Saturday, July 13, 2013

#30 Bartholomew in the Garden





            Bartholomew could smell the soil the moment he stepped off his front step.  The garden was close to his house, but he never would have thought that he would smell it from his house.  It had rained just enough that morning to clear the air and allow, for a brief time, the essential smells of the earth to rise, reminding Bartholomew of this basic human experience – he lives on a planet.  It was one of those mornings that are so still one begins to perceive how active everything is. Smells rose in the air and the sounds of decay lay at his feet.  Songs came from the trees on the edge of the garden: cardinal songs, robin songs and wrens.  These songs were being answered by other song trees in the neighborhood.  Bartholomew could even taste the flowering birch trees nearby, although he did not know the origin of that sweet something on his tongue. 

            He set to work in the garden.  Weeds were popping their heads up, waiting to be decapitated, plucked from their home, scattered, trampled, exhausted and dismembered.  They seem to thrive on this treatment thought Bartholomew and chuckled to himself as he thought about what a violent hobby gardening is.  His goal this weekend was to hoe and pluck his victims throughout the whole garden, except Mr. McBardon's hedged plot.  Mr. McBardon had made it clear, several times, that he would maintain his own plot.  After weeding, Bartholomew hoped to cover the ground with mulch.  Uncle Jeffrey had dropped off a load the night before.

            After a few hours, Bartholomew decided to take a break and have some water.  He sat down on a stump, one of several in the break area of the garden, and pulled a cold steel bottle of water out of a small bag of sustenance he brought with him.  The sky was a bright blue, like only a spring sky can be, and there were just a few small whispy clouds here and there.  Bartholomew was happy as he sat there taking in the world around his garden.  He started to go down the list of things that were good in his life but stopped himself by saying, “Whatever,... life is just good.”

            “Wha?” Bartholomew heard someone say as a figure rose out of Mr.McBardon's hedge.

            “Mr. McBardon?!  How long have you been there?” asked a startled Bartholomew.

            “Huh?  Wha?  Oh, all morning. Just weeding.”


             Bartholomew thought for a moment about how he never saw Mr. McBardon working in the garden ever since the first day.  Mr. McBardon's “hedge” had grown tall enough that if he was weeding on his knees nobody would see him.  This is what Bartholomew assumed had happened.  Or else, Mr. McBardon had slept in his plot and was just waking up.

            “How's your plot doing?” asked Bartholomew.

            “Fine, just fine,” Mr. McBardon blurted out, as if to say, “No need for you to come over.  Stay there, everything is fine.”

            “I'm going to set up the sprinkler in a little while.  Would you like me to water your plot, too?” asked Bartholomew.

            “Uhm, uh, yeah, I guess that would be fine.  It's due.”

            Mr. McBardon gazed up at the blue sky and then quietly sank behind his hedge, back to his private world of weeding.


                                    *                      *                      *                      *


            Topping and Charlotte joined Bartholomew in the garden one day to tie up the tomato plants.  Uncle Jeffrey and Aunt Josephine had dropped off tomato cages the night before.  By that time, some of the plants were big enough that Bartholomew had his doubts about fitting these cages around the plants without breaking some branches.  The three worked together carefully dropping a cage down over the plant, pulling its branches through the wires and, where needed, tying the plant to the cage with torn sheets that Bartholomew's cat, Oliver, had ruined.



            They had successfully accomplished the procedure on three plants when Topping barked, “Damn!” as he snapped off a branch.

            “I hardly bent it!  Man, these babies just 'go,' don't they?”

            “It's okay.  I'm sure were all going to break a few toda...  Aggh!,” said Bartholomew as he snapped a branch, too.
           
            Charlotte laughed.  “I guess, I'm next.”

            The next few plants were saved from any harm.  Charlotte was enjoying watching Topping carefully protect the tomato branches as the cage came down and then surgically place the branches through the cage holes.  This was a side to Topping that Charlotte loved.  He could be so gentle, kind and thoughtful with his heart and his hands that she couldn't help but be in love with him.  Sometimes, when Topping was like this, Charlotte would imagine his kind hands touching her.  She found herself getting excited about being done with the gardening and arriving home to be alone with Topping... or maybe in the car on the way home... or maybe if Bartholomew would leave, they could be alone in the garden – outdoors.

