Monday, May 4, 2015

Such Stories

Okay, I just needed a place to post this that I can link back to.


“Who are you?”
The woman smiled at the wall of her cottage. The voice was young and female, but it didn't quaver in fear. Yet. “Who have they told you I am?” She asked the child behind her.
The sound of shifting cotton told her the girl had shuffled in place, probably nervous, regretting her rashness in coming so far into the forest without friends or a plan. “They told me you are a very bad lady who likes to steal children and kill their parents. That you live in a cottage deep in the woods and lure children there in order to turn them into slaves and demons that you make do your mali... malic-” the child stopped and tried again, “malicious bidding.” A pause. “They also told me that you don't exist.”
“Yet here I am,” the woman turned at last and reveled in the child's gasp of fear. “Oh now, did they forget to tell you about my appearance? Rather careless of them, I should think. Quite honestly, I thought how I look would be very useful as a way to keep the easily disgusted away from here.”
“They said,” the little girl swallowed before beginning again. “They said you had no eyes.”
The woman smiled without mirth, more a snarl than a grin. “And so I haven't. But answer me, child: did they tell you they themselves burned them out? Your village's grandparents and their hot pokers made of iron.”
No response.
“Well, child? Did they tell you that I saved three children and destroyed their parents to keep them safe? Were you told of how your people came the next night, held me down as they burned away my eyes after they beat the children to death? They claimed they'd been tainted by my evil influence: become demons, no longer fit to live? Did they tell you the eldest was but nine and the youngest barely three years of age?”
The child inhaled sharp as a knife flint. “No,” was all she said.

She'd been the local healer then. The villagers had wondered at her insistence on washing wounds and using fire to sterilize her needles before she stitched their torn flesh back together, but as long as she took away fevers and kept infection at bay, they let her and her cottage full of plants be.
By all rights, living as deep in the woods as she did, she should never have known the children.
One night, the eldest knocked on the door of her cottage, his sister's arm hung at a grotesque angle and the youngest had a bruise on its leg. All three looked as if they ate but once a week. “Please,” he'd begged.
She set the girl's arm and fashioned a sling. As she slathered vinegar on the smallest one's leg, the older boy asked, “Will that help?”
It fades the bruises faster than letting it alone,” she'd explained.
The boy nodded, “Could you help mine?” and took off his sweater to reveal a torso covered in so many bruises it seemed as if he'd been painted in angry reds and purples, sickly greens and yellows.
Swallowing her nausea, the woman tended the abused flesh with her gentlest touch, begging for an explanation she already knew.
After much hemming and hawing, the sister answered in her brother's stead. “Mommy broke my arm and kicked the baby. Daddy beats him.”
Now it was rage that had to be swallowed. “Stay,” the woman choked out through a throat tight with tears and anger. “Stay here. Don't go back; it's not safe.” She turned to the eldest, “You're brave and strong and I doubt you're yet ten. You take the blows meant for all of you. Yet you can see it's not enough anymore,” she gestured to the others' injuries. “Stay here. We'll keep them safe together.”
He was swayed by her promises and sincerity.
She didn't know then her promises would be ash within a week.
The parents came first, of course. The woman hid the children in the cottage, playing dumb at knowing where they were. When the father raised his ax as if he meant to turn the whole building to kindling with the children inside, a shrill series of whistles brought the nearby wolf pack. It had been a hard winter and the wolves were glad of such a nice meal as the two stout, screaming people provided.
The woman went inside to make sure the children didn't see what was to happen to their parents. They were never to experience violence again, she swore.
It took only three days before the villagers came. The day had dawned bright and clear. She'd been making a pie crust as the children washed berries when shouts shocked the birds from their trees.
If they'd had any mercy, they'd have taken her eyes first. Instead they held her back and made her watch until the little dears she already loved were nothing but a mess of blood and hair. By the time the irons were in her eyes, she had no screams left.
She begged for death, to be allowed to join her children. The villagers laughed and left her there, bleeding into the ground, unable to even cry for the bones being picked clean by crows.
When her grief didn't kill her, it twisted her into anger. The first villager who came complaining of a headache was given nightshade to put in her tea. The man who sawed off a finger lost his entire arm to the infection she helped cultivate in the wound. Soon enough the visits stopped, the way they spoke about her changed.
Instead of Healer, they called her Witch.

