Friday, December 19, 2014

Prelude



   Just as Mary was putting the map and Emily's drawings into her portfolio Sean walked into Edwin's shop.

   "You must be Marilyn's boy. I knew you when you were little." Edwin said. "I've been talking to Mary, she tells me you two are getting married tomorrow morning."

   "That's right. I do remember you, vaguely. I think I was in this shop, with my mother, when I was little." Sean said as he looked around. "It was a toy store then."

   "So it was. It's hardly a store at all anymore. Just a collection of things nobody needs, things nobody wants." said Edwin, smiling, "Business is good."

   "I've been showing Edwin Emily's drawings; he knows where most of the places in them are located." said Mary, "He gave me a map."

   "So, Edwin, you are aware of Mary's new powers?"

   "Yes, I received some instruction from Emily before she left, and I know that Mary is the chosen one." said Edwin. "I have been waiting for her for a long time."

   "Sean, Edwin has agreed to be a witness tomorrow. Edwin, we'll be at the courthouse at 10 A.M.. Shall we pick you up at, say, nine-thirty?"

   "Yes, that would be nice. I'll be here. It would be my pleasure."

   Sean and Mary left the shop and returned to their car.

   "Edwin studied art with Emily, and he was in Tina's high school class as well." said Mary, "He's familiar with some of the paranormal things Emily knew about, although I don't think he was in as deep as Emily was, or I am, for that matter. He had a tiff with Tina, years ago, so there may be some tension between them tomorrow although Tina told me that it would be alright if he was there. I think Emily would have wanted it that way."

   "Speaking of Emily, has she 'possessed' you lately?"

   "No, I think she only makes herself manifest at certain times. It isn't like she's hovering over me. I've been thinking about the 'powers' we share. It isn't that Emily is here now, it's as if she is stuck in the past, yet…  is somehow able to look forward to the future, through the common plane that underlies space and time. When this happens she is able to make use of me, in the here and now."

   Sean looked perplexed.

   "I'm starting to understand these strange things I've been going through. " Mary continued, "Some of those things were in the past—like you and Molly in the motel, or Ramsen stabbing you in the bathroom. They aren't visions, they are like looking through a door. I need some connection to the event, like your scars, for example, to make it work. Perhaps, when I've become more developed, I'll be able to look into the future, in the way Emily is."

   "Speaking of the future," said Sean, "I just made arrangements for our honeymoon."

   "I didn't see that coming! I must not be that advanced." Mary said, laughing. "Are you going to tell me where, or will it be a surprise?"

   "Which ever way you'd like." said Sean, "It isn't far away, and it seems to be very nice."

   "Surprise me." Mary said. "Let's go back to Tina's.  After lunch we can check out that bridge, the one in Emily's drawing. I'm ready for another lesson."

   "It's a nice walk, to the bridge from Tina's, why don't we turn it into a picnic?"

   "You're just full of romantic ideas today, aren't you?"

                    ————————————————————

      Sean found an old wicker basket in Henry's workshop. It was covered in grime, but it cleaned up nicely. Mary made sandwiches and packed them in the basket with a couple of apples and pretzel sticks, some water, and a Lindt chocolate bar. She used her phone to take several photos of Emily's drawing of the bridge, including a close-up of that area which had been marked on the back of the paper.  Happy Hollow Road was quiet, with the afternoon sun warming the gravel, but the shade from the canopy of trees on either side of it kept its shoulders cool. They walked until they reached the place where a roadblock had been erected.

   "Tina said that the bridge had been taken out five years ago… " said Sean, " …it was beyond repair and with only a handful of farms on this road it wasn't worth replacing."

   "What a glorious day. Any enhanced perception I might have is swamped by this." Mary said. "Whispers from the wind, the quiet symphony of the insects at work, the birds calling, I can see why you were sad to leave this place when you were little."

   "This is it, is it not? Why we have been put on earth. You and me, under the afternoon sun, walking the earth, surrounded by life." said Sean,  "At a time like this I begin to think that all the work I've done in my life has been meaningless."

   "And I wonder about my work as well. ADR was just a way to enable people to create their own squalid version of reality," she said, "If it wasn't so compelling, I'd be willing to admit that this quest of mine, what ever it is, is merely another way to avoid living in the now."

