Dance

D

Lucy liked to sing in the store while she shopped, and enjoyed the odd looks when she broke into a little booty shaking in the aisles.  With Pandora on shuffle, a list in hand and a plan of attack, this had become a weekly ritual right along with laundry and picking her daughter up and getting ice cream on Fridays after school.

She liked the smiles she got and outright laughter when she was a little too loud and slightly off-key or doing a little dance to music only she could hear, though this wasn’t always the case. She had been taught to be quieter, because she was always too loud, to laugh softly when she brayed like a donkey and to just tone all of “this” down. She was too abrasive, too passionate, too everything. From her childhood to her marriage, she had been told to be a little less than herself, or a lot less really.

It took Lucy much too long to realize she had let people tell her these things and it had been her choice to change for them. That look in the mirror had been rough, but she had decided changes must be made, quickly. She started small, and this act of song and dance, this small act of inappropriate behavior was one of her first acts of bravery. What did people think of her? What would they say about her? She didn’t want people o look at her and think she was strange, that she wasn’t normal.  Why couldn’t she just be normal??

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Yet Lucy hated stores and shopping but she loved music and dancing, so she decided to try the latter to negate the former as an experiment and tiny act of rebellion.

At first it was hard and she stopped moving if someone joined her in the  aisle and  started whispering under her breath if they were within earshot. Sometimes she completely failed and became silent and still like everyone else around her, like a normal girl, but she kept at it. Soon, she realized she was making more people smile than frown and she caught them singing along, winking or trying to catch her when she passed them. She realized that they were laughing with her and not at her and the perception she had of herself and the the world she lived in, shifted on its axis just enough to let more light through.

As she sang and helped an older man get a collection of bottled water into his cart, he thanked her and smiled with her.

Much larger changes came after, many were still in process now, but this small thing that most wouldn’t consider an act of the utmost bravery, made her heart sing along with her voice every time she did it.

dance.hm

 

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Cherished (Adult Content)

C

“Why are you here?”

“I need to be hurt”

I hurt him.

With gentleness I stripped the clothes off his body, as he trembled, kissing and darting my tongue out as the urge struck me. His breath was already sharp and jagged as I smoothed his hair away and tied a soft scarf over his eyes.

With care I wrapped his wrists in soft, supple leather restraints. With affection I strung him upon the steel bar that spanned the high, wide doorway that allowed me to have access to every inch of his skin.

I hurt him

With love I marked him. Floggers of varied makes  and weight warmed his back, slowly increasing the depth of red raised skin.  I created wings along his shoulder blades, made of burning lines he thanked me for. Practiced aim and a dragons tail  whip left gorgeous triangular patterns on the muscles that braced his spine.

I loved him

I saw his walls, the limits he thought he had hit. I petted the lovely pain I gave him, my lips traced his wounds with oh so soft kisses. I circled him, caressed his face with tenderness and whispered of his safety with me. Give it to me, let me take all of the pain for you my love, let me shoulder this for you. I will keep you safe when you fall to pieces.

I brought him close to breaking from pain, from pleasure, from love until there was nothing left

I broke my beautiful boy and deftly put him back together again.

One tear , one touch, one word of love at a time.

I licked the tears from his cheeks, digging nails into wounds while he could not resist the haven between my legs.

He loved me.

I poured water over him, washing every inch of him clean.

I baptized him in our private rite of cruelty and care..

I cherished him.

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Beautiful Curses

B

The light was bright yet diffused through the white sheet they hid beneath. Her mother was lying upon her side, her body making a space for the little girl to be. The little girl never felt she was where she should be, except in the rare moments here, a fragile place of temporary respite.

Their foreheads rested against one another’s and the little girl breathed in the breaths her Mother gave into the world, giving her own back,  creating a cycle of secret, safe proximity. One of her Mother’s arms bent beneath her, so that her palm cupped the little girls cheek. Her free arm held the little girl close, pale fingers drawing soft circles on the little girls bare back. Every so often her fingers would find a spot that they decided to massage and sooth. The little girl could hear the comforting crash of waves nearby and smell the salty air mixed with their own. Breath in. Breath out.

