Monday, April 12, 2010

Vulnerable Party!

I've mentioned before that I'm taking a creative writing class this semester. We just had our last lecture and I turned in my portfolio, and I can say that I really learned a lot and improved as a writer. A few pieces I was actually really proud of, or thought at least that they should be shared, so what better avenue to self-indulge than my blog? The titles to most of the pieces are the titles of the blog post itself. I didn't want to do one huge long one because I thought that would get cumbersome to wade through. I included italicized introductions to every piece, since it's still fairly weak writing and I don't want to be judged without being able to defend myself, heh. So, feedback is much appreciated, but not required. Sorry for spamming you with blog posts, but if you wished I posted more, then today is your lucky day! All my pieces are below this explanatory post.

Poems galore!

These were the only pieces that I revised and resubmitted for the class. I think my poetry is abysmal, but I really liked the subject of all of these. The prompt for the first one was to use words we didn't know the meaning of before we started writing (abraded and apportioned). Second, was to write the poem from someone else's point of view (think Looney Tunes...). Finally, we did a little bit about ode poems, so that should be self explanatory.


Sunlight streams through
pristine window panes, warming
white, blue, brown
speckled carpet.

One hundred and eight
black, white, red
cards lay ready
to be apportioned into hands
too small to manage them.

Forced to wait,
brown, gold, green
speckled eyes
too small to tell time
well with tears.

Abraded by youth,
he scatters the cards in rage
changing the game to
one hundred and eight card pick-up.

His back turns,
leaving her tears to fall
and be warmed
in a sunlit patch of
white, blue, brown
speckled carpet.

Note: there are 108 cards in an Uno deck. I remember a sibling's friend throwing the cards and making me pick them up. I don't remember crying, and the sibling actually stayed to help me after his rude friend threw them. It just worked better the way I wrote it.

Elmer's Lament

That damn rabbit.
We started as business partners,
and now I’m the villain.
Forget your lines, don’t do your job,
and somehow that turns into a catch-phrase.
I am NOT a doctor!

I used to think we’d be best friends
forever, traveling the country.
But he started getting more girls than me...
Apparently when you’re a big shot
you don’t have time for “bumbling” old men
with invented speech impediments.

“Time to face facts”, that idiot said.
The people loved him more than me
and I’m stuck here, working as
a sanitation engineer
for rent money.

Ode to the Microwave

You are singular in path
around, around
Either blinded and burned
or cold and alone.

You count on the visitors:
a garden burger that smells like vomit
a Tupperware of unknown sauce
(that explodes like a naked suicide bomber,
no paper towel, no lid)
a stick of butter, unattended
(that turns into a flood of butter,
warm & sticky,
reminiscent of pee).

You are neglected and filthy.
You heat and reheat.
And though the tenant has thirty seconds
he has no time to wipe you
with a damp washcloth.

Africa Bound

This was the culmination piece for the fiction unit. Surprisingly, I got really positive feedback from the class on this, and my professor. I wrote it at two in the morning the night before it was due, and thought it was cute enough, but my class had a tendency to love the highly theatrical, so I didn't think this would be a favorite. I envisioned Calvin & Hobbes and "Yukon, Ho!" while writing it.

“What are you packing?” his mother asked from the doorway, as the weak February morning sunlight filtered through the slits between the dusty, white, plastic blinds in his room. Books and clothes clogged any pathway from the door to where he was hunched. Stuffing socks, underwear and various instructional manuals into a small duffel bag, he was not to be bothered. The sign on the door said so. “IMPORTANT TRIP PREPERATION-ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK” it declared in bright red, all-capital letters.

“Mom, I’m in a bit of a hurry, could we talk about this later?” Clark didn’t even turn from the task at hand (tearing a world map from the wall, to stow in the worn blue and white duffel). Before wrestling the zipper closed over the contents bursting from the tote, he paused, and inventoried his remaining possessions. He didn’t want to leave anything behind that could potentially save his life on this journey. The bright blue paint of the walls was littered with small black holes, pin holes to be exact. They had been holding up maps, posters of exotic animals, and safety guides, but those were now tucked safely in a pocket of the bag on the floor.

