Sunday, November 30, 2008
there's a spill on the highway
too early for headlights but plenty of red brakes
skating into collapsing piles accordions without music
nothing according to plan in this case
which is likely a case open spilled
wild clothes exposed all along the way
pressed wet into the black
waving into the flat macadam
cotton apart and open
the fabric of our lives left out
an open door or trunk
a backseat careless with windows
how could this have
on our way to keeping it in
our layers our reasons our warmth
far too precious to drape across the yellow lines
what will they have when they arrive
where will they get and what will they wear
He’s ready to test this scenario.
Actually, he was ready to test this list yesterday, but she wasn’t there. The real cashier girl, that is. Not the fictional one. She doesn’t exist. Or does she? Jason is fascinated by meta-fiction. It’s a little awkward that neither of these girls have names, though. He’s stumped on that. Not that he should be making up a name for the real girl, but he just can’t figure out the right name for his character.
Plus, he finished this set-up section of the story this morning, but he decided that he was more likely to find the real girl working at the store in the middle of the day. Who knows how he calculated this, especially in regard to a store that’s open twenty-four hours a day, but something with the balance of shifts has led him to believe that the early afternoon is the ideal time to find her and to set this set-up into motion.
And, he also knows that it’s bad to go to the grocery store on an empty stomach. How can he realistically hope to avoid purchasing impulse items that aren’t on the list if he’s starving? No, he’s not starving, Carol, but you get the idea.
So, anyway, now he’s ready to go. He decides to check if his mirror agrees. He’s wearing jeans, green sneakers, and a Dr. Pepper shirt from Goodwill that says “I’m a Pepper!” Is this the real deal? More importantly, is this the fake real deal, which is to say, his created male character? Yes, and yes. This is Jason and this is some guy that he made up. Pretty weird stuff.
List in hand. Into the car. Jason finds himself a little nervous. He realizes he forgot his reusable bag. He goes back inside to get it. Back into the car. List. Bag. Wallet. Clothes. Keys. Go.
Emily has gotten his sarcasm for some time now, but chooses to play along. Why not? “Okay then,” she smiles up at him, then flips the channel to a promising looking program with lots of puppies.
Ryan deposits all of the breakfast pieces in their appropriate locations—cabinet, dishwasher, trash—and turns down the hall to his room. On a whim, he changes into shorts, t-shirt, and sneakers.
He leans into his mom’s office, but she’s not working in there. She’s not in bed, either. The light is on in her half-bathroom, though, and that’s where he finds her. She’s scrubbing the toilet. Big times.
“I’m going for a run,” Ryan tells her.
She looks up. “Oh yeah? A run?”
“Yeah.” It sounds really cool, so he says it again. “I’m going for a run.”
“It’s almost noon, right?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“’Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun,’ you know.”
“Yeah, well, I think I should be okay.” Ryan’s used to his mother pulling quotes out of the air like this. It sometimes gets to the point where he’s not sure if she’s saying something original or taken from elsewhere. In this case, it doesn’t really matter to him.
“Well, fine then, runner man.” She smiles at him. “Do you think you should be able to make it back within half an hour?”
“Maybe,” he says. “I’ll see you then.”
“Go to town, baby,” she says, and returns to scrubbing.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
At the moment, though, there’s lasagna to eat and conversation to direct toward things Joe feels comfortable talking about. This robbery that happened last week upstate where the crooks got away with huge jugs of premium hot fudge sauce and were caught at an unrelated traffic stop with sticky, guilty faces. A turn in the case with the homeless man was stomped on the chest in his sleep. The revelation that even if swimming immediately after eating does not actually lead directly to cramps and/ or drowning, it can lead to some pretty unpleasant clean-up requirements, as well as ensuing altercations. Pleasant conversation.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Is this likely to be the title?
Not that one either.
