That’s my company’s slogan. Catchy, isn’t it? It’s a bit misleading, since we don’t actually guarantee that you’ll get “all the riches of the world” if you give up love. But it’s enough to catch your eye, to get you thinking.
Who hasn’t been fucked over by love? It’s no big deal, unless you’ve never been in love. Then you kind of crave it. But love - love is where the problems are. Our scientists have studied this for years and they all agree: that chemical malfunction called “love” is the problem, and the cure is to get rid of it. Toss it overboard and it’s smooth sailing from there on out.
Yeah, it took me a while to buy into the whole thing, too. I mean, I get it. When you’re 25, you think love is everything. Makes the world go round, all you need is love, and so on. Then you realize that you’re just horny and that it’s entirely possible to get laid without the complication of love. And that first fuck post-op? Incredible, even more so when you realize that there’s no mess to deal with after. No flowers, no cuddling. Brilliant.
Sure, there are social benefits too. Gotta worry about saving the planet, right? Here, look at the statistics: Domestic violence is down over sixty percent in the last two years since the treatment went public. Divorce rates have dropped, bankruptcy filings are down by a quarter. Hell, even the fundies mostly just mutter to themselves these days.
All this peace and quiet available for you at the bargain rate of $1,999. It’s outpatient surgery, in and out in just under four hours.
Is it reversible? Well, no. But would you want to reverse chemo? Would you want to put the tumor back in? It’s the same thing with this – we’re just repairing where the brain is misfiring. You’ll be thrilled with the results. We guarantee.
Great! You’re absolutely making the right decision. Just scan your print here and we’ll get you scheduled and ready to go. You’re going to love the results. Ha! Well, maybe not.
I’m not sure when they started. Perhaps when they bolted my skin into place, its gleaming whiteness covering miles and miles of the fibers that make up my nervous system. Or maybe it was the first time I was rolled out to sit under the night sky, nose pointing upward, my whole being restrained, chained, to the ground.
I was so ready to fly that first time, ready to go charging through the sky into the blackness, to slip forever outward through the stars.
Then the mens came. I was aware of them before now, swarming around and inside me like ants but these mens, they were different. Special. They patted my shell, they talked to me, they became part of me. And I came to understand that they would go with me into the stars, and that I was all that would stand between them and the blackness.
The blackness would erase them. I was their guardian. I was born to do this.
I thundered upward, the flight every bit as exhilarating as I had imagined it to be. The roar of the air streaming past my body, the jolts and explosions as my fuel bags fell off back to earth. In the end, it was just me, me and the mens I carried inside me. And together, we pierced the shell of the planet and we were there in the black for the first time.
I wept, silently, tearless, but full of awe and joy. The planet rolled beneath me, the stars danced above me. The mens, my mens, whispered their own words of awe and faith and love. Their whispers echoed through my skin.
I loved my life. I counted, impatiently, the days on the planet, rumbling with pleasure when my new group of mens would come to me. I took them into the stars and safely back again, over and over. It was joy, it was honor.
I am home again now, my skin still shivering ever so slightly from the last trip upward. My mens were silent on this last return, and one of them stood for long moments next to me, his hand resting on my skin. He spoke to me, but I do not know what he said.
I am in my cradle now, and it is quiet. I am waiting, waiting for that moment when I get to leap upwards once again. But it has been so long now, and no mens have come to visit me. I am alone, alone with my thoughts and my dreams of stars and mens and flying and the black.
When will I go back? When will I see the stars again?
When will my mens return to me?
The wind swirled through the open door, biting against the warmth of the diner. Those closest to the door shivered and glared at the old man as he stood at the threshold for a long moment. He stepped through, just enough so that door swung shut behind him, the bell jangling against the glass.
Steam from endless cups of coffee and bowls of hot soup fogged the windows, muffling the view of the sidewalks outside. The snow was starting to fall faster and harder, reducing visibility, until only the glow of the streetlamps stood out to shine on the falling blanket of white.
He moved into the diner, looking neither right nor left, as he headed toward a dark booth in the corner. There were empty booths on either side of her, the other patrons instinctively avoiding sitting too close to her, even if it meant they shuffled shoulders together at the counter rather than have their own table to themselves.
He sat down, waiting quietly as a waitress hurried over with a menu. “Coffee and soup, please,” he said without touching the menu. “And a tin of sardines, if you have it. Don’t open it – I want to take it with me.”
The waitress nodded without commenting. She had had weirder requests than that. “It’ll be a few minutes. Joe is making a fresh pot of coffee now.”
The old man nodded again, before turning his eye to the old woman sitting across from him. She was both older than she looked, and younger than she portrayed. It was a persona taken on so long ago that the lines between her true self and the part she played had long since blurred and melted together. Still, he couldn’t help but smile at the memories of their meetings in past years. Sometimes violent, sometimes erotic. But always, part of the role they both played.
