Friday, August 9, 2013

Drunken Hook-Up at the Family Reunion (not as incestuous as it sounds!)

The ginormous and amazing Cumming's Reunion took place last weekend (I'm getting to this blog a bit late!) at the Lewis and Clark Resort in Kamiah, ID.  I didn't know that there was a such a place as Kamiah until we were sent the invites for the reunion.  As it turns out this is a teeny, tiny little town along the Clearwater River about an hour past Lewiston, ID on Highway 12.  When we first drove into town we saw a huge sign for the Resort and right after the sign was a little pull off which led into the most backwater, piece-of-shit, rundown, tornado alley wannabe, hicksville trailer park.  Did I mention it was a bit shabby?  I told Hannah that if that was the resort then we were turning the car around right then and there and heading back to Moscow and spending the weekend with the twins and my cousin!  We drove around the whole town (which took about three minutes) and found a gas station.  A big old guy who looked me up like 'you are not familiar and therefore I presume you are dangerous' came to the counter.  He told me that the resort was two miles out of town past town.  I was thrilled that he hadn't pointed in the direction of the trailer park.

This was the REAL resort.  Much better.
We headed on toward the resort and when we got there I was still in a semi foul mood.  Not enough sleep... no enough gluten... whatever it was, I was just an angst ball.  After we got all settled and met up with my mom and aunt, we went to the auction.  Somewhere along the way I'd decided to overcome my sourness and just shut up and have a good time and so I did.  The auction was fun and I happened to have twenty bucks in cash on me so I bid on a few things and ended with two homemade dishcloths, a kerosene lantern, and a quiche dish.  The last one of these, sadly, lived only about thirty minutes in my care.  When we got back to the hotel room, Hannah accidentally sent it to a shattered death when she knocked it off the table.  Because of my awful mood prior she thought that I would be all kinds of mad.  Honestly I was actually pretty amused!  We cleaned it up and didn't worry too much over it.  

Perhaps the best part of the auction wasn't even winning.  The best part came when Joyce, one of ladies in charge of the genealogical and historical records for the family, handed me a binder and asked me to put Hannah in there as my significant other, "because she's part of the history of this family and should be in here."  Earlier my mom had asked if Hannah should be put into the tree as my partner and someone said that 'no, we don't like to put in significant others unless there's a child.'  I made some comment along the lines of, 'that ain't happening,' and just sort of shrugged it off.  Yes, Hannah and I would love to adopt or even carry babies with a little help from a sperm bank, but as far as 'bloodline' babies that would make Hannah connected to the family tree - well that isn't really a possibility.  BUT!  I guess the genealogy ladies had a little meeting about it, because there came Joyce, with a pen and a paper, asking me to put in Hannah's full name and an anniversary date (October 13, 2007).  Hannah and I nearly cried.  It felt like we were getting married almost and it made us both so much more relaxed at the reunion.  It didn't matter now if we held hands or gave a little kiss - she was part of the family.  Period.  

That night we went to a masquerade party with a New Orleans theme.  We drank some punch that took us from sober to drunk in two cups.  We sang Happy Birthday to one of the matriarch's who turned 80 over the weekend.  We hooted and hollered and huggled and found some wine to add to our punch drunkenness.  Soon we were 'three sheets to the wind' as some might say.  Wasted, I would say.  Pissed, the British would say.  Then came a game of Family Feud and since my number hadn't been drawn to represent the Cumming's clan, Hannah and I decided to sneak off for a few.  We giggled and looked at the stars - curiously they were moving in a circular pattern as we walked - and finally we made it back to the room.  It has never been more difficult to clean off a bed in my life.  My arms were all lead and my body was all string beans on wire, I was a stupid, horny, marionette, and I felt so ridiculously naughty.  

Yeah, it was kind of like that...
I've had a few drunken tumbles in the past (just make outs and a little fooling around) but never anything like this.  After nearly six years with Hannah, we finally did the dumb teenager thing and had a whirlwind of sloppy, gin-sweat, half-clothed, completely irresponsible sex!  It was over quickly (or we thought it was anyway, but we were so drunk that it could have been hours for all we knew).  

