Author Archives: Laurel Leigh

About Laurel Leigh

Laurel Leigh, M.F.A., is a writer, teacher, and editor and freelances internationally. She is a co-founder of Dogpatch Writers Collective and author of the blog Dear Writers. She also loves looking at everyone else's gravatars. www.LaurelLeighWriter.com www.DogpatchWritersCollective.com http://DearWriters.com

It’s Simply Ramen Time

Simply Ramen by Amy Kimoto-Kahn

Monday: Teriyaki Beef-Wrapped Asparagus Ramen • Tuesday: Kabocha Ramen made with nutty winter squash and topped with mushrooms and arugula for a flavorful veges dish • Wednesday:  a trip to the sea with Southern Crawfish Ramen • Thursday: time to turn up the heat with spicy Chorizo Miso Ramen • Friday: Cheese Ramen, because cheese!

I consider cookbooks to be some of the most artistic books produced that also have a practical purpose. It’s terrific fun for me when I’m asked to review a cookbook. This week I’ve been having delicious fun with recipes from Amy Kimoto-Kahn’s debut cookbook SIMPLY RAMEN (Race Point Publishing 2016).

Cookbook author and blogger Amy Kimoto-Kahn

Cookbook author and blogger Amy Kimoto-Kahn

A cookbook that expertly focuses on one type of food—in this case, ramen—takes the home cook on a unique culinary journey. I often like such cookbooks because rather than being told to buy a bunch of ingredients to make one dish that I might cook once in a blue moon, I can learn how to prepare a type of food I like in lots of different ways. Being already acquainted with the originality and flair that Amy brings to a Japanese-American style of cooking, I was excited to learn that she was writing a ramen-centric cookbook.

I unabashedly confess to enjoying those ten-for-a-buck, salt-loaded packs of ramen I regularly bought as a college kid on a budget. Imagine my delight when I opened Amy’s beautifully written book and encountered the real deal: accessible ramen recipes, using healthful ingredients, that make it a pleasure to cook at home and feel better about what I’m eating or serving to family and friends. As a yonsei (fourth-generation Japanese-American), Amy merges contemporary and traditional foods and home cooking techniques and shows you how to make tasty ramen dishes prepared dozens of ways—from chicken to seafood, to spicy, to vegetable, to cold, to traditional recipes she learned in Japan.

She includes easy-to-learn recipes for soup bases and noodles that can be made ahead, dozens of flavorful toppings, and a bonus chapter of yummy sides, including tofu, rice, and even a Japanese rice cracker snack. Plus a ramen-yas tour of Tokyo at the end of the book offers a glimpse into the atmosphere and menu specialties of Japanese ramen shops. I’d tell you more, but it’s time to eat, and you can bet what’s for dinner. Here’s food for every night of the week and twice on Saturday! Simply Ramen is simply irresistible.

Amy Kimoto-Kahn is the creator of the website easypeasyjapanesey.com, which offers recipes, cooking tips, and stories. I can’t wait to see what she cooks up next!

XO Laurel Leigh

 

 

 

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Natalia & Sarah’s Unauthorized Adventure: a.k.a. The Quest for the Elusive Allegra Salamander

We at Dogpatch Writers Collective are dismayed to report an unprecedented hack-in, resulting in the following completely unauthorized post. If anyone catches sight of these two miscreants, please notify us immediately. It’s way past curfew and at least one of them didn’t finish her social studies homework.

 

Natalia and Sarah on wall

Security footage of the two miscreants still at large.

 

We also sincerely apologize to Mr. Allegra over at heylookawriterfellow for any feelings of undue peer pressure or actual guilt this post causes. Please be assured that it was not AT ALL pre-authorized by DWC management, although it does have us ROFL.

 

THE HACK IN.

NATALIA: Sssshhhh, we have to be really quiet so we don’t get caught by the SITE ADMINISTRATOR.

SARAH: I’m not afraid of some dumb ol’ SITE ADMINISTRATOR. What’s a SITE ADMINISTRATOR?

N: Not what, but who, and in this case it’s our Aunt Laurel.

S: The Aunt Laurel who is shamelessly exploiting our kid cuteness and personas in this post, albeit for a very worthy event designed to encourage children of all ages to write and read poety?

N: Yep.

S: Does Mom know about this?