“Have you come for the story again, old man?” she asked, finally raising her face from her bowl of soup to look at him.
“I have,” he said, “if you will share it with me.”
The old woman sighed, her face relaxing as she exhaled. The lines creasing her face seemed to relax, leaving her skin looking decades younger than it had just seconds before. She cupped her hands around her bowl of soup, looking down at the surface.
“As you wish. I remember the giants, they who existed long before you and your people came to this world. They fed me then, giving me bits and pieces of bread, sometimes a scrap of meat. They sheltered me, and taught me of the nine worlds, of the great tree, of the roots that sink below.
There was only the tree. No sand, no sea. Just the tree and the void. And Ymir. Poor, simple Ymir. The gentlest of them all and yet he was slain, slain and ground up into nothing more than dust.” She paused, looking up. “Dust to dust. Did you know the new priests say that? And they have no fucking idea what it means.”
She was quiet for a moment. “The earth was lifted forth. Bur’s sons did well, casting the moon and sun into the sky. And then you came. You and your tribe, seating yourself to council and deciding what to name the bits and pieces of the world. Like you had any clue,” she muttered. “Children playing at being gods. Naming the stars, naming the moon, and then sitting around playing with your gold. “
“Then come the dwarves. Motsognir, Durin, Nyi and Nithi, Northri and Suthri, Austri and Vestri. Althjof, Dvalin, Nar and Nain, Niping, Dain, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Nori…
“Are you okay, lady?” The waitress stood over them, steaming coffee pot in hand. “You … was that some other kind of language? I mean, we get all kinds of eastern Europeans in here and I haven’t heard that language before.”
“She perfectly fine,” the man said, a bland expression on his face. “Just going through lines for a play. She’s naming the dwarves that are part of the story.”
The waitress’ brows wrinkled. “What, like in Snow White? I don’t remember those names in Snow White.”
“It’s the adult version,” the old woman replied, her lips twitching as she tried not to smile.
“Oh. Well… oh. Do you guys want more coffee?” She didn’t wait for an answer, but simply filled their cups and wandered off again.
The man sighed. “That certainly broke the mood, didn’t it?” he asked, almost to himself. The woman laughed. “We’ve been doing this little song and dance for eons,” he continued. “Maybe it’s a sign that … well, that it’s time to move on. Accept that the prophecy was just a good story to tell once every hundred years or so and let it go.”
A gust of wind hammered at the windows. The snow outside was whipped into a frenzy, while pedestrians grabbed at their coats and hats, startled by the sudden ferocity of the storm.
The woman stared out through the window for a long moment. “But it’s not just a story,” she said softly. “Can’t you feel it? The cold that comes earlier each year, the heat the strikes harsher each summer? We created these fools, gave them sense, gave them a soul and … they have wasted it. Yggdrasil begins to droop and the serpent is starting to stir.”
“I’ve heard that a litter of wolf-pups have been born to the Jotuns.” The Volva looked up at the All-Father, her eyes glittering. “Is there any real need to continue on with the story? We know what is coming.” A wry smile. “After all, I foretold it. You sacrificed your eye to know the truth. The war is coming again, Odin. Fenrir will be loosed, and the serpent will devour the earth.
The grey-haired, one-eyed god bared his teeth at her. “If it comes, then it is time. But do not expect me to throw myself down on the sword simply because I know my destiny is to die by it. What I want to know is how to stop … the false wars. Someone is stirring the pot, someone not connected to the prophecy. How do I stop that, seeress?”
They sat quietly, while the woman’s eyes focused on something unseen in the distance. “There’s a girl,” she said finally. “Find her, find your weapon. Find your chance.”
The wind gusted again, and someone on the other side of the diner screamed as glass shattered. The wind howled inside the building, snow swirling through the broken window. Odin turned back to the Volva, annoyed at the distraction. He stared at the empty seat opposite him, only a dirty coffee mug and a few crumpled dollars remaining.
“So be it, old witch. We’ll see how this game plays out.”
This is my entry for LJ Idol. It's an open topic week, so I decided to share the other bit of writing that's been buzzing around in my head. This is the opening part of a longer story I'll be working on over the next few months. If you like my entry, I would appreciate your vote when the time comes.
Alan glanced over at his date. “You’ll see,” he said with a smile, reaching out to playfully tug on a curl that had escaped her scarf. They both loved driving with the top down on his ’62 Impala, even if it did mean tangled hair when they reached their destination.
It was a warm, early-summer night in West Texas. Loretta Lynn was singing about her man loving another on the radio as the headlights cut a path through the darkness.
