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Cormier & McGraw – May 2013

Darren Cormier and Carol McGraw exchanged art and words. Carol shared this painting, “I Can Soar Above – In My Dreams,”  with Darren:

Carol McGraw, I Can Soar Above - In My Dreams, 2011, acrylic and charcoal on paper, 12 x 16 inches

In response, Darren wrote this piece of flash fiction:


Jonathan woke one day floating through a cumulus cloud, the realization of the dreams of millions: human-powered flight. Arms spread, he studied the blue and white swirls of the ocean, the staggered blinking of lights across the world; the fractal beauty of mountain peaks; cascading dunes of the desert. He could see the fluttering of the wings of birds in migratory flight. It started raining. And then the sun went down, turning his soaking body into an icebox. He tried to speed up by stretching his arms over his head. Nothing. He tried to tumble. He lowered his head thinking this was the means by which he could control his elevation. Again nothing. Regardless of time of day or weather: rain, sleet, snow, smog, unbearable heat, blinding sun, breath-turning-to-icicles cold, it didn’t matter. He could survey all of humanity: arson of oil refineries; twisted metal after an airplane crash; withering looks of contempt upon the homeless and maligned; indiscriminate bombings ruining uneventful Sunday dinners, shards of shattered windows landing in bowls of rice. He saw strings of origami swans swaying from a tree; a child giving her shoes to someone in greater need, biking home shoeless, pedals digging into her feet. He moved along like a mechanized belt. No speeding up, slowing down, corkscrewing through a canyon, swooping over the treetops, somersaulting. No laying on his back and staring up at the now far too confining sky. The capricious fate of one who had only wanted to help others.

* * * * *

Darren shared this short story with Carol:

It’s Hard to Dance with an Axe on Your Shoulder

Divorced friends would ask their secret. Carl would make up a story about respect, not arguing too much, always doing what she said. Charlene would answer, “I let him go fishing on Sundays.” But they each knew what kept them in it. Joshua was ten years old now, and Carl suspected that Josh knew things weren’t right, that they probably never had been. Most of their time was spent apart, she in front of the TV, knitting or reading a book, Carl downstairs in the workshop, pretending to build things. There wasn’t an active dislike and they didn’t argue much. It was actually a relatively event-free marriage. They were just more like co-workers than husband and wife. They didn’t go on vacation, out to eat, or to the movies; they were very rarely seen in public without Josh, except for required events like company holiday parties. They helped Josh with his homework, took out the trash, and paid their bills on time. They averaged one love-making session a month. Afterwards they would talk about the next day, Josh’s soccer practice, if they were out of coffee, as if going through a checklist.

When asked how they met, Charlene would give a wistful look and say at a dance she saw this big man dressed like a lumberjack, with an axe slung over his shoulder. Other men wanted to dance with her, but this lumberjack scared them all away with his dirty looks and his axe. After no one asked her to dance, she walked across the room. “You going to ask me to dance or what?” He looked down at her. “Would you like to?” “Only if you get rid of that axe.” “Lady, I haven’t put this down in fifty years”—sometimes the number changed—“and I’m not going to start now.” “Well, then I won’t dance with you,” and she marched back to the other side of the room. The band started playing “My Girl,” however, and he leaned the axe against the wall and walked across the room. They danced all night.

Over the years variations were told, one where he held on to the axe while they danced; one where he accidentally dropped it and broke his foot, and she was there to mend it. In another version he was the prize at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box.

To Josh, the story was that she had been stuck at the very top of a never-ending beanstalk growing through the clouds, trapped by an evil prince. She prayed and screamed for someone to save her. And one day the beanstalk was chopped down and as she fell through the sky, Carl caught her. He then took the beanstalk, with the evil prince still lodged there, and heaved it all the way into the ocean. All rainstorms were the result of the evil prince trying to get back at Carl.

In response, Carol created this painting, entitled “Tall Tales and Empty Hearts:”

Tall Tales and Empty Hearts

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 28, 2013 3:38 pm

    Darren and Carol are incredible collaborators. Both the stories and the images leave me shaken to the core. They are at once original and universal in content.

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