Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fourteen by Kaylie Crowley

I have no idea when I wrote this, but I'm posting it anyway. 

Moira hated her name. It was all wrong, like pink lipstick with brown eye shadow- it didn’t match up. The mousy, freckled, wisp of a girl playing the piano did not fit a name so bold. She made it her business not to draw any attention, but those five letters screamed out windows and in marketplaces, “I’m different! Notice me!” The truth was Moira didn’t want to be noticed. She tried very hard to fade, like the stamps you get on the back of your hand from theme parks. She wanted the world to just scrub her off.

When she was even smaller, more freckled and unbelievably mousier, she once raised her hand in class. Mrs. Rulchuck was asking about Arithmetic, and Moira found she was mildly adequate at Arithmetic. The answer was fourteen, and she knew it. No one else in the class knew it, and there, up front and covered in chalk, was Mrs. Rulchuck, waiting for the answer. Fourteen. Someone say fourteen. Moira looked up and around at the fidgeting hands and the rolled socks. The children were looking down in their laps or out the windows or at their friends. No one was going to say it.

 Before she knew what was happening, she raised a trembling hand, three, four inches from the desk, and suddenly she heard her loud, brash named called out to her, joltingly. “Moira,” eyes of bewilderment, “Do you know the answer?” Her mouth opened, knees knocking and hands sweating, the boy in front of her had turned completely around. Staring at her loud name. She had never considered his face before, just the back of his head. That cowlick that reminded her of an eye of a hurricane. She tried to say… she knew the answer… she knew the word that described the number that was the answer. But nothing came. Mrs. Rulchuck’s expectant look diminished and her disappointed one replaced it. And at recess she was laughed at, mocked. Dumb, they called her. Stupid. And that she was.

She would have said the answer if her name had been Mary. Or Ann. But that big, clunky name hit her in the face so hard she lost her entire mouth. It winded her until there was no breath to use. Fourteen. Fourteen.

The Defining Day by Kaylie Crowley

I wrote this quite a while ago and found it the other day. I did a little editing and, well, here you go.

It wasn’t that he was nostalgic. He was a 64-year-old farmer for God’s sake. No, not even for God’s sake, he was a farmer for no one’s sake but his own. His leathery hands didn’t exactly clasp in prayer on a regular basis, nor did they feed the hungry mouth of a baby or caress the soft skin of a woman much in his life. These hands were built for labor, and labor was all they knew how to do. They were satisfied to be cracked and blistered and strong. He’d done all that a man could do in his life--he’d worked hard for his bread and eaten that bread with whiskey and he was quite satisfied. Quite satisfied.

There was just…a quiet. Not a content end-of-the-day quiet that puts one to sleep with tired muscles and full belly. More of an empty quiet. One that was just void of all things. When he walked up his creaking porch steps in his muddy boots after a long day planting tomatoes and squash, when he shed his clothes and collapsed on the couch, it was so… silent. Deadly still. There was nothing else. When his work day ended he was truly finished.  A life with no one to greet him seemed ideal when he was a boy in a house bursting with children. Even when he was a young adult, solitude was both preferred and, well, blissful. But now, in his old age, he noticed the quiet.

He was sprawled on the couch dusty and aching, beer in hand and shoes on the floor, listening to the silence. It was May 14, and as he sat and ached and drank he thought back to another May 14, decades ago. This was the day of his wedding. Can you imagine? Him, tux and tie and shiny black shoes, kissing cousins and in-laws and laughing about flower arrangements. He remembered his nervous pacing and sweaty hands. He smiled to himself at the absurdity of it all. At the time, however, he felt that this day was the most pivotal day of all his life. This was the day that would define his entire future.

He was wrong about May 14. He was defined by a different day.

It was outside in the yard, his wedding. He had pruned and shaped and weeded for weeks so that every flower, every petal was in place. And she. Strong and loud, laughing at sunshine and crying at babies, she was the last thing he thought he needed. She brought him wildflowers, and slept until noon every Sunday. She had freckled, rosy cheeks as soft as goose feathers, plump and dimpled as she laughed so hard her eyes disappeared. After all this time, he still remembered those cheeks. But the eyes, were they green? He saw them, envisioned them for a split second and then they were gone, hazy and colorless and all he could see were her perfect cheeks. He had loved her, but he couldn’t remember her eyes.