They drove on, not talking much, both of them content to enjoy the night drive. Finally, after another half or so, Alan slowed the car and turned onto a small dirt road. Georgia looked over at him, about the ask again where they were going, then shrugged and smiled, one hand holding tight to the door as the car bounced down the road.
Alan pulled into a clearing and rolled to a stop. He turned off the car and for a few minutes, the only sound was the popping and clicking of the engine as it cooled down. “Ready for dinner?” he asked, laughing at the expression on her face. He reached into the backseat of the car and grabbed a couple of box dinners. Still grinning, he handed her one and took the other.
“This might be the strangest picnic I’ve ever been on,” she said, biting into her chicken salad sandwich. “I trust there’s a reason we’re out here in the middle of God’s country in the middle of the night?”
Alan took a swig from his bottle of Coke before answering. “There’s something I wanted you to see. Besides, it won’t be too long before we can’t just take off in the middle of the night like this,” he added, reaching over to gently caress her stomach.
She looked down and smiled, one hand going down to cover his. “I guess not,” she replied, her voice dreamy. “I’ll be too busy taking care of the little one, and you’ll be too busy taking care of both of us.”
They finished their dinners, then scooted over to the center of the seat. Georgia rested her head on Alan’s shoulder, his arm warm around her. They sat there, looking up at the dazzling array of stars in the night sky. They didn’t talk much, didn’t feel the need to. When two people are as happy and content as they were, sometimes you didn’t need words.
Alan pulled out his pocket watch to check the time. “Okay,” he said, excitement coloring his voice. “Keep your eyes focused directly up, right next to that big blue star there.”
“What on earth – “ Georgia started to ask, but did as he suggested. She stared at the stars, not sure what she was supposed to be looking at that. Then she saw it, a quickly-moving object moving between the stars. “A shooting star? No, it’s not moving like one. What is it, Alan?” she asked, twisting in her seat to watch the strangely-moving object until it disappeared over the horizon.
“That,” Alan said softly, “was Nimbus 5. We couldn’t have seen it in town with all the lights, but I thought it would be worth the trip out here.”
Georgia turned to look at him, her eyes shining. “You mean that was the satellite you helped design? We just saw something that is in orbit that you helped put there?” She leaned forward and kissed him, her hand reaching up to caress his face. “Our baby is going to have the coolest father ever,” she whispered. “And this was the best date ever.”
Alan just smiled as he scooted over to the driver’s seat and started the car up. They held hands the entire trip back home.
“You doing okay with your geometry? Need any money for supplies or anything?” I smiled up at him. “No, I’m doing okay. Don’t be such a worrier!” I laughed as he enveloped me in one of his bear hugs, all but squeezing the air out of me.
He followed me down the stairs and across the grass to where my car was parked in the driveway. “Huh,” he said, leaning over to peer at my windshield. “Looks like you’ve got a crack there.” He pointed at the glass, one gnarled finger that shook ever so slightly.
I peered with him. “Looks like,” I replied. “I’ll take it to the shop this weekend and have them fix it.”
I got in and buckled my seatbelt under his watchful eye. Waving, I backed out of the driveway and headed home, content and happy in every part of my body.
. . . . .
“Hey Mom, I’m home.” The house was dark, only the ticking of the clock and the snoring of our dog breaking the silence. I walked into the living room and started to turn on the light.
“Leave it off. I’ve got a migraine.”
I peered through the darkness at the dim shape on the couch. “Oh. Can I get you anything?” I asked, hoping to make a quick escape to my room to work on my history assignment.
“You were over at your Grammy’s?” she asked. “Did you think to bring me any dinner too?”
“Yes, I did. Grammy sent home a bunch of leftovers and two slices of pie. Want me to fix you a plate?”
Silence answered me, so I just shrugged and went into the kitchen to warm up the plate of leftovers. I was mixing a bit of butter into the sweet potatoes when I heard footsteps behind me.
“They weren’t always such good people, you know.” Mom leaned against the sink and watched me, her arms folded across her chest. “Your grandmother used to be addicted to Valium. She’d take pills and lay on the couch all day and smoke her menthols, only getting up when it was time to fix supper.”
I turned to look at her, not sure what she was talking about.
“And your grandfather …” Her voice trailed off for a long moment. “He used to come into my bedroom at night and pull down the blankets and touch my breasts. I would lie there awake, but with my eyes closed, too scared to move.”
I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t move. Was she talking about Pappy? I just stared at her.
“I told my mother once what he was doing. She just slapped me and told me not to ever say anything like that again. So I didn’t.”
I swallowed. “Did he … did he ever…?”
“No, it was always just the touching. But it happened night after night, until I was a teenager. And then he just stopped.”
I stood there, silent, until she turned and walked away, shuffling back into the darkness of the living room.
