Wolf’s bane

“Wednesday Washday,” Mam always said.

She had sayings like that for every day of the week. The only other one I remember is “Monday morning do the darning”, probably because it rhymed. But she died when I was small. Everybody in town says Daddy should have given her at least a month in the ground before he started poking around in other women’s holes. But if he had waited, I wouldn’t have gotten Ona for my new mam, and we’d not have Ruby for our baby. Of course, she isn’t really a baby any longer. She’s got five summers on her, and she can do more every washday.

Ona’s husband died of the same sickness that took my mam, and they told me in the village that my Daddy and Ona got married before the stones were piled over the big cairn where they put the fever dead that summer. I was supposed to be mad at him for that. But they don’t understand that Ona brought me Ruby so tiny, who needed a Daddy as badly as I needed a mam. They don’t understand that every year for the five since that fever, when the magnolias are honeythick, Ona takes me to the cairn and we put blossoms on it together. I put one for my Mam, and since she could walk, Ruby puts one for her first Daddy, even though she really only knows my Daddy for hers. And then Ona sprinkles dust for both of them that their sacrifice should be enough.

We always see the others, like the blacksmith’s big son Gavin, whose parents both died. His uncle came down from the mountains to run the forge until Gavin gets bigger. When we meet him at the rocks, we all stand together to lay our flowers, and Ona speaks his parents names when she throws the dust for my Mam and her Roddy, that their sacrifice should be enough for him as well. His uncle barely knew his brother that died, and it won’t do any good if his uncle lays a flower or throws the dust. The dead can only hear the invocations of those who have felt their loss. Ona and Daddy both say so. But Daddy can’t bear to go.

This year, it’s not the fever giving us trouble. It’s flooding and wolves. We can hear the river loud and close everyplace we go, and at night, the wolves are always howling. Ona says Daddy laid the spells strong by our house against the flood, and the wolves will keep to themselves. But the water sounds always like it is rushing towards us, looking to pull our little house loose and rend it apart. And the wolves sound like they’re right outside my window some nights, hungry and lonesome.

Ona says we may as well have high water as fever, may as well have wolves as water. She says the wolves haven’t got anywhere to go. When the river recedes, they’ll go home to the lowlands. But of course they can’t do that now with the river spilling all over the ground.

Last night, Mrs. Carmody came to the house with something wrapped up heavy in a cloth. She opened the cloth, and it was a man’s hand in there. Ona screamed, and all my body  but my stomach rose up into my head so I felt like I was floating. My stomach held me down to the ground like somebody poured it full of rocks from that cairn.

I knew it was a man’s hand by the hair on the fingers. Little Ruby didn’t understand what she was looking at, all purple and swollen, the skin jagged and muscle rotting at the stump. She just stared while I covered my mouth to hold back my food, and Ona shrieked, “Cover it up!”

Mrs. Carmondy rolled the cloth tight again, then said “My Derrick found that in one of those metal traps. Those wolves aren’t natural.”

Ona said, her voice still high, running along the edge of a scream, “Like it walked into the trap and had to chew off the paw to get loose, then the paw changed back to a hand after.”

“That’s what we reckon,” said Mrs. Carmody. “I’m sorry to put it to you that way, but you need to know, and I didn’t think you’d believe me without the proof.”

Ona reproved her, “And me a wizard’s wife! Of course I would.” Ona was crowding her apron into her mouth now, like maybe her stomach wanted to turn the same trick as mine.

Mrs. Carmody went on, “I brought you something.”

“Please, no more!” Ona’s voice was a little more controlled now, but it still shook some.

“Not that,” said Mrs. Carmody. “I had a silver idol from my own gran from the last time the wolves came around. I took it to Gavin’s uncle and melted it down. I’m taking the bullets around to my neighbours. I came here first because I knew you had those little girls to think of, and your man off trying to find a spell that will hold the levy at Knightsbridge.” Mrs. Carmody nodded to the gun stretched across the rack above the fireplace and held out a pouch. “You can shoot that?” she asked.

