What About The Sidekick?

In my previous post “Jazz and Fairy Tales,” I discussed how there’s a current trend to taking well known tales and tweaking them into something unique.  Similar to this trend is the idea of telling the story from the villain’s perspective.  Gregory Maguire writes from the Wicked Witch of the West’s point of view in Wicked.  Marissa Meyer gives Snow White’s evil queen her own story in a world of humans and androids in the novel Fairest.  John Gardner’s Grendel gives Beowulf’s monster a voice. Even the TV series “Once Upon A Time” shows the backstories of villains such as Rumplestiltskin and Captain Hook.

But what about the sidekicks?

Most of the time, the sidekick plays the role of comic relief in the story as well as giving the protagonist a loyal friend who helps and follows them to the very end.  Disney’s films are full of such sidekicks, such as the mice Jaq and Gus in “Cinderella” and Dory from “Finding Nemo.”  Sometimes the roles are reversed, in which the main character is goofy with a more serious sidekick.  For example, Sancho Panza is more rational than Don Quixote, though he does have his own humor as well.  

What would the story be like from the perspective of a sidekick?  Would the hero still be seen as a good person through their eyes?  What’s going on through Horatio’s mind as Hamlet goes about avenging his father’s murder?  What if the sidekick uses humor to cover their anxiety and self-consciousness?  What if the sidekick only goes on the epic quest to gain some appreciation from the cool hero only to be ditched at the end?  Would the sidekick then become the villain like Syndrome in “The Incredible”?

There’s a lot of twists that can be done with this train of thought.  I hope to see some in the future.  Or maybe I’ll write such a story myself someday.

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For Sentimentality’s Sake

The Leaf & Bean Cafe is not a typical place for me to visit.  White paint with floral china used by customers and on display for sale.  Mothers wheeling in toddlers to play in the children’s corner and chat with neighbors.  A grandmother bringing in her grandson for tea and miniature cupcakes.  A cheery place in the way an elderly woman might decorate her home.

I’m not a kids person.  Flowers aren’t my sort of thing.  I prefer the sort of homey atmosphere of warm colors and wooden furnishings.  Medieval, steampunk, and earthy styles fit me better than pink and overly bright shapes, and yet this cafe is one of my favorite places for two reasons.

First, their bacon, cheese, and tomato croissants are the best I’ve ever tasted.  A mouthwatering combo that melts me internally and brings out a smile without fail.  As a pastry nut, this won me over ten times over.

Second, and most importantly, I go back to this cafe because it reminds me of my college friends.

Like The Leaf & Bean Cafe, my close-nit friends during four years of study weren’t the typical rough and rowdy crowd I used to hang out with.  Girly and giggly, they loved tea and adorable baby animals.  They tortured me with pink items and smothering hugs.  I’d walk into a room and gag on the nail polish fumes.  They drove me crazy, but we danced together, cooked together, lived together, watched movies, discovered new music genres, cried in each other’s arms while getting hair stuck in our mouths.  There were crazy adventures in New York City, Oregon, Mississippi, vegan restaurants, and up mountains.  Despite the differences, I found myself attached to this group, and I never wanted to let them go.

We haven’t been together as a whole group for two years now.  Skype helps, but we’re counting down to a yet-to-be-scheduled epic reunion.  It will happen, but I fear it may not occur for a few years yet.  So I go to The Leaf & Bean Cafe to drink tea, salute the china, and remember sitting in a circle sharing Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Trees

They had cut down my favorite tree last autumn.  Its shadow smothered the flower garden when the sun rolled into afternoon.  Those flowers are my mom’s pride and joy.  Mine was the view of the orange sunset from the top of the tree.  Sitting on the stump, I wondered if the hills beyond our neighbor’s house still blushed with evening’s kiss.  For weeks sap oozed from the stump’s wound and clung to my dress, asking why it could no longer taste the sun.  It dried into a corpse during the winter.  In spring, dad planted a sapling spruce next to my fallen friend.

“For Christmas,” he said.  “We’ll decorate it with lights and candy canes.”

Its tender needles shivered in the breeze.  I sat by it like a sentinel, watering its roots in the dry summer heat.  

