Following the Ruby Red Carpet

Once a year, when I was a young lass, I used to routinely ensconce myself in front of the TV to watch the Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars. While the occasional moments of spectacular pageantry would divert me, mostly, I am beginning to suspect, I was only interested because everyone told me I should be. As an adult, my thrift-induced lack of cable means I don’t really have a way to watch the ceremony live, and, if I’m being honest, I’ve enjoyed saving myself five hours and simply reading up on the highlights the next day. Internet has killed the video star.

Of course, one of those next-day highlights I have consistently, genuinely eaten up is the fashion. Some portion of the day after the Oscars is always devoted to scrolling through a photo gallery of famous and not-so-famous actors and actresses, dressed in (what is purportedly) their finest. And then going and looking at another photo gallery, because some of the angles on that last one were a little awkward. And then looking at those sites that have the dresses arranged by color, because I’m always curious if there’s a majority hue. And then looking at a couple of “Best/Worst Dressed” lists, to see if their choices agreed with mine. And then, of course, discussing said lists with similarly interested friends.

I don’t really have a rational reason for this binge. I’ve no occasion for wearing such finery myself; I wore a Star Wars t-shirt I bought from Target to work today. I’m no fashionista; it means nothing to me when I read a person’s shoe is by Louis Vulture or the bag by Christian Door. Really, what can I say? I like beautiful dresses, and I like critiquing beautiful dresses. Thus, without further ado, I present my 2018 Oscars Awards for Fashion, or the 2018 OAFs.

The Oooh, Shiny! Award

Presented to the individual(s) that most call to mind a quote from How I Met Your Mother: “One of the 24 similarities between girls and fish is that they’re both attracted to shiny objects.”

Gal Gadot, for Sparkly Dress with a Fluttery Skirt & Fantastic Necklace; Jennifer Lawrence, for Rockin’ the Retro Look; Gina Rodriguez, for Sparkling Both Inside & Out; Lupita Nyong’o, for Gold Dress, Albeit with a Slit I Wouldn’t Wear

The Color Envy Award

Presented to the individual(s) who best pull off colors that I cannot myself wear without looking like a corpse

Greta Gerwig, for Bright Yellow SPARKLES; Zendaya, for Successfully Pulling Off Ruffles in Brown; Laurie Metcalf, for Beige Shimmery Classic Number.

The Emperor Palpatine Award

Presented to the individual(s) who most resemble Emperor Palpatine’s guards

Maya Rudolph, for Just Add the Helmet & Honestly I Couldn’t Tell the Difference

The “I’d Wear That if I Were an Evil Queen” Award

Presented to the individual(s) who are wearing something I would totally wear as a Dark Empress

Allison Janney, for Rockin’ Those Red Sleeves, Have You SEEN the Way They Drape?

The Actually Made Me Briefly Care About Men’s Fashion Award

Presented to the rare male individual(s) whose red carpet photo actually causes me to pause and look closer, instead of just scrolling past another man in a black tuxedo

Chadwick Boseman, for Hello There. Don’t You Look Fiiiiiiine. Why, Yes, It Is Rather Chilly, I Would Like to Borrow Your Coat. Thank You. Your Coat is Mine Now. Goodbye.

The “That’s Not How I Would Have Rolled, But Props to You” Award

Presented to the individual(s) wearing something rather outlandish, but still pulling it off

Tiffany Haddish, for The Dress is Quite Something, But I Do Actually Really Like Her Headpiece; Emma Stone, for Rocking a Suit and Somehow Not Being Frumpy

The Living Your Best Life Now Award

Presented to the individual(s) who are rocking a dress they clearly love, whatever the merits of the dress itself

Whoopi Goldberg, for That Large Floral Dress, You Go Girl

The Disney Princess Award

Presented to the individual(s) whose outfits most resemble that of a Disney princess

