I Want To Dance Like Salome

Inspired By The Bancroft Prompt: Fantasy Destinations :

You could spend the night in this painting, courtesy of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts or perhaps you could be lucky enough to be selected to stay with Mona Lisa at the Louvre.

Franz von Stuck (1863–1928), Teasing (1889)

If I could choose a painting to  spend one day, one hour, or even a very long night inside of, I would choose a painting by Franz Von Stuck.

Why?

Because they are full of monsters  and  unhinged desire-in his works  passion, fear and beauty are mashed up and then it all  goes right off the rails.

If I had the chance to know what’s it’s like to be let off of my chain and run.

I would.

It’s a dream of mine to have the nerve to do that.

Salome by Franz Von Stuck

In planning my Von Stuck inspired Destination Trip  even a trip to Hell is not out of the question.

I am captivated by the story  the ” Inferno” tells because in this painting there are faces and bodies occupying ever square inch- even the flames seems to reflect the images of the damned.

Still, each figure is alone in it’s own way and oblivious to what is around them.

At least that I what I think and I am curious enough to ask them if that’s the case.

But that is Hell isn’t it? Feeling alone in an ocean of souls.

Inferno by Franz Von Stuck

The worlds that Von Stuck created in his portraits have a sense of danger, adventure and humor- there is a lot of smiling going on in his works.

They’re wolfish smiles.

But does that matter?

Not to me, not if I’m planning my Fantasy Destination.

In fact, I would prefer to meet a wolf or two along the way.

Dissonance by Franz Von Stuck

Info On Paintings:

Salome

Teasing

Inferno

Miss Venka’s Cakes

ravencake

” Miss Venka! “

The stangers, a middle aged couple were as pale and watery as the sunlight that was filtering through my somewhat clean windows and into my small cool sparsely furnished sitting room.

I didn’t use it often because I don’t do much entertaining.

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He rose from the settee and put his slice of cake- I noted with dismay- on the end table to his left.

She stood and set to her slice of cake next to his.

The portrait that hung behind them looked down in disapproval.

Then the tall thin watery couple both reached out to me with their pale bony hands and smiled, ” It’s so good to meet you at last Miss Venka ” they both said together.

” I see you enjoyed the cake- ” I waited for them to introduce themselves.

” Oh. Pardon us. Britta.” The woman said with tears lighting up her eyes ” Britta and Rasmus Rundstrom.”

” We hope you don’t mind . The man who answered the door invited us in. He told us to make ourselves at home. And then he left. Just like that. Well, we saw that delicious cake and the plates and forks.” Rasmus began the thought and then Britta finished it:

” We honestly couldn’t help ourselves.”

I sighed and shrugged. ” It’s fine really” I said not meaning it.

Our compliments to the baker Miss Venka.” Rasmus said ignoring the ice in my voice.” It was quite delicious.”

I ignored his compliment.

“That was my Father at the door. That Devil. He should have offered you some tea and almond cookies instead of leaving you with just that cake. It’s terribly sweet. The cookies would have been better.”

They didn’t say a word. They stood there expectantly.

” They’re imported.” I added. ” They’re quite good.”

I walked over to the sideboard where my now butchered cake was sitting.

I took up the cake knife and wiped it clean on a napkin.

” So what do I owe the pleasure of this nice…” I looked down at my cut up cake and sighed. ” Visit.”

” We’ve heard that you are a wonderful baker Miss Venka. Your sweets and pastries and cakes are famous.

I was confused. ” Famous for what?”

” From what we’ve tasted, it’s true.” Rasmus went back to the table and picked up his slice of cake.

He plunged his fork into this partially eaten slice and took another bite.

I winced.

” It so sweet it touches your soul. It overwhelms your senses…” he sang out.

I stopped him before he went over the edge and lost his sanity.

” Thank you. I took the plate from him and sat it down on the little table. ” But I don’t cater events. I don’t bake for other people.”

” We can’t persuade you?” Britta asked. ” Are you sure? Money is no object and we are having a very important party. Your cake would be the highlight of the evening.”

” Very sure. I’m sorry. But my answer is no.” I said.

” I’ve never tasted anything so fine. It touched my soul Miss Venka. Truly. It’s the finest cake I have ever tasted.”

I thanked my guests and saw them out.

Then I went to the kitchen, which is light green and empty all but for a set of knives hanging from the wall and a single chair in the middle of the room.

