Archives for category: Literature

Storytime again, methinks 🙂

—~

The air was so wet you could squeeze it like a sponge. Steam curled in tendrils off of the great fan-like leaves at eye level and all around there was a vague greenish fog, tinted by the thick vegetation in all directions, including up and down. There was a steady drip, drip coming from one of the nearest of the great leaves, as sparkling beads of water rolled gently down the leaf’s great spine and splashed on the green mattress below. Everything was covered in a layer of beading sweat that wouldn’t evaporate. All was green, except for tiny splashes of red, or orange, where occasionally a strange flower would lift its delicate head and seek companionship, flirting outrageously with neighboring plants and insects.

The jungle was not a quiet place. Monkeys, and probably other things, sent their keening calls through the shadowy lattice of trees. Wet echoes of dripping water jumped lightly from leaf to vine to fern, and it was impossible to move without swishing a steaming waterfall from at least five neighboring plants. Frogs and insects sang their constant, buzzing songs, and strange birds commented sweetly from their secret hiding places. Even in a quiet moment, you could hear, in the distance, the telltale rumble of an approaching thunderstorm. But no rain could alleviate this soaking, sweating heat.

Jules smiled, his teeth melting like sugar, and spread out his arms, absorbing as many degrees Fahrenheit as his skinny limbs would allow. He took a few steps to humbly approach a beautiful hibiscus-looking flower and bowed to it, caressing its petals. He held a giant leaf to his lips and tilted it, so that the crystalline water came streaming into his mouth like a sweet tea. Then he wiped his face on the leaf, and there was no damage to the thick layer of sweat that anointed his features. Jules smiled again, closing his eyes, listening to the sounds, and feeling the air moving in slow, sopping currents against his skin…

‘Jules, we are here!’ his mother’s voice wafted from the front of the carriage just as the sound of the horse’s hoofs stopped. Jules suddenly sat up straight. He had been facing out the window, but hadn’t noticed that they had arrived at the great grey mansion.

His mother turned in her seat. ‘Just look at you, Jules!’ she cried at the sight of Jules’s winter coat, hanging unbuttoned and half off. She set about furiously trying to fix it over the back of her seat, clucking things like, ‘You’ll catch your death in this cold, wearing your coat like that!’ and ‘Wrap your scarf around your neck, boy, do you want to freeze?’ and Jules could only let his mother fuss and scold until she was done.

As they dismounted the carriage, Jules drew his scarf up tighter, as cold gusts of wind rushed snow into his face. Now was the time for visiting with Grandma; Jules ached for when the visit was over and he could return to the warm, wonderful tropics…

I’m thinking of a word, and I can’t remember what it is.

Oh well, I’m sure it’ll come back to me.

Anyway, I have to admit, I’m not the best with politics. But occasionally an issue comes by that I find extremely compelling, and even though I can’t cite you numbers and dates, I can explain the situation in a way that is understandable if you, like me, prefer words to numbers.

An example is the Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court and the ensuing political chaos. The following is my attempt to explain the problem, in words, as simply as I can. (If you are very brave, you can read the actual Court’s decision, linked here.) It is a complicated issue, and greater minds than mine have discussed it at length and come to very different conclusions. In fact, this will probably end up being a series of blog posts, because this issue is a hydra whose every problem leads to three new ones. But here is my first attempt, a summary. Here goes.

Once upon a time, there was a non-profit organization called Citizens United. They made a movie about Hillary Clinton in 2008 (the election year), which, due to a previous ruling by the Supreme Court, was illegal because corporations were not allowed to use their funds for political purposes. So, Citizens United took the case to the Supreme Court, who decided in Citizens’ favor. The argument went like this: under the First Amendment, all people are granted free speech; free speech is necessary to sustain a democracy. Free speech is free speech no matter where it comes from. If you restrict free speech of anybody, even corporations, that is unhealthy for the democracy because it silences a voice. Therefore, corporations should be free to use their funds for any political purpose they wish.

In other words, have you heard of the expression ‘corporate personhood’? This means that corporations are legally considered to be people, subject to the same rights and freedoms as every other citizen under the Bill of Rights—including that of free speech. Spending, also, is a form of political speech, in that money can go to support a certain candidate or take down another. This is what the Court decided, and these are the conditions under which we have been operating for the past politically charged years.

Let me absolutely clear. Money is not speech, and corporations are not people.

If money was speech, everyone would have it. How do you counter speech? With more speech. With a better argument. With intellectual, engaging debate, and it is each person’s responsibility to participate in the dialogue. How do you counter money? With more money?! If I disagree with a corporation’s decision to pour a million dollars into a certain candidate’s campaign, is it my responsibility to respond with a million more? The Founding Fathers gave us our right of free speech because they, like today’s Supreme Court, believed that every voice needs to be heard in order to sustain a democratic republic, no matter where it comes from. Free speech has been the best, and I’d submit the most essential, part of the great American experiment from day one. I doubt our founders ever imagined that one day in our country ‘free speech’ would be interpreted as ‘the loudest voice wins’—ahem, I mean, ‘the richest voice wins’. In fact, that is precisely what they were trying to prevent when they wrote the First Amendment.

If corporations were people, they would be subject to the same tax laws, as well as rights and freedoms, as are other people. Corporations are machines. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise. In a capitalist economy, corporations are machines run by people to make money and for no other purpose. Any first-year economics student will tell you that. People who try to spin the idea of corporations as people are thinking only of themselves; and yes, they may run the machine, but they are only running a machine and can claim no more personhood than that which they themselves naturally possess.

Let’s back up a bit here. Citizens United was a non-profit organization, remember? That means all its money was money that people donated in the first place. People like you and me. Who knew that their money was going to a political purpose. Of course ‘corporations’ like that should be given free spending power—free ‘speech’—because they represent people and don’t simply exist to make money. The Supreme Court’s decision, therefore, was un-nuanced because it has a very broad definition of ‘corporation’ where there should be a distinction between for-profit and not-for-profit, at least.

In February, it was revealed that Montana, of all fifty states in the Union, was the only one that already had a law in place for centuries that had prevented this Citizens United decision problem. They had experienced elections in the past that had gone to the highest bidder, and had declared it unlawful for corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns. Since this law went contrary to the Citizens United ruling, corporations in Montana who wished to buy the election asked the Supreme Court to strike down Montana’s law.

