Bible College Spinster

A couple weeks ago, I talked about how I’d like to start posting monthly writing samples. Blogging has always been practice of the craft for me and this week I’m stretching out a little. This is the start of what may be a blog series or may be a larger project. I’m not sure where this is headed, but I’m sharing it anyway. Enjoy!

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I knew pretty early on that I did not want to get married right out of college.

During jr. high youth group one night, they split the guys off from the girls and panel of women talked with us about purity. As part of the introduction, they each shared how they had met their husbands.

“We met in our biology class in college.”

“He lived on the floor below me in our dorm.”

“We were introduced the first day of our freshman year.”

I distinctly remember thinking, that is a boring love story. I want to meet someone in a cool way. After school. After backpacking through Europe.”

Backpacking through Europe was the epitome of adulthood in my thirteen year old mind. I had just read Maureen Johnson’s 13 Little Blue Envelopes and knew that was the goal after college. NOT getting married. I wanted to live a little first.

And that was that. Until I encountered the horror of a freshman girl’s dormitory.

I never had questioned my dating status, let along my marital status until my first night at college when the question was thrown out:

“Do any of you think you’ve met your husband here yet?”

I am not. Kidding. This was the first night.

And from there it just felt like so many women were in a scramble to find that perfect fit somewhere on campus. For the most part, it wasn’t a race. I have plenty of friends who found their person in a normal amount of care and time and their wedding celebrations were such a pleasure to be a part of.

But there were some couples that were slightly more concerning. Some of them resulted in rushed marriages and even more rushed divorces.

Looking around in the aftermath of those years, it’s been interesting to observe longings that have surfaced in my life as well as in the lives of my friends through the first years of marriage into the early parenting stage from some of them.

photo-1459876488407-12ece558ba10I never thought I would get to 24 and be one of my only friends left rowing in the single boat. And I’d be lying if there weren’t moments I look around and wonder if I missed something—took a wrong turn or acted on introvert impulse when I shouldn’t have.

But I’ve been here long enough to know that the grass just isn’t going to be as green as it is on Fixer Upper. I’m thankful for that.

Honestly, I’m still trying to get back to Europe, let alone get down the aisle.

So much “spiritual” reading I did outside of the Bible was concerned with being a good girlfriend, or wife, or even mother. But I’m not using that info. Not really. I’ve found in this season a yearning to just learn how to be a person.

As part of this writing experiment, I’m trying to find out how to wring this season dry. I made it through bible college without the husband and baby I was promised with my diploma and I want to live into that well.

I’ve felt for a while that the church in general is not sure what to do with a woman in her mid-twenties who is unwed without prospects…Maybe not the church in general. Maybe it’s the church in West Michigan.

And as much as I want to be comfortable in that, I feel like I’m kind of alone here.

So I write this for you. To let you know you’re not alone…. or maybe just to confirm if I am. So in these posts, I’ll be unpacking some observations and throw out some thoughts.

I don’t want to spend this season waiting for what is next. What is here is next. And I’m owning it—The life of a Bible College Spinster.

Three Unfinished Poems

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Part of my purpose in keeping this blog is to document some writing samples. I want to approach some prompts and preset some works-in-progress just to get comfortable putting my work out there…and hopefully one day in journals.

My goal is to have a different sample up every month. This month, I have three poems I’ve been wrestling with over the past month.

This is where we start practicing vulnerability. I’m not a poet, but these vignettes weren’t manifesting themselves as short stories…one of them isn’t really manifesting itself as a poem well either and is probably actually an essay, but I’m a firm believer in the rule of three.

October

Walking, the autumn sun was uncharacteristically warm in the contrast
of your lanky shadow draped across me like a dad-borrowed blazer on
my shoulders, eagerly placed on the walk home from a jr. high dance.
We, in the moment, too pleased with our luck of being away from your
meathead friends and chaperone eyes, to notice the inelegance of us.

My rib cage filled with cotton balls, the lightness rotating inside me with
each step, as I hopscotched your long leg lines across the graveled path.
You seemed to glide, tall and erect, as I wallowed in the thirteen year-old
feeling wondering if I wanted to hold your hands. They had carried a lot
since your gym dance days and mine had been too open to carry anything.

Judging whether it’s still appropriate to arrange for my best friend to give
Your best friend a note: Check yes or no—because maybe we had something
right at thirteen. Maybe we were supposed to risk, to ask and fail rather than
rehearse the fall once the leaves cleared. The walk feels cold without your
shadow-jacket on my shoulders, the note in the pocket check-marked “or.”

Screen door poem II

The screen door slap was the exclamation point to our fragment.
My wineglass rattled, straddling the uneven slats of the rough table
And my eyes blinked as the slam-noise silenced my rolling brain.

Tracing the knots of the table wood, I try to trace where we started,
where we turned to end up with your chair flat on its back and my
napkin wet with mascara. Out of breath, I blot and blink on the cotton.

