Serial Fiction: Grandma’s Masks, Installment #25

cruise shipHere’s another installment of my book-in-progress, Grandma’s Masks. If you missed the previous installment on July 24th, click here to read it.  Or click the Serial Fiction tab to read all the previous posts of Grandma’s Masks. Today you might find out how to leap like a frog – or will you?

Frog pulls the old woman to her feet and they both stand on the seat of the canoe. “Hold hands,” Frog commands, and grabs the old woman’s hand with his long fingered green one. It feels cool and damp and sticky.

“Now stretch those toes,” he directs, and the old woman feels her toes stretching, stretching, until they are as long as frog toes. She splays them wide and presses them hard into the seat of the canoe, anchoring herself firmly.

“Bend your knees,” calls Frog, and they squat down low. The old woman’s bottom brushes the canoe seat. “Now thrust upward and stretch!” Frog says, and they stretch their legs out to the farthest length they can go, which to the old woman’s surprise is very far indeed – she can see the tops of the trees!

“Squat again down low,” says Frog, and they go down again. “Now up again,” he calls, and up they go, this time stretching even further – now the old woman can see over the trees.

“Down!” says Frog, then “Up! We are getting ready to jump,” he says. “Practice! Practice!”

Up Down, Up Down, Up Down, they go, practicing, practicing. Every time they go up the old woman can see the course of the river, the whole river system going down to the sea. The sea is getting closer and closer. She can see that they are approaching the mouth of the river. She can see the waves of the Western Sea lapping the land. She can see Old Trout still swimming by the canoe, his tail fin moving back and forth, back and forth.

It is nearly dark by now, but on an upward stretch the old woman sees the expanse of the Western Sea, and on it a big, white, gleaming, Cruise Ship.  The Cruise Ship is decorated with bright twinkling lights that are reflected on the waves.  Sparkling dance music echoes over the water.

“Okay,” says Frog. “We have practiced, and now we are ready. We are going to jump! We are going to jump right onto that Cruise Ship.”

“Are you kidding?” says the old woman in alarm. “We can’t jump that far – over the trees, over the water, over the river mouth, high up onto the top deck of that huge ship!”

“Oh, I think we can,” says Frog. “In fact, we must. It’s the way home, you know.”

The old woman sees Old Trout give a shiver of delight from his position alongside the canoe. “Old Trout is there,” she tells Frog, pointing him out.

“Yes,” says Frog, nodding. “We must jump well. We must jump high and long. If we miss the Cruise Ship, we will fall into the river, and then Old Trout will gobble us, for sure. So it’s important not to miss.” He smiled at the old woman, wiggling his long red tongue at her.

“Grab hands!” orders Frog, catching hold of the old woman and pulling her to her feet. “Up!” he calls, and they stretch up; “Down,” he calls, and they squat low. “Up, down,” he calls again, and they stretch again.          

“Okay,” he says, “This is it. At the top of the Up stretch, release your toes and leap!”

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Do you think the old woman will leap onto the cruise ship – or will she fall into the water and be gobbled up by Old Trout? Check back next Wednesday and find out …

Compost: Why I Write

Eating Mythos Soup
Eating Mythos Soup: Poemstories for Laura

This essay is an excerpt from my book Eating Mythos Soup: poemstories for Laura. I wrote it nearly 15 years ago, but it is still true. I think it always will be.

 

I write because when I do I am alive. I write because without writing I live in the half-light of a dull November day when everyone else is at a birthday party. I write because then I am at the party too. I play with balloons and wear colored streamers in my hair.

I write because the world smells good and the light is so bright and beauty sits like a beating pulsing bursting heart underneath my skin, and if I don’t put it down on paper I bleed from every pore.

I write because my life is important and I want everyone to know that my life began and ended and in between love flowed through me and my spirit danced with God.

I write because every signpost I come to points me back to the writer’s path, even from the depths of the electronic jungle. I write because when I do I feel the soothing aahh begin in my own throat, and I hear it echoed from the throats of my loved ones as they see me finally coming home.

I write the little stories and the big ones, in the voices of bells and heartbeats. They are mythic journeys and frantic dances, humdrum vacations and gala celebrations. They are slow and dangerous, fast and clumsy, sweet and smooth tasting. They knock you flat when you’re not looking.

I write because if I don’t my life is ashes and lice, and a gluey film of dust lies thick over my skin. I write because it is my protection from the vast and awful fear of nothingness; because it is the narrow plank I have laid across the chasm of the Great Void.

I write because God lives in my pen and my keyboard and my hands. Over my left shoulder I see the air currents swirling around Her. Her immense presence settles around me like a thick warm quilt, and we are wrapped together snug on a snowy winter day while we watch my genius burn. I feel the warmth on my back growing yellow, and my skin turning peach brown with the soft smell of joy.

