28 March 2009

A Good Fist

She begins her work as day becomes evening outside, while I cook another meal to eat later, and her pens are arranged in a spreading fan shape, points inward toward her left elbow and ink, a few kinds of radiance though darkly bottled in the low rays of another setting sun.

For money, she will spend some hours and draw the names of the invited, the hosts, the brides, and the grooms from whom the money comes. Like a schoolgirl in some study-hall daydream, she writes "Mr. & Mrs. Edward L. Middleson" over and over and over again in the same looping, copperplate script, the lines first fat and then thinning to a whisper of pigment and then fat again.

She will only work so much; her wrist and arm will tire and her eyes will blur the lines. One dozen in one hour and she will work for an hour and a half, two dollars per envelope, and then she will stop for two hours, work for 90 minutes, rest for 120. She makes $108 a day. A big wedding with a bigger reception might require days and days and days of gentle scratching, the fluid coaxing to track the shapes of her movements.

She has what they call a “good fist” for the drawing of words and her envelopes, her invitations, her ability to decorate the ordinary language of names and streets and times and dates is very much in demand by the women who live in the houses by the golf courses, behind the gated walls, in the foothills with panoramic views and I drive the boxes of cream and blue and peach paper back up there where they live to deliver the goods and collect the checks, to wish them the best on their upcoming party, wedding, christening, graduation, whatever this event in their lives might be actually, all the while holding the scrawled directions on a torn up piece of envelope she’s given me and, her handwriting then at leisure, I can only just decipher.

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