The Woman Who Thought in Circles
She went around and around about wearing circles. She didn’t want to be too matchy matchy. Then again she did because her mom liked her more when she was. But she liked her mom less when her mom liked her more which was very confusing to her and made her head hurt.
She went back and forth about wearing the jacket. She liked the color and the buttons were all nice circles and she liked nice circles. Then again she worried about there being too many circles because her boyfriend didn’t like a lot of circles. She didn’t like when he didn’t like what she liked and that made her head hurt.
She went in and out of her closet deciding on whether to wear pants or a skirt. She liked wearing pants but her Grandmother thought it was unseemly. She always wanted to please her Grandmother because her Grandmother gave her money when she pleased her and didn’t give her money when she didn’t. She didn’t like doing what pleased her Grandmother just for money but she needed the money very badly and that made her head hurt.
She went up and down emotionally about what blouse to wear. She had a blue one that was pretty and she has a green one that was strong and she had a red one that was sexy. She liked looking sexy but didn’t like people thinking she was trying to look sexy. She didn’t like looking strong because then people thought she was trying to look strong. She liked looking pretty but didn’t like people thinking she was trying to look pretty. Thinking about what other people thought about her made her head hurt.
She decided on wearing the jacket but couldn’t decide on any of the other items so she just sat there in her jacket thinking around and around and back and forth and in and out and up and down about everything, especially the circles. She eventually got up and took a pill for her hurting head.
The Short Order Cook
He stood exceedingly still. Not for a moment or a minute, but for many minutes at a time. This happened at least 3 times while I was eating at the counter. He looked in the fridge at one point. He waved goodbye to a customer, not saying anything. He checked under the grill for something when the counter waitress asked if they needed to reorder something. Otherwise he was still.
I had stopped in on a whim. It’s a very small hamburger joint, really just a counter and a cooking area with windows all around. I had passed it many times over 24 years of living in Tulsa, but had never gone in. Now I was out enjoying my birthday. I had already stopped by a coffee house to draw and a museum to wander and now it was lunch time. I passed the place and decided today would be a perfect day to finally stop in. I did a u-turn and made my way in to a seat at the counter.
There was another cook behind the counter and he was the one who made my lunch. I ordered a patty melt (my favorite type of burger) and fries, with a Dr. Pepper. It was not a diet day for me, obviously. The waitress didn’t really need to do much since the cook could hear me say my order and had it going before the waitress had it fully written down. She went around the corner into the back of the place and I didn’t see her until the minute my food was put on the plate, at which point she magically appeared to pick it up and walk it the 5 feet from the grill to my spot. She then turned around and in no more than 3 steps poured me my drink and gave it to me. She was all about the efficiency of movement.
While I was eating I drew this cook. He didn’t notice me drawing since he was staring out the window in what seemed like a daze. I imagined him seeing a fully made hamburger floating away out the window in front of him. I imagined him wishing he could follow. In the meanwhile, the meal was perfect. The patty melt was greasy, the fries were crisp and the drink was obnoxiously sweet.
As I left I said goodbye to the waitress and waved to the two cooks. I headed out the door and as I did I heard the waitress say, “You gonna move outa my way Bobby?” and the cook who stood exceedingly still said, “I really should.”
Drawing and story © 2018 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
The Woman with Only Two Thoughts – An Illustrated Short Story
The Large and The Small
The woman wasn’t able to think anything but these two thoughts. Everything was either too large or too small. Things were never just right. Well, that isn’t exactly true. Sometimes the large thing was just right, even though it was large. And sometimes the small thing was just right, even though it was small. But most of the time the thing that was small should have been larger and the thing that was large should have been smaller.
This was true of real things, like cheese or mufflers, but it was also true of unreal things, like Jesus or monsters. She thought cheese was usually too large for her mouth and that mufflers were too small for her cars. She thought Jesus was too large for her morals and that monsters were too small to kill her enemies. She thought her books were too large or too small. The non-fiction ones always seemed too large. When she was 3/4 of the way through she almost always wanted them to be over. And she thought fiction ones were too small. Most of the time, when she finished a novel she didn’t want it to end.
She felt this way about her body. Her apartment was too small, for example, and the reason for that was that she was too large. She wasn’t large sideways, just up and down. That meant she hit her head on the door jams a lot. It meant her shower was too small. The water never hit her head unless she bent over. She hated that. She thought her breasts were too large but she didn’t want to get them reduced because she was afraid they might be then be too small. She thought her eyes were too small, but only because she had so many friends who had their eyes enlarged that hers looked small in comparison. Her neck was too small, unless you measured it, then it was too large. Her knees were definitely too large and her fingernails were definitely too small. The worst part was that her bladder was too small and her heart was too large.
