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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tin Foil by Erin Evans

 
Hello! Hello! I've gotten permission from a few of my classmates to post their work up here so you can see the process form their persepctives on writing and hwo they go about it. Erin was one of the first people to get her work in and I thought the topic was interesting. Take a peek and see what you think. Comments are welcome!





Tin Foil
Erin Evans

It wasn’t even really a bad sound. It wasn’t as if it was some kind of screeching noise that made his head and ears hurt. It was just… Tin foil. Being crumpled and folded and smoothed out again. It was easily ignorable… If it hadn’t been so quiet up there. As it was, the sound seemed so much louder than it could possibly be. And it had been going on for nearly an hour now.

Alexander Clark loved Tyler, he really did. The pair of them had been best friends since they were eight, completely inseparable. Of course, you could have said that about any of their group of friends… The six of them had been through so much together over the years, of course they were close. Alex doubted anything could tear them apart… Especially not after last summer, when they’d all developed what could only be called super powers. The whole situation was completely ridiculous, actually, like something out of a book or movie or something. They’d actually started fighting crime… Though they weren’t really any good at it.

As close as the group was, though, Alex and Tyler were closer. They were best friends… Always a duo, almost never seen without the other. And Alex really, honestly, loved him.

But sometimes Alex just wanted to kill him.

It was a perfectly ordinary summer day, a year after their group of friends had first started developing their powers. Their first year of high school was behind them, with three months of blissful freedom before they had to go back. Rebecca has suggested they use the time off to practice with their powers, and all of them had agreed it was a good idea (until Becs had suggested using her dad’s old guns, and Alex had to loudly remind her that the rest of them weren’t bulletproof)… But Toby and his dads were going away for a couple weeks, and Rina had a doctor’s appointment today, and Becs was being forced to babysit, so they had to put it off. Which was how Alex and Tyler had found themselves hanging out in Tyler’s old treehouse.

The treehouse was quiet and private… So Alex had brought along his favorite book, planing to spend the hot afternoon re-reading it in the cool shade. Tyler wouldn’t mind… They did that a lot when there was nothing to do, just sitting together and reading something or another. They’d still be able to talk, after all… But apparently Tyler didn’t feel like reading any of his massive collection of comic books today. Instead he’d decided to… Practice. On a piece of tin foil.

Alright, so it was good that he was practicing, especially with something that wasn’t a rock. Tyler’s manipulation of what they had, so far, only been able to loosely define as “minerals” got much weaker when an object wasn’t natural. The more unnatural and processed it was, the harder it was for him to manipulate it. The foil would be good practice for him… Alex was even glad to see it, for a few minutes.

Then the sound started to seriously drive him nuts.

Alex tried to ignore it. His hands gripped his book tightly and his teeth ground together as he tried valiantly to slip away into the fictional world… But he couldn’t. He couldn’t ignore that incessant metallic rustling. The almost popping noise it made when it was crumpled together. The sound of it tearing a bit as it moved through the air…

“Will you cut that out?” he finally snapped, slamming his book against his knees as he turned to glare at his friend. His friend snapped his head to look back, the wad of foil falling to his lap as he lost concentration.

“Cut what out? I’m not doing anything!”

“That!” Alex said, pointing at the metal ball, “Just… Stop it!”

Tyler looked down, picking up the ball and looking at it for a moment. Then he turned and looked back at Alex like he’d grown an extra head.

This?”

“Yes! Just stop playing with it already!”

“I’m not playing, I’m practicing! We need to practice if were ever going to be heroes!”

Alex groaned, rolling his eyes. Not the hero thing again… Really, part of the reason they’d all decided to fight crime was simply to get Tyler to shut up about it. A person could only handle having Spiderman quoted at them so many times.

“I know, I get it!” he shouted, “We suck. We need to get better or we might get ourselves killed or something. But can’t you practice on something less… Obnoxious?”

“How is tin foil obnoxious?”

“The… The noise!”

Tyler stared at him for a moment before breaking out into a fit of laughter.

“It’s not funny!”

“Yes it is! The noise? Seriously, Alex, it’s not even that bad!”

“It is too, magnet-head!”

Tyler just grinned at the nickname, crossing his arms. Alex used it far too often (and far too affectionately) for it to actually offend him anymore. Not that it ever really had.

“Oh yeah? How?”

“You listen to it for an hour straight and tell me it’s not annoying!”

“I have been,” Tyler said with a snort, clearly amused. Which only annoyed Alex further.

“It’s not the same! You’re making the noise!”

“And you’re reading!”

“I can’t read with that noise!”

Tyler was clearly fighting back another fit of laughter now. Alex tried glaring at him again… But that just made it worse. The other boy just cracked up, almost cackling in glee. Alex crossed his arms, slumping down the wall and trying not to look embarrassed. Alright, so maybe it was a little ridiculous… But that noise was still driving him crazy.

“Sorry, professor,” Tyler said when he was finally able to speak again, grinning at Alex from across the room, “I didn’t know this was supposed to be a library…”

Alex scowled at the hated nickname, immediately turning his glare to an old pillow in the corner. Tyler didn’t even have time to duck.





copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I meant it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Second Verse, Same as the First...Cowboy Accent All The Way

So, here's what I turned in just a few minutes ago for my class. It went over by a half of a page, but he said this was fine. See if you can find the changes and see what - if any - of the changes you like or dislike. I'm interested to hear your opinion.


Thank you all!



Lightning Bug

     Firefly.
    
     Lampyrid.

     Pyrophorus noctiluca.

     I liked that one best - noctiluca. I found it in the encyclopedia Mama brought home from the Piggly Wiggly that some lady paid for with S & H green stamps but never picked up (she only got A - L because that’s all the lady had ordered, but she promised me she‘d get the rest someday.) It said in Latin that’s what they called them, but I’ve always preferred lightning bug. It sounded like castanets when I said it aloud. The colloquialism made me think of luminous glow in their bellies, flickering in the dark. (Colloquialism was the section I found on language, just before the encyclopedia ran out.)

     Our front yard in Pearl, Mississippi, was filled with lightning bugs. When I was little, I thought they were invisible during the day, hidden by the sunlight like fairies, only to be revealed when the sun would disappear behind the hill’s edge. I’m eleven now, so I know better. Now I know they sleep during the day and at night after they wake up, they go to look for dates, much like my Uncle Rudy.

     After the sun dims in our neighborhood and the yellowed living room lights seep out onto the roads, the steps in front of the clapboard houses crowd with mothers. They sit with their long-haired daughters between their legs, untangling their hair with their fingers and the gossip with their tongues.

