Friday, March 30, 2012

The Bodacious Maturation of Wonder Riley--3

It is my heart’s desire to be a writer when I grow up. There. I said it. And I plan to, need to, verbalize that fact a lot more. In order to get the concept, my very destiny, deep down inside my bone marrow. Toward this I’m-a-writer-at-the-cellular-level-end, I have ordered business cards. They feature a fuschia feather pen and pot of ink illustration. Fuschia happens to be my favorite color. My beauty mentor and next door neighbor, Francoise Suzette Orleans, assures me that pink clashes with my hair, but I’m okay with that. I believe aside from those pertaining to safety, some rules are made to be not just broken, but shattered with great verve.
            In addition to procuring calling cards, I have recently taken on the task of  composing my resume. Tell me how you think this sounds as a career objective: I, Wonder Riley, desire to dart around this world with great ebullience, leaving a trail of clever and profound words in my wake.
            Once they noticed my authorly ambitions, which was approximately thirty six months ago, Pip and Nip proceeded to present me with a word-a-day calendar every single year for Christmas. I endeavor to use interesting, but not pretentious, verbage as the average American reads at an eighth or ninth grade level. To date, my favorite word is grok. It means to understand profoundly and intuitively. Just between you and me, I often wonder if I will ever find someone who groks me, besides Granny Cat. Clearly it’s not Charlie because so far he has failed to grok the fact that I’d like him to put his kisser on mine. The fact that he’s never grokked this particular whim of mine, not even once, deeply offends my feminine sensibilities. He just does the fingertip smooch. Sigh.
            Now if you have the occasion to bestow upon me a gift, perhaps for my birthday which I must tell you is April first (Please do not squinch up your face when I tell you that. It has already provided me with considerable grief during my thirteen years of existence.), a good choice would be a journal. Big or small. Ornate or humble, it matters not. Or notebooks. Legal pads. You know, stuff to jot on. I have gleaned from craft books that a writer must always be within arm’s reach of paper and pencil. Just so you know, Charlie stole 18 miniature-golf pencils for me once upon a time, so I’m pretty set with regards to writing utensils. I could use a cute little pencil sharpener though. Or perhaps a chic tote bag that would lend me an air of jaunty professionalism.
            With regards to my future, there is a vision which I conjure frequently. In this apparition, it is the summer of my eighteenth or perhaps twenty first year. I am standing on the landing of a train depot, flanked on either side by an enormous, psychedelic paisley weekender satchel. My destination is Monroeville, Alabama, home to Harper Lee. For your information, Ms. Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, my very favorite book in the entire world. I plan to appear on her doorstep before lunchtime on the fourth of July and beg her to mentor me in wordsmithing. For this privilege, I am willing to bake biscuits and/or divest her property of dog droppings. I am not certain but I am thinking she’s the type of gal who would be in possession of a Beagle.
            It does darken the mood of my heart to consider the grief my absence will afflict upon Granny Cat. I'm fairly certain Pippa and Nipper will not mourn my exodus as it seems to have been their goal all along.
            One afternoon when we were having tea in the front parlour, Granny Cat picked up my hands and pressed them to her heart. I could feel the steady strong beat of it under my pinkie fingers.
            "Of course they love you, Hannah Persephone Eileen," she said. "You are such a precious and unique young lady and they created you, with of course the assistance of the good Lord."
            I smiled and nodded, but in the valley in the middle of my chest, I did not grok my parents' affection for me.  Not one whit.

To read Part I, click here.
To read Part II, click here.

