WP Daily Prompt: tart

Tart
We have an old sour cherry tree out back that regularly produces enough fruit for several pies. I often make one during the holidays and think I will do so this year–a sort of Hello America cherry pie. I’ll use less sugar, less honey so it’s good and tart. Not sour, but tart.

Let me back up. Earlier this year I had brain surgery for a tumor that had grown quite large but was nevertheless, and thankfully, benign. It was unexpected. I was having a blast  one minute and the next I was in the emergency room, MRI, surgery**–like when they started offing characters on Downton Abbey that third season, just about one per episode for a while. Surprise!

(Ok, I can hear my partner saying: wait. What about those headaches? And then you started walking funny. Sure, you can point to that stuff now, but who on earth thinks they have a brain tumor? Anyway, not me. I never, ever, ever thought that. Even after the MRI and they showed me pictures of this 4mm black hole in my brain, I still didn’t believe it.)

My partner of 25 years got our papers together, the legal shit that would assert her right to be at my side. As it turned out, no one asked and anyway, no one in their right mind would have blocked her. She was fierce beyond anything I’d ever seen. Even the lady in Pre-Op, clearly a Marine General in a past life, stepped aside and let her stay, against protocol.

But we needn’t have worried. No one blinked twice. It was excellent to feel so clearly that our worries were old school. That we live in a different time now, that not so very long ago the hospital would have been legally bound to block my partner’s access to me, but time’s have changed. Back then, she would not have been considered my family. My family was family, and to be honest, I would have rather gone through the whole thing alone than have my family there. But time’s have changed and on that front, we were deeply happy and grateful.

Things may be changing again, alas. Intolerance, bigotry, misogyny, racism–all the things we thought we were making progress on in our country–may be making a comeback. I still believe the majority of us do not want this to happen, so who knows how this plays out.

But a tart cherry pie seems right to me. Tart because, well, here in Seattle, we live in a bubble. And I believe we will continue to view ourselves as a progressive haven, not matter what.  But when the rest of the country does something like what it did on November 11th, bubbly places like Seattle are sort of like WTF? We truly don’t get it.

Interestingly, the bubbles in this country tend to be urban and high tax-revenue generating areas. Life is different here. And for someone like me whose very life might depend on progressive standards and laws, it’s been sweet. I know for others in this country, those for whom my legal rights won’t pay their bills, life has been otherwise. I’ve been on the receiving end of not-fair and I know it sucks every single damn day. But I gotta say,  for the last couple of years, for people like me, it’s been unbelievably nice–and new!–to have all the legal rights and protections this country affords its citizens.

So: tart. Without a little sugar, the pie would be inedible and sour. Most of us would like it with more sweetness but that’s just not happening this year. Tart is a challenging taste–sharp, but not sour. Bittersweet.

**PS, a shout out to Obamacare! What can I say? I’m quite certain I was able to get better care, excellent world class care because of Obamacare. I know there’s lots of opinions about it, but when it works for you, it’s hard to diss it.

 

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WP Daily Prompt: Primp

Primp
Dear Middle of America,

We haven’t really met, although I did go to grad school in one of your finest institutions, University of Wisconsin-Madison, but I was mostly in the library or huddled near the heater. It was a cold winter and I’m from the West Coast so you can imagine, I wasn’t prepared.

Just as I wasn’t prepared for last night’s election, in which you played a larger than life role. Seriously. Everyone is talking about how mad you all are about the direction the country is going in. How angry you are that maybe the country doesn’t look like what you think it should. How this vote was a giant middle finger to the rest of the country that simply does not seem to realize how fucking angry you are. Only Trump realized how angry you are. And only Trump was able to capitalize on it.

I hear you don’t really support the candidate’s racism, xenophobia, sexism, and complete lack of a seriousness about very serious issues. Campaign rhetoric, nothing more, you told yourself. We’ll see. You voted him in because he best served your desire to break things, kick the whole damn system and resister a loud and clear protest. A protest. You elected a man that scares the holy bejesus out of the rest of the world and repulses 60% of this populace–why? Oh yeah, out of protest.

Of course, not all of you did. I recognize that. But enough. And enough of you didn’t say No and enough of you said Yes. So here we are. You did it! Congratulations! You’ve really shaken us up beyond your wildest dreams. You never knew how strong you were and now you do. Congratulations.

