Beyonder, Part 3

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Yanai sometimes worried that the little monkey would forget to come. It wasn’t that he thought it stupid; it had proven time and again to be a clever friend. It was that he’d come to realize it was a special sort of monkey—one of the naked ones that sang words to the heavens but killed without eating. These monkeys were untamable. His mother taught him to fear them, a lesson reinforced by his aunts after his mother succumbed to starvation and thirst. In the year since, the rains had returned, and Yanai liked to believe it was his tears that brought them. None of his kind disagreed with him. Unbeknownst to humans, elephants are a superstitious lot given to repeated movements and gestures that could bring good fortune, while they eschew bad omens and places they deem cursed. Yanai’s watering hole was such a place. They would not return there, but he did, each morning, to see his friend.

At nine, Yanai stood well over eight feet at the shoulders, tall for his age, but nowhere near his adult size. He was, however, elephant enough to lift the small, excitable monkey from the dusty ground and carry it over the rising lake to the other side. There were big cats on the side from which the monkey came, and Yanai did not feel safe there. Once safely ashore, he eased his friend to the hard ground and waited. It was a ritual that reassured him.

“Down, Yanai,” she said, gesturing with her hands. She removed a satchel that draped over her shoulder and knelt before him. “Here,” she said, reaching into the bag. “Breakfast.” She handed him a large fruit that he took from her palm with the delicacy of a surgeon and plunged into his mouth, pulverizing it with one bite.

“How do you use your big trunk to pick up such a small thing?”

“Proboscis,” he answered, crunching while the sweet juices ran along his tongue.

“Pro whatsis?”

“Proboscis. It means ‘before the lip.’ We do not use the other word.”

“Oh, I see. Is it offensive?”

“No, merely inaccurate. It is not precisely a nose nor a lip. And, since you monkeys do not have one, I believe you should not get to decide what ours is called.”

Praful had been flipping through her book for something to read and paused, peeking up at him. “I’m not a monkey. I keep telling you that. Why don’t you believe me?”

“Why do you believe I am an elephant?” he answered.

“Because … because you look like an elephant.” She was going to add he smelled like one, but wasn’t certain that wouldn’t be offensive.

“Do others of your kind talk to elephants?”

“Some do, but I don’t think they talk back.”

“Well then, how do you know we wish to be elephants?” he asked.

Praful stopped, fluttered her eyelashes at her friend, and spoke. “I am sorry, my dearest friend. What do you wish to be called?”

“Yanai, and by no other name,” he answered.

“Then I will only call you that. And you may call me Praful, but no other name than that.”

Yanai bent his head in agreement. “I am sorry to have considered you to be another monkey.” He slowly lowered his heavy body until he was resting on the knees of his back limbs and the elbow of his forelimbs. He faced the kneeling girl, looking her almost in the eyes. “Surely you are wiser than the monkeys I have met. Exactly what, may I ask, are you?”

Praful’s eyes widened in surprise. “I’m a people, of course.”

“A people, ah. And are you a male people or a female one?”

“I’m not sure exactly,” she answered. “I’ve never seen anyone else without clothes. My amma said I was a girl, but Appa tells everyone I’m a boy now. So, I suppose I have changed from one to the other.”

It was Yanai’s turn for his eyes to widen, though his vision diminished as the sun grew brighter. “Can you … peoples … do that?”

Praful shrugged. “I suppose we can, although Appa tells me not to talk of such things. I would ask our Swami, but he says we are beings beyond the flesh in which we live.”

“What does that mean?” Yanai asked.

“I have no idea.”

The pair sat quietly for a time, pondering that thought. After a long think, followed by grunting and an even longer one, Yanai spoke up. “Perhaps it means that you peoples are spirits, like the stars, able to leave the world.”

Praful shrugged again. “Maybe so. I guess that’s what I’m supposed to be learning in school then, how to fly to the stars.” She made a frowny face. “So far, though, all we’ve done is learn to read.”

“What is read?”

Praful held up her book. “This is reading. There are words that tell stories. We learn to read them so we can remember them.”

“Ah.”

“So you understand?”

“Not at all, no.”

“Oh.” Praful thought for a time, then shouted, “Oh! Maybe I can read you a story, and then you’ll understand what I mean.”

