X Is for Xerxes: #atozchallenge

 

Lying in bed this morning, I came up with the perfect Y word. I began gathering information and working on an introduction.

Then something in my brain clicked and I realized today is X. I figured I might as well go back to sleep.

But then one of my characters, the sweet and very young Baptist preacher who told the teenagers he would drive them in the church van to take dancing lessons, walked into the cafe and sat down at a table with an old man who’s still cussing Roosevelt and long-haired hippies.

And then here came the old lady who’s always mad about something, and she jumped all over the preacher about the dancing thing, and she’s not even a member of his church, and then she whacked the back of his chair with her cane and scared him half to death.

She’s always on a rampage about something, and I knew they weren’t going to shut up and let me go back to sleep till I write chapter two and give them something else to do, so I gave up and got up. At 4:14 in the morning. 

Downstairs I turned on the TV to Youtube and Frederica Von Stade singing “Song to the Moon,” and then a string of other sopranos. I thought I might fall asleep listening. But so far I haven’t.

I have, however, come up with an X word: Xerxes. I heard about him when I was a toddler and my mother read nap time selections from The Bumper Book. The volume was big and pink and had tape–old yellowed tape–holding some of the pages together. The faded cloth on the hard cover had started to peel off at the corners, showing what looked like cardboard beneath. The book was obviously o-l-d, and I wondered where it came from, but I never asked, so I’ll never know.

But back to Xerxes.

He showed up in Edward Lear’s “A Nonsense Alphabet”:

X was King Xerxes,
Who, more than all Turks, is
Renowned for his fashion
Of fury and passion.

X

Angry old Xerxes!

I don’t remember hearing the poem, just X and Xerxes. To my embarrassment, I didn’t remember anything about Xerxes either, so I googled him. He was a Persian king who appears in the Book of Esther under the name Ahasuerus, and husband of Esther.

Regarding The Bumper Book, it’s available for purchase through Amazon. (Looks like the cover is yellow now.) Prices run from $41.76 for a Used copy to a Used-Like New copy for $245.00. Eighty-three per cent of reviewers give it a five-star rating. The low ratings refer to the condition of the used books. One reviewer, (four stars) said it was a replacement for the copy her dog ate and was smaller than the 1950 version. Just as I suspected.

In addition to Xerxes, it includes Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussycat,” A. A. Milne’s “Christopher Robin Is Saying His Prayers,” and Eugene Field’s “Winken, Blynken, and Nod” and “The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat.” If I had my way, all of those would be required reading for children. I heard “The Owl and the Pussycat” so many times that I can still recite it from memory. Jan Brett’s picture book of TOATPC has the absolute best illustrations in existence.

Just sayin’.

Here’s Frederica Von Stade singing Dvorak’s “Song to the Moon.” You’re welcome.

 

 

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Images of The Bumper Book and The Owl and the Pussycat via Amazon.com

 

Day N: Now #AtoZChallenge

 

 

 

 

 

NOW

Friday Fictioneers, May 9, 2017. PHOTO PROMPT. © Roger Bultot

 

“The convention center? Well, go about six blocks, to where the old movie house used to be–the one that burned in ’87–What’d you say, Fred?”

“Now it’s condos. The Oaks.”

“Oh, that’s right. Well, just before the condos, turn left. When you get to where the Masonic lodge used to be, there’s a–What’s that, Fred?”

“It’s the Hyatt now–”

“All right, the Hyatt. Turn left again, and almost to where Milton Badey’s furniture store used to be–”

“The Omni.”

“Omni. One day they’ll knock down this diner and this’ll be where we used to be.”

***

This story was written for Friday Fictioneers. It first appeared on Telling the Truth, Mainly, on May 9, 2017.

To read more Day N posts, click AtoZ.

Day G: Good News & Glitches #AtoZChallenge

 

 

 

 

 

Glitch.

The A to Z Blogging Challenge calendar looks like this:

 

But in my mind’s eye, until this evening, the calendar looked like this:

If I’d paid attention, I’d have noticed I was supposed to post yesterday, a Saturday, instead of taking the day off.

If I’d paid close attention, and counted, I’d have seen that my April calendar provides for only 22 letters, four fewer than the official calendar assigns spaces to, and also four fewer than are found in the alphabet. I was embarked on an A to V Challenge.