Which they did. Summarily. Without argument.

So much for states’ rights.

It is my wont to assume that people have the best intentions at heart, so here goes: In Citizens United’s case, I can see that it was about the First Amendment. Corporations aren’t people, but this organization was run by a whole lot of people with a purpose other than making money. Money isn’t speech, but it was used by people to make speech. I’m sure that if I were a justice in the Supreme Court and Citizens United, a non-profit organization, came to me and pled for its right to publish controversial material as a matter of free speech, I, too, might have ruled in its favor.

But I will invoke the Law of Unintended Consequences. (That was not written by our Founding Fathers.) Because the Supreme Court failed to make a distinction between political organizations like Citizens United and money-making machines like oil companies, for example, its ultimate decision was un-nuanced. In effect the ruling gave free reign for corporations and groups not like Citizens United to, essentially, buy elections, by spending unheard-of amounts of money on advertisement and other support. From here on out.

Ohh, why can’t I remember that word, what’s that word I’m thinking of…

Oh yeah.

Corruption.

 

 

Here’s some nice old material. I wrote this in high school, and could never figure out a way to make it better, although I know it must exist. Suggestions?

Enjoy!

—~

‘Spirituality’

There is a family
that sits on the rock—
The one that juts out into the lake,
that dries in the sun,
The one with the daunting boulder face behind it,
which itself is covered in shade from the trees.

There is a family
that sits on the rock
every single Sunday,
The two little ones watching perplexedly
the minnows, who skim the shallows,
with wonder;
And the mother and father
sit on the dry rock and watch the sun
circle until it hides behind
the tops of the trees on the opposite shore.

They never go swimming,
That family that sits on the rock.
The little ones never so much as touch the water
with their questing fingertips
as they watch the little minnows flicker under the surface.

Near as they come,
Their noses never kiss the tiny ripples
that race across the lucent surface
as they kneel and bend innocently over
the tremulous, shifting water.

The mother and father lack the energy they once had
to look for minnows. They lack the strength to rip their shirts off
to bare their chests to sun and lake
and each other.
They don’t know how the minnows swim.

Instead, they simply sit and see and hear:
The listless smells
and dry echoes of the place.
They recline, in the shape
of a frozen half-smile
halfway hidden in shadow.

They know not what the lake hides in its depths,
That little family that sits on the rock.
They know nothing about the lake
save that it must, must be true.

 

 

 

Partial tree of Indo-European languages. Branc...

Aren’t we a good-looking bunch?

Two semesters ago I took a class on Old English. It was a great class! I learned many things that helped to change the way I think about my native tongue, and in some ways, the way I use it.

For example, it is interesting to note that Modern English, today probably the most powerful language on the planet in terms of political or social prevalence, began on a tiny murky island somewhere in the foggy north of Europe, an unlikely love child of the Germanic and Romance lines of the Indo-European clan.

This kind of thing boggles my mind.

What we call Old English, spoken first in the Middle Ages, is not intelligible to English speakers today. (Contrary to popular belief, Shakespeare did not write in ‘Ye Olde Englishee’, but in what is considered to be Modern English.) The roots of English are deeper than many people recognize.

But for the French invasion of 1066, and the following birth of Middle English, my native language would sound more like Danish today. Since the French became the more dominant power in England of that time, and the English aristocracy continued to speak French for generations, most of the words we associate with power or elegance are the Romance (Latin) ones: excellence, royal, special, beauty, to name a very few. In contrast, most of the words we associate with daily life or ‘peasantry’ are still Germanic in origin: cow, farm, house, child. Try it yourself: have a conversation, trying only to use words with a Germanic origin. It’ll be impossible, but you’ll probably be speaking largely in monosyllables. Then, try to say something using only words with Latin origins. Again, it’ll be impossible, but you’ll sound pretty highfaluting for a while. (The reason it is so hard to do this is because English is such an intertwined mash of the two linguistic traditions. There was once a movement in India to purge Hindi, a Sanskritic language, of all Persian/Arabic influences. This was ultimately impossible for the same reason.)

French (itself a language influenced by the Franks, a Germanic tribe) has a very large number of cognates with English. But since only the lexicon (vocabulary) of French was transferred, English still retains its Germanic syntax (~ grammar) structure, and thus we still do very uniquely Germanic things like putting the subject always before the verb.

Studying the English family tree is like studying that of a hobbit, so complex and riddled with cross-lines and loops it is. Keep in mind that both the Germanic and Romance lines come from the greater Indo-European family, which also produced the Sanskritic tradition in India, the Celtic languages of Europe, Hellenic (Greek) languages, and Indo-Iranian (Persian) languages, among others. When I say that the roots of the most powerful language in the world today go deeper than most people realize, it is partly because Modern English is so very new, in the grand scheme of things, and the mysterious language whence it sprung is also the matriarch of literally hundreds of languages spoken across the globe. This is one of the reasons I feel confused when people advocate for a universal language. Many of our languages are related anyway! If that thought doesn’t connect people, I don’t know what will.

Also keep in mind that we who write and read English are using a writing system developed by the ancient Romans, borrowed through the Etruscans from the Greeks, who stole it from the Phoenecians, who were Semitic peoples including what became Arabs and some Africans.

But that’s a story for another day. 🙂

This should be more understandable if you’ve seen Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Enjoy! 😀

—~

 

The pieces were falling into place. Excellent.

Flora sighed and leaned back in her chair, rubbing her eyes. It was long after hours, and a single blue-white light shone above her desk. Everybody else in the office had long since gone home, even the nighttime janitors, who had come and gone without her noticing. She had spent the last silent hours hunched over her desk, the only sounds coming from her keyboard as she typed furiously and the papers she would sporadically stop to shuffle. Now, as she placed her hands firmly on the edge of her desk, finally surveying all she had accomplished tonight, the tension of the past few days threatened to catch up with her and devour her like a hungry wolf, but once again she steeled herself, telling herself that she should at least get home. It was not over, far from it; but at least she had done all she could, all they could, at least for now. The dates and precise times were set; all security details were in place; every foreseeable liability had been eliminated; all the higher-ups had given all systems go. The operation was to be launched tomorrow, and mostly thanks to her, Flora, it would be ready. She had been the one to stay in the office after hours for almost every single night since the mission began; it was she who had conceived of it in the first place. Indeed, as the day of launch had drawn nearer and nearer, Flora had reached a kind of frantically focussed demeanor which did not allow her to sleep but only to check, double check, plan, and make sure everything was going according to plan. Now it was ready.

