Lizard and Me

 

These might be very well the last children’s stories I ever write for university classes. What a bittersweet realization. They are the laggers, the late hand-ins, the incompletes. Yet I’m proud that they made it to the submission box, the finish line, nonetheless. And with that realization I realize that I can be a lifelong writer-as long as I believe in myself. I’m certainly a better versed in the craft than I was when I first started this journey in creative writing four years ago. And with the advent of these stories it shows that my mental health is better than it has been for ten years, too.

Continuation of (https://lawnchairair.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/new-opening-for-ya/#more-8530)

CHAPTER ONE of Lizard and Me

 

Of all the pets I’ve had, a blind lizard has got to top the list. Mom and I had cross checked across three credited sources and about a dozen uncredited, anecdotal ones to find that lizards always fly under the radar in no-pet apartments and, also, our local pet store had five. The local pet store at the time, anyways. We brought it with us when we moved and that was probably why we never noticed that it would always stare at you like any other animal, with both eyes forward, instead of messed up in two directions, like most lizards. It wasn’t a big deal, except that we had already bought the tank, a hefty bag of food pellets, and the counter space in the ninety square foot bungalow seemed to have shrunk. In fact, nothing fit on the counter like we imagined when we first surveyed the apartment two weeks ago, despite the universal agreement of what an inch was not having radically changed since we last used it. And so, Mom sat in defeat while I stroked Unnamed Lizard’s cage with my pointer finger on the first day of fifth grade.

“I bet lizard would go to school if it were a human,” Mom said, stroking my hair.

“Lizards love summer,” I countered. “They like sunning on hot rocks and enjoying life.”

“You can enjoy your life at this new school,” Mom said, her voice suddenly a lot more quiet. I felt her body tense up at the last part. She was nervous too.

“I wonder how this’ll turn out,” she said softly. “I hope we don’t have to move away again soon. Chastity, I really hope I can find a stable home for us.”

“Being the new kid’s second nature to me,” I said, puffing out my chest and offering Mom the winning smile that I know dazzled with confidence and hid any traces of doubt.

I felt obliged to do something more but my attention was drawn to the other side of the house instead. There was a perfect lizard-sized boulder field behind the apartment!

“Hey Lizard, how’d you like to sun on those rocks out there?”

I imagined Unnamed Lizard sunning on the rocks behind my house. Mom followed my gaze and a smile tugged at her lips. “Looks like Lizard has something to look forward to, too.”

“Okay, let’s go.” I handed Mom Lizard. “I can head off to school by myself. Take care of Lizard for me.”

***

“Chastity?”

Look, I was a weird, weird, weird child. I don’t deny it. I wasn’t braces and acne weird, but I had a bowl cut and wore baggy jeans like a cut-rate clown. If I had had more money I would have poured it straight into my college fund. But a year later, once I’d been put through the ringer in fifth grade, I was convinced what I needed more than anything was a priceless makeover.

“Hiya.” I shook her hand and took in her teal green suit. What a strange choice of professional dress. “Chasty’s what they usually call me.”

“Well, hello Chasty and welcome to the class.” I continued to shake Ms. Leary’s hand. Mom had told me that the more firm  and the more committed the handshake, the more genuine one would come across. I heard a few kids snicker in the back. I shot the class a blanket glare.

The whole day dragged on as I expected. Everybody had already formed cliques. Those who hadn’t were the losers or thugs. I made a mental note to avoid those people. But my luck changed when we had quiet reading time. I stuck out my hand to grab the newest installment of my favourite adventure series, which had a lizard on the cover, when it came in contact with someone else’s:

“What’s your name?”

“Rachel.”

I rocked back and forth on the carpet, my hand still on the other side of the book. Yes, I decided, I should shake her hand. I let go and eyeballed Rachel up and down as I extended my hand for the handshake. Rachel, with her mousy brown eyes and ring of messy hair, stared back at my hand as if it was Lizard. “I’m holding the book, thanks,” Rachel said, waving the book in both hands to demonstrate that she couldn’t shake hands. “What’s your name again?”

“Chastity.”

“Ah.”

“Yeah.”

“Um…” Rachel tapped her nose repeatedly, avoiding meeting my eyes. “That’s a strange name.”

“Stranger things have happened.” I let myself relish in the familiarity that the phrase brought to me. “Now, can I read that book after you?”

“You’re new to the neighbourhood right? Why don’t I come over and give you the book after school?”

“Yes!” I thought about Lizard. “After you finish reading it, I have a real adventure to show you. I have a lizard.”
Rachel’s eyes widened. “No way!”

“Now, are we going to visit the rockfield behind my house with my lizard after school?”

***

I heard the doorbell ring at six. I ran to the door in the middle of feeding Lizard. It had to be Rachel.

“I can’t wait for you to meet Lizard.”

“Hold on. Why don’t you call him anything?”

“Nothing stuck.”

Rachel stuck her tongue out in thought. I watched her eyes bug out like Unnamed Lizard’s.

“What’s something that sticks? Gum…Gummy…Nah…”

“Oil slicks,” I said. “They stick on animals like crazy. I rescued a bird once that couldn’t fly because it was stuck together with it.”

“Alright.” Rachel put her hands on her hips. “So, how about oily…Ollie?”

