SepSceneWriMo #4.17 Ancestors

Arturo de Quevedo stood rooted to the spot while his fingers traced the name etched there on the plaque bolted to the side of the ancient stone building in the tiny city of Pradera, Colombia.

The name was his own.

He’d come seeking knowledge of his ancestry based on obscure references in a moldering tome he’d discovered in his grandfather’s attic. The notes had referenced Oro de Colombia, which, he’d been told as a child, had been a myth popularized for generations by this family. In the margins, scratched by what could only have been a quill pen, were the words ‘Valle de Cuaca’, and ‘Rio Bolo Azul’.

“The Valley of Weather and the River of Blue Cake?” he’d said aloud when he’d opened to a page marked by a faded feather of some colorful bird.

His guide, the fellow whom he’d contacted online and who’d picked him up at the international airport in Palmira, took a step back. “When I read your name, I thought you were joking.”

Arturo blinked away his astonishment. “Why would I joke about my name?”

Chami Osso pointed at the plaque. “That name is infamous here.”

“Don’t you mean ‘famous’?”

“Hmm, maybe I get it wrong.” Chami stowed Arturo’s bags in the rented jeep. “You ready to visit the mining village?”

Arturo climbed aboard and peered through the windshield at the surrounding mountains. “Looks dreary up there.”

“That’s why we have a four-wheeler.”

Chami sped off through the narrow streets of the city, along the connecting roads and to the base of the foothills where the road joined up with the river.

Arturo happened to open the glovebox where he found a loaded automatic pistol. He palmed it and presented it to Chami. “Expecting trouble?”

“FARC never went away here. Every week new kidnappings in Bogota or Cali—they happen. You never know.”

Eventually they pulled into a mountain village, Bolo Azul. There, a monument had been placed commemorating the sacrifice of the indigenous peoples in their forced contribution to the rule of the Spanish Conquistadors.

Chami motioned for Arturo to step out. The guide slipped his hand into the glove box and tucked the weapon into the back of his pants. He led Arturo up the cobbled street. “Your name, Arturo de Quevedo, is funny because I also have a famous name.”

“Don’t you mean infamous?” Arturo quipped.

“Maybe.” Chami waved his arm to take in the scene. “My name, ‘Osso’ comes from the natives who lived peacefully here in these mountains for centuries.”

“Peacefully, until…”

The two men stood in the tiny village in the semi-rainforest of Cuaca Valley. The clouds seemed anxious, swirling and shifting in the narrow canyon. Around them telltale signs of mining, recent and ancient, showed in the land, the buildings and in the faces of the villagers.

“There is a story they tell.” Chami pressed both palms up against the clouds, up against the vision of the mountain. “The oro, the gold here, belonged to the gods. When the Spanish came, indeed when your ancestor arrived, it is said he stood right here, Senor Arturo de Quevedo, and announced that he was a god and that he deserved the gold.”

Arturo looked around to find a number of villagers: women with colorful woven hats, men with dark-skinned faces, creased like folded maps had gathered. He searched but found few children, the youngest being perhaps a teenager. “The Conquistadors certainly held themselves…”

“And on that same day, it is said,” Chami interrupted, “my ancestor, Chami Osso, the poor villager, stood up to Arturo de Quevedo, ‘No, the gold belongs to the mountain.’”

Two dozen round faces looked on expectantly. Even the birds seemed to have quit singing in anticipation.

Arturo could feel the heat of the locals bunched up close. Not so much their breath or their bodies, but the intensity of their stares. He widened his eyes toward Chami, and then?

“It is said, your ancestor drew a pistol and shot my ancestor in the belly.”

SepSceneWriMo #4.16 Cosmic Kimchi

“Well, I’m glad Grandfather is dead. He hated me, always sneering at my tattoos or my shaved head.” Totee thrust the shovel into the ground. “I will be happy to see these hateful flowers ripped out and turned into, I don’t know, dead flower shit, I guess.”

Totee’s mother, Shinatu tsk’d at her daughter. “When you were only ten, you and he were best of friends, scheming, cooking, dreaming up strange recipes that the two of you would stew and forced us to eat.” Shinatu removed a clump of weeds. “And we’re not digging up his favorites, only the nasty volunteers that took over when he could no longer garden.”

“Weeds. They’re all weeds to me.”

“For the record, he loved you very much. When you grew distant and rebellious, he didn’t know how to talk to you.”