Blink in surprise that you’d leave when the results returned negative,
blink in prayer the door spring-echoing open would bring you back in,
blinked in relief that I wouldn’t have to follow through at your side.

But I sit here still—now in the royal blue dark, the wine glass gulped dry.
And I can’t bring myself to admit I’m wrong when hurt sits across in the
upturned chair, our statement unresolved—like an em dash waiting for—

Wisdom Lost

I have never been more aware of the gaping holes in my head, like
the clam whose pearls were stolen, drawn to aching openness—
air split across the hole making ache rather than lilt of fife-tweets.
High tide and the world flattened to echoing sonar in the dark.

Necessary entrance, but hesitant and unwanted attention chancing
the hopeful irritant, the salt of sand makes naught of pearl-value.
The puss of a gape-hole left to fester with the constant tongue push.
Fog does clear, world tilting open to find blood, gauze, and nothing.

Flash Fiction: The Door

It’s Labor Day so I thought I’d send something a little lighter your way. I’ve been working on some fiction samples for the blog this summer and I’m excited to share some of the results of that work. Here’s a piece of flash fiction that I hope you enjoy!

My laptop was set up on the desk in front of the old oak door in the lab.
I wasn’t supposed to get so wrapped up in this. Really, it was supposed to have been a simple DIY. Not that those words ever went together
I bought the door from that antique shop downtown. It was sturdy, classic. And the doorknob was a lovely ornate copper. From the moment I laid eyes on the door, I knew it belonged in my apartment.
Except that once I popped it onto the bathroom hinges, I found it was a half-inch too narrow for my door frame. My simple weekend project was a wash.
It wasn’t until I had gone through the whole ordeal and propped the useless door against my bedroom wall that I noticed its peculiar property.
So here I was, after months of research and tests, ready to put the door to action.
“Kat, you can’t really believe this is going to get you anywhere. It’s a nice door. That doesn’t mean it’s connected to any rip in time,” Charlie complained.
No one was supposed to know about my work with the door. Not even Charlie. I had planned to run my tests after work. He found me in the lab one night after he had forgotten his external hard drive. He then proceeded to wheedle the entire theory out of me.
I now rolled my eyes at his cynicism. He would realize soon enough.
“You saw through the key hole. How can you still question that there isn’t something supernatural going on with this door?”
He shrugged, adjusting his glasses before pushing his dark curls off his forehead. “Doesn’t mean there’s anything going on with the time-space continuum. For all we know, Monster’s Inc. is a real deal.”
“I know what I saw.” I turned away from him as I took a reading from the monitor to my left. “Besides, you’re not a physicist—you’re not the expert here.”
“You can hardly call yourself a physicist.” He looked from me to the door. “Besides, you’re already on probation with the board.”
“They have no respect for gut instinct.” I watched the monitor with clenched jaw. The waves surrounding the door were beginning to spike. I looked at the clock. 11:55.
“Not when you have nothing to back it up.”
“I’m gonna.”
“And what if you do? Remember how Michael J. Fox was always screwing up the present?” he teased. I looked to him. There was a smile in his eyes as he tried to ease the tension.
“You watch too many movies.” I returned to the desk, elbowing him out of the way. “Besides, it is just a theory; I don’t know if anything will actually work. But I’m sure as hell gonna find out.”
“Thing is, you are calling this a theory, but you think it’s fact. Explain that one.” He crossed his arms, looking down on me. That amused expression was always so irritating,
“Now tell me, Dr.expert-know-it-all,” I crossed my own arms, mimicking his patronizing stance. “Who was the biologist that wasted thousands in university funding based on a hunch? Something about antibiotics derived from—”
 “That’s not fair, Kat.” His teasing grin turned to pursed lips.
I just smirked up at him.
He was glancing over my shoulder. “It’s 11:59. You ready?”
“Oh!” I stripped off my lab coat and rushed to the door. “How are the levels holding?”
“Heightened, but holding steady as we approach oh-one hundred.”
I placed my hand on the doorknob. “Count me off,” I told him.
“Going in five…” He rolled his eyes as he began. I took a series of deep breaths, “… four…” closing my eyes, I prayed for the best, “… three… two…” I tightened my grip on the doorknob, “one!” he finally said.
Pushing open the door, I was more than a little surprised to find not the other half of the lab, but instead a bedroom. Just as I had seen through the keyhole. It was ornately decorated. Like a set from a BBC period drama.
At the foot of the bed stood an older man dressed in a waist coat and breeches, looking completely unphased, unlike my slack-jawed self.
“Well, Miss Katherine,” he spoke in a polished British accent. “You certainly have kept us waiting.”

In Her Privy Chambers: Part II

Here is the conclusion of last weeks short fiction. Grace O’Malley has just arrived in  England and is about to face Queen Elizabeth, her supposed enemy. Enjoy!

