Thursday, February 28, 2019

A Dozen Roses 1st draft 1-25



            A DOZEN ROSES  is a collection of anecdotes. These anecdotes are offered as an antidote and a preventative for booboos you cannot put a band-aid on.
            I hope to give my reader a grid just strong enough to hold their thoughts feelings and observations for a while. I hope my characters and their situations find the same degree of familiarity with their audience as the unnamed fox and the unnamed bunch of grapes from Aesop's fables.
The story incorporates a treasure hunt where you get to identify book titles , song titles, movie titles, references to literature, famous quotes and see how many you can find. Enjoy. 
                                                                                                           
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To my readers,
Babies come without instructions and life comes to them without a manual. That is why parents and mentors are so important in ones life.
As we reach a certain age we have to carry on the job of raising ourselves above and beyond what was done for us.
                                                                                                   
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To my children,
            You are my hope and my joy. I wish I could pave a path through the minefield of life for you but I cannot. And I won't. I do not wish to take away the beautiful surprises life brings you when you are naive enough to run through the tulips instead of tiptoeing through them. I offer you some roses because it is important to smell some roses and I give them to you brown spots aphids and all because they really don't take away from their divine scent. I wish for you on this journey called "life" love luck abundant health  and happiness. I hope you never lose your inner compass, your very own Jiminy Cricket, and your laughter along the way.
                                                                                                                     Mom.
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1  A   DOLLOP   OF   ICECREAM




            The Little Princess in a pink frilly frock dropped a dollop of Strawberry Swirl Premium ice cream on one of the frills of her pretty pink frock and S-C-R-E-A-M-E-D,
"O why, O why, O why?"


            She looked up to see the world strangely altered through the prisms of her enormous tears and was afraid. She remembered the time when she got lost at the fair in a room full of awful mirrors. But very soon her Mama and Papa had found her and trotted her off to the nearest food stall to buy her a large pink cotton candy.


            Tears wiped away, now somewhat calm and collected, that infernal drop congealed to a shade of pink that perfectly matched her pink frilly dress, the Little Princess pranced away to play in the warm sunshine.  
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2  A   SPIDER   NAMED   GRIEF


            The LP brought home a spider and showed it to Mama.
"My new pet," she said.
"Good grief!!!!!" shrieked Mama. And so he was named Grief.


            Now he lay all eight legs up in the air in his little see-through plastic case, a little hollow trapezoid prism, not unlike Snow White's coffin.


            Many summers passed, The LP awoke with a start in the dark before dawn to watch her memory of Grief lying dead. Four pallbearers appeared to carry him away. They were all painted in shades of sepia and inky blue, in broad El Greco strokes. Her eyes began to see now the outlines of the doorway, the bedposts, and the lampshade in the dark. She went back to sleep having successfully separated the real from the surreal.
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3  PAPER   BOATS


            Yesterday was Sunday, a beautiful sunny sunshiny Sunday. The LP went on a picnic to the park with her parents, cousins, uncles, and aunts. When they had eaten and were gloriously full, Uncle N started making a little paper boat with a page he tore out of his magazine. He set it in the still waters of the little lagoon by the grass knoll they sat on, away from the drifting water of the stream. But as if by magic his little boat caught the wind or the wave and was drawn to the faster-flowing water and went downstream anyway.


            By and by, Auntie M made a boat that had a blue and yellow sail and a hull made of fine print. Cousin Z was transfixed by her Ma's boat as it went downstream rather quickly and disappeared round the bend. Uncle N's boat was right off the mark a quick one too but it got caught in the tangle of overhanging branches of some willow trees. The wind in the willows set the boat loose. It started to spin as it reached midstream and disappeared out of sight.


            Cousin Z decided to make her own boat. She thought it would be like Ma's or Daddy's but it turned out quite differently. It behaved differently too. She set it on the water's edge, a little red white and blue boat that smoothly glided to the middle of the stream and sped away.
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4  THE   SECOND   BLOOM   OF   INNOCENCE


            In the vast garden of her parents' home, the Little Princess wandered about with such abandon.
"Why I don't I plant a garden of my own?" she thought and chose a bush of deep red roses just like the ones in comic books to tend to.


