Who are the people that tell you yes?
Who are the people that tell you no?
Who are the people that tell you to be?
Who are the people that tell you to be anything but?
Who are the people that make you?
Who are the people that are there when you are most alone?
Mostly living alone?
Who are the people that see you?
Who are the people that hear you?
Who are the people that understand you?
Who are the people that would believe this?
When I was a little girl, a spirit followed me to Las Vegas. Running alongside the moving truck, it’s legs twisting into wings, it howled, “write damn you!”
It slithered into the clouds as I turned to tell my mother.
“That’s a nice story sweetie, and don’t say damn.”
Where are the people who would believe this?
8 A.M.: Awakened by bells, tolling for me to rise and gape in awe at a colorful array of labeled boxes. What’s in there? A bike or a pony? Is a big wheeler with racing stripes cooler than a rainbow colored pony? Would mom let me keep the pony? Probably not.
9 A.M.: Wait in basement for cousins to arrive. While waiting, tried to imagine what Laura Ingles Wilder would get for Christmas, bar soap probably. An inquiry: Why do cousins, no matter how early, regardless of Santa’s visitation, arms embraced with toys, take the latter part of a century to come over in pajamas?
10 A.M.: Ravenous. The carcasses of gifts strewn across the floor-mine were untouched, for the record, hidden in the basement- there is a cabinet under the stairs that holds them. Helped burn the wreckage. Intermission, attempted to trade, with great success, my presents for things I envy: Road Dahl’s The Twits, Dinotopia in hardcover, a collection of works by Impressionist painters, the unabridged version of Dracula, though mother really should have stopped me from taking the latter. Argued with sister, grade 2, about the importance of embracing a variety of genres and that intelligent people read a vast array. She used my books for safety rocks while playing the floor is lava.
10:30 A.M.: All males gather in the kitchen salivating as grandma pulls out the strata and Christmas cinnamon rolls.
11 A.M.: The Catholics argue over the time the “Christmas Church Service” began. It was 30 minutes ago. Wonder which basement crevasse best accommodates me for hiding purposes. Hitch stocking full of necessary goods to pajama bottoms (containing the nutrients of Christmas sugar) and begin separating from the group, descending the stairs, clenched by aunt.
Noon: Eat stale wafer and sour juice. Man in white prays for us, man in pew sleeps, Papa smiles wide, exposing hidden doughnut from jacket pocket. All seek salvation, I crave milk. After sermon, the white cloth shakes hands, nodding, smiling. I am placed on Papa’s shoulders. Says the tale of Odysseus is just as good.
1 P.M.: Lunch is well under way upon our arrival home, must be careful not to injure uncle…asleep on floor. Others have assumed fetal position in living room, deeply lethargic, animalistic snores fill the room. Now for my escape.
1:30 P.M.: Nabbed again? Disappointingly, claw fingered aunt forces me to sit while she discusses loneliness: last Christmas cat died, the one before her husband, the third a cardinal hit the glass. Continues mumbling grievances well into deep sleep.
2-3 P.M.: Charles Wallace begins showing me that there is in fact no solid continuum of time but that time undergoes accordion like compression. Tried explaining theory to cousins, caused brains to combust. Went in search of others.
3:30 P.M.: Voyage wise sea captain! Upon searching the house for a willing ear, I found Papa on the porch. Removing his gold frames he set down Cervantes’s Don Quixote within 2 seconds of my arrival. I skim his shelves lined with adventures: The Far Side of the World, Seahawk, The Iliad, Treasure Island, and The Life, Adventures and Piracies of Captain Singleton. Papa told me that Ernest Shackleton, evidently a famous explorer, no doubt to be learned in school, best explained the complexities of a seaman, both a freedom and curse. After retrieving the necessary hot chocolate, we continue our conversation about the definition of mutiny. He feels that I am old enough to handle such complexities. Furthermore, mutiny, by definition, a crew against one’s own captain, is nothing more, than a physical argument.
5:05 P.M.: At this time, the adults awaken from their comas; Modern Prometheus rises from his man made couch only to be attacked by a swarm of underling cousins. Silence has been broken-weren’t Papa’s stories better then their comatose dreams?-and the family begins reconvening for another meal.
8 P.M.: Relatives begin slowly assembling layered garments. Explain that Demeter will be with her daughter soon. Realizing the redundancy of changing my current frog patterned garb I prepare for bed, listing the necessary steps. Would I rather read Alice in Wonderland or The Magician’s Nephew? Can’t decide. Where the Sidewalk Ends or Skin? Can’t Decide. Could I be transported to another world through a painting? No, and I don’t want to be involved in a murder either.