Her Mothers face was as close as it could be and the little girl tried to count the pale sprinkling of freckles that could only be seen when she was very very close like this. The little girl loved the freckles. She did not have any on her own face. The little girls skin was smooth and olive toned. Her Mother was as pale as cream, with shifting blue eyes that changed with the light and her mood. Right now they were closed but the little girl knew they would be clear and dark when she opened them. She studied her Mothers’ face often. In moments like this and in the moments she was not supposed to see. In pain, in pleasure, in fear, in sleep and in that place she went when all she wanted was held within the needles the little girl hid when she could. Breath in. Breath out.

Everything about her Mother seemed different, foreign and special. The little girl was all bare thin dark limbs. Her cheeks were broad, her eyes almond-shaped and slightly slanted, she had brown hands with pale palms, nut-brown nipples and kinky dark brown curls. The little girl thought her mother was the most beautiful woman in the world and was thankful that she herself was ugly in comparison. The men who came thought she was lovely too, and the little girl thought this must mean she was not, since she was so different. This gave her some comfort even while she felt sorry for her mothers beauty. Breath in. Breath out.

Her Mother’s fingers left her back to trace her ears and trail along her nose. The little girl knew her nose and ears were the same as her Mother’s, she knew the silent gentle touch was reminding her of their sameness.

“You are my Wild  Little Thing, my Beautiful Wild  Little Thing “ her Mother’s words were whispered in the sacred space of cotton, light and shared breath.

The wild little thing told her Mother that she did not want to be beautiful. She wanted to be wild and free and swim in all of the oceans in all of the world.

Her Mother’s forehead furrowed, creating a crease not quite centered between her brows.
Why can’t you swim in all of the oceans AND be beautiful?”

The little girl thought about this for some time and petted her Mothers pretty pale face with her own small thin fingers.

She told her mother that she liked being wild and free and she didn’t think you could be those things AND be beautiful. Everyone tried to keep you when you were beautiful, and the little wild thing didn’t want to belong to anyone or anyplace. When she thought about being beautiful, she felt arms holding her down, her breath being taken away and pain. She thought being beautiful hurt too much, she would rather have the sea and freedom.

Silent ears rolled down her Mothers face, somehow making her even more lovely.

Then you will stay my Wild Little Thing as long as you want and I promise to show you all of the shores you can explore , okay?”

The wild little thing, the little girl , knew her mothers words were as substantial as the grains of sand being pulled in by the tide. She knew that there was only this small space where their breath and touch anchored her to this moment. But she nodded against the hand of her Mother and said “yes, okay” to the promises that would never be kept.

As her Mother’s eyes drifted shut the little wild thing left the confines of the beloved tiny kingdom of two, beneath the soft sheets, in her Mothers arms. She ran to her ocean and began to race with the receding tide, playing a game only she knew the rules too. Her dark slanted eyes streamed silent rivers, but only the waves saw,so it was okay. She dove into the water, floating on its surface when she came back up and pretended the sky and water were the whole of the world and that she would never be so unlucky as to be Beautiful.

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J is for Judgement

J

judg·ment
ˈjəjmənt/
noun
1. the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions.
2. an opinion or conclusion. a misfortune or calamity viewed as a divine punishment.

Four years of Mothers’ Days, birthdays, care packages and mourning had passed and it was August 2002.  I was going to Maine to see their home, meet the rest of their family and see The Boy for the first time since he turned one and they came back to finalize the adoption.sideview mirror

I was living with a girl, but it didn’t occur to bring her, she was not someone I was proud of. I wasn’t either, but what can you do? I takes about 6 hours to get from Jersey to Portland, ME. I have always liked long drives, it lets you get used to going from one place another at a pace I could appreciate though this trip seemed to go by more quickly than I was prepared for.

