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All Sorts

a true enough story

By Ward NorcuttPublished 5 months ago Updated 5 months ago 8 min read
5
All Sorts
Photo by Jessica Furtney on Unsplash

(During the lockdown of the pandemic, I wrote and recorded a lot of pieces and shared them in a podcast, hoping that we might realize that we have much more in common with each other than not. It is part of a series called Radio Days. People would share childhood memories of theirs - their stories - and I would do my best to capture the essence of them in a story-poem. Many of the stories were my own)

*

This story comes from a conversation with Kymme Patrick. She is a teacher and an actor and a very dear soul. But before we get to that part, just yesterday, while driving to go for a hike on this beautiful Vancouver Island, My wife and I were witness to a remarkable sight of road rage. I’d never really seen that before, not really. Two men, one in a hurry and one who was not, apparently. We saw them almost run each other off the road, then slam-park their cars off to the side. The older man came flying out of his vehicle just begging the other guy to get out of the truck.

*

I guess there's a lot of tension that builds inside us. We are separate people. I understand that, but we all live together. Even in our separation. Especially now. I started this podcast that isn’t really a podcast because I felt that we were feeling isolated from each other - I know I was. I still feel that way some times. And there were so many stories in the news of fear and anger in our country that seemingly came from the idea that we were looking at each other as other - instead of looking at ourselves as our selves.

I sat down with Ms. Patrick in her newly renovated third floor apt. of her house and this is how I interpreted her wonder-filled story. Perhaps you’ll catch a glimpse of yourself...

ALL SORTS

I need to tell this story in a roundabout fashion.

It starts with a five-year-old girl whose passion

was throwing her Barbies from places on high;

they’d hang in the air, like a kite in the sky

just for a moment before they plummeted down -

scrap-wrapped with string, they would crash to the ground.

Making a parachute that works is hard work

and it's not just the cloth, or that little wee jerk

you gotta give it, just as you let go

(People who had toy paratroopers would know).

You had to purposely wind it just right.

You had to be careful it wasn’t too tight,

or too loose - it would catch the air as you threw it.

You’ld know right away that this time you blew it.

Scotch-taping the string ‘round her neck was the key.

Any place else and the string would pull free,

but more often than not, they just fell like a rock.

I’d retrieve the body and carefully take stock

of the damage - decide whether to operate right then and there

or wrap it on up and chuck it back in the air.

We lived, at this time, on a Hutterite farm

and despite their warmth and ineffable charm

There wasn’t really that much to do...

After I made my rounds for a fresh treat or two,

I’d chase chickens and play with the pigs in the pen.

I’d go home and have to bathe outside, once again.

Pigs stink. really bad, and I didn’t mind

but my family, it seems, was much more refined.

I carried on this way for the most of three years,

running amok through the mire, past the jeers

of my sister who would never ever get dirty.

She preferred to be dainty and girly and flirty.

Not me, I’d scrape rocks from my knees, my heart full of joy

as I transitioned from girl to a full-fledged Tomboy.

Then we moved, just like that, all the way to the coast,

'cause my father secured a new teaching post.

Manitoba was gone, we now lived in Vancouver City

in a house which was, seemingly, ruled by committee.

The house of all sorts. It was three stories high,

where 4 families lived, sort of together; we’d walk by

each other as we passed in the hall

which was communal and used by us all.

*

Ill get back to that bit in a bit, but for now,

let’s go out to the laneway, between all our houses.

It was the main way we all got around.

We’d stomp through the puddles

and run on the rocks

barefoot

so we didn't make a mess of our socks.

In this gaggle-gang of kids, I was the youngest

and a girl who was small for her age, so I just

mustered my diminutive best

to dare do the dares at the gaggle’s behest.

"You can’t do that! You’re a girl!" they would claim

and proving them wrong was the aim of the game.

(Which inevitably led to the end of our block)

"You can’t get those apples ... up there!" they would mock.

Now between us and up there was a rickety fence

and a hedge for a moat, but the real suspense

was the old green house, with the old green paint

and the old mean man who definitely aint

no friend to a child nor anything living...

But the fruit on the trees in that yard was amazing;

we estimated that we all could spend three hours grazing

on the plums alone, and there were blackberries and pears

and apples, past the fence, through the hedge, if we dared.

On top of it all, Old Mr. Green had a gun!

No one had seen it, but if you did - you would run!

His pepper gun would kill five kids at once, it was said.

It was rumored he always aimed for your head.

But temptation is sweet, ask Hansel and Gretel.