The steward opened the door to me. Richard and about a half-a-dozen of my men followed after me.
The long, narrow room was made of wooden walls and stone ceiling, suited out in extravagant trappings. Curtains and tapestries lined the windows and walls. Hundreds of people lined the room, concentrated in clumps toward the far end of the room. They were all dressed like peacocks, ridiculous amounts of fabric on both the men and the women. The silks and velvets of their doublets and petticoats were a rainbow of colors. Their collars stood either up or out from their shoulders like odd exotic feathers. What a strange sight they were.
The room was chilled, but smelled of bodies. It reminded me of the smell that continued to linger in a ship’s hull even after the crew had left. Sweat and shit.
“Grace O’Malley, Your Majesty,” he called to the room.
I didn’t understand much English, but I knew enough of it to know it sounded ugly. They called me Grace. Bingham used the name. It sounded like the way a snake would say my name had it been given words.  It sounded slick on the tongue and not to be trusted.
As soon as my name rang through the hall, every powdered face turned to look at me. Some of them looked curious, others disgruntled, most just stunned.
At the far end, was a great chair where the lady herself was seated. I looked to Richard who stood behind me to my side. He gave me a smirk and a reassuring nod.
The crowed of smelly peacocks parted as I moved forward through the room, the polished wood cold on my bare feet. Looking at all of them in their frivolous clothing, I couldn’t help but feel underdressed.
I wore the green woolen gown Muireann had made up for me when Richard was given the MacWilliamship. I had paired it with the cape I wore on holydays. It was trimmed in fur and trailed behind me. I pulled it closer to me as I neared Elizabeth.
I felt comforted by the wooden floors beneath my feet. They were much smoother than the weathered wood of my ship’s deck, but I was able stride with greater confidence at I moved onward.
The woman did not rise as I approached. I paused in front of the throne, but did not bow.
“Grace O’Malley,” she said in greeting. She rambled off some sort of welcome in English so quickly, I could not quite make out the particulars of what she was trying to say. Instead, having come in from the rain, my nose began to drip and I sniffled.
The queen studied me as I flicked my finger under my nose, trying to keep my nose from dripping. “Dewyewneadakurcheeph?”she spoke.
English was an odd language. Harsh consonants and titling vowels. And they all spoke so rapidly, it was hard to distinguish in the language I used the least.
Everyone looked at me expectantly. They waited for me to respond. I could speak enough English to say what I needed. I could voice my complaint best in Irish. No one except Richard and my crewmen would understand me. Thinking on it for a moment, I responded in Latin.
Precibus meis,” I said. My apologies. “I do not understand.” I could hear Richard clear his throat behind me as I lied.
Video,” She responded. The queen’s Latin sounded more polished with her English accent. Still, neither of us was speaking in her more comfortable tongue. The tables were equal. We were able to express ourselves only as well as the other. “I had asked if you needed a handkerchief.”
“Please, m’lady.” A few gasps could be heard through the room. It was an address of low rank. But the queen was a peer. I couldn’t just be calling her Your Majesty like some scullery maid. Richard cleared his throat once more. This time in warning. I merely smirked at him over my shoulder as the queen gestured for one of the men present to hand me a square of linen.
I took the kerchief, trying to blow my nose as ladylike as possible. Not that I really knew how to accomplish that. I wasn’t sure how to keep the air from honking between my nostrils and the fabric.
Everyone in the court continued to stare as I brought the kerchief away from my face. No one moved to take it. I held on to it, figuring I could dispose of it momentarily.
“So you have come to me for an audience,” the queen asked. Her voice rang out through the stone ceilinged courtroom.
“Aye.” I nodded. “I have.”
“So what is it you have to say?” she asked. Her flock of peacocks all seemed to lean forward a tad.
“I say that I would like a private audience with her majesty.” I found prudence in using the title this time. Still, a collective gasp went up from the courtiers. Their hushed whispers made them sound like peacocks as well as look it, occasional squawks sounding amongst the hissing. I fiddled with the handkerchief nervously with my left hand. “If she pleases,” I added self-consciously for good measure.
After a few seconds of the hissing and squawking, the queen held up her hand and the flock fell silent. “Very well,” she said, standing. More gasps sounded through the room. Two stewards scrambled behind the throne over to a pair of doors I hadn’t noticed.
The queen stepped down from the dais and headed toward the doors. I looked back at Richard, both of us surprised it was that simple.
“Well go!” he mouthed.
Fine,” I mouthed in response, trying to scramble after the queen as gracefully as possible.
The stewards held the double doors open as we passed in to the privy chamber. One of them eyed me suspiciously as the other stared dutifully ahead. The courtiers behind us were silent as the door closed behind me.
We were alone.
The room was large, though less so than the court room. The privy chamber was square, with a tall ceiling and rich trappings. The floor of this room was made of the same dark wood, but was covered by a large green rug embroidered with golden leaves. The two great windows on either side of the hearth had thick drapes, only opened about a foot to let in light. Around the room, chairs and ornate sofas were set in clumps for entertaining. Another large chair sat on another dais at the back of the room. Blast! The woman must spend her days sitting. A china tea service sat against the left wall next to a servant’s door. Besides us and the furniture, the room was empty.
Elizabeth stood, staring me up and down.
“You’re less masculine than I would have imagined,” she observed.
I eyed her, puzzled. Was this an English complement? “Thank you.” I replied, just to be safe. Fiddling once more with the handkerchief, I decided now was as good a time as any to get rid of it. A fireplace was on the wall to my right. Nearing it, I could see out the two large, paned windows. They over looked the river, my galley visible in the distance. The embers smoldered from the morning’s fire. I stepped over and dropped the square of fabric on the ashes and it began to smoke.
Turning back to the queen, I could not mistake the look of shock that crossed her face.
“What?” I asked, confused.
“You keep that,” she said, stunned.
“I snotted in that,” I said, mildly disgusted. Why on earth would I keep the dirty rag? They had to have others, to be sure!
“You keep it in your pocket for the next time you need it.”
“Oh.” I felt my eyebrows scrunch. “I’m sorry, I guess I’m used to a higher standard if hygiene.”