Gwynnie and Gretchen had set me up at a local B&B, and I was thankful. I didn’t think I could stay in their home, there wouldn’t be anywhere to hide. It was the first time I had a hotel room to myself and that little pleasure was celebrated by jumping on the bed and laughing at myself.

Screenshot 2014-04-10 at 12.45.40 PM (1)I met them back at their house later. It is one of those big Victorians, with wide steps that lead to a porch wrapped around it. Each step felt heavy. Then, he was there. We were unsure of each other. It felt like a punch to the gut that you have to smile and say nice things, through.

Most people can look in the mirror and see the parts of them that come from this or that relative. The small ears from Nanna, full lips and pert nose from mom, that troublesome widows peak from dads side of the family, I have never seen myself in another’s face.  Though I had lived with my mother’s people, I look little like them, though I did have my grandmother’s ears. In pictures I resembled the small brown child some infertile member had adopted from an island nation.

There was no mistaking where this child came from. He was my darker version. I had anticipated the possibility of pain and the hardship of seeing him at all, would entail, but this came as as shock. I had seen plenty of pictures and knew intellectually that we looked quite similar, but the reality almost felled me. I rarely saw beauty in myself, but in him, I could see nothing else.

I think that they tried to limit the amount of people who might overwhelm me when I walked in the door, but still when we convened in the big bright kitchen, I was overwhelmed. The house was owned by three families, Gwynnie and two of her siblings had bought it along with each of their significant others. Her sister Penny and her husband Paul had the back half of the house. Her brother Matt and his wife Lisa had the third floor. Gwynnie and Gretchen had the front, and each portion was distinct to their personalities but somehow smoothly connected to the lives that inhabited it.

There was homemade bread, fruit picked at local farms and an endless stream of faces I couldn’t remember the names for.  Cousins, Aunts, friends, neighbors, I think everyone wanted a turn to meet me.

“We are so grateful for what you did”

“You are so brave”

“Everyone loves The Boy so much, you made them a family!”

“ You were so young and so selfless!”

“ OH WOW, you look JUST LIKE HIM!”

Rinse and repeat

I saw Gwynnie and Gretchen looking between our faces, along with everyone else and wanted to hide behind my fingers like a small child who believes it will make them invisible. I was not brave, or clever, or selfless, I was a train wreck with enough common sense to know it. I was afraid to look to closely at The Boy, I didn’t think I could touch him and I didn’t have the words to react to this kindness deluge. I wanted to trace his features with my finger and marvel at him. I never thought I would feel so broken and so full at the same time. I smiled and tried to find appropriate words to the words they sent my way. Even the deluge was easier than looking at The Boy, so I did my best not to be a blathering idiot in front of these people who were so nice.

This kind of home, this family, their friends, it was like visiting an alien nation where I didn’t have the language or the tools to navigate. I felt their judgement of my angelic deeds and saw no resemblance in the mirror. I wasn’t a nice person. I said inappropriate things, sometimes laughed at funerals, I slept with too many people, I had a free-flowing sense of morality, oh, and I curse like a fucking sailor. All of that was on a good day, and had nothing to do with the past four years spent on less than virtuous pastimes.

Broken clay heart

 

Into the Jungle

I will be posting tiny things that have no place, this coming month, as I gear up for the April blogging challenge. This means that I have been trying to write every day, which has gone surprisingly well. Additionally it means that I end up with both useable stories/entries and some that fit into no dialog or larger project. Most of that is garbage but some of it isn’t to terrible. The entry you will find below falls into the latter category. It is also due to having a few people I love, with varying degrees of PTSD. I have spent some time in VA hospitals and clinics, and with veterans. What I wrote below is only my interpretation of some very tiny part of that experience, of conversations and the full body crushes needed to both restrain and show comfort on occasion.  I am not an expert, a vet or anything special. I’m just a friend.

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The woman’s tone was soft and reassuring, like she was approaching a wild animal that just may bite. She wasn’t wrong.

