THE STORIES OF THE OLD FREDERICK BARN
Inside The Mind of A Multiple Personality
By Heidi D. Hansen
copyright 2006 Heidi D. Hansen
Marcus and The Mayhem of Music
(A WORD FROM THE OLD FREDERICK BARN): The only difference between a broken heart and madness is telling the truth about it.
Truth is that awful fiction that is born of real life; madness is the use of imagination to hide from and cover up what is real.
I am a Multiple Personality and I write the stories so I don’t go insane.
These stories represent a fearless – perhaps even reckless — search for truth in all its forms, becau fulfill its round.
These vessels of truth explain the experiences of the residents of The Old Frederick Barn. The truth about art and beauty and courage and the dark forms that dance around the in the wings of the human psyche.
I am The Old Frederick Barn. There are many stories; many voices embedded in my wooden planks.
When I hear the diversity of tenor and texture in their tales, I am reminded that there may never be comfort for the brokenness, but in between the drafts blowing through the planks that used to be my walls, and in the cracks of the brick-cold floorboards, there is a warm glowing orb that says, “At least I am not going mad.”
I am scheduled for demolition Tuesday next. As I prepare for the bulldozers to come and haul away the piles of debris that used to be my walls, lofts, stables and roof, a home, I am content because my purpose is complete. I
don’t mind demolition or debris, but insanity is intolerable.
And so, before the floorboards are stripped and my foundation churned into raw earth, I must quickly send out these stories, already written by a Celtic Woman who lived in my upper loft, and carefully hidden under my floorboards in between the joints of a foundation made of falling bricks.
It seems she was right all along (Medina will be so surprised); there really were falling bricks after all.
And there really is an Oak Tree growing in my very middle. That too, is scheduled to be chopped down and bulldozed with the rest of me.
However, if The Celtic Woman — or her nemesis, The Disappearing Social Worker – comes to save The Oak and declare it an environmental preservation imperative, I won’t be hauled away to the burn pile or wood chipper anytime soon.
But that is questionable, whether that will ever happen, much less by Tuesday next. The events of the last two weeks, the dueling diagnoses between these two women and then the scattering of all my residents abroad make it extremely unlikely that one of those two women will take ownership and responsibility for that magical Celtic Oak, much less a sagging, tilting rotting barn.
In the meantime, I must launch these stories, for I am running out of time. Madness lurks just around the corner.
I have to get Marcus the musician launched because music is both food and medicine, and several of the children who reside in the Old Frederick Barn are sick with winter vipers and their food closets are empty.
Before I begin this tale, I should mention a certain type of teasing that has nothing to do with vipers, food or music, but that manifests itself in bullies. This is a sadistic type of teasing, where the desired object is held away from the victim at arm’s length, just far enough for a frustrated person to miss grabbing it, while at the same time is made to continue to grab at it if there is any hope of getting it at all.
This is a sadistic tease perpetrated by a bully. Bullies can come in all shapes and sizes and don’t need much of a reason to drag out their torment of others.
Marcus believed that music could calm a beast, or rather, in this case, a bully. And although Marcus is an excellent musician, he did not start out on this adventure intending to calm a bully. He was in search of a college scholarship.
It all started when The Disappearing Social Worker showed up at the Old Frederick Barn one day with her left ear fading out (clip earring and all) to check on things. Was there enough food in each resident’s food closet? No. And were the children free from Winter Vipers? No.
And so naturally, being a great social worker, she made the correct assessment that music was needed. And since Marcus was the only musician in the Barn, but could only play clarinet music on the guitar, and French horn music on the piano, and piano music on the drums, it was clear that Marcus must attend college.
“Do you have your High School Diploma?” asked The Disappearing Social Worker. “You will need that to go to college.”
“No,” Marcus replied, although he did have the final exam for his GED correspondence course finished and folded in his coat pocket.
“That’s good enough,” said The D.S.W. “Please, give me a recital.” She sat down on a bale of hay which formed a bench in Marcus’s horse stall, which was stacked with exactly the correct ingredients for a successful career as a musician, which were the following:
1 book of poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
1 acoustic guitar
2 argyle socks
1 tarnished French horn
12 spit rags
56 clarinet reeds in various stages of use
1 piano with 2 and ½ octave keys missing
A band music folder with its seams heavily taped, in which 4 and ¾ inches of sheet music were stuffed and rubber-banded together.
1 drum set
1 music stand tied to a horseshoe peg with a shoelace
1 hat of unknown origin
“You have exactly what you need to succeed as a musician!” The D.S.W. confirmed while Marcus tuned his instruments, and proceeded to play Chopin’s Sonata in D minor for French horn on the guitar, and then Gershwin’s clarinet duet on the drums, and then a Kenyan celebration rhythm on the clarinet.
“That is very good!” The D.S.W. exclaimed when Marcus stopped for a breath. “Can you read poetry?”
Marcus stood up tall and placed the book of Longfellow poems on his music stand. He read the passage, “…we come trailing clouds of glory…” which caused The D.S.W. to stand up and clap her hands and cheer.
“Do you know what this means?”
“It means a scholarship! I will be back Tuesday next with the scholarship application forms to The Grant College of Music, and I will mail in your final GED exam so that you can get into the Grant College of Music. Do you have a stamp?”
Marcus gave her his stamp, reducing his inventory of correct ingredients for a successful music career by one.
After making general observations in the barn to check if everything else was alright (did the Oak Tree have Blight, had any horses moved into the children’s stalls, etc…), The Disappearing Social Worker promptly overlooked and ignored everything, because sometimes even great social workers turn stereotypical.
On Tuesday next, being a day of excitement and anticipation, Marcus prepared for the arrival of his scholarship application by putting on his two argyle socks.
“I must look my best for those forms,” he told himself, and dreamed of trailing clouds of glory across the concert stage at Carnegie Hall.
Marcus waited and dreamed but by nightfall, The Disappearing Social Worker still had not arrived.
Marcus did not take off his argyle socks. He waited at the edge of his horse stall all night. When she still had not arrived by morning, he went out to find her. Marcus removed her business card, which had been stapled to a low beam. It was sunken into rusty patches and splattered with mildew, but it had her office address printed neatly at the bottom of the card.
He was intent to find her; and to play a recital whenever he was asked to perform one, and so stuffed his French horn into his backpack (also filled with spit rags), and carried his clarinet in his left hand and his guitar in his right hand and then proceeded into town.
When he found her office, he also found a note taped to her door, along with an envelope nearly busting with scholarship application forms. This is what the note said:
I have a hectic meeting schedule in town. I have filled out your application forms for you. Take them to Grant College of Music, go to the Music Department and give them to Mr. Tremble, the Department Chair.
Have a good day,
On his way across town to the Grant College of Music, Marcus was asked to play three recitals. He also wore out a hole through the big toe of his left argyle sock. He made it to Mr. Tremble’s office just after lunch (of which he did not have any) and was just in time. Mr. Tremble, a huge lumbering and very round man with red ears answered Marcus’s knock on the door.
Have I mentioned that Mr. Tremble was a piccolo player in his high school marching band? More importantly, did I mention that his name is really Treble (as in treble cleft, an important musical notation)?
Ages and ages ago, when Mr. Tremble left the performing arts to become an administrator, the door sign maker in the Graphic Arts Department at Grant College misspelled his name on his office door sign. The letter “m” had been mistakenly inserted, causing “Treble” (as in treble cleft) to “Tremble” (as in Tremble At the Sound of My Name).
The new Department Chair had tried to get this mistake fixed by writing a series of scolding memos, but when the months dragged on without a repair, Mr. Tremble realized that his temperament felt more congruent with the name “Tremble” than “Treble” (he, in fact, had hated high school marching band).
And so, the door sign stayed as it was; misprinted, and ever since then students and faculty alike have known him as Mr. Tremble (as in Tremble At The Sound of My Name).
“Come in!” shouted Mr. Tremble, even though he was exactly 6 and ¼ inches from Marcus’s face and guitar, clarinet and French horn. Phlegm quavered in his voice.
“Who are you?” he demanded, as Marcus entered the office.
“Marcus. My social worker told me to come here and give you these.” He held out a bulging envelope, which Mr. Tremble did not take.
“What are those?” Mr. Tremble demanded, spittle forming a crust around the corners of his lips.
“Scholarship application forms.”
“Are they filled out?”
“And you are applying to the Grant College of Music, of which I am the Department Chair?”
“Do you know what that means?”
“It means a Rite of Passage. Here is Clue #1,” proclaimed Mr. Tremble and proudly produced a wide envelope. “Open this outside. Follow its directions and it will lead to clue #2, and then Clue #3 and so on. Meet me back here when you have completed all the clues successfully – no. Wait. IF you complete them successfully.
“I have many, many scholarship applicants. Only a rare few are capable of passing my Rite of Passage and can come study for me here at the college. Most can’t hack it. We’ll test you just a little bit here and see if you can prove yourself, if you have what it takes to study for me.”
There were a great many testy questions that passed through Marcus’s mind right then, such as, “My application forms have been completed – aren’t you supposed to take them as they are?” And, “Where does it say in the rules that a Rite of Passage is also required before the forms are accepted?” And, “Who made you in charge of Rites of Passage?”
Although Marcus yearned to speak these questions out loud, the spot on his big toe which had lost it sock was burning a fiery pain against his boot and Marcus decided to calm the beast with music.
“Would you like a recital?” he asked Mr. Tremble.
“A recital? No, no, of course not. That involves music and music is not why we are here. Your focus right now should be on the Rite of Passage. Or, you know….(and he clicked his teeth as though to say “You Unfortunate Fool”)…there will be no scholarship, no college of music. No successful career as a musician. YOU”RE DISMISSED!”
Have I mentioned that bullies will sometimes use a tease tactic of withholding something that is rightfully yours, and pulling it away just the split second before you touch it, and then make you jump some more to get it, but in a way that guarantees that you will always miss it?
Have I mentioned that some bullies cannot be calmed with music?
Marcus really, really wanted to go to the Grant College of Music.
As soon as he got outside and onto the campus lawn, he opened the envelope for Clue #1.
Inside was a train ticket. It looked like this:
Your Rail Passage
on the TRAIN OF THOUGHT
To: COSTA RICA
Seating: By The Window of Opportunity
Tremolo Trains, Tricks, and Tracks
(A NOTE FROM THE OLD FREDERICK BARN): There is evil in madness. Imaginations without boundary or humanity spin self-justifications that enable the use of another person for one’s own sport, appetite or target.
That is why I will not miss these wheat fields; the apple orchards, the stray peach tree here and there and the rabbits, snakes, and grouse that carve trails through my old planks that lay bleached in the grasses. They are all tainted by the evil which came to reside within my tilting, aged walls, long after the horses and cows of Old Theodore Frederick wandered away when his family packed off for suburban living.
“Costa Rica?” thought Marcus to himself. “That could be fun. But where is Costa Rica? Does it snow there, or does it have tropical fruit? Should I go home and put on a fresh pair of socks?”
Before he could answer himself, a thundering silver train pounded up in front of him and a conductor in a blue suit with dried spittle spots on the shoulder pads popped out and yelled, “It’s now or never, kid! Move it or lose it! This train is for the movers and shakers of the world! Get on now or lose your Window of Opportunity!”
Yes, the conductor of the Train of Thought was none other than Tyrannical Tremble.
Marcus got on board.
As soon as Marcus got on board and took his seat by the Window of Opportunity, holding tightly to his clarinet, French horn and guitar lest they slide off the vinyl seat when the train wobbled, the conductor shouted from the car ahead. “COSTA RICA! All departures get off here now or you’ll flunk out your freshman year of college and never get a job that pays more than minimum wage!!”
Marcus got out. “Will I be playing a recital here?” He asked as he observed the tropical rain forest gardens surrounding him, the lush fruit trees and colorful feathers of the birds.
“Music has nothing to do with this!” Mr. Tremble cut him off. “You’ll do as your told or you won’t come and study for me! Here’s what I want you to do: Pick the papayas from the trees over there and fill these baskets with them over here. If you can fill them at a rate of 2 baskets every five minutes you can earn Clue #2.”
“How many baskets are there?”
“Two.” Mr. Tremble pointed to two baskets on the ground.
“Oh, that’s easy!” Marcus said to himself, as he got busy picking papaya and filling the baskets. In four and 1/8 minutes, he had completed the task.
His feeling of satisfaction was destroyed, however, when Mr. Tremble used his foot to topple over both baskets and empty the fruit onto the ground. He handed the two empty baskets to Marcus. “Keep filling up baskets,” he said grimly. “Or lose your Window of Opportunity.”
This went on until the sun went down: Marcus filling baskets in 4 and 1/8 minutes and Mr. Tremble emptying them out onto a big Papaya pile on the ground. By sundown, Marcus had done that 472 times.
Before it became too dark to see anything in the rain forest, Mr. Tremble took Marcus over the to the Paymaster’s table. “Get your pay if you want dinner on the train. Everything costs, you know. There are no free dinners.”
The Paymaster asked Marcus how many baskets he had filled.
“Four hundred and seventy two.” Marcus answered honestly.
Mr. Tremble interrupted with a loud and solid Proclamation of Truth. “No, that is not correct. You did NOT fill 472 baskets. You filled only 2 baskets. 472 times. Since you only filled 2 baskets, you only get paid for 2.”
The Paymaster nodded in agreement and handed Marcus one dime. “At 5 cents a basket that is your day’s wages,” he said flatly and brushed him away from his table.
Before Marcus could protest, the Train of Thought came barreling through the rain forest, bumping over the Paymaster’s table as it screeched to a halt in front of him.
“ALL ABOARD!” shouted Mr. Tremble. Marcus jumped in and took his seat by the Window of Opportunity. He smelled delicious meaty, steamy, flavorful wafts coming from the Dining Car, but before he could investigate, his attention was drawn toward Clue #2 sitting on his vinyl seat.
He opened it. It looked like this:
Your Rail Passage
on the TRAIN OF THOUGHT
To: ROME, ITALY
Seating: By the Window of Opportunity
Marcus was excited, but hungry as well, and started to make his way toward the dining car when the train lurched and jerked to a sudden stop, sending the musical instruments careening off the vinyl seats and into the wall of the seating car.
The Conductor yelled, “ROME!! Departures hit the road and achieve a high level of success NOW or be a coward and live in shame forever!”
Marcus did not want to be a coward and live in shame forever, so he stepped off the train. He landed right in the center of St. Peter’s square.
“Now you can play your recital,” gruffed Mr. Tremble, joining him and pointing to a large fountain. “Right there. This could be your big break. This is a huge opportunity. Don’t be ungrateful and blow it. Don’t make a mistake and embarrass me. I can’t have students studying for me who embarrass me.”
