Friday, December 17, 2010

My Grandmother

Growing up, my grandmother was not a major part of my life. She lives an hour away and I was painfully shy. The combination of these factors typically made for awkward "hello's" and my brother and I hiding out with our three older cousins for the duration of the visit. And if she came to visit us, we greeted her eagerly, knowing that some gift was stored in a bag somewhere (though as we got older, these gifts eventually manifested as McDonald's Happy Meal toys. I didn't even play with them when I was five; why would I suddenly be interested in them when I was twelve?). I guess sometimes I wished for the kind of grandma whose house smelled like cinnamon rolls. Or the kind who taught you how to knit when she visited on rainy afternoons. Or even the kind who had words of elderly wisdom when you broke up with your first boyfriend.

My grandma probably couldn't even tell me the name of my last boyfriend. And not only is the extent of her crafting ability coloring (her entire home is plastered with those coloring sheets with the black velvet filling in the negative space), but two weeks ago she landed herself in the hospital after unsuccessfully frying an egg and contracting salmonella poisoning. This most recent event is what compels me to write this piece.

My mother checked Grandma (her mother) into the emergency room on the morning of December 3rd, her 80th birthday. All party plans were put on hold and she spent a week in the hospital. For those who don't know, salmonella essentially causes the loss of fluid in the body by every means imaginable. Whether eighty or eighteen, Grandma is lucky to be alive. Salmonella kills people daily, regardless of age. This is a fact that I'm glad I learned today and that I didn't know at the beginning of this nightmare, else I would have been emotionally useless for the past two weeks. After getting her illness under control, Grandma was moved to a rehabilitation facility last Saturday, the 11th.

My mother and I visited her today because we had a meeting with her case worker to determine when she would be released from the facility and allowed to go back home to New Hampshire. After signing in at the front desk, the elevator took us to the second floor where a resounding "Hello!' cranked our necks around to our left. There was Grandma, all five feet of her, sitting in a chair at the end of the hallway with her perky, brown-haired physical therapist sitting in the chair next to her. I had never known my grandma to use a walker, but there was one positioned right in front of her, severed tennis balls on the back legs and everything. She was proud of her hair-do, as it had been washed and curled that morning, probably for the first time since she got sick.

Throughout our meeting with the case worker, I couldn't help but feel proud that there were three generations of Barton women represented in that room. I was a part of something so much greater than myself. My history was sitting there, next to me and across from me, at the very same table.

Not only did the meeting reveal that my grandma would be discharged the very next day (Saturday the 18th), but that and the rest of the visit also taught me a lot about who she is. She hates tea, but she loves iced tea and use to brew loose tea leaves in a pitcher of water on a sunny windowsill. She loved wearing her pajamas, even though my grandfather hated it, and on days when he had to work, she would stay in her pajamas all day. As an elderly woman, she is nothing short of amazing. When her case worker asked her if she used any elderly services (someone who grocery shops, cleans for her, drives her places, etc.), my mom proudly informed her that my grandparents were the ones who did this for other elderly people. My grandmother works out almost everyday, something that I rarely manage. She manages all of her own medication and when she isn't recovering from salmonella, she has no need for a walker. These are all things that may seem trivial, but to a woman of eighty, these little pieces of independence are something to be valued dearly.

But my favorite thing about my grandmother is her sense of humor. Just when you think she isn't listening, or when she's being teased by her son or grandchildren and seems like she'll just take it, she comes back with a wittier response than most professional comedians could invent on the spot. Today, she was talking about her son, my Uncle Ed, and how when he makes a notable comment, he likes to say, "Yeah, I got it from you, Ma".

She responds with, "That's great, but you can keep it".

I guess you had to be there. But this is the kind of humor that I respect. Something thoughtful, but still quick. She always catches me off-guard. And now that I'm older and no longer shy, my favorite memories with her are those I spend joking and going back and forth with her.

As time flies by, I see my mother adopting some of the characteristics of my grandmother. If I say, "Let's go, Mom", she'll often respond "I's a' comin'", just like Grandma has always said. Or she'll sneak a "y'all" into casual conversation, something that my grandma has held on to after living in Texas many years ago. And as I write this from my mother's favorite chair, dozing in front of the TV with a glass of wine on the table next to me, like she does almost every night after a long day at work, I realize that I'm adopting her characteristics as well.

It's a running joke these days that most women loathe the idea of becoming their mothers. Though it may be scary to look into the face of the future and see yourself, I'd consider myself lucky to become like my mother and grandmother. It means I'll be continuing a legacy of quirky, strong women who love and laugh like life is a gift and they're just beginning to unwrap it. Did I mention that when my grandmother was in the hospital, my mother drove almost an hour each way to visit her just about every day? Yeah, that's the kind of woman I want to be.