Salma Hayek, for Shimmery Purple Tiers with Diamonds, I Understand Some People Didn’t Like It, but She Just Got Through Saving the Kingdom from Mother Gothel, So Back Off; Emily Blunt, for Wearing a Gown that Somehow Looks More Like the Original Animated Cinderella’s Dress than the 2015 Remake’s Version

The Bed Sheet Award

Presented to the individual whose outfit most resembles a fitted bed sheet

Andra Day, for I’m Pretty Sure I Made that Outfit While Playing Dress Up When I Was 12


Flu Season, or How I Learned to Empathize with Medieval Peasants

It’s a classic trope, arguably immortalized in Monty Python & the Holy Grail: the mob of medieval villagers, blaming all their ills on a supposed witch or some other thing-that-isn’t-germs-because-people-didn’t-know-about-those-then, culminating in a good old-fashioned burning or some other savage, weird act of violence. In these modern, reasonable times, it is sometimes difficult to imagine the mindset of those poor, ignorant peasants, desperately attempting to find a comprehensible, easily eliminated scapegoat for their ills.

That is until, at work, the department next to mine started dropping like flies.

It started quietly enough. First, Workplace Proximity Associate C mysteriously disappeared. Later that day, a strange, foreign “ssshshhhhhkkkkk” sound managed to infiltrate my earbuds, even through the blaring bagpipes of my Celtic punk rock. Removing my earbuds and peeking over the cubicles revealed C’s team members, standing at a distance, spraying Lysol on her desk.

“C has the flu,” they said.

I locked eyes with one of my own department members. We saw the fear mirrored in each other’s gaze. At this point, I merely invested in some handsanitizer.  

Then, Workplace Proximity Associate K got the flu, then Workplace Proximity Associate D, then on down the entire row next to ours. That was when I stole a giant tub of Lysol wipes from the Operations department, and started smearing a protective line of solution around my cube several times a day.

Then, the news: Colleague G, a few rows down to the right, and Colleague N, a few rows to the left, both had strep. That was when I started making protective totems out of paperclips, wrapping them in Lysol wipes and clutching them to my chest whenever any associate of G or N walked by.  

Then, the news that Colleague C2, longtime frequenter of the break room, had had the flu all week, and insisted on remaining at his post. That was when I found myself wishing that leper colonies were still a thing. I also brought a head of garlic to work, which I split into cloves and hung at intervals around my cube. Slightly more reasonably, perhaps, I began using a bathroom and break room on a different floor.

And then, one sunny morning, I heard my closest Workplace Proximity Associate, both literally and metaphorically, cough.

“I can’t be sick,” she said. “I feel fine. Or even if I am, I don’t have that many sick days. I’ll still be at work.”

“I WILL DRIVE YOU OUT OF THIS BUILDING WITH A STICK!” I shrieked. I even drew her a nice little comic of me setting her cubicle on fire. She took it in its stride, as she’s learned to do with me, my increasing number of references to “cleansing flame” notwithstanding.

Then came the news, whispered in terror through the grapevine. “Mark has the stomach bug.”

And that was when I decided I needed to burn down the building.* And also invest in a duck, so I could determine just who was the wicked witch that was causing this particularly vicious cycle of office illness.

*Just kidding, HR!

Which Once the Angel Sang

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven’s all-gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

To get straight to the point, I never much cared for the carol “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” It wasn’t as boisterous as “Joy to the World” or “Good Christian Men Rejoice,” and it lacked the sweetness of “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” and the fond personal memories I associate with “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” In contrast, that supposedly clear midnight was just an overly peaceful-sounding tune about pretty angels warbling, and not nearly up to the caliber of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” I thought. Perhaps, when I am feeling contrary – which admittedly is quite often – I could still say the same of that first verse. But now, a bit older than when I first formed these opinions, I have grown to appreciate what the second verse says.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