Something went ding in my head. I had to stop treating animals like animals and start treating them like humans, friends. I grabbed Rachel’s hand and a bowl of Cheetos and zoomed downstairs to Ollie’s cage. The dark basement smelled of mildew and sawdust. Ollie’s cage sat forlornly on top of the towers of unopened boxes. Some boxes had toppled while we were gone. They must have been unbalanced by something. Maybe Mom had gone looking for nice silverware.

Then I realized the cage was on its side, too.

Ollie had escaped.

 

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Redecorating

 

These might be very well the last stories I ever write for university classes. What a bittersweet realization. They are the laggers, the late hand-ins, the incompletes. Yet I’m proud that they made it to the submission box, the finish line, nonetheless. And with that realization I realize that I can be a lifelong writer-as long as I believe in myself. I’m certainly a better versed in the craft than I was when I first started this journey in creative writing four years ago. And with the advent of these stories it shows that my mental health is better than it has been for ten years, too.  

(has in-text edits)

 

“Redecorating”

After the first days of calm and ensuing weeks of explosive fear, Jane had come to accept herself as unemployed. In actuality, she cashiered at the hardware store downstairs, but to her friends, she had moved to a new town to pursue high end clients. In the three months she had been there, she had refreshed the shade of yellow of the backsplash behind the sink twice and added blue stripes. But the cheap coffee maker still clashed with the glossy tiling and the designer fridge was very often filled with nothing more than leftovers. The plaque she had made, with Appearance Matters-Interior Decorating by Jane Woodall written on it in fancy script, had become chipped.

Like most Sunday nights, she was doing what she liked to call practicing her eye for

Great design but in actuality amounted to just staring. It was fun game to play, picking out which parts worked and which didn’t. In actuality, it made her feel even worse that she wasn’t truly putting her skills to work the next day like the rest of the professional world. Tonight it was the laminated paper magnets on her fridge that were peeling at the corners. The colourful array of delivery menus and bottle drive notices tacked underneath like continents on a world map. At this moment, they seemed to be the sum of her life. Her interior decorating diploma, glinting in its cheap frame, was eager to impress her guests but was most likely being ignored like the incessant flyers that announced Ms Jane Woodall. Love letters to the lonely soul, Jane thought. The ceiling light stammered in agreement. She made a note to buy some flowers.

She had thought that redecorating would do it. Delft tiles, yellow accents on recommendation of the barista. She ran a hand over the dust on the stack of unopened decorating magazines. Three, three unopened magazines. Three months that she’d been unemployed. Her hand reflexively went to her pocket where she kept her phone, where she felt various coins jingling, a stick of gum and the bent ear of a business card. Where was her phone? A balloon of panic expanded in her throat. Who cares? No one had called.

And why check her phone anyways? The sour note of seeing her friend Yasmin redecorating with her boyfriend that she had met at nursing school while she was curled up in her studio apartment was enough to make her stomach turn. The redecorating was distasteful, and the colours as cold as her character.

You look great today. Jane frowned at her pinched look in the shiny chrome fridge door. In case she didn’t remember, it was scrawled on a sticky note on the fridge, too. In fact, nowadays, she spent a lot of time in front of the fridge. Contemplating dinner. Contemplating cold calling. Contemplating life.

Jane closed the light and drew in a deep breath. Moonlight reflected off the shiny appliances and lit the short distance to her room. Another day marked by a held breath. She began to think of her days as numbered, although they were supposed to stretch into infinity. Her fingers crawled until they touched the phone and pulled it closer to her bed.

* * *

“How beautiful!” her mom had exclaimed during her first visit. Jane had pulled her hair back into a bun, which she noticed made her nearly a mirror representation of her mother. They had both accidentally worn yellow. “Just like the daffodils!” Jane couldn’t help but think her mom was gushing. She was twenty five, not five.

Jane’s mom flitted incessantly while she was in the kitchen. What should she cook for her? Was she eating regularly? Jane relented and told her.  

“Glad to hear you’re enjoying life out here, honey!” her mom had chirped. Jane had felt compelled to hug her just to make her lie more convincing.

“Do you like this nautical theme?” Jane asked hesitantly.
“I love it!” Jane knew that was as good as an answer she’d get out of her mom.

As her mom put it, she fixed what went on behind the walls as a family therapist, while Jane fixed what was on the walls. But she was pleased that her mom noticed the yellow backsplash at least.

“Something about the kitchen doesn’t look right.” Jane pointed at the backsplash. “I thought I’d repaint that to add a bit of life to the room but it’s already such a statement.”

“It’s just empty, that’s all. It needs a bit of life to fill it up,” her mother suggested.

Jane thought her mother was just lonely from being separated from her own family while simultaneously uniting others’.

It was not a surprise then, that her mother pointed out on the succeeding trip that Jane had taken down her plaque. “I’m just so bored!” Jane couldn’t help but hear the whine in her voice. She envisioned herself in her best skirt and blouse with her seven year old face. God, I sound so immature! “I want to work with cutting edge design, not this boringness!”

The next week, Jane made excuses why her mom couldn’t come over. But her mom insisted on calling her anyways.

It was always some variation on the same thing: How have you been? Are you eating? Jane began to nod without even listening while scanning job listings.

Her mother called every week and usually it was Sunday’s but sometimes, like today, it was Monday. She’d been going through a backlog of clients.

