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Tongjee: A Children's Story

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Author Topic: Tongjee: A Children's Story  (Read 260 times)
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« on: March 30, 2014, 02:51:33 pm »


By T. W. Gilbert


To Amma, Sri Karunamayi,
The Source of Sources

To Cassia Berman,
for leading me from Red Dragons
to Flaming Grasshoppers

To Deborah W. Gilbert,
for showing me the unfailing infinite connections
between true love and pure loyalty

To my mom and dad,
(who are Isabella and Freeman)

Chapter 1
              As far as he knew, Tongjee was the only fire breathing grasshopper in existence. Out of all of the baby grasshoppers, 572 of them, that had crawled out of the egg sac with him on May 24, 2008 in Georgiana Ferguson’s Rose Garden in Bellaire, Wisconsin, he was the only one who could hop, fly, chirp with his legs, and breathe fire.
              Though all of his brothers and sisters wanted him delegated Fire Chief of the Georgiana Ferguson Rose Garden Insect Fire Department when he had accidentally charred all of the head feathers off a robin who had swooped down upon him for lunch a week ago last Monday, Tongjee tried to assure his siblings that a Fire Chief was one who was supposed to put out fires, not start them.
              Tongjee’s mother, Isabella, who had always insisted that all of her children remember their manners, speak politely to strangers, and avoid being enticed into the back porch limelight, was rather upset the following week when the Georgiana Ferguson Rose Garden Grasshopper and Beetle Community Auxiliary Summer Planning Committee had sent Tongjee a personalized specially engraved invitation to help with the Fourth of July Bar-B-Q cooking and kitchen detail. The invitation had included a clipping from the Tuesday family section of The Weekly Weed and Compost Chronicle, which had accidentally slipped to the ground by their front door mailbox from the large red and white envelope that Mr. Mantis, the postman, had delivered that very noon. Tongjee’s younger brother Freddie, by three seconds, had fought hard through all of the other scrambling children for it where it had landed at their feet, and had hastily handed it back to their mother, who had sternly requested it, as Freddie jumped and hopped and exclaimed, “I never get anything sent to me. Why does Tongjee always get everything?”
              “You get love and shelter, and food, and have lots of friends and fun, and you don’t really need anything else, and neither does Tongjee,” Isabella stated, as she smiled and glared at all of her bouncy, jouncy children surrounding her.
              “But Mom, can’t you please read it to me, please?” pleaded Tongjee.
              “All right, then, everyone: quiet, quiet, QUIET!!  EVERYONE!!” Isabella held both the letter and the article high over her head on their front lawn until all of her children present around her had become more or less still.
             “I’ll read the invitation card first, if that’s O.K. with you Tongjee,”
             “Sure is, Mom,” he said.
             Clearing her throat, Isabella Grasshopper began,

“To the young and distinguished
Master Tongjee Grasshopper
3rd American Beauty Rose Bush Lane
Across from the bird bath                                              June 27th, 2008
              It has come to our attention (see newspaper article enclosed) that all of us in the Grasshopper, Beetle, and Insect communities are privileged to be living in the most extraordinary of times. Therefore, we, the duly elected members of the Georgiana Ferguson Rose Garden Grasshopper and Beetle Community Auxiliary Summer Planning Committee do hereby congratulate you, Tongjee Grasshopper, on your most recent success at dispelling a ferocious robin attack with your breathtaking fire-breathing internal combustion equipment. We are all so delighted with your newly discovered talents, and extend an invitation to you, if you so choose, and if your parents consent to such an arrangement, to participate both as a specially designated cook in this summer’s upcoming 4th of July Bar-B-Q celebration and as the chief incendiary engineer at the fire works display immediately following. We look forward to hearing from you at your convenience.

Most Sincerely,

Members in good standing of the GFRGG & BCASPC
Mildred M. Grasshopper   Secretary General
Montgomery T. Beetle      Pro Council
Franklyn Q. Grasshopper  General Secretary of Community Holiday Affairs
Trevor Bartholomew Beetle the 3rd  Ad Hoc Administrator to the Secretary General”

