John Henry and the honeysuckle Mar 5, 2012
So when John Henry retired from driving steel he moped around the house and he moped around the yard until Polly Ann shouted, “John Henry, why don’t you quit your moping around like a soggy pie and dig me a garden!” So John Henry picked up his shovel and he picked up his mattock and he started digging. But there was honeysuckle growing all over the fence, all up one side and down the other, and those vines ran underneath the ground from here to there and back again. John Henry dug from one end of the yard to the other, but everywhere he put his shovel, the honeysuckle vine reached up and snagged it. That honeysuckle snagged his shovel, it snagged its mattock, it even snagged John Henry’s foot. Ol’ John Henry put down his shovel and said, “Lord, that honeysuckle’s gonna be the death of me!” Read more
A fable Sep 22, 2008
The king of Ustreasia was a wealthy man, wealthy beyond compare. His kingdom was peaceful and lovely, and his people were hardworking and kind and ethical, for the most part. But for all the riches of his kingdom the king’s true pride was his herd of elephants. And what elephants! Bulls all, with slashing tusks and stamping feet and trumpeting calls that echoed throughout the capital. For generations the royal trainers had taught the elephants to march in procession, to carry the king and queen upon their backs. They passed the knowledge of their profession on to their children and were respected with soldiers and priests. The people watched the royal parades and felt pride, and visiting rulers smiled in appreciation of such well-kept animals. Read more
The words we leave behind Mar 30, 2007
A triptych of observations about my grandmother, my dog, and a guy in a Starbucks in Houston.
Caroling Dec 12, 2006
Some nights in December the wind whipped in from the west and brought an unreasonable cold that you wouldn’t expect at our latitude. Never in January, for reasons I would have needed meteorology school at Penn State to understand; only in the days before Christmas when you didn’t mind so much because holiday errands and twinkling lights and parties kept you warm. Or maybe my memories are fogged with youthful astigmatism: bitter cold fazes you less at sixteen. I don’t remember feeling cold. I remember excitement at the wind’s shrill touch on my cheek. I remember that the wind fired at us so hard my father taped Saran Wrap over the electrical outlets on the western walls of the house lest the icy air pry through. I remember that we would listen to radio-broadcast calculations of wind chills like football scores: how low can it go? Minus twenty? Minus forty? The numbers grew meaningless, out of our experience, as if they were given in metric.
On one of these nights we went caroling, my friends and I, about a dozen of us. Caroling in the country is not like caroling in town, where I imagine it to be like film versions of Dickens stories and you walk from house to house and the streets are lit by gaslight and people expect you and invite you in for wassail. Read more
Method Jan 12, 2006
My father believed in the Method.
In the photograph on my mother’s wall I am dressed for Hallowe’en, a toddler king. I love my homemade costume; I lope around the living room, grinning lopsidedly, swishing my cape. “You’re a king, not a queen!” my father moans. “Straighten up! Affect an air of command!” I bark orders at my teddy bear, eager to please.