Perhaps you are seeing yourself with new eyes, Middle of America. Perhaps you are primping in the mirror of Activism. Perhaps you are in fact saying, Yes, We Can, but in a whole different way than has been the case for the last 8 years. You’ll show us.

Well, it’s true. You can. You did. This will not change manufacturing or trade or your own economic outlook, however. You need to know this. And for that, I actually feel bad for you, because look, no one, No One, likes to be a fool. No one likes to be a sucker. I’ve been there, trust me. So in a couple years when it’s clear that Yes, We Can really only applied to your protest vote and that your candidate never, ever had any intentions beyond his own self-interest? Seriously, I feel for you. If only because that particular truth is going to do serious and lasting damage.

So okay, Middle of America. Middle finger held high, the world watching, you did this thing. We hear you.

WP Daily Prompt: Second Thoughts

Second Thoughts

dark roiling clouds rise
the brilliant blue sky retreats
but then: second thoughts.

WP Daily Prompt: irksome

Irksome

It was a formality more than anything. The deal was done, all that was required now was a signature on one of those forms that no one ever anywhere will ever check so why bother. Sign here where the little plastic post-it arrow is.

So why the reluctance. I wanted out. She wanted out. We both wanted out out out. We were in violent agreement: Out. But as I parked my car outside the attorney’s office building, I struggled with a strong urge to peel back out into traffic, burning rubber all the way down the street.

I just didn’t want to do it. Sign the papers. It was way past irksome and well on the road to refusal. Because signing the papers meant all kinds of real. Not in the sense that the end was real, because I was more or less okay with that. The end wasn’t hard; it was the idea of losing the beginning and middle that was hard. The good stuff. Somehow signing this form would take that away, too.

That the refrigerator we bought together, the first one either of us had bought, so adult-like—that would become less real. It would mean that color paint we chose for the bathroom was less real, and that’s totally weird because I never liked that sort of cheery yellow bullshit color. But it was real and now it was becoming something else.

It would mean that the long, dull nights of silence towards the end meant about as much as first night in our own home—not much. All of it fading in the bright hot sun of today.

Whatever it was then, it will never be that again. And that’s just weird. It all seemed so real.

Oh well, I muttered to myself as I opened the car door and stepped out. Let’s get this done.

Daily WP Prompt: Sincere

Sincere

It was a catchphrase. I listened as people would say, Oh, he’s a sincere kind of guy, or she’s so sincere, earnest even, in her dedication. But they weren’t being nice. No. The subtle meaning of the word was locked in the wickedness of the times, the cynical, feckless, rock-bottom nastiness of the times.

The truth is he was sincere, and she was earnest. Nothing had changed for them, although they’d probably both admit to feeling a little uncomfortable, vulnerable even, just being who they were. Sincere and earnest. They both showed up to work on time, performed their jobs to the best of their abilities and didn’t make a lot of noise about it.

But these days those very qualities—sincere and earnest— seem to have lost their meaning, their solidity, their currency, as it were and are instead indicators of a certain dull wittedness or blindness to the rampant and necessary self-interest that is sweeping the land.

He was a sincere kind of guy, they said following his dismissal at the company. Right? said another, and they laughed knowingly, fist-bumps all around, pleased that they could in no way be accused of the same.

Too earnest, said one woman, she just didn’t fit in. And that was the kindest thing anyone in the group would say about her after her termination. That kind of sincerity…well, anyway, she’s gone finally. And I get her office, so yay!

I listened to these conversations from the quiet of my cubicle and felt a bubble of…what, anger? rebellion? Something. But it was probably around that time that I started signing my emails: Sincerely.

And I meant it.

WP Daily Prompt: bludgeon

Bludgeon

We needed pins and screws to hold us

still and steady as changes were made.

We needed the pin-point accuracy of laser surgery

cool heads and honest hearts

we could do this if we were patient and careful

we could

survive the shift

the new beginning

the tentative steps of a newborn foal

destined to greatness

we needed above all

faith and courage

but instead

it is the bludgeon

instead we got

the crushing certainty

of blind, flailing rage.

Daily WP Prompt: Copy-cat

Copycat

She was the quiet one. The other was the bossy one. There were peaceful days when they got along fine, like good enough friends, each doing her own thing.

