writing

Show Me

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I’ve been obsessed lately with the difference between telling a story, and showing it. So…some vagrant thoughts on a dull and dreary day:

 

Tell: A melancholy day

Show: Silver laces the canopy of green. Rain shoots down the leaves like tiny prison bars. This maple tree, ancient and immense, is no match for the vast, heavy lead of the sky.

Tell: She is a writer

Show: A single tear leaks from one corner of one eye. Cradled within it are the words that will never coalesce; words whose pressure builds to a vacant explosion. Stories everywhere. But she cannot tell them all.

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Tell: Her words hurt him.

Show: When she had finished her tirade, he felt slow awareness of a spot of damp on his chest. His fingers quivered a path upward, but stopped short; afraid of dipping into his own hearts-blood.

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Tell: My cat has me trained.

Show: Evil, yellow slits track my progress. Or maybe they are counting the welter of red scratches on my ankles. Feline amusement. Also, a warning. I change direction and head for the kitchen where kibble and cans await. She is hungry, and I am running out of bandaids.

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animals, Just bitchin', poem, writing

Ebony

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She follows me,

a slinking, silent presence filled with expectation.

Her coat is dusty.

She’s been rolling in dead leaves,

rubbing her skin against pavement and stems.

She itches;

a pleasure that will turn to torment with age.

A black ghost, a shadow.

I offer food, water, play, affection.

Green-flame eyes bore into mine.

Stupid human not to understand.

They are everywhere.

She is near the end of her life

and her world is thick with spirits

I can’t see.

Yet.

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animals, Just bitchin', poem

Windwalkers

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Bounced awake at 3 a.m. by feline urgency.

Pet-propelled, I follow the meowing fur-alert to the door.

Open it.

Wind.

But not our wind.

Not native to a northern clime.

This is a wind from the south, spiced with cinnamon and roses.

Santa Ana, the Witch’s Wind.

It reaches deep into our DNA.

Barefoot and pad-pawed, we walk into the primal.

The wind has claimed this night for the naked and the mad.

Blood surges.

Reason departs.

We hunt.

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image:Night Wind from flickr.com

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Just bitchin'

Homegrown Terrorist

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I share my home with a terrorist.

I used to think he was just a little odd. I would use terms like quixotic, beguiling, manipulative. But that’s all changed. Those days are gone.

He has finally earned the formerly affectionate sobriquet Wicked Evil, for it is now shrieked at volume and with unfolding horror. He has now emerged from the pages of a Stephen King novel, jaws agape and eyes glinting.

It wasn’t always so. His transition from simple mischief to act of terrorism was a gradual one. But now, from the far side of the abyss filled with my screams, I can see it. I can see the learning curve and the hellish intellect behind the progression.

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His evolution meandered with subversive intent from targeted pounces during the deepest phases of sleep, to noisy forays onto countertops, to exploration of architectural integrity, resulting in exposed drywall and shredded door jambs. None of it was random. I see that now.

I appeased him along the way, which was a mistake of monumental proportions. I saw myself as the peacekeeper when in fact I was the dupe; the lab rat being subjected to stimuli until one of sufficient power to produce the desired reaction was found.

He succeeded.

He released it into my bed, scaly and writhing.

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It generated the ‘extremely loud and incredibly close’ reaction for which he was hoping. He’s still laughing in that quiet way his kind do.

Having found the catalyst, he will try to apply it again. I can tell.

I live with a terrorist.

For I am terrified…

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Season of Bounty

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The calendar says ‘Not yet.’

The budding trees say ‘Almost.’

But Spring is here.

It crept into my home this morning. Actually, it was carried in. It was deposited with loving care on my bed before I knew what was happening. It was released beside my elbow as I lingered in the last, dusky shreds of sleep.

It electrified me.

It bolted me from my rest and my sheets, and the security of Winter slumber hitherto undisturbed by those who walk on four paws and bring…gifts… It burrowed under my comforter and snuggled deep with desperation rooted in its instinct to survive.

