Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Short Story: "Dear Gentleman, Dear Lady"

My Dear Reader,

I know I've been away for a while, but here I am, with new entries planned. For now, please enjoy this randosity.

"Dear Gentleman, Dear Lady"

By Cecily Jane

Dear Gentleman,

You must understand that there are wolves at my door. I feel that I must be upfront about this at the beginning. I realize that everybody is stalked by a creature of some kind or another, and that the subject thereof is somewhat taboo. I do not mean to boast or complain about the breed or the number of them. I am only trying to inform you, for the benefit of your own safety, that not only are they particularly ferocious, they are so numerous and wild that I am still not sure how many there are. I don't go around counting other people's beasts, but I am of the opinion that this is above average.

I wish I could end it there. In fact, I wish that didn't have to write you this at all, but I know that you must be thoroughly warned. Please forgive me for the intimacy attached to the following:

When I say that they are wild and ferocious, I mean just that. But before you can fully understand the degree of their ferocity, I must tell you that these wolves used to live inside the house. They were very cunning, stealing in silently and tearing my house apart only when they were all the way inside. I am sure that I do not need to describe the destruction that they caused. I will say that it was extensive.

There was a point where it was beyond certain that getting the wolves out would be impossible. This was the general consensus in my entire village. My neighbors were so weary of getting bitten that they had long stopped visiting. I was effectively in quarantine, with the hope that once I was fully devoured, my wolves would no longer be a threat to them.

This, as you can guess, was not how it turned out. It took time, but I was able to drive them out one by one. If you don't believe me, I can easily show you my scars.

Perhaps by now you are thinking that I should have moved. It is obvious enough a solution that I did try it more than once. This seems to solve the problem only temporarily. If I leave as silently and covertly as they once came, I can slip out unnoticed. But they know my scent, and I cannot hide my tracks from them. I am lucky if I have time to put my home in order before I find one stalking along the borders of my property. When one comes, others soon follow.

I do find that moving is helpful, though. It gives me time to devise new defenses and get stronger windows. Most importantly, I find that it is much easier to become part of a new village than to convince an old one that your wolves have been chased away.

So, yes. I have lived in many places. I have slowly been able to replace my damaged furniture stick by stick. I have devised plans and backup plans so the wolves will never be able to cause as much damage again.

Over the course of time, I have learned their habits. I know their moods. Sometimes I can distract them long enough to sneak outside and fix an awning, or paint. It took a full year before I was able to get a fresh coat of paint on the entire outside, but I did it. If you looked at the house, you would see no indication of the pains I took. Most in the village have no idea.

This is another thing: my neighbors don't know my full history, nor do they understand the true nature of my wolves. I have tried to warn them, but it is not often that I can write such a detailed letter as this one. But, of course, my first village taught me that there are circumstances in which it is difficult to determine if this behavior is prudent. Things become taboo for a reason.

Now, I will tell you a secret that I usually keep close. I charge you with it only as a response to the specific requests you have made of me. Please guard it as well as I do.

I will just say it plain: the wolves occasionally get back in the house. It does not happen often, but it happens. I do not believe that it is possible to keep them out indefinitely. Sometimes, if I am careless, they will slip through the crack of an open door. Other times, I will return from the market and find one in my kitchen. I have made discreet inquiries as to possible solutions, but this has lead to little success. I have become practiced at getting them out, but the process is exhausting. The repair work is only slightly easier, if only because the work is spread over a longer period of time.

And now that you know the extent of my situation, you can see why I cannot let you inside. It is hard enough to keep them out when it is only me in this house. You could imagine the trouble if there were more occupants. I would not subject you to that. I could not bear it if you ended up with my scars.

In all reality, it is much more work than you would have expected. These wolves, I know, will never go away. I have a hope that someday they will become tame, but I couldn't ask you to wait for something that may never happen.

This is how things are. This is my fate, and I cannot change it. I dream of ways to get to you, but those dreams will stay unfulfilled. The best way to love you is to let you go.

