Like a Tawargachi Novel

I had several minutes to prepare, but I spent them fretting rather than focusing. How others could saunter in to the classroom, set down their pads, and settle to their desks like they were on a sofa sipping warm chocolate and reading the latest Tawargachi novel escaped me. I slid my pen into my breast pocket a second time. I took it back out because I needed something to hold. The pen clattered to the floor when I attempted to spin it over the back of my thumb.

Professor Sog—yeah, I know—backed through the door as he chatted with a colleague in the hall.

“After class,” he said. “I have hours till 2:30. Good, good.” He saluted the colleague good-bye with a stack of hard-copy tests then turned to face the class and smile. He was wearing his yellow plaid exam shirt; the class sighed…or, “Oh’d”…or somethinged. The class reacted satisfactorily at seeing he hadn’t neglected to wear the same shirt he wore at every exam he’d ever given. Not just this semester, all of them.

Last semester, at the Fall mid-term, one of the older boys who sat in the second row had asked, “Do you always wear that yellow shirt on test days?”

“Yellow, huh?” Professor Sog asked in return as if he hadn’t quite heard the boy speaking, but we knew he had.

Unable to summon the courage to ask the question twice, the boy demurred. The exam thus proceeded normally.

There was nothing normal about today’s exam though. This one was our last for the year. Since I was a Senior it was my last ever. And, for me at least, its outcome would determine if I lived or died.

284 words on day 726

Her Dry Tin Fingers

Read this first if you haven’t already.

“He will not be easily found that one. Speak his name to these and they will aid you.”

Grandma’s words felt like a memory or a dream compared to the unexpected firmness of her grip. She gave me other instructions I think—maybe something about employing them before they became brittle and maybe something about speaking to the redder ones first. I know for certain, because I can still feel the matte texture of her dry tin fingers, I no longer underestimate her power.

I packed the leaves into an empty film packet from my vest. Grandma picked up my camera bag and offered it to me with the flap folded back. I placed the packet into an unoccupied slot and buttoned the flap down and told the camera not to peek into the packet.

“Thank you, Nonni. I’ll remember you to him when we meet.”


“It’s no bother. I won’t forget like I used to when I was a kid.”

“Don’t. I don’t want your brother to think on me at all.”

She may have sat down at the bench. She may have walked into the woods. She may have vanished in a puff. I got on my way and she on hers and I never told my brother.

Word count: 215
Day 244

Practiced and Without Fail

The unifying theme for the week will be “The Bringer of Mist”. Check out the ‘bringer‘ tag for more. I’ll step off from a post from day 51: “Grandma has a Wolf’s Heart“.

The newly fallen leaves stacked poorly in her hand. These red and yellow and gold leaves retained their suppleness. This natural, nearly flesh-like offering, contrasted her brittle metalic fingers. The leaves’ tones wavered through the various shades of autumn. Their organic patterns occasionally punctuated with a spot of green or a tear or an insect-made hole. Haphazard symmetry drew my eyes to the web of veins branching from larger to smaller paths and out to the rim. The brown wind-worn edges showed the future for each.

Her knuckles were stamped and folded tin. I hadn’t seen a tinker of this generation outside of picture books. I would have expected a rime of [chemical name here] darkening the simplistic joints, but she seemed greased and newly made. I knew she wasn’t. Her arthritic posture and shuddering movements betrayed her age. The gleam of her naive but precise frame was the result of care not recent making.

When I did not immediately take the leaves, she spoke.

“Take them or I will unmake you.”


I felt my seals dry and crack in that instant. I imagined the golden fresh lubricants from my recent tuning bleeding out and staining my distal framework. I would overheat next and lock-up. Grandma would move on with her elegant hunched gait, but I would be here, under this tree, till the mist came.

Then the world came back to the present.

I wiped my greasy hands on the canvas flap of my bag and dropped it to the ground. I rolled my hands from anterior to posterior looking for any grime or foreign material that might taint the leaves. Finding none, I took the leaves singly with my left hand and stacked them in the opposite order of Grandma’s in my right.

As I reached for the last leaf her tin hand grasped my brass one like a bird lighting on a branch in a storm: practiced and without fail.

Word count: 150
Day 243

Dactylio or Dactylo

Inspired by another fun illustration at Gorilla Artfare.

Etymological concerns mostly based on this page.

Enough of that crap.

My introduction to [dactylio] came illicitly enough in the form of spying on my older brother one summer he visited back from [cool sounding magic school or guildish name]. Since I am merely a pawn of the author’s devised to clumsily shoehorn a block of description into an otherwise stunning bit of action/plot/theme allow me to proceed:

First, Ozo dabbed the cedar resin onto his forearms. At first I was drawn to the care he took doing so. Each time beginning at the wrist he dabbed proximally all the way to his elbow—ten times. Then he moved to the next row and dabbed upward ten more times. On his slender muscular arms it was easy to see the regularity of his applications.

