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Uncle Daddy Vester

An excerpt from 2015 NaNoWriMo, posted for someone I thought might like to read it. 1286 words. Paris is six, Charlotte is ten, Ava is eight and a half. Ricky is the dog. Shannon is their mother. Sylvester is their uncle. Their father, his triplet twin, died a few months ago, and he's moved back home to Central Kentucky to help out for awhile.


After supper was cleared, Ava and Charlotte dumped the bags of craft supplies onto the dining table. Shannon started to protest the chaos, but they began swiftly organizing the various items she bought, lining it all up neatly and ready to use. “This is how we will begin,” explained Charlotte.

Sylvester said, “Well…I thought of an idea, if you don’t mind my interfering. But it’d require giving up your kitchen table for awhile.”

“Ooh, what is it, Uncle Vester? Are we going to make the table a craft, too?” Paris asked eagerly.

“Oh, not exactly. Only I was thinking about what you said about wishing for snow for Christmas. How about we move the table into the living room, maybe against a wall, and turn it into a winter wonderland? Besides making ornaments for the tree, I mean, of course. It would be blanketed with fluffy snow, and could have little trees and a whole scene spread out over it.”

“Yay! Snow inside! Oh, can we, Mommy? I really want to! I can help move the table and make snow.” Paris started bouncing around, chanting, “snow inside, snow inside, snow on a table snow inside.”

Shannon grinned and nodded, and Sylvester said, “How about you and I work on the snow table, while your mom and sisters make the tree ornaments?”

Ava said, “Good, because hers will be all crooked anyway, and have weird colors on them.”


“Yes, Mama. I mean, sorry. But I think it’s a good idea, and this way, everyone can be happy doing the parts they want to do.”

The table had leaves that folded down on each side. Sylvester and Shannon lowered one leaf to move it from the kitchen to the living room, while Paris held onto the opened side. They moved the couch in at angle, and set the table behind it. Then Paris carefully draped a dark green tablecloth over it, a rarely used wedding gift from one of Shannon’s aunts. She and Sylvester pulled fiberfill apart and piled it onto the table for snow. Then they set to work making trees. These were pieces of artificial pine branch garland pushed into wine corks Shannon had saved over the past couple of years. Sylvester showed Paris how to shake a little glitter over them without getting too much on herself, or the floor, or Ricky, who was watching as he rested near the fireplace hearth. They did this by dipping a small paintbrush into the glitter container, then carefully tapping the end of the brush to allow some of the glitter to fall just where they wanted it to be. Ricky was not wearing all that much glitter when they finished. And the glitter on the fiberfill made it look as though moonlight was reflected on the surface.

Sylvester said, “When there’s a fire burning, it will look even more pretty.”

“Let’s light one now!” Paris said excitedly.

“Well, you know, we’ve had a very warm day. I think we’d get hot in here if we lit a fire now. So would Ricky.”

Paris looked at Ricky and considered things. “Yes, you’re right. Ricky would not like the fire tonight. We can wait. Let’s do the animals next!”

Sylvester said, “Animals?”

“Sure, it can’t be a snowy forest without animals in it. I’ll go get some!” She hopped up and then looked back and said, “I’ll be right back.”

She returned lugging a large plastic bin. “They’re all in here. I thought you could pick some out that you like.”

“Wow! Some of these are ours; mine and Nicky and Jasper’s!” Sylvester couldn’t believe what he was looking at.

“Yes,” Paris said. “Grandma gave them to me last year for Christmas. And we put other things in, too.”

Inside the bin were little plastic farm animals and wild animals, but also Stormtroopers, tiny girl dolls which looked like puppets (those are Mama’s, Paris told him. They are all called Polly,) cats and dogs with oddly human faces, and a collection of fruits and vegetables with faces on them.

“Lots of these things would be silly in our forest. But we can put in some of them, right?” Paris looked a little worried.

Sylvester said easily, “It’s our forest, so we can put in whatever we like. It can be an animal refuge forest.” So they added chickens, cows, goats, a camel, rabbits, a bear, and a fox. The elephant seemed too big, so it stayed in the bin with the other wild animals.

