New World Symphony: Three Wishes for Tomas

Tomas’s ghost waited at Cathy Tea’s door. If things worked out the way he hoped, he’d walk out this door on two solid legs on the solid ground, rather than glide through air, and when he got back home, he’d wrap his wife in his arms and feel her warmth on his skin. To breathe again! Could it happen?

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That morning, onezero told Tomas about Cathy’s wishing well.

“They say you can wish for anything!” she said. “Of course, wishes are limited, and they don’t always come true the way we might envision, but there is power in that well that can make the most incredible things manifest!”

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Tomas felt grateful that he could be with his wife in spirit–he was able to watch her daily and to see that she still felt joy and that she was well.

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Some days, they were able to talk together. She still loved sharing with him her ideas for novels or specific composition challenges she was working on in her paintings.

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But he missed so much. He missed the quiet daily rhythms of living beside her, most of all: sharing a bed; finding, as they slept, that their breath had fallen into the same rhythm; the moments when her arm might brush against his; feeling her warmth.

So when onezero told him about Cathy’s wishing well, he felt a rush of hope.

“What about life?” he asked. “Do its powers extend to life?”

onezero told him about Brennan Stuckey, Cathy’s Wishing Well Man and the father of her twins.

“But you have to be careful how the wish manifests,” she said. “Sure, Cathy now has two twins, but they came at a price! Their father isn’t the most considerate or reliable man. But there’s life, sure! So, there’s that.”

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Tomas was willing to give it a try.

“I don’t have that much to lose, right?”

onezero paused. There is always so much to lose! Every choice, every action incurs loss of some sort.

“Loss isn’t anything to worry over,” she said at last. “It’s like breathing: inhale and exhale. What will you gain? That’s the question.”

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So Tomas ventured to Cathy’s home at the end of the road on the hillside.

When she didn’t answer the door, he glided out back, where he found her working on a canvas.

He hadn’t counted on how beautiful it was here. He’d grown accustomed to the stark russet landscape of the desert. The soft greens and muted blues, the flowers at every turn, the sweet moist air that tickled as it blew through him–it truly was stepping into a new world.

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“I’ve heard about your well,” he said. “Can anyone use it? Can I?”

“Sure!” she said. “It’s not mine. It just happens to be here. It’s a little bit greedy. It likes donations. It’s kind of fickle, too. I’ve got mixed feelings about it, actually, Tomas. I mean, there are so many ways to make wishes come true! I’m starting to like it when I can use my own rune to bring them about.”

“I’m not sure I can do what I want on my own,” Tomas said.

“Well, it’s around back,” she said. “Have at it!”

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Tomas had brought a purse of money with him. He paused a moment. What would help wishes come true? Gratitude, surely!

He felt thankful: for his life, for his children Cypress and J. P., for his wife Redbud, for this wishing well.

He tossed the purse into the well.

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Bright light flew out of it, shining from the eyes and mouth of the well’s face.

This was auspicious!

He tossed in the coin quickly with his wish: Life! Give me back life!

A crack of granite shot from the well’s depths, and as the echoes faded, gold light seeped up through the gap.

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Tomas felt heat rise with the light.

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White light encircled him, and the energy lifted him. He felt sensations! Tingling! As if he had nerve endings that could tingle!

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Then the light faded. He was set back upon the ground. He was not solid.

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He had felt life flow through him, and it had left.

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In that moment, when he’d felt life blow through him, he had experienced such joy. All his hopes rose and gathered into possibility.

And now, they left. Every single hope.

He had died. Nothing could undo that.

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He hadn’t realized how much he had wanted to hold his wife in arms that could feel. How much he’d wanted to hear his granddaughter’s laughter. How he’d wanted to feel his two feet on solid ground.

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Cathy sat with him in the garden.

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“I hadn’t realized how much I’d wanted it,” Tomas said.

“Yeah,” replied Cathy. “The well is like that. If anything, it helps us see what we want and what we don’t, sometimes too late.”

“onezero said there’s always something to lose,” Tomas replied. “I guess I’ve lost my peaceful acceptance of being dead.”