Next, he removed the jangles—thin bi-metallic strips—from the case Father had given him. One by one he pressed them onto his sticky skin copper-side touching, nickel away. When he finished with all six jangles he slowly inspected his work, taking care that none peeled away by his movement. The silvery metal reflected brilliantly in the sun and contrasted nicely with his rusty-black skin.

Grasping the end of the cloth tape in the hand of his prepared arm as an anchor, he used his free hand to wind the cloth around his fore-arm concealing but securing the jangles in place. He tore the tape with his mouth and pressed it securely [thesaurus anyone?] to his sticky arm.

With slightly more effort he repeated the ritual with his right arm.

Father’s kit only contained four of the possible twelve rings. I soon learned it was only a novice’s set despite it being of ancient [and storied] origin.

Ozo selected two rings—I couldn’t tell which at the time, but I now know to be [this] and [that]. He struggled to pull them over his wrist and passed the repulsive edge of the jangles there. Once he did they jerked into place like a cart going over a tree root growing into the roadway.

The rings hovered at his wrists when his arms were down, but as he drew his arms above his head to stretch, the rings drifted down near his elbows like [some other metaphor here].

The whole spectacle warmed a place inside me I’d not known before. I felt compelled to stand up from my hiding place and announce my presence. I felt equally compelled to slink away and give Ozo back his privacy. Before I could make a decision, Ozo lost concentration and coughed a ball of fire that set the bushes I was concealing myself in ablaze.

Word count: 456
Day 199

Update: Apparently this character is from the “Street Fighter” video game.

Day 134: Paradise Theatre Overhaul

I’m really in my office. Thirty-four floors above the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver, Colorado. I feel as if I am in a Polaroid from the 70’s. The blues faded, the reds indistinct, and the blacks turned a sickly green. The “Welcome Back Kotter” t-shirt I’m wearing is an iron-on and the collar isn’t the same color as the shirt. I have on that first round of Nikes: blue with a yellow trademark. I’m twelve, but the look on my face is veteran. I’ve been effected by what I’m seeing, but I don’t care.

There is no such photograph.

In the memory that follows I don’t wear those clothes but pretend I do because they are the only ones I can recall from that era.

[a whole buncha stuff here]

From that summer there is a single recording of me. Its corners rounded in the style of the day; it’s format clearly 110. I’m on the back of a motorcycle, t-shirt, shorts, flip-flops, and a helmet–“Gotta protect your head.”

Word count: 187 

Day 103: The Balance of Marrow

I’m pressing the crescant to his neck and he’s saying words like magic.  Words that feel like they could unbreak a jar, maybe raise the dead.

"The best waters are swift and shallow."  He’s trembling as he chants, "The best waters are swift and shallow."  I realize he doesn’t believe the words, doesn’t trust their power.  This makes me angry.

I gave up my daughters and ruined my wife.  I burned my parent’s home and salted their orchard.  I eat the same meal and swallow the same wine.  Every day I guard this gate from nothing and no one comes.  I even cut my hair.  And he doesn’t believe.  I did all of this and he still fears these words have no meaning.  He rakes at might unyielding arm.  He pleads again, "Please, please.  The best waters are swift and shallow."

In an instant I decide answering this coward is not worth the trades I made.  I’m going to release this crux, let the prophesy fail, go back to my cold hearth.  He must know his death is next because I feel him swallow through the contact of my weapon on his flesh.  His tremors subside.  He makes his final breath.  He’ll beg for his life of course.

Then I feel like I am falling, like something I can’t explain has happened, like soon this something will hurt very much, but for now I just know something I can’t stop is coming.  He’s kicked me in the groin and I am on the ground inhaling air, but unable to exhale.

"I said, ‘The best waters are swift and shallow!’  I’ll be inside when you are ready to complete the couplet."

Eventually I’ll smile at my son’s return, but for now I’ll just puke.

Word count: 293

Day 81: Abducted by Lemon, Lavender, and Mint

Three pixies scrambled out of the air-conditioning vent and slipped to the far side of the pumpkin.  One by one they emerged from the vegetable’s safety.  They huddled heads touching and hands on shoulders and whispered a plan that to my ear was no more than a squeaky distraction.  When they broke the mint one leaned against the pumpkin while the lavender one helped the lemon one onto Mint’s shoulders.  Lavender scampered up the other two.  Lavender posed proudly before kneeling down to pull up lemon.  Alone at the bottom, Mint’s only choice was to flit to the top on her delicate wings.  The three collapsed in laughter at the absurdity of their plan.  Lemon tumbled back to the floor.

On an unheard signal they all three zipped to the arm of my chair.  I held still not wanting to frighten them off.  Lemon tip-toed to my still hand and sat on a knuckle.  Lavender did the same, but he sat on a different knuckle.  Mint flitted to the keyboard of my laptop, lighting on the F7 key.  I felt the draft of her passing along my arm before I smelled the minty bouquet.  Lemon and Lavender on the left and Mint in the middle, they each regarded me with poorly hidden snickers.  I held still for fear they would realize I was not inanimate–then I discovered I was.

Lavender wafted to my ear and pipped, ~~Freeze tag; you’re it bitch.  Now listen here you.~~

Word count:  240