900+ Words – 2 “SuperShort Stories”

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SuperShort #1

 

Jenny Williams was slated to be baptized.  It was to be an important transitional day for her, she was told.  It would bring Jesus into her soul, she was told.  It meant that all the eyes of the congregation would be on her, she was told.  It meant that she would have a delivered pizza later that afternoon with her preferred toppings and not Eliza’s.  With that, she was sold.

When she went to junior high parties and the host’s parents bought pizzas for all the girls and boys present, she felt obligated to share her one pizza story.  At first, either no one listened or they nodded in order to make her feel comfortable.  When she shared the same anecdote at a high school party in 10th grade, they laughed at her–and not for the good reason.

Jenny’s older sister Eliza had warned her that high school kids were cruel.  Her prediction rang true throughout that whole year as she unwillingly became known as the churchy girl in class.  Trying to explain to her peers that she and her family do not even go to church much anymore was, she learned, a waste of energy.  Kids that age don’t typically listen to rational thought.

As a junior, Jenny began dating a little.  Dating in high school is harder and harder to explain.  Gone are the aw-shucks scenarios where boys nervously ask girls out to dinner or a movie.  Gone are traditions such as opening doors or buying flowers.  In Jenny’s case, she’d watched two different boys on different occassions play the same shoot-em-up video game.  As optimistic as she tried to be about boys her age, she was constantly reminded of their immaturity.

Then she met Mike.  A sophomore.  In college.

Mike didn’t go to church but he did smoke pot and go to college parties.  Jenny didn’t allow herself to become a statistic–at least not the superbad, criminal kind.  She drank a little–Mike knew her tolerance before she did–and met more interesting people.

This story doesn’t end badly, but you were thinking it would, right?  You wanted her to get mixed up with the wrong crowd or get raped or perhaps get so high or drunk that she loses her ability to operate a motor vehicle.  None of those things happen in this story.  If you were thinking they would, perhaps you’ve been conditioned by other artists and writers to believe those are the only outcomes for a character with this setup.

I chose not to let that happen to Jenny.

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SuperShort #2

 

So I saw my ex-girlfriend in the grocery store this afternoon.  She had a baby with her.  It (the baby) isn’t mine or anything, but I found myself spending more time looking at it (the baby) than I did her (the ex-girlfriend).  We’d been broken up for maybe two years or so, but we’d (clearly) changed a lot in those two dozen months.  I noticed no ring on her finger, and she kept referring to the baby’s father as “her father.”  Formal, for her; trust me.

That implied a few things.  We didn’t speak long, but I avoided eye contact with her and it (the baby) by staring in the direction of a bright red frozen meal inside the refrigerated section of aisle seventeen.  It implied that its father was not around, not around very much, or missing.  Or perhaps too poor/cheap to buy a ring.  Girls will tell you fellas that as much as they say the size of the ring matters, it really truly does not.  Sure, they may wish you were richer and could afford a larger ring.  Here’s what I’ve noticed, though.  They like the gesture more than the ring.  If you give a girl a ring and make a promise to her, and she feels the same way about you, you’re golden.  Sure, you can make a speech about how you’ll buy her a larger ring after you make some more money.  She’ll say No No No..This one’s perfect!  If her face is bursting with energy, you’re good to go.

There was no energy–and definitely no ring–on my ex’s finger.  When I looked at the baby, I saw the eyes I fell for when I met her mother years ago.  It took a full twenty seconds or so making mindless chatter and staring at that baby’s face for me to remember why she and I had broken up in the first place.

Then I remembered that I tried really hard to bang her best friend and neither of them was into that.

Surprising?  It shouldn’t be.  Men are baseless scum for the most part.  We have morals sure, but we’re also programmed to conquer.  Some of us seek out women; others, men.  Whatever.  But if we get an idea and convince ourselves it’s going to work, we’re hard-pressed to let society’s rules pin us down and tell us no.

Sorry, folks.  Truth is damaging at times.  Frankly, I wanted her to put that baby down right there in aisle 17 and take it as we faced the frozen microwaveable meatloafs.

Wouldn’t you know it, though?  Someone jingling keys abruptly interrupted my impromptu fantasy.

“S’goin’ on, babe?” the guy asked, looking me dead in the eye.

She introduced me and I shook the prick’s hand.

She cleared her throat.  “He’s a friend from school.  Says he and his wife could babysit anytime we need…for free!”

I knew the next day that I’d have to start looking at bigger rings.

Fall Musings and Other Non-essential Reading

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Not sure where this will end up, but here goes.

If you’ve ever had to endure a conversation with me, you are aware of a few things.  Number 1) My breath indicates my adoration of coffee, especially if it’s before ten.  2)  I have an annoying tendency to make light of just about everything.  3)  You are never quite sure if my words are genuine or sarcastic because I am incapable of exhibiting a change in tone.  4) I tend to begin lists that have no real direction.