            As they were placing the next cage over a rather large plant, Bartholomew felt something bump up against his leg.  It was Hump-Pug, doing what Hump-Pug does – humping leg. 

            Topping laughed.

            “Not now Hump-Pug,” said Bartholomew.  “Get off!”

            Hump-Pug, of course, did not listen.  She humped and panted, “I have a lover, I know I do...”

            “What is that whining?” asked Topping.

            “Who knows,” said Bartholomew.  “She must live around here somewhere, she's been here a lot while I've been gardening.”

            “Ugh, she looks a mess,” said Charlotte.  “All those burrs and seeds in her coat.  Poor dog.”

            Exasperated, Bartholomew groaned, “We might as well stop.  She's not going to let us finish.  She will keep jumping on our legs until we leave.”

            “Wait a minute,” said Topping who ran to get another tomato cage.  He carefully took the largest cage and placed it over Hump-Pug and shoved its spikes into the ground.  “There, now she won't bug us,” Topping laughed mockingly.

            “How could you do that?” asked a distraught Charlotte.

            Topping laughed more while the little pug tried to first push over the cage and then to try and hump it.

            “God, the animal’s just out of control.  What a dumb dog.  Let's finish caging the tomatoes,” said Topping.

            This was the side of Topping that Charlotte did not like.  There are times when he can be insensitive to animals and people.  Charlotte liked that Topping had a sense of humor, but sometimes he laughed at the cruelest things.  Sometimes getting a job done was more important than the people, and small animals, around him.  She didn't understand this streak in him.  Without realizing it, she was no longer excited to get home.

            Hump-Pug did not seem to mind the confinement, and she eventually took the opportunity to take a quick nap.  In the meantime, Topping, Bartholomew and Charlotte caged all the tomato plants that needed it and tied up the larger ones.  They pulled the cage off of Hump-Pug and placed it in the middle of a patch of pole beans while the little pug awoke and jumped from leg to leg.


                                                                        *          *          *          *

            One hot and humid mid-summer day, Claire came by to help Bartholomew with some weeding and watering.  The garden had been producing greens for a couple of weeks and the other plants were growing tall.  The work was rather easy as the vegetables were now starting to crowd out the weeds.  Bartholomew enjoyed Claire's presence.  She was direct and he didn't have to assume anything about her.  He found this made it simple for him to share himself, too.



            “So, you are moving out of Ned's place?” asked Bartholomew.

            “Yeah.  At the end of the month,” said Claire.

            Bartholomew stopped weeding for a moment.  “I'm sorry to hear that,” he said.

            “It's okay.  It isn't going to work out.  I'm not sure why we got together in the first place...”  Claire stopped herself and looked at Bartholomew.  “Thanks.  I appreciate it.”

            “I just want you to know that Ned hasn't been blabbing stuff to me,” assured Bartholomew.  “In fact, I haven't seen him for quite awhile.  He seems too have decided to not come around.”

            “I'm sorry about that.  It's his choice, but obviously he feels uncomfortable with some of our shared friends.”

            “I wouldn't put too much of this on your splitting up.  Ned used to come over a lot but our relationship was always a bit awkward.  I really don't know what to do when he gets so quiet.  He can go the longest time without saying anything.”

            “Oh god, some of his pauses are so painful,” Claire said relieved that someone else had noticed this same quality about Ned.  She began to laugh.  “There was this one time I asked him where he wanted to go out to eat and he stared at me for two minutes without saying anything.  Two minutes!  There was a clock on the wall behind him and I actually timed it.  Two minutes!”

            “Whoa,” said Bartholomew.

            “How are things with The Nanny?” asked Claire.

            Bartholomew bent down and started weeding again.  “Things are... fine.”

            “That didn't sound very convincing,” responded Claire.

            “Well, I don't know...I feel funny. I've never talked about my relationship with a woman with a woman before.  It seems odd.”