Please don't share my pain with me. I love you too much to let you near what will tear you apart.

Mournfully,

Lady


Dear Lady,

You underestimate me. You underestimate how much I expect to work. I will tell you: a lot.

There are things that a man learns as he grows out of boyhood. One is that everyone has something. I once met a man whose house was infested with hornets. And if it's not hornets or wolves, it's lice, or rats, or some other kind of creature. There is always something. People with ladybugs and butterflies only exist in fairy tales.

Another thing I know is that when you find a good woman, you work for her. You work hard to get her, and you work hard to keep her. Otherwise, she will only find someone else who is stronger and better looking. Perhaps a boy would be scared by your letter. I am heartened.

I do have my pests, you know. I am not brave enough to write it down, but I have them. You will learn all about them soon enough. When I move into your house, they are sure to follow.

I love your house, you know. I admit, I often come to look at it from a distance. It is quite breathtaking. A man knows that a house like yours can only be kept so well by an extraordinary woman.

I've met your wolves there. I know, I probably shouldn't have come that close, and I apologize. But I saw them. One came up and sniffed my hand. I might have been fooled if it weren't for her wild eyes.

I think you've made a crucial miscalculation. You say that it's harder to fight wolves with two; I would argue the opposite. You have not seen the kinds of doors I can build or the traps I can set. You would be amazed, I think. If I was yours, I would spend my life keeping those wolves at bay. Together, I know we could do it.

Do you think that it's any easier to watch you fight them alone? Let me come and help you. Let me be as near to you as I can be, for as long as I am. We will work wonders together.

I love you too much to be frightened by you, you see. I certainly love you too much to to give up. I will come and gaze at your house and socialize with the wolves if that is all you will give me. But I think that you are smarter than that. I think that you will see that the best way to love me is to let me in.

Yours always,

Gentleman


Regards, best wishes, and metaphors,


-Cecily Jane

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Short Story: "Sunday"

My Dear Reader,

I wrote this today while in Sacrament meeting. To prove it, I've also added pictures of the notebook I keep in my scriptures. So yeah.

"Sunday"


By Cecily Jane


I am waiting in silence.


Perhaps it is not true silence. I can hear myself licking my lips. I can hear the soft bustling of the air conditioner. I can hear the faint ticking of the clock on the wall. And once in a forever, I hear the scraping of a shoe on the carpet, the rearranging of a suit coat, or the wriggling in a padded pew.


I lick my lips again.


I'm not hungry this month, but then, it's only the first hour. This place has a way of leaving your stomach empty.


What I am is thirsty. So thirsty, that I'm trying to think of things that will water my mouth enough to overcome the dryness.


If I left this room, it would take me only half a dozen steps to find a drinking fountain. They don't turn them off on a day like this, and I've often wished they would. Instead, it sits there, perhaps giving its own gentle hum as its machinery stores water and keeps it cold. If that's how such things work. I do know that it hums.


It would take less than ten seconds to get there, push the button, and get my fill of water. And if I left this building and took a five-minute drive, I would have glasses and pitchers full of water. Not to mention cupboards full of food.


I have so much that I don't use.


But I am not at home. I am here, in the silence, and as the clock ticks out the seconds, I stay. I listen to the stillness. I speak to the One who made both my tongue and that water it craves. I hear the shoes against carpet as they come closer and closer, and when the noise stops, I lift my eyes to the tray I know will be there.


I take a piece of bread.


I pass the tray.


On normal days, I am happy to take it. Today, it is stealing the few drops of moisture that I have.


No, not stealing. Receiving. No one else put this in my mouth.


The piece is almost too small to chew, but I always chew it anyway. I know what it means. I also know what it means to me. I remember.


The shufflings of shoes have stopped, and before I can get a few more silent words out, the silence is broken by words spoken out loud.


No, not broken. Filled. Edified. Sustained.


And the words, now spoken, melt back into silence. I am pleading now, even as the spot on the back of my tongue won't moisten. But I am not pleading about that. There are many other things I lack. So many other things.


