Friday, July 30, 2010

Letters to Punkin: Immediate Storm

Letters to Punkin: Immediate Storm

Immediate Storm

"You standin' on the front porch prayin' for rain?" Russell was yelling from his house across the road. We all looked up smiling. Zuzu and Asher were in the yard, arms outstretched, hoping to get a bit damp.

"We're doing a rain dance," I yelled back.
"We sho' do need it. Do one for me too."  Russell turned and took his wife Jane by the hand to help her down the steps. Jane had recently won another round with bone cancer, but the chemo left her feeble and a bit off balance. They carefully made their way to the car. Russell held her hand while she steadied herself and crept in.

"We'll do. Y'all be's gonna rain," I said as they were driving away. A triple flash of lightning lit up the northwestern part of the sky. The kids started counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7...then a rumble of thunder. 

"Daddy, does that mean it's comin' closer, or goin' away?" Zuzu was looking up from the front sidewalk. I could see the darker spots on her shirt where the first drops had fallen. 

"Well, let's wait for another flash and we can compare how long it takes to thunder again," said Nathan as he scanned the darkening skies. He had just gotten home from working four hours away in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. He had been gone for three nights so the kids and I were happily welcoming him home. Since he'd walked in the door, it was one question after another or a very excited summary of the last few days. Nathan didn't mind the onslaught  of information, though. He answered every question and inserted the proper "wow" or "oh" where needed.

Then, a bolt of lightning. This time it was just over the horizon of the trees beside the house. 1, 2, 3, 4....BOOM! 
"I think that means, whoa! Y'all come up here with us," I said as more flashes filled the air around us and disorganized rolls of thunder sounded from all directions. "Let's just watch it from the porch, kids"

Zuzu and Asher ran up the steps and stood next to us as the wind picked up and plump, round droplets of water fell to the ground. The thunder and lightning were coming so frequently that we couldn't tell which boom went with what flash. The wind was strong enough to sway the trees, but it still seemed safe in our haven on the porch. 

"Get in the house. Get in the HOUSE!" Nathan had his back against the wall of the house and the kids turned to shield their eyes from the dust that began pelting our faces. I was looking at the silver maple in Russell's yard when the leaves and bows began to whip wildly back and forth as a wall of opaque wind and rain rushed straight at us with the force of a hurricane. It only took one or two seconds at the most, but everything seemed to move in slow motion. 

"Get in the house!" I reached for the handle to usher the kids inside, but the wind was so strong it pushed the door shut again. The trees next to the house were bending in frantic, low, unnatural ways. The creaking and moaning that came from the branches seemed to echo the warning that something bad was about to happen. I muscled my way through the wind and opened the door as dirt and leaves were thrown into my mouth and eyes. We pushed our way into the foyer and shut the door behind us.

Moments later, as we were huddled in the basement, the sound of a bird chattering signaled that the worst was over. Nathan, Zuzu, Asher, and I carefully stepped outside to assess the damage, completely forgetting that dinner was cold on the table. 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"What the Leaves Won't Hold" (Part 7)

I heard the thunder rumbling somewhere far away. I hadn't put much faith in the rains actually wetting the
patches of dirt that dotted what used to be a lush and thriving garden. "What are we doing?" I wasn't sure if  I
said that out loud. I thought it had come out as a whisper, but it could have just been a loud thought. I said
those words to myself so much I couldn't be sure anymore whether they came out.
"Life is too short." Was that your voice or mine? I knew you must be feeling the same cold rush of time blow
past your face. How could you not? "We'll have her for less time now than we have had until this point." That
was me. That one I couldn't keep in.
I walked outside to see how far away the dark clouds were. I could feel the temperature dip and the wind
tousle my hair as the first drops fell. "It's a shame, not knowing what you should know in the first place. No
one understands until it's over." You always made sense. A loud crack of thunder, a flash of lightning, and the
skies opened. I thought the porch would keep us dry, but the rain poured in sideways soaking us both.
"When you're in it, you're not aware of everything sliding past you. You just laugh and go on like it will be that
way forever. Then, one day, you look at the faces of these people and realize they've changed. Everything is
different and you've got nothing to show for the passing time."
A pause in the downpour effectively caused a lull in the conversation. It was the deep breath before the
"What are we doing?" It didn't matter who said it anymore. The fact that it was being said at all was enough. The rain was all but gone now. It wasn’t enough to do much good for very long. My eyes burned as I watched your mouth form the words, but all I could hear were a few droplets the silver maple beside our house clung to as it reluctantly gave up and let them fall.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Oldest Movie Palace

