Contours: A Short Story (Blog Meme)

25 05 2008

Once Upon a Bloggy NightThis is my first real attempt in recent history at creative writing, thanks to an imaginative blog meme called “Once Upon a Bloggy Night“. What are the rules? Basically: write a short story, and incorporate into it the names of all the blogs you read. So voilà, a peek into my daily reading list (I got 85-90% of them in) and some fun fiction, wrapped up in one. 😀 I hope you enjoy it!

p.s. If you’re a blogger reading this…consider yourself tagged!


by Joaninha

Parana e, parana e, parana—

The circle froze, momentarily suspended in time as people paused and found their bearings, making the always-abrupt transition from 16th century Brazil to 21st century Canada. Raia threw a private tantrum as the roda dissolved, as her teacher dissembled the berimbau she’d been crouching towards when the roda ended.

I came here to play!, she seethed. So focused was Raia on her frustration that she succumbed to Palavra’s sneak attack and, surprised out of her mood, laughed as she jolted into retaliation.

“The gringa strikes again!” her friend triumphed.
“You’re shameless, you know that?”
“This, from someone named ‘line’ just so she’d remember to stop crossing it?”
“Hey! It happened once—”

“Uh-oh…uhm, salve, Mestra. Como está?”
“Don’t give me any of that skelliewag, you berimbau duties shirker. Just were where you during Mestre Angoleiro’s roda last week? And the one before that?”
“I’m sorry, Mestra. But my sister got really sick, and then our house got broken into, and…”

Now those are what I call fast fictions, Raia grinned as she packed up and left the academy. If only she knew he’d skipped because of a few unfortunately placed paper cuts. I wonder if there’s anything on The Capoeira Blog about buying into mosh pit-like rodas?

The 22-year-old news intern had a month before returning to the political grind known as Parliament Hill, where she harvested fodder for the CNN Political Ticker. With the extra time and some inspiration, she’d decided to try practicing The Art of Nonconformity. So far, this meant having her mind, body, and soul capoeira-infused, openly converting to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, enrolling in a neuroanthropology course, becoming a freelance copyblogger, and turning her bedroom into a paradise of flowers and fruit. Sophocle’s Antigone was her most recent heroine.

As she cut through the park, Raia noticed a teenage girl drifting among the flowerbeds, stooping every few feet to search absent-mindedly through the fluttering palettes of colour. She appeared to be talking to herself.

“Are you alright? Do you want any help?” Raia approached the girl.
…in the search…
“What are you searching for?”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“…create a way to state…
“A way to state what? Look, I’d like to help, but I can’t if I don’t understand you.”

Suddenly, the girl turned and stared straight into Raia’s eyes. Only now did Raia notice her garments: a glittery white cutoff shirt, a thin, dark green vest, and khaki short shorts. A procession of small, jagged stones wound around her neck, and a leafy twig held up her hair. What is she, EnviroWoman?

“Create a way to State,” the girl repeated.
“To state what?” Raia asked, exasperated now.
“Not to state, a state. Your state. Here.” And she held out a tattered piece of old parchment.

Raia accepted, and the scent of pine and rainforest soil rose to greet her. She unfolded the paper to find an old-fashioned compass inked in by hand. Above it, squiggly lines had been dashed off in seemingly random order. Underneath it was written:


“North by East? I don’t understand.” Raia was getting real tired of not understanding.

“Who are you? How do you live?”

Despite the strangeness of their encounter, something about the girl compelled Raia to answer, rather than walk away. And did she hear wind chimes?

“Well…I have a pretty normal life. I work, I go out, I go to school…the daily slog. I love to write. I’m feminist, and just started, finally, a Feminism 101 blog. I want to work for Publisher’s Weekly, or be the next Andrew Coyne. I have a weakness for men with pens. I like traveling, indie music, theatre…,” Raia suddenly laughed at herself as she recalled a website her friend had forwarded the other day, adding ironically, “you know, ‘stuff white people like‘. And capoeira, of course; I can’t wait until my trip next year to see the Bahia capoeira scene firsthand. I try to live by my own values, morals, ethics, etc. I could do better, I suppose. Sometimes I feel like I could do something great, like write a series of revolutionizing broadsides for CBC Top Stories News, or uncover some amazing lifehack that would solve all our problems…”

Why am I telling her all of this?

“Because you are lost.”

Raia blanched. “Excuse me?

“Look at the paper again.”

Raia looked, and wondered if she were hallucinating. The hand-drawn compass needle had started to quiver on the page, rotating slightly towards North, and the writing underneath had changed. It now read:


Before Raia could fully process what she was seeing, the girl began to speak.

Love“Have you ever seen Arabic calligraphy? It’s breathtaking. You take ordinary words, put them on canvas, and suddenly, they’re art. The words turn and coil, twist and bloom, moving in ways they never have before. What was once ruled lines and minced strokes becomes luxurious curves, indulgent elongation, voluptuous images and shapes. They become words without borders. Yet, what gave them the sudden capability to be this way? The seductive contours, the mesmerizing patterns; where did they come from? In actual fact…nothing did, and from nowhere.

“These qualities were an inherent part of each word all along; the only difference between love stated and love STATED was a simple decision on the part of s/he who controls the brush. Will this word be passive, and match all the rest? Or will it scream, shout, get attention, be remembered, and make its mark? Once this decision is made, the rest is simple: a little less ink here, a little more pressure on the brush there. All it takes is the choice. With that, any word easily bursts into the blinding glory of its full meaning and potential—into its true State.”

Raia opened her mouth, and a squeak came out. She tried again, “Who are you?”

The girl gave a half-smile, and shrugged. “Just a girl in short shorts talking about whatever. Would you like me to continue?”

“That piece of paper you’re holding depicts an open secret, one that is so open that people have forgotten it exists. You humans (yes, you have guessed correctly), you constantly speak of direction, of going the right way, of finding your path. Your north stars, you might say. But you become distracted, oh, so easily distracted. And so you end up veering east, and west, and sometimes even turning south—all the while thinking you are still pushing due north.

“In fact, you are already doing better than most. North by East, the compass said you were going, and further north after you began talking to me, and were forced to review your own life as a whole. It is always better to review a restaurant by sampling the whole menu, rather than focusing excessively on the daily dish. You are an economic woman, so you will appreciate knowing that at this point, it will take less work for you than it would for many others.”

“Less work for what?” Raia was slowly starting to wake up again.

“Why, to find your true State, of course. To do all the great things you say you want to do. To create a way to live your life that will lead to the fulfillment of your greatest potential. For you, that’s a mere adjustment of 22.5 degrees. Of course, it’s not even a quarter-turn in direction, but when one starts at the South Pole, go far enough and that less-than-quarter-turn becomes the difference between Greenland and Africa.

“That, incidentally, is the secret: Find where north is, then simply stay the course. Your north star represents your proper State—the full, complete, best you. Those who realize that, we call postsecret—the state of knowing in all certainty that life is worth living to the best of your passions and abilities, not to the best of traps and waylaying gnomes, not to the best of peer pressure, best of familial expectations, best of personal insecurities, or the best of false obligations. Do you understand what I’m saying, Raia?”

Raia nodded, trance-like, still staring at the dark sepia tinted compass that gauged her very life’s direction. Where to go from here? When she looked up, the girl was gone.


Artwork: Love by Hassan Massoudy