When I first saw Mave, I was in a state of panic.
My friend Christine, who lived two blocks down from me, called early that morning: “You’ve got to come down here, quickly!”
“What’s wrong? Is it Shannon?” The cigarette I had in one hand remained unlit. The coffee I had on the table beside me grew cold, time stood still. Shannon was Christine’s then one or two year old daughter. Or maybe three, I can’t remember now, it’s been too long. She was old enough to walk around and talk, so probably three. “Is she okay?”
“Just get over here. Hurry up, just hurry.” Christine said irritably. The line went dead. It was Canada Day. I had been expected at Christine’s later that afternoon and the day was already hot with moisture.
I dressed as quickly as I could and even went out the door without brushing my teeth, something I don’t normally do. I arrived at Lee’s place a scant ten minutes later and out of breath. I found Lee in the back garden of her house. She rented the bottom floor and had run of the back deck and yard. She was growing tomato plants that year.
Playing in amongst the leaves (the plants were growing, but not doing very well) was Mave. She was a little ball of fluff on four legs and she was chasing something, probably her own shadow. She was having a good time doing it, too.
“She’s probably six or eight weeks along.” Christine said. “The cat across the street in the boarding house had a litter of kittens again. When the cats get old enough, they chuck them out.” She motioned to the kitten. “I found this one under the porch this morning.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I went out to have a smoke and I heard some meowing under the porch. So I went down on my stomach and crawled in. I found this one stuck under the rocks that are beneath there.” She lit a cigarette now and passed it to me, then lit one for herself. “I just pulled her out. Such a small meow-she needs a good home, you know.”
I really didn’t think about it. I should have. At the time, my boyfriend was very ordered. He didn’t like disruption’s to his routine and also didn’t like it when I did things impulsively, which I happen to do often. I knew that bringing home a kitten would raise some kind of a ruckus, but it didn’t matter. I knew she was mine.
So I emptied out my bag (at the time, it was one of those one shoulder messenger bags that were popular. Mine was silver and it was from the GAP. Always the fashionista, I guess) and put her inside of it. I was wearing my bag on the front with the strap around my neck so I could hold her on the way home. She later peed on it, perhaps out of fright and I could never get the smell out-but that’s beside the point.
When I got her home, I put her down on the floor. I hadn’t named her yet and I had no idea what to call her. I watched her for a bit, waiting to see what she would do. There was no cowering for her, no hiding under the table or running to cower under the bed.
She happily pranced around the living room, went under the couch and around again, leaped up onto the arm chair, then ran down to the kitchen to the bathroom. I just stood and watched her. The little kitten explored the bedrooms, leaped up onto the bed, smelled for which pillow was mine, stepped upon it, circled around a bit and went to sleep, the sunshine turning her multi-colored fur alight.
I sat on the bed and petted her as she slept, or sort of. More of a happy cat doze thing, the trance state that humans are always trying to reach-it’s a cat thing I guess. I petted her fur and decided to name the feisty feline after Maeve, Goddess of Witches, fierce and unafraid of anything. She had just come right in as if she had owned the place. She seemed to have the soul of an inquisitive warrior.
It also helped at the time that I was reading a Maeve Binchy novel-I had recently finished reading Evening Class. I had also loved reading Circle of Friends and Light a Penny Candle. They were beautiful novels that told of hardships and happy endings. I figured that the kitten would be one of the latter, given her adventurous spirit.
I wanted to give her something a little different, though, if I was going to name her, something that could be hers. So I dropped an e and she became Mave.
Mave would later live up to her name. When I was taking a shower, she would later leap up to the window box from the toilet. If she was feeling extra adventurous, she would leap up and walk along the top of the shower ledge. We had one of those sliding glass door things and she would balance along and look down at you, even with the water spraying, always with something to say in her squeaky meow.
I was nineteen at the time, I’m 35 now so that makes sixteen years, at least if I’ve done my math right (of which there is a strong possibility I have not). Mave would have been seventeen this July. I thought I’d had her longer, for eighteen years or more, or perhaps it just seemed that way. I’ve had pets before, almost always cats, and while I’ve loved them, they were very independent creatures and didn’t much care that I lived in their apartment.
Mave seemed to need me though and I her. She slept at my feet when she was small enough to sleep between them (I sleep on my back) and then beside me as she grew bigger. On her side, we’ve been through one broken leg (which mended fine thank goodness), two litters of kittens (seven in total) and one mangled tail (still feel horrible about that) and lots of treats.
On my side, we’ve been through four major relationships, seven house moves and one marriage, a major career change and countless contract jobs, hundreds of short stories, scores of manuscripts, and more since then while I continue to work on my writing and my art. When she was younger, Mave would sit on my lap as I typed and would sit by me as I read. It didn’t matter where I was in the apartment, she was always with me. The character in my novel The Ghost Mirror is what I imagined Mave would be like, if she were human that is. So she lives on, even if she is gone.
She kept me company from 1994 to 2013, for sixteen (almost seventeen) years of company, love and locality. Mave was my constant in a life that moved and changed around me. She was my touchstone in things that did not make sense. She was possibly my best friend. I’m sure others would agree with that sentiment.
