Sunday, March 28, 2010

Uncle Ralph Chimes In: Get off of my Lawn!

Since when do you think you can cut through my yard?!? Don't you see the signs?!? Can't you read, hippie? I didn't spend all that time in the shit to come back home and have you goddamn kids disrespect my Kentucky Blue! Why can't you drive everywhere like a respectable American? You think you're protecting the environment by walking, don't you. Well, just whose environment would that be? Certainly not mine.

I get up everymorning to water my lawn. I dig out every dandilion by hand. I've got the same lawn equipment they use at Wimbleden so that I can beautify my environment. I did not plan for lawn ornamentation that included you. Get this through your earbuds, buddy: Just because I'm between your house and the Circle K doesn't mean you can drag your knuckles across my environment! You'd best reprogram that GPS and find another route ASAP.

You kids today with your MyBook Faces and your iWhatevers have got no respect for anything around you.

Now, GIT! And don't let me catch you coming through here again. My Grandson's a cop!

Friday, March 26, 2010

FFF #26 - 2010 Senses

"What do you see when you close your eyes?" he asked between kisses. His hands caught in her hair as they lingered near the archway, her back pressed against a marble column.

How could she tell him about the random parade of images marching through her mind? What a funny question to ask! She opened her eyes and looked at him directly in the left eye, then the right and back again. She wondered if she should even dare to speak and break the spell her inner reptile had cast on her. If I have to explain, I'll have to think...and then all the magic will end.

She leaned in and resumed kissing him, turning his body so that they switched places and he was now pinned. She unbuttoned his sport coat and reached inside with both hands and placed them on his sides. She felt bone, then meat, then bone through his linen shirt as she moved her hands up and down his ribcage, creating a xylophone symphony of sensations. The textures of the silky lining of the sport coat and the linen shirt combined and equalled a thrill greater than their parts. His heat warmed her hands and innards.

What do I see? Zebras running, molten silver, cymbal crash...

"I need to know..." he said, shivering as the sun set. He moved his hands from her hair down and across her shoulder blades, settling at the small of her back and pulling her closer.

Neon signs, wheat fields, lightning...

"No," she exhaled.

Footsteps fell, softly at first then louder, their doppler effect cooling them. She stepped back. He ran his hands through his hair and smiled at her.

"Come with me," he said and gestured for her hand.

She gave it to him and he brought it to his lips. After a swift, sweet brush, he pulled her in to his side and led her to the terrace. The footsteps faded as the sun sank into the horizon. Twilight and sunset entertwined and threw shadows and sparkles everywhere. Lilacs hummed with fragrance as the wind danced.

She leaned her head against his shoulder. He reached across and pulled her close. He looked into her eyes and asked, "What do you see when you open your eyes?"

Submitted for Friday Flash Fiction with Cormac's Starter Sentence in Bold.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Flash Fiction: My God Is a Rock in a Weary Land

He had been told crawling would get him nowhere. The Hovitos guide went on to say that crawling would likely set him back farther from his destination than taking no steps at all. But he would be damned if he stood up and walked across the gnarly log that spanned the canyon hundreds of feet deep.

His time in South America had been as uneventful as one could expect. His mission was to build water purification system, start a school, and preach in such a way that the tribes would fully embrace Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. He was well on his way. The water purification system had been finished about a week and they were starting to put the first coat of paint on the school house that would double as a chapel. Then he got the telegram.

He had to get back home. He'd either have to wait a month until the spring storms ran their course and ride out on the river with the tribe or strike out on his own through the jungle for a week. He prayed about it and didn't really get an answer. But that telegram burned a hole through his pocket and he decided to set out.

He wasn't completely without resources. He'd hiked through his fair share of rain forest. He also had GPS, a satellite phone, a first aid kit, and the chief's signet in the form of a highly adorned spear head. This would get him passage through the other tribes' territory. He also counted on God's steady hand at his shoulder.

He passed the first two nights without incident. The trail rations the women of the tribe packed for him were compact and tasty. He was able to start and keep a fire each night. He kept the offices of the church for himself and prayed for safe passage and the wisdom to keep him on the right path.

And then he found himself at the edge of the chasm, paralyzed. When the guide told him he'd meet this log, he had imagined it quite differently. He hadn't realized how far it would stretch. Or how deep the chasm was. In his mind, it would be a short drop and the log would be sturdy and hollow. Certainly clean. He'd dismissed the advice of the guide, thinking that crawling would be the only safe way to go. It would be a way to lower one's center of gravity and reduce the likelihood of falling to one's death.