Marcus was genuinely happy now. “Great! What fun! I’ve been thinking about playing Schubert’s Violin Sonata in F major on the French horn….”
Mr. Tremble cut him off with thunder. “Here’s what you will do: You will play all three instruments at once and the piece you will play is the theme from my favorite movie, ‘The 1812 Overture.’ The cannon fire part at the end is what I want to hear.”
Marcus sank into his chest. “That’s not a movie, Sir…and no piece will sound good if the same person plays 3 instruments at once.”
“Don’t you care about your future?” retorted Mr. Tremble. “It’s not about music sounding good – it’s about becoming a responsible adult! Do you want to be able to pay your bills? You’re in the real world now, get your head out of the clouds and start acting like you know what’s going on. Stop bellyaching or nobody will want you to come study for them!”
With a long sigh, Marcus played the 1812 Overture on all three instruments at once, a feat at which he was surprisingly agile. All the African Funeral Rhythms he had practiced on his clarinet had made him oddly effective at producing cannon fire shots on the guitar.
Before the gathering audience at St. Peter’s Square had a chance to applaud Marcus’s recital, The Train of Thought plowed through the crowd, knocking over a dozen tourists and breaking up chunks of the ancient cobblestones beneath their feet.
“ALL ABOARD!” shouted the Conductor.
He used his elbow to stop Marcus as he tried to enter the stairwell of the passenger car.
“You’re going to have to pay your way,” the Conductor told him. “You’ll have to buy a ticket. 10 cents, please.”
“But 10 cents is all I have!” Marcus exclaimed, his face growing pale. “I’ve got to buy dinner with it in the Dining Car, I haven’t eaten anything since before waiting for my social worker!”
Mr. Tremble shook his head like a brick. “If music is your profession, you’d better learn now that you’ll never have retirement savings. Either pay for your ticket, or you don’t get home.”
Marcus really, really, wanted to get back to the barn, so he paid the 10 cents and found Clue #3 on his vinyl seat.
It looked like this:
Your Rail Passage
on THE TRAIN OF THOUGHT
To: MT. EVEREST, NEPAL
Seating: by The Window of Opportunity
The train fell over when it crashed into a glacier shard at the peak of Mt. Everest. Both Mr. Tremble and Marcus spilled out into the ice. As Mr. Tremble rolled over and scooted himself up, he spluttered in between chattering teeth, “Here’s what I want you to do: Climb over to the third peak to your left, stand at the top of it and compose me a fugue for a nine-part symphony and commit it to memory.”
Marcus’s teeth were chattering, too, and he could no longer feel the big toe that was missing its sock. The third peak to the left was a sword of ice. To get to it, he would have to climb over two other swords of ice.
“I don’t have any training in glacier hiking.” Marcus shook and shivered with cold as he spoke, a howling wind blowing his words over to Mr. Tremble, who was stepping back into the train, which was on its side. “I don’t have any equipment or tools for glacier hiking. I don’t have any knowledge of this kind of thing at all.”
“Buck up, boy!” Mr. Tremble shouted. “I’ve no time to train you and I certainly don’t have a budget for tools or equipment! Now don’t disturb me until you get back. I’ve got business things to attend to in the Dining Car.” He slammed the door, which was on its side.
Marcus knocked on the door.
“What?” Mr. Tremble popped out his surly red face dusted in frost.
“I can’t do this. I don’t know how. It’s impossible.”
The frost began to melt as Mr. Tremble’s voice accelerated. “Whad’ya mean, it’s impossible? That’s a very negative way of thinking. I know an artist who can paint with her toes using a single-haired paintbrush to paint panoramic landscapes on the head of a pin. Whad’ya mean you can’t do this?”
Have I mentioned how cold and oxygen-deprived Mt. Everest is at the top?
Have I mentioned that some bullies don’t need much reason to drag on sadistic tease tactics?
Have I mentioned that Mr. Tremble’s name used to be Treble (as in the musical notation)?
In the sub-freezing wind of nothingness, Marcus said, “I’d like to go home now. I’m keeping my scholarship application forms.”
Mr. Tremble softened just a little; his voice lowered just a hint. “Oh. Well. No hard feelings, it’s nothing personal, it’s my job to make a man out of you. I’m just trying to help you grow and succeed in the Real World, that’s all. But that’s okay if you want to drop out. Frankly, I was stretching myself too far, doing more than I could possibly do to help you. You’ve got to learn to make it on your own, really. I think I’ve helped you all I possibly can.”
“I came to Grant College to learn how to play music.” Marcus reminded the Department Chair.
“You’ve got to get your head out of the clouds, boy. Buckle down and get serious about life. You can’t expect to play music all the time, you know…”
“I’d like to go home now, please.” Marcus repeated quietly.
The train stood up on its rollers and rumbled into position. Marcus took a seat by the door and with a sudden jolt and crash, he was hurtled out of the train and landed in front of the Old Frederick Barn. His clarinet, French horn and guitar followed closely behind him and landed with a three sharp thuds on the grass.
“Hear that, boy?” yelled the Conductor from the Dining Car. “It’s your Window of Opportunity closing! HA!”
The Train Of Thought roared off into the darkness, knocking over a field of apple trees as it vanished into the horizon.
It was midnight, and the Little Ones in the barn were sleeping. Marcus crept into his stall. He silently hung his musical instruments up on the horseshoe pegs above his sleeping bag. As quietly as he could, he tore up the scholarship application forms (have I mentioned that if you make a tearing-of-paper sound too loudly in the night, you might wake up the Little Ones, or perhaps cause one of the stones in the re-created Stonehenge to lose its balance and fall?).
As he lay down on his sleeping bag, which was stretched out atop the hay pile in his horse stall, something folded and sharp scratched his cheek.
It was a note from The Disappearing Social Worker. It looked like this:
Sometimes the more we try, the more things stay the same.
Sometimes there are no happy endings to the day.
I really liked the guitar serenade you played on the clarinet the other day. I fixed the missing 2 and ½ octaves of piano keys on your piano. Next time I visit, would you play me a drum solo on your piano?
Music is medicine and food.
Should I mention here that there are times when the more we try, the more things stay the same?
And, more importantly, that there are some small victories on the day that can’t be found on scholarship applications? Such as 2 and ½ octaves of piano keys appearing with a note from a social worker who hasn’t entirely disappeared?… Yet…
The Putrid Poetry of The Pond
(A NOTE FROM THE OLD FREDERICK BARN): I remember the night The Celtic Woman found me, and came to stay. She recognized the epiphyte sapling growing out of my rotted floorboards was an Oak: The ancient Celtic source of spiritual power.
I remember her wet, dripping Aussie Outback hat. And she, shivering beneath a wet muffler wrapped around her neck and looking for shelter in the fields far away from where her old world had fallen apart.
On that first night, with the early Autumn’s yellow moon shining through the holes in my roof, illuminating her way, she placed white river rocks, smooth and oval, around the base of that wee Oak epiphyte, chanting an ancient Celtic spell to make a client pay his bill.
The check never materialized, but as a result of that Celtic magic, the Oak sprig grew with amazing speed into a magnificent, sprawling tree that followed the moonlight and spread its leafy wings like an umbrella over my caved-in roof.
It was at that moment that The Celtic Woman recognized the markings of a good home: tilting walls, a rotted roof, and a thick Oak Tree with sprawling branches that would protect her from falling bricks, which was critical because she had a debilitating fear of falling bricks.
It is one of life’s truths that sometimes it is better to be lost than to be found, especially if the people who might find you are pirates.
Some pirates plunder cities, villages and civilizations. Other pirates pillage the human spirit, seizing the psyche as booty.
It was this later kind of pirate that Penny was trying very hard to stay lost from.
She left he barn and took up poetry down by the pond. And although she was only five years old, and very quiet, she had a command of language that far surpassed her elders and her peers and caused her eyesight to be boldly piercing.
She had a monocle that could see right through a person (it was actually an old pair of glasses with one lens missing, and she had found it discarded down by the pond, but in her literary mind, it was a monocle). Her observant gaze vacuumed up every subtle nuance and detail of the milieu surrounding her.
Which, of course, makes for great poetry.
On the day The Disappearing Social Worker came to drive Penny to her second trial dinner with the relatives who had found her, Penny refused to go.
“I prefer to remain lost.” She announced to The D.S.W., without looking up from her pink blank book, in which she was jotting down words that rhymed with pillage and plunder.
The D.S.W., having a Minor college degree in English, knew what to say. “Do you write poetry?” she asked Penny.
“Oh yes,” said Penny. “All the time.”
“Well then! That solves your problem right away! Writing poetry is the perfect way to stay lost and be found at the same time!” exclaimed The D.S.W., pleased that things could be wrapped up so neatly.
But Penny, being a true wordsmith, required a definition. “How so?” she asked.
The D.S.W. rummaged through her briefcase to collect all the stubs of pencils she had and gave them to Penny. “Here. Poets need lots of pencils. Words are visible. Rhyme disguises things. That’s how.”
“Oh,” said Penny, somewhat impressed at an adult who could match her understanding of literature, “In that case, I’ll go. But did you know my relatives are pirates?”
“No, I did not know that,” replied The D.S.W. “They looked normal to me.”
“Oh, yes, they carry their swords in plain sight. They sit at the dinner table and spit chew tobacco right on the floor. Not my Aunt, I mean, she still wears a dress and keeps her nails polished. But the others – their beards are greasy and their leather boots stink like stagnant sea bilge.”
Here she paused to jot down some words that rhymed with bilge.
“I am here to help you.” The D.S.W. said.
“You mean, proofread my poetry?” asked Penny hopefully.
“No,” said The D.S.W. “To find a better home for you than a barn. To have another trial dinner. To see if you get on well enough with your relatives for you to live there.”
“I’m not going,” said Penny. “No.”
And everybody who knows Penny knows what that means. That word is the most powerful word in the English, Romantic, Celtic and Eastern languages combined, especially when used by Penny, the Queen of Stubbornness Personified.
“No” is a word that says it all in one syllable and yet has remarkably few rhyming words or synonyms. And everyone who knows Penny knows that when she pulled out the Big Guns like that there was no turning back, no recourse, no negotiation, no gray area, no sequel and no prequel.
DSW sighed heavily, knowing it was a lost cause, an uphill battle, a canoe without a paddle. “Where is The Celtic Woman? Why can’t she help with this?”
“She is provoking a Soul-Binding in her loft. And it smells like she is whipping up a vat of Wampo Potion, too.”
“Well, if it’s only Wampo Potion, she could still be available to proofread your poetry. But a Soul-Binding. That’s different. That’s downright literary. CW won’t be available for quite sometime, that’s for sure.”
She did the next best thing, which was to agree to proofread Penny’s poetry.
“Let me borrow your pink book while you have dinner and I’ll sit in my car and proofread while you eat. What poem should I read first?”
“That one.” Said Penny.
It was her greatest composition to date: “Stopping by the Pond on a Snowy Evening.”
And it read like this:
“The Pond is lovely, green and deep.
Many dinners have I to go before I eat.
My frog stopped by the end of the trail,
And wished he had a long black tail.
Who lives in the Pond I do not know;
Tadpoles never tell or show.
How long I lingered in those cattails wild and thick,
And put together a puzzle of pieces of brick
That lay before my feet just now,
The way to do it right I know not how.
The Pond is lovely, dark and deep.
But I have dinners to eat before I sleep.
DSW decided to proofread this poem on the spot, and while she did so, a gravelly, greasy gooey cackle came up from the cattails in the pond, which only Penny could hear.
It was a miniature pirate ship filled with micro-pirates. A Z-scale galleon with a poison flag, stuck in the reeds.
“We’ve found you! You can’t run from us! We know where you are. We always have tabs on you. No matter where you think you are going, it will always be within our grasp. Because you see, you belong to us.”
Penny was so frightened that she took out a Kleenex from her pocket and on it quickly composed a new poem, entitled, “The Pirates of PennyzAunts.”
It read like this:
He is the very model of a modern pirate general;
Killing words lost, found poetical.
Stealing all within his greedy way,
Hugging you with barbs to make you stay
At their dinners of rotting minerals
And modern models of poison generals.
The micro-pirate General spat a juicy wad of partially chewed tobacco into the wind, reached muck-stained arms out to hug Penny and stab her with the rusty barbed wire that held up his pants and also served as a buttoning mechanism down the center of his shirt.
“How about a hug, dear?” he smiled and revealed three gigantic teeth smeared with green and orange algae specimens.
Penny, knowing exactly what rhymed with the words algae and specimen, pulled back into the safety of the shore where the pirates’ grasp could not reach her again.
“Ha! So that’s how it’s going to be, is it?” cried the micro-pirate General, insulted, and remarkably loud for someone on a 1/8 scale.
“Is this what she’s turned out to be, in gratitude for our liberal hospitality?” Came the battle cry from another pirate on the ship. “She used to be such a nice girl, a quiet girl, a compliant girl, a girl whom anybody would be proud to take out in public. Look at her now, how rude, mean, and dishonest and a lying whelch she turned out to be, nothing but a tramp, really, a shame upon us all. Quite a disgrace, actually.
“Are you a liar, too? A filthy rotten little liar?” called out another pirate, eagerly.
“Are you into telling fibs now?”
“For shame, for deep, deep, shame on you. I am ashamed of you. And you had such promise for a while, too,” another pirate prattled on, reveling in the verbal spew.
Penny said nothing. She was completely silent. She wished The DSW would hurry and find her, but proofreading poetry is a mentally taxing process and DSW was preoccupied. So, she turned her head upwards, stared toward the sky, and dreamed of words that rhymed with the colors she found there.
“Are you into vulgarities, now, too, girl?” the pirates continued to leer and jeer.
“Have you become a vulgar girl? Full of promiscuity and whoredoms?
“And have you lost your virginity, too? Is that you’ve been up to? Drugs, too, no doubt!”
“Look at her – she thinks she’s better than us! She thinks she knows everything –see how she looks down her nose at us!”
“Well, we don’t want you. We can do a lot better.”
“We have other relatives, we have other children and grandchildren who are of a much higher caliber than you, and who know how to show appreciation, gratitude and respect. She used to have respect, didn’t she?”
“Oh yes, she used to be such a respectful girl, someone you’d be proud to show off to others. But not now.”
“Look what she’s become now.”
“An embarrassment, really.”
“Certainly a milestone around our necks.”
“And not at all polite. Look, she doesn’t even try to free us from our entanglements in the reeds.”
“And after all we’ve done for her.”
“Tchh. Tchh. Do you think we should have her arrested?”
“And put away into a home for wayward children?”
“Or, better yet, a Finishing School?”
“Yes, that’s it. If only she could learn to sew properly, that would make a good girl out of her.”
