Pythian Games

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Archive for March 2008

A Squirrel’s World

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My fingers find it hard to plait the daisies into a chain. Reacting to the weather, they are swollen as well as just being pudgy. I remember having no trouble doing this until recently. Someone is watching! Who would be out here? I slowly look up and glance around the circle of trees where I am sitting. No one there. A slight motion at the corner of my eye catches my attention and I peer closer to observe a small brown squirrel peeking out from a hole in the base of the oak tree. He watches intently even as I glimpse his tail moving in the dark. I don’t see any others—just the one. Is this the greedy squirrel who always eats all the birdseed?

He seems to take a deep breath as he says, “If you are going to come, you better put your best clothes on.” A talking squirrel? How can it be? He scampers a bit closer and turns sideways, his bushy tail seeming to beckon me on. “Are you coming? No time to wait.” He moves into the dark opening.

“I won’t be able to fit.” How is it I am talking to a squirrel, much less worrying about fitting into the rotted hole? And if I need to follow there is no time to change clothes. That doesn’t make any sense.

“Come, come. No time.” He disappears into the tree.

My curiosity aroused, I crawl over to the small opening and look inside. Nothing there. I cautiously extend my hand in to see how far back the hole goes. As I do, I notice my hand appears to change, just like putting your hand in water and watching the refraction caused by different densities of air and water. I pull it out and watch my tiny hand with thin fingers revert to a plumper hand with signs of aging. In again, a little further, to see hand and arm shrink to. Would the rest of me shrink, too? Would I be flexible, once again, able to play like a child, to climb trees and run through the woods? Like an adult able to climb onto the house roof to help build a chimney?

Without making any conscious decision, I surprised myself as I stood in the hole, not at all cramped. What had looked to be pebbles on the ground just outside the tree-hole now appeared to be huge boulders out there.

“Are you coming?” punctuated by a exasperated sigh. I squinted into the inner recesses of the hole and discerned the squirrel with upraised tail – now bigger than I was. For the first time I noticed how sharp and long the nails on his front feet were. Gulp! I’m so small – no match for an angry squirrel.

“Come!” he commanded, and started climbing up the inside of the tree. I followed as best I could, grabbing onto protrusions formed by natural and, perhaps unnatural, means. Sap and dirt clung to my hands and feet, dropping onto my clothes. I was glad I hadn’t dressed in my best clothes.

Concentrating, to be sure I didn’t fall, I nearly bumped into him. He stopped at another hole and then stepped out. I followed, with more caution, but also curiosity. My hands, for all the dirt and sap and activity, felt better than ever. I could climb without my back hurting. What happened to my glasses?

I flashed back remembering this: standing on a branch of the apple tree in the “little woods,” pausing to look around and see if I had time to climb higher to avoid detection in “hide and seek,” reveling in the smell of the apples and woods, observing green leaves against the blue sky, hearing the sounds of birds and squirrels scurrying about their business, feeling the tree bark as I held on. Much of my childhood was spent here, delighting in the freedom of climbing trees, running through the woods, and building forts. A welcome contrast to younger childhood years spent in an apartment being told not to make noise and disturb the sick man below.

I stepped out, balancing easily on the branch, following the squirrel who then said, “Watch how I do it.” Before I knew it he threw the top part of himself off the branch as he held on with his hind feet. His front paws grabbed the sunflower seeds in a green bird-feeder hanging from the tree. One paw held onto the feeder tray for stability while the other stuffed sunflower seeds into his mouth. A few quick mouth/nose wriggles and the hulls flew out, falling to the ground.

He ate mouthfuls, then hoisted himself back upright. “OK. You try it while I get seed from the other feeder. He trotted onto a smaller branch as it bent closer to a different feeder as he moved to the end. He took a flying leap onto the top of the feeder, overshooting and falling to the rocky ground. I gasped as he shook himself and then darted into the hole, reappearing at the top and heading out to do it again.

“Don’t watch me. Get your own!” He flew off again, judging the distance correctly this time. I decided squirrels were use to getting their food while hanging upside down as I watched him as he hung upside down and gobbled seed. The annoyed birds chirped their disdain for his gluttony and impatience to eat.

A black-capped chickadee flew at my feeder, startling me, grabbed a seed and flew off like a ribbon waving in the breeze. I always liked to watch them politely take one seed and fly away so other birds could also partake. So unlike squirrels who gobble everything until nothing is left.

I moved over to the feeder, and sat down, with the branch close to the crease of my knees, slid back and let myself down as I did years ago when I would play on the monkey bars at school or in the trees. Will I get nauseous? or fall down? But as I viewed the world upside-down, I felt great. Everything looked so different from this perspective. So much more to wonder about. I took a seed, broke the hull in my teeth, separated out the hull and ate the sunflower nut. Delicious! And now I knew why squirrels seemed to be so greedy. With all the work and energy it took of getting into position to do this, more than one seed needed to be eaten to make it worthwhile. So I ate slowly. My deliberate movements eased the fears of the birds so they started to come around even with me there. A tufted titmouse even landed on my outstretched arm as a perch, finding it easier to reach the seeds. I longed to stroke a bird but didn’t want to upset them.

