Story A Day for May, Day 31

day31

Return, Full

Twenty-seven days, plus a few hours, and I return, full. Did you miss me?

What did I do in the interim?

Layer by layer, thin as rice paper, silver in my light, I laid down a tale.

It starts with nothing.

Slowly, it begins to form. A story made from fragments, figments, memories, dreams. The stirring of a sense woven from nonsense.

I lay down a story.

A woman falls in love.

A girl befriends a dog.

My light shines silver on secrets, shimmer,

revealing pain, revealing sorrow.

A grandfather’s life, in hollow and shadow, appears.

What do we know, and what can we never know?

What regions lay within, hidden even to my reflected light?

Some truths, layer by layer, like a sheet of rice paper, shine through.

And this is what I build while I return.

Once the tale is full, we pare it down,

remove what’s not needed, layer by layer,

like water on the rock, wearing it down

until only the shape of the crystal, more durable than water

remains.

We end at nothing.


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Prompt for May 31: “Write a story about a creative person who has just completed, or is in the throes of completing a massive creative effort,” from StoryADay.org.
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Story A Day for May, Day 30

day30

Anyway, Again

Aubrey Meade noticed the older woman a few times before they spoke. It was hard not to notice her, with that style of hers–elegant, sassy, confident. She had the stride of a young woman, except when she would suddenly limp, then lift her right leg and shake her foot. Like a horse shaking off a tight tendon, Aubrey thought.

She’d tripped the first time Aubrey spoke to her. She’d been crossing the street while Aubrey waited for the other light, and halfway across, she lost her footing. The man beside her grabbed her elbow. Her expression then–that was what Aubrey noticed. Still confident, but beneath that, vulnerable, shocked, a touch of panic, and grace. What was that grace? Aubrey wanted to find out. When she reached her corner, Aubrey said something, brash and jokey, most likely. But it hadn’t put her off. She’d smiled. Sometimes a smile brings you into someone’s world–this one did. And Aubrey knew she wanted to return to it now and then, and maybe, even, to stay.

It wasn’t hard to figure out who this woman was. Aubrey spotted her photo on the donor sheet for the nonprofit that she directed: Celeste Templeton, philosophy professor at the university. Many of the university elite donated to Wing City. Some donated for scholarly reasons–identity politics were sexier than ever in academic circles. Some donated to support their students, as the university had a large and active LGBTQQIAAP community. Some donated for personal reasons–the university adopted a progressive nondiscrimination policy which encouraged faculty and administrators to be open about their identities. Aubrey suspected that Dr. Templeton supported their work for all of the above.

It’s such a small town–sometimes that drove Aubrey crazy. But in other ways, like how she always came across the same people, it was OK, nice even. So she wasn’t surprised when Celeste came into the café around the corner from Wing City.

What had they even talked about? Oh, right! New York! Celeste had been, of course. They talked about coffee shops, used bookstores, jazz clubs, and restaurants.

“You miss the city?” Aubrey asked.

“No!” laughed Celeste. “I like being able to leave my door unlocked, take my dog Wittgy out for a walk without looking behind my back every five steps, sit outside at the end of a long day and hear crickets. Do you?”

“Like hell,” Aubrey said. “But, you know. Location isn’t everything!”

They laughed.

“I mean, people count, too.” And they grew quiet, sitting at the café, across from each other, surrounded by the clinking of dishes, and a strange, sideways guitar riff on the speakers.

“I knew this musician,” Celeste had said. “Trey Kidd. We went to grad school together. Here, in fact.”

This woman carried all of her life within her, wound in a helix. As they spoke, she jumped through time, bringing Aubrey with her. This was her grace–this was what allowed her to be young and old simultaneously.

They sat now on a bench overlooking the estuary. They’d called and returned calls–promptly. They’d gone out, three times. They hadn’t slept over. All that potential hung over them still.

And Aubrey liked her. She imagined waking up with her, making coffee. Celeste was talking, but Aubrey was daydreaming about the coffee grinder. Celeste had one of those old-fashioned hand-grinding ones. When Celeste turned the crank–60 turns–her butt swung 60 times, back, forth. Think of that, in the morning, with the sun streaming in.

“–do you think?” Celeste asked.

“Oh, crap,” Aubrey said. “I am so fucking sorry. I was imagining you grinding. Coffee! Grinding coffee. Were you talking?”

Celeste laughed. “I was,” she said. “I was talking about love and how I used to think it didn’t matter if one professed it or not. I used to think that simply feeling it, that was the thing! That swirling cocktail of oxytocin, dopamine, and phenylethylamine. Simply drinking that–then moving through the world, drunk on love–that was what it was all about.”

