The Minstrel

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The fortress was in danger.

After the commoners had revolted, a village meeting convened regarding the security of the community. Several of the venerable nobles of the village had put their houses up for sale in the week since the riots. The fabric of their existence was falling apart. Something was going to have to be done. Quickly.

The meeting was presided over by one Joan Taylor Frawley, the socialite wife of attorney Russell Frawley. Her influential mother-in-law, the cardiologist Dr. Michelle Johnson-Frawley had ordered the meeting, saying that her daughter-in-law had something important to suggest. Everyone wondered what this woman had to say. It was rumored that her son died of a drug overdose, and ever since then, she had become a real lush. Her husband was known to have a roving eye. It was supposed that she wasn’t very smart. She didn’t entertain or mingle, and she never had anything interesting to say. She certainly needed her husband’s influence to get here. Out of respect for Johnson-Frawley. who was a great benefactor for much of the local arts did they listen.

Taylor’s neighbors couldn’t have misjudged her more. She was, in fact, a genius, a girl who graduated third in a class of three hundred. She had won a grant to Yale when she was only in the seventh grade when she devised a scale that measured gravitational differences in the floor. Science had always been her favorite. Joan Taylor had never been the type of girl to play with dolls and act cute. She was fascinated with the stars, looking up at them at her parents’ Greenwich estate. She came to know each of them by heart, when they would arrive in the sky. Sometimes she would talk to him; the odd genius in a world of little socialites searching for friends.

She never went to Yale. In fact, by the time her senior year in high school rolled around, there was an argument as to whether she should go to college at all. Education was unnecessary, as she would never have a career, particularly in a profession as masculine science. A woman of her status should marry, and that was all the education she should have. She was to have a debutante ball like all the Taylor girls before her. The grant would be converted into hard cash; John Taylor the broker would see to that. The money would go to something more practical like a dowry or a wedding.

As luck would have it, she became ill the week before the gala event.

She had been swimming in the chilly May waters of the lake near her parents’ house, and she came down with sever pneumonia. The day she was to debut, she was in the hospital. She veered in and out of consciousness, hearing her mother alternatively lament at the possible loss of her daughter and her harsh whispers panicking not knowing if Joan was ever going to find a man to take care of her. It was typical of Marion Hawthorne Taylor, to love her daughter and yet make it seem that the only important thing was for her youngest daughter to get a man. She was worried that Joan was too much of a tomboy to ever hold a man’s attention. Drifting in and out, Joan would wonder if she was right.

In the end, the family relented by letting their daughter attend Smith College, where she could learn the niceties of being a woman and get this “college thing” as John Taylor put it, out of her system. Besides, Smith ha nice socials where, if they didn’t quite have the class of a debutante ball, it was reputed that they attracted nice boys from the surrounding universities.

It was at one of these socials that she met Russell Frawley, a law student at Harvard University. She was impressed with him almost immediately. A handsome, older, Ivy League man who spent the whole evening with her. How it would impress her parents. They’d written her off as a spinster, but she’d show them. He was so funny, easy to talk to, so charming. Joan knew she was the envy of the other girls. His parents paid for his college, so she knew that he must come from a good family. At that time, she only knew money as a barometer for decency. And at that time, it seemed to little matter that he spent most of the night refilling his champagne glass. Joan actually thought it was cute. How stupid she had been.

So she spent her time shopping, trying to impress the love of her life. She went to Manhattan to find the best, and he would take her to the Waldorf Astoria and tavern on the green. Her stars appeared for her night after night, but she had forgotten about them. She had found a new love, one that was presentable on her arm, at least to the eyes of others.

