Friday, May 20, 2016

I Believe I Can Fly

     I've always had vivid dreams, real dreams. My dreams have realistic color, sound, smell, taste, and touch. There are even temperature variations. I dreamt about touching a cold, metal bar. The metal was so cold that I woke up. I felt all around my bed trying to find what I may have touched in my sleep that was so cold. Nothing in my room was cold.

     I can even read and write in my dreams.

     When I talked to others about their dreams, I found this to be an odd phenomenon. I even searched in books, reading everything I could get my hands on about dreams. These books never led to any answers, either. When I first heard the words "lucid dreaming," I thought I had finally found my answers, but that was not the case either. Lucid dreaming just means that you're aware of your dream state.

     I was not aware. My dreams were sometimes more real that reality, and that's how I got hurt.

     I was three years old, and I dreamt I could fly. I didn't fly like a superhero or a bird. I would leap into the air and hover. From that hover position, I could kick my way into the air further. It was like swimming in the sky. Once I reached the height I wanted to be, I could move forward or backward by making small adjustments to my position. The more I adjusted the faster or slower I could go.

     I flew over buildings. I hovered from one place to the next without having to walk. I soared over trees. I followed birds. I investigated the faces of statues up close. I felt so free. The wind blew through my hair. I touched clouds. I smelled the sea in the air as I neared the ocean. I wanted to fly forever.

     I rose up out of the dream as I rose up through a cloud. The sensation was cool, like rising from the bottom of an undisturbed pool on  summer's night. I stood up while still in the bed, so I could get a little height for my best hover. I leapt into the air...

    And fell into the trashcan beside the bed. I tumbled to the floor as my ankle turned, twisted, and the pain shot up through my leg. I SCREAMED!

     My mom came running into the room. "What's wrong?! What happened?!"

     I was still unsure myself. "I can't fly!" I cried. "Something's wrong, and I can't fly!"

     My mom picked me up, and carried me to the living room. "Of course, you can't fly, sweetie. God didn't make humans to fly."

     "But I did fly. I flew over the bank and past the forest. I followed the birds to the ocean. I flew up to the clouds, and then I fell into the trash can." I was sobbing by now. My ankle was throbbing and swelling. "I hurt my ankle!"

     My mom checked me out. My ankle was beginning to turn the color of a fresh bruise. She toted me to the car, and we went to see the doctor. He confirmed that I had sprained and ordered my mom to put ice on it and keep it elevated.

     I sat in the living room watching cartoons on the Disney channel, my foot elevated, a rubber ice pack draped across my ankle, a glass of tea on the side table, and I remembered. I remembered what it was like to truly be free. I remembered what it was like to fly.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

In the Arms of an Angel

     I opened the secret door in the bathroom behind the bookcase. My mom thought I was taking a shower, but I was waiting for my Aunt Keeley, to take me on a journey. She would often pick me up, and she, her daughter Faith, and I would go on a picnic in a wide, clear field full of daisies. It was one of my favorite things to do. We would always have so much fun until her husband would eventually show up and make us get into the trailer of an eighteen wheeler.

     I finally spotted the lights from my aunts car. I jumped up, ready to squeeze through the tiny secret door. She pulled up, and I noticed that my cousin was not in the car. On the seat next to my aunt, lay a small skull. "You can't go with me this time, Deb."

     "Why?" I whined. I didn't want to stay by myself. I didn't want to actually have to get in the tub.

     "I'm going somewhere you can't go, yet. You'll understand one day. I have to go see my baby," she motioned toward the skull. I looked over and saw a small boy sitting beside her where the skull had been.

     I woke up feeling really strange. That wasn't how the dream was supposed to go. I looked over to see my cousin, Faith, still asleep on the pallet my grandmother had set up for us to sleep on. I crept into my aunt's room to check on her. She was snoring lightly, so I snuck upstairs. I was wide awake. I grabbed the book of nursery rhymes off the shelf and began to read.

