Lourdes Mint's Mid-Life Miracle

Real-time memoir of the coming year (5/20/14 – 15) and the achievement of a life-long dream

Archive for the category “Story/prompt response”

Here’s to doing something tiny, today!

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/tiny/

“One could almost believe that one day is just like another. But some have something a little more. Nothing much. Just a small thing. Tiny.” ~from Little Bird, by Germano Zullo

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A close friend of mine gave me this book when our first potential adoption fell through. On the day the baby was born, we were on our way to the hospital when the social worker called to tell us the parents had changed their minds. We went home and decided we would not renew our home study again. We had renewed twice already and suffered through several disappointments, this last one the worst, and we were done. We had a beautiful family already and weren’t getting any younger, we told the adoption agency. I hit the “reset” button in my life, began this blog (among other things), and rededicated myself to making writing a priority. A little over two months later, and just a few months before our home study expired, Mariel was born and everything changed.

She was so tiny, but we could already see in her, the strong and beautiful little girl she has become. Maybe it doesn’t need to be said, but these last couple of years have not been big writing years for me. We have been very busy here, busy with family and with moving house and all that comes with those things. And I feel like I am only now beginning to dig my way out.

Compared to what I have to do, ALL THESE THINGS I feel I have to do, all I can do today is something tiny. And I’m doing it. It may not be much, but it’s a start … or mainly, rather, a continuation of things started long ago. I think there’s an important difference there.

Continuing is not as fun and fresh and punchy as having A BRAND NEW START because, for one thing, it’s more complicated. I cannot, at almost 50 years old, simply write off all of those things I’ve wanted and pursued over the years. I know a few at least are genuine reflections of my most authentic self, not just my younger or less-experienced self. Continuing now, picking up where I left off, validates my past efforts even if they didn’t lead to tangible achievements. It is messy and murky work, and every little thing I do, even this post, feels tiny compared to where I want to be in relation to my hopes and dreams. But I have to proceed as though I believe, with all my heart, that the tiny things will add up. So here’s to doing something tiny, today!

There is always “burn” here now.

Pretty+Flames+2-7-2007+3-36-23+PM+2816x2112There is always “burn” here now.

Door knobs burn in my hand as I turn them, so I leave the inside ones open. Even the floor burns the bottoms of my feet, so: shoes, but they burn also. These words too, all words, whether I think or say or read them, they all burn now. Sometimes./

To hear them, these ones here, spoken aloud in this room today — w/ no one aside from me listening, no music playing, nothing baking — to hear them without burning, what I would give for that! To be back there, here but back then, in my dream of life again, where it was plenty warm enough, what I would give./

There were times I’d think I must have come from there to here through someplace really cold. I’d think, could I have died that day? That day I “wakened” to the smell of all my pies burning and you knocking as loud as you could on the door. “What’s burning? Are you okay? What’s going on with your hair?”/

We threw the pies into the garden, laughing. You cut my hair in the kitchen to help fix me back up as we aired the place out. “What happened, though? Did you fall asleep? Since when do you bake pies and for what?” I opened you some wine and we spent the rest of the day together./

But I watched the pies slowly disappear alone. It took weeks and then one downpour finally carried the rest away./

Today, I know I came through someplace really cold to get here. Why else, how else, could touching these now — these plastic keys — burn me so? So that the plainest words/thoughts, uttered as plainly as I can manage, are birds barely escaping a flame and then at the very last second returning or just stopping, letting it happen, letting it wrap them and hold them in its hot hands until they turn to ash?/

There is always “burn” here, but I’ve begun to wonder if it might be okay for a time./

After all, crying now is like climbing a tree—but on another planet. Crying: Why? How? It doesn’t happen here, I don’t think, but I’m not completely sure (having learned about evaporation so long ago). I do know it’s not okay not to cry ever./

I know too that today nothing is baking, no music is playing, and no one knocks or doesn’t knock at the door. And I know I didn’t die that day. I am being still and quiet, no more words aloud for now, dreaming of when I was “just warm enough” and wishing I could cry, here or on some other planet, any planet (except Mercury, Venus)./

And yet. Even though these words, my memories, the door, the floor, the bottoms of me feet — ALL of it burns, all of it is burning me — I begin to think it could all turn out all right, that one day I will be just warm enough again.