Not, admitted Flora to herself, as she used her desk to push herself up to a standing position, that the others hadn’t given it their best. They, too, had stayed after hours, but not as long or often as she had. They had been the ones on the ground, planting equipment and guiding the subjects along. They were the ones carrying out their vision for sixteen years as agents of the secret mission. For this was not a routine strike. No, it was a large-scale offensive that was, they fervently hoped, to win the fight once and for all, a final preemptive attack that was to obliterate the opposition entirely. Flora ached as she gathered her things, but the pain was dulled with the knowledge that anything that could be done was done, and with the wild anticipation of the next day—just a few hours from now. Flora clicked off her desk light and headed home.

* * *

Fauna and Merriweather were still awake, of course, when Flora came home. How could they have slept, with thoughts of Operation Breaking Dawn racing through their heads? They had both been absentmindedly sitting at the kitchen table; they both glanced up and watched Flora with worried looks as she joined them.

‘Management should change the lighting in that place,’ Flora sighed at last. ‘Those horrible fluorescent bulbs are bad for my eyes.’

‘You’re on the management, dear,’ Fauna gently reminded her. ‘Perhaps you should magic the lights to a more pleasant color?’

Flora groaned. ‘I could, but it’s so difficult constantly concentrating on the lights when I’m trying to work on Op BD. If only we had another fairy in the place…’

Merriweather thought to herself that she would love to be assigned to the post of magicking the lights all day, and doing nothing but that, but she didn’t say anything out loud. ‘Yes, please,’ she said when Fauna offered to boil some tea for them.

Flora rubbed her eyes again.

‘Flora,’ said Merriweather earnestly, ‘whatever’s left to do has been done. I know you’re still worrying about it.’ She reached across the table and put her hand on Flora’s. ‘But at this point, there’s nothing more you can do. So please don’t drive yourself crazy.’

Flora smiled, because she knew that Merriweather was being a bit hypocritical. Most likely none of them would sleep well tonight.

Presently Fauna returned with the tea. ‘Perhaps we should review, just quickly, what’s going to happen?’ she suggested daintily. ‘Just so we’re all on the same page; I know it would help me feel better.’

Flora breathed in the steam from her tea. ‘Right,’ she began. ‘At four o’clock tomorrow the Prince will ride through the forest and meet the Princess. We must send her out at three so she will be sure to meet him. We have planted our magic forcefields in the ground already to insure that they will both follow the right paths, yes? Good. When the Princess comes home we will inform her of her true identity, and bring her to the palace. Hopefully by then she will be in love with the Prince. Merriweather, you’ve been slipping love-thoughts into both of their sleep for several weeks now.’ Merriweather nodded solemnly.

‘And I’ve been planting subliminal images of the Prince around the house, so the Princess should recognize him that way,’ Fauna added helpfully.

Flora smiled at her. ‘Good. Anything helps. Tomorrow night we will take her to the castle, where she will fall under Mallificent’s spell. If all goes according to plan, the Prince will try and rescue her, killing Mallificent in the process—killing—killing Evil, once and for all,’ she finished with a shaky note of awe in her voice.

Fauna was practically squeaking with excitement. ‘I’ve the Sword of Truth and the Shield of Virtue already; they arrived in the mail today.’

‘And not a moment too soon,’ Flora muttered darkly. ‘About time they got around to it.’

There was a pause, and Merriweather, who had been conspicuously silent during the briefing, could not stand it any more.

‘Oh!’ she cried suddenly. ‘I just don’t understand! I just—don’t understand why!’

‘Why what, dear?’ Fauna asked gently. Flora glared at both of them.

‘I just don’t understand why we have to use Love!’ Merriweather exploded. ‘Love’s disputed territory, and if we use it, I just think that’s a lot of risk and how do we—‘

‘That’s enough,’ Flora interrupted coldly. ‘That is the plan and that is how we are going to see it through.’

Her words hung like icicles in a sudden shocked silence. Fauna looked into her tea while Merriweather and Flora held each other’s hostile gazes.

Suddenly, Flora melted. ‘Good hired us for this job,’ she explained, ‘because of our work with Cinderella last year.’ All three of them knew that what she really wanted to say was, Good hired me for my work with Cinderella last year, but Merriweather was grateful she hadn’t brought that up this time. ‘We used Love then—‘

‘And it was just as risky!’

‘—but it worked, didn’t it? Another small victory for Good. This one will be another one, hopefully the ultimate, because this time we’re fighting Mallificent, and she’s one of them, employed by Evil. We’re fighting Evil directly this time, and we need all the help we can get.’ Flora reached for Merriweather’s hand. ‘Even if that means using Love like it’s ours. And it will be ours,’ she added knowingly, ‘once we win.’

Merriweather sighed and looked away. She probably just felt the usual guilt about always having to use the mortals as pawns in their battles, and not even their battles; it was always between Good and Evil, never the fairies themselves—mortals were the pawns of pawns—but what could she do. She was the most junior officer and that was just the way things were done around here.

The three officers finished their tea and went to bed, for the last time in the little cottage. On the way to their bedroom, they passed the bedroom of their temporary ward, the Princess: sleeping in her bed, she lay blissfully unaware of her essential role in Good’s elaborate plan to defeat Evil. And she would never know; that was part of the plan. She must never be made aware of the sides she unknowingly served and was made to fight against, or the plans might crash apart like an eggshell. So ordered the higher-ups, at least, at Good.

The three officers slept fitfully, dreaming of all things that could go wrong with the operation, and set Good back at least sixteen years.

Flora was awake as the sun peeped over the horizon. Operation Breaking Dawn had begun.

I may not have made this clear as of yet, but I absolutely love the Beatles!