“So, these people, your people,” the woman waved a hand, “they lie to you and try to scare obedience out of you with stories of the cruel Witch of the Woods. Is that right?”
“I suppose,” the child said after a thoughtful pause.
The woman put a finger to her lips and tapped them. “So, if I am to be feared, if I do not, in fact, exist, what brings you so deep into the unforgiving woods?”
The little girl shifted again, her shoes squeaking as she took two steps forward into the cottage, the door creaking shut behind her. “What color were your eyes? When you had them?”
Startled at such a question, the woman lost her smile. Her first thought was to lie, invent all manner of horrors, but the girl had been lied to all her life. No reason to add to the score of misinformation already a part of the Woods Witch and her myth. “Green. A rather fetching pale green, if I do say so myself. Though it's been thirty years since I last saw them in a mirrored glass; I may just be romanticizing.”
“My eyes are blue. Just a dull blue,” the girl said. A small hand touched the woman's. Wet, likely from the river that led to the hidden house. “I'm sorry that happened to you and the kids you saved. The people who did that to you were very bad. Far worse than anything they said... made up about you.”
There were no clever words that came to mind and the woman had been alone long enough to think of all the clever things she could ever say should something like this happen. Although nothing about this encounter went the way she had ever imagined it might go. The girl didn't scream in fright and run away, ready to lead the villagers to the cottage. She hadn't started crying or whimpering, nor had she called the woman a witch, despite the fact that could be the only title she had known before stepping in the cottage. In fact, the little girl was thoughtful, even... kind. “Thank you.”
The little girl wrapped her fingers with the woman's. “May I ask you something, ma'am?”
A true smile curled the woman's lips slightly upward at the honorific. “You may, little one.”
“After you saved those kids, what were you going to do with them? If the people from the village hadn't done what they'd done. I don't think you would've turned 'em into demons anymore, but what would you have done?”
The woman sighed, her heart heavy with the weight of a future she didn't have, a past of love taken from her too soon. “Teach them to make medicine from the plants and how to befriend the forest animals. They were to live in this cottage with me and I would raise them as my own. I would have passed on my old twig and leaf dolls to the middle child, a girl of seven. About your age, I suppose. Once the eldest boy was a bit older, I'd have taught him to hunt. How to respect the animals and bless them for their sacrifice to keep us fed. The sweet, babbling baby was going to grow up remembering little of the previous injuries suffered at the hands of those both blessed and unworthy to be their parents.” The woman's lips quivered, though her broken tear ducts could no longer cry. “I had such marvelous stories I wanted to tell them.”
“Tell me. Please,” the girl said, part question and part statement.
“Your parents will consider you tainted. I don't want you to come to any harm, little one.”
The girl took the hand she still held and placed it on her own face. “That's not a problem.”
“Wet,” the woman said, “with tears? No,” she said before the child could answer. She lifted her hand, rubbing the liquid between her fingers. A metallic tang drifted in the air. “Blood. Yours? Are you injured?” Already the woman's mind raced as to what poultices she'd make to stem the bleeding, what herbs would numb any pain the child might be in.
“Daddy killed Mommy and my new baby sister still in her tummy, beat Mommy like the children's parents did. Until Mommy and the baby squirming in her stopped moving. I used the kitchen knife on him.” The child sighed. “It took a long time because I couldn't reach his heart or throat, so I had to keep stabbing him in the leg until he fell down and I could kill him like the butcher kills sheep for dinner. It was very messy. I wanted to clean my hands so I wouldn't get blood on your door though.”
“Didn't he yell for help?” The woman asked, shocked at the child's matter-of-fact telling.
A small giggle rose from the girl. “No one cared. He always yells when he's drunk. He always swears people are out to get him, to murder him in his sleep 'cause he had a lot of gold. They ignored him like usual.”
The woman took in this new information and nodded. “And you came here?”
The girl was quiet, then said, “I'm sorry, I was nodding. I forgot you couldn't see me. Yes, I put down the knife, kissed Mommy and my baby sister goodbye and followed the path into the woods.”
“But why? Why did you come here?”
“I wanted you to be real,” the child said. “I wanted you to steal me. I took care of the other part for you.”
A laugh came from deep within the woman and rang through the small cottage. “Child, what is your name?”
“Come Ramona,” the woman walked to the pitcher of water she used to bathe. “Clean your face like you washed your hands in the river. Then I will make us some dinner and tell you my stories before I put you to bed.”
The child's voice was smiling. “Yes, Mother.”