***

THIS is a repost, thanks. I’ve been gone from here for SIX long months. I consider it a bit of providence that I log back in tonight, after several days (weeks? months?) of thinking about this blog AND THIS POEM especially, and find that BURN is the one-word daily prompt. Today. When I log back in … But so, I have nothing new here now, I don’t think, am exhausted, but I jump back in to this — everything — holding the hand of my 47-year-old self from two years ago. I trust no one more.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/burn/

https://wordpress.com/post/lourdesmint.wordpress.com/678

 

 

Daily prompt response: Problems with Styrofoam and Another Advice Column Reject

instock-069Peanuts

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Connect the Dots.” Scour the news for an entirely uninteresting story [or make one up?]. Consider how it connects to your life. Write about that.

Dear Abby,

I know this is probably not a huge deal, but on the off chance that someone else has the same problem and suffers mainly because it can be so inexplicably distressing, I figured I’d write. You know how those Styrofoam peanuts can’t be recycled so you have to get them out of the box your extra fragile purchase was packed in, bag them, and throw them away separately — with the rest of the garbage? Well, every single time I do this, and I do mean EVERY SINGLE TIME, I’m extra careful to pull the bag into which I’m emptying the peanuts all the way around the box, all four corners, before I even attempt the transfer because I always seem to end up making a mess. But still, no matter how careful I am, an estimated 40 to 60% of the peanuts end up outside of the bag and I have to round them up by hand (“like herding cats” because of the static electricity) and bag them by the handful. Do you know how long that takes?

So I just want to know WHY? Is that too much to ask?

I don’t know whether it’s just the static electricity or there’s some other scientific explanation for why this CANNOT work as it seems it should, but I’m way beyond annoyed now and actually starting to get concerned. Thinking about it now, I guess the real basis of my concern is whether it’s normal to have so much trouble with Styrofoam or whether something else could be going on? I mean, do you think there’s some underlying issue I’m not addressing here? Or maybe even larger forces at work, whose presence and significance I’m missing?

Up to my neck in peanuts, LM

 

Dear Abby,

I’m supposed to be working on my novel now …I have so precious little time and I’ve entered into a contest or rather a challenge to help keep me going: NaNoWriMo. You may have heard of it? Anyway instead or working on my novel, I’ve been unpacking valuables (I use that term very loosely) that we have no place for yet (we moved recently and not all of our furniture is here …). Although I’m having a bit of trouble with the Styrofoam peanuts, as I wrote you about separately, I am not having trouble with writer’s block. In fact, really I’m having almost the opposite problem. I start working on my novel and the next thing I know, hours have disappeared and I have no idea what, where, who, etc. But see I can’t have disappearing hours, no idea, no — I have children, a family. But here I am with a discrete, necessarily limited, beautiful little chunk of time set aside just for the novel and instead I write you … and only “for pretend,” no less, in a blog amid a sea of blogs that connects to an ocean of blogs that connects to a bunch of other seas and oceans of blogs.

So I just want to know WHY? Is that too much to ask?

I don’t know whether it’s just the static electricity (for lack of a better word [FLBW])  or there’s some other scientific explanation for why this CANNOT work as it seems it should, but I’m way beyond annoyed now and actually starting to get concerned. Thinking about it now, I guess the real basis of my concern is whether it’s normal to have so much trouble with Styrofoam (FLBW) or whether something else could be going on? I mean, do you think there’s some underlying issue I’m not addressing here? Or maybe even larger forces at work, whose presence and significance I’m missing?

Up to my neck in peanuts (FLBW), LM

p.s. For our listening enjoyment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EI7OUQbE65g

Today I begin “I Brought You Back”

What would you do if you had a gift or ability that you weren’t entirely comfortable with? (What DO you do?) And what if this ability might be considered inhuman, impossible … supernatural, even? And you used your “gift” sometimes but not others, for reasons you couldn’t always understand or explain, and the consequences of your actions were more often than not completely different from what you expected: sometimes just so clearly WRONG; other ti450px-william_blake_-_christ_in_the_sepulchre_guarded_by_angelsmes, though, wondrous, unambiguously RIGHT — restoring necessary joy and goodness to the people you love, the world, all and everything? (But sometimes, don’t forget, sometimes: wrong, wrong, wrong … ?) What would you do?

“Quit doing it and let time pass, let all kinds of time pass.” This is my main character Nohl’s solution as the story/novel starts — that and to get as far away as possible from the mess he feels he’s created, cut his few ties with the past, etc., but NOT before telling EVERYTHING to someone he can barely call “friend” nor before doing his thing one last time.

The novel will follow one person’s complicated, lonesome relationship with his gift, each time he’s used it and how it “worked out,” ending with his decision about how to move forward … and an opportunity, with someone he now considers a true friend, to put that decision to the test.

