Thursday, October 28, 2010


    The hills received the hollows that twisted through them, snaked Backwoods2up their ridges. They embraced the former trees clinging to the hillsides, broken or uprooted and blind to the sky. Brier and brush wrapped the hills, and the hills nuzzled back.
    Men, unbidden, came and believed they conquered the hills but the hills, disinclined,  changed. No man outlasts the hills.
    Treen. That's all. Treen she was. She hadn't bent to say more in a coon's age. No call to start now.
     'Sides, nary a one that came to her cared to know her afore name. Nary a one could summon even Treen after.
    The house deep in Gwrach Gorge had been home to her kin since - always, it seemed to folk. No one recalled who built it, likely not even Treen, though Lord knows she wouldn't tell if she knew. For all its weatherin', a warm and cheerful place. Splashes of color from the shelf-lined walls stocked with jars and ewers. Old wooden chairs worn shiny with time and use and molded to fit a body. The cackle of  the black chickens out back lilting along the air.
    She hadn't always dwelt in the house - course not, that was impossible, folk knew. Just seemed that no one alive these days could remember before Treen.
    Herb Woman the kinder called her. Some, with a glance back for hidden, spoke of the Backwoods Witch. A few, braver or more foolish, inched even closer to a greater lie or the greater truth.
    These folk, maybe they had heard the keening.
    In the valley, the day began when he left. She arose. Said the mirror: bruised enough to hurt but not enough to be seen.
    Shame masked, pride saved, and again she cried – brutal, ripping, noiseless. At last, the cloaked ache deep found form and grew, gained power and called out - still unseen but no longer unheard.
    From the belly of the hills came an answer, and a beckoning.
    Pain helped the needy find the way. It spirited them down the old wagon trail, up the ridges, through the thickets, into the gorge.
 Backwoods1     Misery doesn't need directions.
    Lulled by the contented sounds of the black chickens, she looked around the bright room, spying ... blackberry and chicory roots, cherry bark, willow leaves, perhaps wild ginger?
    "Are you comin' to me, child?" said Treen. "Just ailin' a bit and hankerin' for help, or are you comin' to me?"
    She nodded, slowly.
    "I'll suss out the truth, child, don't be callin' on me with no nasty selfish lie."
    The old eyes missed nothing. Owl eyes, sighting telltale signs of untruths or withholding. What was glimpsed remained unspoken.
    At last: "The pain will go, child. You don't get to decide. Treen don't decide. But it will go."
    A death wail heard once, the soul flinches, chills. Twice, it's a truth unclothed, lay bare, and irrevocable. The third cry of the banshee, no living being recollects.
    On the ancient table, worn to be almost concave, stone and glass, roots and leaves, mortar and pestle, and thick, black ... water?
    "Is a way back, child, after the first. Even the second can keep. But, a tríu? The stone is thrown."
    She nodded. She didn’t look away. Treen worked.
    An ashen
moon lighted upon the earth through skittering clouds. Mists frolicked about gullies and trickling water. But they just were, they didn't do.
    The night's other whiteness, most unnatural but more nature than else, searched. The work of the soul-cry: It came when called ... and called when it came.
    He started from deep asleep, winced, then laughed. Tweren't nothin' what he heard. She jumped, chilled, but no smile followed. She tucked the bedcovers higher under her chin and looked out the pane into the darkness.
    Despite the warmth of the sun, the fire in Gwrach Gorge blazed with purpose, consuming the air and all Treen fed it. The black chickens took heed, scattered, kept their distance.
    The trees stood in silent vigil, the wind held its breath, but she didn't come back into the hills, with bawls of regret, with pleas for release.
    Old bones groaned as Treen bent back toward the fire.
    In the valley, he jolted awake again, but no laughter cracked the air this night. Something ... there was something. The shrill cry of a night bird. A haunting from an old dream. But the truth was a lie, he reckoned. He looked toward her.
    The coldness of the wail's echo burned in the silence.
    Treen worked and waited and thought. Child, this is the last time the choice be yours. Mind it well, for what fate will nigh decide, no human being can divine.
    "Truth be told, though," Treen said to the black chickens, "sufferin' don't have many druthers."
    Disquiet stole down from the headlands and into the
valley. Folk made for home, molested by their own familiar shadows now turned sharp and poorly fitting. A presence roused under the peculiar hush that held the night.
    She sat, content, tearless, and watched the hills turn black with the setting of the sun.
    The push of the night woke him, and her, when the air in the room drew too close for slumber. He jerked from the bed to pace, recoiling from the windows, talking aloud to himself and to no one. It was coming, he knew, but what he knew he couldn’t conjure.
    The pause of the wind was a full-mouthed silence.
    The whiteness, unstoppable, cleaved the darkness outside, and the specter birthed as a body without flesh, hollow eyes dead but all-seeing. The face, the face of the banshee, split, and a keening rent the night - a tríu.
    White turned black, and the bloom of a smile touched her face as she closed her eBackwoods4yes in welcome.
    A shroud seemed to cover her thoughts, remembrances, when she arose the d
ay after the funeral. Days, perhaps weeks gone missing - though oddly unmissed. Except for the rays of the sun, all was vagueness.
    So many people had she seen, so many faces unknown. Such a shock, they had said. Your loss so great, they had said.
    The pain will go, child, they had said.
    The power of the hills lies in how they keep their secrets. No man outlasts the hills.
    (I wrote this short story for three reasons: 1. To see if I could; 2. Because I'm a fan of spooky; and 3. Because of a recent family drama that I had a very difficult time reconciling in my head. Writing helped.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Adams on Us

