Cheers to everyone who participated in Nanowrimo! This was my second year. I really thought I was going to make it for awhile there but the revision bug bit me and I spent a lot of time doing that instead. I’m enjoying the afterglow but it does feel a lot like limbo…
White fur, pink ears, red eyes, I see the rabbit. It is neither terrified nor excited.
Go ahead, try to to fool me. That disappearing trick you have? It’s been done before. There is nothing you have that Houdini or a thousand of the greatest imitators can’t do better.
Go ahead, dazzle me. Spin out your similes, metaphors, symbolism. You think you’re so deep.
Move me, to the brink of my seat, fingers clenching the edge. Transport me elsewhere, where I can taste the grit swirling in the air, feel the callused palm of the hand I reach for, smell the tears drying on their cheeks and hear the thud, thud, thud of footsteps approaching right behind me.
Make me cry out for more at the same time I’m crying out for sweet release. Send me spinning, gasping, and screaming as a newborn back into reality with fresh eyes.
But the rabbit? It sees the old hat and is as bored as I am.
It’s probably too short and straight-forward to be considered a fablou, but here’s my inspiration from Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, which is fascinating primarily since it was written during the bubonic plague in 1348, which wiped out 75 percent of the population in Florence, Italy. I personally prefer the lowbrow French Fabliaux, but I’m always biased toward anything French….
Charming ladies and gentlemen, sometimes it is easier to judge from a distance than to evaluate the deficiencies of our own lives. A few years ago in Los Angeles, there lived a woman who was flipping through a tabloid while her husband surfed online. She kept updating him with the latest celebrity gossip and her opinion on matters, to which he would provide a monosyllabic response.
“I cannot believe that Brad Pitt would give up Jennifer Anniston for Angelina Jolie. It’s too absurd.”
“She’s the beautiful, funny girl next door. Who would give that up for some wild child philanthropist?”
They continued along this track for quite some time, until they were tired and went to bed. In the morning, the woman woke to find the apartment ransacked. It seemed that all of her husband’s things, including his person, were missing. Only the computer was left and she opened the browsing history and began flipping through the sites.
The email exchange with an Indonesian woman.
The online TEFL program.
The woman could not bear to accept how this would directly affect her life, but she was captivated by the scandal.
"I cannot believe that a husband would leave his wife in the middle of the night and move to another country without even telling her! It’s too absurd."
Indeed, she could not believe it, even as the silence prevailed. She kept waiting for that familiar masculine monosyllabic response. Resolved not to continue until it came she did not eat or sleep but wasted away like the most anorexic of her two-dimensional idols.
|—||Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar|
I struggle with what to post to a blog versus another format. I was posting first drafts short stories but that left none for me edit with the end goal of publishing in journals. Diary entries are too raw, fragmented and disjointed for the population at large to find any interest. Book reviews are too opinionated and pedantic. I want this to be more creative than that. It’s taken me awhile to find some sort of balance.
Moving forward, I’m going to continue posting quotes from books I read that I find especially moving. Also,I’m going to write a creative response to the books I read. I’m going to start with a short story I just finished that I believe is very fitting for changing a blog’s format midstream: Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. I should warn that I will attempt to avoid spoilers, or at least provide warning, especially in more recent work. However, the goal is not to summarize or plagiarize the piece but to have some sort of creative response to it. If anything, I hope it inspires others to either read the work or have a slightly different perspective.
The doorbell faintly echoes through the house as I stand waiting for a response. My hands, holding the case of my wares, are beginning to numb from the cold. Soon, the Christmas season will be upon us. It’s the best time for sales and I have quite the surprise for my family this season: I am sending my sister to school so she can become a proper violinist.
The door opens a crack so I can just make out a strip of a woman: perfectly coifed blond hair raised from a powdered forehead, a blue eye narrowed with suspicion and the tidy fabric of a red dress. She doesn’t speak so I wave good naturally. “Good morning, ma’am. I’m here to…”
"Go away," she says. Her voice is quiet, but as hard and sharp as a thin sheet of metal. As I’m trained, I prepare for a rebuttal but she says in the same voice, "I said to go away."
"I thank you for your time, ma’am," I say and am about to turn to go when she begins to speak again. She’s so quiet I pause, straining to hear her words, but they are only too clear in the silent morning air.
"It’s evil what you do," she says. "You sell things that people don’t need to people who can’t afford it. Most of them are just trying to be polite. You are nothing but a cockroach feeding on the decay of other people’s lives."
|—||Joris-Karl Huysmans, Against Nature|
|—||F. Scott Fitzgerald, A Life In Letters|
|—||F. Scott Fitzgerald, A Life In Letters, writing to a college friend about feeling old after the failure of his play The Vegetable and about to finish the final revisions of The Great Gatsby|
|—||Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being|
I was a little girl when the fire began to consume the Monticello Hotel in Norfolk Virginia on New Year’s Day in 1918. Father later said it was my fault. The bed became too cold and at some point of the night I moved to the floor near the heater. In my sleep, as I’d become too hot, I’d pushed the blankets and pillows onto the heater. This led to the fire that would consume the building, starting the new year in panic for so many people.
At least, this is what Father speculated afterward. At the time, he said that he woke from the heat and choked on the smoke. When he’d looked around for me he’d seen me immersed in a blaze, scooped me up and ran outside. He had lost Mother in childbirth and my older brother Thomas from an accident, a deadly fall from a tree, but he would not lose me. In his rush, he had no time to stamp out the fire.
I recall being roughly wakened from sleep, but even that seems part of the dream. One moment I was too warm on a hard floor and the next I was pressed against Father’s chest, shivering in the frozen air as people ran and shouted around us. I couldn’t figure out what the commotion was from and all I could think of was a school assignment where Paul Revere shouted, “The Redcoats are coming! The Redcoats are coming.” I wondered if the war had come for us and what that would mean if it had.
Father had grown up in Norfolk, Virginia and even though we lived in New York he still was fond of his hometown. He was a reporter for the New York Times but was also working on a book about how the war was affecting Norfolk so we traveled there three times a year to visit Aunt Rosemary and to investigate the changes brought on by the war.
The previous year, about 600 German soldiers, the crew of two ships Kronprinz and Prinz Eitel Friedrich, had been held at the Norfolk Navy Yard. To pass the time, they’d built a German Village. When the US had entered the war in April, the sailors were sent to POW camps in Georgia. The village, however, remained a tourist attraction. The baked goods and souvenirs, instead of benefiting the German Red Cross, aided the economy of Norfolk. This was the premise of Father’s book: War was bad for people but good for business.
I had given him an even greater spectacle, however. A fire truck came, but as the firefighters turned their water-hoses toward the flaming building, the water froze. There must have been fear and, just in my nightdress, I must have been freezing, but all I can clearly recall was how beautiful it was and how alive I felt in Father’s arms.
Neither of us could have known that would be the last year together. Many people lost loved ones during that time, but Father didn’t die from WWI but a just as arduous battle in his body. Cancer is caused by malignant cells that consume healthy cells. In that way, it’s not so different from war.
Father was never able to finish his book and, despite my best efforts, I never could continue his work. My generation went on to suffer The Great Depression and lose our children in WWII. My heart was too far removed from the distant war from childhood. I remember the fire, though, and how happy I was to feel his heart beating beneath my ear, the smell of his hot breath and how my hair would cling to his beard like velcro. He is more alive to me in that memory than any other. Sudden, drastic events have a tendency to etch themselves in the memory. For this, I am grateful.
Sugar and spice and everything nice. Fire and ice and everything… eternal.
Photo courtesy of http://www.retronaut.com/2013/02/frozen-fire-truck/