fiddler crabs

As I walk on the boardwalk away from the fire watchtower, I detect a movement in the sand of the beach off to the left. I look down at the sand and see a crab with a claw that is the size of his body. I realize there are holes in the sand that the crabs made. I didn’t notice the holes before now. Outside the entrances of the holes are piles of balls of sand. As I watch, more crabs come out of the holes. They are filtering particles from the sand to eat. Any movement, even wind or a breeze, and they dart back into their holes. Some do not dart back into their holes but keep sifting sand as if there is nothing to worry about. People jog by to get exercise by going up and down all the stairs in the fire watchtower. I hear them pant as they pass me. I expect someone to stop and see what I’m bent over looking at, but no one does. This disappoints me, but I’m also glad. I don’t want to share the fiddler crabs.

Flash NaNoWriMo #1

It was a noble sacrifice. A sacred ritual. I wore the cloak Trevor gave me, a black velvet that absorbed the light, lined in a smooth white silk to match my purity, the silk itself born of sacrifice, the product of millions of tiny silk worms boiled alive in their cocoons. I felt them squirming in their death throes in my belly as I walked the path he had prescribed.

Out of my backyard gate and down the overgrown alley, turning left at the fork and through the tunnel of trees at the park, crouching down as they became shorter, clutching the cape tight around my body to keep it from snagging on any of the branches. The tunnel ended and I crossed the open field, pausing behind each tree, until I reached the edge of the forest. Found the bit of red ribbon tied to a branch and followed a path of white stones to the glade where they stood waiting.

I had expected them to wear cloaks as well, but instead they had camouflaged themselves in organic matter, bundles of twigs tied around their torsos and limbs, leaves covered in some sticky substance adhering to their clothes, faces and hands smeared with mud. Except for Trevor. He was in a cloak like mine, but with a blood red interior I could catch in glimpses as he stepped between two of the other young men forming the circle around the bald, and then stopped.

His face was clean and pale, and even in the dark I could see the pale eyes that had always both hypnotized me and frightened me. He stared at me and the night seemed even darker, all of the others melting into shadows, into nothing. I was still scared and nervous, but felt a numbness in my head that was almost calming, my helplessness a relief. No more anxiety over the notion that I should save myself and the frustration in trying to summon the courage to do it because it had become so clear that there was nothing I could do.

And hadn’t I prepared myself for this? Hadn’t I, in a way, wanted it? All those months of listening to Trevor evangelize about the lost sacred traditions of our country, the old ways, the folklore, myths, and legends that were once true, the origins of little expressions and symbols that had become forgotten history. He had mocked the farmers and gardeners he saw spraying pesticides, composting, rotating their crops, over-using fertilizer, all for disappointing results. There is only one true way to bring back the bountiful crops of the past, he said, one way to ensure that everyone is properly fed, but no one has the guts to do it these days.

Did I really care though, if everyone was well fed? My parents bought everything we needed from the store, some imported, I’m sure. I think, rather, as I just liked hearing Trevor talk, liked to think of myself as special because he couldn’t talk to just anyone about these things. I had started to fantasize about myself as a fair young maiden from a legend, mysterious and silent and tragic. I thought about finally being known outside of my small circle of friends and family. And probably also I didn’t think they’d really go through with it now.

But Trevor approached and I met him in the center of the glade. Once we reached each other in the center, the circle closed in on us. Trevor pulled back his hood and undid my cloak. I was bare beneath it as he had instructed and I heard him inhale.

This is why you’ve remained pure, he had whispered, and I was too shy to explain that it was really him I had been saving myself for.

And yet, I guess that really is how it worked out, I thought, as we lay coupled on our cloaks in the glade, the circle of sticks and leaves and mud coming in closer and closer, until I felt their spear pierce our bodies together and into the soil as Trevor’s seed spilled out between my legs, our blood mingling into the loam.

The secret value of fangirling

I was recently accepted as a feature writer on the fantastic Rupert Grint fansite on a trial basis. They didn’t comment on my Rupert Grint poem that I included in my application, but I can only assume that it played a key part in their decision to give me a chance.
I am happy to report that my first piece as a feature writer is now up on the site, a snapshot of my experiences with having Rupert as a character in my game of Nintendo’s Tomodachi Life.
Please check it out here:
Share it with all of your friends on social media, and be sure to leave some gushing comments on the page talking about how creative and entertaining and well-written it is, and how you look forward to seeing many more articles by this “Melanie” person.

When you see yourself described in someone else’s words

From Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s introduction to their massive and rich anthology “The Weird”:

Did these writers believe in the supernatural elements they described? In some cases, the evidence would suggest, yes…A few simply saw the world so differently that what to them seemed normal strikes readers as deeply weird.