The machines beeped, whirred and the unmistakable sound of metal against itself wove together like a cacophony of sound, each small thing mingling with all of the voices. Some raised in anguished while the softer plaintive ones that soaked themselves into my head were the ones that seemed the loudest. It all streamed together and triggered the situation we found ourselves within. A wheelchair rattled by, and the tenuous hold slipped further. I heard their screams in my dreams but the dream world and todays reality melded together in this moment. It wasn’t the first time by far, but I prefered to keep these breaks with reality a private affair. So close to falling and the damn woman wouldn’t stop talking with her calm calm voice, like it wasn’t all falling apart, like there was time for her inanities.

The floor was made of pale squares made with scuff marks already there, and I focused on the details, trying to distinguish the manufactured from the filth of countless human interactions. It changed and sprouted real dirt and jungle underbrush. Slipping. Slipping. The ticking of the clock seemed amplified, becoming the sound of the trigger on an empty weapon. I felt the pain of my nails digging deeper into my legs. Danger Will Robinson. Danger. A voice cut through the fog obscuring the large elephant leaves, muffling the birds and creatures that rustled with uneasy silence and the woman who became a mother screaming for mercy. GET OUT! GET OUT! GETOUT! punctured the noisy stillness, and some dim part of me heard my own voice. The woman/mother left swiftly and the demons descended.

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Bullets and blades cut through flesh. Life was held in these hands and extinguished, like god or the devil, take your pick. Just following orders. Boots made silent imprints on soft earth. He screamed when he saw his death in me and a part of me rejoiced. We drank and patrolled the edges of the fires reach and beyond. We fought, sweated, slept and took the power into ourselves.  It was everything, every heartbeat, every breath. I understood this place.

Quiet broken sobbing reached the dream and blood streaked my arms and legs. My eyes took in my caked nails and dismissed the self-inflicted pain. Through muck and mire I tried to figure out the sounds and felt the tears pooling in the crease of my neck.  I recognized the drugs in the grogginess and feared sleeping again. Sleep had become an enemy.

This body was failing, this mind couldn’t be trusted and I floundered. I understood less and less of the world I kept moving through like an audience to my own failures. The nurse came back with her calm voice and this time I managed to hold onto some semblance of being a functioning human being. She asked if there was anything I needed. I wanted to say to please let me go back, stop this charade that I wasn’t capable of but instead  I took the drugs and watched the lights move above me as they wheeled me into surgery.

Wild Thing: Jacob

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He sat at the kitchen table, soaking up the sun through  windows that surrounded this little nook, much like the cats that lay around him, on the floor, on the table and the chairs closest to him. Anne had never let them on the table or chairs, but now that she was gone he didn’t have the heart to shoo them off. His bones hurt these days, everything moving slower, but sitting in the sun he visualized the warmth seeping in, loosening stiff parts. He stretched his legs out from himself and chuckled as he did the stretches Anne had nagged him to do every morning with her. He had hemmed and hawed, never letting up on a cantankerous grumble of complaints. She had never stopped moving and loved stretching, then yoga, always trying to rope him in. She had danced all of her life, it was how they had met all those years ago.

A buddy had made him go out, insisting there was more to the world than the pieces of wood he was obsessed with, more than the apprenticeship he had fought and won to study this art. His buddy had forced him to clean the sawdust off and pull out the single good jacket he had to his name, and come out dancing. He didn’t dance, he didn’t care to dance or waste his precious time chasing skirts. He didn’t have time for them and he was pretty sure they wouldn’t care to have time for him. He wasn’t very good at talking to fill the space, he wasn’t charming and he couldn’t dance. Yet that night at the birthday party, for a gal he could never remember the name of, he had danced. She was one of those women that shine, not because she was the prettiest, but because her personal light shone through on anyone lucky enough to gain her attention. A bright smile in a lemon yellow dress, she had teased him when she found him skirting the edges of the party looking at his watch.

