TAG | Writing at the Ledges
This essay comes from Phil Kline, a wonderful playwright and author of the recent book of essays, Growing Old, Ungracefully. The writing prompt that inspired Phil was “Unmatched socks.”
After having served in the army for twenty-eight years, when my dad died, he was buried in his full dress uniform except for a pair of socks that didn’t match his uniform. They were bright red. He had a remarkable record, having served on the staff of General Dwight Eisenhower, Commanding General of the Allies during World War II and on the staff of General Walton Walker, Commanding General of American forces during The Korean War.
For his display in an open casket, my mother decided she would have him wear his favorite pair of socks, the red ones.
I kept the tradition going by wearing red socks each of the eleven times I rode DALMAC, a three hundred and fifty mile bicycle ride from Lansing to and across The Mackinac Bridge. Sixty miles into the last day of the trip, one year, I was stopped by a woman standing in the middle of the road. It was Noelle Clark, a friend. She saw it was me from a distance because of the red socks.
When my two sons were married, they and their wedding parties wore red socks. At my daughter’s wedding, she didn’t wear red socks, but her future husband did. I still have a pair, which I’ll wear one more time, but someone else will have to put them on me.
©2015 Phil Kline
Last summer Writing at the Ledges member, Rosalie Sanara Petrouske, spent one week staying in a cabin in the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This reflection was written for the “Pile of Pebbles” writing prompt. After a brief hiatus, we are returning to our member’s musings with a promise to be more diligent in our postings.
Along the coast of Lake Superior, there are secret coves and inlets where pebbles are stacked and polished at the shoreline, washed clean from the lake’s tides, time-worn, spit onto the sand and then washed out again not to return for centuries. This summer as I walked the beaches in the Porcupine Mountains, I spent several hours one afternoon searching for agates.
Agates are not like the gems we normally think of, banded with color, crafted by the skill of the lapidary—they are rather plain, golden brown or marked by russet hues—easily mistaken for quartz or chert, you have to know how to find them, have an eye for unseen beauty, and the ability to pick out the subtle streaks of tan, yellow or orange imbedded deep in their opaque surface. The translucency is rarely obvious unless the stone is wet.
As the waves rolled to the edges of my toes, I bent over, scanning piles of pebbles, picking some up, turning them over in my palm, tossing others aside. The sun beat down on my shoulders, even now several months gone by—I can still hear the soft rumble and splash of water, a seagull sailing overhead, calling out, smell the air filled with the green fragrance of spruce, cedar, and mosses melded and drying on driftwood—the deeper depths of the lake itself—sun drenched beach grass, and algae floating in the silt at lake’s bottom.
Finally, I found one lovely stone, an agate I am almost certain; it glows with stripes of red and burnt sienna when I hold it up, still wet, and place it in my palm. I will keep it to remember this peaceful afternoon—to remind me that not everything I see is always clear at first—some facets are hidden and take time to find—such as knowing who my true friends are, being thankful for my family, or being appreciative for the small kindnesses in my life. When I am living day-to-day, I don’t always notice a sunset, or the dragonfly that lands on the porch railing, and then waits a moment before flying off.
There is much to recommend for an afternoon sitting on a picnic table in a spot of shade, a breeze caressing my shoulders as I write these words. There is much to recommend for the simplicity of minute moments in time.
Photo Credit: “A Pyramid of Pebbles”
©2014 Rosalie Sanara Petrouske
A few days ago we posted the first Wading Through Water story by Ashtyn Rapp. Today we offer another one written in response to that prompt, by WATL member Shelby Pontius. Shelby has had the distinction of being the youngest member of our group, since she joined while still in high school. Now she can be found walking the campus of Michigan State University where she studies fisheries and wildlife.
Wading Through Water
By Shelby Pontius
“Tyler!” I shouted as the beach ball sailed right over my head, landing with a wet smack in the lake far behind me. I glared at him as I turned to see where the ball had landed and of course the waves were large and crashing onto the beach as well as carrying the ball out further. They were probably cold waves too as lake Huron was apt to be. I turned back and surveyed my circle of cousins hoping for a friendly volunteer, but being family there was of course not one.
“Fine!” I said, stomping out into the water and trying not to flinch when the cool water hit my knees, then my waist. I had almost waded out far enough to grab it when a rogue gust of wind blew it out a little further.
“Of course.” I muttered, I could just picture all of my cousins laughing behind me.
