VOL II ISSUE #1
The Woven Tale Press
(c) copyright 2013
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Sandra Tyler Author of Blue Glass, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and After Lydia, both published by Harcourt Brace; awarded BA from Amherst College and MFA in writing from Columbia University; professor of creative writing on both the undergraduate and graduate levels, including at Columbia University, (NY), Wesleyan University (CT), and Manhattanvill College, (NY); served as assistant editor at Ploughshares and The Paris Review literary magazines, and production freelancer for Glamour, Self, and Vogue magazines; freelance editor; Stony Brook University’s national annual fiction contest judge; a 2013 BlogHer.com Voices of the Year. http://www.awriterweavesatale.com
CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Michael Dickel, Ph.D. A poet, fiction writer, essayist, photographer and digital artist, Dr. Dickel holds degrees in psychology, creative writing, and English literature. He has taught college, university writing and literature courses for nearly 25 years; served as the director of the Student Writing Center at the University of Minnesota and the Macalester Academic Excellence Center at Macalester College (St. Paul, MN). He co-edited Voices Israel Volume 36 (2010). His work has appeared in literary journals, anthologies, art books, and online for over 20 years, including in:THIS Literary Magazine, Eclectic Flash, Cartier Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Sketchbook, Emerging Visions Visionary Art eZine, and Poetry Midwest. His latest book of poems is Midwest / Mid-East: March 2012 Poetry Tour. http://michaeldickel.info Kelly Garriott Waite Her work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Christian Science Monitor, Thunderbird Stories Project, Volume One, Valley Living, The Center for a New American Dream and in the on-line magazine, Tales From a Small Planet. Her fiction has been published in The Rose and Thorn Journal (Memory, Misplaced), in Front Row Lit (The Fullness of the Moon) and in Idea Gems Magazine (No Map and No Directions). Her works in progress have been included in the Third Sunday Blog Carnival: The Contours of a Man’s Heart and Wheezy Hart. She is the author of Downriver and The Loneliness Stories, both available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. http://writinginthemarginsburstingattheseams.blogspot.com
ASSISTANT EDITORS: Dyane Forde Author of forthcoming Rise of the Papilion Trilogy: The Purple Morrow (Book 1) http://droppedpebbles.wordpress.com Shanan Hailsip Business and fiction writer. http://www.theprocrastiwriter.com Adrienne Kerman Freelance writer and editor, her essays have appeared in multiple magazines, as well as in The Boston Globe and Washington Post. She has authored a weekly parenting column, MomsTalk, for the Boston area AOL/Patch sites. http://mintsinmymotherspurse.blogspot.com Lisa A. Kramer, Ph.D Freelance writer, editor, theatre director, and arts educator. She has published non-fiction articles in theater journals, as well articles aimed at young people for Listen Magazine. Her fiction is included in Theme-Thology: Invasion published by HDWPBooks. com. She is the director of a writers’ workshop From Stage to Page: Using Creative Dramatics to Inspire Writing. http://www.lisaakramer.com LeoNard Thompson Has published opinion editorials, weekly columns and essays, and interviewed performers, practitioners, writers, politicians and personalities. http://leeyonard.com Lynn Wohlers Awarded BFA from School of Visual Arts, NY, NY; writer for Daily Post’s Photography 101 series. lynn-wohlers.artistwebsites.com, Bluebrightly. WordPress.com
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Dozayix Raising three children, finding time for setting up an easel or a quiet corner to paint in has proved, without exaggeration, to be impossible. I couldn’t carve out the large blocks of time I needed to paint. Then, one day, while the kids and I were playing with Play-Doh at the kitchen table, I mixed some colors together and punched out my very first “dot.” It dawned on me that this could be a way to make real art be with my children at the same time. I called it Dozayix:
Goldilocks Zone (36 “ x 48”)
The Lady Undine (48” x 96”) 7
