In line at the Bon Marché in Seattle with my mother,
I heard a high-pitched scream. A woman ahead of us
laughed and said it was probably her husband, who
was afraid of escalators. Life moved on, but my mind
stayed in that groove for a long time—maybe a couple
of years. Somehow, that screaming man became a

villain, Snidely Whiplash-style, with mustache,
top hat, and cape. We moved from Seattle to
Thief River Falls, Minnesota, but the memory
moved with me, packed away someplace
secret, so I could play it like a Disney 45

in my playroom in the basement, any time
I needed to scare myself, any time I needed
to make my formless, nameless fear into
something I could turn on and off, or just
let play, over and over, until it was done.


For NaBloPoMo and PAD Challenge, Day 27 (prompt: write about a hero or villain). Also for Open Link Night at dVerse Poets, which will open at 3 p.m. EST today (Tuesday).


Fruit Crate Labels, Seattle

It’s coming up on ten years since I was thirty, standing on
the side of a hill with my husband in downtown Seattle,
the city where I was born—or I was born near it, anyway,
which is what you say when you’re as suburban as I am,
or was. I am urban now, so I know how it is to stand and
smile politely, interject a word or two, as a stranger jabbers
at you—in this case, about virtual reality helmets. That was
just the thing to listen to in 2003, how everything was right
on the verge of changing. And it was; he was right about that,
the antique store employee who followed us to keep talking
after I had paid $75 for a stack of fruit crate labels, brightly
inked and printed, and then piled in a warehouse, unused
for decades, preserved—as was explained on a small square
of paper stuck to the back of each plastic sleeve. I thought
these would be my new things—collecting fruit crate labels,
visiting Seattle. But now, I could no more drop $75 on labels
than I could go back there to see if the city still slants as it
once did, whether the hill is still there, the store, the man,
if he ever made his fortune in the virtual world, or whether
he found, as we did, just how real actual reality can be.


For NaBloPoMo and PAD Challenge, Day 26 (prompt: write about something you collect or wish you could collect).