Thursday, December 28, 2006
"Let's say a student or two are being noisy," she started. "First, give them THE LOOK."
At this point the teacher scowled, her left brow rising ridiculously near her hairline and her lip curling in a manner to do Quasimodo justice.
"If they don't respond to the look, wait a moment and then give them your NEXT LOOK, and say the student's name."
She then gave forth her NEXT LOOK, the eyebrow twisted maniacally, and her face twitching so she looked like a rotweiller ready to pounce. Sweat broke out on her brow and a scent drifted to us. She was actually able to spray pheremones. Cross my heart. You could see them like dust motes in the sunlight.
"Now some students need a bit more," she said. "In that case I recommend walking to that student's desk and usually they will respond to your movement, to your proximity. If you need to, gently touch them on the shoulder for a just a second and say a name. They'll get the message."
At this point I had to go to the restroom. I returned a few minutes later and froze at the doorway. Here's what I saw. The teacher had seperated the classroom into pairs. We were now sitting in couples, facing one another, taking turns with first, THE LOOK, then THE NEXT LOOK. I'm in the doorway watching these adults practicing their stern looks, knitting eyebrows, thrusting out jaws, gnashing teeth.
I did the only thing I could do. I left class and went to dinner. Maybe I missed the next part..maybe it was pull out the tazers and have at em.
Well...I was prepared for alternative education now, let me tell you. Making faces?!! Teaching is easy.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
I would never have thought to put James Brown or Steve Erwin on the list. Nor would I have thought to enter Baseball Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett, Actor Darin McGavin, or Actor Dennis Weaver. However, Gerald Ford would have been a no-brainer.
Usually picks are chosen according to age and behavior. For instance, someone who is hitting their nineties is on borrowed time. Wait, was that crude? Someone who is hitting their nineties is in the twilight years. That's better. Those are the easy picks. However, someone who lives recklessly is a bit more difficult to pick. Someone like Fifty Cent or Eminem, they might make the list, both of them with past or present (not for me to judge) connections in the violent world of illegal drug trafficking and gangs.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
teaching sternberg educationteaching
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Allow me to offer you a short short passage from "Palpable Illusion" by Stewart Sternberg. We'll ignore Rev. James Maloney, and instead focus on Adam Hart, the book's 'hero', for want of a better word.
As they moved through the village, Ibu talked without pause and Adam listened with rapt attention. The man’s charm was irresistible. Along their path they stopped often so that Ibu could introduce Adam to his neighbors. Word of Adam’s confrontation with Sharkey had spread and all greeting him warmly. One man reached out and touched Adam’s lip, speaking quickly in hushed tones.
“What?” asked Adam.
“He wants you to laugh for him,” interpreted Ibu. “He thinks your laughter is magic. He thinks your laughter turned away Sharkey’s bullets.”
Adam couldn’t help laughing and the man made a snatching gesture at his lips. Adam watched the strange gesture and looked to Ibu for clarification.
“He thinks he has captured a bit of your magic and will take it home with him to bless his house.”
“He is welcome to it.”
And so, here is my Christmas greeting to all of you..whatever magic I can offer you through my writing, my laughter, my words..."you are welcome to it".
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Some people when they write have a concept in mind. Their faces light up and they say: "I've got a great idea. I'm going to write a story about two people who live together, one a slob and one neat, and about the conflict those personalities must have living in close proximity." CONCEPT. My experience though is that as people express this, the excitement of that initial concept prompts them to sit down and start writing. Bang. Unfortunately, this often results in a poorly executed bit of prose which doesn't live up to the initial enthusiasm.
What's missing though is that concept isn't plot. Now, according to the quote on Charles' blog, Koontz says he doesn't plot, but allows the characters to drive the story.
I think allowing the characters to develop is fine for Koontz, but with many people I know, without having a clear plot, without having some sense of an end, they flounder. That's why I try and have some sort of outline when seriously sitting down to work, even if it is only the most rudimentary structure. An outline can be detailed, with extensive character notes and even sketches of scenes that occur in your mind, or it can be a few paragraphs which just get you from point A to point B.
In the defunct horror writers group to which I belonged, several members talked about outlining and plot development as though they were rebellious children standing against their parents' rules...oh wait...no nevermind. I've picked on them enough. Maybe I'll devote some posts to them later on, but for now, lets return to the point...
Some people hate to see writing as work. They don't want to reduce it to the mundane, to take away anything of the romance they see in writing. These people want to be WRITERS, not writers. They're the ones who have trouble revising, sending stuff out, dealing with rejection, and then sending it out again. An outline is work, and they feel it is too restrictive.
Now I understand that every writer has his or her own way of doing something. However, if you are a writer and you find that you are swimming in your stories, having trouble getting stuff completed. If you find that plot is a weakness, that you have trouble with endings. If logic is an issue and stuff doesn't make sense....then why not do an outline?
Why? I'm asking? I'm begging you to explain it to me, because I can't figure out why WRITERS don't want to become writers?
Yes, characters drive the story. Yes, characters are what the readers will connect with in a story. Yes, characters are just about everything, but they aren't the only thing. The plot gives characters something to do and provides for conflict. It's the framework about which theme and characters are strung. Anyone who knows me knows I think character development is critical and the most important thing about a story. Just not the only thing.
So..concept, then plot. Concept---plot. And above all else...Serenity Now.
So what do you think? Am I wrong? Am I being too anal, too tough on people? Too...Stewart?
Thursday, December 21, 2006
So now, that I've rambled in this direction and that, let me answer SQT's question. What do you do with your stories if there is no market for them? You keep finding places to tell them. Give them to friends, publish them online, whisper them in the night. Keep them alive. The stories will only die when the imagination dies, and when creativity is replaced by mundane acceptance of reality in black and white.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
A small man, with large deep-set eyes that rarely blinked, he would occasionally disappear for an hour or so, but Vicky could only guess at what he did down there. She wasn't sure she wanted to know.
"Man's got to have some place to call his own," Marty would say. "It's my workshop."
"You're so secretive," she would respond with a smile, content to let him have his eccentricities.
Her friend Arlene heard this and stuck out a pointed chin. "He locks you out?"
Vicky hated defending herself to anyone. Shrugging she said: "Everyone needs privacy. He never goes into my sewing room, and I don't go into his room."
"But you don't lock him out."
Vicky had no response to that.
"Besides," said Arlene. "Aren't you curious what he does down there?"
"Probably drinks and tinkers with stuff."
"Don't it burn at you?"
"Why should it?"
"He could be doing horrible stuff with porn. Child porn, for all you know."
"Hush," Vicky responded, raising her voice, putting an end to the conversation.
Still, the question had been put to her and curiosity allowed to ferment.