I know why I am sitting here. I know it down to my bones. I would do anything to be here. I just need longer in the silence. I have more things to say. I have more promises to make. And I need more time to wait, and to listen. There are so many things I need today.


There's a nudge at my arm, and I look up. The tray is exactly where it should be. I give a weak smile as I take the thimbleful of water and let it pour through my lips. I pass the tray and keep the water on my tongue for a bit. I know what it means. I know what it means to me. I know that today, in this moment, it is more than it ever was.


I open my eyes today. Other people have my tray and are partaking of it, just as I did. Now it's their tray. Our tray. It is the small amount of nourishment that we share together.


My throat is so dry that I can feel every drop slip through it. It is all that I will have for a long while, but I'm not worried about that. How can I? If I had taken more than that thimbleful, I would have drowned in it. How can I worry about that when I have only a few precious seconds of silence left?


There is so much more to say. A lifetime of things. But I am not sending any words out, not even silent ones. I am waiting for the words that will come to me.


I was hungry, and I was fed. I was thirsty, and I was refreshed. But I am hungry and thirsty in so many ways. I could be lying in a sea of fresh water and still crave what I crave now.


The silence will soon be filled with pleadings just like mine. It will be a series of vignettes made by those who hunger and thirst.


But this is my time alone, and I am listening. I am waiting.


And then, I'm not waiting anymore.


I am receiving.


There is more in this world than bread and water. You can survive on bread and water, but there is more to that in living. You need more than a beating heart, if the heart is empty.


I know it again this month, but then, this is just the first hour. This place has a way of leaving your heart full.


And what I am is full to bursting.


There is a silence that teaches. There is water that lives. There is power that speaks to the fleshy tables of the heart.


I know this now. I know it again. And I am full enough to let the silence leave me. I am primed and ready.


In a moment, I will be wading in living water.


-Cecily Jane

*There are several things that make this less than factual. First of all, I was late today, so I took the sacrament in the foyer. Second, it's a fifteen minute drive home. Third, "cupboards full" really means a cupboard and a drawer (I don't eat much at home). However, I was actually as thirsty as I depicted myself. I was drinking a tall glass of water as I typed this.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Short Story: Sacred

My Dear Reader,

I wrote this piece of Mormon fiction a few months ago. Take it as you will.

Sacred


My mother thinks everything is so important.

“Don't drink that!” she says, when I reach for some coffee at the gas station. I don't know why she gets so worked up about it. My friends' parents don't. Of course, they're not like us.

They're not like her.

I'm sacred, she says. Not special—sacred. Made by God. Placed here. Sent.

She says that God made my spirit, and then tailored a body for me to live in. It was crafted, she says. My body is that big of a deal—crafted by God. I'm supposed to learn how to use my body. How to care for it.

How to control it.

Controlling it, she says, it what life is all about. It's why I was sent here, or at least, that was part of it. God took all the trouble of making this body for me, and then He went and made a whole world so that I could learn how to use it. That's how important it it.

Sacred, she says.

And there's more to it, too.

My body, this thing that God created, is some kind of weapon. She says that if I learn how to use it, if I learn how to control it, to master it, all kinds of things are supposed to happen. Joy is one of those things. Not pleasure—joy. They're supposed to be different.

And then, of course, there's the devil. He always gets mixed up in this stuff. My mom says that God wouldn't make a body for him, and that's mostly what he's so mad about. So he goes around and tries to get me to misuse my body, just out of spite. For something that happened eons ago. I don't know how I managed to get messed up in it. And I certainly don't know why he would take so much trouble to mess around with me. It seems way out of his way.

When I ask her, she squeezes my hand and says that he's jealous. That he's trying to make me fail. He's trying to trick me into believing that my body isn't sacred, so that I won't realize that it gives me power over him.

Somehow, my body gives me that—the ability to beat the devil. But only if I use it right, if I feed it right, if I control it at all times. I have to watch what I do with it and what is done to it. I especially have to watch what goes into it, and what words come out of it.

