Captain’s Christmas: Chapter Four

cc107

The next morning, as soon as it was light, Sarah raced out to look for the big dog. She didn’t have to go far. He sat in a patch of sun near the front door.

“There you are!” Sarah said.

He looked at her fondly. She was about to give him a hug, when she caught a whiff of rotten eggs. “You smell bad, dog!”

Then she saw the reason. He’d knocked over the trash bin and strewn rubbish across the yard.

“Oh, dog!” she said. “We’re in big trouble!”

cc106

Before she had a chance to clean up the mess, the panther raced out.

“Pippa! No!” cried Sarah. “You’re not to be outside!”

cc35

The panther headed right towards a pile of old rags that smelled like sardines.

cc34

Quietly, Sarah snuck up behind her. “Good cat,” she said. She mustered all her courage and picked up the panther, as quickly and carefully as she could. Pippa made a low noise and Sarah was about to drop her in fear when she realized, this was purring!

She gently carried Pippa back into the conservatory, setting her in her favorite lookout amongst the ferns.

“We’ll pretend you weren’t outside, OK, Pippa? Not a word to Jacob about this.”

Then she headed out to clean up the mess and see what Big Dog might need.

Big Dog was gone, but he’d left so much trash all over the yard!  It took a long time to pick it all up. What she couldn’t pick up, she rubbed into the dirt with the soles of her boots. She thought it looked OK, if Jacob saw it in the dark.

Next, to find Big Dog! She whistled as softly as she could and called him in a whisper-shout.

She walked down to the cove by the dock. Not a sign of him.

cc73

Then she headed across to the open beach that led out to the sea.

He wasn’t there either.

cc91

He wasn’t in the woods, in the lighthouse, on the trawler, in the cave under the bluff, hiding in the empty crates, or waiting by the back door, whining to get in.

He was nowhere to be found.

Sarah trudged back to the conservatory, kicking stones along the path.

The orange raccoon raced down the brick path.

“Are you scared?” Sarah asked, and the raccoon cat darted out of sight.

cc105

Back in the house, she heard water splashing in the bathroom.

“My, my, Senator,” said Jacob. “What a mess you are!”

There was the big dog, in the tub, being scrubbed clean by Jacob.

cc104

Soon, the big dog bounded out of the bathroom, straight towards Sarah.

cc16

“The Senator has taken a liking to you,” Jacob said.

“Why do you call him that?”

“Senator Jones is his name, surely,” Jacob said. “You have a good dog. That you do.”

Was he really her dog?

At lunch, she asked Jacob. “Is Senator Jones really my dog?”

cc23

“Must be. You rescued him,” Jacob said. “Can’t stay with me.”

“But I thought he could,” Sarah said.

“He’s all right here in the winter,” said Jacob, “but come summer, shorebirds breed on the beaches, and seals calve in the cove. Hounds are predators, and they can’t stay in the conservatory, like cats. He’ll have to go with you.”

cc24

“I don’t know that Mom will let me keep him,” Sarah said.

“Something will work out,” said Jacob.

cc18

At least for now, Sarah would pretend that Senator Jones was her dog and she was his girl.

In the afternoon, they roamed the island.

She loved to run ahead of him and then stop, calling him to her.

cc07

He raced toward her, his tail pointing down like a rudder.

cc06

“We are best friends!” Sarah said. He looked in her eyes as she rubbed his neck.

cc02

He stood as tall as her when he put his paws on her shoulders.

cc01

This was what Sarah had always wanted, and she didn’t dare to think that it might just be for now. It had to be forever. Something would work out, just like Great Uncle Jacob said.

cc04

<< Previous | Next >>

 

Whisper 1.9

whisbi901

“How was your date?” Shea asks.

“Awful,” I say. I tell him about the rainbow, the geese, and feeling the hills receiving the universe’s kiss, and then about how Cid yelled at me when I told him about that.

“It sounds like a beautiful experience,” Shea says, “like transcendence and inspiration wrapped up in a lettuce leaf, just waiting to be devoured!”

“Cannibal,” I whisper, and Shea laughs.

“Look,” he says, gesturing towards the squirrel who plays by our feet. “There’s eeeIIshiiiiimaaaaiiioh.”

“Is that his name?” I ask.

“His Plant name.”

whisbi902

“Do you have a Plant name?” I ask, as we play hacky sack.

“Yes,” he says. “Do you want to hear it?  ooOoooshaaaaamayyyyiiiiiiiopapa.”

“That’s a beautiful name,” I say. “Do I have a Plant name?”

“Yes,” he says, “only it’s not audible.”

“Then what is it?” I ask.

“Chemical. Feel…” and he emits a phytohormone wash that makes me feel like I’ve just stepped into a home made of light.