If I manage to time this post correctly, it will appear on Tuesday, December 26th, otherwise known as the day after Christmas. It’s the start of that awkward time, that stretch of four days between Christmas itself and the day of New Year’s Eve. Of course, this is contingent on you celebrating Christmas on the day itself, which not everyone does. You may have celebrated in the days before, or your familial gathering has yet to come. Or perhaps it has come, and now you lament the end of this most wonderful time of year, and fear the return to the babel sounds of the common year. Or perhaps a Christmas will not come at all, and for you the holidays might be one of those sad and lowly plains.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

If that particular verse doesn’t ring any bells (Christmas half-pun intended), it’s because it may have been omitted from your hymnal, for reasons I’m not able to explain. Space, perhaps, or maybe whoever first made that decision found this verse just a little too melancholy. Two thousand years of wrong, two thousand years of war, and counting. We like to act like Christmas is the finale of the year, and we don’t always like to talk of what lies beyond, just yet.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

Some cursory reading on Wikipedia and another less-than-well-cited web page says that the author, a clergyman by the name of Edmund Sears, wrote this song in the twilight of 1849, following the United States’ war with Mexico and news of strife in Europe. He saw these conflicts as the result of man’s failure to heed the Christmas message. Sears would go on to live through the upcoming Civil War, and I can’t help but think, a bit cruelly, that he hadn’t seen nothin’ yet. But, perhaps he knew that, for he does not stop in the now, but looks forward to the hereafter.

For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Of course, to state the obvious, we live in the now. And now is the day after Christmas, when, for many, the real world begins to creep back. If I could quibble with the author a little more, it might be that this “song” he speaks of, this message whose absence he lamented, does not belong exclusively to Christmas. Christmas may give us a reminder and a chance to stop, rest by the weary road, and remember the beautiful angel and his song. But then, through the rest of the year, we must send onward the song, as best we may, which once this angel sang.

Her Majesty Slays Dragon


[GwenR 2:30p.m.] What article?


[GwenR 2:35 p.m.] ...did you read said article?

[ElizaM 2:36 p.m.] NO I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THAT

[GwenR 2:40 p.m.] ...I don’t have time for *you.*

[ElizaM 2:45 p.m.] YOU KILLED A DRAGON????
[ElizaM 2:45 p.m.] WHAT
[ElizaM 2:45 p.m.] HOW?!!?
[ElizaM 2:47 p.m.] ARE DRAGONS BACK????!!??
[ElizaM 2:59 p.m.] HEEEYLPPP

[GwenR 3:37 p.m.] You’re saying girls can’t kill dragons?


[GwenR 3:56: p.m.] Yes, they do. And I killed one.

[ElizaM 3:57 p.m.] CALL ME NOW

[GwenR 4:37 p.m.] Can’t. In council meeting. Texting under table. Don’t think anyone’s noticed. Kind of don’t care if they do.

[ElizaM 4:38 p.m.] Look at you slacking off on your royal duties EXPLAIN DRAGON

[GwenR 4:45 p.m.]“Ridding the land of the pestilence scourge of dragonkind” is still listed as one of the sovereign’s duties, you know. Which I just did.

[ElizaM 4:46 p.m.] …

[GwenR 4:55 p.m.] Lower case letters and punctuation exist. And I did too kill a dragon.
[GwenR 4:56 p.m.] Technically.

[ElizaM 4:57 p.m.] AH HA! The the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and do it now.
[ElizaM 4:58 p.m.] Punctuation. Different shaped letters. Happy?

[GwenR 5:05 p.m.] Fine, fine, okay, so one of the administrative royal duties that I don’t bore you with because you have the attention span of a newt is going around to any heads of estates whose private roads the Crown uses and formally asking permission of said heads to use said roads. 
[GwenR 5:06 p.m.] This permission does not pass from monarch to monarch, so I’ve had to go around and re-ask every.single.person. It has been a pain.
[GwenR 5:08 p.m.] But I guess a necessary one because, if you remember, Rowling’s Rebellion of 1624 had to do with King Geoffrey IV...wait, I should probably go back to his dad King Edward IIV…


