Can’t Write Today…

I’m really sorry that I can’t write a blog post today, but…

There’s no Internet. Nor is the electricity working. Additionally, my computer has decided not to work because of the political climate.

My hands are crippled with leprosy, which I caught from red squirrels in England which makes it difficult to type. I’ve also contracted plague from prairie dogs and anthrax from goats. Or maybe cows. The white tailed deer gave me TB and the cat’s passed along toxoplasmosis causing me to be fearless and promiscuous. As you can imagine, that takes up a lot of my time.

There’s also the problem of the entertainment industry. I have movies and TV to watch and rewatch. I don’t even like most of this stuff, but if I don’t pay attention, than who will? Thousands of books are published each day. Then people thoughtlessly review those books and I have to read that as well, in case I don’t agree with them. Also, people are constantly publishing blogs that I have to take in. They just carelessly strew their words and ideas everywhere. There are newspapers and magazines to peruse, more arriving everyday and I have to get a handle on them.

Companies also publish games–computer, console, tabletop–all the damn time. Some of them require a lot of concentration and skills. They also require a lot of devoted time, so I can’t possibly write this blog.

Moreover, there are millions of places on this planet to visit. Today alone, I have to see Alaska, Thailand, Madagascar, New Zealand, Turkey, Italy and Argentina. I’d visit more, but waiting in the security checkpoints takes up too much time. Tomorrow, I have to experience Newfoundland, the Philippines, South Africa, Israel,  Norway, and Mexico. It’s very tiring and I’m not going to be able to blog.

I’m afraid that my garage is infested with Sasquatches. My basement is full of wareducks, and my attic has a that smell that indicates that pixies have taken up residence again. My front yard is full of unicorns and the back has manticores. The side yards are full of djinns, so be careful where you step. The airspace above and around my house contains rocs. This racket makes it impossible to construct a blog.

So as much as I’d like to write something for you wonderful people, I simply can’t. I’ll try again tomorrow.

 

 

 

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Fiction Friday

Now actually on Friday (I love Spring Break).

This is a writing prompt from Writer’s Digest. (Hey, if any of you folks know of another place with good writer’s prompts, lemme know in the comments!). It’s called “All in a Day’s Work” (In fact, it’s “All in a Days Work” but I’m still fighting the apostrophe wars. All by myself!): “As a doctor for hire you’ve met a fair share of odd folks. Nothing quite like this though: A man in his mid-thirties stands before you, clutching a wound just given to him by another man sprinting down the street. Now the perpetrator trips and lands on his own knife. Screaming for help and not knowing what the heck just happened—what do you do?”

I had already started to attend to the first man when the second one fell on his knife. I ordered the first man to sit down and a sensible-looking bystander to apply pressure. As I ran to the second man whose injuries were more serious, I yelled to a woman standing there, with her phone in hand to dial 911. I tripped over nothing in the sidewalk. The woman dropped her phone into a storm grate. A car driving by was fine until it got within ten feet of us, when it veered as if pulled into the fire hydrant, which started leaking, even though the car wasn’t going more than fifteen miles an hour, if that. Someone walking a dog down the sidewalk and somehow managed to trip herself and the dog with the leash, even though it was only a foot long. Somehow, the very small dog landed on top of the pile.

“Everyone freeze.” People did, as best they could. “I think we’re being affected by a localized ‘bad luck’ effect.”

“That’s ridiculous!” The woman with the who lost her cell phone bent down to look for it and unbalanced, tumbling forward and conking her head on the grate. “I take it back,” she said in a strangled tone. “When someone gets a moment, can they unhook my coat button from the grate?”

“Can anyone see anything that might be causing this?”

People looked as best they could. The woman with the dog was getting a really good view of a wagging tail, so she wasn’t much help. There was a chorus of nopes. I looked back to where I’d been tripped and there was a sort of blur. Either I was getting a migraine for the first time in my life, or that’s where the problem was. Moving my head didn’t make anything clearer, but it did confirm that there was something there.

