Seedling Sapling Tree: a Story in a Few Parts

Seedling, Sapling, Tree: a Story in a Few Parts

By Beth Hopkins

For my friends

Part One: Seedling

Seedling was somewhere dark and damp.  She had been there for quite a while when she felt something brush past her.

“Hello!” she called out “Who is there?”

“I am Worm,” came the voice from somewhere very near Seedling. She nearly yelped in surprise, but contained herself.

“I see,” she began, “Well, to be precise, I understand. I don’t see you a bit. It is difficult to see much of anything around here.”

“That it is, Miss,” Worm answered.

“I am Seedling Sapling Tree,” she said. She was a bit embarrassed she had forgotten to introduce herself, “Can you tell me where exactly we find ourselves?” Seedling asked Worm about this with as much politeness as she could. She was rather uncomfortable in the dark, but very grateful to have someone to talk to in such a place.

“We are Underground, Miss,” replied Worm matter-of-factly.

“Oh,” Seedling tried to sound satisfied with Worm’s answer. But she was no more enlightened than before their conversation began.

“You sure have got a lot of names, if you don’t mind my saying so, Miss,” Worm observed.

“I do indeed have a lot of names,” Seedling replied, “And I do not mind you saying so. I have wondered about it myself.”

“Well,” said Worm thoughtfully, “Perhaps you were meant to be several different things.”

Seedling laughed aloud, “Forgive me, Worm. I do not mean to laugh. But whoever heard of being more than one thing at once?”

“I’ve heard tell of it,” Worm said.

Seedling did not know what to make of this.

“Will we stay here forever, Worm?” she asked, more than a little worried about this prospect.

Worm chuckled, “Certainly not, Miss. You won’t, anyway. I’ll wager you’ll be on your way Outside before you know it.”

“Outside?” Seedling’s small voice quivered, “I’ve only just heard of Underground. I am not sure I will be ready for this Outside when it comes.”

“You will be,” Worm assured her, “You’ll be there only when you are ready, and not a day before.”

“You have a very odd way of speaking, Worm,” Seedling told him, “I have never met anyone like you.”

“And I have never met anyone with three names,” said Worm kindly.

Seedling thought for a while as Worm rustled around in what Seedling now understood to be something called Dirt. Worm had explained this to her, and he would occasionally munch on bits of the stuff as they spoke.

“Worm,” Seedling asked after a few moments, “have you been Outside?”

“Every now and again, I venture Out; when it Rains,” he said proudly.

Seedling wondered at him in silence. Worm coughed.

“Tell me about Outside, “ she asked Worm, “Tell me everything there is to know about it, if you please. I must be ready.”

“Oh, dear,” Worm replied, “I could not possibly do that.”

“And why not?” Seedling was all at once incredulous and a bit hurt.

“I am afraid no one can tell you everything there is to know,” Worm continued calmly.

“This is terrible news,” Seedling declared.

“It is not terrible, or awful, or any such word,” Worm said, in an attempt to comfort her, “It would only be terrible if everyone else except you knew everything about it there is to know. But no one seems to know very much about anything at all, from what I can tell.”

Seedling began to feel a bit better about the whole thing, and she thanked Worm.  He busied himself with Dirt for several minutes as Seedling lost herself in thought.

Suddenly, something large and wet burst right on top of her. Seedling cried out, horrified. She hoped it wouldn’t happen again. But then came another of the bursts, and another, and another.

“Worm!” Seedling shouted “Help! Worm! What is going on?”

“Calm yourself, Seedling,” Worm was gliding around her with great speed. Seedling could feel him moving the Dirt, and she knew he had not left her.

“It is just a bit of Rain,” Worm said, “I think you will find it beneficial.”

“How do you know that?” Seedling shrieked as more of the droplets burst around her, “How do you know this-this rain-won’t kill me?”

“I sincerely doubt that it will,” said Worm, “In fact, you might find you like it if you relax a bit. It might help you.”

