The squirrel knows but isn’t telling (micro fiction)

squirrel.jpg

Photo from society19.com

There’s a house on Kimberly Avenue. There are many houses, but this one in particular is the kind of house that exudes style and dignity and the kind of manicured calm that comes from proximity to wealth. The whole street is like that — wide and well-maintained with grand old shade trees casting cool green over sidewalk and tended lawn.

No one is ever tending this particular lawn. Landscaping crews piloting tractor-sized mowers are for the nouveau riche; the truly wealthy have yards maintained by elves who show up, soundlessly, after midnight, and pluck every clover and sorrel by hand so nothing remains but a uniform blanket of St. Augustine sod.

This lawn is a serene bay of grass swimming away from stately maples in whose shadows are planted dense beds of ivy. A brick wall snakes the property line, with a wrought iron gate left open to suggest a sleek town car will soon pull onto the crescent of driveway.

There is never a car, though. There’s never a flutter behind the drawn curtains or a porch light flicked off or on. There’s only the lawn and the trees, the gate and the wall that pens in the house, meeting at stocky stanchions in each corner. The stanchions are sober as centuries, entertaining only the occasional squirrel.

And one black sock.

That’s what this story is about. There’s a sock on one of the stanchions that has been there for weeks. Probably a month. It’s an athletic sock, and it’s without a mate. It grows more faded, more worn, more fibrous and less sock-like with each passing week.

The mystery of the sock is both that it’s there at all — why would someone walking down shady, elegant Kimberly Avenue suddenly stop to take off a single sock and then leave it on the nearest wall? — and that no one has removed it. Not the house’s occupants, not the gardeners, not the late-night lawn-care elves, not the neighborhood association, not one of the dozens of professional dog walkers, not a do-gooder passer-by.

So the sock remains, weathering birds and squirrels and thunderstorms. It’s mysterious and out of place, a story that staunchly declines to tell itself, a mislaid object that refuses to be relaid in its proper place.

Collaborative chapbook

Last week I was part of an art show/performance that was the end result of an 11-day collaborative challenge. The Center for Craft, Creativity and Design selected 11 artists (a combination of writers, crafters and visual artists) to team up and create work based on the CCCD’s exhibition, The Good Making of Good Things: Craft Horizon’s Magazine, 1941-1979.

chapbook

I was paired with weaver Danielle Burke who’s focus in Appalachian coverlets. We were both inspired by a February, 1974 issue of Craft Horizons in which writers were tasked with creating prose around the art of long-dead makers whose works had outlived any knowledge of the ancient artists who made the work. Continue reading

Weekly reading 3

womens-liberation-1969-19044648-56aa27b85f9b58b7d0010ebc

• “Reclaiming Our Roots: The Story of Tamishan” by Melissa Henry in The Urban News: “The stories of how these African Muslims had succeeded in preserving key elements of culture, some even convincing their owners to set them free and allow them to return to their native lands, amazed and inspired me.”

• London-based spoken word artist Kate Tempest performing on World Cafe. Holy crap. Continue reading

Weekly reading

I opted out of the Goodreads challenge this year not because I’m not that into reading, but because in January I issued myself a different sort of challenge: Read more work by writers of color, LGBT writers and differently abled writers. It’s taken my reading in interesting directions — into more non-fiction and into more magazine and blog articles (as opposed to just books).

Here’s what I’ve been reading and thinking about this week. If you check any of these links out, let me know what you think.

pulitzer winners

How America Fails Black Girls (New York Times): “Mainstream feminism has historically ignored the issues facing runaway and other missing black girls as well as most other issues regarding women and children of color.” Continue reading

The bad girls’ book club and crime spree

From a month-long experiment writing about community, using social media as a platform.

Okay, there wasn’t much of a crime spree. I did steal some hair dye. This was before the days of Manic Panic so I used to color my homemade faux-hawk by first bleaching it with Sun-In and a hairdryer, and then dying it with the blue tint that old ladies used to buy at the drug store. But this is about community and not about shoplifting, though some of the best connections I made during my high school years were with the kind of girls who encouraged that sort of behavior.

15871892_10154669000640218_7627992220536349783_nSometimes we stole things. It was more often beer than hair dye. We wrote things in bathroom stalls. More often, we wrote in our journals — every detail of our terribly interesting lives — and then we traded journals and read each other’s pages even though we’d been through most of it together. I’m compositing a number of high school friends here, though the relationships came one at a time and each was special and rare, and each shaped the me who I am now.