I was so engrossed with the living, colorful bird collage I jumped when Mr. Squirrel appeared on the branch next to me. He appeared to be upside down when in reality it was me.

“Well, do you understand now? Why we gobble a lot? I’ve heard you asking why as you filled the feeders, thinking we were greedy. You used to chase us away from eating but have relented and allow us to ear from two of the feeders, at least. You even greased the feeder poles but that only kept us away for a short time until the cold solidified whatever grease you used. It takes a lot of work for us to get the seeds.”

I had swung back upright so I was sitting next to him. We watched the other two squirrels and the inordinate number of birds flitting about as they determined pecking order for eating. They ignored me as if I were of no consequence… and at my present size, I wasn’t. Tiny, covered with dirt and sap to which seed hulls were stuck, what could I do? Well, I didn’t want to do anything but enjoy being a part of the picture I always enjoyed watching from my window.

“It’s getting dark. Time to retire to my nest. And you should go back. Who knows what would find you a tasty morsel… an owl? a raccoon or a possum? even a snake?”

“Thank you for inviting me. It’s been so wonderful.” I pirouetted along the branch as I moved closer to the trunk. I allowed myself to tumble down even as Mr. Squirrel ran up and over a few trees to his nest.

“Could I come again? Maybe visit your nest?”

“We’ll see,” resounded faintly.

I danced around at the bottom in the hole, did a few back flips (because I could), then took a deep breath. I inched out of the hole, watching my body revert to the now familiar bigger, heavier, aching body. I found my glasses in the dirt. I picked up my daisy chain and hung it over the doorway, as an offering, a blessing, a hope.

Written by thalia

March 29, 2008 at 7:53 pm

Family Ties

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by a.m. moscoso

Inspired By The Soul Food Cafe Prompt

Exploring Childhood Innocence

Orcella Moss sat at his kitchen table with a small box of bones in front of him. Every once and awhile he’d reach out and jiggle the box around and then he’d look down into the top of it and sometimes he’d start to reach into it and then he’d stop.
Then he moved the box back to the center of the table and he wondered.
He wondered where his 13-year-old daughter could have found a human jawbone and other broken little pieces of bone and how it all ended up in an old fashion hatbox mixed up with the bits and pieces of her day-to-day life.
Orcella could hear her up in her room; a little while ago he had heard her TV go on, then he heard a beep and whine and then a hum as her computer came to life and he wondered how that little monster could do anything as normal as hit on and off switches when she’d been living in the same room with a busted human jaw bone, a mummified finger and little bits of bone in a hatbox she had left on her desk top.

Earlier that morning Orcella had gone up to Kirsten’s room to liberate the batteries from the remote control for the TV in the living room that somehow always found their way upstairs to Kirsten’s room and into her remote control.

That’s when he saw the old box with the faded candy pink stripes sitting on her desk and almost as an after thought looked down into it.
The box was right next to her California Cutie doll and her makeup (cotton candy flavored lipstick and some blush-on) and her hairbrush and a little bottle of perfume she’d mixed herself at Scent By You at the Mall.
And in the middle of all of that junk was the hatbox with the jawbone that was on the table in front of him now. He looked into the box one more time and that’s when he noticed the nail on the finger was manicured and polished and had a tiny rainbow decal near it’s tip.
 “ Kirsten,” he called up to her “ come on down here for a second, would you?”
He heard the sound go down on the TV and she called back, “ What?”
“ I want to talk to you.”
“ Busy.” She called back in her best little girl in the world voice.

Then not only did the TV go back on it went up.
“ Kirsten get down here.”
“ This better be important Dad,” she snapped back from over the racket “ cause I’m…”
“ Missing something from off your desk. So get down here NOW.”
The TV clicked off and the computer hummed and shut down. He could hear Kirsten walking across her bedroom floor. He heard the door open and then close and then the sound of her footsteps at the top of the stairs.

 “ This is very serious Dad.” He heard her walking down the steps “ You need to respect me and my privacy.”
She was standing in the kitchen now. Her mouth was a hard straight line and her chin was tilted up and she looked down her nose at him, “ That box is mine and what’s in it is mine and I want it back.”
“ I want to know where you found this Kirsten, for heaven’s sake Kid, this is a human jaw bone and what are these? “ he held the box up and shook it at her.
“ Finger bones, “ she held her hand up ‘ fingertip bones, I don’t know exactly but they’re mine Daddy and I want them back.”
“ Just answer me, where did you find this stuff?’ she was looking at him with a dull flat expression and he knew very well by the look on her face she hadn’t ‘found’ anything. Not in this condition anyway.