“Have you met anyone new? Any interesting?” her mom asked.

Jane scrambled to come up with a plausible reply. “Yes, mom, I met someone while buying milk the other day. He’s really nice.”

→ non sequitur “I’ve been having orange juice every morning instead of milk. You should try it too, honey. It’s nice to switch things up once in awhile.”

Jane made a mental note to get orange juice.

“By the way, next Sunday is Mother’s Day. Can I come visit? I know you’re busy, will that make it a little easier?”

Mother’s Day. Her mom visiting again. Jane nodded into the phone and fell asleep.

***

→ too much time passes

Sunday. Another week had rolled by so quickly. Jane rolled out of bed and realized it was 2 p.m. She punched a familiar name in her phone as quickly as she could. Yasmin.

“What about orange juice?” Her friend’s yawning voice told her that she had just woken up, too. → delete sequence about orange juice? Or incorporate more smoothly-not necessary

“It’s Mother’s Day tomorrow and my mom’s definitely going to ask me about work!”

In fifteen minutes flat, Yasmin was at her place and fully in agreement with her mother’s assessment of her loneliness.

“You need a boyfriend!”

Jane dismissed this thought immediately, but Yasmin caught her hand and waved it in the air. “What do you have to lose? You have a beautiful apartment but no one to enjoy it with, nada!

But Yasmin did help her compile a list of potential employers. “Look, it’s easy to get what you want,” Yasmin had said, looking her friend earnestly in the eye. “It’s as easy as making a list.” Jane made another mental note to make more lists. Design is not about reinventing the wheel, Jane thought, just making that wheel turn. Meanwhile, Yasmin amused herself on some dating site. But when her friend didn’t budge when 2 a.m. rolled around, Jane realized Yasmin intended to crash for the night. Yasmin didn’t have an artistic eye either, but she was a great friend.

→ another scene with Jane’s mom-Jane lies about dating again, gets shit from Yasmin

* * *

“Get out!” Jane had to kick Yasmin awake; ironically, since Yasmin had to get to her shift at the hospital on time. That left her an hour before her mom came. Cleaning until a space spotless was one of the interior designer’s best weapons and also a prime method of procrastination. Jane could no longer convince herself that she was doing it for the former when, after all this time, despite what her mother thought, the latter had always been more true. All of her possessions, meant for her portfolio, were nothing but shams. She’d run down to the bottom of the list. No one was willing to hire her.

The first tear came, as it always did, without warning. Before long, she was palms down on the large glossy tile, her long hair shaking vigorously with silent despair.

She must have made a mistake, moving to this town.

Jane wiped away the wetness on her face and concentrated as if that would make the redness go away. The door flung open in her face before she even had time to hide the flowers behind her back.

“Happy mother’s day!” Jane croaked. → remove mother’s day to separate scene

***

The next morning began like any other. Jane poured herself a glass of cranberry juice, which she had found on sale after the orange juice had run out, when the phone rang. She started, caught between swishing a mouthful of the vibrant liquid and turning to the Employment section of the newspaper. It was the first on the second list of numbers Yasmin had left on her night table labelled Best Bets. Barely able to contain her excitement, Jane shouted without her usual composure: “Yes, Jane Woodall here, I’m available noon today to meet if you’d like.”

“Trevor calling.” The smooth baritone that greeted her back surely belonged to a rising business star. “Noon would be fantastic! Now, where would be most convenient for you?” Trevor’s voice became indistinct as he began mumbling about interior design and how he’d love to meet her in her “studio space” as he called it. Jane’s heart trilled. A sincere interest in her design skills? The rest of Trevor’s speech was lost in the amazement. She gave her his address and hung up.

For the next hour, Jane scurried around until she had found all the pieces to her coffee set. Carafe, cups, miniature spoons, sugar bowl. What a strange thing, an at home interview. Yet oh so appropriate for the job. It was definitely going to be a winner.

The doorbell rang at exactly noon. Jane smoothed out her skirt, stepped into the heels she had waiting by her feet, and looked cautiously through the peephole. A tall man with a smiling face.

“Hello.” Jane opened the door with the most grace she could muster.

“Are you Jane?” Trevor, mousy and casually dressed, approached her with what seemed to be some caution.

“Trevor?”
“How nice to meet you!” Trevor’s face flushed immediately into a brilliant shade of pink that would go great with her walls, Jane thought. She thought she’d mention that to him later.

“You’re just like your photo!”

My photo? Jane tried to remember if googling her name had any hits. A grainy black and white on her online student portfolio, at best. A sharp eye. Good.

“Come, sit down and have some coffee.” Jane ushered Kevin to the glossy white coffee table she had bought off a classmate.

“So, ready for our date?”

Jane froze in her tracks. Date? Visions of sleazy bosses with panties in their top drawers swam into her hazy mind. Pervert alert! Jane reflexively swung her hand towards the door when she remembered. Listss. Yasmin had really meant it when she said it was as easy as making a list. This wasn’t an interview. These were Best Bets that would fill a space with life, not allow her to fill spaces for a living.

Jane stepped forward and met Trevor’s tentative gaze. “Let me show you how to liven up a space.”

The next morning, Jane woke up and walked past a pile of her own clothing decorating the high pile carpet without a second look.