“Like being a user,” Aubrey said.

Celeste laughed again. “I suppose. But I’ve changed my perspective. Love should be spoken, admitted, brought into mutuality.”

“That’s my style,” said Aubrey, and before she could say anything else, Celeste raised her hands.

“I love you, Aubrey.”

Of course Aubrey reciprocated–she didn’t leave something like that hanging, not when there were visions of coffee grinders and morning sun and a steaming kettle and a bed unmade with combed cotton sheets and the cat and dog conspicuously missing from every single fantasy.

There were more words shared and long looks and touches with hands and lips and eyelashes and noses and chins and foreheads that rested together, gently, quietly, like girls and old women do, when they’re alone, and no one is watching.

“Celeste,” Aubrey asked at last, “Why now? Why me? Why confess?”

Celeste looked over the bay. “It’s a long story, I suppose,” she said. “And it isn’t even mine. It’s the story of my mentor, and his granddaughter, and the boy–the young man–my mentor loved. Two lives, lived in parallel, buoyed by this unspoken love. Yes, it’s felt–even when unspoken. But what happens when it’s shared? Oh, the sparks!”

And they laughed together, a little drunk on phenylethylamine, a little high on dopamine, and very sweetly mellow in oxytocin. Then as the sun set, they walked home together, to Celeste’s home, through the showered sparks of the last rays of the sun.


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Prompt for May 30: “Take a story that you wrote earlier this month, and tell it from a different point of view,” from StoryADay.org.
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Story A Day for May, Day 29

day29

Bonfire

The flames leapt after Kate tossed her grandfather’s notebooks onto them. The brittle moleskin covers crackled. The pages curled and rose in blossoms of ash.

And like that, the words were gone.

“So free!” shouted Celeste. “So free.”

“You did it,” said Trey.

And it was what he wanted, wasn’t it? For he’d told her in the dream that the moleskins weren’t for sharing.

But she felt that he was gone. It wasn’t the first time ash had carried loss.

“They weren’t his words,” said Celeste. “They were the illness’s.”

“Had you read them?” Kate asked.

She hadn’t. But she knew of them. She knew the years of their composition.

They sat by the fire, watching the flames.

“‘And bright’,” said Trey, reciting one of her grandfather’s poems, not one of the love poems written only for him, but one from the spiral-bound notepads, one headed for publication.

“‘Bright until we see no more
For light and eyes can only mix
so much
until the light passes beyond.'”

“‘And when that happens,'” recited Kate.

“‘We find the hollow
where everything lies:
Silence and sound
And the movement
within stillness.

“‘And that is where we are. We are.'”

A log settled into embers and the sparks flew. Each settled into quiet thoughts.

“What is better,” asked Celeste at last, “for love to be expressed or mute?”

“But love is never mute,” said Trey, “for that lightning is always there.”

“And what is love for?” Kate asked. “Isn’t that what it comes down to?”

In the silence that followed her question, Kate thought that love was the stones along the path, marking the way. The notebooks, the box of poems, the spiral-bound, all the words were love, even those written when the way was lost.

Inside of Kate, the embers burned, slowly, steadily. Maybe Grandfather would come again in a dream, or maybe not. It hardly mattered, for he was in all of this–in every ember, every wave of warmth, and in this moment, he would always be here.

Trey spoke, “But I am glad for the poems, Kate the Young Elder, though I hardly needed them to know what we shared.”

“Did you know he loved you, then?” asked Celeste, for the circle of light from the fire drew them into a space where secrets could be shared.

“Oh, yes!” said Trey. “Like Plato and Socrates! What a gift! To be loved. I was made bold.”

“He asked me to tell someone,” said Kate, “if I ever love them. That was one of his last requests. But I don’t think I love that way. I love… like the moon.”

“Shining on all?” asked Celeste.

“Shining on all.”

Can you walk up to anyone, a stranger on the corner, who tilts her head so that the sunlight catches the slope of her cheek, and tell her that you love her? Can you say to the woman, whose dress smells like stale chips, whose ankles are crusted in dirt and dried skin, whose broad gums hold a single molar, and who laughs with loud fire–can you say to her, “I love you?” And what of the clouds and the sky? The seagulls? The sparrows? What of the water in the creek, the mud on the banks, the spinning galaxies? When love flows through you, with a warmth that burns on, and you spin with the stars, one cell, one tiny, shining cell, alive, alert, ablaze, can you turn to the cell beside you, and say, “I love you?”

And who is mad now, when love is the light that shines through your eyes?

