Monday, December 01, 2008

A Very Strange Letter

Dear Readers and Detectives,

We are the attorneys for Francesca R. Leighton in this matter. Since September 2006, you've followed Francie's adventures as a third assistant to a Miami pop diva, known only as the "Queen Conch."

Though we've tried to keep Francie's story under wraps, it's been scooped, podcasted, blogged, and twittered.

In fact, The Miami Herald wrote: "If you've never heard of Francie Leighton, you might be missing some of the most sassy fiction in South Florida."

This exposure is not without cost.

In the event that something should happen to our client, I am compiling her journal entries into a print book. This is no easy task.

Francie, oblivious to my project, continues to post new blogisodes here.

Maybe you can help make sense of her story.

New readers: follow the map. Post theories, tips, or parrot seed.

Become a fan of Star Islanders on Facebook. Follow Francie on Twitter. Listen to the Blogtrack.

Check out the press section, including this nice post, and a podcast interview with me here.

If you listen closely, you can hear a parrot call in the background.

Sincerely yours,
Nikki Mondschein

Jeopard & Sphinx, P.A.
Attorneys for Francesca R. Leighton

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The First Dance

Delgado. I’d never heard Eva’s last name before (she was always Eva or First Assistant). Delgado’s a common enough name, I guess...

The crowd quickly pairs off, and in a second, a handsome Robin grabs Betty and leads her to the dance floor. She shrugs and gestures to the guy standing next to me, a lone crow. He stares into his punch. I watch as the crowd transforms into an elegant, choreographed dance, seemingly from another time.

As the figures glide past me, I marvel at all these people who seem to know where they’re going. As gloved hand meets gloved hand, I start to feel like I’ve spent my whole life (or at least my almost-thirties) looking on.

I start to feel a bit dizzy, as all the brightly-feathered birds twirl by, and the lights of the ballroom darken. My empty punch glass suddenly feels heavy in my hand. How long have I been standing here?

I am like an owl of the desert.

Brad and Eva circle past me, and without thinking, I lower my mask. Brad sees me and freezes. Eva looks to see what he’s looking at, and I duck around the corner.

What was I thinking, coming here? This isn’t my scene. The only reason Brad’s had anything to do with me is cause Khost asked him to.

A couple of parakeets dart past me, and I catch one say, “You know, he could have his pick. And did you see the picture? She must have a winning personality. Poor Eva.”

“I should go,” I say, aloud, and as I start to head for the exit, Brad blocks me.

“Nice egret,” he says.

“Shouldn’t you be out there,” I say, gesturing to the dance floor, “the First Dance isn’t over yet.”

“It's okay, Eva and I will have many more dances.”

“Oh, right, I forgot. You’re engaged. Congratulations. Mojitos all around.”

“What is with you?”

“What’s with me? You’re supposed to be helping me look for the Second Point, and instead, you’re strutting around Battersea with Eva.”

“I’m a falcon,” says Brad, “falcons don’t strut. And I’ve been looking for you the past few days. Where have you been?”

“I was kidnapped, thank you. At the Queen’s book signing, didn’t you see--”

“--all I know is, I turned around, and you were gone.”

“Khost is a D.S.M. Surely he could have tracked down where I was.”

“Well maybe he thought what I did -- that you went off to search for the Second Point on your own.”

“That’s crazy, why would I--” We both look at Eva, who’s searching the room for Brad. He lowers his voice.

“I’m sorry about the Dirt, they’re always trying to pin something on me, trying to make me into Miami's bad boy.”

“Yeah, well, I’m sorry to have ruined your reputation,” I say.

“That is not what I meant!”

“But you know what people are saying. How long are you gonna slum it with a third assistant just to save your client’s Bottlebrushes?”

Brad nods, silently, and starts to turn away. I call after him.

“I quit my job, okay? I’m Khost’s full-time. So as far as anyone knows, I’m downsized. The tabs aren’t gonna let this go, they’ll follow us, and your mother, the Mayor...”

“What about the Mayor?” a deep, stern voice bellows from behind Brad.

The Mayor lowers her peacock mask. “I told you to stay away from her,” she says, as if I’m not there.

“Exactly what I was saying,” I say, trying to duck away. Brad grabs my wings and yanks me closer, as I try to extract myself.

“This isn’t your show, Mom,” says Brad.

“Oh really?” says the Mayor.

“It’s not a bad play,” I say. “If you add the jealous girlfriend.” Eva appears next to the Mayor, her face pink.

“Brad,” she says, softly, “I’m missing a partner.”

“So is Francie,” says Brad, and as his mother and Eva look on, wide-eyed, he pushes me towards the dance floor.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fantastic Grow The Evening Gowns

I want to live where soul meets body

--Death Cab for Cutie

Betty and I are standing in front of the full-length mirror in my lobby.

“I’m not sure I can do this,” I say, behind my snowy egret mask.

“Of course you can,” says Betty, the pink cockatoo. “You look amazing. I wish I had your legs.”

“Nice plumage,” says Ralph, opening the door for us, “save me a dance, will ya?”

***

The Gala is at Viscaya, a mansion built like a Venetian palace, all tapestries and mirrors. Now, it’s glowing with the night arrival of the South Florida elite, each costume more elaborate than the next, each a celebration of the best plastic surgeons, the most sparkling diamonds.

Betty insisted on paying for the limo, even though she can’t afford it, so we could make a grand entrance.

The path leading to the palace glows with lanterns and the scent of freshly cut gardenias floating in pools. Gardenias again. I make a note of this, but try not to read too much into their overpowering perfume.

“Mademoiselles Egret and Cockatoo,” announces the masked wild duck at the foyer. I take a deep breath and step out into the crowd, as Death Cab begins to play Soul Meets Body.

Cause in my head there’s a greyhound station
Where I send my thoughts to far off destinations


Sometimes I think the music I hear is not a coincidence, or an accidental soundtrack. Songs appear and disappear, like lights in the darkness.

“Let’s grab some punch,” says Betty, steering me towards an elaborate parrot ice sculpture. As I’m staring at it, a real parrot with a bright red tail glides down and lands on the table, unseen by the Woman in Feathers, ladling punch.

I start towards Max, but Betty grabs my arm and pushes me towards the punch.

“Drink up,” says Betty, handing me a fizzing glass. “Then, we’re gonna dance.”

I look around for Officer Khost, but it’s impossible to find anyone in the masked crowd. I make eye contact with a sinister-looking raven, leaning against a column. He bows in my direction.

As if on cue, the crowd (flock?) of birds starts to murmur and turns to face the entrance.

“She’s lovely,” whispers the Woman in Feathers.

It’s impossible not to recognize Eva, radiant and show-stopping as the pink flamingo. Brad, the noble falcon, takes her arm. Behind them, the unmistakable figure of the Mayor, dressed, rather ridiculously, as a peacock.

The Mayor steps forward, her tail swatting the guests on either side of her. She raises her hand to quiet the crowd of revelers.

“On behalf of the Queen, one of Miami’s finest, I want to welcome all of you to the Queen’s Gala. The Queen regrets that she cannot be with us tonight, but she had a...family emergency. Though we live in difficult times, dark times, perhaps, it is a tribute to this great city that we can come together with music, laughter, and love.” She squeezes Eva’s shoulders.

“And now, please join my son and his new fiancĂ©, Eva Delgado, for the First Dance.”