Their bliss was cut short, of course. Those cheeks became hollowed and papery as they grew whiter and whiter and whiter. But pale was the least of their worries. He thought back to those days of bed rest, spoon-feeding like an infant. Life had just begun. It was at the end of this beginning that those leathery, weathered hands clasped in prayer for the first and last time. Hours of every day, all through the tear-soaked nights. Rocking. Please God, not her. Please God, not her. Please God. Not her.

He could still feel the warmth of her breathing in his bed, still taste the first burnt dinner and feel the coarse lace of her white dress when she died. He smelled her honeysuckle hair amidst his wallpaper-glue living room even now. They didn’t have time to say hello before it was goodbye. There were still boxes of curtains, or bloomers, or something of hers, that he could never unpack alone, so they stayed in the same boxes. Moth-eaten, probably.

It was October 2. That was the pivotal day. The defining day. The day he buried his wife and all her loveliness and all his happiness. Every shovelful of dirt was a memory they never made. A moment they never had. He felt now, sinking into his couch and staring at nothing, holding his own hands that all the sound of his life was buried in that hole, and now there was only silence. Dead silence.

Scorned by Kaylie Crowley

I wrote this for my Fairytales class: it will mean nothing to you if you are not somewhat familiar with traditional fairytales. Regardless of your familiarity, take a gander at will. 

In this place, there are tales of wolves. It is said that they were once men, corrupted and carnal, lusting until they could stifle their hunger no more. They grow hair, the body displaying the beast of the soul, and they use their hands as feet and snatch naughty children from their beds. Some say they eat the children for luncheon, but the trees whispered to me that they teach them their demon tricks and spells and turn them to wolves themselves. They work for the devil, because he does not have claws and teeth and cannot rip humanity apart himself, so he finds men to do it for him. They live in the deepest woods, far from the paths, and hunt by themselves, frightening women and children with their bloody muzzles and matted fur. They are damned, immortally doomed to roam the earth in their sin, like the dark faeries of old. This is a tale of a wolf and a beautiful woman.

There was once a young woman and her father, and they lived in a small town near a river. It does not matter where, for this is a tale for all places. The girl’s father was a lunatic, he scratched his own eyes and broke all the windows of the house, and he slept during the day and screamed all of the night. Despite the burden of her father the girl was beautiful, beyond the grasp of the town, and they called her Beauty, for they knew nothing of her but her appearance. Every day, while her father slept, she slipped out of the front door of their house on the outskirts of town and headed into the woods, whistling at the birds. The women of the town whispered ‘witch’ and reached for their children’s hands, advising them never to enter the wood alone. But the men, full of love for this pure, lovely creature, scolded old wives’ tales and demanded repentance, for no witch could be as lovely and as kind as Beauty was.

There was one man in the village who claimed Beauty loved him, and told every man, woman, and child that he would make her his wife. They warned him of the madness of her father, and advised him to kill the lunatic before bedding the bride. He nodded and grabbed his dagger. He asked for Beauty’s hand, wearing all manner of finery, but she gazed listlessly at the wood and refused. The man was enraged, and swore revenge on Beauty and her lunatic father, and so the next day he followed the girl as she whistled through the wood. She carried a basket and followed a path, like all girls do when they walk through the wood, until she came to a particularly gnarled tree. She stopped suddenly, and the man hid from her sight. Just in time, for she turned around and looked at the expanse of the wood for strangers. Old crones and wood nymphs were said to inhabit the place, and there’s nothing like being too careful. The man looked again to where she was standing, but she had disappeared in an instant. “Poor, innocent girl has been kidnapped!” he said under his breath, “I shall try again tomorrow.”

