Tag Archives: community

Go Fly a Kite

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I used to like kites until the day one tried to kill me. At this point, you’re imagining a Ben Franklin experiment involving a thunderstorm and a key, but it was nothing so glamorous or so foolhardy. I was simply trying to buy a loaf of stale bread.

I had been living in Indonesia for more than two years, and I knew that the only place in town to sell bread was a tiny store on the outskirts of town. I was out of flour to bake my own, and the purchase of more meant a trip up the coast along a winding road that hugged a cliff. It was only 50 miles, but by the time you dodged goats, cows, chickens and people who sat their fannies on the actual asphalt of the highway, you had two hours invested in the venture. So until that monthly trek rolled around again on the calendar, I had to content myself with bread that did a marvelous imitation of bleached cardboard. I had just such a loaf of this striking wheat rendition in my motorcycle basket as I whizzed along through the village at the speed of baked beans.

The other thing you should know is that not only is sitting on the highway after dusk all the rave, but flying kites before dusk is also one of the more popular hobbies in a small fishing town. It falls somewhere between cleaning your day’s catch and beating a ridiculously large spider to death with a machete. If you’re between the ages of 7-14, then it’s pretty much all you do unless it’s raining.

So on this ordinary day, Wonderless Bread in custody, I was puttering along when I noticed a young lad not far ahead, standing beside the road holding a kite string. I immediately scanned the sky for the kite. Not because I wanted to ooh and aah over it, but because its location was mission critical to my journey home. Kids flew those blasted things in the road all the time, something about parents not wanting their cherubs to get swallowed up by lurking pythons in the rice paddies, and if you weren’t careful, you could run through one of those lines with your scooter. So I swiveled my head back and forth trying to find that kite. I shouldn’t have bothered because the string found my face instead. Did I mention that they use twine for kite string? I’m not sure what test it is, but I think you could land Moby Dick with it and he’d feel like a guppy.

A picture of real, honest-to-goodness, Indonesian twine

A picture of real, honest-to-goodness, Indonesian twine

So I’m still riding my scooter as twine slices across my face. You’d think survival skills would kick in at this point and I’d hit the brake, but there’s something about searing pain and panic that short-circuits my brain. I clawed frantically at the demon burrowing with the vigor of a groundhog on crack until the twine won its game of tug-of-war and pinned me right there in the middle of the street. Ever been snatched backwards off a bike doing 25mph? It makes one grouchy to say the least.

So I lay there in the street, staring at the sky and hoping that Jesus was going to appear and just take me on home to glory, but my scooter, a real go-getter by nature, went another 20 feet before falling on its sword out of respect to its felled rider. By this time a crowd of thirty or so people had gathered. No one offered to help me get up or even checked to see if I could. The kite owner was so overwrought by my near demise that he stood calmly aside, slowly wrapping up his kite twine, no doubt checking it for blood stains that could impede future flights. This is the only time in my life that I’ve ever considered throwing something at a teenager. Like my scooter.

One man finally broke the code of silence and picked up my bike and rolled it over to me. At this point I knew my bones were still intact, but my pride lay shattered in pieces that even an atom couldn’t see.

I drove home more slowly than usual. I stood in front of one of the few mirrors in my house and surveyed the burn marks across my face and throat. I have to say, it’s one of the most painful sandwiches I’ve ever made.

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Writing Tour

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If only the books in that box had my name on them ...

If only the books in that box had my name on them …

From time to time fellow bloggers will send a writing challenge your way, and I actually liked the content of this one since it involved the craft of writing. I was also threatened with seven years of bad luck if I broke the chain, so that was another powerful incentive to put fingers to the keyboard. I’d like to thank Jon Eekhoff from South of the Strait for including me on this tour. Jon is a fellow teacher down in the trenches of education, but I most appreciate his travel writing about his incredible European adventure last summer. Jon can pull you into a story and make you laugh as he offers you the good, the bad, and the hilarious of some of his perceptions. Now onto the questions!

  1. What am I working on now?

Mostly packing labels and apartment applications. And while these are only marginally less likely to land the Pulitzer than my unpublished novel, they are certainly more functional since they will provide me with a place to live and dishes to support my chicken salad after a long day at work.

My other work involves one novel, The Truth of Wishing Wells, which is a story about the disappearance of a young woman from a small, southern town, and the aftermath her husband and daughter must face as they wade through a deluge of gossip and conjecture.

I’ve also written reams of memoir about my time in Indonesia, but I don’t have enough structure to roll it through a printing press.

