Becoming Mona Lisa
By Holden Robinson
About the book:
We are not invisible because the world does not see us. We become invisible when we can no longer see ourselves. In a moment of epiphany, Mona Lisa Siggs, scratches a poignant quote on a lavender envelope. Faced with the daunting choice of saving her marriage, or killing her husband - which modern forensics has made nearly impossible to get away with - Mona decides to make one final effort to rekindle a relationship seriously on the skids. Cue the birds. Hours into their reconciliation, Mona and her husband Tom, find themselves surrounded by hundreds of crows who have made their home in Aunt Ida's trees. With the help of brother-in-law Robbie, the duo find themselves engaged in radical crow relocation methods. Effort leads to mayhem for the Siggs, as they dodge bird goo, a crazy neighbor armed with a potato gun, and local law enforcement. From the chaos, lessons emerge, those that save a relationship, and shape a life. Becoming Mona Lisa is a delightful story of love and self-discovery, delivered with side-splitting laughter.
My mother once told me if I looked at my reflection long enough, my features would become obscure, and I would gradually become a Picasso. I never asked how long it would take, this transition from me to something I didn't recognize. It may be minutes for some. In my case, it took a few years. Thirty-four to be exact.
I guess it wasn't that I'd become a Picasso. I guess I'd become more of a pooka. A pooka is an invisible creature, like the rabbit in the old movie, Harvey, starring the incomparable Jimmy Stewart.
The distinct difference between me, and the pooka known as Harvey, was Harvey had always been invisible. I hadn't. I'd simply disappeared. Over time.
I watched Harvey repeatedly, long before I understood the similarities I'd one day share with the big, white rabbit.
I loved the rabbit, but I loved Jimmy Stewart even more. Every year, at Christmas, I'd hunker down with my mother, father, and my beloved Aunt Ida, and we'd watch It's a Wonderful Life, and string popcorn for the tree. Aunt Ida would watch through cataracts, I through tears, and by time the credits rolled, I'd be emotionally spent, and Aunt Ida would have half a bowl of Orville Redenbacher's sewn to her skirt.
My mother, ever the teacher, would turn the movie's message into a lesson, one of many she'd pass along, and it was her voice I'd most often heard in my head as I battled my darkest days.
“Wear good shoes, Mona.”
“Wear good underwear, in case you crash your car, Mona.”
“Never miss an opportunity to tell someone you love them, Mona.”
I guess two out of three ain't bad. I wear good shoes, and good underwear. It's the third one I screwed up.
I was thinking of this as I pulled into my driveway on a Sunday evening, after an uneventful shift at WalMart. My old Jeep emitted a familiar groan as we pulled into the driveway that was once smooth, and now felt like driving a Radio Flyer down a washboard. I shut off the ignition and we both sighed. The old truck and the unhappy wife.
I labored up the sidewalk onto the porch. My feet crossed the fifty-year-old timbers, and the wood moaned beneath my treading. A stranger's reflection stared back at me from the single-pane window, as my hand sought the rusty knob. I opened the door and crossed the threshold, into the abyss that had become my life.
I stood in the foyer and kicked off my shoes. The linoleum was cool beneath my feet, and the loneliness seeped in almost instantly, as if it had been there waiting. It was familiar, this sense of emptiness.
“Comfort in the evil you know,” I once read on the jacket of a book about bad marriages. I had come to a formidable crossroads, left with the choice of saving my marriage, or killing my husband, but advancements in forensics had made it impossible to kill anyone and get away with it, so I got myself a library card, and checked out every book ever written on how to mend what seemed unmendable. I returned them all, three weeks later. Unread.
“I'm home,” I called to a silent house. “Tom? You here?”
“I'm in the kitchen, Mona,” came the response from the roommate who was my husband.
“What are you doing?” I asked, finding Tom Siggs at the kitchen table, his nose in a crossword puzzle.
“Same old, same old. How was work?” he asked, as our eyes met, as a recognition almost occurred between two idiots in a relationship dying of boredom.
“It was like work,” I said.
“Work usually is,” Tom replied, his gaze back on the paper.
“Dinner?” I asked.
“Dinner?” Tom repeated.
“The meal you eat at night, Tom.”
“I know what dinner is, Mona.”
“Did you want some?”
“I'll light the grill.”
“Awesome,” I said, with no enthusiasm.
Tom left his paper in the waning sunlight, and I took his chair. It was still warm, and I felt sadness and heat creep into my body, joining the loneliness that had settled there. It was almost like being touched by him, but not, yet it was the closest thing I'd had to a connection with my husband in as long as I could remember.
I looked at the man who stood outside my back door. A man who was once a stranger, then my friend, my lover, my husband, a stranger. A perfect circle, one Dante would appreciate.
It was a question without an answer, a complex equation with an elusive solution, one that could be found over time, if either of us were willing to make the investment. We weren't.
“I'm troubled about something, Mona.”
The voice was unexpected. I hadn't heard my husband come into the kitchen. I looked at him, ready to bare my soul to him, willing to make one last effort to reach him.
“About what, Tom?” I asked, as I held my breath and mentally prepared for the conversation I'd wanted to have with this man for years.
“I had to press the automatic starter on the grill four times. Shouldn't it light the first time?” His brow furrowed in thought, and I stared at him and frowned. “Bothers you too, doesn't it?”
“Yeah, Tom. I'm losing sleep over it.”
“Jeez, Mona. It was just a question.”
“Sorry,” I mumbled.
Tom disappeared through the back door, and I followed him, but only as far as the stove. I filled the tea kettle, and returned to the chair.
The room was quiet, save the gentle hiss of an old gas stove, readying a pot of Earl Grey. I looked through the window to my left to see Tom performing his simple task. He had become an old man in a younger man's body, a man whose dreams had faded away, whose mind was worn from the mundane, a man who lived in a home obese from the weight of despair.
We'd become the perfect husband and wife. Miserable. Silent. Lost in a murky sea of hopelessness.
The kettle shrieked, and I jumped and fought the urge to wail along with it, to finally give voice to my misery. It stopped before I could rise.
“Didn't you hear that, Mona?” my husband asked, once he'd shut off the burner and quieted the screaming.
“Lost in thought,” I said defensively.
“You all right?” he asked.
“Not really, Tom.”
“What's wrong?” he asked.
Did I dare? Did I dare open the floodgates and let it all out?
“I guess I'm just hungry,” I lied.
“Grill's hot. Burgers should be ready in a little bit.”
“Great. Thanks, Tom.”
“No problem. Are you sure there's nothing else wrong?” he asked, looking hard at me.
The floodgates closed, and the misery splashed against them. “No, Tom. Everything's fine.”
Tom stood in the corner of the kitchen, looking at the despicable human being who shared his life.
“Was there something you wanted to say?” I asked.
“Not really,” he muttered, before turning away.
He spoke the truth, this kind man I could no longer reach. There wasn't anything to say. Nothing. It was the end. It was only a matter of time.
I stared out the window, as the water in the kettle grew cold.
Disclosure of Material Connection: This book excerpt is brought to you by the Charisma Media. No payment was received by me in exchange for this post. All opinions expressed here are entirely mine and may not necessarily agree with those of the author, the book's publisher and publicist or the readers of this review. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.