This is the spark for the novel I’ll be working on this month (through NaNoWriMo). I’m being perhaps irritatingly mysterious/vague re: the gift because I don’t think it’s really what the story’s about, but I’m also afraid that mere mention of the word that best describes the gift would put an END to some things that I need, now. (More vagaries, sorry…)  Really, the gift could be any ability or talent that a person might have and feel ambivalent about and unclear on how, whether, why to develop it — unsure about whether it’s a good or bad thing. My writing this novel represents my decision to embrace a gift I’m not sure how I feel about … and not even sure I have. And I’m going to draw some pictures (or create some kind of visuals) to go with it, I think — also maybe a recording. Here goes!

 

Questions from Deep Space

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Trick Questions.”

A Pulitzer-winning reporter is writing an in-depth piece* — about you. What are the three questions you really hope she doesn’t ask you?

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Question I hope she’d ask: “Are you named after the Magnolia Fabrics wallpaper ‘Lourdes Mint’? (Me: Why yes, I am!)

Assuming I MUST answer 100% truthfully, I’d dread these Qs:

What is the weirdest or most anti-social thing you’ve done, thought, enjoyed, sought out, etc.? Anything along those lines would really put me in an awkward position. Still, even though I’ve always feared what I’ve felt to be my weirdnesses, I’ve never thought of them as unusual in the extreme. I’m sure I would not be alone in any of my answers, but I shudder to think of my company… and, truly, of judgment. My freak flag is on the larger side probably, but I usually wave it alone, in the dark, etc. I sometimes find that those that wave them most vigorously and visibly are not very freaky at all.

How many books have you read, really, all the way through? I hope/bet it’s more than I think, but I don’t track these things very carefully. I have no idea. I don’t claim to be  a voracious reader or even a particularly good reader — space out quite a bit, need to reread again and again. I also don’t feel obliged to read anything I don’t strongly desire  or feel a compelling need or responsibility to read, anymore. BUT I have yet to hear of a single successful and good writer who is not also a huge reader. Overall, one could say I’ve lived a very unwriterly life … on the surface in any case.

What’s your favorite [fill in the blank]? I am bothered by the fact that I’m so bothered by questions about favorites. One problem is that I’m never sure what mine are — in pretty much any category. I just don’t look at things this way and I guess I feel like that points to some significant lack in me: lack of identity (conviction?), something unformed inside me. I also don’t like Qs about who’s been the biggest influence in my life or which are the most significant, formative experiences of my childhood or life thus far. If I had to answer with something other than, “I really don’t know (yet?),” I would have to completely fabricate a response.

*Funny? When I first looked at this  prompt, I read “A Pulitzer-winning reporter is writing in deep space about you.”

The Question Is Disappearing. (Or: The Garden Orb)

Here’s a story for the Daily Prompt: Doubters Alert — “What commonly accepted truth (or “truth”) do you think is wrong, or at least seriously doubt?” @ https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/doubters-alert/Why?

My straight response comes afterward, if you’re interested.

***

“That’s not a hobo spider. It’s a garden orb. See here.” She passes him her device, the screen of which clearly shows the characteristic stripe of the harmless creature now squashed in the bottom of their tub. He pretends to look and nods, but he already knows, like almost anyone would, could.

“Hmm.” He says. He rubs his eyes, red from lack of sleep. The new baby cries in the next room. “So…”

“So, you killed it for no reason.”71dcMndpBgL._SL1500_

“I panicked,” he says quietly as she scratches vigorously at her upper arms. She’s been doing this since the birth. He chalks it up to postpartum hormone fluctuations, which he knows all about.

As he turns away, he makes a mental note anyway to look it up: postpartum + eczema, postpartum + scratching/itching, postpartum + tics, etc. She bends with noisy effort to collect the little pulpy mess with a square of toilet paper. “You panicked.”

She’s tossing the spider into the toilet, he thinks as he heads down the hall toward the baby’s room, and she’ll let it mellow with the yellow rather than flush it. One flush, even from their H2No toilet, uses more than a gallon of water. He knows. She knows. Everyone they know knows.

“Panicked!” she says louder, just now (perhaps) realizing that he’s left the room. Well, there are things one can do for that, you know. One doesn’t need to suffer that nonsense unless he chooses to!”