            “Go ahead,” encouraged Claire.  “I promise I won't bite...or laugh.”

            “Well, things are a little strange,” began Bartholomew.  “When we get together we have a great time.  We talk about everything and anything. We laugh and we talk about hard stuff and we do fun things...”

            “But...” added Claire.

            “But,” continued Bartholomew, “whenever we are...intimate...she always stops things at... second or third base.  We've... you know...touched all over... and made out and even spent the night together.  But we never go... all the way.  It's getting frustrating.”

            “Wow, do you feel like she really likes you?”

            Bartholomew winced at this question and tossed his weeds onto a pile.  “I think so.  She says so.”

            “A lot of people say a lot of things, Bartholomew.  Do you feel like she really cares about you?”

            “I think so.  I don't know. Sometimes I feel like she is trying to teach me something instead of being there with me.  Like she thinks someone else is supposed to be my lover.  She's just filling in until then.”

            “Ouch,” said Claire.

            “What do you mean?” asked Bartholomew.

            “Is that what you're feeling or what you think she's feeling?”

            Bartholomew thought for a moment.  “It's what I think she is thinking,... I think.”

            “Well, then, Ouch,” said Claire.

            “Yeah, ouch,” agreed Bartholomew.

            Claire bent down and picked a few weeds.  “So, what you gonna do?”

            Bartholomew stared off at the poplar trees, their leaves were dead still on this hot stifling day.  He wiped sweat from his brow and noticed a beetle scabbering across the soil.  “I don't know, what should I do?” he said looking to Claire.


            “Dump her,” said Claire without hesitation.

            “Really? Just dump her?”

            “Yes, dump her.  Or, well, end it.  If she's not really interested in you for herself, then why would you want to be with her?  Look, I don't know why Ned let me stay at his place so long.  Actually, I do know...it was the sex.  But we weren't good for each other.  If you're not good for each other, then don't be together.  Just end it and start finding someone else.”

            Bartholomew thought for a while.  Claire went back to weeding.  Eventually, Bartholomew's body moved to the green pepper plants and removed the unwanted quack grass and dandelions, but his mind stayed in the same place for the rest of the morning.  They finally took a water break and as they sat on the stumps in the garden, Bartholomew asked, “So, I don't have to try to make things work with The Nanny?”

            “Nope.  Not if it's not going to work.”

            “I don't have to...”

            “Bartholomew!” said Claire.  “Do you two have a verbal or written commitment to each other?”

            “No,” said Bartholomew as if following an order.

            “Is she pregnant?”

            “God, no!”

            “She's acting like she's not supposed to be your lover, right?”

            “Right,” answered Bartholomew.

            “You are frustrated in the relationship?”

            “Yes, I am,” said Bartholomew.

            “Then stop seeing her and move on,” Claire commanded, her eyes boring into Bartholomew's.

            His eyes, giving in to hers, bowed to the ground.  “You're right.  I should end it.  Wow!  That feels good to say out loud,” declared Bartholomew with a grin on his face.

            “Bartholomew, you are the one who gets to determine where your life is going.  You get to decide if you are enjoying it.  If you are not, you can change it. That's one thing I did learned from my spoken word classes,” said Claire.


                                                *          *          *          *


            Aunt Jospehine and Uncle Jeffrey stopped by the garden one morning with a trailer full of mulch.  Bartholomew was in the garden weeding and harvesting vegetables.

            “You gotta see this tomato – it's HUGE!” said Barthholomew holding up a red lumpy hand. 

            “Wow,” said Uncle Jeffrey.

            “That is quite large,” responded Aunt Josephine.

            “So, is this Wednesday night going to be our first harvest dinner?” asked Uncle Jeffrey.

            “Absolutely,” crowed Bartholomew.  “You guys coming?”

            “We wouldn't miss it,” they responded in unison.



