Monday, November 11, 2013

Last Words

I have a confession to make. I’m one of those people who have a weird habit and don’t want anyone to know about it. But today I’m going to let you in on my strange ritual, so next time, when you see me at the bookstore, you’ll think twice before shooting me a nasty glare, which I got from someone at Barnes and Noble yesterday (it wasn’t the first and probably not the last, either).

So, this is what I do before I buy/read a book. I leaf through it and read the last sentence. Yup, it’s one of those “Bruce Willis is a ghost” moments. Don’t get it? Let me explain. Some years ago, my husband and I were just about to leave for the movie theater to see The Sixth Sense, when his friend, Alfredo Melendez, pulled up in our driveway, asked where we were headed, and when he received the answer, he said, “Oh, yeah, I saw that movie. Bruce Willis is a ghost.” So much for our movie-going that day. You get the picture. So, from that day on, anytime someone spoils the ending of anything, we say “Bruce Willis is a ghost.” Thank you, Fredo!

You must wonder why I would do it to myself; why would I have a “Bruce Willis is a ghost” moment each time I open a new book. Shouldn’t the hook be the first sentence, not the last? The first sentence of any book may hook you, but will it reel you in? You have to read on to see whether the story is worth your time. And pretty soon you’re through with the first paragraph, the first page, the first chapter, and you’re still not sure whether you’re interested enough to continue. Then you realize that the book is pretty thick, say three, four hundred pages, and so far you’re iffy with continuing to read. You sigh, close it, and put it back on the shelf. You’ve just wasted your precious time and energy.

I have very little of both, so I try to conserve as much as I can. I start at the end. I read the last sentence first. If I find it intriguing, I read the sentence before it. And then I wonder, jeez what could have possibly happened that the book ended this way? I have a bazillion antecedent scenarios playing out in my head, and yes, you’ve guessed it—I’m hooked, reeled in, and hanging on the line like a fish out of water.

Here are some great last words. And let’s play a game. Can you guess to which book they belong?

1.   They said that of all the kings upon earth he was the man most gracious and fair-minded, kindest to his people and keenest to win fame.
2.   Big words are always punished, and proud men in old age learn to be wise.
3.   With man gone, will there be hope for gorilla? With gorilla gone, will there be hope for man?
4.   Honi soit qui mal y pense. “Evil to him who thinks evil.”
5.   The creatures outside look from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.
6.   And no one can help me. Not even you.
7.   He was soon borne away by the waves, and lost in the darkness and distance.
8.   Very few castaways can claim to have survived so long at sea as Mr. Patel, and none in the company of an adult Bengal tiger.
9.   So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
10.  I ran with the wind blowing in my face, and a smile as wide as the Valley of Panjsher on my lips. I ran.

     A.   Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
     B.   The Oedipus Cycle by Sophocles
     C.   Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 
     D.  Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
     E.   Animal Farm by George Orwell
     F.   The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
     G.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
     H.  Beowulf
      I.   Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
     J.   Life of Pi by Yann Martel


 1H. 2B. 3A. 4C. 5E. 6D. 7I. 8J. 9G. 10F.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

No NaNo

I owe you a huge apology for my absence. Perhaps you’re one of those people who try to look for excuses and make up scenarios for why I haven’t been contributing to the Conundrum Corner lately.

You may think I’ve been too busy reading, or writing, or working, or cooking, or rearing children, or imagining. You are correct. I’ve been doing all of the above and more. The one thing I have not done, and meant to, was join NaNoWriMo. For those of you who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, here’s the low-down. It’s a month long frenzy in which you write like mad a minimum of 50K words—I’m keeping the explanation as short as possible. There are many perks and other details that go with it, but they are not as important as starting and finishing a literary masterpiece in one month. Well, something to that effect. So I had meant to join the writing craze and then decided against it. 

Writing 50K in a month and creating something cohesive is a LOT of work. And I’m the Queen of Procrastination! I would probably be up all night on the last day of NaNoWriMo, pounding on the keys of my laptop, writing what would surely be a disaster. So no. I’m not going to write something that’s going to take the rest of my life to revise. I think I’ll stick to my moments of clarity, escapism, and musings. They are rare, unfortunately, but when I have them, I feel like my fingers move across the keyboard at the speed of light; my spirit is completely detached from my body; and my eyes see the beyond into which I’ve submerged my ethereal self.
Those are the moments I cherish the most because they have allowed me to be a vessel for words and sentences at which I can only stare with my mouth open, thinking...

