On Friday I went to a stranger’s house to read them a story

by childofwine

About two weeks ago I met a young Chicago photographer while out for drinks with one of the housemates. As alcohol greased the conversation we spoke about how hard it is to provoke creation on a regular and experimental, ie not polished product pressure, basis. She told me that she was part of a new collective of photographers and writers who were mostly recent art school grads looking to keep active and productive as they waded through the realities of living the life of the dreamer. Their goal was to host a monthly meeting where their members and friends and anyone who wanted could come and present their work which would be inspired by a give theme and prompt on the website.

Cool, sign me up.

This month’s theme was : Fear
and the prompt: what have they forgotten

to be interpreted and used as you wish

it wasn’t about the level of polish or the quality of the performance but one hundred percent about the peer support for making work inspired by an external provocation

ideas to be volleyed around afterwards as the entire group of artists and friends engaged in a vibrant and challenging conversation on how to keep challenging and supporting each other

gorgeous right?

——

Her One and Only Attempt at Building a Dam

  

Somehow

without really trying
Sofie has become a builder of dams 

granted she’s only built one so far
but it’s a great big moss covered one
reminding her of a picture she saw once
on the internet of an old Roman dam somewhere

like Wales or wherever

so far
her one and only dam attempt has been relatively successful
having held the waters in for a good twenty years
give or take

then again when she started building her dam she didn’t have time to consider
to anticipate     just how much water there would be 

and so for a good twenty years
give or take

a deep vast reservoire fed by unpredictable flooding from the upper regions has been rising pressing up against the ancient shoddily constructed barrier as the spider cracks skitter every which way

most of her time now is spent on maintenance
running back and forth patching cracks mopping up leaks
general wear and tear upkeeping

because unfortunately if you don’t build your dam right the first time you will forever struggle to hold back the inevitable flood

Sofie
Sof
or
thanks to the kids at school
Cat-a-strofie
exists every moment waking and asleep in a state of alert terror anticipating what 

disaster what
calamity
might befall her one and only dam
and end everything
yet somehow 

life keeps trudging on
and somehow
somehow
Sof never quite fucks it all up
not totally
because she knows that

somewhere deep down amongst the weeds and murky muddy waters of her dam reservoir 

a flicker of something is trying
to stay hidden and when
occasionally
it is caught in just the right light
something happens to Sof
she stands just a little taller
she breathes the air just a little smoother
and she makes bold adventurous choices
like tomorrow for instance
like signing up to jump out of a plane 

but the right light never lasts long
and as it changes
as the flicker’s flicker fades
Sof reels from the implications of her reckless decisions 

skipping over the possibility that she might simply have a good time
Sof drives straight off the side of the road crashing into the obvious inevitability that tomorrow is going to be a total disaster

chute shortage
flat tire
freak monster flash storm    

     

in those early days of diy dam engineering
there was no time to think of irrigation
no time for thinking of water quality control

 and so Sof’s dam reservoir has become stagnant

and so to no one’s surprise least of all a girl known by most as Catastrofie
the dam reservoir’s stagnant waters spawn legions of leeches
 

occasionally Sof musters up the nerve to go down to the water’s edge ostensibly on a flicker rescue mission

occasionally she squeezes her eyes shut as she thrusts her arm through that filmy stinky surface layer fishing around with her hand for that tiny elusive little flicker and out of the darkness the leeches leech on to her until she can hear nothing but the sound of sucking

mostly though when she’s not patching the wall

Sof just squats there at the edge of the shore looking at the oil slicks on the surface thinking that if ever she could ever build up the nerve to just dive in grab the flicker kick back up bubbles flowing from her nose breakkng the surface of the water like a gloriously young Pamela Anderson like Bo Derek in 10 like like fucking Flipper there is no question she would emerge a big black leech covered creature reduced in minutes to nothing but a sack of skin

and cushioned in the glove that was once her hand
a dull lustreless unremarkable pebble

but her recent aviation inclined actions have cause a shift in the reservoir and the change churns up the waters jostling the flicker
disturbing and disrupting the legions of leeches 

tomorrow as the bus pulls in to the tiny air field
weeds and dirt filling the cracks of the tarmac
five men stand in a clump waving
waivers and liability contracts 

the jumpmasters

my guardian angels
Sof thinks 

but they won’t be flying together
today everyone leaves the plane on their own

all alone
falling from the sky
under the watchful eyes of
the jumpmasters
guiding them back to earth
through one way radios strapped to the chest

and so they put on jumpsuits
and tighten up crotch straps
giggling like school girls at
the pretty young jumpmaster they dub
The Package

the morning will be spent jumping off of picnic benches rolling around on the grass simulating ‘perfect’ and ‘rough’ landings and the thought that this

the simulation of ‘rough’ landings

 implies a potential  pancake-splat kinda landing  barely causes a ripple in the reservoir

the leeches are so twist turned upside down in the roiling lake drunk on the historically unknown levels of oxygen pumping into the stale dank waters of Sof’s dam reservoir 