     Mama sits with the ladies, sometimes messing with one of my sisters’ hair - the both still had long strands that cascaded down their backs. After I stumbled into the bathroom one night and didn’t see that my braid had ended up wet, Mama chopped my hair off rather than, “…let you end up with typhoid.“ I didn’t want to tell her that the encyclopedia said I’d have to ingest the toilet water for me to get sick, mainly because I was getting tired of all that came with long hair. I liked it better chasing the lightning bugs with my cat, Brown Kitty, than listing to stories and having my head pulled raw by combs.

     Once in awhile, a lightning bug will fly into my hand. I get so excited, cupping my hands around it, feeling it flutter lightly against my palms. When the ache of holding one prisoner for too long tugs at me, I open my fingers and let the lightning bug flutter clumsily away.
It’s been two months since I played in our front yard, since we left Pearl, skirting away in the 1959 Ford van Daddy bought from Mr. Humphreys. He told Daddy the shift was on the column, but that it could pull stumps out like no ox ever could.
     We set off for Hot Springs, Arkansas in the near dead of night, exhausted from packing and crying good-byes. It was be the first time we have ever lived more than 10 miles away from Grandpa and Grandma and I’m not quite sure we’ll find our way back in a timely manner. Still, the ride there was simpler than I expected. Summer was easing into its middle, causing my sisters and me to sweat while we slept in the back seats, even with all the windows rolled down.
     I was thrilled when after months of either playing alone or pretending I didn’t know enough to make whole words out of 7 Scrabble tiles when I played with Amy or Lou Ann, Mama announced we’d be starting school two weeks earlier than back home. She said it was because the kids down here got out earlier than we did because of the roofers. They couldn’t work the tar once the devil had gotten in the wind and caused the air to burn when it touched you.
     School was my most favorite thing in the entire world. I could barely sleep nights before a test, not from fear, but from excitement, the sheer pleasure of handling the freshly mimeographed pages, smelling their sweet ink in the air and the dampness of the pages, and then looking down the pages at all the questions lined up in rows.
     When Mrs. Robinson assigned us fifth graders a project of selecting a country and then presenting it, most of my classmates showed up with discarded shoeboxes filled with cutouts from their mothers’ Good Housekeeping magazines. I had selected Italy and spent the prior three weeks shaping a dome to mimic the cathedral foyer, painting the interior with cobalt blue I had bought at the Ben Franklin store. I used gold for the fleur-de-lis I had painted on the ceiling, fresh sprigs of rosemary to imitate the decorative bushes in the foyer, and then I rigged Daddy’s leftover tiny white Christmas lights to look like sconces near the alter. I turned the lights off in the room when I presented my diorama that Friday, and had borrowed my cousin Kyle’s Walkman so I could play Pavarotti singing like he would be in my chapel. The room was quiet and chilled, even after I turned the lights back on. Nobody in the room would talk to me, not even Mrs. Robinson. Kim Crittenden whispered behind her hand to Christy Whittington and I heard the word brownnoser behind her fingers. I wiped my face, just in case.
     It wasn’t the first time the room got quiet after I was done, but I don’t mind. I’m used to sitting by myself at lunch. Sometimes I sit with with June Connell, who nobody – not even the girl with purple fingers that everybody teases and says she has lice – will sit with June. Even that tapered off after awhile and I began to eat my bologna sandwiches alone while I reread the outside of my Partridge Family lunch box.
     Mama took me, Lou Ann, and Amy over to Little Rock to pick out new school dresses. She said, “Hot Springs don’t have nothing that nice girls can wear outside a they front yards. We just have to find the next big town over.” And Little Rock was the biggest - four Sears, two JC Penney’s, and a full 2-story mall just like they had in the movies with its own Swenson’s and Casa Bonita.
     Hours later, we emerged with white crisp bags full of dresses, tights, and slightly-high heeled shoes that tapped like dance shoes while I walked. My favorite dress is the creamy colored one with bright red cherries all over it that Mama found for me hidden in the size 8s. When I turned around to show Mama how I looked, the skirt lifted up and made me look like a ballerina in the mirror. I made sure I carried that bag all around the mall and kept it with me the whole two hour drive home, rather than let it sit in the trunk and get car fumes all over it.
     “This year will be different, girls,” Mama said to the three of us. “Won’t it, Grace?”

     “Yes, Mama,” I replied happily.
     “We’ll get you some friends for sure,” she said more quietly, but she looked in the rear view mirror at me and smiled.
     “Yes, Mama,” I replied hesitantly.



 
     The night before school started, I tossed and turned, excited to wear my new dress and use my new supplies. Fresh pencils have such a fine sharpness that make my signature look even more daring and creative. It irritates me to no end when one breaks, especially during a test when I’m concentrating hard. Every time, I’m forced to walk to the front of the class, being watched as I do, listening to the snickering behind the boys’ hands, a slight push as I go by.
     One time, right after pep club started, Mama spent the night before making my gorgeous regulation gold puffed sleeved shirt. I had worn it that morning in spite of having a test because there was a pep rally after school. I had gotten up to sharpen my pencil and on my way back, I saw Kim Crittenden whispering to Mark Bailey. Before I could figure out what she was saying, Mark’s foot went right out into my path. I came down hard on the floor. Kim rushed to help, she said later, but instead she jabbed my elbow hard. Normally, it wouldn’t have mattered, but Kim knew I was harboring a large scab under the silky golden fabric, a scab she put there just the week before, a scab that easily came loose, causing blood to ooze out and permanently stain the elbows of the shirt. I sat in my seat, in front of Kim and Mark, making sure to wipe my tears only when I could make it look like I was scratching an itch.
I didn’t want Mama to see the stain after all her hard work so I lied and said I didn’t like pep club afterall and I quit.
     My fresh pillow now burned against my cheek, fresh tears collecting on the pillowcase. I fell asleep without dreaming about my new crisp folder or my scented notebook paper.
 