“Sweetheart, you can do whatever you like, as long as I know where you’re planning to go” she said. He finally turned to face her. His electric blue eyes were solemn as he met her gaze and said, “I’m sorry, but I’m going to the African jungle.” He quickly looked away, not wanting to make her cry. As he grappled the zipper on the polyester packing bag, she was silent. I knew she wouldn’t understand. She’s probably crying already, can’t even wait until I leave. Clark remained kneeling on the floor, lacing up his ankle-high, tan hiking boots.

“Are you sure you have to leave so soon? Would you like some food for your trip?” Suppressing a chuckle at her neediness, Clark opened his mouth to decline her offer, but his stomach piped in first with a rumbling growl. She smiled, and said “Come on, I bought more cereal yesterday, have a bowl before you head out.” Grudgingly, he shouldered his pack and followed her into the kitchen. He pondered his travel plans, where he would camp in between villages while on the road. He looked the part of an intrepid explorer. His boots were too big, and his khaki cargo pants hit a little too high on his laces. A favorite red fleece jacket was already zipped up to his chin in preparation to go outside. His dark brown curls were edging dangerously close to his eyelashes, pushed farther down by his favorite baseball cap, worn to show his sworn fealty to the Seattle Mariners.

His train of thought reached the station and he jerked from his present thoughts. “I know what you’re trying to do” he said, giving her a parental glance. Sighing, he patted her hand resting on the counter. “You’re trying to keep me here longer, hoping I’ll forget to go. I’ll write Mom, I promise.” Leaping from the stool, he crossed the kitchen. He bounded down the stairs, looked one last time into his mother’s face, and walked out the door into the wild blue yonder.

He ran from the door and jumped behind a nearby tree. There were stampeding rhinoceroses nearby, he could hear them running and their occasional mating cries. He was familiar with this species, with their multiple body shapes and colors, but knew they were lethal when tested. Best to avoid them, and he headed opposite the black and yellow striped path they frequented. There were a poisonous variety of vines hanging in the path up ahead, silver and shiny. He crouched in a bush out of sight, not wanting to be in the open while searching in a book for some advice. “The vines will kill you, but the blue, rubber-like leaf holding pairs of vines together at the bottom are safe” Clark read out loud, grateful for the foresight to bring that particular book along. He took a deep breath, started to run, and jumped onto the small, bright blue leaf between the two deadly vines. One sleeve brushed the vine and he yelled out in pain, tumbling off of his perch. It didn’t get my skin. That means I’m okay. Clark stood, resituated his duffel, and continued on his trek.

He was keeping his eyes on the trail ahead, but not on his feet below. A bright green cobra, coiled on the ground, took a chunk out of Clark’s foot. He cried out in pain but quickly army crawled out of the reach of the snake. I can’t leave it there, what if it attacks another explorer? His foot was healed and Clark got into a low crouch, circling the beast slowly. Before the reptile knew what hit him, Clark landed on top of the circularly wrapped body and trapped the cold, wet, steely head of the snake in his hand. Clark’s sheer bravery had tamed the monster. There will be less of those on higher ground, so Clark limped towards a distant mountain.

Should’ve packed lighter, he thought as he huffed up the mountain. At the crest, he dropped the bag and removed the red fleece jacket he was wearing. I also should’ve brought some food…wild game will be scarce until the Panama Canal I think. He pulled a map from his bag, trying to orient himself by the position of the sun in the sky, to the longitudinal lines on the grid in his hands. His eyes poured over the different colored countries and provinces. Without realizing what he was doing, he slowly sat down on top of his duffel. In a trance, he pulled out a reference guide to the Pacific Northwest and started cross-referencing native birds (he had packed his slingshot) in the area to what he believed his coordinates were.

