Friday, April 11, 2014

Eleventeen

Greetings, WYMOP readers!
I'd like to take a moment this weekend to tell you a little about last weekend.
Ready? Here's the story:

The stereotype is that teens are surly and oft-times ill-tempered with their parents. We see it in books, movies and on television. Little kids are always cute —  just look at the
Olson twins on Full House (“You got it, dude!”) —  and teens are always angry at their parents for not understanding them, quite often storming from the room with a shouted “I hate you!”
Those middle kids, though, the ones they call “tweens” (ages ten through twelve, no longer a kid but not yet a teen, they’re stuck in-between) are a little harder to pin down. Usually they’re portrayed as confusion in expensive footwear, the girls wearing too much makeup and push-up bras (though they have nothing, as yet, to push), the boys wearing odd hair, clearasil, and pants they should really only wear to the proctologist, all of them
looking ahead at their teen years with a mixture of anticipation and dread, but about as much understanding as I exhibit when confronted with tax forms.
My son, though, is what I’ve decided to call “eleventeen”. What I mean by that is he’s eleven, sure, but he’s advanced. Oh, he still wanders around packed with enough
uncertainty and self-doubt to make even Tony Robbins wet his pants, weep uncontrollably and take fierce hold of something large and safe-feeling until help arrives; in that way he’s just like all the other tweens around. That’s not the way in which he’s “advanced”.
He tells me he hates me. Just about every day. He doesn’t do it in that shouting, arm-flapping, “this is where the script says dramatic exit” kind of way. He does it, instead, in a flat, no-nonsense, “this is the way it is” fashion that would make Joe Friday turn from the witness he was questioning and stare in open-mouthed, but understated, awe.
And it gets me every time.
I know he’s kidding when he says it. I know he’s thinking of it as kind of a cool, funny way to interact with his old man (My father used to be “the old man”, but now it’s me. @#$% you, Time!), but eventually it starts to wear on me. Eventually I’ve had enough, and I snap, like the broad back of the camel under the weight of that single, proverbial straw.
This is the story of one of those times.
I snapped last weekend.
The casual mentions of “I hate you” had built up to the point where I had to physically climb over them in order to enter the house. I opened the door, scraped a couple of left-over “you”s off my shoes, and strode on in.
“You!” I shouted, leveling a finger at him. “Boy! Get ready to go with me for the night. I’m taking a quick shower, and then we’re out the door!”
“Where are we going?”
“Out the door!” I repeated.
“But where are we going once we go ‘out the door’?”
“Into the Jeep!”
He hadn’t moved, just sat there staring at me with bewildered baby blues.
“Where are we going in the Jeep?”
“Someplace,” I boomed, then paused dramatically, leaning close as if I was about to take a confidential tone.
I didn’t.
“Else!” I shouted, then spun away to stride majestically toward the shower.
“But where?” he shouted.
“Time’s a-wasting, Boy!” I shouted back. “We don’t want to be late!”
“For what?”
I pretended not to hear him over the rushing water, and proceeded with a 5-minute shower. Including shaving my entire head and face, that’s maintaining some major momentum. My fresh shirt clung to my half-dried back as I hustled through the house en-route to the driveway, followed by a confused-looking eleventeen-year-old carrying his overnight bag.
“To the car!”
“I thought you said the Jeep,” he said.
“To the Jeep!”
We mounted up and I pulled out into traffic, then cast an eye at the dashboard clock.
“We’ve got twelve minutes to get there, and it’s in the next town over. God I hope there’s no line!”
“But where— ”
“I’m in a hurry, Handsome, and I’m from Massachusetts,” I said, tapping the horn and swooping around someone slowing to take a left. “ You know what that means?”
He buckled his seat belt.
Then he joined me in reciting the Massachusetts State Prayer for Drivers in a Hurry: “No cops… no cops… no cops…”
I managed not to kill anyone (through judicious use of two sidewalks and one well-tended front lawn) and was pulling into the parking lot in nine minutes.
“We’re going to make it!” I shouted, overcome with Happy Face.
The parking lot was full.
“Crap!” I shouted, overcome with Sad Face.
I zipped up and down the aisles like a Supermarket Sweep contestant on speed, looking for the elusive “empty space”.
I started to pull into an empty space, only to slam on the brakes when I discovered a Mini Cooper taking up the front half of the spot.
“Dammit!”
Beside me, the seat belt had just saved Handsome’s face from a forceful introduction to the dashboard, and he was busy laughing at me.
I went around again, Pac-Maning through the pattern like Inky was on my tail and Blinky was closing fast (That’s a reference to an ancient form of entertainment called Pac-Man, kids. Look it up!). Then, as I came around a turn, I saw an empty space straight ahead, at the other end of the lot.