“Why even come to a party if you’re going to watch the clock? The whole point is to lose yourself, just a little bit, enjoy the moment, not count them!” she had said in a voice deeper than he had expected. He had seen her out on the parquet floor with the pretty corner details, dancing in red heels, with an, ever shifting line of guys trying to pin her down to more than a few moments of her time. He never knew how she had noticed him or why she had spoken to him. She had always said that his obvious discomfort drew her like a moth to a flame, she wanted to make the serious awkward boy smile, and she had. How could he stay stoic in the face of her smile, like sunshine through the clouds?

She was a student at the art school, studying painting but she didn’t know if she wanted to be a painter, or a dancer or a trapeze artist. While she painted and danced she worked at her Uncles print shop doing whatever needed doing. To Jacob she was a whirling dervish, and he had a hard time keeping up with her quick shifts in conversation, her mercurial moods that bounded between teasing fanciful larks to ponderous philosophical musings. She was rarely grim, and he loved that in her, it was as if she just didn’t have time to plod through the drudgery of sadness. For a man prone to being a bit dark and dire she was a soft welcoming light. He never could think of her without thinking of light, in all of its varying hues between harsh and life giving. He supposed that was exactly what she had been for him, his light bearer, though good and bad, she lit his way. Despite all of this or because of it, they had fought often and with great passion. He thought her fiery temper, a blazing fierce star of righteousness, was one of his favorite aspects of her. They fought about politics, art, religion, his collection of cats and in the end her treatments. She wanted to be home, wanted to stop the drugs and he…he didn’t want to lose her, couldn’t admit defeat.

He complained, remembered and loosened up through the moves and was finally ready to make peace with the new day. He got up and poured his first cup of coffee from the press on the stove and spotted his Wild Thing in the backyard, making her way through the trees towards the house. Her arms were filled with deadfall from the citrus that he hadn’t gotten around to clearing, face hidden, he he could still  see her messy curls popping out around the branches.

He smiled but tried to hide it behind the mug, just in case she caught him at it. He hadn’t been sure she would stay, pretty sure but not positive. He was afraid he might of gone a little overboard with the shed.. He would of done even more if he thought she would have accepted it.  He had searched for some time trying to find the most worn pieces of the odds and ends needed to make the space a tiny home for this young skittish girl. The last time she had visited, right after the big storm that took down the magnolia in the front yard, he had decided to keep her. Anne would have swatted him good for such a “man” thought (as she would’ve called it) but he knew that the girl needed someone to keep too. Someone to care for, to be responsible for, to bear some light on. He knew she watched him, knew she hid in the shed when it got bad outside and he knew he needed her as much as she might need him. His body was slowing but it was still working, he could still create and live and flourish with the time he had left, but he was bored! So bored without Annie to keep him in this world, caring about the next great chapter to explore. He was fading after Annie left and then one day he brought some leftover cornbread out with him in his pocket on a walk out to the edges of the property; some for the fish in the little pond and a bit for him if he happen to lose steam and needed a rest before starting back. He didn’t know why he looked up, because it wasn’t due to the girl making noise, she was quite good at not being heard or seen, but look up he did and there he found his Wild Thing. Joints and big hair, with her knees pulled up to her chest, hiding amongst the lemons in faded dirty jeans and a green tshirt. She met his eyes with her own clear green gaze, never making a sound, never stirring a leaf. She looked fierce, wild a creature of the outdoors. She also looked hungry to him, no meat on those bones, challenge in her eyes. They stood that way just looking at each other and he wondered what she thought of this old man tottering through his old trees all by himself. He felt himself fading from this world, but those eyes and the hunger he saw there stoked some last bit of stubbornness to flame. Maybe he wouldn’t go so quietly into the night.

“ I’m glad someone’s keeping my trees company little Wild Thing, feel free to visit them anytime you want.” He grumbled while he pulled the wrapped up bread from his pocket. She still didn’t say anything as he left it on the ground at the base of the tree and turned away, continuing on his walkabout without a backward glance..though it killed him not to take a peak.

