Meet these superwomen–Pandora, Persephone, Demeter and Eurydice. They have come to save the world via music.
This is chapter 5 from my urban fantasy-comedy “Enter 5-D”.
Meet these superwomen–Pandora, Persephone, Demeter and Eurydice. They have come to save the world via music.
This is chapter 5 from my urban fantasy-comedy “Enter 5-D”.
Angel parks her SUV parallel to a pale blue minivan at the market’s lot. She rummages in her overcrowded purse for her shopping list. Thinking out loud, she considers unloading all of the debris that has piled up in her purse and consequently her life. She tosses out an ancient roll of Tums–a good start. She finally locates her grocery list: A dozen eggs, a dozen oranges, two gallons of milk, organic bread (even though it costs more), and Sugar Loops for the kids.
She begins to feel dizzy as she climbs out of the car. The world spins and the parking lot becomes a kaleidoscope. Then a tornado sucks her up and tosses her into a dark forest. She lands on the ground; jolted into a hidden reality where the world appears upside down and backwards, like one’s reflection in a mirror. She reasons that she hit her head on the car’s doorframe knocking her unconscious.
She feels like Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz and she makes a joke about Kansas. The forest, though, seems familiar to her, but she can’t say why. She’s never stepped out of the suburbs where she was born and still resides. She’s never seen a forest or a river and she’s never climbed a mountain, yet this forest feels like her real home.
She rises slowly from the ground while brushing off her floral skirt. Patting down her tangled hair, she then checks her makeup in a compact mirror. In the distance, she notices a muddy trail leading to a cabin, so she decides to walk to the cabin and seek directions back to the suburbs. As she staggers, shoes slipping on the slick trail, she smells a mixture of pine needles mixed with roses. The roses cause her nose to itch, but she ignores this and keeps walking towards the cabin.
Angel quietly raps on the front door. She hears someone shuffling his way to the door as she waits apprehensively for him to appear. Although she would like to run away, she musters up the courage to confront her fears coupled with her longing for answers. An old man answers the door and shouts at her.
“It’s about time you showed up!”
He introduces himself as Uriel, the guardian of the forest then he invites her into his modest home. Growing increasingly uncomfortable, Angel stutters when asking Uriel for directions back to the parking lot. She tells him that she must buy food for her family or they’ll go hungry.
Uriel explains that the only one starving is Angel. “Your soul needs to be fed with a nourishing substance. You don’t even remember that you have a soul and this causes me grief.”
Uriel leads Angel to a modest table where a king-size banquet awaits them. A variety of thick, dark breads sit next to a bowl of lime-green apples, dark cherries and blushing peaches. Angela’s eyes scan over the fruit and bread that wait to be consumed by her. She notices three large pink and blue crystals the size of a small cat.
“Why have you placed crystals among the food?”
“These crystals all contain magic that can help you see into hidden reality. Each crystal represents a different part of you. The light blue one represents your past and the pink and blue one represents your future. The largest one represents your truest potential of living in this moment. The crystals help you map out your journey into other realities and they guide you on your journey into the future.”
He waxes on, “You’ve lost sight of your life’s purpose and you’ve grown bored with the role of everyone’s caretaker. Work with the crystals on a daily basis and you’ll discover that you indeed have a soul and a purpose for your existence.”
They finish their feast and their conversation. Uriel gives Angel directions to a mammoth oak tree with a human-size hole in it. He tells her to dive through the hole and find herself in the market’s parking lot. Angel embraces Uriel. She thanks him for the meal and directions back to her day-to-day life. Reluctantly, she strides to the tree, glances over her shoulder, then dives into the gaping hole, which sucks her in and spits her out in the parking lot.
When she gains consciousness, she finds herself lying on the pavement next to her SUV. She reasons that she must have fainted from a dizzy spell. She hopes no one saw her lying on the ground. As she rises, she notices three crystals gleaming in the sun. She wonders where they came from then she recalls a strange dream in which she was sharing a feast with the guardian of the forest. He gave her three crystals, but how did those crystals make their way into this reality?
It’s possible that the forest represents reality and that Angel dreamed up the life in the suburbs. Then she has control over her boring life living among minivans, shopping malls, and parking lots. She can always wake herself from that nightmare. And maybe this time someone will comfort her.