I walked to the back of the kitchen and opened the door that led down into the basement.

” That was my favorite cake!” I yelled down into the darkness.

The door pulled itself out of my hand and slammed shut with a bang.

I walked back into my sitting room, which was dark now and a little chilly.

There were two new soulfully delicious cakes sitting next to my beautiful cake which fully restored to its uncut state.

I sighed and rubbed my eyes in relief.

I did not wonder if Mr and Mrs Rundstrom would be back, begging for more cake.

I did not wonder if they would ever question why they offered to give up their souls to the Devil himself for another bite.

I did not wonder if my Father who lives in my basement would take them up on that deal.

He collects souls the way other people collect stamps.

Of course. I don’t collect souls for the Hell of it, like my Father who is trapped in his old ways does.

I dabbed a little frosting from one of the new cakes on the tip of my finger and touched it to my tongue.

I closed my eyes and swooned a little.

I put them to better use than that.

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The Ghost Writer

I haven’t always wanted to be a writer- I have always wanted to be a storyteller.

There’s a thin line that separates the two things and if you fall on one side or the other I don’t think it matters. But for me the difference is a big one and this is the reason I chose to become a storyteller.

My family comes from the side of the world- not only from where we live now but from the places we came from too ( The Philippines and England/Scotland ) but they have one thing in common.

They love to hear stories and if you’re lucky you are one of the people who can tell a story that everyone will listen to.

To me that was a coveted spot in our family hierarchy. You get lots of attention and a certain amount of notoriety because to this day I can tell you who the good story tellers in my family were.

They were colorful, they were always a little odd and when they died everyone was convinced they came back as ghosts and haunted the houses they lived in. They entertained us in life and death.

To set the stage, this is how the storytelling came together ( which was the same for both sides of my family ):

The lead up to the stories was the same- after dinner or after wr finished dessert, someone would close the curtains or light the fire ( during the winter ) or turn on a fan ( if it was summer ) and then one person would say ( for example ) ” You know that house where Mother’s friend died a few years back? Well, I was walking my dog past there and something really weird happened…”

My entire family loved those ghost stories, they liked funny ones too.

Like when my Great Aunt was a teenager someone thought it would be a great idea to send her Community Choir Group ( which consisted of young ladies ) into a men’s prison to perform music.

My Great Aunt also played the banjo and apparently she was a big hit at “The Pen”

I remember after she told us about that performance we all waited for a punch line or something. I mean. I was about 6 when I heard that story and even then I knew Men’s Prisons were, well, nasty places.

So I said, ” Did they like your Banjo? ”

For some reason everyone started laughing- but believe it or not from that event on when I told stories about my dog or my adventures with my best friends Bonnie and Linda ( we got into trouble once for digging up our Mother’s gardens because we were looking for Vampires ) every single adult in the room would let me spin my tale.

My Grandpa used to say I was a natural storyteller and that he loved the way I put words together- he said I made them fit even if I had to pound them into place like the way you do when you force puzzle pieces together.

He also said that after I got done telling one of my stories, pretty much everyone was ready for a drink and that they figured one day I’d be a lawyer, a writer or my picture would be hanging up in Post Offices and at the FBI where they put up pictures of the ” Most Wanted.”

After I learned to read and write I did got to town with the storytelling. I wrote all of the time and then after I got married I stopped writing. I’m not sure why but I guess I didn’t see myself as a storyteller anymore.

I saw myself as a Ringmaster in a circus where the performers where three sons, a husband and a cat named Wolfgang who fought dogs and won-

Every,

Single.

Time.

I had three pet rats too.

What I didn’t have was that little voice that would whisper in my ear, ” Hey, did you tell them about that weird thing we saw yesterday?”

That voice was gone.

And then like magic- I went on line to look up a place for lunch and I didn’t get the name of the spot right but I did come close- what I found was a website called ” The Soul Food Café “.

I was intrigued the minute I got on the site.

Instead of an address and menu and dining hours for your standard restaurant fare I found writing prompts and ideas for creating poems and challenges tied to advent calendars which contained even more ideas for stories or crafts and even recipes for pastries.

Without a doubt what I found at the Soul Food Café was food for the storyteller in me and in that moment as I clicked on page after page I found out how hungry I had really been and that I had been starving for years.

