Annie Oakley and Me

Blame it on Friday’s Writing Essentials over at Gather.com for the Irene Journaling that follows.  They had this writing prompt that I came across just after finishing my blog write-up about parallels between Annie and Irene.  The prompt was to write about an encounter with someone famous, living or dead, real or imagined.  So I put myself on a bus and train; I put myself into daydream mode.  I put these words to the screen:

In my daydream we are riding a train and the tracks are not smooth; the train is not new but from the turn of the last century, perhaps 1920 or 30.  Velvet curtains with fringe hang at the windows, brass fixtures glow with the touch of the sun angling through.  I’m daydreaming a private car; my companion is Annie Oakley.

In actuality, I’m riding a bus and the roads here in Mexico have potholes a Volkswagen bug could slide into and never be seen again.  In actuality the seat next to me holds a ten or twelve-year-old boy with a cage on his lap containing a chicken.  Both the boy and the chicken are quiet; their heads nod as if both are taking small naps.

My head nods too.  The bus hits a pothole but Annie Oakley and I take the side-to-side bobble of the dreamed train on its dreamed tracks in stride.  The bobbles are as natural to us as wind would be to rooted prairie grass on the plains – we right ourselves again without conscious effort.  For long spells of time, neither one of us speaks.  We are sewing, our needles going into and out of goods we hold in our laps.  She’s working an embroidered pattern of red roses a few inches above the fringed hem of one of her sharpshooter show skirts; I’m backstitching in black the block letters of my name on the inside cuff of a dark brown silk shirt.  Annie borrows my scissors to snip a thread.  She hands them back.

We are both sixty; we are both content to rock along the track we are on and we are both headed somewhere – somewhere perhaps not better, perhaps not worse, but different.  I think about how precisely she’d snipped that thread, barely taking time to aim and close in on that thin presence of red string, my scissors leaving less than a sigh for the ear to pick up on.  I remark on her tiny hands.  She responds with a slight lowering of her lids as if to say, Yes, small is good.

I dot the “i” in my last name with a black French knot.  Annie says, “You make a fine French knot.”

“Thank you.  I’ve practiced a lot.”

Annie does that lid-lowering acknowledgment thingie again with her eyes.  The fringe on the velvet curtains in the private car sways as the train bobbles again.  Annie and I, like that prairie grass in the wind, sway too.

The boy with the caged chicken is gone when I open my eyes.  The bus is stopped.  Annie has packed up her private train car full of sun-touched brass and gone on to some place different while a different woman, about my age I would guess by the lines in her face, sits where the boy once sat.  Two long and very dark braids run vertically down her dress front.  Her hair, I think, must be nearly as long as she is tall.  When she opens a small basket and pulls bright-colored threads out to continue weaving a bracelet with a name in the design, I am content.  The bus rocks through another pothole.  We sway, the dark-haired woman and I, both on our way to some place different.

~

I often took just such imagined/daydreamed journeys with Irene.  I climbed inside that cannon at Poseidon Park and waited for her dunderhead brother, Wilbur, to give the signal he was lighting the fuse.  I sat with her in her dressingroom between acts.  And as I write these words, she sits with me.  The truth is I think she misses my company as much as I miss hers — even though our friendship is only through words.  Well, and the power to invent one another.

Writing prompts – whether they come at me from some phenomenal story or novel or poem I’ve just read and want to try my hand at working such magic with some other subject or time, or if the prompt is a list of factors or one factor to approach with words – are the best sources for moving me from whatever place I’m slogging through in my writing.  They put me back on the road again, if not to the place intended, at least moving.

To visit Writing Essentials on Gather, go to http://writing.gather.com/ This post originated with Friday’s prompt “Close Encounters” but there are varying prompts and informative pieces for each day of the week.

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