I stared down the ball determined that this time I would grab it. I bent my knees, waited for a wave to pass and leapt straight for the ball, landing face first into the water. I should’ve known. I sat at the bottom with my face in the sand for a minute, cursing my ill luck before popping my head back up and smacking it right into the ball. I stared at it shocked it was right there before reaching and grabbing ahold, but instead of grabbing onto the rough plastic, I grabbed onto a hand. I let go immediately to look up at who was stealing my ball after I had tried so hard to catch it.
“Hey,” came a deep voice.
I looked up into the face of an angel, okay, maybe that was exaggerating, but he was cute.
“H-h-hi.” I managed to squeak out.
He smiled and I melted a little inside, “Can I play?”
“Uh, yea, sure.” I smiled to myself, yup, sure was a good thing I went to get that ball.
At the last Writing at the Ledges meeting, attendees were challenged to write in response to pictures provided by Rosalie Petrouske, WATL founder. The prompt was Wading Through Water, given to accompany the pictures. This short, short story by member Ashtyn Rapp is the first of several brief pieces written in response to the prompt that we will feature here.
by Ashtyn Rapp
Noah dragged his feet through the muddy river bank, trying his best to mask his footprints. He hesitated at the water’s edge. It was late fall, almost winter really and the water was sure to be freezing. That morning when he had slipped from bed just before the sun began to rise there had been whorls of frost on the window pane and the tip of each blade of grass was silver with frozen moisture. “Noah!” His mother’s frantic voice broke the still and a flock of mourning doves rose from the trees not far behind him. Taking a deep breath, Noah began wading through the water. At its deepest the frigid water was thigh-high and the current was stronger than he remembered from the times he had swum in the river’s wide arms in the lazy heat of summer. He struggled against the pulling water, trying to hurry. Reaching the other side, he scrambled up the embankment and began running to where he had seen the soldiers camping the day before. His feet sunk into the wet soil and there was a constant crackle of leaves crunching underfoot, punctuated by an occasional stick cracking like a gunshot. It didn’t matter anymore. He was almost there. “Noah,” his mother cried again, but less desperately, as if she already knew it was too late.
The following story was written by WATL member Randy Pearson for the June 2013 Fiction 440 event at the Eli Broad Museum on MSU’s campus. Fiction 440 challenges writers to write a story of 440 words or less to a specified prompt. Then they sponsor a reading at a local venue –usually a bar or restaurant (writers love to eat and drink) — where those who submitted a story are invited to read their masterpieces. The prompt for Randy’s story was apocalypse, shapely, and sequence. Enjoy!
by Randy D. Pearson
Since the beginning of our civilization, people have been predicting the end of our civilization. From Nazis to zombies… to Nazi zombies, so many things were prophesized to be the apocalypse that would end our reign. Asteroid attack, viral attack… hell, Mars Attack! Some crazy ideas were bandied about.
But seriously, poison ivy? No one saw that coming. And no, I don’t mean the Batman villain, but that would’ve been infinitely cooler than this itchy nonsense.
The sequence of events, turning a mildly annoying plant into the virulent, hyper-fast growing uber-weed that engulfed Cleveland in a weekend, caught everyone napping, man. Of course, no one really cared about Cleveland, but when it took out Vegas and the rest of the West Coast, people became concerned.
So, even though only pockets of itch-free zones remain and anarchy rules the rest, some good did come from it. With most of the world dead or scratching, I have my pick of stuff. For instance, I love my red Stingray Corvette! I never thought I’d own this shapely beast, but now, I’m tooling up I-75 in the coolest car ever, trying to see if the rumors of an Ivy-free Canada truly exist.
As I spot a figure lying in the middle of the highway, creeper weed closing in on all sides, I ease to a stop. My first reaction is to leave this woman to her fate, but hell, I’ve been alone for ages. I could stand the company. And if she hasn’t been ivied yet… Well, dating in this landscape is, shall we say challenging, at the very least. Red welts can really ruin the mood.
As she runs toward my Vette, I jump out and yell commandingly, “Stop! Stay right there!”
Pausing, she yells back, “Oh my God, thank you for stopping! You’re my savior! I thought I was a goner for sure.” Her bright, grateful smile beams at me like a beacon in the late afternoon sun.
I pop the trunk and reach in to remove my high-pressure power washer. I’m not letting her or anyone get that nasty Urushiol (Oo–roo-she-all) oil all over my nice interior. I proclaim, “I know how uncomfortable this is, and I apologize in advance. But you know how…”
But then I hear the unmistakable click of her partner’s gun against my temple. “Shit!” I breathe.
I watch from the crumbling pavement as my shapely Corvette drives away. As the ivy creeps ever closer, I can’t help but think if I had my druthers, I’d rather be killed by the comic book Poison Ivy. At least Batman’s nemesis was hotter, more creative, and not nearly as itchy.