Photo by Wendelin Jacober on Pexels.com

The ‘doors’ of the Café shut for awhile, and like the ghosts of my story telling family members I guess I haunted it from my blogs until Bancroft showed up and like any restless spirit with time on their hands I happily moved in an found a new place to haunt.

What’s changed for me over the years as I have begun to haunt Bancroft is this, I am older ( of course because I came to the Café over ten years ago ) I feel like a writer AND a storyteller and now instead of wearing labels that were slapped on my back as I raced through life I’ve kept one because I am fond of it:

it’s one that my Grandpa Bert gave to me all those years ago- the one that said I was a natural storyteller and I knew how to make those words fit together, even if I had to pound them into place.

Self Portrait: A.M. Moscoso

Autoethography of a Writer

The Revolution Revelation

L to R
Nan, Auntie Sharon, my Mom Lina, my Dad Bert, My Grandma Ginger and Grandpa Bert
Seated L to R: My Brother, Me, my sister and my Aunt Irene- my Grandpa Bert’s Sister

When I was around 9 years old, my family had come together for their traditional Christmas dinner and this time my paternal Grandmother was beside herself because she had found out that my little cousin ( she was my Dad’s sister’s child ) would  be eligible to join The Daughters of The American Revolution when she “became a teenager”.

My Grandma’s family ( her Mother’s side, the Ross Family )  had been around  when the Colonies had a tea party and they decided to fight and help stick it to the King and become Independent from the British Empire.

Keep in mind that’s how I understood the history of the States at the time.

My cousin- who my Grandmother insisted was another Shirley Temple in the making had nicknamed my cousin ” Tahnuse “.  I have no idea if Tanuse  knew where England was. I have no idea if she understood what much about American history because she was like 5 years old at the time.

There was no mention about me or my sister applying to join DAR  when we became teenagers.

My Mom and Dad  were upset about this little oversight on Grandma’s part.

It was few other relatives from my Grandfather’s side of the family really who had no real stake in the matter because that side of the family had emigrated from Canada who for their own reasons weighed in on the matter.

They were English and Scottish and I always had the faint impression they weren’t exactly enchanted with the DAR concept. So it’s surprising now that when I look back on it  that it was one of them that pointed out that if Tahnuse  was eligible to join so were me and my sister.

Grandma went on the defense- I don’t remember what she said but I remember the expression on her face.

She looked like she had just spotted a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk and just as soon as she went to pick it up, the wind blew it away.

Photo A.M. Moscoso

From what I learned later, Isaac Ross went into the system when one of my Grandmother’s family members joined the Sons of The American Revolution- in fact he was accepted into the membership a month after I was born in 1964.

I’m not sure why it took almost 9 years for that to come up in my Grandmother’s family-but they are huge and there was no social media platform in those days to spread the word around the world in like two minutes.

Anyway it was when  her excitement over sharing  that Tahnuse could join this club that the elephant entered into the room and took a seat.

I wasn’t adopted, I was my father’s daughter and my Grandmother’s first born grandchild.

But I wasn’t a golden haired blue eyed Shirley Temple in the making and at the time I was NOT anyone’s idea about what a little American Patriot girl  looked like.

Even to my own Grandmother.

Now my Grandfather would swear up and down that I looked like his Mother- actually there isn’t any resemblance at all but I guess he didn’t care. Plus I didn’t care.

Nan, as we  called my Grandpa Bert’s mother, scared the bejesus out of  people and if you have to be compared to anyone- she’s the one I’d pick.

Plus my Grandfather had already claimed me outright as I was before I was born.

My Grandfather Bert was the one who drove my Mom to the hospital when she went into labor with me and because he and my Dad have the same name, he sort of neglected to tell the staff that he wasn’t  that Bertram Godfrey .

I guess he enjoyed his moment in the sun where everyone thought he had a young wife in labor and she was delivering their child. I also think he enjoyed watching my Dad sort out that miscommunication

He loved to tell that story.

My Dad did not enjoy hearing it.

LOL Dad.

PHOTO A.M. MOSCOSO

Exploring my Family Tree has been yielding some interesting things- cool names, fun history and it’s brought back some memories that I haven’t wanted to think about for years.

But as ugly as some of it is, to forget some things is to take away from the good memories.

They all make for great stories and I know that among other things-before  I am a daughter, Mom,  Grandmother,  before I am a ‘leaf’ on my family tree-

I am first and foremost writer.

