Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Drawing a Name

My assistance was required: there was to be a raffle draw at the museum during the hour of lunch, and my fellow volunteers would be obliged, they said, if my fingers were to pluck a name from the canister.
It was explained to me with an amount of eye-rolling that one board member- not present that day- had insisted that at least four persons observe the event so the drawing of the ticket could be considered wholly legitimate.
"I'll do it," I said.
One of the ladies held the container so that I could reach inside. My hand fumbled among the tickets, grazing the papers as they crackled and rustled like feet skittering easily through layers of fallen leaves. Folded, fallen leaves emblazoned with the names of winners and not-winners.
"But tell me," I said, suddenly, "who should I be hoping for?"
I saw six raised eyebrows and realised that I would have to clarify my question.
"I have to think of someone in particular. Someone you'd like to see winning this. Who should I have in mind?"
All three ladies considered for a moment before echoing a name- "Paula"- in unison.
"Right," I said. "I just wanted to know."
I extracted a single ticket and handed it over.
Paula's name reverberated once more around the room but this time with a hint of disbelief.
As demonstrated, one must have something or someone to hope for, otherwise the simple action of withdrawing a piece of paper would be rendered, if not meaningless, then dull.
Wholly legitimate? Certainly it was; still, I wonder what the absent board member would have thought of my methods.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Winter Poem (2)

Mater made a snowman
one grey November morn.
She hummed a bit
and made a wish
and her new chum was born:
it blinked its button eyes!
and Mater was so glad-
"let's shop for shoes!
No time to lose!
There's bargains to be had."
Off they went for footwear,
but the snowman, right away,
began to tire
and thought it dire
to look at shoes all day.
Through the streets they wandered
(and Mater got some looks);
the snowman said
"this melts my head-
I'm off to browse for books!"
So Mater shoe hunted solo,
and had fun just the same.
She missed her friend
but in the end
she never knew its name.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Winter Poem (1)

"I'm not a morning person,"
says Mater. This is true:
she's freshest in the
late late
late late
late late

She best enjoys October-
for, though the wild winds whip,
the clocks turn back
and grant
to her
an extra
hour's kip.

Monday, November 16, 2009


"Don't," I told myself for two weeks straight, "don't go to the library for those three days. Remember it. They'll be closed for renovation. Don't forget."
"I won't forget," I said, and I surely meant it. Over and over I told myself, all but writing the dates on my hand.
So it was with a measure of amazement that I stood, books under arm, mouth agape, outside the library, under an enormous banner ten feet long and three feet high that fervently declared the library was presently closed.
"Well," I said. "Well."
I did not know what else to say. I thought about the two or so miles I had walked already, and I thought about the way back. I sank onto a stone wall, attempting to gather my thoughts and, while I was at it, give myself a little talking to for such a dreadful lapse of memory.
I noticed a tiny old woman striding closer to me; I noticed her from a distance. She was clearly bound for the library, eyes on the concrete.
Myself, I had halted some fifty feet from the doors, but the little woman took longer to comprehend the situation. She marched, unseeing, right up to the automatic doors before she noticed they were not obeying her. She took a startled step back and raised her eyes to the sky and to the banner.
To my utter astonishment, she let out a very loud and anguished expletive, the tiny woman with the book bag.
"Closed!" she shrieked. Her head whipped wildly from side to side, as though somebody would come forward and admit that it was a practical joke, just a joke, and would she like to step inside now?
I perched on the wall for a while: now that my own disappointment had ebbed somewhat, I took note of other patrons as they approached, and I observed the rainbow of ways that people react to change and adversity and dismay. Some, visibly affronted or embarrassed, pretended they did not want the library at all, that they just intended to walk up to the doors and back home again; others sought explanation or assistance or a sympathetic eye from other confused souls; still more slipped surreptitiously around the back in hopes of discovering another entrance.
It held more fascination for me than any book I could have collected that day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


My mother, whenever possible, reuses envelopes: she and I have been known to send the same battered packet back and forth across the ocean to one another until our respective post offices will no longer accept the condition, and we are obliged to locate a fresh envelope.
My uncle got a parcel in the mail this week, and he telephoned my mother the day after with a single burning question: did she, perchance, send to him a book?
She did, she said.
He had spent a long while, he said, turning the package upside down and inside out, shaking it furiously in case a note was lodged in a corner. But there was no note, not a whisper of a word. There was no return address and the writing, being in brisk capital letters, was unfamiliar and impossible to analyse.
My uncle thought and thought about who might be most likely to send a mysterious parcel. It troubled him a great deal. He wished to settle the matter and thank the sender; but there was, of course, not a shred of evidence to hang a suspicion upon, had he such an inkling to begin with.
At last, unable to either fathom or forget it, my uncle leaned forward and began, slowly, to scrape the address label from the parcel. Off went his own name and address, and concealed under it, that of my brother- a most convenient and fortunate clue that led him straight to the culprit.

Monday, November 9, 2009


When I rang, Mater turned from the television and answered the telephone.
"I'm watching a film," she told me. "It's really good."
I wished to know the name of the really good film. Mater tried to oblige, but memory failed her. Fragments of names of other films came to mind, but the title in question was not forthcoming.
"Hold on," Mater said, determined to solve the puzzle.
She called to her cousin across the living room. "What's this film we're watching?"
I caught a muffled reply of hemming and hawing and, eventually, of not-knowing.
"We can't remember," she confessed, shocked. "And you won't believe this, but it's a film about Alzheimer's."
I was forced to believe it; and I left her to savour the remainder of the nameless piece of really good cinema.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

How Keys Go Missing

Until we began our expeditions in house hunting, Spouse and I had no inkling of the various tangled tricks that real estate agents get up to.
Agents typically access an available property by means of a common key; the key is supposed to be left in its original place squirreled away in a quiet corner of the yard.
The trick is this: in order to ensure that an agent successfully procures the house for his or her own clients, they thwart all attempts of subsequent agents to view the house. The key frequently departs the area tucked snugly inside an agent's pocket. Interested persons arrive with hopes high, but cannot gain entry, and they cast wistful glances in the windows, shrug and surrender, and go home.
We waited last week to view a house. It was the middle of the day but we had been beaten to the post. As per the rules of house-buying etiquette, we shuffled about in the garden with our agent, kicking at stones and counting weeds and subtly weighing up the condition of the neighbourhood, while the earlier-birds explored the house with their agent.
The potential buyers seemed to take quite an age, but at last they stepped out of the house and pulled the door shut behind them. Our agent waited to collect the key.
"Key? What key? No, there was no key when I got here."
Our agent stood on the doorstep and asked once again for the key, refusing to believe that she and her clients had scrambled in through a side window.
Then raucous laughter broke the woman's poker face apart.
"Oh! This key! Here. Yes, yes. I totally forgot I had it!"
She threw open her palm like a cheeky flower, and displayed the shiny implement.
"That," she said, waggling her head gravely at the horrific state of the world, "is how keys go missing!"
"I bet it is," I fumed under my breath.
But that is not, and never will be, how houses are fairly and squarely acquired.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Boy With a Book

At the entrance to the city library, perpetually perched on the edge of a timber bench, there sits a little boy all made of bronze. Clutching an open book in one age-worn left hand, crouched in a posture familiar to all readers, engrossed as he is in the upturned page, the statue is the epitome of books and the endless stream of adventures to be found inside them.
I must confess, however, that his right hand vexes me: he grips a bronze hamburger, out of which he has taken a single bite.
I stride past the bronze fellow and his book almost daily; and I yearn, every time, to replace the troublesome hamburger with either a delicious, nutritious bronze sandwich or a shiny bronze apple.
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