Then there were other days. The bossy one acting all private and thoughtful and the quiet one getting more and more anxious, her little world invaded, wrecked. But she was nothing if not accommodating and she tried to adjust. But she didn’t understand. The bossy one had it all, good looks, breeding, friends, grades and the faculty loved her. Why on earth would she want my world too? My quiet, bookish, artsy world?

But the bossy one did. That’s exactly what she wanted. Because she was limitless. She was boundless. If she saw something she liked, she wanted it. And she would have it. So her friends wondered about the whole new book-worm thing, and the writing and all the stuff they didn’t really expect from the bossy one.

One day, the bossy one was in the reading room at the library, staring into space, a book open before her, new reading glasses resting low on her nose, looking for all the world like a deep thinker, her journal at the ready to capture her many insights. And the quiet one happened see her and went to join her at the long polished wood table, the hush of serious study all around them.

The bossy one looked at her with contempt and the quiet one stopped cold before sitting down.

“What’s the matter?” said the quiet one, all innocence.

“Nothing. Just…well, why do you have to be such a copy-cat?”

The quiet one cocked her head, confused. “Me?”

“Yes. You’re such a copy-cat.”

And with that, the bossy one pushed her glasses up on her nose and returned to her book, a barely perceptible smile playing at the edges of her mouth.

The quiet one backed away, and turned to go, head down, shoulders hunched. She felt hollow and uncertain and headed towards a tiny dark corner of the library where she could be alone.

Daily prompt: Eerie

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/eerie/”>Eerie</a&gt;

“It’s Erie, not eerie,” she said dismissively.

“I’m pretty sure it’s Eerie. The Eerie Canal. It’s mainly used by recreational witchcraft now, I read it in Wikipedia.”

“Watercraft. It’s used by recreational watercraft.”

“Don’t be silly. What the hell is watercraft, anyway? It said Witchcraft, I’m sure. And also, opponents were executed in 1808 and buried there.”

“What?”

“Yeah, I read it. And also, the guy who built it went bankrupt and died in an insane asylum.”

“Oh for god sake.”

“Seriously. And Jefferson called it madness and also Clinton was involved.”

“Wait, what? Clinton wasn’t even alive then.”

“She was. She was the Governor of New York and they called the Eerie Canal Clinton’s Folly. So yeah, she was there all right.

And then there were the Irish. This whole Catholic conspiracy and of course the Witches hated that and there were riots, but somehow the thing got built. But not before the Irish put a curse on it.”

“Good lord.”

“I know, right? So there were leaks and structural problems and then also, the Railway system bought it and then they went bankrupt too.”

“But you make it sound like a disaster. It was a success. Why do you make it sound like such a disaster?”

“Well, maybe it was a success, but it was also a disaster. The Eerie Canal is haunted, everyone connected to it died, went insane or bankrupt, Clinton is at the center of it, and nowadays it’s only used by recreational witches. You tell me: which story is more interesting?”

“I give up.”

“Because I’m right.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

Daily prompt: Bridge

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/bridge/”>Bridge</a&gt;

I once went out with a guy named Jeff Bridge. Not Bridges, because then he would have been Jeff Bridges and that would have been a different situation altogether. I mean, I’m pretty sure Jeff Bridges would have  caught a clue. So he wasn’t that Jeff but this other Jeff and really, I liked him ok. He was a nice guy. I was a baby lesbian, not entirely committed but definitely headed in that direction and I assume that whole thing may have had some bearing on our eventual breakup.

But really, it was his pretty obvious long term view of our…well, what to call it. I wasn’t advanced enough to call it Our Relationship. I was just a regular old extreme-introvert who had no relationship to speak of with the word Relationship or anything else so using it to describe what we shared never would have struck me. Jeff seemed to be around, is how I thought of it, and then we sometimes were around together at a movie. Or a beer. It strikes me now that we were likely around together more than that but I have no recollection of it.

So, the obvious long term view thing. It mystified me, since as far as I could tell, we were just hanging around. I suspect that In the absence of my actual presence in the around-ness we shared, he may have felt free to simply make stuff up. Stuff about Us. Stuff about our long term potential. Of which there was next to nothing and I knew that, duh, but he didn’t and I couldn’t imagine he didn’t know something so painfully obvious, and so nothing was shared on that very important discussion point.