   "It is compelling, isn't it?  The urge to know the previously unknowable; it's the curse of humanity, it's what separates us from the other animals." said Sean.

   "Adam and Eve: Sin." Mary continued, as she moved toward the roadblock, "Sin, in its original sense, is merely knowledge. What I'm looking for understanding. Where Adam accepted things on their face value, Eve was looking for deeper meaning."

    A garter snake, aroused from sunning itself in the road, slithered between Mary's feet.

   "Care for an apple?" said Mary. 




 Fiction 


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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Clambering in the Fog

Clamber: intransitive verb:  to climb awkwardly (as by scrambling) 
    A weekend respite from frigid temperatures brought fog to my town, creeping in on its Sandburgian little cat feet. I grabbed a camera and went down to the Rum River—always picturesque—and found that it had become even more so in the mist:



   To obtain an unobscured view I had to climb down an icy, rocky riverbank—in the dark. I really should have been wearing a helmet; I could have fallen on my head and knocked myself out. I wouldn't have been discovered until spring!



   The Giddings Gazebo looked especially menacing in the mist:



   And the view from the top of the bridge was eerily inspiring:


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Monday, December 15, 2014

Abstract Expressions

Untitled, Caitlin Karolczak, 2008, Oil, encaustic on panel. Collection of the author.

   Another visit to the artist's studio, this time spurred by the memory of a series of encaustic and oil panels which have haunted me since I first viewed them last spring. There were only a few people in her studio when the weaver and I were there last Friday. Caitlin was chatty, she seemed to be more at ease than when she is thronged by a mob in a crawl or opening. She told me that these small (about five inches square) panels were experimental; used as a 'sketchbook' to explore visual effects when making larger works. Her work is usually in a more representational style: moody and evocative, to be sure, these small pieces spoke to me in a similar fashion.

Untitled, Caitlin Karolczak, 2008, Oil, encaustic on panel. Collection of the author.


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Friday, December 12, 2014

Replay

 

   That night, as Mary was in bed examining the book she received from Edwin Duddle, she looked up and watched Sean as he undressed. His body still held its youthful appearance.  Sean's 'aura' was diffuse; not centered around his head as if it was a halo. His skin was marred only by the small scar above his heart and the larger one in his lower torso. Mary let her mind wander to the events of two years ago which led up to his disfigurement. The small scar was a memento of his relationship with Molly, his previous girlfriend, while the larger one caused by an unknown assailant at Senator Clarkson's fundraiser in Virginia. Sean had undergone a stint in physical therapy after his stabbing. He still did his morning crunches.  As Mary looked at the scars she could 'see' what seemed to be 'folds' in his aura center over them. In her continued state of heightened awareness  these aberrations held a special interest. When Sean was completely naked, Mary put the book down and got out of the bed.

   "Come here. I want to touch you."

   "Anytime." Sean said, smiling.

   Mary placed her hand on his chest and touched the smaller scar. She immediately received a mental image of Molly's face, with her teeth sinking into Sean's flesh. As she continued, tracing her finger over the line in his skin, in her mind's eye she could 'scan' the event—even to the point of being able to see Sean and Molly together in that squalid motel room. Mary began to recite the dialog between Molly and Sean:
   "Oooh! You look delicious!"
   "Ohmigod! I'm so sorry- I didn't mean to hurt you!"
   "It's alright, it was just a reflex action."
   "That's gonna leave a mark!" 
    Astonished, Sean looked at Mary and shrank back a step.

   "How did you know that?" he asked. "Those are the exact words we said when Molly bit me."

   "I don't really know how." Mary said. "It seemed as if I was in that motel room. Let me touch you again."

   As Sean stepped closer Mary's fingers reached down to his belly. As she explored the larger scar she began to describe the scene of his stabbing:
   "I see a bathroom, and you are crouched over a toilet… you are vomiting… there is a another man, coming into the room… he's behind you… he picks up your jacket… and throws it over you, he has a knife in his hand, he thrusts it into you… you collapse to the floor… the man says 'You bastard'… he turns to leave. The man… his face is very clear…  the man is Roger Ramsen."
   Mary stepped away. They remained silent for several seconds. Finally Sean spoke:

   "Well, now we know who we're up against. Too bad it would never stand up in court."

