Writer in Residence · 12/13/2011

Don't Look For Her & Things

Don’t Look For Her

Lost at a Renaissance Faire, surrounded by knights and maidens, for the very first time in my life I prayed. I was six years old, and I thought I’d seen my mother with the blacksmith. I prayed for my grandfather to find me. I prayed that no one would swoop down upon me. I closed my eyes so tight that my head ached, and I saw white circles, like the stars of dazed cartoon characters.

Hands grasped me. I opened my eyes. She looked like the queen of Camelot whom we were studying about that fall. The leaves woven into her hair made her appear as if she were Nature herself. A fairy, perhaps. “My little man,” she called me. She arrived to save me, to point me toward my grandfather, who must’ve been frantic by now. He had a bad heart. I was certain he needed to find me before it broke.

She picked me up and I let her. Around me, friars and knights took monstrous bites of turkey legs, gnawing, the juice dripping down their chins. She asked me about my mother, and I told her she was lost, somewhere in a forest, a retreat she never returned from. Desire, she whispered. I thought maybe some tears dropped onto me, but it was probably something else.

She found my grandfather unaware I’d left him. She handed me over and then curtsied, made a ceremony of it, her hands twirling in the air and her bowing as she retreated. Later, during a joust, she knocked the helmet off a rider and roared to the crowd. “Women,” my grandfather said, then swigged his ale. I asked him what about women, but he must not have heard.

A praying mantis had perched itself upon my knee as I watched the battle. I held it up for the lady. She rode her steed over, bent over, reached out with her sword. The mantis climbed on the tip and pointed. I looked over the stands, past the trees and mountains to where my future might lay. The Lady moved forward, bent down, rubbed my curls, and whispered that thing that would forever remain in my head.

Things

The caveman filled the cave to overflowing: tiger ribs, petrified branches, reflective rocks, feathers of burnt purples and reds. He referred to the cave as stocked; his wife had other names she kept to herself. Maybe he didn’t want a wife, but an assistant, to sort what he’d hunted and gathered. She wanted to know where they’d sleep, and he shrugged, pointed anywhere to that mountainside, cave after cave after empty cave.

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KF: I love both of these stories and am particularly taken with their final images, which seem intriguingly open to interpretation. Can you talk a little about them both?

RB: Both of the final images were designed to work with their respective titles. Both the “empty cave” juxtaposed with “things” and “the thing that would remain forever in my head” juxtaposed with “don’t look for her“  I hoped would create some interesting meanings. And that final “my head” worked in my own head with the image of the preying mantis, who famously loses his head at the bequest of his Lady.
 

Randall Brown teaches at and directs Rosemont College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. He has been published widely, both online and in print, and blogs regularly at FlashFiction.Net. He is also the founder and managing editor of Matter Press and its Journal of Compressed Creative Arts.

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posted by Kathy Fish