So loud... so very loud...
By the time we found clothes and straightened up our hair and got out asses back to the party at the Powwow Room, the Family Feud was over and so was the costume and mask contest.  People were slowly making their way back to their tents, cabins, and resort rooms - most of them rosy cheeked and glassy eyed.  We spent some time with mom and my aunt and then struck up a conversation with a family member whom I can't remember the name of and shared cute cat stories.  We got home again - holding each other tightly as the stars were still doing that swirly thing, silly stars - and then I cuddled mom and went on and on and on about everything.  Hannah played sober.  She edited pictures on her computer while I did the lovey, drunk thing.  I went outside for a bit and buzzed around a little cluster of old ladies (my aunt included) all chattering at each other.  While I don't recall what they talked about very clearly, I know that I laughed much louder than necessary and also made friends with a large beetle.  

The next day we smiled privately, adorable shame coloring out expressions, as we ate breakfast with the family.  I am somewhat amazed that we didn't have hangovers.  My mother and aunt stayed to take part in the family meeting but Hannah and I headed out fairly early.  We wanted to get home and relax before the work week and the barrage of homework took over once more.  On the way back we pulled over and took a ton of pictures of the river and whatever else caught our eye.  My favorite little detour was near Orofino.  We took Old Highway Idaho 7 and drove up to the base of the Dworshak Dam.  There were all sorts of scary signs posted that said 'we own your soul if you go past this point' and 'the first rule of the Dworshak Dam is to never talk about the Dworshak Dam.'  You get the idea.  So we took a picture or two and hightailed it back to safer territory (safer is a term I use loosely since the best kept sign in Orofino is an ad for 'Saw Sharpening').  

We only got to see the concrete side.  I had wondered if the water went all the way to the top and apparently it does. What a fierce looking reservoir!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Someone to Kill; Creative Excerpt from Packet 1 - Semester 2