            The dear little plant grew lush, and green, and into a perfect umbel. Soon it was covered in dark red rosebuds that grew and started to bloom. Every morning before school she would tiptoe through the yard making a little green track in the dew-laden grass to count the new blooms on the bud-studded rose bush and the math was pure joy.


            All was well in the garden until one day, when for no apparent reason, the chosen rosebush looked worn and forlorn. All the tender loving care lavished on it failed to revive it.


            Two weeks later it was a sad sight to see:

-a little girl in her nightgown with drooping shoulders silhouetted against the rising sun that shone through a laburnum tree lighting up its bright yellow lanterns of flowers.

-a brown rosebush.

-a gardener standing nearby with a purposeful spade,
"It will make good manure, you know," he said and without ceremony uprooted the dead bush in a flash, leaned it over on n old gunny sack to haul it away. Away he went with the dead rose bush.



The LP looked down and saw the freshly dug earth, the moisture catching the rays of the sun, and turned to go back to the house to get ready for school.
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5  SEEK   AND   DESTROY


            Cousins A and B and their parents Uncle T and Auntie L were visiting the LP for the week. They were ten and six, the two very energetic boys. The dog and the cat stayed out of their way. Along with the boys came some toys that the LP had never seen before- a yo-yo, a catapult, a He-man action figure, and a video game. Cousin B offered the video game to her to play and showed her how. She had to seek every square and round and triangular blob that obstructed her path and destroy it.


            She did most of it easily but there was a red blob that moved around her in an elliptical orbit, an angry Mars that was swift and wily. Finally, she did it, she nuked it, and oh so relieved thanked God profusely.


            She showed off her new skill to Mama and Mama was fascinated. Her teacup in mid-air, Mama said," What if one could do this to all things that have no meaning in one's life anymore. You know, seek and destroy every hope and emotion, belief and notion that have not stood one in good stead," and smiled, half-thinking to herself.


            "What?" said the LP puzzled.
            "O nothing," said Mama.
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6  MISMATCHED


            One cool bright morning the LP, Mama and Auntie L were folding laundry rummaging through a large warm summer-scented pile. Cousin B could resist no longer so he leaped into it head first, wrapped himself in a large warm towel, and looked perfectly smug.


        
Now they were sorting everybody's socks and just couldn't find the matching sock to complete this pair. Just then Papa walked in and picked up a sock off the floor. It did not have a concurring pair. Three seconds later they realized of course that one of them was turned inside out while the other were not, like often times our opinions are.
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7  WAITING FOR OTHERS TO MAKE ME HAPPY

            The fishbowl was gone from the LP's room. Those naughty boys must have done it. But they weren't there for her to ask them if they had. Cousin A and Cousin B had just left for a ball game with Papa and Uncle T.

            She wandered about the house looking for Fishy. She finally found the bowl on the kitchen counter and Fishy on the floor. She s-c-r-e-a-m-e-d. Auntie L and Mama came rushing to the kitchen, horror writ large on their faces.
"Are you okay?"
"Mama look at Fishy."
"Poor thing."
"What is this white stuff?"
"Looks like salt."
"Salt?"
"The boys must've mixed salt in Fishy's water."
"No wonder he jumped out of his bowl."
"Poor Fishy. We'll make it alright."

            That night the LP went to bed satisfied that Fishy was safe and the boys contrite. And she dreamed she was a goldfish struggling in a stream filled with swiftly flowing salty water. "A fish out of water I am not, just a freshwater fish trying to survive in brine with a primal scream stuck in my throat. Air can't get in nor the scream out."

            Now out of the brine lying on the muddy bank flailing about its fins and tail and turning glassier eyed, then limp, compliant, non-complaining, accepting, grudging, wanting oxygen.
            "What is honor? What is joy? What are the rules? And the rewards for obeying them?"
            One glassy eye on the chickens scratching nearby, the other on the eagle soaring up high. Eyes wide shut……….Waiting.
            The LP awoke from her awful dream parched and went to get herself some water.
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8  THE  FAIRYTALE  CASTLE

