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CRUNCHED - Machine of Death story

Posted on May 19, 2012 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Okay, here's my Machine of Death story that didn't quite make the cut.  Hope you like it.


CRUNCHED

 

They met at a graduation party.  It was one of those parties everyone is invited to, and actually, nearly everyone shows up.  The reek of beer and cigarettes hung in the air.  Smoke swirled around people as they danced, or moved through the room.  Music boomed from a central stereo, the beat making the walls vibrate.


Katherine, Crystal, and Kelly hung around in one corner of the living room, huddled around the machine giggling.  Alley (don’t you dare ask her if it’s short for Alexis or Aaliyah) sat near them at the bottom of the stairs.  Alley wore a midnight blue velvet corset over a white camisole with black jeans and platform knee-high boots.  She turned her blue shadowed eyes and black lips to the giggling girls, planning to hit them with some scathing remark when her eyes found Katherine.


Katherine wore a gingham-checked top, like a tablecloth, but she had it tied under breasts, leaving the white camisole to hang free over her flat belly. Her black jeans hung loosely, low on her hips and covered her red Chuck Taylors.  She covered her mouth as shelaughed.


“Can you believe it?” Crystal asked in between giggles.


“All of our slips start with ‘C’,” Kelly laughed.


“I know,” Katherine said, her voice like a song.  “But really, would we have expected anything else?”


“I know!” the other two chimed in together.


Katherine glanced toward Alley and smiled at her.  “What about you?”


Alley stood and finished her beer.  “No.”


The girls watched her and laughed.  Alley felt their eyes on her back as she walked away.  It was the hardest thing she’d done all day.

 

***


Katherine stepped out the back door alone.  The smell of chlorine and night air shifted around her as she walked and she shoved her hands in her pockets.  The Goth-girl had really stuck in her mind.  Why hadn’t she gotten her slip?  She saw her over by the pool at a low table, another cup in her hand, looking like she wanted to bite someone.  Something in Katherine stirred and she had the sudden desire to be bitten.


Walking nonchalantly through the yard, she made her way toward the graduate.  She passed the outside bar and picked up a cup.  “Hey,” she said as she approached the table.  “Congratulations on surviving four years of hell.”


The girl actually smiled and bowed her head.  “Thanks, you too.”


“I’m Katherine.”


“I know.”  Then she took a long drink, got up and walked away.


What is she trying to pull? Katherine smiled at her back and followed.  If she was being coy, it was working.  “Hey,” she said when they were side by side, “you’re supposed to respond with your name.”


The girl swung her ponytails to the side and stopped.  “You had four years to learn my name.  Why do you want it now?”


Katherine shrugged.  Was it because she hadn’t wanted a slip?  Was it because this was the first time Katherine really saw her?  “Well, I’ve seen you around, but we never really had a chance.”  She took a risk and touched the girl’s hand.  The girl blushed beneath the white powder on her face.


“We have the chance now, though?”  She phrased it as aquestion, then without warning, she leaned in and kissed Katherine full on the mouth.  She tasted like beer and strawberries and smelled faintly of cinnamon. Katherine closed her eyes and let the experience wash over her.


“Katy?”


The moment ended and Katherine turned abruptly.  “Kevin.”


“What are you doing?”


She glanced at the woman she’d just kissed and shrugged.  “I was congratulating a fellow graduate. This is…” she trailed off and turned to the girl again.


The Goth stood there glaring at Kevin.  “When you’re done with mister Wonderful, then you come to me.” And she walked away.  Katherine felt a pull as she watched her back disappear into the crowd.

 

***


Alley wandered into the crowd, something stirring within her. She heard them talking before she got out of earshot.


“What you get?” Katy asked.


“Crash.”


“Another ‘c’.”  This time Katherine sounded less than enthused.


Alley smiled and left the party.

 

A week later, Alley sat in a small corner coffee shop, taking a break. She had worked there all through high school, and now she wondered if she should keep the job, or go to college. Her boss came bustling through the door excitedly.  The other patrons in the shop watched, but kept their curiosity to themselves for now.


“Al,” she called.  Alley hated it when anyone shortened her name, but she put up with from her boss. “Come help me with this.”


She huffed as she tried to manhandle a medium sized box.  Alley rushed to meet her and took an end. “What is it?  A new cappuccino machine?”


Her boss shook her head and they set the box on a far table. “Better,” she said with a laugh. “These things are all the rage right now.”


Alley felt her stomach twist as they opened the box.  They lifted the toaster sized box out.  It was heavier than it looked and they set it on the table.  The black box hunkered there with threebuttons, a slit, and a small hole.  Each light had a small LED on top of it. 


“Oh, a Death Machine!”  One of the patrons stood and came over to them.


“Have you tried one yet?” her boss asked Alley.


“Not at all.”


“Yes, twice,” the patron responded, watching them excitedly. “When will it be up and running?”


Alley sighed and shook her head.  Tossing her hands, she left her boss to chat up the machine and went back to her coffee.


“Hey!”


Alley looked up toward the door.  Katherine had been walking by and now entered the shop.  “I’ve been looking for you.”  She came to Alley’s table and slid into a chair.  “Do you know how hard it is to find someone without a name?”


“How’s Kevin?”  She wanted to know where this visit was going before she let herself get into it.  The feelings she felt at the party had only slept. Seeing Katherine again brought them all back.


Katherine shrugged.  “I don’t know.”


“Wow.”


“Yeah, I got tired ofall the alliteration.”


They laughed together and the sounds mingled in a musical way, pulling Alley toward her.  “He wasn’t good for you, anyway.”


“Yeah, well, after the party, we all sort of went our own ways.” She stood and went to the counter, looking for a server.


Alley hopped up and went to her post.  “Can I help you?”


Katherine laughed.  “Seriously?”


“Yeah, can I help you?”


“Oh,” Katherine looked up at the menu.  “I’ll have a cucumber sandwich and small mocha double shot with a shot of vanilla.”


Alley nodded and rang it in.  “Eight bucks.”


She took the money, then pulled on the gloves.  The sandwiches were in the cooler, already made, and she handed one to Katherine.  Then she made her coffee.  “You going to college?” she asked while she pressed the cappuccino.


“I start at State this fall.  I’m studying art.”


Alley stirred the confection and handed it to her.  “I’m still debating.”  They went and sat downat Alley’s table.  “I’m thinking about either going and studying biology, or taking a backpack trip across thecountry.”


“Seriously?”


She nodded.  But Alley hadn’t wanted to backpack alone.  Katherine made college sound likethe better option.  “State, huh?”


“Yeah.  I want to sculpt, but I suppose I’ll have to teach to make a career out of art.”


Alley knew Katherine had done art in high school, but she hadn’t realized how into art she’d been.


“Biology, huh?  I would never peg you as a scientist.”


Alley smiled.  “Thank you. But really, it’s just a precursor to Mortuary Science.  All that dissection is right up my…” she stopped and smiled.  “I’m Alley, by the way.”  And she spelled it for her then gave her a phone number.


“So, you got a machine here?”


Alley turned to look at it and shuddered.  “Yeah, today.”


“Have you done it yet?”


“Absolutely not.”


“Why not?  You’d think that would be your thing, death and all that.”


Alley laughed and finished her coffee.  “That machine did to death what Hot Topic did to Goth.  I like the philosophy of death, not the certainty of it.  I know I’m gonna die, I just don’t want to know how.  Where’s the fun in speculating your death when you have it printed on a little card.”


Katherine was silent for a moment and sipped her coffee.  “I get crunched, but I don’t know how or by what. I can speculate on that,” she finally said.

 

***


Alley sat in the library, studying for her final.  Kat walked by and gently ran her fingers over Alley’s braids.  Then she turned and sat beside her.  “Hey, guess what?” she whispered.


“What?”  Alley looked up from her book to see what Kat wanted.  She had her hair pulled back into ponytails and smelled of patchouli. She wore the White Zombie t-shirt Alley had given her for her birthday.  All she wanted to do then was snuggle up to her and kiss her, but she waited for her to speak.


“You remember the death machines from a few years ago?”


Alley nodded, waiting.


“They’re making acomeback.”  She pulled a paper out of her messenger bag and smoothed it out on the table over Alley’s book.  “Look. They’re modifying them to be anthropomorphic because people couldn’t relate to the boxes.  They speculate that it was the box that eventually turned people off.  Can you imagine?  An android-like machine telling you how you’re going to die?”


“No.”  Alley had never given in to Kat’s cajoling and had never gotten a reading.  She really did like the mystery about death and the stories that death told.  She didn’t want that taken away by a slip of paper that said something stupid and mundane like CANCER or LIVER FAILURE or OLD AGE.  “If it can’t tell me VAMPIRE or WEREWOLF, I don’t want to know.”


