Between the Lines

As I skimmed Facebook posts yesterday, I came across one that tickled my fancy. Ostensibly, the post represented the way young children who are learning the English language compensate when they encounter situations or circumstances for which their command of the language has not yet prepared them. Whether the examples are legitimate or not, I liked them. Some of the ways the kids compensated are:

    • Panic water: Used when the child could not remember the word, “tears.”
    • Water zoo: Used when the child could not conjure the word “aquarium.”
    • Hibachi breakfast: A child’s term for “Waffle House.”
    • Jesus stores: Instead of “churches.”
    • Loud period: A child’s alternative for “exclamation point.”
    • Foot waist: The term a child used for “ankle.”
    • Beach chickens: “Sea gulls,” to the clever child.
    • Leg elbow: The knee, I assume.

When I am able to find humor in such stuff, either I feel safe and secure or I am using every opportunity to find the distraction that will lead, eventually, to mental salvation. I have reason to believe a sense of safety and security is responsible for my mood, yet I must acknowledge my thirst for distraction and the deliverance it will bring. Emancipation from both the pleasure and the pain of long, awkward moments when one finds it impossible to put into words an experience that one finds both terrifying and exhilarating. Just another inexplicable moment in my brain.


Today, I will “interview” my three remaining siblings, via Zoom, to place into the record their memories of certain aspects of their (and my) childhood and development through young adulthood (and, perhaps, even later…depending on how the interviews go). From my perspective, it is important to mine their memories, beginning with the early days of my family’s history; because my memories of those times is extremely spotty. And I want to get three different perspectives on some moments in our collective histories about which we all have some memories.  Today, I have set aside one hour, back-to-back, for the three interviews. That may be insufficient. If so, later I will revisit and extend the interviews, if my siblings are amenable. My interest in the genealogical history over the course of multiple generations of my family is not strong. But I have a healthy and growing interest in learning more about the history of my immediate family. Perhaps this little endeavor will satisfy my thirst for knowledge. Perhaps not. We shall see. I am looking forward to hearing what I will hear in the next few hours.


I came across a promotion for an event that I think I may  attend: Buddhism 101, sponsored by the Hot Springs Buddhist Society. The information I found (from a Facebook event link) does not mention registration, so I assume it’s open for drop-ins. If that assumption is correct, I expect I’ll attend: December 8, 5:30-7:30 pm at the Garland County Library. Though I have some limited familiarity with Buddhism, I have never truly absorbed what I have learned; perhaps learning in a setting dedicated to that purpose will help the knowledge “stick” this time. Buddhism is not a religion, in my view (and, most likely, in the views of others more knowledgeable than I); it is a practice. Adopting the practices of Buddhism could well provide a guided route to greater serenity. My own serenity is under my control. I know that. But accepting that is far simpler than adopting it as an attitude and a discipline. Every time I learn or re-learn something about Buddhism, I feel that I am getting nearer to understanding myself.


Season 9 of The Blacklist is behind us. Thankfully. Though when the series began it was interesting and kept my attention, the longer it has played out, the less interesting it became. I suppose that was due to the fact that the stories became increasingly outlandish and the characters’ interactions between one another lost any shred of believability. By the time those flaws became apparent, though, we were so deeply invested in the series that it would have seemed wasteful to abandon it. So we suffered through the recent badly-conceived seasons and their absurd episodes. I suppose we will watch season 10, as well, but first we will explore other opportunities for entertainment.

After ending the viewing marathon of The Blacklist, we watched a movie called Lou. It was okay, though some important matters were hidden until late in the film, which spoiled its structure, in my opinion. After Lou, we watched 21 Bridges.  Last night, after trying to remember that film, we decided it was mind-numbingly tolerable, but not memorable enough for us to say we liked it…or not. A “docu-drama” entitled, Lost Girls, came next. Again, tolerable for entertainment but not something that grabbed me because…well, because it wasn’t that interesting. The writing, in my opinion, was rather dull and the acting was decidedly average. Better than I can act, but mediocre at any rate. We then turned to a Polish series, The Green Glove Gang. We watched three episodes; I am getting comfortable with it, but I am certain I would enjoy something else far more—if I just knew what that something else might be. Let me hasten to add I know there are dozens of films I want to see; films I will enjoy. But matching my moods to the films available to fit them can be quite a challenge. It will happen, I am sure. Perhaps a return to generic Scandinavian police procedurals or Norwegian political dramas will capture my interest. We shall see.


And, now, for a snippet of pointless fiction that came from, and is going, nowhere.

Calliope Lathrop wept when her mother announced the decision to sell. “But Mama,” little Calliope whined, presenting the most pitiful, twisted face she could muster, “I need that water zoo. I can’t sleep unless it’s next to my bed.”

“You should have thought about that before now, young lady! You haven’t cleaned it up since we bought it. And I’ve had to remind you every day to feed the fish. No, I’m selling that tank and all the fish in it. That’s final!”

And it was. Clandestra Lathrop placed an ad in Craig’s List: “50-gallon fresh water zoo, complete with pump, gravel, decorative plants, and ten fish. $225.

Skeeter Maplecutter offered $200 and Clandestra Lathrop accepted immediately. Panic water streamed down Calliope Lathrop’s cheeks when Maplecutter left the house with the empty water zoo and several bags of squiggling, live fish. Clandestra watched as panic water etched her daughter’s cheeks.

“I told you, young lady!  Didn’t I tell you?!”

The silent stare, Calliope’s response, should have warned Clandestra. But if it did, she failed to act on her apprehension.

Two days later, when Clandestra and Calliope strolled along the waterfront, Calliope stopped and pointed to a distant flock of birds gathered at the water’s edge. “Aren’t those beach chickens?” she asked.

“Ugh!  I hate those filthy creatures! They’re good for nothing but eating discarded French fries. Don’t encourage them.”

But Clandrestra’s admonition to her daughter was too late. Calliope had already motioned to the birds to come do her bidding. The birds—twenty-eight of them—strafed Clandestra in rapid succession. One by one, the birds flew past her, slashing at her with open-beaks. Each of the birds made a second pass, after which Clandestra’s face was marred by fifty-six deep gashes, blood flowing from each.

“Damned beach chickens! I hate those damned birds!” Clandestra shouted, wiping the blood from her face. Screaming, as if her words would have some effect, she tried to get the birds’ attention. And, apparently, it worked. Her declaration of loathing apparently sparked a rage reaction in some of the birds.  They returned in precisely-timed sorties, tearing at Clandestra’s face and neck with each pass.

Her mother’s failed efforts to push the birds away may have caused Calliope a tinge of regret. But if it did, it was short-lived. And it was not the kind of regret that accompanies compassion. No, it was the sort of regret that a jewelry thief feels when he leaves a particularly valuable stone behind.

And thus ends an especially long and unnecessary blog post.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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One Response to Between the Lines

  1. Meg Koziar says:


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