Seedling, infuriated that she was getting soaked in what seemed to be a series of very unpredictable explosions, wanted to protest this notion with all her might. She began to doubt very much that Worm had ever been correct about anything. But she could not seem to move herself from where she sat, and Worm was so busy he had no time for chatter. Seedling had no choice but to sit, and to wait, and to die in the Rain.

But she did no such thing. She instead became used to the feel of the droplets, and how they made the Dirt soft. Seedling stilled her mind and, before she knew it, she began to reach. She reached and reached and reached, until she felt she would burst. Dirt was moving around her, and she felt the very tip top of her begin to push back against it.

“Bravo, Seedling!” she heard Worm shout, as he slid through a clod of wet Dirt before coming to a stop next to her.

“What is happening, Worm?” the frightened Seedling asked, “What have I done?”

“You are growing!” exclaimed Worm, positively delighted, “Somehow I knew that Rain would do the trick.”

“I’m beginning to think you know more than you let on,” Seedling said.

“I know some of what I see, a bit of what I hear, and a little of what I feel,” Worm replied, “And that about covers it.”

“You are a fascinating creature, Worm,” Seedling declared.

“Aren’t we all?” Worm answered.

Seedling was so content in the Dirt with Worm, she wasn’t sure Outside could be much better. Out of nowhere, an unwelcome thought began to steal away her joy until she finally gave it voice, sadly.

“Worm, whatever will I do Outside, without you to comfort me?”

Very gently, Worm stretched himself around Seedling.

“We will have one another nearby in stories and thoughts,” he told her.

Worm uncurled then, and Seedling said, “If that is so, I must have plenty more of your stories before I go.”

“But of course,” Worm said.

In the weeks that followed, Worm told Seedling of Rain, of Light and Sun, and the buzzing of Bees. All the while, Seedling spread out and grew and reached up through the Dirt.

One day, after the passing of a great storm,  Seedling felt warmth. She discovered she could look and see bits of colors and shapes; and she began to discern the Worm and the Dirt and the Underground. She started to realize that-almost without her deciding to do so- she was moving faster and faster above worm through the Underground.

“It is time, Dear Seedling!” Worm exclaimed “Time for the Outside! Farewell!”

“Goodbye, Worm! My first and dearest friend! I will hold tight to your stories!” she shouted as loud as she could, full of fear and promise and uncertainty.

In a single moment, Seedling burst from the dark. Once again, she could see nothing: she was blinded this time by light, but only for a moment.

“Good gracious!” she heard someone say, “It couldn’t be! A real live Sapling!”

At that, she blinked and flailed and gasped. All the while, she was waiting for the World to come into focus.

wintry mix : songs & poems for the season

Ever since I wrote this post, people around me have been finishing their sentences with “pa-rum-pa-pum-pum” and attempting to “celebrate me” places. In an effort to stem and turn such unforgiving tides, I come bearing gifts.

Here are 3 original poems, with 3 songs interspersed. I wrote the poems; they are meant to stand independent of the songs, as a series of short vignettes, with winter as the common backdrop and inspiration for all of them in some way.

[**Please note that a poet and a biographer are not always the same thing. But that every poem I write is, in some way, deeply personal.]

I.

Your sweater is here on the chair

Just as you left

Arms dangling

With no one to hold

I shiver and ignore it

A needle tickles vinyl gently

Scraping away at memories

Treble clefs evaporate

Like smoke from cigarettes

I leave lights on to fall asleep

Clasping hands together

As if in prayer

I stroll with you

Through deep woods and dreams

To talk for hours about

The world we belong in

You kiss me and I remember

The scratch of worn wool

Your affinity for argyle

And the winter we never had


II.