He was shocked at the black, tarry surface of the log that seemed to shimmer with movement in the afternoon sun. The guide told him that he should make sure everything in his pack was secure, tighten all his straps, and pray to Jesus before marching straight out onto the log, with eyes fixed on the other side, never stopping for a moment. He could now understand why. He had poked the log with the sole of his boot and found it to be just as sticky as he imagined. As he bent down to get a closer look at the surface, he realized that the movement he observed was not a trick of the light, but rather a multitude of hearty ants.

His fears of heights and of ants did battle in his heart while the crinkled telegram in his pocket was a glowing ember of urgency. He fell to his knees.

"Father, help me!" he cried. The echo of his prayer was all he received in answer.

He began a pass through the rosary. The usual peace that alit on his brow after the third prayer was absent. By the end, his hands were shaking and sweat ran down his neck and brow. He thought he ought to turn back and go ahead and wait the month's time. He soon realized he was in no state to do anything at the moment. He began his prayers again.

An hour passed, then two. The skies darkened quickly and the clouds burst with rain. He watched the ants scurry and shimmy down to the underside of the log. He was soaked through. But the log was clear.

God has answered me, he thought. Now I can crawl. He stood up, and wiped the rain off of his face. He decided not to clear his glasses, thinking that the now ever-present fogging of their lenses would protect him from seeing any brave ant who had yet to take cover. He secured his gear and said a final prayer of thanksgiving. He walked up to the end of the log, bent his knees, and began to lean forward. He stretched himself out on the log and hung on.

So far so good, he thought as he tried to inch himself forward. Even with the rain, his clothes stuck fast to the gummy surface. He tried to peel his arms away so that he could free himself. He began to feel his skin start to crawl and small pinches of pain exploded all over him. With all the force he could muster, he yanked his right arm free and screamed as he left some of his skin behind. Bleeding, he pulled at his shirt to get it loose and then worked the other arm free and threw himself backwards.

Defeated and supine, his tears mixed with rain and blood as he panted and gasped. He rolled over and began to crawl back into the forest for some cover. The rain continued to pound as he tried to prop giant leaves up around him. There was no way he could start a fire. He just had to wait.

In his weakened state, he drifted in and out of consciousness. Hours passed and darkeness swallowed him. He had visions of ants that transformed into so many demons, tasked to torment him for his pride. By morning the rain had passed but his grief and loneliness still clung to him, heavier than his wet clothes and gear. He said his morning prayers and begged for mercy. In the light of day, he could see the angry wounds on his forearms and chest. He gingerly removed his pack and found his first aid kit. He applied ointments and bandaged himself up.

He pulled out his bottle of water and took a small sip. He then reached in his pocket and found the telegram. It was stained with rain and blood. It was barely legible, but he didn't need to read it again. He knew what it said.

The guide's advice came back to him and seemed sounder to him now. He gathered his gear and secured it. He thanked the Lord for another day. He walked slowly to the end of the log and fixed his eyes on the far side.

"In pennance I present myself to Thee." He spread his arms wide and took a step out onto the log. Followed by another and another. He remembered to breathe and with each intake of air, he fought back the demons of gravity tempting him to one side or the other. Or the others that tried to convince him that crawling was the safer way. The siren call of the depths of the canyon tried to tempt him to look down.

But at the end of the log was a boulder and it was starting to look like Jesus. He knew his salvation waited for him at the other side. He quickened his pace. Jesus began to gesture to him. Was He beckoning? He must be!

"I'm coming, Lord!" He shouted and forgot his fears at the halfway mark. There was so much he wanted to ask Jesus. He couldn't believe his good fortune. He strode forward as if this were the aisle of his church he was walking down. His head was high and his nostrils tingled with the scent of incense. The trees chanted a psalm and the canyon whistled with the notes of a once-familiar hymn.

He took the last step off of the log and onto the muddy ground at the other side. He had made it and Jesus stood before him, glorious. He fell upon the ground before his Lord and went through every prayer of thanksgiving he could remember including, "Good food, good meat, good God, let's eat!"

The telegram forgotten, he set about worshipping his stone savior. He gathered up offerings of berries and added his trail rations. He poured out his water on the stone and chattered away happily, firing one existential question after another. Days melted into weeks and tribesmen started to pass stories about the man and his boulder. Many of them were spooked and decided it was probably a good idea to take that baptist up on his offer to build a bridge over the canyon, even if it meant testifying their faith to a strange new God.

