Sunday, August 29, 2021

Book Review: Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins

 If you asked most people what Skinny Legs and All is about they'd probably say something like...

Skinny Legs and All is about newlyweds--artist Ellen Cherry Charles and welder Randolph "Boomer" Petway--and their pilgrimage from Colonial Pines east-central Virginia to New York in early spring.

If you ask most people that's what they would tell you.

But ask me, ask me...

Skinny Legs and All is about five inanimate objects--Conch Shell, Painted Stick, Can of Beans, Dirty Sock, and Spoon--and their pilgrimage to Jerusalem.


"Is it not time that inanimate objects--and plants and animals--resume their rightful place in the affairs of the world? How long can humankind continue to slight these integral pieces of the whole reality?"' (p. 88)

 

Few authors can tell stories like Tom Robbins. He twists, turns, and inverts knowledge to serve story. What he creates....? Oh, what he creates...

In his skillful hands, he creates a story of opposites...

empowering women                                                objectifying women

human                                                                      inanimate

United States                                                            Middle East

maternal religion                                                    patriarchal religion

general fiction                                                        magical realism


He explores questions such as...

what is art?

who decides?

are artists born or made?

what is the purpose of art? 


'a bright, defrosted, pussy-willow day' (p. 5)

 


Buy this book

Skinny Legs and All

Tom Robbins

Bantam Books

1991

479 pages

 


I was in my twenties when I turned a page in Skinny Legs and All, for the first time. I'd never encountered anything like it before and I fell in love with each page--especially the pages about the inanimates. In my heart, they were and remain the stars of this book.

Re-reading this book many years later, it is still the magical realism that captures me. However, other parts... Other parts... Well, let's just say the book has aged. In fact, I am tempted to release Skinny Legs and All so that it may find a new reader, a younger reader. A reader whose hair it can set on fire. I'm almost ready... Almost...

 

photo by ldyck

September's Blog Offerings...

Wednesday, September 1

Author Reading Podcast

The Ones Who Hold Her (short story) 
Written and read by Leanne Dyck

It's been two months since I offered an author reading. So I'm crossing my fingers that this will work. Your positive thoughts are appreciated.

Sunday, September 5

Short Story

My Special Teacher
by Leanne Dyck

I'm dyslexic. Writing this short story was my way of acknowledging and thanking the remedial teachers who aided in my education.

Wednesday, September 8

Author Reading Podcast

My Special Teacher (short story)
Written and read by Leanne Dyck

Sunday, September 12

Book Review

Brief Answers to the Big Questions (non-fiction)
by Stephen Hawking
reviewed by Benni Chisholm

Wednesday, September 15

Author Reading Podcast

Five Dollars (short story)
Written and read by Leanne Dyck

Sunday, September 19

Short Story

He Saved Me 
by Leanne Dyck

A woman struggles with self-image.

Wednesday, September 22

Author Reading Podcast

He Saved Me (short story)
Written and read by Leanne Dyck

Sunday, September 26

Book Review

My Daugther Rehtaeh Parsons (non-fiction)
by Glen Canning

I'm very impressed by the courage and strength it took to write this book. I know whatever I write in my review will fall short of what this book deserves. Still, I have to try...

Wednesday, September 29

Author Reading Podcast

He Makes Me Feel (poem)

          

 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Other Side (short fiction) Ch. 14 by Leanne Dyck

 Ch. 13 Becky and Tom--with their dog Rusty--visit Mara and Owen in their new home. Becky and Tom realize that they know the house--it was the grow op where they bought their drugs from a woman named Windy.

photobyldyck

The Other Side

Chapter fourteen

How did Windy end up on the other side of the wall? That's exactly what I asked her the next time we meet. "You lived in my house."

She was usually mellow, but she wasn't mellow then. "What? No, I didn't."

"But... But..." I sputtered.

She put her finger to her lips, silencing me, and ushered me into her cabin. It was a sunny, warm day--as always, on that side of the wall. Still, Windy closed the door and the window shutters. Light leaked in through the gaps. She set a tray of two handle-less mugs and a small teapot with a matching sunflower print on the chrome table. "What do you know?"  She paced over the purple and pink poke-a-dot floor.