And then comes the hard part. Spreading the word. Yup, authors have to be marketers as well. This is the part of book publishing in which we generally suck. I know I do, so please, if you have any ideas on how to get my books into as many hands as possible, don’t be shy. Spill! 

                  Talk to you soon. I promise!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Teaching Miley Cyrus an Astronomical Lesson

How does this                                                                         

and this

                                                                go together, you ask?

It so doesn’t. Therefore, I’m glad to announce that the engagement of Liam Hemsworth and Miley Cyrus has been called off. Whew. The possible future children of “Lialey” have been spared the embarrassment of having a wicked weirdo for a mother! Also, does anyone else think that her tongue is just abnormally long and large? If Miley licked a frozen pole, she’d probably be able to turn around, get into her car, and drive to Starbucks to get a hot tea/coffee to defrost her slug-like tongue on steroids.

Yeah, yeah, I know some people have to put in their two cents and defend her by saying: “She’s not doing anything new. Just look at Madonna and Lady Gaga!” To those people I say, Puh-leeease. You cannot put Miley Cyrus in the same category as Madonna and Lady Gaga. It would be an astronomical mistake. And since we’re on astronomy, let’s do an astronomical comparison. Pretend Madonna is the Sun, Lady Gaga is Jupiter, and Miley Cyrus is Pluto. You see the difference there? Pluto is not even considered a planet anymore. It’s only a dwarf planet. Why? Because in order to be a planet, you need 3 things: 

1. Orbit around the Sun in an elliptical path—Miley doesn’t orbit around Madonna. She trails behind her. Far, far behind her. 
      2. Possess enough gravity to maintain its body—Miley seems to be high on some sort of a “make me an idiot look-alike” drug; therefore she possesses no “common sense” gravity and she keeps changing her body image. She went from a blond Hannah Montana wig, to dark hair and chubby curves, to short, bleached blond hair, half shaven skull, and lanky limbs. Who is this constantly morphing person? I sense some serious identity issues. 
       3. Have cleared its orbit of the majority of space “debree”—Miley still has a lot of clearing to do. From her image to her videos, and I’m not even talking about personal life, family, and relationships.

So why would anyone go to these obnoxious lengths to gain momentum and attention? The only reasonable answer is this. Your music, Miley Cyrus, sucks. It’s not nearly as good as the music of the giants you are trying to emulate (Madonna, Lady Gaga) and so to pull attention away from your mediocre art you must draw focus somewhere else—your dirty performance. Now, go take a shower and clean up your act!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Seeking Spiritualists

Does anyone have Theresa Caputo’s, the Long Island Medium’s phone number? Or does anyone know anything real about spirits? Because I’m seriously puzzled here. Do you remember when I wrote my blog post Who Wants to Live Forever (posted on 9/1/12) which was about my grandma? If not, please go back and re-read. So, in that post I talk about a very deep connection to my grandmother, promising her I would invent some medication to make her live forever, and then having her visit me in my dreams after she’d passed away. In the last dream, which was very heartbreaking and I woke up with a tear-soaked pillow, she told me she wouldn’t be able to visit me any longer because it was time for her to reincarnate.

Last night I had another dream involving my beloved grandma. The dream was ALL about her; however, she was completely absent. It went something like this: My husband, children, and I flew to Slovakia to visit her, but for some reason she had moved from her old house to a new one (this was beyond my understanding; how could she have abandoned the house of my childhood memories?). So when I queried my uncles, aunts, and cousins about her new address, no one wanted to tell me. They were in some sort of cahoots, each one coming up with excuses like, “She takes a nap at this time of the day. You shouldn’t disturb her” or  “She’s doing her shopping around this time; she won’t be home” or “She usually has coffee with one of her lady friends. Wait till tomorrow.” I finally pried my grandma’s whereabouts out of one of my younger cousins, loaded my luggage, husband, and kids into a taxi and headed to my grandma’s anyway. When the cab arrived at some kind of an odd, crumbling neighborhood, I realized my cousin had tricked me and sent me out to the loonies. I cursed but began taking the suitcases out of the taxi, trying to give her the benefit of the doubt. As soon as I turned my back, however, two gypsy boys ran up to the cab and stole the suitcase that contained all our passports, money, and return flight tickets. We ended up at the police station which was useless since the two little thieves were long gone and indescribable. And that’s where my dream ended. I never got to see my grandma.