“They won’t eat each other, because it’s magical, and they all get along. Here is Princess Tianna, who will watch over them and make sure they’re okay. And then Santa Claus can come.

“Do you think,” she added, “Tiny Santa Claus would like if we decorated one of these trees? We can put little presents under it, and a star on top.”

(She tells Sylvester she’s glad it’s just the two of them. She always feels like her sisters watch everything she does, which sometimes makes it harder to do. Then talks with him about Daddy and whether he has a Christmas wherever he is.)

“I don’t know, sweetheart. None of us gets to know such things. People say that the best way to keep someone alive when you love them is not to worry about where they are, but keep the best memories of them with you. You can look at pictures and remember him and the things you did together. They’re all still real, and we’re all here to help you share them.”

Paris snuggled into Sylvester’s lap and said, “Sometimes I get confused. Because you’re my uncle and you look like my daddy. Only you grew this beard. Daddy never had a beard.” She stroked his face and tipped her head in thought. “If you were my daddy, would you still be my uncle, too?”

Sylvester did not know how to answer such an odd question. After a moment’s hesitation he asked, “Do you miss having a daddy? Does it still hurt?”

Paris nodded. “You look like Daddy, but you act like Uncle Vester. Maybe if you were my daddy, you’d be just like him, and it would be like having him back.”

They sat together for a few minutes. Then Sylvester said, “I never was much like Daddy, you know. I was always quiet and he was always laughing. Sometimes yelling.”

“Daddy yelled at you? I don’t think that’s nice. He never yelled at me or Ava or Charlotte. I don’t think he yelled at Mommy.”

“Brothers are different with each other, you know. So are sisters, sometimes. But we were good friends. Anyway, the thing is, if I was a daddy and not an uncle, I’d still just be me, like I am right now. Do you understand?”

Paris said, “I guess I do. But…” her voice dropped to a near-whisper, “do you think maybe you could be my uncle daddy? Like how you’re my uncle, but I could be sort of like your little girl, too?”

“Oh, Paris, I would be honored.” Sylvester whispered, too. “Is it a secret?”

“No, I just don’t want Ava to laugh at me.”

Sylvester said, “Maybe someday she’ll want to be my little girl, too. Do you figure that would be all right?”

Paris pondered this for a moment. “I guess so. We all still wish we had our regular daddy.”

“Okay. Let’s go see how they’re doing with their ornaments.”

The Year I Voted for an R for President

I lived in Johnson County, Kansas, and not only that, for those of you playing the home game, it was Leawood, to boot. Most people in line were voting for the same candidate as me, rightly or wrongly as history may judge and then judge again, and most people there were firmly “fiscal conservative/social liberal.”

Fiscal conservative meant something different just then; it has in every era. Does it even exist currently? I dunno. It wasn’t a “trickle-down” crowd, and it didn’t mean “don’t help anybody at all,” it meant, in part, “stop spending a zillion dollars on a freaking hammer when old people are eating cat food so they can pay for their medicine.” We agreed that a smart government could do more with less. After all, why should people pay more in taxes if the money is going to be mismanaged and spent in ways that seem to benefit no one? I still think that, I just think they won’t do more, with more or less, unless they’re forced to somehow, I don’t know how. But I digress.

I know these things about the people in line with me because we spent more than a couple hours together. The machines broke down. It was getting late, and the line extended to the door. We collected money, ordered pizzas, and had them delivered. Sat down along the wall in line and ate together. And then the lines started moving again, we voted and said goodbye.

Did those people watch in horror as I did two years later when the “Republican Revolution” sent a lot of young evangelicals to Congress to fix America?

What we’re seeing this year is the direct result of that mid-term election 22 years ago. I tried to remain aligned in spirit with some people who thought their religious path could dictate everyone else’s political one, but I didn’t make it to the end of the century, and I think they are a big part of the reason I gave up church altogether, not seeing the Jesus they purported to know in their views on how the country should be run. Nothing stirs my ire like a combination of bad logic and hypocrisy.

