Friday, October 26, 2012


This is my 200th post.
When I was in my senior year of high school, there was a scholarship that would be given according to who wrote the best essay. The prompt was, "What is the best word in the English language?"

The essay interested me, because it was clearly an opinion piece, but I was supposed to phrase it as an absolute. A question lurking behind the prompt was, "What is your favorite English word?" but they didn't say that. There were quite a few questions I could answer in that prompt--"What is the English word with the most historical importance?" "What English word has the most interesting etymology?" "What English word has the most interesting definition?" All of those are opinions, as well, though I've phrased them in keeping with the original prompt.

When I started writing the essay--before I dropped it--I landed somewhere around "What English word has your favorite definition?" Had I been approached with that question originally, I would have probably said something like "apotheosis", but because I barely knew the question I was answering, I decided on "temptation".

I like the strain in temptation. It's a moment in time, and a question in itself. Temptation doesn't exist on its own; it exists in relation to. Who is tempted? By what? And, in the background, there's the most important question: Why isn't the tempted person giving in?

It isn't temptation once the person accepts it. There's no tension left. Refused temptation can remain temptation indefinitely, forever in the simultaneous stage of, "I want to," and, "I shouldn't." Temptation is a time--be it a moment or an eternity--of tension between parts within.

If I put it in the physical realm, then temptation could be the moment of uncertainty before our star-crossed lovers kiss. If I put it in the mental realm, temptation becomes a subset of curiosity: "I am forbidden, but why forbid me in the first place?" Like all curiosity, giving into such temptation is punished and rewarded in equal measure in our stories. The hero needs curiosity to move forward, but forward is not always better. Isn't that right, Mrs. Bluebeard?

Emotional temptation is trickier, as emotional temptation looks like other things. Take Adam and Eve and the Serpent. The apple could be a physical delight for its flavor, or a mental delight for its knowledge, but I do not think Eve or Adam saw it that way--too well fed and too ignorant. Emotional temptation is want for want's sake: a thoughtless desire.Thoughtless desires win out often in our tales, both because it moves the story along and because curiosity's hunger will grow as the fear of punishment fades.

Temptation is not a kiss, or new knowledge, or biting an apple. It is the stretched, sometimes-forgotten moment just before. Temptation is feelings of uncertainty and inevitability that can be made certain or can be evaded. Temptation is what-we-want-to-do touching what-we-want-to-be, and realizing we must choose. Temptation is a moment of choice. Temptation is the moment before the sacrifice. Temptation is sacrifice; or at least, sacrifice is temptation. Temptation is satisfied or denied or both or neither, forever straining, forever wanting.

Temptation is delicious.

Friday, October 19, 2012


I miss things in food.

I first realized this at a funeral. My great-grandmother had died, and my grandmother-who-was-her-daughter wasn't in attendance. There was a flavor on my tongue that I wanted, and I placed it after staring at the food table for a little bit. Lemon bars.

I told a parent this, and got a sad smile. My grandmother made lemon bars--it was a specialty, exactly the sort of dish she would've brought to a funeral.

Given that I'm at college, I've been missing many things, and not quite finding them. My father's fudge, San Francisco sourdough, homemade macaroni and cheese, my mother's popcorn, my brother's sandwiches (pickles, cheese, honey), avocados--which appear to simply not come whole here even though I can find them as mashed sandwich toppings and guacamole.

I've found myself missing a caramel that I last had when my age was in the single digits. If I were home with this craving, I would open up Joy of Cooking and ask my dad for help, because I know caramel is difficult.

I miss roasted marshmallows. I haven't been to a campfire in a long time, but I browned them over the stove top. (With a promise to clean up any mess should I drop one.)

I miss mashed potatoes, from Thanksgiving and almost always when I got to choose the meal. I've found them here, though the gravy isn't right.

I miss things in food.

I miss home-cooked meals because I miss home.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Sleep Speaks

We are no longer entirely in the realm of Greek mythology.

"Oh, please," he said. "Your domain is sleep. What are you going to do, make me drowsy?"

She stared at him a moment. To someone who had only met her, she would have appeared unmoved. "You are not wary of sleep as you fear other facets of your life. You should be." She cocked her head to one side, looking nostalgic. "You would be, if I cared to explain why." Her smile turned chilly as her focus came back to the present. "But you are in no mood to listen, and I am in a good enough mood not to explain. So I will say this, instead:"

In the flicker of an eyelash, she closed the distance between them.

She said lowly, "My mother is life. When she could not find me, the Earth froze and burned in the wake of her misery. If she thought she could remove an obstacle to my happiness, that power would become rather focused." The last word was a hiss, and the man's eyes widened as his skin turned ashen.

"But, oh, we must remember who took me from her, must we not? The one she could not simply focus on. You insolent beast, my consort is death. And do believe me when I say cessation of existence is a mercy compared to what he would do for me, if I asked it."

She smiled in the way that someone of  immaculate breeding will when they are beyond anger, beyond fury, and well into planning. "You do not fear my powers? Very well. I will allow you that luxury. But do remember the powers of those who care for me, or you shall quickly find yourself unable to forget."

Friday, October 5, 2012


"Why do you want that?"

She looked at him. She had simply looked at him, and he had turned his gaze away and done as she bid. But that was long ago, before a more charismatic noble had risen.

Oh, how the mighty do fall.
Winna owns a small fortune-telling shop. Most of the locals believe that what she does works. It fails just often enough that she never quite become known beyond the locals. She knows better.

There are a great many things Winna uses to tell the future. There's a bowl of water, which, when lit, shows the future in its flames. She never tells anyone, but it lights on its own; she has no control over it. It is the only piece in her workshop that is always accurate.

There are others, of varying accuracy. Save for the burning bowl, based entirely on the grace of Lady Luck, their accuracy is directly proportional to the sacrifice required. A drop of her blood on a piece of special parchment makes a snapshot from a possibility; a slice of her flesh burned on a crystal will show an image for as long as the flesh remains lit. The larger the flame, the larger the image, though accelerants mean less time to the prophecy.

And then...there's the one she doesn't tell anyone about. Not just doesn't describe, like Winna's bowl, but hides in a locked box in an unobtrusive cabinet in her back room. She goes there now, settles on the ground, and holds the box carefully. However good the box's padding, she does not want to drop this.

"Hair as black as ebony, lips as red as blood, skin as white as snow," she murmurs, lips barely moving.

Winna opens the box, touches they yet-beating heart, and sees the future.

She ignores the screams. They're from the past.
© 2009-2013 Taylor Hobart