And like any writer will do- I think I’ll keep it all.

Self Portrait: A.M. Moscoso

The Temporary Companion

You can stay with me

for a night or two

before you move to the other place

where it doesn’t matter if your eyes are closed or you hands are cold.

Does the darkness shine like the Sun, to you?

Is it bright, in it’s own somber way?

I used to wonder about that after I turned the key and walked away from

my tenants in those quiet new homes of wood and stone and marble.

 

You can stay with me, here

until it’s time for you to go.

Sometimes I listen to music, sometimes I talk about my herb garden and my cat

I wear bright color and sometimes I wear perfume that smells like Cotton Candy.

I think we’d both like to remember

together

what it’s like to be alive.

 

 

The Hiker and Her Dog

I went on a hike

deep in the woods

I went on a hike

with my dog.

I went on a hike to see a little of the world.

I thought I was so quiet, a shadow among so many others.

I thought nobody knew I was there-

except for maybe some birds

a poet looking for inspiration

Did he really see me?

I didn’t think he did, I did not think anybody did.

I would have sworn to it.

But I was wrong.

They saw me,

the trees.

I didn’t see it until later, there in the pictures I took.

The trees were reaching out towards me,while I was looking through my camera

unaware, preoccupied, vulnerable-

They were so close to catching me

with their dark and twisted hands.

They didn’t hook me with their claws but they followed me home.

I’m looking at them right now.

Just pictures. Only pictures. Locked in my computer.

Still

I’m not sure I should look away.

Right now.

Photo A.M. Moscoso

Photo A.M. Moscoso

Photo A.M. Moscoso

Writing Prompt: Give Them a Hand

Write a scene about a conversation or another interaction, and include a focus specifically on the characters’ hands. Include the appearance of the hands, as well as the way they move and gesture. What do the hands say about the personalities involved?

Raison d’être

From The Bancroft Project: Creating Character Dossiers-Establishing Blocks of Time. To add to our dossiers we worked with the concept of blocks of time and pathways chosen, blocked, travelled, and bypassed. We also considered others whose paths crossed ours or the path of our characters-

Photo by Moose Photos on Pexels.com

” I have all the time in the world.” the Ghost said to herself as she stood, or more specifically, as  she floated a little above her empty Grave.

Even though she knew she was alone there in her spot above her empty Grave where nobody had left her flowers for so many years she had lost count, she waited for a reply.

Of course there wasn’t one.

There never was.

” I have all the time in the world to decide what kind of ghost I could be. ” the Ghost said firmly and the place where her eyes would be seemed to glow a bit and the place where her jaw would had it not been covered by a  shroud of light blue haze, looked a little firmer.

The Ghost thought about her options for a moment. ” I could be a vicious ghost and throw things around and push people down stairs and scare cats and dogs-well. Not scare exactly but I can  make them puff up and growl.

Or I could be a nice ghost and when I show up people would smell things like freshly baked cookies or flowers. Actually. I wasn’t exactly a nice person so that probably isn’t going to happen at all.”

The Ghost looked down into her empty Grave and then her misty face swirled like fog rolling from the sea up to the beach and when the mist settled down she was smiling.

” I know, I could be one of those ghosts that shows up when bad things are going to happen. I could make myself look like a cat or a big black dog or a black as coal rabbit with fiery red eyes. Now that sounds like the ticket, doesn’t it? The possibilities for what I could do there are only limited by my imagination- which as we both know was pretty wild monster back in my day. I mean, that’s how we ended up together after all.”

Her empty Grave, as dark and inscrutable as ever offered no opinion.

It never did.

She sighed and her misty face broke apart.

 

Photo by Moose Photos on Pexels.com

” I have all the time in the world.” the Ghost said to herself above her empty Grave when nobody was listening because nobody was ever there.

Even though the Ghost knew she was alone there in her spot above her empty Grave where nobody had left her flowers for so many years she had lost count, she waited for a reply.

This time she got one, in fact, this time she got several.

She swirled in confusion, a light blue mist hanging above her empty Grave because something behind her roared and to her left,   dead rose bushes  snapped and fell to the ground which was a riot of sticker bushes and weeds and chunks or marble and concrete.

The roar was gone and after a few bangs and thumps she heard someone say not very clearly, ” yes I’m sure it doesn’t matter if we dig around here. We might find a few bones or maybe some wood but who cares?”

