Grading Papers

He picked up her expository essay with a spark of renewed interest in grading papers. As he fingered the edges of the stapled pages, he noticed blood. A paper cut. “Figures!”

She was always the one among his students to cause him problems. She was also the creator of curiosity in his class. He sometimes wished she’d never signed up for the course, that he’d never laid eyes on her, but at the same time he found her processing methods fascinating. Where did she come up with the stuff she poured onto paper and handed to him at the end of each semester? She had a dark mind, he knew, and an intriguing one, as well.

Had she been better at spinning tales, she might have been able to bring some elucidation to his mind through her writings, but he didn’t believe her. What she tried to sell as real–what some believed to be prophetic–he approached as fantasy. He bandaged the finger tip that had garnered his attention a moment before, and cautiously returned to the paper that he knew would hold his attention now for the better part of an hour.

“What if all we know about those creatures that roamed the earth so long ago is fantasy, and the reality is something much more bizarre? What if the truth is that two dynamos of creation, one grander than the other at the end but both as determined throughout the process, were the architects of those monsters that walked among us? What if all earthly knowledge proved insufficient for determining correct conclusions about such things? What if the myth of science was wrong, and there was something more sinister at play in the creation of our world?”

Okay, she had his interest, but only in a pulp fiction sort of way. He read on.

“What if, one designer looked upon the creations of the other with a hideous sense of jealousy?  What if, in a fit of rage, this second, lesser engineer set out to replicate the actions of the first, but failed? What if the dark nature of the lesser made it impossible for him to create anything of beauty, and what if his jealousy would not allow him to stop working out the plans he had to best his fellow?  Would it not make sense that in his endless attempts to create something dazzling, yet stifled by his dark nature, he might fashion the horrific? And being frustrated in every way, might he not refuse to give in, and instead continue on creating bent, misshapen, and  grotesque  facsimiles of those divinely inspired inhabitants of the garden?”

A trickle of cold sweat was forming on that area above the professor’s upper lip.  He was envisioning bodies broken by disease or mishapenned from the womb. He was remembering that treacherous tale authored by Mary Shelly.  He was imagining the evil that walked streets free every day, in every corner of the world he knew; a world that faine safety, but was revealed to be anything but safe on the nightly news.  He could not refute the supposition she made that evil existed.  He’d seen it operating in his own home, his own marriage, the life of his own drug-addled son.  Evil was real, and while her propositions about origins was not something he could believe, he did believe in its presence.

He returned to grading a paper he knew was going to keep him up tonight.

“What if the lesser, trying as he might to create beauty, could never reach beyond a foundation of pain,  ugliness, and dark, unreasoning flesh?  What if what came out of the magician’s hat was only wickedness, stupidity, and detraction?  What kind of menacing rage would be unleashed upon the earth then?”

 

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Recasting

It was widely accepted within their group that she was too much for him. Too much mouth. Too much drama. Too much to-the-point-with-no-backing-off bluntly honest for him to handle. It wasn’t that he was necessarily inept, or weak, or even unintelligent. It was just that he’d never been schooled in the art of manipulation. She was too good, and while he might miss that fact…not see it because of pride blocking his way, it was clear to everyone else. He could not handle her. It was therefore with a look of complete shock on his face that she called him out in the bar.

“You hate me, don’t you?”

Looking around him to be sure she was talking to him before answering, he said, “Are you talking to me?”

“Yes, I’m talking to you. Do you see anyone else sitting at this bar?”

“No.”

“Answer the question!” she demanded, much too loudly for him to feel comfortable with her demeanor or the environment in which he now found himself.”

“I wouldn’t say I hate you,” he replied. “I would say that I don’t like how you’re behaving right now.”

“Oh, no?” she said, “and why is that?”

Oh, how he wanted her to go away. He wanted, himself, to melt into the woodwork. He wanted to be left alone. He wanted to drink his drink, and more than anything he wanted to tell her what he thought of women who acted like she was acting, but this was not the place for emotional outbursts. He believed civility mattered and that people who let their crazy out in public places were defective. He would have no part of it.

He turned to walk away, but not before she caught the corner of his lapel and pulled his jacket from his shoulder. He jerked right quickly and she fell from the stool, twisting her ankle. All this he’d repeated ad infinitum to the security staff and administrators of the wax museum. The bill for her recasting totaled $3,215.86.

