Done

 

So today is the last day of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), or “Nano Pablano”, as it’s affectionately called. This is the first year I’ve participated, and I have to say, it really indulged the blog-lover inside me. I had a blast trying to come up with a blog post every day of the month, and I’m proud to say I didn’t miss a day. I stuck to my plan and found the time. Okay, so some days I wrote a couple of blog posts and scheduled one to post the next day. Cheating? I don’t consider it that. I put the time in, and had a blog post ready every day. I’m proud.

I enjoyed it so much, I’m sure I’ll be doing this every November, unless I have some unwritten novel burning inside me that needs to come out during NaNoWriMo. It was fun and challenging at the same time, but not so overwhelming as the NaNoWriMo madness of no sleep, no showers, caffeine overdoses, and grumpy family members. It was wonderfully do-able, but I still felt like I accomplished something. And I managed to garner about 20 more followers during this one month-wow! Not to mention I found several new blogs to follow myself. Blogging heaven all around.

But now that it’s done, I need to focus on what’s next. I’m going to take a well-deserved week-long break from the blog, and then resume my twice-weekly posting on Wednesdays and Fridays. And then it’s all Wolf Dream from there, I think. It’s been too long neglected, and it’s “howling” for my attention (sorry).

howling-wolf

 

Everything

everything

I’ve been (slowly) working on a longer piece of fiction that I’ve mentioned here before, called Wolf Dream. It’s about a 19-year old woman in 1989 who meets a group of wolf shapeshifters in her small New England town and becomes enmeshed in their world. It’s not exactly autobiographical-I don’t recall ever having met any wolf shapeshifters back in the day. But I was a 19-year old from a small New England town who was looking for her place in the world, a girl who loved books and had few friends, who partied with her first boyfriend, who dreamed of going away to college and studying literature, of maybe kind of sort of becoming a writer. I was also, like Tess in the story, afraid of almost everything. Of going out into the world, of leaving the safety of familiarity, of leaving family. A little lost (my short story I based it on is called Lost Girl).

I could have used a tough-talking friend that loved and protected and pushed me, but I didn’t have one. So I made one up; her name is Dana, and she’s a wolf shapeshifter. Through Dana, I changed history a little bit: instead of my boyfriend dumping me, Tess dumps him-for Dana. I’ve never had a relationship with a girl, but Tess does-I didn’t want this to be a Twilight for wolves. Sure, there’s a  brooding supernatural male involved, but he’s not the focus; it’s not your run-of-the-mill love triangle. At least, I hope it isn’t. I think it’s much more interesting.

I also changed a few personal details-Tess has an alcoholic father, as I did. But Tess lives with her dad (her mom took off years ago); I lived with my mom after the divorce. I have three brothers and a sister; Tess is an only child. Tess is me, but she’s not me. She’s a blending of memory and fact and fiction, a composite of all the things that I was and all the things I wish I had been. She comes of age and finds her courage through supernatural events (because I like the genre), but it also comes about through tough choices and love and sacrifice and pain.

So any story or book you write, even though it may be about wolf shapeshifters or ghosts or vampires or aliens or zombies, pulses with the essence of who you are, or who you were, or who you’d like to become. It’s life moving through you, through a particular lens. And that’s pretty cool.

If you’d like to check out a Pinterest board I began on Wolf Dream, go here.

 

 

Vigor

WordPress daily prompt: “Vigor”

It’s that special time of year again: cold and flu season. And though I’m knocking on wood as I’m typing this, I’ve haven’t been struck with any debilitating illness-yet. Of course I’ve had my flu shot. But the season is young, and the germs are out there waiting for me. What will it be this year? One year I ended up in the hospital for dehydration after puking my guts out. One year it was the endless choking of bronchitis. Last year I suffered through multiple bouts of strep throat. I just can’t wait to find out what miseries await me this season.

I’m trying to be proactive and prevent illness by drinking super orange Emergen-C. It provides 1000mg of Vitamin C per packet, along with 7 B vitamins and electrolytes.

emergen-c

If I drink this everyday, I should stay super-healthy, right?

Well, naturally there’s some debate as to how effective mega-doses of Vitamin C are in preventing illness. There’s some who swear by it, and those who say you just pee out what you don’t use, and it’s a waste of money. It might even be harmful. My husband is a little skeptical, and worries I’m overdosing on C.

“You sure you want to drink that everyday?” he asks.

“It’s just Vitamin C, it won’t kill me.”

“But maybe you should look it up, you know, make sure it won’t do more harm than good.”

I did look it up, and the jury’s still out. Some people get a little diarrhea, but that’s the extent of it, from what I can see. I haven’t had any problems, but I did compromise and now I’m only drinking it every other day.