Friendships with good girls were important to me, too. My close friendships have been few and far between and I’ve cherished each one. But for some reason, between the ages of 13 and 18, my best friends were bad influences — fearless girls who egged me on and pushed me beyond my shy, studious, good-kid shell.

This is what we did: Shared everything. Every secret, every book we read, every album we superthumblistened to, every derivative poem we wrote, ever ache and fear and bruise and self-inflicted cut. We snuck into punk clubs, bought clothes at Salvation Army and reconfigured them into new outfits, traded boots and coats and earrings, consoled each other over shitty boy drama, walked for miles in the cold just to be doing something and going somewhere. We walked or took the bus because we were too young to drive and then too busy to learn to drive and then too poor to own cars. We stomped around in the cold, rosy cheeked and immune to frostbite, always on our way to a fantastic adventure.

We piled cast-out Christmas trees on rich-people cars. We sat in diners for hours drinking cup after cup of bad coffee. We talked about running away and made plans to run away and then we met new boys and stayed because maybe there would be a show or a party or something good. The future was soon; the now was hazy with the smoke of clove cigarettes and frosty breath and bad choices.

But the bad choices were good, too. Some of them still hurt like a war wound that flares up when it rains, but the hurt is a connection to a past and the past holds the bad girls who were my girls, my sisters, my family, my home. Community is where we make it, even if what we’re making is a mess. It all counts, it’s all part of the narrative.

A story that was told to me by a painting

Inspired by the painting “My Heart Lives Outside My Body,” (pictured) by Daniel Nevins. This post is part of my writing experiment #30DaysofArt. Find more entries here.

THE FUGITIVE

One day the heart got a hold of a crowbar and pried itself out of its prison. It had been locked too long in the dark tower, not able to see anything, just taking the mind’s word for what was out there. But the mind got everything wrong. It had a lawyer’s reasoning and a miser’s unwillingness to part with its riches. “Don’t give more kindness than is required, ration your smiles, never trust more that you need to,” it advised. But the imprisoned heart slept on its coffers of gold and wondered if it wouldn’t rest more peacefully with fewer cold, hard coins rattling beneath its vertebrae.

15267668_10154508685655218_3182269665923310359_nThe escape was not without its fallbacks. “What’s the point of building a tower anyway, if not to keep something in it?” the mind asked. The heart fluttered nervously, grappling for purchase on the outside. The mind was right about that at least — the outside was a smooth suit without shelves or crevices. Certainly no bars. Maybe all along the bars had been less about restriction and more about protection.

And, it was all so blindingly bright. The heart felt itself burning in the sun and shivering at night. But it could see stars for the first time ever. Orion made its way across the winter sky and the heart swooned a little.

“Stop that,” the mind scolded. “You can’t go around just falling in love all over the place. Plus, you’re bleeding on everything. You’re a mess.” It was true. The heart was naked and raw. It thudded and gurgled and made a fool of itself. It was scared a lot. It wished it had a heart-shaped suit of armor. But still it stayed, trying to balance on a shoulder like a good guardian angle, whispering sweet nothings into the closest ear. Sweet everythings, really, because everything — after the initial rush of panic and doubt — was sweet and rich and bathed in wonder.

The heart swayed to music, drank rain, stuck out a capillary to catch the first snowflakes. It shivered as much from anticipation as from chill. Everything was a thrill, every caress of the wind, every passing glance of a stranger, every new song, every saturated color. The heart dressed itself in fresh paint and feathers. It admired its newly acquired scars.

“This has gone on long enough,” the mind said. It was using its patient-but-getting-sick-of-this-shit tone. “You have a place. IT’S INSIDE. Go back to your room and do your job.”

But the heart was in love again and again and again. It would not listen to reason. It wouldn’t even slow its roll enough for those prickling words of insecurity to catch up.

The heart surged toward its new desire. It rushed and throbbed. There was danger everywhere, outside the body. Car horns, sirens, hungry bears. But the new love was so beautiful, so real, so rare, so close. The heart wanted nothing but to fling its wealth at the feet of its desire, to rattle and beat a new poem, to curl into the curve between its love’s neck and shoulder.

The heart said that it would never go back.

“You’ll die of exposure,” the mind grumbled.

“I might,” the heart shrugged, like what could be better? It checked its look and fluttered its lashes. It leaned toward love like it was immune to gravity, like at any moment it might grow wings.