Update and Fiction

It’s been longer than I intended between posts.  My volunteer opportunities started to bump up against one another a few weeks ago and my blogging and writing have taken the hit.

I’ll keep this one short because a) I don’t have anything interesting to say and b) I’d like to get back to my outline.

I have decided to do National Novel Writing Month this November (hence the need to get back to my outline).  After asking my daughter what she thought about NaNoWriMo, the wonderful, sweet girl said, “It sounds like a good challenge. It’s okay if you don’t get all 50,000 words, you’ll still have a lot more than you would have otherwise.”

I love that girl.

I have been writing a little as well. The vignette below is a chunk I cut from a larger piece.  I like how this turned out but it doesn’t fit with the theme I ended up with, so rather than leave it to molder in an old draft I included it here. I’m not sure it stands on its own, but I leave it here for you anyway.

Bees in the Dairy Barn

I’ve been stung three times in my life. 

The first time I was eleven or twelve and helping my grandfather clean out an old dairy barn in Western New York. It was August and the only difference between the inside of the barn and an oven was that most ovens aren’t filled cardboard boxes and mouse crap. My grandpa was working through the boxes in the animal stalls hoping to find something valuable to throw into the cab of his truck.

My job was to clear the lumber out of the loft because it was the hottest and most dusty place in the barn. I picked up nail-encrusted boards from a pile, shook off the mouse turds, and threw them out an open window next to grampa’s rusty old pickup. The heat, painfully bright summer sun shining in the square window, and the dim barn loft made it feel like I stoked a white-hot steam engine with gnarly old wood. I was moving fast both because I wanted to be done and because if any job took more than thirty seconds grandpa would make his displeasure know with bear growls or helpful questions like, “What’s taking so long?” Each board bounced off the window frame shaking dust down from the ceiling. The nest of yellow jackets hidden in the rafters above me took exception to the way I was doing my job; they decided to show their displeasure by stinging me repeatedly on the crown of the head. The little bastards got tangled in my hair as I tried to swat them away. Panic sat in.

The floor of the barn was a good twenty feet below where I danced hooted like a chimpanzee. My only means of escape was a hundred-year-old wooden ladder sticking up out of a rough cut hole. I, unfortunately, hadn’t thought much about how I would escape the loft in the event that bees were buzzing in my hair and stinging my scalp.

I don’t know how I made it to the barn floor without the need for hospitalization, but I like to imagine I gripped the outside of the ladder with my sneakers and leather gloves and slid to safety like a badass superhero.  I panted in the dusty straw at my grandfather’s feet and swatted the last few yellowjackets away. My scalp tingled with the burning numbness of bee stings and swelled like a poison yarmulke. 

After he stopped laughing, grandpa said something like, “Don’t cry, boy. Jez-sus. You’ll be fine. Get back to work and you’ll forget all about it.” I could only stare into the straw until I pinched back the tears.

I always wished he’d said something like, “Let’s get you home and patched up. That had to be incredibly frightening and painful.” 

I loved my grandfather and so did everyone around him even though they constantly said things like:

“The men of the Greatest Generation were brought up hard. He’s doing better than his father.”

“He gave you the work ethic that’s helped you be so successful.”

“That’s the only way he knows how to show his love.”

Some people say the reaction is worse the more you get stung; your body loses its ability to deal with the venom and your throat will close up and you’ll die. It’s like the poison accretes until you reach a tipping point and it kills you.

I loved my grandfather.

I still do even though he laughed at me when I was afraid and in pain. I love him even though he taught me to push my emotions deep and keep secrets. I love him even though I’m terrified that I’m just like him.


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