I know, I know, I know. We all know. You probably know already, too, were born knowing –— he thinks, looking at the baby before he gently lifts her into his arms. The baby’s eyes are clamped shut as she wails on, but there are no tears yet. That happens later. The crying is upsetting, of course, but less so if you understand that it’s normal. He finds it upsetting anyway, could not sleep, panicked. He’s very tired. Everyone’s tired. And all of this is normal.

He hears the toilet flush after all and then the still-pregnant-sounding footsteps of his wife as she approaches. “Or instead of getting help for your panic disorder, maybe you could try leaches or something, you know, to suck the bad blood out. But then again, it could be a demon. Too bad Father Cohee’s still in jail.”

Father Cohee has been dead for five years … she must know that, he thought. She’s exhausted.

Now, she is standing in the nursery door way, puffy-faced and drawn-looking at the same time. He hates it when she gets like this and this is worse than usual, but again and most important: he’s not surprised. He’s been expecting this. “You should try to sleep,” he says.

“I knew you were going to say that.” She attempts to tighten the draw string on her knit top, but her boobs, big and heavy as sacks of flour, get in the way. She starts to cry.

He blinks at her slowly, sensing something shifting, murky out of the corner of his eye. He turns to face the baby and begins to hum to her. His wife stomps off and slams a door. I would too, he thinks. I’m a shit.

In bed later, his wife turns to him and says, “‘The Old Gray Goose Is Dead.’ I searched and found a match for the tune you were humming. It was familiar, but I couldn’t place it. Please tell me you can come up with more suitable material for a lullaby.”

“I can.” Anyone can. “Good night.”

Sleep comes quickly and ends abruptly, with no dreams in between. The baby wakes at 11:00 p.m., 2:30 a.m., and 5:45 a.m. This goes on for a couple of weeks before a new pattern develops. All normal. All to be expected. There’s plenty of crying, there are harsh words, and there apologies. But there’s also joy (or some feeling he doesn’t really attempt to identify or even describe; he believes his wife feels it too) — moments the three of them share that seem gilded, brilliant with significance, before they’ve even passed. Again though, certainly all of it this is well-charted territory for new parents. (Except, except, except!)

Except for that weighty, winged thing fluttering about in the shadows of his peripheral vision.

Yes, except for that. No, he’s not sure what it is. He doesn’t know how to find out more about it. He’s not sure whether he should or can do anything in response. But he is sure he doesn’t want to panic — not now, especially.

When he was a child, he remembers now, he’d ask his mother so many questions (“Does God live in the The White House?” “What happens if you fall into lava?” “Where did the first seed come from?” “Why does Dad work at night now, too? Who goes to the dentist at night?” [She had a quick answer for that one: “Vampires, that’s who.”]) and usually — if she didn’t know the answer (and sometimes even when she did, probably) — she’d do just as most parents then believed good parents should: admit it and suggest going to find the answer together.

“Hmmm,” she’d say. “That’s a good question, but to tell you the truth, I have no idea. Let’s see if we can figure it out.” And they’d go straight to her laptop. Usually, they’d end up watching YouTube, funny clips or music videos that were popular when she was growing up … and, finally, they’d check out her Facebook page. He remembered often waking up in the middle of the night — either on the couch, his head on her lap, the laptop “sleeping” on the next cushion over, or in his father’s arms, being carried up to bed. The next day, he’d try to recall whether or not they’d found an answer to his question, not because he cared that much anymore but more “on principle” — he told himself then. He doesn’t remember that last detail now.

Tonight, the baby cries at a new time: 4:40 a.m. It’s his turn, he knows, and the pumped milk is ready and waiting in the fridge. He looks straight ahead, keeps his eye on the prize, passes another garden orb on the way: first the steps, then the fridge, next the bottle, now the baby, and finally the bottle + the baby. Ahhh, “there we go.” The crying stops.

She has real tears now, right on schedule, and once he brushes them away, he and she will stare into each other’s eyes until the bottle is finished — a great antidote, he’s found, to the dark, flapping thing. Then, sleep can begin again.

***

We give a lot of lip service to the importance of questions, questioning, curiosity, etc., to the superiority even of questions over answers, BUT our institutional, cultural, and personal practices seem to suggest otherwise: we are as afraid of “not knowing” as ever, speeding toward “certainty” on as many fronts as possible — some of us begrudging the believers their beliefs, others calling the scientists out on the seeming inconsistencies or contradictions in their conclusions. It is good to know, even when knowing = trouble, complications, or worse yet more questions. I think that maybe the only thing as irresistible as having the answers (at the risk of sounding sappy) is love (and with it, the fear of losing love), which puts the pedal to the metal in our drive to know.

