Friday, October 26, 2012

Helping with Communion

When Krystal asked Adrianna and me if we wanted to help with communion, we thought it would be like collecting offering--except that we would be giving snacks instead of taking money. "Sure," we said, envisioning ourselves smiling generously as we held emblem-laden trays for aging ladies.

So we were in for an unfortunate surprise when we got to the church this evening. After we were ushered into a back room and given program cards (mine was inexplicably marked "Serena W."), we sat in a circle of confusion. Every so often, someone would be called up to a chair in the corner and, after a robe was slung around their shoulders, a lady armed with brushes and an incredibly bright light would attack their face with makeup. A girl poked my arm. "Do we have to have that?" she whispered.
"Dude. I hope not." I glanced down at the paper: Elders STAND when TIM gives signal. Pass out emblems to DEACONS. SIT when S signals. Who was "S"?
"Uh. . . Krystal?"
"Are we. . . elders?"
"Are we. . . deacons?"
"Yes. . ."
"Are we both?"
"I--I'm not sure."
"Are they going to explain this to us?"

After about fifteen minutes, a lady--who turned out to be the mysterious "S"--walked us through the program. "You'll be sitting up front," she began. "And the people on the outside of each section--1 and 4 on this side, so that would be Preston and Serena--pass out the emblems to the deacons in their area. The people in the middle pass the trays to those on the outside." She began a complicated explanation of how to walk in, when to sit, how to carefully uncover the stacks of trays without exploding the contents, and how to line the decorative crosses up for the camera. "Make sure, when you break the bread, that you don't wipe the crumbs on your pants!" I scribbled notes on my paper and snuck worried glances at Adrianna.

We entered in a line, with me bouncing on my toes and clutching my note-etched program. We sat sort-of in unison. I worked to keep a calm, pleasant look on my face, and I thought I was doing a good job--until I spotted an elderly lady in the congregation. Her arms moved jerkily and her teal shirt hung limply on her thin frame. When she saw me watching, her face lit up and, putting her fingers in a peace sign, she moved them up her face, a grin following as if she were drawing it there. I blinked in confusion, then gave her a timid smile. She beamed at me with glee and nodded to her friend as if to say, "See? Not all young people are completely stupid."

Keeping the awkward smile on my face, I glanced at the people near me. Kevinn sat solemnly, watching the scripture reading. The woman to my right gazed into the distance, surely in deep contemplation. No one else was smiling. My lips began to twitch. Finally, we stood to pass trays to the deacons and my eyes inadvertently returned to the lady. She grinned at me again. Sighing, I repositioned the smile and looked down at the tray in my hands. As I handed it to the first woman on the pew, I remembered the words on my hand. The hastily scribbled note stood out in dark blue ink, resistant to soap and my scrubbing efforts. I tried to smile generously as I handed her the tray. This was not at all like collecting offering.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Phobia Progress

The hallway is dark except for a sliver of light from my open doorway. As I put down my foot, I feel something under my arch. Two thoughts simultaneously rush into my head: It’s a cockroach! and It’s probably not a cockroach. I choose to focus on the latter thought and keep walking. At the end of the hallway, I glance back to see what I assume is a bit of paper or plastic. Instead, I see a dark form scurrying toward the wall. My scream catches in my throat—for once, I won’t wake Heidi up—and I stagger into the kitchen, clutching my water bottle that I have inexplicably brought with me.

I stand by the refrigerator for a full twenty seconds, feeling my heartbeat pound in my chest and trying not to hyperventilate. You’re okay. I tell myself, drawing a deep breath. But it’s still out there! the panicked part of me responds. I have to go back! I suppress a shudder and force myself to fill my bottle. You can do this. You didn’t even scream. Staci would be so impressed. I take a swig of water and brace myself against the counter. And then I walk toward the hallway.

