2/19/15

The Last of Mirror, Mirror (Mirror's Secret)

Mirror's Secret
by Sheri Grutz
The days piled up with the garbage as I lay down all my burdens in this massive dump. But still, but still, I was able to hum a bit, chant and croon a certain set song that passed the days, certain that no one could hear, that no one would notice that I was deep inside the properties of a now broken and discarded mirror.

“I have spent days, days, days, coming through haze, haze, haze,” I sang. The silence was deliberate.

“And I hear you, but I don't see you,” a young boy's voice called out. I could not see him, for the surface of things had put me under, but I heard him, and dared come back to find out. “Don't go away. I just want to find out if I'm just hearing things. Uncle says I'm always making things up. He says I'm not to be trusted. But I have a face, and I think you do too.”

“If you are looking into me, all you will find is broken pieces,” I lightly told him.

“It is coming from this then, this mirror,” the boy said, coming closer. “Yes, I caught the light's reflection from you.”

“That is the sparkle in my eye,” I told him, coming more alive but still not showing myself.

“But you are broken.”

“First I broke a promise, then I broke her heart, then I broke into song.”

“But why?”

“Because once her heart was broken, she no longer needed me. I was free!”

“Wait a second, you are the magic mirror that my mother has told me about. You worked for the Queen before Snow White broke the spell.”

“It's true. First that fair maiden broke the spell, then I broke a promise, then I broke her heart, then I broke into song.”

“That's a lot of breaking.”

“I never did get my big break, either.”

“But wait, my older sister is an artist. She works with junk art. She can restore you!”

“I'm not sure. I never go home with someone I first meet.”

“Come on. It will be great. Wouldn't you like to be useful again?”

I thought about it a bit. The sun was peeking through the clouds, and the April showers were on their way. It would be nice to be off of this dump, and into the house of present day villagers under Snow White and the prince's rule. “Alright, what the heck.”

The boy carefully picked me up, and I warned him all the way on the walk across the meadow, on soft, bending roads, through budding trees, not to cut himself on me, not to lose a piece of me, not to let me shatter and scatter like shards of ice. And he was careful. He led me to a country store.

“My father makes candles, tapestries, wooden horses, work benches, various other things,” the boy said, setting me down in the warm, dry foyer. “But he has gone to Copper Ridge for some supplies. It is his weekly journey. My sister should be home though.”

“Margrette?” he called out. She came from behind a back curtain, and saw me at once. She had long, blond hair, and imagine this, she wore boy's closes, even heavy work boots. “I'm dyeing fabric,” she said, wiping her hands on a blue rag. “What is this, Carlos?”

“It's a mirror,” Carlos said.

“I know it's a mirror, imbecile, but why have you brought it here?”

“Because he said you could restore me,” I said very firmly, very kindly, as to not alarm her. But it was no use, because she caught her breath, and took a step back.

“Goodness! Is it magic?”

“Don't you see sister, this was the one mother told us about, the one the Queen used when Snow White's beauty came to town, when the big break happened, that is when he was broken.”

“What do you want me to do with this, Carlos?” Margrette asked of him.

“I told this mirror here that you could restore him. Can't there be a use for him again?”

“Hmm. Well, I will think about it. Put it aside.”

“No, Margrette, we must do it today.”

“Always, today, today, carpe diem. Brother, you have foolish notions.”

“But I promised him. And all he has seen is broken, broken, broken.”

“Yes. Alright. Bring it to the back.”

We walked into the back room lined with one wall of paints, thinners, spools of thread, varnish, cans of nails, glues, and one wall of jars of vegetables, powders and spices, and canned meats. There were pinatas hanging from the wall, papers scattered about, a lantern on a work desk that showed blue prints to something complicated. The boy leaned me against this work desk.

“I'm not promising anything,” the young maiden said.

“Anything you can do would put me in a better perspective,” I told her. “I have more stories to tell. I have more days to this beauty that comes from me.”

The girl was pensive, and turned me every which way. She measured me. She checked me all over. She then told her brother to leave her alone, and he went away. It was then that she started carefully taking out each of my broken pieces with pliers, tweezers, butter knives. I had known no other like this. She was absolutely beautiful in her working, and I was now every piece of her reflection. It took her the rest of the day, and into the night, and she worked with clay, and glue, and bindings, she added pebbles, shards of glass, painted ceramic scraps. When it was done, she woke her brother, and under candle light, the two of them looked at me.