Ona let go of her apron. She took the pouch and nodded. “Yes, thank you,” she said.

Mrs. Carmody wouldn’t stay the night. No wolf would touch a witch, and she meant to finish taking the silver around by morning.

“She’s a good woman,” Ona said, when Mrs. Carmody had gone. “Cares a lot for us.”

I just nodded, still too nauseous to trust my mouth to spit out words and not my supper.

“Here.” Ona handed me the pouch. “Put these on the mantle and we’ll go to bed.” Neither she nor I had much taste for sleep after news like that. But what Ona really meant was that if I would keep Ruby quiet in the bedroom, Ona would try to scry Daddy in her little glass so he might be warned and tell them in Knightsbridge. She had enough of the witch in her, but that wasn’t something we told around. The village already had a witch, and we didn’t want them thinking Ona meant wrong by Mrs. Carmody.

When Ona came to bed, Ruby was long since asleep. Ona kissed Ruby’s face and pushed the hair away from my ear to whisper, “It is well with him. He says not to worry. He will come home.”

Then, she pulled Ruby and I in close to her, and I could finally rest. If Daddy was coming, that was good.

Today is Wednesday, and wolves or not, Wednesday is washday. I’m big enough. I can help. Ona and I both get down on our knees in the yard and scrub the dirt out over the washboard. Ruby tries to do her part, too. We work side by side and watch the river race itself. It comes to a bend near our house, so that it passes on three sides, and there is nowhere we can do wash without feeling it.

“What do we do if the wolves come, Ona?” I say.

“Are you still thinking of those bullets?” she asks me.


Ona lets go of the shirt she’s scrubbing and takes my face in her wet hands. “Your Daddy and I will keep you safe. You and Ruby are our gems, more precious than silver even.”

I lean into her a little then but just as quickly pull away. “Where’s Ruby?”

Ona jumps up and whips around. “Ruby!” She calls.

My sister doesn’t answer, and in an instant, I see why. She walked away while Ona and I talked of wolves, her exploration taking her behind us and too close to the riverbank. Even as we watch, Ruby misses her footing and vanishes.

“Ruby!” Ona screams our baby’s name, and then she’s running. She looks around once at me. “Stay put,” she says. Then, still running, she pulls her shirt up, throws down her skirt and tears at her underthings.

She’s moving so fast, and I am crying so hard, that her body blurs as she strips. Every step is one too late, then she is at the riverbank where Ruby went down, leaning out, staring hard. She looks back at me one more time. “I see her,” she calls. “I can get her.”

Then Ona dives, and it seems at first that my tears have blurred her body again. But it’s not my eyes. Ona is changing, her body tightening as she flies out over the water, her arms and legs pulling up into haunches, her head becoming flat and long. Then she breaks the surface, and I can’t see her any longer.

I can’t bear to be still, so I run to the bank, clinging to the trees when I get too close myself. I can see  little Ruby clinging to a tree, an entire tree that has been ripped out into the current, it twisting so that she must flail to stay above water. And then I see the wolf’s snout. Ona is swimming hard to reach our baby.

“Hold tight,” I scream to Ruby, who cannot hear me at all.”Don’t be scared. It’s just Mam coming to save you. You have to let her take you.”

Ona will reach her. She must reach her. We cannot lose our baby. Running footsteps behind me, and when I look back, I see Gavin and his uncle, who could not have heard us screaming, who could not have come so fast from the village and their forge even if they heard. Beside me, they stop for a moment, just as Ona did, and I understand what will happen even before it begins. Gavin’s uncle gets down on all fours and leaps, and I find I cannot watch him change. “They’ll come out down there,” says Gavin, and he points to a place downriver where the bank smoothes out, becomes less steep. “Get the clothing. Hurry. Then get on me. Your father is coming.” And then he changes.

