Fiction

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Christmas Story: The Season Advances, as Done to Green Sleeves

Posted By on Fri, Dec 23, 2016 at 1:07 PM

xmas_story.jpg
Cole and his commotions pierce your scalp. As you turn on your side, ancient Indian arrowheads. Hot water filling ears, tub, and the one one-room tenement flat steam, a rusting locomotive engine breeze. Battling ice for window space, melting into cracked wood finish, Finished, you imagine, by blonde-on-blonde Scandinavian immigrants. Clear as winter ice. Performing now on your left, just behind the rotting sofa, is the radiator. Spitting, bleating, and dripping as you hover over it like a saint. "What child is this who laid to rest on Mary's lap is sleeping..."

Christmas, 1963: Man, she had tinsel on her brain. Waiting outside in a peacoat for her grandparents to arrive. In a one-horse open sleigh, or was it a Pontiac? Yeah, must'a been a Pontiac 'cause it didn't snow that Christmas. Matter of fact, it hardly ever snowed in Tucson.

Just another morning. The details of your insanity. The soundtrack of a waking city bangs upon your windowpane. A fine mist now covers the room as sweatshirt and panties drop to the chewed-puke green rug. "Whom angels greet with anthems sweet while shepherds watch are keeping ..."

Christmas, 1967: The family room was a switchboard yard. Southern Pacific train set careening down the tracks. The dog his under the bed while the cat made frequent attacks on the orange boxcars. Grandfather sunk in Nostalgia. Reminder of his years spent slaving for the railroads. He almost smiled and would call her by her Christian name. Those were gifts that could never be bought.

A finger, a foot, and finally your entire body disintegrates into rising waters form. Slow, deep breath. Your skin, white as bone, immersed in the flood. Nipples, buttocks, freckles, and pubic mound. Laid to rest in moors and in the briars. Caressing yourself. Still alive at 25. So fluid and warm. Molds, animal fat, and fragrance No. 5. Oceanic sleeping in a ceramic pot. "So bring him incense, gold and myrrh; come rich and poor to own him..."

Christmas, 1969: Rich aromas of baking and falter's pipe tobacco filled the kitchen. Her mother spun Crosby and Como. Grandparents watched kids unravel gifts like spools of thread. BB guns and baseball mitts for her brothers. A huge box marked "North Pole" sat off in the corner. The one with three separate booklets of directions in hieroglyphics. Took five sets of batteries, not included, and seemed to possess a mind of its own. Took a class-four operator's license to start, and could only be used under adult supervision. Which was OK because Dad was the only one who would ever play with it from that day forward. It whirred, sputtered, and then ignited before exploding into a thousand pieces, encasing the entire area in a haze of blue smoke and sea of lights.

You force yourself out of the tub and dry off next to the oven. Cracking paint and peeling last shreds of wallpaper. Ships and lighthouse give way to unforgiving white walls. You shrug, light a cigarette, and dress quickly. Dress warmly and wonder in mom would approve. The salt thrown on the streets has eaten away at your cowboy boots. But you put them on just the same and swear they've shrunk another inch. "The king of kings salvation brings; let loving hearts enthrone him ..."

Christmas, 1971: The odor of candle wax like an unsettled stomach. A statue on the pew. She sat still and alone as stone. Watching imagined snowflakes drift about the beautiful wooden church. Her grandmother blanketed in a huge white quilt. She thought about magic and how at midnight the animals would talk.

You glance in the mirror and slowly a face takes place. Put on water for morning's coffee and another smoke. You lose yourself for a moment in reflections. The midnights spent at the uptown bar and the Seventh Street entry, and finally to last Tuesday, and of the player you took home. So pretty, throw a lock on the door, and descend the dirty staircase leading down and out into another wasted day. "This, this is Christ the king, whom shepherds guard and angels sing.."

Christmas, 1973: Every Christmas day once upon a time. All her relatives gathered at the old house. Women damp with perfume and men with bourbon's breath. Children. Sweet guarantors of one more year's prosperity. Dinner was served complete with each family's endless crusades and picket signs. She called it carving through Cambodia. Secretly, she fed scraps of turkey and pumpkin pie to her dog under the table. After the meal she surprised everyone by sneaking off behind the Christmas tree, quietly sobbing as the light slowly drained from the sky.

"Haste, haste to bring laud, the babe the son of Mary..."

The day slips like a snake onto your shadowed soul. Wind freezing down and the snow tastes of tin. Plodding through top layers of last night's drop. You are surrounded by grey-green buildings where no one seems to live. Veering to the right off Ninth Street, you skid and slide down Hennepin like a bobsled, leaving rails of blacktop exposed. You need someone with a memory. Manholes exhale brown sweat steam, creating layers of colored bulbs blinking and flashing through the mist. A drag queen in red leotards brushes up against you, wishing you a Merry Christmas. The area is run down and you think to yourself that Santa Claus better have a machine gun.

