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Day 4/5

(I started this story yesterday during biology because I knew I wouldn’t have time to write it in the evening, so I’m just going to say it’s yesterday’s and today’s story)

Most people I knew were still asleep this early in the morning. Or at church, I guess, since it was Sunday. It didn’t really matter to me.  I was quite alone, on the coast, scooping up rocks and throwing them back into the water–you weren’t allowed to take them home with you, though you used to be. I know that because I have a bucket full o rocks and shells and some sea glass sitting in my room from when I was really little.

I wasn’t at the beach to pick up and throw rocks, though. It was my Sunday morning ritual, I guess: come to the beach on my bike early in the morning and pick up trash from the Saturday night bonfires and such. I didn’t much like those parties, and I usually didn’t go to them even if I was invited. I cared about the beach, though, so I took a trash bag and some gloves with me every week–plus a stop watch to keep a record of my community service–and collected trash.

I was contemplating the recycling-value of a beer can that had been half-buried in the sand when I heard a pitiful sound. It was some kind of weak screeching bark, and it was horrifying to hear, but I jogged down the beach toward it. I was shocked when I found the source of the noise–so much so that I dropped my trash bag. It was the strangest animal I had ever seen, but I acted before I started wondering about it–I dialed the marine life rescue hotline that I sometimes volunteered at and told them my location and what had happened.

“It looks like a dolphin, but nothing I’ve ever seen around here. About three feet long, looks like its left fin is caught in… a net or something? Come immediately. I’m between tours three and four.” I sat by the creature, starting at its sad form in wonder. I had seen my share of jellies, one little squid, and even a couple baby leopard sharks, but never a dolphin. And I’d never heard of a dolphin like this one–kind of stout, with an oddly long snout, not like the bottlenoses we usually see around here.

The team showed up in their bright yellow windbreakers and lifted the thing onto a stretcher. I hopped into the truck with them and we sped off to the aquarium.

“Doesn’t it look weird, Dave?” Dave was one of the younger volunteers who I knew well. He was a friend of mine.

“Yes… Well. We’ll talk to Dr. Shain before we jump to conclusions, won’t we?” I nodded. He was staring at the dolphin furtively.

The ride to the aquarium was quiet and when we got there, the veterinarians rushed the animal to the clinic. I sat around and looked at the fish and sharks and, my favorites, the octopuses.

“What do you think?” asked Dave, sinking next to me on the bench in front of the cephalopod display.

“About the dolphin? I dunno. It’s not a bottlenose, but I’m not really an expert,” I said, watching a reddish octopus squeeze through a crevice in the artificial coral.

“Oh, I am!” I turned and saw Dr. Shain running into the room. His lab coat was flapping behind him and he skidded to a stop by the bench. “I’m an expert!”

“Right. Anything you can tell us?” asked Dave.

“Well… I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but it… Okay, well, if it’s what I suspect it might be, this is pretty big news.” He was looking around restlessly, rubbing his hands together and pacing in every direction.

“What the hell is it?” I asked. I guess when you get a genius, you get a lot of annoying quirks, and one of Dr. Shain’s was his habit of only saying half of what he’s thinking, which often leaves people confused.

“Well… It looks like… I mean I think… Okay, I think it might be a Chinese River Dolphin.” His eyes were wide with anticipation of our reaction. They soon fell in disappointment. “Guys? Guys! Don’t you see what this means?”

“Um… That it swam from China?” I tried weakly.

He looked disgusted–at my ignorance, apparently. “It’s supposed to be extinct! And we found one! I have to check its DNA to be sure, and consult with some other scientists, but seriously, guys, this is a big deal.”

“Extinct?” said Dave. Dr. Shain grinned and nodded emphatically. “Um… wow.”

“It was on the Hundred Heartbeats To Live list! And then they all died!” He sounded a little too excited about that fact.

“Um… So, how is ours doing? I mean, is its fin okay?” I asked, remembering the gruesome way it was bent and tangled in that net.