“So he mocked me instead?”

“He blamed himself which, I suppose, came out as anger.”

“Maybe.” Totee continued to dig, plunging the spade deep into the rich soil that her grandfather had lovingly cultivated. She spoke as she worked. “After Daddy died, only Harabuji would listen. He never looked down at me with those caterpillar eyebrows. He always bent to my level or lifted me up. Eye to eye was how he said we should speak.” She paused and hung an elbow on the end of the shovel. In a gruff voice that mimicked her grandfather she said, “Little Totee, we are equal, all people equal. Never think you not worthy.”

“You see, he loved you very much.”

“So, why did he change? I didn’t change that much, did I?”

“You both did. In opposite directions, I’m afraid.”

Totee, now a young woman, emptied the shovel, a clump of dark green leaves flopping upside down. On her next strike, one a little softer than the last, she hit something and an odd sound came up from the soil: ‘tink’. “I didn’t think there were any rocks left in his garden.”

“Be careful. Maybe he buried sacred treasure down there.”

Totee knelt and with gloved hands, scooped away the dirt from the shovel’s slice. “There’s something shiny down here.” Reaching in she retrieved a clay pot with what looked to be a wax sealed lid.

Shinatu exclaimed, “Ah ha, he did leave you treasure.”

Turning the vessel around in her hands, Totee found a date inscribed. “This is from like, five years ago.” She gave it a shake. The mason jar-sized container sloshed a bit. “Whatever it is, I think it’s gone…”

“It’s kimchi, silly.” Shinatu held out her arms. “See if there are any more in there.”

~~~

Mother and daughter sat in chairs on the porch; four cleaned-off clay urns rested in a low-cut cardboard box on the table.

“No note?” Totee seemed disappointed.

“Why would there be a note? I doubt very much your harabuji would have intentionally forgotten he’d stashed these in his garden.”

“So, he buried them, and then…”

“We all grow old, Totee.” Shinatu hefted one of the pots. “I’m sure he thought he’d be sharing these with you, when they were ready.”

“Ready? Rotten now, I’m sure.”

Shinatu squinted her eyes and gave the smallest of head shakes. “Don’t be so sure. Kimchi gets better with age.” She inspected the lid and the seal around it. “As long as nothing gets inside.”

She ran a paring knife around the top, flicking off shavings of beeswax and wiping away any flecks of remaining dirt. With a quick thrust she drove the blade beneath the lid and a faint hiss escaped.

“Hmm, smells just like my childhood,” Shinatu said, lifting her nose to take a deeper breath. “Go fetch a bowl and some utensils.”

“You’re kidding, right? We’re not actually going to eat that?”

Shinatu furrowed her brow and gave her daughter a look, off you go.

“Fine,” Totee said. She returned after a moment and handed her mother a spoon.

Shinatu dished out a healthy serving. The red chili flakes, the pungent odor of fermentation and the colorful varieties of cabbage all gave indication of a heady brew of kimchi. She touched her tongue to her first bite.

“Mmm, tangy.” She took in the forkful. “Very nice. Quite bubbly, like a fizzy drink.”

“Soda, Mom.” Totee sniffed and sniffed again. She loved kimchi, a trait no doubt developed by her grandfather. She nibbled, swallowed then took a larger bite. “It’s perfect.”

They ate a third of the jar.

“Whoa,” Totee said, her head lolling back against the cushioned deck chair. “That’s some freaky-looking light show.”

“Why are the lanterns swaying with the music?” her mother asked.

“You hear music too?”

“Old Korean music, the kind Harabuji would play. His record skipping at the second song.”

Totee jerked upright. “You see him, Mama?” She pointed to a spot in the garden. “Grandfather’s right there. Harabuji, is that you?”

SepSceneWriMo #4.15 Play ball

Rick encouraged creative independence in his two boys. But when he heard the sound of the circular saw squealing from the garage, not having been briefed on any new school projects or neighbor’s helping themselves, he felt the need to investigate.

“Hey there, Brent. What’cha making?”

“You’ll see.” Brent, Rick’s oldest at twelve, looked up expectantly, as if he sought acknowledgment of his own confidence or, more likely, scorn at his apparent brush-off. Around him various tools lay splayed in chaotic use; a hammer, wrenches, long wood screws and the unexpected parts of bicycles.

Rick accepted Brent’s dismissal, deferential to the boy’s future as a man. His own father had never been, nor ever would be of such a mind as to assume Rick knew his own mind and how to achieve his goals. “You sure you know what you’re doin’?” or, “I can’t see how that could possibly work.” were just a few of the faithless comments Rick had come to believe comprised his self actualization, or the lack thereof. “Where’d those come from?” he said, pointing to the bicycle parts.

“Junkyard. Mr. McGreeley said I could have ‘em if I came back and organized his pile of alternators.”

“Not gonna even give me a hint at what your makin’?”

Brent shook his head. “But don’t tell Bryan about this, OK?”

“Sure, I can do that. Your mom in on the secret?”

Again the shake. “Could you, you know, keep her in the dark, too?”

“I’ll inform her that her mad-scientist son is elbows deep in a secret experiment.”

Brent gazed up beaming gratitude. “Thanks Dad.”

“You’ve got baseball practice this afternoon, remember.”

“I know…”

“I’ll let you get back at it, Dr. Mad.”

