Whisper 1.18

whisbi2201

I consider returning to college for a second degree. I figure that my career as a gardener might benefit from a B.S. in botany. I’d forgotten how hard the aptitude test is! But I do well–I qualify for a full scholarship and advanced credits in science. So, this option is available.

Just because a door opens doesn’t mean you need to walk through it–check with your heart and do what you love.

When Dante comes by that evening, I talk with him about returning to college.

“Are you hungry for it?” he asks. “If so, do it! If not, then what are you hungry for?”

whisbi2202

I’m hungry for painting.

Before I start the painting for Mara, I’ve got this other idea that I have to express. I’m not sure where it comes from or what it means. It just says something to me that I feel needs to be said. It feels like it hooks up with my life somehow, but I’m not sure how.

whisbi2203

Before I know it, my birthday rolls around. I invite Chauncey and the whole gang.

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It’s a funny party. We take turns rocking in the rocking chair. We hold father-daughter video game competitions. (Mara wins.) We eat spaghetti.

whisbi2205

My alien friend does his thing in the corner of the room. I have no idea what he’s doing, but it makes this neat buzzing sound and I like the way the air around him feels like it’s charged with knowledge.

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“My! These games are quite original!” Beatrice says. “Did you really just knock off that zombie’s head, Frank?”

Frank just chuckles.

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And then it’s time for my cake.

“Remember the power of birthday wishes,”says Beatrice.

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Mara asks if it’s true if a birthday wish doesn’t come true if you say it aloud.

“Any wish loses power when spoken to others,” Beatrice said, “unlike an intention, which gains power when shared.”

whisbi2209

Before making my wish, I turn and look at the room filled with my friends–each one cheering for me, each one wishing me well, each one celebrating another year of life!

I realize that my unspoken wish has already been granted.

whisbi2210

Frank is the last one to leave. We sit together on the love seat. He reads, and I enjoy the warm feelings of friendship.

Frank and I haven’t done much with our band. We haven’t done anything with the budding romance which we both thought might be happening between us.

But we’ve done a lot with our friendship: we’ve let it blossom.

“Thanks for being here,” I tell him.

“Sure thing, Cat,” he says.

whisbi2211

Dante comes that night and we have our own private party.

I play a song I wrote for him.

whisbi2212

We asked the Love Machine
all about us.

It foretold doom–but not for us.
It foretold the end–but not of us.

It said what lasts
Was what we had.

You didn’t last.
But we did.

You faded out
But not our love.

whisbi2213

I celebrate my first day after my birthday by going for a long run at dawn. This eerie world is so beautiful.

whisbi2214

With the mist settling over the mountains and the autumn trees bare against the gray sky, some might call this view sombre or even Gothic.

I might have said that when I first moved here. But today, I love it. I’m drawn by the mystery, the shadows, the hidden.

whisbi2215

At the fire pit by the beach, I spot an odd figure, dressed like a carnival clown.

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It’s Rainflower Ivy.

“What are you doing here, Rain?” I ask him. Rainflower and I have a bit of a history. He’s Chauncey’s best friend, and back when Chauncey was my roommate, Rainflower asked me out a few times. I went out with him once, but as soon as I learned he was married, I cut the date short. But we’ve stayed wary friends.

“I wanted a little time alone,” he says.

“Are you all right? Why’re you dressed like this?”

“I’m feeling rather tragic,” he replies. “I thought it might help me feel happier, better about my life, if I dressed cheerfully. But it just makes me feel worse.”

“Well, take care of yourself, OK? You want me to call your wife or Chauncey?”

“Naw,” he replies. “I’ll just sit here for a bit. Contemplate emptiness.”

“Nothing’s empty, Rain,” I say.

“That’s what you think,” he replies.

whisbi2217

Back home, I feel the inspiration that I needed for Mara’s painting.

When we were looking through the inspiration books, she kept pointing to paintings in folk style, with bright colors, simple shapes, classical composition, and symbolic content.