She had done her face in pale white with purple eye shadow and deep red lips.  She could see Kat looking at her mouth, but they were in the library and Kat never was that adventurous.  “It only tells you the real way you’ll die, not your fantasy.”


“Then I want to die in your arms, and if it won’t tell me that, then I don’t want to know.”


Kat laughed quietly.  “Silly.  I get crunched.  How would you die in my arms?”


“Maybe I crunch you.”  Alley pushed the paper away and turned a page in her book.  “But that comes later.  Right now, I have tostudy.”  She leaned over and kissed Kat on the cheek.


“All right.”  Kat blushed and gathered her paper, stuffing it back in her bag, then hurried out.

 

***


Kat’s finals were stressful but much more subjective than Alley’s.  She had to put on an art show with her bestwork from the year.  She was to be graded on presentation as well as promotion. The business of art was just as important as the creation of it if they were to be professional.  Kat had taken advantage of the art fair downtown to put her final together.


She gathered her last pieces and placed them in a cart.  Mostof her work was already in her booth and she pushed the cart off campus andtoward the bus to get her final offering to the fair.  The car stopped before she got to the corner and Alley rolled down the window.  “Hey, gorgeous, need a ride?”


With a laugh, she stopped and put a hand on her hip.  “My momma told me to never talk to strangers.”


“Well, I guess there’s no one stranger than me.  Come on.”  She popped the trunk.


Kat pushed the cart to the back of the car and carefully transferred her sculptures to the trunk.  “How did your final go?” she asked when she got in the car.


Alley shrugged.  “I think I did all right.  At least we got to do it on an actual cadaver this time.”


Kat knew Alley had done her mid-terms in a test book, labeling pictures.  She also knew that Alley had hated it.  “Well, I’m sure you aced it.  You studied hard.”


They drove downtown to the fair and Alley stopped by Kat’s booth. “How about you, are you ready for this?”


Kat nodded, nervous.  “I think so.  I’ve distributed flyers and handed one in.  Here I have every project that ever earned an A and all of it is for sale.  I have a ledger and a cash box, ready for any sales that happen during this exercise.”


“I’d give you an A,” Alley said, smiling at her.


“Well, you’re not my teacher, but thank you.”  She leaned over and kissed her before getting out.


They both removed her art from the trunk, setting it on the tables Kat had set up in her booth.  “Oh look!” Kat exclaimed.  “The booth over there has one of the new machines!”


“Yay,” Alley said, no enthusiasm at all in her voice.


“Remember the old Fortuneteller machines?  It looks likethat.”  She set the piece she still held down and jogged out of the tent.


The booth wasn’t that far down and Kat stopped in front of it. “Hey,” she said to the boy standing near it.  “Is that thing up and running?”


The boy didn’t smile, didn’t say a word.  He just nodded.


“Can I try it?”


Another nod.


“Sweet.  How does it work?  I haven’t tried this type yet.”


Now the boy spoke, moving to stand beside her.  “You sit on the stool there and hold the machine’s hand. Put your card in there to pay for it. A small needle pricks your palm for the sample.  Then, when the machine has your results, it gives you a slip of paper and then comforts you.”


Kat sat down on the stool.  “What if I don’t need comfort?”


“You can cancel any speech from the machine with this button.” He pointed to a small red button on the side of the panel.


“All right.”  She took her wallet from her pocket and slid her card into the machine.  Then, holding the machine’s hand, she waited for the pinprick of pain.  It came fast, but she still jumped, then laughed.  As the machine relaxed its grip, she withdrew her hand, cradling it in her other arm.  A small slip of paper slid from a paper feed on the front of the panel.


Tentatively, she took it.  It should say CRUNCHED if the machine was consistent, but what if it said otherwise?  Turning the paper over in her hands, Kat sighed in relief.  “It says the same thing as before.”


“I’m sorry, dear,” the machine began.  “You are important enough to go on living no matter what the paper says.” Kat pushed the red button, silencing the machine.


“Thanks,” she said, standing.  “At least it’sconsistent.”  She smiled and waved, turning back to her booth and jogging back to Alley.


Alley did not look happy.  She tapped her foot on the hot ground and glared at Kat.  “Was that really necessary?”


“It says the same thing it did last time I tried it, the same thing it did eight years ago.”  She slapped the slip of paper down as though that would make it all better.


“Of course it does,” Alley replied.  “How else can they call it the Death Machine?  It has to be consistent and accurate.”


“Ah, but is it accurate?”  Kat slipped the paper into her pocket and returned to arranging her art.

 

***


The first death predicted by the new machine happened on the advent of a new technology.  Most of the news devoted its stories to the droids that were set to hit the market in the next few months.  They were sleek, human-like machines that, when programmed properly, could mimic human movement, speech, and even some mannerisms.  Kat sat heavily at the kitchen table, the paper spread before her, and sighed.


Alley gazed up from the counter where she deftly dissected a peach. “Is everything all right?”


Kat took a moment to answer, but she waved her hand over the paper. “Of all the hype,” she started, then paused.  “Of all the hype,” she said again, calmer, “you’d think the machine people would want to taut this a bit more.  I mean, look at this.”


The peach devoid of its pit, Alley took it to the table.  “What?”


“Right there, that little story in the corner.”


“FIRST DEATH PREDICTED BY NEW MACHINES IS A DOG,” read the headline. “’We didn’t want a dog that would die of liver failure or heart disease,’ said Tommy, 8, of his now deceased puppy Mort.  The parents knew all too well the pain caused by getting attached to a pet only to watch it suffer in disease.  So when the new Gypsy Death Machine printedout a slip that read CRASH, the family was quick to adopt the spunky pup.”  Alley skimmed down to the end of the short article.  “Mort was killed over the weekend when the gate was left open and he ran into the street.  Indeed, he was hit by a motorcycle, fulfilling the prognosis still printed on the little tag the family had framed for his memorial.”  Alley took a bite of the peach.  “So?”


Kat waved her hands over the article.  “This is big news!  The new machines are every bit asaccurate as the old toasters were.  The Gypsy Death Machine is in every mall, almost every restaurant and every single hospital.  This story should revitalize them.  It should draw people to them like never before.  Now we know we can trust them.”


Alley made a noise as she choked on the peach.  “Trust them?  Kat, they’re machines.”  She forced herself to swallow the bite she’d nearly spit out.


“Please go,” Kat pleaded.  It wasn’t a command to leave, but a request to go to the machine.  “I have to know.  For me, please, do it for me.  You’re killing me with this lack of information.”


She just shook her head and pushed the peach away.  “First, I’m not killing you.  You get crunched, remember?  And my reasons for not going are still the same.  Look at me, do I look like I want to know how I die?”


The silence stretched between them.  Alley knew she looked every bit the part, but it was fun to see her lover squirm.  Today she had her black hair tied up on top of her head and spiked out.  She woreblack dangle crosses from her ears and a thick ring in her nose.  The deep read of her lips and the dark blue of her eye shadow stood out on her pale face. She wore a simple black t-shirt, but the baby-doll cut hugged her breasts and her waist.  The deep blue jeans kissed her skin as they held her legs. In a word, she looked deadly as opposed to ready for work.  “Look, I have to get the mortuary.  Don’t let it bother you so much.  When it’s my time, I’ll welcome it, but not amoment before.”  She leaned over and took Kat’s face in her hands.  “I love you.”  And she kissed her so deeply, Kat’s eyes were still closed when she pulled away.

 


That night at the mortuary, Alley couldn’t get the dead dog out of her mind.  Even as she leaned over the stiff of the evening, she kept wondering how sick it seemed to get a dog based on his death prediction.  How would Kat have felt if she had decided not go to college with, not to move in with, and certainly not to support Kat simply because her slip said CRUNCHED?  Better yet, what if she had forbidden Kat to go into sculpting?  Maybe one of her precious statues will fall on her.  Maybe that’s what her slip means.  Should Alley go home that instant and demand that Kat give up the one profession that drawson her passion?


She stood up and looked down at the corpse.  Other than the Y incision, it hadn’t changed.  “Stop it,Alley,” she said aloud.  The scalpel down on the table, she pulled off her gloves and rubbed her eyes.  “Hey, Green,” she yelled to the office.  “I need a break.  Can you open this guy up for me?  I’ll be back in a few.”


A short balding man scurried out of the office.  His eyes never left Alley’s body as he hurried to the table.  “Something wrong?” he said in a voice far too sexy to come from his body.


“It’s Kat,” was all she offered.  It was bad enough her colleague had the hots for her, she didn’t need to have images of what he might be imagining when he thought of her and her girlfriend.  “I’ll be back in a few.”


