Madrigal’s New Friend

“Oh! I forgot about you, Buckwheat!”

Madrigal was trying to stuff the cornbread mix into her pantry, when she found the bag of buckwheat flour. She stared at it for a split second and started calculating in her head. She hadn’t planned to bake a cake, but if she was quick about it the cake could be done by the time they were ready for dessert. David had volunteered to wash up the dishes, so what else did she have to do?

She grabbed the sack and dropped it inside the one clear space on her tiny, kitchen counter. She spun around to set the oven to preheat, and then sashayed over to her mixing bowls, grabbing the largest one from the stack. Balancing it on top of the roll of paper towels, she reached across David for the whisk. “Sorry!” She quickly measured the dry ingredients into the bowl and gave them a quick whisk.  As she waltzed over get a second mixing bowl, she looked at David from the corner of her eye. She was surprised by how much she enjoyed sharing her little kitchen with him. He didn’t feel “in the way” at all.

Grabbing a dishtowel to dry off the spaghetti pot, he paused and watched Madrigal dance around her kitchen. She filled the kettle with one hand, while reaching for vinegar with another. Butter, milk, and eggs seemed to fly out of the refrigerator with just one sweep of her hand.

“And just like that, she baked a cake!” David said, placing the pot on its shelf and returning to the sink. At that moment, Madrigal was deciding which baking dish to use—which one is going to bake fastest, she wondered—but his comment got her attention. It was just a casual comment, lightheartedly floating in the air now. Yet, it made her stop and look at him. She was so curious about this new friend.

He smiled at her and she smiled back, somewhat self-consciously, because she suddenly realized she could be seen.

He could see her.

She chose a baking pan and carried to the stove, and silently repeating his words to herself. She didn’t want to forget them.

Pouring the batter into the pan, she wondered how he knew where she kept the spaghetti pot.

 

Dedicated to The Saxophone Player. Happy Birthday! XO

Buried

He buried his hands into the decomposing leaves and tried to raise himself up. How long had he been there? His knees were sunken into the soft earth; the air was cooler now.  Instead of the sun beating down on his head, he felt the shadows of the trees on his back. It must be dinner time, he thought. Today he would end his fast. It was time. His mother was concerned for him. She didn’t understand; she just wanted him to eat.

He tried to lift himself, again. He was weak. He realized he had not brought a canteen with him—it was definitely time to go.

Yet, he didn’t want to leave this place. He didn’t want to open his eyes. He just wanted to rest in this divine peace as long as possible. Here in these woods he was alone with God, alone in His presence. It was a great luxury he didn’t want to squander.

However, there was work to be done, and he was already beginning to get a vision of what God had in store. His spirit was suddenly filled with an indescribable joy, and before his legs could protest, he was on his feet. He was excited—but not quite stable. He stumbled as he took his first step and steadied himself against a tree. Oh, how his former sparring partners wold mock him, if they could see him now. “When I am weak, He is strong,” he laughed. “Amen!” 

Ignacio dusted off his pant legs, and ignored the damp stains on the knees—he had long ago learned how to take those out. One could not stand in the pulpit with dirty knees.

He reached down for his Bible and began the walk back to campus, so grateful and so eager. He could tell his load was lighter now, and he began to walk faster; his gait growing stronger with each step. Buried in those woods was everything he’d imagined his life would be—every ambition, every worldly aspiration, and every dream—and he was leaving it all behind. He was free now, to do what God had called him to do. He knew it wasn’t going to be easy—his mother would not going to take the news well. “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother…he cannot be My disciple.” Christ’s words filled his thoughts. God knows I don’t hate them, but I cannot forsake You for them. 

A flash of the setting sun hit him in the face as he reached the edge of the woods, and his hand quickly shielded his eyes. He stood there for a moment, just enjoying the glorious view and fresh air. His future was before him, and it was bright.


This is fiction, though it is inspired by my Father and based on both his and my Mother’s account of his decision answering the call to ministry, instead going to law school.  

An Encore

Merry Christmas!

I am re-sharing a post from two years ago. I read it again today and thought it was nice enough to share, again.

Madrigal’s First Christmas

One day, I hope to find out what happens to Madrigal. I have big hopes she is having a very happy Christmas day today—and, I hope you are, too!

A Short Story

Looking through some old files, I found this bit of fiction. Sharing quickly, and as is—before I edit it to death or think about it twice.


THAI FOOD

“Let’s not make it too easy for her. Remember, she doesn’t know half what she’ll know twenty years from then.”