At all times, and in all things, and in all places.

I have to be one who acts instead of one who is acted upon.

Because I'm sacred.

And that's why I can't have coffee. It takes her all the way from the gas station, to the car, to the grocery store, and all the way back to the kitchen table just for her to explain it to me. Like I don't already know. Like we haven't already had this conversation a million times.

Sacred. Of all the things she could say, she says sacred.

And then she takes a deep breath, stands up, and tells me to do the dishes.

I can't wait to get out of here. Tomorrow I'll wake up, go to school, and get away from Mom and her lectures.

One day, I'll be out of here for good, and I'll go far away and do what I want. No lectures involved. No guilt about being so holy. Just me, and what I want.

That's all.

The next morning in the car, she's talking about joy again. She says you have to work for it. I tell her that I'd prefer to never have to work at all. She laughs at me and tells me that it's because I'm still a child.

Laughs at me.

My own mother.

She's saying something at me, but I get out of the car and close the door. Can't let her ruin my whole morning.

You'd think that I would finally get a break from all this, but I don't. Because she doesn't drop me off at school, oh no. That doesn't start 'til eight. Instead, I'm in church. Before the sun even comes up. Church.

At least I'm not alone. They make all of us go this early in the morning. I've spent every Sunday with these kids as long as I can remember, and we understand each other. We understand how ridiculous it is. After all, not everything is a matter of life and death. Not everything matters so much.

I grit my teeth as I get through the lesson. Old Testament people were messed up, and that's pretty much all I get out of it. At least they didn't have mothers who lectured them. Or maybe they did.

It takes forever for it to be over. Fifty minutes stretched into eternity. I guess it wasn't so bad; after all, there were some interesting bits. And at least it wasn't just me.

Mom wants to know what I learned about when I climb back in the car. She always wants to know what I'm learning. I have to say something, or she'll start talking again.

It's always funny when I get to school and see my friends getting dropped off. Their morning has just started; I've been up for hours by now. A couple of them hand coffee cups back to their parents as they put their backpacks on.

They must think I come from another world.

And I do. But I try not to show it.

It's really stupid, if you think about it. Making us get up early and not letting us have any coffee. All because of how sacred we are. Sacred people never get what they want, apparently.

It's a certain type that gets coffee on their way to school. They have the hair, and the clothes, and everything. They look at me as they walk by, or rather, they glance as they walk by in groups. I'm not that different from them.

I'm only different in every way that matters.



Regards, best wishes, and I'm not sure what to make of that myself,

-Cecily Jane

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

People Aren't Supposed to Be This Honest

My Dear Reader,

If I know you, I love you.

If I've met you once, and we never spoke again, I still love you.

If you don't want me dead, I consider you my friend. If you are generally pleased with the fact that I'm alive, you are my good friend.

If you and I knew each other a long time ago, and you really hurt me, I will remember all of the bad things you did to me only when I'm in a deep, dark place. At all other times, I only remember the best parts of you.

If you hurt me in the past and you want to be friends, I will first need to know that you aren't going to hurt me again. You will have to be very convincing.

If you've lost my trust, you will probably never get it back. At least, no one has yet. I still love you with all my heart.

If you're in trouble, I will try to help you, but I will also be afraid of making things worse. If I know you, I've already spent days agonizing over how to help you.

If I know you're in trouble, I don't know how to help you and/or you hate my guts, I'm praying for you every night. I'm praying that you will find a way to be happy, and that I will find a way to.

If you hate me, I am desperate to find a way to be friends, but I'm not going to punish myself by staying where I'm not wanted.

If you hurt, I physically hurt for you. This is not a metaphor. Once, when my friend was having foot surgery, I found myself limping for no medical reason.

I expect that you will one day betray me. It hurts more when you do.

I doubt everything. I doubt that up is really up, and that down is really down. I doubt that the sun will rise in the morning. I doubt that you could ever love me, even if you show me every day that you do.

