1650+ words – hotly debated argument


She’s at it again.  I can’t for the life of me figure out why people like to get her started.  Some of us just want to sit in Mrs. Higgins’ class, read the book or write the paper and move on.  We took regular Senior English, not Debate.  We certainly didn’t take Cranky Crass’s Current Issues Class nor did we want anything to do with Speech II.

But they’ve gotten to her again.  And now we’re listening to her go on and on.

I’m really tired of it too.  Most of the girls in my grade are making a better case almost daily for why I should never speak to them after graduation.  They don’t really bother me, I mean, go after me.  But in a way they do.  They know who they annoy–Georgetta is their main target, but the other girls like Destiny, Vicki, and me–we’re like bystanders.  Mrs. Higgins would perhaps like my metaphor of us being dominos.  Once they get Georgetta, the rest of us fall or suffer.

Georgetta Chapman came to Harriston two years ago and immediately impacted our flow of high school.  On the first day, normal kids who change schools keep to themselves–maybe even just to learn a little about the environment or simply observe the way others talk.  Georgetta, however, asked Mr. Boling if she could make a brief announcement at the end of class that first day.  He, and the rest of us, thought she was going to just say a few words about herself, her family, her hobbies, whatever.

We were wrong.

“Hello, fellow students,” she began.  I’ll never forget that part because Ox O’Brien, who had been asleep two chairs behind me, shot up and asked if she was our new teacher.

“Go back to sleep, Ox,” Mr. Boling said, which was also kind of funny coming from a teacher.

“At any rate,” she continued.  “Thank you for the warm welcome.”

No such welcome had happened, but she wasn’t being sarcastic either.  It was obviously a speech she’d either given before or had practiced endlessly.

“I would like to extend my invitation to all of you to join my family at the Harriston United Church this Sunday for a fun-filled day of fellowship, food, and fun.”

For some reason, I looked over at Mr. Boling.  He had bit his lower lip, something I noticed usually meant he was trying to hold back from saying something or stopping something.  Not laughing or anything.  No, for that he always grinned and dipped his head so we couldn’t see his face for a few seconds.

“No offense, church girl,” Ox hollered.

“Ox?  Respect, please,” came our teacher’s monotone return.

“Mr. B.  Come on.  She’s not allowed to–”

“Thank you, Mr. O’Brien.  I know.”

He stood and approached Georgetta.  Standing a full foot-plus higher than she was, he sort of crouched down and said something to her.  I thought he looked like an overworked high school football coach all of a sudden.

Georgetta smiled shyly, nodded and offered her hand as an understanding.  He awkwardly shook it and walked around his desk.  Just as he was going to announce something nobody cared about, the bell rang, freeing us for Labor Day Weekend.

I remember that because it was the following Monday morning when her brother all but saved my life.

Today, however, we’re seniors.  It’s known around our class that Georgetta is heading to Michigan the night of graduation to begin some sort of missionary trip.  She has never been very specific, and not too many of us actually listen when she talks about it.  We only know because she wiggles that information into just about every conversation/group work/lunchline.

Mrs. Higgins has just about had enough.  Those are the exact words she uses.  Most of us stop with that verbal warning.  She’s one of those teachers who is actually super sweet but will scare the shit out of you when she’s pissed.  She glares at Autumn, the lead girl in the whispered taunting section around Georgetta’s table.  I can only pick up a few phrases here and there.

Her desk rams up against a nearby bookshelf when Georgetta gets up and walks to Mrs. Higgins’ desk for a tissue.  I try to read anoter Jane Austen paragraph when the page I’m looking at grows dark with shadow.

“Keelie, would you mind if I sat beside you?” Georgetta asks me.

We aren’t friends, but we’re not enemies either.  She’s relying on my for sanctuary.  Just seven minutes of class left and she’s close to losing her shit from the abuse from the window row.

“Go ‘head,” I say.  I stare at the page.  It’s number 234.  I examine those numbers and not the words.  When Mrs Higgins’ phone rings, I listen to most of the students behind me shuffle through their things and zip up bags and purses.  “Class, keep reading.  I’ll just be a moment.”

Small, pointless conversations ensue.  I just want to make it to my car before Georgetta really tries to bring me into her world.

“Keelie!” Autumn whispers hotly.  “Hey!”

I half turn, still with my book open, and sort of tell her I’m listening, without saying any actual words.

“Keelie!”  Some other girls giggle.  “You need me to cover Sunday since you’ll be at church?”

I’m not sure why, but that seemingly innocuous comment forces me to slam Emma down before she unwillingly crashes to the floor on her back.

“You know what, bitch?  Fuck you!”

The room erupts like an arena full of pro wrestling fans.

“What the fuck?” she asks.

I glance at Georgetta and wonder how in the world she got me into this.

“I’m just so fucking sick of your shit.  We all are!”

D’Nay and Charli–girls who always somehow end up sitting beside each other–have covered their mouths, perhaps silencing their own enthusiasm.  D’Nay casually slides to the door and pulls it shut.

“Are you fuckin’ psycho, Keelie?  You’re gonna stick up for your homegirl over there?  What, she lending you that fuckin’ denim skirt for prom?”

The boys yelp their approval.  This type of stuff never happens in our school.  Something in me snapped, and I have no confrontational experience.  That goddamn bell will not ring though.

“Look,” I said.  I have really no idea what to say.  “It’s clear you have fucking…issues, you know.  I think it’s called ‘displaced anger.  Maybe your pedophile father fucked with you when you were younger.”

“HOLY SHIT!” two boys boom in unplanned unison.

“Fuck off,” Autumn says.

“And I’m not sure God wants anything to do with you,” Georgetta says pointedly.

Autumn shoots up out of her seat and storms toward us.  I barely have any time to get up and block her from going after Georgetta.

“Bitch, I will cut you!” she screams at Georgetta.  “And that nappy-ass hair too!”

I’m holding Autumn as if I know what I’m doing.  Miraculously, I just reached and latched onto both of her arms at the same time and kept them in a tight squeeze.

“Let her go, Keelie!”

“No!” I scream into Autumn’s face.  She can’t kick me because she’s in a nest of desk legs.  D’Nay and Charli walk around and point their phones at me.  I can’t see any other students; they must all be behind me, filming it no doubt.  While I’m looking at her, I see sweat forming beneath her red hair dye and think about how I’m going to lose my scholarship when this film hits YouTube.  I think about weird shit when I’m uncomfortable.

“It’s okay,” Georgetta says.  “You should let her go.  Don’t get in troub–”

Autumn’s body twists and she spits in my face.

“Did you get that?” D’Nay yells.  “Oh my GAWD!”

“Hey!” Mrs. Higgins bellows.  “What in God’s name is going on here?”

I loosen my grip and Autumn charges away.  Not toward Georgetta, though.  Before she can reach the door, she falls just as the bell rings.  No one moves though.

“She tripped me!” Autumn says, pointing in Georgetta’s direction.

“No she didn’t,” Mrs. Higgins says.  “Everyone sit down!”

“But the bell!” many plead.

“I said SIT!”

Everyone does quickly, but Georgetta and I ease down.  I pick up Emma.  Autumn slunks into a seat in the front row.

“Phones.  NOW!”

For a group of reportedly bad-ass high school students, we all sort of cower up to her desk and create a lumpy pile of iPhones and Androids next to her Kleenex.

She picks up her receiver and dials without losing eye contact with the class.