 

 

STAY

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Forever Young.”

(Death is the dark backing that a mirror needs if we are to see anything. ~ Saul Bellow)

My, oh my, my love … about these depressions in our mattress, which can

Only be flipped and turned so many times before they stop bouncing back,

Let’s not think, so THAT is what we’ve done with one-third of our lives!?

By that time (this?), I hope we can say: well, OK, we need(ed) that for this, these, the

Other two-thirds, which — however long they may last beyond this point —

Must be able to push forth, astride those nights that do end;

Hurdle endings that don’t end: the endings of pets, people, people we love;

Let go of  things that won’t/can’t be found again, no matter how ORGANIZED we are or

How faithfully we retrace our steps, how much we care or try or want; and, AND, and

Get used to the feeling of Nature’s waning interest in us, looking through us now to

Its more current projects, just as it becomes more beautiful in our eyes.photo (2)

(How many times have I photographed the moon just this past year? The DAGGONE moon! Like it hasn’t been here all this effing time, hanging around, doing its thing while I did mine. But now, each time, with every shot, I felt/feel a word placed and then burn under my tongue: STAY! [That’s the word.] I can never tell where the word’s come from nor who it’s for. Me? The moon? Us both? Who can say [?] so I let it stay, the word beneath my tongue, until one day I look for it and find it’s slipped away again.)

I do know, though, all things do finally go, are gone, and that is that — for now, at least.

But that’s what makes life precious and meaningful. Yes, that’s just exactly how the whole thing works.

Anyway. NOW THAT THAT’S OUT OF THE WAY,  to answer the question: HECK, YES! I would GULP those

Fountain-of-youth waters down, just before diving in and spending the better part of the day(s) floating — never, ever sleeping —

On my back, this back here (!), which is presently further debouncing our mattress. But, YES!

I would drink. I would make you drink, too.

(A mirror needs a dark backing if we are to see our reflection, which is always good to check out before having your photo taken, going out to dinner, etc. ~ Lourdes Mint)

“Drafts” are the new “so?”

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https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/______-is-the-new-______/

[Please excuse me for choosing my own blog. Felt like something I needed to do today.]

*I have 57 drafts and only 38 (39 now, actually) “published” … things. So? What is a published thing anyway, for many of us, but a draft that has somehow tripped the system, slipped through our over-zealous, ultra-self-censoring, hyper-critical inner critic? Anyway, here’s one that slipped through.

 

38 published, 57 drafts, and my blog’s goal’s

“Due date” has gone by, so by, that I

No longer see clearly the [X] on the horizon. (That dot that was my goal.)

 

But I look often. Things I’ve seen:

A fallen tree, an empty house, a man walking, hands in pockets, and a

Windmill, still. Once, I saw a fox with a rabbit in its mouth!

That was my favorite.

 

Today, though, I don’t know. Can’t make it out.

But, oh!, I know it just moved … closer no less. Or was it me, toward it? (Ha! Noooo.)

I’ve been moving lots lately but not in that direction. I’ve been wishing lots too that it —  my goal, that dot — would come to me, for me, at me,

Any way it wants, with or without rabbit. I’ll take it! But I know. I know. I’ve always known.

 

And I’m actually accepting the “failure,” for now, have taken my hands from the throat of she who failed. (I need her: me.)

And with that grip loosened, I see her becoming beauty-full again, feel laughter pushing up through her throat (words to follow?), eyes opening wide once more, synapses (many? most? all?) firing up, firing one another up,

Stretching out to meet, connect, grab hold, and go. Someplace new. Again and again!

 

So I’ll stop looking for that leaf that wasn’t loosed when fall came early this year, a guest of spring and now summer and soon to be master of the house.

The sun has said go ahead: stop. God, I’ve heard, likes (loves) me after all — no matter what I say or (don’t) do. I hear someone, many, saying, “rest.”

And yet: that dot, my goal. Can’t wash the (imagined) taste of rabbit from my mouth.

And yet, there was nothing here before and now:

38 published, 57 drafts, and me.

We’re still here. I have my crown.

 

 

Float: A Love Story (or “Scientists Prove that Atheists May Not Exist…”)

[Note: I didn’t post at all in February, but started many, many stories that I didn’t finish, and TRIED not to think about my blog’s goal, the deadline for which is fast approaching. The Lourdes Mint who is not writing is usually not reading either, and the whole writing/reading thing SEEMS to go dormant, BUT REALLY it funnels itself, tornado-like, into a poltergeist-ish presence here — one that leaves water running, burns food, compulsively engages in what I’m going to go ahead and call performance art (not a euphemism for anything too far off from that, just so you know), and enthusiastically takes on new projects/commitments even when I don’t have time enough for the ones I’ve already got.