     The next day, Mrs. Hart, my new sixth grade teacher, had our whole class introduce ourselves to each other by coming to the front of the class. As each on came up, the others would make jokes or say their names in funny ways, the way they had for all the years they had known each other. I was the only one in the room who had not been in kindergarten to now with the same children.
     When I stood at the front of the class, they were all silent, listening intently. I saw one girl, called Savannah, lean in to whisper to the boy named Elmer. When she pulled back, I saw her smile at me. As I passed by her desk to reach mine, my whole body tensed and prepared for the fall. Instead, she reached forward with a fresh pencil, offering me one of hers with butterflies on it.
     When lunch came, a small group crowded around me, asking me smiling question after another, so curious about this place so far away, farther than they had ever been. Some looked on with curious gazes; others nodded with seemingly knowing and understanding nods, as if they knew exactly where I was talking about.
     After school, we all clamored together, teasing and tickling as we walked. When we came to our house first, Mama seemed surprised but she recovered quickly and asked would “Miss Savannah” like to join us for dinner. She did indeed and went inside to call her mother, who was only too delighted to have one less person for her maid, Elsie, to cook for.
     After dinner, Savannah and I ran around our new front yard, begin to wear a new path in our new yard. We pulled out my sisters’ cheap Barbies and played fairyland in our bushes.
As the sun dipped below the hang of the trees, the lighting bugs appeared, twinkling under the weeping willow. I put out my cupped hands and captured one between my fingers and Savannah did the same. I peeked inside and watched the lightning bug lighting the inside of my hand, turning it pink. Savannah did the same.
     Suddenly, Savannah took a hold of her lightning bug between her fingers and drug its tail across her shirt, leaving an iridescent trail. She looked at me, smiling, the remnants of her bug in her hand.
     I smiled back weakly, feeling my lightning bug clamoring against the bars of my fingers. I picked him up by his thorax. Looking at Savannah, I dragged his body against my shirt, leaving a trail behind. I quickly dropped the remainder and looked down at my belly, all beautiful and lit now, already fading. I smiled at Savannah and she returned it, all big and loopy and giddy. She grabbed my hand and off when ran into the bushes, into fairyland.




copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I meant it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Process of Writing and Lightning Bugs

I've mentioned already that I'm taking a writing class so that I can get more focused and maybe it'll help me with some of the issues I have with writing. I've also talked about posting my work. And I thought about this.

Rather than post a pristine piece of work (or at least in my most humble of opinions...), I thought I might show you the process of writing, the real dirty, nitty gritty of what writing can look like before it becomes something usable.

Why? Because when I was growing up, I believed that writers never really had to edit, that the gorgeousness that was the finished product was just pouring out of the famous writer's fingers. And then I became a writer.

Mmm-hmmm...

Yea, it doesn't exactly work that way.

So, I thought, what better way to show people than to show them the actual process.


For class, I've had to write a short story of less than 5 pages, topic of my choice, but the pages had to be formatted in a particular way. So, the first version of this without any editing other than spell check (and you'll thank me later for that) is the result, a story I've called, "Lightning Bug". Curiously enough, I wrote the title down, thinking to myself that as a child this was one of my most favorite phrases. I loved lightning bugs themselves, but better still I hated the word "firefly". Flies were gross and stuck to pies in the middle of the summer. Lightning bugs, however, were fun to watch and even more fun to play with, as much as one can play with a bug in heat (yes, I found out sooooo much about why the bugs even do this when I started searching for other names for the critter.

The class will be critiquing the work along with other works in the class. I will post the raw version here. Then I'll edit it and repost it before I turn it in before Sunday (my class deadline). Once I get the critiques back, I'll share them with you (even the ones who completely hate me and take it out on my poor little short story, which invariably happens.) 

So, here is...


 
Lightning Bug

Firefly.
Lampyrid.
Noctiluca.
Pyrophorus noctiluca. That’s what you call it in Latin, the wondrous illuminated firefly with its tiny fat belly full of florescent goodies. Our back yard in Pearl, Mississippi, was filled with them, just after the sun would hang on the edge of the hills, the front cement steps of all the houses would fill with the neighborhood mothers, their long-haired daughters seated between their knees as they fought the tangles in their hair. I would chase the lightning bugs while my sisters sat on the sidewalks, playing with their cheap versions of Barbie and the leftover accessories from Granma’s Avon samples. Invariably, I would catch one and hold it between my two cupped hands, feeling it flutter lightly against my palms. When the ache of having held one captured for too long tugged at me, I opened my fingers and let the lightning bug flutter clumsily away.
It had been two months since we left Pearl, skirting away in the 1959 Ford van my daddy bought from Mr. Humphrey’s down at the Piggly Wiggly. He said the shift was on the column, but that it could pull stumps out like no ox ever could. She was a strong girl, he said wistfully, counting Daddy’s wrinkled $20 bills. We set off for Hot Springs, Arkansas, in the near dead of night, exhausted from packing and crying good-byes. It would be the first time we have ever lived more than 10 miles away from my grandpa and grandma and I wasn’t quite sure we’d find our way back in a timely manner. Still, summer was easy into its middle, causing my sisters and me to sweat while we slept in the back seats, even with all the windows rolled down.
I was thrilled when Mama announced we’d be starting school two weeks earlier than back home. Since said it was ‘cause the kids down here got out earlier than we did because of the roofers. They couldn’t work the tar once the devil had gotten in the wind and caused the air to burn when it touched you.
School was my most favorite thing in the entire world. I could barely sleep the nights before a test, not from fear, but from excitement, the sheer pleasure of handling the freshly mimeographed pages, smelling their sweet ink in the air and the dampness of the pages.
When Mrs. Robinson assigned us fifth graders a project of selecting a country and then presenting it, most of my classmates showed up with discarded shoeboxes filled with cutouts from their mothers’ Good Housekeeping magazines. I had selected Italy and spent the prior three weeks shaping a dome to mimic the cathedral foyer, painting the interior with cobalt blue I had bought at the Ben Franklin store, puffed fleur-de-lis I had painted on the ceiling, fresh sprigs of rosemary to imitate the decorative bushes in the foyer, and then I rigged Daddy’s leftover tiny white Christmas lights to look like sconces near the alter. I turned the lights off in the room when I presented my diorama that Friday, and had borrowed my cousin Kyle’s Walkman so I could play Pavarotti singing like he would be in my chapel. The room was quiet and chilled, even after I turned the lights back on. Nobody in the room would talk to me, not even Mrs. Robinson. Kim Crittenden whispered behind her hand to Christy Musemeci and I heard the word brownnoser behind her fingers. I wiped my face just in case.
It wasn’t the first time the room got quiet after I was done. But I didn’t mind. I had become used to sitting by myself at lunch, sometimes with June Connell, who nobody – not even the girl with purple fingers everybody teased and said she had lice – would sit with June, sometimes June would sit with me. But even that tapered off after awhile and I began to eat my bologna sandwiches alone while I reread the outside of my Partridge Family lunch box.
Mama took me and Liv and Amy, my sisters, over to Little Rock to pick out new school dresses. She said Hot Springs didn’t have nothing that nice girls could wear outside of their front yards so we’d have to find the next big town over, and Little Rock was the biggest - four Sears, two JC Penney’s, and a full 2-story mall just like they had in the movies with its own Swenson’s and Casa Bonita.
Hours later, we emerged with white crisp bags full of dresses and tight and slightly-high heeled shoes that tapped like dance shoes while I walked. My favorite dress was the creamy colored one with bright red cherries all over it. When I turned around to show Mama how I looked, the skirt lifted up and made me look like a ballerina in the mirror. I made sure I carried that bag all around the mall and kept it with me the whole two hour drive home, rather than let it sit in the trunk and risk getting car fumes on it.
“This year will be different, girls,” Mama said to the three of us. “Won’t it, Grace?”
“Yes, Mama,” I replied happily.
“We’ll get you some friends for sure,” she said more quietly, but she looked in the rear view mirror at me and smiled.
“Yes, Mama,” I replied hesitantly.


