Stella Ridley Twelve

12

My First Friend

When I entered public school, I became a public loner—that kid at the edge of the playground studying her shoes or walking back and forth on the periphery as if in some invisible cage. The first friend I ever made on my own was Ouida St. John. We were in the same mathematics class and shared the distinction of being the only students in the class who had barely a rudimentary clue about the subject matter no matter how hard we worked on our homework. Somehow we migrated—perhaps the teacher migrated us—to the back of the room, and as long as we were quiet there, the teacher, who had openly given up on us, let us do as we pleased. So we passed notes—Ouida’s were almost impossible to decipher—or, when other students were engaged in noisy math games, we chatted without fear of getting black marks for conduct. Continue reading

Stella Ridley One

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1

Holy Moly

 One Sunday in church when I was ten or eleven years old, Molly elbowed me as we were singing “Holy, holy, holy” and cut her eyes down toward a yawning hole in Aunt Deena’s stockings.  I looked and then quickly stared straight ahead and sang louder, trying to sing over whatever nonsense Molly was singing instead of “merciful and mighty.”   I didn’t need to look to know that further down the row Matu was leaning over her hymnal and glaring at us with her mouth in that tense line that even then was getting to be a habit.  When we sat down for the sermon, Molly was quaking with repressed laughter, and I had to pinch myself hard as I did every Sunday, with or without Molly’s puns and antics.  I don’t know what was wrong with me.  During the most solemn moments, I was possessed by the impulse to leap up and shout.   In fact, when I heard the phrase “mortification of the flesh,” I thought it referred to the repressed and rather itchy urge to guffaw or shout in church, and I was secretly of the opinion that I might be more at home in one of those evangelical sects that elevate losing control to a form of worship.

Back in the station wagon, Matu and Mamaw Ridley sat in front, and Aunt Deena, Molly, Baby Robert, Adela (my pet sibling at the time), and I crammed into the backseat because no one liked to sit in the seat that was the whole point of having a station wagon, what we called the “way back seat,” which faced backwards and therefore seemed, well, unsociable.  Molly held the baby, and Adela, who was probably about four then, sat on my lap and reached over to fondle Deena’s locket. When Deena kissed Adela’s little chubby hand, a brief, inexplicable shock of envy ran through me as it always did when I saw moments of love or affection that did not include me, but then Molly started humming the hymn we had sung in church, and we started laughing and couldn’t stop.

“What are they on about?” Matu said, craning her head up and sideways to look in the rearview mirror, squinting back at Deena and nearly running over poor Miss Estelle from down the street.  Deena said, “I have no idea, but I’m sure that it’s irreverent,” in that voice she had that we children all loved, a voice that–no matter what it was saying–said that everything was wonderful and good.  “What?  What?” Mamaw said and looked around frantically as if she’d just heard a shotgun go off, but by then we were home and nobody paid her any mind.  As we were all piling out of the car, Matu said, “Deena!  Look at your stockings!” and Deena did look, and laughed.  “I didn’t have time to give Miss Monkey her cream, so she swatted me as I was going out the door,” she said.  And Matu glared at her and shook her head and started in with “Deena, I’ve never seen you without a hole or a ladder-run in your stockings.  And there is such a thing as hairspray you know.”

Deena patted at her frizzy hair and laughed, said, “I can’t help it if I have our mother’s hair. And there’s nothing I can do about the wind.”

“Really, Deena, people notice these things!  How can I raise these girls up right if you set such a . . . such a scruffy example?”

Molly handed the baby to Matu and turned back toward me, smirked, and made yackety-yack motions with her hands.  She mouthed the words “people notice”—one of Matu’s favorite phrases–and opened her eyes wide in mock alarm.  Matu could not have actually seen this, but Matu seemed to know everything, seen or not.  She snapped, “Molly!  Stop that disrespectful behavior!  Right now!”

