Browsing through the AMW blog, I came across the title, “Morning Pages: Don’t Speak. Don’t Judge. Don’t Fall Asleep.” And I thought, What a cute title. I wonder who the author is. A couple of clicks later I discovered the author was moi. I wrote it in 2014. Quelle surprise, as those of us who took one summer class in French just for fun say but can’t remember how to spell. (I looked it up.) I also found I kind of liked it,* and since it’s mine, I’m giving myself permission to re-post.
The first day of last summer’s Writer’s League of Texas retreat, author-instructor Karleen Koen told students that every morning before class, we must do Morning Pages: Wake up, don’t speak, take pen and paper–not computer–and, while still drowsy, write “three pages of anything.” Don’t judge. Keep the pen moving. In her course notebook…
Little Google Fiber’s come to our house today,
To scramble through the attic and drag cables on the way,
And cut some boards and drill some holes and stuff some cables that
Will link up with some other stuff beside the thermostat;
But first the upstairs closet had to be cleared out for space,
The downstairs china cabinet moved and china all displaced,
“And Kathy can’t just lie in bed,” they said, “or lounge about,
‘Cause we’ll see her in her jammies
I heered ’em in the attic, flippin’, flappin’ like a bat,
And a-scritchin’ and a-scratchin’, like a sheetrock-eatin’ rat,
And the warnin’ that they said we’d get? Like knockin’ on the door,
And sayin’, all polite-like, “Ma’am? Here’s me and all my corp
Of drillers and of draggers, we don’t want to scare you none
By creatin’ a cacophony before your sleep is done,
So please wake up, get up out of bed. It puts us in a pout
When we see you in your jammies
But, no, the warning never came, and I was in still in bed,
Although my husband came upstairs an hour ‘fore and said,
“Dear, don’t you think you’d better rise and put some lipstick on
And stretch your arms and stretch your legs and give a drowsy yawn,
And don some clothes and stuff those PJs in the nearest vase,
Cause those raggedy old things reflect on us a sad disgrace,
And the Google guys will run and flee. You’ll cause a general rout
If they see you in your jammies
Though I am a thoughtful wife and always try to please,
My lids were heavy, and I stayed in bed and took my ease,
And so it was that I was still in Morpheus’ embrace
When the scritchin’ and the flappin’ up above me did take place.
And I sprang up from my bed and ran, but threw up neither sash,
Nor did I fly to ingle-side to brush aside the ash.
I screeched, “That isn’t Santa, it’s the Google men, no doubt!
And they’ll see me in my jammies
So I scrabbled and I flipped and flapped and sounded like that rat,
Although louder and lots faster, like unto a scalded cat.
“I’d be ready now,” I said, “if only Google had been nice,
And not made me move the china so my muscles needed ice,
And my body and my soul cried out, ‘This raveled sleave of care
Must be knit up, and sore labor’s bath I needs must have! Oh swear
That Google will not taunt me for a loathesome layabout
‘Cause they see me in my jammies
Exciting stories sometimes end in flaming denouements.
This one has a climax that is really, really blah.
I got up, brushed my hair, found clothes, as usually I do,
And dressed and, looking ‘neath the bed, dragged out my other shoe,
Went downstairs, and stared at the wall, and checked email, and when
The Google man knocked on the door, and David came, ’twas then
I said, “Ha ha ha, you cannot say, you early-rising lout,
That you saw me in my jammies,
The poem “Little Orphan Annie” was written by James Whitcomb Riley in 1885. The original title was “Little Orphant Annie,” but an error in a later printing changed the name.
The poem was inspired by Mary Alice Smith, a child who came to the home of Riley’s parents as a “bound” servant to earn her board and keep. She worked alongside Mrs. Riley and the other children and helped with housework. The Rileys referred to her as a guest and treated her as one of the family. In the evenings she told ghost stories to the children, including James, the future poet.
In the 1920s, Mary Alice Smith inspired the comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” and the Raggedy Ann doll created by Johnny Gruelle.
Thanks to Wikipedia for the information shared here.