Around one o’clock in the afternoon, Clark heard his name being called out. His survival skills kicked in, and leaving all of his scattered belongings where they were, he jumped up into the nearest tree for safety. “CLARK! Lunch is ready!” Ha, a likely story, trying to lure me in with food. His stomach released an untimely exclamation. He heard the assailant stop moving, imagined its eyes roving the jungle canopy for its prey. Clark dared a peek around the top of the hollow, yellow tree trunk he was hiding behind. My only hope is a sneak attack. He propelled himself down the tree trunk with enough velocity to land his flying kick at the end of his run. His high speed assault didn’t land an injury on anything; his predator was nowhere to be seen. As he turned his head, he felt something grab him around the middle from behind. With a yelp he tried to struggle free, but alas! The arms were too strong, too full of love to ever let go.

Clark giggled as his mother threw him over her shoulder, and picked up his duffel bag from the grass, maps and pamphlets already safely packed away. “I thought I was covering my tracks pretty well, how did you find me?” Clark asked. “Well, the African jungle isn’t so far away you know” his mother said, as she reached the bottom of the mountaintop, walked past the tamed cobra and poisonous vines, and right into the backyard.

Love Not For the Faint of Heart

This was the culmination of the essay unit, but I don't like it that much. Again, in the memoir style. All of these details are embellished, I'll say that up front to keep my parents from worrying. True facts of this story: I stayed overnight in a hospital. I really did think the lady with the broken collarbone should've gone in before me. Everything did seem grey and green and dull. It was cold when the doors opened in the waiting room. There was a single bed sitting the middle of the room, that did seem pretty lonely. My mom really did insist that I go back to bed while she collected my stool sample. Mom's are the best, ever, period.

I overheard the only other person in the room say she had a broken collarbone. I was in front of her in priority to get a room, it seemed like I should talk to a nurse to let her go first. I only had knives in my stomach, which hadn’t been that big of a deal for the past six weeks. Neither had the vomiting, thirty pound weight loss, or extreme fatigue. I couldn’t imagine breaking a bone; I still wince when I think about it. But there she was, sitting cool as a cucumber, I couldn’t believe it. Regardless, my parents wouldn’t have let her go first anyway. I suppose every parent imagines their child should be the first in line in every hospital waiting room, but I wouldn’t know that, seeing as I don’t have any children. Overall, I did feel pretty terrible.

Fluorescent lights always seem to make dismal places worse off. The waiting room looked white washed even though parts of the wall had green in them. Soft drones from the lights made me feel like I was in some sort of honey factory, but without the sweet result. Disinfectant filled my nostrils no matter how concentrated I was on breathing through my mouth. The nurse at the front desk was there for secretarial purposes, but I’m sure it was part of her job description to be warm and inviting. She did an alright job but when automatic doors let cold air in with every entrance, the cold could not be dispelled by just one halfhearted smile at nine in the evening. I highly doubt whoever ordered the chairs for that room had ever sat in one for any length of time. Probably for the best, or they would be aware of how much money they wasted, and that it would have been more polite to force people to stand instead of sit on those numbing plastic chairs.

A nurse came, but no wheelchair. I snailed along behind the nurse, my parents cautiously stepping forward only if I stepped forward. I finally made it, nervous to see a bed in the middle of the room. The bed itself seemed like a great idea, I wanted to pretend the whole day was a dream, but its location troubled me. Like an outcropping in a sea of white tile, it looked so lonely. I knew I would be too, undoubtedly I was staying overnight and undoubtedly, my parents had to go sleep somewhere of their own, presumably our house. I would be huddled on the outcropping, waiting for dawn and the arrival of a rescue crew. The grey plastic rails on either side were there to keep me from falling into the ocean, but they looked like a barrier to any kind of comfort. I was getting ahead of myself, they still had the regiment of tests to run while the night was young, and my parents were still here, waiting.