              “Wow, Tongjee,” whispered Anna, Tongjee’s younger sister by six seconds, “Do you really think you’ll be able to help cook all of the food and shoot off all of the fireworks?”
              “He’s not going to shoot off anything,” blurted out Isabella, “if I can help it; not until after I’ve spoken with his father about all of this.”
              “Ah, Mom, I’ll be careful,” pleaded Tongjee.
              “Hush now, child, let’s not get in a heated uproar, just yet. I told you I’d speak to your father.”
              A tug on her apron to her left got her attention. “Mom?”
             “Yes, Charlie?” asked Isabella.
             “Can I please read the newspaper article?”
             “As long as you read it out loud so that everyone can hear it,” said Isabella. “Will you need some help?”
             “Maybe,” said Charlie.
             “O.K., I’ve got your back.”
             “Thanks, Mom,” said Charlie.   
             “Here it is,” as Isabella handed the article to Charlie, and all his siblings huddled around closely to peer at his face, or the article, or their mom, and all got completely silent and wide eyed.
            “Start from the top,” said Isabella.
            “O.K.” Charlie straightened the article, looked once more at his mother, and began,
           “Tuesday, June 24th, NEWS FLASH, from the Weekly Weed and Compost Chronicle, by Jay F. Beetle, Garden and Marsh Correspondent:
The tell-tale dangers that lurk in the seamy underworld of everyday life in the heart of Georgiana Ferguson’s Rose Garden could not have been brought to bear more clearly than on this past Monday, June 23rd, at approximately 3:47 PM as little Tongjee Grasshopper, aged just 30 days, was innocently playing a game of ‘Hop Scotch’ with his friends and younger brothers and sisters, when a hook-billed, beady-eyed, talon extended Robin swooped down from the apple tree situated at the northwest corner of the yard, with intent to do harm to Tongjee and his companions. This reporter had the opportunity of interviewing Tongjee and his siblings and family and friends just minutes after the attack. The first to come running over to this reporter announced himself as Tongjee’s older brother Charlie [that’s me] and blurted out, ‘We were playing and it was Tongjee’s turn, and a robin swooped down in front of him and stretched out its neck to grab him and Tongjee just opened his mouth to scream, and I’ve never ever heard him scream ever before, but just when he screamed, there was this huge blast of fire that came out of Tongjee’s mouth, and that robin got it full in the face, and she had to fly up and dunk her head in the bird bath to put herself out. We all cheered and laughed, it all happened so fast, I wish you guys had gotten a picture of it. You should have seen the expression of surprise on Tongjee’s face.’
             ‘Slow down, young man,’ I said, ‘I’m a reporter, not a court stenographer. Now hold on, what game did you say you were playing at the time?’
             ‘It was “Hop Scotch,” said Tonya, Tongjee’s younger sister by ten seconds, ‘but we’re going to rename it “Hop Scorch.” They all giggled.
            ‘Well,’ said I, ‘I think that Tongjee is a bona fide hero for stopping and preventing a potential massacre before it got started.’
            ‘Hero, nothing,’ chimed in Isabella, his mother, who had come running from her kitchen with some of her children trailing behind her, her apron in a flurry, like an airport windsock, with soapy water dripping from her hands, ‘And where is he?’
             ‘Mommy, Tongjee’s over there sitting on a toadstool holding his hands over his mouth so he don’t blow up anybody else,’ said Sonya, younger by fifteen seconds from Tongjee.
             ‘What are you talking about, blowing up anybody else?’
             ‘We were playing Hop Scotch, and a robin attacked Tongjee, and he opened his mouth to scream and he lit her on fire, like this,’ said Sammy, who tried to imitate Tongjee, but dribbled a whole mouthful of spit down his chin, ‘but when he did it, fire came out of his mouth,’ said Sammy.
             ‘Wipe your mouth, Sammy,’ insisted Isabella. Sammy grabbed a long thick blade of crab grass and dragged his face slowly along both sides of it.
          ‘Tongjee, is this true?’ demanded Isabella. Tongjee shook his head up and down slowly, while still holding his mouth shut with both his front hands.   
          ‘Open your mouth,’ demanded his mother. With a look of sheer horror on his face, Tongjee desperately shook his head “no,” while still holding his mouth shut with both his hands.
           ‘All right, young man, you’re coming with me right now to see Dr. Samantha Butterfly this instant.’ Isabella grabbed Tongjee’s arm, which still held his mouth shut, while all of his brothers and sisters and friends and this reporter followed in a parade to the Rhododendron Bushes. Dr. Samantha Butterfly has, as you all know, a mobile medical unit, depending on which flowers are dispensing with the most currently dripping nectar.
          ‘Dr. Butterfly, Dr. Butterfly,’ hollered Isabella, ‘I’ve got a problem.’ 
          ‘Over here, Isabella; I’m in the Forsythia Bush collecting ingredients for the Darning Needle twins. I hope it’s not poison ivy, again, hay fever, or seasonal allergies.’
          ‘I’m afraid not,’ yelled Isabella, ‘Tongjee seems to have contracted some sort of a sore throat with a touch of inflamed tonsils. Could you please have a look at him?’
          ‘Sure can,’ said Samantha, as she came out of the Forsythia Bush and fluttered down to where Isabella and Tongjee and crew were waiting. 
          ‘Well now, young man,’ said Samantha, as she stooped down to look at Tongjee, surveying his face, arms, legs, and body, all very quickly. ‘Do you feel O.K.?’
          He nodded his head ‘Yes.’
          ‘Does your throat hurt?’
          He shook his head ‘No.’
          ‘Is there a reason you’re holding your mouth shut?’
          He shook his head ‘Yes.’
          ‘Can you open your mouth, please, for me to take a look?’
          (A chorus of, ‘You better duck,’ ‘Watch out!,’ and ‘I wouldn’t if I were you,’ pattered around the assembled children)
          ‘What’s this all about? I’m a doctor,’ stated Samantha to the crowd of children, ‘I’m not going to catch anything that Tongjee’s been exposed to.’ There were murmured echoes of whispered fright, and whining, and whimpering, and squealing.   
          ‘Tongjee, please open your mouth, and let me have a look….Thank you.’  Tongjee slowly let go of his mouth, dropped his hands, and opened his mouth for the doctor.
          ‘Say “Ahhhh”,’ said Dr. Butterfly. As he said ‘Ahhhh,’ all of his siblings and friends hit the deck flat all at once and didn’t move.
          ‘Your throat’s a little red. You said it didn’t hurt?’
          ‘Nope,’ admitted Tongjee.
          ‘Are you hot?’ asked the doctor.
          ‘I don’t feel hot,’ said Tongjee.
          ‘Dr. Butterfly, Jay F. Beetle, here,’ I said, ‘reporter for the Chronicle, Ma’am. Tongjee’s brother, Charlie told me that Tongjee was attacked by a robin about 25 minutes ago, and when the robin was about to grab him, Tongjee tried to let out a scream, but instead of just a scream coming out of his mouth, a blast of fire hit the robin full force, and it had to fly away. That’s what Charlie told me, and all of the rest of these kids confirmed what he said.’
           ‘Is this true Tongjee?’ asked Dr. Butterfly. He nodded his head several times, his head falling lower and lower with each nod.
           ‘Here, Tongjee,’ said Charlie, running with a seeded dandelion in his hand to about 15 inches away from Tongjee, while he held it up straight. ‘Here, Tongjee, do it again. Scream at this dandelion, but don’t miss.’
           ‘My son is not going to light a dead dandelion on fire. This is the most ridic…’
           ‘Wait a minute, please, Isabella,’ said Dr. Butterfly, ‘I’m still doing my examination of Tongjee. Tongjee, please scream at that dandelion, and aim for the top, not the stem, which your brother is holding. Can you do that?’
           ‘Sure,’ said Tongjee. Tongjee slowly stood up, and squared his shoulders, while everyone assembled put their hands to their mouths in anticipation.
           ‘Wait a second,’ I blurted out. ‘I’ll need a picture for the Chronicle, if you don’t mind, Dr. Butterfly, Mrs. Grasshopper?’
           ‘Sure, why not,’ the two ladies said in virtual unison. This reporter, Jay F. Beetle, ran over to a spot triangulated from Tongjee and the dandelion, took the cap off the lens of my camera, checked for lighting, and hollered, ‘All set, here, do your best.’
          And so, as we all waited and watched, Tongjee screamed. A huge straight fierce blast of fire, red, yellow, and blue exploded out of his mouth, and vaporized the white ball of dandelion seeds, sending sparks into the air that vanished as they shot in every direction.
           ‘Good gracious Vesuvius!,’ bellowed Dr. Samantha Butterfly. ‘I’m not sure I’ve got a specially brewed tonic for that, just yet.’
          All of his siblings and friends clapped and cheered and jumped up and down, except for his mother, who put her face in her hands, shook her head, and said, ‘What have I done to deserve this?’
          ‘Patience, Isabella,’ said Samantha, as she looped her wing gingerly around her friend. ‘Remember, seldom is it that Mother Nature does one thing, and Divinity another. There must be a purpose in all of this, that we down here do not yet perceive, or yet may never perceive; but this could prove to be as marvelous as it is peculiar.’
           ‘Tongjee,’ asked Samantha, ‘Would you please open your mouth again for me, without screaming?’
          ‘Sure can,’ he replied. He was smiling, his eyes gleaming, his hands fidgeting, not knowing what to do, or how to move.
          ‘Say “Ahhhh”, carefully,’ said Dr. Butterfly.
          ‘ “Ahhhhh,” ’ said Tongjee.
          ‘I must say,’ said Samantha, ‘your mouth appears exceptionally clean and healthy. You may need to chew some hibiscus, peppermint, and chamomile leaves which I have in stock, for any redness or discomfort; other than that, you look fine. But, you will need to have a serious talk with both of your parents on when and when not to use these new unusual skills. Is that understood?’ 
          ‘Yes, Ma’am,’ replied Tongjee.
          ‘You may also get a lot of strange requests,’ continued Dr. Butterfly, ‘from friends, neighbors, and even your own brothers and sisters. But may I suggest to you that you ignore all of them. You will come to learn on your own, when and when not to use this fire appropriately, if ever you do intend to use it.’
          Isabella Grasshopper then thanked Dr. Samantha Butterfly for her help, assistance, and advice, and holding Tongjee’s hand, firmly escorted him back to their home, followed by some of her children, while the rest stayed to examine the remains of the dandelion with Charlie, and talk about what they had just witnessed. This reporter hurriedly tried to assemble all of his notes and confirm names for this story, which turned out to be the most unusual account this aged reporter has ever been privileged to transcribe. THE END,”
proclaimed Charlie.

