[ElizaM 2:15 p.m.] YOUR MOM SENT ME THE ARTICLE [GwenR 2:30p.m.] What article? [ElizaM 2:31 p.m.] THE ONE THAT SAYS YOU KILLED A DRAGON [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 2:41 p.m.] WHY READ BORING NEWS WHEN YOU CAN JUST TELL ME [ElizaM 2:45 p.m.] YOU KILLED A DRAGON???? [ElizaM 2:45 p.m.] WHAT [ElizaM 2:45 p.m.] HOW?!!? [ElizaM 2:46 p.m.] I THOUGHT IT WAS A JOKE BUT IT IS ON THE OFFICIAL NEWS??? [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? [ElizaM 3:38 p.m.] I AM SAYING NO SUCH THING I AM SAYING THAT DRAGONS DO NOT EXIST [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.] … [ElizaM 4:46 p.m.] AGAIN DRAGONS NO EXIST YOU NO KILL DRAGON [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… [ElizaM 5:09 p.m.] I WILL MURDER YOU WITH YOUR VINTAGE QUILL PEN, NERD. [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
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.
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.
“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.”
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),
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.
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.
Why did I do it, you ask? Why is there now a corpse in the bedroom, befouling that soft, nice carpet? What did you do to deserve it? It’s quite simple, really. Just a simple tale of revenge, with a bloody, deadly end.
You went away, again. Leaving me, again, and again, like you always do. You barely even said goodbye. Just a quick caress, then you shoved me aside and walked out the door, shutting it, locking it, making it clear I was not to follow.
You didn’t tell me where you were going. Of course not. You weren’t with me, so where else good could you be?
Sure, you were no kinder nor crueler the day before. We ate breakfast. We watched television. I slept while you piddled with your instruments. I’d tried to help make lunch, but you waved me away. I tried again, but you wouldn’t let me near the sizzling meat.
You never like my help. You like to do things yourself. You want me near when you want companionship, but if I make too much racket you just chase me away. You wander off, but if I do the same, you claim to “worry.” Other times, you smother me, pulling at my hair and telling me what a mess I am. You think I’m fickle? It takes one to know one, wretch.
That’s why I did it. That’s why I left that rat on the bedroom rug. Let’s see you waltz in from a three day absence with a “Hey, kitty, kitty!” next time. I will make you fear me yet.
“I’m sorry to be so slow today, James, but could you please re-read Article 5 one last time? I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around all that futuristic lingo.” Mr. Lewis turned to his other companion. “You don’t mind, Mr. Stevenson? I’m sure your mind is quite made up, but I’m still coming to grips with how much technology will have changed in two hundred years!”
“Not at all.” Mr. Stevenson nodded graciously.
“One moment, then, Mr. Lewis.” James looked down at the paper in front of him, entitled the Technological Borders Freedom and Protection Act, located the section in question, and read it aloud. He then looked expectantly at the two old gentlemen sitting across from him.
There was a pause, then the one who had first spoken, Mr. Lewis, sighed. “I hope you’ll agree with me, Mr. Stevenson, but I, for one, never would have written a law like that.”
Mr. Stevenson nodded. “Nor I. I find it far too restricting, and I say have the good sense to leave well enough alone.”
“So, you did not intend a law like that?” James prompted.
“No, we did not intend that,” assented Mr. Stevenson.
With unconscious flourish, James clicked off the recording device next to him, turned to the computer, opened a document, and clicked print. Two pieces of paper emerged from the printer slot, and he placed them in front of Mr. Lewis and Mr. Stevenson. “Thank you, gentlemen, and you know the drill from here. Please mark the box at the bottom labeled ‘Unintended’ and affix your signature on the line below that.”
“Where do these document go next?” Mr. Lewis inquired as he checked the appropriate item. “I know you’ve explained this process to me before, but I do grow so forgetful these days.”
“Well, gentlemen, I’ll send these documents and the transcript of your conversation off to our legal team, who will produce a nice, streamlined summation and amendment. This will be sent onward to Congress for passage, though this, of course, is a mere formality, and then it will be officially added as an amendment to the Constitutional Volume, for our posterity to gratefully read and thereby direct their course of action by it.”
Mr. Stevenson snorted as he passed his form back to James. “Don’t be naive, James. You know as well as I do that only half those reading it will be pleased, since they’ll now officially be on the right side of history and have the blessing of us, their forefathers. The other half will be decidedly miffed and grumble about us old relics – quietly, of course. It doesn’t do to speak too ill of the founders of your country, I imagine.”