I'm most thankful for today because I learned so much about the mysterious grandmother that I was so nervous around as a child. And I'm also thankful that her physical therapist said I was the spitting image of my mother. Though neither of us understands how the rest of the world thinks we look exactly alike, it still always brings a smile to my face to know that I look just like someone that I admire so much.

Monday, December 13, 2010

One of those Friends

I'm definitely having a hard time keeping up with this thing, but luckily I've entered the hell known as "finals week" and hope to regain my life after this coming Thursday. Here's a flash fiction piece that I included in my creative writing portfolio. It's called "Yoga isn't for Everyone".

She sat on a Bosu ball, feet an inch or so off the ground, and I waited for her to topple over. But it never came to that. The instructor’s balance and poise were on the mark and as she moved the ball to the side and unrolled her mat, signaling for the class to stretch out in the downward-facing-dog pose, it reminded me of why I signed up for this yoga class in the first place. I walked like a rhinoceros in an antique show room and at five feet, three inches tall, and 175 pounds, I couldn’t even walk with confidence.

One of my girlfriends, Ana, told me that yoga would make me more graceful and also help me lose that “unattractive belly pooch”. I had struggled with my weight since middle school. I was never fat, but there always seemed to be a little more of me throughout my abdomen than I would like to see.

Ana, on the other hand, did yoga every other morning before work. She also ate a high protein, low carb diet. She was also dating the cliché tall, dark, and handsome man who brought her flowers each time he showed up on her doorstep to take her out to a fancy, expensive restaurant. Ana lived the life that every woman supposedly dreamed of.

“Kate.” She would say my name like a statement, and continue talking without waiting for me to answer. “Kate, you should really come to yoga with me. I really think it would do a lot for your self confidence”. Sometimes I wondered if ditching our friendship would do a lot for my self-confidence. Ana was in the row of yoga mats in front of me, her perfect butt pointed straight up in the air in the downward-facing-dog position. She might’ve looked even more perfect than the instructor. When I was in this position, I felt my rolls push against each other.

I watched Ana move to child’s pose, knees and elbows together on the mat with her head resting on her forearms. Her straight blonde hair tumbled over her head and onto the floor, like threads of yellow silk flowing from the loom. I struggled to move seamlessly into this pose like her, but fell to my knees instead. I laughed to myself, thinking of how my last relationship failed because I refused to do that. No, it wasn’t just that. He was an alcoholic and I gained ten pounds over the five months that we dated. It hadn’t exactly been a recipe for success. I’m twenty-five, I thought. It’s time to stop screwing around with these losers. I smiled again at my mental pun on “screwing”.

“Okay ladies, stand up, breathe in and then stretch your arms up to the ceiling as you draw in a big breath. As you breathe out, slowly bring your arms back to your sides. Again.” The instructor’s soothing voice broke through my mental image of a parade of losers marching through my life. Ana’s lean arms moved up and down, slowly and gracefully, almost mirroring those of the instructor, and I was sure her lungs were expanding and contracting in perfect rhythm. I caught myself taking short breaths, in and out, while my chubby arms flapped up and down. I can’t even breathe when someone tells me to, I thought.

“That’s your problem, Kate. Always doing what other people tell you.” My mind wandered, remembering how Ana said that to me at least once a week, especially in regards to my job at the accounting firm. My boss was constantly asking me to take on extra tasks and help him on bigger projects. I took it to mean he felt like he could rely on me; Ana believed I was a push over. We had argued about it just the day before.

“Just because I try to be agreeable with my boss and get my work done does not mean I’m a doormat, okay? I have limits you know.” I tried for a counter-argument.

“Limits?” Her eyes would grow wide. “That’s not what your last boyfriend told me…”

She always made me out to be the slut, and half the time whatever was said wasn’t even true. One thing I’ve learned from dating jerks is that jerks like to brag.

“On your mats, please!” I came out of my reverie, just in time to notice that the rest of the class was sitting on their mat while I was still standing, arms over my head. I felt warmth radiate from my cheeks and knew that my pale skin must be scarlet. I sat on my mat quickly.

“Very good ladies, think of this as a makeover for both your body and your mind!” the instructor smiled at her encouragement.

I could do that. I had always liked makeover shows on TV. I guess they were a guilty pleasure of mine. It didn’t matter how plain a girl was; She always looked like a movie star by the end. Even the big girls that they had on the show came out looking like they had lost ten to thirty pounds, just by wearing the right clothes. Sometimes I wished that I could go on one of those shows. Then maybe I’d find myself a guy who didn’t hibernate in bars from Thursday to Sunday morning; or maybe even one who knew how to make a girl feel special.

“KATE, will you please just pay attention?”