He tried another tact.
“ Kirsten these are human remains and you had them mixed in with your makeup, some CD’s and a half eaten candy bar and a stale bagel. Do you know how abnormal that is?”
It was very clear by the way she was still looking down her nose that she did know and that she also didn’t care.
“ Give me back my things Daddy.” She said in her best schoolmarm voice. “ Or else.”
“ Or what Kirsten? Am I going to end up in a box on your desk with candy bar wrappers and a half eaten bagel?”
“ No, but you know that thing you have hidden in the basement? If you want it back Daddy you’ll hand that box over right now.”
“ You didn’t…”
“ I mean it Daddy, hand the box over right now.”
He practically threw it at her and as she bent over to pick up some of the little bones that had fallen out she said, “ you’re gross Daddy “ she said with disgust “ I can’t believe you brought that into our house and hid it in a trunk with the Christmas ornaments. That’s twisted.”

She was looking into the box and then she looked around on the floor and came back up with the finger with the nail still attached and she dropped it into the box. “ You’re sick Daddy, you need help.”

Orcella watched Kirsten stomp up the stairs, he heard the door slam shut and the music go on full blast. It was loud;  loud enough to shake the pictures on the wall, loud enough to attract attention,  loud enough to maybe force  the neighbors to call the police and complain.

Orcella didn’t go up the stairs, he went back into his kitchen and down the steps to the basement…and then he started to clear the Christmas ornaments out of the trunk.

Written by Anita Marie

March 29, 2008 at 6:22 pm

The God Box

with 7 comments

She closed her eyes, pretending that it wasn’t just sitting there in front of her. It was such a small thing. A tiny, little silver thing, much like any other acorn, except for the colour, it could have fallen from any oak tree at all, fallen at her feet. Her father would be angry if she touched it. This she knew. It was a gift to her mother. This she knew. Her mother had thrown it over her shoulder with a laugh, saying should it grow then the tree would have no rival in the kingdom. Her father had laughed as well, muttering something about the power held within such a tiny thing. The power of the thing seemed to glow, to glower, in front of her, imprinting its image on the inside of her eyelids, burning her soul with its brilliance.

Trilla could not think of why something so mundane, so earthy could hold her attention in this manner. She opened her eyes, admiring the way the sunlight bounced off the smooth edges of the thing. Her lips curled upwards in a smile. The scent of her mother’s lilacs wafted over her, enticing her to other games. Yet, Trilla could not help herself. There was just something about that silver acorn. Something she just had to see, had to know, for herself. With a wicked little smile, Trilla snatched up the silver acorn and ran off towards the hillside with it clutched tightly in her hand.

The acorn itself gave off a tremendous amount of heat, scalding Trilla’s palm, though she refused to release it. Trilla, as she continued over the hill and down the other side, wondered if that intense heat was the reason her mother had so glibly tossed it over her shoulder in the first place. It felt nearly as if there were a hole being burned right through the core of Trilla’s palm. But Trilla was determined. She held on, and pressed forward.

It did not take very long for Trilla to come to the weeping willow tree by the old miller’s pond. The tree’s branches swept over the ground, providing a nice covered space for Trilla to hide in. A timid breeze ruffled the thin branches, causing them to whisper together at Trilla’s arrival. Trill hid beneath the great tree, happy for the respite as she dropped the acorn to the soft ground, taking a seat beside. Trilla held her palm up in front of her eyes, expecting to see cracked reddened flesh. She was surprised to see a small black mark dead center on her palm, but nothing more than that. There was no pain. There was no sensation at all. And after all that burning, this for Trilla was a blessed relief.

Trilla stared expectantly at the acorn, for surely it was an enchanted thing. Why else would her mother have thrown it so and said such things? Her father was well-known for his love of all things magical. Could he have bought this from some traveling gypsy or wandering minstrel? What was it for? What did it do? Trilla was delighted. The thoughts and ideas that raced through her mind dazzled her. Trilla decided to be like Jack of Jack and the beanstalk. She decided that she would plant the acorn, that a great silver oak tree, overflowing with bounty and goodness would grow up overnight. She decided that this was a magnificent thing, that her mother and father would be so proud of her.

Quickly popping out from under the willow tree’s protective screening, Trilla began to scout about for the right place to bury the acorn. There, by the kelpie’s rock, next to the end of the pond, was the perfect place. Trilla quickly ran over to the rock, standing well clear of the water’s edge on the off-chance a kelpie should appear, and began to pry up grass and earth in order to prepare a burial place for the acorn. Once she had a deep enough hole, Trilla retrieved the acorn from beneath the willow. Before dropping the acorn into its new bed, Trilla pressed her lips to its side, blessing it, and herself as well. Then down went the acorn, plop went the dirt over it. And all was done.

