Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Precious Cargo

"This shit wagon, this place of utter non-redemption," Herald muttered to Alberto. They squatted on the banks of the Vertigo and watched the rafts float by, steered by Fur People using long poles. On the rafts were crammed animals and vegetation: bobcats, flowering squash bushes, ruby-throated warblers, star nosed moles- you name it. Herald felt angry at the Fur People. He wanted with every fiber in his being to inspect the precious cargo. If he had learned anything at Yahweh's Mammalry Business College, it was to respect the sanctity of nature's abundance. What right did those Fur People have to take mammals from the past into who-knows-what kind of future.
"You're just jealous," Alberto muttered back at him. They'd been watching this parade for hours, all morning. Bashwalup! had wandered down to the banks and called out to a raft. It sounded like, "Herragh chockel kraww doo-doo?" and the Fur Person on the raft had answered back, "Smarrr-gellup gunden crumplin.Ho har-nu gallum carumph galloo. "
"I wonder what that was all about?" Herald and Alberto asked each other.
Medicine Dan called out from under the bush where Sally and her pups lay curled and suckling. "They say they're delivering a shipment of exotics to Lady Angela, for the Replenishment Project."
"Well how the hockey-puck do you know Fur-talk?" shouted back Alberto. Medicine Dan grunted and turned back to the pups, gently adjusting their positions so that none were uncomfortable. Sally adored Medicine Dan with her eyes and sighed.
"I say we follow them, we build a raft and go where they're going," said Herald to Alberto. "If anyone should be involved in this Replenishment Project, it's you and me. Didn't we graduate top of our class, with specialities in small mammal encouragement and habitat detection?"
"Yeah but, what about them," he nodded over at Medicine Dan and the dogs. "They shouldn't be moved, right? Didn't we learn that in 'The first twenty days of life; the newborn mammal environment'?" The two argued back and forth all the while keeping their eyes glued to the increasingly ridiculous procession of rafts.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Lisle von Fixin de Hoolie remembers

Here on the river, here in the future, we rest. The great flood of our time has come and gone, taking family and feathered fowl, and furred mammal alike. The sun unleashed its fury upon us generations past, and we suffered greatly in the falling light. Our grandmothers hid beneath pickup trucks, to little avail. Our uncles sequestered boats from weaker willed individuals and families and we were grateful. Survival of the fittest, indeed. And through that slender thread, here you and I stand, the descendants of survivors, grateful for familial tenacity. We have survived. From one survivor comes the rest of the lineage, the von Fixin de Hoolie family will not die, we will not! Our men, with impromptu weapons in hand, swung and swung again, striking out at anything that challenged their survival. Come rabid dog, come smaller men with larger wives and duller children. You will not triumph over our family. We have lived here on this road for over one hundred years! And so the von Fixin de Hoolie clan survived the hard times. In boat, in defiance, in glory blind to the future. This future, this place here quiet from the teeming masses, this eradicated landscape, this eugenic utopia. We live because we will. Taller, with flashier eyes and hands that react with deep succinctness. We are God's grace, an army of the living who refuse to be conquered.
So spoke Marylou's mother, Lisle von Fixin de Hoolie.
The truth, however painful it may be, will set you free. Think of it, the unthinkable. That which is, this everything about us. Under us.
Marylou felt it, in her blood like a lightening river, pulsing out painfully to one inexorable conclusion. Her father was alive, and in captivity. The pain of imagining. What must he have felt? The cold reality of a sword, held to his throat, or worse. Marylou couldn't think of it. Her father, Hans Sneebum, was a pacifist, through and through. She remembered him in her thirteenth year. They stood together on the banks of the Vertigo, away from the family at the edge of the swiftly moving waters.
"Father, tell me what it is that makes humans the way they are." She stood, tall for her age and not yet grown into her natural grace. Beside her, her father, a man of forty two years with beard and homemade overalls, felt a deep satisfaction. What wondrous spirits, what divine grace, had bestowed upon him this daughter, this jewel of innocent wisdom?
He gave himself time before answering, staring into the shifting reflections. What, indeed? The moon caught each small wave and graced it with a fleeting light. He strove, internally, to reflect a knowingness, an answer to her question.
"We are born into this world in grace, Marylou. On the night you were born, your mother labored so hard. To bring another human into this world, think of it! How amazing. And the instant you were born, your eyes shone like dark stones, and you did not cry. She and I looked into your face, so small and real, out of seeming nothingness." He paused and looked to Marylou, her silhouette silver in the moonlight. She stood still, listening with her every fiber.
"And every day since that day, you have been human." They stood quietly together, each striving to understand this humanness, this corporeal slant.
"I don't know what it is to be human, except to say that it is falling hard away from God, and yet falling towards God at every moment. It is divine folly."
That is how Marylou remembered her father. Standing on the shore, shifting patiently from one barefoot to the other on the worn river stones. He was kind and gentle, and he fell into the Vertigo and the river took him here, to this cruel place in the future, the lair of Lady Angela.

"Are you saying that you have my father?" Marylou's heart pounded, and her words came out wet like blood drops.
"He is safe, and waiting for your arrival." Lady Angela demurred. Her lips twitched almost imperceptibly, and she looked cooly over at George, and then back at Marylou. "He is in our finest facility"
Anger, drumming with every heart beat at her temples and in her throat, caused Marylou to shout with uncontrolled fury. "He has nothing for you! He is a seed peddler!" Marylou's hair sprang out like black fire from beneath the golden circlet. George witnessed, he saw the truth of the moment. The golden circlets! The two women stood face to face. Identical crowns upon such different heads.
"He has you, Marylou. And now I too have you, and we will continue on this journey and you will see your father. But first, you must give me the golden circlet."

Marylou suspects

Marylou had her suspicions. Lady Angela led her and George Conley through the Washup Downs with a cool superiority. It set off alarm bells within Marylou's head.

Monday, March 2, 2009

the dream of the foxes, by guest blogger Jane

The fox spoke until the moon had become a dim white plate at the bottom of the sky. The morning light had already stretched its light blue fingers towards the horizon when he finally sat down on his red haunches and turned to drink from the bowl offered by a lesser fox.

Harmut sat silent, feeling as if she were in a dream. The story that had woven itself through her brain that night was as meaningful and intricate as a dream. She didn’t dare move or speak, for fear that the scene might disappear of a moment. She rocked lightly back and forth, pondering all that the fox had told her in the last hours.

His words, the deep, clear meanings of the tale,

had brought her unkempt mind up to the vale’s

taut edge, and though she knew it deep inside

that all the fox had spoke was bonafide,

she struggled to retain her dreamlike grip.

She grasped at the full meaning of her trip.

“Fox veritas,” the fox assured her thus,

and she believed his story, more or less.

But can a girl live dumbly on the earth

so long, and never questioning its birth?

And blindly take as fact its history?

He told of floods and foxholes, and of fleeing

aimless to the future, back and forth,

and in between, and everything of worth

resolving and retaining, keepers be

the foxes of the jewels of history.

“von Mona Lisa,” said the fox to her,

“von Air Supply von Beethoven von more”,

And slow the breath took form inside her lung,

and fox linguista sat upon her tongue,

and when she finally slept, she could not say.

She woke alone and felt the freezing day.

She sat upright, shivering. Her thoughts were fragile as dreams, but she regarded the soft impression on the sand, and knew that what she had experienced was true. That the foxes were rescuers of the treasures of history, traveling through foxholes in time. but where were these treasures they had rescued from the flood and before? The Mona Lisa, which no one had seen in centuries? The musical recordings of Air Supply, or the band itself, which had disappeared from the face of the earth without a trace two centuries ago? Why did the foxes rescue these treasures, and where did they hide them? And would they, she wondered sadly, trying without success to warm herself by covering her limbs in the cold sand, rescue her?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hartmut, by guest blogger Jane

Hartmut was aptly named, for she had the heart of a dog. Not that she had ever seen a real dog, but if you could believe the time travelers, it’s the kind of heart that she supposedly had. Meaning that she loved earnestly, loyally, even viciously, and once she cast her devotion upon the recipient, be it man or creature, she didn’t let up easy.

“Like being hit by a freight train,” her mother often said. But Hartmut had never seen a freight train either, and so the dead metaphors had little effect on her.

Sometimes she wished she could be more like Marylou. Marylou didn’t pine for true romances that never came, didn’t stalk the young men at the mammalry college every time she got a chance to visit the outposts, or require months to unwind herself from the pain she felt right in her heart when they didn’t love her in return, and Marylou certainly didn’t stay up nights crying for their father who had never come back. Marylou simply took action. Whether it was a door that need fixing, a fish that needed catching, or a heart that needed untangling, Marylou simply acted. And that was exactly what Hartmut intended to do now.

Except she hadn’t exactly intended to do it right that second. It was only a thought she was having as she waded into the swirling water. A momentary revelation as she knelt in the Vertigo to rinse out her apron that had been stained with dirt and berries. Something caught her eye, and she slipped, and found herself being washed down the river of time. Now, sitting on a bank she knew not where, Hartmut reflected that this was the recurring story of her life.