When you tell me that you love me, I try really hard to believe you. Mostly I just try to trust you because I know that you're not a liar.

If you have some habit that really annoys me, I'll keep my distance from you. I still love you and think that you are a fantastic human being. I just can't stand certain mannerisms, and I don't understand why.

I have an irrational fear that I've done something to hurt you, and you now secretly hate me. It's silly, yet devastating.

If you are a guy, I don't believe that you could ever be interested in dating me. Even if you tell me that you are. Even if I'm in love with you.

If you are kind to me, I tell everyone how great you are behind your back.

If someone is unkind to you, I will defend you. Even if you started it.

If you are doing something wrong, I will tell you. I can't abide to stand by and watch you hurt yourself or others.

If you love something, I will try to love it, too. If I can't, I will love that you love it.

If you start dating someone, I will secretly hate them until they prove themselves worthy of you. The bar is set high.

If someone hurts you, I will stop them. Then, I'll despise them for all eternity and occasionally plan their downfall.

I am constantly trying not to bother you.

If we haven't spoken in a long time because of some of the choices you've made, I still love you. It breaks my heart that we can't be closer.

If you want to come back, I will be your ambassador.

You can never do something to stop me from loving you.

No matter what you do, I will never give up on you. I don't know how.

Because, like I said, if I know you, I love you.

Unless you've tried to hurt my little sister. Then I will tear you to pieces.


Regards, best wishes, and no expectation that you will return any of this,

-Cecily Jane

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Experiment: Mexican Coke Equals American Ingenuity?

My Dear Reader,

At the café where I work, we started selling Mexican Coke.

(As in, the soda. This is a proper establishment, after all.)

Mexican Coke is supposed to be better than American Coke, which is a complete reversal of the whole chocolate situation. This kind of Coke made with real cane sugar instead of corn.

Very clever, Mexico. Very clever.

Now, I'm not a really big or even almost medium cola fan. Soda in general is the kind of thing that I feel like drinking once every three-or-so months, and when I do feel like soda, I definitely don't feel like a bitter version of root beer. One thing I do love, though, is the iconic glass bottles that they only have in the commercials. AND, apparently, Mexico. Why Mexico gets the glass bottles, I don't know. I think they must still be mad that they can't make decent chocolate.

Most things go back to chocolate one way or another, I find.

One day, I somehow got the idea that these bottles would make excellent vases. You know, I'm all about repurposing/saving the Earth. For example, when I was unemployed and couldn't afford to buy new clothes, my wardrobe consisted almost entirely of things that my sisters accidentally left behind while they were visiting. You're welcome, planet.

And after thinking about using them as a flower vase, I thought it might be even cooler if I actually grew flowers out of them. I know, right? Genius.

The only trouble is that I really know nothing about flowers. I know how photosynthesis works, and that seed plus soil plus water plus sunshine is supposed to equal plant, but that's the extent of my knowledge on the subject, really. But I thought I'd try it anyway, as a sort of experiment. Can Cecily grow anything? Well, I've managed to keep my poinsettia alive this long, so who knows what I'm capable of? Who knows?

So, after consulting my very good friend The Internet, I figured out a few things. First, you need drainage, as in, a place for the water to go if there's too much of it. Since I can't drill holes into the bottom of the glass, I was instead instructed to use a layer of rocks. I then did a lot of research as to what kind of flowers would be the best, and after hours and hours of pouring over data, I went to several local stores and found that the best I could get was a packets of mixed partial sun flower seeds and a bag of dirt about fifty times bigger than what I needed. Oh, well. The cost was relatively low, since I got the bottles for free, and the rest cost me a total of about $4.50. My ingredients are pictured here:*

You may have noticed a few things: first, that we ran out of Coke and started selling non-iconic Pepsi bottles halfway through my attempt at collecting them; and second, that all the bottles except for one are upside down because they are drying after I sanitized them in bleach water. I decided that if this were to be a proper experiment, I needed a control, so I left one of the bottles as-is. I realize that it's actually a trivial difference and that it will probably no effect the outcome at all. It still manages to make me feel more scientific.

