Invisible - Part 9

Continued from Part 8

Part 9: Meetings

Margaret leads Mac up onto a wraparound front porch, and unlocks the front door. Stepping aside, she lets him enter before her.

Mac sets down his bag and looks around. "Wow, Maggie!" he exclaims as he takes in the huge space, "This place is fantastic!"

The foyer is as big as the living room was in his shared house in LA. On the floor, large black and white tiles, some broken, form a checkerboard pattern. There's a hallway leading to the back of the big house and a massive staircase curves up to the second floor. The ceiling high above is cracked.

To his right, he sees a large room, the living room, he guesses, though somehow it doesn't look like it's used much. The furniture is on the faded side. There are tall windows looking out on an overgrown garden. 

Off the left of the foyer is a smaller room, lined with bookshelves and furnished with two cracked leather chairs facing a fireplace. This room is more inviting.

"Thank you. But it's old and getting a little tired, much like me," Margaret jokes. "But as you can no doubt tell, it needs work. That's where you come in."

Mac laughs and turns to her. "Old and tired are about the last words I'd use to describe you, Mags.”

“I’m having a good day. You should see me on my not-so-good days.”

“Well, you sure look good to me.” Shaking his head, he reaches out and pulls her to him. "I've wanted to do this since you threw yourself at me in the bookstore," he murmurs, and kisses her.

She pushes him away and punches his arm playfully. "Oh, I did not throw myself at you!" she says with fake indignation. "Well, okay, maybe I did, sort of. But you were to one who left me alone and broken-hearted when you climbed on that bus all those years ago."

She turns toward the staircase, and says, "Come on; let's get you settled. Then you can help me put together a dinner for the folks. I'll explain everything tonight."


After everyone is seated at the kitchen table, Margaret sets out platters of sliced deli meats and cheese, salads, and breads. Mac pours some wine from the bottle of Chianti he’d opened earlier. Helping themselves to the food, the group chats and gets to know each other better.

“I’m sorry this isn’t fancier,” Margaret apologizes, “but I don’t cook much anymore.”

“Not to worry,” Milo says, slipping a slice of roast beef to Mooch who waits patiently at his side.  “We seldom eat fancy, do we Moochie? When I lost Em, I lost the will to eat much.”

Looking up from the ham and cheese sandwich he is building, Mac comments, “Fancy gets old, let me tell you. During my time in LA, I jumped at the chance to attend every dinner with the glitterati that I could wangle an invite to. Sure, I made a meager living working odd jobs, but living in LA is expensive, and money for food sometimes scarce. But, man, did I get tired of the pretentious dinners.” 

He spears a pickle, and says, “This is more my style. But,” he adds, winking at Margaret, “I can cook. I can cook pretty damn well, if I do say so myself.”

Margaret grins at him. “Now you tell me!”

“I’m surprised you don’t find this kitchen inspirational," Miriam says, looking around. “I can cook pretty well, too,” she adds. “I took some cooking classes when I was married, not that that Brad ever noticed or appreciated my efforts. Now that he’s gone, I just can’t drum up the enthusiasm to cook for myself.” Unconsciously lifting her hand to her cheek, she says, “I don’t entertain, because… you know.”

 “Well, this is probably a good time to tell you what my big idea is, and why it’s so important to me,” Margaret says. “This is hard for me, but I’ve got to say it. No, don’t stop eating.  You eat your dinner, and I’ll talk.”

Pausing, Margaret takes a sip of wine, and continues. “Have you read any of the stuff they’re publishing about communal living? Apparently, people who live alone tend to be depressed, but thrive when they live among others. Well, I’ll be honest. I’m lonely rattling around this big old ark of a house alone. When I was working, it wasn’t so bad, but now that I can’t work anymore, I’m going crazy here.”

Encouraged by the nodding heads she sees in front of her, she goes on. “I don’t want to move. I inherited this old place from my grandparents. But it occurred to me, all this space is wasted. So, I want to turn this house into a communal home.”

“Wow, that sounds ambitious,” Max says. “But where do we come in?”

“Like I said at the bookstore, I need help,” Margaret replies. “I mean, I really need help. Not only can I not handle the reno needed on the house…”

“Hold on,” Mac interrupts. “Yes, the house needs work. But, hey, so do I. I think it’s a great idea. I’d love to help you get this place in shape…if I can be your first resident.”

