Winter Issue 8
Of Plums and Coons
By Kirsten Tarves
The old lady’s house was very small and cluttered with odd-looking knick-knacks that may or may not have had magical properties. With surprise, Blenkinsop recognized a bunch of dried herbs from Aubrey’s own Mountain. That is usually a very difficult place for humans to visit, because the river there gets tired of flowing downhill, and instead goes in more than one direction at once, and the sun will keep setting in the east. Aubrey long ago gave up trying to convince it to do otherwise.
The old lady made herself tea, and gave some to Blenkinsop. “It will stop you from being sick from the Plums,” she said. Blenkinsop did feel ill by then, and since the old lady did not seem to believe that he was a coon from anywhere other than the Mountain, he thanked her politely. And when she asked, he told her why Aubrey had sent him.
“Well, you can’t stay here long,” she said. “They’ll be expecting you back, and I don’t want half the Mountain down here looking for you. Aubrey never was very patient.”
That was true. Blenkinsop, having been distracted by the happenings of last night, remembered this now with alarm. He did not notice that the old lady seemed to be acquainted with Aubrey. He was much more concerned for himself. It would not do to have a Rescue on his paws. It might be decades before he would be allowed to leave the Mountain again. Worse yet, there could be no doubt that they would, one and all, laugh at him. It could not be born.
The old lady sat thinking for a while. “Haven’t you any Luck?” she asked Blenkinsop finally.
“None,” he said dismally.
“That does explain things,” remarked the old lady. Blenkinsop did not answer. He was thinking miserably of returning to Aubrey’s Mountain without even a single Plum.
At this moment there came a knock at the door. Blenkinsop shrank down beside a shelf of dusty knick-knacks and the old lady answered the door. It was one of the children from that morning. She held out a basket to the old lady. “For the raccoon,” she said shyly. “I saw him come in here. I know he isn’t dead, and when I told my mum how much he liked the Plums, she sent him some.” Which just goes to show that while some grown-ups can be just awful, there are others that are awfully nice and very understanding of little people.
“I’m sure he will be very glad to see them,” said the old lady. “Will you come in to give him them yourself?” The little girl said she couldn’t because her mum was waiting, but when she saw Blenkinsop (he was not much good at hiding, as we have discovered) she waved cheerily to him and Blenkinsop sheepishly waved back.
“Well, that’s Aubrey’s Plums,” said the old lady, when the door had been closed behind the visitor. “What a nice little girl she is. I will remember that. And now I have an idea.” So saying she went to the shelf beside Blenkinsop, and took from there a stalk of foxgloves. She held them up to the light. They were quite dry and grey, not at all the beautiful, almost too-bright white-speckled purples and pinks that they are when fresh. The old lady put them into the kettle, and the kettle onto the fire. “They’re too crunchy just now,” she explained to Blenkinsop. After a few moments she poured the water out carefully, and out the window. One ought not to drink foxglove tea unless one is very certain what one is about. Boiling had not improved the looks of the flowers, and they looked mushy and depressing.
“The only way you will ever get out of this town is if no one can see you,” the old lady said to Blenkinsop. “Put these on.” Blenkinsop put a foxglove on each foot – or hand, because a coon’s back feet are really more like a second pair of hands. They did not fit particularly well, but that is because, obviously, foxgloves are meant for foxes and not coons.
“There!” exclaimed the old lady triumphantly. “That may do the trick.” She pointed to his reflection in the windowpane, and Blenkinsop saw that instead of his usual coon self, he was, although not strictly invisible, now a hazy, shadowy blur shaped only very roughly like a coon.
And so, thanking the old lady once again, and carefully taking his basket of Plums, Blenkinsop went out. You may wonder why he did not wait until evening, and indeed he rather wished to, but the old lady would have none of it. She would not say why. Perhaps she was afraid that Aubrey’s patience would not last that long, or perhaps she was afraid some of the children might tell their own particular grown-ups and those grown-ups might not be as kindhearted as the little girl’s mum. Perhaps she too saw visions of pitchforks and broomsticks. Or perhaps she had some other reason entirely. There are many strange things in the world and most of them do not come into this story.
