Part of something bigger

Driving into town for my Saturday errands, I saw the white fleck of her dress long before I made out what it was. It was a lovely morning, one of those first spring days that prove you’re a survivor, and overnight the trees have transformed themselves from a black and gnarled mess into a lush watercolor. I had the windows rolled down and the blossoms were blowing in and at first I thought her dress was just a fallen branch leaning against the tree. What a shame, I thought, feeling regret for the tree as I drove nearer. From about fifty meters away, I made out her hair. It hung in long brown locks against the front of her dress where her head was slumped. Not a branch, a girl, I realized and pressed the gas pedal harder, lurching the last few meters. I jerked the steering wheel as I pulled off next to her and I jumped out of the car.

I dashed over to her and sure enough she was a real girl, not a branch of petals, although I did find petals in her hair and clinging to her dress. She had been tied to the tree with a pale rope, on which I found a few birds resting. I shooed them away. She was bound hands and legs to the tree, and she slumped forward so her chin rested on her chest. She was lovely.

I paused a moment before I touched her, not wanting to disturb her. She looked indescribably peaceful. Finally, I drew two fingers through her hair and pressed them to her neck to check for a pulse. Her skin was the same temperature as the air and I felt no movement.

I removed my hand and wanted to go for help. I found I couldn’t move. I stood rooted to the spot, staring at her, absorbing her. Time passed and finally I heard a car door slam behind me.

“Sir? Do you need some help, sir?” A kind voice said next to me. The woman was small, with short dark hair. She held a cell phone in her hand. “Sir, I’m calling for help right now,” she said earnestly. What a blessing she was, that woman. Who’s to say how long I would have stood there staring?

Even now, days later, I don’t know. I still can’t get that girl out of my mind. Just now she’s driving me to pick up a spool of jute at the hardware store and telling me to take it to the tree, now shedding its petals in favor of unfurling young electric green leaves. I don’t question. I press myself into her trunk and she ties me there with the rope.

When the kind woman finds me days later I can no longer hear her earnest voice. I’m inside the tree. I can only feel her dark eyes staring, rooted before me holding her useless cell phone and wondering what to do next.


My second submission for Tipsy Lit, on death and her limitations. I think death is contagious, what do you think?



Thespians taste like chicken

The English conversation class met in the crowded, dark basement of an old building as if they were meeting for something much more illicit than just talking. Stacks of hard-backed Merriam-Webster’s 11th editions in their exuberant red paper covers lined the walls like carnival prizes. Somebody’s ironic sense of humor, Samantha always thought when she entered the room.

Samantha passed out copies of the newspaper while the students trickled in. The handful of Mexican construction workers sat together near the back. The Middle Eastern girl with gorgeous eyes took her seat near the front. A couple of Asian boys slouched in their seats in the corner. The adorable French pair of exchange students huddled front and center, giggling.

Samantha finished passing out the newspapers and returned to the front of the room. She wrote a few simple sentences on the whiteboard to get the students started in their conversations. As she was writing, a tall man with a shaved head and a leather jacket came to the doorway. “Go ahead, everyone. Find a partner and start with introductions,” Samantha announced. “Come in, take a seat,” Samantha said to the newcomer.

He paused at the front and considered the room, then sat down next to the exchange students. “Hello, ladies,” he said with a smile.

The exchange students laughed. “Hi,” they said in unison.

“I’m Jack,” he said. “What can I call you ladies?”

“Ooh, Jacques,” one of the girls answered. “Are you French?”

“No,” Jack said. “I’m from Minnesota.”

Samantha chuckled. This guy has no idea where he is, she thought. “Okay, class,” she said, “take a look at your newspapers. Go ahead and ask your partner something about the headlines.”

Jack turned to the girls. “I overheard a good joke on the train here,” he said. “Want to hear it?”

“Yes!” the girls laughed.

“Okay, here goes. What did the thespian frog say when it ate the other thespian frog?”

The girls huddled together. “What’s ‘frog’?” one asked, giggling.

“Grenouille,” the other answered.

“Oh! Oui! Oui!” the first girl burst out.

“Ew! Cannibalisme!” Both girls dissolved into laughter.

“Wait,” said the first girl to Jack. “What is a thespian?”

“I don’t know,” Jack admitted. He looked up at Samantha. “Can I borrow a dictionary?” he asked.

She nodded, watching things play out.

Jack took a dictionary off the stack and carried it back to his desk. The girls giggled as he read them the definition.

All of a sudden, the Middle Eastern girl jumped out of her seat and grabbed her things. She walked over to Jack and the French girls and shouted, “It’s not thespian! It’s lesbian, and we taste like chicken! Poulet,” she said emphatically to the girls, then stormed out.

“Whew!” Jack said to the girls. “She didn’t have much of a sense of humor for a comedy class, did she?”

“Comedy class?” Samantha laughed. “This isn’t a comedy class. It’s an English conversation class.”

“An English conversation class?” Jack mumbled, staring mystified at the dictionary in his hands. “What day is it?”


“Damn, I thought it was Thursday. I’m in the wrong place. Girls, can I buy you some drinks?”

“Oui, oui!” they said in unison.

They stood to leave together, and one of the girls asked, “What’s a lesbian, Jacques?” Jack laughed and handed her the dictionary on their way out.

Samantha smiled at the class. “Well, I guess they started a conversation, huh?”


My attempt at a botched joke for this week’s Tipsy Lit prompt. Maybe I need to sign up for a comedy class myself!