notice 1.2.13 - It's eight o'clock in the morning and I am already awash in fatigue, a rowboat where the one assigned to bail has mysteriously disappeared. Did she fall overboard? Was she gathered to the bosom of the Lord in a one person Rapture?
The boat is well stocked with shiftless assholes doing nothing and the water is now lapping at the seat planks.
I have heard from a lot of people about "Night Skating" so from time to time I'll tell other tales here.
When my sons were in elementary school and first came home with assignments asking them to write a story they were typically stymied so I took advantage of a child's naturally base nature and told them "Being a writer is the only job where you get paid to tell lies"
You should have seen the wide eyes and evil smirks as the wheels in their heads began revving at speed!
a pencil and a piece of paper is all you need:
From the text of “Aspects of the Novel” by E.M. Forster
Story “... is immensely old – goes back to neolithic time, perhaps paleolithic. Neanderthal man listened to stories, if one may judge by the shape of his skull. The primitive audience was an audience of shock-heads, gaping around the campfire, fatigued with contending against the mammoth or the Woolly rhinoceros, and only kept awake by suspense. What would happen next? The novelist droned on, and as soon as the audience guessed what happened next, they either fell asleep or killed him”
“The society to which we belong seems to be dying or is already dead. I don't mean to sound dramatic, but clearly the dark side is rising. Things could not have been more odd and frightening in the Middle Ages. But the tradition of artists will continue no matter what form the society takes. And this is another reason to write: people need us, to mirror for them and for each other without distortion-not to look around and say, 'Look at yourselves, you idiots!,' but to say, 'This is who we are.”
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
“I go back to trying to breathe, slowly and calmly, and I finally notice the one-inch picture frame that I put on my desk to remind me of short assignments. It reminds me that all I have to do is to write down as much as I can see through a one-inch picture frame. This is all I have to bite off for the time being.”
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
_________ Market Scene_____________...
Quiet, dark house.
A distant dryer rumbles.
Everyone home and sleeping.
Coiled cats mutter over
missed sunning opportunities, paws over their eyes.
In the market today I stood in a shaft of sunlight
glad it was coming over my shoulder,
the better to read the promises and lies
on the bottles of vitamins. After the Cs, Ds and Es,
I closed my eyes and leaned back into the warmth
resigned to indecision.
Leaning out the window of his glass prison,
the elderly pharmacist said "Bella, Signora, bella".
From some other me,I knew to smile and say "Grazie"
then turn and get on with the day, a winter bouquet added to my list.
She is at peace.
I know that the infirmity and illness she struggled with affronted her dignity more than anything. I went to ridiculous lengths to see that she was comfortable for a long time. Now that she is gone, I feel unemployed.
I am not haunted although I see her out of the corner of my eye everywhere, especially at dusk. A fallen magnolia blossom, a scrap of paper in the weeds - all call my eyes for a second look and a sigh of sadness.
No one is standing in the driveway waiting impatiently for me when I return home in the car. Under all those silky graphics she was never more than seven pounds, such a little cat, but the empty space she left behind is much larger than I expected it to be.
Bea Marks Art
She was in a rush to go down to the store and buy her first handful of colors.
Nell had sat her down and taught her to use a needle, thread and the wooden embroidery hoops to make cross stitches following the hemline around a white cotton pillow case mostly to stop her from pestering her about it and to keep Bea out of her sewing basket. Bea already knew what to do from hanging over Nell's elbow as she stitched on her samplers and the first moves she made passing needle and thread through the taut cloth were as sure as if practiced. Nell grunted approval and gave her a shoebox to keep her sewing things in. She gave her a squat, red pincushion with it's strawberry missing and a tiny gash in the bottom that would leak sawdust if you squished it. It was stuck with rusty shirt pins that wouldn't pull out and three glittering embroidery needles. There were a dozen or so colors of cotton floss wrapped around matchbook covers, some plain, white buttons, a large brass thimble too big for either of them, and a six inch wooden ruler with a pencil-sized hole in one end and the words “BEST SEEDS” embossed on the backside of the dark oiled wood.
By lunchtime she had stitched a yard or so of tiny Xs and was bored with them. Now Bea was thinking about the possibility of using stitches to write words on the pillowcases. Secret messages for the people sleeping on them; “be happy”, “don't be mean”, “get better”, things she wanted to say to people but knew they didn't want to hear from her. With a pencil, she drew a tiny, faint letter “B” and was working out how to make a continuous line with the thread so that the letter would be clear and the waste on the backside would be minimal. Asking Nell for permission to use the precious wooden embroidery hoops each day was like asking permission to come into a place where only grownups were allowed and she was okay with asking for now. Before a week had passed the pair of maple hoops turned up in the shoebox with no discussion and later she saw Nell working a sampler clamped into a shiny metal and cork hoop that she knew better to ever covet.
