A sodden gray sky hangs low as the sad back-lots of Camden fly past Bubbles' tired eyes. With her head against the train window, an urban blight picture show rolls by. Loading docks, scrap-yards, chain link fences topped with concertina wire, tenement rows with laundry hanging from clotheslines, a dog on a chain lying in the dirt, all of it flashing by, glimpses of neglect and decay, as the train rattles along the tracks. The unrelenting browns and grays of brick and concrete are occasionally broken by splashes of graffiti. Does anybody do graffiti anymore? The clattering, dark funk of Dark Magus, Miles Davis' 1974 live album creates a fitting soundtrack in her headphones as she rides east on the Lindenwold High Speed Line commuter train. As the tired and beaten carcass of the city of Camden gives way to the working class neighborhoods of Collingswood and Westmont, Bubbles switches her playlist to the more elegant sounds of the E.S.P. album, with Miles' second great quintet. Closing her eyes, she can picture Miles and the band in their sharp Italian suits, intense and stoic.
Soon she'll be arriving in Haddonfield, where she'll get off and walk the few blocks to her mother's house. Surrounded by the soulless suburbia of South Jersey, Haddonfield is a town with a pedigree. With its colonial-era homes, lush tree-lined streets, and an old-fashioned main street with small shops and businesses, the town has a sense of permanence. She and her mother had come here eleven years ago. At that time, her mother, Carole Callahan, Ph. D., was looking for the right place to settle and begin her practice as a psychologist. One day, the two were on a round-a-bout route to the Jersey shore, when they found themselves passing through the town. Her mother stopped the car, got out on the sidewalk and, turning slowly, coolly surveyed the downtown. Bubbles rolled down the window and asked her mother if something was wrong. Her mother looked at her and said,
"Under the surface gentility, I sense seething repression, deep-seated emotional detachment and unfulfilled ambitions. And money. All the key ingredients. Let's find a realtor."
That's her Mom. Pragmatic.
As she approaches the small but elegant house her mother kept as her home and her office, she pauses on the walk. Checking herself over, she knows her mother will have something to say about her outfit. Maybe the sheepskin vest was a little much. Fuck it. She was here to ask for money to get a car. She reminded herself to stay on subject and not get defensive. Here goes.
"Bubbles, dear! You're right on time! Is this part of the new regime? Punctuality, responsibility, a job . . .?"
"Hi, Mother, I love you too. I told you, the job is on a trial basis, and as I mentioned, it's in Princeton. I need a car."
"OK, OK, a reliable means of transportation. We'll get to that. Tell me a little about this job."
"Well, it's as a design assistant. I'll be doing a little of everything, from page layout, to hands-on design. It's a great opportunity to learn a lot. The head design guy, I think he's a part owner too, he's kinda wacky, but it's not a stuffy place at all. Everybody works real hard, but they look like they're enjoying it."
Her mother leans forward in the big chair, legs crossed, elbow on her knee, chin resting on her thumb. Tapping her cheek with her finger, through her narrowed eyes she examines Bubbles from head to toe. Intimidating. Bubbles wonders if her mother's clients feel this way.
"Bubbles, the velvet pants, the sheepskin, the scarfs, the kinky boots . . . you look like you're auditioning for an episode of Starsky and Hutch."
"Oh, I KNEW that was coming! Look, can we just talk about the job? I mean, this is really important to me!"
"You're right. Cheap shot. Listen, the car is not a problem. We'll pick something out, something economical and sensible, I'll hold the title, and we'll work out a payment plan for you. However, Princeton's kind of far to travel from Philly everyday, isn't it?"
"No, it isn't, I mean, well, it might be, but you remember how when we got to Haddonfield you knew it was the right place? Well, I feel that way about this job, too."
"All right, dear. Fair enough. When are you expected to start?"
"Well, Sam—the design guy—said he needed someone in about ten days. But he said if I call on Monday, the job is mine."
"Then tomorrow we go car shopping. So, this seems to call for a little celebration. Would you like to have a glass of wine with me, dear?"
"Oh, that sounds great. Mother, this . . . this really means a lot to me. Things have been weird lately. But good. Weird and good."
"Well, weird and good sounds like it adds up to . . . interesting. Life should be interesting, right, dear? Here's your wine."
"Thanks. Um, I gotta have a cigarette."
"Outside, outside. C'mon, let's go out on the patio."
Carole, short and trim, auburn hair, neatly dressed in pressed jeans and a white button-down shirt, and Bubbles, nothing but legs and a shock of dark brown hair, resplendent in her funky 70's jive attire, share some wine and begin to relax. It was the two of them, single mother and her daughter, against the world when Bubbles was young. Later came the typical friction between the two as she reached her teens. Now, they were testing the waters of a new relationship, as friends.
Bubbles Meets the Prince of Darkness
International Assholes' Day
Bubbles Runs the Voodoo Down
Bubbles Takes a Magic Carpet Ride
Big Brown lets Bubbles Down
Bubbles, Baked and Fried
Bubbles, Biff and Binny
Bubbles and the 99 cent Epiphany
Bubbles' Trip To See the Doctor
The Doctor and the Prince of Darkness Meet Again
The Doctor and the Naked Glory
More Troubles for Bubbles
What a Lame Vacation
In Careless Act, 17 Drown, 3 Survive.