            Bartholomew went back to harvesting vegetables, carefully placing them in a fabric bag.  Uncle Jeffrey picked a snap pea off a plant and started to eat.  Aunt Josephine followed his lead and laughed as she bit into the crisp green shell.  They let Bartholomew harvest the vegetables – enjoy the fruits of his labor and his idea.   Aunt Josephine and Uncle Jeffrey emptied the mulch into a pile just off the curb.  Aunt Josephine had brought some of her special punch and invited Bartholomew to take a break. She poured out the punch into plastic cups, handed one to each of the men in her life and said, “Here's to Bartholomew and his garden.”  They raised their cups and clinked them together.  “Here, here,” said Uncle Jeffrey.

            Bartholomew downed his punch and held out his cup for more.  Aunt Josephine gladly obliged him with another cup full.

            “Seriously, Bartholomew,” said Aunt Josephine,  “you have done a great thing by making this garden.  Both Uncle Jeffrey and I have gotten to know your friends better and Mr. McBardon.  And... we just notice how happy you are.  It makes us very happy to see you this way, Bartholomew.  It has been a long time and I know that your parent's would be very proud of you.”  Aunt Josephine moved forward and hugged Bartholomew.

            “Yes,” added Uncle Jeffrey, “and you have provided us all with such a delicious outcome.  You really do have a green thumb.”

            Bartholomew blushed.

            “C'mon,” said Aunt Josephine, “let's go make some gespachio out of that huge tomato,” as she put her arm around Bartholomew's shoulders and guided him toward his house.  Uncle Jeffrey quickly ran over to Mr.McBardon's house to turn on the hose and water the garden while they cooked.  The sound of water squirted through the hose until it shot out of the sprinkler in a big arc moving slowly across the garden.  Uncle Jeffrey almost caught up with them when they heard a scream.



            “Agggh!” yelled Mr. McBardon who suddenly sprung up from behind his hedge.  The sprinkler pelted him with water as he jumped through the hedge and hobbled as quickly as he could to his house.  All the while making duck-like noises and running his hands through his wet hair: “mah, mah, mah, mah...”  He disappeared into his door.  Uncle Jeffrey and Bartholomew laughed.  Aunt Josephine looked at them sternly, but then she couldn't help herself and they all laughed as they went to Bartholomew's little house to make some soup.

___________________________________________________________


Bartholomew in the Garden is the 30th story in The Book of Bartholomew. The story is written and illustrated by Mark Granlund.

Bartholomew spends some time in the garden on different days with different people doing different activities and talking about different things. 

You can see the full-color flipbook version of this story, with back stories and additional illustrations, here



Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bartholomew in the Garden - Story

Bartholomew in the Garden is actually a short series of short-short stories all in one.  I wanted to give the reader a sense of what the typical activities in the garden are and Bartholomew's experience of them.  I also wanted to give Bartholomew some alone time with his friends to deepen their relationships.  So, we end up with Bartholomew weeding with Claire, tying up tomato plants with Topping and Charlotte and harvesting with Aunt Josephine and Uncle Jeffrey - and apparently Mr. McBardon.  These are happy times for Bartholomew; he has friends, a garden, his pets and his small family.  The stories beyond this point include the incidents that lead up to the ending of The Book.  There will be 48 stories in all.  Bartholomew in the Garden is #30.  Enjoy!

One hot and humid mid-summer day, Claire came by to help Bartholomew with some weeding and watering. The garden had been producing greens for a couple of weeks and the other plants were growing tall. The work was rather easy as the vegetables were now starting to crowd out the weeds. Bartholomew enjoyed Claire's presence. She was direct and he didn't have to assume anything about her. He found this made it simple for him to share himself, too.

“So, you are moving out of Ned's place?” asked Bartholomew.

“Yeah. At the end of the month,” said Claire.

Bartholomew stopped weeding for a moment. “I'm sorry to hear that,” he said.

“It's okay. It isn't going to work out. I'm not sure why we got together in the first place...” Claire stopped herself and looked at Bartholomew. “Thanks. I appreciate it.”

“I just want you to know that Ned hasn't been blabbing stuff to me,” assured Bartholomew. “In fact, I haven't seen him for quite awhile. He seems too have decided to not come around.”

“I'm sorry about that. It's his choice, but obviously he feels uncomfortable with some of our shared friends.”

