Sunday, May 14, 2017
1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Vogel Rev 1
Our Mother Not in Heaven
"Oh God no Gita. You must pronounce that one correctly."
"What did I say?"
"You said 'nucular'."
"That's what you said, 'nucular'."
"Nuclear, nu-cle-ar, NUCLEAR! Look, I think we should take a break. We're both getting tired, and the sun has nearly set."
Gita cracked her stiff neck from side to side to release the day's accumulated tension. She gazed and clawed at the dirt floor. "I guess you're right, but bzaenim..."
"Stop. You have to stay in English. Think in English. We both know you're perfectly fluent, this is no time to revert on me," Kenna admonished. She normally exuded calm, but time was running short and the whole world essentially hung in the balance. It would fray anyone's nerves.
"Right, right, sorry. I was going to say we should go over that part one last time before , but maybe you're right. I'm exhausted, and I guess, a bit nervous," Gita replied, returning to the careful enunciation of her English words.
"That's totally natural," Kenna responded, regaining her calm. As part of her multifaceted role she fed Gita a quick bite of loamy mush. "You're exceedingly prepared. I know you don't feel like you've done anything yet, but you've already proven yourself to me. We'll rest now, but there will be time to review a few things in the morning before you embark, like nuclear. That's an important one!" she never stopped working.
The two, six-legged, exoskeleton clad females marched down the moist dark tunnel to their bunks in the sleeping quarters. The rank smell of fear pheromones from a midday scare had been mostly sponged up by the porous walls of soil, and the whole community drifted into its familiar nighttime placidity.
Gita tossed and turned on her bed. Nuclear, nuclear, nuclear, she thrummed to herself, mandibles twitching. Her mind scratched away at one last pre-slumberous thought, in English, dragging out her already tiring eve. I hope Ellie can handle this. I hope we chose wisely.
Gita's nearly massless body sank deeper into the wet dirt, as if pressed by the weight of the world. Outsized responsibility can place a great weight on chosen shoulders.
Elita Bauer, Ellie for short, jumped off the school bus and ran down the long dusty driveway to her family's small, turn-of-the-century, red-brick farmhouse. The Bauer's waist-high wheat stretched from either side of the driveway out to the unbroken lines demarcating earth from sky. Like a shag rug stroked back and forth by the hand of a child, each thin stalk of wheat did its part to sway in the breeze, but remained indistinguishable from the whole. Not Ellie. She would be asked to stand out above all the rest, but for now she blissfully knew nothing of her fate. She certainly never had any reason to think twice about ants.
She darted in through the backdoor and tossed her backpack onto the chunky, weathered kitchen table of red oak that her grandpa had hand-crafted decades before she was even conceived. She gulped down a glass of water and ran back outside.
Ellie was eager to confirm that her new tree house endured the day's moderate wind while she sat bored and distracted in the hot classroom. Just like grandpa and that table, she built the tree house with her own hands and it made her proud. Dad only helped when the bladed power tools came out. It was erected as a place to play just as she was maturing beyond such childhood trifle. It would soon serve a wholly different, unexpected purpose. Daunting, unfathomably consequential secrets would be divulged within its humble four walls.
Ellie's older brothers contributed to the tree house’s completion in their own way. They doubted her capabilities loudly, in her face. She had no lack of self-motivation, but her siblings’ sneers virtually guaranteed the project's success. Anything Ellie was told she could not accomplish, or even should not accomplish, became an immediate possibility, a likelihood. That trait rubbed some adults the wrong way, but in certain situations it had the potential to equal power.
Ellie, in contrast to her farm-destined brothers, aspired to things beyond the family’s small patch of soil.
Just as she barreled back outside through the creaky screen door, a loud bang rattled the center pane of the kitchen's plate glass window. The crash stopped her in her tracks, and sadness gripped her immediately. She had heard these distinctive thuds before. They were on the rise ever since Dad replaced those little panes with that big one. This was the third sudden and tragic interruption of flight this month.
There in the red mulch between the house and the line of flowering inkberry bushes, lay the comatose body of a large male robin. The sight of the grounded bird's body injected Ellie's sadness with a dose of excitement. A travesty, yes, but also an opportunity for a girl with dreams of becoming a veterinarian. She had a new patient.
Ellie sprinted away toward the back of the main barn. She slid to her knees in the dusty dirt, skidding to a stop beside her humane animal trap. She picked it up and dumped the day-old cubes of cantaloupe into the groundhog hole at the base of the barn's foundation, and hollered toward the empty hole, "I guess you get a free lunch today".
The emptied trap would serve a new purpose as an ambulance for the injured bird. Then, fingers crossed, a safe place for it to regain its strength before taking flight.
Trapping was the original purpose for the galvanized metal box. It was the only gift Ellie admitted wanting — to insure its receipt — for her thirteenth birthday. It came with a contract. A truce really. Dad agreed that anything Ellie trapped could be released alive. Farm intruders too smart to fall for Ellie's trap, would continue to be shot.
Ellie's end of the bargain entailed a moratorium on the unrelenting animal rights protests. Ellie saved lives while Dad avoided the drama surrounding each and every death. On those days when she came home from school to find the trap occupied, mostly by gullible groundhogs, she would toss a towel on top, bungee it to her bicycle rack, and pedal back to school. There, behind the ball fields, her chubby brown friends could roam safe and free in the woods.
Father and daughter both knew that the school grounds, eight miles away, wasn't always far enough, but Dad was too tired to reopen the negotiations and Ellie secretly longed for reunions with her bucktoothed deportees. Ellie loved all things feathered or furry. Ants, branching from the opposite side of the tree-trunk of evolution, are clearly neither.
Ellie made it back to the house in seconds. The bird hadn’t budged. She placed the empty, open-ended trap down in the mulch at the robin’s feet. Her cupped hands formed a gurney that eased under the nearly weightless avian frame. She could have grown up to be a damn good veterinarian if the state of the world had been different, and if the ants hadn’t spied her potential for something critically bigger.
She glided the bird into the cage, taking great care to avoid the trigger plate that kept the powerful, spring-loaded door from snapping shut. Once the bird was safely inside Ellie released the latch and gently lowered the trapdoor.