Give It a Rest!

old womn

“Options are important,” she said. “Without them we’d all feel like caged animals looking for a way out, but never finding one.”

Nan shrugged. “I guess so. I mean, I can see what you’re saying, but I’m not sure it’s relevant to my situation.”

“Not relevant?” she answered. “How so? He’s putting up fences, locking you in, with no choices at all. How is that not relevant?”

“I don’t see what Lloyd is doing as restrictive,” Nan countered. “I see it as loving. He knows that I have a problem with decision-making and that given enough time, I can make any mole hill into a mountain of complications. He’s being loving by narrowing my scope.”

“You see that as loving?” Vivian said. “I see that as being controlling and not helping you work your way through the maze that is your indecision. Why can’t he explore some options with you, look at all the alternative, and then help you figure out which of them is the right one for you? Why can’t he do that?”

“It’s pizza and wine, Viv,” she answered. “Pizza and wine, nothing more. Sheesh, can you please give it a rest!”

 

Uncertainty

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She walked into the room, and silence swept over the place. Waiters stopped waiting. Politicians stopped lying. Gentlemen stopped puffing on their cigars, and ladies stopped thinking about how every other woman in the room was thinner, prettier, wealthier and healthier than they. She was a force, and all those who saw her were reckoned to admit that the winds of fortune had changed and soon they would be forced to change with them.

“May I offer you a seat?” he said, as she moved into the center of the room.

“Thank you,” she replied.

A buzz from the back began low and slow, traveling to the place where she sat as the room assessed her with glowering eyes. Waiters began waiting tables once more. Politicians once more begat lies. Gentlemen and ladies throughout the room resumed what they had been doing prior to her entrance, but always, always with an eye to her and what she might do next.

She chose a table two-thirds the way back from the entrance and settled herself where everyone in the room could see her next move. She reached into her purse and drew out a revolver. She sat it gingerly on the table. No one moved.

If she’d come there that day looking to kill someone, her plan had been foiled. Whoever it was she was looking for she did not find. Still, she sat. She ordered a drink. She removed her gloves and lay them gently to one side of her plate as she scanned the room further; slowly at first and then with increased fervor. She lit a cigarette and took a long draught of tar into what must have been beautiful lungs. The hope of the crowd was that she had an intended. Everyone knew that kind of beauty could never be content short of possessing everything she wanted.

 

Friday Fiction-Asa’s Hell

“Focus!”

Linda was clearly frustrated as she helped to move the tiny one’s hand across the sheet of waxy paper. They were finger painting, again. She couldn’t see what good it did to sit here several times a week and coach Asa in his lessons. This child is more suited to manual labor, Linda thought. She didn’t say it though, because that kind of negative talk was unacceptable, and one never knew who was listening to what one said. They hadn’t figured out yet a way to crawl inside her skull and extricate her thoughts, but she was sure that little bit of trickery was only a short way down the road. For now, she could think what she liked, but what she said had to be censored.

The door to their tiny apartment opened and in walked Jed and little Bud. Their son’s real name was Maynard, but everybody called him Bud. He just looked like a Bud, and he acted like one too. Unlike Asa, he was an easy child to love.

“What’s for dinner?” Jed asked.

“Same ole, same ole,” she replied. “It’s Tuesday, so that means pasta and garlic bread. It’s in the freezer. Can you pop it in the micro to warm it up? I have to finish up this project with the monster, the assessors want it done by tomorrow.  She said the word “monster” with a cheery little up-tick in her voice so that anyone listening would think she was being jovial and fun, and not dead serious.

“Can’t we have something fresh tonight?” Jed asked. “I’ve had warmed-up pasta three times in the last three weeks and it’s getting old.”

“Yeah? Well guess what,” said Linda, “working with this kid is getting old too. Everything he does takes ten times as long to accomplish as it ever did with Bud!” She hoped that hadn’t come off too brutal-sounding. There was a price to pay if she didn’t comply with orders to condescend and she was hesitant to pay it. Quite hesitant.

“Hey, buddy, where’s your coat?” Linda inquired of Bud.

“Oh no, I think I left it back at school.”

Technically speaking, that was a lie. Bud didn’t go to school. Bud went to a state sponsored asylum they called a school, and he was the brightest “student” enrolled there, Linda thought.

