Not So Small Hero


Koji looked at the assorted items he’d gathered and hoped it was enough. He’d never attempted magic before. Pushing down the feeling of panic that was threatening to burble out of his stomach and into his throat and shouted the words to finish the rite.

Koji blinked and looked around him. Where was the powerful kami the ritual should have summoned? He hung his head, about to limp away, until he heard a tiny little cough followed by a slurping noise. He looked down. Sitting in front of him was a tiny yokai with a bird’s beak and three fish tails drinking a bowl of tea. It blinked up at him with its large eyes. He could not decide if it was more adorable or grotesque. Either way, he knew he should still be polite.

“Hello,” he said.

“Hello,” she trilled. “Would you care for some tea?”

“No thank you. I’m sorry to have bothered you. I was hoping to summon someone, er, bigger.”

She blinked at him again. “Why?”

 Koji flushed and looked away. “I had hoped they could train me. To be a strong warrior, like my brother was.”

“I wouldn’t be much help there. Are you sure that’s what you wanted?”

“Yes! He saved so many, like a hero in a story. I want to be one too, even though—”

“Oh, I see now. I can help you.”

“You can teach me to fight?” Koji’s eyes widened.

“No,” she said. “I’ll help you save lives.”

“How?”

“I’ll give you knowledge.”

“How will that help?”

“Have you heard people wishing they could go back to such and such time to do something that would have made a situation better? The moment to act is now. I’ll tell you what actions to take. But they will be simple, not the stuff of stories. You’ll get no praise or reward from anyplace other than your heart. Will that do?”

Koji nodded. She told him of a coming plague, and how to stay safe. When she finished, she gave him her tea bowl, which grew to fit his hands.

“Share the knowledge as you would share tea,” she said before disappearing.

"Thank you," he replied.


Liner Notes for This Groove: This short story was created for Poetry and Storytellers United's Weekly Scribblings #13: All the Small Things. It was inspired by an Atlas Obscura article about a healing spirit known as Amabie. You can also find out more about Amabie at Yokai.com After reading about her, I couldn't help by try my hand at drawing her too.




Nevertheless

Dear descendant,

Right now your ancestress
is reminded of the time
she was warned
about a super storm bearing down.

Everyone else made jokes
right up until they saw
the eerie green sky,
that turned skeptics into believers
in a baptism by hurricane.

Is the sun shining while you are reading this?
Are you sharing hugs
with all the folks you love
free from the feeling
that your touch has doomed them.
I hope so.

Sometimes it seems
that the time you live in
is more real to me than mine
because I can imagine
some sort of normal existing there
that isn’t possible here.

In this time, my time,
there’s ugly trying to choke
the bright out of anything
that wants to shine.

Your ancestress,
she was given an explanation
for this vacuum of leadership.

Some had their reasons you see
to keep dancing with all the devils
that brought them to the party.

But there is more than arrogance and disdain
flowering in this time too, dear descendant.

There were folks all lined up
at a local grocery store
waiting their turns to shop
their friendliness still able to reach
their fellow shoppers and the store employees
from six feet away.

There’s folks checking in their neighbors.
People who bring in other people’s kids from the cold.
There are people sharing their talents
over electronic campfires,
patching over the frayed bits of life
with colorful fabric of their own weaving.

There’s people sharing what they have
to make things last
just a little longer, until this is over.

Which makes me hope

there will be a tomorrow
when this ancestress can hand off her letter
to a future generation
who will understand what she means
when she says love is what saved us in the end,

despite devils and skeptics.
Nevertheless, she persisted.


Pandora by John William Waterhouse
Song Choice: Dear Winter by AJR

This piece was created for Weekly Scribblings #12 at Poets and Storytellers United, Nevertheless, She Persisted. You can hear me read this poem out loud on my Instagram and Facebook pages.

Who Makes Friends During a Quarantine?


When my kids were small, our family had a joke that if we had plans to go anywhere, Darling Eldest needed two weeks advance notice and Darling Youngest should only be told once they were buckled in the car seat. Darling Youngest has always been super social, wanting to be in the thick of every gathering and wanting to be there NOW. We used to call them “The Mayor” based on how easily they made friends and end up knowing pretty much everyone wherever we went.

Darling Youngest at the prom, just a couple of weeks ago.

As you may have guessed, the last couple of weeks have been tough on them. It wasn’t too bad when school got cancelled one day, but when it turned into a week (and now at least two weeks) they weren’t amused. Then the plans for a big birthday sleepover had to be scrapped. The local malls closed. The clubs that meant so much to them canceled events. No more all-day Dungeons & Dragons sessions at friends’ homes. No more wandering around town.

There were tears. And a bit of screaming.

Although my introverted self could not relate, I still felt bad for them. I spent a little time trying to find fun things to do. I tracked down some neat concerts, virtual museum visits, and performances from theater kids after they retreated to their bedroom in a huff. But when they came out again, they were quite excited.

One of their favorite influencers on Instagram, Jessi Paege, started encouraging her followers to start group chats to support each other. Darling Youngest made several new friends right away and has been happily texting them back and forth since then.

At first I thought, “Leave it to the Mayor to come out of this with a bunch of new friends.” And while that’s true, I thought of all the cool things I found researching and how wonderfully adaptive people are in finding creative ways to connect. I don’t know how long this will last, or how bad it will end up being. But I know that ways exist to keep connecting, keep living, in spite of it all, and that is a comfort.

Who makes friends during a quarantine? Anyone who'd like to.




This post was created for Poets and Storytellers United’s Weekly Scribblings: Hypophora and All That. Come and connect with us there. Also, you may want to keep an eye on my Facebook page and Instagram. I might try my hand at video readings to do my part at making this period of time feel a little bit less isolating. How are you keeping yourself occupied? Tell me all about it in the comments.