Drabble 153 – Abstemious

My family is extremely Norweigian. Not necessarily in the tradition sense—though we are extremely fond of saying uff da, but in the food sense. I’ve never tried it, but my grandparents love lutefisk. We keep pickled herring in the fridge for Christmas. It’s not as bad as it sounds, though trying it once was enough for me.

Lefse, on the other hand, is a beloved favorite. It’s a thin, crepe-like potato pancake we smear with butter and sprinkle with sugar. The dough is sweet and delicate, and practically melts in your mouth.

The problem is that nearly every Swedish bakery in our area has closed up, and lefse is a laborious task. You have to rice potatoes (essentially putting them through a special press that turns them into thin grains), mix in flour, sugar, salt, butter, and cream, and turn that into a dough. Once it’s cool, it needs to be rolled out with a special grooved pin to 1/8th of an inch or less, then tossed onto a 400-degree griddle with a special stick. Cook it too long and it gets bitter, not enough and it’s still doughy.

I know all this because I spent some eight hours making it this weekend. And I do mean painstaking—my shoulders are still aching from all the rolling, my hands are burned from bumping the griddle.

But it was worth it. Not because it tasted good, but because I now appreciate how much work goes into it. Because I’ve started a new tradition where I make it for my family, especially since this first time it was a surprise.

And also because it tasted good. There are more burned spots and not-quite-cooked areas on my lefse, but it’s still delicious. 

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 152 – Haliography

A photo of the ocean.

I still have dreams about the island where I grew up. There’s some half-true version of it in my mind, where everything is both bigger and smaller, where everything is the same and entirely different. There are large fields of grass where there should be a highway, and the ocean extends forever instead of butting up against the other landmasses nearby. But the ocean is shallow, and you can walk out and out and out and the water will never go above your waist.

I return there again and again when I sleep, running over these imaginary fields, stepping into a shallow ocean that never ends. Even when the dreams are nightmares—they often are—there’s something comforting about returning to this place that I know so well despite it being entirely unfamiliar.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 151 – Flatulopetic

John Collier's "A Glass of Wine with Caesar Borgia," depicting Cesare and Lucrezia Borgias next to Pope Alexander. Cesare and Pope Alexander are seated, while Lucrezia stands.
John Collier

Lucrezia Borgia probably wasn’t a poisoner. It’s a myth that persisted through the ages, likely because the Borgia family had many enemies who benefitted from spreading rumors about them. And despite the common “poison is a woman’s weapon,” refrain, most poisoners are men.

But the myths persist. Lucrezia murdered her family’s way to power thanks to a ring containing foxglove or arsenic, it’s said, despite there being no evidence that such a thing ever happened.

For some reason, I was disappointed to learn that it wasn’t true, that she was just another victim (likely not innocent, but a victim nonetheless) of rumor.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 150 – Widdershins

A photo of many mushrooms growing together.

It’s been a while since I last found time to write a drabble. Or rather, it’s been a while since I found time to post—I think I wrote this one two weeks ago, but failed to actually read through and schedule it.

I’m not particularly sorry, either. It used to be that missing a week would have made me impossibly stressed, despite these drabbles not getting a lot of views and the likelihood of somebody coming to yell at me about it being slim. Still, I think a lot about what I owe to others, about what I promise, about what I’m allowed.

Writing these short stories every week started as an exercise. A writer should have a blog, according to my English professors, but what could I blog about? I should get used to having my fiction read by others, but how? Can I dedicate the time every week to train myself to post with regularity?

I could, it turns out. And I still can, when it’s a priority. But writing these was once my primary way to put my writing in front of people and isn’t anymore. Now, these 100-word stories are a respite from whatever I’m working on, a place to flex my creative muscles and challenge myself. This blog so far might have sounded like I’m leading up to saying that drabbles are going away forever while I focus on, I don’t know, more “important” work, but they’re not. I like them, and I like what they force me to do, so I’ll keep doing them—though perhaps with more lapses, because as it turns out, a writer should have a blog, but that blog is practice for other things that may have to take precedence.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 149 – Hagiocracy

An image of stained glass saints

I don’t know a lot about religion. It wasn’t part of my upbringing, and my brushes with it were… let’s go with unpleasant, which is more about me and my state of mind at an impressionable age than with any individual religion.

Whatever my feelings about it, I find discussing religion fascinating. I don’t mind it when proselytizers come to my door, provided they’re not going to badmouth the poor or anybody else right to my face (I say this because it’s happened; that particular missionary isn’t welcome at my door any more). I like hearing about peoples’ beliefs, about what brings them hope. I don’t have to believe the same things to connect with others about my need for solace and guidance and hope.