“Why, that would be excellent, said the elephant. He lowered his massive head, curling his proboscis over his forelimb, and grunted a low, happy note that Praful could feel but not hear. She read him a short story she’d been made to practice, one about how a man made of mud came to have the head of an elephant. Yanai was delighted, then horrified, and finally enraptured upon learning the elephant, or at least its head, had become a divine being. “However,” he said, “I must admit I thought the elephant was divine before your kind cut his head off in the first place.”

“Yes, that part makes my stomach hurt. The first time we read the story, I had to pretend there was dust in my eyes.”

Yanai shook his head in a rolling motion from one side to the other, as if the lolling would shake the thought from his ears. After a time, he asked, “Do you suppose that is the sort of divine being we would make? You know, the elephant-headed peoples?”

“How would we go about making one of those?” There was a distinct edge of excitement in the girl’s voice.

“I’m not certain, exactly,” he answered, “but my aunts tell me that the males sometimes make new elephants with the females. I think it involves rain in some way … and dancing. The big males love to dance, although the females never seem to join in properly. Perhaps …” He lowered his head even more, such that his lower lip practically dragged in the ground’s dust. “Perhaps you can become a female again and we can try our hand at making one of those elephant-headed peoples. I am certain to be good at making things, by all accounts.” He lifted his head proudly, sending dust flying into Praful’s eyes.

“That would be an adventure, she said, wiping away dusty tears. I suppose we’ll have to wait until you learn how. The swami doesn’t like to talk of such earthly things.” Praful stood, looking as the sun rose to the tip of the tallest tree. “It’s time for me to go,” she said. “Will I see you tomorrow?”

“If there is fruit, I will be here,” answered Yanai. He stood, a delicate movement that belied his lumbering size. “Tomorrow, I will tell you a story, one my mother told me when I was small.”

“Oh, that would be marvelous,” said Praful, stuffing the book in her satchel and starting towards the school. “What is the story about?”

“It is a true story of my uncle and how he learned to fly,” the young elephant answered, without looking back.

“A true story is the best kind,” Praful whispered to herself as the first clear rays of sun burst from above the forest, signaling she was late again.

Beyonder, Part 2 (revised)

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I didn’t like the direction my story was headed, so I scrapped all but the introductory section and continued again. Here is the revised second part.

Praful grew into a lovely child. She had a symmetrical face that began at the smallest chin imaginable and ended in a thick crown of black hair that needed cutting fortnightly in order to sustain any semblance of boyishness. Dismissive adults would sometimes miss her raven-eyed stare or the way light lingered when she fixed her gaze; however, even the most casual observer noticed that her eyelashes fluttered like lustrous butterflies when she laughed or how her teeth glimmered in the sun like perfect pearls. Fortunately, the only humans who ever saw her laugh were her amma and her nanny, or else her father might have had his plan to pass her off as a boy become undone by Praful’s feminine grace. She was too pretty for her own good. Amma, having resigned herself to the fact that her daughter was blessed with a perfect face, finally agreed she had no choice but to keep the child’s hair shorn nearly off. Praful didn’t mind. She’d never been much for frills and preferred sloshing through her muddy watering hole to wearing the constricting saris that Amma insisted she wear at home. God forbid she wear the itchy boy suits Appa tried to wrestle her into.

When Praful was seven, Amma died, taking with her Praful’s last semblance of girlhood. She had Aunty, but Aunty was not Amma–she would never stand up to Appa. Her mother’s absence and Appa’s long hours condemned her a solitary life. At least having no hair meant she could sneak out of their small house without having to worry about being seen, and her watering hole always promised adventure. Each morning, before the sun rose, before the morning birds’ songs played the day’s music, before the wind whispered dry promises, and before the trees began their cockcrow stretches to reach the heavens, Praful would awaken, don the loose garment worn by students of their local swami—a compromise she reached with Appa that allowed her to attend school without fear—and headed for the only place that gave her comfort.

It was never clear to those who learned the legend of Praful and Yanai why no one ever saw the child disappear from her five-room house and trot, barefoot, along the winding forest path to the clearing beyond. Aunty was a diligent woman who kept a clean house and by all accounts slept with one eye open to any dangers to her charge. Yet when Praful awoke in the small bed that sat opposite hers, the woman never awoke. Neither did Appa, although late nights in his small tailor shop rendered him all but useless in the morning. Praful would dress herself, stroke Aunty’s cheek, take the small portion of food prepared for her lunch at school, and head out. By the time the sun peeked over the lowest part of the horizon, she was in full stride, humming a tune her Yanai had taught her and beaming her butterfly-eyed smiles to the dawn.