When he came back that way the girl was gone as was the bread. He had thought someone might be staying in the old shed and didn’t care much either way since it wasn’t ever harmed, but now he had a pretty good idea who it might be. Suddenly he cared very much, and for no good reason. He hadn’t cared about much in a good long while, hadn’t felt anything at all really, and it felt good to have something to think about.

He had ordered the food he would need to cook beyond what would sustain him and started in on recipes he hadn’t made since Anne had been too ill to keep his heavy Southern cooking down. He dug out the pretty blue plates she loved so much, that a friend had made for their 40th anniversary. Over the next few weeks he made the trek out to the back orchard a routine on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He started leaving covered offerings to his sprite in the trees, and every time they would be eaten, with the plate cleaned and left for him on his way back.

He had the young man who had moved in next door with his girlfriend and three chickens, take the old rocker out from storage and bring it out to the tree he had found her in. The first time he sat there it took her almost an hour to come out and sit in the grass, rough bark against her back. He told her about his wife, he told her about meeting her, the dance and all of the things they had planned for their life together, while she ate the pulled pork , the biscuits and gravy with nimble fingers and quick sidelong looks at him.

Eventually he ran out of words and rocked in the shade; citrus, birdsong and quiet company warming a small part of him he had begun to believe would just stay cold.

“ Did she teach you to cook like this?” Her soft voice was unexpected and was almost lost in the breeze sweeping through the grove

He didn’t show the surprise and satisfaction at her interest but answered like they had been chatting together this whole time. It was the first time he had heard her speak.

“ No, my Annie never could boil water. She was smart as a whip but I could never teach her to cook a damn thing. My momma taught me and I’m grateful for it, otherwise we would of gone hungry all of those years.”  He chuckled with the sharing, almost feeling her laughing with him at the memories of burned pots and small fires put out just in time.

So it went for weeks that turned into months, until this day when some dam had broken and Eve the Wild Thing, walked towards him for the first time.  He pulled out the blue plates and started rummaging in the cupboards. Annie had wanted children but it never happened for them, they had filled the space with love, travel, tears and exploration, and it had never been an empty life. He never had a regret with her but right then as he wondered what to whip up and watched Eve try to figure out how to approach the kitchen door he thought maybe he still had something to give.

He went to the door and ended her struggle by opening up the door. She looked like she had only been seconds away from fleeing, but raised her head to his gaze anyway. He moved back to let her in and watched her twist and turn to take the bright kitchen in. The cats circled her ankles and she absently leaned down to give them each her attention.wards him for the first time.  He pulled out the blue plates and started rummaging in the cupboards. Annie had wanted children but it never happened for them, they had filled the space with love, travel, tears and exploration, and it had never been an empty life. He never had a regret with her but right then as he wondered what to whip up and watched Eve try to figure out how to approach the kitchen door he thought maybe he still had something to give.

“ I hope you’re ready to learn how to cook Wild Thing, we have a lot of work to do around here and we’ll need the fuel” He said as he walked ahead of her into the kitchen. He was turned away from her when the smile caught up to the thought, but he was looking forward to something  and it felt good, like bright sunlight.

Wild Thing

 I little story of a not so wild thing…

lemon orchard

She was a wild thing, at least that is what the old man said whenever he caught her before she could eat the treats he left for her on the blue plate that looked like a piece of sky amidst the scrubby grass below the lemon trees.  Wild thing. She liked the way it sounded in his grumbly voice with the lilt of the deep south like syrup. She smiled, face pointed down to her chest, he thought he caught her but often she stayed even when she saw the fat cats creeping along the edges of the orchard, scouting for their master. When he finally made his slow way to her they would settle around her, so fat they resembled small soft rugs, like those hunted trophies some men had in their homes. The citrus scent of lemon, orange and lime would surround her as he stood a few feet away watching her. He would sit upon the old rattan rocker that was falling apart under one of the trees. He left it here for these moments, when she didn’t run before he could make it all the way to this last stand of trees where the grass and trees grew more and more wild as time flowed by. She finished the sun warmed cornbread and pleasantly sweet tangy barbeque chicken he had left under the glass cover to keep the ants at bay. She knew he had a sweet with him, he always did, as a reward for these not so chance encounters. She had spent precious hungry moments scrubbing herself in the cool spring that lay hidden back here feeding the orchard. It only smelled faintly of sulfur, but she had used orange peels and sand to scrub under her arms and in her hair. He had made comments, quiet undirected comments about the funk she sometimes carried like a protective cloak. She didn’t like it either, but it kept people away. Yet now when she came to the shelter of trees, cats and citrus she stopped at the spring. It reminded her of the before time, when she wasn’t alone, but only faintly like the scent of sulfur.