Five years. She should know.
The file shoved something up. A click sounded and the lock yielded.
Stepping through the door, feeling instantly guilty, Vicky flipped on the light switch. She stood still, mouth open, eyes tearing up, trying to comprehend what she was looking at.
Every inch of wall, as well as the ceiling, was plastered with photographs of ---her! There, Vicky standing next to her mom and dad. Vicky in the living room watching TV. Vicky outside the house, looking so proud the day they moved in. Vicky kneeling over a patch of dirt in the garden.
Wringing her hands, Vicky moved around the room, not sure how she felt. She stopped at a picture that must have been eight years old, taken before she met Marty. There she was, standing outside the dorm, a backpack slung over one shoulder. Above that, a picture taken from the ground level, looking up into her dorm room as she stood leaning against the ledge, looking dreamily out upon the campus. Another picture of her in a rest room, taken from an odd angle, with a dark spots around the edges of the photo to suggest the picture was being shot through a wall.
Before they dated he had been stalking her?
She studied another picture. A more recent photo, taken from afar as she shopped at the local supermarket. Still another picture of her at work, taken from across the street.
He was still stalking her.
Not wanting to, she reached down and pulled open a drawer in the small desk he kept there. Underwear. Some of it missing for a long time. Another drawer. A pair of earrings missing since Easter, crumpled Kleenex, one torn nylon, a half bottle of perfume.
Closing the drawer, stepping back slowly until she was out of the room, she turned out the light, locked the door, and closed it. Vicky touched her face, not sure what to make of this revelation, not sure whether it should make any difference. It felt creepy to think of him studying her, taking pictures when she was most vulnerable. She tried to imagine him watching, his finger tense on the camera trigger.
Marty would be home soon. She nodded to herself. He would go into the kitchen, maybe check the fridge for a snack, grab a beer. He'd call out, to see where she was. Where would she be? Perhaps in the tub? Low in the water, a washcloth over her eyes. Vulnerable. She could pretend to be asleep and leave the door open a crack.
Smiling, Vicky started upstairs.
Cravings, needs, fetishes, obssession, yearnings...for something a little different. That itch for something that perhaps makes us a square peg in a round hole. It's a drawer that we keep locked, a night-time vigil that only one or two are allowed to see, a dream that shouldn't be shared. It's a whisper that tempts until its followed uncontrollably.
I am listing the links to Weird Addictions. These are the first entries. More will be coming today and tomorrow. At least I am hoping to read some from such people as Jon, Sheila, Pythia, Crunchy, Meander, Gem, Charles, Sidney, Lori, Sue and more. I encourage you to visit, read, and comment. Share. You'll find my own posted later tonight. It's called: The COLLECTED.
http://sqtspareparts.blogspot.com/2006/12/aftermath.html )SQT writes about surgical problems. You're going to like this one.
http://jrtomlinson.blogspot.com/2006/12/adopted-behaviors-flash-fiction.html The ever popular, ever clever JR proves you shouldn't go home again.
http://mustgethobby.blogspot.com/2006/12/flossy.html Mist's story..a bit of floss..but then what would one expect?
http://christinarundle.blogspot.com/2006/12/serotonin-drive-stewart-fetish.html Christina is the type who likes to be scared a little too much.
http://gugon.blogspot.com/2006/12/infection.html Gugon has a dark, disturbing, Stewartesque piece. Infection.
http://crunchy-carpets.blogspot.com/2006/12/more-writing-assignments.html Crunchy's story...a mother/son situation
http://house-of-sternberg.blogspot.com/2006/12/collected.html Stewart Sternberg's story about discovery and romance...hahahahahaha
These next two links are submitted gently, in otherwords, they are marginal submissions, meaning: they are two writing samples but not exactly the given assignments. Still, you might find them entertaining.
http://jon-zech-short-fiction.blogspot.com/2006/12/parking-lot.html (Jon Zeck and a bit of urban neurosis)
http://www.alightedezine.com/ff1 (You know her as Gem, her name is Gale Martin and her blog is: http://lespiritdescalier.blogspot.com/)
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
1. Blogging is a chance for self expression.
2. Blogging is an opportunity to connect with other people. For some it's about staving off loneliness, for some it's about shameless flirting, and for others it is merely a way to become part of a community. People tend to like to find a comfortable niche and settle in.
3. Commenting is an important part of blogging. Commenting on blogs of others brings comments your way. However, only by commenting in a meaningful manner can a dialogue begin. Without intelligently acknowledging the comments and opinions of others, a poster runs the risk of committing comment masturbation.
4. What brings someone back to someone's blog? Apparently interesting posts that say something significant. Or posts that at least titillate or give us some slice of a person's psyche. There must be a hook.
One writer's words, sent to me by Deslily, went something like this:
"All the writers I read are wallowing through major life issues, which are manifesting themselves in different ways in the virtual pages of their blogs. It got me to thinking: perhaps this is what separates the true writers from the mere hobbyists among us. There are those who quit writing altogether, leaving us with a swan song entry explaining that they’ve written all that’s worth writing, and they’re off to spend their time on more worthwhile pursuits. ( The inference being that all these however many months of blogging have been nothing but a waste of time.) These people, in my mind, are not writers. They may be intelligent, interesting and articulate, and write very well when they choose to do so, but they have not the passion of true writers."
I'm not agreeing or disagreeing, just offering up comments for thought.
If you are interested in looking at other posts relating to blogging, here are some which were sent to me and here are some which I culled through my surfing. And Helen, I am giving you first billing. Visit at least a few of these, I think you'll find something to consider and perhaps elaborate upon. If you want, feel free to return here and continue the dialogue we began in the prior posting.
I'll lead off here with a link to "The Top Ten Reasons Writers Should Blog" http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/35789/the_top_ten_reasons_writers_should.html?page=2
Then, here are some personal comments on blogging from many of the people who have commented on this blogsite at one time or another:
http://evenmoreshenanigans.blogspot.com/2006/12/confessions-of-blogger.html ( A British teen and why she blogs)
http://lespiritdescalier.blogspot.com/2006/08/to-blog-or-not-to-blog-since-i-began.html (Gem waxes philosophical about her blogging)
http://the-cave-of-pythia.blogspot.com/2006/11/comment-masturbation.html as well as http://the-cave-of-pythia.blogspot.com/2006/11/filters.html (these two postings from Pythia inspired a good deal of lively discussion)
http://sidneywilliams.blogspot.com/2006/12/value-of-blog.html (Author Sidney Williams comments on blogging)
http://www.deanesmay.com/archives/007269.html (Interesting notes, some interesting comments on blogging etiquette)
http://blogs.ittoolbox.com/eai/leadership/archives/thoughts-on-blogging-etiquette-4575 (some thoughts about the blog as dialogue, or lack thereof)
http://wardomatic.blogspot.com/2005/04/etiquette-for-blogging-nation.html (more interesting observations)
I could post many more links, but instead I will encourage you to surf on your own. There are some great sites for reading. Also, another reminder...WEDNESDAY...send me WEIRD ADDICTION posts.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
A few more words about comments. I urge people to filter them somehow. When reading someone's blog, it is equally entertaining to read the comments. Unless the comments are redundant and tend to be continually annoying. There is one blogger who posts cheesecake pictures of herself along with serious and intelligent postings. As a result she gets the expected comments: "hey baby...oooh..you're so hot" along with the intelligent sincere responses. I have asked her about this and she has responded that it is part of her blog experience. I suspect ulterior motives. To each their own.
