Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Penny in Time Chapter 7: Changin' Addi-Paddi (part 2)

I was going to tell him that no matter what was decided, I wanted him to know that I liked him for being who he was. I snapped the scarf out of the belt loops and stood before a mirror on the far wall adjusting it so that it laid symmetrical, then yanked one end longer than the other. Mr. D. waved the crisp piece of paper, as if to hurry me along.

 "Elizabeth Conner, bring the misbegotten."

"Come on, Yugo," I cuddled him close as I walked out the front door Mr. D slammed shut and locked.  There was movement in the bushes and I thought I saw a face, but it disappeared so suddenly I wasn't sure I had really seen anything at all.  "Mr. D. there's someone..."

He cut me off abruptly with,  "All are at the Perfect Chambers.  And from now on, you must call me Mr. dIAmand.  We mustn't tarry, the proceedings have already begun."

Mr. D didn't say another word as he strode toward the center of the city, me trailing behind, Yugo warm and heavy in my arms.  It seemed I had just caught my second wind, when Mr. D trotted up a set of stairs leading to the largest building of the city and held open a massive, glass door etched with a figure eight, which I recognized as the symbol of infinity.

I thought Mr. D had gone back to his high and mighty manner, but he whispered as I entered, "I shall wish for us the best outcome, the best for us all."

He preceded me into the chamber, leaving me below as he ascended stairs to the first level, nodding to those in the aisle seats, then found a seat in the front row.

The room must have been the size of Atlantis, and as I scoped it out I could see it, too, was shaped in a huge figure eight, with twenty tiers of seats in each rounded end, narrowing into the middle open space where there was a stage.  The place was jammed full of Monosapiens.  The room buzzed with talk, until I walked up in front of a stage where a panel of five sat.

A million eyes had tracked my every footstep up here.  Now I felt like Daniel in the lion's den before a bunch of ravenous creatures waiting to pounce on me.  The silence was so silent that I heard my own breathing.  Yugo was strangely quiet, too.  My right hand lay over his chest and I felt the evenness of his breathing and soft thudding of his heart.  How could he be so serene when I was a whirlwind of anxiety and doubts?

"You are Elizabeth Conner."  The cream-colored, furry hand slapped a gavel down, echoing the sharpness of his voice. His nameplate read ‘Judge Ludwig’.

It was a statement, not a question.  I nodded, clutching Yugo a little tighter.  A female sat beside Judge Ludwig and tapped a pencil, eraser side down, on a file folder, a fat file folder. Until she spoke, Mrs. Furbal looked like a really nice grandmother, with heart-shaped pink lips and wearing granny glasses.

"We have compiled facts of this case presented before us regarding the misbegotten."  Mrs. Furbal riffled through papers and handed a sheet to Judge Ludwig as he continued.  "The misbegotten by the name of Yugo, brought into the Perpetual City by one Elizabeth Conner."  He looked at me as if I should confirm what he said, so I nodded.

"First of all," the five Monosapiens on the panel peered at me, like they measured me for good sense, "this is not a judgment of you.  We understand the dilemma you are in, one of emotional attachment to the misbegotten, without a clear comprehension of the larger issues, which we hope to clarify for you."

Mrs. Furbal spoke next, avoiding me, focusing on the paper in front of her.  "The larger issues are:  if acknowledged, the misbegotten must be claimed by his parents; there is the question of what is to be done about the coupling/uncoupling; and what deleterious effect will this have on the progeny of the couple, the economical  repercussions, and ultimately, what effect will this have on our society?"

"Well said, Mrs. Furbal," remarked the man sitting on her right, Mr. Reader.  In agreement, the others, Mr. Stix and Mr. Light, nodded and smiled like puppets.

The judge met my gaze.  I would not let them override the 'larger issue' of murder.  "You can't justify murder, can you?" I challenged.  I heard a low rippling of voices around me, but I couldn't actually make out anything said.

That didn't seem to faze Judge Ludwig.  He explained, in a deliberate and precise tone, once more, the 'larger issues'.  "It is unfortunate that there must be such a drastic and undesirable recourse to correct an individual's mistake, but it is preferable to rectify the mistake rather than rend the fabric of society.  Those who go outside the legal union to find personal love hurt not only a mate, but the offspring, therefore all of society.  If couples were allowed to divorce, it would bring pain, as well as changes, to all.  This must, and will be, the prime consideration of the Perfect Council."

I was sweating and cold, for suddenly I found myself in a quandary.  I didn't want to say divorce was a good thing, because I didn't believe it was.  Hadn't I been hurt because of my parents' divorce?  I liked the idea that families stayed together. I liked the idea of a perfect society.  Would Yugo die if I agreed with the Perfect Council?  I couldn't let that happen, no matter what.  But I certainly didn't know what I was going to do about it, either.

I glanced around me. Only one in the crowd of clones looked directly at me, a woman with slightly different eyes and mouth, who clasped a blanket in her hands, and she appeared desperate, on the brink of standing up.  She wet her lips several times, wringing the blanket tighter and tighter.  Yugo chirped, as if he recognized her, wanting her attention, just as I hoped she would speak up.  For I, too, recognized her as the anxious face I had seen hiding in the bushes at Mr. D's house.

"Elizabeth Conner!"

