Sunday, October 4, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
"How are you doing today, Evayln?" the nurse inquired, flipping through a butt load of papers clipped to a clipboard.
How could you seriously ask a question like that in a place like this, at a time like this, in a situation like this? What do they teach nurses nowadays? That really sounded like something my mom would say. "Fine," I said. That was a lie. Honestly, I felt like crap. I was sore all over and I just felt really weak, not to mention the fact I was covered in bandages and hospital-style band-aids.
"So, Evalyn..." the nurse stumbled over my name, still flipping through her papers. Just because it's different doesn't mean you have to treat it like some invading alien from Mars. I was tempted to yell this at her. She read my personal information aloud,"It says here that you're 18, turning 19 in a week. Your father died when you were seven and your mother went to Africa on a mission trip and hasn't come back, she left... oh, last year, I'm sorry." Yeah, right. "Do you remember any of this?"
"Yeah, yes I do." It was a bit fuzzy but I remember.
"Okay, just making sure. Evalyn, you suffered severe trauma to the head in a car crash, do you remember that? You stepped right in front of an SUV."
"No, I didn't! There was a boy, he hdad a balloon and it blew away, then I saw a car coming so I pushed him out of the way, I just couldn't get out of the way of the car."
"Oh, well, I haven't heard that part of the story but I bet you were some hero to that little boy, you saved his life." I hate it when people act like they believe you just to make you feel better. it's just another way of saying, 'I dont' care what you're saying, i don't believe you, shut up, kid! ... "This paper says..." her voive droned on, I zoned out for a bit. I heard the words, 'severe' and 'head damage' and I think I heard the word 'chocolate' in there. It was all just a big mass of fuzz. then I fell asleep.
I woke up to the not so melodious voice of the nurse singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen. I think I might've startled her because when she saw that I was awake she ducked her head and scurried out of the room. Bored, I looked around the room. I looked at the drab sheets i was lying on and the bed covers twisted around my legs, I intwisted them. A boring tray of boring breakfast sat atop a boring metal table along with my phone and a suspicious looking note. Curious, I reached for the note and opened it quietly. It said my name on ot. It was the bucket list I had written before my father died. I played back my writing it. A little seven year old girl sitting at the dining table with her dad, so full of life, bithe writing:
- See Mona Lisa... check, I thought.
- Ride and elephant... check
- Go scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef... check
- Dance the tango in Argentina... not yet
- Bathe in the Ganges... check
- Spend the day in the jungle... check
- Kiss under the Eiffel Tower... not unless you count your mom
- Get married in Japan with cherry blossoms blowing in the breeze... if only...if only
- Shake five famous people's hands... check
- Live with a native African... check
- Get my portrait painted... check
- Be and extra in a film... check
- Cross the country on a bike... check
- Perform a great song in front of an audience... check
- Ride the world's tallest rollercoaster... check
That had been so long ago. I had always hoped to finish every single one. that was my lifelong dream. I had never realized how lonely I was until i got to the hospital. Even when my mother left, Jane was there. jane had been my best friend since preschool.
My childhood reminiscions were broken by the nurse saying,
"Good news, Evalyn! I just had a talk with the doctor and he said everything's looking okay, so unless anything happens like you feel numb or dizzy, you can leave tomorrow." I hate it when people talk to me like I'm a kid.
I reaached for my phone. I had fifteen voicemail messages and twenty-seven missed calls, all from Jane. it crossed my mind once or twice that I should've called her a bit sooner. I sat there listening to my friend's frantic voice,
"Evalyn! What happened? Are you all right? I tried to come and see you but the nurses wouldn't let me! Ivan has been so scared for you. Call me when you can." Ivan was Jane's pesky Persian cat. There were fourteen messages, all similar.
After about one and a half minutes of contemplation i decided to call her back. The dial tone was loud and obnoxious making my head ache; she finally picked up.
"Hey Janey, it's me..."
"Evalyn? Oh my gosh! I can't believe it's you! It's so good to finally hear your voice!" Funny 'cause I've barely said anything. "How are you? What happened? Did you sue that driver? I swear, if I ever see anyone texting or anything and driving I'll..."
"Jane, I'm okay! I just got a few scraped and a little bonk on the head."
"Well, are you sure? 'Cause if I-"
"Really, I'm fine! I just was told, I could leave tomorrow so, could you come pick me up?"
"Oh sure! Of course I can, sweetie! I'll come and get you after breakfast. You hang in there, okay?"
"Okay! Bye, Janey!"
"All right, I'll see you in the mornin'! Bye!"
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Almost black in its darkness
so shocking against her carmel hair
Where was the source?
Her apologetic eyes flew to mine
I'm making a mess
Make it stop
That's what she said.
"Most likely it was a tumor."
The drip of blood clung to her nose
remaining there until it grew too heavy to
I watched it fall
until the floor stopped it.
A perfect circle
but for the tiny tendrils
"It's better this way.
The end is never good."
Words given to silence the question:
Am I doing the right thing?
With a snort the blood
across the glass door.
Was she in pain?
How do I make it stop?
If she'd been human I'd know.
"There's too much blood for it to be
No matter what, there's
to be done."
That's how the end came
"I can handle her,"
"You don't need to be with me.
Sometimes it's best to remember them
This is how I said
I felt the tears gathering
until they grew too heavy
Friday, August 7, 2009
If only I had known what was going to happen. If only a certain man didn’t forget his coat. If only a certain lady got decaf instead of waiting for some regular to brew. Or maybe if the wind hadn’t stolen a child’s balloon as he was walking across the street. If only a wife hadn’t checked a text she got from her husband in Iraq while driving. If only I didn’t walk out the door to see what happened. Or, maybe if I didn’t wake up at all this morning. I could’ve known. If I had known that at the same moment all those people would come together. If I had known that the man who forgot his coat was an ambulance driver, and the woman who decided to wait for her coffee was a nurse, and the boy was about to get hit by the woman who decided to check the text he got from her husband in Iraq, and if I didn’t see that that boy was going to get hit by a car, this wouldn’t have happened.
“How are you doing today, Evalyn?” the nurse inquired, flipping through a butt load of papers clipped to a clipboard.
How could you seriously ask that sort of a question in a place like this, in a time like this, in a situation like this? What do they teach nurses nowadays? That really sounded like something my mom would say. “Fine,” I said. That was a lie. Every inch of my body was in pain. I couldn’t tell for sure what was wrong with me, but I knew I was in great pain and covered head to toe in bandages.
“So, Evalyn…” the nurse stumbled over my name still looking through her papers. Just because it’s different doesn’t mean you have to treat it like some strange invading alien, I was tempted to yell at her. She read my personal information, “It says here that you are 18, turning 19 in May, a month. Your father died when you were 7 and your mother went to Africa on a mission trip and never came back when you were…oh, last year. Do you remember any of this?”
“Yeah, yes, I do.” It was a bit fuzzy but I remember.
“Okay, just making sure. Evalyn, you suffered severe trauma to the head in a car crash, do you remember that? You stepped right in front of an SUV.”
“No, I didn’t! There was a boy, he had a balloon but it blew away, then I saw a car coming and I pushed him out of the way but got in the way of the car.”
“Oh, well, I haven’t heard that story but it sounds like you really saved the day…” I hate it when people act like they believe you just to make you feel good. It’s just another way of saying I don’t care what you’re saying, I don’t believe you, shut up, kid! … This paper says…” her voice droned on, I zoned out for a bit. I heard the words severe and head damage and I think I heard the word chocolate somewhere in there. It was all just a mass of fuzz. Then I fell asleep.