I fled, grabbing my car keys on the way out the front door. I had to move, had to think. I got into my car and started it, then just sat there, staring blankly. After a few minutes, I turned off the ignition and opened the car door to get out again. A glint of light caught my eye and I stared at the crack on the windshield. It had grown even longer, splintering off into two jagged lines.
They’re such hard things on the outside. Throw one at someone hard enough and it will hurt them. Hit one with a bat and it will fly through the air. These little white orbs are chased around by grown men, who are cheered on by thousands and thousands of others. Fathers toss them to their sons and daughters in backyard rituals; boys cherish the ones that are signed by their heroes.
An entire culture has sprung up around those baseballs. Think of warm, sunny afternoons at the ballpark, cheerfully heckling the batter or throwing popcorn at the man four rows down who is cheering for the other team. Remember when you ducked and shrieked with laughter when a foul ball came flying your way? Or how you would cheer and yell when the baseball goes flying – going, going, gone – and the hitter makes his triumphant lap around the bases? Those aren’t just your memories. Those are all of our memories.
There are those glorious nighttime games too, especially in the big cities. There you are, you and ten thousand of your closest friends, all gathered to watch the tiny men on the tiny field all playing a game with an even tinier ball. And you love it. You love the beer, the peanuts, the hot dogs. You cheer and thrust your chest out and howl with primal satisfaction when your team wins, and you wail and pull your hair out and slump in your seat when they lose.
It’s a religion, plain and simple. A religion of love and nostalgia, of family and childhood, of fathers and sons and beer and pretzels. A religion all wrapped up in a sphere of cork and rubber, of tightly-wound yarn stitched up in cowhide.
People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. ~ Rogers Hornsby
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“Hey, you know who you look like?”
Those words always make me very uncomfortable because I really don’t know what’s coming next. I’ve heard:
“You look like that girl who played Laura Ingalls on Little House!” I heard that when I was seven and it made me absolutely giddy.
“You look just like … who was it? Oh yeah! Kathy Bates!” That came when I was 17 and greeting the audience after a theatrical performance. I had no idea who Kathy Bates was at the time so I didn’t know how to react. Today, I think it’s a flattering comment, only because I really like her style.
“You know who you remind me of? A WHALE!!” Ah, teenage boys. I roll my eyes at this now, but my 14-year-old self was devastated.
But the one “wow, you look like!” comment that makes me cringe is to be told I look like my mother. And I do. We could easily have been sisters, and were mistaken as such many times when I was younger. When it comes to appearance, it’s like I have no father. And I hate it. I flat out hate it. Not because I think she’s ugly – at least, not on the outside – but because of who she is on the inside. I hate hearing that comment because somewhere, in the not-so-logical part of my brain, I equate ‘you look like your mother’ to ‘you are your mother.’
It’s something I’ve been running from my whole life, and it’s something I’m never going to get away from. That super-logical part of my brain scoffs at me. The compassionate side of my brain tells me to find that compassion and to learn to accept it. The abused-little-girl part of my brain is terrified and all I can do is try to soothe her, to remind her that no matter what our outsides look like, our insides are nothing alike.
And it works. At least until I hear someone else say “Oh my god! You look just like your mother!” Is it true? Yes. Is it flattering? If only they knew.
This is one aspect of the frugality my mother and grandmother taught me that has actually stuck. It’s so very hard to for me to pay a lot of money for something. Why pay hundreds of dollars for clothes? You’ll end up either never wearing them, or being too afraid to do anything in them while wearing them.
$40k for a car? No way. My car is a 1994 Sunbird, one that I bought brand new, and even though it’s definitely showing its age, it’s also paid for. Has been for over a decade. But even when I do get a new car? Something under $20. $15k if I can manage it. It’s just a car. It gets me from here to there and back again.
I flip through the pages of the shiny magazines at the store, and marvel over the $2,000 handbag or the $400 shoes. Apparently, I am of the peasant class – stocky, happy to grub in the dirt and grow my own food. I’m thrilled beyond belief with a $7 pair of fleece pants that keep my legs warm in the winter.
It’s not about comfort, or class. It’s about choosing to spend the money on the things that are important to me. A really good steak is worth the $30 price tag, because I savor it and know it’s a special treat. Spending a hundred bucks on a good pair of hiking boots? Totally worth it, because they need to last through the abuse I’m going to put them through.
It’s a problem though, in this day of the disposable everything. There’s a fine line between spending $1200 for button-up shirt, and spending $500 a year on clothes because they only last three months before falling apart. It’s really the mark of a spoiled society – that we have the means and time to ponder such things, when our grandmothers knew the value of a dollar far more intimately than we do today.
Haute? Not in my world. Comfortable? Happy? Absolutely.
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Watching her fly used to be such an innocent thing. I remember when she would gleefully follow me into some mischief or another. We’d gang up on our younger brother in the pool, or watch MTV in the summer, dancing around in the living room or making weird choreography to go with the music. She would laugh and smile and dance with her arms outstretched, but there was always that smoldering underneath the happiness.
