Isn’t this lovely? Silver Cigarette box, American, mid-20th Century design. Engraved, “NOËL, Frank & Mia/66.” Silver, so wonderfully cold to the touch. I love the smell of old tobacco. Such a masculine scent. As for Frank, dear generous, compassionate Frank. He was so kind to me after my second husband Leland’s death. Except for my finding out later what he really thought of me behind my back: “Pamela is a boring, arrogant, pompous, pretentious, and generally phony broad.” And I get no kick from cocaine. All of which was true. I could be all those things from time to time. But after all, I was BRITISH, for God sakes! You don’t expect me to take off my top and dance naked on the poker table.
As for Mia. Well, the less said about that poor child the better. I knew it would never work. Mia never really got the Wife-thing. I told Frank but it was useless. Frank was smitten, absolutely smitten. Mia was a darling, really, I adored her. But a child, really. Never a wife. Only a child. No breasts to speak of. The rest of us would be downstairs, laughing and joking and drinking and having adult fun and poor little Mia would be upstairs in her bedroom playing with her antique porcelain dolls with their white china faces and golden curls and lacy little nightgown dresses—which creepily bore a striking resemblance to herself—or crouched on the floor, drawing pictures of her horse. Really. Horses. With crayons, no less. It was doomed from the start. She went on to make Rosemary’s Baby after that. Is it any wonder? In which a naïve young woman marries an actor and winds up pregnant with the Devil’s spawn. So much for movie fantasy.
Mia’s tragedy of course is, she learned absolutely nothing from her time with Frank. She went from the frying pan into the fire. But Frank was a real learning experience for me. Men have always been a learning experience. I have made good use of my time with the male of the species. Men have been my real education. I am definitely magna cum laude in that department. I could hock this silver box for a thousand bills. But, no. There are some things that have worth beyond their re-sale value. I should know. There was a silver bread tray that went with the cigarette box, but Mia threw it through a plate glass window. A shame. She obviously hadn’t learnt a thing. That, you see, is the difference between Mia and me. She lost Frank, but I still have the cigarette box.
Charles Leipart (Writer) was a finalist for the 2017 Tennessee Williams Fiction Prize for “What Wolfman Knew,” Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival; “What Wolfman Knew” will be published in the September 2017 issue of the Jabberwock Review; “Tea with the Tin Man,” a flash fiction, is published in the quarterly issue 82 of Burningword Literary Journal, July 2017. www.charlesleipart.com