Beyonder, Part 1

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beyonder

Praful and Yanai had been friends ever since Yanai decided not to kill the young girl on the occasion of her second birthday. Even at so young an age, Praful seemed to be grateful for the gift and returned the favor with her most precious offerings—a toothy smile followed by a hearty giggle and a pledge of lifelong adoration. Some would later claim the precocious child understood how generous a concession the pachyderm had made considering the toddler had escaped her nanny’s watch and encroached on the giant’s favorite watering hole. Others claimed it was the innate spirituality of the divine beast.

Their meeting came on a dry June, the fourth consecutive year that the month had returned to the southwest without bringing the promised rain. There was hardly enough to dampen the dust that Yanai used to shield his delicate skin from the harsh sun. He’d wandered from his family hoping to cool himself in the last, dewy drops in the mud-caked water hole. It was not to be, however. Trumpeting his indignation, he stumbled across a hairless jabber cat dancing and splashing the precious water from its gasping bed and into the thirsty soil that grasped at its banks. Yanai raised his trunk in warning, blinked a blurry eye in the jabber cat’s direction, lowered his enormous head, and prepared to stomp the little beast into dust.

It only giggled at him.

Yanai stopped, wondering at the sound, which to his elephantine ears sounded like the song of thunder from over the mountains that loomed in the distance. Surely a beast that laughs the promise of rain cannot be a demon. He paused, trunk still raised, and stared, blinking the bright sun from his weak eyes. The odd beast stood facing him. She was as naked as the sun was strong, and bounced up and down while attempting to reach the tip of his long proboscis. The elephant realized the small creature was not a cat at all, but some sort of mud-tinged monkey that was bathed in the sweet smell of flowers and ripening fruit. Yanai took three careful steps backward, even though the strange, babbling monkey’s smell made him hungry. He so yearned for the rains and greenery that had eluded him since the year of his birth. Now, ordinarily, a brave and strong beast such as Yanai would have taken the small child’s aggression as an affront and dealt with it swiftly. However, Yanai’s mother was nowhere around and Praful’s full height was enough to intimidate the young elephant (though he would never have admitted it). Besides, the more she babbled, the more soothing her sounds proved to be.

He decided to let her live.

Instead of charging, he gave a few careful sniffs with his trunk and snorted an exhalation that blew the girl’s hair in a puff around her head. She laughed even louder, finally scaring young Yanai into scampering back toward the safety of his browning forest. He soothed himself with thoughts that he could have killed her had he wished. Monkeys are hardly worth the effort, he decided.

From behind, he heard a plaintive, “Bye, bye,” followed by a shrieking that he thought could only have been a real jabber cat taking the poor, naked monkey for a meal.

In truth, the shrieking had come from Praful’s panicked nanny, who’d tracked the girl to the watering hole and was at that very moment admonishing her—not for being alone among wild beasts—but for running naked where “someone might see” her. God forbid their neighbors discover Praful was a girl instead of the son her father had claimed her to be.

Chief Injustice John Roberts: On the Wrong Side of History

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C:UsersGenesis BooksPictures5269.jpgIn 1967, after a unanimous (9-0) decision to forbid states from restricting marriage among people of different races, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote: “Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State.”

In 2015, in a shamefully close, but completely predictable 5-4 vote, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in dissent against the Court’s legalization of gay marriage, “Whether same-sex [interracial] marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us.” Fortunately, the 1967 Court hearing Loving v Virginia and the 5 Justices who voted for equal rights in 2015 thought it should very much be of concern to the Court. Chief Injustice Roberts went on to write, “Today, five lawyers have ordered every state to change their definition of marriage,” Roberts said. “Just who do we think we are?”

We, sir, hoped that you thought yourselves to be the moral bellwether of the United States government. We thought you believed yourselves to be that great compass that guides us not to the strict foundational words of our founding (white, male) fathers, but toward the great ideals that our nation purports to be founded upon. We hoped you thought yourselves not to be 9 lawyers, but the few, brave souls who would stand up to injustice and say, “The line must be drawn here! This far; no further!