Time passed. No tree grew. Trilla came every day with her watering can. Nothing ever sprouted. In time, Trilla gave up her ministrations and moved on to other things, dismissing the acorn as quickly as any child would do, in pursuit of other more potent games and challenges. She never noticed as the black spot on her hand shifted and changed. It moved deeper along her palm, onto her arm, slowly working its way up into her heart, where it lodged, a deep dark stone, a pit, where there then did it begin to grow.

Like skeletal fingers, fibers spread forth from the spot, probing itself into every vital organ and trail of blood. The spot itself became a heart, pumping and throbbing in its delight as response to its new home, its new host. Carefully, the spot, now creature, took form, mimicking its host with perfect exacting care. Delving into the innermost recesses of Trilla’s mind, feasting upon her soul, until little was left of her flesh but a husk. It was not a long process. Merely an hour of play. Trilla’s mother stood at the doorway to the courtyard, calling to Trilla, as supper was ready and again Trilla was late. The beast heard the mother calling, knew time was growing short. It drew in the last bit of sustenance. And then closed its eyes and went to sleep. The husk of its husk lay like a trampled mass upon the ground, but with nary a mark on her skin.

This is how then the sheepherder’s son found her, not minutes later. Trilla’s body lay pristine, if not a bit damp, as if she had fallen. The boy thought perhaps she had hit her head. He ran off to fetch her parents. Mother and father came running. Father so tenderly carried Trilla back to her home, to her silk-enshrouded bed. The doctor was called, but once he was there he could find nothing at all wrong. Trilla’s chest rose and fell, as if with the breath of life. Her skin was warm to the touch, not overly hot, not overly cold. She was no longer damp, not clammy or sweaty. She seemed as if to be asleep. Only sleeping. Perhaps she had bumped her head during her play, although none could find the tell-tale lump or bump or bruise. Her parents thought it best to allow the girl to sleep. The doctor would return in the morning, to see that all was well. The family then retired, returning to their daily activities.

The creature within Trilla stirred as the moon grew fat in the sky. All around in the house, the creatures who lived there were sleeping. Only the mice in the walls, scuttling here and there, did the creature here. At a calm sedate pace, the creature began to unfurl itself. First it secreted a clear liquid that smelt vaguely of tea roses. This liquid dissolved the husk completely. From the gelatinous mass arose a viscous writhing mass of tendrils and cords and vitals that came together with a snap. In the blink of an eye, in the quickly evaporating goo, there stood a beautiful bird, clad in blackly purpled feathers, from his head to his ruffled tail. His black feet scraped at the coverlet as he felt his life reassert itself in his veins, as veins became knit together inside him again. Emerald green eyes burned out of his sockets. With great aplumb, the bird with head crest arisen, flapped his great wings to help them dry enough that he might fly. His great black beak snapped open and shut a great many times, realigning repeatedly until it fit together perfectly. With one great cry, the bird took wing, dropping something as he lifted from the bed. He sailed swiftly from the room, seeking the way out. He dove into and through a marble wall, disappearing into it as if it were nothing at all, leaving behind a pale green vaporous trail along with the odious smell of sulfur.

The next morning, when Trilla’s mother went to check on her, there was no Trilla to be found. Not even a trace of the great bird’s dissolving gel. All that was ever found again was a silver acorn, and nothing more.


written by Raven TK

Written by Tabitha Low

March 29, 2008 at 5:17 pm

What’s In A Name?

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What’s In A Name?

She awoke with a burning sensation in her chest. A deep unabiding pain that would not leave her alone. She had to have water. It was not allowed at this point, she knew, but that didn’t change anything. Salia began to cough, choking on thick discharge in her throat. She spat and coughed and spat some more. The old man did not take pity on her.

This was her third trip to the Hinterlands. This was her final trip to the Hinterlands. Twice before she had failed, and failed badly. Neither time had she taken the results of her Journeys well. The harder she was on herself for her failures, the more she took it out on those who came to her for her help. The more she treated her People badly, the more they treated her badly, until many of the People were avoiding her all together. So she had had to come again, like it or not. Yet with this time, this would be her last attempt; this would be her last chance to make an attempt. If she failed, she would not be permitted to try again. She would be cast out as the Medicine Maker of her People. She would lose all rank. She would be a pariah. She closed her eyes against the tears of shame and fear that rose like crystal bullets, locking them inside herself tightly, baring the shards as they carved their way through her heart.

She had come to the Old Man, begging him for help. He had refused at first, telling her she was too weak, too frail, too unclear, for him to help. She had stayed at the foot of his door for three days, begging, weeping, sobbing, keening, until the Old Man had relented. He had warned her that she would not like his way. That due to her failures in the past, he would have to take measures to ensure that he himself was protected, even as he exposed her to greater and greater risk before the Gods. She had agreed, blindly, pleading with the Old Man to do what he must and what he thought best in order to ensure she could return to her People as Blessed by the Gods as a True Medicine Maker. The Old Man simply harrumphed at her and spat dismally at the ground.