Thanks to James Whitcomb Riley for writing the delightful poem that popped into my head as soon as I heard the Google men scrabbling around in the attic. Read in just the right way, the last four lines can scare the stuffings out of a bunch of eight-year-old girls at a Brownie troop meeting.
Little Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,
An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,
An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep;
An’ all us other childern, when the supper things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun
A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you
Onc’t they was a little boy wouldn’t say his prayers,--
So when he went to bed at night, away up stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an’ his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he wasn’t there at all!
An’ they seeked him in the rafter-room, an’ cubby-hole, an’ press,
An’ seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an’ ever’wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found was thist his pants an’ roundabout--
An’ the Gobble-uns’ll git you
An’ one time a little girl ‘ud allus laugh an’ grin,
An’ make fun of ever’one, an’ all her blood an’ kin;
An’ onc’t, when they was “company," an’ ole folks was there,
She mocked ‘em an’ shocked ‘em, an’ said she didn’t care!
An’ thist as she kicked her heels, an’ turn’t to run an’ hide,
They was two great big Black Things a-standin’ by her side,
An’ they snatched her through the ceilin’ ‘fore she knowed what she’s about!
An’ the Gobble-uns’ll git you
An’ little Orphant Annie says when the blaze is blue,
An’ the lamp-wick sputters, an’ the wind goes woo-oo!
An’ you hear the crickets quit, an’ the moon is gray,
An’ the lightnin’-bugs in dew is all squenched away,--
You better mind yer parents, an’ yer teachers fond an’ dear,
An’ churish them ‘at loves you, an’ dry the orphant’s tear,
An’ he’p the pore an’ needy ones ‘at clusters all about,
Er the Gobble-uns’ll git you
That’s what experienced writers tell the wannabes.
For a long time, I thought business applied to action alone: Write every day, attend classes, network, become familiar with various routes to publication, learn the market, read submission guidelines, stay in good physical shape, and on and on… Items on a list, they could be checked off at the end of each day.
Recently, I discovered another aspect of writing as business that I can’t quite fit onto a list.
Last winter, Kaye George put out a call for submissions of stories for DAY OF THE DARK, an anthology to celebrate the total solar eclipse that will be visible from parts of the United States this summer. Each story would contain an element of mystery and would be related to an eclipse. Kaye would edit, and Wildside Press would have the…
I’m collapsed on the bed at the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Fort Worth. I am tired.
Between sentence #1 and sentence #2, I stopped and tried to scrape a little black bug off the side of the monitor–it was at the very edge of the screen, and I had no idea where it came from but knew it would somehow scoot under the chrome and stick there, halfway in, halfway out, forever, and look awful and drive me crazy–and then I realized the little black bug was the little black cursor arrow thingy. That is how tired I am.
We just returned from Pappadeaux, where I wanted to order crawfish etouffee but ordered fried oysters instead, even though I sort of remembered I didn’t like them the last time we were at Pappadeaux. I ordered wrong because once upon a time I loved oysters, but also because David ordered them, and I’m always sure if I don’t order what other people get, I’ll be sorry. While he was cleaning my plate, I told him that the next time we go to Pappadeaux he’s to demand I order the etouffee, and to remind me why.
A digression: I know Pappadeaux is a higher-class joint than we normally frequent, but still, there’s something radically wrong with any restaurant that serves a plate heaped with french fries and oysters without providing a big bottle of Heinz ketchup. If they’re concerned about appearances, they could remove it when it’s not in use. Those little dabs of ketchup they serve just don’t do.
Anyway, against all odds, we got to Fort Worth. It happened in this wise:
First, David lay on the bed upstairs and coughed once in a while and then asked William to come out, and William did. David carried him downstairs and put him into the carrier. William banged against the sides of the carrier so hard I thought he would break out. David took him to the vet.
Upon hearing William banging, Ernest scooted upstairs. I remained where I was and kept on writing. David came home and sat down. He said he guessed we might not make it to the festival. I said we would. (I’m a pessimist who lies a lot.)