In the old days of AOL, I used to surf through the profiles of members because it was interesting to see who was out there. I do the same thing in google. I type in key words and see who is out there. For instance, "writing, blogspot" or "Michigan, blogspot". As a writer, interest in people is what makes me who I am. If you're not interested in people, how can you seriously approach dealing with character.
In the next couple days I want to publish links to people's postings who have written about blogging. Observations, etc...email me links to postings you may have made, regardless of how long ago that posting may have been. I'm interested and I think other people are.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
That being said..someone asked me about the next assignment. To be honest, I was holding off because it looks as though the writers' group meeting this week in Chesterfield may not be going forward. Actually...I'm pretty sure of it. There is one woman whose address I don't have, so if you are reading this...no meeting this week. Anyway, that is why I haven't posted the assignment. But since I've had a couple requests...here it is:
Write a short story about addiction, keeping it to under a thousand words. The idea is to write about an addiction or even a fetish that is out of the ordinary; perhaps something a bit dark and unsavory, or something a bit silly. Your choice, although you probably know which direction I'm heading. Let's keep all contributions limited to an G,PG, PG13, or R, with anything R-17 being offered by email only.
Further instruction: mix it up. Check to make sure you aren't just writing 'subject,predicate' over and over. Throw in participle phrases, appositives, absolutes, and adjectives out of order. That is the purpose of the assignment, to take your writing style and consciously try to spice it up. If you want more information about spicing up your let me steer you to this site :http://www3.uakron.edu/noden/list/list.html Professor Noden has good information there about the abovementioned writing tools.
Monday, December 11, 2006
THE HORROR OF POPPINS
Thursday, December 07, 2006
If you enjoy horror and fantasy, you might stop by Sidney William's blog.
Mr. Williams, according to the Fantastic Fiction Directory (http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/) began his career as a journalist. Publishing his first novel at age 26, he has sold several novels and short stories, three of them being young adult fiction under the name of Michael August. I gotta get me a non de plume some day.
Sid's blog is a fun place for fans of the genre. He recently published an interview there with the great Ray Bradbury, has provided numerous books reviews, and comments on classic horror. My favorite is his discussion of August Derleth's "The Lonesome Place".
So go ahead and drop in ( http://sidneywilliams.blogspot.com )
Monday, December 04, 2006
It's more than just composing sentences and paragraphs to get across one idea. It's understanding the elements of writing and how those elements come together to form a whole.
It's about setting up mood and rhythm, it's about understanding character dynamics and how to anticipate what a reader's response might be.
One approach to better understanding writing is by studying how other people work.
"But I read," someone said to me recently. The person, a horror writer, explained they had read three or four horror novels through the summer, along with short stories. I nodded and asked if they studied what they read. Did they break it down? Did they ask themselves what the author did in regards to dialogue and pacing?
I am currently reading "Grapes of Wrath" by Steinbeck. I won't copy the passage here, but there is a section where Tom Joad is returning home from prison, and he stands in the doorway. His arms are slightly outstretched, resting against the doorjam and the sun is behind him like some form of halo. His face is shadowed so that at first his mother can't see who he is.
When I saw that scene I stopped and found myself going back through what I had just read to look for religious symbolism. If Joad is a Christ-figure, then how is Steinbeck preparing the reader for this? After all, Joad is returned from prison, he is quick to anger, and often behaves in a rash manner. Not exactly praiseworthy behavior.
And perhaps that counterpoint is exactly what Steinbeck plans...perhaps to show that holiness comes not from the extraordinary, but from the ordinary. From the mundane. From the common.
I point this out because it is a good example of reading and at the same time studying a device used by a writer. Also, I am sure you've noticed that the novel in question is not a horror novel (one of my complaints is that people who write genre will often just read genre and ignore important works of literature).
As a person who frequently, though not exclusively, writes horror, I did the same to "Salem's Lot" by Stephen King. I tried noting what made the work horrific and what carried along the plot. What made the story significant (I read this after reading King's "On Writing" and found that in "Salem's Lot" he broke many of the rules he himself had set down for writing).
Upon a second reading of "Salem's Lot", I noticed one thing King did to make the story effective: he didn't use the word vampire until late in the book. The reader suspects it, especially as exposed to the concept of vampirism as we are in America, but by not immediately pointing to a vampire, by redirecting us through a backstory regarding the previous owner of a possibly haunted house possessed of evil, the reader is looking for something supernatural aside from the vampire. Thus when the vampire comes, although we have suspected its presence, it is a surprise and a horrible one.
King also has the wisdom to give us first characterization and a strong setting with which we can identify before introducing something unreasonable and horrible.
A little thing.
But writing sometimes turns on little things.
If you are a writer or hope to be, take this challenge. Take whatever book you are now reading and stop. Attempt to look at it critically. See how the writer uses dialogue to build character or move along the plot. Or, see how the author changes sentence structure to fit the action, perhaps writing longer sentences for setting the stage, or shorter sentences and stronger verbs for action sequences.
"But you'll kill the book.."
AH HAH!!! I heard that. No, analyzing a book won't kill it, unless the book is bad. Instead it will give you a deeper understanding of the material and perhaps bring you closer to the writer.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Anyway...look below this posting for links to other people who sent in some BAD ASSIGNMENTS
THE FAT MAN COMETH
The holidays were no fun for someone with holes in his pockets. The holes in his gut and stomach didn’t help either. The fat man lay there, draining an assortment of bodily fluids into the gutter.
“Another Santa?” asked Detective Juarez, jaw rugged enough for three cops and a gay cowboy.
“Guess someone rang his Kringle Bell,” Sgt. Macino’s attempt at flippancy fell as flat as roadkill.
“This could spell trouble,” said Juarez.
“My wife left me today,” said Macino. The two men stared at one another.
Juarez took a cab back to the office, a bad and sat down at a desk messy enough to blind a mole. He reached over and sipped from a cup of frigid joe, following that with a bite from an old doughnut someone had left there as a tithe.