When I realized I’d gone wrong, I considered dropping out. After all, I’ve breached the rules, failed to post as required.

But it’s a glitch, not a transgression, and a blog challenge isn’t a life-and-death matter. So I proceed.

Good News.

Two weeks ago, my radiation oncologist used the word remission.

Nothing has changed. My most recent CT scans show the same results as those done in December 2016, three months after I completed radiation treatments. The bone scan, my first, was also clear.

The oncologist, although he’s now smiling as if he means it, continues to be conservative. Stable is the word he uses. “As long as you’re stable…”

The radiation oncologist has always been more upbeat, possibly because she isn’t in charge of my case, possibly because she has a cheerful nature. A year ago, she was calling my scans awesome. I liked that word.

Remission, though, has a certain ring to it–a medical ring.

5. Medicine/Medical.

  1. a temporary or permanent decrease or subsidence ofmanifestations of a disease.
  2. a period during which such a decrease or subsidence occurs:
    The patient’s leukemia was in remission.

For two years, I’ve been living from scan to scan, and that won’t change either. The challenge continues: to live with past, present, future all at once; to wrap my mind around the contradiction–I have cancer, I had cancer, I . . . what?

The next CT is scheduled for early June. Scan to scan.

*****

Read more posts dedicated to the letter G by clicking AtoZ.

Day E: Epistles #AtoZChallenge

The Way I read a Letter’s — this —
‘Tis first — I lock the Door —
And push it with my fingers — next —
For transport it be sure —

And then I go the furthest off
To counteract a knock —
Then draw my little Letter forth
And slowly pick the lock —

Then — glancing narrow, at the Wall —
And narrow at the floor
For firm Conviction of a Mouse
Not exorcised before —

I’ve been trying to remember the last time I opened a real letter. Not a bill, not an invoice, not a request for donation, but a real letter from someone who knows me well, that begins with Dear Kathy, ends with Love, and has a middle meant just for me.

Oh, all right, I admit it–I never opened my mail behind a locked door, as Emily Dickinson does hers–but still, there was something delicious about those pieces of paper now called, with condescension, snail mail.

Opening a snail mail envelope was like opening a gift.

Sometimes it held two page on onionskin from my English pen pal, telling me about a rock concert she’d attended.

Sometimes it held fifteen pages from my cousin in California, a detailed narrative of the plot of a movie she’d seen on the late show.

Once it enclosed a card from my Aunt Betty, picturing a sad little dog and the caption, “I’m feeling dejected ’cause you was neglected,” and a note saying she’d planned to call and wish me happy birthday but had fallen asleep on the couch, and when she woke it was past both our bedtimes.

Most letters weren’t memorable; they contained news of school plays and shopping and chickenpox and report cards and last night’s overdone roast and church and swimming and Christmas caroling, just everyday life.

But they were special nonetheless, and it was the snail that made them so–traveling slowly, making us wait, and then, when hope was dwindling–surprise!— an envelope addressed in a familiar hand would fall out of messy handful of bills and circulars and slide across the concrete floor of the post office foyer.

Sheer bliss.

Several years ago, I joined the Letter Writers Alliance, an organization “dedicated to preserving this art form; neither long lines, nor late deliveries, nor increasing postal rates will keep us from our mission.” I received a membership card and pledged to “carry on the glorious cultural tradition of letter writing.”

As a member, I’m supposed to take every opportunity to write letters. But I don’t. My penmanship isn’t what it used to be–too much time at the keyboard.

But I have good intentions. I buy pens and stationery to feed my habit. Who knows when I’ll loosen up and begin to correspond?

By the way, here’s what Emily does when she finally gets that envelope unlocked.

Peruse how infinite I am
To no one that You — know —
And sigh for lack of Heaven — but not
The Heaven God bestow —

It’s what we all do: We read how infinite we are to the writer–the person whose name is written beneath the word Love.

***

Emily Dickinson, “The Way I read a Letter’s — this –“

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Blogging from A to Z Master List.

For Day E posts, click Day E.

 

Day D: Dilly-Dallying #AtoZChallenge

Yes, definitely running behind in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. No surprise, of course. If I were all caught up, I would worry.