“Yes,” said Trey, after the crack of an exploding log and the shower of sparks. “Yes, the moon loves, too, and she tells us every day.”

The words were gone now, burned, risen in ash, and in the silence, Katy-Moon knew that she had completed her grandfather’s wish.

She turned to Trey, she turned to Celeste: “I love you,” she said.

“We love you, too, Katy-Moon.”


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Prompt for May 29: “Write the story that you’ve been hungering to write,” from StoryADay.org.
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Story A Day for May, Day 28

ink

Black Ink

I’d been waiting for Kate to come for a chat, not to talk about Trey, but to ask about her grandfather. She would have so many questions, and who was there to tell her about him? Not her great aunt, who denied her brother’s illness, classifying it as “the eccentricity of genius.”

So few of us remained who knew him then.

For a child, what exists, day by day, is what is normal. It’s only later, in the breeze of comparison, that we begin to discover, no, it’s not “normal” for one to shut himself in his room for days on end, leaving a ten-year-old to care for herself.

Why didn’t we step in? I still ask myself that. So I wasn’t surprised when Kate asked that the evening she dropped by. It wasn’t her first question, but after we’d worked our way around to the barb of her childhood, it was the next spontaneous question.

“Why did no one intervene?” she asked. “For example, a department secretary. Or one of his students.”

Or you. She didn’t say that, but it was what was on my mind.

“We were so busy with work,” I said. “And times were different. We had this notion of privacy–what people now would refer to as boundaries–and this idea tangled with the concept of respect, somehow. We all revered your grandfather. Getting involved, that intrusively–it would have run counter to decorum.”

“I keep reminding myself that I came out all right,” Kate said. “And he did, too, eventually.”

“But it doesn’t take away the hurt, does it?” I asked, for I’d heard beyond her words. “Perhaps if you’d been younger, seven, instead of ten, eleven. If you’d been unable to get yourself to school… then someone would have stepped in, I’m sure.”

“What was wrong with him?” she asked. “He was bipolar, wasn’t he?”

I nodded. “He was diagnosed as schizophrenic at the time. So little was known about bipolar then, what was previously called manic-depressive.”

I asked if she remembered the summer she’d been sent away, to live with her great aunt. That was when it was the worst. I had to take over his teaching load that summer while he was in the hospital. We thought he might be institutionalized. They talked of electroshock treatment. But he came back in the fall, subdued, internally restrained, as if he were perpetually holding back.

One November afternoon, before winter’s chill set in, he and I sat in his office for my weekly thesis meeting, and he shut his book with a bang. “We must get out of here!” he said.

It was the first bright spark since his return.

We left campus behind, roaming along the creek to where it joined the sea. The wind raced off the waves. He stood on the bluff, his arms outstretched, and he roared.

“Isn’t the wild delicious?”

I looked through the sadness in Kate’s eyes, to find that same spark–that untamed spirit of family brilliance.

“You know that Steinhart is still after his notebooks? He’s got the legal team on it.”

“Not to worry,” she said, with a wild laugh. “We’re going to burn them, Trey and I! We’ll have a bonfire. And you can come, too!”


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Prompt for May 28: “Your story must include these words: ink, previously, work, breeze, seven, run, delicious, example, spontaneous, barb,” from StoryADay.org.
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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 26

merch

TK Merch

“Did I hear you ask about Trey Kidd?” the fan asked Kate.

Kate had been inquiring, to no avail, of the barista about Trey Kidd’s shift.

“We don’t give out employee information,” the barista had said.

“So he does work here, then?”

“We can’t confirm employment status,” said the barista. “We’re not effing HR. What are you, a fan?”

“No,” Kate had replied. “It’s personal.”

The woman with the chic red hair and hippy clothes had followed her to the table.

“Are you one of my mutualies?” the red-haired fan asked.

Kate looked at her puzzled.

“Is Trey your bias? Do you stan Kidd?”

At last Kate comprehended. “No,” she replied, “I’m not a fan. It’s–”

“I’m always thrilled to meet another fan,” the red-haired woman said. “There’s so few of us here in the States. Most are in Germany.”

Kate chose to listen. Maybe she’d get some useful information.

“I’ve got some great TK merch,” the fan continued. “I can get you a deal! What do you want, pics?”

She pulled out her iPhone and brought up an Instagram account: @TKStansNFans. Most of the photos were scans of album covers and magazine interviews from the late 70s, early 80s. The more recent photos were blurry, most from a distance, sometimes shot through windows, sometimes through this very window at this very same café. While all the photos showed men with long gray hair, it was clear that they weren’t all the same man.

