Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial words

Today, I read "Happy Memorial Day" messages (which I find strange) along with many more words of sincere gratitude and thanks to our American men, women, and service animals who have sacrificed in our country's name. Still, something was missing. As I got my hair cut, drove to the bed store for Memorial Day sales, and walked the dogs in the park, I thought of our fallen soldiers. Yet still, something was missing. Just before dinner, I shared this with my partner. She nodded and showed me some words written by a friend of hers. By nature, these words should never have resonated. I'm not very apologetic. Or religious, and war is not my fault. Yet still, these words, written by a preacher man in upstate NY, finally filled what was missing for me today. "When individuals struggle with things in the same space at the same time, they become a culture that struggles with them." 

By Kevin Hershey: 
This Memorial Day, many people will offer words of posthumous thanks to you who gave your lives in service to our country, and to your family and friends who deal with the ongoing sacrifice of loss. I echo that gratitude. What I want to say far more is, I’m sorry. 

I’m sorry that our world can’t figure out the way to peace. I’m sorry, beyond the giving of your life, there was a need for warriors in the first place, for you to meet. I’m sorry you were asked to make choices that pulled you away from family and friends, a life without fear, and the longevity you might have otherwise had.

I’m sorry, not just in the conceptual awareness of the “world’s” mistakes, but I’m sorry for my own. To my knowledge, I haven’t caused any wars. But, I have let anger overcome me to say and do things I knew were wrong. I have let self-righteousness convince me that I knew what was best and didn’t need to listen to another. I have allowed fear to paralyze me to inaction when I knew action was needed. To me, these are the things at the very foundation of war. And when individuals struggle with these things in the same space at the same time, they become a culture that struggles with them. And when a culture struggles with them enough, the poor communal decisions born out of it become those that lead to war. I would bet that every war that ever was or ever will be, has roots in just these kinds of weaknesses – in people, in groups, in countries, in cultures.

So, to those remembered today, I am sorry for my part in perpetuating the world’s culture of war. I am also a part of working toward the world’s culture of peace. And your sacrifice has given me more time and opportunity to work harder toward the latter. I’m trying. Thank you. God keep you.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Pirates Beware

The prompt:

You’re a pirate on a small pirate ship, that consists of only you, one other pirate and a captain. Recently you ransacked another ship and found a treasure map. After weeks of following it, you’ve finally found the island where “X” marks the spot. Write a scene where you find the buried treasure, only it’s not exactly the treasure you expected to find. 

My story (540 words):

Tis expectations, not cannons, that drown men of the sea, me wise mother phropheted some two score and four years ago when me set down to the water in search of a piratin’ job. For forty-four years, I held those words close to me breastbone and kept me expectations low. Twas likely those low expectations that caused me to be aboard a rickety ship one morning raisin’ me hand to go ashore. For inevitably the time arrives in a man’s life, and certainly a pirate man’s life, when ye is forced upon a decision: swim toward something or start sinking. Ye see, me mother, may she slumber in peace, was wrong. Ye can’t stand in one place too long ‘fore eventually, ye find ye are standin’ in quicksand.

Twas all these years of obeyin’ the captain, layin’ beneath the rails, partakin' in but not leadin’ the plunders that kept me stuck to this rancid cog for so long- a dinghy at most, big enough for one other mate, a captain, and the predictable parrot. Over the years, me noticed even the bilge rats expected better for theeselves, takin’ departure of this miserable yawl for the bigger ships. The ones that promised deep waters and vast riches. Ye take yer lessons where ye get them, I s’pose. Aye, them bilge rats twas how I come to be that day with me hand in the air offerin’ to step ashore whilst me mateys remained at the bow. Other pirates twas in the area and the captain did not liken to leave our vessel unmanned. For word was about- our wee crew had taken possession of the most coveted map on the seven seas. The four oceans too, but that didn’t sound nearly as poetic.

With the map in me pocket, I waded to shore. On me shoulders were the dreams of me captain and me mate- a bigger boat, a larger crew, more swag for grog and the pretty lasses at port. Me dreams were present too, but they were different than me mates. I had a yearnin’ to captain me own ship, sail me own seas. For once, I had me own expectations, and they were risin’ like a strong spring tide, pulled by some power beyond me reckoning. 

The map twas not difficult to follow, and soon me feet stood where X marked the spot. Sweat profused out me eyes as I dug towards me golden future beneath the sand. Me pockets felt weighty, as though they were already overflowed with the riches below-- 

Aye, in retrospect, if pirates had retrospect, the writing twas on the wall.

Me fortune never came. Nor me boat nor me seven seas. Me captain, in his despair, threw himself to the sea. Me matey and I spent the remainder of our days drowning our sorrow in drink and the occasional wench. Rumor has it the parrot took to the streets and spent the last of his life begging for crackers. Ye see, the map proved a fraud. For beneath the X twas no treasure, twas nothing fortuitous or even worth takin'- twas nothing but a picture already fadin’ in color.

Twas nothing but what modern day thieves know as the Mona Lisa.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

When you were three

Recently, I signed up with a website that sends out weekly writing prompts. Because you can post what you write on their site, they suggest keeping your response to 500 words or less. Mine comes in at 479. I'm posting it here because I'm curious to know what you guys think- is it interesting? Hokey? Badly written or what? This kind of writing is way out of my realm! Thanks, Lisa

Here is the prompt I worked on last night:

You wake up one morning to find that you are your three year old self, with your parents again, with all of the memories and experiences of your current life. Write this scene and express the emotion and frustration your character undergoes as you internally try to sort this out. 

My response:

You were three when the owl box was hung. The tree stood about a hundred feet from the living room window. It would be good for owl watching, your father had said. Later that night when you and your sister still believed an owl would come to the box and were checking it every few minutes, she said that it had been there for 100 years and it was very, very old. You asked her what was very old. “The tree, silly,” she said nudging you playfully with her elbow. “If Daddy cut it down, we would be able to count the circles inside to know how old it really is. Maybe it’s more than a hundred. Maybe it’s two hundred!”

You recall that conversation as you look at yourself in the bathroom mirror. As you attempt to conceal another sleepless night, you realize: circles don’t tell shit about age. Circles tell pain. Pain that goes around and around like the amusement park ride that spins so fast it doesn’t even matter when the floor drops out from under you because you’re stuck to the wall. You can’t move. You haven’t been able to move for thirteen years. Now you realize you have run out of concealer and you have to be at school in 15 minutes. You leave with one eye uncovered. Unprotected. This lack of protection is just enough of an opening for the hand of time to slip through and return you to your third year of life.

You understand you are not really three again. You vaguely wonder if you've slipped into some other dimension, one that includes time travel and rabbit holes. You don’t much care; those aren’t the answers you seek. Six months have gone by since the owl box was hung. Like an unfulfilled promise, it hangs in the air crooked and empty. Your sister has all but forgotten it, but you occasionally still look. You are only three, yet you have a patience about you, one that is grounded in hope. 

 This time when you’re three and you see your father crying at his desk or in the kitchen when he believes he is alone, you don’t get scared and run to your room. This time you go to him and crawl into his lap. You ask him what’s wrong. You put your head on his chest and your arms around his neck. You feel his stubbly beard poke through your hair as he rests his chin on your head. His soft lips, the ones he would very soon wrap around the barrel of a gun, kiss your forehead. You wait for him to answer.

Thirteen years later, you are still waiting. Waiting for the owl, and for something to fill the empty space. You have a patience about you. You are beginning to understand: it is this patience, this ability to wait, that will keep you moving.