Margaret smiles warmly at him. “Thank you, Mac. I was hoping you would say that. Your return to Middleburg couldn’t have been timed better.”

She looks at Miriam and Milo and takes a deep breath. “I know how abrupt this must seem but believe me. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. You are both good friends, and we get along well.” She nods at Mac, grinning. “And I think he’s harmless.  So, what about it? You’re both living alone. Would you have any interest in some new digs, in helping me create my new little family?”

“I’ve been living above the bookstore since Emmaline died,” Milo says. ‘Let me think about it. I might be interested, if the rent’s not too high.” He puts his hand on Mooch’s head, which is resting in his lap. “And if Moochie here can be my roommate.”

“Of course, Mooch can come.”

She looks at Miriam and raises her eyebrows in question.

“I don’t know. I mean…” She starts to put her hand over the scar but pulls it down into her lap instead.

Milo reaches over and puts his hand on Miriam’s shoulder. “You are not your scar, Miriam. We don’t see the scar. We see our friend.” He looks at the others, who nod in agreement.

“But I don’t see what I have to offer. I can’t help with the renovation. I wouldn’t know a hammer from a haddock,” she says.

“But you can cook,” Margaret reminds her. “We’ll all take turns in the kitchen, but I’m sure the others would appreciate something better than what the rest of us can prepare.” She waves her hand across the remnants of the deli meal on the table.

Ahem. Did I not tell you I can cook?” Mac says with a huff. Then he smiles at Miriam. “I promise I will help. We can even cook together. It will be fun!”

Miriam’s face lifts into her lopsided smile. “Okay. I’m in. “

Margaret claps her hands together. “Great! Now let’s have dessert. But there’s one thing more you should know…  I have Alzheimer’s.”


As he does every day, Milo drives home for lunch, Mooch at his side in the passenger seat. His stomach growls in anticipation as he turns into Emerson Lane. He wonders what Miriam has made today. Pulling into the driveway, he sees Miriam sitting on a porch swing reading. On the swing across from her are Margaret, Mac beside her holding her hand. Above them, the porch fan Mac installed turns lazily. Summer heat has come early this year. Miriam's garden is in full bloom.

Milo climbs from the car and Mooch darts past him. The dog runs to the porch, smiling, eager to greet his friends. Milo follows, leans down to kiss Miriam, then joins his wife in the swing.

“I brought the latest Architectural Digest,” he says. He knows Margaret won’t read it, but she enjoys looking at the pictures.

Milo looks around at his new family and marvels at how much his life has changed in the past year and a half. He will be forever grateful to Margaret. Were it not for her insistence, he would probably still be alone, invisible, locked in the prison of his mind and reliving his memories. It’s ironic, he muses. Margaret freed him, and now she is the one imprisoned. And still, always, she smiles. He smiles back at her.

“What’s for lunch?”

The End

Posted for River of Mnemosyne Challenge 11, Muse 9: "The Safest Place Is the Prison of Your Mind"


Invisible - Part 8

Continued from Part 7: Memories

(Public Domain)
Part 8: Musings

Miriam blinks in surprise. "Me? You want me to help you? How?" 

Margaret smiles and begins, "Well..." Just then, her attention is caught by Mooch, who darts from between a row of shelving. Margaret leans down to pet him, but then she gasps and jumps to her feet. 

"Well butter my buns and call me a biscuit! Mac Mackay, is that you?" 

When Mac looks over toward the seating area at the front of the shop, he sees a vision in technicolor rushing over to him. It takes a moment for him to recognize her; after all, it's been ages since he's seen her. This woman is older, of course. He remembers his friends ragging on him about her. "Margaret Jackson is kinda dowdy, dude."  The woman throwing her arms around him in a big hug now could never be called dowdy She is, well, magnificent.  If anyone could be called dowdy, it's him, standing there in his bus-wrinkled khakis and rumpled chambray shirt, looking gobsmacked.

"Maggie Jackson! How the hell are you, Girl? Wow, you look great!” 

"Do you know, no one has called me 'Girl' since you took your idiot self and went off in search of fame and fortune, breaking my heart in the process. For that matter, no one's calls me Maggie Jackson. I'm Margaret Shaw now.”  