N: Who do you think gave Aunt Laurel ridiculously adorable photos of us to unabashedly exploit in support of SpeakEasy 16, a unique reading series produced in Whatcom County, Washington? This particular event on April 12, 2015, at 2 p.m. will feature young poets ages 5 to 16 reading their original poems for an audience of children and adults who will gather at the gorgeous Mount Baker Theatre to celebrate these young poets.

S: Cool.

speakeasy-16-othermind

THE UNFINISHED POEM.

N: Look, here’s the poem Aunt Laurel is writing for SpeakEasy 16.

The salamander went out last night.

As usual, it ended in a back-room fight.

S: She has no conception at all of what is age appropriate.

N: What do you expect from a prose writer whose characters enjoy a tenuous existence at best on the gritty fringes of mainstream society and are frequently undone by their inherent flaws?

S: She might do a much better job at this venture outside of her tawdry writing comfort zone into the wonderful world of children’s poetry if aided by an appropriately delightful and original doodle of a salamander, such as one that only that heylookawriterfellow could draw.

Mike Allegra, a.k.a. heylookawriterfellow: Will the famous children’s book author wield his doodling prowess to help the children of Whatcom County WA write poetry? We’re not even sure he’s ever going to read this post, but it could happen.

N: The right illustration fully brings the text to life and allows a poem to speak to its audience on multiple levels.

S: Should Aunt Laurel be forced to resort to stock art, the overall effect would clearly be diminished and lack artistic authenticity.

N: We better do something so our peers in Whatcom County aren’t subjected to an age-inappropriate and potentially emotionally scarring disaster of a poem. Continue reading

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Through a Distant Lens: Travel Poems

Hello from the Dogpatch!

My friend and mentor Dr. Alex Kuo (author of My Private China and the forthcoming shanghai.shanghai.shanghai) pointed me toward this poetry collection, and I’m so glad he did! Through a Distant Lens is one of those indie titles that launches with modest fanfare yet quietly and gracefully along the way promises to pick up more and more readers—this reader one of them—for its relatable, artful yet unpretentious poetry. Beautifully curated and arrayed, this assortment of travel poems is further enhanced by a sprinkling of gorgeous photography.

 

Through a Distant Lens

 

An invitation to “Depart” guides one into this eclectic collection of poetical musings, each piece navigating around the theme of travel, and with each of the four main sections prefaced by a striking black-and-white photograph evocative of the chapter’s overarching theme: A Buddhist Temple in the Himalayas opens the section entitled “Continental Drift; “Borders Less Defined,” the third of the quartet, is coupled with an approach view of Kells Priory in Ireland.

The book’s editor and publisher is Sheryl Clough, herself a well-published poet and essayist and founder of the Whidbey Island, Washington–based Write Wing Publishing. For this endeavor, Clough gathered the work of forty-six poets—the myriad voices offering singular definitions and experiences of journeys, from a memory of a boat trip on wind-blown Hawaiian waters to scatter the ashes of one’s brother to the hilarity of trying to maneuver the simple task of doing laundry in Dublin, Ireland. The layout of the book is accessible, letting the reader plot a straight course from cover to cover or simply thumb through and meander over land, on water, through the air and through time—en route finding beauty, surprises, angst, challenges, pain, and even joy in pain as in Sheila Nickerson’s “On Transplanting the Poppies,” commemorating both loss and gain of life.

Poet and Editor Sheryl Clough

Poet and Editor Sheryl Clough

“Funny how your mind takes you somewhere else,” Ann Curran’s “There, Not Here” [p. 5] comments at the opening, coaxing the reader to come willingly aboard this vessel of poem-stories to be carried away. The chapter “Continental Drift” drops the reader at India’s majestic Taj Mahal on one page, in the heart of an ancient Chinese dynasty on the next, then has one gazing off the Cape of Good Hope beholding a conspiring of life off the rocky headland. The poems filling this section gleefully dance among the continents, each most decidedly to its own tune while not only moving from place to place but between styles and perspectives. Diane Stone’s “Last Night’s Chicken Curry” [p. 14] delivers a vision of Nepal, distant and landlocked but easily reachable via the pleasing flavors and aromas of the recipe contained within this poem. Whereas Debra Marquart’s “Wild Thyme” [p. 24] is laugh-out-loud funny depicting the less-adventurous tourist compensating alongside her fellow intrepid explorers.

