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.


Early Bird


The darkness doesn’t mind
which side you choose to greet it on.

I prefer to say hello
accompanied by only
the scent of my first cup of tea.

I love discussing the world
with my darling youngest.
I love laughing at its foibles
with my darling eldest.
I love sharing new experiences
with my husband.

But this dark, shifting
around on the far end of night
when all but a few patient stars
have withdrawn for the day,

is just for me,
and my wild ideas
that need steeping 
in deep darkness
alongside my morning cup of tea.


Bird on a Branch by Seiko

This poem was created for Poets and Storytellers United's Weekly Scribblings prompt, Early Bird or Night Owl.



Alice and the Not-Rose

“Contagion,” screeched the Red Queen as she pointed to the odd flower. “Who betrayed me?”

Her retinue of cards threw themselves at her feet, jabbering apologies. “Shall I pull it out, my Queen?” one asked.

“Pull? One of my precious roses? Off with his head!”

As the rest of the cards dragged the questioner away, Alice looked at the flower again. Remembering it was important to curtsy first, she asked, “Majesty, I don’t understand. You said this flower was a contagion, but you don’t want it pulled.”

The Queen rolled her eyes. “No rose of mine could be a contagion, you simple child. It’s been contaminated! Who did it? That gardener? I never trusted her.”

“Majesty, are you sure this is a rose?”

“I am surrounded by fools,” she said, rubbing her temples. “Child, where are we standing now?”

“Your rose garden.”

“And what grows in rose gardens?”

“Roses?”

“Precisely. Therefore, this is a rose that must have been infected into forgetting itself.”

“Is it possible that a different sort of flower had been planted?”

The Queen turned an angry red. “Are you saying I am mistaken about what grows in my garden? Only roses are planted and only roses grow here! Something infected it.” The Queen started examining the earth around the flower, then noticed the book Alice held. “What were you doing here?”

“Reading a book about flowers from around the world. See, there are sunflowers, orchids, lilies…”

The Queen reared back. “You did this! You gave my poor rose ideas of being something else.”

Alice was fairly sure that wasn’t how things worked. She watched dumbfounded as the Queen put a large pot over the flower. “Now it’s protected. Get out or I’ll have your head!”

Alice left, but returned later that evening. She lifted the pot, then dug up the flower. Using the pot to carry it out, she took it to the Cheshire Cat’s woods where she replanted it.

“There. I’m really not certain what sort of flower you are,” Alice said. “But you were hardy enough to survive this afternoon. You’ll be happier here.”

The flower said nothing but released a sweet fragrance. Taking that as a good sign, Alice left.

The Red Queen by Mark Tonelli


Song Choice: Painting the Roses Red from Alice in Wonderland

This piece of flash fiction was created for Poets and Storytellers United Weekly Scribblings #9: Contagion.

Saturday Morning Strawberries

Although logic told her it was only a few feet away, Stacia’s bedroom door may as well have been on Mars as far as she was concerned. She had been staring at it for over an hour now. She thought about getting up to shower at least twice, but the most she had managed to do was scratch the side of her neck.

Her stomach growled. She barked out a laugh, more startled than amused. Such an ordinary noise felt so strange in the silence.

That means I’m hungry, she said to herself. Though she didn’t feel enthused about the idea of eating.

Eat, she told herself more forcefully this time. It can be anything. It can be something small. Just eat.

After her stomach insisted again, Stacia got up, lumbered towards the door and left her bedroom. The sight of her cluttered living room almost made her turn around. But it was easier just to keep going in the same direction.

Stacia opened the door of the fridge. The small bud of victory she felt from making it this far was swallowed up as she took in everything inside. It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to be anything that’s a lot of work, she reminded herself. Her eyes fell on a container of strawberries.

She pulled the plastic container out, closed the door, and sat of the kitchen floor. Not bothering to wash them she grabbed the nearest strawberry and took a bite. Stacia thought back to how when she was a kid her mom would set out a bowl of condensed milk for her to dip strawberries into on Saturday mornings. She made herself eat the second strawberry more slowly. There might be condensed milk in the pantry.

I can do this. Stacia got up, still holding the berries, and grabbed a can opener along with the can of condensed milk. She went to the couch and looked at how far she had come. The bedroom door still looked miles away. But now she had strawberries and condensed milk, and she knew she’d be able to find a favorite cartoon or two on a streaming service. That was enough.


Photo by Esther Wilhelmsson on Unsplash

Song Choice: Breathe Me by Sia

This flash fiction piece was created for Weekly Scribblings #8 on Poets and Storytellers United, Red Fruit Rendition.

Cosplay on!