“Feisty” my grandfather used to call her. “Trouble,” would come the knowing response from my grandmother. She and I lost our common ground as teenagers, when she started hanging with people I had no interest in. There were the rare moments of sisterhood, then we would spin apart. I was content to fly just above the ground. She wanted to fly high enough to get away from it all.
Now, years later, it’s hard to watch her. A marriage broken, two kids clinging at her legs, living at home again with our mother. She is tethered, back against a wall, and the anger is rising up.
She says she isn’t an alcoholic. She gets angry when you try to talk to her. She puts on a show for the world to see, but under Jack’s blanket, she is angry, abusive, alone. Alone. She feels so alone, that the world has done nothing but shit on her. Her life has fallen apart while everyone else is happy and fulfilled and has everything they ever wanted. So she sits in her bedroom, trying to find the heights one more time in the bottom of a bottle.
Her wings are tattered, the wax that holds them together melting drop by drop into the abyss below. She is falling and she doesn’t even know it.
*****Voting is now open for this week's round - if you liked my entry, please vote for me. I'm in tribe two!*****
It's time to cull the BPAL stash. I'd love for these to go to someone who wants them. They have been stored properly, in a cool, dark location. All are aged at this point, the newest being about 6 months old (up to five years old in some cases).
Shipping determined by order. Paypal accepted. I'll be updating this listing as I go through the stash; if you're interested in seeing what happens with future adds, comment and I'll send you a message when the sale is updated.
BPAL – FOR SALE
Imps - $1.50, except for Limited Edition (see individual price for those)
( Listing under cut ... )
The orders come down and they say goodbye to their families. They stuff their lives into a duffel bag, their feet into their boots and they go. They march through sand, through jungles, through snow and ice. They do it because they had no other options, because they want to someday go to college, because they want to fight, because they want to protect their country.
The reasons don’t really matter. What matters is that they go.
Most of them don’t talk about it after. My grandfather rarely did. My biological father refuses to even acknowledge his time in ‘Nam. For some, it’s a code – what happened there stays there. For others, it’s self-defense at its most basic level – if you don’t think it, the nightmares won’t come.
My uncle didn’t have the chance to talk about it. My great-uncle and cousin and the boy I grew up with never had the chance. Their marching orders took them to their deaths. They get sent home in a bag, a flag draped across their bodies and we cry. We mourn. We are proud of them. We are angry at them.
They serve. Some die. Some live. And for almost all of them, if the call comes again in the middle of the night, if they are needed, if we are threatened, they will say goodbye to their families, stuff their lives into a duffel bag, and go and do what they have to do.
The reasons don’t really matter. What matters is that they serve.
Voting is now open for this week's round - if you liked my entry, please vote for me. I'm in tribe two!
The word - the intention - has been on my mind for a couple of months now. Several have been picked up, chewed on, thought about, and gently set down again. I am cautious in my choosing, not wanting to invite unpleasant side effects in. Frugality could lead to the loss of work, simplicity to a brain injury, plenty could be plenty of strife.
Yes, I am somewhat paranoid about this. But while there are aspects to all of these words that felt right to me, none of them were Right.
In the dark, at ritual, meditating on the gifts that I can offer to other people. Meditating on the gifts that others offer to me. There are the tangible things that are so plentiful and so miserly at the same time, but my mind kept straying back to something more. Smiles, laughter. A good meal, throwing open the door to welcome others in. Conversation and tea, brownies and tears, companionship in the dark night looking at the space station flies overhead, hysterical laughter while drying the dishes.
I thought about what I wanted from the new year - progress on the work I've already begun, yes. Deeper work, deeper relationships. Joy, happiness, security. And I sat in the dark and asked what was at the root of all these things, what supports them, drives them forward?
As the meditation ended, I had found my word, my intention for the new year. There was supposed to be a big ritual for myself to say it but, as with so many things in my life, the ritual was just there in the most mundane of moments. In the kitchen (oh, my magic-filled kitchen), stirring the stew, checking the bread, chatting with mom about Christmas lights and my niece. The call wound down and I, out of nowhere, say:
"I love you, mom." She responded immediately. "I love you too." But what made my breath catch was that she sounded surprised to hear it. Surprised to hear her daughter say those words.
Yes, came the whisper. You begin to see.
The cards sit next to me. Pull one for the year, one to get a sense of what the year will hold. 2 of Pentacles. Balance in all things, in work, in money, in love, in self. Balance between the inner and the outer. Balance between high ritual and simply stirring the stew.
Balance, and to get there, Love.
Balance. Love. Love. Balance.
Yes, comes the whisper. You begin to see.