[GwenR 5:15 p.m.] Sheesh, just trying to give you some context. Anyway, so there’s this nobleman, let’s call him Stinky, up in the backwoods of some region known as Spring Hills that was all “Of course, of course, use my roads. Except this one. Thankkksss.” And I was like, “Whatever.” But then it turned out that we actually kind of needed that one for complicated economic nerd reasons I will not borrrrrrre you with.
[GwenR 5:17 p.m.] So I was like, “Hey, can we use that road too, pretty please?” Sent a nice official email and everything. And he was like “Nah, for Reasons.”
[GwenR 5:19] So then I actually gave Stinky a call. He seemed fairly cordial, maybe a little...vacant, and I was like, “What Reasons?” Then he paused, took a gulp (I could hear it over the phone), smacked his lips (which I could also hear), and said, very deliberately: “Wellllll...that road is in the north of our property...and there’s a dragon in the north.”

[ElizaM 5:20 p.m.] Wuuuuuttt

[GwenR 5:22 p.m.] Eeeeexactly. And I was like, “I beg your pardon?” I was honestly so confused.
[GwenR 5:23 p.m.] And then he spins this yarn about some dragon living up in the northern hills and it being dangerous to go out there and how a hunter got eaten...

[ElizM 5:23 p.m.] *coocoo* *coocoo*

[GwenR 5:25 p.m.] Yeah. At the time I was just like, “Okay, so...good talk,” and just hung up. But then the PM may or may not have kind of yelled at me, and so I called Stinky back and was like, “Yo, I’m coming to slay the dragon.”

[ElizaM 5:27 p.m.] The PM yelled at you? OFF WITH HIS HEAD. Also LOLZ "slay"

[GwenR 5:30 p.m.] I mean, not really and I kind of deserved it. I just let some backwater nobleman talk my ear off about some mythical dragon marauding his property. It was not one of my finer moments. 

[ElizaM 5:31 p.m.] Okay wait SO THERE WAS ACTUALLY A DRAGON???

[GwenR 5:33 p.m.] I’m getting there, I’m getting there. So we show up at this backwater estate in Spring Hills, Stinky comes out to greet us, and let me tell you “vacant” didn’t even begin to describe him.

[ElizaM 5:34 p.m.] GET TO DRAGON PART

[GwenR 5:36 p.m.] I’m just trying to give you some context. Anyway, our whole first hour at Stinky's really is a funny story, but it is kind of long, so I’ll spare you for now. So we get in the cars and drive up and down the north road, and surprise, surprise, no dragon. Although General R noticed something kind of funny looking on one section, so we get out and they start investigating around, and they find this hidden hatch in the side of a hill. They open it and……..

[ElizaM 5:48 p.m.] AND?

[GwenR 5:50 p.m.] This lizard pops out.

[ElizaM 5:51 p.m.] Lizard.

[GwenR 5:53 p.m.] Yeah, but I promise, it had enough excess skin that it kind of looked like wings! But it popped out all of a sudden and I freaked out and stomped on it and killed it.

[ElizaM 5:55 p.m.] You stomped on a lizard and killed it.

[GwenR 5:57 p.m.] A lizard that kind of looked like it had wings, yes.

[EizaM 5:58 p.m.] I do not understand.

[GwenR 6:02 p.m.] So, if there was a dragon in the north, I stepped on it. Thereby slaying it. All hail me.

[ElizaM 6:05 p.m.] I can’t even with you right now.
[ElizaM 6:05 p.m.] That got picked up by the news?
[ElizaM 6:06 p.m.] Your MOTHER sent it to me.
[ElizaM 6:06 p.m.] I was not aware she had a sense of humor.

[GwenR 6:06 p.m.] It’s a human interest story about the monarchy! Royal slays first dragon in 1,000 years! Mom was proud!

[ElizaM 6:07 p.m.] …
[ElizaM 6:07 p.m.] So what about the hatch?

[GwenR 6:10 p.m.] Oh, that’s where Stinky hid his stash of illegally traded moonshine among other...things. Which is why he thought it was a good idea to tell the Queen that she couldn’t use his road because of a dragon, and stuck to his story with a straight face the whole way through. Like I know I'm new at this and this is a piddly kingdom but still, guy, have some class.