He had allowed her to take one night, to feed both body and spirit. She slept upon a pile of pine branches, her head cradled against her arms, dreaming pleasant dreams of riding the back of the Raven King as He traveled from one Land to the next. She was unprepared for the shock of the icy water being thrown on her back to awaken her before the sun had even begun to rise in the new day’s sky. With a shriek she was on her feet, shuddering in the abrupt cold, peeling her clothing off, trying to move nearer the fire. It took less than a second for her to realize there was no longer a fire. It had been tamped out before her rude awakening. The Old Man glared. ‘Disrobe.’ He ordered her. He tossed an old skin, battered, filled with holes and clots of dust, at her feet. ‘Put this over you.’ He walked away without a glance towards her to see if she obeyed. With great care, she removed her clothes, spreading them out on the ground to dry. She wrapped herself in the skin, finding it smelled of age, of mildew. She stood waiting, afraid, looking in the direction the Old Man had gone.

He came up upon her from behind, frightening her enough to cause her to yip and jump out of his grasp, when he touched her shoulder to alert her to his presence. Again, with a look of disgust, the Old Man shook his head. He gave a long tired sigh. ‘Leave everything.’ He commanded. ‘Follow me.’ Salia gave no thought to her food, her blankets, or anything else she had carried with her. The Old Man had a small pack on his shoulder. Why would she worry? With trepidation still churning in her heart, beating in her stomach, Salia followed the Old man, trusting him to see her through.

They walked many hours that day. The Old Man did not stop to break his fast. He did not offer her food. He did not give her information. There was no talking. He merely walked on at a steady even pace, forcing his way through dense brush as it came up. Salia was expected to do the same. As they walked alongside a stream, Salia stopped for one breath to gather water in her hand for a quick drink, but she did not linger long. She rushed to catch up with the Old Man.

Afternoon had long since burned away into the evening. Dusk was nigh now. Salia paid no heed to the tears as they fled the corners of her eyes, staining her cheeks with white lines as the dust of the day dripped away. They came upon a clearing, at the edge of a cliff, overlooking the Great Canyon of the River Queen. Throughout the clearing were poles. Non-descript poles, standing there with no rhyme, no reason. Salia shook her head. Some were close to the cliff’s edge. Some were further away, closer to the edge of the forest. Some were closer to the wall of rocks on one side. Others were in the centre of the clearing. Off to one side was a small hut. It seemed empty, deserted.

The Old Man strode forward. ‘Choose.” He intoned. Salia cast him a quick look, before turning her attention to the poles. Plain undecorated poles. There were no carvings, no stories, no rings. Salia squared her shoulders and walked to the pole that spoke loudest to her. The Old Man grunted in approval. He had assumed she would simply pick the one closest to her, out of sheer lack of will power. But no, Salia had chosen the pole nearly at the cliff’s edge, one where the other poles were farther away in all directions. The one most bereft, most alone.

Salia stood behind her pole, looking out over the chasm before her, seeing the steep walls of pure white rock reflecting back the pink light of the setting sun, setting the wee river afire as they did so. The heights were dizzying. The view immense, and powerful. Salia shut her inner eyes, allowing the last vestiges of the setting sun to sear themselves upon her vision. The Old Man had come up upon her. He removed her old skin and cast it aside, as if with disdain. He began to chant heavily and lowly in the Ancient Tongue, as he sprinkled her with a pungent dust from his waist pouch. Salia was unsure whether he was blessing her or cursing her, and at this point in her life she wasn’t sure which would be of better use. She offered up her own prayers to her own Gods, beseeching blessings from Them. Then the Old Man set down his shoulder pack, chanting louder, deeper now, still using the Old Tongue, and drew forth a heavy rope, blackened in places from who knew what, coarse and thick. With this rope, the Old Man bound Salia to the pole, facing towards the river’s gorge. She did not struggle; she did not pull away. Although her body betrayed her with its trembles, with her weak knees unable to support her, the Old Man tied her firmly in an upright position. The Old Man tied her securely, without tying her over-tightly. The rope pulled her to the pole and held her firmly in place. After the last knot was secured, the Old Man spat at the base of the pole, thus ending his chanting. He then turned, though she could not see it, and walked away. She could hear his steps as he retreated, but nothing more. She passed within herself and sat there to wait.

So deep was her meditation that she did not hear the Old Man as he piled sticks and branches and pieces of wood dragged in from the forest to create a large pile in the center of the clearing. She did not notice how he piled a circle of stones around his wood piling. The first physical knowledge she received was that of the acrid smell of smoke as he lit the wood, setting fire to the pile, and letting it burn. The flames licked and lapped and devoured; the heat cast warmth against her pole, and against her body. Salia drifted back into herself again, letting go, always letting go. Just had she had the last two times.

It did not take her long to fall into a deep sleep, even in her current position. Dreams came to devour her, from the inside out. This time, again, they did not succeed.