I write because God says.

Haiku Friday: Artist

haiku pic 1Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Artist:

to be an artist

you must have pieces missing

that you’ll never find

It’s Haiku Friday again.  For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose.  I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog.  Just write it in the Comments below.  The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those).  That’s it.

Serial Fiction: Grandma’s Masks, Installment #24

troutHere’s another installment of my book-in-progress, Grandma’s Masks. If you missed the previous installment on July 17th, click here to read it. Or click the Serial Fiction tab to read all the previous posts of Grandma’s Masks. Today the story shows that you’re never too old to leap.

 

Frog

How to Take a Leap of Faith

 Once, long ago or maybe only yesterday, an old woman finds herself seated in a canoe. The canoe is docked on the bank of a deep green river that flows through a deep green forest. The trees cluster thick along the banks of the river. The canoe slides off the bank and onto the water.

The canoe is traveling toward the setting sun, whose rays are lighting the tops of the trees, turning them gold. “I am going West,” said the old woman in some alarm. She has been West before. The West is the land of Water where the air itself is so moist that your face always feels damp, whether you are crying or not. The West is where wet creatures live. The West is where Old Trout lives, down in the deepest depths of the river past the furthest western fork, near the mouth where the river empties into the Western Sea. 

The old woman has met Old Trout before, and it has never been a pleasant experience. But those are other stories for other times, and today will be different because today is always different.

The canoe is heading downstream toward the sea, but the river is full of bends and twists, and the old woman cannot see what is coming next. Her experience with the West says that something will happen, probably a surprise. The old woman is not fond of surprises.

The canoe rolls and bobs with the current, and the shadows are lengthening over the river. Trees and water, water and trees, are all she sees. She stands on the seat of the canoe, teetering on tiptoes and craning her neck, trying to see over the tops of the trees. But no matter how hard she stretches and cranes, all she sees are trees and water, water and trees.

She sits down on the seat and peers into the river.  And there she sees Old Trout himself, swimming alongside the canoe. He is enormous, longer than the canoe itself. The old woman suddenly remembers the last time she met him, when he snapped her up and ate her. She does not want to repeat this adventure, for it was very uncomfortable. Old Trout teaches difficult lessons. 

But the old woman cannot take her eyes off Old Trout.  She cannot stop looking at him.  His rainbow scales shimmer pink and green, beautiful colors that make her want to dive into the water.

Thump! Something jumps onto the canoe seat. It is a green frog with bulging orange eyes and long rubbery legs.

“I am Frog! I am a good bug hunter!” announces the frog, as his long red tongue darts out and catches a fly unlucky enough to be going by. “Yum,” rumbles Frog, smiling at the old woman’s expression as if he would like to eat that too.

“You worry too much,” Frog informs the old woman. “I have come to teach you how to leap like a Frog.”

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Will Old Trout get the old woman? Or does the Frog come to her rescue? Come back next Wednesday and find out …

Ghostwriting for a Dog: Happiness is a Kid of Your Own

waggy AlexAlex Terrgi here.  I am a party dog. I like people. I like other dogs. I even like cats sometimes. The best times are when there are lots of people and dogs in my house, and I can play with them.

My favorites are kids, those small humans who I can boss around and who are just my size so I can lick their faces, and everything they do is fun and exciting.

And now some of my best dreams have come true! I have a little human of my very own. Well, almost. My human’s granddaughter (and her mom and dad) are staying with us in our house, because she (and her mom and dad) have moved to the city where we live. My new little girl is SO BEAUTIFUL and SO FUN and SO NICE TO ME!

My human says she will not be here always, that it is temporary, but I don’t understand words like “temporary.” She is here NOW. My human says I shouldn’t get attached, but pooh on that. Attachment is what I do.

Oh, right now my tail is wagging with happy. And right now is all that matters.

 

Haiku Friday: Facts

haiku pic 3Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Facts:

facts are tricky things

you can stub your mind on them

if you don’t watch out

It’s Haiku Friday again.  For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose.  I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog.  Just write it in the Comments below.  The only rules are:  1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those).  That’s it.

Serial Fiction: Grandma’s Masks, Installment #23

spilled beans0001Here’s another installment of my book-in-progress, Grandma’s Masks. If you missed the previous installment on July 10th, click here to read it. Or click the Serial Fiction tab to read all the previous posts of Grandma’s Masks. Today we start Chapter 6, with Lucy musing about bean spillers.

 

Chapter 6

The Frog

Lucy

“What do you think happens to the Mole people?” I asked Emma, as she wrapped Mole in paper. “Do you think they all die from poison, or do they escape?”