You and I build men of snow

Crafting with care each rounded belly

And bosom and head

One atop the other

While we discuss the finer points

Of coal eyes and modern warfare

Rushing inside with pink cheeks

I realize I love the way you look

For carrots and buttons

Pressing them together in our palms

We make our noses touch

And consider the merits of igloos

III.

Herald angels sing

By the fireplace

Warming their hands

Discerning foreign tongues

And the contents of casseroles

A sleeping child in their midst

Whose hands once cradled

The rising stars


Untitled

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The angel on her shoulder

He gave up and went

The devil stuck around

Till his patience was spent

And she sat there alone

On her living room floor

Wondering if she could ever be sure

Because if it ain’t broke

Then it don’t need fixing

But what can you do

If the pieces go missing

The night was too quiet

The day was too loud

Everyone else had her

All figured out

So she swallowed her pills

And she wrote some things down

And she waited until her heart didn’t pound

Yes if it ain’t broke

Then it don’t need fixing

But what can you do

If the pieces go missing

Awake and alone

She stared at the clock

The only face left

And it wouldn’t talk

The ceilings said nothing

And nor did the floors

They all held their breath for a knock on the door

Saying If it ain’t broke

Then it don’t need fixing

But what can you do

If the pieces go missing

She read about someone

Who fell off a wall

Who couldn’t be put

Back together at all

Her heart lay in pieces

All over again

As she fell asleep dreaming of all the king’s men

Singing If it ain’t broke

Then it don’t need fixing

But what can you do

If the pieces go missing

©bah10

aBc

i have been spending the evening chipping away at  a chapter for the Messengers that is proving particularly bothersome to work through. rather than let writer’s block completely overtake me, i have decided to indulge my whimsy. here are some things i like. in alphabetical order. or alphabethical order, if you please. in order to trick you into reading all the way through it, i have placed what i am pretty sure is the Most Adorable Video Ever Made at the bottom of this post. but don’t scroll down and cheat. cheaters aren’t as pretty as honest folks. there are studies.

a is for animaniacs: my favorite cartoon

b is for buttered popcorn: yes, i would like extra.

c is for coloring: with crayons, preferably

d is for dogs: i know that is not entirely original, but it is entirely true. i love dogs.

e is for elizabeth bennett: the jane austen character that i (wish i was the) most like

f is for friendly jugglers: specifically the one in london who paid my bus fare

g is for giraffe: my favorite animal, an animal whose kick happens to be able to DECAPITATE A LION

h is for high fives: watch the other person’s elbow, you’ll never miss one again.

i is for ice cream: plain chocolate is my favorite. perhaps that makes me a purist. but not a plainist.

j is for jeepers: because i use that and other retro words in common speech

k is for kaleidoscopes: oooh, mesmerizing.

l is for lowercase letters: they are friendlier than capitals.

m is for mustaches: not just for absolute and total creepers anymore.

n is for noodly entrees: particularly ones covered in alfredo or other creamy sauces.

o is for o: damien rice’s first album; listen to it right now. you truly do not have anything better to do.

p is for pacifists: they are foxy.

q is for queueing: my favorite way to refer to one of my least favorite activities.

r is for restless: because i’m an insomniac who wants to know where to go in life. double whammy.

s is for silly goose: i am one. that is a metaphor.

t is for tennessee: where my heart is. that is also a metaphor. and a truth.

u is for uncooked fish: + seaweed+ rice = delicious

v is for very hungry caterpillar: i am not one. however, it is the first book i can remember being my favorite.

w is for wilde: if only he had been alive a century later (and had liked girls)

x is for xylophone: my niece plays the little-kid version like a punk rock drummer. hecks yes.

y is for you: you are a dandy.

z is for zip: a character in my first full length children’s story. he also happens to be a robot.

