Spheres

Sometimes, I draw. I used to draw a lot more and I used to be better. I have taken a step back and decided to draw things that are simple and primal. Spheres. The circle is the supreme figure in two dimensions.The ‘sides’ of a circle are infinite. I’m practicing shading and depth. To make the two dimensional circle into a three dimensional sphere.

Without a Trace (Here Lies a Soldier part 12)

Without a Trace (Here Lies a Soldier part 12)

By Meg Sorick. Find other parts of the story and a family tree, here.

David laughed. “No family resemblance?” he repeated. “I must favor my mother’s side.”

“That must be it,” Miss Woodbridge said. “Now Meredith…. She looks just like her gran when she was that age.”

David regarded his cousin and smiled. “Then she must have been a beautiful woman.”

Meredith took a sip of tea to hide her discomfiture. She cleared her throat. “Let’s stick to the mystery, shall we Cousin?” She tapped the photograph in the old album. Their ancestors stared back at them from the sepia square. Meredith’s grandmother Anne at age thirteen, looking as pretty as a picture, standing with her widowed mother. Hayden, David’s grandfather, a sullen boy of ten, between his grandparents, who’d lost both their sons to the war. It was a somber day, Armistice Day. Too many men hadn’t come home. And even ten years later, it was obvious by their expressions that the pain was still fresh.

Meredith pulled a small notebook from her handbag and opened it to a fresh page. “Let’s list the things we know so far. We know Gladys was born in 1913 and that she was still alive when Ada died in 1918. There wasn’t a record of her death in the files up to 1922 –that’s as far as we got today. And we know that she had already gone missing by the time my gran was able to remember. Which would have been when she was say, between three and four years old, around 1919.”

“And you’re sure your gran would’ve told you?” David asked.

“Absolutely,” Meredith said. “If she knew, she wouldn’t have kept it a secret, especially this long after everyone of that generation was gone. What would be the point?”

“I agree,” Miss Woodbridge affirmed. “Anne felt very strongly about family. Why, look how she tended to her father’s grave. I went with her once when we were both younger. She had such great affection for the father she never knew. I am positive she wouldn’t have hidden a long lost cousin from you, Meredith.” She paused for a moment then asked, “David, I’m going to assume your grandfather didn’t know either?”

He shrugged. “I am going to assume that, too. If he knew, he never told my father. Dad was also very interested in family. That’s what put me on this quest in the first place. To put the family tree in order.” He gave Miss Woodbridge a sad smile. “I suppose it’s a fool’s errand. There’s no one left in this branch but me.”

“Oh, nonsense, David,” the old woman said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “You’ll be able to pass this history on to your own children someday.”

He smiled genuinely this time. “Thank you, my dear Miss Woodbridge for being so optimistic. I, however, have sincere doubts about that outcome.”

“Never say never, my boy,” she said, wagging a finger at him.

“All right,” David went on, suppressing a laugh. “So let’s say Anne’s earliest memories were from 1919, that means Gladys must have disappeared within that first year after her mother’s death in 1918.” He frowned. “Is there any way the death record could’ve been misplaced? You know, with the flu epidemic and all?”

Miss Woodbridge shook her head and replied, “No, no. I really think that is a dead end. Pardon the pun. Why keep her death a secret? She would have been given a funeral and been buried with her mother in the churchyard.”

“And she couldn’t have disappeared through foul play,” Meredith added. “That would have been newsworthy.”

“Is it possible she could’ve been given away?” David asked.

“But why keep one child and not the other? Meredith countered.

“I may have a suggestion,” Marion interjected.

All eyes turned toward the young woman.

“Perhaps her real father claimed her.”

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Thiepval Wood – September 1916, Edmund Blunden

Thiepval Wood – September 1916, Edmund Blunden

The tired air groans as the heavies swing over, the river-hollows boom;
The shell-fountains leap from the swamps, and with wild-fire and fume
The shoulder of the chalk down convulses.
Then jabbering echoes stampede in the slatting wood,
Ember-black the gibbet trees like bones or thorns protrude
From the poisonous smoke — past all impulses.
To them these silvery dews can never again be dear,
Nor the blue javelin-flame of thunderous noons strike fear.

The first large offensive of the Battle of the Somme was the offensive at Thiepval Ridge. Mounted by the Reserve Army commanded by Lieutenant General Hubert Gough, the attack was intended to benefit from the attack of the Fourth Army at the Battle of Morval which was planned for twenty four hours later.

However, Thiepval Ridge was a well fortified entrenchment. The German defenders fought doggedly while the British advance bogged down after the first day. The coordination between infantry and artillery declined thanks to the chaos of the maze-like trench system, the dug-outs and shell craters. The British objectives were not actually achieved until October-November when the Reserve Army was reorganized and reinforced at the Battle of Ancre Heights.

