Yesterday, it reached above 70 degrees, so I mowed the grass one final time. Then, we hung Christmas lights on the new house. This morning, it’s 36 and we’re watching snow flurries. Classic Indiana fall…
I’m now going to flip to one of my notebooks and find something for writing inspiration:
Here’s what I found:
“host a dinner party—rude guest gets a bill”
“Billing William” – an impromptu poem
It was salty but it felt right
When I excused myself
From my own party
From my own table
–The one my ex picked out but my 2nd thinks I bought myself–Shh!
I tore a sheet
Out of this old notebook I keep
It was meant for story notes, or words about spring, or love
But it turned out to be random comments about the shit on TV
Or the twits at work
And one gut-punching letter I once wrote when I was a dad-to-be for a few weeks
But this time, I got super snarky.
William was invited
Though I should have known this might happen.
He sucks when he drinks–literally and street-talk-ly
He’s worse than Sober Will
No willpower powers Will
Enough, I tell myself. Focus.
I stared at my own eyes in the upstairs bathroom
And made horizontal lines on the page.
His shit comments during dinner. Passive aggressively telling me well done
Erases flavor, and that all cooks say it’s so.
The meal we prepared was well received by everyone else.
And Gwen didn’t seem to care that Baron lit up without asking.
But Bill and his shit comments pushed me. High road no more.
The steak was about ten bucks
The veggies a little less
Let’s call it seventeen-fifty
And that’s a modest guess
I smile at the bill I’ve made for Bill and his bulbous gut,
He’s not amused, feels abused, then slams my front door shut.
You did what, Gwen asks, and I give her the truth
Baron smacks his knee and unknowingly ashes on the carpet
That had been installed a week earlier.
Dessert? I suggest, but no one’s interested.
Suddenly, the house feels eerily empty without Will’s shit comments.
Who’s the new dolt if the old one’s gone?
I’m jarred today. Thrown off. Wasn’t expecting to feel this way the day after a presidential election. Last week, I witnessed my least favorite baseball team claim their first World Series victory in over a century. Today, I mourn something even more important than millionaires playing a ballgame in a field of green.
Today, I worry about what I do.
When Clinton’s opponents were concerned that she “hated coal” and was going to “destroy coal families” I had a mental reaction. If the scientists she trusts express that the coal industry is harmful to our society and planet–and that we ought to seek out alternative power sources–then perhaps we shouldn’t see any change in the coal mining industry as an attack on coal families or workers but rather that it was done out of the concern for the health of all living things on this planet.
In short, should we actually see the coal industry come to a close, it doesn’t mean that those people are incapable of working/living elsewhere, right? It’s not like she’s wanting to put them in prison for some arbitrary but sensationalized reason, right?
Then today, as I was discussing some techniques to writing arguments, I had an epiphany. First, the lesson involved what are known as the three ethical appeals. The Latin terms are “ethos,” “pathos,” and logos.” These are techniques of rhetoric that are meant to appeal to the ethics, the intelligence, and the compassion of the reader/listen/viewer. Successful arguments, I posited in class, combine all three in the course of the speech/essay, etc.
Then it occurred to me. That’s not absolutely true.
I think I added on that, though it is not common and rather unprecedented at that level, that perhaps someone who clearly lacks knowledge of one or all of these techniques can successfully get through to an audience.
Someone who uses sentence fragments and nonsensical patterns of thought can successfully get through to an audience.
Someone who can insert loaded language, harsh, demeaning words on virtually any topic can successfully get through to an audience.
Someone who can make unverified claims about, well, whatever is on his/her mind at that moment can successfully get through to an audience.
Someone who can invent words on the spot and continue speaking as if everyone should understand this never-before-uttered word can successfully get through to an audience.
Someone who can lie, mix up information, get dates wrong, mock those with physical handicaps, speak basely, and falsely claim that he has more money, more friends, and regular-sized hands can successfully get through to an audience.
Someone who can just talk without notes, preparation, or general tact can successfully get through to an audience.
And not a small audience, mind you.
An audience of over 120,000,000 people.
A hundred and twenty million people.
That’s roughly 24 Cubs World Series Parade Rally Events. Combined.
The following is a list of my prepared reactions to the result scenarios of the US Presidential Election of 2016.
- Trump Wins: “America has spoken. Let’s join together as a nation and do what we can to progress as a civilization.”***
- Clinton Wins: “America has spoken. Let’s join together as a nation and do what we can to progress as a civilization.”