Morning came. The Old Man did not. Salia watched the world unfold from her perch. The fire behind her smoldered still, more quietly and more sedately, but still it gave forth warmth.

Night fell. Salia did not sleep. Her fear was creeping in, on kittens soft paws, into her brain, scratching at her heart.

Another morning. No Old Man. The fire burned lower, but the warmth was still a comfort. Huge black birds began to flutter by with an increasing frequency. They did not stop. They did not pry. But they did not bring comfort.

Night fell again. The cold came then, as the fire grew dim and small, having eaten through the wood and the debris.

A new morning. More birds. This time they came closer. They were not ravens as Salia had hoped. No. They were vultures. Salia had no more tears to cry.

Moon rose. Moon fell. Sun rose. Sun fell.

The fire had turned to dust. Cold, lifeless, dust.

The night came again, freezing her bones.

Sun up. Sun burnt. Salia’s lips were black from burning. Her body cried. The coughing fit began.

There stood the Old Man. Relentless in his distance. Once she was done spitting and coughing, he came closer to her. He offered her a sip of bitter liquid. Not water. Not juice. Something …else. Had Salia been in her right mind she might have recognized the ingredients he fed her. But in her state, she had nothing left anymore. He looked into her eyes, gauging her health, her tenacity, her ability to continue. The Old Man may have found her lacking, but he deemed her fit enough to continue. He had brought with him fresh rope. He did not untie the first rope, now grown loose and unsupportive. He simply looped the second over the first and tightened it, cleaving her anew to the pole. He uttered not one word to her. He simply did his job, then he left, abandoning her to her task yet again.

Neither time before had she been roped to a pole. Neither time before had she gone so long without food, or water, or shelter, or human contact. She felt as if she were losing her mind. She felt lost, untouched, unholy. She felt, unworthy, unclean. She reaffirmed her vow to her Gods that she was here to prove her fitness for her position within the Tribe. Then she screamed, and screamed again, for sheer exhilaration and enjoyment of it.

Thunder crackled from within the cloud cover. A low booming shuddering sound that loosened Salia to her foundations. Lightening shot out, streaking from one cloud to the next. Fingertips like silver bullets prying the heavens open, releasing the torrent of rains. The sky turned black, the sun swallowed whole by the swollen clouds. Salia laughed in the face of the storm, laughed hysterically. Storms terrified her beyond her capacity for normal thought. If she could have run, she’d have been long gone. As it was she stood her ground, rain drops pelting her like stones. Lightning licking at her toes. Thunder slamming her back harder against her pole, her beloved sacred pole.

In the midst of the storm, the animals began to attack. Ones that Salia had thought she was only imagining. Those creatures who brought out the worst of Salia’s dread. Rats crawled up her legs, toes digging roughly into her flesh, to nestle in her hair, ripping out hank after hank to be used to swaddle their own dread naked babies. Snakes coiled around her arms, weaving in between her flesh and the rope, pulling tighter and tighter and tighter until there was no feeling left, until the sensation of the rope disappeared completely. Wild dogs came, ripping and nipping, tearing off small chunks of flesh before running. Wild cats yowled, frightening away the others, before zooming in to scratch and claw and shred. Vultures dove in, swooping to avoid claws, tearing out their fair share of flesh as well. A raven, her beloved raven, fell like a rock from the sky, snatched out her eye, and was gone before she knew what hit her.

The screaming had long ago stopped. The pain was so intense, so brittle, that Salia did more than give in; she moved past. She stood outside her own body, watching as animals large and small came to garner whatever bit and bite they could manage. Until there was nothing remaining but bits of broken bone and slush dripping down the pole, staining the rope. The rain trickled off, soon to be no more. There was nothing left of Salia. She stood there staring at her own ragged remains, and did nothing. Did nothing for the longest time.

Then, she took her step back, and turned to walk away, along the trail. The trail that went alongside the rock, through the rock. She hovered above the water-gored dirt, her feet remaining dry and clean. Her spirit sweetly sang as it moved along, right into the arms of the waiting bear. The Bear. Mother Bear. The Great Bear opened Her mouth wide and swallowed the wandering spirit of Salia whole in one big bite.

The world went dark. Salia became a memory. It was over.

The Old Man saw the young woman grow old before his eyes as he stood there. He knew the time to release her was coming, but he could not do it too soon, lest he break the magic that held her. Yet if he moved to release her too late, the magic would indeed devour her as surely as would any other wild animal. That long brown hair of hers rapidly changed to a silvery white in the span of the blink of his eye. Had he turned his head even for an instant he would have missed the way the colour evaporated from the tips and ran back towards her skull, as if fleeing. The woman did not move, did not twitch, did not moan nor make even the smallest sound. The Old Man saw the Bear Spirit engulf her. He saw Salia disappear inside. Now it was time. She must come to this world, Rebourn.

