Brewed Nature

A pound of Thoughts; A smidgen of Sarcasm; A quarter-cup of Concern; Two leaves of Bay; One Clove. Steep for days, constantly stirring with a branch of Oak.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why I'm Voting For Obama

My ShoutLife friend, Lisa Holloway, posted the following blog to which my reply follows:

The Obama Conundrum Tuesday, October 28, 2008 - 10:04 PM

Rather than hi-jack my own (other) blog to continue making Obama quips, let me just put it out there: What about Obama do you find reassuring?
Lisa Holloway

New Horizon Writing
Visit My Website

First, let me start off by saying I am never reassured by any politician.
Here's why I am voting for Barack Obama:

I would normally vote for an independent, but this election is too important to me to END the Bush/Cheney tyranny that's plagued this country for eight long years. So I have to support Obama to make that happen.

Obama's tax cuts will help anyone who makes less than $250,000. I don't know many people that wouldn't help. In my opinion, if you're making over $100,000--you're well off. Over $200,000--you're rich so you can afford to help spread some love. And if you're a small business owner who can't figure out how to keep your income under $250,000 by investing (protecting) the rest of your money into your own company, than you don't deserve a break. Large corporations should have to pay much, much more into our society. CEOs and profiteers can easily take a cut in pay and still live very well--and that money could help raise those who deserve it--the worker bees. Increase their salary. Even Obama said in the last debate that he has no problem taking a cut in pay. **PERSONAL EXAMPLE: In my town, the city board thought it wise to provide tax cuts for incoming corporations like: Target, Walmart, Borders, Barnes & Noble--because they need it. Right. This shut the doors of many of our smaller locally-owned businesses like bookstores and gift shops and ma & pa grocers who couldn't compete and lost business. Why not give small-business owners a tax break? Oh, wait, that's what Obama wants as well. What a smart man.**

I want health insurance. And I don't want pre-existing conditions to stop anyone from getting it. McCain's plan of a 5,000 dollar tax break to all won't help everyone--especially those who have more severe health problems and require more expensive policies. Ok, so you have $5,000 to finally purchase that health insurance you've needed for years but had to go without--now, how are you supposed to pay for the rest when your policy is costing you more than that? And the whole idea of purchasing insurance from other states just brings about way too many problems to get into here. Besides, shouldn't the richest country in the world provide health care to all its citizens? Shouldn't good health be a civil right? I don't see how it's not. America is listed 24th for Infant Mortality Rate. That's pathetic and embarrassing.

Abortion should be a legal right for women. Whether it's legal or not, if a woman wants an abortion she will find a way--even if that way kills her. Making abortions illegal won't change the number of abortions per year. Whether I would have an abortion or not is not the issue here. Each woman should be able to make her own moral decision--especially keeping in mind the Free Will we were all granted by God. It should never be regulated by the government. Just like prohibition--that didn't work either for the same basic reason. Laws will never dictate singular actions-just punish them.

I believe, even though Obama is a politician, that he is sincere in wanting to help American citizens to the best of his ability. I believe that he is a good man.

Obama will create green jobs and lessen our dependency on countries we should not want to deal with for our oil--which is the only reason we deal with these countries in the first place. Our country will become more self-reliable and it will boost the economy while cleaning up the planet.

Obama understands, better, what many citizens are going through financially due to his own financially-challenged upbringing whereas McCain has no clue with his seven houses and his wife's inheritance. (Saw a clip the other day where she said it was such a bother to fly around all over with a commercial airline that she decided to buy a personal jet for her and the hubby. How convenient for them.)

Obama is young, intelligent and hard working. McCain is physically weak and was, supposedly, in the bottom 5 people of his college class. I am TERRIFIED by the notion of Palin becoming President if anything should happen to McCain.

Obama wants to bring our troops home--out of a war that should never have begun (in Iraq) in the first place. Bin Laden is hiding where? That's right, in Afghanistan--so we think. THAT'S where we should be (and should have been all along) until he's found. Now THAT would protect our freedoms and bring about the revenge Americans crave. THAT'S where the al Qaeda are training to kill Americans. War should never be a business. Halliburton and its shareholders should not profit from death.

I could probably go on, but this is enough for you all to attack me with, I figure.


Grandma's Gone--Stream of Thought

I recently found out that my grandmother passed on in March of this year. My brother and I weren't notified because of cut family ties, which we're both quite upset over. My grandma was more like my mother than my own mother was. She was loving to us both. We lived with her until I was 7 and my brother, around 10. This is a stream-of-thought piece I wrote after thinking back on how good our life was with her--until we moved out. Things changed drastically then--it seemed our childhood ended after grandma's house. But that's covered in other posts here.