Beyond the organizational turmoil, the deteriorating weather frustrated the plans of General Joffre to forge ahead with the planned attacks of the Anglo-French armies. Coincidentally, the Allies’ failures were further hampered by a revival in the German defense. It was time for experimentation in the war’s cruelest and deadliest weapons. The British implemented new techniques in gas warfare, machine gun bombardment and tank/infantry cooperation. The Germans struggled to withstand the ascendancy of men and material fielded by the combined British and French forces, even though they were being reinforced by troops, artillery and aircraft from Verdun. September became the costliest month for German casualties in the Battle of the Somme.

 

Medusa 

Medusa 

The child had two things going against her before she’d even left the hospital in which she’d been born. The first was that her mother, an addict, had died while in the process of giving birth. The second was that her maternal grandmother, a retired professor of religious studies at the city university had a warped sense of humor and in her frustration at finding herself the guardian of a newborn child, had decided to name the girl Medusa. Perhaps that is actually three things going against the child…

At any rate, on August 31, in the Year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred ninety seven, Medusa Zoe Stevenson was born. Her grandmother, Eleanor, reluctantly took her into her care. Nell Stevenson had been and remained a malevolent dictator. If one was to call it like one saw it, Nell’s habits and bizarre ideology had not only driven away her husband after five years of marriage, but had also directly resulted in her daughter’s mental instability and subsequent addiction problems. That, of course was not Nell’s worldview.

Medusa was an enigma from the very beginning. As if she had a preternatural sense of what was to come in the future under Nell’s care, she was remarkably cooperative. Slept through the night, ate well, spit up only on her bib, never on Nell’s clothing, even somehow managed to restrict her waste output to a minimum. Still, Nell remained perpetually irritated at the burden placed upon her.

Medusa showed aptitude at reading comprehension at a very early age. One day, at tea time –for Nell took tea at three o’clock in a snobby attempt to seem British– Medusa went missing. The child was just beginning to walk with coordination. She was perhaps eighteen months or so at the time. In a panic, for to lose the child would have been a failure on her part, Nell began a frantic search of the rambling Victorian home she and Medusa occupied.

The child was found in the library on the floor, reading –or so it seemed– from an illustrated copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The page she was perusing told the tale of Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters getting their eyes plucked out by birds. She seemed unaffected by the gory imagery. Nell snatched the book away and placed it high on a shelf out of reach.

Nevertheless, Medusa continued to ‘read’ Nell’s books. The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Torah, The Apocrypha, The Iliad and The Odyssey, Hesiod’s Theogeny…. She quietly studied each one, page after page after page. Nell was secretly proud. But rather than praise, she pushed. Medusa had the Greek and Roman pantheons memorized by the age of three, could recite The Law of Moses by age four.

When Medusa was five years old and about to start kindergarten, Nell was invited to be a guest speaker at the welcoming ceremony for incoming freshmen at her former employer and alma mater, the city university. She readily agreed. However, Nell being Nell, she had alienated all possible candidates to watch the child while she performed her duties at the ceremony. As a result, she was compelled to bring Medusa along.

The ceremony was held outdoors, at the spectacular amphitheater –designed to impress parents and wealthy donors– situated along the large bay that emptied into the Atlantic Ocean.

Medusa sat in the front row along with other speakers, the president of the university, the department heads and other important guests. She gazed out upon the bay, the sun setting on the opposite horizon, still casting its orange and red-gold rays upon the calm water. Peace settled on her. Peace like she’d never felt before. She knew then and there her purpose in life.

She studied diligently. Learned magnificently. Excelled exceedingly. When she graduated at age fifteen, she was not only given the valedictorian-ship, she had already taken an entire semester’s worth of college classes. She won scholarships, applied to the finest schools and was not just accepted but sought after for her scholastic aptitude.

When Medusa finally decided on her preferred college, Nell was shocked and dismayed. Medusa had chosen science over philosophy, the physical over the metaphysical, the experimental over the existential. Medusa had chosen to become a marine biologist.

As was expected, the young woman took to her studies like a fish to water –pun intended. Her time in the field was more enjoyable and fulfilling than any previous experience. Tidal pools, estuaries, fathomless trenches, shoals and reefs –all of them fascinated and enthralled her.

It was in her senior year, the final day in the field. The team was working in the Gulf of Mexico, between the mainland of Florida and the string of barrier islands when the transformation occurred. Medusa was dozing on deck with the rest of her team, when science vessel Trident slowed to a stop. She snapped to attention when the call came. She was neither surprised nor afraid, for this is what she had been waiting for all of her life.

She walked with purpose to the railing of the vessel, chucking off her sneakers, pulling her tank top over her head, stepping out of her cargo shorts, unclasping her bra, sliding her panties off, even removing her watch and earrings. The Cnidaria surrounded the ship, pale orange and gold, undulating in synchrony, beckoning Medusa to follow. With a smile that could turn men to stone, she bade her comrades farewell and leapt into the sea.

Header Image: The Head of Medusa, Caravaggio