*     *     *
     My mom answered the phone. The expression that crossed her face was one of anguish. "Come on, Deb." She was crying. I followed her down the hill to my grandmother's house.
     "What's wrong?" I asked. She just shook her head. She could not answer me. We were greeted by a police officer at the door. My mom ushered me past him into the living room. My Granny and Paw-Paw were crying inside. Within a short period of time, we were surrounded by more relatives. I walked among them, soaking up their conversations like a sponge. They ignored me, wrapped up in the grief over the loss of Aunt Keeley. "She was only 28." "She was hit by a drunk driver." "She was dead in seconds." "She hit the steering wheel, and it stopped her heart." "What will happen to Faith?"
     Several of my cousins began to huddle around me. They wanted attention. They wanted entertainment. I just wanted to continue to listen, to absorb, to find out what was going on, but I knew my cousins needed me. I grabbed the book of nursery rhymes and began to read. I had the rhymes memorized, and I could get through the book without having to ask for help from an adult.
     Then my cousin, Andy, brought me Scuffy the Tugboat by Gertrude Crampton. This book was harder to memorize, and I knew that taking it on would mean that I'd have to interrupt someone about a word, so I told Andy that I didn't want to read it. I felt bad, seeing the hurt look on his face. Then I became of aware of a stifled laugh that came through tears and became a snort.
     I turned to see my mom watching me. "Andy, she can't read. She's just memorized the rhymes in that book." I was hurt. I could read; I was learning. I was trying to be a good girl, to keep the rest of the kids out of the way, and I was being mocked for my effort. I grabbed up the books, and my cousins and I went to the stairs to sit and get out of the way.
*     *     *
     I walked into the funeral home with my mom. The large doors opened into a room furnished with a comfortable couch and a couple of soft, deep chairs. I could smell coffee, carnations, roses, and baby's breath. People stood around, welcoming us and offering condolences. We made our way down a hallway and entered a peaceful room full of flowers, people, more comfortable seating, and a strange box. My mom led me to it, and I looked inside to find my aunt still and peaceful. I looked around at everyone crying, and I knew that things would never be the same. I sat down in one of the chairs, taking it all in, beyond emotion, my thoughts going back to my dream.
     I was pulled out of my reverie when Faith walked past me and said to my mom, "Why isn't Debbie crying?"
     I wanted to explain to her how numb I was; how I couldn't quite understand what was happening or why; how I was so overwhelmed with emotion and questions that I felt unable to even move. Instead my mom looked at Faith and said, "Faith, she's only four. She doesn't understand what's going on."

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Christmas Scenes

     My mom held up a large, plastic container of glitter. It was full of large, white flakes. "What do think of this one?"

     "I don't like the big flakes, and the color is boring," I replied.

     Then she picked up a small, glass vial of glitter. It was super-fine iridescent white with glints of lavender and green. "Do you like this one?"

     I could see so many possibilities open up with this glitter. It was so tiny, it could disappear into a crafting project, only allowing you access to its beauty by glinting at you flirtatiously as you turned it in the light. The lavender would appeal to my mom, who's favorite color was purple. The green appealed to me. "I love it. What's it for?"

     "You'll see," my mom announced as she continued to scan the shelves of the craft store. "Look at these miniature teddy bears. Aren't they cute?"

     "They are if you tell me what they're for."

     "Sorry, but it's a surprise." My mom grabbed a few packages of the teddy bears, some miniature boxes wrapped in foil and tied up with a gold string, several large slabs of Styrofoam,  a bag of large colorful beads and some green spray paint. "Let's go to the toy store next."

     "Are you expecting an argument from me?" I took the stuff from her and put it on the counter to help speed things along. "Hurry. I want to look at the new Christmas toys."

     The woman rang us up, and we were on our way. Once at the toy store, I headed for the fashion doll aisle, but I wasn't there long before realizing that my mom was not with me. I checked each aisle until I found her in the boy toy section. She was picking out toy cars and miniature bicycles. "What are those for?"

     "Stop asking, Deb. I'm not going to tell you."

     I threw my hands up in surrender and went back to look at my favorite toys. After a few minutes, my mom appeared and asked if I was ready to go. "Can I have some candy?"

     "One thing."

     I walked over to the register area to look at the choices. It was always a hard decision when faced with such limitation. Should I get the molded candy shaped like bones that came in a little plastic coffin, the tube of gel that turned into bubble gum or the candy necklace? I went for the candy necklace, and we made our purchases before leaving the mall.