“Maybe the poison doesn’t kill them,” Emma said, with a slinky smile. “Maybe they learn to live in a slimy limy world.”

 I stared at her. This is what I get for asking Emma a question like that. An answer that reminds me of Grandma; in other words, no answer at all.

I hate Grandma’s endings. They’re not really endings. They don’t tell you what happened. She often told me her ambition was to be a “bean-spiller.” She wanted to see herself unearthing the secret histories people kept hidden, even from themselves, and joyfully spilling the beans of truth all over the surface of their lives.

But I notice that Grandma never seemed to spill them all. She always kept a few beans up her sleeve. I think she too was afraid of the damage that truth can do if you spill those beans indiscriminately. People can get hurt. Maybe even people you love.

And besides, as that Mole story points out, what’s the point of spilling them if no one believes your beans? What then?

This is what always happens to me when I hear Grandma’s stories – I keep thinking of questions. And I hate questions. Damn her.

I don’t really mean that, of course. Questions were a part of Grandma’s tool kit. I can hear her saying, “When you ask questions, you have to be brave enough to hear the answers.”

I want to be as brave as Grandma was. She kept asking her questions and spilling her beans, as many as she had time for. I don’t know if I’m brave enough to take those leaps of faith that she was so good at. But I guess I have to try.

Where is that Frog mask, anyway? Ah, there he is, bright green warty skin, orange eyes, and a long red tongue with a black fly stuck on it. I took it down off the wall.

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Come back next Wednesday to hear what story Frog will tell …

Compost: Laughing

girl laughingOne of my favorite blogs, The Blood Red Pencil, had a post by Elspeth Antonelli on June 5th that really cracked me up – because it was so funny and so, so true – of me and every other writer I know. I bookmarked it and have read it often since then, whenever I find myself “trying” to write instead of writing. If you are a writer, I guarantee you will recognize yourself in here. I also guarantee that you will laugh. http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/2013/06/if-your-manuscript-could-talk.html?spref=fb

It’s good to laugh at yourself sometimes. I find it improves my humility, which is so much more attractive than arrogance.

Haiku Friday: Sidewalks

haiku pic 2Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Sidewalks:

look! daisies bursting

through a crack in the sidewalk

gleeful yellow grins

It’s Haiku Friday again.  For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose.  I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog.  Just write it in the Comments below.  The only rules are:  1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those).  That’s it.

Serial Fiction: Grandma’s Masks, Installment #22

molehillsHere’s another installment of my book-in-progress, Grandma’s Masks. If you missed the previous installment on July 3rd, click here to read it.  Or click the Serial Fiction tab to read all the previous posts of Grandma’s Masks. Today you will learn what happened to the Mole people – or will you?

The earth under the Mole began to vibrate, thud thud thud. Being a Mole and sensitive to the earth’s vibrations, he knew something was coming. It was too heavy for a dog or a cat or a rat, and hawks made the air vibrate, not the earth. It was something else. He looked this way and that way through his spectacles, ready to dart into the tunnel if the vibration turned out to be dangerous.

Then the mole saw it coming around the corner of the yard. It was one of those huge human things that tramped on two legs, thud thud thud. This human was carrying a can, and as the mole watched, it walked up to another mole hole a little way from where Mole sat. It was one of the main entrance and exits to the mole tribe’s den under the earth.

The human opened up the can and tipped it, and out came slimy limy liquid, pouring into the mole hole.

Slimy limy!  So this is where the bad color was coming from. The Mole people were under attack! Humans were poisoning them!

Mole scurried down the tunnel as fast as he could. Every time he passed a mole digging in the tunnel, he warned them of the slimy limy poison coming their way. But because they could not see anything, most did not believe him. Some of them laughed, some of them scoffed, and some of them even grew angry and shouted at him to leave them alone.  They all stopped digging to argue with him.

The moles who did believe him grew so afraid that they stopped digging too. Some dug holes just big enough to stick their own heads in, and covered their ears with dirt. Some dropped everything and ran through the tunnels, screaming and crying and pushing everyone else out of their way.

Work on the tunnels came to a complete stop. The whole Mole society was in danger of collapsing. Someone had to do something. So someone did.

The head Moles got together and decided to make it a crime to wear spectacles. They took Mole’s spectacles away, broke them in tiny pieces, and buried them in an old unused tunnel where no one ever went anymore.

Then they all went back to digging.

And so it ends, or maybe it is just beginning.

if you have blind friends

choosing to ignore the truth

love them – they will learn

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Come back next Wednesday for the next installment of Grandma’s Masks. The next story will be about someone green.