Without The D.S.W.’s attention to all of this, Penny had to rely on her own arsenal. She pulled out her second most powerful word, which was “EXIT.”
She did not stop to make a list of rhyming words. She already knew that there were virtually no words that rhymed with “EXIT.”
Even though she was only five years old, Penny knew that “EXIT” is more of a verb than a noun and required a doing, not a rhyming.
Penny got up and EXITED, leaving the pirates properly moored in the reeds of the pond, subject to stagnant leaf covering in the fall. And then an even more odd event occurred. A large black Labrador appeared out of the brush, snout first, with floppy ears following.
His manner and demeanor was definitely Celtic in nature: He had purpose and talent and an eagerness to employ them. He rousted out the micro-pirates and stood, gargantuan in comparison, staring down at them, ready to gulp them up if they made one false move toward Penny.
“How odd,” Penny noted as she observed the phenomenon. “Yet, perfect for a new pirate poem.”
She paused to consider the first line of her new pirate poem, and then stopped herself. “I do not wish to be caught in pirate poems, like a ship caught in the reeds. I have more important poems to write,” she thought, “like a poem about a Captain, My Captain, who sets the slaves free and how there is nothing more lovely than a tree. I need my pink book! Where is DSW? I have poems to write!”
She searched the pond, but The D.S.W. was not anywhere that could be seen. “Hmmm.” Thought Penny. “Do you suppose she has a meeting in town? But what about taking me to my second trial dinner?”
Penny looked in the barn. The D.S.W. was not there. There was a note pinned to the Oak tree with a rusty thumbtack. It was addressed to The Celtic Woman, but since Penny could read, she read it.
It looked like this:
I brought you a Celtic Dog, a big shiny black one, full of superstition.
Please come down from the loft and let this dog work your Celtic spells for you so you can be freed up for other things.
Like taking charge of the residents of this barn.
They need you.
There are pirates down here.
And pretty good poetry.
When Penny read that, she shook her head wisely.
“That’s not going to work,” she whispered knowingly, and made up a poem on the spot, which she recited quietly to herself:
“In our Barn we have no dogs.
We have no fires or wishing logs.
We don’t have family, we are not friends.
Dogs make family, dogs make friends.
Celtic Woman won’t allow it;
For a dog or home she may just quit.”
Then Penny spotted her pink blank book waiting for her on her haystack, with a note attached from DSW. It was a poem, too. It did not rhyme at all, but it was a poem nonetheless, and did show some potential for good meter.
It looked like this:
I see now that you are right.
You have every reason to stay lost.
I will let you stay lost if you promise to find me
Whenever you need more pencils.
Malice, Magic, and Medina
The Allegory of Appetite
(A NOTE FROM THE OLD FREDERICK BARN): How I hate myself as I read over these stories written by The Celtic Woman. How could I have tolerated these things going on?
Is this what sets me apart from other barns that are cherished, valued, restored, preserved and visited? Is this evil what has kept me isolated and alone in this field far from humanity and civilization?
Perhaps the deepest humanity is what happened inside my walls.
But my walls are soon to be no more.
It seems the residents of The Old Frederick Barn couldn’t even escape destruction under my protection: I deserve to be demolished. I am not fit for friendship.
A rush of air. An icy breeze. A whipping of wind.
But it wasn’t wind. It was the presence of dragons. Flying dragons. Flapping their wings, chopping up the air up like helicopter blades. Invisible dragons such as these would only be experienced by an ignorant onlooker as a mere passing gust of wind.
The two dragons in this story are, in fact, invisible. Recognized only as the sensation of a brisk wind to everyone but two innocent children, who happened to be Twins.
How can one tell the difference between a breeze and a dragon?
In this case, there really was no telling the difference between a dragon and the wind. In this story, these two dragons were so very cleverly disguised that there was no telling the difference between them and falling off a cliff or, the difference between a dragon and being run over by a train.
It was only after the experiences contained in this story came to their rightful conclusions that the truth could be recognized.
And remember, as was mentioned before, these Stories of the Old Frederick Barn are a search for the truth in all its forms. Forms in this case would be:
1.Green (mottled murky green), blobby, grabby, and spilling out all over with self-pity (I am of course, describing one of the dragons); and
2.Blue (chilly steel blue), covered in icicle shards, with vacant eyes that open into endless tunnels of emptiness, and thin lips upon which sometimes danced a sneer that revealed a grudge (this would be, of course, the other dragon).
Have I mentioned the wind? The problem with a breeze is that we really can’t see it. We can only see what it does and what it causes. When we only have the breeze itself (as much as we can trap in a pickle jar) in which to judge a situation, we can do little about it (which we may not want to do anyway, because an authentic breeze is lovely in any form).
But when we know that we are in fact dealing with dragons, it is the facts that allow us to sculpt a variety of solutions to the situation. Facts are important, and so is knowing how to find more of them.
In this case, our two young residents of The Old Frederick Barn – Twins of 12 and 8 – were being attacked by the blue and green dragons. And because they did not know who else to ask for advice, or where to go to get the facts on solving dragon behavior problems, they made the very child-like mistake of relying on the blue and green dragons for help!
(You can see how this sort of thing might get tangled up very quickly. But, the children in this story won’t know that until much later on in this story, so let’s get back to what I was saying about facts allowing us to sculpt solutions).
In this case, the sculpting was done out of rocks. Exquisite, grand, and precariously balanced rock sculptures fashioned by the Twins to replicate ancient Stonehenge.
A long time ago, The Old Frederick Barn had a tool shed leaning against its main structure. The walls of that tool shed were completely blown away by fierce winds over time, but the cement slab which was its foundation endured. It was upon this that the Twins re-created Stonehenge.
The original Stonehenge, of course, was a pre-literate ancient Druid ceremonial site in the Celtic days of England. Within its circle, Druids organized the patterns of sun, moon and star orbits into facts.
Many dragons were fought and slain at ancient Stonehenge, and even crowned and made rulers over some parts of the Celtic world that appreciated dragon behavior.
In any case, the Twins had succeeded in sculpting a surprisingly realistic replica of Stonehenge on the east foundation of The Old Frederick Barn.
And because they were not enrolled in elementary school, they had all day to spend dressing up as, and then play-acting, the battles of King Arthur and Gweneviere, fighting off dragons with stick swords and saving the life of the princess bound to a rock and about to be devoured by said dragons.
Remember I mentioned invisible flying dragons earlier in this story? Dragons disguised as gusts of wind? One was horrid, blobby green and the other was a frightening, vacant shade of blue?
The Twins weren’t making that part up. They were not play-acting. Their dragons did not come from fable. They were not autumn winds, either. They were real dragons really devouring their beautiful rock sculptures of Stonehenge just as quickly as the Twins could replace them with river rocks carried by hand back from the Pond.
In fact, the rate at which the green and blue dragon ruthlessly gobbled up the rock sculptures really was so alarming that it should have brought the Celtic Woman down from her loft. She of all people, should know that the re-creation of Stonehenge may possibly attract a decent dragon suited for leadership, but just as likely may attract an unsuitable dragon or two.
The Celtic Woman, above all other residents of The Old Frederick Barn, would naturally want to preserve the Stonehenge re-creation, remaining true to her Celtic heartbeat.
Have I mentioned that Stonehenge was been rebuilt outdoors? Where there was no roof? Have I mentioned the Celtic Woman’s fear of falling bricks?
The Celtic Woman was of absolutely no help in the matter. She remained in her hay loft inside the Barn, shielded from falling bricks by a thick canopy of Oak tree branches, writing about what was happening below.
What was called for was, of course, a Professional Social Worker. Someone of that profession would certainly know how to feed and care for dragons in such a way that they would want to swiftly move on to find another Stonehenge to eat.
In this case, however, our Social Worker was Disappearing. Really disappearing (more so than just being held up at meetings in town) and so the situation was sketchy, at best, if enough of her would be present to do the job.
I should mention here that these two particular dragons – for very good reason – do not want to become visible and have very good reason to want to be thought of as just a breeze.
If they were seen for what they really were, and what they really wanted, you would understand why they wanted to disguise themselves as just a pleasant breeze rolling in off the hills dispersing cheery puff balls of dandelion throughout the land.
That is the fooling part. That was their cover.
The real story is that these dragons have come to eat the Twins.
Yes, that is correct: To eat the Twins.
“You are in danger of running out of rocks!” shouted The Disappearing Social Worker, interrupting our story to come running across the abandoned wheat field (she always came running, what was left of her, anyway). “Please, children, please consider moving Stonehenge inside the Old Frederick Barn!”
“Denied division done!” cried the 12-year-old Twin, answering The D.S.W. politely.
“Slingshot superfurlous silhouette!” echoed the 8 – year-old Twin, always anxious to repeat the exact words her brother exclaimed.
Have I mentioned that the Twins, from the moment of their birth, created their own private secret language? Did I also mention that they only spoke in that private secret language of their own making? Both between themselves, and also, to others?
The D.S.W. was the only person besides the Twins themselves who understood their language. Although she could not speak it herself, she could make out in a pinch what they were saying.
“Why won’t you move into the Barn? You will be warmer in there – the breeze is so brisk and chilly out here on the cement. Because, really, I am worried about you running out of rocks. Soon the Pond will not have any more rocks at all and then I do not know where you can go to get more!” The D.S.W. repeated.
“Jaundice jumper jellified!” The 8 – year-old Twin mimicked.
“Ah,” said The D.S.W., nodding and thinking at the same time. “The dragons again. But if you move inside the barn, don’t you think they will go find another Stonehenge to eat? In another County?”
“Wyoming Westward is to Alacadabra Algebra!” Answered the 12-year-old, leaping up and down the rock sculptures and swinging his sword with might and a hint of vengeance.
The 8 – year – old Twin nodded in agreement. “Courteous California is to Gimme-Gimme Geometry!”
“But the Oak Tree’s power will fend them off!” The D.S.W. assured them. “The dragons cannot get inside the Barn. Oh no. Don’t worry about that.”
She brushed the half of her hair-do that she still had left (wind-blown away) back around her 1 and ¼ ears and said, “I wish I could leave you a note of instructions, because I do have a meeting in town I must get to, but children, you still do not know how to read. Well, I know the perfect solution for that, and your rock problem. I’ll be back just as soon as I can, and we’ll make things better then.”
She trotted off across the wheat field back towards town. The Twins did not wave goodbye because they had become locked in a head-to-head battle of crashing steel, breaking chain mail, and splashes of dragon drool.
“Pits pompous peril!” he shouted, striking the blue dragon directly on the snout.
“Jaundice jumper jellified!” The 8 – year – old Twin mimicked.
The D.S.W.’s voice could still be heard above the clatter, from her fading edge of the field, “I’ll be back shortly with a wheelbarrow! Then all will be well! Have a good day!”
Sometimes even Disappearing Social Workers know just what to do, even if they have had no formal training in dragon protection and fortification.
Drillious Dragona Duped
(A NOTE FROM THE OLD FREDERICK BARN): When my rotting planks are so satiated with unrelenting wrestling with the dark forms of evil, and there is no room left in them for truth, the only thing left that can be done is to wait. Wait for demolition, or, wait for a fresh breeze carrying seeds of evolution.
The twins, left alone at Stonehenge without a wheelbarrow or a professional, unable to read books that would have given facts about dragons acting oddly, and most of all, weary of sword fighting, went to the dragons for advice.
Being anxious to please, the dragons gave the Twins the best advice they could offer, which was to have something to eat.
The dragons fed the Twins for days and nights without boundary. They served up trays and platters heaping and dripping with chocolate éclairs, whipped cream, puddings, salty ham slices and peppery sausages and hunks of steaming roast beef oozing thick gravies and sliced kiwi on the side.
There were pies of every wonder, more cakes and frosted sweet breads and tarts and caramel fondues than there were rocks in the Mississippi River. Mugs and vessels of hot drinks, chilled fruity drinks, fizzy fuzzy drinks that ought not to be made available to children under 40, and then of course, a smorgasbord of pasta bowls with cheese sauces, clam sauces, and lobster blintzes.
For desert they had boiled fruit pudding with cinnamon sticks and salads made with whipped cheeses and jeweled sugars blended with pears, blueberries, guavas, papayas, bananas and white chocolate drizzle crackling on top.
Had the Twins had access to factual advice from someone not a dragon, they would have known that there was plenty of granola and milk in the Barn’s food cupboards.
But the Twins were so full of almond frosting and meatball melts that they could not simply believe that these two dragons really, really, wanted to eat them.
What was even more dangerous was that they thought they could take a break one morning at dawn to visit the beach and look for seashells that had washed up onto the shore during the night at high tide.
After the beach, they would enroll in elementary school, they decided.
The newness of tide-washed sand in between your toes in the morning is a joy and a wonder for anyone to experience, but more so for the Twins, whose feet were sore from jumping over rocks and chipped bricks.
The Twins breathed in sunny orange rays, the turquoise sea, and friendly palm trees along the shore. The air smelled of salty adventure. A dog barked ‘God Morning!’ from a distant peninsula swept smooth by the ebbing tide. The Twins filled their shirts with as many seashells as could fit while they chased little sand crabs back into the waves.
When the dragons realized that the Twins had taken a day off to play at the beach, they were furious.
“Enough of this,” announced the gooey blobby green dragon, “They are getting much too full of themselves. They need to learn that life isn’t so sweet after all.”
The cold blue dragon went into hiding inside the vacant tunnels behind his eyes. “I’ll lure them in here,” he said between clenched teeth.
The mottled green dragon wept pitifully. “I’m nothing without them. They’ll come back to me. They always do.”
Of course, they kept a pleasant smile on the outside. Once they found the Twins, they merely cooed, “Have another cookie, dears, and pass them on.”
If the Twins had been properly trained in suspicion, they would have realized right then that they were in danger. They had left their swords, helmets and chain mail back at Stonehenge. They felt that a day at the beach, and then enrolling in elementary school, would not require all that armor.
Alone on a beach with mouths full of jelly donut, they were without voice, without protection, and without weapons.
They did, however, have a Disappearing Social Worker with a wheelbarrow, who suddenly saw them from the coral tide pools on the Southern peninsula of the beach, which was only accessible at low-tide.
“Hello, Twins!” she waved and called cheerfully, looking like a wisp of fog. “I’m over here collecting rocks for you– look! Can you hear me over the wind?”
Then she dropped her shell bucket and ran toward them, suddenly realizing the danger (when the tide is out, there is no wind!). She did the best she could to reach them in time, but the front tire of the wheelbarrow kept sticking in the wet sand.