At that time, Molly and I—Molly was only a year and a half older than me, and I was very precise about this “only”–were just on the verge of thinking about stockings and hairspray and such, but Matu had already started avidly monitoring our behavior, our grooming, our posture, even our facial expressions.  She was hoping, I suppose, that she could avoid the inevitable upheaval of our adolescence if she prepared everything in advance and had us well in line.  She knew that we were rather charmed by Deena’s blithe violations of propriety, and she had become increasingly exasperated with Deena, as if Deena were a naughty child.  And women in my family, whatever they were doing, were relentless.  We sometimes overheard Matu all ganged up with Mamaw on the subject of Deena’s appearance.  They said things like “Now Deena, you have such a pretty face.  If only you’d wear makeup.  Not that dab of lipstick.  A proper foundation.”  Deena would interrupt them with a laugh and say she didn’t have time for makeup, but they would then go on at length about how much easier life is if you make an effort to fit in (another of Matu’s and Mamaw’s favorite phrases).  But Deena would just laugh some more.  Not in a mean way, mind you—Aunt Deena didn’t have a mean bone in her body—but in a way that said to them that she found their criticism endearing or cute, which must have irritated them as no meanness or scoffing resistance ever could.

When they got onto Deena this way, the only thing that would bring them up short was Papaw, who would exercise his mouth for what seemed like forever until he had maneuvered his dentures into place and then grumble, “Girl’s fine just as she is.  Leave her alone.”

Movie TV Jesus

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In ten parts:    1. Jesus is on our TV!     2. Up close     3. After intermission, joyous horns     4. And tweeting!     5. The Pilate Show     6. Whereas, Jesus.     7. Gathering     8. Here comes Judas.     9. Even in this trumped-up Jesusland     10. If this is love

1. Jesus is on our TV!

A sleek, slow-moving, gliding movie Jesus looking now like an El Greco Jesus, then–declaiming atop a spaceship-shaped boulder—a rather Rio de Janeiro Jesus, then the Byzantine icon look, and otherwise other things. In other words, just about every possible Jesus. Except the Jesus in the bible your mother gave me, the one your pothead friend tried to tear a page out of when he ran out of rolling papers.

Movie-TV Jesus has followers who, well, are always following him, an excessive kind of following, like you worry if he suddenly stops they’re gonna Continue reading

Tend

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Nothing much has changed since you’ve been gone.

We’ve still been unable to locate the source of that relentless banging and drilling noise. Current theories in the Moonlight Bar, the place from whence all theories emanate, are that it’s a collective hallucination or a broadcast from some ubiquitous and invisible truck or car from out of town or outer space.

As usual the move from one speculation to another causes some kind of spooky resonance that makes all prior speculation seem true so by the time speculation begins to look like explanation what prompted the speculation in the first place is so far removed as to be unrecognizable.

Tourists still come ashore and shuffle glumly to the mounds where they think the temples were. They complain about the heat as if we created it and they want to chastise us for poor climate design, or, more like, for living in a place where they think it’s too hot for better sorts of persons such as themselves to live.

Still, sometimes some one of them will flourish in our climate and will stay behind, belonging here as we do because they don’t belong anywhere else–like you did when you loved us, if you ever really loved us. If you did.

Shortly after you left, the factory shut down, the company’s buildings and our fields were still smoldering as they sailed away. Perhaps they feared we’d somehow fashion ourselves into rivals with the sticks and broken rakes they left behind. Now we tend weeds and water stones, so even though the baas is gone, the baas is still here.

Last week the bishop manifested in our little town to tell us that we bring our troubles on ourselves, that our current sad state is some kind of delayed aftermath of original sin and a multitude of subsequent transgressions and maybe even more recent transgressions yet to be brought to light.

Late at night when everyone’s asleep so deep you cannot even see them in their beds, I wander the beach. Out there alone, I am my own continent, I lie down on the sand and look up, and imagine I am some amorphous massless creature wandering forever through cold space, yearning for another lonely creature, maybe a mate.

We looked for you everywhere, how could you leave us everyone said, surely you’d never leave us, you must have drowned in the sea, you must have been snatched up and carried away by some fearsome beast from the forest, you must have been abducted by the aliens. I’m the only one who knows you took your clothes and my cash.

Don’t think even for a minute that I can’t sleep without you or that I still wonder where you are or that I wonder if wherever you are you look up at night and see the same stars I see.

I don’t.

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image: small detail from Astronomy Photo of the Day 06 April 2008: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080416.html.