Outside, she lit up a cigarette and pulled out her phone. “Kat?” she said when the connection opened.


“Alley?”  She sounded worried, damn it.  Alley wanted to comfort her, not bother her.  But it seemed the only way she could comfort her was by getting a stupid slip of paper that read CANCER or BURIED ALIVE.  Actually, BURIED ALIVE sounded like it might be interesting.


She shook her head to clear it.  “Hey, Kat, yeah, it’s me.  How are you?”


“I’m fine.  I’m sculpting the dog and it’s making me feel better.”


She was sculpting thedog.  “That sounds about right.”  Alley couldn’t believe she was sculpting the dog.  “Hey, instead of that, why don’t we go out?  I don’t work tomorrow and I know this guy who got one of those droids.  He said he wanted to see if it could dance like a human, so he has it in his club.”


“Is that Rodney?”


“Yeah,” she laughed and pulled on her cigarette.  “Remember when he dropped out to become a bartender and we thought that was the coolest thing?”


Kat sighed a laugh and Alley could picture her shaking her head. “That guy was a riot.”


“Yeah.  He saw me at the hospital a week or so ago and we struck up a conversation.”  She dropped the cigarette and stomped it out. “I hadn’t mentioned it before because you seemed like you needed the solitude for your current project.”


“Oh, the Crusher, yeah.”  She paused.  “I finished that yesterday.  Now I’m working on the dog.”


“Um, yeah,” Alley wasn’t sure if Kat had heard her.  “But how about a night out tomorrow?”


“Sure,” she did sound better.


“All right.  Wear something killer and I’ll see you later.”  She kissed the phone.  “Love you.”


“Love ya,” she said, almost chipper.  Alley frowned as she closed the connection and tucked her phone away.


“Hey Green,” she said jogging back to her station.  “Thanks.”


“No problem.  Hope everything’s all right.”  He waited, hopeful of more detail, but Alley just smiled and settled beside the body.


***


Kat stood in front of the mirror.  She had never done the Goth look well, but she knew what Alley liked. Heels would do her no good for a night of dancing, so she wore leather boots that buckled up her calves over skin tight, black jeans.  The white camisole hugged her and she took the gingham-checked top she wore so long ago and tied it beneath her breasts.  She tied her black hair back in two ponytailsand tousled her bangs.  She was putting on her make-up when the door opened down stairs.


“Kat?”


“Up here,” she answered and turned back to the mirror.  The knockout that stared back at her smiled in anticipation of the night.  “Alley, ready or not, here I come.”  She smiled and jogged out of the bathroom and down the stairs.


The look on Alley’s face must have been as astonished as her own when Alley surprised her with an outstanding look, and Kat smiled, satisfied at the reaction.  “Hey, you look great,” Alley said.  “Let me get ready and we’ll head out.”


After waiting a half hour, and not eating anything, Kat wandered into the kitchen.  She figured they’d eat out on the way to the club, but her stomach rumbled in protest to waiting longer.  The crackers sat on the counter and Kat took a few out.  As she bit the first one, Alley came down the stairs.


She looked amazing in her mini skit and striped thigh-highs. Her boots laced up the back and crept up over her knees.  She wore her midnight blue, velvet corset over a white camisole and had pulled her hair up on top of her head, much like she had done the night before.  Her blue shadowed eyes crimped up as her ruby red lips smiled.  “Shall we head out?”  She sauntered up to Kat and held out her elbow.  “Come with me, darling, and I will show you the world.”


Kat giggled and took her arm.  “So does he really have one?” she whispered in excitement.  She knew Alley would know what she meant.


“Last I heard, and he knows we’re coming tonight.”  She led her to her motorcycle and both of them climbed on.


The ride through town exhilarated Kat and she closed her eyes in the wind.  The scents of rain and patchouli mixed to fill her head with images of dancing and drinking and people.  She smiled in anticipation.  At a stop light, she adjusted the helmet Alley made her wear and scratched her chin.


“If you get crunched, it won’t be because I let you ride without proper equipment.”  Kat could still hear her lover’s voice in her head every time she put the wretched thing on.


They parked a block from the club and Kat tucked the helmet into the side pack.  “Look at the line,” she whispered as they walked toward the door.


“Don’t worry about theline.”  Alley took her hand and pulled her along.


“Girls!” the voice greeted and a handsome man peeked around the line, smiling at them.


“Rod!”  Alley picked up her pace and Kat jogged to keep up.


“Alley Kat!”  He held out his arms as if to embrace them.  “Meow!”


“Hiss,” Kat clawed her fingers and made to scratch, but they all laughed.


“Hey, come inside, dance, drink and be merry.  I have something to show you,” he winked at Alley even as he put his hand on the small of Kat’s back and pushed her gently inside. The disgruntled moans and protests quieted as the door closed behind them.


“Hey, Rod,” Alley shouted over the music, “I need to use the little girl’s room.”  She squeezed Kat’s hand before letting go.  “Be right back, love.”


Kat smiled as she wandered away through the crowd.  “Come with me!” Rod called over the music and took Kat’s hand.  He led her through the club to a booth at the back.  DJ’s lined up music as the current selection boomed through the club.  “Good job, boys, keep the people hopping!”  They walked through the booth to a staircase at the back.


“Will Alley know to find us up here?”


“Doesn’t matter, I just want to show you something, then we’ll meet her at the bar.”


They ascended the stairs, the bass beat shaking her body and mixing with the heady feelings caused by the lingering scent of patchouli and Kat shook her head to clear it.  A single door greeted them at the top of the stairs and he pushed it open.  “Come in,come see.”  He pulled her in through the door and led her to a window overlooking the club.  “Look.”


Kat let go of his hand and stood at the window.  The mass of people writhed and bounced on the dance floor below.  Lights played over the walls and equipment as well as heads and upturned faces.  She wasn’t sure what she was supposed to be looking at.  “What is it?”


“You can’t see it, can you?”  But instead of disappointed, he sounded amused.  “My droid is already working the floor.  He completely blends in.  And get this, I thought you’d appreciate this, I had him built to work like a Death Machine.  No longer a toaster, and now no more Gypsies, we will have the Death Machine that you can truly relate to.  Not only will these droids revolutionize our world as a whole, they will revitalize the Death Machines too.”


Kat felt her heart beat faster.  A new machine?  She wanted to see it, to try it.  “Where?”


Rodney looked over her shoulder.  “He’s down there on the floor.  The black shirt with the hot pink tie.  He takes your hand, like the Gypsies, but the slip comes out his belly button.  That was my idea.  You know, feel it in your gut news.”


It was a bad joke, but that didn’t detract from Kat’s excitement. “Oh,” she thought of Alley and almost felt disappointed.  “Alley won’t like it.”


“No?”


“Not at all.”  She scanned the crowd for her lover.  “She does not want to know.”


“Oh.”  Now he sounded disappointed.  “Well, she doesn’t have to do the prediction.”

 

***


Alley poked at her eye in the mirror and reapplied her lipstick. The music of the club beat through the walls and spoke to the rhythm in her body.  She moved with it as she made her way out of the restroom.  People hung in corners talking close, trying to be heard over the music, but not heard by anyone else.  Others danced around in winding paths as they moved from one place to another.  Alley flowed with them, working her way to the bar.


Kat was nowhere to be seen, but neither was Rodney.  They were probably talking somewhere and would find her when they were ready.  She wasn’t in the mood for a drink yet, so she wound her way through the crowd to the dance floor.  The music pulled at her and she closed her eyes, dancing, swaying, bouncing.  She felt bodies move around her, with her, touching and shoving.  It felt good to be surrounded.  She hadn’t been dancing in so long.


Then the music changed and she slowed her dance, but her eyes remained closed.  A body moved in behind her and pressed close, matching her movement, swaying with her rhythm. Hands moved along her arms, and led her in a dance that she had never tried before.  The hands gripped her, strong, but gentle, and then they found her hands.  They held hands for a moment and she opened her eyes.


A tall man wearing black with a bright pink tie stood before her. He smiled down at her and then she felt a prick in the center of her palm.

“OW!” she yelled and reached up to slap him, but as she drew her hand back, she saw the needle in his palm.  It wasn’t a needle he held.  It came up out of his skin and retracted as he drew his hand away.  “You fucker!” she yelled again.  “You’re a Gypsy!  Get the hell away from me!”


“Do you not want yourslip?”


“What?  You took my prediction?  You fate raped me!!”  The anger flooded out all feelings of fun and frivolity.  She felt it rise from the soles of her feet, heating its way through her legs and torso.  It hit her heart and the resounding beat drowned out all opposing rhythms.  Her hands clenched and unclenched, waiting for her brain to make a decision.  By the time the heat reached her head, she could have exploded.  Her hands clenched and came up by her sides as she glared at the machine.  “I never wanted to know, and now you’ve taken that away from me!”


