Teeny Tiny: last summer
Remember Tiny the magpie? And the love of his life, Tina? And remember Catharina who patiently observed the pair and reported on their goings-on? Check out the story here if you missed that post.
After writing about Catharina and Tiny, I wondered what was going on with Tiny and Tina and would periodically email Catharina to find out. You might have wondered yourself how they were faring.
Now you can read the whole story of Tiny and Tina and of Catharina, too, in Fly Wings, Fly High!.What you might not realize is that Catharina had a stroke (at quite a young age) and began her recovery around the time that young Tiny was trying to learn how to deal with his screwed-up wing.
Catherine Lind’s narrative about her recovery from a stroke is threaded with the story of a wild magpie Lind observes struggling to fly with a deformed wing. Tiny, as Lind names the bird that lives in her yard, works very hard at learning to fly. Lind is inspired as she watches Tiny for months as he keeps trying to fly–first a few feet, then from a little “jungle gym” Lind creates for him, and then to the apple tree to eat the fruit.
Lind finds that Tiny is ever hopeful and persistent. When he tries to land, he isn’t graceful and crashes over and over. Each time, he picks himself up and tries again. He is never downhearted, and he never gives up. But it’s not so easy for Lind who has always prided herself on her skill with words. They are her livelihood and her portal to the world. When the stroke knocks out half her vocabulary in both English and Swedish, she can only communicate by speaking a combination of both languages. Sometimes it seems as if she will never recover.
Watching Tiny’s determination and good spirits, Lind decides to follow his lead and work intensely on her skills by singing, hand exercises, and eventually, telling elaborate stories aloud about Tiny and his life. Reading Fly Wings, Fly High! taught me a great deal about what it is like to experience a stroke, and I was comforted and intrigued by the extraordinary tale of Tiny, whose influence on Lind’s life has been enormous. My life has been enriched by reading this charming story told by a very talented storyteller.
Catharina’s book is short, like a novella—either a very short novel or a long short story. It’s available in paperback or for Kindle.
I so enjoyed the loving detail of the natural world and the animals found within. When I was a kid I loved books that paid attention to this world (Gene Stratton Porter and Louisa May Alcott both managed this accomplishment at times), but I’ve moved away from it as an adult. What a wonderful experience to inhabit that world again.
Additionally, learning about the effects of a stroke from the inside out was fascinating; I’ve never read anything quite like Catharina’s experience.
Yesterday I washed sweet Perry’s bedding and a hairball fell onto the floor. It had WORMS coming out of it. Right after we began fostering him I took his poo to the vet and paid $ to have it tested at the lab. Must have been at a certain point in the life cycle where it doesn’t show up because this hairball is just jammed with worms. I am being so nice to you not to show it to you. Heh. My stomach is still heaving a little. But imagine how bad his tummy has hurt all this time!
I did work on the galleys for Kin Types. That was fun, but a little difficult with my cataracts. Sigh.
Tag Archives: Story
Catharina Lind is a Swedish journalist, a published author, and a fascinating person. We met through Ancestry.com because Catharina’s husband wanted to discover what happened to a relative who immigrated to the United States. It turns out that this relative married my father’s first cousin. My dad’s cousin’s husband (called Swede by everyone) is someone I knew as a child–and I played with his daughters.
Before I even knew Catharina was a writer, she wrote me a charming story about her favorite pica (magpie) in a conversational email (not a formal story). Magpies have always fascinated me, although we don’t have them in Arizona, so I was particularly tickled to read about Tiny. In fact, I wrote about my love of magpies on this blog 3 1/2 years ago. Catharina lived in the United States for awhile because of her husband’s job, but they are back living in Sweden–with a pica named Tiny.
Teeny Tiny: last summer
We have between 20-23 hours of daylight during the summer–around the solstice it’s never really dark. Another thing that I miss from Dallas: warm, dark evenings with candlelight dinners.