A New World (48” x 72”)
Our Or Boros
Cyrus considers the consequences. How long? A year? A millennium? All this writhing chaos, erupting volcanoes and slamming tectonic plates have become a bit much. When she first twists around one full turn and brings all into existence, she is delighted. Just look at this, would you? Clots of magnetically-charged dust coalesce into masses and are pulled together into a dance of globes. Cyrus floats amidst these new planets and marvels as some fire up, emitting light and heat, impacting the dance but also complicating things for the dark globes that are unable to spark into stars. Not one to care about details, Cyrus is content to suspend herself and allow the vast process do what it will. Small amusing frictions build up momentum, and new disruptions arise to replicate themselves up and down the cosmic scale, once a limitless darkness. What is birth but a rending of matter?Â Each planet convulses. The unmoored screeching of split-apart atoms racket along Cyrusâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; elongated neural pathways. It becomes difficult to differentiate the creator from the created. Whoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s running this show anyway? Cyrus becomes restless and irritated. Just as she is focussing upon a particularly lovely pillar of cloud jettisoning newly-spun stars, a comet rips through asteroid fields. In vast concentric waves, this whole process repeats itself. Established stars cast light for new stars to ape. Dark, shuddering confused planets cluster about, jockeying for 9
good slots. At some far and unfathomable fringe, Cyrus’ turn has lost none of its ferocious energy. Inertia, not yet invited to the party, hasn’t yet asserted its indomitable sway, so the chaos continues. Up through a valley of two new solar systems, appears something at once unexpected and tantalizingly familiar. Carelessly knocking the struggling solar systems off kilter, Cyrus swings around in a large arc to investigate. Only recently has she become aware of her own form amidst the violence, of where she herself ends and her creation begins. And so, what have we here? As galaxies gain their foothold, Cyrus takes great delight whipping her tail out into long, terrible sweeps, to crush and reform trembling new star systems. While what is happening is catastrophic, for Cyrus, it is all fun and games. But somewhere out there, in some quickly dissipating pool of melting black methane ice, there is a frantic scream for help. A chorus of protest rises up through the smashing convulsions. Even Cyrus begins to hear it, and it grates terribly. She cruises up and down the farthest frontiers of her majestically unfolding universe. But she only gets so far; the temptation of her tail returns, and she finds herself taking long, lazy spins, brushing her face against its tip. Just as she’s on the cusp of action, there is the shriek of a presentient life, and off she goes again, tearing through the cosmos, violating all the struggling new laws of physics. There comes a time when all this charging just isn’t that much fun anymore. So she 10
slows at last, to drift for another several millennia, simply listening and observing. Laws trying to assert themselves are being undermined by the inexorable push of all matter outward, and in the midst of the maelstrom, the tiny and determined bits of what will become living, breathing, eating, fucking, shitting, lying, thinking, hunting, designing, brick-laying, harvesting, needing, giving, warning, scratching, confusing beings strive to gain a foothold. Cyrus slides through the burgeoning universe, keeping that tail in sight. Then she simply stops thinking. She reaches across the galaxies’ wide gap to firmly grasp her tail in her teeth. She doesn’t delicately nip its tip. She fills her stupendously huge mouth with miles of tail and clamps down tightly. In that moment, the cataclysmic expansion shudders into a neatly constructed dance; the stars’ rule becomes absolute; gravity gains traction; and in some tiny crevice on a planet easing into a happy, dependable orbit, two small molecules are joined together permanently. Too late, Cyrus realizes her role now can only be to spin into eternity, holding tight to that tail, lest all come undone.
