Alterations: Rita Plush
Short stories can often be disjointed or unrelated having no cohesiveness and nothing to tie them together. Alterations are a rare exception. Author Rita Plush invites readers to take many journeys back in time and enter the kitchen of the mother when preparing a brisket, her encounter with the butcher and the changes within this little girl’s life before her mother became one and the same with her wheelchair. Reliving the moments that I remember with my own grandmother as she koshers the meat, salts and rinses it until the blood not longer exists, Rita Plush takes everyone inside the Fulton Street Markets, the neighborhood butcher and what happens when one little girl could not understand her mother’s need to feel young. Soup is the second story but my favorite is Love Mona. The death of a parent can often change a child’s life, as you will learn when you meet Frances. Wanting to keep some part of her mother alive and with her when taken from her home, she is saddened and hurt when told that she could not. Some things she could carry and others left behind as Aunt Mona and Uncle Paul would now take charge of this young child. Mona could not have children and that sets the stage for what is about to come, Frances’s fate and a family that seems torn. Days later Mona and Frances watched as they unloaded her mother’s bed, makeup table and put them so carelessly and without feeling on a truck. The heartbreak within this children’s face is so vividly described not only in her words and thoughts but also in her face. Frances feels alone and wishes she had stayed in her old home.
Funerals are more than just sad and the description of this one brings it all home for anyone that has ever lost a parent. But, the end of life for some feels like doom for another as we get to know Paul whose anger rises and when Frances insisted on dragging her mother’s night table from room to him. Imagine how she felt when she suggested someone else take her. Each step of the way this story revolves around Frances, her inner conflict within herself and her feeling of isolation. This is a powerful story and throughout it we hear the voice of a lonely young child, a family that seems torn about her future and one woman that could change it all. But, one simple incident might change it all as Frances sees something special and wonders whom it might be for. Staying with another relative and feeling even more alone the ending will bring tears to you eyes and hopefully joy to Frances. The next story is Dance with me about a young child who takes a music box that does not belong to her because she wants to please her mother who loves to dance. What she learns when she gets caught, what happens when she returns it reminds readers of what happens when secrets unfold, fears ignite and one young girl just wants someone to Come Dance With Her! Halter Tops and Pedal Pushers are followed by Alterations. When Beverly decides to try on a fur coat things happen that would forever change her life. Going to bring the cleaning back of someone called Mrs. T she cannot resist trying on the beautiful fur coat within the confines of the closet. But, when Mrs. T sees her wearing the coat the end result would change not only Beverly’s life but also Mrs. T because secrets are revealed and one young girl now holds all the cards. The Blatts is followed by Queen of Sheba and then Keria, which will hit home with many. Keria takes a woman back in time as we share childhood memories; learn about her parents and their difficulties as she begins to bond with her father in different ways. Reminders of days spent with Aunt Fay, the meaning of the Shiva period, not wanting to part with her mother’s things and always hoping to repair what was broken. But, the part of this story that really hits home is when she describes her father’s tailor shop and how he had the cutouts hanging and dealing with his craft. My grandfather was a European Taylor and this definitely brought him to life. But, the ending and the last paragraph say it all as the Keria is wound around her finger and the lives of so many continue to unravel. Red Dress and Curls where one young girl meets a man by chance only to be reminded of his late sister follow Odette. What happens within the pages of this story reminds readers that sometimes people cannot fix what happens in the past; certain alterations cannot be made when you try to pattern someone after someone else. The next story is Mixed Bag followed by and several stories that interlock and intertwine. Meet Jack Scanlon and Hank Calvin. Hank is a swindler and tries to pull the wool over Jack’s eyes when he comes looking at his house in order to buy it. But, instead the two strike an odd bargain as Jack gets paid to repair and fix Hank’s house and is the caregiver for his mother. The plan works for a while until Jack uncovers something about Hank that changes it all. Moving on he learns more about repairing and fixing houses before becoming an instructor in a school teaching shop. The scenes are quite compelling as author Rita Plush teaches Jack more about himself through his students and includes great lessons in carpentry. But, Jack is really lonely and when he relates something personal about his life and giving up his family a simple dollhouse changes it all. Wanting to find his wife and daughter after more than twenty years we see him moving on once again and then we meet Nadine. Nadine and Hank unite but for only one reason for him to use his wiles to swindle her and pretend to want to help her create her own dance studio. The end of this story explains what happens when someone goes too far. His mother hates everyone, he is so self absorbed as we meet Jack again trying to find his way and then Rusty, Nadine’s daughter within the last two stories. A mother who had a child at an early age and daughter that lost one and an ending to the stories that will allow readers to know that certain Alterations can never be permanently made. When things need to be repaired, hearts broken, lives in shambles and objects broken we each seek to alter or change them in our own way. With the help of another person, an instrument or tool we try and reshape an event, possession or incident hoping to recreate the original. Alterations: Change or cause to change in character or in composition in a small or significant way: Free dictionary.com. Cherish those you can make.
Fran Lewis: reviewer