IVORY BRIGHT by Elaine Ford
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Ford's female loners seem uniquely equipped to encounter a universe of skewed human connections, clanking and out of gear. Maureen in The Playhouse (1980) was jug-eared; Christine in the more complex Missed Connections (1983) was big-nosed; and here Ivory Bright has a sharp chin and pointy elbows and an asymmetrical face--as if God had clapped two half-faces together. ""Romance,"" we read, ""was not a practical hope."" Again, the setting is Somerville, in its pre-gentrification state, a mouldering limb of greater Boston. Ivory Bright, 31, has lived at the top of the avocado-green three-decker since she was 12, when her father brought brother Richie and Ivory there after their mother was electrocuted in a laundromat. Now there's Richie, his wife Roselle and two girls, Dad gone, and ""nobody went anywhere."" Ivory runs a two-bit toy store, eats lunch at Sally's Triple-A Sub Shop, and ""waits to be grabbed by the unusual."" It's in the bank that Ivory is impressed by the ""quiet attentive gesture"" of insurance manager Ray Bartlett, 53, as he feeds the bank's fish. Clothed in her mangy fur and cigarette ash, Ivory cat-naps Ray's cat, fat Sam, in order to meet Ray. But it's Lillian, Ray's housekeeper, 59, who snatches Sam back. (She's Irish, ""thank you very much, but not thank God, southern Irish."") Years ago, when Ray was a teen-ager, he'd made a pass--and nothing that way or any way has happened since. Life for Lillian is winding down, and now she's smelling things and hearing things that Ray says he can't hear and smell. About the time that Ivory is turned out of the house because Roselle is pregnant again and needs the room, Ray gets crazily attracted to Ivory, and they make love in back of the store. They marry. . .but Lillian can see trouble coming ""with the naked eye."" Too late, the women--who all know more about Ray than he knows about them--will reach for some sort of connection, and Ray will discover the enemy within. At the close, Roselle observes: ""Things never come out the way you expect. Of if they do, you wish they didn't."" Says Ivory, ""That's deep, Roselle."" Ford's pan-outs on the iron slush and tinkling plumbing of old Somerville are marvelous, in this human comedy where people play out their games of solitaire, forgetting the joker in the pack.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1986
Publisher: Viking