~~~

The pediatrician handed out treatment fliers to Rick and his wife, Janette. “They’re making considerable strides in the reduction of MS symptoms. This one, by Sanofi, can nearly stop the deterioration of the endoneurium, sorry, the sheath covering nerves.”

The couple had left Bryan, their youngest son, with his physical therapist while they spoke with his doctor. At ten years-old, Bryan’s diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis had devastated the family. However, Janette’s indomitable personality—she’d completed her masters in psychology while practically raising both boys by herself—would not accept the illness without a fight. Rick, often gone on his job as a civil engineer, had finally secured local employment and for the last few years immersed himself in home-life. The four of them had knit themselves into a rock solid nuclear family.

“I’m assuming our insurance has no intention of paying for such non-standard medical treatment,” said Janette derisively, disdain her native tongue when it came to dealing with insurance companies.

“If it’ll slow the advancement of the disease, do we really have a choice, Jan?” Rick kept flipping the pages over, perhaps thinking to find hidden text alluding to a cure.

Janette rose and returned the fliers, plucking the one from Rick’s fingers. “We’ll let you know. Thanks again for seeing us.”

“Bryan’s a great kid. We’ll keep you informed of any breakthroughs.”

They found their son sitting in his wheelchair, peering out the window at the little league teams playing across McDowell Street at the community ball field. He’d joined a team at eight, but by the time the next season arrived, the condition in his legs had worsened to the point that spectating was his only option.

~~~

“Put this blanket over it, OK? Keep it hidden so Bryan…”

“We got it. You go get your equipment bag.” Rick and Janette tucked in the blanket corners to cover Brent’s creation. “And go ahead and help Bryan down the ramp.”

Brent dashed off returning with his red bag full of bats, balls and gloves slung over his shoulder.

“I got this, Brent. You can let go.” Bryan free wheeled down the incline custom-built in the garage, his biking gloves skimming over the rims of his wheelchair wheels. “So, what’s in the back of the car?” He’d rolled down the drive, swerving around his parents, and spied the green covered shape taking up wheelchair room in the back.

“You’ll have to wait, Bry,” his brother said.

Bryan pestered the family all the way to the scrimmage game.

“When it’s time, all will be revealed,” said Rick, mysteriously.

The boy grumbled but surrendered to the suspense.

~~~

“Pinch batting for the Wildcats is Bryan Larson.” Brent’s team’s coach announced before the parents in the stands.

Bryan twisted in his wheelchair stationed right next to the bottom bench. “Whaaat’s going on? He said my name.”

The coach pointed at him and curved a finger. “You’re up, son.”

“But, but…”

Around the dugout Bryan’s brother Brent came wheeling a Frankenstein contraption that looked half torture device half furniture dolly. “Climb aboard, Bry, I built this so you could come to bat on the team.”

Bryan pinched his lips tight, opened his arms to hug his brother, and said, “Well, don’t just squeeze me. Lift me up and strap me in.”

It took a few misses, but the customized chair proved stable, a solid based allowing Bryan a full swing at the incoming practice strikes. After the sixth or seventh miss Janette looked up from taking video on her phone to hear the crack of a solid hit, the ball flying over second base’s head.

Whoops and cries of ‘way-to-goes’ filled the field.