I woke up the next morning to the not quite so melodious voice of the nurse singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen . I think I might’ve startled her because when she saw that I was awake, she ducked her head and scurried out of the room. I looked around the room. I looked at the ugly curtains covering the dirty window. I looked at the drab sheets I was lying on and bed covers twisted around my legs, I untwisted them. A boring tray of boring breakfast sat atop a boring metal table along with my phone and a suspicious looking note. Curious, I reached for the note and opened it quietly. It said my name on it. It was the bucket list I had written before my father died. I played back my writing it in my head seven years ago:
1. See Mona Lisa… check, I thought.
2. Ride an elephant… check
3. Go scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef… check
4. Dance the tango in Argentina… not yet
5. Bathe in the Ganges… check
6. Spend the day in the jungle… check
7. Kiss under the Eiffel Tower… not unless you count your mom
8. Get married in Japan with cherry blossoms floating in the breeze… if only… if only
9. Shake five famous people’s hands… check
10. Live with a native African… check
11. Get my portrait painted…check
12. Be an extra in a film… check
13. Cross the country on a bike… check
14. Perform a great song in front of an audience… check
15. Ride the world’s tallest rollercoaster… check
That had been so long ago. I had always hoped to finish every single one. That was my lifelong dream. I had never realized how lonely I was 'til I got to the hospital. Even after mother left, Jane was there. Jane had been my friend since we were five years old. Then the silent thought of reliving my childhood dream was broken by my nurse's voice saying, "Good news, Evalyn! I just had a talk with the doctor and he said everything's looking okay, so unless anything bad happens, like you start seeing things or you get dizzy, you're free to go tomorrow." I hate it when people talk to me like I'm a kid.
I reached for my phone. I had fifteen voicemail messages and twenty-seven missed calls, all from Jane. It crossed my mind once or twice that I should've called her earlier, but I just sat there and listened to my frantic friend's voice,
"Evalyn! What happened? Are you all right? I tried to come see you but the doctor stopped me! Ivan has been so scared for you. Call me when you can." Ivan was her pesky Persian cat. There were fourteen other messages, all similar.
After about two minutes of contemplation I decided to call her back. The dial tone was loud and obnoxious making my head ache; she finally picked up.
"Hey Janey, it's me..."
"Evalyn? Oh my gosh! I can't believe it's you! It's so good to finally hear your voice! How are you? What happened? Did you sue that driver? I swear, if I ever see anyone texting while they're driving or doing anything on their phone, I'll..."
"Jane, I'm okay! I just got a little bonk on the head and a few little scrapes."
"Well, are you sure 'cause I swear if I-"
"Really, I'm fine. I just was told that I could leave tomorrow so, could you come pick me up?"
"Oh, sure! Of course I can, sweetie! I'll come and get you after breakfast. You hang in there, okay."
"I'll try; the nurse is getting on my nerves."
"Well, you tell me if that nurse gets on your nerves anymore, 'cause if she does-"
"All right, I'll see you in the mornin’! Bye!"
When Jane finally got there it was around ten-thirty, an hour late. Do you know how long an hour is when you’ve been in a hospital bed for two nights? She claimed she had tried to bring Ivan, but the nurses said it’d be a health issue to most patients to have an allergen and pet dander infested animal in a hospital. So, she had to take Ivan all the way back home then come all the way back here. It was a very time consuming thing.
On the way home Jane suggested that I live at her house for a while, at least a month until my head healed. I had to agree that it was probably a health hazard to live in my tiny, cramped excuse for a home, so I quickly packed the essentials: clothes, toothbrush, piano music, etc..
“Where do you want to go for dinner?” Jane said, helping me put the last of my clothes into a dresser in her spare room.
“I don’t know, you choose.” I didn’t care as long as it wasn’t hospital food.
Jane spotted my bucket list and, I’m guessing, the first thing she saw was ‘tango in Argentina’. “How about Argentinean?”
The food was good; it was l lot like Mexican food. It was a pretty fun dinner, until Jane asked a random guy (not only random but so freakin’ adorable, no, that sounds like a teddy bear, sexy is too promiscuous high schooler… cute, I think would be the appropriate word here) if he wanted to dance with me. She said it’d be good for me. I never forgot how we spun around the dance floor, passion exploding underneath each step, each move, a flurry of emotion especially one particular emotion. His dark wavy hair caught the light and his deep blue eyes turned into flames.
When it came time to leave, I didn’t want to go. My dance partner didn’t want me to leave either.
“Wait, when can I see you again? My name is Bryce.” He sounded so shy.
“Evalyn…” he seemed to taste my name. “How about tomorrow at two. I’ll meet you on the bridge.”
“Okay.” I was so excited, I knew that the moment I got to my room, the first thing I would do is pick out an outfit to wear. Try on everything. And that’s what I did.
I expected my first date to be nerve wracking and scary, but it all seemed calm as the stream flowing underneath our feet as we stood on the bridge. It felt like the way it should be.
“So…” Bryce started. “What do you like?”
“Well, there are a lot of things I like. I like to play the piano. My favorite colors are green, blue and pink. I like Shakespeare, dramatic and sappy love stories, popcorn, Paris, movies, and you.”
“Well, maybe a bit more.” We both laughed. The sound of his laugh made me smile. I was unimaginably happy around him, and I had only known him one day. It seemed as if Time had been waiting for us to meet. When I got back to Janey’s house that night I was glad to get rid of one more thing on my list. Two more things left, I thought.
After that we went on two more dates, both at his apartment. We had to tell Jane we were going to some place really safe so she didn’t freak out. I told him about my recent accident and how I never noticed how lonely I was until I found him. We had kissed many times on our dates but this kiss defeated them all. It started like this: Janey went to another friend’s house leaving me with a mountain-like pile of emergency numbers. I got a call around ten ‘o clock from Bryce. He asked to come over. I said it was okay, my curiosity growing like a weed. It was perfect that tonight Jane’s friend asked her to come over.
He got to Jane’s house about ten minutes later with a handful of daisies (my favorite flower) and a present wrapped in pink, green, and blue in the crook of his arm. He handed me the package, I opened it and it was a metal wire sculpture of the Eiffel Tower that he made himself for me. I loved it so much I started crying. I went to get a vase of water for the daisies while Bryce hung the Eiffel Tower on the wall. Then we looked at each other we knew what was going to happen. Then it happened. Emotions erupted like fireworks. It felt almost like a dream. The best dream I had ever had; swallowed up in passion and love, the best sort of obsession, a great power amidst an ocean of peace. Then I felt dizzy, a nauseous sort of dizzy. I cried at the thought of ending such a perfect moment. Perfect doesn’t exist, not in this world. I sat down slowly and tried just breathing heavily, I couldn’t even concentrate on that. Any little light at all just sent a raging pain to my head, like a bullet. I couldn’t find the strength to even sit up; it was like my body forgot how to run itself. I heard the saddest sound you could ever hear, the sound of someone you love so, so much in tears. I managed to slip the words, “it’s okay,” from my lips. Then darkness overcame me.
I woke up early in the morning in the hospital again to the feeling of Bryce softly caressing my hand in his. I rolled onto my side to see him better. For a moment I forgot what he looked like it was so relieving to see his face again but not like this. His eyes were red and puffy and his cheeks were damp from tears. I had seen a lot of sad things in my life but this outweighed them all. A heavy, thick tear rolled slowly down my cheek and onto his face. “It’s okay,” I said stroking his hair like I always imagined doing to my children after being stung by a bee or falling off their bike. “It’s okay.”
When Bryce woke up I couldn’t describe all the things I saw in his eyes. I saw love, I saw sadness, but I saw hope. Then the doctor came in. His eyes weren’t as reassuring. He looked like he had just been woken up from a really good dream, and it must’ve been some amazing dream.
“I have news,” he said, “would you like it the nice way or the plain way?”
We both just stared at him with sore eyes.
“You have little more than a day to live. You are free to leave the hospital but, there’s nothing more we can do. I’m sorry…”
The rest of his words were lost to me. There was nothing else I could think about. What will happen to Bryce when I go? He didn’t move at all, in shock in pensive distress as I clung to his arm, weeping.
A few hours later after we had gotten over the worst of our tears we were still at the hospital and Bryce turned to me grasping my shoulders he kneeled and said,
“Evalyn, I wanted to ask you this ever since we danced for the first time, Evalyn, will you marry me? I… I don’t have a ring or anything but just, Evalyn, marry me! I… I’m sorry I…”
He couldn’t say anything more because right then I started kissing him. I held his face in my hands and said,
“Yes. Yes Bryce, I will! I love you so much!”
The wedding was always as I pictured it. Not too fancy. I carried a bouquet of daises as I walked up the aisle. The main color was yellow. It was not in Japan but that’s how I saw it; bright green dewy grass sparkling in the sun, cherry tree blossoms blowing in the wind. Everyone was there Jane, Bryce, of course, mom, dad, Ivan, and anyone I ever knew all came. It was the middle of May.
