In electrical engineering, a node is a path on a circuit between two circuit elements.
It was time and Janet eased herself around on the sofa, finding the floor with her flat feet. It was right where she had left it and she chuckled. For a miracle it felt firmer than it had lately, less apt to fly away from her. It had not yet jumped up and struck her- well, not hard anyway- had not, ‘tapped her on the forehead,’ as some author or other had once said, but sometimes it did feel very squirmy down there.
Ponderously, trimming her corporeal vessel with shifts of her portly frame, Janet toppled to her feet and stood swaying. There was no dizzy buzz in her head. It was a good day.
On the way to the front porch there stood an ancient refrigerator and pausing at it she levered open the heavy door, breaking the seal with a crackling sound. Thick mist,as from a cryogenic morgue, rolled out into the kitchen as the contents were slowly revealed, misted over with a layer of icy crystals.
“Ho humm, rum de dum,” murmured Janet, pushing aside the annuals to get at her iced tea. Somehow, though she never moved them from their shelf, those green tupperware containers always seemed to get in the way…. Straightening at last, Janet turned, re-shutting the door with her hip as she did. It was a grand movement, like a minor symphony rolling out a crescendo, and one that left her again facing the door which led out onto the porch. It was absolutely necessary that she be out on the porch today, otherwise it might not happen. It was also necessary, though perhaps only to her, that she have her tea, which she now did and also, as a minor matter of course, a glass from which to drink it. Gone were the days, fifty years gone, when she could just chug straight from the pitcher, kool-aid sloshing over the wide brim and all about her green sundresses, her mother hallooing about in the background;
‘A goddamn glass never hurt anyone, a little decency...’
Or something like that. Janet snickered and snatched up a long straw instead.
Finally, the elusive pitcher in one hand, straw firmly grasped in the other, Janet stumped the remainder of the way across the kitchen, like a Roman gladiatrix marching to her doom. She ascended the tricky half step where the builder had failed to properly join up the addition and stepped out onto the porch.
“Um, hello?” said a man.
The screen door banged home behind her with that particularly jarring clangor which only they can, to sit uneasily in its casement, as if, given even half a chance, it might slam itself again.
“Hello, hello,” said Janet, waving vaguely with the straw hand. Her eyes were fixed firmly on the stout wicker seat by the rail.
“I don’t know if-” began the man, but again Janet waved him to silence. One thing at a time. The pine floor planks creaked beneath blue, all weather carpeting.
“Can you imagine? I mean can you imagine?” Janet crooned, sotto voce, and indeed she did; seeing herself smashing through the antique boards like a dropped piano to wind up, limbs akimbo, in the moist, forbidden soil beneath. Her church had been to see Chicago the year before and she could still recall the stricken face of their pastor afterwards. Obviously, the man had been guilty of a woeful lack of research before booking. At least, as far as he and the rest of the scandalized congregation had been concerned.
“Cellophane, Mr. Cellophane, should have been my name, Mr Cell-o-pahne,” groaned Janet, sinking down into the voluminous chair. She had loved that show...
Firmly planted at last she could not imagine that she would ever move again, or even want to. She breathed in deeply, the humid air sighing over her cheek.
“I say…” said the man.
Janet started. She had not forgotten him, per se, just not remembered as assiduously as perhaps she ought to have done….
“Ahhh,” she pronounced, in a sonorous, rumbling attempt to disguise the fact.
The young man stood in mute acceptance, which was one of the really nice side benefits of being a mystic; one could get away with almost any amount of malarkey.
“So, see me in yo’ dreams, did ya mon?” she said, emphasizing a Jamaican accent which she felt gave credence to the roll, but which she did not naturally possess to any degree.
“How did you know?” gasped the man.
Janet gazed at him wisely.
“I always be knowin’,” she pronounced.
“Well, yes then, sorta’,” said the man, rubbing his head. He refused to look her in the eye which was just fine with Janet, still a little winded.
“The thing is,” he went on falteringly. “I’ve been dreaming of this place for months. And I don’t know why. It’s just been there, in my mind, and… you, you’ve been there….”
