A Telling Fable

girlA small Boy sits in his sandbox. Quietly a little Girl joins him. She waits and watches in silence. The sun shines. They have a pail of water to use to mix the mud for their kingdom. For lunch they have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich sliced diagonally across. They have two chocolate chip cookies.

Their little yellow shovel has a purpose, to dig the moat to protect the castle. But it seems unnecessary because the castle and sand lands surrounding it are inhabited only by friendly ants and lady bugs. There was peace in the land, his land. The newly-painted red rim of the weathered wooden sandbox guaranteed their safety. It is calm. It is charmed.

“I want you to live here with me for our whole lives,” said the little Boy. “We will never leave our corner of the garden unless we go to the kitchen to ask your mom for another sandwich. “Someday my mommy will teach me to make sandwiches for us,” said the little Girl. The little boy affirmed his plans for the future. “Growing up and growing old together, watching the grass grow.” “Well, maybe we could go visiting and have visitors come to see us once in a while, “ suggested the Girl. “Why? Well, maybe, we’ll, I guess, we’ll, gee, we’ll, I don’t know.” With that he wiped her suggestion from his thoughts.

The day went beautifully as he made rows, planting blades of grass. She mixed sand and water into delicate-looking tea cakes and then asked him for some clovers and a bottle cap to create a centerpiece for their table. But sadly they didn’t have a tea table and even sadder still he was so preoccupied with a new way of arranging his rows of grass that it was difficult for her to get his attention. She would wait, he’d be hungry soon and need one of the tea cakes or better still, half of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich she had brought from the kitchen.

Why was it always this way, she thought, “Waiting, waiting, waiting, for him to finish with his preoccupation before he pays any attention to me.” She tried to be perky and full of bright conversation all the time. “ Did you know the lady bugs are multiplying?” “Have you seen the birds in the mulberry bush?” “Do my shoes match my dress quite right?” “Will it rain today?” “Do you like when I sing as I sweep the stray sand from the castle door?”

He never answered, only continued devising ways to plant grass that she knew would never take root, never grow.

The day went by and the next and then the next. He was satisfied, which for a boy was the best to expect, but she was unsettled. She could only make so many inedible tea cakes in a day. There was absolutely nothing to talk about now except the proportion of water to sand in her cakes. When she was lucky he’d tell her about the number of blades of grass he could plant in a straight line in a day. She didn’t know how or why but he’d wax poetic about their growth. She had to admit the way the sun struck the edges of the blades and the coming of a slight breeze wafting over the rows had a lovely quality, but to liken it to poetry might make his childhood odes objects of scorn.

What were they doing day in and day out in the sandbox? She was questioning the life they had chosen. He, on the other hand, rhapsodized how lucky they were to have each other and their shared interests. Life, the sandbox and the blades of grass would be perfect, forever.

Hearing his delight in this never-ending condition, she measured out the water, added it to the sand, set the cakes out to dry, gathered her shovel and pail, jumped over the red rim and out of the box, gentled through the garden gate, past her mother slicing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the diagonal, gleefully down the path, intently crossing the road, singing her sweeping song, but only to herself. Finding her destiny. Never to be seen again.

Charlene James-Duguid

Mother Nature’s Trick

IMG_2544The sad little wren.
Her song was confused.
She had done the proper thing,
Done everything right,
Build a nest to perfection,
One piece of straw at a time
Obediently following directions
Anticipating her brood of
But now,
Hard as she tried,
Far as she searched
The nest was nowhere to be found.

Wren cried.

Charlene James Duguid
Amissville, Virginia

A Sunday in Spring


Drawing by Jane Conteh-Morgan

I have friends, you see, who send me things.
Not coins or cash but treasures of more rarity,
Snippets of beauty in words, sounds, and sights,
Surprising my soul one sprig at a time.

Where do they come from
And why are they here?
I will never know
And to ask is impolite.
This magic of life, it’s answer running too quickly to catch
Finds home with a robin or a thrush,
Then sits gently on a honey bee’s wing.

Never mind the value
For it is the worth that counts.
Avoid the income or yield,
Capture only the moment
As your palm tries to hold it, but fails.

Accept my thanks as I glory in
The greatness of your gift.
As it grows in wealth and purpose,
I gather, one by one,
The collection of your creative soul.

Charlene James-Duguid
Amissville, Virginia


happy.jpgThere may be no such thing but
I’m off to find it.
Under bushes, tangled in branches,
The most unlikely of places.
Sewing baskets, caramel wrappers,
Old men’s socks
Or caught in little girl’s’ curls.

If it is, what is it?
The best of times, the worst of times.
The less said, the better.
Eye on the prize.
Nose to the grindstone.
Pedal to the metal.
No rest for the weary.
California here I come.
A warm puppy, or
Cup of cocoa on a cold,
Snowy day?

One thing is certain.
If it crops up in my
I’ll share

Half to be mine
And half to be yours.


Charlene James-Duguid
Amissville, Virginia

Broccoli Joke

Sticker kawaii broccoli character. Cute broccoli in yellow hoodies.

Broccoli to Mira: EAT ME

Mira to Broccoli: I DON’T WANT TO

Broccoli to Mira: THEN I’LL EAT YOU

Mira to Broccoli: YOU DON’T DARE

Broccoli takes a BIG CHOMP

Mira let’s out a SCREECH

Broccoli smacks his lips and says ALL GONE! ! ! ! !

Love you, Auntie char


dresser.jpgWhere do you keep yours?
On the top shelf of a forgotten closet
Reached only by a rickety ladder,
Or the bottom drawer of your prized, antique bureau.

Are they haphazard in a torn paper bag,
Or deliciously secreted away in a casket encrusted
With precious jewels, bedazzled.

Not like any others, yours buried in the
Cradle of days before words were formed,
When sights held all the answers,
But evaporated with every cry for milk.

Born to the universal joke,
Each telling, asking, “Keep
Or discard?”
Will you
Guard it with your life
Or label of no value.

Yours and yours alone,
You fashion your hours
And endless years on these things.
Tossing, by mistake, in haste,
Those most loved.

Second thinking,
Just in time
You salvage the best
Of the most
Carrying you through
Another day.

Charlene James Duguid
Amissville, Virginia

Joyce’s Dog

dog.jpgBear is an informed dog,
She looks at me asking,
“Which of us will die first?”
She with her bandy legs,
Or me without the juices
To sustain life.

What a dog!
Black Lab, of course,
Are there any others?
Sheer extraordinaire!

In that moment,
It was but an instant,
Her eyes glazed over, catching
Mine, astonished by her stare,
We examined, together, the question of

Dog years.
Human years,
Merely the passage of time
Till one of us calls it quits.

Not a contest,
Just the way it is.
Who comes in first or after?
How will it end, in peaceful slumber
Or chaotic outrage, with lullabies
Or brass bands.

That knowing dog surely has the answer,
But she doesn’t intend to share it with me.

Charlene James Duguid
Amissville, Virginia