"The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish." ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Weruboth, Part 5

Just as Lisa opened her mouth to say, "We'd better go tell Mom," she and Carol both heard footsteps. They leaned over the opening so quickly their heads bumped, but for once neither of them could spare attention to blame the other. Joe was coming slowly toward them in the underground passageway.

"Joe!" called Carol. He didn't respond, just kept walking toward them, then stopped when he reached the sparse rays of sunlight coming through the opening. He looked dazed.

"What happened?" Lisa said, then quickly added, "Here, let us help you get out."

Carol and Lisa had discussed their strategy and now were ready with some long branches they'd pulled from a tangle of trees and bushes. They pushed the branches down into the hole and urged Joe to climb up the makeshift ramp. After a moment, he did, and they grabbed his hands to help him up the last few feet. Once he was out, he just stood there, blinking.

"What's the matter?" Carol said. "Are you all right? What was down there?"

Joe blinked again, then looked at his sisters as if seeing them for the first time. "It was amazing," he began. "There was a hallway, lighted up, and then a door, and I went in, and..."

His story was cut off by a sudden rumbling from below their feet and then a reverberating thump that shook the ground they stood on. Dust shot up from the opening. Then all was still again.

After a moment, Carol went over to the opening and peered down. Then she looked at Joe. "Good thing you got out when you did," she said.

Joe ran toward her and stopped next to the end of the branches that still stuck out from the hole. Lisa followed. The opening was no longer deep. Rocks and dirt covered what had been the passageway floor, and only a shallow pit remained. All sign of the tunnel and the mysterious light was gone.

"No!" cried Joe, and sank to the ground. "No! Why?"

"What did you see down there?" urged Carol again. "Was there anything that could have caused this?"

"I... I don't know," Joe said slowly.

"What was behind the door?"

Joe looked stricken. "I can't remember," he said. "Why can't I remember?"

After a few more minutes, Lisa said, "Let's go back and get some lunch."

"Come on, Joe," said Carol. "There's no use sitting there staring at it. Whatever you saw, it's buried now."

Joe gave one more look into the caved-in tunnel. "Maybe," he muttered, then shook his head and followed his sisters.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Weruboth, Part 4

Half an hour later, Carol and Lisa were still sitting next to the opening in the ground. They had discussed what the tunnel could lead to, who could have made it, how long it could have been there, and had returned several times to discussing Joe's lack of common sense (or "one single brain cell" as Lisa put it). They had called Joe's name down the tunnel but had heard nothing in response. They had examined the hole to see if they could enlarge it and get through themselves, but had quickly seen that it would take tools that could break through rock. Now they were realizing that they would soon have to decide whether to continue waiting or go back to the house and tell Mom what had happened. Neither option sounded very good.

Meanwhile, Joe wasn't thinking about his sisters at all. He was too busy looking around at the most incredible place he had ever seen.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Weruboth, Part 3

Inside the house, Lisa and Carol had found their way down to the kitchen. Carol offered to help their mother put away food and dishes, but instead Mom suggested that they eat something and go exploring like Joe had. "I'm trying to figure out a good system and it'll be easier on my own," she added. "Don't worry, there are plenty of other things for you to help unpack later!"

So after cereal, yogurt, and bananas, the two girls went out the front door. The morning air was still cool as they wandered past the driveway and down a walkway of paving stones that curved around behind the house.

"I love all these trees," Carol said.

"We'll need them for shade soon," Lisa pointed out. "It's going to get a lot hotter here than we're used to."

Carol sighed. It was true. But she brightened again as she looked around. "It's like living in a park."

"A wild park, maybe."

"A wilderness!" Carol ran ahead to where the paving stones ended. There seemed to be a faded trail leading onward, and she kept going, with Lisa following.

They walked for a surprisingly long time before abruptly reaching a wire fence. "This must be the property line," Lisa said. "What if we walk all the way around?"

This proved more difficult than it sounded. For a while they could walk right beside the fence, but then it went through a tangle of bushes and up a steep incline. The girls had to veer to the side to find an easier path. Their route dipped into a wide ditch and they lost sight of the fence completely. But in a moment their attention was distracted when the ditch took a turn and they came upon Joe, crouched at the edge of a small hill. He was peering at a pile of rocks and didn't notice them until Lisa spoke.

"What did you find, a gold mine?"

Joe jumped and turned their way. "No, I don't think so," he said, seriously. "Do you want to come look?"

Carol and Lisa looked at each other, then approached their brother. He stepped aside and pointed. Lisa stooped down to see what he had been so interested in. It took her a moment to notice it, but then she let out a little squeak of surprise despite herself. There was a dim light coming between some of the rocks. Lisa leaned to the side, then back, trying to figure out if the light was just reflecting off something. She cupped her hands to block out the sunlight, and could see immediately that the light was coming from below the rocks.

"Let me see!" demanded Carol, shouldering her way between the others.

"Was it like this when you got here?" Lisa asked Joe.

Joe rolled his eyes. "I didn't touch anything," he said. "I just got here a minute ago. I was following the fence around from the house and when I came down in the ditch, I saw the light."

"I wonder what's doing it?" Carol said. Her hand went out hesitantly toward the rocks.

"Wait!" Lisa said. She looked around and picked up a piece of broken branch, then used it to push one of the rocks aside. The rock rolled down off the pile, leaving a gap with the light shining out through it. Joe was already in motion and before Lisa could say anything, he was kneeling next to the gap and looking down through it. The girls hurried to join him.

"It looks like a tunnel! A pretty big one," Joe said. "But where's the light coming from?"