“Oh. Ah…  Yeah, the situation looks okay. I mean. I think our vets can handle it. Look, I’m already sending some pictures of it to my colleagues from the conference last month! C’mon, guys, why aren’t you excited about this?” said Dr. Shain. He was bouncing on the balls of his feet.

“I’ve got shit to do, anyways,” I said, mostly ignoring him at this point.

“Hey, where are you going?” asked Dave.

“Home. See you guys later.”

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Day 3!

I was practically shaking, standing in the line that stretched around the the display tables of the bookstore and even outside, beyond the blue mail box and the tattoo parlor next door. There were probably twenty people in front of me in line to meet my favorite author, Ingraham Stiles, but I was already nervous.

I’m not sure what I had to be nervous about in the first place, to be honest. He was just a guy, right? And even if he’s more than just a guy–even if he’s a guy who has touched millions of fans hearts with his witty young adult literature, historical dramas, and even a few screenplays that turned into major motion pictures–it goes without saying that I was just a girl. I was a fan, just like any of the dozens of people waiting in this line, so it’s not as though he was going to remember me.

Still, I was nervous. I put my palms on my face–they were cold against my flushed cheeks. I sighed, because what else should I have expected? I always blush. I have really red hair, we’re prone to it. I look like a big splotchy, freckley mess. I was glad that I had at least made myself put in contacts instead of my glasses, and that I’d put on some proper clothes–well, a tank top and a skirt–instead of my usual overalls. Even though my skin and hair were trying to work against me, I wasn’t about to let myself look stupid in front of my all-time hero.

The line kept moving. I was getting closer. I was feeling more self-conscious by the second. Did I bring too many books to sign? I thought that an autograph on my three favorites of his was a reasonable request, but was the special poster from the early release party too much to ask? Four signatures. The more I thought about it, the more ridiculous it sounded.

I peered around the fan in front of me to see if there was a sign that said the limit. There was a staff member of the bookstore walking up and down the line with a tray of Dixie cups and a pitcher of water, what with it being the middle of August and broiling outside. Anyway, I don’t know exactly how it happened, but in the process of leaning around the Brobdingnag in front of me, I guess she must have moved, and the water boy must have tripped, and the water must have spilled, and I guess I must have slipped in it because the next thing I remember was having no wind coming into or leaving my lungs, holding up my poster so that it wouldn’t get wet, and a small crowd gathering around me.

I wondered if Ingraham Stiles would remember me for this: the girl who practically died at a book-signing.

“Oh my god, is she okay?”

“I’m… fine,” I croaked, trying to smile a little bit. I wasn’t actually hurt, really, I just had the wind knocked out of me. I knew the feeling pretty well, since I was quite familiar with the ground and all its nuances, as they relate to falling off monkey bars, balance beams, and horses.

I felt someone trying to prop me up from behind and I groaned a little. Honestly, my favorite solution to having the wind knocked out of me was to just lay there and contemplate death–“like I had a bullet in my gut” or something–until my lungs started working again, and I could easily and happily get up. I guess that wasn’t really an option in the middle of a bookstore, though, so I tried to sit up. Someone’s hand was firmly wrapped around mine and I was pulled to my feet.

“Sorry, sorry,” I apologized hoarsely.

“Don’t be! You’re okay, right?” asked the voice of the man who had helped me up.

“Sure, yeah, I’m–oh god, I’m so sorry, did I ruin your book signing?!” Suddenly my voice was back, and only so that it could squeak into its highest range, making me sound like a chipmunk right in front of my idol, Mr. Ingraham Stiles, who must have jumped from his table to see if I was, y’know, dead or something.

“No, not really, just made it more exciting. So you can breathe okay?” He was really short in person. He also looked pretty young. I knew he was somewhere in his late twenties, but he looked like a college student at the oldest. A short college student. I must have had a solid few inches on him. “I said, you an breath okay, right?”

“Yes!” I responded. “Sorry! I got distracted!”