By Patricia Herlevi (previously published). All Rights Reserved
I wrote this story when I lived in Mount Vernon, Washington, circa 2010-11. Actually, I adapted a short story called, “The Bats” which I wrote and performed with Los Nortenos in Seattle. I don’t recall which year that was or for which event I read the story with the Latino literary troupe. The story gives me chills, in a good way.
(The Bats-Disintegration of a Marriage)
By Patricia Herlevi
Hispanic Voice Series
Margaret saw it coming as the rift in her marriage to her taciturn husband Peter Olsen widened. Their son, Peter, Jr. died in a war which itself seemed hard to believe. Then the government added further insult, by refusing to send the soldier’s remains for a proper burial, stating something about the progressive media distorting facts.
Staring at her husband across the expanse of a large polished maple dinner table, she noticed Peter’s dry eyes after receiving the rejection for their son’s burial.
Unlike him, tears flowed from Margaret’s eyes and softened her skin dried by the harsh Minnesota weather and the stress she endured losing her only son. She glared at her husband of twenty-five years.
“He died an honorable death so why won’t the government we pay taxes to allow us to find closure?”
Peter looked away from his wife. “I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know? You’re the one who supported our son’s cause to fight in Iraq. I was against it, but you gave him that patriotic speech and now…”
Peter shrugged, “That’s the chance we take when we go to war with another country. Parents lose their children…”
“How can you act so detached when that someone was your son?”
Peter rose from the table and he ambled from the dining room. As he walked through the hallway he gazed at the family photographs—vacations in Wyoming, a trip to Hawaii when Peter Jr. was in his toddler stage, and a photograph of the birth of his premature son. The pain crushed his soul and ripped at his heart, but the tears refused to surface. He knew also that his marriage lain in shambles. Later that night when Margaret slept, Peter packed his suitcase, climbed in his BMW sedan and drove off into the night. He thought of leaving a note, but considered that he already said everything he could on the topic.
The next morning when Margaret awoke she sensed that Peter had left her for good. All the years of spending quality time with each other, building a family and a life together crumbled like Humpty-Dumpty’s wall. She went through the motions of frying an egg for breakfast, but everything she ate tasted like cardboard and after crying for days, her eyes were left in a bone dry state. She lived in denial.
Perhaps the news would sink in after the ink dried on the divorce papers or upon her son’s birthday that loomed in the future. A velvety darkness descended pushing Margaret further into an endless tunnel.
The same family photographs housed in their gilded frames that destroyed her husband only reminded Margaret of bittersweet memories frozen in time. They reminded her of everything that she lost. Once the neighborhood wives envied her, but now Margaret became a target for their pity. She learned to avoid their constant stares and found comfort in her nightly dreams.
One reoccurring dream featured thousands of bats. In the dream, she didn’t run away in horror and her fascination for the bats grew. They’d never harm her and instead of sucking her lifeblood they lead her through a transformation. She believed that they promised her a new life. When she felt that she lost her sanity, the bats’ whispers seemed logical and comforting. They guided her as she descended further into the tunnel. Margaret groped and stumbled searching for the proverbial light that would eventually appear. Even if the light failed to materialize she grew accustom to the darkness, void of any dreams, hopes or desires, but also of suffering.
Although Peter died, she felt as if she was the one being lowered into the damp and wormy soil. She felt the crushing weight and her bones disintegrating into ashes. Decades from now, she thought, archeologist would dig up her bones while searching for stones and artifacts in the blurred future. They’d say that she was a solid-built woman with upright posture with a dark complexion, or so she thought. They’d search for a husband and next of kin, but come up empty handed then the experts would extrapolate on an Isis-Osiris theory of the 21st century on NPR.
However, a real death didn’t await Margaret, but a symbolic one followed by her rebirth. At some point she’d sell the house and leave her memories behind. She’d journey across the desert and across the sea, forgetting her son who never showed her courtesy and a husband who buried himself in his work. And only then, she finally cried tears and shed the weight of her regrets. Those tears only came to free her from the burden of someone else’s dream.
In time, Margaret emerged as a powerful woman who knew great sadness. When she looked in the mirror she finally saw someone staring back at her. And the fleeting glimpses of the future recalling a fox hiding in the foliage, gave Margaret the courage to keep moving towards a better life, a different life. She reasoned, just because she couldn’t see it didn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Her salvation came in an intangible form when she relocated to Southern France and started a new life as a gardener.
