Saturday, May 28, 2011

"Body Art"

Dreams, sometimes, come so vivid that they seem real. Even during the light of day, the dream lingers. This little scenario invaded my sleep the other night and begged to be written down!

“Body Art”

            We drove quickly past furrowed fields. Flat land stretched mile after mile, broken occasionally by disciplined groves of orange trees. Without warning, David swerved our SUV onto a dirt road, pluming dusty smoke behind us as he gunned the engine. I clutched onto the car door to keep upright during the sharp turn.
            Suddenly, David pulled to a stop in front of an empty field. To the right, a dilapidated shack reminded me that civilization easily fell to ruins. To the left, a grove of orange trees stood alert, the only witness to our actions. We climbed out of the car. I stood with uncertainty, but David jogged down the dirt road a stretch, eyes scanning right and left as he searched for the perfect item to incorporate into his latest sculpture. I decided to check the shed out of simple curiosity.
            The stench hit me ten feet away from the shack, practically knocking me off my feet. I retched and backed up a few paces, searching out air that wasn’t putrid. My stomach heaved out breakfast. I stood, bent double, one hand holding back my long hair while the other pressed against the fear that twisted my stomach. David must have heard me as he’s footsteps changed from a padded jog to an outright run.
            “What is it? Are you okay?” His concern made me feel a little better.
            Sinking to the ground, I swiped my mouth with the hem of my t-shirt and pointed in the direction of the hut. “Something’s dead. Over there.”
            David’s tolerance for anything that reeks is renown, so he cautiously approached the shed. I watched as the doorway framed him in blackness. He didn’t enter the small building, but stood searching the darkness for a few seconds before returning to my side.
            “There’s a dead body in there!” Excitement tinged his voice. “Wow! This is perfect!”
            “What do you mean? This is horrible!” I started to cry.
            “Look, I think I can scoop the remains onto that tarp we brought,” David’s eyes danced as the ideas flooded through him. “This is just what I’m looking for.”
            A dead body!” I screamed as I scrambled back to my feet. I clutched at David’s arm, pleading, “Leave it alone. Let’s call the police. This could be a crime scene!”
            Possessed with passion, David swiped my arm away. “Look. No one knows we’re here. We don’t even live in this part of Texas. No way anyone can connect a missing person to us.”
            “But David,” I appealed to his sense of honor, “this is wrong! Someone is searching for this person. There’s a family out there missing a loved one. You can’t just steal the body!”  

Before I knew it, I was standing in front of David’s creation, which he called Body Art. A grotesque sculpture of woods, branches, fabrics, and severed human limbs adorned my backyard. An arm, hand splayed in an appeal to the gods, reached skyward. A foot rooted the structure to the ground. Horror and terror filled me as my gaze riveted onto the art. My mind raced to explanations I could give the authorities if David ever decided to display his masterpiece.
I tried, once again, to reason with him. “Couldn’t you buy and use a skeleton for this? Couldn’t you accomplish the same thing without using real remains?”
“What would we do with the body parts then?”
“We’d take them up to the hill country. We could distribute them in tiny parcels, bury them and put rocks on top of them. Scatter them over so many different places that no one would ever find them.”
“Sounds like you’ve given this a lot of thought,” David’s attention turned to me. “I thought you wanted to notify the police?”
“That option left us when you scooped that body into the tarp!” I snapped angrily. “No, this is our only solution now.”
David shrugged his shoulders as he looked back at his work. “I just wanted to do this. It’s done.” He angled his head as he thought, “I’ll dismantle it tonight, and we’ll do as you want.”