The coach from the opposite team stepped up, a stand-in umpire, raised an eyebrow in question to Bryan, who nodded. The ump pointed to the pitcher and said loudly, “Play ball.”

SepSceneWriMo #4.14 Stardust

Stephanie clenched her jaw and gripped the loop in her coffee cup as if she dangled from it, thirty feet high at the local gym’s climbing wall. Box breathe, in: one, two, three…

“I told you Steph,” her sister, Tessa, said, driving home her point one more time, “it’s too expensive and, I don’t know, too damn weird, you know? Dad was never a techie.”

“Not a techie?” Stephanie released the cup and ironed out the cramp that had sprung to life between her thumb and index finger. “Sometimes I wonder if you knew him at… Listen,” she said, calming herself, out: one, two, three… “Ricky and I will cover the cost. All you need to do is,” four, “show up.” When Tessa drew a quick breath, one that Steph knew led to further argument, she interrupted. “Hup. All you need to do is let everyone know when and where. Send the damn invites. And show the hell up. That. Is. All.”

Tessa let herself smile with her lips, skipping her eyes. “Alright, Sis. I know he mentioned it. Maybe the two of you talked about it. And yeah,” Tessa reached for Stephanie’s hand. “Maybe that’s what Dad meant by that line in his will. So. OK. We’ll all show-the-hell-up.”

“It’s gonna be amazing.” Stephanie embraced Tessa’s hand with her own. “A true silent spectacle. Just what he’d have wanted.”

~~~

Stephanie and Rick slowed to a stop at the selected site in the desert campground.

Tessa poked her head through Stephanie’s passenger side window. “Where have you been?”

Stephanie ignored her. “Did everyone show up?”

“Uh, yeah. We’ve been here for an hour now.”

“That’s great. Thanks for getting that done, Tessa.”

“And what about you, where…”

“We’ve got all the food, catered, of course, and fold-out tables in the back. Ricky’s got fairy-lights for, you know, ambiance. He’ll get those set up pronto. I had a cake baked to resemble, well, you see it here in a bit. I sent the launch results to you this afternoon, didn’t I?”

“I got it. So, you pulled it off, didn’t you?”

Stephanie smiled, stepped from the SUV and pointed her head to the hatch. “Help me get this stuff setup. Ricky?”

“I know, Steph, I’ll get the lights strung and the tables placed.”

“Thanks, dear.”

Once the wine started to flow and food began to quell the group of hangry relatives, Stephanie brought forth the sheet cake cut in the shape of a spiral galaxy. She pulled open the box making sure her cellphone’s light shone within.

“And for desert, tada. Dad’s favorite: buttercream frosting, marzipan decorations and rich yellow cake with vanilla pastry cream layers.”

Tessa slipped forward a finger and Stephanie bopped her hand. “After the show, Tess.”

“Which is when, exactly?”

“It’s in the text I sent.”

Tessa tapped her phone, scrolled, scrolled again. “Ten twenty-one PM. Well, it’s ten fifteen now. Should we…”

“Yeah, we should.” Stephanie grabbed a wine glass and began rapping it with a spoon. “Everyone, thanks so much for coming to our father’s memorial. I know this seems a bit odd to hold such a ceremony out here in the desert. But, as you’ll see in a moment, it’ll be worth it.” She rapped the glass a few more times. “Uncle William, can you… Thank you.

“One of Dad’s last requests, one he made primarily to me, was to be turned to, well, star dust. I know this sounds ludicrous but, I found a company, maybe you’ve heard of it, that will launch loved one’s ashes into orbit, and give you the exact time and place that they will fire a capsule carrying the ashes out to descend in a fiery re-entry.”

“You set all that up?” someone asked.

“We did, Jennifer.”

“One minute, Sis,” Tessa said and then mouthed the word we?

Stephanie grinned and nodded. “Ricky, can you kill the lights? Thanks. OK, well, here comes our father, brother, and friend shooting through the sky, turning back into the stardust from which he came.”

The group of twenty-three family members all gazed up to the night sky at the assigned angle and compass direction explained in the text.

Stephanie tried to angle her phone simultaneously looking aside it to gain the full experience. Taking a step sideways she stumbled on a large rock and fell to the ground. “Goddamn it,” she quietly cursed, trying to pick herself back up.

As she did, the folks around her all cried out in awe at the sight.

“Ooh, there he is. Did you see that? That was amazing. Swoosh, just like a falling star. Incredible sight. Wow, that was so cool.”

Tessa looked back at her sister. “Stephanie, that was incredible.”

Stephanie was just returning to vertical. “Yeah, I’ll bet it was.”

SepSceneWriMo #4.13 Bog Butter

Across the ragged moorlands, over swollen hills sprouting dead and dying willows, between stone cairns piled high to mark the way, lies the peat bogs and the source of both McFarin’s ire and his wealth. The path he trods, centuries old, sports fresh tracks, his own, for he has made this journey day in, day out for years seeking the family’s legacy. This morning would have turned out no different had it not been for his sister’s son, Rory, who’d showed up, unannounced, the prior day, just as McFarin took his noonday repast.

“Who’r’n you again?”

“Oh, come on, Uncle. I be here to help ye look for yer treasure.”

“Who toll’ you there be any treasure? Peat diggin’s where the money’s at. And you’ll be doing plenty o’ that come tomorrow.”

“Have it yer way, then.” Rory waved to the barmaid. “I’ll have what he’s havin’.”

“I hope you can pay fer that.”

“You know I ain’t worked for a month. That’s why me mum sent me to spend the summer with you.”

Creeve McFarin set down his knife and fork, swigged from his pint, and rubbed his grizzled beard. “Oh, I know why Mary thinks she can pawn off her own on the likes o’ me. But know this, young Rory McGorran, you hav’n’d worked a dey in yer life ’til you dig peat bricks in the bogs of Lar’n Tule.”

