Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Tousled Man

 Straggled hair touched with slivers of silver and unshaven for a week, he sat before his tiny blaze of kindling. He gnawed on the crust of yesterday’s fragrant loaf, and sipped pinot wine from a discarded Campbell’s can. Driblets of snow scattered down from a frowning sky looking to pile itself deeper by morning.

  The stately man who approached our friend was no stranger. In great coat, widely belted and lapelled, he obviously was well to do. “Wilfred,” he said addressing the seated object of our attention, “I have a task for you this evening. You shall give away five fifty dollar bills as I instruct.”
  Thomas was a fine baker in a lesser part of town, whose loaves were deeply admired in his neighborhood. His display case burst with the light and dark magic of bread, rolls, croissants, and baguettes. When Wilfred entered his shop, sweet-scented with caraway and sesame, Thomas greeted him warmly with season’s greetings. “Thank you, in kind,” responded the tousled man, “I have a proposition: You have a large clientele, many of whom are needy. If someone comes in with just enough to buy a roll, give him or her one of your fine loaves as well. In exchange I have a fifty dollar bill for you.” “Done and done,” responded Thomas.
  In a similar fashion, Wilfred went to a tiny pastry shop filled with cinnamon smells of cookies, cakes, pies of a dozen sorts, elephant ears, marzipan, donuts and crullers. Then he visited an independent grocer, replete with the odors of cloves, sweet orange and roasted coffee. Next came a local florist selling poinsettias, roses, wreaths, and trees: balsam and Douglas fir, Frazer, Norway and blue spruce, and Scotch pine, but no daffodils yet, all causing clouds of aromatic joy. Last he stopped at a seller of toys, whose mountains of dolls with carriages and shingled houses, blue belled bicycles, tooting, star-blessed electric trains, and balls of ever shape and hew. For the purchase of a small gift, another of greater value was to be added free of charge.

The sheening moon swaddling through a cloud-tossed sky of wannabe snowflakes, and Wilfred was back before his tiny Yule log. “You have done well,” said the stately man, “You’ll join the wife and me for dinner this evening?”

“Of course, Santa.”

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A new tail

Morte d’Petite Rouge

  Everybody hated her. Nobody liked her. Sheila, a little red squirrel; she was nasty, vindictive and ruthless. (She never named any of her twelve daughters Ruth.)  When Constable Caper was called to view her, she had a long icicle through her frigid middle. He was a stately and very bushy pewter squirrel, and wore his badge proudly.

  The backyard was soon abuzz about the unsolved murder. Tillie’s Treetop Teahouse et Boutique brimmed with gory gossip. Tillie’s specialty was wholegrain bread cubes with honey dip and sassafras tea. At the counter, Cary, a retired crow, and Muffle Mouse were debating the case. Muffle’s wife Millie, and Ruby Rat were having hors d’oeuvres. Millie preferred cheese, while Ruby really enjoyed her lox.  They talked politics. When the constable arrived for a cup of tea everyone mobbed him with questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? The constable left with his tea but not a word.

  On Winter Solstice Eve, Filbert Chipmunk had gotten a magnifying glass, a deerstalker hat and a briar bubble pipe. His brother Hickory got a sling shot and a velour bag of hard, dried corn kernels. His aim was improving. He only hit his brother three times. His brother, of course, was the intended target.

  When the boys learned of the mystery, they both became excited. “Solve it!” “Hit somebody with my sling shot!” Off they went in search of Constable Caper.

  “Now, boys,” the constable warned, “Stay behind the red ribbon.” “Why?” asked Hickory. “Because it’s a crime scene – very dangerous. Clues and all that. Professional,” he grumpily responded returning to his investigation.

  “The game’s afoot. Clues!” cried Filbert, whipping out his magnifying glass. All he had done with it so far was annoy some ants with sunlight. Intently they circled the restricted area. “Humm!” he murmured, hovering over a spot. “What is it? The murderer’s glove?” cried Hickory with glee. “A red herring,” his brother proclaimed. “Oh, a false lead, a dead end, a cul de sac, a street to nowhere.” “No, a piece of smoked kipper,” said Filbert placing the clue in a plastic bag. They also found a dead beetle, the lid off a jar of marmalade, and a peanut. The latter they put in themselves rather than a bag.