I couldn’t tell if she was cross or amused by my comment. It took me a minute to recognize that it had been a tad backhanded. Silence settled over the room as we both stood in the privy chamber, enchanted by the carpet.
“Grace?” The queen asked after a bit.
“Granuaile,” I corrected without thinking. “Your majesty,” I added as an unconfident afterthought.  Her red eyebrows crinkled in puzzlement. I began to explain. “My name is Granuaile. Most of my men call me Grania. Bingham insists on calling me Grace.” I could feel my nose wrinkle as I said the disgusting name. Even saying it felt snake-like.
“Grahn-oo-wall,” she tested the word.
I couldn’t help but laugh at the pronunciation. “You can use Grania. It might be easier.” Beneath her white powder and red rouge, I could see the queen give a genuine blush. The tension in the room was beginning to dissipate, but I could still feel her discomfort.
I knew Elizabeth was only a few years my senior, but her face was beginning to sag with age. The wrinkles on her brow and around her eyes had attempted to be masked by the face powder, but the thin dust had settled into the creases, emphasizing the lines. Her lips were painted red to match the fabric of her gown. Her head was encircled with a large white collar that made her look more like a peacock than any of her ninny courtiers. Her hair was covered by a red wig that matched her brows and lashes. And beneath the lashes sat a pair of blue eyes that seemed a little sad as they studied me. I couldn’t help but feel an unexplainable pity toward the woman.
“You don’t get corrected often, do you?” I asked.
She eyed me, considering something before speaking. “Sit with me, will you?” she asked, gesturing to an embroidered settee.
I followed her to one of the seating areas. Sitting seemed a bit of a challenge for her, trying to worm her way through her skirts into a seated position. Once she was down, there was hardly room for myself. I made the best of it, pushing some of her gown to the side.
“So you’re the pirate queen,” she stated as I tried to get settled.
“That’s what the English intruders insist on calling me.” I nodded.
She shook her head. “You’re not what I was expecting.” She had spoken the same thought earlier.
“You were expecting some man in a dress to come tearing through your court?” I asked, trying not to smile at the absurdity.
“Well, if I am to believe Lord Bingham’s letters, yes.” She smiled as well. “You’re a woman in power. And you are inpower.”
I couldn’t help but give her an odd look. Was that supposed to make sense? Perhaps it was the Latin.
She shook her head, quickly. “What I mean,” she began to clarify. “Is that you have maintained your power, but you’re a woman?”
“You’re not?” I asked, still puzzled by this strange woman. They all acted as if she was God himself, and here she was right crazy!
She opened her mouth to speak, but then hesitated, folding her hands in her lap. After another moment, she finally found her words. “My advisors still do not believe a woman can be a worthy queen. To them, femininity is weakness and weakness has not place on the throne. Yet your men will sail to England to confront your better. How do you do it?”
I bristled at the word better, Richard’s words echoing in my head. Finery is not the mark of a ruler. It’s what they will do for their land.
“I do what I must to provide for my clan,” I answered. That was why I was here, wasn’t I? But I wasn’t here for my clan. Not entirely. “And my boy.”
“Right, your son.”
I nodded. “He’s committed no more treason than you have, ma’am. Any of his actions have been under my command. More against Bingham than yourself.”
The queen looked away, thinking for a moment. “Lord Bingham is really that terrible?” She asked, still not looking at me. From the tone in her voice, she already knew my answer.
“My people have not been safe on their own land in the last five years. No one knows when their farm will be taken in your name. Not to mention anyone can be accused and executed for treason at a moment’s notice.” I fingered the embroidered fabric of her skirt that pushed against my leg. “He killed my brother.”
The queen turned to me, her sad eyes now filled with concern. “In my name.” It might have been a question, but she spoke as if it was a statement.
“At least for England,” I nodded. We were both quiet for a moment as I thought about Donal. After a few moments, I spoke again. “Ireland may have been taken by you, but under Bingham, my clan is not willing to yield.”
“Is this a threat?” she asked. She didn’t seem angry. She just looked straight ahead of her, like she was thinking hard about something.
“Not at all. It’s just how things are.”
“So why are you here?” She turned, her light eyes becoming cold.
“I want my boy free. I want to be governor to my own clan. I want your permission to do what I must to maintain my clan by land or sea. Ultimately, I just want Bingham to leave me and my people alone.”
“So you are not threatening rebellion.” She looked to me once more.
I shook my head.
Looking about the room for a moment, the queen stood, freeing up more of the settee.
“Grania,” she said, beginning to pace outside the seating area. “I respect what you have done for the sake of your land. You have done nothing I would not have done myself in such a position. Nothing I wouldn’t do should Spain show up on my doorstep.” She paused, glancing out the window before turning on her heel. “I admire your tenacity. And I will acknowledge that Bingham has done you wrong. I apologize that he was acting under my orders, though I cannot apologize at my desire to squash any sign of rebellion.” She turned once more, the fabric of her gown making crinkling sounds like luffing sails with each step. The hem whumphed each time she came about. “I will write him directly, demanding your son be released. Should he have executed your son in the time you have been away, I will do what I must to right the wrong.” As she spoke these words, a knot formed at the back of my throat. Tibbot would be released. “I must think on the rest of your requests and will write you once you have left here. All I require is your word that your rebellion is against Bingham and not against England.” She stopped, directly in front of the closed door, looking to me expectantly.
I thought for a moment. I tried to form my words as diplomatically as I could. “I will stay out of England’s way if England respects my land.”
She nodded. “I feel that is fair.”
And with that, she turned on her heel, facing the door way. The audience was done.
Quickly, I scrambled up from the seat to get behind her. She cleared her throat a bit loudly and as if by magic, the chamber doors flew open simultaneously. The stewards behind them, holding them open with straight backs and indifferent gazes.
The courtiers on the other hand began to crane their necks, dying to see if there was any sign on our faces as to what had transpired. Being behind Elizabeth, I could see nothing of her expression. I could only try and suppress the smile on my own face.
The queen took her place once more on her throne. I moved beyond it down the room toward Richard. A smile broke out across his own face as he looked into my eyes.