“Mr. Mansfield?  Please bring the liason officer to my classroom at once.”

Her tone is immaculate.  Precise.  Oddly calm.  I predict a lecture in the thirty some seconds it will take for someone to find the officer and bust ass from the main office to our English classroom at the other end of Hall A.

She’s staring mostly at Autumn.  I keep wiping my eyes, even though I’d already wiped her disgusting saliva from my face before she bit it on the cold, white floor.

Mrs. Higgins inhales slowly and oozes it out.  She’s deliberating whether or not to say something truly hurtful.

“This is probably the most disappointed day of my career.”

A heavy knock is followed by the principal and uniformed officer blasting through.  “Mrs. Higgins?” Manfield asks.

“I’m going to need your help, gentlemen.”

Their faces lean forward, even though they’re still several steps from her desk.

“I stepped down to the lounge for a personal call several moments ago,” she says.  “In my absence, an apparent brawl broke out.  I don’t understand these…phones today, so if you could kindly erase the videos that depict the events of the past ten minutes or so, I’ll kindly appreciate it.”

The officer strides toward her and sees the small mountain of Otterboxes and silicone cases.  He began by holding one up after realizing it was password protected.  D’Nay stepped up, unlocked it, and watched him watch the video.

“And Mr. Mansfield, you’ll need to find a substitute for me.”

He cleared his throat.  “No problem, Mrs. Higgins.  For just tomorrow?”

She stood, positioned her pale green purse over her shoulder and pushed in her squeaky chair.

“For the next thirty years, I’d say.”

Day 16 – 1600+ words (Someone Gets Fired)




Mason’s mother told him to go to his room.  That always meant something bad was about to happen.  The toys in his room didn’t seem like toys when he was sent there.  He didn’t bother saying anything back because his mother used the Tone.  There were two Tones: one he heard from either of them after he did shit like knock over a soda can or pound the floor in frustration.  A second distinct Tone when they were made at each other.

The front door opened and Mason’s father dropped his keys into the tray by the door.

“Why are you home?” he heard his mother ask.  The afternoon was breezy and Mason tried to listen to the wind sneak into the gaps of his windows.  He picked up an faded green plastic car.  The miniature people that were supposed to fit inside were lost months earlier, but the car remained.  He ran it along the floor and made whirring sounds.

“Not now, Christine,” his father said.

“What did you just say?”

“Jesus Fucking Christ, Christine!  I said gimme a minute!”

A door slammed.  The bathroom door.  Maybe their bedroom door.  But a close-by door for sure.  Mason looked toward his bed and then his door.  He was safe in here tonight.  They were mad about something, which was weird because he just got home.

“If we need to talk, you better not be in there another half hour!”

He replied something back, but Mason couldn’t quite hear it.

Then the toilet seat slammed home.  He definitely heard that. When that door burst open, the handle smacked into the wall.  Mason thought of the little crack it made like a smiley face.

“Christine, goddammit!  I’m sorry.  I had to take a shit.  I didn’t know I had to fucking give you a play-by-play!”

“What happened?  Why are you home?”


“What?  I don’t get to know?”

“Where’s Mace?”

“He’s in his room.”

Footsteps thundered toward the boy’s door.

“Don’t you go in there!”

“Why the fuck not?”

“He’s taking a nap.”

“Jesus.”  His father’s feet hovered at the door.  Dark ovals hung there.  He couldn’t know why, but he assumed he was facing the door.

“Did you talk to Jerry?”

“I talked to Jerry.”

“What’d he say?”


“He said no, didn’t he.”  It wasn’t a question.

“He didn’t…shit.  Yes.  But he didn’t want to.

“What does that mean?”

“I mean it killed him to tell me that.”

“That’s three now, you know.  Jimmy, Hank, and now–”

“I fucking know it’s three.”

His mother sighed and sat down on the creak in the couch.  The shadows drifted away.

“Don’t,” she said.


“Kenny, what can we do?”

“It always works out, baby.”

Mason liked this part of their fights.  His dad was always the first one to lower his voice and say something nice.  He called her baby which used to make Mason laugh.

“I don’t know what we can do,” she said.  “I can’t ask my parents.”

“I know.”

She creaked the couch again.  It did that when people sat and when they stood up, but only on that one spot.

“He’s not going to let us stay here, Kenny!”

His father didn’t react at first.  She walked away, Mason could hear.

“Lemme just talk to him,” his father called out.

His mother didn’t respond.  Drawers flew open in the kitchen and silverware rattled.

The boots stomped through the room and into the kitchen.  Mason could tell they were talking but the words were jumbled and indecipherable.

He turned on a light.  The light his dad made in the workshop at the last house.  It was an old lamp they’d found in the attic.

“Wanna see if it works?” he father had asked him.


“Maybe we can paint it.”


“What color should we paint it?”


“That’s a good choice, son.”

Later that day, after his mother had made them hamburgers at the stove, his father led him out to the workshop.  He explained what all of the old tools that were still there were.  He told Mason not to touch them.  Some were quite sharp.  Dangerous.  “Your mom would have my ass if you got hurt out here, sonny boy,” he’d said.

Mason ran his fingers along the rounded base.  The red paint had chipped a little and the train sticker he got once from the grocery store was ripped off but not totally.

“I can get work, you know,” his father said.  They’d come out of the kitchen and had shook Mason from his memory.

“I can too.”

“I mean, I can go back to the store.  They always need help.  I’ll start at minimum, but it’s something.”

“But who’ll be with him all day?”

When they fought and weren’t yelling, his name became replaced by a pronoun.

“You’ll have to be.  For now.”

“Baby, I’m going to get work.”

“No one’s…”
“No one’s what?” his father said, a stern tone pepped up.

“Just lemme call Gayle.  She’ll probably let me come in Sunday.  Those other girls always wanted Sundays off, remember?”

“But we’re…”

“Are you fucking serious right now, Kenny?”

Every Sunday, Mason’s parents took him to Ringo’s house.  That was his friend.  Ringo’s parents and Mason’s parents sat in the living room and watched movies.  The sound was never on because, Mason’s dad had said, they were playing a game with words.  That was kinda weird.  Ringo and Mason usually played in his room and Ringo would sometimes show him te cigarette buts that he’d found from throughout the house.

Last week, the four adults played the game with shiny blue cans.  Looking through Ringo’s peephole, Mason watched them all drink from those cans at the same time.  They laughed more and more throughout the movie.  Mason looked forward then to watching movies with is dad and the blue cans.  But he wasn’t allowed to play that at home, he’d said.

“You want it so badly, that you’ll let that boy starve so you can get high?”

Mason’s dad had always told him his first word was “Hi!” and that that was pretty dang gone funny.  He almost had the words the way Daddy liked to hear them.  He said “Pwe dag on phffew!” and his dad always translated.

“Can you say, ‘Let’s get high’?” his mother asked him.  Her can was even shinier.  Silver, she called it.  What Mommy said made Daddy laugh a lot.

“Kenny.”  Mason pictured her touching his dad.  They played a lot and wrestled and sometimes they were giggling while they did it and others they were screaming.  Mason wrestled with his Dad once in a while but when he screamed at his dad, his dad would throw him.

“Kenny,” his mother said.  “We’re not getting fucking blitzed anymore.  You know?  We gotta quit that shit.  You know, for now.”

Shit was that word that Mason remembered saying before his mother slapped his face.

“Gawd,” he said.  “You’re so right.”

“Thank you,” she said.