The night before school started, I tossed and turned, excited to wear my new dress and use my new supplies. I loved the way fresh pencils would have such a fine sharpness that made my signature look even more impressive. It irritated me to no end when one would break, especially during a test when I was concentrating so hard. Every time, I’d be forced to walk to the front of the class, being watched as I did, listening to the snickering behind the boys’ hands, a slight push as I went by.
One time, right after pep club had started and Mama had spent the night before making my gorgeous gold puffed sleeved shirt. I had worn it that morning in spite of the test because there was a pep rally after school. I had gotten up to sharpen my pencil and on my way back, I saw Kim Crittenden whispering to Mark Bailey. Before I could figure out what she was saying, Mark’s foot went right out into my path. I came down hard on the floor. Kim rushed to help, she said later, but instead she jabbed my elbow hard. Normally, it wouldn’t have mattered, but Kim knew I was harboring a large scab under the silky golden fabric, a scab that easily came loose, causing blood to ooze out and permanently stain the elbows of the shirt. I sat in my seat, in front of Kim and Mark, making sure to wipe my tears only when I could make it look like I was scratching an itch.
I didn’t want Mama to see the stain after all her hard work so I lied and said I didn’t like pep club afterall and I quit.
My fresh pillow now burned against my cheek, fresh tears collecting on the pillowcase. I fell asleep without dreaming about my new crisp folder or my scented notebook paper.


The next day, Mrs. Hart, my new sixth grade teacher, had our whole class introduce ourselves to each other by coming to the front of the class. As each on came up, the others would make jokes or say their names in funny ways, the way they had for all the years they had known each other. I was the only one in the room who had not been in kindergarten to now with the same children.
When I stood at the front of the class, they were all silent, listening intently. I saw one girl, called Savannah, lean in to whisper to the boy named Elmer. When she pulled back, I saw her smile at me. As I passed by her desk to reach mine, my whole body tensed and prepared for the fall. Instead, she reached forward with a fresh pencil, offering me one of hers with butterflies on it.
When lunch came, a small group crowded around me, asking me smiling question after another, so curious about this place so far away, father than they had ever been. Some looked on with curious looks; others nodded with seemingly knowing and understanding nods, as if they knew exactly where I was talking about.
After school, we all clamored together, teasing and tickling as we walked. When we came to our house first, Mama seemed surprised but recovered and asked would “Miss Savannah” like to join us for dinner. She did indeed and went inside to call her mother, who was only too delighted to have one less person for her maid, Elsie, to cook for.
After dinner, Savannah and I ran around our new front yard, begin to wear a new path in our new yard. We pulled out my sisters’ cheap Barbies and played fairyland in our bushes.
As the sun dipped below the hang of the trees, the lighting bugs appeared, twinkling under the weeping willow. I put out my cupped hands and captured one between my fingers and Savannah did the same. I peeked inside and watched the lightning bug lighting the inside of my hand, turning it pink. Savannah did the same.
Suddenly, Savannah took a hold of her lightning bug between her fingers and drug its tail across her shirt, leaving an iridescent trail. She looked at me, smiling, the remnants of her bug in her hand.
I smiled back weakly, feeling my lightning bug clamoring against the bars of my fingers. I picked him up by his thorax. Looking at Savannah, I dragged his body against my shirt, leaving a trail behind. I quickly dropped the remainder and looked down at my belly, all beautiful and lit now, already fading. I smile at Savannah and she returned it, all big and loopy and giddy. She grabbed my hand and off when ran into the bushes, into fairyland.

____________________________________________________________________

You're welcome to post your comments and suggestions here, folks. I'll be posting my newer version, likely before the day is through.

Thanks for listening....

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I meant it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Writing class haters...

Classes started yesterday, though mine start today, technically. I'm trying a writing course just to get some direction going for me. Likely, I'll be posting the results of the assignments on here. It should be interesting.

I'm also taking an art class that starts tonight. I fully imagine myself decked out in an artist's smock a la Lucille Ball during her Little Ricky pregnancy. I get a little gung-ho during these things and end up creating 42 projects when only 1 is necessary. For instance, when I took a set and costume design class in New York, we were asked to write a couple of paragraphs and then design one room and two costumes to go along with it. Most of the people showed up with shoeboxes and some cut outs from magazines. I showed up with a 5 handmade costumes with fabric samples, a full 2 pages of backstory, and a cathedral interior dome with puffed gold Fleur de lys with miniature tile and rigged Christmas lights to appear as flickering torches... and cued music...

yeah...

They pretty much hated me... but the instructor loved me. He wanted me to get into the graduate playwriting program even though I was only a sophomore undergrad...

But the others still hated me...

I have to learn how to walk that fine line, the one between doing as much as I possibly can so that the best of what I can produce is on the page or the canvas or on the wall or wherever. The other side is that I have to figure out how to do it in such a way that I don't piss off my classmates so much that they meet after class at the Starbucks and plot my death over a vanilla latte.


Eh... at least it's not the Gaza Strip...


copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I meant it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.

Eh.. At Least It's Not The Gaza Strip

Being sick sucks...

It sucks more when your whole world is reduced to a two foot by 6 foot hospital bed, which is what happened to me about 2 years ago when suddenly I became inexplicably ill. There are quite a few people in our life who have heard this story and others who went through it with us. It was a horrible time for Chris because we had just got married (no, not because of that) and in addition to celebrating our first anniversary in a hospital wing (and letting his brother and my best friend go on our Hawaiian cruise), unbeknownst to me, he was being told that I was dying and they didn't know why.

