Saturday, June 25, 2011

Meeting Media: The Tree's Wish

Meeting Media are created during actual and very important meetings while I really was paying attention. Names or other identifying information, or inappropriate comments about my boss, have been blocked out to protect the illusion of innocence.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Demons Beyond the Hills

This disturbing little scene came to me in a dream one night. It's resisted all my efforts to coax a full-length story out of it, so I've relegated it to flash fiction. This version clocks in at exactly 300 words.

We know why you have come. We can see it in your eyes, the hunger for revenge. You seek the demons? Sit at our fire and we will tell you what we know.

It is said they never kill children, the demons beyond the hills. It is true. They spared us the night they destroyed our village. At dawn, we stumbled through the ruins with ashes in our eyes. Too young to hunt, too young to sow or reap, we could only cry.

We found no solace in the neighboring villages. “You will draw the demons down on us,” they shouted as they drove us away. Alone against the world, we prayed to what gods we remembered that they might spare us from our enemies until our revenge was complete.

Somehow we did not die. We lived on bugs and tree bark. The forest made us hard and lithe and strong. In time, we made our way over the hills, and when we found the demons in their beds, we killed them with our bare fists and they did not even resist us.

We knew peace then for many years.

But the gods were too generous when they answered our prayers, for we soon discovered we could not die. No enemy could kill us – not hunger, nor hardship, nor mortal spear. We grew weary with the weight of our winters but still we lived.

At last, in anger, we vowed that if we could not die, others would die in our place. And so we waged war throughout the land.

But we never killed children.

And now, at long last, you have come: kindred spirits, whose suffering mirrors our own. You could never be our enemies. In fact, we welcome you as daughters and sons.

We will not even resist.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Conversations with Noah, Age 4 (Part IV)

By the fourth weekend of the Oklahoma Renaissance Fair, to hell with camping: turns out, there really can be too much of a good thing. Instead, the ten of us and the kids had a sleepover at a nearby house, laughing over board games well into the night.

In the morning I practiced my daily yoga on the living room carpet as my friends packed up around me. At home, my yoga is usually free from interruptions and watchful eyes but I thought to myself, This too is yoga: not only the poses, but the concentration on breath and the working through distractions.

If I can focus on Warrior II even when my husband pinches my ass every time he walks by, I can tolerate anything.

A podcast on my iPhone guided me through the last series of poses – “In Warrior I, take an inhale. Exhale, open your arms to Warrior II.” – as Noah, wearing a plastic knight’s helmet and waving a plastic sword, galloped into the room on an invisible horse.

He watched as I moved through Extended Side Angle and Reverse Warrior. “Whatcha doing?” he asked.

Exhaling through Chaturanga, I said, “Exercising,” then inhaled through Upward Facing Dog.

Noah nodded. “That’s good for the body.”

“Yes,” exhale into Downward Facing Dog, “it is.” Inhale. It’s hard to hold a conversation while focusing on breath, I thought.

“Exhale,” the recording said. “Bend your knees and step through to a comfortable seated position.”

“I exercised by punching a bag once,” Noah said.

Perhaps this too is yoga, I thought, an opportunity to deepen my own understanding through teaching. “Sit with me like this,” I said, crossing my legs and bringing my hands up to prayer position.

The recording said “Honoring the teacher in all things, exhale as you bow forward. Namaste,” and ended with a chime. I ignored it in order to sit with Noah for as long as he might be willing to sit.

Which wasn’t long. “What are we doing?” he whispered.

“Meditating,” I whispered back.

“What?” he said, blank-faced.

“Think deeply,” I said, thinking deeply myself (namely: how does one reach the age of four without learning that word?).

“About what?” he said.

“Think about the universe.”

Noah frowned gravely and lowered his hands to his lap. “I don’t like to do that,” he said.

That was an unexpected reaction. Surely he was too young to be disillusioned by his own insignificance compared to the vastness of space. I asked, “Why not?”

He said, “Someday the planet spins really fast and it breaks apart” – he made a ball by interlacing his fingers, then tore it asunder – “like this.”

I blinked, stunned in equal turns by his horrific dramatization of our impending destruction and by his shaky grasp of verb tense. “Who told you that?”

Noah pointed behind me. I twisted to see my husband watching our exchange from a nearby chair, no doubt waiting for another opportunity to pinch my ass. His eyes widened at the accusation.

“Matt, you fiend!” I said.

Matt raised his hands defensively. “I don’t know where he learned that but it wasn’t me!”

