2. Kristen & the Wolf meets a Limited Attention Span

We’ve all been there. Talking to a friend or hanging out in a group, and suddenly something happens.

The back-and-forth ceases to go forth. It’s just you talking and the person you’re talking to is now somewhere else – metaphorically speaking.

What happened? Any number of things – a ding, a ring, a super-loud Katy Perry ringtone. Or simply the silent arrival of an email.

It’s become increasingly common for our lives, conversations, and thoughts to be interrupted by the electronic gadgets crying out for our attention. The cumulative effect of these interruptions is making it difficult to see anything through to completion – a thought, a conversation, a project.

But I say it’s not too late. I say we take back our attention span.

Be free! When you’re talking to your friend and the phone rings, ignore it. When you’re writing a screenplay and two emails pop up on your Outlook, save them for later! I believe it’s these little choices that will dictate the strength of our focus.

Let’s stand up to our gadgets and show them who’s boss. Agreed?

Just a minute, I need to get up before my legs fall asleep.


2. Part One: Kristen To The Rescue

It’s tough being 11 years old sometimes. You have to do a lot of things you don’t want to do, and you can’t do a lot of things you do want to do. You depend on grownups to take care of you and they don’t always do that very well. It’s enough to make you run away.

Which is what Kristen did.

Perhaps run is not the best way to describe it – drifted is more what she did. The school bus was grumbling down the street and Kristen thought once more about how much she did NOT want to get on it. The woods across the street seemed to beckon, and she simply went. The bus stopped and picked up the other kids while Kristen disappeared into the woods.

She drifted around all day, not bothering to mark her trail and really not at all concerned about going back. She inspected wildflowers and dribbled her fingers in puddles. She talked to a garter snake, which led her to a beaver dam. The beavers were all gone, but a few fish played Marco Polo nearby.

Kristen got into the water with the fish and touched their shimmering scales. The sunlight warmed the water, but it was still early spring and much too cold for a little girl to be getting herself soaked. The fish seemed to realize this as they nibbled at her fingers and nudged her knees.

Eventually the fish came to the conclusion that the best way to get rid of her would be to leave her alone (thus the expression). Kristen was sorry to see the fish go, and wondered what she had done to frighten them. But she was beginning to get awfully chilly and hungry.

An imposing evergreen stood on the other side of the creek, with boughs forming a natural teepee from high up the tree trunk to the mossy ground. Nestled inside the green tent, Kristen ate the peanut butter sandwich that Mrs. Bibbs had packed for her lunch. In here, it was not warm, but it was less cold. And it was dark.

Kristen fell asleep.

When she woke, it was difficult to tell anything had happened. She was still curled up next to the base of the tree and it was still vaguely bright outside the closely woven pine needles. But something had happened, Kristen could tell.

Parting the branches, Kristen peered around the still forest. The air was still. The creek was still. Kristen ventured out and nearly fell. She had tripped on something. She looked down, but couldn’t see any impediments. Another two steps and the same thing happened.

Kristen knelt down and felt the ground with her hands. It was a large indentation – about twice the width of her body, and longer than she could reach with one hand in either direction. Kristen crawled along, feeling with her hands, and soon there was another indentation. Slightly to the right this time, but similarly shaped.

She went on like this for some time, feeling for the impressions in the dirt and crawling beside them. She was so engrossed she barely noticed a light rain was beginning to fall, and with it a deep mist clouded the forest. Kristen just kept following the shapes, crawling  and scrambling over roots and rocks and flotsam.

Thankfully she caught herself in time. With her vision impaired and her focus so absorbed, Kristen almost didn’t notice the gaping hole in the ground. But instinctively she put a hand out anyway, reaching out. Because someone else had not caught themselves in time. Someone was in that ditch.

“Hello?” Kristen called. She had been nothing but calm all the day long, and not a thing had ruffled her – not missing school, not seeing a snake, not getting wet and cold in the creek, not even getting lost in the woods with no clue as to how to find her next meal. But now, knowing someone was in danger, Kristen was suddenly on the verge of panic.