Bea could not wait to get down the street to the stationers. Nell had given her fifty cents for cleaning Pete's cage and the mess he made on the porch. She didn't tell Nell that she had stuffed Pete into one of Pop's work socks and hung it from a hook on the wall where he chattered angrily for the better part of the hour it took her to scrub the cage all over with hot water, brush and lye soap. Letting Pete escape would have cost her more than fifty cents. With the little glass dishes cleaned and filled with seeds and water and new sand covering the floor, she snaked the sock back through the door of the cage and dumped the angry bird back into his domain only a little ruffled for his ordeal. “Ingrate” she thought as he tried to bite her through the sock.
All she could think about as she ran down the block was the rainbow of colors that waited for her at the store and then she remembered the Problem there and pulled up short across the street aggravated at her own fear and the delay.
Art's stationary store was on the opposite side of Main street and deeply shaded by two massive maple trees that had heaved up the sidewalk with their roots. The segmented glass panes across the front of the store were filthy inside and out. Art did not believe in wasting space on window displays or lighting for that matter. Little changed inside the store from week to week and everyone knew where everything was anyway. It was a problem that the sewing things were in a wooden display case on an inside wall near the back of the store and you would have to ask him to reach up and pull the string on a single light bulb in the ceiling so you could tell white from yellow, sharps from darners. For the whole time you were making your choices you were sure to have Art standing right behind you, his hands in the pockets of his tight, gray make believe doctor's coat with his head lost in the smoke from the pipe that he never took from his teeth. The smoke smelled like burning red lollipops and now she didn't like them anymore.
He never spoke to her. He never spoke to any of the children who came into the store even when he knew they were there plotting to steal something. The penny candy display was right at the counter where the cash register stood and even though he was right there watching, some children were overwhelmed with the display and found themselves extending one hand with a sweaty nickle in it for the five pieces of candy placed on the counter, while the other hand clutched two fireballs and thought for a split second that Art wouldn't see the hand slip into a pocket. He would stand there silently and make no gesture to take the money until the stealing hand either dropped the candy back into the glass jar or two more pennies were produced. He never lost this contest and many children never came back into the store so the penny candy was invariably stale.
He wasn't the first monkey man she had seen but he was the worst.
She closed her eyes as she opened the door and stepped inside the store knowing she would be able to see better in the darkness that way and, there he was, at the back of the store standing by the sewing stuff like he knew she was coming. “What else did he know?”she wondered.
His oily hair and eyes glowed dark red in the gloom. The upper part of his face was covered by an oilcloth half mask painted to look like a monkey. His eyes glowed like coals from too far back inside the large eye holes. The uncovered lower part of his face was the same dirty gray as his smock. The hair on his head seemed to move like short oily worms that were lit from inside with something hot. She blinked hard and reminded herself that this was her private way of seeing him and it was only a warning sign that this was a person to be aware of, to watch. As far as she knew, no one else saw the monkey-men the way she did. She didn’t know why or what the danger was yet but she would find out soon and she would stop sewing when she ran out of thread.
Her excitement over selecting a thread rainbow made her bold and she pretended to be cheerful.
“Hey Art, I got fifty cents. How many hanks of floss can I get?”
She knew the math and played dumb to distract him. He grunted, pulled the string on the light bulb and looked up at it and puffed his pipe mumbling to himself as if calculating the stones for the pyramids. She stared at the thread display knowing full well she had ten choices to make and quickly snapped up the first five; all blues of one shade or another from turquoise to royal quickly followed by a golden yellow, a dark pink, and a leafy green. She knew that a black and white would be smart but was smitten by two shades of purple and decided she could filch black or white from Nell if she needed either right away but then she remembered her stitched messages and put one of the purples back and opted for the black.
The smoke from Art's pipe closed down around her head burning her eyes and she squinted not wanting to look up and see that monkey-mask up close. It was bad enough from a distance. She could hear him breathing through his cavernous nostrils and imagined the black hairs in there crisping and burning. He pulled the string on the light bulb just as she selected her tenth color.
The brass door bell clanked over her head again as she stepped out of the store clutching the tiny paper bag with her prizes. She had been holding her breath since she handed him the two quarters and had barely made it outside for a heaving breath in the sunshine on the sidewalk. It was not good to breathe the same air as the monkey-men. She shook the threads out of the bag into her hand and they were even more beautiful on the daylight. With a quick glance up and down the street she darted across the intersection and pounded up the sidewalk for the safety of the concrete stairs leading up the hillside to her house.
excerpt from "Monkeytown"
c.2012 Deborah Lacativa