We lucked out when they sent us (in an ambulance no less) to UCLA in Santa Monica where within days they diagnosed me and started treating me. However, in the meantime, I had lost my ability to walk (which apparently staying as little as 7 days in bed will strip you of this ability, so what the hell's up with "Misery", Stephen King? She breaks his feet, leaves him in a bed for months on end, drugs him, and THEN he's still able to get up and go? [I love Stephen King, honestly. I used to seek out his work after being forced - yes, forced - to read his work in a high school Horror in Fiction class. Yeah, I know...my fault. After being too scared and intrigued to put down "Salem's Lot", I was hooked. I found myself two years later in the horror section in the college library, picking up some guy named Richard Bachman, reading it and wondering, since I had never read any other horror writer's work, if everyone in this genre wrote in this style. {before you SK lovers start writing, yes, I know SK is RB, but I sure as heck didn't know it then. There weren't no Internet back then and my dinosaur was a bit slow on the retrieving my research off the microfiche...children, ask your parents about microfiche...or look it up on it's replacement, Google.}])... I love that I just had to use braces, then brackets, and then a parenthesis to end a thought... ah, the writer in me...


Anyway, these sorts of days can get very depressing and quickly. I think this particular day was one where they had done a lung biopsy AND a bronchoscopy... The lung biopsy is where they give you a sedative just to do the damn thing and then tell you that you're going to taste blood AND that they may not get it since it's only 3mm big and the smallest they've ever managed to capture was 10mm, so be very still or this could be bad... and then bad means that even with the patient nurse (ha, ha) standing in front of you holding you still and the sedatives strong enough to take Floyd Mayweather, Jr. down and let you dress him up like an Oompa-loompa complete with tiny overalls, you don't just taste blood in your mouth, you feel it in your lungs as you - get this - gurgle blood. You've been told not to move or speak, but even under the sedative you're quite convinced that gurgling blood was not an expected outcome of the procedure, otherwise they would have mentioned it. I mean, they bothered to mention that you might poo yourself and that hasn't...wait, spoke too soon.

The bronchoscopy is where they give you a drug where you're awake, but you won't remember anything. They have to do this so that you can tell them when you are feeling pain. I told them beforehand that I was feeling pain constantly so I didn't know if this was such a good idea. And she, the doctor, tells me that this is when I feel new and additional pain, only I don't remember her saying that because I'm already buzzed out.

Chris had to tell me later that's what she said. She also told me, apparently, to do a certain signal when I was feeling "new and additional pain", but it morphed into this strange sort of half Koko the Gorilla move where I beat on my chest with my left fist a couple of times and grunted. My husband thought this was hilarious. I know because, though I could remember nothing else, I could hear him in the room laughing like crazy while I was drugged up and I clung to that memory as they finished up.

The procedure itself is where they put two devices into your mouth and down into your lungs (hence the twilight drugs) - one to numb the way, the other a camera to capture the scenery of your interiors. The beating on my chest, though they tried to correct me because I was causing the camera to jiggle and record as though an earthquake were occurring every 16 seconds, was to signal to the one operator to spray basically a topical that would take the localized pain away while her miniature Range Rover scurried along inside my inner lung caverns. Chris remarked to her that it was like watching video gamers, the way the two of them handled themselves so easily and deftly. She told him it basically was. "Unless you get something unusual - and that's what we're hoping against - it's pretty much all the same. Cute lungs though." - which I guess translates into "pink and no smoking evidence".

So, after these lovely events, I was a bit worn out, mentally, physically, and certainly emotionally. Chris and I were picking at each other most days because I was frustrated and he was frustrated because I was frustrated and there was no one we knew in town. We bickered a little and I cried a lot because I didn't know what would happen and I was frustrated not knowing if this was the way I was going to be forever.

I rolled over and found a small pile of goodies Chris had brought up for me to entertain myself (other than the 4 local stations that were the only forms of TV found in the whole of the hospital. Cable, anyone?). He would get piles of my favorite crack - entertainment and gossip magazines, which of course I never believed a word of but instead treated like my own fairy stories to help me sleep. The top one, though, was the New York Times. On the front page was a woman washing her 6-month old baby in an abandoned bath tub in the middle of the Gaza Strip. I showed him the picture.

We knew the truth. Had that been me, had I been in the Gaza Strip, washing away, trying to survive, I would have been dead and nobody would have known why, and likely they wouldn't have had the time to find out or care. We had the heard the stories about how mothers would die even here in the US, and nobody would have a clue as to why until they did an autopy. We heard how only 15 years earlier they would have only have been able to extend my life by 6 months, and now I could live at least 20 more years.

I was lucky. I am lucky. Very, very, very, very lucky. Though the doctors originally had misdiagnosed me multiple times, one doctor had mistakenly given me a drug that extended my life long enough for them to figure out what was wrong and treat me. I ended up in the hospital where the two top people in the rheumatology field practiced and therefore got back on the road to being better within days.

I'm lucky.

I don't fight lions for my dinner and I don't have to travel miles for clean water. And it sure as heck ain't the Gaza Strip outside my door.

So now, when things are getting bad, Chris and I turned to each other and say...

Eh... at least it's not the Gaza Strip...


copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I meant it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Let the blogging begin...again

I'm back home now, for all intents and purposes, which I can't decide what those will be.

As some of you heard, the 2012 Blog Tour had some hiccups and my blog along with some others were accidentally dropped from the rotation. I know that there were lots of people looking forward to a chance at an Elektra Johnson designer dress (link on the side to her sites), so I'm moving forward with my contest anyway.

The rules are:

  1. You have to be a registered follower of this blog.
  2. You have to refer at least 5 people that become followers of this blog.
  3. You have from now (January 17, 2012) until the end of February (February 29, 2012 midnight) to complete all tasks.
ADDITIONAL RULE:
4. For every 10 people you get to sign up as a follower of Pain_N_The_Cass, you get a credit of 1 referred blog follower. (we all know Twitter followers are easier to get than I was back in college... I was rather popular with the band, remember?)

Referred followers need to write a quick email or message from their accounts letting me know who referred them.

Other rules may have to be implemented if people start playing dirty...cause I completely understand and I so jealous of the guy who got airline miles for pudding cups.

Prizes are 1) an Elektra Johnson designer dress and 2a) a choice of either a short story written by me that uses your name and another person's name you choose (like maybe your arch enemy finally gets his comeuppance in a tale of woe and beatdown!) and details you give me about both parties along with 5% of the proceeds once published OR 2b) a character in my upcoming book can be named after you or a person of your choosing.


ANNNNNNYYYYYwwwwwaaaaayyyyyy......

I'm going to start working on some things to make this site more friendly and inviting, too. If anyone knows how to do some of the little things like adding a picture in and letting the text of the blog flow around it, I'd love to hear about it.




I've got to get moving even faster on my book. Chris (my lovely husband) and I made a series of bets that we haven't decided yet what the prizes) will be. The overall goal is for him to lose about 50lbs before the year's end; mine is to finish the book completely. He has a semi-goal coming up where he has to lose 25lbs. before April 1st for something at his office. So, we're putting that together with my goal and saying I have to have 50% of the work done and ready to go. I realize that's not the halfway mark for the year, but we both know that I've got a huge chunk of this already done, so to be fair, I should have my mark at 50%.