“Is that my name?” I ask.

He nods.

“This is how I feel every time I walk in the forest or among the plants in my garden.”

“That’s because the trees and plants know your name,” Shea says. “They greet you when you walk among them.”

whisbi903

Before bed, I play the guitar, making up a song. Plant talk is like music, vibrations through the air, available to all who might receive them. I wonder if maybe I’ve been listening to Plant all my life, and just didn’t realize it.

whisbi904

In the morning, Shea tells me that he dreamed of eeeIIshiiiiimaaaaiiioh.

“He’s our friendship totem,” Shea says.

After breakfast, as I’m heading upstairs to my room, I see Shea and one of our dorm mates in the front room. He’s blowing her an alkaloid kiss.

whisbi905

She seems to like it and they lean in to each other. I tell myself, “Don’t get upset. It’s not like Shea’s your boyfriend. He’s just your best friend.”

whisbi906

“Do plants marry?” I ask Shea when he and I play frisbee in the parking lot.

“No,” he says. “You know how plants mate, right?”

I think about it.

“The males just broadcast their pollen out for any open flower to receive,” he says. “That’s not exactly the type of thing that a marriage can be built on.”

whisbi907

Later, when he blows me a kiss and I feel my alkaloid high starting up, I remind myself that it’s different for plants–it’s not like it means anything.

whisbi908

After supper, when we’re heading out to play more frisbee, Shea says, “So, yeah. Plants just like to broadcast their love widely and freely,” he says. “But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have special relationships.”

“So if spousal relationships aren’t the special ones for plants, then what are?” I ask.

whisbi911

“Friendships,” he says.

I think of mesquite trees that offer shelter to young saguaros, beans that climb up cornstalks, mugworts that thrive beside nettles.

“Especially best friends,” he continues. “Do you know who my best friend is?”

I shake my head.

“You.”

whisbi912

When we head inside, I get a text from Anoki. He’s having a party and he wants me to come.

Riding over there, I think about friendship. So, I’ve got two best friends now, Shea and Anoki, and they both seem to actually like me. Now that I’ve got best friends, I don’t feel like anything’s missing in my life. Maybe I don’t need romance. Maybe I’m like a plant, and friendships are the special relationships for me.

whisbi914

Anoki’s party is a swimsuit party. As usual, Anoki is surrounded by women, this time, by women in swimsuits, and I can’t even get close enough to say hi.

whisbi913

As I’m leaving, I get a phone call.

“Hey. It’s Ray. Ray Wise.”

I’m trying to think who Ray Wise is.

“You know. I met you at one of Anoki’s parties?”

OK. I figure it out real quick. Little guy, glasses, kind of a nerd. Nice guy.

“Anyway, I wanted to know if you wanted to go out.”

“When? Like now?” I ask.

It’s late on Sunday night.

“Yeah,” he says.

My first class doesn’t start until noon.

“OK,” I say. I’ll never know how I feel about romance if I don’t give it a try, after all.

I meet Ray outside the comic book store.

whisbi915

“It’s so beautiful, with the snow falling,” I say. “I could paint a landscape from this.”

“Ugh. I hate art,” he says. “I’d rather read.”

We end up talking for a few hours. I don’t know that there’s much romantic potential there–I can’t imagine myself with somebody who hates art. I mean, I’m an artist! But Ray is a nice guy to have as a friend. I can always enjoy somebody that I can talk about books with for hours on end.

whisbi916

Then, just as I get ready to ride back home, Ray leans in and says, “I’m thinking of something. Fireplace, thick volume of Dickens, and you.”

Was that a flirt?

whisbi917

<< Previous | Next >>

Whisper 1.8

whisbi801

Shea and I always seem to talk about vegetarianism. I applaud him for it, but at the same time, I can’t quite wrap my head around it.

“Isn’t that like cannibalism?” I ask him.

“Not really,” he says. “Well, maybe a little bit. Well, OK. Yes. It is. But I never eat relatives, that is, unless I can help it.”

I realize he’s joking. But still. What kind of plant eats other plants? Would it be better if he were a flesh-eating plant, like a Venus fly-trap?

He is kind of a Venus-trap. Lately, at the end of every conversation, he blows me a kiss.  It feels amazing–like a rush of, I don’t know, phytohormones, or something. I buzz from head to toe and feel like I might be sprouting leaves.

He blows me a zinger of a smooch before my midterms, and when I’m riding off to take my first exam, all I can think is how I’m so zinged-up on phytohormones that I’m going to ace this test.

whisbi802

I think phytohormones must make you smarter. At least they make me happier. And a happy student is a good student, right?

whisbi803

I come out of the exam to find a woman in a witch hat, hot pants, and go-go boots doing a rain dance in the courtyard.

