chanter_greenie: a Pringles can with the words 'you can't write just one' written across it (drabbles are like pringles)
[personal profile] chanter_greenie
This orange!verse story has been sponsored by W. Blondeau. It introduces another Canadian cell member, Sandy.

Warnings for emotional intensity and lots of vivid, if not overtly graphic, refugee-related imagery. Also nursery rhymes, Quaker sayings and gospel lyrics.

Sandy is one of the best Q-so's they've ever had. He remembers.

A handkerchief edged in yellowed ivory lace, neat in the dark denim of a man's back pocket.
Happiness runs in a--
Lace again, vivid magenta pink, sodden and trailing from a handful of tarnished stick pins at the hem of an incomplete white wedding veil.
A tight-clutched leather wallet with a scuffed gold crest embossed near its closure, two names circling its shine with near-invisible embroidery - Jeremy and Lynn. The owner can't hide his anxiety; he's holding that wallet casually in brown fingers but the strain tells all over him - too easy, too blase.
A baby's bottle, nearly empty, rattling on a boat's floor; the kid it belonged to is screaming in his mother's arms as the speedboat careens forward, smashing already choppy waves like glass as it moves. M.J. yanks the throttle wide, and Sandy tries not to hear the wailing of the littlest passenger they're ferrying. He fails before he starts.

And all will be--
A waterlogged green dress thrown from a half-gaping suitcase, one stray thread caught and left behind in a defective zipper, trailing twisted tufts of cotton as it dangles. The girl--Melanie, her name's Melanie--all but sobs her heart out as she hauls her suitcase off the floor, but the dress stays where it fell until they've almost literally hit the dockside. It drips all over her as she scoops it up. She doesn't seem to care, just drapes it over her arm and hides her remaining tears in the water spatter.

circular motion
A half-dozen silver picture frames in careless configuration flat on a tabletop, one with a corner entirely missing, sheared off at a ragged angle, another cracked from edge to glass to edge again. The boy gone damp-eyed over the photographs can't be old enough to drive. "At least the pictures underneath are okay," he says over and over, and the delicate flutter of one slender hand never quite touches down, just swishes ineffectual gratitude in the air two handspans above his treasure. The faces in every photo look like three generations of his own.
Pleading brown eyes in a college girl's face - she looks Portuguese, Sandy thinks, but he hasn't got any business asking about that now. Her shoulders slump when Helen closes the Windsor safe house's kitchen door, but he catches her shooting furtive glances at the unused, unlocked lock above the doorknob for two days straight.
Gauze on the wounds of a teenager cut low thighs to shins by downed Michigan waterside branches, and one dead dry bough wielded like a switch by the same triumphant, wary young person, lashing the air in anyone and everyone's direction save the medic supplying the bandaging. They all trust Sister a little more from that day onward, though Sandy was well on his way to doing so already.
A leather bracelet with a half-dozen brass studs, wide on the wrist of a snaggle-toothed woman who smiles like forest sunrise when she hears the name Ottawa in conjunction with herself for the first time. "L'ottawa," she repeats after Alain, "L'ontario." She says it like she's been speaking French for half her life, but she either misses or can't interpret the Quebecois's murmur and approving nod for what they are.

you can be a friend to anyone, anywhere
A red sweater with translucent rose-dark pink plastic hearts for buttons, wrapped around a big-eyed toddler who looks like she can't decide whether or not to bawl. The kid's mother is whispering in Yiddish, twisting the ragged edge of a too-long sleeve around one finger again and again and again. That whole family comes to Brampton at the end of the night, safe in the back of his and Leigh's car.

And all manner of things shall be--
A brown leather jacket - not black like Alain's, this one is all rough sienna - on a man with an armful of wickerwork and woven baskets. There's a battered duffel squashed into the bottom one, Sandy knows, but the rest are empty. Sandy can read the man's frank desperation in what he carries, never mind how his face has gone an odd shade of dusky paler than its olive norm. Anything, his wares say, sell, trade or give away for favors, just get me there, please. When his feet touch Ontarian pavement, that man weeps out of sheer silent gratitude and clutches his burden with a creak.

make new friends, but keep the
White linen bedding, neatly folded, in the arms of a young man so feminine in looks it takes Adrian, Sandy and Helen a second look each to parse him. Quinn spends a long evening talking with that refugee, and Sister does the same over a quiet afternoon. Neither he nor his wife have ever heard the word transfeminine before, and demifemale's new too, but that's how Ezra--Esther, not long after--starts identifying herself. Good for her.

one is silver and the
These are the things Sandy will carry to his grave, God help and bless him. These are the things that stick with Sandy right down the line.

circle's round, it has no
Sandy is one of the worst Q-sos they've ever had. He remembers.


let the circle be
Sandy, he's the kind of grade one teacher who still knows all his students' names and faces twenty years later. Just ask him.

climb up my apple tree
He can't not wonder - where every refugee he's ever worked with, ever known went, where they ended up, if they're alright, if they're happier, if they're content, if they're well. He can't not make himself certain of their outcomes. All of them. The alternative chews his belly little by queasy little, gnaws at his brain from the corners in, infiltrates his joints and muscles like flu, keeps him awake, swells his throat shut and turns his hands clammy as easily as the rest of him breathes.

and all will be
There isn't much that Sandy honestly hates, but missed connections? Oh, spit bile and breathe fire, those do him right in.

He has a picture of that sodden pink lace, dry and whole and unharmed on the finished veil it was meant for, worn over the hair of the bride who'd started stitching it back in Colorado. The writing on the photo's blank side is in the wearer's wife's script, naming the location of the church as Red Deer, Alberta. The pair are glowing, equally, from beside the altar.