“Well, sure, but we can’t make her too dumb. No one wants to read about an idiot.”

“She was kinda of an idiot, though.”

Her eyes were squinty, and one side of her mouth curled up. She wasn’t budging.

“I guess heroes don’t have to be brilliant.”

Her face relaxed.

“Good.”

He shook his head. This wasn’t going to work. Heavy sigh. He wanted so much for it to work. Focus, man. Stay focused.

“Did we choose their names, yet?”

“No. I’m still playing with that.”

“OK. Well, I think it’s time for a break. How about some dinner?”

She smiled slowly, hers lips closed. That was a sign. He knew he could get her to leave the office. Well, it was an office of sorts. More a closet, but they didn’t need much room. And, it was free.

“Where should we go?”

“I’m feeling like Thai.”

“Really? Hmm. Curry, coconut milk, rice? I’m not sure.” He rolled it around in his head while she began to guide them down the street to the little Thai restaurant tucked in between the pizza shop and beauty parlor. It was a grey day, with the wind blowing in gusts. Was it cold enough for snow? She could only hope.

Inside, they made their way to a little table in the corner. As he draped his coat over his seat, he finally decided. “OK. Let’s have Thai. That sounds good.” She smiled that smile. He blushed.

Ordering was easy. The lunch specials came quickly. Sitting and eating together, though, took a long time. As long as possible. He relished every minute.

“Will we go back to work?”

“Of course. I can’t wait to get at it again.”

“We’ve barely even started.”

“No, it’s all starting. It’s all part of the process, don’t you think?”

“We haven’t typed the first word.”

“We’ve typed thousands.”

“Those words have been deleted.”

“Isn’t that part of the process? Part of this wonderful process?” She looked at him, then turned her head quickly to find the waitress. He looked down at his empty tea cup, then up into her waiting eyes. “Are you discouraged?”

“No.”

The waitress arrived.

“Could we get a fresh pot of tea, please?”

“I don’t want to fail.”

“Fail? Why, you’ve never failed anything, Mr. Johnson.”

“What are we going to call her?”

“I don’t know. I keep thinking about it. Nothing is good enough.”

“We could call her Betsy.”

She looked at him with squinty eyes, and tilted her head to one side. This meant she was confused.

“I don’t think so.”

After another pot of tea, they left a generous tip and stepped out into the night. It was colder now. The walk back to the office was faster. It started to sleet. He tried to hold the bag of leftover over her head, to keep it dry, but that didn’t work very well.

The other offices were closed for the night, so they moved into the lobby. She slipped off her shoes and curled up in a chair, and he sat across from her on the sofa. They each held laptops, but he was the writer. She had the final say about what stayed, but he gave the words life.

“You know how much it means to me, don’t you?”

“I know.”

“How long can you stay tonight?”

He looked around for a clock.

“It’s seven now.”

“I guess I can stay until ten. Is that OK?”

“That’s great.”

“I can’t work tomorrow, though. I have a class.”

“I know. It’s Tuesday. Every Tuesday, every Thursday.”

“Next semester, my schedule will be a little busier. They offered me two more classes.”

“Really? I guess the students like you.”

“I think they do. Surprising, isn’t it?”

“Not at all.”

“I like them, too, I confess. I didn’t think I would.”

“Any favorites?”

He had a hard time answering that one. He looked down and said, “One or two.”

“Teacher’s pets.”

“No. No. Nothing like that.”

She got up to check the heat. “It’s cold tonight. Do you mind, if I turn it up?”

“No. Not at all. Do you want my sweater?”

“No, I’ll be OK. Thanks.”

She tucked herself back into the chair. They sat in the quiet for a moment. Sleet was hitting the windows. The sounds of January.

She finally broke the silence. “Maybe, this is a mistake.”

He looked at her. She was staring at the floor.

“Maybe, her story shouldn’t be told. Maybe, it’s not my place to tell it. I hardly even knew her. Who am I to think I have the right?” She was looking up now, looking at him for an answer. What was he going to say? What could he say? The thought of not doing this was the last thing he wanted to consider. He said what he thought he was supposed to say.

“Maggie, I’ll support whatever you decide.”

Her searching eyes turned cold.

“You sound like my father.” She put her feet down and looked away from him.

“Well, what am I supposed to say?” He sat the machine beside him and leaned forward.

“I don’t know. Tell me not to stop.”

“Well, I don’t want you to stop.”

“Well, why didn’t you say that?” She looked back at him now, with her squinty eyes and titled head.

“Because. How can I? It’s not my place.”

“Of course, it’s your place. That’s why I hired you, to make it your place.”

