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Slippers

My slippers look like garbage. If someone were to find these in their yard, in their garage, or in their home they would pick one up gingerly with two fingers. Their face would be scrunched up in disgust, eyes pinched and nose wrinkled. They would examine this slipper in the same manner in which they would inspect a dead bird discovered in the shallow grass of a suburban alley. There is equal parts revulsion and curiosity. In the end, revulsion wins the day and the bird is dropped back into the grass. Hands are wiped on pants. The walk continues.

These slippers look like garbage when lying empty on the floor. These knitted, craft fair specials were once rich with contrasting colors. Black yarn amid light tan with the occasional brown. In parts, there is pattern, but in other areas the pattern is forgotten or perhaps mishandled. The effect reinforces that these slippers were made by hand. But now more than two years later the tans are not so tan– certainly not so brightly, freshly tan. There is a look of dirtiness about these foot warmers. This is justified since these have never been in the wash. Too likely to fall part.

Skin touches the floor even when in these slippers. A big hole worn through the left; a slightly smaller one in the right. Horribly stretched, these slide on the feet, twisting at the ankle when walking. Thus when worn these have a sloppy, unsightly appearance.

But oh so comfy. So comforting when more than the feet need comfort.

So these slippers shall endure.

slippers

[My warm-up for the week is writing about things I can see from where I write. A warm-up is 15 minutes of writing. No self-editing is the goal. Just 15 minutes hammering on the keys. After 15 minutes, I am allowed to clean up spelling and grammar errors, but the rest must stay as is. Similar to my previous (abandoned) ritual called “20 Minutes.”]

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Debris

Scattered across the carpet, a nonsense collection of small, block-bodied people, their accessories, and the building blocks of their civilization. A dozen projects half-started. Another dozen finished yet now partially dismantled, the choice bits mined for new projects. It’s easier to take what is on hand rather than sliding open the bins and fishing through the thousands of loose parts. Those bins– two bins, four-foot high with seven transparent drawers– stand beneath a lonely dartboard and its cork backdrop. Neither have felt the sting of a dart in eleven years. The same cannot be said for feet, which have often felt the darkness sting of hard, plastic blocks.

In the midst of the sea of plastic detritus there sits a pirate ship from another land of the licensed. It has one stiff sail, red with a yellow swoosh motif. A dragon’s head is its bowsprit. This toy trireme has six oars per side but these look more like fins. The body of the ship rests upon sizable squares of green, seemingly beached next to a squat home with an uneven red roof and the skeletal remains of a walking machine exiled from science fiction.  There is no sign of the carpet sailing vessel’s crew.

[My warm-up for the week is writing about things I can see from where I write. A warm-up is 15 minutes of writing. No self-editing is the goal. Just 15 minutes hammering on the keys. After 15 minutes, I am allowed to clean up spelling and grammar errors, but the rest must stay as is. Similar to my previous (abandoned) ritual called “20 Minutes.”]

Pens

Pens in a plastic box. Two hinges that have not sealed properly since the box first opened. The label removed but a residue remains on the lid, slightly obscuring the contents if one was looking down at the box from above. Inside, the stock sorely depleted. Pens taken out carried to other parts of the house to be used and stored elsewhere. Inside, the remaining original occupants have been joined with other styles of pen and yet all lay together in a sort of harmony. Red gel. Blue gel. Ballpoint in blue and black. Click pens. Purple pens that have never been used are at the bottom of the pile and at the outermost edge the fanciest of the bunch– sleek red chassis with raised foam finger grips near the polished silver tip. Each pen is a note waiting to happen, a list not yet made, a story not yet written. Each pen is potential. Each pen waits.

Nearby there stands a pen-holder, a ceramic cylinder crafted to look like a ring of books– small books of odd shape, possessing a design but no words on the spine. Standing at all angles, emerging from the pen-holder like spines on an angry porcupine’s back, are chewed pencils, two wide highlighters– one pink, one yellow– a thin, blue marker, and a lone bookmark. These items are not potential like the pens. These items are rarely touched. Not forgotten. Just not used. One pencil wears a squinty-eyed monkey head eraser. The monkey looks unimpressed, as if it does not like its place among these unused tools.

[My warm-up for the week is writing about things I can see from where I write. A warm-up is 15 minutes of writing. No self-editing is the goal. Just 15 minutes hammering on the keys. After 15 minutes, I am allowed to clean up spelling and grammar errors, but the rest must stay as is. Similar to my previous (abandoned) ritual called “20 Minutes.”]

20 Minutes 12

He could not sing but he did it anyway. In the solitude of his empty apartment. In his car on a road trip. On a road trip was best. Zipping down the highway, back straight, eyes forward, one hand tapping out the drums on the steering wheel, the other ready in case it should be needed. It was possible to turn the volume up loud enough so that the outside sounds  were drowned out and all that remained was the belt of the singers and his own voice. He was always a moment behind the lyrics, except during the chorus, and it did not matter if some of the words were butchered. He sang in a voice deeper than the one with which he spoke. All notes were sung in that tone. He had no range.