Even in the midst of extreme peril, the 12-year-old Twin was easily distracted by rock conversation. “You can’t find rocks here,” he called back to The D.S.W., who was successfully edging closer by pulling the wheelbarrow through the wet sand. “This is a beach! There’s only sand here! We need rocks!”
The D.S.W. would have answered that sand is really just a lot of very, very, tiny rocks, but because she was professionally trained, she noticed that something much more important had occurred.
The Twins had spoken in regular English.
The dragons – who were NOT professionally trained – were confused by the use of straightforward language. For a moment, the dragons stopped dead in their tracks, frozen in fear, having lost control and puzzled about what to do.
The D.S.W. seized the moment. “Quick, children, run! Run back to the Barn—these dragons are about to eat you! I’ll take it from here – run and hide back in the Barn!”
If you have a college degree in Social Work – which the Twins did not but may choose to get after elementary school — you will know that a wheelbarrow is the only truly effective weapon in killing a dragon.
Fortunately, there was a wheelbarrow available.
The D.S.W. did something extremely brave and notably licensed to do.
She pointed out to the dragons the presence of a wheelbarrow.
“Look,” she said, “An honest tool.”
The blue dragon’s eyes became even more vacant. The blobby green one quivered with impending tears of self-pity.
But The D.S.W. continued, relentlessly talking. “A wheelbarrow.” She said, “A tool that accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do, nothing more, nothing less.”
The murky green dragon wrung her claws in helplessness. “I’m no good,” she blubbered. “I’m not smart enough to use a wheelbarrow. Nobody ever gave me a wheelbarrow. Even if I had a wheelbarrow, I wouldn’t be able to do anything right with it. Everything I do is wrong, wrong, wrong.”
The blue dragon’s eyes flashed for an instant in a sneer of false superiority. He remained silent, and then put on a disguise that can’t really be described except to say that it was like an executive hiding under his desk.
With one more fearless word, The D.S.W. sent the dragons into Sudden Lockjaw:
“Go Away.” She stated.
I wish I could say here that at this point that the dragons flew off and were never seen nor heard from again, but alas, the drama of real life is not as organized as the drama of fine literature. What really happened after The D.S.W. said that word was that the dragons became enraged.
They turned and chased the Twins, madly, all the way back to The Old Frederick Barn. During their ferocious flight, if they could have moved their mouths to utter a phrase, it would have been to yell out these venomous words:
“Please, have another helping of salmon loaf, won’t you? You’ll hurt my feelings if you don’t.”
The Twins made it back to the Barn and took up defensive positions at Stonehenge. They put on their helmets, but when they reached for their swords, they found them to be missing!
Gluttonous shrieks of victory howled overhead as broken chips of wood pelted down on top of their heads. They looked up. The dragons hovered above them, breaking their swords into tiny bits of bark dust and laughing as much as Sudden Lockjaw would permit.
Completely demoralized, the Twins gave up their defensive posture and just sort of stood there, with their tiny hands cupped open, catching the wood chips that had once been their cherished swords, their story, their fun and their protection.
They were defeated. They stood alone in a broken Stonehenge waiting to be consumed by an appetite that could never be filled. They waited. The battle would soon finish its course.
“Good news! You’re not going to run out of rocks!” sang a familiar voice from the direction of the wheat field. It was The D.S.W., more vanished than ever, still pulling her wheelbarrow, which was full to the brim with rocks. Real rocks. Big, authentic rocks, washed smooth and lavender and creamy by tumbling in ancient tides.
It was a relief to see the small portion of their Social Worker coming to their aid, but their comfort was only for an instant as they realized that they did not need rocks; they needed swords.
“Fine fellows flicker faintly!” Cried the 12-year-old Twin.
“Absolute additive andante!” Echoed the 8 –year-old Twin.
“Yes, yes I know you need swords,” called out The D.S.W., closer now. “That’s what I came to tell you. Not only have I brought you some fantastic rocks, but there are new swords for you – in the Barn! Please – get inside the Barn! Your swords are waiting there for you!”
The D.S.W. leaped over the Stonehenge circle (she was surprisingly agile for someone with a negative body mass index number who did not hold a college degree in P.E.).
She reached out tenderly to the Twins, gathered them in her arms (what was left of them) and ushered them into the Barn where it was safe.
“No worries,” she said loudly so they could hear her over the noise of dragon wings chopping the air outside like helicopter blades. “They can’t come inside the Barn. Dragons can’t get near a real Oak Tree.”
“Kiddles of Kaddles and Kites!” shouted one.
“Breaches of Barometers and Band-Aids!” shouted the other.
“No, really, it’s true!” yelled The D.S.W. as the hovering wings grew louder outside the Barn. “Look! Pull off branches of The Oak Tree. Use them as your new swords! They will protect you completely!”
The Twins pulled off as many stout branches as they could and waved them through the holes in the Barn’s rotting walls.
The dragons left. They flew away, hobbling and limping all the way back into the dreary wasteland of their souls.
Never to be seen or heard from again.
From then on, the Twins slept inside the Barn and only played near breezes that were authentic.
If they had any doubt as to whether or not a breeze was authentic, they had only to hold up their Oak branch swords and see the way the light bounced off the quiver of the leaves. A genuine Oak identifies genuine breeze.
It took an entire year for the Twins to rebuild Stonehenge, because their wheelbarrow had found another use: To transport the mountain of delicious library books they checked out every day from the elementary school in which they enrolled.
Inside those books they learned both fiction and facts about dragons, and how to tell the difference.
At elementary school they found out that there are many languages in the world, and many people can share one language and have fun doing so.
The Twins quickly learned Chinese calligraphy, American Sign Language, and Spanish. Soon they could illustrate their own stories in Braille.
The most important thing was that they learned both fact and fiction on a great many subjects. Like, what makes sand, how all the great oceans are connected by beaches, how rivers smooth the rocks, how the birds overhead build their nests and how roots protect the fish at their feet, and the wide variety of people who grow in between.
Magic, Malice and Medina
(A WORD FROM THE OLD FREDERICK BARN): Today the wrestling with evil took on an especially dangerous form: That of a TO DO LIST long enough to wrap around Manhattan.
If there is one truth that needs to be told, it is the fact that a good sign can change everything.
But, when Medina nailed the CAMP PARANOID sign to the oak tree, it did NOT change ANYTHING, it just reaffirmed what everybody already knew: That time was of the essence.
There was never any time. Always in danger of running out of time. Not enough time. Time to do this, it wasn’t the right time for that.
Medina held the clock. And the clock was always ticking. Like a time-bomb.
Truth be told, it was the only clock in the barn, so that would have actually been a plus, except that the clock came part and parcel with A TO-DO LIST, A GOAL LIST, A MASTER PLAN LIST, A GROCERY LIST, and A LIST OF RULES with its complimentary LIST OF CONSQUENCES AND REWARDS, A LIST OF GENERAL GUIDELINES AND EMERGENCY SPECIFICTIONS, LIST OF SPECIALIZED INFRACTIONS AND INSTRUCTIONS, LIST OF SYNCHRONIZED SYSTEMS; LIST OF HOURLY, DAILY, WEEKLY AND MONTHLY SCHEDULES, and a FIVE – YEAR PLANNER.
What is it about a TO DO list that makes a person so arrogant and vain that they think they can control TIME? And that they are always RIGHT in a superior sort of way?
Medina tried to make everyone forget about that by telling a joke. The same joke, over and over, always the same joke.
As a matter of truth, she drove everyone up the wall by repeating her TIME JOKE which was, “Why did the boy throw an alarm clock out the window?”
(Warning: Impending punch line) — “To see time fly!”
Have I mentioned that sometimes humor can be used to make one appear to know what one is doing?
Have I mentioned that Medina wants to control time?
It is a truth that sometimes when people want to control time, it really means that they hate time. They are fighting it, attacking it, trying to beat it and destroy it. A constant war with a punishing agent like time can quickly turn to agonizing anxiety .
Why do I mention this? Because Lucy was learning the practice of Psychology.
Have I mentioned that Lucy was caught in a struggle to decide which career she would pursue? Poster-making or Psychology?
Medina needed a poster-maker; the CAMP PARANOID sign really was atrocious. But psychology also seemed important in relating to someone like Medina, and The DSW was happy to give her lessons in the basics, which was key, because Medina wanted to cut down the Oak Tree.
“Look,” she would exclaim in intervals with a regularity that you could set your watch to. “The Oak Tree is swarming with aphids, ants, termites and bark beetles! It has to go! I have no time for this!! We will all catch Blight!”
Have I mentioned Camp Paranoid?
The Boot Camp for a Better Work Ethic?
The fee to enroll for a summer’s term is Guilt. One admission to Camp Paranoid is One Admission of Guilt. Of what, it didn’t matter. Medina just wants to hear you say it out loud – or better yet, put it in writing, notarized in triplet, with a liability clause against future lawsuits written in fine print along the bottom margin.
Whereas some people burst into a room saying, “Good Morning,” Medina enters a room with the traditional greeting, “Alright, who’s guilty in here?”
Whenever she blew into the barn, she did so with such force that she knocked over hats and rattled the Camp Paranoid sign on the tree. Roll – call went something like this:
“I know someone in here is slouching, slacking, trying to cover up a conspiracy of some sort. Who is it that is trying to turn me into the Authorities? Who’s trying to cheat me? Gossiping about me? Deliberately trying to exclude me? Take down my sign? And who is it that is sneaking sugar into the granola bars? You know my system can’t handle sugar. Was the Math tutor here? I don’t trust her measuring spoons. Her behavior just doesn’t add up. Where is the Math Tutor? Not here yet? Slacker! It’s high time she got here! Time is money, you know!”
“Okay, crew – listen up!” she shouted on this particular day, banging her table saw against the Oak tree. “I’ve arranged for Mr. Tremble (as in Tremble At The Sound Of My Name) to make a regular Train of Thought platform stop here.
“Here are your tickets. The cost of each ticket is 1 Guilt Admission. An all day ride pass will cost you A LIST OF THINGS TO DO — LONG FORM — all check-marked DONE ON TIME, in triplicate, please.”
Right on time, signaled by the sound of the words “in triplicate,” the Train of Thought came barreling through the wheat field and swayed side to side as it lurched to a halt at the barn. The bombastic shrieks of its overheated engine caused a dozen nails to pop out of the Barn’s wooden planks.
“Right on time!” Medina called out gleefully. “See that? It was my job to get the Train running on time, and I did. Let this be a lesson to you all on the benefits of a solid work ethic!”
“Just like Moussellini.” Penny whispered to Lucy.
“Who?” asked Lucy, who had not finished High School.
“A paid pirate.” She replied.
“All Aboard!” Mr. Tremble cried out from the engine cab.
“All Aboard, movers and shakers of the world!” Medina chimed in. “Those Who Want To Accomplish Something Important In Life, as well as Those Who Want To Just Try and Climb Out From The Bottom of The Food Chain!”
But nobody answered. Everyone had left barn. They had all escaped down to the pond, preferring the company of Pirates and an organ accompaniment played by Marcus on the flute he got at a garage sale.
Medina, undeterred by abandonment (and actually spurred on by the confirmation that her friends really would leave her in a lurch if given half a chance), grabbed her table saw and her Flow Chart of Policy and Procedure and made off to find them.
“They’ll like me as soon as they see my Flow Chart,” she grimaced as her high heels sank into the sludge along the pond path. “It’s color coded!”
Fortunately, Marcus had heard her high-heeled shoes slurping and burping in the mud and had just the right musical instrument ready for her arrival.
“What’s this?” Medina shouted as he handed her a harmonica. “A CIA listening device?”
“No.” replied Marcus. “It’s what you need. A Time-Taker.”
“A Time-Waster, you say?” came Medina’s retort. “Mr. Tremble warned me about you. You take up a lot of people’s time and don’t seem to really want to work very hard for your college degree. I heard you want to take the Easy Way.”
“Just play it and keep it in your pocket.” Marcus said.
“Are there germs on it?” Medina quizzed.
“Plenty of germs, but they have all been sterilized off. You should still worry, though, about germs. I can’t guarantee it’s clean.”
“Yes, you are absolutely right. I feel I can put my trust in you Marcus, we seem to see things eye to eye.” And she put the harmonica to her lips and blew into it and for a moment. Time slowed down. To a pleasant pulse. To a pleasant personality.
Medina asked some calm, and highly suitable, questions as she blew into The Time-Taker:
“What makes time stand still?
How can you make the most out of your time?
What is the nature of time?
Can you really take the time?
There was a time when I knew how to do that.
Once upon a time.
Is time something you can take?
Do I have any time?”
Have I mentioned that sometimes when people are angry, they make lists?
Have I mentioned that sometimes when people are fearful of lists they get angry?
Have I mentioned that Medina hated the Oak Tree and wanted to cut it down?
The Oak Tree was, in fact, remarkably clean for a tree. Medina is one who makes up reasons for chores.
It was she, after all, who nailed up the Camp Paranoid sign.
“Is it safe to go back into the barn?” Penny asked Marcus.
“Yes,” Marcus replied. “As long as she’s playing the Time Taker, we can breath. Lucy, can you make another sign to replace Camp Paranoid?”
Lucy nodded her head. “What should it say?”
“Music Recital, 5 pm. Tuesday Next.”
(A WORD FROM THE OLD FREDERICK BARN): We are not yet at the levels of truthfulness we are trying to achieve.
“Are you incognito today?” Lucy’s High School teacher had asked her one morning in Second Period.
And since somebody noticed, she never went back, but rather, left the city and moved into the barn where she used her talent for making posters to earn money for hats.
Although she no longer attended High School, the First Trumpet of the Marching Band, President of the Drama Club, Treasurer of the Chess Club, and 4-H Triple Blue Ribbon Goat Winner all came to barn in one week seeking out her services for posters to advertise their events.
Lucy was also an expert in collecting hats. More importantly, she was a master of disguise.
On this particular day, when she discovered all her marker pens had dried out and she had nothing to do, Lucy had chosen her French Policeman’s hat and opened her box of fake mustaches, beards, eyebrows, noses and glasses and chose a wide black handlebar mustache to wear with it. She debated briefly whether or not to pack on a silly putty hook nose but decided not to until after breakfast, lest it slide into the orange juice.
But before she could stir a packet of orange juice powder into a plastic cup of water, a knock came from the high beam above the hole in the wall that served as a front door.
“DSW!” She welcomed her favorite person, who was also a master of disguise. Two disguises, to be precise. The disguise of Psychology and the Disguise of Disappearance.
The Disappearing Social Worker climbed over the few remaining planks and sat down on a short stack of hay. She smiled, which was a bad sign.
“Do you know what the Psychological cure is for Chronic Compulsive Suspicion Disorder?” She asked Lucy.
Lucy nodded. “Sarcasm!”