A police car is stopped in the middle of the street outside the pool hall. You shake your hips and pretend not to notice their leering smiles and beady blue eyes. It's starting to snow again as you continue south towards the bridge. Face red and chapped, you peer through eyes that take in each leafless branch bent with snow. An empty car lot is covered with pure, clean, glistening white powder. You pass shops and topless bars where sound pours into the streets from God's ghetto blaster... "Have a Kung-Fu Christmas." The horizon fills with steeples and smokestacks, while the ornaments of nature charge each moment and provide crisp silence. Crowds sway and fall away into snowbanks which hold the face of this earth with frozen discipline. The river is breathing smoke, and you hardly notice an Indian glaciated on a stoop, lips pursed to a bottle of wine. You fight to light up a last wet cig-arette. A different kind of poverty. The wind knifes along the bridge as you step onto it. Beneath you runs the great Mississippi, brown and flowing with chunks of ice and sludge, deep and tranquil... You should have called your parents to let them know their daughter won't be home for Christmas, but you feel so disconnected. All around you the twilight ignites and the entire world is rimmed with frost...

Tags: ,

Friday, December 2, 2016

You're a Wizard, Harry: A Harry Potter Ball at Your Favorite Barnes & Noble

Posted By on Fri, Dec 2, 2016 at 2:10 PM

GLEN BOWMAN/VIA FLICKR.COM
  • Glen Bowman/via flickr.com
Have you always known you're a witch or wizard at heart? Well, shed your muggle-ness for an evening of holiday celebration and magic at your local Barnes and Noble for the Harry Potter Magical Holiday Ball.

Barnes and Noble locations across the country will hold a Yule-ball inspired dance party at all stores in the U.S. on Friday, Dec. 9 from 7-9 p.m. Muggles of all ages are welcome to join in on the holiday fun. 

Whether you want to come in your best-dressed, as your favorite Potter character or in your Hogwarts uniform, there will be festive activities to celebrate all things Potter.

Because of the obvious popularity of this free event, Barnes and Noble said customers should call their local store ahead of time for capacity limits or special instructions.  

Tags: , , , , , ,

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Glass of Punch May Pack a Punch, But the Two Have Nothing in Common (Etymologically Speaking, Anyway)

Posted By on Thu, Jul 7, 2016 at 6:21 PM

COURTESY OF PHOTOSPIN
  • Courtesy of PhotoSpin
I picked up Henry Fielding's novel, Tom Jones, once again after putting it down in the middle and moving on to other things. Back in April, I noted my surprise at finding that the phrases "ass kicking" and "ass kissing" were alive and well in the 18th century. In the part I'm reading now, our hero and others are on the move and stopping at inns along their way, and they frequently drink "punch" in the evenings. I wondered, is "punch" just a random alcoholic concoction in a punch bowl, or does it refer to something more specific? The answer is, it was a specific type of drink in the same way as, for example, a martini. It's of semi-exotic origins, as is its name.

Here are the basic ingredients, according to an online source, which are similar to ones described elsewhere.
In the beginning, punch was a simple mixture of five canonical ingredients: lemon or lime juice, sugar, water, "spice" (which could have been anything from nutmeg or tea to ambergris, a musky whale secretion now used only in perfume making), and, of course, liquor. Batavia arrack, a fiery but highly aromatic molasses-and-rice distillate imported from the Dutch East Indies, was the preferred spirit, but Caribbean rum and French brandy were right behind it. The earliest known reference to the drink dates from 1632, appearing in a letter to an India-bound merchant from an English colleague, who strongly warned against drinking it (if punch has a fault, it's the ease with which one can absorb too much of it).

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , ,

Friday, April 15, 2016

Cicero, Roman Statesman and Orator: Born, 106 BC. Alive, 1965 AD?

Posted By on Fri, Apr 15, 2016 at 10:00 AM

ILLUSTRATION FROM WIKIMEDIA IMAGE
  • Illustration from Wikimedia image
It's always wise to remember, if a quote is too perfect to be true, it probably isn't. Examples abound on Facebook and in viral emails. And occasionally you can find an example in the Star's Letters to the Editor.

The Star's editorial staff should have caught this one, and if they decided to publish it anyway, at least they should have included a note under it. The last letter in Friday's Star has a quote the writer states is from "Cicero, 55 BC." It's a beaut. And it's a phony.
“The Budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome will become bankrupt. People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance.” 
That perfect-for-conservatives quote should have set off the editors' crap detectors—light flashing, sirens screaming. All it takes is a quick internet search to find the words didn't come from Cicero. The top three Google hits name the source. It's from a 1965 novel, A Pillar of Iron, by Taylor Caldwell. And even there, it's different from what's in the letter. The lines in the novel aren't spoken by Cicero. They're the fictional words of another character, Antonius, paraphrasing Cicero, meaning the wording in the Star "quote" had to be tweaked a bit. And the last sentence is a reworking of Caldwell's words, mainly for the purpose of replacing the Caldwell/Cicero/Antonius phrase, "the mob" with a more acceptable "people."