I jerked back to attention before Judge Ludwig.  Yugo yelped, wiggling and straining to look behind me, making it nearly impossible to hold onto him.  I was ready to duck out of here and let these guys settle future issues for themselves.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to change things for the better, but I did know that I wanted to go home and that my mother would understand about Yugo.

Five faces loomed before me, without an ounce of sympathy for either Yugo or me, in spite of what they might say.

"By what defense do you wish to redeem the misbegotten?"

The room full of Monosapiens waited for my answer.  My brains were scrambled and my voice had dried up; I thought any minute my heart would hammer a hole in my chest.    "I'll take Yugo home with me!" I exclaimed.

"No!" thundered Judge Ludwig.  "You will have the duration of the recess to prepare your defense.  Dismissed!"

The gavel cracked.  I sank down on a nearby bench and tried to unravel my disordered thoughts.  Yugo's very life depended on me, and all I could think of was how much I wanted out of this mess.  I rocked Yugo, wanting a response from him, but he struggled to free himself from my arms.  He was looking for that woman.  But if she cared at all about him, why didn't she claim him?  And there may as well have been an ocean between me and Mr. D, for it seemed pretty certain he wasn't going to help us, either.

There wasn't any way out of this building, and besides, where could we go?  Back out there in the wastelands with those horrible creatures that wanted a free meal?  Right now, though, it seemed like inside or out, we were facing some pretty terrible odds trapped here with the Perfect Council sitting in judgment. If I ever had to save my life, it was now.  Strange, I thought suddenly, it's Yugo's life that's at stake, not mine.  But sometimes, it felt we were one and the same.

Yugo plopped into my lap, radiating trust that rankled me, for I was full of despair.  I cupped his face with my hands, and stared at him, trying to fathom his confidence. 

  Then it clicked!  Mr. D had said something was wrong with this society, and that must be the key to this whole thing!  If only I could unlock the secret before it was too late.  If only.  And time was running out.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Write Seasons Greetings

I have to take stock of the pantry, order the prime rib, buy the ingredients for the  pies, edit the address list, Mary Sue likes Cran-Apple juice, Ted likes V-8, Sugar Snaps is toddling, put the tree up on a box or table, and I forgot Sissy’s birthday card.  If I could just get out the newsletter, a really good one, that would take care of half the obligatory notes in the one-hundred ten Christmas cards.  I can do that between the 9th and 10th and get all those in the mail with all the packages, on time for Christmas Eve.

Or, I could just forget it.  But every year I argue with that inner voice that urges me to do a creative newsletter, maybe with an artful, hand drawn Santa and sleigh over the roof tops, or a bucolic scene with deer and bunnies and magically decorated trees, snow falling, and of course, starry night sky—-ah, no, if it is snowing it wouldn’t be starry, then maybe snow on the ground.  Or quick! copy a graphic and send out e-cards. Oh, right.  Now I am exhausted just thinking about it.  Why does it have to be so hard?

Well, it does not have to be hard.  I know, I wrote the book KISS, Keep It Short and Simple, and I’ve learned how to quick start a writing project. Although it sounds contradictory, listen to the chattering thoughts a few seconds.  Is there a recurring theme—-leaving out all the expletives?  For me this year, there is nothing particularly newsworthy. Okay, then, what about an artsy approach?  Hmmm, what pops in mind is a wine glass pouring out words onto the paper.  Okay, I can go with that and a simple line that the family is happy, healthy and will be celebrating the holidays together.  Last year, the newsletter had twelve  paragraphs bulging with anecdotes, some hilarious and some quite disheartening, in a calendar format, as my life had been one incident after another the whole year. I could laugh about it in retrospect and apparently, so could others.

What makes a good Christmas newsletter?  News about the family. It is in the telling. “Well, it’s that time of year again….” does not make for a felicitous greeting.  Start on a positive note, simply “Merry Christmas!” can be a good start to a chatty newsletter.  If you are not good on the computer with graphics, buy some seasonal cheerful paper which has the added benefit of shortening the format.  The idea is to make your readers feel as though you are talking to them, not bragging or to induce envy of your good fortune or make others feel sorry for you, or dread hearing the same old thing from you year after year. It is a short story. Short sentences are far easier and memorable than long, run-ons. Remember that a sentence is built on threes:  a noun, verb and adjective; a beginning, middle and end, and at least three sentences to a paragraph. Use the CCI concept:  compare, contrast and interrelate. As an example:  We were so fortunate to have our clan, six couples, 5 children, one bachelor, together for a Christmas ski vacation. Our nephew Kyle, a competitive racer broke a record in the Jingle Bell run, but unfortunately, also broke his ankle the first day. However, as all true romantic stories have a happy ending, by the end of the week, Kyle was engaged to his high school sweetheart, a charming waitress who brought him a daily cup of coffee as he sat by the fireplace. Kismet?

I suspect for most people, it is hard to find the right tone, or voice, to write one’s story. Is it far nobler to be serious or more impressive to be charming, witty, and funny? Or far better to be yourself, which may be plain spoken, out-spoken or reticent.  If the whole thing of writing out a newsletter is overwhelming, don’t stress, address.  Get the envelopes done and the letter becomes an accessory.  Once you begin, the rest will come easy.

Then again, “Merry Christmas! Happy New Year y’all” works  like a charm, too.  Sign your name to the card and you are good to go.
Happy Holidays