My brother and I became best friends in my grandma's backyard. We had a sandbox and a swing set, but we tended to gravitate toward the trees instead. He in the crab tree and I in the shorter cherry tree. He would pelt me with fallen crabapples. I never retaliated with cherries; instead, I'd return confiscated crabapples--our form of dodgeball. Flowers, trees and croquet. Sticks, squirrels and a pet dog. We'd return from school, watch Spiderman and then out to the backyard! We spent hours out there. I dare say for us both that it was the highlight of our childhood. The eight-foot tall wood fence was our barricade from the neighbors--keeping our imagination safe between the two of us. Squirrels ran along top the fence line clicking and gawking--stuffing bits of nuts into their suitcase-cheeks, jealous of our play. I eagerly helped grandma weed while she taught me the names of all the different perennials that were bedded in the bordering garden around the grassed-in square. We'd help grandma collect fallen branches and twigs, and tidy the yew hedges that framed the flagstone walk and steps into our hidden retreat. It was heaven to me. Accompanied by my two favorite people--Scott and grandma. Uncle Dennis would visit every weekend, and Scott and I had the grand pleasure of preparing the family game of croquet--setting up the little wire brackets made of bent hangers. Ivy, Wild Ginger and hundreds of Lilly of the Valley clumped tight against the wood fence. Grandma would call us to dinner and we'd reluctantly file into the kitchen through the back door. After our prayer, we dug in, shocked at how hungry we were. Gingersnaps or Oreos for dessert. Sometimes cobblers. The dog sleeping under the extended, 50s-style counter with a red and green ameba-looking pattern, the smells of homecooking, the jar of Easter-colored eggshells above the sink--all of it always an added comfort to our meal. After our bath with GI Joe and his scuba gear, we'd play with our wooden Noah's Ark set, our wodden train set or our Tinker Toys. Grandma would shuffle us off after a while, into our bed--the same bed. Too bad for Scott that I still sometimes wet it. But we were still best friends. And we always looked forward to the next day's adventures in Grandma's backyard.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tiki Grill

by Lydia Daffenberg

Cooked out on the Tiki Grill.
Five-dollar-bill stories for a buck--
Just your luck.

Line up to get your

Bratville and Cornland,
Guess what?
Little sandwiches on a doily platter even;
Coldplate style.

Everyone scatter--the Tiki Gods are calling . . .
Set down your bamboo glasses and
Leave your paper-umbrella-frame-of-mind behind.


Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Unfinished Business

by Lydia Daffenberg, edited by John J. Desjarlais

This story won first place in the Phidian Art Society's annual writing contest of 2004. I thank John Desjarlais for his editing skills which helped polish it enough to gain notice.

My routine at the library was typical. I shook my wet umbrella, unlocked the door, and flipped on the lights. The fluorescents blinked into life. I lay my purse in the usual spot behind the check-out desk. I put away the door keys and grabbed the keys in the Tupperware till in the top drawer in order to check the overnight drop-box.
It held a book and a stick. I tossed the stick in the trash and laughed to myself about the things children do. I often found twigs, stones, and leaves in the drop box, put there by schoolchildren to perplex the new librarian. But I was glad some things entertained children besides video games. I re-locked the box, trapping the younger me up inside it.
When I updated the due-date stamp, I realized I’d been here almost a year. I jotted notes to myself and made my way to the children’s section to turn on the lights. On the way, I noticed a book on the floor. It wasn’t there last night. I wondered who might have been in earlier. The library board members had keys, and some of them had children. So it was not unusual for me to find things out of place when I came in. It was an older version of Charlotte’s Web. Classic, I thought. I replaced the book on its shelf, and returned to the children’s area desk.
After entering titles into the accession log and cataloging several new books, I decided to fix some tea before opening the doors for official hours. In a small town like this, on a rainy day, I didn’t expect much traffic. I crossed to where I kept the hot-pot. When I reached the check-out desk, I stopped short.
A book had been returned to the desk. I hadn’t heard the door or anyone in the library. But someone had been in, before opening time. The book was face down but I could see the title on the spine: Charlotte’s Web. How odd.
I spun and hurried back to the children’s section. I peered down every row of stacks to be sure no one else was present. No one was.
I went back to the desk and approached the book as though it might leap up at me. “It must be a second copy,” I told myself. Picking it up gently, I saw that it was the same version as the one on the floor. I opened the front cover to see if the book’s card was in the pocket. It was. It had last been checked out three years ago. A popular book like that? Well, there was the other copy on the shelf – right? Clutching the book, white-knuckled, I returned to the book’s proper place in the stacks.
The space was empty.
I caught my breath. How could someone have walked into the children’s section without my noticing? My work desk’s placement made it easy for me to see all of the children’s section, intentionally. I didn’t like the thought of someone sneaking around, avoiding me, even if it was a child. To know I’d been watched didn’t sit well with me. Perhaps it was the same jokester who gave me the stick-gift. Perhaps I’d been so engrossed in my work I didn’t hear them come in. But the door was still locked. Wasn’t it? I checked. It was. Perhaps I’d left it ajar somehow. Since it was now opening time, I unlocked it. I must have absentmindedly placed the book there myself. Did I? I didn’t recall. There had to be a logical explanation. I decided to replace the cowbells we hung on the door when Thelma the 80-year-old part-time assistant worked so she could hear people coming in. At other times, the bells were an annoyance, but this time I felt comforted when I picked up the bells and banged them against the glass door while hanging them up. I straightened out some books at the front of the library, determined not to miss anyone again.
Every 15 minutes for the next hour and a half, I checked on the kids’ section, and then returned to the front. When the phone rang in the kids’ section, I ran to answer it. Someone asking about Saturday hours. When I passed the check-out desk in front, I saw the book was back.
This time it was open to the end. I stood frozen for a moment, too scared to breathe. I strained to hear something – anything that would provide an explanation. Nothing.
I noticed the open book had the last several pages ripped out. It seemed that someone was trying to call attention to the damaged book. But who, and why? And maybe it wasn’t a someone, but a something.
Thunder boomed outside and gave me a start. Rain rattled on the roof. I doubted anyone would come out to the library on a gloomy late October day like this. I considered leaving early, but what excuse would I give to library board members? There’s a book that keeps moving around by itself Are you on medications you didn’t tell us about when hired, Miss Manning? And I feel like I’m being watched Have you seen a therapist about this?
I decided to keep busy. It occurred to me I should get accustomed to something strange happening, in case it kept happening. I adjusted my glasses and started with several non-fiction selections, since those took longer to catalog. When I figured out what Dewey decimal number to use on the third book, I felt it.