"Of course. You're married. Well, no matter the last name, you’ll always be Maggie to me. But, I'm not Mac Mackay anymore, either. Hollywood decided I'd be a bigger box office draw if I were Mackenzie Chastain. Can you believe it? I got used to it, though, so..." 

“I’m not married anymore,” Margaret says, a dark cloud crossing her face. “Andy---that was my husband; we met in college---he was killed in Iraq during W’s folly. IED. We never had the chance to have kids. I’ve been a single lady ever since, throwing myself into my work.”  

“Oh, I’m sorry about your husband. I didn't know” Mac says. 

Margaret gives her head a little shake, setting the unruly grey hair around her face into motion. The cloud on her face passes and a sunny smile replaces it. “Anyway, I’m a slave to my job no longer! I retired yesterday.” 

“So, tell all,” Margaret goes on. “I’m not much of a movie-goer. Did you find the pot at the end of the rainbow?" 

“Ha! I guess the studio was wrong about that box office draw part. I had some bit parts and even go a lead in a sorta successful film.” Mac lets out a bark of a laugh, bringing the dog hustling over. “But even if you were a big movie fan, I can pretty much guarantee you wouldn’t have recognized me. So, short answer to your question: no. 

“I spent most of my time in LA working odd jobs. I ended up doing construction, and liked it okay. I decided I could do it back home in Middleburg just as well as in LA, so I gave up the Hollywood fantasy and here I am.” 

“Geez, I’m sorry to hear that.” Margaret chuckles. “I remember you sashaying though the halls at school wearing your shades, saying someday we were going to see you in one of those sunglasses ads featuring famous Hollywood stars.” 

Mac pulls sunglasses from his shirt pocket and slips them on his face. "Never found the fame, but I've got the Foster Grants."

Margaret glances over at Miriam, watching them from her chair, one hand over the right side of her face. She turns to Mac, her face alight. 

“Wait! How long are you going to be here? Where are you living? What are you doing tonight?” The words tumble out of her mouth, falling all over each other. 

“Whoa, whoa! Same old Maggie. I just got here this morning. I came here right off the bus, looking to have lunch at the old corner drugstore.” Mac shakes his head and laughs.  ‘Things change, I guess. I’m back for good. I’ve got to find a job, and a place to stay. My folks passed years ago, but I guess you knew that. So it’s just me.”

 “You’re not married either? Great. I can help you on all counts.” Margaret reddens a little and laughs. “I mean, not on the marriage part, but I can give you a job and a place to stay, if you’re up for it.” 

Mac stares at her. “Um…” 

“Hold on.” Margaret goes into the stacks and emerges with Milo in tow, Mooch trailing along behind.  

“Come with me and I’ll explain.”  

Leading him to the seating area, she introduces Mac to Miriam. She responds with a blush, which highlights the scar on her cheek. “Hello. Nce to meet you,” she says, blushing even more furiously. Her right hand lifts to her face again, but Mac reaches out and gently takes it to shake.  

Smiling he says, “Nice to meet you too, Miriam.” 

Taking them all in with a sweeping glance, her eyes sparkling with excitement, Margaret says, “Look, I think you all can help me with my big plan. Milo has already agreed to come over tonight to talk about it. I was going to call you, Miriam, to ask you to come. But I’d like you all to come. Bring Mooch too.” 

“But…” Miriam begins, but Margaret interrupts. “Nope. I need you, Miriam. You’re a nurse, and, Milo, Emmaline was my oldest friend. That pretty much makes you my old friend too. I need to pick your brains. And Mac, you know carpentry. Besides, you were my first love. I need you most of all." She winks broadly.

"Come on over around seven. You know where I live, 1420 Emerson Lane. I’ll make a light dinner, and we can talk while we eat. I can't wait to tell you what I have in mind. Oh, and dress casually. The place is a wreck.” 

Without giving them a chance to object, she turns to Mac. “Grab your suitcase, big guy. I’ve got tons of space. Come with me. I’ll get you settled into one of the guest rooms.” She starts for the door, calling back over her shoulder.

“See you guys at seven!” 

Mac picks up his suitcase from behind the desk. Shrugging  at Milo and Miriam, he follows Margaret out the door. 

