Learning to Fly

By Maire Greene

“I’m not lying,” I yelled. “I was flying. You just don’t believe me.”

Even at four I get the difference. But Mom is making her very mad face and doing that open and close thing with her hands that means she is “on the verge.”

That’s something they say that I don’t get. What’s a verge?

She always says to Auntie Corine, “I’m telling you Reeney–I was on the verge.” and Auntie Corine just nods, “M-mm-h-mm” which means, “Tell me more.”

 Auntie Corine doesn’t talk as much as Mom. And she doesn’t hit. Least wise not when I’m at her house. Teddy and Robby say she hits them all the time but they probably deserve it. They do enough bad stuff. I do too when I’m with them but I almost never get caught. When I do I just blame them which is how Declan told me to do. It works really good so far.

Anyway I can see Mom won’t believe me no matter how true I am so I just stop talking. She hates when I do this. That’s one thing I learned so far. Mom likes a fight.  Declan says this is so she has a better excuse to hit ‘cuz if you argue you’re diserspectin and she’s your Mom and so there’s no diserspectin.

So many rules. I start to feel myself floating up through the top of my head—not good. When I float out I mostly don’t make answers quick enough and then she hits. But the hitting just makes me float out. And when I’m out I don’t feel her—I can see and hear but no feels—so it’s a trade.

I just got lost. Where was I? That happens a lot. It’s confusion and sometimes makes a sinky feel in my stomach.

Declan says, “That’s the price you pay.” He can also fly and do the floating thing. But he also can do the being different people thing which is way better. See, when he floats out he can let another voice come out his mouth, mostly scared and sorry but sometimes, when it’s just us two he does a really scary monster voice. And his eyes change. They get all dead.

I know what dead looks like ‘cuz I’ve seen lots of dead–like the frog Dec killed to show me how to kill frogs. You stick ‘em in the head with a nail. Also the same with the bird, though I really cried hard at that one. It was just a little baby bird that fell out of the nest. Declan said it would die anyway and he was doing a mercy kill. He offered to let me do the neck twist thing but just thinking it made me throw up a little—just in my mouth and I didn’t tell Dec. That’s ammunition for him. He says that kind of weak makes me fair game which doesn’t feel fair but I really know to keep shut around Dec so I’m safe.  He let me do a bird funeral after. Dec told Mom it was dead when we found it. He even squeezed out a tear or two. Mom really fell for that. She gave us a cod fish box which was cool ‘cuz it was real wood. It smelled fishy though, but Declan says that’s how dead smells anyway.

Boy, I talk a lot in my head but now I really don’t know what Mom’s yelling at me. S-W-O-O-O-P! I get sucked right back into myself and Mom’s yelling, “Don’t stare at me with that fish eyed stare.”

Which makes me laugh ‘cuz I was just thinking fish—sometimes it feels like she hears my mind. Scary. There’s so much scary in this family I start to cry.

“Oh, stop your sniveling. Your bladder is too close to your eyes.”

Which I don’t understand at all but it usually means I’m off the hook. Another one! I never see any hooks but apparently I’m really good at getting off them. That’s what Declan says, so that’s why he always puts me in front of him when it looks like we’re gonna get in trouble. It’s mostly ok with me ‘cuz he’s older so he knows more about what works and also without him I’d probably never have any aventures. Declan says aventure is better than fun ‘cuz fun is just cheap thrills but aventure learns you skills. Like climbing trees–which is good for hiding from grown-ups but also other kids. They never look up when they’re chasing you.

That’s how I started flying in the first place. We were both running from the bullies. Dec had let the air out of their tires so they couldn’t use their bikes to chase us but they were still bigger and could run faster. We had a head start on them so we went around the corner and up the apple tree.

I’m too little to reach the first branch but Declan reached down and pulled my arms while I was shinnying up. I just got to the third branch up when the bullies came around the corner. Dec and I were real quiet. We would have got away but Dec couldn’t resist throwing apples at them when they came near the tree. He got in a couple of good hits and I beaned one off fat Tony’s head. They yelled and started climbing so we jumped.

Here’s a clue. Don’t jump if you don’t have to–the ground is really hard. And it comes up fast. But there’s this little minute where you are flying for real–it sent me right out the top of my head so I was looking down from the top of the tree. Which was lucky ‘cuz then I didn’t even feel it when I conked my head. It made me blink out for a minute. I guess that really scared the bullies . They ran screaming and then Mom came running.

I told Mom about the flying but like I said she didn’t believe me. And she’s open closing her hands but when I’m floating I suddenly know something I didn’t know before. Sometimes when Mom is on the verge it’s because she’s scared herself. I never thought grown-ups got scared. But I can see it in her eyes–just like I can always tell if her smile reaches her eyes or if Declan’s eyes are dead.