It was similar to the feeling you get when someone’s watching you. Or when you think someone is. Only this was more intense. The hair on my neck stood up. Goosebumps pebbled my arms. The air chilled. I tugged my sweater closed. I scanned the windows along the east wall of the children’s’ section. All closed and locked. My gaze turned toward the front of the library where a girl of about nine or ten stood. The bells hadn’t rung.
She came toward me, hesitatingly. She moved fluidly, pigtails swaying. She held a book in her hand. Her eyes were full of intent as she stopped about ten feet from me. “Oh, you startled me,” I said, wrapping myself tighter in my sweater. “I didn’t hear you come in. Do you need some help?”
No reply came, at least not a verbal one. She came about five feet closer and held out the book she had been clutching to her chest. It was Charlotte’s Web. She turned the pages to the end and pushed the book toward me.
“Yes, I see it’s damaged,” I said. “Were you in earlier?”
She said nothing.
“I don’t have another copy,” I said, the words fumbling, “but I’m going to order a new one.”
Still she said nothing. Setting the book down with the pages still open, she sighed – or seemed to – with her head lowered, the eyes saddened. She walked to the shelves, turned to give me one more look, and then continued into the stacks. I jumped up to follow her. I turned down the aisle but she was gone. I grabbed my bag and coat, not even bothering to put it on. I ran to my car, pelted by a downpour, jumped in and sat – cold, wet, ashiver. It took me ten minutes to regain an ounce of composure. I realized that I hadn’t locked up and so I forced myself to return to the library. I hastily switched off the lights and locked the door. I did not look around, my fear made sure of that. I sprinted back to my car and drove home. I turned the heat to high, and although I did dry off, I never warmed up.

I hated the idea of going back to the library, I told my friend Elaine on the phone, long-distance.
“Who wouldn’t?” she said. “That’s creepy.”
“You believe me, right?”
“Sure,” she said. “I’ve done some reading on this. Especially since it’s Halloween and all.”
“But you’re a Christian, Elaine,” I said. “I thought you didn’t believe in ghosts.”
“All things seen and unseen, we say. When the apostles saw Jesus walk on water, they thought it was a ghost. It shows they believed in them. They were afraid.”
“I think she’s more afraid of me than I am of her,” I said. “Do you think she’ll be back? Why do they come back?”
“Unfinished business,” Elaine said. “She’s got unfinished business. That’s what the books say, anyway. Maybe she needs help.”
“What kind of help?”
“Who knows? It’s got something to do with the book, though.”
I agreed. After hanging up, I thought I’d like to see her again; she looked so helpless, and afraid, and guilty. I looked like that, too, at her age -- when Uncle Dan came for visits and put his hand up my skirt. He ripped a piece of my childhood away. I wondered if this girl knew what it was like to blame yourself and wish to be dead.
I went back to work. The lights came to life and I prepared for the Day of the Dead celebration coming up on November 1. I paged through material looking for scary stories for the children, but I thought that my own might scare them enough. Still, I’d keep it to myself.
The bells on the door jarred my attention, and I looked up to see Mrs. Larson step in. Her hand reached out for the railing along the entrance ramp and its grip guided her along the way. “Hello, Dear,” she said.