→ to keep in mind for edit: story is NOT about being validated by someone else-it’s just about leaving some parts of life up to chance to invite new people in

 

Rewriting an Opening for YA Fic

Of all the pets I’ve had, a blind lizard has got to top the list. Mom and I had cross checked across three credited sources and about a dozen uncredited, anecdotal ones to find that lizards always fly under the radar in no-pet apartments and, also, our local pet store had five. The local pet store at the time, anyways. We brought it with us when we moved and that was probably why we never noticed that it would always stare at you like any other animal, with both eyes forward, instead of messed up in two directions, like most lizards. It wasn’t a big deal, except that we had already bought the tank, a hefty bag of food pellets, and the counter space in the ninety square foot apartment seemed to have shrunk. In fact, nothing fit on the counter like we imagined when we first surveyed the apartment two weeks ago, despite the universal agreement of what an inch was not having radically changed since we last used it. And so, Mom sat in defeat while I stroked Unnamed Lizard’s cage with my pointer finger on the first day of fifth grade.

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Things Counselling Taught Me About Art

The single most important thing I learned is that your art is not defined by your life. (https://lawnchairair.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/vow/: I wrote this after a very scary panic attack that continued to impact my life for months, confused about how to turn my negative, fearful feelings around.)

That’s when I realized how important art was to me. I had been bugged by the thought of art as wish fulfillment and emotional catharsis (Last year, I forayed into Photoshop compelled by the image of a snowboarder riding the wall of the Lonsdale loop, which expresses both my limited experience and how I limited my vision to my experience.) The idea made me feel angry and jaded, because it made me think of all that I didn’t have, but it was really a reflection of my inability to overcome mental blocks than a true expression of what I thought about art. After all, I knew for sure that I hadn’t created anything that made me feel as if I was creating genuinely and originally for a very long time. When I stumbled upon the helpfulness of counselling and having a public blog (as a opposed to a private journal), I rediscovered that art is the expression of visions and ideas; while the best artists are invisible, they incorporate their identity into the photo but codifying it in such a way that it is inseparable from art. Art is creation that belies life, not just pretty turns of phrases or pleasing images (a feeling that makes the world seem boring and trite when you aren’t able to overcome mental blocks of any kind). And moreover, you don’t need to write or draw or create based only on your life experiences-you don’t need to even know something to create something with it. All you need is an attraction on a deeper level and general understanding and love for your craft to incorporate that element of the thing which speaks to you. That’s what makes art unique. That’s why a million artists can look at a sunset and paint it a million different ways. Because you aren’t replicating something; you’re creating something new out of your understanding and attraction to an inspiration.

Counselling has been instrumental to this. Although I sought to improve my emotions, what I really found was that emotions weren’t something I change. What did change though was the perception of the hold I saw emotions had on my life. Counselling peeled that back, lessening the haze from overpowering firing of emotions and allowing me to hear the quiet tune of outside sources of inspiration. It eradicated the fog of emotions that had always hovered over the blank canvas in my mind when I wanted to make something and instead of having my thoughts train wreck, directed by emotional lows and highs, I parked my train of thought and set to work without its distracting rumble. I have rarely, and only in certain periods of my life, really created without mood disorders. These times I can pinpoint clearly in my mind because they were the times I was most proud of my creations.

Another thing counselling has helped me do is broaden my perception of people. I don’t know how true this holds for everyone else, but only understanding people similar to you, or being able to identify with only certain types as a result of limited empathy or thought about the wide range of human emotions is one way that we fail to connect with broader humanity. Although we might use our highs and lows and map them onto other people’s lives, the only true way to understand is to get multiple perspectives of one’s own emotions and generalize that multilayered approach onto the unmappable, but fathomable realm of human experience. Everybody hurts the same way, even if their situations are extremely different from yours. A highly trained and successful person, brother, mother, 80 year old grandma in South Africa or Canada or Iran, all hurt the same-as evidenced by the non discrimination mood disorders have on all peoples and our ability to universally understand original texts. And because that hurt is so universal, there is no reason for you to have to write about your own family struggles just because that’s the kind of hurt you know-that hurt can also be applied to any of the above people with the same genuineness because we all feel the way. Art is art because it includes; if it excludes everybody then one needs to work on their craft. But no one doesn’t have the proper life experience to make art.

I rambled on. But in writing it I articulated some ideas that I hadn’t even been sure of. Good things can really come out of life even in trying times-not as a result of mood disorders or hardships, but as a result of perseverance. It hurt when I couldn’t produce art, but to regain it reminds me that even if mood disorders can’t be erased, they can be a very small part rather than a consuming one.

 

 

Children’s Lit Volunteering/Ramblings

DSC_0477DSC_0479(view from on the way to volunteering; forgot to focus, evidently)

So, the five-week Thursdays story writing with kids is over, and so is Nanowrimo-just kidding, I never even started so I might as well have stopped. More randomness. Nothing makes much sense when you’re this tired, so I apologize for my rapidly declining prose. At least it was fun to escape out of this world and into another for a while – the same thing the kids got working on their stories. Only they took five hours to complete the whole thing, complete with illustrations. Kids these days.

 

That morning, winter came in full force. Our wheels barely seemed anchored to the ground as gale force winds threatened to levitate our car. Snow drifted in the air but never seemed to collect, leaving us shivering in the eerie dimlit car.