            “Very well read, Charlie,” said Isabella Grasshopper. “Thank you very much. Well now, children, who’s ready for a meal?” she asked, as she folded the article and placed it carefully into the card, slipping it into the red and white engraved envelope so that her husband, Freeman, could read it all fresh later that day.
           “We’ve got a good variety of fresh greens and a large quantity of last year’s seeds for anyone wishing to stay for lunch.” A large crowd of eager children, including the Isabella and Freeman Grasshopper kids, with their neighborhood cronies, followed Isabella and Tongjee into the Grasshopper abode, and assembled around the 36 ground floor oak leaf tables stretched out in the extended family dining hall from the kitchen foyer to the pantry.
           “Who’s helping in the kitchen?” yelled Isabella, as she grabbed an apron and surveyed the youthful audience. “The acorn salad bowls and walnut serving bowls are here in the cupboard beside the sink spring. Make sure everyone and each table gets one. The vegetable stew and salad fixings are all self-serve, so do help yourself. But form lines, please. Herbs and spices to suit your taste are on the sideboard or on the tables. The root cellar and larder are overstocked, but don’t take more than you can eat, please,” hollered Isabella above the noise of 75+ kids, selecting bowls, foods, and tables.
            After Tongjee, Alex (older than Tongjee by 32 seconds), Charlie, and Constance (older than Tongjee by eight seconds) helped pass out bowls to all of the regulars and the invited guests at the multiple tables, Tongjee went to sit beside some of his best friends and future schoolmates: Jessica Beetle, Susan Cicada, Alonzo Cricket, and Stanley Spider.
            “Have you guys seen the new summer school curriculum for this year? Classes start next week and I really don’t think I can handle all of the new posted schedule: Agronomy, Micro-Economics, Cold Storage Physics, Seed Pod Harvesting, Assembly Line Cooperation, as well as Chorale Singing, Cooking, Track and Field, Line Dancing, and Self-defense.” 
            “Tongjee, please,” burst out Alonzo. “You, of all grasshoppers, do not need self-defense. And as long as we’re with you, wherever you go, we won’t need it either. By the way, do you suppose you could teach me how you do that thing with your breath or whatever it is you do? I’m sure my folks would pay for lessons. Come on, what d’ya say?”
            “First things first,” said Tongjee. “I don’t know how I breathe fire, so there’s no point in my trying to teach you or anyone else how to do it. And second of all, I don’t know why I can do this, so even if I did know how to teach someone else, I’m not sure I’d want to teach it. And third, I know my parents would never allow me to.”
           “Tongjee?” asked Jessica, dreamily, staring at him across the lunch table, while absentmindedly stirring her food with a fork. “What classes are you signing up for this summer, ‘cause whatever you’re taking, I’m going to make sure I’m sitting right beside you in every class.” Then she sighed heavily, fluttered her eye lashes and feelers rapidly, as everyone else at the table groaned and rolled their eyes. Tongjee blushed.

Chapter 2
        That afternoon, at a pickup practice baseball scrimmage, between the Golden Grasshoppers and their long-time “back-40” rivals the Dapper Daddy Longlegs from the Inter-pasture League, the coaches of both teams, during pre-practice warm-ups, were trying to emphasize fundamental skills: throwing, catching, hitting the right cut-off bug, scampering the bases, stealing signs, bunting, and hitting to the opposite field to move runners along.
          When the game started, Tongjee, playing short-stop, and batting eighth, came up for the first time in the third inning. He had selected his bat, waited his turn in the on-deck batting circle, and had come to the plate. He set his bat down, leaning it against his legs to stoop and pick up a handful of batter’s box mud to rub on his hands. It was at this moment that Ralphie Roach, the pitcher for the Long Legs decided to ignore the upraised hands of the umpire, who’d called time, and hurled a bean ball at Tongjee’s head. Alonzo, who played first base and was sitting on the bench yelled, “Look out!”
         Tongjee glanced up just in time to see the spinning ball bearing down on him. His scream met the ball in mid-flight where it exploded in a blasted fit of smoked string, dock hide, and cork. The stream of flame continued out past the mound where Roach had fallen on his face to escape the dangerous heat.
         “Roach, you hot head, what the heck was that all about?” yelled Wally Wasp, Tongjee’s coach.
         “Hot head? Hot head?” Barked Roach as he jumped up. “I’m the hot head? What about Monster Mouth at the plate, huh?”
         The benches cleared, and the umpires circled the players. Then all the yelling and jumping and bantering quickly subsided. Tongjee was heading back to the dugout, where his teammates and foes had expected him to be in the center of a battle.
         Tongjee, with his bat dragging behind him in the grass, head staring blankly in front of him, mumbled, “Sorry, Coach, I didn’t mean to do that. I’ll pay for the ball. I didn’t mean to scare Ralphie.”
         “He had it comin’,” commented Coach Wasp, “and forget about the ball.”
         “But I could’a killed him.” Tongjee pleaded.
         “Nah,” Coach Wasp spat and looked sideways at the bat rack and the sky trying to make light of the situation. “You gotta have a lot more in that flame thrower of yours than what you got to kill a Roach, specially one from Thaddeus P. Roach’s clan. All you did, kid, was give him a mouth full a dirt, and that’s not the first time that’s happened. Go on back out there and just make contact with the ball. You need practice on keeping your swing even and level. Go with the pitch, and try not to swing for the fences. That bit’s a fool’s game. Getting on base consistently is the key to success in this sport.”
           Tongjee walked back up to the batter’s box and banged his bat on the plate. The Long leg’s defensive players walked back to their positions. The Grasshopper and Long legs extras exited the playing field to their respective benches in their dugouts, and the umpire returning to behind the plate hollered, “Play ball.” 
           Tongjee lifted a 2 & 2 pitch into right center field and sped to first base. His coach yelled, “Way to run it out, Kid.”
           The right fielder, running in from the fence, caught the ball in mid-stride and threw the ball into the second baseman. As Tongjee ran back to the dugout, the manager barked, “Nice cut, Kid, solid swing, good contact, keep up the hustle. Let’s go McAllister, Jake, get up there and put some wood on it.”