“That’s heavy,” said Cathy. “But what did you gain? Every loss brings a gain.”

Tomas tried to lighten the mood. “You can still see through me?”

“Yeah,” Cathy joked back. “You wear the colors of your feelings!”

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“I got to spend a morning here in your garden,” Tomas said. “That’s something.”

“True.”

“I guess, really, though, I got a clearer understanding of what I want. I know I can just accept this state I’m in, but it’s not what I want. And knowing that, well, that gives me something to work towards, right? I’m not ready to give up.”

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Sparkroot came home from school as they were finishing their conversation.

“Are you a real ghost?” Sparkroot asked Tomas.

“I am at that, for now.”

“Cool!” said Sparkroot. “I’ve always wanted to meet a ghost!”

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New World Symphony: Delivery

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Cathy played through the night. Brahms’ intermezzos on piano in the parlor gave way to Bach’s partitas on violin in the garden.

She thought over Sugar’s fury while she played. What had made her so angry? She knew Sugar disliked Brennan–he had a habit of lashing out at people and he genuinely seemed to enjoy the misery of others.

But we’re none of us perfect, Cathy thought. We all have our complicated patterns and our foibles and follies, and to love someone even knowing their limitations, that was something, wasn’t it?

But Cathy suspected there was more to it than that. She herself suspected Brennan’s true origins–she was never taken in by his backstory, though he still believed it without hesitation.

“I’m from New Orleans,” he was fond of saying, and every time he said it, Cathy smelled rose-water and sulfur.

When onezero woke, Cathy sought her out.

“Do you think there’s reason to worry?” she asked her friend. “Was Sugar right in her first response, and did I do something wrong and irresponsible in getting pregnant?”

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onezero wrapped her in a big hug.

“When we combine two to make one,” said onezero, “the result is something entirely extraordinary! It’s not the mother, it’s not the father. You are bringing in something new, and that’s always something to celebrate.”

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They sat in the garden while the sun rose.

Cathy had to admit that, if she tuned in to how she felt, everything felt so very right. Sometimes, life steps up and asks you to follow, that’s how she felt–and here she was, following as best she could.

“After all,” she said to onezero, “this just happened! It wasn’t something I planned. It’s not something that could be expected.”

“Exactly,” said onezero from the easel at the edge of the porch. “Like when my dad was taken by the thousand. Who would expect that? That’s not anything that could be planned or expected.”

“And look how that turned out!” said Cathy, with a smile. “You’re the best surprise there ever was!”

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onezero left after she finished her painting, a portrait of a Madonna which they hung upstairs. “Call me when it’s time,” onezero said. “I’ll come in a jiffy!”

Cathy spent the late morning painting a childlike drawing of a tiny being–half fairy, half bird. The innocence of the painting charmed her.

This might be my last time alone for a while, she thought, savoring the solitude and the quiet. We make our peace, she thought, hoping to remember this during the busy days that would be sure to follow the baby’s delivery.

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In the afternoon, while she was relaxing with a computer game, the contractions came.

I can do this, she thought, remembering to breathe.

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But the second contraction came with such fierceness, as if she were tearing inside, and she wasn’t sure she could do it. She couldn’t get ahold of Jaclyn. She called onezero.

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onezero arrived with sadness. Cathy couldn’t ask what was the matter–every ounce of concentration was spent breathing through the pain.

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“I knew it wouldn’t be an easy birth,” onezero said. “I could feel it. Are you all aright?”

Cathy couldn’t answer.

“I wish Jaclyn were here,” onezero said.

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They made their way back to the nursery.

“Oh! It’s going to be all right!” onezero said. “I just felt a shift. There’s nothing to worry about! You can push now!”

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And onezero was right.

In fact, she was doubly right. Two babies were born, a son and a daughter, and both were healthy, each one with ten fingers and ten toes, and two eyes, and one nose.

“They’re lovely. What will you call them?” onezero asked.

“You name them,” said Cathy. “You’re their godmother.”