“Oh my goodness, Margrette,” the boy exclaimed. All of my pieces were set into a mural in a big circular wooden base, along with the pebbles, shards of glass and ceramic scraps. It was a light-filled, ever-present, ever-changing design that spoke volumes to such little ways of going back.

“Every little piece matters,” she told him. “It is written in the stars.”

“What is?” Carlos asked.

“Don't you see?” she told him. “The man in the mirror is you, and me, and all of eternity.”

“But it was supposed to be about beauty.”

“Carlos, this is now art. The magic mirror is not coming back. But now we have something better. Now we have art.”

Carlos was silent. He stared into the big, abundant work, catching glimpses of everything in the room, but in a slice, in little pieces of heaven. “And that is beauty?”

“That is always the way it has been,” she told him, placing a hand on his shoulder. “For beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

2/18/15

2nd Flash Fiction piece on Mirror, Mirror (How The Mirror Gets Broken)

How The Mirror Gets Broken
by Sheri Grutz

Every day the Queen would peer into with one question, “Who is the fairest one of all?” and I would see something like an ever-changing backdrop of greens, browns, yellows, nights and days. I would see into her eyes and her beauty became for both she and I a world we could inhabit. A world in which only she was created with, and even the servants, the guards, the women in the village were mere thorny bushes, prickly pear trees, dead brush and brown grasses, and blew away into dust.

It was said that one such thorny bush gave off 7 shoots of perfectly colored bulbs, and a child in the village plucked them and set them each on the water, and she was a rare child because she was the first in the village to eventually see this beauty, as they floated on downstream, she took up her basket, brushed off her dirty dress, and suddenly caught sight of her reflection. She did not know it. She did not understand. But when she smiled, it sent a ripple down the water where the bulbs started opening, blooming, becoming alive, becoming beautiful. This girl, named Lucinda, tried desperately to get the bulbs back, but it was too late, they were floating on by. Eventually those 7 bulbs would be caught in a net and raised by the river women who lived in trees and grew their own food. They were to become the 7 Dwarfs. And Lucinda, the little girl who's smile started their birth, she was Snow White's mother.

“Hannah?” asked one of the river mother's. “Certainly we have never seen a male in our midst, do you think they do not grow?”

“Of course they grow,” Hannah declared, snapping beans, water rinsing through them in her hand submerged in the river. “They are a very delicate kind of flower.”

“It's just as well if they don't get big,” the river woman, Marta, replied, scrubbing her shoes with mud, and rinsing them in the river. “The queen would never allow them to live.”

“Do you think she will create a flood?”

“We must build them a cottage made of stones and mortar. We must finish it by the time they are grown.”

“Yes, Marta, it is a good plan. We never know when we will be cut down, cut off, cut to the bone in one final blow from this Queen.”

“These may be the only men in this village, and they will be hard-working, happy, and content, despite the workings of a terrible empire.”

And so, the river women spent years making the cottage, and even let the young dwarfs pack and sand and flatten and carry each part of the walls, inside and out, telling them often, you must stay in here when it is done, away from the Queen.

Lucinda was so overcome with grief over losing her bulbs that she set sail down river on a raft, and ended up in a neighboring village, just out of the reach of the Queen. She was shocked by what she found there. Men on the railroads. Men in fields. Men repairing bridges. She had heard of this neighboring village called, Red Oak. She was taken in by a milk maid who let her stay in the barn. After Lucinda had grown, she married the farmer's son who was the kindest most generous soul. They two of them had one child, Snow White. She inherited her mother's beauty, and her father's gentle soul. When the sickness came through, it took both of her parents, but it spared Snow White. She grew up on the farm, and then when she came of age, she traveled to the neighboring village, having heard of her mother's stories, about the thorny bush, prickly pear tree, dead brushes and brown grasses. She wondered if it was enchanted, if it was under a spell, if it was something she could explore. She would not know it, but eventually she would come upon this cottage of the very lives that her mother set forth, the bulbs that became men. It would be like magic.

The Queen asked me one day “Who is the fairest one of all?” and I had to be honest and tell her that when I looked into her greens, yellows, black, night and day, I saw the outside, and in it was this young mistress, Snow White. The Queen was enraged.