If you haven’t heard it, don’t you know that Happiness is a Warm Gun?

—~

She’s not a girl who misses much

She’s well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand like a lizard on a windowpane

—~

You wouldn’t even notice her, if you had just walked into the mirrored room. There was enough sequin dazzle to flummox the eyes and enough laughter and tinkling of champagne glasses to tempt the ears, and if you weren’t looking for her, you wouldn’t notice her. Not until about thirty minutes in, towards the end of cocktails, when you had drifted deep into the ballroom, pulled by a waterless tide through flowing masses of people, and were just beginning to feel the first flushes of warmth from the champagne; that is when you’d notice her. Basking luxuriously like a lizard on a golden couch in the back of the room, cradling her glass in an elegant black-gloved hand. Her dress would be made of the deepest velvet night, with sequins like stars; and her skin like a pale sunbeam through a morning window. Her dusky hair would shade eyes that were rimmed in night but sparked with solar flares. Your eyes would linger involuntarily on her, but then continue their journey around the room, and you would forget her…

Later that evening, after the dinner was over, the speeches made, the guests thanked, and the coffees served, you would linger in the reception hall, reluctant to leave, and still feeling a little warm and genial from the red wine. And then you would notice her again, as the crowd began to thin, right where she was, on the golden couch. This time she would be looking right at you, and the fiery eyes would seem to be inches from yours, across the room. She knows you: she has seen everything you’ve done and said tonight, everything you’ve thought, everywhere you’ve glanced surreptitiously; she’s read it in the way you held your glass and the way you laughed and clicked your nails on the napkin ring. Her red lips would suggest the sheerest outline of a secret smile, and you would know what to do.

You would excuse yourself for a minute from your conversation, perhaps telling them you needed some fresh air, and then you would start across the room. Multicolored sequin lights from the many chandeliers would reflect off the mirror-lined walls and dazzle you. Your eyes would hunt for hers across the room and your heart would begin to pound. When she finally meets your eyes, your shoes would suddenly turn into heavy hobnailed boots and you cannot walk another step. The room would cease spinning. Something about the heat you feel rolling off of her in waves would remind you that the most beautiful lizards are also the most poisonous.

And then, reading your thoughts, she would actually smile, or smirk; a sound like a gunshot would roar through your belly and blow your hair back and you would have the sensation of wailing in high falsetto. Lights from chandeliers would dance before your eyes and when you finished blinking, your eyes would find the golden couch, and she would not be there.

And you might never see her again, but you would know that she will always be there, basking on the golden couch in the back of your mind, secret, like a gun in a closet, humming and warm.

—~

 

 

Another Bradbury-inspired story? Cool beans! Thanks to my bro, and thanks to this website about Planetary Resources. Cool stuff; apparently it’s legit! If you’re an eccentric billionaire reading this post, might I suggest this as a super cool place to invest.

If not, too bad. I know how you feel. 🙂

Either way, enjoy!

—~

 

She closed her eyes and thought of the sea. In her mind’s eye she saw the sweet cerulean blue gently undulating, lifting small caps of frothy white in places joyfully. Her mind’s ear heard the calming roar, the voice of a mother singing an unending lullaby. Her nostrils flung themselves wide to welcome the salt tang of the sea air, drinking their fill of the pleasantly briny breeze. The azure waves grew old as she watched, sprouting white beards and kissing the shoreline before crumbling away, and submitting peacefully to the wave after. She closed her eyes and could still see it, from so long ago, could still remember, high above the water, the wind’s fingers attempting to steal her hair, the sun trying to melt her sweating skin off. The rocks under her bare feet like little knives, punching and scraping, and the distant crater across which she gazed a sleeping giant, rumbling secretly, so only she could hear, threatening, always threatening, to explode, to erupt, to swallow, to engulf! The blue waves pounding on the cliffs maddeningly, trying to get away, to escape, as she must—run! No time! The volcano is ready, the ashes spewing, lava hungrily churning, boiling, reaching, burning—

Her eyes snapped open. No, it would not do to think of the sea. Not out here, where everything actually was an enemy, and everything actually could go wrong, and was likely to.

As a child, on an island village where people had been finding contentment in the shadow of a volcano for centuries, she had been called nev̱rikoú, nervous. Perhaps that was why she was so well suited to space. Out here, the quick and subtle movement of the eye, and the quivering stillness of heart and hand, was more likely to draw thanks and relieved sighs than worried shakes of the head. Yes, space hurled blazing rocks at you from millions of miles in the past, that would shred your ship without even slowing to notice. But there were also volcanos in space, that rumbled secretly but gave no sign of existence until suddenly the lava was upon you, swallowing your ship like a cherry on top. And these volcanos were the ones Ana spotted almost more easily than the already blazing rocks, somehow always aware of whence the next one would come, painfully attuned to another plane of hearing, sensitive to rumblings that seemed to sound for her alone. This ability, coupled with a natural aptitude for leadership, had named her captain of the first manned spaceship to the asteroid Eros. She commanded her ship with a steady hand but alert, quiet but always sensing, reaching out; always her tongue was on the brink of a crucial, subtle order, a slight change in direction that would avert certain catastrophe with an almost prophetic accuracy. The highly trained and steel-nerved crew would often stare with wonder out the windows of the craft as a jagged monster of a rock sailed ponderously and silently past, looking like a blue whale to a minnow, into the space where their ship had been minutes ago. And Ana would hardly glance at it, standing on the bridge, her hands clutching the railing, sending her thoughts forward, reaching out, sensing…

That was all over, though, at least for now, she told herself firmly, sitting bolt upright on the edge of her bed in her quarters. Her ship had landed, finally, on Eros, and the true purpose of the odyssey begun. They would mine the water, first, and use it to feed the ship’s thirsty fuel tanks, greedy for the promise of home, because fuel was the ticket home. The fuel tanks satiated, they would load more water into the ship itself, perhaps for thirsty mouths back home, where water was growing scarce enough to persuade eccentric billionaires to fund this frantic space-hunt for natural resources. Then, of course, they would mine for metals—precious platinum first, then unfailing iron, and wild methane. These ingredients would be loaded into the spacecraft and lugged homeward for a mysterious recipe to enlarge global GDP—or so the eccentric billionaires had said. For Ana, anyway, the Mining was to be two weeks in which she was to rest, recuperate her fraying abilities, and prepare for the exceedingly dangerous journey home. Her lieutenant would take over for these two weeks and oversee the Mining; Ana’s only duty was to prepare, plot, anticipate, and strengthen. Ana lay back on her bed again and tried to think of something else to think of besides the sea.

