The Ragnarök

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Líf and Lífþrasir lived in a tiny hovel on the side of a wild fjord north of the settled lands. Rippling through infinity, Thor came to them. He carried the couple to Hoddmimis holt. “From you, generations will spring.”

The gods went insane; a war of destruction, an ecological nightmare. Three winters arrived with no summers. Yggdirsil, the world tree, nurtured the couple. All the while, morning dew was their manna from heaven. Wandering, nestled in the warmth of moss, sheltered by the forest, emerging with the sun, nurtured by salt water, they rebuilt after the Ragnarök. They repopulated Earth.

Try a Different Diet

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The last knight he’d eaten gave Dragos indigestion. He spent treasure for cures that didn’t work and when he ate the charlatans who’d bamboozled him, the pain was pronounced. Poor moral fiber was the cause of his woes. He’d been eating junk food.

He pondered long and hard, reluctant to give up his old ways. Getting advice was difficult. Out of necessity, he’d eaten all the nice people he knew. Desperate, he sought advice from a wicked witch who turned him into a brontosaurus. She said the vegetarian diet was better for him. Unfortunately, sudden extinction was a side effect.

Freedom Fighters

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Here’s a story my grandpa told about a friend he had from Birmingham. He’d gather us kids around and we’d listen, the big ones shushing the little ones and holding them on our laps. Must’a been near a hundred when he died, but what he told us lives on.

I knew it was over when Jesse told me his people could fly. We were down at the creek and when he said it I had a feeling that the Old South was destined to collapse like a circus tent after the last performance. Not that I’d ever say that to my daddy. He was sympathetic to old Dixie. Figured things had to change some after the North won the war. But he couldn’t see it changing that much.

“Come on,” Jesse said. “I’ll show you.”

Instead of digging crawdads for supper, we spent the afternoon leaping from boulders, arms spread, rolling into the water. We confessed to Jesse’s mama in the kitchen at the big house. Thanks to her being from a long line of Gullah storytellers, she forgave us. That tale of magic, passed down by word of mouth from one generation to the next, saved our hides.

Me and Jesse, we stayed in touch even when I went up to Boston for school. When I come back six years later to practice law at my daddy’s firm, Jesse was the first one I hired. He was whip smart; did my research. I wished he’d had a law degree. He fled north when vigilantes carried out their coup against some of our duly elected aldermen, 1898 I believe, in Wilmington. I gave him a password so he could get through the cordon the Klan set up the night before all the bloodshed. In the dark, he could pass. The way that damned mob went through destroying the businesses in the colored section of town was enough to make you think the whole thing was over, the whole Emancipation. But it wasn’t. Like so many of the survivors, the wish for justice went into hiding but it never died.

Jesse was lucky. He settled in DC, where he got another law job with a friend of mine from school. I tried to get him to come back to Wilmington, but he found his calling in the capitol. I sat in the front row at his law school graduation. Turned out he was good at organizing and that city was ripe for protest. Much of the segregation in Washington was enforced by custom, not law. They had more marches there than a centipede has legs. I visited him, but he never come down to North Carolina. Not until 1965 when he stopped on his way to Alabama for what he said might be his last protest, but maybe his best.

Me and Jessie were ninety years old, riding in that caravan our kids started to Montgomery to hear Dr. King speak. It was six carloads all told. Seniors at the wheel, a passel of squirming grandchildren in the back while them could walk marched across the Pettus Bridge. Jesse and I looked at each other when Dr. King said the words, “…the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

Afterwards, Jesse said, “That moral arc Dr. King talked about must be a rainbow. You need faith to believe there’s an end to it.”

“And do you? Have faith?” I thought I knew the answer to that, but I didn’t expect him to say what he did.

“If anybody’s going to find justice at the end of a rainbow, it’s the people who fly?” He picked up his two year old great-granddaughter. “You remember that story, don’t you?”

I nodded.

Then he passed that child, arms spread, to her mother and said. “This one’s in training.”

So that’s the story. That little girl was my play cousin Sarah. You’ve met her. A tiny woman. Strong as an eagle, wise like an owl. She’s flying with a slew of others across the land. They’re darkening the sky for justice, a righteous swarm of freedom fighters. They carry the message that we are a nation of laws, not custom; that faith is not enough. In the spots where the sun shines through the clouds of flapping wings, both ends of the rainbow are within reach of anyone with the will and the courage to fly.