“You been dreamin’ ‘bout me now mon?” she said.
‘If only, honey chile’’ she thought, suppressing an inward chortle. Thirty years ago she’d have known what to do with such a fine lookin’ young man.
“Yeah, sorta,” he said. “I mean, I don’t really understand. There’ve been you and this house, and this street… Every time I’ve fallen asleep for months, but there’s been something else too and I, I… can’t recall it. Something else happens in the dreams, but I don’t remember when I wake up. It’s there, like a gray area, a fog I can’t see through…”
He floundered to a stop and Janet let him sink for three seconds, counting them off on her short fingers.
“Of course you not goin’ to be seein’ through me, mon,” she exclaimed suddenly. “I’m da’ high priestess of this here… place.”
“I’m so sorry,” blurted the man, moving as if he were going to kneel, his head dipping downward.
“Is okay mon,” allowed Janet.
She wondered if there were any cookies left out there on the porch. A piece of the green tupperware had mysteriously appeared; perhaps there were cookies in it?
“Do you know why I’m here?” said the man. “Why I was summoned to your... place?”
“In’corse I do, mon,” said Janet, who hadn’t the faintest idea.
“But ‘tis for you to be findin’ it out. Look around yourself, what you be seein’, what you be noticin.’ What spark you interest here, mon?”
Dutifully, the man turned, gazing about at the deadend street, the shabby mobile homes and dank weeping willows, their tresses trailing in the grass. Janet looked as well, as soon as his back was turned, but saw no more than he did. Even being a node she could see no further through a brick wall than anybody else, as the saying went.
“I’m… I’m sorry, I just don’t understand,” said the man, having made the circuit.
“Ahh, then you needs to be lookin’ real deep inside yourself. Perhaps the answer in there,” said Janet, with an invisible shrug; it wasn’t impossible. The man appeared perplexed, as well he ought, and Janet, with an inward sigh, began rehearsing her homilies. She hadn’t had to warm them over since, well, it must have been two years now since only half of a dream circuit had shown up. Three live-long days that girl had moped around before… what was it? What had completed her circuit? Janet couldn’t remember. Had her mom come? Some long lost pet? Hell, Janet didn’t know, she hadn’t asked for this. She had failed out of tech school, electronics 101; so what in the hell made the powers-that-be think that she was the one to reconnect all the poor lost dreamers? She couldn’t even wire a wall switch without burning down half the Everglades. Once, she had been indignant, now-
“Ahh,” boomed Janet, recognizing the tell-tale signs in a young woman who had just popped up mysteriously from the greenery.
“What you doin’ creepin’ round my Magnolias?” demanded Janet, who knew full well now; it was the oldest circuit in the book.
“I had a dream,” breathed the girl, looking mystified. “And you were in it, and this place. I had to come, I saw so many-”
‘Yes, yes,’ thought Janet. Even sitting, her back was beginning to hurt. ‘Get on with it already, this ain’t the royal Shakespearean drama club. You dreamed of a boy, you dreamed of a street, you dreamed of me; well, put them together and let me get on to my cookies. I’m just the node, I ain’t got to be no part of this here.’
Really, Janet remembered enough of those bygone school days to know that she was a junction, if she were anything, not a node, but she preferred to think of herself that way and no one had ever objected. It wasn’t much to ask.
Then, miraculously, because in no way, shape or form did it always happen so nicely- sometimes it seemed to Janet that block diagrams would be necessary, if not anatomical models- the two young people noticed each other. Their eyes met and the girl- merciful Jesus- stopped talking.
“Oh my chillin’,” began Janet, starting the wrap up; but they were already beyond her. Their eyes had locked, their hands found each others.
‘Well, ain’t that nice,’ thought Janet, ducking slightly as their besotted eyes strafed the porch, but there was no danger. They had connected and mentally were already moving out of her junction box; she was forgotten.
Janet twisted slightly, easing the stiffness, glad that her part in the little day-to-day drama was over. But, the workwoman was worthy of her wages and cautiously she eased open the tupperware. Hmm, animal crackers.
Well, that was a new one.