short stories from a long summer

The Fourwoods are still here! Thank you so much for checking in with us through email, instagram and your comments here while we were away. Taking a couple of days from the internet turned into an unexpected two month hiatus.  The summer has been long and lovely. I’ve been writing elsewhere (unpublished), but have missed sharing our stories on the blog. AND hearing from you!

To break back into blogging I’m sharing a few highlights of the summer. Hope you enjoy.

How is everyone? Drop a line in the comments and/or share a link to your favorite summer story or adventure. I look forward to reading them.

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tantrum

Tantrum, Tears and a Thief

You absolutely adore her, yet that one day, that one particular hour, you wanted nothing more than to escape from the location where our friend chose to meet us, Cake Heaven. What kid wouldn’t want to be at cake heaven?  A pastry cook’s child, apparently. My every attempt to distract you with the dessert display was met with a complete meltdown. Literally, you looked like you were trying to seep right into the hardwood floor. It may be easier to hold water in my bare hands than to cradle you in that state.

One thing did make you smile, taking my hand and walking toward the entrance, waving gleefully to each doting, young waitress as you passed. You thought you’re making a get-away, but the plan was blasted to smithereens by the insufferable mother of yours. The same woman who somehow, with some sort of supernatural mama power, managed your robot legs into the openings of a wooden high chair and strapped you in, all while swiftly sweeping away objects from nearby surfaces.

Thank goodness the waitress had a keen sense of timing. Just as you were about to let out another shrill, a personal coconut custard pie arrived, topped with fresh blackberries and raspberries. You seemed unimpressed, but I knew to shove one bite straight into your trap. You were easily converted. The silence was short, but oh-so sweet.  Our friend appeared un-phased by your previous outburst and was impressed by your ability to pretend to utilize a grown-up size fork. Dessert didn’t last long, as soon as you scooped the final bite into your mouth you demanded the check and the three of us were out the door and meandering through a sad excuse for a park. It looked more like a glorified grassy median between roads, ironically sharing its name with the world’s most famous farmer, the one with his very own sing-along-song.

You were finally in your element, as close to nature as possible. A nature that included a drinking fountain, of which you found life’s greatest enjoyment on that hot summer day. Once you made me sufficiently wet I decided to toss you in the carrier, tie you to my chest and call it an evening. As if we hadn’t had enough drama and excitement already, it was only getting started. Not ten minutes later, we made our way to the eastern edge of the park and, right as we were ready to say our goodbyes, we heard a crash. It sounded just like someone trying to break a bag of ice. At least that’s what I first though, but my brain questioned why anyone would do that in such a tiny park, around so many cars. Ah, the cars, duh! Just a knee-high brick barrier and an arrangement of leafy shrubs separated us from a professional acrobatic thief, who was balancing on a blue BMX-style bicycle, while simultaneously diving into a ring of broken glass to retrieve a prize from the floor of the neighboring silver SUV.

Out of the window came a long, twiggy white man wearing a light gray hoody synched around his face. The thief shoved the prize into the belly pocket of his hoody and shot through the park, zigzagging on his bike, barely avoiding naive pedestrians. For the first time in our entire visit, you were silent, as if you understood the severity of the situation, or like your mama, you were shockingly impressed with the thief’s coordinating skill. It turned out the prize was an iPhone, and to think that the whole time you’d been playing with mine. I would have liked to see the thief try to pry it from your clenched, chubby clam hands.

A delivery man in a bright orange DHL truck was shouting for someone in the park to “get ‘im,” but lost interest as soon as the traffic light changed. A man sitting on a bench, facing the SUV told us he saw nothing. Apparently the three of us were the only willing candidates to report the incident to the fast-talking, chain-smoking men in blue. The owner appeared some time later with a paralyzed expression, all while we answered questions and looked around at the aloof extras still seated at the park. Forever I’ll remember the day as that one time, thanks to you, and your tantrum that forced us to the park, we became bit players in a relatively low-key, real-life episode of Law and Order.