Breathless

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I cannot recall exactly when it was or where, whether in some public place or private, that I looked at you, perhaps across a table, perhaps across a room, perhaps up close, even in some intimate skin-to-skin moment that in retrospect would not really be intimate at all, or perhaps in one of those sightings I had of you in various places around town where I’d not expect you to be–I wasn’t noticing that anomalies reiterated cease to be anomalies–but wherever it was, I looked at your face and it was like looking at a face with a closed door behind it, and I knew you were already gone, gone not just into your thoughts and silences, or the silences I took for thought, but into some other place, knew that you were living your life elsewhere, knew, without exactly thinking of it this way, that you had constructed another life and moved into it, that there was no more being with you when I was with you, and when I thought of our life together, where I still was but you weren’t, I could almost hear the hammer and drill of demolition, and see the workmen smoking and joking around on their break. After that, there was always sawdust in your touch, and I was someone who was not me with someone who was not you, though I always thought of you as substantial somehow, while I was a ghost haunting the place that had once been my life.

I felt all the time as if the breath had been knocked out of me, and in that way in which the mind pulls up the only memories that somehow correspond with a present that makes no sense, in one of my desolate reveries, I suddenly remembered, as if waking up in it, a time when I was probably ten or eleven years old and Mother and I went to visit the preacher’s family, the daughter was about my age–Mother was probably hoping I’d find a friend, so little did she understand the real conditions of my life, the ones that had started, of course, with her–and she was inside having coffee and chatting or whatever it was that adults who didn’t know each other did, and I was outside with the girl and her brother, and out of nowhere, he knocked me down and began to jump on my chest—and he was a big chubby guy, there was no way I could get up, and there was no air in me, I think I may even have blacked out for a bit. I guess his sister got him to stop, or like all bullies he had an instinct for when he’d done enough damage and could put the innocent face back on, and it was one of those don’t tell or I’ll kill you kind of things.

But he didn’t even need to tell me not to tell—there on the ground with the wind knocked out of me, whatever I was pulled back into that little space inside where I had my life, like the closet one tries to hide in in dreams of being stalked or chased: I already knew that there was nothing that could be done to stop it, that nobody was going to help me. It was a moment of absolute clarity and absolute solitude, and although it was really only part of a history of encounters with malicious children that started when I was three or so and went to what was called kindergarten then—it was really a kind of corral in which children did as they pleased under vague supervision—it was one of the events that I had put furthest from my mind until the memory of it suddenly cropped up. When he knocked the breath from me and in a very determined way made it impossible for me to breathe, I was shocked—physically—and I was taken by surprise, but in the long view of things, I wasn’t surprised that someone was hurting me, that it felt like some kind of annihilation, that it made no sense. That was what being in my world was as a child, no one was looking out for me, so harm and helplessness was always a nearby possibility. I wasn’t a cringer or a hider, but I had a habit of kind of spacing out, which I now realize was a kind of defense that probably only made things worse by making it easier for mean kids to catch me off guard, to inflict a kind of chaos on me, and then move on to the next thing as if, for them, nothing had happened.

Of course, it wasn’t as if you were beating me or as if you had some kind of malicious plan, just that you had casually hurt me and now you were done with it, and done with me. Like all betrayers, you acted as if you really had nothing to do with what had happened, and like all betrayals, an essential element was that you made me party to my own undoing by letting me think things were what they weren’t, for quite a long time as it turned out, though I would never know precisely how long. All the years of my life that I had spent with you, over half of my life then, were suddenly obliterated—when I thought of the past, I knew it wasn’t what I thought it was at the time, it had just been emptied out, like my present had been emptied out when I wasn’t looking. It was just suddenly as if there was nothing left, nothing left of me, nothing left of you, not even in my dreams, which were now populated with people I did not know in places where I’d never been.

