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The Sword Umbrella

So most of the time I think my life is pretty boring.

I get up in the morning, have tea and a bagel, classes, violin rehearsals, work, I read books, cry over Silmarillion fanart.

Okay, mostly boring. Except for the violin parts. Ordinary life is ordinary life. So I don’t post about it, because who cares?

Except when something happens and I realize how very different my everyday reality is from the rest of the world.

For example, I don’t use names. I’ll learn your name, if we meet face-to-face, and I’ll make sure to get it right because you’re important (and almost nobody in the history of ever has spelled mine right on the first try).

But if I’m with friends, telling a story about my day that you happen to be in?

Well, hello and welcome to the Storyteller’s Protection Agency! Where you are as close to you as my writerly self can remember, but you’re renamed for Protection of the Quirky and because my friends can’t keep track of all my orchestra buddies/fictional characters anyway!


I casually refer to people by their instruments instead of their names. “That’s the flute. She’s a violin. He’s the viola married to the girl who sits in front of me. Yes, they’re cute together.”

Better example?

Sponge Cake Baker and Thrift Shop Girl. My writing buddy has somehow inherited the title Howl (from Howl’s Moving Castle).

My favorite?

I went to school with The Raisin Bread Gang, led by a redheaded violinist, Samwise Gamgee.

It’s a compliment. He led the second violin section and was nice to everybody no matter how long they’d been there. And shared snacks with his buddies, which led to a post-rehearsal Bugle chip claw building session.

It was also really hard not to call him Samwise to his face after everyone close to me had totally forgotten his real name.

What’s my point?

Life is sometimes boring. I have bad days like everybody else. Today, or at least this afternoon, was kind of one of them. People can be jerks.

But even on my worst days, I’m still weird.

I still translate conducting lingo into “swish and flick” Harry Potter wand class for my non-music friends. I still wear a chain around my neck with a little watch and the key to my violin case on it because I smash up wristwatches and can’t ever remember the battery. I still wear a knee-length, thrift shop duster jacket with my Dragonfest pin on the collar, knitted wool gauntlets when my hands freeze, and my Plague Dragon key ring on my violin case.

In other words, I look (and act) like a character from a book of indeterminate genre, I run a book blog under an alias, and if I’m not paying attention, it’s probably because I’m thinking about The Phantom of the Opera or because Twizzler Creature (yes, another nickname) has once again exerted his right to be written about–at the most impossibly inconvenient of times.

My life might be boring. I’m one-of-a-kind weird.

And when you put one weird thing in a bucketful of ordinary…well, I’m off to tell Howl how much chaos ensues.

Today was no exception.

bookmarked: In other news, I’m carrying a sword umbrella today.

bookmarked: The expressions are priceless.

howl: You’re living the dream.

I grin behind my mask, reading the text as Theatre Girl and Cool Boots chat next to me. There’s a reason I’m friends with Howl.

So far I’ve only walked from the parking lot up, up, up, the far-too-many-ostentatious-we’re-not-a-Greek-temple-are-we stairs, so I could be imagining the odd stares that I’m getting, a girl in a brown trenchcoat with a backpack and the hilt of what appears to be a Crusader-type broadsword peeking over her left shoulder. The hilt is tucked behind my pack now, so no one notices anything but the black umbrella stem.

I was persuaded not to take the swordbrella to my earlier appointment. I’m not an official member of the religious campus, and since I already don’t have a keycard to get in twice a week, meeting their security team on an exam day didn’t seem like the best option.

Sword on the campus of what I’ve fondly dubbed the “Convent School?” Probably going to get arrested.

Sword on the liberal arts campus a week after first quarter exams? Students will take a sip of death-strength coffee, say “Girl with giant sword. Heh. Seems about right,” and continue hating life.

You think I exaggerate. Less than a minute after sitting down in the little hallway alcove, a girl with pink eye shadow who I have never met in living memory, sees me juggling my stuff (nobody mentions how awkwardly big swordbrellas are), mistakes the umbrella for a real sword, and gut reaction is to tell me that she likes it.

