The Friday Fictioneer Challenge: Write a 100-word story based on the photo.
The Red Shoes
“A photo prompt? Ooooh. High-heeled lace-ups.”
“What’s that book?”
“So retro—art reference—I want.”
“No. That one. Red cover, gold letters, dog… E-G-P-U-something-C-A-R-O—“
“Zoom in. RECRUIT. Dog?”
“DEPOT. Red pumps.”
“ND OUTH CAROLINA…”
“MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT PARRIS ISLAND, Iwo Jima Memorial. That dress at Nordstrom’s . . . ?”
“On the ‘memorial.’ English Bull. Eyes, ears, big red tongue.”
“Going shopping. ‘Bye.”
“Ohhhh. Not a tongue. The cover. There’s the Marine’s bottom… his leg… I thought it was a dog.”
“A Rorschach cover.”
“What’s a dog mean?”
“What’s a bottom mean?”
Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island South Carolina 1968 ~~~ Not the same, but similar
Word Count: 42
Speaker #2 said, “Thank you,” then wrote and cut and cut and cut. And wrestled with Ernest the Cat.
For more stories by Friday Fictioneers, click the Froggy.
Before launching into the post, a definition of terms:
In such moments of doubt, I look to history for reassurance. It’s always comforting to be reminded that literary whoring — I mean, self-marketing — has been practiced by the greats.
~ Tony Perrottet, “How Writers Build the Brand,” NYT Sunday Book Review
When I think of brands, I think of Opal the White-faced Hereford.
She was big and sleek and fat, the only registered cow in the Waller herd, and the best escape artist in the history of cowdom.
No matter how strong the fence–heavy cedar posts, six strands of barbed wire, stretched tight, a barricade I couldn’t get through without a follow-up of iodine and gauze–she broke out. How the beast breached the barricade was a mystery and remained so for a long time.
Finally she slipped up, as bovines sometimes do, and busted out while my father was watching. He said she just lay down beside the wire and rolled under. A regular Hairy Houdini.
To her credit, she never fled, nor did she meander into the neighbor’s maize, but grazed beside the narrow lane between the fence and the property line.
Nevertheless, since cows are capricious, my father bought a brand. In my honor–and because technically Opal was mine–he chose a K.
I hasten to say the branding was nothing like you see on Rawhide. He did not restrain Opal, stick the iron into a blazing fire, and sear her hide. After repeatedly shooing her back through the gate, he probably wanted to, but he didn’t.* He merely dipped the iron into an acid designed for the purpose, walked up to her, patted her on the back, and pressed it against her hip. The acid ate the hair and killed the follicles, so she was left wearing the initial. Maybe she itched a for a few days, but that was nothing compared to what the barbs must have felt like.
The K didn’t keep her confined, of course, but it made her easier to spot if she ever decided to widen her social circle.**
Well, anyway, when I think of brands, I think of Opal, or did until the writing thing came along–and I learned I must have a brand so readers can identify me.
The prospect wasn’t pleasant. I felt like a box of Kleenex.™
But it had to be done, so finally I’m designing my brand.
Unfortunately, the K won’t do. I mean, it really won’t do. When I put MURDER ON WHEELS (see sidebar) on Goodreads, I was immediately confused with a different Kathy Waller. That required some straightening out. Googling Kathy Waller brings up a multitude of people I’m not, including the EVP and CFO of the Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO). (I wouldn’t mind being the EVP of Coca-Cola, but the company would.)
Officially, I’m a Mary Katherine, so I have options. Mary Katherine isn’t one of them. In the early years, I liked it just fine, but lately I’ve heard, “Are you a nun?” often enough not to want it hanging around.
People who don’t know me well, and some who do, call me Mary, so when I hear that name shouted out in a doctor’s waiting room, I answer, but it’s still a little foreign. I sign Mary K., a name I’ve come to despise, in part because it’s sometimes confused with Mary Kaye and I have to get that untangled, but mainly because Mary Kay makes lipstick and I don’t.
Once again, Google proves its worth. M. K. Waller brings up only one other person with my initials. That’s good.
