My Name is Jane

written by Christine Unger


Christmas Shop

Val-David is a summer/winter resort town. Lakes, ski slopes, vineyards, orchards, pottery. With leaves coming down and the streets deserted, the unlikely Christmas shop called to me like a spot of blue in a cloudy sky. It was dark, jammed full of Christmas gewgaws piled everywhere without thought to order or appearance. A parrot hidden somewhere in the dark-cobwebby shadows towards the rear let out a shriek of welcome. A large man in a turban walked forward but on seeing me quickly backed up and disappeared again.

A cherubic girl child with glazed over eyes stood cornered in an aisle listening to the demented maundering of the shopkeeper. He shifted without apparent reason from complaints of corporate America’s monopolization of Christmas paraphernalia sales and attempts to convince the girl or himself that when one thing ends another door opens, in his case assisted by a higher power somehow connected to a solar temple, Zen and lord some-one-or-other.

I felt bad for the girl but her presence let me prowl through the store unnoticed. For a minute I considered chasing down the turban but finally wrote his unlikely appearance in this whiter than white oasis as a fluke. I let go of my Kipling prejudices and realized what I was really seeing was a rather stout, ordinary businessperson, probably considering if this shop, once cleared of its webs and glitter, might have potential as a business of some kind.

Still, this place had to have a lead. Someone like Jane must have wandered in here at some point…I kept looking. Then I saw it, the angel… It was Jane. Dangling from the ceiling, nude, cherubic but unmistakably Jane.

The girl child had finally extricated herself from the shop, leaving with only a small purchase and a look of profound confusion on her face. I caught the owner’s eye. he turned to me reluctantly but when I pointed out the angel his eyes lit up with an almost religious fervour.

“You like her? I made her myself, you’ve got good taste, but I can’t sell her. The lady I made her for well, I think she might just come back some time.” His eyes narrowed, “you’re not some sort of reporter are you?” he was smarter than I’d thought or I was really off my game.

“Oh no,” I retreated, “it’s just, she reminded me of an old friend. I’m not big on angels. Say, maybe you know her? Jane? She’s an artist. I saw her name on a list of artists over at the gallery and thought maybe I’d run into her around town.”
The man’s eyes narrowed further. “Look lady, I don’t know what your game is, but anyone who knows Jane knows she’s dead, right.” His voice was getting hostile and loud. I started backing towards the door.

“Sorry if I upset you, I really didn’t know, I haven’t seen her since school, I knew her in Vermont, but it’s been almost 10 years, we lost touch.” I played humble, “you know she was such a super star, really nice but she just didn’t have the time to keep in touch with a wanna be like me… “ I put a little bitter inflection in my voice.

I’d guessed right, this really twigged with him. He had the hungry look of someone who wanted fame, knew they were great but couldn’t see that what they did just wasn’t special. Before long he’d told me everything he knew. the man was more than half in love with jane. idolizing her and resenting her at the same time. that easy grace and confidence that carried her through life, that left an oder like perfume in her wake was intoxicating and infuriating to men like him. but as much as he resented her, he loathed the other men in her life. I’d clicked the record button on my iphone as he fell into a rhythm of lurid speculation and gossip. My suspect list was growing and this guy, Gregory, wasn’t exactly ruling himself out.