Continued in Part 9

Posted for River of Mnemosyne Challenge 11, Muse 8: "Who's That Behind Those Foster Grants?"


Invisible - Part 7

Continued from Part 6

Source: Sascha Grosser & Library of Congress
via WikiMedia Commons

Part 7: Memories

Mac takes a final look at his undignified teenage self, laughs again, and hands the old photo back to Milo.

“I’m going to wander around the shop a bit if you don’t mind. Maybe I can find that carefree and foolish kid in the picture. I didn’t know it then, but that was the greatest time of my life. I was at the top of the heap," he chuckles, “and in more ways than one.”

“Sure. Take your time,” Milo replies. “Moochie will show you around.”

Mac headed into the stacks, Mooch trailing along.


Margaret taps lightly on the display window of the bookshop. When the woman sitting inside turns at the sound, Margaret holds up one finger and pushes open the door. As she enters, the tinkling bell catches Milo’s attention, but Margaret gives him a smile and a quick wave, then heads over to the reading nook.

“Miriam! I’m so glad I ran into you. I was going to give you a call later.”

The seated woman turns to look at Margaret, her eyes widening. “Oh, hi, Margaret. Um, wow, you look… different, … I mean, great, you look great.” Miriam stumbles over her surprise. She wishes she had the courage to dress like that. But that might draw attention to her, make people look. She pretends she’s invisible, and for the most part, she is.

Miriam doesn’t know the other woman well; she only knows her from the bank. But every time Miriam has seen her, Margaret has been the very image of the conservative banker, dressed in a dark suit, her hair pulled back into a knot at the back of her head. But today, she’s dressed in jeans  tucked into knee-high black leather boots and a wildly colorful flowered shirt. Draped over her shoulders, she wears a deep purple cape. A cape, of all things! Her hair is loose, floating in a curly grey cloud around her head. And rather than the serious faced woman Miriam usually sees at the bank, this one is smiling broadly.

Margaret laughs, and says, “My friend, you are looking at the face of a happy woman. She’s been invisible in a corporate cage for 35 years, but voila, she’s been set free! I retired.”

“Oh, congratulations! I guess I don’t need to ask how you feel about that.


Miriam doesn’t dare consider her own retirement. She fears that if she didn’t have her job at Serenity Acres, the elder care home, she’d probably never leave her house.

Miriam is a nurse. For fifteen years, she worked as the nurse manager at a large medical center in the city. Until she didn’t. After the accident, instead of being the nurse manager, she became a patient at her own hospital. The admiration of her coworkers was replaced by pity.

She doesn’t talk about the accident that completely changed her life, but she’ll never forget it.

She’d like to think that Brad had changed after they got married, but she knows she’d be deluding herself. She was young, and dazzled by the idea of marriage and family. They’d been unable to have children, but that wasn’t the problem. Or maybe it was. After testing, they discovered that the inability to have children had been Brad’s. Miriam was eager to have a family, and wanted to adopt, but Brad wouldn’t hear of it. Maybe that was why he became such a jealous man.

As the years passed, his possessiveness grew, and he began accusing her of flirting with the doctors at the hospital. She’d given him no reason, but he became obsessed with it. It was a catch-22 for her. Because Miriam began to dread going home, she accepted additional shifts. This, of course, meant she was at the hospital longer, which fed into Brad’s suspicions. It was unbearable, and she considered divorce. But Brad had other ideas.

One overcast Sunday afternoon, he said, “Come on, Miriam, let’s go for a drive. There’s something I want to show you.”

“Now? But it’s going to rain, Brad.”

“Nah, we’ll get back before it does. It isn’t far.”

Miriam didn’t want to start another argument, so she grabbed her bag and followed him out to the car. Sure enough, the rain started to come down, but it didn’t deter him. He headed out toward the country, talking as he drove. He barely let her get a word in edgewise and she soon realized that Brad was losing it. He was rambling, apologizing for his temper, claiming it was only because he loved her so much and didn’t want to lose her to another man. After a few miles of his rant, he stopped the car and turned to face her.

“I hope you understand, Miriam. It’s because I love you so much.”

Before she had a chance to respond, he floored the gas pedal, and the car took off with a screech of rubber on the wet pavement. The road was long and straight, and there were no other cars around them.

Brad! Brad," she screamed, "slow down!”