She didn’t realize she was on the floor, pounding on the machine, until hands tried to pull her away.  “Get away from me!  This thing took my future away and now I plan to return the favor!”  She shouted, but the music had stopped.  It didn’t matter, she couldn’t stop pounding and tearing. The machine’s skin was softer than rubber and her fingers tore it easily.  She ripped into the neck and head, looking for anything that might kill the machine.


Muttering, incoherent, she tore and pulled and gripped and shook, and then she felt the jolt.  One strong strike hit through her entire body and she shuddered before collapsing.  The people in the club surrounded her, their faces blurring and melting into one another, and then everything went black.

 

***


Kat saw her lover go down and immediately ran from the room.  Rod stayed behind a moment longer, but she only heard him exclaim in worry.  Hurried steps behind her let her know he followed.  The DJs in the booth stood motionless, watching the commotion on the floor, and Kat pushed by them.


“Alley!” she called out over the noise of the crowd.  “Alley!”


The people parted as she pushed through and she saw her lover on the floor, lying motionless on the droid.  The droid lay in pieces.  She dropped to her knees and took Alley’s hand in hers.  “Alley!”  She squeezed the hand looking for a response.  “Call an ambulance!” she shouted at the crowd when she got none.  “Alley, it’s me, Kat, please.”  Though what she pleaded for she wasn’t certain.


Rod knelt opposite her, running his hands over what was left of his droid.  “What did she do to it?”

A moment of stunned silence passed between them as Kat looked angrily at him.  “What does it look like she did to it, you moron, she killed it!  Destroyed it!  It must have done it’s little prediction on her.”  The last she said quietly and ran her hand over Alley’s hair.  She took her wrist, trying to find a pulse the way Alley had taught her, but she couldn’t find one.  Sirens sounded outside, but she could only sit and rock and hold Alley’s hand and cry.  “Come back to me,” she whispered.  “This isn’t how you’re supposed to go.  You’re supposed to go with me.  Come back to me.”


The paramedics came in and knelt beside the mess.  Strong hands took Kat by the shoulders and gently but firmly moved her out of the way.  “Let us do our job, ma’am.”


But even as they lifted Alley onto the stretcher, she knew she was gone.  Rob stood and made his way around the people to sit beside her.  He held a slip of paper in his hand and it shook as he lifted up to her.  “I’m sorry,” was all he could say.


The slip dropped from his fingers and drifted down into her hand. It was blank, but Kat turned it over. One word stared emotionlessly up at her for a moment before she dropped it.  It said MOD.

 


Baby NaNoWriMo!

Posted on November 18, 2011 at 5:50 PM Comments comments (0)

NaNoWriMo update: both my kids are doing it this year with me!  I find it absolutely incredible that my son, 5 years old and in Kindergarten, is doing it.  My daughter signed up on the actual NaNo site, so her goal is 50k.  Unfortunately, she's letting life and a love of reading get in her way of writing and so she's stuck at just under 5k.  My son didn't want to do it until I told him it was a contest and he could win.  He loves to win and when he asked what the prize was, I told him it was nice certificate that said Winner!  Needless to say, he got very excited and we signed him on the Young Writer's site.  His writing goal is 200 words this month, and despite starting late, he is just over half way with 117 words.  He's written two short stories based on Mario of Super Mario Bros fame.  Read them, corrected by me, the originals are hand written and in lovely Kindergarten script, spelling and gramar in its original form.

******

My Mario Book

By Dylan

 

Mario flew away. Mario is now up to fly to garden.“Weeeeeee!” Mario is now in garden ready to go to the Lava galaxy. “Yippy!” Mariois at the Lava Galaxy. “Oh no.” Mario decided to go back. Mario won the game.The end. “zzzzzzzzzz”

 

My Mario Book 2

By Dylan

 

Mario went in the engine room. Mario is ready togo. Mario is flying to the Spiky galaxy. “Weeeeee!” Off he goes. “Yippy!” Kick,kick, kick.  Mario falls… kick, kick,kick. “Wooooooooo!” And dies.  “Woao.”Mario is dead. That’s ok, Mario was just knocked out. “Zzzzzzzzzz,” Mario fellasleep. “Zzzzzzzzz” Mario goes back to the Spiky galaxy. “Weeeeeee!” The end. “Woohoooooooo!”

 

*******


His next book, My Mario Book 3, will be written soon and added to the word count.  My book is still coming hard, but at least I'm currently on track.  I still need to put in my words for today and we're contemplating dinner.  But as I have a 24 hour write-in tomorrow, I am confident I will not only catch up, but get ahead.  Watch the next blog as I will post my Machine of Death story.

NaNoWriMo 2011

Posted on November 11, 2011 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Welcome to week 2 of NaNo.  I have been able to keep up so far with my NaNo novel, but not so well with the blog.  Sorry.  This year, I'm filling the plot holes in last years story.  If you remember, last years novel went epic, so I don't think I'll have nay issue with putting in another 50,000 this year.  Also, if the first plot hole (not the largest by far) took 10,000 words to fill, I may even be able to get almost 100,000 words out of it.  That wouldn't be all this year in NaNo, but would carry over into next year's NaNo too.  Not really wanting it too, but keeping an eye on time, words and how smooth the story is told when all is said and done.  In the meantime, here is the preview of what I've done so far.


Somewhere I Belong


Chapter 5


Naria watched the cat run off as the coach slowed. “What’s going on?” she asked Krydon.The Gyd shrugged his shoulders and poked his nose out the window. “What is it?”


“This is where I need to run home. The next village is only through those woods. The Gyds there will have a route to Central for you. Safe journey!” Gwidon bowed low and ran off.


Naria and Krydon watched her go and then looked at each other. “What about the coach?” she asked as she slipped her bag on her shoulder.


“We’ll send someone back for it from the village.” Krydon started into the woods, then looked back her. “Focus your goggles to maximum light. These trees are dark.”


She laughed quietly. Of course the trees were dark, the canopy was so dense no moonlight showed through. Even with her goggles open to focus all light in the area, she had a hard time seeing. Krydon must have sensed her discomfort as he hung back by her side, but she could sense that he wanted to scout ahead. Neither of them had been this far before and so had no idea what awaited them.


The chatter from small animals filtered through to them as they walked. By the activity, she could tell it was close to midday when the dark creatures scurried about their business, finding food and repairing shelter, training their young and sending off their offspring. It was comforting. The cat that had followed them slunk through the underbrush in pursuit of its prey.


“How is it that your race grew to intelligence but the felines did not?”


“What?” Krydon wrinkled his snout up at her.


“You know, the cats.”


“I know cats are a nuisance when they live too close to Gyds.”


“Seriously,” Naria said, gesturing toward the white blur that streaked past them again. “I heard stories from times ancient about the world our race came from and all the wonders it held. We had cats then too, it seems. They didn’t speak back then either.”


“Then perhaps it was because the creator knew they had nothing to say.”


She laughed. “Speciesist? Krydon, I would have thought better of you.”


“I’m not. Really, the dumb creatures are here for our protection and our provision. They really aren’t for our consideration in any other way.”


They walked on in silence, listening to the sounds of the forest. She wondered when they would come to the village Gwidon had mentioned. For that matter, why hadn’t she run them all the way to it? She had to admit that the forest was far to dens for a coach to pass through. “So are there any other races on this world?”


“Naria, really, you’ve never been so curious before. Why now?”


“Call it time on our hands. Fine. Why was I born without Sight?”


Now he stopped and shook his head. “You know I can’t answer that.”


She touched his shoulder and laughed. “I know. I’m just messing around.” A sudden tremor shook through her body and she fell to her knees. Usually she only felt that kind of impression when she touched someone who needed Healing. This felt like the earth itself needed healing. As quickly as it came, the feeling past. Krydon touched her with his nose.


“Are you all right?”


She nodded, unwilling to trust her voice yet. Even when she touched someone, she could control her reaction. This was like the times as a child, before she knew what was going on with her, before she truly understood she was Sightless. It hadn’t been until she brought Krydon safely into this world that her parents finally understood. Before that, the best doctors, both Seer and Gyd, hadn’t been able to figure out what was wrong. It was after Krydon’s birth that the Gyds brought her her first pair of goggles. It had only taken three tries to get them right.


When she felt she could stand safely, Naria pushed to her knees. “It was like a hiccup.” Squinting through the goggles, she tried to see anything that could have been the source of the hiccup. Eventually she saw the cat, munching on a rodent. She had never reacted to the creatures of the wild, especially not to them catching and eating their prey. She dismissed the cat and stood. “I haven’t felt anything like that since I was very small.”


