Friday, November 29, 2013

Looking For Mittens

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I raced up the stairs, took a sharp left turn at the landing, and flung myself on the bed. The springs creaked. The little bounce was reassuring as the bed reacted to my slight weight. It was time for a few hours of uninterrupted reading on a Sunday afternoon.

Was it spring, or fall? Memory fails after all these years. It was cold; that much I do remember. The window was closed and a light rain spattered against the glass. I settled in for my read.

Normally anyone’s adventures would be enough to hold my attention against all other time snatchers. This afternoon was different.

A sound, foreign to the creaks of the springs, the squeaks of the stairs and the occasional clicking on and off of the furnace, niggled at the back of my mind. I tore myself away from a hero pursuing a heroine across the seven seas and listened more intently to the real world.

It sounded like scratching. That’s it, I thought, a tree branch making friendly with the window, egged on by a matchmaking wind. I went back to my book. A half a paragraph later, I stopped reading.

Can’t be a branch. There isn’t any tree outside my window.

Logical. I got up from the bed and took the one-and-a-half steps to the window.

It must be a wire from the line that runs to the top of the house from the street.

I studied the situation with all the wisdom of an almost teenager. The wires looked fine and nothing seemed to be rubbing. In fact, I couldn’t hear the sound anymore. I went back to my book.

Just moments later the scratching returned. I stopped to listen, trying to determine where the sound was coming from. It stopped. I read. It started. I stopped reading. I got up from the bed to hunt for the sound. It stopped. I went back to the bed and to my book. The scratching started up. We led each other a merry dance for a good while.

Be quiet and just stay still and listen. Don’t move. It’s not outside, it’s inside, and it’s in this room.

The room was small and I knew that eventually I’d find the source of the scratching. It stopped when I made noise, so if I was quiet I could follow the sound to that source—I hoped.

It’s not coming from under the bed, from the night table or the bookshelf. The dresser is the only other place. Can’t be that. What would be making a noise in the dresser?

I tiptoed over to the dresser. No scratching. However, this time I stood still, frozen in place, and waited.


The sound was coming from the second drawer of my dresser. I was the coward who never came up the stairs without switching on the light first. I was the wimp who checked behind the doors and under the bed for bogeymen. I cautiously eased the drawer open inch by inch; afraid of what monsters might be hiding there.

This “monster” was fat and had stripes—Tiger.

Three little kittens, They lost their mittens …*

I might have been willing to sacrifice my mittens, but I wasn’t prepared to let Tiger use my sweaters as receiving blankets. I still haven’t discovered how a pregnant cat found a big enough hole in the back of my dresser to crawl through. There was no way she could have gotten in the front way without me seeing her. However she did it, Tiger was now happily snuggled into my sweaters in preparation for impending motherhood.

“Mom!” I yelled, as I grabbed the cat.

We had carefully prepared a comfortable maternity suite for Tiger in the basement. Of course, that wasn’t her choice. For being a feral cat brought up in a barn, she still recognized the luxury of life in my sweater drawer.

The next morning, I went down to see how nature was taking its course. Tiger was hard at work.

I raced up the basement steps.

“Mom, there’s one.”

I ran down the basement steps, then yelled again from the bottom: “Mom, there’s two.”

Finally, all the kittens were safely delivered. I think I was more exhausted than the new mother. After all, I was the one running up and down the stairs.

Now I remember; it was Easter, the obvious time to celebrate new life. Tiger and I certainly did.

*Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme, Author Unknown

Friday, November 8, 2013

From Where I Sit...

MMS (Google Images)
A timeless sea calls my name.
The bow of a great ship cuts through the waves
As distant shores recede.
A plume of smoke
Heralds the appearance of a cutter,
Her Majesty’s royal navy approaches
To relieve me of my gain,
Ill-gotten though it may be.

The swelling tide resolves into clear blue sky
And I take to the air,
The controls of the biplane jammed between my knees.
The Baron hovers at my left
Ready to blow my wooden craft to splinters.
His mirthless smile fades
As I barrel roll right
To live, and to conquer, some other day.

I gently land upon a grassy field
Where timeworn hovels circle round.
The steed is now with mane and hoof possessed
And calmly waits outside a door.
Inside, a gentle damsel, in clean though tattered dress,
Receives a heartfelt plea.
The lord of the manor woos a peasant girl,
Love knows no class, no man-made boundary.

Then, transported once again,
I stand before a stern-faced judge
To plead a case.
Life or death is his to command, and mine to stay.
Words flow like molten glass:
Suggesting, explaining, convincing,
As twelve solemn souls reflect
On my eloquent logic and undeniable wisdom.

The roof opens, revealing starry heavens,
As I soar away to strange planets and distant moons.
A universe invites my curiosity, challenges my understanding,
And stretches my imagination.
Who could invent such creatures? Or such creations?
Nevertheless, I will follow,
Willing crew in an improbable starship
On an impossible voyage.