I closed my eyes and instead of black, I saw the brightest white. Like the color white Jesus wore when he ascended into heaven. I said, “It’s okay,” softly back to Earth. Then I let go.
If only I had known what was going to happen. If only a certain man didn’t forget his coat. If only a certain lady got decaf instead of waiting for some regular to brew. Or maybe if the wind hadn’t blown a child’s balloon so it didn’t fly away in his process of walking across the street. If only a wife hadn’t checked a text she got from her husband in Iraq while driving. If only I didn’t walk out the door to see what happened. Or, maybe if I didn’t wake up at all that morning. I could’ve known. If I had known that at the same moment all those people would come together. If I had known that the man who forgot his coat was an ambulance driver, and the woman who decided to wait for her coffee was a nurse, and the boy was about to get hit by the wife who decided to check the text he got from her husband in Iraq, and if I didn’t see that that boy was going to get hit by a car this wouldn’t have happened. But then, if it didn’t happen even though I died, I wouldn’t have lived.
Retold By Myria Davis-Green
Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a handsome Prince Charming. The Prince was very lonely with only his beloved royal pets as company.
One day, he went riding on his favourite mare, out past the palace gates, out past the billowing fields, and into the forest over-looking the Kingdom.
As night soon began to fall, the Prince was about to turn back and head for home---where he would be safe and warm and snug in his bed, when suddenly he heard a woman scream. The Prince, being very prince-like, dashed to the damsel's aid. He followed her cries until he came upon a murky swamp. The mist had formed a thick curtain over the swamp, hiding the dangers behind the layer of fog. But the Prince was brave, so he carried on. The screaming had now been replaced by a deafening sobbing. And in a small clearing, sitting atop a stump sat the most HIDEOUS creature the Prince had ever seen!
A large green frog, covered in warts, sat crying into her long webbed hands. Fat tears slid down her green cheeks as she snorted and wept.
Now, at this time the Prince had two choices...Either he could run away and go back home to where he would be safe and warm and snug in his bed....or he could take a chance and ask the frog why she was crying. Well, the Prince was still a Prince! And as we all know, princes are honest, trustworthy, brave, kind, handsome fellows with big, open hearts.
And so, the Handsome Prince Charming walked right up to the weeping amphibian and asked in a musical voice--- "My dear lady, why are you crying so? And what could have given you such a fright that caused you to utter such a shriek?"
The green, warty frog looked up and wiped her nose. She looked at him with wide, sad eyes. And the Prince gazed into them, and felt a fluttery and bubbly feeling in the pit of his stomach. For she, the ugly frog, had the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen. They were a mixture of blues and greens and yellows and greys. Swirls and patterns told of hidden secrets and deep mysteries that maybe, just maybe, he could reveal.
"Why Mister, I am but a lowly frog, ugly and slimy, covered in warts. I uttered such a shriek on account of a happily newly wed couple, journeying through this bog on the way to their honeymoon. The bride was a beautiful princess with long, long, long, long, long, long, long hair and the groom was a handsome prince.
“You see, I am crying now because of my fate. Once, a long time ago, I was a beautiful young woman with long hair. My skin was soft and smooth and I didn't have warts or slime! I was gorgeous and men felt weak in the knees at the mere sight of me!But now, I am ugly and hideous. For you know, a Princess cannot be a princess if she is a frog!" The frog grimaced at her words and burst into tears once again.
The Handsome Prince Charming was intrigued by this strange frog princess. Surely what she said must be true! With eyes as deep and gorgeous as hers, she must be a fair maiden!
The Prince turned to comfort the weeping frog. "My fair lady, if you are truly a beautiful princess, why then are you looking as you do?"
The frog sniffed, sadly. "That story is very sad. I offended a wicked witch once. She said that a beautiful princess like me shouldn't even be a beautiful princess in the first place! So she tricked me and I bit into a poison apple which turned me into a frog!" She sobbed.
"Well, surely there is something that you can do to become a beautiful princess again! Isn't there?"
The frog princess sighed. "No, there is nothing I can do except be kissed by a Handsome Prince Charming! And why would a Handsome Prince Charming go riding out past the palace gates, past the billowing fields and into a dark forest over-looking the Kingdom?!"
Well, by now you can probably guess what was going on inside the Prince's head.The Handsome Prince Charming scooped up the little ugly frog and looked into her eyes...And kissed her, right on top of her warty head!
She gasped and a bright light flooded the forest. The Prince covered his eyes and stepped back. The light dimmed and when he opened his eyes, the ugly frog had disappeared only to be replaced by a beautiful young woman with long hair and soft, smooth skin.
The frog princess, who wasn't a frog anymore, smiled. "Thank you so much!" And she wrapped her arms around him and kissed him on the lips.
The very next day, they were wed under a gushing waterfall. And they lived happily ever after.
Or so they had thought….
The Prince and his new princess lived in the castle on top of the mountain over-looking the Kingdom. He treated his new princess just how a princess should be treated. She was lavished in treasures and jewels and prizes. The Princess ate the most brilliantly prepared meals the cooks and chefs could make and she dined under the stars on yachts and private islands. She wore only the most fashionable clothes and the cutest Prada shoes. She owned exotic pets and went to fantastic places. But above all, she was loved. The handsome Prince gave her everything she had ever wanted and more, because he loved to see her smile.
But...as time passed...the handsome Prince began to see the frog princess through different eyes. She could have been the most beautiful person in the entire world, except for one minor flaw....
SHE HAD AN UGLY PERSONALITY, ONE THAT WAS HIDDEN BEHIND A PRETTY FACE.
At first the Princess was patient and kind. But as time quickly passed, the Princess certainly didn't act like a princess anymore. She was rude and mean. Often, her temper would get the best of her and she'd yell and scream at her handsome prince...and he never ever did anything that would cause her to react in such a manner.
She was spoiled and threw temper tantrums when she didn't get her way. She lied and broke promises and did unprincess-like things.
And one day, she was stressed and angry...and so the Prince came to comfort her. He wrapped his arms around her, wanting to pull her close. And the frog princess blew up and yelled and screamed and cried. She told him to get out and never return.
And so he did.
And she never saw him again.
No one knows what happened to the handsome Prince Charming who once took a chance on an ugly frog. Some say that the Princess shattered his heart beyond repair, and that he lived alone and never spoke to anyone. Others said that he moved on and met a real princess to spend the rest of his days with.
But the Princess ignored all of the rumors. She was miserable and depressed as she waited for him to return. She dreamt of him each night and awoke believing he was beside her. She drew pictures of him and wrote down her private thoughts, hoping to show them all to him someday. When he returned.
Some say that it was the Princess’s depression that changed her. Others say that she believed that the handsome Prince Charming would come back if she could behave. Whether or not any of these assumptions were correct, we do know one thing. The Princess did change. She treated her maids and cooks kindly, never again screaming at them when they had an accident or mishap. She forgot all about her material possessions and stopped demanding the newest fashions, instead looking at the roses in the garden and admiring the little things in life. She stopped snapping at people and had a more relaxed personality. But she still grieved. She still loved her Handsome Prince Charming. Her maids, who had come to be her friends, saw how miserable she felt about that day. They heard her at night and listened to her sad cries. They watched as she drove herself mad waiting for him.
And soon, they began to be driven mad as well by her grieving. Though they were her friends, they found that they could no longer comfort her. Her pain had driven them to insanity.
And so they left her. All alone.
In the big castle over-looking the Kingdom.
And each day, she waited by her window...waiting for him to return and sweep her off her feet.
But he never did....
And she died alone, clinging to their wedding picture.
“Fred, George! We need to go inside now!!!” Kiley cried, her teeth chattering against each other. “Even my underwear is soaked!”
Fred and George just laughed, flapping their arms about as they ran.
“Live a little!” they both cried, George holding up the video camera to capture Kiley’s angry face.
“Bug off!” she yelled, highly irritated. They laughed again.
“C’mon, Kiley, they’re just having some fun,” Harry said, chuckling when Fred took a spill in a muddy puddle. Fred stood up, brushing the mud off him and grinning widely.
“Wicked,” he said before beginning to run again.
“Kiley! Kiley come out here and hold the video camera!” George cried, holding up the video camera high above his flaming red hair.
“What if I don’t want to?!?” Kiley yelled, hugging her torso and scowling. Harry kissed her lips,
“Just hold the video camera,” he said, smiling at her.
