February News 2015

Congratulation to Sarina Dorie of Oregon City, Oregon, February’s Penn Cove Literary Arts Award Recipient.

The Right Note
By Sarina Dorie

My nine-year-old dragged his heels. “One more minute,” Billy said. He closed his eyes and listened to the music coming from the open door of the art gallery. A man sat at the grand piano, his hands flying over the keys.

The player wasn’t just skilled; he was passionate. Billy swayed, eyes closed. When his vision had declined three years before, the piano had become his refuge.

Only, these days since the divorce, it was rare to see such contentment on his face.

The song abruptly ended when the man at the piano stood. Billy’s smile faded. He angled his head to the side to see the man’s approach. Peripheral vision was all he had left.

“Would you like to view the art?” the man said. He was younger than I’d realized, in his early forties, but with a shock of white hair that would have rivaled Mozart’s—only I didn’t think Mozart had such brilliant green eyes. “We currently have a new sculpture exhibit on display,” he added.

I shook my head. “We really must be on our—”

“Please, Mom. I’d rather listen to the music than go to the park.”

The man raised an eyebrow. “What have we here? My first and only fan?”

“Please, Mom. I can’t even see the birds anymore.” The expression on his Billy’s face was so full of longing it made my heart break.

“Why can’t you see the birds?” asked the musician.

Billy toed the edge of the sidewalk with his sneaker. “I can’t see.”

I was ready for the musician to say something insensitive like people sometimes did when they first realized my son had Stargardt’s disease. Instead, he said, “Would you like to feel the sculpture exhibit?”

Billy’s feet were already stepping forward. “Really?”

I cleared my throat. “Don’t you think the artist would mind?”

The man winked. “I know the artist. She’d say these sculptures are meant to be touched.”

The musician escorted us to a row of sculptures that resembled children made of plastic. The material was spongy and felt like marshmallows. Don, as we learned the musician was named, instructed Billy to explore the sculptures with his hands. Considering most people treated Billy like he was automatically going to break everything he touched, this was a first. Billy poked his fingers into a sculpture his size, giggling.

“Is this your gallery?” I asked.

Don nodded. “My sister and I own the space. She does the art. I do the music lessons and events.”

“That song you were playing before,” I said. “It was beautiful. Did you write it?”

Don’s eyes widened. “Yes, how’d you know?”

“You played it like it was part of you. I might not be a musician myself, but that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize good music when I hear it.”

He blushed. “Well, maybe I have two fans.”

Billy turned away from the art. “Would you play for us again?”

As Don played, Billy sat beside me on a couch. He leaned his head against my shoulder. “I wish we had a piano.”

“I know, baby.”

Billy made do with a miniature keyboard, but it lacked the warmth and resonance of a real piano.

Don finished another of his original pieces, this one even more impressive than the last. “Anyone else interested in taking a turn?”

Billy jumped to his feet. “Me!”

He played Bach and Beethoven, and ended with Chopsticks. Don joined my clapping.

“Come back and practice any time you want.” He shook my hand. From the genuine warmth in his green eyes, I felt like he truly meant it.

Billy asked later. “What does he look like?”

I smiled. “Like Mozart, but cuter.”

Two days later, we returned. As soon as he saw us, Don’s eyes lit up. “Back for more?”

Billy headed straight to the piano. “Yes, please.”

Don occasionally pointed out a place to slow down or a correction to a note. While Billy practiced, Don sat on the couch beside me and we chatted. He face brightened when I asked him to play one of his compositions.

He shook my hand before we left. “I hope you’ll be back.” His fingers lingered on mine. Warmth tingled up my spine.

It was on our third visit that he presented Billy with the brail music book.

“No way! For me?” Billy said.

“I have to do something to keep you two coming back.” Don laughed.

Billy shook his head. “No, you don’t. My mom thinks you’re cute.”

One side of Don’s mouth crooked upward as if he were fighting a smile. Heat flooded to my cheeks.

It was after we’d gone home that I found a card in the book asking me out to dinner. It looked like we’d started on the right note.

The End

Temporary February News 2015

Heh — I just wanted to use two words back to back that had two R’s in them. :0)

Lots to discuss, so I’ll try to be brief with all of it.

Your’s truly has been very very ill — pneumonia. If you get it, take care of yourself!! He’s also been knee deep in courses, being a TA and worrying over the Whidbey Student website (believe it or not!). Oh yes, a new computer (I’ve been through five keyboards and three computers in the last 8 years) that has clunked its way through printers, etc. Oh, and a novel. I got one of them, too, and a few poems out.

Keep the poems and non-fiction and children’s literature (we’ve seen a lot more of NF and CYA these days and that’s nice) and, of course, fiction coming — bring it on! Thanks for remembering and being patient with the webmaster. He appreciates it.