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Running AMOK

So, I've been in L.A. about a month. I know very few people and spend a lot of time being scared and lonely.

Then Misha Collins (of Supernatural) announced a flash mob for his Annual Melee of Kindness (AMOK) with his charity, Random Acts. In downtown L.A. Not far from where I live. He asked people to bring bags to hand out to the homeless in that area.

So I went to the dollar store and the Target, bought a lot of hygeine stuff (bandaids, tissues, anti-bacterial sanitizer, etc) and filled little plastic bags with it all. Must have been about thirty or so in all. I felt like it was such a small contribution, but being newly arrived and unemployed, it was all I could do.

I started smiling the second I saw a large crowd of people on the corner we were all to meet on. I knew exactly none of those people, but I felt like I was walking towards my dear friends. Supernatural fans never got it more right than when we called ourselves a Family.

So, I arrived and stood around waiting for instructions. My t-shirt was well-admired and I started talking to people. Eventually I met Mia and Leigh. Noting we'd all come alone, we decided to glom together. We talked about our love for the show and Misha. Time ticked on, past the appointed meeting time. People came over and we started handing things out to them. We were just saying it would be funny if everyone had passed out everything before Misha even got there, when I looked over Mia's shoulder.

"Um, turn around, ladies," I said, beaming and waving at the camera Misha was holding. Turns out we were all hanging out under a No Loitering sign as we waited. Misha (and his beautiful family) crossed the street and I felt a fluttering in my heart. There was Misha Collins, the man behind GISHWHES (and my gefilte fish aversion), one third of the main cast of Supernatural, standing close enough to touch (I refrained, but man was I tempted).

With a direction chosen, we all followed Misha, handing out our bags to people who were grateful to get them. We answered what organization we were with (Random Acts) and if someone wanted something specific, we played Telephone to find someone who had it (socks and jackets were the most popular). I eventually ended up near Vickie, Misha's wife, who is an amazing writer. I fangirled all over her and cooed at her daughter as Maison waved a flower in my face. West spent most of the time on his father's shoulder, looking confused at the large group of people his dad had assembled like Random Acts Avengers.

I'd been separated from Mia and Leigh by this time, but I found them and followed the grouping they were with. I'd learned two names already, I wasn't about to shy away from social interaction now. I caught up with them and stuck preety close to one or the other of them for the rest of the time.

When I ran out of things to give, I felt...restless. I wanted to give more, help more. Mia, Leigh and I started talking about what we could do with ourselves now. Mostly we all followed Misha and watched him interacting with the people we met. I knew Misha was crazy, I knew he was silly, I knew he was talented. But I got to see how damn genuinely kind he is. If he hadn't organized this, I'd never have made friends or stopped feeling alone or stopped thinking of myself over the course of a morning. I will always be grateful to him because of this. For all the lives he enriched today through organizing this, mine stands low among them.

After a sweet speech thanking us for our work, Misha headed back to his car with his family. We'd all been in 'follow Misha' mode up to this point, so we followed until we got to the same intersection we'd first gathered at. I suggested lunch because I didn't want to stop hanging out with the two awesome girls I'd met, so Mia, Leigh and I went to Chipotle.

The funny thing is, while we were eating lunch, Mia, Leigh and myself all mentioned having second thoughts before we showed up. We were nervous, we were tired, we didn't have to show up. I am so glad they did and I did. It was the kind of thing that doesn't leave you, but instead settles deep into you.

Thank you, Misha. Thank you, Random Acts.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

I Am Gonna Make It Through This Year if it Kills Me

First of all, find the song "This Year" by The Mountain Goats and listen to it. Better yet, crank it up full blast and dance around to it, then return to this post. I'll wait.

Now if you know me, you know this year is going to be a helluva ride. I'm moving to Los Angeles within the next few weeks to really give acting a job as a profession. Truth be told, I'm not sure I could hold any job other than actress. It's just so deep in my blood.