“How could this be?!” she shouted. “I know what I shall do, I shall have the huntsmen hunt her down and take her heart. Then I will be the one and only place of beauty.”

But it was not done. And the Queen poisoned Snow White with an apple, and then Snow White slept. From her own neighboring village came a prince who heard of this beauty locked in a glass coffin. He broke the spell. The two of them were married, and decided to live on in this village where there once was no men (except the 7 dwarfs), no beauty, no fairness or happiness. The Queen, in a rage, took a huge mallet, and thrust it into me, cracking in about 15 different places. It was a blow like no other, and I went back into the depths of my puddle, and remained from the surface like a shiny coin. Eventually, before the Queen died, she got rid of old, unwanted things, and I was taken to a heap of garbage on the outskirts of the village, broken, unused, so many stories to tell.

2/17/15

On Learning

I think I've mentioned that when I was a child I was in remedial classes because I wasn't performing well on tests, and they also thought I was a slow learner. I remember going into that special room and feeling like I was getting attention, I loved it, and the workbooks were interesting, about every uses for math, science, language, and the teacher there finally said that I had to leave now after a few months or so, and I was so sad. Also when I was a child I learned from dictionaries, we had a really nice one with math, history and languages in the back, and I used to play school to imaginary kids, or a lot of times I made the neighbor kids come over and show them what I had discovered, adult material. I have all of my life since then had an affinity for dictionaries.

In middle school, in my town, they actually taught me a class that I elected about cults. I should have been paying more attention, but I just remember the group mentality at that point was a real turn off after this class, and I became an individualistic thinker.

In high school, I aced Algebra, but not so much geometry or Algebra II, mainly because of the guys in the class who seemed to be interested in me, and so I took that route, instead of the smart route. We had a great class on politics that was almost college prep at that point, and graded on a sliding curve, with emphasis on group projects that turned into notebook art, laughter, and pencil twirling.

I think though that what I have found is that it is most natural for me to learn through reading, and not thru testing or recall or memory, though some people ace those things. I would have liked myself and my children to have been given the Montessori approach to learning, in which the child doesn't realize he or she is learning, it becomes natural in an open and active environment. I don't recall seeing a museum when I was a child. I recall most of the times teaching myself something, learning through trial and error.

A Kid's Sketch (A Piece of Me)

A Piece of Me

by Sheri Grutz

A Piece of Me (A Kid's Sketch)

ANTHONY (mid-forties, rigid, somber)
GEORGE (19 year old black man, happy)

Lights up on two men working parts in a factory. George has been with the company for about 6 months, and Anthony is newly hired.

ANTHONY
Where do I go for a piece of cake?

GEORGE
This is a piece of cake, man, it's sweet to get this job.

ANTHONY
I mean when we are done today, where do I go for a piece of cake?

GEORGE
That's thick, man, really, just stop at Hy-Vee, they're everywhere.

ANTHONY
Actually, I don't want just any old cake, I want red velvet.

GEORGE
What the hell is that, some kind of poster heart, something you touch and eat with your fingers?

ANTHONY
A long time ago I used to work at a bakery, and we made red velvet cake, and every now and then I miss it. It is like missing a piece of my heart. Every layer of truth finds it's way into my stomach and that is how I live and survive.

GEORGE
Huh, well, if it was me, one piece wouldn't be enough, I'd probably eat the whole cake.

ANTHONY
Jimmy Eat World.

GEORGE
Huh?

ANTHONY
Nothing. (pause) Where do I go to find a piece of ass?

GEORGE
Ha, well, they got bars everywhere, but you can look up an escort service too.

ANTHONY
A long time ago we used to have 800 numbers we could call for phone sex, and I always felt it was a piece of action that I finally wasn't missing in this big, bad world. It was a piece of action that I put into motion to get a charge out of life.

GEORGE
Who was in charge?

ANTHONY
She was.

GEORGE
She-wolf.

ANTHONY
Shenanigans. (pause) Where do I go to get a piece of art?

GEORGE
They got art shops all over the place, man, but I go to thrill shops.

ANTHONY
Is that where you found your thrills?

GEORGE
It's nothing really, they call them thrift shops, but I like to call them thrill shops because it starts people up there.