But Ana couldn’t rest, couldn’t close her eyes and think of her home; she couldn’t let her thoughts stray away from the ship for a moment, in case there was something out there, something coming, some deep rumbling that she alone could hear…

Yaya came up beside her on the cliff, huffing and creaking as usual, making no effort to ascend the rocks secretly. Ana turned away, abashed, frustrated at her own nervousness, at the wind, and at Yaya for intruding on her thoughts. This was the highest point on the island, and Ana often came here to be alone, sure that none of the villagers would want to follow her all the way up the treacherous path; but nothing ever really seemed to faze Yaya.

‘Ooh, but it is chilly up here,’ Yaya scolded; ‘why haven’t you brought your jacket up? You’ll catch a cold for sure, and then I’ll have to take care of you, and I have so many other things to do.’ Yaya’s gray wispy hair danced gleefully in the stiff breeze.

Ana didn’t say anything, but toed the tiny rocks and watched them settle. Her T-shirt and cotton shorts whipped at her arms and legs, but the frown on her face stayed firmly put.

During a silence that was not really a silence, because of the roaring duet of the ocean and wind, Yaya gazed across the turquoise sea that so sweetly hid the caldera.

‘You know,’ she mused eventually, ‘the caldera is beautiful. But the houses lining it are quite lovely, too, I think.’

Ana looked across the windy space again; the sea was now flecked with gold as the sun set, as the white houses in the village gladly decked themselves in the accustomed honeyed-rose hue of the sunset hour.

‘But Yaya,’ Ana said almost before she knew what she was saying, ‘what if the volcano erupts? What if it wakes up and eats the village and then there are no houses anymore? And no sweet sea in the caldera? What then?’

Yaya was silent for a long time.

‘What if?’ she asked slowly, almost to herself. ‘Then we’ll have to build new ones, won’t we, Anastasia?’ Yaya looked sidelong at her granddaughter, whose gaze was fixed stubbornly into the wild air.

‘You must stand tall, my little nev̱rikoú.’ Yaya smiled. ‘Anastasia. Your name means that you should stand tall and strong, just like those houses. No matter what rumbles beneath your feet.’

But I’m not strong, thought Ana. I shake and tremble at every wave; I feel like fleeing at every sudden sound. How are those houses so steady, knowing as they do how precarious their existence is?

And Yaya, with her uncanny ability to read Ana’s mind, said: ‘The houses know that some family will always love them, even if they crumble into the sea, even if a new family comes to replace the old family.’

The sound of the wind and the sea once again prevailed, and old woman and the young girl stood for a long while gazing at the ever-changing sea and the village, small and steady from such a height. Slowly the gold from the sun faded to dull bronze and Yaya turned away, and began the journey back down the cliff. Ana quickly followed, helping her grandmother not to slip on the loose rocks on the darkening path back to the village.

Slowly, Ana fell asleep in her quarters, as the mining equipment rumbled outside, as the asteroid sailed through space, steady as a rock, steady as Yaya, steady as home.

Hey guys! Sorry I’m late (again). I’ve now missed two posts in the span of three days. I feel pretty bad about it–I haven’t been feeling well lately, kind of dizzy, which just makes me want to curl up on a couch and go to bed early instead of staying up late writing. Oh well…now I owe you two double headers!! I know I promised you one by today, but…they’re coming, I promise.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of old material that I think would do just fine on Father’s Day. Happy (belated) Father’s Day everybody!

—~

‘Drawing Daddy’

 

The assignment was to “draw your daddy.” They sat us down at those big round tables on the side of the room nearest the windows and gave us all big clean white papers. They put a pile of different colored markers in the center of the tables. When they reached my table, there was a mad rush to get the best marker—hands flying everywhere, small children screaming in pain when they got slapped out of the way by someone stronger, and disappointment when they weren’t fast enough to grab the marker of their choice before someone else whisked it away.

Luckily for me, however, in the mad rush, a black marker had rolled its way quietly over to where I sat. I reached for it and uncapped it…and didn’t know where to begin. Draw my daddy…how do I do something like that? What a huge, monumental task. How does one draw one’s daddy?

Of course, I was sitting next to Victoria. Victoria was my best friend in preschool. She told me what to do all the time and she had already had her ears pierced. She wore little ruby earrings every single day. We always played together. I looked at her paper now to see what I should do. She had already drawn a huge square on her paper.

I drew a huge, lopsided square on my paper.

I threw the black marker into the nonexistent pile in the middle of the table, where it was whisked up immediately. I spied a dark green marker, and grabbed it up before anyone else could take it.

Noses are dark green, I decided. But how does one draw a nose? I leaned over and asked Victoria, speaking loudly over the din of the other students.

“How do you draw a nose?” I said.

“Like this!” she snapped, and promptly drew a nose: it consisted of a dot and a line going down from the dot, placed directly in the middle of the square.

I drew a dark green nose: it consisted of a dot and a line going down from the dot, placed in the middle of the square.

Now, what’s next…ears! I knew that ears and noses are the same color, but how in the world does one draw ears? I peeked over at Victoria’s paper. She had drawn big blobs on the sides of her square.

I drew big blobs on the sides of my square.

I replaced my green marker with a red one as soon as one became available. I began to draw the mouth at the very bottom of the square.

“No!” Victoria screamed. “That’s not how you draw a mouth!”

I stopped immediately. “What’s wrong?” I asked, astonished and more than a little worried. What if I got this all wrong? Would I have to do it over again? Would my daddy not like me anymore?

“THIS,” Victoria ordered, “is how you draw a mouth.” On hers, she drew a straight line at the bottom of her square.

“Oh…” I thought, but my daddy smiles…But I thought that it was better to do it right. If that’s the way Victoria says to draw a mouth, then that’s just how I’ll have to draw my daddy’s mouth.