And so Blenkinsop went back to the Mountain. As soon as he was outside the town he carefully took off the foxgloves and put them in the basket with the Plums. They went at once grey and dry again, just as they had looked in the old lady’s house. He had never seen foxgloves do anything quite like that before, and suspected (rightly so) that the old lady had put some kind of spell on them. One does not come across things like that every day, even on Mountains where the rivers flow backwards and the sun rises in the wrong place.
These foxgloves served Blenkinsop very well in the years to come, and he became rather famous for his thievery. But he did not say much about what happened in the town that day, and he never told anyone about his foxgloves.
Aubrey was immensely pleased with the Plums. And if a few less reached him than had been given Blenkinsop by the little girl, who can blame our hero? Nearly at once it became a yearly tradition on the Mountain to send a young and inexperienced member of the Folk to prove himself by fetching Aubrey a basket of Plums from the town during the week of the Big Market. These Folk would often come to Blenkinsop first, for advice, and I suspect he told them about a certain girl and old lady there if they found themselves in trouble. And down below in the town, a rumour began to circulate that once a year, someone from the Mountain would come down for Plums, and whosoever left a basket of the fruit outside their back door would find themselves very Lucky in the next year.
Some people scoffed at this, and said that surely it was children or animals that took the Plums, but certain people put out baskets anyways. And somehow it did seem that these people were the Luckiest. At least, they had the cheerfullest laughter and the kindest eyes, and who can say if that is not the best Luck of all?
The Rainbow Electric IPIAT
By Quinn Herzfield
The rumors are somewhat true.
The war is here and the war is now, and Matthew Nelson’s IPIAT, The Rainbow Electric, will tell you all about it. 7pm Thursday March 21st, 2019, the Spring Equinox and 2,271 days since …
Listen actually um—I’m not gonna get into it here. If you want to wake up to what’s really going on, then you gotta come see chapter readings from Matthew’s novel. That’d be his completely fictional book called The Rainbow Electric.
As for what it’s about, well … like Wittgenstein says in his seventh proposition, sometimes if you really want to understand then you gotta quit your yapping. A lesson I’m still trying to learn, obviously.
You Regent students! You’re a clever bunch. Matthew’s told me all about you. I don’t know if I trust him 100% yet, but hey—what else am I gonna do? He’s told me tons about you and your funny little city of Vancouver. Hollywood North we call it in LA. He told me you like exercising your imagination and your reason, and that you do it all under the lordship of an ancient Jewish rabbi named Jesus—a God/guy who’s also the logos in the flesh. I think? He also said you believe he de-mummified dead people like Lazarus, and that he makes fine wine out of H2O. We talked a bit about those eye-filled wheel creatures in Ezekiel too …
I’m just—what I’m trying to say is, if you come and see Matt’s IPIAT, you’re gonna hear about all kinds of weird stuff like that and so, ya know—I’d recommend you prepare for this by remembering how strange you and your beliefs are.
All that to say, I gave Matt permission to present my story for you lads and ladies. You seem like “good soil,” to use one of your biblical metaphors. If anyone in this wicked world still has ears to hear, I’m pretty sure you fit the bill.
What’s going down on March 21st is the story of my foolishness trying to help this woman I love. Rose, that is.
Rose—ah hell, what to say? She’s a “rising star.” She’s my old flame. And she’s been wandering through Hollywood’s dark labyrinth for some time now. BTW, trust me, I don’t use the L-word lightly. This city's no maze. LA isn’t a centerless rhizome like the internet or something. Regardless of what you’ve heard, LA has a center—and a minotaur, too—one who (like in Tool’s song “Sober”) will chew you up and leave. Its name isn’t a name strictly speaking but more like—
Know what, that’s probably enough for now. What matters is that what I want—what I can’t help wanting—is to do everything I can to get this lovely independent Dorothy the hell away from that snowy poppy field outside Osiris’s Emerald City …
My situation is dire, but all hope’s not lost yet. Not by a long shot. Especially if folks like you are there—people able to bring your God into the ring with me and my gal as we confront The Thing That Should Not Be at the heart of it all.
