Sunday, March 12, 2017
1st 5 Pages March Workshop- Taylor Rev 1
Name: Kathi Morrison-Taylor
Genre: MG, Magical Realism
Title: UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY
“To be or not to be?”
Free of school at last, Kimberley Adams could finally practice her Shakespeare. Reciting her lines, she began her walk across Sun Canyon Day School’s soggy sports fields.
If she looked up, she could see the long flight of steps up University Hill to Oscar Wilde Hall. And if she squinted, she could count the windows on the fourth floor of Oscar Wilde Hall to find her exact destination point - the Literature Wing, Professor Blanco, her grandfather’s office.
But she wasn’t looking up today. She was in a hurry, so much of a hurry that she didn’t even worry about green grass stains on the toes of her new white Keds.
Today they were going to finish the play, she and her grandfather, her abuelo, Abu. They were going to read Act V, Scene II, and Hamlet would finally take revenge...or maybe not.
“To be or not to be. That is the question, whether…”
“Kimberley, wait! Kimber, hold up!”
Kimberley stopped. She didn’t need to turn around to know it was her friend Dehlia chasing her again.
“My mom wants to know if you’ll go to the mall with us. We can get the clips I need for science fair and then stop for ice cream and my mom will drop you at home after.”
“Sorry,” said Kimberley. “I have my appointment.”
Dehlia put her hands on her hips. “I know you’re going to go read Hamlet with your grandfather but I’m just saying…You go every day!”
Kimberley gave Dehlia her fiercest look.
“I’m just saying, the words are weird. It’s not like it’s really even English! And it’s kind of sad, too. Remember you were crying in math just a few days ago because that girl died?”
“Ophelia,” said Kimberly, sighing. Dehlia meant well, but she just didn’t get it. “Ophelia dies. I know. I told you. I’ve got to go.”
“And she’s not even real, I’m just saying...”
“It’s okay. We’re finishing Hamlet today. Gotta go,” Kimberley turned quickly, took one big step and hopped over a puddle. “Bye. Tell your mom thanks anyway.”
“To be, or not to be. That is the question.” Kimberley began again at the base of the stairs.
The storms had left the stairway glazed with water and snails washed onto the concrete from the eroding hillside. Kimberley went tiptoe to avoid crushing them. Still many shells had been crunched earlier, university students climbing from the parking lot to their noontime classes.
“Whether ‘tis nobler in mind to suffer...to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…”
As if snails had a choice, thought Kimberley.
At the landing in the middle of the stairway, Kimberley stopped and finished the last little bit.
“Or...or…or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?”
“Sea of troubles…” Kimberley repeated. The snails didn’t stand a chance. Hamlet, on the other hand...
Which was Hamlet? Someone who suffers the slings and arrows of life, like the crushed snails? Or someone ready to battle a sea of troubles, take action?
Which was she?
Abu’s office was on the 4th floor of Oscar Wilde Hall, the humanities building at California University.
“Alas, poor Yorick!!” Kimberley called out at the office door.
“I knew him,” came the completion of the line, from Abu within.
With that, Kimberley swung open the door to her second home.
Books. Abu was all about books. Three walls were really bookshelves, and the fourth wall was half window, filled with pots of cilantro, a tasty herb and a tribute to his Puerto Rican roots.
A love seat with plenty of large, squishy pillows pushed up next to the window nook. It was not unusual for Kimberley to find a student asleep there with a book in her lap or engaged in pocket chess with an imaginary opponent.
Next to the love seat was a large, orange papasan chair draped with a faux-fur throw that Abu’s university students had named “The Yeti.”
Kimberley stood in the doorway, scanning the office for students.
“Pray thee, enter,” said Abu, getting up from his desk and extending his hand to his granddaughter. “Are we ready, Miss Adams, to embark on our long awaited ending?”
He shook her hand formally, then caught her in a hug.
“I can’t believe it’s almost over,” Kimberley said, making a cape of the Yeti and slipping into the tall wooden chair next to Abu’s desk.
Abu shook his head and chuckled.“You are aware that my students call that chair the ‘hot seat’?”
Kimberley shrugged and they began to read: Kimberley in the “hot seat,” and Abu in his professor seat, behind his giant desk. Abu read Hamlet’s part. Kimberley read Horatio’s answer. Abu read the stage directions. Kimberley read Hamlet’s part. Back and forth they transformed magically from one character to the next Abu encouraging her awkward attempts at voices.
An hour passed quickly. An hour and a half.
When Hamlet chose to fight for his honor and vengeance for his father,
Yes, Kimberley thought to herself, “to be,” “to be” is winning!
And then, all of a sudden, “It’s over,” she sobbed. “The play is over.”
Ophelia’s fate had been bad enough. She had counted on Hamlet’s becoming king, not Hamlet's dying.
““Shakespeare would say it’s not over,” said Abu. “The play goes on and on, and wouldn’t you know: All the world’s a stage!” I know you liked it, but now we’ll find something else.”
“Liked it? Liked it? It was the best ever until we finished. The end wrecked everything. Dehlia’s right. Shakespeare’s stupid.”
Kimberley pulled away from Abu and landed in the papasan chair. Even though it was late in the afternoon, the green light from earlier storms hadn’t faded. Dead. Dead. Dead. Tears rolled down her cheeks. Abu set a box of tissues in her lap.
Part of her couldn’t stop crying. Kimberley hated that part of herself, but it always took over at times like these. Part of me wants to stay calm and take action, but part of me drowns in my own tears, she thought to herself: to be and not to be.
On a blood-red bookshelf behind his professor-desk, Abu kept his favorite things: the complete works of William Shakespeare, a plastic model of a human skull, and a magic 8 ball. The shelf was mounted at chair level. When she had been little, Kimberley had set her chin on the shelf to be eye-to-eye with Mr. Ricky, her baby-name for the skull.
Staring up at Mr. Ricky now through her tears, Kimberley sensed a villainous greenish glow where eyes should be.
“Your mother was probably right,” said Abu, his hand on her shoulder.
“Hamlet may be too much about death,” he said. “Too much about death says a lot about life,” he continued to himself.
He knelt and pulled her into a hug. “I think this is why in our family there are so many Catholics. First, we’re here, and then, we’re gone.”
“Abu, where do you think we go?” asked Kimberley.
“Well, Hamlet says The Undiscovered Country. Whether it is a Heaven beyond gates of pearl, or a swirling portal through a black hole, or a parallel universe on the dark side of the moon, no traveler has returned to report back to us yet.”
“What if we could find it?” asked Kimberley. “The Undiscovered Country. What if a traveler came back with instructions or a map?”