The Tide Waits for No One

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Surf pulled at mother and daughter holding tight a last goodbye. “Take care of your brother. And your father.”

“Yes, mam. You’ll be back?”

“Your grandmam’s recipes, they’re yours.”

The girl held her mother’s hand. “Tell my ocean folk grandmam, ‘Happy Birthday.’ ”

Her mam nodded, winced as the tight skin she’d found in the attic fused land legs into a powerful swimming fin. “I will, love.”

“Your eyes are the same.” The girl touched the selkie’s soft fur. “You’ll be gone a day?”

The mother strained for breath. “Days linger undersea.” She wanted to stay. But she had to go.

The Kiss

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Cupid and Psyche lay feeding each other chocolate hearts. “You haven’t changed.”

“Nor you,” Psyche said, nibbling his ear.

Cupid stroked Psyche’s bronzed thigh. “It wasn’t meant to be.”

“Your mother hated me.”

Cupid’s lips bowed into a smile. “You bested her by surviving all those quests.”

“She underestimated how much I cared for you. Sorting poppy seeds from lentils. Fearing dragons on the Styx. I had my helpers.” Psyche looked smug.

“But it was Zeus who gave us each other. He couldn’t resist my offer.”

“I can’t resist you. Though the spell wore off long ago, I simply adore you.”

The Kitchen God’s Insight

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“Welcome, friend.” The Kitchen God greeted the Tiger, a pussy cat beside his massive bulk. They ate nian gao and fresh cut fruits, presented on a red lacquered tray in the Kitchen God’s study.

They exchanged pleasantries, the Tiger looking for a way to say what was on his mind. He plucked up his courage. “So many have suffered through the years of Rat and Ox. They worked hard for change, barely rewarded for their labor. Prosperity gave way to isolation. Isolation gave way to steady resolve. What of my year?”

“Be strong, Tiger. Be strong,” said the Kitchen God.

Finding Rapunzel

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Coco forged through the Enchanted Wood using a sixth sense that led her to Rapunzel’s tower, shimmering in the sun like a mirage. She slipped through fragmented outer planes until  toeholds revealed themselves and she climbed to an open window. Peering inside, she saw her friend. 

“Who are you,” Rapunzel asked.

Coco cleared her throat. “I’m doing your hair.”

Rapunzel conjured a basin of water and Coco set to work. With a hairdresser’s gift for gab, Coco established that Rapunzel, a lookalike for her friend whose twin had been lost at birth, was that twin.

“Lost,” Rapunzel asked.

“Found,” said Coco.

My Assistant Can Help You

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The hairdresser threw a brown cloak on. She told her assistant, “I’ll be out all day.”

In bustled the Queen’s maid. “Glad to find you’re free. Her majesty would like to see you.”

“But…”

“For tonight’s ball. Something simple, elegant.”

“I can’t. You see, my niece is imprisoned in a tower. I do her hair on Saturdays.”

”I’ve heard a lot of excuses. This takes the prize, though.”

The hairdresser felt terrible.
Coco cleared her throat. “I’ll do your niece’s hair.”

The hairdresser said, “You’re not afraid of the Enchanted Woods?”

”Give me a chance. There’s nothing I’d rather do.”

(To be continued)

Straw to Gold; Flax to Linen

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The serf, intimidated by the palace representative’s rich velvet livery, sipped a cup of courage and rechecked his supplies. “You want straw? For spinning? It’ll never work.”

“The queen said straw. Strong stalks, not brittle.” The page shifted from one stockinged leg to the other, resisting the urge to hold his nose against the smell of manure from the fields. “What you drinking?”

“Try some. My own grog.” The farmer proferred his cup. “Flax. That’s it. Makes a nice linen. I got some presoaked, ready to spin.”

The page wiped his mouth. “I’ll take a sample, see what she says.”

Today’s Word:Acnestis (akˈniːstɪs)

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Acnestis. It’s the itch you can’t scratch. There, between your shoulder blades. A complaint that won’t leave you alone. A retort you don’t think of ’til it wakes you at night, meanly appropriate and well deserved by the jerk who prompted it. Destructive fake facts based on dystopian fantasies.

You can’t scratch that itch because: the complaint can never be satisfied, your retort is not suitable for work, the lie is one of many seeking freedom from being scratched.

Define the parameters and set up a fair fight. Keep scratching until truth bleeds through. You’re not the only one itching.