Krydon shook his head and leaned on her to support her as they began to walk again. “Don’t scare me like that. You feel anything like it again, tell me.”


“Yes, papa.” She laughed, but she also rested against him, accepting his help.


The forest slowly thinned as they walked, and low buildings began to appear in between the spaces. “Where are we?” she whispered.


“Another village,” he answered just as quiet, but less anxious.


The absence of light told them it was a Seer village rather than a Gyd village, and as they neared, they caught hints of low chatter as the residents moved about doing their daily chores. The village itself was small compared to Naria’s. Most of these people were probably hunters, living in the forest. The first building they came to was an outbuilding, storage. A Seer approached them, hands raised in greeting.


“Welcome to Eastside,” he said. “Come.” Gesturing to them, he then turned and walked back toward the cluster of buildings he’d come from.


“Eastside?” Naria asked.


The Seer only nodded.


They hadn’t seen more that a few villages while Naria was growing up, but none of them had a town greeter. Krydon gruffed. “Is someone injured?”


“Injured?” The Seer turned, smiled and then laughed. “Not at all. I am Loor. I keep the borders free of the creatures in the forest. When I saw you, I knew you weren’t any animal, so I came to welcome you. I only assume you want the guest house, and yes, we do have one, even though we are small. So, unless I assumed wrong, please come with me.” He smiled again and turned back to the village.


“Are you the town greeter?” Naria asked. She had heard that some villages had such a person. They were assigned to watch for visitors and take them around town. Some of the larger villages and towns had more than one and she was curious to know.


Loor shook his head but did not turn. “I am one of the perimeter guard. Our village is small and the threat from the Beast in the Woods is constant. We hunt the plains for the Grazers, but we have no army to defeat the Beast.”


Naria had heard stories of the Beast when she was small, but she never really believed it. It was said that in the beginning, when Man first arrived on this world, they brought with them a creature so wild, it screeched in anger and disappeared in the forest, never to be seen again. It was described sometimes as a giant cat with long fierce teeth and loud scream. Other times it was described like a wild man, tall and hairy with big hands and feet and deep howl that would send shivers down your back. The only constant descriptions were the hair, its large size and its frightening sound. The stories were told to scare children into behaving. But along with the stories of the River Elves, most children stopped believing them shortly after they could start telling them themselves. She suppressed a laugh. “Have you ever seen the Beast?”


A Gyd trotted up to them then and bowed in greeting. “Loor, who is this you have brought into the village?”


“Travelers, Chreasa, they want the guest house.” To Naria he said, “I have seen it once, and believe me, once is enough for any one.” His words chilled her and she shivered. “If you would take them, Chreasa, I will go back to the forest border.”


The Gyd bowed again and fell into step with them. Loor bowed as he backed away, then turned and walked briskly back the way they had come. “I am Chreasa,” the Gyd said as they walked. “Welcome to Eastside.” She was slightly shorter than Krydon, but much older and gray colored patches of fur blended with the black that had been her color when she was younger.


“Thank you,” Naria said. “I’m Naria and this is Krydon.”


Chreasa stopped then and eyed her with curiosity. “The Naria? The Seer without Sight who can see into your body and cure you?”


Naria blushed. She hadn’t heard that one before. “I think so.”


The Gyd paused, studying her a moment longer before leading them on. “Your reputation is not unknown even beyond this village. Did you know that?”


“Yes.” She was rare in that her healing talents were inborn, but she had excelled in school and as she got better at handling her gifts, people carried her stories out of her village. “Once a Seer from a far village, near the mountain range, came to our village to trade Merchant goods. He fell ill with fever and asked for me by name. When I asked him how he knew me, he pointed at Krydon. ‘When you brought that pup into this world, you put yourself on the world map.’ I didn’t know what he meant at the time, but my parents tried to prepare me for my journey and told me there would be people who knew of me.”


Chreasa gruffed a laugh. “I thought you were just a myth.” They stopped by a low hut. The thatch of the roof nearly touched the ground with the slope. “Here is the guest house.” She pushed the door open and led them into a small room.


A Seer sat knitting behind a desk. “Chreasa,” she said as they entered, “who is this you’ve brought in to me?”


“Aelmy, these are travelers. This is Krydon and Naria.” She pointed her snout at them as she introduced them. “They need a room for the night.”


“Oh, I don’t know if we’ll need it for the night. It’s still early. We are trying to get to Central to find transport across the mountains.” Naria leaned on her hands against the desk as she spoke. “Thank you Chreasa,” she said as the Gyd backed out of the room.


The Seer put her project aside and stood. Smiling, she took a book from beneath the desk and opened it. “Central is still several days away from here. The Gyd village, Bearkin, sits between.”


“Bearkin?” Krydon stood up and put his paws on the desk.


“Yes, you know it?”


Krydon smiled and dropped from the desk. “It wouldn’t hurt to rest here,” he said to Naria. “We could go on to Bearkin tomorrow.”


Naria stretched and nodded. She could feel the road weariness now that she stood still. “Did we really ride for over half a day?” Her stomach rumbled as though confirming her inquiry.


“Follow me,” Aelmy stepped from behind the desk and stood at the interior door. “I have a cook in the kitchen as we stand here preparing the evening meal. You are welcome to eat with us.” She led them down a short hall and passed three doors. At the fourth, she pressed a key into a simple lock and let them in. “You can stay here as long as you need to. The wash room is just back there.” She pointed to the first door they passed. “The dining room is just there.” The wall on the other side of the hall opened in a wooden arch and through it they saw three wooden tables set with six chairs at each. “Would like a meal call?”


Naria nodded. “That would be fine, thank you.”


Aelmy nodded and handed Naria the key. Then she turned and walked back to the front room and sat again behind the desk.

****


Hope you enjoyed that, and I'll check back in a little later in the month.

 

It's Getting to be That Time Again

Posted on October 25, 2011 at 9:05 PM Comments comments (0)

First of all, I can't believe it's been since August that I last wrote.  Wow.  But then it doesn't look like I have much traffic, so maybe you don't notice, or care.


Secondly, I finished a novella for an anthology. For the Love of Pete will appear in Wicked East Press's Bag of Fantasy Tales, due out later this year.  I will update you when I know more details.


I will stop numbering now as I have a few more things to update.  I hope to hear in a week or two on the status of my Machine of Death submission.  If they don't take it (they got nearly 2000 submissions and they want 35 for the book) I will post my story here.


I'm now taking a short break to prepare for NaNoWriMo.  November 1 is only a week away.  I'm getting excited!


Oh, I'm taking a break, but I feel like I owe Squishables a blog.  They aren't paying me for publicity or anything, but I did say I would blog about 81's trip to the club.  Aside from the pictures I put up, I haven't written about anything from that trip.  And yes I joined a health club.


I got a new job too, working as a homemaker.  I help people who can't clean their houses due to disabilty or age.  I just need more clients.


Lastly, I'm going back to school.  I'll be starting a Photography degree program in January.  More on that as I get into it.  So until, November, have a great week, and have a great Halloween!

Take Your Squishable to Work Day

Posted on August 26, 2011 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Yesterday was Take Your Squishy to Work day, and for those of you who might read this and not know what that means, it means I took 81 and friends to work.  Oh, and it was for charity.  According to the Squishable.com site, they have this special day once a year and use it as an excuse to have a lot of fun and donate to charity.  This year, they’re donating to Dress for Success.  For every picture sent to them, they will donate $1.00 up to $1,000 total, and I’m sure they got there.

 

I’ve mentioned before that I clean at night.  Well, my job just took a dump and I’m now only cleaning 2 nights a week.  It sucks.  So if anyone is hiring, please shoot me a line.  In the meantime, Wednesdays I pretty much clean alone.  It’s a 4 hour job, and it can drag on, or get gross, (see an old facebook status update ify ou really want to know,) and I will jump at any opportunity to have a little fun, even if it means I take 4.5 hours to do a 4 hour job.

 

When I read about the event, and realized it fell on a night I worked, I told 81 he was going with me.  The others sat there and waited for me to tell them they were too, but 81 is my blogging squishy so I was only going totake him.  However, when I explained that this would be 81 at Work for Charity, the others practically attacked me.  They insisted that if this was for charity then they wanted in on it too.  So, last night, we piled into the car and headed off to work

 

 

We had a great road trip.  Simon and Garfunkle played on the radio, (myCD,) and the traffic was good.  81 wantedto ride the HoV lane, but I was sure the cops wouldn’t really consider the 4squishables in my car actual occupants, so I abstained.  That is until I saw the sign that said, not acash amount, but open! So the open road, slightly faster than the other traffic(HoV is not an excuse to speed,) and we were really on our way.