I’ve always admired the geektasticness of cosplay. For those of you not as steeped in nerdiness as I am, cosplay is when folks dress in costumes meant to resemble their favorite characters in film, television, comics, books, etc. (here’s a quick little video to give you some visuals). Cosplay can be seen as a tribute of sorts to those works of art that inspire the cosplayer in some way.

The first time I cosplayed was my senior year in college with my then boyfriend (now husband).

We went as Green Arrow and Black Canary
as we both were really into that series back then.

I really haven’t done much cosplaying since then, because it can be a time consuming (as well as money consuming) hobby. But quite recently, my whole family is in planning mode. An honorary niece has a Bat Mitzvah coming up, and she has asked that her guests come in cosplay.

We’ve been joking around a bit about who we should dress up as. I’ve trying to convince my husband that Miss Crumble (Daybreak) and Koro-sensei (Assassination Classroom) could be a very workable couples' costume as they are both dedicated educators (who also happen to be batty). Darling Youngest is lobbying for something Steven Universe based (they want to be Steven and thought the hubby and I could be Greg Universe and Amethyst…they really don’t care what their older sibling does). The hubby would like to consider more options. Darling Eldest is in the middle of college classes but will probably figure out something during spring break.

I do know for sure what one of the cosplays will be. The Bat Mitzvah girl is a big reader and she wanted to base her cosplay around a short story she really liked…one of mine! The kiddo is going as Cordelia from “Make Mischief Not War”, from my short story collection, The Trouble with Wanting and Other Not-Quite Faerie Tales.

Yeah, I got misty-eyed. This is kind of bucket-list territory for me, having someone like one of my characters that much. I’m going to be so stoked to see “Cordelia” swing dancing in a ballroom.

Song Choice: Talk Nerdy to Me

So are there any cosplayers out there? Any suggestions for costume ideas? Feel free to make them in the comments section.

This blog post was created for Weekly Scribblings #7: This is a Tribute

The Apple


The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,
except of course when it does.

And who’s to say what will happen
once it’s done falling.

Especially if it has a good view
of the valleys all around it

with hills just perfect for rolling in.

The Son of Man by RenĂ© Magritte


Song Choice: How Far I'll Go From Moana

This poem was created for the Weekly Scribblings over at Poets and Storytellers United. 

Black Hollyhock


I remember when I first saw her.
I composed the hymn in my heart right away.

I can’t remember the other things
on display at the museum that day.

I only had eyes for that large dark flower
taking up most of the space in the composition.

I don’t recall the exact words I wrote later
but it was my first prayer of praise

for a goddess who taught me
how very beautiful 
and worthy of admiration
darkness can be.




Liner Notes for This Groove: In high school we had a trip to the Met in NYC, which is where I first saw Black Hollyhock and Blue Larkspur by Georgia O'Keeffe. I bought a print and wrote my first 'for fun' (as opposed to 'for homework') poem when I got home. I remember that I wrote it in the form of a prayer (I think I was inspired St. Francis's Canticle of the Sun) and that I liked it well enough to submit to my high school's literary magazine. And they accepted it! I think it was the first time it crossed my mind that I might enjoy this writing business.

Song Choice: Who Says by Selena Gomez & The Scene

Corgi and the Ramp


We aren’t 100% sure of how old our Kit is. The rescue organization estimated he was about 3, and we’ve had him for 6 years. That puts him at 9. Like our first dog, Faye, he’s a corgi. But unlike Faye, he’s lazy. He was a whopping 45 pounds when we adopted him, compared to Faye’s top weight at 19 pounds. And also unlike Faye, who was notoriously picky, Kit eats like he’s unsure of his next meal.

Corgis can develop back problems when they are too heavy. Despite our best efforts to whittle down his weight, things came to a head this last holiday season. We don’t know what his life was like before he came to us, but we do know he’s terrified of loud noises—whether it’s loud laughter, expressions of disgust during video games, or teen bickering. When things get noisy, Kit likes to retreat into our bedroom. The trouble is, that’s on the second floor. After a week of going up and down stairs several times a day, he was done.

The vet said it was vertebral disc injury, but it was too soon to tell how bad it was. His stomach wasn’t doing so great either, so mild meds, acupuncture, and rest (no stairs) were recommended. We got him a ramp to deal with the last issue.

He wasn’t keen on it at first. We tried to tempt him into using it by setting it up to go to the window seat. If he couldn’t chase squirrels, at least he’d be able to bark at them. He sniffed but refused to trust the odd new addition. We want to keep him less pudgy, but he was getting better enough to be sassy and try jumping up and down off things. Low-cal rewards were clearly the lesser evil. And it worked. 

I need to be fast folding it out, because he can be impatient and try a leap he has no business attempting. Still I’m thrilled that the acupuncture is working so well, and even more miraculously he doesn’t seem to mind it. We’ll still need to keep an eye on his back, but hopefully he has plenty of squirrel chasing years ahead of him.