Slowly I made a straight red line at the bottom of my square.

It was lopsided. I would never be as good as Victoria. I sighed.

Now, my daddy has very curly black hair. But alas—there were no black markers! They were all being used. I grew extremely worried. What if, after all this, I still messed up my picture? This was the most important thing I had ever done, and so much depended on me getting that black marker. I needed to have that black marker more than anything else in the world. I noticed Victoria was using a black marker.

“C-can I p-please use that black marker you’re using when you’re done?” I asked her quietly.

“No!” she continued using it like nothing had happened.

Why not? I was bewildered. I had even said please. Did she understand how much I needed that marker? I began to cry.

“Stop crying!” Victoria snapped.

“B-But I need…I need that black marker NOW!” I bawled. The teacher came over finally and asked me what the problem was.

“Sh-she…won’t…g-give…me…her…black…m-marker!” I blubbered, pointing at Victoria, who kept on working as though nothing was happening.

The teacher rolled her eyes and said, “Use a different marker, sweetie,” and walked away.

I stared down at my paper, forlorn. I should have known better than to ask something of Victoria.

“Use a different marker” was lost in translation and somehow became “use another color.” I noticed that I was still clutching the red marker I had used to make the mouth. I was no longer worried about messing up the picture: what was the point in trying now? I was never, never ever, going to get this picture right. My daddy would never, never ever, like me again. I was never, never ever, going to get that black marker. I may as well use the red for the hair as well. It was running out of ink anyway.

I placed the red marker on the top of my square and began to draw—one curly line, another curly line, another—

There! I saw it! A black marker, lying in the middle of the table for anyone to snatch. With a shout of glee and triumph I cast aside my red failure and seized the black prize. The black marker, too, was running out of ink, but I set about salvaging my picture. There was hope after all—maybe if I drew enough black curls they would block out the red altogether and my daddy would like me because I drew him right.

But alas, it was not to be. Almost immediately the teacher called out, “Okay everybody, markers in! Let’s clean up!”

I stopped dead in my tracks. Impossible! That is not enough time to draw my daddy! Especially after all I went through! No. I decided to keep drawing. I kept drawing those curls, line after curly line, with a will, ignoring the clatter as everyone else at my table threw in their markers. Finally I was forced to give up when the teacher came by and demanded my marker.

We all waited patiently while the teacher and her assistant came around and gave everyone a pair of googly eyes and some glue. My googly eyes slid around in too much glue, and I got it all over my fingers.

We left them out to dry on the tables, and headed on to the next activity, in which we all gathered and sat on the pink carpet in the center of the room. A long time ago Victoria and I had had a vicious argument on the proper pronunciation of the word “pink”, but that was long over and now I listened to Victoria prattle on about how beautiful her picture was and how she just couldn’t wait to show her daddy.

“I just know he’ll love it!” she gushed.

“Yeah…I hope my daddy likes mine,” I said, but I knew he wouldn’t.

 

—~

This is all true, by the way. We still have the picture hanging up in our family room.

Still not sure how my dad feels about it…

 

 

 

I have to apologize for not having a post for last night. I sat down to write and suddenly I was invited to an emergency jam session! And that’s why I didn’t have anything. So here’s the one that should have been last night’s; stay tuned for an extra post tomorrow or the day after.

Anyway, methinks it’s time for a return to stories, don’t you?

—~

 

I arrive, of course, ten minutes early.

I park my car in the lot right in front of the restaurant. Premium spot, in the shade–this is why it was a good idea to leave home early, I think, smiling to myself. I leisurely put the brake up and sit in the car for a few minutes, adjusting my seat, knowing I have some time to kill, unwilling to leave the icy air-conditioning. I glance at the digital clock on the dashboard, just to make sure I still have plenty of time. 1:51. Oh, only nine minutes, then.

There’s not much to look at, parked facing the wall of the restaurant, so it occurs to me to check my cell phone. What if Kate had texted me while I was driving that she couldn’t make it after all? That would be terrible! But there are no messages, so I lock my phone and check the clock again, sure at least five minutes have passed, only to find the digits stubbornly the same as they were the last time I checked. I begin to wonder idly if the clock is broken. Wouldn’t that be just great, if I’d been working on a broken clock all this time, and Kate was already sitting in the restaurant, waiting for me, all because my stupid clock was slow. I check my wrist watch instead, and then my cell phone. They all agree; it is only 1:52.

I sigh. Make myself relax in the air conditioning. My eyes wander out the windows into the heat and onto the highway from which I have just come. I examine intensely every single car that comes racing down the road, scanning, searching, hoping for that sunny flash of beige. Every car that slows at the entrance to the restaurant I stop in its tracks, interrogate, search, and, disappointed, send on its way. One of these cars has to be Kate. She’ll be here any minute. Maybe she got a new car, and I won’t recognize it.

No, you dumbass, she didn’t get a new car, and even if she did, so what, just wait, you have almost ten whole minutes before she comes! She might even be late. That makes fifteen minutes. Do you realize how long fifteen minutes is? It’s a quarter of an hour. A whole quarter of an hour. An hour! When you were little, an hour was forever. So calm down, stop worrying. You have time.

I look at the digital clock again, staring at it, willing it to go faster.

Why would you do that, come on, most of the time you’re begging time to slow down, huh? What if it listened to you and from now on you’d never have enough time to do things you want to do? What if the Time gods decided to heed you now and your entire life would go rushing by before you knew it, just because one day you were impatient to meet someone for a lunch date?

I turn the keys. Enough of this sitting in the air conditioning. At least I can be standing outside, so when Kate comes she’ll see me right away and won’t possibly miss me. I gather purse, my sweater, and the little wrapped box with a bow I have for Kate, extract myself from the now sleeping automobile, and arrange myself so that it looks like I’m leaning nonchalantly against the hood.

I’m not going to look at my watch just now, I’m going to turn it right side up so that I can read it just in case I decide to later. I make it look like I’m adjusting my bracelets, then cross my arms. I can’t help tilting my arm just so, and inclining my head just enough to read my wristwatch–1:55.

Excellent. Only five more minutes to wait.