Friday, March 23, 2012

For Whom the Bell Curves

"Hold still!" I said to my son as I snapped a photo of him coming down the front steps. I take one every year on the first day of school. And the last. Capture his size, hairstyle, and current fashion taste forever. I have pictures of all three kids on every one of their first and last days of school. If only I scrapbooked.
             My sixteen-year-old daughter spoke from inside the screen door. 
            “He’s in sixth grade now, Mom,” she said. “That's middle school. No way can you walk him down to the corner. It wouldn't be cool.”
            I whimpered. Made my eyes big and slow-blinked. “Really?” I said. “No way?”
            She crossed her arms. Shook her head, her mouth a firm, lip-glossed line.
            I settled for standing in the middle of the street in front of our house. Watched his figure diminish in the morning mist. Another girl was already at the corner. Waiting on the bus. With her daddy. I noticed a pinch. Of jealousy. Guess girls are different.
            A few minutes later the bus wheezed to a stop. The kids piled up and in. The yellow-orange rectangle disappeared around the bend. I sighed. And remembered. The day I sent him off to kindergarten. Back then when the bus had pulled away, I wept, quietly. And I smiled, sort of. All at the same time. I felt lonely, but I also felt free.
            I lingered there on the corner, my toes pointing down the yellow slanted curb, long after the other parents left. I focused on  the horizon. Craned my neck. Something was out there, way out yonder. I held my hand above my eyes to avoid the sun’s sharp glare. A breeze nudged the hair around my face. I shivered. In my gut, in my spirit, I knew everything was changing.
            I dawdled as I made my way back to the house. Kicked at pebbles and considered my life. The last year and the one before seemed like a black and white photograph. No, that’s not right. There was always color, but it was washed out—pastel and weak, with undertones of grey. Personally, I don’t care for pastels. I think they’re wimpy.
            Back home, I climbed the stone steps, then the wooden ones. I perched on the top stair. Pondered how for the past four years or so, I’d craved more. And then recently, I'd wanted much more. For the longest time I felt like a sleepy caterpillar in a dry and raspy, mocha latte-colored cocoon. What I longed to be was a butterfly—an aqua and magenta fluttering thing of beauty, starting to nudge, poke, and kick box my way out of a dusty coffin. I desired freshness, greenness, sunshine, and new life to fill me and my veins to overflowing.
            My elbows dug into my thighs as I framed my face with my hands. Spoke to the morning.
            "My life is kind of like a bell curve." 
            For years, I'd been ascending the left side—busily inch-worming my way toward the pinnacle. It seemed to take the longest time. One daughter. Another. A boy child. And then my son entered the bus that first day. Once he started school, the plummet began. The descent down the other side was slow at first, but then I gathered speed. I thrust my arms over my head and shouted, "Wheee!" Silently though, so no one would think I was rejoicing their absence. That wasn't it at all.
            For me there could be no more, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
            I cupped my hands around my mouth, but ended up speaking in a whisper.
            “Keep your silent sadness!” I told the memory of Henry David Thoreau. “What a snore! I want more than a grey rag of a life!”
            I criss-crossed my hands over my heart. Pictured God inside me, balancing on the rosy wet flesh of my lung. I felt him create a sphere with his breath—a bubble gum or living tissue balloon in the space beneath my ribs. What would happen if he let go? Surely it would go “WHOOOOSHHHH!” And then it would twist and shout, somersault and dance, with me wrapped around it, through my neighborhood and town, and eventually all over the world, in glorious, ecstatic, technicolor bliss.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Be Somebody

I’ve known there’s a book in me since the fourth grade. That’s when my teacher, Miss Smith, removed her cat-eyed glasses and used them to point at me.
            “Dana, this is excellent writing.”
            She came toward me, my homework bunched in her hand. Knelt beside my desk and smoothed the pages. As she underlined various words and phrases with her pointer finger, I inhaled her fragrance—flowers and fruit. Strawberries maybe. I want to be just like you when I grow up, Miss Smith. For real.
            She drew a red circle around an adjective. “Mark my words, sweetheart,” she said. “Any fourth grader who uses the word bloodcurdling is destined to be a writer some day.”
            She wrapped my shoulders with her firm, young arm. Leaned her weight into me. It felt awkward and warm, all at once. I shut my eyes tight. Do it again. Please, do it again. Instead she rose, smoothed her jumper, and returned to the front of the room. Resumed grading papers. I sat a little taller in my seat.
            An hour later Corrine Hunt lost her lunch—cheesy beefy mac and chocolate milk—on the desk behind me. Got some in my hair. Even that didn’t burst my bubble. Mrs. Smith thought I’d be something someday.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Woman in Red--Part V