The bathroom attached to the room was supposed to be a polite convenience, but there wasn’t a seashell picture to be seen, as every really comfortable bathroom has, so it seemed just one more unknown to deal with. More white and green walls and more white tile floors, more fluorescent lights and more bees hovering just out of sight, but I could hear them so I knew they were there. The overall grey was marred by sweeping black curtains every so often; I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. Intravenous this and that started, they told me like it would make a difference to me. I felt like cooked pasta so it could have been cocaine, and I would’ve taken it for lack of strength to do otherwise.

I can still see my mom’s poor face, covered with enough worry to care for a family of diseased children instead of just one. It often gets like that, but this was one of the few times it actually seemed warranted, I mean I was in a hospital. Six weeks of symptoms and I hadn’t said a word to anyone, and I’m sure one day my reward will be my own child doing the same to me. I knew she loved me, but I couldn’t ever interrupt the silence to share something important, it had sat there too long. Like a comfortable house guest, I started to feel it would be an imposition to let him know what an imposition he was. My body was eating away at my small intestine and I really ought to tell my mother, so please just excuse yourself for a minute so I can feel comfortable about saying these things out loud, thank you very much. As I said, it didn’t happen until a few days before Memorial Day weekend, a little late, but better than never.

The last thing they needed was a sample, and then everything would be discussed in the morning. The final hurdle seemed the most daunting of all. I think they all felt very sorry for me, a seventeen year old, going through the rounds of most middle-age colon health tests. Regardless, it had to be done. As previously stated, I knew my mother loved me, but when she helped me across that finish line, small plastic cup in hand because I couldn’t even go to the bathroom by myself, I knew in my cocaine induced stupor, what true love really looked like. Love is helping your spread-too-thin child to the bathroom at midnight in a hospital, and upon realizing that her legs are as strong as jelly, insisting that she go back to the room to lie down while you stay behind to retrieve what the doctor ordered. Odd, a bit disgusting, and thoroughly exhausting, but only mothers are strong enough to wield that kind of love.

Memoir Essay

One assignment was to write an essay in a memoir style. I didn't think this piece was all that great, but I love the subject matter to death. I really did write this on January 14th, after really just leaving a voicemail on his phone. The details might be slightly embellished (like I don't really remember sweating while picking up grass clippings when I was 4 or 5, or being particularly desperate to move into our new house) but it was a way to illustrate the lessons, which are very real. I also know my dad is 61, but 60 sounded like a better milestone for the story.

I have heard the theory that fathers fight less with their teenage daughters than they do with their teenage sons. The logic of the claim seems sound, citing that fathers and sons are much too alike to see eye-to-eye because one party is in a stage of life where they know they are right, and the other party is in a stage of life where they know they cannot be wrong. Yet, my personal experience does not mirror this phenomenon. Probably due to my tomboy childhood, I have turned out to be the epitome of my father. Wearing tall straw cowboy hats and tan, genuine leather cowboy boots were a favorite outfit of my fathers, even though we lived in the suburbs. I always wanted to be a cowboy. He always wore his dark green fishing vest with brightly colored flies stuck to all the pockets to the river, and kept extra fishing line in the pocket of his Dockers. I always had a habit of picking out vests to wear to school. Bird hunting was the logical use of the purebred bird dog of one variety or another that was always living with us, so naturally, I became a bird hunter assistant and travel companion.

Regardless of our closeness in my single digit years, my father and I were both too stubborn to reach a common ground from when I was twelve until I was twenty. There were no disownments; there were no marks of abuse, just a respectful distance and unspoken truce to speak as little as possible because the few moments when our disagreements did come to a head were not pretty. And yet, here on the fourteenth of January, my father turns sixty, and I can do nothing but think of him. I suppose that is how it ought to be, on the birthday of someone that you love. Perhaps this is more important to me because I have realized how long it has been since I spent any quality time with him. Or maybe, after eight years of purposeful distance, I have begun to realize the opportunities I have missed.