I’m sitting by the kitchen windows, and my “little” Pica Pica almost crashed into the window right now. The snow is picking up and it’s rather windy. He is a magpie, similar to the Black-billed magpie. He is the toughest bird I have ever met.
He was born last year, a tiny, tiny little magpie with a damaged wing. Our house has two additional wings on each side, and there is a yard between the three houses. The fourth side has a very large hedge, so it’s secluded. He was such a little bird, so we named him Tiny. We fed him cat food, or more exactly the leftovers from our spoiled cat. According to a website that’s supposed to work for a Pica as they need protein and veggies.
Stefan had left some branches in a pile and Tiny moved in underneath them. Most of the days he walked around the yard, eating and poking around. When he got scared he either returned to his pile or sprinted into the hedges; he didn’t fly. We don’t know if he fell out from the nest or if it was a birth defect. His wing has a very strange angle and he can’t stretch it.
He wasn’t forgotten though–a few times per day his parents and siblings came by, spent some time with him on the ground, and then flew off. We weren’t sure that Tiny would survive the winter, but he did. He learned to fly a little, 10-15 feet at the most; but he flew. When the snow fell he sat on a lamp, curled up next to the wall.
Tiny is still living in our yard, but I think we gave him the wrong name. Imagine the largest magpie you can think of and add a big white belly. Then add an extra inch around the waist and you have a gigantic magpie with an obesity problem; that’s Tiny.
He’s getting better and better at flying, but he doesn’t fly much. He spends most of his days eating around the yard–hence the big belly. He and our cat have great respect for one another and they help each other by chasing away neighboring cats, especially the big, red nemesis next door.
Then in August something special happened: he got a girlfriend. Magpies mate for life, so I really hope this works out. We call her Tina and she is an adorable, little girl; though shy and scared of us. They are so cute together. They spend their days poking around the yard. Then she flies up into a tree, teasing him to follow her; but she is never out of reach.
His flying skills have improved tremendously since Tina came into the picture. They don’t fly far, nor high. She is a few feet above him, flying as slow as she possibly can. Sometimes she makes a loop so he can catch up. He, on the other hand, flaps his crooked wing as hard as he can and you can see how tough it is for him to keep up, but he doesn’t give up. A few times per day she needs to stretch her wings properly, so she flies high and he sits in his little tree looking at her. That bird has such a strength in him and he never gives up, regardless of the odds.
I really hope they have a nest next year. It’s going to be interesting to see if their kids will live on the ground or fly like regular magpies.
Now this became much longer then intended, but that’s what happens when one’s favorite Pica almost crashes into a window. With flying difficulties comes bad aiming and a strange landing tecnique.
Upper left: from last winter, with Tiny on his lamp post next to the house
Upper right: a little earlier this autumn
Lower left: Tina (on the left) with her love Tiny
Lower right: Tiny, taken just the other day
If you loved Tiny’s story, please check out Catharina’s blog! Who knew that this new relative-by-marriage was a blogger?!
I decided to leap back into prose by taking a look at the drafts I wrote for the flash nonfiction course I took in July. While I was searching for those in my closet, I ran across a few of my Red Riding Hood books.
As a fictional character, she’s been quite an influence on me and my writing.
But who is she?
There are hundreds of versions of the story and they come from many different countries. Some are old versions from traditional literature and some are contemporary retellings of the tale. Some are children’s stories; some, such as those that spring from the oral tradition, are for the general public; and some, usually feminist or sexualized versions, are for adults.
I’m guessing that most of us are steeped in the European tradition of red hooded cloak, little girl, wolf, grandmother, and woods. We might or might not think of a huntsman. Our Little Red might get a warning from her mother–or she might not. She might get eaten up just before the reader is left with a strong “moral.” She might kill the wolf in a gruesome manner. Or the wolf might run into the woods, never to return. Pinterest is full of images that resonate, so I started collecting them onto a “Red in the Woods” board. I’ve only got 35 pins so far, but there are some beauties. Many of the classic book illustrators have created Little Red art.