[ElizaM 6:11 p.m.] "Piddly"...NERD...but honestly being queen kind of sounds lame a lot of the time (love you, so proud!), but this is actually kind of funny.

[GwenR 6:15 p.m.] Okay, but that first hour at Stinky’s is actually really funny. I’m out of my meeting now, call you? 

[ElizaM 6:16 p.m.] YAS PLEASE

A New House

I am that teacher that still always keeps a jar full of sweets in her desk drawer, in defiance of those nonsensical nutritional standards. The candy’s not simply there for the taking, of course – I get the children to do little jobs for me, like erase the whiteboard or tidy up the bookshelf, and then and only then do I reward them with a piece. After all, when the school board interviewed me, I told them that I wanted my students to own their classroom, to be invested in it, and to think of it as our joint little house. So, in this way, I keep the little nuggets busy, and my domicile remains orderly and inviting.

And, of course, when the students are done with their tasks, they know to stretch out their chubby little hands for a Starburst or a Tootsie Roll. If a child has been especially good that day, or is in particular in need of fattening up, I may even hand out a whole fun-sized bag of M&Ms. I tell them to eat their candy right away, right there in front of me, or else Mr. Jones may see it and confiscate it. I enjoy watching it disappear into their delectable little red mouths.

I do try to be fair and even in my bestowals, and not play favorites with my students any more than can be helped, per the wisdom passed down from my sister. It doesn’t do to keep just one morsel close to you; you never know what the other little dishes may get up to when the time comes. I grew careless of this at my last position, resulting in a few close-to-awkward questions. A tattle-tale mentioned that Ms. Haag was always giving candy to Katie, that she was my favorite. This was, of course, a tad nearer to the mark than I cared it to be, although I was able to play the part of a grieving teacher to great success. But, just in case, I decided to seek out a new schoolhouse; I simple couldn’t stay there, after such a traumatic experience as my favorite student disappearing.

It was quite easy to be hired somewhere else. I’m a sweet old woman, with a few old-fashioned values that are none the worse for wear and a great helping of empathy for my students. I tell the school board nothing but the truth. I let them know that I make it my business to be very aware of students’ home lives, and that I take it into account in everything I do.

To this end, I always call my students’ parents quite early in the year. One can tell quite a lot by that first phone call, which is ostentatiously merely meant to touch base with parents and thus start the year off on a good note. By now, I know exactly what to look for. A father immediately offering to come down to the school and “wup” their child – I just have to say the word – is bad; a mother gabbing on and on about how I needn’t fear, they always devote time to help their child with homework and projects, is much worse. On the other hand, a parent answering the phone with merely a resigned “What’ve they done now?” is very, very promising. It’s even better when the contact isn’t the student’s real parent, but a guardian of some sort. In Mason’s case, it was his stepmother. Within the first minute of our conversation, the woman flat-out let me know that while that child was at school, he was my responsibility to deal with, and mine alone. Exactly what I wanted to hear, really.

So, I’ll make sure Mason is included whenever I hand out my bits of candy. Like my other dear, delicious students, he’ll become rather fond of me and feel quite safe in my company. By the middle of the school year, it will be so very, very easy to bring him inside my nice, ginger-colored house, with my warm, glowing oven. Children may not wander alone into wild woods so often as they used to, but, in these modern cities, children disappear all the time. While many things have changed since the old days, I think my new house suits me just as well.

A Little Short Lark

Let me describe to you the view outside my office window. The green young tall trees are growing stronger by the day. Their weaving lovely many branches have seemingly accepted, finally, that they are not to be chopped down by glimmering buzzing many saws, as have much of their kind. No, they are to remain, a homage half-hearted to a city’s need for nature.