I don’t really have anything I’m getting at, here. I think that things that bring us hope are good, provided they don’t bring us hope at the expense of others, which I feel should be obvious but unfortunately isn’t. I don’t know if I believe the world will ever be as good as I can imagine it to be, but it’s important to me to imagine it anyway.

Here’s a drabble.

Drabble 148 – Murdermonger

A photo of a rack of clothing up close. There are lots of different textures.

I think a lot about revenge for a person who doesn’t think of herself as “vengeful.” I really do believe that living well is the best revenge, which is why I try to live exceptionally well.

I don’t. I struggle a lot, as most people my age do. I have vet bills, student loans, credit card debt. I also have good friends, a wonderful family, and work that genuinely fills me with joy. I have a book coming out in a week. That, too, is revenge.

Is it okay to harbor resentful feelings, I ask myself. Does it make me a bad, unkind, heartless person?

It might. So I try to balance it out. I think about revenge, and try to do something nice for somebody else. I think about revenge, and I set it aside to work, instead. I think about revenge, and how I don’t actually care about it anymore, because I have better things to fill my time with than to fixate on people who went out of their way to make me miserable years and years and years ago.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 147 – Agathokakological

A vintage image

I’m a high-strung person. I wish I was the type of person that lets inconveniences and frustrations roll of their back, but in fact I am the kind of person who fixates on mistakes until they take up my entire brain. I have to pencil in time for self-care or I will forget that my brain and my body need time to rest and recuperate.

I’m also not a person with many vices. This is, in fact, probably why I’m so high-strung. Sometimes, the best cure for a bad day is chopping vegetables or slicing steak with my giant knife or pounding coriander to dust with a mallet. Destroying things to make them delicious is my specialty.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 146 – Ventisonance

A photo of storm clouds.

I’m not a very adventurous person. I don’t operate on whims; I’m a meticulous planner. I have to-do lists of to-do lists.

But that’s one of the many reasons I write. Writing, for me, is in part a means of exploring all of the things I would never do in real life. My characters might be rude or impulsive or cunning in ways that I’m not, precisely because I’m not those things. I enjoy fiction because it gives me freedom that real life doesn’t.

Sometimes that freedom is simple–I can rewrite a conversation that went poorly, for example. Other times it’s reimagining everything from the ground up, changing everything to suit me better.

In this case, it’s not really either. Here’s a drabble.

Drabble 145 – Dwimmer

A photo of a young Black Woman in a white t-shirt.

Like most people, I’m a series of contradictions. I hold mixed-up beliefs that sometimes don’t make any sense. I disagree with myself. I think it’s good for me to do so; there’s a lot happening in my brain at any one time, and much of it is garbage, like noise pollution. I have to tell the insecure noises, the noises that keep me awake because I’m worried about things that I have no control over, the noises that insist I’m not good enough, that they’re wrong.

But I’m also a person with evolving beliefs. I’m a person who, you know, buys a cell phone or a Jurassic Park jacket or a fancy pen despite knowing full well that I don’t need those things, that there are people who need things far more than I do. I have to grapple with that, because to not grapple with it is to pretend that the world is fine when it isn’t.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, in part because we just can’t get away from capitalism on my podcast, and in part because I fairly recently read Becoming Dangerous, a book about ritual and resistance that left a lingering impression on me. Not every ritual discussed in the book is one I partake in, but some – gardening, makeup – are. When I put on lipstick, I think about them. When I pull weeds, I think about them. I think about what they mean on a large scale, and what they mean to me, Melissa, an individual who is trying to exist and be content.

I’ve talked before about my relationship with femininity, and how embracing it by choice has changed so much about how I engage with the world. Makeup is part of that, even as I acknowledge that beauty standards are bullshit, that makeup is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, that it’s probably bad for my skin. I can contain all that knowledge, all that conflict, and still slather on lipstick when I’m going into a situation that makes me uncomfortable because I, like everybody else, am a contradiction.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 144 – Hypsiphobia

A photo of two young women sitting on a cliff, staring at mountains.

Like many people, I don’t like heights. The moment I reach the top of a building–let’s be honest, the moment I reach the top of a ladder–my knees go weak. Not in the romantic way; in the way that feels like I’ve lost control of my body. I picture myself falling, imagine the sick feeling in my stomach of missing a stair but it goes on and on as I plummet six feet, or ten, or twenty, and so on.

It’s not the worst fear to have, thankfully. I can mostly avoid extreme heights, and roller coasters go fast enough that I barely notice the drop. I honestly wonder what it’s like to not be afraid of falling off of even the smallest distances, but I suppose I’m better off not finding out.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.