Her social life had the same problem. Her circle of friends was too large but her number of close friends was too small. As a matter of fact she really didn’t have any close friends so she wasn’t really sure she could even call it too small. Is zero of something too small? The amount of people she was in charge of at work was too large. The amount of people she could complain to about how large this group of people was was too small. Then there were all the people she had to commute with on the train. That number was too large and that meant the number of seats on the train was too small. As a matter of fact, not only were there not enough seats the individual seats were too small. She hated seats that were too small.
Now that she thought about it, her emotional life was that way too. Emotions, hers or others, were always too large or too small. That is why her boyfriends usually left her they said. They would hit her and she would get angry. They would say, “You are making this issue too large and it’s just not.” Or sometimes it would be the opposite. She would feel nothing and say nothing, trying not to upset them and they would get mad and hit her, saying, “You think you can just hide away and be small in the corner but you can’t. I know you are plotting something and I won’t let you get away with it.”
The Just Right
Because of this, life was too large a struggle and she sometimes thought of killing herself. But she knew she never would because her courage was too small to do something that would hurt her or those she loved. And that thought always brought her back to what I mentioned at the start, that sometimes things weren’t too large or too small, but were just right. In spite of all her issues she always knew that the love her family had for her was that. It wasn’t too large so that it suffocated her and it wasn’t too small so she felt alone and abandoned. It was just right. The very large (but not too large) love her family had for her was the one thing that made all the other things small. And that was just right.
Oh, her shoe collection was just right too.
He lagged behind his wife because he was reading the catalog raisonne of the artist. He was trying to figure out how much time it took for her to paint the painting of the crying violinist. He didn’t notice what time it was but his wife did because she was hungry and wanted to go to lunch. She also didn’t like the exhibition and didn’t want to spend any more time there. He liked the painting because of the mystery as to why the artist had titled it ‘Metronome’ when there was no metronome in the painting.
Drawing and story © Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
The original image and/or a print are available for purchase.
The woman saw herself as flawed, always. She didn’t like how selfish she was, how greedy. She didn’t like her judgmental attitude towards so many people and things. She felt she wasn’t a very good wife or mother. She knew she was not as helpful as she could be to her co-workers and she was too snippy with her bosses. She didn’t make enough money but she spent too much and didn’t give enough away she thought. She didn’t call her sisters enough, or her mom and dad. She didn’t like her looks. Her face was too thin, her breasts too small and her butt too big is how she saw it. She thought her skin was too pale and her hair too straggly. The only thing she liked about her self was her tattoo. She died in a car wreck at age 30.
After she died her community commissioned a famous sculptor to create monument to her because she was the best, most loving person anyone in the community had every come across. The sculpture said love all over it because that is what she was all about.
How She Turned Into Herself
She turned toward the radio tower, listening. She turned into someone else when she did. For a while she was happy being this new person. Then, when she didn’t recognize herself any longer she realized she wasn’t happy after all. She continued to turn but as she did she changed back to being who she was. But not really.
She turned into someone else many more times after that. As she did so she realized that that first time her unhappiness was really just fear. Later she wasn’t afraid of turning and it even became a goal of hers. She became courageous and strong and happy with her self. Not the self set in stone, but the self that was like a flowing river. The same but different at each turn.
She died when she was 92 years old. She had herself turned into compost and buried with the seed of a tree. The tree grew up and turned beautiful colors all throughout the year, never looking the same but always being the same.
Drawing and Short Story © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
“The woman moving forward while the baggy pants guy waits for his boarding pass while I sit on the floor waiting for the flight to California and wait for Linda and Caitlin to return from getting food during fall break in Tulsa in October of 2004.”
An illustrated short story from my 2004 sketchbook that I came back to this year to color. I did a lot of drawing while I traveled in 2003-2004 and I often would write a description of what was happening in the drawing right on the drawing. I hadn’t drawn anything in the windows originally. the gangway and airplane were added as I colored it in 2017.
Drawing and story © Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
The woman thought about her selves and didn’t feel anything but.
Drawing and short story © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
A woman with a hairdo too old for her talking to her friend about packing her bags three times before he came home and how he never knew while they drank coffee and talked too loud so I could hear their divorce woes on a humid night in Tulsa.
I drew this a Starbucks in 2003 and colored it in 2017.
Drawing and story © Marty Coleman
The Dead but Alive Woman
She woke up every morning only seeing what was behind her. She sometimes would try to turn her head but could not. It was as if she was made of stone. So, she looked back. She remembered the many signs telling her not to go in that direction and how long the journey down the road had been. She cried remembering when she so terribly wanted shade and found only tree stumps. She was disgusted when she remembered going through the trash looking for something to eat and finding only rotting food, which she ate. She saw the snake and was scared all over again. She remembered the pain of the bite and the dizziness and fever she felt almost immediately afterward. She wondered if her eyes were fooling her because she didn’t remember the coyote being pink, though she did remember it howling as she fell in the hole. She didn’t want to look at the river at all, but couldn’t help it. It was where she drowned after she stumbled out of the hole.