So to all of you who know something, anything about spirits…is it possible for the spirit that has reincarnated to leave that body and come “visit” its loved ones? Is it possible that they are somehow trapped and need our help? How does the spirit world work anyway? What are the rules? And what are the consequences for rule-breaking? I may be a fool, but I feel like my grandmother is calling out to me and that, this time around, I’ve failed her.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I Come from the Land of Stories

I cannot believe how quickly this year’s summer break came to an end. At least for me. I have to go back to work tomorrow. [sigh] But I have to admit I’ve accomplished a lot during my time off. As promised, I’ve worked on my summer project of fairy tales although it didn’t turn out as planned—what does anyway? Instead of writing a book of fairy tales, I realized that the project is going to be several books, with one fairy tale by Yours Truly and illustrations by my talented cousin Cecelia Bowen, in each. I feel like concentrating on one tale at a time is better because the characters always order me around. And who am I to say “no”? I’m merely a vessel, so I just go with the flow. The first book, The Mysterious Mandolin, is in its final stages and since it was received very well by my beta readers, it will be available in print soon. You and your children have something awesome to look forward to. I promise.

Another over-the-summer accomplishment of which I’m proud is the The Guardian’s journey. From my head, onto the pages, through a rigorous editing process, and on to be my MFA Thesis, this baby is now resting on the shelves of National University’s library in Los Angeles, so please go visit. It will also be available for the world in print and as an ebook thanks to Black Opal Books, with whom I signed a publishing contract.

I’ve also been working with a certain literary agent of a certain literary agency, whose name I cannot disclose, as a reader of manuscripts that made it from the slush pile and realized that most aspiring authors are so caught up in word count and trying too hard to impress by over the top language that they completely miss the point of writing. 

Dear Aspiring Writer, 
We (as in Readers) don’t care if your book has one hundred or one thousand pages. We want a good story. We want conflict right off the bat, not halfway through the novel. We want immediacy. We want characters we can love or love to hate; we want to know them intimately. We want a voice that pulls us in. We do not want to have a dictionary on hand while we are reading your words. We do not want a story that describes actions on pages and pages to come, yet nothing ever happens. We want a plot that twists and turns and surprises. We want a story we wish would never end, and when it does, we want to be exhausted yet exhilarated, sad yet satisfied, fulfilled yet empty like the page after the words "The End". 

Hmmm. Now I’m thinking I should start a Writer’s 101 in my future blogs. :o) 
So, if this certain literary agency didn’t pick up your novel for representation, it’s most likely because something listed above was missing, and I pointed it out.

And lastly. Those darn signs about which I wrote in I’m a Graniac and so Are You blog are following me again. This is what happened. I flew home this summer--home to the Czech Republic, that is. On the first day I found the missing page from the book of fairy tales I had brought back with me six years ago and for which I’ve been desperately looking this whole time! My hometown hasn’t changed drastically, well, except for a few new malls and Downtown which is my Heaven now. There is a book store on every corner! No, I’m not kidding. I mean it literally. And what did I find there? Old comic books from my childhood, which I used to take to Pioneer Camp (during the Communist days) with me every summer. That was a sweet find as these became a collectors’ item during the decades. 

I got back to California last week, with a suitcase filled to brim with books and some necessary European delicacies. As I battled jet lag and tried to get my taste buds used to the bland flavor of American food, I realized that I was already homesick. Just then, a commercial for my country and its sightseeing spots began playing on TV. Not only did my homesickness (if that’s even a word) intensified, but I also felt some sort of knowing pulse through my body. I knew that I'm exactly who I’m supposed to be because of where I come from. I’m a Storyteller. I come from the Land of Stories.

Click below to see something breathtaking.

P.S. On 8/27 I will have the lovely and talented storyteller, Nana Prah, here as my guest. She’s promoting her novel, Love Through Time, available here. So, show some love and order it now.

Monday, July 15, 2013

As Good As Dead

They—whoever they are—say death comes in threes. If that’s true, our pal the Grimm Reaper had put in some overtime this weekend and worked off two thirds of his workload as he’d hit the two-in-one jackpot with a single swing of his scythe.

The first one cut down at the prime of his youth and career was Glee’s rock and founding member, Cory Monteith. Cory has had a problem with alcohol and drug addiction since he was twelve, but for some reason he radiated such innocence and the boy-next-door look, with dimpled cheeks that when mixed with his smoldering gaze made him the epitome of sexiness. Yes, yes, I know you’re thinking that these young starts have it coming because of the lifestyle they lead, and I agree. You’re absolutely right. The sad part is that Cory had tried to turn his life around and almost succeeded. He finished his rehab program in April and did great for a while, well at least until Saturday when his body was found in a Vancouver hotel room. So, while the sequence of these events is pretty normal and has repeated itself throughout history with Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger, River Phoenix and so on, what I found really eerie about Cory’s death is his foreseeing of the future. Not too long ago, he and some of the Glee cast were interviewed on the Inside the Actors Studio show and when asked, What do you think God will tell you when you get to the gates of Heaven?, Cory replied: “Sorry I haven’t been around; there’s good explanation.”
I hope Cory got the explanation and that it was indeed good.

The second death affects more people than just those who rout for a young-and-coming star. It is the death of fairness, quality, and really, the death of a good story.

A great reveal has been made over the weekend in the world of publishing; one that has left the faces of publishers as scarlet as the infamous letter. Let’s start from the beginning. J. K. Rowling’s manuscript of Harry Potter had been rejected countless times. Then after more than six years, Rowling found an agent who would represent it; however, twelve publishing houses decided to pass on the story. Finally, it was picked up, but only under the condition that Joanne went under the ambiguity of her initials because female authors couldn’t sell a large quantity of books. WTF? Hello! Red flag right there! After Rowling had made a name for herself, she published Casual Vacancy, which soared to the top of the reading charts even before it hit the bookstores. For whatever reason, Rowling decided to publish her next novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, under the name Robert Galbraith. Rejection letters poured in like an avalanche. Publishers and agents said the story was too vague; they’d read too many books like that already; the market for such a story was too overcrowded; it’s salability wouldn’t be viable. So Rowling finally decided to go back to the same editor and publishing house that had put out Harry Potter, and The Cuckoo’s Calling sold a whopping 449 copies. But wait, it gets better. Some reporter did a little digging and dot connecting and found out that Rowling is Robert Galbraith. Of course, once the news leaked, The Cuckoo’s Calling flew up to number one in book sales overnight, and agents and publishers began apologizing and praising Rowling’s new novel.

This just proves how much bullshit goes on in the world of big publishing houses. So when you go online and you see big publishing houses say they strive to put out great stories or stories that have literary quality or books that are great reads, THEY LIE. What they publish are names. Big names, to be more accurate. Names that will bring income even though their next story is just eeeh. I completely understand that publishing is a business and in order to stay afloat and compete with the ever growing platform of indie publishers and self-published authors these big houses have a lot of work to do. But shouldn’t that mean that giving new voices a chance is more important than ever? Safety should be the alarm companies’ motto, not the publishers’. Live a little, believe in a good story by an unknown author, risk it, and you will be rewarded. I think the readers are intelligent enough to smell the stench of a pile of crap even when it is masked with the fragrance of Stephen King and the likes. Don’t bury a good story just because the name of the author is yet an unknown.

So, that’s two deaths of the fabled three. But then again, as they say, three’s a crowd. Let’s hope these two deaths are enough for the week. Make it a great one!

Friday, July 12, 2013

I'm a Grainiac and so Are You

I watched one of my favorite movies, The Signs, last night, and it got me thinking about just that—signs. I love the part where Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix are sitting on the couch in the middle of the night in front of the TV that shows images of extraterrestrial lights in the sky, and Gibson gives his highly philosophical theory on the two kinds of people. Either you belong to group one, to those who see a sign and interpret it as a miracle, as evidence that there is someone out there watching out for them, and that fills them with hope. Or you belong to group two, to those who see a sign and interpret it as luck, a chance that is fifty-fifty. Could be bad, could be good. But deep down they know that whatever decision they choose to make, they are on their own. So this theory really begs the question: Are they signs or are they just coincidences? Do we make too much of not enough and connect the dots in a way that suits us, creating elaborate theories from circumstantial evidence?
Sometimes I think we do, especially people like authors and artists, whose job is to enter the realm of imagination and create realities from nothingness. And it is in these times when something freaky happens, as if trying to convince me otherwise. Like this morning when I read my wonderful author-friend, Nana Prah’s blog...and guess what! She wrote about coincidences. Freaky, right? Now, is that a coincidence or a sign? And if it’s a sign, what is it signaling?