My Mother, Word Games and Stephen King
I was born into a book-loving family. I also had the good fortune to have a sister and brother who arrived five and six years before me. By the time I was four years old they were veteran readers. Though I have no memory of it, they sat with me in the evenings and taught me the alphabet. Thanks to them, I was able to spell simple words before I reached the school gates. Besides reading, my mother spent her lunch breaks poring over the daily word games running in newspapers at the time – construct 100 words from the ten given letters, mixed consonants and vowels, with the solution provided the following day. During my school years, if I came across new words, the easy path was to ask her for the meaning. Her answer was always the same: “Let’s look it up.” She would take down a giant hardback copy of the Oxford English Dictionary from the top shelf, and we’d leaf through the pages at the kitchen table – a great way to learn vocabulary. 11
In this decade, we’re supposed to be a mouse-click away from all the knowledge we need. The online dictionary/thesaurus tools are useful, but not comprehensive. I keep paperback versions on my desk as backup, not to find the longest word, or the most complex, or to appear “literary.” There’s a much simpler reason: I want to understand what other people are saying or writing. Not understanding can have disastrous consequences. Some time ago, a retired neighbour was complaining about the roof on his house, built in 1905. We stood back to take a look. The roof had taken on a distinct, drunken lean in the direction of an outer, supporting wall. Ominous cracks were appearing in the upper brickwork. He confided that, fifteen years earlier, he’d had the thin slate tile covering replaced with modern concrete tiles. A surveyor came to inspect the damage. Verdict: the 1905 wooden roof beams were too flimsy to support the thicker concrete layer. With barely concealed disbelief, the surveyor asked my neighbor why he hadn’t had a structural report commissioned before the replacement work took place. “Oh, but I did, my neighbor replied. “The report said something about the beams and the weight, but I didn’t know what it meant, so I ignored it.” Yesterday, I saw this quote from that master storyteller, Stephen King: “A critical assumption is sometimes made that [Grisham, Clancey, Crichton & myself] have access to some mystical vulgate that other (and often better) writers cannot find or will not deign to use…” Vulgate. A new word for me, a marvellous-sounding word, one that rolls off the tongue. I had no idea what it meant. Now, I could have brushed it aside, ignored it. The roof wouldn’t have fallen in if I had; yet I couldn’t stand the not knowing. The online thesaurus/dictionary came up blank. Not found. I turned to my trusty paperbacks. Vulgate [vulgayt] n. fourth-century Latin version of the Bible used by Roman Catholics. My mother would be proud. 12
If you are an art enthusiast, you have to check out Houstonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Funnel Tunnel, displayed on Montrose Boulevard, just outside the Art League of Houston. This tie-dyed structure took more than a week to complete, by a very large group of volunteers. Patrick Rennner is the artist of this steel and wood structure (he reports the wood is from a turn of the century cotton gin.) The tunnel stretches out to 180 feet! If youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re in the Houston area, it will be here for your viewing pleasure until May, 2014.
By Pride in Photos Photography
After eating and drinking for three or four hours, our party giggled and bubbled with poetry, music and shenanigans. The puppeteer had abruptly pulled out his alter-ego, a half-sized human figure dressed in the dark robe of a medieval bishop and brandishing in its only hand successively a wine glass, the foot of a chicken, or some other startling form of blasphemy. We yelled and howled and goaded his puppet, but it never spoke. Instead it communicated in silent majesty the most impious audacities. No sexual innuendo was left unexplored; no twinkling of an eye was left concealed. We had been with the puppet many times. He accompanied his master who was an actor, puppeteer and costumer in our little traveling theater group. When we visited small villages in Denmark, we spent our nights in the homes of our audience, and then the puppet would lie with its head on the pillow of a bed waiting for us to return from performing so the carousing could start. Once, the teenage children in one home had arranged him with some half-naked Barbie dolls, an ashtray and some empty beer bottles on a pillow, his face smeared with lipstick. He was quite the man-about-town. Tonight the usual frothing spirit got a little out of hand. Maybe the puppet had tried to dance a stationary cancan and had kicked up its robes a little too high, with great solemn eyes underneath the half-circle of life-like hair surrounding a bald crown, its bishop face bobbing wickedly to a gig we were playing. At any rate someone shouted the ill-fated words, “Send the puppet around! Let’s have a look at him!” The first commandment of all theaters has always been Thou shalt not have First Hand Knowledge. The gods never intended for us to know what Marlene Dietrich looks like in her dressing room, or how the ghost disappears in Hamlet, or what holds Salome’s veils together. We are meant to enjoy the illusion and not to ask impertinent questions. But tonight someone had crossed this line between our beliefs and disbeliefs, and soon 15
the puppet had been torn from the hands of its master and was making the rounds of our table. I myself received it only briefly. But sitting next to me was the old man who told stories. Behind the long, gray beard, the pudgy, slightly oriental face, the large nose and the countless warts and tufts of hair was concealed a mind full of the strict guidelines that a storyteller must follow. The man had been a member of the Danish underground during the German occupation; he knew everything about unspoken rules. As I hurriedly passed on the puppet to him, he winced and shivered, and flipped it on to his neighbor. As the lifeless puppet fell into that man’s lap and lay a moment there in a shapeless heap, the old man looked up with those shining eyes that come of seeing too much and remembering all of it. “Golem!” he exclaimed as the sounds in the party melted away into silence. “Golem!” he shouted, parting the waves of revelry like some new Moses at a new Red Sea.