Open road. He in a pocket of sound. A microcosm. Isolated. Sheltered.

There. A lone wolf walks through a field. It sniffs the ground and pays no mind to the car as it passes. He, the driver, reacts to the sight of the wolf. An alertness returns. The wolf looks out-of-place. That is not a field in wilderness. That is cultivated land. That is people land. Not wolf land. His reaction to the wolf– this desire to take note of it; to remember it– is a sign of how isolated from nature he has become. He is fascinated by the squirrels in the backyard, at play, at the feeder, dashing along the fences as if those were highways built for their use.

He recognizes these squirrels even when they are squished on the road.

There is a beat to the music that fuels him. Foot on the pedal, he wishes for more turns in the road. Some movement other than forward to confirm that he is indeed going somewhere. Small town hugs the road. Gas station. Gas station. Restaurant. Convenience store. Ice cream stand. Locals gathered in the parking lot of crushed gravel. Girls in short shorts. Kids with mussed hair. Guys leaning against their trucks.

In the city there is an ice cream stand. The scene is similar but with more people, and a middle-aged woman no one notices. She has a shopping cart. It is loaded with garbage bags, green. She removes articles of clothing one at a time, tenderly, and drapes them over the metal railing separating the ice cream stand from the parking lot of the neighboring building. She surveys her work. She takes no notice of couples with ice cream, parents making memories with their children, and teens lost in themselves.

The road hums by.

His fingers touch his face, tracing the edges of the bones beneath the flesh. He maps his skull. He then seeks out his scars. Physical evidence of a life lived. He looks at himself in the mirror. There was a time when he could not see in the mirror, and he remembers fondly the time when he first saw the reflection of the strands of hair on the top of his head. No cares then. Just the desire to be taller so he could see in the mirror.

Racing through the grass, shirt unbuttoned, his friends following at his heels. All running. In their minds, he was the leader in this game. In his mind, he was the hero. He believed it.

What he believes now is this: If the music is loud enough, the road long enough, and his tone low enough, his singing ain’t half bad.

****
[20 Minutes is a self-imposed ritual in which I write, uninterrupted, for 20 minutes a day. No self-editing is the goal. Just 20 minutes hammering on the keys. After the 20 minutes, I am allowed to clean up spelling and grammar errors, but the rest must stay as is. 20 minutes a day. Every day. Today is day 12.]

20 Minutes 11

[This instalment of 20 Minutes requires an explanation. On Friday over a pint of Guiness, a friend challenged me to write an 8-page comic script about “a secret society”. I accepted the challenge on the condition that he read the script and provide me with feedback. To prepare for this, I did some quick research on secret societies for women during which I hit on an idea that resulted in what you’re about to read. This was written in 1 hour and edited for an additional 15 minutes.]
****
PAGE 1 (4 panels)

Panel 1. A wide shot to set the scene. The ancient Roman countryside. It is an idyllic place–  tall grasses, flowering bushes, some trees. It is a sunny day. AELIA and JUNIA are walking ahead of SECUNDUS and LUCIUS. Each is dressed in typical Roman attire. AELIA and JUNIA are smiling and excited. SECUNDUS looks annoyed. LUCIUS is game.

CAPTION:  Outside Rome.

CAPTION:  196 BC.

SECUNDUS: I grow tired of this game.

AELIA: It is no game, Secundus. You need only be patient. You and Lucius shall be the first men to attend the festival.

Panel 2. LUCIUS is leaning toward SECUNDUS, speaking quietly. SECUNDUS is scowling. LUCIUS has lust in his eyes.

SECUNDUS: I do this for you, Lucius, because this Aelia has made you lose your wits.

LUCIUS: Don’t look so glum, friend–

Panel 3. We’re watching AELIA and JUNIA walking. Their backs are to the reader. Up ahead is a copse of trees.

LUCIUS (off panel): –if nothing else, we get to spend the day in the countryside with two beautiful women.

LUCIUS (off panel / linked): Junia wanted Adelia to invite you.

Panel 4. AELIA and JUNIA close together, hand in hand. AELIA is giggling. JUNIA is looking over her shoulder toward the reader. There is a dark look about her.

SECUNDUS (off panel): I do not trust that woman. And you would do well to get Aelia away from her.

PAGE 2 (2 panels)

Panel 1. AELIA and JUNIA are in the background where the trees are thinning. SECUNDUS and LUCIA are in the foreground, approaching the two women. JUNIA is motioning toward the clearing beyond the trees. AELIA looks expectantly gleeful.

JUNIA: Secundus. Lucius. Welcome to the–

Panel 2. Big panel. SECUNDUS and LUCIUS have stepped into a large clearing. AELIA and JUNIA are behind them. The clearing is surrounded by trees, but there is plenty of space. That space is filled with GREEK WOMEN of various ages (but no children and no elderly) in various states of dress and undress. Some are drinking from goblets. Some are kissing each other. Others playfully paw at each other. In the background there are blankets spread out on the ground and some cushions. FEMALE SLAVES wander through the crowd, filling goblets.