Submitted for Friday Flash Fiction with a starter sentence in green.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What If Your Body Was THE Wonderland?

Perhaps the lyics might look something like this:

We got the afternoon

You got this geography book

I'm late for that one thing I've left to do

Discover me

Discovering you

One gallon to every drop of

Your tears like ocean

One pair of silly twins and

Your curiouser tongue

And if you want a caucus race

We'll make it

Run in a deep sea

To dry off

Take all your big plans

And break 'em

This is bound to be awhile

Your body is the wonderland

Your body is the wonder (I'll mind my temper)

Your body is the wonderland

Something 'bout the way the hair falls in your face

I love the shape you take when growing ten feet tall

You ask me where to go and

Though you might leave to find it

I'll never let your head roll

Without my hand behind it

You want home?

We'll find it

Swim in a deep sea

Of more tea

Take all your big plans

And break 'em

This is bound to be awhile

Your body is the wonderland

Your body is the wonder (I'll play croquet)

Your body is the wonderland

Damn baby

I frustrate you

I know you need a clean cup clean cup

But you look so good it hurts sometimes

Your body is the wonderland

Your body is the wonder(I'll use my mome raths)

Your body is the wonderland

Your body is the wonderland

Da da dup ba da da da

Ba ba dup ba la la la

Tweedle dee tweedle dum

Ba ba dup ba da da da

Twas brillig and the slithy toths

Ba ba dup ba da da da

Did gile and gimble in the wabe

Ba ba dup ba da da da

Kaloo kallay, no work today!

We're cabages and kings!!!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Adventure Day: Lost in Amish Country

One night last week, Doc and I found ourselves looking at each other through bleary eyes. He hadn't written anything in three weeks and I hadn't exercised in three weeks. Life seemed dreary and pointless. As with any married couple who've been together as long as we have, we have our issues. As we pulled our heads out of the sand, we woke up to the fact that if we didn't do something to change things up, we'd start our journey into decrepitude walking together but not hand in hand.

One thing I've learned with our marriage is, if we don't do continual maintenance, the whole kit and kaboodle seizes up and starts to groan with neglect. Each member of the partnership starts to feel devalued and cranky. Silent cold wars start and the day-to-day tasks provide enough distraction that we don't take the time to halt the works and get to the source of the malfunction.

We worked a few things out, the likes of which I won't bore you with here. Ultimately, we decided we needed a family adventure. Doc was off this past weekend, which is very rare indeed. So we called his sister and her husband (Alicia and Rick) to see if they'd like to rendezvous at the halfway point between us called Coshocton, Ohio. They were game and just talking about the plans with them was the shot in the arm we needed to finish off the week in good spirits.

Saturday morning came and we packed up snacks, drinks and books and hit the road. We were going to meet Alicia and her family at the bowling alley at about 5:00 p.m. But I had learned of an Ohio Bluebird Association Conference in Wooster, Ohio that I couldn't resist. I could tell Doc wasn't completely hip to the idea, but in the spirit of adventure, he agreed to make it our first stop.

It took us an hour or so to get there and we were there in time to hear a speaker talk about Prothonotary Warblers and the bird houses he builds and sets up for them in Alum Creek. But we came to see what the Medina Raptor Center had to offer. Shortly after his speech was done and he reluctantly ended his slide show, we headed over to a small conference room and saw three amazing creatures: a barred owl, a barn owl and an albino red tail hawk. You can see the pictures I took here. It was incredible to be so close to such amazing creatures.

I have always admired owls and I've never seen one in person. I appreciate their association with Athena and wisdom and I have several owl things in my house. In fact, if I were to have a totem animal, I suspect it would be an owl. So to see one face-to-face was a powerful emotional experience for me. I couldn't look away. I stayed in the room as long as possible and kept near the barred owl, who I felt overwhelmingly drawn to. Eventually, we had to leave so that others could come in and the girls were a little bit spooked by the barn owl, who had lost an eye.

Still, it was a thing none of us would forget. And that's what I was hoping for with Adventure Day.