Virginia's oldest "Movie Palace", The Byrd Theater,was built in 1928. Since then it has been going strong year in and year out (with the exception of renovation times). The seats are old and torn, the roof needs some leaks fixed, and there are other things that could help this gorgeous old girl really shine...if only they had the funding.
Recently the Byrd Foundation was approached with an opportunity to win a grant from Pepsi Company. So, they decided to hold a writing contest to pick a favorite Byrd memory. I was one of the two winners. We begin filming soon..... (yay!!!!)

There are many reasons the Byrd Theater deserves the Pepsi grant. Its historical value to the
city of Richmond, its beauty, and nostalgia are just a few. However, the Byrd is (personally) very special to me.
When I was twenty years old, I moved from Florida to Richmond to be with my boyfriend who had just graduated from VCU. We didn’t have a care in the world. He was a musician and I went with him wherever he played. Between the two of us, we barely made enough money to pay rent for our small apartment, and we definitely couldn’t afford a night on the town. Whenever we had a chance we would empty the change jar in the kitchen and scrounge enough money for two tickets to whatever movie happened to be showing that night. We never checked ahead of time to see what was playing. We’d just walk down Cary Street, into this beautiful old movie house, and for about $4.00, have a romantic evening together.
That first Christmas I spent in Richmond was scant at best, but it was so very special. Christmas Eve night we walked to the Byrd to see “It’s a Wonderful Life”. The show began by the lights dimming and the Mighty Wurlitzer rising from the orchestra pit with a disco ball spinning above. The organist played carols and the entire packed house joined in song. After a few fun minutes of music, the organist ended his introduction to the main event with a blessing for the new year and a moment of silence for the past. Then, the opening credits, and my most favorite movie of all began. I was touched. At that moment, I knew more than ever there was just something special about this old place.
My boyfriend and I married, got jobs, and had our first child. We named her Zuzu (after Jimmy Stewart’s daughter in the movie). Zuzu is ten years old now, has a little brother, and as a family we’ve enjoyed Christmas Eve at the Byrd Theater every year since. Even if the Byrd kept the old torn seats forever, we’d never stop going. It’s as much a part of our family tradition as Santa himself. But, there is no doubt in any of our minds that the Byrd Theater is absolutely deserving of a grant to keep her beautiful, up, and running so that people like us can enjoy our Richmond tradition for years to come.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Still working out the bugs...

I knew the second I felt my itchy trigger finger flinch, there was no stopping the email from being prematurely sent. Lesson learned. The next time I write something that is going to be judged, sit on it for a minute! I didn't even title it!! Rookie.

Still, I didn't lose exactly. An honorable mention is absolutely wonderful, and I am very proud to have been recognized by people who are actually published writers! However, I know what I did wrong. There is that voice again, "Fool. You should have done this." I know, I know.

May 2, 2010
entry #7

Dear Punkin,
Observationally speaking, yesterday was one of the most interesting insights into the "little people's" culture that I have witnessed thus far.
The smaller of the two, adorned in a white shirt with numbers on the back and long striped socks, joined with other little people on a large field of grass. There were nets set up on either side of the rectangular area where they ran around frantically trying to kick a spotted ball into them. It all seemed very chaotic to me, though every "little" on the field seemed to derive great joy from pelting one another in the shins. Oddly during this event, their arms appeared to be paralyzed as they never once did the obvious and simply pick up the spotted ball and throw it into the net. I have yet to surmise any possible reason for such behavior.
Periodically, the small one would run at me and seemingly demand that I pour water into its open mouth and all about its head. It would then return to the field of grass and continue beating the other's legs with its feet.
Because I had expected an onslaught of whines and clicks after such an activity, I was able to quickly throw the foodstuffs into their mouths and escape to the sanctuary of our room. For now, I am safe. Though for how long I cannot say. I am, as always, awaiting your swift return.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I wrote this for a "Flash Fiction Contest"

Contest rules: 400 words, must use the words, "crimson", "sincere", and "rickshaw"
I stuck with the original format.