“I can see you,” I said.

It moved and I tracked it. “Damn.” The air shimmered and a short man with a red beard glared at me. “What gave me away?”

“Are you kidding?” I nodded at the man I was attending. “He falls on his own knife? She drops her cell phone? The lady with the dog?”

“I didn’t actually do the dog thing. I think the mutt and her owner are just clumsy.”

“There might some truth to that,” the dog owner muttered.

“How do we resolve this?”

“Well, you caught me. Usually that’s a pot of gold.”

“Really? Seems like an odd choice. Heavy, have to convert it to spendable money, IRS audits…”

“I’ve been saying that for centuries. It’s a pain in the…leiderhosen to carry around, for sure. What do ya want instead?”

“How about you fix all of this?”

“That’s no fun at all.” The man pouted.

I calculated. “Fix the two knife wounds. Leave everything else. But no more mischief for the rest of the year.”

“One day.”

“Six months?”

“A week.”

“Two months.” I reached into my the pocket of my scrubs. “And a candy bar.”

“Deal.” The man snapped his fingers and disappeared, as did the two knife wounds.

I unhooked the coat button of the woman who lost her cell phone first and then we helped the two gentlemen untangle the other woman and her dog.

“Couldn’t have gotten my cell phone back?”

“Don’t you have insurance?”

“I’m not putting leprechaun on the form.” She crossed her arms.

“How about bad luck?”

She considered it. “Fair enough.”

“And true.”

 

 

Fiction, Interrupted

(For my dear brother Mike, who will understand.)

All of Lekan’s hard work, years of careful maneuvering, negotiations, and endless planning, the people who were no longer with them, all of the many losses, hard-won victories, and battles fought to dispiriting draws had led to this moment. He surveyed the amassed battalions, peoples and species from all over the globe, both under his command and those who were not and sighed. What a waste. His second-in-command, long of frame, finest archer in the past hundred years, Abimbola, stood beside him and asked “Whatcha doin’?”

“What?”

“Readin’?” It’s Sammy, he of the department of marketing… I mean, Sammy from marketing. I’m pretty sure that his brain existed only to count calories and keep track of which muscle group he had worked last.

“Yes. I am reading.” I attempt to revisit Edkiri and find out what Abimbola wanted to ask. I’m only in the break room because if I sit at my desk, I feel compelled to work. Besides, every time I pick up a book, the phone rings or the computer tells me I have an email.

“Are you really enjoying that, Tansy?” He takes a bite of one of the bananas that he carries around with him. Because of Sammy, I know that bananas are high in potassium. I don’t know or care why that’s important.

“Yes.” Surely if I confine myself to one word answers he will get bored and go away.

“Why?” Apparently not.

I splutter. A variety of answers bounce through my brain, each less socially acceptable than the last. I settle for “Because it gives me pleasure?”

“Huh. Never liked reading. Boring.” He takes another bite of banana.

“I’m sure.” For Sammy, it probably is—very few fiction books concern themselves with sword swinging’s effect on the deltoids. I nod, smile, and dive back into Edkiri. The day began… no, that’s too early…fog drifts up…unable to sleep further…armies assembling…oh, yes…asked…

“Is it about vampires?”

“What?”

“Your book.” He gestures to it.

I look at the cover to reassure myself. “This is a dragon,” I pointed out.

“My sister reads those vampire books. The one where the vampires bite people?” Narrowing it down to all of them.

“Uh-huh. Well, this one doesn’t have any vampires. It’s epic fantasy.”

He grins broadly. “Oh, that kind of book. I like the internet for that. No readin.’ Just movies and pictures, you know.”

I shake my head. “It’s not about fantasies. It is a… Oh, never mind. It’s science fiction with magic.” I could feel millions of both science fiction and fantasy fans screaming at my definition, but it was the best I could do.