“Want to play I Spy?” I asked just as the engine gave a  muffled groan. I heard Brian yelp and gravity shift as our tires laboured to find traction on an icy turn.

{edit: Story has been editted here: https://lawnchairair.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/editting/)}

“When are we getting off the highway?”

“In ten hours.”

Brian gulped.

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Snippet: YA Again

Age: 10-13

Today is the second day I’ve had a story workshopped really well, being the second out of three stories we have to submit for creative writing class. The people who are there are mostly creative writing minors or just people with an ardent interest in cw/looking for an easy class. What I learned, to my surprise, was that the best writing was still always writing that you write from what you know, even if it doesn’t seem as interesting. I was told the emotions and dialogue were vivid although the language and mood was overwrought. The emotions and dialogue I wrote from personal experience, transmuted onto a different character.

Anyways.

Back to school stories.

Am I writing what I know about?
This could be a beginning that sets up a story about a guy who feels like he’s a dork and does things of heroic status but has to come to terms with actually being a dork. In that case, that would be authentic.

~

In grade five, I was told by someone I didn’t even know that I would amount to nothing. That was traumatic in and of itself, of course, except that this person also took the liberty to spit on my beat up shoes before spinning around to walk away. This person was actually Shelly, by the way, and yes, she was a girl. I don’t think it would have helped if she were actually a guy. A name like Shelly might scar a guy forever.

We had just finished recess and were running back into the classroom. It was now craft hour and all the supplies were in the corner farthest away from the door. We knew whoever got there first would get the first pick, so we made a point to all beeline for it, which you can imagine, got quite chaotic.

“Will, you’re going to rip the bag of feathers, NOOO!”
“How many times do you I have to tell you, it’s MY turn to use the glitter glue!”
“I put dibs on it THREE WEEKS AGO!”

I spun into the classroom a little late, on account of  Tyler needing to go to the washroom. To my surprise, someone’s hand was already on the bottle caps when I reached into the box for them. Death gripped around the fistful that was left was a girl wearing a smirk and all black. “I’m using them for a bottle frame,” the girl said, towering above me.

“Alright.” I backed off, realizing I’d never seen the girl before. “I’ll wait next week.”

“Don’t bother, there won’t be any left then, either,” the girl hissed and a little globule of spit fell out of her mouth and onto my shoe.

Now that I’m in grade five I’ve learnt what perspective is. Shelley was nasty because she had just moved here from New York and they didn’t have recycling there. We of course, had multiple recycling programs at Fernhill Elementary; Ms Rose collected the bottle caps herself and there were no hard feelings between us for letting Shelley take all those caps that day because there were plenty more the next. In a funny way things worked out that way: a bottle cap here, a bottle cap there, and something big came out of it. It was an economy of small efforts that amounted into something bigger. Perhaps that was the reason why Shelley was fated to come here, because another thing perspective gives is the idea of fate.

Fate is a topic I’m an expert on. I received an A+ on my assignment for Ms Rose about it in the spring, partially because it was based on real life. Projects based on real life tend to turn out better, because your imagination can be pretty bad at filling the holes. Like for example, when I was in grade four I had calculated that I was five pounds lighter than Tyler, and so I could definitely carry over the stairs at the front of our school if I started skating from the front door. To lower my weight even more, I took off my helmet for the stunt. We flew over those stairs, even Tyler. It was the second time that didn’t turn out so well. Tyler was pooped already, but I was pumped on adrenaline.

“I can’t believe we did that. We have to do it again!” I insisted to Tyler, who was lying with his baseball cap over his face and his head on his board.

“No thanks,” Tyler mumbled sleepily. “My brother broke his arm last time he did something risky twice.”

“But that’s because he wasn’t good. We’re good.

“Tony is a dork,” Tyler agreed. “But I’m actually really tired.” I looked at him incredulously. That wasn’t like Tyler. He saw me looking at him. “It’s the growth spurt okay? Tony told me he went through one when he was my age, too, and it hurts like hell.”
“The curse,” I joked, and we both giggled at the reference to the female period.

So it was that only I planted both feet back on my board and slid with impending doom towards the stairs and fell and broke my arm and it hurt like hell.

Maybe that was fate, too.

Shelley had partially hit a nerve. I was a decent skater but not not known for anything in school. Even Mom sometimes took me aside and swept back my hair, smiling kookily.  “You look dorky, sorry Charles. It’s adorable.”

“No one wants to be a dork.”

“Adorable, not a dork.”

But maybe I was a dork.

Snippet: A Halloween Story!

Snippets: a spontaneous, mostly unedited piece of writing, whatever I felt like writing spontaneously at that moment, shared here for no purpose other than entertainment.

“Hey, Brian, do you mind doing a favour for me?”

“I…can’t….”

Bob could tell by the sound of his voice that his brother in a state of rapture. Something was glowing faintly blue from his room but the light wasn’t on. Obsessed, thought Bob. Who didn’t have enough self control to play video games after breakfast?

Pulling out his chair, he sat down with a contented sigh as he relished in the rattle of Lucky Charms falling into his bowl. It was Sunday morning. The prospect of tomorrow shimmered with the raindrops tapping on the kitchen window. With their parents away on a business trip, Bob was content to spend the rest of the week playing video games with his brother. And not to mention, but there were still those butter loaded overripe blueberry strudels waiting for him in the oven. The heat of it thawed his toes and eased the circulation back to the tip of his nose. Paradise…

“Hey…Look!” With an muted plop, the toy dropped out of the cereal box and into his milk. A plastic sword! It was about four inches long and a painted plastic, but sharp. He ripped open the small, moist plastic bag encasing it without waiting for his brother. “Brian! I found the toy! Come down or it’s mine!”

