Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I stare at the whiteboard. Coffee. Need a liquid candy bar right now. Yawn. Note to self: 2 am is a bad bedtime. It's the fourth time I've actually seen my wristwatch change days. I went to sleep sweaty after playing HORSE (actually, we dubbed it PLATO in honor of the book we're studying this week) but on the pool table. It's intense, and I was limping back to the dorm with a bloody left knee. (Curse thee, stupid pool table edge!)

"So," says Eric, my group's mentor. He sets down his cell phone and assumes an expression of timeless wisdom, which doesn't quite work for me. He's twenty-eight. "I'll be back in a minute. You guys keep working on this train of thought.

I blink and nod. To my left, Bethany manages a smile. Mark's head landed on the table fifteen minutes ago. He may be snoring softly. That or the AC is malfunctioning. Justin stares at the whiteboard behind me, eyes glazed. There's a limit to how long one can discuss Plato. We've been in here for three hours, and this is the fifth day.

Eric leaves, and we - well, the ones with some semblance of consciousness left - look around at each other.

"Wow." Jessica blinks. "Um, right. Definition of love. Where were we?"

I squint, summoning my mental powers. They fight through the sludge clogging my brain. Maybe if I push past a certain point, it will all become clear. "We were wondering if God defines love because of his nature, or if there's some outside eternal standard of love."

Bethany nods with a hint more enthusiasm. "Right, and Eric was saying it seemed like we didn't want anything to be controlling God's nature."

I understand the tenets of what she says, but if she asked me to put that in words right now, I'd stare like an almost-deaf dog who heard a whistle. I sigh, hating to admit my weakness. "Could we maybe take a short break?"

Justin shifts his gaze to me and nods. He's a wave-riding sitar-playing Cali boy with a shaggy head of hair and treble clef tattoo on his left wrist. So what I'm saying is he never appears to entirely inhabit this universe, and right now he's somewhere past Pluto. "Yeah, sounds good."

Jessica nods, and Bethany concurs. Mark doesn't make a sound.

I give my mind permission to float away, far, far away. Clearly, lead is growing on my eyelids, because they keep sinking, and get harder to lift. I reminisce longingly about a caramel frappuccino I bought in desperation two days ago. I really shouldn't have sneaked out of the meeting under the pretense of using the restroom. And hurrying out of the building, across the square, and to the bookstore may not met with a stamp of approval. But I figured it was that or sleep during the lecture. Alas, there is no time.

Bethany turns toward me, a glint in her eyes.

I feel bewildered. A glint? This signifies energy. How did she sneak in caffeine? If I think of it logically, using the rules we've been utilizing this week, she looked exhausted sixty seconds ago. Ergo, this is fast-acting caffeine. Chocolate-coated espresso beans?

"I think we should discuss Hungry Hippos," she says. "You know, the board game."

Jessica's mouth falls open, and she claps her hands. "Oh, yes!"

I feel my eyes widen. The moment of illumination has come. Connections snap into place like a mechanical spider web. "I see!" I jolt up straight in my chair.

Bethany leans forward, elbows on the table. "Clearly the makers of the game were well-versed in Plato, because the hippos go into a Bacchic frenzy."

I lift a finger, which trembles as I consider the pure brilliance of it all. "Yes, exactly! Because the original Bacchants were so overwhelmed with love for Bacchus that they tore him into pieces, like the hippos do in the game!" I lunge for my notebook and fumble with a pen. Must copy this word-for-word.

Jessica nods, forehead pursed as she scribbles on a sheet of paper. "Of course. This is groundbreaking." She glances up, looking each of us in the eye. "Colors. What do the colors of the hippos signify?"

I smile, utterly prepared. "Well, you know what Dr. R said about red, how it's the color of love and the color of danger. Doesn't that fit so perfectly? I can't believe no one's thought of this before."

Nancy speaks up, holding her pen in the air. "Wait, wait. I have it. Remember how this week we've been talking about what it means to win? Well, that means all of us can win in this game."

Jessica gasps. "Oh my gosh. You're right."

Bethany nods studiously. "Why don't you expand on that?"

Nancy props her dainty elbows on the table, strands of reddish hair framing her face. "Well, say we four played, and Jessica ended up with the fewest marbles. If she feels satisfied with how many she got, and that's her definition of winning, then she won."

I slap my left palm against my forehead, jotting down each of Nancy's words. "The genius in this room astounds me. I knew if we pushed past the mental fatigue we would be enlightened." I draw a deep breath, eyes widening. "It's like - oh-" I fumble with my copy of Plato's Phaedrus. "It's like in Phaedrus when the souls go beyond the rim of heaven and see the true Forms of beauty and love and all that live there!"

Bethany shakes her head, half-bowing toward me. "Brilliance."

Nancy poses another question: "So what does it signify when we get tired of playing Hungry Hippos and put the game away?"

