About my serious side

Not to break the spell or spoil the fun, but you've probably figured out my real name isn't Dummy.

The CTD Diaries is my playground. No one tells the truth in their diaries anyway so I figured I should find another place to get real, where the head lights aren't so bright. I originally thought this would be a good place to post my creative writing, but I think this is just a good place to tell the truth.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dear American Hero

My daughter just asked me to read this letter she wrote for her debate class. It's so beautiful I had to share:

Dear American Hero:

The marvelous things you do to keep me free amaze me every single day. This year in history we learned about the Revolution, the Civil War, and now we are learning about World War I. I was surprised to learn how many people died for our freedom and how many people have died to sustain it. I am so grateful that men like you are willing to put your life on the line to protect our country’s freedom. I know sometimes war can be disastrous and people wonder why we have a military, but I think that it’s incredibly brave and courageous for any man to stand up for his county. Without the military our country would be scared all the time that we could be bombed at any moment, but you provide security in the minds of every citizen.

This year I made it on my high school’s varsity soccer team as a ninth grader. It’s a huge responsibility but I love the sport and so it drives me to do better. This relates to you serving in our military. Even though it hurts sometimes, especially around the holidays, you love our beloved country so much that you are willing to work hard to sustain it. And in the end, all the pain that you have endured will be okay because you know that you have done a great service. Sometimes when I’m out of breath, almost ready to give up, I think of all the things I am grateful for and it motivates me to keep going, because I am very fortunate to live in this great nation. I know I am lucky to be able to live in a country with such a great military that are filled with people like you, dedicated to the cause and ready to fight for it.

Christmas is almost here and I can’t wait to eat some good old wholesome turkey. I know if you have a family, or a loved one here in the States, the holidays must be one of the hardest time’s because you can’t spend your time with them, but I think that it also has got to be one of the most blessed times to be military. First of all, you are what everyone is thinking about even more during the holidays. Every one begins to realize how lucky they are to have you out there serving them. Millions of people begin to think about all the services you have given them in there head. I know it’s hard anyway, but I want you to know that I am truly grateful for the wonderful things you have done for me, my family, and most importantly the United States of America.

Most Sincerely:

Tatum Frampton

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Room Where We Belong

I have to do this--seize this moment, capture it, even though I don't want to. I would rather laugh and hide and play than face pain, but when I face it I must record it or else I know I'll have to face it again and again until I record it properly.

I've been working on a response to my brother's comments about my truth post, but I need to interupt myself to write about the room where we belong.

This weekend I attended the funeral for a little 3 year old boy who died last Friday night after getting a piece of plastic lodged in his throat.

I have dreaded this funeral all week even though I generally enjoy funerals more than weddings. It's an oddity, I know, but I can't help it. I blame it on the fact that I'm a photographer and long to capture emotional truth. Weddings are just the beginning of a long hard struggle. Funerals are the end (before the page turns and a new struggle begins). At weddings love is bliss, but it's also ignorant. At funerals love is refined. It has already endured and solidified. Each embrace is filled, not with passion and excitement, but with compassion and reverance.

A child's funeral though . . . an unlived life . . . how do you offer condolences for that? How do you console the inconsolable?

That's not my gift.

All I can do is capture it. So capture it I must.

Thomas Jefferson, who lived a long and full life, lost nearly everyone he whole heartedly loved by the time he was 40 years old, but when asked if he would live life over again he said, YES! He loved life. But he said there was one thing he couldn't figure out about life--the meaning of grief.

It's an age old question/problem. The best and worst minds and hearts have grappled endlessly over it.

I keep a little book in my nightstand by C.S. Lewis called A Grief Observed. It's a candid journal of his reflections immediately after his wife died. The whole book is a desperate attempt to make sense of his grief, but waxing philosophical about pain doesn't ease it.

He says, "there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it. It doesn't really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist's chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on."

He says, "Reality, looked at steadily, is unbearable." But he also says, "You can't see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears."

It's impossible to make sense of our sorrows while we're sorrowing.

But those who have transcended their sorrows can crack a door for us or strike a match.

I wish Thomas Jefferson could have read some of the beautiful comforting words published about why we suffer, including this excerpt from a James E. Faust conference address:

“Here then is a great truth. In the pain, the agony, and the heroic endeavors of life, we pass through a refiner’s fire, and the insignificant and the unimportant in our lives can melt away like dross and make our faith bright, intact and strong. In this way the divine image can be mirrored from the soul. It is a part of the purging toll exacted of some to become acquainted with God. In the agonies of life, we seem to listen better to the faint, godly whisperings of the Divine Shepherd.”