So, here comes the tough part. We have to think of something for the two of us to win if one of us gets the goal before the other or achieves it at all. It's okay if the prize is distinctive to our own likes and dislikes. It should be that way. Whatever drives me isn't always what drives him. like, I could see his 25lbs. mark being something like getting 3 video games or going to see a professional football game... something like that.

For me, it would probably be something like a new Dooney & Bourke purse (curse you, Amy Van Gelder-Brown for starting me on this path of financial destruction and ultimate gorgeousness! [speaking of which, I have your Christmas present and it's small, but it is from Coach. :)] ), or  Disney big fig, or something equally fun and totally unnecessary. I mean, it can't be something I would just do anyway. It's gotta be something that would justify work.

For the big prize, I thought about maybe a Disney cruise if I win... even the little 3 day one to Mexico. I'm sure Chris would want something like a week in Washington State seeing the Redskins play or going somewhere and seeing the Gamecocks play. Although, I think seeing Sevendust play at the 48 Hour festival this summer was something I could have used... That's quite a carrot.


What about you? What would be something that would get you to actually follow through on your New Year's resolution (other than the resolution itself)? Working towards a goal, sometimes you need something to validate or commemorate the accomplishment. What would be yours?


copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I meant it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The 2012 Blog Hop has started! You begin at Bri Clark's blog at www.briclarkthebelleofboise.blogspot.com. and click all the way through. At the end, there will be an entry form for you to fill out to win the Kindle!


When you are finished with this blog, go to Kelley Heckart's blog - http://www.kelleyheckart.com/.

Good luck to everyone and I'm so happy to have you all on board!

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I meant it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

There seems to be some confusion over how to sign up as a follower. Here's the straight-forward direction...

  1. In the upper left-hand corner of this page, click on Follow. A dialog box will appear.
  2. Click on the Follow button.
  3. You're done.
  4. Seriously.
It is a little confusing because you'd think it would be where the other followers are listed, but alas, it's not. :(

Let me know if there are any more issues.





copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I meant it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Dyslexic Writer

This is an article I was asked to write about what it's like to be a writer and be dyslexic. it was written back in 1997 and published in the directory, right in the middle, across the break, so if the directory were dropped, every time it would turn to my article.

Months after it was published, I contacted the organization, asking for a copy of my work. They were so glad to hear from me because apparently they had lost my contact information and they had a ton of people trying to reach me to ask me questions about the article. I hadn't thought it would be that big of a deal, but apparently, it was.

So, here it is, in its original format:




A Dyslexic Writer
Printed in

The Orton Dyslexia Society –

Southern California Consortium –
1997

By Cassandra Robinson (now Cass Van Gelder)

I can remember driving in New York and hearing my brother-in-law’s voice, barking out directions in his gruff manner – left here, right there. I sneak peeks at his hands, gesturing where he means for me to turn, around the next corner, past the store on the left. The last turn, though, he makes no gesture, and I go straight because I am too rattled to make a choice. He makes me pull over and finally says the word and wonders have I ever labeled myself with it. I have not. I cannot think this word means anything I am because I am just tired, I am confused. I am just not trying hard enough. Let me do it again and I’ll get it right.
But somehow, somewhere, later it begins to make sense. Somehow, the word no longer means this distant technical medical hazy picture of them. Suddenly, it is me. And suddenly, everything makes sense. I am dyslexic.
They would have expected worse for me. My parents are too closely related. I should be grateful I came out whole and not with pieces of me left inside my mother’s body. And I am. Mother is, too. I am her wonder child who has survived it all.
I go to school and excel in every class, even math, which they say we girls cannot do. I do. And I’m good. But at English, I am even better. The spelling bee comes and I am one of the last two and my word comes. I smile and begin to spell “slow”, not understanding the titters of laughter when I am quickly done. I have spelled s-o-w, a pig, an ignorant animal which I am convinced I now am. I have been careless, Mother says, as I cry. I should be more careful, she tells me. It is not the last time she will say this to me.
I try to be more careful. I try to slow down. Still, even when I forget and hurry, I still test well. I have learned what they expect on these tests and I give them what they want. I have become very good at that. I change schools because I am considered bright, though still I sometimes am not careful. Mother and my teachers talk about this a lot during conferences. I could do better if I were careful, my teacher says. Mother nods.
Music becomes my savior. I love the sound of voices and instruments, the melding of timbres and the crash of dissonance. I am in love with all of it, and my throat, so close to my brain, feels more controllable than trusting my fingers to find the right keys. I memorize everything I am given. I teach myself to play piano so I can read music. I join every choir ad spend every moment being a part of sound.
I am older now, one semester away from college. I become part of the school band with all my friends who have been there for years. I am given sheet music and read it well at home and by myself, but when I am in class, I lose bars. I forget where I am. I am not careful. I ring my chime on the wrong note. My band director is frustrated with me and thinks I am being funny. It’s not funny. I am trying to be careful. I really am.
At the end of the year, the band plays a symphony piece I have written, and I win a music scholarship and two others to go to college. I am excited for the chance to study my music constantly. But I am nervous. I have not learned the same things as others and have to take extra courses. For a simple fifteen credits, I am taking nine classes. I feel like I am drowning. No one sees me.
My new piano teacher becomes frustrated and tells me I am not trying when I hit five wrong notes in a row. She tells me I should consider another career and my heart feels like the skin is being peeled back.
I begin to fall behind in classes. During sight singing, I read the wrong lines and mix the notes up. I claim I need glasses with a little laugh. My instructor does not laugh. He gives me a ‘D’, my first. It is not my last.
My teachers are convinced I am not trying. Mother is convinced I have become lazy. Even I am not convinced I have made my best effort. I am frustrated and alone and nothing makes sense anymore and I begin to hate music. I leave after two years. I have lost all my scholarships. But I still believe it’s because I have note been careful.
Seven years after hearing the word, I begin writing my stories down. I know this will be extremely difficult and I may need lots of help (which is hard for me to ask for) but I cannot not do it. The stories are important.
I make mistakes constantly. I spell-check every five minutes. I give my tiny pages to friends to read, hoping they will catch whatever I have missed. I make their changes and check again. And again. I edit constantly.
I amass 140 pages and am accepted into a week-long workshop with some of the best writers in the country. Agents will be there and so will editors. I am nervous and I know this means I need to slow down. I will have to slow down. I will have to be more careful, not Mother’s way, but mine. I will have to remember to breathe and be confident.
My reading is one of the last days. I am nervous. I am trying to breathe, but I go too fast at first and have to remind myself to slow down. I am nervous not just because I am reading aloud in front of people I don’t know, but I am reading my work. I am reading what I have written. I feel as if I have cut myself open and they are all staring at my insides.
I am almost in tears when I finish. I am convinced they will not like it. I have made too many mistakes. They have not understood me because I cannot make myself understandable. I have been wrong and I want to leave the room. I want to go home.
The people break up into groups to pick apart my piece, deciding what criticism they will give me, but I am not even listening because I am convinced I am horrible. But then the leader of the first group gets up and she say it is wonderful. She smiles and says she loves my reading and my accent and gives me the biggest compliment of the whole week, she wants to read more. I am thrilled. Each group leader stands, one by one, telling in their way the same, all saying they want more. I am nervous again, but good and warm and loved.
Word travels from this group out into the halls and amongst the ones who missed it. By dinner, I am being hugged and kissy-cheeked. Wonderful, I hear. No one says I should have been more careful. No one doesn’t smile.
A woman talks to me in line for diner. She tells me she has read my stories. She asks me to send her some more and I am happy to. She gives me her card and I find out then she is an agent. She leans and whispers in my ear, You are going to be a brilliant writer. And I smile. Yes, I am.
 