Arthur Rackham’s Little Red Riding Hood
Every culture incorporates some of these elements in their little red stories, but the most important part is that a little girl is threatened by a dangerous animal (usually a wolf, but in Asian countries, sometimes a tiger) and either she becomes a victim, is rescued by someone else, or she is victorious over the “bad guy.” The undercurrents involve a girl going out into a threatening world on her own for the first time and the possibility of sexual violation. But those are adult readings, of course.
Sometimes Little Red is a bad ass. Those are the best versions! One of my favorite picture books for children is Ed Young’s Lon PoPo where the Little Red protagonist is a smart, strong oldest sister who outwits the wolf and protects her siblings.
Have you ever seen Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s musical Into the Woods? In this version, Little Red is definitely a sexual target for the wolf, but the question becomes: is she complicit? Does she in some way lead on the wolf? Is the red hood to draw attention? (And where does the red garment come from? Not from the girl herself). Or is that an adult male (pervert) reading–a Humbert version of Lolita? Another adult reading is that the red hood is a metaphor for Red’s vagina/clitoris/youpick.
In this clip of the 1991 Broadway show, the lyrics say a lot about our culture’s interpretation. It becomes clear that this version is about the loss of innocence.
In the Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs’ song, the wolf leers at Red.
There are other strange bits and pieces that show up in some Little Red stories. The wolf tricks Red into eating her Granny’s flesh. Red tries to get out of bed with the wolf by telling him she has to go pee. At that point he tells her to pee in the bed, but she says she can’t and he lets her go outside tied to a long rope. Some of these elements that seem vulgar or creepy have been edited out of the most popular versions published in the last few hundred years. The confusion between wolf and grandmother is still with us, though. And that alone is pretty strange. Dangerous wolf looks like beloved grandmother? Beyond strange.
Is the wolf a perv or is Red a Lolita? Or is that a red herring (sorry)? Is the story really about something else?
Between extra work, mourning, and a new project, I am wiped out. My cats have sad faces and obviously miss Mac. Felix, my big tabby, hid under the bed during a thunderstorm–something he’s never done before. He’s frightened not to have Mac around to protect him.
Grief has an insidious way about it. There is the past and then there are the stories we create about the past and our reflection upon them.
I’m still trying to rise out of the swamp around me.
To that end, along with Marie from 1WriteWay (yay!), I’m taking a four week course from Apiary Lit in “Flash Essay on the Edge.” You’re right: the title is perfect for me right now. I’ll keep you posted. When we’re done, Marie and I will review the course.
Have a wonderful fourth of July. When I was a kid, I used to spend it on the lake with my father.
“When a literary magazine dies,” Christie Taylor asked at Poets & Writers, “what happens to the poems, stories, essays, and artwork that have been published in its pages over the years?” Taylor’s piece profiles The Rookery, “a new digital archive that will house previously published content from defunct print and digital magazines—an ever-growing collection of work that would otherwise be lost.” The enterprise, that launched on June 30th, “will host shuttered magazines in as close to their original form as possible.”
Wow! What an incredible project. Have you ever published a story or poem in a lit mag that subsequently went out of business? What happens to your work? Not much. It’s already been published, so most places won’t take it again. Unless you publish it in a book-length collection or chapbook, the life of your work is over. It’s as if you never wrote it, except for that line on your list of publications.
Check it out for yourself here. Here is the explanation of how it will work to keep old work online:
[digital archive for dying magazines launching 7/30/14]
This note is regarding a new project we have embarked on: a library on our site for digital journals that are in danger of e-death.
It isn’t cheap to maintain a webspace–and it’s depressing watching year after year as the readership dwindles. We at Literary Orphans know personally the incredible work that goes into each issue. We are wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, friends and suitors–and we are often artists. To sacrifice years devoted to getting exposure for other people, and have it die in the night, doesn’t seem right to us. We at Literary Orphans cannot offer much, but we can offer The Rookery. A place in which we preserve the archives of digital magazines that have been closed to submissions.
