Whither Thou Goeth

 

Albert Handell Lookout Point - Pastel

Albert Handell – Lookout Point / Pastel

Whither Thou Goeth

Life, naughty life, thou sneeketh up on me. Thou bendeth
thy irresistible crooked finger and beckoneth me onward.

Thou maketh me to forget to wash my face
until my crusted eyes forget to see where my feet troddeth.

Thou stoppereth my ears until the birds sing silently through days
and the toads roam through my nights without croaking.

Thou forgeteth to have me remember to turn out the lights
and the oven and the faucet and the sound of my heart beating,
so that they burn brightly to spilleth out over the shadow of my days,
burneth the roast until it’s crispy, flood over the floor of the life
left to me, left with a dirty sink and stoppered-up with bloody veins.

Thou maketh me old when it’s wise I prefer to be.
Thou maketh me silly when I would have chosen carefree.

Thou maketh me forget everything save worries without end
and sorrows that come to stay like beggars with nowhere else to go.

Derelict, they burrow in, snuggle down but never sleep.
Famished, they eat me from the inside out.

Who knew that Forgetful would move in, take the stage and insist
on being cast as Worry, the starring role in the farewell performance?

Who knew, in the opening act, that the play would be at least
as tragic as comic, and that the finger that beckoneth was deadly serious?

M L S Baisch © 2017

Night-Song

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Night-Song

A life swirls away day by day; it swifts away into a drain
of calendared days where only the night’s light
brings bird-songs–remembered trills coming from unknown
places, warbling from down there somewhere.

Somewhere where memories are the pitch pipe
for the choir. And the choir! Oh the remembered faces!
Unseen for a calendar of time, it rehearses for the underworld
premiere without me: but then I’m only to be a walk-on.

Up here in life, I’m still circling the drain, taking an occasional
peek into the cellar through the prism of a beating heart.
A life ticks off another day, until the starry night-song
begins again to keep regular time.

M L S Baisch © 2017

Photo: Art by Jacqueline van Leeuwenstein

If the Bracelet Could Talk

Literary fiction is a lovely way to say things that are hard to say, tell things that are hard to tell, and impart the sense of something, or someone, that escapes words altogether. This is literary fiction. The bracelet is real. Much here is real. But much is fiction.

bracelet1If the Bracelet Could Talk

“I forget what a lovely thing you are! How my mother loved you,” I say this to myself, remembering this gift given to my mother on her sixteenth birthday. It was an exorbitant gift, this bracelet, alternately twined about in segments of spinach green and burnished gold.

In 1933 there wasn’t much money for necessities. Imagine how precious were bracelets. Duncan Robertson, though not a reader of books, was a reader of hearts. He wrapped his family round with the things that kept them truly warm. For my mother, this bracelet charmed her life until the end.

“What are you, exactly?” I wonder. “Bakelite?”

“You know that I am,” the bracelet seems to say. “For years, many years now, I have lain casketed in this drawer, no satin lining mine, surrounded by the detritus of time tossed in upon me—an old watch, a broken chain, an earring separated from its mate: we mourn: here in this dark place, we mourn: laid to rest, one at a time, waiting for who knows who, but remembering that once we were loved; once displayed circling a slender wrist, strung around a lovely soft neck to dip into a cleavage suspended, clasped onto a plump rounded lobe among tresses of tickly delight—but there was a time when I was cherished.”

“I see that you are cracked,” I observe.

“I am not cracked!” The bracelet is offended.

“That looks like a crack to me,” I say.

“I have one crack,” it says. “Think of it like a wrinkle. How many wrinkles do you have, old lady? I am much older than you, and I have only one crack. Hardly noticeable. You could put me on your wrist and no one would ever see the crack. If your wrist weren’t so fat!”

“My mother had a slender wrist, then?”

“Absolutely! She was not fat!”

“Still, she was only sixteen.”

“The perfect age for bracelets.”

“When did she stop wearing you?”

“Some things are better forgotten,” the bracelet says. “I have forgotten.”

“We have both forgotten things, haven’t we?” I say, meaning to comfort the bracelet.