     When we got home, my mom went out to what had once been my playhouse, but now served more for storage. She came back with a large basket of pinecones she had gathered from our yard. We had a long-needle pine tree, and it gave us pinecones three times larger than regular pine trees. "Go inside and set up with hot glue gun," my mom instructed.

     I went inside and got the glue gun out of its storage, plugged it in and set it on top of a piece of cardboard on the table to catch any stray drips. Then I headed back outside to find my mom spray painting the pinecones. I desperately wanted to ask her yet again what she was up to, but I knew it was useless, so I started taking her the unpainted pinecones and putting the painted ones on some newspaper she had set out.

     We let the pinecones dry before bringing them inside, and then my mom handed me some school glue and the new vial of glitter. "Make it look like snow."

     I felt my heart leap in my chest. I was in charge of the glitter. It spoke to my soul. I started dapped on glue and carefully sprinkling the glitter on and tapping off the excess into a bowl to be reused. After finishing the glitter, my mom handed me the bag of beads. "Decorate the tree."

     The craft project began to come together in my head at last. Using the hot glue gun, I decorated the tree with beautiful glass ornaments in various colors. These were not designer trees done a specific style or color but down home trees decorated by a child. As I would finish a tree, my mom would take it from me and glue it onto the Styrofoam base. Then she would glue down the toys.

     That year for Christmas, we gave friends and family a beautiful Christmas scene fit for any miniature child who would love to wake up to a toy car, a teddy bear, a brand new bicycle, and presets loving wrapped under a snow-glittered tree.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Haircut

     "I'm starting to get shaggy," my dad announced.

     My ears perked up. "Are you going to get your hair cut in Banks?" I asked. I was more than just a little curious. Haircut days were special, and I loved to be a part of them.

     "Nah. I was thinking of getting your momma to do it." My dad had the mischievous look he got when he was messing with me. I pouted for effect. "Oh, alright. I think I'll go to Banks, but you can't go with me this time." I pouted more severely, letting my chin quiver and my eyes go big. "Oh, dammit. You can go."

     I jumped around and danced. Haircuts meant listening to guy gossip, the clean smell of shaving cream, the sound of clippers and a straight razor sharpened on leather, and candy. Lots of candy. I changed out of my play clothes and hopped in my dad's truck.

     The barber shop in Banks was a little room built about five feet from the barber's house. It was a small operation: one barber, one chair, a small waiting area with three seats and a large mirror. I liked to turn around in my seat and watch the action while looking at myself in the mirror. I never had to take anything to entertain myself with because the experience was always enough.

     I liked the barber shop better than the hair salon. It was quieter without all the hairdryers going at once. It smelled cleaner, too. Hair salons always smelled like hair dye and perms. The shop smelled like blue fluid in glass jars, shaving cream, and aftershave. I also liked the barber better.

     He was an older gentleman with gray hair. He always looked and smelled really clean, and I liked that because it reminded me of my Paw-Paw. He liked to talk and laugh, and I liked to listen to him. He would get my dad in his chair, put a collar and a cape on him, foot pump the chair up into position, and he was off.

     "How have things been?"

     "Pretty good. I went out fishing yesterday out at Lake Eufaula. I caught eleven bass, six crappie, and nine catfish. It wasn't too bad. How about you?"

    "You know, the usual. I did hear a funny song the other day. Have you heard of Ray Stevens?"

    "I have. I think he's funny," I interjected.

     "You don't know who Ray Stevens is," my dad teased me.

     "I do, too. Kay-Kay let me listen to him. He sings 'Mississippi Squirrel Revival' and 'It's Me Again, Margaret.' He's really funny."

     "He is," the barber agreed. "Have you heard his new one: 'The Haircut Song'?"

     Neither my dad nor I had heard it.

     "I really like that one. You see, ole Ray is going around the country, playing his songs, and he ends up having to get his hair cut before he can get back home. The first place he stops is a macho barber shop. This big ape comes out wearing a T-shirt saying 'I hate musicians,' so ole Ray, being a musician lies and tells this guy he's a logger. Guy cuts his hair, and shaves him bald.

     "Then ole Ray ends up in a punk rock barber shop. This guy has orange hair and tells him he's gay. Well that make old Ray nervous, so he tells this guy he's a logger, too. Guy gives him a purple Mohawk.