Whitney has never been to an academic team match. Not a lot of people have, actually. I have. It’s pretty entertaining. There are different rounds and different schools and different people staring and comparing answers and buzzer techniques and the sneak attacks on the stacks of brain cells dwelling well back there in the reserves serving up aces through the spaces that used to be empty and are now collapsing into synapses in hapless traps through tripping numbers and colors by Benneton united and divided falling all along the watchtower of popular culture and history and blistery speed heedless of audience knowledge in the college of bothersome facts that track backwards to somewhere in your past where someone once said to you or a pen bled through to two pages of notes quoting professors and stressors in such situations are plain to see meeting the eye with the armpit abyss of sweat of notyet oh no! answer blow-bys going high up and away where to stay is to be fooled again and yes again and then someone wins and someone spins victory out of defeat and heads home to chrome the dictionary or rev up the whatever just whatever some clever metaphor for studying just insert it here.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Anyway. This is an academic team match, not psychoanalysis. All we need to know at this point is that she’s parking her mom’s car in the lot outside the school district’s headquarters office, checking her hair in the rearview mirror, and adjusting her different-from-school outfit. In support of full disclosure, she is still wearing jeans and a t-shirt, but they’re clearly somewhat [what? cooler? dressier?] different than those she wore to school. Anyone looking can tell this right away.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Yes, Jamie does feel sort of bad about being sort of cold or whatever.
But really, who was he out with? Dave and Gina and Mandy. Or is it Mandi with an i? Jamie imagines it must be. She imagines Mandi is all over Aaron and asking for help with her technique in getting the ball where she wants it. Jamie imagines Mandi is a knock-out. Why fixate on Mandi? I have no idea. Maybe Mandi sounds cuter than Gina, and therefore more reasonable to be jealous about.
Wait, why is she jealous?
Jamie and Aaron are just friends, obviously.
Aaron wants to know what Jamie wants from him.
She’s the one who said they shouldn’t be a couple the last time they talked about it. Of course they’ve talked about this before. It’s not like a surprise that we—or even they—might assume that they’re dating.
Jamie is sort of quiet. Sort of like saying Well and But and following those up with not much more.
If she’s going to be all over him for going out with some friends—and they’re all just friends, thanks for the trust, there—then maybe she’s looking for something other than what they’ve got. If she’s going to act like he’s supposed to act like she’s his girlfriend, but yet she doesn’t want to be his girlfriend, then, well, he doesn’t know what to think.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
This likely means that there are three possible meal options for dinner.
1. Macaroni and cheese. This is always a successful choice with Emily, which is important when their mother is not around to encourage them to behave appropriately. Ryan is not always thrilled with this choice, but it’s easy. Their mother usually isn’t too worried about this one either way, but she does make sure that their boxed mac and cheese supply is of whole grain noodles and low-fat cheesestuffs. Also, she insists on the addition of something green to this meal. Mixed-in peas or broccoli are the standard greens. Sometimes they have lettuce instead, but this is mostly always the white-ish kind of icy lettuce, so Ryan doesn’t really see how that counts.
2. Something Ryan saw on TV on the cooking channel or online. This is Ryan’s favorite choice, as it means that he has a great deal of flexibility, as well as the chance to pleasantly surprise the other members of his family. Plus, it’s usually true that the other two will not have seen this dish before, so he has the opportunity to fudge the original design as necessary. Emily usually either loves or hates these meals. Their mother will usually nod pleasantly while trying Ryan’s creations, and will only be concerned about the potential messes involved in such experimentation.
3. Fast food or take-out procured from an establishment somewhere along their mother’s way home. This is sometimes the tastiest option—pizza, Wendy’s, Chinese—but it’s also the most unpredictable. This option is only available if their mother calls and offers to pick it up on her way back from work. Also, due to a series of double-dinner mix-ups, the rule is now that she must call before 5:30, and if she hasn’t called by then, Ryan needs to make other dinner arrangements. Emily likes option three. Ryan finds it challenging, due to the scheduling difficulty presented. Their mom usually arranges it as some sort of apology or reward meal, as it’s the only one of the late-home mom options that requires any work from her.
It’s now 5:25. The options are about to dwindle.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Ahhh. He could put it in his story. He loves it when stories have specific details like that. Would the grocery girl know something like this? It’s likely. Would she really work in a grocery store that had such a ridiculously broad selection of laundry detergent? Yes, he decides abruptly, and goes back to counting.