Ana’s shriek pulled the e-brake on my daydream and jolted me into the realization that all the other women had somehow dislocated their hips and had their feet behind their heads. “Kate, you need to keep up. Don’t make me regret inviting you.”

“Ana,” I stood up as I said her name, like a statement, “I love you, but I’m out.” I left my yoga mat behind, walked to the back of the room where my coat hung on a peg, and left. As I got into my car, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go, but I felt like I just needed a pair of cute jeans.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I haven't posted here for a couple days, and I refuse to let this blog be one of those things in my life that just falls by the wayside or gets shifted to the back burner. That tends to happen with a lot of things in my life. I get really excited in the beginning, but then whatever I'm amped up about loses some of its appeal until it is a distant memory of a forgotten dream (I think there's a paradox in there somewhere....).

I don't really have any creative pieces to post, unfortunately. Creative writing is another thing that I feel like will soon fall out of my life again. As soon as my class ends and I don't have deadlines to meet, what's going to stop me from watching Wife Swap or A Baby Story instead of writing the next great American short story? Nothing, that's what! Sometimes I wonder if I should remove TV and Facebook from my life. How much more would I get done? Maybe I'd be able to focus on my dreams of becoming a famous writer and/or photographer. Maybe I'd study my Bible more and my relationship with God would go from this faint voice floating around outside my head (sometimes it's so distant that I can't even say "the faint voice at the back of my mind"; it's not even in my skull yet!) to the feeling of sitting across from someone sipping lattes and discussing the meaning of life. Or maybe I'd just check a freaking book out of the library and start working on my thesis so I could graduate from Salem State in the spring. Yes, I believe all of this could be accomplished in mere weeks if I simply unplugged myself from the media. And then I remember I have the will power of a five-year-old with a hundred dollar bill in the middle of Toys R Us.

Well, happy Thanksgiving to all, and maybe I'll be back at some point this week with a new piece or some crazy family photos from tomorrow's festivities. God bless!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Little Friends

So far with this blog I have really enjoyed uploading some of my writing. But there is a whole other side to my creative self that I have yet to share! I really love taking photos and one of my favorite things to do is go for walks and take pictures. It's even better when I have some models to pose for me. Here are a couple photos picturing two of my favorite models of all time.

This is Gabriel and Sabbath, son and daughter of my close friend, Cassi. She also has a baby, Eva, who was napping during our photo shoot. I love visiting them at their home almost every Tuesday morning and just hanging out. We eat gluten-free waffles, play with trains (Thomas is the favorite, of course), and go for walks, like on this day! I can honestly say that spending time with this family at their home is one of my favorite things to do.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Short Story

Molly walked to school every morning, her long brown hair plaited with red ribbon. She was well liked by her classmates, but quiet. Not the shy kind of quiet; she was just a gentle creature. Her walk to school was her own every morning, until she got to them.

“They” were the man in the Caddy and the woman in the VW. They parked side-by-side in the wooded lot next to the nature trail each morning to take a walk before driving to the office. At least, that’s where Molly assumed that they went. She didn’t know many people who hiked in collared shirts and pleated pants and , though they looked fairly young, maybe in their late twenties, they dressed like professionals. But they never walked together. Caddy man would get out of his car first, shoot a smile of recognition in VW woman’s direction, and then walk briskly into the cover of trees. VW woman would watch him leave, making sure to wait until he was out of site before entering the woods herself.

Molly witnessed this exquisite dance of avoidance and desire every morning on her way to school, and each morning she added a new chapter to the elaborate tale of their unacknowledged love that she had created in her mind. Last week she imagined that VW woman shed her business attire each evening and created masterpiece paintings rivaling those of Monet in her one-bedroom studio apartment. She dreamed that Caddy man worked at her favorite coffee shop on the weekends and every Saturday morning VW woman stopped by to order a non-fat latte and catch a smile from Caddy man while he steamed some milk behind the barista bar.

On this day, Molly imagined artist VW woman and barista Caddy man again, but this time when Caddy man finished making her latte, he wrote his phone number on VW woman’s cup. Molly giggled to herself, picturing what it would be like to be in love. She knew that there must be more to it than the eighth grade version of it that she witnessed daily. A boy with an acne-scarred face would awkwardly ask a girl to go to the upcoming dance with him and the girl would try not to burst into laughter when the boy’s voice hit multiple falsetto notes as he stammered through his question. The girl would always say yes, not wanting to go alone, and then her friends would giggle uncontrollably anytime they caught her and her date even walking in the same hallway together.