The chief, a tallish man with a short temper came by.
“I heard you got Santa Number Five.”
“Gut shot in the stomach,” said Juarez. “If the coroner gives me what I want, we’ll find the bullet’s trajectory indicates that the gun was fired up at a forty-five degree angle.”
“So the shooter was short.”
“He was a short shooter shamefully pumping shells to turn a shirt shades of maroon.”
Juarez thought about his childhood and all the good times he didn’t remember because.
“An elf, you say?” said the Chief.
“Either that or not.”
“Take your pick. Disgruntled employee. Mother complex. Too much caffeine.”
“Elves. I hate them.”
“Did you hear Macino’s wife left him?”
Juarez headed downtown to reclaim his car, stopping first to see a dame. Her name was Bettie, and she was. He smiled and patted the side of her face, but missed and got something else instead.
“You heard Macino’s wife left him?” she asked.
“That’s what I heard.”
“Go figure. Something like that.”
“We found another Santa today.”
Talking to Bettie always gave him a sense of clarity. He slipped her a bill and went to find the car. He found Mancino instead.
“Why’d you do it, Mancino?”
The cop looked up at him. A shy expression turned into a sly one, which shifted into a confused one, and then didn’t.
“How’d you know?”
“Bettie. Name mean anything to you?”
“No. Should it.”
“She knew about your wife.”
“She always did. What was my downfall.”
“Hiring the midget to off the fat man. I had to ask myself why was someone trying to nix all the Santas in town. That’s when it occurred to me. They obviously couldn’t see Kringle’s face to tell which santa to plug so they planned on killing all the Nicks. Next time you wanna kill someone, hire someone your own size.”
“Smart, real smart.”
The following people have taken up the challenge and sent me truly bad writing samples. Stinking bad...starting with the words: The holidays were no fun for someone with holes in his pockets. Below are the first entries. Feel free to send me links to your atrocious posts, and please visit the ones below and tell them how bad they are. You know, what I should have done was given this project to my students. They know how to write badly.
http://asaradragon.blogspot.com/2006/11/writing-assignment-write-badly-no.html (asara has shown us some wretched description here...well done....an some truly mundane word usage)
Monday, November 27, 2006
Mud sat on the curb outside his home, blonde hair sharply parted to one side. His clothes looked new and he fidgeted in them, tugging at a pant leg, pulling at a sleeve and collar. He didn’t look like Mud at all. He looked like nineteen-year-old Henry Druery, except for when his head jerked involuntarily, or he suddenly squinted.
A shadow slid along the pavement and over his polished shoes. Mud glanced up and smiled with broad lips and crooked teeth. A younger teen stood over him, a heavy youth in baggy blue pants and a brown shirt.
“Whatcha doin’, Mud? Why you dressed like that?” asked the newcomer, whose name was Steven.
Mud shrugged, picked up a stick, and started scraping it along the curb. Steven dropped to the curb beside him. As a light breeze whispered over the boys, bringing the knell of summer’s end, Mud caught a scent and raised his face in bliss, swaying slightly and making a low whistle. Steven watched him and then turned his own face into the breeze. They sat for a long time like that. When the breeze spent itself, Mud lowered his face again.
Steve leaned forward and touched Mud’s shadow. “I wish I could stop time,” he said.
Mud continued to rub the stick against the curb.
“Right this second,” Steve added.
Mud stopped and grinned broadly. Steven grinned back.
Fingers moving spastically, Mud swayed from side to side and and groaned. Steve pressed a palm to Mud’s shoulder and the spasmodic motions calmed.
A white, official looking van rounded the corner and came up the driveway. The boys stood. The driver, a square-shouldered man, climbed stiffly from behind the wheel, straightening a gray suit and black tie. His skin appeared colorless in the sunlight and his mouth was a straight line.
“Henry Druery,” the man said spoke in a clipped fashion.
The man’s head swiveled and his gaze locked on Steven, who looked away quickly and dug his hands deep into his pockets. The man from the agency turned back to Mud.
“Why don’t you go on up and get your mother, Henry? She’s expecting us,” the man said.
Mud’s squint became more pronounced. He moved toward Steven, but at the last moment turned and headed up the walk to the front door of his house.
The man from the agency leaned back on his heels , clasping hands behind his back and gazing down the street before once again. He turned to Steven again, a smile creeping over his face, a grimace of white even teeth. The smile snapped shut.
“What’s your name again?” the man asked.
Steven remained quiet.
The front door opened and Mrs. Druery emerged, pulling Henry behind her, his face scarlet and his cheeks glistening with tears. She made clucking noises at her son, producing a tissue from her purse to daub at his eyes.
A slender woman who moved lithely, Mrs. Druery was attractive, possessing large brown eyes and full lips. She wore her black hair in the style of a younger woman and that, along with her unblemished skin, often drew expressions of surprise and admiration when people discovered her true age. Those expressions turned to pity and embarrassment when they realized her son was Mud.
“Where is Mud going?” asked Steven, stepping to intercept them.
She flinched slightly at his approach. “Henry is going for a treatment for a couple of days.”
Mud’s legs stiffened and she pulled harder to keep him moving.
Mrs. Druery didn't look at Steve. The man who had come for Mud rescued her.
“Mud is normal,” said Steven, blinking rapidly.
“Of course he is, Steven,” said Mrs. Druery. Placing an arm on Steven's shoulder, she attempted to gently nudge him to the side so she could maneuver Mud to the sidewalk. Steven followed, his breath coming more quickly.
”What are you going to do to him?” asked Steven.
The man from the agency placed his perfectly crafted face at Steven’s level. Steven drew back, off balance.
“He’s going to receive gene therapy, Steven. We’ll give him a shot with some special vitamins in it and some very friendly tiny robots that will help fix what’s broken. Nanobots. And he’ll be fine.”
“But he is fine.”
“Then, he’ll be better. He’ll be smarter. He’ll be happier. Isn’t that what you want for Henry? Don’t you want to see him happy?”
Steven’s speech came quickly now, almost lost in a horrible stutter. “B-b-but, what about me? He’ll b-b-be like ever-r-ry one else. He won’t want to b-be with me. I’ll b-b-be alone.”
The stuttering appeared to amuse the man, who smiled over Steven's head at Mrs. Druery.
The man from the agency had the van’s door open and was gesturing for Mrs. Druery to bring Mud along. Her fingers closed around her son’s upper arm, and she gently cajoled him the rest of the way down the walk and into the van. Struggling as they belted him in, Mud began mewling like a kitten and calling for his friend.
“Steven,” Mud wailed. “Steven, help me.”