A red sporty-looking car slides into the restaurant’s entrance driveway and careens around the parking lot until it finds an empty space in the sun. A man jumps out, spins his keys and blips his car shut, heads into the restaurant. Now there is a man with a mission, I think. He knows what he wants and he’ll go get it. Huzzah.

I won’t look at my watch again. Instead, I keep my eyes on the road, vigilant for a sign of familiar golden metal slowing up at the driveway. Instead, a grayish minivan pokes its nose into the driveway as if to ask permission to enter, and, sure that it’s welcome here, nudges its way along until it pulls into my row. My eyes follow it until it finds a spot of its own and carefully edges into it.

1:58.

I shift my weight. It’s such a nice day out today. What a lovely breeze. I should wait in the sun. No, I should stay by my car. Where else would I stand? I’m not going to just stand randomly in the middle of the parking lot. I’ll look like a weirdo. Not to mention be in the middle of the road.

Oh my goodness. I forget if I locked my front door or not. I hope I have. Jerry was sleeping when I left, so maybe when he wakes up he’ll realize and lock it. Or not. I’d better remind him. I take out my cell phone to text him, then put it back. Don’t be silly, I’m sure I did remember, and even if I didn’t, so what?

So what? What if today someone decides to break into our house and they can because I left the door open and they steal all our stuff and kill Jerry and burn down our house? All because I forgot to lock the front door? I could never live with that on my conscience. I finger my cell phone.

Swallow it. You’re being stupid. Your mind is racing. Jerry and the house will be fine. Put away your phone, don’t worry about it, and just have fun with Kate. That’s all you need to do.

Speaking of Kate, it’s 2:01. A honey-warm feeling of accomplishment flushes through me (I made it. It’s two. I thought it would never be two), followed by an instant, vague nervousness. It’s after two. We were supposed to meet at two. Where is she? Weren’t we supposed to meet at two? I take out my cell phone and scroll through my text history. Yes, it was definitely two, and this is definitely the place.

Maybe my watch is fast.

Fine, I’ll wait until my watch says 2:03, and then it’ll actually be two, and then I’ll be allowed to panic.

Ahem. Not panic. Be just a little worried.

But what if Kate got into a car crash? What if she’s in some horrible accident, being rushed to the hospital right now, and I’m standing here like an idiot waiting for her? I’ll be waiting here forever. And what kind of lousy friend would I be if she was dying and I didn’t know.

It’s 2:03. Nothing’s happening, she’s probably on her way, maybe there was traffic, maybe she hit a pothole, maybe she’s getting dressed, maybe she’s just late, maybe a thousand things could be the case that aren’t horrible and don’t mean that she won’t be sailing into the parking lot any minute now, and you’ll be on your way, having a nice lunch with her…

Lunch with Kate. What a concept. I haven’t seen her in about two years, but when she called me the other day to tell me she was in town it was like no time had passed between us. I worry what we’ll talk about over lunch today, but there was no radio silence to speak of during our three-hour phone conversation. Well of course we’ll have to talk about what we’ve been doing for the past two years. That’s as good a conversation starter as any, I guess.

If she ever gets here. Calm down, it’s only 2:05.

And then–could it be?–at last, glory to the high heavens, a familiar gleam of sunlight on beige–a car comes zooming up the driveway–a familiar golden head inside. The honey feeling comes back again, even warmer than before, swelling up from my stomach and into my smile. The sandy-colored car bounces around the parking lot and lands in my row. It’s over. I’ve made it. It’s 2:05 and Kate is here, and all that worrying was for naught, and I’m glad I came early and got a spot in the shade after all.

Quickly I try and make it seem like I haven’t been standing there doing nothing for ten minutes; I play with my purse and gather my things and adjust my shirt. She parks and floats out of her car, as golden and pixie-like as ever.

‘Hey!’ she greets me. ‘How’s it going!’ She beams and comes toward me, arms open wide for a hug.

‘Hey, Kate,’ I say, hugging her. ‘It’s been a while. It’s good to see you.’

‘You too. I hope you haven’t been waiting long?’ she asks as we head into the restaurant.

‘Not long,’ I say.

 

 

Middle schools sucks, doesn’t it? High school’s not much better. Trust me, kids, it really does get better in college, if you do it right.

 

—~

She moved in less than a month before school started. Her parents must have been crazy, or they were cruel–what kind of heartless being, responsible for their child’s happiness, would send her to a new school district at the tender age of eleven with only half of August to spare? I mean, this was the beginning of middle school, the beginning of our lives; this was the end of the line in terms of floating aimlessly through life, friends with whomever, and no really bad consequences if you got caught inviting the wrong kid to your birthday party. From here on out, all that mattered was that you hung out with your friends all the time, got a girlfriend as fast as possible, and wore as much Abercrombie as you could get your hands on. At least that’s what my brother told me, and he was about to begin high school. If you could do that, he said, you were set for life.

But this poor girl–Blanca Cruz. Rumors flew about her, even before school begun. She was from Kentucky. She was homeschooled. She was a refugee from Cuba. She didn’t speak English. She was super-smart and would be taking eighth-grade classes and no one would even see her again. Most importantly, though, she didn’t have any friends. She spent most of the half-month before school started in her house, presumably unpacking moving boxes. Who would she eat lunch with? Where would she fit? She seemed pretty enough, and normal enough, from a distance, but I made sure to never get too close. From what my brother had told me about the ever-changing and multiplying unspoken and unbreakable rules of middle school social life, I decided that it would be best if I played it safe. So I couldn’t risk having anything to do with the new girl, lest she turn out to be a black mark on my thus far impeccable social record.

This was difficult, as the Cruzes moved in practically next door to me.

We lived in a complex of condos, not exactly on the wealthy side of town, not on the poor side, just kind of smack in the middle along a main drag where the speed limit was 40, so that every time we came home from school the bus had to do a little awkward stop in the middle of the turnpike and piss off all the cars behind it. I remember jumping down from the bus to the sidewalk and towards home feeling daggers from the eyes of the bitter commuters. When Blanca moved into my complex, it wasn’t long before I realized we’d be on the same bus together, and that we’d have to get off at the same stop. She didn’t even live in my building, but since no one else in my school lived there, it would be just me and her when the bus stopped, and this could seriously test my ability to ignore her.