I got tired of sitting, so I went upstairs, closed the bedroom door behind me, lay down on the floor, and looked under the bed. It took a few moments, but Ernest’s big eyes finally became visible. I wished, as I do every time he hides under there, that the bed weren’t queen-sized. And that it weren’t built so low to the ground. Why do they do that?
David brought me the leash we never use, and I tossed one end toward Ernest and pulled it slowly back, over and over, as if I believed he would actually chase it so I could grab him. David brought me the meter stick. David lay on the bed, ready to pounce. I lay down on the other side of the bed and poked around and obviously made contact, because Ernest shot out the other side. David pounced. Before they made it to the carrier, Ernest freed himself from David’s clutches. Ernest is muscly.
We followed Ernest downstairs and tried to flush him out from behind our recliners (which are joined by a cat bed ingeniously constructed from a straight-backed chair, a double-decker end table, and a piano bench that needs to be reglued, topped with a variety of pillows and a quilt (you have to be there). He got past me and ran upstairs, where all bedroom and bathroom doors had been closed. Oops!
David went up after him. Ernest ran down, got past me, ran behind recliners/cat bed, ran back upstairs… several times.
Desperate, David dragged the double-decker bed over and placed it at the foot of the stairs. I added to the barricade with cardboard boxes, suitcases, and the red-and-black tote I got at Malice Domestic 2015, which had my laptop in it. While I was barricading, David brought the carrier back downstairs (it went up and down several times during the morning) and set it atop the double-decker cat bed. Then he went back up for Ernest, somehow got hold of him, and carried him down. Jubilation ensued.
David was lowering Ernest into the carrier when I saw the opportunity to help: Ernest was doing the I’m-going-to-spread-my-hind-legs-so-far-apart-you’ll-never-get-me-into-that-thing, so I reached over to squeeze them closer together. I don’t know exactly what happened then or why, but I ended up with a great big hind-cat-toenail lodged in my arm. I had to grab his foot to free my arm.
But somewhere in the chaos, Ernest ended up in the carrier, I stuck three Neosporin-covered bandaids on my arm–tiny bandaids, I couldn’t find any regular ones–and we scooped up carrier and bags and headed for the vet’s, and made it in time to leave at our ETD of 12:02 p.m. and arrive at the hotel at our ETA of 4:10 p.m.
Our original ETD and ETA were 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., respectively, but because we prize flexibility, we’ve mentioned the changes only once. That was when David said we would have to take the Texas 130 toll road because at noon IH-35 between Austin and Georgetown is a parking lot.
Well, we’re here, and David’s film runs at 10:00 a.m., so I’ll sign off. I expect to sleep well. The morning workout was so invigorating, I don’t know why I haven’t already passed out.
If I don’t sleep, it’ll be from guilt. I poked my dear, sweet Ernest with a meter stick. I’d never done that, never expected to do that, and, now that I’ve had time to think about it, I feel pretty awful. I scared him. And I did it so he wouldn’t be home all weekend, alone and scared. How dumb is that.
He’ll get me for it. He’ll give me sad, dirty looks for several days. He’ll boycott me. He’ll never allow either David or me to lay a hand on him ever again, so we’ll never get him into a carrier, and consequently, I’ll never get out of Austin ever again. David will go to all the film festivals by himself, and he’ll come home with stories of camaraderie and whooping it up* in big cities like Beaumont and Conway, Arkansas, and I’ll smile and pretend I’m happy for him. And Ernest will sit between us on the chair-piano-bench-double-decker-end-table-cat-bed and look at me and smirk.
Few things are more maddening than a smirking cat.
Our film festival experiences haven’t included any whooping up, but I can imagine.
We’re on our way to the Fort Worth Indie Film Festival.
All we have to do is get William and Ernest into the carriers and haul them to the vet’s. They watched us pack, said, “We may be crazy, but we ain’t stupid,” and crawled under the bed. This is why one shouldn’t go to film festivals two weekends in a row–cats remember.
An open can of salmon rests on the post at the foot of the stairs. Unfortunately, salmon isn’t as stinky as used to be, and some cats cannot be bribed.