JUNIA: –the Bacchanalia!

PAGE 3 (4 panels)

Panel 1. LUCIUS’ eyes are wide. He gawks at the flesh on display around him. SECUNDUS too looks on in disbelief, but there is no lust on his face.

LUCIUS: Secundus, I cannot believe my eyes. What paradise is this?

Panel 2. A WOMAN in a state of undress and intoxification runs her hands along LUCIUS chest as she walks by. Wine sloshes from a goblet in her other hand as she does so. LUCIUS is lustful. SECUNDUS looks concerned.

LUCIUS: And us the only men in attendance!

SECUNDUS: Yes, the only men, and the first two bear witness to what until now occured in secret.

Panel 3. AELIA is leading a very happy LUCIUS away. She has a jug of wine in hand. SECUNDUS has the attention of TWO WOMEN but he is wary.

SECUNDUS: I hestitate to call this paradise.

Panel 4. AELIA is sitting on the ground, swigging from the jug, her clothes slipping off her shoulder. She beckons to LUCIUS.

LUCIUS: Ha! If you will not then please keep silent so that you do not spoil my enjoyment!

PAGE 4 (4 panels)

Panel 1. In the foreground, LUCIUS is having wine poured into his mouth by a half-naked, sauced AELIA . In the background, the MAENAD enter the clearing. At the head of the line of five women is JUNIA. The MAENAD are dressed in fawn skins. Each carries at thyrsus– a staff entwined with ivy at the top of which is a cluster of ivy. JUNIA wears a ivy wreath on her head.

Panel 2. SECUNDUS watches as SLAVE GIRLS take up percussion instruments and gather in a group.

Panel 3. In the background, the SLAVE GIRLS play the instruments. The SLAVE GIRLS are standing still, playing with little energy. The MAENAD and JUNIA have started to dance. No others can be seen. Everyone has made way for the MAENAD.

Panel 4. JUNIA dances. Her body is contorted as she does.

PAGE 5 (5 panels)

Panel 1. The SLAVE GIRLS play their instruments with more vigour.

Panel 2. The MAENAD (but not JUNIA) are given torches by WOMEN. The dancing is more energetic now.

Panel 3. JUNIA’S eyes are fixed on SECUNDUS as he makes his way quickly through the watching, cavorting, half-naked, drunk women.

Panel 4. SECUNDUS pulls LUCIUS off AELIA.

SECUNDUS: Lucius, we must go! This is no place for us. No place for man!

Panel 5. AELIA , sitting up, naked, drunk, fury in her eyes, hisses and thrashes wildly at LUCIUS and SECUNDUS. Both men look startled.

PAGE 6 (5 panels)

Panel 1. The dancing MAENAD surround LUCIUS and SECUNDUS.

Panel 2. ONE MAENAD douses her torch in a basin of water carried by a slave girl.

Panel 3. LUCIUS and SECUNDUS watch with wide eyes as the torch is taken out of the water. The torch is still lit!

Panel 4. JUNIA is thrashing about in dance. AELIA has joined her.

Panel 5. SECUNDUS and LUCIUS back away in surprise and horror as a large bull is lead into the clearing by WOMEN.

PAGE 7 (4 panels)

Panel 1. Big panel. The MAENAD dance. JUNIA rushes toward the bull. AELIA is on her back on the ground, trashing about. SECUNDUS and LUCIUS cannot believe what they see.

Panel 2. JUNIA attacks the bull with her bare bands.

Panel 3. JUNIA tears the flesh of the bull with her hands.

Panel 4. JUNIA approaches SECUNDUS and LUCIUS. Her clothes are falling off her. She is bloody. Her hands are full of bull meat. Behind her the MAENAD have fallen upon the bull and are tearing at it with hands and teeth.

PAGE 8 (5 panels)

Panel 1. JUNIA is inches away from LUCIUS and SECUNDUS. A bunch of WOMEN are behind the men. JUNIA is eating the bull flesh.

Panel 2. The WOMEN knock LUCIUS and SECUNDUS to the ground. Hands tear at the men’s clothes.

Panel 3. The two men sputter as wine is poured on their faces, down their throats. WOMEN crawl all over them.

Panel 4. There is a mass of WOMEN on top of the two men. Limbs, arses, boobs, legs. This is not violence. The men are not being killed. They are, however, being forcibly convinced to take part in the orgy. Not much can be seen of the men. Behind them, JUNIA contiues to eat the flesh of the bull.

Panel 5. Close on JUNIA. Her face is bloody. Her eyes are empty.

JUNIA: Dionysus.

CAPTION: the end

****
[20 Minutes is a self-imposed ritual in which I write, uninterrupted, for 20 minutes a day. No self-editing is the goal. Just 20 minutes hammering on the keys. After the 20 minutes, I am allowed to clean up spelling and grammar errors, but the rest must stay as is. 20 minutes a day. Every day. Today is day 11.]