He never lifted his foot from the gas pedal. He intended to crash the car! He wanted to kill her. There was a bridge abutment up ahead that had been the scene of several accidents. It was known as the site of “suicide by bridge,” though she was sure that none of the kids who were killed there while drag racing had wanted to die.

The last thing she saw before everything went black was a bit of graffiti on the abutment.

Much to her surprise, when she came to, she was in the hospital, swaddled in bandages, her leg in a sling suspended from the ceiling. A nurse was leaning over her. Though speech was difficult, she mumbled, “Brad.”

“Sorry, hon, Brad’s gone. Your car smashed into a bridge abutment out on County Road. You know the one. The car skidded in the rain, spun around, and hit on the driver’s side. Brad was killed instantly, and you… well, you’re in bad shape, but you’ll live.”

Weeks later, many weeks later, she left the hospital with a small limp and a large ugly scar on the right side of her face. Oh, and the memory of a big heart graffiti painted on the abutment.

Though plastic surgery was possible, the doctors she spoke to---and there were many---told her repair was difficult and would involve many operations. They all said they couldn’t return her face to its original condition, but it would be "better."

Instead of investing more of her life in endless operations, she quit her job, sold her house, and moved to Middleburg, where no one would remember that she'd been attractive. With her credentials and experience, she quickly found a job at the elder care facility on the outskirts of town.


She pushed the memories from her mind. She smiled her lopsided smile at Margaret, and asked, “Why were you going to call me?”

“Now that I’m retired, I can finally do something I’ve been thinking about for a long time," Margaret responded with enthusiasm. "And I think you can help me.”

Continued in Part 8: Mustering the Troops

Posted for River of Mnemosyne Challenge 11, Muse 7: "Because I Love You, I'm Going to Kill You"


Invisible - Part 6

Continued from Part 5

(Public Domain)

Part 6:  Em’s Bookshop

Mac pushes through the door that says "Em’s Bookshop," tinkling the little bell that hangs above it.  The shop isn’t huge, not like those behemoth bookstores that proliferate in L.A. There’s one in every mall, which are behemoths themselves. Not one whit of charm.  But this shop oozes charm. He likes it.

He looks around. In the front, left of the door where he remembers there being twirling wire racks holding paperbacks and comic books, there is an old wooden counter, now unoccupied, with a cash register sitting on it.  Signs on the wall behind it colorfully advertise new releases. To the right of the door, in front of the display windows that face the street outside, several comfortable chairs gather into an inviting seating area. Nice, way better than the wheelchairs and walkers wearing signs that said “For Rent” that used to gather there. A woman sits in one of the easy chairs facing away from him, engrossed in her book.

In the center of the store are books in rows of shelving that display them according to category.  From between Fiction and Poetry, where the soda fountain used to be, he sees a guy wearing brown cords and a rather misshapen forest green sweater emerge, a dog at his heels.  The man smiles at him as he approaches, but there’s something kind of sad about him. There’s nothing sad about the dog, though. As some dogs do, this guy is smiling.  He has one ear up and the other down, a real Disney dog. Spotting Mac, the pooch runs up and circles him, tail going a mile a minute.

“Moochie, cut that out! No begging from the customers!” The man holds out his hand to Mac, and says, chuckling, “Sorry about that. He’s very friendly and won’t bite, but he’s always hungry. If you’d had a donut or something, you wouldn’t have it anymore.”

Mac shakes his hand, and says, “No worries. I like dogs.”

Leaning down to pet the pup, he immediately sends Moochie into paroxysms of pleasure. He falls to the floor belly up, squirming as Mac scratches his chest. Laughing, Mac says, “Cute guy.”

“Can I help you find something?” the man asks.

With a final pat, Mac straightens up and looks around. “Not unless you tell me that the soda fountain is hidden in the back somewhere.”

The man smiles and says, “No, sorry. That’s long gone, ever since Em’s Bookshop opened years ago. When the drugstore fell on hard times, we leased the space, and here we are.”

“Are you Em?” Mac asks.

“No, that was Emmaline, my wife. She died a while back. It's just me now, and Mooch here, of course. I’m Milo.”

