Archive for April, 2010

Simila says what she knows

The king knows my heart.

In the distance, I hear the wistful baying of the dag-vark, calling their prey out of safe dens. Strange, isn’t it, how the innocent, helpless creatures of every world are so easily seduced? It has always been so, though, and so it was for me.

The king knows my heart, and I, I know something of his mind, and thus am able to control certain small things without his knowing exactly what I do. His heart, though, is still a mystery to me. It is a mystery that keeps me alive, at his discretion.

How did I get to this point, 3.6 light years from my youth, hurled through space in the great lemming-like panic of year 7147? All of us, every light haired, mossy green one of us was thrown by giants from one world to another. Then a sudden, heavy silence, and then the suns came up, one, two, three. Number four was Varg-ner, my king.

The king knows my heart. What I know is that, alone, I made horrifying mistakes that I never would have made in community.

Community. There is a word that sticks in my throat. I am the only one of my kind on this world. We, all of us, all of us communal and bound to one another through something that is not blood, not exactly, but is the closest I can come to naming it, were tagged and shipped with our various talents to the planets of my king. One of us per planet. My king’s fear is that two of us, together on a single planet, might link through blood and an unrelenting passion for the secrets of our home planet, and turn it all back. 3.6 light years back. Back to the time before this, or forward to the time after.


“Hold on,” he said softly to the woman, and they took the last step. She turned her face to his, and as the lights came on around them, she watched as his face broke and spread and shot away from her, trails of light, a comet of remembrance, a path that would lead her back to him again some day. However many light years it took.

Brimnook stood in the open spaces of his designated planetary assignment. Trees proliferated here, multivariate trees, branches reaching and writing, word trees spinning words to be harvested and fed to the CGS farms, where words generated and regenerated in a tightly controlled process that Brimnook oversaw, he being the migrant editor of the 7th planet occupied by Varg-ner when the troubles came. The sick trees Brimnook beat, or cut down, or burned. Or hid. For his eventual return, following the path left by his home-mate, his moss green woman, the woman who fed him words to sustain him through all of this time, travel, travail and now, through the secret door that would take them all back home.



When I finally got home, I nosed around hesitantly, as if I were an intruder in a forbidden kingdom. This, though, was my kingdom – no, our kingdom. Where we’d been there was no word for “we,” or “us”. My job had been to cut all such words out of the bleeding trees and to destroy them. The king, though, although he knew my heart, did not know my mind, and it was a bittersweet task to betray him by taking those words, us, ours, yours and mine, we, and using them to collapse his interplanetary kingdom, as gently as pulling a string, as tipping over a single tile, as tossing one small stone down a steep mountainside.

(30 minutes, Monday writing group. Genre fiction – romance and sci-fi standard terminology blended.)




“Swiving is the first dance I learned, before the tango, before the mambo, before the twist, before the mashed potato, before the waltz,” Imelda tried to say, but inhaled wrong and laughed laughed laughed until the end of WWII with GI Joe and all his cousins.

Imelda liked a jolly good roll in the hay with GI Joes who came from the U.S. and spent time with her aunties and her uncles, and Manila was home to Imelda, who was going to school in Philadelphia after the war.

It was springtime in Pennsyvania and Imelda was crying in the arms of Angus Cormac, the Irish-Filipino son of a butcher who wanted to marry Imelda and take her to Allentown. She cried because she saw herself sitting in a blood stained apron wrapping haunches and hocks in newspaper and this is not what Severo had promised when he took her in four years ago, safely away from the meat district. The meat district. Imelda knew that the meaning of those words had changed, and she held that change against her body, sharp and ready to cut clean and deep. Severo, of course, was dead by the time she understood – young, still pretty, and dead of a knife wound. “My only thanks was that the knife was not mine,” Imelda said at the Severo’s wake. “I do not come to praise Severo, but to bury him. I bury Severo in my memory, and in yours, and that is the end of that. There is no more to tell.” She set the knife down, turned her back on them, and left the room.

(10-minute quickwrite – “swiving” a preferred  verb of  Mary’s)


Maru bought a carnivorous plant at her local nursery and named it Seymour (ha ha ha ha, she said to her 12-year-old son and her neighbor, Phyllis, who grew tomatoes). The carnivorous plant never did learn its own name, which was something Kenyon, her son, could never understand. He stood in front of Seymour three times a week and misted him and gave him ground earthworms from a resealable vacuum pack. But maybe Seymour does know his name, thought Kenyon, maybe it just doesn’t show he knows it because Seymour does not have eyes. He went to the Party Barn and bought plastic stick-on googly eyes and affixed these to Seymour’s widest leaf. The carnivorous plant’s google eyes bobbled along with an amiable little bounce, but it was never clear that the bobble eyes actually looked, actually saw. Kenyon was worried that Seymour was looking in some utterly other direction, so he removed the googly eyes. Now the widest leaf swayed gently on its sturdy stalk, gently and rhythmically, contemplative. The ground earthworms disappeared overnight, regardless of which side of Seymour Kenyon placed them. Maybe he has eyes all round, thought Kenyon.

