I lie here quietly trying to keep my breathing shallow and silent. I need to steal a little more sleep so I can face the day. I can hear it lurking, creeping though my home searching for food, any kind of food that will fuel its mythic strength.
Cerberus, the three-headed monster has taken over my life. It is a very devious beast, selfish and exhausting. As long as there is salty or sweet food within reach of its lion like claws it won’t hurt me. I never know for sure, when it will raise its heads and demand I pay a toll.
I find this roaring beast most charming, often funny, but it lies for no reason. It won’t brush its teeth or wash and comb its serpentine mane. It has the ability to tear me to shreds in moments, and it is aware of its power. Locking the door makes no difference as it crawls in through the cracks, filling my home with energy and desire. After days of silence, it lights my total existence with its continual thirst for knowledge.
When it is gone, I miss it. When it is here, I can’t keep up. I run full speed trying to keep it fed and distracted with anything that is shiny. It has the appeal of a toothless Muppet and the demeanor of Medusa. It is an amazing beast only calmed with three flavors of ice cream, which energizes it to run in multiple directions fighting with itself and anxious to be anywhere at any time.
Although at this moment, it has decided to be kind to me with 10 minutes of quiet before the next feeding. I really do appreciate that act of generosity. I love a monster and I will give it everything I own. Zeus, please bless my three amazing grandchildren.
The blinds opened to another sunrise and Ellen watched the whispers of light illuminate the fragile pink petals beneath the tree. The tree signaled the arrival of another spring and a quiet thought niggled into her consciousness. “How many springs will I have?” The eternal question was followed by the restless twitch of dissatisfaction. She listened in silence to the morning birds and felt the daily humiliation of an aging body.
Having arrived early, Ellen sat in the examination room and recognized how she has never felt she belonged. A natural born nomad from a small town, she waited for answers that had nothing to do with her real existence. There is no genetic explanation she always felt the horizon held answers or at least an exotic escape. Caramel colored eyes constantly searched the edge of possibilities for an oasis in the land of mirage, her suitcase always open.
She ignored the constant pain as she mentally catalogued her life’s addresses. Ellen found comfort in looking back instead of forward. She recognized the Midwesterners beat back the vast grasslands into neat rows of commercialized corn, erasing family farms. No trace of the buffalo was left; they were replaced with a conservative fear of reality and Denny’s restaurants. In Arizona she remembered the day and night battle to master the desert with stolen water and concrete. She chuckled that only crazies spoke of the lights that witness their futile war. Everyone else kept silent or denied the nightly visits.
The leather skinned escapees of the northeast hid in Florida’s rows of white houses. They cowered in conditioned air mocking the fantasy and tourist traps, which drew them to AltaVista Boulevard. Each new arrival turned a blind eye to the developers who gobbled up the swamps orphaning original residents in the race to white sands and skin cancer.
It was the northwest that filled Ellen’s glasses with ancient grandeur and a green reward from weeks of gentle rain. Every eye that could tear away from the computer screen was rewarded with the grandest nature has to offer and a call to the outdoors. A land too magnificent to be paved over by civilization.
The sound of the clinic brought her back to the present moment. They don’t need to tell her, Ellen knows she has run out of land and time. Her bucket list of unexplored locations fades, with the satisfaction of Italy, Central America and Ireland. Ellen returns to her present address, ironically it’s on wheels. She will eat a frozen dinner and wait to sleep with a prayer for dreams of inspiration. She ignores the new horizon she didn’t expect so soon. Years of looking for a home were really the journey she signed up for.
Painting by James Nelson, owned by Toni Kief
According to Faulkner, “Writing a first draft is like trying to build a house in a strong wind.” I am deep into a second novel, and I’m swept away. I’m stitching together five hundred word fictions into a complete narrative. I reorganize, write, rewrite, and wrestle Mildred into a story with a plot and a reasonable end. If I cover ten pages, it is a successful day, and I earn the cup of the good, English tea. This character lives with me, a woman older than myself, and she chatters during the day and late at night building her personal fiction.
Each night I beg the cosmos for inspiration, one clear thought. I doze and ponder a million possibilities. In the darkest hours, I awaken to throw my hands into the air speculating on what could be next scratching illegible notes on scraps of paper. What can she do to make the tale worth reading? A strangling fear arises, the story is improbable, and I’m stupid. Have I blundered in the wrong direction, wasting months and maybe years?
I work diligently, but in the past two weeks, the sun creeps into morning muttering a nagging list of three. I ignore the ideas, but they will neither fade nor quiet. I need an angle, a word, a twist of brilliance. I probe for anything to remove the clatter and release me to my manuscript.
Tonight, I must read for the writer’s group, and a vision dogs me. The unmeasurable stretch of plains with bison herds so large they disappear into the horizon. The massive heads are grazing and raggedy hides soaking up the sun, preparing for winter. The heavy hooves trample with no need for socks, no use for sandals, feet perfected by the environment. I see them plod on, rarely breaking into a stampede.
I present you with the apparition, and I feel released. I waste two more hours trying to understand trying to make the vision fit my story, and I realize it never will, and I plod on.