I think about Mara, a young woman with a strong mom, a member of this strange and vibrant community, a person drawn by meaning and magic. I hope she likes what I paint.

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Three Rivers 29.1

Twenty-ninth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

AN: Ashton Poe was one of many Tragic Clowns roaming this world. Now he’s seeking a new life in a beautiful starter home, Green Leaf by MisanaBriony.

29. My untested sword

twentynine01

Ashton Poe’s woes didn’t end when the clown strike did: that’s when they resumed. As a clown, he was despised. He had one friend in the world: a worrywart bookworm of a boy, who never saw much purpose in laughing. All the others–even his colleagues–thought of him as a sorry potato sack smeared with grease paint.

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“I am so much more!” Ashton told himself. “The nose doesn’t define me.”

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“I have dreams!” he told his reflection. “Goals, even!”

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“I could’ve been somebody. I could be somebody! Heck! This suit doesn’t define me!”

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When he stripped off the face paint and changed into his street clothes, he felt transformed.

“I quit,” he said to the air. “I’m starting anew!”

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But what would he do? What was he qualified for?

I have  logical mind, he thought. Business. That should suit. Or politics. Maybe law.

twentynine07

He took his new self out to the lounge in Oasis Springs.

What a coincidence! Alec was there.

“How’s the clowning, mon ami?” Alec asked.

“It isn’t!” replied Ashton. “I am done! Done! Finished! C’est fini, mon ami!”

twentynine20

Oui, non,” said Alec. “This is not for what we concluded the strike. The strike we ended for continuing work, no? And the settlement?”

“Ah! Yes,” replied Ashton. “In fact, it is the settlement that makes this new move possible. In fact, after the negotiations, I got a taste for that sort of thing. I’m thinking maybe a career in politics. You need an aide?”

“Um, no. But no. Certainement. Merci et bonne chance.

twentynine19

Ah, well. There was a world of opportunity outside politics! Business. Real estate, even.

Walking through the neighborhood the next morning to scope out the housing market, Ashton was accosted by his neighbor Toby Gustafson.

“Clown!” Toby yelled. “We don’t want clowns in this neighborhood! This is a good neighborhood! We don’t need you bringing us down!”

“But I am not a clown,” said Ashton. “I quit! I turned in my card! I threw out the grease paint and the silicone red nose!”

“Once a clown, always a clown,” said Toby.

twentynine08

Not everyone greeted him with incivility.

“You’ve quit then?” Isabel Rosella asked. “Now what?”

“That’s the question,” replied Ashton. “How’s the life of a writer?”

“Oh,” she answered. “Demanding. It asks so much of the heart and the mind.”

twentynine09

But writers don’t get snubbed, Ashton thought, as he continued his walk along the levee.

“Coulrophobic,” muttered his young neighbor Orion. “Eyes straight ahead.”

twentynine18

Ashton felt relieved when he met his one friend Alexander on his walk.

“Darn library fines,” said Alexander. “You would think that if somebody loved a book enough to read it a dozen times that the fees might be waived.”

“There’s rules, though, Alex,” said Ashton.

twentynine14

“Readers shouldn’t have to follow the same rules. Anyway, where’s your nose?”

“I quit!” Ashton said.

“Humph,” Alex said. “Now what?”

“Maybe I’ll become a librarian. I could petition to waive the fines in certain circumstances.”

“Eh. I doubt they’d listen, even without your nose.”

twentynine15

“Good day, Ashton,” said Belle Meinel, who was strolling with a friend.

“Ladies,” Ashton replied. If there were a career that involved being charming, especially to the ladies, that might be a possibility. He really thought he had a talent for politics.

twentynine10

“Don’t look now,” said Nyla, another of his young neigbors, “but you’ve got a butterfly over your head.”

“Just one?” he asked. “Are you sure?”

She nodded.

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“If one butterfly is so special, what would you think of two?” he asked.

“Two would be cool,” Nyla said.

“Abracadabra and melafracalasmith!” Ashton said.

twentynine12

A few subtle deflections, a small distraction, a quick movement of the hands, and suddenly, two butterflies hovered above Nyla’s head.