I was four years old, and we had a large front, side, and back yard. The long green grass was always soft and thick, perfect for constant romping around the yellow rambler we were living in. Inevitably, it had to be cut, and inevitably, our Saturday chores began. Bright and early, all five of us kids would trek outside to rake and bag all the grass clippings that had shot out behind the diligent yard worker, my father. The plastic red rakes were too big for me to utilize effectively, so I was designated the task of bag handler. Holding open the black, plastic trash bag (that I could’ve have fit in) always meant itchy grass clippings would fall over the sides and onto my exposed arms and hands. Before the deed was done, the sun would be high in the sky and my shirt would be sticking to my back, my throat dry with grass flying around my face. Why we didn’t have a bag on our lawn mower that would expedite this slave labor by collecting the grass itself, I’m not sure. “Saturdays are work days, just like every other day of the week” I remember hearing.

In a few years, my father started construction on a house. Eventually we would move in, but the process was long and irksome. In the end it was a two story, white house with four large windows on the front. It sat on five acres, one of which my father cleared himself, with the help of my brothers, to build the house on. It wasn’t a mansion, and there wasn’t any breath-taking architecture to be completed. Why was it taking so long to throw up four walls and a roof? Why were there so many details to take care of? “If there is a job worth doing, it is worth doing right” he would always tell me.

A few years after that, we moved across the state. Initially we moved into another yellow rental house with a sloping, scrubby lawn and cheap cabinets. After awhile there, we bought a house around the corner, and were moving out of the burial place of my first pet, Herbie the hamster. I scrubbed the white walls in my room, dusted the clear light fixtures in my bathroom, and swept in the darkest recesses of the garage. The multi-day process was exhausting and obviously excessive. The renters before us hadn’t done nearly as good a job cleaning as we had, but we moved in anyway. No doubt the place would rent with or without my sweat sacrifice. But, “always leave something better than when you found it” was my father’s mantra.

In approximately five years of my childhood, I learned three lessons more valuable than anything I have learned thus far in my fifteen years of organized education. His integrity, humility, and incredible work ethic were more of an example to me than any renowned figure in history. Work, school, and social engagements constantly demand my time. However, my friends, skills, and knowledge I am sure, were acquired through the three principles I remember most from his teachings. So on a milestone like your sixtieth birthday, what should you get? I think you deserve to hear how much your child loves, honors, and respects you; instead of hearing her leave a hurried voicemail on your cell phone at the end of the day, wishing you just another “happy birthday."

Past Burned by House Fire

We read a newspaper article in class that was really published in the Washington Post. It read like a short fiction piece, included hilarious details that would be great for fiction, but seemed strange (in a good way) in a newspaper. So, the prompt for this piece was to make a fiction piece out of one of three newspaper blurbs (which were real) that we were given.

The true part of my story is that there was a woman (Judy James, 42) in West Jordan, UT that paid two teenage boys to burn a house down. She admitted she did it, she was charged with arson, her bail was set at $10,000. The details in between all of that were embellished by yours truly. I think this piece was one of my better one of the semester.

WEST JORDAN, Utah - Ray Markham, 16, and Tony Fledger, 14, were waiting for something interesting to happen on the corner of 3000 East and Center Street on a lackluster Wednesday night. Little did they know the excitement would come from Judy James, a 42 year old woman that could have easily passed for either of their mothers. A stout, disheveled looking woman with fly away auburn hair stopped at the 7-11 the boys were loitering in front of and coerced them into burning a house down at 3836 W. Country Drive, Salt Lake County.

Markham claims they denied the request initially, but the offer was too good to ignore. Fledger further explained, “I mean, this crazy lady is givin’ us free stuff to use, to burn something with? Would you pass that up?” James insisted that she never thought she or they would actually do it, but “to leave that house standing after that S.O.B left me…couldn’t do it...couldn’t.”

The boys deny ever knowing James’ motivation, simply that she handed them the matches, lighter fluid, and paper towels to get the job done. Markham elaborated “it just looked…like I dunno, you ever put off cleaning your room, and then you Mom stops screaming at you about it, and instead she just stares at you and quietly asks you to pick up your clothes? It was kind of like that. She just needed us to do it.”