I cannot begin to recount how many times in a writing workshop or group something I wrote because it seemed true to me was met with confusion and regarded as weird by everyone else, how often I was subtly accused of doing “it” on purpose, when all I was trying to do was express things as they seemed to me, and how often this explanation of mine was misunderstood or made people uncomfortable in ways I did not intend.

Years later, finally trying to embrace this part of myself, because denying it has brought no real benefits, this sentence has made me so content and given me some peace. I want to hug it and say “Yes.”

Hypnotized! Or not.

At the David R. Collins Writers Conference, I took a workshop on “The Ecstatic Essay” with instructor Rachel Yoder.
For our last session, Rachel invited in hypnotist Sylvia Runkle to hypnotize the entire class as a group, and then have us do a set of writing exercises while under hypnosis.
Unfortunately I don’t think I was hypnotized, or even deeply relaxed. It bothered me that I was so keyed up or hyper-vigilant that I couldn’t be hypnotized.
One participant, who meditates regularly, said that people who didn’t think they were hypnotized probably were really hypnotized, that it’s not something dramatic, but I’m still pretty sure I was not hypnotized. Still the same usual struggle to ignore and override my critical mind and just let go.
Sylvia said that in her experience, very few people could not be hypnotized unless they had a serious medical issue, and that usually it was just a matter of different surroundings or a different hypnotist. So there is some hope.
Either way, here are the things I wrote during this experiment:


There are five lines across the sky, subtle and deep, both shimmering on the surface and hovering just beneath, like a giant mystical hand grazing its long pointed nails across the clouds. Clouds that are thin and gauzy, smooth stripes, rows of seed sowed by your staring, the beams from your eyes. It’s your hand that scraped across the sky, that created the furrows that you fall into, that strangers follow, sliding their feet in your footsteps, so that they can no longer tell which steps are yours and which are theirs. And you realize now what you didn’t before, that this is something you could always do, but you did not know what to call it, couldn’t summon the proper words, because the proper words did not exist, and will never exist until you create them. Your fingers in the dirt, smoothing a raised spiral, your symbol embossed in the earth, green and mossy.

Where did it go? A metallic ticking on either side of the tunnel she was in, blankets wrapped around her like a mummy, someone that loves you so much they tie you down so you won’t leave. Pretending until it becomes true. The way someone repeats a lie so often that even they believe it. You keep driving down the dark road, one lane going each way, headlights illuminating the tiny lizards that dart across the road in front of your car, behind your car, climbing across the windshields, sticky feet and tongues licking the glass. The same images repeat over and over, the same wind turbines looming in the distance, the same field of crimson lights pulsating in unison on the ground beneath them. You can’t do any of this on your own, can’t let go without the assistance of machines and the guidance of medical authorities, the only group of figures of authority who don’t have to prove why you should listen to them. Any failure of theirs to diagnose and treat you (let alone cure you) is really a failure of your body to fit into any of the verified valid categories. This is why you can’t let go.

Going to the Mississippi to do some listening, learning, and writing

Just signed up to attend the David R. Collins Writers’ Conference next week (next week!) in Davenport, Iowa.

Once upon a time, in a previous life, I was going to move to Iowa City to attend the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in Iowa City, while my then-fiancé was going to work on his masters in film studies at the university. As things turned out, I only ended up driving out there with him and his mother to check the school out and interview at a LensCrafters in Cedar Rapids to see if I could transfer there, before he broke off our engagement so he could go off alone and find himself. I did drive out to visit him one time after he had started classes, a 10 hour drive from Detroit listening to “Heart of Darkness” on cassette as I drove alone through the middle of nowhere at night in spite of my long-standing fear of driving down a deserted road alone at night and having a stranger covered in blood stagger into the path of my headlights.

But this time I am going to Davenport, to take a 3 day novel writing workshop with one of my favorite writers, Jac Jemc, a workshop designed to help us discover ways to create the groundwork for a novel. As the proud creator of completed rough drafts of two novels and incomplete rough drafts of at least six other novels, none of which were created with anything resembling an outline, I could really use this class. And mainly, I love Jemc’s writing and have been waiting for an opportunity to learn from her.

There are other workshops I’ll be taking at the conference as well, and am particularly curious about the “Ecstatic Essay” workshop Rachel Yoder will be leading, since she mentions “visits from psychics” and “alchemic experimentation”.

I should also mention that the 17 year Magicicada Brood III is making its appearance in Iowa and western Illinois this year, and while there have not been any sightings so far in Davenport, I’m hoping a few stragglers may make their way over to the river to visit me. Brood XIII was out here in 2007 and it was one of the most amazing experiences in my life. I’ve been fascinated by cicadas since I was a child, and over the years they’ve always appeared magical to me, as if their very appearance in my life has been a sign, of what I don’t know, but something significant all the same.