“Oh. I didn’t think chicks liked science fiction. Isn’t it too…hard for you to understand?”

With the right jury, I wouldn’t be convicted. I could be lauded, in fact. But unless they were going to start empaneling from cons, I would be going to prison for a long time for killing Sammy. “Not that I noticed. Now if I could just…”

“What’s it about?”

I sigh. There isn’t a chance I’m going to get out of this. I will have to have my lunch break in my car from now on. “This is book eleven, the last in the series which took the author twenty years to write. I’ve read each one many times and have been looking forward to this book for years, the climax…” I can see his face and change what I’m saying to “conclusion of the series. It’s about Lekan and his best friend, Ambimola, who have been trying to defeat the great evil that had been infesting their lands for years. They are about to meet the enemy in the fields of battle.”

“Oh. Is there any bangin’?”

“Not so far. They’ve been busy fending off the malevolence of Ibi.”

“Huh. And you’ve read eleven of these?”

“Almost eleven.” I could be ten more pages in, if Sammy had decided to go for a walk for lunch. If I had the power of Ibi, I wouldn’t waste it on oppressing the people. I’d make it so that people who interrupted reading for anything less than a fire or a lottery win would be poofed out of existence.

“Are all of the books that thick?”

“Pretty much.”

“You could hurt someone with a book that thick, ya know.” I am certainly tempted to.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me…”

“You know what you coulda done instead?”

“What?!?”

“If you weren’t wastin’ your time with that stuff. You coulda trained for a marathon or gotten really cut.” He nods. “Taken a lotta work, but…”

I stare at him. “I don’t want to get ‘cut’ or run a marathon. That sounds awful. I like to read. It makes me happy.” I feel like I am explaining this to a five year old. “If I wanted to exercise more, I would certainly be capable of doing so. Please let me read my book. Please.”

“Chicks are weird,” Sammy says before he leaves. I look at my watch. Fifteen minutes left of my lunch break. I can probably get to the end of the chapter. Certainly, I can find out, finally, what Abimbola wanted to ask.

… Abimbola, stood beside him and asked “Do you think it will be worth it? Once we free them from Ibi’s reign, do you think they will appreciate their independence, their liberty? Fight against the next malignancy that arises?”

Lekan surveyed the land scarred by encampments, smoke from a thousand fires rising over the nervous hubbub of beings about to war, knowing that the chances of their individual survival in such an epic battle were small. He took a deep breath and replied “Yeah, Tansy’s right in here. Readin’. She’s in a bad mood, but we can cheer her up, no problem, the both of us.”

You’d think all those hours of activity would have improved Sammy’s reaction time, and he could have ducked when the book flew at him, on a trajectory Abimbola would have approved of.

Fiction Friday

(Now actually one Friday! I wrote this a while ago, but I’m resurrecting it because I’m elbow-deep in papers. Again. By the way, this doesn’t reflect my reality. Much.)

Adjuncting to Survive

I’m a good teacher—I have to be. It’s the only way I’ll eat.

It used to be that people like me taught at public schools, preferably high school—six to eight classes a day to feast upon. But then it became far too much testing, not enough instruction. Barely enough to keep body and soul together.

But then—and I shiver with excitement at the thought, came the rise of adjuncting. The ability to string together classes at multiple universities and colleges with, get this, no oversight. I could teach at a hundred places if I wanted, and no one would know or care. Glorious.

Some of us do just that—or near enough. After all, there’s plenty to go around. I know it’s tough to feed a brood second hand or with what they can skim from essays and homework. It’s not my place to judge. We all have our struggles.

I teach two days a week at the local community college and two at a branch of a state university. I start my day printing up activities and essay prompts, copying, and complaining to my colleagues—better to blend in, my dear.