Speaking of which, I just finished helping a friend “proofread” his new book, which I shouldn’t have done probably (no more editing, etc., for me, remember?), but the good thing was that in doing it, I got bitten so good and hard by the word bug that here I finally am again! And, on my way here, I found this article* (kind of interesting) and it reminded me of a conversation that I overheard once in a cafe, next to a hot springs in (a place resembling, on this particular morning) Iceland. Anyway, here’s my “story”…]

Float: A Love Story

“ZZ,” I’ll call him, is a pale, thin-lipped guy who looks like he spends most of his time in a dark room, illuminated only by a computer, living on nothing but coffee and Ho-Hos. He has a beard so huge it looks (and smells, I’m guessing), from where I’m sitting, as though it has its very own ecosystem (the kind that would include plenty of marsupials, mushrooms, and marshy bogs).

“‘Scientists prove that atheists may not exist…’? I don’t understand how one could possibly prove this,” ZZ huffs. “No, actually, what I don’t understand is why one would care to take on such a silly endeavor. Am I really that scary? What, are they bored w/ cancer and AIDS? Pathetic. It makes no sense. I mean, why/how can one … um…?”

He takes an angry sip of his hot frothy whatever and looks at the woman across from him, whom I can only see from the back and who is huddled over her plate, appearing as though she’s just taken a huge bite of something delicious. I crane my neck to try to see what she’s ordered … I’m sill trying to decide.

ZZ continues: “Well, what else do you remember about it, the article?”

Chewing, chewing, chewing, the woman—whom I’ll call “Chortles”—holds up a “hold-on-a-second” finger. ZZ glares at the top of her head, tilted down toward the plate. He begins to yawn (too deeply, too loudly, I think), and blink (too fast, I think), and stroke his beard (once is way more than enough, I think — and then … oh, I cannot hold off much longer on eating … getting to the springs).

I see he is feeling alone, though, and almost jealous of the food on Chortles’ plate, of how happy it makes her (I am too).

“Okay then, what did you say the article was called, again?” ZZ picks up his iPhone, peering into its glassy face through thick, black 1970s “smart person/atheist” glasses. “Hello? [to her] Can I get a web address, or URL, maybe?”

Chortles chortles and, with what sounds like a full mouth, says something about, “key words” and how “no one really needs web addresses” anymore. (And what’s a URL, again?)

ZZ seems pretending not to hear, keeps poking away at his phone. “No access, still? Here? Oh, you!” he hisses at the slick black thing in his hand. “Bastard whelp! Pathetic.”

He sets it down, gently, and begins to examine his hand as though it has just now, at this very moment, appeared. He then looks incredulously at Chortles, who is still chewing, from what I can see—no wonder given that she’s taken another bite or five while ZZ was laying-in to his phone.

Watching her gobbling away, he almost smiles, but also sighs loudly and turns his attention to the panoramic window that runs the length of the entire east wall of the place—furrowing his brow and slowly shaking his head at the sight of the hot-springers. Some are blissing out, others are frolicking, in the pre-dawn, orange-ish glow.

It’s as though they are, in their very being—through either their in-your-face contentedness or their “glad animal movements”—speaking directly to ZZ in some strange language he’s unable understand. And it’s as though he desperately wishes to communicate this disconnect to them, to everyone! The furrowing and shaking continue, becoming more and more pronounced.

“No sense at all … the article, I mean!” he says suddenly, sharply, and abruptly returns his gaze to Chortles, who looks up at him finally and vaguely nods before returning her attention to her plate. She’s slowing down.

“None!” ZZ goes on. “And sense is pretty much my number one criterion—no, my only requirement—when it comes to choosing to give something another moment more of my attention. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.” He strokes his beard again, gifting it a little tug this time. “Life really is too short, as they say.”

“Too short for what?” asks Chortles, taking a sip of her steamy beverage as she looks out at the springs. “Oh!” She points toward toward the mountain. “See this? The sun is just about to rise… .”

ZZ gives the view a cursory glance. “Hmmmm, yes, I see.” He turns to her again, pauses. “What did you think of it, the article?” he asks, his thin lips sporting a bit of foam.

Chortles chortles again and sort of shrugs.

“Huh! She laughs,” is all ZZ says as he watches her finish up. He’s hungry, starving, I’m guessing by the looks of him, but he does not seem aware of it … or at least not ready or willing to do anything about it.