It’s taken me a long while to be honest about my feelings surrounding this disorder and me. And even now I do battle with those demons. It is hard to shake the voices of teachers who called me lazy, and especially the one who ridiculed me in college and told me to get out of music. But the hardest ones are the ones that called me dumb. Those still breathe in my ears at times. And for those voices, I write strong words and hard passages, phrases that are louder and more powerful. And I drown them out.





copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I meant it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.

Elevator...

Here's another one I'm working on...

elevator...

There were hours that passed
watching
the numbers tumbling
falling
connecting

I asked for this
days I waited

the hum of electricity
the cogs and wires working together
spin
drop
inch towards me

I've waited for it to come to me
could have taken the stairs
met on the floor
my floor
but I wait for it to come to me


Everyone stares up



copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I meant it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.

NEW PRIZE for the 2012 Blog Tour!


Hello, hello hello!

I just worked it out and it seems I'll be able to offer the winner of my own contest for the 2012 Blog Tour to have an additional prize of a ONE OF A KIND outfit from fashion designer, Elektra Johnson, owner of No Slow Jams and Clementine's Attic, both based in San Francisco, CA.

We're picking out some fantastic pieces now, but take a look and see what you think.

The rules for my contest are that:
  1. the winner has to be registered themselves as a follower of the www.PainInTheCass.blogspot.com site
  2. the new followers have to
    1. indicate by the end of the 2012 Blog Tour that you recommended the site to them and
    2. have to be registered as followers themselves.
  3. the winner has to have had more than 4 people sign up as referred followers by the end of the 2012 Blog Tour.
Yeah! I'm so excited!







copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I meant it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.

tangled...

Once in a blue moon, I write poetry. In the past, I included it in sculptures or paintings I did. Sometimes, I let it alone and just let it set out there... this is one of those times...


tangled



i used to stand at the top of the stairs
wish to fall
see my body
lying at the bottom
tangled
wish for someone to see
how tangled
i was inside
how beaten
bruised
little
tiny
scarred
but i did not
bruise
i rarely bled
my bones
bent
nothing broken
but me
nothing that showed
how tangled
i was

New information...!

So there's tons more information and ways to get it about the upcoming book, the 2012 Blog Tour and other goodies in these new places:

1) twitter
A) allyson_wndrlnd
B) Pain_N_The_Cass (a young girl with the same first name as I had in grade schol has already snagged PainInTheCass, so I have to do with this conglomeration.)

2) Facebook page - Pain In The Cass

I'm still getting the Facebook page set up, but certainly you'll al have a place to ask questions about the upcoming book tour, the new play, the tv comedy, and other projects in the works. I'll put up photos from all the events as I can and of course everyone is welcome to post their own pictures as we make our rounds.

I'll keep you up to date on all kinds of news and be able to respond to all your comments. I'm really looking forward to meeting so mantook you and gaining another way of connecting with everyone.

As for the 2012 Blog Tour, there is a side prize for the person who can refer the most people to my blog site to sign up as followers. Make sure your referees send me a quick message telling them who their wonderful referer is or leave it in the comments. At the end of the tour, we'll have even more prizes for the winner, including having a major character named for you in the upcoming novel!

Happy holidays and a wonderful start to a fantastic new year!

Cass Van Gelder

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Is it bad for me to say....

...that I love the work my daughter is doing on No Slow Jams? I love the kabuki/geisha-like makeup on some of the models, but I especially love how the majority of the girls don't stare down the camera, like they have something to prove. They are more like us, or at least how we were; subtle, modest, funny, getting used to ourselves...

I think my kid's talented... and I'm glad I'm not alone in thinking that...


Here's to Dorothy and her Oz in iambic pentameter!

The Story That Started It All - NEW POST

I'm a writer.

There's no news there. There will be no ticker tape, speedily printed off in some suited man's hands as he gasps in shock. I am, I am, I am.

To me, it's no big deal, but I've found it's a huge deal to a lot of other people.

When they find out what I am (and yes, it's what I am and not simply what I do. And I like that.) they want to ask all kinds of questions, and one of the first ones is usually about what kind of writing I do. Even the doctor I went to while I was up-chucking the last 15 days worth of lunches, even he cracked a child-like grin when I told him I was a writer and immediately started in with a barrage of questions, mainly about what type of writing I was doing and how had I gotten started and oh how his little boy was wanting to write and would I talk to him.

I never mind those kinds of questions. Never do. Granted, they used to frighten me. It wasn't long ago that I had sudden success, very unexpected success. I was not prepared. They don't do that. They prepared you for failure, particularly as a writer, but never for success. I had no idea what to do and I had no one to talk to, and certainly no one who sympathized with me.

I remember attending a party up in the hills of Berkeley (which included the instructions, "Go past the two pink rocks..." on the directions.). I had been followed about by no less than 9 people who either wanted to give me advice (of which they had no experience to base it on) or they wanted me to give them advice (of which I had even less experience to give them).

I was petrified.

So I disappeared.

Not just from the party but from everything having to do with writing. It was far too overwhelming. I felt guilty. I felt scared. I felt, I felt, I felt. And it was too much. It would be another 7 years before I could go back to it seriously, after I started practicing Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism. (And no, I don't like proselytising. Just consider it my own little Coppertone ad.)

I'm better at it now. I still get a little skittish when I'm face-to-face with people who are aware I'm a writer. I'm not really sure why, but the fact is what the fact is.