I say thank-you, of course, because I also instantly like other people who like swords.

She says, “I didn’t realize that was an umbrella. I just thought you had a real sword and was like, ‘She’s ready.’”

I laugh, say something like “Yap. That’s campus for you,” but internally?

“She’s ready?” What am I ready for? Did I miss something? Am I ready to take on the Humans vs. Zombies Nerf gun gangsters that skulk through the smoggy corners of campus? Because I’d be up for that! They’re annoying, although I’ve never seen them shooting each other in daylight, just the colored bandanas on their backpacks, the slightly soggy foam shells in the grass after their battles.

A happy idea, me standing with a sword, facing half a dozen Nerf warriors, waiting until the last moment to open the umbrella and repel their own barrage back into their faces…

The previous class ends. I gather my stuff.

I haven’t shortened the strap on the swordbrella. So getting it on my shoulder takes a little more swing, more like a flourish, hair going the opposite direction, anime style, although I do it quick, I’m not a show-off, don’t intend to be–

Out of the corner of her eye, Cool Boots sees and squeals in delight.

She’s the only one to comment, although I leave the sword leaning against the wall for the whole of an hour. But she might be getting one of her own she liked it so much.

Had to be a reason I liked her.

Of course, it’s a little weird, carrying what everyone thinks is a sword around campus all day. Besides waiting for campus security to ask to see my umbrella, I mean. It’s hard to describe, because not everyone is a instrumental performance adrenaline junkie. You probably don’t know the feeling of being a little high and talking too much while eating ice cream in your pajamas after a good concert.

But that’s the feeling. It’s a sort of buzzy, static electricity, yellow-white-red bee storm inside your chest and someone laughing in the back of your head and someone invisible leaning down to whisper in your ear let’s do this. When you’re about to do something risky and you know, you know, you know it’s going to turn out right.

That’s the feeling I got the first time I slung the sword on my back and walked through campus.

But after a couple of hours of knowing people are staring at me…you could just say I feel jittery.

Some kind of sleet falls around lunchtime. I finally get to open the umbrella.

There’s a thin sheath over it, making it look like a real scabbard. And there’s no way to push it back without looking like you’re really drawing a sword two steps after exiting the English building. But behold! Pop! And there’s a gigantic black mushroom top of an umbrella sprouting out of a sword hilt. You’ve been betrayed! It was an umbrella all along!

So I’m no longer in danger of being tackled by the campus police while the umbrella is open. It’s windy, so I grip the hilt (is it a handle now? Can I still call it an umbrella hilt?) with both hands and hold on tight.

And it feels perfect again. Well, my hands are cold, fingers peeking out of my little gauntlet mitts, but I’m grinning again, wide enough to startle the Cheshire. I walk differently. It’s as if I’m saying go on, ask. Notice the hilt now. Just a girl in a duster coat with a sword hilt umbrella. Want to chat about cryptids over tea? Still think life is boring?

You know the Monty Python joke? “It’s just a flesh wound?”

I get pretty used to saying “It’s an umbrella.”

To a shy girl and one with those pointed manicured nails in twinkly pink that make me think of murder pixies when the swordbrella goes crashing to the floor from leaning against a desk–

“It’s an umbrella, I promise.”

Tiredly, at the end of the day–

“Got backpack, coat, laptop, sword, all the stuff I need,” not thinking about how that sounds.

To my violin professor at the end of the day, asking point blank, “Is that a sword?”

“It’s an umbrella.”

“It really looks like a sword.”

I know this. That’s the point. It’s like the coolest birthday gift ever, right? And it finally rained/sleeted/was sufficiently ugly weather for me to try it out.

But maybe it’s not the same, being the only one with the swordbrella, being the only weird one, instead of having a friend on each side of you at a Ren faire ready to make twice as much havoc as you could imagine. Maybe I’m tired after a long day, and it’s not buzzy, but pricky, feeling everyone staring at me. Maybe the liberal arts and the convent school aren’t that different, aren’t the right place.