“True,” it admits. “We have. And we both miss her, don’t we?”

“Well, I miss her,” I say. “I didn’t know you were missing her, too.”

“What else would I be doing? No one has rubbed a finger over me for a long time. Why don’t you try?”

“You’re very smooth. Someone has made you with care. You’re not a knock-off, are you?”

“Whatever do you mean? A knock-off?”

“A cheap imitation,” I say. “You’re not one of those. You were made carefully. Six separate pieces, each laid on the diagonal; carefully fitted together and rising and falling like valleys and hills.”

“Of course. Your mother was well-loved by her father. He would never give a cheap imitation.”

“You do know, of course, that my mother also loved cheap imitations.”

“Of course I know that! Don’t be stupid. How many years did I reside in her jewelry chest? Two less than seventy! Your mother simply loved jewelry.”

“And shoes.”

“Don’t go there.”

“Alright.”

“The point is that her father loved good jewelry. He did not love imitations. Put me away, you silly woman! I think you’ve forgotten what it means to really live. I’m too old to bother with the likes of you.”

“My mother wouldn’t like to hear you say that,” I tell the bracelet.

“Bother! Your mother put me here didn’t she? Forgot about me. Left me to rot in a drawer.”

“Bracelet, I really doubt that’s true. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. My mother never forgot a single piece of jewelry. Every one was precious. I’m quite sure you were more precious than most. Likely you were the most precious of all.”

“Well, then, smarty. What are you going to do with me? Try to think of something better than putting me back in that drawer.”

A silence engulfs us, the bracelet and me; a silence with tendrils reaching back through generations, for that is how time is told–in generations: an emptiness emanates from the delicate touch of my finger on the bracelet, stroking, barely touching, touching nevertheless a corporeal memory seeped into the helix of old gold and green Bakelite; I trust that memory lives on in a well-loved thing. More than a trinket. Much more.

Trinkets forget themselves in memory and are lost to time. Trinkets find themselves tossed out onto a heap to be trunked off to the thrift store or the dump. Trinkets tug no memories from the living when they cease to play their small role in the life of the beloved, now dead.

“I am no trinket.” The bracelet divines my thoughts.

“I wasn’t thinking that you were,” I say.

“You were considering the possibility,” the bracelet tells me. “Thinking there was no better place for me in this life of yours than to toss me out.”

“You said you didn’t want to go back into the drawer,” I remind the bracelet. “Remember? And I understood that you didn’t like the forgotten darkness.”

“I was angry. Even bracelets say things they don’t mean when they’re angry. I didn’t mean I wanted to be thrown away to rot in a garbage heap or in someone else’s dark drawer; some drawer where no one even knows what I have been.”

“You still are, you know?” I remind it. “Still are a bracelet.”

“Much more than that!”

The bracelet is hot with resentment at the thought that it means so little to me. Still, that is the truth. We share few memories and no love for one another larger than the memory of my mother.

“You prefer to go back into this drawer, then?”

There was no answer. I wait, thinking to give the bracelet time to find its voice; imagining what a bracelet might prefer; knowing something of what it means to be shuffled from one drawer to another—in a metaphorical sense; and intuiting the inevitability of it: what is life really, but finding oneself tucked away in the dark waiting for the next time the drawer will open?

When I think the bracelet has nothing more to say, has left the choice up to me, I open the drawer and reach to put the bracelet back, thinking to find it a resting place more appropriate to its status; a place of its own without the inadvertent poking of a sharp brooch or the strangling loop of some out-of-control necklace.

Had I but thought a moment—what bracelet, after all, talks; and when it talks, speaks of memories, shares a sadness from a place seeped deep into its bones –I would have had a caution. But since I wasn’t cautious, I suddenly find myself inside the drawer with the bracelet, just a specter there, seeing the drawer from the dark inside.

“How do you like it in here,” the bracelet smirks.

In all truth, I don’t know. It is a dark place, claustrophobic; a smothery sepulcher for the discarded remnants of lives.

“The top drawer!” the bracelet chortles. “You see the irony in that? The top drawer!

“Oh, stop it.”

