Story A Day for May, Day 27

kidd

Roses for Supper

Trey Kidd picked a fallen rose petal from the table and ate it. Eyes, light, eyes.

Soon, when the time was right, Kate Elder would hand him the box of love poems that her grandfather had written for him, forty years ago. She poured Trey, and then herself, another cup of tea to prepare the moment.

That afternoon, she’d waited at the café for him to show up for his shift. He hadn’t. When the evening barista, a young woman, reported for work, Kate was about to call it quits and try again another day. But at the changing of the shifts, she overheard the baristas talking about the company they worked for. They didn’t work for the café–they worked for a service company that contracted with the two biggest cafés in town and a handful of restaurants, which meant that if Trey Kidd weren’t showing up here today, chances were he was working the other café. Kate knew better than to ask, for it seemed to be company policy not to disclose any information about the former celebrity. She caught the bus to town and got to Busk and Bar in the lull between the evening and late-night crowd. She was the only customer.

The man tending the espresso bar wore his gray hair long. He was about the right age to be Kidd. A man can change so much between youth and age that Kate wasn’t sure how to recognize him. If she’d met him when she was a child, during the years he’d studied with her grandfather, she couldn’t remember. She only knew him from his album photos, his recorded voice, and the descriptions in her grandfather’s poems.

He sang while he worked, “Amazing Grace.” It was the same voice, recognized more by cadence than timbre. He had this way of tilting his head upwards while he sang, so softly, that charmed her.

“Mr. Kidd?” she asked.

He looked at her long. “You look familiar,” he said with a gentle smile. “Were you a student?”

She felt flattered to be thought young enough to have been one. There couldn’t have been more than fifteen years, at the most, between them. She would have been one of his first students, if that had been the case.

“No,” she said. “You knew my grandfather, Solomon Elder.”

His face broke out in light. “That’s shaking the old memory tree,” he said. “You must be the Young Elder, Katy-Moon.”

“No one calls me that anymore,” she said. “I go by Kate.”

He smiled.

“But you can call me Katy-Moon, if you’d like,” she added, quietly. “I forgot how much I like the sound of that.”

A customer arrived, then a few more, and then it was the late-night rush.

When he’d taken care of the line, Kate said, “I’d like to talk with you. About my grandfather.”

“I’d like that very much,” he said. “I close up in half an hour. Is that too late? Or we could meet tomorrow.”

It wasn’t too late. She helped him close, and then they walked together to her home, the home that used to belong to her grandfather.

“It’s been so long since I’ve been here,” Trey Kidd said.

“I don’t remember you coming,” said Kate.

“Oh! You were always out roaming the beach and meadow with your husky! What was his name?”

“Baron.”

“And when you returned, you had no patience for a room full of philosophy students, arguing with each other and hanging on every word of your grandpa’s.”

“I didn’t know what I was missing,” Kate said.

“Oh, yes! I think you did! The grasses, sky, and ocean are far better companions than dissolute youth!” He laughed.

He sat at the kitchen table, eating the fallen rose petals, while she made tea.

What was this brightness within her? What path led here, twisting through tangled lines of moleskin notepads, through the spaces in the poems in spiral-bound notebooks, to a white box, filled with packets of rice-paper poems, written for him? It was a path of words and silence, of revelations and secrets, of pain and succor.

“I’ve been looking for your for a while now,” Kate said. “You were very important to the person I loved the most.”


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Prompt for May 27: “Start a story that begins with the ending, then immediately jumps back in time,” from StoryADay.org.
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Story A Day for May, Day 24

sighting

#TreyKiddSighting

Kate called Celeste once it was a decent hour.

“Do you remember someone in your grad program named Trey Kidd?” she asked.

“Trey Kidd?” Celeste echoed. “Of course I remember him! We were thrilled when he cut his first record. Our Trey! A pop star! It wasn’t that surprising, really. He performed all through his years at the university. He had talent.”

“My grandpa wrote the lyrics to some of his songs,” Kate said.

“Did he? I suppose that makes sense. So many of them had that strange cross between romanticism and esoteric intellectualism, which was Solomon’s special brand. I think that’s what made Trey so popular. People felt smart when they listened to his songs, but they also fell in love, a little bit.”

“That’s the point,” Kate said. “I think Trey Kidd was W.C. It’s not a name; it’s a nickname. Wild Child.”

“Oh,” Celeste said, “how stupid of me! Of course! We all called him that. Last name Kidd, you know. And he was so untamed. Yes. It makes perfect sense now. He was gorgeous. Do you remember him?”

Kate didn’t remember having met him. But he was beautiful in the photos on his album covers.

“Can you help me find him?” Kate asked.