Kit near his downstairs dog bed, wondering what I am doing.



Song Choice: Jump by Van Halen

This essay is linked to Poets and Storytellers United's Weekly Scribblings #4

Sea in a Bottle


Zizi regarded the space yet to be filled in her basket then looked at the sea. What could she use to hold it in? She pulled out the half full bottle of water from her coat pocket. It was getting late in the afternoon and she had things to do at home. She wouldn’t finish the water.

She walked to a nearby shrub and shared her water with it before continuing down the steps, towards the spot where the freshwater stream met the sea. Once Zizi was satisfied she had enough water, she walked back.


She spread out all the things she gathered on her work bench at home. With a cup of tea in hand, Zizi started dividing up them into piles she thought would work together. She’d hold something up to her ear every now and then or stroke it with her hand before deciding where to place it. At the end she had sorted everything except the water.

She laughed. It was a bit of a silly impulse to have gathered it. She’d never used water in one of her jars before. Maybe she’d keep it for her personal collection. She went to find another jar to transfer it to, when she saw the box of random treasures a friend had given her. A bit of sea glass, a tiny sand dollar, a small jar…yes, she could make this work.


Zizi just finished arranging her display on the vending table when a woman from another table came over.

“These are so beautiful,” she said. “I’m Jenna, by the way.”

“I’m Zizi. Thanks.”

Jenna picked up the jar with the seawater, sand dollar, and sea glass. She immediately got an image of herself as a teen, visiting the shore with her mother. They had both played hooky from school and work that day. It was a blast. Jenna still missed her so much.

Zizi saw the look on Jenna’s face. “I never know why I make the things I do, but I know when they’ve found a home. Care to work out a trade,” she asked, nodding towards Jenna’s table.

“Oh yes,” Jenna said, with the sea’s scent and her mother’s smile still lingering in her mind.

Photo by Mohamed Ahsan on Unsplash



Song Choice: Time in A Bottle by Jim Croce

This piece of flash fiction was created for Poets and Storytellers United's Weekly Scribblings #3: Salt-Water Poetry.

Hour of the Ox

The oni considered the figure in white as she wobbled out of the mists, heading for the sacred tree.

“That one has the look of ‘he’s done me wrong for the last time’ on her face,” he said right before popping a glutinous rice ball the same shade of white as her robes into his mouth. He chewed it slowly. “What do you think, Fumihiro?”

“I think you had better share the mochi, Eiji,” Fumihiro said. His red, clawed hand pulled out several of the sweet treats from the bowl and gobbled them up.

Eiji did nothing to stop his elder brother from taking the mochi. He was used to it. Eiji wrinkled his snout. “I think there are toenails in that doll she’s carrying.”

Fumihiro sniffed the air. “Yes, that smells about right. She must be very close to her target.”

“Of course she is. You have to be close to someone to hate them this much,” Eiji said, looking at his brother. “And you truly have to hate someone to risk being out during the hour of the ox to cast a curse.”

The brothers watched as the woman balanced on her single pronged sandals and hammered a nail through the straw doll she brought with her, impaling it onto the sacred tree.

“Nice form,” Eiji said, nodding. “And she’s well prepared. She not only has the dagger and the mirror, she’s managed to keep the trivet with lit candles balanced on her head this whole time. There’s something to be said for doing things properly.”

“I guess,” Fumihiro said. He looked away from the woman and sucked on the ends of his matted hair, hoping to find any crumbs left from the mochi there. Finding none, he moved on to investigate his loin cloth for other traces of food.

Eiji leaned forward, tapping a claw on his red chin. He considered the woman, now screaming her desire to have her faithless lover’s heart devoured by jealousy. “There is something to be said about bad form though.”

“And what’s that?”

Itadekimasu,* Eiji said, flashing his fangs in the moonlight.




*Itadekimasu = “Let's eat”

This flash fiction piece was created for my prompt over at Poets and Storytellers United's Weekly Scribblings: Myth-placed.

Ushi no Koku Mairi by Matthew Meyer
Find more of his marvelous mythology work at Yokai.com 


Liner Notes for this Groove: Oni are a legendary ogre-like creatures in Japanese mythology. The only thing they like better than sweet rice balls (mochi) is human flesh. The cursing ritual described in the story has a basis in Japanese mythology. The ushi no koku mairi is a notorious spell, requiring several components to do correctly. It must be performed between 1 and 3 a.m., called the Hour of the Ox. This is the time when the border between the world of the living and dead is thinnest, and it is also the time when evil spirits have the most power.

Song Choice: I Put a Spell on You by Screaming Jay Hawkins