Sheltering in Place at the Magdalena Arms: Episode XII

In previous episodes Angelo, owner of the shuttered salon Angel Hair, was discovered giving an illicit haircut to Lon. New-girl Millie, the tenant that no one remembers, slipped out of the Magdalena Arms in search of food and overheard landlady Dolly lecturing the guilty pair about the troublesome trim.

Missed the earlier episodes? You can find them all hereOr start from the beginning with Episode I and use the “next” button at the top the screen to move between episodes.

Lon Seeks Solitude

As usual, Dolly started out her lecture stern, swearing she wouldn’t let standards slide, and then swiftly softened, until by the end of her speech she was pleading. “Personally, Lon,” she addressed the silent student of the sea, “I think your hair looks terrific. Angelo did a bang-up job! But do you see the situation I’m in? If someone snitched and the health department came down on you hard, I’d be helpless as a kitten to protect you! Don’t put me in that position, please!”

“Okay,” said Lon.

“I knew I could count on you!” Lon guessed Dolly was beaming beneath her mask. She turned to the shorter stylist. “And Angelo, don’t let yourself be persuaded again, all right? At least not on Magdalena Arms premises.” She leaned forward and lowered her voice. “I hear some stylists are doing a bang-up business in home visits.” 

“I’m not planning on doing home visits,” the salon-owner’s voice was indignant. “I don’t think it’s safe. I only cut Lon’s hair because I consider him family.”

“Well—that’s good,” said Dolly, backtracking. “Best to stick to the rules!” Lon glanced at Angelo and saw that the usually affable boy was more piqued than penitent. 

“And if I can’t operate my business, I’m going to need a reduction in rent!”

Dolly reared back. “A reduction? Well—”

Lon didn’t need to be part of this discussion. Silently she stepped back, one step, and then another, another—

And then they vanished.

“Where’d Lon go?” Dolly interrupted Angelo’s detailed inventory of expenses and lost income.

Angelo glanced around, then shrugged. “You know Lon.”

Lon had ducked under the breakfast gong and slid silently down the back corridor, past the elevator, past the basement stairway, past the broom closet, and out the rear door to the small garden. 

It was a narrow rectangle, running the width of the building and bordered on three sides by a high brick wall. When Lon had first moved into the Magdalena Arms after her prison stint, the yard had contained nothing but weeds and a rusty metal glider with rotting cushions. But like everything else in the Arms, Dolly had spiffed and spandied the small space until it was magazine-picture perfect.

Now a path of crushed stone made a spiral around the miniature fountain that was half-hidden by a bushy border of ferns and agapanthus. The sickly tree against the back wall was gone, replaced by an arbor where grapevines twined. Clematis climbed the wall from the other corner, and its perfume hung in the air. A growing clique of Arms inhabitants were fond of gathering in the garden of a summer evening to smoke Ramona’s inexhaustible supply of weed. Many nights, the smell of marijuana twined with the garden scents, drifting up to the apartments above, an odiferous invitation to the MaryJane gang, as Dolly called them, to amble out the back door or descend the fire escape—

Which rattled slightly, interrupting Lon’s train of thought. Squinting upward, Lon saw a figure in an over-sized sweatshirt, dark hair straggling down the back, disappearing through a second-floor window. 

Patricia, probably. Sylvia’s daughter. Lon’s presence had flushed the college girl from her refuge and sent her scurrying back to the small apartment she shared with her mother and Terry, an apartment that must feel like prison to the kid.

A faint shudder passed over Lon at the thought. She could sympathize.

Over by the lavender a bee buzzed. Above Kay was playing scales. Terry’s voice came from the third floor window, “Patty honey, I made…” A few doors down, a baby wailed. A hint of breeze ruffled the grape leaves and for a moment Lon could almost imagine it was the rise and fall of waves that they heard.

They closed their eyes. The sounds blended into a soothing symphony. None of them—not the bee, Kay, Terry, the baby, or the grape leaves—wanted anything from Lon. They were alone, finally alone. They could feel the solitude seeping into their being, satisfying a thirst no one else seemed to share. Except maybe poor Patty.

Then there were voices in the corridor. Lon cocked an ear. The sounds got louder, closer. She could make out Jackie, querulously demanding, “What am I, as an actor, supposed to do?” and Ramona’s more muffled reply. 

When the door to the back garden swung open, Lon had already leapt to the fire escape and was silently climbing up, past the new girl’s spartan apartment on the second floor, past the curtain-shrouded opening that hid Patty on the third floor; he paused briefly on the fourth, where the white curtains of his own dwelling-place bellied in the breeze. Maxie’s throaty chuckle drifted out the window, “Mamie, you’re too much!” and Lon started climbing again, up, up, up…

Next: Food Pantry Surprise

Millie’s free groceries pose an unexpected problem for the intrepid preserver of Bay City History!

Tune in every Friday, for a new episode! (at least until the author’s work situation changes)

2 thoughts on “Sheltering in Place at the Magdalena Arms: Episode XII

    • Me too! I’m jealous Dolly has nothing else to do but home-improvement. She doesn’t have to sit on a folding chair in a parking lot in the sun greeting harried people arriving to get a covid test and telling them what box to stand in, all while trying to do her homework on her phone. Just as a random example.

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