I haven’t shared much of my creative writing in awhile so I thought I’d post a couple of my favorite pieces from a writing group I participated in a few months back.
This was a common exercise: someone picks out a random word and you have about ten minutes to take off from there. It’s fun, it loosens up your brain-—my sometimes glacially-compacted vocabulary-—and it helps you find your voice. In my case, that voice tended to be ironic and absurd.
She named the twins Trauma and Drama. No one ever knew exactly why. There were stories and explanations. She used to be a stage actress. The girl’s father was foreign—from Guam or something like that. And this—the lamest—from my ever understated mother: “She was a little eccentric.” Trauma and Drama. I knew why she came up with those names. The woman was batshit nuts.
Trauma and Drama followed me through kindergarten, grade school and all the way to junior high. I always thought of them as neglected porcelain dolls. They were identical. Straight black hair. Skin the color of dishwater. Big black pupils that took up all of their eyes. They always looked like they were about to cry, but they never did, at least I never saw them crying. You couldn’t help but be fascinated by them, and I noticed they only had three outfits that they alternated between themselves through the week: one gray, one blue, one pink over-sized shirt, all the same style, each embroidered around the collar with tiny hearts, that they wore through all the seasons, paired with a pair of dingy, baggy jeans. I wondered how they decided who got to wear which one each morning.
Kids used to laugh a little at them when they walked into the lunch room or came out on the playground, always hand-in-hand. I think they spooked the teachers. They never got called on in class, and wherever they were sitting, the teacher seemed to wander to the other side of the room. Sure, they got teased, but they stuck together. Trauma and Drama. They were all each other had.
“There but for the grace of God,” Grandma said when the big birch tree split open in a lightning storm and missed hitting the house by an arm’s reach.
“There but for the grace of God,” she’d say three, four, five times during the nightly news. Stories about the police finding missing children or hunger relief arriving in some far off country or the hero of the week who dove into the icy water to rescue the passenger from a car that flew off a bridge.
She also said it when some guy would hold the door open for her at the mall. Or when the weatherman predicted rain on a sunny day. Or when she found her reading glasses wedged beneath the sofa cushion.
I’ll tell you: it all got a little tired living with Granny. And it made me wonder what is there left for her to proclaim to be a miracle.? My lord—she’d seen it all! And doesn’t such a reckless overuse of a proclamation cheapen the real acts of grace, the real miracles when they actually happen? Taking all these thoughts together, I’ve come to the conclusion that religion is a load of bunk.