Microfiction Monday: The North Wind

Today’s story is one I have told before, in a different setting. See, there’s a reason my camp name is Goose, and it’s only partially because of my love of geese: I get called Mother Goose at camp because at least once a week I get called to a unit to tell a bedtime story. I never tell the same story twice; I make them up as I go. One night in my sixth summer, I told this story, and after the kids had left the circle, one of my coworkers scooted close to me on the bench and buried her face in my shoulder–she’d been silently crying the whole time. “I know how the North Wind felt,” she said in between sobs. “I know what it’s like.”

So did I.

Once upon a time in a city far above the fields of men, where the clouds tumble and tangle, the North Wind was very unhappy indeed. Her sister the South Wind had many friends down on earth, for her long golden hair smelled of the flowers that bloomed in her wake and her easy laugh sounded like the drenching summer rains that fell wherever she went. Her brothers the East Wind and West Wind also had many friends, for they were loud and lively and made up entirely of bright sunny days. But the North Wind was seldom welcome down in the fields of men. Wherever she went, ice followed, delicate frost-lace blooming wherever her feet fell, and where she slept, snow fell in the night, great sparkling white blankets that draped over the land. When she went down to earth, people fled before her, disappearing into their homes and locking the doors against her entreaties, building their fires higher and higher to drown out her pleas from beyond their walls. After a while, the North Wind stopped trying to make friends, and simply wandered from place to place, bringing winter with her.

The North Wind spent all her days alone and unhappy…until the day she discovered the boy.

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So You Wanna Learn How To Paint.

This afternoon I received a text message that got the wheels in my head turning. “I have a painting related question: I want to start painting, I have no clue where to begin! Can you help/guide me?”

My first question: “What medium do you want to paint with?”

My second question: “What kind of stuff do you want to paint?”

There’s a reason I asked those questions in that order. I don’t care why anyone wants to paint or, really, do any art. Art has its own value. But from a practical standpoint, you need to know where you’re starting.

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Mental Illness and Academia: Part One

The first time I had a panic attack I didn’t recognize what I was experiencing.

It was an odd time to have a panic attack. I was out on the Blue Ridge Parkway late at night with my best friend, who was driving. We were listening to Natalie Merchant’s Ophelia album, which was one of a handful of CDs we could agree we both loved for those long late-night drives. I had just moved back to Asheville to resume school after a yearlong absence. Classes hadn’t started yet. There was no other traffic, and both starry sky and winding road were clear, but suddenly my entire body was seized with an all-consuming need to go home. My heart was pounding, my face was burning. I told my best friend I wasn’t feeling well. We went home. Once I was back in my dorm room, I felt a sense of relief. I was safe.

It happened again a few days later. I was at another friend’s apartment, drinking tea and talking on a cozy evening just after classes had started. I had had a good day. There was no obvious reason why I would be anxious. But there I was, watching the clock and trying to figure out how long I had to stay before I could escape back to my dorm room where I felt safe. This was no ordinary Attack Of The Introvert. This was something darker.

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Microfiction Monday: The Sun In Your Eyes

Okay, so it’s not quite a microfiction.

“Mrs. Ingraham’s babying that damn peach tree,” Edna said in a low voice to Kate as they washed the windows in the bookshop. “I don’t know why she bothers.”

Kate didn’t understand it either. The little tree had no business being in northern Wisconsin where the winters raged like some wild grieving animal and the springs were sullen, brimming over with dirty melting snow that turned to gritty mud. Mrs. Ingraham was somewhere Down South. Nobody knew where Mr. Ingraham was. He had gone away down south somewhere, and had come back with his pretty bride.

She watched as the woman carefully pruned the brittle branches that hadn’t made it through the winter, her dove-brown hair shining in the late-afternoon sun. The tree had been there for three years, but hadn’t yet borne fruit. Maybe it never would.

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Microfiction Monday: The Escape

Microfiction is a subset of flash fiction (fiction of 1000 words or less) in which stories have 300 words or less. This one is something between fantasy and horror, and the inspiration was chosen by Ali Malin: “grilled cheese and triceratops.”

The once-grand dining hall was lit only by the candles illuminating the chipped plate that held Kensia’s final meal. “Eat up,” Dallan, the soldier-priest who was her jailer and only human companion ordered from the darkness. “This is what you wanted.” Indeed, Kensia had requested the simple fare of gooey melted cheese sandwiches and root vegetables. She had eaten one sandwich for appearances, and was nibbling the crusts of the other, being sure to leave as much cheese as possible for Elegda.

The demonic whispering was muted in the hushed dining hall. There were no mirrors left in there, after all. They’d been shattered in the surrender. Anything reflective. The soldier-priests had thought they knew how to prevent her night-dark magic.

They didn’t know what she knew.

She ate the crusts of the sandwich, taking her time to savor the drips of melted cheese, cooling in the night air. Elegda liked the gooey heart of the sandwiches almost as much as she liked the hotly metallic taste of a terrified heart bursting between her fangs.

Kensia laid her fork down, and noticed that Dallan flinched, the triceratops patch on his sleeve flashing in the candlelight. Good. She wanted him a little afraid. Elegda wanted him a little afraid. “Dallan,” she said sweetly, “Could I have a few more carrots?”

The soldier-priest sighed. “I’ll go get you some.”

“Thank you,” Kensia said softly. She waited till his footsteps had faded, then moved quickly, tilting her glass of water onto the table. The reflection shown in the light. Her tongue twisted around the incantations of summoning, and she closed her eyes, feeling hot demon claws pick at her handcuffs. Freedom tasted delicious, she thought.

She kept her eyes closed even after Dallan’s screaming began. Humans were so dramatic about being sacrificed.

 

 

How I Earned A Legacy of Expectation Defiance.

It happened a lot.

“And this is our art director, Goose,” My boss said, introducing me to the parents who were visiting our camp (or visiting members from the council that owned our camp, or any number of other people).

I smiled. “It’s nice to meet y’all.”

The mother tilted her head. “You…don’t sound like you’re from around here.”

“No, ma’am. I’m from North Carolina.”

My boss grinned, a hint of amusement. She’d once told me she loved the looks on people’s faces when she introduced me to them; I was not unlike a lost tropical bird to many people, even in Pennsylvania. “And she goes to school in Michigan.”

“Oh, are you studying art?” the father asked.

“No, sir. Biology. Microbiology, specifically.”

Both parents stopped and stared at me. You could see the wheels turning, trying to understand how all the pieces of me that they had just been handed fit together, how any of it made sense. My boss just beamed. I smiled too. I never really got tired of the confusion either. I earned that quiet little mischief.

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THAT student.

On a chilly day in January 2009 I found myself signing up for classes at the community college near my hometown in NC. I had previously attended a 4-year university about 4 hours from my home, and was, frankly, still stunned over how quickly my life had changed when I had finally told my parents that I just could not go back to that school, that my mental health just couldn’t handle it anymore. Somewhere underneath the blank pale mask of shock was anger, thrumming low and deep, that I had to take a college algebra class before I could work on any of my dreaded math requirements. I didn’t want to take an algebra class, I didn’t want to take any math class that I didn’t have to, because math wasn’t just something I loathed, it was something I feared: I had been diagnosed with dyscalculia the previous spring, and I still wasn’t entirely sure that there was even a place for someone like me in the science world.

In hindsight, that math class is possibly the best damn thing that ever happened to me. Because I learned not just how to finally do math I was supposed to figure out in high school (and never did), I learned a lot about, well, learning.

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