“Is this real?” she asked. “You must be a magician!”

twentynine13

Later that evening, sitting in his back yard to watch the river boat pass by, Ashton recounted the exchange with Nyla.

She was a bright kid, and she didn’t seem to mind him at all. In fact, she seemed rather impressed.

twentynine16

Magicians are charming, aren’t they? Illusion, credibility, distraction. A magician is not that different from a politician, after all, except, perhaps, a bit more honest.

He may have found his true career, he thought.

After all, though they both deal with sleight of hand, a magician is not a clown.

twentynine17

Three Rivers, 9.1

Ninth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

9. Big Blue “Like” Button

The world is full of clowns, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a happy place. On the weekend that the clown convention was in town, Malcolm Mignon was facing his own sadness. It was the anniversary of the night his wife left him, five years ago, with two babies under the age of three.

nine03

“Too soft,” she said. “It’s like living with a marshmallow. I need an edge.”

And she was gone.

nine22

His mom, Esmeralda, took them in, and a few years later, his newly divorced sister Mariana joined them with her two kids. Now they all lived together in the big red corner house, four kids, three adults, plus Malcolm’s younger sister, Gloriana, wild and ornery at sixteen.

Malcolm liked his kid sister, even if she was snarling most of the time. He could cut her some slack–it wasn’t easy finding the privacy a teen girl needed with siblings and nieces and nephews in every corner of the house.

nine21

Still, there was a lot to like about the arrangement, for Malcolm, at least. Mariana, for one thing, had always been his main champion, as he’d been hers, and being able to keep her smiling every day gave him a reason not to sink too low when the blues paid a visit.

nine23

It was hard not to like living in a house full of kids, even if that meant he had to wait until they were all at school or in bed at night to get the bathroom to himself.

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Sometimes, even Gloriana would manage to shelve her attitude, and then watching her show her nieces what it meant to be an intelligent young woman made it all worthwhile.

nine15

On that anniversary weekend, Malcolm needed to get away for a while. He left the kids with his mom, and headed out to the Blue Velvet.

It couldn’t be a good omen to find one of the convention clowns shuffling his sorry feet out of the bar as he arrived.

nine20

Another off-duty clown frowned behind the bartender.

“Thought you dudes were supposed to bring happiness,” Malcolm muttered.

“Happiness is over-rated,” said the clown. “We’re trading in the pathos commodities.”

nine19

The afternoon slid into the evening, and, with the departure of the clown, the night began to look up.

Alec Dolan, taking a break from the campaign trail, was there with his buddy and chief political rival Huntington.

nine18

“I like this,” Malcolm said, “Guys’ night out. We don’t need the women for a good time, eh?”

Alec looked at him and muttered something noncommittal in French.

“I’m just saying,” Malcolm said.

nine17

The next morning, the kids were already up when Malcolm came downstairs.

This was the hardest time for him, when Beau and Sasha were cuter than potatoes and it looked on the outside like a happy family. It stabbed him to think that she was missing out on this, that she chose to miss out on this. Who would leave these two kiddos of their own accord?

He hated thinking it, but sometimes, he thought it would be easier if he was a widower. At least then, it would’ve been something that couldn’t have been prevented. Now, on mornings like this, he buttered his toast with “What ifs.”

nine13

In the other room, his mom was telling Gloriana and his niece Sarah some story with a moral. He could always tell when it was one of his mom’s Lesson Stories–they all began with “When a person wants…” and ended with “so that’s why.”

nine14

He liked her stories, though, even the ones he knew by heart. And he shouldn’t complain about having a storyteller for a mother, not since she’d been the inspiration for his own career as an assistant editor.

And Sasha! She came by all her gifts as a storyteller naturally. Now her stories never carried a hidden moral or a lesson. He liked that.