“Fine,” she growled, shedding her school robe and loosening her tie. She trudged out, her shoes squishing from the water in them. She snatched the video camera from George and held it up, the little square lighting up with the images of Fred and George running around.
“So what am I supposed to be tapping?” she asked, walking around and filming random things. She got a shot of Harry smiling, waving a little as he hugged himself. Next came Fred and George, fighting in the mud. She turned the camera around, aiming it at her face.
“This is a very exciting moment. We see the very rare, very dim witted species Weasley Twins fighting in some sort of tribal fashion. See how they……” suddenly a giant bolt of white lightning hit Kiley. She screamed as she felt the electricity course through her veins, sending her body into shock.
“Kiley!!” she heard the distant cry of Harry, his voice filled with shock and distress. Her head started to spin rapidly, her insides felt like they where about to explode. She tried to scream, but no sound came out of her mouth. It felt like her head was being compressed in one of those crushing machine. Then as soon as it had started it stopped.
Kiley sat on the warm, dry ground, clutching her head. She set the video camera she had been clutching down on her lap as she whimpered in pain.
“Are you all right?” someone asked, rushing over to help her. She shook her head, the pain growing. Everything started to go fuzzy as whoever it was picked her up and started rushing her across the grass and into the castle.
“It hurts, my head hurts, Harry,” she whispered, thinking that whoever it was helping had to be Harry.
“I know it does, I know it does,” he muttered, starting to sprint faster. She threw her arms around his neck, her head bumping painfully against his arm.
“Harry, Harry what happened?” she asked, still whispering. She felt his speed pick up again, and she wondered when he had learned to run so fast.
“I don’t know, but be quiet, don’t use anymore energy,” he said, skittering around a corner. He ran up a flight of stairs and rounded another corner. Finally they got into the infirmary.
“Madam Pomfrey?” the boy asked, shifting from foot to foot.
“Oh, hello……… dear Merlin! What happened??” a short, stout women with salt and pepper hair asked, looking up from the bed she was making.
“I’m not sure, I found her under the giant oak tree. She was clutching this thing and she was crying and whimpering.” The boy set her down on a cot gently, setting the video camera on the table next to the cot.
“Lightning, lightning,” Kiley mumbled, vaguely remembering the searing light, the unbearable pain.
“What did she say?” Madam Pomfrey asked, running over to the cot.
“She said something about lightning,” the boy answered. He sat down on the edge of the cot, his black robe billowing around him.
“Well, that’s absurd! We haven’t had a thunderstorm in weeks!” Madam Pomfrey said, looking at Kiley with surprise. “Dear, can you tell me your name?”
“Kiley,” she whispered, the pain in her head subsiding slowly.
“All right, Kiley, where does it hurt?”
“My head, but the pain is going away now,” Kiley said, trying to sit up.
“Oh, don’t do that now, dear. You just need to get some rest.” She said, gently laying Kiley back down. “Can you tell me your last name and what house you’re in?”
“Gryffindor, and which one?” Kiley said, chuckling a little.
“What do you mean?” Madam Pomfrey asked, slightly confused.
“I have two last names. I grew up with one, then found out I had a totally different one,” Kiley answered, the fuzziness in her eyes subsiding rapidly. She looked up at the ceiling, thinking that this lady should already know this. She also wondered why Harry didn’t say anything.
“Um, well, give me the one you grew up with, then.” Madam Pomfrey said, shaking her head in bewilderment.
“Riddle,” Kiley answered. The boy who was sitting on the foot of her bed snorted as Madam Pomfrey gasped.
“What?” Kiley asked, wondering if the lady didn’t know all about her past like everyone else in the Wizarding world.
“Clearly she’s confused,” the boy at the foot of her bed drawled.
“Harry, what are you talking about?” Kiley tried to sit up, but Madam Pomfrey pushed her back down.
“See? My name isn’t Harry,” the boy said, his voice sounding slightly amused.
Kiley shot up, not caring that the nurse was looking at her with disapproval.
“Then fine! Do you want my real last name?” she shot at the boy. His hair was long, jet black and greasy. He was unnaturally pale, and he had bags under his eyes from lack of sleep.
“Yes, we would like to know,” he said, looking straight into her eyes. He looks familiar, Kiley noticed with a start, but she couldn’t place who he was.
“Fine then! You both should know anyways, unless you’ve been living under a bloody rock for the past three years. It’s Snape. Speaking of which, I would LOVE to see my father and my fiancé if you wouldn’t bloody mind!!” Kiley yelled the last bit, completely furious. The boy looked taken aback as he leaned forward, pressing his face inches away from Kiley’s.
“What are you talking about?” he asked.
“My name is Kiley Snape. My father’s name is Severus Snape, the potions master here at Hogwarts and head of Slytherin house. My fiancé is Harry Potter the boy-who-lived. Now, anymore pointless, bloody questions?” Kiley spat, jerking her head away from the intensity of his gaze.
“You are lying,” he said coldly, his eyes narrowing.
“You bloody wish,” Kiley whispered, her eyes narrowing in return. She didn’t like this boy, even though he was so familiar.
“It seems that you’re the one who is doing the wishing.” The boy said, crawling closer to her. She backed up as far as she could against the metal frame. Madam Pomfrey was still in shock. Then she just walked away, shaking her head and resolving to take a nap.
“What are you talking about?” she asked, getting uncomfortable the closer he got to her. He was directly in front of her now, his legs on either side of her torso.
“My name is Severus Snape.” He whispered. He looked at her shocked eyes. Suddenly he felt a twinge in his lower stomach. What? He wondered, not taking his eyes off Kiley. I only get that when I’m with Lilly.
“No,” she breathed, looking into his ink black eyes. “No,”
“Yes,” he breathed back. There it was again, that twinge. Why did I feel so protective of her when I found her under that tree? He thought.
“That, that’s not possible, your lying.” She said, tears starting to form in her eyes.
Severus started to instantly feel regretful for making her cry. Not knowing what made him do so, he kissed her forehead and got off her.
“It’s okay, don’t cry,” he mumbled.
“I want to see Harry,” she whispered, looking at him in pure, absolute shock, her vivid green eyes going wide, and her mouth slightly ajar.
“I, I’m sorry, but no one by the name of Harry Potter goes to this school,” Severus said. He watched as her face crumpled. Tears started to slip out of her eyes, and he bit his lip. Suddenly he got an idea, “but there is a boy by the name of Potter. I’ll go get him. Don’t move!” he instructed, starting to run to the door. “Not a single muscle!” he called over his shoulder as he ran.
He ran down the hall, wondering where he would find that vile git Potter at and what in Merlin’s name was making him run around Hogwarts in an attempt to find his enemy for a girl he just met. He found Sirius and Lupin lounging around in the halls, talking and laughing.
“Do you two know where I could find Potter?” Severus asked them, not wanting to talk to them.
“Um, try the lake. He and Lilly had a date.” Lupin said, looking at Severus like he was insane. “Why?”
“Because there’s a girl in the infirmary who said she was hit by lightning and claiming I’m her father and a boy named Harry Potter is her fiancé.” Severus said, wanting to find James as soon as possible. He shifted from foot to foot impatiently.
“What?” Sirius asked, his mouth gaping open slightly.
“Yup, now I need to go, thanks,” Severus said, sprinting down the hall and out the door. He found James and Lilly walking around the lake, talking and holding hands. What surprised Severus the most was that he found he really didn’t care that Lilly was with James. All he cared about was getting back to the girl.
“Potter! POTTER!” Severus yelled, running faster. He started to hop up and down like a lunatic, waving his arms to get James’s attention.
“Sniverus!” James yelled back, wondering what was going on.
“Potter! Please come with me!” Severus yelled, running up to him and skidding to a halt in front of him.
“Were?” James asked, holding Lilly’s hand tightly. Lilly looked at Severus like he was going insane and like he was dangerous.
“The infirmary!” Severus said, shifting from foot to foot again. He didn’t want to be away from Kiley for to long, and he didn’t know why.
“Because there’s a girl who said she was hit by lightning and she was moaning and I carried her to the infirmary and she was saying that she was hit by lightning and then she said her last name was Riddle, then she said her last name was Snape and that she would like to see her father and her fiancé Harry Potter. She said her father was Severus Snape and that he was the potions master at Hogwarts and head of the Slytherin house and that her fiancé was Harry Potter the boy-who-lived whatever that means.” Severus said in a rush, pausing to breathe maybe three times. He babbled like a lunatic.