  When they searched for Constable Caper, they had found he’d gone to the station house. They chased after and learned he had picked up three suspects. The whole backyard community packed the courtroom for the hearing.

 The first suspect, Sammy Skunk professed his innocence, though he had no close alibi. Roberta Rabbit, however, said she got a whiff of him at the time of the crime, over at the trash heap. The second suspect, Jasper Jay had lots of motive. He and Sheila had been known to quarrel at the seed tray. She often won. Jimmy and John were Jasper’s buddies and swore he was with them at the time. Greg Groundhog was the third suspect. Not out much, he was known to have run-ins with Sheila, who was a territorial bully, especially with quiet inoffensive creatures.

  The hearing went on for days and suspicions went round and round. Then, on a Wednesday, Filbert and Hickory were sitting in the back row. The prosecutor specified that Sheila had been snacking at the time of her demise, and so, was distracted from whoever snuck up behind her.

  Hickory sat straight up. “That’s it!” and began whispering to Filbert. “Order in the court,” Judge Owl stated solemnly. Filbert piped up, “If you please, Your Honor, what was Ms Sheila snacking on?” The prosecutor responded, “She had found a piece of sushi and tried it.”

  Filbert leaped to his feet, clue bags in hand. “Your Honor, I believe you will find that Ruby Rat should be questioned. She is the only one who really likes fish. If her teeth match the marks on this piece of kipper, she was at the scene!”

  Pandemonium! Ruby Rat scampered to escape but Constable Caper apprehended her. Everyone cheered. Filbert and Hickory were heroes. Mom Chip was so proud of her boys. She treated them to peanuts and they settled down for a long Winter’s nap.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Another item for Bunny in Nebraska.

Doodle soup

Take one and a half pages of raw doodles.
Add a can of diced scribbles and half a mound of mixed metaphors.
Pour in a quart of quaint quips.
Simmer for a semiquaver.
Add salty tongue to taste.

Serves four or more.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Poem for a child in Nebraska.

If eye whirr hew
Id tip a canoe
End tile or two

Watt sport it wood bee
2 clamor tree
Hew end eye sew free

Weed roundup bend
Width hand in hand
Thin wee comb 2 the end

Her mother responded:
She loved it! She was surprised that words that had been spelled in kindergarten have shape-shifted, but she'll gladly take you up on the offer to climb a tree, she says.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Lands of Inchoate 3

Preparations and Patience
The next day saw the conclusion of the conference. Sylvaram disclosed the nature of the terrible death of Inchoate if nothing was done. He was direct, “Dear peoples of Inchoate, we are approaching a crisis. We have been in an elaborate orbit around the Sirius twins long enough to forecast that when the two stars and their huge satellites next align with our host planet, our world will be drawn by gravity into the fiery coronas, torn apart, and burned to atomic ash.
“Fortunately, we are nearing, in the planet’s meandering orbit, an optimum location to exit this system and return to Earth, the planet in the solar system, which was our home in the Before Time! That shall occur on the tenth day of 10Month, which coincides with the winter solstice. We have much to do to prepare for a smoother return to Earth than we experienced coming here. I am broadcasting this on the network so all the people will complete work preparing for the journey home.
“What shall occur is a controlled repeat of how we got here, though in the opposite direction. It shall not be as chaotic as was that other trip. We shall all ride the travalink. The first data stream consisting of a self-constructing system is already traveling to the Earth. It will attach itself inside the Earth to the mooring place we left and act as a beacon for our data flows. It will build itself to receive and transform the other data streams as they arrive back into the forms the data represent. Every stream will include exact instructions as to what and where it was when we left Sirius. For this to work, you must each take a capsule of medicine and a homing device that tells the controlling computer who and where you are and will sedate you safely for the journey.
“You shall all receive explicit instructions as to your role in preparing for the journey home. Of course, we shall all be in stasis, or hibernation, for the trip. It does not matter where you are at the time of departure. You have some freedom as to location, but you must be in a safe position at launch time. What is crucial is that you have taken the prescribed medication on the ninth day of 10Month. Our laboratories have been working for over six months to manufacture and distribute the required doses.”
Over the next tense and gloomy several days, a variety of trains started for their countries. Before the train heading for Eestlandt left, Naksarben, one of only a handful of people who had traveled from Earth to Sirius in the outbound Inchoate data stream, said his good-bye to Deidre, the delicately beautiful princess of Eestlandt, with a kiss. She shivered against his warm chest and he held her close to assure her everything would work out.
Naksarben, who was central to determining the problem that befell Inchoate, risked his life to gather urgently needed data that led scientists to calibrate the rocket sensors, and fought bravely in the war that the enemy almost won. Because of his enormous and valued service, he was granted leave to make a pilgrimage on his own, returning to the Monastery of the Mysterious Whys before the appointed day.