But I guess I shouldn't be too hard on the Star. Louisiana Representative Otto Passman read the phony quote into the Congressional Record in 1968. It appeared in a letter in the Chicago Tribune in 1971. And if you go onto the Forbes website, the bogus quote is at the top of the "Thoughts on the Business of Life" page.

According to a number of sites, there is an actual Cicero quote that Caldwell probably built on to create the passage in her novel: “The arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome fall.” The problem is, it's not nearly as sexy. Nothing about refilling the treasury, reducing public debt or getting people off the public dole. (BTW, I wasn't able to locate this quote on anything that looked like a scholarly site, so I can't be certain it's accurate.)

Bonus Bogus Lincoln Quote: In 2011, our once-state-senator Al Melvin put up a series of tweets quoting Lincoln making all kinds of conservative-friendly statements. The problem is, the quotes were made up in 1916 and 1917 and had been debunked long before they got into Melvin's hands. They were being quoted so often by Republicans over the years that the RNC warned its speakers, "Do not use them as Lincoln’s words!" Reagan, apparently, didn't get the memo. He included them in a speech at the Republican National Convention.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Ass Kicking and Ass Kissing, 18th Century Style

Posted By on Tue, Apr 5, 2016 at 8:19 AM

COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA
  • Courtesy of Wikimedia
This post has nothing to do with the topics I usually write about. It's just that I started rereading Tom Jones by Henry Fielding, published in 1749, which I read when I was a college sophomore. It's one of those things old English majors, especially after they become English teachers, sometimes do. A few weeks ago, in a moment of boredom, I was thumbing through my free Kindle books, found Tom Jones and started looking it over, thinking I'd spend about 15 minutes there, then move on. Now I'm more than halfway through and enjoying it immensely. Very funny, very witty (Funny and witty aren't necessarily the same thing, by the way. As Alexander Pope once wrote: "True Wit is Nature to advantage dress'd/What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd." [Old English teachers never die, they just lose their class, or something like that]).

For those who haven't read the book or seen the marvelous 1963 film starring a then-beautiful Albert Finney and an even more beautiful Susannah York, it's the story of a high-spirited-yet-moral young man who falls into no end of difficulties. And at one point, Tom offends the old Squire Western whose daughter he is in love with, at which time the country squire, a rough-hewn man who loves nothing more than drinking and hunting, says to Tom,
“I wull have satisfaction o’ thee,” answered the squire: “so doff thy clothes. At unt half a man, and I’ll lick thee as well as wast ever licked in thy life.”
The fight doesn't take place, but the squire keeps yelling at Tom. Until I read this passage, I was sure the phrases, "I'm gonna kick your ass!" and "Kiss my ass!" were reasonably modern, along with the term, "Ass kisser." Apparently not. Listen to Fielding describing, rather delicately (this is 17th century England, after all, not Chaucer's 14th century England), the phrases he says one often hears "among the lower orders of the English gentry."
"[Squire Western] then bespattered the youth with abundance of that language which passes between country gentlemen who embrace opposite sides of the question; with frequent applications to him to salute that part which is generally introduced into all controversies that arise among the lower orders of the English gentry at horse-races, cock-matches, and other public places. Allusions to this part are likewise often made for the sake of the jest. And here, I believe, the wit is generally misunderstood. In reality, it lies in desiring another to kiss your a — for having just before threatened to kick his; for I have observed very accurately, that no one ever desires you to kick that which belongs to himself, nor offers to kiss this part in another."

Continue reading »

Tags: , ,

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Pima Offering Creative Writing Weekend Workshop

Posted By on Tue, Mar 15, 2016 at 2:00 PM

bigstock-write-your-thought-design-98843639.jpg

Tucsonans inspired by last weekend's Festival of Books, listen up: Pima Community College is hosting a creative writing weekend this Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday. 

From the press release: 
What differentiates the impulse to write poetry from the impulse to write prose? Can that seed go either way?

These questions and other innovative ways of thinking about poetry, fiction, the essay and more will be explored during Pima Community College’s spring 2016 Creative Writing Weekend Workshop on poetry writing led by writer and editor Aisha Sabatini Sloan. We will look at literary models that hover – deliriously – between fiction, poetry and the essay.
The event will take place at Downtown Campus (1255 N. Stone Avenue, room AH 140) March 25-27. 