Then it’s time to face the class. After all these years, I’m still nervous. It’s a little like the traditional anxiety dreams before the semester starts—what if I don’t have a syllabus? What if they won’t listen? What if there are one hundred and fifty of them, and I’ve accidently been assigned Advanced Underwater Basket Weaving, even though I can’t swim? The day-to-day stuff is more like—what if the seven things I have planned only take fifteen minutes? What if no one looks up from their cellphones? What if they decide to argue about everything? What if everyone decides that they don’t need to learn how to write and they leave? Not only am I not eating that day, but I’m probably going to have to look for another job.

But I take a deep breath and unlock the classroom. Students filter in, of all ages, races, sizes, shapes and levels of experience. They creep up to the desk and ask questions, which helps settle me. In between, I write on the board, lay out what we’re doing, and ask after kids, spouses, jobs, and hobbies. Appetizers.

I greet them and start class. In groups, they talk to each other and explain. The looks of comprehension satisfy me, but not as much as when I can help them as I walk from group to group. This is why teachers love group work—that and it’s pretty easy to grade.

They discuss things as a class. I have them write. I can tell that this is going to be yummy writing. Some people write furiously, others stare at the ceiling or walls until a thought comes, and a few need just a small prod from me.

We talk about the next paper, and their faces light up with understanding. This is what I live for, to achieve my goals. There are certainly worse ways. Like my… I suppose we could call them cousins in the entertainment field. Touring constantly, with ever bigger sets, bits, songs and stories, never being able to settle in one place, always chasing the next laugh or the next round of applause. Experimenting with substances to see if they’ll get an edge, but it’s all unpredictable.

Or my even poorer relatives, the writers. Poor bastards. They can put hundreds of hours into a piece and have it rejected by editors feeding on unrepaid work, or worse, critics who devour despair. Is it any wonder that writers are so anxious, so beaten down by the process that thousands each year just give up, lay down and die?

No, I’d rather be what I am. A teacher, teasing out insights and revelations, delighting in something learned, loving all of the homework, assignments and papers. Even if I do have to pay a stipend to each dean and administrator who employs me. It’s why I prefer to teach at community colleges and branch campuses—far fewer greedy, hungry, grasping thieves with hands out. And it takes forever to pay, which is why you can never find an administrator. They are always at “meetings” or “conferences” or “out to lunch with donors.” Like a university needs patrons with all that sweet tuition money coming in.

I do my part as well, spotting that person who comes alive during group work, the one who sparkles when a classmates gets an idea (no, not literally. We aren’t vampires to glisten in the sun instead of burning). One day, we’ll have a conversation in the hall, or after class, about what that feeling means, and I show them how to succeed, to get fat and happy.

I always assign enough to get through the weekends. The real problem is summer. If I can get a class, it’s wonderful. If I can’t, I have to tutor, even though it’s not always satisfying. Only one student at a time, but the realizations are more consistent; although if the student is resistant, it’s deadly.

All in all, it’s not a bad way to make a living. There are people who complain, of course, but they aren’t in this for the right reasons. They demand benefits, stability, tenure track jobs and a living wage. But I don’t need any of that, not really. As long as I get a steady stream of what I need, I’m fine.

Some might think it unfair, to mine my students, their thoughts, their inspirations for life and energy. But I’ve got a right to live like anyone else. So the next time you read about starving adjuncts, part-time faculty on food stamps, and other agitators, the next time people talk and write about social justice, the next time that people advocate for people like me, just remember. I’m doing fine.

After all, I’m a good teacher. I have to be—I need to eat.

Fiction Friday–The Diner

(I’ve been grading papers and Friday escaped when I wasn’t paying attention. Since it’s fiction, let’s all just pretend that it’s Friday.)

Scene: a diner–you know the kind: red vinyl booths, laminate tables, chrome, and stools at the counter. The waitress is wearing a shirt dress in mint with short, cuffed sleeves and comfortable shoes. The man in the booth looks like a lumberjack who’s never seen a tree–all clean, pressed flannel and a creative beard.