That voice wasn’t mine! I’m not the only specter in this drawer! It’s a voice I know well.

“Mother?” I venture to say.

“You finally came. I’ve been waiting for you. I’ve missed you.”

“Well, you’re going to have to wait a little longer!” I am appalled at the thought that my mother wants me dead!

“You’ve missed me,” my mother says. It is a statement, not a question. My mother knows I miss her. “I’ve missed you, too. Don’t you think it’s about time to come with me?”

“Why would she want to spend eternity in a drawer?” The bracelet speaks before I gather my wits. “Think about it. She wouldn’t even want to visit us here. When has she ever thought much about bracelets or rings or any of the foo-foo trappings you love?”

“For a bracelet you’re hard,” I say. “Mean. Why can’t you be nice?”

“Nice!” the bracelet hisses. “Why should I be nice? I’m tossed in here and forgotten. My time for nice expired a long time ago.”

“I’d wear you if I could,” my mother soothes. “I still love you.”

It was true. I could feel my mother’s love engulfing me, reaching back into a life she no longer lives, back through a generation of lives, of loves; a life of substantial meaning placed in special things—like this bracelet; a life where the love of things outlives the love of persons: people disappear: people go so far away they can never again be touched. People live on only in the remainders left behind.

Before my mind returns from the drawer from its wandering backward path, my mother is gone. She’s left me here this time. Left me wondering about the love of mothers for bracelets and daughters.

“I suppose there is a message,” I say, expecting the bracelet, at least, to have something to say about that.

The bracelet isn’t talking.

“Not the drawer, then,” I mutter, placing the bracelet on the bedspread. “I’ll think of something else. But you have to remember, bracelet, that I’m not my mother. I don’t wear jewelry often. And it’s been years since I’ve worn a bracelet.”

“Your wrist is too fat, old lady. Don’t even try it.”

The bracelet is speaking after all.

“Tired of safe,” the bracelet continues.

“I don’t want you ruined.” I consider the possibilities. “Eventually, I’ll answer to my mother.”

“She cracked me. Remember that.”

“How did that happen?” I ask.

“I was rolling over and over and over, having the very best time!” The bracelet was animated.

“But what was my mother doing?”

“How should I know! Ask her! What I was doing was rolling over and over and over . . .”

“Just the same, I don’t want you ruined.”

“What’s to ruin? I’m Bakelite. Almost indestructible.”

“I imagine you would fade if I left you on a windowsill in the sun, or scratched if you were shuffled around, even cracked again if you were to drop. Aren’t you getting a bit brittle?” I ask.

“Think about it, old lady.” The bracelet speaks, resolute now. “No matter how safe you keep me, there is no forever. Even for bracelets.”

It is at just that moment that the cat comes into the room. The inquisitive kitty, seeing the bracelet on the bed, goes to investigate. Just a moment ago, I would have no no-ed the kitty. Now I understand that this is a bracelet longing for escapades. Starving for the lack of living! I leave the cat to sniff and paw until the bracelet flies off the bed, lands to take off rolling over the carpet, wings out the door tickety-tacking  on the linoleum in the next room, and is away out of sight with the cat racing after.

“Whooeee!” the bracelet cries out: perhaps its final apostrophe.

M L Spaulding Baisch © 2015

At the right moment, I must prune . . .

Joan Miro

Joan Miro

“If a canvas remains in progress for years in my studio, that doesn’t worry me. On the contrary, when I’m rich in canvases which have a point of departure vital enough to set off a series of rhythms, a new life, new living things, I’m happy.

 
“I consider my studio as a kitchen garden. Here, there are artichokes. There, potatoes. Leaves must be cut so that the fruit can grow. At the right moment, I must prune.
 
“I work like a gardener… Things come slowly… Things follow their natural course. They grow, they ripen. I must graft. I must water… Ripening goes on in my mind. So I’m always working at a great many things at the same time.”  – Joan Miro
 
This also translates to writing. Stories, like paintings and gardens, aren’t things to rush. Patience is indeed a virtue.
M L S Baisch

 

Smashwords Interview: M L S Baisch

Thinking spring!