We do have a recipient for February but it has been my policy of late to consider suggesting edits for work that needs just a little bit. This is reflective of the maturing nature of our courses at NILA, I suspect, as well as a desire to see borderline work and emerging writers get their exposure. For me the difficulty is in reformatting material that comes from one word processor, fixing it in another and then putting it into the WordPress format. If I seem a bit too familiar, my apologies, I’ve been at the helm over three years now and will soon be stepping down. Not all has gone according to plan, but I’m quite proud to have had the honor of facilitating the Penn Cove Literary Arts Award every month. And, as always my gratitude to those students who have helped judge along the way.

keep ‘em coming!

January News for 2015

Congratulations to M. M. Pryor of Seattle, Washington, the Penn Cove Literary Arts Award recipient for December 2014.

Glitzgirl

Barbara finds the teeth in a box of toddler beauty pageant paraphernalia. As part of her countdown to her twenty-nine-year-old daughter moving back home, Barbara has steadily been cleaning house. Today it is the attic’s turn, since it is the future site of her adult daughter’s bedroom. Barbara crouches on her knees amid the dust of the attic and examines the plastic teeth. The false teeth are tiny and yellowed from age.

Barbara ordered the flipper for Glinda’s first glitz pageant. She’d hid the credit card bill and made the minimum payments using her paycheck from her part-time secretary job. After the teeth, though, came the spray-tans, the make-up, and the gowns tailored to fit Glinda’s slender four-year-old waist.

Setting down the teeth, Barbara opens the next three boxes. Artifacts from Glinda’s beauty queen days glitter beneath the skylight. For a moment, Barbara feels transported back to the stage: those hotel conference rooms, the rows of metal folding chairs, the tension as big as the hair on the girls’ heads.

Dust has not dampened the sparkle of the tiaras. Barbara lifts her favorite out of the box and places it on her head: a silver heart-shaped one with pink jewels. It teeters before steadying, the ends flattening her already limp and graying hair. The crown is from the South Carolina Mother’s Day Pageant. Glinda was five. She didn’t place, but they gave every girl a consolation tiara under the category, ‘Mommy’s Favorite.’

Still wearing the crown, Barbara spots the trophy. During Glinda’s best year, when she was six, she won second place at the Little Miss Lace and Grace Pageant in Little Rock, Arkansas. They drove all day and night to get there in time, sipping coke through straws shaped like bows as they chased taillights.

Barbara picks up the trophy. Glinda had fumbled her talent during the second half of the show. Her pink-and-white hula-hoop had caught on the microphone stand and come shuddering down her stick-straight frame. Boom! Glinda didn’t miss a beat. Just looked straight at the judges and smiled wide. She hadn’t cried or run off stage. Barbara had hoped, nervously, that Glinda might at least scrape third place. Composure was weighed the heaviest, and might save Glinda from slipping out of the ranking altogether. When Glinda’s name was called for second place, Barbara clutched her fists so tight the bones in her wrists popped.

She handles the trophy carefully. It is the pinnacle of her daughter’s success. She ought to place it somewhere visible. To inspire Glinda when she comes home. To remind her of how things used to be, when the two of them would buy cupcake dresses and white shoes. When Glinda would float out on stage and Barbara would think maybe this time.

Barbara remembers when Glinda told her about the breakup, how wet her voice had sounded, as if the tears had drenched her vocal chords. After six years of waiting for her boyfriend to propose, they had gotten in a fight. Glinda had related the news to her mom on the phone in Glinda’s old room, which Barbara had converted into an office. The delivery was factual, but strained. The spat had combusted, turned acidic. Glinda related, between small gulps of air, how her boyfriend didn’t even want kids, even though he knew full well that she did. She had wasted seventy-two eggs on nothing.

Barbara insisted that she come home, even though they didn’t really have the room. She promised to clean out the attic, set up a space for Glinda up there. She could put the boxes in the garage. Sure, her husband liked to work on his motorcycles, but he wouldn’t mind if she stacked a few boxes downstairs.

Of course, now that she thinks about it, he’ll probably look inside them, and Barbara knows he is still mad. They have paid the flipper off, but the interest keeps climbing every month, and she is still waiting for her home business to turn a profit. If he sees any of the dresses or the crowns, they’ll get in a fight themselves. He will insist on trashing it all, but Barbara can’t bring herself to do that. She knows it is just stuff, but she’d had so much fun. All Barbara had ever wanted was for her daughter to be happy; to have the type of life Barbara wished she could have had.

Barbara stands up. She wipes the dust from her knees. She pushes an old bookcase against the wall and sets the trophy on the top shelf. She takes the trophy off the shelf and polishes it with her sleeve. When she sets the trophy back on the shelf, it looks duller than before.