9 P.M.: Sister complains about the unknown location of new Barbies. Turn over grinning myself to sleep.
10 P.M.: Awoken by Papa handing me a box. Cautiously, lift cardboard lid. Drop box on floor, where it remains for days.
10:30 P.M.: Eventually fall asleep. Embracing my collection of C.S. Forester. Horatio Hornblower, 1st Baron Hornblower and the HMS Hotspur.
burning ideas to
rampant ash blowing
in a flurry
itself down the
fuming funneling fantasies
two smash like
pieces of perspectives
coalesce in sun bursts
My grandfather had a hard life growing up. Living in an orphanage until the age of 18, he continuously worked odd jobs that never lasted very long. Supporting his family was one of the hardest things my grandfather ever had to do, but he was a hard working man who rarely complained. As my grandpa used to say, “You got no point bitching, if you don’t do anything to fix it.”
My grandfather loved to tell people stories. He always felt that because of all of his experiences by the time he turned 62, he had a right to preach about life. Perhaps bestowing his wisdom on others was his way of coping with his own hard life. He would often go so far as to brag that his sermons were as powerful as the Sermon on the Mound. I was eight when my grandfather began preaching to me.
A long time ago I used to work on a farm. You know, a regular ol’ farm. And on this farm was
a barn. A regular ol’ barn. And at the end of the barn was a horse stall. A regular ol’ horse stall.
And in this horse stall was a huge pile o’ shit. A huge regular ol’ pile o’ shit. So, that’s the setting, got it?
“Yeah, Papa,” I giggled, hiding my eight year old hands in front of my dimples, “I got it.”
Okay, so one day a little girl came to visit me at the farm.
“A little girl like me Papa? Could you make me the little girl in the story?” I asked.
“Sure,” my grandpa hesitated, “like you sweetheart.”
So as I said, one day my granddaughter came to visit me at the farm. And I took her around the regular ol’ farm. And the regular ol’ barn. And the regular ol’ horse stall. And that regular ol’ horse stall with that huge pile o’ shit. And that’s the end of the tour, the grandfather said to the granddaughter. Now I have to go do some work, the grandfather said to the granddaughter. So you keep yourself busy, but if you get bored, you come find me. So the grandfather went to work on his daily chores.
One hour passed and the granddaughter never appeared. Then three hours passed and the granddaughter never appeared. Soon, five hours had passed and the granddaughter still hadn’t shown up, so the grandfather decided to go lookin’ for her. So he went to the regular ol’ barn. And he went down to the regular ol’ horse stall. And then he saw his granddaughter or what used to be his granddaughter. In place of his precious granddaughter was a creature covered from head to foot in, of all things, horse shit! So the grandfather could only stop and wonder why, of all reasons, she was covered from head to foot in horse shit.
“What are ya’ doin’ ?” shouted the grandfather.
“Well Jesus Papa!” she shouted back, “With all this horse poop there has to be a horse in here somewhere.” And one day, she found her horse.
“Papa, I don’t want to be the girl in the story anymore.”
“Why not?” he asked.
“Well, she’s covered in horse poop.”
“Yeah but, the story’s not all bad. It just depends on how you look at it.”
“I have to pay how much?” my exasperated twenty four year old self spouted out. “I have to pay how
much?” My question barely squeaked out the third time as I handed the teller at the university my credit
“Shit.” I mumbled underneath my breath. “I’m going to have to borrow money from my parents.”
The lady’s broad smile stretched across her face as she handed me the card and my receipt. “Have a good day,” she smiled.
“Thanks,” I grumbled back. I stuffed my credit card back into my pocket and walked away grumbling to myself. I began calculating my expenses in my head. Parking passes, textbooks, flash drive, class, not including gas, food, and other living expenses. I began walking up the stairs to my first class. I nervously crossed the threshold, took my seat and listened as the professor began explaining all the requirements of the credential program, courses, seminars, observations, the piles upon the piles of
After pausing just long enough for my brain to be reset to overload mode, the professor began
explaining the testing requirements, the courses required in addition to the program, and all the
requirements, forms, and observations that must take place after completing the program. The professor’s
voice became a small high pitched buzzing in my ears as the weight of my decision bared down on me. I
slowly breathed and reminded myself that I wanted to be here. I thought about the path that lead me here
and the people I had met along the way. The shy Chinese foreign exchange student who I tutored in
English. The at-risk teen who identified with the character in the story we read together. The kid who gave up hope for life but felt the need to express himself through poetry. My little students learning to read and struggling to overcome 2X2.
Then it hit me. The blinding light of absolute divinity and brilliance. I’m going to be digging and digging through a lot of shit and soon I will be completely exhausted. But it doesn’t matter, all that matters is that I know there is a beautiful black mare, sparkling ebony in the sunlight, proud and strong, waiting for me. It’s mine and I only have to dig to reach it. I thought of my grandfather and I felt his story reemerge in my mind. In comparison to the grand span of my twenty four year old life, these tiny challenges will only be a small portion of the challenges I will face throughout my entire life span. So, what am I really complaining about? It’s time for me to put on my overalls and get digging. Because when it comes down to it, “You got no point bitching if you don’t do anything to fix it.” Thanks Papa, thanks for coming across my path. I’ll make ya’ proud.