- Johnson Wins: “What?”
- Stein Wins: “Seriously…what?”
All jokes aside, here’s my unsolicited piece:
If “my” candidate loses, I will not say/believe that the election was rigged. I will not unfriend people who supported any other candidate. I will not share images of violence or ideas that inspire hatred that may be occurring (this is my rule all the time) as a knee-jerk reaction to the the results. I will continue to love my family, friends, and students (though not in a creepy way). I (probably) will not move to Canada or any other country. I will not once express any disenchantment with democracy.
I will, however, remind myself (and perhaps others) that no one should think our system is perfect. It’s flawed because we’re flawed.
***That is, unless his ideas/executive orders are batshit fucking crazy and are a clear pledge to destroy the fabric of our country…
I’m older than I’ve ever been, and I still haven’t put my stuff out there to be read. So, to punish the world, I’ve created this blog in the event that you Google the phrase “Stupid self-deprecating autobiography” or “Scary Clowns Seen” or “How to Make Money” (those last two might actually boost my “hits” numbers…)
I taught high school English for seventeen glorious years, and I am now at a community college in northern Indiana. With all of that teaching experience, I feel safe in stating I’m an expert at virtually nothing above explaining comma splices and the horrors that are cliches.
I write when I can. I should write more. This introduction is currently being revised, so I’m contemplating whether or not that constitutes “real” writing. I’ll get back with you on that one when I decide.
Do you throw this way? Should anyone, in your opinion? Imagine being a coach of young players and taking on the challenging task of introducing pitching form to them: Would you have even considered the notion of showing them this technique (which you know not only exists, but also works with many pitchers) in the early (crucial!) stages of their baseball education?
These are rhetorical questions to which I’m assuming you are saying “No”, “If it works for them”, and “Probably not” respectively.
So, here’s the connection to what I do for a living. Successful writers understand general sentence structure, paragraphing, and building arguments. They know about characterization, the impact of dialogue, the necessity of conflict, and even the usefulness of fragments. Fragments good sometimes. Not always.
However, for the same reason elementary school teachers do not begin the academic year by exploring the nuances of the subjunctive case or the proper uses of the semicolon, I do not think it wise to discuss various advanced writing methods (in all genres) with 100-level students at the college level.
I believe it’s more beneficial to the student to comprehend and apply a “groundwork” notion of writing before exploring more experimental and non-traditional techniques. I never truly wish to quash any student’s aspiration to be creative and funky with their writing, but I also subscribe to the notion that creativity is neither natural or taught. It is, instead, developed. Over time.
So, frankly, I sincerely hope that my students eventually become successful side-armed pitchers with their writing. They will have found their voice, the techniques that work for them as individuals, and are satisfactorily communicating their thoughts to a receptive world who appreciates their contributions.
To get to that point, though, I have to instill that my current students first become strong, confident, over-armed pitchers.
*This will be the final chapter posted here…at least for a while. Again, I welcome any and all feedback.*
My roommate Gina found out about the stolen weed and was pissed at me for almost the whole day. Eventually, when she got bored, she came in my room and said we had to use our salon gift cards because they only give you thirty days to use them. “How old did you say he was?”
I didn’t answer until we were on the road a few minutes later. “I didn’t say, actually.”
“Stace…come on! Your first boyfriend since Thad? That was like, a lifetime ago.”
“Ninth grade wasn’t a lifetime ago,” I said. But she was right.
I have to know every—”
“I’m just…he’s not my boyfriend. Just this guy I hang out with after work.”
“Girl, every night your phone is blowin’ up with texts from ‘B’.”
I really hate it that she looks at my phone while I’m asleep or in the shower. I stacked up my school stuff and dropped it on the floor. I knew going with her would only contain a minimal amount of pleasure, but I also knew I could not not go.
We were getting birthday manis–gifts from our moms. A tradition. Being born on the same day in the same hospital meant–to our mothers at first–that we were sisters in another life. I love Gina to death, but since we started living together, she’s been a little too cozy in my personal business. I go out of my way to steer clear of her boy drama. She doesn’t even realize that I never ask her about the guys who’ve been over. I’ve just rolled with it and waited for her to say something. That has yet to happen.
“If I tell you, will you please drop it for now?”
She didn’t even take the time to close the magazine she held before tossing it over her head onto a shelf of ancient issues Shape and Good Housekeeping.
“Hoe stih pwease,” said the woman working on Gina’s feet. The woman’s head never looked up from her work.