So please, pretty please, with a cherry on top, get out of the library and YouTube and the Wolf and come and see The Rainbow Electric.
An Ode to the Pear
By Lorna Taylor
And so, our “lovely pear tree,” “ancestral mother eve,” has come a long way to appease the desires of (hu)man (Mansfiled, Bliss; Biedermann, Dictionary of Symbolism). If we are to trace her movements through time and space there would be cause to sit and dwell a while on the antics—stealing for the sake of stealing—of St. Augustine and his ‘posse’ of vagabonds in the pear orchards of Carthage. But long before Augustine was able to lay hands on the (un)ripe, (pre)mature fruit, memory of her danced its way across the tablets of Sumerian scribes (c. 2750 BC) and the history books of Rome (from Cato the elder to Pliny’s Naturalis Historia), leaving traces of gentle care, tantalising sweetness and drunken merriment etched in the minds of all she encountered (Tanahill, Food in History; Toussaint-Samat, History of Food). We follow as she leads us through the gardens of King Louis XI, where she becomes an object of affection and antidote for depression, or admire her as arboricultural feat of the French. This is perhaps owing to the renowned finesse of the French palate and is responsible for their regard as expert on all subjects ‘pear’ (Toussaint-Samat). It is from there that she makes her way to the plate of Henry VIII (Colquhoun, Taste:The History of Britatin Through its Cooking), and consequently the imagination of Katherine Mansfield and now yours (North America) and mine (the southernmost tip of Africa)–indeed a well-travelled and widely enjoyed specimen of pira (Toussaint-Samat).
But still my dear pyrus ‘communis’ somehow seems to hide in the shadows of her pom(a)pous sister –pyrus ‘malus’ –the apple. (‘Communis’ to be understood as Latin for ‘common’, ‘malus’ on the contrary can be taken as either ‘apple’ or ‘bad, evil, or wicked’ [Toussaint-Samat; Rizza]). The apple—crisp, round, plump—basks in the glory of a contentious, storied existence. Her legacy seemingly etched in the DNA of humankind from creation to fall and beyond. She lingers on the lips of ‘grace-sayers,’ the desks of teachers, in the lunchboxes of every child that ever had a lunchbox, the imagination of der brueder Grimm and all that encounter Sneewittchen, and in the warming nostalgia that oozes out the sides of the oven door, down the stairs, through the door and down the street, as the outer layers of apple crumble turn shades of golden brown. Yes, my pear’s fame pales in comparison to that of the apple, lagging behind at ninth in global fruit crop production while the apple maintains a solid third (statista.com).
But do not be dissuaded of my pear’s value. Rather, sit and watch a while as she quietly goes about her business. Traditionally a summer fruit, she humbly makes herself available through all seasons for her modern audience, should there be need (Rizza). Subtly, steadily she supports the lead–cheese, wine, or as solid base in fruit salad, always perfect, nuanced complement, bringing out the best in her surrounds—Jamie Oliver’s Blue Cheese Pork Burger or Pear and Blue Cheese Salad. She seldom takes centre stage, only when explicitly sought after—poached pears in wine. It is a turning outward, always outward, in humility and service of all she encounters.
And so, it is that she possesses a certain versatility in the gastronomic sphere; so close to la pomme in biological, chemical makeup that the role of understudy comes most naturally (Child, The Way to Cook). This is hardly a surprise, considering the relationship apple-pear is one existing within the confines of the rosaceae line. Where the sisters really start to branch out and expand their portfolios, however, is as substitute for refined sugar (less surprising considering the fructose-sucrose link) and even fat (more so considering that fat, sugar and/or fibre are of a completely different molecular makeup). The result, perhaps less pointed, more subtle in sweetness and a little more dense, but moist and schmeckhaft all-the-same. The audience, none-the-wiser and healthier for it (McGee, On Food and Cooking).
To be continued next week.
Snappy Song Service
By Alex Strohschein
I thought I’d experienced God’s love
I thought I’d been touched by His grace
I thought it was Spirit-baptism
But it turns out it was just the bass