It seemed to me like Jeff Bridge was always making plans about a thing that didn’t exist. Until finally, I sort of remember a conversation involving his family and the dinner we would all share and I started laughing. Snorting beer up my nasal cavities, uncontrollably laughing. It was like watching a movie, a really funny movie, Jeff and me, his baby lesbian girlfriend, hanging around together at the dinner table with the Bridge family. Ludicrous, really.

Soon after, he stopped calling. I felt sort of bad for a while. Not that he stopped calling, but that he had all those weird ideas. People make all kinds of stuff up and at some point you’re like, What? And, seriously, it’s downhill from there.

Daily prompt: rearrange

Rearrange
Oh, here, let me completely rearrange my life for you. My expectations. My own explicit desires and requirements. Because I want to make sure that the remodel project you were hired for, that each part that you agreed to, saying, yeah, I can do that, no problem—remember that discussion?—I want to make sure that you are not being forced to do something you don’t know how to do. Or that you feel uncomfortable doing. Because that would just be cruel.

Because at the end of this whole thing, if it ends up looking like what you can do vs. what we asked for? Well, I totally understand. I can adjust. Not a problem. Are we good? good.

(this public rant has been brought to you by me who is really really tired of hearing what the contractor can’t do after assuring me he could.)

Daily prompt: banned

Banned

The day they banned the t-shirt I’d printed up for a couple dozen friends at college—an angry squirrel flipping his middle finger at the world, UofD emblazoned on his chest—I went back to the print studio straight away and whipped up a hundred more.

Plus, they were good looking, right? Angry orange squirrel against a royal blue background? It was nothing if not true to our team, our school colors, our collective disgust with the usual idiot depiction of a busy little squirrel—a squirrel! Who has a squirrel mascot? That little buddy was crying out to reinvent himself, and I was was the one to help him.

Banned? Works for me. It was the best lesson I learned in school and the case history I used for my psych paper, for which I got an A, thank you very much. There is no faster path to cult status and product desire, my friend. I doubt I would have been able to cover my tuition costs if it hadn’t been for the powers-that-be gnashing their teeth over my righteously angry squirrel.

#dailyprompt

Daily prompt: transformation

Transformation
It wasn’t a big thing, just an emissions test, just another thing on my to-do list for the day. Except it had to happen today, because I waited too long and only had a few days left before my car tabs expired. On the way, crossing the bridge in my good old Jetta, I started thinking about what would happen if she failed the test? I mean, I got her almost 20 years ago! She runs fine, I take good care of her, but who knows! Maybe she’s finished and I don’t even know it. I’d have to buy a new car, I can’t afford a new car, but maybe now is when I ditch the car entirely and start riding a bike. But I could get hit, I could get killed in this traffic. The traffic in this town gets every day.

And then suddenly for some weird reason, I’m thinking about the GRE test I took a zillion years ago so I could get into grad school. The test was really important. And I was going to fail, no question about it. I studied, I practiced but I knew: it was only a matter of time before I started my new life as a loser, a nobody and a nothing, a GRE disaster. Every day the test loomed larger and larger in my mind until it absorbed every waking thought—it was my future, my life! Soon I found myself drinking wine, a lot of wine, just to make the noise in my head go away for a little while, and it worked. The night before the test I had to polish off all the wine I had until finally, gratefully, I passed out. The next morning I woke up slumped on the couch, drooling, a deadening hangover pummeling my brain. The clock showed I had 45 minutes to get to the test.

Well, I made it to the test, I suppose. I suppose you could say that. God, that was so long ago and here I was, taking the 4th ave exit to get my emissions test, fear welling up inside me, my stomach churning and my hands trembling on the steering wheel. I could feel my heart racing. What the heck was going on? I headed out to run errands and then, boom, some transformation, some weird space/time slip-up took over. I was filled with dread as I pulled into line behind a dozen other newer, better cars that probably had no emissions at all. Beautiful, magic cars with excellent, competent drivers.

I closed my eyes and breathed, feeling my butt in this familiar old leather seat, my hands easing up, resting lightly on the steering wheel. A tiny wave of relief rippled through me, and I relaxed. It was just a silly old test, everything is okay, I told myself. When I opened my eyes, the line had moved and I eased into position. I was up next.