“Come on,” I said, nodding toward the door. “It’s time to go home. We have to meet our boy.”

In Her Privy Chambers: Part I

Last year, I had to put together my undergrad thesis. For this year-long project, I had to do a heavy amount of research as well as a creative piece that furthered my discussion. I focused on historical fiction and characterization, using Irish historical figure, Grace O’Malley as a case study. The following is the first half of my creative piece. I thought you might want some fiction to break up the depression of summer ending! Enjoy!

Clew Bay

I waited until I could see the last of his men crest over the hill and out of sight, the morning fog enveloping them hopefully not to release them for many hours.
“Muireann, now! They’re over the ridge,” I cried, almost giddy at the thought of my plan. If Richard Bourke thought I had been put in my place, he had another thing coming.
We had argued most of the night about whether or not I should sail to England. Tibbot had been held captive under Lord Bingham for a fortnight now and that arse upon the throne of England had another thing coming if she thought she was going to take hold of my clan and my son. Bingham, her watch dog in Galway, had been nothing but a pricker in my corset from the day he set foot on my island and I figured if I went over his head to the bitch herself, I might just be able to accomplish something.
Not that Richard agreed with me.
“I don’t think you can accomplish much short of your own beheading. That’s all I’m saying,” he had said the night before.
“And what am I accomplishing here? Our son’s death instead?” I continued pacing back and forth in front of the large fireplace. He sat across the chamber in the four poster bed, trying to sleep. My barefeet made small slaps as I walked back and forth on the hearth-warmed stones.
“He’s bait, Grania. It’s your neck Bingham wants, not his.”
“He’s your son and heir!” I groan, looking to the ceiling for divine assistance. I was on my own against Richard an iarainn – the man of iron.
“And as such, he is perfectly capable to taking care of himself.”
“He’s seventeen! He’s hardly been captain of his own galley for a year.”
“And by sailing into their hands, what do you expect to do?” He sat up at last, finally putting in an effort to reason with me.
“I plan to get my boy back.”
“You’re planning your own murder!” he cried.
“As if they would try to take me with all of our men there,” I laughed.
“As if you would not send your men away if they threatened Tibbot. I’m telling you, it’s a trap.”
I stopped mid-pace, stamping my foot on the stone floor. “And so we must outthink their trap. Blast, Richard, it’s not as hard as you think. We take every ship we have and we sail it up the bloody Thames!”
“Ha!” his bark of laughter caused me to raise my right eyebrow. “Granuaile, the day you make England yield to you is the day Iyield to you too.”
I crossed my arms in front of my chest. Standing directly in front of the fireplace, my shadow covered the headboard as well as the wall behind the bed. Even Richard was half covered in darkness. The flames made the shadows around the tapestries flicker and my own shadow seem to tremble with the frustration lit inside me.
“You’re still leading the hunt tomorrow?” I asked.
“Aye.” He nodded, settling back down into the bed. Suddenly he straightened. “You’re not leaving this house, Grania. I’ll not have you sailing to England without me.”
“So you’ll go with me,” I tried.
He stuck me with a hard look. Even covered in my shadow, I could tell the answer coming from his blue eyes.
“Fine.” I rolled my eyes and made my way to the bed.
I walked with the symbols of surrender – slunched shoulders and grimace.
Climbing under the silk sheets and woolen blankets, I realized I couldn’t sleep without attempting at the last word.
“You know we’re going to England.”
He turned in bed, his back to me. “Good night, Grania.”
I couldn’t help but smile as I began to play the plan through my mind.
#
I beat Muireann to the narrow stone steps that led down to the third story of the hold. My handmaid was slow on the uneven steps, but I was almost as used to the castle as I was my own ship. We both rushed around the great room beneath my chamber
“Have Evin bring up a boulder to put over the privy,” I commanded. “They may try to climb up during low tide.”
“Granuaile, really.” Muireann clucked her tongue.
“Really. This is going to work, I tell you.”
She looked at me uneasy before going down the stairs to fetch Evin, the steward. To no doubt tell him I had gone mad as well. She generated half the gossip around Clew Bay, but was loyal when it mattered. She would shake her head at me, but she would follow my orders more fervently than they most steadfast of my sailors. Nevertheless, I would bet the mainsail off my galley she was alerting everyone in the hold I was being overcome by lunacy.
I rolled my eyes at the thought, double checking all the shutters were securely latched before going down to the second story to do the same. It was unlikely anyone would be able to fit through the narrow windows of the castle, but I didn’t want to take any chances. I had seen some of the younger pages make crafty escapes when they needed to. This plan was going to succeed and as such, it couldn’t be sloppy.
When I reached the ground floor, the rest of the servants had caught on to the plan. From the doorway, I could see Evin urging along two foot soldiers with a rock large enough to cover the privy hole. The windows were shut and secured and many had begun to light the torches to provide the light they needed to work by.
With Evin, the boys, and the rock headed to the third floor, the front door was shut and the deadbolt locked in place. I then had everyone corralled up to the great hall.
The great hall seemed small all shut up and quiet with the sounds of Clew Bay muffled behind the windows. It wasn’t preferable, but it was necessary. And we had plenty of supplies in the store should Richard try to starve us out. ‘Course he only brought supplies for an overnight, should they need them. I’d last longer than he.
“You all know Richard and I have been at odds on whether we should go to England to negotiate Tibbot’s return,” I began. “I would like to inform you all that, should we all be successful, we shall be off to England in a fortnight.”