Molly had never been asked to a dance before. She told herself that they were stupid, full of immature boys and girls who didn’t know why they wanted to wear mini-skirts and tube tops, but who couldn’t deny that they liked the way the boys looked at them when they did. Molly didn’t even own a mini-skirt. Nor did she know the first thing about dancing with a boy. One time she had practiced swaying to a slow song by holding onto the back of her desk chair and lip-syncing to Aerosmith’s “Don’t Wana Miss a Thing”, but then her little brother barged in and teased her for the next two weeks. “Molly wants a man, Molly wants a man…” had blared incessantly in Trey’s seven-year old nasally voice at the back of her mind for hours on end. What made her even more frustrated was knowing that Trey was right; Molly did want to be in love. But she knew middle school was no place to find it. She was reminded of this when she arrived at school that day and had a rogue spitball splat against the side of her face in homeroom.

There were a bunch of claims due the next day so Chris was stuck working late at the insurance firm. It was nights like these where he had to continuously remind himself that he was lucky to have a well-paying job at the age of twenty-seven during these difficult economic times. Besides, he knew that she was probably working late that night, too. There was a girl who worked for the same firm as Chris; just on a different floor, and he thought she was gorgeous. She was about the same age as him, had shoulder-length blonde hair and luminous green eyes, almond-shaped; with the longest eyelashes that Chris had ever seen. Sometimes he caught himself wondering if she even wore make up.

Chris lived for the nights when he would be walking through the parking lot to his car at the same time that she was walking to hers. He wondered if she would think that his old-school Cadillac was cool and vintage, or just an expression of him holding onto his youthful college days. He wondered if she would listen to his classic rock CDs that he kept in the glove compartment, or if she would insist on listening to a country station on the radio. Chris did a lot of wondering about her, but never any talking. He saw her almost every evening in the parking lot, in addition to seeing her every weekday morning at the nature trail near their office, but he had never spoken a word to her.

If nights in the parking lot were what got Chris through the long, boring days at work, then mornings at the nature trail were what got Chris to work in the first place. This ritual began after his first year at the firm. He was losing himself, getting bogged down with the constant flow of paperwork and angry clients who didn’t understand why they weren’t covered when their basement flooded. After Chris explained to them for the hundredth time that they hadn’t bought flood insurance, they would either hang up on him or ask to speak to a manager. It was after one particularly heinous phone conversation that Chris took his lunch break early, hopped in his Caddy, and drove. He came upon the nature trail in his car and pulled into the wooded lot to check it out. After finding that the cover of trees, the protrusion of small rays of sunlight, and the chirping of birds soothed the hopeless feeling of meaningless routine, Chris found himself coming back to that trail every morning before work. And about six months later, she started showing up as well. That was a whole year ago and Chris still didn’t even know her name.

Molly left school that afternoon feeling particularly frustrated. There was a dance that Friday and two different boys had already asked her best friend, Kayla. Sometimes she wondered if boys would ask her to dances if her hair had bouncy curls like Kayla’s. Walking home with Kayla that afternoon didn’t do much to lift her spirits, either.

“So, I just don’t know which one I should go with, Danny or Brian! What do you think?” Kayla asked Molly.

“Well, which one do you like?”

“Hmmm… Well, Danny is cuter, but Brian has a pool! Maybe if I go with him, he’ll let us go swimming next summer!”

“Yeah, sweet…” Molly mumbled. Kayla had been her best friend since second grade, but ever since seventh grade when the pair had gone to their first dance, wearing jeans and Aeropostale t-shirts, all Kayal seemed to be able to focus on were boys. Now, Kayla wore mini-skirts and tube tops like the rest of the boy-crazy pack of hormonal girls. They passed by the wooded lot on the way to Molly’s house and Molly was able to lose herself in her imaginary stories of Caddy man and VW woman while Kayla continued to ramble on about the perks of dating each boy.

The next morning, Molly left a few minutes early for school. She had some questions for Mr. Burns, her pre-algebra teacher, before the class took their test that day. She hoped that she wouldn’t pass the wooded lot before Caddy man and VW woman arrived. As the lot came into view, she was surprised to see the Caddy parked in its usual spot with its owner pacing in front of the passenger side door. As she got closer she could see frown lines marring the young man’s face and he was tugging at his sandy blonde hair. Molly, feeling uncharacteristically outgoing that morning, called out to him; he seemed truly distraught.

“Hey there!” she yelled.

“Oh… Hi.” He seemed startled upon learning that someone else was around.

“Um, are you okay?”

“Yeah, thanks. Don’t worry about me, get to school.”

“Are you waiting for… for her?” Molly winced as she asked, realizing that even she felt weird as she came to terms with how often she did watch the pair.

“Uh, I don’t know what you mean….” The man looked around uncomfortably, trying to find something to focus his attention on. Failing, he asked, “Do you know her?”

“Not personally, no. But I see you two every morning when I walk to school. I always thought she looked like a nice girl. Do you like her?” Molly knew she might be late for school, but she finally had the chance to see her imaginary love story come to life and she just couldn’t walk away now.