“I’ve got keychains, too,” the fan said, bringing up her Etsy page to show dozens of round, plastic keychains with cartoon drawings of a young Trey in classic poses: lounging against an oak, arms raised under a rainbow, gazing pensively at the moon. The page displayed T-shirts, baseball caps, posters, coffee mugs, and album covers, too.

“Then, on e-Bay, I’ve got the real stuff.” She pointed to an old baseball cap. “This was really his. Never been washed. I don’t think $1,000 is too much, do you?”

Kate shook her head.

“You into visuals?” On an Imgur site, sketch after sketch of Trey Kidd were laid out. Some were simple, naive, even childish. Others were complex, artistic, and elegantly executed. The bulk lay somewhere in between. “Simple inks are usually around $25, and full color will cost you $50-100, generally. But like I said, I’m always happy to hook up my mutuals for less, specially us American mutuals!”

“I’m not really looking for art,” Kate said.

“Maybe you’re into fan-fic?” The woman brought up a page on An Archive of Our Own. “Check this out,” she said. “No, wait. Trigger alert. OK, here–wait. NSFW. OK, try this one.”

Trey took another hit of his joint.

“Smoking!” he drawled.

He pulled out his guitar.

The woman next to him leaned against his back, breathing huskily.

“Kidd,” said the man with long-dark braids who sat cross-legged. “It’s getting hot in here.” He stripped off his shirt, revealing his six-pack.

“I’m really not into–” Kate said. “This isn’t–”

“You can support this, no prob!” said the fan. “Here’s the link to my Patreon. $25 a month gives you basic access, but for the best exclusive content, I really rec the $100 a month rate. And for more, I give you the gold!”

“And that would be?”

“Interviews. Live chats. The works.”

“Like live interviews? That means, you know him?” Kate asked.

“Well, it’s in the works. I don’t promise to deliver for a few months. But soon!”

“Like I say,” Kate said, “I’m not really a fan. This is more of a personal matter. But I do want to find him. If you could help with that, I guess I could maybe pick up some, what do you call it, merchandise, as a gesture of thanks.”

“Dang, look at the time. I gotta split for work. I was really hoping he’d come while I was here. I still haven’t seen him yet, myself. Tell ya what–if he shows, will you text me? Then I’ll hook you up with good stuff, for free!”

“I don’t have a cellphone,” Kate said. The fan looked at her as if she’d stepped out of another era.

It was still early in the day. Kate didn’t have anywhere she needed to be. She watched the fan dash out the door. Then, she ordered a cappuccino and settled in to wait out the changing barista shifts.


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Prompt for May 26: “One character is trying to sell something to another character,” from StoryADay.org.
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Story A Day for May, Day 25

fighting

Philosophers Fighting

How does a philosopher fight? With logos, one would imagine. And when need demands big guns, call in ethos and pathos. Only dirty doctors use coercion and blackmail.

I’m lucky. I don’t have that much at stake these days. I’ve got tenure. I’m wrapping up my career, not ramping it up. A few more years, I’ll retire. So Denny Steinhart, though he is my chair, doesn’t hold much over me. What’s the worst he can do? Assign me a few more sections of Phil 101? I can handle that. In my sleep. Refuse to stamp his signature my doctoral students’ orals? We’ll get someone else on the committees.

He called me into his office.

“I hear you’ve become friends with the young Elder.”

“Kate?”

“Solomon’s granddaughter. She went back on her agreement with us. Refused to edit the notebooks. Refused to turn them over.”

“It’s her right.”

“It’s not,” he said. “I’ve been looking into it, talking to our legal team. It’s university property.”

“It’s not.”

“Intellectual property laws. What’s created while employed by an institution that accepts state and federal funds belongs to that institution.”

“Not when it’s written on one’s own time,” I insisted.

He had the gall to insist that the definition of “one’s own time” was debatable.

“In fact,” he argued, “while on contract, on salary, one has no time to own. Time of one’s own.”

“That’s bullshit, and you know it, Denny.”

“Our legal team supports me.”

“I highly doubt it.”

A few days later, he called me back into his office. “So, basically, I want to you retrieve the notebooks. Persuade Kate to give them to us. Take them from her house. Find a way to get them.”

Of course I refused. “You know she’s my friend. If I tell her what you’re after–and what’s stopping me?–she’ll destroy the notebooks. They’re hers.”

“We’ll get an order. It’s our property.”

It isn’t. But he was convinced.

“What do you need the notebooks for, anyway? You’ll be publishing his poems. They’re far superior. If you’re after cementing his legacy, his poetry will serve far better.”