What better place to test a true Tomboy’s mettle?

So we laid out the plan and snuck into the yard -

I’d do the work and they all would stand guard.

After they all took their turns 'crying wolf,' one by one,

Bartley shrieked, “There he is!” and he pointed and spun

out of my view from up high in that tree.

The whole gang took off, leaving little ol’ me.

“Har! Har!” I bravadoed, I had figured they’d try it,

taking off all together - but it really was quiet.

A little too quiet,” my goosebump hackles chimed in.

as I hugged the branch of the tree I climbed in,

I could feel his looming approach as he neared,

gun in his hand and his maggoty beard -

mean Mr. Green was coming for me!

I figured I’d be safe, if I stayed in the tree.

But the air it grew thick - it curdled like cream

and the leaves all turned brown like they do in a dream

and I couldn’t help it, I just had to look down.

Well, the little girl me was a fish on a hook;

He had mezmerized me with his evil eye look.

If I live, I thought then, I’ll ne’er misbehave,

then his voice called to me, like a scratch from a grave:

"What are you doin’ in my tree way up there?"

“Sorry,” I said. “I’m just getting a pear.”

His gnarly old fingers clawed at the air

and I spirited down to him, stuck in his stare.

*

I did not get shot and I did not get eaten.

I did not get maimed or tortured and beaten

and thrown in a little dark room like a jail.

No, I went with him inside to go get a pail.

A bucket, he called it and he gave it to me

"Come whenever you want," He said, "It’s all free."

*

It seems we had made him up in our minds

to be the sort of old man who would do all kinds

of harm to kiddies and animals alike,

some monster left over from that terrible Reich.

*

He was nothing like that - just a lonely old man in a lonely old house

*

that just happened to be at the end of our block.

It may not surprise you or come as a shock

that we became friends.

Even so, my own heart, somehow needed amends.

You see, they never had kids, he and his wife.

So, for years now, 'til the end of his lonely old life

he would hermit away all alone and all sad.

*

But I was a pal who was ripe for the making

and I came over lots - with fresh, homemade baking.

Oatmeal and raisins and sugar and flour

and we’d munch and we'd chat for hour after hour.

*

I look back at those times, those times long ago, when I threw dolls as a girl and stole fruit as a "boy," and I wonder at life. It's a circle. It repeats. Without end or beginning. In the house on that block, all sorts of us lived all together: a single mom with two girls lived just up the stairs, up the next flight at the top, lived Mr Bageesh. He wore a turban. He would bring homemade soup if you were sick. Behind us on the main floor, Mr Loza, who owned the whole house. He smelled of garlic sausage and he always had a bag of chips to share. He wrote a song for just for me, and he recorded it onto a vinyl record. And he sang it himself..."little Kymme, little Kymme…" Life has circled forward and onto itself, as I now own a house like the one of my youth. On three separate stories we all live together and I have become my own Mr. Loza. I decide that I will be just as kind as I search up magical curry soup remedies...

*

Life has taken some twisty turns as of late;

I’ve been living, it seems, in a world full of hate

and forced isolation bombarded with fear,

but lately the trumpets sound different, I hear.

Because I wonder what kind of kids they all were.

Were their stories like mine? Was he just like her?

It takes all sorts of people to live in our world,

and before our mortal coil is unfurled

I hope to use my free will, and proudly give voice

to the girl of my heart, who makes her own choice.

*

I’m going to smell like garlic, I think.

And raisins.

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About the Creator

Ward Norcutt

Playwright and poet.

My goal as a writer is to write thoughtful pieces of prose, poetry and stage plays. Hopefully, the end results are entertaining and engaging, with layers of meaning that make sense to the whole or a theme therein.

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insight

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (5)

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  • Tiffany Gordon 4 months ago

    This story was so beautiful that it brought a tear to my eye. Nice job! Thanks for sharing!

  • Ryan Smith4 months ago

    You have a gift for turning the every day into ethereal with your poetry, and breathe such beautiful life into your subjects.

  • Sonia Heidi Unruh4 months ago

    Telling others' stories, turning experiences into poetry meant to be shared, is powerful. I love this enterprise in empathy, and hope you continue finding avenues to tell these stories. This one definitely had shades of Boo Radley! Structurally it could use some spit n polish, but you made the narrator come alive. She's someone I'd enjoy hanging out with.

  • Hannah Moore5 months ago

    This was such a journey, so richly rendered, I loved it.

  • L.C. Schäfer5 months ago

    This was so vivid and beautiful, I could SEE all those families, I could smell the soup!

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