#ATOZ Challenge: B Is for Bowser

 

In my A post I mentioned the mistake I made in signing up for the A to Z Challenge: I registered my blog as “Author/Writer (craft of writing, stories, memoir),” instead of “Other and Miscellaneous.”

It really doesn’t matter. I mean, there are mistakes, and there are mistakes.

For letter B, I’m writing about another of my mistakes. It’s more of a mistake. But I can’t go right to the heart of the matter. There’s backstory to be dealt with. If you’ll be patient for just a little while, I’ll get there.

Here goes.

I planned, as much as I ever plan these posts, to write about a parody of the narrative poem “Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight,” written in 1867 by Rose Hartwick Thorpe, when she was sixteen years old.

Set in 17th century England, the poem tells the story of Bessie, a young woman whose lover, Basil Underwood, has been imprisoned by the Puritans and sentenced to die that night at the sound of the curfew bell. Oliver Cromwell is expected to arrive that night, but after the bell has rung. Bessie begs the sexton not to ring the bell; he says he’s never failed to ring curfew and that he won’t fail to ring it tonight. But Bessie is determined to save her lover. The next lines describe her heroic actions.

Wild her eyes and pale her features, stern and white her thoughtful brow,
As within her secret bosom, Bessie made a solemn vow.
She had listened while the judges read, without a tear or sigh,
‘At the ringing of the curfew, Basil Underwood must die.’
And her breath came fast and faster, and her eyes grew large and bright;
One low murmur, faintly spoken. ‘Curfew must not ring tonight!’

She with quick step bounded forward, sprang within the old church-door,
Left the old man coming slowly, paths he’d trod so oft before.
Not one moment paused the maiden, But with eye and cheek aglow,
Staggered up the gloomy tower, where the bell swung to and fro;
As she climbed the slimy ladder, on which fell no ray of light,
Upward still, her pale lips saying, ‘Curfew shall not ring tonight!’

She has reached the topmost ladder, o’er her hangs the great dark bell;
Awful is the gloom beneath her, like the pathway down to hell.
See! the ponderous tongue is swinging; ’tis the hour of curfew now,
And the sight has chilled her bosom, stopped her breath, and paled her brow.
Shall she let it ring? No, never! Her eyes flash with sudden light,
As she springs, and grasps it firmly: ‘Curfew shall not ring tonight!’

Out she swung – far out. The city seemed a speck of light below ―
There twixt heaven and earth suspended, as the bell swung to and fro.
And the sexton at the bell-rope, old and deaf, heard not the bell,
Sadly thought that twilight curfew rang young Basil’s funeral knell.
Still the maiden, clinging firmly, quivering lip and fair face white,
Stilled her frightened heart’s wild throbbing: ‘Curfew shall not ring tonight!’

It was o’er, the bell ceased swaying; and the maiden stepped once more
Firmly on the damp old ladder, where, for hundred years before,
Human foot had not been planted. The brave deed that she had done
Should be told long ages after. As the rays of setting sun
Light the sky with golden beauty, aged sires, with heads of white,
Tell the children why the curfew did not ring that one sad night.

When Cromwell arrives, she tells him her story, and, touched by her heroism, he lets Basil live. Basil emerges from the prison expecting to die but instead finds Bessie holding his pardon. And—

In his brave, strong arms he clasped her, kissed the face upturned and white,
Whispered, ‘Darling, you have saved me, curfew will not ring tonight.’

For years, “Curfew” was exceedingly popular: A favorite of Queen Victoria, it provided inspiration for a play and and for three silent movies. It was recited by one of the characters in Anne of Green Gables. It also serves as the basis for chamber music composed by Richard Cohn for the Music & Magic Lantern Slides project. View a performance on Youtube.

Now. I know I haven’t gotten to Bowser and Bleh yet, but the hour is late, and I am tired, so I’m off to bed.

In other words, B Will Not Be Writ Tonight.

#AtoZ Challenge 2020: A is for April (Fools’)

 

As I wrote in Monday’s not-Theme Reveal, my A to Z Writing Challenge has no theme. Officially, it’s listed as “Other and Miscellaneous.” The Archon’s Den blogger claims “chaos and confusion” as a recurring theme. I wish I’d thought of that.

Anyway, the obvious and easiest A topic is April.

On April 1, 1968, my junior English class put out a special issue of the school newspaper.

(The school was small; we twelve were the only juniors.)

One article reported the purchase of new and badly needed uniforms for the girls’ basketball team. A drawing of the outfit was included. The shorts were of your plain garden variety, but the top featured cap sleeves, a bib enhanced with vertical pin tucks and  pearl buttons, and a Peter Pan collar. There might have been a ruffle somewhere. They would spend off seasons in cold storage.

Image of Ford Mustang logo. By zopalic. Via Pixabay.com.
Ford Mustang logo.

A second article reported that the school would buy two new Ford Mustangs for use in an onsite driver’s ed. course in the fall. At the time, students had to travel ten miles to a larger district to earn the credit. Driving a Mustang, which Ford had been producing for only four years, was a Certified Big Deal.

A third item announced that the girls’ choir would sing at President Lyndon B. Johnson’s campaign rallies that summer, which, of course meant nationwide travel. Dredging up words from the junior English vocabulary list, the reporter quoted the choir director: She said we’d been spuriously honored and that the tour would go a long way toward ending the mal de mer running rampant through the student body. I think she also said the girls were proud to be invited, and that she was sure they would continue to prosit.