“I appreciate you waiting for me out here girl” He grumbled from deep within his wide barrel chest that hinted at the much larger man he once was.

He bent over with obvious effort and placed the small plastic wrapped square on the cleaned off plate in front of my downturned head. I watched it for a moment, resisting the urge to snatch it like the stolen scraps I often nabbed from forgotten plates on the patios of fancy restaurants along the waters edge.  Here in front of the old man I tried to pretend I wasn’t hungry. We both knew different, which is why he left me the sky plates with their bounty heaped like offerings to forgotten wood spirits. Sometimes he would bring old books filled with tales older than him, of fair folk tricking the unknowing, witches making unwinnable bargains and of clever children finding paths through the thorny brambles of the riddles meant to trap them. Sometimes, like today in the slightly cooler shadows of the twilight, he would lean back in the rocker and tell me of the places and people he and his wife visited around the world. He built and carved beautiful pieces of furniture in his younger days. As he spinned a tale of commissioned grandfather clocks meant for the grand homes of rich men in the North I gently unwrapped the pale brownie dotted with dark chocolate pieces. For once my belly was full, so I lie back in the scrubby rough grass and felt it tickle my exposed arms and legs with one arm cushioning my head and savored the sweet buttery confection the old man gave me to keep him company and listen to tales I replayed over and over in my head when I was away from this quiet place. His deep lilting voice flowed over me like the warm water at the shore where it washed up and over my feet and legs. His voice had become one of the things I trusted, that soothed me just like the oceans’ touch.

The sun set while he spoke and I realized that the sweet treat was nothing but crumbs on my lips and that his tone had changed. He was asking me a question and I had missed the individual words, lost in my content reverie. I looked up at him, with obvious confusion and he repeated the question.

“ What would you say to coming by a few times a week and helping with the cats and the trees? I ain’t as nimble as I was and I would appreciate some help now and then. You know the old shed back by the spring? It ain’t much but if you could see yourself giving me a hand I’d be grateful enough to let you stay there as long as you want. “ His words were like honey over sharp jagged rocks, kindness wrapped in glass.

I knew the shed, more like a shack now, with the voracious growth of the land taking it over quicker than this old mans physical decline. It had a roof and four walls and not much else. We both knew I had stayed in it on stormy lightning filled nights.shed The soft bedroll and boxes of crackers that appeared as if by magic between one visit and the next attested to the farce of my ignorance. The bedroll stayed and the crackers were replenished and I had found myself there more often over the last year or so, even when there was no storm to hide from. He had never said a word about it, but now he was asking for me to openly admit a need I never mentioned either. I wondered for a moment if this was how he had collected the fat purring orchestra scattered around me, tempting them with treats until they were too fat and content to go anywhere else. A quick image of my current situation flickered past me, lying on the ground, belly fat, skin warm and I almost snorted with a burst of giggles. I suppressed the undignified urge and rolled onto my side, looking at him through the, now dry strands of hair, partially obscuring my eyes.  He was looking at me, but not directly, eyes sightly focused off to the left of my gaze.  leaning back, like he didn’t care what my answer was but I saw the tension in his hands covered in paper thin skin, marked with thin white scars grasping the arms of the chair. We had both been alone for a long time and the thought of these bright comfortable nuggets of time becoming commonplace had us both on edge. The time he called the gloaming stretched like taffy between us, a time I knew from his books to be one of shifting and change. It seemed a good setting for the ground that seemed to be moving beneath me, though I knew it was doing no such thing.