“Well, I don’t actually know her….”

Molly knew the answer to her next question, but decided to play dumb. “Wait, you mean you’ve never even said hi to her? You guys walk the same trail every day!”

“I know… It’s kind of embarrassing, but I’ve never really had a way with talking to girls. Been like that ever since I was young. One time I was at a party in ninth grade at my friend’s house and the girl that I had a crush on was there too. I can’t believe I’m telling you this, but I was so nervous that I couldn’t even be in the same room as her. I spent the entire evening talking to my friend’s parents in the basement.”

“No way!” Molly giggled. “Sorry, but that’s kind of dumb.”

“Oh yeah?” The man frowned, but quickly changed it to a smile. “Are you some kind of dating expert?” He asked with a know-it-all ring to his voice.

The question was a painful reminder of every unacknowledged desire in Molly’s heart, and she was surprised to feel her eyes burn with the threat of tears. She looked away quickly as she bitterly answered, “No.”

“Hey, come on, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you upset. What’s your name?”

“Molly,” she muttered.

“Molly. I’m Chris, it’s nice to meet you. Listen Molly, I didn’t mean to make you upset. It’s probably a good thing you don’t know much about dating at your age. Actually, it’s a great thing. You have plenty of time for all that junk. Just be a kid for now because it goes by too quickly and before you know it, you’ll be working at some boring job that you absolutely hate and too scared to talk to a girl who you think is the most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen. Well, maybe you won’t know much about that last part. But you get what I mean, right?”

Molly managed a weak smile. “Yeah, I get it. Nice to meet you, Chris. I’m going to be late for school. But talk to her. I think she’d like that. See you around.”

Chris smiled, his eyes filling with warmth. “Thanks, I’ll see what I can do. Have a good day at school.”

Molly walked a couple hundred feet from the lot before seeing the VW driving up the road towards her. As it passed her she looked back at the wooded lot, just in time to see the VW pull in the spot next to the Caddy. She saw Chris leaning against his car, his back to Molly. She smiled and hoped that this would be the day.

The next morning was Friday, the day of the dance, and Molly still didn’t have a date. But after everything that Chris had said the day before, it didn’t seem like such a big deal to her. The day before she had learned that a bunch of her other friends didn’t have dates either and that Kayla was really the only one going. The burden of being dateless suddenly felt a lot lighter.

She left for school, headed in the direction of the wooded lot, hoping to catch a glimpse of Chris and VW woman. Maybe Chris had gotten her name the day before and she wouldn’t have to be VW woman anymore. The lot came into sight, and Molly was excited to see both cars parked in their usual spots. She got closer just in time to see Chris and the woman enter the trail, together, hand-in-hand. She was also just in time for Chris to look back, smile at Molly, and wink in her direction.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Short Story: Part 2 of 2

To my surprise, maybe even to my relief, Eli didn’t speak. This relief was temporary, however, because Eli didn’t just stare at me; he started to laugh. And it was not the type of laugh that you could call “fun” or “jolly”, or even just “awkward”. Eli cackled. The pitch of his voice stabbed at my eardrums and his old lungs wheezed and snorted with the physical exertion. His eyes moistened and his nose dripped snot onto the ground as a tint of burgundy softened his dark, ashy face. And then, to my absolute horror, Eli’s frail body closed the fifteen feet between us in what seemed like two long strides and his bone-thin fingers closed around my forearm.

“Come with me,” he whispered. His hot, stale breath turned my stomach as I followed, him leading me by the arm. I contemplated running, but my curiosity was burning and I figured there was little that Eli could do to threaten me. I was no body builder, but at 5’10” and 210 pounds I was no lightweight either.

He brought me around to the back of the corner store where there were even more dead bushes along the wall and a small garden fenced in with chicken wire off to the side. Soft, crimson tomatoes lay amongst brown leaves, many with their seeds spewing forth over the dust.

“Lost m’ pocketknife,” Eli mumbled. “Start lookin’, son.”

It took me a minute to realize what he had said. I was missing work to help a sick old man look for a pocketknife. As I poked around the bushes near the corner of the store, I began dreaming up excuses for missing work without even calling out.

“Know what yer problem is, kid?”

Eli’s quiet muttering startled me and I stood up too quickly, pulling my hand from a bush and allowing a sharp twig to scrape a shallow gash the length of my forearm. The sting distracted me for a moment as I grabbed my arm with my other hand, but then remembered that Eli had asked me a question. Well, more like accused me of having a problem.

“N-no, w-w-w-what?” I stuttered.

“I dun’ jus’ mean you. This whole town’s got a problem. With me.”

“Nah man, you’re cool. I think it’s just that, you know, no one really knows you.”