“Oh, that’s okay buddy, we’ll get it tomorrow,” his mum said.

“Asa, will you please stop smearing paint everywhere!?” Another exasperated message had left her lips, this time without her even noticing how exasperated it sounded.

“Lin…” Jed whispered, motioning with his hand in a way that told Linda that she needed to tweak her tone and quit complaining.

“I don’t care, Jed,” she replied. “You stay home with this little jerk every day and see how you feel at the end of the week.” With that Linda batted Asa on the back of the head with the tips of her fingers and huffed off to the bedroom to get away from the insanity that had become her daily routine.

How in the world can anyone expect me to teach that “thing” anything; he’s devoid of any sense, she thought to herself, but she didn’t utter a word.

The Cornfield

Sex almost never clicks the ticket for me. Don’t get me wrong. I love touch, but no act motivated by the need to “get ‘er done” has ever been able to claim my heart. That’s why I prefer that slow hand and lack of urgency that comes from a mature mate.  Maybe it’s the same for you?

Tell me I’m not alone in this.

Sex for sex’s sake I can take, but more often leave.
Sex born of love and commitment, give me that stuff every time, every day, in every way!

As an homage to loyalty and love, and maybe a little bit of the healing that comes of loving the right way, I offer today’s post.

THE CORNFIELD

A cornfield is where he laid her down. Where he moved her hair so that he could see every telltale sign of recognition that passed between them.  A cornfield is where he chased away reluctance. It’s where tears covered his cheeks and she found her voice; voice the Builder’d given; sound encased in balm. This time the healing was for him, but her too.

As the winds of northeastern Pennsylvania pushed seed over remnants hung on clothes line, newly washed jeans and t-shirts, swaying back, then forth, then back again, so did he match their rhythm.

She closed her eyes. She wanted to be fully aware in this moment; fully conscious of what was happening to him, fully synced to his movements and emotions. She had one chance and one chance only to absorb the sorrow that had left him blistered in the past. One chance to restore wholeness. One chance to allow the miracle to flow through her.

He laid full upon her chest now, spent. He’d given everything he had to her, and she’d received it as a precious gift returned in kind, the treasure of authenticity and complete trust that he’d forgotten he had; the pearl of great price he thought he’d never have again.

The Bus Stop

bus stop

He showed up at the bus stop every day. Sat inches away from her, every day. Smiled pleasingly every day, but she was leery. She hadn’t trusted a man in a long time; not for affection, not for protection, not for any kind of emotional support or feelings of belonging. He was on her mind as she sat on the sidewalk having coffee with Susan.

“I just can’t get him out of my head,” she said.

“And why do you think that is?” Susan replied.

“I suppose I’m obsessed with the idea of him,” she said. “But ideas about men have gotten me into dark alleys and unending trouble in the past.”

“Doesn’t mean this one is a bad guy.”

“No, but it does mean I need to tread lightly, wherever men are concerned. I’ve learned my lesson with them.”

They both fell silent for a minute, Lisa tapping her acrylic fingernails against the table first, then her paper coffee cup, and finally her spoon. She was deep in thought when Susan spoke again.

“Tell me again what he looks like.”

Dreamy-eyed, Lisa explained, “He’s tall. Salt and pepper on top with lots of hair. It’s swept to the side. He always has a rain coat with him, though it never rains here. He has a tan-colored brief case, too. No wedding ring; no hint of shadow on his ring finger either, like he’s removed the ring before he approached the bench. He looks like your average, moderately successful businessman on the outside, but when he looks my way and smiles, I can see something else underneath. Like a second guy, someone who is full of light and, I don’t know, glowing. Not really glowing, but radiant, ya know?”

“What does he say?” Susan asked.

“Small talk. ‘How are you? It’s sunny this morning, isn’t it? Are you ready for another week of changing the world?’ He always asks me that on Mondays, without fail. ‘Are you ready for another week of changing the world?’”

“Well, are you?” Susan asked.

“Tell you what, he almost makes me think I could. Almost, but then reality seeps back in as soon as I get on the bus, and another plain, ordinary, uneventful, I-did-not-change-the-world type of week begins.”

“Maybe next time he says it, you should say, ‘I just might believe I could, if I had someone like you in my life.’”

“Be serious!” Lisa replied!