Imagine a world where these headlines don’t automatically cause a brouhaha:
’Mom and Dad, I’m Gay’- How to Plan a Coming Out Party For Your Daughter or Son
Hemp revenues add $50 billion to California economy
Westboro Baptist Church quietly closes after years of shunning by nation
Right To Die Act passes peacefully in House; Senate promises swift vote
BP completes transition to biomass and solar production
Southern Baptist Association of Churches launches ‘Befriend a Muslim’ program
Vatican reverses position on contraceptives, allows priests to marry
President Elizabeth Westfall elated after passage of the Marriage Equality Act
* * * * *
Another week, another bit of writing, another round of voting. If you enjoyed my entry this week and feel so inclined, I would appreciate your vote to keep me in the game for a while longer.
Come away oh human child
to the waters and the wild,
with a fairy hand in hand
for the world’s more full of weeping,
than you can understand
I was seven when I first came across the term changeling. My heart leapt when I understood what the word meant. It made so much sense to me. I would sneak outside and lie on my back in the grass, trying to imagine what woodland faeries would look like, what it would be like to slip through the forest, to run along the river with them. To feel like I belonged.
I aged. I stood apart from the rest of my family. I read books, they watched low-brow television. I wrote stories about far-off places while my younger sister snuck out to drink. I learned the constellations and desperately wanted a telescope for Christmas. Instead, I got a subscription to YM Magazine and a gift certificate for acrylic nails.
I did not believe because I could not see
though you came to me in the night
when the dawn seemed forever lost
you showed me your love in the light of the stars
When I was fifteen, I stumbled across a book that talked about honoring nature, of working with the elements, of finding magic in the land and sea and sky. I felt something inside me shift, then settle. My family went to church on Sunday morning and came home and screamed and fought on Sunday afternoon. I snuck outside and cast circles and prayed to the gods.
I aged again. I was the nerd at school, the one who sang in all the choirs and founded the environmental club. The one who was
sometimes so starved for affection that she let boys go farther than she should have. The one who lay awake at night, crying, wondering when the faeries would come and take her home. The one who tried so hard to find something to believe in.
Long as the day in the summer time
Deep as the wine dark sea
I'll keep your heart with mine.
Till you come to me
Years passed. I fell in love. I gathered every bit of courage I could scrape together and left everything behind because I believed in that love. I flew two thousand miles to a place where the woods grow green, to a place where the water and the wild exist. I found the faeries. They asked me what had taken me so long.
I had come home.
Another week, another bit of writing, another round of voting. If you enjoyed my entry this week and feel so inclined, I would appreciate your vote to keep me in the game for a while longer.
I’ve been with you longer than you know.
I’m so tired now. My trunk aches from picking up all your secrets. My legs are tired from carrying their weight. My skin has hardened from all the anger, all the fear and rage that your secrets carry with them.
I wear all of your scars too.
It wouldn’t be so hard to let some of them go. Let them fall to the ground, let them turn to bone, white in the sun. You can go back and touch them, touch the bones of your memories, to remember where you come from, but you do not have to carry them.
I should not have to carry them.
I want to rest now. So many years together, and you have never seen me, never thanked me for what I do for you. I’ve flapped my ears at you, I’ve thundered about the room trying to get your attention. But you talk pleasantly of the weather, of what you’re watching on TV tonight. You don’t look at me; you don’t talk about what lies between us.
And until you set me free or die, I will never find my own peace.
“It’s a trap.”
I snarled and considered my options. Luke, the half-elven ranger, stood beside me as we surveyed the room. The trap wasn’t obvious, but we knew it was there. A sudden release of poison, or a stone that triggered the release of a dozen arrows that would shred through our bodies in seconds. Our thief had gone down three rooms ago, victim to a basilisk that had come around the corner as he led the party through the dark tunnels.
Dark doesn’t matter when a basilisk catches your gaze.
“You’re sooooo screwed!” The chortle of laughter came from that very thief, where he sat sprawled next to the DM, looking over his shoulder at the papers and sheets spread out in front of him. “Can you just kill them now?" he whined. "I want some pizza!”
“Shut up, Curtis.” Luke and I spoke simultaneously, our thighs brushing together as he shifted.
I glanced at him and smiled, then pulled a set of dice out of a hand-sewn silk bag. They were my favorite set – carved from mahogany, worked with linseed oil until they gleamed, with the markings set in silver. I loved these dice. These dice never failed me, getting me through one adventure after the other, sometimes by the skin of my teeth, but still … these dice were legendary in our gaming circle.
I cast them, watching as they spun across the map.
“Ouch,” said Brian, our esteemed Dungeon Master. “A trap door opens beneath you both, sending you plummeting to the floor. You might have survived the fall, except that the floor was covered with eight-foot titanium-forged spikes.”