Chapter 3
          That evening, when Freeman Grasshopper returned home from working all day at the Community Seed and Husk Cooperative, and received word on all of the day’s events, Isabella raised her hand to stop Freeman’s frustrated reaction, “Now don’t start on me, Freeman, please, I’ve done a pretty good job hiding all the rest of the hundreds of letters that have arrived here since the day after the robin attack. I know we both agreed to keep a very tight lid on all of this, but that blasted invitation from the Summer Planning Committee came in a regular hand addressed envelope to Tongjee, and Luba Spider, Tongjee’s best friend’s mom, was the name on the return address. The committee members must have known of the connection Tongjee’s got with Stanley, his being the catcher on Tongjee’s baseball team, and all. So they got her to hand address that letter, knowing full well how we feel about such things. When Tongjee opened it, the article fell out on the ground, and there was no hiding it. I’m so sorry…. O.K., now you can speak.”
            Freeman just stared lovingly and with concern at his wife, Isabella, as she pleaded with him with her eyes to simply say something reassuring.
           “I’m afraid,” said Freeman, trying to be solidly diplomatic, yet conciliatory, “we’re going to have to share what we’ve received and collected of all of this nonsense with Tongjee and all of his brothers and sisters. They need to be prepared for any unexpected barrage of possible troublesome encounters with these flim-flam artists: those who seem to be crawling out of the woodwork, and are now soon sure to be knocking on our front door right here on American Beauty Lane any day. I wish we could hide or go on vacation for the summer, but I think we’ll have to ‘tendril-down’ and sandbag our existence here as best we can and get used to whatever bothersome trouble comes our way. As Dr. Samantha Butterfly said last week, there may be unexpected trials and blessings from all of this.”
           Then, producing a cross between a smirk and a shrug, Freeman stepped over to Isabella, embraced and hugged her tight, and gave her a big long kiss.
            “We’ll weather this together, Dear,” Freeman told her affectionately. “Shall we call a family meeting?”
              “We’ll have to,” said Isabella, convinced that Freeman had decided what she would have chosen as a sensible course of action.
              Freeman took the family “Ground Maple” penny whistle off the kitchen calendar shelf and blew three short high pitched blasts. From every room in their five story house emerged children who began descending to the main floor living area, or positioning themselves at the railings of the four balconies. When all but a few stragglers were seated around Isabella and Freeman, or hanging over the railings, Freeman began the family forum by announcing: “As all of you have become aware in recent days, our grasshopper household has been challenged by an unusual and perhaps fateful occurrence that has been surprising, incredible, and eye-opening, to say the least. But what you are, and have been made aware of, is actually only the tiny tip of the ‘Proverbial Iceberg.’ Your mother and I are also in new territory here, and we’ve decided to ask for your help and support in what we are all going to be going through. The letter that Tongjee received today was not the first invitation he’s received from outside interests,” (sounds of muffled surprise echoed throughout the amphitheater-like living space) “wishing that he use his fire breathing abilities for questionable purposes. Today’s letter simply slipped through our strategic fences like a small fish through a woven net. On Monday evening, last week, after all of you had gone off to bed, Mother and I stayed up rather late talking about what we assumed were going to be expected reactions to Tongjee’s newfound talents. First thing Tuesday morning we walked up to the post office to request of them that they hold any and all unsolicited mail directed to Tongjee.” 
            Freeman stooped down and took a scotch-taped piece of paper off of a cardboard carton. “This box on the floor here is full of hundreds of such letters saved by the Post Office asking Tongjee to (as Freeman scanned a piece of paper containing a hand scribbled list), let me see now, to help clean chimneys, to stoke fires in a blacksmith shop, to work in a hot air balloon ride enterprise, to work in a fertilizer factory, to be a side show artist in a traveling flea circus, to be the main heat source in a Hot Springs Resort, and to help operate the organ steam pipes in a Nashville Olde Time Calliope Band. Most of the rest of these requests were for bagel, bakery, and pizza shops. Oh, and we also got one from the Back Lot Triticale Bread Company needing a bake oven, and also one from the Kiddy Steam Train Amusement Park Ride over at Five Corners needing a coal burning furnace.”
             “Mom?” from up in the balcony.
            “Yes, Charlie,” said Isabella.
            “Why have so many strangers we’ve never met sent Tongjee so many letters? And why do creatures find such interest in his ability to breathe fire, anyway?”
            Isabella looked at Freeman for a comment. “Dear, do you have any answers? I’m not sure I know a way to make all of this clear.” 
            “Well,” said Freeman. “I’m not sure I’ve got an answer, but I’ll try.” He looked down at the papers he held, looked up and surveyed all of his children in front of him, and looked at Isabella, who smiled lovingly at him, though her eyes appeared careworn.
            “It seems to me,” he began, “that for reasons I may never understand, creatures are not overly interested in folks who become successful in life working very hard over a long period of time to achieve success with dreams they’ve pursued. When anyone who simply works hard can achieve anything that they set their mind to, it seems to be viewed as not as important as when someone is born with an amazingly rare talent that was seemingly bestowed upon them unexpectedly.”   
            “Dad?” asked Trevor, from down front.
            “Yes, Son?”
            “I know that you mean Tongjee, as someone born with a gift he didn’t ask for, and getting a lot of attention for it. But could you explain what you mean by working hard all of your life for a dream and not getting recognized for that? I mean, why wouldn’t you?”
            “Sure,” said Freeman. “Do any of you here know anyone who lives right here in our very own neighborhood who fits that description?”
            “What description?” yelled Timothy.