   "We'll have to connect this all somehow, we'll look at Billy's files again, maybe there was something in your mother's computer, and we could check Ramsen's activities. That O'Donnell woman, she's his mistress. Maybe we can get something from her. I'll check into it tomorrow at the coffeehouse. While I'm doing that you can buy yourself some wedding clothes."

   "How about you? What are you going to wear?" said Sean.

   "I've got Emily's dress." Mary said as she removed her nightgown. "It's never been worn."

   "This new power of yours… " Distracted by Mary's nakedness, Sean hesitated for a moment. " …it might make make foreplay a little tricky?"

   "I'll leave your scars alone." Mary said.

   "I wasn't thinking about the scars." Sean answered.

   "Don't think." Mary said. She noticed that his 'body aura' had brightened considerably. Taking his hand, she led him into the bed.

                    —————————————————————

   After Sally O'Donnell returned to her town home in Seattle she spent some time getting situated: getting groceries, picking up some take out Thai food, unpacking. She ate the Thai then sat down with a glass of red wine and opened her laptop to take a deeper look at the files which she had copied from Roger Ramsen's computer. Her first stop was to examine his saved email.  Some of the senders' names were familiar to Sally, but others were cryptic. Those emails repeatedly referenced something the writers would refer to as 'The Plan'. Sally began to take notes.

                    —————————————————————

   Sean drove Mary into town the next morning, dropping her off at The Magpie while he went to Amundson's clothing store.  Mary drank a latte while she checked in with her lawyers. Finding no new developments, she instructed them to work up a file on both Roger Ramsen and Sally O'Donnell.  Just as she was finishing, Sean walked in with two large shopping bags, filled with clothes.

   "I'm afraid these duds are no match for Emily's dress, but then I'm no peacock." said Sean as he began to show Mary the clothes.  "What do you think?"

   "I don't know about the pee part of that equation, but the other half is perfectly fine." Mary said, looking through his purchases. "They're fine. I'm done here, do you need the laptop? I'm going to go across the street, to talk to Edwin, you know, the man I told you about yesterday—the one who gave me Emily's book? I want him to look at these drawings of Emily's."

   "I'd like to use the laptop. Let me get some coffee first. I've got some things I need to check on."

   After Sean returned Mary went across the street and into Edwin's shop.

   "Mr. Duddle?" Mary said loudly, "It's Mary, Sean's fiance."

   "Just a minute." He said, his disembodied voice coming from his office in the rear of the store. "I'll be there in a minute."

   Mary looked around the shop. Nearly everything in it seemed to possess some special quality, she didn't know if it was her heightened awareness or simply Edwin's taste. After a short wait Edwin emerged from the rear of the store, smoothing his thin, white hair with his hand. His halo was very pale, a silvery-gray.

   "You've come back." he said as he smiled and offered Mary his hand. When she grasped it he cradled hers as if it was a bird. "How can I help you today?"

   "Edwin, I've brought some of Emily's drawings for you to look at." Mary set the portfolio she had brought upon a counter—which was the only uncluttered spot in the shop. "They seem to indicate what I'll call, for lack of better words, 'power centers'.  I've found some of them already. I thought that you might help me with the others."

   Edwin looked at the drawings, silently examining each one in turn.

   "Yes I know most of these places." he said when he had finished. "You're right about them. The places they depict are portals, but can only be recognized by only those who have the gift; they are openings to the world which lies beneath everyday existence. You have experienced some of this already, is it not so?"

   "Yes. I am learning with each encounter." Mary said, "These four drawings, the ones on top, I know them already. Do you know the others?"

   "Just a minute, let me get something." Edwin went back to the office and returned with a well-used county map. "It's a little old, but things haven't changed that much around here in the last seventy years. I'll number the drawings of the places I know, and put those numbers on locations on the map. It should be able to place you close enough to them so that you can find them on your own."

   "That would be much appreciated." Mary said. "Have you been to these places?"

   "Yes, some, like the Porter house here, are right down the street. Others are hidden away, in the country. There are a couple I'm not sure of."

