EXCERPTS—No Definite Plans: Eleven Stories of Laughter, Love, Travel
By Townsend 11, Volume 3
Edited by Larry Habegger
- Read more ABOUT No Definite Plans
- BUY No Definite Plans
- Read Larry Habegger’s INTRO to No Definite Plans
“I can’t go in front of our crew. They’re descendants of the mighty Incas,” I moan. But, my greater need wins out and I yank my pants down with trembling fingers and sigh with relief.
A loud and pert fart explodes from my right, startling me. I almost topple over. The unexpected sound sends all of us, even Ricardo and his men, into gales of laughter. A firecracker explosion of smaller farts lets loose and now we’re wailing. Tears stream down my face. I can’t even look at my fellow travelers. All semblance of peeing with dignity is gone. “What the hell, at least we’ll get a butterfly show afterwards,” I bark out between giggles.
I landed in Burbank with no problems, bought a comb and face cream at the airport, and then Boris, an Iranian from Romania, drove me to Disney’s animation studio in a yellow cab. Things were looking up. I had breakfast with Natasha, a reporter from Russia now living in Hollywood, Rocky from Germany who lives in Arizona, and Minnie from Mexico. We toured the studio, learned how to make an animated film, peeked inside a room built like Mickey Mouse’s wizard hat in Fantasia, and admired Roy Disney’s secret chimney. I spilled coffee on my notes. I left my tape recorder on a table and a director had to chase me down to return it. I was so embarrassed I dropped my cell phone and stepped on it. And that’s when I realized I was wearing one black shoe with a rounded toe and another with a pointed toe.
No Problem: A Modern Fable (Fiction)
Mrs. Van Winkle waited patiently behind several others at the coffee store she had discovered in her neighborhood. She inhaled the aroma of freshly ground beans. She had been asleep for a long time, and now that she had returned to a waking state, she found herself content to wait patiently. So much had changed in the world. Before she had fallen asleep, there had not been coffee stores like this one with freshly ground beans and specialty drinks rich with syrups and creams. She watched and listened for clues. She wanted to understand. Of course, not everything could be explained. The doctors, for example, could not explain why she had slept so long, more than 20 years, nor could they promise that she would not slip into a coma-like sleep again.
A Visit from H.I.M.
Engaged? I was stunned. And His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie was involved? I was falling in love with this man; he was falling in love me; in fact, we were in love, though just the beginning of love, coming to us at the end of a thrilling infatuation.
“Who is it you’re supposed to marry?” I asked. An easy, bland question that I hoped would not expose my confusion or concern.
“The Emperor and my family betrothed one of his girls, Hirut, to me when we were children.”
“Do you love her?”
Guy laughed long and loud, but still his eyes did not look cheerful. “Love is not the point, my darling Carol. We’re betrothed by our families. That’s all. We were betrothed for reasons not having to do with love.”
What strikes me, though, is not the sensual nature of the hammam. Rather, it’s the intimacy, trust, and nurturing exchanges among and between women that give me pause. Much to my surprise, this particular community of women exhibits an unexpected sense of self-confidence and acceptance, something my own naïve experience would have led me to believe could not have existed in a developing culture.
Back home, so many women, myself included, are too body-conscious. We’re uncomfortable being naked and having our space violated. Gazing at these Moroccan women so free in the safety of the hammam, I wonder about the obscure sense of modesty my friends and I demonstrate, modesty perhaps imposed by our deep-rooted puritan heritage and now combined with a new idea that success in a male-centric corporate environment means suppressing our femininity. And, instead of slumber parties or communal baths, I sadly admit that I have allowed brief encounters with friends at the neighborhood coffee shop to satisfy my innate need for female bonding.
Chartres: Ecstasy at the Altar
“That woman looked like a model,” I said with grave authority, as we boarded our train back to Paris. “Maybe she was posing for a photo spread in a girlie magazine, and it was all a setup for her photographer to take pictures.”
Certainly there had been plenty of time to shoot a whole roll before she they led her away to be treated kindly. Some Japanese tourists had shot a lot more than that. I fantasized a headline on the cover of a tawdry skin mag called something like Bone Appetite — “Charlotte does Chartres!”
Adventure and Postpartum Depression
Then came the main event, the hike itself. Hi-Octane excitement. We started slow, but the momentum built quickly. After the first few weeks, Laura and I routinely burned off 13-mile days. With me pulling the rickshaw that often weighed 200 pounds and Laura hauling an expedition backpack, 13 miles was really cooking. Day after day we would rise before the sun, break down camp, walk all day, and set up another camp all without even thinking about it. It was becoming a way of life. We were mainlining endorphins.
And during this period Laura and I had not only hiked, but also laughed, sweated, swore, and lanced blisters, while we shared 30 square feet of tent space and enjoyed some of the most gloriously desolate country the U.S. has to offer.
Still, I wonder if there isn’t something more here, behind the extreme control of emotion. The longer I’ve been away, the more I see it when I return. A hint of it peeks through the careful placidity of these faces and the polite ordinariness of the conversation, the smile, the nod, the reluctance to touch, the prohibition of excess. Who are these people, really? Does the calm surface hide a dark place in the soul of a few, the legacy of Vikings and Huns, the ancient shadow of berserkers, passion, pillage and chaos? I hope so. It would make them more like me. It would help me feel less foreign here, less like an outsider.
Changing Seasons (Fiction)
He thought of his wife, embarrassed that she hadn’t been on his mind. Instead, he’d been thinking about his work and his day and the money he made in exchange for the time he spent hating his English people. He’d forgotten his wife. When had this happened? She’d been there with him every day for months, for a year, inside him, speaking and singing and just being there. Today she had been absent, and he hadn’t even noticed.
Li An sat high up by the window on a crowded bus leaving the city. She watched young men and women in pairs, silently murmuring to each other.
The day her husband did not come home was a fine spring day. As usual, he had gotten on his bicycle in the morning and waved good-bye to go to work. Their son was barely a year old. It was Qing Ming, time for the annual content switching of the cedar trunks: storing the winter clothes and shaking out the spring ones. Li An had waited for him to come home till the moon was high.
He had passed Tian An Men Square at the wrong time of day by mistake, said the head of the neighborhood association. It was a shame. He was such a fine person, young with a beautiful wife and a newborn, caught up in the spring protest of the Gang of Four.
Li An was stunned and silent.
That night in Stratford I was a wreck after a relentless drive from York to Belvoir Castle near Sherwood Forest, then on to Stratford in the dark after many hours of stop-and-go traffic, lashing rain, driving on the left side of the road, and peering through low-riding reading glasses at the map as I watched over their rims for road signs and errant vehicles. I have never been happier to get rid of a rental car in my life. Tremendously relieved to be in the hotel room, sitting at the desk in something of a stupor, I glanced in the mirror and saw my father. What was he doing here? It took about two heartbeats to realize that the weary face staring back at me had aged almost beyond recognition, and my youthful glow had jumped a generation.
We’re always looking for readers to post online reviews of our books. It’s easy. Find out how.No Kindle? You don’t have to own an e-reader like a Kindle, iPad, Nook or other tablet to enjoy our books. You can probably read them on a device you already own.