I bite my lip hard as I turn on the light. Nothing moves. I glance toward where I saw the shape disappear and my heart jumps. A shadow obscures the corner, but something is there. It is small, though, and this gives me courage to take another step forward. As I tentatively approach, I see that it is light brown, striped, and eight-legged. A spider. All of my muscles relax and I break into an involuntary grin. I blow on the spider to be sure I haven’t squashed him and he scurries down the hall into the blackness. I heave a sigh of relief as I watch him disappear. I am safe--for tonight, at least.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Weight Comments

"You look great! Have you lost weight?"
"You look so thin! Congratulations!"
"Wow, you've lost so much weight!"

How many of these comments have you heard--whether directed at you or someone you know? How would you expect them to make you feel? Good? I would argue the opposite. I would argue that  commenting on a person's weight, even if you're commenting that they "look like they've lost weight," can be impolite and even harmful.


1. If they are losing weight on purpose and they want people to know, they will tell you. You can then decide whether or not you feel weight loss for cosmetic purposes alone is something to compliment.

2. A person can lose weight from having surgery, getting cancer, or having an eating disorder. Complimenting a person on these things is generally considered to be in bad taste and could lead to further negative health consequences.

3. If they are not losing weight on purpose (or have actually not lost weight), you are telling them that they used to be less attractive than they are now and, if they regain weight, that they will soon be that unattractive again.

4. Losing weight should be for health reasons. If a person is losing weight solely to get compliments, then I think that complimenting them may make them even more pathological about their bodies. If they subsequently regain weight (as often happens because hormones like the body to remain in equilibrium), then they may feel even worse about themselves.

5. Commenting on how thin someone looks automatically makes everyone around them body-conscious and can activate body image problems in others.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Nothing Wrong with Doubt, Part 1

The more I learn about the world and different perspectives, the more I realize how narrow-sighted our Christian worldview is. Faith only goes so far. At some point, faith turns into a blind disregard for conflicting information, as if that information being true would somehow derail the entire faith.

For example, the fossil record is quite compelling, yet so many Christians work overtime to prove it wrong, as if all of Christianity is built upon evolution being false. I feel like if your faith is so easily derailed, then it isn't very strong. I read a book on evolution for an Origins class (Why Evolution is True) and I remember thinking, Look. If this business is true, then it's true. Refusing to acknowledge the facts won't make it any less true. And I read the book and learned a lot and I was fine. I am totally okay with incorporating evolution into my faith if I have to, but at this point, no one's making me decide. Either way, it's not a big deal to me anymore.

Now, an argument against this view would go something like this: "You shouldn't expose yourself to these false viewpoints because it gives the Devil a foothold in your life to spread his lies. You think you're being enlightened but you're just falling further into darkness!" While this is an opinion, I think it is a silly one. You can't go through life blinding yourself to differing viewpoints because of an irrational fear of being deceived. If you check back at your Christianity guidebook, it talks about how God conquered sin and death, which are pretty much the embodiment of the Devil (and Revelation's got some pretty fancy images of the Serpent all chained up in a pit). If everyone had this fear, we'd still think [insert classic scientific discovery nearly quashed by the church].

Anyway. I value my exposure to different viewpoints and it is fascinating to see my world through others' eyes. It has also been a stretching experience. It began when I started college and started to struggle with issues that aren't very clear-cut--issues like homosexuality. How can the Bible say it's wrong if people can't help it? Why should gay people be expected to live a life empty of the love and affection included in a marriage? I eventually concluded that I didn't care what the Bible said or seemed to say, the God I knew wouldn't declare "evil" something that doesn't hurt anybody. He wouldn't cause so much pain and suffering.

And after that, questioning some weird ideas we have about the Bible. Why do people quote Psalms as proof of some concept (i.e., Psalm 33:6-9 as proof of Creation). Do we honestly think that these poems written by some ancient king or harpist have some magical truth just 'cause a group of people decided to stick them in the Bible? Can't we just believe that they are just that--poems--written by some people about the God they knew, based on what they knew? And don't get me started on the literally pornographic Song of Solomon. Just look up verse 4:11 for its historical sexual innuendos (hint: "feet" and "honey" meant something else back then). I'm not saying this is wrong. I'm not saying SoS shouldn't be in the Bible (although I do think it's a weird place for it, given our prudishness). I'm just saying that interpreting Paul's statement that "all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16) is very silly when you use Job 40 to defend the idea of sea monsters.

