Saturday, February 23, 2013

How Would You Draw the Way Memory Slips Out and In

after she washed out the teapot
she couldn't remember what it was for 

standing in the cold pink light of early morning
her robe hanging open
her bare feet numb on the linoleum

cradling the clean teapot in her chapped hands


while her brain shifts slightly
left, then right

oh yes

she proceeds to make herself
a pot of tea

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Good Old Days

Today isn’t a good day for Petunia Goldberg-Greene. It isn’t a good day for the frog, either, although if Petunia had her way the frog would have been a lot happier. If Petunia had her way, the frog would have been alive. But Mr. McBee had his way and, alas, the frog is dead. 

And Petunia is in deep trouble. Although she doesn’t understand why.  She only threatened to do to Mr. McBee what he ordered her to do to the frog. She only threatened to do to him what he in fact got Rodney Potemkin to actually do to the frog. 

It must be said that through all of this, Petunia never blamed Rodney, “a dupe of the bosses,” as she called him, for which she was nearly pummeled, since Rodney mistakenly thought he’d been called a dope. But she was spared by the timely crash of a test tube, flung from across the room by Shalimar Schwartz, who has harbored a deep and abiding love for Petunia since the third grade, his hatred for Rodney going back at least that far. 

The flying test tube missed Rodney by a mile — Shalimar has a heart as big as the Atlantic Ocean but his aim is as crooked as his twice-broken nose and landed smack in the middle of Mr. McBee’s forehead, resulting in much broken glass and a lot of screaming. 

In the ensuing pandemonium the frog could have been set free, if only it hadn’t already been so thoroughly massacred by Rodney’s swiftly-wielded blade. 

Before the end-of-class bell had even rung, Petunia and Rodney and Shalimar and Mr. McBee and a few other concerned citizens were marching into Principal Millback’s office, everyone talking at once, which didn’t trouble Ms. Millback, she being a wee bit deaf, but feeling she should retain an iota of dignity, she blew her police whistle with such gusto that Mr. McBee, who was standing closest to her at the time, actually began to cry. Surprisingly fulsome tears for a man with such a thick neck and broad shoulders. The sight of such misery nearly melted Petunia’ angry little heart, at least enough to make her reach out a hand toward the man, for comfort, which he unfortunately mistook for an attack, and various unpleasant words escaped from his blubbering lips. 

The upshot of the whole affair is this: Mr. McBee resigned on the spot; Rodney Potemkin was expelled for carrying a concealed switchblade in the waistband of his boxer shorts (how Principal Millback had the presence of mind to frisk the young hoodlum has still  not been satisfactorily explained); Petunia was sent home early so she could “contemplate the effects of her excesses,” as it was phrased in the letter Ms. Millback wrote to her parents but which, of course, never made it past the first public trash bin; and Shalimar Schwartz met with an unfortunate mishap at precisely 2:54 p.m. when he was jumped from behind by Jeremy Potemkin, Rodney’s younger brother, and in the resulting skirmish Shalimar’s nose was broken for the third time in his young life, a fact that his mother is still at a loss to explain. 
“Things like this never happened to me when I was their age,” complained Tippy Schwartz over the phone to Miranda Goldberg-Greene, who tut-tutted sympathetically but was prevented from saying more by the unexpected arrival of her husband, Theodore “Toots” Goldberg-Greene, the Traveling Troubadour of Trenton, who showed up at that exact moment after an absence of seven weeks, three days, and 6.5 hours, causing Miranda Goldberg-Greene to drop the telephone as she rushed to embrace the travel-weary, but still devilishly handsome, Toots, and neither of them paid the slightest attention to, nor were they even aware of, the ceaseless whine of Tippy Schwartz as she bemoaned the passing of The Good Old Days.  

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Mousekins

Emily and Charlotte Mousekin are twins. They live in a hole with their mother and father, 2 sets of grandparents, 29 aunts and uncles and 183 cousins. 
Emily and Charlotte don’t like a big crowd. They’re happiest when it’s just the two of them, but with a family like theirs it’s hard to find any privacy. Someone is always coming around to remind them of Poor Little Louisa, their fourth cousin twice removed, who went exploring one day and was picked off by the Barbarians Upstairs. 
Emily and Charlotte are determined this will never happen to them. Which is why they stay close to one another at all times, very close, whiskers-to-whiskers or tail to tail. And they are always whispering and giggling, because they are silly mice, and even though they are the heroines of this story there is something you should know about them right now: not everyone considers them adorable.
Their own mother, Mrs. Evangeline Lucretia Davenport Mousekin, thinks they are terribly annoying. And who can blame her? To have twin girls who are always whispering and giggling together is most vexing. And there’s something else Emily and Charlotte do. They speak backwards. You can imagine how that would get on your nerves after a while.
One day — it was a rainy Thursday morning in fact — the two little mice were playing with their cousins, Reginald Murgatroyd and Dandelion Mousekin-Pouncekin, in the playroom in the hole behind the staircase in the house that the Barbarians Upstairs thought was their own. 

Emily and Charlotte would have preferred to do anything else, but they were given no choice. “Play nicely,” instructed Aunt Murgatroyd. “Don’t get up to any funny business,” warned Aunt Mousekin-Pouncekin. 
The four cousins were playing with a marble. Or it might have been a pea. Or perhaps it was a glass eye from some long-forgotten doll. In any case, it was round. You might not know this but mice, especially young mice, love round things. The little round object, be it marble, pea, or glass eye, was being rolled from Charlotte to Reginald to Dandy to Emily, over and over and over and over and over. 

