On May 19, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving a recipe, an old wallet, and a play.
I was feeling quite uninspired when I sat down to write this. Only this particular Tale of the Navel came to me, only this time, I, scribbler, was the Navel’s customer…:)
I walked through the mists, not really sure where I was going, only to find myself stumbling over the cobblestones beneath my feet.
Small houses and shops with gable roofs were on either side of me. I’d seen such streets before in other places. Perhaps you have too. Quaint little downtown shopping districts which turn into residential areas.
I guess I’d been thinking of those when I visualized Omphalos. Only there were no cars, only people walking down the street. Most of them looked human, although you might spot the occasional individual with cat ears sticking out of their hair, glowing green eyes peering at you from behind their spectacles, or a long tail swaying from the side to side to brush the cobblestones beneath their skirts.
Not every Omphalos was like this one. Some have disappeared, burned to the ground, and were being rebuilt. This was the Omphalos I wanted to visit, the one with the shop with the sign swinging over the door of a woman’s smooth, rounded stomach and belly button. If was a woman’s. It might not be. In the shop window sits a skull, a rose quartz, and a pack of hand-painted tarot cards.
I walked straight up to the door and opened it, blinking in the dim light of the shop. Door chimes jingled as I entered.
“Welcome to the Navel, center of everything bizarre!” I heard Gabrielle’s cheerful voice before I saw her. She was wearing one of her hats which was mostly chicken with an open beak, raising a claw from where it perched on the prim. Tiny seeds lined her diaphronous greenish-tan coat covering a loose, shapeless blouse and flowing skirts. A necklace of matching seeds looped and dangled around her neck.
She stopped in the middle of her usual greeting to stare at me.
“Scribbler!” She grinned in delighted wonder. “What made you decide to enter your own imagination?”
“A prompt.” I smiled back at Gabrielle. “You wouldn’t happen to have an old wallet with a recipe for a play inside?”
“The Navel hides many treasures upon its shelves if you know where to look for them.” She raised an eyebrow. “I’m surprised you didn’t turn this prompt into a poem. You’ve been turning a lot of prompts into poems lately.”
“I’m getting tired of the way WordPress formats my poems. Or doesn’t.” I tried to smile again, but I felt tired. Stretching my lips was exhausting. “Help me, ‘Brie. The Cauldrons of Eternal Inspiration are running dry. I promised I’d never let that happen. As the title says, they’re supposed to be eternal.”
I could have said more about how the world was changing. Some of the changes were definitely for the better. Stories by many writers were being taken in certain directions I wasn’t sure I wanted to follow, but could I survive if I didn’t?
I didn’t say any of this. I didn’t have to. Gabrielle turned with a decisive spin toward a shelf and started walking toward it.
I made my way in the same direction she was going, cursing myself for making the Navel so narrow and dark. I almost bumped into a few shelves, knocking crystals, bags, and a small metal chicken off with my progress.
‘Brie waited for me in front of a wooden box which dragons carved in elegant, curling strokes upon it.
“Here.” She unfastened its iron clasp to reveal a battered brown wallet sitting inside. “I believe this used to be yours?”
“Years ago.” I stared at the worn leather. “I’d forgotten what happened to it.”
“Most of what we carry in the Navel has been forgotten.” ‘Brie shook her head. “They have a way of turning up here once they’ve been dropped in the Shadow Forest.”
“I used to carry this wallet with me everywhere.” I reached out with an oddly reluctant hand.
“Here.” She picked up the wallet with the reverence I might show a Forget-Me-Not cup and saucer and offered it to me. “Open it.”
I forced myself to close my fingers around the thick, shredded leather. We don’t always want back what we find in the Navel, but we usually need it. I did as I’d been told, unfastening it.
Inside was a small white card. I read the header:
Death in Venice: A Play
Characters: Gustav Von Ashenbach
The Red-Haired Man
A memory came back to me of the assignment I’d gotten at Cowell College at the University of California at Santa Cruz for my core class. We’d been reading Death in Venice, my classmates and I. Our teacher gave us the creative writing assignment of imaging we found a diary belonging to Tadzio, the beautiful boy who Gustav Von Ashenbach had worshipped from a shy distance. Death in Venice had been written from Ashenbach’s perspective, but Tadzio’s thoughts and feelings had been a mystery. I’d been thrilled to discover and read such a book back in 1990, not to mention the assignment. I’d been watching Twin Peaks with my dorm mates. I’d just read The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer. This gave me the idea of a mysterious red-haired man who appeared in several incarnations to Ashenbach stalking Tadzio in a nightmarish B.O.B.-like aspect. My teacher had been impressed by my work, but my work had been in the form of a diary, not a play.
“That’s a great memory. Eventually it lead me to write A Symposium in Space, although I’d forgotten my original source of inspiration.” I slid the card back in the holder. “It’s not exactly what I’m looking for.”
“Few items you’ll find in the Navel are exactly what you’re looking for, but they are what you need.” ‘Brie winked at me. The chicken on top of her hat winked, too. “Look at the other cards.
I retrieved a second card:
Characters, Script, Inspiration
Add the characters and the setting to your play. Let them stew in your imagination, stirring them from time to time until they come a simmering boil. Pour out using your writing implement or laptop into a solid form of story. Revise until it takes on a form you’re content with.
I made a face, putting the card back. “A bit metaphoric and vague for me.”
“Metaphoric and vague is a style you’re attracted to, my scribbler.” Gabrielle let out a rich, full-bodied laugh which would have been muscial, except the chicken on top of her head chose to cackle right along with her. Somehow the cackle reminded me of a cellphone with a blaring speaker, spitting static into everyone’s ears. “Check out the last card.”
I slipped the third card in the wallet out and looked at the words on it.
Just start writing. It will come to you.
“Well, that was obvious,” I grumbled, putting the card away. “Did I really need to be told that?”
“Didn’t you?” Gabrielle countered. She softened her criticism with a smile. “Thanks for stopping by, scribbler. I’d appreciate having a conversation with my son sometime.”
“Would you like that as payment?” The Navel usually required pament of some sort, although it wasn’t always in an obvious form.
“You’ve already paid me by writing this blog.” ‘Brie winked at me again. “Say hi to Paula Wyant for me.”
Still clutching the wallet to my chest, I just nodded. I walked out the door, the chimes jingling farewell. I started walking down the main street of Omphalos, feeling the mists gather around me, taking away the little town.
The cobblestones became smooth. I walking on the sidewalk on my own street.
I’d never been to Omphalos. It only existed in my imagination. I could never go there.
Couldn’t I? I went there all the time in my imagination. You might say I just visited it now to write this blog, living the metaphor, so to speak.
Regardless, Paula, ‘Brie says hi. I think she enjoyed having me as a customer in the Navel, helping me work out my writer’s block.
Thank you for helping me as well, by sharing this prompt. Thank you as always for the inspiration.
Like my writing style? Here are links where you can find my published works…