For three days he followed the girl into the wood, and at the same tree every day she disappeared. On the fourth day he went early, before the sun dappled the leaves, and waited at the tree for her. When he heard her whistling he hid, waiting to see where his love disappeared to. As usual, she stopped and looked about her, silent and still, until she was sure she was alone. Then she whistled once more, and a great beast came and swept her away. The man was so astonished, he almost forgot to follow them, but he was a fast runner and remembered just in time. He lost the pair deep in the heart of the wood, where barely any light could pierce the canopy of leaves. He searched and wandered for six hours, exhaustion and fear taking hold of his heart. Finally, he came upon a small cottage, and saw inside Beauty and a man, sharing bread. The man was naked, and he kissed Beauty, unaware of the peering eyes at the window.

“The devil!” the man said, “the devil has enchanted her,” and he turned in such a fright that he fell on a stone and cut his leg. The stone turned rose red with blood, and he gasped in pain. With his leg bleeding, the man ran as quickly as he could back to the town, but a beast, large and ferocious, roaring so loudly the trees shook with fear, caught him up and ate him slowly, crunching his large bones and laughing at curiosity.
The next day the town stormed the house of Beauty and her father, demanding that the lunatic die for witchcraft and devilry, for they believed he had killed the man who loved his daughter. She laughed and said, “No man loves me,” and fled the mob into the wood. The people slashed her father’s neck and then followed her, felling trees and slaying creatures until they came to the small cottage.

But there was no Beauty there, only a naked man, sitting by the door, peering at the people approaching. They demanded to know what he had done with the girl, but the man stood, crudely, and laughed at curiosity. Then he howled and bent, his mouth growing large fangs and his hair spreading to his fingertips. A wolf stood before them, a terrible monster, and he charged at the crowd. He killed many people, but one young boy knew the story of werewolves, and thrust a silver dagger covered in wolf’s bane through the beast’s heart. Immediately the beast turned back into a man, but he was not dead, for it is very hard to kill a servant of the devil.

The village brought the man, bound and bleeding, back to the town square, where he was to be tried. The council shook their heads and the people shook their fists and before the moon rose they tied him to a stake to burn him. The firewood was lit at the beast’s feet, and he howled as it licked his legs and singed his skin. He died screaming to the sky in the pain of heat and flame.

 Suddenly, Beauty was there, amid the fire as if it was a pleasant field of yellow loosestrife, and she cut the beast’s bonds and carried him from the platform. The people were stunned, staring at her terrible beauty among the flames, hypnotized by her splendor. They half fell in love with her again, for her long lashes were dewed with tears and her red lips were the very picture of sadness. She set her lover down and stood, gazing at his fallen figure. They saw one tear from her eye fall to her cheek as she bent and laid a single rose on his still chest. The people were ashamed that they had caused such pain to such an angel. Her eyes closed and she slowly reached her arms to the sky, as if pleading with the moon. The town’s hearts audibly ached, like creaking rocking chairs. She whispered words in a forgotten language, and suddenly her blowing hair and light, clear eyes were aflame with the fires of hell itself. The people watching her screamed and turned to flee, but the fire burning behind her flared and caught on every house, stable, and cart in the town. She walked into the wood by her usual way, but she had no need to whistle, for she walked to the music of the screams of burning flesh.

Moral: Though man and beast be dangerous to all, it is often woman scorned that is mankind’s downfall.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Nail Chewers of the World:

All you nail chewers, finger biters, gum smackers, lip chompers, and those of you who just make annoying sounds all of the time, this is a message of peace from us misophonians:
All we ask is that you stop.
Cease and desist.
I'm sure it is very satisfying for you to snack on the finer bits of your fingers--we don't deny you that right. Just please, PLEASE lady on the bus, I beg you student I'm to tutor, I kindly ask chick in my math class, that you just keep your nasty habit to your bedroom.
All your nasty habits, actually.
And you, gum chewer at the pulpit, if you shut your mouth the rest of us, I'm sure, would love to listen to your presentation. Is that gum attacking you? Are you giving it a good beat-down, eh? Could you please discipline your gum when you aren't trying to speak at the same time?
I just want to punch every kitten in the room when I hear smacking, slurping, chewing, and loud, abrasive swallowing.
All we ask is that you shut your mouths. At least when you're within eight feet of us.