One of the speakers at the funeral talked about getting and keeping a firm grip on the eternal truths and perspective we've been given and then shared a story about a little boy who was about to die. He asked his parents what it would feel like to die and his mother thought for minute before answering him like this:

"You know how you fall asleep on the couch sometimes and then you wake up the next morning in your own room? That's because your father scoops you up in his arms and carries you to your room. That's what dying will be like. You'll fall asleep with us and then your Heavenly Father will come and scoop you up in his arms and take you back to the room where you belong."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Nylons and a quick truth goose . . .

This past summer I got into a heated discussion with a few of my siblings over following counsel from the Stake President to wear nylons to church. I was really dumbfounded by it. And a little peeved. Thinking back, it's likely I'm a bit tainted, even cynical about religious power and authority because my husband and I have been working for the church for the past 12 years.

My poor brothers were somewhat aghast by my somewhat passionate stance against blindly obeying a stake presidents counsel about foot wear. I guess I just don't see what foot wear has to do with spirituality. Please don't try to explain it to me either because I've heard it all before, and I even slightly understand it, yet it still gets my knickers in a knot. See I'm one who sees our church and the Gospel as two different ball games being played against each other sometimes even though they're on the same team.

On the night I told my brother and several other family members I thought it was a misuse of authority for a stake president to set forth a proclamation calling all women to wear nylons to church I encountered an awkward silence. And then with wide eyes, one brother told me that he was worried about me. Worried that I might leave the church.

I was extremely surprised. I had never had anyone worry about me leaving the church before (except my husband when I almost left the church during my mid-life crisis 10 years ago.)

As I thought about it I realized that after living away from my siblings for nearly 20 years they really don't know me that well or what makes me tick. My brother wasn't insulting me, he was simply reacting to what he was seeing and hearing at that moment.

He has no idea how much I love the gospel principals, despite my irritations with the way it's imposed and implemented sometimes by members fumbling along trying to understand all the deep mysteries. Or worse yet, not trying to understand all the deep mysteries.

I think this is true of you, my readers, as well. You don't know me very well. When I poke fun at things--my husband, my mother-in-law, my friends, my kids, stake conference, relief society, Mormon mommies--some of you may not be sure how to take it or where it's coming from. When I tease you and then tell you I'm a liar, some of you may not know whether to believe me or not.

I thought it might be helpful if I cleared a few things up on this backstage blog. For those of you who are interested anyway. My hope is that it doesn't confuse you more.

I'm actually a truth stalker. I've been addicted to the search for truth and pinning down a definition of truth for several years now.

My class themes revolve around simple truths and complex ethics. We talk about morality and ethical dilemmas and layers of truth--relative truth, emotional truth, moral truth, happening truth, story truth. We often discuss things like whether it's ever okay to lie.

It's an extremely complex search. But one thing I've discovered is the way you tell the truth is almost as important as the truth itself. Form/style is as important as substance. I think of truth as a gift, and half the fun and excitement of receiving a gift is the pretty wrapping and the curly ribbons.

For instance, in the letter to my husband from jail a few of you noted, correctly, that I started off serious and then retreated back to my funny playful Crash self. But notice I got humorous, but I didn't get silly. Crash's diary is my silly place, where I can tease the truth. But here I will only humor the truth, humorously maybe, but only because sometimes the truth is funny.
But mostly it's not.

Often humor can reveal truth more quickly than coming directly to the point. Plus, I like to make my readers think. I hate to be handed anything on a silver platter and I want readers who hate it too.

Two reasons I used humor when writing that love letter:

1.) Love letters can sound trite. Love is so deep and complex and double sided. It's exhilarating, yet disappointing and disillusioning. It's never ending. In love it's hard to tell where emotional needs and ego are getting in the way of real intimacy. Love goes on and on and on, ever changing, yet ever persisting. Love never dies. It's like an idea. You can't kill an idea. You can kill love, but it's never fully dead. Love is a constant process of small and simple realizations. 

I wanted to express that side of love because that is the truth (for me). But it's hard to avoid generalizing with cliched phrases or passionate exclamations.

2.) Love is private.  And deeply personal.  It touches so deep that even if it were possible to come up with the precise words to describe it, it may not be appropriate to share in public.   I wasn't really writing a love letter as much as I was making a point about the nature of love/marriage.  Love is beautiful. But love is a lot of hard work. Love is serious business. But love is funny too.