   The old man went through the drawings again, carefully numbering both the drawing and the map. When he had finished, he put his pencil down and spoke: "These drawings are an atlas, an atlas of portals, no, not portals, 'doors' might be a better term." He paused, then looked Mary directly in the eye. "If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is: infinite. William Blake."

   Mary let this sink in for minute, and then spoke: "I talked to Tina yesterday. She told me what had happened between you and her and Emily: why Emily left and why Tina won't talk to you. I don't think she bears any ill-will. It's just something that happened. She said that it would be alright with her if you witnessed our wedding tomorrow. I would like you to be there."

   "I'd be glad to be your witness." Edwin said. "But about that business with Tina, I can't undo what's been done. Emily taught me many things, things which you're learning now, as well as other things which you will soon discover. What happened between Emily and me, well, I was young and she offered me a glimpse of heaven. How could I refuse?"




Fiction

  


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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ode to a Ring

Ho! Brown and queer One,
Your silver band is broken —
When will Arabian sand, wind-driven,
Sift over all the Pyramids?
Old, erudite, Egyptian thing
Your silver band is broken.

Ho! Foolish One,
You fell on an old carpet in two halves
Forgetting all the heavy dignity
Of untold centuries.
Are you as dead as the dust-driven fingers of
Egyptian kings you held encircled?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Come, I will have you mended
And place you carefully on my finger
Where the sun
Will pour swift, living color over every part
Whenever I desire.

                 Edgar T. Herrmann




Herrmann, circa 1940, Minnesota Historical Society

   Composed for Wanda Gág by her friend and mentor, when they
were students, handwritten with the postscript:

   Queer, damn queer - but?

   Dated 8/5/15



   From the Wanda Gag papers, Children's Literature Research Collection, University of Minnesota Libraries, Minneapolis.


Comments: 0


Monday, December 08, 2014

Old Friends


Art Sale, Golden Valley, Minnesota

   "We've been friends for over 50 years! Can you imagine it?"

   In the way your faces light up, in the way the conversation resumes, as if you had just stepped out of the room for only a second, rather than the months which had transpired. I can imagine it. For this moment at least, the years mean nothing. The Now. Unstated, but appreciated.

   Last week I received a comment from a director of an Adult community center in Wisconsin, who wrote in looking for information on Frances Bruno, the subject of a series of posts I did last year. I called the woman who wrote and she told me the story. Sybil, one of the seniors who was in attendance that day, was wearing a distinctive ring. When asked about it she said that she had bought it in Rio when she was a skater in The Holidays on Ice revue in the early 50s. She also said that her roommate on that tour, Frances Bruno, had also bought a ring at the same time. Whenever the woman wore it it reminded her of Frances and of how much she missed her still, after 60 years. I gave the director Frances' grand-daughter's email address.

   Frances is gone now. But her memory is not. The two old friends pictured above can still see each other and share some time together. But the important thing is not that they can still see each other, or that Sybil and Frances cannot; it is that they had once been friends–a bond neither time nor death can destroy, it only passes out of our view.


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Friday, December 05, 2014

Tina's Story

 

   A little while after Mary and Sean returned to Tina's house Mary took Tina aside:

   "Tina, do you have a minute?"

   "At my age all I have is time, Mary dear. It's my only real possession." said Tina. "We can go in the parlor. Can I get you anything? I'm having tea. What's Sean up to?"

   "Tea would be fine. Sean is looking through his college things."

   When Tina returned with the tea Mary was reclining on the sofa, one hand covering her eyes. The intensity of her perceptions had not abated, even with her eyes closed; she was still in a state of hyper-awareness. The aroma of the tea was almost overwhelming.

   "Your tea." said Tina. "What is it that you wished to talk about?"

   "I met Edwin Duddle today." Mary said.

   "Oh dear." Tina stared into her tea. "What did he tell you?"

   "He knows, doesn't he? About Emily, about what I'm going through?"

   "He… um… he knows some things." Tina's gaze remained fixed upon her teacup.

   "Emily spoke to him, through me." Mary said, "He gave me one of Emily's books."

   "I see." said Tina.