My plant-kiss high has worn off, but I feel like I did all right on the test. As I was leaving, the professor said to me, “You’re on the Dean’s List,” and she showed me my name.

Now that feels pretty good.

whisbi804

Shea’s out raking leaves in the rain when I get back to the dorm.

“Wanna play hop-scotch?” I ask. Neither of us is very good, but we have a blast.

While we’re playing, Shea says, “You make a pretty cool friend!”

“Really?” I ask him.

And he says, “Yeah. You’re my best friend. Who else is crazy enough to play hopscotch with me on a cold foggy night?”

I notice that when Shea’s happy, the air feels thick with alkaloids, and it makes me feel happier, too.

whisbi805

Other living things seem to notice this, too. A little squirrel comes to watch us play, and it isn’t at all timid.

whisbi806

This term feels so much different than last term. I’ve got two best friends, and that makes me feel more comfortable around everybody.

When you can be yourself around people, that’s when you’ve got a chance to gain true friends.

whisbi807

Shea stops to blow me another alkaloid-laden kiss.

“Shea!” I say. “I feel so goofy when you do that!”

“I know!” he says. “That’s why I do it!”

whisbi808

My phone rings.

“Aren’t you going to get it?” he asks.

I answer. “It’s Cid,” I mouth to Shea. “And he’s asking me on a date.”

“You should go!” Shea says.

“Really?” I ask Cid to hold on for a sec and mute the phone. “For real?”

“Sure!” says Shea. “Cid’s a great guy! Go! Have a good time!”

So, really quickly, I figure that Shea’s just being a plant, sharing his good feelings with everyone around, and so those kisses, though they make me high, don’t really carry any significance more than Shea’s overflow of good feelings, and maybe, just a general fondness for me. It’s like a rose–it’ll bloom for anybody.

I unmute the phone. “Sure, Cid,” I say. “I’ll meet you at the quad in a few.”

whisbi809

I guess I’m still high from Shea’s wonder-kisses when I ride to the quad. I see this rainbow arcing over the campus, and six geese fly towards its center, perfectly framed.

The heavens open just then, and the hills rush out to greet it, and I’m coursing below, riding along a string of destiny that will bring me to the secret of the Universe, if I just have the eyes to see and the spirit to decode.

whisbi810

Everything sparkles, lit up from the energy within.

whisbi811

I see Cid standing across the quad and race over to him to share this vision.

“It’s like everything is alive!” I tell him. “And that’s what’s art for, so that we can describe this shimmer of energy that animates it all!”

I tell him about the rainbow and the geese and the earth opening up and the heavens showering kisses.

whisbi812

“Was your mother a llama?” he yells. “What kind of doped-up nonsense are you spouting? I guess next you’re going to be painting rainbows and V-shaped geese! What then? Happy kitties? Tragic clowns? Have you lost your edge?”

whisbi813

He’s lost all respect for me.

“I can’t believe you said that,” I say.

“And you didn’t even dress up. This is a date. Put on some make-up, or something.”

“I don’t wear make-up,” I say.

“I’m thinking of leaving soon,” he says.

“Don’t bother,” I say. “I’m outta here.”

whisbi814

I take off. I don’t need to be treated like that.

That’s for sure.

whisbi815

As I ride home, I realize I actually feel sort of glad this happened, in a way. It helps me choose. Now I know not to choose Cid.

whisbi816

When I get back to the dorm, there’s Shea, raking the maple leaves. Does he feel sad when leaves fall? I can’t wait to ask him and to hear what he has to say, about leaves and autumn and anything, really.

whisbi817

<< Previous | Next >>

New World Symphony: Baggage

On her way home from Jaclyn’s, Cathy met Sempervirens.

“Out for an evening walk?” Cathy asked.

“Looking for fireflies,” Sempervirens said. “Do you know sometimes the lights disappear? Where do the fireflies go?”

room25

“Maybe they’re not fireflies!”

“What else would they be?” Sempervirens asked.

“Dancing lights over the meadows–what do you think they could be?”

“When I was a baby, I thought they were fairies, but Pierce at school says fairies are make-believe. Do you think Pierce is right?”

“Pierce probably is right about a lot of things, but like everybody, he’s also going to be wrong about some things. I’ve got a hunch that you might know best in this area.”

Sempervirens looked out over the meadow, where at that moment five yellow lights were dancing above the buttercups.

“Hey, Squid,” Cathy said. “I’ve got some news to share with you. What would you think about a new friend to play with?”

room26

“I love new friends!” said Sempervirens. “Me and Jennifer are thinking of starting a club.”

“Good,” said Cathy, “because I’m going to have a baby. Think the baby could join the club when it becomes a kid?”