Celeste didn’t answer right away.

“Celeste?”

“I’m thinking who I’d know,” she replied at last. “I never kept in touch with him, but surely we had some friends in common. Who’s still alive? Marjory. Marge would know. Hang on–”

Kate looked out the bedroom window over the bay. She didn’t feel nervous or excited. Why was that? She felt solid–she felt in-her-body. She felt warm. This must be right. This is what dharma feels like, she thought, when we walk the right path. She was doing what her grandfather wanted. He wouldn’t have danced with her in the dream, if not. He wouldn’t have led her to Trey’s name, if not. She wouldn’t have found Trey’s letters and his news clippings if this wasn’t all according to plan. Next, she’d find him–

“–Damn!” said Celeste when she returned. “Seriously, Kate, I don’t know what your grandfather told you about getting old, but it’s so terribly inconvenient! I literally can’t find anything anymore! My address book? The one with Marjory’s address and phone number? You’d think it would be in the top shelf of my desk, right? Where it always is? But damned if I can find it! It must be here somewhere. Tell you what. I will keep looking, once I find my glasses, and then when it turns up, I’ll let you know.”

Now Kate felt nervous after ending the call.

Wouldn’t it be easy if it were the right thing?

But sometimes, the path is hard.

A folksinger doesn’t disappear, even decades after he’s stopped recording, not if he’s popular, like Trey was.

Summit School. She googled it. She found a listing for a Summit Public School, but it was a charter that had opened in 2015. Trey started teaching at Summit in ’82. The search on the district website led her on a goose-chase through PDFs detailing the usage of school buildings from the 1890s through the early 2000’s. The best she could tell, Summit became NOVA high school somewhere in the late 1990’s.

It was a weekday. She called the NOVA front office.

“Trey Kidd?” said the office manager. “I’ll tell you what I tell everyone who calls asking about him. We can’t give out information about our employees. Even if he did teach here, which I’m not at liberty to disclose, I wouldn’t be able to confirm or deny, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to reveal any contact information. And even if I could, we don’t divulge the names or numbers of any of our employees, even if he did teach here, which I can neither confirm nor deny.”

“Do you know how I might be able to find him?” Kate asked. “I’m not a fan. It’s personal. My grandfather’s last wish.”

“Did you try social media?” the office manager said, and she hung up.

Kate googled Trey Kidd. The phishy directory listings all offered smudged addresses in Seattle, near Greenlake, and making the addresses legible would only cost the price of a small subscription.

She found the two-part Bumbershoot interview in the Seattle Weekly archives. She found some fan blogs and some reviews on hard-core American folk music sites.

But she could find no recent information. Trey Kidd had seemingly disappeared from public view.

She turned to Twitter. A core group of fans, with handles like @heartWildChild and @kidd4ever, shared tweets declaring their evergreen love: “not feeling well and I still luv only TKidd;” “goodnight world. I live for Kidd!” “Oldies are besties–Kidd4ever!”

@TreytheHardest posted a photo of a street corner with the hashtag #TreyKiddSighting. “Doesn’t this look like someplace he’d show up? What does he even look like anymore?”

Kate followed the hashtag to find a trail of photos and suppositions. One posted a week ago showed a café from this very town, a few blocks from the university. “He’s working here as a barista” the tweet said. “#KiddYouNOT! Seriously. I effing SAW him! Makes perfect sense! He used to live here! Duh! That’s him.”

The photo was taken from the street, through the window. Behind the espresso machine stood an older man with long gray hair. That was about all you could see of him. It could be anybody.

Kate called Celeste.

“Do you think he could be working here in a café?” she asked. “As a barista?”

“I don’t see why not,” Celeste said. “Kidd always did like coffee! And he sure did love this town.”

Kate’s nervousness left, and she sat solidly in the orange plastic office chair.


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Prompt for May 24: “Tell a story that features a disappearance,” from StoryADay.org.
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Story A Day for May, Day 23

dance

Liner Notes

The chorus from the dream song circled Kate’s head while she prepared breakfast.

Wild child
wolves sing your name

As she blended the blueberries and yogurt, one of the verses returned:

Past  willow, past shore
To the bluff you’ll run no more.
There’s a space where you
Stood, there’s a space
Where you could
Have stopped to be
Past willow, past shore
Over dunes you’ll run no more.

The cadence felt familiar. She wanted to hear the rest of it. She knew this song. One winter, they’d listened to it over and over, on rainy Sundays, in the breaks between storms, dancing in the kitchen in spots of sunlight. She remembered the recording artist’s voice: soft, nasal, mumbling, but sweet, too–endearing.