“Yeah, it’s cool. Hey, want me to autograph those?” He nodded at the small stack of books in my arms and the poster.

“Please? Sorry, is it too many? I wasn’t sure if there was a limit…”

“Well, yeah, I’m only supposed to sign one per person, but since you practically died, I’ll make an exception. So, who am I making this out to?” He had a pooka shell necklace on, and a starchy white shirt tucked into his jeans. It was long-sleeved and I thought that he must have been positively on fire or something, since it was so hot, even inside the store. They had the ceiling fans going but they really didn’t do much. I think they were mostly there to give the little old people in the store some peace of mind about the temperature regulation. “What’s your name?” he said and I realized he was repeating himself. Again.

“Ah! Right! Um.” That’s as far as I got before my words just got stuck in my mouth. I ran through a list of names in my mind, none of which seemed right. Some were characters and some were people I knew and some were names that I just kind of liked. I seem to remember seeing Indianapolis somewhere in there too. After what seemed like way too long, I managed to sputter, “Margot! M-A-R-G-O-T. I’m a really big fan of yours, and I guess you’ve been hearing that all day but it’s true. I mean, I’m sure it’s true for everyone here, but I know for a fact that it’s true for me. See, I was going through some stuff, I won’t get into it or anything, but there was some stuff, and I just kept rereading Flying Machine and for some reason it helped.”

Flying Machine helped? Jesus, what were you going through that you would turn to Flying Machine of all things?” He was holding my well-loved paperback copy of it in his hands. The spine was so cracked that you couldn’t read the title, but I knew every crease that I’d made on that book and could discern it anywhere.

“Oh, stuff. I dunno. It was a year ago. A friend of mine got put in a mental institution for almost killing herself and my parents were fighting a lot and my brother had just dropped out of college. It was crazy and I guess I needed something consistent, and fantastical, and maybe a little self-indulgent. It always helps me. There was this one passage about independence and human ingenuity that was just perfect. I was really mad at everybody in my life at the time, so independence was a really appealing idea for me.”

He smiled, chuckled, and handed me back the poster and books. “Good luck with everything, okay? I’m glad that my book helped you through that. Feel free to talk.”

I left and he went back to the booth. I was confused by his words, until I saw it, on the back corner of the poster: his email address.

Day 2

It was an ungodly seven AM when I heard them honking outside my house.

I shouldn’t have even been up  that early on the Fourth of July, yet I was already dressed and made-up, a clutch in my hand and my overnight bag hung on my shoulder. I gave my slightly damp hair a twist and pinned it up in a bun, then took a big box of powdered Donettes and a cooler full of sodas out the screen door, letting it slam behind me noisily. There was no use in keeping quiet at that point, since the honking must have woken up my  whole family.

“There she is! Are you ready to hit the asphalt?”

“The Interstate isn’t paved with asphalt, it’s cement,” I responded dumbly. “Sorry, I’m still pretty groggy… Hey, let me back there.”

The boy sitting in the passenger’s seat of the big silver pickup truck jumped out and opened the back door of the cab. He threw my duffel bag in the bed while I buckled my lap-belt.

“Are you excited for this weekend?” asked Maurieta from the driver’s seat. Her hair was a violent shade of violet, contrasting brilliantly against her dark skin. Her eyes were surrounded in thick gold eyeliner, making her resemble a metallic raccoon.

“Hell yes!” replied the boy sitting next to me in the back seat. “This is going to be the highlight of my summer, hands down!”

I smiled at him. “What are you looking forward to most, Paul, the fireworks tonight of the Jack White concert?”

“How can I choose? Shooting off illegal fireworks in the middle of the desert has been a lifelong goal of mine, but Jack White is my freaking hero! Everything about this weekend is going to be amazing!” he said emotionally.

“So, where’s Beth? Is she coming?” I inquired regarding Paul’s girlfriend.

There was a silence that lasted a little longer than was comfortable. Paul finally said, “Well, Beth. Uh. She can’t really make it–“

“She thinks it’s stupid,” Stefan cut in curtly. “Just like she thinks everything is stupid, and everyone is stupid. Because she’s a crazy controlling bitch.”

“Dude, shut up, she’s my girlfriend! Don’t say that crap about her!” said Paul, his face reddening in the way it always has, since I first met him in middle school.

“I hate to be the break it to you,” Maurieta cut in with her usual cool Jamaican clip, “but that girl is bad news if I ever saw it. She’s trouble, y’hear me?”

“Oh, shut up! You guys don’t know what you’re talking about! C’mon… Abby, you agree with me, don’t you?” He looked into my eyes pleadingly.

“Uh… Decline to state?” I said weakly. He looked crestfallen. “Oh, come on, Paul! She barely let you come with us on this trip! I can’t honestly say that I’m too hot about her.”

“Whatever.”

“Hey, come on now!” cried Maurieta. “We are not going on this trip to skulk and argue! The girl’s not here, so let’s not worry about her! Jesus.” For a few minutes, there was silence except for the sound of the old engine and the tires rolling over pebbles. Maurieta sighed heavily. “Alright, we’re gonna lay out some ground rules now. First of all, no fighting.” I thought I saw her shoot a glance at Stefan, but he was scowling out his window. “Second, no being a bitch. Stefan.”

“What?! I’m not being a bitch! I’m just–“

“Third, passenger seat controls radio!”

“Oh!” This seemed to cheer him right up, and he immediately turned on something loud and twangy.

I rolled my eyes and smiled at Paul. He half-smiled back, like, Oh, aren’t those people crazy? and I had to laugh. Even though I knew that Beth had ruined a lot of things, she wasn’t about to ruin this, because dammit, I’d woken up early for this road trip and that wasn’t about to be taken away from me.

Story A Day May: Day 1!

Needful Things-

I missed school pretty often. Or rather, I was absent a lot, because I certainly didn’t miss any part of it. I kind of liked learning, when there was something interesting to learn, but my school wasn’t conducive to that. Not at all. I went to a tiny school in Indiana, and there were thirty students in my eighth grade class.Two of them liked me, three if you count the class’s pet fish. A lot of the students were indifferent towards me, but most of them actually went out of their way to make me feel left out and hated.

The teachers didn’t help at all. They didn’t stop the students from groaning or laughing every time I opened my mouth to speak, and they didn’t ever punish the students for hiding my coat when it snowed, or for telling the bus driver I was absent that day so I had to walk home, coatless, cold, alone except for the sun, though it left me in the dark of dusk soon enough.

I don’t understand how anyone can be that cruel. I never did anything to them. They just picked me to be wicked to. Maybe it’s because of my regular absences, I guess that gave them time to make up opinions of me, and didn’t give me time to redeem myself in their eyes.

It wasn’t my fault that I missed school all the time. Sometimes I got sick, sometimes I broke my arm or my leg or something, but most of the time I was just having family problems. Finally, my mom had to be institutionalized. She was schizophrenic. I don’t remember crying when I found out. I didn’t have much a connection with my mom, or anyone for that matter. I just stopped interacting with people during junior high, so I didn’t have a well-developed sense of family or friendship.

Instead, I watched my mom lapse into her old habits of lethargy and prescription medication. I don’t know how or where she got the stuff, what with the town being so tiny. Anyone could have found out just by asking any of the ten employees at the only pharmacy we had. It’s possible my dad was just trying to avoid the truth, but it came around and when it did, they dragged her off and left me sitting on the porch. It was summer. School was almost out. I was excused from the last week and a half, to help my dad clean and pack.

“Where are we going?”

He didn’t say anything, so I didn’t ask any further. I woke up in California.

I spent that summer before ninth grade almost completely alone. I didn’t know anyone in this new city–a huge city, to–on the coast. Sometimes I went to the library and read or used the computers, and sometimes I stood on the beach a few blocks from my house and dug my toes in the sand. I closed my eyes and pretended that I was on the pebbly shore of Lake Michigan, the trees behind me so dense that I could fall back and they would catch me.