I run madly around the yard, collecting the things Ona, Gavin, and his uncle have removed. I cannot watch the wolves, but I know they will get to Ruby in time. I felt the certainty in Gavin’s voice. With the clothes piled in my arms, I scramble onto the huge wolf’s back. I cling to him with my knees, my fists knotted in his fur, the shirts, and pants, and drawers crushed between us.

And I think, “Does he know? Does Daddy know?” over and over as Gavin carries me to the place where Ona and the uncle will come out of the water. I think he does not know.

Then Gavin stops and rolls me off. He curls on his side, and within an instant, he’s a boy again, only a little older than I am, even if he is as tall as a grown man. He yips in pain, a sound that becomes his own voice shouting. “Help them if you’ve any magic, Birdie. Others are coming. They must not see.”

The wolves don’t need my help, and that is good. Because if I do have any magic, it has yet to show. The wolves have got Ruby between them, and I cannot tell them apart in the water, but they are swimming strongly against the current. They will reach us just where Gavin said.

“You mustn’t speak of this,” Gavin tells me. “It must be something kept between us. Or they will kill us all sure.”

But I knew that already. I know I have seen something I must never put into words. If I do, I’ll lose the only precious things to come into my life since the fever took my Mam.  And I know this, too. The water is wild, and it will take a body faster than a body can take breath. But the wolves, them I must trust. They came to protect us from the water. They are here for Ona’s sake, a protection like the dust she throws at the cairn, that no lives be lost that can be saved. That the sacrifices of those already dead should be enough.


For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, SAM challenged me with “magnolias, Wednesday, riverbank, wolf” and I challenged Supermaren with “Mornings suck at our house. Between the noise from the forge and the smell coming out of the dragon pens, we’re all grumpy and nauseous before we finish breaking our fast.”


The Story of The Three Little Pigs


Those crafty Trifecta editors are at it again, asking us for a retold story in 33 words. Here’s mine. NB: “w/” is one word unconnected with “expertise”. There’s a space.

Friday Fluff Feb. 17 2012

This week’s stupid questions come from here.

This week’s stupid answers come from here:


1. What’s your sexual orientation?

I’m probably a 2 or so. (With thanks to Lisa for choosing a scale to answer. I went with Kinsey.)

2. Do you share your bedroom with someone? If yes, with who??

Yes, my husband, and that should say “with whom”. We threw the children out when they were pretty young, and we got lucky and they stayed that way unless it’s ungodly early or they’re sick.

3. Do you resemble a famous celebrity?

I could pass for Frank Sinatra. In a pinch. With heavy makeup and a lot of imagination. Also blue contacts.

4. What brand is your mobile?

The Who.


5. What keychains do you have with your house keys?

Embarrassment ensues. I am so addicted to keyless entry that I don’t carry house keys. We own some. Someplace. But I am so uberfucked if the power goes out when I’m not home.

6. Do you drive? If yes, what cars do you own?

Sorry, I don’t play golf. What they hell do the cars have to do with it?

7. Do you read the newspaper?


8. Is the TV on right now?

Fuck no.

9. What song are you hearing right now?

See 4 and 14.

10. Any favorite books you wanna mention here?

The Talisman, LOTR, The Stand, The Sound and The Fury, All Quiet on the Western Front, One For the Money, Neverwhere, Harry Dresden series, It, Nelson Mandela The Authorized Comic Book, The Firm, Tess of the D’Ubervilles, The Right Stuff, The Historian, Anything by Diana Wynne Jones, Actually, anything by Neil Gaiman, The Bone Collector, the early Sandman comics, Hole in my life, and the Awakening. That’s all I can see from this chair.

11. Are you up-to-date with the latest news on celebrities?

No. I don’t want to encourage them.

12. Have you ever lied to a best friend?

Just now. I’m supposed to be driving to get her instead of finishing this dumb quiz.

13. Do you consider yourself intelligent?

I gotz teh brainz.

14. Are you a morning person or a night person?

I’m a night owl trapped in a mother’s body with a little sunshine brother for a son (clip).