Then, suddenly, the first rays of sun appear at the ridge of the deep purple mountain beyond the body of water, long fingers of pure light reaching up, over, and into the ambient glow already there. But I’m so hungry…

“See! I knew…,” says Chortles, beaming, I imagine. ZZ smiles a little, picks at the last bit of her food—says, “Indeed!”

Indeed?! Puh! Of course that’s what he’d say, I think. My food cannot come soon enough… .” But suddenly it’s there, my food—same thing as Chortles’, whose non-communicativeness all this time suddenly makes perfect sense. I’m digging in, watching too as the glow is overcome.

“I’m here now,” the sun says to its pale understudy. “You can lay back, now, relax.”

These words, this thought … strange … come into my mind as I behold the sight along with everyone out in the water and all of us inside too, even the people who work there, even Chortles, even ZZ. And all is almost perfectly quiet until a metal utensil falls to the ground.

“Actually, you know, it is funny,” ZZ says, evidently still thinking of Chortles’ latest non-response (and second chortle) to his desperate plea. “Actually, yours is the perfect response.” ZZ laughs too now, but to me it has plastic, accidental-sounding quality to it, like another utensil, a spork—I’m picturing—falling to the ground.

“Yes, I really did see it as kind of funny,” replies Chortles absently, after she’s tossed her napkin on the plate. “That’s all, really. Now let’s go float, my lamb. That’s what we’re here for, right?”

ZZ smiles at her, even though she’s not looking at him—now standing up, now sweeping crumbs from her front, now grabbing their large woven bag.

“Float, right… Have we paid?” ZZ asks Chortles, beginning to clear the table.

Chortles confirms (“Yup!”), as she pats him on the part of his pants where a butt should have been. He moves slowly, seemingly unsure of where he’s going. “I miss the kids,” he says.

Chortles grabs his shoulder, gently redirecting him. “Me too,” she says and points to the bin near the trash can. “Over there.”

And/but as they walk out, I can hear ZZ winding up again.

“Who wrote it, though? Can you give me anything there? Man, woman? Young, old? American? Anything? … Credentials?”

The door shuts behind them and I can no longer hear what they’re saying, but watch them as lay out their blanket together and then begin, also together, to braid ZZ’s beard or do some equally weird thing to the beast with swift, perfectly coordinated movements. And … I’m done, I decide, thank you—clearing my own table now.

Out on the bank, I move close enough to smell the springs and begin feeling their effect, something, as I lay out my blanket … and as ZZ and Chortles approach the water’s edge.

I am close enough, too, to see how full of doubt ZZ is, it seems, but also how free from fear — as Chortles takes him by the hand and leads him into the shimmering water, which looks almost pinkish-blue in this light.

A little later, I’m surprised, but then not, to see which of the two of them blisses out and which frolicks …

** THE END **

 *Here’s the article: http://www.science20.com/writer_on_the_edge/blog/scientists_discover_that_atheists_might_not_exist_and_thats_not_a_joke-139982

And here, also, are the lyrics from “May It Always Be,” by Bonnie Prince Billy, one of my favorite singer/songwriters—that’s him in the pic, standing in for ZZ. Hate to overload this entry, but I never know when another month might fly by with no post … and because this story/memory reminds of this song.

I’ve been with you for a fairly long time,
May I call you, may I call you, may I call you mine?

And you are near, an’ been with me,
May it always, may it always, may it always be,

Please don’t leave my side, remember I love you,
None of what I have done wrong was really done against you,

If you love me and I’m weak, then weaker you must love me more,
To reinforce what’s also strong, and all the love we have in store,

By example you showed me, living’s alright,
Stay here with me, stay here with me, stay with me tonight,

And come with me when I go to the bedroom,
And we’ll play bride, and we’ll play bride, and we’ll play bride and groom,

If you had not been born you know,
What would I? What would I be then?

I would not have strength to grow,
And be counted, and be counted among men.

Please don’t leave my side, remember I love you,
None of what I have done wrong was really done against you,

If you love me and I’m weak, then weaker you must love me more,
To reinforce what’s also strong, and all the love we have in store,

And in the morning we’ll wrestle and ruin our stomachs with coffee,
Won’t we be, won’t we be, won’t be happy?

We will rise in anger, love and ardor,
Shining, shining, shimmering in loves armor.