But, alas, that was merely a fiction. You, sir, are no Jean-Luc Picard, and this is not science fiction. You are merely a lawyer who is content to dwell through all time on the wrong side of history.

Since you lack the moral decency to be ashamed, allow us, the American people, to be ashamed on your behalf. Love, sir, always wins. Had you watched more movies, perhaps you would have known that.

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“I knew Earl Warren. Earl Warren was a friend of mine. You, sir, are no Earl Warren,” said everybody, everywhere.

Ajay Rogers and the Vampire Bunnies, Part 2

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Experimentation Log – 26 October – Rabbit Study, Ajay Rogers, Just a Kid

First of all, it’s not my fault. I was just trying to make the rabbits tamer. It’s not my fault I can understand what they’re thinking. So, when Charlie first started catching the rabbits, I thought if I mixed them with normal old earth white rabbits, it would make them nicer. It did. That part of the experiment was a success. How was I supposed to know it would make them like being around people? And then imitate them. I even had to google César Chávez.

Note: Make sure the TV remote is nowhere near where Kayotae can reach it. That little bunny’s got issues. Whoever heard of bunny’s rights? What the heck is she talking about?

Double Note: Look up Che Guevara. On second thought: don’t. I liked them better when they were just sneaking out and hunting dogs. I feel bad about Aunt Charlotte’s little Chihuahua.

 

***

 

Experimentation Log – 28 October – Rabbit Study, Ajay Rogers, Screwed

I’ve been staring at this stupid computer screen for fifteen minutes. I don’t know how to write this so it doesn’t sound like I’m making it up. The rabbits seem to be planning some kind of revolt. A Coo-Day-Ta (sp?).

I had the bunnies in the backyard playing, and this little brown bunny comes hopping up like he lives here. So Rocky walks over, and the bunny bows to him. It. Flipping. Bowed! To. Him.

What the Heck? Over.

Then they get all whispery, and they’re looking back at me every so often. So I get suspicious and I walk closer to them. Suddenly Kayotae hops over to me, and starts acting friendly. And, get this … she looks up at me and says, “You love me.” I like to died laughing. I told her to go away, ‘cause I’m not Charlie, and that stuff won’t work on me. She got really mad, and started chasing me all over the yard. The little monster bit through my sneaks and made me drop my hat! Then she took the hat over to Buzz. Buzz ate my hat! My grandpa gave me that hat.

So anyway, I still could overhear the rabbits a little. The little brown one was asking, “Bunny swarm now?” He doesn’t talk so good.

Rocky told him no, then looked at me and said, “Need more bunnies.”

I think I might be in big trouble.

Oh yeah, and the stupid dragons’ laughing keeps me up half the night. I don’t know what is so danged funny about hunting raccoons. Stupid dragons.

Note: Give things another couple of weeks, then maybe tell Robin. She’ll keep Auntie Charlotte from killing me.

I’m so dead.

 ***

Experimentation Log – 18 November – Rabbit Study, Ajay Rogers, Rabbit Herder

Well, some bunnies staged some kind of rescue at the Bunny World Rabbit Sanctuary in Suffolk. At first, I didn’t pay it any attention. But then Robin read how over a hundred rabbits were stolen, even though the place was still locked. All they found was a hole in the wire fence near the ground, and rabbit tracks. The police think someone who used to work there stole some keys, and let the rabbits out by cutting the hole in the fence.

That’s what we thought too.

But Kayotae let it slip that she was in love with the bunny who lead the “rescue mission.” That rabbit cannot keep a secret. Anyway, so we grilled Kayotae until she talked. I found an old high chair in the attic and we strapped Kayotae in it and shone a light on her. She’s a tough little bunny. It took almost an hour to get her to talk. (Well, an hour and a piece of carrot cake.)

Apparently, Rocky had been working with other small rabbit groups in the area. They managed to sneak five or six bunnies on a UPS truck that took them to Suffolk. Those crazy bunnies even left a box for UPS to take to the bunny sanctuary. UPS picked it up, and all they had to do is follow the box. You’d think the UPS people would have noticed half a dozen brown rabbits hopping around.

Anyway, they got to Suffolk, found the rabbits, and set them free.

Kay said they were all chanting “Amandla Awethu.” We have google that later. I don’t know if I spelled that right – rabbits spell funny.

So now, Robin said, “Miss Kayotae and Mr. Rocky are on double restriction.” No more outdoor trips for those guys.