            “O.K.,” responded Freeman, “Someone who has been very or exceptionally successful with their career that they’ve spent their whole life doing, yet few know what they actually do.”
            There were a lot of whispered comments from all over the room as Freeman’s and Isabella’s children shared ideas and names; but the whispering eventually died down to a muffled silence after a minute and a half.
           “Any guesses?” Asked Freeman, again. Silence. “Well, just four doors down from us, towards the lilac bushes, lives an amazing piano teacher, Svetlana Torasheva Spider, who teaches not only piano, harpsichord, the Weppi-Vefr, and the Karphos Harp, but has been designing and building her own concert instruments for what seems like an age. All of you may know her simply as that old local musician who teaches many of you and some of your friends; but she has performed all over, and accompanied some of the best musicians in the North Woods, and quietly been a phenomenal success in her own field, while also being Stanley Spider’s Great Grandmother, with little or no notoriety. And she’s been a prolific composer of orchestral Pastoral Symphonies, Nocturnes, Sonatas, Etudes, and also Preludes and Fugues for her String Quartet. Give us a show of hands if any of you were aware of her accomplishments.”
           Three hands went up from the various balconies, from three kids who happened to take lessons from her.
           “That most of you were completely unaware of her real successes shows how sometimes success and fame can be completely unrelated. Sometimes you can have fame and success at the same time, but not necessarily. And you can be famous without being successful, and clearly you can be successful without being famous,” stated Freeman.
           A smattering of giggling and murmuring erupted from the assemblage of children above and below.
           “Hey Daddy,” yelled Frieda from the back on the ground floor, “which would you rather be: famous or successful?”
           “Good question, Frieda,” replied Freeman. “Anyone want to offer answers and why?”
          “I want to be more famouser than Tongjee,” screamed Danielle from up on the fourth level, “and get my picture in the paper with the rest of the Ferguson Garden Marching Band, ’cause we just got new uniforms.”
          “I’m going to be more famous than Danielle when I get elected President of the United Insects of the Georgiana Ferguson Rose Garden, when I get big,” hollered Sean from the top deck.
            “I’m going to be really successful and really famous when I invent and build a new Loop-D-Loop Roller Coaster for the Amusement Park by the gold fish pond,” yelled Steven from the kitchen, as he brought back a plateful of snacks, and several of his brothers and sisters raided the platter as he tried to side step to his seat.
            “Hey, get your own,” he laughed, as they all yelled, “Thank you, Steven,” in sequence.
            Isabella leaned forward and whispered loudly into Freeman’s ear, “I’m not sure this is working, Dear.”
            “Daddy?” Yelled Frieda, again. “You didn’t answer my question. Which would you rather be?”
            “Well, Dear,” said her dad, “I will probably never be famous, whether or not I try to become famous. Becoming famous, in my mind, has only a very few blessings, and generally way too many cumbersome and never-ending difficulties associated with it. Success, on the other hand,” continued Freeman, “is generally something that is judged by the person doing the work, or by friends, family, or colleagues. If one is content and satisfied with the work one is doing, that may be the real measure of success. I feel successful with my work at the Community Seed and Husk Cooperative. I know my job. I do my work. My bosses are pleased with my work (I think.). But I don’t believe my work, regardless of how hard I do it there, will ever make me famous. But I consider that a blessing. I don’t need the usual headaches that fame brings in tow. Does that answer your question?”
           “Do you want us to be successful or famous?” asked Jesse, from the second floor balcony.
           “Your mother and I want all of you to be and become successful, with whatever you choose to do with your lives. If you choose to also pursue fame, that is something we can try to help you to realize; and we will both encourage you to be mindful of making correct choices along the way, while being honest, and forthright, and conscientious: all the things which we and your friends, neighbors, and teachers would expect you to be, as positively behaving grasshoppers within this community. We don’t think that’s too much to ask of all of you. But your choices are yours, and we’ll support you in any direction you want to go in.”
            “Well what about Tongjee, Mom and Dad?” Hollered Jacob, from down in front. “I don’t think he wanted this fire breathing career. How do you help him?”
            “That’s the reason we’re having this family meeting, children,” said Isabella. “All of us in this family are going to help Tongjee, as he and we all help each other every day. That’s what a family is. If we can’t support each other through this unusual circumstance that has happened to us, then we don’t really know what success is, do we?”
            There was a chorus of, “Yeah, Mom,” and a lot of clapping.
            “As we end this meeting,” piped in Freeman, “I want all of you to keep your eyes open, your ears open, your feelers extended, and share what you know and learn as we all help one another through whatever it is that comes our way. Your mom and I are not even sure what that will be. Remember, also, that summer school starts up next week, so we want you all to get into a regular sleep schedule by the end of this week. Dawn comes early.”
            “So if any particular members of our community or from outside of our community approach any of you regarding Tongjee,” continued Freeman, “please be very polite, take their names and cards, if they have them, and tell them your parents will make contact with them at some time in the future. Time for chores and bed, Kids. Sleep well.”
            There was a mad scramble for the kitchen and the restrooms, as Isabella gently touched Freeman on his shoulder and headed for the kitchen herself to clean up. Freeman picked the box of solicitations up off the floor and placed it on a shelf in the kitchenette sunroom off to the side of the open living room area. He began to whistle a Beetle folk song he’d learned as a child. Some of their kids from various rooms broke in to sing the words to the whistled tune. Freeman’s eyes sparkled, as he whistled and listened:   