Well, school began, and soon we were all so busy we didn’t even have to worry about acknowledging each other. In school we were in mostly different classes (she did turn out to be super-smart, but she was only taking a few accelerated classes, not eighth-grade ones). She focussed on her studies, as far as I or any of my friends could tell; I focussed on my friends, and almost managed the girlfriend bit within the month with a blond girl on the volleyball team (at the last moment she couldn’t go to the dance because her dad wouldn’t sign the permission slip).

The bus situation, it turned out, was quite simple. Luckily, our buildings were on opposite sides of the complex, so itdidn’t take long for Blanca and me to develop a routine in which we would dismount the bus quickly (I always went first), wordlessly turn in opposite directions, and head off immediately to our separate buildings. It was quite efficient, even from the first day. There was no animosity between us; we simply didn’t have anything to do with each other. So it was that in ten months’ time I don’t think we exchanged more than five words.

Middle school was going swimmingly by June. It was looking like I had played my cards well and was in the popular crowd, my closet burst with Abercrombie merchandise, and I had even walked down the hall one day in March while holding hands with a girl. I had dusted off my old skateboard and was finally getting decent at it. Thus my head was filled that spring with friends, my skateboard, the nagging thought that I should probably find a date for the June dance, and just how generally well everything was going. And I had even badgered my parents into buying me some skating sneakers, which I wore always without tying the laces.

They were soaking one rainy day, and my feet slid wetly around in them on the bus ride home. They squeaked water as I got off the bus ahead of Blanca as usual, slipped on the wet grass and landed sprawling, face-down on the sidewalk, my backpack and my shame together a hundred pound weight I couldn’t lift.

I heard the bus pull away, my mind swiftly performing complicated calculations, remembering who had been on the bus, who might have seen, how badly they were likely to make fun of me for it. I hoped to God it looked like Blanca had pushed me. That was it. I’ll say that. In fact, I’ll yell at her now to make it look more convincing to any stragglers who might still be staring. I flipped over on the ground, sending my backpack flying. ‘Blanca, what the hell–‘

But she wasn’t behind me. I swung back around and there she was, standing above me in the drizzle, looking slightly frightened and holding out her hand.

‘Are you okay?’ she asked in a trembling voice.

Expletives wandered out of my mouth as I accepted her hand, sure that the bus had finally disappeared.

‘Did you…break anything?’ Blanca asked nervously as I fruitlessly attempted to brush off the wet grass from my shirt.

What a dumb question. Nothing was broken, it was a stupid slip. ‘Uhh, no,’ I told her in my most condescending voice, waving my arms a little so she could see I was telling the truth.

‘No, I mean, like in your backpack, a binder or something. I thought I heard something snap.’

Oh. Right. Of course Blanca would be worried about a stupid binder, she was such a nerd. ‘Uhh, maybe, whatever.’ I glanced at it lying on the wet grass three feet away.

There was a slight pause. The rain kept drizzling. ‘Well…I guess you’re okay then? Do you want me to walk you home?’

Ew. Walk home with Blanca? ‘No,’ I said, still picking off the wet grass.

Blanca bent down and picked my backpack up off the ground and held it out to me. ‘Well here you go then.’

‘Thanks,’ I muttered. Then, the words were out of my mouth before the thought had even materialized. If the thought had materialized, I probably wouldn’t have said it.

‘I didn’t know you could speak English.’

Blanca, who was about to turn around toward her building, gave a small, confused laugh. ‘Why not?’

I felt my face growing warm. I shook my bangs into my face to try and hide it. ‘I mean, we all thought you were Mexican or something,’ I stuttered, flinging my backpack over one shoulder nonchalantly.

Blanca furrowed her brow. ‘I’m Filipina.’

‘Right,’ I nodded, sure I could locate Filipina on a map if I had one.

She stood there a few seconds more looking confused and then said, ‘I’m going to go home now, if you’re okay.’

And then, for the second time in two minutes, I felt my mouth saying words I did not want them to say. The first one was ‘wait’, followed by a pause, and then:

‘Do you want to go to the June dance with me?’

Once again my face flushed and I jerked my head ungracefully to see how low I could shake those bangs. My ears couldn’t believe what my mouth had just said and began blazing red with anger in protest.

Blanca looked worried. ‘Did you hit your head when you tripped? Are you sure you’re okay?’

Maybe I had hit my head. That would be the best possible explanation. I couldn’t figure out how to backtrack, but could only stammer, ‘Um, yeah!–I mean, just like as friends or something, like–yeah, like, the last–you know, dance…do you want to, you know? Go, like, with me?’

I tapered off into one of the most agonizing silence in my entire life. I fervently prayed for the earth to open and swallow me on the spot, or for a car to come whizzing off the road and crash into one or both of us, or some crazy pedophile to come and carry me off, or something like that to happen to save me from whatever horrible mess I had just gotten myself into.

‘With you?’ she asked incredulously.

Everything I had wished before I found myself wishing doubly, triply, I wished to die then and there, I wished to sprout tentacles, I cursed my family for seven generations, I was rooted to the spot, paralyzed with fear–

‘Umm…no thanks,’ Blanca finally replied, still looking worried and even slightly frightened.

‘Oh.’

‘Um…’

‘Ok.’

‘I mean–‘

‘It’s cool–‘

‘But–‘

‘No really, it’s cool, like, trust me, it’s totally cool, like, I don’t even know what I was doing, I must have been confused from the fall, you know, like, why would I want to go to the June dance with you…’ I laughed pitifully.

She flared up for a second at that, but then laughed and shrugged. ‘Yeah, I wouldn’t want to go to the June dance with you, either.’

I was practically guffawing from sheer relief. ‘Like, are you even going to be there?’ I squealed.

Blanca was cackling almost as loud as I was. ‘If my dad signs the permission slip!’ she giggled.

We stood in the laughing at each other with abandon for a few more seconds and then both sighed lightly at the same time, looking down at our shoes, scuffing our feet in the soggy grass.

‘Well, I guess I better head home.’

‘Ok, see ya!’

And just like that we both turned in opposite directions toward our houses, and neither of us said a word to our families of what had just transpired.