    "Just when you think it can't get worse, ole Ray ends up down South. He steps into a barber shop that's also a church, and the barber is part Baptist and part Catholic, and all preacher. He's preaching about the sins that surround the music industry, so ole Ray tells him that he runs a church for loggers. I thing his haircut turned out better. He didn't say it was bad, and it was done in the South by a Southern barber, so other than the preaching, it was probably the best haircut he'd had since leaving home."

     "I bet that's right," my dad chimed in.

     The barber put heated towels on my dad's face. It was time for my favorite part. He applied lather with a  bristle brush and reclined the seat. Then he got out the straight razor and began sharpening it on the leather belt hanging off the chair. Shick, shick, shick. He deftly shaved my dad, then applied a splash of aftershave, removed the cape and collar, and brushed bits of hair away with what I liked to think of as a tiny broom. "All done."

     My dad paid the barber, then offered to let him cut my hair in the same style. "No!" I screamed and ran out the door to jump in the truck. My dad got into the driver's seat laughing, "You sure you don't want your hair cut?" I stuck out my tongue.

     We drove up the road to the Bank's Buy-Rite, and I launched myself out of the truck, anticipating the junk food feast that awaited me. I grabbed peanut butter cheese crackers, chocolate mint patties, chocolate peanut butter cups, flavored granulated sugar sticks, caramels, orange fluff in the vague shape of peanuts, tart candies in round tubes, candy-coated tart candies in silvery round tubes, smaller tart candies in cellophane tubes, candy sticks with granulated sugar powder in three addictive flavor pouches, chocolate milk and a grape soda.

     "I don't think you got enough there," my dad snarked.

     "You're right." I placed my haul on the counter and headed back to the candy aisle. I added cinnamon hot candies, pieces of peanut butter in a hard candy shell, some small, colorful jaw breakers, a pouch of shredded grape bubble gum meant to look like chewing tobacco, and small chocolate candies coated in a shell not meant to melt in your hands but instead in your mouth. My dad placed a cherry soda, pack of crackers, box of caramel coated popcorn, chocolate mint patty, and chocolate-covered peanut candies coated in a colorful shell on the counter with my treasures.

     On our way home, we ate crackers, drank our sodas and listened to country music.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Way You'll Remember Me When I Go

     I'd seen the name in my Ladyslipper music catalog. Ani (pronounced Ah-nee) DiFranco. That was all it was to me at the time, a name attached to some music. I was more interesting in Bikini Kill and L7. I'd heard their music and heard of them.

*     *     *
     This was going to be my first official college art class: Drawing 1. I went in and sat down next to a handsome man and struck up a conversation about art. He told me his name was Peter. He had long, brown hair and green eyes. He was small in build, but had a very angular, masculine face. And he was taking art to help him become a better entomologist.
    Over the course of a couple of weeks, we talked about everything, and I began to have feelings for him. I invited him to my first poetry reading at Yesterdaze Cafe, and he accepted. I read my poems of love and hate. I read my poems of beauty and feminism. I read my poems of hurt and joy. I had a rapt audience. It was the fullest I'd ever seen the little coffee house on the square. Afterwards I had a crowd of people come up to congratulate and tip me. I noticed Peter sneaking out. I knew he was shy and hoped that was the reason, but I feared he had not liked my poetry.
     I spent most of the weekend at Yesterdaze, sitting at the counter and getting my coffees and teas paid for by some of the guys that hung out there on a regular basis. I didn't want to think about Peter, but I couldn't help myself.
     On Monday, I got to class early and took my seat near Peter's. He was always early to class. He smiled at me and handed me a cassette tape. "Here, I think you'll like this. Your poetry reminded me of Ani DiFranco's music." He had recorded one of Ani's albums onto a cassette for me. The title of the album read Puddle Dive.
     I had a CD player in my truck, so I had to wait until I got home to listen. Once in the privacy of my room, I popped the tape into the player and an amazing sound greeted my ears. It sounded as if someone was attacking an accustic guitar as "Names and Dates and Times" started to play.
"I know so many white people/ I mean, where do I start/ The trouble with white people/ Is you can't tell them apart./ I'm so bad with names and dates and times/ But I'm big on faces/ That is, except for mine."
     I was hooked, but I didn't really feel that it sounded like the stuff that I wrote. Then the next song came on, and it sounded as if someone was making love to the guitar. Then Ani's soulful voice spoke out of loneliness and touched the emptiness within me as she sang "Anyday."
"I will lean into you/ And you can be the wind/ I will open my mouth/ And you can come rushing in/ You can rush in so hard/ Make it so I can't breathe/ I breathe too much anyway/ I can do that anyday."
     I had heard Roberta Flack's song "Killing Me Softly With His Songs" before, but this was the first time I'd experienced it. I could feel my eyes welling up with tears. More songs followed. "4th of July" spoke to me about how it feels to be a strange stranger in a new place and having only one person accept you for who you are. "Willing to Fight" was everything that I felt as a feminist. "Blood in the Boardroom" shocked me with how boldly it talked about getting one's period.