“There’s room for one and all this day, the sun
is fresh and bright, the rain has left a touch
of dew that sparkles in the light. There’s none
who would not sing for joy, nor grant what’s such

a dream; the grass is green, as peace is shared
beside this rock filled stream, where water’s cold,
and rushes sway, small falls make waters staired,
like steps of foam on silvered stones where gold

fish drink what’s aired, where dragonflies that kiss
the pools and hover still with ease, are free
to dance and play at tag, or buzz the bliss
of bees, that dart from bloom to bloom to see

if nectar’s worth the stay, while on their way
to gather food this wondrous peaceful day.         

Chapter 4
        A loud series of five knocks on the front door at 7:05 A.M. the following morning interrupted the Grasshopper breakfast routine. Isabella hastily dried her hands on a kitchen towel draped over the last chair at the far end of the breakfast nook as she headed towards the front door. When she pulled the door open, she was startled by a tall, very old, but serious looking Grasshopper in full dark green military uniform. Before she could utter a word, the gentlebug removed his badged, visored hat, placed it crisply under his left arm, and began, “Pardon me, Ma’am, for arriving unannounced. I am Colonel Westcott Grasshopper, 3rd Battalion Infantry Commander, retired. I wish to speak to the parents of Tongjee Grasshopper and offer my services, free of charge, for his advanced training in incendiary self-control. Dr. Carlisle at the Brook Water Institute and Mayor Bridgestone here in our own Ferguson Insect Village bade me stop by. I am certified in all of the 8 levels of armed claw to claw combat from the Mountain Mandible Tradition, I have 5 years as an expert in the straw bow category, I took second place two years running in the free style Saw Grass national competitions, and I’ve been a rock island survival skill senior instructor for the duration of my current special services tour of duty. From those who pay attention to such things as Tongjee and his abilities, and from those who are in authority who wish that he receive the best training available, for his sake and the community’s at large, I am here at your service.”
             At this point in the lengthy monologue, Freeman, who had been listening from behind his morning paper at the breakfast table, got up and sauntered to directly behind Isabella.
            “Of course,” continued Westcott, “I expect that you will require some time to consider the proposal. You can reach me through Mayor Bridgestone’s office. Here’s my card. I will await your response, at your convenience. Good Day.” Whereupon, he swiveled on his heals, while replacing his hat on his head, and marched quickly down the walk, spun on his heals at the end of the dirt path, and marched to his right, away towards the main street square.
              After following Colonel Westcott’s departure with their eyes, and staring at the empty path, Isabella and Freeman turned slowly to face each other, their eyes wide with surprise, horror, and humor, their mouths open, as if expecting words fitting a response to come trickling out, but they stood staring at each other in silence.
            “Do you think he may have been serious? About training Tongjee?” broke in Isabella.
            “I, I, I, I’m, I, well…, he was dressed in what seemed like an authentic uniform, I suppose,” Freeman expressed, trying to sound reasonable, whereupon they both burst out laughing.
             “You know, Isabella,” said Freeman, with a wry twinkle in his eyes, after they had convulsed for a few minutes, “Colonel Westcott might be able to help Tongjee focus his klutzy, scatterbrained natural disposition towards fun and games and get him to concentrate on something serious for a change.”
             “Freeman, be serious, yourself,” yelled Isabella. “You’re not actually considering allowing that stiff upper lipped soldier to take charge of Tongjee’s life in any way, are you? That grasshopper looks like he’s never once laughed or smiled in his entire life!! Tongjee wouldn’t know how to deal with someone who’s all discipline, with no light-hearted interior at all.”
            “Actually, Isabella, I am,” said Freeman. “You and I and our entire family want desperately to help and protect Tongjee from whatever is out there, and I don’t think we can do it by ourselves. This weird guy seems pretty spooky for sure, but he doesn’t appear at all sinister. And, if he is sincerely able to provide Tongjee with the self-discipline we know Tongjee lacks, it might be just enough to help him become his own best protection.”
            “But we can wait a bit and continue this conversation later. I can’t be late for work; we need to air all of our concerns and speculations together in the next few days, as we think of how all of this is going to impact on our lives. I love you, got to run.”
            “I love you, too,” said Isabella, as Freeman kissed her on the cheek, and skipped to the door to hop to work.
           Isabella returned to the kitchen and shouted, “Left over breakfast snacks for those who need seconds, and I’d appreciate any help with clean up. 30 to 40 kids in the dining area, breakfast nook, and kitchen all looked up from what they were doing and talking about and said, “Sure Mom, Thanks, we’ll take care of our own servings and/or our messes that we’ve made.”