The resulting number is surprising. I’m just telling you—I was surprised, too.
He checks his pockets for something to write on or with. Of course he has nothing. He’ll just have to say the number over and over in his head. A woman would probably be able to write it down right away because she’d likely have a purse with the right materials inside. Am I trying to make a point? Am I saying that it should be socially acceptable for men to carry purses? Am I trying to say that men have better memories? No. I just mean Jason has nothing to write with or on, so he just has to remember the number. Stop asking so many questions—do you want him to forget this number?
Luckily he’s at the store well before most people are getting out of work, so there aren’t too many people in lines up front. However, there aren’t as many registers open. Seven is open, but there are two people already.
Enough with the other numbers!
Friday, November 21, 2008
She goes upstairs. This means that the book she is looking for will be non-fiction or non-existent at this point.
All of the books she finds, not surprisingly, due to the loose parameters of her search, seem like they might either be helpful or completely useless. She makes a big pile on a table, and sits down to sort through them.
Time passes. Piles appear.
Are you anxious to know whether she talks to that guy? You know who he is.
She thinks about talking to him while checking out. What would she say? “You’re right, you do look in paprika. Do you have that Haruki Murakami in? Oh, only one copy? I guess you and I could share, if we had to. Shall we say your place, at seven?”
Lindsay hates cheese. Unless it’s made of dairy. Then it’s the best. It’s not like she’s some recent presidential candidate whose quirks include eating pizza with the cheese removed. What a maniac! And I voted for him, too! And he won, too!
Let’s just let her keep looking.
Also, it might be helpful if she has piles of more than one. Otherwise it’s just a widely spread range of singe-book categories. I'm just saying.
She’s aware of this. If she could think of better categories, she would. It’s not like she’s in a high school Advanced Placement Language and Composition class studying classification as an essay format. Come on.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Harry leaves the store. He loves this feeling. It’s sort of like the feeling he used to get when he was in school and he got out for a dentist appointment or something during school hours. He always felt like people were looking at him and thinking in slow motion, “Heyyyyyyyyyy--- thaaaat kiiiiid ought toooo beeeeee innnn schoooollllll!” Yes, a rock star.
Wendy’s? Yes. He heads to his car. Could he walk to Wendy’s? No. It’s more than a mile away. Well, technically he could walk there, but it would take like all of his break to get there and back.
He gets his wallet from the car and heads out down the road.
What if he gets hit by a car?!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Plus, her hair. Because of the rain, Jamie’s hair is doing this weird poofy sort of thing. Her mother used to have the same hair, but she always described humidity as giving her hair “more body.” On her, it had looked like body, but on Jamie, it looked like poof, and not the magical puff of smoke kind after which something amazing appears. Just the kind where you hope nothing really significant happens so you can just get through the day without anyone really noticing the problem perched on your head.
Another problem is the cupcakes. She managed to get them in to the trunk of her car without too much water pooling on top of the large broad, flat box, but it’s a longer walk from her car to the front of the school than it is from her house to her car.Also, she’s sitting in traffic. How is this even possible? Of course it is. She’s listening to the radio, which is okay. Some part of her suggests to the rest of her that she could appreciate this chance to catch up on more of the news and events of the world. The rest of her tells that part to shut up.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Whitney’s recent behavior has generally been of good merit, and she currently believes that she is dressed appropriately. Under her jacket, she’s wearing jeans that can’t help but match with her t-shirt—her ideal “real me” outfit. In fact, her t-shirt says, “This is the real me.” You’d think it might say something more clever, like “See me” or “Inquire within,” but it doesn’t. Actually, she and Rachel made a matching pair of these shirts for twin day last year. Maybe it was sort of lame, but they thought it was hilarious. For a surprisingly long while afterward, she and Rachel referred to each other and signed notes and emails to each other as “The Real Whitney McCoy” and “The Real Rachel Anderson.”
Everyone’s a rock star.
You would think that was the title of this book, with all of the rock stars showing up.
The title of this book is not yet apparent.
Instead, Jamie is leaving the grocery store with all the supplies required for making cupcakes. She feels like she makes cupcakes and cookies so often she could pick up the materials for either with her eyes closed. This is the fate she chose when she decided to teach elementary school. It’s not the worst fate ever.