Eventually, though, my eyes would open and I would see the myriad umbrellas and bikinis, the lumpy grayish expanse of sand, dotted with bronze-skinned volleyballers and surfers. Staring out at the ocean made me feel more alone than anything else. Maybe it was the smallness that I felt, looking out at this apparently infinite body of water, so full of life that I couldn’t describe or even imagine.

Somehow, the summer waned, and school began. I had never seen such an enormous cluster of students. The campus, I had read, held around two-thousand students. At registration–which I went to alone–I saw more students than had been at my entire school in Indiana.

I was a goldfish in a glass bowl–small, isolated, and aware of the curious looks I was receiving.. As I navigated the halls and tried to memorize the strange, outdoor corridors, I received text books and had my picture taken and was nearly assaulted by the yearbook representative who urged me to buy this very important keepsake. I practically sprinted from him.

As I was leaving, I saw the booth: “Sign up for drama!” My eyes must have lingered because the next thing I knew, I was being half-dragged to the table by a very excitable pair of students. I don’t remember how it happened, but I signed up. There was a girl with piercing eyes and a gentle smile who said that she was a senior and that they would be performing Wicked that year, and she thought I’d make a great something or other, and there was a boy who smiled at me and talked to me, asking me about where I was from.

When I was reluctant to answer, he dropped the subject with an assurance that plenty of students were funneled in from all around the county, so I wouldn’t feel left out at all. Everyone agreed emphatically and I suppose I gave them my information and my counselor’s name–“We’ll switch you into drama by the first day of school, promise!”–and that’s how it began.

The hope, I mean. That there was a place where I might belong and maybe even have friends. I finally had the opportunity to come out of my lonely little fish bowl and swim in the ocean.

Change of environment

So I suppose that until now, it hadn’t occurred to me the (admittedly limited) capacity my school library holds. Specifically, the fifteen rarely-occupied huge Macs that are totally free to use after school. As I often have a bit of time waiting for my friends after school, I find myself here several days out of the week, and I only just figured out that WordPress isn’t blocked

Naturally, the first thing I did was check out my mom’s most recent blog post (she nagged me about it in the car this morning so I promised I’d check it out) and then I came here. I guess this shouldn’t really feel all that unique, but I really don’t use the school computers much. I almost exclusively type from my laptop, holed up in the corner of my bed, surrounded by the same mottled blue walls and low, slanted ceiling, the after-images of my polka-dot bedspread often dancing behind my eyes.

Now, I sit next to a row of thesauri and dictionaries, across from a wall stylistically labelled “Non Fiction” (I’ll try not to twitch from the notably missing hyphen) and a few aisles with posters that delineate their positions in the Dewey Decimal System. The Arts–700. Sports–796. Literature–800. Shakespeare–822.3. Geography–910… and so on.

It is the twenty-fourth, with six days left until I begin the Story A Day May challenge for the second time. The plan is that I will actually write this time around. If all goes quite well, I might even be able to keep writing after the end of the month. That would be ideal. I want to keep writing. It’s always nagging at the back of my mind. The problem is that there’s something that pointedly does not nag at the back of my mind–a thought to put on paper. I really don’t have ideas.

People always say to draw from life, but my life isn’t exactly, ah… stimulating? I love my life. It’s just boring. I spin and I knit, I write in my diary, I went to an amusement park last Saturday. Today my shithead stoner of a section leader took my solo away in band. It was four notes, but I’m still bitter about it. I emailed myself a pattern for a sweater I want to make for my sister. I baked some bread a little while ago. My boyfriend asked me to prom.

–See, clearly things happen in my life. The problem is that they really aren’t things I want to write about. Shall I bemoan the loss of my two-beat moment in the spotlight in band? How petty do you think I am? I promise you, I’m not that bad.