Blogging with a theme would have helped. Instead of choosing topics, I’m wallowing around in a sea of them, waiting for one to come to my rescue.

April was a ready-made topic for Day A, because I planned to write about Texas bluebonnets anyway, and April is their peak time. But I could have published the same post on Day B, for bluebonnets.

Ben Hur, Day B’s official topic, appeared by chance–I checked the television schedule; I’ve always done my homework with half my brain trained on the TV–but about two paragraphs in, I remembered I had something to say about boo-boos, and say it I did. But instead of dropping Ben Hur, an any reasonable person would have done, I put Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd on hold and wrote an extra post about boo-boos for a different blog, and then went back and finished Ben Hur. That was a big time waster. 

Day C? Before choosing contrariwise, I considered contractionCompositae, color, campfires, cats (of course) . . . chaos . . .

“Zither” by Ludwig Gruber (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
As I was explaining on Day C before I strayed onto Alice and Lady the Horse, I considered making contrariwise my theme for the entire challenge. Instead of blogging from A to Z, I’d have blogged from Z to A. The topic of the Day A(Z) post would have been zither, specifically the one from James Thurber’s “The Night the Ghost Got In.

In case you’ve forgotten, Thurber says it began this way:

I had just stepped out of the bathtub and was busily rubbing myself with a towel when I heard the steps. They were the steps of a man walking rapidly around the dining-room table downstairs. The light from the bathroom shone down the back steps, which dropped directly into the dining-room; I could see the faint shine of plates on the plate-rail; I couldn’t see the table. The steps kept going round and round the table; at regular intervals a board creaked, when it was trod upon. I supposed at first that it was my father or my brother Roy, who had gone to Indianapolis but were expected home at any time. I suspected next that it was a burglar. It did not enter my mind until later that it was a ghost.

He woke his brother Herman and they went to the top of the stairs and listened. The footsteps had stopped, and Herman wanted to go back to bed, but Thurber insisted something was down there–and as soon as he said it, the invisible something ran up the steps toward them. Herman ran into his bedroom and slammed the door. Thurber slammed the door at the top of the stairs and held it closed, then cautiously opened it. No none was there. That should have been the end of the story, but in the Thurber household, nothing is ever the end.

The slamming doors woke Thurber’s mother. She decided there were burglars in the house. Because the phone was downstairs, she couldn’t call the police, so she “flung up a window of her bedroom which faced the bedroom windows of the house of a neighbor, picked up a shoe, and whammed it through a pane of glass across the narrow space that separated the two houses.”

“Guinea pig eating a piece of apple” by Jg4817 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
After Mrs. Thurber finally made the neighbor, Mr. Bodwell, understand the burglars were in her house, not his–which wasn’t easy, considering he’d been awakened by a shoe shattering his bedroom window, and Mrs. Bodwell was in the background saying, “We’ll sell the house and go back to Peoria”–he called the police.

The police came and broke the door down (Mrs. Thurber wouldn’t allow her son to go downstairs to let them in because he was still dressed in a bath towel and would have caught his death of cold). A search ensued:

Downstairs, we could hear the tromping of the other police. Police were all over the place; doors were yanked open, drawers were yanked open, windows were shot up and pulled down, furniture fell with dull thumps. A half-dozen policemen emerged out of the darkness of the front hallway upstairs. They began to ransack the floor: pulled
beds away from walls, tore clothes off hooks in the closets, pulled suitcases and boxes off shelves. One of them found an old zither that Roy had won in a pool tournament. “Looky here, Joe,” he said, strumming
it with a big paw. The cop named Joe took it and turned it over. “What is it?” he asked me. “It’s an old zither our guinea pig used to sleep on,” I said. It was true that a pet guinea pig we once had would never sleep anywhere except on the zither, but I should never have said so. Joe and the other cop looked at me a long time. They put the zither back on a shelf.

Had contrariwise been the theme, that’s what I would have written about on Day A. What I’d have posted on Days B(Y) and C(X), I don’t know.

Nor do I know what I’ll write about today, on Day D. But by Day E, I’ll have something worked out.

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Here are some #AtoZChallenge blogs you might enjoy reading.

Iain Kelly  

Mainely Write 

Anne’s Family History

Poetry, Law and Something More

Lighter Side

For the Master List, click here.

For more Day D posts, click AtoZ.