Time Out (a Poem)

I was too shy to hold your hand

To figure out if our fingers fit together

Like gears in a clock

My hopes would click and spin

And whirl around and chime

My heart would tick and tock

When you smiled

But we ran out of time

I was too quiet to tell you that

I waited by the phone for you to call

To walk with me to the dining hall

Half past six would come and go

Overcooked meat and curly fries

Got cold as I would watch your eyes

But we ran out of time

I was too young to understand so you

Were in my best laid plans

Spread out as far as the eye can see

As far as I knew it was you

And me and we were going to always be

But we ran out of time

You were too soon

In leaving me behind for things

That I would never see or smell or taste

Or hear or have the reach to touch

Things in a world that weighed too much

We tried to listen and talk and such

And tell each other that things would all be fine

But we ran out of time

It’s been too long

Since I have heard your voice

The fragile words that held your heavy choice

Like sand within the glass you slipped away

From me so fast

I tried to rub away the past

To wipe you from my heart at last

To clear you finally from my mind

Once and for all and to be free at last

But I ran out of time

– BAH (15 July 2010)

the Messengers: Chapters 4-5

Author’s Note:

Not unlike the doting mother who supports their  gawky son or daughter at an American Idol audition, several of you have been following my blog for a while. I very grateful for this, and I am here to report that your fortitude has been rewarded- assuming you consider my continuing to write more rewarding than punitive.

Sometime last fall, I began a story called the Messengers. In short, it is a contemporary fantasy about two ordinary neighbors who receive strange, identical letters. Upon reading them, they find themselves in an altogether different world, on a mysterious mission. The story also profiles other characters from within this new world, who are heroes and villains in their own right.

After writing the first chapter, it became clear that the Messengers would be longer than what myself- and those who support me- are accustomed to. So, it took the form of a serial.

After a long dormition, it is high time to revisit this little adventure in hopes that more will join me, and that I will be able to follow it through to completion. I wanted to include the links to the previous chapters along with this brief explanation, so you could get caught up.

Chapters One and Two

Chapter Three

I would suggest reading the chapters in order, as this is the way stories usually work. Plus, I tend to jump from one character to another when the chapters change, so reading them out of sequence might mean you miss out on an entire character, not to mention having a considerably harder time following the storyline.

Please note this is a story for adults. I hope you find it worth the extra time it may take to read; may you stick around along with me to see what happens next.

Without further ado,  here are Chapters 4 and 5. I do hope you enjoy. You may safely expect more to come soonish.

*

Four

There were only a few things Liem could remember about the day things fell apart. He remembered being twelve years old. He remembered his mother had been making a stew in the kitchen. And he remembered being in the garden.

He loved the garden. It was shabby and wilted. It always wanted water, but it was his. Liem was strong for his age and had no problem plowing and digging, but his greatest pleasure was in the planting itself. He relished the feel of the soft, cool earth between his fingers. He would place a seed gently in the ground, and move dirt over it with his hands. To watch him, you would think he was afraid to wake it.

Liem spent countless hours scrutinizing the tiny green leaves when they first peeked out at him through the thick, black dirt; he never tired of it. He marveled at the new life each time it emerged from the soil, bursting without fear into the great beyond.

He was daydreaming when he first realized the scream he heard was his mother. He didn’t even take time to set down the shovel. Charging into the house, he saw her on the floor, cowering in the corner. Her skirts were raised and she was surrounded by a group of men, armed and vicious. They were forcing themselves on her, one after the other, and beating her with their fists. And Liem realized he could no longer hear her screaming.

He felt frozen, as if his very blood was turning to ice. His eyes were in the same moment void of feeling and completely furious. His stomach seemed to flip over and he wanted to wretch.

“Leave her be!” he shouted, trembling.

All the eyes in the room turned to him.

“Get the little brat,” came a voice from somewhere in the calamity.

Liem didn’t even realize his arms were moving until he heard the dull thud of the shovel across the head of one of the thugs, who fell to the ground in a heap. He gripped the handle tighter. He swung harder, in every direction. One swing for each thing he had loved about his mother. One by one they fell. He felt something warm on his hands

I had just wanted, he thought, to plant her some flowers.