If you are a reader that knows of a favorite journal that might lose/has lost it’s archives, click the link below.
If you are an Editor that can’t afford the webspace to maintain your digital archive, click the link below.
How it works is like this–you submit a tip, information on a magazine that has ceased publication and is struggling to keep it’s archives open, and we try and work with the Editor-in-Chief (EIC) of that magazine to get the archives loaded to The Rookery,a library hosted here at Literary Orphans. This is NOT just transferring the stories onto LO, this is transferring the entire journal to our webspace. You click on the link to the journal, and bam, you are looking at the journal as you would have on it’s old server. But we want to do more than that. After a careful talk with the EIC of the magazine, we will work to keep the writing within it alive. This may be done in numerous ways–for instance, Literary Orphans Press would love to help the EIC or their deputy design and print a “Best Of Anthology,” to memorialize their writers in print. Or, if you are interested in someone taking up the mantle, we can offer a call-out and help advertise–be the stone that keeps the site in safekeeping until Arthur comes by. Hell, this could mean reprinting pieces of the magazine in LO to draw attention to the archives, so that even though it’s out of publication, readers still get to read the writing. There are literally so many avenues we can go down, but it’s all up to what we work out with the EIC of the magazine.
While we don’t expect to be flooded with submissions, we do need to offer a disclaimer. Transferring the look and feel of a site over to LO takes time, lots of time. The kind of time we all hate to devote weeks to, but do what needs to be done. As a result of this, we cannot accept all applicants, we will need to talk with the EIC to determine if the process is feasible, and that the look and feel of the magazine can be maintained.
Executive Director, Literary Orphans Press
Editor-in-Chief, Literary Orphans Journal
A year ago, I posted this piece about the place of birds in my life. I wonder if you have threads like this that run through your life.
I stand on a chair to reach my grandmother’s birdcage. My dress and petticoat flip out in back, as I balance on my palms, my sturdy toddler legs straining toward the parakeet. The parakeet contemplates my nose poking between the bars. I want it to sing. It’s all I want of this place, this apartment which rattles like death when the El rushes by. I think how much I miss my own home. Unless the bird will sing.
Maybe it’s something that happened to me even before I was born. I started reaching out for the word music with my baby fists, if only to rush them like a bottle to my mouth: “Little Miss Muffet”; “See You Later, Alligator”; “A Fairy Went a-Marketing.” I recited and sang them repetitively—until my mother screamed at me to stop. Even then, I slipped under the bed covers and sang “My bonnie lies over the ocean, my bonnie lies over the sea.” My breath billowed up the sheet.
Only a fifteen-year-old can make the leap from puppy love to bird lover. That’s what happened when I became fascinated with a boy with a bird’s name. My girlfriend and I followed him oh-so-subtly-and-cleverly in the halls, only running into him “by accident.” On the weekend I couldn’t wait for school to begin anew on Monday, so we went to the mall. Woolworth’s had a department with birds in birdcages. An arched cage so much like my grandmother’s parakeet cage held two lovebirds. I paid $9.99 for the lovers.
When my husband and I got married in an ice storm, we drove from the hotel reception in a burgundy Marquise Brougham with a prayer on the dashboard. Songbirds flew after us into the dark. That’s the way I remember it.
I sat in Grandma’s old oak rocker, holding my baby son in my arms, murmuring:
Out of the cradle endlessly rocking,
Out of the mocking-bird’s throat, the musical shuttle,
Out of the Ninth-month midnight,
Over the sterile sands, and the fields beyond, where the child, leaving his bed, wander’d alone, bare-headed, barefoot
Whitman‘s poem managed something the others hadn’t been able to—it crept into my body, spreading out and occupying my flesh like a snakeskin it merely tolerated. I still can’t get rid of it. The poem and I battle inside like the gingham dog and the calico cat, but if it decided to leave, I’d be as empty as that snakeskin, discarded and colorless. It’s a poem about a he-bird who loves and loses the she-bird. Or it’s a poem about the curious boy who observes the bird and his troubles. But really it’s about a rocking like the surging of the sea and the hissing and whispering and all manner of delicious delicacies of words and rhythm.