Chapter 5
          Tongjee descended the long flights of stairs from his single room on the fourth floor to the kitchen area slowly, one shuffling dragged foot at a time. Sammy, in the nook, watched him and hollered up, “Hey, Pokey, what’s with the late start? It’s almost 8:00 o’clock.”
          Tongjee stopped, leaning over the second floor railing and mumbled, “Bad dreams, that went on and on and on, all night.”
          “Come down and share,” yelled Sammy.
         “I don’t know,” said Tongjee. “Some dreams are just too weird.”   
         “Well, what are you doing today?” asked Sammy, as Tongjee came through the kitchen, taking an acorn bowl for some mixed grain cereal.
         “Stanley and I were going to hang out together at his house for a while, and we’ve got ball practice in the afternoon again, if the weather holds.”
         “Good morning, Mom,” said Tongjee, as he walked passed her, by the kitchen sink.
         “Good morning, Dear Son,” replied Isabella. “What’s this I heard about nightmares?”
         “I dreamt I’d started up at school, and on my first day my skin began to change color from green to brown to reddish brown to bright red, and I stuck out everywhere. I kept waking up and falling back to sleep, but the dream would resume right where I’d left off. It was really scary.”
          A familiar sound of multiple drumsticks rattling against the front door in a rhythmical knocking prompted Isabella to yell, “Come on in, Stanley.”
          The door opened and Stanley Spider, carrying six drum sticks that he twirled and hammered on anything and everything in sight as he came through the door, yelled out, “Hi everybody. What’s the news, for those with blues? Just sing a song, it can’t be wrong. Hey Tongj, what’s up?”
          “I was just telling my mom about a very long dream/nightmare I had last night,” then turning to face his mom again, Tongjee continued, “So, anyway, when I slowly turned red, I couldn’t fit in or hide or blend in anywhere; it was really uncomfortable being stared at everywhere I went, every class, through the halls, at lunch, in the gym, on my way home. There was a feeling I’ve never had before that was like wearing a soaking wet shirt I could not change or get off. It was just plain creepy.”
          “You’ll have to tell me all about it later,” said Stanley. “Maybe we could turn it into a song.”
          “Who would listen to it?” suggested Tongjee.
          “It could be a big hit, and, and… yeah, I know, just you and me, and maybe some friends. Hey, you ready to go?” asked Stanley.
          “Yup,” as Tongjee placed his breakfast bowl in the sink. “See you, Mom. I’m going to Stanley’s house and then to baseball practice. See you tonight.” Tongjee grabbed his bat and glove by the door, and he and Stanley exited and slammed the door as they skipped down the walk.
          “Hey Tongj, that dream you were talking about to your mom; was that last night?”
         “Yeah, the whole night,” replied Tongjee.
         “Have you ever met my great-grandmother?” asked Stanley.
         “No, why?”
         “She’s from the old country. She knows a whole lot about different things, and even things like dreams. She lives right here on your lane. Let’s stop in and say ‘hi,’ if you want to.”
         “Sure, why not?” replied Tongjee. The two friends turned right at the lane from the Grasshopper sidewalk and headed four houses down. Stanley used his drumsticks on the mailboxes, grass stalks, stones, and brick walks as they went.
         “Does she mind unexpected visitors?” asked Tongjee.
         “Nah, I drop in all the time. She’s teaching me to read music, drum scores and such. It’s pretty neat.”
         “Is that her dark brown house, there?” pointed out Tongjee.
         “Yup. Come on. This will be fun.” 
        They walked up the sidewalk and rang the doorbell. The tune that came out of the wrung bell was four opening bars of a fugue. After a minute, the door swung open and a large, elderly spider, with a paisleyed scarf around her head, showing intensely dark, deep set sparkly eyes, with a warming smile, blurted out, in a husky voice, “Stashu, come een, come een, welcome. And who is dees friend, who is with you, today? I wus just about to haf some tea with some biscuits. Come een, please, and we can talk, but just for a little bit.”
           She turned and led them slowly down a dark hall to a musty kitchen with a cozy round table with three chairs in the center of the room.
          “Seet down, I’ll get you two boys cups.”
          “Grandma, Svetlana Torasheva, this is Tongjee, sort of my best friend, he’s the one who…”
          “Yes, yes, courageous, this one. Spirit and fire, too, yes, real fire. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of such talents of these particular kind, very unusual.”
          “Grandma, he had a strange dream last night and…”
          “A strange dream, eh? Does he speak? Let him tell it. Go ahead, Tongjee, Tongjee Grasshopper,” she motioned to him to speak with one hand as she also poured some hot water into a cup which she held, while she also dunked a tea bowl up and down in the cup and also held a tray of biscuits out and selected two apiece for both Stanley and Tongjee.
          “Thank you very much for the tea and biscuits,” said Tongjee. “I guess you’ve heard of me and my breathing fire.” Svetlana, with pursed protruding lips and knowing gaze, nodded slowly several times as he spoke. 
          “Well, I’ve been in sort of a daze ever since last week, but last night I dreamed I was starting up in school, which we’re doing next week, and while at school I was slowly, very slowly turning from green to brown to reddish brown to red, and by the end of the day, or dream, I was completely red. Everyone was staring at me, and the feelings that came over me were very intense and scary.”   
           “What do you think the dream does mean to you, do you suppose?” asked Svetlana.
           “I don’t know, said Tongjee, looking straight ahead at the cupboard of multi-colored cups against the wall.
           “It may come to you in a very unusual way, when you discover some of the uses of these new skill that shares your life. When I was just about your age, maybe just a bit younger, I had a dream that my eight legs spilt in half and became sixteen. Then those sixteen split in half again and became thirty-two, then again to sixty-four, then one hundred and twenty-eight. I woke up screaming and drenched in sweat, only to discover that it was not real. Dreams are funny, eh? That dream worried me for years until I began doing all of the things with music that I was doing, and somehow the dream made sense: multiple hands, multiple skills, all working at once. So, you became red, and couldn’t hide?” She smiled and chuckled.
          “Tongjee took a sip of tea and a bite of the biscuit. “My dad last night informed all of us in a family meeting about your work in music. Do you have time to show me your studio, some of your instruments, and your music?” 
         “Perhaps another day would be better, Tongjee. You are more than welcome to come by when we both have more time, because you would probably wish to explore in detail everything here in this house. Some weekend day when we would both not be so busy, would be good, eh? Stashu, this friend of yours, Tongjee, is good, very good. You bring him by for many visits. How are your practicing coming along?” 
           “All the time, Grandma, I don’t even let go of these sticks when I’m eating.”
           “He doesn’t,” commented Tongjee.
          “Such wonderful commitment is good, yes. But now is time you must go, boys. Shortly I am expecting my music students to arrive. It has been much pleasure meeting you, Tongjee, and of course seeing you Great Grandson, Stashu. You both welcome here at any time.”
          “Thank you so much for allowing us to visit,” said Tongjee.
          “You are most welcome. Come, I’ll show you to the door.” Whereupon, Svetlana retraced her way from the kitchen down through the long winding hall to the front door.
          “You boys playing ball today?” She asked.
          “Yes, Ma’am. Stanley and I have practice in the afternoon.”
          “When your game schedule comes out, let me know. I love baseball. Do you still play by the old graveyard next to the Spring Weavers Basket Factory?”
           “Yes, Grandma, and I’ll bring the ball schedule next week when I come by for drumming. Take care, love ya,” as Stanley gave her a hug and a kiss at the door, “See ya soon.”
           “Bye, for now,” said Svetlana, as she closed the door behind them.
          “She’s pretty neat, Stanley,” said Tongjee, as they walked out to the lane. “Hey, rather than going right through the garden, through the center of the village, you mind if we walk the fence on the outside and take the long way to your house? I’d prefer some quiet and peace and solitude at the moment, if possible.”
