A Double Jointed Tale

IMG_0205 2

His mother referred to him as The Special One.  Other islanders referred to her as Mother of God.  This was not a compliment.  Usually unable to contain herself, she did have the presence of mind to keep one of his many attributes a secret.  He was born double jointed, as was his older sister.  And she suffered a lifetime of painful teasing.

The boy possessed outstanding hearing, and sensitivity to vibrational shifts in the earth, a talent much needed on their vulnerable island.  But because of the mother’s bragging about her son being the second coming, the islanders did their best to reject him along with his skills.  

When he detected an impending belch from the belly of the ocean, not entirely trusting their fragile location, the islanders heeded his warning.  Everyone fled to higher ground.  Of the bodies of land overcome by the wall of water, theirs’ was the only one to escape human casualties.  

The houses, however, were flattened, leaving only sticks and scattered debris.  As they rebuilt, the villagers’ meanness toward the boy heightened.  Since their dogs were the first ones up the mountain before the quake erupted, they whistled for the boy as if he were less than human.  The losses, their grief, all horrible feelings had to land on something, or in this case, someone.  A big job for a little boy, he became the island’s grief eater.  

In order to turn around the hatred poured on her boy, his mother invited all the pregnant girls, babies being the result of many a disaster, to a group shower.  As if performing in a theatrical production directed by the mother, he confidently predicted in-coming genders.  A good time was had by all until he went into details of the sexual orientations of their future children. 

When the manly men heard of these forecasts, just thinking their seeds might contribute to an ‘other,’ they were driven into action.  Only one cure for this latest affront: that boy had to go.  

For weeks, he managed to elude their advances.  But when the worse-than-usual red tide interfered with his senses, the men corralled him in the lane just feet from his front door.  A hapless posse of testosterone, they hadn’t planned beyond the capture.  So they tied him to a chair in a derelict house and went outside to discuss their options.

As his captors sat under a starry night sky drinking and arguing, the boy used his secret ability to shimmy free of the ropes and chair, and contorted himself out the tiny rear window.  Exhaling like a hunted panther, he wound through dark alleys, ducking his way under windows, back to his fretful mother.  She took him up the mountain to his aunt, who had protected the sister too.  There, he was hidden in the only cellar on the island, a secret room.

The men reached the single conclusion on which they could all agree: by tying the boy to an oarless canoe and depositing him in the ocean, the tide would perform their dirty work.  But upon discovering the empty chair, a brawl ensued.  Like another natural disaster, their roars were heard all over the island.  Families followed the sounds to a pile of big heads, little minds, muddy arms, twisted legs, bare torsos, burning hatred: the ruins of inebriated men.  Treated like naughty children, they were untangled from each other and escorted home.  The episode was handled as if a good night’s sleep would cure the troubles of their little world. 

Text and photo by Stephanie Urdang


Fable #1: Peaches and Silk


It was July and the peaches were green.  Usually somewhat predictable, the natural world was in the process of changing her mind.

In the quiet order of their lives, the community noticed additional oddities. These were filed into categories: some were good omens, and others, dreadful.  Interpretations depended on the disposition and age of the various people of the land.

Jamie witnessed thousands of walking sticks making their way up his favorite walking path.  He quit counting at four hundred eighty-four.  That was the month and year of his birth.  The parade went on for days, ‘Like an exodus,’ he claimed.

Over a single night, Mary’s roses went from full-blown blousy, sweet smelling, county-famous ruffles, to looking fake and dusty, like old paper.

Lightening bugs blinked in tandem, turning night into a throbbing stage.

Bullfrogs, absent for years, converged into a song that woke the children from their sleep, all of them in panic.  The common thread of their collective nightmare: a background of screeching.

In broad daylight, feminine garments were stolen from clotheslines.  A teeming gossip-fest erupted, worse than the one the year before when a husband ran off with a neighbor’s son.  Theories on who might be the thief spilled like poison from the town’s tongues.

Men accused the poor woman whose husband took the teenage boy.  They assumed she was out for vengeance for the town turning on her.  The women worried themselves sick over what was happening and began suspecting each others’ husbands, sure each was guilty of unspeakable desire.  Then they turned against each other, and in no time, the mostly peaceful village was in war with itself. 

Even the children had their theory: one boy made the mistake of telling his closest friends in school, and they told their mothers who thought it sounded like incest, that he wished his sister had beautiful things to wear. 

The constable said it was the Almighty stripping away their finery, ruining the land that supported them, laying bare their selfish souls. A line formed around the back of his stone station, scared citizens seeking support, making reports.  The one thing everyone agreed on was that all signs pointed to something worse about to rain down on their heads.

Sitting and weeping at his grand desk in the center of a nearly empty room, a young girl said her matching underwear went missing, as if it walked off on legs.  He took notes on her opinion about the culprit, a jealous boyfriend.  Like a flattened honeybee, his yellow phone vibrated across the desk.  

With commanding countenance, he excused himself from the girl to take the call.  Her eyes roamed the immediate landscape.  On his windowsill, her gaze settled on the biggest book she’d ever seen.   

As if the book were a magnet, she left her chair and floated to the window.  Surprisingly light when she picked it up, the girl discovered it was not a book of vast knowledge, but a box made to look like one.  

She heard the constable’s voice growing faint, talking and walking in the opposite direction of his office.  Knowing better, she told herself the world was already falling apart: still-green summer fruits, converging insects, returning amphibians, the fate of flowers, a fighting village, this wave of undergarment thievery.  What damage could a little peek cause, she asked herself.  One finger lifting the cover of the box, an eye on the door, the other inside the lid, she discovered a stack of unmentionable silks.  On top lay her favorite peach camisole.