We’ve found out there are hundreds of these little bunny groups all over Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland. Rocky and Kay won’t talk, but we have cake, and we have Buzz. I think we’ll have a nice little map laid out by morning. Buzz told us they were trying to start a bunny group in Washington, DC, but the rats kept killing them.

Robin said, “Sheesh, who’re you supposed to root for in this war?”

I don’t know what she means by that. I like rats much better than rabbits.

Anyhow, now we have to figure out how to tell Aunt Charlotte. Robin says I have to do it. Man, I hate rabbits.

Ajay Rogers and the Vampire Bunnies

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Experimentation Log – 6 October – Rabbit Study, Ajay Rogers, Chief Scientist

These stupid vampire bunnies are freaking me out a little. So, like, Rocky has always been kind of weird. Robin says he acts more like a coyote than a rabbit. I think he’s more like a little grizzly bear. He’s not afraid of anything. Last week, he escaped from the basement den. (Okay, I may have left a door open, but that’s not the point.) Anyway, when I found him (before Mrs. Patterson came home – thank God) he was chasing a Pitt Bull down the street. Just little Rocky, hopping like crazy. The stupid dog almost knocked me down. He had a bite mark on the side of his neck, and his stupid dog eyes were about to pop out of his stupid dog head. If I hadn’t shown up when I did, that dog would have been bunny kibble.

I’m getting tired of cleaning up their messes. I’m just a nine-year-old kid. I shouldn’t have to deal with this stuff. Kayotae is teaching herself to read. How is a baby rabbit that escaped from one of my nightmares learning to read??? Aunt Charlotte is gonna kill me. Then, she’ll bring me back to life, like Frankenstein. Then, she’ll probably kill me again.

Oh, and Buzz ate Charlie’s left sneaker.

 ***

 Experimentation Log – 21 October – Rabbit Study, Ajay Rogers, Head of Genetic Research

Yikes! Please, please, please don’t let Auntie Charlotte find out!!! God, you’re reading this, right? Holy crap!

Sorry God. I meant Holy … something else.

 ***

 Experimentation Log – 23 October – Rabbit Study, Ajay Rogers, Head of Genetic Research

I think I may be okay. (Thanks, God.) A truck ran over the last of the squirrel-rabbits. They are fast like squirrels, but the vampire bunny part makes them too stubborn to move out of the way of cars. The one that got into the attic got chased away by Kayotae. Boy, she can be scary when she wants to. I sure hope for Charlie’s sake that Robin isn’t spooky like Kayotae, or he’s gonna be one unhappy guy.

The rabbits act like the people they spend the most time with. I’ve figured out that’s how they are learning to talk so well. At first, it was me, right? But I stopped when I saw Kayotae reading that old Hop on Pop book by Dr. Seuss. She thought it was the funniest thing ever. I guess if you’re a rabbit, hopping on folks is a hoot. She’s always with Robin, and that girl always has her face stuck in a book.

I KNEW books were a bad idea!!

Anyway, I stopped teaching them stuff, but they learn anyway. Turns out all the baby talk was just because they were babies. Not anymore.

Rocky acts just like Charlie. He hops back and forth when he’s mad, and scrunches his face up a lot. We think it’s hilarious, but nobody will tell Charlie. Kayotae is a furry little Robin, always cheerful and bouncy. But she’s the smartest one too, just like Robin.

Charlie thinks I have a crush on Robin, but I don’t. She’s 17 and I’m only 10. So, that’s stupid. I just think she’s smart and pretty.

(To be continued)

Surviving a Lousy Childhood

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I published a version of this on this blog before, but it’s been 3 years and most of the people who read my blog probably never saw it. So here’s a reprise.

Billy '66 3My childhood sucked.

Now I will grant you that many people believe their childhoods were miserable; however, few of us born in the industrialized world truly know the definition of childhood misery. My life would hardly have been fodder for a 20th-century version of David Copperfield. I always had a home, never wanted for food, and was no more abused than any other kid born in the late 1950s. I got beatings, although probably far fewer than I earned.

Life took its first sidewards turn in 1960, when my sister Lynn Marie died. I was two, and she was only months old, but she was the light of my mother’s life. When SIDS claimed Lynn Marie, it took my mother’s joy with it. Mom was only 24, had two children under four and a dead baby. She also had a husband with the emotional capacity of a wayward moth. Needless to say, the corners in which she found herself sitting were not conducive to energizing a shy two-year-old who needed attention.