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“Me and Jaclyn,” said onezero. She closed her eyes for a moment. “Jaclyn says that the little boy should be called something… something that you had in your sandwich. Fireflies? Something sparkly.”

“Sparkroot?” Cathy asked.

“Exactly!” said onezero. “Sparkroot and Florinda.”

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onezero took out her cellphone. “We need to remember today,” she said, snapping a photo of the two of them. “I mean, of course we’ll always remember, but this will help us commemorate, too.”

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When onezero left, Cathy spent time with each baby, feeling that warm weight rest in the crook of her arm, as if her body had been built for this.

Sparkroot had eyes the shape of his daddy’s, but they twinkled with a spark all his own.

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After she’d nursed the twins and tucked them into bed she called Brennan.

“We had two,” she said. “Do you want to come meet them?”

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“It’s really something,” he said. “Are they exactly alike?”

“Well, one’s a girl and one’s a boy, and one has lighter skin and one darker, and their eyes and smiles are shaped differently, but they’re exactly alike in that they’re both ours.”

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Brennan felt proud and surprised. They weren’t much to look at–they both looked the same to him, sort of like little peanuts, and there wasn’t much of them, and they couldn’t really talk yet, could they, but they’d grow into something. They’d grow into actual people, his children, and that was something.

“I’m a dad,” he said.

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He wrapped his wife in a hug. “We really did it!” he said.

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“I’m a dad!”

She held him, and to her, with his beating heart and hot skin, he felt in her arms like a little boy who’d come home from school with a first prize in the science fair, bursting with excitement and pride.

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She went into the kitchen to prepare a late-night snack for them, and when she finished, she found him at the computer, posting onto the Forums, “I am the proud papa of twins. Who says a poor boy from New Orleans can’t hit a home run, twice?”

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New World Symphony: Room

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Cathy Tea wanted more room. Not for Brennan: they were happy living in separate houses. Not for a double-bed: the thickets suited their wild times just fine.

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But she’d run out of room for hanging paintings. She’d always wanted a rooftop garden. And she thought it might be nice to have a launchpad for the rocket ship on the roof, too.

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But mostly, she needed room for this.

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She had thought she was too old to conceive, but with so much magick filtering into this new world, the old laws seemed to give way.

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The first one she wanted to tell was her neighbor Jaclyn. When she thought about it, she realized that Jaclyn had been along on every step of her engagement and marriage to Brennan.

What kind of enchantment was that? She, who’d never wanted to marry, now found herself with a husband, a wishing well man opposite her in nearly every regard.

Jaclyn had been there at each turn.

When she had arrived at Jaclyn’s cottage, a voice had called out, “Come in, Cathy!”

But Cathy entered to find no one at home. The kitchen was empty. There was no one upstairs.

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No one was out by the pool.

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No one was on the patio. Who had called her?

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She was about to leave when she heard Jaclyn’s voice. “I was expecting you,” Jaclyn said as she came in through the front door. “Do you have news?”

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“I do have news!” Cathy said. “But I’m guessing you already know.”

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Jaclyn laughed. “There is the knowing that we know. And then there is the knowing that we learn. I want to learn what I already know, and I want you to tell me! Something happens when the words are spoken.”

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“Besides,” continued Jaclyn, “Won’t it feel good to tell someone?”

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They sat together at the table.

“I’m sure you can tell by looking at me,” Cathy said. “It’s not a flu that turns my stomach.”

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“Go on!” said Jaclyn. “Say the words!”

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“Brennan and I are expecting,” confided Cathy.

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“Carrots, turnips, and rutabagas!” Jaclyn shouted. “Pots in the oven and simmer on the stove!”

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Jaclyn laughed. “This is wonderful news. This is what it’s all about.”

“But I’ve never really wanted to be a mom,” Cathy confided.

“Sure,” said Jaclyn, “but what does what we really want have to do with our destiny? Not much, when it comes right down to it.”

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“That seems a little backwards,” replied Cathy. “Aren’t we the masters of our own destiny?”

“Maybe fools are!” said Jaclyn. “But once you step into rune, something else happens entirely. Did I ever tell you how I came about?”