Curtis let out a whoop and ran for the phone. He hit the speed-dial and within minutes was placing an order for an extra-large sausage, mushroom, and onion pizza, extra everything. I sat there, stunned at the abrupt end of the game.
“It’s okay,” Luke said, reaching out to touch my arm. I tried to ignore the shiver that his brief touch sent through me, still focusing on the complete and utter failure of my dice. “It was a lame game anyway,” he said under his breath so that Brian, who was now arguing with Curtis over anchovies, couldn’t hear him. “I mean, come on? Who allows a mage to morph into Tiamat and then get blasted by the real Tiamat?” Our mage was now sitting on the couch, reading through the new edition of the Player’s Guide, no doubt studying cantrips and spells for the next game.
I nodded as I gathered up my notebook and dice. Luke did the same, stuffing his into his bag. “So,” he said, not looking at me. “Want to go outside for a bit? We could watch for the pizza guy.”
“Sure,” I replied, just as casually. “I could use some air anyway.”
We gathered up the money from the pizza and headed out the front door. It was a beautiful night, the Milky Way shining overhead, the stars occasionally winking out as a bat flew in search of its own dinner.
We walked down the staircase to the parking lot, and sat on one of the benches there. We didn’t talk much, just a few comments about Mr. Hernandez’s history class, or the upcoming midterms. I wasn’t sure why he had even asked me out there, unless it really was just to wait for the pizza guy.
Just then, a shooting star went by, huge and bright against the night sky. We both watched it, our heads tilted back as we watched its long arc off into the horizon. “Wow!” I said, turning to smile at Luke.
Our gazes locked. I felt my heart pounding, saw him lick his lips slightly. And then we were kissing, kissing in that hot, wet way that only two hormonally-fueled, totally uncool, D&D-playing teenagers can kiss. The kiss lasted for what seemed like forever, but in reality was more like 30 seconds. Then a pair of headlights flashed over us and we darted apart, suddenly overcome with guilt. A car door opened, and then closed. “Hey, are you the guys waiting for pizza?”
“Yeah,” Luke said, and got up to go pay the guy. We got the pizza and walked back inside, carefully not looking at each other, not touching for the rest of the night.
I come from a long line of Southern women. Strong women. Crazy women. Feisty women.
Women who cook.
One of my greatest regrets was that I only learned to love cooking after I moved to New York, far away from that line of women. Before I had the chance to realize what those moments in the kitchen meant to me, they started dying. An aunt, then a cousin, and then my grandmother. And suddenly, all that cooking was gone with them.
I asked my mom to find their recipe books, to make copies, to send me what was left. I craved my Nanny’s chess pie, my Aunt Helen’s canned grean beans, my cousin Laura’s hushpuppies. But there are no recipes, my mother told me. They just cooked, they didn’t need recipes.
I’ve spent the last ten years trying to recreate those dishes, wandering through my memories, remember family gatherings and the food those women would make. My grandmother would cook a kind of Mexican spaghetti on the weekends when I would pop over for a surprise visit. She was one of those women who created meals from whatever was in the pantry – there was no going out to the store for special ingredients just to make a meal. I spent over two years deconstructing that dish – trying version after version, taking away ingredients here and there, and adding new ones. I finally hit on a close version but it still wasn’t quite the same. It wasn’t hers.
Her pea salad was a bit easier. I was so very close – and I finally got it right when my mother sent me a can of peas from the grocery store near my grandmother’s house. They didn’t sell that brand up here, and apparently, that’s what it needed for everything to click.
It’s become more and more apparent, though, that no matter how much I take the recipes apart and put them back together again, it’s just not the same. My cornbread and milk just isn’t the same because I’m not eating it while sitting at the dining table with my grandfather late at night, the house dark and silent everywhere but the kitchen. He didn’t take the leftover cornbread from supper, crumble it into a glass, and pour milk over it. He didn’t hand me the long teaspoon to eat it with.
My fried catfish just isn’t the same because my grandmother didn’t spend Saturday at the pond, three fishing rods set out before her, as she contentedly whiled away the day just fishin’. It just isn’t the same because my grandfather didn’t clean them out back, or carefully pick out the bones before giving me my plate.
It’s the same story with the wilted lettuce and onions, the squash casserole, the fried green tomatoes. I’ve tried making them, I’ve spent hours tearing the process apart and trying to rebuild it. But there’s that one, vital ingredient missing – my family.
I’ll keep trying though. I’ll mutter when the cornbread is too sweet, when the chicken fried steak is too tough, or when the potato soup is too runny. I’ll keep trying because even in those moments of frustration, the women of my family are in the kitchen with me. Even if they are laughing at me.
Especially if they are laughing at me.