~~~

McFarin stopped suddenly on the slim trail that threaded the moors. Rory, plodding haphazardly behind, mindlessly carrying the narrow shovel, nearly stabbed his uncle in the back. McFarin turned his head into his high collar, looked out over the moorland. “Mind your step, lad. The pools in these parts look shallow. They’re not. Evern’ year we lose a wee one or three to the swamp. Sucked right down. Hounds cain’t eve’ find ‘em.”

“It true what they say about them wisps? They be the ghosts of bairns lost in…”

“Aye. You see a will-o-the-wisp come askin’ yew to dance, yew split ‘er down the middle with yer shovel, ye hear?”

McFarin slowed his pace and Rory seemed to take heed to the fresh dangers. The old man continued to lead the way. As they rose up over a singular mound, isolated from the rest of the moor, McFarin held out a hand, turned, put a finger to his lips and whispered, “Beneath lie spirits of old.” He pointed to the earth below. “Wake them at ye peril.”

Past the pools and ghostly mounds, Rory risked breaching the silence. “Me mum said you be huntin’ these lands for half yer life. That true?”

“Diggin’ peat bricks be a habit, ye mark my words.” McFarin had marched them into a turned-up patch of the mire. “I’ll start yew here. Yew remember how to use that shovel? Straight down, lean it out…”

“I know, I know.”

“Well, then, get to it.”

A steady breeze blew across the Moors of Lar’n Tule. Patchy gorse heath, tucked into folds of the land, did little to abate the constant drone of the wind. Yet, the heavy wool cloaks the two men wore soon trapped the heat of their work. With their coats shed and laid in a folded pile, they returned in earnest to their task.

After three courses had been dug and arrayed, child’s bricks, tall and narrow, aligned in flat rows a dozen yards long, Rory slid his shovel down, tilted the handle away from the knee-high cliff and reeled back from the effort.

“Oy, what a stench!”

“What’s that, lad? You catch a wiff o’ something foul?” McFarin asked with eager eyes.

“Ew, come take a look, Uncle. This tain’t no mossy peat I ever’n seen before.”

McFarin buried his shovel and peered over his nephew’s shoulder. He flared his nostrils, seeking the mysterious odor. “Ooh, lad. Me thinks yew done it. Yew found the treasure.” The old man shouldered past his nephew, knelt and cautiously scraped a crooked finger across a caramel colored skid between the shovel and the embankment.

He held the slick goo beneath his nose, sniffed twice, poked out his tongue and gave the mess a lick. His eyes bulged and his crease of a mouth pulled taught in a rare grin.

“That’s the stuff, Rory me lad. This be the first in a vast cache of treasure, the likes of which I be searchin’, as you said, for half me life.”

Rory scrunched up his face and turned away as McFarin offered the glob to him.

McFarin cackled, “Oh, now. You tain’t lived till you have a wee taste o’ bog butter.”