“Something about a tree and a wedding ceremony?”

“No, no!” laughed Jaclyn. “I was the result of a long debate.”

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“For generations–eons, really–elves and hobbits lived peacefully apart. They hadn’t much to do with each other, and they hadn’t much need to change. As a result, elves became more ethereal, and hobbits became more earthy.”

“I can see how that could happen,” Cathy said, “what with elves dining on pollen and nectar, and hobbits squeezing in elevenses after second breakfast and full suppers after dinner!”

“It was all fine when in woods and meadows we were free to roam, with rune in every mushroom and  every piece of honeycomb, but when the trees were felled and the fields were plowed, and the world began to shrink, we had no place to go! Elves were too light for nomdish eyes. Hobbits could scramble under branch and briar, but through the years, they’d lost their touch. They were little more than squat nomdish theirselves! So my grandparents and my great uncles and aunts and all the old ones began to plan. They realized it was time for something new! A kind of kin who could carry rune in a form strong enough for this world here! So that’s how I came about!”

“You mean, like a breeding project or genetic engineering?” Cathy asked. “But how unromantic is that!”

“Oh, there was plenty of romance!” said Jaclyn. “You should have seen my ada and ama! They were so in love. When there’s a need, and something rises to fill that need, it is often love that steps into the space.”

Cathy thought about the wishing well and her inexplicable, undeniable love for Brennan.

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“Now you stay here for a little while,” Jaclyn said, “while that story sinks in. When you’re tired, sleep in the garden. When you’re hungry, you’ll find food on the table.”

Cathy let Jaclyn’s words settle into her. She grew sleepy and wandered into the garden for a nap among the primroses and holyhocks. When she woke she came into the kitchen, where a warm sandwich waited for her on the table. It smelled like ginger, turmeric, nutmeg, goat’s cheese, and bee pollen.

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“There must be magic in this!” Cathy said. It tasted divine.

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But after she’d eaten half of it, something started twisting inside of her. Was it just morning sickness again? Or maybe the sandwich wasn’t right.

“Jaclyn!” she called. “I don’t feel so great.”

“It’s fine, Cathy,” Jaclyn called down. “I added sparkroot and flower petals to the sandwich. It makes you feel a little funny for a bit, but not to worry! It’s an old recipe. For transformation!”

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Oh, bother and chrysanthemums! It would all turn out all right, wouldn’t it?

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New World Symphony: In a Pickle

“Thanks so much for coming,” Floyd said to each guest traipsing down the stairs. “Really glad you were here.”

Joel, the last guest to have arrived, led the line, and Nathanael, the first guest, brought up the rear.

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“Bye, Nathanael!” said a high flute-like voice.

Nathanael turned to see onezero standing behind the stairs.

“Are you coming, onez?” he asked. “It’s time to head home.”

“Oh,” onezero laughed. “We’ll see!”

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Nathanael walked out the front door, and onezero looked around. The wall was a very nice shade of gray.

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“onezero!” said Cathy, as she headed upstairs to help clean up after the party. “What are you doing there?”

“Why, hello, Cathy!” replied onezero. “I really had a lovely time at the party. Didn’t you? All that music! All that food! So many friends!”

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“Yes, but what are you doing behind the stairs?” Cathy asked.

“Oh, that!” said onezero. She laughed again. “You see, they were coming down, and I was going up, and I thought it best to get out of the way, and so here I am!”

“Well, can you come out the same way you got in?” Cathy asked.

“Oh, well. I don’t really think so. I seem to be here now.”

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Cathy headed upstairs to tell Cypress and J. P.

“So, I guess I’m just moving in back here,” onezero said when her great niece and nephew came down.

“What are we going to do?” asked Cypress.

“Maybe she can crawl out between the stairs,” said J. P.

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“Can you fit between the stairs?” asked Cypress.

“Oh, well, no. I don’t think that’s possible,” said onezero.

“But that’s how you got in there, right, Aunt onez?” asked J. P.