"Becky and Tom told me that you are from our side of the wall, but now you live here. How? Why? What h--?"

She froze. "Tom? Becky? They know where I am?"

"No, I don't think so. I didn't tell them."

She relaxed into a chair and poured us both a cup of tea. "Good call."

"But I want to know how you got here."

"That's not important."

"It's important to me."

"You don't need to know."

"The truth is the price of my silence."

She took a sip of tea. "Everyone is born on one side of the wall or the other. They may be happy on their side. They may feel that everything is groovy or they may feel like something is missing--like a match without a flame. Crossing over to the other side may lead them to contentment, but they don't know that. They don't even know that the other side exists." She took another sip. "Until it's too late."

"What do you mean too late? If no one can cross over between worlds, how did you get here?"

"Are you sure you're ready? It's really heavy."

"I've seen, heard, been through a lot of strange things--especially lately. I can handle it."

"Yeah, you can, but you might not know you can. It might be learning you can that flips you out."

"You're talking in riddles. I don't want to play games. All I want is the truth."

"Did Becky and Tom tell you what I did for a living?"

"Yeah, they said you grew um... Mary-do-you-want-ta."

"The sweetest Mary Jane you've ever had." She sounded so proud. "Everyone wanted to taste my babies. Everyone wanted to know how I grew them. Everyone wanted to learn my secret. Some wanted it too much, especially him. Hunger for the secret drove him to my door. I was downstairs when he came."

"In the laundry room."

"In the laundry room. Taking care of my babies--watering, pruning. There was this knocking--like gunshots. I thought it was the cops. He burst in, with a knife. He was coming for...for... Them. I couldn't let him have them. I couldn't let him kill them for his greed. I needed to keep them safe. He was a lot bigger, a lot stronger. He stabbed me again and again and again." She winced at the memory. "He left me for dead. I thought I was dead. I thought this was heaven." She smiled. "And it is. Dig?"

This side of the wall was...heaven. That was like... Wow! "Your secret is safe with me."

"Thank you, but that's only half of it. That's only my half."

"What do you mean, your half."

"Like I said, this is heaven, but you're not dead. So..."

"How am I here?"

"The first time you came... Remember the first time? The bunny knew your name. We were waiting for you. We were so excited that you'd finally come."

"Finally...?" I gulped. 

Then she dropped the other shoe and it sounded like a nuclear bomb going off. She spoke softly but split my eardrums. "Most people are stuck on one side or the other. Most people are, but you, Mara. You can go anywhere. You belong to both sides. You, and only you, are truly free."

I studied the floor for the longest time. It was a lot to take in, especially all at once. Looking up, I asked, "But...but why me? What's so special about me?"

The End


Thank you for your interest in this short story. 
I hope you enjoyed reading The Other Side.


Next Sunday:  Sunday, August 29 at 4:40 PM PST
Book Review:  Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins
An old favourite of mine

Sunday, August 22, 2021

The Other Side (short fiction) Ch. 13 by Leanne Dyck

 Ch. 12 Unnerved by Becky's impending visit, Mara visits Windy. Windy tells Mara that she doesn't have to buy what Becky is selling and asks if Mara's friendship with Becky is worth the energy she's spending on it.

photobyldyck

The Other Side

Chapter thirteen

After cleaning and tidying the house, I went outside to lose my worry in the blue sky. I noticed some leaves had blown in from the neighbour's yard. Everything had to look perfect for Becky. I found the rake and was making a tidy little pile when...

The sound of car tires crushing gravel announced that Becky and her gang had arrived.

I leaned the rake against the fence. Rusty came bounding through the pile of leaves, heading right for me--teeth first. My legs felt like jelly. He growled. I started to tremble. But then I heard Windy. It was like she was right beside me. And I just repeated everything she said.

"Hey, dog-gie, mellow out." My voice was calm.

His growl became a whimper. Rusty tilted his head slowly from side to side. He wagged his tail; he licked my hand.