"Hopscotch and Wine"

As he wrapped the blanket tighter around his shoulders, a draft of cold air sent a chill down Nathan’s back. He shivered as he looked at the unopened envelope in his hand. It was crinkled in the middle and around the right side where he’d toyed with the idea of not reading its contents at all. The handwriting on the outside revealed its author. After all, his wife had sent word about their children many times before. Nathan sat in his hotel room on the edge of the crimson flowered comforter and ran his forefinger under the flap she had licked to seal the news.

January 7, 2010

Dear Punkin,

This may very well be my final transmission. Those little people are back again. They have now taken washable writing sticks and drawn an alien language down the sidewalk out front. I can only assume it is some sort of signal to the "others" like them. They have fashioned a grid with what appears to be numbers written inside the boxes. They then stand inside a drawn semi-circle and throw a single stone which lands on one of the numbers. Then, horrifyingly, they hop on one foot to pick up the stone they just discarded, all the while laughing out loud. I'm frightened!! I shudder to think what would happen if they noticed me spying from the kitchen window. If they sense my most sincere need for solitude they are sure to stop me before I am able to ascend the stairs. It's like they're trying to tell me something! I just KNOW it! I will try throwing foodstuffs at their mouths and surrounding them with the loud, plastic things you bring from your travels in Asia.
I do not know how long the “little people” intend to hold me captive, and I am beginning to believe there may not be enough wine in the house to sustain me until you return.
You’re my only hope.


Nathan dropped the letter and gazed out the window to the street below. He knew what he must do. He grabbed his suitcase and ran out the hotel door leaving the blanket and the letter to lie on the rented room’s floor.

Waiting just outside was the rickshaw and driver that couldn’t get him to the train station fast enough.

Written by Leslie M. Brown

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Quote of the day

Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put. -Winston Churchill

Monday, April 19, 2010

Today my favorite word is "serendipity".

It just is.

Especially in sleep, I am never alone.

January 2010
entry #6

Dear Punkin, Upon waking from a fretful night's sleep, I came to the realization that both of the little people had sneaked into my sleeping quarters. The smaller of the two appeared to make a determined attempt to swallow it's own thumb, while the apparently "female" of the two held her mouth open wide. I can only assume it was her intention to eat me in her sleep. I was horrified at my thoughtlessness for not having the presence of mind to replenish my food-stuff supply for such occasions. When they sensed my impending stealthy escape, they raised their heads and began speaking their "language" at me until I was able to retreat to the kitchen and end the incessant rise and fall of their "words". I do not know how long the supplies will last. I hope to replenish them at some point in the day. If I am allowed a moment later, I will report again.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Every now and then I get to leave the nest, myself. (big props to my mom who my children have affectionately named, "Momo") There is nothing like getting away for just a couple of days to really set your head straight and put priorities back in perspective.
However, as the day of departure approaches I always have a series of small panic attacks that gradually build and culminate in a full-fledged cry right before I leave. The thought of being away from my kids isn't terrifying, it's the thought of what might happen while I'm gone that scares me.
One particular time, I returned from a trip to find that while I was away my daughter "blossomed" in the span of three days. Seriously... full bloom. She's TEN. Are you picking up what I'm putting down? TEN. Lady bottom, mood swings, and all.
I left behind my little girl, and came home to a "wow it's great to see didn't get me a WHAAAAAAAHHHHH!" pre-teen. The scariest part is what's in the near future...the P word.
I've got the vapors.

