Lonely tree, Dark Room, Joy and Thunder
Emmylou was settled in her bed at the usual time 9:00 with her reading light on and little boom box playing Beethoven’s 9th. She usually fell asleep to music and let it shut itself off at the end. She loved all of the 9th, its drama and moody slowness and then the festive joy and triumph at the end. She was hoping that life would be like that, but knew in her heart that it probably wasn’t. That was OK too.
She was reading “Of Mice and Men”, but was becoming disgusted with the lack of female characters except the plot device femme fatale. She loved Steinbeck’s language, and knew he saw the male side of life because the other was not open to him at that point.
She put down the book, and lay her head on the pillow, closing her eyes lightly, letting the somber mood of the music take her.
She stood on a ridge looking down a small winding river in the gloom just before dawn. She sat down with back against a lonely snag the leaned out over the edge above her. She felt a confusion alien to her well ordered life.
She woke up heart pounding at the realness of vision and feelings.
“Thoughts like fishes sparkling,” she said in a soft incredulous voice. She never spoke to herself and the sound of her own voice against silence of the room was shocking to her.
Then way in the distance the orchestra started off on the horizon of hearing, a festive return and lead in to the triumphant Ode. The music grew enveloping her. She turned it up and felt the joy of the voices and thunder of timpani in the dark room.
The Golden Girl’s Story
“Wow! This is pretty Kick Ass!” Maddie burst out tossing the bat on the sofa and throwing body down next to it so she landed in a perfect lounging position. “What brings ya to this part of the world anyway.”
Essie smiled in spite of her deeply anxious feeling.
“I, too, had a dream. I had to find a farm that was a school and I had to find eet on my own. Eet was a turtle what tell me these.”
“Wow! And I thought my dreams were weird. But, I know a woman that runs a farm up in the hills that used to be a hippie boarding school.”
“Yes! Dat ees why I come here. I hear heem talk of thees place before on Highway 9.”
“I don’t know xactly where it is, but we should be able to call. It’s like Eagle sumptin’ farm or ranch. I’ll get a phone book.” Maddie immediately went about on a high velocity search of shelves and end tables which were all cluttered with various paper and beer and soda cans dirty dishes.
“Here it is! She held up a thin phone book and jumped over the couch landing in a sitting position already leafing through it.
“E, e, e, a, g. Here she is Eagle Tree Ranch. You wanna call. There’s the phone.” She held up the phone book and pointed to the phone.
Lone Bare Tree, Morning Gloom
Random woke just as the sky was beginning to show subtle shades of dark grays on the eastern horizon through the trees outside the window. He got dressed and pulled on his dark green hoody and zipped it up. The house was not quite completely dark and he was able to pick his way through the shadows and outside without making much of a sound. He felt like he had to put the story together in his head. It was all happening so fast. But, the cool air and gray slowly waking feeling helped to slow his thoughts so he could look at them. What had Lucille said?
Watch your thoughts like bright fishes? Not exactly, but his thoughts were bright against the gloom of the just born day and like fishes moving slow in cold water they flashed easy to see one at a time.
He climbed up a winding path slowly choosing his steps carefully, but confident that he would not fall. He reached the top of the ridge. There was bare snag leaning over a small cliff and steep slope down to the winding stream below. He saw all this in shades of grey. He sat with his back against the snag facing the east and the coming sun.
Suddenly he picked up one of his thought fishes and it said, “ Go home, messages await you.”
The rim of the sun peeked over the edge of the horizon and added colors like subtle washes of paint to the world.
MnMs and Eyes in the Night
Maddie and Essie played a game of gin rummy for peanut MnMs that Essie had in her bag until about 9:30. They talked aimlessly about life and this and that. Essie let Maddie win most of the MnMs.
“You are one sweet keed. Tanks for letting me een. Eeseet OK eef I come by tomorrow and take you out for burger or somethin’,”
“That would be super di fuckin’ duper. I got nuthin’ to do on Sunday. Debbie hangs out all day watchin’ football and drinkin’ beer. Matt’ll probly be here too, and What a loada’ thrills that is.” Maddie rolled her eyes.
Essie gave her a little hug at the door.
Maddie received it stiffly at first and latched on a little. Essie smiled and peeled away.
“Oh yeah you gotta come back to get your message anyway. Maybe I can help ya find the place, or drum up a ride. Ya’ know you could always stay here Debbie would hardly even notice.”
Essie smiled a little again. “No, but tank you anyway, I’ll sleep bedder at de motel once I get in and seddled.”
“Go quick. Oh you should go out the back that way if whoever is followin’ you won’t know your gone.”
Maddie showed her to the back door, and Essie disappeared into the night.
Maddie stood and listened, but could not even hear Essie’s footsteps. She went out front and stood on the porch peering out into the dark. She thought she caught the reflection of a light down the street in two amber eyes, but they were gone without a sound. Maddie shivered a little, stepped back in and locked the door. She turned the TV on and flipped channels for a while gave up and went to find her schoolbooks. Debbie’d have a conniption sure if she didn’t have her homework started.
Essie took off her shoes when she got around the corner and ran silently just outside the slashes and pools of light that came through from the highway. The Motel was one block up and two over. She had to sprint across the street, but made it into the alley that ran in back of the strip mall on the corner. She ran hoping that she didn’t step on any glass or sharp metal. She made it to the next street and did not even stop but saw it was safe and scooted across the street. She slipped her shoes on and walked calmly into the Motel parking lot carrying her bag of snacks and drinks. She went to her room and locked the door. It was a small uninspiring room with a bad painting of cannery row in Monterrey. The colors were all wrong. She was suddenly struck by how tired she was and got undressed lifting her small backpack up onto the bed and groping around pulling out the oversized flannel work shirt she used as a nightgown. She changed and flopped on the bed, picking up the remote she flipped channels for a while and gave up. Saturday night TV sucked. She did not have any books to read so she switched out the light and thought about things, about Random and how she hated to leave him and the dreams of the raven and turtle and wolf. She knew the wolf had followed her from the store. She did not think it would hurt her, but there was enough doubt to make her panic and stop at Maddie’s house.
