October News for 2014

Congratulations to Sarina Dorie of Eugene, Oregon, the September recipient for the Penn Cove Award.

Undressing Mr. Darcy
by Sarina Dorie

“It’ll be fun,” Val, said. She wanted me to come to a fashion workshop at her chapter of Romance Writers of America. “This is right up your Pride and Prejudice alley.”

The mention of my favorite book hooked me.

When we arrived, the meeting had already started. The only seats left in the community center’s room were in the front row. We squished in between two women in business suits.

I glanced at a handsome man sitting on the other side of the room. He wore suspenders and a bowler hat. His side-burns gave him an old-fashioned look, and I wondered if he was one of the presenters. He smiled when he caught me staring and tipped his hat at me.

When they introduced Mr. Darcy, I sat up. A man strode down the aisle, donning a top hat, cravat and frock coat. The model was tall and dark haired—exactly how I imagined my favorite Jane Austen character. The beauty of the costume made me want to drool.

Ms. Gardener, the presenter, wore a high-waisted gown similar to those I’d seen on Regency era book covers. I leaned forward with interest.

Ms. Gardener talked about costuming and the Jane Austen Society. My jaw dropped when the presenter undressed Mr. Darcy.

I’d read enough classical literature to know that a man without his frock coat was considered naked in the Regency era. Mrs. Gardener explained every nuance of his costume. I wasn’t sure which idea I fell in love with more: the idea of a gentleman—or the idea of a man dressed as a gentleman.

I grabbed Val’s elbow. “This is my dream come true.”

She put a finger to her lips. The man in suspenders and the bowler hat across the room must have heard because he raised an eyebrow.

As the layers came off Mr. Darcy, ladies in the audience waved their faces with their handouts. The presenter only undressed him down to his undergarments before she called for Mrs. Darcy. Mr. Darcy retired to the side room, while the presenter undressed the female model down to her chemise. I was riveted. I’d always wondered what these layers of clothes looked like. They were so fitted they were physically difficult to remove.

After the meeting, the models came out from the dressing room. Women flocked to the model who had been presented as Mr. Darcy. He now wore ripped jeans and a rock band shirt. He’d replaced his nose ring and wore his hair down. It wasn’t so much the modern attire, as much as the disdainful attitude he wore that made the illusion of Mr. Darcy fade. His laugh was obnoxiously loud and I was pretty sure I heard him curse in most ungentlemanly manner that would have made Elizabeth Bennet blush. That didn’t stop the gaggle of women who surrounded him. Then again, maybe his arrogance made him more authentically Darcy-esque for them.

I turned to tell Val how disappointed I was, but she stood talking to another woman. The let-down must have shown in my posture because a man said from behind me, “Can’t judge a book by its cover.”

The man in his bowler hat was packing a bag. He was tall and trim, and now that I was closer, I could see how refined and handsome his features were.

“Are you an author?” I asked.

He shook his head and laughed, his cheeks as round as apples. “No. I’m James, the tailor. That’s my work ‘Darcy’ modeled.”

Learning he was the one who had “created” Mr. Darcy was enough to make my heart skip a beat. Studying his more modest attire, I suspected he’d made that as well. He was a master of his craft.

“Your costumes are beautiful,” I said. “Do you make women’s clothing too? I have my heart set on a Regency wedding dress.”

His green eyes were intently fixed on my hand. “I don’t see a ring.”

I blushed. “Well, no. I’m not—I don’t have a boyfriend. I just want a dress that I could wear someday. . . .”

“I see you’re as smitten with Regency fashion as I am. The problem with period clothes is they’re meant to fit so well they’re impossible to put on yourself. That’s why you need servants. Authors never get the scenes right where people remove their clothes. Those laces, buttons, and hooks take time. Just like real life romance.” His eyes met mine.

We talked for so long about period fashion that I eventually noticed when our laughter filled the empty room. Val sat in a chair, a smirk on her face.

“Did you get his number?” she asked later.

“Better, I got a business card,” I said. Plus, an invitation to be fitted for a day dress to be modeled in a vintage fashion show.

Just over a year later, James did end up making my wedding dress, an empire-waisted gown with layers of petticoats underneath. And he was right. It did take assistance to put on—and to take off. Fortunately he helped with the latter on our wedding night.

The End

September New for 2014

August was a hot month for a lot of us — though the rains did flow!

No socks were knocked off but we’re still running about with no shoes.

Please keep submitting the award is still available/

August News for 2014

congratulations to Asha Azariah-Kribbs of Salisbury, Maryland, the July 2014 recipient of the Penn Cove Literary Arts Award.

Raison d’Être

A. Azariah-Kribbs

If you don’t fit in Anywhere, you will—

Somewhere.

We hear her before we see her.