Autumn is here again.  The cold air threatens us with an early snow.  The spruce looks plump and happy like a Newfoundland dog in his full coat.  It’s too small for Christmas this year.  I blow on my stiff fingers and cross my arms.  I will remain here on this stump.  I will see to it that the sapling keeps growing for many Christmases to come.  I want it to see the blossoming sunset I remember.

Running At Night

Darkness aids the illusion of speed.  That’s why I run at night.  The music playing in my ears urge my feet onwards.  Shadows slanting from trees and houses obscure the distance to be covered, making it disappear out of mind.  Such a mercy.  Daylight would have rubbed it in my face and bore heated insults on my shoulders.

I already know I’m slow.

Colors disappear as evening blackens.  I feel my weight lighten with the growing night.  Slaps on the pavement quicken.  I can keep up with the music.  My lungs gurgle cool air and pass the bubbling energy into my bloodstream.  Calves creak like old wood up the hill, but it’s not pain asking for rest.  It’s affirming working muscles.

I can do better.

Orange patches of streetlight pass my eyes in spurts.  Arms swing harder.  Am I going faster?  A vine leaf whizzes through my hair instead of dragging.  Yes, I am faster.  Listen, the drums are struggling to keep up.  Legs spring forward.  Faster.  A breeze pushes at my back.  

Let’s race.  

Breathe.  Eyes set on the darkness ahead.  Push through it.  Go, on and on.  I am running with the wind.  Its hand slips from my back.  Look, I am beating the wind.  Singing voices in my ears like angels calling for battle.  They are flying with me.  I am flying with them.  We are bursting forward to greater distances.

We can outrun the sun.

Happy Rain

It seems pretty common for rain to be used for a dramatic scene or an epic cinematic battle.  A brooding character walking in the rain at night.  Warriors rushing towards each other with wet hair sticking to their faces and their feet slapping the mud.  In everyday life, a rainy day initiates grumpy pedestrians or happy couch potatoes.

“Ah, this looks like the perfect day to stay in my PJs and watch movies all day.”

“Ugh, I was going to go into town, but now I don’t want to go.”

Lazy folks.  Why can’t more people and characters be happy when it rains?  Not just looking out the window with content, but quickly stuffing their feet into rain boots and donning a raincoat to go out in it.  If you wear glasses, put on a hat to shield them.  If it’s cold, wear more layers.  If it’s too warm for a coat, empty your pockets of easily water-degradable items and stroll under the dripping clouds without the jacket.  Enjoy the orchestra of water pitter-pattering on leaves, crescendoing to a roar on the pavement, and settling into a sprinkling for the final movement.

A sunny day can make everything dazzle brilliantly, but there’s plenty to see when it rains.  Birds and deer are still moving about when it drizzles.  The flowers will still be in bloom.  In early spring when the air begins to warm, many salamanders and frogs come out from their hibernation and migrate to their mating pools only when the ground is wet.  Heavy rain looks similar to fog.  A light rain cools your neck on a summer day.

I’d like to see more of a change in mood.  Make the rain a happy rain.

Fish Out of Water

Imagine a fish out of water touring life on dry land.  How would she find it?  If she’s from a coral reef, would she feel more at home during the spring among the colored flowers in the trees, or in the autumn with the red and yellow leaves?  Would she be confused that nearly everything has legs, even the birds and insects that “swim” in the air?  The use of water might be another conundrum to her when it’s consumed orally and then exuded out the other end a completely different color.  Would she understand how most animals can simply stand in the wind without having to fight against it like a fish normally would in a current?  Would she believe that there’s something above air just as there’s something above water?  How would the crisp sounds of animals and construction work affect her?  Would they be painful or pleasant?  Would she refuse to believe that not a single living thing remains airborne its whole life?

An interesting scenario that would make a fun writing exercise for anyone interested.

Stacked Stones

IMG_0147What is it about stacked stones that impresses us so much?  Whether it’s a stone wall, smooth rocks piled on top of each other by a lake, or an old church, these simple or complicated structures seem to inspire the mind without fail.  Is it the fact that these serve in a way as monuments to human invention?  The same could be said about steel skyscrapers and bridges.IMG_3118But there seems to be some added character to using stone material.  Is it the romantic association with olden times, or perhaps a distinct visual link to nature?IMG_0037Maybe it’s the illusion of timelessness that’s most intriguing.  These structures can stand for centuries against weathering if preserved correctly.  But even if they are neglected to the elements and fauna, the ruins hint at a life long past.  And what’s left for the today and now?