There's nothing more pleasantly painful than love. Or truth.  But we just can't handle all that pleasant pain at once.

So why not soften it up a bit with some pretty paper and a nice curly bow?

It mattereth not, as long as the truth is inside, the gift is always worth opening.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Letter to my husband from jail. I mean from Relief Society

Sometimes I wish I was in jail. Not because I want to be a lawbreaker, but because the best letters are written from jail.

If I was in jail I wouldn't have to cook or clean or hold Relief Society Presidency meetings and I could spend all that extra time writing beautiful letters.

Martin Luther King, Jr wrote an astonishingly beautiful letter from Birmingham City Jail.

I think it's all that time, mixed with all that separation that creates all that astonishing beauty.

Joseph Smith wrote beautiful fervent longing letters while he was in jail too. On Sunday our Relief Society lesson was all about his tender letters to Emma.

The teacher gave us all a piece of paper and said "pretend you are in jail and you might not see your spouse again. Now write him a letter. GO!"

She gave us 3 minutes to complete this task. I put my nose right to the grindstone and tried to put myself in that fervent longing state of mind that I imagine comes from being in jail.

This is what I pumped out (unedited) in 3 minutes:

Dear Alan,

You have been the rock of my life. I am so lucky I have had you as my companion on earth because I needed you much more than I realized. For many reasons, but especially to teach me about forgiveness. You have taught me the true importance of marriage. Patience. Acceptance. Long Suffering. (On your part, not mine. Well, a little bit on mine too.) I have really seen my flaws and weaknesses through marriage and that made me angry at times. I blamed you for that--even accused you of not loving me enough. But I have realized that love has little to do with . . .

"Pencils down!" said the teacher.

If I was really in jail, I would have added that love has little to do with having your ego stroked and your emotional voids filled. I would have said, "thanks, hon for teaching me that love is a choice and not an instinct. It's caring about the personal growth and development of your lover."

Actually I think I learned that from The Five Love Languages. This one is a hard lesson because it's so fun to have your ego stroked and your emotional voids filled. But filling emotional voids can be like pouring water in a net and that can get a little futile and self-centered.

I would have told him I was just kidding when I said that God must have been drunk when he invented marriage--though that's not actually an insult if you think about it because all the founding father's were drunk when they divorced England and that turned out for the best. And if God was drunk, it was probably because he couldn't handle all the pain he was about to inflict on women, (for their own good, of course.)

I would have told him that I actually think marriage is an ingenious plan because it's a super-sonic refining process and we don't have much time here, and anyway I couldn't have asked for a finer super-sonic refiner.

I would have told him that I'm sorry about the years I was working through my trust and abandonment issues and that it's really unfortunate John Mayer wasn't a pop star when my dad was raising me.

I would have told him how thankful I am that his only obsession is with our kids (and Glenn Beck) and that I would never be able to read a map or shop at Walmart the day after Thanksgiving without him.

And then I would have told him that I love him deeply and I would have drawn a few hearts and added this P.S. which would have said, "I'm so glad I got to teach you that tone-of-voice should sometimes be the spoon full of sugar and not the medicine."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The truth about the boring old boat man

The truth about the boring old boat man is he's not boring at all.  And neither are his boats.  I just said that to make him feel bad.  

Nah, you guys know my whole purpose in life is to make others feel good.  Or at least to make others feel.   

The truth about the old boat guy is he's incredible.  I'm not interested in boats, but I am interested in life lessons and there are so many life lessons to learn from boat restoration. 

I don't know why I like to curl up with my laptop and go to the old boat guy's blog and watch him take his old boat apart, then carefully put it back together.  There's something so soothing about it.  So soothing that I've actually cried a few times while reading it (metaphorical tears, of course--which means real tears over metaphoric truths.) 

Maybe because it took him so much time and effort and dedication and care and commitment and patience.  Who is that patient anymore?  

Or maybe because he had to be so precise.  Who is that patient AND precise anymore?  

Or maybe because every step of his restoration process is a perfect metaphor for what we are in our master's hands and how patiently our master toils over each one of us in order to restore us to our perfect state because we can't do it ourselves.   

Whatever it is, I'm thankful there are still people out there like the boring old boat guy.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that, in case you didn't get the hidden truths embedded in all the mysteries wrapped in riddles inside the enigmas in my diary. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Through the Fence

A pastiche poem by Debbie Frampton and William Faulkner

Through the fence,
Between the curling flower spaces,
I could see them.
I could hear them talking.
A sound meaningless and profound.
I stood in weeds
And we looked at one another for a while.
There was a sense of water,
Swift and peaceful above secret places
Felt, not seen, not heard.