She stared down at her feet. He stared down at her feet, too. She buried her head in her hands. In a second’s time, he played the most tender and romantic scene in his head, and then came back to reality.

“Come on.”

She looked up at him.

“Come on.” He repeated himself, with a little urgency in his tone. “We have a job to do. It’s a story worth telling. That’s why I’m here. Come on.”

She leaped up from her chair and flew across to him, planting a kiss on his cheek as she hugged his neck.

“Oh, thank you, Roger. Thank you so much.”

“A Woman of No Importance”

A video recommendation for you. This is such fine acting and story telling. It is a monologue, told over a period of months. The piece was written by Alan Bennett, from a series called “Talking Heads.” It is performed by Patricia Routledge—known best in America for the role of Hyacinth in “Keeping Up Appearances” on PBS.
 
If you have seen the film “Wit,” you cannot be blamed for wondering how much they may have borrowed from this script for that one.  “Wit” is definitely worth watching, too, but today I suggest you make time for “A Woman of No Importance.”
 

Madrigal’s First Christmas

I offer you a little Christmas cookie of a story; a bit of fiction that I hope leaves you with a happy feeling. Merry Christmas, one and all!


MADRIGAL’S FIRST CHRISTMAS
by Caroline J.M. Gregan

Ever since Madrig moved into her new apartment, she’d been imagining how she would decorate her two rooms for Christmas. It was her first Christmas away from home. She didn’t have much space, and she didn’t have much budget, but not decorating was not an option.

Laying on her bed that very first night, she began to envision glittery swags of tinsel garland. She immediately recognized the image from her childhood: it was Gram’s house, in the great room. Tinsel garland was Gram’s favorite, and at Christmas-time she would weave it through the rails on the stairway banister, swirl it around the Christmas tree, and drape it from every window to display her many Christmas cards.

Then, in the great room, where she set-up her tree and everyone gathered for a boisterous, Christmas dinner, Gram would hang the sparkly, tinsel garland in cheerful swags across the room. She said there was no rhyme or reason to it, but Madrig thought the seemingly endless length of spun gold was graceful and perfect.  No matter how it was arranged, she never wearied of tracing its course through the room—from the upright piano, to the corner of the china cupboard, then sailing through the air, where it might be tacked to a door frame, or tucked behind a picture on the wall.

The finishing touches were the shiny, glass balls and tiny candy canes Gram would dangle wherever she thought they “looked right.” It made the whole effect even more tantalizing for youthful eyes. In the flickering light from the tree, any childish heart could easily imagine the stars in the heavens had come in from the cold.

Now, all grown-up and standing on a chair—on her very tippy toes—Madrig pounded nails into crown molding with the heel of her shoe. Gold garland was more pricy than she’d expected, so there was only one strand to hang. She had to make the most of every precious inch. I hope it’s long enough! 

Carefully, she measured and plotted. The drape must be just right: not too high, not too low. Securing the end of the garland with an extra twist around the last nail, she descended and took a step back to admire her work. Three gentle swags of golden tinsel presented themselves for her inspection. She had hoped for at least five, for greatest impact, but looking now she realized three was more than enough. She gazed up with awe and appreciation. She felt sure that Gram would be pleased.

Eventually, she would finish it off with bows. There was no budget for glass bulbs or candy canes this year, but she had scads of ribbon scraps from work that would do nicely. Between each bow she would display a Christmas card. It will be beautiful!

In fact, it was all ready beautiful, and she was delighted. The swags were pleasing to her eye and comforting to her soul, a little reminder of home and love and that feeling of security she always felt when Pop went around the house to check the doors and windows at the end of the day.

Madrig sighed. She remembered she had an early shift. Time for merry-making to stop.

She checked the clock on her bookshelf and peeked out her front door, looking across the courtyard to Lenny’s apartment. His lights were out. She would have to return his chair tomorrow.

Madrig packed tomorow’s lunch, tucked the extra nails into her sewing box for safe-keeping, and made sure she had clean socks for the morning.  She double-checked the deadbolt and chain on her door, and made sure the stick was in her window. Pop said a solid piece of wood was the best window security around.

Floating on the happy memories that flooded her sleepy head, Madrig was in no hurry to end the day. Yet, it occurred to her, as she finally did close her eyes, that her happiest thought tonight would not be from Christmas past, but from Christmas future. Tonight, she had made a new memory.

awe-wonder

PHOTO CREDIT: STRAWBERRY PATCH PHOTOGRAPHY www.strawberrypatchphoto.com