Last night my brain was just too busy to sleep. I was so tired but I couldn’t quite seem to slow myself down to the point of actually climbing into bed and sleeping. I wanted a distraction. Something to read. Something short, easy, that wasn’t about a creepy man or a scary noise or Sally the sleepy snake. I couldn’t find what I wanted to read, so instead I wrote my own story… or the first page of it anyway. It was enough to make me sleepy so perhaps, tonight, it will do the same for you.
Sweet dreams friends…
Max & Sylvie and the Big Metal Box
Sylvie squeaked a little as Max’s paws finally got a grip around the lid of the box. “You’re nearly in!” she squealed, excitedly, hopping from one foot to the other.
“Yeah, no thanks to you” muttered Max. The box gave a little creak as the corner that he had been working on snapped shut. “Ow!?” He dropped it on the floor. It made a terrible clanging sound.
“Careful!” shrieked Sylvie. “What did you do that for?”
“I didn’t do it on purpose” he huffed, pushing fur out of his eyes “my paws are all sweaty.”
“Let me have another go” said Sylvie, rolling up the sleeves of her dress.
“Oh please.” Max scoffed. “You can’t even lift it.”
“Can too.” Said Sylvie, frowning.
“Go on then.” Max lay back against the bean bag and put his paws behind his head, smiling. “She’s all yours.”
Sylvie sat down in front of the box and looked at it carefully. It was very old. She could tell because it was covered in rust and the paint was peeling off in places. She got up and walked all the way around it before sitting back down again, her head on one side.
“Are you going to open it with your mind?” asked Max.
Sylvie ignored him. “How old do you think it is?” she wondered aloud, flaking off a bit of paint from the lid of the box.
“How can you tell? Maybe it just got wet. Left out in the rain or something.”
“No. It smells old.”
“What do you mean it smells old? I can’t smell anything. Oh…” Sylvie turned away feeling a little foolish.
“Exactly.” Said Max. “I, however, have an excellent sense of smell and I can tell you that whatever is inside that box has been in there a very long time.”
“Then we need to get it open!” said Sylvie, scrambling to her feet. “Come on, I’ll push, you pull.”
“Errrrgh.” Max rolled over onto his sizable tummy and pushed himself up onto his paws. Sylvie glared at him.
“On my count.” she said, throwing her plaits over her shoulders.
“Fine” said Max, walking over to the opposite side of the box. “But after this you owe me a sandwich.”
Again, Sylvie ignored him. “Ready? One… two… THREE!”
Both too tired to really relax
they slept until mid morning
There was talk of breakfast to honor the day
but alarms were just met with yawning
The sunlight eventually stirred them both
and they stumbled out of bed
Now too late for breakfast, not enough time for brunch
so tea was drunk instead
Half an hour was dreamed away
with talk of what they’d do that day,
if the Sunday were theirs for the taking
We could paint that wall
or unpack those boxes
or maybe do some baking!
Pour me some more, he said
and she smiled
but the pot was bitter and cold
‘Is this how every Sunday will be
now that we’re married and old?’
Together they laughed at the shape of their life
then it really was time to go
He went downtown, she stayed up
and the next few hours were slow
Finally at five o’clock
she decided the day wasn’t done
So she put on all of the clothes she could find
and headed out in the fading sun
She brought him gifts of decaf coffee
and gluten free red velvet cake
And there on the floor of New York’s Penn Station
the couple sat down for their date.
The coffee, of course,
by this time, was cold
but the cake was incredibly good
Then half an hour came and went
‘I should get back.’
‘I know, you should.’
They left, together, hand in hand
and she said, as they got to his door
‘There’s no one I’d rather spend half an hour with
having coffee and cake on the floor.’
Stolen moments are sometimes the best
when you thought that a day day was lost
For years she flew over oceans for him,
what’s a train ride and a bit of frost?
A year seems like a life time when it feels like you’ve slept through most of it
Certainly long enough to beat a few good grooves of doubt into your own back
You trace them now with your fingers and suddenly they are ugly and real
but a wise man your Father introduced you to told you that everything is cracked
and that through those cracks the light you have been looking for
but hiding from is able to slip through
You could fill them in. Smooth them down and paint over them
and nobody but you would ever know they were there
Or you could leave the wounds open to dry out in the sun,
let the little one that lives under your bed help you lick them clean
and then see if you can’t make something of them one day.
Share this work with someone though… you waited long enough to be able to
Colour in the big gaps together
Then underneath that perfect surface is a secret belonging to both of you
and you’re not quite so blinded by the day light steaming through the holes in your armor.
But leave a few. English houses need to breathe a little.
So let in the light and the air from outside
and if it all gets too much
you can throw on a blanket
or find a friend to build you a fire.
SHOW YOUR WORK. Oh?! Panic. Frustration. Lump in throat. Tears in eyes. Every. Time. I hate maths. And as a child, every time I got to a question where these words were written at the beginning of it, I would be struck by this irrational anger at the fact that some nasty, clever person wanted to sit there and laugh as I unfolded the uncoordinated twists and turns that my mind would take to reach what would, inevitably, still be the wrong answer. At the time, I was convinced that this was the only reason to ever ‘show your work.’ Purely an exercise in humiliation. It didn’t seem fair that after I dutifully wrote out all of my workings, they would be cruelly crossed out and scribbled all over, because I had done exactly what the question said – I showed my work! What I quickly came to learn is that there was a very specific way of doing things if you wanted to get a nice big tick from the illusive green pen or, better yet, a smiley face or even a shiny sticker!? My brain didn’t seem to want to follow the usual mathematical routes but I eventually got better at not getting lost down the path less travelled when it came to carving out my calculations… enough of the time to get my school certificate anyway. (In no small part because the teacher who ultimately got me through my GCSE in maths was nothing short of a hero. Slowly but surely she provided me with a ladder to climb out of the deep, dark number shaped hole that I had spent many years digging for myself. I still fall into it. Frequently. But now at least I know how to get out. And these days I’m big enough to buy my own stickers. The fancy ones. With extra sparkles.)
Anyway, the point of this little saunter down memory lane, is that I realized the other day, although I am happily not in any way on a mathematical career path, I have been struck recently by that very same fear of ‘showing my work.’ What if it isn’t very good? What if it’s… wrong, or nobody understands it or… it’s too small, or not as impressive as it should be? I’ve been swirling around in this ugly little eddy for many months now and today I decided that the water is getting cold and my fingers are wrinkly so perhaps it is time to get out. It may be that this isn’t the most graceful exit – I would have loved to arrive back on the blog with some incredible piece of writing that would have everyone glued to their monitors waiting for the next installment. Instead, I sort of feel like I’m clambering out onto the side with my clothes all awkwardly stuck to me, with only one shoe on and some pond weed in my hair. But damn it, I’m here! What I have realized is that, much like with algebra, in terms of living the life of an artist, I haven’t a clue what I’m doing. But what I do know is that my head and phone and diary and computer are all overflowing with thoughts and concepts I’ve been working on that I have been too afraid to share. So, as terrifying as it might feel to do it, I’m going to let some light in… change the bulb maybe. Get myself one of those fancy LED ones that last for ages!
So, dear readers, look forward to lots of potentially terrible poetry, some questionable photography and a few other mediocre bits and pieces. Somewhere in the middle of it all there might be some gold. You’ll see it here first but, for now, whatever it looks like, I am going to Show My Work.
See you very soon…