     Then the assault on the guitar started up again, and the most powerful song I'd ever heard exploded from my speakers as Ani started singing "Born a Lion."
"Oh I'm not hurting anyone/ Oh I'm just/ Telling my own truth/ If there/ If there is something wrong/ Then maybe/ Maybe there's something wrong with you."
     I finished listening to the album. Then I listened to it again. Then again. The music seemed to soak into my bones. I wanted to keep it, but I wasn't sure if it was a copy that Peter had made for me, or if it was his, so I took it back to class the next day. "Did you like it?" Peter asked.

     "I loved it!'

     "Cool. I brought you another album to listen to." He handed me another home-made duplicate. This one was labeled simply Ani DiFranco. "It's earlier stuff, her first album, but I think you'll like it. It's different from Puddle Dive, just Ani and her guitar."

     I couldn't wait to get home and listen to this new gem. Ani didn't strum the guitar. She picked it. I wanted to learn how to play the guitar like that. I wanted to pick out the notes until my fingers cramped. "Both Hands" started up with a staccato rhythm, and I listened to the story of how hard she tried. I knew in that moment that it would become one of my all-time favorite songs. The album was filled with relationship problems, politics, equality, and feminism. Then "Out of Habit" started up, and it was shocking and thrilling, and then it got to a verse that I adopted into my life as an artist, one I would pull out any time anyone would ask me why I wanted to be an artist or how I defined art:
"You know art is why I get up in the morning/ But my definition ends there/ You know it doesn't seem fair/ That I am living for something/ I can't even define/ And there you are in the meantime/ You know, I don't want to play for you anymore/ Show me what you can do/ Tell me what are you here for."
    I returned the cassette, and Peter let me borrow another duplicate, this time an album titled Not a Pretty Girl. "This is the most recent one. You should really love it." We hung out after class. While I had really liked Ani's first album, it had not set me ablaze the way Puddle Dive had, and I wasn't in as big a rush to listen to this new offering.

     I got home and slipped the cassette into my stereo system. The songs were good, catchy, the Ani I was growing to know and love. Then the title song started up, and I felt my heart in my throat once more:
"I am not a pretty girl/ That is not what I do/ I ain't no damsel in distress/ And I don't need to be rescued/ So put me down, punk/ Wouldn't you prefer a maiden fair/ Isn't there a kitten/ Stuck up a tree somewhere?"
     "32 Flavors" punched me in the gut with the line "God help you if you were an ugly girl/ Course too pretty was also your doom/ Cause everyone harbors a secret hatred/ For the prettiest girl in the room." And "Asking Too Much" described the very guy I was looking for "I want someone who's not afraid of me/ Or anyone else/ In fact, I want someone who's not afraid of themselves."

     I had to get one of her albums, maybe all of her albums. The next day before classes, I stopped by my favorite music store ABCD's to see if they had any. They had never heard of her but promised to look into it for me. Then I went to my second favorite music store. It was a chain store, so I didn't have too much hope that they would carry such a rare find. I was wrong. There she was in the Folk section, but it was not the album Peter had given to me declaring it to be her most recent, but a new offering called Dilate.

