Live Your Verb

Become a person of action.

Category: short stories


When she was still barely a girl, just on the verge of being a woman, she met a boy and quickly fell in love. She spent hours admiring the nape of his neck, his carefree laugh, his distinctive way of moving through a crowd to reach her - the unique traits that only lovers really know.

After a while, she began plucking out little pieces of her soul and gently presenting them to him. He hadn’t asked her to; she wasn’t sure why she started. She didn’t even notice she was doing it until it had been going on for quite some time. She guessed she just loved him so much that it seemed natural to make an offering, to give herself over to the momentum of it all. Besides, they would be together forever, so she could retrieve the pieces any time she needed them. She might as well share.

He did not keep hold of the pieces very well. Some were dropped, others lost among his pockets, a few seemingly discarded. He had always been a little absentminded…

When his arms were full, she thought she might like a little piece of his in return, just a tiny one to keep in her pocket, turn over in her hand when she missed him. A token. She waited patiently, certain that he would press one into her palm… but he didn’t. She waited, waited, waited longer. Finally she asked him for a piece, just a tiny one, to hold close to her during his nights away. But he shook his head.

He must be confused, she thought. He must not understand that their souls were already fitted together like a puzzle. And so she asked again. And still he shook his head.

She sighed. She pointed to all the pieces she had given him - brimming from his pockets, stashed in his drawers, messily piled in the corners of the room – and then, hesitantly, she held out her upturned palm.

He stood very still for the longest time, so still she could hear the tick of the clock. Then he shook his head. “These are my pieces. If I give them to you, what will I have?”

“I gave you mine… You will have mine,” she said.”And I will have yours.”

“Why should we give away our pieces?” he asked.

She thought for a moment. She wasn’t sure. It had just seemed natural. “I guess… I guess to… to be part of each other,” she fumbled.

He smiled. It was the smile a teacher gives a student who speaks too quickly, who has already learned the answer to the question but fails to realize it.

“Give me your hand,” he said. She placed her hand in his and he pulled it to his chest, ran it along the outline of his rib. And she felt the most intricate patterns there, thin vines wound around and over and through. She caressed another rib, and another, and there, on each one, the same elaborate design. How had she never noticed it before?

“See?” he said. “We already are part of each other. We made our marks long ago.” He gestured to the patterns. “You have always been part of me.”


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Once there was a boy who left a girl. On a sunny afternoon, he packed his things, kissed her forehead one last time and firmly handed her a tiny flashlight. “Use this,” he said. And then he walked down the front path, away, to a new home. Without her.

The girl stood in the doorway for a long time, gazing down the empty path until blackness finally settled over the yard. After some time, she shut the door and, clutching the flashlight to her chest, retreated into the silent house. She wandered from room to room, eying empty spaces on walls, opening a vacant drawer, leaning down to sniff an old burned-out candle. She turned the flashlight over in her hand, wondering what she could use it for. How odd. How inadequate. At long last, she curled into her favorite chair, flashlight against her chest, and fell asleep.

The next day, she woke early. She lie still for a long time, listening to the silence. Finally, she rose, determined to make some noise so she didn’t hear it any longer. She opened one of the vacant drawers - his drawer - gently lay the flashlight inside, and shut the drawer. Then she washed dishes, she swept, she dusted – oh, but dusting was too quiet… She pulled her books off the shelves, her treasures, because her books had always taken away the silence. She reorganized them, refiled them on the shelves. She stood before them, pondering which to read. Surely a new selection - a dramatic tale of adventure, perhaps – would make that lingering silence dissipate. But she just couldn’t choose.

She repeated this process for many days after, busying herself with chores through the morning and afternoon. In the evenings, she retrieved the flashlight from the drawer - his drawer - and held it while she slept. And so the time went by like this.

One day, some weeks later, she woke and decided she didn’t want to do chores. She didn’t want to stand before her bookshelves. She had grown tired of the routine. She fetched her favorite hat from the closet, opened the front door and inhaled the sweet morning air. Lovely. And then she decided what she really wanted was to take a walk.

And so she walked down the front path, into the park, into the meadows. She walked for hours, occasionally pausing to pick a flower, slip a smooth pebble into her pocket, watch a bird flit from branch to branch. She came across a tiny stream and sat for a long while, soaking her feet in the cold, bubbly water and running her fingers along the grass. When the sun began to set, she stood up, collected her flowers and pebbles, and walked home. Such a fine day it was.

She put the flowers in a bright orange vase and placed it on the table. She wanted to keep the pebbles in a safe place, so she opened a drawer to put them away – and realized it was his drawer, the one with the flashlight. She set the pebbles inside then picked up the flashlight. Why had he given her this? She already had plenty of lights and candles… What was she to do with it?

She clicked the flashlight on, shined it over the empty spaces on the walls, the bookshelves, the new flowers. Hmmm… She opened the closet and shined it inside. She opened another drawer and shined it inside, then another and another. She moved her wrist about, watched the light dance across the ceiling. She clicked the flashlight off. Okay, this was silly; of course he hadn’t given her the flashlight to shine around the house…

And then – she knew. She thought about how when he looked at her his eyes felt like sunlight. And how he had such a knack for finding strange ways to fix broken things around the house. And how he had handed her the flashlight with such purpose. And she just knew. She clicked the flashlight on again, slowly turned it toward her and shined it into her chest. And there, among her pale thin ribs, were tiny bits of things breaking through the surface of the dirt: little scraps of colored cloth and silky feathers and streaks of paint, the faintest etchings of poems, the teeniest wildflowers. And if she stood very still, she could hear a soft, lilting music.