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“Oh, well. I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” said onezero. “Plus you know how unidirectional ports of entry work. No, this is just fine. I am really quite content back here.”

J. P. and Cypress walked a few paces off to discuss what they might do.

“You see,” continued onezero, to no one in particular, “sometimes the Universe has ways of placing us where we’re meant to be! What may seem like a possible pickle could actually turn out to be something quite desirable after all!”

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“Take this little room where I find myself, for example. To some, it may seem like a strange mishap that I’m here. But really, this is where I am meant to be. Why, it is quite comfortable! And look! There’s no one around. I have all the solitude I could ever desire. And if I ever want to talk to someone, then J. P. will stop by. And if I get hungry, he will bring me something to eat.

“J.P.?” she called.

There was no answer.

“J. P.?”

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“I suppose the experience of hunger is something I can explore!” she told herself. “What is it really, but another sensation?”

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She closed her eyes. She was not hungry at that moment.

In fact, with the gray walls close around her, she felt very peaceful, protected.

The stairs worked as an amplifier, and she could hear the voices of the one thousand mommies exceptionally clearly as they sang to her of the mysteries of the universe.

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“Right,” said J. P. “I’ll just go and get the carpenter, then.”

“Is Aunt onezero going to be ok?” asked Sempervirens.

“Oh, yes,” said Cypress. “J. P. will get her out!”

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A few hours and much sawing and banging later, the carpenter had installed an archway into the space behind the stairs.

“We’ll call this onezero’s room,” said J. P. “And we’ll reserve it for you. Anytime you want to come back, your room will be ready and waiting.”

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“How nice,” said onezero as she made her way out to the open space. “You really are a thoughtful nephew.”

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New World Symphony: Indeed

It’s a lot more satisfying to cook for two, Jeffrey decided, as he sautéed eggs for breakfast.

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Floyd stayed over every night, until finally, J. P. said, “Look. Just stay.” So he did.

One morning, Floyd found J. P. on the second floor, analyzing one of onezero’s paintings.

“I really love this,” J. P. said. “Of course, the composition and colors are nearly perfect–but look at this energy. This creative flow.”

They looked together for a while, wordlessly following the movement of feeling and thought contained in the canvas. It was a painting of the cosmos, and it seemed to express moment of creation, with both fire and ice.

Floyd felt encircled in a feeling of warmth. He had woken with a sense of surety–he wanted to marry J. P. He knew this.

“Babe,” he said, “Give me a moment. I got to get in touch with something inside, and then, I’ve got something to ask.”

J. P. smiled at Floyd’s sincerity. In spite of all his accomplishments as a yogi, Floyd still lived with a divide in heart and mind, and J. P. loved both. They would spend hours lost in intellectual conversation, and then Floyd might say, “Give me a moment,” and he would tune in, get in touch with his heart, and share from the depths of his affection.

For J. P., whose intellect and emotions formed an integrated whole, watching this conscious shift of modalities in the man he loved never failed to interest him. Floyd was like an old-fashioned secretary desk, and each compartment held treasures and secrets that J. P. loved to explore.

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“When it’s right, it’s right,” Floyd said at last. “I’ve never been one to hesitate when the moment comes. And the moment’s here. Marry me, J. P.”

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“Marry you?” J. P. said. “What makes you think I want a cute, geeky, yogi husband?”

“Um,” replied Floyd, “the goofy smile on your face?”

J. P. laughed, and then, because he knew that some words must be said, he replied, “Yes. Yes, Floyd Cloud. Let’s get married.”

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In the evening, while J. P. was washing up the dishes and putting away the leftovers, Floyd saw a little red-headed girl out on the playground.

“Hey, look,” he said. “Is that your little niece Squid that I haven’t met yet?”

“Hey, yeah. It is,” said J. P. “You want me to introduce you?”

“Don’t bother,” said Floyd. “You finish up what you’re doing, and I’ll just go down there and meet her myself.”

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Sempervirens was just getting off the monkey bars when Floyd reached the playground.

“Hey, Sempervirens,” he said.

“Hi,” she said. “Do I know you?”