This concludes Part 1 of Nothing Wrong with Doubt. Knowing me, it will be quite a while until the second installment.

Friday, July 27, 2012

"You can have anything you want!"

As I open the post office door, an adorable little boy stands in front of me, sporting a Superman shirt and covered in temporary tattoos of Spiderman in various poses. I grin at him and he gazes back with wide eyes, backing toward his father. The father is wide and pale, with sticky yellow hair and a gravelly voice. “You could help me if you really wanted to,” he is telling the woman behind the desk.”
“I’m sorry, sir, but I really can’t.” The woman is petite, with short, curly, and silvering black hair. She speaks with a slight Spanish accent.
“Yes, you can.”
“Sir—you have priority mail written on the package.”
“Well, yeah, ‘cause I didn’t have tape.”
“You couldn’t buy tape?”
“I didn’t have money, but I had this tape.” The little boy is scratching at a tattoo on his neck. Spiderman’s head is nearly gone.
“But sir, if you don’t want to send it priority mail, then you shouldn’t use this priority mail tape.”
 “Why can’t you just send it?”
“Because I don’t want to be held responsible.”
“Responsible for what? Just send the package. Look, I’ll rip off the part that says ‘priority.’” He roughly rips off a bit of the tape and tosses it to the ground. His little boy kicks at it.
“I’m sorry sir, but I cannot help you unless you wish to send this priority mail. If not, you will need to repackage it. I need you to move aside so I can serve the next customer.”
“No, I won’t. You just don’t want to help me.”

After a few minutes of this, with the man growing ever ruder, the lady heaves a huge sigh and leaves to find her manager. The man looks around for his son and sees him a few feet away. “Get back here!” he yells, jerking his fist.
The boy rushes to his side. “You can do anything,” he tells his father. “You can have anything you want!”

The woman and her manager emerge from the back room. The manager begins talking to the man, while the lady calls for the next in line. Me. While I fill out the customs form for my package, I overhear the conversation next to me.
“Finally, someone who will help me. That woman just didn’t want to. I don’t know why. She was just being rude. She didn’t want to help me. She could have, but she didn’t.”
I smile sympathetically at the lady, who has remained remarkably calm, and write in the date.

The manager has helped the man repackage his envelope. “Now just take the package back up and she’ll help you get it on its way.”
“I don’t think she will,” the blond man grumbles. “She doesn’t like to help people.”
The lady hands me my receipt. “Thank you for your patience. Have a good day,” she says.
“You too!” I enthuse, trying to inject as much earnestness into the phrase as possible. She gives a tight smile as I walk out the door.
“Can I help the next person in line?”

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My Brain Makes Bad Decisions

I originally posted this on Facebook a couple weeks ago, but I thought I'd preserve it for posterity. :)

Brain: Hey, you know what would be a great idea?
Me: What?
Brain: Wash this knife--reallyfast!
Me: Oh, yes! Excellent suggestion. *begins to wash knife* Lalala. . . *slices finger open* Shoot!
Brain: Ah, you knew this had to happen sometime. All good cooks lose a finger at some point. 
Me: No! No, no! Not going to. *grabs paper towel* It's not bleeding.
Brain: Probably will. You'll probably lose all your blood. Ever.
Me: Super glue. . . Super glue! *runs to room, rummages in drawer*
Brain: The glue will probably get in the cut and suffuse your bloodstream and--
Me: Super glue! *squishes cut together and applies glue as blood starts to pool*
Brain: Hey, look! Just in time.
Finger: Hey! Hey! You guys cut me! I'm the one who does all the work--I type a bunch of letters and I'm the one who plays with the touchpad on your computer and--
Brain: Silence him!
Finger: No! No, wait! I'm useful! I won't bleed, I pro--
Me: *muffles the finger in a bandage*
Brain: Good. *pauses* Now, you know what would be another great idea?