He walked towards her, his old hips and knees stiff with the cold of the wait. He cut her free from the ropes that bound her, throwing the bits out over the cliff’s edge as an offering to the River Queen so far below them.

He carried the woman, limp as rags, into the hut, where he had built her a soft bed of pine boughs covered over with the softest of deer skins that he possessed. He had set a clean set of robes on the ground before the bed earlier. He laid the woman on the bed, covering her in the skins, and then he left. He left a package of jerky atop her robes, along with a bladder of water leaning against them as well. That was the extent of his job. He walked away, returning to his own home, leaving the woman to recover on her own.

He was not close enough to hear the words that pulled Salia from her trance-like sleep: ‘My name,’ Salia rasped through torn shady lips, ‘is Asaytiadenia.’ Her eyes drifted open, revealing shimmering purple irises. ‘And I am Medico to my People.” The Old Man heard the howl of laughter, and then nothing more.

written by Raven TK

Written by Tabitha Low

March 29, 2008 at 5:17 pm

Identity Poem — Barbara

with 4 comments

I am from family:
from a genealogy traced back to the good ship DeGroot out of Friesland in 1659 and another that begins and ends with no place name but Poland.

I am from sauerbraten and potato pancakes, kapusta and kielbasa; from pride and good blood and a loathing of lies;
I am from Roman Catholic and Protestant;
from Easter lilies and raisin-studded babka;
from decorating eggs–to egg-tapping.

I am from stories:
of how they met in Sears and how much she disliked him;
of what the tree buds looked like the April I was born.

I am from history:
from Roosevelt and Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy;
I am from a war every twenty years or so;
I am from the first steps on the moon, to the Twin Towers and a planet in the midst of global warming.

I am from polio epidemics and “Will she live?”
to survival but legs that no longer ran.
I am from hospitals and therapy and
missing my first grade play,
from tutors and home-schooling,
from summers playing endless skelly games with best friends,
to winters of isolation with the Bobsy Twins and Nancy Drew.

I am from a lack of all grandparents but one, who rarely spoke, but read the newspaper from cover to cover every evening and brought me books from the same library where I worked for nearly twenty years.

I am from miracle stories:
of an uncle who died at seven listening to the angels sing;
of a vision of Christ as life was saved by one more pint of blood;
of faith renewed in a house blazing with celestial light.

I am from stories of WWII:
of bone-chilling foxholes and purple hearts;
of a body invaded by bullets and shrapnel;
of missing the “Battle of the Bulge” by being thrown in the “clink”.
I am from a grandpa buried on Christmas Eve, a grandma dying eight months later, a father deployed the day after the funeral.
I am from hand addressed envelopes to buy formula, from censored letters so blacked-out nothing was visible between My darling wife and Your loving husband.

I am from a cord of three; of hard work shared, of love for nature, laughter, bread-baking, ocean travel and one another.

I am of stories and language, enthusiasm and creativity, of classical music, pastel portraits, of manuscripts unpublished but finished. I am of porches and magnolia trees, of chatting with neighbors over the back fence and phone calls measured by hours, not minutes. I am of depression and coping, of falling down and getting up, of failure and success, of missed opportunities and roads less traveled, of lifelong learning and growing my soul, of meditation and prayer, of fellowship and gratitude.

I am from generations never met, to a circle nearing completion. I am from faith, love, and thanksgiving for a life blessed beyond measure.

Written by porchsitter

March 28, 2008 at 1:36 pm

Posted in Identity Poems

Juicy Life

with 5 comments

old label oranges

Life is like an apricot –

Sweet, tart, complex,

and too soon gone!

Kerry Vincent (2008)

Written by kvwordsmith

March 28, 2008 at 1:05 am

Posted in KerryWordsmith

Tagged with , , , , , ,

The Gobbler Sawtooth

with 4 comments

by Anita Marie Moscoso

inspired by the Soul Food Cafe Alphabet Prompt

P for Procrustes

The “BED OF PROCRUSTES” or “PROCRUSTEAN BED” has become proverbial for arbitrarily – and perhaps ruthlessly – forcing someone or something to fit into an unnatural scheme or pattern.


Penny Ramsey grew up on a story about a body that was buried under the Oak Tree in her front yard. There was nothing remarkable about the tree; it was big and twisted and lost it’s leaves at about the same time every year.

One Spring when Penny was 12 had carved her name and her boyfriend’s name into one of the Gobbler Sawtooth’ s upper branches

Then when she was 16 she fell out of it trying to scrape their names off.

Given that was the most exciting thing that had happened anywhere near the Gobbler Sawtooth in years it was probably best that Penny did all she could to keep the story about the body under the tree alive.


The Body Under The Tree

Kyle Greene was the city of Camargo’s ‘ Landscape Guy’. The way it worked was if you could afford to pay someone other then a high school guy to mow your lawn and rake your leaves you called Kyle Greene and he’d do it.