It always seemed like everyone she met knew her family, so she was never surprised when strangers greeted her by name.

“I’m your uncle’s friend. Boyfriend. Fiancé, in fact. That means, I’m going to be your uncle, too!”

“Oh!” she said. “That makes sense! It’s like balance, right? I’ve got one house with an aunt who married my other aunt, so it’s only right that in the other house, I’ve got an uncle who married my other uncle.”

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For Floyd, who hadn’t grown up with any family besides a mother who spent more time in meditation than conversation, this instant acceptance into J. P.’s family felt like a long-awaited home-coming.

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Floyd was discovering that J. P.’s family was integrated into most of his life. On every neighborhood walk, they ran into someone from the family. The gallery, which dealt mostly in artwork by the family artists, was visited daily by an aunt, his sister, or an old family friend. Even ZenPines, their wellness club, was becoming a family club.

J. P.’s aunt onezero called one evening to see if she could join the club.

“Oh, man,” said J. P. when he got off the phone. “I’m so glad that Sugar suggested we leave a few slots open. I never would’ve thought to ask my aunt onezero to join! She’s always got her own style, and I never really pegged her as a club-joiner, but I’m telling you! We lucked out! She’s going to infuse our club with magic. Just wait! My aunt onez is something else again.”

They called a club gathering to celebrate onezero’s becoming a member.

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When Miss Penguin walked by, Sugar got a brainstorm.

“J. P.,” she said, “let’s see if Miss P. wants to join. She’s been here at the wellness center every time we’ve had a meeting.”

Sugar extended the invitation herself, and now, their club was complete.

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While the members headed inside to get massages, take steams, and join the yoga classes, J. P. and Floyd lingered outside, wrapped up in their conversation.

“So I never did get that chance to show you that special yoga I was telling you about that night we first met,” Floyd said. “Maybe I could show you now!”

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J. P. felt glad that Floyd remembered–so much had happened since they first met, and he felt like this was another example of Floyd’s thoughtfulness, that he’d remember that they’d been interrupted that first time they’d wanted a private steam.

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“Don’t mind us,” J. P. said as he walked past Miss Penguin outside the steam room.

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“Well, I’ll be,” said Sugar, when she left the steam room to give J. P. and Floyd a little privacy. “I hope my nephew’s not too embarrassed!”

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Sugar herself was unflappable. If others were happy, then she was, too.

And when Jeffrey came out of the steam room in time for the energy-centering yoga class, he certainly seemed happy.

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J. P. was right that onezero infused their club with magic.

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She found the nooks and crannies in the community center, where she would meditate, tuning in to that otherworldly buzz that always encircled her.

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While the other club members took classes together, onezero was content to follow her own inspiration.

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For onezero, the energy of the club and the wellness center helped to concentrate and focus the inspiration she always felt. The center is in a good energy spot, she realized, and it was easy to tune into the voices of the thousand.

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Floyd was impressed by her. He’d met scores of yogis and wanna-be’s growing up as part of the West Coast movement, trailing his mom to seminars, but he’d never met such a clear conductor of the essence of pure being.

I can learn a lot from her, he thought.

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“J. P.” onezero said, “I was thinking maybe we should get a club hat. What do you think about these?”

She showed him some photos.

“Animal hats?” he laughed. “I thought I’d escaped the family fashion fad. Let’s think about it, OK, onez? We’ll see how we all feel in a few days.”

“OK,” she said. “But you’ll see. These owl hats might be just the thing.”

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During meditation, J. P. felt a wave of gratitude. How amazing that his life could take this shape, allowing him to live in a way that let him express his true individuality, without demanding that he sever his ties to his family.  To think that he could have it all, and that his family could be part of this new life that he’d crafted for himself: it was so much to be thankful for.

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New World Symphony: Walk to Town

Jade was running J. P.’s  store when onezero stopped by.

“Do you need more paintings?” onez asked.

“Excuse me?” replied Jade.

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“You know,” said onez. “Paintings. Like what you hang on the wall. This is an art gallery, right?”