“Young pirate Bobson climbed up into the crow’s nest,” she continued, “and what should he see? Not one but five whales, each one bigger than the last! But that wasn’t all, the whole Spanish Armada was surfing in their wake!”

nine12

She kept him chuckling for a good long time, that daughter of his did.

nine11

Esmeralda always told him, “Son, not to worry. Do you know what makes a child grow happy and strong? It’s love. It’s not having both parents there. It’s being surrounded by love.”

When he stepped outside that Sunday morning, with the trees shining down their pink petals, and the air smelling like fresh rain on the pavement, Malcolm thought maybe his mom was right.

And if he could find someone else to make a little love with, then there’d be that much more love around his children’s home.

nine10

It took a clown to bring his hopes crashing back down headfirst into the sidewalk.

He liked her first joke just fine: “Sartre was sitting in a cafe when a waitress approached. ‘Can I get you something to drink, Monsieur Sartre?’ He replied, ‘Yes, I’d like a cup of coffee with sugar, but no cream.’ With a nod the waitress walked off to fill the order. A few minutes later, however, the waitress returned and said, ‘I’m sorry, Monsieur Sartre, we are all out of cream–how about with no milk?'”

When he chuckled, she dug in, and what followed was a barrage of the saddest stories he’d ever heard, and the one the broke him down was a report she’d read in the news that morning predicting the extinction of the monarch butterfly.

“They all leave,” she said. “One way or another, every thing of beauty will leave.”

nine09

He felt foolish, being moved by a clown’s sad stories. He’d read this was the convention’s challenge–see how many folks they could break down. It was sort of the opposite of a laugh-in. “The real challenge,” read the convention brochure, “for the sons and daughters of Pulcinello is to stir all of the emotions.”

He ran into Alec, who was scheduled to give a speech at the park later that morning.

nine08

Malcolm tried out the joke about Sartre.

“Ah! Out of cream! Yes! I get it. Wait. This is funny? And what other jokes did you hear?”

nine07

When Malcolm explained about the monarchs,  Alec grew serious.

“This, I know,” he said. “I have spoken with the researchers. Yes! You did not know I was with the Greens, did you? I am the candidate!” Alec explained their plan to protect the green spaces throughout the Three Rivers region. “It is the milkweed. That is what these monarchs rely on. My friend Huntington, he does not care about the milkweed! But you trust us! Vote Green and you will see! We will put extinction on the extinction list! That, mon ami, is a prediction!”

Malcolm smiled. He liked Alec and Alec’s passion for the environment.

“Look there,” Alec said, pointing at a happy blue clown walking down the sidewalk. “Not all clowns are sad! That particular clown! I know her! That is Arianna Fuchs, the wife of my campaign finance manager, Janet Fuchs! Oh, yes! We Greens are very progressive!”

Malcolm had to laugh. He liked this blue clown, the wife of the progressive campaign manager!

nine02

He liked, also, a beautiful woman in a baseball hat and purple go-go boots who was eating al fresco in the park picnic area.

nine04

He tried to think of a joke she might like. Retelling the Sartre joke seemed a little sorry. A funny pick-up line seemed a little too hasty. Fortunately, he was saved from having to come up with anything when she approached him, asking if he could explain what all these mopey clowns were doing around town.

nine06

They walked for a bit and talked a lot, until they found Mariana.

“Your brother’s been telling me all about the joys of single-parenting together,” the woman in the baseball hat and purple go-go boots said. “It takes all sorts of shapes to make a family,” she continued. “That’s what I always said.”

nine01

Mariana asked if she’d like to join them for supper, but the woman in the baseball cap and purple go-go boots had other things to do. “A date to get ready for,” she said, coyly.

As they watched her walk off, Malcolm sighed. “I kinda liked her,” he said.

“Did you really?” said his sister. “She looked like she kinda liked you back.”

“Just kinda,” said Malcolm. The sun was nearly setting. “Hey. I nearly got through the weekend. Another year.”

“You’re a good man, big brother,” Mariana said. “Be here for me when my weekend comes around, will you?”

nine05

And they walked together, across the street and into the big red corner house, where Esmeralda was dishing up big plates of spaghetti for each member of the family.