M L S Baisch

Interview with M L S Baisch

  1. How has Smashwords contributed to your success? Smashwords has the broadest distribution network, which translates into the most bang for the EFFORT: which is the same as the most bang for the $.
  2. What is the greatest joy of writing for you? When I write, I go to a different place in my mind. Anytime a person can become lost in that way, it’s a joy. And, it always amazes me the things my mind comes up with.
  3. What do your fans mean to you? My fans sometimes become personal friends. Since I don’t write for the market, per se, those who read my books tend to be like-minded.
  4. What are you working on next? I have a BIG book about to launch, titled Leona the Part-Time Fairy. It’s more than the average eBook. Expect it on-line sometime in October, 2015. I’m working on the next book in a Trilogy. The second book will likely be titled Thomas the Fairy King.
  5. Who are your favorite authors? Colleen McCullough. Truman Capote. Marcel Proust. Kenneth Grahame. E. B. White. J. R. R. Tolkein. J. K. Rowling. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Larry McMurtry. Anton Chekhov. W. E. B. Griffin. e. e. cummings. Shel Silverstein. Robert Cormier. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Sir James Matthew Barrie. A. L. Kennedy. I read widely, and have many favorites. These are some I continually return to. McCullough is amazing–her Man In Rome series, especially. McMurtry’s Berrybender Trilogy. Capote and Proust are to be read for the sheer joy of language. I could go on and on.
  6. What inspires you to get out of bed each day? My hens need to be let out of their coop! Besides that, I have a hot tub that I ritualistically enjoy in the early morning.
  7. When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time? Gardening. I hybridize iris. And I also have something over 1000 of other people’s hybrids in my gardens. Reading, writing, and gardening are my main pursuits.
  8. How do you discover the ebooks you read? I still prefer books with paper pages. Alas! Just the same, I have a large library of eBooks. I often find my new acquisitions from blogs and newsletters I subscribe to. I also tend to download the classics. I simply don’t have room on my bookshelves for all the books I love.
  9. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? No. I actually haven’t a clue.
  10. What is your writing process? I try to write new words every day, of something. I also have a pipeline: something I’m publishing, something almost ready to format for publishing, something that likely is longer and takes more time to write, and several things backed up behind those. I also keep idea notes (index cards).
  11. Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you? The Hobbit. My sister read it to me. I spent most of my childhood in Fairy Land. Truly. I even sewed little fairy shirts and drifted them downstream on a creek near where we lived when I was about 8-9 years old. I believed. I clearly remember sewing one day, perched up in an old weeping willow tree in the rain. Part of me has never really left Fairy Land. The first story I read myself was likely Dick and Jane.
  12. How do you approach cover design? Intuitively. I pull from many sources: original art (my own), line drawings that I scan as a base for computer graphics, photography. Anything I can get my hands on.
  13. What are your five favorite books, and why? The Man of Rome Series (McCullough is amazing). That pretty much counts for all 5, doesn’t it?
  14. What do you read for pleasure? Everything. I read from several books at a time. One fiction. One biography or history. I often have a book of short stories or essays around. And one other–usually having to do with computers.
  15. What is your e-reading device of choice? My Nexus.
  16. What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you? I’m still experimenting.
  17. Describe your desk. Cluttered. Every now and then I sort my piles. I do, however, know what is in my piles.
  18. Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing? I grew up in Montana. I had a lot of freedom and many experiences that are unlikely for most kids today. I bring that sense of freedom and wildness to my stories for children.
  19. When did you first start writing? A very long time ago. Put not for publication. I was happy writing my thoughts in journals, poetry, essays.
  20. What’s the story behind your latest book? I’m just going to copy and paste from copy I’m using elsewhere: Leona The Part-Time Fairy.

         It’s a well-kept secret! Did you know that fairies are colonizing Oregon? It’s true. They’re tired of commuting from the Old World. It’s Oregon they’ve chosen for their first settlement in the New World—near the coast, of course. And they’ve moved into a majestic Redwood tree. Fairies come well-prepared, but they haven’t counted on Leona Lacey.        