Mario Andretti would have wept with joy at how hard I stomped on that gas pedal.
I slid into the spot, with a squeal of tires on left-over winter sand and a very loud “Woo-hoooo!” Then I saw the sign at the end of the spot, wavering at me through the heat rising off my hood.
Reserved
Zip-Car Parking Only
“Son of a bitch!” I shouted, gesticulating wildly at the sign as if  
  1. it could see me and be insulted, and
  2. it had no right to be there.
Neither of these was true.
I backed out of the spot, jumped on the gas to take another turn about The Parking Lot from Hell, then hit the brakes again, Handsome bouncing into his seat-belt, then into the seat, then into the seat belt like it was a roller coaster. I stared in the rear-view mirror as some dude in a sports car ripped into the spot I had just vacated with the squeal of tires on leftover winter sand and a shouted “Woo-hoooo!”. He then began to shout incoherently while gesticulating wildly.
I laughed, thinking what an idiot, completely overlooking the fact that I had just been that idiot. Feeling better about the while thing for no discernible reason, I stepped on the gas.
Only to jam on the brakes again.
There was a lovely young gentleman crossing the aisle just in front of me, thumbing a key fob. Car lights flashed to my left, and I realized this excellent and handsome specimen of humanity would be getting into that bright and shiny car and leaving the lot. I threw the Jeep into reverse and backed up a bit, giving him room to pull out, then sat with my directional on and watched the dude in the sports car behind me.
He’d backed out of the Zip-Car spot, cut his wheel to the left, and was now jammed right up to my rear bumper. His rear bumper was nestled in tight to the parked cars behind him, and he really had no where to go. I wondered for a moment if my backing up had anything to do with his predicament, but stopped worrying about it when I saw he was still shouting at the Zip-Car sign, now making some inventive finger gestures as well. I had no idea why he would tell a sign to “Get that piece of @#$% out of my way!” and “Where the !@#$ did you learn to drive?”, but I turned up the radio to drown out the obscenities filling the air, and continued to wait.
And wait.
And wait.
And wait, while the mentally deficient troll in the @#$%box ahead of me took his own damn time vacating his parking spot. The engine was running —  I could see the exhaust coming from his tail pipe—  but he just sat there. Checking his mirrors. Making a phone call. Having a career and raising a family. Empires fell and new ones arose while this complete and utter dick just sat there, letting me wait.
Handsome was writing down some of the more inventive language coming from the car behind me, no doubt planning to score big points on the schoolyard for using a 5-F word combo even I had never heard of.
I turned up the radio.
Eventually, after keeping us waiting for nearly sixty whole seconds, the vomitous mass in the Chevy backed out of his spot. I slid into the slot so quickly I may have actually gotten there before he left. Ignoring the risk of the aforementioned time-space paradox, Handsome and I leapt from the car.
The gentleman who had been stuck behind me, rather than zipping along the now unobstructed aisle, paused to exchange a few friendly words. Apparently he was a butcher who was very interested in promoting his wares, as he kept repeating that I should eat his meat. Though it was a terrific offer, Handsome and I were now running late, and I had no time to talk. Waving to the man over my shoulder in a friendly fashion, I didn’t even have time to use all my fingers.
I’m sure he got the message from just the one.
We sprinted across the parking lot, Handsome still asking where we were going.
“This way! Keep up!”
We reached the edge of the parking lot, our way blocked by a river of traffic in the road beyond. Without hesitation I launched myself into the street, landing right in the center, legs spread in a heroic stance, one arm thrust skyward, palm out.
Picture Thor on traffic duty.
As I landed, I screamed a single word at the top of my lungs.
“Emergency!”
Traffic skidded to a halt. Handsome tottered across the road behind me.
“Thanks!” I shouted over my shoulder and led him into the movie theater as a cacophony of horns rose up in the street. It was 7:04.
“Two for the 7:00 show,” I said to the bespectacled blonde hair running the ticket window, “if there are any left.”
“Eighteen dollars,” he or she said. No, the person under that hair was definitely a he.
I think.
Maybe.
I paid the fee, took the tickets, and started across the lobby at a trot.
“But what are we going to see?” shouted Handsome, jogging alongside. I merely pointed to the door ahead, the entrance to theater #3, above which was a sign reading Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
From the corner of my eye I saw the boy stop dead. I paused, turning to see what was wrong. The eleventeen-year-old threw his hands in the air with a smile to make orthodontists weep and toothpaste advertising execs drool.
“I love you!” he shouted.