The DSW nodded admiringly at Lucy, whom she knew in her heart was a budding Psychologist and must continue her education.
“I need your help, Lucy. Medina’s on the rampage and is about to cut down the Oak Tree. Which isn’t such a bad idea, but we’ll lose CW if the Oak tree is gone. Of that, I’m certain.”
“You mean, she’ll move out?” asked Lucy, saddened by the thought.
“No, she’ll die.” DSW said firmly. “The Oak Tree is her life-blood.”
Lucy, knowing what needed to be done, took her savings money and instead of buying poster paper and marker pens, she bought several more hats. A French Navy hat with a bright red tassel, to be exact, an Alpine triangle hat with a deer-tail brush on the side, and an Eastern German Colonel’s hat sold at a thrift store after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
She put these hats into her collection pile next to the Mexican Sombrero, Scottish moor walking hat, English Top hat and Japanese rice bonnet which was woven from hay.
In the proper spirit of sarcasm, she donned her East German Colonel’s hat to talk to Medina.
“As Colonel of this Boot Camp,” Lucy told her, “I order you to take down the CAMP PARANOID sign and give me your table saw!”
“It’s High Time for that Oak Tree to come down.” Medina answered tersely, not looking up from a new TO DO LIST which she was composing.
“No! You can’t cut the tree down! It is the life force for CW and keeps the barn from tipping over! Besides, it’s the only thing keeping the dragons from coming inside!” Lucy cried.
“It’s got a bad case of blight, its got termites and weevils and blue beetles and worms in the bark. It is a health hazard and it has got to go! Now, which part of this TO DO LIST would you like for yourself? I’ll tear off the bottom for you, or you can take the top half.”
“Aye, aye, General,” Lucy said sarcastically and tossed over her Colonel’s hat. “This might as well be yours, you fit it better than I.”
While they debated the dispersion of the TO DO LIST, someone new to the barn came to the door.
Medina recognized her, a pear-shaped older woman with red curly hair.
“Ah! About time you got here! Just in time! Thank you for coming! The Little Ones are right over there” — (she pointed to a horse stall behind the Oak Tree where Tommy, Susie and Margaret were still in pajamas playing on their blankets) – “As soon as I get this tree cut down, you’ll have more room to work on them.”
“Who is she?” asked Lucy, alarmed at the presence of a stranger. “Why is she here? Why do The Little Ones need to be worked on?”
Medina sighed irritably. She obviously had no time for questions like that. “The Little Ones are fussy, noisy, whine and cry all the time, they’re hungry all the time and I can’t get anything done! It’s time they grew up. Right Now.”
(Note: “Right Now” is a specially designated form of time and so it is spelled with capitals).
“How can you make The Little Ones grow up Right Now?” Lucy asked.
“Math.” Answered Medina.
“Math?” Lucy was incredulous. She had left High School to avoid math.
“I’ve taken the time to get them a Math Tutor. Shortly the Little Ones will be cured. They will be properly grown up in no time all.”
Like a good mathematician, the math tutor with the curly red hair had been listening in on this conversation, though she pretended to teach the Little Ones how to measure flour with teaspoons.
“I see that you work by TO DO LISTS.” She commented to Medina. “Good. I do too. I hope it’s a priority on that TO DO LIST to do something about the dog. He’s got to go. He scared the living daylights out of me. He’s big, smelly, loud and probably highly aggressive. It’s only a meter of time before he bites someone.”
“Right!” Medina nodded her head. “Thank you for pointing that out. The last thing we need around here is a great big lawsuit or animal control citation. I’ve got it covered. Right here. Number 57: Take dog to the pound or get new owner by tomorrow.”
“By tomorrow?” Lucy cried. “You can’t get rid of him like that! Who will be his new owner? How do you know what will happen to him at The Pound?”
“Well, then, it looks like you’d better get busy making posters to put around the roads advertising for a new home for him. And make them the best signs you possibly can! Remember, advertising is everything! And then we’ve got flashcards to make, business cards to print, granola bars to bake, write a thank you note to Mr. Tremble, cut down the Oak Tree, sweep up the hay all over the floor, make a new sign for the driveway, return the library books, tune up the wheel of the wheelbarrow, …” the TO DO LIST she was reading from wrapped around her feet like a giant paper Anaconda, creeping over to suffocate other victims who stood too close by its lengths.
DSW popped back in and handed Lucy something shiny. “Here,” she whispered. I don’t think sarcasm is enough. You’ll need these. In case the TO DO LIST wraps around your feet. Don’t let it get past your knees.” Lucy looked at what DSW had given her. It was a pair of scissors.
“Are you guys talking about me again?” Medina yelled over at them. “Or are you just trying to find a way to get out of working, again? “
Have I mentioned that every time Medina comes into the room, she doesn’t just ask what you have done wrong lately? Rather, she asks straight away why you’ve done wrong lately? Why you are still insisting on doing things against the rules? And being so sneaky about it that she would never be able to catch you in the act, which is why she has to be preventatively suspicious, or else she would never be able to catch people doing wrong, and never be able to punish, and never be able to keep law and order?
“Why yes, Medina,” replied DSW wryly. “We are all most certainly trying our hardest to get out of work. And that takes a lot of work, believe me. And we are certainly all up to no good.”
Which proves the point of basic psychology that sometimes it is more important to be genuine and congruent than sarcastic or clever (clever equals smirky plus arrogance minus time which equals the Math of Misuse).
“Lucy,” whispered DSW after Medina had gone back to composing her list of punishments and consequences for various other infractions that had been committed that day. “Here.” It was a note, which read,
Psychology is a better disguise than a hat. With it, you can out-suspicion Medina.
Psychology Tip # 36: Every day is a completely new start. And you can start a new day at anytime, and anywhere.
Psychology Tip # 17: Don’t let other people’s problems become your own.
And, granola bars are good for you.
I won’t see you for a few days; I have an important meeting in town.
The comment about the granola bar made Lucy feel like running away. She did not know why. Perhaps it was because granola bars can fit into a person’s jacket pocket without spoiling. Maybe it was because to make granola bars, Medina would have to add Number 81 to her Shopping List and get the actual granola.
They had plenty of flour, water, milk, butter, brown sugar, raisins and baking soda. But as to actual granola, they had none, and the recipe clearly called for actual granola.
If you have a college degree in Chemistry, or a degree in Herbal History, you will understand it when I say there was a recipe much more perilous than granola bars being concocted inside the barn.
The Celtic Woman had stopped writing. She was devoting her time to the brewing of Wampo potion. By the vat-full. Using Druid Chemistry: A potent recipe of rare herbs, exotic fruit rinds, Druid magic and ancient literary history that could cause the barn to explode at any moment.
Another potent recipe was simultaneously and more obliquely brewing inside the barn: A rare chemical/ magical/ancient combination of oddity, pain, and helpless dismay that was boiling up in great vats within the psyche of the Old Frederick Barn.
And it all might explode soon.
Or worse, sink quietly into the anonymous brown dirt of a forgotten wheat field somewhere in Dairy Country, USA, where wildflowers become philosophers, and gravel roads the mechanics of the mind. Where buildings are abandoned and left to the cows, the breezes, and homeless youth who seek out neglected places where they can commune with truth in all its dilapidated, emergent and reckless forms.
Knowing this — and because Penny secretly desired to be like Lucy when she grew up, and because Lucy secretly desired to be like DSW or CW (not yet sure of which way to go) when she grew up — they both followed DSW to her meeting in town. Their aim was to convince her to quickly return and stop Medina from chopping down the Oak Tree.
But when they found DSW, they discovered something important. She wasn’t in a meeting. She was at the park, sitting next to a man from South America whom they had never seen before, staring at the birds in silence and apprehension.
“A mercenary!” whispered Penny.
“No, her husband!” replied Lucy.
Loveliness Looks Like Little Ones
(A NOTE FROM THE OLD FREDERICK BARN): Little Ones need pretty pictures to look at. They need to know that what is real is pretty. Or, that what they are growing up into is pretty, so they are not afraid. Is that a generous, well-intended, and untruthful advertising campaign? What is more real: The pictures we wish were true, or a picture of sun-bleached, warped, and rotted planks? Or, the pictures we can make real?
It was a truthful certainty that DSW was not visible enough to tackle the Medina issue. Lucy and Penny would have to take matters into their own hands. And then get Marcus to do it for them. He had let go of his college scholarship to play lullabies for The Little Ones to get them to sleep at night, so perhaps he would front for them with Medina as well.
If you happen to have a college degree Global Economics, you will understand it when I say that the more Medina tried to organize the barn by lists, the more chaotic it became. She began to carpet the floors of the barn and wallpaper the walls of the barn with lists.
The more lists she made, the more risky it became that as soon as residents felt at ease, the rug would be yanked out from underneath them. Or, to be more accurate, the List would be yanked out from under them.
Have I mentioned that it is very difficult to perceive accurately if things are in a state of ease if you put your faith in time?
Have I mentioned that motivation, focus, plans, goals, and high-protein energy drinks do little to win the battle for time and/or paranoia?
And sarcasm does little, either.
The only real cure is a friend.
But Medina had few friends, scared off by the table saw she wielded like some women wear a string of pearls, always alert to the possibility of Blight, prepared at the ready to cut down whatever tree was spreading the disease.
And so, the only reasonable thing to do was to fire a shot across the bow of her psyche.
For those readers who do not have a college degree in The History of Ammunitions and Gunpowder, this means to ask Medina the question: “What are you so afraid of?”
And Marcus, being an expert musician and well-trained in timing, was nominated to go to the front lines, with Penny and Lucy safe behind him, and ask that question of Medina.
But Marcus, being an expert musician and well-trained in harmony, changed the question at the last moment and asked Medina instead, “Can I see your LIST OF THINGS TO BE AFRAID OF?”
Medina fished around in the sea of Anaconda-coiled rolls and scripture-like scrolls and produced a lengthy strip of 40” butcher paper.
“Here it is!” She yelled over the crackling, rankling paper as it was pulled together in a wrinkled heap and piled into Marcus’s arms. It was, indeed, THE LIST OF THINGS TO BE AFRAID OF.
Marcus ironed it out. When the deafening sound of yards and yards of crinkling paper quieted down, Penny, and Lucy read it.
“Where are the words?” Whispered Penny, nervous.
“There’s only two items on it!” Whispered Lucy, thoughtful.
“The rest of the scroll is blank.” Whispered Marcus, reverent.
THE LIST OF THINGS TO BE AFRAID OF looked like this:
1.Afraid that people will leave me.
2.Afraid that good things will be taken away.
Just then, DSW appeared in the hole in the wall that served as a door into the barn. “My meeting in town is over.” She stated bluntly. “I’m here to check if there are any horses that have moved into the stalls that the Little Ones are sleeping in.”
“Just the math tutor.” Lucy reassured her.
But indeed, there was a problem in the Little Ones’ stalls. Behind the Oak Tree, she found the Little Ones in a state of crying, yelling and general tantrumming. The cause of the commotion was the cardboard number cutouts the math tutor had brought in for her daily math lesson.
The sharp edges of the cardboard plus, minus, division and logarithm symbols had inflicted numerous paper cuts and hangnails on Tommy, Margaret and Susie.
“Math is dangerous!” cried the Little Ones.” We’re bleeding!”
“These children have absolutely no numbers acumen!” cried the Math Tutor in defense. “It is not possible to teach them algebra! Additionally, Tommy insists on shooting me with imaginary bullets from his imaginary rifle!
“This is intolerable! I must request a transfer to another Division! This barn is so unorganized, the dog runs circles around my lessons, and the bucket lands squarely on top of my head every time CW sends down a story. I’ve tried every angle to solve the problem but the triangle between Penny and Lucy and Medina divides this area into negatives that just don’t add up. Subtract the Oak tree, and the equation may be solvable. Until then, I’m outta here!”
“Is that really math?” Penny whispered to Lucy.
“Yes,” Lucy said. “It’s called a story problem. You’ll have lots of them if you go to High School.”
If you happen to have a college degree in International Diplomacy, you will understand it when I say that DSW had something more pressing to attend to than preschool calculus. There were blue chalk parabolas drawn around the base of the Oak tree to designate the cutting areas, and Medina had her table saw turned on, fired up, and ready to go.
“Is she really going to cut down the Oak Tree right now?” cried Lucy.
“No. Far worse!” Declared DSW, her voice revealing a touch of panic. “She’s going to give herself a haircut!”
“With a table saw?” cried Lucy, incredulous. “She’ll hurt herself!”
“Yes. A table saw is entirely the wrong tool to use. It will give her bangs and nape a straight-edged cut that is completely wrong for her bone structure. I’ve got to stop her. Believe me, if you are ever going to be an administrator, it is imperative that you have the right haircut.”
And then, in an act of sheer courage and total visibility, DSW leaped out in front of Medina and placed herself squarely between the table saw and her own neatly tailored business suit. “Stop! Wait! Bricks are coming down! You need a feathered, layered look to match your facial structure! You can’t cut down the Oak tree! It is the spiritual source of this barn!” she called out boldly.
“Spiritual schmirichul!” Medina retorted while laying down the table saw, causing the motor to automatically shut itself off. “You know as well as I do there are no such things as falling bricks!”
Penny was appalled. She was crouched behind Lucy and observing through her monocle. “There’s no such word as schmirichul.” She whispered in disgust. “She doesn’t know anything. You can’t just make up rhyming words.”
“What about the THINGS on your LIST OF THINGS TO BE AFRAID OF?” DSW asked outright, cutting to the chase, but somewhat more quietly now that no power engines were on. Not having had success with sarcasm, congruence, or friendship, she was trying the tactic of direct confrontation.
“I do not appreciate such diversions. That is pure fantasy. There are no falling bricks,” said Medina, sticking to her story.
“On the contrary,” DSW pressed back. “I think you are intimately acquainted with falling bricks. In fact, I think you eat them as breakfast cereal!”
“You know I don’t eat breakfast cereal!” Medina responded, showing signs of losing steam. “You know full well my system can’t take milk!”
Then a fatigued silence dropped on them all. Characterized by the sudden draining of blood, oxygen and energy from the limbs and mind, this type of fatigue shuts down the motivation to win an argument. It was too taxing to continue the conversation. Medina sighed. “I lost my scissors.” She admitted. “I need a haircut and my scissors are missing.”
Lucy produced the scissors that DSW had slipped to her earlier in case of Life-Threatening Anaconda List Emergency.
“Here,” she said. “I borrowed them. I’m done now. Thank you.”
The soft drifts of Marcus’s guitar could be heard in the background, playing a Bosnian Clarinet Polka by the pond.
The tantrumming of The Little Ones could also be heard.
“The Math Tutor’s still here,” DSW heaved herself up off a haystack to get back to work.