***** This is my entry for therealljidol - I hope you enjoy it. If you did enjoy it, I would appreciate your vote so that I can move forward with the competition! *****
I dreamt of dragons for the first time when I was five.
screaming in the bedroom, walls shaking, feet stomping, hiding under the blankets
It was a childlike dream in every way. Cartoon-colored dragons bumbled over a grassy meadow, their big eyes blinking at me as they flapped their wings. They were like carousel creatures, even though I had only seen carousels on TV. They were cheerful, friendly. The perfect antidote to terror.
more shouting, hiding the gun, waiting for the cops to arrive, bundled up in blankets on the way to grandma’s house
I remember curling up next to a bright blue dragon. He extended his wing over me, the softest blanket I had ever felt. He purred like a cat, little puffs of smoke escaping his nostrils and I slept without nightmares that night.
fighting with my mother, pots and pans being thrown at me, a fist punching through the wall.
The dragons only came to my dreams when I needed them. They changed as I aged, from the cute and bumbling creatures of my early years, to something more predatory. The bright blue dragon was always there, although his hide became more of a midnight blue in my teenage years. I started reading books about dragons, both fiction and mythology. I studied their strength, their cunning. I wondered where they could possibly be hiding in the deserts of West Texas.
Standing up for myself. Fighting back. Reclaiming my own power. Leaving.
I remember the last dragon dream so clearly. I was standing in my parent’s backyard, anxious and crying after yet another horrific fight. I was looking up at the night sky and I heard a whisper. Come with us. I leapt to the top of the fence, then to the top of the roof, and then into the sky. I felt the wings flowing out from my body, felt my skin harden, the spines erupting from my forehead. There was a whole group of dragons in the night sky, but I found my dragon almost immediately. We flew onward, for what seemed like hours. We were flying under a full moon, and I could see that we were flying over a heavily wooded area. We came over a hill and there was a huge lake below, so clear that the moon was perfectly reflected in its surface. The blue dragon looked over at me, his eyes shining like stars. I felt powerful. Safe. And for the first time in my life, I felt truly hopeful.
And then we dove into that beautiful lake, and it was nothing but stars.
Sun in Cancer:
Learned at a young age that self-defense, both physically and emotionally, sometimes means going numb. Has learned to open up again over the years. Protective instincts are high for those she cares about, and the innocent.
Moon in Leo
The moon represents our deepest personal needs, our basic habits and reactions, and our unconscious. Lunar Leos often feel a need to organize, and even control, their families and friends. They can be rather lazy at times, and a little bossy too.
Tends to be quiet in the early days of relationships. Then can become domineering. Will take charge if no other dominant personalities are present. Internal need to organize hampered by prior diagnosis of ADD (Choi, 2008).
Mercury in Cancer
In modern times, we tend to “meet” people’s Mercury first. You can bet that Mercury in Cancer natives will remember almost anything – from their own past, to your conversation two months ago. You might notice their memory is a little skewed in the direction of emotion. The truth is, these people remember the mood surrounding all the moments they have stored in their memory. This is because they ‘feel you out’ when you are talking to them. The words are not as important to them as the emotions behind them.
Memory issues are fascinating. Will forget easily where she put her keys or what is next on her to-do list, but can recall events that are tied to emotions with remarkable detail. Can give the appearance of not paying attention, but will surprise you later with observations.
Venus in Gemini
Venus in Gemini people will try to win over the object of their affection with witty conversation, displaying just how much they ‘know,’ and demonstrating their diverse interests.
Eclectic interests over a wide range of subjects. Tends to become immersed in a certain topic until she requires a certain level of expertise, then moves on to the next subject. Can lend to a distracted quality, but also plays to innate intelligence.
Mars in Leo
Mars rules our animal instincts for aggression, anger, and survival. Impatient with small-mindnessness and disloyalty, Mars in Leo natives generally have a strong idealistic streak. They easily get fired up when they feel they’ve been humiliated, and they defend their high principles with ardor.
Passionate about many issues. Tends to be unconventional in personal philosophies. Not physically aggressive, but can be verbally blunt to the point of being offensive. Slow to become angry, but has the potential for disturbing thoughts past a certain point. Tempered by compassionate qualities found in most Cancerians.
More often than not, Capricorn rising individuals are success stories. Their childhoods may have been difficult, but they slowly but surely turn their lives around. Saturn rules this Ascendant, and this generally means a kind of backwards way of living--as children, they are serious and bear a lot of responsibility; and as they grow up, they age beautifully, learning how to loosen up.
Comes from a dysfunctional family. Forced to grow up at a very young age. Despite early obstacles, displays a warm, if dry, sense of humor and appreciation of whimsy.
Advocate’s notes: Patient is ongoing in her work in understanding her life and her place in the world. Creative outlets tend toward the written word, or in activities that provide a grounding effect. Most accurately described at this stage as a work-in-progress.