When I search for MK, Google thinks I mean MK Wallet and pulls up only Michael Kors, which appears to be more of a business (jet set luxury: designer handbags, watches, shoes, clothing & more. Receive free shipping and returns on your purchase). That’s even better. But I don’t like the way it looks on the page.
So I’ve settled on M. K.
The name chosen, I changed the theme–appearance–of the blog. I wanted to change it anyway, because I was tired of the previous one, and it seemed best to make one smooth transition rather than two bumpy ones. I’m not sure about the new theme. I may change it again, but M. K. will remain.
There’s one more aspect of branding I’m still ruminating** over, so I’ll leave it for another time.
I’ll add, however, that I first ran across the word ruminate in a line from James Thomson’s “Winter”:
The Cattle, from th’untasted Fields, return,
And ask, with Meaning low, their wonted Stalls;
Or ruminate in the contiguous Shade . . .
In the context of the poem, ruminate means “to chew again what has been chewed slightly and swallowed : chew the cud.”
And I complete this post by circling back to the beginning, starting with cows and ending with cows, and thus preserve the unities, as every writer, duke, and scoundrel knows is proper.
P. S. What do you think of the new design? Both positive and negative comments are welcome. I need to know. The page I’d like feedback on is here: http://kathywaller1.com
* If he’d threatened to brand her the old-fashioned way, I would have cried and that would have been the end of that. (Maybe.)
**In fairness, I add that Opal wasn’t the only one who*** got over the wall. Clyde Barrow escaped a couple of times. But he was a Holstein and flew over the fence, as Holsteins are often wont to do, so there was no mystery. We would have been surprised if he hadn’t.
The animals in the photograph are cows, not steers, and they might not be Holsteins, but they’re black and white, and they’re sweet, and I have poetic license, so I ask you to suspend disbelief for the moment.
*** My animals are who, not that
I posted the following on March 7, 2016, and wasn’t planning to mention it again. Now, however, with President Trump inviting himself to ride in Queen Elizabeth II’s gold carriage, I think it’s time for a repost. In case it’s slipped anyone’s mind, candidates in the 2016 presidential debates didn’t exactly present themselves as . . . Well, anyway.
I am thinking about Queen Elizabeth.
She’s bound to be sitting over there in Buckingham Palace, ruminating about the United States, and the Republican debates, and the upcoming presidential election, and all the things that might happen between now and the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. And what might happen on and after January 20, 2017.
I think about the Queen’s weekly audience with her Prime Minister at which, according to The official website of The British Monarchy, she has the right and the duty to express her views on Government matters. The views she expresses might go something like this:
It is our duty to say we are shocked, simply shocked, at the goings-on across the Pond. And it is our right to say that, no matter what the Government wishes, we shall not–nay, will not–invite any of those churls to tea. Nor will Kate allow them to kiss the babies. They behave abominably. One does not hear the Prince of Wales use such vulgarities unless his telephone has been illegally tapped. Prince Harry did prove a bit of an embarrassment during his stay in Las Vegas, but he’s promised not to do it again, and, anyway, he is not angling to become Leader of the Free World.
Why is it the United States does not fix things so that nice Mr. Obama can stay indefinitely? We quite like him. He speaks in complete sentences that always parse, and he has never made the slightest effort to massage our neck. And we rather admired his wife’s dressing down when she visited the Palace. We get tired of people always putting on the dog. In fact, we have been thinking of acquiring a twinset of our own.
The fact that Mr. Obama is said be a gay communist fascist pot-smoking Muslim terrorist doesn’t bother us one little bit.
Now, here is the thing: Magna Charta allows us to reign for life. Surely their Constitution could be amended to extend President Obama’s time in office, at least until the churls have crawled back under the rocks from whence they emerged.
It is our duty to advise that you call the President immediately and broach the subject. Promise him our full support.
And tell him we will send some of our Redcoats to back him up. Prince Harry has been just itching to get back into action.
On this Good Friday, I’m posting “All in the April Evening,” words and music by Sir Hugh Robertson, based on a poem by Katharine Tynan.