 

 

They were excited to get to work.  Once there, they sat patiently waiting their turns.  I have a routine, so it really was just a matter of fitting them in. First, I stock the bathrooms and empty the women’s “special” trash, and yeah, there were a few stalls that needed it. But, carrying paper towels and toilet paper is heavy work for a Squishable.  Also, while in my supply area, I fill the mop bucket.  I decided Cerulean, being a big strong dragon, was the best choice for this part.

 

 

Then I go through the whole place and empty the trash.  This includes every desk, and some of these people don’t really know what a trash can is for, the kitchen and break room and all 4 bathrooms.  The only problem with this part, is that this is not an accessible building.  There is no elevator.  Anyway, it was early yet and Justin wanted to help before his bedtime, so I took him trashing with me. 



Poor thing, he had such a good time trashing (he even sat on a bike) that he got tired out. Cerulean took her baby and they waited the rest of the evening in the car.  After trashing, I clean the bathrooms and the break rooms.  Knowing this is a tougher job that takes hands, I took Tuesday with me.

 

 

He was really excited to give the job a try and hecleaned the counter nicely.  I didn’t lethim try cleaning the toilets, though he was ready to.  Instead, I let him try mopping a bit once theroom was clean.  In the break room, hereally took the job seriously and practically stuffed himself in the microwaveto get it clean.  After the main floorwas done, it was time to go upstairs.  Idon’t have a vacuum in my car, so I left that part to my boss.  On the way upstairs, I mop the front entryand the stairs.  Here is where I took81.  He tried to mop the stairs.  He also tried to trash.  In the end, he was best suited for taking abreak.

 

 

By the time we were done cleaning, my boss finallyshowed up with the vacuum.  By then, mySquishables were tired and ready to go home, so I left my boss to finish up andtook them home.

 

 

The night went well.  But then, after putting a few pictures up onSquishable’s facebook page, my phone rang. It woke my husband and my daughter. By this time it was near 1:00 am. My boss left his phone in Edge! And I have the only key.  I did not wake my Squishables, not even 81, but with the promise of an added hour, I headed back out and let my boss back in to get his phone.  All in all, I got to bed about 2:00 am.  Quite a long night, but oh so much fun.  They’ve already told me, the Squishables have, that next year they want to do it again.

 

Thank you, Squishable.com for running this.  It was great.

Because I Work for Morons, Does That Make Me a Moron, Too? pt.2

Posted on August 5, 2011 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Forgive the spelling mistakes you may find, the dangling participles and the preposition endings, this blog is being written directly here.  Usually if I have something I really want to make an impact with, I write in Word, tweak it, fix it, and then paste it here.  However, this blog is about a week late, and I have no patience to do it right.  I apologize.  Stupid morons (at the daycare.)


So I have actually posted pictures in the photo gallery already, if you really want to see all of the wretchedness that was the daycare.  First of all, though, I have to say that I may have been a moron for putting up with them, but I have a chance to redeem myself as we have lost the daycare account.  It was through no fault of mine, apparently my boss couldn't get the wax on the floor right. (And they were highly particular about their floor.)  They told him they would try someone else to get the floor right, but if it was the floor and not the man, we may hear back.  We haven't heard back and it has been almost two weeks.  Just to give you an idea of the floor, here's a picture.


Oh, sorry, that's the preschool mess I have to clean up.  But as you can see, the tiles are waxed.  Scraping up dried mashed peas also scrapes up wax.  Not my fault they didn't clean up their mess while it was still fresh, still wet.  This picture looks like they didn't have a broom available to them, but yes, they did.  They just left this mess for the cleaners.


Secondly, every night I went to work, I had to get into the "What moronic thing will I find tonight?" mentality or be completely floored by the stupidity I did find.  For all of their issues, the infant room was a no shoes, no socks room, so I have to put on surgeon booties to clean in there.  Yes, I just wore them all over the place, even outside if I had to run to my car.  The did complain once that the floor in the infant room had dried food stuck to it and also that the toddler room floor hadn't been cleaned at all.  That was the beginning of the headaches.  Mind you, this place was only contracted at 3.5 hours a night to clean, but they frequently left me with 4 hours of mess.  I found the refrigerator open once, the toilets unflushed, and the water on on different nights.  You can find examples in the picture gallery.  The most recurring issue was that of the preschool/toddler bathroom.  I wondered if they even supervised these kids in there.  I mean, these kids were worse than kittens.


Not only did they leave it like this EVERY night, they left the toilet unflushed more than once, and a couple of times it was because they jiggled the handle so hard the chain fell off the lifter (in the tank.)  So yeah, I had to take the cover off the tank, reach in (yes with gloves on,) retrieve the chain and put it back on the lifter to flush the toilet.  The daycare personnel couldn't figure this out?  Morons.


Also, and this is in the comment for this picture, but they had a corn syrup painting.  My daughter did one of these in preschool.  They're kind of cool, but THEY NEVER DRY!  We enjoyed it for about a week and then threw it away.  These people hung theirs proudly on the wall... ABOVE THE BATHROOM DOOR!  Morons.  Here's the progression:


If you can't really tell, there are several drops of corn syrup on the floor.  These don't come up with mopping.  These have to scraped up, yes, taking up layers of wax, or more likely, leaving behind a sheen of corn syrup on the floor.  I am happy to report that after about two months of display, they finally threw it away.  I believe it was after a particularly humid week and the painting actually dripped on one of the kids, I'm not sure.  For the most part though, you don't see these paintings drip.  Like the Weeping Angels, they drip when you're not looking, but look fine when you stare at them.  Whatever, morons.


I think my main issue with this account (but not anymore since I don't go there now) was simply this: What was my job and what was their job?  Were they (are they) raising privileged children who expect that someone else will clean up after them?  Was it my job to clean up their messes as well as making sure the place was habitable?  I was under the impression that I come in after hours, clean the bathrooms (not clean up the bathrooms,) clean and disinfect the various children's rooms, vacuum and clean the floors.


I have to say the worst, and nearly the straw that broke me, was the note that a child had vomited and could I spot clean the carpet under the blue blankets.  I remember when I started with my boss he asked me if I had any issues with cleaning.  He was impressed that I had no problems cleaning men's toilets and collecting trash.  I told him I might have issues with diarrhea or vomit.  What's funny is he shook his head then and said, yeah, he'd have a problem with that too and we would most likely not encounter any of that as that would be the owners of the account's job to clean that up. Ha ha ha, who's laughing now?  I cleaned it but held my breath as much as I could and used almost a full can of Spot Shot.  But I refuse to clean up vomit unless it belongs to one of my own children now.


The second major issue is actually two-fold.  First, they had a box delivered.  I'm not sure what was in it, but it was packed in styrofoam bricks.  You know what I mean, the packing bricks your stereo or alarm clock is packed with to keep it safe.  Well, the kids shredded these bricks and the resulting beads were impossible to clean.  It took nearly two weeks before they were all up.  I seriously believe these kids, the school age kids this time, enjoyed having an aspiration hazard lying around.  That said, the week before I was let go, they had a TON of tiny ball bearings all over the floor.  I had no idea what broke or where they came from, but they hated the broom, as well as the dust mop and the vacuum.  It took a few days to get them all up, and I let the daycare know to look for them.  Not only were they an aspiration hazard, but a falling hazard.  I didn't want the children to get hurt by slipping on them.  Of course, why should I care about a bunch of children being raised with out the life skill of cleaning up their messes, children being raised to say "Oh, that's all right, the cleaner will get it."?  I wash my hands of that account.  Good-riddens and huzzah, I now can recover my lots wits and move on.


The other side of that coin is now I'm working about on third the hours I had and I'm worried that I may not be able to pay for my car.  So, please, buy my book, and tell your friends and family to buy one too.  Support a starving artist.  I may put out my midgrade novel after this, just in the hopes that I might recover some of this lost income.  But who am I kidding?  Mostly myself, it seems.

Coming to Terms with My Mediocrity

Posted on July 3, 2011 at 1:14 AM Comments comments (0)

 Not part 2 or the moron rant.


When we are children, we’retold we can be whatever we want when we grow up.  We spend our childhood dreaming of beingdoctors, firefighters, police, and astronauts.  We play games of adventure and fun.  We admire actors and musicians and storytellers,imagining what life must be like for those characters we see.  Some of us continue to believe this lie wellinto our adulthood.  Some few of usactually achieve their goals of being what they dream.