A few of the servants cheered, some of the men who had stayed behind snickered.
I began to pace before them as I explained my plan.
“And should any of you attempt to unlatch the door or open a window, so help me –” I fixed the room with a hard stare. “There will be naught but torment and embarrassment at my hand. You got that?” I asked.
A few more rounds of laughter went up as I gave a wink. One of the men raised his fist with a shout.
“Long live Grainne Ui Maille!”
The entire room cried in echo, “long live Grainne Ui Maille!”
The call bounced off the stone walls and the timber floor and I hoped to heaven it echoed all the way to England.
#
As dusk fell, I could hear him and his men approaching.
He had to notice something was afoot, with three floors of windows plugged and not an outer torch lit. Still he went all the way to the door, banging on it like a fool. I could hear it all from our chamber. I had left my windows all open, but I didn’t dare stick my head out until absolutely necessary.
The muffled curses of his men began to ring out from below. I could pick out Richard’s amongst the rest.
“Damn woman!” he shouted.
I tried to suppress my smile, but it wasn’t possible.
“Granuaile!” he bellowed. His cry was punctuated by a kick at the door which echoed through the castle.
I went up the stairway in the corner of the chamber which led to the upper ramparts.
Upon seeing me, the cries of the men became more insistent. I stood at the east wall, hips slanted and arms crossed as I stood directly above Richard. Below me, I could just make out his features, squinting against the twilight to see me.
“And what, pray tell, do you think this is accomplishing?” he shouted.
“Richard Bourke, I dismiss you!” I shouted down the words of divorce.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” His mumbles echoed against the stone walls and up to me. “All because I won’t take you to England?”
“Aye,” I shouted down.
“And you think divorcing me is going to make me take you to see the queen? I love you, Grania, but this,” he gestured to the castle “isn’t the sort of thing that is going to inspire me to prove it.”
“No, I don’t think divorcing you will get you to come to England with me. I’m going to England with or without you. I’ve dismissed you to gain your castle.”
It was too dark to really see his face, but I’m fairly certain his eyes expanded to the size of tea cups.
“What?!”
“You heard me fine,” I laughed.
“You cannot be serious.”
“Of course I’m serious. You left your hold unprotected and I have fortified it,” I bragged, thinking about the huge rock covering the privy. “You said the day England yielded to me was the same day you would yield. You have yielded your castle by leaving and I have dismissed you,” I spread my arms in demonstration. “You no longer hold any claim over Rockfleet castle.”
He groaned loudly. “Really, Grania, this is asinine.”
I leaned over the rampart. “So you yield?”
Some of the men snickered from below. I could feel Richard’s eyes boring into me from below, even though darkness had covered both of us by now.
“Oh, come on, m’lord,” one of his men shouted. “Take the woman to England.”
Silence settled over the crowed and my heart tensed and unclenched with each beat.
“Fine,” he growled at last. I couldn’t help but smile in victory. “But the castle is mine.”
Part II: London
Greenwich Palace stretched out before us, long and narrow like a cathedral. Its stone work was tan and seemed to shine in the rain that was beginning to die off. I stared up at the rounded towers, feeling intimidation I hadn’t known since I was a child. Standing on the deck of my old galley, surrounded by loyal men, I felt like a little girl, striving to earn the respect of her father’s sailors. Only this time, I was a grown woman, hoping to gain the respect of the most powerful woman in the world.
“Everything is well, Granuaile.” Richard came up behind me, giving me a conciliatory squeeze on my shoulder. “You are her equal, if not her better. Don’t let grandeur dissuade your purpose.” I looked up at him. He smiled reassuringly at my side.  “You areIreland. I yielded to you. Now it’s England’s turn.”
“You don’t actually think that’s what’s going to happen.”
“I think you’re stubborn enough to do what needs to be done.”
“Richard, this is the queen. Why did I think—”
“Why do you think you’ve accomplished any of this?”
“Because I sailed here.”
“No, I mean any of this. I mean why do you know how to sail this ship? Why do these men respect you? Why where you not only your mother’s heir, but your father’s as well? Why is your name the one feared over my own?”
I looked to the deck, unable to meet his gaze. “Because I wanted it that way,” I mumbled.
“That’s right, because you’re stubborn.” He nodded.
I gave him a hard look, smirk pulling at the edges of my lips.
“You’re in the right here. Bingham is a cream-faced loon. You need only give her your plea and she’ll understand. You’ve already sent her letters. She’s been sympathetic thus far.”
After I had taken Rockfleet, Richard and I had come to an agreement. I could have the castle as long as I didn’t just sail off to London. I had drafted a letter to Elizabeth and the court sent a series of questions. She seemed at least peaked by my story. Bingham had told her all sorts of lies, no doubt. I ate English children for desert and the like. As long as the queen’s ear was toward me, Tibbot’s neck was safe. Still, standing before one of her many palaces, I couldn’t help but feel daunted.
I pulled my cape tighter around me, trying to pretend the rainy air was chilling me. Not that I was trembling with nerves.
“She’s the bloody queen of England,” I grumped. “I’m just a chieftain’s wife.”
“When have you ever been just a chieftain’s wife?  Good Lord. If anyone is the chieftain’s wife it’s me. You’ve fought long and hard to be a captain and ruler. You were never justa chieftain’s wife. You’re not here on behalf of my clan. You’re here on behalf of your own.”
“I am not nearly the woman in there. She has armies at her command and money to burn.”
I looked up at him, his gray gaze heavy with sincerity. “Finery is not the mark of a ruler. It’s what they will do for their land.” He paused and then smiled. “Besides, she’s takin’ your money to pay for all of this.” He gestured at the palace before us.
“Long boats ready, M’lady!” Gannon, one of the deckhands called to us.
“Ready now?” Richard asked me.