In these swaying softly trees, there is a certain one spot with a horizontal particularly branch that seems to be the place of honor supreme. All the little small stars of this patch of wood have perched there at time one or another. The crows, their black shiny feathers unkempt, like to gather in a row and hurl little many nasty insults at me, or so I imagine from their disdainful dark looks. The bright golden beautiful butterflies are better, for they pay no one any mind, content to chase each other around the trunk, up and up, till they are lost among the leaves few that have begun to turn yellow themselves.

The most dignified of the trees’ visitors was a speckled large hawk that once drove the chattering several crows away. The hawk held its private own court on that branch for nearly an hour, and I am sure he gave wandering many squirrels a fright. Let them be startled out of their fuzzy fat skins, for all I care. There are too far many of them, and there’s one in particular that likes merely to ascend to the top tallest branch, and rip the innocent poor leaves off. That’s all he does; rip a leaf, and watch it drop. Rip a leaf, and watch it drop, for just for kicks, I assume. What a little strange creature.

If, sweet dear reader, you have made it through that wandering strange description and noticed nothing amiss, let me enlighten you. You see, English has odd many rules that perhaps we knew at one time and then forgot. One that I perhaps had learned and certainly never thought of since then is the order of adjectives in proper modern English.

Apparently, adjectives are to be written in this particular order: quantity or number, quality or opinion, size, age, shape, color (and there are a few other ones that can come after that, should you be describing something excessively specific, such as original, material, purpose). Should you choose to deviate from that order, to describe the several chattering crows as chattering several crows, and their little many nasty insults instead of their many little nasty insults, you sound a bit like the the bard who wrote Beowulf…or maybe just a slightly addled person.

And me? I’m just a some-time procrastinating strange writer, fiddling with the English language just a little for a lark.

For Emily, in the Fall

“If you were coming in the fall,”
She dreamed, “I’d brush the summer by,
With half a smile and half a spurn,
As housewives do a fly.”

So I, like her, fondly mused,
And dreamed of all I could do,
Of both quiet actions and eternal deeds
And what and where, and who.

“If I could see you in a year,”
She wished, yet “centuries delayed”
And she finally was left, “ignorant of length,”
With goblin’s sting unstaid.

Likewise my dreams, and wishes too,
That fall was charged to bring,
When summer’s sum was all but spent,
Fall gave me not a thing.

So fall’s months were gathered, and put aside,
“Each in a separate drawer,”
And I waited for the time to drip away,
And for winter to bring me more.

Then winter came and failed to bring
Just what I thought it ought,
Yet third is the charm, though long the nights
‘Till spring, whose aid I sought.

Yet when she came, Spring but smiled,
And what I wanted she refused to send,
But instead she tossed my old dreams away
And bade me begin again.

So through summer I plotted anew
An autumn course of my own fair making,
You may not come, or perhaps you may,
But this time’s my own for the spending.

Inspiration and quoted passages courtesy of Emily Dickinson, “If You Were Coming in the Fall.”

Dear Sir

Dear Sir,

IMG_8833 copy

How may I fully express the thrill of flattery that I felt as I unfolded thy note and discovered those two sonnets written for my eyes alone, not for some other supposed vision of perfection! But my pleasure was short-lived, for though the lines sounded sweet, to tell the truth, I could not at first make head nor tale of them. I was forced to spend a full hour unraveling their serpentine turns of phrase, and, to be frank, sir, thy sonnets are not as attractive as first they appeared. Poetic verse really is quite the cloying perfume. Dissolve it with a good bucket of prose and thou wilt be able discern the wearer’s true sourness.

I do not quarrel with thy first conclusion that “…never resting time leads Summer on, to hideous winter and confounds him there.” I know, as do all with any sense, that one far off day my eyes will loose their luster, my hair will whiten, and my skin will shrivel. There is not much gallantry in reminding me of that. What is more, thy solution to this natural ill does not seem very efficacious: “That’s for thy self to breed an other thee.” Hast thou perhaps spent too much time in the company of my mother? For she and thee are alike in thy eagerness for me to bear children. Yet, it cannot help but occur to me that producing children will most likely leave me bereft of beauty much more quickly than natural aging. And, though a parent may be fair, who is to say that their offspring shall be likewise as lovely? A tree may be strong, and yet bear wormy fruit. Or perhaps there shall be no fruit at all. Hast thou not considered that?