When my parents put Grandma in the nursing home, she had to leave her parakeet behind. Not that yellow parakeet she had when I was a preschooler, but the green one she’d had since then. Dad brought the cage to our house and put it in the family room where the bird could watch TV. I kept changing the food and water, but the bird refused a single seed and died within a week.
Richard Siken told us wannabe poets never to write poems with birds in them. “It’s been done to death,” he said. I think he said that the bird as trope for poet was old after Whitman. Or maybe he said before Whitman. I went home and wrote a poem about Andersen’s Nightingale and the Chinese countryside and didn’t use the word bird. That’s what you call a writing constraint.
We had such a problem with roof rats and teenagers. The latter we knew would eventually move out. My husband called in the pest control people for the former. The man the company sent shuffled and mumbled, so we let him go about his business. That afternoon my son ran into the house yelling his head off, and since he’s a mild-mannered young man, I scrambled to get to him. He led me out to the back steps where three baby birds hung on a glue trap like Jesus and the thieves. We poured a sort of holy kitchen oil to release them. One had already died and a second stilled the instant it rested in my palm. The third one regarded me with one black eye, vibrant as a drop of ink. We hustled it to the veterinarian where the techs hustled it out of our sight.
My daughter writes songs that come out of her fully formed. I don’t know how anyone can do that, but then she sings them and her voice sounds like warm magma flowing. She sends me links to private songs on Myspace so I can listen before anyone else.
Over ten years ago cats started showing up at our house, looking for food and, later, shelter. We only had a couple of dogs left. The birds had departed long before for their heaven. Now the cats outnumber the humans, and they think they have an equal vote. They vote that anything with a fast heart rate can be considered prey. So no more birds for our family.
This house in Arizona has a tile roof, and the pigeons think it’s a rocky hillside, like their homes before humankind. While pigeons have those pleasing round breasts and iridescent feathers like abalone, they excrete their body weight every day—and always from the eaves above my exterior doors. I asked my neighbor to stop feeding the birds, but she doesn’t speak to humans. We put up screens to stop them from roosting in the obvious places. But a stubborn contingent stay put, and from my fireplace I hear them cooing. My brown striped cat purrs on the hearth, in rhythm with the pigeon coos.
A young pigeon dances on my patio, with his wings akimbo across his back, like a child stuck in a shirt he’s attempting to put on. Two adult pigeons watch from the roof. I put him in a brown bag and drive him to the pigeon lady. She has big man hands and examines him brusquely, but listens with her eyes closed, like a good doctor. She says, “I’ve never seen this before. It’s not a broken wing. He’s twisted his wings together across his back, like you twist a twisty on a bag.” She carefully and surely untwists his wings and puts them flat against his sides. “I’ll keep him for the winter and release him in the spring when he’s healthy.” I write a poem about the pigeon lady and through it she becomes a religious icon in my religion of one.
In the summer, I bring her another pigeon. This one acts odd, walking around the yard, but only flying a few feet at a time. She tries, but can’t save this one. “He had an illness, and I don’t know what it was.” She wants my permission to do an autopsy. That’s the way she learns how to take care of the living pigeons. When I hang up the phone, I can see through the window that another pigeon resting at the edge of eaves is breathing rhythmically as its body empties and fills and empties and fills in an unbroken pattern.
My grandmother outlived her parakeet in the nursing home for a year. I told my parents that if she had had the parakeet in her room, she and the parakeet would both have lived longer, but they explained that she died of uremia from renal failure. “The bird died because it didn’t eat, Luanne,” my mother said. “Stop trying to connect things that are not related.”