“Potter?” James asked, clearly confused.
“Yes! Now come with me!” Severus said, staring to sprint again. James had no choice but to follow him, Lilly running behind him. They past Sirius and Lupin and James signaled them to come with them. Severus ran faster, wanting to see if Kiley had done anything stupid while he was gone. This is insane! He though as he began to envision what all she could have done.
“How old is she?” James yelled as he ran.
“Our age!” Severus yelled back.
“I think Snivellus has found himself a love!” Sirius called, starting to skip ahead of James and Lilly. James laughed,
Severus just ignored them. He was a good yard ahead off them when he skidded into the infirmary. Kiley was just sitting there on the cot, her wand out as she manifested two pretty red birds. They flitted around her as her face lit up.
“Did you find him? Did you find Harry?” she asked, getting up and waving her hand. The birds disappeared in bright pink smoke. She made a face as she muttered pink under her breathe.
“No, but I found a Potter!” Severus said, running over to her and standing in front of her.
James, Lilly, Sirius, and Lupin came running in then, huffing and puffing from so much running.
“Sirius? Lupin?” Kiley asked, noticing them first. They looked the same, but younger, more athletic.
“How do you know my name?” Sirius asked, walking up to her.
Suddenly it clicked. She had gone back in time. Those stupid Weasley twins gave her the stupid video camera that made the lightning hit her. Stupid Fred and George.
“Um, lucky guess?” she said, thinking that it would be better to make up a story. “I had heard about you guys from…… someone at the school. You must be James, and you must be Lilly,” she said, nodding in their direction.
“So, Sniverus said something about your fiancé?” James asked.
“Um, yes, Harry Potter,” she said, wondering if she should have answered truthfully.
“I don’t have any cousins named Harry,” James said, looking thoughtful.
“I don’t think he’s your cousin or anything like that,” Kiley said. He’s your son, she snorted inwardly.
James nodded. Severus stood at her side, having a strange urge to help Kiley out.
“There are several different families with the last name Potter,” Severus said, making it up as he went along.
“What, are you stalking James or something?” Sirius asked, crossing his arms and smiling devilishly.
“It’s a well known fact that different families who have no relation whatsoever have the same last name. It was a common misshape that the people writing down the different family names would shorten the name or make it easier to say when all the different families come from the different countries into America. It would be the same here with all the modern technologies to help those families migrate here. Its common knowledge. You should know this. But seeing as you don’t…. well, that’s a bit sad, wouldn’t you agree?” Kiley said, putting her hands on her hips and giving them a patented Draco Malfoy smirk.
Sirius’s jaw dropped. Lupin and James started to laugh. Lilly looked at her with admiration.
“What’s your name?” James asked between laughs.
“Kiley Riddle,” she said, smiling. Severus looked astounded for a moment, but then quickly recovered. She’s getting good at the hiding thing.
“Snivellus said something about you saying your last name was Snape?” Sirius asked, trying desperately to get some ground.
“Yes, I grew up with the last name Riddle, and then found out that it was actually Snape. No, Sirius, I am not related to Severus here. No, I am not married to Severus.” Kiley said, anticipating his next comment. Sirius pouted.
“Ha-ha! Sirius she outsmarted a Marauder! How about that?!?” Lupin cried, laughing again at Sirius’s expression. Lupin’s expression changed slightly when he looked at Kiley next. Severus saw Lupin’s eyes slowly travel up and down her. Severus growled slightly, putting his arm around Kiley’s waist protectively.
Kiley glanced at him surprised. He shrugged slightly. Lupin smiled a wolfish grin, knowing that Severus saw him check her out.
“So,” Kiley said, not knowing what to do. She walked over to the table, picking up the video camera. She aimed it at everyone’s faces for lack of anything to do.
“Tell the video camera your names and something about yourself.” Kiley said, first aiming the camera at Severus’s face.
“Um, well, my name is Severus Snape, and I am in Slytherin,” Severus said, wondering what the video camera had to do with anything. He had never seen that type before; it was smaller than the ones he was used to.
Next she shot James’s face.
“My name is James Potter, and I am madly in love with Lilly Evans!” he said, throwing his arms out for emphasis. Lilly and Kiley giggled as Kiley aimed the camera at Lilly.
“My name is Lilly Evans, and I think James Potter is a right foul git. But I love him all the same!” she said, hugging James tightly.
Next Kiley aimed the camera at Lupin’s face. Lupin smiled. “My name is Remus Lupin and I like a girl who says she was hit by lightning,” he said with a wink. Kiley blushed, quickly aiming the camera at Sirius.
“My name is Sirius Black, and I am in the mightiest house at Hogwarts!! GRYFFINDOR!!!” he yelled, flashing the crest on his school robes. Everyone but Severus laughed. She stopped the tape.
“Great!” she said, laughing a little as she went to go sit on the cot.
“Let’s see it!” Lupin cried, walking over to sit by Kiley. Severus sat down on her other side, shooting Lupin a death glare.
“I’m not sure how to work this, its Fred and George’s.” Kiley said sheepishly.
“Here, let me look at it!” Lupin said, snatching the video camera from her hands. He looked at it, opening the little flap that Kiley had closed not long ago. He pressed a button that looked like a rewind button. Suddenly it played from the beginning of the tape.
“This is Fred and George Weasley,” Fred’s face came on the screen. Suddenly he was pushed away by George.
“And we are going to tape everything!!”
“WICKED!” they both cried together. That scene cut away and Harry and Kiley kissing suddenly filled the screen. Kiley tried to snatch up the camera but Lupin scurried away. Severus ran after him, wanting to see the scene. Kiley sighed, hearing everyone laugh when Fred and George started talking.
“Hey, that boy looks just like you, James!” Sirius said, pointing to the stilled shot. Lupin had paused it. Kiley walked over, looking at the frame of her and Harry looking shocked, her slightly pink cheeked.
“He does!” James exclaimed. Lupin un-paused it and they watched the rest of the clip.
They heard a voice out of the video camera’s range say, “Morons,” the camera whirled around, shooting the back of Draco. They ran after him screaming,
“We love you to, Malfoy!”
When they where about to say the word Malfoy, Kiley cleared her throat loudly so no one could hear the word.
“Okay, I think that’s enough.” Kiley said, taking the video camera from Lupin. Every one but she and Severus started to laugh.
to be contined........
The Dark Places
By Jordan Gaza
You could have said we were being silly. Heck, you could have even said we were being stupid. But you certainly could not have said that we didn’t know what we were doing. The wind was jagged, sweet, whistling and combing our hair like a sharp-tongued old lady’s fingers. The sky was coral pink, swirling with a faded, shattered indigo that indicated that night was soon upon us. The car that we were speeding down the empty stretch of road with was stolen--out of some old, Christian man’s driveway, no less. But, honestly, he wasn’t using it.
At that point, I don’t think we could have been much happier. We were utterly alone with no chance of that fact changing anytime soon, penniless, and starving. But we were happy. Sometimes I think that’s all that really matters.
The broken, empty shotguns rolled about the backseat of the car, dried out husks of a fabled former glory, while we perched in the front seats, surrounded by gutted fast food containers and forgotten articles of clothing. Alonzo drove (since he was the only one to have a license) and I sat in the passenger seat, staring at the road ahead for lack of anything better to do. I don’t know why we bothered to be so formal about it: I probably could have driven just as well, given him a break. But the old fear of a whining cruiser with flashing lights kept Alonzo firmly in his position and me in mine. Old habits die hard, I guess.
We had been driving for four months, only stopping to rest, scrounge for food, and fill up the tank. It was dangerous, really, to be driving about with nothing to protect ourselves, save a couple of metal baseball bats and a chain, but we didn’t intend to let the opportunity arise where we would need to use them at all. We drove all night, slept all day. The monsters seemed to like the night better.
