“It was a dark and stormy night,” right? That’s how the best or worst stories start; sets the scene, gives you a bit of a shiver. I mean, I say that, but it’s not dark and stormy here. The temperature is out of it, because this isn’t about a sort of mood like that. It’s like no-temperature. I don’t mean, cold. I mean, like, it’s warm without being hot and no wind. You don’t feel it on your skin when you pop out. But you wouldn’t be reading this because of what temperature I tell you it is. Funny, though, isn’t it? That you can feel something when you read about it? I mean, words are just marks on paper, they shouldn’t mean anything. Looking at marks on paper should be carrying coals to Newcastle, but for some reason, it’s not. It does mean something, but hardly ever the same thing, even though we only have so many words and letters and such. No real point there, just funny to think about.

I was with all my friends, who are complete idiots, mind, and we were talking about the state of things, you know, all the things that seem to be going wrong. I say “all my friends” but obviously I don’t mean all of them, that’s just something you say. They’re also not really idiots, but, I mean, we all do idiotic things sometimes but that’s not why they’re idiots. Really, they’re not, it’s another one of those things you say, and when you’re with your other friends, they get it right off. But, you know, they can be exhausting when you just want to have a drink and a talk. But I think that’s what makes them appealing, you know? They can be real smart about their work, or what have you, but sometimes you get to be the expert with them, and that’s nice. Right pack of curs, though.

So, we were talking and drinking, and it lead down the garden path to things we’d read. We’re not all of us what you’d call “readers,” you know. It started a right old debate about the dark and the stormy nights, and why you’d go on about that to start. I say, what better place to start? Not really so very different from the bright cold days in April, if you follow. I mean, it gives you a way to situate, as you read. I don’t much like getting turned around when I’m taking in a story, so starting with something proper about the wheres and whats is quite nice, even if it does give you a shiver. I like to read some, and I don’t care too much what it is, as long as I don’t get too mixed up during the story. I’ve tried the books that are like manuals for your whole life, or what have you, but I just can’t finish them. There’s no story. Same thing with the newspapers. Sometimes you do come across a grand newspaper story, that really takes you somewhere, but not very often. I don’t go looking for them, but sometimes one of my friends will bring one down. I can’t listen to stories, either. I get tired or my mind wanders. I guess you could say that I was read to a lot as a child, and old habits are hard to break, you know?

Sometimes my friends, the same idiots as noted above, give me a bit of a tease because if a story is really good I take it with me everywhere. I don’t care what people think, when a story has really got me! I don’t usually try to be obvious or, you know, stand out, but I just don’t mind at all when I’m reading something that I can’t put down. There’s this joke that my one friend tells me every time he sees me with a book out and about. It goes like this: Are you reading a book about anti-gravity? Seems like you can’t put it down! Do you see what I mean about my friends being complete idiots? Not much you can do about it, and I’m sure they say the same about me. Probably you can tell, they’re right, too.

We try to get together at least once a week, you know, because you need to have something that’s normal and the same, when everything’s going so poorly everywhere. Not everyone can make it, I mean, sometimes you have other things going on, and maybe a different group of friends you know from somewhere else you want to visit with. But mostly, the group there manages to all assemble week to week. Sometimes you get together with just one friend or two, too, you know to get lunch or throw sticks at the river or whatever you need right then. Funny, too, that sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do with some friends. You go to the grocer with them because you bump into them, and they’re just running out for apples, or what have you. Some of them, you know, you can’t picture outside of the typical haunts, like they don’t exist really when you turn to go. But you know, I’d still call them friend, because they care enough to make arguments when the tone turns that way.

I don’t know what you’d call a good time with friends, but I think sometimes it’s too hard to put a proper name to. It’s not like, in the place you are, or the regulars you see, even if you like them specially. It’s more about what you get to chew on when you’ve had a sleep and are just walking along the old alley on your way somewhere, and you can’t stop thinking about the stupid things you bickered over, like dark and stormy nights. Making arguments in your head for the next time, though you know you’ll be talking about something completely different next time, because it’s always something different, and that’s something that I like, too. You know?



When I think about “bumble” I think first of bees. Flying striped puffs, mostly harmless, comically inept. Described by their friends and frustrated spouses as “all thumbs,” these bees that drone into the back of my mind when I hear this word accidentally bump into each other with many “whoops”es and “excuse me”s, they drop everything they’re carrying and end up just covered in pollen, they are sweet but dim.

My charming bees don’t swarm, they just slowly and erratically plow into each other and then veer off again, only to repeat the exercise with another apologetic and equally baffled bee. Bees! You have to just laugh and throw up your hands. For years and years, I thought everyone also called bumble bees “goblin bees” but apparently no one does. Really, I think that’s for the best, because bumble describes them so much better. They’re bumblers. In the old days they were called dumbledors which is also quite satisfying to think about.