Tonight it’s yellow cake mix with chocolate frosting and a tube of white piping icing to spell “WE WILL MISS YOU BOBBY H GOOD LUCK IN COLORADO” on top of three dozen cupcakes to be perfectly arranged in an often reused sheet cake box—the kind with the cellophane window, so that the message is clear.
Once home, Aden’s message is pretty clear, too: JAMIE I AM SO EXCITED TO SEE YOU YOU ARE THE BEST! This is his regular condition. Even though she almost always comes straight home after school to walk him or at least to let him out for some business, he still has the potential to be delighted when she’s gone out again and come back again. This is one of his most endearing characteristics. Dogs don’t have the same attitude problems that people have.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Travis has the ability to sneak up suddenly without appearing to have made any noise producing or even physical movement at all. It’s sort of freaky, especially later at night as the store empties out and gets quieter.
“Lindsay!” he announces in a booming voice. Why must he announce, you wonder. Perhaps to make up for the sneaking…? I don’t know either.
The Frosted Flakes hopeful hears this voice of authority, looks at Travis with a face full of alarm, and bolts. He’s out the door by the time Travis continues with what his announcement. Travis talks/ booms on, and Lindsay wonders whose credit card that was and why the boy was so concerned about such a dubious figure of authority.
Whitney is awash in The Right Things.
Not for the first time, Whitney subconsciously enjoys doing the dishes. Like mowing the lawn—a paid task, not a rotated chore—washing the dishes provides an opportunity for contemplation not otherwise afforded by other activities or even by lack of activity. If she were to just sit on the back porch staring out into elsewhere and thinking about whatever came to mind, and her mother came out to see what she was doing, Whitney’s activity might be described as “being lazy” or possibly indicative of some concern. “I’m concerned about Whitney,” her mother would tell her father. “Why?” “It’s like she’s always thinking.” Her father would laugh. “Good! That’s our daughter.” Whitney’s mother would shake her head. By doing this, she wouldn’t be indicating that Whitney was not their daughter. In fact, she is. Whitney’s mother would shake her head to indicate her confusion over the need of both her husband and her daughter to spend so much time thinking about things. Whitney’s mother would not recognize this same trait in herself if she had it. In fact, she does. Why else would she be spending so much time thinking about Whitney’s thinking?
Here’s you: Who wouldn’t like it?
Here’s me: Gene. You heard what she said.
You: Yeah, right—Gene. Of course that’s the real reason she doesn’t want kale.
Me: I like kale.
You: Your mom likes kale.
Me: Yeah she does.
Carol: I’m not getting kale.
Carol is resolved to make something healthy anyway. She wanders through the produce section, eyeing colors and all kinds of vitamins and fiber and that sort of thing. The peppers catch her eye, and she wonders about stir-fry. Would Gene want stir-fry? She vaguely picks up an orange pepper and considers this question. She tries to look like she really knows a lot about produce. No one seems to be watching, but she likes to appear sophisticated. Who doesn’t? She sets the pepper back down. Whoever was imaginarily watching her now probably imaginarily believes that she has found this pepper lacking or somehow inconsistent with her lofty culinary goals.
Produce. Yes. This is the right place. She’s not being very productive, though.Oh! Melon! That’s it! She’ll make breakfast for dinner. Some melon or fruit salad, French toast, and eggs. Gene loves breakfast for dinner. Carol loves Gene. Isn’t it nice to be loved? Isn’t it nice to have breakfast for dinner? Yes and yes. Is breakfast for dinner ever as healthy as kale and beans? Does Carol feel badly about this? No and no.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Jamie is currently looking for folders. All she needs to pick up is a class set of three-holed folders with pockets, but she can’t help shyly peeking down each aisle, and then giving in to the desire to see it all.
In aisle three, Jamie nearly collides into a flat-looking man standing in front of a display of binders. He seems startled to see her, as if wondering how she could have gotten into the building.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Once again, Ryan sits down at the same table. Once again, Ryan has packed himself a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Ryan is a rock star. Ryan is considering whether to try the noise blocking focusing system again today, but so far Cody hasn’t said anything particularly tedious, and, unlike Jeff, Cody does pause to allow for and to encourage responses.