A link to the poem is here. Robertson modified the words slightly; his version is the one I use.
Links to performances and biographies of the composers follow.
Years ago my voice teacher assigned me the song. Now I can’t hear it without tears.
All in the April evening
April airs were abroad
The sheep with their little lambs
Passed me by on the road
The sheep with their little lambs
Passed me by on the road
All in the April evening
I thought on the lamb of god
The lambs were weary and crying
With a weak human cry
I thought on the lamb of god
Going meekly to die
Up in the blue blue mountains
Dewy pastures are sweet
Rest for the little bodies
Rest for the little feet
But for the lamb, the Lamb of god
Up on the hilltop green
Only a cross, a cross of shame
Two stark crosses between
All in the April evening
April airs were abroad
I saw the sheep with the lambs
And thought on the Lamb of God
“Sir Hugh Stevenson Roberton (23 February 1874 – 7 October 1952) was a Scottish composer and Britain’s leading choral-master.
“Roberton was born in Glasgow, where, in 1906, he founded the Glasgow Orpheus Choir. For five years before that it was the Toynbee Musical Association. A perfectionist, he expected the highest standards of performance from its members. Its voice was a choir voice, its individual voices not tolerated. He set new standards in choral technique and interpretation. For almost fifty years until it disbanded in 1951, on the retirement of its founder, the Glasgow Orpheus Choir had no equal in Britain and toured widely enjoying world acclaim. Their repertoire included many Scottish folk songs arranged for choral performance, and Paraphrases, as well as Italian madrigals, English motets and the music of the Russian Orthodox Church. The choir also performed the works of Bach, Handel, Felix Mendelssohn, Peter Cornelius, Brahms and others.
“Katharine Tynan (23 January 1859 – 2 April 1931) was an Irish writer, known mainly for her novels and poetry.
“Tynan was born into a large farming family in Clondalkin, County Dublin, and educated at St. Catherine’s, a convent school in Drogheda. Her poetry was first published in 1878. She met and became friendly with the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins in 1886. Tynan went on to play a major part in Dublin literary circles, until she married and moved to England; later she lived at Claremorris, County Mayo when her husband was a magistrate there from 1914 until 1919.
“For a while, Tynan was a close associate of William Butler Yeats (who may have proposed marriage and been rejected, around 1885), and later a correspondent of Francis Ledwidge. She is said to have written over 100 novels. Her Collected Poems appeared in 1930; she also wrote five autobiographical volumes.“
Superscripts have been deleted from the Wikipedia articles.
Today I’m at Writing Wranglers and Warriors, talking about fishing and a few other things.
Posted by M. K. Waller
The truth is, I never have erudite in me. I am not an erudite person. If people read my master’s thesis, they might think I’m erudite, and maybe I was, a little, when I wrote it in 1985–I used a lot of semicolons–but overall, I am just not erudite. And I’m too tired to pretend I am.
English: Hemingway posing for a dust jacket photo by Lloyd Arnold for the first edition of “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, at the Sun Valley Lodge, Idaho, late 1939. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Public domain.
So I’m going to write a little bit about Hemingway, but in…
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Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.
~ A. E. Housman
I publish this poem by A. E. Housman nearly every year at bluebonnet time, as a reminder.
The poem and a short analysis are found at Interesting Literature.
GENRE: One line of fiction. The rest is truth.
Dedicated to my dear cousin Mary Veazey, who said, “Let’s go on a cruise.”
I have almost forgiven her.
POETIC JUSTICE or, YOU’LL BE FINE
Beautiful . . . waves, sunset . . .
Deck chairs . . .
Two nights at sea, then—shopping in Can Cún.
Uh-uh. Swimming, sunbathing, siestas. Bar open yet?
Soooooo relaxing. Waves rocked me to sleep.
Hurry, let’s claim our chairs.
Chairs. There’s pizza near the pool.
Wearing your patch?
Don’t have one.
Sit here. Sea air helps. ‘Bye.
Find a doctor.