I was one of those whobelieved.  I’m 39 going on 23 and I fancymyself an author.  I have one book out, self-published,as many of you know.  Maybe all of you asI’m not sure how many actually read my blog or my webpage.  I have a few short stories out there in a fewdifferent places, Pill Hill, Wicked East, House of Horror, and the FlashFiction Offensive.  I continue to believethat if I keep up with it, my writing may still be read by others, perhaps apublisher, and it may be bought, bringing in the royalties of a well-knownauthor.


My husband thinksotherwise.  He’s a realist.  He’s told me many times that in all the timewe’ve been married, he’s seen me write, and seen nothing come of it.  So, by reason, he thinks maybe I shouldreconsider my position.  Maybe I shouldset writing aside for a while and get “a real job.”  Oh, and my cleaning every night isn’t a realjob, and it’s beneath me.  In otherwords, I need a real job that meets his standards for me.


All of this has methinking.  Why do we lie to ourchildren?  In today’s society, can anyonereally be whatever they want to when they grow up?  I see it everywhere in the inner city.  Our young black kids are being raised byparents, or in many cases, a parent who has been beaten down, told they’re notable to do anything, not able to be anything, so they aren’t.  In return, they beat down theirchildren.  Not physically, most of thetime, but with words.  Disrespect, everyone for themselves attitudes, what’s yours is mine, these ideas are expected, evenencouraged.  When loud rap music or hip-hopcomes out of nowhere, we automatically think, “Black.”  Moreover, we feel justified when the driverof the vehicle the music comes from is black.


We as a society believe Hispanicsare lazy and can amount to nothing better than backyard mechanics.  They are told so often that they can donothing that they believe it.  NativeAmericans too, told all they can do is expect to grow up drunks so often thatthey believe it.  Even women, since women’slib, being told they can only expect to be someone if they get married and havechildren.  Whenever someone breaks out ofthe mold, it’s as a celebrity, someone so untouchable that we idolize them.  We think, wow, they really did it.  John Leguizamo did it, but apparently, no oneelse can.  Tyrese Gibson did it, Ice T,Morgan Freeman, Cuba Gooding Jr. but I can’t. Wendy Williams, Tyra Banks, Queen Latifah, heck Jennifer Anniston, SalmaHayeck, Julia Roberts, they all did it, but we can’t.


They were special.  They grew up with money, power, they musthave or how would they have made it big? The white middle class family, average size four, mean income fiftythousand a year, they are the ones that seem to still lie to theirchildren.  They say to them, dream, youcan be whatever you want when you grow up. Most people reading this may balk at the idea that we would tell any ofour children, regardless of race or creed anything else.  You might call me a racist, sexist, whatever-ist,but I’m not.  I do believe we shouldencourage our children, regardless of race, creed, gender, or income to becomewhatever they want.  I believe we shouldencourage them all to become our future leaders, doctors, lawyers, actors,musicians, writers, police, firefighters, mechanics, architects, astronauts,and anything else they can think of.


I tell my children theycan become whatever they want when they grow up.  But I am a middle class woman, married withtwo children.  Oh, how I have fallen.  Is this really what I believe?  I think so. But, is it really?


When I was growing up, Iwas raised in a loving home.  My parentsare still married to each other.  Theytold me I could be whatever I wanted when I grew up.  I played at adventures, planned trips allover the world.  I wanted to explorecaves, deserts, and mountains.  I stillhave a wandering spirit.  I startedwriting stories when I was about nine, telling so many stories ofadventure.  I wanted to go.  I finally decided, after seeing adocumentary, that I really wanted to see Africa.  I wanted to see the Kalahari Desert.  I fell in love with the exotic languages ofthe indigenous tribes.  I wanted tobecome a doctor, to minister to them, to witness God’s love to them.  But then, out there all on my own, I’d needto be able to fix my Jeep, so I also wanted to learn auto mechanics.  I believed so firmly that that was what Iwanted to do, I too auto mechanics in high school.  I majored in biology in college.  It was after my own dark night, my own soulsearching, that I realized, yes I would love to travel, but really, what I lovemost is imagining.  I love writing, andevery idea that comes to my mind is an idea I have to write down.  But when I told my parents I wanted to bewriter, suddenly the lie blew up in their faces.  Suddenly “You can be whatever you want whenyou grow up!” wasn’t really what they wanted to say.  But by then, it was write or go mad.  Or maybe I was already mad and simply had towrite to live with it.  I’m not sure.


One fact is truethough.  I did not grow up with money, orpower.  I have never been in the rightplace at the right time.  I was born toolate to be at the beginning and too soon to be at the revolution.  I have seen the invention of the homecomputer and the advent of the laptop, and I have given up my pencil for a keyboard.  I dropped out of college with delusions ofgenius and superiority, and promptly failed to get published.  I fell into a depression, got a “real job”and tried to make my dream come true. Then I found a husband and had my two children, and now I’m a wife, amother, and a middle class American woman. I clean offices at night to supplement our average income, rather belowaverage income. 


Still I cling to beliefthat I can be whatever I want to be when I grow up.  And I want to be a writer.  I want to be published and read andremembered.  In a hundred years, I wantpeople to say, “Oh, have you ever read The Other Side?  No, the one by Jen Steffen.  Yeah, it’s almost epic, but wow.  That’s fantasy I can read.  No lofty language, lots of action andbelievable characters.  Yeah, theytotally need to remake the movie they did back when special effects were attheir advent.”  I want people see my nameand pick up the book, or rather at that time, download the book, just because I’mthe author.  I want to see my othertitles get picked up by a publisher, not because I’ll make more money, butbecause the prestige is greater than when I do it myself.  Being picked up by a publisher says to theworld that you’ve been read by those who know good reading, and they have foundyou worthy.  Therefore, if they like you,then the rest of the country will like you. Maybe even the rest of the world.


I’m probably justmad.  The voices in my head, the onesthat tell me stories, still cry to be let out, so I put them down on paper,even the ones I can’t make any money with. I’m a dreamer and an idealist.  Ithurts me to hear my husband say, “Stupid driver, must be black.”  Or my daughter say, “Yeah, some of the boyson the bus just wouldn’t settle down or listen to the leaders.”  And when my husband asks her, “Were theyblack?”  She nods sadly.  “Yeah.” This isn’t because their racist. It’s because they hear it from society. They’ve come to expect it from certain races, certain creeds.  And until we truly believe the lie, “You canbe whatever you want to be when you grow up.” And we truly pursue the deepest dream we have, and we stop falling shortof our own expectations, we will continue to live the stereotypes we’ve placedon ourselves.  I will never amount to theauthor I want to be, because I’m not good enough.  I’m not in the right place at the righttime.  I don’t have money or power orinfluence.  I don’t have a collegedegree.  So I’m fit to be wife andmother, and maybe an office assistant or a retail clerk, and I should set mydreams aside.  I should drop my loftyexpectations of humanity, especially those growing up in the inner city, like Idid.  I should let it all go and come toterms with my own mediocrity because that’s all any of us will amount to.


‘Sup, y’all.  Imma gon go hit up Target for some groceriesan maybe git my girl some new clothes. Then I gotta go to work later, clean a daycare run by morons.  Imma go in, git it done, and come home tosleep.  My husband will keep tellin methat I’m workin beneath me.  I need asmart job, one that uses my brain.  Um,what brain?  I’m just a girl, lucky me,and I just can’t let go of that lie.  “Youcan be whatever you want to be when you grow up.”  If you’re a doctor, or a lawyer, or a police,or a firefighter, or a mechanic, or a grocer, or anything that will sustain youin the real world, because dreams don’t come true.


But I want them to.  I need them to.  Please, can’t mine come true, just once?  God? You gave me imagination and the ability to write.  Can’t I use that?  God?  Iwant to be writer when I grow up.  And Iwant to believe that the world can be a better place because children aretaught to believe in themselves, and that they can be whatever they want whenthey grow up.  Obama did.  Tyra did. Neil Gaiman did.  Marion ZimmerBradley did.  They still talk about a guynamed William Shakespeare.  Can’t theytalk about me too?


I can’t give up writing,no matter how mediocre I really am.  So Ican’t give up on the lie.  I have tobelieve it’s true.  And if it’s true forme, then it’s true for you.  Are you ayoung black man or woman?  You don’t haveto stay in the inner city unless you really want to.  You don’t have to disrespect everyone andeverything just because that’s what you see. You can work for change.  You canbe whatever you want when you grow up.  Areyou a young Hispanic or Native American? The same holds true for you.  Areyou Muslim, gay, Asian, or poor?  Thesame is true for you.  If it’s true forme, it has to be true for everyone.  “Youcan be whatever you want to be when you grow up.”  You just have to keep believing, and keeppursuing.  Never give up on yourdreams.  When you start to believe it’s alie, that’s when you lose hope, that’s when the dream dies, and that’s when youhave to come to terms with your own mediocrity. And that would be really sad.