When I’m gone it will be easier on you.

I could still hear the clock between my voice
Ceasing as if cut off with the blow of a knife.
I don’t suppose anyone ever deliberately
Listens to a watch or a clock.

He looked at me
Then emptied everything out of his eyes.
I couldn’t stop it.
I knew if I tried to stop it I’d be crying.

I could hear it getting night.
It was like a door.
Only it wasn’t a door.
Then it was gray.
Then it was gone—
Beyond the broken, infrequent slanting of sunlight.

If things just finished themselves.
You’d think misfortune would get tired.
But then time is your misfortune.

I see now I must pay for your sins as well as my own.

The Man Who Never Was

A pastiche poem by Debbie Frampton and Tim O'Brien

He tied on a compress and told me to ease back.
In a way I already knew what was coming,
like staring into a black crystal ball, or being
inside a book nobody’s reading.
Way too real!

I kept waiting for the pain to hit, but
I didn’t feel much. A throb, that’s all.
Back then it felt like a miracle--
a pinprick of absolute lasting light--
a dreamy edge of impossibility to it.

We looked at each other, both of us
trying to pretend it was nothing special.
He shrugged and gave me a stare that lasted all day.
A secret smile, as if to warn me about something.
That’s the last thing I’ll ever see, I thought,
wishing I could do things I couldn’t do.

I heard cartoon music and figured my war was over.
Happy trails, he said and almost hugged me.
By then I was gone with the pain.

You’ll get used to it, they told me.
He’s the man who never was.

But then they don’t understand history.
They don’t understand that in the dark,
where things get soft,
the dead sometimes smile
and sit up and
return to the world.

And the smile
never goes away . . .

Sleeping Dogs

A pastiche poem by Debbie Frampton and Charles Dickens

You and me know what we know, don’t we.
We know our station. Ashes and dust.
It’s a mad world. Mad as bedlam!
Insanity or intoxication.

And I know what I am—a shapeless thought.
(I need be to get through this world at all.)
I wallow in words only meant to mystify.
My eyes, not being so much under control as my tongue,
send meditations to flight with an indescribably sensitive
pleasure, that very little would change to pain

Have you seen her?
She has spread a little pair of wings
and flown away before my eyes.
I ask pardon of that lady in my heart.

Why has she done nothing to set things right?

You know my motive--to bring forgiveness.
But it comes from my wicked hand,
thus the lessons of my life have been perverted.
I thought it possible that I could truly mourn for one
and not have some part in the grief of all.

Such is the first mistaken impulse of an undiscliplined heart.

But no matter. No matter!
When I say I’ll do a thing, I do it.
I do my duty. That’s what I do.
A weak-minded person may do what wonderful people may not.

Think of me at my best if circumstances should ever part us.

And tell me how you fare to feel upon your lone lorn journeys!
There’s time enough. Don’t hurry.
And don’t take refuge in a lie!

The time has past. I let it go by.
I had no conception of the wound I would droop beneath.
It died upon my lips
and there I leave it.
No one has ever raised the curtain since.

Ah, but let sleeping dogs lie----
Who wants to rouse ‘em?

Let Us Tear Life

A pastiche poem by Debbie Frampton and Pablo Neruda

Oh, sleeper in my shadow—
like the door to a secret tunnel,
every thing carries me to you.
Why did you pour your tender fire
so quickly over my life’s cool leaves?
Your roots pierced my chest
and suddenly my heart was filled
with fruits and sounds.
In your life I see everything that lives.
Your wide eyes are the only light I know.
Let us tear life from the rupture
that is breaking our hearts.
Invincible love, hide me
in your arms where my heart burns and rests.
Your hands and mine will steal the stars.

Hit or Miss the Moon

A pastiche poem by Debbie Frampton and Robert Frost

Whatever you do tonight,
Come and fetch me.

Drop everything!

Burst into my narrow stall
as reckless as the best of them tonight.

Let’s go up on the hill and scare ourselves.
mix sparks with stars.

Is it too late to drag you out?

Come, if you’re not afraid to
hit or miss the moon.

Here a Star, There a Star

A pastiche poem by Debbie Frampton and Emily Dickensen

Old fashioned eyes--
not easy to surprise.
I have found the phrase to every thought I ever had,
but one!
How still the riddle lies.
Here a star, there a star--
Can I expound the skies?
The moon slides down the stair.
The sunrise leaves the door ajar.