Under cover of darkness, we drove randomly through the hill country. We’d pull off the back roads, duck under barbed-wired fences with shovels in hand, and buried the pieces to the body we’d found.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Friday, May 27, 2011

“Summer Games—Red Light, Green Light”

            A game of “Red Light, Green Light” often began with only a few of us scrambling from driveway to “Light”. The call, “green light” accompanied with the varied pause and then the shouted, “red light!” acted like the siren’s call, luring kids from throughout the neighborhood to dash with breakneck speed at the target. It never took long for the game to disintegrate into an endless argument on who got caught in movement by the “Light.” Before chaos descended, the game morphed into “Freeze Tag” or “Statues.” Both games shifted tension into uncontrollable bursts of laughter as bodies and faces contorted into hilarious positions.
            I loved “Statues” because one of the older boys would grab my wrists and spin me mercilessly. The world blurred into the muted colors of dusk as I tried to focus on something. Upon release, I’d soar through the hot summer air, capture a pose in midflight, and freeze into position once I bounced to a halt. Everyone wanted their turn to spin and throw me because of my pixie body and “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” good humor.
            As an adult, I’ve come to believe in the value of play. Not being on a team, coached and hemmed in by adults, but unfettered play within a diverse pack of kids that created its own hierarchy and rules. I didn’t get shuttled to and from structured soccer practices. I didn’t spend hours in lessons after school under more adult supervision. I know my mother listened to our games. I remember seeing her outline through the screen door when she snuck a peek at our antics. However, parental presence stayed in the background and the shadows through most of our evening play, emerging only when there was blood spilled or bones broken. All the fussing and fighting that came about as we struggled with pecking order? We accomplished this without adult input or supervision. This autonomy in play, I believe, is the greatest loss for the generations that followed my own.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Thursday, May 26, 2011

“Summer Games—Tug of War”

            As a child, seeing a rope hauled out and white handkerchiefs tied in strategic spots made me want to run for cover. Of all the neighborhood games, this one appealed the least to me. A battle of strength and endurance, Tug of War lured the larger and older boys outside. Even a few fathers joined the teams, staking out territory determined by a line.  My Olive Oyl arms couldn’t begin to handle the powerful pulls of this game. As an adult, I realized that we often play this game at work or in our relationships. 

Tug Of War
Us versus Them
Love overcoming Control
Intellect conquering Emotionalism
Endurance vanquishing Selfishness
Perseverance defeating Indulgence
Us versus Them
Right overcoming Wrongs
Strategy conquering Shallowness
Persistence vanquishing Neglect
Reality defeating Rationalization

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

“Summer Games—Red Rover”

            Our quarters at Dover A.F.B. lent itself to play. Laid out in the pattern of a giant U, base housing had a row of attached houses to the right, center, and left. The front doors and yards of the houses faced outside the U, and we rarely played in that area where the perfectly clipped and edged lawns and pristine white sidewalks reminded us that the families enlisted in the military along with their fathers and mothers. The back doors of our homes dumped into a common play area. Some families, like us, put up fences around their yards for their dogs. Other families kept their back yards open to the field. A huge black topped parking lot filled the cup of the U and provided not only a slot for the family car, but also the perfect roller skating and skate boarding surface. Beyond the parking lot, toward the center was The Field.
            In this field, we played together on endless summer nights. Roaming the area like a pack of stray dogs, all the kids from our section shifted in play from football to baseball to games like “Crack the Whip” and “Mother, May I?” Some evenings, when we gathered a large enough group after dinner, we’d divide into two teams to play “Red Rover.”
            “Red Rover” intimidated me. My pixie sized body rarely broke through the linked hands, meaning I became captured round after round.  The other team never failed to get delight in watching my futile attempt. Every time they sang, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Lizzy right over!” I’d critically analyze the opposing line for the weakest link. My heart pounded, my breathing picked up, and my little scrawny legs pumped furiously as I flew across the distance to fling myself at the selected spot. I tried torqueing my body at the last second to add force to my plunge, but it never mattered.  The hands never broke free. I’d hang like a wet rag, winded and ashamed while guffaws and catcalls erupted from both teams.
            I learned strategy and tenacity from playing “Red Rover” because I didn’t give up. I could have opted out of this game, retreated to the safety of home and a piece of Mom’s fresh baked pound cake. Or I could have pretended I wanted to play on the slides and swings with the other younger kids. Something in my personality drew me into this challenge, and the humiliation of defeat after defeat never swayed me from my desire to play. Perhaps all of these summer games of childhood served more purpose than keeping us out from underfoot at home. I learned teamwork, tactical planning, perseverance, and doggedness. I tasted victory and survived loss—all of these elements necessary in maneuvering through adulthood’s life games.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

“Summer Games—‘Mother, May I?’”