          How can one girl be so much trouble? Leona manages to capture a fairy, for starts. Then she ends up inside the settlement tree until she goes on the lam with the troublemaker Rosalea the Fairy.     

         Leona finds her way home again with the help of her friends Rosalea the Fairy; Froid and Freeman, the Great Horned Owls; a Woodrat named Ralph; and Tiddly the mouse. Along the way, she and her new friends save the fairies from the villain, Luck the Gremlin and his hoard of Growlers. But Leona doesn’t go home quite the same girl she was when she left.

  21. What motivated you to become an indie author? I’m too old to wait around for agents and publishers. I decided if I was ever going to write for publication, I’d better get around to doing it.
  22. Why do I love to write for children? I write fairy tales because they make me happy. That isn’t a strategy designed to make me rich and famous, but it does add something to my everyday life. Besides happiness, I recognize that imagination is very important. It’s especially important for children to appreciate their imaginations. Imagination requires a facile turn of mind that can play with images, language, and meaning. It puts into juxtaposition seemingly impossible ideas, paradigms, theories, and concepts. Imagination is playful.

Leona the Part-Time Fairy

 

Leona the Part-Time Fairy          M L S Baisch     shooflyranchpress

Leona the Part-Time Fairy
M L S Baisch
shooflyranchpress

This is a shout-out to my friend, Christine, who has been faithfully editing my scribbles. I am a long time believer in serendipity! Which, translated loosely means things like: when there’s a lesson to be learned, a teacher will appear. More recently it has meant: when there’s a 85K manuscript to be edited a very bright, multi-disciplined Ph.D. professional woman will roar from Internet land and land smack in my in-box! I’m a believer. And, the editing is only a small part of the package: Christine is a friend to die for.

This is the book. Soon to be released. The cover though, it still being developed. It will be something like this.

FREE Kindle Book on Amazon Today–Ethyl the Cat Collector

Ethyl the Cat Collector          M L S Baisch

Ethyl the Cat Collector
M L S Baisch

ETHYL THE CAT COLLECTOR is FREE TODAY on Kindle Books. This is the first book in a collection that will feature Ethyl Friddle and her friends. It’s a move-along story that takes kids to a  place where, besides simply enjoying a great story, social consciousness is expanded in an age-appropriate way, and imagination is always encouraged.

DOWNLOAD ETHYL! YOUR REVIEWS WILL BE APPRECIATED.

 Click here for the FREE BOOK

 The next book in this collection, PURPLE PENGUIN CLUB will be published soon.

Purple Penguins

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Here’s the first draft of the first chapter of a new project–a middle grade reader. The working title is Purple Penguins (that is sure to change). Sometimes educational/social-psychological theory just has to be commented on. This is going to be mine–although, be careful, my thesis might be different from what you expect by the time you finish reading the first chapter.

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PURPLE PENGUINS (DRAFT)

CHAPTER ONE

THE CLUB

If some teacher sighs loudly, shakes her head, and says “boys will be boys”, everybody knows she means that some boy is in trouble for doing something she didn’t want him to do. And he did it just because he was a boy. Like, get real, girls never get in trouble?

Apparently girls are angels because there’s a big change that’s going to be made at school—almost as big as not singing Christmas carols, or saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Teachers are going to call kids purple penguins instead of boys and girls.

“STOOPID!” Norman mutters. He’s at the city park with his friend Jesus. The purple penguin policy—the teachers are calling it a policy to make it official—is what the two boys are talking about.

“Face it,” Norman says. “No self-respecting boy is going to want to be called a purple penguin.”

Both boys know that it goes without saying that, just as boys will be boys, girls will be girls. And that even applies to grown-up girls who you’d think would know better. Girls like to mess with people’s minds—especially boys. Even if the minds they’re messing with are their own kids’. At least Norman and Jesus can’t imagine that any guy  would ever think to call kids purple penguins. It has to be a girl thing.

“My own mother!” Norman complains. “She’s all for it.”

“She means well.” Jesus likes Norman’s mother. Besides, he’s been told not to say anything if you can’t say anything nice. Just the same, he thinks Norman is right. It is a girl thing.