The Flying Pig and Home
He led his jackalopes, George and Gracie, who were very dear to him and had shared many of his more recent adventures. They made steady progress south. He took them to the Flying Pig Inn, where he had gone so very long ago. Fiesta Rohling-Boyle had not forgotten him.
“Look how strong you are,” she marveled, grasping the muscles of his arms tightly. She was a large, jolly woman who always wanted her guests to be comfortable. The inn was full of travelers going south. As he had during his first visit, he bought the first round for everyone in the tavern and told of his adventures, while the fireplace roared its approval with sparks and flares. No one believed half of what he said, but he was serious in telling them to take the prescribed medication on the ninth day of 10Month. In the morning, after one of Fiesta’s magnificent breakfasts, he said good-bye to all and continued on his journey. The hills were covered with early snow, the valleys meandering in their always change, and the streams that muttered and danced beneath a thin layer of ice were the trio’s friends. He was a day early at the train station and greeted Abbot Bramble Woodlands and the entire party from the monastery as they stepped off the train. The station was at a distance from the monastery, so the group required several days of travel.
At last, on the fourth day of 10Month, the monastery was before them, with the folk of Bristlebeak waiting in worried puddles. The abbot invited all into the Silent Chapel and explained what must be done. He had casks of muskberry wine brought from storage and shared with all a toast for their well-being during the coming journey. “Well. I look forward to seeing all of you in another Now Time. To one and all of you, my brethren, good season!”
Everyone in the hall raised a cup and responded with “Good season!”
Naksarben chose to be with his jackalopes in their stable on 4Day, the solstice. Gracie and George were both infinitely curious. He told them in loving response about twin stars, Orion, travalink, light speed, white holes, and he answered all their questions. The hours slid by, and he was with his trusted friends.
In midday, something started soft and far away. It was a powerful tremor, which grew rapidly. The three lay on their sides, comforting the other two. Naksarben could see the double doors of the barn begin to jiggle slowly up and down. Suddenly, there were no doors; they had turned to dust and blown away.
“Lie still and do not be afraid,” counseled Naksarben for the last time. George looked at his best friends. “Say good night, Gracie.” She looked deeply into his loving eyes. She watched him and everything else changing into drifting dust. “Good night, George,” she whispered 
The End Is the Beginning
The vast computers at the Mystic Carousel end of the travalink collected and sorted data signals. These were sent in the order in which they would be assembled inside the Earth. The planet’s core with its molten center went to the head of the line. Then the tectonic plates, with the continents, mountains, islands, valleys and riverbeds, would be placed on top of the core. Next, the atmosphere and water, both potable and saline, would be added to the rivers and seas as was appropriate.
All of these were the rather simple tasks. The infrastructure of roads, railroads, power distributions networks, pipes, sewers, and manhole covers had to be placed exactly so, and set to function.
Living beings also had a priority: single cells, spores, and single-celled creatures had to populate the water and sky; the plants, both underwater and on the land, had to be placed where they belonged; the sponges, fishes, mollusks, and fungus had be returned to their proper environments; the reptiles, insects, worms, crustaceans, and cephalopods had to be located correctly.
Then, most critically, the birds of their various species; the mammals of the jungle, woods, and farms had to be gently placed; and finally, the sentients had to be restored were they had gone to sleep.

As it worked, the travalink and all its parts had to change them into data streams and project themselves into space. All that remained of Inchoate in that distant place were echoes. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

More of Spring, 2015

                                                                         School house at the edge of the woods 

                                                                                          Serenade to blooms 

                                                                                       Field of gilded fleurs d'le

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Down the chipmunk hole

Nebraska has many holes, most of which are to be avoided because of the shady characters who dwell therein and have many skinny legs and bad table manners. This is a story about another hole.