And then there’s my blog. Anecdotal in nature, my posts are intended to sharpen my writing skills beyond the cryptic little scribbles I make along the sides of the student essays I grade. When you spend countless hours jotting comma splice, misplaced modifier, and really? in margins, you lose the finesse of dialogue.

2. How does my work differ from others in the genre.

If I’m considering my novel, I start snarling over that word genre since many agents kicked it around to mainstream fiction. Told from a dual point of view, the daughter’s and the husband’s, it was neither young adult nor women’s so mainstream was the best sticker to put on it. When I wrote the blasted thing, I simply wrote the story that unfolded from an idea; I didn’t realize how essential it would be to pigeonhole it.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I’ve always heard to write what you know. Consequently, my settings are either small, southern towns or remote fishing villages with only one awkward, white woman for hundreds of miles. Unless you count those rude European tourists in their tank tops and blatant disregard for the local culture, which I did not. I know what it feels like to live in a fishbowl on both foreign and domestic soil, so I write accordingly.

4. How does my writing process work?

Since I’m the most consistent with my blog, I seek out post material based on the following criteria: if it was embarrassing, awkward, or downright painful, then I’ve usually got a good story to tell. If something more than a bit of humor emerges, great; but if not, then I know I have a gracious group of followers who will say, “Oh, look. Traci wrote about doing a face plant in McDonalds. Isn’t that cute?” Like.

And now to tag a couple of innocent bystanders. I nominate Rebecca White Body from Moments of Unexpected Beauty and Marian Beaman from Plain and Fancy.

Rebecca is a kindred spirit who is a former English teacher, lover of words, and craftsman at the keyboard. She shares about her life and even some of the past from her family members.

Marian is the Barnabas of bloggers. If you need a word of encouragement, stop by her blog and make a comment. She’s one interesting lady with her Plain background and Fancy conversion, and she’s one of the most gracious people you’ll meet on the internet.

Ladies, the baton is in your grasp.

Egg on my Face

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My family believed in celebrations because those always came with food. And while the food itself was scrumptious, the whole scenario of sitting around, catching up on each other’s week, and relaxing with a cup of coffee and a slice of key lime cake was the real draw that partnered well with holidays. But even my mom had limits on the merrymaking, and one of those involved the Easter Bunny.

This is the way we roll in my family ... and this is only a portion of the offerings

This is the way we roll in my family … and this is only a portion of the offerings

The Easter Bunny was a festive icon that was never embraced in the Carver household. Even as a child, I always knew that the chocolate covered marshmallow rabbits that crossed the door were the compliments of the Dollar General and never the bounty received from an overgrown hare capable of bipedal locomotion while carrying a wicker basket filled with plastic, green grass. Sure, he was cute, but as the product of an agrarian society, he was also a tough sell. I mean, come on. Rabbits don’t lay eggs, and if he was peddling stolen goods, then he would have needed the help of a raccoon or a fox since those were the miscreants that farmers had to chase out of the henhouse. Bunnies never did much more than sneak into a garden and work over your squash blooms before their time, and you didn’t see them laden with multicolored vegetables.

The origins of an Easter basket sans rabbits

The origins of an Easter basket sans rabbits

But I do remember one Easter egg hunt that lives on in that file I have marked “Childhood Memories.” It was the year I found the prize egg. As an eight year old, I was at the peak of my egg-scouting skills, since I was still childish enough to run without fear of being labeled “uncool,” and yet, I was also smart enough to realize that the best eggs weren’t going to be perched on the church sign out front. If you wanted any chance of landing that Holy Grail of poultry products, you had to be willing to crawl, to dig, and to elbow when the chaperones weren’t looking. And I wanted that prize egg in the worst way. The year before the kid who had landed the prize egg received a blow-up bunny that was almost as tall as I was. You could hold its paw and take walks with it or simply bring it along and recount your victory to all of your friends who stood there coveting your carbon dioxide friend. So you can imagine my feelings of triumph when I fought my way into the bowels of a behemoth Cedar tree and wrapped my little mitts around that champion’s egg. I clutched that plastic trophy, formerly packing for women’s pantyhose, and wiggled my way back out, a little scratched for the effort but reveling in my glee.

The moment was short-lived. When it came time to take the winner’s podium, I was informed that the prize was inside the egg itself. I cracked open that egg to find a lousy five dollar bill, and my dreams of the giant bunny died. My great prize was fated to slip through the slot in the top of my owl bank, and a part of me felt the injustice of dozens of scratches all for something as ignominious as money. Prize egg indeed.

So I think between the egg hunt and faulty logic behind the Easter bunny itself, my focus will have to remain on the spiritual aspects of the day. But I’ll still buy lots of discounted chocolate bunnies the day after.

 

© 2014 – Traci Carver