Thursday, February 26, 2009

“Wordsmith Confabulation”

c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was a festive day at the public library in Chardon.

The facility was busy with knowledge-seekers, aides, budding artists, and wandering children. After months of stalling, I had arrived for a regular gathering of writers hosted by Carrie Hamglaze, a long-time friend from the city council.

Only a moment passed before I spotted the group, around a table piled with documents.

“Rodney!” my compadre cheered as I took a seat. “Welcome to the monthly Geauga Wordsmith Confabulation!” Her red hat was festooned with shamrock pins and assorted jewelry.

The circle echoed this greeting. “Welcome!”

“Thanks for the invitation,” I said.

Carrie smoothed her green satin blouse. “Before we begin reading, is there any new business to consider?”

No one responded. They were eager to trade poems and stories.

“Very well,” she smiled. “Who would like to go first?”

Sondra Krale raised her hand. “How about me??” She was a skinny, young student from Kent State University. Her flower-print dress seemed to glow in hues of neon yellow, pink, and green. She wore red Chuck Taylor sneakers.

Sondra opened her college notebook, and began to read out loud in the squawk of a wounded duck:

“George Bush
We gave you a push
Out of the White House
With Dick Cheney the loud mouth
Our mission is accomplished
You gave us our wish
Barack took your chair
You’re no longer there
Now war can be over
And we’ll dance in the clover
No mongering fear
Give Laura your tears
We’ll re-elect dear ‘O’
For the next thirty years!”

Polite applause followed the reading.

“I wrote that during a class on Global Warming,” Sondra giggled.

Carrie Hamglaze was nearly speechless. “Umm… yes! Very expressive poetry… thank you! Well, who would like to be next?”

I sorted through manuscripts, still unsure of what to share with the group.

Leisy DiBora raised her hand. She was a middle-aged real estate agent from Burton. "I’ll go, Mrs. Hamglaze!”

The circle leaned forward in unison.

“This is called ‘Diary of the Sunsetter’ from my anthology of personal essays,” Leisy sang with enthusiasm. Her voice grew louder with purpose:

“Diary! Day One! My Sunsetter awning is useless this afternoon. Snowflakes are drifting from the sky. Everything is gray, gray, gray!

Diary! Day Two! My Sunsetter awning waits in the cold, recoiled and nearly invisible. The salesman who tricked me into buying this product was a charlatan! I used it only a few times last summer. Now it is laughing at me from the roof’s edge. Laughter! Merciless laughter!

Diary! Day Three! My Sunsetter salesman was a trickster, like generations of men who tied up their wives in apron strings. I am in a spiral of freezing rain and slush. Help me, Oprah! Help me!

Diary! Day Four! My Sunsetter awning is a cruel companion, offering me no comfort. Winter breathes over the landscape, with final wisps of frost clinging to the grass. I am alone in my sadness. Alone. Alone.

Diary! Day Five! My Sunsetter awning has been in hibernation for months. But this afternoon there is sunshine, and melting snow running in trickles of hopeful moisture down the edges of my patio. Oh, that sparkling river of potential! Glistening beside the bare stones. Let me pull out the awning and pretend it is summer. Leap forward my slumbering friend! Leap! Leap!

Diary! Day Six! The air is chilly, yet crackling with energy. Sunshine! Blessed sunshine! That grand yellow ball is in the sky. I want to sit beneath my awning and meditate until blissful visions rise from the lawn. Elves and gnomes are dancing in puddles of dwindling winter white. Bird beaks peer from the trees. The long night is almost finished. Let me be free! Let me be free!”

More polite applause echoed from the group.

“Yes, uhmm… well done!” Carrie proclaimed. “A very… powerful statement. Who will go next?”

Bud Farjeski raised his hand. The graying, chubby retiree adjusted his hearing aid before speaking. “I’ve got a story here about being a soldier,” he boasted. “Would that be okay to share?”

Everyone nodded.

Slowly, he began to read from a typewritten page:

“I was in Korea with the Army for six years. For half of that time I sat guard by the North-South DMZ. That was a year or two after the armistice. Eventually, I was assigned to a security detail at the Truce Village of Panmunjom. It seemed like a different planet over there. But the most amazing thing I witnessed was their national appetite for SPAM. Korea adopted the canned ‘Miracle Meat’ from us, and made it part of the home culture. It sold on the black market for years before anyone could buy the stuff legally. Now, it comes in gift sets and presentation boxes. They gobble it like a delicacy. During their Thanksgiving, called ‘Chuseok,’ they buy thousands of cans. Every village seemed to have their own recipe. My favorite was SPAM strips, mushrooms, and rice noodles in a hot mustard broth. We’d get bowls of that mix at a shabby restaurant just off the base. It was run by a stooped-over old woman who cursed us in broken English. We called her ‘Roadhouse Rosie.’ She didn’t like foreigners, but our money kept her family out of poverty. And she loved SPAM. One year, for her birthday, we took up a collection and presented her with a case of canned meat wrapped in packing material from a weapons shipment. She actually cried, which none of her children could remember seeing before.”

Bud paused for a moment. When the silence became unbearable, he added: “The end!”

Carrie ran her finger down a list of guests. One by one, each writer gleefully shared their own literary creation.

Finally, I was the only one who hadn’t read a manuscript to the group.

“Mister Rodney!” our host warbled. “I believe you have the honor of going last. What would you like to share with the Confab?”

I reddened with embarrassment. “Well, I’ve settled on a newspaper column called ‘The Tube Farm’ from a couple of years ago…”

She brightened. “That produced many letters to the editor as I remember. Read on, friend!”

I cleared my throat and started the recitation:

“Like most Americans, I grew up with notions of God and Country that were unshaken by winds of fortune. To be grounded in this rich, philosophical loam was a privilege. It offered security, and a sturdy sense of self-worth. Yet maturity inevitably aroused questions. What could I believe? After generous doses of Art Bell, Alex Jones, and The X-Files, I began to ponder reality itself. My skeptical cousin, Gertrude Ice, spoke strongly to such thoughts with her own energetic cynicism. We shared many discussions about the unsure nature of domestic life. And then… THE TUBE FARM began to appear, not far from my home in Thompson…”

Suddenly, Carrie looked at her watch. “Oh my, look at the time! We’ve reached the end of this meeting, I’m afraid! The library has a Girl Scouts meeting here in five minutes. Let’s continue the Confab next month. Thank you, everyone!”

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