Freeze

It was late so Pap made Jen throw the fish out in the snow and Pap said for the 100th time oh ho ho we don’t need no freezer course come summer we will need a freezer but ain’t this just the best life we could possibly have and he was saying this outside and I heard Mam inside fixing dinner it always sounds like she is throwing pots at the wall when we are outside and she’s alone inside but when we go in there she is just glued there like always steam coming off the stove her with a spoon in her hand and sometimes fanning herself with her apron. It’s so loud when I hear it outside one time I looked around after everyone was asleep and sure enough there were some dents in the wall and all the pots were dented but maybe all those dents and things were already there and how anyway could she be doing that and then we don’t see anything like that show about the poltergeist the family hears all this noise and then when they look nothing is out of place.

So anyway we have the same cream corn and peas and the same fish every night and every night they look exactly I’ve looked like what we had the night before. Of course Jen and me we don’t eat fish we have a system it disappears off our plates as soon as Pap starts a fight with Mam and they aren’t paying attention to any of us it disappears into whatever we have a boot a pocket a paper bag and then one of us slips out and buries the dam things where Mam and Pap won’t find them. One day we couldn’t get out Pap was making us play cards so he could win our allowances back like we’d have anywhere to spend them anyway and the next day before we went out Mam found what we hadn’t eaten in the laundry basket where we put it till we could get out all she said was I know what you are doing. I know what you are doing. Just like that. Not pissed off though I guess she would be sad if she could still be sad. Mam we said we. Don’t say a word she said and then went on sorting the clothes like she does every day.

Anyhow. So the next morning Pap was all excited rousted us out of bed made us all get dressed even Mam and Tom who still hasn’t talked and he’s four and Pap said come look what the fish we caught done done we went outside and Pap said it’s like magic ain’t it and there were the fish down from the trailer all in a line standing on their heads with their tails up in the air. Jen turned her head away and I knew she was crying. Jilly was all excited and said how’d they do that Pap how’d they do that and Pap said they were acrobat fish that like to stand on their heads and flip around and then Mam said it’s more like they want to show you their behind and Pap raised his hand up like he was going to slap her and then started laughing and said he was just kidding then he sent Jayjay inside to get the camera and traipse down there and take a picture of the rest of us standing up at the trailer looking down at the acrobat fish and it seemed like forever before Pap would let us go inside and get warm before we went out fishing for the day there are never enough fish for Pap and we never do anything right and I hate him.

When we were in bed that night Jen whispered real loud to me Why’d he have to do that to the fish isn’t it bad enough we kill them I hate Pap and I said that I hate Pap too. Jen said she wished the next morning when we woke up we’d look down there and see Pap frozen on his head with his f—-n feet in the air. I said don’t talk like that it might come true. Oh Jen said you’re just afraid that if it happened we’d have to eat Pap piece by piece night after night with the cream corn and peas. No I said if it happened then the fish would come back and eat Pap and maybe eat us too. No she said Only Pap.

Don’t say it I said it took me a long time to get to sleep I kept hearing these scrambling and tapping kinds of noises outside but it’s just the wind. Then I dreamed that we went in to dinner and all those fish were sitting at the table all of them like the table was surrounded by fish and they were looking at that big platter Mam uses for turkey at Thanksgiving and there on it was Pap’s head steaming a little with the look on his face that’s always there when he slaps one of us except Jilly he never slaps Jilly. One of the fish looked at me and in this strangling kind of voice said Eat up. And then all of them were hollering Eat up eat up eat up.

 

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image: “Frozen walleye pike kiss the snow in Mille Lacs, Minnesota, 1959.Photograph by Thomas J. Abercrombie, National Geographic.http://natgeofound.tumblr.com/post/57795083277/frozen-walleye-pike-kiss-the-snow-in-mille-lacs”

Next

His first mistake, one that couldn’t be considered anything but a major mistake no matter how far away from it your mind was, ended up being precisely what he thought he was doing right at the outset when he enlisted the aid of a couple of sociopaths. They were eager to do, and relished doing, the thing he asked, though they were a bit sloppy about it—like cats, they liked to play with their prey. He winced when he thought of how often she must have thought she could get away, and how often they let her think that.

He just hadn’t thought much past getting them to do it. Didn’t think ahead, like, to the part where they would still be around and he might have to try to reason with them about various things, like would they leave and go back to wherever they had come from. They were in the kitchen now, fucking things up, which was what they generally did when they weren’t aimed in the direction of the miscellaneous criminal activity they enjoyed. There was just not going to be any clean transaction here.