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I have many memories of July 4th; having grown up in the country, most of my recollections include family firework shows orchestrated by my uncle. Us, kids would nestle into the top of a rolled hay bale and applaud the glowing streaks that shrieked to the stars then exploded with a showering boom. Once the extravagant show finished, it would take the bullfrogs and crickets about ten minutes to gather the courage to fill the night with their song. The smell of gunpowder, grilled meat and beer would linger in the air until morning. That to me was what the Fourth of July was all about. That and wearing red, white and blue of course.  

I don’t consider myself a poet in any regard whatsoever, but I felt compelled to write a (sort of) lyrical piece based on my Fourth of July celebration this summer to capture the color and heart-lifting expression. It was as if I understood the holiday in its true meaning for the very first time. 

july4-web

The Color of July Fourth

Chilly night. Let’s go,
it’s alright.

Long strides and strolls
along the blushing horizon,
framed by lilac and indigo.

Patiently wait,
standing still.

Traffic slows.
Along a lonely bridge,
masks fixed for the show.

Remaining light
squelched with applause.

Screens rise in waves
capturing blurry reflections,
of glittering gold, jade
and crimson cheesing for the shot.

Orange faces glow, some
brown, black and pink.
Blue eyes, black eyes, and
eyes only seen behind
a primrose head scarf.

Children guarded
on the roofs of machines,
old in the street.
All transfixed.

Music blasting,
citrine blaze.

Everyone dancing. Moving
like the silver tide below their feet.

Harmony’s tone
lifts our chests.

Echoes of Freedom, a single voice
español العربية português Έλληνες
english 한국어 română हिन्दी

Gaia’s breath is too strong
for the fireworks to sound,
but it vibrates among the crowd.

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Watermelon Seeds

Watermelon Seeds

Maybe watermelon and sand doesn’t mix, but don’t tell the kid. He just thinks we’re loco, for the same reason we don’t eat the durable black seeds embedded in the melon’s porous, sticky flesh. Why would we? They’re not inedible, but certainly more trouble than they’re worth. Spitting them great distances is more amusing, especially when it becomes a contest between friends, or in our case, married people. We can’t explain that to the kid; he doesn’t get it yet, and trying to pick the seeds out of his slice is like taking candy from a baby. Who ever said that was easy, to take candy from a baby, never actually did it. Trying to steal anything from a baby is like trying to rob a bank when the alarm has already been pulled.

Those chubby fingers are working with such intensity to pick out each tiny seed, and cram them into the kid’s chipmunk cheeks. I fear I may lose a finger if I tried to stop the process. What can it hurt to leave the seeds, other than the kid’s intestines, temporarily, because we know he’s not actually chewing them and they’re not breaking down inside. Stomach acid is no match for their impenetrable outer shell. This is the kid who swallows raisins whole, and book covers, and keys, and possibly remote controls. (The search party is still out for the silver one missing since March.) Watermelon seeds are nothing.

We three quiet ourselves with individual slices. The kid periodically dips his into a bucket of salty sea water and then a small mound of sand, like a tortilla chip to salsa and guacamole. With each bite he begins to resemble Batman’s nemesis, the Joker, only with an added sandy beard. I look up and away from the charming, sticky scene to see a fin rise from the tide, not fifty feet from the shore. Two more follow, then the first again. We count seven total, gradually rising and falling with each breath along their swim. Their black silhouettes dance along the horizon with grace, and behind the parade is a rowboat with two seemly exhausted chasers. I only wish I had binoculars to see the exerting effort being made to catch the sea creatures. It’s an older couple, who presumably started out on some nonchalant day-trip along the outer coast, one that turned into a sighting and then a chase for more. It’s a comical, somewhat sad sight. They’re moving at a great speed, but paddling in a row-boat will only do so much. They’ll never catch the casual swimmers without something more aerodynamic.

I look back to the kid, who is at this point helping himself to more watermelon. When did he learn to open Tupperware? I try to distract him by pointing toward the dolphins, but he couldn’t care less. Covered from head to toe in sand is no overstatement. The kid is literally coated in nature’s exfoliating scrub. Doubting whether a suit of sand is armor against UV rays, and considering how many times we’ve already washed and re-coated him with sunscreen, we douse him once more in sea water, leave Joker at the beach and return home with our kid.

 

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