Excerpt from Chlora’s Book of the Month Club: January
Draft 1, May 2014, copyright Ginger Henry Geyer
Chlora is waiting in the cold to go into her Brownies meeting...
The three Brownies ran up the sidewalk to the front porch
of their scout leader’s house, each of them
carrying a covered dish of snacks.
Chlora held a warm, foil-covered dish of Brownies.
They were getting cold.
With their beanies bobbing like smurf hats,
the girls looked like the three magi from Ravenna, bearing gifts.
Those wise guys were in a big hurry.
Maybe they were cold too.
Chlora’s polka dotted knee socks resembled those of
the magi in that mosaic, but she wished she had
those pointy, Oriental shoes.
This was supposed to be Epiphany, the day when
the magi visited Baby Jesus. But in reality, that seemed
to have happened a couple of weeks ago
in the mix of Christmas. The latecomers were always
part of the nativity scene. Maybe it just meant that time
was compressed when you’re around Jesus.
Maybe today we just have to manufacture our own epiphanies.
Chlora was thin as a mint andthe wind howled
around her lightweight cotton dress.
The girls scrambled up to the porch in a huddle.
They politely tapped on the door.
Christmas was SO over, but there was
still a wreath on the door. It jiggled.
The wreath was sort of pretty, with fruits of all colors.
It was sort of like those carved wreaths and festoons
in ancient Rome, where they mixed up fruits of all seasons
to symbolize the unity of the empire
and its emphasis on pax Romana. That meant peace
but it was gained by victory, that is, by war.
Violence first, then you earn peace.
Peace for whom?
Chlora mulled the types of peace found in the world
as she stood nose-to-nose with the wreath.
Pomegranates, grapes, lemons, persimmons.
Chlora knew the trick about persimmons--
their seeds could foretell how bad a winter it would be,
and no doubt this year those seeds had produced little tiny spoon
shaped things inside, and spoons meant
you’d be shoveling a lot of snow.
That was the worst of the cutlery.
A fork meant it’d be a mild winter,
and a knife was for a cutting wind, with ice.
At least that’s what the Farmers Almanac predicted:
spoons, spoons, spoons, and it was always right.
This was definitely a fork and spoon day.
They tapped again, harder and harder
and the wreath looked like it might bear fruit.
Open the door!!
They still hadn’t gotten unChristmasfied at home either.
Mom was still chasing down Christmas left-overs.
What do you do with cookie tins
full of mixed crumbles, or jars of spice tea mix,
and sorrowful poinsettias?
Then there’s all the plastic stuff, decorations,
creches, crinkled wrappings and ribbons.
Putting it all away is a lot less fun than getting it all out.
They’d already had New Years,
and were well into the new fiscal year or physical year,
whatever it was. By now all the noble resolutions
had been forgotten. Most things were never resolved
anyhow, so Chlora resolved she might as well
get used to the ambiguity.
The brass door knocker was in the center of the wreath,
almost hidden by all of the greenery.
The knocker was frozen stuck.
Chlora got on her tiptoes, dislodged it
and knocked until her fingers cramped.
The wreath shivered and a lemon fell off.
When Gabriel came tapping, saying “Opportunity knocks!”
how long did it take Mary to open the door
and say yes? Did she have any veto power?
That had to be scary. Of course it was, since the
first words out of the angel’s mouth were "Fear Not!"
Did Mary get impregnated through her ear?
That is what it looked like in some of those
old paintings, where a ray went from Gabriel
to her ear, and imprinted into her very soul.
Knock on wood, this wouldn’t happen to Chlora,
get knocked up like Mary did out of the blue
and ostracized by the whole community
if not the whole world.
That sort of gossip was contagious
and deadly in her own town.
No telling how they took it in Nazareth.
The whole thing was inconceivable.
But then God is inconceivable,
except if you’re Mary
and have a very fertile crescent.
The incarnation was theology by gynecology;
it really should be studied in sex ed.
From what Chlora knew of sex, she preferred
Mary’s way of getting pregnant.
Once more the trio annunciated themselves.
The girls huddled and waited.
Yoo Hoo! Knock, knock, who’s there?
The knock knock jokes were not working.
Knock and it will be opened to you, Chlora thought,
so she banged on the door till her knuckles were red.
By now they had all memorized the four fruits on the wreath
and were ready to eat them,
except for the persimmons. Eat an unripe one
and it is worse than a lemon,
and you’ll pucker up with cotton mouth.
Grapes would be OK, pomegranates were a lot of trouble.
but then, all these were fake fruits, so forget it!
What if it were Jesus standing at the door knocking,
like in those pictures? Would he get impatient
and clang the doorbell to high heaven?
Did Jesus get cold? Sure he did, if he was human.
Chlora was getting a runny nose. Jesus probably had one too.
Some of those nervy evangelists
for Jehovah Witnesses would ring the doorbell
till it fell off. Apparently they made it to every house
in town once a year.
They must have really good maps.
Dad once got mad at a pair of them and
told them to check into a Jehovah witness protection program.
Mom told them that Christianity should be about love
rather than sin, and that’s when they finally walked away.
Together the three girls yelled "Avon Calling!"
Her friend planted her finger on that doorbell
and rang it until the ding dong opened the door.
"Why. Look we have visitors."
The troop leader in her ruffled apron
gratuitously welcomed the girls.
She apologized profusely
to Chlora’s mother that she couldn’t hear the doorbell
because she was busy as a bee
with that hum of her sewing machine,
which she was readying for their visit.
The frozen Brownies stumbled into the house,
ignoring the proper greetings.
The leader surveyed their motley uniforms.
Her nostrils flared at Chlora’s wild socks.
"Uniforms are uniform, that is their purpose.
And you do not need to wear your canteen
to a tea party, so please just leave it here."
Chlora really liked her Girl Scout canteen.
She really didn’t want to relinquish it,
but grimly handed it over, along with
her cold plate of goodies.
Then she gave the scout leader
the artificial lemon, smiled, and said,
"This must be yours.
"Fruits don’t fall far from the tree."