I’ll miss you Monkey.
It was funny, she thought.
To think they had thought the radio antiquated, that the sound of something that came from the airwaves instead of tablet, a glowing screen, a glowing screen had ever held any meaning. What she really missed were books. She only had one with her.
No text or paper remained, but when she saw a radio or a stereo, she turned on the radio. There were still others out there, ones that she could find-if only she were close enough to them and if she could find the signal. She would flip the knobs and wonder if she’d hear anything. A lot of the time, there would be no power or no batteries in the thing. Other times, the signal was weak and filled with static, but still she hoped.
With every knob she turned, every button she pressed, every flickering screen she slid her fingers over, there was the chance she’d hear a voice.
For her, that was enough.
This time, however, when she reached out and turned the knob of the little transistor radio-it was caked with grime and tucked into the dirt; the sound she heard wasn’t static. It was people talking. She wondered who was having the conversation, who would have been listening in. She wondered what kind of person would listen in on someone else. She also knew that, with the range of the radio, the conversation had to be coming from nearby. She turned the knob and there was a start of static. She said a small prayer. These kinds of radio’s always lasted, they always worked-well, almost always.
This time, however, instead of hoping for words to come to her and give her hope, this time, she listened to them being given to her and wondered where they came from.
You could open any lock in the world, really. All you had to have was patience.
Which was something Daniel didn’t have a lot of-he would be the first to admit it. Which is why it had taken him such a long time to figure everything out. He had never been inside a library before. The shelves of books were intimidating and oppressive. He wondered why bookstores were far more enjoyable and thought that it probably had something to do with the exchange of money.
There were too many books to read, so he went with an eReader. What he read and learned had led him here. He hoped that his years of study hadn’t led him to ruin or failure. This lock was different. It had started with the books but then he had to understand what he read in order to find the word, he had to find the puzzle and then solve it. Seemed simple enough at first.
Turns out, not so much. But he had found it. Despite many hours of study and hardship, seven years of learning, practicing and teaching, he had found it. He looked down at the word on his eReader screen. That was it, the answer to the puzzle.
Daniel pressed the word on his eReader, it began to glow a soft, gorgeous purple followed by a comforting blue. This moved to lavender then to a light, effervescent blue. The screen faded and then grew brighter until he had to look away. Daniel wondered if he had put the brightness settings too high.
As the light began to dim, Daniel took his hand away from his eyes. The eReader was gone. In its place was a book. He opened it and words flowed across the page: where do you want to go?
The truth was, he was afraid of technology.
He had progressed to the MyBuddy XL3 Tablet Unit but the thought of the MyBuddyHDXL13 absolutely terrified him. He didn’t even have a proper hand unit. He still carried his old hand unit, that he had kept But had given away the MyBuddy XL3 Tablet Unit; even that, eventually.
He had always played the same game. He built. He waited. He quested. It was all very quiet and bloodless with good graphics and sound. He still played it. Sometimes, when he should be writing or working on his current novel. It was almost two years now.
Except for a brief period when the game went offline, during the Blackout, he had always played it. The Blackout had lasted for two weeks and then the game came back online. When the game returned, it was as if he had regained a part of himself. He wondered how the gamers had managed to get it back online, there being little left.
As the world progressed around him, people’s pockets filling with True1 Units, SAEDs, KMini’s and other such things, Justin still held on to his MyBuddy 2nd Generation Hand Unit. They built these things tough back then, he thought.
There was something inside of it that he couldn’t let go of. He still played the game now, in fact. He had a cellular unit. It was old though, perhaps by five years. He didn’t get many calls anymore.
As he played and made his cast of people do what he wanted, or was prompted to do, he wondered what it would be like to live there, within the system, as these people did, the people in the game. Some would come and go from his game board; other characters would die in quests. Other characters would simply disappear.
The world he had known, and the people within it, had passed him by. He had thought it would. He had known that time was really a long and lovely thing if you let it. Justin had experienced a good life, despite the lack of faith in technology.
Justin also freely acknowledged the hold that it had on him. He would read on his MyBuddy2, stay in touch with others; write his thoughts down if anyone found the hand unit. Justin hoped that they would. He also wished he could let the game go. Even if he didn’t write anymore, texting in one letter at a time-there weren’t even real keys anymore for crying out loud.
He would be happy to either live or die now but something was troubling him. He had been playing the game a week ago and something had happened. His MyBuddy2 had flashed briefly, as if installing an update. It hadn’t done that in years. He had figured out how to rig the battery when he needed to, so that he could keep it going.
There hadn’t been wi-fi in twenty years and the internet hadn’t existed in fifteen. Everything had fallen. Now all that remained were emails sent that he would never receive a response to, MyGrafittiWall posts that would never be read, portions of manuscripts that he would never publish.
Justin wanted to keep a record of what he had done, if someone ever found the unit. He hated his MyBuddy now. They sure built those pieces of crap to last, but for Justin, he wished it would die, fade out. However, every morning (if he was able to sleep), he tried turning it on. If it worked and the screen blinked to life, he would hide and he would play the game.