As the soothing drone of the bees quiets, I begin to think of “bumble” itself. It’s a word that sounds exactly like someone nearly dropping a large stack of very full file folders. Or a juggler almost missing every catch. One who bumbles is not bad even if they’re bad at what they’re doing. It’s a clown word, without all the clown bullshit. Bumble isn’t the same as fumble. Bumble is a way of being. Fumble is something you do. Bumble is what you do around the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil; you don’t think about it. Fumble is what you do when you’re in the checkout line and can’t get your credit card out in time; you are hyper aware of your ineptitude.

The older I get the more prone to bumbling I am. I’m comfortable enough with myself that being seen as mildly ridiculous isn’t particularly troublesome. Indeed, I suspect that not a lot truly bothers inherent bumblers. Life is a placid pool, an collection of small troubles, easily mended, sprinkled amid a vast, lilting existence. I aspire to bumble.

via Daily Prompt: Bumble


I was at a hospital complex near where I live this afternoon. This is a relatively new campus; the entire thing is designed. The buildings are situated on a curve, somehow sweeping while being large, undeniably hospitally rectangles. The parking lot is entirely on purpose; it’s part of the taste of the overall aesthetic – wide corridors, leafy flora, a hushed, contained sense. In fact, other than it is filled with cars and outside, it could easily be part of the interior of the hospital, which likewise has wide hallways, leafy potted plants, and a quitely purposeful air.

As I was walking outside, I saw stuck in the middle of this manicured space, out of place, a man. He reminded me suddenly and forcefully of a younger (certainly less deceased) Paul Newman. Cool Hand Luke Paul Newman.

In that parking lot of cars neatly filed like a terribly fancy private library, Paul stood out. His car wasn’t a muted tone — a grey, white, black, not even a sleek silver. Oh no, not Paul’s car. It wasn’t a newer model, something that apologizes with every mile for it’s very existence. Paul doesn’t care for those cars, you can tell by looking at him. His car was a bright orange, a firey 1970s assertion of motor style. Indeed, it wasn’t a car as much as a camper. And Paul was in the mood for some camping, for he was parked — literally and figuratively — on a chair in front of the wide open side doors of his van. His sunglasses flashed as he rocked gently back and forward. The sun glazed him like a basted goose, the redder tones of the paint reflecting back onto his bare skin. Paul sat, solid, unmoveable, shirtless, confident in his utter rightness to be there, bare but for shorts, smoking a cigarette, outside a skin cancer center.

I couldn’t drag my eyes away; Paul, and all the decisions that lead to Paul sitting like this, here, was frankly magnetic. What drives a late 40s man to come to a hospital complex, take off his shirt, socks, shoes (or possibly, arrive without those things), and sit outside in a rocking chair? The chair makes me think he routinely sets up kip in various places and watches the world pass. But this particular parking lot isn’t something you stumble into. Further, who tempts fate by deeping his already remarkable tan outside a skin cancer center? And the smoking. Paul. It’s not 1967 anymore. So taken was I with what lead Paul there, with the other decisions he must make on a regular basis, I almost backed over him. For that, I apologize, Paul Newman. Glad to see you out and about.

This post is in response to The Daily Post one-word prompt: Magnet


Crisp is onomatopoeic to me. The sound, the look, the feel – each play their part in making “crisp” crisp. Its brevity from the encompassing curve of the C through to the coda of the P, where all loose ends are tucked in, makes for a satisfying pop of a word. The beginning sound fills the mouth with busyness: “krrrrrrrr;” the middle of your mouth pulls the letters apart, your tounge conducting tartly with your palate, your throat constricting to coordinate with your lips to make the staticky shard of a sound. Next, “isssss” hisses along, your tounge stopping just short of whistling the glamour of the S. Finally, the curtail; “pah” a puff, a pert pulling of the rug out from under the lazy S sound, which would go on forever if not carefully watched.

The word, rolled around on the tounge, tastes like a cold apple bitten hungrily, like a sip of dry Champagne resplendent with bubbles, like a satisfying snap. It’s chaotic and smoothly inevitable, and over too soon.

Indeed, when “crisp” has been said, it’s thoroughly gone. There is no lingering sound on the air, nothing to assure that it has actually been said. It is a magic trick of a word. Said and unsaid at the same time, leaving only the feeling of being taken for a tumble and no evidence left behind.

This is my entry for the Daily Post one-word prompt: crisp.


Everyone calls my husband’s grandmother Stella, although her first name is actually Anastasia. Stella is 92, and still lives in the house her husband built. Incidentally, when I was 10 or 11, the name I wished I had was Anastasia – I thought it was very cosmopolitan.