Among the questions I'm asked, people want to know why and how. Why write what I do and how did I get started. I can actually answer that about this particular novel. It was started with a question of its own, one from my mother.

She had been an artist who taught classes all around town, including in our own home. Though my sisters participated, I could not, would not, have anything to do with her classes. She had always wanted to know why, and around this time period, during a phone call one Sunday afternoon, set to asking me again. I didn't have a clean answer then, but I did know why.

What follows is the story I wrote that was eventually published in "Burning Car Magazine" to answer that question.

I prewarn you. It's graphic. But, as my mother said after having read it, "It's not true, but in our house, it could have been,"

Here is Mama.




     She scratched out the pre-printed homemaker and wrote in neat school-girl handwriting occupation: artist. 
     She would lean over my school papers, and Daddy’s tax returns, muttering to herself, sometimes rubbing her eraser so hard she bore a hole right through. She felt she had earned the right to the title. She taught classes on weekends at the Fine Arts Center – a wide-load mobile home, transformed after it had been turned over to the city,
     With expansive, theatrical gestures, she would encourage a roomful of smock-covered students to experiment with their brushes and pens – to be brave and explore. To not only attempt what the instrument could do, but what it might do.
     Being seven and too young to be left along, I would be dragged down to the Arts Center every Saturday in the heavy heat. I would watch as the ladies in pastel polyester pants would arrive, one by one, in boat-sized Fords and Lincolns. They would wrestle with the supplies in the passenger seat, pulling and tugging, all the while fighting with their overzealous, pink-bowed toy poodles to stay in the car.
     Most of the women would smile as they went by, first to me then to their reflection in the front door glass. Usually a touch to the teeth to remove some lipstick while the dogs yapped in the background. Mama always opened the door with a friendly, “Hey, how you doing?” letting the sweetness of her heavy Southern accent wrap around them.
     Before the class would start, Mama would come out, slipping a slice of cold air with her. She would sit down beside me on the scorching concrete steps with a lemon tea, half-melted ice floating on top. She rearranged her shorts to keep from burning herself, knocking off loose gravel that collected on her exposed thighs. Time and again, she would sit beside me, brushing my hair back off my face, trying to convince me to come in the air-conditioned coolness of the fake wood rooms. 
     She wanted me to sit still for one of her classes instead of waiting for her outside, feeling the tiny pin-pricks of heat and exhaustion of being along – she wanted me to experiment and be brave like the others.
     But I couldn’t. I always said no.
     She’d shake her head and go back inside, hurt, positive I just did not want to be with her. But it wasn’t true. I loved Mama, but I admit I couldn’t bear to be in the same room with her when she was like that, her swooping arms and graceful movements, so different from the woman I knew. A fist grabbed my insides and squeezed when I would watch her.
     Brave strokes were not what she made in front in front of her face when he thrashed his arms at her. Her wiry arms would instead wrap around her head. She would huddle in a corner while he stood over her, screaming her name, breathing out words I was not allowed to use, waving wildly, throwing his arms at her face, her arms, her body, anywhere he could hurt her. Sometimes with fists. Sometimes not. Sometimes his hand filled itself with the nearest instrument – a pillow, a book, a wrench. Wherever he could reach, whatever was nearest.
     I could not move to help her. Instead, I would lay waking in the night, listening carefully, fingering the handle of the butter knife I kept under my pillow – I was not old enough to be allowed to use the steak knives even at the dinner table.
     One night, I heard her, her voice different, more fearful, more desperate. I crept out of the bed and pressed my ear against the door. I could hear nothing then, not even her breathing. I pulled at the door slowly, making sure to not go further than an inch, otherwise I would wrestle awake an oil-hungry hinge.
     I could see her, her back against the wall. Her hands were still sweaty from clenching them tight over her; matted hair clumping together. Light from the kitchen bellied under the door. She breathed in deep, wiping her hand across her forehead. He had left her alone.
     I could hear him in the kitchen, clanking through drawers, the suck then pop as he opened the refrigerator. He would be hungry. Exercise always had that effect.
     She was trying to lift herself up with one hand when he came back around the corner, a gleaming flash of light in his hands. He pushed her back to the floor and crouched in front of her, drops of spit on his balloonish lip. He pushed his face into hers, grinding his temple against her sticky forehead. The light flashed again and then in front of her face. He held himself so close to her the barrel almost toughed both of their temples.
     “We’ll go together, baby. Isn’t that what you want? Huh? Be rid of me and you? Isn’t that what you want, hmmm?”
     Her arms dropped like doll parts, attached only with rubberbands, useless, at her sides. She was so quiet.
     “Please…,” she whispered to him.  “Please.”
     I was standing behind the door, nightgowned and wondering what it was she was asking him to do – to stop it, or to do it?
     He laughed, a crack of sound in the darkness. He reached for her head and pulled it back, looking almost as if he were cradling her in his hand. He started slowly, caressing her neck with the barrel. He let it glide languidly across her dark skin, her strong collarbone. I saw her shiver from the cold metal. He smiled to her, then drug it between her breasts while he watched her. His fluid movements stopped with the barrel pointed down, directly into her belly.
     “It wouldn’t take but one shot and I’d be rid of you both,” he said as she stared at the luminous flash of metal. “Just one shot.”
     She closed her eyes, her shoulders loosened. I watched her as she breathed, carefully. Slowly, she raised her lids, trailing the barrel, his hands, arms, face, eyes; she stopped. Her filmy gaze looked past his black slits.
     “Please,” she said again.
     He watched her eyes go wide as he drug the pistol down, between her legs, resting his other hand on her thigh. But she didn’t move. She only looked forward, one hair to this side of him.
     He wrapped his arm around her head and pushed at her face, holding it, pointing directly at his own. His meaty fingers were digging into her cheeks. A grin broke across his face.
     Click.
     A shudder went through her.
     Nothing.
     He let her head drop on the hardwood floor as he rose from the corner and laughed. Mama pulled herself up, her back against the wall now. Trembling, she had her eyes open, but still glazed and unfocused, still staring past him. His shadow engulfed her body as he glared down at her. With one swift movement, his foot flung out, kicking her where the gun lay between her legs. She crumpled into a ball, groaning, clutching her curving belly.
     “Fat bitch,” he muttered as he left the room.

                                             ********


     “Free yourself. Don’t be restrained by what is expected. Go boldly and daringly into your work,” she would still tell the blue-haired ladies who sat clinging to every word.
     Broad strokes she would make, colorful, but without once ever leaving a piece of herself on canvas; so crippled inside and unsteady. Boldly and daringly, she told them as she heard the definitions of her life come from a man she would never leave.