So I thought a little deeper and wondered to which group of people I would belong. And I’ve figured that I need a third group. I belong to the group of people who don’t think that there is someone watching out for them. I belong to the group of people who know that they are no more than a grain of sand in a giant hourglass called the Universe. Does that mean, therefore, that they are unimportant? To the contrary! Every grain counts. Without it, the hourglass would be useless. Without it, its purpose would be meaningless. Just how can you accurately measure time if you disregard even one grain of sand? And so every grain has its particular role, its path, its destination. And should it stray from its purpose…well, there’s really nowhere to go being in an hourglass and all, but its chances aren’t fifty-fifty, good or bad. They just are the way they are meant to be because the hourglass is shaped in such a way that if you look at it from above or below, you’ll find that the destination of the grain of sand is always the same, no matter how it gets there. So it doesn’t matter whether you believe what you see or whether you see what you believe. What matters is that you are here and that you are a part of something spectacular--something that would be useless and imperfect without you.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Descendants

I know I may be a little too late with this news, but I needed sufficient time to process it.

So, that jerk Kanye West and that what-is-she-famous-for-again? Kim Kardashian had a baby. Not that I care. I only prayed that Taylor Swift waited around in the delivery room, and then, as the doctor passed the baby to Kanye, Taylor jumped up, grabbed it out of his hands, and said, “Yo, imma letchoo hold yo baby in a minute, but I just wan’ e’r’body in hee to know that Beyonce had one o’the best deliveries of all time.”

Fine, fine, enough with the jokes. Let’s be serious for a moment and ask ourselves, “Why do Kanye and Kim hate their daughter?” I mean, the girl is just a few days old and already, she is the target of numerous jokes because of her name. Honestly, do these two not know that they are serving her on a silver platter at a comedy buffet? And anyone is welcome to pick up a fork a take a stab. This girl is going to have a tough time growing up. Not only will she have to deal with the fact that her dad is a condescending, microphone-grabbing, award-air-time-stealing,  nobody-cares- what-he’s-babbling-about idiot and her mom is just another reality TV nobody, but she’ll have to deal with kids throwing things like maps, compass, and other navigational tools at her head. Trust me. I know. I’ve been working with children for over a decade, and I'm sad to say that they get worse every year. So why, as a parent, would anyone contribute to humiliating, bullying, and scarring their own child for life? Or at least till the time when the kids get to take a stand, give their parents a you’re a douche bag look, then file in the line to change their name.

But! Kanye and Kim are not the only ones who joined the march against providing their child with a somewhat normal childhood. I think it must be a celebrity complex. You know, something they can’t pop a pill for. That need to be in the spotlight, to be noticed, talked about. The need to constantly keep up with and then out-do other celebrity Jonses. Receiving positive attention wears off quickly; even the regular Joes know that. You know, you get an award, diploma, promotion, whatever. You celebrate by going to dinner or having a party, but that’s it. It’s over. After that you’re just you again.

Being just YOU is a celebrity death sentence. And that is why the constant drama. They’ve figured out a long time ago that negative attention is way better than positive attention or, heaven forbid, even no attention, and that is why they pass it on to their kids. It's the only certainty that someone will talk about them even after they’re long gone. People will be able to say, “Oh, you’re North West? Yeah, I remember when your dad snatched Taylor Swift’s microphone while she was getting an award and said that Beyonce’s song was better. What a jerk!”

Now, I’m no shrink, but I think that the celebrities’ decision to give their children the most odd and abnormal names is a cry for help. So let’s help these folks! How? Laughter…it’s the best medicine.

Erykah Badu & Andre 3000
– son, Seven Sirius (there’s only one, siriously)

Beyonce & Jay Z
– daughter, Blue Ivy (Green Ivy was already taken…by a plant!)

Christie Brinkley & Peter Cook
– daughter, Sailor Lee (they wanted a yacht instead)

Mariah Carey & Nick Cannon
– son, Moroccan Scott (neither Moroccan, nor Scottish)
– daugther, Monroe (neither the President, nor Marilyn)

Bob Geldof & Paula Yates
– daughters: Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches HoneyblossomLittle Pixie (just kidding; they’re not daughters, they’re fairies)

Rachel Griffiths & Andrew Taylor
– son, Banjo (c’mon; not even guitars want to claim a relation)   
Lance Henriksen & Mary Jane Henriksen
– daughter, Alcamy (as in Alchemy, as in witchcraft, as in “aren’t you glad you weren’t born between 1480-1750?”)