You’ll be fine.
Move, or I’ll ruin your sneakers.
I’m going home . . .
You’ve had a shot of phenergan—you’ll be fine.
. . . if I have to swim.
Phenergan worked! I’m fine. Let’s shop till we drop.
. . . I’m queasy.
For more stories by Friday Fictioneers, click the Frog:
The Davises are dieting.
We discovered William’s blood sugar was running high. The veterinarian prescribed an increase in insulin dosage. To pinpoint the cause–he may have become insulin resistant; I may have been giving his injections incorrectly–we need better data.
When his diabetes was diagnosed, we switched to a special brand of catfood but, on the vet’s instructions, didn’t try to limit intake. William ate a reasonable amount and lost a few pounds, and seemed to be doing well.
Now, however, we’ve instituted a new regime: breakfast and injection at 6:00 a.m.; dinner and injection at 6:00 p.m. No more grazing. Food stays out for three hours, then disappears. Eat now, or forever hold your peace.
In human terms, I suppose it’s sort of like going on Weight Watchers. Suddenly and involuntarily. Times two, because Ernest has been grazing right along with his compadre.
And they did not hold their peace.
The guys started out eating the usual breakfast portions and, consequently, were lobbying for dinner before 1:00 p. m. When they would usually have been upstairs sleeping, they milled around the kitchen, parked in the middle of the living room, stared at us with their big sad eyes, and licked their little chops.
One day, William jumped into my lap three separate times. He rarely does that, and although I enjoyed the attention, I knew his motives were not pure.
A couple of nights ago I caught David offering Ernest one last chance at calorie-loading. To the uninformed, it seems a kindly gesture. In reality, it’s pure self-preservation: two hungry cats equals eight pointy feet stomping back and forth across us until the clock strikes six.
And the guilt, the guilt . . .
But things are improving. There’s more napping, less milling, less stomping, less nervous energy in general. We keep tabs on the water intake and watch to make sure William doesn’t become hypoglycemic. In a few days, he’ll go back to the doctor for a glucose test. And the vet will advise us on the next step.
And whatever that is, we’ll trying.
On they page, they may come off as kind of wimpy. But the Davis guys are a couple of pretty tough cats.
Remember Burma Shave signs? I do. They’re the topic of today’s post at Writing Wranglers and Warriors. Come on over and remember with me. Or, if you’re too young to remember, let me educate you. They were a lot of fun.
Posted by MK Waller
Then I happened across another poem she wrote about March, and it seemed a shame to keep it to myself, so I prepared to post it on the 2nd.
Like “To March,” the new poem celebrates nature, specifically the natural light that appears in early spring. Unable (after an extensive search of several databases) to find a suitable photograph of Dickinson’s Central Massachusetts in springtime, I settled for a picture of a Texas landscape covered in bluebonnets. . . .
Then I added a few paragraphs about bluebonnets. I wrote about the annual tradition of driving around looking for bluebonnets, the different species, the history of the…
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A light exists in spring
Not present on the year
At any other period.
When March is scarcely here
A color stands abroad
On solitary hills
That science cannot overtake,
But human nature feels.
It waits upon the lawn;
It shows the furthest tree
Upon the furthest slope we know;
It almost speaks to me.
Then, as horizons step,
Or noons report away,
Without the formula of sound,
It passes, and we stay:
A quality of loss
Affecting our content,
As trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a sacrament.
~ Emily Dickinson
This a picture of Emily Dickinson.
This is a “fabricated” picture of Emily Dickinson.
According to a docent at the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, in the late 1990s, the photograph was probably altered after Dickinson’s death in 1886, as a tribute and a keepsake. At that time, families often had photographs “enhanced” after a loved one’s death.
I didn’t know Emily Dickinson personally, but judging from what I’ve read and heard about her, I think if she’d seen the enhanced version, she’d have hooted.
She was obviously depressive, but she also had a sense of humor.
