And the winner is…

Thank you for all of the fascinating entries in my very first blog contest.  Reading your stories was so much fun, I’m sure I’ll have a contest again before the year is out.  I wish I could have chosen you all, but you’ll understand why I chose this CNF piece when you read it.

And the winner is…”Locks Without Keys” by Mary Popham.  Congratulations, Mary!  It’s a well-deserved win.  Disclaimer: while Mary and I both attend(ed) Spalding University, I have never met Ms. Mary, though I’d love to.

I chose Mary’s piece because of its flow, and because of the variety of voices and techniques she uses.  I’m also a sucker for “stream of consciousness.”  This is a dreamy, pardon the pun, piece that hints at subterranean emotions, things the reader will never know but still feels a part of.  It reminds me a bit of a piece I wrote a few years ago called “How to Hug A Candle,” so that adds to my affinity for the story, I am sure.

I like that Mary uses modern references such as face book, juxtaposing them with dreams and Jung.  There is such longing in this piece.  I have to say, when I first read it I got “happy prickles.”

Why am I still talking about Mary’s piece?  Here, read it for yourself:

Locks Without Keys

I dream of locks. Many dreams to decipher, to untangle their locked meanings.  A locked door and I have no key. Illogical serial numbers that must be translated with a code. The Jewish man in the office knows it but won’t give it to me. “C’mon, Sly, what is the code?” I ask. His response is a request. “What will you give me? I have no blood.” I don’t know what he means.

My counselor relates Jungian theory. All dreams are good. They allow you to gain balance. Even if you don’t understand your dream, it is a positive, working, healing—a movement toward wholeness.

          I ponder locks without keys and a Jewish man who seems to need blood. Is the Jewish man Jesus? Have I as part of a collective taken blood from him? Or is this a Shakespearian reference to Shylock, the Merchant of Venice, who demands a pound of flesh from me to pay for the code?

In another dream, I have five locks, each on a side of a rectangular block of wood I’m holding. Mama is with me and wants me to unlock all of them. I am wearing a long, purple housecoat, one piece without a zipper or buttons—a pullover with long flared sleeves. All down the front and back are printed instructions in blocks of writing, something like short magazine columns. To open each dead-bolt lock, I have to take off my gown and be naked in order to read the instructions. I easily unlock by pushing the dead-bolt into the wood, but I have to take off my gown, read some instructions, open a lock, be embarrassed about my nakedness, and put my gown back on. Then repeat.

Jung saw that numbers were not just artifacts of the conscious mind, but had a deeper significance, a mysterious numinous aspect…”

One-piece gown. One rectangular block. I remember five locks on five sides of the wood, but do not calculate that a solid rectangle has six sides. In wakeful study, I like the second meaning of numinous from an on-line dictionary: surpassing comprehension or understanding; mysterious.

Mama wants me to unlock the locks. She had forever stressed learning. Reading. If I were doing my homework or just simply reading, I didn’t have to help get supper. All her seven children worked for accomplishments just to hear her say, “Isn’t that wonderful?” and clap her delicate hands in the air.

Early one morning I wake from a dream where I have been given a sheet of paper that I must memorize. However, it’s written in code with letters and numbers. My younger cousin has the code. “SC is for South Carolina,” he says, and “NC is for Northern Country.” It takes him an instant to read and understand it, but I cannot even begin. “The whole key is that you only have to read the top part,” he says. “The top is telling you that the rest is unnecessary.”

Jung says the shadows are all the roads you did not take. A dream may take the hood off shadow and it’s not scary. It’s something you’ve covered up.

What road did I not take? Why is my cousin in this dream? Have I read something on his facebook page that conflicts with my knowledge of self?  Months of the same dream scenario. I need the key, the keys to unlock a lock, the locks. A road to take, a light to shine on a shadow? There are those who have the codes, the keys. I persist in finding mine.

          In the collective unconscious we have images in our psyche from all previous time.

For me, the unconscious became conscious last Thursday. It was a chilly day. As I left the house, I held my keys with bulky gloved fingers. Somehow, in my hurry, I jammed the key into the front door lock and could not move it. It wouldn’t lock, it wouldn’t unlock. I twisted and pulled and the key broke off. I stood holding a useless piece of metal, looking at the smiley face on its round end. My spirits sank as I stared at the shard remaining in the lock. I spent the day in scenarios of expensive locksmiths removing the lock, the door panel, the door. Of being outside in the cold.

          I call my sister who lives out of state and ask her to do a Tarot card reading for me.

Tower 16: Upheaval, which is often a blessing in disguise. Plus-minus factors. Magician: You are about to embark on a new enterprise that you are well able to carry out.  You’ve had most of what you want from life but still feel something is missing.

Ace Cups: A very positive card to draw if a creative venture is in the works. It will be a great success. Old skills and contacts will help you. Outcome: World 2—A satisfactory card to find. You will begin a new phase. A phase of life will be ending but you will be happy with the change of events. It won’t come fast enough.

Mary Popham is a seventh generation Kentuckian raised in Nelson County, Kentucky. From high school she moved to Louisville, raised two daughters and after thirty years retired from Customer Service at the G. E. Company. After studies in the English Honors program at the University of Louisville and retirement from the corporate world, she began a writing career. In 2003, she graduated with the inaugural class of Spalding University’s MFA in Writing program. She has published a collection of poetry, The World and All Its Charms, and her fiction, nonfiction and book reviews have appeared in The Courier-Journal; The Louisville Review; Blue Moon; Pegasus; and Wind publications. She is an active member in The Cherokee Roundtable a writers’ group in Louisville, where Popham lives with her husband, Ronnie. She is currently looking to publish her first novel.

Mary Popham




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