“Thing is…the shit’s already paid for, you know.  ‘Member we used that one money to get it and paid Big Mike last week.”

“Oh, shit, you’re right,” his mother said.  “Well,” she kinda laughed.  That was the one that she made when she said we’d have lunch but the refrigerator was empty.  Or when Mason told her there was no butt paper on the spinny in his bathroom.  One time she made him sit there for a long time while she left.  Daddy couldn’t know she left though.  It was the first time she ever made him understand Secret.

“Yeah,” his father said.  You know Big Mike’s probably gonna tap that shit if we don’t come.  Won’t smoke it all or nothin’ but he’d take a piece.  Fucker.”

One time after the blue cans game was over, Mason said fucker and was told he had to get down and smell the poop.  Put his bitch ass nose right to it.  Ginger made poops on the floor a few times.  Ginger did it too much and was kicked by the door.  Dad told Mason she had to go see her mommy dog and daddy dog.  That was before the ice cream day.

There was the ice cream book.  Mason’s mom read to him from a book with a big ice cream cone on the front page.

“Ice cream, ice cream, we all scream for ice cream,” his mother sang.

Mason giggled when she made the monster face and screamed “scream.”

“Do you want to get some ice cream?” she asked.

Mason whispered in her ear Yes because he was tired but wanted to put his head on her shoulder.

“I’ll make daddy go with you,” she told him.

Mason pulled the book down and skipped to the last page.  Daddy told him he was supposed to start at the frong but Mommy yelled at him and said he can start wherever.  Kid’s fucking three, Kenny.  He just likes the pictures.”  He found the clown and the guy with the white beard and said beard.

“I gotta call Gayle.”

“Good fucking luck.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Phones’re fucking dead.”

We didn’t–”

Kenny shook his head.

“Fuck!” she yelled.  She threw the phone and it hit and broke something.


“Oh, shit.”

“You fuckin’ broke that frame, godddammit!”

She ran over and crouched down.  “Shit!  Honey, don’t!”

“You’re going to cut–”

“Ow! Fuck!”
“I told you…”

“Fuck you, you told me.  You fucking did this!  Least his picture’s not fucking broken.”


“Torn.  What the fuck, you know what I mean!”

Christine laughed.  “Get some….nevermind.  Go turn on the water.  Cold.  Numbs it.”

“I know, I know,” his father said in a faded way.

His mother was alone, but she was talking.

“Goddammit, girl,” she said.  “The one fucking picture you have of him.”

Day 15 – 1500+ words (Summary of novel)


Spoiler Alert…this is not quality writing.  But I made a challenge and by gosh I’m sticking to it.

The Great Gatsby…in 1500+ words

*Note:  Legend has it that author Hunter S. Thompson (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) typed out the entire text of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in order to know the feeling of writing a great novel.

This is not going to be that.


A-freaking number one.  Nick Carraway is not the booze hound driven to professional therapy he’s made out to be in the 2013 film.  That said (and I do feel better now) let’s get started.

Nick’s over 30 when he begins telling you what he recalls from about three years earlier when he lived in New York briefly in 1922.  He starts by expressing that one of the staples of his father’s advice was that not every kid has the exact same advantages and upbringing.  It’s a hard fact for others to swallow, but it certainly applied to the people with whom he spent time that fateful summer.

After his friend ditched him and took a job elsewhere, Nick was left to find a place of his own and landed in a place called West Egg.  Even though his former servants’ quarters was small, he was surrounded by new, phenomenal mansions that rented for over sixty times what he was paying.  The people of West Egg were classy, but they essentially received sneers from those who lived across the water at East Egg.  Nick’s not too materialistic and doesn’t really give a shit what they think.  He’s just trying to learn the job his time at Yale prepared him for.

As it happens, a cousin close to his age has married one of Nick’s classmates from college and now resides just across that same body of water–in East Egg.  Shortly after being settled in, Nick pays her and her husband Tom Buchanan a visit.

Tom’s pretty much a rich prick who’s had everything around him handed to him.  Sure, he went to school, but he’s no nine-to-fiver.  Tom doesn’t punch a clock, he clocks women–but we’ll get to that in a little bit.  Daisy is Nick’s cousin and is almost weirdly overjoyed that he’s come over.  Her friend, a golf pro named Jordan Baker is hanging out with the Buchanans.  They’re all just drinking and lazily maintaining minimal conversation.

As Nick gets comfortable, Jordan asks him if he’s knows Gatsby since they both live in West Egg.  Nick had heard the name but has not met him in person yet.  Daisy repeats the name rather oddly and Tom just pours down another scotch.

The four of them sit to be served dinner.  The discussion soon turns to race because Tom has read some profound book that suggests the white folks are in trouble and will decline as a race unless they stand up.  Nick and Daisy (and probably Jordan, though she doesn’t say much at the table) just chalk it up to Tom Being Tom and they all but drop it.

Then the phone rings and, over the next minute or so, we learn that it’s some dame Tom has been banging on the side.  The even more curious aspect of the call is that Daisy followed her husband into the next room and argued with him about the call.

Nick leaves shortly thereafter, and when he gets home, he sees a man he correctly presumes to be Gatsby staring off toward Tom and Daisy’s place–specifically at the green light at the end of their dock.

Some short time passes and Nick is abrupty whisked away on a Sunday afternoon by Tom who wants him to meet his girl on the side.  They stop at a filthy auto garage and Tom talks with the owner, a man named George Wilson.  Soon after, George’s wife comes downstairs from their apartment and George leaves the room long enough for Nick to piece together that this woman–Myrtle Wilson–is Tom’s mistress.  A rendezvous is set and Nick and Tom leave a moment later.

With Myrtle, the two classmates go into New York City and end up at an apartment Tom rents.  It’s small and sparce–just the type of place a man takes a woman for a short, intimate time or to have a small gathering of people.  On that Sunday, Tom and Myrtle call up some people and the room is quickly buzzing with their friends.  Nick, who tried to leave earlier before the other partiers arrived, is now getting blasted and mixing with strangers.  One woman, Catherine, is Myrtle’s sister.  She doesn’t think Myrtle and Tom love either of their spouses, and she’s probably right.  However, Tom has told Myrtle (who has told Catherine) that he can’t get divorced due to her religion.  Nick finds this curious because Daisy is far from Catholic.

The party continues and people drink.  Myrtle gets a little too gone and starts in on Tom about his wife Daisy.  She says his name loudly, as if to humiliate him.  He shuts the door on that though and breaks her nose right in front of everyone.

Nick changes the mood in his tale and shifts to the night he met Gatsby.  All summer long, Nick’s next door neighbor Jay Gatsby had been putting on these incredibly elaborate parties every other Saturday.  The guy was droppin’ major dollar bills to host hundreds of people at his mansion and estate.  Live music, two separate meals, champagne everywhere, dancing until the wee hours.  All standard.  At one of these parties, Nick shows up and runs into Jordan.  Eventually, Gatsby settles in beside Nick at a table and they strike up a converasation.  Only, Nick doesn’t know it’s Gatsby right away.  Nick’s told he’s to ask for anything he wants and to enjoy himself.

A little later that night, Jordan is pulled away for about an hour to talk to Gatsby alone.  She finally comes out of his office as the party is dwindling.  While she can’t tell Nick what she and Gatsby discussed at that moment, she promises to do so in the near future.

Nick shifts again and tells the reader a little about the types of people who went to Gatsby’s that summer.  Mostly wealthy people and/or entertainment celebrities.