Abstract on Textured Paper Mixed Media 16
S Is For Stress Relief For Busy Mothers I was stressed at work a few weeks ago, and since I hadn’t thought to smuggle a miniature bottle of wine in my lunch bag, I decided to give meditation a shot. I don’t know why my first impulse was to meditate. I wasn’t even sure the proper way to go about doing it, but I figured closing my office door was a good start. While I was up, I turned off the lights for good measure before sitting back down in my chair. Closing my eyes, I tried to will my mind to go blank. Within moments, I pictured a tiny speck floating in a sea of darkness. I got excited and thought, “Look at me — visualizing a floating speck and thinking of nothing.” My brow wrinkled. Did consciously thinking that I was thinking of nothing mean I was really thinking of something? That had potential to make a funny blog post, so I stopped meditating long enough to grab a pen to jot down that thought before it floated away with the speck. Closing my eyes again, I tried to find my speck, but all I could visualize were swirling waves. Disgusted, I turned to my keyboard and Googled “how to meditate.” It turns out, I was supposed to concentrate on breathing through my nose, not Wilson or whatever that speck was floating away on the ocean current. For someone with daily allergies, inhaling through my nose is sometimes easier said than done, which reminded me that I’d been meaning to call both my primary care physician and my eye doctor for appointments. Time was ticking to use up the rest of last year’s flexible spending account funds before they were forfeit. I snorted. Like I’d allow that to happen. How was I supposed to anticipate that my family of four would make it through an entire year with no dental visits other than cleanings and so few trips to the doctor for antibiotics? As a mother, it felt wrong complaining about a lack of illness, but we needed to spend that remaining $350 on something. Instead of getting more stressed over my failure to silence my brain, I decided the time 17
would be better spent being productive. Within five minutes, I’d scheduled my eye exam and had a promise from my husband that he would schedule a doctor’s appointment he’d been putting off as well. I may not have succeeded in meditating, but now that I’d crossed a few items off my to-do list, including out-smarting the tax man who was eyeing my flexible spending account funds, I did feel a lot less stressed. And wasn’t that the whole point?
June 20, 2013: The mighty Bow River was flooding. The Cabin and Golf Resort at Hidden Valley on the Siksika Reserve was in danger of being inundated. We loaded our little travel trailer with as much stuff from the cabin as we had time to pack in the four or so hours we had to evacuate. The rest of our things we either moved to the loft, or simply put up onto the top of the cabinets in the kitchen. No time to think much about what to haul away and what to leave. No time to take any last pictures. No time to say good-bye to anyone. Just to load up and get out of there so that we didn’t block the route of all the other trucks and trailers trying to get out. The evacuation siren was going continuously. Unsettling. Many people with big utility trailers were loading up furniture and appliances. For them, these places were not just summer cabins. They were where they lived all summer. For a few, including some of the members of the Siksika Nation, these cabins were their yearround homes. For the Siksika Nation, this place was a source of revenue and employment.
The river left behind a slippery, gooey, contaminated mud that coated everything. When the mud had dried, it formed sheets that cracked as they hardened. Such was the case at neighbour’s house, where his mailbox announced: You’ve got mail – a Letter from your Mudder!