They were wearing Melanie’s clothes, well, not exactly wearing, more like decorating themselves with Melanie’s clothes and jewelry. It bothered him a lot that they seemed to think of Melanie’s accoutrements–and his house–as part of their take for what they did to her, as if the money hadn’t been enough. The fact of it was that they didn’t really care about money, they didn’t understand money, and to his way of thinking people who didn’t understand money were people to be afraid of.

John-John—the other one was Jerry-Jo, Jesus, did they all have names like that—sauntered through with a pair of Melanie’s panties on his head, sauntered past him as if he wasn’t there, but he didn’t think about that right then. Oddly—since he didn’t think he noticed such things—he remembered Melanie wearing those panties when she undressed in a hotel room in Chania just last summer. How cool and dark and still it was in the room, the sun outside so bright and relentless it was like some kind of shout whenever you stepped out into it. But inside, her cool skin, the way she always smelled like warm rain, how he had loved her then.

When John-John and Jerry-Jo had moved in, he’d started going to church—any service, any day, any time, even the AA meetings Wednesday nights and the NA meetings Saturday mornings and those coffeecake meetings or doughnut meetings or whatever the hell they were. It wasn’t that he expected to come to Jesus and call down some kind of divine intervention to take care of his John-John-Jerry-Jo problem. He just thought that church was probably the only place he could be where they wouldn’t expect him to be.

But more than that, he figured church would be a good place to find a certain kind of psycho—an upright uptight finicky sort of psycho who wouldn’t move into your house and wear your wife’s panties on his head—a psycho who might be happy to take care of the other two and take a handsome sum of money and be done with it. Otherwise—and he couldn’t shake this feeling—he was next.

Zelda Forgives You and Understands

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I forgive you for asking me to drive your car to the shop to have the brakes adjusted and neglecting to tell me that the brakes were like gone and that shifting into second gear would put the car into reverse.

I forgive you for trashing my turntable and my easel and my guitar and miscellaneous other gear that offended you for no other reason than that it was mine.

I forgive you for what I discovered the night the ice storm downed power lines and trees and unleashed a torrent of pigs from a farm down the road who rooted up every bulb I’d ever planted, something I could perhaps have curtailed if I could have seen them with a flashlight instead of only hearing them. It wasn’t just that the batteries in the flashlights were dead but that even when I located the good batteries I couldn’t find a good battery.

Here’s some friendly information for your new life with your new wife: putting dead batteries back in with the good batteries will not recharge them no matter how many dead batteries you try it with.

I forgive you for pissing in the cat box when you were drunk–I understand you just needed to mark your territory.

I forgive you for not even calling me when I was in the hospital, and I understand that you probably thought Continue reading

Bottom Baboon

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One had to wash up after meetings just to feel human again.

The unit boss was a stodgy little thing with a closet full of personae. There was the prissy schoolmarm persona concocted for most of the email she sent us, though “sent” doesn’t convey the way she issued it forth, sometimes in wave after wave, as if she’d been saving it up. That little persona sometimes held hands with another one, a coquette who wore fancy hats and longed to be admired, and there was another one she seemed to imagine as a Victorian woman of letters with a long, slow hatpin and a lot of time on her hands. Her missives seemed to assume that we were pets of a sort–often bad pets–with no lives of our own, and thus always interested in hers.

My Dears,
Autumn is upon us, and I have yet to take my cozy winter shawls out and my somewhat trendy though purposeful rainboots still sit in the back of my closet, a bit dusty they are, though everything else in my tiny closet is neat as a pin awaiting the munificent and beguiling change in weather, which seems to be arriving sooner than I’d anticipated this year unlike last year when it arrived with the Perseids, those glistening ladies who swarmed in last November’s sky. I watched them from my sturdy balcony, drinking the special tea that an adoring friend sends me from China, accompanied by my faithful Esmerelda who could not see the magical fireworks of nature in the velvety dark sky because her eyesight, alas, is failing although she still greets me with excited little leaps and yips of joy whenever I return home from work, which, as you know, is often late in the evening because my duties as your leader are so numerous and so time-consuming . . .