I sat up, crisscrossing my legs beneath me. I thought that the serious question that was said in such casual tones shouldn’t be addressed while lying on the ground covered in crumbs. He waited me out, as comfortable with silence as he was with the one sided conversations we often had. He treated me like a skittish animal that might run at any quick movement, which was probably why we had gotten here in the first place. Endless patience for a broken wild creature. I had looked at him often when he didn’t know, spying in his windows from tree branches,  while he puttered about the house that even through the window, seemed empty without his beloved wife.  The house was scattered with beautiful pieces of wood, that he still carved, sanded and polished. I knew from his stories, that he was still asked for precious pieces that took so much longer to create now. He would take the sales once a year or so, not for the money because despite the spartan way he lived I knew he was comfortable and wanted for little. He sold them to know that he was still a part of this world, even if he never left the house, brilliant pieces of himself were sent out into the world to be cherished and passed down from one generation to the next. He and his wife never had children but I thought that maybe his work was that for him, a thing that would live on past his time here, a solid memory. I looked at him and saw the same loneliness I knew was in me. I saw responsibility that might trap me, each kindness building a debt I didn’t know I would have the currency to pay.  My hand found the fuzzy warmth of a receptive cat belly and as his eyes finally met mine I nodded my head, yes.

The stars had begun to peek through as his whole body visibly relaxed.

“ Well that’s settled, I’ll expect you in the morning to feed ‘em. Might even be able to scrounge up some breakfast for you, wild thing.” and with that he used the momentum of the rocker to propel himself upward to a standing position.  The cats made similar rolling motions and got ready to scout the way back home. As he turned and slowly walked back towards the glowing windows just visible through the trees I got up too.

“ My name is Eve, but wild thing is okay too”  the words came from me but surprised me as much as they seemed to surprise the old man, since he startled the slightest bit and turned his head back towards me.

“ Well that seems fitt’in doesn’t it? My name is Jacob.  I’ll see you in the morning, Eve the Wild Thing” He replied with a slight smile and turned, and continued his path toward the light.

path2I turned the opposite way and found the barely there path leading to the shed carrying the sky plate with it’s glass dome. I rinsed them in the spring and found my way inside the small room, and stopped dead in my tracks. The bedroll was up on a small cot, off the dirty floor where I had left it rolled neat in the corner. A quilt that was faded with age and washings now covered the whole thing. A shelf was now above the cot with a collection of books lining it. I walked over and  picked up the small sturdy carving of fat cat that stopped the books from tipping over. There was a small narrow bedside table with a bowl and ewer on top next to the cot. A slightly larger table with lovely, simply curved legs gleamed in the far corner with a single matching chair pulled up to it. On the side of the table that pushed  against the wall there was a small camp stove with a single burner, one pot and a tank of kerosene hooked up. Above the table were two more shelves, one lined with boxes of crackers, dried fruit, oatmeal and a single plate with one bowl, a fork, spoon and knife stacked neatly together. The second shelf held a lantern, two tall wide candles, a box of matches and a small stack of folded white wash clothes.

I sat on the edge of the cot, desperately clutching the soft warm wooden cat, my bare callused feet resting on a round braided rug that was yet another surprise. He knew, he knew I would say yes. I fought the panic to run, to hide, to forget about all of this kindness and warmth that might choke me, lull me into complacency, with tooth and nail I waged a silent war inside my head. I felt my shoulders shaking with the effort not to run into the night. Instead I forced myself to lie down, and wrapped myself in the soft quilt that smelled of lemons and sunshine. I fought against the fear, hating to let it win yet another battle. I forced my eyes closed but didn’t think there would be any sleep tonight.

My last thoughts were of an old woman smelling of that same lemon and sunshine mixture tucking me in and kissing the crown of my tangled head.

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