Saturday, February 26, 2011

A little fact; a little fiction: The Crazy

My friend, Cher, is going to find that $4 public parking lot on Figueroa again, no matter how many times she has to circle the block.
     We are heading to the restaurant, Engine No. 9, for another friend's birthday. Since the restaurant is close to The Staple Center, there are numerous parking structures to choose from, but only one that had a $4 flat rate. We'd pass it, go around the block (Figueroa is a one-way street) but not go down far enough, and then have to circle again with Cher saying, "It's got to be just one more block down."
     During circle #2, we stop at a crosswalk to allow a homeless guy to cross.
     Wrapped in a grey, worn blanket he shuffles across the street. Long, dirty fingers scratch at brown, dread-locked hair. His lips tremble with mutterings that ripple down his tall, lanky body.
     "There's your boyfriend," Cher jokes.
     "I probably couldn't even get that guy," I say. "I mean, I've got the crazy, but . . ."
     The man stops mid-crosswalk, swivels his face toward us and looks right at me. As if he heard me.  Looks right at me
     I shift around in my seat. He couldn't have heard me. Even if he had, did he understand me?
     Leaning forward, the man narrows his eyes. Drawing my shoulders up, I lower my chin, but my gaze remained locked with his.  His eyes--light blue and clear--glimmer against his dirty face. Soft eyes.
     Knowing eyes. 
     Cher drops her sunglasses down over her eyes from where they had been perched on top her head--operating on the theory that if she had her sunglasses on and was in her car, no one could see her.
     The man finishes his migration, eyes fastened to my face. By the time he reaches the other curb, his head appears as if it had spun around 180 degrees.
     In silence, Cher makes a quick right turn, then hooks right onto Figueroa. While turning, she glances over her left shoulder to watch oncoming traffic. I follow her gaze and see the Parking $4 Flat Rate sign. We undershot it--again.
     "Okay, one more block down," Cher sighs.
     For the third time, we go north on Figueroa, turn right at the Bonaventure Hotel, and then right onto Flower.  As we cruise south, I crane my neck so that I can scan the sidewalks for the homeless man.  He seems to have disappeared, but then we pause at a stoplight and I see him, standing on the corner.
     Waiting for me?
     Pulling his blanket tighter around him, he extends an arm, two fingers tapping the air.  When I don't respond, he scowls, thrusts his pointed finger at me.
     I catch my breath. This was definitely not the first time someone had pointed angrily at me, but the way his body seemed to roll and then launch the gesture . . .
    The light turns green and the car jerks forward, but I blindly grab Cher's arm and say, "Wait a second."
    I roll down my window, "Can I help you?" I ask the man.
    He pulls in the hand that had just been extended toward me, tucks it into the folds of his grey blanket.
    Smiling, he nods his head.  "I knew it was you," he calls to me. Scratching his nose, he looks over his shoulder, and then back at me, "I am so glad you got away."
    He whispers--his voice like a breeze against my ear-- but I can still hear him.
    "Do you know him?" Cher asks. The car behind us honks.
    "Go," he urges.  "I won't tell them. I promise."
    The car behind us honks again, and Cher rolls forward.
    "Hols, what did he say?" she asks, her eyes oscillating between the road and me.
    "Not sure," I say, not sure of why I lie.  I did know him, I just can't remember from where.  That's not unusual; there's a lot of my life that I can't quite remember.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

To quote my grandmother: "Why are teenagers so stupid?" Part II

I am very trusting.

I frequently leave my classroom unlocked and unattended. Inside, I house five computers, an LCD projector, and a DVD player. My purse rests in the bottom drawer of my file cabinet, which is always open. (I have some aversion to shutting cabinets and closing drawers. That combined with my horrible memory makes me feel like I live in perpetual Poltergeist.) My iPhone rests on my desktop and my classroom keys sparkle on my podium.

Maybe, I'm just very careless.

Nevertheless, I have never had a problem with theft. Not a computer has been taken or even vandelized; not a dime has been stolen.  LCD projector: check. DVD player: check.  iPhone? Still jacking up my mourning routine (see post on structure).

But this year, three things have been stolen: a gargoyle reading a book, a white salad bowl, and a bungee cord.

It is very difficult to keep a classroom door open. It is either heavier than a Biggest Loser audition or the springs that draw it closed are wound up tighter than an aristocrat's asshole so the damn thing slams shut even if I have the campion of all doorstops against it. And believe me, when you spend six hours a day with 40 sweaty, hormonal teenagers per hour in one room (and I'm pretty sure that someone in my one of my morning classes poops his/her pants every morning) you wanna be able to prop the fucking door open.

So, I brought my gargoyle reading a book from home to keep the door open. Instead of sitting on my roof, scaring away demons, it is designed to be a bookend.  It's about a foot tall and made of heavy, grey rock. It was perfect for keeping the door propped open and it looked cool. Very gothic; very Vancesque.