When Stella was 19 she fled Ukraine with a Catholic priest, eventually landing in America, where she made her way to a small town in Western New York State, to live with strangers. And there she made a life. She met a man and they settled down and had four daughters, one of whom in turn met a man and settled down in the same town, and had three children, including my future husband.

When you visit Stella’s house, you notice immediately the mix of American and Ukraine – an uneven blend that reflects a life lived in one place, and apart from another. Cyrillic letters wink tantalizingly on shelves from commemorative plates, or from postcards tucked behind framed photos on the walls. Shopping lists adorn the fridge in English, half-hidden behind the masses of grandchildren and great-grandchildren who populate the freezer door.

Everywhere you turn, you see a pattern repeated, trebled, overlapped, sifted to utter simplicity, and above all, relentlessly red and black. Mostly, the pattern appears on eggs. But it also appears on plates, on postcards, on nesting dolls, a ceramic pig. In Ukraine, embroidery is a national pasttime, and most women traditionally learn how to do their own regional embroidery. Stella doesn’t do embroidery (at least not now), but she does much else – crocheting, weaving, crafting. From her chair, from her loom, from her kitchen table, if she raises her eyes, she sees her pattern. Woven throughout her house, a snug house built by her husband for her to grow their family in, Ukraine whispers.

Stella’s pig
A map of reginoal emroidery in Ukraine. By Qypchak – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Stella has never been back to her village. Her home is instead an outpost of her culture. Pieces of her native land come find her, using her friends and family as a conduit to secure a spot on her shelves or a patch of wall. Her heritage has filtered down in smaller and smaller particles over successive generations. Even so, her great-grandchildren know what perogies are, and that they sit on their doupas.

When my own father was working on his vast family history project, he discovered, much to everyone’s surprise, that Stella’s village has changed beyond what you might expect over the past 75 years. It’s now in Poland.

This is my entry for the Daily Post one-word prompt: polish.


Growing up where I did, we heard smart a lot. “You look smart today,” “is the party going to be smart?” “That’s a smart jumper!” Natty falls into the same category, but we didn’t hear it as much. It was old fashioned to my ears, and most people fell back on “smart” to describe something that looked especially fancy. Natty is more clothing-specific, I have always felt, and really how much can you describe clothing when you’re five?

Time is funny, though, and the mind plays tricks. Associations slide in and out of the dusty corners of my mind. Being dyslexic adds a layer of encryption that is random and undiscerning. Known words evolve and expand; the more I read, the more baggage I give to any word. When I read a novel expression, one that strips bare a known word and dresses it back up in new clothes, I revisit the word in my own mind. I stand back and reimagine the word in this new light, and see how it glitters differently now. I smooth the dust from it, I turn it just so. Sometimes, I turn my back and the word shakes itself and returns to its usual, expected form. Sometimes, however, I find myself retracing my steps to my freshly disheveled word, delighting in the weirdness, and so it finds itself stuck, only visiting its former self but no longer living with that association.

Once in awhile, I visit a word, and it has changed by itself. I am nervous around these words. I know the word that I know isn’t the word that other people know. It’s a stranger, lurking in my mind. I don’t know who else it has been visiting. I don’t know if it’s rubbing off on other words; the mutation may be catching. I don’t always know how it’s different, or why. This is how dyslexia manifests for me. Maybe everyone experiences gradual dissonance with words; I don’t know.

Some words are mischievous. They are the kid in class who pushes boundaries. The word is a trickster and doesn’t mind being dealt wrongly — in fact, delights in it. These are words I just learned wrong, and know they are wrong, but I can’t break the association. Like breaking a child of a beloved lovey or pacifier, these words cling, stubborn, willful, eternally prepared to resist. Sometimes other words see the fun that these words have, and join the revels. These words are the bastards, of course. These words are the kids whose parents have to repeatedly ask, in frustration and exasperation, “if all your friends jumped off a bridge…”.

Natty is one of these, for me. Natty is a follower, with low inclinations. Natty first awoke to the possibilities of ill repute when Natural Ice and Keystone first entered my lexicon. Of course, the only beer worse than Keystone is Natty Ice. It is base. It is cheap. It is the sole of a $4 shoe that is separating, flapping madly to no purpose, tripping you. It is the smell of a beach arcade at 5:15am, after the tide has rushed back to the horizon. It is the sticky underside of a hightop table in a bar. Natty Ice is so bad, it has infected natty by association. And natty is thrilled to be on such an adventure. Natty, who was once the smartest, wearing fancy dress even on the greyest days, now is enthusiastically holding up tatters, grasping a ripped pair of Spanx many sizes too big while wrapping up in a lurid pink boa that’s missing too many feathers. Natty has a pair of sunglasses with a lens missing and a dirty cup full of something oily. Natty is a mess, and natty doesn’t care.

This is my entry for the Daily Post one-word prompt: natty.