You had to scroll through lots of that kind of thing to parse out or get to whatever it was that you needed to get to in addition to admiring her person and enjoying the glimpses she set forth of her fascinating life.

. . . Just as season follows upon season, monthly reports are due on the last workday of each month—that’s the last workday, NOT the last day of each month. Unlike the season, which seems to be arriving unseasonably sooner than even I had anticipated, your monthly reports are sometimes arriving at the last minute or, unfortunately–dare I say it?–late. Some of you have of late–no pun intended, tee hee–been forgetting that when paperwork is not tendered forth at its appointed time, all is not right with the world even if the seasons go on, wistfully, perhaps, in their fleeting and inimitable if somewhat relentless and casual way without our notice. If you cannot submit required paperwork when it is due, I shall have to take the unfortunate and regrettable step of docking your otherwise generous pay, and I shall have to go out of my way to do so, or rather, I shall have to ask the Dean to go out of his way to do so. Nothing could make me less happy than taking such drastic action, and I’m sure you do not want to make your ever faithful and humble leader, me, unhappy.
Cheers!!!

She may have actually thought that we were grateful for her personal ruminations and thought them charming and witty. And some—perhaps many– of us may have. But I always felt as if I’d been pinned down and slapped around. After the first year of it, just seeing it waiting there to be opened made my lesser self run all around in my mind slamming doors and kicking children.

Of course that may have been because by then I had gotten to know the constant behind her miscellaneous personae, that unpredictable and snake-mean little person who was endlessly busy not so much being the boss as showing us that she was the boss and nobody was the boss of her. When she lobbed email at us or corralled us into the protracted performances she called meetings, the several fancy fussy little beings boiling away inside her couldn’t quite agree on why we needed to be bothered but all agreed that we should be bothered often. And at length. Some of us more than others.

Tatting away at her computer expanded opportunities to circulate and bestow her queenliness. The missives constructed for mass consumption (unlike those aimed at individuals and sent by regular mail and sometimes even registered mail to contaminate your home) always started with “dears” or “my dears” or “dear ones” and ended with “cheers,” words that began to look unsavory or even threatening when one paused to reflect, as I often did, on the contempt in that familiarity, or paused to reflect, as I often did, on the fact that she enjoyed having everyone in thrall and that she really could, and did, punish anyone who didn’t enact the appropriate excitement upon seeing her perambulations through the cubicles or seeing her planted firmly and troll-like in the nearest possible exit.

She had an unerring instinct for primitive–and very effective–forms of intimidation. At some point even before I was singled out for special treatment, I realized that she didn’t really smile: she bared her teeth. She wasn’t quite as good at the subtleties of impression management as she probably imagined herself to be. Everyone pretended not to notice, though no one should be faulted for that. If she thought you saw it, you yourself would be in for the kind of relentless micromanaging that makes it difficult to get any work done, the kind that had nothing really to do with your work and everything to do with her compulsion to tell you over and over that she could do anything she wanted to you and there was nothing you could do to stop it.

The fiefdom she maintained needed helpers of course, and she was a tireless recruiter. She’d beckon someone into her office or catch them off guard in the supply closet and in a flimsy approximation of casual chitchat she’d bring someone’s name up and slide it around in some faint praise before tarring it into place with some drummed up flaw or offense, and if you refused to participate in this, well, there were punishments. One must admit that she had a talent–though perhaps it was just a lot of practice–for turning innocuous or even good things into bad things. By the time she was advanced to a sort of permanent overlord position, she had turned a group of amiable and otherwise intelligent people, some of whom might even have been thought of as one’s friends, into a mob.

It’s hard to sit in a roomful of colleagues most of whom will no longer even look you in the eye and to know your part is to be the baboon at the bottom and to know that part of their part is not to be the baboon at the bottom by helping her make you the baboon at the bottom. But what’s even harder, perhaps, is to catch sight of your own face over the sink in the women’s room—one had to wash up after meetings just to feel human again—to catch sight of your own face and to know that if you didn’t know what it was like to be the bottom baboon, you yourself might be one of them, sitting in the smug seat of the sycophant, enjoying the high end of the pay scale.