Of course, there’s the crazy idea of just eating more fruits and vegetables, staying away from sugar, ramp up the exercise, etc. Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. I do pretty well, actually, could always do better, but it seems to me that I need that little extra something to boost my “vigor”. Time will tell if the C makes a difference, and then at least I’ll know.

Have you tried Emergen-C to prevent illness? How did it work for you? I’d love to hear some feedback about this!

 

Blog Roll (#4)

The first three bog rolls I’ve shared concerned blogs dedicated to writing (Live to Write Write to Live, Kristen Lamb’s Blog, and Brevity). Now I’d like to share a few personal blogs I’ve been following for awhile. They all have their own voice and charm, and I look forward to seeing them in my feed:

Fifty Words Daily. Nick writes a witty little story everyday in-you guessed it-fifty words (sometimes more, sometimes less). Always entertaining.

Cats and Chocolate. Liz writes about books, writing, and her other passions in a thoughtful and sincere style that I was instantly drawn to. She’s also a cat (and chocolate) person, so I’m in.

Jenna Brownson. Jenna looks at the world through an existential lens, with honesty and compassion. She writes “upmarket” literary novels, and probing blog posts that I can chew on for a while.

Cafe Book Bean. Abbie Lu showcases all things books by listing favorites in different genres, interesting quotes, and “profound paragraphs”. I especially liked her spotlights on amazing bookstores, and “book towns”, something I’d never heard of until I read her blog. She also includes a recipe for a fitting beverage of coffee or tea with each post. Yum!

Head on over to these exceptional blogs and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ambisagrus

lightning

(2,009 words)

My best friend Aiden believes his father is a god.

“Not some dumb comic book god like Thor,” he says. He paces around the headstone I sit back against, as he smokes his stolen Marlboros. “No, he’s the real deal. He’s Ambisagrus, the Celtic lightning god. You know that, right, Dove?” He brushes some ash from the sleeve of his black trench coat.

“Yes, Aiden, you’ve been telling me that since kindergarten.” I adjust my braces and pull myself up with my crutches. “I just don’t think it’s a good idea to tell our tenth-grade gym class.” I can still hear their cruel laughter in response to Aiden’s proclamation of divine blood. He’d fled here to the cemetery, and I’d followed, even though it meant detentions for both of us for skipping classes.

“Those bullies need to know who they’re dealing with.” His eyes dart around the cemetery. “They’ll be sorry.”

“I agree you need to stand up to them. Just not that way. It only makes it worse.”

He stops moving long enough to flash me a rueful smile. “I don’t have crutches to beat them with.”

I smile back. I’d been known to do that once or twice. “I’m serious. Don’t make it easy for them.” He continues to pace while I speak, puffing on the cigarette and muttering under his breath.

“Did you take your meds today?” I ask.

“I don’t need them. I don’t have ADHD, you know that.” He smashes the cigarette out on the top of the headstone, flicks it away, and runs a hand through his brassy hair. “It’s the lightning inside of me. I don’t know how to channel it.” He continues his manic ambling. “But someday I will. Someday soon, my father will come to me, and he’ll teach me how to control it. Then they better watch out. I’ll fry them. I’ll evaporate them. I’ll blacken their guts and crisp their skins. I’ll-”

“Aiden.” I hobble over to him as he circles near me.

He stops. “What?”

“Time to grow up.” I lean in on my crutches and kiss him. I guess I’ve wanted to kiss him for a while now, but he’s been too caught up in his own world to even think of making the first move. So I do it. I don’t stick my tongue in his mouth or anything, but I taste the cigarette on his lips.

It lasts only a few seconds, and when I pull away, he looks as if he doesn’t recognize me.

“Why did you do that?”

My cheeks burn. “I don’t know. I just wanted to.” I just want him to stop talking, to stop pretending, to stop waiting for his stupid lighting god father to show up, and to start seeing me. Maybe I thought he’d stop being crazy if I kissed him, that he’d change like the frog prince. But I don’t believe in fairy tales.

“I gotta go,” he says, not meeting my eyes. He fumbles with the pack of Marlboros, pulls one cigarette out, then shoves it back in. “I’ll see ya.”

I’ve been angry with Aiden before, but sprinkle a good dose of humiliation on top of it, with a dollop of hurt for good measure, and I’m not going to just let him walk away.

“Your father’s never going to come, Aiden,” I call out to him. “Ambisagrus doesn’t exist.” They’re words I’ve longed to say for years.

He turns around, his face contorted with anxiety. “Don’t say that, Dove. Of all people, I thought you understood.”

“I understand that your father is not some Celtic god. He was probably just some loser who took off after your mother god pregnant. Can’t you see that?”

