Five Fragments and a Gesture Toward Wholeness

by | Mixed Media

Artist’s Statement: We were inspired to do this project by a memento of Sandie’s–a single framed page, containing text and a photograph, from W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz. That it’s a page extracted from the novel, and therefore fragmentary, gave us the idea to create partial, fictional texts that relate in some way to accompanying photos. Robert took the photographs, and Sandie wrote the fragments.

[Fragment 1]

since the break-up of Crying Wolf—never meeting at the Garage for practice, never trading edibles at the Dragonfly. Tuesday night, Mildred plugged in her guitar and played through “Cat Palace,” but it didn’t work without Trisha’s ragged, fierce drumming. She laid a yew branch on the altar and lit two green candles for a reconciliation spell, but blew them out. She could kill a second chance for the band by performing a spell in opposition to the dominant signs: errant stars, colliding and spinning off, each into her own universe. At practice, Trisha’s silence had made it seem so final: Salem’s low hoarse voice (to think she’d once found it sexy) singing, “Go back to cat palace, go back,” then accusing Trisha of messing up the tempo; Trisha clicking her drumsticks together three times, as if counting out the thoughts in her head, deciding, then rolling the drumsticks in her bandana and picking up her bag without speaking or looking

[Fragment 2]

held out her arm to show Vera where the wasp’s stinger had entered, how the area around the bite was beginning to swell and redden. “You’re being very brave,” Vera told the child, preparing the salve and swabbing the area with a cotton ball, while the little girl cried hysterically. For a moment, she felt almost like a proper heir to the Scurillos, the dynasty of gleaming sisters, swim champions and skiers, who held the coveted post of first-aid attendant at Driftwood Pool ever since Vera could remember. The eldest Scurillo sister, Lark, had graduated and moved to Vail; Robin had competed in Olympic swim trials while at Duke; the youngest, Wren, had ceded the first-aid post to Vera, along with the shack, which came complete with Scurillo knicks-knacks and mementos, including lesser trophies and medals on faded ribbons, and a set of Western action figures: a plastic man in a cowboy hat with moveable limbs, looking nobly into the distance; a horse with its head turned to look at his master. Wren, who belied her name by being the brawniest of the sisters, would never have played with these figures, but had sometimes arranged them in a tableau on the desk, empty soda cans rising like buttes and crumpled sandwich wrappers dotting the landscape like oversized tumbleweeds, Wren’s whistle

[Fragment 3]

because they called him a fruit and said he had no parents. He lay on his bed, stroking the velvet edge of his blanket until boredom propelled him out to the driveway. Some piece of lawn equipment with sinister claws crouched on the neighbors’ lawn, and he went to examine it. When he came closer, he noticed a caterpillar the size of a hot dog, pale green, with frilly hairs sprouting all over its body. Owen waited for a jolt of disgust, but instead, felt a desire to pick it up, hold and stroke the creature the way he liked to touch the velvety edge of his blanket. He considered this possibility as he watched it move in its undulating fashion, down the muddy edge of one of the claws, parading its frilly hairs. Owen raised one finger to caress the creature, but stopped when he heard shouts and saw the two neighbor boys on their bikes reeling up the empty

[Fragment 4]

by the eminent early twentieth-century botanist and painter, Sir Cyril Dolor, who not only pioneered the autogeneration of botanical immune systems in certain shrubs, but also anticipated such psychedelic artists as Peter Max in his rendering of regional wildflowers. From the perspective of his wife, Margarett Antoine Dolor, a noted sculptress in her own right, his periodic disappearances into the woods surrounding their country home were no more concerning than the occasions when he practiced what he called “levitation,” which involved strenuous yoga-like postures that he himself had devised based on the root structures of the most ancient trees in the vast compendium of historical and nearly-extinct forms of plant life, which he had spent the better part of his life compiling, at great expense and through many arduous research expeditions to remote sites in the Andes, the Russian Steppes, and the Mongolian Alps. It was only later in life, at the age of sixty on a particularly ill-fated trip to Borneo, that Sir Dolor developed a fascination with insect life, and it was then that he discovered the rare red beetle that would change the course of

[Fragment 5]

a second term on the town council, which would only have attracted more gossip, especially since the incident with the velvet jacket and the caramel nougat at last year’s Fancy Holiday Ball. It was with a certain apprehension that she took to walking Pomegranate down the Clarks’ street. Yet she gave in to a defiant need to assert her command over the neighborhood on days when everyone else was working, and she felt reprehensible even for volunteering at the sad shelter where Pomegranate’s fellows languished, pacing their cages or chewing lugubriously at fake bones. When she scratched their heads, she knew these unwanted dogs understood the gravity of their situation. As she followed Pomegranate down Oak Street for the second time that day, Patricia reluctantly reviewed the scene at the last council meeting once more: the spilled coffee seeping across the paper tablecloth, Carmen Clark looking at Patricia with incomprehension and fury, the council chair tapping his papers into a neater formation,

 

[A Gesture Toward Wholeness]

that she preferred a grey November sky, with silhouettes of black branches. She shaded her eyes with one hand, inhaling a faint swampy smell, while she held the leash with the other. Delancey, short-legged and sturdy, was almost swallowed up in the grass, moving through it with effort, looking back at her for reassurance. Everett had walked ahead of them and picked up a large, curved branch, which he was swinging back and forth, making an expansive sweeping gesture as if to cut the grass with a scythe. Suddenly, he flung the branch so it soared in an arc and landed somewhere in the grass. Then he turned back and bounded towards her. “Mom, can I run?” he asked, “with Delancey?” She hesitated for a moment, not sure whether Delancey could run in this grass, but then she nodded and held the leash towards Everett. Delancey barked once with excitement, and she watched as Everett plunged forward, towards the horizon, Delancey waddling valiantly behind.

 

About The Author

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Sandie Friedman teaches writing at George Washington University. Her work on teaching has appeared in Composition Forum, Enculturation, WPA: Writing Program Administration, and Writing on the Edge, among others. You can find her personal essays online at Construction, Mutha, The Nervous Breakdown, and The Rumpus.

Robert Miller is an academic librarian and an amateur photographer. These are his first published photos.