The Milky Way becomes a human tide
Of people broken and in pain.
Masked and gowned, I
Bend to their needs, bow to their grief,
And batter at the gates of disease and death.
They do not relent
But defeat me in the end:
Though not forever.

For at last, not limited by human imagination,
I am liberated by Divine Truth,
And see myself as I truly am;
The “before” and “after,” sovereignly crafted,
Still in the state of becoming
The completed work upon which He writes.
Here, I am the true heroine and he, my Knight.
The sequel is yet to come, the end already revealed.

From where I sit
There are no limitations, boundaries, or walls.
Only here is it possible to become
A pirate sailing in the Spanish Main,
Or a pilot facing some mortal foe in a brutal war.
From where I sit, I am transformed,
Becoming that gentle lass
With her noble lover on bended knee.

From prosecutor at the bar, to pursuer of the heavens,
Changing to healing hands with noble cause,
Then, wonderfully, renewed by Grace’s words.
Hear me now, and see my joy.
Feel my satisfaction and sense within me,
The delight which is only found
Here, where I sit, as I read
From the pages of a book.

Friday, November 1, 2013

From Rags to Raikes

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“Wretched urchin. Move for your betters!”

Sam pulled his cap down far enough to hide his eyes as he stepped into the gutter to let the elegantly dressed gentleman pass by. He didn’t want the man to see his disgust.

I ain’t no urchin. I’ll wager I works mor’an you do.

The boy-man clutched his lunch bucket with a tighter grip. He was coming into Covenant Garden Market. Even a poor boy like him was a target for the snatchers. The tightly packed crowds made it impossible to tell whether a strange hand was in his pocket or if he was just being jostled by the mob filling the streets. Sam noted that there was a copper on the corner looking to catch a hapless soul in the act of relieving some innocent of his wallet or watch fob while he was stopped to watch the Punch and Judy show. Justice in 18th century England was harsh. Newgate Prison was an ever-present reality. Sam knew children who had been transported to the colonies for stealing a loaf of bread. He’d hung around in the gallery of the courthouse and heard the ominous words:

“The law is, that thou shalt return from hence, to the place where thou camest, and from thence to the place of execution, where thou shalt hang by the neck till the body be dead! dead! dead! and the Lord have mercy upon thy soul”.

Sam’s father had been the condemned.

He sidestepped around a mercer’s sign swaying drunkenly above him as the famous London winds picked up.

Fallin’ soon that’un is.

He dismissed an errant though. The gentleman who had just shoved him aside would be well served to have the rotten wood fall on his head the next time he ventured here. The market was ripe with diverse smells fighting for supremacy. Fresh bread battled rotting fruit. The fragrance of violets occupying the flower stalls competed with the pungent offal covering the cobblestones.

A carriage rattled by, its wheels spattering passers-by with something brown, wet, and unpleasant. A washerwoman shook her fist at it, railing at its occupants as she rubbed in vain at the spots on the sheets she was delivering to a client.

It was getting late. The vendors were packing up their wares. Sam’s mother was waiting at home. He hoped for some black bread and a bit of soup. The meagre wage he earned at the factory barely put food on the table.

Six days a week, 12 hours a day, Sam worked. The market, so noisy to the rich folk from St James, seemed quiet to him even at the height of its busiest day. The pounding and clanging of the machines in the yarn factory would literally deafen him someday. Every bone rattled in its socket, every nerve jumped to the beat, making awful music on his mind as he laboured for enough to keep him and his mother alive.

Sam entered a narrow alley. He walked, his body hugging the crumbling walls, watching his step so as not to fall into the rancidity of the gutters. The unwitting walked in the middle, often getting the contents of someone’s chamber pot dumped on them from an upper level window for their trouble. He headed toward a narrow staircase at the end of the street. Wearily, he climbed it, greeting neighbours as he went. He reached the third floor. At his push, the door opened into a small room, lit only by a stub of a candle on a wooden table. The smell of turnip and potato greeted him. There was soup tonight. The end of a loaf sat beside his plate and the kettle whistled on the hob.

He shared his day with his mother.

“Be you goin’ tomorry, Sam?”

Sam barely knew the name of Robert Raikes. He only knew that some rich toff thought that educating the poor and teaching them moral values would help keep them out of jail. History would dub this philanthropist and publisher, the father of the modern Sunday School. Each Sunday morning Sam went to Mrs. Peachtree’s house, one of “Raikes’ Ragged Schools”, where he learned to read and write with the Bible as his textbook. In the afternoon, after reading his lesson, he went to church. He learned more about the God his mother often named, but whose nature and purposes were so foreign to a boy from the slums of London.

Sam remembered his father.

“Sure, Ma, I be goin’”.