“Hello, Mrs. Larson. Returning a book?”
“Yes.” She found the end of the rail and let go. Her eyesight was failing. Her feet fought for balance and she hobbled toward me. “It was on that Bermuda Triangle place. A load of rubbish if you ask me.”
I took the book from her outstretched hand. “You’re not a big believer in the supernatural, I take it?”
“Heavens, no,” she said. “I just enjoy reading about it so I can pick it all apart. Besides, my granddaughter Jamie loves that spooky stuff. I tell her scary stories when she visits. It gives me a way to connect with her. Oh! That reminds me – she found she has a book that is overdue. Could you look up how much she owes? I want to help her pay for it – her mother’s making her pay for the whole thing.”
“Actually, we’ve decided to have a second amnesty day this year since there are so many overdue books,” I replied. “If she brings it back November first, she won’t have to pay any fines. That’s also the date for our Day of the Dead celebration for children. I’ll be reading some scary stories, the kind she likes. Do you know if she’s coming to that?”
“I don’t know, but I’ll tell her mother about it. I’m sure Jamie would love that.”
“You know, I could tell a scary story of my own.” I thought Mrs. Larson would convince me it couldn’t happen. “I thought I saw something – well, someone in here before. A little girl who tried to return Charlotte’s Web, then disappeared, then tried to return it again.”
“Yes, I’ve heard all about that.”
“You have?”
“You’re not the only one, Dear,” Mrs. Larson chuckled. “There have been sightings of that girl every year since Hannah Cole was hit by a car and killed Halloween night three years ago. She always comes back with that book to return. Because of that, we go through librarians quickly around here. They didn’t tell you, did they? Of course not. Why scare away another? But it’s rubbish. The librarians who left and claimed to see her say she is upset because she can never finish the end of the story, and wants a new copy. Apparently she was on the way to the library to return it when she was struck. You can look it up.”
My breath, stuck in my throat, finally came out. “I will. Thanks, Mrs. Larson.”
“No, dear, thank you – for forgiving the overdue book.” She turned to depart.
“I hope Jamie can make it to our celebration,” I called after her. “We’re asking the children who attend to wear a skeleton costume.”
“I’ll tell her – about returning the book, too. Goodbye, Dear.”
As soon as she left, I rushed to the library’s archive of the town newspaper and there it was: the story of Hannah’s accident, just as Mrs. Larson told it. I entered the stacks to retrieve the book. My fingers traced the worn cover. I opened it to where the ripped-out pages once were. My eyes skimmed to the last page of print:
“What’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”

It was November 1. I’d been at the library for an hour now, making final preparations for the Day of the Dead celebration. The children would be here any moment. I arranged the books I planned to read on a table and looked out the window to see several skeletons running up the sidewalk toward the library. I was glad to see that the children had chosen to dress up. Some parents strolled through the stacks and some sat along the back wall in folding chairs. Twelve little skeletons sat around me on the floor. They calmed down, seeing we were about to start. I asked who knew about “El Dia de los Muertos,” The Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico. A couple older skeletons explained to the younger ones what they had learned in school about the holiday. After this brief lesson in culture, I showed them the books I had selected to read to them.
“But before I read,” I said, “do any of you have books to return today? Today is amnesty day. Do you know what the word am-nes-ty means? It means you won’t be charged fines if you return your overdue books by closing time tonight.” I looked toward the parents, to address them as well.
And there she was. Hannah stood behind Mrs. Larson, very still.
Mrs. Larson pulled on her shawl, looking chilled.
Jamie, Mrs. Larson’s granddaughter, spoke up. “I was afraid you’d be angry,” Jamie said, “so I kept putting it off.” She handed me her overdue book.
“Thank you, Jamie,” I said. I lifted my chin and spoke in Hannah’s direction. “It’s important for you all to know that I don’t get mad at you for having a late book – I have late books, too! Sometimes, I don’t even charge the fine if the book is only a day or two late, so bring them in or put them in the drop box. The important thing is for the library to have the book back so others can borrow it, too. And if it is damaged, we can work something out. Accidents happen.”
I smiled at the children, and at Hannah.
Hannah smiled at me. I picked up the first book to read, and began. When I glanced up, she was gone.
After the event, several families returned to bring in books. I was glad I decided to hold another amnesty day. Most of the overdue books were returned in one night. I sat at the checkout and marked off fines for everyone who had returned something. I was tired. I took my time cleaning up. I heard a thump outside and saw a child walking away from the drop box. I’d been so wrapped up in the celebration and the desk work that I’d forgotten to check it.