The lady we had bought the cabin from came over and asked if she could see the cabin one last time. They had rebuilt the cabin after the flood in 2005, and she was obviously very upset that it was going to flood one last time. “This sunroom,” she said. “I had this built with the inheritance I got when a family member died. Did you enjoy using it?” I replied, yes, very much – I’d miss it a lot. (She and her husband had driven down from Edmonton to help the people next door evacuate.) We didn’t even have time to sandbag as we did in 2011. There didn’t seem to be any point. The river was expected to be that much higher than previously. We left the cabin at Hidden Valley at about 11:30 PM and were safely home several hours later. On the way home, we stopped in Strathmore for gas and to catch our breath. I asked The Car Guy if he had remembered to pack The Weather Stone (right). I had put it on the picnic table. He said yes, he had packed it. Odd what things are the most important when you believe you are going to lose everything that is left behind. This would be the end of the Hidden Valley Resort, I expected. This was to be our last summer there, then we would pack up what we could and move out. The river moved us out instead. Of course, we were just 300 of the families that were affected. There were many more people in Siksika Nation who also had to evacuate, and of course there are all the other families upstream who have already had their homes flooded or destroyed. The Insurance Bureau of Canada left us with this one last thought: “It’s important to take preventative action against flooding because damage caused by overland flooding is not covered by home insurance policies anywhere in Canada.” (Short of not living within miles of a stream or river, there isn’t much preventative action you can take that stops water from coming in where you don’t want it – or so it seems to me.) June 21, morning: We drove back out to the cabin and were told we had about 20 minutes to get anything else we wanted. The gas company came around and turned off the gas. We quickly threw our last treasures into the back of the truck and left. The bridge was packed with members of the Siksika Nation who had come to watch the raging waters. 19
We drove to the top of the hill where many of the cabin owners and members of the Siksika Nation had assembled in the parking lot of the beautiful Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park. The Park’s lookout platform gave us an unobstructed view of the Bow River and Hidden Valley. We stood and talked for several hours as we watched the river rise. The immense power of water – it was terrifying and mesmerizing. We reluctantly headed for home before the water spilled over the berm. June 21, 7:45 PM: The berm had been breached (near the west end, I believe). The water had flowed over the berm in many other places including the gate by the bridge. The only remaining question is, what will be the high water mark this time? I think most cabin owners can show you a high water mark on a window or a wall of their cabin. It is like a badge of honor. “The water came up to here in 1995, and here in 2005. But we rebuilt.” The high water mark of 2013. There will be one on each and every cabin that survives, but there will not likely be a third round of rebuilding.
Dodgeball: the bane of every elementary school dork, freak, and other social outcast (with maybe the exception of the angry, violent ones who already mastered the art of throwing things at unsuspecting victims). There’s something inherently flawed about a game where the object is to throw something at somebody – not for the intent of catching it – but to flat-out peg someone as hard as humanly possible. Some might argue that football is more brutal than dodgeball. That might be true, but when football is played in gym class, tackling is prohibited. Furthermore, the primary aim of football is not tackling, but rather to bring the ball over the goal line. In dodgeball, violence is the goal – the elementary school rendition of survival of the fittest. The sinister origins of the sport can be traced back over six hundred years, to Africa, with early variations on record in Korea, China, and Germany. In the game’s earliest incarnation, in place of welt-producing rubber balls, the game was played with concussive (or, in many cases, deadly) rocks. To add insult to injury, once struck, their opponents would continue to pelt them until they were finished off for good. It was up to the struck-man’s teammates to defend their fallen comrade by pelting the attackers with rocks of their own. This ritual was believed to encourage tribal teamwork in preparation for skirmishes against other tribes. It also helped weed out the tribe’s weakest. With the exception of rocks, not much has really changed. In the late 1800’s, an English missionary by the name of Dr. James H. Carlisle witnessed the ruthless game with his own eyes, and decided to introduce a “tamer” version of the game back home. Rocks were replaced with leather balls – still painful, though less lethal. In this more domesticated version, players were only knocked out of the game if knocked to the ground. If they remained standing after a blow, they remained in the game. Smacking somebody with a ball simply wasn’t enough. A few years later, the game made its way to the U.S., with the first official rules drawn up in 1905. Soon, colleges across the country were competing intensely, opening the floodgates for school-sanctioned, team-sport bullying – bullies were now actually encouraged to take aim. Anybody who has ever played the modern version of the game understands there are 21
