She doesn’t look like a total crosspatch, does she? Don’t be fooled.
I raised my hand. “I hate writing.”
Mrs. McMullen came to my desk. “Do it anyway.”
“I’ve been to the zoo once. In Kindergarten.” I scowled at my worksheet.
“Write about that trip, then.”
“I got lost.”
“I’m sure you’ll think of something, Jessie.”
I wrote, “At the zoo, we saw the monkeys. They were very very very very very funny.” I made the ‘very’s’ huge so I wouldn’t have to cover the whole page.
Mrs. McMullen returned it. “Do over.” She kept me in from recess.
I wrote, “I hate the zoo.… Read the rest
“Jessie, where the fuck are we?”
“I’ve been lost since the Presidio.” Broken glass littered the sidewalk, and Scott had just stepped on a spent shotgun shell, its ruffled blast end an unmistakable sign of what had happened to the mason jars around our feet.
Kelly at the Presidio
Scott’s friend Kelly, who had joined us willingly enough after lunch, said “The Presidio. That was awhile ago.”
“How long have we been walking?”
Scott checked his watch. “Four, five hours, give or take.”
Kelly said, “That’s pretty low on the old priority list right now.”
He had a point.… Read the rest
When I went to the University of Kentucky, the University had this little spot, it was kind of a depression in the sidewalk really, called the Free Speech Area. If you had something you wanted to spout off about, you could go there and trumpet it to the heavens. Sometimes, it drew actual protesters, and I think the odd prof might have sent classes there to say something. But mostly, the space was occupied by this old fart with bad hair and an ugly coat. He wore that coat rain, shine, or snow, and yes, he showed up in all those conditions.… Read the rest
My parents stood behind the house. My mother’s waist-length hair was bound into a ponytail, but my father let his curls tumble down to the middle of his back. Dad looped a narrow arm around Mom’s shoulders.
Mom said, “If it’s a boy, we’ll call him Jesse Bishop, after my grandfathers.”
“What about a girl?”
“I want something beautiful. Something that shines like the sun and glitters like a jewel.” Mom gazed out over her garden.
“No. I also want it to be down to earth.” She looked harder at the garden.
“There’s only one Eartha Kitt.”
Mom beamed at the rows of beans, eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers. … Read the rest
Scrape-squeak-squeak. Scrape-squeak-squeak. Dunk-gadunk squeeeee.
“ I think we have rats in the attic.” I stood in the hall looking up.
Scott came from his office and listened with me. “Attic fan.”
“But it sounds like The Devil in The Exorcist. You remember that scene where Ellen Burstyn tries to convince the housekeeper there’s a rodent infestation, only it turns out to be Satan?”
“Jessie, the only thing I remember about The Exorcist is that you said it was suspense and dragged me off to see the director’s cut in 2000.”
“It is suspense! And it sounds like it’s living in our attic.” I pointed at the ceiling.… Read the rest
“Turn it down
.” Scott’s face loomed as my door swung open.
“I had that closed.”
“We can hear you in the kitchen.”
“Yeah, Mom, it’s too loud.” Caroline poked her head under her father’s elbow.
“You’re only complaining because it’s heavy metal. If I had the Beatles up, you’d be in here dancing.”
“You’ve got Beatles? I want the Beatles!” Sam joined the fray with enthusiasm unreasonable for someone who should have been zoned out in front of the TV.
I clicked around until my desk stopped shaking with the gunshots of “For Those About to Rock, We Salute You.”
Scott rubbed the back of his head.… Read the rest
I hurled down the Norton Anthology of American Literature.
It was an undergraduate text, but heavy, and I had hopes. No. It ricocheted harmlessly off my windshield. Next, I tried the MLA Handbook
. One bounce and it fell onto the pavement. A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory, Critical Theory Since Plato, The Heart and Stomach of a King,
and The English Language: A Historical Introduction
. All of them thumped against the glass. Some of them lodged at the top of the hood or caught in the windshield wipers. The rest cascaded down into the parking lot. But none of them started so much as a hairline crack.… Read the rest
Inside me lies a dinosaur in slumber, recumbent and half submerged. I try to keep her this way, because that terrible lizard roars destruction. But sometimes, no amount of medication can keep her from snorting to the surface, her enormous size swelling up through my skin and out my mouth. And on those days, I feel the boil. I thrash to free myself from the scalding heat. And my mania has teeth. She will seize you as gladly in her jaws as me. Or she’ll take us both down, hold us burning together until she ebbs back inside my skin.
This week, Velvet Verbosity is asking for 100 words on slumber.… Read the rest
I attended a mini-conference last week, and because I am me, I’ve been mulling it over ever since. It was one of these parenting seminars destined to be either spectacular or spectacularly dumb. I should assert here that my inner skeptic was expecting the latter.
A little background. I do not approve of parenting via the fluffy-cloud method. Scott and I once paid some $400 for a parenting course that was ALL 1970s schmaltz. The class text even used the phrase “hang-up”. Does it get more 1970s than “hang-up”? And yet, I loved that syrupy thing. Every annoying idea that irked me actually had practical applications that were anything but stupid.… Read the rest
Grad school exacerbated
. I’ve mentioned that before. And it took away my writing completely for four horrible years. And what’s worse was that I felt it going away. I took some creative writing classes and suddenly had nothing at all to say. Each piece was a struggle, and as I finished the final story, I realized that there simply were no more ideas. None at all.
It wasn’t just a matter of writer’s block. Writer’s block implies a hurdle that one can overcome. There was nothing at all in my way. I was still sitting down regularly, trying every trick I knew, and there was just nothing there.… Read the rest