           “No problem,” replied Stanley, taking all six of his drum sticks and thrusting them one by one into an improvised arrow quiver slung over his shoulder.   
          The lane they were on ran lengthwise north and south near the west end of the garden. The fences surrounding the garden were clothed in growing hanging vines of honeysuckle and hydrangea that gave the garden a cozy sense of seclusion. The day was calm and humid, with the sun filtered by a high wispy stratus cloud deck. With all of the spring rains this year, the garden was lush and green.
         The lane they were walking in itself was formed by two lines of Dickson Flame, Lili Marlene, and Message Rose bushes, alternatingly spaced at about three feet apart at their roots; between the roses were Azaleas and Nasturtiums. And between the furthest west end row of rose bushes and the adjacent fence were situated innumerable insect domiciles for the entire length of the row. The blend of homes, walks, flowers, and weeds created a continuous flow of ‘bug’ lives throughout the Georgiana Ferguson Insect Community.
          From beyond the fences, or even from the back porch, the incessant calm and peace of the garden remained mostly a quiet rasping of leaves, stems, stalks, and flowers from gentle breezes that pushed and pulled the closeness of plant life into a reassuring hush of supple greenery. But moving closer and closer, and getting down to ground level almost always revealed a buzzing, a noticeable clamoring, singing, and music of innumerable creatures, both sentient and sub sentient, coexisting in abnormal consort and illogical stasis.     
           As Tongjee and Stanley turned the corner left at the southwest end of the fence and slowly sauntered past first Spike Stonefly’s home, then Cylus Mealybug’s house, past the Yoakum Ground Hornet hive, and through the Odorus Ant Colony Condominiums, where the soil became sandier and sprinkled with Flint and Micah, Tongjee broke their silent march with, “Stanley, why does your Great Grandmother call you ‘Stashu’?”
            “It’s my real name: ‘Stashu’,” said Stanley. “But here, it’s not a name I and my family feel comfortable with, so I go by Stanley, which is still basically the same name. I actually like them both, but I try to fit in at home and at school, and, you know. I’m weird enough without having a weird name, why?”
            “I was just surprised when I heard your Great Grandmother call you Stashu, as long as I’ve known you, that’s all. I guess it’s because I’ve just sort of been looking at things differently recently, and I’ve noticed that things that seem always the same can change at a moment’s notice without any warning or fanfare, and it all seems like it should mean something, but perhaps maybe it doesn’t at all,” replied Tongjee.
           “And here I just got through telling you that I was weird, Tongj. Guess what, kiddo, you win,” remarked Stanley, who began kicking a small pebble like a soccer ball in front of them as they walked. The pebble, after being kicked again and again, kept coming to a stop a few inches away from them. Then it hopped. Then it hopped again. A low hum in the air and over the ground seemed to make the grass, flowers, stalks, and gravel begin to vibrate imperceptibly at first, then everything below, around, and above them began to shake and move with an increasing growl and louder hum.
          Both Stanley and Tongjee stopped in their tracks, but Stanley quickly turned his head to stare behind them, and then spun around to face Tongjee. “LAWN MOWER!!” screamed Stanley, and as an instinctive Russian Wolf Spider, nimbly bounded towards the fence to his right, and made the wooden slats in three bounds. Tongjee, crouching low to the ground sprang upwards and to his right, extending his wings and hammering the air to gain altitude, speed, and thrust. He landed on the same slat of wood right beside Stanley, whose head was twisted around to observe Georgiana Ferguson coming around the corner behind them and down the path between the fence and the Rose Bushes pushing her electric lawn mower, while her large white Angora cat Nefertiti bounded along on the fresh cut grass behind her. 
          “Don’t move,” shouted Tongjee.
          “What?” yelled Stanley back, as he readjusted himself on the fence for a better grip. “I can’t hear you because of the mower.”
          “Don’t move,” hollered Tongjee, again. Nefertiti, who was prancing delicately behind Georgiana, spied Stanley as he was shuttling a few degrees to the right of Tongjee. Nefertiti crouched and began a straight beeline towards the fence. Georgiana, pausing to coil up a length of power cord, glanced back at her cat. She immediately dialed down the power and stood silently watching. Tongjee perceiving the cat as it slunk across the wet clipped grass towards them, jumped high in the air and floated down to a place maybe two and a half feet in front of Nefertiti and began walking slowly towards her as she approached him. Nefertiti, startled by this unexpected advance by Tongjee, lifted a paw to move forward and held it motionless.
         Tongjee growled, and a puff of smoke slithered out of his mouth and curled, like a wave onto a beach, and rolled along the ground towards Nefertiti, who arched her back, hissed, and spat at Tongjee. Tongjee continued to move forward, and barked a short scream that produced a small burst of fire and smoke for about six inches. Nefertiti backed up three steps, then was picked up by Georgiana quickly and hauled up into her arms gently but firmly. Tongjee backed up and jumped in four quick hops to the fence, where Stanley was standing, as he had dropped down from his position on the upper slats. Without saying a word, they both slid, sideways, and sidestepped through the fence to get beyond the garden, and scampered hastily parallel to the fence line in the easterly direction they had been traveling. 
             Georgiana spoke lovingly to Nefertiti, as she smiled glowingly in the direction of Tongjee and Stanley.
            From behind Georgiana, at the base of the nearest rose bush, a slender long wooden staff held by Colonel Westcott slowly lifted off of a leafy branch that had revealed the entire scene to him, whereupon the leaves floated back into their original position, burying into darkness the still silhouette of the Colonel who had remained motionless, his back against the base of the rose bush.   
           After a few minutes of scampering, Stanley stopped, leaned his back up against the fence to rest, and half-way attempted a bow to Tongjee. “Thank you, oh, most gracious and fabulous comrade, for saving my life.”
          Tongjee stopped, knelt down to regain his breath with a gasp, “Don’t mention it.” He breathed again, “No problem.”
          A light mist of rain began to fall and kicked up a few puffs of dust at their feet.
         “Let’s go,” said Stanley. “We can break back into the garden at the next turn of the fence.”
         The light early summer mist turned to a gentle windless steady rain. Georgiana ceased mowing and walked, with Nefertiti behind her, back towards her garage, pushing her mower in front of her as she slowly coiled up the
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Rachel Dearth
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Posts: 4460

« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2014, 09:56:09 pm »

Great work, TWGilbert! Have you ever been published before?
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Posts: 47

« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2014, 08:58:45 pm »

Rachel-- Thank you ever so much. I have about 15 unpublished works and have only had one short chap book published. I have sent things out in the past (last 30 years) and have virtually given up on the publishing world. You almost need and agent to get an agent to get a publisher to even look at the drivel, and it's a horrible waste of time and paper and stamps and whatever. I send things out by email still but get very few positive responses, if any. I may be too off the wall and/or old fashioned to get a younger bunch of editors to pay attention. Whenever "THE MUSE" grabs me, I write, which is often. Most of the time I have no clear idea where the stuff is going. But thank you ever so much, truly, for your comments. It does mean a great deal to me, if any reader appreciates the results. And I do love comments, questions, suggestions, criticisms, on the works. I used  to attend writer's workshops for years so I am very "thick skinned" when it comes to work-shopping the works, tearing them apart, and analyzing them inside and out. Blessings and Namaste, TG
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