No response. The moment was oddly anticlimactic, with no one to witness it in the empty kitchen. Still that should teach his brother, who had been waiting to open this box of cereal all week, not to obsess over video games over his own flesh and blood brother. Isn’t that a choking hazard anyways?  

Bob considered running up into his brother’s room, brandishing the mini sword heroically in the air, before swiping it out of reach as Brian inevitably grabbed for it, but instead he set it aside on the table and picked up his spoon. He stared at it for a moment, letting a little disappointed “This toy sucks” slip out from his mouth, before resumed to eat his cereal. It sounded like Brian was fighting a hydra in Cosmic Creature Wars; he’d just ignore Bob anyways. With a background of tinny electronic noises to compliment the clack of his spoon, Bob worked away at his Lucky Charms until he only had colourful milk left.

“Come down here! I’m not washing the dishes again!” Bob yelled, at last, as he tossed his dirtied spoon and bowl into the sink where three dishes crusted with orange powder and a cup were already piled. He had no more patience left. The kitchen certainly got grubbier when his parents weren’t around; Bob would attest to that. Navigating a kitchen when dirty bowls rested on every countertop and bits of slippery food lined the ground wasn’t always fun. Still, that was no matter though when you could have mac and cheese five times a day and not be told you’d die of malnutrition.

From Brian’s room, Bob heard the thundering of footsteps and then a thump as his brother jumped from the third step down as he customarily did. The sound of scurrying feet directed his mind’s eye, zeroing in on the a mental picture of Brian disappearing behind the washroom door to mess with his hair or brush his teeth lest he inflicting his slightly foul breath upon him. And then as Bob slowly rotated his head from ten to forty five degrees directly at the doorway he saw something he might never forget…

“Bri -”

Bob screamed. It wasn’t Brian. It might have once been Brian, but this was definitely a zombie. “What did you do to my brother?” Bob screamed shrilly. All he could see was the advancing bloodied face and empty, cold dead eyes as he felt his psyche detach from his body. The two flaps that were its lips opened in reply but only a disgusting thick gurgle came out while globules of blood stitched the two lips together. “Did you kill him?” A sob caught in his throat as he realized what Brian’s conditioned entailed; his older brother, his reluctant idol, his beloved brother, killed! And him…was he next? The thought almost didn’t even seem to matter after the fright of living with such a sight. Then as he calmed down a rational thought settled in his mind. Wait. This guy looks familiar, but not because he’s my brother. He’s familiar because he’s from Cosmic Creature Wars! Bob screamed again. “Where are you, Brian? Stop hiding, I’m your little brother! Save me! Save me!”

It came to him in slow motion as he sweeped the scene, detached, from above. The toy sword! He had a weapon! Quickly, jumping onto his chair and swiping the toy sword off of the table with  white knuckles shaking, Bob realized he wasn’t as afraid as he thought he’d be. He’d have to save himself. There would be no Brian, no time for tears. There would only be revenge. Brandishing the sword, Bob squinted his eyes and braced for the oncoming figure. Through his squinted eyes, he could only see the red of the blood and plaid of the figure’s shirt. The horrible, moaning cries were all he could hear, save for the rushing of blood inside his own head. In five seconds, the figure was within hacking distance and Bob reared his hand back. He closed his eyes and felt hot, putrid breath against his face. He screamed. The knife burned like a sparking branding iron in his hands. He plunged it forward.

Pop!

He opened his eyes.

His hand was bloodied from his fingers to his elbow.

The head popped cleanly off.

It and the body fell backward and rolled down the stairs and down out of sight.

Bob fainted.

The next thing he knew, he was on the floor, breathing hard, feeling faint from his head down to his toes. There was a wobble in his vision. He flailed until he felt the railing.

“Hey, Bob?”

For the upteempth time, Bob screamed. And he almost lost his grip and rolled down the stairs. “But you’re dead! I killed you!” For, incredibly, it was the sound of his brother’s voice. Bob clutched at the air wildly, feeling for his sword. Slowly, like in a dream, a familiar tousled head of not yet brushed hair poked over the ceiling. He was holding a bloodied head in his arms. “Did I trick you?”

“Trick me?” Bob stared at his brother incredulously, forgetting for the moment all that had transpired before this morning. What was he talking about…? Why, it was the second day their parents had left for their business trip. It was the day they had planned to unlock the next level in Cosmic Creature Wars. And it was the day before Halloween.

Bob had had to hide his fear many times before, lest Brian take advantage of any break in his fortress, but this time he found it troublesome. In a comic manner, Bob feigned tripping and grasping the railing only to fall down a few steps until he was within clipping distance of his brother and gave him a good clip on the head. Brian yowled and dropped the head, which rolled down around the winding curve of the stairs to the basement door. Bob yelped as he felt his momentum carry him too far and he lurched into the railing, jabbing his ribs.

“Save it for Halloween,” Bob said as brusquely as he could while righting himself, smiling inwardly at Brian’s grimace.