Liem said aloud, “Mother”, and was no longer brave.

He fell to his knees. The shovel clattered to the floor

He reached for his mother. She was all too still. That’s when he saw something green and glowing, resting in her open hand. It was small and round, dangling from a chain of gold. He took it and put it on. The light dimmed.

It felt like hours, but it was really only a moment before a figure darkened the doorway. Liem looked up, into his piercing green eyes. The stranger surveyed the room: he followed the trail of blood, mingled with hate and anguish, to the boy with the strong hands and the tear-stained face.

“Take him with us,” said the stranger, “he may be useful”.

Liem opened his eyes. Ten years had passed, but the nightmares came now more than ever. He wiped the cold sweat from his brow and slid out of bed. Carefully, he crossed the halls and moved about the stairwells; descending until the moonlight vanished. He found a torch and continued through a narrow hallway. They were quiet now, most of them sleeping; the heavy sleep of the confined. From a few of the cells he passed he heard sobs, from others prayers.

From one, a song.

He had discovered her songs pacing the prison halls one sleepless night, and he found himself returning to hear them nearly every night, after the terrors of his past woke him. Something in her gentle refrains quieted his soul. He thought of how weak she had been in his arms when she fell. He thought of her fearful eyes, and wondered how they were still so bright and blue.

The amulet around his neck glowed a deep, emerald green.

His hands rested on the latch that kept her in darkness.

“Morning will come,” he whispered.

It was all at once a fact and a promise.

Five

There was no storm. There was no city. They were alone, in the middle of a forest clearing. Sarah looked at her bare feet, remembering her shoes were on the floor of John’s apartment, a world away.

“Do you think this is a dream?” he asked her.

“I sure hope so,” she said.

“Sorry about your shoes,” John said. He looked at his own feet. His sneakers were a little big for Sarah’s feet, but he slipped them off and handed them to her.

“It’s the least I can do for being partially responsible for your being sucked into some kind of alternate dimension.”

Sarah laughed and thanked him for the sneakers. Tying them, she looked up at John. He was pacing the clearing and avoiding eye contact.

She walked over to him. Placing her hand on his shoulder, she said, “This isn’t your fault. It isn’t yours or mine or anyone’s. We just took a chance and now we’re here.”

John nodded. He sighed. After a moment, he looked at Sarah and said, “Do you still have the letter?”

On the ground rested one of the letters, face down. The other letter was nowhere in sight. It had been lost somewhere between Life as They Knew It and Now.

Sarah turned the paper over in her hand.

“It’s gone,” she said.

“What’s gone?” John turned toward her.

“The message we read at first. There is a new one now, “ she said.

“What does it say?” he said, with more than a little hesitation.

Sarah read a single word aloud:

Proceed

In that instant, the ground rumbled and shook. The brush and branches before them parted; it was as if the very foliage was giving them permission to pass. They exchanged a bewildered glance.

“Can’t argue with that,” Sarah said.

Laughing, her neighbor shrugged his shoulders and pulled half his mouth into a smile. He stepped carefully onto the path, wondering to himself about the durability of his socks. Though he thought he would look odd strolling through the woods in green argyles, he was not adventurous enough for bare feet.

At a given moment, the path stretched no more than a few yards in front of them. Before they could step off the end of the path, the ground and grass would sputter and shift, keeping them on course.

“I wonder how far we’re supposed to go,” he said.

Sarah shook her head. Answers, words, and understanding were all eluding her. John didn’t seem to mind, or notice. They proceeded in an awkward, heavy silence for a while.

John was the first to speak, “Do you think we will ever get back home?”

“God knows,” Sarah said, “I don’t know what I’ll do if we do get back.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, my job, for one,” she said, “My boss has no patience for me missing work.”

John felt a pang of guilt and attempted to nod knowingly.