The workshop beings on Friday at 6 p.m. with a two hour session, and continues on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Pima students can enroll in the course (Writing 298T2, CRN 22557) as they do with regular classes. Non-students must fill out the college admission form before enrolling in the two-credit course. The cost of this three-day workshop is $177 for Arizona residents.

Visit PCC's website for more information. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Harper Lee's Mixed Legacy

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2016 at 2:30 PM

COURTESY OF FLICKR.COM
  • Courtesy of flickr.com
I taught To Kill a Mockingbird many times, and every time I reread it, I choked up. It's a wonderful, evocative piece of literature. As for the movie, forget about it. I lost it over and over as I watched; it's almost unbearably poignant during the last half hour. I would probably have a similar emotional meltdown with the book or the movie today, but that good, warm, self-satisfied feeling I used to experience at the end would be gone. Looking at Mockingbird from the perspective I have today, especially after reading Harper's first novel, Go Set a Watchman, which was just published recently, I find the book to be both paternalistic and misleading. If I were still teaching, more than likely, Mockingbird would not be part of my curriculum.

What a wonderful guy Atticus Finch is in Mockingbird! He's a lawyer who takes the case of a poor black man and defends him against a false rape charge. The loss in court makes his struggle to right the wrongs of society all the more noble. He's hated by the town's white racists and beloved by the black community, and by Scout, his very young daughter who idolizes her father and narrates the book through a child's innocent eyes. To me, the book always read like a parable for our time, about how good white people should act and how, in spite of all the losses, we must continue to fight until racism is no longer the written and unwritten law of the land.

But the book is not a parable of our time. It's a tale out of the 1930s. At the time, Atticus could defend the black community of Maycomb County and not worry that they might attend Scout and Jem's school or move in next door. His nobility was built on the well established arm's distance between Maycomb's black and white communities. I wouldn't have been able to say that for certain a few years ago, but Harper Lee told us it's true in the novel she wrote before she began Mockingbird.

Go Set a Watchman
took place in the 1950s when it was written, during the beginnings of the modern civil rights struggles. In that book a grown up Scout, who, like Harper Lee herself, had moved to New York and returned to her home town for a visit, is horrified to find that her beloved father has joined with the KKK, and he was one of many among the town's civic leaders. Atticus despises the NAACP and its lawyers for coming into southern communities and stirring up trouble. He doesn't want black children going to white children's schools. He wants things to stay as they were back in the 1930s when he could defend members of the black community and rest assured they would still "know their place." His depression-era style of tolerance and acceptance had little to do with the genuine social change which was being demanded by civil rights leaders in the 1950s.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , ,

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Time to Write Out Your Captain Mal/Wash Fantasies

Posted By on Thu, Feb 4, 2016 at 2:09 PM

Con Man Fanfiction Contest Launch Video from Con Man Web Series on Vimeo.


Ages ago
, we talked about Con Man—Alan Tudyk's long overdue Firefly spinoff/replacement/bandage. Tudyk and Nathan Fillion raised cash for the project through Indiegogo. Obviously, people were excited, all kinds of cash was raised and fan bonuses were added as the money came in.

One of those bonuses just took off, and it's even open to those of us who didn't put any cash into the project in the first place:
Alan Tudyk, star of "Firefly," "Serenity," and the soon-to-be released "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," is launching his own writing contest for his latest web series "Con Man!" The winner of the contest will have the first chapter read by Alan himself in a video personally addressed to the author!

Put on your fanfiction hats and get inspired by Firefly, Serenity, or Alan's latest show, 'Con Man.'

Start writing already, so you can submit as early as you can!
You can submit your creation (or peruse the others) online. The deadline is March 2!

And for the writers out there, here's a little Fan Fic inspiration: 

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , ,

Staff Pick

Butterfly Magic

Butterfly Magic is a fully immersive experience that surrounds you with rare butterflies, tropical plants and orchids… More

@ Tucson Botanical Gardens Oct. 1-May 31, 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. 2150 N. Alvernon Way.

» More Picks

Submit an Event Listing

Popular Content

  1. Can Voters Defeat the Vouchers-For-All Law? (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  2. The Weekly List: 14 Things To Do In Tucson In The Next 10 Days (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  3. The Weekly List: 15 Things To Do In Tucson In The Next 10 Days (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  4. Ducey's 'Education Budget,' Part 2: 17 Percent of Schools Will Get A Big Bonus (Hint: It Helps to Have Lots of Rich Kids) (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  5. The New Teacher Certification Rules: Is Everyone Else Wrong, or Am I? (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)

© 2017 Tucson Weekly | 7225 Mona Lisa Rd. Ste. 125, Tucson AZ 85741 | (520) 797-4384 | Powered by Foundation