She thought about how hard it had been for her and Random these last months. They had both felt stifled and unable to find a path that included their relationship. They were from two different worlds. He didn’t understand what she needed sometimes. She wanted to move to a cheaper place and take things slower, live a little more and spend less time working. He wanted to finish his studies and work enough to keep the apartment in the city, which meant Essie had to work more too. She had felt her soul, the spirit of her youth fading into her work. Then the dream of the turtle came and told her of the farm where it all would work. She drifted off to sleep thinking of the farm in vague imagery.
She sat a long beach a mountain rose up behind her. She was watching the sun set over a completely still ocean. There were no waves. A breeze came from the north making her cold. She huddled tighter down into the sand a began to sink. She struggled to wildly to but the sand was so fine it was like air that she fell through suddenly her hand grabbed hold of another hand in the flurry of sand and held. The hand pulled and she came up looking into Random’s lovely calm face.
“There you are I’ve been looking for you,” he said.
Suddenly she knew it wasn’t safe for them to linger on the beach they must get into the city before dark or the gates would be locked forever.
“We must go now, to the city. We must run or the gates will close,” she yelled over a roaring sound. The waves had resumed their relentless pounding of beach.
She grabbed his hand and pulled him and they ran. They reached the city and slipped in as the gates closed. They clanged like and reverberated like a tremendous gong.
She dragged him through the mazelike streets she could see the wolf gaining on them as they ran. The wolf would not hurt them she was a messenger, but the message was what she feared. The came to a doorway with the symbol of a black bird in flight above it, and she pushed the door. It opened so easily they fell in Random on top of her. He was kissing her and taking her clothes off and she was rapt in his body.
“Stop!” she yelled angry and frightened, “you don’t understand we must get to the end of the hall.”
But he could not stop and she could not stop. She had to respond. His skin against hers and she felt her body explode into fire on the sandy floor. With her last sliver of composure she pulled herself free of his embrace and staggered, gasping down the hallway. At the end was a pool of water covered in lily pads she ran to the edge and fell in to cool her flaming body.
She woke drenched in sweat. Groggily she glanced at the clock it said 7:16. She gathered some clothes and went into the bathroom to take a cool shower. The fact that the wolf pursued her in her dreams and in waking left a numb little seed of terror just under the surface of her thoughts. She remembered the tales of Tegethnot and how the beings who dwell there have powers to reach out into the waking dream of life. The stories of the old Talagi krone that lived next to her mother’s house on the edge of jungle, were full of turtle, wolf, the black bird of night, and the monkey people who taught humans how to speak the magic of dreams. It was all coming back to her from the mind of her childhood. What had unlocked that vault of long forgotten stories? It was fear. The fear of losing him. Random had saved her. He had really had no choice because she knew he was hopelessly bound to her. Why did she know that? She just did.
Two Messages After Milking
Emmylou never needed an alarm clock. She woke up everyday before 6:30. She had an automatic drip coffeemaker set to make her coffee at 6:00. She got up put on her clothes went down to the kitchen, and got a big mug of coffee drinking on her way to the goats. She milked the goats and put them out in their moveable pen for the day. She carried the milk up to the house and then went down to the cows. As she walked through the house with the fresh goat milk she saw the light on the message machine she had failed to check yesterday. She’d make sure to get it after the cows. She milked the cows and brought the milk up in the dumb waiter and stowed it in the walk in. The coop people would come later for yogurt, kefir, and cheese. She never sold the milk straight.
Emmylou went to the large living room which had a fireplace big enough for one of those hanging soup cauldrons. She thought about getting one and setting it up, but never got around to it. All of the furniture in the room was at least 10 years old and the couch and armchair were from the 60’s probably left over from the school. She pushed the button on the answering machine.
“You have 2 unheard messages, new message number Saturday September 19 at 8:05 pm. Hello my name is Essie and eet ees bery eemportant that I can talk to you about de farm. My number ees 445-7893.” The beep sounded. Emmylou decided to keep the message. There was something in the woman’s voice that sounded real and desperate. She hoped she wasn’t crazy.
“Next unheard message. Today at 7:58 am Hello I am a former student at The Coop School and I would like to take a tour of the ranch sometime. My name is Random Anderson and my number is” the beep sounded before the number. Emmylou shook a little at the mention of the name. She remembered Random and had seen him a few times after they had left the school. He had been a sad little guy when he came and she had felt protective of him. During the five years he attended they had become good friends. She had suspected correctly that he had a crush on her. He had been their to see her daughter born at the school. It was his last year of high school and the last good year of the school. He was still shy and nerdy and a virgin. She was pregnant and scared and abused by Pete who was sleeping with at least three of the students. He wrote her poems and sat in the kitchen and talked with her when he was supposed to be in classes or doing chores.
She had thought of him as a little brother.
She cursed the machine as she turned at the sound of the coop truck pulling up. They were early. She walked out on the porch and waved to the woman and man getting out of the cab.
“Mornin’ Carla, Max,” she called. They waved as the walked up.
“I’ve got all the stuff you asked for on the phone message yesterday, and more if you want it.”
Carla came up with a broad smile, “You know we will take what you got, woman. We can’t keep your good stuff on the shelf.”
“I can brew some coffee if you want. I woulda had it made but you’re early today.”
“Coffee sounds good. I guess we did get an early start today,” said Max looking over at Carla.
They went in for some coffee and news.