I had been odd, as babies go. I, according to mom, skipped that whole baby talking, learning to speak phase. By age two, I had not spoken a word (to others). Finally, with my mother convinced that her only son was mentally deficient (which in 1960’s Southern vernacular was called retarded), she asked, weeping, “Why won’t you talk?” It must have been hard for her to deal with, as my mother began talking in 1937 and hasn’t stopped yet. According to mom, I looked at her and answered, “Because, I don’t have anything to say.” These were the first words she heard me utter.

Now, this of itself is not odd. What is odd is that I remembered that conversation for most of my life, and was shocked to learn, in adulthood, it happened when I was two. Yes, I do have memories from this age, though it is spotty, to say the least. My real memories start at age 3. Mainly, I remember sitting by myself or keeping my mother company. She was still reeling from the death of her daughter, and I decided I would be her rock. Of course, at age 3, I didn’t know what a rock was, but I did know that neither hell nor high water would get me to leave my 25-year-old mother all alone.

Bill and Kathy

My sister and I smile at the camera in typical fashion.

 

So we grew up that way, together, my mom and me. Thankfully, my mother divorced my biological father when I was four before retreating to small-town Virginia. We moved to my grandparents’ house, living amongst seven or eight of my closest relatives. I barely spoke to any of them. As was true when I was a toddler, I knew how to talk, I just choose not to. There still was nothing to say.

I didn’t go to daycare, or pre-school, or Kindergarten. In those days, it just wasn’t done. Instead, I stayed at home in Granddaddy’s house, and discovered his library at the top of the stairs. There was just one obstacle. I was four, and no one would teach me to read. So, I asked my mom what the letters were, and how to pronounce them, and taught my damn self. I think it took two days. That was something else I never told anyone. I used to be really, really smart. My sister would come home from Kindergarten, and “read” to me. She grew up thinking she had taught me to read. I would never have told her otherwise. I didn’t talk about myself in those days.

Books, all kinds of books, were my salvation. My grandfather was a career Army officer, having made Captain by WWII. He had learned the power of education in Negroes’ lives, and made certain his children learned it too. We had at least 3 encyclopedia sets, volumes of history, art, literature, science, and, of course, the National Geographic (for pictures of boobs). I read everything there was to read. By first grade, I was two years ahead of the other kids in school. So they did what any respectful school did in those days: they ignored me.

I made my first friend at age six, in the first grade. He was hit by a car while walking to school. The car was not totaled; he was. I was the only kid who didn’t go to his funeral. I didn’t try to make another friend until I was eight. I didn’t ask a friend to come to my house until I was ten years old. I was painfully shy and dreadfully lonely.

By age eight, when we’d moved to Oakland, I was even further ahead. See, Oakland was ghetto, and even a segregated southern school beat an integrated ghetto one. By third grade, I was three years ahead of the other kids in school. I helped a cool Mexican kid I met with his work. They pulled him out of third grade and placed him in the 4th grade. I went nowhere. Years later, I learned that they had asked to place me in the sixth grade, but mom said no. As you can imagine, by then I was even more shy than before.

I had no friends, was bullied relentlessly, and there was no hope in sight. Then I discovered the public library and the Catholic Church. I took myself to the library and would walk the 8-10 blocks to get there, alone. I’d check out 5 Dr. Doolittle books, read them, and 3 weeks later, I’d return. The librarians would smile, and then I’d check out Silas Marner, David Copperfield, and Treasure Island. They would counsel me those books were too advanced. I’d read them faster, just to piss the librarians off. Being Catholic meant I got pulled out of school once a week to attend catechism. I didn’t like the priests, or God forbid, the nuns, but I loved not being in school.

I doubt anyone had an idea I read. The only time I really did so was in school, when teachers were teaching the other kids whatever the hell they taught in those days. Some days, I didn’t want to read, so I’d color in my coloring books. I never did get much out of school. But books, I learned, meant I could still teach myself. I’d love to say the remainder of my childhood improved. It did, in some ways. My mom remarried, and my stepdad was, and is awesome. Something else good happened, though I can’t remember it at the moment. It must have, as I have a photograph of me smiling at age 13. It was the first time I’d ever smiled in a photo.