“Exactly”. With that, Eli moved to the other side of the house, still looking for his pocketknife. I saw my chance. The second train hadn’t come yet. I could still make it to work. So… I ran. I ran the last quarter of a mile to the train station, caught the second train, and made it to work only thirty minutes late. I tried to tell myself that I ran because I felt stupid missing work to look for an old knife. But really, I’m not sure why I ran.

The next morning I dreaded walking by the corner store. I contemplated calling in sick, practiced my hacking cough and fake sneezes while getting dressed, or leaving early and walking a different route to the train. But I knew I would see Eli eventually and I figured that maybe I could get away with just walking fast with my head down.

I took a deep breath as the corner store came into my line of vision. I stepped up my pace, not quite to speed walking levels, but definitely enough that I could potentially break a sweat on a warm day. I lined myself up in the direction of the train and prepared to look down as soon as I came within site of Eli’s stool. But as I took each step, expecting to see the stool with every passing stride, I realized that it wasn’t there. Eli wasn’t there. For the first morning since I started taking the train five years ago when I got my job, Eli wasn’t there. I walked around the store, into the backyard where I had stood with Eli just a day earlier. Everything was the same, except maybe there was a couple missing tomatoes that the birds had gotten to. I walked around to the other side, the side that Eli had retreated to when I brought up the fact that no one really knew him here. He wasn’t there either. I walked around to the front of the store to discover that the lights were off and the door was locked. But the two old rocking chairs that Eli’s parents had supposedly sat in on warm summer evenings were still posted up on the front porch and I sat down in one to think.

I wasn’t sure what to think about this situation. Should I call the cops? Should I gather a search party? But who would even come? I had said it myself, no one really knew Eli. Tired, I shifted in my seat to lay my head back. But in doing so, I felt something hard dig into my thigh. I jumped up, causing the chair to rock violently back and forth, thumping the wooden deck and echoing through the open air.

There, in the seat of the rocking chair, lay a small pocketknife with a sleek black handle. It was closed, but that handle was definitely pointed enough to cause some serious discomfort on my backside. I picked it up and slid it through my fingers. It was so smooth, and the handle was surprisingly flat, not bulky like other knives were. It almost pained me to picture Eli picking his teeth with such a beautiful knife. I had to smile as I caught myself thinking that this knife, with its smooth shape and flat design, could potentially fit very comfortable in someone’s shoe.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Short Story: Part 1 of 2

This is a short story that I've been writing for my creative writing class. It came from a prompt that my professor gave us in class. Therefore, it's pretty weird and random, but I figured why not? But this isn't the whole story. I thought I'd post a little at a time because 1) it's pretty long and I know for me, if something is really long, I probably won't read it and 2) I haven't finished it yet.... oops, don't tell my professor since it's due tomorrow! :) As of right now, it's "Untitled", but enjoy and stay tuned for the rest to come. Hopefully that will be tomorrow!

I passed by him every morning on my walk to the train station. There wasn’t much need for a car in my two-square-mile town with the train tracks running right through. I knew for sure that this man didn’t have a car either, but that was probably the only trait we had in common. He was a tall beanpole of a man, black like the night when the moon is eclipsed, with white hairs marring his chin and cheeks like bristles on a kitchen scrubber. His straw hat hid his eyes, but his smile was kind, even with the missing and decaying teeth. Aside from the clothes on his back and the hat on his head, his only possessions seemed to be a scratched-up wooden stool that I always saw him sitting on with his back leaned up against the corner store, and a small pocket knife that he used to clean the few teeth he still had.

This man had lived in my town for as long as I could remember, since I was a kid even. I knew his name was Eli, but everything else I knew came from rumors. No one knew where Eli had been before he had wandered into this town many years ago.

He was a famous florist from New York City, until his shop fell on hard times and he walked all the way out here after it closed.

He was an African prince until his reign came to an end at the hand of Russian communists.

His mother used to own the corner store and he was born in the back room and never left.

But my favorite Eli story had always been the one where Eli used to work for the government as a secret agent. In my ten-year-old mind, I imagined him in a black suit with all of his teeth, carrying a gun in a hip holster with a knife concealed in his shoe. Now in my late twenties, my adult imagination struggled to see Eli as anything but homeless, and possibly slightly crazy, though I had never actually talked to him. I had a friend who spoke to Eli once. His name was Dan and he tried to give him a five-dollar bill, assuming that Eli was as destitute as he looked. But Eli cocked his head back, giving Dan a small glimpse of his elusive eyes. One looked like glass, Dan told me later. So Dan stood there, hand outstretched holding five dollars, and Eli just stared at him with a coy smile on his face, not saying anything, but just laughed quietly to himself and went back to cleaning his teeth, leaving Dan to walk away, baffled.