He raises a trembling finger at me. “You shut up now, Dove. You  just shut your mouth.”

Something vicious gripps me. Once the words started to spill out, I can’t stop. “I know it’s hard for you to believe that your Virgin Mary-loving mother would spread her legs for a mere mortal, but that’s what happened. Or maybe she was raped. You ever think of that, Aiden? It was so traumatic that she made up the whole thing to put a good spin on it. Maybe she even believes it.”

Aiden’s eyes darken with every word, and his red hair glints in the glaring May sunshine. He burns like some angry fire god, in defiance of my disbelief. It scares me, but not as much as the vitriol I am spewing at my best friend.

I wait for him to scream at me, or cry, or push me to the ground, but he doesn’t. He only turns around and walks away.

“Aiden,” I call, regret already stirring inside me. He doesn’t look back and I don’t follow. With my shuffling gait, I’d never catch up anyway.

I carefully lower myself to sit against the gravestone and cry. I’m not normally a crybaby about things. I’ve learned to deal with stuff most kids never have to consider. Surgeries and catheters and adult diapers. The crutches I lean on. Whatever.

I cry because I may have destroyed the only crutch Aiden possesses.

 

I don’t see him for three weeks, and he won’t answer my calls or texts. I finally knock on his door one oppressive June day.

His mother peeks out, wrinkling her nose at me. “Aiden’s sick.”

“Can I see him?”

“No.” She closes the door in my face. She probably thinks spina bifida is contagious or something.

I imagine her returning to her knees to pray for Aiden’s health at the Virgin Mary altar in her living room. Maybe she feeds him hot soup despite the heat, or reads him tales of the Irish gods and heroes while he broods in bed.

Catholicism and Celtic mythology has blended into a strange mysticism in Kathleen O’Connor’s world. She’s spoon-fed Aiden the story about Ambisagrus since birth. She claims that the Mary statue cries every year on his birthday because the god has not come yet to claim his son.

Aiden has always been there for me during my numerous medical crises. Whether he’s really ill or mourning his deflated delusions, I want to be there.

The next day I walk the three blocks back to his house, although a thunderstorm brews in the distance. It’s so humid my sweaty forearms slide against the cuffs of my crutches. No one answers my knock, and the door swings open when I try it. The first rolls of thunder patter across the sky.

“Aiden?”

It’s silent inside the house, and dark despite the unattended altar candles that still burn. Aiden is probably in his room. I gaze at the dozen stairs rising before me and sigh. Sitting on the bottom stair, I hold my crutches in my lap and work my way up backwards.

At the top, I hurry past Kathleen’s bedroom and knock on Aiden’s closed door. No answer.

“Aiden, it’s Dove. Look, I’m sorry. I don’t know why I said those things. I’m a monster. Will you forgive me?”

Nothing. I open the door. “Aiden, please-”

He shivers in his bed despite the ninety degree weather. He’s never been big, but he looks puny now, lost in the sheets. His hair lies flat and damp on his forehead, and his dull eyes stare. His chest rises and falls like a sick animal.

I rush to the bed and take his hand. It’s damp and cold as a dead fish.

“Dove,” he whispers when his eyes finally focus on me. “It’s the lightning. It’s killing me.”

“Where the hell’s Kathleen?”

“At church, praying.”

“What’s wrong with her? You need to be in a hospital.”

“Never mind that. Listen.” He raises his head from the pillow with great effort. “Can you hear it?”

Thunder grumbles above his shallow breathing.

“He’s coming,” Aiden says. His eyes glint with hope. “Ambisagrus.”

“I’m calling my mom.” I pull out my cell phone. “She’ll bring you to the hospital.”

“No, help me. I need to be outside.” He tries to sit up, but falls back against the pillow, trembling like an old man with a palsy.

“Are you crazy? A storm’s coming.”

“Exactly.”

I start to punch in my mom’s number.

He reaches out and stopps me with clammy fingers on my arm. “Dove, if you’re truly my friend, you’ll help me in this.” His shadowed eyes burn with an intensity I’ve never seen before.

“Fine, but if you die, I’ll never forgive you.”

“I’m not going to die.” He eyes my crutches. “Let me borrow those.”

I sit on the edge of the bed and hand them over. He rolls himself to the other side and, with the help of my crutches, shakily pulls himself to his feet. Stumbling his way out of the room, he pants and sweats over to the stairs and sits on the top step. Holding the crutches under one arm, he slides down on his bum one step at a time.

Thunder crashes across the darkening sky now. The curtains of his bedroom window flapp with a cool wind. Rain falls now in a steady rhythm, leaving the widow sill soaked.