I cleared my throat. “He’s twenty-eight.”
Her eyes exploded open and I could tell her brain was overloading with simple mathematics.
“Yeah,” I said. “Now please let me just rest my head and enjoy the pleasurable service these fine women offer.”
“Okay, okay…that’s fair.” She hummed. It reminded me of what my little cousins did when they had unopened birthday- or Christmas presents in their laps.
I closed my eyes, and I think I counted to nine this time.
“You know my dad is only thirty-nine?”
I didn’t, but I didn’t bite. Just mmmed.
“Have you two…?”
“Aww, Gina, come on!”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
My girl tapped my foot to indicate its removal from the buzzing warm water.
“Your fren, she no listen well, no?”
“No, Kim,” I said, then coyly looked at my oldest girlfriend. “She doesn’t.”
* * * * *
Geoff is tired of me. It’s obvious. He’s up all night, pretending to fall asleep until I actually do. I’m sure he gets up and either goes to his computer or just leaves. Once I swear I heard him pull out of the drive at around two. I’ve heard of these guys who just start watching porn or find some secluded spot to go whack off somewhere. Kinda fucked up, but I’m too embarrassed to confront him.
So, when I saw Bill McKenzie at the gas station this morning and buying one of those ridiculous energy drinks, I had this sort of plan. Geoff may have actually fucked someone else, but I don’t know for sure. I decided I was going to just believe that he did. After a few pleasant How-have-you-been seconds, I told Bill that day that Geoff and I were separated.
He hadn’t heard about the reunion this Saturday. I thought he was just kidding at first. I told him it was all over Facebook, but he said he doesn’t really look at that much. I told him he can still go–it’s not like anyone needs an invitation. He told me he’d think about it in the way most people say it when they have no intention of doing the thing being supposedly thought about.
He paid for his and told the girl that he was getting whatever I had in my hands too. “For old times’ sake,” he joked. I was flattered. And embarrassed, frankly. I had a Mountain Dew and a half dozen donuts in my hand, but none of it was for me, really. I thought it would be stupid to try to explain. But there was no need. I must have looked as awkward as I felt as he paid for my stuff because when he turned, he looked at me fully in the eye. He had only done that once at prom ten years earlier and it was just before the final slow dance when he asked me to the floor. I held about four thousand calories in my hands, but I was turned on by his eyes.
Thus, while my husband was at the “office”, I suggested we meet for drinks later. He said something about good timing and that I’d caught him on his day off. That didn’t last long after I slid my hand up his thigh at the bar while ordering two drinks, mind you. I wore the same perfume I’d worn for the prom and borrowed a low-cut shirt from my sister without her knowing.
What you or anyone may struggle with is that I did all of that, from the moment I saw Bill that terrible morning, to save my marriage.
Bill is not in a good place. It’s like it resonates off his face. He was shaved, but he looked incredibly uncomfortable. Men may never understand how important it is to at least look the part. Women read body language way more than men think we do. He cleaned up for our impromptu date, I gotta give him that. He didn’t seem to care that I wanted Chinese delivery either (Geoff hates it). Since my husband had said that he was going to help some guys at the office with this project that was set for a presentation the following day, I knew it was a lie but I worked it out. Bill has never been known to be very perceptive, but I thought I should at least shove a bunch of Geoff’s stuff in a closet to give the impression I was living alone. I had my doubts that he’d sleep with me under the true circumstances of my marriage.
He got a little sloppy with his liquor too. He told me a little about what he’s been doing since school. He wondered if I had ever planned to have kids. It was important for me to avoid getting too emotional with him, even though we had something of a past. An after-prom fuck is not what a lot of people consider a history, but it was ours. Nothing ever really matured after that. Just awkward sightings in the halls and some classes. I was sure I’d meet better guys at college, so I stopped trying to get a boyfriend in high school long before prom. But, I wanted to go and I wanted to have fun. We saw each other in passing a few times on campus that first semester, but after that I don’t remember much from him. At prom, Bill was a good date, but a pretty lousy lay. Probably his first time, but he never said so. I don’t have any sort of savior value or anything. I just knew that he was probably not as interested in starting a relationship with me.
If he hadn’t been buying a Monster yesterday morning, I might have just banged the clerk instead.