   Mary looked at Tina. She was aware of a halo around Tina's head, a faint blue aura which seemed to seep down, caressing the older woman's shoulders. After a short pause Mary spoke:

   "I asked him to be a witness to our marriage." Mary sat up and looked at Tina. "He said that I should talk to you. What should I know about Edwin? About Edwin and Emily?"

   "Edwin… Edwin… and Emily, and me." Tina said, looking up from her tea. "Emily took a liking to Edwin. We were in the same grade in school. When he was only 12 or 13 he started to come over here from time to time. At first it was just to help Henry—he was good with his hands— and he always enjoyed learning new things.  But by the time we were in high school, well, you know how it is, when the hormones kick in. I liked being around Edwin, although at the time I probably couldn't have articulated why. He was fair, and tall. Sexy, you could even say, in a rough, unpolished way. A young woman just didn't talk about those things at that time. Then, when Emily came back to give birth to Sean's mother Marilyn, she took an interest in him. He could draw fairly well, even before Emily began to teach him. After Marilyn was born, Edwin would come over for 'art lessons'. I was more than a little miffed at the attention he gave to her—I thought he should be paying attention to me!"

   "How long did this go on?" said Mary.

   "Oh, a little over half a year. Marilyn was born in August. The 'lessons' started in late October, I think. Yes, it was October, the leaves had turned. After school he'd ride the bus home with me, then he and Emily would go up to to her attic studio for an hour or so. I'd watch the baby. Then he'd walk home, his parents lived over the hill, he'd cut through the fields, at least until the snow got too deep."

   "There was more to it than that, I take it?" Mary said, "Something happened?"

   "It really doesn't matter anymore. I just want you to understand why Edwin and I aren't close. Don't tell Sean about what I'm going to tell you, it would only make him unhappy, and there isn't anything he could do about it anyway." As Tina sipped her tea, Mary could sense that what ever the incident was, it had deeply affected Tina.

   "Tina, if you don't want to talk about it, I'll understand." said Mary, "It's quite alright if you don't."

   "No, it isn't alright. I've got to tell you, now that you know that there's something between Edwin and me… and Emily; you're in too deep already." Tina sipped her tea. "In the spring of '47, it was early May, our senior year of high school, Edwin was taking his 'lesson' in Emily's attic studio. Henry and Alice had gone into town, so I was alone with the baby, Marilyn. She was sleeping, and I was bored—and more than a little jealous of the time Edwin was spending with Emily. I… I crept up the stairs to the attic, to see what Edwin and Emily were up to." Tina paused again. "When I got to the landing, I could hear moaning and a muffled thumping. I wasn't naive, I grew up on a farm, I knew what sex was. But it hadn't dawned on me that Edwin and Emily would… "

   "I understand." said Mary. "You don't have to continue."

   "No, let me finish what I've started." said Tina, "I looked through the keyhole, I saw them together, naked, in the throes of passion. I fled, I think they heard me go down the stairs. Later, after Edwin had left, I confronted Emily."

   "What did she say?" said Mary. She noticed that Tina's aura had darkened, turning from a pale blue into a deep violet.

   "She just said 'Don't judge me.' And that was the end of it: She left the farm and returned to New York a few days later. I had to go to school, to finish my year, and Edwin was always there. I couldn't even look at him anymore. He knew that I was aware of what he had done with my mother. We've hardly spoken since." Tina put down her cup and saucer and then said, in a whisper:  "My mother."

   "But you reconciled with Emily? You can 'see' her, and 'feel' her presence?" Mary said.

   "She is still my mother. Now that I'm older, and I realize what kind of woman Emily was, I can understand, sort of understand that is, about what she did. But since then I've never wanted to risk loving a man and then losing him to another woman. It would always be in the back of my mind… whenever a man would try to become 'friendly' with me. It isn't realistic, I know, but I just couldn't help it. I feel the way I feel. Now, don't let me be a damper on your life, Mary. Why don't you talk to Edwin. Let him tell you his side of the story. He isn't a bad man, and he did know Emily, it might help you to understand her. As far as your feelings about Emily are concerned, well, that's between you and her."

   Mary sat quietly, thinking about what Tina had said. The room seemed to be quivering; everything in it possessed an ineffable meaning.

   Tina's aura had faded; Mary's tea was cold; Sean came into the parlor.

   "What's new?" he said.




Fiction


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