Copies were distributed at the beginning of first period. Paper staff, mouths shut and expressions innocent, waited. The response was more than gratifying.

Sitting in the front row of geometry class, the co-editor and I watched the teacher/girls’ coach, brow wrinkled, examining the new basketball uniform and wondering aloud who had chosen it and why she hadn’t been asked for input. She didn’t say it looked gosh-awful, which must have taken immense restraint. While she was puzzling, the team, most of whom sat behind us, showed no restraint. They said plenty.

In the hallway between classes, students raved about the Mustangs. The district was small—high school enrollment numbered no more than fifty—and had to watch its pennies, so its splurging on two sports cars was almost too good to be true. One 1950 Chevy would have made a splash.

Image of Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966. By Yoichi Okamoto.  Public domain. Via Wikipedia.
Johnson greeting a crowd, 1966.

With the exception of the co-editors, choir members hadn’t been informed that they would sing at political rallies. They appeared confused but accepted the story. It made sense; we knew a number of patriotic songs.

No one mentioned that the night before, President Johnson had announced on national television, “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.” No one asked why the student body was seasick. The choir director, who doubled as our English teacher, issued a compliment. She said the quotation sounded just like her.

Finally, about noon, someone noticed the date on the first page—April 1—and we were busted.

Readers were good sports. They laughed; no one chewed us out.

Some were disappointed: The choir wouldn’t sing at rallies, and the business about the Mustangs was too good to be true.

But sighs of sorrow were as nothing compared to the sighs of relief: Peter Pan collars were out.

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Note: The choir would been happy to sing for a different candidate, but Hubert Humphrey forgot to invite us.

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I hoped last fall’s Great Unearthing would produce a copy of the April Fools’ issue. No such luck. I would like to read it again. I would love to see the drawing of that uniform. It would make a fine illustration when U rolls around.

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I just checked the A to Z master list and discovered that I slipped up and registered my theme not as “Other and Miscellaneous,” but as “Author/Writer (craft of writing, stories, memoir).” That is unfortunate, because the only things I know about craft are that it would be wrong to put a colon after the are in this sentence, that the lack of a properly placed Oxford comma drives me crazy, and that the price of a dedicated, supportive critique group is above rubies.

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Here’s are links to the A to Z Blogging Challenge master list. (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1YphbP47JyH_FuGPIIrFuJfAQiBBzacEkM7iBnq6DGDA/edit#gid=1617533974

Themes appear there. If you visit some of the blogs, you’ll make the writers happy. If you click Like, they’ll be even happier.

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Image of Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966. By Yoichi Okamoto.  Public domain. Via Wikipedia.

Image of Ford Mustang logo. By zopalic. Via Pixabay.com.

 

 

Still Sheltering, No Theme

 

For the second year in a row, I’ll participate in April’s A to Z Writing Challenge—twenty-six posts, one every day in April except Sundays. So far, nearly four hundred blogs appear on the master list, here. About half have announced themes: history, books, education, animals, gaming, parenting, personal, women’s interests, and on and on.

I didn’t do a Theme Reveal post, because because that would require me to know the theme. I registered under Other and Miscellaneous. I’m not about to say, “I’m going to write about _____,” only to get stuck at Q. If a theme emerges, we’ll know in May.

If I were going for the obvious, I’d spend April posting about sheltering in place. This is day 16. David has picked up groceries at the Walmart parking lot several times. We’ve placed small orders, trying to fill some gaps. Tonight I found myself considering which I would prefer, Wolf Brand Chili or sardines. The surprise was that both sounded appetizing. I chose something else.

Federal social distancing guidelines now extend through April 30. Davis household guidelines were extended that far two weeks ago, and we’ll go further if necessary. We don’t want to expose ourselves to the contagion, and we don’t want to expose anyone else. We’re grateful for those whose work allows us to retreat.

I hope reading this post isn’t as dull as writing it has been. If it has been, please don’t mention that in the comments.

As to comments, I want to thank the folks who’ve been reading, liking, and commenting while I’ve been doing none of those. I’m on my way to get a good night’s sleep, after which I’ll work on getting up the gumption to do better.

We saw a couple social distancing in the green space yesterday. A walk in the park can be gumption inducing. I’ll put it on tomorrow’s agenda.

Here are a couple of cats.

N Is for No: #atozchallenge

When I was a child, my family lived across the street from a couple whose daughter, Denise, was almost three years old. Denise had blonde hair her mother put up in a curly little pony tail. She was as cute as a bug and as bright as a button, but not as sweet as pie. She wasn’t a holy terror, but her attitude often (most of the time) made her difficult to deal with. She  was just plain contrary, and she made sure everyone knew it. Her favorite word was, “NO.”

One evening she and her mother, Phyllis, was sitting with us in our front yard, as they did nearly every summer evening. Phyllis sat in a glider and Denise stood in the seat beside her.

In the course of the conversation, Phyllis said, “We’ve had quite a day.” She went on to say–in vague terms–that there had been much discussion, much disagreement about what and how things would, and would not, be done, starting at breakfast time and running nonstop for the rest of the day–but she thought an agreement had finally been reached. Then she looked at her daughter and said, very sweetly, “But we’re not going to use that word any more, are we, Neesie?”

Denise leaned over, got right in her face, and said, in a very nasty tone, “NNNNNNNNNNO.”

The audience erupted in laughter.

And Denise beamed.

*

I would like to say there’s a moral to this story, but after decades of pondering, I haven’t found one. If you can think of anything, please leave it in a comment.

 

 

 

 

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Image via Pixabay