I took the keys and opened the box. It was dark now, and I had a hard time seeing the contents. Some litter – two books. I took out the books and withdrew the crumpled sheets of paper. I nearly put them in the trash can by the door but noticed they were book-sized. I held a piece up to the light. There were footprints – no, tire marks – on it. The top of the page read: Charlotte’s Web 165. My heart jumped, and I smoothed out the other loose pages like a rumpled skirt. Ten of them. Ten dirty, yellowed, torn, trampled pages. “Thank you, Hannah,” I said.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Box--A Children's Play

The Box
by Lydia Daffenberg

Kid 1
Kid 2
Kid 3
Kid 4
Kid 5
Kid 6
Kid 7
Kid 8
Kid 9
Kid 10

Scene 1
Time: modern
AT RISE: School hall. Students are hurrying through hall to get to recess. One boy lags behind, slowly putting his books in his locker. A janitor comes in with cleaning cart, sees gloomy boy and starts talking with him.

Hey kid, what’s wrong? How come you’re going so slow? It’s recess time.

I hate recess, that’s why.

What do you mean you hate recess? That was always my favorite.

Well, it’s not mine. I always get picked on or beat up.

Yeah, I know what you mean. I used to get picked on a lot, too. Kids called me Nerdo. Well, what is your favorite class period, then? (Pauses) Science?

Science is ok, but I really like Language Arts.

What’s that—reading and writing and stuff? We used to call that English.

Yeah, Language Arts. I especially like to write.

Oh, an author, huh? What do you write?

I like to write stories, mostly.

You’ll have to tell me one sometime, kid. Now you’d better get going before you get in trouble.

Couldn’t you give me a pass to go to the library instead?

Nope. Sorry, I don’t have that kind of authority around here. I just keep things tidy and in their place. Say, speaking of . . . (digs out strange box from cart) years ago I found a very special box left behind on the school stage. No one ever claimed it from the lost and found, so I’ve been using it ever since. (Janitor holds it up for a bit.) Maybe you’d like it?
(Hands it to Larry)

What does it do?

It changes people’s perspective.

(Looks confused, puzzled over what the janitor said, shrugs.) Uh, thanks. It sure is different. I wonder who would leave it behind? (A teacher enters and addresses Larry)

Now, Larry, we’ve discussed this before. There’s to be no dawdling on your way out to recess. Get going now. (She shoos Larry offstage who slowly goes off pondering box.) When you come back in, we’ll be discussing ancient desert dwellings. (Teacher follows Larry offstage)

Scene 2
Time: Immediately following

LIGHTS UP on recess. Kids are playing with balls, hoola-hoop & jump rope. Some standing in groups talking. Larry enters still pondering the box as he walks. Three kids approach him, snickering to themselves.

Kid 1
Hey, look, it’s Laaaaarry. (Bullies laugh as they approach, looking tough, but stop dead in their tracks as soon as they sees the box)

Kid 2
What’cha got there? (Pointing at box)

Kid 10
Some stupid science project?

No. It’s a special box. (Both kids gather around Larry to get a better look.)

Kid 1
Wow, that’s weird looking.

Kid 3
What does it do? (Two more kids are coming over to look at the box.)

It changes people’s perspective.

Kid 1
How does it do that?

I don’t know yet, I just got it. (Pauses, then excitedly) But I know someone left it behind on the school stage years ago!

Kid 7
How come?

(Speaks spookily) No one knows. (Kid 1 takes it from Larry, looking at it intently while the rest of the kids join the group.)

Kid 4
What’s that?

Kid 1
It’s a special box with powers.

Kid 5
Whose is it?

Kid 2
It’s Larry’s, he just got it.

Kid 8
It’s Larry’s? (Reaches over and pushes Larry.) Larry, tell us about the box! (As Larry’s telling story, Kid 3 takes box from Kid 1. All kids follow suit, passing and taking turns looking at box.)

It was left on the school stage years ago. No one came forth to claim the strange thing, so the janitor has been using it ever since. He just gave it to me in the hallway. He says it has the power to change people’s perspective.

Kid 9
What does that mean?

I don’t really know. I think it means—change people’s minds.

Kid 3
Oh! Like a Jedi mind trick! (Some kids laugh.)

(Enters and blows whistle, ending recess.) Line up! (Some kids start to go in.)

Kid 1
Ok, ok. Give the box back to Larry. (Kids pass it up to Larry. Kid 1 addresses Larry) Be sure to bring it again tomorrow if you want a pass from a beating. (laughing) All kids go in followed by teacher.

Scene 3

Time: Next day at recess

LIGHTS UP on playground. Kids come out and gather around Larry who is holding the box.

