The Lorelei Signal
The Imp of Inversions
Written by Andrew Rucker Jones / Artwork by Marge Simon
When Lorraine Quincy Parks was angry at her grandmother, only yoga helped. After a few sun salutations to warm her muscles, Lorraine clasped her hands behind her head, touched the crown of her skull to the mat, and flipped her legs up into a headstand. She breathed deep and exhaled slow as her blood heated her face. Inversions didn’t just shift her circulation; they reversed the pressure on her spine, pulled her skin toward her ears, and flipped the orientation of every cell in her body. It felt like letting go of ordinary gravity and embracing an alternate physics.
Grandma refused to let Lorraine go to a BLM rally, and since Lorraine was only fifteen, she couldn’t go without permission—or a ride. “Black lives matter, Lorraine,” Grandma had said, “but your life matters, too. Don’t throw yourself in harm’s way.” No matter how Lorraine argued, Grandma’s answer didn’t waver: work within the system for change. But this was the time for revolution!
Now, in her inverted position of calm, Lorraine muttered, “My life matters, Grandma, but every black life matters.”
No sooner had the words tumbled from her lips than a fairy-sized, crimson-skinned girl in a Bulls jersey and hair in powder puffs floated before Lorraine. Lorraine squeaked, and her legs swayed as she tried to keep her balance.
The diminutive girl’s eyes ballooned. “No, no, no!” She flew to Lorraine’s ankles and held them until her posture was solid again.
When the crimson girl floated down to Lorraine’s eye level, she pretended to wipe sweat from her brow and grinned. Then she threw out her chest and planted her hands on her hips. “Let’s cut to the chase, honey. I’m the Imp of Inversions. I help girls who flip an enemy’s vexing remark while upside down. It’s a summoning, like, ‘Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice.’ ”
Lorraine’s eyebrows scrunched. “Like what, now?”
The Imp shrugged. “It was popular the last time I was summoned. Look, babe, you called me, so what’s it going to be?” She crossed her legs in the air and leaned her chin on her palm, elbow on knee.
“You said I reversed my enemy’s remark, but Grandma isn’t my enemy.” Lorraine had never stood on her head for this long before. Her toes tingled.
“Then why are you treating her that way?” The Imp booped Lorraine’s nose, which Lorraine then wrinkled. The Imp’s fingers were so small, it felt like a blade of grass against her skin.
“I’m not! But she doesn’t understand social change, and this change means a lot to me.”
Lorraine’s words appeared as glowing calligraphy in the air between her and the Imp. The Imp swept away the middle of the sentence with the back of her hand and pushed what was left together: “She doesn’t understand me.”
“Is that what you’re trying to say?” the Imp asked.
“I…guess. Yeah, I guess you’re right. Can I get down?” Lorraine sensed herself swaying again, and her shoulders quaked. Her voice was pinched, as if she had a clothespin on her windpipe.
The Imp uncrossed her legs and spun a pirouette. “My job here is done. Go ahead.”
“Wait, how is your job done? You haven’t helped me!”
“Can’t you fill in the inversion yourself? I’m not here to think for you.”
Lorraine lost her balance and crashed flat onto her back. The Imp disappeared.
The zip, zip, zip of Grandma’s corduroy pants preceded her. “Lorraine, honey, are you okay?”
From where she lay, Lorraine could look up Grandma’s wide nose, and the folds of skin around the old woman’s neck bunched together in a way Lorraine had never seen. “Grandma, I don’t understand you. Why don’t you want me at the rally?”
Grandma got down on her knees, one knee at a time. “Baby, I understand what you want to accomplish. I marched in the Sixties, myself.”
Lorraine sat up, but she still felt like she was seeing Grandma upside down. “You did?”
Grandma nodded, lips pressed together. “I saw the firehoses and the tear gas, the burning buses and the beatings. I saw so much. And some things, some people, I never saw again.”
“I didn’t know.” Lorraine put a hand on Grandma’s knee. “But the civil rights movement changed so much, Grandma. You changed so much. And now I want to.”
“I know it, baby.” Grandma patted Lorraine’s hand. “Lordy, don’t I know it. But I can’t bear the thought of something happening to you. I already lost your mother.”
“Then…where does that leave us, Grandma?”
The old woman got up and helped Lorraine to her feet. “That leaves us talking, Lorraine. Talking and finally listening to each other. I don’t know where that will lead, but it will be a better place than we’ve been.” She embraced Lorraine, then held her at arm’s length. “Say, what were you doing in here on the floor?”
“Practicing inversions.” Lorraine smiled wide. “They help me see things from a different point of view.”
Andrew Rucker Jones is a former IT dweeb and American expatriate living in Germany with his Georgian wife and their three children. His greatest literary achievement to date is authoring ninety-eight iCloud reminders for every household chore from cleaning sinks to checking smoke detectors. http://selfdefeatistnavelgazing.wordpress.com/