I looked up at him and nodded, renewed by his speech. “Bess has got something coming if she thinks I’m given up my clan so easily.”

Trust and Tubing

I have live in Michigan my entire life. Born and raised in the Great Lakes State and not once have I been tubing until this year. Sad but true  and to be honest, I have never felt like I was missing out on much.


I felt forced into it. I was leading on a church trip, house-boating on Dale Hollow Lake, and one of the students found out I was a tubing virgin. This was apparently a crime, so I was soon caroused into my swimsuit and forced into a life jacket that was a bit too big. If not uncomfortable. Standing at the stern of the houseboat, waiting for the speedboat to come pick me up, I couldn’t think up one decent reason for plunking out of this. 


But it was too late and the student I was going with just had to tell the driver that it was my first time tubing. And that was met with a devilish smile and a “Oh, we’ll make sure it’s a good one then.”


Crap.


That was along the lines of what I was thinking as I swam out and climbed onto the tube. Or at last it had four letters and the same general meaning. I crossed arms across the tube with the student, white-knuckling the handles. She assured me doing it this way would help us keep each other on. I didn’t think the ninety pounds of her was going to keep all five foot ten of me on anything.


And then the boat took off. And it was fun at first. Speeding up, turning onto the main lake. And then we actually started going.


Crap.


