It’s a very typical Hip song–guitars that build but then retreat to let Gord Downie’s voice soar above the quiet verses. There’s something agonizingly beautiful about the way he sings the verses, which almost feel like they are a capella, the music is so minimal. Then for the second verse, the band kicks in and builds the song even more.
The chorus, which is very simple and is barely a chorus at all, punctuates the verses perfectly, with Downie’s voice being a great anchor. The song doesn’t rock as hard as some Hip songs, nor is it as ballady as others, but it’s a perfect example of what the Hip do so well–a middle tempo song that is both passionate and also rocks. (Although I could do without those weird little keyboard notes that dot the end).
[READ: May 8, 2013] “Marjorie Lemke”
At first I was unhappy about this story—it seemed like it would be another story of a young girl who gets pregnant and has a shitty life. Especially when I found out the father is a junkie who has run off and that she herself was a huffer of chemical fumes. Oh boy. And for some reason I thought the story was Irish (I guess there’s lots of down on your luck Irish girl stories out there–cheeky!)
But Braunstein transcends that story but giving Marjorie a support system. Her aunt, who is very helpful (but doesn’t remove her responsibilities), and a job as a maid at a nice (but not too nice) hotel. Her daughter, Della, is small for her age, but she seems mostly healthy. And the hotel allows Marjorie to bring Della along on her cleaning cart (tucked into the clean towels). Della pretty much sleeps all day (which is good for work, but not so good for nighttime), and no one has complained about her cooing or drinking a bottle when she does wake up.
Then Marjorie knocks on a door and a man is in there—he didn’t say anything when she knocked. At first Marjorie thinks he’s masturbating, but he’s not, he’s just absorbed in the newspaper on his lap. He tells her to just go about her work, don’t mind him. So she does. He’s not cold exactly just absorbed in what he’s doing.
The next time she goes to the room, he is there again, but this time his wife is there too. She is brusque and tells Marjorie that they will be in the room for about 4 weeks—she is an inspector and has several jobs in the area. She asks that Marjorie come every two days to clean and says there will be a large tip waiting for her.
The story then jumps forward a bit. In a way that is impressionistic more than telling, we learn that Marjorie and the man, Gabe, are getting close—talking, holding hands, comforting each other. Gabe recently has his stomach stapled, he used to be very large and so he is not exactly bedridden, but he is resting and doesn’t go out of the hotel very much. She feels sad for him but he is thrilled with how thin he is now. She asks all about him and his life with his wife—how they met (a sweet story, back when he was thin and she was chubby) and how he has encouraged her in her new job, even if it means he is left alone. We also learn about her past when a boy in school said that her initials stood for Major Loser. The pathos of her saying it wasn’t true then, but it is now, was quite powerful
Slowly we realize that Gave and Marjorie are getting more physical. Marjorie knows that nothing long term will come of this, she is aware that Gabe won’t leave his wife and really, she doesn’t want him too. She likes the idea of giving Gae comfort now but otherwise having no impact on their lives. And that seems believable.
The problems for Marjorie are about her and her baby and her habit—she keeps itching for the cleaning products, looking for that high. By the end of the story, things begin to come together. It seems likely that Gabe’s wife will never find out about what he and Marjorie did, but Marjorie has other plans. Especially when she finds out something about them that Gabe’s wife doesn’t know.
I really enjoyed this story. It was funny and sweet and moving as well. I’ll look for more from Braunstein.