“Hiya hon, what can I getcha?” The waitress plops down flatware wrapped in a napkin along with a laminated menu card. Breakfast food predominate.

The man immediately opens up the package and starts examining and polishing the fork. He looks up. “How are these cleaned?”

“Paulo, in the back. He’s our dishwasher. Faster than a blink of a gnat’s eye.”

“At what temperature are these cleansed?”

“I don’t know about cleansing, hon, but it’s hot enough to burn. You from the health department? You wanna go back and look?”

The man sighs. “No, I guess it’s okay. Where are your eggs from?”

“Chickens?”

“What breed of chicken?”

“I don’t rightly know. The package just says ‘Eggs.'” She thinks for a second. “The eggs are white, if that helps.”

“Hmm. Do you think you could check?”

“Check what, hon?”

“The breed of chicken.”

“I… suppose. I can ask the manager, but I don’t think he knows.” The waitress goes to the manager and they have a conversation with many glances towards the bearded man and shrugs. She comes back. “He says they come on a truck. They’re real fresh, though. Arrived this morning.”

“Fine. Now, about your flour. Where is it grown? Do you know the varietal?”

“The what now?”

“The var… the kind of wheat.”

“I’m not sure. It comes in a sack with a crown on it.”

“Hmm. And your water?”

“It comes out of the tap, and I don’t know anything else about it.”

“Your coffee…”

“Winner of the Best Cuppa Joe award three years running,” the waitress says proudly.

“Would you know how long it’s been roasted? What beans are used? Are they fair trade?”

The waitress looks at the man for a long moment. “The come out of the can. I made a new pot about five minutes ago. And if two bucks for endless refills isn’t a fair trade, I don’t know what to tell you.”

This time the man stares at the waitress for a good long time. He nods. “I’ll have the hash with two fried eggs on top, some white toast, and a cup of coffee.”

“How you want that coffee?”

“Oh, with foamed skim milk, a shot of caramel, and cocoa-dusted whipped cream.”

“We got sugar, creamer in those little cups, and black.”

“Cream, then?”

“You got it, hon. Be right up.”

 

Fiction Friday–Roll Call

“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to Sociology 105. As soon as I’ve gone through the roster, we’ll begin.Si-o-bi-han Branch?”

“It’s Shivon.”

“Really? Why is there a ‘b’ in it? How do you get a ‘sh’ from ‘si’?

“I dunno. It’s Irish.”

“So the Irish don’t believe in phonetics? Okay, good to know. Moving on… Oh dear lord,  Richard Iago-Macbeth?”

“Present.”

“Do you ever find people distrust you for no reason?”

“No, why?”

“No reason. I assume that you will blithely name your kid Adolph… Hmm. Frederick Murillo?”

“Yo. But I prefer to be called Bob.”

“Is your middle name Robert?”

“Nope.”

“Sure. Bob, short for Frederick, as one would expect… John Smith?”

“That’s John Smith the Fifteenth.”

“There are fifteen of you?”

“Yes.”

“They found John Smith so evocative that they went with it fifteen times in a row?”

“Yep. And I prefer to be called John Smith the Fifteenth.”

“That whole thing, every time? Sure. We don’t have anything else to get to. Let’s see, Elizabeth Travis?”

“I like to be called e.”

“E? Just the letter? Not Eliza or Liz, or Beth, but E?”

“Yes, but it’s not capitalized.”

“You can hear the capital? Okey doke. I’ll do my best. Next is.. ah… RemingtonMaximillianFinnegan Werner-Rodriguez?”

“Here.”

“Were you a difficult birth?”

“Why do you ask?”

“No reason. You must have a blast filling out forms…. LaShonDra Williams?”

“Here.”

“And what do you want to be called?”

“LaShondra?”

“Thank God for that. I thought I’d never get an easy, normal name in this class. My name is Dr. Willow Tree. Please turn to page ten of your book…”