“No job, no money, no rent,” she trailed off.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “If I hadn’t pushed you to open your letter—“

“I wouldn’t be here,” she watched his eyes avert before she continued, “I would be sitting in a cubicle alone, answering phones, living a perfectly predictable life.”

John smiled; he could feel his cheeks flush. Sarah patted him on the back.

They almost strolled through the unfamiliar woods. Either they had forgotten the oddity of the path, or they were resigned to trusting that it knew where to take them.

“And what would you be doing?” she asked him, lightly, “If we weren’t on this little expedition.”

“Skipping work, smoking too many cigarettes, painting. “

“Painting?”

“Yeah,” he said, feeling sheepish, “I work in an office, pushing paper. I don’t even really know what I do, honestly. And every few weeks, when I feel myself drowning in that stuff, I call in sick. And I stay home and paint.”

Sarah’s eyes lit up. “That’s amazing. I hope to see them someday—your paintings, I mean.”

“Of course,” John said, a bit embarrassed. He had never shown his paintings to anyone before, but he wanted her to see them, too.

He looked over at her and felt at ease for the first time since sipping his morning coffee. He wasn’t even sure how long ago that had been. He sighed, closing his eyes for a moment, hoping he would open them and be looking at his dirty kitchen floor. They snapped open when Sarah yelped. He turned to find her on the ground, clutching her foot.

“The path ran out,” she said, “I wasn’t looking. I stepped on something.”

John knelt down beside her, gently lifting her right foot. Something sharp and metallic had pierced his flimsy canvas shoe. It was roughly the shape of a nail, but broader, with a square base. John looked at Sarah apologetically. She was wincing from the pain.

“You may hate me for a moment, but I’m going to have to pull it out,” John said.

Sarah nodded. She closed her eyes and held her breath.

John closed his hand around the base of the strange object and pulled, hard and straight. It slid back through the shoe, with some abruptness. Sarah cried out, as much in pain as in relief that John was able to remove it on the first try.

“Sorry,” he said, “Here, let me help you.”

“Thank you,” she smiled at him, wiping some stray tears.

John carefully removed the shoe. Unbuttoning his over shirt, he took it off and wrapped it around Sarah’s foot. When the makeshift bandage was secure, he asked her, “Do you want to keep going? If you need to, we can rest here a moment.”

“No, that’s alright. Something tells me we should keep on,” Sarah looked gingerly at the pointed metal shard in her hand,  “What shall we do with this? Keep it is a memento?”

“I suppose so,” John said, “Here, I have pockets.” He wrapped it in a handkerchief and placed it in his back pocket. Then removed the letter, which he had put there at the start of the path.

“What do we do now? What does it say?”

John took a deep breath and read:

Part

Their eyes met, afraid for one another. The thick grasses, bushes, and brambles cleared away around them. And there where they stood, the path divided.

the ballad of icarus

Hey all , here is a brand new poem! Who knows if WP will preserve my formatting? It rarely does! But I hope you enjoy, nonetheless.

Row, row, row your boat

Down the stream of Consciousness

Crying out like Paul Revere

Something’s coming

Find your bliss

Hold your hands out for the lemons

Life is bound to hand to you

Leave them lying at your feet

Cause you have better things to do

Like close your eyes

Close your eyes

To dream of flying

Take the pills and listen

To the things the experts have to say

Save it with your favorite songs

To use up on a rainy day

Pick the flowers from the yard

And place them there behind your ear

I want to set a whisper there

But you must do this first to hear

So close your eyes

Close your eyes

To dream of flying

Icarus fell to the earth

With ego bruised, afraid and burned

They asked him “Friend, what can you share?

What should we do? What have you learned?”

He said that life had humbled him

That was the truth, that much he knew

“When you feel that all is lost,

There’s only one thing you can do”

Just close your eyes

Close your eyes

To dream of flying

Yes, close your eyes.

Close your eyes

And dream of flying

June 6, 2010