This year I'm feeling the ghostliness and harvestry of the season changing. It's like the tide, pulling at my attention.
I've been reading scary books (Joe Hill's Horns, and S.E. Hinton's Hawke's Harbor, and Holly Black's Dollbones).
Songs like these have been playing in the back of my mind:
It's been a long time since we costumed ourself for Halloween.
One year, Mr. Linton was a convincing caveman to my school-marm. Another time, he rocked a magnificent black marlin mask constructed of paper and a ball-cap. And –– oh, innocence! –– a whole boatload of us dressed as oil sheiks with squirt guns, decades ago, back when the idea of dressing up as a terrorist seemed light-hearted.
I think the last time we had Halloween outfits, we did a simple zombification. Cornstarch and lipstick rendered us fairly convincingly undead.
That red proved to be surprisingly durable, and we discovered that in a stripe-y suit, Mr. Linton would make a passable Beetlejuice (Betelgeuse! Betelgeuse!)
This time, under the tidal pull of All Saint's, I have something a bit more elaborate in mind.
Something Nordic. Something a little bit Floki. Something a little bit Ragnar Lodbrok. And, given the hair, something Lagertha-esque...
Storytelling nearly always involves filling in a blank: Who dunnit? Where did the pirates bury the gold? What did that boy learn? Why did the chicken cross the road? Where did those people come from?
"Halt," the sentry called out. "Who goes there?"
Ground-mist was creeping up from the valley, slow and full of moisture. His canvas gaiters were already soaked. The sentry adjusted his grip on the worn wooden butt of his carbine, and angled his head toward the darkness.
He'd heard something, he could have sworn he had; even with ears that still rang from percussion after these past weeks' of constant skirmishes, he'd heard movement in the laurel-slick.
Using a delicate stalk of beggar's wheat, she pointed at a hash-mark on the map. "Who goes there? You can't mean to leave that pass unguarded, surely."
The other two exchanged a glance. The larger of the two men scuffed the toe of his boot in the dust along the southern edge of the make-shift map.
The larger man, his voice reluctant, had just begun, "Lady––" when his companion snapped, "You aren't going to like it. Zhat-zhat and that lot from her village have a plan."
"But they are children! If it comes to battle ––"
"Lady, they are no younger than you." Both men looked at her. The one with pity, the other unreadable but impatient.
The large man cleared his throat before saying, "It will come to battle, and we all must fight. Zhat-Zhat has a good plan." He coughed and added. "It might even work."
"Who goes there?" Myra said, not listening for the answer. "I mean what kind of person, seeing this––" she waved a curled hand wildly, indicating not just the motorized carbon-fiber chair, but her own foreshortened physique. "Just says whatever bullshit question pops into her head? My lovelife? Are you kidding me?"
A rose is not the only pretty red thing in nature, even if it's one of the first comparisons that come to mind. Blame Robby Burns and the Brothers Grimm.
And, granted, "My luve is like a red red dragonfly" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
(Although I might have awarded style-points to myself had the odonate insect pictured above been a damselfly. It isn't. Here's how I know. Which leads me farther off this unbeaten track to, "My luve is like a red red odonate, which sweetly buzzed in June.")
"My love's eyes are nothing like the sun, coral is more red than her lip's red." (Thanks, Billy, for that sonnet, number 130). She didn't have access to a cosmetics counter, poor creature, or the fiver to spend on such cheering frippery as a fresh tube of lippy in, say, "Poppy."
And cheeks as red as apples?
Still, it's red I'm seeing. Literal red –– scarlet and blood-red, crimson and carmine, vermillion and cardinal and ruby –– not metaphorical red, though describing it brings me full circle back to what's the reddest thing in the world.
Check the color on these babies:
Of course, who's going to swoon over a line like, "Shall I compare thee to a crabapple"?
We've been working on these apple trees of ours for three years now. We've planted new trees, but we've also thrown a lot of attention at the elderly groves we found long-neglected on the Would-Be farm.
This year, there was undeniable progress: larger apples, happier apples, but alas...not-quite-ripe apples.
More were Tart like that nice little Mac that left an apple flavor behind after one spat out the pulp. It was possible to imagine that one day –– not far off –– that apple would be quite tasty. But not this day.
Some were, we might say, Zippy. Too tart –– still apple-ish, but unpleasant. It's hard to imagine that this fruit will ripen. And Sour is only sour. No amount of wishful thinking can reverse the instantaneous prickling of sweat on the forehead after a nibble.
Really sour. Mouth-shrinkingly sour. A hard bite of fruit that brings on a powerful thirst and the wish to wipe the flavor off one's tongue.
And the most unhappy of fruits, which seemed frankly Inedible. These were dry, pithy samples that that tasted like lime and copper. As sour as a battery. Nasty-sour. Happy-to-let-the-wildlife-eat-it sour.
Another year without a satisfying harvest of apples. Farming is a long game, with a long learning curve, especially for part-timers.
Too late one year, too early the next... one year we'll be on hand to enjoy the alchemy of those last few weeks of sunshine and cool nights turning sour green apples into something wonderful.
PS. Okay, okay, one last dash of extra sensory-perception information: Music and taste. Can you taste music? This from Oxford U.
I am grateful to get that letter. It's a lucky day.
Even without a precedent to give my worry shape, it feels like this form-letter from my doctor's office is akin to a big red mark on my doorpost, telling the Angel of Death to pass me over once again.
But another letter followed shortly afterwards.
It said "Dear Amy. We have attempted to contact you on numerous occasions and have had no response from you. We are in receipt of test results that we need to discuss with you."
To which the only response is, "Oh crap."
There was more in the letter, but I did not read it until I was waiting on hold with the doctor's office.
Side rant: I don't know why they call it "voice mail." It's more like voice-maze. As it turns out, a week later, my messages seem to have been awfully stupid mice, never earning me the reward of a call-back.
In the back of my mind, the refrain: Oh crap. Oh crap. Oh crap.
I began to grow irritable (default setting, perhaps, but that's another story). I re-read the letter again:
"It is important that we discuss these results and possible further follow-up and/or treatment options available to you. Since we have tried to contact you by phone and have been unsuccessful, this letter will serve as notification that you may need further evaluation and/or treatment."
And "We will assume you do not wish to discuss this further and/or will seek treatment elsewhere."
It closes with "It is our desire to continue to provide you with informed medical care."
And another thing –– I fill out form. after. form.
Every time I go to the office, I jot down my contact number about seventy-neenty zillion times. In the ten days since I had last written those digits, there had been zero telephone calls from them, so this "numerous times" that s/he tried to contact me? Bullcrap!
Eventually, after leaving half a dozen tremulous voice-mails and entertaining my insomnia with a fresh new crop of 3-a.m. anxieties, I pressed some mystical combinations of buttons to reach a live human at the doctor's office.
Four transfers later, I reached my physician's assistant's assistant. Or something.
I took this photo in Rome. I don't actually remember why I took it or what I was hoping to memorialize. Nor why I manipulated the color to make it pop like a 1970's postcard.
But while flicking through the many images from that trip, this one struck me as asking for an explanation. A line of dialogue. Something.
So you tell me. Jot down your story, dialogue, caption, in the comments area below.
Winning entrant to be determined not quite at random, as this is a contest. But he, she, or they has a darned good chance to win a plasticky prize of uncertain provenance and dubious value.
Or maybe a pie.
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