“I wouldn't put too much of this on your splitting up. Ned used to come over a lot but our relationship was always a bit awkward. I really don't know what to do when he gets so quiet. He can go the longest time without saying anything.”

“Oh god, some of his pauses are so painful,” Claire said relieved that someone else had noticed this same quality about Ned. She began to laugh. “There was this one time I asked him where he wanted to go out to eat and he stared at me for two minutes without saying anything. Two minutes! There was a clock on the wall behind him and I actually timed it. Two minutes!”

“Whoa,” said Bartholomew.

“How are things with The Nanny?” asked Claire.

Bartholomew bent down and started weeding again. “Things are... fine.”

“That didn't sound very convincing,” responded Claire.

“Well, I don't know...I feel funny. I've never talked about my relationship with a woman with a woman before. It seems odd.”

“Go ahead,” encouraged Claire. “I promise I won't bite...or laugh.”

“Well, things are a little strange,” began Bartholomew. “When we get together we have a great time. We talk about everything and anything. We laugh and we talk about hard stuff and we do fun things...”

“But...” added Claire.

“But,” continued Bartholomew, “whenever we are...intimate...she always stops things at... second or third base. We've... you know...touched all over... and made out and even spent the night together. But we never go... all the way. It's getting frustrating.”

“Wow, do you feel like she really likes you?”

Bartholomew winced at this question and tossed his weeds onto a pile. “I think so. She says so.”

“A lot of people say a lot of things, Bartholomew. Do you feel like she really cares about you?”

“I think so. I don't know. Sometimes I feel like she is trying to teach me something instead of being there with me. Like she thinks someone else is supposed to be my lover. She's just filling in until then.”

“Ouch,” said Claire.

“What do you mean?” asked Bartholomew.

“Is that what you're feeling or what you think she's feeling?”

Bartholomew thought for a moment. “It's what I think she is thinking,... I think.”

“Well, then, Ouch,” said Claire.

“Yeah, ouch,” agreed Bartholomew.

Friday, July 5, 2013

#29 What Will Be Will Be






            Ned and Claire biked home in the dark after the day of garden planting with Topping, Charlotte, Bartholomew and Aunt Josephine and Uncle Jeffrey.  Ned didn't like biking in the dark; he found it hard to see potholes and objects that might be in the way.  He worried about having an accident.  Claire, on the other hand, didn't worry about anything.  Being on a bike was like breathing.  She biked everywhere.  This was partly because she did not own a car, but she used that as an excuse.  She really enjoyed biking.  It made her feel good about her body and about her planet.  She also felt that it brought her more in touch with her neighborhood, because she saw more of it when biking.  As Ned worried more and more about running into things, he fell behind. Then he felt like he had to catch up.  He was torn between wanting to do something with Claire, and yet wanting to go at his own pace.  He felt resentments about being led into these situations by Claire's confidence.  In fact, Claire's general confidence in all things made Ned a bit uncomfortable.

            They arrived home and carried their bikes up the three flights of stairs to the apartment and parked them in the living room.  Ned collapsed on a worn out couch while Claire headed to the kitchen for a drink of water.  Although they had just biked five miles, their stomachs were full from the large meal that Aunt Josephine had made for the gardeners.  Claire came back out to the living room with a glass of water in her hand.  Ned wondered why she didn't offer to get him a glass of water, too.  Claire collapsed in a stuffed chair that wasn't stuffed enough.  “Ow,” she said as a spring poked her butt.


            “Can't we get a new chair?  This one is horrible,” she commented.

            Ned sighed.

            “What's up with you?” asked Claire.

            “What do you mean?” responded Ned.

            “You were quiet all day at the garden and Bartholomew's.  You were crabby about where you were planting things and quiet the whole way home.  And now you aren't answering my question.  So, what's up?”

            “Nothing's up.  I just don't feel like talking.”

            “You spend the whole day with your partner and your friends and you don't feel like talking?  That's just weird.”

            “My partner? What does that mean?” asked Ned, never having heard Claire use that term before.

            “Uh, we've been living together for almost five months.  At this point, it's not like I'm just a girlfriend.”