“I worked all night on it,” Brian whined, wiping his hands where artificial blood at stained them on his pants. “I even skipped out on my morning shift on Cosmic Creature Wars. My team needed me. Why should I wait until tomorrow?”

“Because.” Bob couldn’t think of a single reason why as he stared at his brother, who he now noticed seemed slightly off for some reason he couldn’t name. Was it just his frightful hair? No, it had to be more than that.

“Because,” Bob continued, the unease creeping up on him, “Because, I’m your brother. And I’ll laugh at you tomorrow if you wear the same costume.” There, he said it. Lame, but he said it.

“You’re lame,” Brian said right on time, inflaming Bob’s cheeks. Raising his fist for a second punch, Bob felt, for the second time, a shiver of unease. And then he got it. His hand froze midair. The pattern of Brian’s paisley shirt blurred in his vision for a while, in denial, before it suddenly sharpened into a focus along with everything else. He abruptly terminated the insult at the tip of his tongue and spun around to flee up the stairs.

“What’s wrong?” Brian asked, grabbing a fistful of his brother’s shirt and sensing that his usually impulsive brother was disturbed.

“Let me go!” Bob screamed. “Let me go!”
“Calm down! You’re acting like an idiot.”
“Y-your shirt!” Bob’s eyes were frantic and wide, jumping from spot to spot like a maniac’s. “You’re wearing a different shirt!”
“What do you you mean? I’ve been wearing this shirt all morning. I just woke up from the basement. I spent my night there last night after making my zombie head.”

Time seemed to slow. Or, for Bob, it seemed to stop entirely. “You mean, you were never up in your room?”

“That wasn’t me,” Brian said. “You should know that. I told you I’d been working on my costume last night. I’m serious about this.”

Bob pushed Brian’s hand away from his chest. Then he looked over the stairwell.

There were two heads at the bottom of the stairwell.

One had a small plastic sword stuck in its neck.

Snippet: Zombies

Snippets: whatever I felt like writing spontaneously at that moment, shared here for no purpose other than entertainment.

“Hey, Brian, do you mind doing a favour for me?”

“I…can’t….”

Bob looked up to see his brother in a state of rapture. Something was glowing faintly blue from his room but the light wasn’t on. Obsessed, thought Bob. Who didn’t have enough self control to play video games after breakfast?

Pulling out his chair, he sat down with a contented sigh as he relished in the rattle of Lucky Charms falling into his bowl. It was Sunday morning. The prospect of tomorrow shimmered with the raindrops tapping on the kitchen window. With their parents away on a business trip, Bob was content to spend the rest of the week playing video games with his brother. And not to mention, but there were still those butter loaded overripe blueberry strudels waiting for him in the oven. The heat of it thawed his toes and eased the circulation back to the tip of his nose. Paradise…

“Hey…Look!” With an muted plop, the toy dropped out of the cereal box and into his milk. A plastic sword! It was about four inches long and a painted plastic, but sharp. He ripped open the small, moist plastic bag encasing it without waiting for his brother. “Brian! I found the toy! Come down or it’s mine!”

No response. The moment was oddly anticlimactic, with no one to witness it in the empty kitchen. Still that should teach his brother, who had been waiting to open this box of cereal all week, not to obsess over video games over his own flesh and blood brother. Isn’t that a choking hazard anyways?  

Bob considered running up into his brother’s room, brandishing the mini sword heroically in the air, before swiping it out of reach as Brian inevitably grabbed for it, but instead he set it aside on the table and picked up his spoon. He stared at it for a moment, letting a little disappointed “This toy sucks” out from his mouth, before resumed to eat his cereal. It sounded like Brian was fighting a hydra in Creature Combat Wars; he’d just ignore Bob anyways. With a background of tinny electronic noises to compliment the clack of his spoon, Bob worked away at his Lucky Charms until he only had colourful milk left.

“Come down here! I’m not washing the dishes again!” Bob yelled, at last, as he tossed his dirtied spoon and bowl into the sink where three dishes crusted with orange powder and a cup were already piled. He had no more patience left. The kitchen certainly got grubbier when his parents weren’t around; Bob would attest to that. Navigating a kitchen when dirty bowls rested on every countertop and bits of slippery food lined the ground wasn’t always fun. Still, that was no matter though when you could have mac and cheese five times a day and not be told you’d die of malnutrition.

From Brian’s room, Bob heard the thundering of footsteps and then a thump as his brother jumped from the third step down as he customarily did. The sound of scurrying feet directed his mind’s eye, zeroing in on the a mental picture of Brian disappearing behind the washroom door to mess with his hair or brush his teeth lest he inflicting his slightly foul breath upon him. And then as Bob slowly rotated his head from ten to forty five degrees directly at the doorway he saw something he might never forget…

“Bri -”

Bob screamed. It wasn’t Brian. It might have once been Brian, but this able bodied, but severely injured looking body was not Brian. “What did you do to my brother?” Bob screamed shrilly. All he could see was the advancing bloodied face and empty, cold dead eyes. At that moment, Bob his psyche detach from his body in horror and float indifferently above the scene. The two flaps that were its lips opened in reply but only a disgusting thick gurgle came out while globules of blood stitched the two lips together. “Did you kill him?” A sob caught in his throat as he realized what Brian’s conditioned entailed; his older brother, his reluctant idol, his beloved brother, killed! And him…was he next? The thought almost didn’t even seem to matter after the fright of living with such a sight. Then as he calmed down a rational thought settled in his mind. Wait. This guy looks familiar, but not because he’s my brother. He’s familiar because he’s from Cosmic Creature Wars! Bob screamed again. “Where are you, Brian? Stop hiding, I’m your little brother! Save me! Save me!”