“So math, right? What is her deal?” Cody starts off vaguely but vehemently.
“I know, right?” offers Ryan in equally vague response. At least Cody isn’t as obnoxious as Jeff. The stuff Cody says doesn’t always make Ryan’s head spin, but who wants a spinning head anyway?
“Totally.” Cody hefts his rectangle of pizza to his face and sinks his teeth into grease and some sort of pleasure. It’s not good pizza, but at least it’s pizza.
As a downside to Cody, he does chew pretty loudly. Ryan blocks this out by counting his own chews by multiples of two. What a weird kid.
Speaking of weird kids, as I am, Ryan suddenly realizes that it’s been a while since the bell rang and most of the kids buying lunch are sitting down, yet Jeff is nowhere to be seen or heard. “So, where’s Jeff?”
Cody lights up like it’s Halloween. Not really Christmas-type lights, but enough to know that someone’s putting out candy.“Oh man! I thought you knew! Didn’t you hear about in Mrs. Bader’s class?”
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The headache is totally gone, it seems—possibly spread thickly in some sickly awkward phrasing, chasing pretentious dimensions into the literary field.
Q: If you work in a library, do you automatically want to write books?
Q/A: If you take an airplane flight to somewhere [also, presumably, from somewhere], do you automatically want to become a pilot?
Monday, November 10, 2008
He’s in bed but instead of asleep he’s keeping his eyes closed pointlessly. a disjointed spree of fireworks jerking his temples from their moneylenders and sending his broken thoughts across hopscotch paths to nowhere. Two Advil ago, it was the same painful growth of spurts and now it just hurts to consider the light from the alarm clock so he unplugs it and shrugs it off, scoffing at any pretenders of reason within this treasonous season of biological betrayal.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Across the table, Jeff’s lips are flapping in some sort of rubbery dialogue. Except at this point, it’s actually a monologue, which Jeff does not realize. Why does his mouth look so crazy without sound?
Actually, what Ryan has achieved is fairly impressive. Separating sound from its point of origin is a tough sell. You rarely look at a trumpet and consider the instrument and the sound it produces as two separate entities. To be honest, you rarely look at a trumpet to start with. Not that you have a problem with trumpets, of course, but it’s much more likely that you’re more often stuck somewhere you’d rather not be and listening to someone you may know talk about something you don’t really care about. Still, it’s someone you may know, so you could at least act polite.
Ryan nods politely and takes another bite of his sandwich. It’s not a bok choy sandwich, if that’s what you were wondering. It is, however, made with all-natural peanut butter [the kind that separates in a fairly unappetizing manner, though Ryan’s mom says that at least you know what you’re getting when you see this kind] and banana slices [the kind that come from bananas, which Ryan’s mom buys all the time, despite her occasional deep sighs about carbon footprints and that sort of thing]. Would an eighth-grade boy risk bringing a peanut butter and banana sandwich to lunch, where anyone equally steeped in adolescence could see him? I’m telling you Ryan does. He made it himself. Plus, he made one for Emily, too. What a good big brother. Clearly. It’s easy to be the hero of your own thoughts. Ego! he thinks, and tunes back in to Jeff.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
By the time she has written this down, Lindsay can breathe a little better, but the feeling that woke her up is too raw to allow a return to sleep. It's 7:00 and she has more time for sleeping-- her first Monday class doesn't start until 9:15-- but she doesn't think turning off the lights and rolling over will really be worth much in the way of settling down.
Maybe some tea.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Q: Why does she have her alarm set as such a terrible ringtone?
Q/A: Is there any ringtone that can make 5:15 seem like a good time to wake up?
A/A: No. Whitney despises this ringtone so zealously that avoiding any possible repetition of the mechanical sing-song ding-a-ling keeps her from hitting the snooze button and forces her at least mostly awake.
Q: Isn’t it sort of a cliché to start a chapter with the ringing of an alarm clock?
Q/A: How did your day start today?