“No, she’s not.” Medina informed her, sharpening her scissors. “The tutor and the dog are both gone. I fired them both, just a few minutes ago.
“You got rid of the dog?” DSW cried out, losing her patience as quickly as she was gaining visibility. “How could you do that? CW needs that dog for her Celtic Spells! I can’t believe this – First you turn this place into Camp Paranoid, then you get rid of the dog? What were you thinking? I’ve got to have someone else be in charge! And if you’re going to cut down the Oak tree, go ahead, but make sure everyone is outside doing marching drills when you do it. I don’t want them catching Blight when it falls.
“And please, one more thing,” she noted as she made her way out the hole in the wall that served as a door. “Don’t trim too much around your ears. A full look on the sides will soften your face.”
Lucy followed DSW outside. “If CW won’t do it, I can be in charge!” she earnestly offered. “I know enough about Psychology now. I know how to out-suspicion Medina, and I know where the scissors are. It’ll be okay, really.”
“But can you make granola bars?” DSW was almost completely visible now in her exasperation. “No, we need CW to get down here and stop avoiding the issue. She’s got to step up and take some ownership here. She can’t keep hiding forever, drinking Wampo Potion by the vat-full. Someone’s got to take charge here. Falling bricks or no falling bricks.”
“There is no such thing as falling bricks!” Medina snapped from within the barn. She could hear everything within a five-mile radius. “Yes, I heard that. I hear everything that is said to undermine my authority. You are planning to sabotage me. But it takes guts to be down here and work for a living. And I’m the only one willing to do it, huh? You can’t deny that, can you? Put me down, criticize me, mock me all you want, but I’m the one that’s completely here doing the hard work. Even with the Oak tree and the dog. I’m in charge, and you’re going to have to accept that, or I’ll have no choice but to lay down the law and implement some consequences. Where is THE LIST OF CONSEQUENCES? Awright, WHO STOLE IT???”
Lucy followed DSW outside the Peaceable Pond (which got its name only yesterday when Lucy made a sign for it), where they sat and listened to Marcus play Vespers From The Sistine Chapel on the new banjo he picked up at a garage sale.
“Why don’t you be in charge, DSW,” suggested Lucy. “I’m sure it doesn’t matter that you are hardly visible at times. You can still be a good social worker. Perhaps you should stay here with us so you don’t have so many meetings in town.”
“No I can’t. I can’t do my job very well, I can’t help anyone!” said DSW. “And even if I tried, the Little Ones would only end up like Paget.”
“Paget? Whose Paget?” inquired Lucy, softly.
“A very, very, heavy falling brick.” Came the hollow reply.
(A NOTE FROM THE OLD FREDERICK BARN): In all my years of watching human, horse and epiphyte behavior, the one most striking feature is that peculiar breed of person who, upon hearing the words,” I love you,” responds by dropping his or her body prostrate on the floor, screaming, “DUUCK!!!!!!” When you are a barn, demolition is just demolition. You know when it’s coming, and it is what it is. But to some people and horses, the word “love” actually means, “INCOMING!!”
“A Falling Brick? Paget? What does that mean?” Lucy probed, which is a counseling skill not to be used with reckless disregard.
“Paget L’Deco. Wow. What a story. Paget was an orphan from France. Adopted by American parents and then abandoned by his American parents when they wanted to travel and his school schedule interfered with their itinerary. Paget was put into foster care and I was his social worker. He ran away from his foster home. He lived in the back alley behind The Celtic Woman’s art studio. It was also next door to a deli-bakery where the owner gave him get day-old muffins for his breakfast and scraps of roast beef for his stray dog friends.
“At that time, there was no Frederick Barn, there was no place for him to go except back into The System, where he was pegged as a throw-away because he had been orphaned twice as well as a foster-kid run-away. I didn’t have the heart to throw him back into it. He would be happier in the alley.”
“What happened to him?”
“The Celtic Woman is what happened to him. She noticed him hanging around with his long trail of strays following him for food. She paid him to get his dogs to sit for a series of dog deco paintings she had been commissioned to do for a Dog Lover Society Museum. “It was called ‘The History of Dogs In The City Series.’”
“When the society paid her commission, she gave a chunk of it to Paget and took him shopping for hobby and sports gear.
“While they were out shopping, someone broke into her studio and stole all those paintings. The entire series. They hadn’t been delivered to the museum yet. They were waiting for pick-up on the landing. She had to use all her savings to refund the commission because the insurance did not contain a landing loss clause. She had to give up her studio and sell off her belongings to pay the debt, and even then, she still owed more than what she could pay.
“So, then, what about Paget…He had plenty of gear, but no food or shelter. The Celtic Woman was out of funds, and out of a studio and all art supplies. She left without word or a forwarding address. Paget didn’t come to me for help because he was afraid I would have to turn him over to the authorities. He did go to his church, in pastoral confidence, where his family and foster family both had paid huge sums of money over the years in tithes and offerings and charitable contributions. Paget asked the Bishop for enough money to get home to Paris, where he could look up a long lost friend’s older brother, grown up by then, who would probably take him in.
“The Bishop told him that it was God’s plan to ask family for help. Paget said he could not go to his family for help because they abused him so badly and eventually abandoned him completely, so that he had to go to be adopted out, and his adopted family didn’t want him and abandoned him too. Foster care was worse. If he went to any of those people for help they would certainly turn him into The System where he didn’t stand a chance.
“But the bishop said it was God’s plan that families help each other, and Paget must obey God’s Plan. He must reveal himself to his family, it was the only way. It made no sense at all, but the Bishop shut the door on him because he himself was a righteous man and obedient to God’s Plan.”
“Did Paget go to his family?” asked Lucy, full of empathy, as she herself had experienced similar events.
“No. Paget L’Deco did not. He chose a path that to him, was preferable. He froze to death in a snow storm. In the back of CW’s vacant studio, in that alleyway. But his stray dogs and cats were alive – he had given his jacket and sweaters to make a box kennel to keep them warm and had used his food stamps to buy them hot meats. But he himself perished. On purpose, or by accident, I do not know which.
“What happened then?” Lucy asked.
“Not much. Throw-aways like Paget don’t cause much of a stir when they perish. The Bishop, when he got the news, just nodded his head like it was an affirmation of faith. He said that perhaps it was Paget’s Time To Go. That His Mission on earth had been fulfilled and that God’s Plan is hard to understand but we must trust that through obedience to we will be saved.
“God must be a lot like Medina,” Lucy said, in awe.
“No, no, no.” DSW shook her head irritably. “That is not God’s Plan. Paget wasn’t saved. Only his stray pets were saved. I’m not saved, either. I’m more and more lost, actually. I’m almost entirely gone now and I can’t find enough of me to do my job.” DSW took a long, long breath and stared at her partially visible shoes.
“You mean your confidence is gone?”
“Worse. My competence is gone. I really do not know how to do this job that I love. CW paints the soul of the earth and its people with acrylics and watercolors and written words. I help people paint their own souls with listening and spoken words. We are more alike than different, actually. Only I don’t know how to do that anymore, it seems. I have a malady,” she said. “Disappearance Disorder. The onset occurred sometime after the Paget L’Deco tragedy and the huge and bitter fight I had with CW afterwards.
Lucy was skeptical. She had already put it together that DSW’s Disappearance Disorder was caused by her husband. DSW didn’t seem to know that. Perhaps DSW was missing more than her body; she was missing information. But Lucy listened intently, anyway, careful not to point out her patient’s lapse of logic.
“What fight with CW?” she nudged.
“I blamed CW for not doing more to help Paget, or at least not telling me that he was stranded without money or food. She blamed me for the same thing.”
“How come we never see her? She never comes down. Only her stories. Coming down the pulley.”
“She has a malady too. Falling Brick Phobia. She avoids, and I disappear. There is no good solution, I am afraid. It is what it is. We just have to accept it.”
“What happened to CW’s art? Did she ever re-paint the Dog Deco series?”
“No. My husband, Cortez De La Vuega, paid off the commission refund. And I never saw CW again until she moved into this barn. I found her only by noticing a trail of broken bricks across the wheat field. I recognized them immediately, followed them, and they led me straight here, to this barn and CW writing stories in the loft.”
“Here,” she said, pulling out a yellowed and overly – folded scrap of newspaper from the half of her coat pocket that was still there. “CW was famous at one time, and in high demand, enough so that she had articles in the newspaper written about her. Here’s a piece of a newspaper interview from her glory days, just after the Dog Deco theft and Paget’s death.”
It was old, faded and scrappy, and it looked like this:
(REPORTER): “Who is your favorite artist?”
(CW): “David Douglas, John Muir, John Jay Audubon and Ansel Adams.”
(REPORTER): “They were all artists?”
(CW): “In a way. Mostly botanical studies on new species of plants, and of course bird paintings and photographs of The Grand Canyon. But more importantly, they all could sleep outside in the snow and rain and not get cold. That’s what I admire about them.”
(REPORTER): “What about your lost Dog Deco series?”
(CW): “My patron died, Dog Deco with it. Snow can be as deadly as falling bricks.
(REPORTER): “Will you re-paint the collection?”
(CW): “Paintings don’t sell. People look but don’t buy. And they don’t hear you in the painting. Writing is the only real way for people to hear each other. Writing knits people together like the ancient Druid Spell of Soul-Binding. It transpires time and place.”
(REPORTER): “Is writing your new career?”
(CW): “It’s how to not be alone.”
__________the newspaper scrap was torn off here___________
There was a pause while Lucy read over the newspaper scrap twice and then returned it to DSW. Then she asked the blindingly obvious question: “What will become of us? Who will take charge of the barn?”
“I don’t know.” DSW replied flatly. “Maybe nobody. Maybe everyone will all scatter to the corners of the earth.”
“You mean, travel?”
“No,” CW shook her head. “I mean library distribution. Someday CW will publish her stories.”
Rust, Responsibility, and Reality Checks
(A NOTE FROM THE OLD FREDERICK BARN): The greatest threat to evil is life. Wrestling with the dark forms that demolish life, or seek to end it before the epiphytes have gained enough nourishment to start fields of their own, is private, painful, and perilous.
When evil seeps into your wallboards and becomes symbiotic cells intertwining with the cells that nourish life, there is shame. Then the wrestling with evil becomes wrestling with Self. ________________________________________________________________________
Cortez De La Vuega offered something more than granola bars.
He could cook meat. And, cook gourmet style. What was more, he didn’t mind going to seven different stores to get the right organic spices, an odd fish, exotic vegetables and rare tropical fruit.
When he came to visit the residents of the Old Frederick Barn, holding DSW by the elbow, of course they were suspicious, and not just because of Medina. The reality checks had not yet been paid, and the Little Ones were naturally skeptical of fish.
Cortez De La Vuega had come to pay their Reality Checks. Just like he had paid of CW’s return of the commission money after the art robbery and the tragic Paget L’Deco death.
“Have you been to Costa Rica?” asked Marcus, as Cortez removed a root for stewing from a grocery bag. “I have.”
Cortez shook his head. He never said much, if anything, and when he tried to smile, the best he could do was grimace.
Penny whipped out her monocle and peered at him from behind her haystack. “He’s a privateer.” She announced to Lucy as she peered through the lens. ”A mercenary. A pirate for hire.”
“Who hired him?” asked Lucy.
“The marriage.” Replied Penny grimly. “And DSW still thinks he’s an accountant. But I can see right through him. He’s murdered before, I know it.”
“Should I give him an East German Colonel’s hat to wear?” Lucy asked sarcastically. “He’s not fit for DSW. He’s a better match for Medina. I gave her an East German Colonel’s hat earlier. They can be twins!”
“We have no choice,” said Penny, using her mightiest command of language. “We must drive him far away from here.”
“How?” inquired Lucy. “Shall I make a DANGER sign and post it on the door?”
“No,” replied Penny, taking charge. “We must send the real pirates on him.”
And she did. She found the pirates stuck in the cattails and released them. They were antsy for more pillaging, and she gave them the scent of Cortez’s perfectly starched and ironed underwear. That was all they needed — they went in for the kill. Cortez was never seen or heard from again, except in photographs of his mug shots found in the local newspapers for various crimes including assault, hired hits and extortion.
“I knew all along he was a perfect match for Medina,” Lucy said sarcastically.
Have I mentioned that the only cure for paranoia is sarcasm? Or, perhaps, congruency?
But Lucy had troubles of her own. She began to write poetry, too, following in Penny’s footsteps. Only, being a poster artist, she didn’t have the proper technique of rhyming words. Her poems went something like this:
Have I mentioned that loneliness is not good for the soul?
Have I mentioned that it is far, far worse to have dried-out marker pens and poster paper dotted with pirate phlegm?
“What you need,” said DSW, when she arrived at the barn with a wheelbarrow full of granola. “Is a trip to the art supply store. However, I am afraid I cannot take you there, Lucy. I have grown faint from Disappearance Disorder, which has taken a turn for he worse since my husband went to prison.”
DSW was inconsolable over the loss and pending deportation of Cortez. However, more of her was visible, not less. Things were somehow improving.
“Are you feeling okay?” Lucy asked. “I can see more of you now, not less. I think your disorder is actually getting better!”
It was true. DSW’s left ankle and right ear, for example, could be seen in their entirety, and was probably also tangible to the touch, if one was brave enough to reach out and try to touch her, which hardly ever happened.
Penny whispered to Lucy. “I think it was the murderer that made her disappear in the first place.”
Lucy had not mentioned to Penny, nor anyone else for that matter, about what DSW had told her about Paget and the onset of her malady. Lucy also believed only someone like Cortez could have caused such a full-blown Disappearance Disorder, and now she knew she was not alone in that opinion.
It wasn’t just the elbows of DSW that had become visible, but a flurry of notes in the pulley bucket going up and down to and from the loft had also transpired into view. It was a one-sided correspondence so far, and the subject was that of responsibility.
It had been years and years since DSW and CW had spoken to one another. It was tricky business, and so no mention of Paget L’Deco was brought up in these notes. That was a subject sure to cause the pulley’s crank wheel to rust.
Although Lucy knew where to go to get poster paper, nobody in the barn knew where to go to get pulley parts. Even if they knew where a good hardware store could be found, nobody had any reality checks to pay for those parts, except Cortez de la Vuega, who was long gone.
(A NOTE FROM THE OLD FREDERICK BARN): If wrestling with evil means the dark forms of shame within my sideboards, that have seeped into such an integral molecular structure as to imitate the very blood of my psyche, doesn’t it make more sense to allow the demolition to occur on schedule?
Sometimes truth is not oblique, mystical or metaphorical, but rather nicely organized into tables and graphs.
Whether the bill for telling the truth in all its forms comes from a wrecking ball subcontractor, an accountant, or an art supply store, they must be paid.
To pay them, one must have a steadfast supply of reality checks, and a hefty emotional bank account upon which to draw them.
The residents of my walls will go down in history – even though I will not be standing much longer – for their codes in this ledger. This is an accounting of who paid their reality checks –The DSW, CW, both? And how those reality checks were paid; what was the price of their liberty from madness.
DSW’s REALITY CHECK (psychological dynamic)
CW’s REALITY CHECK (literary device)
Train of Thought
Mind Games/psychotic anger
Suspicion and Paranoia
Hats and disguises
Integration and Connection
Art and Friendship
How does it all end up? Here is a Sneak Preview of Where these residents go after The Old Frederick Barn is demolished:
CW is found in a church as an old wrinkled gray lady making lunch baskets for the homeless.
Marcus goes to New York and plays recitals in the subway stations.
Penny becomes an international diplomat specializing in peace negotiations.
Medina was never heard from again, but some suspect she took a degree in botany and studies trees of the lowland plains.
The DSW travels the tropics and sends postcards written in sun-faded ink.
Tommy, Susie and Margaret volunteer to read picture books in a library in Peru.
The Twins were eventually eaten by dragons and their remains kept in a dragon museum in Scotland.
Lucy never went back to High School and did not pursue either poster making or psychology but made a small, but brief, claim to fame by improving the recipe for Wampo Potion as a micro-brew.
The Old Frederick Barn was cleared away by bulldozers. The brick foundation and its stories written by The Celtic Woman, which had been stuffed in between the floorboards, were incinerated and used as iron to fertilize the wheat fields, which became grazing pastures for the dairy industry that bought up the surrounding acreage.
In the middle of the cow pastures, a scraggy, withered and dehydrated Oak tree can still be seen where it was struck by lightening and took down an entire herd of cowering cows in last summer’s sudden rain storm.
(A POST-NOTE FROM THE OLD FREDERICK BARN): Are endings ever real? Are endings truthful, in any of their forms? Do endings ever really have a form? Is this really how things end up?
With or Without Wampo?
(A NOTE FROM THE OLD FREDERICK BARN): If a barn falls in a wheat field, and nobody is there to take charge, did it ever really exist?
Where is peace? How can there be any peace with the flourishing of evil and insanity? A barn with dragons swarming about its tilting walls, pirates polluting the pond, and trains of thought running through it has no chance for peace. Especially when it is about to be foreclosed because of unpaid reality checks.
The Celtic Woman has forsaken her spells. Although her loyalty to the spiritual powers of the Oak Tree would never entirely vanish, it appeared as though she had begun to ignore them.
Instead, she has taken up the use of Wampo potion to give her the warmth and comfort that is a pseudo-peace.
Wampo potion is an ancient druid combination of fermented Celtic herbs mixed by moonlight on a fire made of dried Hazel on top of a circular bed of river stones. The recipe and mixing procedure is rather simple given the usual elaborate, cumbersome Druid spell casting policy, yet it is highly potent. Its simplicity is most likely due to the fact that the exact mixing protocol has never been retained past the initial round of taste-testing.
DSW took drastic measures. She put a note in the pulley bucket, and waited for CW to hoist it up. It looked like this:
Sometimes there is no peace.
Sometimes there is only uncertainty.
Sometimes after bricks have fallen they can be used to build something.
Even if it is only a dog kennel.
The dog has come back, despite Medina.
The dog needs to be painted. He can wait for a kennel.
And so the wrestling with evil continued. There was no deco painting of the dog, there was no Celtic music in the background, there was no Wampo potion, no comfort, and no one in charge.
But there were bricks. Bricks that had already fallen.
And had built something.
A foundation. A foundation that held up Barn walls for many years and which may yet save it from the bulldozer and wrecking ball (remember I mentioned that CW’s stories were tucked in-between the bricks under the floorboards?).
But even still, CW did not come down from her loft. If anyone was going to take charge of the residents of The Old Frederick Barn, it would not be her.
Or would it? Remember I mentioned that Oak Trees are spiritual and environmental preservation imperatives?
The pirates stuck in the cattails had a party loud enough to be heard all through the barn. They were laughing at CW, and they laughed until daybreak.
“She’ll never amount to anything!” they gloated.
“She used to be such a nice girl, now look at her”
“She’s severely ill. The neighbors all say it.”
“She’s got such a chip on her shoulder. What’s happened to her?”
“Oh well, we’ll find other friends.”
And they all laughed; laughed at her and laughed because they knew that they had created the very thing they were spitting on.
They had achieved success in their evil objective, which was to pillage and plunder a human spirit so it would turn to rotten coal, thereby increasing their personal supply of rotten coal to use, misuse and abuse to their heart’s content.
What would a pirate be if he or she didn’t have something to spit and spew?
Pirates require spew. Spewing is their core of delight. It gives them pleasure, joy and a sense of accomplishment.
To get enough of it to satiate their ever-increasing addiction, they must create an ongoing, everlasting supply out of whatever material is around at the time, even if it is Penny. Or Lucy. Or CW.
What would coal be, if it weren’t coal?
Would it still be a beautiful flowering tree providing shade and climbing for young dinosaurs? Or would it be a diamond that offered romance and everlasting sparkles that gave lovers an excuse to spend money on each other?
I suppose love and beauty is a form of truth, too, as well as pirates and potions.
Speaking of Potions, have I mentioned Wampo potion?
Have I mentioned that sometimes even a Celtic Dog full of magic can’t heal the brokenness caused by falling bricks?
Since there was no reply to her previous correspondence, The DSW put another note into the pulley’s bucket. It looked like this:
There may never be a reason to come down from your loft.
There may never be a reason to give up the surety of Wampo potion.
There may never be such a thing as peace, or faith.
But the dog needs to be painted in deco form.
And then, in a truly bold move, The DSW included a handful of tubes of paints and brushes and rolled up paper and books of paper with spiral edges. This, she hoped, would inspire CW to fulfill her destiny and take charge of the barn.
When Lucy gave her an enquiring look, as though, “What does that have to do with anything?”
The DSW answered, “Sometimes fresh paint can help a person come out of hiding.”
“CW still paints?”
“Of course. She’s Celtic.”
“Do you paint?” asked Lucy.
“Of course not. I am a Psychologist,” she responded.
“Oh. But you have faith that fresh paint will bring her down from her loft?”
“Oh, no, I have no faith at all,” replied DSW. “Faith causes you to lose your understanding of human nature. That’s Psychology Tip #11. That’s an important one. Remember it.”
DSW proceeded to empty all the unused floor-level vats of Wampo potion into the Pond, which raised the water level so significantly that the pirate’s galleon dislodged itself from the cattails and reeds and floated to free waters.
The pirate ship did not get far. It was quickly intercepted by the long black snout of the Black Celtic Dog, who, in a single gulp and without benefit of chewing, swallowed them whole. “Tastes like chicken,” was the look on his eager face as his tongue swirled over his chops. “Have you got any more?”
This is where Celtic dogs come in handy: Cleaning up the pond of Pirates.
When he had finished licking his chops, the pond became a place of peace, and Lucy made another sign for it, reading, “The Peaceable Pond.”
“See?” Penny whispered to Lucy under her breath. “Linguistics can change a civilization.”
“Advertising can change a civilization,” corrected added Lucy.
And then, still full of purpose and talent, the Celtic Dog proceeded to bite the pants of Mr. Tremble making his 2 o’clock stop at the Train of Thought platform.
Then, the Celtic Dog raided the granola bar cupboard and ate them all up.
Then he pee’d all over the account ledgers of the paid and unpaid reality checks.
Then he chewed on the bark of the Oak Tree until the bark was stripped and resembled a beaver’s tree.
Then the dog drank the one remaining jug of Wampo potion that DSW somehow overlooked, and proceeded to chew on the rocks of Stonehenge. Then, being a little giddy and wobbly of foot, he unwittingly thumped his tail against Marcus’s bass drum, startled himself, and leaped through the haystacks and scattered Lucy’s sign-making supplies. Muddy paw prints trailed across her hat collection.
Fortunately, like any good household where no one is in charge and a large black dog is left to run rampant and damage the contents, the residents had taken early curtain calls and had already scattered.
And by scattering to the corners of the earth, the residents of the barn had, in a way, solved their problems.
Except for one problem that still remained; which was that still, nobody was in charge.
Just then, the creaking of the pulley could be heard.
While the dog was running havoc, the pulley and its bucket had gone both up and down.
In it was a note from CW. It looked like this:
I do not wish to paint any more deco paintings, ever.
I will, however, provide you with my recipe for granola bars.
The sky needs constant watching.
It is both brilliant with stars and fraught with peril.
I cannot come down and take charge of the barn.
That is your job. Building with bricks becomes pathways for pirates and priests and I have no wish for either.
Good luck to all in finding new homes when the time comes.
I’ve paid my reality check; I’m staying in my loft.
“So she’s not coming down?” asked Lucy.
“Well, it appears that she just did,” replied The DSW. “In the form of a note.”
(A NOTE FROM THE OLD FREDERICK BARN): The whispers in my wooden planks have been successfully transferred and embedded into the Oak tree, where they will endure despite what happens to my structure held together by rusted nails and creaking pulleys.
It is a truth that after the debris of rejection and humiliation is cleared, those who are left standing with you may get a glimpse of something rare and beautiful, preserved for epiphytes which can spring up into new and unsuspecting places.
The only cure is vitamins and a hot shower.
Stop hating your body; at least you have one.
Take the risk of falling bricks; right now you are your own brick.
I would say to have faith in the Oak tree, but I don’t believe in faith.
Only science. Not in people, but in psychology.
But I do know that somehow there will be a place of safety and loving.
Somehow you will be able to pay for it.
I do not know how.
Sometimes there are no cures.
Sometimes you have to let the bricks fall.
If I did believe in Celtic Spiritual powers of Oak Trees (which I do not because there is no such thing as magic and a tree really is just a tree, but I know some people do believe), I would say that an Oak tree in the house is more susceptible to Blight than an Oak tree in the open fields of nature where birds can sit and sing and little rain drops can drop from leaf to leaf. Oak trees have destinies to fulfill, too.
Your dog has eaten so many micro-pirates now there are virtually no standing cattails left and Penny doesn’t have anywhere to be lost.
Let’s get some spinach salad going here, cook up some oatmeal and invest in yogurt. Everyone could do with fresh cranberry juice, too, and a protein smoothie I think.
Is it possible to raid the pirates ship for a refrigerator? We could wheel it over to the Barn on the wheelbarrow.
If you will take Vitamin C and B daily, take a steam bath to detoxify your system of Wampo potion, you may not be so preoccupied with star gazing, either. I worry about your eyesight going out from all that peering into the brightness of the universe at night.
If you sell the Oak tree for fence posts, you will have enough money to pay for electricity in the barn and or fresh spinach or both.
TO DSW –
I’m not coming down until the murderer (AKA, your husband) is gone. The only way to get rid of a sociopath is with fine art. Use the paint supplies yourself. Murderers can’t tolerate free thought.
Why don’t you have any faith?
Stop pushing vitamins and oatmeal on me. I don’t need food. All I need is writing paper and drawing pens to subside. I can live on good ideas. And not recipes, either, I mean original ideas. And not clever ideas, either, there is nothing literary about smirkiness and nothing beautiful about self-seeking superiority.
And I know the first thing that will happen if I allow The Oak Tree to be moved out is that you will move a TV into the barn and we will all get brain rot from too many murder mysteries.
What is it with you and murder, anyway?
I knew I never should have started writing notes to you. Once I start, I can’t stop and the problem is that the more you come around here the more things get disrupted. It used to be nice and quiet around here, nobody talked to each other, nobody fussed with each other, everybody ate what they wanted and slept in their own stalls and stayed far away from me.
And now, there’s confusion and noise because you’ve got everyone talking to each other but nobody can seem to get anything done properly.
Looks like there’s more of you than ever before. You started this, you finish it. It not my plate of beans. — CW.
Do you really think I have stopped disappearing?
Is more of me really more visible than before?
Again, my husband is not a murderer. He is an accountant.
I will not pay for electricity.
I am pursuing my heroes and putting myself through intense training to learn how to be cold and remain cold without feeling it. Like John Muir and Ansel Adams and David Douglas. We of the Celtic blood have fire in our veins even without Wampo Potion and can sleep in the snow without a coat and not feel a chill. Electricity will soften me and break my concentration in this regard.
The Oak tree stays.
And stop pushing oatmeal on me.
You are beginning to sound like the dragons.
Text Box: CW – Intense sometimes means living long enough to see young Oaks grow into their own. Training sometimes means healing so that you don’t frighten others or scare yourself. Oatmeal sometimes means a loving gentle living room. And Softness has nothing to do with dragons. –DSW
Then, the pulley stopped. The paper supply had run out. In the dusty background of the wheat field, a caravan of bulldozers and wrecking equipment could be heard coming toward the barn.
It was 5 p.m. Tuesday, and the music recital had been cancelled due to lack of attendance.
Wisdom Without Words
(A NOTE FROM THE OLD FREDERICK BARN): Have I mentioned that being real has less to do with pretty pictures and more to do with the truthful, but ugly, wrestling with evil?
There’s more to it than that.
Being real has more to do with altering the codes stuck in between our floorboards, the character codes strategically book-marked in the Chapter Nines of our minds. Being real can certainly be about leaving: Putting on a hat of suspected origin and never being heard of again.
Being real can also mean fragments that never fuse.
Being real sometimes means the presence of evil. Targeting, sporting with, and even devouring the spirit of an epiphyte is a dark enterprise and takes severe wrestling from many residents in many barns to organize it all into chapters.
Being real also means changing the ending. Many times.
And changing the character codes. At the start of every morning, which can be at any time.
All children are epiphytes. And they can be changed.
All evil must be changed.
Some hats would be better off if they were changed.
Truth in all its forms can never be changed.
New truths in subsequent chapters can always be added.
All stories, words, drawings, musical notes and fantastic fiction are epiphytes. The human spirit is an epiphyte.
A barn is an epiphyte, too. The Oaks and Pines and Cedar saplings which become the housing authority for the souls of our inhabitants and their dances with wickedness and wisdom sprout from the foundation of someone else’s bricks, fallen long ago and broken into seed.
And there really are falling bricks.
There really are Oaks Trees with spiritual powers, and some barns that are so classic and full of heart that they never get torn down.
Some Oak trees never perish, but become the fuel and fire of the soul of landscapes that unravel far beyond the wings of the mind.
Our Oak tree did not die. Our residents did not disperse to the ends of the earth and unknown territory. Truth is always known somewhere and somehow, and my residents are truth in all its forms.
It is also true to say that some truths are better left to the freckles on a quiet pond, and the wings of wisdom that fly out of leafy branches through rotting rooftops, and into brilliantly lit universes beyond the apparent sky.
Who’s Words Won?
(A Note from NEW OAKS BARN): I don’t know what’s going on. It’s been Five years since The Celtic Woman moved in, and four and one half years since a fuzzy social worker started showing up stuffing print-outs of emails into my floorboards.
I’ve removed them as fast as she deposited them and have saved them in a feed tin, because apparently the fuzzy social worker does not understand that this is a working barn, with a herd of 14 large show horses stomping in and out of here every day to and from pasture, grooming, training, and show. If stuck in my floorboards, email print-outs will get torn, pee’d on, destroyed within days. Floorboards are not a hiding place. Can someone please let her know? In any case, here they are, published purely as an act of preservation.
I do not understand the nature of this relationship between those two women, but if it is important enough to stuff into floorboards, it is important enough to save in a tin or published format. I don’t really have time for this; you’ll have to make of it what you will. I am a working barn and have things to attend to.
It’s 5 years later.
A Fed Ex Truck on Rural Route 18 has stopped at New Oaks Ranch just outside Dairy Country, USA, delivering 8 boxes of freshly printed flyers from an advertising firm by the name of “Lucy’s Advertising Is Everything.”
On the cover of each box was a sample of the contents, scotch-taped to the cardboard as identification. The sample looked like this:
April 2, 2007
Homeless Shelters for parents and their children
Providing interface services between those without voice,
And The System who needs to understand them.
6 – 9 p.m., with a fondue smorgasbord and Wampo Potion tasting
NEW OAKS RANCH
The Auction will feature the unveiling of a new original series by The Celtic Woman,
“WORKING BARN DECO COLLECTION”
Painted exclusively for this event and for collectors of fine original art; will not be reproduced or sold as prints in the future.
Tickets: $45.00 per person; Contact DSW firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations.
Donations of any kind accepted to benefit Advocacy United
Date: February 3, 2007
Time: 1:05 p.m.
Re: benefit flyers
DSW – Got the boxes of flyers just now from Lucy – they look great! I’ll get them passed out for you as we discussed. I guess now that the flyers are out the pressure is really on to transform the Milkhouse into a gallery and actually get the paintings done. Hope I can finish in time.
The place here looks great; the Trumpeter Swans have returned and they really deck out the pond and pasture alongside the Blue Herons and Great White Egret (of which there is only one – yet). It will be a lovely evening, although I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to rake in much money for you. I keep telling you to auction fine wine and micro-beers; it’s a more reliable source of charity revenue than art is. But I’ll get it done, no worries, although I may be working up to the last minute.
Date: Wednesday, February 17, 2007
Time: 9:36 a.m.
Re: Book Donation
Thank you for haggling with your publisher over more books for my parents and kids. Can you possibly tack on another 42? For the three new tutoring libraries opening in July?
BTW (By The Way) – Will your new book have illustrations?
Date: Wednesday, February 27, 2007
Time: 4:22 p.m.
Re: got it
My publisher is a curmudgeon! Stop with the book donation requests! Actually, it’s fine, they don’t care about that, they’re humoring me these days about finishing the new book, which I haven’t got a clue yet about the ending. I’ve been swamped with the art auction.
Attached are the scans of the Working Farm Deco Collection. Am scrambling for time – the project has grown since you asked me to paint these.
BTW – You look good in the photo you sent for your brochure. Your ears were completely visible. Finally, finally, earrings make sense.
Date: Friday, March 1, 2007
Time: 5:05 a.m.
Re: Working Farm Deco Collection
CW—The .jpg’s of the Working Farm Deco sketches were entirely a surprise. I was skeptical. Deco and Traditional rustic farm life? Horses, variegated pond, Blue Herons, Walnut grove, pastures, hay barn? How does that fit with art deco? But it works! Congratulations! These are a sure sale! If they don’t sell at the auction, will you donate the collection to hang in the main shelter? The high ceilings make it look really cold and bare and could use the color. Sometimes the kids who sleep here get scared at night with all the shadows.
Date: Saturday, March 10, 2007
Time: 11: 11 a.m.
If I drew a picture of you in your new job, I would draw a pulley. You are making your cause very visible, and paintings will definitely add to the color and public attraction.
Got a bad case of writer’s block. What if I can’t find a good ending to my new book? I’ve got to send it in as soon as your auction is over and am trying to think of it as I paint.
Actually, I have an idea for it, but don’t have a structure for it. –CW
Date: Monday, March 12, 2007
Time: 12:39 p.m.
CW — Why a pulley?
Don’t try so hard to write the ending.
When I advocate for my homeless parents so they can keep their kids, we talk about “endings” or rather, ignoring the endings. Or actually, not ignoring the endings, but that how it ends isn’t the point.
The point is being truthful in the round; telling the truth as it is and thinking, being that way as a genuine part of the cycle frees up the motion; people can trust and respect you – even if you have massive problems — when you talk and act what is.
Endings are easy; staying in long enough is the hard part.
….Don’t try so hard to think of an ending; just write what it is.
BTW–In winter, do Walnut trees look the same as Oaks?
Date: Monday, March 12, 2007
Time: 12:42 pm
Just got your note but have to run – Historic Farm Association just drove up – a photographer is with them, doing some kind of panoramic history of Old Frederick to the New Oaks Barn. Full circle kind of thing. Will paint them if I can get my hands on the photos. Or maybe just from memory. In Deco, of course. Will donate wall-sized prints to your shelter when they’re done. Have so many sketches of the horses, don’t know which ones to paint. Can’t get much done when I paint in the barn – to busy hugging the horses, they demand it. The problem with giving your heart to a horse is that they expect much more than conversation.
Still on for Marcus’s graduation in June? Got an email from the hotel to confirm. I’m bringing White Oak Tea (Druid Strength) for his graduation party, and found a Tibetan harp for his graduation present. Do you think he can play Pomp and Circumstance on it?
Date: March 12, 2007
Time: 3: 51 p.m.
Yes, I’m going to Marcus’s graduation as planned. No changes. Marcus will be performing at his graduation with or without harp —did you know? He is singing the lyrics of one of Penny’s poems put to a piece of music he composed himself. I’ve attached the mp3 file he sent me of a rehearsal of it. I’ve got it on my mp3 player, too. Do you have one yet?
Your heart has bonded with the horses; it seems your Celtic bloodlines have found their pulse.
The new barn has healed you? Will the magazine article or photographs cover this aspect? The psychological full-circle?
Date: March 26, 2007
Time: 9: 26 a.m.
Re: World Summit to be held at the ranch
The Twins just called me from their Political Science Translation Lab in Ohio. They’ve requested permission to use New Oaks Ranch and the farmhouse for a Mock International Summit. That seems a little elaborate for just a Political Science Thesis, doesn’t it? It means providing bed and breakfast for 22 quad-lingual students.
Multi-Language U. is asking each of their colleges to send 2 representatives, each playing a role as diplomat from a certain country, while representing the profession of their college, at a mock summit debating issues of economic sanctions as peace-keeping tools. Isn’t that a little much for this ranch? In May. What do you think?
BTW – healing is spiritual, not psychological.
Date: March 26, 2007
Time: 10:03 a.m.
Re: Mock Summit
Do you have enough horse to go round?
Date: March 26, 2007
Time: 5:07 p.m.
Re: Mock Summit
Very funny. Don’t offer advice on the matter, I’ve already said yes.
(BTW) – It’s High Spring here. Which means only one thing: The Little Ones have opened up Frog Mart again, and are selling jugs of tadpoles, frogs and leeches (at 5 bucks a leech) by the road. Nightcrawlers, too. They are learning calculus and percentages by adding up the profits at the end of each day.
Would your shelter like a donation of tadpoles and frogs? The place is so loud at night now with frog calls that nobody can sleep. –CW
Date: March 26, 2007
Time: 6:01 p.m.
At least it’s not dragons and pirates keeping you awake.
Have The Little Ones sold many tadpoles?
Date: March 28, 2007
Time: 5:57 a.m.
Re: the ending
The Little Ones have sold enough to purchase their own pizzas, but not enough to reduce the croaking volume at night.
There is no fear of dragons or pirates here. This is a working farm. There is no Wampo Potion. It’s all gone, replaced by peace of mind. Horses and prayer have saved me. And, neatly squared hay bales and sacks of feed cycling through the barn every day — feels like fresh open breeze on my face.
It’s like I can tune in with my ancestors, the warrior women who led their tribes riding through the pure and ancient Steppes, getting their families up and going in the morning and safely to bed at night, able to teach and build and lead and create while declaring their hoofbeats and heartbeats to the open sky.
Five year ago when I worked my Celtic spells petitioning the constellations for an answer to what the ending of my first book would be, the Universe did not tell me what the ending would be: The Universe put me in the ending. I moved into New Oaks Ranch. The Universe moved us to a working farm. Being in the ending is a whole different thing than making up an ending.
But for this new book, I really do have to think up the ending. I don’t want to move again. I’ll figure it out later – right now I have to get busy and paint anyway for your fund-raiser.
Date: April 1, 2007
Time: 6:01 a.m.
Re: your book’s ending
I’m not a writer; I don’t know how to end things.
What I do know is that if you paint like how you write; you will sell art.
If you paint with all your Celtic Heartbeat with what you see with your soulful eyes — even if you don’t sell anything – you will have a legacy that surpasses and endures.
Is it possible that somehow, a Celtic Spell came floating your way and fell on you like the inverse of a falling brick? The spell of horses whose heartbeats belong to the Scottish Steppes, the spell of shamrock green pastures that roll and revel in the early morning mist, the spell of a working barn – seem to have healed you. Would you say?
Date: April 1, 2007
Time: 6:10 a.m.
Re: your advice
What are you talking about?
Date: April 1, 2007
Re: 6:37 a.m.
Re: The Stuff of Your Celtic Oaks
Just paint like how you write and you’ll make us a lot of money. Just paint that clear stream of color, the in-between that the rest of us can’t see. The stuff that Oak Trees are made of – put it into your hands and your eyes and your paints. That’s what endures and surpasses. No Blight. No bricks. No Wampo.
Date: April 1, 2007
Re: stop the advice
I’ll bookmark that for later. Stop analyzing me. There is no such thing a Celtic spell. My love of horses and prayer has saved me.
I don’t want to endure.
I want to sell.
Date: April 1, 2007
Time: 2:35 p.m.
Re: it’s not advice it’s truth
You don’t have to. The legacy you’ve created will do that for you.
Date: April 2, 2007
Time: 5:06 p.m.
Re: got it
I finally got the ending for this new book.
I didn’t have to make it up. I’m in it.
For the second time, I prayed for a good idea for the ending, and I ended up moving into the ending. Only, I didn’t have to go anywhere. You‘ll get what I’m talking about, when you come tonight, when you walk into The Milkhouse Gallery. You’ll see what I mean by being in it rather than having to think it up.
Is Medina still on to be the auctioneer for tonight? Does she need a microphone? Never mind – I have to go and won’t be checking my emails anymore till afterwards, late. I’ll have a microphone there for her, anyway, just in case.
Gotta go – Final White Glove Check on the Milkhouse Gallery. All the paintings are hung, gleaming, fresh glass. Maybe another round of Windex? See you tonight – gotta run.
Date: April 2, 2007
Time: 5:08 p.m.
Re: It’s Medina
If you’re still there, Medina is still going to be the auctioneer. She’s going to actively solicit for direct donations, too, one-to-one with the guests. She’s good at it. She’s actually a pretty effective administrator. It was all in the haircut. Tell me after the auction more about the your book ending? I may not get it just by showing up. I need a structure. See you soon—and thanks for everything.
MILKHOUSE MAKES MONEY
(A Note from NEW OAKS BARN): This is the first time in ten years that anyone has used my Milkhouse for anything more than storing gardening equipment. But new juices are flowing through me now as I make an official inventory of the contents, which are numerous framed and polished paintings on sale for a charity auction tonight.
THE MILKHOUSE GALLERY INVENTORY
Of the “Working Barn Deco Collection”
Painted for Advocacy United’s Charity Auction Event
APRIL 2, 2007 6 – 9 p.m.
(2) companion 16” x 20” Barn Panorama, “Offspring: Working Barn.”
(1) 22” X 18” horizontal, “Paint The Light” (Paint Horse facial close-up)
(2) vertical companion 26” X 30” horse herd, “In The Pasture of Druid’s Mist.”
(3) 22″ X 28” horizontal companion panorama, “Posture of Prayer”
(1) horizontal 26” x 32” “The Peaceable Pond”
(2) 10” x 10” portrait plates of DSW and CW, “Partnership”
(1) ceramic plate “A Healing Season”
(1) 16’ X 20 shingle “Courage Is A Horseshoe”
(8) 12” X 32” on wood “Celtic Horses” 1- 8
(1) 10” x 10” on wood “Celtic Lab”
(1) 6’ X 7’ mural on raw canvas, “At Home in the Epiphyte Garden.”
(1) 4 ‘ X 6’ mural on raw canvas, “Heron and Hummingbird”
(1) 3’ X 5’ stretched canvas, “Trumpeter Swans: The Comeback.”
(2) 16” x 20” companion panorama “Honey Bees and Walnut Groves.”
See what is in there? Hear what the auction guests are saying about the “Working Barn Deco Collection?” All kinds of paintings – big and small, some even on ceramics and old planks of weathered barn wood.
I think she’s painted all the detail elements of The New Oaks Ranch — horses in each stall, with names and temperament, form and function.
Some are show; some are mares; some are riders. Some are studs. They each have what you might say is a purpose in her paintings. And if you look carefully in the background of her panoramas, you can see caretakers that sweep their stalls and brush them. There’s light in the morning, light in the evening. Every day belongs, and every name has a place. Pond, Walnut trees, fruits and bees and honey and grasses and people going in and out, eating, talking, buying, selling, organizing, displaying, cleaning for and cleaning up. It’s all there.
MILKHOUSE GALLERY INVENTORY AT 9:30 p.m.
Oh my gosh, the complete Working Barn Deco Series was auctioned off. The guests were all eating cheese and writing checks and packing up paintings and taking them home wrapped in brown paper. And writing more checks.
In the warm glow of friendship, art, and check-writing, DSW shed a tear. CW did not. There were no tears left in her, I overheard someone say. She had already given them all away, it was said. In her eyes, to me, could be seen a solid, blazing forecast of clarity and light. As though she could see something on the horizon line that the rest of us had to wait to see.
I’d better polish my sideboards and straighten my beams; this won’t be the last evening of its type.
THE END, copyright2006heididhansen, all rights reserved.
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