Alonzo looks nothing like me, yet people still used to say we could have been brothers. For all my clunky, gangly limbs, he’s made up with solid, corded muscle and straight stature. He’s dark and graceful, like a crow in the dim purple of a faded day, confident and even ominous to those who look at him from afar. But, like a crow, the second he opens his mouth, you lose a little bit of respect for him. For all of his apparent eloquence, he sure speaks like a moron. A loud moron, at that. I don’t think he means to sound so ignorant; he’s just undereducated and over-opinionated. I think he doesn’t even know what comes out of his own mouth sometimes. He’ll say something smart, his small tongue like a whip, and then he’ll freeze, wide-eyed and frightened, like he’s surprised even he had the guts (or lack thereof) to say something as stupid as he just has. His thick, country-bumpkin drawl doesn’t help his self-induced sticky situations much. He’s an idiot, but I still love him.
He was always teasing me, back when he used to smile, saying how much of a girl I was.
“You sure you ain’t my girlfriend, Jack?” He used to grin and tousle my corn silk hair. It’s true that I’m slender and fair and soft, with big eyes and big lips, but that doesn’t mean I’m a girl. I’m the farthest thing from it, in fact. Ask Alonzo himself, when he’s in a talking mood, and he’ll tell you how I can whip him from here to the Pacific Ocean. I’m small, but I’m fast and my knuckles are sharp. As an added bonus, I’m better educated than he is, and I don’t have that stupid accent of his: when I say something, I throw a few fancy words in here or there and people are much more likely to believe me.
“Oh, he’s a smart boy, he’s okay,” they’d say. “Now that friend of his…”
Alonzo talks his way into messes and I talk him out. The road, however, doesn’t listen to accents or fancy words and, so far, it had been treating us pretty much the same. Our hair was lank, our eyes scrubbed cloudy, our fingertips stained. We didn’t want to be in that car, we wanted to be home. But we were happy, I suppose.
All I remember about the old life was that there was a kitchen and a woman and a strong smell of good things to eat. It was when we didn’t have to worry much about where our next meal came from. If we were hungry, that lady was there, ready to cook. Oh, I remember, she loved to cook. I also remember that she had spicy, cinnamon-red hair that fizzed out of her bun like soda bubbles. Her dress was always stained with flour and the green juice of the grass near her garden in the backyard. She smelled like extract of vanilla and her voice was just as sweet, just as rich. She had that same, lazy drawl as Alonzo, but she was much more educated and wise than he was, so she could use it better: use it to intoxicate you and lull you to a warm, dreamless sleep in her kitchen, where she fed you silky cream and hot cookies. I think her name was Lolly. I can’t remember much. The road scrapes your memories clean off the rind of your skull, like one of those spoons with serrated edges on both sides. All that mattered now, I suppose, was that we were on that road and that’s where we were going to stay until we found someone else in the same situation as ourselves. We almost had it one day.
“Jack. Jack, Jack, wake up. C’mon, wake it! Look.” One of Alonzo’s thick hands rousted me from sleep, skimming my limp form from the thick liquid of dreams and draining the excess. I rolled about the front passenger seat, bleary and irritable. I mumbled for him to go to hell. He shook me again.
“Now, I said wake up, dammit!” A hard shove sent me flailing into the land of the living, and against my door.
“What, what, what, god, I’m awake!” I shouted at him, angrier than I ought to have been. But, really, sleeping is the only peace I get in that godforsaken car. Besides, not much else to do while we drive. It was my domain and his intrusion certainly wasn’t welcome. Alonzo’s dark face swam into focus next to me, darting between giving me a wide-eyed glance and concentrating on the road.
“Look,” he commanded again, pointing in front of us.
The road stretched before the rusted hood of the car, endless and grey and cracked, like a row of caulk between the tiles of a filthy shower. The desert we had been driving through had morphed, gradually, into lowlands that were covered in stubbly grass. Every now and then a plains grouse would flutter over the short vegetation, startled by the roar of the car. In the distance, not two hundred feet away, a gas station squatted in the grass, seemingly dilapidated and empty. An old open-closed sign rattled wildly in the dry prairie wind.
“We can’t stop there,” I said. I didn’t add my fear of the monsters being there. Alonzo began to pull up to the over-grown driveway. I grabbed for the wheel.
“Are you crazy?” I cried, “They might be there, hiding! We don’t have guns, we can’t kill ‘em!” Alonzo pushed me roughly aside, giving the wheel a full turn and swinging us into the parking lot. The car groaned in disagreement. As we crawled to a gradual stop at the far end of the cement expanse, Alonzo reached behind him and grabbed one of the baseball bats. It was yellowed and filthy, stained with age and other unmentionable things.
“We don’t need no guns,” he said in a monotone. “Now c’mon, you wimp.” He opened his door, jangling the keys out of the ignition, and lumbered out into the parking lot. Nervously, I glanced up at the sky. It was getting darker by the minute. The whole point of us driving all night was so we didn’t have to be with the monsters. Night was their domain and they claimed everything and everyone that the darkness touched. They were slow, though, and could not run to catch up with a speeding clunker. In the car, riding the slick back of Night, we were safe.
Alonzo was already half-way to the gas station. He turned around to glare at me, his raven hair fly-away in the dry wind.
“Well, you comin’ or not?” he called to me. Hesitant, I stared back at him blankly.
“Oh, fer pete’s sake, get outta the car!” he barked. I reached into the back seat and grabbed the other baseball bat, my breathing ragged. A sense of urgency gripped me, the kind that someone usually gets when they’re in one of those nightmares where they know they have to get away, but they just can’t. Night was coming, we had to get out of there. If Alonzo wanted this so badly then, fine, I’d humor him. But just for a while. Then we had to leave and drive so fast all of the bad feeling in the pit of my stomach would be ripped away and replaced by safe, familiar hunger.
I scurried to Alonzo’s side, my own bat dragging on the ground behind me.
“Get that bat up,” he growled at me evenly. “If there are monsters in there, then they’ll be able to hear you a mile away.” I whipped the bat up and hefted it over my shoulder. Alonzo wasn’t really afraid of the monsters anymore. He used to hide from them, just like I still do. But somewhere down the line, somewhere along the road, his heart hardened into a solid little ball of gristle. That was around the same time that he stopped smiling.
We quietly approached the gas station’s front, Alonzo in front of me, his bat cocked in the ready-to-fire position. The front door was glass, horribly dirty and smudged from disuse. One of the metal opening bars had been ripped off and thrown off to the side; it now lay in a pile of long grass, rusting. That was no doubt the work of the monsters. They were slow, but they were strong.
Alonzo crept to the glass door and peered inside, his weapon at the ready. From where I was standing, the interior looked dark and gloomy. The window that normally allowed the cashier to look out at the pumps was glazed over with dirt, any remaining view choked by junk food displays that had been jammed up against the glass. I pointed this out to Alonzo.
“Look,” I whispered. “Someone must have tried to hole up here at one point.” He glanced over at me from his position by the door, eyes dark.
“Yeah? I don’t think that went so well for ‘em,” he rumbled back, holding up a human femur that he produced from the grass beside him for me to inspect. I gripped my bat tighter. Alonzo threw the bone over his shoulder with the air of a man who was just putting out a cigarette butt and began to inspect the interior of the station once again. He motioned for me to join him. Hesitantly, I obeyed, scrambling to pull my tingling legs along. I squatted behind him, holding my own weight up with my bat.
“Do…do you think they’re in there?” I whispered. Alonzo didn’t answer at first, still staring into the dark, muddied abyss beyond the glass. I waited for him to come back to reality. Right now, he was a lion on the prowl, waiting for the opportune moment to pounce and go in for the kill. It was best not to disturb him when he was like this. He had developed a taste for blood. Finally, his eyes refocused and he glanced over at me.
“Well,” he exhaled, “Those bones I just done found're old, already bleached by the sun. They need to feed every other night. If they was still here, I think they’d be more bones around, fresher ‘uns. Can’t take no chances now, though, can we, Jack?” He smirked at me with his eyes.
“That’s the point, though!” I whispered harshly. “We could still be driving right now! We didn’t have to come see if there were monsters here. You’re so stupid! Let’s just go, okay?” I began to rise, but Alonzo caught my arm. His thick hand completely encircled my forearm. He pulled me back down roughly and hissed,
“You’re stupid! You make too much noise, they’ll hear you!”
“’They’? What the hell do you mean ‘they’? There is no one and no thing in there! We have to go, Alonzo! It’s getting dark!” I growled back.
“You’re such a worry wart. We got plenty of time. ‘Sides, even if they ain’t in there, there’s pr’olly food. We hain’t eaten in almost two days.” Alonzo picked up his bat and began to creep towards the door.