"Mara, what are you doing to my puppy?" Becky rounded the corner of the house. "Poor, old Rusty." She massaged his left ear. "What was she doing to you?" She looked at me with steel eyes. "Well, let's see this precious house of yours."

Rusty led the way up the stairs, I opened the kitchen door and he raced inside.

Becky stood in the doorway and stared at my brand new stove. "That stove looks new."

"Yes, I think--."

She left the kitchen and went into the dining/living room. "Yeah, I guess it's okay."

O...kay. From her, that was a huge compliment.

"But, honestly, Mara. Even you can do better than this. A futon...? And... Where are the binoculars? I want to watch TV," she snickered.

"You do?"

"Wake up. No. The TV's tiny and it's all the way on the other side of this enormous room. Are you a college kid? Is this a dorm room? And what's up with these walls? You need to paint them, immediately." She ran two fingers down the wall. "You choose this putrid colour?"

"I...um...I thought it contrasted nicely with the carpet."

"Contrast? What do you know about contrast? Please. Do you think you're an Interior Designer?" She snickered. "Trust me, you're not." She signed. "But don't worry. I'll help you." She picked up an end of the futon and pulled it into the room. "See, it looks better already. Angling furniture minimizes space. Meaning, it helps a large room appear smaller. And in this cavernous barn that's what you need."

Laughter drifted up from Owen's office. At least, the guys were having fun.

In the middle of the stairs, I called up to Becky. "Let's see what our husbands are doing?"

"But we've just begun to transform this space. You do know how much you need my help, don't you?"

I heard Windy say, you don't have to buy what she's selling. "Hmm...a...not really. I mean not right now." I felt so good, so free, that I bounced down the stairs, into Owen's office.

What sounded like World War III erupted from the computers. 

Tom grabbed his chest. "Oh, you got me."--and laughed.

Feeling victorious, Owen greeted me with a broad smile. "What's up?"

"Becky and I just--."

"What's down here?" 

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Becky heading down the hall to the laundry room.

I raced after her. "Nothing. You don't want to go in there. It's so boring."

Soon we were all standing in the laundry room.

Becky had an enormous grin plastered across her face. "It looks like a boring laundry room now but we know it's history. Don't we, Tom?" She swept her hand at the ceiling. "Remember the grow lights hung there?"

"Grow light?" Owen just stared at the ceiling. "We were told that the racks were for storage."

"I knew this house looked familiar," Tom said.

"Do you believe it? Straight edge Mara's dream home was a grow op." Becky laughed.

I fought back tears. "How do... How do you know?"

"How do I know? Because, duh, I bought MJ here." The words bubbled out of her like champagne.

"MJ?" I asked.

"Marijuana," Owen said, "So that's why we got such a good deal on rent."

"That's why." Her smile stretching from ear to ear to chin to forehead. "I can't wait to tell Linda and Colleen and Angie and Heather and... and... Oh, we'll be talking about this for years."

I squared my shoulders and stood up straight. "It doesn't matter what this room, what this house was," I told all four of them. "Now it's my home. And I like... No, I love living here."

"What was the name of the woman who ran the grow op?" Becky asked.

"Huh. It's been too long," Tom said, "Michelle?"

"No, that's not it. Didn't her name start with a 'W'?"

"Wendy," he guessed.

"Close."

"Windy," they said in unison. "Because she farted all the time." They laughed.

"Huh? I wonder what happened to her?" Tom asked.

Where was Windy? Only I knew and I wasn't telling anyone.

photobyldyck

Chapter fourteen 



Ensure you don't miss a chapter, follow me on Twitter, Linked In, and Facebook.


On this blog in August...

Every Sunday and Wednesday in August
from Sunday, August 1 to Wednesday, August 25
I will continue to publish installments of 
The Other Side
until...

Sunday, August 29
Book Review
Skinny Legs and All
Tom Robbins


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Other Side (short fiction) Ch. 12 by Leanne Dyck

 Ch. 11 Becky phones Mara to tell her that she, Tom, and Rusty will be coming for a visit. When Mara gives Becky the address, Becky wonders aloud why it sounds familiar.

photo by ldyck

The Other Side

Chapter twelve

That night I tossed and turned. Owen growled and so I climbed out of bed.

