Monday, July 20, 2009
I hail a passing crow,
count fare for
and two miles west
as the crow flies,
if you please."
The feathered one
points a wondering wing
at Spouse and I,
at our belongings
which sleep snugly
on our backs.
"Just the one way?"
Our pilot is curious.
His beak gleams-
in it I see reflected
our journey faces,
our adventure faces,
long shut away
to gather quiet dust.
surmises his passengers,
shuffles his feet,
fluffs his coat of black.
"It's hard to keep still
in an enormous world."
"I see," nods our crow.
and all that."
Spouse and I
the obliging crow's back.
The fields and fences,
the twisted roads
that led to friends,
all evaporate underwing.
A fragment of history
we carry with us
only the best parts;
the rest falls away
as it should,
as the crow flies.
I'll be writing only occasionally over the next couple of weeks as Spouse and I try to get organised and make our way to California.
I intend to be back on track and on regular writing schedule by the middle of August, with a fresh batch of Crumbs From the West - I mean Corner.
Stay tuned for more woolgathering!
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 5:16 PM
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Mater once had a day out with a visiting relative, years ago. They explored the shops, then paused to snack on some cream cakes and tea in a little cozy bakery that Mater knew.
The pair perched by the window, a fine vantage point to observe the heart of the city.
They chattered and caught up while the afternoon sunlight twirled on their teaspoons, while people flitted past burdened with shopping bags or shopping lists.
Then a shadow splashed across the tiny table.
Mater and her friend glanced up, and instantly their teacups froze mid air.
Another relative- one who had not been informed of the visiting one's arrival- was peering intensely through the glass, hands cupped around her face. She was scrutinising the array of cakes and tarts on display in the window. She did not expect to see two familiar faces.
The pair inside were stricken twofold: in the first place, the relative had travelled from another country- her visit was therefore significant, as was the fact that nobody had bothered to mention it to the other. In the second place, the cat was about to be out of the bag in the most dreadful way possible, and the meeting that everyone had sought to avoid was imminent.
The disposition of the other relative, being less than cheerful and slightly more than crusty, tended to provide for awkward situations, and family members thought of her as the proverbial landmine. Volatile and bitter as the poor woman was, with never a soothing word for anyone, a verbal clash on the street was the last thing Mater and her companion wanted.
They did not breathe; they twitched not a hair as the older woman stared and squinted, a permanent scowl etched into her features. They were close enough to count the wrinkles on her face.
There was only a thin and unreliable sheet of glass between the horrified friends and certain trouble.
It was a mercy, then, that the woman saw before her nothing but cakes and sugared buns and scones with raisins: for, after a long moment, she turned away and continued her stride along the crooked street. There was no chance she had seen and ignored the pair- the force of her personality and the magnitude of her pride would never have allowed such a thing to happen.
The duo could hardly dare to believe their fine fortune. Shaken and thoroughly rattled by the awful scene, they gathered their belongings, paid for the tea and cakes, and dashed away on the off-chance that their luck was fleeting, that the old lady would realise, half a mile away, that she had noticed something odd- or decided that those cakes looked mighty delicious after all.
How curious that we look and look but sometimes do not see what is under our very noses.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 3:52 PM
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
We were shopping when a terrific commotion began, and a cacophony of wailing struck our ears. It was at its peak by the broccoli and the string beans.
The source was a little girl, one of a purple hue, who appeared to loathe everything in sight. She shared a shopping cart contraption- fashioned in the shape of a car, complete with steering wheel- with her brother: the pair sat inside as their mother pushed them from vegetable to fruit.
Save for the woman's grasp on the handle I might have thought the children were travelling alone- the parent frowned at the various items and examined their skins for blemishes but never glanced at the bellowing toddler. The girl child grew more vexed by the minute. She roared and she howled and she never took a breath, which caused her to turn the precise shade of an eggplant.
Still the mother continued to inspect the shelf items. The screams threatened to topple the tower of juicy apples. The floor quivered slightly.
I observed the boy, encapsulated in the car with his sister as she issued forth a resounding volley of complaints: he was silent, and his small fingers were plugged with resignation into his ears. I had never seen the like of it in an infant.
At times we cannot get away from the noise and the rattle of everyday life. Proverbial fingers in ears becomes the solution of choice. Our weary hero blotted out his insistent sibling's bawling: being unable to run away, it was all he could do.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 6:50 PM
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Some fellows wreaked havoc on neighbourhood streets this week, tearing around the city I live in and behaving like rascals.
According to my local newspaper those persons were deemed to be vandalists. Aye: vandalists.
To tell the awful truth, I am increasingly more concerned about the grammar vandals. They are many, and their work- ventures in which they plunder the language- is a silent streak of mayhem and catastrophe.
They ought to be apprehended, or at the very least, we ought not to consider them for literary positions at newspaper offices.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 12:45 PM
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
I was ten or so years of age; the class was studying a story for English Comprehension, and I was thoroughly uneasy on that Friday afternoon as the school day was winding down.
The piece was one of numerous formulaic entries in a collection of tales designed to encourage morals in children and keep the latter occupied for months on end.
The particular story featured a plucky girl who had received a shiny cassette recorder for her birthday- a popular gift in that era. She stayed home to experiment with the gadget while the family went out; one would hope it was just for milk and potatoes, and not for anything celebratory in the girl's absence.
Burglars shortly thereafter found their way into the house. They tied the child to a chair and set about ransacking the home. Ah, but never fear: our resourceful young heroine had a plan. She pressed a couple of buttons on the machine and deftly committed the robbers' voices to cassette.