She didn’t know where (or when) she was, but where/whenever it was, it was cold. She shivered, wringing out her long blonde braids. She was probably only swept a couple of weeks up the current, she told herself. But even as she thought this, she tasted the dirty Vertigo in her mouth, realizing how much of it she had swallowed, and she knew that it was more lies she was telling herself. A few weeks up wouldn’t have put her in the middle of winter, and she didn’t recognize anything around her. The island looked dead and empty. Besides the dry shrubbery that crowded the rocky shore, she could see nothing but flat sandbars and briney lagoons in every direction. Could she have been caught in the Tallahassee Loop current? If so, she could be just about anywhere.

“Oh, what am I going to do???” she wailed, looking helplessly about her for a sign. Marylou would have had flint for a fire, and for that matter, wouldn’t have been lost in the first place, with her circlet and map.

“And why does she get to have the circlet and map?” she reflected, walking round in little circles to warm up. “What did I ever get?”

She fell to her knees and sobbed into her wet apron. Presently, however, she decided that ready or not, the time for action had indeed come. She searched the gritty shoreline and eventually found a bit of shale stone and a dark flat bit of leaf. Using the shale, she sketched the following message into the leaf:

Washed up the Vertigo! Send help! Wherever this is, it’s cold. Hartmut

Miraculously, she located a glass bottle with a stopper lodged between two boulders, and after rinsing it out, she inserted her message and flung it into the river, not knowing what good it might ever do.

Exhausted, wet and shivering, she crawled beneath the same boulder on a bit of cold but dry sand, and presently cried herself to sleep. She slept the sound sleep of a broken-hearted innocent, her body forming a question mark in the sand. When, hours later, the moon was high in the sky, it was the plaintiff sweet howl of foxes that awoke her.

Slowly, Hartmut peeked her face out from beneath the boulder’s overhang and saw twelve red foxes sitting in a circle on the sand. She thought she was dreaming. Foxes had been extinct since the flood. And yet all turned their pointy faces towards her, and one rose up onto his hind legs.

“Flock,” he said in a gravelly yet sweet voice. “Flock hinder non frightenum.”

And she knew without needing a translator that the wondrous, beautiful foxes, who were real, so very real in the moonlight, had recognized her as one of their own.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Washup City

"Whomever I may have been to you in the past, George, I am Lady Angela now." Truly her robe of blue and white did bestow upon George a sense of her new rank, one of both power and privilege. Marylou noted that Lady Angela's robe was actually a men's bathrobe, but conceded that Lady Angela did have a royal air about her.
"My Lady," he said, bowing deeply on one knee, hat in hand. Lady Angela breathed a sigh of relief and looked to each of her guests in turn, taking in Sally under the bushes. She turned and spoke to Ungah in an unfamiliar language. He in turn approached Sally slowly and began communicating with her through a series of grunts and hand gestures.
"Ungah says this dog is but a few hours from giving birth. Praise be to the mammal lords." Everyone looked to Sally with excitement, and Medicine Dan clapped his hands and did a little jig.
"My companions and I bring barley nougats and pressed mulberry wine in greeting. Let us sit around the fire and partake, and you will tell me who you are, and what you are doing here in Washup." The others obliged happily and all snacked merrily and told of their exhilarating exodus from the Port of Pouteau. Lady Angela took keen interest in the story, having heard of the famed poetry reading at Leroy's. It was legend. Lady Angela had the advantage of being both from the past and the future. She knew exactly who these people were, and knew better than they what their mission in Washup would be. She knew of Marylou's father, indeed, she kept him safely in her own compound, at the center of Washup City.
The Fur People sat with the humans and watched quietly. They were keen observers of character. They noticed how Herald and Alberto stared at them with reverence, curiosity, and friendliness. Medicine Dan however, would not look directly at the Fur People. He busied himself rubbing tobacco on his gums, and drinking heavily from the mulberry wine jugs. This was not his first encounter with the Fur People, and he did not seem to trust them. Marylou and George only had eyes for Lady Angela. Her every gesture engrossed them. She spoke softly and made meaningful eye contact with her startlingly blue eyes.
It was decided that Bashwalup! would stay with Medicine Dan, Herald, and Alberto in order to care for Sally. She was in no condition to go anywhere. Bashwalup! could instruct the men on finding edible roots, the location of the best berry patches, and how to construct a grass hut. They would be fine on this tiny island for the time being, allowing Sally and her soon-to-be born pups a leisurely and safe place to nest. Alberto and Herald immediately began learning Bashwalup!'s language.
"Gargoo means water!" shouted Herald at Medicine Dan, who grunted and turned back to stroking Sally's belly. He didn't want to go anywhere in this new world. All that mattered to him was Sally and the pups.
Lady Angela, Ungah!, George Conley, and Marylou bid farewell to the others and started off through the trees. On the far side of the island they came upon Lady Angela's boat, a golden canoe of sorts, which Ungah! skillfully maneuvered through the waterways, wending their way closer to Washup City.