I paced back and forth across the living room carpet, muttering to myself. "She'll find something wrong with this place. I just know she will. And she'll make me hate it." I turned around and headed in the other direction. "I know, I'll phone her and tell her not to come. I'll tell her that I forgot that we have plans or that something came up--that Owen had a heart attack and died or came down with a killer flu. Yeah--yeah--yeah... No." I fell onto the futon. "I can't do that. I have to be nice. I have to welcome her into my home. If I don't, she'll get angry at me and end our friendship. Then I'll be all alone. She has to come... She is coming..."

I wanted to run; I wanted to hide--but where? The laundry room...

The concrete wall felt cold and solid. Had it all been a dream?

Silver smoke seeped into the room. Sunlight...

"Windy," I called. "I'm here. Windy?"

A unicorn with a shiny horn galloped up to me, dropped to one knee, and bowed his head. The tip of his horn rested on the ground. I climbed onto his back and he carried me down the oatmeal cookie path--with each hoof step, a gentle sway, a gentle rock. A yawn broke through my lips. Far off in the distance a tambourine and guitars played Bob Dylan's Mr. Tambourine Man. I rested my head on the unicorn's neck and drifted off to sleep.

I'm not sure how long I slept or how far we went but when the unicorn knelt and bowed his head, I woke, stretched, and climbed off his back.

I found Windy lying in the grass with her arms folded behind her head, starring into the endless blue sky.

A candyfloss cloud looked like an airplane.

"Star," Windy said.

The cloud changed its shape to form a star.

"Bird," she said.

Once again the cloud slowly changed its change.

"That's so cool," I said.

Windy pushed herself up to rest on her elbows. "Cool." She smiled at me. "Your turn."

"House," I said.

A fluffy candyfloss house took shape before my eyes.

"Fish--Dog--Crown," I said. As fast as I spoke the candyfloss cloud transformed itself. "Cloud."

The cloud floated into a fluffy ball.

"Ha, ha, fooled you." I laughed.

Windy sat cross-legged on the grass. "You're dealing with something heavy."

Words climbed all over each other to get out of my mouth. She was a good listener and so I told her everything--about my job, where I spent eight hours a day apologizing, and I said, "I have a friend." I used air quotes. "She likes to push me around if you know what I mean."

"I dig."

"She's coming over to visit and I really don't want her to but I have to let her; I have to be nice; I have to make her feel welcome; I have to... But I don't want to. But I have to. I don't know what to do. She'll make me feel bad. She'll make me feel like a failure. It's her thing."

"People want to be heard. People have a right to be heard. So listen but you don't have to buy what they're selling. You dig?" I guess she knew by the look on my face that I didn't understand. 

She pulled on a cord that hung around her neck and a leather pouch came out from under her dress. She unbuttoned it and withdrew two polished stones. They were the size of a fingernail. "This is what I want." She placed a white stone on her right knee. "This is what I need." She placed a pink stone beside the white one. "Everything that's on my knee is part of my story." She reached into her pouch, pulled out a rough grey stone, and placed it on her left knee. "This stone belongs to someone else. Dig?"

"Sure." I shrugged.

"Okay. So, without picking up the grey stone put it on my right knee."

"I can't."

"Right. The only way you can is by asking me to put it there. It's my choice to pick up the grey stone."

"Yes, but, what if...?"

"No matter what you do. I still don't have to pick up that grey stone."

"What if she gets really angry at me?"

"Her anger belongs to her. You don't own it."

We continued to talk but I was getting so tired that I couldn't stop yawning. 

"Thank you, Windy." Yawn. "I think I can go to sleep now." Yawn.

As we said goodbye, Windy left me with a question--is my friendship with Becky worth the energy I'm spending on it? Then the unicorn came, I climbed on and crossed over to my side of the wall.

photobyldyck





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On this blog in August...

Every Sunday and Wednesday in August
from Sunday, August 1 to Wednesday, August 25
I will continue to publish installments of 
The Other Side
until...