Ah friend! You little know how long the angels
labored diligent at this celestial wick.

Take care, for God is near.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ever After

A pastiche poem by Debbie Frampton and U2

A picture in gray--
all the colors bleed
into one, and what you don’t
know you can feel somehow.

Gypsy heart,
to touch is to heal--
to hurt is to steal.

I’m finding out all the things
I’ve been talking about.

Learn to kneel if you want to kiss the sky.
Lend a hand in return for grace.
Shed a tear and then let love go.

Ever after is a long time.

Alot Like Never

A pastiche poem by Debbie Frampton and Tim O’Brien

It’s time to be blunt—
Heat up the truth. Make it burn,
get the hell out of the way and let it tell itself
cause here, man, every sin is fresh and original.

None of it happened,
but it was as real as anything.
A kind of falling.
Higher and higher—The rockets red glare.
Pure knowing.
A lot like yesterday.
A lot like never.

It’s not a game. It’s a form.
A new wrinkle. Fine lines.
And it requires a perfect balance between
crazy and almost crazy—where things come together,
but also separate.
The distinction is important.

There’s a moral here.
There’s a definite moral here.
Once you’re alive, you can’t ever be dead.
And it will always be that way.

What Rot!

A pashtich poem by Debbie Frampton and Ernest Hemingway

The old grievance.

It was lousy to enjoy it, but I felt lousy.
I thought I had paid for everything,
but I had been getting something for nothing.
That only delayed the presentation of the bill.
The bill always came.
You gave something up and got something else.
A simple exchange of values. That was morality.
No, maybe that was immorality.
I didn’t care what it was;
all I wanted to know was how to live in it.

They say it’s important to discover graceful exits.
Swell advice.

Try and take it sometime.
Awfully easy to be hardboiled in the daytime,
but at night it’s another thing.
There’s that feeling of going through something that has happened before.
Something I had been through, and that now I must go through again.
Awfully amusing, but not too pleasant.
You know it makes one feel rather good
deciding not to be a bitch.

Damn noble!
Isn’t it pretty to think so?

What rot!

The Bitter Lapse

A pastiche poem by Debbie Frampton and Edgar Allen Poe

The sole intent of my somewhat childish experiment
had been to deepen that first singular impression.

Yet as I gazed upon him, I shuddered, not knowing why.
Perhaps it was the hideous dropping off of the veil—
The vacant eyes, like windows—
The paradoxical law of sentiments-

There are combinations of very simple natural objects
which have the power of thus effecting us.
Still, this power lies beyond our depth.

A mystery all insoluble.

I struggled to reason off the nervousness
which had dominion over me.

I could not account for such feelings,
nor could I grapple with the shadowy fancies
that crowded upon me as I pondered them.

There arose out of the pure abstractions
an intensity of intolerable awe.
A gradual wasting away--

a settled apathy—

The bitter lapse
into everyday life.


A pastiche poem by Debbie Frampton and U2

The sky falls--
takes the blame--
covers the shame--
I’m strung out like a guitar
and you don’t even look away.

I wasn’t jumping --it was a fall.
Just trying to find a decent melody--
trying to follow the scatter of light.
But love has to be believed to be seen.

human nature

The sun circles,
round and round--
liquid motion,
silent sound.

Finite fumbling
shadows spill--
flight of fancy,
almost real.

Sky is tipping,
space gives birth,
moon is tripping
over earth.

Stars go reeling,
senses sprawl--
human nature

Monday, October 6, 2008



and now
say unto you,

and i say

unto you,
thou shalt

and i
speak unto you again
that now ye know.

know ye not?

do ye not suppose
all these things?

yea, ye know!

thus saith i,

inasmuch as ye would,
and i desire

that ye should,
it must needs be--

for i have spoken it
and it shall come to pass.

NoTe: notice in this poem nothing is capitalized. that's an important clue to uncovering my attitude about rhetoric in religion.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Bathroom Door

The bathroom door is basement black and locked.
I can see it from my bed. I wait and watch
the yellow slip of light beneath the door.
I know a secret, it winks to me.
When I can’t wait any longer,
I slide out of bed and tap on the door.
Daddy, I say, can I come in?


Just a minute, he says, but it’s not his voice.
I’m eight years old and I wet the bed.
It’s better than the forever hallway,
past the fire-breathing furnace
and up the freezy back porch stairs.