Nick and Gatsby, one day, take a ride into New York for lunch.  They end up meeting a older distinguished man named Meyer Wolfshiem.  This dude’s a sophisticated gangster.  Gatsby tells Nick later that he’s the guy who fixed the World Series a few years earlier.  Anyway, we get the impression that Nick is uncomfortable and tha t Gatsby just thought him meeting Wolfsheim would maybe make a deal offer a little sweeter.  Nick’s far too busy to dwlve into deals of that gravity.  It’s at theis moment that Jordan–in a talk later–explains to Nick what she and Gatsby talked about at that previous party.

Turns out that Daisy and Gatsby have a bit of a past.  They fell hard for one another about five years earlier–long before she met Tom.  Now, Gatsby’s back from the war, rich as shit, and wants his dreamgirl back in his life.

Over the next couple chapters, things are looking good.  The previously jaded Daisy has all but forgotten about her husband’s disloyalty and has been seeing Gatsby on the reg.  Nick’s not privy to everything they do, but he has to know that it isn’t right.  He knows someone will get hurt in the end, it seems.

The culminating chapter is cahpter seven when all five of the major characters–Gastby, Nick , the Buchanans, and Jordan–are together for the first time alone in the same room.  The tension and the temperature are rising fast, and Daisy suggests the group drive to New York and find something fun to do.  They take two cars–Daisy and Gatsby go in Tom’s blue one while the other three take Gatsby’s yellow one.  On the way, Tom stops at Wilson’s garage.  He’s already upset about thinking his wife’s been spending too much time with this unknown Gatsby guy, but that’s just the beginning.  Turns out that Wilson has figured out that his wife has been cheating on him too!  Of course, we know it’s been with Tom, but Wilson has yet to put that together.  The garage man says he and his wife are moving out of that dump soon.

Now Tom’s red-hot irritated.  He’s pretty used to getting his way, though.  So, he keeps his cool once all of them end up at the ritziest hotel in Manhattan.  Things are a little lighter, but that doesn’t last.  Tom goes after Gatsby’s character and a fight ensues.  No fists, just accusations and stories.  Based on what he’s learned about Gatsby, Tom can’t believe his wife would want to marry someone with such a checkered record.  Gatsby, on the other hand, seems more confident than ever that she’s going to leave Tom and be with him.  They’re sent home together, which suggests that Tom knows Daisy will never leave him.

Since we’re only with Nick, we ride along as they head home.  They come up on an accidnet at Wilson’s garage and see that someone has died in the street.  It turns out to be Myrtle, who was evidently running toward the car she thought contained Tom.  That car hit her and never even stopped, the witnesses say.  George remembers the car they describe and thinks Tom must have been involved.  Tom explains the car mix-up and they jet out of there.

With Myrtle dead, Tom’s distraught and Daisy has yet to make her decision clear.

Nick advises his neighbor that it’s a good time to lay low and even bounce outta town for a minute.  No can do, Gatsby says.  He’s going to just wait for Daisy to come over and they can work on their future.

Nick goes on to work but can’t truly function.  That afternoon, George, thinking Gatsby’s the one who killed his wife–almost forgot to include that Daisy had been driving and ran over her husband’s mistress–shoots him, then himself.

Nick learns of the murder-suicide and is immediately put in charge, since no one else seems to really know much about Gatsby.  All his friends–and Daisy–are suddenly unreachable.  Gatsby’s dad arrives and Nick has to tell him about the success his son had enjoyed before his untimely death.  You get the impression that Gatsby and his dad were not really eye to eye on much, but at least he came once he learned the news.

After the sparcely attended funeral, Nick learns that Tom directed Wilson to Gatsby–made him think he was the driver/killer.  Both Tom and Daisy bounce out of New York in a minute and are never heard from again.  Nick’s fed up with all of them anyway–especially Jordan.  He moves back to his hometown and appears to be putting his own life back together.

Day 14 – 1400+ words (Completely New Story)


Marv Hamblin had a problem–one that would make his father disown him and his children abhor him.  Okay, maybe that’s a little rough.  He’s my husband, so I should start a little differently.  Accurately.  Marv had committment issues, but then again, what man doesn’t?  When we first started dating–can it be thirty years ago, really?–he was young.  I was too, but he was adventurous.  He had ambition.  Driven was a word I used to describe him to my father prior to Marv’s first Thanksgiving at my childhood home.

As a young father, Marv embraced his children.  O f course, I mean more than literally.  He didn’t quite live vicariously through them or anything, but he certainly put his own goals aside…for decades..and helped me raise them to be responsible adults.  We succeeded as parents, but not as a couple.  Does that sound right?

Before he actually retired, he began talking about it whenever the kids were all home.  He didn’t do it in hopes of having some grand, celebratory send-off or anything; he probably just wanted to hear himself say it more often.  You know, to make it more real.  Like when you teach someone else a skill–you tend to learn more about the skill the longer you explain it.  Perhaps surprisingly, the children–all of them–were relatively indifferent toward his choice to let go.  They certainly didn’t care about the financial rationale, which was the overwhelming theme of his narratives.

Also before he left his job for good, I began to see that old spark.  I know it’s cliche to say, but our entire relationship had accumulated decades of normalcy.  The old spark to which I now speak contained mixed messages of road trips, new hobbies, extravagant dinners–the things we did before having children and responsibilities.

But they were just words, I learned.  Then I began to think back throughout our marriage how often he did that.  He calmed me down with words, but he also filled me with so many hopes that never took flight.  Do I feel manipulated?  A little.  However, did I adopt the same behavior and use it toward him–and our children?  I’d be lying if I said no.

Marv has had an affair.  I don’t really want to find out the exact length because it could be longer and this may not be the only one.  I found out over the course of a few days.

It began with me answering the phone, even though either the number was not recognized or was somehow not shown on my screen.  My eyes may be bad, but they could clearly see the words “Unknown Number.”  A therapist might offer a solid analysis as to why someone my age would wish to suddenly answer the phone in situations such as these.

Don’t you know about telemarketers, Susan?

Are you aware that hackers exist, Susan?

People will go to great lengths to hide their identity Susan.  Just don’t answer it.

Marv was sleeping in more and more and I had given up trying to find any good television programs in the mid-mornings.  I thought about reading again, but I felt I was getting too old to start reading authors outside my comfort zone.  When you age, you tend to worry about odd things connected with your mortality such as “What if I start a series and never get a chance to finish it before I die?”  Some of the popular writers my girls and the girls at the office read not only have racier material than I remember, but their series sometimes take up an entire alphabet!

So when I answer the unknown number the first time, I only remember staring into my chamomile tea while the young woman spoke.

“M’am,” she said after a long pause.  She thought I’d hung up, I suppose.

“Yes, I’m here.”  I cleared my throat but didn’t plan to say anything else.

“I can only imagine how upset this makes you.  Please know this was a call I’d considered making for some time.”

It didn’t help, but I was glad she said it.

“You have to know, m’am, that whatever happened between your husband and my mother had to have been short-term at best.  For years, I was told my father died in a fishing accident and never doubted my mother.  Who does at that age, you know?”

I thought of the girls and the few white lies I supplied whenever I fielded life’s tougher inquisitions.  I had to agree with her.


“Yes, I’m here.  I’m sorry. I’m…”
“I understand,” she said.

I must say, those two words pissed me off.

But I stayed mute and let her continue.