I waited on the shore with the others, as Dan had instructed. Thankfully there was no one I knew. No one with a pointing finger to shout, “Unclean! Unclean!”
            When the boat appeared on the horizon, a shout arose from the crowd.    
            We pressed forward, a solid mass. A single, throbbing creature. For a moment, I considered flight. In the other direction, toward hill country and home. After a life of loneliness, the assault on my senses—shouts and creature calls, manure and perspiration, jabbing shoulders and elbows—overwhelmed me. Plundered the very air from my nose and mouth. In a panic I searched the faces of those nearby. Could they hear the pounding of my heart? Should I flee before my condition was revealed? I shook my head, almost violently. No, I hissed under my breath. Be strong and courageous. This is the day, possibly the only opportunity I will ever have, to accomplish the one thing that might bring me joy. I reclaimed my breath and set my face like flint. Forced my shoulders back and made my way toward the water’s edge.
            As the boat drew near, some entered the lake, no doubt desiring to plead their case first. The noise level increased and nearly deafened me, more cries of distress than anything. Blind were led. Lame limped or were bolstered or carried. A filthy boy, his eyes wide and roaming, his mouth ringed with spittle, twisted and writhed within the circle of his family.            
            Finally the boat came to rest on land with a gritty sigh. The horde of humanity converged on the vessel at all its points.
            "Master! Teacher!" the people cried.
            "Over here, Sir," a woman's voice said. "Please. If you but—"
             "Step away," one of the men inside the boat said. "Back off so we can disembark. Make a way for Jesus."
           I focused my gaze on the greatest healer the world had ever known, or so Dan's  note had said. He looked like any man. Could he possibly be different? Special? I considered the throng, pawing and pushing to get close to him. How might I, a woman alone, create an opportunity to speak with him, to tell him my plight? I bit at my lower lip. There were so many ailments represented here. Everyone of us needed him. Every one. Why would he listen to me?
             Suddenly the group parted. A man in pristine robes stepped through.
            “It’s Jairus, from the synagogue,” someone noted.
            Up ahead I watched the man collapse at the rabbi's feet. The hands he raised to the teacher were both elegant and trembling. Tears rinsed his contorted face.
            “Please, my Lord,” he said, his voice coarse with grief. “My little daughter is dying. I beg you. Please come lay your hands on her so she will be healed and live.”
            I whimpered. His little girl? Is dying? Oh, Lord! Go with him. Save her. I will . . . I do not . . .
            I watched Jesus do as I said. He moved away from me to follow the man called Jairus. In that moment, I felt hollow.
            Soon after, I was swept along as the crowd surged in pursuit of the Master. As it carried me with it, a thought occurred to me. It is not necessary for him to see me or know who I am. If I but touch the hem of his tunic I will be healed.  I stretched out my arm toward his cloak but fell short. A moan escaped me. Again the crowd heaved so that I was pitched up and forward. Suddenly one of the tassels affixed to the edge of his prayer shawl brushed my fingertips. Immediately it stopped—the fountain of blood from within me. I’m healed. Everything inside me knew it, felt it, declared it.
            I held the fingers that touched his garment to my lips, then my chest. I am free. I dropped to the dust. Hid my face in my hands. Wept and worshipped. It is finished. I reached upward. Attempted to hold heaven.
            All around me people pushed and shoved, crushed against, and grabbed at me.
            “Move it, woman. Get up!”
             “Who touched me?”
            Through the din I recognized his voice. Deep. Commanding. My breath caught. I cowered. Watched his disciples survey the area. I straightened. Hurried to the Master. Groveled at his feet. I clutched the edge of his garment. Laid my cheek against it.
            “My Lord, forgive me,” I said. “It was I. Sir, for twelve years I have bled without ceasing. I spent all I had on many physicians and yet my condition grew worse, not better. Then I heard . . .”
            When I dared lift my gaze to his, I gasped. At the depth of love and familiarity in his eyes.
            I gestured weakly toward Jairus. “I saw that you were going to help his . . . And surely her need is . . .”
          I covered my mouth, to stop the words, but the rabbi nodded for me to continue. 
          “Sir, I have not touched anyone in . . . And no man would ever . . . I thought, if I could only . . .”
            My words dried up even as my eyes and nose ran hot. Sobs convulsed my frame.
            The Lord rested one hand on my shoulder. Stilled my shaking. He cupped my face with his other. Warmed me through.
            “Take heart, daughter,” he said. “Your faith has healed you.”
            He extended his hand to help me up, then disappeared with his disciples.
            I spun around. Attempted to locate him again, to no avail. Frustrated, desperate, I labored to keep in the front part of the group. I cringed when I felt the packing between my legs loosen and fall away. I glanced behind me, at the bodies, at the road, but I saw nothing. The evidence of my suffering had vanished—trampled by sandals and bare feet. With a sigh I moved toward the edge of the group to take a sip from my wineskin.  I stood on tiptoe and shaded my eyes to see if there was any sign of the Master in the distance. That’s when I thought I saw— Indeed it was— I bunched my tunic with one hand and waved with my other. Broke into a run.
          "Ada! Dan!" I shouted. "Wait for me!"

