Connor

She took one sip, or maybe it was two sips, before it dawned on her to look at the glass of warm Pepsi she picked up just seconds before.

It was a plastic tumbler, not glass. And it was stamped with pastel blue and green, pink and yellow kittens playing with fuzzy yarn balls. Long strings unraveled into a big knotty pile circling around the bottom of the glass.

She shook her head in disgust knowing it was meant to be cute. In her eyes it was sentimental tripe. All those little balls of fluffy fur rolling on their backs or laying on their sides balancing the rounds in their paws or batting them away.

But the ends all met in a big ratty pile at the bottom, just like her life. A big ratty pile of shredded yarn covered in drool.

“Well done.” Connor congratulated herself. “Well done, like a piece of tough beef, your life and your heart.”

Connor was born Constance.

She was Connie when she was young. By the time she was a senior in high school, she was tired of the way Connie sounded. Like some sweet thing from a cornfield in Kansas milking cows and baking bread all day long pining for her man to come home.

She tried using her middle name from her grandmothers, both of them. Florence was on her dad’s side, Julia on her mom’s. Neither fit.

She kept Constance for a short while after she told her parents she wasn’t going to college. They told her it was college or the road. She chose the road.

Her first stop was Grams. Julia let her stay the first summer while she made a plan. Constance was good at devising plans and carrying them out. The trouble was it never fit in with other people’s plans. She was always doing it at the wrong time or in the wrong place or for the wrong reason, in her parents’ eyes. Although that wasn’t a hard task to accomplish. Constance knew that Grams Julia would give her the space and time she needed to make a new plan.

It was the first Sunday at Julia’s Constance remembered as she rolled the kitty glass in her hand. Hot and muggy. It was after church and lunch with the neighbors. It was quiet. All the stores were closed. Most people were sitting on their porches “wasting time watching the flies” as Julia would say.

Constance stretched out on the couch looking up at the ceiling trying to connect the little star patterns sparkling in the afternoon sun. It was a new decorating fad her mother loved. White plaster with glitter in it rolled into the ceiling with a special kind of paint roller.

Constance’s parents took it upon themselves to update Grandma Julia’s house. They did that kind of thing. They always thought they knew what other people needed. They also covered the creaky wood floors with thick carpet so it would be warmer in the winter for Julia. They removed all the glass doorknobs and “updated” them with shiny “gold-tone” ones. Constance thought that her dad probably was able to get a good price for the glass knobs at his cubical in the Antique Mall, his weekend hobby. Julia agreed and they both laughed. She told Constance that she should deduct it from her son-in-law’s inheritance. They both laughed. But Julia never complained to them.

Later, after all the work was done and her parents were quite pleased with themselves, Julia let Constance in on a secret.

“You pick your battles.” It was something Constance immediately understood and never forgot.

Constance’s eyes were getting blurry from starring into the white while the ham and scalloped potatoes were being properly digested. As her lids started to shut down for a glorious afternoon nap, Julia slapped a book onto her stomach.

“Here. Make good use of your time. You’re only staying for the summer. I’m counting down.” And Grams Julia left the room.

Constance stared at the book slowly rising up and down on her stomach. This was not a battle she was going to fight.

Flannery O’Connor. A Book of Short Stories.

From that moment on, she was known as Connor.

.

.

.

Author’s Note:

Today at sunday Afternoon Writers at A Church of the Holy Family we gathered together for a prompt that led us in many directions.

We used Take Ten for Writing by Bonnie Neubauer. The prompt had us choose a word we liked least from a list of paired words. Mine were:

plastic (glass)
cats (dogs)
Pepsi (Coke)
Jump Right in (Baby Steps)
well-done (rare)
carpet (wooden)

Then we choose a number from one to ten and used the story starter that fell at that number. Mine was: She took one sip, or maybe it was two sips, before…

Instead of writing for ten minutes, we write for thirty and shared.

I hope to convince the others to share their pieces here, too, one day! Just a nudge right now.

Light Electric

I smell fall in
the rain tonight,
not bright and green,
crisp in spring’s newness
but a little musty,
a gentle touch layered
in seasoned experience.

I think of your smile
not a youthful grin
drunk on life
but a perfected bow
knowing its pleasure
patient in experience

As clouds relinquish
the first lightning on this
passing autumnal equinox,
so I surrender myself to You
ablaze, alive in Light Electric.