You or I would have gotten bored by now but that’s something else you should know about young mice: they never get bored.
All of a sudden, just as Reginald was rolling the round thing to Dandy it . . . . vanished. This is how it happened: first it was there, and then it wasn’t there. When things like that occur it is quite disturbing. Reginald and Dandy, being slightly sluggish, were only mildly disturbed. But Emily and Charlotte, who are two little smarties, were horrified. Things are not just supposed to disappear before your very eyes. 
"Tahw dennepah ?” asked Charlotte.
“I evah on aedi,"replied Emily.
“Siht si dab,” cried Charlotte.
"Yrrrev yrrrev yrrrev dab,” agreed Emily.

Allow me to translate for you:
“What happened?”
“I have no idea.”
“This is bad.”
“Verrry verrry verrry bad.”
And it was. Because even below stairs, in the smallest corner of the darkest hole, there must be some sense of order. And a round thing, be it marble, pea or a doll’s glass eye, should just not, all of a sudden, for no good reason at all, disappear.
In her confusion and distress, Emily bit Cousin Reginald Murgatroyd on his right shoulder. Then Charlotte kicked Cousin Dandelion Mousekin-Pouncekin on the ankle. 

Reginald and Dandy scampered off to find their mothers, howling all the way, and by the time Emily and Charlotte returned to the family room there was a general uproar.
Eighteen out of their 29 aunts and uncles were demanding an explanation. All 183 of their cousins, including Reginald and Dandy of course, were shouting “Rotters.”

Luckily their father, Mr. Harold P. Mousekin, was off on a field trip that day and their grandparents, always so kind, only went “tut tut tut,” which in mouse language is pronounced “tsk tsk tsk.”
But their mother, Mrs. Evangeline Lucretia Davenport Mousekin, was most perturbed.
“Why were you girls so mean to your cousins?” she demanded.
“Ew era tneconni,” exclaimed Emily and Charlotte.
“Nonsense,” replied their mother, stamping her delicate right front paw. “You are never innocent.”
Emily and Charlotte knew they were in the soup. No amount of denial could get them out of this one, and they couldn’t say a word about the disappearing round thing because — well, to be honest, they did not want to cause pandemonium among the relatives. You know how an Unexplainable Occurrence is likely to do just that. 

“Yrros,” said Emily. “Yrros, yrros,” added Charlotte.
“Sorry is just not good enough,” said their mother. And she banished her daughters to their room. 
A short while later, Mrs. Evangeline Lucretia Davenport Mousekin softened, just a teeny tiny bit, and came to the girls in their dark little corner. 
“Well, here you are then,” she said, and put a plate of cheese down in front of them. Emily and Charlotte were ecstatic. Naturally.
“Muy, muy, muy,” they mumbled, while chewing.
So Emily and Charlotte spent the rest of the day doing exactly what they most liked to do: whispering and giggling, talking backwards, eating cheese, and being alone . . . together.

As for the Disappearing Round Thing, it was never mentioned again, neither frontwards nor backwards, because Emily and Charlotte don't like talking about things they can't explain.

Monday, February 4, 2013

inspired by "An Exaltation of Larks"

A number of years ago I came upon James Lipton's book, An Exaltation of Larks — a compilation of “nouns of assemblage” like a murder of crows, an ostentation of peacocks, an unkindness of ravens — and it inspired me to come up with my own list. I recently uncovered it in my files and decided to share it here. 

a scribble of writers
a storm of sneezes
a ladder of braids
a smudge of bifocals
an unraveling of sweaters
a squiggle of infants
a mischief of monkeys
a stat of numbers
a loosening of buttons
a snaggle of zippers
a dizziness of quilts
a frustration of dictionaries
a tease of masks
an insult of cell phones
a confusion of schedules
a tardiness of clocks
a mirage of dollars
a chaos of bills
a meanness of gossips
a dryness of crackers
a sturdiness of shoes
a flicker of shadows
a drift of dreams
a stutter of doubts
a flowering of bonnets
an order of plaids
a breathing of African violets
an inhalation of spices
a comfort of teas
a grit of sands
a tickle of feathers
a knot of noodles
a sliver of splinters
a comfort of snores
a collapse of bridges
a disappointment of locked doors
an embarking of train stations
a lightness of wallets
a deficit of compliments
a twitch of whiskers
a robbery of taxes
a bouquet of kisses
an avalanche of e-mails
a scrabble of vowels
a temptation of transgressions
a snivel of pities
a drizzle of sadness
a dismay of dentists
an indignity of betrayals
a brevity of snapshots
a breath of haiku
an indulgence of complaints
a satisfaction of soups
a taunt of Aprils
an embarrassment of typos
a blizzard of second thoughts
an illusion of failures
a promise of vitamins
a persistence of memories
a tearing of onions
a snuggle of kittens
a surprise of mornings
an appearance of mirrors
an awakening of bells
a relief of naps
a potential of buds
a burden of laundry
a gauze of clouds
a shame of dust balls
a luck of bamboo
a vagary of forgetfulness
a dylan of harmonicas
a pillow of laps
a justification of excuses
a clutch of pocketbooks
a skip of crocuses
a squirm of itches
an erasure of unworthiness
a blunting of pencils
a dreariness of regrets
an invitation of tambourines 
a pucker of crab apples
a plodding of footsteps
an approximation of absolutes
a refreshment of mints
a humbling of apologies
an attentiveness of ears
a euphoria of euphoniums
an opportunity of Saturdays
a contradiction of proofs