Kid 1
So, Larry—why do you think it was left behind?
Well, I’ve been thinking about that. See this dent on the corner of the box? (Holds box up pointing to corner) That’s how I figured it out. (Puts box on bench. Takes out piece of paper) It was a long time ago—way back in the early 90’s. (Pauses for audience laughter) There was a boy who wanted to try out for the school play, but was afraid of getting laughed at. He wasn’t very popular. Kids called him Nerdo. (Kids all laugh at name. Larry continues.) On the first day of tryouts, he stayed hidden in the theater just watching. He never got up the nerve to audition. That night, his family visited his great-grandfather’s house for dinner. He told his great-grandpa about the play and how he wanted to be in it. He said he didn’t think he’d make it anyway, so he wasn’t gonna bother trying out. His grandpa took him up to the attic and dug out the box from an old trunk. (Kid 1 makes creepy sound and wiggles fingers in air—some kids laugh. Larry continues.) He gave the box to him and told the boy it had special powers and that he should take it with to tryouts the next day. The boy did as his great-grandpa told him. Since he signed up last, he had to audition last. Right before it was his turn, he looked at the box and thought hard about getting a part in the play. He put the box down backstage and went out on stage. All the kids were sitting in the theater watching him. He took a deep breath and began. When he was finished, everyone in the theater was silent—even the director. Then, all he could hear was applauding and cheering. The director told the kids that she was going to announce the parts so they didn’t have to wait over the weekend to find out. She told everyone to line up on stage. The boy retrieved the box from backstage and joined the other students. The director saved the lead role for last. When she called the boys name, he was so shocked, he dropped the box. That’s what caused this dent. (Larry picks box up and points to corner. Kids make sounds of acknowledgement . Larry continues.) He was jumping up and down and raced home to tell his family—forgetting all about the box. That evening, as the janitor was cleaning up, he found the box and kept it. He’s been using it ever since, which is why he’s so friendly and outgoing. That’s what happened.

Kid 7
Wow! The box does work! It changed everyone’s mind about the boy!

Kid 10
Hey! (Looking at Kid 7) You’re right! It did!

Kid 8
You’re lucky, Larry. I wish I had a box like that.

Kid 1
Me too. (Teacher enters and blows whistle to end recess) Same time tomorrow, Larry?

(Confidently) Sure! See you tomorrow. I’ll have a new story for you. (Kids all talk excitedly amongst themselves as they file into the school.)

Scene 4
Time: Next day at recess.

LIGHTS UP on playground. Again, kids gather around Larry who holds box.

Kid 9
So what’s the story about today, Larry?

(Confidently) A Native American ceremony. Does everyone see the points here on the box? (Holds box up for all to see.) Those are desert cliffs.

Kid 4
How do you know that’s what they are? They just look like cones.

I know because the box made it clear to me, that’s how.

Kid 1
Yeah, be quiet and let him tell the story. They look like cliffs to me.

Kid 6
I can see them too, Larry! Tell us!

Well it goes like this. (Larry sets box down on ground beside him.) The Indians of the desert cliffs performed rain dances when it was very dry. One hot, dry day, the medicine man called all the people together to perform a rain dance. Their crops were wilting and they needed water to drink. They placed clay pots around them in a big circle and began to dance. (Larry begins to dance and twirl around. All the kids begin to follow his lead, giggling. Larry speaks loudly over the laughter.) They didn’t laugh about it! It was very serious to them, and they had to concentrate very hard while they danced. (Kids become quiet while continuing to dance. All the sudden, LIGHTS DIM a big crack of thunder can be heard and lightning strikes. It starts to rain.)

Kid 5
It worked! It worked!

Kid 3
It’s raining! (Teacher blows whistle and kids go running for cover. Larry almost forgets the box. He runs back and scoops it up, trying to protect it as he runs in after the kids.)

Scene 5
Time: Next day in hallway.

LIGHTS UP on Larry who is crying. Janitor enters.

Hey, Larry. What’s wrong?

(Very upset) I forgot the box at home! I can’t go out to recess without it—the kids will all be mad and beat me up!

Nonsense. They don’t care about the box anymore. I’ve heard everyone talking about you around here. They say you’re a great storyteller. All the kids are talking about going to recess to hear your stories. I haven’t heard them mention the box.

But it was the box that got them to stop bullying me!

I’ve got something to tell you about the box. (Larry wipes his eyes and looks at janitor.) It’s not special at all. Well--other then it looks strange. But, it doesn’t have any powers. Everything that happened was because of you. Because you started to believe in yourself.

But you told me that it had the power to change people.

Well, it does in a way. It helped you change yourself. You believed in the box’s power and so you became brave and confident. And when you changed your perspective about yourself, everyone else’s perspective of you changed as well. You don’t need the box anymore. The power is in you.


Really. You don’t think I’d throw you to the lions, do you kid? They’re waiting to hear your stories, not to look at the box.
Well, maybe you’re right. Everyone has been talking to me more. And kids have been asking me all day how I made it rain.