“In my rearview mirror Dallas fades. . . . Phoenix, where I am bound, materializes – / less like Brigadoon from Scottish mists, / than Petra carved from red sand” opines Ann Howells in “Moving On” [p. 28], the poem that opens the second main section, aptly christened “Snapshots from the Road.” Like “Odysseans, drunk on bliss,” to cull a line from Teddy Norris’s “Barging in Burgundy” [p. 43], the poems in this chapter invite the reader into a panoply of images and memories taken from the road. One encounters Marianne Patty’s touching image of “Our Lady of the Street” climbing “up the stairs of her broken world” [p. 29], jettisons back in time with Lois Parker Edstrom’s “Yellowstone Park, 1948” [p. 30], and then meets Gail Denham, who offers up a mix of memories married to that (in)famous war:

 

We had tea and succulent pastries at Betty’s

Café in York, a refuge for WWII airmen, where

they came to dance and forget war for an evening.

[“Treasured Journeys, A Memory Jumble, ” p. 38] Continue reading

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Leave No Character Behind

You know that thing about not putting characters by themselves too often because then it’s harder to have an antag in that protag v. antag equation?

Yeah, that’s not what this is really about, but I was thinking about how people always say that. Don’t put that character in that room by themself unless there’s a Bengal tiger in there for them to tame. That would be cool, having a friend who’s a Bengal tiger, but in the wild, where it could run free and maybe bring you a present of a fish now and then since there probably isn’t a Safeway.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAThen there’s that thing about wanting to know more about the mother, or knowing too much about the mother. If it’s my mother, then god love her, you would have a dilemma, or I would have the dilemma, not to project this onto you. The point is that you could talk to her for a while and you’d know a lot about her but you wouldn’t really know anything about her. Interesting to try to capture that on the page. That’s also not really what this is about.

MeOr that one about how good fiction should read like it’s true. That’s always been a harder one for me to get my head around. I can be gullible, but I knew that Lilliput was a made-up place. And Tom and Becky in the cave? Come on! But there are those stories where we think, yeah, that could be true. I never related that question of the reader wondering about true-ness or lie-ness to my own work so much until I recited part of a story I wrote at an open mic. The story’s about this kid who’s trying to earn money to visit her dead mother’s grave site. She’s afraid of this mysterious guy in town, and she can bake. I know, good luck with that.

Anyway, at this open mic, my recitation went well, and despite being slightly older than my character, I successfully projected eleven-ish and people were touched. Afterward, this woman said how much she liked the story, and that she was from Minnesota and familiar with the setting. Cool. Then she asked if the story was true.

“Oh, no,” I said. “It’s made up.”

Her face fell. If I was writing this into a story, I’d write it that way without embellishment: Her face fell. She looked seriously disappointed, like she wanted to take back everything good she said about the story. Continue reading

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Living in the Great State of Lynch

There’s a conversation that’s been heard a lot over the years in these parts—that being upper Western Washington, near the Canadian border:

“Did you like Border Songs or The Highest Tide best?”

Note that there are built-in assumptions hard-wired into the DNA of any denizen of this rainy realm:

  • The listener has read both books by Jim Lynch.
  • The listener absolutely has an opinion.
  • If the listener agrees with the asker, both will nod smugly at their mutual rightness.
  • If the listener disagrees with the asker, it will be even more fun to argue the merits of each story, just like Norm and the professor hollering at each other across the ditch.

Truth Like the SunSince the publication of Jim’s third novel—yep, we call him “Jim,” because we feel like he is our author, in the sense that we live spittin’ distance from Border Songs’ setting on the Washington-Canadian border—the conversation widened to “Did you read/like/love Truth Like the Sun yet?” (There’s an awesome interview of Jim atop the Space Needle in Seattle.)

Again, some built-in assumptions:

  • The listener, like everyone around here, preordered book three and started reading it standing at the mailbox.
  • That Miles, Brandon, and Roger should probably have monuments built in the center of town (or the center of each town; arguably Roger does).
  • That having to choose a favorite among the books might be like admitting to loving one son/daughter more than his/her brothers/sisters—completely inappropriate yet sometimes done in secret.

Occasionally, some unfortunate soul admits in the barest of whispers to not having read one of the trio, or, god simply forbid, any of them. Far less often, someone blurts out awkwardly that they haven’t actually heard of Western Washington’s equivalent of a duke, at which point we refrain from scolding them outright because our mother taught us to be polite, but someone won’t be able to resist saying something like, “Were you kept underneath the stairs until recently, like those people in that creepy Wes Craven movie?”

Setting foot inside these borders—above or below the “ditch”—and remaining uneducated about the life and times of Brandon Vanderkool or Mr. Seattle is akin to living in San Francisco and never having been to MoMo’s. Some things just can’t and shouldn’t be forgiven. Picking up on the below stairs theme, and to help break any awkward silence, someone will then say that Jim Lynch has been known to write in his basement, at which everyone will nod knowingly, regardless of whether they knew that or believed it, but it just seems right. That will lead to fragments of knowledge and/or myth people presume to know:

  • His agent sold The Highest Tide when it was only half-written.
  • He wrote two other novels that he never bothered to publish; how cool would it be to read those, we say, reverently.
  • His next book (Before the Wind) involves sailing.
  • Oh yeah, he sails a lot, we say, as if we know exactly how much a lot is, but we know it’s enough that it’s gonna turn out to be another killer story.
  • (Read more about Jim on his website.)

Border Songs birdsAt any point, someone will inevitably yell, “Nineteen!” sending us all into peals of laughter, and god help the poor soul who doesn’t know and earns more pitying glances. There are inevitably a few showoffs in the party, who try to impress everyone by comparing Tom Robbins and Jim Lynch stylistically—well, we could compare snowflakes, too. It’s at least fair to say that both gentlemen dwell in the Pacific Northwest and have their own cult followings. Nonetheless, the comparisons often make for an extremely fun detour that can deteriorate to a lot of creative thumb waving and comparing to see who has the longest thumb—and there are also some overachievers who can name or have been to every locale used in the stories, sort of like this one woman I used to work with at the mental health center in Spokane who was an encyclopedia of Days of Our Lives and who could fill us all in on the lineage of relationships and feuds for the past decades of the show. This would occur during lunch in the quiet room, where we brought our lunch to eat and watched Days of Our Lives, and you guys don’t even begin to start laughing, because there were plenty of guys in that room who cared deeply about Bo and Hope.

“Speaking of which, do you think you know who and you know who will make it?” someone might ask.

The after story of Lynch’s characters is something we care about deeply. In a place where educated folks drop their g’s because they do, and socks and sandals make a weird kind of sense in the climate (having moved here from the SF Bay Area, I confidently double-dog dare you to resist more than three seasons), the zany ensemble of Lynch’s gives voice to the sort of experiences and issues that characterize us near-the-border dwellers and our frenemies to the north. Continue reading

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Guilty until Proven Innocent

anthony inmate pic

Anthony’s mugshot from 2006

My essay titled WE SHOULD DO SOMETHING was just published in the July 2014 issue of The Sun.

It’s about my nephew, Anthony Shaw, who was arrested and charged with the murder of his girlfriend’s two-year-old son.

This is a story about guilt and innocence and trying to live with the difference.

Some readers have asked me if this is a true story.

It is.

Read an excerpt or subscribe to The Sun.

 

The Sun July 2014 Issue 463

The Sun
July 2014
Issue 463

 

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Coen-Esque, You Betcha!

“A little less Fargo and a little more Raising Arizona,” an editor wrote to me once about a story in which I’d killed off one of the characters.

The old church I used as a model for the "old Lutheran Church" in the story "Dearest" was torn down long ago. This is the Catholic Church in Bruneau I grew up attending, although I also went to Sunday School at the Protestant Church up the street, since they had way better music and cookies.

The old church I used as a model for the “old Lutheran Church” in the story “Dearest” was torn down long ago. This is the Catholic Church in Bruneau, Idaho, I grew up attending, although I also went to Sunday School at the Protestant Church up the street, since they had way better music and cookies. It was fun to conceive this story in Bruneau and then pick it up and move it to Moorhead, Minnesota. I moved it back and forth a couple times and finally decided that Moorhead in Clay County worked the best for the story purpose.

First the editor buttered me up by saying that my story reminded him a bit of the Coen Brothers.

I was ready to put on hot pink lipstick just at the thought of my work reminding anyone of those guys, whose work I highly admire.

The film analogy was an especially apt one in this case, where I’d veered the story in too dark a direction for its overall tone. That comment stuck with me and has been a reminder of my tendency to write dark endings, whether or not they’re the right one for the story. The dead character was brought back to life in the aforementioned story, and the story was better for it.

But I keep having to learn the lesson over and over again with each new story. Recently, the Dogpatch reviewed a story of mine, which is due out this month in Clover: A Literary Rag, the gorgeous letterpress magazine published by the Independent Writers’ Studio.

In the small town in which I grew up, there was a guy we kids were afraid of for no justifiable reason I’ve ever known. My friend Cynda and I would ride our bikes really fast past his house on the way to school. That became the seed of the story “Dearest,” which started as my way to understand why we kids needed a monster to be afraid of, and why it was also fun to be afraid.

The Bruneau Canal in Idaho, where I originally imagined the character in the story would walk. I swapped it for the Red River that separates North Dakota and Minnesota, as a more believable place for the character to lose her money in the wind.

The Bruneau Canal in Idaho, where I originally imagined the character in the story “Dearest” would walk singing a tune about two cowboys who meet the devil. I swapped it for the Red River that separates North Dakota and Minnesota, as a more believable place for the character to lose something she couldn’t retrieve by jumping into the water. It was hard to lose the Bruneau Canal, since I grew up playing alongside it and swimming in it, but the expanse of water needed to be wider and faster moving for the scene to work.

Continue reading

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My First Writing Teacher

Emma Ann Henning (1894-1977), my grandma, in Detroit Lakes MN

Emma Ann Henning (1894-1977), my grandma, in Detroit Lakes MN in 1935.

Hello from the Dogpatch,

One of my former writing students, Susan Chase Foster, a teacher herself and now a colleague and friend, touched me deeply by nominating me for a Mayor’s Arts Award. Last night, I joined the other recipients in a truly moving ceremony. Our emcees were Bellingham City Council President Cathy Lehman and Bellingham Arts Commission Chair Alexandra Wiley. The event was held at Bellingham’s Walton Theater in the gorgeous Mount Baker Theatre complex, to make it that much more special.

We recipients were asked to talk about our accomplishments, which no one did. I happened to be last, and marveled as person after person got up and turned the spotlight off themselves and onto their mentors, sources of inspiration, and our community. The result was a marvelous feeling of warmth and generosity in the room, and it was heartwarming and humbling to be a part. The recipients were:

Mayor's Arts Awards

Mayor’s Arts Awards Invitation from the City of Bellingham

  • Alan Rhodes – Community Columnist. Satirist extraordinaire, Alan is well known in these parts as, among other things, the Cascadia Weekly columnist on the popular Chuckanut Radio Hour, produced by Chuck and Dee Robinson of Village Books and which received the award last year. We got treated to a snippet of a hilarious Bellingham-centric column Alan wrote a while back, reminding us that all the men in Bellingham are indeed sensitive and all the children recycle.
  • Margaret Bikman – Entertainment News Coordinator. Margaret is the beloved entertainment news coordinator for the Bellingham Herald, curating content for the Herald‘s Take 5 weekly entertainment section, including its calendars, her behind-the-scenes column, and her artist profile.
  • Shannon Laws – Poet. It was a blast to share the podium (and drinks after) with Shannon Laws, author of the book Madrona Grove, whose cover features her own exquisite art.
  • Becky Elmendorf – Former Whatcom Symphony Orchestra President. At one point in telling us the history of the symphony, Becky asked members of the orchestra who were present in the audience to stand up; it was like a fabulous Greek chorus rising in the midst of us.
  • Tore Ofteness – Photographer. Having a wide fan base, Tore was traveling overseas, and there was a collective groan from the audience at not getting to see him!
  • Jack Frymire – Opera Singer and Educator. Truly delightful in all ways, Jack gets props for the best opening line of the night, saying how this award was perfectly timed: not premature and not posthumous.

For me, another wonderful aspect was getting to talk about my grandma, who inspired my writing. I’d thought a lot about her over the last days, and this morning, got up and looked at pictures of her. So here’s my speech from the ceremony, dedicated to my first and best writing teacher ever, my childhood friend and confidante, the best cook in the world, my beautiful grandma.

Young Henning Family

The young Henning family: William and Emma with daughters Maxeen (my mom, holding her dad’s hand) and Irma, on the porch of their Fargo ND home. William was a violinist and a doctor; Emma was a pianist. I visited the family home a few years ago and the delightful family there let me wander all through the house.

My beautiful grandma, Emma Ann Henning, was born in Volga City, Iowa, in 1894. She lived until 1977. In the time that I knew her, she gave me enough love to last a lifetime—and she also gave me stories.

As a little kid, lots of nights I’d sneak into her bed, snuggle up against her big grandma bosoms, and she’d tell me the most wonderful stories. They were stories about everyday people, doing everyday things, but my grandma had a knack for knowing what was funny or unusual or thought-provoking. Her stories were always entertaining, and for me they were also comforting. Whenever I was sick or sad or scared, a dose of Grandma’s stories did the trick.

Grandma with my Aunt Irma, about 1923, at their home in Fargo ND. Little Irma died quite young and this is one of the few pictures I have of her.

Now I realize that in those soft, quiet moments we spent together, she was in many ways teaching me to be a writer. Throughout my life, my way to both entertain and comfort myself has been to make up stories, write them down, and I’m fortunate to now make my living as a writer and editor.

And while it’s extremely gratifying to be part of a book production team or to see my own stories in print, as much as anything, it’s the quieter moments that I treasure the most deeply.

For example, I’ve been delighted to teach creative writing classes for both Whatcom Community College’s and Western Washington University’s Continuing Education programs. I’ve had students from age twelve to ninety-two in my classes, which is wonderful in itself. This particular day, I watched a student who was about twenty-two talking across the table with a student who was about seventy—watching the difference in age become completely immaterial as they talked excitedly to each other about their stories was a quietly special moment. Continue reading

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Tree Plotting

Tree ClimberTree climber. Yep, that’s gonna be my next job.

Well, it’s gonna be the next job of a character I’m dreaming up ever since a guy scaled a 100-foot tree in my front yard and chopped it down with a chain saw.

My last job went pretty well – backhoe driver. The pay was great, the foreman wasn’t a bad sort, and I got a date with a hot red head named Mona. Things went great until they didn’t.

Tree CuttingSo I’m excited about this tree climbing gig. I do a lot of research. Take pictures, say “wow, I can’t believe he’s up there so high,” and then deny that any of my interest in the future potential character is at all tied to the general hotness of the tree crew.

I’m still in the creative stage, so it’s important to draw on any and all inspiration, right?

My other excuse is that I’m fifty and can start to blame lots of what I think, do and say on my age. (I reckon it would take about two and a half of them to make my age. So none of the professionals pictured in this story are named, to protect them from me.)

Tree ChoppingLike, thinking I can write about scaling a 100-foot tree with a running chain saw dangling from my belt with any degree of realism.

Isn’t that what we do? Write about stuff we’ve never seen and done, characters we’ve never been or will be, places we’ve never been.

Except for the writers who actually do those things and are those characters and go to those places.

Continue reading

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Tea with the Gabriels

February Snow 1Suddenly, it’s all about the back story:

A) Advise writing students to trim the back story out of the opening of their stories to avoid slowing the action.

B) Write a story that opens with back story and then read it to them.

C) Remind self to preface everything said in class with, “Much of the time.”

February Snow 2And child narrators:

A) Have a bit of luck with a story whose narrator is a child.

B) Write another story whose narrator is a child.

C) That second one isn’t going so well. Maybe there’s too much back story in the opening.

February Snow 3And snow:

It’s been snowing most of the today and was snowing earlier when two teenage boys showed up with matching yellow shovels and offered to shovel my driveway.

The back story:

  • My driveway has a ridiculous hump I’ll never be able to drive up in this weather in the car I now have if the driveway isn’t properly shoveled.
  • Today instead of shoveling said driveway, I was hustling to finish work I should have done on Friday.
  • I didn’t really feel like shoveling my driveway.

These marvelous boys show up and tell me they’ll do the work first and then I can pay them whatever I think is fair. Which of course means I pay them more than I would have negotiated to start. They are smart boys. It takes them a while to finish and I worry they might be getting cold. I have nothing hot for them to drink but tea, which they politely say is just fine. When I invite them in, they stand awkwardly in their snow boots on the entry rug. I tell them to take off their boots and I go upstairs to make tea. I come back down to find them standing in the same spot in their socks, because they are too polite to sit down without being asked.

When I offer, they sit side by side on the couch in my downstairs, look at each other, blow on their tea, look at each other.

“It’s hard to know what to say when you’re in some old lady’s house drinking tea,” I say.

They laugh and then we’re chatting and I hear about school and where they grew up and how they met and became friends. And that they have the same first name. It’s a name longer than Gabriel, and neither of them seems to use a nickname. They’re fifteen or so, and I flash to twenty or thirty years down the road and wonder if they’ll be that friend for each other who’s been a friend for a very long time. I hope so, because it’s good to have that friend. Continue reading

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