My love of reading most certainly comes from my mom. My mom is a book addict and raised me to be a book addict. I remember Dr. Seuss books arriving by mail in cardboard wrappers, and random days suddenly becoming Christmas morning. And there were the thousands of times I made her read Go, Dogs Go and Harold and the Purple Crayon with me. On any road trip, if we spotted a bookstore off the highway, I would squeal and point and she would hit the blinker.
Later in life, we formed a habit of working the crossword puzzle together, taking turns, two clues apiece, until we were both stuck and had to put our heads together. She taught at my high school and later at my college, where we would meet for lunch and scribble in those little squares. We also did jigsaws puzzles together, and recently added backgammon to the ways in which we spend quiet, quality time together. But it was mostly the two of us with books, and later our Kindles, and the puzzle. I couldn’t add up the hours I’ve spent with my mom like this.
When I started writing, she became my first and biggest fan, my beta reader, and my red-pen editor. She urges my writing along by always reminding me to send her something, to ask what I’m working on now, when I’ll write another Molly Fyde book, and so on.
Which makes our recent collaboration really special. It shouldn’t be a big deal, just an exhibition at her local library that mixes the written word with a piece of art, but it means the world to me. My mom has always painted and been crafty. I remember as a kid her cross stitching or painting on blocks of wood or rocks. She has covered hundreds of canvases. It’s something she loves, just as I discovered that I love to write. But I never thought we’d team up and put these separate loves together. When the library called for submissions from anyone in the community who wanted to mix words and paint, she asked if I would join her.
Below is a picture of our work on the library wall. I love that she dabbled in my wheelhouse by painting a robot’s arm. The other piece is the small white table where we’ve put together many a jigsaw puzzle. Thanks for letting me be a part of this, Mom.
Two Missing Pieces
Under the table, behind a flap
of cloth, a jumble of cardboard boxes
each missing a piece
A schnauzer ate one, another is
under the sofa cushion, and a piece
lives in the vacuum cleaner
There’s a barnyard scene, with golden
hay bulging from the bright red, and
a hole in the cloudless blue sky
There’s a sailboat race, and somehow
the boat in the lead is missing
part of its sail
But the hardest puzzle is the great
bowl of candy, all that repetition,
with a jelly bean gone missing
Hours and hours and hours go into
what can never be completed
So the table sits empty, mother and son
far away, not even the border sorted
Always better to spend those hours,
even though they can’t last forever
Nothing is ever complete.
The Things We Built
An engineer sits at a workbench. There are bolts and screws and bits of wire scattered about; a soldering iron leaks a curl of gray smoke.
Old hands rub one another — tired and sore. There’s a keyboard nearby, many of the letters worn off from years of use. By the time a keyboard is worn this well, the letters don’t matter anyway. Ancient muscles have the most memory.
A computer screen asks [Y/N]?
The engineer knows where the Y is. A finger poises, a conversation remembered, a man asking “are you sure?”
There is a baby growing in a womb, and no question whether they’ll keep it, but they have the conversation anyway. Are they sure? The engineer wonders if the child will become a president. Very few wonder if they’ll become…
The memory of gunshots. The old engineer pushes that day away. Poised finger trembles. A conversation and a question.
There’s a robot nearby, lifeless. All it takes is a keystroke. A press. Permission.
Everyone thinks of all the terrible things these machines might do. Movies and books full to the brim of metal men pulling triggers.
But what if one might become president?
So many fears over the things we might create,
so few conversations about the men we built.