15. Do you enjoy doing stuff on your own?

Yes. Wait. Is this a masturbation question? Fuck you.  Scott and I heard an interview with a hummingbird bander. He was called a master bird bander. Scott pointed out it was good he wasn’t a baiter. Because a Master baiter bander? #Awkward


As always, Linking up this Friday Fluff with Lisa at Seeking Elevation. But I’m doing it quickly. Because seriously people, I gotta go rescue Linda.


I’m not talking ballet here. I’m trying to explain the hedony. I throw myself forward lusting into the Dionysian spontaneity. The arena is carnality alive, and all of us are hungry sybarites while the music plays. We blare, and trumpet, and thunder. I do not fall into their arms expecting asylum.  And yet, there is a safe core where the rhythm is deep enough to hold me if I dive in, so long as I keep time with my body while I ride to the shore. This is not sanctuary but an entry point. The dance begins in the air.


Linking up here with Trifecta, this week brought to you by the word “safe”.

This is also my submission for Lance’s 100 word song response. This week’s song is The Black Crows’ Hotel Illness. My response is as much to the group as this specific tune. I heart The Black Crows.

Celebrate CALM Part 2

Today, I’m still on about Celebrate Calm and Kirk Martin. He gets special needs kids, and he also gets the need to give practical advice. Many of these gurus try to sell a thought process (and to be fair, Martin does, too, more in a minute) with this attitude that ‘believing this leads to my results’. Martin generally gives targeted advice instead. He has tips that don’t  require me to dip into my own unraveling patience to address a situation without blowing up. So, like I said, I’m sufficiently impressed, and the CDs I’ve listened to since the conference haven’t let me down.

But let me talk about the negatives, because they are big.

First, the series engages in a gendered debate. Martin assumes a man who works outside of the home and a woman who …. well who knows what she does. He admits Moms can work outside the home, too. He’s not chaining anybody to the stovetops. He just shapes his discourse to help out stay-at-home Moms and working Dads. When he refers to a working parent coming home, that parent is Dad (except when he is rarely speaking of the single parents). When he refers to a parent staying home, that parent is Mom.

And when he talks about the issues preventing people from experiencing calm, he assumes men are the ones with hair-trigger tempers, while women are constantly sacrificing and putting themselves aside unfairly for their families. In this, he has no advice that matches my situation, where I am the one who gets angry (very very angry) and Scott is the patient one who sacrifices himself (again and again). Point blank, I’m not impressed.

The next issue comes back self-help gurus selling a mindset. Martin is less guilty than some, but it’s still there. He bounces in saying “Remember, the only thing you can control is yourself” and it is very clear that he can’t imagine someone like me, someone who has spent a lifetime making peace with the fact that my idea of self-control isn’t the same as his.

He falls prey to the common misconception that we choose our emotions. Or rather that everyone can choose their emotions. There are people who can. But I hate the assumption that everybody can choose what they feel. It’s perfect horseshit. My emotions are like the seasons. Although somewhat predictable in certain circumstances, not things under my control. Now I am responsible for my actions which is a very different thing. But as far as what I feel at any given moment? I do not own that, and I have spent a lifetime coming to the understanding that I never will.

So when Martin kept saying it’s OK to have a bad day and to allow others to have one because they have chosen to feel as they do, I felt angry. And believe me, it wasn’t a choice. The choice was whether or not to keep listening to him. See the difference? Emotion does not equal action. Nobody chooses to be angry or sad. Some people can just somehow choose not to be those things some of the time. (Nobody is ever always happy.)

Beyond that, Martin attributes a lot of defiant behavior to other emotions (he’s really fond of anxiety as a culprit). Some of his tactics for dealing with it are superb no matter what the reason behind the behavior, but I know there is such a thing as pure defiance.