This was not what I had signed up for. I felt rigid on the tube, trying my best to keep my knees on the flying circle and my swimsuit bottoms on my hips. My jaw kept beating onto the tube no matter how hard I tried to hold my head up. My teeth were clenched, which probably didn’t help the repeating blows. My toes felt like they were going to be ripped off my feet as they bounced into the water with each run over the boat’s wake.


Did you know giving a thumbs up does not mean that you are doing okay? That it actually means you want to go faster? Because I did not know that. It also didn’t help that some punk kid on the tube next to ours yelled to the driver, “You drive like a lady!”


Crap.


My arms were about to tear out of my sockets and I imagined flailing off the tube and not having arms to swim with. We flew continually back and forth over the wide wake of the speed boat. I began to slip over the side of the tube. I could hardly work my way back to safety as we whisked all over the unforgiving water. I could hardly feel my arms. I think I pulled a muscle in my neck. I think I peed a little. 


They probably don’t recommend this in any manual in small group leadership, but all I could manage to shout to the girl next to me was, “I hate you! I hate you. I. Hate. You.”  I couldn’t think of anything else. This was becoming a test of survival. What ever it took, I had to stay on this tube or else I was going to die!!!!!

And then the ninety pounds shoved me off the tube.


I hit the water with a smack and skidded a bit before coming to a halt. 


Checking immediately to make sure my arms still worked, I then shoved them beneath the water. Where they there? I felt around my waist. My bottoms had begun to fall, but were in a reachable, fixable distance down my legs.

And the boat turned slowly to come retrieve me.


My arms began to relax, turning to rubber, humming with soreness as I began to paddle back to the boat. Relief filled me as I realized I was going to live to see lunch. My life was not over!


There was great comfort–after the melodrama had cleared–in realizing that the driver and another passenger in the boat had been keeping an eye on us all along. Their intent was not to throw me off the tube (Though I strongly suspect  that yes, in fact, it was…), but to take me on a ride.


I felt like a cheese-head as my ever-connecting brain began to knit the parallels here. See, I have recently come off of a year of, well, crap. A lot of loss and struggle, but God was present in it all. Tough to find in the moment, but in hindsight, so ridiculously present, I can’t believe I missed it. For a lot of that season, it felt like I was holding on for dear life as I was jostled, beat up, and thrown around. I was tired and scared. But I made it. Because God was watching. Because he cared. And it didn’t just end when I didn’t like where the ride was taking me. It didn’t end because of his lack caring. No. He cared too much about me and my character and my relationship with him. He wasn’t putting me through that season to throw me off into hopeless oblivion. He was taking me on a ride. 


He promises he will not put us through more than we can handle. He does not promise he wouldn’t bring us up to the screaming edge of the cliff, but he has told us we will not topple over the edge. It is in those moments, looking desperately over the cliff’s edge that I begin to see God clearly. Because I’m not distracted by me or my wants. I am given a full view of his love. I am shown how deeply and vastly he desires relationship with me, desires my trust.


So it is safe to say I am never tubing again. But I am thankful for the living metaphor. The feeling and the reminder that I can trust even when my arms can’t take it any more. When I’m flying off into the unknown, not even knowing if my pants are on right. God’s got it. Both in the physical and the metaphorical… though I think the pants are my responsibility…


Writing Samples: Chicago

I told you not to hold your breath for poetry. It’s about a month into the blog, so again, I hope you haven’t been holding your breath.
Today is actually Preppy Bohemia’s first month out there, so that’s exciting. I figured to celebrate, I should actually put some writing out there. I think it’s kind of funny that my first creative writing sample is actually a piece of poetry. In my defense, it is prose poetry. I’m really not much of a poet. Anyway, I thought I’d get away from the personal essays for a bit.

This poem was inspired my a spontaneous trip to Chicago to see a concert. It was a beautiful night filled with friends and music and chai. I was in the final stretch of my senior thesis project when one of my dearest friends threw out this concert as an option. I got out of work early and three of us ran out of Grand Rapids for a beautiful night. It was a rainy night in April and as we left the concert, the city was encased in a fog that made everything look soft and glowing. From this, I was inspired. The poem is copied below.
My first instinct is always to run. Hardness comes with age, and time, and hurt, but that was not 
why I wanted the road beneath me. Sometimes it just gets so damn difficult to think of how 
to breathe. I slam my fists down on the desk and push my chair back and look to the ceiling 
and sigh whatever words God will listen to first. I think about walking the gray sidewalks 
surrounding silver buildings like moats, watching the lake in the distance between the steel
towers. There is freedom in the skyscraper jail – the anonymous nature of the suburban serf
hiding in the wealth of State St. In a bar on the north end, the mandolin plays the song I listened 
to while avoiding life, overwhelmed by the requirements of adulthood. And wheeling down 
Lakeshore Drive, watching the field of lights, ripe for the harvest, I return weary to what I 
promised. The hardeness is gone for maybe only the three hour drive. But it was the song that 
made the stone melt and the hole grow through its cracks. The water that fell on us as we ran 
from the concert to the car helped the seed to grow and settle and root me to what I swore.