I’m nine, I’m ten, I’m eleven.
My mom is whispering and
tapping at the bathroom door.
Yellow light blurs into black as
I squeeze my eyes shut tight.
The light can’t keep the secret anymore.
I found it in the towels.
I needed a cape so I could save the world,
but the secret was hiding in the towels.

I’m twelve and there’s a hammer.
Let me in! my mom screams.
So help me, God, I’ll break this door down!
The yellow light holds it’s breath for the blow.
Give me the needles!
She’s hitting and crying and hitting.
You . . . promised . . .You

I should have kept the secret in the towels.
I could have saved my daddy.

I’m fourteen and there’s a hole in the bathroom door.
The doorknob is gone. My daddy is gone.
We stuff the hole with paper and hope
no one comes in.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Woman Wanted


Woman Wanted: Preferably a virgin. Must be willing to serve God, country and three square meals a day. Must be in good shape and able to pull own weight (but not too much weight). Silent type preferred, particularly during Sports Center and between the hours of 10pm-6am. Honesty is a must, unless it goes against any social, cultural norms or hurts anyone’s feelings, especially mine. Sincerity is a prerequisite, even if you have to fake it. Must have a sense of humor and be able to laugh at yourself and my jokes. Did I say preferably a virgin? Ability to act independently is desirable, unless otherwise indicated. Experience both filling and taking orders helpful. Would prefer busty blond, but am willing to work out alterations. Benefits negotiable according to productivity. Full time, plus overtime required. No vacation time. Wages not quite minimum. No experience necessary—will train. Room, Board and French maid uniform provided, and some flowers if absolutely necessary. Please send resume, photo and self addressed stamped envelope. And don’t call me, I’ll call you.

The Real Cinderella Story

(Wow! I didn't even have kids yet. I guess I was a flaming feminist in my roaring twenties too.)

The Real Cinderella Story

The attitudes of this story do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the author, and all similarities to actual persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental.

Once upon a time in a far away land a long long time ago, there lived a stingy old bachelor (S.O.B). In fact, everyone in the entire land was an S.O.B because women were not yet fabricated.

One sunny morning the S.O.B. made some porridge for breakfast before he began scrubbing his kitchen floor. He soon wearied and became bored to tears and, in great frustration, flung his scrubbing brush across the room.

“I’m sick to death of scrubbing all day long. All I ever do is pick up after myself while my mind wastes away,” he cried, shaking his fist at the ceiling. “I want more to show for my life than dishpan hands.”

Suddenly a fairy godfather appeared. “Fear not,” he bellowed, “I’m working on a plan!”
“Whatever do you mean?” asked the S.O.B., quite taken aback.

“Alas, I’m drawing up the blueprints for what I call a woman.”
“What on earth is a woman?”

“Only the latest in modern convenience--something to take care of all your daily drudgery, freeing you up to think.” The fairy godfather smirked as the S.O.B rubbed his chin and bobbed his head.

“Fascinating,” he replied, “but will this woman-thing be . . . human?”

“Why yes, she’ll be as much alive as you and the rest of the S.O.B.’s”

“But if she doesn’t like doing my daily drudgery? What is she wants to think instead of make my porridge?”

“Oh dear . . .” The two fell silent while the fairy godfather paced back and forth across the nook. “I’ve got it!” he boomed at length, “We shan’t give her a brain!”

“What? No brain? But how will this woman know when to serve me? How will she know when to fetch my meals or hang my laundry?”

“Agreed. She would be quite useless without a brain.”

“I’ve got an idea!” cried the S.O.B. “let her think she can think.”


“We’ll tell her she can think as soon as she finishes going to the market and feeding all the animals and darning my socks and. . . “ his voice escalated, “scrubbing this blasted concrete floor!”

“But what if she does finish her tasks and demands to think with the rest of the S.O.B.’s?”

“Well, then, we’ll just have to give her more tasks. By the time she finishes them all, she’ll be so tired she won’t even care about thinking.”

“Brilliant!” said the S.O.B. now pacing rapidly as his mind began to churn. “I feel alive!” he cried.

“There are so many new things to think about. And so much time to think them in.” Then suddenly he stopped as if struck. “Do you think I will ever get tired of thinking?”

The fairy godfather shook his head. “Pshaw. But in the unlikely event that you ever do get tired of thinking, the woman can entertain you.”

“I like that idea,” said the S.O.B. “Make her very pleasing to look at so if I ever get bored I can look at her.”

“And if you get really bored . . . you can touch her.”

