Can We Tolerate Clean Reads?

I’ve been an active member of Goodreads for several years now. I find it helpful for tracking books and finding more books and talking books and meeting book reading book lovers. Recently as I indulged my love of book reviews (both there and on Amazon), I have begun to sense a trend which I hope gets swallowed up in some other better trend. Not a worse trend, oh dear heavens, we don’t need anymore of those! It’s as if these days some sort of Bulk Discount Bin of Worse Trends had been upended over the continental United States!

The scenario is this: a new book comes out, or people rediscover an older book. The author may be heavily involved promoting it. Readers are enjoying discussing it. Then someone asks, quite innocently, “Is the book clean?” The author herself, and several other people who suddenly revert to their Mr. Edward Hyde personas, jump all over the very idea. They make fun of the questioner’s ‘purity’, calling such questions sheer vanity, useless, censorship, outdated, outrageous, not worthy of a response, that entire family deserves horrible Medieval ends, and much, much worse.

What is the word for the overreaction of a system to an otherwise perfectly normal and harmless irritant? An allergy attack? Antihistamine overdrive? Anaphylactic shock? Aren’t we trying to cure that sort of thing?

Because the question, while vague, has its purposes. There are growing numbers of people who acknowledge that much of our mainstream culture is slithering happily into the sewers of the world, and they don’t want to go with it. They may want to shield children. They may have sensitive history that makes them want to avoid sexual assault scenes in their reading. They may want to read about real problem solving and hopeful perspectives rather than gratuitous violence and nihilism. And why not? If a history museum fan wants to read about history, why not? I could even argue, with a bad taste in my mouth, that if a reader of gore and mayhem wants that, they need to be able to make their choice. But I ask this: if the history fan starts talking history, that’s not nearly the issue of a gore fan wanting to talk gore. And believe me, they often do. It works into every conversation. Ever have someone who wouldn’t shut up about the ‘Saw’ movies while at a picnic? Yeah. So why interfere with someone who is looking for ‘clean reads’? What’s this about choice? What did you just say about tolerance? Ok then.

The term ‘clean reads’ is vague, yes. It means various levels of clean to various people. It might mean absolutely no reference to sexual scenes, or it may mean a fade-to-black kind of approach to sex scenes. It may allow for a few of the milder swear words, or it may not. It may want to avoid the everything-is-the-same-so-nothing-really-matters philosophy that infuses so much literature with a kind of pre-soviet psychological grooming that leads to State control of culture and thought. But is it so hard to just ask: “What do you mean by ‘clean’?”

Can we suspend rash judgement anymore? Can we ask for clarification? Can we discuss?

The defensive maneuvers of those who cry- or shriek- censorship reminds me of Shakespeare: “Methinks he doth protest too much”. Censorship? Where were the cries of censorship when the publishers demanded changes? Where were the cries of outdated when the book refers to older literature forms? Why this pretense at moral superiority while trying to skewer the morality of another? Hypocrite much?

Thankfully, when I see these attacks, I am also seeing more and more responses of other bystanders who step forward and defend the simple question. Most simply see clean choices as that- choices. We all must discriminate or we would be required by circumstances to read all books in the world. Really! Just think about it: you have no choice. You can not pick one book over another. You must read them ALL.

Or: you must read the ones we demand you read. You are especially not allowed to read those ones over there.

Both are pretty ridiculous. One has been attempted at various times throughout the history of the world. (Hint: it’s the second one)

Why does this mean anything to me? because I have my own set of standards (LIKE EVERY OTHER READER) and mine happen to lean towards ‘clean’. How I define it can shift as I change as a person, because no one is still reading the books they read in first grade, or college, and only those. We all change. Nevertheless, my tendency towards ‘clean’ has stayed roughly about the same. Why do I choose that? Here’s why:

  1. I’m so tired of the sex scenes. They feel like this: the author is getting off on their own writing, and making me a voyeur; the spread of pornography with its attendant addiction, abuse, and cultural decline means we should be preventing it, not spreading it like verbal plague; and after avearge sex scenes become inadequate for an author, their readers, or their publishers, just how far are we going to go into the mire for that next fleeting jaded arousal? Or is that just a repeat of the addiction argument?
  2. I’m tired of the gore. So much of it feels, well, canned. Like extra juicy spam. You open it, it slops out, and you say, “Oh, cool! Gimme more!” Like movies that have jettisoned story for CGI gimmicks, many books have lost story for the sake of look-at-my-anatomy-research. It falls in a camp very close to just plain look-at-my-anatomy.
  3. The despair and intensity have become comical. Intense story telling that grabs you with the first paragraph and then demands your attention is an insecure kind of verbal assault. Not only does it get far too manipulative, but it’s like the guy who grabs your shirt as you try to end a conversation and he gets so in your face that you feel his spit on your cheek. He’s like “You see?? You know what I mean? Anyone who thinks differently is an idiot!!” And you just want to go have a life with not-this-man in it. Or at least, let-him-keep-some-distance.
  4. I think we’ve lost something when we lose the setting and descriptive abilities of past generations of writers. Plot heavy is more an aesthetic taste, but it often comes entangled in gore and explicit scenes of all types because so many of our generation have grown up with TV…or less than TV…I’m looking at you, video games. What if I find your ability to describe a woman’s anatomy a misplaced description when I have vague ideas of your setting?

Admittedly, that last point is not so much a moral point but it is affected by the others. So while I avoid certain kinds of books, I know everyone else avoid other kinds. I know there are books I think everyone should read, but I’m not going to get their cooperation with social pressure that involves humiliation, threats, and grotesqueries of verbal outrage. That’s not how I operate, anyway.

When people yell “JUST READ THE %^&$ BOOK!!” I wonder if they would also scream at me to “Just eat the cowpie we pried up out of this farmyard tire rut!” Because not all reading is the same, not all books have the same value, and actually, yes, what I read really needs to be as clean as the food that goes into my body. It needs to be good and clean, as wholesome as possible, and something my mind can use to build good thinking skills, healthy mind sets, and a hopefully long life of happiness and appreciation of beauty.

That doesn’t mean we never use our writing skills to address dark issues within our human experience, no, of course not. We can write about anything and still retain our humanity. Otherwise we risk descending to the level of predators or pushers who demand government support for their attempts to groom others into their hideous world. No thanks.

Not all books are the same. I repeat that. We’re not talking binary data streams here, we are talking the thoughts that influence actions which shape the character that builds or destroys civilizations. Yeah, many of those thoughts come from books. Read a book and just try not to think about it. I dare ya!

Released Again

I looked back and saw that it’s only been a little over a year since my last blog post. It’s probably the wildest excuse in the world, but like last time, things have been a blur and I can only surmise that the aliens have taken me yet again. I seem to have lost some weight, so yeah.

Image result for free clip art aliens

The fact is, I’ve been caught up in other parts of life. The parts that are just for me, like this blog, or sleep, or a chocolate bar, tend to get shuffled aside. It’s often necessary, and other times it’s often just wrong. Most of the time there is something I could have done to prevent it. In other matters, well, sometimes you just have to swallow yourself and take care of the needs around you. It’s the right thing to do.

So, wow, to catch up: among the many dramas of the last wearying year I have picked up work writing as a ghost. I can’t help it, I’ve always wanted to say that. “I’m a ghost!” Which means two things: 1- I am making money, and 2- I am less able to do other writing. Fortunately, I have found a little bit of balance and am now trying to do both.

That balance is difficult. It’s not so much that I am standing in the center of a see saw keeping it from swaying down on either side. It’s more like I am juggling and all the balls are actually staying in the air at the moment, while the ones in my hands are still going upwards rather than downwards. There’s a sense of motion, and perhaps a fear that things may change at any minute. Also the determination to recognize the good in what I do rather than focus like an electron microscope on the fact that one ball has a slight deformity to it or that the arc those balls follow does not represent a truly wonderous and beauteous circle.

Image result for free clip woman juggling

So much has changed in the world in one year. President Trump is turning things upside down yet again because hey, that’s apparently what presidents do. I take some comfort in the possible fact that some of what he does seems to support me rather than tear me down, and the sense of relief is a very strange and long lost sensation to experience.

The culturally intolerant are turning their flying monkeys loose as well, demanding acceptance and coerced celebration of their choices while trying to grind all other choices into the muck they have left behind after their shout-a-thons.

I became a caregiver to my elderly mother-in-law for a few months while she recovered from an accident. Still absorbing those lessons, though I can say this much: it was a blessing. Maybe it was a blessing I resented sometimes, and maybe I’m still recovering from such a blessing. But something ran deep through the experience for all of us in the family. Many times I found myself reflecting on the Children of Israel in the Old Testament, and learning more and more just how deeply and amazingly human they really were. They probably didn’t know whether to laugh or cry sometimes, just like me.

Finally, I look forward to my blog, a place where I can talk to myself and if people want to drop by and say something constructive, then hey, welcome and come again! I love having a good gab.

https://img.clipartfest.com/1fa15fcf5e73b892b909dc90189ec9b8_pin-classroom-clipart-woman-on-clipart-drinking-tea_550-492.jpeg

Sources of image: http://www.classroomclipart.com

The Back Yard

I hope my tendency to make pictures with words translates well to an internet where pictures kind of make up the large part of pictures. This is the way I work. I like to add clip art or something along that line sometimes. Other times, I just have to ramble a bit before plunging in. This piece will be familiar to close friends. It is the result of a writing assignment to describe my back yard, which, as I like to say, I utterly failed at. But the title stuck. I hope the images do too. They will be unique to each reader, which is pretty cool when you think about it.

The Back Yard

The back yard spreads all the way from the farmhouse to the Rainbow Cliffs of the High Dragon Seas. The ideal time to see the namesakes of these dangerous waters is after a storm. The churning from the winds tends to rouse them up from the depths. On occasion a dragon will appear, restless and grudging, spraying great salty flumes about himself, stretching his cold wet wings, and ruffling his spiky head with a shake, all the while watching the swirl of unending skies above him. Rarely do any of them venture onto land or beyond the beach. They may slumber in the depths of the ocean, but the sky is their kingdom, the wind their throne, and the sun their god.
A little farther inland, our pasture grass is clipped by a herd of friendly miniature horses. They roam about, sensible of the cliff hedging them on one side, and on the other side the stone wall winding along a timeworn byway that passes through our farm. At night they burrow into mounds of fresh straw inside the old wooden barn. Each morning one of us will walk out to the gate and usher our fuzzy, snorting herd across the public byway into the pastures on the other side. When it is my turn, I usually pause beneath the drooping wisteria tree to look out over our home. The pastures provide the finest view of sea and skies beyond the land. There is always the background music of whispering trees, singing birds, and what we call mini-whinnies. When I walk back inside, the perfume of the wisteria blossoms clings to my clothing like soft colors you can only just see.
The farmhouse is built from white stone quarried centuries ago, and has a recent wooden addition, perhaps only two or three hundred years old. This time of year it is surrounded by blossoming fairy bushes, and the meadows are colored as much by blue violets and ripening strawberries as they are by grass and sweet clover. The land is magically tended by the grateful fairies in return for our protecting the flowers that are the source of their favorite nectars. Most people find it a nuisance to abide fairies on their property, not that there’s much chance of keeping them out should they extend their preferences. We find them helpful, because no matter how regularly our little herd foals, no matter how much they graze, their home pasture remains thick with flowers and many other sweet nibbles. The fairies and the ponies have come to love one another very much, besides. To tamper with that communion of half wild hearts would only result in grief and trouble, so we do our part to encourage the way things are.
The orchard is faltering a bit these days. There are fewer golden apples and more fallen limbs. The suffering of the trees in the face of wild, pressing sea winds throughout the year has worn on them. But in the orchard is a strange, new tree. We recently learned it was a mimosa tree: an exotic, feathery looking thing apparently made of fern leaves and impossible looking wispy flowers on thin sweeping branches. When the tree appeared, however it appeared, the apple trees seemed to rally themselves around it. All of the orchard seemed to regain a fresh sense of hope as revealed in the renewed surge of blossoms, leaves, and hanging fruit.
The mimosa flourishes right in among the apple trees because the fairies wish it to. It somehow glows in the moonlight, the apples providing strings of tiny reflected lights all around it. At Midsummer’s moon the orchard looks like a garden party in full swing for it attracts the fairies, who crowd together, curtsying and bowing, turning in pairs, strolling through waves of music that carry a wisp of scent or a flash of color or the ripe rich fruits of the imagination with it. Only at the hint of coming dawn will the music fade and the dancing shadows slip away in the rising mists of morning.
Our family has run this farm for centuries. People have sprung up and died away on this land for a long time, and their roots are deeply felt even if they remain unseen. Livestock has grazed and blossoms have opened beyond memory. The sea winds have been carving the stones of both house and wall long before hands ever stacked them in their place; the unsteady blow of sand and salt have smoothed the stones in place, mortaring them with sunshine and the slow fertile thoughts of the land.
There were more fairies and more dragons, long ago. However, no one had yet encountered miniature ponies. They are relatively new to our sighing old world, and their particular magic in all its quiet glory remains to be seen. They breathe a fresh kind of sweetness into the salty air around us. As the animals munch away at grass the fairies spend their time braiding those long manes and sweeping tails. They have their mysterious conversations as the sun follows its familiar path across all sorts of skies: blue and grey and golden and wispy. Even Time in our lands is as much a season here as the harvest or the Autumn storms. It fluctuates in lives and loves, passing from eye to eye and heart to heart. It hovers gently as the blossoms drip and the butterflies dance, as dragons snooze for years on end, and as the wind blows over, around, and through everything that has ever been here, and everything that will ever be.

Story telling

I have been missing in action from my own blog because while I enjoy it, I really must have a certain amount of energy to enjoy it. Life has a way of challenging a person, especially a mom, and between the holidays and the needs of teens (WHY do people think that teens are somehow ‘done’ by the age of 15? Like consumable baked goods??), I have been a very tired blogger. So here is my chance.

One of the things that gets my attention is book reviews. I loved reading them in the newspaper, when we used to get a newspaper. I love them on Goodreads. I love them elsewhere, like that other behemoth that recently bought Goodreads. Recently I’ve observed what I consider a total misunderstanding of the idea that a writer should ‘show, not tell’. We hear this from 5th grade on through adult life. It really is a good method of writing. But sometimes, telling a story has its own merits as just that: a spinning out of a yarn, a flowing monologue of memory, a passing of oral heritage from one person to another. Just telling the story can be a fine and blessed experience.

In the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes” this is exactly what happens. An old woman relates stories from her youth to the woman who visits her. Meanwhile, the second woman goes on with her own life in between visits and what develops is what is called a story within a story. This is one of my favorite ways of story telling. This is seen in a children’s book I recently read: “An Elephant in the Garden” by Michael Morpurgo. It’s very similar in that an elderly woman in a care home tells a boy and his mother her amazing experiences as a teen during the bombing of Dresden in WWII. There are two stories going on, although the story of the ‘here and now’ is not as heavily developed as the story of her memories. I enjoyed the story and my daughter and I enjoy discussing it. Next time it comes up, I’ll have to tell her that some reviewers gave the book bad vibes over this element. Reviewers had no patience, it seems, for the most original form of narrative- that of simply telling a story. I found it rich, compassionate, lively, and timeless. Of course, many people saw this in the same way I did. But I wondered about this demand for rules I thought I was seeing. Sure, we’re supposed to ‘show, not tell’. But we also have to fill the need for the way each story speaks to us. Rules exist for many reasons, and one of those is so that we can break them!

I have started reading Wendell Berry’s novel “Hannah Coulter“. I’ve read several of his non fiction essay books. This is my first try at his fiction. I peeked at some of the reviews online, and there it was again: a bit of a lecture that Berry needs to follow the mantra to ‘show, don’t tell’. What is this? Public school? Have our minds contracted this far?

The book is glorious. It is rich, gentle, and its tells its story. It feels as if I were sitting on an old lady’s porch watching the summer day drift by as she rolled word after word, sentence after sentence, off her tongue. It has been a beginning of what I hope will continue to be a wonderful reading experience.  A book like this shows that you really can tell.

Now back to baking Christmas cookies and trying a no-yeast bread stick recipe. Glorious Christmas wishes and more to all my readers!

Hallowe’en Pet

kitty

This being a week before Hallowe’en I got all silly and conjured a poem. I like long poems that run on, and now I have mastered the art of clip art insertion, so y’all might want to look away.

house 1

Hallowe’en Pet

by Lora Reynolds

“Oh Mother oh Mother

come quick and come see:

I’ve just brought home

a little monster with me!”

cutie

“Sonny, oh Son

What’s got into your head?

This thing, it might eat us,

and kill us ’til dead!”

“No Mom, no way,

he’s just a wee thing

when he clenches his fangs

you can hear his ears sing!”

“Sonny, oh boy,

this just will not work.

The rules say ‘no pets’

and the landlord’s a jerk.”

“But Mom he’s so cute

and so awfully alone.

It’s dark out and rainy-

just one night? At home?”

“Why not a unicorn

like when I was a kid?

Or a useful sad elf

like your grandfather did?”

“Those live in forests

of magic and trees,

not behind thrift stores

in lonely alleys.”

“So that’s where you’ve been!

I’ve been calling all day.

You were in the back streets

where the weirdos all play!”

“They’re not weird, no,

just misunderstood.

They have lots of fun

in their magical ‘hood.”

“Fun is fine

’til someone gets hurt.

Stay away from them now

and wash off that dirt.”

“What about Frankie?

I want him here safe.

I want him to stay,

he’s just a poor waif!”

tear

“For one night tonight

and one night alone.

He’s still not your pet,

but I’ll throw you a bone.”

“Oh thank you dear mother!

I promise this much:

no bloodshed, no fires,

no screaming and such!”

“Now go do your homework,

now go do your chores.

Your dad’ll be home soon

to argue some more.”

“So help me, Mom,

make Dad for to see

how Frankie is very,

very good for me.”

“I suppose it’s ok.

I’ll do what I can.

Afterall, your dear father

once had a wolfman.”

wolf

“Oh Frankie, let’s run

up the stairs and go bide.

‘Til Dad says ‘ok’

you’d better go hide.”

“Frankie, oh Frankie!

Let go of the cat.

Dad says it’s ok now;

you’re home and that’s that!”

The End.

boo

Dragonmother

Since I’m going to be extraordinarily busy this week, I thought I would post a short story of mine from a few years ago. It should last all five of my readers the whole seven days of next week.

Dragonmother

“There’s just no accounting for dragons,” the squire muttered. “If it pleases your lordship to say so.”
His big brown eyes flicked their gaze across the saddles to his master. The aging knight didn’t seem to have heard. The squire cleared his throat and began a little louder, speaking up over the swaying squeak of leather and armor.
“It’s dragons, you know. There’s just no-”
“I heard the first time,” his master interrupted. The graying beard and moustache hid his mouth so it seemed he had not even moved his lips to speak. He certainly had not turned his head, nor shrugged a shoulder, nor raised one hand in the slightest gesture. The squire grudgingly sank down into the company of his own thoughts. Hopefully an inn was nearby. He craved human conversation and he apparently wasn’t getting it here.
The knight reined in his white charger and his servant obediently followed suit. The lower man watched the face of his lord as he raised his old armored bulk up in the stirrups, straining his senses that were more easily strained than in times past. The squire wondered, what was his lordship thinking?
His lordship thought to himself: my knees don’t lock in the stirrup like they used to. He eased back down into his saddle.
“We’re near the lair.” His subdued tone indicated that he wanted quiet. The knight was wise and shrewd, and had gotten them both out of so many scrapes that his servant had the utmost faith in him. Dismounting, they led their horses through the underbrush. It became easier as the vegetation died away to charred stubble. They passed among outcrops of bare boulders. Three riderless horses were picking their way towards the men. The squire caught one by the bridle. He examined the saddlebags which hung in shreds from their sides.
“Nobility lost these steeds, sire.”
“Tie them. We’ll collect them on the way out.”
‘If we’re not fleeing for our own lives’, the squire thought, biting his tongue. The last meeting with a dragon had not gone so well; he knew better than to mention it.
A stench grew as they rode, and the stench was dragon. The two riders found themselves looking up at a cave from their position along a bitter resentful creek of tainted water. Bones were strewn about and several hungry horses stood amongst them, looking guilty by association. They shied a bit- just a bit, before the recognition took over- when the great green scaly body of the dragon pulled itself from out of the cave.
Dragon heads were ridiculously large by proportion and covered with intricate detail. The purplish scales around the golden eyes told this observant knight that here was a female in her prime. That was good to know. He started marching forward as she herded the horses together and spied a human skull she’d overlooked before. Idly popping it into her fang lined maw, she spied the visitor and watched his approach while she crunched up the tidbit.
“Good afternoon, Madam,” the knight said politely. He bowed low to her. “I am Sir Galaird, and I am very pleased to make your acquaintance.”
The dragon eyed him, then the petrified squire, then their horses. She leaned down and sniffed the knight a few times. There was much to tell about a man by his scent: his health, his fear, his deceit. The knight stood very still. He was pure in purpose and strong in constitution. He also carried an ample supply of lemon drops.
The golden eyes lit up on catching their tangy scent. She regarded him with new interest, and he boldly winked at her. The dragon found this amusing and sat back on her haunches. She seemed to be waiting for something. The knight always found this particular gesture most comforting. It meant he would probably walk away from this encounter alive, perhaps even successful.
From a safe distance the squire marveled. By what saint was his brave master able to tame dragons? The servant, being relatively new to his lordship’s service, knew nothing of an aged mother who still made lemon drops for her son, he of the stiff knees and dulling senses. He did not know the story of the knight’s conversion: the evening when he’d been surprised by two young dragons who had thrown him to the ground, devoured his horse, and eventually started ripping their way through his armor.
“I see you have a fine collection of steeds, milady,” the knight was saying. She glanced over them, and smiled a toothy smile.
“Are these your trophies of past contests? Or are they larder for the coming winter?” he asked. She pursed her lips and, ducking her head, listened at the mouth of her rocky home. Satisfied by what she was – or was not- hearing, she spoke in a whisper to the knight. It was a ravenous sounding whisper.
“I do hope for a nibble of them, but the truth is, these are my daughter’s pet collection. She loves horses, you see.”
“Ah, a romantic soul, is she? She must bring you great joy.”
The dragon nodded proudly. She was very obviously pleased with being treated so graciously by a human knight and obvious gentleman.
“I hesitate to bring this up, but there is one observation I feel I should mention.” He shifted his feet on the barren terrain, and she cocked her head in concerned interest.
“It’s just that these horses are looking a little thin. I presume they keep wandering off, as well.”
“You know horses,” she commented.
“Perhaps I might show you how to build a corral. It will keep them in one place. Then there is the matter of food. We could trade some of them for you- in town-“
“Oh, no, she couldn’t part with them. She’s named most of them,” the dragon interrupted.
“Perhaps her least favorite ones, then. For the sake of her favorites.”
The dragon considered and then nodded.
“I will talk with her. Will three do?”
“Three should, milady. It has been an honor.”
“Ooh, another white one!” came a squeaky reptilian voice. A slender head with a hint of purple around the face showed from the cave. The knight turned to regard his charger. It took a few moments’ consideration.
“It’s yours, sweet princess,” he immediately offered, gesturing to the squire. The man removed saddlebags, saddle, blanket, and bedroll. With trembling in his limbs he led the sturdy horse forward.
“This is Sir Galaird,” the dragon mother said. “This is my daughter, Fire Eyes.”
“Sir Galaird…” the younger female breathed as she led the skittish horse aside. The charger had a new name, and the lord had a new client. That made three for him so far, and fair enough business for any aging knight facing retirement. Knights rarely faced that prospect: they were intended to prefer the honor of a horrible death. Galaird had, over time, become a more prudent man whose discretion knew fewer bounds than did his valor.
Fire Eyes reluctantly let them talk her into giving up three horses. On leaving the area of the lair, the squire gathered up the other three strays. Six chargers for one was not bad business. The knight would have his manservant sell some for hay and feed, others for their business commission. After the promised delivery, it would be time to make the rounds of more dragons’ lairs. The knight could tell that he was already making a name for himself among his new clientele. The long hours and extra attention to service were paying off. Not a drop of blood had been lost; only a bag of lemon drops sealed each deal.
As they rode back towards civilization the squire was relieved to the point of tears. The knight reflected upon the evening of his conversion long ago. It’d been the first time he had ever heard dragons speak. Perhaps, he sometimes mused, it had only been the first time he’d recognized their noise as language, inspired as he was by his own desperation. Dragons were usually solitary and made for breathing fire rather than making conversation, or so he had always assumed. The two that had paused above his breathless and flattened form that night had startled every dove-winged assumption out of his soul.
“Wha- what is that?” one had said, snuffling his chest where the pouch of lemon drops lay.
“It…smells good…” the other had said. Planting a clawed foot on the knight’s legs, the second dragon had investigated the bag more thoroughly. Then the two of them binged on their newfound treasure, sucking the lemon flavor out and crunching the hard candies. The knight lay as quietly as possible, observing their behavior as well as the drool that was something like hot melted wax as it dripped onto his supine figure. Afterwards they demanded to know how they could get more candy.
Lemon drops. Loving mothers indulging their children. A knight with a fresh opportunity rather than his previously grim future. He felt God must truly be smiling upon him.
The squire certainly thought so.
The end.

Summer Storm

Drifting in and out of the house one day, I paused to enjoy the green world off my back porch. The Trident maple and mimosa tee we planted have grown tall. Their dark and light greens, respectively, make deeper and shallower shades; they block much of the view into the rest of the yard. A carpet of lawn sweeps uphill between them and past the garden. Swaying behind that is the curtain of woods that serves as the back drop to our outside lives.
It is summertime, thus the opportunity to drift. The humidity is rising and the air presses against my skin, my face, and eventually my lungs. Everything feels like the surface of a pond.
The first clouds of the afternoon whisper white across the darkening sky. I drift inside and the air conditioning slaps like a cold wash cloth across my heat sleepy senses. Before dark I am back outside again. Now the clouds are huge, high, and bunched up like the gods of fluffy white sheep. A rising breeze stiffens and bends branches to its will. All day I have seen light green flashes as leaves flipped upside down, and now the single leaf warnings grow into whole trees waving. The woods bend and murmur.
Still no rain: only its promise, or its threat.
The official sunset is blanketed by cloudy darkness. When night arrives, it is simultaneous with the storm. The two wrangle like rambunctious kids. Will they fit in the space available? Not in my yard! During the day I can measure the sky in a glance; not so with night. Night feels bigger than day because my imagination fills in the visual gaps. The winds sweep through our property with the same energy that rivers pour down to the sea. The congealed air is finally flowing. In the dark it is hard to see anything but much easier to feel. It feels crowded.
Lightning blinks in the distance. When it gets closer it stretches and lingers overhead. Rumbles of thunder growl everywhere at once, rolling from hill to hill. At last, sheets of rain fall in heavy waves that obscure pavement and grass alike. All else wavers under the weight of water. Sound is the thunder of the storm in lightning, waterfall, and wind. Sight is long sheets of blackness with strips of quick brilliant light. Energy pounds the house and the senses. Inside feels safer, but doors shudder from the storm. ‘Safer’ is as good as it’s going to get for tonight. At least the showery hot day is cooling into a chill damp night. The house proves itself once again by holding out through another night.
Heavy and wet, the storm trundles away, crossing from west to east. In the distance it sounds tired and grumpy. The air smells of electricity. It smells of rainwater. In the dark there is no rainbow; only the chirping of awakened frogs.