Age 15

Age 15. I’m smiling.

But I got from my childhood exactly what God wanted me to get. I received an understanding of childhood that few adults will ever have. I learned that no amount of torment can bend a strong will, if there is but a single person who stands behind you. I learned that for me, God was enough. So was my mom. I was bullied, but not always. I used what I’d learned to help other kids. Being helpful kept most of them from kicking my ass.

For the rest of them, I learned that at some point, they would get tired of hitting me. When they did, I’d beat the living shit out of them. (The moral of this story is: God helps those who help themselves.)

Life is like that. Some things we endure. We are strengthened by the trials. We learn to survive and take with us bits and pieces to form the person we need to be. School was never of much use to me. I had ADD, I was different. I was alone and ignored, but everything I ever needed I could find in a book. And, with books at my disposal, my mom at my back, and God in my corner, I never stopped believing I had the world outnumbered.

 

 

Raining Love

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He’d changed from the khaki pants and crisply creased button-down shirt he’d worn before and instead, wore a pair of jeans, the only other clothing he had since his beautiful suit had been ruined. Atop his deep, chocolate, rippling chest with the small dragon tattoo, he wore what I called a white vest, but which he referred to by the horrid name of a wife beater. Ça alors! Quelle romance.

“Come with me,” he said, taking my hand. As soon as I passed through the doorway, he stopped, bent, and removed my shoes. “Sorry, I didn’t have time to find rose petals for you to walk on.”

I took a step but he swept me from my feet and into his strong arms. I laughed. “Why did you take off my shoes if you weren’t going to let me walk?”

“I like your feet,” he said, giving me a sly smile.

We went up the steps, past the small bedroom in which I always slept, and past the larger one that I had assigned to him in order to avoid questions from curious sisters and children. Similarly, my emotions were on a path as well, traveling past excitement, then past disappointment, and now only at curiosity. Before I could ask him where we were going, he turned into the guest bathroom. Jette’s home is a real French farmhouse, exactly as Grand-père built it. The bath was little more than a wood-paneled room, well-lit from natural light, with a small sink, toilet, mirror, a bench for dressing and applying makeup, and in the center, a large, steel, oval tub with overhead shower and a detachable wand for washing by hand. Around the tub, on the bench, and on the counter were candles., Curling rivulets of steam rose to the ceiling, fogging the skylight and further muting the light. It was perfect.

Foss set me down.

“I thought if the cigarette smell is my problem, then I should be the one to fix it.”

“It wasn’t you. I know you don’t like smoking. I shouldn’t have.”

He shook his head. “You are a grown woman, and my job isn’t to tell you what to do.” He came closer and I thought he would kiss me. I closed my eyes, but instead, he reached around and pushed shut the door.

“We’re alone here,” I said. I felt my cheeks pull into a broad smile.

“I know, but it’s going to get chilly in a second.”

I frowned, not understanding what he meant, but before I could even move, he reached to my waist, and with a single motion, pulled my blouse over my head.

“You have beautiful breasts.” He was looking not at my chest, but into my eyes.

“You can’t even see them. I’m wearing a bra.”

“I’ve seen them before.” He nodded ever so slowly. “Trust me, I have them memorized.”

My breathing hastened.

In contrast to the swift removal of my top, he took forever to remove my jeans. First, he unlatched my belt, then unfastened the top button. He bent to me, gave me his tongue and tasted mine. And while they reconnected and fell there, lovingly, slowly, deliberately, he unzipped my pants as if I were a ripe banana to be unpeeled. I pulled back, gasping for air. It had been a long time, too long. I was still panting when I felt cool air against my exposed legs. My knees buckled.

“Are you hurting?” he asked.

“Oh, oui, I am. I have been hurting since the day we met.” I pulled his wife beater and together, our tongues entwined, we beat the hell out of that wife until I was spent, breathless, and gasping for more lips, tongue, love, always. I could see colors dancing before us and between us that would intensify whenever we touched. There was a vague buzzing, like electricity,that I’d never heard before, but I knew instantly that it was our connection finally being closed.