            By three o’clock each day, the temperature climbed to triple digits, bubbling the street and immobilizing all. Birds searched out bird baths, backyard ponds, or lazy sprinklers to find relief from summer’s relentless boil. In our neighborhood, the kids retreated into our home during the hottest part of the day. We pulled out worn decks of cards and played War or Concentration. Clue and Scrabble filled many hot afternoons. Sometimes, we stretched out limp and liquid on blankets under the sycamore out back, transistors tuned to KTSA, and Mom’s colorful Tupperware glasses topped with cherry Kool-Aid sitting within easy reach. The slightest whiff of a breeze tickled against our skin, carrying a hint of evening’s promised respite from our Texas humidity. Often the Wiggle Worm chased us madly around the yard, or we dared fate with the Slip-n-Slide. Everyone scattered by dinner time with pledges to regroup at seven after the temperature eased from broil to simmer.
            Early evenings found everyone back in our front yard, a melting pot of kids united for the purpose of enjoying evening entertainment. The eldest kids rock-paper-scissorred to determine the first leader, and then preformed a second round to establish the game. When “Mother, May I?” rang out, I always danced with pleasure for this contest didn’t rely on physical prowess to win! My slight stature hindered me in many games we played, but in this activity I stood equal to my taller, brawnier, and older peers.
            All of us lined up at the edge of our driveway, facing the leader—“Mother,” who stood across the wide lawn in the palm tree’s shadow. One by one, “Mother” called a name and instructions in a sing-song, “Kelllll—leeeee, give me three giant steps!”
            The expected response in order to move forward? “Mother, may I?”
            Sometimes “Mother” granted the request. One by one the players edged closer with giant steps, scissor cuts, baby steps, or frog leaps. Sometimes, “Mother” denied movement, or kept changing the instructions in an effort to confuse us into forgetting our polite, “Mother, may I?” If you forgot the question, the penalty meant returning to the driveway and starting all over again. The goal, of course, was to reach “Mother” and take control of the game. I learned through the years to keep my movements exact, my voice small, and to creep slowly forward while others diverted “Mother’s” attention with heated debate or bold coup attempts.  Once I sidled close enough to “Mother” to take flight, I tagged my way to victory. Usually, we’d while away the early evening toiling at this game until nightfall provided the cover and coolness we needed for hide-n-seek.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Monday, May 23, 2011

"Summer Games: Crack the Whip!"

            The line snakes across the front yard, slithering slowly at first. The leader picks up speed, tugging the line left, pulling suddenly to the right, wrapping quickly into a tight circle and then yanking forward at a full run. Little feet push to keep up the mad pace, fingers painfully vised hand-to-hand, fighting to stay clasped. A whip to the right and feet leave the ground, the last three in line somersaulting into a jumbled dog pile. The leader, powered by an adrenaline rush, darts now. She spins to the second in line, grasps with both of her hands, and twists. She uses her momentum to crack her whip one more time. The tail breaks off with explosive yelps as the leader laps the yard in victory.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Sunday, May 22, 2011

"The Censor"

stifle my feelings
tell me what I can think
amend my beliefs to fit your own
control my words with your raised fists
remove my logic
suppress my truth with  your denial
protect your illusions by overpowering reality
create your stories that rewrite history
pout and threaten and yell the loudest
edit and cut until I don’t exist

 Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

We all deal with this type of person. They have their own agenda, and if our point of view doesn't fit with their world view, they'll do their best to oppress and control.