Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, on a dark and stormy night, there lived a little girl who decided she could write hilarious poetry.
All you really needed was an opening to get you going – like, ‘once upon a time’, or ‘it was a dark and stormy night’. Her head was always filled with stories and rhymes and a lot of nonsense. And thinking up various ways to make her little sister laugh occupied a great deal of her time. Turned out she’d never ever have a better, more receptive, more forgiving audience. So poetry did not, surprisingly enough, turn out to be her vocation in life, even though she kept taking stabs at writing it for years without ever getting any better.
“What are you gonna to do with a drunken sailor?” Ainslee sings to herself as she slowly weaves up the gravel laneway, tentatively taking one hand and then the other off the handlebars, learning to ride her bicycle hands free. Watching her, Lara decides she doesn’t ever want to learn this skill. For one thing it’s incredibly difficult, (as evidence, behold the skinned knees) and for another, she can’t see any sense in it. What do you do with such a talent, except maybe show off, and only dumb boys would ever be impressed by that kind of dexterity. So why bother? Ainslee’s song drifts into her head. And immediately her head wants to give the lyrics a much needed boost.
“Put him in a big brown padded mailer”, Lara sings back at the top of her lungs from the veranda where she has been scribbling in her little black notebook. “Make him buy a suit from your favourite tailor. Lock him up with grandma for his jailor.”
“Er-lie in the morning,” they conclude together with fits of giggling. Ainslee pumps the bike hard to make it up the slope of the lawn and lets it fall on the grass, wheels still spinning, as she plunks herself down on the steps beside Lara. “What are you writing now?” she wants to know as she looks over her shoulder. Lara reads what she’s got so far.
It was a dark and stormy night, Filled with blood and gore and fright. Alice couldn’t eat a bite, As she waited for the light. But the vampire saw her plight, And though she put up quite a fight, She was wrong and he was right, Six foot eleven was his height.
“I think that last line needs some work” Lara muses with a frown but Ainslee appears to be suitably impressed nonetheless. What happens next, she wants to know. She gets bitten and she dies? She gets eaten up by flies? Lara explains that the whole point when you’re a vampire is that you don’t ever die, but she’s tired of the dark and stormy night thing and ready to move on to something completely different.
“Let’s do one of those limerick things. There once was a lady named…”
“Elizabeth!” Ainslee offers.
“Well if you can think of a rhyme for that, you go right ahead. Sheesh. How about Liz? Or better, Lizzy.”
There once was a lady named Lizzy, Who guzzled some pop that was fizzy. She tried to keep busy, Without getting dizzy, And fell off a cliff in a tizzy.
Ainslee loves it. Except she wants to know if Lizzy died from the fall. Lara rolls her eyes. She tells her no, the fall didn’t kill her, but she broke both her legs and then she died of exposure because later that day it became a dark and stormy night. Ainslee begs for something with a happier ending.
Lara writes. There once was a lady named Ains. She never had aches hurts or pains. She biked with no hands, And loved pots and pans, And named her kids Gertrude and James.
It’s pretty much perfect, except for the Gertrude part. Ainslee can’t imagine having a baby with such a gruesome name. Unless it’s really ugly and she hates it. Lara tells her if that happens she should just throw it off a cliff. Nooooo, Ainslee wails. This is supposed to be a happy one!
Lara thinks for a minute and begins again.
Ainslee rides her bicycle, All up and down the lane. Without her hands, She never falls, She truly is insane.
For this effort Lara wins a solid punch in the arm, but also an invitation to go for a ride back to Chip and Cherry Lane, the romantic name they’ve given to the old tractor path that meanders down the side of a field next to cherry trees and boulders. They’ve never seen a chipmunk there, only squirrels, but they’re ever hopeful. What rhymes with Chipmunk, she wonders aloud as she hauls her own bicycle out of the shed. Dip Skunk, Ainslee says, is the only thing she can possibly think of.
Lara tells her she’s not thinking hard enough then. Because there’s Flip Chunk and Grip Trunk and Hip Stunk. She stops short of giving herself a headache and holds one hand up in the air, waving it in the sunshine and the gentle breeze. One handed bike riding is enough of a stunt for her as she follows her sister through the gate and across the field of yellow flowers waving in the wind. What rhymes with butter cup, she yells ahead. Shut up! her sister yells back. So she smiles and she does. Fuzz, was, buzz, cuz.