“My mother and I have always been fairly honest with one another.  I’m an only child and she never re-married.”


“Excuse me.  No.  Never married.  Forgive me, I’m so used to telling this story under my previous assumptions of what happened to my father.”

A long pause.  The idea that Marv had a whole other marriage to attend to jump started the ticker Dr. Patel said needs “nourishment” and “rest.”


“Yes, I’m here.”  Then a short silence.  “You were saying?”

She was crying.  I had no idea then what she looked like, but I pictured a thin woman beside a window–perhaps in a hotel–and putting the phone to her chest to mute her uncontrollable bursts of emotion.

A sniffle.  “My future husband,” she began.

“What’s that?”
For a few seconds more I listened to her attempt to overcome her obvious attachment to whatever she was about to say.  I took the phone away and listened closely for words, not sobs.

“A medical history…” she eventually said.  “I was sick a little while ago and eventually ended up talking to my GP about my history.”

Over the next few minutes, I learned that her mother had gone with her, offering the expected level of comfort in that situation.  When the more personal questions arose, the doctor sensed something from the mother once questions about the woman’s father–evidently my husband–came up.  He casually stepped out of the exam room with her mother.  Muffled voices after that.  Then, however, her mother came back into the room alone and broke the news about her father not dying years ago as she had described.

“M’am?” she asked.

“I’m here.” Then I interrupted her before she could continue.  “Forgive me, though.  How did you happen to call me about this?”

She began to answer but I stopped her again.  Weirdly, it felt good.  I controlled the moment.

“How am I to know any of this is true?  What is it you want?  Why am I still talking to you?”

She must have sensed my urgent frustration because she pleaded with me not to hang up.  “I’m sorry, m’am.  I know it’s…well, this whole thing for me has been…”

Unable to finish her thoughts, I was left piecing her frame of mind together.

“You make coffee?” Marv asked from another room.  I didn’t have to turn my head to know he was in the kitchen staring at the empty carafe.


“Yes, I’m here.”

“Could you give me your mother’s name?  Perhaps where she was living when you were born?”

She provided both, the second as if she were reading from the notes she’d scribbled on the thin pad some hotels provide.

“Call back in a few minutes.  Rather, is your mother around?”


“Well, then,” I thought.  “Call back anyway and identify yourself as your mother.  Say nothing more.  My husband will answer it and I’ll watch his face to what you tell him.”

“I’m…I mean…okay, but…”

“It’ll be fine dear.  I have to do a little acting here so he’ll pick up.”
“You want some?” Marv hollered.  I could hear him unlocking the clasped canister.


“Yes.  I’m here.”

“Ten minutes, okay?”

“Okay.  But please know my doctor needs my family history this afternoon.”

“Just call.”

I clicked the red button without saying anything formal and turned my head   “No, hon.  None for me.  I had tea earlier.”  I found him in the kitchen filling up the carafe at the sink.  I placed my phone on the counter at the room’s threshold.


“Yeah, hon?”

“When was the last time you took me out for brunch?”

He laughed and stopped the water.  “This morning, looks like.”

We kissed.

“Need your phone?” he said as we left the room.

Day 13 – 1300+ words (no dialogue; someone having a bad day)


The day begins slowly, the way it should on important days.  The sole sound in the apartment is from the distant kitchen, where the coffeemaker you set not six hours earlier, has begun brewing your fresh-ground beans from Sumatra.  Dark roast has become your go-to choice, especially on Fridays and Sundays.  Fridays because you want to kickstart the weekend early in a caffeine-infused good mood, and Sundays because you want to get some stuff actually done before kickoff at Jeremy’s.

This is a Sunday.  And while all of the cars you hear from your open bedroom window may be headed to church or the early matinees the local theater has begun, you’re going to stay in your old white tee shirt and shorts and rub your eyes and read through your newsfeed for at least twenty minutes.  The coffee is done and still quite fresh by the time you play “myopia” on WordFeud.

Your feet do not touch carpet this morning.  They find the tops of your leather shoes.  Yes.  The ones you wore out last night.  Jeremy and the guys, remember, had called around ten and were all of a sudden going to the college bar to catch up.  It would have been uncouth to question everyone’s decision.  If Rog was in town, he was going to buy drinks for all of them.  Maybe there’d even be some intelligent-looking girls around.  You were in the drifting zone, you like to call it, and were well into an old episode of SVU, but you quick-showered, threw on something reasonable, dabbled cologne, and six hours later found yourself standing at your coffeepot trying to remember how to program for the following morning.

The shoes bear a stain you don’t remember, but you also can’t quite think of where the polish is at the moment.  No matter, really, because you’ll probably not need to wear those out for another few weeks.  Rog doesn’t come back home that often, and none of the other guys ever initiate a night out any more.  Forget the shoes; get the coffee.  When you open the bedroom door, you come amazingly close to hitting yourself in the face–a domestic violence victim’s excuse–but yours is that you’re just now realizing how hungover you are.  Danny Glover’s catchphrase from those cop movies comes to mind.  As you stagger through the long hallway, the desire to piss immediately arrests your attention.  It’s like your bladder didn’t realize you were upright a few seconds ago, but when it did, you got your warning.

Piss, fill-up, repeat.  This is not a lifestyle you are dying to return to.  It’s becoming so different now because the girls at those bars seem like pre-teens.  The music is noisier than you remember.  The bartenders–male and female–have a keener eye for age than before and “don’t see you” as often as they did.  Guys nowadays wear tee shirts with enormous wings on the back.  Or ones with raised letterings.  When Rog told you that shirts like that sometimes cost over a hundred bucks, you asked a question in a way that reminded you of your own mother.

It’s Sunday, and the corner Gas Up America! has good donuts.  Or is it doughnuts?  Both, you decide.  It’s warm enough to walk there and maybe doing so will speed up the recovery stage.  Take a bottled water and let your coffee hang out until you return.  You rub your stubble and decide sunglasses, though they may or may not be needed, will be worn.  No hat, because they remind you of the idiotic flat-billed hats today that are the rage among the wing-backed shirt generation.  You are twenty steps from closing your door behind you when you realize you’ve left your phone on your bed.  No sweat.  Gonna rough it, you muse.

The GUA is not busy.  The clerks are not young.  The stench of hot dogs that have been rolling on those grills for probably six hours minimum is not appealing.  You beeline for the donuts and examine the options.  You realize you’re no longer carrying that water bottle.  You’re thirsty.  What did you do with it?  Right.  Trash can outside.  Ten seconds earlier.  Held the door for a guy.  Who does that anymore?  Shit.  Now you really want another water.  But coffee sounded so good earlier!  You grab one of those obscenely tall water bottles for just under two bucks and come back to get a second donut for your baggie.  Then, you realize you’re going to be walking with water and donuts and that for some reason fucks with your self-image.  Tryin’ to be all cool with shades and scruff.  But you’ll be carrying calories and anti-calories.

It all sounds so fucking stupid all of a sudden.

You’re still so drunk it’s taken you fifteen full minutes to realize it.

Someone says pardon me and you step left without looking.  Now you’ve pushed over a display of beef jerkey and now there are dozens of those shrink-wrapped cylanders at your feet.  You need to be back in bed but you’re an unpaid employee, on your knees and resetting a cardboard casing of off-brand processed meat.