She wheels herself into the light. Her hair hangs in a cropped wave across her face, hiding all but pale lips and chin. She is wearing a blue dress with bright ribbons, an old school Alice rolling through a Wonderland of acrylic stars and silk flowers. I can see her twisted ankles before her feet disappear into round flat shoes.

We weren’t expecting this.

After red noses and feather bellies, jugglers and dancing dogs, we don’t want to see a handicapped girl in a wheelchair. This is a prank in poor taste. She ought to stand. But she wheels herself to an electric keyboard, one of those faux pianos that depend on finger pressure instead of pedals.

There’s a swing a few yards away. It’s long metal, a low trapeze. She sits for a moment like she can almost see herself there.

She starts to play.

We feel sorry for her. She shouldn’t be here.

She should be—

The light changes.

She pauses. She doesn’t look up.

He is an angle of offstage shadow.

The overhead beam has startled him from his natural element. Skinny shape in paste makeup and deep lipstick, he turns on his heel like a puppet caught trying the live performers’ paints and liners. He moves jaggedly. Snapped strings.

The young woman strikes a key.

His head swings back, sharp.

Another chord.

She plays, soft and sad, bent low over her instrument.

He stumbles.

She plays.

He bends, biting his red lip. His palm rests flat in front of his toes. One lank leg, long, long, and thin, stretches perpendicular to the floor. The knee bends back. The hand lifts. His lean foot twists. It is a posture at once alien and uncomfortable. He holds it, his other hand moving now to trace out the silent rhythm of the music. His fingers hesitate as if they would hold some of the light that has surprised him. Single-legged, he looks like a scarecrow weathervane, arm extended, one heel under him and the other unwinding in slow and sinuous motion, to find the floor again.

The music stops.

He snaps up, alarmed.

She sees him.

Trembling, he falls on his knee.

She glances at the swing.

He feels that eagerness, that hope. He seizes it. He stands. He crosses to the swing and rests his sixteen-inch foot on that bar.

She laughs aloud.

The audience breathes. It’s alright.

It’s alright.

Is that all we wanted—to hear her laugh?

Her fingers move light over the keys. It is a tune fast and brave. The other covets it in himself like tinder wanting flame.

Some people don’t belong Anywhere.

They belong Nowhere.

He mounts the swing and stands an instant, poised, watching as we watch. He has forgotten us. That is the illusion of theatre—the white lie, of theatre. She directs him with nothing more than a song, and he follows, when he follows, as if he is her instrument, fluid and delicate as the motion of her hands. When he lifts his body and taxes those wire limbs over the motion of the bar beneath him, the effect is grotesque, and wildly beautiful.

Only in this twilight realm could these two be one in loneliness. Here, a broken wing can inspire two left feet to fly.

He alights; he is before her. He extends his hand with its slender, odd-jointed fingers to her face and tips her head back, soothing the bangs from her forehead.

We see her face.

She reaches for his sloping neck.

He lifts her.

Her useless legs hang on his knobby arm. He stumbles again, a little, not quite like before.

The light dims.

He goes to the swing.

Now she will move with him. Now, now she will prove to us all that she can stand. Perfect vibrancy, young energy and tender feeling, will pale our memories of brighter acts with all the ethereal beauty and twisted contortion of living art.

This is the white magic of theatre.

He settles. She leans on his shoulder.

They rock, slow, to the light motion of his stretched leg.

The curtain falls.

I had almost forgotten.

They don’t belong.

Not Anywhere

July News for 2014

Congratulations to John Burridge of Eugene, Oregon, June’s recipient for the Penn Cove Literary Arts Award.