The Woman in the Cabin
The woman in the cabin lived alone. The cabin was small but still had enough room to bring in strays that needed help. She had such a stray now. It was a dead but alive woman she had found in the river. The woman was dead but alive, a phenomenon she had seen many times before. There was no heartbeat, no breathing. She was cold but not hard. The woman in the cabin poured warm water over her and then laid a blanket of orange flowers on her naked body. She sprinkled grass on top of the blanket, then very fine pebbles on top of that. She left her alone and went to carve the rock.
The Indian with the Limp
At the edge of the plateau there lived an Indian with the limp who the woman in the cabin was friends with. She would tell him about her work carving the rock and he would sometimes help her move the broken stones to the waterfall so they could be washed away. He didn’t understand what she was carving but he enjoyed the sound of her hammering in the distance during the day. He sometimes brought her rabbit for dinner. She sometimes brought him corn for breakfast.
The indian with the limp asked her once what she was trying to do with the rock. All the woman in the cabin would say is she was working on creating a new face on the other side of it, facing the hills and mountains, similar but not exactly like the face facing the dry land. He didn’t see anything resembling a face yet but it didn’t matter, he encouraged her anyway because he liked her. She knew he didn’t see it but she didn’t mind, because she liked him.
The Indian with the limp had collected the orange flowers and the pebbles and brought them to the woman in the cabin the day before, when she had a stray coyote with a twisted tail come in. But the tail had straightened itself out with just a little burnt crepe myrtle paste put on it so the flowers and pebbles weren’t needed. The Indian was happy about this because he knew they would be helpful to the dead but alive woman from the river.
The Indian with the limp loved to gather things for the woman in the cabin. It was a chance for him to explore and have a purpose. He didn’t know what jobs were but if he did he would have called it his job and he liked his job very much. He also liked that he was helping animals and people heal. His favorite thing was to collect the little pebbles from the river. He often thought about how he helped her throw the big rocks into the river after she chiseled them off the carving, then he would bring back little pebbles that were just those big rocks having been broken down. The Indian with the limp thought that was amusing and would smile as carried them back up to the plateau.
The dead but alive woman took a long time to recover. She stayed at the woman in the cabin’s cabin for many months. She would sit in a chair and look back over the plateau to the dry land below and feel no better than the day before. The woman in the cabin saw what was happening and one morning moved the chair to the other side of the plateau. The dead but alive woman then was forced to look over the hills and mountains and to watch the woman in the cabin do her carving. She learned about the carving and would watch the woman in the cabin chisel every day as she sat in her chair. She met the Indian with the limp and thanked him for help the woman in the cabin get the supplies to make her better. When she felt strong enough she asked if she could be of any help and the woman in the cabin told her it would be helpful if she would sing for her while she carved. She she said she only knew 2 songs. The woman in the cabin told her not to worry, she would teach her many songs, which she did.
The dead but alive woman loved the new songs she learned and would sing them beautifully. The Indian with the limp started coming by each morning and would play along with a drum he had. The coyote with the no longer twisted tail would even come close once in a while and howl in harmony. The woman in the cabin was able to work faster and longer with the beautiful music being sung and soon the new carving was almost finished.
One morning, well before the sun rose, the woman in the cabin awoke the dead but alive woman and told her to get ready, she was going on a journey. The dead but alive woman asked what sort of journey. The woman in the cabin said she wasn’t able to tell her what sort of journey or how long it would last. All she said about the journey was that the Indian with the limp would help her as she got on her way.
The woman in the cabin had packed a nice backpack full of food, clothing, and supplies for the dead but alive woman. The dead but alive woman wanted to take one last look around, to remember where she had been healed. The woman in the cabin let her do that, but would not let her go to the edge of the plateau and look back at the dry land below.
The Indian with the limp was waiting at the other edge of the plateau with a lantern to help them down to the hills below in the dark. The dead but alive woman hugged the woman in the cabin and said she would see her later. The woman in the cabin said nothing, just smiled and gave her a kiss goodbye. The indian with the limp and the dead but alive woman hiked down the side of the plateau until they reached a trail going up the hills towards the mountains. They traveled over three sets of hills until mid-day. Then they took a break, sitting down for lunch. The Indian with the limp told her this was where he was going to leave her.
The Alive Woman
The dead but alive woman was about to ask why when she saw the carving in the distance. Up on the plateau, high and strong in the mid-day sun, was a beautiful face facing her. It was her face but it wasn’t. It was the face of an alive woman, not of a dead but alive woman. She forgot what she was going to ask the Indian with the limp and just stared. Then she looked in the direction the face in the rock was looking. It was looking towards the mountains.
The alive woman said goodbye to the Indian with a limp and asked him to make sure the woman in the cabin knew how grateful she was for her love. The indian with the limp said he would. Then he said his goodbye and went back towards the plateau. The alive woman hiked the backpack up onto her back and set off. As she walked she could hear the howl of the coyote with the no longer twisted tail. She started to sing along.
Drawing and story © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com