Later that day the local police applauded her bravery.
"Well done, Miss," they boomed in adventure-story fashion. "We recognised the voices and have been trying to catch those rascals for months. They'll be in jail for a long time now."
As I recall, some reward or other was dispensed to the girl for her quick thinking.
My difficulty lay not in the implausibility of the crooks being captured on the vague basis of their voices, but in another area entirely. I could not let the matter go.
I had never in my life raised a hand in class to pose an unsolicited question; indeed, I had enough trouble lifting my hand to answer one. On that occasion I was bothered enough that I propelled a trembling set of digits into the air.
"Excuse me," I squeaked. Everybody swivelled in their chairs at the unfamiliar voice.
"Why didn't the robbers take the recorder too?"
A leaf dropped from a tree in the yard outside, and I heard it brush the ground. I thought it to be a perfectly reasonable question, hardly deserving of such a stony silence, and I had been certain that my teacher would offer an answer: an educational textbook could not be structured so flimsily that a child might tear it asunder with a gentle query.
My teacher cleared her throat.
"Well," she said slowly and very carefully, "here's what you can do. You can all write a few ideas on why you think the recorder wasn't stolen by the burglars. Do it over the weekend. I hadn't given you any homework but that's one for you to do. There you go- you can thank The Elementary!"
Her teeth flashed a triumphant grin. The mention of homework implied, by her tone, tears and punishment and frustration.
The bell rang then, and we were off and away. I heard grumbling voices; I heard my name mentioned in sour measures; I felt furious eyes all around; and I still had no answer to my question.
I made up my mind then and there: the whole painful business of speaking up in class, of asking questions, of challenging the bothersome bones of a text- I had my fill of such matters. I had tested the water, and I found it lacking in any sort of reward. I resolved to keep my thoughts, novel or otherwise, all to myself over the course of my school life.
I kept my word.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 4:49 PM
Monday, July 6, 2009
I might need to bring a parachute the next time I visit Mater.
Her little cottage was once well above road level, when traffic was scarce and the hum of an occasional car was akin to the fleeting presence of a bumble bee.
The local council repeatedly resurfaced the stretch of road over the years, plugging up potholes and repairing marks of wear and tear, the evidence of which is multiplying as more cars utilise that route.
They add a fresh layer of tarmac- and the road rises another negligible degree, and Mater's house appears to sink little by little.
I suspect that one day soon, in order to observe the road from her living room, my mother will be obliged to stick her head out of the window and crane her neck at a most curious and unsightly angle.
"Aren't you worried?" I asked of her.
"We might get flooded," she admitted warily, "if the house is in a pit. They might have to add a drainage system to fix that when the time comes."
I was, in truth, a great deal more concerned with how Mater would easily exit the property, and I told her so.
"Think about your house twenty years from now. You won't be able to get out," I insisted. "You'll be trapped in there. You'll be living in an enormous crater, high walls of stone and tarmac and mud all around you, not a scrap of sunlight to be had anywhere, cars rushing by overhead- and I'll have to float in on a parachute just to see you, and perhaps be winched out by helicopter. I suppose we could both be winched out once in a while so we could go on shopping expeditions together, but it would impair life just a bit."
"I didn't think of that," said Mater, who scribbled a note to herself to contact the local council to see what could be done about the grim future I detailed.
"I'm glad I could help," I replied; and that was all we said about it.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 2:08 PM
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
We took the car for a run one day. It had been idle for two whole months while Spouse recuperated, and we were concerned about the well being of our trusty transport.
Exiting the car park was a loud affair: as the tyres peeled away from the tarmac there came a great sucking sound, followed by a bang that brought us leaping forth from the car certain that shreds of rubber had been left behind. All seemed well enough at that moment; the tyres had simply become one with the ground through extreme conditions. The car had sat immobile through the tail end of Winter, through Spring and then the first faint traces of Summer. An earthworm, dazed, squirmed in the sunlight, wondering wherefore was his shelter.
Off we went, then, and immediately detected a troubling noise from the depths of the machine.
"Why don't you get out," Spouse said to me as we puttered into an empty car park, "and run alongside the car. Try to find the source of the sound and if it improves with speed or as I'm driving along."
I obliged by climbing out and jogging along at a reasonable speed. I attempted to discern the exact qualities of the strange clamour, and determined that it rattled less the faster that Spouse rolled. I hastened to keep pace with Spouse while keeping an ear trained on the noise. Spouse drove at various degrees of velocity and once or twice even overtook my weak human legs.
At last, exhausted, I made my way over, paused for breath and spoke to Spouse through the open window. Then I observed a police officer observing me, analysing my behaviour.
Her car had crawled with measured stealth in the direction of what she perceived as an oddity.
"Are you all right?" she called to me.
"I am, I am," I mumbled. I was mortified. "We're just checking out our car."
I pointed to the front of the car to indicate engine difficulty.
I suspect she understood. She nodded, anyhow, got back into her vehicle and, as quietly as she had appeared, drifted to another part of the car park. Nevertheless I imagined that we still held her attention.
Spouse, not having heard the brief exchange, was inclined to continue the test; but I sat in and said firmly, "let's go. She thought I was in trouble."
"Trouble. She probably thought that you were abandoning me in a desolate car park."
I had, after all, been chasing a runaway car, struggling to keep up; one could hardly blame the eagle-eyed police officer for choosing the more likely scenario as a means of explanation.
Mortified, yes, but glad, too, to see somebody looking out for us.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 5:34 PM