Two weeks before someone stole it.  Fourteen years of teaching and the first major theft is of my doorstop.

I didn't have anything else heavy enough to prop the door open, so I yanked one of the 20 bungee cords I keep in my trunk (don't ask) and used it to hook my doorknob to the outside rails. It psyched the kids out for a day because they couldn't figure out how I was keeping the door open.

Two days before someone stole it. (Who am I fooling? I should just write two days before a teenager stole it.)

I have another bungee cord in it's place, but I watch it closer than my iPhone. I have lost count of how many times I have had to say, "Don't touch my bungee cord."

Why do teenagers want a gargoyle bookend and a bungee cord? They can't get drunk with them, high on them, or even text them.

And the white salad bowl? That got stolen from a colleague's room! I left it there during lunch and when I went back to retrieve it-- less than five minutes later-- it was gone.

A gargoyle reading a book, a white salad bowl, and a bungee cord.

The game is afoot. I will figure it out!

Until then, please comment about the strangest things you've had stolen.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I Have No Idea What I Am Doing

Maybe someday I'll be "matched" with my prince.

Maybe there'll be peace in the Middle East.

As many of us single women, I am on several dating websites. Unfortunately, especially in this digital age, I am much better in person than I am online, so it not much is happening on that front.

I don't check in on these dating sites. I am being abnormally passive and am waiting to get an email that someone has "noticed" me, "sent me an ice-breaker," or "nudged me."

But, the other day I received an email notifying me that I've been matched with Odysseus.

Odysseus.  Really?

NOT the Odysseus with whom I was matched.

Of course, I get matched with the guy who will leave me to fight in a war over some other guy's woman, and then piss off the gods so that he is lost at sea for 20 years fighting monsters and committing adultery.

Why couldn't I get matched with Jay Gatsby? That guy is rich, handsome, looks good in a pink suit, and doesn't care if I want to act like a self-centered twit with no backbone.

Or what about Heathcliff? Why don't I get matched with that guy?

Rochester? (Oh wait, I don't do well with crazy exes. I bring enough of the crazy on my own.)

Romeo? (I'll have to register as a sex-offender.)

Jeez, dating is a bitch.

Marc Antony? I have a cat named Cleopatra--is that enough to lure him?

Lancelot? I'm down with a Lancelot + King Arthur + me threesome (Goddess bless Marion Zimmer Bradley.)

Edward Cullen even. (Okay, he is perpetually in high school, but being a high school teacher, so am I! We could get into some interesting role-playing). On second thought, I just threw up in my mouth.

With my luck, I'll probably get matched with Hamlet next. He'll shower me with affection, and then send me a zillion mixed signals, leave my ass, and finally declare his undying love when it's too late--but hopefully somewhere between me frolicking in the meadows like a loon and drowning myself.

Oh wait, I've already dated Hamlet.  A few times.

Please, comment on which characters you'd love to be "matched" with.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"For pragmatic reasons, I love the routine. I love the structure of it. I love knowing that my days are free. I know where I'm going at night. I know my life is kind of orderly. I just like that better" --Andrea Martin

And it's the only way I get anything done--especially when it comes to my writing.

My routine:
1. Get out of bed, which requires maneuvering around two, twenty-pound cats and body pillow
2. Pee
3. Put on fuchsia slippers (thanks, Lisa!)
4. Feed cats
5. Start coffee
6. Make bed
7. Pour myself a cup of coffee
8. Turn on computer and wait for it to warm up (I need a new one, so if anyone would like to contribute to the Holly-needs-a-new-computer fund, I take cash and Amex.)
9. Check my bank balances to make sure I still don't have any money
10. Check the Amex balance
11. Add Bailey's to my coffee
12. Begin writing. My creativity flows, taking me out of time and space. I lose myself totally and my spirit soars. The world is a wonderful place

But then an invention came along that threw off my routine and created chaos in my life: the iPhone.

Damn that technology! Making us lazy, making us co-dependent, making us social retards!!! Ruining our ability to make eye-contact!

And fucking up my routine, which is a crime.

Now, I . . .

1. Wake up and grab iPhone
2. Check Facebook and email
3. Sit for 20 minutes pondering what else I can do on my phone before getting up
4. Get out of bed, but now I only have a body pillow to traverse because the cats have already started their day
5. Almost break my neck running to the bathroom because I have to pee so bad.
6. Put on fuchsia slippers (BTW, I'm blaming my purchase of the iPhone on Lisa)
7. Feed cats (if I want to survive, I don't dare forget this. I'm already pushing it by moving it down the list two steps. This is where I flirt with making my life a horror story because my cats will eat me alive.)
8. Start coffee
9. Go into a panic because I can't remember where I put my iPhone: I might have dropped in on my dresser, left it by the bathroom sink, left it on the coffee table
10. Forget to make bed (I can hear my mother gasp.)
11. Pour myself a cup of coffee--add Bailey's immediately
12. See that bed is unmade and set coffee down to make it
13. Find the iPhone in my sheets. Woooohoooo!
14. Turn on computer and wait for it to warm up, but I am at peace because I can play with my iPhone while waiting
15. Check my bank balances to make sure I can pay my phone bill
16. Check the Amex balance
17. Realize that I don't have my coffee and get up to wander around my apartment to find it.
18. Find coffee on either the dining table, the coffee table, or my dresser in my bedroom (I found it in the bathroom once. Don't ask)
19. Go back to the computer, but I am too taxed to write anything
20. Play with iPhone

I wonder if I can sue Apple for quashing my creative talent?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

To quote my grandmother: "Why are teenagers so stupid?"

It's Friday, 4th period, and I have thrown routine to the wind by assigning an in-class writing to my students before SSR (silent sustained reading).  As with all things in the teenage world, this minor change evoked chaos: students are throwing their books down on their desks, bartering each other for paper, asking me where the pencil sharpener is (which has been in the same place since September), and asking me what the in-class writing is on (even though the instructions are written on the board and we've been practicing this all week).

Me (glancing at the clock): I'd like to start this assignment before the Apocalypse.
Jennifer: OMG, you believe in 2012?
Sam: What if the Apocalypse doesn't happen?
Me: Oh, it's gonna happen in about a minute.
Tyron: Wait, why is everyone getting paper out?
Sam: We're writing something.
Candice (who sits in front of Sam): What's going on?
Tyron (looking to Justin who has just opened a notebook full of paper): Dude, do you have any paper for me to borrow?
Justin (holding up his own piece and tilting his notebook so Tyron can see his "stash"): No.
Jennifer: Ms. Vance, you think the Apocalypse is coming soon? Why?
Deedee (who sits behind Jennifer): Because she's going to bring it.
Jennifer: Ha! I love it when I'm dumb.

As a writer, how do I turn this real event into a work of horror?

It's easy. All I have to do is remind you that this is the generation that is going to be in charge of taking care of ours.

But, the point of this blog is to display my creative talent, so here's the element of fiction:

Ms. Vance raises her arms above her head, forming a sharp V.  Outside, dark clouds swarm over her classroom.  Thunder roars. Students freeze.
     A few pieces of paper drift to the floor.
     Ms. Vance's pupils dilate, pushing past the rims of her blue irises.
     Jennifer twists around in her seat, "Did I just hear a horse?"
     "Holy shit," Sam says. "No way."
     Ms.Vance's head slowly pivots toward Sam, hitching a bit as if on rusty hinges. The corners of her lips pull back, revealing clenched teeth.
     "I know what we're doing!" Candice cries.  "Substantive writing, right? Like we reviewed yesterday? Please, Ms. Vance."
     "I have paper, now," Tyron says, waving the white sheet in the air.  Ms.Vance turns her black eyes to him and the paper bursts into flames. Shrieking, Tyron drops the paper. "Crap. Justin, can I have another piece?"
     Deedee closes her eyes and sighs, "I tried to warn you guys."
     Ms. Vance's arms begin to lower, rigid and pulsing, until they extend straight out in front of her. Fingers fan out.  "It's too late," she says.
     The tips of her fingers split open, the skin peeling and curling back. A thin, black tentacle slithers out of each one--twisting, coiling. Students' jaws drop, as they pull back in their seats, clasping their hands beneath their chins.
     Each tentacle splits in half, strikes outward, lengthening. A few screams pop from students' mouths. And then each tentacle splits again: forty tentacles; forty students. 
     Bending at the elbows, Ms. Vance draws them her sides. Tentacles dance in the air, rising up and forming shiny black hooks.  Suddenly, they dive into laps, slither into pockets, split the fabric of backpacks.  Students scream and beat them with their fists,
     Laughing, Ms. Vance begins reeling in the tentacles--each one is curled around a student's cellphone.
     "No!" Jennifer screams, grabbing her phone as it whips by her face. She is yanked from her desk and lands on the floor. Wrapping her body around the phone, she is dragged with it across the floor, toward the podium. Toward Ms. Vance. Other students snap into action, scrambling to catch up with the retracting tentacles, trying to pry away their most prized possessions. They crash into each other, shove each other out of the way, claw and scratch. Heads bang into desks, feet entangle on computer cords and backpack straps. 
     The tentacle rips Jennifer's phone from her hands, taking a few of her fingers with it.  Jennifer jams the stubs into her mouth and bloods seeps out, down her chin. 
     The tentacle coils back, rising up. Ms. Vance follows it with her eyes, smiling.  And then, it strikes out and down toward the floor and with a crack shatters Jennifer's phone into pieces.
     There's no stopping it.
     The Apocalypse.