(Once again, stolen directly from @LateFines, who reblogged it from afternoonsnoozebutton on Tumblr.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Targeted for Termination

The Rat is back.

Three weeks ago I recounted the scintillating tale of my visit from The Rat (Screaming Echoes of a Girly-Girl). Three weeks to the day, at nearly the same hour, The Rat returned.

For the record, I took it pretty well. Granted, I didn’t actually see any of its scurrying parts this time, just evidence: the gnawed hole in the back of the cabinet where the pipe to the kitchen sink runs back into the wall, the crumbled bits of the wall underneath said hole, and food wrappers pulled out of the trashcan. Again, the sounds were what alerted me: the thumping, the scraping, the tik-tik-tik-tik of its nasty little rat feet running around the floor of the cabinet.


Thanks to my REPK (Rat Emergency Preparedness Kit) I was ready this time: 1) boots on; 2) defensive weapon (long-handled Swiffer Sweeper) in hand; 3) scaled-down version of rat blockade intact; and 4) flashlight. I surveyed the scene and improvised until morning proper came and I was able to get assistance - two cups cut from a tinfoil cupcake pan jammed into and filling the gnawed hole, and Igloo cooler wedged against the cabinet doors and braced by a full jug of spring water.

During my call to the front office, I learned more about The Rat. After it was denied entry at my abode, it visited at least four other units – and gnawed through the thick rubber hoses connected to three of their dishwashers. Numerous traps have been set throughout the complex, but The Rat continues to elude capture. Maintenance did snare it once, but The Rat escaped.

This seemingly is no ordinary rat. It’s Rat Cyberdine Model 101.

Rat 101 can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever.

For now, the Sarah Connor of this story is armed with a rat trap under her sink. It is baited with a peanut butter-covered half-biscuit. There is also assistance from Reese - in the form of half a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup added as rat bait.

Weapons of war.

“What did he just say?”
“He said there’s a storm coming in.”
“I know.”

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hello, neighbor

One (very early) morning, when I was finding sleep hard to hold onto, I was channel surfing and happened upon "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood."

I had to stop. Mr. Rogers, much like the characters of "Sesame Street," was as integral a part of my childhood as the smell of coffee in the morning and the nighttime sounds of gurgling water and the frogs in the creek near my house.

I had the great fortune of making my arrival at about the same time "Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood" and "Sesame Street" first began airing. Mr. Rogers hit the airwaves on February 19, 1968, and Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Kermit, Grover and Co. entered the world on November 10, 1969 - five days before I turned 2. Then just a couple years later, "The Electric Company" flipped the switch. How lucky was I?

To this day I appreciate the generous spirit that was Fred Rogers. His lessons of kindness, acceptance and self-worth still resonate - and are still so very needed. He addressed difficult topics, like being angry and divorce and war, with no condescension toward his young viewers. He delighted in showing us the everyday wonders of the world, but his joy shone through when he was using his imagination and taking wide-eyed children along for the trolley ride.

How marvelous was it for a child to watch an adult pretend, to make believe?

“Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” was a gift to me and to my sister, who is almost exactly one year older than I. And Mr. Rogers was very special to us, as I'm sure he was to many people.

My sister called me when she learned of Fred Rogers’ passing. I was driving at the time and had to pull over. We shared a cry over the phone, a heartfelt grief over the loss of a man we had never met but who made the world a better place in his time here.

"You are special. You are the only person exactly like you." What a sublime message for kids - and for grown-ups, too.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pardon my tartle


The words of a living language are like creatures: they are alive. Each word has a physical character, a look and a personality, an ancestry, an expectation of life and death, a hope of posterity.

         -Morris Bishop, “Good Usage, Bad Usage, and Usage”

I discovered a wonderful book, “They Have a Word for It: A Lighthearted Lexicon of Untranslatable Words & Phrases,” a few years back. In it, the author, Howard Rheingold, talks about the theory of “linguistic relativity,” which at its most bare bones says that the respective languages of cultures shape the way each people views the world.

“The world is presented in a kaleidoscopic flux of impressions which has to be organized by our minds – and this means largely by the linguistic systems in our minds. We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and ascribe significances.”

And because each does this differently, we’re presented with culture-centric words/concepts that don’t translate easily. Some of these terms have gained entry into our vocabulary – Zeitgeist, tao and mantra, for example. For the betterment of our shrinking world, and to have a little fun, I think we should try to add a few more:

ho’oponopono (HO-OH-poh-no-poh-no) [Hawaiian], n., a social gathering and healing process that combines the functions of a religious ceremony, group therapy, family counseling session, town hall meeting, and small claims court. Note: Under this concept, EVERYBODY agrees to stay in the same room until some resolution is reached. This is how we should run Congress.

uffda (OOF-DAH) [Swedish], excl., a sympathetic exclamation when someone else experiences pain, a combination of “Ouch for you” and “Oh, I’m sorry you hurt yourself.”

suilk (SWILLK) [Scottish], v., to swallow, gulp, suck with a slobbering noise. To the Scottish people, the act of swallowing food with an abnormal amount of noise is considered rude enough to merit a verb of its own. Note: If I didn’t already have the family background to prove I’m part Scottish, this would do it.

fisselig (rhymes with thistle fish) [German], adj., conveys a temporary state of being flustered to the point of incompetence as the direct result of another person’s nagging. Note: If said overbearing nagger asks what’s wrong, reply “I’m fisseliged.” That could be odd enough scare him or her away.

tartle [Scottish], v., to hesitate in recognizing a person or thing but recover quickly enough, remember the name and avoid terminal embarrassment.

sanza (SON-zah, rhymes with Honda) [Zande, New Guinea], n., a circumlocutory form of speech that employs words and gestures to create hidden malicious meanings to apparently polite, innocuous speech. Note: I would swear on a stack of Bibles that I know no one who’s from New Guinea, but I definitely know some women who have perfected this speaking ability.

attaccabottoni (rhymes with a lot of baloney) [Italian], n., a doleful bore who buttonholes people and tells sad, pointless tales. Note: Attaccabottoni is my last entry here lest I become one.