The man closed the door and turned around. Smiling at Steven, he reached into his pocket and pulling out a small vanilla business card, pressed it into Steven’s hand before going around to the other side of the van. The engine started. The van backed down the drive and rolled down the block, making a neat turn around the corner.
Sitting on the curb outside his home, Mud watched Steven waddle toward him from the other side of the street. He smiled at his friend, head jerking involuntarily and mouth twisting into a grimace.
“Did you just get home today?” asked Steven. He tried to look into Mud’s eyes, but his friend kept his head down.
“Are you okay, Mud?”
Grunting to himself, Mud twisted his body around. A tremor passed through him and his fingers moved as though tapping out Morse code. Steven watched carefully and at last put a hand on Mud’s shoulder.
"I think I want to be alone," said Mud. "I just need some time."
Steven raised his eyebrows, surprised by these words.
"You're different," he said.
"Yeah," said Mud. Voice thick with bitterness, eyes suddenly tearing, another tremor hit and Mud involuntarily rocked back and forth like an exotic bird.
Steven sat down and patted his friend on the arm.
"You're alright," he whispered. Mudd looked away.
The two boys sat still in the autumn sun.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
"Life and death," I explained. "What greater?"
"I don't have anything new to say about it," said Stewart, as though it was a defense.
"One more cliche' about writing," I countered, "and you will."
In thinking about it though, who would really want to read his comments on the last spark of stupidity. He'll probably whine at the end and cry, selfishly making anyone bedside a tad uncomfortable.
Sometimes the cessation of a heartbeat is merely a formality.
In the old days, when the good William Masterson and I started the church, I remember the first time I was asked to officiate at a funeral. This was in days before we first attained our high profile. Will was against it. A funeral would be attended by outsiders and not dedicated worshippers. He never liked a hostile audience. William was always something of an old woman.
The mourners were like mourners everywhere, and I gave a brave face to all and felt the communal love of those who have come to be thankful that they weren't the reason for the assembly. One pleasant surprise was the departed's trophy wife. Widow. Younger than expected, she possessed an angellic face and astonishing breasts. Her lips were full. I remember leaning back against the casket and admiring her cleavage.
"Is that your's, Reggie?" I asked loudly, pointing back over my shoulder toward the widow. The room fell silent.
I reached down and took the corpse's hand. I have no problem touching the dead; my abusive stepfather ran a funeral parlor and as a young boy with tremendous curiousity, I would often lift the sheets and explore. I raised the hand as though I were holding the arm of a victorious prizefighter.
"You must have been quite the man, Reggie," I said, nodding toward the widow. "You must have enjoyed yourself. Yes?" I let the hand drop and turned to the mourners. I studied their faces, turned and stuck the hand back in the coffin, and swung back around.
"God made us alive, and I think we can safely say that was The Creator's greatest gift. So, what then would you say is the biggest sin we can muster? What would be the most horrible crime against the Almighty that Reggie, the Created, could have committed?"
I tipped backwards and cupped my ear as though to listen to a voice from the coffin. The mourners leaned forward. The widow leaned forward, and so did her marvelous cleavage. I nodded my head and put a finger against the side of my nose; a gesture of knowledge and confidence.
"Death," I said and let the word settle. "Death is the most incredible affrontery to the Creator."
I left the side of the casket and walked to the widow. I touched her hair and smiled at her. Softly. Kindly. Soulfully.
"You've always been taught Death is a process. That it's part of some sick cycle. You've always assumed that it was an inevitable byproduct of birth. God gave life and God took it away? Did you think He was that fickle?
"Some of you comforted yourselves by clinging to the concept of an afterlife. Afterlife. Why should God grant you an afterlife, when you have been so inconsiderate and wasteful as to squander His first gift by dying? Did you think, Reggie, that you knew better than God?"
I looked at the casket as did all else.
"Come on, Reggie, get up. Get up and show these folk that Death is a mistake. Show them that Death isn't inevitable."
I rushed to the casket and grabbed him by the shoulders.
"Get up. Get up, you son of a bitch. Get up you selfish little turd."
I slapped him hard, letting the sound of flesh against flesh electrify even those in the back row. I roared my frustration, raising my arms above my head. I yelled until I thought blood would shoot out my throat. "Get up, you prick!!!"
Someone in back tentatively called out: "Get up."
Another person, stronger now: "Get up, Reggie."
More voices: "Get up. Come on, Reggie. Get up. Get up. Get up."
As the chant washed over me, I put myself between the voices and the thing in the casket. I closed my eyes and let the electric moment happen. Sucking it in, I listened to it build until it became something raw and unwashed.
I swivelled on the ball of a foot and held up a hand for silence. I waited and finally pointed to the dead man.
"You see?" I called out. "What greater sin is there than that?"
I went to the widow and gently pulled her up,inhaling a subtle perfume and becoming unbearably aroused. She pressed against me.
"Rebecca here has food waiting at home," I said. "Feel free to return with her to offer comfort. I suspect, if not dearly hope, that there is some libation there as well."
She nodded. I squeezed her hand and played a little finger upon her skin.
"Let's all leave here then and let Reggie lay there and give some thought as to how selfish he is being. No, no one walk anywhere near him. Don't give him attention, it's exactly what he wants."
I started with the widow toward the back exit. "You'll know where to find us should you decide to stop being selfish, Reggie."
With that we walked out, and the mourners walked with us into a warm, sunny August day.
"So that's been the answer to dealing with you all along?" asked William later. "It's a matter of walking out and not coming back until you stop being selfish? We should have left you long ago."
"You tried," I pointed out. "You're not going anywhere, until I go first."
So, you see, Stewart, it's possible to write about life and death without having anything new to say, or anything to say at all.
Church of the All Forgiving
Thursday, November 23, 2006
I want people to have a silly good time by writing 700 words or less beginning with the phrase: "The holidays were no fun for someone with holes in his pockets."
Then, proceed to write the worst bit of drecht that we've ever seen. Twist your metaphors, skew your similes, write the purplest of purple prose. Make my eyes bleed.
You know what needs to be done.
Then, when I've received all your links to all your postings, I will do what I did with SEDUCTION, make a posting with all the links so you can all bask in what will hopefully be the worst of the worst. Come on people...I know you want to be bad. Who doesn't?
oh..and if you want to check out a swinging spot for retro seventies gear, go to dressthatman.com. It's where that groovy pic came from.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
When I was in college, a fellow student walked up and said: "Read my paper and tell me what to change. It sucks." I looked at him and looked at the paper. I asked if he were sure he really wanted the feedback. He insisted he did. I took my pen and X-ed out four or five paragraphs, made numerous scratch marks in others, and then handed the whole thing back to him.
He looked upset.
