but she had a stock of comfort food recipes, learned from her mother and grandmother in Devon, that she turned to whenever she felt depressed. After she split from Ronnie, she and Ocean had lived in a series of shabby rented apartments in different parts of Ontario, wherever her acting roles took her. When she was in one of these lows, blaming her daughter’s behavioural problems on herself for not providing a stable home for her, she would concoct one of her comfort meals. These usually involved a lot of chopping, simmering, stirring and tasting, which she accompanied with plenty of red wine.             Feeling the need for one of these meals, Ama had stocked up on supplies at the local farmers’ market on her way home to her house-sit. With her arms full of vegetables, she had stopped at the stall of her favourite artisan bread baker.

‘What is it this time, Ama?’ said the woman behind the table. ‘Not exactly comfort food weather.’

‘Hello Gloria. I’ll have one of those harvest loaves with the caraway seeds. Do I look that obvious?’

‘All that shopping and your puffy red eyes are a bit of a giveaway,’ said Gloria.

‘I’ve got my heart set on a big potful of ratatouille for tonight. I usually make tons so I can eat it cold for the whole week. Come around and join me one night and we can talk about a play idea I have for our opening production.’

Gloria had played in several of the community group’s shows and was an excellent character actor. She and Ama had developed a good rapport on the last show and often talked shop after the play ended. She was a keen supporter of the new theatre project and put in as many hours as her busy life permitted.

‘I hear our new designer has some startling ideas for the theatre, Ama. Do you like them?’

‘How did you know already? She only came by this morning.’

‘I saw Arthur on my rounds earlier and he was full of it. Can’t wait to get started, he says.’ Gloria leaned over the table to tuck a large sticky Chelsea cinnamon roll in one of Ama’s bags. ‘I hope those red eyes are not what I think, Ama. It’s not Ocean, is it?’

Ama nodded, tears spreading down her cheeks. ‘She’s gone again. I don’t know where she is, Gloria.’ She dumped her bags on the ground to fumble for her handkerchief. The big baker gave her a handful of paper napkins from her stall and came around to give her a hug.

‘I thought so. There’s rumours floating around the market this morning, about that lad she’s been seeing.’

The two women stood silently holding each other as the busy market crowd flowed around them.

‘Why don’t I come by after the market closes, Ama? Give you a hand with that pot of ratatouille. We can talk properly then.’ She gave Ama a last firm squeeze, loaded her up with her bags and returned behind her table to her queue of patient customers.

 

In the large old-fashioned kitchen of her house-sit, Ama piled her bags on the sink counter and set to work. The thought of Gloria’s impending arrival made her look round at the shambles she had been living in these last few days. The long farmhouse table was strewn with papers, dirty crockery, library books and empty CD cases, newspaper flyers and unopened mail.

Before she began the ratatouille, she poured herself a large glass of red wine from the four-litre box of Shiraz, sitting beside the stove. A second box of white pinot grigio perched ready on the shelf inside the fridge.

Taking a large chef’s knife and a wooden chopping board, she began slicing onions and fat cloves of garlic.

Ama wiped her eyes and stirred the onions and garlic round the big frying pan. She felt a sudden pang in her chest, thinking of Spike again. What will it be like with him back in her life? She added more chopped ingredients to simmer in the deep stew pan, as she felt her eyes fill again.

She didn’t hear Gloria’s knock at first, as she had Leonard Cohen’s ‘I’m Your Man’ on full volume, through the powerful hi-fi speaker system in her temporary home. The owner had an impressive collection of classical vinyl records which Ama had been working her way through. But sometimes when she was really scraping along the bottom, the only thing that worked for her was Cohen’s lyrics. She always carried at least three or four of his CDs in her luggage, wherever she lived.

 

Gloria stood in the middle of the kitchen, exaggeratedly gulping, goldfish style, until Ama turned the volume down at the end of the song. Ama gave her a hug and poured her a glass of red wine.

‘Wow, you have got a powerful armoury of coping mechanisms,’ said Gloria, ‘I must remember to try them myself, next time Garth goes on a three-day binge and leaves me to bake all night on my own.’

‘What’s your favourite remedy, Gloria? I’m always on the lookout for new ways to get me through the night. I don’t think baking will work for me. Too much risk of failure.’

‘Sappho. “Beat your breasts, ye maidens, rend your tunics!” Perfect stuff for kneading bread dough and imagining it’s Garth’s head I’m pummelling down flat. Here’s my contribution. Kaiser rolls. My own recipe. I’ll just pop them in the oven to warm for a few minutes then we can have them with your ratatouille.’

They sat at the long oak table drinking red wine while they waited. Ama switched the record to some Chopin nocturnes and the two women communed silently for a few minutes, letting Chopin work his magic. The big baker waited for Ama to speak first.

Finally, Ama said, ‘I’m flying to Montreal tomorrow, to press-gang my ex into shouldering some responsibility for our daughter, after all these years. It’s probably a fool’s errand but I’m going anyway.’

‘I thought you told me you’d written him off years ago. Why the change of heart?’

‘Kitty put me up to it. She said my approach was wrong. I need to get him onside and stop attacking him.’

‘Have you spoken to him yet?’

‘Yes, and got off on the wrong foot straight away. I can’t talk to him on the phone because he’s probably reading a script at the same time. I need to eyeball him in person. Make sure I’m getting through to him.’

‘Kitty’s a pretty shrewd old woman,’ Gloria said, ‘She say how you should go about getting him onside?’

‘Ask his advice, appeal to him as a father. He’s got two other kids as well now. Be humble, ask for help, don’t demand it.

‘Do you think it will work, Ama? The ex-wife as humble supplicant?’

Ama laughed, ‘Not when you put it like that. Ronnie’s self-centred, but he’s not stupid. He’ll probably see right through me.’

‘Not if you’re a good enough actor. Let him play the role of good dad this time, instead of going straight for the jugular.’

‘You could pull it off, Gloria, you’re a better actor than me. Maybe I should send you instead.’ She rose and brought the heavy casserole dish to the table. ‘Let’s eat this comfort food and see if it works.’ She served up two platefuls while Gloria fetched the warm Kaisers from the oven and Chopin’s nocturnes continued their healing work.

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END OF CHAPTER 5

 

 

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