Do you know why? Because for the whole fucking evening, every time he opened his mouth, I was back there disagreeing. Every. Single. Thing. He. Said. He pissed me off about gender within the first ten minutes, and after that it was very hard to give him a single point. He would say something, and I would have to sit there and parse it out, peeling away the useful and deciding from moment to moment whether I was just going to walk out on the whole thing. One of the reasons I bought the DVDs is because I want the time to consider his stuff at my leisure and test it out. (Kind of like when I’d walk into an RCB class thinking ‘fake bullshit’ and then come out all inspired.)

Finally, and here’s where I came closest to leaving, Martin is clearly Christian, arguing from a Christian standpoint. In that whole RCB series, in spite of its being held in a church and being led by a church member, I think we talked religion once. Five weeks, and it was barely discussed. Because it was just not relevant.

Yet, in the course of the evening, Martin made at least ten references to church, God, pastors, and the like. He seemed to think he was offsetting this by saying “synagogue” occasionally, as if to appeal to all faiths by reaching out to another one of the big three. Some of his advice to single parents involves calling on a church community.  One whole track on one of the CDs is about how to get kids to church calmly. (To his credit – he warns you “if you don’t want to hear about religion, skip this track”.)

But what the hell is it doing there in the first place? How is it any different than a school morning?  I am not offended by people who are Christians. Please don’t think I am. But to tell me anything about how to do church is both foolhardy and rude.  Caroline’s’ school is private. Although not religious in any way, it is a good bet that (with the notable exception of the rabbi’s daughter, yes really) nearly every other family there is a Christian family. So Martin was in an element where religion was welcomed by most. But it infuriated all of my personalities, and the reason he came closest to losing me is that The Bitch agreed with all the rest of us who have to share my head that his references were irrelevant and inappropriate.

All that, and all my other bitching aside, the man is speaking Truth. He has given me tactics that have kept my temper in check with the kids. I’ve had something to do with my anger besides direct it inward or outward. (Emotion doesn’t equal action.)  It was a worthwhile evening, and I’ve gained some valuable tools.  It’s just that I’d be lying if I said they came without a fuckload of caveats.

Celebrate CALM Part One

I attended a mini-conference last week, and because I am me, I’ve been mulling it over ever since. It was one of these parenting seminars destined to be either spectacular or spectacularly dumb. I should assert here that my inner skeptic was expecting the latter.

A little background. I do not approve of parenting via the fluffy-cloud method.  Scott and I once paid some $400 for a parenting course that was ALL 1970s schmaltz.  The class text even used the phrase “hang-up”. Does it get more 1970s than “hang-up”? And yet, I loved that syrupy thing. Every annoying idea that irked me actually had practical applications that were anything but stupid.

Every class, I would go in thinking “What a bunch of fakey shit” and come away saying “Oh, we could do this and that and this too!”. It’s called Redirecting Children’s Behavior (RCB). And I’d love to teach it. If you ever get a chance to attend, do it. The session Scott and I went to was in a church, and I still loved it. (In Lexington, there was a church intellectual enough that I could shut up my agnosticism and join because I learned from it. But I digress.)  If you can’t attend a class, grab the book. It’s got good, practical stuff if you can overlook the fluffy-cloud wording.

So. This mini-conference last week was called Celebrate Calm. I did a lot to promote it in advance, in spite of my inner skeptic’s warnings, because it was being sponsored by my daughter’s school. (I’d shovel shit for those people if they asked it. I love them that much.) And also, we’re desperate. With Sam and even Caroline at all time stress highs  even with huge improvements, Scott and I are at our absolute breaking point these days at a number of levels. (Note: The marriage is still strong. Not that kind of ‘breaking’. Not unless things are a whole lot worse than I realize. And I’m a know-it-all, so that can’t be the case.) So I was willing to shut up the skeptic if there was anything of value at all.  Still. Just go look at the website a minute, OK? I’ll wait.


Back? Great.