November 2009
entry #5

Dear Punkin, I have returned safely home. Upon entering our house, one of the "little people" attacked me at the door, screaming and flailing it's arms all about my head and neck. The larger of the two seems to have grown...all over. I am assuming it's a female as her body is slowly mimicking my form. Her mood seems to fluctuate in complete synchronization with my own. It only serves to make my attempts at communication that much harder.
I arrived weary, but luckily had the presence of mind to walk in with food-stuffs to throw into their constantly open mouths. I do believe it may have saved my life. I can only hope to continue steering clear of the larger "little" as she is growing through whatever metamorphosis is about to explode from her form. Pray for my survival until your return.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

October 2009
entry #4

Punkin, I am anxiously awaiting your return this evening. The little people, in what I assume is an attempt to melt me or at least drive me out of my mind, have begun to spew the contents of their stomachs out of their mouths and onto my hands. Though I felt no pain, I cannot be certain of future reprocussions. I did feel a small amount of life leave my body as, what I believe to be some of the food I had thrown at their open mouths a few moments before, was hurled back at me with the force of a firehose. I am frightened, and am beginning to think there may not be enough vino in the world to sustain me until you are home.
Not that anybody's is, but neither of the births of my children were particularly easy. My daughter, Zuzu was born after 32 hours of hard labor and emergency cesarean. The day happened to be September 11, two years before the towers fell. She was actually a perfect baby. She had a sweet temperament, ate well (after some coaxing), and only cried every now and then. I, as many mothers, lost myself in my baby girl. Singing to her and making up songs was a favorite pastime.
My best, in my opinion, was "Zuzu-belle". If you think vaudeville, or barbershop quartet you'll get the drift. It went like this:

"Zuzu-belle, you are my cutie little Zuzu-belle.
If they don't like you they can go to hell, Zuzu-belle!
They can all just go right straight to H-E-double hockey sticks,
Cause you're so cute
And you know that I love you more than words can tell
Cause you're my baby girl, the best one in the world.
You are my little Zuzu-belle!"

I always get a good laugh out of that.

Remembering Zuzu's birthing experience, when it came time to have my son Asher, I simply scheduled the day and time I would have him. Easy, right? Well, it just so happens that the time and date I scheduled was exactly the same day tropical storm "Gaston" came through Virginia and destroyed all of downtown Richmond behind the flood wall. It was the storm of the century outside while inside I was recovering from another c-section. The anesthesiologist threaded my epidural wrong and they had to put me on narcotics to ease the pain. Meanwhile, several inches of rain an hour were filling the streets and began to pour in the windows of the hospital. We lost power and were officially declared to be in a state of emergency. Luckily, I was on a battery-powered delaudid drip for the pain. The only problem with that is delaudid is an opioid and I was in a haze, to say the least. My final memory of that morning before passing out was something like this: Having trouble keeping my eyes open, I leaned my head as far as I could (without my neck giving out) to get a view of a truck floating down the street below. I wiped a few drops of rain from my face (eyes closing and reopening) just as the nurse walked in with a bundle. My head fell back against the pillow. She helped me lean forward, handed me the tiny bundle and said, "Here's your baby." Then, she left. Needless to say, we managed.
As with most great musicians, artists, poets, etc., it seems their best stuff came from them while they had some sort of addiction to a powerful substance. That's how I explain the poem I wrote about my son's birth. Not that I count myself among the greats, but I had to attribute the inspiration to something. I came home to a flooded basement, freshly out of a narcotic mind-swim and wrote this down...

"Sometimes it takes something warm to touch you before you know how cold you are. I feel the change, moving 'round inside me and I know it can't be long. So I grit my teeth, and yell like hell as the sweat pours down like tears...

If I saw my life the same today, I'd have wasted all these years.

You came to me that stormy night when the lightning turned me blue. I felt the rain pour in the door and the wind just howled like you. And the trees outside were tangled and tossed till their branches all laid bare...

If I saw my life the same today, I'd have wasted all these years.

So we make the grand entrance, and I'll hold the door for you. I'll dry your body and keep you warm for as long as I may do. I'll hold your head in slumber and I'll lay you down, my dear...

