Friday, December 10, 2010

Country Wife

[...]On the third day after his return, the Godking gave audience to his rescuers. The young man was still gaunt and had a brittle, sensitive air about him, the horrors he had witnessed still plainly evident through his new clothes and freshly bathed skin. The Godking's seconddaughter stood just a pace behind and to one side of the young man, looking little better. Neither had spoken much over the in between days, forcing little smiles at the servants who insisted on thanking them personally or offering them sons or daughters in marriage. This attention had quickly waned, fortunately for the two youths, and they were allowed to recover mostly in seclusion until this morning, when a page had summoned them here, into the Godking's presence.

A delicate string of saliva slowly oozed out the corner of the old king's broken mouth as he gently coughed. The page boy quickly dabbed it away with a kerchief. Taking a deep, rattly breath, the Godking opened his rheumy eyes leaned forward, resting a gnarled arm against an equally bony knee.

"Boy, the maidens are already singing songs about you," he wheezed. "Never have i ever seen such bravery. Foolishness, my knights would have called it, but thanks to you, my kingdom is once again safe. In thanks, i now grant you a boon: your reward is limited only by your imagination, up to the hand of my firstdaughter in marriage."

The throne room went quite still at this announcement. The courtiers where aghast. It was well known that the dowry of the firstdaughter was the entire kingdom. Several of the wealthier nobles had been angling for years to be in this boy's very position. This farm boy's position.

Throughout the pronouncement, the youth met the Godking's gaze confidently. Now he closed his eyes and took a slow, deep breath - which only shook the tiniest bit - and released it. His thoughts gathered, he opened his eyes and spoke in a clear, steady voice:

"King, i want you to know that what your seconddaughter and i did, we did not out of a sense of duty, or nationality to your great empire. We did not do it for fame and we certainly did not do it for any reward. We put our lives in harm's way because it was what was required of us. It was right. Therefore, i humbly relinquish any right to your boon and ask for nothing."

A lady in the gallery fainted.

The king blinked for several long heartbeats before beginning to violently rock back and forth. On the fourth attempt, the terrified page finally understood and helped the Godking to his feet. The old man began to rage, shaking his fist at the youth, foam spraying from his bared teeth.

"Don't be daft, you foolish boy! I offer you land the vastness of which you could not experience even if you devoted the rest of your life to travelling it. I offer you so much gold that you could not count it all before you perished. The hand of my beautiful firstdaughter is your's for the taking and you spit upon her?"

The young man did not respond as the king tired himself out and was helped back into his throne by the page. When the old man had finished coughing and sputtering into the page's proffered kerchief, the youth spoke again, and again his voice was clear and strong

"Sire, i do not wish you to think i spurn your generosity, for i do request something. My lord, i come to you now as a suitor and ask for your seconddaughter's hand in marriage."

Wispy sound of conversation began to drift down from the galleries as the king stared at the lad before him.

"My dear boy, you're not thinking clearly. My seconddaughter has no worth to you; you gain nothing by marrying her and you well know this. Now speak: tell me whatever your heart desires and that shall be the value of your reward."

The young man glanced beside him at the girl by his side, reached out his hand and took her's.

"I want whatever she's worth."

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Red Queen

I am often jealous of those writers i follow on the internets whose products are, day after day, clever and hysterical. They are the sitcom writers of my generation and i often envision their lives as idyllic versions of my own, filled with quiet, sunlit mornings and very few worldly cares. Oh! how i yearn to be one of their kind, recognized and admitted into their most awesome of circles.

To that end, i'm going to be funny today.

My grandmother is bipolar. My earliest memories of the woman involve sad stories my mother used to tell me about the after-grade-school snacks of cookies and creme de menthe her mom used to prepare for her, just so she wouldn't have to drink alone. My own experiences have a much rosier shade and involve mostly images and feelings of adventure: being shown gramma's collection of cane swords; admiring her many knick-knacks from around the globe; looking askance at my brother and cousins as she leaps from a doorway to bar our path, brandishing an antique threshing flail.