Declan is right. Aventures are better than fun.  They do learn you stuff. I won’t tell him about Mom getting scared though. That would just give him ammunition and he is not scared to use his ammo on anyone. He says you gotta use it or what’s the sense of having it. I get that too now. I’ll be sure to check Mom’s eyes the next time.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Maire Greene

  Photo by Stephanie Albert from Pixabay

Memorial

By Susan W. Meister

From the oak

(all unaware)

the acorn falls,

buried beneath

a cover of red and gold

fallen leaves.

Rain falls,

Sun pales,

Moonlight chills.

Killing frost bites tall grass,

shrivels mushrooms,

crisps leaves.

Worms wriggle deeply down

in darkness.

The pond glazes,

turtles burrow beneath the ooze.

A full moon,

A sudden freeze,

The ground locks.

Snow falls:

on snow on

snow on

snow.

Silent nights,

Nature sleeps,

The world turns.

Days lengthen,

Ice unlocks,

Snow thaws.

Buds redden,

Bluebirds sing,

Crocuses bloom.

The acorn splits,

sends one pale,

seeking sprout

up,

through softened soil,

through snow-pressed leaves

into the light.

Sprout to stem to bud.

 One

tender

Oak leaf

Unfurls.

My body the oak,

(all unaware)

My spirit the acorn.

Eternal return.

Copyright © 2019 by Susan W. Meister

Just Another Miracle

By Jane M. Bailey

Originally read at the Bethlehem Library Coffee House, May, 2018.  Published in The Litchfield Connection (August, 2019).  Reprinted in The Green Mountain Trading Post St. Johnsbury, Vermont (Vol. 48, No. 10).

Years ago, I started a daily ‘Miracle Journal’ to capture the small miracles in life that many days I overlook.  My journal is filled with simple things, like the miracle of running water, or the miracle of my teenage daughter having a conversation with me without a hint of surliness.

One day, after my husband left for work and the children’s school bus pulled away, I took out my miracle journal to enjoy a writing respite in the morning quiet.  There didn’t seem to be a miracle in sight, so I sat with pen in hand deep in thought.  God, there must be a miracle around here somewhere.

With that, a whooshing sound came from the chimney only steps from the sofa where I was sitting.  I looked up and found myself face-to-face with a squirrel who had landed with a thud right onto the fireplace grate that was filled with ash.  He got his bearings quicker than I did and flew out of the fireplace headed to parts unknown in the house, leaving a wake of black soot on the carpet.

In that nanosecond, a childhood memory flashed through me of my uncle’s home being destroyed by a squirrel during a week he and his family were on vacation.  The picture of my uncle’s beautiful home in shambles morphed into a vision of my own house being gnawed to death as it was turned topsy-turvy by this invader. My heart raced as I considered what to do, while remembering cautions about animal bites and rabies that might ravage my body as the squirrel marched along his path of destruction.  

A plan popped into place, a wonderful and simple plan:  contain the squirrel in one room and call the town animal control department.  I could hear the squirrel upstairs and I cautiously followed the soot trail, hoping to shut him into a bedroom.  I got to the top of the stairs, where he stood looking at me.   Blood pounded in my ears as this small squirrel took on features of a mountain lion ready to tear me limb-from-limb.  He must have thought I was ready to do the same to him, because he took off with a shot into my husband’s office. 

I caught my breath and glanced into the office to insure he hadn’t escaped from under me.  There the squirrel was, hidden beyond my vacuum cleaner which was spread out in the middle of the room, with its hose disconnected from the carpet attachment in a messy sprawl.

In a moment of magical insight, I ran into the room and slammed the door behind me putting the squirrel and me in the same room.  Throwing caution to the wind, I ran to the open window and threw up the screen as I grabbed the vacuum hose and dropped the end of it out the window.  The squirrel was cowering in the corner, as I cowered deep inside myself—two animals in fight or flight mode.  Not a good thing!

I turned to run back out of the room when suddenly the squirrel scampered up the hose heading for freedom, as my sub-conscious knew he would.  When he got to the end of the hose just outside the window,….Aaagh…I hadn’t thought of this part…he’s going to splat onto the concrete sidewalk below.  There will be blood, and guts.  I don’t want to kill him.  Why did I ever do this? This was a terrible idea!

Just as that thought crossed my mind, my squirrel took a leap and to my amazement spread what I can only describe as wings, angel wings, and glided toward the tree that is 10 yards from the house.  Is this possible?  There he was, safely scampering down the trunk of the tree, none the worse for his adventure.  

My prayers of “Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!” turned into “Thank you, God!  Thank you, God!  Thank you, for sending me a flying squirrel to show me that miracles do happen!”  We just need to look into the fireplace and soot of our lives.   

Image by Carina Hofmeister from Pixabay