If I saw my life the same today, I'd have wasted all these years."

That's about as deep as it got, because after that day, that baby boy never stopped crying.

One day, after another sleepless night, Asher had been crying for two hours straight. I sincerely felt like I was going mad. I just started singing, low at first, then louder and louder until I was a bit louder than him.

"Asher, the Christmas poo.
I'm gonna kick you to the moon,
And you will shut up very soooooon....
'Cause there's no oxygen in space!"

In my craze, I laughed. Asher had become quiet. So I kept singing. It had worked. It's kind of his theme song now.

Monday, April 12, 2010

July 2009
entry #3

I think they're learning the art of fencing from the period pieces we've collected on disc. My only hope now is to barricade myself in my room and pray for your safe and swift return....oh no!! I ...think... they're.... coming.....HURRY!!!!!

August 2009
entry #4

Punkin, this could very well be my final transmission. The little people have become agitated...running wildly around the basement and screaming. They jump from the stairs to the arm of the couch, then fly through the air like bats and fall to the floor landing on every pillow we have. I shudder to think what might happen if they discovered me spying at the top of the stairs. Sometimes they sneak up beside me and stare... their mouths move as if they are talking to me, but their language is alien. All I can hear is, "wah, blah, whine, and click"... I have continued throwing the food at their open mouths, but it only works for so long. After a while they usually give up to resume flying frantically around the basement. When I try to escape the chaos and retreat to my room, they sense my need for solitude and so do everything to get to me before I am able to ascend the staircase. I do not know how long they intend to hold me captive. Help me punkin... You're my only hope.

Ah, the life of a traveler's wife.

My husband Nathan, is an entrepreneur. He reluctantly began his business after the birth of our first child, Zuzu Magnolia. For many years of our young lives we were traveling musicians. Nathan, the musician, and I, the traveling starry-eyed girl who'd follow him off a cliff if that's where he said he was going.
Becoming parents adds many wonderful aspects to the lives of a loving couple. Money isn't one of them. So, the traveling musician and his wife decided that staying put in a single location (preferably one with good schools) and going to work was a pretty good idea. Hence, Brown Audio/Visual, LLC.
Being the owner/operator of your own business means you work when you get it, and when you get it, you go where the work is. This, of course, also means that while the schedule of one parent is totally unpredictable, the schedule of the other must be written in stone. That's where I come in. I, the traveling musician's one time muse, suddenly morphed into the rock-solid stay-at-home mother.
Don't misunderstand, I do not complain one bit about being in my position. In fact, I absolutely relish spending almost all of my time with my children. Also, it doesn't hurt that I have the greatest support system in creation, my mother...but that's a story for another time.
The reason for this rambling introduction is so that you will understand one thing. I am a normal person who deals with the daily mundane in the best way I know how. I turn what is the reality of my life into an alternate universe where my true loves are alien and completely foreign to me. I write these "stories" in letter form to my husband (Punkin) when he is away. Don't's all in my head.

Letters to Punkin
June 2009
entry #1

Punkin, the short people that keep following me around.... I think they're multiplying. Two more showed up yesterday, stayed for a while, and asked me for things all day! Please! Come home!!! The only way to appease them seems to be throwing foodstuffs at their huge mouths and surrounding them with plastic loud things made in China. HELP!

July 2009
entry #2

Punkin, you have to come home as soon as possible!! All hell has broken out here! There are wild animals running rampant in the backyard, slinging seeds and jumping fences.... and those little people are back again!! They have now taken washable writing sticks and drawn an alien language all over the sidewalk out front. I can only assume it is some sort of signal to the "others" like them. They have fashioned a grid with what appears to be numbers written inside the boxes. They then stand in a semi circle and throw a single stone which lands on one of the numbers. Then, horrifyingly, they hop on one foot to pick up the stone they, themselves just discarded, and all the while they laugh out loud. I'm frightened!! I will try throwing food at them again.... it's like they're trying to tell me something! I just KNOW it!

Some sort of grid with numbers and signs.

Some sort of grid with numbers and signs.