Kyle
beautiful small town Kyle
turns to her and whispers
I’ve never seen a plane take off before

his voice
the excitement
the joyful nervousness

ripples in waves through her body

and Sof will stand there on the ground staring up in the sky as Kyle floats down to the landing target and as he strides towards them she feels they are in the presence of a god

one who understands something about the ground they walk on
the air they breathe
that they who have yet to jump cannot hope to comprehend

she watches him          helmet under arm
chute billowing            like a cape
striding off the landing target with the bounce of an eight year old wearing the grin of an idiot who has been up in an aeroplane but never down 

Sof pictures herself in a light cotton dress
hair pinned up simply         classic
few tendrils framing her face in the wind as she is swept up
enveloped
protected

 tomorrow

when it’s finally her turn
to climb high up in the air in the vibrating shaking metal container
in the plane that shudders far more than she expected
crouched on the floor of that tiny cessna

jumpmaster Nick shouts out
are you ready for this 

for a moment Sof considers shouting back
are you fucking crazy 

but she doesn’t
she wants to fly
she wants to know
what all those grinning idiots down there know
 

she tries to breathe
and under all that gear
her clothes
the jumpsuit
the harness
the chute
underneath the weight of it all

she feels the air rush in
rush out
rush in
rush out

when she’s sitting there waiting for her turn

when it comes time for Sof to move to the open hole in the side of the plane where there clearly should be a door but isn’t she will not once question that she will return to earth on her own two feet

she will not once forget to breathe as the morning’s training kicks in

kneel facing the front of the plane
reach out right arm
grasp on to bar running
from tip  of wing
to the top of wheel
of the aeroplane

ok
next

left hand grabs on next to right
left leg steps onto outside ledge

arms walk towards the tip of the wing of the aeroplane as the feet slowly but surely find themselves standing on thin air

and this is how tomorrow afternoon
Sof will find herself hanging from the wing of an aeroplane 

the thing is

the funny thing is Sof’s not struggling to hold on it’s really not so different from just standing around on the ground with one’s arms over one’s head

 Sof hangs there

and with each breath takes in the whole wide world
and with each breath the leeches get more confused
and with each breath the cracks creep along the dam wall 

Sof blinks and slowly turning to look at the jumpmaster crouched in the doorframe of the plane

let go

Sof blinks slowly oh
he’s shouting at her

let go Sof

and then the most insane thing in the world happens

fifteen hundred feet up in the sky
Sof hangs from the wing of an aeroplane

and then she lets go

her arms open wide like she practiced in the morning and for one perfect moment

 

 

 

 

                  there is nothing

 

and then
a jolt snaps her out of her swan dive
pulls her upright and alert
chute’s open

oh right
the parachute is open
 

right handle turn          check
left handle turn             check
both handles                  break         

woah
check

for a moment Sof’s not falling she’s just

hanging out                   suspended

 midair with nothing to do but look for her little plane so tiny off in the distance 

and then as she takes in the earth curving out in all directions as she realises she feels more grounded than she’s ever felt in her life as she realises that she’s never felt so at peace with the world with her life with herself

as all this happens Sof springs a leak from her nose and a crack appears in her right eye 

she can’t be the first to find herself hanging
suspended midair weeping like a baby

 it’s not that Sof is sad it’s simply that
fifteen hundred feet above ground

in this moment that feels far too normal

air is moving freely in and out of her body
air is interacting with the stagnant waters inside 
something
gives way starts to build pick up force
rush up up up

for a moment Sof’s lungs seem to suck in all the atmosphere
when from her mouth 
the stagnant leech filled water erupts like a geyser 

the water flows and flows and flows some time before it slows
before it eventually trickles
to a stop

looking down Sof watches as the earth absorbs all that water contained all those years inside that dam of her own construction

she watches the leeches wriggle and shrivel up in the sun as underneath her the tarmac emerges

she takes a big breath and goes in to check out the damage 

the dam is in ruins
fish flop in little puddles
Sof carefully carries them to the deeper pools where
lying there in one of the pools
bigger than she remembered
brighter than she’d seen in a long time

the flicker

there is a crackling in her ear
hi sof jumpmaster Nick here
you’re looking great up there
time to review your landing steps

and 

even though she’s going to come down a little fast land a little hard
she bounces towards her friends with the bounce of an eight year old the grin of an idiot who’s hung from the wing of a plane          and then let go

 

 

 

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