two types of participants usually left standing at the very end: the cowerers and the champions. The gap between the two couldn’t be any wider. The champions (aka the front line) are the ones who manage to knock off most of their opponents, while simultaneously avoiding getting hit themselves. The in-betweeners are the middle ground between the champions and the cowerers. There is even another subgroup that deserves a mention: the cowards. These are the participants who are smart enough to pretend to get hit amidst the chaos of the game’s opening shots, in an effort to avoid getting hit for real – sparing themselves the pain associated with actually getting nailed by a ball. Last – and certainly least – are the cowerers (of which I belonged). Cowerers outlast almost everybody, not due to any athletic skill, but for the sole reason that they stay glued to the back wall, cowering in fear, and using everyone else as human shields. But one by one, the shields are eliminated, suddenly leaving you as an easy target, with nowhere else to hide. It is only a matter of time before you meet your maker. Unlike the majority of the class who get knocked out unnoticed amidst the chaos of the game, the eyes of the entire class now get to witness your demise – your slow death – much akin to watching a cat play with a blind, disabled mouse. As you – the noble cowerer – runs back and forth along the wall, until you find yourself curled defensively into a ball on the floor, awaiting your inescapable fate. For me, games of dodgeball more often than not came down to myself and my nemesis: David Murphy. David, of course, was a natural at this game, licking his chops at every opportunity to play. It wasn’t that he was especially athletic. He wasn’t. It came down to the fact that this game was a bully’s paradise, allowing him to pluck out the weak, usually followed by even the more athletically-inclined in the class, who could easily beat David in every other sport on the planet, with the exception of dodgeball. David always left me for last … by design. This allowed him to maximize the humiliation he so relished. Like a cat with that mouse, he would taunt and torture me, intentionally missing me six or seven times to prolong my misery, much to the amusement of the entire class, as I cowered in the fetal position, where I remained until he finally (usually reluctantly mandated by my gym teacher) plunked me. David so loved dodgeball, that he even organized playground versions of the game, independent from gym class. It was the only organizing he was capable of, shunning all other sports, jocks, and anything resembling school spirit, in favor of anarchy. In many ways, dodgeball is the anarchist’s dream. David always begged me to play for the sole reason that it would afford him a chance to cream my ass with a dodgeball yet again. Unlike gym class, where the game was mandated, I could opt out of the play-
ground version, focusing instead on digging holes beneath the swingset. upported A couple of years back, an opportunity for redemption arrived – a dodgeball tournament on a Caribbean cruise. With memories of my previous attempts at dodgeball still fresh in my mind, I was hesitant at first, before realizing that I had nothing left to lose. Even if I were to totally suck, at least I knew I would no longer be afraid. Maybe … just maybe … I had a shot at success. Maybe … just maybe … I could purge my childhood demons once and for all. I had even more reason to have no fear as soon as I saw the ball, which was softer and sponge-like, unlikein my past, those elastic, rubber, welt-producing balls. To me, the type of ball made all the difference in my psyche. I got this, I thought to myself, experiencing my first ever taste of athletic confidence. Perhaps my lack of fear had to do with the abundance of fruity cocktails consumed. Or – more likely – it had to do with the strong Caribbean breeze aboard our vessel, making it difficult for the ball to soar more than five feet. The tournament began. I sat on the sidelines with my team – comprised of all age groups, spanning all walks of life – eagerly awaiting my team’s chance to take the court. This was a change of pace. In the past, I would literally start having the shits the night before I knew I had to play dodgeball in gym class. Now, I was shitting my pants in giddy anticipation. My, had things changed. When we finally took the court, I wasn’t afraid – just as I predicted. Not only that, but I was aggressive. I was driven. I was an animal. I charged toward every ball, rather than dart – or dodge – away from them. Although I fired off several shots, none of them hit their intended targets. I wanted to do better, but as the game progress, my teammates went down one by one. By some divine miracle, not only was I still standing, but I was no longer using my teammates as body shields. I was no longer a cowerer. In my new aggressive state, I may have been missing my target, but I was certainly not the first to get hit. Nor, was I the last man standing. I was silently disqualified in the middle of the pack – not by a bean, but by a catch. It was a worthy throw, caught by an even more worthy opponent, a college-aged jock-type. This was as close to redemption as I was going to get. But that was good enough for me. Fortunately, after generations of traumatized youth, the modern-day version of dodgeball has been banned by many schools across the nation. Where it isn’t banned yet, it is played with the much less harmful, softer sponge balls. Despite the game being mostly banned today, my elementary school memories are certainly not banned in my mind. No matter how hard I try. 23
Some of us consider ourselves to be black sheep. But why is this seahorse one? Because can a seahorse curl its tail quite this way?
Dancing to the Tune of Colors I have been dancing to the tune of colors. This is a simple kettle which is used in India in every small dhaba or a roadside tea shop. I also painted this small bucket and love the way even a simple looking object can surprise you.