You hear giggles and you assume it’s because of you.  Humiliated, you’re still considering how you can play this off and boogie out of the store.  As you rise—the beef sticks are not at all placed in their proper containers (which explains why that’s always the case)—you scroll through your internal Rolodex (registered trademark) for possible clever-ish things to say as you leave, as if you about to unleash to the world this summer’s catch phrase.  Nothing is quite right, so you just leave and make a point not to hold the door for anyone.

Returning home, the Sumatra is like a childhood blanket you want to wrap up in.  It’s after ten and Jeremy said anytime after eleven was fine. Only two of the S’s necessary for game day.  Things will look up after a hot shower.  Shoulda been the first fucking thing you did, asshole.

It’s important, you think in the shower, not to ever think about that beef jerky again.  You’re not fifteen and not everything you do is analyzed by the masses.  To them, you were some hungover dumbass who actually picked up his own mess (sorta).  Nothing more.  It’s at that moment that you remember throwing the donuts and unopened bottled water in the trash can outside the door for reasons you cannot fathom now.

You think, Jesus did I really just go to the gas station for absolutely no reason?

You drink the hot water from the shower because you’ve seen actors in movies do that and you’ve always wondered if shower water somehow tastes better than it’s supposed to.  It doesn’t.  It’s hot fucking water shot into your throat.  This makes you think of some of the fucking college girl shots you did last night.  Your stomach turns a bit, but you know you won’t throw up in your own shower.  On your feet and ankles.  It’s bound to spatter, so don’t do it.  You won’t. But those shots were shitty and way overpriced.  Rog gave you a look once like what the hell, man.  What are you drinking on my dime, he was thinking.  Not happy that I’m paying for those, you think he said.

The hot water beats on your back and you lean forward, sorta like just fall into the tiled wall opposite the jetstream.  Fall, but not hard.  No blood or anything like that.  You think about some more of the details from the bar.  The narrative is forming slowly and you remember Rog got over it. He was, he explained many times over, just screwing with you.  You smile and think about the burgers that Jeremy cooks on gameday.

We ate at the bar last night, you remember.  Like, you took a table and ate.  Like…what the old people at those bars do.  You shake your head.  Like, literally shake your head at that idea.  Did we think that was all right?  We ate?  Who sits in a college bar after midnight and orders fucking food?  Pizza.  Was it pizza?  Sure it was.  You had it delivered all through undergrad.  Back then the student discount price for a sixteen inch was only five bones.  They wanted almost twenty dollars last night.  You actually say aloud some joke about the senior upcharge.  No one’s in the shower, idiot.  It’s not funny either way.  Was that bartender’s name Sherry or Sarah?  Why did she come up?  Did she…oh, right!  She sat down with you and Jeremy.  Rog was working a girl at the bar.  But this one, it was Sarah for sure.  She was nice.  She was tired and Jeremy had called her over.

The water’s getting colder.

The game’s on soon.

You’ll joke about last night, watch seven or ten hours of football, depending on your fantasy team’s success in the afternoon.

Rog said he’d swing by but couldn’t stay the whole day.

Day 12 – 1200+ words (dialogue-only argument between two characters)


Day 12 – 1200 words (dialogue-only skit b/t two people in argument)


Dad:  Did you do it yet?

Son:  Do what?

Dad:  You know what I’m talking—

Son:  In a minute, okay?

Dad:  No, son.  Now.   Please.

Son:  Why does it have to be this moment?

Dad:  Because I…

Son   Nope.  You can’t!  Remember?
Dad:  Wait…What?  Remember what?

Son:  Probably like…ten years ago.  I remember!  You sat me down one night.  I was probably like seven or ten or something.

Dad:  That math tutor sure was worth it.

Son:  You said, “Ahem, well, uh…listen son.  I want to do things differently…If you ever hear me begin to say ‘Because I said so’ you gotta just slap me and remind me how much I hated hearing it growing up.”

Dad:  That voice…that was supposed to be what I sound like?

Son:  Seriously though.
Dad:  I am serious.  I need you to do it…now.  Soon.  Your mother will be here any time.

Son:  And that’s my problem because…

Dad:  C’mon, man.  I can’t do this right now.  You’re almost a grown man.  It’s time to start taking…

Son:  Care of myself.  Yeah.  I get it.  You and Mom are ready for me to be out.

Dad:  Well, you’ve already finished one year of coll–

Son:  Save it, Dad!  I know!

Dad:  Whoa!  What’s with that shit?

Son:  I’ll do it!  I mean…Jesus!  Why does it matter so much?
Dad:  It just does.  I guess you’ll…

Son:  Oh shit…lemme guess.  understand better when I’m a father?

Dad:  I, uh..wasn’t going to say that.

Son:  Right.

Dad:  Okay, fine.  Just…please do it.  Like I said, she’ll be here soon.

Son:  Have you always been afraid of her?

Dad:  What did you just say?

Son:  I said, ‘Have you always been afraid of her?’

Dad:  What the fuck, man?

Son:  Touch a nerve?
Dad:  I’m about to…

Son:  Hey!

Dad:  College is changing you, son.  In ways I didn’t expect.

Son:  Wait.  Come back.  Dad!

Dad:  What.

Son:  I’ m sorry.  That was…out of line, I guess.

Dad:  Oh, you guess?
Son:  It was.  I’m sorry.

Dad:  I’m…sorry too.

Son:  What do you have to be sorry fo?.  I deserved it.

Dad:  No.  You really didn’t.  Not now.  Defnitely not when you were younger.
Son:  I’d…actually disagree.  It made me who I am.

Dad:  But you gotta understand, son.  It’s not something dads want at the top of their parenting resume.

Son:  What’s the big deal?  You spanked your kids when they acted up.  Who doesn’t do that?

Dad:  Well, your mother for one.

Son:  I meant dads.

Dad:  Well…mine didn’t.

Son:  But he wasn’t in your life.

Dad:  Uh-huh.

Son:  Okay.  Here’s my thing.  I mean, kids are going to test you.  Shit, Dad.  I just did not two seconds ago.  At least when they’re a certain age, you gotta set ‘em straight, right?

Dad:  Can I sit on that thing?

Son:  What, the bookshelf?

Dad:  No.  That?

Son:  Oh. Sure.  Lemme just….here ya go.

Dad:  Thanks.  Huh.  More comfy than I woulda imagined.

Son:  We got it worn in this past year, my roommate and I.

Dad:  I’d say so.  Wait.

Son:   What?

Dad:  Um…did you, ya know…with anyone on this?

Son:  Um…

Dad:  I’ll get a chair.

Son:  Sorry, Dad.

Dad:  It’s fine.  Glad I asked, at least.

Son:  Why don’t we just go get some coffee.

Dad:  That’d be nice…except you didn’t do what I came in here for in the first place.

Son:  Shit.  Okay.  I’m willing to do it.

Dad:  That’s remarkable.

Son:  Okay, okay.  I get it.

Dad:  Do you?
Son:  Ha!  Not really.  But I feel guilty now.  You know…your back, or whatever.

Dad:  Just don’t be in a rush to get older, son.

Son:  You kiddin’?  I’m never gettin’ old.

Dad:  Don’t let your mother hear you say that.

Son:  Ugh…she takes everything I say the wrong way.
Dad:  Son…she’s a mother.  She just cares.

Son:  I know, Dad.  I know.  But I’ll bet she only tells you part of the story.

Dad:  Are you suggesting that your mother would not be completely open with me?

Son:  What?  What’s that mean?

Dad:  I was just being a dick.

Son:  Ha!