Cypress came in, followed by Aunt Sugar. Cypress headed straight for the gnomes. Another one would look great in the garden!

“Hey, Jade,” Sugar said over her shoulder. “I see you’re meeting one of the other family artists!”

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Jade joined onezero outside. “So you’re the famous onezero!” she said. “Sorry I didn’t recognize you in there!”

“That’s ok!” said onez. “I forgot we hadn’t met! So do you need more paintings?”

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Jade quickly texted J. P., who was taking a much-needed day off.

“That’d be great,” Jade said when she received J. P.’s answer. “We’ve got some easels upstairs. Knock yourself out!”

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The light upstairs was rich and warm. Besides a trip to Granite Falls, onez hadn’t spent much time anywhere but the high desert of Cradle Rock, so the soft blues, pinks, and greens of her palette felt luscious on her brush. Her first landscape was a masterpiece.

And so was her second, a painting of J. P.’s home.

I really like the angle of the sidewalk, thought onezero. I know it breaks rules of composition, but that’s what makes it so neat.

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In the golden hour, she painted a study of the planter against the brick building.

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As she finished her third painting, she stopped and listened for a moment. Then, she marched right downstairs.

“Grrrr,” she said to Raerei.

“Grrrrowl!” said Raerei back.

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“Hi! You’re here!” onezero said.

“You make a great bear,” said Rae.

“Why weren’t you here when I got here?” onezero asked.

“It was Jade’s turn to open. But I’m here now,” Rae replied.

andantefour10

“I’m hungry,” said onezero.

When she walked back up to J. P.’s apartment above the gallery, she saw that the light was turning rosy purple. It looks like home, she thought. Not Cradle Rock, but that other home where I’ve never been.

andantefour20

“Why is the air different?” she asked Raerei, when Raerei came up to make sure there was fresh milk in the fridge for onez’ cereal.

“I think it has to do with temperature, humidity, and the position of the jet stream,” said Raerei.

andantefour11

“This is vanilla sky,” said onezero. “It’s sweet and rich and golden.”

“Like pudding!” laughed Rae.

andantefour12

onezero felt sleepy after her snack. It takes a lot of creative energy to paint two landscapes and a study! J. P. had decorated the bedroom in black, so that he’d be able to sleep soundly even if he snuck upstairs for a catnap.

The room felt restful and comforting to onezero. She hadn’t spent many nights away from Cradle Rock. But it still felt like home, for it had her nephew’s energy.

andantefour13

While she slept, the customers downstairs had a run on gnomes. Jade and Raerei were busy ringing up everyone.

andantefour14

The store was still open when onezero woke a few hours before dawn. She caught a glimpse of Grim gliding down the sidewalk on his black plume of smoke. Perfect subject for her next painting!

andantefour16

The canvas didn’t match her vision–too dark, too pixelated. It was mysterious, though.

andantefour17

Why can’t I always paint masterpieces? onezero wondered while she refreshed herself with a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone. Maybe it’s vision, she thought. Sometimes I see with my third eye, and sometimes just with my two.

andantefour18

“We’re about to close!” Raerei said downstairs. “Last chance for a ring up!”

And Sugar found one more painting that she wanted to buy.

“Didn’t you paint this one?” Rae asked.

“No,” replied Sugar. “My nephew did.”

andantefour15

When Sugar went upstairs to say goodbye to onezero, she found Grim telling stories of his adventures to Yuki and onezero.

“You’ll never guess some of the places where I’ve had to show up to collect souls!” he said.

“Not sure I need to know,” mumbled Yuki.

andantefour19

Morning came, and the last of the customers left.

onezero found JRose finishing up her morning jog. They sat together for a while and caught up.

“How’s life now that the legacy is complete?” JRose asked.

“Like it was before,” said onezero, “only now everyone floats through time, not just me and Sugar.”

When it was time for JRose to leave, onezero realized she wanted to head home, too.

andantefour21

This was fun, she thought, a night of adventure at the gallery. And now, I get to go home to Cradle Rock. The best part of going away is coming home again!

andantefour22

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