Mr. Lewis also returned his paper. “What year will this here Technology Act we’ve just read be passed?”
“In the year 3051,” replied James, “Exactly two hundred and five years in the future. And now, gentlemen, it is time for lunch.”
“What are our afternoon engagements?” inquired Mr. Lewis.
“Another delegate, this time from the year 3052, and about the same topic, actually. Apparently the representative who sponsored the act you just rejected tries to make another go of it the next year, with some modifications based on your feedback, of course.”
Mr. Stevenson sniffed. “Really? This is his fourth attempt to craft such a law, and we’ve already shot down the other three.”
“I understand he is known for his persistence, sir.”
“Persistent does not equal mind-reader,” observed Mr. Stevenson, “for he has yet to correctly divine our intentions when we founded this country and wrote its laws. I’m surprised his contemporaries don’t step in and cut him off at the chase, instead of wasting valuable resources sending delegates back in time to talk to us.”
“Quite so,” agreed Mr. Lewis. “They’re just taking the easy way out. But we founders aren’t getting any younger, you know, and our present time is not limitless. One day they’re going to have to figure these things out for themselves, without sending travelers from the future to consult us.”
“I hope the day will not come too soon,” replied Mr. Stevenson. “I must admit I do enjoy laughing at our posterity…they’d make such a mess without us.”
First, the piano plays. It’s a simple, delicate tune, with a touch of fancy added by one or two grace notes and a warbling little trill. The listener is given a taste of the melody to come, and then a woman’s deep, deep voice begins. Sings she:
I’ve heard of all those sad, sad songs where he and she are parted
And she dies for the love of him and he dies broken-hearted.
He lies in St. Mary’s kirk and she lies in the choir
And out of her grave grows a rose and out of his a briar.
So at last their souls entwine and now as one are climbing…
This, the final song on June Tabor’s album Rosa Mundi, a collection of songs concerning the titular flower, is called “Maybe Then I’ll Be a Rose.” A violin will join the melody a little later, but overall, the orchestration stays simple and true. After all, what older, more classic trope than this, the two lovers that die for want of each other? And that final rosy touch (pun quite intended) of the blossoming briars tangling together? Why, I can think of two other ballads off the top of my head that use such a motif: “Fair Margaret and Sweet William” – depending on which version you’re listening to – and the penultimate track of Rosa Mundi itself, “Barbry Ellen.” In both, circumstances and not a little pride keep two lovers apart, but only until death. Now that’s love, no?
But then, in that last song, “Maybe Then I’ll Be a Rose,” as the melody soars with the climbing souls, Tabor sings:
Ten out of ten for true, true love, naught out of ten for timing.
And with that, we wryly land back on earth.
It’s true, you know. We idolize the Romeos and Juliets of the world, forgetting that if the hero had just delayed his death by a few minutes – perhaps given another sobbing soliloquy – his lady would have awoken and all might have been well. Truly, 0/10 for timing. Tabor, or rather, the original poet, Les Barker, wants a different fate:
I don’t want that kind of love that grows so high on sorrow,
I want you today my love and I want you tomorrow.
A quick Google search for “famous lovers of literature” reveals lists of well-known couples, a good chunk of whom suffered unpleasant fates, often torn asunder and dying in fits of passion. We read of them and sigh over them (well, some of us do, at least, and then only over some of them; others deserved their fates, in my opinion), but perhaps, as Tabor reminds us, there is nothing wrong with true love being happy. I’m reminded of another tongue-in-cheek passage from the short story “The Stolen Princess,” by Robin McKinley, a favorite author of mine: “…they became the sort of lovers that minstrels make ballads about (although it was certainly unpoetic of them to be married to each other)…and the court became a more joyful place than it had been for many a long royal generation. And minstrels did make ballads about them, even though they were married to each other.”
There is a time and place for roses, and many consider that time to be St. Valentine’s Day. But I, the Realist, charge you, oh Romantic, to not idolize new roses growing from young graves; there will be time enough for them to blossom on old graves later on.
Here and now let’s drink the wine of life while life is ours.
Here and now my love entwine; it’s not just for the flowers.
And when time takes all away and death snuffs out this fire
Maybe then I’ll be a rose and you, my love, a briar.