Foster kissed my cheek, my shoulder, slid off the strap, kissed the other, repeated the gesture, kissed my breastbone and reached around, unlatching the bra so that it fell silently to the floor. Precisely as my nipple was freed and hardened against the cool air, he slipped his warm mouth over it, tasting me for the first time and warming my breast and heart. My eyes glued closed but still I could see the purple flare of him. He fell to his knees, somehow still erect there before me like a knight waiting to be crowned. He waited until I met his eyes and then slowly, painfully, teasingly, removed my panties—inch by inch.

By inch.

By inch.

I tried to step out but he stopped me. “From now on, all the work is mine, love.” It was the first time he said that word since we met, and it stopped me. After five seconds, I remembered to exhale.

“Do you love me, Foss?”

He stood, meeting my gaze with intense, brown eyes. “Baby, I love you rivers, love you heaven and stars and all the galaxies beyond. I love that the sun waits to rise until you smile and refuses to set until he sees you’re safe. I love the day you were born and when your mama was born and grandma was born and when the first woman was born, all of them proud, knowing one day they’d evolve into you. Honey, I loved you the moment we met and every crazy minute since, and I promise you, when we’re done here on earth and it’s time to rejoin the heavens, I’ll still be loving you.”

It began to rain outside with the droplets’ tapping on the clay roof tiles making a perfect percussive accompaniment to my tears and to my Foss, who lifted me, placed me upright in the tub, and began washing me. He explored my curves, starting at my neck, and then to my shoulders, back, and bottom. He washed my breasts, gentle with them, saying nothing and not meeting my eyes, but focused on the soft cloth and my skin. When I was lathered, my curves sudsy and my secret places clean, he took a steel pot that sat nearby, and instead of using the shower’s wand, he rinsed me by hand, slowly, sensually, tenderly. I remember thinking, even now, that until that moment, that magical night with Foss, I had never been washed before. When I was clean and rinsed, he sat me in the tub. The water was no longer hot, but still warm and soothing. He lifted my right leg, held my ankle, washed my foot. On the left, he repeated the process, but carefully, minding my hip.

“Lean back,” he said, and I did.

He washed my hair, using only my shampoo and his strong hands, and to my dismay, I had my first orgasm there, just then, as he held me with one arm around my chest and the other rinsing shampoo from my hair. I had heard stories of women who could climax with a kiss or a touch, but never from a good shampoo. I was like a silly schoolgirl, wishing for longer locks so that the washing, and my orgasm, would last. When we were done, he sat me on the side of the tub and toweled me dry with one of the enormous red flannels that Jette loved so much. I wrapped it around myself like a cocoon.

“You look great in red,” he said. “You should wear it more often.”

“I will if you wear jeans more often,” I said.

“It’s a deal.” He sighed and sank to the floor.

“Tired?” I asked.

“Uh-uh. Just content, for the first time in … ever.”

“Then, I guess you wouldn’t want to risk spoiling it by making love to me,” I said. I had been waiting for him since the day we met. I will never understand shy American men.

“Oh darling, I plan on spoiling it all night.”

“Good. I haven’t made love in years.”

“Me either.”

I laughed and hit him. “Liar!” It was sweet, but seeing how women were drawn to him, I knew it wasn’t possible. Besides, he had a fiancée when we met.

“No, I mean it. Remember, you said, ‘love.’ ”

“Love, oui.”

He kissed me—then, later, all night long.

Days of Art #39: I Cannot Dizzle upon Mah Toes

Originally posted on Just Art:

I cannot dizzle upon mah Toes
by Emily Cold-Ass Dickinson and Gizzoogle.net

I cannot dizzle upon mah Toes–
No Man instructed mah crazy ass–
But oftentimes, among mah mind,
A Glee possesseth me,
That had I Ballet knowledge–
Would put itself abroad
In Pirouette ta blanch a Troupe–
Or lay a Prima, mad,
And though I had no Gown of Gauze–
No Ringlet, ta mah Hair,
Nor hopped ta Audiences — like Birds,
One Claw upon tha Air,
Nor tossed mah shape up in Eider Balls,
Nor rolled on wheelz of snow
Till I was outta sight, up in sound,
Da Doggy Den encore me so —
Nor any know I know tha Art
I mention — easy as fuck — Here —
Nor any Placard boast me —
It’s full as Opera —

This is a brief poem, from a previous post, as translated by Gizoogle. I encourage you…

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Days of Art #42: “We Wear the Mask

Originally posted on Just Art:

Dunbar1-001

We Wear the Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,–
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be overwise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

1-Chinatown HDR 12-001

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