"Maybe there's an opening farther on that lets sunlight in?" said Carol, but she didn't sound very sure. The light certainly looked stronger than just sunlight from farther down the tunnel.

Joe was moving more rocks. "I think that's as big as I can make it," he said after a moment, then sat down on the edge of the hole and prepared to put one leg in.

"Whoa, wait a minute!" said Lisa, and Carol said at the same time, "You can't just go down there! What if there's . . . snakes, or poisonous spiders or something?"

"Or what if it caves in and you're trapped?" Lisa said.

Joe grinned. "That's why I have two helpful sisters to dig me out," he said. "Or suck out the venom." He maneuvered his other leg into the hole. For a minute the girls didn't think he'd be able to fit, but he twisted around and suddenly he was in the hole up to his chest. He twisted again, slid, and disappeared with a thud and some rising dust and dirt.

Lisa peered into the hole and saw, by the dim light, Joe standing up and brushing himself off. The tunnel must be deeper than she had thought, because Joe could stand upright and his head was still farther down than arm's reach.

Joe called up to them, "I'm fine! I'm just going to go explore a little bit. Then you can help me get out, if I don't find another opening."

"You're really going to crawl around in there by yourself?" Carol called.

"That's the good thing about being the youngest!" Joe said. "I bet nobody else can fit through that hole."

Carol and Lisa looked at each other, then at the hole. It was true.

"See you!" Joe said happily, and they saw him silhouetted against the strange light as he trotted off down the tunnel.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Weruboth, Part 2

Joe lurched down the stairs two at a time, almost losing his balance because they were steeper than the ones at his old house. He burst into the kitchen, then braked to a stop as he saw his mom putting away boxes of cereal. "Can you leave one of those out?" he asked. "Do you know where the bowls and spoons are?"

"In a hurry today?" Mom handed him the Cheerios. "Bowls are over there on the counter. I think the spoons are in that open box on the floor. Rinse them first," she added just in time.

Joe found milk in the fridge and a few minutes later had plowed through two heaping bowls of cereal. He got up to leave, putting his bowl and spoon in the sink after a look from his mom. "Is it okay if I go look around?"

"Just don't go too far. I think it's fenced all the way around, but I'm not sure. Why don't you wear your watch and come back in an hour to check in?"

"All right," Joe said, figuring this was the best offer he was going to get. Upstairs he grabbed his watch and stuffed it in a pocket, bounded down the stairs again, and headed for the front door.

"Oh, and watch out for snakes," his mom called after him. "There's a lot of tall grass that snakes might be hiding in. And don't eat any berries because we don't know what kinds they are yet. And..." But the door had closed behind him and he didn't hear the rest of the list. He didn't stop on the porch or steps, but ran straight toward the clump of gnarled trees he'd noticed last night when they arrived. Once in under their shade, he looked back at the house, then moved to one side and crouched down. Perfect. He couldn't see the house at all anymore, which meant if anyone came outside, she wouldn't be able to see him. Which meant, if he was careful, he had an hour to explore by himself with no bossy older sisters along. And his mom had said they wouldn't have school for a couple of weeks. Joe couldn't keep a grin off his face as he scuttled farther into the uncharted wilderness of his family's new property.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Weruboth, Part 1

"Time is running out," the man said.

The woman's voice was unconcerned. "There's still plenty of time. You need to be more patient."

"But nothing is happening! How do you know this plan will work?" When the woman didn't reply immediately, the man's voice became louder. "You've hardly told me anything."

"I've told you more than I've told anybody," the woman said.

There was a pause. "And you're sure he doesn't know he's helping us?"

"Correction. He or she doesn't know. The memory wipe was completely successful, as far as I can tell, and you know how much experience I have with that procedure."

The man moved impatiently. "Why can't you tell me which one he or she is?"

"We've gone over that," said the woman. "You might encounter . . . the person, and even if you didn't act suspiciously, you'd be watching him or her more closely and that might appear odd."

"How likely is it that I would encounter any of them?" the man said, his voice rising even more.

"Shhh. It's unlikely, I'll admit. A small risk. But isn't this important enough that we should reduce the risk to zero if we can?"

There was silence. Then the man said, more quietly, "Oh, all right. But I still worry about time."

"As do we all. But there are good signs. I should have some progress to report soon." The woman stood up.

"I hope so," muttered the man.

"Patience," the woman repeated, before she left the room.

The man stood a very long time, looking out the window at the hills to the west, before he shook his head and left the room too.

Monday, April 30, 2012


I remember summer evenings,
Sitting on the porch steps together
Watching dusk fade into night.
Then all of a sudden down the driveway
Came a mass of bats flapping and lurching,
Racing outward for their nightly travels.
Just as suddenly it was over
And we sat and talked while the stars came out.

I remember the first time I learned
(From a friend's horrified expression)
That bat-watching wasn't considered normal.
And then I remember realizing
We were not quite normal in other ways too.
Normal is important to teenagers.

Later I grew up and understood
That normal is a fictional concept,
At least where families are concerned.
And my children now would consider it cool
To have bats flying down the driveway at night.

~ Tamary Shoemaker
(From a prompt at NaPoWriMo to write a poem using "I remember" three times.)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Double Dactyls

I saw a prompt at NaPoWriMo this morning to write a double dactyl poem. I wrote one, but the rhythm wouldn't get out of my head, so that's why there are two.

Highway commissioners
Must have a thing about
Living life slow;

Seeing my busyness,
They try to help me by
Closing roads everywhere
I want to go.


Our name is Shoemaker;
What could be simpler than
"Maker" and "shoe"?

Although the spelling is
People still try to start
"S - C - H - U."

~ Tamary Shoemaker