I totter over to the window and look down just as Aiden comes out the back door. He shambles to the middle of the large, empty lawn, drops the crutches and falls to his knees.

“Aiden, what are you doing?” I call.

He doesn’t hear me over the noise of the rain and thunder. He raises his face to the sky and lifts his arms in supplication. Black clouds boil above him, cracking with thunder. His drenched t-shirt and shorts cling to his thin frame; his hair whipps in the fierce wind and sticks to his hollow cheeks in wet strands.

He looks so pathetic that I pull out my cell phone again to call my mom. Just then, a white-hot finger of lightning streaks down from the violent sky and strikes Aiden. The bright flash sizzles across my eyelids, and my ears ring with the sonic boom.

When I can see again, he lies unmoving on the grass.

“Aiden!”

I haven’t crawled on the floor like a baby for a long time, but I do it now. I cruise across the wooden slats of his room and slide myself down the stairs as fast as I can manage. The Virgin Mary watches with utter tranquility as I scrape my knees across the carpet of the living room. I bruise them on the linoleum of the kitchen floor. They sink into the sodden grass of the lawn beyond the open back door.

By the time I reach him, the rain has slackened to a drizzle, and the dark clouds drift away. Thunder rolls away to the east, like a receding conversation.

“Aiden.” I touch his face. His skin, though warm, is unburnt. He cheeks, no longer sunken, glow with a healthy ruddiness. The dark rings around his eyes have disappeared. His lips, no longer pale, pout pink and moist.

His open eyes focus on me.

“Dove.” He sits up with a dazzling smile. “Did you see him? It was Ambisagrus.” I hesitate, and he continues before I can speak. “The moment he touched me, he spoke to me. He said my name. Dove, he took the lightning from me.”

“Oh. I’m sorry, Aiden.”

“No, you don’t understand. That was his gift. To take it away, so it didn’t crackle inside me anymore. I’m quiet now.” He pauses to look around the yard, then finds my eyes. “It feels good.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m perfect.” He leans in and kisses me. I’m not about to argue with him.

Kathleen claims that Mary no longer cries at Aiden’s birthday, and I won’t argue with that, either. Statues can cry, and miracles can fall out of the sky in a bolt of lightning. Frogs can turn into princes, with the right kiss.

And I’ll beat anyone who says otherwise with my crutches.

 

 

Where’s the Turkey?

thanksgiving-turkey

In thinking about what to write for this Thanksgiving Day post, I thought maybe I’d share a memory of Thanksgiving from when I was a kid. But there’s a problem-I have absolutely no memory of celebrating this day when I was a child. It puzzles and surprises me. I’m sure that turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce was had by my family, like every other family in the U.S. on this day. But in trying to come up with the details, of bringing forth a specific memory, or even just a mixed up bunch of memories, heck, even a feeling about this particular day in my history, there’s nothing there. Nothing.

Halloween is clear in my brain, with the plastic face masks that got damp and stinky from my breath, and wandering around the neighborhood with the next door neighbors for the coveted candy. Christmas, of course, with the spindly tree covered in tinsel, and the presents torn open with abandon. Valentine’s Day, signing the Scooby-Doo or Barbie Valentine’s Day cards for friends at school, the pink cupcakes my mom made for the class. Even Easter, though we never went to church and were not religious in the least, even this day is lodged in my memory with the baskets of candy and plastic green grass, the colored eggs hidden around the house and which I’d often eat once they cracked days later (ugh), the pretty pastel dresses my grandmother bought my sister and me, with the fancy hats and gloves and little purses.

They’re all there, all the holidays that marked off the seasons, that spun the wheel of the year round and round. But not this one.

So I asked my mother the other day, “Mom, we celebrated Thanksgiving when I was a kid, didn’t we?”

Yes, she made sure we had a turkey and some fixings. But Dad was rarely there, opting to go to his brother’s house to drink. My brothers were teenagers by then, and jetted from the house as soon as possible. So I think people just came and went, wolfing down a plate before going somewhere else. No one watched football in the house or cared about it. So yeah, there was food, but no grand traditions, and nothing memorable happened. Norman Rockwell it wasn’t.

I suppose that explains why I never made a big deal out of Thanksgiving most of my life. I appreciate what it’s all about, and I’m certainly thankful for what I’ve been blessed with. But my husband and I prefer a quiet day of cooking food, watching the Macy’s parade on TV with Lilly, and the football games he watches in the afternoon. If the weather is decent, I’ll go for a solitary walk. Mom will be over our house this year (her companion died last summer). I’ll call dad and check in on him, bring him a piece of chocolate cream pie.

So I’m okay with those Thanksgiving non-memories; I can live without them.

What I can’t live without is chocolate cream pie.