See? It’s you they’re interested in. Now you’d better get going—I think you have an audience out there waiting for you.

Ok. (He walks slowly off stage)

Scene 6
Time: Immediately after

Lights up on playground. Kids are all waiting for Larry.

Kid 1
(Addressing the group of kids) There he is! He’s coming! (Kids all get excited when they see Larry. They whisper amongst themselves. Kid 1 turns toward Larry and addresses him when he approaches.) Finally! We were worried you weren’t coming out, Larry!

Kid 6
Hey, Larry! Weren’t you going to tell us about the time your kite caught on fire?

(Realizing the janitor was right, becomes the most confident he’s been yet. He stands on the bench and addresses the crowd of kids.) Well, it all started like this . . .

Scene 7

Time: Next day in hallway.

LIGHTS UP on Larry holding the box, talking to the janitor

Here you go. (Hands box back to Janitor.) You were right, I don’t need the box anymore! Thanks. I gotta get to recess! (Runs offstage. Janitor looks at box and smiles to himself, nodding head. He sets it on his cart and looks offstage at someone.)

(Raises finger in the air) Hey kid, why the long face? (Pushes cart offstage.)

Friday, April 07, 2006


by Lydia Daffenberg

I wonder what parts they used to
Make Frankenstein people
From pops.

Did they remember to add
His blood, sweat and tears
Or is it something that they forgot?

Did they think about where his organs had been?
They'd traveled thick in the jungle at Nam--
They'd been in love and pissed off and pissed on.

Where had Frankenstein's organ's been?
The one's now dead being replaced again.
What were the stories of those?
Had they even been his?
Did anyone know?

I wonder what part--
His liver?
His heart?
Perhaps pop's eyes to see.

Will I let them take me
And make me into a Frankenstein, too?
I wonder what parts they would use.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Family Ties

I'm the lone daughter of an Irishman. Not many people have the option of picking a parent, but in a way, I did. I chose to have a relationship with my father. I didn't know my father throughout my whole childhood. My parents divorced when I was 10 months old and I never saw him until I turned 19. I looked my father up because I gave birth to my first child, a beautiful baby girl, and wanted him to be part of her life--a part of my life. I heard he was in Lafayette, Indiana and found his number without much difficulty. It was my half-brother Allan with whom I first spoke. We talked and I realized that my father's side of the family had always been eager to have a relationship with my brother and I.

We began visiting with our father regularly and, right away, everyone could see a striking similarity between my brother and father. Even their mannerisms mimicked one another's—especially how they held their cigarettes. They clicked. The DNA was visible. For a long time, I couldn't seem to find a strong tie between my father and I. Nonetheless, I enjoyed being around him and was happy to have him back in my life. I just couldn't say that he and I shared many qualities. But very recently, within the last few months, I had found something that made me feel connected to him. Something that would link us in a special, personal way. Something that would finally make me feel I was a part of my dad.

My father had come up to Dekalb in late December to go to a Madrigal performance that both my children were performing in for the high school. I knew it would be something he would enjoy, as he was into fantasy writing and the Madrigal’s medieval flavor would appeal to his tastes. He really enjoyed the show, and we went to breakfast the following morning, as was tradition when he would visit. We began chatting about my son Joey’s up-coming play, The Music Man, in which Joey was the lead, my daughter Amber would be doing lights, my husband Mike would be manning the spotlight and I would be stage managing. I found out that my father almost went to school for theater at the University of Illinois instead of joining the Marines. That would have been a huge life shift for him, as he served two full tours in Vietnam. Funny how one decision can change a person’s life so much. He had been in a play, like my son, but was really a backstage techie—just like my daughter and I. Suddenly, my children and I had a strong connection with my father through our love of theater. After he had returned back home, I had to wonder if interests could be hereditary.

January and February flew by, and it was already Saturday March 4—time for the final show of The Music Man. Again my father traveled, this time with my grandmother, to see the performance. I looked forward to their arrival and proudly escorted them both to their reserved front row seats. I beamed after the show about the play and my family’s job well done. So did dad. I later found out that, during intermission, he and my grandmother were bragging to those around them that the lead was their grandson, and that our family was very involved in the play. Our bond was tightening like a warm, strong hug.

My husband couldn’t make the family breakfast the following morning, as he had to work. During breakfast, my father was all-a-buzz with theater talk: where the kids would go for college, what plays he had done in school, which plays he thought Joey’s theater group should do, roles he thought Joey would be good in, discussing with Amber how lighting had changed over the years. None of us wanted it to stop. He told us a story about when he was in high school, in his one acting role, he and the girl playing opposite him had decided to enter the stage off-cue and ad lib and move furniture around during the scene. He recalled how mad the director was at them afterwards. We all had a good laugh about it. Dad and grandma decided it was time to get going. It had started snowing and we were supposed to get a small accumulation in the area and he didn’t want to drive through it. They made sure to stop by my husband’s place of employment on their way out of town to say goodbye to him.