She still had her grandfather’s turntable and records. She listened to them, sometimes, when she wanted to hear the muffled sounds of analog. It carried her back.

The records filled four milk crates. On top of the first crate, she’d stacked the LPs she listened to most often: the 1985 recording of Beethoven’s 9th, with the Cleveland Orchestra, conducted by Christoph von Dohnányi; the Philips 1987 recording of the Guarneri Quartet performing the Grosse Fugue; and several of Gould’s records, including the 1976 CBS Masterworks recording of Bach’s Six Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord, which had been part of the soundtrack of her last years of high school.

The rest of the approximately two hundred records sat filed in the crates, unheard.

She thumbed through them, looking for the one that held this song. It was “Wild Child”, wasn’t it? The title song of Trey Kidd’s first album, that she’d just read about in the old clippings she’d found the other day?

Wild child,
eyes sparking light

Beyond meadow
over shore–
I can’t remember
any more.

The album covers felt soft between her index finger and thumb, and she breathed in that delicious scent of the old cardboard sleeves. She paused at the artwork now and then. The primary colors of Sgt. Peppers took her back–her grandfather had let her choose that album, and they’d listened to it all through the summer of her ninth year. She remembered staring at the cover of Sounds of Silence while she laid under the table and tried to puzzle out the lyrics. She’d nursed a daydream of running off with Simon and Art, joining them on that road they walked. They both had turned and were looking back at the camera, and while she listened to them singing “April Come She Will,” she imagined that they had turned to look at her, that she was running down the road to join them. That had been one of the years when her grandfather’s door was often closed.

Near the back of the third crate were Trey Kidd’s six albums, with Wild Child first. The cover photo had been shot near here, showing the lighthouse across the bay in the background. Kidd stood in the foreground, looking directly at the camera. Though she and her grandfather had listened to this album often, she’d never paid that much attention to the cover–she’d been too busy dancing. Trey was beautiful: he had full lips, long hair, bright eyes that lit up even an old photo on an old faded album cover.

She glanced at the liner notes, looking for the lyrics. They weren’t there, but in the credits, she spotted this: “Wild Child” – Lyrics by Solomon Elder.

Her grandfather had written the title song.

The watermark behind the credits contained the initials WC in big, gray block letters.

WC stood for Wild Child. WC was Trey Kidd.

Kate slid out the vinyl, and blew on it, gently. She placed it on the turntable, turned up the volume, set down the needle on the title track, and danced, danced, danced, like a child. She had found the identity of her grandfather’s secret lover.


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Prompt for May 23: “Choose a detail that only your character would notice in this story,” from StoryADay.org.
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Story A Day for May, Day 15

wc2

WC: What We Know, What We Don’t

Kate approached uncovering the identity of her grandfather’s secret love like a scholar. It was work she was well-suited for, through training and profession, and it was work that suited the task. After all, two-thirds of literary analysis is detection.

She drew up two lists: What I know; What I don’t.

WC – What I Know

  1. “eyes, light, eyes”
  2. My grandfather wrote 200 love poems for WC between approx. 1969 and 1977, give or take a few years on either side.
  3. “willow hands”
  4. “voice of moon”
  5. “that smile–that moment–light, eyes, light”
  6. He wrote the words “light” and “eyes” within the same line in 5 out of the 200 poems, and within a couplet in 20 poems.
  7. “fingers point, not to the moon, but to the light, reflection of sun”
  8. He seemed to write the poems during the spells when he was most in balance, most healthy. The gaps fall mostly during the manic and depressive times.
  9. The poems stop abruptly–the final 30 poems seemingly written in quick succession, and then nothing.
  10. Journal entries that seem to be written during the time of the final poems focus mostly on fears of global warming (as it was called then) and the addictive drive of over-consumption fueling capitalism. One journal entry around this time states, “WC was right. The personal is no longer the political. It is on us to transcend the personal, pointing all of our direction to the salvation of human kind, if we are to unhook survival from the destruction of the planet. Chinese finger trap.”
  11. An early poem to WC was titled “Chinese Finger Trap.”
  12. “fingers of rush and toes of sedge”
  13. “river hair”
  14. The later poems seem to mourn loss of youth, loss of freedom, the assumption of burden, responsibility
  15. “and still, the light.
    the ending.
    the sorrow when you turn
    the road descending.
    in the depths
    of the meadow
    under the forgotten
    stone, a single
    sprout rises.
    willow finger,
    points and I witness
    the moon.
    This is enough.”