In short, opposed to what my mother might say, I’m not perfect.  Nowadays, though, she’ll incorporate passive-aggressiveness (a Lively tradition since the mid-70s) and say things like “I had the best dream last night, Steven.”  Of course, I’m dying to know what Tom Selleck was wearing in this one, but she slams me with “You brought Katy and Whitman over and had shaved your beard.”

What can I say?  I’m the son of one clever lady.

I asked students last week to explain whether or not people in chosen professions (coaches, teachers, ministers, etc.) should be held to a higher moral standard.  I sifted through several responses and learned that younger people–predominantly my high school students–firmly believed that “everyone should be treated equally” while a majority of my college-level students believed those within leadership/representative roles take on an expected obligation to be role models and should be held to that higher standard.

While I did not take the time to calculate percentages, it was something like 53.294% felt everyone is the same while the other 46.706 believed the opposite.

What does this say about our country?

We’re pretty mixed on that one.

Were you hoping for some magical analysis?  Maybe YOU’RE the one whose mathematics are a little rusty.

Side note:  Whenever I call out a page number for the students to find, I tend to complete the prime factorization of that number aloud while I wait.  For example, today I called out “Page Five Eleven, ladies and gentlemen!” then subtly added “Seven times seventy-three for those of you playing at home.”

Anyway, I was reviewing some essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson (yes, THAT Ralph Waldo Emerson) to better prepare the students for their incredibly difficult quiz tomorrow.  [It’s actually NOT that bad for the students who read the passages, mind you.]  In the class textbook, there is a sample from Nature.  The section that they read touches on some of the main themes of the entire book.  Emerson believed that (in the early 1800s, gang) Americans were becoming too dependent on a rapidly changing world.  Industry and technology were advancing the nation, but the Romantics held firm that it could spell disaster for the SOUL.

I’ll pause so you can say “Ooooohhh….”

The Romantics were passionate artists.  They adored the little prizes that the earth provided for all of us:  observing a starry sky on a clear evening…taking in the landscape as a whole and dismissing the fact that the land is owned by someone, etc.  This is probably why we still have Pinterest material that encourages us to “Stop and Smell the Roses” or that to “Live, Laugh, and Love” is what we truly need.  Notice it doesn’t say “Live, Buy, Argue, Judge, Insult, Bully, and Demean.”

The other Emerson essay is from a piece called “Self-Reliance.”  As the title suggests, Emerson encourages the reader to seek out a life that one desires and not simply wait to be told or led around.  Of course, it may be our parental duty to expose the youth and guide them, but we cannot, for their sake, pull them by the snout throughout their lives.  True success in this life–I’m paraphrasing now–has nothing to do with one’s bank statement or corner office.  Shouldn’t we instill our children with more faith in humanity and not act on childish impulses to judge?  I’m pretty sure that if Jesus had a tattoo, it would have said “4Giveness iz Key.”

I distinctly remember sitting in my guidance counselor’s office when I was in high school.  He/she, while looking directly at my most recent transcripts, wanted me to rattle off some careers I’d considered.

“Teacher” prompted an eye roll.  Now, perhaps he/she was hoping I would say something like “Forensic scientist” or “Litigator” but I didn’t know what either of those two words meant when I was fifteen.  Then again, he/she might have been jaded by Education and stifled his/her empathy for yet another misguided youth.  In either case, I felt like I was letting him/her down.  But I showed him/her, didn’t I???

I have to mention one more piece before you go back to your other favorite thing to do.  The kids are assigned to read an excerpt from Henry David Thoreau’s (yes, THAT Henry David Thoreau) “Resistance to Civil Government.”  Thoreau was arrested for not paying a tax that he knew would fund a war he didn’t support.  While he only stayed in prison one night (and I believe a relative paid the tax for him), he was inspired to write a scathing essay on any government’s role toward its citizens.  Please don’t quit now.  This one’s good.  In short, he supported a citizen’s right to stand up for what he or she believed was morally right.  He urged readers to not sit back idly and allow the government to intervene at its will.

This is still going on today, folks.

While I may not have all the accurate data to show you [a great pie chart would be perfect here…ya know, because apple PIE is the all-American dietary choice], I can say-slash-type with the utmost conviction that about 4530% of what you do online is being viewed by Barack Obama right now.

Well, anyway, something like that.  So…here’s the point.  If you’re interested in reading about what some of these Romantic authors had to say about 200 years ago, please seek them out.  Chances are their work is accessible for little or no cost on your e-reader, phone, tablet, wrist-microchip, etc.

And help celebrate Banned Book Week (a week that ironically promotes the reading of books that have been banned in schools and libraries nationwide).

Hey, thanks for sticking around to this point.  It means a lot to me.

And Obama.

And the Romantics…maybe.