The Ghost followed the voices  with her almost non-existent eyes and saw that the voices  belonged to two men with shovels.

They chose a spot and begin to dig into her empty Grave and after several hours they seemed satisfied with their work. They went away and came back many  times with black bags- several in fact and after looking at each other for a minute one said to the other. ” Lunch at The Oak Tree  on Main Street after?’

The other man said, “Sounds good. Their burgers really  hit the spot”

Unceremoniously they began to drop the black, lumpy and in some cases leaking black bags into her empty Grave.

Then they filled it.

They were not acting like they had all of the time in the world.

Photo by Moose Photos on Pexels.com

” So  now you have a purpose, . ”  the Ghost said to her dark and inscrutable Grave. How tragic is that? My empty Grave has a raison d’être and I don’t. ”

Had she had  lungs she would have taken a deep breath  before she screeched- so she just skipped to the screeching part, ” My entire situation is ridiculous and intolerable!”

This time she felt like her dark and inscrutable formally empty Grave was listening to her.

The ghost simmered and then she snapped together atom by atom, nightmare by nightmare and when she was done her eyes were fiery red and she was covered with dark silky fur.

Then she hopped over her once Empty and inscrutable Grave and she went to start her own  reason for being and her little black nose quivered with excitement.

 

Birds and Stars

Life Isn’t a Straight Line — How to Chart Your Own ‘River of Life’
This exercise is designed to help you reflect on your life and tell your story.

If my life were a river

I think it would go through dark forests and it would run under cloudy skies

and nothing would want to live in it because the water would always be so cold.

If my life were a river

nobody would raft on it, or picnic near it because  if my life were a river

it would be traveling along, wearing itself against the Earth until you could see the scars from a satellite circling the Earth

and when the scientists see it, the River that is my life, they will be appalled because such a mindless force tore away at something so beautiful and left it’s  vacuous mark behind.

And they will echo then mantra of my childhood,

” You’re a  stupid useless good for nothing kid, you’ll never amount to anything. No one wants anything to do with you.”

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Photo A.M. Moscoso

When I was five years old,

the river that is my life had tangled brown hair and a desire to read and to write

and to sail in a spaceship to Mars.

Then I learned to read and I learned to write but that didn’t matter

I was told,

because anybody can read a book or write a story

so the River that is my life moved on and when

the River that is my life turned 14

it’s greatest accomplishment was for coming in first at an Ugliest Date contest.

I was learning to play the guitar, I won awards for my writing but none of that mattered

that year.

The River that is my life turned to the nowhere and headed for the darkest hills it could find.

That is managed to do with absolute success- a roaring black river with icy cold water disappeared one day and not a single solitary soul noticed.

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Photo A.M. Moscoso

The River that is my life got older and one day it got slower and once again it found itself all alone.

The good for nothing useless kid grew up to be a good for nothing useless woman who existed day to day  and in a round about way I guess I won the Ugly Girl Award again.

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Photo A.M. Moscoso

One day and purely by chance,  the River that is my life wandered off track and it cut it’s way out of  those dark forests under cloudy skies and while it was there it found some friends who wrote stories and loved to listen to music and painted pictures and would wonder if there had ever been life on Mars and one day while the river was taking it’s time instead of running under dark and cloudy skies, the River that is my life saw a puppy running at it’s banks.

It laughed and splashed around and it even ran into a tree but then it shook it’s head got back on it’s little paws and laughed the way puppies do.

So the river slowed down so that the puppy could catch up and it even cut new trails into places just so the little puppy could see sunlight and hear people laughing and talking and where it could run under blue skies.

One day the River that is my life came to a place where it saw the dark mountains covered with snow and the black skies full of clouds and it wondered if it was time to go home.

Where it belonged.

But the River that is my life saw the puppy, who is now a full grown dog who ran at her banks and followed her just because it wanted to be with her and she knew he would have followed her back into her darkness, where at least she wouldn’t be alone.

Only there was so much more to see and the sky was so big and it was so full of stars and birds and rain and snow that River that is my life wanted her dog to see all of that.

So the River that is my life, decided for her dog she would see this other world, just for him.

And that is where they are today- they are running together under a sky that isn’t always empty or dark because now  it’s full of birds and stars.

Photo A.M. Moscoso

Bancroft Manor Creating Dossiers: