Saturday, January 26, 2013

100 Word Increments: Riding in Cars with Matt

On long car rides, I do my best to keep my husband entertained with scintillating conversation. Sometimes, he entertains me right back.


“Welcome to Killeen, Texas

“What kind of name is Killeen?” I asked.
Matt shrugged. “It’s better than Slaughter.”
“Slaughter, Texas,” he said.
I blinked. “Is it in Massacre County?”
“Something like that.”
“Is the Bates Motel there?”
“That’s the county seat.”
“Next to Happy Hannibal’s Steakhouse and BBQ?”
“It’s delicious.”
“You know, you can tell a lot about a state from the movies it brings to mind. KansasThe Wizard of Oz, all nostalgic and over the rainbow. Oklahoma – nice, musical cowboys singing about beautiful mornings. Texas, on the other hand, had a chainsaw massacre.”
“It’s because of the traffic here,” Matt said.



“I like this song,” I said. “So cheerful.”
Matt scoffed skeptically. “You like a song about partying too hard?”
“Yup,” I said. “It’s catchy!”
“You’ve never partied,” Matt said. “Ever.”
“It’s still a fun song.”
“Shouldn’t we try it at least once?”
“Let’s just live vicariously through the music video,” I said, staring at him.
Several minutes later, he noticed and said, “Yes?”
“Just looking at you,” I said. “Can you guess what I’m thinking about right now?”
“Curious F-ing George?”
“Beach balls?”
“No, it was ‘He’ll never guess what I’m thinking about right now.’”



“Look!” I said. “A fake kookaburra bird!”
“What?” said Matt.
“Kingfishers look just like kookaburras,” I explained. “My mom used to sing me the song.”
“What song?”
“Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree.
Merry merry king of the bushes he.
Laugh, kookaburra laugh
Kookaburra, gay your life must be,” I sang.
“Your mom used to sing to you about gay birds?” Matt said, laughing. “That explains sooo much about your childhood.”
“It’s a cute song! Don’t sully it!”
“Dear, you know I sully everything I touch,” he said. Then, as an afterthought, he poked me in the leg. “Touch!”


Thought Exercises

“Here’s one,” I said. “You drive a space taxi in the center of intergalactic commerce. Unfortunately, you’re a racist. What is the one alien species you never stop for?”
“Ferengi,” he said. “They never pay.”
I laughed. “Hutts, because they wreck the suspension.”
“Wookies, because they leave hair everywhere,” said Matt.
“No, I always stop for wookies. Otherwise, they’ll chase you down and rip your arms off.”
“Point,” said Matt. “Weeping Angels?”
“I don’t want to think about them!”
“It’s hard to drive when you have to keep watching them in the rearview mirror.”
“Conversation over!” I said.
(Don’t blink!)


Try Again.

We came up behind a truck transporting a pile of rebar, each piece as long as the semi trailer and as thick as my legs. “What does one even do with rebar that size?” I wondered aloud.
“Build bridges,” said Matt.
“Oh,” I said. We pulled up level with the truck. “Let’s try this again,” I said. “Think like a mad scientist. What does one even do with rebar that size?”
“Kinetic energy weapon.”
“Now you’re a spaceship captain.”
“Pretend you drive a Mech.”
“Field repairs.”
“You’re the iron chef.”
This kept us entertained through half of Texas.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Need a Hero?

Even when I read comic books as a kid, I was never obsessed with the Avengers. Their comics were just something to pass the time while I waited for the next issue of Uncanny X-Men. Yet here we are.

About once a week, I curl up on the couch with a mug of hot tea and a cat in my lap and I watch The Avengers. I’m not tired of it yet. I still laugh at the funny bits. I still sniffle when a certain lovable SHIELD agent dies.

Obviously, something is missing from my spiritual diet.

See, nutritionists say we crave the things our bodies are missing. Like, you crave sweets when you’re not getting enough calories, or you crave oranges when you need more vitamin C.

At least, I think that’s right… I’ve never actually craved an orange before. It would be easier if I craved something as healthy as oranges. I crave sweets all the time though. Even if I’ve just eaten. Even if the thing I’ve just eaten is ice cream. Generally, what I crave is more ice cream.

Anyway, the theory is that I keep watching The Avengers because it’s fulfilling a need that is otherwise missing from my life. What is my brain trying to get from this movie, I wondered?

Do I need to stand for truth and old-fashioned values, like Captain America?
Do I need to “strut” and release bottled feelings as Tony Stark advised Bruce Banner to do?
Am I merely suffering from an abhorrent lack of mech-style body armor?
Do I need a hero, like the Bonnie Tyler song says?
Do I need to be more heroic?


That’s how I found myself seriously considering the earnest woman in front of me, soliciting volunteers for the Red Cross Blood Drive.

“You don’t need a cape to be a hero!” the pamphlet said.

“This is where, now?” I asked.

“We’ll be right here at the library. You wouldn’t even have to leave work!” She smiled in that way the puppies at the shelter smile, full of hope and enthusiasm.

“Okay,” I said, taking the offered clipboard and signing my name.


I wasn’t overly concerned in the weeks before my appointment. Sure, I’d never donated blood before, but this was me being brave! I’d be a hero, maybe save a life, and then I’d get a cookie and go home and watch The Avengers again. It was a win-win-win situation.

However, I grew more cowardly as the day of the blood drive approached.

“You’re giving blood, huh?” said a library patron when I mentioned it the day before. “I’ve tried that a few times. I always pass out, though.”

“Really?” I asked, horrified.

“Right to the floor.”

“Have you ever passed out after giving blood?” I asked a friend.

“No,” she said.

I sighed in relief.

“But this one time the guy next to me did.”

My spirits fell.

“Just don’t look,” said Carla, a former nurse. “It doesn’t hurt that bad when they stick you but there’s just something about watching your own blood draining out…” She shuddered, and so did I.

“What if I pass out?” I asked Matt later.

“Just move slowly afterwards and eat the cookie they give you,” he said.

“Yeah, but what if I pass out?”

He sighed and left the room.


I worried about it all day. Was I well rested enough? Had I drunk enough fluids? Did I eat enough iron?

Also, what if I pass out?

When I got off work at five, I walked down the hall to the library’s gallery, where the equipment was already set up. The woman with the happy-puppy smile greeted me at the door. “It’s so great that you could come!” She handed me four laminated sheets of single spaced tiny type. “Just read over these information sheets before we get started.”

The sheets went on at length about the various circumstances that would disqualify one from giving blood. “Does anyone actually qualify as a donor?” I asked.

The woman laughed. “It’s long, isn’t it? I’ll just take those back from you, then. Head on inside.”

A nurse with a lily tattoo led me to a laptop. “I’m going to take your blood pressure, screen your iron levels – that’s just a prick on your finger – and then I’ll have you do a questionnaire before we get started.”

As she spoke, I watched an older nurse assist a woman on a stretcher as a tube from her arm drained red into an exceptionally large pouch. That’s a lot of blood, I thought. Is it too late to leave?

“Your iron levels are great!” said nurse Lily, turning the laptop toward me. “Let me know when you’re done.”

It’s probably too late to leave.

I read through the questions, asking if I’d ever taken medications I’d never heard of, traveled to countries I’d never heard of, or slept with anyone who didn’t have the good sense not to also sleep with livestock.

When I finished, nurse Lily patted the stretcher. “Hop up and have a seat. We’ll get started.”

I tried to keep the trepidation from my face as she strapped a band around my upper left arm and poked thoughtfully at my inner elbow with her fingers. A line of concentration appeared between her eyebrows. “Do you mind if I look at the other arm?” she said.

“Okay?” I said, uncertainly.

The poking commenced on the other side. “Hmm,” said nurse Lily. “I’ll just check the left one again.” She strapped the band in place, waving for the other nurse. “Will you have a look at this?”

The old nurse I’d watched earlier came over and stared at my arm. “Make a fist for me,” she said, poking. “Now let it go.” More poking. “Now pump this stress ball.” Poking.

The nurses looked at each other. “Let’s see the right one,” the old nurse said.

After repeating the whole process, the old nurse patted my shoulder. “Maybe next time,” she said, not unkindly.

“Thanks for trying,” said nurse Lily. 

“Wait, that’s it?” I said.

“We can’t do it if we can’t find a vein.”

“I just had blood drawn for a test a week ago. I know they’re in there!”

She smiled, but her eyes were mischievous. Digging in a box on the table beside her, she said, “When they drew blood for your test, did they use a needle that looked like this?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said. “That’s the one.”

“Okay,” she said, digging out another. “But when you donate blood, we use this needle.”

I stared at the thick spike in her hand. I could have used it as a coffee straw. “Probably best not to go digging around with that, then,” I said.

“Probably not,” she agreed.


“How’d it go?” Matt asked later.

“I have no veins!” I said. “I’m a zombie! I’ve died and nobody told me!”

“Could you maybe back up and start again?”

I explained the situation to him.

“Okay,” he said, mulling it over. “But at least you didn’t pass out.”

I grumbled.

He pulled me in for a hug. “I think you were very brave for trying,” he said.

And maybe I was, a little. But I’ll probably spend my weekend watching The Avengers again.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Some Assembly Required, Part II

For part I, click here.

Having a mannequin in the library made things more interesting. We dressed her like a tourist and put out travel books. We dressed her like an Egyptian goddess and displayed books on Egypt and mummies. One time, we put her in a trench coat and fedora and showcased mystery books.

At first, Trixie traveled around the library while Cheri tried to decide where she was most visible but least in the way.  The patrons loved it. The other library workers and I were less enthusiastic.

“I keep catching her out of the corner of my eye,” I said.

“Like she’s a patron over there, waiting for someone to help her,” Carla agreed.

“You should see her when we close at night,” said Stephanie. “Standing there… in the dark…”

She didn’t stand still, either. Bits fell off at the slightest provocation. A light nudge would dislodge a hand or a leg. Curious children would scream in horror as appendages rained down around them. One of the arms sat on Cheri’s desk for nearly a week while she contemplated a better way to attach them. “I’m glad to see you embracing your second amendment rights,” I said.

One morning before the library opened, Cheri put the finishing touches on the New Years display of diet and workout books. “I got workout clothes for Trixie to wear,” she said, as Karyn brought out Trixie’s armless torso from a back room where she’d been put away.

“I dropped her head,” said Karyn, backtracking. “It’s in the kitchen.”

Cheri surveyed the scene. “We’ll have to take her off the base to get these pants on,” she said, when Karyn returned.

“That shouldn’t be too hard, since the pants are stretchy,” said Karyn.

A moment of silence followed. “Are they supposed to be stretchy?” said Cheri.

“Workout pants generally are,” said Karyn.

“How would I know that?” said Cheri. “Like I would ever do extra physical work outside the home?”

Behind the circulation desk, Carla and I stifled giggles. “What,” I said, “so if it’s inside the home, you workout naked? Is that what I’m hearing?”

Cheri laughed, but Karyn grew serious, “My brother-in-law did that! On his treadmill at home, he worked out naked, but then he fell and damaged the goods and used that as his excuse to never workout again.”

They struggled with the workout pants, which were not as stretchy as one would hope. “It looks like I’m getting intimate with this naked mannequin,” Karyn said, as she lifted Trixie higher. “Do you see where my hands are?” The two of them cackled gleefully.

Eventually, I went over to help them. “If tiny Korean immigrants in shops can dress a mannequin, so can you,” I said encouragingly, giving the pants a tug.
As we lowered her back onto her base, I stood back. “Dang, she makes these pants look good.”

“She looks like she works out, doesn’t she?” said Cheri, admiring our efforts.

“Either that or she has an eating disorder. I’ve never actually seen her eat.” We slipped on her shirt. “You couldn’t have ordered a chubby mannequin, to make us all feel better?” I said.

“We could have got one with bigger breasts,” said Cheri.

“Yeah, there was an option to select the breast size,” said Karyn.

“Because that’s the kind of thing that’s a priority when you’re ordering an artificial person,” I said, trying to keep the edge of sarcasm out of my voice, going back to the opening duties behind the desk.

Karyn fixed Trixie’s hair in a stylish ponytail, suitable for aerobics at the Y.

“Perfect,” said Cheri. “Do we have a sweat band for her?”

“It really HAS been a long time since you worked out,” said Karyn. “No one uses those anymore!”

“I do,” I said from the desk, but they didn’t seem to hear me.

“Well, what do you do when you get sweaty?” Cheri asked.

“You sweat! That’s how people know you’re working hard!” said Karyn.

“I’ve got one I could bring if you want,” I said, but was again ignored.

“Trixie doesn’t sweat,” said Karyn. “She’s one of those people who looks fantastic no matter how hard she works out.”

“Yes, I can tell,” said Cheri.

As they headed away toward their offices, Carla and I shook our heads. “Let’s see,” said Carla. “This morning we’ve already discussed breast sizes, scraping junk on a treadmill, hands in crotches… did I miss anything?”

“No, that about covers it,” I said.

“And we haven’t even opened yet.”

“Yeah,” I sighed, smiling. “I love this job.”

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Ghost Seekers

(The following is a transcript from an unaired episode of Ghost Seekers™. Due to the frightening content of this episode, it has been kept from public television. Reader discretion is advised.)

Voiceover Guy: Tonight on Ghost Seekers™…

Tori: It’s as if I’m being watched.

Voiceover Guy: On the outskirts of Wichita, an ordinary couple…

Tori: Like there’s something in the shadows, staring at me.

Voiceover Guy: …shares their home with forces that can’t be explained. 

(Creepy Theme Song)

Max Darkmore: Hello, and welcome to Ghost Seekers™. I’m your host, Max Darkmore. Tonight I’m with the Hamiltons, a Wichita couple with a dark secret.

Matt: I want no part in this.

(Mr. Hamilton attempts to leave.)

Max Darkmore: Mr. Hamilton, we’re only here to help. If you could just talk to us about these unnatural forces…

Matt: Unnatural? No. You know what? No. I’ll be downstairs playing Starcraft.

(Door slamming.)

Tori: I think it’s hard for him. He likes to believe he can defend himself, but there is no defense… against the unknown…

Max Darkmore: What’s with the dramatic pause?

Tori: I thought that would be a good sound bite for you.

Max Darkmore: What?

Tori: You know, for the commercials!

Max Darkmore: Right…

Tori: I’m a big fan of the show!

Max Darkmore: Okay, listen, let me worry about the commercials. Why don’t you just tell us about these things you’ve been experiencing lately.

Tori: Well, mostly it happens when we leave the room. When we come back later, things have changed!

Max Darkmore: Go on…

Tori: Little things go missing and I find them in the darnedest places, like under the fridge, or behind the couch.

Max Darkmore: How peculiar!

Tori: Water glasses get knocked over… Sometimes, the houseplants will be completely healthy one day but droopy the next, as if some unseen entity has disturbed the roots! I’ve even found traces of potting soil on the floor surrounding the area!

Max Darkmore: It sounds like you have a high level of paranormal activity. Tell me, Mrs. Hamilton, have you ever actually seen a spirit or spirits manifest in your home?

Tori: No, not really… but sometimes I catch the cats staring at nothing and that’s kind of creepy.

Max Darkmore: Hang on… you say you have cats?

Tori: Ooh! Actually, sometimes, when I check on them in the morning, their food dish has mysteriously moved from one end of the room to the other!

Max Darkmore: Mrs. Hamilton…

Tori: Right across the floor! It’s as if it’s levitated!

Max Darkmore: It seems likely that these events you’ve experienced are simply-

Tori: And I haven’t even mentioned the noises! At night when we’re in bed, we hear them - like thumping footsteps running through the house with inhuman speed!

Max Darkmore: Inhuman, you say?

Tori: (nods) But there’s no one there!

Max Darkmore: (sighs) Okay, that’s it. We’re done here. Pack it up.

Tori: Is this where you cut to commercial?

Max Darkmore: Something like that.

(Creepy Theme Song)