In June, I wrote about the pigeon lady in another post. Birds and trees are two of my writing obsessions. When a motif turns up repeatedly on this blog, I can tell it’s another obsession ;). What are your obsessions . . . um, motifs?
Last week I discovered that some of my earlier posts that had cost me effort and time have never received very many views. I posted a poll about whether I should re-post or re-blog these posts to free up some time this month to work on my book. The re-posts won, so here is a story I first posted on November 29, 2012. It’s about the elm trees in Kalamazoo when I was a kid.
At the end I’ve added a couple of new points.
On a Sunday afternoon, my parents and I visited my grandparents who lived in the same house where my mother grew up. We ate our dinner at 2PM and then, predictably, all the women and my dad wanted to go for a walk. Grandpa was determined to watch the game on TV, so I’m fairly sure that Dad felt a responsibility to stay with Grandpa and missed the exercise.
We walked all the way uptown, as my grandmother called it, through neighborhood after neighborhood of modest two-story homes built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. A parade of old trees shadowed the sidewalks, which were blanketed by their colored, speckled, and spotted leaves.The garlands of branches overhead, the twinkling of sunlight in patches through those branches, and the crunchy path under our feet promised to launch me into a magical world.
Then I noticed that some of the trees, the ones with the symmetrical leaves, not the knobby turkeys of the oaks and maples, wilted drastically. The leaves were pale, odd-looking, not merely turning their customary autumn yellow.
I asked why the trees were so thirsty. Grandma looked sad. I’d never seen her sad before. Her Mrs. Claus face always beamed at me. Mom and Aunt Alice mirrored her unhappy expression. Grandma said that the trees had gotten the new plague, Dutch Elm Disease.
In the weeks to follow, I heard a lot of talk about the devastation of the elm trees in Kalamazoo from this disease. I thought the disease local to our city because the city’s main ethnic population was Dutch–like much of my family. Reasoning that the trees were Dutch, too, I figured that’s why they were susceptible to this illness.
I believe that the afternoon of that family walk I came down with pink eye. I remember my eyes were sore and tired. As soon as we got back to Grandma’s, I fell asleep and Dad carried me to the car. The next morning my eyes wouldn’t open and I couldn’t go to my first grade class. Instead, my mother had to bathe my eyes with a solution several times a day for a week.
Over the years, we took walks after many dinners, and considering the strange ways of memory, I can’t be certain that my pink eye occurred on the same day I saw the trees dying, but it feels that way to me.
Did my eyes really suffer after seeing so many trees in distress? Or did I only associate the two events later?
Apparently, Dutch Elm disease is an international tree disease, which began in Europe in or before 1910. It had spread to Detroit by 1950 and to Chicago by 1960. Kalamazoo is halfway between Detroit and Chicago, so it makes sense that around 1960 or 1961, Kalamazoo’s trees were already looking ravaged.
In the past year I have been thinking more and more about the ways of memory. When I wrote this, I thought it probable that I got pink eye the same day I first noticed the diseased trees. But now I am leaning toward the view that I only associated these events in my mind. Do you have any memories you suspect might be two separate memories which have become “glued” together?
This past weekend we had house guests. A friend I hadn’t seen in a long time visited with her new husband. I hadn’t met him yet, but I knew he was a scientist who has been writing a children’s fantasy chapter book.
We ended up discussing writing over breakfast. The scientist-writer said that at a writing conference he attended writers were asked if they wanted to write timeless novels or if they wanted to be marketable.
The idea is that, as a writer, you can aim for the highest quality writing or you can focus on writing what will sell. The implication is that these two goals rarely, if ever, overlap.
My friend’s husband thought a lot of writers want to be marketable because they need to make money from their writing. He argued that this goal is a manifestation of capitalism (which he favors), and that the market should determine which are the best books, the most deserving of being read. I would add he is also talking about democracy (although he didn’t say that) and that the vote of the reader will shape what will be read and published.