For the record, he laughs, says it’s very “Don’t mess with me.”

Which I guess it is.

But it doesn’t seem that way when I’m talking to Cool Boots, or the random girl in the hall, or even when I’m walking by myself. I always have a little “Don’t mess with me” in the way I walk. Don’t poke the sleeping bard, I guess, or you might get your dignity rhymed to Candy Land and back.

It’s different with the sword. When I opened it, both hands on the hilt, grinning like a lunatic, I wasn’t saying don’t mess.

It was saying I dare.

I dare to do something utterly senseless. Utterly mad. I live. I do what I want regardless of the world around me. I carry a piece of the wildness, the chaos of the faire, of home, of adventure, with me.

So go on. Stare. Poke the bear. Because it’s a sword that looks like an umbrella, but the other way around, and I like nonsense rhymes, and if you look close, you’ll see a dozen little details that make up the chaos of me.

Because I hope, hand on the hilt of my swordbrella, as I give you a bard’s curtsy, that you too refuse to see only what is ordinary.

I know I said my next post would be Dragonfest Part II, but, well…chaos happened. Who am I not to oblige? Barring dragons visiting and further sword adventures, it should be the next one.

Happy reading!


8 responses to “The Sword Umbrella”

  1. This is GOLD. Seriously. Your writing is so lovely and humorous and thoughtful. The college students drinking death-strength coffee saying, “Seems about right” XD It’s so accurate. And PLEASE DO take out the Zombie Nerf warriors with your sword umbrella, because that sounds excellent.
    I’m not an instrumental performance adrenaline junkie, but I AM a hardcore theatre kid (*chokes at the sudden realization that I’m not actually a kid anymore*) and any time I’m talking to someone who doesn’t understand what an after-show-high is…I am lost? How do you explain it? It’s like you’re high…but on theatre? And you eat desert before dinner at midnight while rehashing every glorious flub up and ad lib and audience reaction?
    “Don’t poke the sleeping bard, I guess, or you might get your dignity rhymed to Candy Land and back.” << I hope you have this on a pin on your back pack or a laptop sticker or carved over the thresh-hold of your front door.
    Looking like a character from a book of indeterminate genre is just about the best aesthetic a person can have.
    I would like to say 'I dare' more.
    I would also like to have a sword umbrella.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Once a theatre kid, always a theatre kid!
      So you do late-night desserts too! Ice cream is a must after a concert where I’m from. And retelling the performance is almost a performance in itself. I tend to be a quiet person, but I can gab like mad after a good concert. It’s good to know that some things are the same, if I ever stumble into the theatre realm again (which I hope I do!).
      Thank you so much for reading! I was starting to think no one enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it, but I have most happily been proved wrong.
      (knights you with swordbrella) Go forth and dare, Temperamental Writer!
      Me, I need to go get that pin made for my backpack… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hiiii I popped over here from the Temperamental Writer’s blog and I am so glad I did?? I have only read this one post but it is BEAUTIFUL and it just. sounds like you’re choosing to live with joy and the comfort of friends and I love that so! much!

    …also. I recently read an aussie urban fantasy book series with an umbrella sword and I was not expecting to see that combination of words elsewhere xD It sounds so cool, though! (…where can I get one? xD)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jem! Thanks so much for stopping by (blushes behind my hat)!
      Ooh, I’d love to read that book series! Any idea what it was called?
      My swordbrella was a gift, so I don’t know where it came from…but I know there are lots of shops online and plenty of vendors at Ren faires that sell them. Best wishes in your hunting! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • The series is “City Between” by WR Gingell – I found it a super fun read!

        Ahh, I shall have to go on a Quest for a sword umbrella, then! …I suppose the most accurate methods of acquiring that kind of object are receiving it as a gift and finding it on a quest, anyway xD

        Liked by 1 person

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