The lesson he should have learned is: "If you don't want people to give you feedback, then don't ask for it." The lesson I should have learned was: "While many people ask for feedback, want they really what is applause and unconditional approval."
I never learned my lesson. I doubt that student learned his.
I have been in numerous writer's groups and I have found the feedback experience repeated on numerous occasions. In one group a rather irate woman who fancied herself a poet wagged a finger at me and said: "What right do you have to critique someone else's work?" I smiled and responded: "I'm a reader."
Obviously a person giving feedback strictly as a reader is going to have a different perspective from a fellow writer, but I would argue that the reader's point of view has significance. After all, who are you writing for?
In another writers' group [ where people seldom actually wrote] three people were voted to edit the submissions for a would-be anthology. Those three people would work independently and make comments to the author about what would be needed to make his or her work acceptible for publication by the editorial board. The response? An unhappy group of would-be writers who felt personally attacked. Or to quote one author: "This sucks! You don't know what you're talking about!"
So, if we all agree that critiques should point out the positive as well as the negative; that they should be specific about what can be improved; and that they not in any way be personal---then what can we then say about those receiving the critiques?
Don't personalize. While you may have poured your heart and soul into a story, you owe it to the person reading your work to assume that it isn't a personal attack. If you don't trust the person doing critiques, then either don't give him access to your work or ignore whatever is coming out of his mouth.
Pick and choose. Only you know what your intention is when you write. It could be that the person critiquing is totally off base. It could be that person doesn't like the sort of writing you do; it could be that person isn't your audience. If that's the case, maybe accept what they may have to say about grammar and discard all else. Pick and choose.
The Three People Rule. If you have three people telling you something about your work, and they arrived at their conclusions somewhat independently---listen to them. For God's Sakes.
If three people tell you that you're an ass, then start looking for that tail.
Thank Your Critic. You asked that person to look at your work. YOU. It doesn't matter what they said, they took the time to read and make comment. That has to count for something.
It's Still Your Work. One woman whose short narrative had at least six different points-of-view looked in horror at me when I suggested that she narrow the points-of- view to one person. "If I make the suggestions you want, it won't be my work." It's your work, people. Even if you change things around and radically tear it down and rebuild it...it's your work.
People let me promise something right now, if I submit a work and an editor asks for dramatic changes, I will probably do whatever is asked without question. I don't care. Call me a whore. If I don't want to make the changes...then I can take my work somewhere else.
Critiquing other people's work and having your own work critiqued is essential to a writer's development. By critiquing someone else's work, it helps you reframe your own writing by seeing the craft through another person's eyes. By having someone read your work, it allows you to get other perspectives and to question ways you are doing things, not necessarily to say that something is wrong but how that something might be better.
One extremely unpleasant woman, who is a member of one of the groups, leaned over and at the mention of critiquing, responded: "I don't like critiquing. I don't want to put my work up there for people to pick apart. I've had nothing but bad experiences." After reading her work, I can understand why. Still, even that person could have benefitted had she chosen to break out of her shell and tried to forge ahead. The responsibility is on the writer, not the critic. The critic can only make suggestions or offer feedback, the writer is the one who decides how to handle it.
Anyone who writes and expects to be published had better be willing to write, rewrite, and edit their work according to feedback from others, and most importantly according to that internal critic. And finally, they had better develop a thick skin.
The reality is that people submitting their work for publication will often receive several rejection letters.
Lots and lots of them.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Born to the common people, she would surely have died young. Addled, and unattractive, Princess Ursula was also unlovable. Small eyes set far apart, weak chin, a flat nose. Her spine curved grotesquely and she shuffled rather than walked. Thick and lustrous gold hair ran so beautiful down her shoulders that her ugliness was made more startling by contrast.
Easy to bear in a child, in a young woman such defects proved a tedious challenge to the king. Protected by her royal station, she was indulged and kept away from the cruelty of those who would seek to exploit any weakness in the royal family. As King Marodius contemplated his only child though, the shame and guilt of such an offspring darkened his scowl and cut short his humor.
“At least it wasn’t a son,” he said, bemused. Had a male heir been born a simpleton of such degree, the king would have been forced to act. The idiot boy would never have become the idiot king. The princess was different. She could be relegated to a small portion of the castle where the queen could harmlessly proffer affections on her plaything.
Occasionally they dined together. Ursula would be escorted in by a servant who would stand beside the girl and keep her quiet. During dinner the servant would whisper calming instruction and occasionally help with her plate. The king would eat in silence, addressing Ursula only when she arrived and again when she left the table.
On this night the child appeared sullen; the king watched her, unused to Ursula expressing any emotion that might suggest her capable of anything beyond childish simplicity. He watched for some time, rubbing his jaw as curiosity increased.
“What has vexed my child this day?” The king asked at last.
The queen turned and studied Ursula and instructed the girl to answer her father.
Ursula’s long skinny fingers strayed to her plaything, a gold ball, a gift from long ago which she carried everywhere. Her forefinger traced its curving surface and she shrugged.
“Have you done something you shouldn’t?” asked the king, amused.
Ursula leaned and whispered into her servant’s ear.
“Begging your pardon,” said the servant. “But Princess Ursula says …”
“Let the princess speak for herself,” said the king. His wife began to object but the king silenced her with a gesture.
Ursula stared at her plate and time passed. She raised her face and spoke softly, her words formed with difficulty around crooked teeth.
“I lost my ball,” she said.
“Did you? Well, you must have found it,” said the king.
“I got it back.”
“And so that makes you sad?”. He smiled and again they waited while Ursula considered how best to answer.
“It fell into the well. I got it back.”
“If it fell into the well, then how did you get it back?” asked the king. He shook his head, smiling with amusement. The amusement dissolved. He stared at his daughter and for a minute imagined her leaning over the well, trying to see into the darkness. He imagined her leaning over a little further and further still until she lost her balance and pitched forward.
“A frog,” she said. “It brought it up to me.”
“A frog,” said the king. “How lovely. Was it a talking frog, then?”
His daughter’s eyes opened wide. She looked down with uncertainty and then up again to nod once.
“A talking frog,” said the king. “Do you hear?” he asked his wife. “And next she will be speaking with the rabbits and the birds. She’ll sprout wings and fly with the faeries. Oh, we’ll have a hard time keeping up with her then.”
The king’s voice had been rising and the last sentence was shouted with a fist pounded on the table before him for emphasis.
He let choler pass. “Well,” he said, “at least you can claim a new friend.”
“He scares me,” she said.
“A frog? Then you must do what I did when I was but a boy and stick him with a knife. Or, crush him with a stone.”
“He gave me back my ball.”