I turned back to Noah, who was fidgeting, legs at an angle as he inspected his big toe. “That’s a yoga move,” I said. “If you stretch your leg out like this, you’ll have a seated Toe Lock.”

Noah adjusted his form to match mine.

“Great!” I moved into another pose. “This one’s called Seated Forward Bend.”

Noah copied me once more, giggling as his plastic knight helmet fell down over his face.

“Now,” I said, placing the soles of my feet together in Cobbler’s Pose, “see if you can make your nose touch your toes.” I demonstrated.

Noah pulled his feet in but seemed unable to bend forward.

Funny, I thought kids were supposed to be flexible. “You’re going to be here for a while,” I said. “Keep thinking about the universe.”

He continued to struggle.

“Okay, we’ll try something else.” Obviously, a kid with tight hips needs Pigeon Pose. “Do what I do,” I said, moving slowly into the pose so he could follow along.

His plastic helmet fell off as he moved. “I can’t do that in my knight mask,” he said, flopping to the floor.

“Then take it off. Yoga is more important than being a knight,” I said.

“I need to fight the dragons!” he said. Again with the dragons. Always, this kid, with the dragons.

“Yoga,” I said, channeling my inner (though sexier) Yoda, “is about fighting the dragons in your mind.” I touched my finger first to my head, then to his.

Noah cocked an eyebrow at me. “That’s not my mind. That’s my forehead.”

The force is so not strong in this one. “You’ll never reach enlightenment at this rate,” I said.

Noah merely smiled, crossed his legs, and raised his hands to prayer position as I had shown him before.

You know what? I thought. This too is yoga.

“We have to bow to show we’re done,” I said. “Can you say ‘Namaste’?”

“Namaste,” Noah said, bowing.

Honoring the teacher in all things, namaste.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

100 Word Increments: My Job at the Public Library

“Look at this book!” Leslie says, waving a paperback from the pile of books she’s just checked in. Kathy and I look over at the romance novel entitled “My Devilish Scotsman.”

I snort when I laugh sometimes. It’s very unattractive.

Kathy steps in for a closer look at the buff male model on the cover. “Is that… Is he wearing a mini-skirt?”

Leslie’s hand flies to her mouth. She looks scandalized. “It’s a kilt!” she says.

“It’s a mini-kilt,” I say.

“There’s no such thing!” Leslie scoffs.

Oh, honey, you haven’t been to as many ren fairs as I have.


The cart weighs more than I do, and I’m not exactly twiggy. I take a deep breath to prepare my soul. The young adult section is mine, my baby, and I will see it shelved.

It’s easy to ignore the books at the circ desk – we’re always so busy there, and things go so fast – but shelving is dangerous: I notice the titles, the beautiful covers. I’ll end up with eighteen books to read over the weekend.

But not today! Today, I will shelve these books without stopping to read any of them.

Cue “Eye of the Tiger”.

Bring it!


“May I use your phone?” says an old lady with coke-bottle glasses.

Angela passes it to her. The old lady dials and listens for a moment.

I clearly hear the voice on the other end. “Hello?” I glance at Angela, who nods. She heard it too.

“Hello!” the old lady says.

“Hi, grandma!” The voice is definitely coming from the audio book section. “What are you up to today?”

“Just visiting the library,” she says.

“Really?” A teenager with a cell phone steps out of the stacks and waves. “So am I!”

The old lady hangs up. “Thanks,” she says.


Listen, sweetheart:
Times are tough all around.
No one ever said life was fair.
You don’t always have a choice.
Sometimes, things have to be done and you have to be the one to do them. There’s not always a reason and there doesn’t have to be.
Everybody has to make sacrifices for the good of all.

So when the library director tells you it’s National Donut Day and outright orders you to eat the maple glazed (with sprinkles), then, by God, girl, you eat that frakking donut and you like it.

Now shut up and do your civic duty.


“You owe a fine,” I tell a good-looking man in an expensive suit.

“Can we let it go just this once?” he says, flashing me a perfect smile.

Flirting? Seriously? Does that ever work? “Not for fines over a dollar,” I say.

“What’s it for?” he asks, still smiling.

I open the record. Must… maintain… straight… face… “That would be a cake pan.”

He stops smiling.

I clarify, “A Dora the Explorer cake pan.”

He nods, lips in a tight line.

“Maybe your wife checked that out?”

“Probably,” he says.

“Will you be taking care of that fine today?”



I like processing the new stuff: being the first to see what we’re going to have, the repetitive motion of taping covers and applying barcodes. It’s good work, appreciated by the community. Whether it’s a novel or a DVD or an audio book, someone out there is waiting for me to get it ready for the shelf. Someone will smile at my work.