That was so worth it.


Talk to you later!
~ ~ * * ~ ~


For a fun video this week, I'd like to show you what it does look like when I'm confronted with tax forms. Or, what it would look like if I were. I do my best not to.

From the BBC show Black Books,
Bernard doing his accounts.
Enjoy!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Parent-Normal Activity.

Greetings WYMOP fans. I want to tell you a little about my day.

So there I sat this afternoon, working on a story. It’s a good story —  could be a great story—  and it kind of came out of nowhere.
Sometimes, those are the best kind.
It’s a story about an old man whose wife has passed, and he finds something a little surprising waiting for him when he goes into the basement to do laundry for the first time.
A little surprising.
A little strange.
A little scary.
But the story has become more than I meant it to as my character starts, over the course of the story, to come to terms with her passing. Not just “coping” with it, but actually looking at it and how it’s making him feel. Some of what he’s finding out about himself comes as a bit of a surprise to him —  and to me, too, since this is in addition to what I’d intended, which was surprising, strange and scary.
And short. I forgot to mention short. I started this story last week, and it was supposed to be my Friday Fright. Just 1,000 words. No more.
It’s over 9,000 words and climbing, and I’ve really no idea how long it’ll wind up.
So as I was sitting there this afternoon, just happily banging away at the keyboard, I was reveling in the power of a writer’s imagination and the places it can take me without any conscious direction. It’s like the world’s biggest movie screen and adventure ride, rolled into one.
I was happy.
Then I heard a sound from downstairs. One I recognized. Two I recognized, really. The slam of the back storm-door closing, followed by the bang of the back door itself closing.
Wow, I thought. I thought I was all alone in the house.
Then I thought about it. I’d heard the outer door close, then the inner. That meant someone had come into the house. My dad, I assumed, had come home for lunch. Then I looked at the clock.
Lunch or something, I thought. It’s only 10:20 in the morning. A little early…
So I went downstairs to see what was going on. What I found was… nobody.
I was right. I was alone in the house, and though I’d clearly heard someone coming in, there was neither a person on the ground floor, nor even a car in the driveway.
That’s odd. I could have sworn I heard…
Now, if this were a movie, this is the point where we would show a flashback to earlier in the week when I watched two movies: Paranormal Activity, and Paranormal Activity II —  a pair of haunted house movies. Said flashback would include every scene where doors swung all by themselves. Usually when no one was looking. Sometimes they swung open, but sometimes they swung closed. With a slam, or a bang.
A slam or a bang usually preceded something bad happening. Generally to the poor slob who was all alone in the house.
If this were a movie, the scene would cut back from that flashback to a shot of me, pounding up the stairs toward my office.
Which I did do.
It would show me sitting back behind my desk and tentatively tapping at the keys.
Which I did do.
It would show me pausing in said tapping, frequently, to look back over both shoulders. Just  to make sure everything back there was still right where I’d left it.
Which I did do. 
Frequently.
So I sit here this afternoon, unhappily banging away at the keyboard, trapped in the power of a writer’s imagination and the places it can take me without any conscious direction. It’s like the world’s biggest movie screen and scare ride, rolled into one.
I am unhappy.

I’m sure there’s a logical explanation for the doors banging like that. I’m sure my father simply came into the house noisily, only to turn right around and leave quietly. The thought that he has never left the house quietly in my adult life has flitted about my head looking for a way to get in, but I am steadfastly keeping it out.
Away, damn thought. There’s no place for you here.
I’m continuing to work in my little office upstairs, and ignoring any and all sounds I hear coming from downstairs, especially when I’m alone in the  house.
Yes, comes the thought, because that tactic worked so well for the people in the mov—
Away, damn thought. There’s no place for you here.
So anyway, I’ll keep working on scary stories up here in this little office. Because nothing is wrong. And nothing has happened.