Before The Last Bloom Falls

The wicker weave of Henry’s wheelchair creaked as he shifted his weight in a fruitless quest to find comfort. A pile of flaccid birthday balloons sat on the kitchen table before him. He still had thirty more to inflate. These days, he needed to save his breath, and used a balloon pump.
At least Cassandra, his granddaughter, was visiting from school and could help him. She’d just gone to tie inflated balloons with twine. It was good that she was here.
After the mess with his son, she would have to be the one to continue the family’s magical tradition, but he had postponed testing her. It was almost too late; his mind was beginning the inexorable slide through the cracks that age continually put into his body.
The pump reminded Henry of a syringe. He fit a balloon over its tip, but after three strokes the balloon slipped off and raspberried around the kitchen.
His tired hands ached and he put the pump aside. He shifted again, straightening his spine in the game of tag with Algos, the Greek goddess of pain, as if he could contort enough to avoid her reach.
The sound of hummingbirds’ wings through the open kitchen window decided him. He wouldn’t let Algos imprison him within her magic circle of glass shards. He wheeled back from the table, grasped its edge, and pulled himself up.
Swaying, he made himself take tiny steps across the kitchen to the window. The joints in his feet crackled like snapped twigs, and each step pinched the tendons running over the tops of his feet, but he wasn’t going to let them force him back to that rolling throne of disability.
Then his hip locked. He stumbled and clutched at the sill to keep himself from the fall that would send him to a hospice. Knives of ice pricked his knuckles as he pulled himself straight. He sucked air through clenched teeth.
By heaven, he had made it.
The garden view rewarded him. Foxgloves curtsied in a gentle breeze, their green spikes topped with pennants of lavender, yellow and white. Darting hummingbirds, ruby and emerald, hovered on blurred wings and slipped their needle beaks into the blooms.
Then clouds cast the garden into shadow and the birds scattered. Heavy rain knocked loose blossoms, then slackened to a drizzle. Water tick-tick-tocked down gutters, like some watch winding down.
“Grandfather, where’s your chair?” Cassandra asked. “You’ll fall.” He hadn’t heard her come in, even with the dull bumping of inflated balloons strung behind her. She snatched up the escaped balloon from the floor.
Good. She was back and they had the house to themselves.
“My dear, would you help me over to the pantry?”
She escorted him to the cabinetry lining the wall. He took down an ancient cylindrical bottle of marble, white as moonlight shining on snow. The clouds drew a thicker veil over the sun and the kitchen plunged into twilight, within which the bottle gleamed.
Henry ignored his knuckles as he twisted the cap off. Soap scented the air. From the bottle, he drew out a wand, a golden wire with a loop crimped into the shape of the sun’s corona.
“Now watch what I do,” he said, and licked the the sun’s outline.
Her nose and brow crinkled together. “Eeew, gross. What are you doing?”
“This is magic,” he said. “I’ve been saving my breath.”
He inhaled, dipped the wand into the soap solution, brought the wand to his lips, and blew. The iridescent film wobbled as his raspy breath forced it away from the gold wire. A subtle twist, and a bubble floated in the dark room. It glowed softly, an undulating net of rose, amethyst, and copper green.
Her gasp vindicated his choice to reveal the magic to her.
“Look deep inside,” he said.
Within the bubble, he saw a line of dancing figures. The dancers’ line broke and snaked from circles into spirals, then joined into a lemniscate and back again to zero. The bubble grew ghostly silver and thin.
Three women left the dance and approached him. A veil of golden thread smudged the farthest’s features like the sun filtered through fog. An inky blue veil, edged with strands of silver, hid the second closest dancer as if she were surrounded by the rising cobalt smoke of myrrh–save for the thin white hand offering him a poppy.
The third one, the closest, appeared the most clearly: Algos. A fillet of twisted iron nails netted her red hair. Her russet smile was as barbed as a jape that bursts innocence. She spread her arms wide, the skin about her wrists rouged from rusted bracelets. Henry flinched away.
The bubble dispersed into a nebula’s afterimage of fine mist.
“Oh,” Cassandra sighed.
Henry shook away the vision of Life, Death and Pain. “Tell me what you saw.”
The clouds drew away, and color crept back over the windowsill. Her eyes gleamed like the marble bottle he still clutched.
“At first, I just saw the bubble, glowing with all those colors. And then I looked again and I saw a tree with green leaves and black bark. Along the twisting roots there was a a snake with rainbow scales, like the bubble. The snake rubbed its nose along the roots and its skin split open. It slithered through the roots, leaving its old skin behind. And a wind came and the cast-off skin scattered like glitter.”
She would do.
“Congratulations, my dear. The magic skipped your father, but not you.”
She gave him a puzzled look. “But, what does seeing a snake in a rainbow have to do with anything?”
The front door banged open. The cousins had returned with cake.
He capped the bottle. “I’ll tell you more after my birthday party.”
She guided him to the wheelchair.
“Will I start having visions if I blow up balloons?” she asked.
“Only if you hyperventilate,” he said, and picked up the pump.

<>

Notes for June and July

Thanks to all for being patient. As has been noted elsewhere, the editorial staff was indeed busy over the July 4th weekend. The Penn Cove Literary Arts Award recipient was actually chosen just prior to the weekend, but the festivities got out of hand. Read that anyway you’d like. And have we mentioned that every member of the editorial staff is working on their thesis? Alas, the submission that was accepted is in need of heavy editing in the form of line breaks and paragraph work. There is always some that occurs during the editing process, but the words went to the max and this particular submission, as stated, is more than usual. I would expect to see the result by end of day tomorrow, or Friday at the very latest.

The July theme is – Circus. Partly in keeping with any who have submitted under the June banner of Balloons and partly because this editor likes the Circus, as they always seem to show up in the summer months.

Thanks again, and submit, submit, submit! One per customer, please. :0)