Spring is here.

I know because the invasion has begun and I have been pressed into the dual role of victim of, as well as EMT for, vermin.

My cat, Jack Sparrow, is thrilled. This is the time when he can truly express his gratitude for being adopted from a shelter. This is when, after long, cold, barren months, he can shower me with an embarrassment of feline riches. This is when he gets to watch the ensuing chaos after bringing me his version of ‘breakfast in bed.’

It amuses him. I can tell.

He takes a ringside seat and watches the race to find a receptacle that is mouse-worthy. Tail twitching, he sees how clumsily I trap his ‘gift’ in the drinking glass that will never be allowed to touch my lips again. Not after this. His whiskers tilt forward and his ears tilt back as his scantily-clad, furless owner dashes out into the chill morning air in search of a site where the ‘gift’ may be released with a reasonable expectation of escape and survival.

Deep inside, Jack Sparrow does a cat-chuckle.

Because he knows where to find more ‘gifts.’ And he will. A weekly, if not daily, progression of small, scurrying, squeaking bounty await him.

Spring is here.

The only thing more alarming is Summer.

That’s when the snakes appear.

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Alternative Rites of Christmas

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Every family celebrates the holidays with a touch of individuality.

Those little quirks acquired along the way eventually transform into tradition.

The earliest remembrance I have of mine was around the age of four.

We’d been decorating the Christmas tree, that huge pine-scented presence that brought magic and happy expectation into our home. Someone of my tender years wasn’t allowed to do much. While the others adjusted lights, draped tinsel, and placed strategic puffs of angel’s hair, my primary task was to put hooks on the ornaments. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, I pulled each delicate, blown-glass piece from its nest of tissue paper, attached the wire hook and placed the finished product to one side for someone else to have the honor of hanging.

Low to the ground, I saw things the others didn’t. Like the way the tree’s water supply was already littered with pine needles. Like the way the cottony-white skirt sprinkled with glitter caught the light, shimmering like an echo of the magnificence towering above it.

Like the family dog, Tio, having his way with a light bulb.

All our decorations were handed down from grandparents I’d never known. The lights were antiquated: large, heavy things, tapering from a broad end with the screw cap to a rounded tip. Tio had managed to engulf the whole ensemble, leaving only the tip poking between his lips like a glossy, green bubble.

Neither Tio nor I recognized the danger of the situation. He wagged his tail in contentment, sucking on his new toy. But my laughter at the ridiculous picture he presented alerted my mother. Scolding, she pulled the bulb from Tio’s mouth, then replaced it with a green-tinted biscuit.

Dogs are smart. They remember.

Every year thereafter, Tio demanded a biscuit in return for refraining from mouthing light bulbs.

At some point, we began leaving the biscuit on a low-lying branch of the tree. Tio would snatch it up and consider his ransom demand met.

But that made the cats jealous.

Food wouldn’t placate Buffy and Phoebe. Oh, no. They wanted the crash and dazzle of breakage. They wanted an interactive batting practice. And so began the tradition that still continues today.

The Rite of the Sacrificial Ornament.

It must be large. It must be shiny. It must hang low.

Its demise must be met with a humble, human willingness to clean up the mess.

If these conditions are not met at the outset, then woe to the entire tree. It will not survive. However, make the sacrifice and nothing else is required.

It astonishes me that this bargain has passed from generation to generation of pets as well as people. At least that’s how I see it. I put up my first tree on my own, in my own apartment only to have it decimated by Boots, a cat who had never been party to previous Rites of Sacrifice. It was with an almost occult shiver of skepticism that I righted the tree, cleaned up the damage, and then, with disbelieving fingers, hung a sacrificial ornament.

Boots accepted it. The rest of the tree was left inviolate. And so it continued.

This rite persists. It is weird in its reliable performance.

But I suppose the same could be said of my family.

We are the practitioners of the Rite of the Sacrificial Ornament.

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