We stare at each other. The fog invades our brains again, and we stare silently at the table.

Bethany sighs, staring sadly at the tabletop. "The Muses have fallen silent."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

very short


Anyway, to recap my post *which just vanished into cyberspace, GROWL*, I am home from camp. I will post later on this, maybe even today. I am toast (extra-crispy, without butter) after the world's worst 10-mile run, which was conducted in 103% humidity. (Yes, 103%; I am very precise about these matters).

And I realized in four weeks I'm going to be living in a dorm (which is brand new [still not quite finished as I type], suite-style, with shared kitchen) and in college full-time. Ah. Wow. I've met two of my suitemates and hit it off with them both. And yeah, that's about it. I'm going to work on another short to satiate my readers *thanks a lot, Q*.

A note on Q: It took me two months to figure out 'thecurlyq.blogspot.com' was supposed to be a play on 'curlycue'. I'm usually not that slow. I am right now, though, and off to nap.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The writer wrings her hands as she studies her blog comments. One by one, they trickle in. She sighs. She took a risk, posting a short story she wasn't sure of - was it brilliant? Or copycattish? All the bloggers, to her surprise, loved it. Now they all encourage her to post more. She glares at the monitor. It's all Q's fault, she rants. If she hadn't read Q's shorts, if Q hadn't posted them, this never would have happen. She blames Q!

She sits back, blushing prettily as she recalls the comments. And then she knows: the mission falls. She most post more. They have asked, and she cannot deprive them. For what would happen if - unlikely - but if she died from lack of internet exposure during the next week, spent entirely at camp? No, she must.

And so she does, and will return later to ponder the beautiful, dark poetry of The Dark Knight, in which Heath Ledger is a freaking psychopathic yet entrancing genius, and Bruce Wayne has a very sweet polished-like-a-black-gemstone Lamborghini.

Ahem. The story:


The rainclouds threaten to drench us. I watch Katy, stationed to the left of the casket. Her spike heels sink into the grass, the only evidence she’s distracted. The normal Katy hates stilettos. To anyone else she is aloof, an observer, a marble pillar.

A breeze catches the ends of the minister’s robe, tugging them as he finishes a traditional liturgy. Still Katy’s face reveals nothing. She studies the edge of the casket lid. I didn’t know her grandfather well, but I remember him. He carved for a living, something I personally like as a career option. In my memory, I see him sliding his hands over the velvet body of a cherry-wood dolphin, smile creasing his skin.

The procession moves inside. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of tradition, I bow to its mandates and stand in the consolation line. I watch a graying couple step toward Katy’s parents.

Tears glimmer in the woman’s eyes. The man looks stiff as he extends a hand toward Mr. Donovan. Then he drops his shoulders as if to say forget this, and hugs him. The women sob together.

That eases the knot in my chest. I hate false mourners. It’s a harsh word, but people who do nothing but bring casseroles and a few form phrases bother me. I’m not what you call the introspective type, or the go-to person for comfort, but when things are bad, and I mean scraping-the-ocean-floor look-up-to-see-bottom bad, I feel it. It’s like I internalize grief. Don’t ask why. I don’t have an explanation.

I shake Mr. Donovan’s hand, because I don’t know him well enough to hug him. The muscles around Mrs. Donovan’s eyes are pulled tight as if she can squint back the tears. I know her a little better, and decide she could use the embrace.

She sniffs into my shoulder. “Thank you, Garrett.”

I feel my tie tightening in a hangman’s noose. I have no idea what to say but “You’re welcome”. As I step away, I rail myself up one side and down the other. You’re welcome. Pitiful, pitiful response. At least I didn’t say I’m sorry. Remember my take on tradition? I’m sorry is the most worn-out funeral line.

Then I spot Katy. She stands off to the side, weight shifted on one hip. As I meet her gaze, the mask resembles rice paper, and is peeling one agonizing strip at a time.

The smile forces itself across her lips as to resemble a grimace. “Hi, Garrett.”

“Hey.” I’m feeling brilliant and talkative.

Three minute creases form between her eyebrows. “I thought you had an interview today.”

I must have told her about it last week a couple days before her grandfather died. I shrug. “Rescheduled.” After a piece of delicate diplomacy over the phone. I left out the reason of a funeral until necessary. “Trevor around?” I figure if anyone he’ll be here. He’s known Katy since third grade.

She shakes her head once. Another piece of mask tears and flutters to the ground. “He had a scholarship interview too.”

We stand in silence for a minute until a woman in a black (duh) suit bustles up.

She takes Katy’s limp hand in hers. “Oh, dear, I’m so sorry. I know how close you and Dad were.”

The grimace-smile thing inches onto Katy’s face. “Thank you.”

The woman shakes her head mournfully and walks away.