I had often contemplated making this exact same move, but after Dan’s experience, I kept my cash to myself. But I still couldn’t help wondering what it would be like to approach Eli, to actually have a moment to talk to him. On that day, however, it looked like I might finally get my chance.

I saw Eli’s stool in its usual spot, a monument to the mysterious man, but Eli wasn’t sitting on it. Instead, he was pacing in the dust around it, his nose as low to the ground as his rickety spine would allow. Ignoring the fact that I would probably miss my train and have to catch the next one, making me at least twenty minutes late for work, I allowed my curiosity to triumph against my better judgment and cautiously made my way towards the stooped old man. Eli had moved to peeking between the branches of the dried-up bushes next to the store when I yelled to him.

“Excuse me sir, are you okay?” If he heard me, he pretended not to, and continued digging in the bushes, though his arms were covered in scratches from the dry twigs. “Hey, are you looking for something?” I asked again. This time his head snapped back, and I felt frozen in his line of vision. It was the first time I had ever seen both of his eyes. Dan was right, I thought. The left one does look like glass. This thought only increased my discomfort as I waited for him to speak.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Just a Fly on the Wall

Adults are hilarious. No, I'm not talking about the ones who go to bars and sing "Don't Stop Believin'" off-key with their work pals on Friday night after their second round of rum and cokes. Granted, those guys know how to have a good time, though I'd choose "Bohemian Rhapsody" over Journey any day. I mean the professionals. The ones who wear suits to Saturday morning meetings. The ones who do have lives outside of work and like to tell each other about their kids' soccer games before the meeting actually starts. They fascinate me, and I'm not sure why.
Maybe it's because I'm here on a Saturday morning, sitting outside their conference room in case they need me to boost the volume on the microphone or set up the screen and projector, and I get to watch them interact. I watched two women walk to the bathroom together because it's been drilled into our minds since middle school that girls never go to the bathroom alone. Apparently this adage holds true in a basically empty building while the rest of the campus is still asleep. But anyways, they were chatting and laughing like twelve-year-olds! It made me smile. Another woman walked up the stairs later on with her friend and had the same conversation that we've all had right before a Saturday morning event that we would rather skip.

Woman: "You're soooo happy to be here right now, aren't you?"
Man: "Oh, definitely....."
Woman: "Mmhmmm I can tell!"

I had to wipe sarcasm off my face... it dripped all over the floor too. I'm sure I remember saying that to someone fifteen minutes before taking the SATs on a Saturday morning back in high school. And I'm sure I said it during Phys. Ed. in middle school when we learned that we would have to change into uniforms before each class. And now that I'm in college, I can remember saying it as early as two days ago when I had to work during a loud, late-night event that kept me running from closet to closet, finding all of the various cords and extras that they needed to run the show. And I probably said it again when I had to put away all those cords and extras at the end of the night.... ugh. But I digress.
These cultural quirks keep us young. Right now I'm imagining that every person in that room is wishing they were doing something else. One guy wants to be at his kid's soccer game (this is actually true.... I overhead him talking. Man, eavesdropping is fun). Another woman wishes she were taking a bubble bath with a good book and then preparing dinner for her family. Maybe another wants to do something crazy, like go play in the mud or take a road trip to Maine to see what he can find there. I don't know.
But what I do know is this: these common phrases that we all moan when we're doing something boring or stupid, or really important, but still boring, are part of what keeps us human. It lets us know that we haven't given in to the world telling us everything that we're supposed to want. You can strive for success all you want, but at what cost? Your family? Your friends? Your sanity? No thanks. At some point, you need to find peace and contentment with your current situation. Life isn't a competition where the first person to gain all the fame, fortune, and success wins; in my experience, these people end up being the biggest losers of all because that's all they have. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is say no; no to the obligations, the responsibilities; and then go play outside for the afternoon. Personally, I'm going to go out with a couple friends tonight and maybe, just maybe, we'll end the night with a round of dollar drafts and a chorus of "Bohemian Rhapsody". Just because it's fun.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Breaking the Cycle

Sometimes I do this thing where I check Facebook, Gmail, and the blogs I'm following, in that order, over and over again, just to see if something new is happening. This is how I procrastinate. Let's just say it's almost 1am, I have a short writing response due for creative writing, and here we are. In order to combat this compulsiveness, I sometimes disconnect from my WiFi, but then it turns into reconnect to WiFi, Facebook, Gmail, blogs, disconnect from WiFi. Pretend to do homework for 10 minutes. Rinse and repeat.
I'd love to write a new piece tonight, but I would like to finish this homework before I have to walk into class at 9am with my chocolate chip waffles smeared with cream cheese and wrapped in a napkin (I HIGHLY recommend you try this breakfast treat). Therefore, here's a poem that I wrote about my Papa for my creative writing class a couple weeks ago. I'll probably edit it for my final portfolio, but this will do for now. It's called "Like You Missed Nana".