 Bunny is a bright young girl I think you would get along with. She lives with her mother who writes clever things for important people, her father who writes clever grants to get lots of money for worthy causes, and two brothers she sometimes gets along with.

One bright Spring morning she skipped out to the backyard under the figment tree that grows in her imagination. Beneath it, there it was: tiny, round, deep, dark and wonderful. In her pocket she always keeps a supply of spickledust. She applied just a bit atop her head and slid quickly down the chipmunk hole into the amble chamber below. It was pleasantly furnished for comfort and convenience. From the ceiling hung a large tulip bulb spangled with dewdrops aglow in the light of the many candles placed around the chamber.

A lovely table had been set out for sunflower tea, a squat teapot in the center, with cups, saucers, and napkins. “Hurry up! Too late. Never enough time. Let’s clean it up,” chattered a mole with a mortarboard on its pointy head, a card in one paw. “We haven’t had tea yet,” Bunny pointed out politely.

“Test first, then tea,” insisted the mole pirouetting twice while holding up the card. “What test is this?” Bunny asked. “To see if you are smart enough to drink tea properly,” was the terse response.

He held up the card upon which were the characters IBEF. “Which of these letters has two symmetrical lines?” he asked. She closed her left eye and wrinkled her forehead to puzzle it through, “If by symmetrical you mean things that look alike the answer would be E because the horizontal lines look alike, at least to me”

“Hooray!” shouted four chipmunks whose home this was, “You got it right. Time for tea.” After everyone was served, the mole scowled. “My cup has less than the others. Everyone up: move one seat to the right.” All stood, moved, sat. Again the mole complained, “This one has too much. Everyone up: move one seat to the left.” They did. The mole drank and asked for more.

In a corner of the chamber a skink reclined on a sleeping toad. The skink was smoking a Mersham pipe, the dusky smoke drifting upward into the hole. Lazily it asked, “Why is a boll weevil like a vortex?”

The mole spent the rest of the morning coming up with 87 possible explanations, to each of which the skink replied, “I don’t think so.” Everyone gave up. Bunny asked, “Why IS a boll weevil like a vortex?” The skink muttered, “I haven’t the vaguest idea,” and promptly nodded off.

Skipper, one of the chipmunks escorted Bunny up the hole. “That was completely confusing,” confessed the young girl. “I’m glad you enjoyed the tea,” smiled Skipper.

IBEF is one of the questions asked of Michigan 11th graders and many don’t have a clue.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Reading “The Daffodils” by William Wordsworth

     I read this poem when I was eleven years old, and was so impressed that I memorized it.
     It still haunts me, so I want to share it with you. However, it must be enunciated and embellished with the correct flourishes to come out right. Further it should be recited to an audience (of at least one) as I did at the Broad River Elementary School in those dear bygone days.
I wandered lonely (Here one looks melancholy for a moment)
as a cloud (Eyes briefly look upward as if avoiding bird droppings)
That floats on high o'er (I know you want to include the V but forget it)
vales and hills, (No, not veils, this is not a damn funeral)
When all at once (Smile wanly — that means sort of melancholy but wistful with just the hint of a tear)
 I saw a crowd, (Here the elbows are held to each side warding off the mob)
A host, of golden (These days that is more likely to be TiN, a combination of titanium and nitrogen, a form of refractory plasmonic ceramics which is much less expensive and lasts longer)
daffodils; (Break into a brief grin)
Beside the lake, beneath the trees, (place arms over head)
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. (Here one skips a bit and wobbles side to side)

Continuous as the stars that shine (Blink the eyes repeatedly)
And twinkle on the milky way, (Make squeezing motions like pulling udders)
They stretched in never-ending line (Draw a circle with your finger)
Along the margin of a bay: (Draw a box with your finger indicating edges)
Ten thousand saw I at a glance, (hold out both hands, fingers wide)
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance. (You know what to do here energetically)

The waves beside them danced; (Twirl twice once left once right) but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: (Broad smile showing teeth)
A poet could not but be gay, (Skip again)
In such a jocund company: (Hop vigorously on one foot)
I gazed—and gazed—(Hold hands over eyes peering left and right)
but little thought (Open mouth wide and slack)
What wealth the show to me had brought: (Lick fingers and count a few “bills”)