Do you see the people on the covers of those videos? Do you not expect Richard Simmons to burst out and start sweating to the oldies AT ANY MINUTE? Can you FEEL the fluff compressing behind your screen? The Jester Queen was anything but enthusiastic, and in the end, the real reason we went was because The Bitch said we would go. (Um. By “we”, I mean The Jester Queen, Madame Syntax, The Bitch, and I. Scott had to teach and was exempt.)  She even made us get a fucking sitter so we didn’t have to take the kids. (The sitter’s awesome. We love her. It’s just that getting a sitter to attend an activity that sounded like torture when I knew there would be kid-friendly moments and activities at the conference didn’t exactly appeal, K?)

Here’s what I thought. This was in the back of my head driving over. He’s going to give us one of these presentations that doesn’t take into account kids who can scream for four hours. I don’t care what he claims on his website, these motivational freaks rarely know anything about special needs kids, and the first time Captain Kirk Martin says “you just have to back up and walk away from that behavior” or anything like it, I’m fucking history.

Yeah. I’m a little hostile when I’m forced to do things I don’t like.  I come up with mature nicknames for the people in charge and engage in creative heckling even before I’ve gotten halfway started. Ask Linda sometime about the first ever Zumba or my one-course flirtation with body-pump.  And if you think nobody was forcing me to go, then you have never met The Bitch.

Anyway, I think he read my mind. I think Kirk Martin held a …whatever you call it if you séance up somebody who’s not dead yet…and said, “Ah. These are Jessie’s objections and I should address them right away to save everybody a little time”. (Of course, if that had really been him speaking, he would have actually preceded that thought  with “Jessie is entitled to her Bad Attitude. If She Chooses To Be Angry, That Is Her Choice. I Do Not Need Her To Be Happy Doing Her Chores”.)

Get this. Within the first five minutes, he had described Sam. Within ten minutes, he’d done everything but name the kid. Seriously. He’s never met my son. He has no idea who Sam is and (séance and Star Trek jokes aside) has no idea who I am. And he created for the audience this fictitious/hypothetic child who could scream for hours on end, who was the sort who had to touch the hot stove to find out it would burn him, and who needed firm limits and pretty strict guidance. And he said, “All your kid hears if you get angry while he is angry is that you can’t handle him. You’ve got to be able to field everything your child dishes out.” (Or something like that.) And then he listed some practical reasonably simple ways to do that.

I bought all 7 items in his DVD / CD series, which, even at the discounted conference rate came to a fairly high price. Because he’s the first parenting coach I’ve heard of who even begins to ‘get’ my kids and have strategies that will help me parent them effectively.

And do you want to know something? Something that really frightens me? If ballet and bedtime go well tonight, then tomorrow will mark 7 full days since I’ve completely lost it with one of the kids? Poor Scott? Not so much. But with the kids, I’ve hardly even yelled. They’ve been as normal (which is to say obstructive and uncooperative) as ever, and I’m just not mad.  And for me, the human volcano, that’s something of a record.

So I’m a fan of Kirk Martin and his Celebrate Calm. But I’m not an unqualified supporter. Just like I have to overlook 1970s hippy-dippy bullshit from the RCB people, Celebrate Calm has some serious problems I’m having to ignore in order to implement the useful stuff. But I’ll tell you about that tomorrow. Because I’ve got other fires to put out just now and two kids to pick up for ballet in less than three hours.

Valentine in Blue

I’m linking up today once more with Galit Breen of These Little Waves and Alison of Mama Wants This for their monthly Memories Captured meme.

My little Valentine comes with a story. Last month, Missy over at The Literal Mom hosted a blog giveaway with a random commenter to win scrapbooking software from the folks at My Memory Suite. And I won. I am still learning how to play with my new toy (which, as Missy noted, is bloody complex and takes an AGE to download), but I am enjoying it very very much. The learning curve is worth it, and I used the software to create the image above.

So, thanks to Missy for hosting a giveaway. Thank you thank you! Thanks to My Memory Suite for being willing to give a random blogger their software. And thanks to Galit and Alison for creating an opportunity for me to share!

Memories Captured