Katie bares her teeth. “She couldn’t care less. She’s been badgering Grandad about his will for years in the hopes he’d drop dead and leave her a big chunk.”

This is harsh for Katy the encourager. “You holding up alright?”

Her eyes fill. Her breath shudders, and she blows it out. “I’ll be fine.” A single tear spills onto her cheek, and like some kind of enzyme, it dissolves the mask.

There’s some chivalric code regarding weeping women. I’m pretty sure I remember it, but the contents suggest I should try not to.

Ah, what the heck. I pull her into a hug, touching her like she’s a tissue paper butterfly. Weird analogy, but you get the point.

She lets her head hit my chest. Soon enough I feel dampness seeping through the suit jacket. This is really weird, and kind of freaking me out, and all I can do is hope she isn’t getting a concussion from my heartbeat. I pin my gaze on some silver clip-thing in her hair. I think I’ll die if I look anyone in the eye right now.

Later Katy steps back, running a finger under her bottom eyelashes. It’s a mystery to the male mind how girls can bawl their eyes out and emerge with makeup intact. My guess is an unhealthy amount of waterproof chemicals and years of practice. As she glances down, I check my jacket without moving my head. Spotless. Incredible.

She swallows and breathes once. “Wow. Sorry.”

No, I’m supposed to say that to her, except if I say it now it’ll sound wrong. I search for inspiration, but wind up staring at a jet-black curl falling from her ponytail. “Uh, no problem.” Gratefully, my speech teacher is not present. She would make me give my own eulogy before killing me. Given the location, she could make a clean getaway.

“You know something? You’re a good friend.”

“Really? I mean, I know we were acquaintances and all, but I thought since I’d only known you for a year and all-”

She cocks her head, looking amused.

I close my eyes for an instant. “I think I’m going to shut up now.” To the flood of words arriving in my head just now, I growl we’ll talk later.

Katy manages a smile. “I meant it like you’re a good friend. I mean, like you said, we haven’t known each other very long, but you still showed up here and kept me from totally melting down-” she stops herself. “I’m rambling. You get my point.”

My chest warms at this revelation. “I guess I didn’t think about it that way.”

“I really appreciate it.”

To me, that phrase usually has the credibility of I’m sorry. But I can tell she means it. “You’re welcome.” And this time it feels like the right response.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Rhapsody in Brown

So, I'm part of a writing group, and one of the members posted this challenge:

Using the basic description of the character below, write a short paragraph or two describing the character and giving him more of an interesting personality (the character definitely needs one). Have fun.

"Gabe is of average height and weight. He has brown hair, brown eyes, and likes the color brown. He wears brown shoes (no surprise there)and a brown shirt."

So here's my take: it's longer than a couple paragraphs (because I got carried away).

As I fiddled with my locker, I eavesdropped on the female voices squealing across the hall.

"So cute."


"You think Gabe's really still in high school?"

At my name, I turned, like any normal person would. Maybe not the best description, given my monocolor appearance. Brown loafers, cinnamon-colored shirt, chocolate pants, same color eyes behind owl-eye glasses and pale brown hair in short waves. Even my backpack was an unidentifiable dark tan. At first and second takes people gave me those looks saying 'nice but weird', and there weren't more takes, because I was a drab fixture in their eyes. Kind of like a dead lamp slouching in the corner.

The girl twined a curl around her finger and smiled. "That's what I read in Seventeen. They wouldn't lie about that, would they?"

I restrained a snort. Seventeen lied about a lot. I'd know.

Her friend in the pink shirt sighed, going dizzy-eyed. "He's sooo hot." The edges of her lips curved up. "I wonder what school he goes to. That article did say he's single."

I shook my head, half-smirking as I rescued Hamlet from the confines of my backpack and shoved him into the locker. Gabe Johansson, teenage star of Life Interrupted, the hit show. Yeah, he was in high school, supposedly, but even the paparazzi couldn't find him. And I knew he wouldn't date either of those girls. He knew them too well.

The girls kept prattling. I strode out of the building, backpack over shoulder. Silly females. So aware of guys and yet so blind.

I opened the cell phone and dialed my agent. "Yeah, it's Gabe. Just got out of school."

He snorted. "Public school. A bunch of morons forced to spend twelve years of their lives together. Will you please buy into the tutor idea?"

"Yeah, yeah. Tell me for the three-thousandth time and I'll think about it." I strode toward the parking lot. "So anyway, you mentioned another deal?"

"Yeah, I did. Interested in being the next Tobey Maguire? Spider-Man 4 is having auditions."

My nerves buzzed under my skin. "Heck yeah I'm interested. I'll be right over." I unlocked my BMW and stepped in. "Oh yeah - do me a favor and keep this out of the news until it's a done deal."

He laughed, New York accent rasping across the line. "You got it, Johansson."


