Channie Greenberg, The Immediacy
of Emotional Kerfuffles
The Immediacy of Emotional Kerfuffles
Author: Channie Greenberg
Publisher: Bards & Sages Publishing
Length: 246 pp.
A collection of 80 short stories
Witches, Wizards and Watches
Sugar tucked the stapled pages into her trigonometry book. Mrs. Appleton, busied with making sure that Tracyanne was collecting all of the quizzes, had not spied Sugar’s printed treasure. If Sugar were to be discovered, in the least, her illustrated guide would be absconded and in the greatest, she would be sent to sit for a span in the office. Mr. Livi, the principal, had little understanding as to why adolescent girls needed to busy themselves with plant lore. According to bathroom whispers, he esteemed such reading as the stuff of witchcraft and he believed that all witchcraft was heresy.
Inhaling quietly, Sugar mentally discerned among worts. Motherwort, like its cousins, wormwood, mugwood and sagebrush, was an indispensable tool for healing. Empty of those mints, herbalists either had to use exotics or to employ mud, the tweaking of temperature, or other physical means to provide comfort for women suffering from the worst symptoms of menarch, of menses, of childbirth, of lactation, or of menopause. Whereas most of the students in Sugar’s class knew, by dint of casual discussions at their families’ dinner tables, that catnip was calming and that spearmint lent energy, less than a minority appreciated the power of common “weeds,” despite the fact that such wonders blossomed along roadsides, in backyards and in fields.
Sighing fairly audibly, Sugar consulted the clock. Five minutes left until lunch. Midday break, for Sugar, was not so much a time for chowing down chocolate-covered treats, for trading half of a peanut butter sandwich for one of someone else’s hardboiled eggs or for counting how many apple or pear seeds one could ingest. Lunchtime was meant for seeking dandelion and chickweed. Last month, Sugar had found broadleaf plantain, shepherd’s purse and several useful sorts of sorrel growing along the periphery of her school’s basketball court. Although she did get knocked over, when the ninth grade pack was running down their tenth grade rivals, she was otherwise able to surreptitiously sample the aerial parts of many green friends.
When, at last, the buzzer sounded, Sam Plume greeted Sugar by extending his foot across her classroom’s threshold. Her mind full of tinctures and teas, Sugar tripped, spilling her texts and papers all over the hall. Her leaflet on indigenous forbs slid out of her math book. Micha Jones, who had espied the frayed brochure on the hallway linoleum, scooped it up, held it over Sugar’s head while making a few spiteful remarks, and then ran off to Mr. Livi’s office.
Gathering first her school things within arms’ reach and then grabbing the ones Sam had kicked down the hall, Sugar repacked. She looked up only after pulling in her last handful of AP Biology notes. Micha and Mr. Livi, who was clutching Sugar’s precious pamphlet, were walking toward her. With half of a gesture, Mr. Livi shooed away Sam and Micha and indicated that Sugar ought to follow him.
Sugar exhaled deeply. She brushed her hair, which had managed to loosen itself, away from her face. She would offer Mr. Livi no further incriminating information. She would limit herself to smiling and nodding sweetly. Sugar hoped that her parents, whom had probably been called, would still love her. Mom and Dad were strict about matters of theology.
In his office, Mr. Livi pointed Sugar to the chair opposite his own. A desk piled with papers, pictures and dog-eared books separated him from his pupil. His secretary, Mrs. Toiv, appeared with a cup of tea, balanced on a saucer filled with cookies.
Sugar accepted the offering, made the appropriate blessings, and then careful sipped and bit. Again, she steadied her breath. Vertebra by vertebra, she also straightened her back.
Mr. Livi said nothing. He didn’t even glare. Rather, he rose, strode to one of his bookcases and pulled out a volume. The principal brought that heavy tome to his seat, paged through it, and then marked a place with a piece of paper. He shook his head to the right and left. On his watch, he intoned, dropping each syllable on Sugar’s countenance, there would be no disrespect, no lack of acknowledging others’ integrity and no straying from school norms. What’s more, he said loudly and brightly, all gifted students were supposed to report to him for enrichment.
Smiling, Mr. Livi handed Sugar the book he had culled. It was a pharmacopoeia published a century earlier. Harrumphing a bit to accent the importance of his message, he informed his new charge that he expected a summary of the text, neatly typed, of course, by Monday morning.
“KJ’s short stories will immerse you in a river of humanity. You will swim with wild things, bob alone in balmy calm backwaters, struggle through raging torrents, meander in mud, and ultimately be pushed into a speculative ocean of desire for more.” — Ion Newcombe, editor, AntipodeanSF
“A collection of stories that’s as brave as it is entertaining and insightful. KJ Hannah Greenberg is one of the world’s most naturally gifted writers, able to capture moments and emotions in time and inject them effortlessly into your soul. Leave this book at your peril; absorb it like it’s the last book you’ll ever read.” — Colin Galbraith, editor, The Ranfurly Review
“Greenberg has really come into her own in the last few years. She’s a rising star and Kerfluffles only drives that home. Definitely a must read.” — E.S. Wynn, editor, Weirdyear
Copyright © 2014 by Channie Greenberg