Here they are dried and filled with rocks:

After I sanitized them, all I had to do was assemble everything. I chose six different-looking seeds:
The packet says that there are supposed to be Cynoglossums, Calendula, Iberis, Coreopsis, Centura, Linum, and Gypsophilia seeds in there. I can't tell which is which, seeing as I'm not sure yet if these are real flowers. I may have been had.

The packet says that I can expect to wait seven to twenty-one days for the seeds to sprout, but I'm so happy to report that they started sprouting on Day Five! Well, one of them did. Here's an especially awful picture:
I promise that it's there.

And, on Day Seven (today), there was a second sprout! It's very exciting. I forgot to take a picture while the sun was up, and my phone's camera is so lame that I guess I'll have to wait until tomorrow to add it. I guess you'll just have to use your imagination?

Anyway, I'm pretty thrilled at how this is turning out so far. I really hope that it manages to work out, and I plan on giving you exclusive updates. You too will know the thrill of watching my plants grow. You're welcome.

In the mean time, I hope that you saw the State of the Union address, because only then will you truly be able to understand that I'm being a very good little American by taking something foreign and, with my American Ingenuity, turning it into something potentially awesome. So, in conclusion, all I have to say is this:

You're welcome, Mr. President. You're welcome.

Gosh, it seems like I'm just doing favors for everyone these days.

Regards, best wishes, and U-S-A! U-S-A!,

-Cecily Jane

*I avoid putting pictures on this blog for one simple reason: my entire family is filled with professional photographers, and I'm something of a squib. I even took these on my phone. It's very embarrassing. Almost embarrassing as those group therapy sessions with Mr. Filch. I really wish he would stop hugging me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2011! I So Know What Year It Is!

My Dear Reader,

So yeah, sorry about December. And November. And most of 2010.

To be honest, I should really apologize for most of 2009 as well. 2009 really bummed me out.

Don't think that I've forgotten about this blog. Or writing. I definitely haven't. Cecily and I talk about it all the time. It goes like this:

Cecily: Ah! It's Tuesday!

I: And?

Cecily: Well, I should post on Tuesdays. It's what I do.

I: Just listen to yourself. "I" should do this, "I" should do that. Why do you have to pin everything on me? Why don't you do anything for yourself?

Cecily: Well, you . . . I . . . what?

I: Exactly.

Cecily: I'm confused.

I: Actually, no.

Cecily: Well, somebody has to blog, and if I can't do it . . .

I: Who said I couldn't do it?

Cecily: What?

I: Don't tell me what I can't do!

Cecily: Lost is over, my friend. The island is a cork in a wine bottle full of evil. It's okay. It'll aaaaaall be okay. They're all so happy at the end. Even Kate!

I: If we can't live together, then we're going to die alone!

Cecily: Uh, I think I can agree with that.

(Silence)

Cecily: So, video games?*

I: Okay, fine.

So, yeah. Not a lot of blogging going on lately. BUT, I can consistently beat Age of Mythology on hard. That's pretty great. I play Norse.

Yeah.

Anyway, I wish I could tell you why I haven't been blogging, but I honestly don't know. All I can say is that I'm going through a thing, and I don't really want to be in that thing anymore. I think I want to be in another thing. Other things are shiny.

Anyway, I do realize that I've already made about seventy-five posts like this since awful ol' 2009. That's why I added that spicy conversation. I know you love those.

Oh, so next week? Next week there will TOTALLY be a new post up. I'm going to start writing it right now, actually. There might even be *GASP!* pictures. You never know. This blog be crazy.

Or something.

Regards, best wishes, and shiny things,

-Cecily Jane (with significant assistance by I)

*I really don't spend that much time playing video games. I really only own two: Age of Mythology and Age of Empires III. And I just got that second one (which I'll probably be able to beat on hard once I care enough to set up my hot keys. What?). I also read a lot. So there.