     “I don’t think I need to practice,” the boy said and raised an eyebrow at his mentor. “I’ve been killing since I was ten.”
     “No. You have not.” Roy Kim came around behind the boy and set a thick cloak about his shoulders.
     “Yes, I have.”
     "No, what you did in the arena was fighting. It was surviving. Today, however, you will be killing.”
     With a groan, the boy wrapped himself up in the cloak insulating himself from the bitter chill he knew awaited them outside in the night. He wiped his nose with his sleeve and muttered, “I don’t see the difference.”
     “It’s not something you can see. But you’ll feel it.” Roy Kim opened the door and gestured for his pupil to go first but the boy stepped back. Something about the dark still unsettled him. His mentor frowned, opened his mouth but closed it without saying anything. There was nothing to say. Roy pulled his own cloak tight about his chest and took off without looking back. The boy, of course, charged after him.
     Their feet crunched the freshly fallen snow as they marched to the dungeons. The boy sniffled and wiped his nose again. Every little noise seemed enlarged, even the sound of his breath. The whistle of his nostrils screamed his existence into the darkness with more effrontery than even his footfalls. He shivered, not from cold. He didn’t want the dark to know he was there. Opening his mouth wide, he breathed silently, puffing out little wisps of fog from lungs that felt half their regular size. When they reached the dungeon, the boy resisted an impulse to reach forward and grab hold of Roy Kim’s cloak. Somewhere above them a cloud shifted and let out the moon. In the silver glow, they descended together, and yet alone, down the stone and mortar steps, polished by decades of heavy and constant tread.
     At ground level, North City was modern and convenient – civilized – and hummed with the pulse of electricity, mildly in some places and fiercely in others. Down below, however, in this pit, there was nothing to speak of civilization, no lights flickering, no sweet smells that came from bottles or ovens, no hum of electricity. But sometimes there were moans. And screams.
     Though the boy had never witnessed the Keeper at work, he knew the vibration of pain and had felt it coming from this place many times. It was quiet now and still, but echoes were often quiet and still, repeating infinitely into nothing and yet never really disappearing. All the echoes of his life seemed to converge in this place and sweat formed on his cold brow.
     The dungeon was as primal as it was familiar. It was the arena sans hope. Blood and straw for a carpet, unyielding steel bars and rusted hinges, the blemish of slipshod construction and perfume of human waste, blood, decomposition. Along the wall was a table smeared with gore, a torture altar, which the Keeper had yet to clean. The boy squinted to see but there was not enough light. Large square grates situated within the earthen ceiling let in just enough moonlight to soften the darkness, but not enough to discern detail. Roy Kim lit a fire lantern and, as the room came into greater focus, the boy took note of the slender icicles dangling from the crisscrossing metal of the grates above them. Like teeth aching to bite down, they all pointed at the cells, all thirsted for the blood of the condemned. And they were stained red in the firelight.
     “Do you want to choose, or should I?” Roy Kim asked and hung the lantern from a hook that had been stuck into the wall. Whether the hook had been placed there for this purpose or for something much worse, the boy did not know.
    “It’s too cold for this,” the boy said.
     “Then choose quickly.”
     The boy let out a long sigh and stepped closer to the cells. At first he couldn’t see anything beyond a smattering of rags that somehow formed a quilt, but then he perceived the faint outlines of a body – slender, all but sexless – and the wiry tell-tale tresses of a female’s hair. White, trembling fingers tugged at the tattered blanket, higher and higher until she’d covered her face. A weird warmth surged through him and pricked his ears like needles. She was just a little girl. Or the lantern was playing a trick on him.
     “I will,” he whispered and looked down the long line of cells. The prisoners had been allotted blankets but the thin shreds did not make them any less naked in his eyes. His pupils dilated with fire and he saw arms, legs, hips, and breasts, everything alluring and frightening. For a moment he forgot Roy Kim. Forgot the icicles. Forgot to breathe. So many women, all of them laying, curling in on themselves, shivering and seeming to deteriorate under his gaze. A few were asleep, but they might have been dead for all the boy knew. In one cell there were two women and they held each other, one sobbing silently onto the other’s chest until their shared blanket shuddered and slid down her back. He stiffened. Did women bleed the same color as men? Her skin was so pale, even under the glow of the lantern, that it didn’t seem possible for red to lie beneath.
     “Don’t get too excited. They’ll all be naked when they come to you.” Roy Kim touched the boy’s shoulder and squeezed hard. It was not enough to bring him back from the shadowy clefts of the woman’s shoulder blades.
     “So you’ve made your decision,” Roy Kim said and the boy’s guts churned.
     “No.” He shrugged away from his mentor and went further down the corridor until the lantern light became an echo and darkness returned to obscure the outlines of breasts and devour provocative shadows. Later he would wonder why so many of the prisoners of North City were women and he would punish himself for the things he had felt while looking at them.
     Where were all the boys? Still in the arena and dying without any help from him. There were a few men in the dungeon, but they were old and beaten down, upsetting to look at and unthinkable to kill. Finally he came upon a male prisoner who possessed an air of life about him. Finally here was something the boy could snuff out. The man sat cross-legged at the back of his cell with his blanket draped over him like a cloak. As the boy drew nearer, the man rolled his muscle swollen shoulders, dropping the blanket, revealing a powerful thickness that the dungeon’s atmosphere had yet to extinguish. Cloaked in shadow now, the man seemed gigantic, his neck like a bundle of sticks all knotted and firm, his body like an animal’s covered in thick patches of hair which shone golden even in the darkness. He watched the boy and bristled. Pick me, he said with his eyes. Pick me and I’ll make you bleed before the end. It was exactly what the boy wanted. He stood before the cell and gripped the freezing bars.