For oft, when on my couch I lie (Fold hands to side of face and close eyes)
In vacant or in pensive mood, (Pinch up brow, putting finger to forehead) 
They flash upon that inward eye (Close one eye then the next)
Which is the bliss of solitude; (One more wistful smile)
And then my heart with pleasure fills (Make heart shape with fingers)
And dances with the daffodils. (Dance off stage to applause)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Waxing moon

Waxing moon slides silent across the navy-blue sky
Swallowing, digesting, spewing star debris
What does it wonder as it wanders ever west?
Does it notice us noticing it, or even care?
It may not be as lifeless as many believe
The Earth was its mother so very long ago

I hope it does not wish to visit home soon.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Nancy Fulton's letter to the Morning Sun.

I have lived all of my adult life in Mt. Pleasant, most of those years in a Midwest “half-house” built in 1896 by John Kenney, an early developer of the South Neighborhood. Oliver and Emmeline Troutman bought the house in 1918. For some it is still “the Troutman house,” though my husband and I have lived in it longer than any other owners. When I first came to Mt. Pleasant in 1969, I enjoyed walking around this neighborhood, usually in the evening, when I could catch glimpses of the interiors of the houses that lined Washington, Main, and University. At that time many families still lived in these houses, but a shift was underway as the fast-growing university loosened its requirements that students live in dormitories. The old houses near campus became prime targets for developers who carved them up into apartments, hoping to benefit from the increasing demand for off-campus housing.

By the middle of the 1970s my husband and I found ourselves in a perpetual battle with city planning bodies, especially Zoning Board of Appeals, who somehow saw it as their duty to cater to developers. The variances and special use permits they approved led to increased density in the neighborhood, which in turn led to parking lots instead of back yards, front yards littered with trash and discarded furniture, and noisy parties. The neighborhood that had once been a logical choice for a new professor who wanted to be within walking distance of campus—my husband, for example, in 1968—lost nearly all of its appeal.

Some of us have stayed, of course, because we love our houses and streets lined with mature trees. We like being a ten-minute walk from campus, the public library, the downtown stores, Island and Millpond Parks. We’ve had good experiences with most of the university students who have lived on our block, and so we believe it is possible for households of all ages to live together peaceably in this neighborhood. Indeed, a neighborhood is healthiest when men, women, and children of every age and profession live in it. Those who reside here for a few seasons before moving on to their professional lives infuse the neighborhood with energy. And those of us who remain here year after year can be models for them of responsible civic behavior: for enjoying our music without inflicting it on our neighbors; for keeping our yards clean; for driving with care; for greeting one another with a smile or a wave, as neighborliness demands.

In the 1980s the city revised the zoning for this neighborhood, hoping to clean up the mess made by variances and loopholes. But now we seem to be losing the city’s support for preserving the integrity of this neighborhood. The planning bodies have agreed to higher density in exchange for new housing that mimics the style of the older residences. This makes no sense to me when the university is projecting a decline in enrollments in the coming decades, and numerous apartment complexes—only 60% occupied, I have been told —have risen up outside the city limits.
If Mt. Pleasant succumbs once again to permitting greater density, I can imagine the neighborhood south of High Street and north of the campus becoming a dormitory without a housemother. It will be more difficult for both year-round residents and students alike to resist a “them” and “us” mentality. We will lose more of the historic homes that remind us where we have come from, and we will lose the opportunity to enhance the education of the students who live among us.     

                                                                                        Nancy Casey Fulton

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Happy 12th Night!

Today, the 12th night of Christmas, your true love delivered the last load of gifts. And such gifts!

You now have a total of 364 presents, including 12 partridges and pear trees, 22 turtledoves, 30 French hens, 36 collie birds, 40 gold rings worth about $48,000, 42 geese a-laying having laid 168 eggs so far, 42 swans a-swimming, 40 maids a-milking whose cows have produced 720 gallons of milk to date, 36 pipers piping up a storm, 30 drummers drumming, 22 lords a-leaping and 12 ladies dancing.

You have added 140 people to your household staff.