But I remember the 1992 election fondly, though our candidate lost. Plenty of people would say it’s a good thing he did, but it’s kind of a mixed bag, really. Hindsight overuses the blur tool, and chain reactions always grow beyond our ability to measure them. We view the cropped image and need to be careful to understand our screen is just too small to view anything in totality, in multiple dimensions, in accurate context. Context is key, but it's also a non-linear concept. I think maybe that frightens people.  

PizzaYou might guess this little resembles the pizza I ate that day in that new sterile carpeted Midwestern building. It's an Italian pizza, that's why. It's how I like to make it at home, too. It's a metaphor, I guess.

Overlapping Seasons

It is November 1. Leaves have finally begun to change color on the trees, and to settle on the still-bright green lawn. And that still-green lawn now has wild strawberries growing in it. 20161101_170551
The tomato plants have sprung back to life, the nasturtiums continue to bloom, the cosmos to replicate themselves.
Cold will come in time, and with it, a personal mourning for light and life and bright healing air.

Out of time, as it seems we are, the seasons are overlapping, and creating a certain degree of poetic confusion. 20161101_170623

Writing what you actually see when you look through to the bottom of a lake, that requires the sun high overhead, Jupiter and Mars in the nighttime sky, toes in warm mud after a heavy afternoon rain shower, the scent of meat searing over a charcoal fire. In summer, I paint on a living canvas instead of fabric and wood fashioned to my easel.

Writing it all down at the end of the growing year, when darkness rises in late afternoon and the sky feels a little too close for comfort, the project turns artificial, grasping for a reality which can’t exist in the greys and browns of November. The conceit of spending that month creating something new could only have been thought of by a someone in Southern California, where they do not witness first hand the vacuum in nature between the bright harvest colors of October and the sparkling decor of December; it’s something they see conjured on a movie or TV set. But they who say tell us that Nature abhors a vacuum, and making up a wild and fantastic story might be one way to fill it in for anyone who feels the misery of Winter’s emergence.

Summer beautifies reality. Winter fosters fantasy. Understanding this, I adjust my focus for each season in turn, and make what I can of it.

How to adjust focus when the seasons are blurred together like this? That's something for greater philosophers than I.

A NaNo urge with no WriMo plan

I decided to do NaNoWriMo this year, my 12th year? To give myself some more daily focus, which is a thing I've been working really hard at, with the extra vitamins doing their assigned jobs and giving me more energy.

I wrote half a story last year that I really like, and I might write the other half sometime, but for now I'm going back to Jack's donut shop. This is because a) I never finished the story I worked on 2014, and b) I spent October not planning to do anything else. I seem to write half stories each year, which tells me my stories like to be told in 100k words, and that's something I wouldn't do in a 30 day period, unless under duress. So why not write a back half this year instead of a front half?

I've been writing about Lily, Violet and Jack for most years since 2005. Eight years, with an occasional other story mixed in. I now have three groups of people I write about; Lena and her friends in Michigan, and Sylvester, Jasper and their family in Kentucky, as well as the Sea View, NJ crowd.

Screen Shot 2016-11-01 at 1.53.55 PM

And here is the last thing I wrote about Jack, a little less than two years ago. So from here is where I begin a back half; both a new story and the continuation of an old one. It's, yes, Daughter, out of context for you, but pretty much obvious on the surface. I seriously hate the last line, 😝 but I'm leaving it alone and moving on.

#more time at Donuts and Coffee

Jack walked into the donut shop on Sunday afternoon whistling “I’m Not The Marrying Kind.”

There were no customers at present. Melissa was behind the counter on the phone. “No, we’ve never sold square donuts. I don’t know why, we just never have. Yes, I understand those are very popular in New York, but we have no plans to change our current donut shape. Yes, I will pass along the message when I see our owner. Yes, of course. Good day.”

She nodded to Jack as he sat down on a stool, still whistling. Then he said, “How about a cup of good, hot black coffee?”