Dad:  Okay.  I’m gonna get a chair.  I’d prefer not to sit on that bed…for obvious reasons.  In the meantime, please do it.  Begin it.  Do something to exhibit you heard her earlier and want to make her happy.  She likes that.

Son:  Being happy?

Dad:  You know what I mean.

Son:  Okay….Dad!  Don’t!!

Dad:  Why’d that happen?

Son:  I forgot those were there.

Dad:  You couldn’t even finish it?

Son:  Shit.  I forgot I put it down last night.

Dad:  Now we’re both in it.  She’s going to get here any second and we’ll be sopping up warm beer off that new carpet.

Son:  Shit.

Dad:  Dammit!  It was one of the imports too!

Son:  Yeah.  Lemme get some cleaning stuff.  Didn’t know you liked those fancy beers.

Dad:  I splurge from time to time.  Didn’t know you thought it was okay to drink in this house.  You forget you’re only nineteen?

Son:  No.  That’s impossible.

Dad:  Well, now we’re both in it.  The room’s not clean.  There’s beer on that new carpet.  She’s going to be triple-pissed.  So much for a fun weekend.

Son:  Dad!  Relax!

Dad:  Shit!

Son:  What’s wrong?

Dad:  Oh, no!!

Son:  Is it your back?

Dad:  Yeah, son!  I’m a grown man crouched on the fucking floor!

Son:  What can I do?
Dad:  Oh my god!  Goddammit!

Son:  Dad!  Relax!

Dad:  Shut up!

Son:  I mean, don’t let it tense up!  Here…sort of fall into this beanbag.

Dad:  But you…

Son:  Just do it, Dad!

Dad:  I don’t want to think about what’s rubbed up against this fucking thing!

Son:  Then don’t!

Dad:  She’d better have been worth it is all I’m saying.  This is torture.

Son:  Do you have any…pills or anything you need?

Dad:  In my…I mean…wait.  Lemme think.  I uh..put them…

Son:  Dad!  Think!  Where were you the last time you took them?

Dad:  Yelling at me isn’t going to speed up my memory!

Son:  Okay!  I’m sorry!  I’ve just never seen you…

Dad:  Nightstand.

Son:  What?

Dad:  For God’s sake…I took them a couple nights ago right before I went to sleep.  They must be next to my bed.

Son:  Okay.  Just…breathe…

Dad:  I’m not having a baby, son.

Son:  I mean…relax.  I’ll be right back.

Dad:  Check around the floor if they aren’t on there!

Son:  Dad?

Dad:  Did you find them?
Son:  Sort of.

Dad:  What?  Jesus.  Either you did or you didn’t.

Son:  Well, you were right.  They were next to your bed.

Dad:  Gimme two.  And some water from your bathroom will be fine.

Son:  The bottle’s empty.

Dad:  What?!

Son:  All I found was the empty bottle.

Dad:  How can that be?  I just filled it….lemme see…when did we go…

Son:  It says a refill is allowed but with doctor’s approval.

Dad:  Shit.  It’s Saturday.

Son:  So it can’t be filled until Monday?

Dad:  Fuck it.  I’ll just lay here face down in….ugh…whatever’s been on this beanbag until Monday.

Son:  Wait!  I hear Mom.

Dad:  We’re both fucked now.

Son:  What does that mean?

Dad:  I was kidding.  Go get the door for her.

Son:  Hey, mom!  Is that dad’s prescription?  When did you get that purse?

Writer’s Block


This is why I love this lady so much!

When I Could Write

I decided in the fifth grade that I was going to be a writer.  I wrote a poem and gave it to my teacher and she cried.  Then I showed it to another teacher.  She, too, cried.  That was when I discovered the power of the written word.  I had control over people’s emotions by putting mine down on paper.

It was easy to write when I was young and naïve and filled with such powerful feelings and brave ideas.  It was easy to tell people that I was a writer.  I had drawers full of journals and notebooks filled with poetry and pockets full of scrap pieces of paper with some brilliant piece of fleeting genius that I had while in line at lunch or on the bus to school.

Writing was a release.  It freed my soul.  It was perfect and it was easy and it was good…

View original post 451 more words

Day 11 – 1100+ words on an inspirational teacher


Teachers became teachers because they had inspirational teachers.  It’s part of how this world works.  Same thing applies to auto mechanics, clothing design, professional skating–someone kept them interested and intrigued them so much about the job/lifestyle that the subject just had to do it too.  It’s like that feeling you get when you watch a movie like The Paper and think, sure!  I should become a New York journalist!  That job sounds awesome!

You don’t have to believe me, but I pretty much decided to become a teacher in the third grade.  Our teacher’s name was Mrs. Brady, and while I can’t pinpoint a single event that altered the course of my life, I do recall admiring her from my cold, metallic desk a dozen feet away as she read to us.

The teachers under whose tutelage I’d been the previous three years were outstanding in their own right, but Mrs. Brady put me over the edge.  I was lucky enough to have several amazing and inspirational teachers–mostly women, mind you–but it started for me at my last single digit year of life.

The first item to address about Mrs. Brady was her wide smile.  A toothy, perhaps cheesy smile that greeted us each morning.  Even now, I cannot believe it was fake or forced.  Genuine.  Mrs. Brady was a school favorite.  My small elementary school had an average of two groups of students per grade level, but my class was significantly smaller and we generally were all together each year.  She was a favorite partially because of her outward enthusiasm exemplified in that initial greeting.  Our school was organized in a way where the hallway afforded places to keep our coats, backpacks, etc. Upon finishing launching my jacket or winter coat toward one of the top hooks, I would turn toward the door, only to be greeted by my third grade teacher’s welcoming smile.

A year later, our teacher wanted us to conduct an interview.  The only stipulation I can recall was that the person had to be someone other than our immediate family members.  Many members of the class wanted to interview Mrs. Brady, but only one could.  So as not to keep you in suspense any longer, I’ll now reveal that I won the “Brady Lottery.”  I have often thought about that assignment.  The nature of it, I’m sure, was to teach us how to prepare appropriate interview questions and report back what we learned.  I, however, remember having great difficulty coming up with the required number of questions.  I distinctly recall sitting at my childhood home’s dining table and constructing inquiries.  The obvious questions about family, hobbies, favorites, came pouring out.  Unfortunately, my ideas were exhausted with room to spare.  Thus, I looked up from my paper and gazed around my house…for inspiration.

 Me:  Mrs. Brady, how many windows do you have in your house?

 And there was that smile again.  Understandably so, though, wouldn’t you say?  Imagine fielding a sequence of questions about why you love teaching, what you like to do in the summers, what your favorite book was…only to be followed by a bizarre immediate concern for an accurate count of your residence’s storm windows.

 Needless to say, my imagination was still in its developmental stage when I was ten.

I had begun playing piano and chess at around the same age.  I had separated myself with this skill set, but it also became a bit of a hindrance.  Any success I had at tournaments or if the school somehow caught wind of a new piece I’d been preparing with my teacher or at home, I was put on mini-display.  I can’t say with absolute certainty, but I would wager Mrs. Brady was behind promoting my abilities above the other teachers I had in those days.

