Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fronda of the Plains, Part 2

Once Lance had wrapped the tiny bones in sagebrush and sweetgrass, he carried the bundle inside and placed it in a cardboard box, a shoebox he’d emptied of screws, widgets, and razor blades. The bonnet that had come with Fronda he placed gently on the green mound in the center of the box, and he put the box on the windowsill. “Now you can look outside and watch the tumbleweeds,” he said. He stood there before the window, his hands holding either side of the box, head bowed. “Fronda, travel well into the deadlands,” he said. “May your journey be peaceful and your rest be sweet.” That much he remembered from some prayer he’d heard once, when an Indian girl had died over on the reservation. He wiped a last tear from his rugged cheek and lifted his head. He released the box, and lifted his arms – and, with a growl, turned on his heel away from the window and towards the cabin door.

Holding his arms, his hands, up to the light that blared in through that opening, he growled again, “And now I’m-a-gonna catch me the bastards that done this. And when I catch ‘em, they’re a-gonna wish they never had a taste for the sweetest flesh that ever graced a bushy-tailed baby. I’m a-gonna rip out their sinful, gluttonous tongues and then I’m a-gonna ignore their tongueless calls for mercy. I’m a-gonna kill them twelve ways dead! They won’t forget, even when they’re a-crossin’ the river Lethe into Hell. I’ll send them to a special Hell, where big strong men who eat delicate beauties such as Fronda go to suffer. Where they are ripped and ground up, over and over again, by nasty giant molars, in huge smelly mouths. They will suffer!”

And he took his head in his hands and crumpled to the floor, muttering. “Who could it be – who could have done it – who in all the lord’s creation could be so terrible? Who? Could it have been Old Patch-Britches what lives down near the crick? He likes him some squirrel flesh. But he would never cross me, no, he learned that way back. Elvira, the crazy cat lady? No, she don’t cook her food, just swallows it up all whole and sometimes still kickin’. Now think, Lance! Think…now… those feathers in the cinders, sticking up in the cinders, that’s a strange thing, some kinda creepy ritual thing. That’s like some kinda gang work. That gang, that gang what wears ‘em the funny headgear! Them guys where’n you cain’t see their faces! Who knows what they get up to out here in the country! That’s it! Musta been them! But how do you find ‘em, when they’re not a-wearin’ that funny headgear? Think, Lance, think!”

He sat there crumpled up on the dusty floor, rocking and holding his head, muttering to himself. The day turned hotter and brighter, light poured in through the door, he sweated where he sat and muttered, muttered, and rocked, and after awhile the light got less, and yellower, and oranger, and when at last the first streaks of pink entered the square of sky framed by the rough wood of the door, he stood, quietly. He gathered a few things – matches, a pan, a hunk of bread, his canteen, his bedroll, and a bottle of golden brown hooch – and stuffed them in his saddlebags. He picked up a cinder from inside the wood oven and wrote on the wall under the windowsill, where Fronda’s little box sat, “HERE LIES FRONDA. REST IN PEACE. SHE WAS LOVED BY A LAWMAN. HE HAS GONE TO AVENGE HER. BEWARE ANY WHO CROSS HIM.”

And saddlebags over his shoulder, he went through the rough wood frame door of the shadowy cabin, the door which had framed the violet and pink evening he now stepped into, whistling for his horse.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Twisted Shakespeare Fall '07

video

And this is the production from Fall of this year, when Peggy and I worked with 3rd graders. (See last post for details.)

Twisted Shakespeare Spring '08

video

This is what I've been working on all week... These are plays by kids we work with at PS10 in Brooklyn. My co-teacher Peggy Stafford and I work with 4th graders to write, produce, and illustrate radio plays.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Fronda of the Plains, Part 1

A Lance Lawman story, by Gimp Pecosa


Lance woke early, fingers of hot sun poking through the chinks in the mortar and prodding him to “get up, get up, see to what needs seeing to.” It was going to be another scorcher, he thought, as he dragged himself out of his sweaty burlap sheets and damp mattress-ticking, and up and out the cabin door. Blinded by the sun, whose force was more like a mean left hook than a poke now, he staggered across the yard to the water trough. He scooped up a handful of tepid water and threw it over his sweat-greasy face. “What a way to enter the waking world,” he thought, and said, to no-one in particular, “My aunt Beatrice, but it’s dang hot today!”

As his eyes began to adjust to the nuclear brightness of the Texas morning sun, he looked out over the plain and wished, for the thousandth time, that the tiny cottonwoods he had planted on the edge of the paddock were higher than his knee. He wished for trees – any kind of tree: birch, maple, oak, willow, it didn’t matter, so long as it stood solid, large and proud against the sun and cast its sweet cool shadow over him. But instead, the bald horizon stared back at him, curving downward like an angry mouth. He kicked the bare ground and winced at the little plume of dust that rose there. Then he turned and started back to the cabin, stopping to relieve himself against a fencepost, cursing the lack of trees again.

As he let his stream go, as it hit the dust and sent little whirls of dust and steam up into the hot air, he looked around the bare paddock. And something – there, right by the edge, by the baby cottonwoods – caught his eye. A pile of blackened brushwood, cinders. Had someone built a fire – right here, on his property, while he slept? He tucked himself in and went to investigate.

It was indeed a pile of cinders, surrounded by a well of footprints, marking a distinct circular pattern. There were three feathers stuck standing straight up in the middle of the cinders – marking the spot where a tiny skeleton, bits of flesh still clinging to its tiny ribcage, lay – or rather stood, posed as if it were sitting up, head perched on top with rather a lot of blackened skin and hair still covering it. Some kind of rodent. As big as Lance’s big hammy hand, with sharp teeth and little claws and – “Oh god!” Lance uttered, almost realizing it – “Oh my god! A squirrel!” – and he turned on his heel and beat it back to the cabin, double-time.

“FRONDA!” he cried, as he ran. “Fronda! Baby, are you there? Little Fronda, my little Fronda!” – and burst back into the gloomy cabin, where he shook his head, trying to make his eyes adjust, as he stumbled toward the corner. There stood a willow-bark cage. Empty, as empty as his tobacco-tin piggy bank, as empty as the promise of Cherry, the beautiful girl who had first brought Fronda to him in a basket lined with linen cloths, a tiny bonnet on the squirrel’s little furry head. “I’ll be back for her soon,” Cherry had said, “I promise. And when I come back there’s something in it for you too, you big hunk of lawman.” That was a year ago, and since then he’d gone to the general store every week to get the pecans Fronda liked, had lined her cage with fresh grass, and had told her all his stories, his joys, fears, and sorrows. And he had dreamt of Cherry night after night, and sometimes in the dreams Cherry had little dark eyes like Fronda’s, and she nestled against him with the same little soft burrowing motions that Fronda made.

And now Fronda was gone. Gone forever, irreversibly gone. An ache started deep in Lance’s chest and swelled and swelled up, up to his throat, his mouth – and he opened his mouth and released a cry, an inhuman sound, a wounded animal bringing the dark matter of his pain out into the sunlight, a wrenching, grating syllable: “NOOOOOOOO!”

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

[An] Historical Day, Chosen

coming into Pittsburgh 5am
train from Cleveland
hills plume down lit yellow
into the valley itself blue neon:
history, federated (green)