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Woman in Red--Part IV

The rising sun warmed the man’s broad shoulders. Stroked the sky scarlet, violet, and gold.
            “Today is the day,” he told the treetops. “She is once again aware of me. As she has been from time to time throughout the years. In her heart.”
            He smiled as he pictured the woman in his mind’s eye. Watched her massage a palmful of olive oil into her waist-length, ox-black hair. She’d braid it, coil it atop her head, and conceal it.  Then she would smooth her dark tunic, always dark. Blacks. Browns. Cast offs from the village. More often that not from widows who remarried. Without fail she stitched a bright stripe along each of the hems. The corners of his mouth lifted at the thought.
            “She longs for, and yet does not covet, the things she does not possess,” he said. “A husband to call her blessed. Children to dance around her feet as she goes about her tasks. Today she will begin to lay hold of these things.”
            He stooped and cupped his hands in the stream. Drank deep the coolness. Shook the water droplets from his beard. He straightened and gazed toward her dwelling. Spied the luminous oval of her face at the window. Watched her eyes sweep the thicket on either side of him. He retreated a step.
            “You see me,” he whispered across the way, “but you do not realize I am here, that I have always been. Longing for you. You need only . . .” His voice trailed away as he remembered the fragrance of her. The shape of each of her fingers. But that was a lifetime ago. Longer even.
            He wandered through the woods behind the house for some time. Tarried to see if she might come to him. Finally he turned to go but first he knelt and caressed the ground. Laughed softly as flowers, brilliant pinks and purples, sprang to life. He hovered his hands over them.
            “Remain. Be beautiful. Until she finds you.”

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Woman in Red--Part III

The woman collected the meat packet from the cool space beneath her house. Lingered in the dank until she shivered. Back inside the house she sat at the table and untied the string, spread open the waxed cloth. She smiled at the small shoulder bone with bits of meat still clinging to it. Lamb or goat, no doubt. It would make a tasty stew. With lentils and barley maybe.
            She walked over to the hearth. Peered up at the shelf of cooking items. She stood on tiptoe and rolled her fingers against the pot’s side to draw it to her. Carried it back to the table. She brought the urn of water to where the pot and meat package were.
            When she lifted the bone she discovered the note. Tinged pink from the meat. She unfolded the parchment. Smoothed it on the table top. It was instructions. For her deliverance. Written in Dan’s hand. By the time she read the last word, her heart was pounding.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Woman in Red--Part II

At the well, Eunice clutched Ada’s forearm. Leaned in. “You shouldn’t give that woman provisions.”
            Ada turned slowly. Lifted the old woman’s hand. Let it fall.
           “What woman do you speak of?”
            The older woman huffed. “The woman with the issue, of course. She fancied your Dan at one time. And he her.”
            Ada reached for the rope. “It’s been years. I don’t worry for my husband’s affections.”
            “But she still has a fine form and a lovely face. Creamy skin as opposed to our brown.”
            Ada wrapped the rope around her palm twice. Laughed. “And you know a man who would dare touch her?”
            The old woman’s face clamped in on itself. “Passion can turn a man a fool.”
            Ada grunted as she brought up the bucket. “I will continue to assist the woman with the issue as I believe she would me if I were in need. She is my neighbor. Yours too.” She filled the woman’s water vessel. “You would do well to abide by the scriptures, Mother.”
            Eunice snorted. “And you would be wise to protect what is yours, daughter. What Yahweh has given you.”
            Ada perched the bucket on her hip. “I prefer to hold my gifts in an open hand not a fist, Mother. How can God give me more if my hand is closed?”
            The old woman shook her head. Filled and emptied her cheeks of air.
            “You’re just like your father.”
            Ada smiled at the clouds. “Thank you, Mother,” she said as the woman turned to go. “Don’t be late for supper.”