Mr. Morris, our principal, was the kind of guy who…well, here’s what he did once.  With absolutely zero preparation or any warning whatsoever, he knocked on our classroom door and wheeled in a TV/VCR set up.  He pushed the cart to a place where all the children could see the screen.  He popped a tape in and found one of those tiny elementary school classroom chairs on which to sit.  The man was fairly fit, but he also had a proclivity to become very red-faced if he was angry or excited about something.  The video began, and some of us immediately recognized the prepared scene as the final fight from the original The Karate Kid.  As Ralph Macchio appeared to be on the brink of complete and utter failure in the coliseum, Mr. Miagi takes him back to conduct some impromptu healing.  It was at this moment that Mr. Morris slapped his own hands together and began rubbing them violently.  This, of course, is what Pat Morita does on screen as well.  Mr. Morris’s face, blood-red, also expresses his anticipation for the climactic payback kick-to-the-face element that all of us practiced in- and out of doors for the next several years.

A bit of a tangent, but Mr. Morris and Mrs. Brady were behind the idea of sending me to multiple classrooms throughout the year to play the piano.  I look back at those moments with some pride now, but at the time I was rather embarrassed.  I didn’t want to mess up–especially in front of younger students–but I also relished the small applause I received upon finishing.

In short, Mrs. Brady did what extraordinary teachers do.  They overlook the immediate effects or outcomes an idea she has for the students may be and focuses on the long-term impact.  I would have started her class thirty years ago.  Three full decades.  And I can still remember what she did for me.  That’s true teaching, gang.  That’s having an impact on a young person’s life.  Unfortunately, all of the people who go into teaching with that same level of enthusiasm and desiring to be a part of the solution simply get tired.  Or perhaps bored.  Or frustrated.  Frustrated with students from time to time.  Frustrated with parents a little less infrequently.  Frustrated with education trends and politics.  It wears them down.  Oozes out of them that passion for learning and teaching that was once such a huge part of their lives.  I’m not here to offer answers to the problems in education.  In my youth, I was lucky to have several teachers who did not let the pressures of the job interfere with their love for children.  As a veteran teacher now, I’m starting to really see why so many teachers leave the profession after such a short stint.  It may have to do with the pay, but I think it also has to do with the stress.  Again, nothing good comes easy.  No book you read, blog you scan, seminar you visit will have the magic formula.

But I would like to remind the readers of the power of a simple smile.

Day 10 – 1000 Words – Summary of TV Show


I chose to write about Married…With Children because it’s been about a quarter-century since I watched it regularly but I realized how much of it I recall.  Unlike Seinfeld, which I have all but memorized, MWC is formulaic, which could explain why I remember so much.  As I kept typing, the words and images kept falling out.

Kelly (Christina Applegate) and Peg (Katy Sagal).

Married…With Children


Someone today is probably still cashing checks for approving the production of what became a cult classic sitcom in the late 1980s.  Shown then on little-known Fox, Al Bundy and his hysterically funny and dysfunctional family, friends, and neighbors, presented a new voice of Americana.  Sure, there was nothing knew about a white family whose house had been cut open for the viewers to peek inside.  Furthermore, the fact that only one adult within the home had a regular (paying) job while the other stayed home was not shocking.

But it pretty much stops there.

Peggy Bundy, Al’s cigarette-laden wife, regularly dressed in skin-tight leggings and/or high-waisted pants.  She epitomized the ‘anti-wife” of American television, much in the same vein as a rival TV mom played by comedian Roseanne Barr.  The younger sibling, Bud, was an adolescent boy whose wit outweighed his “game” with girls his age.  He was, in short, an Al in the making.  Lastly, perhaps topping Al as the most sought-after character (my own bias notwithstanding) was Kelly Bundy.  Kelly, played by Christina Applegate, fulfilled more cliches than a single sentence can possibly contain.  However, looking back on the show some twenty-five years after watching it each week, I have found a new, enlightened perspective on its value to 1980s and 90s American culture.

While any one individual episode is too difficult for me to remember, I’ll be speaking from here on out on a general level.  The images I’ve retained should suffice.

The formula for the show was similar to other sitcoms from the past, present, and future (nowadays).  Usually, Al found himself saying or doing something that, to him, exemplified his discontent with his family, other citizens, or the Washington beauracrats.  His rallying cries stirred up a live audience that was not discouraged to catcall any time any attractive woman hit the set.  He confided a lot with his son–teaching him the morals he’d learned and exemplified.  A running joke in the show referenced Al’s long-ago success on the high school gridiron.  Many of his buddies played with him and they all seemed disgruntled with adulthood and enamored by their memories.  As a ladies shoe salesman, Al had the misfortune to spend his working hours surrounded by women’s sour attitudes toward male clerks and their sour feet.  The typical customer he dealt with was either unattractive, rude, overweight, or simply just bitchy.  Upon arriving at home, where he longed each day to be a place of sanctuary, Al found himself never getting the chance to unwind for a long period.  Anytime he turned on a favorite program or a sporting event, his life was rudely impeded upon by his son’s desire to have a man-to-man talk, his daughter’s dates trapsing in and representing disaster (and typically a toss out the door), or his wife’s pleading to “come upstairs.”  While Peg had a more mature sex appeal, Al was rarely if ever anxious to storm upstairs to be with his wife.  In fact, their relationship was perhaps the most uncouth on the show.

Peg and Al made a habit of meticulously poring over each others’ flaws and mistakes.  While Al typically felt proud that he was the breadwinner, thus entitling him to certain freedoms, Peggy equally felt her household maintenance went unnoticed, which led her to feel unappreciated.

The character who became the mystery was the son, Bud.  Bud was at times, for me, the most relateable.  He vehemently tried to get laid, fit in, and had no qualms about calling out his sister for her poor choice in boyfriends or dates.  An obvious Al-in-training, Bud snuck swings of warm, cheap domestic beers, had fairly intelligent chats with his father, but also had a rather embarrassing collection of pornographic magazines in his bedroom.  Standing probably five-six at best, he was inherently socially awkward with girls who agreed to date him.  Bud was on course to become a hapless romantic who may or may not sell women’s shoes one day.

The final member of the Bundy clan is Al’s daughter Kelly.  Kelly Bundy covers the spectrum as a functional character in a sitcom.  Kelly Bundy was a teen hearthrob.  The amount of clothing she wore in any given episode would rival that of a pillowcase.  Since almost each episode of the show dealt with Al dealing with something that bothered him, the stress was balanced by the free-spirited, dingy daughter.  While he was either getting screwed by the government, sports, people at work, or his own family, his daughter, as scantily clad as she was, was always his sweetheart.  He cherished her.  He never said anything too deroggatory about her.

In short, he was the worst parent she could have had.

Even though she may be remembered for her sex appeal, Kelly Bundy was one of the most significant overall characters from the 1980s.  She used her body more than her brain at times, but she ended up usually playing an integral part of the moral to the story.  That is, when the episode had a moral.

This is where the cliches begin.  Sure.  I think Married…With Children changed television.  Many shows have done that.  Groundbreaking?  Perhaps.  While I don’t believe the spouse-bashing began with the show, they certainly worked their way to the apex of that list.  As a kid, I also loved shows whose teenage girls varied in attractiveness, but none came close to Kelly.  I don’t need to close my eyes right now to remember the Christina Applegate poster that hung in my room throughout my teens.  Curled hair with one hand pushing part of that blonde hair back.  Deep red-lipped smile.  Black floral top.  High-waisted denim shorts.  Printed signature with, I believe, a heart beneath.

This truly American family made its mark twenty-five years ago.  It should be eternally available in syndication.  It will be shown one day on an Oldies-style television channel.  My two-year-old son will someday discover it.

But will I watch it with him?