So this is the year: the year of taking risks, the year of no longer being afraid to look stupid or do something silly, the year that I am going to make it through if it kills me.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Supernatural Family

Posted as part of a Supernatural Family lovefest:

Supernatural came into my life when I was nineteen, through a friend who kept suggesting I watch the show. She showed me part of the Pilot and I thought it seemed a good show: Dean was funny and cute, Sam adorable and earnest. Then she plopped down her computer and showed me the last few minutes of the most recent episode "Yellow Fever" (mid-season 4).

Jensen Ackles. Dancing on a car. Lip-synching "Eye of the Tiger".

I was in love. Then came the gag reels and I was in LOVE.

I started watching Supernatural because I was so in love with the fun the cast and crew were having. And when I finally sat down and watched the show proper, it was... amazing. Scary and funny and the boys are so damn sexy and goofy at the same time.

I watch and like a lot of shows, but I only really LOVE a few.
My love was cemented when, about a month after my first foray into the lives of the Winchesters, Kim Manners died. For the first time, I wandered into other fans' messages of farewell and found that they LOVE the show the same way I do, all the way down to the cast and crew, they mourned as hard as I (harder because they'd loved longer). Every year when the crew does the Cancer Ride in his honor, I donate what I can.

Supernatural could have a cutesy name for our fandom, but we are Family. Because of how deep we love and respect this show and every person who helps make it and all of us who enjoy it. We bicker sometimes, we snub, we take things too seriously, but at the end of the day no matter where we come from, how old we are, what we look like or which season we started watching in: we're all Winchesters at heart. Disparate though we are, we're the Supernatural Family because as Eric Kripke so eloquently put it through the mouth of Bobby Singer: "Family don't end in blood, boy."

(P.S. A proper post about ATX TV Festival is coming as soon as I stop petting the picture I have of myself with Scott Porter)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Thank You Letter To Ben Edlund

This is my contributition to the Open Letter of Appreciation to Ben Edlund located at the Winchester Family Business website here:

If you are a Supernatural fan and would like to add your gratitude to the thread, I fully suggest you do so. Mr. Edlund wrote some of the best episodes of the show and he is leaving to work on Revolution (I suspect Eric Kripke tempted him with either blackmail, buckets of money, or...whatever you tempt writers and a new Mac I expect).

Dear Ben Edlund,

Thank you. Thank you for your brilliant writing. Thank you for making us laugh in the middle of a tense and heartbreaking series of heavy, emotional episodes. Thank you for breaking our hearts in the best ways. Thank you for knowing these characters so well that the words you put in their mouths are natural (because Dean would so ask Sam to be his Valentine with a real human heart because he's a dork at heart). Thank you for having Sam lose his shoe, for Dean becoming a PA on a film set, for helping gay love pierce the veil of death, for putting Dean in lederhosen, for showing us how dark Dean got in Hell, for the boys naming a baby Bobby John, for Jo and Ellen going out fighting with a 'kick it in the ass', for The French Mistake...just that entire episode, matter of fact the entirety of Everybody Hates Hitler as well, for giving us Castiel's point of view. Thank you for these moments and so many more over the years of the show.

Thank you, sir.

Love and Best Wishes, Beth

P.S. Really, thank you for putting Dean in lederhosen. Thank. You.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Nerves of Steel and the Gaining of Them

There was a time when I wasn't tough.

There was actually a very long time when I wasn't tough, but let's not turn this into a commencement address, shall we?

I grew up in a middle class family, my father had (still has) a very good job and when I was twelve, mom went to work as well: I got (most of) what I wanted for Christmas and my birthday, my glorious mother had a policy that if my brother and I could behave in a store we could have one treat (needless to say we were very well-behaved), when the Scholastic Book Fair came to school (and mom wasn't working it), we were given a blank check and told we could buy one computer game, but as many books as we fancied.

I could be accused of being spoiled. If I hadn't had the mother I had, who recognized how easily her kids could turn spoiled and always kept us a couple steps from that line or pulled us back when we did wander over it, I would have been. I'll tell ya'll the American Girl story sometime, promise. I didn't need to be tough. Until I did.