But should the number of readers be the main or only consideration for which books ultimately succeed?
Maybe if I look at the subject through visual art, I can see the issue more clearly. I love the old and new masters at the Metropolitan, the Louvre, the Uffizi, and the Courtauld. To be able to see a piece anew every time one sees it (or a representation of it) truly reveals the depth of the artistry.
But I admit that I love cels of Disney cartoon art. I love them for their imagination and because they resonate with the popular culture I grew up in. No way do I think they are art of the quality of a Renoir or a Picasso. And I don’t want to live in a world with only Disney cels. Or pictures of babies with angel wings (as cute as they are).
So I think the idea of capitalism determining the books that are published and that we read can be carried too far because we still need deeper, more complex, and finely crafted literature, not just books that sell well.
Do you agree that capitalism should or will determine which books are published or do you think that high quality writing should be nurtured in other ways?
Yes, today is Day 2 of my story sitting up there on the Midlife Collage contest!
As I mentioned yesterday, one of my stories is in the Midlife Collage contest this week. It’s called “Still Photo” and is up against four other very short stories.
- Please leave a Facebook “like” for my story! click the Facebook link at the bottom of the story.
- If you have time please leave one of your thoughtful comments at the end of the story.
- If you can please go to “closing arguments” and tell them which story should win this week.
Go here to find my story:
Midlife Collage. “Still Photo” by Luanne Castle.
What follows is a repeat of information in yesterday’s post:
If my story were to win, I would like to use my award to design a contest for Writer Site–something you all can participate in. What do you think about that idea? I got the idea from the Paying It Forward segment on our local TV station.
AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP, LOVELIES!
Every year I ignore my birthday until people close to me start to annoy me with it.
“What do you want for your birthday?”
“What are you going to do for your birthday? Something special?”
Then, on my birthday, no matter how nice they are, I find something to make me cry. (Does anyone else do this?) I vow to make today different. So I am announcing my birthday instead of ignoring it. Today, July 20, 2013, is my birthday. On my Facebook wall I put up a photo and a video commemorating the day.
And for y’all, I’m sharing a very short story I published on Cowbird a year ago. In a previous post about The Space Race I mentioned this event, but here is the full story.
I was sitting at the end of the dock, draggling my feet through the lake water. Sometimes my toes caught on marsh grass. Behind me, Dad and his friends were grilling hot dogs and burgers just outside the screened porch. I could smell the singed meat and hear their beer-fueled laughter.
Mom called us to the table. As we approached, she placed a steaming bowl of corn-on-the-cob on the oilcloth. Salads and paper plates had already been set out by the ladies.
Everyone gathered around the picnic table. I noticed Dad disappear into the house, but we all sat—causing the table to first lean to one side, then the other—and heaped our plates full. Everyone talked so fast and loud, excited by the summer’s heat and the waterskiing and, for the adults, the beer.
The ear of corn on my plate dripped butter and I longed to sink my teeth into it. As I went to bite, I remembered my braces. I hesitated because, at fourteen, I already felt awkward. Not yet pretty and feminine, but no longer a careless child. My features had grown large on my narrow face, and my skin shone like greasy wax paper.
I felt the wires bend as my teeth plowed into the cob. I made a mental note to keep my mouth closed so nobody could see all the corn stuck in my braces.
Dad carried our 9” portable TV to the table and plugged it in under the window to the kitchen. He seemed focused, as though he’d thrown off the beer effect.
On the screen, we watched the hazy shapes of astronauts positioning our flag on the moon. Everyone stopped talking. We heard a motorboat in the distance, off in the horizon, but up around the tiny television, everyone was drawn like moths to the porch light.
Eventually my mother remembered and brought out the white cake with fourteen candles staked like individual flagpoles. They turned down the volume to sing “Happy Birthday” to me, then turned it back up and listened to Houston’s excitement.