Okay. I had a totally bizarre and freaky dream last night, woke up crying (that hasn't happened in ten years), and hence am going to post a short story in lieu of writing. It's not my normal happy stuff, but sometimes I need to branch out, you know?


She fidgeted, twitching a French fry between her fingers. Juan and Kara were seated behind her. Most people would not hear their conversation, or care. But she inherited good hearing from her mother. It was genetic, so how was the guilt she felt her fault?

Kara sighed, the sound fighting for rights in the chatter of the cafeteria. “I don’t know anymore. Why shouldn’t I?”

Juan took a moment to answer. “You still have your mom.”

Kara snorted. “Yeah, in all her Walgreens-employee glory.”

“She’s still someone.”

"Yeah? Barely.”

“Still. Just because of the accident – you can’t just leave off like that.”

The girl listening tried not to listen. She lifted her sandwich and took a measured bite. It tasted like paper.

Kara’s voice rose. “Just because? I lost my dad and both sisters in one night because some idiot driver didn’t turn his lights on. My brother’s in Iraq so he’s practically done for. My boyfriend ditched me yesterday because some other two-timing little twit is better looking. What’s the point?”

“College? You have good grades.”

“College? Come on, I might be a geek but I’m not gonna live for college.” Kara laughed, not normally. “That’s what I’m saying. What am I living for?”

The listener pursed her lips. There was a lot to live for. A God to live for. Could she say that? Out loud?

From the corner of her eye, she saw Juan shrug. “I dunno. I thought you were Catholic.”
“Yeah, so? What does that mean anyway?”

The words surged at her lips. She could turn and tell Kara what it meant. She knew. A surge of adrenaline pulsed through her. She swiveled on her seat. “Hey, Kara?”

Kara glanced up, skin under her eyes dark through makeup. “Yeah?”

The words poised on her lips died as she saw Brittany seated next to Kara. The cheerleader tilted her head and arched her brows, as if interested in what her teammate had to say to this math whiz.

She swallowed as words crumpled into themselves and shriveled. “I was wondering if you had notes from Friday. I wasn’t here.”

Kara blinked. “Yeah. Yeah, I’ll give them to you after school. Out front by the benches?”

She nodded stupidly, numbly.

Brittany returned to her salad, gutting a cherry tomato with her fork.

Kara mumbled something to Juan before grabbing her tray and vanishing.

She waited, but Kara was not there after school. The news came quietly, through one of Kara’s friends. The doctors pumped a full bottle of sleeping pills from her stomach. She would be in care for several days.

The listener, the coward, the not-speaker sighed. Too many what-ifs. It could not occur again. She drove toward the hospital and asked for Kara’s room number

Monday, July 7, 2008

I survived!

Ughhh. That was the longest road trip of my life. I am now a road trip warrior. I've now driven in multiple states, like Alabama and Tennessee and a blip of Georgia and Pennsylvania. A painful, painful rain-hammering-down ten-mile-an-hour stint in Pennsylvania. And then we drove back, with better weather, thankfully.

Running camp was a mix of fun, pain, irritation, and fun. Some of the workouts pushed me farther than I cared to be pushed, but I guess it will make me resilient. Every night we played Ultimate Frisbee in teams, hence the irritation. My team was third place last year. It was seventh of eight this year. We had one guy on our team who was...I say this kindly, not in awful shape, but he had no endurance. Furthering my annoyance, he didn't work hard and didn't cover his guy.

I'm not the best thrower, so out of reflex I defend well. There's a rule you do not break around me: COVER YOUR MAN. And then in the last game, one of our girls made a beautiful save for a goal. We were tied with the number two team, and it's now overtime, sudden death. Looking particularly at this guy, I say "Alright, let's cover them tight." Forty seconds later the other team scores, and the dude my teammate was supposed to guard was on the opposite side of the field. He scored because my teammate slacked off.

Okay, rant over. Mostly. My sister put it the best way: "I get angry about things quickly and get over them quickly. It takes you a longer time to get angry, but it also takes you longer to get over it." Wisdom from the mouths of babes. Okay, she's not that young *winces at punch*. Come on, sis! It's figurative.

Here is a fun exercise. I may tag some people to do it. The rules: List three song titles, and your immediate thoughts. Then tag three people. I.E.:

No Air, Jordin Sparks. 1. What my sister keeps singing over and over and over to drive me insane. 2. The precise amount of oxygen my sister will be inhaling if she doesn't cut it out.

Train, 3 Doors Down. 1. What I wished I was on while driving down the interminable Route 59. 2. What I was going to throw my sister in front of if she didn't quit singing Bleeding Love.

Bleeding Love, Leona Lewis. 1. Another thing my sister kept singing, in soprano. 2. Sounds morbid, like the previous number 2s.

I like it. I tag...you, and you, and Miss Erin, and Anilee, and Gretch-a-Sketch.