 

Because I Work for Morons, Does That Make Me a Moron, Too?

Posted on June 29, 2011 at 1:59 AM Comments comments (0)

A rant in 2 parts, this describes my "boss."


I am a writer.  I gota tattoo to convince me that, even when I’m not writing, I’m still awriter.  However, in lieu of selling amillion copies of my book and retiring early on a nice royalty check every fewmonths or so, I must work.  So my dayjob, rather my night job, is as a cleaner. It’s nice.  I get to spend a fewhours listening to my music, letting my mind wander through various story ideasand fantasies, as long as I get the place clean in the allotted time to theclient’s satisfaction.  I don’t have toput my kids in daycare, and as long as my son lets me sleep in a couple ofhours (in exchange for cartoons that “don’t count as screen time, mom.”) my dayis still pretty normal.  (My son is toosmart sometimes.  Since when don’tcartoons count as screen time?  Oh yeah,when they allow me to sleep in, or take a shower.)

 

My boss, we’ll call him Phil, is a nice guy.  He plays basketball on the weekends.  He bought a shirt from my church to helpsupport our summer program.  He bought ahella-lot-a Girl Scout Cookies from my daughter.  He hardly bat an eye when I asked for twodays off for my yearly camping trip, and when I had my leg surgery, hepractically told me to take all time I needed off.  See, this job is off the grid.  I’m helping a friend, and friends don’t takecare of you if you get hurt while helping them. So he doesn’t want me to get hurt and he nursed my aches and pains, andsurgeries.  One thing Phil doesn’t haveis a head for numbers.  I remembershortly after I started, when keeping track of my hours, he wrote down threeand a three quarter hours, three hours and forty-five minutes, as 3.45.  He kept getting a smaller total than I didand he couldn’t grasp why.  He wasconvinced I was wrong.  We eventually didclear it up and he recognized three hours and forty-five minutes as 3.75.

 

He also has a very loose concept of time.  Most of the time, I’m left to clean on myown.  Fine, no problem, I get the jobdone.  But on nights when he joins me, hewill call and tell me he’s on his way, and then show up an hour later.  I have no idea where he’s coming from, so Ican’t really complain.  In fact, I’m notcomplaining about that.  What kills me,and I haven’t taken the time to explain it to him, so this isn’t a complainteither, is that on Tuesday and Friday nights, we team clean, but I still makethe same hours.  Get this, I clean adaycare, we’ll call it Babes-N-Up daycare, five nights a week.  On Tuesday and Friday, I also clean abank.  On Wednesday, I also clean anadvertising agency.  Wednesdays are notreally an issue.  I get the daycarenearly done before he shows up and then I move on.  My hours are slightly increased onWednesdays.  However, on Tuesdays andFridays, I start at Babes-N-Up, on one end of the Freeway, then drive to theother end of the Freeway to the bank.  The daycare by itself is a 3.5-hour job.  The bank by itself is a 3-hour job.  When we team clean, we split the hours.  So the daycare becomes 1.75 and the bank 1.5for a total of 3.25, but then I add drive time, for which I'm not paid.  So more gas for less pay.  You’d think he’d do the bank and let me dothe daycare, but no.  We split it.  I tried to bring that up once, but I neverfully explained it.  How can I explain itwithout sounding like I’m complaining?  Idid straighten out a route last Friday. Phil decided to do the ad agency too, so he wouldn’t have to do it Saturday.  No problem, the agency is just the next exitdown from the daycare.  However, he wasgoing to send me from the daycare to the bank and then meet them (he had otherhelp that night) at the ad agency. Zigzag.  I told him that and heagreed, so I went from the daycare to the agency to the bank, a much betterroute.

 

Lastly, he wields authority. He’s the boss, so I let him.  However,sometimes it comes with a superiority that is unwarranted.  Like when he tried to convince me that 3.45was three hours and forty-five minutes. And when he thinks my trying to tell him to split up our Tuesdays andFridays is a hesitation on the verge of complaint.  Oh, and when he doesn’t let me leave notesfor the people we clean for.  I’m not tospeak to them except through him.  Ohwell, he’s the boss, so I let him wield authority.  I like Phil, so I don’t rock the boat.  I also like that Phil pays me to help himout, so I go with the flow.  Phil is nota moron.  He is not the reason for this blog,but he’s the reason I’m cleaning Babes-N-Up daycare, so I felt I needed toexplain him a bit before going into the mess that is the daycare.  He says he will never take on another daycareever again.

 


Another Rejection

Posted on June 12, 2011 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Well, I finally heard back on the last story I had out there.  By The Stars Disturbingly In Motion has not been selected.  I seem to be having difficulty breaking into the paid markets.  Oh well, I'm currently working on a novel and a short story for another anthology.  I will update on that one as I finish it to let you see a bit of it.  In the meantime, it is Sunday morning, and I have to get going.  Just wanted to let you know where my submissions stand.  Thank you for your support.

Search: Hello Kitty for boys

Posted on June 10, 2011 at 1:33 PM Comments comments (0)

Why is it that there are no real results when this phrase is entered into the search bar? Oh sure, you get boy shorts for girls as well as every other Hello Kitty thing.  Oh you get this boy in a hoodie.

But then you get men pictured, not littleboys.  Men modeling men’sunderwear.


 

My son and I were in Target about a week ago now,and he turned to look around as he always does and suddenly his eyes lit up.  “Mom!” he exclaimed, “Hello Kitty!!”  And also, like he always does, he ran off toward the Hello Kitty display.  When I caught up with him, he was tugging on a shirt. “Leave it alone,” I said, “this is the girl’s department and you can’t have that shirt.”  He looked so disappointed.  “But mom, do you know what this shirt has?”  Shaking my head, I looked at the picture. 

Hello Kitty was sitting on a beach with a big yellow sun behind her, so I said, “A big yellow sun?”  He shook his head and pulled me down closer to him.  “Kitty has a real bow.”  I looked again, and sure enough, a separate piece of fabric, shaped like a bow, was sown over the bow on Kitty’shead.  “You’re right, very cool.  You still can’t wear this shirt.  It’s shaped for a girl’s body.”  Then, stupidly, I actually went to the boy’s section to see if they happened to have any Hello Kitty boy’s shirts.  Of course, they did not.

 

So my issue here is simply a matter of what is proper for gender identity?  Because my little boy likes Hello Kitty, does mean he’s not firm in his identity as a boy?  I don’t think so.  In so many things, today’s society is so modern, but in so many subtle ways, we are still in the dark ages.  I’m not making my argument for or against gays or gay marriage here, I’m simply stating when is it okay to like something that is traditionally for the opposite gender enough to want it, to do it, to enjoy it.

 

Hello Kitty is a small white cat with red overalls and a red bow.  What is specifically feminine about her?  Well, she’s a girl.  She wears a hair ribbon, and she likes to garden.  What is more universal about her?  She wears red overalls, pants, not a skirt.  She likes to dig in the dirt and garden.  She likes adventure and having fun.  She likes meeting new people and doing new things. So, would it hurt the industry, Sanrio, to make Hello Kitty shirts in a unisex shape?

 

My daughter has several Hello Kitty shirts as well as a couple of Hello Kitty DVDs.  She has a few things with Hello Kitty’s picture on them, toys, stationary, etc.  My son loves it all.  She’s 13 now, and almost grown out of Hello Kitty.  She’s in love with Michael Jackson, and yeah, that could take another whole blog.  But she can get a Michael Jackson shirt and no one will look twice at her except to say “Nice shirt.”


My son is 5. When I brought this up to my husband, he said, “But Hello Kitty is a girl thing.”  Why?  Because she’s a girl?  I wish I could say at the time of this blog that I’ve found a unisex shaped shirt for my son.  I haven’t, but I’m wondering if maybe Hot Topic may have something that would fit him. Suffice it to say that I have determined to find him a Hello Kitty shirt, if only because I’ve only seen girl shaped shirts.  There is nothing wrong with my son wearing Hello Kitty.  Although, if he wanted a Hello Kitty sun dress… I think that would also be an entirely different blog.

 

In closing, I just want to reiterate, clothes do not make the gender identity.  Who we are is not defined by what we wear, how we look, or what we do.  Who we are is comprised of so much more than that.  So much more that we take pride in who we are, pride in our individuality, and pride in what we do.


A  few years ago, Sanrio thought about putting out a line of Hello Kitty products for boys. What happened to that? *I just found out this line is available in Tokyo.*  Next time I touch on this, I hope to say that my son is wearing a Hello Kitty t-shirt and loving it. 


–end rant-

 


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