“Alonzo!” I hissed after him hoarsely. He ignored me, beginning now to push open the glass inch by inch, being careful to not make too much noise.
I sigh and look at my watch, then at the food piled in my cart. If I don’t buy it, we’re having Chinese again, and if I stay in line, I’ll be late picking Maggie up from school.
I stay in line.
I pick up a magazine, one with a sleek black chair on the cover. The wall behind it is stark white and the floor is glossy tile. I practice looking sophisticated as I flip through ads and articles with glossy photo layouts. Charlie’s taking me to New York City next month for our 15th anniversary. I’ve never been there and I’m afraid I’ll look too much like what I am: a 35 year old stay at home mom who quit college to have a baby. A Midwesterner who shops the sales racks and knows she’ll always look like a ghost in black. And all New Yorkers wear black: it’s on TV.
The line finally begins to move and I am shoving the thick magazine back on the rack when I see the picture. There’s this Asian man with his shirt pulled up to his armpits and there on his stomach is a swollen peach-sized growth. “Parasitic Twin Cut from Beijing Man!” the headline screams.
My fingers itch to touch the sooty pages, to put that story in my cart, but I know what Charlie will say. I stare at the man’s belly until the taut skin around that growth stretches my eyes.
I want to laugh or blink or sneeze or something but I can’t stop looking.
After I pick up Maggie and unload the groceries, I sit down on the front porch with a cup of coffee and spread the tabloid across my lap. I turn slowly through ads for foot powder and allergy medicine, past articles predicting the second coming of Jesus and revealing the shocking story behind the human offspring of a pair of pygmy goats.
There it is, then, on page 17. I can’t stop reading, not even when Mags sits down next to me and leans on my arm, reading the article with me.
I finish reading and sink back in my chair. “What’s this about this Chinese guy, Mom?” she says, prying an Oreo apart and scraping the white frosting off with her teeth. “Why’re you reading it?”
I fold up the paper and take a sip of coffee. “Oh, I don’t know. It just sounded—you know—funny. A guy absorbed his twin in the womb and it spent forty years roaming around inside his body. Where do they get this stuff, huh?”
I can’t help it, but my hand creeps up and rubs the bump on the back of my neck. I must wince because Maggie asks if I have a headache.
“No, baby, I’m fine.” She’s not convinced. She’s a smart kid, always has been. She didn’t baby talk, didn’t say a word until she was three, and then she started out with full sentences. She still isn’t much of a talker, more of a watcher. And she never misses anything.
“Hey,” I say, “I tried to load a new CD onto my iPod this morning and can’t get it to work. Can you help me figure it out?”
She sits up and puts the last Oreo in her mouth whole, nodding. Then she launches out of the chair, heading for the computer. I fold the tabloid again and again as I follow her, and when I reach her, my hands are black.
Two months ago, at my yearly physical, I told my doctor, Patti VanDerMere, about this lump I’d found on the back of my neck, right up by my skull. She smiled at me. “It’s probably nothing to worry about,” she said. Then she let me guide her fingers to the spot. “Sometimes, when I have a headache, if I push on the lump, my headache goes away,” I said.
“Hmm.” She closed her eyes. The first time I had a physical with her, I knew I liked her. Her smile was warm and her hands were smooth and dry. She had closed her eyes when she examined me the first time and got a tiny smile on her face. Not the creepy kind of tiny smile, but the reassuring kind. The kind that let me know she knew what she was doing.
I studied her face as her fingers pushed and stroked the lump on my neck. I waited for her to smile.
She opened her eyes then, and I noticed they were the color of ripe wheat, a strange color I’d never seen before in eyes. “It’s probably nothing,” she said again, “but let me know if it gets any bigger.”
I probably touch that lump five times a day, at least. More when I get those headaches. How do I know if it’s getting bigger? When I told Charlie about what Dr. Patti said, he suggested drawing a circle around it with a permanent marker. Then if it got bigger than the circle, we’d know if it had grown. I hate it when I can’t tell if he’s joking. I haven’t drawn the circle.
I wash my hands and come back to Maggie. “Mom, didn’t I show you this last time?” she says, looking up at me through her bangs. She needs a haircut. “It’s so easy. You just—” and her hands shifts the mouse around and she clicks so fast, I can’t follow it. How can an eleven-year-old know more than her mother? I sigh and it comes out like a shudder. I shouldn’t have had the coffee.
Maggie pulls my iPod from the dock and hands it to me. I run my hand from the silken crown of her head down and cup her cheek. “Thank you, baby. I don’t know why I couldn’t figure that out.”
By the time Alex pulls into the drive with Charlie, I’ve got dinner just about ready. Spaghetti with meatballs. Maggie’s in the kitchen with me, tearing lettuce into a bowl for salad.
Alex comes in from the garage. “Any casualties?” I ask as he wraps his arm around my shoulder. He’s just gotten his learner’s permit, and I try not to think about how dangerous the roads are.
“Nope,” he says, dipping his finger in the sauce. “Arggh, that’s hot!” He sticks his finger in his mouth, pouting.
“It’s boiling, dummy,” Maggie says, washing a tomato now.
Alex leans down to whisper in my ear. “She called me a dummy, Mom. Can I wash her mouth out with soap?” What god did I please to get kids like this? My friends are always complaining about their children: the fights, the constant video games and internet surfing, the messy bedrooms. Alex and Mags aren’t perfect, but I’ve never heard of a fifteen-year-old boy who hugs his mom as often as Alex does. I shake my head. “I’ll get the hydrochloric acid out after dinner,” I reply. “Much more effective for an infraction like this.”
Charlie walks in and wraps his arms around me from behind, putting his chin on my shoulder and inhaling deeply. “Grandma’s meatballs?” he asks, kissing me on the neck. "How did you know that's what I've been craving all day?"
I set the spoon down and curl around in his arms. "I'm psychic, you should know that. We've been married how long?" He smiles at me and kisses my nose.
"Not long enough, I guess."
"Speaking of psychic," Maggie says, picking up the salad bowl, "guess what mom bought today."
I shoot an evil glance at her and she just grins at me. I wonder when she'll grow into her front teeth. I remember when Alex had those same buck teeth, but I don't remember when they melted into the shape they have now.
Charlie is staring at me and I blink. He smiles patiently. "Did you ask me something?" I say.
"About what Maggie said. What did you buy?"
I shake my head. "Oh, it's nothing." I turn back to the stove and turn the burner off. "Just a tabloid with outrageous headlines."
"Anna, we talked about this. You said you weren't going to buy that garbage any more. You know it's all just made up."
"I can't help it. They make me laugh."
"Did you laugh when you read this one?" He leans on the counter and sticks his face up close to mine. How does he know? I turn away, hoping he'll think I'm looking for something I need, like a pot holder.
"I chuckled, yeah. It was funny. Let's eat." And I hand him the sauce, which is still bubbling.
After dinner and dishes are done, I pour another glass of wine. I like this label. It's got a rooster on a roofline and he's crowing at the moon.
Everyone's in the living room and I step carefully over the lip of the area rug. I've never spilled anything on it, not in the seven years since we bought it at an upscale shop in Chicago. I remember I had taken one look at the price tag and walked away, just glancing back maybe once, thinking about how many months of groceries or gas that rug would cost. I am glad now that Charlie talked me into it, though. Every time I sit down on the couch, I dig my toes deep into it, feeling the wool pile spring back a little. And white, too. With two kids, what were we thinking? When we first unrolled it on the floor, it smelled like a sheep, but not in a bad farmy way. Like a natural way, a way that brought me back to the summer days I had spent sitting in my Grandpa Weston's old barn up north. But the time I was a kid, the only animals he kept were a few chickens, a one-eyed German Shepherd named Sallie, and a fluctuating number of barn cats. He told me, though, that he had kept sheep once, when my dad was a boy, and goats and cows and a pig too. The barn boards still wheezed those animal smells under the hay-dusted sun.
I slide my feet over the rug and head for my chair, the one by the window, my favorite place to read. I navigate past Alex's long legs and Maggie's homework spread across the floor, past Charlie's kicked-off loafers and still-knotted tie. I'm almost to my chair when it happens.
