Sea of Hats

Sea of Hats

A Story by Montilee Stormer


The summer of my fourteenth year, I discovered something about the afterlife, which made me change the way I live this one.  Regrets are a b***h, and I never want to be so sorry as to never be at peace.


Mother was flying down Livernois and in her skilled way that was both talented and terrifying she was applying makeup. I didn't worry that she might put out her eye or misjudge the distance between the car and a crossing pedestrian, it was after all Sunday, but I was fourteen and I figured with my current state of adolescent progression, I was due for some sort of disfiguring accident. I was probably destined to lurch throughout Midtown, canvas sack over my face, dragging my left foot behind me, telling anyone would listen that I was not an animal, but a human being and in turn pelted with rotting vegetation for my trouble. I sat in the front seat of our station wagon, then a common sight on the highways, usually crammed with kids (two in the front, four in the middle, three in the back) on their way to the Science Center or Museum. Demure in my purple Sunday dress, black patent leather shoes (which I still insisted were babyish) and Barbie makeup – basically water colors on a dry canvas - I mentally prepared myself for the next hour and a half. That year I was allowed my first handbag, the same crappy patent pleather, large enough for my "lipstick", identification card that came with the purse's mini wallet, and my dollar for the collection plate.


I stole a sideways glance at my mother, who was now applying the final phase of her face, with skill typically reserved for brain surgery and rocket science. Lipstick was the most critical part of the makeup process, in my own opinion. Eyes may be the windows to the soul, but the mouth was the doorway, and all manners of interesting things both entered and exited. The lips themselves told much about a person without them ever parting: full was sensual and thin was stern. I chose my playmates carefully by the cut of their mouths, and there was not an ungiving, mean person in the bunch. My mother had a mouth that was a happy medium: slightly full, the corners turned up slightly, so it seemed to the average passer-by she was always smiling. Except for now. Now she was trying in vain to coat the twin arches of her lips, almost succeeding in jamming the tube of color up her nose with every pothole in the road. Makeup was already forbidden in Methodist Laws, surely entire tubes would be cause for excommunication – or whatever it was Methodist people did to kick degenerates out.


I could have suggested she wait for the next light, but she had prayed fervently to the God of Amber Orbs as we careened out of our driveway not seven minutes ago, and besides, any remark made to her in this state would only net me the Death Stare which would have turned my young tender brains to lukewarm Jell-O. It was not a goal I possessed.


We arrived at Church at 11:02 by the analog clock in the dash. Too late for the procession, but in time for the first reading and announcements. We parked two blocks away, in front of a party store, although that was far too kind a description for the shack with the Marlboro closed sign and neon Camel display. Having missed breakfast and knowing my next meal would be the body and blood of the first Christian martyr, I wished desperately for a Twinkie. Since wishing would get me nowhere and asking would get me killed, I opted for silent death by starvation.


Mother fished her hat from the back seat. Nothing garish with feathers or stuffed birds, it was a simple wide-brimmed, cream colored, Meeting-going hat. It matched her dress, shoes, and of course handbag, and it made her look, well, churchy. With the grim determination reserved for strolling late into church, we quick-walked it to the stone steps. There were three unmarked yellow buses, parked nose to end in front, explaining why we had to park two blocks away. We met up with other latecomers, giving each other the same embarrassed smile, and remembering schoolyard lessons of safety in numbers, while we worked our way to the main sanctuary. Our heels made hollow sounds along the ancient and grimy hand-tiled floor. The sun danced in stained glass brilliance on the walls and floors, and it felt good to walk in the warm rays as the outer corridors were always 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the church. Two ushers in white gloves stood sentry outside the doors to a secondary corridor leading to the main level sanctuary, handing out the weekly programs and announcements.


"G'day, Missus Sharon," the first syllable of my mother's name held a beat longer than the second, an old Southern drawl. The old man tipped her a wink. "You too, little one." His windows were black and ringed with blue age and shone bright like an inner fire stoked by the Lord's own angels. His doorway was relaxed and full, allowing only God's word to exit, and smelled like peppermint candies. His hair, more salt than pepper, had receded to the far reaches of his head, inches from being formally considered back hair. I can't remember a Sunday he wasn't there, greeting the masses warmly, and if I were ever to return to that church, I'd lay a bet that I'd still be able to feel his presence. If there was a reason to believe in a heaven, I believe it would be so nice people like him would have a comfortable place to rest their souls.


"Where's the gentleman of the house?," asked his counterpart, smug in her delivery. Her windows were dark mud and her doorway gave a false appearance like cheap oak on a trailer home. God's word would only exit in a place of worship, and with perhaps an electric cattle prod. She probably drowned sacks of kittens for fun.


"This month is the night shift, Miss Mabel." Mother had a tendency to lapse into her own almost forgotten Southern, especially when she was trying not to throttle another human being. She took this affront to her husband's church going habits in stride. "Besides, this month he's practicing the New Testament – Matthew 6:5–6." She smiled prettily and we joined the other late sheep being herded to the stairs leading to the balcony. I took a peek behind me in time to see Miss Mabel flip casually through her bible. The old Sunday School teacher famous for quoting obscure passages, caught off guard. Quote to not, lest ye be quoted to. Mother 1, Mabel 0.


To be continued...

© 2008 Montilee Stormer

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hmmm where is tis going?:) im on:)

love this:
"knowing my next meal would be the body and blood of the first Christian martyr, I wished desperately for a Twinkie."

hee, classic montilee:)
2 tomorrow:)

Posted 12 Years Ago

Very interesting and fun read. My mother had a "Death Stare" too. I think all moms do, but some have more pronounced ones than others. You've held my interest in grand fashion thus far, so I'm off to part 2.

Posted 12 Years Ago

see rating for Part II for comments

Posted 12 Years Ago

This may have been listed as horror, but I found the whole thing incredibly funny. I love the voice of the narrator here. She sounds just like a 14-year-old who aspires to be a writer. It's perfect!

The platitude at the end, along with the scoreboard was just brilliant.

Loved it!

Posted 12 Years Ago

You're off to a great start here...the piece made me feel for the narrator, and I can see the tension building between her and her mother. I'd like to see more.

Posted 12 Years Ago

Ok, right off my inner editor is coming into play. The first paragraph was a little scattered. I think I need some more explanation as to why she feels she should be walking around, sack over head while people toss veggies at her, it just seems a little harsh for a 14 year old to feel, even outside the whole teenage angst thing.
I'm also having a hard time hearing the voice in this piece, are you looking back at this time, at the 14 year old, or is the 14 year old commenting on her own experience?
The voice that comes through seems more mature then I would expect out of a child, how she observes the sensuality of her mothers lips for example, so I find myself unsure of who is speaking. You have the beginning of an interesting piece here so keep going. Cheers� Kasia.

Posted 12 Years Ago

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6 Reviews
Added on April 25, 2008


Montilee Stormer
Montilee Stormer

Royal Oak, MI

Short Version: MontiLee Stormer is a troublemaker, writing acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. Her interests wander from abnormal psychology and serial killers, to lost loves and.. more..


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