            Ned wasn't sure what the difference would be between a girlfriend and a partner.  “So, you’re my partner?  Like a business partner?  Like, you help me pay the rent and buy groceries and things like that?  Cuz, last I checked, you still don't have a job.  At this point, it's not like this is much of a partnership.”

            Claire's heart winced but her anger did not.  “What?  You think of this as a business partnership?  I didn't know there were conditions on me being here.  Is that what you want?”  Ned did not respond so Claire continued.  “No, I don't have a job.  But it’s not like I haven't taken care of things around here.  It's not like I don't contribute.  I clean the apartment and I cook and fix things.  And I have paid for some things.”

            “Look, I'm tired,” said Ned, “let's forget I said anything.”

            Claire moved over to the couch.  “I can't forget something like that.  Is that why you've been quiet all day?  You’re mad that I don't contribute around here?”

            “It's not that you don't contribute, it's just that I needed a roommate to help cover the rent and here you are costing me more money.  I'm dipping into my savings to float us here.  I'm trying to save my money for other things.”

            “Like what?” demanded Claire.

            “Well, I've always tried to save enough money to cover four months worth of bills.  That way I have a nest egg and if anything happens, like I lose my job, or I get sick or something, I have a cushion.  It's the prudent thing to do.”

            “What?  You're saving money in order to save money?  Being prudent is more important than our relationship?” asked Claire as tears came to her eyes.

            “It's not that its more important...,” began Ned.  He stopped.  His mind raced back across time.  He revisited all the times he felt that Claire was being unfair or demanding.  He thought about how embarrassed he was when she was kicked out of the Earth Day Celebration and when she broke down at the spoken word event.  He thought about how she kept expressing her opinion even when she knew it would be uncomfortable for him.  He often had thought that Claire relied more on her gross-emotional skills than her fine-emotional skills.  In a word, she was blunt – blunt as a stub.  This even carried over to their love-making.  Every time they made love,  Claire needed it to be at a certain emotional pitch.  She didn't have a sense of lingering, of spooning for hours or of having fun while being intimate.  She seemed to have no imagination.  It had to always be the same game, the same roles and then done.

            As Claire waited for Ned to finish his sentence, she thought about all the times that Ned didn't keep up with her.  This wasn't just with biking.  Ned couldn't keep up in conversation, in understanding the motives behind political situations, in expressing what he wanted for food – or anything.  Ned always seemed to be lagging, which in Claire's mind meant lacking.  He often seemed distant, unsure and, in general, incapable.  This even carried over to their love-making.  Every time they had sex, Ned never seemed satisfied.  He was always wanting to try something new, something different.  He never seemed contented to just make love to her – to simply enjoy Claire as a partner.  It was as if he needed something more to excite him.

            Ned, finally continued, “...it is important.  It actually is important to have money in the bank.  Is it more important than our relationship?  No, I don't think so, but if I had a choice between having a relationship that is penniless and the same relationship with money in the bank, I would take the relationship with money—some security.  Plus, we will have to move if you don't start paying for your half of the bills.”

            “I just couldn't imagine that you were this greedy,” said Claire.  “Maybe if you would share what you’re thinking and feeling once in awhile I might have seen this coming.”

            Ned glared at her.  Claire could tell that she had stepped over a line, and she took a morsel of pleasure in this.  

            “Why share myself?” replied Ned.  “Every time I do you don't like it.  I say something and you jump all over it or you start to question me.  Why can't you just let people be themselves?  Like Mayor Dick.  Why do you get so caught up with whatever the hell Mayor Dick is doing?”



            “Because he's a...a...fucking idiot!” said Claire.  “He's ruining everything by being so stupid and pigheaded.  People like him will ruin the entire planet if they’re allowed to keep doing what they're doing!”

            “Oh, OK, here we go!  Yes, the whole big planet-is-dying thing  And you are the only person who really cares.”