[You can hear a good version on YouTube: “Bonnie Prince Billy – May It Always Be (Live in London)”]

[**Photo: Bonnie Prince Billy at Sydney Opera House (2006); read more at http://www.fasterlouder.com.au%5D

Love letter, from a kind of bad guy to his beloved daughter

letterfrombadguy[Written in the spring of 1920, outside, in some hilly Tennessee woods]

To my dear daughter, Lucie,

I could not believe it when I got your letter! My hands shook so bad I put them and your letter into my pockets. I was careful not to bend the envelope. Then I went right out, into the yard and straight to my shed. I started rattling my things around like maybe I had something needing fixing. I would say I was in a state! But then I sat down and opened the letter.

Lucie, I haven’t let myself hope that such a thing as this could ever happen still for me. I’d expect better that a tropical bird might fly into my window here, sit on my knee, and start talking to me. “Hello Ned, silly old fool,” in a friendly like manner. But here your letter is in my hand! And your handwriting especially for the address is like mine as you might see for yourself. That was another surprise.

Thank you for writing Lucie. You may never know how much it means to me. Over the years I must have thought about writing to you at least one hundred times, but I could never think of what to say. You are much braver than me.

This morning, I went into the woods to write my letter to you. I believe I am sitting in a spot I might never been before, even though I come up here more and more these days. I don’t know why this feels like the right place to talk to you. I could find some place quiet enough and where I won’t be interrupted almost anywhere. You probably have some thoughts why this could be the right place for me to write this letter. You always were so good with your thinking and questions too. But I couldn’t ever think of the right answers for you, even when you were not much more than a baby. I make the point because it’s true and also because of what happened with your college school. I am so sorry what happened because I understand you are sad about it. But I know whatever made you leave that place, it cannot be that you are not smart enough. I would bet anything on that! You are the smartest person in that town. I would never doubt you had a good reason to leave.

Well there really is nothing to see in these woods but more woods. I tried many different ways through them and never came across anything worth telling to another person or to put in a letter to be carried for 700 miles to you. I wish I could describe a beautiful view for you, but there are too many trees in the way, every which way I look. Even if I could see through these trees, I doubt I could describe what I saw in a way you would enjoy. I see how good you are with words. But there was one time I saw a shovel that had become part of a tree. Someone must have left it there years ago and forgot about it, so that the tree just kept growing around it. What I mean is it was split at the blade and then came together again up around the handle. The first time I saw it, I was amazed. Now I pass right by it without even looking at.  Another day I found the stone foundation of what must have been a home for some of the very first people to settle here. This could sound very strange but I imagined you there! I imagined you and your sister and some of the others sitting around a table there, next to a warm fire. I could see in my mind what you might look like then, a beautiful girl at 12 years old or so. In my mind I also heard the sound of your voice, you telling a story just right, so that everyone was listening and laughing.

I never pass by the place without looking and imagining something of that scene. I stop there often and often I sit and eat my lunch on a good level stone. Sitting there I am just an arm’s reach from your table.

Weeks ago I saw a string of little blooms hanging from a branch. Someone made it for someone, by way of threading the stem of each into a tiny hole in the stem of the next. You know how to do this I remember, but a young lady probably doesn’t bother with that kind of thing much anymore. I don’t know why Lucie, but the sight of it out here startled me! The flowers were already wilting and nothing too special about them to begin with, but still  I stood there looking at them for a long time. They swayed a bit in a breeze and there was just enough daylight that the little petals had a glow about them. What is strange is how I can remember it so well but more like I heard it in a story, not so much like I actually saw it. The very next day I could not seem to recall even the colors of the flowers which were all of a kind. Another strange thing is as I was standing there suddenly my cheeks got hot and my hands started to shake just a little. The dog I had with me took off back down the hill without me! And I had this thought very clear in my head, that this beautiful thing was not for me to see or enjoy, so I turned and headed back down the hill too. I don’t know why. Maybe you’ll understand a reason Lucie.

This is all I can think of to tell you now, but thank you again dear daughter for writing to me. I cannot say I feel deserving of your kindness. I never thought something like this could happen for me still. And I could not believe it but for this envelope in my hand. If you want to write to me again I hope you will. I will write back to you every time unless you ask me not to. If you do write again please tell me more about all the animals, the little cousins, and especially your reading and writing. And please anything else you want to tell me.

Have you seen the ocean yet? Have you tried swimming?

Also, if there is a photograph you could send with your letter without too much trouble I would be very happy for that. I think I can imagine you pretty well at 16, all except the eyes. I don’t know why that is, but I am sure they are beautiful.

Your loving father

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