Carl and Sandy Budging (33 and 30, respectively) were walking their cocker spaniel, Daisy, 3, the very same night, past the very same 7-11. They saw James stumble into the parking lot. The Budgings approached James to check on her mental health. “People are pretty queer when they cry so hard they start laughing, and she was looking mighty queer” Sandy declared. Before either Budging had a chance to ask after her health, both report that James profusely apologized for burning the house down, and that she never should have involved her (James’) children.

At that time, Markham and Fledger returned to the 7-11 to find James. Fledger stated “She told us to go alone, but as we were pouring the gasoline we could see her standing at the edge of the yard. When we threw the lit matches on it, she started screaming about her kids and her husband, and then she freaking ran into the middle of the road! We had to follow her; she didn’t look so good.”

Once detained at the police station, James’ only comment was “tell my boys I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for them to have to see that. Boys shouldn’t have to watch their parents fight.” While her outward appearance came across as composed, while she was detained her eyes never stopped roving the surfaces in her jail cell, never finding repose. James was charged with one count of aggravated arson, a first degree felony. Bail was set at $10,000.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I'm flirting with danger, by writing this specific post in a publicly advertised URL, but we'll see what happens...

I may have a faulty memory, but I seem to remember a house kept around 68 degrees Farenheit during the winter growing up. I also remember never touching the thermostat, it wasn't really mine to mess with anyway. Summer, wasn't an issue because no one in western Washington has air conditioning anyway. Transition to Provo, land of cold winters and hot summers. First year I lived in the dorms where I didn't have much opinion or say about any temperature. Second year I lived in an apartment were we never could figure out our thermostat. Now, I'm here.

It's a user friendly little panel, just inside the kitchen, next to the washer/dryer combo. Flick a switch for "heat" "off" or "cold", use the up and down arrows to pick a temperature for the apartment, look at the little numbers on the digital display to see what the temperature is. A plight of this place is that it's technically 3 stories, though only 2 are livable. The thermostat is on the colder of the two floors so in your room, you're never really sure how hot it is. I would say I'm generally a cold person with poor circulation. I have an abundance of fleece blankets (all 3 of them) and a quilt and comforter to boot. Not all on my bed at the same time, but all available for use in the living room when required.

I don't think I'm that frugal, but I do think I'm aware of waste. So, instead of heating an apartment, I'll just bundle up, slippers, socks, robe, blankets, not move in the nest of down, and I'll warm up eventually. My last unmentionable roommate didn't share this mentality, and after at least 3 discussions, I gave up. I'd come home to a 75 degree condo in the middle of winter and while it might have felt nice for a minute, the money that was slowly draining out of my pocket turned my heart cold when I saw the temperature reading. I'd discuss with my other roommates the idea of leaving it at about 68 degrees when it's cold, turning it down a bit at night and when we leave for the day and no one said otherwise so I assumed the unmentionable roommate was just a little less aware of heating costs, being from southern California.

Enter new roommate (who's fabulous, and not unmentionable at all) and we've all just had the same discussion! It's been a beautiful week here in Provo (mid 60's) and I've been quite toasty after walking around campus all day, Then I become even more toasty when I walk into a 72 degree apartment...So we have an apartment pow wow where I declare a happy medium must be reached, which dissolves into: because I set it to 65 degrees when everyone leaves in the morning, we can leave it at 65 degrees always, and it's too much of a hassle to turn it up when we're home, so 65 is fine. I reserved the right to turn it up when it rains/possibly snows next week because I don't mind turning it up to 68 at all, but if no one else does that's fine.

The point of this was to pose a question, (not to rag on my awesome roommates) and the question is this: am I crazy? Is 68 like sitting in ice water to the rest of the world? Should I not fight that though, because I'm saving more money than everyone else? These are questions the more experienced of my readers can answer...