Of course thou hast not. Thou seest but a rosy world where rosy women have their own rosy babes. Thy sonnets are constant in their idolization of my beauty and the need to preserve it, as if nothing else about me mattered, not even myself. “Be not self-willed,” thou sayest, “for thou art much too fair, to be death’s conquest and make worms thine heir.” When the frost has finally done its work, it seems as if none shall mourn any aspect of my character, nor any good work I have done. My appearance is all I shall be missed for, and heaven help my soul should I have failed to produce any natural progeny.

Be that as it may, I yet propose another course of conduct. As thou suggest: “Beauty o’ersnow’d and bareness every where, then were not summer’s distillation left a liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass…flowers distilled though they with winter meet, leese but their show, their substance lives sweet.” I shalt take thy first advice, and disregard thy second. Deep roots are not reached by the frost, and thus I shalt keep summer’s distillation in my heart. I will do so, and perhaps, when winter has done its outer work, and I lie barren upon my deathbed, those nearby will remember me, myself, in love, and not cluck their tongues in pity for what is lost.

To come to the point, sir, it seems that thou art infatuated with my beauty and its supposed contagion. Not a sonnet I have received has been addressed in praise of any other facet of me. Thus, sir, I must order you to stop hanging round. Depart and attempt to ensnare some other bird with thy tangled web of pretty little words. After all, my parents have not been much pleased with my unfortunate fancy for a mere scribbler.

Yours (no more),




Our Fireworks

Listen up, folks, and you shall hear
Of the late-night fireworks that took place here,
On the Fourth of July, maybe 2002?
I didn’t bother to see if anyone knew
Or remembered that particular day and year.

Mom said to us, “Here’s the plan,
We’re going to Grandma’s for dinner tonight,
And, if she says you can,
If you wanna do fireworks, that’s all right –
Just be very careful, and don’t blow up your face,
I just read an article where that was the case,
Gruesome things happen when there’s explosives and fire,
Stop laughing, it’s not funny, the stakes are dire,
If I see you being careless, you’ll feel my ire,”

Or something like that, but we didn’t care,
For, at Grandma’s, something caused us to stare.
As my brother and I walked onto the porch,
Our aunt arrived, and with a lurch,
Placed a huge package on the ground.
Peeking forward, there we found,
A mountain of fireworks, pound upon pound,
Whose grand power was magnified
By the vibrant illustrations on the side.

But we still had to eat, and it was still light,
So we wandered, watching eagerly,
As the sun slipped down most meagerly.
For, to us kids, the dinner was a bore,
Waiting and waiting with all our might,
‘Til at last, Mom said, most agreeably
“Y’all can go now” – and we were out the door.

We opened the package our aunt had brought,
And there was the cornucopia of dreams.
There black cats lay in reams and reams,
And fountains beyond our wildest thought.
Smoke bombs in pink and blue and red,
Enough sparklers to keep a festival fed,
And spinners and candles and parachutes,
And novelty tanks the size of little troops,
And, one giant bottle rocket, last,
That we were sure would give such a blast
One loud enough to wake the dead
And brighten up the shadowy night
Enough to rival the moon’s light.
A sparkling flower that would fly
Up, up, up, high into the sky.

So we dived right in, and with matches we lit
The fuse of many a cracker that eve,
As screamers buzzed over and into the tree,
And a fountain exploded in an angry fit.
That wasn’t all! In the gloom of the night,
Who knows how many sparklers we did light?
Black cats exploded with all their might,
And candles combusted for all to see.
But the best we did with the novelty tanks,
As we lined them up, rank upon rank,
Just on the edge of an ant pile grand,
And set them in motion, and watched them sputter,
As forward they began to putter,
Shooting sparks into the ant-filled sand.