We stuck around for a little while and checked out the displays at the conference. We found a free book with a good set of plans for building bat houses. I'm hoping there are owl houses in there too. I'd like to attract some to our yard. When listining to the speaker earlier, he had said that bird watching was fine, but he preferred thrill of offering something to wild creatures and having them accept the gift to mere birdwatching and writing something down in a notebook. At the time, I thought he was unfairly slagging birdwatchers. But the more I think about it, the more I'd agree with him. It would be grand...

So, buoyed up by our close encounter with nature, we decided to hit up the Amish Buffet and stop at a cheese shop to kill some time. It was only 1:00 and we had plenty of time to get to Coshocton, which should only take about an hour. After stuffing ourselves and stocking up on goodies, we got in the car and I entered the address for the bowling alley on the GPS. And then it asked the crucial question, "How do you want to get there?"
  • Fastest time
  • Shortest distance

And I thought, let's do the shortest distance and stay off the highways. Of course, I didn't consult anyone on this. I just hit the screen and set our course. We called Alicia and let her know we were on the way and then we hit the road.

We drove out of Wayne County and into Holmes County, which is Amishtopia. We went through Berlin and a couple of other little burgs and hamlets, but we kept a good pace. Eventually, though, the GPS lady told us to take a right on Holmes County Highway 117. Sounds easy enough. But when I saw the road I began to doubt the wisdom of my impulse to take the scenic route in February.

This "highway" was probably some form of dirt or gravel road and was plowed and covered in ash. I gazed upon its snow covered slope that went straight up for about 800 feet and worried. I wasn't sure Mr. Lawrence (my car) was up to the task of climbing this Alpine avenue. And sure enough, when we got about two-thirds the way up hill and I went to downshift; it was enough to kill any forward momentum and we started to slide backwards. I turned to Doc and said, "This is the point in our story where the gringos get it."

But we backed up and made another run for it. This time, I gunned it and we had just enough oomph to get over the top. And this is how it continued for the next hour and a half. We would dare to climb each hill, slipping and sliding and then race down again until we were deep into foriegn territory. The farther into the hills we went, the more Amish we would see. And they were lovely on their bikes or on foot. In their buggies and on goat carts. They smiled with their ruddy faces and waved to us as we tripped through their territory.

We saw several Amish school buidings with the girls and boys bathrooms out back. We saw lots of farms and businesses that tended to the needs of today's buggy drivers: harness makers, horse shoers, and buggy repairmen. We also saw many homes with laundry hanging out to dry. And this struck my whimsy right in its heart. To see colorful cloth hanging from lines in the middle of winter was just delightful. We finally passed the house featured in my new banner and Doc pointed it out to me. I stopped the car and turned around to get a good shot of this and a heron that was living in a stream across the street.

Once I was done taking pictures, we climbed back into the car to complete our journey. And it was very strange. I really had no idea where we were. We didn't have a map to get our bearings by. All we had was this calm, feminine voice telling us to turn right then left. There was a distinct otherworldliness to our journey. I remember going up one very steep hill that had six to seven foot snow drifts on either side of it and snow on the road. Looking through the windshield, all I could see was snow and gray skies and I had this instant of feeling like I was on another planet, maybe on Hoth. It was distinctly disorienting. But we crested the hill and were back in Ohio.

The novelty of this adventure began to wear off after about my fifteenth "Holmes County Township Highway," especially when my fuel light went on. We were low on gas. In the middle of nowhere. Among the Amish. And no clue as to where we were. The kids began to freak a little bit and so did I. The territory wasn't completely Amish; there were modern farmers there too, who probably would have helped us. But this would move the adventure farther into unknown territory than I wanted to be in.

Almost two hours after we started on this trek, we found State Route 83 and were booking it into Coshocton. When I stopped for gas, I took a look at my car. It was almost completely covered in mud. So we sprang for the two dollar car wash, and in the spirit of Douglas Adams, decided that it was better to be one hour and five minutes late and looking good rather than one hour late and a complete mess.

We had a grand time with Alicia, Rick and my nieces and nephew. We bowled and had pizza. We laughed and carried on. But I couldn't shake the tension I'd taken on during our off-the-beaten-path adventure, even though we had come out of it without so much as a scratch. Eventually, we went back to Alicia and Rick's house, played a good game of Quiddler and I was able to relax again.

Two days later I'm still savoring every moment of our trip. We laughed, we learned and we scared the pants off of ourselves. A good friend of mine, ERR, always says that it's good to test your limits sometimes. I think we did that and are better for it. And I'm looking forward to doing it again soon.