Barbara Hershey & David Carradine
– son, Free (wake up! kids are anything but)

Kate Hudson & Chris Robinson
– son, Ryder (closet admirers of David Hasselhoff’s Knight Rider)

Kate Hudson & Matt Bellamy
– son, Bingham (named after uncle Bada and aunt Black Forest)          
Michael Hutchence (RIP) & Paula Yates
– daughter, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily (apparently these two thought flowers grow in the sky)

Penn Jillette & Emily Jillette
– daughter, Moxie CrimeFigther (Superhero Sprite)

Simon LeBon & Yasmin Parvaneh
– daughters: Amber Rose Tamara, Saffron Sahara, Tallulah Pine (I’m sorry; are we naming kids after bath salts now?)

Jamie Oliver & Jools Oliver
– daughters: Poppy Honey (from the Naked Chef’s own spice cabinet) and Daisy Boo (apparently some fascination with flowers and Halloween)

Ving Rhames & Deborah Reed
– daughter, Reignbeau (spelling error: Rainbow)
– son, Freedom (named after George Michael’s hit)

Shannyn Sossamon & Dallas Clayton
– son, Audio Science (no comment, just sorry)

Sylvester Stallone & Sasha Czak
– daughter, Sage Moonblood (to ward off any more vampire books/movies)
– son, Seargeoh (really the gardener Sergio’s son)

And I could go on and on. But I won’t because I just received news that Drake Bell decided to name his firstborn Taco; Hale Berry’s children will be called Blue, Black, and Rasp; Orlando Bloom’s promising to name his kids after flowers to make it count; 50 Cent will have twins called Quarters; and M&M’s, I mean Eminem’s kids are going to be Good & Plenty.

Friday, June 7, 2013

There's a Gator Under My Daughter's Bed

When I was a child, I hated my mother’s bragging about me. Not that she did it often, but when she did, I would always drop my gaze to the ground and feel my cheeks flush. I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal getting straight As and numerous awards. It all just seemed to come so easily, and I never really had a difficult time at school. What I dreaded the most were the adults’ questions that followed immediately after they’d heard my mom’s bragging. They’d always ask me silly, tricky questions I had to answer in order to prove that I really did earn my marks and prizes. It was uncomfortable and pathetic. I shouldn’t have had to prove anything to anyone. And that is why I swore I would never do anything even remotely similar to my kids.

I broke that oath.

Like any proud parent, I love to brag about my children’s achievements. It is indeed selfish, and I know it. But it, to some extent, proves that I’ve done something right. :o)
Today, I just must brag about my daughter, Viktoria. You know the saying, The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree? Well, this apple seems to only have fallen right by the trunk. Viktoria brought home her collection of creative writing from school, and after I’d read through it, there was only one thing I could say: This girl has a gift! She is funny and her imagination is untainted.

Here’s one of her short stories.

 Alligator Under My Bed
Viktoria Cruz

You probably wouldn’t believe this, but I have an alligator under my bed. I have some big difficulties in the morning and when I want to play in my room. When I get up in the morning and step on the floor, the gator lashes out at my foot, but he always misses because I quickly pull it back. I have to literally jump out of bed to get to my closet. When I put on my clothes, the gator is always staring at me like he wants to eat me. Sometimes when I take a little snack to my room, he thinks I’m trying to lure him out. I can’t even watch TV because he ate the remote. I hate this alligator! He’s always making trouble for me. Every time I leave the room, he either rips up my clothes or bed sheets or tears the heads off my dolls. There is nothing worse he could do. Well, except eat me.

 How about them apples?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Headscratcher

Ohmygosh! I have a headscratcher. Okay, so this is what just happened. After we completed my son’s soccer sign up, my husband asked me to drive him—he hates driving, so I’m often his personal chauffer, except for when we go on a date, during which he drives me around like Miss Daisy and does the whole opening-the-doors-gentleman-kind-of-thing and about which my daughter says that it’s soooo stupid because we’ve been married for soooo many years already, why do we have to go on a date?—but I’m totally off track now, so let me get back and focus.

Anyway, I drove him to his favorite tool store: Harbor Freight. You cannot truly comprehend how happy he gets in this store until you’ve seen one of those Geico commercials in which one guy says, “How happy are folks who save money by switching to Geico?” and the other guy replies, “Happier than a Pillsbury Doughboy going to a baking convention,” for example. There are many commercials, but all of them basically show extremely happy people/things. The only time I’ve seen my husband happier than this was when, after much nagging on his part, I went to a swap-meet with him. In case you were wondering, yes, he is a HOARDER!

