Category Archives:drabble

Drabble 162 – Ame Damnée

A photo of fire.

I was fired from my very first job. Not fired in a dramatic sense—fired in a “quietly taken off the schedule” way. Fired in a “we’re never going to tell you you’re fired” way. Fired in a “you can keep calling and asking when your shifts are but the truth is that you don’t have any and never will again, and no, we’re not going to tell you that, either,” kind of way.

It was a shame, because I actually really liked the job. Despite customer service being soul-sucking and dehumanizing, I like talking with people. Unfortunately, that first job had a lot of expectations for what I should be doing (everything) that were at odds with what I was legally allowed to do (cleaning tables). As a minor with no cash register training and no food handler’s permit, you are, it turns out, not a valuable employee at a fish ‘n chips place, especially when the rest of the staff goes out on a smoke break and leaves you, a wide-eyed 17-year-old, alone to handle the rush.

I still feel kind of bad about it, like I should have tried harder. But I was seventeen, and was far better at that than working in a fish ‘n chips place.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 161 – Lucent

A photo of glowing shapes against a black background.

When I was but a wee babe online, I stumbled upon the infamous Ted’s Caving Page (which I would not recommend visiting without an ad blocker). It was one of the first pieces of web-based horror fiction I’d ever encountered, and at the time I wasn’t entirely sure that it was fiction. I didn’t know how to verify things, what terms to search to ease the part of me that was turning this single experience into a deep-seated fear.

I’ve never been in a cave. I probably won’t ever go into a cave, because the moment I step through its mouth (and that we call it a mouth is telling—like we’re stepping into the jaws of some creature to be willingly swallowed) is the moment I start panicking and have to leave immediately. But I find them fascinating anyway; maybe more so, because I really don’t know what’s hiding inside.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 160 – Heirofastidia

A photo of a rosary.

Sometimes you sit down to write and everything that comes out is too close to the truth. There’s a reason I write fiction—I prefer to keep something of myself to myself. It’s not hard to find the meaning in what I write, but I like to pretend that it is, like drawing a thin veil over the top. We can both see what’s beneath, but for decency’s sake we’ll pretend otherwise.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 159 – Nephelai

A photo of mist against a forest background.

I’ve had Greek mythology on my mind lately after devouring Madeleine Miller’s The Song of Achilles and Circe. These stories were part of my childhood, but returning to them as an adult, I find so much more than I could have imagined. As a kid, I swallowed them up. As an adult, I find myself wanting to shove my fingers through the cracks and look deeper. I want to look behind the curtain, under the table, out into the dark depths of the forest.

Both of these books take stories that have existed for centuries and broaden them, exploring the edges and pushing at the boundaries. It’s part understanding cultural context, but it’s also universality—Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship in context, yes, but also the timeless concept of desires that don’t quite align. The role of women in Ancient Greece, of course, but also the weight of expectations.

I think that’s why I’ve always been such a sucker for a good myth, well-told. I’m not Persephone, I’m not Artemis, but these stories ignite my curiosity and encourage my imagination because they are still so easy to identify with, even centuries later. The themes are there, even if the context is different.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 157 – Oceanid

A close-up view of an ocean wave.

While writing The Compendium of Magical Beasts, I thought a lot about monsters and myths and women. In part because my narrator, like me, is the kind of person who would think about those things, and in part because I feel that to leave out discussions of marginalization, even in a book about creatures that probably don’t exist, was to do folklore and history and science a disservice. The chapter on nymphs is one of my favorites for that reason. I could have written a straightforward explanation of what a nymph is and how they live, but there’s more to it than that—call somebody a ‘nymph’ today, and you’re not saying they’re a forest-dwelling spirit. Same with ‘harpy’ or ‘siren,’ both words that meant female monsters, and now mean female monsters in a different way.

According to myth, there are some three thousand oceanids, with only a handful of them being worthy of names and stories. Of those stories, most involve them giving birth, or nursing, or caretaking; there was only one story to be told, and it was told again and again and again.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 156 – Desiderium

A photo of an old analog camera.

I’ve been thinking a lot about nostalgia lately. A couple hours ago, I finished playing through Night in the Woods for a second time, and after that, I edited an essay about Kingdom Hearts 3. Both are nostalgic in their own ways, both a little muddled and confused in their emotions, but also both hopeful.

I look back at where I came from and sometimes it stings, sometimes it doesn’t. I keep coming back to this line from a poem—my instructor read this to us in class, and I still hear it in her voice, every time.

We're still growing but the stitches hurt     Let us be
True to one another for the world
 
Easy on the myths now 
Make it up     Sleep well
- "Sediments of Santa Monica" by Brenda Hillman

It’s nice, isn’t it? Nice in a painful way.

Nostalgia used to be considered a sickness back in the 17th century—a real sickness, one that doctors would try to treat. The definition has since shifted to mean something more wistful. Less painful, more thoughtful. I think it can be both.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 155 – Kairosclerosis

Kairosclerosis

This year, I have been trying to be good to myself. A month has gone by and I’ve written just one drabble, which is a sign that it’s working.

But having one this month, is also a sign that it’s working. People talk a lot about filling their creative wells, about taking time away from work to recharge. I’ve been trying to do more of that, spending more time with books I love and less with work. Sometimes anxiety gets the best of me and I don’t succeed, and other times work becomes the fun thing, as it did when I covered Global Game Jam a couple weeks ago.

I’m trying to find balance. Some weeks are better than others—this one, so far, is going well. Last week went poorly. I’m sure I’ll fluctuate through the rest of the year as I experiment with things that work and many of them blow up in my face, but for now I feel good. Peaceful. Cared for.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

Drabble 154 – Calumny

A photo of a woman whispering into a mans ear.

I’ve had some extremely weird rumors spread about me. Not recently, or at least not to my knowledge, but there was a time in middle school, in particular, when people actually came up to me to ask if they were true. Looking back, the rumor that I was a poorly behaved kid with dozens of detentions is not only laughable, but so benign that I can’t believe it bothered me as much as it did.

Which isn’t to say that rumors don’t have power; obviously they do. The stakes were low when I was 12 and the worst thing anybody could think to say about me was that I got a lot of detentions. I’m sure other people have said worse things about me now that I have 30 years of making friends and enemies with people, but I try—try—not to think about them.

The idea picks at me, though, that there’s a narrative about me that I can’t control, that somebody might have more say over the person I know myself to be than I do. Unfortunately, I just have to let it go, shrugging off the annoyance that I don’t get to tell my own story.

Anyway, here’s a drabble.

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.