And so, in June of 1972, one year after they had met, Joan Taylor and Russell Frawley became lawful man and wife. She was two months pregnant, feeling somewhat dehumanized, wondering if her playboy husband married her only to avoid scandal. In the month before their wedding, her would disappear for days, only to be found drunk on his parents’ front lawn. Two weeks before her wedding, Joan was tempted to run from it all, baby or not. She longed to tell her parents of her true feelings, but she knew that she could never to that. Marion Taylor would never forgive her for the amount of money she would have wasted on such a rebellious child. Joan remembered during her wedding reception giving a glance to her stars, the first glance in the long rime. Looking at them, she felt disconnected from both them and the bride she was. She felt like a shell with no identity.

Her marriage was a disaster from the start. Russell was furious to hear that she was pregnant, and her fear that he would feel trapped in the marriage was realized. He tried to bribe her to abort the child; imagine a man telling his own wife that he would give her a million dollars just to get rid of it. Somehow, Joan thought she was entitled to the money anyway if he had it; she was his wife. But it was family money. And as she found out later, Russell didn’t have a dime for himself.

He hardly ever was home. Joan had spent most of her adult life alone. She didn’t fir in with the social crowd, and so she had no way of breaking out of her prison. As Russell became more and more prominent as an attorney, the cages got bigger and bigger, and people saw less and less reasons why she was so unhappy. People suggested shrinks and doctors. They felt sorry for her. Everyone knew what a playboy she married. Most times, he wasn’t playing with her.

And then there was Quentin. The drugs began early with him; he had just finished Cub Scouts two years earlier. A child. Joan remembered the day when she cleaned his room and found the first of many joints. She had just dropped him at his friend’s house after spending the day in the park with him. It had been, up until that point, a beautiful day in May. She remembered feeling, now, he has left me too. That was the day that she joined them, into a world of chemical wasteland. That day, she found a third love. Russell she hated. The stars were forgotten. Booze was the kindest to her. Eventually she hated Quentin, too. She wished she had an abortion, and in the greatest of stupors, she told him so. Quentin died of an overdose when he was thirteen. He was to have been in varsity soccer that year. Heroin had other plans. Joan told him that she wished she aborted him the previous day.

The day she confronted her husband in her off in her office, she was sick of being made the fool. Someone told her that he was seen with a prostitute. Joan snapped. Bad enough that she had been jilted, but for a woman that wasn’t even of her stature, one that he handed money to, that was too much. After she for it all out of her system, she sat by the bay window again, glancing at the faraway stars. She caught a glimpse in their beauty of the Joan Taylor of yesterday; the feisty one, the tomboy, the dreamer. She spent the rest of the night wondering where that Joan Taylor went.

And now, the riots. Joan had been three days sober when she saw them on the news, her present abstinence born of sheer will to combat whatever woman had snagged her husband this time. She joined with her mother-in-law in changing the zoning laws. Michelle Johnson-Frawley had been involved with zoning ever since the minorities moved in; trying to change their residencies to business districts so they would move out. So far, to no avail, mostly because she couldn’t get enough interest in the project; no one cared unless it was literally in their back yard. But now with the riots, all had changed.

Taylor, with Johnson-Frawley, introduced a comprehensive segregation zone. A gate would be installed around their area, with a security guard and private roads. Frankly, Taylor thought this was awfully late in coming. With the salaries that they made and the services they provided for their community, it was amazing it took a crazed murderer for everyone to realize they needed special protection.

It was expected that the proposed five-million dollar project might get caught up in red tape, so Johnson-Frawley with all her pull in town hall was a vital tool indeed to get this project going. She could brush aside the officials with her checkbook like they were gnats on the ground. Her pocketbook wouldn’t even feel the effect. Red tape was meaningless to her.

Joan was exhilarated to finally after all these years to be doing something worthwhile with her life. As the negotiations were set with the White Plains government and later that month in Albany, Joan felt happy and proud of herself, like she was doing a service for her people. The Africans were busy calling other blacks “their people”; why couldn’t white people do the same?

She smiled, basking in the knowledge of her good deeds. Soon she would go to Albany to finalize the plans, getting state emergency funds, care of her mother-in-law. She came home to her drunk husband and for the first time felt better than him, and felt that finally, vengeance was hers for the taking.

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