            “Oh my god,” said Claire.  “I can't believe what I'm hearing.  You mean you don't see that the planet is dying?  Were you ever going to tell me this or just keep going to Earth Day Celebrations with me?  Maybe I was right at Topping and Charlotte's New Year's Eve party – maybe you are a Capitalist Nazi.  After all, you treasure your money more than our relationship.”

            Like two dead goldfish caught in the spinning whirlpool of a toilet, these two weren't going to stop until they were stuck in deep shit.

            “I am not a Capitalist Nazi!  I don't like money more than people, I just want to be thoughtful about my money.  I want to have money so I am not dependent on others.”

            “But we are all dependent on each other.  Don't you get it?  Everything we do affects the environment and other people.  You can't make and spend your money in a vacuum.  To think you do is a lie.”

            “Yes, I guess I'm in denial,” Ned said sarcastically.  “I'm in denial about the state of the planet, about money and about myself.  After only five months you know me better than myself.  Yes, you are the great all-seeing Claire.”

            “Shut the fuck up!” said Claire, throwing a chair pillow at Ned.

            “Oh, now don't start oppressing the masses with pillows,” taunted Ned.

            Claire moved quickly and swatted at Ned with another pillow.  Ned blocked it.

            “Shut up, you moron,” said Claire as she kept swatting at Ned.

            “Yes, sometimes it does seem like I'm a moron in your eyes,” said Ned as he parried a swat with his own pillow.

            Claire hesitated and then swatted one more time, catching Ned in the face.   Ned became enraged and popped off the sofa and on top of Claire, who toppled over backward into the stuffed chair.

            “Get off of me!” Claire screamed.

            “Not until you apologize,” said Ned pushing down on her.

             “For what?” Claire asked indignantly.

            “For hitting me in the face, for thinking I'm a moron and for not letting me be me.”

            “What the fuck?” said Claire.  “You are a moron.”

            Ned pushed down harder. 

            “Ow, alright!  I'm sorry for hitting you in the face.”

            “And?”

            “...and for calling you a moron.”

            “And?”

            “C'mon, Ned,” said Claire, “if you don't feel like you can be yourself, that's not my problem.  Assert yourself!”

            “Like this?” Ned said as he pushed down harder.

            “No, you...”  Claire caught herself,  “...not like that.  TALK TO ME!  Let me know what you're thinking. Don't be so quiet all the time!”

            They stared into each other's eyes.

            “Ned. Get off of me,” said Claire.

            Ned got off of Claire and sat back down on the sofa, holding a pillow to his chest.  Claire stayed in the chair breathing heavily.  They said nothing for a long time.  Claire wiped tears from her eyes.  Ned gritted his teeth.  Eventually, the tide of anger receded and they both apologized for the least harmful of their actions. 

            Ned said, “I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to push down on you like that.”

            Claire said, “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hit you in the face with the pillow.”

            But, of course, both of them did want to do those things, because they did them.  They did want to hurt each other.  For the next two weeks, they both held back from saying and doing unkind things to each other.  Ned tried to talk more about his feelings and share what he was thinking.  Claire tried to think more positively about Ned and go at his pace.  Eventually, the facade began to crack.  Unkind gestures and thoughts leaked back in here and there.  A month after the incident they both were back to blaming each other for the problems in their relationship.  Soon enough, all trust was gone.

             If they had a guardian angel in their lives helping them with their relationship they might have realized that neither of them was to blame, that neither of them could change enough to please the other and that they couldn't change each other enough to become one.  If, on that New Year's Eve that seemed so long ago, an angel had been at the party they might have realized that they were not meant for each other.  If there had been such a guardian angel, they would not have spent all this time in pain and anguish trying to make something work that was never meant to be.  But there was no angel at the party and they didn't learn these things, like most people, before going through them. Claire let a spooky old crow scare her into the relationship and Ned, like a whipped dog, was led by his desperate hope and propped up expectations... like most people.

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What Will Be Will Be is the 29th story in The Book of Bartholomew. The story is written by Mark Granlund and cover illustration by James O'Brien.

At home, after gardening, Ned and Claire have a fight. Will they make up? Will they feel sorry and change their ways? Should they?

You can see the full-color flipbook version of this story, with back stories and additional illustrations, here