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Woman in Red--Part I

“You are dying,” the young girl shouted. She split the bushes and bolted through. Gestured wildly at the wet, red rush. “It’s like when God turned the rivers of Egypt to blood!”
            The woman in the stream startled. Spun around, searching. When she spotted the girl alone, she relaxed. Splashed water between her legs. Rinsed red to pink to clear. She bunched her tunic between her knees with one hand. Held out her other for balance. Picked her way carefully among the slick stones at the stream’s edge.  In the grass she stood with her back to the girl. Let her garment fall.
            “You must go,” she said. “Have you not heard? I am unclean.”
            Behind her, she heard the girl take a step closer. “But you are not so very old,” she said. “And you are beautiful. Surely someone—”
            The woman spoke over her shoulder. “There is no one.” She swept her hair up. “I have tried every . . . ” Twisted it, secured it with a wooden pick. “For years.” She stooped for her headcovering. “There is no one able.” Patted it in place. “Now go.”
            The girl darted forward. Laid a bundle swaddled in cloth on a nearby stone.
            “This is for you,” she said. “From my mother.”
            The woman gripped her ribcage with her forearms. “Who is?”
            She nodded. “A good woman.” Married to the man I loved, but good nonetheless. “Give her my thanks. And . . . tell her Shalom.”
            The woman felt the girl’s gaze on her back. Its intensity faded along with her footsteps. When the wood was silent, she turned. Knelt for the package. Held it up and inhaled. Meat. Always meat. For some reason everyone seemed to believe flesh would, could, cure her.
            She felt the trickle, the omnipresent flow, warm her inner thighs yet again so she pressed her thighs together. Squeezed her eyes shut but not before tears ran hot.
            As she approached her house she noticed the stack of cloths, browns and blacks neatly folded, on the ground by the door. She sighed.
            “And rags. To staunch the infinite ebb. Surely, meat and rags will improve my lot in life.”
            She lifted her face to the sky. So the sun would dry it. Extended her arms so its shine might warm her through. Spoke to the only one who listened to her, besides curious girls.
            “Forgive me, Jehovah-Jireh. They mean well. Surely they do. Thank you for your provision.”

(This will be a five part story. Please tune in tomorrow.)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Wretched . . . Pitiful

I sat opposite my father. Clamped my lips to stifle the sob working its way up and out. I gripped my ribs and rocked. My smart daddy.
            I glanced at my husband. “He’ll never smile again. Ever.”
            I jumped up. Scraped the tears from my cheeks. Pierced my hair with my fingers. Paced beside Dad’s Geri-Chair.
            “For crying out loud, he’ll never even walk again,” I said. “Look at him, He’s wretched. Pitiful.”
             A skim of tears shone in my husband’s eyes as he studied my father’s blank expression.
            I rattled Dad’s tray. Locked tight to his wheel chair. “Look at this! It’s a prison. On wheels.”
            I laid my hands on my father’s head. Like I was blessing him.
            “His hair is filthy,” I said. “When was the last time he was bathed?”
            Behind me, Tony rested his hands on my shoulders. “He can still hear, you know.”
            I whirled. Glared. “Hear what?” I said. “Blah, blah, blah! That’s all he hears. What good are three degrees now? When he doesn’t even know his own daughter?”
            I knelt before my dad. Gripped the surface where he outlined circles. Over and over.
            “Who am I?” I said. “Who am I, Daddy? Say it! Say my name!”
            My father didn’t move. Didn’t blink. I crumpled beside him. A moment later I scrambled to my knees in front of him. Stilled his pointer fingers with my palms.
            “It’s me, Daddy,” I said. “Remember me? How you used to call me Diane Sue with a Tin Lizzy too?”
            I smeared snot with my sleeve. Snatched the rumpled tissue Tony offered. Honked into it. I reached out and grabbed the sides of my father's stained bib. Yanked hard.
            “No bib!” I spat. “No daddy of mine, and certainly not one with a degree from Harvard, is going to wear a stupid, stinking bib.”
            Tony tapped my shoulder. I turned. Looked up.
            “Let’s go,” he said. “We’ll come back next Sunday. Maybe he’ll be better then.”


For the Trifecta Writing Challenge, you should write a creative response using the given word. You must use the word in your response, and you must use it correctly.  Your response can be no fewer than 33 and no more than 333 words. Your response can be anything—from fiction to poetry and everything in between. We're looking for creativity, thoughtfulness, and attention to detail. That being said, we do not disallow posts for any particular reason. We're not easily offended--you do what you've got to do to get your story told. Be artsy; be creative; stretch yourself. Write until your fingers bleed. We want to see your guts spilled out on the page. Once you have written a response, you must then post it to your blog and enter your blog's url in the linky form on Trifecta's home page. Today's word is WRETCHED.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...