I keep having this sense of empowerment and oneness when we play some of the songs for our “pops” concert in band. There are lots of great melodies with such strong tone or delicately high bits that hang in the air, or moving slow sections that ebb and sway, or parts where the whole band is harmonizing and it sounds so unified, but then the song ends, and the feeling falls away, and I can’t capture those feelings. It’s only been about an hour since I got out of band today, but I can already feel the energy from the music sinking into the ground. I’m not usually very impacted by music. It’s just not my thing. I can’t find anywhere to put all this emotional energy. It has to go somewhere, but now it’s just dissipating around me. I’m sure it has some purpose. I hope I can figure out, come next Monday when I start writing a new story every day. I hope I can put all this weight into something.

I’m sorry for this post, what with it being so… discontinuous. It’s the atmosphere of the library, maybe. I’ll blame that for now. Talk to you later, chickedies.

I might be back.

Hey there. I’ve been realizing lately that as much as I say I want to write, I really don’t do a lot of it. Maybe it’s because I do other things. I knit, and I want to be a fashion designer, and I’m trying to read more, and I have a boyfriend and a bunch of really cool friends that I spend time with, and I was in a play, and frankly I just don’t have all that much time.

May’s coming up, though, and that means it’s time again for Story A Day May! Last year I wrote on all but six days of May. Of course, a few of those days, I didn’t actually write a story, but I at least posted on the blog, so that’s something, right?

Anyway, it’s midway through April–happy birthday, Emma Watson!–and I think it’s time for me to start brainstorming! Last year’s stories all came out rushed, lacking in continuity or logic, plotless, undeveloped, poorly thought out, nonsensical, lazy, and just crappy. This year, though, I plan to actually grow as a writer! I need plots. I need characters, and settings, too. I need a pronounced lack of inhibition more than anything. Last year, everything came out muddled and try-hard-y, which are two things that I like to think I’m not.

Alright, it’s time to get the juices flowing. I’m just going to list things now.

  • my typewriter
  • being in the rain without proper apparel or equipment
  • spicy barbecue sauce
  • finding a job
  • shorts that are really short
  • actors and being an actor
  • Alaska, I bet there’s cool people there (not making a pun, I’m just trying really hard to train myself to not think of Sarah Palin when I think of Alaska, so instead I try to think of awesome things that relate to Alaska, like glaciers and very small towns and snow and caribou which are really amusing animals, I assume)
  • sometimes fashion is really weird, like wearing a baggy “boyfriend jacket” that doesn’t ACTUALLY belong to your boyfriend. How does that make sense?
  • Bjork, whom I’ve never listened to, but I find her swan dress to be the height of hilarity and that “Bein’ Quirky” skit on SNL quite hilarious
  • I’m learning how to spin wool! There’s a lot of physics involved, which I hate, but it’s kind of interesting at the same time.
  • I have a lot of yellow objects and clothes, and I love it so much
  • My friend is getting married. Her family has apparently forsaken her for this decision, which is terrible, but I can’t help but feel incredibly happy for her and her fiancee. It’s very exciting, though she is only eighteen, and he is a few years older than that, which is potentially creepy (they are not creepy at all, though)
  • I have a vase of dead flowers sitting on my dresser. I need to throw them away but I don’t want to pick them up and make a mess.
  • Jack White!
  • I own many pairs of shoes. I own twice as many shoes as I own pairs of shoes.
  • I drink too much soda, and I’m terribly unhealthy!
  • I’m going to get a very short hair cut! Think Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.

Okay, so hopefully one of these seventeen useless statements or fragments will help me write a story if I need inspiration during May. Expect more to come throughout the remainder of the month… I’ll try to keep my word.

NaNoWriMo!

Apparently, it’s now National Novel Writing Month! I was under the impression that NaNoWriMo was in December, but mistakes are made, I suppose. Well, I suppose I better get on that!

…but I have Christmas knitting to do! I’m so conflicted! Oi!

Well, that’s a short post, but I need a little sleep, so good night, chickedies! Be seeing you soon, I hope!