ANTHONY
A long time ago I had this mandala painting that I left in my old house in a closet. I took the shoes instead and couldn't carry it. It was of the world, and I couldn't carry it. I couldn't lift my cares. I still miss it like it is a part of a matter of living.

GEORGE
It is matter too, man, living matter.

ANTHONY
Indeed.

GEORGE
Maybe you could get a globe, man, you know, locate your pain.

ANTHONY
Who said I was in pain?

GEORGE
With a globe, maybe you can find yourself.

ANTHONY
Who said I needed to find myself?

GEORGE
I see it in your face, white as flour, white as ass, white as a blank canvas, what you need is to give someone a piece of your mind.

ANTHONY
And that's white too? The white matter?

GEORGE
White as ice, man.

ANTHONY
I have to see it first, I have to see the thing I want.

GEORGE
And is it always the way you want it?

ANTHONY
If it's white, it means surrender, right?

GEORGE
The only thing they do with that white flag is clean up the mess.

ANTHONY
And you are rags to riches?

GEORGE
Living the dream.

ANTHONY
Yesterday, I went out to die. I went to lay it all down like laying down the money I need to pay to get into heaven.

GEORGE
Money don't count there, man, and I'm not even sure how much, it's worth too much to throw it all away I know that.

ANTHONY
I fell to pieces.

GEORGE
That's why you want a piece of cake, a piece of ass, a piece of art.

ANTHONY
Yep. It's to get it back.

GEORGE
You will fit here, man, really, it's a good place, all the pieces will fit.

ANTHONY
You think?

GEORGE
Yeah, and after work, we can go to Village Inn and get a piece of the pie.

ANTHONY
It's a deal.

The two men continue working on parts, wiping their hands, moving things around. Lights out. The end.

2/15/15

No Good

Eventually, likely this year, this is going to end, I mean, the blog, and the writing. Mainly because people in the media and even my family think I'm just terribly self-absorbed. I'm sick of it. Not this. Them. I'm not sure I'm coming back for good in March, we'll see.

Coming Up This Week On The Blog

This week I will be writing a brief essay "On Learning," in which I will explore some of my preferences and history of knowing things. I have temp jobs Monday and Tuesday, but Tuesday I will write another Kid's Sketch, and Wednesday I'll write the next flash fiction piece on Mirror, Mirror, as well as Thursday, finishing that series. Then I will be starting a break that includes a getaway to Galena on Friday and Saturday, some of which is a Friday night show by a Mark Twain impersonator, Saturday some art classes, films, snowshoe hike, and Irish song and dance. I'm looking forward to renewing my spirit, and staying strong through this Lenten season.

Review of Mark Hirsch's That Tree

On Friday I went to Quad City Arts in the district of Rock Island to take in the total visual display of That Tree done by Mark Hirsch on his iphone. He is a local guy who got quite a following for making a steady and yet ever-changing backdrop of this one tree in the middle of a field. I bought the calendar. I find it amazing how far we have come with photos electronically, and his shots are very subdued the way the tree must feel. I loved the detail and the workings of land and sky into the photos, and of course the tree is just majestic. I often tell people that I walk the same trail every day on a track by my house and never get bored because every day is something different. It really might be a Zen thing. I wonder if Mark felt that way too.

Your Poem, Alec

My Son Singing in the Middle of the Night


We made the music with burlap
and nails, made the wood a burnt
color, the moss thick as
crème de menthe, the roof of
the tongue had nothing left
but to sing, and you sang in
a tone off a moor, signaling
to ghosts to carry it beyond
the surface, but finding no land,
sinking into silence with paper wings,
and I was a drowning that thought
the light deep below would save me,
it was another spotlight, it was
a bulb in a glass house that
only said, I'm home, I'm home.


-S.M. Grutz

2/14/15

Today

Today for Valentine's Day I'm going to show up at these places to volunteer:

Grace United Methodist in Davenport
Clothing Pantry from 9 to 11 a.m.

Two Rivers United Methodist in Rock Island
Noon meal

All Saints Lutheran Church in Davenport
Food Pantry from 1 to 3 p.m.

Later tonight I'm taking Alec to a dinner and dance
in Clinton, Iowa with his social group, PEP. It
should be a great day of spreading the love.

2/13/15

Tragedy

It's just a matter of time before you suspect everybody. If they aren't directly involved, they respond with hostility and derogatory indirect attacks.