Melissa reached for a cup to pour him some, but replied, “It sounds to me like you’ve already had plenty today. What’s up? I didn’t even expect you in this afternoon.”

Jack said, “Oh, I’m not here to get any work done. I’ll be in all day tomorrow. I’m just waiting for Violet, we’re heading to the theater to work on some stuff. Who was on the phone?”

“Some nutty customer wanting us to sell square donuts like that shop in Manhattan. I said I’d pass along the message, and now I have. Why aren’t you just meeting Violet at the theatre?”

“Nosy. I don’t know, she’s at her sister’s house, close to here, and we figured we’d drive over there together.”

“I see,” said Melissa, who was pretty sure she did see, but she said nothing more.

Jack saw Violet with a sense of wonder as she came through the door a few minutes later. He felt nervous, and felt silly about being nervous; they’d just spent 18 hours together and were parted for only an hour or so, but he wasn’t sure if it had been forever or no time at all. Both, somehow, he decided, as most of his feelings tended to run in two divergent directions. The urge came over him to ask her to run away with him to that no wifi desert island he was always joking about, just him, Violet, and an always-charged mp3 player for company.

But while he mused over these idiotic thoughts, she came up to the counter, as cool and collected as ever, slipped her arm through his, and asked, “Ready to go?” And that made everything fine again. He leaned over to kiss her cheek and said, “I’m ready.” Melissa smiled as she watched them go, then reached for her phone to make a call.

Jack turned on the heat in the theatre, then he and Violet went through the Narnia door to his studio. He said, “If I’m opening this space to the public, or at least more friends, I’ll have to do something about the fire escape entrance. Vinny told me last week he thought it was a bit rickety for his aging knees to handle.”

“You’re supposed to have two means of exit in every room like this, in case of fire,” Violet answered idly.

Jack realized this conversation was pointless and dull, so he asked, “Would you like a drink? I mean, some tea or water or something, or I have juice…” He trailed off as Violet shook her head at him.

“We’re alone together in the coolest room in town, and talking about doors, Jack.”

He said, “I enjoyed waking up in your bed and making breakfast for you. But after I left, I wondered, somehow, what it all really meant. We had a lot of wine last night.”

Violet frowned, and beckoned to the big leather couch. They sat facing each other, but not touching. “I don’t understand, are you having reservations now? I think we’re good for each other, Jack. And I felt—“ She stopped, uncertain whether to continue.

He said, “No, I don’t have any reservations.” Taking her hands, he said, “Making love with you was a dream come true for me. I’d relive every moment of it again and again even if it never happened again. But I don’t want to burden you with my emotions.”

Sighing, Violet answered, “I see. My reputation suggests I’d push you away if you got too serious about it all.”

Jack looked at her hopefully, waiting for her to continue. When she didn’t speak, he said, “I was instructed to not drive you off by being too serious. But when I woke this morning, all I could think was that I don’t ever want to be apart from you. I can’t do this lightly.”

“So you cooked breakfast for me in my kitchen.” Violet smiled. She squeezed his hands, then let go with one to trail her fingertip along the length of his jaw. Then, cupping the side of his face, she leaned in to kiss him. He was tense at first, but began to relax as they continued. Suddenly he couldn’t bear not having his arms around her, pulling her into his lap, and she willed herself to melt into him, so that he’d know, without asking any more questions, that they were part of each other now, and she wasn’t going to let go or push him away.

He realized she wasn’t going to speak her feelings easily, unlike most women he’d known who seemed to spend a great amount of time examining them all in detail. He’d once read about how people give and receive love in different ways; some with words, some with gifts or actions or touch. Jack was handy with words, but he liked doing things for people to express his affection. And it occurred to him that Violet was always patting someone’s shoulder or hand, or leaning in to kiss a cheek. He’d seen her playing with her sister’s hair while they talked and laughed together.

He sat up and looked at her. Surprised, Violet leaned back and raised her eyes with a question.

Jack laughed and said, “It’s okay now. I just figured it all out. Life and love and everything.”  He bent over her and she reveled in the weight of his embrace.