Okay, so the kids, he, and I got to the tool store in which every single product had been made in China and reeked of lead. Fine, I don’t know if lead has an odor, but the store does. It was so strong that my nose felt like it was being drilled into by an invisible piercing tool that multiplied my nostrils by a hundred, and the mixed smell of sulfate, cheap paint, and sweaty armpits had a party in them. I had to get out of there. I told my husband that the kids and I would wait outside in the car to which he graciously agreed, surely not because he was concerned about my oncoming headache but because he would have the freedom to hang around the isles and make sweet love to each and every tool without my nasty glares.

While I was breathing in the stench-free but hot (it was 100F yet again today) evening air, my daughter started whining from the back seat, “Close the windows! Look at those people, what if they steal us?” (My daughter has a serious anxiety about being abducted. Damn you, media!)
“Who? Them?” I shouted back at her as I pointed out three hippie-looking women in their fifties.
“Stop yelling,” my daughter said, “they’ll hear us!”
But hear us they wouldn’t. I noticed that instead of laughter, awkward noises were coming out of their mouths and they were signing to one another.
“How ingenious!” I told my daughter. “Their house must be so nice and quiet. And they can talk to each other from across the street! We could never do that without shouting.”
So we watched the women’s conversation as they walked a little ways from our car toward a street lamp. Then, something unimaginable happened. They lifted the metal box into which the lamp was fastened, slid it upward, and pulled something out. They opened the something, giggled for a bit; then I saw a piece of paper fluttering in one of the women’s hands as she examined it closely. Then, they packed everything up and hid that something back in its secret spot. They passed by our car, and my kids and I sat in a stupefying silence, worried they would hear us and know that we’ve been watching them this whole time.

As my husband was still inside the tool store, my kids and I had quite a lot of time to brainstorm about what the something could have been. I, of course, immediately thought that we’d just witnessed a drug exchange and that a drug dealer would soon jump out of the bushes, collect whatever was inside that something, and murderlize us for having witnessed everything. My daughter, who always suspects the worst case scenario, I’m sure thought of something similar. But my son, the innocent, gullible, and often na├»ve boy, wanted to go and see what treasure was hiding under the metal box.
At last, my hoarder came out of the store. Why not have him go and check? We pulled up next to the lamp; he slid up the metal box, pulled out the something, and jumped into the car with it.
“Don’t take it,” I said, “just see what it is.”
“Well, it’s this,” he said.
It was a small box, the size of a compact. As he slowly opened it, I was bracing myself for the worst—syringes, bloody needles, heroin…and now it had my dear hoarder’s fingerprints all over it! But instead, there were nick-knacks there: a small golden hook, an eagle rub-on tattoo, a blue heart-shaped hair clip, a rubber band, and a note inside a plastic Ziploc baggy.
“What does this mean?” I wondered.
“Oh, I know,” my husband said. “It’s one of those National Geography things.”
“You know; it’s like a national scavenger hunt. You can order it online, and they’ll send you a kit and tell you where the clues are and where to go next.”

Oh, bless my dear hoarder’s heart. His mind is so creative. Suddenly, a feeling of guilt overcame me. If this, in fact, was a “scavenger hunt” it was an effort of deaf/dumb ladies who would never get a chance to scream at me for uncovering their secret. They could flip me off—that sort of sign language is pretty universal, I think.
“Put it back,” I said. “We’re so mean, digging into things that are not ours.”
Ironically, I always teach my kids: If it’s not yours, don’t touch it.
“At least put something in,” my husband replied.
“Like what? You’re gonna screw up their game.”
“Nah, they’ll like it.” He looked around the car, grabbed a small heart-shaped rock (he collects those for me—read my short story “Husband (a Wife’s Tale)”), a very small pencil from IKEA, which we’d visited not too long ago, and a penny, because apparently everything at IKEA is worth just that. He closed the small box, put it back in its no-longer-so-secret place, and we drove off.
Halfway home, my son announces from the backseat, “We never got to read the note. Turn around!”

I didn’t. Now we have something left for our imaginations, don’t you think? Aren’t the best stories told through omissions? But even as I’m writing this, my children are begging me to return tomorrow and read the note. We are indeed a curious family. 
What would you do?