It is too dark in the attic for the trophy. Too dark for her daughter. She will move her office up here instead. Glinda will be much happier in her old room.

Barbara smiles, just in case anyone was watching.

The End

December News for 2014

Congratulations to Ellen Denten of Afton, Wyoming, the recipient of the November Penn Cove Literary Arts Award.

Ferris Wheel of Fortune

By Ellen Denton

This can’’t be really happening. Not happening. Oh God in heaven, please help
me!

Cara Murry would later learn from a Google search that the odds of someone
being seriously injured or killed from an amusement park Ferris wheel ride
were 1 in 9 million, that most such incidents occurred due to riders not
following posted rules for safety, that mechanical mishaps and breakdowns
mainly occurred in traveling carnivals where the ride was repeatedly taken
apart and reassembled, that someone was more likely to be killed in an auto
accident driving to an amusement park than on a Ferris wheel.

None of these statistics mattered though at the moment. Nauseas with
paralyzing terror, she hung over a beam, it’s metal cutting into her
stomach, her hands frozen in claw-like grips on two bars to the side of
her. The car she had just been dumped out of swung and scraped above her.

There was a surrealness to it, to the smallness of the people gesturing and
gaping from the ground so far below, to the jolting snap and lurching
backward tilt of the enclosed six-person gondola moments ago, the weight of
the bodies crashing through the back window glass before she was dropped
here and the other five people to their death on the ground below. Even from this distance she could see tiny blotches of red below the motionless forms on the ground. Things like this only happened to others, were only dispassionate journalistic reports, heard or read in the news, about strangers, far from the realm of her own experience, forgotten with the turn of a newspaper page.

I can’’t stand another second of this – it feels like the metal is cutting
through my stomach – my family – what will they tell my kids – I’’m only
twenty-six – the vacation we planned for next month – Cindy’’s school play –

There was a distant wail of sirens and she could see people in the crowd
turning in that direction.

Is that for here? Oh God! Hurry, hurry, hurry!

*
The crowd parted to make way for two fire trucks, ambulances, police cars.
Barricades were set up and the onlookers ushered behind them. First
responders kneeled beside the fallen bodies. Four were covered over with
something, the fifth, looking like a tiny, motionless doll in the distance,
was loaded into an ambulance. One of the fire trucks maneuvered as close as
possible to the stopped Ferris wheel. Firemen and whatever police were not
busy controlling the crowd or taking statements from spectators, were
looking up at her.

Hurry. I feel sick. Hurry! I’’m cold. I’’m hot! It hurts!

She had up till now been looking straight or down to the right or left, but
now looked at the gondola directly below her. She could see the people in it looking up at her through its glass roof. A teenage girl was talking on a cell phone and crying. A woman clutched a young boy in an embrace and rocked back and forth, clearly terrified for his and her own safety.

She again had the feeling that she was in some kind of not-really-happening
dream. The air around her seemed to shrink and press in close to her, making her head hurt, her throat hurt, even the bile taste in her mouth seemed unreal.

Then she had a shattering thought that snapped and slapped her into the
crystal-clear present.

What if they start it up again? What if they think they can get me down by
starting it up again and having it come around? My arms will be torn off or
I’’ll be flipped forward over this bar when the wheel turns forward. Do they
know? Can they see me well enough. PLEASE KNOW! PLEASE LET THEM SEE. DON’T
LET THEM START IT UP AGAIN.

A minute later, which felt like an eternity to her, a ladder started rising
from the fire truck closest to the Ferris wheel, with a bucket-like
attachment at the top. There were two firemen in it.

Like a bird alighting on an invisible branch, it stopped directly below her. The firemen were behind her at the height of her dangling legs and now held up their arms to her. She turned her head to look at them. Her heart made a tinny “bang-bang” terror sound in her own ears when she again saw how far the ground below her was.

They both placed their hands on the lower part of her body, as though to
assure her they were really there.

“Ma’’am, it’’s going to be okay – we’’ll have you down and safe in no time.
Just push backwards from that bar. We’’ve got you.”

“I’’m afraid! I don’’t want to fall!”

“You won’’t ma’’am. I promise. The only place you could fall right now is into
this basket, but we’’ll have a hold of you before even that happens. Just let
go of those bars and we’’ll pull you down.”

With a choking sob, and feeling like a life-long trapeze artist executing
the final move of the final performance of her career, she did, and before
she could even blink her eyes or form another thought, was on her back in
the arms of the firemen, who gently lowered her to a sitting position.

The End

December Penn Cove Award is Open

December’s theme is Counting Down

Happy Holidays to one and all.

November’s award recipient will be announced shortly.