He still exchanges letters with the man called Jeremy; he and Lynn are happy as two clams in the ocean, and yes, he carries his same old wallet through the Calgary streets every day, why do you ask?

He's got an invite in looping writing, a letter with a welcome in its text, saying plain out that it's still six years away but of course, you know you and Leigh are welcome at Rose's bat mitzvah. Extend the invite to that lovely Lise woman too, please, if you can? We've got room up here in Dryden, you're all welcome to stay over.

when the mist has rolled away, we will understand it better by and

A hundred tear-stained faces.
A score of howling children.
Teenage arms wrapped around a stuffed animal dog with button eyes.
Half a dozen glimpsed Stars of David.
Two visible crescents, one a charm, the other navy blue ink on the dark brown skin inside a man's right elbow bend.
Clutched crosses in ten shades of metal and wood and plastic.
Three rosaries in shaking fingers, and one in hands that rock hard stubbornly refuse to tremble even a little, no sir, no how, not gonna quiver.
Mixed-up prayers and cuss words in Spanish and Yiddish, in Arabic and Hmong, in English and Lao, in Chinese and Navajo and Cherokee, and it's hard to tell the difference sometimes, God forgive him, between what's a swear and what's a supplication and what's both.
Terror on the face of an elder with sodden trousers, seven decades in her eyes and shame all but bending her mouth in half. Helen's corduroys fit her, it transpires, cinched at the waist with Leigh's brown leather belt, and they all swear blind there's no need to give any of it back.

we are tossed and driven
City names - Detroit, Saint Louis, San Diego, Tuscaloosa, a pair of separate Silver Springs, Ocean Springs and Selma, Roxbury and Waterloo, two distinct Watertowns, Winter Park and Winter Haven, Manchester and Suring, pronounced like Sir-ing said a woman in jeans two sizes too big, brushing red curls out of her eyes and trying not to laugh at his mistake, Corvallis and Zaynesville, Paynesville and Gray's Lake, Branson and Brandon (they've got one too, who knew?), Muskegon and Pensacola, two Rochesters, Bridgeport and Boiling Springs and Omaha, just like the beach at Normandy all those years ago when his father was a flyer.

we will understand it better
Countless chewed nails and as many wet socks,
scores of half-told, quarter-told, all the way gabbled stories,

and three distinct spatters of blood in the snow.

by and by.

These are the things Sandy carries.

These are the things he holds close to himself; close as every neat white undershirt worn beneath every sweater, close as the Saint Anthony medal his father gave him, since a resident in twenty years of back pockets, close as his body's heat, his watch, his wedding ring.

that's how long I want to be your
These are the things that go with Sandy like breathe in, breathe out, one foot in front of the other, oh, Canada and I love you, Leigh.

It's persistent quirk of memory, it's refusal to deny, it's for better or worse. It's everybody's important.

Everybody. Everywhere.

look down my rain barrel, slide down my cellar door

everybody do your share

This is how Sandy sees the world.

By and by.

Notes are over here:

*In our universe, Sandy and Leigh are Canadian children's television personalities and musical artists. If either or both of them ever read this, thank you for everything you did for the development of tiny me as a human being. No disrespect is intended; quite the opposite.

*Credit for the original Alain goes to Georgia at Milliways Bar. His character is used with permission. Much love and many thanks, Georgia!

*Many radio hobbyists do keep a log of the stations they hear. This usually, though not always, includes frequency, time and date, station heard and signal quality, as well as some program information.

*Demifemale and transfeminine are gender identities. the former is often expressed as demigirl.

*If you spotted a tiny nod or two to the novel "Number The Stars" in here, you were right.


Date: 2014-08-15 12:19 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This puts a human face on refugees and the people who help them flee in hope of a better life. In today's world, we need more stories like this. Please pass my thanks to W. Blondeau for sponsoring it.

I've linked to this.

Re: Yes...

Date: 2014-08-15 05:51 pm (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Yay! I really believe that mindful writing can make a difference.

This made me cry.

Date: 2014-08-15 02:29 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer

Trying to get /words/ into a reply is right now, pretty much futile. They're as tightly intertwined as your images, and rightfully so.

Thank you for posting this.

Re: This made me cry.

Date: 2014-08-15 12:40 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
One of the reasons that it made me cry is that I've always been of the opinion that if one wants to immigrate, there are ways to do so legally. And then you created an /AMERICA/ that actually, deliberately, amputates most of these methods for both incoming and outgoing people...

It's different. It turns the situation inside out and keeps turning.

Date: 2014-08-15 02:58 am (UTC)
thnidu: cat staring out at you, photoshopped into wild colors (Pow Wow cat)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
OMG. Oh, my God. Thank you, thank you.

• fertive
→ furtive

• studds
→ studs

• to pars him
→ parse

• cherokee
→ Cherokee

Date: 2014-08-15 02:17 pm (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
This is wonderful. Thank you.

Date: 2014-08-16 03:10 pm (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Right. In. The. FEELS. for reasons I can't begin to fathom much less English.

I hope it doesn't come to that.... but I think part of me knows it *could*.

Gripping hand, I'm proud to say that we will, and indeed *have*, taken in those who needed Somewhere that is Else... thankfully *temporarily*, but still. Paying it forward in advance, because we darn well *can*.


Date: 2016-04-26 03:25 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline

I just read this for the first time, and all I can say is, wow.

I may be able to analyze why I think it's so amazing later. Right now I need to go reread it. Two or three times. And then possibly take time out to cry.



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