It must have been ten by the living room clocks,
When we called the family to come outside.
Onto the porch they filed and stared,
As the giant rocket we prepared,
And since they refused to put on shoes over socks,
Or leave the coziness of the rocking chair,
Do you think they saw it at all,
When the rocket exploded high in the air?
Or the little pink crystals softly fall?


Yet, through the evening we fired on,
Every last candle and spinner and spark.
We heard every last black cat bark,
Until every single one of them was gone.
No more crack in the darkness, or pop in the night,
No more echoing, shimmering light.
But, borne on on the night-wind of the past,
Through all of my memory, down to the last,
In the hour of darkness and laughter that is free,
I will remember, though now it is gone,
That box of fireworks that once I did see,
And the July Fourth Fireworks that once shone.

A Good (Sleepy) Story

Well, I may be something of an optimist, but I am also no fool.  I knew perfectly well that attempting to get a solid night’s sleep while camping at a music festival would present some challenges.  But I could handle it, I gamely assured my brother, my traveling companion.  Here’s some earplugs, just in case, he said anyway.  I tucked the earplugs away in my bag, and we set off for the main festival, intending, and having, a good time.

Midnight was rolling around, and neither of us really cared about the final performance of the night, so we ended up turning in earlier than the majority of the crowd.  In the sweet near-silence of an airy spring night, with only crickets and the nearby gurgling brook as punctuation, I curled up in my sleeping bag and determinedly closed my eyes.  Perhaps, if I fell asleep soon enough, I’d be too sound asleep to be woken up by the returning revelers.

Alas, it was not to be.  The crowd returned, and their incessant “YAK yak yak yak” SCREECH “YAK yak YAK yak” SCREECH “yak YAK YAK yak” SCREECH woke me up quite thoroughly.

So it begins, I thought, grimly.  Oh get a grip, I told myself.  You lived basically across the street from your college town’s bar district for two years.  If you could handle that discordant noise Thursday through Sunday on a regular basis, you can handle this.  Yes, so I can, I agreed, and began to fall back asleep.

Of course, I forgot to mention, this particular festival encourages folks to bring their acoustic instruments and to initiate jam sessions with all and sundry. So it was that I soon heard a double bass player began a line of notes that, in the words of the Charlie Daniels Band, sounded something like this:

BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM

Repeat to infinity, or the closest thing to it.

“Well, if the player knew eight notes, that’s actually not so bad…” a friend, a bass player himself, later protested.

“Eight notes, exclusively in that order,” I clarified.

“Oh,” said my friend.

Still, thought I, staring at a tent pole, at least the bass is an acoustic instrument.  I really can’t complain all that much.

BUMbumbumbumbumbumbumBUM, continued the bass player.  I closed my eyes…

…and opened them again when the violin began screeching along.  All right, perhaps that’s a bit harsh.  It actually sounded rather mellow, a soothing voice capable of swinging me to sleep, if I’d let it.  It worked, too, for a little bit.  I focused on the violin’s melody, and felt myself drifting away.

And that was when the trumpet started.

To describe its tone as “blaring” doesn’t quite cut it.  It sounded like a particularly peeved goose with a piercing array of pipes.  And I was going to wring its neck.

I sat up, disentangled myself from my tent, marched in the direction of the squawking trio, and in summary, Officer, that’s how I ended up wrenching a trumpet away from a complete stranger and tossing said trumpet in the nearby creek.  Now, can I go back to sleep, please?

Oh, all right.  In reality, Buttercup remembered the ear plugs her brother gave her, and managed to suck it up and doze fairly comfortably.  When she woke up a few hours later, the trio had ceased, and she actually slept fairly well.

She would have slept better, of course, if the solo bongo drum player hadn’t decided that what the world needed now wasn’t love, sweet love, it was his sweet solo bongo-ing. I think someone eventually told him to cut it out.  However, the fact that I didn’t toss said bongo drum in the creek first is, to be completely honest, a slight regret.  It would have made a good story, after all.