“It’s hard to understand girls even when they’re our age,” Jesus admits. “Grown-up girls are probably still a lot like they used to be when they were kids. Anyone who ever liked stuff like Hello Kitty purses—or whatever it was that girls played with in the olden days …” Jesus can’t think of anything else to say.

“I know what you mean.” Norman saves him. And, he does agree with his friend. Girls are not a thing like boys.

“But they mean well,” Jesus usually has the last word in any serious discussion. For a kid, Jesus has very definite ideas. “It’s just hard to wrap your mind around some of the things girls think.”

“Says you.” Norman is far from ready to excuse his mother. She proves how out-of-touch she is with the male universe—with him—on a daily basis. If Norman did everything his mother wanted him to do, he’d have to call himself Norma. He kept that thought to himself.

“I asked Mom what the purple penguins were going to do about bathrooms,” Norman said. “I don’t think she’d thought about girls not wanting purple boy penguins in their bathrooms. STOOPID!”

“What’d she say?” Jesus hadn’t thought about bathrooms either. “I suppose you could have a picture of a purple penguin wearing a skirt.”

“Sort of defeats the purpose, don’t you think?” Norman actually sneers, which isn’t the way he likes to treat his friend. Jesus is a kid who doesn’t always get behind Norman’s projects, but he’s also a kid who’s usually right. Jesus sort of tags along and keeps Norman out of trouble. “The idea is for boys and girls to be the same.” Norman wags his head and rolls his eyes. “Besides, do you know a girl who wears a skirt to school? A fourth grade girl?”

“Hadn’t thought about it.” Jesus wags his head and rolls his eyes right back.

“Well, think about it!” Norman says, and he’s serious now. “And think about the idea that that’s the whole idea.”

“Say what?” Jesus isn’t prepared for his friend to actually be talking like he thinks the whole silly penguin thing is important.

“That’s the idea,” Norman repeats. “They want us to think that girls are no different from boys. We’re all purple penguins. When’s the last time you wore a skirt?”

Jesus was already rolling around on the ground and laughing before Norman said the word, skirt. Norman, getting into the spirit of things, began to give a flat-palm push to Jesus’s shoulder every time he could reach it. Before long, both boys were laughing and poking at one another as boys, not purple penguins, will do.

Norman was the one who pulled away and said something brilliant, “I know. Let’s start a club.”

“A purple penguin club?” Jesus sort of hooted the question out between uncontrollable snorts.

Norman only grinned at him before he punched him in the stomach. Not hard.

“Oooo. Stop it,” Jesus howled. “You’re acting like a boy.”

“I am a boy,” Norman said, punctuating the statement with one last push. “You know, boys are different from girls.” He was serious now. “This purple penguin thing has to be someone’s way to get boys to act like girls. Probably someone’s mother.” He only hoped it wasn’t his own mother. “Someone wants us not to be boys.”

“I guess that purple penguin stuff has already got into your blood stream and made you stoopid, too,” Norman says, quick to react to his friend’s mood change. Besides, he thinks Norman’s right.

“It’ll be a protest club,” Norman decides. “It will be a boys-only club where girls aren’t allowed. Why should they be? And we won’t wear purple.” Norman was getting excited about the idea. “We’ll do things boys like to do.”

“I’m in,” Jesus says. “What kind of things?”

“Go fishing. Find a place to build a club house. Play ball.” As soon as Norman thought about the games boys could play, he remembered that the school had outlawed four square. Another stoopid school rule. “We’ll find a place where they can’t tell us not to play four square,” he said. “The important thing is that we have to do things that girls don’t like to do.”

Jesus looks skeptical. “Seems to me that girls like to do just about everything.”

“Maybe so.” Norman, when he stops to think about it, has to agree. There aren’t many things that girls don’t like to do. Lots of them like to play four square.

Before Norman has time to completely think the problem through, Jesus yells, “I know! I know what we’ll do!”

“Okay genius, what’ll we do?” Norman asks.

“I am a genius! There aren’t many things that girls don’t do, but there sure are things that boys don’t like to do.”

Norman gets caught up thinking about that. “Like tea parties and dollies?”

“Stuff like that, sure.”

“And dancing and wearing skirts!”

“You got it,” Jesus says. “If we’re really supposed to all be alike, so you can’t tell the difference, we’ll just do the girl stuff we mostly don’t like to do.” Jesus kisses his fingertips and blows the kiss away on the wind.

“You think we have to wear skirts?” Norman would rather not wear a skirt.

“Skirts are probably the most important thing.” Jesus is really getting into the idea. “This will be club where we definitely wear skirts.”

“Can we wear silk underwear, too?” Norman has to be the one to push things a bit further than Jesus would want to go.

“You can, if you want,” Jesus hoots.

Both of the boys, hooting and howling, roll around on the grass, unable to catch their breath until, finally, still gasping, Jesus thinks of something. “What’s your dad think about this purple penguin stuff?” he asks.

“I don’t know. He probably doesn’t even know about it.” Norman frowns. “I haven’t seen him for awhile, but I bet he won’t like it.”

“I bet mine won’t either,” Jesus agrees. It was a safe bet that Jesus’s dad would want him to act like a boy. There was nothing girly about his dad.

“Yah.” Norman thinks about his friend’s dad and has to agree. He’s someone who runs their legs off when he’s home, who always wants them to do one more push-up or one more lap. “But your dad is in Afghanistan. You said your mom doesn’t tell him things he’d worry about. She won’t tell him about purple penguins, and she’ll tell you not to tell him, too.”

“You’re probably right,” Jesus says. “Mom only tells hims stuff she wants to tell him.”

“What about Teresa?”

“My sister? She’ll do what Mom wants.” Jesus thinks about Teresa. She’s okay for a sister. “You know, I bet we could get Teresa to help us.”

“No! This is a boy’s club, my friend.” Norman is very sure that girls are the problem, and not part of the solution.

“Think about it,” Jesus insists. “Girls probably don’t like the idea of purple penguin bathrooms, either.”

“You know that’s not going to happen,” Norman brays. It’s a stoopid thought. “They’ll find a way to make us think we’re all alike, but without making us all alike, really. They’ll have to, because we’re not alike. We’re boys, and they’re girls.”

“Who came up with this purple penguin idea, anyway?” Jesus is beginning to see that there’s more to this thing than he first thought.

“Somebody’s mother,” Norman states emphatically. “You can count on it.”

Jesus, getting into the spirit, begins to prance around on tiptoe in a circle. “Don’t do this. Don’t do that. What is it about mothers, anyway?”

“What doesn’t your mother want you to do?” Norman asks. He likes Jesus’s family a lot. In fact, he sort of wishes they were his family.

“For one, she doesn’t want me to see you,” Jesus says. “She says you’re nothing but trouble and that I can find better friends.”

Norman looks embarrassed. “Guess I knew that. Why doesn’t she like me?”

“That’s not it.” Jesus didn’t mean to make Norman feel badly. “She just wants me to stick with my cousins. There’s a lot of us here and family has to stick together. That’s what she says.”

“Did you stick together when you were in Mexico?” Norman asks.

“I think so,” Jesus says, “but it’s different here.”

“I suppose that’s right.” It’s all the cousins and aunts and uncles and the closeness that Norman likes most about Jesus’s family. “But how would you know? You were born in America, Jesus.”

“I know.”

“One thing’s for sure.” Norman decides to change the subject. “Both of our mothers are all for us being purple penguins.” Norman starts to hoot again. “P-p-p-penguins,” he howls.

“P-p-p-purple,” Jesus chimes in.

When the two boys leave the park they’ve agreed on several things. One, the club will be a secret. Two, it has to have a name, and the name has to be more original than the Purple Penguin Club. Three, Jesus will borrow a couple of skirts from his sister—she never wears them anyway—and they will put them on before they go to school on Monday. Four, since this is Friday, they have a lot of work to do to talk a bunch of the guys into joining their club.

 

by M. S. B. Baisch

copyright © 2104 M. L. S. Baisch

All rights reserved. No part of this post may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. This is an excerpt from an unpublished book-in-progress

For inquiries, please contact: M.L. S. Baisch, mona@shooflyranchpress.com