     I popped it into my truck's CD player as soon as I got in. I listened on my way to class. I listened between classes. By the time I got to my drawing class, I'd listened to every song and had my favorites. "Dilate" was part attack and part love. Ani would start each verse as if she was angry at the very thought of someone, then you'd realize she was having these thoughts in the middle of the night in a dark, strange hotel room: the life of a singer. "Done Wrong" reminded me way too much of what had happened with Ray back in high school.
"How could you do nothing/ And say, I'm doing my best?/...And now I'm tired/ And I am broke/ And I feel stupid/ And I feel used."
     The album ended with a rather meloncholy tune called "Joyful Girl."  The lyrics, on the other hand were a little more upbeat.
"I do it for the joy it brings/ Because I am a joyful girl/ The world owes me nothing/ We owe each other the world."
     I handed Peter his tape. "Did you like it?" I told him I did. "Do you want to borrow another one? I don't have too many more. I've got the one she did with Utah Phillips, but it's him talking, and her music. You may not like it as much."

     I was giddy with the excitement of my news. I was about to return the favor Peter had bestowed on me by letting him know that there was more Ani out there than he knew existed. "I sincerely thank you for introducing me to Ani. I love her work and feel flattered that my poetry reminds you of her stuff. I actually went and bought one of her albums." I was practically vibrating, waiting for the straight line he would undoubtedly deliver, so I could reveal my big news.

    "Cool. Which album did you get?"


     "I've never heard of that."

    "That's because it's new. It was released this year."

     Peter's eyes narrowed as he looked at me like he was seeing me for the first time. "You're a liar. She hasn't put out an album since Not a Pretty Girl. If you didn't want to listen to her, you could have just said so. You didn't have to pretend."

     He turned and walked away as I stood there trying to piece together what had just happened.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Doodle of Dragons

     My freshman year of high school was filled with boy-watching. I watched Casey in first period geometry. He was a tall, athletic senior with bright blue eyes. I watched Bob in second period biology. He was a skinny, tanned Arizona boy who'd moved to Alabama recently. He and I even dated briefly. I watched him again in third period P.E. He was small, uncoordinated, and cute. I watched Allen in my fourth period choral class. He wasn't the cutest or the most talented, but we had a duet together. I had no opportunity to watch boys in fifth period typing. Very few boys took that class. I watched the Arizona boy again in sixth period English. Since he sat right next to me, I got a good view, and I got to know him. And I watched Ray in seventh period Alabama history.

    Ray was tall. He had dark hair and blue eyes, a combination that intrigued me. He was left-handed and casually brilliant. I wanted to get to know him better, but I was terrified. I wanted nothing more than to turn around and talk to him, to dazzle him with my delightful personality, to win him over with my big, brown eyes and my funny charm.

     But the thought of turning around made my palms sweat, my mouth dry out, my heart race, and I would sit there. Then one day, I wrote a short note.
     I don't know if you know who I am. My name is Debra. I was just wondering if you would like to talk to me or write me back. If you know who I am, do you think I'm weird? It's sort of the popular opinion.
     If you want to talk to me, please stay after class or you can write me a note back.

     I took a deep breath and dropped the note over my shoulder onto the desk behind me. My hands shook, and I felt the need to run far and fast. Then nothing happened. The class dragged on in usaul style. My nerves began to calm down as despair set in. After thirty minutes, I just knew he wasn' going to write me back.

     The bell rang, and I stayed in my seat, hoping that he would do the same, that he was just waiting to talk to me. Then I felt him getting up. I heard the sound of him collecting his books. My heart took a running leap as I waited to see what would happen. Then he walked past me.

     My heart plummeted. I couldn't take the highs and lows anymore. I started getting my own books together. I was bent over, pulling my purse out from under my chair, when I noticed a shadow cross my desk. I looked up to find a note.

     I would love to correspond with you, if that is what you wish. I do not know if you are weird because I do not know you. I do not trust the opinions of others, so I will judge for myself if you are unusual or "unsane."
     I tucked the note into my purse and floated to my locker. My best friend was waiting for me. "Guess what?"

     "You finally talked to him."

     "No, I gave him a note and he wrote me back." I showed Cheyanne the note.