The toy sword! He had a weapon!

…TBC

Snippet: Gone

You say it’s enough, but it isn’t. That is what is standing between you and him, in the dead of night, when you wake up but don’t feel comfortable enough to rub his shoulder until he relents, inch by inch, to spin around and reward you with a comforting smile. It is this that makes you lay awake longer than you should and learn how in the moonlight shadows grows long, just like sunlight, and what makes you hear the tick of the clock like a bomb defuser knows a bomb. These are nights where wakefulness knows no bounds, because nightmares are ever more radical, and as you count his breaths-one, two, in out-you know that the night isn’t the reason why. It is ever more deeper than that, fathomless as the sky. Stars persist in the fabric of the day as they do night. This ticking away of time does not scare you as much as that other thing does.

The nights go on and on and the days pass with the same breathlessness as a stopwatch. The sunflowers you planted push their nubs out of the soil and grow. The sunny window side plants collect sunshine and close when night falls. Once you had awoken and reached for water on the nightstand. When the slippery glass jumped from your fingertips, your heart flew onto your sleeve. The quick glug of water as it was returning into the ground nearly made you puke. But you do not.

Now you wake up and he is not there. The word family stirs through your sleep ladden brain, sinking through layers of translucent thought before finally settling in an uneasy silt. Isn’t a family supposed to stay together? Wake up together?

That is when you remember.

He has been gone for a month.

Children’s Lit Class

(snippet written in 1.5 hours)

Dan will always attribute that day to a stroke of luck. It’s Provincials, and mud is flying everywhere because thirty milliliters of West Coast’s best efforts have shown up to the game. One minute he’s standing shivering in his soccer shorts when, almost subconsciously, he angles his leg back like a pendulum, readying for a penalty kick. The bam! of the ball is very much like the bam! of reality as applause erupts from all around him. Unrealistically, insteading of intensifying, his sense of sound melts away. He has kicked the winning goal for Provincials. He is a hero. Over the next few days, the fact dawns upon him like a cat, pouncing on him in the most mundane scenarios. He will be slurping his oatmeal, thumping down the stairs to watch TV or crouching to hide in the backseat when he remembers. Things escalate. The average Dan is discarded as the soccer guru Dan rises to stardom. What no one knows is that Dan commemorates the day by reenvisioning not the kick but every shade of green that the sunlight knifed through in the grass as he kicks the ball.

Oh well.

Dan never really wants to go into soccer, but he is indifferent towards kicking flying objects. He likes to do it more for the dirt than the game. There are stories he might find shut below the ground’s earthy divide. When he slaps clammy, writhing worms on your hand you assume he does it as a prank. But really, Dan is really introducing you to the friendliness of limbless lifeforms.

After all, soccer is just a game where you kick around a ball.

And if it crushes him…then what?

The ball is just a ball.

It wasn’t like sometimes he would stand shivering in his soccer shorts  and not realize he was cold until someone said so.

Swear on the spit in the frozen unbaked-cookie dough ground.

People like Dan might pass off as popular kids. But Dan is not that type. Because, although Dan is alright at soccer and is friends with most of his class, it is Brian who is his best friend. Brian and Dan have been best friends for a long while, but now they are finally classmates.

But still. Dan is your average very nice classmate, your good student and your occasional comedic.

More about Brian later.

There are very few schools without a likeable person like Dan.

Summary of Being There is Enough

After receiving news that his father has abandoned the family mysteriously for northern BC, Dan Brooks wanders around all night, where he witnesses the clandestine abandonment of puppies. Though the secret eats away at him, more immediate problems like his brother Brian being bullied and his mom crying occupy his mind, until one day Brian is bullied mercilessly and the only way Dan can think to help is to name them both as witnesses to the puppy abandonment. The story of two child heroes hits the news, leveraging the brothers into popularity and hitting the news channel Dan knows his father watches religiously. Dan and Brian’s relationship become even more important as Dan’s lying forces him further away from their mother. Dan realizes Brian’s bully Tyler’s brother is responsible for the puppy abandonment and feels the pressure to name a perpetrator as media campaigns mount. At the same time, Dan’s father contacts the family, stating he sustained a memory impairing injury and asks Dan to meet him. Torn, Dan has a terrifying face down with Tyler, managing to get Tyler’s brother to confess, when Brian wanders in  as a result of Dan’s lies and is hurt. The family meets in the emergency room, Dan confesses his lies and he and his family make the journey to reconnect with his father.

Characters

Dan-a 12 year old with tidy dark hair that swirls to the left and big eyes, likes animals, sports and is tenacious. He keeps a secret book of parrot stickers because they are sparkly.

Brian-Dan’s 9 year old brother, petite, freckles, brown hair and wide mouth, likes dinosaurs, smarter than Dan but is more occupied with his own wants.

Tyler-Brian’s bully, Dan’s enemy-a 12 year old with a pinched but good looking face, high pitched voice, and a good athlete. Secretly admires his older brother, who bullies him.