Meanwhile, Peter quit his job, bought a sailing boat and settled his grief out at sea. He drowned out his memories of family life listening to Bach’s preludes on his portable CD player which sounded tiny and insubstantial in comparison to the waves that hit the side of the boat and the wind that whistled in the sails. The smell of salt often misted his eyes and his sleep brought memories that would forever haunt him. He felt dismembered by the loss of his marriage and the death of his son. But he had faith that the grief would subside in the way that tempest subside in the morning light leaving the sun sparkling on the renewed ocean, earth, and sky.
But one memory, the evening when his marriage to Margaret disintegrated played out like one of the Mexican soaps his wife so dearly loved and he despised. Why all that drama?
That evening, Margaret set out Peter’s favorite meal of roast beef with baby potatoes drenched in rosemary butter, and an expensive bottle of wine. She finally cleaned house after weeks of neglect and pulled herself together to shop for groceries and prepare that meal.
When she sat the platter with roast on the table, Peter could barely drum up appetite. He avoided eye contact with his distraught wife, but not because he didn’t feel love for her. Sensing that she had more strength than he’d ever acquire in a lifetime, he stared at the newly polished silverware and his glass of wine. He envied her.
Peter finally gazed at his wife’s haggard face. “I’m sorry.”
Tears slipped from Margaret’s eyes. “Why won’t they allow us to see our son one last time?”
Peter placed his hand on Margaret’s hand which she yanked away defiantly.
“You heard the news that none of the parents will get the chance to see their children. Why should it be any different for us?”
Margaret raised her voice in a passionate plea. “There was a time when we would have organized and pulled out our picket signs.”
“What good would that do now? We’re not even permitted to discuss our son’s death with the reporters.”
“Not that I want to and I’m sick and tired of those reporters sniffing around here and their attachment to other people’s grief. But that might bring closure if we could talk to someone.”
“No, we’re on our own this time.”
Margaret stared defiantly at her husband and headed back to the kitchen.
Peter covered his face with his hands attempting to erase the tragedy that visited him. He once thought he had all the answers, but those days had passed.
As the sun rose over a distant island, Peter drank a cup of black coffee and stared out at the sea, the smell of salt and roasted beans mingled in his nostrils. He thought about Margaret and wondered where she was at that time. He regretted walking away from his marriage. Now that the dust finally settled he obsessed about second chances.
All Rights Reserved Copyright owned by Patricia Herlevi
I wrote this story several years ago. Then I rewrote it several times because the tenses were driving me crazy. I tell the story in my Latino’s voice since I’m part Puerto Rican/Spanish. However, my protagonist is Mexican-American. She tells this comic tale of a naughty hound dog named after a Mexican brew.
As writers, we deal with constant challenges developing characters, constructing workable plots, and keeping our readers engaged as they travel through 300 plus pages. For this post, I’m focusing on developing fleshed out characters.
Creating fleshed out characters means that we step outside of our own minds and hearts. We birth characters from our imagination and yet, they are separate entities from us. Characters should surprise and shock us instead of coming across as navel-gazing. Just like a parent must let their children find their own way in the world through making mistakes and taking risks, so must our characters. It’s only our job to create worlds, experiences, and problems for our characters to experience.
I’m available for coaching you on your artistic and personal journey. I use astrology, channeling, and other metaphysical skills with my coaching practice. Sign up at Whole Astrology. I am also available to teach workshops.
While we can write usable and adequate sentences, why not raise the stakes and craft a vivid sentence that also gets to the point? Here is an example.
Her skin was the color of milk. Or her skin was milky white.
This sentence is adequate and we understand that this woman has white skin. I find the sentence flat and too passive. My eyes want to skim over it as opposed to seeing the image.
Here’s a better sentence using a metaphor.
The skin on her arms was like milk.
This sentence seems cliche to me even if it gets its point across.
This next sentence gives us more vivid details and has a photographic effect. This is what I aim for in my own writing, at least in theory, if not in practice.
The vendor reached out her arms to grab the bagels on the table–her milky flesh highlighted by the July sunrays.
True, the sentence is a bit longer. This is because it is a complex sentence with concrete details. The readers don’t have to think too hard as they see a woman vendor with a paler complexion. (Of course, she could have skin the color of chocolate milk too!)
I hope my suggestions prove helpful for you or inspire you to write sentences that pop off the page. I think that my job as a writer is to provide visuals as well as, fodder to seduce all the senses. Don’t we wish to engage our readers?