The docent told the following story (documented in an LA Times review by Susan Reynolds):
‘Once, when Samuel Bowles, an old family friend and the subject of Dickinson’s Master poems, went to visit, he found himself yelling up the stairs: “Emily, you damned rascal. No more of this nonsense! I’ve traveled all the way from Springfield to see you. Come down at once!”‘
The detail that doesn’t appear in the article, but that the docent added, is that, at Bowles’ summons, Emily left her room and came down the stairs, laughing.
Try calling someone without a sense of humor a “damned rascal” and see what happens.
And she wasn’t quite as antisocial as she’s generally portrayed. Alix North, in a biographical sketch of the poet, writes that in her twenties, Dickinson had a “busy social life” but that by her thirties, she had become reclusive and withdrew when visitors came.
It’s been speculated that Dickinson pulled away from the public because she thought she wasn’t beautiful, or that she was mourning an unrequited love, or that she was agoraphobic. But perhaps Dickinson “became an isolata , creating a moat around herself to preserve the rarity of her soul and because she believed that isolation was critical to artistic expression.”
By the age of 35, Dickinson “had composed more than 1100 concise, powerful lyrics that astutely examine pain, grief, joy, love, nature, and art.”
In other words, she knew exactly what she was doing: Social butterflies rarely, if ever, compose more than 1100 poems by the time they’re 35, at least not concise, powerful ones.
[Sentiments expressed in the preceding paragraph are mine alone. I could be wrong, but I’m not. A 14-year-old boy once told me that anyone who stayed at home as much as Emily Dickinson did couldn’t know enough about life to write anything worthwhile. I refrained from replying that 14-year-old boys don’t know enough about anything to say what Emily Dickinson could or could not do. Now I wish I’d said it. But as I was saying before I interrupted myself . . .]
Edward Dickinson, the poet’s father, was described by contemporaries as “stern and unyielding”; “within his home his decisions and his word were law.” Emily wrote that she didn’t learn to tell time by the clock until she was fifteen because “[m]y father thought he had taught me but I did not understand & I was afraid to say I did not & afraid to ask anyone else lest he should know.”
The museum’s docent pointed out, however, that he was also kind. He could have required Emily to work and support herself or at least to contribute to family finances. Instead, he supported her until his death in 1874. Her sister, Lavinia, took care of most domestic tasks that would normally have been shared. Her family allowed Emily time and space in which to write.
Well, I’ve gone on about Emily Dickinson for a lot longer than I intended, and I hope you’re still with me. I’ll stop now, but not before saying this, which I’ve said before, but I’m going to say again:
A textbook I taught from in 1973, my first year in the Texas secondary school trenches, contained the statement that Emily Dickinson is one of America’s greatest women poets.
Emily Dickinson is America’s greatest poet.
And I am unanimous in that.
See also, Emily Dickinson: “To March”
“A light exists in spring” was taken from a digitized version of Poems: Third Series by Emily Dickinson, edited by Mabel Todd Loomis, 1896, 1898.
Other sources I’ve used include
- The Emily Dickinson Museum
- “‘Wild Nights’ Probes the Passionate Life of Poet Emily Dickinson,” by Susan Reynolds, a review of Judith Farr’s WILD NIGHTS: The Passion of Emily Dickinson, published in The LA Times, August 20, 1992
- Judith Farr‘s webpage
- “Emily Dickinson 1830 – 1886,” by Alix North, on Isle of Lesbos
- My own memory, which I can’t link to because it’s all over the place
Dear March — Come in —
How glad I am —
I hoped for you before —
Put down your Hat —
You must have walked —
How out of Breath you are —
Dear March, Come right up the stairs with me —
I have so much to tell —
I got your Letter, and the Birds —
The Maples never knew that you were coming — till I called
I declare — how Red their Faces grew —
But March, forgive me — and
All those Hills you left for me to Hue —
There was no Purple suitable —
You took it all with you —
Who knocks? That April.
Lock the Door —
I will not be pursued —
He stayed away a Year to call
When I am occupied —
But trifles look so trivial
As soon as you have come
That Blame is just as dear as Praise
And Praise as mere as Blame —
~ Emily Dickinson