So far.

Talk to you later… I hope.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Browsing in Faeryland - Part 2

Greetings, WYMOP readers!



Welcome to part II of my Browsing in Faeryland post! We last saw our hero... well, okay. Me. We last saw me while I was on a trip to Colorado, having made a quick stop at a used bookstore called 2nd&Charles to check out what they have, maybe browse a bit.
...two hours later, my friend SB and I are finally approaching the check-out counter with a strangely full shopping cart.

Let's rejoin the action!

**********************************************

As far as I can tell, there are just three ways for someone ringing up your purchases to break the news to you. Ranging from bad to worst, these are:

  1. Photo Courtesy of Verbotomy.com
    Tell you right up front and with a bang just how much you owe. This is the preferred method, as far as I’m concerned, because it’s a little like yanking off a bandage all in one go. Quick and easy, with a minimum of fuss, good for minor injuries. Excuse me, I meant totals.
  2. Tell you right up front how much you owe, followed quickly by how much you’ve saved. Whether by coupons, discounts, sales, or some combination of the three, you have managed not to pay as much as you could have. This, I have noticed, is a technique used to sometimes soften the blow, much like rubbing your skin after someone had slapped or struck it, or blowing on a blistered finger after touching a hot stove; it doesn’t do any real good, but boosts you up psychologically. Slightly. The damage is still there, you just feel a little better about it.
  3. The worst thing that can happen: They skip right past the total and tell you how much you’ve saved. “Look, I know you’ve spent”, they might as well be saying, “and we’ll get to that in a minute. But before I whack you in the face with a number that looks like it came out of the phone book, just look over here at how much you’ve saved! Isn’t that nice?”
    Then
    wham.
    It’s the shopping equivalent of someone telling you to brace yourself before they punch

    you in the face. Or swing the sledgehammer, depending on just how much you spent. They’re not really helping you, they’re simply apologizing in advance. It’s a little bit like a very polite, yet violent mugging.
    I’ve seen this technique used to great effect on women, who are otherwise terrific shoppers, the effects lasting, occasionally, until long after they’ve left the store. “Look,”

    they say, waving a lengthy receipt in the air like an Olympic ribbon dancer. “I just saved $700!”
    “Wait,” I say, looking at the receipt. “This is for a new windshield. Do you even
    need a new windshield?”
    “Not yet,” they say. “But when I do…”
    “And this,” I say looking at the receipt more closely, “is for the windshield for an
    Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
    airplane. Do you even own an  airplane?”
    “But… but…” they say, “...but look!
    I just saved $700!
    Sometimes an intervention is required.


So we stepped up to the register, and the clerk (not Mr. Helpful —  he’d wandered away with a confused look on his face, clutching a book with Tinkerbell on the cover (please see Browsing in Faeryland - Part 1 (my God, did I just put parentheses within parentheses again? I hate it when I do that!))) started pulling things from our basket and lying them on the counter, trying to organize them by type, and what would help her ring them up while giving us the best coverage with regard to their sales. There were quite a few books there. And used DVDs. And I hadn’t noticed the large pile of CDs that had been hidden —  excuse me, I meant lying —  beneath all those books.
The price scanner sang.
“Okay,” she said, barely visible behind the veritable wall of small, rectangular objects piled high on her counter. I stood there, fingers crossed, repeating three little words in my head like a mantra, trying, through force of will, to make her say them.
...your total is… your total is… your total is…
“Well,” she said, “I can tell you that you just managed to save $287 with us today. Yes, sir?”
That last was directed at me, since I was waving a forefinger in the air like I had a point to make or a question to ask. In point of fact, I had neither. In actuality I had wet the finger and was now holding it aloft, trying to gauge wind direction within the store. I wanted desperately to figure out where I could stand to be “down wind” from SB and the clerk —  at least until I found out whether or not that bowel-loosening, stomach-clenching feeling I’d just had was me actually soiling my pants. Explosively.
We’d just “saved” more than my round-trip plane ticket had cost.


And that was how a simple trip to browse saved me the cost of a plane ticket, while costing me one pair of good pants.

I’m going to go read a new/used book. In my new pants.

Talk to you later!