            It was Mama's and Papa's dream to build a playroom for their LP. Uncle T and Auntie L offered to help. It was the last two days of vacation here and everyone was already beginning to feel like they would miss each other terribly.
            Much had happened in the last five days. The goldfish had almost died, the dog and the cat had finally learned to sleep in the carport. The two nuclear families had bonded incredibly just cooking, breaking bread, and playing frisbee together.
            Uncle T and Papa returned from the store with wood and paint. Mama rushed to her sewing chest which was a treasure trove of fabrics odds and ends. Upstairs in the attic Papa and Uncle T started to nail the wood together and in awe the LP watched a fairytale castle take shape before her eyes---turrets towers and an extra large doorway. Mama hung a velvet curtain across the doorway and it transformed into a stage. The LP jumped for joy imagining all the plays she and her friends would put up in this magical space.
            Auntie L put up a step stool and glued glow-in-the-dark stars to the ceiling. She asked Mama if she could spare a string of lights and got three. With tacks in hand, she deftly created swirls of blue and white lights on the ceiling and draped the ends of the strings down the walls.
            Mama was back with the paints and all the grownups got to work painting. The castle looked dazzling in cream gold and blue. Auntie L painted the loveliest sky on the wall behind it with a soft yellow sun, birds cavorting in the sky.
            They stepped back to admire their handiwork and asked LP if she liked it. She was so happy she could hardly speak. She just hugged them and said, "Thank you."
            They were all finishing their pizza when Cousin A politely asked if they could go upstairs and see the attic.
            "Of course," said Papa, "but please don't touch anything. The paint is still wet."
            They all went up the stairs to the attic and the boys gave whoops of amazement. Cousin B picked up a paintbrush and said, "En garde."
            Cousin A did not miss a beat. He was dueling him in a second with a ruler.
            "Boys, boys, later. We have to put away these cans of paint before you can play here," said Uncle T.
            "Theirs is a lot of paint left over," said Auntie L. "And in such an array of colors we could paint a mural on the wall. Shall we?"
            When she had finished explaining to the children what a mural was their eyes turned big and bright. They wanted to paint too.
            "Can we paint a jungle with lions and zebras? "asked Cousin B.
            "We could paint some trees and shrubs. Let's get started."
            Soon they were all working on 'The Forest' on the wall opposite the stage and were done very quickly with two working on each tree. Some paint remained begging the question 'What next'?
            Mama said she'd be back in a minute and she was, with a bolt of green felt and some double-sided tape. She rolled out the felt and stuck it to the floor along the bare wall. "This would be perfect for picnics," she said. On the wall, they painted a little stream going into a pond with bulrushes, a lily pad or two, a duck, a fish, a frog, and some flowers.
            The only bare wall now looked unbearably bare. It had two windows in it and some space between them. The boys wanted to paint a basketball backboard on the wall and put a hoop on it but the LP wanted to paint a wardrobe with pretty gowns in it. Mama said she would dress up the windows with some swags to match the castle and place two chairs along the wall and a bookcase between them. Papa and Uncle T had run out of ideas. And patience. Also, paint. And everyone was very tired. So it was decided they would go with Mama's plan. The LP asked if she could put her chalkboard on the wall above the bookcase to play schoolhouse. When all was done they we all just as happy and excited as she was.
            As they ate dinner that night they were happy, very happy to be together and hoped they would see each other again, soon. 
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9  LEAP  OF  FAITH

            Mama and the LP were at the shopping mall hoping to find blue window swags with golden trim to match the castle in the attic. It seemed that it might be a lot easier to buy some fabric and stitch them at home for nothing was to be found that remotely resembled what they were looking for.

            As they were leaving the mall they walked past an exhibition of oil paintings on canvas some of which were rather good. There was one about three feet by five painted in Van Gogh's "Starry Night" yellows and blues. There were two spheres in the middle of the picture side by side surrounded by a night sky of twinkling stars. The planet on the left was a gloomier shade of blue of the two.

            "What does it mean?" asked the LP. Before Mama could hazard a guess the artist who had overheard walked toward them and introduced himself. In his delightful accent and mime-like sweeping gestures he explained that the planet on the left represented "what is" or "what was" and the right "what can be".
"There is no bridge connecting the two planets so I must leap the distance through the night of cosmic proportions and trust I will make it to the planet of possibilities. I've heard it called it 'faith', that fear-like exhilaration I experience mid-air. It is more a rainbow of feelings for which I have no colors but their names would be fear-frenzy-peace-a-sense of accomplishment".