A tear fell but she did not wipe her eye. She held the flashlight, gazing at the beautiful wild things growing inside her. Had he known it was all still there, waiting for the right moment to begin to bloom again?

She stood that way for some time and when she had listened to the music long enough, breathed in the scent of the flowers, colored her eyes with bright yellows and greens and blues, she clicked off the flashlight. How could she possibly have thought she was alone in the house with all these wild things tangled about her ribs? She opened the drawer, set the flashlight next to the smooth pebbles and carefully shut it.

In the following days, she added other keepsakes – a poem, a bracelet made of dandelions, a photograph of the stream. And always, at the end of the day, when the blackness had settled, she clicked the flashlight on for a moment and shined it toward her, then gently set it back inside the drawer.



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Love Like a Temple

Once there were a boy and girl who lived in a temple with tall, golden walls. They each had soft, scarlet lips. They stayed inside the temple and spoke words of love and caressed one another with touches as light as the breeze. They occasionally gazed out the temple windows at the round, gleaming moon - and then just went on as before. No one kept time; they were too busy loving to bother with numbers and schedules and rotations and other such nonsense.

One day the girl went into the attic. Everything inside was covered in a fine film of dust except a tiny white clock in the corner. She ran her hand along its face and felt how smooth it was. Lovely. She carried it out of the attic, into the hall, stood high on her tippytoes and hung it on the wall. Satisfied, she wandered off to find the boy and go back to loving. She soon forgot about the clock.

Some time passed and one twilight the girl awoke to a tic-tic-tic-tic. She nuzzled into the boy’s ear. ‘Don’t you hear that?’ she asked. And then fell asleep again. They slept soundly for the rest of the night.

More time passed and again she awoke in the twilight. Tic-tic-tic-tic. She lie in the bed for a while and listened. Silence. Silence. And then, tic-tic-tic-tic. Silence. Tic-tic-tic-tic. Eventually she fell asleep.

Soon after she was wandering down the hall and saw tiny flakes of gold flitting to the ground. She went and found a broom and swept them away. Then she asked the boy ‘Did you see the gold is flaking off the walls?’

‘Nonsense,’ said the boy. ‘Gold cannot just flake away.’

Again, time passed. And again, she awoke in the night to a tic-tic-tic-tic. The next day she found more gold flaking off the wall. She fetched the boy and led him into the hall, tugging at the ends of his fingers, gently, the way lovers do. ‘Do you see?,’ she asked. ‘Do you see the gold?’

‘Oh,’ said the boy. ‘Oh.’ He paused. ‘Well, it’s only the wall. It’s only the gold. This is still our temple and we still love here.’

‘You’re right’, said the girl. ‘At least we have our temple. At least we have love.’

The days and nights passed. The round, gleaming moon appeared, then disappeared, again and again. The boy and girl loved. And sometimes little flakes of gold flitted to the ground and the girl swept them away. She did not care for the flaking, or for the sweeping, but she swept and went on with loving.

One dark twilight, the girl awoke with a start. Tic-tic-tic-tic. Silence. Tic-tic-tic-tic. She leaned over the boy. ‘Do you hear it, the tic? Listen.’

He rolled onto his back, lie in the dark for a moment gazing at the round, gleaming moon. ‘I hear it. But what shall we do? It’s just a tic.’

‘The tic wakes me up’, she said. ‘I don’t like the tic.’ He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her close, and they soon fell asleep.

On the darkest twilight of the year, the girl awoke again. The bed shook ever so slightly, echoing the tic-tic-tic-tic. She glanced toward the window, but there was no moon. She lie very still, found the boy’s fingertips in the blackness. She listened to the sound of her own breathing, focused on the slow inhale and exhale. But there it was. Tic-tic-tic-tic. And again. Tic-tic-tic-tic. Growing louder and louder. Tic-tic-tic-tic.

She finally rose from the bed and felt her way outside the bedroom, down the hall. At first it was very black but the hall grew lighter and lighter as she approached the clock. As she neared, she saw it had grown as big as the moon, a bright light looming high on the wall. With each tic-tic-tic-tic, the moon-clock shook. And with each shake, little flakes of gold flitted down to the floor.

Tic-tic-tic-tic. Shake-shake-shake-shake. Flit-flit-flit-flit.

She stood up high on her tippytoes and reached for the moon-clock, stretched her fingertips until she just brushed it. And with a flick, she hit it. She thought it would fall to the floor with a clatter, possibly break, but then, that wouldn’t be so bad, would it? She could put it back in the attic. And sleep. And love. And not have to sweep any more gold.

But the moon-clock did not fall. There was no clatter. Silence, for a moment. And then… Tic-tic-tic-tic. Shake-shake-shake-shake. Flit-flit-flit-flit.

She tried again, but could not reach. And again. And again. Her lip trembled, the first time such a thing had happened inside the temple. She bit her lip, rose onto her tippytoes again, stretched farther than she had ever stretched. And then – she felt two strong hands slip around her waist and gently lift her. She pulled hard on the moon-clock and a stream of nuggets broke loose from the golden wall, falling all around them. They toppled over.

She pulled herself up to a sitting position, smoothed the hair from her face and looked up. And there was the boy, sitting in a pile of gold rubble, bits of the wall crumbling behind him. Holding a tiny, broken clock. And grinning that grin of his.

She smiled, stood up, dusted the gold flakes off her nightgown and said ‘I’ll sweep in the morning.’ And then she padded down the dark hall back to bed. He followed soon after.


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