Sunday, August 29
Book Review
Skinny Legs and All
Tom Robbins

Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Other Side (short fiction) Ch. 11 by Leanne Dyck

 Ch. 10 Owen takes Mara out for dinner and dancing and asks her about 'the world behind the wall'. 


photo by ldyck

The Other Side

Chapter eleven

We were enjoying an episode of Seinfeld--how can a show about nothing be so funny--when the phone rang. Owen didn't move, but I grabbed it before it went to the answering machine.

No 'hi' or 'how's it going?' or anything, Becky let fire with, "Aren't you ever going to invite me over?"

"We've only been living here for a couple of--."

"I'm dying to see the house you were prepared to end our friendship over," she said.

"I wasn't--."

"What's the address."

I gave it to her and she said, "Huh? Why does the address sound so familiar? I guess it's just another one of your delightful mysteries, eh? Tom, Rusty, and I will drop by tomorrow at 7 PM." She hung up.

I stood there, holding the phone to my ear. "Bye, Becky. It was nice to talking with you." I hung up and flopped back down onto the futon.

"How was Becky?" Owen asked.

"As sunny as always."

"That's too bad."

"They're coming over tomorrow."

"You invited them?"

"Becky invited herself and Tom and even her dog."

"Of course, they never go anywhere without their dog."

"I hope she likes the house."

"Why does it matter what she thinks?"

"I'm not sure why, but it does."

"Well, at least she phoned before delighting us with her presence."

photo by ldyck





Ensure you don't miss a chapter, follow me on Twitter, Linked In, and Facebook.



On this blog in August...

Every Sunday and Wednesday in August
from Sunday, August 1 to Wednesday, August 25
I will continue to publish installments of 
The Other Side
until...

Sunday, August 29
Book Review
Skinny Legs and All
Tom Robbins

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

The Other Side (short fiction) Ch. 10 by Leanne Dyck

 Ch. 9 Mara has a magical day--a customer calls to thank her, her boss compliments her work, and she finds the perfect dress.


The Other Side

Chapter ten

I got to wear my dress that Saturday night when Owen took me out for diner at Mickey's--a new restaurant that had just opened. He said it was my reward for not being a--well, you know what--when he'd gone to hockey with the guys.

Owen squeezed us into one of the last parking spots. As I climbed out of the car, he directed my attention to the marquee.

"The Beat Tells," he read. "Clever, eh? They're a Beatles cover band."

Inside, colourful Flower Power posters decorated the walls and a mirrored disco ball hung over the dance floor. A bottle-blonde in a tie-dyed tee with bell-bottoms hugging her hips ushered us into a high-backed booth.

"See, I told you your dress would be perfect," Owen said when the server left. "You don't have to feel embarrassed by the way you're dressed. Well, at least not here."

His comment kicked me hard in the ego. The dress was someone's reject. Was I really that poor, that tacky?

The server brought us menus. The lava lamp in the middle of the table set the mood but offered barely enough light to read.

"Find something to eat?" Owen asked.

"I'm not really..." 

"What's the matter? Do you want to leave?"

The restaurant filled with applause as the band took the stage.

The soothing tones of Here Comes the Sun comforted me. I looked down at the dress and ran a hand over the fabric. "No." I breathed in and told myself that I liked the dress. "I like it here." I breathed out and told myself that I looked pretty--and if no one else thought so it was too bad for them.

Owen ordered for us. The service was prompt; the food delicious.

Owen leaned across the table. "Do you want to dance?" He leaned back. "It's okay. Of course, you don't and I understand you're--."

"Yes, let's," I told him.

"You would? Well, okay... Okay, great." He stood up and walked over to my chair.

I tried to get up but couldn't move. I was stuck between the old and new me. 

Owen wrapped his hand around mine. His touch comforted me.

Hand-in-hand, we walked to the dance floor. He drew me into his arms; I closed my eyes and let the music pick me up and carry me away.

***
Inside the car, headed home, Owen was so quiet that I began to worry.

I thought he knew:  about the wall, about the world, about the bunny, about--.

"You know," he said, "I think that was the first time we dance in public."