And if it means that I get the smug satisfaction of sticking a barcode right on top of Bill’s smarmy face as I process the case for Trueblood: Season 3, so much the better.

Go, Team Eric!


Cheri, the acquisitions librarian, polls the three of us at the circ desk: “Zombies or vampires?”

We stop processing books for a moment. “Zombies are more ruthless,” I say.

“But zombies are easy to kill,” says Benjamin.

“So are vampires,” I say.

“Vampires are more romantic,” says Angela.

I nod. “Rotting flesh isn’t sexy. What about werewolves?” I ask Cheri.

“Werewolves are fuzzy,” she says.

“Yes, they’re known for it,” I say.

“I mean they’re a grey area,” Cheri says. “So vampires are cooler but zombies are scarier, is that it?”

“Yes,” we say.

We go back to processing books.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A day in my life: Inertial Groceries

I operate entirely on momentum. I never want to get out of bed in the morning until I'm out of it. I never want to leave the house until I've left it. I never want to go to the grocery store until I’m already there. It’s a chicken and egg dilemma, especially when I’m out of chicken and eggs. And absolutely everything else.

I put off going to the store as long as possible.

Having grudgingly made my way there, I love it. The colors! The smells! The choices! The endless creative possibilities inherent in the choices!
Look! Bell peppers are on sale! Just imagine all the delicious things I can make with bell peppers!
(See also: Look! Mac-n-cheese is on sale! Just imagine the tastiness of this completely fake food when I don't want to cook!)
Everything is delightful. I debate over brands and flavors:
Do I want chicken tenders or chicken strips?
Fresh broccoli or frozen?
Chupacabra on a stick or diced for stew?

I taste all the free samples. I wave at the live lobsters. I visit each aisle at least once. I read labels. I fill the cart. I fill the bottom of the cart.

I do yogic meditation in the checkout line. I'm in no hurry: I'm living in the present moment. I don't mind that the checkout girl methodically takes her time - that makes her good at her job, just like I'm good at my job. The world is a beautiful place. I had fun shopping. I have groceries. I shall cook them. It shall be glorious. Om Shanti Shanti.

The bag boy smiles at each customer. "Can I help you to your car?" he asks a guy who only has two bags. "Can I help you to your car?" he asks an old lady, who politely declines. “Can I help you to your car?” because it’s a great day and it would be nice to get out in it.

That’s when I notice a trend among the people in front of me: ten items or less all around. Did I choose the Express Lane by mistake?

I check.


Meditative calm flies right out the window.

Frak! I think. Am I the only irresponsible person in the world? Does no one else wait until the last minute? Have I violated social etiquette without knowing it (again)? Am I secretly the only person who actually likes food? Is that why I’m fat? Frak!
The bag boy stares with haunted eyes as I unload my cart. "I'm so sorry," I say. How could I be so inconsiderate as to put him through this?
"I've seen worse," says the checkout girl. Was that sarcasm? I can’t tell! What must she think of me?

People in desperate need of yogic meditation line up behind me, tapping their feet impatiently, waiting to purchase only one or two things. I check again: this is still not the Express Lane. I am fine. I am not a horrible person.

Would it kill them to open another lane? Gah - focus! Present moment. Om Om Om.

I want to shout “Quit Judging Me!!!” as the checkout girl announces my total and passes me a receipt as long as I am tall.

The bag boy doesn’t make eye contact as he offers me the cart of bagged groceries, nor does he offer to help me to my car. I have broken him. He has faced malevolence and found himself lacking, like a fallen hero to be pitied rather than scorned.

But my heart is strangely devoid of pity as I cross the parking lot where it has started to rain.

Safe at home, I just manage to put the groceries away before my momentum runs out. I am mentally and spiritually drained, a dried-up husk that only vaguely resembles personhood. I read on the couch for the rest of the day. And do nothing else. I might be persuaded to flee the house if it caught fire, but it would require a highly compelling argument.

To revive me, my husband makes a show of being impressed by the groceries. “What did you get today?” he asks, pulling me into his arms as he sits next to me on the couch.

“Tilapia was on sale,” I say, my soul tentatively returning to my body. “And they had this cheese, and I stocked up on broccoli. I had fun!”

“That’s good,” he says, kissing the top of my head. “Why don’t I make dinner? I could do carbonara.”

“Okay!” I settle contentedly into the cushions. The world is a beautiful place after all, and we have groceries and they are glorious.
Then he calls from the kitchen, “Did you get any eggs while you were out?”