Perches for birds.  Flowers for the fallen and harmful deeds done.  Questions about past settlements and neighborly interactions.

IMG_3521IMG_3595No matter the original purpose and use, the remains instill a level of awe and admiration.IMG_0750

(Note: the pictures above were taken at Hellbrunn Palace in Austria, Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, England, Hohenwerfen Castle in Austria, Conwy Castle in Wales, Conwy Town Wall in Wales, Conwy countryside, and Kapuzinerberg wall in Salzburg, Austria respectively.)

Home For You

What is home for you?  Is it the friends and family in your life?  An ideal house?  The smell of coffee in the morning?  The beanbag chair you collapse onto after work?  What is it that makes you feel that yes, indeed, you are home?  For me, it’s many things.

The distant growl of thunder.  

Morning dew evaporating into mist that rises through pines like smoke.  

The smell of lilacs blossoming under eaves.  

The whir of bicycle wheels cruising down the road.  

Hillsides creased by streams.  

The cry of a hawk high overhead.  

Slipping on a dirt trail riddled with roots.  

Sunlight breaking through clouds to shine on mountains behind hills behind slopes.  

Shadows under gnarly branches.  

Moss dripping over a gurgling creek.  

Boulders jutting out like a giant’s growing wisdom teeth.  

A gull skimming over a lake.  

The wind tussling my hair.

Moles in My Mind

My mind is an ever changing garden.  It was a simple plot of land at first, teeming with possibilities. Then imagination took over with the planning and the planting.  Memory tubers here, budding fantasy there.  There’s always something growing as long as the plot is watered regularly.

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Some people want to tamper with the garden, though.  Steal some fruit, trample the stalks they find unsightly.  Their pessimism fertilizes the weeds.

No matter.  The plants grow back quickly.  Sometimes changed, sometimes the same.  I myself tire of certain leafy ideas.  Can’t waste them, though.  They must be mulched and spread over the dirt to feed other greens my mind is focused on.

Night plays bizarre tricks on the garden.  Unexpected moles dig around unseen and chew holes in roots and fallen berries.  New sprouts are sometimes pulled underground, lost from view.  But some things are pushed out of the holes.  Bulbs I thought I had forgotten, seeds of strange unknown plants.  Can they be planted?  Why not try?  Let’s see what they become.

Seasons roll and change on their own accord, sending some shoots into a dismal sleep while awakening others into blossom.  Sometimes I am tricked into thinking I can predict when the gourds will be ripe only to discover they have rotted away.  I can dig straight rows between the vegetables, but vines reach across the paths without fail to latch hold of a friend to climb up with.  Thorns strangle soft branches despite constant pruning.

Imagination always at work, but rarely in complete control.  Yet the garden thrives in its own way.  Perhaps I’ll offer you a tomato someday, and see whether you think it ripe or green.

Metaphor Exercise

When writing descriptions, it gets difficult to wrack the brain for similes and metaphors to add flavor to the piece.  There’s one writing exercise to create metaphors that can be done alone or with a group.  I find it works better in a group.

First, write 10 questions in the format of “What is ____?”  For example, “What is a scarf?”

On another sheet of paper, write 10 sentences in the format “It is ____.”  These should be unrelated to the questions and can get as descriptive or wacky as you wish.  For example, “It is the molding mildew in the bottom of an unwashed cup.”

Next, cut out each individual question and sentence and mix them up.  Match up a question with a sentence and see what you get.  Below are some of my favorite combos from doing this exercise in the past.

What is memory?  It is the color of a match, struck but not ignited.

What is a star?  It is a lonely figure observing the world.

What is satisfaction?  It is the smell of the air in fall, before the cider mill cranked.

What is a woman?  It is my heart in the hands of a stranger.

What is friendship?  It is jumping in newly raked leaves in the park at night with friends in tail.

What is candy?  It is a candy cane, stripes melting off in the sweaty palm of a child.