For us sensitive types, rejection feels like someone slamming the door on our fingers. It hurts so badly that we wallow in shame and sometimes the guilt that comes when we feel like we made sacrifices for no good reason. As a writer (and as a human being), I have experienced the worst kinds of rejection–the kind that contains no constructive criticism and is so vague that it leaves too much room for interpretation. This type of criticism is death to the soul (or so it seems).
During the past week, despite kind comments people have left on my YouTube videos and Facebook posts, I received two rejections laced with shame. I felt like authority figures were sending poison arrows at me and those arrows were penetrating my skin leading to the slow death of my creative spirit. These situations reminded me too much of scathing criticism I experienced as an innocent child. It’s that message of “How dare you to think that you are better than anyone else. Or how dare you express yourself creatively when we don’t condone your type of creative talent.”
So the first rejection I experience was the good folks at YouTube slapping an age restriction on one of my astrology videos. The shaming part came with a description of why a viewer flagged my video. Where there is absolutely no violence or pornography or sex in my astrology video. I produced the video to educate my subscribers (whatever their age), to interpret a particular moon transit. True, I included images of the painting of Venus di Milo in my video–which shows a nude Venus rising from the ocean with men dancing around her. This image comes from a Classic Greek myth and anyone taking an ancient art history class will view this photo as art.
Still, YouTube thought it was in their best interest to shame me even though that particular video received over 35,000 visits–people of which saw ads on YouTube and probably purchased a product or service based on the ads they saw. And the message YouTube gave me was to make sure that my videos never become too visible or people will attack me for showing up authentically in the world. I’m expected to live my life by someone’s moral standards based on religions I don’t practice and never will practice.
This rejection as far as I’m concerned does not mean that I’m a wicked person because I know I’m not. I am not a violent person nor am I peddling harmful material to anyone. If people feel offended by the paintings featured in my videos (which are tame compared to modern art paintings), then no one is forcing them to watch my videos. And if this is the beginning of a witch hunt, look no further than the US government and major corporations where you’ll find Reptilian people performing the darkest kind of magic and brainwashing on the populace. So YouTube can go sniffing for evil elsewhere.
The second rejection I experienced was from the Artist Trust out of Seattle. Last year I applied for a storytelling grant. When I received the rejection letter and announcement of the winner in January, there was a passage in the rejection letter that said I could request notes for my submission. So, I requested the notes and waited several months to find out that my application wasn’t worthy of notes or suggestions because two of the three judges decided that my writing wasn’t valuable or viable to ever producing an income for me.
Now, I could make that mean that I’m an unworthy person and that I suck as a writer. But I’m not going to do that. I have worked as a freelance journalist since the age of 22 and I have earned money as a writer in many respects. The writing sample I sent to the Artist’s Trust was a passage from a memoir I wrote about living in between homes for several months due to a housing crisis that no one wants to address. Or perhaps, I had sent a writing sample from a novel that started out with a short story that was almost published by the Missouri Review several years ago. I don’t remember what I had sent.
But I know this. I’m not an unsuccessful writer even if I have not graduated with an MFA from any prestigious school or because I haven’t studied with a decorated person. I don’t require permission from the Artist’s Trust judges to write or to succeed as a writer. And when we feel like getting revenge, the best revenge to rejection is to keep on plugging away until we experience glorious success.
Rejection from publishers, editors, agents or other writers does not mean we suck as people. It does not mean we should throw in the towel to make them feel better. It does not mean that we have to shove ourselves into a square hole when we are a round peg. It does not mean we have to accept snobby behavior from others who believe that they are the authorities of our career or life path. It just means we have yet to find our tribe.
Most of the time other people’s rejection is their problem. Sometimes rejection happens because our work is premature and needs work. Sometimes rejection happens because those rejecting us feel overwhelmed with entries, applications, and proposals. And sometimes rejection happens because we’re from outside their circle of colleagues and friends. And sometimes rejection happens by people who enjoy shaming others because they are narcissistic. We’ll never know. And if the judges can’t give us criteria for us to improve our work, then their rejection is worthless and just plain cruel. Let us reject their rejection of us.
And if you have suffered grief from rejection recently, watch this scene from “Flash Dance” and you will feel uplifted. Success is the best revenge. (Sorry, it’s not in English).