David is about to try to pull William out from under the bed. Since William needs insulin, his cooperation is critical. Ernest has never been left alone–he’s always had either parents or brother–so his cooperation is critical, too. Scared, lonely cats are scared and lonely, and that worries me, and they sometimes do things to furniture that I don’t want them to do, and that worries me as well. Ernest produces a lot of adrenaline on short notice. After hearing William in crisis, he may stay under the bed for a week, absorbing nutrients from the air.
I hear David upstairs, speaking softly, cajoling, babytalking, being generally sneaky.
We may be on our way to the Fort Worth Film Festival. At present, I am not optimistic, but we persevere….
When I suggested setting the salmon on the post, David said wouldn’t it fall off. I said no. He just came bopping downstairs and knocked it off the post. He’s now cleaning up the mess. It didn’t fall on the carpet. As I said, salmon is not as stinky as it used to be. Water-packed salmon doesn’t taste as good as salmon packed in oil, but next time I shop, I’ll buy the water.
David has progressed from cloth towel to paper towels and Simple Green. He said Ernest is watching him from the landing. He said Ernest is coming down. It’s not the salmon, it’s curiosity. Here he is! It is the salmon. He’s snuffing and thinking about licking the floor. I hope Simple Green is good for cats. If it isn’t, the vet can take care of it, if we get to the vet.
I turned on “Remington Steele” in hopes the felines will think we’re watching. I’m using the Chromebook so Ernest will be jealous and jump into my lap, as he spends seven days a week doing, except today. Maybe I need to get the laptop out of the suitcase.
He’s on his way back up the stairs. David has gone back upstairs. Ernest came back downstairs. He’s behind my chair. He’s looking at me. He jumped onto the arm of the chair! I rubbed his tummy. He jumped down and is now examining the site of the salmon spill. Now he’s going back upstairs.
David has been upstairs for a long time. He and William are usually kindred spirits, but not right now.
I have not yet begun to weep. But I’m close.
This blog is titled, “Telling the Truth–Mainly.” That comes from Huckleberry Finn. Mr. Mark Twain told the truth, mainly. I am telling the truth, period. Everything I’ve written happened or is happening. Really.
I am becoming disheartened, so I shall stop and concentrate on sending harmonious vibrations to the floor above.
I really, really want to go to this festival.
The life of the artiste is not an easy one.
Some people live calm, uneventful lives. Things work. They make plans and carry them out. They write about grammar and cooking and astrophysics. What am I doing wrong?
The total solar eclipse–the first across the entire continental United States in ninety-nine years–will take place on August 21. David and I will view it from Kansas City, where the full eclipse will be visible. We have our eclipse glasses and hotel reservations and look forward to a jaw-dropping experience.*
Not to take anything away from the eclipse, but I’m more excited about an event scheduled for later this month–Wildside Press’ release of Kaye George’s crime fiction anthology DAY OF THE DARK: Stories of the Eclipse. The book has twenty-four stories, each centered around a solar eclipse.
As a sneak peek, I’ll say that my story, “I’ll Be a Sunbeam,” concerns Marva Lu Urquhart, Kilburn County librarian, who set out to “put Mama out of her misery” in her debut story, “Hell on Wheels,” which appears in Austin Mystery Writers’MURDER ON WHEELS: 11 Tales of Crime on the Move. If you’ve read that story, you know that when planning a murder, Marva Lu takes into account every eventuality–she thinks.
A number of online events are scheduled to celebrate the release. An interview with Kaye George, editor and contributor, will soon appear on Criminal Elements. Interviews with all the authors will appear on Writers Who Kill. Austin Mystery Writers will carry an interview with Laura Oles and me. For a complete list of events, as well as other information, see Travels with Kaye.
To see paths of future eclipses, click here. It looks like the one scheduled for 2024 won’t require travel. David and I will just step outside, pull up a couple of lawn chairs, and look up. Which is kind of a shame, because part of the excitement resides in getting out of town. But maybe Kaye will put together another anthology. That’s exciting. I’ll ask.