I'm lucky in that when my Trigeminal Neuralgia arrived, I was already being toughened up. I left home and lived on my own, learning to budget what money I had, make my own decisions about what to eat and when, be responsible to get to all my classes on time and pay bills. I felt in control and learned I'm smart to live on my own and not rely on other people to make sure I do what I need to. This intensified in Portland, living across the country from basically everyone I knew. Suddenly, I needed to sell old clothes if I wanted to buy a new dress. I had to schlep two totes bags full of books a dozen blocks to Powell's if I wanted to buy one new book. This made me very critical about buying only what I knew would see plenty of use, instead of whatever I wanted at first glance. I picked up odd jobs as I could get them, never able to stay at them long. I cried when I told my mother I had applied for food stamps and then refused her offer of help (she doesn't have much to give). If I was going to fail here, I was failing on my own. Suddenly, I felt strong, strong enough to let my pride go and admit I could get help I needed.

I was told time and time again that I was brave to move all the way to Portland, where I knew practically nobody. This came mostly from people after my savings dwindled far enough that I had to move home. I sure didn't feel brave, I was scared as hell.

Then came the Trigeminal Neuralgia: The Revenge (I'd had a bad spell in Portland, but nothing like my current pain level. 7 as compared to 12). It is well-accepted to be the most painful condition to have. Which I can attest to wholeheartedly. I'm a rare case having had no trauma to set it off beside being decades too young. A nerve (possibly two) in the right side of my jaw have been compressed by something and so it sends pain signals to my brain whenever the lightest touch (even a breeze) triggers the affected area of my face. And oh what pain signals it sends. At its worst, my TN has literally driven me to the floor, made me draw blood from my arms as I dig my fingers in trying to send off other pain signals (this doesn't work), makes me cry and scream my voice away. It is the only thing that has ever made me completely serious about ending my life.

Trigeminal Neuralgia is called 'the suicide disease' because the pain is so excruciating, many sufferers offed themselves to get away from it. I have TN and let me tell you, my lieblings, its nickname is well-earned. I had to ask a couple of my People (Mark, who knew what to do and Mimi, who knew where everything was) to take away all my sharp pointies and long cords. Fare thee well, jump rope and house keys. But I got past it. I got past being admitted to the hospital because I couldn't eat and could barely drink anything. It's still there and my two best bets right now is brain surgery (though a very small one) that should keep it away from decades, possibly for the rest of my life. I'm scared to death, but I know I can do what it takes. I'm tough now.

I attribute all the strength I've cobbled together to my friends, real and fictional. The real ones (this includes my amazing mom and perfect grandma) showed me by example how to be tough even while being generous with what little they had. They were always there for a late night call when I was in my Dark Room to reach out a hand and pull me back over the threshold, even if they didn't know they were doing it. The fictional ones, the ones on my TV and in my favourite films, songs and books, did much the same. They made me a Torchwood agent, an honorary Winchester, a Mockingjay, a Companion (this applies to two fandoms), a Nerdfighter, a Newsie. By making me believe I could be like them...I was. I could say 'yes' to things that scared me, I could talk my way into and out of bad situations, I learned princesses can fight and witches can be good, I could face the worse pain I'd ever felt.

Breathe through it and ride it out, I've gotten through it before and will again.

Friday, January 4, 2013

On Non-Homemade Cookies

I am not Danish.

This is remarkable because between my mother's and father's families, I can claim relatives from nearly every corner of Europe. This melting pot attitude contributes to the mishmash of holiday traditions we indulge in every year. German Stollen for breakfast in the week leading up to Christmas, sour cream takes the place of cream of mushroom soup in the green bean casserole, Christmas crackers and paper crowns, we talk to animals on Epiphany (I still do anyway), an almond is stashed into porridge and there's more food than even thirty odd family members can devour at once. We make Christmas cookies starting a few days before Christmas, all homemade, no exceptions.

Save one. Danish butter cookies. This tasty little morsels arrive in a tin (that will next year be used to pack pecan fingers), nestled in white paper. They last long into January. One a night is the hard and fast rule. Gorge on brownies and spice cookies covered in buttercream frosting, but the Danish butter cookies are to be savoured. Cherished.

Maybe because we're not Danish and thus do not have a yellowing recipe card that divulges the secrets of these perfect treats are they so loved. The cuteness of the pretzel one, the crunch of the sugar-encrusted rectangle, the ridged one's sweetness, the fun of looking through the rough circle's hole at the others seated around the table, and lastly my favourite, the one with just the subtlest hint of cocoa.

Gl├Ždelig jul!