Mind the Blanks 2

. . . a story to play with–the story emerges from what the reader’s mind does with the blanks when the reader is reading. No rules–it’s playtime.

Preface to the First Edition

Some ________ are more _______ than others. Take, for instance, the ________. Seldom ________ in more ________climes, various species of ________—the ________, the ________, the ________ among them—thrive from ________to ________.

One day ________ brought ________up in a most unusual context. We were discussing ________ when ________ suddenly began wondering aloud if ________ still _______ on the ________ river. I said, “Well, of course,” but ________ drolly said, “Don’t be too sure.” and then explained that ________ often ________ when ________.

________ told me that in the past ten years, ________, several ________ had ________ in ________. The situation had become so ________ that the government of ________ had mandated that ________. Notwithstanding a few ________, the local populace responded with ________, going so far as to ________ lesser-known ________ in both summer and winter. The effect this had on the ________ population was ________, and ________ were hastily called in to ________.

While ________ was telling me this, I had been ________. I started to ________ but thought better of it. “Surely you don’t mean that ________ ________,” I said. “Oh yes,” ________ said; “They even ________ ________ .”

When ________ left ________that day, I felt ________, but I shrugged it off as my usual ________. But that night I dreamed I was in ________, surrounded by ________ and pleading with ________ to ________ while ________ ________. I awoke so ________ and ________ that I couldn’t ________, and I spent the rest of the night ________.

The next morning I began to ________, and by the following week I had gone to ________ where I was greeted with ________ and began the ________ journey, a record of which now ________ before you.

The Secret Animal

bamboo rad crop - mod 3 cmcRichard Devroe became fascinated with little things when he was four years old and his parents died.  His Aunt Rebecca told him to sit quietly in the entryway of the house before the memorial service, and all he knew was that his mother and father had gone up into the air in an airplane and disappeared.  Sitting in a hard, dark chair, he vaguely construed the scene as one of waiting for his parents’ return despite what his aunt had told him.  She had said that they were “never coming back,” but waiting here alone like this, Richard began to take that as meaning that they were somehow invisible now, that they would come back but he might not know it.

He tried to recall his parents’ faces and hands.  He could almost conjure up the feeling of being spoken to and touched in a comforting way, not like now with Aunt Becca, whose perfunctory affection only momentarily reeled him in from wherever he was drifting.  His parents’ presence had always put him solidly in place in the world.  Now there was nothing but this chair drifting in a narrow room, and the experience of his own yearning to be elsewhere, where they were.  While the clock on the wall behind him clicked off an eternity of seconds, he stared at a shaft of sunlight that came in through the window in the door and made a small golden pool of light on the floor near him.  If his parents were invisible, they must be even smaller than the dancing motes of dust in that shaft of light.  Then Richard Devroe tried to wish himself as small as things would be if they were never coming back but nonetheless returned.

Though Aunt Rebecca was not cruel, she was extremely high-strung and self-involved and could thus be brutally dismissive, and she considered child-rearing a process of enforcing quiet, polite behavior.  Thus, in the months that followed Richard’s moment of enlightenment, he had plenty of time to meditate solemnly on modes of existence unavailable to the untrained eye.  Continue reading

Stand

This is the part where someone doesn’t stand up for someone. Or doesn’t stand up to someone. But that’s not the kind of standing up this part needs.

Maybe someone simply stands up, to go to another room, to go into the bar, to walk to a corner store, turns back as if compelled to say something that gets forgotten right there on the spot.

After he’s been gone for months, maybe for years, she’s still driving herself crazy with it: what was he going to say? She’s got this feeling there’s something she should’ve known even if he didn’t say it, or just that there was something she didn’t know, that he was going to tell her something she needed to know. Life becomes impossible, there’s something she doesn’t know that she needs to know, for what, to avoid danger, to pursue delight.

Sometimes it’s like something she’s circling, sometimes it’s like something circling her, getting tighter in, making it hard to breathe. Sometimes it’s as if she’s living there where it is whatever it is, that that is where she has her life, or where her life has gone, but she has no access to it. This life she’s in now, the one she does have access to, this life feels like an approximation of something. She’s not looking for something in this life. She’s looking for it in whatever life she might have had if he had said whatever it was he was going to say.