Ginger Boy Wizard

When I meet my #1 movie star idol
in the long make-believe hallway
of his movie set school
he sneaks up on me
like a little Jack Russell terrier.
But he’s not little at all,
he’s big!
So big
big and red
His hair is like hard strawberry candy
shining in the studio lights
and his skin is so white and translucent
like sweet sticky rice
the little blue and red veins just under the surface
like strings of cotton candy fluff
spinning round and round in the machine at the fair and
“O! His eyelashes are like honey!” I say to the invisible translator
not sticky, but the color where the light passes through them
My fingers get itchy
his are balled into fists shoved into the pockets of his pants
–not that i am looking there!–
I clutch my notebook to my face
hiding my mouth and chin behind them
the way his character in the movie
clutches his pillow to his chest
smiling and nodding at his friend
hello hello hello hello
bowing nodding smiling
I ask if I can touch his ginger eyelashes
He says yes!
His smile is so full of glee
I can see all of his big white perfect teeth
like little pieces of gum lined up in a row
as he leans forward eyelashes fluttering slightly as they close
and I lean forward stretching out one fingertip
testing the air between us
the vibrations tell me “all systems go!”
I lightly stroke my finger across the feathery edges
and as each golden strand pops back into place
I feel a little tapioca pearl pop up from my belly into my mouth
until the giggles come out like bubble tea
He opens his eyes and stands back up straight
giggling too
I put my fingers to my face and smell them
inhaling his scent off my skin
Smell is connected to memory and taste
so I lick them!
To seal them in my mind, with this moment
I gently pat his chest through his sweater
so solid and warm and something almost tangy in the air
I whisper to the invisible translator
“He smells really good!”
“You smell nice, too” he says, so polite
Me! But everyone tells me I smell like an old lady
He looks between me and the invisible translator
still smiling but there is a curve at the end
like a quail feather
Did the translator translate my words incorrectly?
I want him to know
I mean the scent of lavender and rose water
not mothballs and cedar covering the smell of decay
at least I think that’s what everyone meant
I never actually asked
An image sneaks into my head
I remind him of how his fake movie girlfriend
jumped on his back like a kitten
and he carried her through the halls
with her tiny claws in his skin
and when he is busy remembering
I sneak in from the side and ask
if he will carry me like this too!
Yes, alright, yes, he says
so gracious is my movie star boyfriend
I know we are connecting
when he backs towards the wall
so I can climb on
and he wraps his arms back behind him
around my thighs between where my socks end
and my skirt begins
his soft warm hands are like octopus tentacles
smooth and delicate but surprisingly strong
you know there is nowhere to go
except to be bitten with one hard poisonous beak
as we ride up and down the hallways.


I was inspired by this video to write the above poem:

Things that are similar

A few years ago I was visiting my brother and his little family down in Florida. He had to work one day I was there, so I got in a car and drove a couple hours down to Sanibel Island, a lovely gorgeous place I wish I could afford to live year round. On one of the beaches, I encountered a small red baby octopus walking around in the shells and driftwood. There were a lot of hungry seabirds around, and I just couldn’t stomach the thought of one of them eating this cool little guy, so when he climbed on a large shell I scooped up the shell and carried him to the water.

By the time we got to the water he had climbed off the shell and onto my hand. I thought he would let go of my hand and go swimming off into the ocean once I put him in the water, but no dice. He was so small, I was really amazed at how strong his sticky little tentacles were. I gently swished my hand around in the water, hoping to dislodge him. Instead I started to feel a tiny pinching feeling in my pinkie finger, and I wondered “Is he biting me?” It very quickly became apparent that yes, he was in fact biting me, and it really really hurt despite his small size. So I swished my hand around a bit less gently, and eventually he let go and swam off.

Once he was gone I inspected my finger and found a small dot of a bite surrounded by a puffy white doughnut. There was a tingling sensation in my finger and up my forearm, which I discovered was covered in a faint rash. I sent my brother a text:  Are octopi poisonous?  I didn’t have a smart phone at the time, and since my brother was at work I figured he could look it up on his computer, but instead he just texted back: No clue.  So, wondering if I should be alarmed, I drove the two hours back to his house, hoping that there would be a hospital or clinic en route if I needed it.

It turns out that in fact yes, all octopuses have venom, but how dangerous this venom is to humans varies by species. I’m happy to report that other than a lingering pain in my finger for weeks, I suffered no real damage from my rescue attempt, and would gladly do it again, though this time perhaps with a large piece of driftwood.

Although, when I told this story to a coworker, he told me that I should’ve just walked on by and not interfered.

“It’s the circle of life,” he said.

“Not on my watch,” I replied.

Here is a photo of the baby octopus in question, which to date has received nearly 10,000 views on Flickr:



And, to the title of this post, here is what Google tells me is a visually similar image:

The Clearest Flower by Tomoyuki Kawashima


Seems about right.