“So he did. I had forgotten.” The king returned to his meal, putting his daughter from his thoughts. The queen nodded at the servant and she took the princess by the elbow to lead her away from the supper table. Before they had gone more than a few feet however, a pounding sounded from the rear of the castle.
The king raised his eyebrows and turned. A young man came rushing in, eyes wide and face pale with horror. He stepped close to the king and spoke in low tones. The king looked at him with an incredulous expression and stood.
“What is it, my husband?” asked the queen.
“There is a beast at the door. He is trying to force his way in, but two of the guard are holding him fast. He is making…” The king’s voice faltered. “He is making claims upon the princess.”
“He brought me my ball,” she said.
One guard brought the creature in, yanking it by a rope looped around its neck. Another guard kept a spear’s tip close to the thing’s back. Shaped like a man, its skin was tinted green and looked slick to the touch. Impossibly broad mouth, a stub of a nose, round black eyes set far apart. It dressed in worn raiment as would befit a man of stature.
“What are you?” asked the king. He rose and brought with him a knife from the table.
“Your daughter promised me companionship,” it croaked.
The king rushed forward and pressed the knife’s tip to the throat of the thing. It writhed as he did so and the guard had to strain to maintain their hold.
“How dare you,” the king whispered. “You are talking about the princess.”
“Princess or not, she is human and she has promised me companionship.”
The king whirled around and pointed a finger at his daughter. “Did you do such a thing?”
The girl nodded and giggled nervously.
“The promise of a princess,” said the monster.
“Don’t presume to teach me about honor,” said the king. He nodded to himself. While the princess may have promised companionship, it was unlikely that she had the wit to promise much else. She could hardly have promised the thing any safe passage. Thinking this and satisfying himself that it must be so, the king stabbed at the belly of monster and yanked up to open the wound. He stabbed again, this time at the heart.
The beast sprawled full length to the floor and as the last of life fled him so too did his curse. Green skin gave way to ruddy flesh; wide mouth to well-formed lips. Curly brown hair flowed from his pate.
“Bewitched,” commented the king. “Those features are distinct. He comes from royal family.”
“What shall we do?” asked the queen.
“We will spare his family the horror of this revelation and bury him in an unmarked grave.”
The princess tipped her head to one side and cried. “I was his companion,” she said.
The king scoffed and reached for his daughter’s chin, cupping it in a blood stained hand.
“Some things should not be,” he said. “You may know no man’s bed. You are denied all that is woman’s nature.”
“What if they have already known one another?” asked his wife.
The king paled and shook his head. “It would be against all nature. There is an order to things and stepping outside such order, we deserve the punishment that befalls us. I have no male heir. She will bear no child.”
Saying this, the king left the room.
The princess looked after him and rubbed first the ball and then her belly. Her mother watched her knowingly and the two women shared a conspiratorial smile.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Resist the temptation to go rent this video. You can't study it by watching it. You need to read the words, hear them in your own voice. Ask yourself what is happening in each scene. Explore interactions and try and see if Simon is truly utilizing a sentence or two, or if he is merely filling space. Don't bother, he never merely uses space.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
If you want to give critical feedback, then I suggest you be specific and pick only one or two things. At school, when I grade papers, it's important not to overwhelm or discourage someone. So, for instance, on one person's blog, I suggested that they do not change point of view in a short piece of fiction; instead they should tell the story from just one character's perspective. This, I explained, made it easier for the reader to follow and also helped set the bond between the reader and the main character.
Another thing to consider is the purpose of the assignment. If the purpose was to focus on dialogue and character, as was this last assignment, then it might be appropriate to limit comments to just those two elements of fiction.
In even the worst story you may come across there is something positive. Hell, I think it's positive that people are brave enough to post their words on-line where people can hack away at it. I also think it is great that a sense of community can develop.
I think when I have more time, that I will do a blog or two on critiquing and rewriting.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
- http://scribbler580.blogspot.com/2006/11/i-was-going-to-preface-my-story-with.html Jim is in Florida now. I miss him. This is seduction with a little bit of an edge; almost a morality tale. Except, Jim's amoral.
- http://charlesgramlich.blogspot.com/2006/11/kissercise.html I am currently expecting Charles Gramlich's novel "Cold In The Light" to arrive tomorrow or the next day from Amazon. He usually doesn't indulge in this sort of thing, but I begged him. Thanks Charles.
- http://chatoyance.blogspot.com/2006/11/seduction-story-1000-words.html Lori is a Texan who uses photography to re-explore the common and mundane to see it anew. Her story involves a photographer and a studly handiman in a workshop. Nice touch at the end.
- http://buckatunnaqueen.blogspot.com/2006/11/recipe.html Sue Miller, a southern belle, and a thoughtful blogger. She is a brave soul accepting this challenge.
- http://the-cave-of-pythia.blogspot.com/ Lindy is another member of the Chesterfield group. This is a story about cyber romance. Erotica via keyboard. I am sure that after tomorrow's meeting, a different version of this will grace her blog. She handles feedback better than most.
- http://jon-zech-short-fiction.blogspot.com/2006/11/seduction.html Jon Zech is a grumpy friend and I love him. This is a PG 12 tale of a subdued seduction; more of a mood piece. Apparently Jon is also offering up a R-17 by email for those looking for something more intense.
- http://swedehartstories.blogspot.com/2006/11/feverish.html Jessica is from Philly and includes a lot of Philly stuff on her blog. She is faithful to her blog and is certainly not shy. Not at all. Her story is a PG-13 romantic encounter.
- http://house-of-sternberg.blogspot.com/2006/11/seductionassignment.html You reallly didn't expect me to write something normal, did you??? This is a story about a mother and her forty year old son.
- http://crunchy-carpets.blogspot.com/2006/11/i-got-homework.html I adore the name of this blog, by the way. Crunchy has written one for us, but blogspot is acting up. I will give information on the story when blogspot lets me read it.
- http://sqtspareparts.blogspot.com/2006/11/mark.html SQT has given us a rather hot game of chance. Strong female character.
I do believe there will a few more stories coming this way. As soon as I get them, I'll be posting links to them.
“What are you doing tonight?” she asked in a voice ravaged from years of smoking.
Adam Ebersol nodded to himself and took the cream. He trickled some into the coffee, stirring slowly with a spoon.
“You’ve been sulking so much lately. What happened to that girl you were dating? What was her name? Jen?”
“It didn’t work out,” said Adam. His response was too loud.
“You’re too picky.”
“I’m not too picky,” he said. He wanted to put his face in his hands and scream himself raw. He wished the pause would become a long stretch of silence, but his mother wouldn’t, couldn’t let it go. She was killing him here.
“What should I join?”
“I’m not a joiner.”
His mother sat across the table. “Can I be frank with you?” she asked.