“Touch her?”

“Purely for your own entertainment of course.”

“Good golly, fairy godfather, I think you’re on to something.”

The fairy godfather smiled smugly.

“But if I’m looking and touching when will I have time to think and when will she have time to serve me?”

“Well, why don’t we make some women pleasing for looking and touching, and make the rest plain and sturdy for serving.”

The S.O.B. was now rubbing his hands together and looking gleefully about, when suddenly his face twisted up in puzzlement. “Wait!” he started. “What if the plain ones finish cooking and cleaning and darning and feeding and serving and then demand to join the men in conversation?"

“Easy, we’ll tell them they can join the men in conversation just as soon as they make themselves as pleasing to look at and touch as the ones we look at and touch.”

“Eureka!” shouted the S.O.B.

The fairy godfather, drained from thinking so hard, began to yawn. “I could sure use a large glass of ale,” he smiled wickedly.

“Let me get that for you,” said the S.O.B. And then he stopped . . . and smiled. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“Let’s do it!” The fairy godfather scanned the room and peered out the window at the garden and the pastures full of grazing cows. “Perfect,” he said. “Bring those cows hither.”

The S.O.B. quickly obeyed and the fairy godfather as waved some pixie dust around the cow, ranting and raving something about bibbity bobbity and then BOO!”

“What do you think?” asked the fairy godfather as soon as the dust settled around the two dazed figures, blinking and staring.

The S.O.B. nodded approvingly. “I like what you’ve done to the udders,” he said.

As soon as the two new women were put to work, the fairy godfather and the S.O.B. began scouring the kingdom for farm animals. After countless experiments they discovered that horses made the most pleasing women when they were bored, but got rather haughty and spoiled when asked to fetch things, and eventually turned into nags.

Vegetables! Now that’s what good women were made of—straight from the earth and particularly cooperative. The perfect prototype for an ordinary woman.

Consequently, all the S.O.B.s in the land became gardeners and lived happily ever after.

The End.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Letting Daddy Die


He is face down on the floor, his hair carefully combed, his arms tightly folded under his chest. His favorite red flannel shirt is tucked neatly into his dark denim jeans. He is wearing his thick brown belt for special occasions and brand new socks. Directly above him on the floor is a framed portrait of Christ smiling serenely, a lamb strewn across his shoulders. On his right side, where his face is tilted, is an 8X10 picture of us--all of us--taken at a scout fundraiser just before the separation six months earlier. In it his grin is far too wide. “Look happy!” he had said, then, BAM, we all said cheese and it was done.

My sister enters the room behind me. My mom is still climbing the front porch stairs. We don’t watch her come in, only hear her telling dad we brought him some homemade bread before her voice snags in her throat.
A moment of silence. A pause before the pain.

My sister leans forward, bends her knees and, as if yanked out of thin air, is caught in my mind like a fish on a hook, flopping on the couch beside the body. My mom trots around before kneeling down and placing two fingers over his right wrist. She freezes, covers her mouth and, eyes wide, twists her neck backwards. Now she is galloping from the body to the phone to the open window where the sun shoots into the room, exposing my dad in various shades of death.
The March chill bites into my skin and I begin to shake. Spring has sprung like a mousetrap.

Across the street a postman strides from house to house, nodding pleasantly at a woman pushing a stroller. The postman says something to the baby which makes the woman smile. A toddler, trailing behind, sprinkles cheerios from a baggie into the leftover crusted snow where a flock of birds gather and peck incessantly. When the cheerios are gone the toddler beings to point and scream and then a pack of firefighters burst into the room. One of them has his arm around my mom. She looks at him with large glassy eyes as he directs her to the couch. Now she’s lying down and he’s telling her that everything is going to be alright.

“Looks like he’s already gone,” says one fireman to another.
“Been gone for a while,” comes the reply, as if we hadn’t noticed.

The toddler continues to scream across the street.
“Lookie! Firetruck!” his mom points and tells him, but it’s no use.

From the couch my mom bobs up and down like a weeble.

“Ma’am, can I ask you when you last saw your husband?” the fireman says.
“Yesterday,” she tells him.

I didn’t see him yesterday. I could have, but I didn’t because there was a school dance. I can’t think of the last time I saw him. Was it the concert where my friend and I ditched him for closer seats so we could act like star-crazed teenagers? He was tripped out on the ride home and drove way too fast.
“See ya later, alligator,” he said when he dropped me off.
“Whatever, Dad,” I said, slamming the car door.

