Monday, March 20, 2017
1st 5 Pages March Workshop- Taylor Rev 2
Name: Kathi Morrison-Taylor
Title: UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY
Genre: MG, Magical Realism
Eleven-year-old Kimberley Adams and her grandfather plan for him to contact her after death. Their logistics still unclear, he suddenly dies. Desperate, Kimberley steals his ashes, unlocking a parallel reality, and her inconsolable double.
1st Five Pages:
To be or not to be?
“To be.” Kimberley Adams made her decision.
She snatched the compact, brick of ashes from the vanity table and ran.
She ran from her great aunt’s attic apartment through the old wedding cake house, jumping down the steep stairs two at a time. Sweat rose on her face to mix with her recent tears.
“Hey?!” Her cousin Gerson called out as Kimberley burst into the parlor and wove through a group of lingering guests. “What’s going on? Is it another bat?”
Part of Kimberley wanted to stop and answer, but not her eleven-year old legs racing forward, dragging her out the front door.
“This is what teleporting must feel like,” thought Kimberley, “when my cells start swirling over my head, or my soul takes flight out of my body, or I’m scrambling back into another shape like a swarm of bees or a school of fish.” Hold on to the ashes! she told herself, pressing the hard plastic box against her heart, /Don’t let go of Abu.
She leaned downhill toward the silver glint of the river, the manicured yard whooshing past. No,not exactly teleporting, more like the Great Glass Elevator when it burst out of the top of Wonka’s factory, but no walls to protect Kimberley. More like a rabbit hole, only she wasn’t chasing a rabbit. She had fled, fled from her great aunt, Tia Tatiana. She had stolen her grandfather’s ashes.
* * * * *
Abu wouldn’t like this.
“Use your words!” Abu had always said when she was little and the world felt impossible. “Use your words, Kimberley, don’t cry.” Abu loved words. That’s why he’d become a literature professor. Mama said that when Kimberley was a toddler, sometimes, when she couldn’t stop crying, they would call Abu and he’d used words, reading to her, soothing her with stories.
“What could I tell him?” Kimberley asked herself, “I tried to use words, but they didn’t work. And then what?”
It’s a bad idea to sit around and wait for things to happen. Yes, that was true.
Kimberley was sure of that. She’d learned from reading Hamlet: the last thing she and Abu had read together. Hamlet had waited around too long and at the end of his story almost everyone dies.
Had it been only three weeks since they’d finished the play, two weeks since Abu flew back here to Connecticut for Gerson’s 8th grade graduation, one week since the text to Mama about the hospital, three days since…?
She’d tried to use her words.
Tia Tati, I want Abu to stay close to us.
She’d closed her eyes and tried some words in the car on the way back from the funeral, fighting to ignore Gerson sitting next to her snapping his silly spearmint gum.
I want Abu to be in Los Angeles with me and Mama and Dad like always. Don’t take his ashes to Puerto Rico.
She’d also rehearsed in the receiving line on the front lawn, in front of the prickly rosebushes. But she had been too distracted. Tia Tati, Abu’s big sister, stood at the end of the line, her black leather tote bag clutched under her left arm with the straps over her bony shoulder. The plastic urn of Abu’s ashes had to be inside.
I need to be near Abu always. He promised me...He promised me …
Tia Tati’s right hand held her flowered cane, which she kept braced in the soft lawn as friends hugged her, condolences. She didn’t have free arms to hug them back. Instead she learned in and air-kissed both cheeks.
Soon the receiving line migrated to the porch, and Tia Tati went inside and started up the stairs. Tia Tati and Abu had lived in this very same house when they were kids, and Tia Tati still lived there, in the attic apartment waiting for space aliens.
Kimberley didn’t follow right away. Gerson had nicknamed Tia Tati la tortuga, for good reason, plus Kimberley couldn’t decide what Tia Tati would think if she told about Abu’s promise, his plan to make contact from the undiscovered county.
No, that was her and Abu’s secret.
When she was ready with her words, she climbed the stairs.
The first attic room, a narrow sitting room, held a mirrored vanity on one wall and shelves with a radio, knicknacks and music CDs on the other.
In the center of the vanity, a picture frame was propped against the plastic urn. It looked exactly as Kimberley had imagined it. It did not fit in. Portable, but fake; no real effort had been made to allow it to pass as real stone or clay. Someone could carry it in a purse or a laptop case. It could pass as a block in a child’s bedroom. It could rest under a trellis in a community garden during a heavy spring rain. It could prop a door open or hold a stack of papers down. But clearly it was out of place propping up a photo of young Abu on Tia Tati’s doily-trimmed vanity.
She reached out her hand and grasped the brick. Was this really all that was left of her Abu? She studied the picture in its frame. He had been a handsome boy, kind of skinny, with dark eyebrows and a familiar face. In the photo he sits on a riverbank, wearing a black jacket and bow tie. He holds a book, front cover pressed against his chest. He could have been thirteen or even older.
Kimberley started to lift the brick of ashes, but the photo jiggled, and she set it down again. Under her thumb was a white paper sticker marked “Human remains.”
She let go and stepped away.
Kimberley pulled back the curtain of beads that acted as a second front door in the attic rooms. Her old aunt perched on the edge of her flowery sofa filing her nails. She wore a green shiny robe styled like a kimono over her black funeral dress. Her hair was still pinned back tight, but the bun had unwound into a gray ponytail.
“Please, Tia Tati!” Kimberley marched across the room. “Please don’t take my Abu back to Puerto Rico.”
“Pobrecita” answered the old lady in a soft, sing-song voice, “my little brother loved you very much. Sin duda.”
“Then, please, don’t take him,” Kimberley begged.
“Some day she will understand,” said Titi, hand raised to the sky. “He is going home, cariña. Going back to our enchanted island.”
Kimberley wished she knew the words to say that would make Tia Tati understand her doubt, but something hard was caught in her throat and she knew the tears were coming next.
Tia Tati was using words too, and she had years more experience using words.
“You are Puerto Rican, and I am Puerto Rican, and Abu was Puerto Rican. We, our family, the island is our home, nada mas importa. It is all that matters.”
Tia Tati’s words jumbled up and argued like angry cats in Kimberley’s head.
The room spun with Kimberley’s frustration. She still held the Denmark-mermaid spoon in her pocket from the night that Abu died. She pressed its tip into her thumb to feel its dull pinch. That night. That terrible night with the bat in the guest room. She wished she could see the bat’s face again, like it had been at the guest room screen, winking.