Posted on February 26, 2015 by Patricia Ann McNair2.26.2015 Journal Prompt February 26, 2015: In their pretty dresses… Share this:ShareClick to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Like this:Like Loading... Related
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He kept coming round to our house and mama said we were to call him Uncle even though he wasn’t, and he made a particular fuss over Alice and he didn’t do that with the rest of us. He told Alice she was special and he touched her hair and he said her name under his breath as though it was a prayer he was saying.
Mama said he was kind and she said he was ‘a dear man’ and ‘a good man’ and he stayed for tea sometimes at her invitation. Mama put him at the head of the table and Alice sat on one side and mama on the other. He said grace if mama asked him and then they passed him the plates of sandwiches cut into triangles, and the cakes covered with pink icing and topped with candied fruits, and a cup of tea sitting in china saucer with a silver spoon that rattled gainst the cup like a bell.
After tea, if it was still warm and dry, we all went out into the garden to play and Uncle came, too. Mama said she was tired and she asked that she might be excused so she could lie down for a minute or two. She was delicate, which is what women can be when they have so many children and that was why she was so tired.
I watched them, Alice and Uncle, and I watched how they were together. He was always whispering and she was always laughing and making an effort to look pretty to him with her laughing. He took photographs of Alice, with flowers in her hair or dressed in a torn petticoat so she looked like a waif, or curled up on his knee like she was his very own doll. And Alice took a picture of him, and he was sitting in a chair with his head resting on his hand and looking like he was thinking or sleeping.
He made up stories for us and in the stories Alice was a spikey and bewildered hero, and he invented all manner of fantastic adventures for her and I didn’t think that was fair, and in my mouth was the taste of wasps, if ever wasps had a taste. And I hated Alice then, but I never did hate him.
For years it was like that, and I remember thinking that it must always have been so and it will always be so. Mama spent more and more of her time lying down and Uncle spent more of his time with Alice. And in my head I heard mama saying over and over that he was a fine man and a good man, and I was sure that he was.
Then one day, and it was a rabbit hole day, which is to say a day out of nowhere, and he just stopped coming. Mama said it was on account of us being a nuisance to him and she especially meant Alice. I wrote him a letter asking why it was he no longer visited but I never did send it. Alice was different after that, and she was surly sometimes, and she sat quiet for hours at the front window looking to the street for his coming.
I felt sorry for Alice then and I hated him for the fuss he’d made of her and for the fuss he’d taken from her in the end. We did not speak of him in the house, not for the longest time, and all the pictures he had taken we put into a box and that box was pushed into the dark under Alice’s bed.
‘He is a fine man and a good man,’ mama says sometimes, ‘and a great man also,’ she says. And maybe he is all of those things, but I do not think he was so nice or so kind as mama remembers. And when mama says all those things about him, I look to Alice just to see if her face softens at the memory, which I think it does not.
He kept fingering his fob watch on its silver link chain, slipping it from out of his waistcoat pocket, flicking the lid of it open with the movement of his thumb, and reading the time, and he said over and over that he was late, he was late, and his voice was all fretful and worried and shrill. And Mr Dodgson rushed here and rushed there and he went everywhere and nowhere. And we all laughed, and Alice laughed loudest.
It was the start of something, he said, and he did not know what but maybe it would be wonderful.
And Alice said, ‘What nonsense you’re talking, Mr Dodgson, for rabbits in waistcoats with fob watches was silly – rabbits wear fur coats, of course, and they live in dark holes in the ground, and time is as nothing to them. They don’t drink tea,’ scolded Alice, ‘or eat sandwiches cut into neat triangles, and they don’t have places they have to be.’
Mr Dodgson sighed and he said that Alice would one day grow as tall as a door almost and she would no longer fit her pretty petticoats and he did not ever want that to happen for then she would not be able to slip down a rabbit hole. Alice should forever be small as dormouse, he said, and a dormouse can fit easily in a teapot or a pocket.