To this day, I don't know how you died.
I was 9, maybe 10, and even then
the idea that you died of a broken heart
was romantic.
You truly missed Nana, and
when Brenton's fall in love,
it's forever.

I know you couldn't bear to be away,
but did you have to go to her so soon?
I was nervous with you when I was small.
But I didn't see you often,
and I was very shy.
But that doesn't mean I didn't miss you.

I remember being at your wake.
You didn't look like you,
but Mama still lifted me up
so I could kiss your forehead one last time.
"Look honey, you left a tear on his head."
It brought me comfort to know
that I would be with you always
in some small way.

If you were here today,
I'd call you each week, like a granddaughter should.
And I'd ask you to have a drink with me
on the deck, at the beach house.
And when I bought my first car,
I'd bring you,
like when you came with me
to pick out my first Boogie Board
and watched me ride it in the waves
all afternoon.

But on every drive to Rockport
and in every view of the ocean,
I see you in the passenger seat
or standing against the landscape.
And I miss you like you missed Nana.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


So I've had this blog for a couple months now, seems like it might be time for me to actually write in it instead of using it to track other blogs of interest. I guess I wasn't sure how to begin because I don't want this to just be a "What I did today..." kind-of-thing. 'Nah mean? Instead, I'd like to share some of my creative endeavors! Sound fun? Just you wait.... Here's a flash fiction piece that I just got back from my Creative Writing professor today, and she wrote "GREAT!" on the top in red pen. It was even underlined. Twice. Dang. I can tell you're already excited to read it.
I was inspired to write this after watching an episode of "A Baby Story" (I guess you could say I'm kind of a TLC junkie. But let's keep that on the DL...). The father of the family was in the army, waiting for the call to be deployed. He didn't even know how much time he would have to enjoy with his new son, and by the time he returned from his tour, his son would probably be about a year old. Can you imagine missing the first year of your child's life? First steps, first words, first smile. My heart breaks for people who have to endure this. But in the episode, his older daughter, she was probably around nine, started asking him questions about Iraq, tip-toeing around asking "What if you don't come back?". This piece was inspired by their conversation. It's called "Saturday Mornings".

Marley walked the beach with her father, skipping behind him in his footprints, her five-year-old feet barely filling the space between his heel and arch. Her blonde curls, the same ones that he had once possessed, tickled her cheeks as the autumn wind wrapped itself around the pair. She and her daddy always spent Saturdays together. As a stay-at-home mom, her mother liked a few hours to herself on the weekends. So Saturday morning belonged to Marley and Dad. But this Saturday was different. Her daddy didn’t chase her to where the icy waves lapped at her toes, or help her find seashells alone the shoreline. He walked a few paces ahead of her, hands in his pockets and head pointed towards the sand, while his daughter trailed behind.

“Daddy, did you see all those shells by that rock? There was a purple one there! Can I go look at it?”

Her father stumbled as the girl’s voice broke his silence. “Huh? Sure, honey, let’s take a look,” he murmured as he redirected his path to follow his daughter. He memorized every capricious movement, from the bouncing of her locks to the spry steps of her tiny feet, like a gazelle running through the Serengeti. He would miss her when he left.

They reached her destination and Marley promptly collapsed to her knees in the damp sand, forgetful of her denim pants. It’s a short drive home, thought her father, and I’ll just put the heat on in the car so she doesn’t catch cold. “Daddy, look!” Marley squealed as she thrust a handful of sand and bits of shell towards her father.

“That’s beautiful, baby,” he crooned. He wondered how much she understood of him returning to Iraq. Both he and her mother had given her the news over dinner one night, only after cooking her favorite meal of chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese with ketchup. She knew that Daddy was leaving for a long time to do his job, but he would come home to be with her again. The last time he went, she had been nine months old and, though there was little explanation to give her then, he had missed her first steps. He wondered what he would miss this time.

“Daddy,” Marley’s voice contained a note of concern as she wiped her sandy hands on her moist jeans. “Daddy, when you leave, who will take me to the beach?” Her father sighed, but quickly created a small smile.

“Baby girl, I’m sure your mom would love to take you. And when I get back, it’ll be summer time and we can go every week. You’ll even be able to go swimming.” Marley thought this over for a minute, but suddenly her eyes grew wide.

“But Daddy… what happens if you don’t come back?”

Kids, he thought. They always seem to know more than you. He looked at the girl, his only child, small and helpless, and knew why he had to go back. But he had not been ready for this question and all he could do right now was be her father, not her soldier. So he scooped his baby up, just like he had done on the day she was born, and held her tight while he still could.