Had I seen him later? I couldn’t remember. Maybe the last time had been in the school cafeteria when I ran for class secretary and pretended not to notice him putting up campaign posters for me. Or maybe it was the night he walked me home from his apartment after I came to borrow money.

“You don’t have to walk me home,” I told him, but he insisted. He tried to ask me about boys and school, but I just rolled my eyes. He told me about a great book written by a young girl about my age named Anne Frank.

“You should read that book,” he said.
“I have,” I told him.

The toddler’s screams get louder and louder and then stop suddenly in front of the house. Two medics burst into the room with a stretcher. They turn the body over and I look away. When I look back he is hooked up. There is a whirl of buzzing and ringing followed by a few broken beeps. They pull out flat metal paddles and rub them together. I look away again. They’re going to jump start him. I exhale. That’s all he needs . . . just one more jump. Turn the ignition and his motor will ignite. I am sure of it. In 3 days it will be April 1st and I will feel the same surety as his casket is lowered into the ground. I will hold my breath, positive that he will bust out with his wide grin and shout April fools! It made sense. It was the ultimate practical joke from the ultimate practical joker. He had pulled off a real hum dinger. You got me, Dad, I would say. For a second there you were nearly dead. No, he would correct me, for a second there I was nearly alive.

When I look back the stretcher is in mid-air, suspended for a moment between here and there as my dad passes me in a blur of stinging red and violet.

“Tell me,” I would ask my sister over and over, “was the toddler still crying when they lifted him into the ambulance?”

“No,” she would say. “I don’t remember a toddler.”

“What about the body? What was it like when you found him?”

“He was face down. Wearing a red flannel shirt . . . and jeans, I think. The window must have been open all night because it was freezing and his arms were tucked up under his chest.” At this point she would begin to blink back tears. “The thing is . . .” she would say, “there was this picture of Christ on the floor above him. And there was that family photo . . .” she would trail off.
“The one we had taken for that scout fund raiser?” I would finish.

“Yes, that one . . . “

I would have been there, I almost tell her. I could have been.

“Just be happy you weren’t there,” she tells me.

But I should have been.

I still find him there sometimes, lying on the floor, his hair carefully combed and his red flannel shirt neatly tucked into his dark denim jeans. Sometimes I get there before he dies. I close the window and cover him with a blanket. He cries a little and says God forgive me as his breathing gets louder and raspier. He gasps when he realizes that he’s really done it this time. He wants to change his mind, make things right, but it’s too late. His chest is already heaving.

Other times I get there before he puts the needle in. I sit next to him on the floor and see his tears, Daddy, are you okay? I say. I reach out and put my hand on his shoulder. Do you need to talk? He opens his eyes with surprise. Don’t worry about me, Honey, he tells me, but I stay and wait.

Later he asks, Why are you here anyway? Do you need something? No, I tell him. I just came to see if you were okay.

Sometimes I ask him to recall our last memory together. This IS our last memory together, he says.

No, for real, I say.

He pauses and smiles. You? For real?

Eventually he always breaks down and tells me that he couldn’t take it anymore. That he was a failure. . . a sinner. He tells me he messed everything up. He buries his face in his hands and apologizes for being such a disappointment to me. I know you’re ashamed of me, he says. He tells me that he’s ashamed of himself. He’s sorry about all the times he shot up while we were around and how he wished I hadn’t seen him that way--how he wished my friends hadn’t seen him that way. And finally he says that he’s sick and he’s sick of being sick. You’ll all be better off without me.

I rub his shoulders and tell him I’m sorry too, and that everything will be okay, that I understand he’s having a rough go of it and I know he’s trying his best. It’s a lie, but later it will become the truth. He will sit up and hug me and say, you don’t really mean that.
Of course I mean it, I say, even though I don’t, yet.

I skip the school dance that night and make popcorn and we watch some TV together and talk about boys and school. I thank him for the campaign posters and tell him how much I loved The Diary of Anne Frank. He gives me butterfly kisses before my wedding and a high five when I graduate college.

Usually, after all of our talking and crying and hugging, he puts the needle in anyway and the medics carry him out.

After while, crocodile, he says as he passes me standing in his living room.

Wait! I call out and the medics stop. I said I was sorry! Doesn’t that count for something?

he puts his finger to his lips and his eyes fill with tears. It was a good try, but life’s just not that cut and dry.

Well, I’m not just going to stand here and let you die! I shout after him. '

You already have, he tells me, then POOF, he disappears.