.

.

.

Author’s Note:

This evening of the passing of the autumnal equinox it rained and a rainbow appeared. Later the sky glowed electric with lightning bolts in the distance.

My friend Kathie Kelly, my meditation satsang buddy at A Church of The Holy Family, challenged me to write a poem. I began this poem last evening and tonight’s light show helped me complete it. My apologies to Whitman.

Lovely Wild Thing

The maple in my front yard
hides a street sign
shadows the stop sign
the tree we’ve been told
to trim back
chop smaller
so passers-by can see
is turning colors

The grande dame
makes a summer entrance
a velvet green whorl
verdant life thick through
trunk and limbs
flowing into tender leaf veins
much as my life blood pulses
through indigo courses
bulging
into my out stretched palms
aching to touch the sky

Later
green slowly
almost imperceptibly
releases something
unknown
vital
gifted by summer sun
this noble being whispers
a time to slow down
and a golden hue emerges
when the sun falls low alighting
highlighting
limbs and leaves
in a yellow green glow

As I reach down
pick up the morning news
I turn my face
toward the lovely wild thing
to see emerald faded
yellow spreading its aurora

There is a bit of sadness
in the cycle of surrender
knowing what was
will never be again
not the same way
different next time around

I wrap my robe tighter
against early dawn’s chill
brush away fallen leaves
garnishing the daily post
I too will fall to earth
dry and cracked one day
making room
for new breath
shimmering in sun’s presence

Conflagration

Maybe it was the full moon that cinched
me around my throat to remind me that

I am not in control. It does that, you know,
to the tide. The moon, a manic puppeteer,

operates water at will never even touching
a tear, never asking for permission. Just

takes command. As I slip away, am set aside,
ignored except for the wildfire glowering down

illuminating my emptiness, that great hole
in the middle of my being, unable to seize

a breath to bellow, I am left to cower
under the conflagration, to rest and ache.

But it will wane and fade once more and
I will gain perspective in its shimmer.

Spin the Bottle

The first time she saw him, he was digging ketchup out of a bottle with a knife.

Andy parked her car next to a blue van in the Denny’s lot. She was driving down the interstate and realized she needed food. Andy didn’t always eat when her stomach told her to. But she always ate when the gas gage on Raven read almost empty. It was her way of remembering to eat. Food wasn’t important to Andy. She never craved anything. She didn’t understand the fascination of cooking shows that sucked up people’s time.

The gage on Raven was nearing empty and Andy knew there were few stops between where she was and where she would be in a few hours. So she stopped.

Andy always chose her parking spot with an eye for quick and easy departure. She was once caught in a traffic jam trying to leave the scene of a robbery. She was stuck in the parking space and no one would let her out. Cars kept pushing by and she feared the next one would contain the thieves and their guns. She was afraid she would see their faces and they would have to “blow her away” as Harry Bosch novels would say. But they didn’t and when she was finally able to take the cup of water the police officer was trying to hand her to calm her down, she filed away in the back of her mind a plan to never be caught in a spot where that could happen again.

The parking space she found was at the end of a row near the street. She backed in pointing the nose of Raven toward the outlet ready to zoom away at a moments notice if need be. Andy also always kept her keys in her hand, only placing them down on the table when she cut her meat when two hands were needed, you know. She was now ready for some food.

Andy walked through the doors and plunked herself down at a table nearest the exit. She sat where she could see who was walking through the door. There was nothing feng shui, as her sister would insist, about it. It was simply smart planning.

The waiter with pimples and a squeaky voice handed her a menu and smiled at her. Andy wondered if that was his way of flirting or maybe he was just being nice. Nonetheless, Andy never returned smiles. It opened the door to conversation and conversation led to familiarity and familiarity led to friendship until the whole thing crumbled into tiny particles much like those that covered the sticky rug beneath her feet.

It was then that she saw him.

He was sitting at the counter with a bottle of ketchup in one hand and a knife in the other. Andy watched as he scraped and dug the ketchup from the sides of the bottle.

He was in no hurry. Each time he slid the knife out of the bottle, the tip was tainted with just a bit of red much like the end of a thermometer. He methodically wiped the knife on the edge of the hamburger bun he had turned over and placed in the middle of a napkin next to his plate. The plate was overflowing with french fries, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and onions that left no room for an upturned bun.