A/A: It’s not like everything you read comes from nowhere, you know. That is to say, everything comes from somewhere. To avoid starting a day—especially a Monday—with the ringing of an alarm clock would be like walking into a lame duck session with an elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about until the donkey’s red glare has left the building. That is to say, it just wouldn’t make sense.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Someone else right now, among others, is Aden. Aden is ready for a nap. Aden is having a really good day. He got to take a long jog in the morning, lunch was really good, and the sun seems just about right for a perfect hour or so of sleep before something else important happens, like dinner. Aden stretches out on the living room carpet in the big patch of sunlight and curls up without a care.
Someone else without a care—or at least without the right care—is Jamie. Jamie has suddenly realized that she has no ice cream and she therefore needs to go to the grocery store immediately. As a backup explanation, she also needs cheese, milk, yogurt, and bananas. Who is going to ask her for this explanation? This much is unclear. What is clear is that her hurried striding across the living room means that she’s about to trip over Aden.
"Watch out!” barks Aden, jumping up.
“Oh, I’m sorry, sweetie! I didn’t see you there!”
“Yeah, that’s likely,” frumps Aden into his whiskers, shaking off the shock. Really, what is her big rush? So she’s out of ice cream, right? Big deal. Some of us are trying to have a good day here.
Jamie kneels down on the carpet and scratches Aden gently behind the ears. As if that’ll make a difference. As if it’s so easy to make a dog happy.
The crazy lady drizzles some more soy sauce into the pan, and then spreads some flowery garnishes along the side of the platter. A few more toss-ups in the air, for good measure, and the stir-fry is apparently done. With a huge, somewhat forced smile—or maybe her face naturally looks like that? It’s hard to tell—the woman slides the colorful compilation from the wok to the great blue open with the rice-white clouds.
Does Ryan think this bit about the clouds? No, that’s me again.
As the credits start to roll, the woman carries the platter to a table set for two just to the edge of her kitchen set. She seats and serves herself, and then deftly picks up a bite of bok choy with black lacquered chopsticks. Even as this bite passes her lips, she is nodding vigorously as if to confirm that by the time any of her tastebuds actually meet with this morsel, they will be well pleased. The camera zooms in close on her face and her lips seem impossibly huge as she chews and smiles at the same time. Try it right now. How easy is it to chew and to smile at the same time? It’s not. It takes practice. Ryan practices.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
The rickety garage door doesn’t always stay up, so Harry wastes no time pulling the car onto the grease spot slightly to the left of the center of the cement floor. For your reference, this car used to be called Turtle. Harry’s daughter called it this some time ago, though mainly because she wanted a turtle as a pet and Harry’s wife had said no. The fact that turtles are rarely blue had not interfered with Andrea’s decision to name her father’s car Turtle. The last time she referred to this car as Turtle was two years and three months ago. At the time, she had a boyfriend who had a pet turtle. His name was Josh. Josh was now a thing of the past, along with his turtle. Or was the turtle’s name Josh? It really doesn’t matter at this point, I’ll just point out.
Actually, it was the turtle who was named Josh. The boyfriend was Steven. Don’t get hung up on this. I just wanted you to know.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Lindsay, though—she’s somebody. Please don’t be offended. You’re somebody, too. So is Maureen. So am I. There are only so many words here, though, so we all have to take our turns. Lindsay’s going first. This doesn’t mean that she’s better than any of the rest of us, but at least she’s doing something.
As it turns out, as she burns out, Lindsay is scanning. Lindsay is making that confirming beeping noise to indicate that yes, this is an item, and yes, it is being purchased. Not only is it being purchased presently, but perhaps it’s being subtracted by the inventory and sorted onto a slowly evolving receipt. With full disclosure here being a must— at least at this point, we’ll say— it is true that Lindsay isn’t making that noise. It’s actually the whole contraption between the register and the laser scanner thinger that makes the noise. Even Lindsay doesn’t know exactly where the speaker is. Do you? The beep just pops into existence at exactly the right split second for the split pea and the not-spilt milk and their ilk, swiping their bars like cars on a giant slalom solving their disparately weighted proportions by sorting out north and south on the way to the house but first a bag— sort of a drag after all of that beeping, really—