Excerpt from Chlora’s Book of the Month Club: August
Draft 1, copyright 2012 Ginger Henry Geyer
…Chlora is at her grandmother Nana’s house trying to find something to distract herself after an awful near miss with some bad dogs.
Chlora took the barrel of Tinkertoys and crept down the attic stairs.
The stairs were narrow and wobby and Chlora stumbled.
Little rods and wheels spilled all over creation.
Nana hollered from the kitchen,
"Pick 'em up, Chlora, or the vacuum cleaner will!"
A pile up of possibilities was right at her feet
so she sat right down there on the floor and made things.
First she made a small wagon with little spools for wheels.
Then a simple stack of spools for a fire hydrant.
Dogs peeing on the fire hydrant came out funny looking
because she ran out of small rods.
She needed a lot of longer sticks to build a bridge,
so dumped out the rest of the bucket.
Tinker Toys may smell good but they are
even more frustrating than pick-up sticks,
especially if it is very dry or very humid.
Some spools were too tight and others too loose,
and even with their 45 degree angled holes,
it was impossible to triangulate with Tinker Toys.
Their diagrams explained that
Pythagorean progressive right triangles
were required for bridge trusses.
She would have to tinker with this,
break a few sticks and wedge
toothpicks into the loose spool holes.
Or cheat with Elmer’s Glue
and then paint the whole contraption
International Orange, like the Golden Gate Bridge,
painted over and over and over from one end to the other.
Why are bridges so hard to maintain?
She lined up the sticks by size
which was easy since they were color coded.
A straight line of sticks could spread all the way to Timbuktu,
or at least far, far away. How far is far?
A bridge too far?
A bridge to nowhere? Bridge of sighs, bridge of yawns,
burning bridges made of matches.
As any engineer knew, bridge design is
as complicated as a tax form.
Even Tinker Toy architects were capable of monstrosity.
There would be a tragic bridge collapse someday
due to human error in calculating the forces of wind, flood and load.
It might be a covered bridge or a tunnel of love
or a suspension of disbelief bridge.
But we must all cross that bridge when we come to it
and not before.
To heck with this, Chlora next wanted to get
an erector set, get erections of her own.
She would build ‘em up just to knock ‘em down
like London Bridge, reassembled in god-forsaken Arizona.
Tinker Toys were nothing but a pile up of little things -
piles of intersections, all subject to the breakable laws of play,
tangled up in the tension between what we want and what we get.
Nana could sense Chlora’s frustrations with bridge building
and suggested she and her brother play the Dictionary Game instead.
Nana’s Oxford Unabridged Dictionary weighed
almost as much as brother did
and it was packed with curious little illustrations.
The Dictionary Game consisted of inventing
definitions for words that nobody in their right mind
would ever use, and bluffing the other person.
In a place where anti-intellectualism was advantageous,
this game was pretty simplistic, especially with her
The weight of such knowledge was more than she could bear
so Chlora asked Nana to play Canasta with her instead.
Sure, after I get dinner in the oven, but you get the cards ready.
Chlora slid open the hidden drawer in the coffee table
It could hold all sorts of secrets, reminding Chlora to
make up one soon.
She retrieved two decks of cards from a
nice box with a little score pad and pencils.
This meant these were bridge cards, but they’d do.
Chlora shuffled both decks
and let the cards pop up into the air.
Then she did a 52 pick-up,
put them face down on the floor,
and began to play the match game.
These bridge decks were different;
there were four of a kind, in 13 sets.
All of them had pictures of bridges on the back.
There was the obligatory Japanese bridge of Monet.
Chlora set it aside, then quickly lined up
Turner who liked burning bridges,
Canaletto who couldn’t get enough
of them in Venice, then
Hiroshige's rainy bridge that
inspired them all, followed by Whistler’s
blurry blue one at Battersea, and that
drawbridge by Van Gogh.
It was fun to arrange the cards so one bridge
led to another, meanwhile she hummed
Simon and Garfinkle’s croon over troubled water,
while Jacob Lawrence’s card sang
God’s Gonna Trouble the Water
and Kirschner painted die Bruck.
Chlora lined up the rest of the bridge cards
so their compositions went in a continuous flow,
which is easier to do with curves than with straight lines.
The connections needed a little help, so she made up
a few cards of her own by cutting them out
of Grandmother’s art encyclopedia.
There was an abstract in black and white
that made a T shape, and there was that brave Sabine woman
who valiantly tried to bridge the gap between warring tribes.
Maybe she wanted to have it both ways,
yearning to bridge that huge gulf
between family members who were at an impasse,
like the polite distance between two opposing grandmothers
who should just read that confusing stuff about reconciliation
in 2 Corinthians and just call it water beneath the bridge.
Chlora used fat loops of masking tape to stick the linked
bridge cards onto the Tinker Toy barrel,
and she got one full circle stuck down and started another below.
The ends just wouldn’t meet under ideal conditions.
Where was Nicolo Machiavelli when you needed
to make the end justify the means?
She looked in the art book again and finally came upon a
an American wilderness painting by Asher B. Durand.
For two people standing at the edge of an abyss,
it looked very calm out there. Did they get a gap year back then?
It showed a great gulch in the woods.
Below that gap she placed a painting of the
crucifixion, with Jesus’ arms spanning the distance.
That reminded her that God didn’t usually fill a gap
but left it be, like a signal to use our imaginations
to broach the subject. Maybe if love started up at one end
of the bridge, it’d expand, as love always does,
and the gulch would be filled.
Or maybe when Jesus’s strong arms were stretched out like that,
his body became the cross-over like the span over
the huge schisms of the world.
Then people could at least make the primeval journey
across and trust all the roaring chaos below to him.
Could be the common ground may be up in the air.
After all, one thing always leads to another,
connections go every which way,
and someday, somewhere, these impossible gulfs
meet and merge and reconcile.
Chlora held her breath and added one more stick to her bridge.
It wobbled, and collapsed in spindly chunks.
Spools and sticks rolled away like stones,
demonstrating how unlevel the wood floor really was.
She chased them down and loudly clunked them into the tub.
This was hopeless.
Nana walked in with a spool and said,
"Reconciliation is fragile.
You’ve gotta build that bridge with what you’ve got,
and then get over it."