"I know Papa will love this picture. This will be my anniversary present for him so don't breathe a word about it will you Princess," whispered Mama as she wrote a check and checked her watch to see if she could get home before her husband did.
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10  PROBLEM  RECOGNITION:
IF IT LOOKS LIKE A DUCK, QUACKS LIKE A DUCK AND WALKS LIKE A DUCK THEN ITS PROBABLY……



            The LP had heard this joke in class that day and couldn't stop laughing every time she remembered it. It rather irked Mama and Papa after a while. Afraid that it was not quite the sort of joke one ought to repeat to ones parents she tweaked it a little and told them this----
            "A man was walking down a road when he came upon a yellowish-brown lump lying in the middle of his path. He wondered what it was and leaned closer to see it better. It looks like a rotten half-eaten banana nut muffin. Still uncertain he leaned a little closer and it smelled like a rotten half-eaten banana nut muffin. Just to be sure he stuck a finger in it and then licked his finger, and oh yes it sure tasted like a rotten half-eaten banana nut muffin. And he said,"Phew, to think I almost stepped on it."
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11  THE  POWER  OF  HUMILIATION


            The LP entered the living room. Nobody was there. On the mantelpiece was an enormous bouquet of red and white tulips and green fern propped up against the wall waiting to be given. At the sight of flowers, her face lit up like a chandelier. She climbed up on the ottoman and greedily grabbed the bushel of flowers with frivolous girlish glee. One foot on the floor the other on the hearth her face framed by a bounty of red white and green she heard the admonition" Stop, girl, that was not meant for you. That is for Cousin J." The room had filled up with people. Someone had forgotten to tell her it was Cousin J's surprise birthday party and guests were waiting in the basement for her to show up. Shocked and ashamed and feeling a little cheated she recognized that the moment of truth, of the recognition of the absurd conceit in her little heart in whose place humility ought to have been, of the realization that her assumption that all good things belonged to her first, was wrong and very self-important, and was here but too late. The damage done, damage control was obsolescence at its most pitiful self.
            The LP saucer-eyed and rueful too humiliated to speak turned away choking with grief-fear-remorse-disbelief and asked, "Why O, Why O, Why O?" as she ran to her room. She did say for a while that it wasn't so bad and that the mix-up was not her fault but it did not help. Only when she owned it and accepted the blame for it and felt the shame in all honesty that she was moved to resolve to never do anything half as stupid as that ever again. And bit by bit she dismantled her patterns of response and turned them around to put their best face forward. 
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12 LIFE  IS  LIKE  A  DOZEN  ROSES


            The old neighbors were visiting from out of town and Mama had invited them over for dinner. The LP had promised to run to the store and buy a dozen roses for the centerpiece and some fresh dinner rolls. She had taken the shorter path through the thicket and bramble clung to her socks as she walked.
            'Life is like a dozen roses' she saw written across a billboard outside the grocery store. She hoped for a baker's dozen. She thanked the baker for 'the extra rose' and he smiled incredulously.
            The LP hurried back home through the thicket once again. As she neared the street where she lived she broke into a run hoping the guests hadn't arrived yet. Relieved to see no car in the driveway she paused to check on the rolls and the roses. The dinner rolls were just fine but she had just ten roses now.
"Oh no," she thought with dismay, "I will never be able to retrace my steps and find them. What am I to do?"
            Just as she bent down to remove bramble and dry grass from her socks she noticed irises, purple and gold, growing at the edge of the yard and decided they would go famously with the red roses she had and they did.
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13  THE  GREEN - EYED  MONSTER


            Privileged, with it, all that and gifted, the LP was content. Satisfied with life and all that it had given her never had she needed reassurance until now. The dynamics in the room had quickly shifted. She didn't recognize the ugly shadow of the green-eyed monster lurking behind her pupils. She had never seen it before so how was she supposed to recognize its shadow??
            Compleat, natural, elegant and innately intelligent was this new kid in class. The spotlight had shifted albeit ever so slightly but it shone a little more brightly on him than on her.
            Mesmerized – in the penumbral shade – but grudging, angry. Why? This had never happened before.
            By and by she realized why the new kid in class and she were strangers angry with one another. The ugly green-eyed monster had peeped out of her eyes when they had first said hello. And now she was ashamed. She hadn't known she was guilty of pride and jealousy all along. But in all humility now she accepted her blame and resolved to redeem herself.
            But ashes where a synergy might have existed, a vacuum where a bond might have been, was all that she could see.
            "The Phoenix! The Phoenix rises from the ashes and so must I," thought the LP and was restored.  
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14  UNWRAPPING  GOD'S GIFTS  WITH  GRRRATTITUDE


            Just when the LP thought that life's best gifts had already been bestowed upon her and that there was nothing really great or grand or spectacular to look forward to it so happened that she entered the beauty pageant at the county fair for a lark and won. She was also crowned "IQ Queen" for having the highest score on the academic test in the contest. It happened so fast she was caught unprepared to enjoy it and just as the import of it all was sinking in the moment had passed. It was back to the blur of school term papers and activities. The congratulations and adulation was still flowing her way but what is that to a cygnet newly turned into a swan?

            As she was passing by the mirror in the hall she put her face really close to it and peered in it hoping to see what the judges had seen. But before she found what she sought she located the circumference of a throbbing spot that was threatening to turn into a zit and s-c-r-e-a-m-e-d, "Mama I'm getting a pimple. How horrible. I hate my face." Mama's face appeared around the corner somewhat shocked bemused and irritated all at once, "Why did you shout so loud? One zit does not make a lovely child like you ugly." Mama stepped closer to get a better look and after a futile search asked, "Where is it?"
"Right here," whimpered the LP.
"Aw, that could be a bug bite that'll go away in a day or two, or a zit that'll go away as well. And please don't say you hate your face. God made you beautiful and you ought to respect that. When good things come your way you embrace them with gratitude girl."
Mama softened a little and put her arm around the LP and said," No matter how many zits you get in your life you'll always be my beautiful baby. I think to ease your mind let us get something to help you avoid getting them in the first place. And wash your pillowcase everyday."
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SIMULTANEITY

            Home early from school on a gorgeous August afternoon the LP decided to go outside and wait for the neighbors to come home. So with a book under her arm, she went outside hoping to finish her reading while she waited. She looked at a snail apparently asleep clinging to the garage door. A large cobweb was quivering in the gentle breeze. The grass was soft emerald and ever so inviting she just had to lie down on it.

            She looked at the sky and saw puffs of soft white clouds gliding west to east softly quietly gently like skiffs with white sails on a sleepy blue ocean. The long straight clouds that crisscrossed the sky like lattice on an apple pie puzzled her. Aha! Those came from airplanes, the kind Uncle J flies.

            A distant rat-a-tat-a-tat in a deep tone came from the sky and a helicopter soon passed by. She remembered a very fast-paced game that Cousin A and Cousin B played on the computer pretending they were pilots. It was a very difficult game to play. She knew. She had tried. One had to, all at once, keep one eye on a little radar screen, one on the windshield, a finger on the trigger of the missile launcher, more fingers on various keys to control altitude, speed, and direction. If you slipped up you either crashed or were shot down.

            Dazzled by the azure sky, tired of watching the clouds go by, she sat up to read her book. On the first page was a picture of the Earth taken by a satellite whirring through outer space. Trying to peer past the wisps of clouds that veiled the blue planet she looked for her hometown when she detected movement just below her locus of focus and found a minute insect that could've been a rock on Antarctica.

            She looked up toward where the rumble of the school bus came from and got up to greet her friends.
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16  SIX  DEGREES  OF  SEPARATION

            "Mama, don't look yet but there's a kid sitting six seats away from you who looks really weird, I mean he's acting really weird."
            "I think I know whom you are referring to. I noticed his eyes as we walked in. I'm not sure he's weird; his eyes just don't work very well. And he might have other related problems."
            "He talks fine, he walks fine, he just can't keep his face normal."
            "What's normal Princess?"
            "I don't know, just normal. You know what I mean."
            "I think I do but I don't agree wholeheartedly. Normal is a range, not a magic number. If you come to think of it, we ended up at this basketball match wearing brocade and big earrings, wobbling up the stands in high heels. We're just lucky nobody has been shaking their heads obviously while looking in our direction."
            "But we couldn't help it. We'd have missed the biggest game of the year if we had gone home to change first."
            "We know that but the other people here do not. They just imagined something like that must have happened and respected the fact that we have a right to be here howsoever inappropriately attired for the occasion."
            The LP mused silently on what Mama had said.
            "Besides, everybody's somebody's weirdo, so just be forgiving toward weirdness in general. You never know when you might need the same kind of understanding." 
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17  OPTIMAL  AMOUNTS  OF  STRESS


"Doing your best and not burning out, just enough work and just enough play, that is how you could complete this project by noon on Monday," said Papa with an air of finality. He was the class parent that week and an architect-builder, so he was going to help the class build models of skyscrapers for the upcoming school fair. The tallest building still standing after a mock earthquake and blasting air from a table fan would win the coveted Blue Ribbon.
"Here are your supplies. May the best team win," said Papa with quiet optimism so his trademark.

The buzz in the classroom resembled that of a hive of some industrious bees.
"If it is too tall we won't have enough stuff to finish it."
"Ya, too tall will fall."
"If it isn't the tallest we won't win."
"We won't win anyway if it falls duh!"
"Are you forgetting he said the core has to be strong?"

Papa walked quietly from group to group teaching planning helping explaining correcting them. And so they labored half the day making awkward objects of cardboard paper clay wire Popsicle sticks and so on. Bits of paper were lying everywhere and the smell of glue hung heavy in the air. Tired and disheveled they filed out of the classroom to go home.
"Sleep over it. Tomorrow we will complete our work," Papa said to them.

The next day after lunch Papa greeted the class with a bright, "Let's get back to work."
The teams got themselves organized and resumes the clipping the gluing together and the whispering. Crash thump thump thump. The Tall Towers of Riverside Middle was on the floor amid gasps of horror and kneeling children. Papa rushed to the scene and helped restore confidence.

            The rest of the day the class plodded on hoping the globs of glue would hold until Monday afternoon and not stink so. One by one the teams stepped back to admire their work and threw quick glances at other teams' work. The floor swept the furniture wiped down the class was ready to go home.

            The tall buildings stood sentinel all weekend. Monday morning a very animated group of children entered the classroom happy to see things just the way them. A little apprehensive and a little excited the class looked forward to the school fair. Now they had three hours to test and improve upon their models.

            The skyscrapers did just fine during earthquakes but every one of them keeled over and fell in front of a table fan. They were a miserable bunch. Luckily there was minimal damage to the models from their fall because they had been so well crafted under Papa's watchful eye.
            "First and foremost," said Papa, "it is not your fault the buildings succumbed to the wind load. In reality, wind gusts of that magnitude do not happen, I mean relative to the size and strength of the models. You have to keep your experiment as realistic as possible. More importantly, remember always if you fail and try to find out why you could come to incorrect conclusions about yourself and the world around you if you don't get the parameters for making those judgments right. If you were building a real skyscraper you would put an appropriate weight on a spring on the top of the building called a 'Tuned Mass Damper' in the trade to counterbalance the wind load. Optimal amounts of stress would keep the building in equilibrium. You would use a sliding version of it to help protect against earthquake damage."

            Twelve O'clock arrived soon enough. The teams took their models and did their best to get to the fair without mishap.
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18  InTOXICated

            Just this bright fresh dewy morning the old familiar noisy and dusty red station wagon rolled up the driveway. Out jumped Uncle L, Mama's brother, the youngest of her six brothers. He was the LP's favorite uncle. To him she was like a younger sibling, someone to love, to instruct, to take care of. To her, he was like the older brother she never had, the one who taught her to climb trees and fly kites. He loved her like she might be his own child.

            But something was amiss this morning. There was just a little less spontaneity in her manner and an aloofness between them as their eyes met and they said "Hi". He realized with a sinking feeling that 'twas so because three days ago she and her parents had stopped by at his friend's house to give him a ride home since he had consumed too much gin to drive home safely. He barely remembered the drive to his apartment but it was vividly etched in the LP's memory forever.

            She and Mama and Papa had been visiting with her grandparents when came a phone call from a Mrs. W to request them to come get their son. Grandma, ashen-faced and in hushed tones asked Papa to do the needful. Grandpa said nothing.

            The LP and Mama waited in the car as Papa walked up to the front door of the house of Mrs. W. The door opened and they could see a dimly lit room with walls painted red. A little light spilled on the disarray of potted cacti and fern around the front porch. The large white flowers on the magnolia trees bordering the yard along the street took on a spooky hue. The wagon with enormous wheels could have been Ravan's chariot. Discordant notes of "Dante's Inferno" were heard coming from the house. A raucous laugh like the cry of a peacock rang out as Mrs. W backed away from the door and Uncle L emerged from within followed by three girls holding hands.
            "These are my muses," he said.
            The ride to his apartment and then back home was very quiet.
            Something had died that night and they both knew it. 
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19  COPY  CAT

            The LP was looking intently at her report card. There were mainly A's and a couple of B's. Her eyes dwelt on the A's and she felt content. Then she focused on the B's and felt uncomfortable. She sighed and put the report card down and looked up. She saw the new kid in class beaming, radiant, open full of life, passing geometry notebooks to the rest of the class on Mercurial feet.
            "What would I not give to feel the way he feels right now," she thought. In a world where kids kept their grades to themselves, it was no secret he got straight A's. She wondered if his lucky streak would last and felt bad she'd 'thunk' that thought. She decided on a whim to copycat him all next quarter and see if she could get all A's. Yes, he handed in his reports on time all neatly typed and well-researched and so could she. The difficult part was copycatting his ability to be serene and smiling and energetic all day. So she decided to at least try doing two of the three; she'd try being serene all day when she was as old as Mama. For now, smiling was all she'd like to try, thank you very much. It was a lot of work making it seem effortless.
            The next quarter the LP couldn't wait to see her report card and finally, she did. All A's except one B.
            "Not bad but could've been better," she thought and went on to read the teacher's comments which were the better surprise –
            "I am happy to note she is more diligent and better organized than before. She has a great attitude to complement her natural aptitude. At this rate, she can go from peak to peak.
            "What exactly does 'peak to peak' mean?" the LP thought to herself as she had a vision of herself on a snow-capped mountain trying to jump to the next snow-capped mountain.
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DEAL  LIKE  A  JEDI

            Many children, cousins, and friends, had gathered at Cousin D's home for a Halloween party. Cousin D was absolutely elated to be seen in his costume for the occasion, a rather plain khaki uniform of some kind and a noisy blue lance that lit up.

            "Be mindful of the future," he said, in a conspiratorial whisper to the LP as she walked past. She gave him a "whaddyamean" look but garnered no response.  As she stepped out the door in her glittering yellow princess costume complete with tiara and scepter, with her plastic pumpkin basket to go trick-or-treating with her friends he called out, "May the force be with you!"

            The girls left giggling and came back in a while happy cold tired and sated with candy. Cousin D was back already. "Like to trade?" he asked hopefully.
            "No, not really," was what he heard mostly.
            "Say, do you know, I can slow down Time and see things happen in slow motion," he said, "like in the action replay clips you see on T.V. sports."
            "Really?" said the LP's friend.
            "Yes, I can, I really can."
            No one said anything and ate more candy instead so he felt he ought to elaborate.
            "I can see things happen s-l-o-w-l-y while I act fast. It's a Jedi trait. If I practice my skills I should soon be able to see things as they are about to happen."

            A car honked outside and the girls gathered their various wands and tiaras and baskets and said their goodbyes and left waving from the windows of the car until they were out of sight.
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21  FALLEN   IDOLS

            It was a dark and stormy night, last night was. Branches and leaves and occasional bits of paper were strewn all across yards and roads. It had stopped raining now but a heavy grey cloud hung from the sky. The phone rang. The lady next door had called to ask Mama if she would like to buy garden statues at reasonable prices. Her grandfather had a store nearby and he was closing the place down.

            So that was how the LP and her Mama came to be standing in a yard that was absolutely covered with statues of fairies, satyrs, lions, ponies, little children, smiling frogs, squirrels and bunnies and more. Sadly the storm had knocked down many of the statues, especially ones that had been kept on pedestals. Some had broken.

            Mama bought a basket overflowing with fruit, flowers, grain, and vegetables that she said she would put by the front door. And she bought a really magnificent water fountain almost taller than the LP herself. When it was working it would appear as if a maiden with an urn on her hip was endlessly pouring water into the topmost tier of the fountain. That water would then spill over two subsequent tiers splashing into a pond at the base. It would look simply grand. The LP could almost hear the calming sound of abundant water gently poured softly splashing.

            As they were walking out of the store the LP looked at the statues again. Now more familiar with them she saw them more distinctly noting their expressions and other details. The inventory seemed to come alive in her imagination. She wondered if the lions would roar; if the squirrels had cement acorns to eat; was Gaia smiling at the world she knew she would rescue; and whom might the fallen idols be bowing to?
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22 FEELINGS

            Saturday afternoon rolled around. The lovely mauve dress hung on the closet door. Mama had polished the LP's white sandals with rhinestone clasps.
            "I don't feel like going to the party. I'm really going to get really bored there ," said the LP.
            "That's not the worst thing in the world to befall someone Princess so get ready and show me a smile. We're leaving in an hour. I know you won't have anyone your age to talk to but you could sit with me for a while. You could offer to watch their baby. You might even help serve dinner."

            Feeling a little more grownup and more important the LP dressed for the dinner party and was happy to be going. As they drove there she got to thinking how differently she had felt about the exact same thing an hour ago. The thought of being useful and putting on a happy face had changed her feelings almost in an instant.
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23  PURPOSE



                                 All-purpose flour                                    2 cups
                                 Sugar                                                      1 cup
                                 Butter                                                     ½ cup
                                 Milk                                                        2 Tbsp
                                 Baking Powder                                      1 ½ tsp
                                 Vanilla                                                    1 tsp


It was nine o'clock on Saturday morning. The LP was contemplating the recipe for sugar cookies on the back of a bag of sugar as she munched her cereal. The name 'all purpose' for the flour made her chuckle. She was reminded of the Mock Turtle in "Alice in Wonderland" asking, "With what porpoise?"

"What do you propose to do today?" asked Papa as he walked into the kitchen.
"I don't know, not yet," said the LP.
"What would be a fun and useful way to spend the day?"
"I'm not sure."
"I'm sure you can think about it and come up with something good."
"I'll try."
"What about this summer? Thought about what you'd like to do this summer?"
"Summer is four months away."
"Good. You have some time to plan your summer. And then think of something you'd like to get done by the end of the year, next, the year after and so on. Write all that down."
"Why?"
"So that if you forget you can look it up and get back on track."
"What if I change my mind the year after next?"
"You might. You will have grown older learned more and been offered new options in life. At that point in time, you could reevaluate your original plan and see if you only need to improve it or abandon it and start over."
"Sounds complicated."
"Only until you write it down."
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24  DON'T KILL OFF THE NEANDERTHAL
ONLY CIVILIZE HIM


Auntie U         : You see that man in the yellow hat with the monkey on his shoulder
                            on T.V.?

            D         : Yes.

Auntie U         : And it is the monkey who is traveling around the world, not the man, in
                           this episode. That's just a metaphor, an expression, a storytelling device.

            D         : What do you mean?

Auntie U         : Girls have a princess living inside of them so they can act all princessy at      
                          times, you know, like B does.

             D        : Sure.

Auntie  U        : Well, boys have a monkey or a Neanderthal living inside them that
                           makes you do the things you do.

              D       :  RE-ally??

 Auntie              U       : That monkey inside of you, let him evolve.

              D       : Now that could take thousands of years Momma.

Auntie   U       : You don't have thousands of years, only about ten.

              D       : Until what?

Auntie  U        : Until you go to college, so hurry up. And perhaps B could let that inner        
                              
                           Princess  go to sleep and put away her toys.  


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25  HE SAID, SHE SAID

           
            Auntie U was, as always, on the road with her young 'uns. They lived in their van, she thought some days. Life, as it is now, she rationalized.
            Driving on autopilot she listened in on the conversation in the backseat. Little Miss B, now five, C now seven and D nine, were good little children and buckled up always but had to talk even though U always asked them to let her drive in peace. She also asked to let her R.I.P. (Read In Peace) a lot so the children had to pick and choose their battles with Momma over "peace".
C         : Where is God?
U         : God is everywhere.
C         : Where is he now?
B         : God is a she.
C         : He.
B         : She!
C         : You think everything is a she.
B         : No I don't.
C         : Is a bus a she?
B         : No.
C         : Is a lion a she?
B         : No.
C         : Is the sun a she?
B         : No.
C         : Is a piano a she?
B         : I don't know ha! ha!
C         : Is this book a she?
B         : No.
C         : Am I a she?
B         : Nooo.
C         : Are you a she?
B         : Yes.
C         : Is God a she?
B         : Yes.
C         : See I told you. You think everything is a she.
B         : What????

                                                                                                                  ~ Sonali