     “This one.”
     “Not him,” Roy Kim said.
     The boy’s warm flesh made an awful sound when he ripped his fingers from the steel and turned to face his mentor. “But you told me to pick someone.”
     “Yes. Someone to kill. Not to fight. You’re going about this all wrong.” He frowned and looked away a moment, a single calloused fingertip stroking at an eyebrow, grooming it compulsively. He probably didn’t even realize he was doing it. There were volumes of wisdom within Roy Kim’s black irises and, as he looked upon his pupil once more, they swallowed the boy entirely and left no room for understanding. The boy was used to it. This world was too dark for some kinds of knowledge.
     “This was you’re idea in the first place,” the boy said and pressed his hands together, rubbing them, warming them. He glanced in at the prisoner and read disappointment in his ruffled golden fur. There had been a silent promise made between them and now it lay broken for reasons neither of them understood. Stalking along the cells, now, the boy searched for a sacrifice to appease the Lord, but he was Cain and the only thing he had to offer was rotting fruit.
     “Him,” he said at last and pointed to a male not much older than himself. At first glance it had been difficult to tell the sex of the shivering thing in the corner, but the hair was short and the limbs were long. It was too gangly to be a girl. And too sickly to put up a challenge. Filthy bangs hid the thing’s pale face. A single red rimmed eye looked out from the matted locks, and it held no resistance. Just fear. Surely Roy Kim could see that. Or not.
     “You really don’t get the point of this,” his mentor sighed.
     “Why? What’s wrong with this one?”
     “Look at him.” Roy Kim gripped his pupil’s arm and pressed him close to the bars. “Look at his hands.”
     “I’ve killed lots of boys who were missing fingers,” he said, “the arena was full them.” Counting on impulse, he saw that this particular boy was down to five digits between both hands and none of these were thumbs. He eased Roy Kim’s fingers from about his arm and then took a step back to regard his mentor. “You told me to pick and I did. I’m done playing this game.”
     “This boy is a shell,” Roy Kim said, “He wants to die.”
     “Then I’ll help him along.”
     “No,” he said, “that would be mercy and it’s not your place to show mercy. You are not God. You’re not the Luminary. Mercy is for them to decide. You are just a tool through which their mercy might be carried out. You kill. Do you understand? You don’t pick fights. You don’t sympathize. You don’t give them what they want. You just kill. And that’s what I want you to do tonight. But if it’s that too difficult a task for you, I can always find another arena boy to train. ”
     The boy swallowed hard and stared at his feet. His throat filled with fire and his fingers twitched until they’d curled like dead spider legs retracting toward the palm with each jerk until he’d made two fists. Useless fists. When he’d been a fledgling in the arena, his mentors had told him that humiliation was a greater teacher than failure and this became the basis of their curriculum. He had survived in the end and he supposed they were right. Roy Kim, however, rarely resorted to such tactics and the infrequency with which they had been employed acted like a whetstone, sharpening the words so that they could peel the boy’s flesh in just a few short stabs. For a moment he was naked, an equal to the condemned in their cells. In that moment, he hated his mentor. Everything was a lesson. Everything was a test. The boy couldn’t even cut his meat without black eyes on him, watching and sizing up the motion of his wrist. Lesson, lesson, lesson was exhausting on the best of days and just then, in the dungeon, it was excruciating.
     And what was the lesson? This wasn’t the first time Roy Kim had spoken harshly to him, but it was the first time he’d been so blatantly spiteful, and the first time there had been an audience. Perhaps that was the lesson. A reminder that from now on there would be no privacy. There would be eyes looming over every failure and reprimand. It was the arena all over again, but worse, because now there were rules.
     “There won’t be any other boys,” he said and met his mentor’s gaze. “I’m the only one. It has to be me.”
     Roy Kim’s brow pursed a moment and he nodded. “Pick someone.” It was a quiet command, almost a plea.
     The boy walked back to the cell with two women inside. He kept his face, working his jaw, as he pointed to the crying girl. No one spoke and yet the echoes of the dungeon, the trapped screams now part of the shoddy mortar walls, deafened him. Roy Kim produced a master key from his pocket and entered the cell. He grabbed the girl’s arms and pulled her from her cellmate’s clinging arms, pulled her from the threadbare blanket. She screamed and writhed, dropping down to her knees, going limp.
     “I’m pregnant!” She cried. Roy Kim didn’t seem to hear. He gripped her wrists and dragged her free of the cell, laid her at the boy’s feet, then went back and locked the door. The boy stood there, head throbbing under the uneven rhythm of her terror, a sort of horrid mixture of panting, wheezing, gulping, and choking.
     “Please,” she said, “please. It was a small crime. A small fee. My husband is going to pay it.” Her arms wrapped lovingly about his ankles and she buried her face to his boots, crying on them, wetting the leather. “He’s coming tomorrow. I’ll be a free woman tomorrow. Please.”
     “Is that true?” The boy looked to his mentor.
     “It is! I swear it,” the woman bawled.
     “People will say anything. You can never allow yourself to believe it.”

My first packet for this semester was due yesterday.  So far I've read six novels and am working on two more at the moment.  Writing has come slowly lately and this segment was hard fought for!  For an example of my critical writing check out the Detangled Writers entry.