The process went on for a few minutes. Andy didn’t take her eyes off him. The waiter returned and asked Andy a question. She ignored him. Pimple Face stood watching Andy waiting for a response that she was never going to give.

Then the man finished with the ketchup bottle. Balanced the knife across the pile of french fries and slammed the bottle down onto the counter

“Who the fuck thinks this is good service around here?”

That got everyone else’s attention.

“How does anyone expect to get a decent amount of ketchup out of this fuckin’ bottle? Who do you think I am Houdini or something?” He grabbed the bottle off the counter.

Andy watched as the man threw the bottle onto the floor. It bounced with a dull thud. Then skidded toward her, her foot bringing the bottle to a halt. All eyes were on Andy. Pimple Face stepped away from her table.

Meeting the waiter’s wide eyes, Andy snorted and shook her head. Yeah, he’s a catch all right, she thought.

Looking at her table she picked up the ketchup bottle sitting in the middle of it. The bottle was newly filled. Her fingers noticed a sticky drip down the label. Holding the bottle in front of her, Andy walked over to the man.

He didn’t notice.

He was too busy staring at his ketchup bottle spinning on the floor. Andy accidentally kicked it as she scooted her chair back when she stood up. It was as if they were playing Spin the Bottle. However, Andy knew she would never, ever kiss either him or the pimpled face waiter.

“Here, you can have mine. You’re much more patient than I would have been.”

The man took the bottle from Andy’s hand, removed the cap, flipped the bottle upside down and began pounding on the bottom releasing the thick red paste onto his bun.

Andy returned to her seat as the other diners returned to their conversations. With shaking hands gripping his order booklet and a blue Bic pen, Pimple Face cleared his throat to ask his question for a second time.

.

.

.

Author’s Note:

Tonight at Sunday Afternoon Writers as A Church of the Holy Family we use a prompt from Bonnie Neubauer’s The Write-Brain Workbook.

We started with the word “craven” and made words from it for one minute. We then had to use all the words we made in our writing.

Then we chose one of two prompts: The first time I saw him, he was digging ketchup out of the bottle with a knife. Or: The first time I saw her, she was teaching third graders that ketchup is a vegetable.

We always share after a half hour of writing.

My words from “craven” and I didn’t get to a few.
van
crave
car
raven
rave
near
are
cave

Lead Player

a woman becomes
the Lead Player
and now the sensibility
can be no other way

how far is it I am willing to go
to be extraordinary
or am I already
finely crafted well enough
perfect
just not aware
that there will always
be those in my imagination
waiting for me to bite
taking me astray

there will come a time
no
now
when I must thrust
the stake into the ground
stand in refusal
no longer matching my life
to someone else’s rules

I am no longer afraid
to rewild myself

the road will not be clear
until I act with beauty and courage
to acknowledge that helpless something
deep inside me needing to be loved

I take the first step
and in each
the road appears
that much further from
the fog machine and fire rings

I wait no more for others to lead
I reach down and find bliss
gifted to me as to no other

and the yellow moon
peering three quarters
from behind earth’s shadow
casts enough light tonight
for me to see my way

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.
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Author’s Note:

Tonight at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts I saw the touring production of the Broadway revival of Pippin, forty years after I saw it for the first time on Broadway.

It was 1974 and our high school drama club took a trip to New York City. Pippin was the first Broadway show I ever saw. Also, the night we attended was the very night Ben Vereen returned from a severe accident. We didn’t understand the excitement. Afterwards, we did.

The show has been retooled to be set within a circus, with a few updated references, and a new ending. It has been polished to an even brighter diamond.

My poem is a found poem using some words and ideas from an interview with Stephen Schwartz, Pippin’s author. Also from Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese, Rumi, Rilke’s Letter To A Young Poet, Wendell Barry’s A Timbered Choir, and from Facebook, the folks at Evolver Social Movement, The Spirit That Moves Me, and Goddesses.

I am going through what I might say is a transformation right now. I needed some strong words, images, ideas to help me find the courage to take that first step. All of these fine artists and souls are reaching out to me and guiding me right now.

Much gratitude.

Photos of the Galleria from the balcony of Auditorium Theatre at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

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