He sat silently, gazing out the window, in that lizard way he has when he’s intractable.

“Trust me. I’ve seen some of the notebooks. You don’t want them published.” And I realized then that only someone who wanted to destroy Solomon Elder’s reputation would want to publish his private notebooks.

“I’ll make sure the notebooks stay out of reach,” I said, as I headed out of his office.

“Oh. One other thing,” he called after me. “I’m setting the summer schedule. I’ve got you down for two sections of Logic 101 and three of Intro to Phil.”

“Fine.”

He knew I’d requested the summer off, and we had plenty of grad students who were hungry for summer loads.

I’ve been looking through back copies of The Philosophical Quarterly, Synthese, Mind and Language, and Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, reading Steinhart’s old articles and editorials.

Why is he so keen on destroying Elder posthumously? Is this personal?

Then I found this statement in an article of his published in last spring’s Pacific:

“Human folly, essentially, is the search for meaning–the very drive that sustains poets, artists, storytellers, and mystics. This trick of consciousness spurs us out of the despair of nihilism, yet at tremendous cost, for, in turning away from reality, we turn away from any hope of improvement–of ourselves, and our world.”

The man’s a materialist–how could it have escaped me? This isn’t personal–it’s ideological. Forty years after his forced retirement, and the Philosophy Department still follows Solomon’s romantic transcendentalism. With new findings in quantum physics and theories of consciousness, his school has only grown in strength in the last decade. And Steinhart’s concrete thinking is threatened.

Steinhart knows that Solomon wrote those notebooks during his illness. Expose him, and all he built crumbles.

Except it won’t. I’m still on the faculty, and I’ve got ten doctoral candidates and fifteen master’s students working with me. And I was one of Solomon’s protégés, still bravely carrying the Elder School banner.

Besides, I’ll now be teaching one hundred eager freshmen during summer session. I’ll make sure they off on the right ideological footing!

Solomon’s private notebooks may not be fit for scholarly consumption, but he wrote dozens of articles that are–and surely I can find a few well-suited for Logic 101 and Intro to Phil!


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Prompt for May 25: “Write a story about someone whose boss is doing something contrary to the main character’s morals,” 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 22

dream

Wild Child

Kate woke in a dark space–the umber ceiling pressed low, and she crouched so her head wouldn’t bump it. Columns framed her view. Through the slanted sunlight, golden dust motes spun, and into the golden sparks strode two long legs.

“Grandpa!” She rushed out from under the table and hugged him tight around the waist, a button from his shirt pressing into her cheek.

Can you hear music in a dream? Can you smell?

She smelled his cedar scent. She heard the faint riff of a guitar.

“Dance with me, Katy-Moon.”

They spun with the golden dust, through the sunlight. Over the guitar a voice sang, high and low and wandering like they did, through the magic dust and over the cracked floor.

“Dance with me!”

Kate opened her eyes to find the sunlight slanting into the bedroom. She felt her cheek where her grandfather’s shirt button had pressed. Her skin was creased from the fold of the blanket. She stretched, not wanting to release the memory of the dream. She still heard the song.

Wild child
eyes sparking light

Wild child
dance through the night

Wild child
wolves sing your name

Wild child
never will you be tame

It wasn’t a dream song. It was a dream song, but it was also a real song. She knew the lyrics. She hadn’t sung that song for, what–forty years? What was this song?

There had been good days, after all! Those stories she’d told herself, about a happy childhood–they hadn’t all been lies. There had been days when the door was open, and her grandfather greeted her when she ran in from school, and they’d danced and she’d hidden beneath the table, and he’d played the piano, and she sang, any old song she made up, and then he wandered through the study, calling, “Katy-Moon? Have you seen my moonlight?” and she would leap out from under the desk, grabbing him around the waist, and the button from his shirt would press into her cheek, she would hug him so hard.

Those days had not been lies.

And the silent days, too, the ones that had lain hidden through all the stories she told–those days had been lived, too.

Their lives lay side by side–with her stories, his poems, her songs, his notebooks. There were the dances they shared. There were the long days with no words. Their lives fit his shadows, his pain, but also his joy, his loves. It held their secrets: his unprofessed love, her prayerful hopes.

And there had been days when it wasn’t OK, and there had been days when it was magic.

Kate’s grandfather had taught her how to live. He had fashioned a space as wide as a sunbeam filled with dancing dust motes, as close as the musty fort under the table.

Every space could hold loneliness. Every space could hold love.


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Prompt for May 22: “Your character wakes up in a space they don’t recognize,” from StoryADay.org.
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