WC – What I don’t know

  1. What name hides behind these initials
  2. Age
  3. Residence
  4. Race?
  5. Sex?
  6. Still alive?
  7. Did WC ever exist, or was WC a poetic invention?
  8. Was WC actually a student?
  9. What purpose did WC serve for my grandfather?*
  10. Did WC, if WC existed, know how my grandfather felt?
  11. Where is WC now, if WC existed?
  12. Is it completely foolish of me to try to find WC?
  13. If I find WC–if this person a) existed in the first place, and b) is still alive, and c) lives somewhere I can get to, should I tell WC how my grandfather felt?
  14. Does WC have a right to see these poems?
  15. Is it ethical or unethical to share the poems?
  16. Is it better to know or not to know?

* Initially, WC seems to provide a grounding influence–perhaps the neurochemicals of infatuation helped to counter-balance the bipolar imbalance–maybe, at first, love was my grandfather’s way of self-medicating. This seems to have reached a peak around poem 105. By poem 125, the direction seems to switch to the political–to using the energy of love to fuel action.

The lists didn’t do that much good, except to fuel her desire to find out more. She could worry-out the ethics of the revelation later. At this point, what mattered was discovering who was WC.


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Prompt for May 15: “Write A Story In The Form Of A List,” from StoryADay.org.
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Story A Day for May, Day 13

anyway

Anyway

So Solomon Elder had been in love, all those years, just as I’d suspected. Only he hadn’t been in love with me. It was as I sometimes thought, merely his knack for making everyone feel special. I could be forgiven for thinking I really was.

But I had harbored hope all this time. It was something I drew from, like a well when I needed to keep going. A scholar’s life can be solitary. I didn’t mind, when I thought that I was, perhaps, the secret love of a man with a great mind. I blush to think it and to think that I had wished it for so long.

I modeled my own approach to love after his: this concept of the lover transforming through the softening of internal structures that happens when we are in love. That is the purpose. It is the feelings, the way the specific neurochemicals of love open and broaden us. What matters is to experience that, and as we do, our best selves come to the fore, so we bring benefit to all we interact with. When that process happens as it should, it isn’t necessary that we express our feelings to the one who engendered them. This is what Dr. Solomon Elder taught, and in my hubris, I took this as his secret confession, and I lived my life accordingly.

How many times have I been in love? More than I can number. How many times have I confessed? Enough to count on a single hand, and each time I declared my affection, I felt selfish, in a way, unloading a burden onto the beloved, and like a traitor, betraying my mentor’s teaching.

But all this time, his unprofessed feelings were for another.

What purpose does it serve? For most of my life, I believed that each of our loves calls into being an aspect of ourselves that would otherwise remain latent. This was a subject of research and study for me. Of course, at the core lay my observations of my own personal development, and behind that, lay the question of what I brought forth in those who loved me, for example, in Dr. Solomon Elder. But if Solomon hadn’t loved me, and had loved, all those years, someone else, someone whom his granddaughter was now hoping to find, then I brought forth nothing in him, perhaps, or maybe nothing more than an inquisitive and devoted graduate student might bring about.

I suppose the truth at the core of all of this is that I loved him: I loved Solomon Elder from our first exchange, and I never professed my feelings. And what did he bring forth in me? Loving him carried me through. How did I manage to complete my dissertation, go on to gain teaching positions, publish articles? I didn’t want to disappoint Solomon.

We all felt that way. Perhaps we all harbored the secret wish that he loved us. And maybe he did, as every good teacher loves. But he didn’t write secret poems for each of us.

I thought of all those I’d loved–how many could I remember? The boy with the long ponytail and long eyelashes who took the first Plato seminar I taught. It would never have done to have confessed my feelings to him–he was a student, and I, a first-year lecturer. The baker at the coffee shop on the corner, who, every morning as I walked to the university, came out in her white apron, golden with flour dust, singing. I still love her–she gave me a sense of home that I draw on even now. And I would never tell her, for she had a husband, grown children, and busy days that began before dawn.

Just the other week, I fell in love. I was happy at the time for it to be a love encapsulated in a memory of a moment: her face, her brash words, that smile. I have been drawing on that these weeks, and I’ve grown stronger, at a time when I’ve needed strength.

But what if this were something different? Solomon Elder never loved me, it seems. He loved someone else, all those years. And so, what if I tried something different this time?

What would happen if I went to the café near the corner where I saw her? What if she frequented that café? What if I introduced myself to her, and we got to talking, and I heard that saxophone laugh of hers? “Life’s a bitch,” she had said, “and then we get on, anyway.”

I could use a friend like that. I think, even, I could use a lover like that.

I think I am, perhaps, through and done with the secret beloved. I am all about the confession now. Baby, I love you. Let’s see where that takes us.


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Prompt for May 13: “Start with a life-changing moment and lead your characters through the story to show us who they become,” from StoryADay.org 
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