Michelle Guyton’s cat had had kittens. I’d never seen or held a kitten – ever. Mum mentioned that Mrs Guyton had been over for coffee and cake that afternoon, and she’d talked about the new kittens. I asked if I could go over and see the kittens. Mum said, of course, and then she said, “Make sure you and Michelle behave; you know Mr Guyton’s nerves are short.” Michelle took me into the lounge room; the kittens had been born under the glass coffee table. She told me to be very quiet, and not to make any sudden-like moves. She held my hand. Our fingers naturally laced together. We crept stealthily toward the coffee table. My heart raced with anticipation – it caused my hand to sweat. I felt dizzy. I was mortified. There was no question in my mind…she was going to shake her hand free, and tell me I’m a freak. It would be over. Michelle would no longer want to be my best friend. There would be no kittens. She didn’t say anything about my sweaty hand. I guess she mustn’t of noticed; she was the bestest friend. We sat laughing and playing with the new kittens – until her Dad came in. And noticed kitten poo. And like a kitten was a new experience, so was seeing an adult, angry. Mr Guyton started swearing, and then he grabbed a kitten by the neck. He pushed its little head into a clump of poo. I screamed out “NO!” as tears spilled out of my eyes. I ran out of the room, and straight home. I’m not sure if I told Mum what happened. I don’t recall that part. But I’ll never forget the next part. It happened the following morning. Mum came into my room and sat on my bed. She told me that Michelle and her brother were going to live with their grandma. I asked why? I don’t remember the look on Mum’s face, but I remember the feeling in my chest. It’s still there. Pain. “You see darling, my sweet darling,” she said, “Last night, Mr and Mrs Guyton were in a car crash, and they died.” I never saw Michelle again, and it would be many years, before I could look at another kitten. 29
The Sparrow is Sorry but He Likes Your Garage Roof Sparrows really loved our backyard. Mum said it was because of the fruit trees. I reckon that had something to do with it but so did the metal pie dishes. It was my job to make sure the metal dishes always had plenty of water. Sometimes, I’d forget to fill them, and boy, I didn’t hear the end of it. You’d think it we Mum who gave me a telling off for being a slacker, but it was not her. It was the sparrows. They’d gang up, make such a noise, and shake their wings at me. I’d try to shoo them off, but sparrows are brave. When my Nan was off duty from being a nurse, she’d come stay with us. She’d arrive
in her white corolla, still in her nurse’s whites and red cape. She looked like a Scarlet Robin. One time she arrived when I was dealing with the sparrows. She stood quietly, with her feet half on the courtyard concrete and half on the lawn and watched. One of the sparrows still had his meal between his teeth; it was the same sparrow that was now living in our garage roof. I knew it was him because the rust of his feathers was bright red-brownish, almost like he’d lived under a rusty tap that had a drip and the drip had dyed his feathers. Mum was happy to let them eat the fruit, and the water was nothing. But the garage roof meant one thing, one unacceptable thing. They’d have to fly over the concrete courtyard to reach the garage: bird poo! As it turned out, the rusty sparrow won the garage roof and my Mum too. I heard her asking him about his day as she hosed down the concrete. Nan gave me a hug and told me I had a talent with the sparrows. I didn’t think so, but it was always nice to get praise from Nan so I smiled. We sat on the lawn and I asked her to tell me a travel story. When Nan was not nursing or visiting us, she was exploring the world. I once overhead Dad say to Mum, “Your Mother has been everywhere in the world, why does she want to keep coming back here?” Mum would say my dad’s full name very slowly and nothing else, and really, nothing else was said. That day on the lawn, Nan did not tell me one of her travel stories. She told me about sparrows. She told me about some English myths; the person who catches the sparrow must kill it or else his parents will die! Or perhaps it was: The person who catches the sparrow must kill it or else he will be the one who dies. I must have looked at her scared shitless, but truthfully I was crushed. The next thing she said as she held my hand tightly was, “But the Greeks, my winged love, believe sparrows symbolise true love.” That made such a difference. It still makes such a difference. The garage is long gone, but rusty sparrows and true love will always remain.
Contemporary, yet timeless, digital paintings that evoke modern realism but with homage to the classic works. Read more at http://www.trilliumgallery.com/lianne-schneider-art.html#kUrjERqhZlp0iS9z.99