Monday, September 11

Chapter 46:

A Writing Assignment:

The writing assignment (the "Map 2" assignment) is to think of a sentence that sparks another sentence, and so forth until the idea stops. Then do it again. Don't worry about a story, because the story will come on its own. Do 3 to 5 pages worth.
So here it is... let me know what you think.

Map 2

“But I don’t know how to fly,” said the turtle, but it was much too late. Nor was he built for speed like the hare, yet here he was falling in his shell – tucked within himself wondering what it was like to die. He could not turn back the clock: stop, rewind, play, pause.
Death, the old gray mule once told her, was like picking apples off the neighbor’s tree: you could continue picking the apples until the neighbor caught you. But the tucked and plummeting turtle had picked once too often and was now caught in his own death throes, too scared to move.

The pint of ale slid into the drunken hands of a waiting patron. The only one today. The liquid tilted in his desperate hands spilling three drops on the counter. It was a quiet evening mid-week, and, but for the drone of a solitary fly, all was still. His rough hands caressed the smooth glass for a moment which shimmered in the light before his wavering eyes until he began to sob slowly. The shaking of his calloused fingers increased as the room faded to black about the edges – regained its composure, then disappeared as his head slowly fell to the bar counter. It was Tuesday.

My mother told me of a time when their bird alighted on the salesman’s crew-cut. He tried in vain to sell his smoke-detectors in a house built to withstand the sound of two young boys, and two girls. “Back when boys were boys, and girls brought them pop-corn” mom says. The Northern California orchards surrounded this house, but grandpa was not a farmer, but a contractor. It was his dome they kicked him off the job at: his work to help create this now gaudy eye-sore. But the work finished and he died. He was there at the failed demonstration of the man in the fancy car and sports-jacket with the ten-dollar haircut. The man whose head the bird found a perch. Whose fancy dress and haircut did not fit in rural world.

I like certain types of wallpaper. I enjoy paint more, because of the choices in hue and color. Wallpaper has too many fiddly-bits about it which detract from freedom. Paint on a spackled wall is cleaner and less distracting. But wallpaper is much more fun to hang than paint is to paint. Verb/noun, noun/verb: paint. Wallpaper is messy and ick and goop and limp when wet – flopping around as though alive. Even after application it tries to flee back into its security in a roll from which it had been unfurled. Paint stays where you put it. It is only splatters from the brush which fall onto little rags or paper. But wallpaper detracts my thoughts as I lay awake making patterns cross and cease and again be. I am forced to think of the wallpaper merely by its being.

Dad did not die on the operating table again last week. He always expects to die because he never really trusts the doctors. But he did not die again last week.
When he eats boneless fish or chicken – sometimes stuffing or mashed potatoes – he always gets a bone. It sticks into his gums, sometimes making them bleed. But he never expects it.

The lawn gnomes chuckled at the fence for no apparent reason. Until one got close enough to see what was written there, there was no reason to suspect it. But the lawn gnomes of plaster-cast sit and read and chuckle to themselves in a benign, but fruitless way. They never care if anyone sees what they see: it is a game of sorts.
I move one gnome off by itself in one corner of the lawn, then back again to see them chuckling together huddled by the fence.
The wood of the fence was made in a factory, shipped tot he yard where it was purchased to fill a gap between lawn and driveway – as if they would fight if not separated by this artificial divide. Each board stamped at the plant of its size and type. Apparently lawn gnomes think it funny that a one-by-two should have been erected as a fence wrong-way-up. But I do not understand lawn gnomes. I do not own lawn gnomes. They will not chuckle for me.

Gaps in the leaves. Inviting gaps. Inviting the wind to whistle through with all its silent un-deadly calm muster. Each leaf does not shake at the wind, but, caught by the wind, the branch moves slowly. Back and forth. Shifting the gaps to shake off the breeze: like a wet hen ruffling her feathers to dry them – slowly increasing, expanding in size like a cat, then receding.
Closer gaps in the leaves pass across the farther, overlapping nothings seem to move the view between them. Further there is another tree, yet only the largest gaps show – barely moving in the wind. As if it were holding itself a bulwark against the breeze. Further trees show no gaps, but the sky about it from horizon to horizon, showing like an open mouth drinking in the wind.

Everything was safe and sane for one day – except in Akron, Ohio.
One dy without shots fired into crowds, or rocks hurled; without terrorists killing the innocent in the name of their god, or truck-bombs killing, maiming and destroying. NO angry politicians raised their voices, nor shouting in the revolts, nor raging bitter language between husband and wife. No children fighting over toys or governments over land. No hands raised in violence towards the weak, no theft, no rape, no vandals.
For one day, and one day only.
Except in Akron.

I own a myriad of ties. One is a cow-print and goes with a blue shirt with cow-print as collar. One has Buggs-Bunny and Daffy. One has Christchurch Priory in gold on black. I own them, but hardly wear them anymore. The cow-print I wore on graduation from college. The Buggs I have worn twice. The Priory tie is the classiest – if I want to look like a preacher. I own ties. They look good when I dress up. I don’t dress up much now.
I still own the cow-print tie because I will graduate from college again. I still own the Buggs tie because it was a gift from my father. I still own the Priory tie, because it reminds me of England. I have gotten rid of most of my ties when I moved from my job in the city. I had to wear ties every Wednesday (why Wednesdays?). With the job went my need for ties. With the need gone, I only kept my favorites and gave the others to Good-Will. The others were good ties, but I didn’t need them anymore.
I still own a myriad of ties, but I do not wear them.