I could breathe. I forced sunlight into my words. "No, silly. We danced at our wedding."

"Oh, yeah, I forgot. We danced for half a song and then you had to go throw-up or something. You've always been way too shy, but you weren't tonight." He fell silent, but finally asked, "Have you met someone?"

Married people aren't supposed to keep secrets from one another, but how could I tell him. What could I tell him? He'd think I was...

"Is there another man?"

"I love you," I said. "It's just that my work is going so much better."

"Great."

"And," I added, "I really like living in our new house."

"Oh, yeah, about that," he said, "What's the world behind the wall?"

The floor fell out from under my feet. "What?"

"You've been talking in your sleep. 'The world behind the wall. The world behind the wall.' Over and over again, like that. You keep waking me up. So, what's up?"

"I...I...have no idea. It must just have been a dream."


photo by ldyck




Ensure you don't miss a chapter, follow me on Twitter, Linked In, and Facebook.


On this blog in August...

Every Sunday and Wednesday in August
from Sunday, August 1 to Wednesday, August 25
I will continue to publish installments of 
The Other Side
until...

Sunday, August 29
Book Review
Skinny Legs and All
Tom Robbins


photo by bdyck

I don't have a driver's license. Even if I did I'm not sure I would be courageous enough to drive in Vancouver. And yet there were many literary treats--author readings, writing workshops, literary festivals--beckoning me to that huge city.
What did I do?

Sunday, August 8, 2021

The Other Side (short fiction) Ch. 9 by Leanne Dyck

 Ch. 8 When Owen leaves to spend the evening with his friends, Mara runs down to the laundry room. She hears the music again and finds a secret passageway to an exotic world.

The Other Side

Chapter nine

The next day I pushed back the covers before my alarm clock rang. "Feeling groovy," I sang.

"Not," Owen groaned and pulled the covers over his head.

I followed a rich aroma to my first mug of coffee. One tasted so good it led to another. Gazing out the kitchen window, I wondered was there really a bunny living inside my laundry room wall? Exactly where did I go last night?

The clock on the microwave screamed at me, You're going to be late for work. Boogie!

I flew from the bathroom to the bedroom to the front door and down the sidewalk. The bus raced me to the stop, but I won and climbed on.

"Good morning," the driver said.

"Good? It's magical," I told him.

Halfway through the morning, a customer called to thank me for being so patient with her.

"Feeling," I sang in the stall of the woman's washroom.

"Groovy," someone sang in reply.

My...boss...stood at the sink. "So, you're a Simon and Garfunkel fan, too, eh?" She dried her hands. "I heard that a customer called to thank you. Keep up the good work." She smiled...at...me.

I drifted on fluffy white clouds to the end of my shift.

***

My route to the bus stop led me past a mom-and-pop shop, a bookstore, a bank, and a second-hand clothing store. On one day or another, I'd stopped at them all except the rag shop. I always sped past it at a quick clip without even peeking, but not that day. That day I looked. The ivory dress with small purple flowers had a full skirt and wide sleeves. 

Bells chimed as I pushed the door open. I thought the store would be messy and smell like someone's attic, but it was bright and clean. Clothing was organized under calligraphy signs. Baroque music played. Light bounced off the mirrored wall behind the sales counter.

"Welcome to Mary Claire's." The sales clerk was stylishly dressed in what appeared to me to be a look right out of a 1960s copy of Vogue. 

"I'd like to see..."

"Ah, the dress."

Was she a mind reader? Or had she simply noticed me outside transfixed by it?

She removed the dress from the display window and led me past the mirrored wall to the first of three dressing rooms.

I pulled the dress down over my head and the transformation was immediate. My mousy brown hair appeared two shades lighter. My eyes shone and my skin glowed. Of course, I bought the dress.







Ensure you don't miss a chapter, follow me on Twitter, Linked In, and Facebook.




On this blog in August...

Every Sunday and Wednesday in August
from Sunday, August 1 to Wednesday, August 25
I will continue to publish installments of 
The Other Side
until...

Sunday, August 29
Book Review
Skinny Legs and All
Tom Robbins