Have You Heard This One?

Photo by Lucian Potlog on Pexels.com

Two wolves walk into a bar. The first says, “What a day.”

The second buys the drinks.

First one gets to talking. “I install air conditioners. My first job, the place is straw. When I test the unit, the whole place falls down. The pig’s suing me.

“The second house is twigs. I say I’m not doing it. Too dangerous. So he yells, ‘Breach of contract.’

“At the brick house, the guy’s a lawyer. Rants at me about how his brothers are taking me to court. So I eat him. Now I’ve got indigestion.”

The second says, “Have an antacid.”

Equinox

Photo by John Nail on Pexels.com

Eostre surveys the protestors at the Vernal Equinox Picnic. Signs read, “Change the name.” But there’s no consensus. Norwuz, Passover, Holi, Easter, Zhonghe…

Eostre gathers morning light and scatters its rays. It dawns on the participants that there’s better things to do. They discover Eostre’s hares laying eggs. Ashanti boils the eggs and Saraswati prepares dyes to color them. The feathered serpent, Kulkulkan, paints designs across the shells. Soon everyone wants a chance.

Eostre finds the old goddesses, Cybele, Wang Mu Niang Niang, Beorc, and Ishtar. Together, they lead the Rebirth Parade around the world, stopping to toast new beginnings.

Werewolf

Photo by Charlotte May on Pexels.com

“Hey, Granny,” Red Riding Hood pushed open the rough-hewn door. “Sorry, I’m late.”

She stopped in mid-explanation when she saw something half-resembling her grandmother standing in the kitchen. It clawed to open it’s blouse.

“Oh my,” said the old were-lady, whose cracking voice resembled a teenager.

Without thinking, Red said, “What hairy arms…”

“Not that again,” it said, “The last time, I barely escaped with the hair on my chinny… oh, never mind.”

Red stood with her mouth wide open, cradling a basket of jam and scones.

“Darling, put all that in the icebox. And help me with these buttons.”

Crow

Photo by Nadi Lindsay on Pexels.com

My wife swore the UFOs had landed because green men were digging in the garden in the rain. But she’s a little daft and not Irish. It was leprechauns, for sure, wearing black boots, work clothes and trademark top hats. The rainbows bring them and the blarney keeps you from catching them green handed with the goods.

So when the rains came again, I made a trap baited with shiny things and kept an eye on the potato field. And I was there to see a big crow fly away, the gold chain I set out dangling from its beak.

Goldilocks Gets Ahead of Herself

Photo by Dmitry Demidov on Pexels.com

House Sitter Wanted: April in our charming wooded cottage. A place for contemplation, close to hiking and river adventures. Feel free to entertain in our spacious three bedroom home.

Goldie pushed the door open. She’d expected a key under the rock near the entry. What a relief to find the house unlocked. The second surprise: There were three bowls of cereal on the table. Had the bears engaged her for a different time? She checked her phone. New mail. “See you April first. The Bears.” She sat down to rest, the cinnamon smell of porridge enticing her. They wouldn’t mind.

Writing in a Pandemic

Photo by Abby Kihano on Pexels.com

For the past month, a Tarot card that means reprieve has consistently found its way into my weekly story prompt. Sometimes it defines the question. Sometimes it’s the unknown quantity that might determine the outcome. Either way, reprieve is in the cards.

I find this comforting. Whether a reprieve from a broken Washington, a reprieve through self-knowledge or a reprieve via creative insight, all of it seems good. And I see this theme cropping up in places besides my Celtic Cross spreads. My writing group met on Zoom this week. We are normally very disciplined, sticking to the text of the pieces we are discussing, offering useful comments about improving our stories. This week, the sense of loss evoked in the writing provoked a different response that reverberated through the group.

I find myself wondering how much of it was the fictional stories we reviewed and how much of it was the proximity of loss all around us that bled into our comments. In e-mails after the group, one member revealed that a family member had died of the virus. Another commented that we may need to be prepared for more losses as this pandemic runs its course. And though it is unusual to discuss personal issues in our group, the underlying impetus for much writing is personal loss.

My husband tells a story that may be germane here. A friend of his from college, an English major, saw his first snow during his freshman year at an Eastern college. They were walking across campus, white flakes drifting into piles of white flakes. The African student said, “You know that snow means death.” Such a normal phenomenon across most of the United States is a literary symbol which becomes potent when it overcomes the barriers that we erect against it. Heated buildings, roaring fires, protective snow gear, all the ways that man overcomes nature. Until, as in Jack London’s To Build a Fire, nature overcomes man.

As a culture, we have celebrated rugged individualism. We’ve gone into the wilderness, positive that we would return, sure of being protected from the worst by our pluck, ingenuity, entrepreneurship and free market economy. But some things require a group and to be a group, we need to pull together. We need to listen to the advice of people who know more than we do. That means finding some other song to sing besides America First.

We do need America to come together, but that’s not enough. The virus is here. The means to fight it are spread around the world. Isolation is the first defense. But cooperation can’t be far behind or we risk freezing to death as a result of our own stubborn denial regarding the risks. And unlike a man freezing in the wild, we will take others with us if we can’t admit that we need each other.

There are two versions of To Build a Fire. In one version, the protagonist dies. In the other, he sustains frostbite and becomes a wiser person. We could use a little wisdom as we fight our battle with nature. Reprieve is in the cards, the question is how we go about making that happen and how much damage we sustain before the pandemic is over.

Moving Mountains

Photo by Egor Kamelev on Pexels.com

Kat hadn’t thought about the ant tattoo in years. Small and hidden, she’d forgotten about it until Grant found it accidentally. He renewed her interest, stroking it when massaging her shoulders, licking it during sex.

She’d gotten the tattoo at a beach town on a drunken dare. Now she wished she hadn’t. A reminder that love has unexpected consequences. That even family can’t be trusted. For Kat, the tat symbolized both escape and surrender. She considered removing it.

Knowing it’s the scars inside that matter, she didn’t. Repairing the surface is just the beginning of a journey to the self.

Maya

Photo by theformfitness on Pexels.com

Maya had escaped death more than once. Fired from a cannon during her act with the circus, she had been mesmerized by shallow praise from the man who lit the fuse and held her cape. In the moments before ejection, her life flashed in front of her eyes.

More and more memories from her childhood emerged. It hadn’t been good. The slender thread of connection with the other performers broke. Seeking relief from her moody reverie, she fell in with a troop of acrobats who lived together in communal harmony and mindfulness. Cautiously, she explored her past. Joyfully, she recovered.

Self-Enlightened

Photo by Sam Kolder on Pexels.com

Angie wanted to act in Hollywood. She moved to LA, took a job at a cafe, and waited to be discovered.

Yoga strengthened her, put her in touch with her chakras. She realized that acting had brought her a shallow kind of security. Now she wanted more. At least enough to pay the rent.

Meditating her way into a sales career, she found that she was good at persuading people to buy what they wanted, whether they needed it or not. Convincing herself that the path to enlightenment had led her to this point, amassing things became her life goal.

Women Will Lead

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Put women in charge. That’s the antidote to snake-oil salesmen working in a post-truth environment to steal your democracy. Endorsed by the New York Times: Elizabeth Warren has a plan and Amy Klobuchar can work. Restore dignity and fairness to civic life. There’s hope.

Pay no attention to juvenile slogans. Forget social media. Turn the television to another station or take a news break. Read escapist fiction. Whatever else, ignore the sad little man tweeting behind his Wall. Meditate on the image of him leaving office by military helicopter saying, “I can’t come back. I don’t know how it works.”