If not, he would just hide. It was pretty much all that he could do. That was pretty much anything you could do, so he did it-but mostly, he hid and played the game. He built buildings, he sent his characters on quests. He knew they were real people, knew that they were really prisoners that were within suspended animation.
Justin knew this. However, the game makers had assured him that the prisoners wouldn’t feel anything, that they were only doing the tasks we sent them on in their heads, they were not real people. He was vaguely disgusted at first, that he was just making graphic representations of people do shit to earn experience points and coins to advance in an app.
Thankfully, the developers had done something a little different. They knew that wifi and internet were shitty at best, that it wasn’t always possible to download the updates. So if you played the game, each new character you were able to unlock would be your own, unique to you.
Nobody else would get those holographic people turned knights, druids, clerics. It was another way for them to end out their sentence, if they got death row. It was another way to avoid that kind of end and seek another. Yes, if prisoners died during the game, they died, much like those that had disappeared. You could always unlock more, however, if you needed to.
No matter what happened, no matter what wifi and power outage and lack of internet, those prisoners were yours, downloaded to your phone, tablet or mobile device. That was their ploy, anyway, to get you to spend your own credits.
He had paid to unlock three of the prisoners he really wanted and had unlocked four others through various quests, challenges and puzzles, usually at the expense of the prisoner. If your prisoner made it through the challenge, or you solved your puzzle correctly, you got to keep him or her.
Justin had just collected his fifth prisoner when the Blackout had occurred. He had six when some of the juice had come back on. When his screen had blinked the other day he had seven prisoners. At first, the new prisoner looked like a simple, ordinary man. Until the day the prisoner had grown his hair a bit longer and his goatee in. The Justin knew that he was looking down at a little digital version of himself. He didn’t understand how that could be possible, but he had learned to roll with the punches and take some risks. He had put his little avatar on some cool and dangerous missions. There were one or two where he had almost not survived the peril. Then a thought occurred to him-two actually:
If he was still playing the game with real prisoners, held static in suspended animation, where were they? If he was playing with real live people inside the game, and they were still there, they had to exist, right?
The second thought that Justin had was this: If he was playing with real live prisoners, with no wifi and internet, why was he inside the game?
Well, the imputes for Talking Poems was entering a contest. Wattpad was running the Attys, a poetry award. They wanted different styles of poetry and I really only stuck with the one style, so I didn’t place in the competition. I’m not very good at following the rules (I once wrote a play about God judging the victims of a car crash to see who gets to keep their soulds when I was supposed to write about a judge in a courtroom making a decision on a criminals life. Go figure.)
However, the idea was there. I thought it would be neat to write a small collection of poems about language and how we speak. The first poem, Difficulty Speaking, was written for a college course and got an A+ (*ahem*). I thought if I was going to try and write a collection of poetry (something I haven’t really done before, though I’ve written a lot of poetry, I don’t usually put it out there), I would focus on that style.
This would accomplish two things: it would get me off my lazy behind and write (at the time it had been a few weeks since I had written anything) and it would get me writing with a goal (I work best with a deadline, I guess).
So I wrote ten poems and called it done. The collection itself had its own ideas, however. I went on to write five more poems to round the whole thing out. So that’s pretty cool.
I thought about a collection that could combine real life conversations I’ve had or heard (Bus Babies, Difficulty Speaking, He is Everywhere, Past Resident, The Casual Vacancy, Yellow Bottle, Violent Sound, Smoke, Snippet Bees, What Awaited Me) with other poems that are more whimsical in nature (G and the D in an E, On the Yellow Brick Road, Sometimes/Words, Translation)
The real and the fantasy would have one main link: I wanted to examine language in different ways. Some poems in this collection are actual conversations or dialogue’s caught on paper. They happened as they are written; I just tried to capture them. Others, more obviously, are made up, but each poem looks at what we say and what we do not say. I tried to let the conversations stand out a bit. I wanted to examine how we talk to each other.
As I listened and wrote, I experimented with the form of a poem itself. If language was going to be a focus to the poems, I also wanted to play around with the page, the space and the words. I had fun-I hope you did, too.
If the poems are a little loud, I’m sorry about that. I talk enough for three people.
The poems are free. The entire collection of Talking Poems is being given out for free. It will eventually consist of a completed eBook and a printed version. Right now, Talking Poems is available in multiple formats. If you’d like to read the current version of Talking Poems, you can do it in one of two other ways:
You can read the collection for free using WattPad. You can do this online using your computer, or using your phone and the app. This is where I place the VERY rough cuts of the poems that make up Talking Poems. You can check it out here:
You can also download the current edition of Talking Poems via Amazon .ca, .com or .co.uk. The eBook is $0.99 and will be updated once this project is final. The eBook can be read on your Kindles or on your Amazon compatible device with apps such as your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android Devices, etc.
Talking Serially will be available on my web site at www.jamiesonwolf.com I had considered a few other ways to try this, but figured, why not just stay home? I hope you enjoy this serial poetry experiment. This poem is available to you for free in .mobi, .pdf and .epub formats. I hope you enjoy them.
In whichever way you read them, be it serially, online or in eBook format, I hope you enjoy them.