*     *     *
    The next day, I was standing in front of the English building at break, talking to Cheyanne, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to find Ray standing behind me holding out a piece of paper. He handed the note to me with a bow, and in curtsied in response. Then he walked away.
     I unfolded the letter to reveal a drawing of two dragons, tails intetwined, lining the side of the paper. The drawing was like something I'd only ever seen in Celtic knotwork. Each dragon was outlined in pen, one blue with gold details, and one black with red.

     I was sitting in 2nd period, doodling, and I wondered, "Who do I know would enjoy a note outlined with dragons?" Then I answered myself, "I bet that 'weird' girl Deborah would."

     I'm still not convinced of your strangeness. You could say I'm a bit of a skeptic. While your wardrobe is a bit unusual for this area, it reminds me so very much of my home state of Florida, that I cannot count it in your favor. I have seen some very weird things in my life so far. You would not believe the stories I could tell you about military school, so you'll have to be really "out there" for me to consider you stange.

     If you have some stories to tell me, I'm always open to hear anything you have to tell me to convince me otherwise. In fact, you can call me. My number is (334) 555-6733.


     I read the word doodling and looked at the dragons. They didn't look like any doodle I'd ever drawn, and I considered myself an artist. Well, maybe artsy was a better discriptive. I had to put a lot of effort into any art piece that I did just to get it to turn out looking 1/10th as good as what I imagined in my head. I was much better with words, but I loved to paint. It was something my Paw-Paw had taught me, and it made me feel connected to him.

     I looked at the doodle again. Ray's casual doodle of dragons put me to shame, and he had done it in class, so he'd put less than an hour's effort into it. I felt both jealousy and intrigue, and I knew in that moment that I had to get to know him better.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Hobo Ballerina

     I set my rocking chair in the middle of the living room - it would be my boxcar - and I went to my room to change. I loved the red ballerina costume because it had feathers at the collar bone that swept out past my arms. I looked at myself in the mirror. I had two big girl teeth growing, and they looked strange next to my baby teeth, but I liked the way I looked.

     I was deeply tanned from playing outside with my cousins and swimming in the pool. My eyes, skin, and hair was all a light shade of brown, which had prompted one of my mom's co-workers to describe me as monochromatic, which I had to look up in the dictionary. The red costume broke up the brownness, so I was happy, but what really thrilled me were the silver sequins. I loved anything that sparkled.

     I grabbed my baton and a baby blanket from my toy box. It was important to pack wisely for riding the rails. I grabbed my Monchichi for company. The rails could be a lonely place. I grabbed my harmonica because you aren't allowed to be a hobo without one. I needed a snack, just in case, so I washed an apple, and placed it on the blanket along with my Hickory Dickory Dock book with a clock for telling time. I wrapped my items carefully and tied them to my baton and set off.

     The train was already in motion. I hid, so the guards wouldn't see me. They didn't like freeloaders. The train chuffed a slow steady rhythm as it overcame its steel inertia. I watched and waited for the perfect opportunity and the perfect boxcar. And there it was. I jumped on without hesitation. Hesitation could get you killed, or worse, maimed for life. I settled down amongst the cargo and took out my apple. It matched my ballerina costume: red and delicious. I wished for a pocket knife like my dad's. I'd be able to cut the peel off in one whole ribbon like my great-grandmother could, but no one trusted me with anything sharp, so I ate it peel and all.

     As I was finishing up my apple, I noticed a man who could run so fast, he could keep up with the train. He was staring at me with green eyes, one clear and one cloudy. He called out to me, "Whatcha doin' there? Are you a ballerina?"

     I pulled me feet up closer to me and grabbed up my bindle. "Yes."

     "Are you a hobo? That looks like a hobo bag."

     "Why? What are you going to do about it?"

     The man laughed and sped up to outrun the train. It was a close call. I re-arranged my bindle and grabbed my harmonica. I blew in and out making a soulful haw-hummm sound. It echoed the lonesome sound of my roaming soul.

     Haw-hummm. The rocking of the train was making me sleepy. I took out my monchichi and told her about the green-eyed man. The memory put me back into an alert state.

     "Deb!" The sound came from further up the train. "Deb!"  Was someone calling me? I poked my head out of the boxcar door. A woman holding food was looking at me from the passenger cars. "It's time for lunch." She was standing next to the green-eyed man.

     "How did you know I was on this train?"

     She indicated the man. "He told me. Now go wash your hands."