Kudos for Neighbors North, The Cinderblocks

Emma’s Sweater-washing Protocols–newer and sharper


Sweater, cardigan.

(In a small victory against SEmRo (Send Emma to Her Room), Emma’s guardian and sometime-mentor Kathy McMullen was able to thwart SEmRo and read this newer, sharper version of the “Protocols” at last night’s It’s About Time at Ballard Public Library.)

One might think Emma was doing something illegal the morning she sets out to wash her prized red cardigan.  Knit by Grandma Wahnknecht, the cardigan passed among several cousins until at last falling into Emma’s hands.  Of course Emma also has the Navy blue cardigan, but that is part of her school uniform and hardly prized.

Emma goes about the sweater-washing stealthily and quietly.  Mouse-like.  She closes the bathroom door and considers the soap question.  Dial? Ivory? She reaches boldly for the Head and Shoulders, crossing her fingers it won’t tinge the cardigan blue.  The sink fills with sudsy lukewarm water.  Mom has fortified her with a modicum of sweater-washing know-how and Emma knows proper water temperature is paramount, although she is in the dark as to why.  That is typical. She is often told to do something a particular way but far less often told why.

She scrubs under the arms; the cuffs and elbows.  She rubs Dial to the spot where spaghetti sauce dropped.  She can smell the dirt coming free and a sheepy, meadowy smell.

After washing and rinsing, she scoops the sweater into a ball and presses the ball between her palms.  Hard.  Water streams between her fingers.  She is careful not to twist.  Twisting may cause the sleeves to lengthen or the body to widen or some other sweater malformity. Next she rolls the sweater in a bath towel, and squeezes out remaining water.

Rolling the sweater in additional towels would facilitate drying, but is nothing Emma will countenance.  Using more than one towel would be wasteful.

She considers the drying question next.  Atop the dryer or washing machine would be ideal, but Mom commandeers those spots.  She could ask, but then Mom will sigh and there will be guilt for further complicating Mom’s day.  Or Mom might discover Emma has done the sweater-washing improperly.  Maybe she used soap meant for company.  Maybe she rolled the sweater in a towel not meant for that.  Maybe she left a puddle of water.  Or she wiped up the puddle but used the wrong rag or towel.

She lays her sweater on her bed.  She fails to notice the light piercing the gap between the curtains, striking diagonally down the cardigan’s front.

At bedtime, she re-enters her room and discovers her sweater streaked with pink.  She pushes the sweater aside and crawls into the soggy bed.  She rolls about, seeking a dry spot, shedding tears.  A voice disturbs her crying. Jesus’? Mary’s? “Overcome the glum. Crying for cardigan dumb,” the voice commands.

She wipes her eyes and whispers “thank you,” into the dark.

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Kudos for Neighbors North

Neighbors North Gets Squishy

Blogger K. McMullen has not one, but two readings this week.  Is she nervous? A bit.

Sunday’s read at Café Louvre in Edmonds is going to be a piece of cake.  She gets ten minutes.  That’s almost enough time for a chapter.

Tomorrow’s the one she’s worried about: It’s About Time at the Ballard Public Library.  Six p.m.  Don’t be late, Kat.  You know what happens when you’re late.  You get booted off the open mike list.  All those bitten fingernails.  For nothing.

The IAT reading is a toughie.  K’s got only three minutos.  Barely enough time to clear her throat, to establish that crucial two-way audience-author rapport.  She was thinking of shrinking a Neighbors North post like she did back in December with “Sourdough Smackdown.”  She whittled away at “Heirloom Family Table Destiny.”  (Remember, NNers? Embedded in November’s “Rag Rug Part 2?”) but “Heirloom” wasn’t arcing.  She loved the bit about the table top shining with the patina of her forebears’ fingerprints, but she can’t expect one poeticism to hold her listeners’ attention.

Meanwhile, she’s been dusting off one of her earlier novels.  The earliest, in fact.  Emma Mulberry’s Whole Story.  She’s following Mark Coker’s step-by-step instructions for uploading to Smashwords.  She’s prepping EMWS for the Smashwords meat grinder.  Mark says if EMWS makes it through meat grinder intact, it will be uploadable (downloadable?) to e-readers, Kindles, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, libraries.  You name it.  To the skies.

She’s thinking of giving the IATers a taste of EMWS manana evening.  A whole three minutes worth.  Just enough to get her listeners situated at the crucial, book-opening, funeral scene with hints of all that stuff that led up to Mom’s death.

Anyway, if you’re thinking, wow, Kat, you sure are brave—two readings in one week, sending EMWS out for meat grinding, uploading, birthing to the skies—well, no.  Actually I’m not.  At least not on the readings part.  They don’t really faze me all that much.

But you know who is brave? My cousin’s daughter Lizzie H.  Lizzie is a mere 16-year-old high schooler, but she will read from her novel-in-progress Sunday at Café Louvre.  She is nervous about putting her work out there, but she’s doing it.  So kudos for Lizzie H.

And another brave person? Terry C., Ballard Real Change vendor.  Terry’s had some major health issues.  Cancer.  Lost his kidneys.  Broke a disk in his back yesterday.  But Terry’s out there, in his wheel chair, bundled up against the cold, selling Real Change.

And I know someone else who is brave.  You.  You are brave.  You’re facing the day.  You’re meeting whatever gets tossed your way the best way you know how.  So pat yourself on the back.  Smile at yourself in the mirror.  And go forth.

Kudos for Neighbors North

Cinderblocks’ Fifth Grader Awed by Writers at EdmondsStoryTime

So many writers! Emma's chaperone reads from Secret Santa Club

So many writers! Emma’s chaperone, Kathy McMullen, reads from Secret Santa Club

Fifth grader Emma Mulberry did something new Sunday.  She went to EdmondsStoryTime at Café Louvre in downtown Edmonds.  Café Louvre was filled with writers.  Emma counted at least a dozen.  A lover of books, Emma looked on, beaming, while her chaperone, Kathy McMullen, shook hands with EdmondsStoryTime host Jeff Stilwell, was warmly greeted by nationally known storyteller Naomi Baltuck, and made acquaintance with several other writers.  She listened, rapt and silent, as four writers read from their work.  She didn’t even squirm when Ms. McMullen read Secret Santa Club, a story in which Emma reluctantly stars. 

Kathy McMullen reading Secret Santa Club at Cafe Louvre

Kathy McMullen reading Secret Santa Club at Cafe Louvre