It had only been a month. He and my grandma were in California at my aunt’s retrial. There were a few emails from Dad explaining how the trial was going for his sister, and how they’d be back home soon. My last email from Dad said the trial was going longer than anticipated, and that he was flying home to get the car, then driving back out to CA after paying bills and filling prescriptions for both he and my grandma.

Then came the call early Sunday afternoon. My brother’s voice was shaken. Dad had gone off the road somewhere near Ft. Worth Texas. The car had rolled over and over. He had been thrown 45 feet—obviously not wearing his seatbelt. He had been conscious at first, and couldn’t feel anything below the waist except his toes. Then they began to lose him. He had been resuscitated four times. He was stable in ICU. That’s all he knew. He gave me the phone number and what bed Dad was in. He gave me the attending doctors’ and nurses’ names. That’s all I now knew.

I hastily began to make plans for me to travel out to be with him. We decided I was to take a bus leaving the next evening, staying the week in Texas. I decided to call the hospital and check his status in a few hours, and tried to focus on finishing cleaning the house and finishing the laundry—especially since I’d be gone all week. My worry mounted around 5:30 and I recall saying to my husband that I had started to have a bad feeling about the situation. I called the hospital at 6:30 and was told all they could say was that my father was in critical condition and was doing very, very poorly. I began to sob. The nurse asked me if I had my half-brother Allan’s phone number. I didn’t have his cell and so the nurse gave it to me saying I should call him for further information. I called Allan. He told me that he was sorry, but that Dad was brain dead and they were keeping his body alive until they could harvest his organs because he was a donor. I remember being in shock and basically repeating what I had just heard. "What you’re saying is that Dad is brain dead and they are just waiting to take his organs?"
"I’m sorry, Sissy," came my brother’s reply. I began bawling. My husband came over and comforted me, rubbing my back saying he was sorry.

"No. No, no, no." I kept saying it. "No." He’s not gone. This man that I had just learned I shared a creative passion with. This man whom I could now see even in my children. No! It was just starting, just really beginning for him and I and my children. It couldn’t be.

Then I got mad. Mad at my dad. Why didn’t he have his seatbelt on? Why didn’t he pull over if he was tired? (We assumed he had fallen asleep because of the time of the crash, we later learned of other possibilities.) Why did he have to be so damn stubborn?

Sadness, Madness and Shock played catch with me, and they each threw too hard. It stung.

It is now Tuesday, and I am finally coming ‘round to the understanding that I will never see him again. That he will never see my kids’ plays again. That we will all be cheated by death, not just my father.

Today I have also realized something comforting. I have realized that the qualities of impatience and stubbornness have always been mine as well as my dad’s. I just didn’t see this similarity before. It’s the Irish in me. I can see my father even more now when I look in the mirror. He’s telling me I was always his princess—even when I wondered if I was. And, that the same impatience and stubbornness in him and I continues on through my children—for they, too, share these traits. They, too, are passionate like the Irishman who is my father.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

How to Squeeze Blood From a Turnip

The near monopoly of ConEd electric is helping the rich keep the poor under their thumbs. Oh, I know, they're not the only company doing this. There's also NiCor gas, lending companies, phone companies and more. These companys' behaviors are due to their immoral business practices that have become the norm. Six-figure CEO's across the country are declaring (not even defiantly), "Everyone's doing it."

What am I going on about? Let me tell you. The last two years have been very difficult, financially, for my family, as it has for many others. Vast layoffs and an eroding economy have ensured that. I have always paid my utility bills but, yes, they've been notoriously late almost every month. This week, I received a letter from ConEd saying--well here, I'll just copy it for you:

Deposit Notice:
Until now, we have provided electric service without requiring a deposit.

However, because of late payments a $100.00 deposit is required.

This deposit will be paid in 3 installments with the first and subsequent installments of $33.33. The last and final installment will be in the amount of $33.34. Future bills will reflect these installment amounts.

For Your Information:
Deposits will earn interest at a rate determined by the Illinois Commerce Commission and will be refunded when you have established a satisfactory credit standing.

Of course, the obvious question is, "How am I suppose to pay for this when I can barely pay my regular bill?" Then a second question pops-to-mind, "Are these people idiots?" A third question shouts, "Do they want my family to freeze to death this winter?" A final fourth question ponders, "Are they even human?" If only I could ask that six-figure CEO, perhaps he could clear up the blurred logic his company employs. He'd probably blame my lack of understanding on my proletarian position in life. But I can't get ahold of him, he's busy lounging in front of his fireplace puffing a pipe with his heat blazing so hot that his faithful dog pants profusely at his feet. No, he doesn't even need slippers--for him they're just a fashion statement.

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