I'm struck with shakes. Shakes so bad my arms jiggle down to my fingertips, my legs vibrate, my heart beats against my ribs like a trapped bird. The wine glass slips from my fingers and I don't even notice. My eyes, they're darting everywhere, roaming around the room, but they won't slow down and I don't see anything.
Then it's black.
When I open my eyes again, it's like I'm looking through the wide end of a tunnel, down its bright walls to a tiny point of light. In that small circle of light, I can just see the faces of my family crowded together, and when I blink, they've moved closer and then closer and then closer until their faces are huge and round.
"Anna," Charlie says, and I think his voice sounds strange, like someone's been trying to strangle him. The tunnel fades then and the darkness around it recedes and I can see. I am lying on the floor and I try to talk, but my tongue is thick in my mouth. I want to say I'm fine, that I just fainted or something. Maybe because of that big storm that's supposed to come tomorrow. That would explain the headache I've had all day. I feel rain on my hand, my right hand, and I roll my head that way, an enormous task. Maybe I'm not ready to get up yet.
Alex is frozen, his eyes so wide and dark I want to crawl into them and sleep for a thousand years. I reach for them, but my arm flops beside me. Maggie is crying, not making a sound. Her mouth is a thin white line and her eyes are so dark I want to crawl into them and go to sleep. I think I smile at her. My lips shiver and lift at the corners, like they're supposed to, but she doesn't stop crying.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
My cough is a deep rattle in my throat
As I draw what I see.
Pen and ink write nature.
(Cruel and violent this may seem
But it is true.)
Critics decry my drawings call me
Wave research in my face
Don’t know their flapping and squawking is a
The rattlesnake slid hungry eyes
Up the trunk
His body one long
Acquisitive muscle as he sought
The succulent nest in which lay—nestled—
Three speckled blue/brown eggs
Cradling (edible) life.
He bit and sucked
And when the mockingbird pair returned
He lunged, fangs dripping venom
And yellow unborn bird
Golden slitted eyes bulging.
I draw what I see.
When the dew was still wet on the grass and the mowers were completing their daily circuit of the grounds of Ella Sharp Park, we set forth into the cultured beds of snapdragons to find perches from which to let inspiration flood us. Some of us chose a shady spot to sit and ended up becoming so entranced by nature that our pages ended up being a list of starts and stops--and lots of scribbles.
Others chose a more social venue, quickly tempering the desire to chat with the desire to fill a page. Inspiration came from the rocks, the trees, even an inquisitive bee. Distraction came from rumble of the mowers.
In the end, all of us wrote something. We sat a picnic table under the shade of a venerable oak and shared. Some read verbatim, some summed up, some declined--claiming their work was too scattered. It seemed that while nature was an inspiration for some of us, she proved too distracting for others. So we moved inside.
Our next stop was the Ella Sharp art gallery, which is currently housing a traveling exhibit of the work of John James Audobon, in addition to its usual collection of North American birds and Jackson history. Some of us sat before the work of Audobon, one before a painting of 19th century Jackson girl, one before a set of Tiffany windows in a now-demolished Victorian house, others at other items of interest.
Here we found inspiration of another sort. And, as the students had been instructed, when someone stopped to ask what they were doing, they replied, "We're writers," following with an explanation of what they were writing about.
The results were as varied as the students. Some wrote poetry, some fiction, some reflection. One teacher began compiling a list of research ideas for her history students. What did I come away with? A few things, but what I like best is the poem I posted above.
We found new sources of inspiration, extrinsic sources, in a valuable exercise I can't wait to repeat.
The days where getting longer for Anna B. Lynch. She ran when she was able to, played with her many friends when she was able to. She was a smart little girl; she knew what was going on. Her mother tried to tell her otherwise, that she had just over exerted herself. True, the swelling would go down after she rested. But she knew. The angels had already visited her in her dreams, telling her her time was coming and to enjoy herself.
That is why today little Anne stole of pair of her brothers shorts and a top, deciding to go explore the woods. She downed the warm tea that was placed on her bedside table and washed her face before stomping out of her room, parading through the house.
“Anna Lynch! What on God’s green earth do you think you are doing?!?” her mother cried when she saw her daughter parading about in her brothers clothes.
“I am going to go explore the wood, mother,” she said, grabbing a plump green apple from the wicker bowl on the table.
“You will do no such thing,” her mother scolded, scowling at her daughter, “Now march upstairs and put your dress on, young lady,”
“Mother, I don’t have much time,” she said, taking a bite of the apple and heading towards the back door. She could feel her chest tightening.
“Anna, what are you talking about?” her mother asked, her hands stilling on the pan she had been scrubbing.
“Just what I said, I haven’t much time, and I want to explore and enjoy myself.” Anna said, her hand on the door knob. She knew that this hurt her mother, for her to say things like this. In her mother’s eyes it was like she had given up. All Anna had done was accept reality.
“Well, I suppose so, just do not let anyone see you!” her mother said, turning back to scrubbing the pan.
Anna smiled and raced out the door, running down the slope and into the woods in their backyard. She stopped and huffed, clutching her chest. When she regained her breath she started through the woods, marching and looking around her.
The wood is so beautiful, she thought as she looked around her. I wish I had come here before.
It was late summer, so the leaves on the trees where changing color. There was a painter’s pallet of colors around her, reds, greens, oranges, pinks, and every other color imaginable. The grass was a bright green; the sky was a wonderful blue, rich and deep. She looked around her in awe, forgetting for a few precious moments that she would soon die, her body giving into the Diphtheria that was consuming it.
She came to a babbling brook. She smiled as she envisioned the mermaids and water sprites that must live within it. Anna gingerly stepped onto a rock, taking her shoes off and setting them down beside her. She dipped her toes into the water, closing her eyes when she felt the coolness lick her toes.
“Hello, little bird,” she cooed to the bird singing in a tree on the other side of the water. “How are you today?”
The bird chirped. She envisioned him saying,
‘Very fine, thank you. And how are you today, Miss Anna?’
She giggled. “Very good, Mr. Bird.”
The bird chirped again and flew away.
“Goodbye, Mr. Bird,” she called, waving a little. She looked down into the water and saw a little fish, looking at her toes with interest. Anna tried not to stir as the fish gave her a little peck.
“Hello, Mrs. Fish, how are you today?” she asked to the water. The fish darted away, having felt the vibration of her voice from her toes.
She smiled and sat back, watching the clouds and naming the shapes she saw within them.
“Bunny, an elephant, a giraffe, and oh! That one looks like a baby!” Anna giggled to herself.
“ANNA!!!! ANNA!!!” she heard the faint voice of her mother calling her. She sighed, glancing at the sun and realizing she had been here longer than she had thought.
“Goodbye, brook. Goodbye, fishes. Goodbye, mermaids and water sprits. Goodbye everyone!” she called, imagining the water sprits and mermaids and everything else waving to her.
She pranced through the woods, content with her experience.
Suddenly she felt her chest tighten, and her throat start to swell. She ran faster, her eyes growing wide as she struggled to breath. Finally she got to the house, her mother waiting for her.
Anna’s mother took her in, giving her hot tea and telling her everything was going to be all right.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
When we close our eyes to bright sunlight, the shapes of things are still visible against our closed lids. Violet and orange, the colors of flame--they wait, licking at my fancy, static and patient--for me to let them in. And so I pick up my pen and open my soul's eyes, and I give those fiery forms their true design.
A tree outside the window, its leaves a blur of green, becomes THAT tree, the only tree, the first tree. Its bark is gnarled with wise age, its limbs are fingers that point to things beyond my ken, and its leaves--the leaves have renounced blurriness. They are unique, each quivering with particular life, each its own shade of life-green, verde vitae, and each limned in gold, fire-veined. This tree speaks to me as its whorls and knots spin and shift to become a face that is distinctly itself. I am the Source, it says. And I don't need to question what the source is. There is no quest for more, just complaisance as I wait for knowing to roll its golden path through me.
I stand beneath the branches and stretch out my arms to either side, and I marvel at the play of green and gold on my skin. And I wait there.
This is what writing is to me, this deliberate step into a new world, my own world, a place I create as I move through it. There is no sense of desperate urgency here--only contentment.
I know that if I stand here long enough, poised for any eventuality, it will come. And I will record it: I, Life-giver, will record it in my book.
is interrupting our conversation with the muse...
risk their criticism. And find joy in their praise.