“Oh. I’m so sorry. Nice to meet you, Milo and Mooch. I’m Mac. No soda fountain, huh? I’m hungry, but I noticed a deli next door. I’ll give that a try.” Mac sweeps his eyes around the room. “But first I think I’ll wander around a bit. To be honest, this is a bit of a journey back in time for me. I grew up here, and my buddies and I spent more time hanging out in the drugstore, reading comics and drinking soda than we did doing our homework.”

“Ah. I see. Come with me.”

Milo leads Mac over to the counter and reaches beneath to pull out a battered shoe box. Rummaging through it, he says, “This is a bit of memorabilia we saved from the drugstore.” He retrieves a picture and hands it to Mac. "This was taken out front. The booth is long gone---aren't they all?-- but maybe you’ll remember it. It should be from around your time.”

Mac takes the old photo, and bursts out laughing. “Oh. My. Gawd! I think that’s my keister posing so fetchingly up there on top! Now that’s a motley crew if ever I saw one. Thank goodness my face is invisible!”

From the chair where she's been eavesdropping, Miriam thinks to herself, thank goodness mine is too.

Continued in Part 7: Memories

Posted for River of Mnemosyne Challenge 11, Muse 6: "A Motley Crew"


Invisible - Part 5

Continued from Part 4: Margaret

Part 5: Mackensie

By the time the bus reaches the small station and he steps down to the sidewalk, Mac had seen most of Main Street. His old home town; it hasn’t changed much. Oh, sure, that Walmart he saw on the outskirts wasn’t there back then, but for the most part, he recognizes a lot of it. He feels a peacefulness settle over him. It’s such a relief from the feelings L.A. gave him. Yes, it was exciting at first, full of promise, but that had faded pretty fast, leaving stress and worry about food and his rent in its stead.

The last time he saw this town, he was on a bus about to travel in the opposite direction. He was on his way to Hollywood, the bright lights, and the fame that awaited him there. He was sure of it. He eschewed the idea of going to college like so many of his high school classmates. He was an actor, and he could hear Hollywood beckoning. Hadn’t he been a hit in the senior play? Yeah, he knew he wasn’t matinee idol material. Remember that guy on TV a while back who used to refer to himself as ruggedly handsome? OK, so Mac wasn’t ruggedly handsome, but he was ruggedly…rugged. And he could act, right?  

Once in Hollywood, Mac answered some roommate wanted ads and found himself a room in a house with a couple of other guys trying to break into the business. He started answering audition calls, and after a few months, a small studio signed him. First thing they did was change his name. He was now Mackensie Chastain, for Pete’s sake, a mostly unemployed actor. It didn’t take long for Mac to realize that every other restaurant server and valet guy was a wannabe actor, and they were movie-star handsome. He wasn’t a total failure though. The studio put him to work. He got some parts. Sort of. He at least got onto the big screen, albeit in bit parts, most with no lines. That was more that many of the others could claim. He was great at looking busy while walking down the hall behind the action. Hah. That was his life out there, looking busy while wandering around behind the action. Totally invisible most of the time. Except for his last film. Oh, yes, the audience noticed him then.

At what must have been his three-thousand-seventy-second audition, he got the lead in a psychological horror film called Midnight Obsession. Horror was not quite what he aspired to, but, hey, it was a movie and he had the lead! Ha. It turned out that he played the creature. It was still considered the lead, even if no one would ever recognize him. He had to wear a dreadful creature suit made of some kind of smelly rubber or something. It was really heavy and hot as hell inside.

The film was actually a success. Although it was no big box office smash, it had a decent cult following. And Mac hated it. Sweat, scales, secretions, and sex. Hell of a plot, huh? When he finally washed off the gluey makeup, he washed off the last of his ambition along with it. He decided to go home.

And here he is. Home. After a moment standing on the street, inhaling the cold but clean---what a concept--- air, Mac thinks lunch. He heads toward the old corner drugstore. A tuna sandwich and a lemonade, that’s the ticket.

When he reaches he corner where he is sure the drugstore used to be---after all, he and his buddies used to hang out there after school---he’s surprised to see a sign telling him that it's now a bookstore,

Well, damn. Time passes. He turns his back for a few decades, and look what happens.

But the place looks intriguing. He decides to go in and check it out.

To be continued in Part 6

Posted for River of Mnemosyne Challenge 11, Muse 5: "Tentacles of Ritual and Secretions of Madness"