 

Daily prompt: tiny

 
Tiny

When I think back, the whole thing is a blur. Seriously: a blur. Notable because I’m pretty observant but at time like this….well Heathrow is a world unto itself, right? And there I was, waiting amidst a thousand other weary travelers just like me, anxious to get through customs, unintelligible announcements blaring overhead. My brain must have just gone offline, refusing to absorb any more of this tiresome mix of noise and tension and tedium.

So: one big bureaucratic blur except for this bizarre thing, this bright tiny detail. The woman in the next line, a few steps ahead of me—she held something in her hand and it caught my attention. Whatever it was glinted in the light, like a shiny metal edge but way more intense, unearthly and brilliant, a white light full of color like a crystal but much, much sharper.  It seemed to go directly into the center of my brain. What was it? I’ll never know, because her line moved ahead while mine stood still, and the light disappeared. I cocked my head so I might catch it again but all I saw was her charming smile as she handed the customs officer her passport, nodding, making small talk and then in an instant she was on her way, high heels clicking smartly down the corridor.

Daily prompt: Millions

Millions

I mean, just think of it: who could even count how many leaves fall all over the world in autumn. Billions of leaves, bright yellow and brassy gold, carmine red and burnt orange, each and every one brilliant against a deep blue sky. Here, in this tiny town alone, in this deep ravine with the its huge old trees, millions of leaves spinning and drifting in the gusty autumn winds. Millions!

autumn_leaves_5-t2

Daily Prompt: Ancient

Ancient

“But she’s a witch, Mom—I don’t wanna go!”

“She’s not a witch honey. And every soccer team she’s coached ends up at the championship. Google it, you’ll see.”

“She doesn’t even look like a soccer coach. Her clothes are crazy, her hair is wild. Plus, she’s ancient Mom—she’s way older than you! She’ll probably be dead before the season is over.”

“Thank you dear.”

“No, but really! She’s got whiskers, Mom! Why can’t we have our other coach?”

“Because he’s gone. He’s gone and no one can find him, and seriously sweetheart, I think we’re pretty lucky. You need to google this coach because her record is….”

“Coach Agnes? Agnes? Jules said she’s not playing for a witch and neither am I.”  Alexis threw herself down heavily on the sofa and let her backpack slide to the floor with a thud.  Her mom went about collecting her soccer gear and clothes, glancing at her watch.

“Up!” She said, grabbing her daughter’s hand, pulling the dead weight up off the couch. “Come on, I don’t want to be late.”

“But—“

“No buts, in the car, missy.”

Later Alexis stood sullenly, one hip jutting out, arms crossed tightly across her chest. She still didn’t have her team shirt on. Or her shoes. In fact, she looked like she was ready for the mall. The other girls on the team were half-heartedly going through their warm ups. And now the “Coach” was heading straight for the girl, her long, skinny shadow preceding her, step by step closer, finally enveloping Alexis in darkness. She shivered and looked up at the old lady, trying to hide her fear with a dismissive sneer. It didn’t work.

“I hear you think I’m a witch. Maybe more witch than Coach, yes?”

Alexis narrowed her eyes and tightened her lips. She wasn’t going to give in.

Coach Agnes snorted. “Ha. I’ve dealt with your type a thousand time before, girlie. So let’s just cut to the chase, shall we?”  Coach looked over her shoulder and back at Alexis, leaning in closer. Alexis could smell her sulphur breath. “I win championships, okay? You girls haven’t won a championship in…oh, I don’t know,” the old lady snapped her fingers, old reptile eyes sparking. “Oh wait! Never. Not EVER! And I don’t like that, do you?”

Alexis found herself shaking her head no. And somewhere inside her she realized she really didn’t like it. She really didn’t like losing all the time.

“No, I didn’t think so. So here I am, and just in time. You girls don’t know how lucky you are.”

“But you don’t look like a coach or act like one, you’re too old and too…”

“Ancient, yes I know. Enough of that, Alexis,” she said, resting her arthritic hand on the girl’s shoulder. Alexis felt some strange surge of energy seeping into her, felt her resistance just slipping away and even more astonishing, felt a tiny spark of excitement taking its place.

“You…you really think we could win?”

“No, sweetheart,” said the witch, laying her arm across Alexis’ shoulders, urging her onto the field. “I KNOW we can win.” The old lady laughed, softly at first and then more loudly, a loud cackling laugh that echoed across the field, the parking lot with its SUVs, the nearby parks and neighborhoods, letting everyone know there was a new coach in town.