“Are you okay?” She called, again reaching blindly toward nothing. In desperation she looked around her and found a pine cone. She hurled it into the ditch and it made contact with a dull thud. “Answer me! Please!”

She was rewarded with a thick roar. It was a groggy roar, not frightening in the least. Well, yes incredibly frightening but this is Kristen’s language we’re speaking here. And to her ears, it was a sleepy, disoriented, docile yawn of a roar.

She reached her hand out again. “Come on! Come out of there!”

The roar sounded again, more alert this time. There is no word-for-word translation, but Kristen understood enough to know there was no way this creature, whatever it is, could get itself out of the ditch alone.

(To be continued)

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Quite a Character

Warning: I don’t really feel like doing this.

Day 2:
Create a character with personality traits of someone you love, but the physical characteristics of someone you don’t care for.

I didn’t think this would be too tough – I like coming up with characters. But usually characters just pop into my head and tell me about themselves. Mixing DNA on my own is a little tricky and forced.

Maybe blogging this 12-day challenge wasn’t such a great idea.

Too late for wimps. Here goes…

She drew stares as she rounded the garden gate. Her rectangular Ray-Bans and angular haircut were visible a full foot above the gray and graying heads of her fellow tea party mates. A glance at her feet explained the incredible height, sporting red leather wedges with a full six inches of platform between the soles of her feet and the shimmering slate.

Mrs. Persson, the diminutive hostess of the afternoon, extended her hand. “So lovely to have you, Amanda dear. What a striking um-” gesturing to the striped and variegated swaddling of cobalt blue and persimmon that perhaps could best be described as a dress, “Delightful. Please, won’t you help yourself to a sandwich?

Following Mrs. Persson’s lead, Amanda approached the dainty table of snacks and reached a gloved hand for a plate. She glanced at the two ladies in blue and grey, who pretended to be studying the edibles intently. Mrs. Persson addressed them.

“Mrs. Porter, Miss Snow, allow me to introduce Mrs. Blake. She’s in London only for today, so it’s really wonderful that she could spare the time to join us. Oh! I see I have another guest arriving- I trust I may leave her to your care?”

Not pausing to discover whether her trust was well-placed or not, Mrs. Persson was off to welcome the newcomer. “How do you do,” said Amanda with a sweet smile.

“Charmed,” breathed Mrs. Porter through a pinched nose – or was it Miss Snow? “I never miss the Annual Garden Party In The Garden. Such a perfect day for it, too.”

The other one clucked and nodded with an emphatic mm-hmm. “Last year it rained all night and into the morning. Should’ve seen the grass after – it looked like a rugby field. Why, you would have sunk in to your knees!” Gesturing to Amanda’s stilt-like footwear.

She glanced down. “Oh, yes I daresay my shoes would never have done. They are a bit of a trick to wear, especially on these stones. But you know I do so love being high up.”

“Where do you come from, Mrs.- is it Blake? Mrs. Persson mentioned your leaving town soon.”

Amanda fidgeted and glanced round. “I’m from here actually – but I’m traveling just now on tour with a new show, Nature’s Nanny.”

One of the Porter/Snow gasped. “Of course, Amanda Blake! Well then you’re the one who is to perform this afternoon!”

Amanda smiled and edged out of the way of a black-clad teenager pushing a dour old woman to the refreshment table. Porter/Snow was going on:

“I loved – no, adored your performance at the Hall. I went there last Friday with my husband,” (this one must be Mrs. Porter after all… Porter=blue, Snow=grey, got it. “When you raised up at the end and sang so brilliantly about your life’s dedication to the children, just before- before-” here a hand went to her eyes. “Oh, it was thrilling,” she finished at last.

Amanda smiled and murmured her thanks, but the Porter speech attracted other ears. In minutes the crowd of tea ladies were assembled around their heroine in disguise. Even the joyless widow in her wheelchair pulled Amanda down to whisper in her ear.

“I don’t care what the press says. You sing like an angel. Even if you look like a heathen.”

After tea, Amanda was convinced to sing something. As she stood before the crowd of expectant faces, she felt a little shy. Then she picked a note and started to sing, and all other thoughts left her. She was at once lost in the simple joy of performance.