Alice said he was mad, if you please. Mad as a hatter, she said, and they are mad on account of the mercury used to make the felt for the hats. And mercury is liquid silver and it runs like water and it is surely the queerest of metals and simply the maddest for all that. Or mad as a March hare, Alice said, and they dance the dance of lunatics in the moonlit fields of Spring.
‘Off with her head,’ commanded Mr Dodgson, and he meant Alice and I think he meant she should not be grown up in her thinking but be a child again. And it is the Queen of Hearts that says that in his story and that must mean something also. And I think it is something about love and how it will not be ruled by the head, and it is something about Mr Dodgson and his feelings for Alice, and he gets in such an unaccountable temper some days, as does Alice.
And I see them some late evenings, a memory of them now he is gone, and they are walking arm in arm, and it is a funny picture with her so small and him so tall, and he checks his fob watch on its chain, again and again, like that fretful white rabbit he writes about, and he remarks on how late it is and Alice does not see what is his meaning.
And the real Alice, grown so tall now that she will not fit in anyone’s pocket, and she cries herself a pool of tears and she wishes herself small again so that Mr Dodgson might come once more. And she checks the clock on the mantlepiece, from morning to night, and under her breath she says, ‘He is late, he is late.’ And I think now she is mad, as hatters or hares, and she has lost her wits, and lost her head to the Queen of Hearts, and there’s no one here to write that story down, except me and I am just like the Cheshire cat, only sadder, and I am there one minute and then nothing.
WHERE IDEAS COME FROM
Mr Dodgson kept looking at his watch as though he had somewhere else he should be. He furrowed his brow and muttered under his breath. ‘Oh my whiskers and ears, how late it is getting.’
Alice looked up from playing with the kitten. Mr Dodgson was such a fusspot, she thought. Late, indeed. She sighed and she picked up the kitten and held its face close to her own. ‘Such a fusspot,’ she said to the kitten. ‘And so very silly. Time, after all, is so many things at once: seconds and minutes and hours; and who but a madman would expect time to be anything other than passing. A different matter,’ she said to the kitten, ‘if Mr Dodgson should look at his watch and pronounce that it was getting early.’
The kitten made a sound, small as a squeak on the hinge of a very small door, and it scratched Alice’s hand with its tiny claws – small as needles or pins, or pins and needles. Alice scolded the kitten for its naughtiness and set it down with a bump on the grass.
Mr Dodgson said something again about his whiskers and ears and something about it being late. Alice scowled at him or at the kitten, or maybe at both, and in her head she tried to imagine Mr Dodgson as a rabbit with white fur and pink eyes. She had once seen such a rabbit and had remarked on the size of its ears and the softness of its whiskers.
‘Bless me, what time is it that you keep remarking on its lateness?’ said Alice.
Mr Dodgson looked up from his watch. He flipped the lid closed and slipped the watch back into his waistcoat pocket. ‘It’s time that little girls were falling into sleep or into their beds at least,’ he said. ‘It’s time for tea for grown ups, and toast and orange marmalade, and a cake with currants on. And time for men with fob watches to be hurrying away to their own rabbit holes.’
‘What nonsense,’ laughed Alice. ‘Whoever heard the like? Girls falling into sleep, as if sleep was something that could be fallen into like a hole or a well. And if a girl was to fall, as you say they should, then where would they land I would like to know?’
Mr Dodgson scratched his head and he looked puzzled for a moment before something occurred to him. ‘Why Alice, they would surely fall into wonderland,’ he said.
Alice wasn’t really listening again. Her interest had switched back to the kitten. She was lying beside it on the grass and she was poking its tummy with the point of one finger, as gentle as poking can ever be, as though she was testing the softness of a cushion or a new-baked loaf of bread that was cooling on a wire rack.
Mr Dodgson took out his watch and flipped the lid and checked again to see if time was behaving as it should. And it was, and still he remarked on how late it was getting; and Alice tried not to hear what it was that he said, for all this talk of sleep had made her tired and the sun was warm on her face and looking at Mr Dodgson through half shut eyes she thought he did indeed look like a big white rabbit, and she laughed.