Adam sucked in air. No, please don’t be frank. Stab me in the eye with a fork, but whatever you do, don’t be frank. It was too late though; his mother smiled with good intention. His feet turned inward. Abruptly though, she stood and moved to the sink to start scraping off the remains of their dinners. When she didn’t say anything he wanted to breathe a sigh of relief, but remarkably the phrase kept poking him. Soft at first, then harder. Can I be frank with you? Can I be frank with you? Can I be FRANK with you?
His mother lit a cigarette, sucking hard at it and then releasing a slow puff of smoke.
“I keep telling you, but you keep telling me I’m either interfering or nagging you. I don’t want to upset you. I just think you should change. Lose weight. Take pride in your appearance. Get a haircut. Buy some new clothes. Your brother knew how to dress.”
“I never had a brother,” said Adam. He turned in his chair and studied her. She shrugged and stuck her hands into a pile of soap suds. Bubbles climbed up her arms.
“What did I say? A brother. I meant your father, God Rest His Soul.”
"Adam turned back around and thought about his father, now dead four years. He didn’t miss the old man. When his mother went it would be more an inconvenience than anything else. He tried to imagine life without her and was startled when he found he couldn’t.
“You’re right,” he said. The words grabbed him about the throat and he slipped into himself, landing hard.
“You’re father never took care of himself, either. Look what happened to him. Dead so young. I used to tell him, too. Stop eating so much. Try a salad once in a while. No, he was always with the junk food and the fat. You should have seen him in his best days. Slender. Rugged. Then he let himself go and lost interest. I lost interest.”
She dried her hands on a towel and went to the refrigerator to pull out a large chocolate cake. Cutting a large wedge, she slipped it onto a plate and brought the plate to her son.
“Here, Sweetie,” she said.
Adam looked at the cake. The icing was thick, the way he liked it. His mouth watered a little. “I think I’m going to pass on cake tonight.”
She smiled and ran a fingertip along his jawline. Leaning close enough so that he could smell the residue perfume from the nape of her neck, she said: “Sweetie, have the cake. You can go without tomorrow.”
“I don’t know.”
She pinched his earlobe and leaned closer until her lips were moist on his forehead. “Eat for me.”
Adam looked at the cake. He could smell the chocolate and he could imagine the taste on the tip of his tongue. Shifting uneasily in his seat, he shook his head again. As though reading his mind, his mother dabbed at the chocolate with her finger and stuck it into her mouth. She smiled as though remembering something.
“Go ahead, Darling.”
Adam eyed her lips and lifted the fork. The chocolate kissed his tongue. He kissed back. Mrs. Ebersol slipped behind him, her bosom hard against the back of his head. “Isn’t that good?” she asked.
He stuck another bite of cake into his mouth and leaned back against her.
Tousling his thinning hair, she shifted weight from one foot to the other. He heard her exhale and smelled the smoke. Stepping away, she started for the living room. In her absence, the room felt suddenly cold behind him. Adam looked after her.
“Aren’t you going to have any?” he called.
“I’m going out tonight, Sweetie.”
“I’m going out. I’m going to a movie.”
He heard her go through the living room and into the bedroom. The door closed. Adam looked down at his plate and rapidly began shoveling cake into his mouth. A clod of chocolate dropped into his lap. Without pause he scooped it onto his fork and into his mouth. When he was through, he licked the fork, then each finger. Without thinking, he rose and walked to the refrigerator to see what else he could find for desert.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Jon, of course, would argue that Rev. James Maloney is blatantly autobiographical. Of course, I would dispute that. I'll agree I have certain characteristics of the character in question, but Maloney is an evil son-of-a-bitch.
Anyway...I've decided to give in and share an experience. If you think it's worth doing this more often, then let me know.
Occasionally I become soft-headed.
I think: "Why not take the alternative education kids to the museum?"
At the moment that thought entered my head the little squirrels joined hands and danced around in circles, the bluebirds sang sweet songs, and the flowers bloomed. I almost went barefoot.
The kids went. It was a chance to get out of the classroom, and some of them felt it might even be interesting. Some of them went reluctantly.
"Boring," said one kid.
He scratched his shaved head. I found myself wondering if the bio-hazard tattoo was painful to have done. I also found myself nodding and thinking: and of course, I am sure you will want to put a list of all your tats and piercings on your resume. Especially the tattoo on the arm: Kill Em All. He should have been a Congressional Page.
We walked into an area that had relics from the turn of the century. "Try and relax for once. Sometimes it's good to stop and consider where we all come from," I was saying to him.
I was going to pontificate more, considering how much he was enjoying what was already flying from my lips, but I stopped to gape at the kid about to touch the original device that Thomas Edison first used to record the human voice. I hastened across the room and whispered: "no-no-no-no-no."
He looked at me and shrugged.
"I just wanted to see if it still worked," he said.
Another teen walked by with something sticking out of his pocket.
I stopped him.
"What you got there?" I asked. He pulled a piece of candy from his pocket and I relaxed. I had images of him pulling out Franklin Roosevelt's pen, or one of the WWI bayonettes that someone had stupidly put within reach of sticky fingers.
My spider-sense went off about then. I turned and looked toward the windows. My kids were rapping on the glass and shouting things. I strolled over and looked down at what had arrested their attention.
A SWAT team had gathered at the house across the street. The police were positioning themselves for a bust, some of them had rifles out, others were crouched near the bushes with handguns. My kids? They were trying to get the attention of the people in the house to warn them of the impending raid. They succeeded in getting the attention of the police. One of the cops looked up and raised his eyebrows. I am sure he was considering raising his gun as well.
I whispered to my wards: "You have three seconds to stand away from those windows. One-two-three."
My students hear me raise my voice a good deal. It is when I am soft-spoken that they become uneasy. I smiled at them and said inaudibly low: "Now, follow me quietly down the stairs and to the parking lot." The smile terrified them.
I nodded to the other teacher and instructed her to get the other students, who were no doubt somewhere getting ready to draw moustaches on important works of art. I then went downstairs and the students followed me in silence.
Before stepping outside, the spider-sense went off one more time.
A student of mine was squatting beside a Tibetan Buddhist Sand Mandala that had taken a visiting group of monks at least a week to set down. I knew what he was thinking. He was thinking: What if I touch it? That's when the rays coming from my eyeballs hit him. He stood, zombielike, and followed us out. Good thing, too...another two seconds and the lethal rays would have evaporated him.
I know. I know you've all seen "Dangerous Minds" and that made you gooey inside. I get gooey inside when I see films like that too. They make me want to throw up. I think the only film about teaching that gave me the warm fuzzies was the one with the teacher who ran around menacing people with a baseball bat.