We had a good time. Not great, but good. While he was in the bar restroom, I texted Geoff to tell him I was having a girls night and would be staying over at Lindsey’s. He only replied with “ok” which made me sad but a little horny. Bill came out and I kinda wanted to pounce on him then and there—not because he all of a sudden looked like Matthew McConaughey or anything; rather, I was super pissed at my husband for preferring to jerk off in his cold Celica and not onto my breasts.
“Let’s get outta here,” I said. He’d just ordered a beer, but I took a huge chug then pointed to it for him to finish.
“Sounds great,” I told him.
That’s when I mentioned Chinese. He just nodded and said he hadn’t had it in a while.
So, I brought him back, we talked a little more and slurped lo mein right out of the boxes. The TV was on, but I wasn’t watching. He played with my hair and I scooted closer. It was a lot like the prom night but with a bigger general space. And light. I made no move to turn off the ceiling fan or lights and he kept a baseball hat on until he realized how often the bill was hitting me in the forehead.
This is all before the weirdest part of the night. After we were done on the bed, he like instantly crashed. That’s not news. I turned on a movie, but he fell asleep. I think, with the condom still on. Anyway, about ten minutes into his doze, he began muttering something.
Geoff always talks in his sleep, but it’s about work and stupid shit like the price of Nike tennis shoes. Once he had a conversation with me but he performed both parts. That was about a vacuum cleaner. This night, however, Bill was saying some shit that didn’t make any sense. First, he was saying Alison, Alison. Go home. It’s past your bedtime. Then, he said something about his parents were fighting again and making it hard to play by himself. Some really of weird shit, right? I just rolled him over a bit because that always gets Geoff to shut up. It worked. He was still snoozing when I snuck out. I had to get up for work.
My name is Steve Lively, and I’ve been in education for over 17 years, most of which was at a small-town public school. I teach English, if that happens to matter.
So. I hear you’re selling your house? Will you hire me to be your realtor? How about just the home estimate? I spend much of my time at home.
I understand you need an engine replaced in your 1957 Bel-Air convertible. Beautiful vehicle. Just gorgeous. Will you hire me to put it in? I’ve ridden in many cars.
It’s come to my attention that your roof is leaking? Wish to pay me to do that for you? Water is bad when it comes to stuff like that.
I noticed your neighborhood is lacking in security. Might you consider me to be your night watchman/security council? Lots of bad-looking dudes lurking around neighborhoods these days, boy. I’ve seen them. They’re a disaster.
That wound looks fresh. Let me get my, er, uh, stitching tools and I’ll clean you right up. I’ve seen Grey’s Anatomy AND ER. Don’t worry about the bill. For now. Believe me.
Some credit card companies are hounding you about a bill you paid? Hire me, and I’ll defend you in court. I know about money and stuff. Lawyers. That Judge Judy, though, is a nasty woman. Private server.
Your next-door neighbor just informed me that she’s seen you inviting multiple women into your home while your wife is away at work. You old dog! Women are beautiful little creatures, aren’t they? I know! No one can make a better sandwich, boy. I know. I can’t really help myself either. Anyway, need help with that? I’m very respectful of women. At least, the young, skinny, attractive white ones.
I hear the city is considering a multi-million dollar road renovation that will turn your quaint little two-lane street into a four-lane causeway. Well, that’s just business. I’ve actually got a lot of land. No, not here. Well, wait. Maybe here. So much land, ya know. My companies typically come through early and under budget. I’ve got some new buildings going up in…wait, what were we talking about?
That toothache? I can fix it. Let me tell you something. And I’m being totally serious here. I got a corn kernel stuck in my teeth once when I was a kid. These rigged movie theaters are in bed with the dentists. And if you don’t believe me, you should.
Just hire me. Trust me. I know stuff. I can do it. Emails.
Forget the fact that I’ve spent my entire life not actually doing any of the above things.
Forget that my resume would hit the the bottom of everyone else’s trash can for these jobs and responsibilities.
You just have to trust me.
Trust that I can do it for you. The best job. Because I have balls and I say what I mean.
I mean, let’s look at this. ISIS, right? Terrorism. Jobs are going to other countries. Disaster. Stamina. Wrong. China knows what we don’t. Those thugs in the Middle East? They figured it all out before anyone. Technology? It’s just a disaster. So very sad. Putin. There’s a leader. 33,000 emails. He and the north Vietnamese. They were at a Miss America pageant at one of my casinos one time…
Forget that. They’re just all trying to destroy my brand and my name.
Remember this: The other guys who want to work for you are crooks. They’re crooked. They’re rigging the system against me. You could be next. Choose me.
The vote is next week.