The white-noise screeching and buzzing of the internet – a faded reminder of when we needed to hear it was working. Now we take it for granted, and merely point and click. But the sound remains, because we still use dial-up internet. There are faster options, but not for our town. The school and library only have T1, and they are not branching out for us to share them. We must dial out again and again to reach the outside world. The internet: a myriad of numberless faceless placebos of reality.

One sandal sits on its side: the leathern straps keeping it from toppling completely. Three straps: one behind heel, one over arch, and one just past the first knuckle of the toes. These are not my shoes. My shoes are white with white shoe-laces with white, mark-less soles. These are my everyday shoes, not the sandals. The sandals are when I need support and freedom.
My flip-flops are another invention. One strap joining in three places: left and right, and just past the big toe. They have no arch support and are only 1/4 inch thick. They are all black, and have fancy white scrollings wearing off at the heels. You can see where my feet have etched out their niche. These are my everyday footwear. Freedom to walk, but not too far.
Shoes are for walking. Sandals are for freedom.
Writing is for reading. Writing is for freedom.
My flip-flops are not writing. My shoes are not writing. My sandals are not writing.
My writing is.

Her hairdo looks a lot like my dog’s tail, but I’d never tell her that. It’s a tail attached to the top of her head which cascades a bit to her head in a gangly puff of strings. My dog’s tail does the same thing when raised. It is the place the clippers won’t shear on the dog, because they think it looks cute. When she returns from the groomers, her collar sports a red or pink or purple bow (because she is a girl?), and she always seems to have more energy. Our friend goes to the groomer and pays them money to do her hair and it looks like our dog’s back-end. Go figure.

“But how does it end?” I cried out to the story-teller, but he simply smiled and disappeared into the fog. How does it end? The ending depends on the beginning. Wherever there is a start, there is an end, and that end is preceded by the starting which, once started, starts the end. But how does it end? At the end of the end, when all things are over and done, where does the end end?
It is often harder to tell where the end ends, than where the beginning begins, although there are times when the middle happens first. En Medias Res. That was what the Greeks and Romans did. Who cares. I want to know the ending.
I asked the storyteller to tell me a story. He began at the beginning: “once something happened” and worked through the middle “something else happened that was different.” He worked his way to the climax “something exciting happened,” then brought it to the end, “the end.”
“But what happened in the beginning?” I cry.
The storyteller begins again: “Once someone was. That person did something.” He then went to the middle: “Something else happened to the person who did something in response to it.” He took me to the climax: “something happened to the person that they were or were not expecting, but either handled or failed at their task.” Then he ended it: “the end.”
“But that is not a story.” I protested. “There is nobody there and nothing happening, and I don’t know weather it worked out good or not.”
The storyteller laughed at me and began again. From the beginning. He worked to the middle, then to the climax, then stopped. He would say no more.
I never used to like Dr. Pepper. Probably since I was little, and had been told it was just carbonated prune-juice... which it is. I never liked the taste. I never liked prunes. But dad enjoyed Dr. Pepper.
Dad told us he drank Dr. Pepper because we didn’t like it and would not ask for a sip. This was not entirely true, because he liked Dr. Pepper. A lot of things dad said when I was young. Many of them are still true. Many of them are partially true. Dad doesn’t lie.
I drank a Dr. Pepper. I didn’t like Dr. Pepper, because it tasted bad. I didn’t drink coffee for many years for the same reason – taste. Coffee I developed a taste for. I used to meet my girlfriend at Starbuck’s and we would drink coffee – share a coffee – hot-chocolate or tea. I liked coffee.
I drank coffee almost every day – sometimes more than once a day. Teaching was hard and the drive tedious at the early dawn. My eyes would droop as I entered the office/classroom/wherever I was, and try to sleep five more minutes. Then I drank coffee. I drank a lot of coffee. I no longer like the taste of coffee.
I tried a Dr. Pepper because it was the only soda in the house. I drank one. It was not disgusting. It never had been. It used to remind me of raisins soaked in socks. Now it wasn’t bad. I did not like Dr. Pepper, nor do I now. But it was not bad.
I had another Dr. Pepper. It was better. I still did not want to like Dr. Pepper, because it was dad’s old favorite soda. He now drank diet coke. I drank the Dr. Peppers.

There is a bookmark next to me telling the minor prophets in order as they appear in the Book. On the other side they are in chronological order.
There is a bookmark I use for novels: it is brass. Engraved in it in black lettering is a quote. A quote by Poe. A quote about dreams. It holds the pages okay unless you tilt the book, then the bookmark slides off and you lose your place. I stopped Ivanhoe because it slipped out. Now it is in Wodehouse.
I have a bookmark in my writing journal by my bed. It is a crocheted cross in Celtic knot. It was hand-woven by someone. I don’t know who. It was a gift. I don’t know who gave it or when. It holds the place well, and does not slip, but is small, and easily lost. I lost it once for months and months. I have a leather bookmark with a verse embossed on one side – imprinted, not inked. It is floppy. It has grip on the back as leather does. It holds the place well. It is currently lost.
I have another bookmark. A torn piece of paper. The note on the back says: Bread, Mil... Can... O... a. The paper is not cut, but torn. Torn into an odd shape. It becomes more transparent near the frayed edges. Almost transparent.

The turtle turned about in its shell and remembered the ground. It remembered the air and the water. It remembered the outside world, and emerged. But the world was not as it had remembered it. There were trees, and ground, and sky. There was water, and insects. But there was something different than when it had submerged itself in its shell. Why had it gone in? Was it a predator? Was it hail? Was it snow, sleet, or driving rain?
The turtle sat and pondered this, but the sun was hot, and it soon withdrew into its shell. A cool shell. Always shaded. Always home. But the turtle turned about in its shell and remembered the ground.