He’d show up in his Ford pickup truck with the gun rack in the rear window and he’d fire up his lawn mower and zip it around your yard and have the entire job done in half the time of his younger counterparts.

Then if you could talk him into it he’d probably fix those leaky faucets and cracked windows and replace your window screens too.

Kyle wasn’t an overly ambitious worker and on top of the gasoline smell and cut grass smell you could catch a whiff of whatever it was that made Kyle’s eyes turn red.

Most people thought he was a loser.

But what you thought didn’t mean that Kyle didn’t take a certain amount of pride in his work-because he did. He understood the yards and the people who lived in the houses he worked on from time to time better then he understood himself.

So years ago when he was younger and he accidentally ran his mower into Mrs. Bronson’s Gobbler Sawtooth Kyle was more then embarrassed.

He was furious.

No way should he have hit that tree, he was going just the right speed and was sailing around the corner of the house just like always when all of the sudden that tree was right there in the middle of the path instead of next to it.

He killed the mower and jumped off and the next thing he knows Mrs. Bronson- all one million and a half years old of her is charging down the front steps and she’s yelling- not shrieking or sounding old lady like but bellowing – ” Good God Kyle Greene, what the Hell is the matter with you?”

” I’m sorry Mrs. Bronson…look, the tree is fine. It’s not even marked. Go ahead and take a look “

Mrs. Bronson inspected the tree and when she stood back up she told Kyle ” This isn’t just any tree you know. My sister is buried under it. “

Then she checked the tree one more time and went back into her house and Kyle stood there under the tree for a very long time before he got back to work.


It took a few more years but Kyle finally got Mrs. Bronson to talk about her sister whose name was Lacy Grayford.

Lacy smoked and drank and stole and ran away from home at least a half dozen times before she was 13. If something was missing or dead or injured Lacy Grayford was the reason why- it’s not an exaggeration it was the truth.

Then the summer Lacy turned 17, little Amanda Pearce was found floating face down in the duck pond at Veterans Park.

The police went to the Grayford home and after they left both Officers recalled seeing Lacy leaning against the Oak Tree in the side yard talking to her father as they drove off.

They were the last two people to see Lacy Grayford alive.

Mrs. Bronson, who was known as Isabel Grayford in those days, woke up the next morning to find the ground under the Oak Tree- or the Gobbler Sawtooth (as her Mother called it) turned up and her father was sitting on the back steps with the shovel laying to his left.

His head was in his lap and the knife he used to take his own life was at his feet.

Isabel grew up and old in her family’s home and she passed away while walking down the same steps her Father had died on all those years ago.



That’s the house Penny Ramsey grew up in- and she’d sit under the Gobbler Sawtooth and tell stories about Lacy the Psycho and Mrs. Bronson who insisted there was a body buried in her yard. She’d insist- much to the secret delight of most people- at places like Church Functions and Weddings and Baby Showers and Christmas Parties.

Amused yes…who wouldn’t be? Keep in mind though that Mrs. Bronson left this Earth with a worse reputation then her sister Lacy

Penny didn’t see it that way.

Penny Ramsey understood why Mrs. Bronson told those stories when she did.

 If she hadn’t had Lacy and Isabel to talk about Penny would have been an average teenager with average looks who watched too much TV, wore the wrong clothes and listened to the wrong music and she would have never had much to say for herself.

But in the small town of Camargo Penny was the girl who had a body buried in her yard and weird as it was- that made her somebody.


It was just before the 4th of July that Penny decided to look for Lacy Grayford.

She was tired of the stories and she was bored of the same old type of attention. So Penny decided to be more then the girl who had a body buried in her yard. She decided to be the cool chick that found the skeleton of Lacy Grayford in her yard.

Penny stood there for a minute and tried to decide where to start digging. She looked up at the house and from where she was standing she could see the windows and the walkway.

She guessed Mr Grayford probably wanted a little privacy for what he needed to do all those years ago- and in a way so did Penny so she walked around the tree and she started to dig.

And she dug and dug and after awhile she went from feeling sore to feeling stupid.

Penny Ramsey was pretty sure she wasn’t going to find a body, and she was also very sure that when word got around that she had dug a six foot deep hole in her yard to find the bones of a murderer she was going to fill the slot of town Looney so completely that they’d set the Looney Standard by Penny Ramsey.

With a pile of dirt Penny went from being somebody to being something else all together and she gripped her shovel and she started to sweat.

That’s how Amanda Tully from school found Penny in the yard that day.

Penny was sweating and pale and shaking and Amanda couldn’t tell if Penny was crying or laughing but that sound she was making was just wrong- she sounded like a cat with something caught in it’s throat.

” Penny…look at this mess, what are you doing? Are you crazy? “

Penny looked up from her shovel and down into the hole under the Gobbler Sawtooth and she shrugged before she swung at Amanda, ” It looks that way.”


Written by Anita Marie

March 27, 2008 at 11:21 pm