One day, Kenyon made a trail of ground earthworm that started at the buried roots of the flytrap pot and trailed along randomly through the greenhouse and out the greenhouse door. When he awoke the next morning, the flytrap was gone. In its place was a trail of root bits and mud dragging along the shelf and down to the ground, out and through the greenhouse and into the open field. The field was full of corn and sunflowers. The business end of Seymour settled into the cornfield and waited, biding its time til the corn was ripe and the children of the village came looking for it, for the legend of it, that no one ever believed in anyway.


You still linger. Oh, you fool.

But that’s it. Beds. How glad I am. Even though we fit together, quietness and emptiness, like stacked spoons. But you still linger. You fool. You say and you mean it that I was coddled too much from life already. Coddled. Like an egg, I was coddled. That gentle coddling makes a woman soft, is that a problem?

Alright, I got coddled too much from life already, Faithy said and brought the iron down on the ironing board and the steam billowed off of the damp sheets. 

It’s a problem, it’s a crime. Let women get soft and then what? Then what? I’ll tell you what – everything falls apart, that’s what. Glory didn’t believe in women being soft, that’s what she said, that’s what she told us and told her kids too.

She and Faithy looked out the corner of their eyes at each other, both of them with their hot metal and the steam turning their faces pink and shiny. Pssshh, bang – the irons come down hard and hot on the damp sheets and the steam rises again.

Beds. How glad I am, how glad I am for flat ironed sheets and open windows of spring.

You still linger. You fool. It’s laundry day and on laundry day Faithy often goes to town in the cart with the washer woman and her children. There, the children go to the market for apples and sweets, deliver the laundry to the two or three houses that can afford clean pressed sheets, pressed and wrapped in brown paper and delivered on laundry day. On a good day, when you open the paper, the sheets are still warm and smell of steam and potential.

Faithy shakes the sheets out and spreads them over the bed and pulls tight at the edges, tucking in with the flat of her hands. Sometimes in the sleepy afternoon she feels a pair of arms around her waist as she bends to smooth the sheets, pulling her down onto the fresh made bed. Some days she lingers over the making of the bed, the fool, waiting to be coddled, waiting to be stretched tight like a warm sheet on a sunny morning.

You still linger, she says to herself. She touches her lips, a remembrance, and wraps her arms around her waist, holding, coddling, waiting.


(Writing practice: This is a found story. How to: Grab some books off a shelf and quickly choose two phrases from each. Set a timer and write freely, either using the phrases directly, or allowing them to influence the direction of the writing.

This piece has phrases from Gertrude Stein, Grace Paley, Arundati Roy, and a smidge of Victorian poetry, don’t remember the details. This is a 15 minute writing practice, lightly edited.)


Lina Jean

This is the true story of the spontaneous combustion of Lina Jean Morrow. She was the type of girl who was all legs and buck teeth at seven, all blonde glamour at thirteen, and all ashes and crispy burnt skin before she was 19.

Lina Jean Morrow’s life was short and bright and hard. There were few things Lina enjoyed more than sunning herself like a lizard in the spring air, which made the family laugh when she was their baby girl but made them mad and maddened as she grew into those teeth. She was a tall girl, a tall girl with a habit of looking over the shoulder of whoever she was talking to, causing many people to turn around and look behind themselves to see who she was addressing.  It was just Lina Jean’s way. The way she talked was slightly foreign, an accent that was not exactly refined or delicate, but satisfying and exotic, the way other people’s family dinners can be. Familiar but not family. That’s what Lina’s cousins said, when they talked about the conbustion.

Before she combusted, the cousins had a regular comedy routine of walking behind Lina, walking her runway walk, sticking out their teeth to imitate her bucktooth pouty lip ways. Most of the time, Lina ignored them, but once in a while one of them would pull on her hands, throw themselves at her feet and beg her to marry them, while the others punched each other, laughing til they fell down in the dirt. Lina kicked a cousin or two, and once announced, over her cousin Ned’s shoulder, that if he was her husband, she’d shoot his dick off, which should have been funny but instead caused a whole lot of cousins to stay away from her for a few weeks. Ned said he had dreams about that, the way she looked over his shoulder, like she was looking for the knife, he said.

One day, Lina was sunning herself like a lizard on a warm rock on a spring day and her baby toe caught on fire. A little trickle of smoke appeared and she looked at it, like she was admiring a pedicure or thinking about what color of polish to put on. The smoke turned to a bright red flame and traveled up the top of her foot and along her thin shin bones and from there spread suddenly, and the cousins said the heat could be felt two counties away. Ned, who was across the state line looking for work, turned his head and looked back over his shoulder. He could see the line of smoke turn oily and black, and he felt Lina Jean burn white hot, watched her skeleton soften and emit a fragile ghostly crunch. He has blisters on his face to this day to prove that he witnessed her last moments, and no one in Stitch County has ever doubted him.

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April 2010
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