I particularly remember my first experience with what my mother described as one of my gramma's "manic phases." We were vacationing down in North Carolina (where my grandmother lived for many years), visiting my aunt and cousins, and gramma offered to take the four of us cousins out to a local flea market. For reasons i no longer remember - perhaps a debilitating case of the sniffles - i opted out of going on this adventure. To this day, i regret my decision, for my brother and cousins came back with all manners of treasures! I distinctly remember a neon orange shag throw rug, a couple of turkish fezes, and the looks of exasperation on the faces of my aunt and mother which i would only understand years later.

Gramma lives up in New Jersey now, within driving distance of my house. It was decided that my aunt had had to deal with enough of her shenanigans and - now that gramma was retiring to an assisted-living sort of facility - that it was now my mother's turn to deal with her. This new proximity has allowed me to witness all sorts of new sides of the woman that i'd only previously heard of second hand.

The Thanksgiving of 2008 saw my aunt and cousins up north and my ol' G-Ma solidly in the middle of a manic phase. It was that particular year when my mother took it upon herself to educate my cousins and i about what to expect from an almost-80-year-old woman in full-blown bipolar mania. She gave Paul and i actual photocopied textbook pages with lists of symptoms. I had long known about the inhuman levels of energy, the disjointed thoughts, the feelings of euphoria, but it was that year that i learned about the hallucinations, the delusions, and the "hypersexuality."

Think about that last bit for a second.

About mid-way through that week, i woke up in the middle of the night and ventured downstairs for a drink. Being a boxer-sleeper, the first thing i noticed upon reaching the half-way point in my stealthy descent of the stairs was the frigid temperature of the first floor. A careful look around the corner set the scene quite effectively. The hall was empty, the hall bathroom door open with both light and fan on, the living room dark and empty, the front door open with only the glass screen door keeping out the cold and the smoke from my grandmother's Misty cigarettes. I could see her silhouette out on the porch, so i swept as quickly and quietly as i could down the hall and into the kitchen where i found the source of the cold air: the wide open back door. I shut the door, grabbed my drink and retreated as fast as i could to the warmth and privacy of my room.

The next morning, i mentioned the occurrence to my mother. Apparently when she got up in the morning, she found the kitchen in a similar state to the one i described above. When she asked my grandmother about it, the old lady informed my mother that PSE&G had gotten in touch with her last night to inform her about a potentially hazardous gas leak. Checking the phone, my mother very delicately asked her how the gas company had talked to my gramma, since there were no records of any calls going through last night, either incoming or outgoing.

"There's more than one way of getting in touch with people," my grandmother replied sagaciously and with a sly wink.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Interminable Skittering of Anthropomorphized Words

I am quickly approaching what feels like a critical mass of nuggets and ideas. They rattle about in my skull to the point of being distracting, what with their collisions and then endless human interest pieces about the loving families of the concepts lost in the great catastrophe of the right prefrontal cortex.


While a cornucopia of potential projects seems like a fantastic thing in theory, my particular creative bent tends to end just there: at the idea stage. I have half-theories and choruses, novel conflicts and juxtapositions, species and tonalities all logged away in my head without any framing in which to put them.

You know how annoying it is when you have the chorus of a song stuck in your head, but you can't remember the rest of the song? It's worse when you wrote the blinking chorus.

Some of my frustration comes from my - for lack of a more accurate term - Renaissance tendencies; that is to say, my interest - and perhaps competence - in many fields without ever achieving expertise in any of them. So while my idea for a sky-born fish monster is nifty and i'd love to show it to other people, my drawing skills limit my ability to effectively portray the concept.

I have entire casts of characters with no plot for them to be a part of; beautiful, poignant scenes which cannot benefit from the scope of context; clever turns of phrase, naked of verse.

Still, they are mine. These little acts of creation, this instances of pristine beauty, give me focus and energy. Just as lethargy and apathy are sure signs of my depression, creativity is a signal to myself of a Good Place. The weather is turning colder and as it does, my thoughts stir, awakening to the world around me and its myriad inspirations.