“Yahoo! Jumping tadpole tales!” said Sempervirens. “That’s the best news! A new kid in the neighborhood!”

room27

It was late when Cathy got home. She wanted to tell Sugar next. Sugar was the natural leader of this community, always making the rounds, keeping track of every new development, always there when something was happening. It just made sense that she’d be one of the first to know. Besides, she and Cathy were great friends.

She invited her over in the morning.

Cathy expected her to be overjoyed at the news–her wide-eyed shock surprised her.

room28

But not nearly as much as the anger that followed.

“You simply can’t. How could you? I can’t believe it. This is so irresponsible. So regrettable! What were you thinking?” Sugar could barely get her words out.

room29

“I’ve never seen you so angry,” Cathy said. “I thought you’d be happy.”

“I would be happy if it were with anyone else. But Brennan? Do you even know what he is? Where is he from, anyway? What is he made of? I sense things about him, about where he came from and why he smells like sulfur. I just can’t believe how irresponsible first that you even brought him here, and now, that you’d have a kid with him? It’s dangerous to all of us and everything. Bringing people into this world bears a responsibility.”

room30

“I’m sorry,” Cathy said. “The wish was a whim. I realize that. But I love him. I can’t believe that anything connected with such love can be bad.”

“Love doesn’t excuse foolishness,” Sugar said. “It might cause it, but it’s no excuse.”

room31

Cathy shared with her the conversation she’d had with Jaclyn the day before.

“I can’t help but feel that there’s something greater at work here,” she said. “I don’t feel that any of this has been my choosing. It’s been something that needed to be done, and it’s being done through me, but none of it, not even that rose-water wish that brought Brennan here, is something that I woke up deciding I would do.”

“What was Jaclyn’s reaction when you told her you were expecting?” Sugar asked.

“She was excited. She actually whooped and did a fist-pump!” Cathy leaned in and whispered to Sugar. “She fed me sparkroot and flower petal sandwiches,” she confided. “For transformation, she said.”

room33

Sugar breathed a deep sigh of relief and laughed.

“So you went to the midwife and she put it all right?” Sugar asked.

Cathy nodded.

“All right. My anger was premature,” Sugar said. “Still, you gotta be careful in this. You can’t just go blundering into things you don’t understand.”

room32

Sugar stayed close to Cathy the rest of the day, watching her carefully while she went about her morning activities, gardening, baking, painting, and watching the clouds trace patterns in the sky.

“All right,” said Sugar towards evening, “I’ll be heading off, then. Call that husband of yours and share the news with him. Can’t do to surprise him with something like this after the fact. You just be sure you check in with Jaclyn with any questions or worries, and do everything she tells you, to the letter.”

It was easy to agree with such sound advice.

room34

Brennan came over at nightfall. He had an inexplicable touch of melancholy which the damp scents of the garden only deepened.

room35

“You look a little ripened, my butterfly,” he said when Cathy greeted him at the door.

She giggled. “That’s one way to put it.”

room36

She kissed his cheek. “We’re expecting,” she said. “Turns out I’m not too old after all!”

“Holy Jehosaphat!” Brennan shouted. “Who’s the man? Who’s the boss? You’re looking at him!”

room38

Cathy went in to prepare a supper of pasta with spinach and pumpkin seeds while Brennan stood at the stone threshold, sighing and smiling.

Before Cathy called him in for supper, onezero arrived. She and Brennan stood before the door without exchanging a word.

room39

Brennan waited while Cathy came out to share their news with onezero. He would never tire of hearing her say this.

room40

onezero feigned surprise, and then she shrugged and said, “I know already. Why else would I come tonight? I heard from Sugar, I heard from Jaclyn, but before that, I heard from the one thousand. It’s meant to be, plain and simple.”

room41

After supper, Cathy and onezero sat together on the couch while Brennan played video games.

“Would you like to spend the night?” Cathy asked. Somehow, she didn’t really want to be alone that night.

“Won’t Brennan be staying?” onezero asked.

“No,” said Cathy. “He never stays. Spiders, you know.”

The two friends talked well into the night, after Brennan left and the moon rose and the dancing yellow lights came out over the meadows.

“What was it like to have one parent that was a normal person and the other parents from another realm?” Cathy asked.

“Oh,” said onezero, “Chandler Adam was hardly normal! He had a kind and cheerful heart, my father did, and so, I always knew that I had been born in the right place. Your child will feel the same because of you.”

room42

While onezero slept in the upstairs room, Cathy played the piano. Even with the pregnancy, she could hardly sleep–there was just so much energy swirling around and within! It was something that music could express better than thoughts or words. She turned to Brahms and let the complexities of his intermezzo convey the feelings within her that she had yet to discover.

room43

<< Previous | Next >>