My New Friend Bill

So I have a spider who lives in the corner of my room. Let's call him Bill. I realized today that I really don't mind having him there. He's the sweet kind of spider with long, skinny legs and a pinhead body. All Bill does all day is hang in his web--right where I can see him. I never have to worry that he might be sneaking up on me. Whenever I think, "Dude, where's Bill?", I can look over to see him cheerily swaying in his web, moving his leg in a spider-wave.

I first met Bill one day when I was stretching on the floor by my window. He came traipsing along the ground. Now that I think about it, he probably wanted to join in the fun. "Look at me!" his buggy voice would squeal. "I can stretch too! See? My legs can wrap around my body!" But at the time, I was just worried I would squish him. "Go away!" I hissed, blowing him toward the window. Swept up on the current of air, Bill landed in a leggy heap by the baseboard. He quickly regained his footing and, swaying like a drunk, started toward me again. I blew him back again. This time he understood. Concealing his injured pride, Bill climbed up my purple-triangled wall to watch me from the windowsill, sipping the blood of his latest fly-victim from a straw.

Bill and I now get along fine. I let him live in my room, he makes sure I don't get eaten alive/ax-murdered by cockroaches. So far he's kept his end of the bargain--I haven't seen a cockroach since Bill moved in. I don't even remember he's a spider sometimes--he's just Bill, the guy in the corner of my room.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A New Acquaintance or "Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!"

Author’s Note: I’m not sure why these things happen to me. Maybe I’m too friendly. Maybe my forehead has “Please! Talk to me! Pleaaase!” written in ink visible only to men. All I know is that two very strange men have struck up conversations with me in the last three days. The first talked to me for half an hour in Big Lots. He said goodbye five times, but never stopped talking. But the second was even more unusual. . .

Feeling my cell phone buzzing in my pocket, I slow my bike to a halt and pull it out. I am in a residential neighborhood and I scoot farther toward the curb as I check the text. Across the road, a white SUV has pulled to the side, passenger window down, talking to an elderly man. His shirt is blue and white checkered and tucked into khaki pants—high, like I’m sure was the fashion when he was young. His belt is slightly off-center.

As I replace my phone in my pocket, the SUV drives off and the man waves in my direction, calling, “Are you waiting for me?”
I look around, expecting to see someone behind me. Why would he think I was waiting for him?
He keeps calling, “Waiting for me?” I’m frozen, a deer in the headlights as he begins to cross the street. What do I do? It would be rude to ride off, so I stay. Now I am waiting for him.

He is in the middle of the street, a few feet away. “Were you waiting for me to come over here?” he asks.
I give him a perplexed look and slowly shake my head. “Um, no. I was just—my phone was—“
“Because you were looking over at me.”
“Was I? I’m sorry, I guess I didn’t realize.” I smile, hoping this will satisfy him.
He chuckles in a creaky sort of way. “There’s no need to apologize. You just have to bow down and worship me.”
I stare at him, speechless. Is he. . . crazy? Is that supposed to be a joke?
When he doesn’t crack a smile, I laugh awkwardly. “Uuummm, no thanks. I’d rather just keep riding.”
He laughs again and comes closer. Now he stands beside my bike. “Shake my hand,” he commands, thrusting his at me. I notice his eyes are slightly crossed.

I sigh and shake his hand. He bobs his arm up and down vigorously, grinning at me. I wrinkle my forehead and give a wan smile.
“What’s your name?” he asks.
“Serena.” What’s the harm?
“Ooh, Shereena!” he slurs my name. I’m not sure if it’s intentional. “I know one Shereena. She lives in Canada, where I’m originally from.”
I make a small noise and nod slightly, looking toward the street. Toward freedom.
“But you’re much prettier than she is.”
“Um. That’s good to know.”
He leans forward and I recoil, but he just taps my sunglasses. “You should take those things off. I could see your face better.”
“Oh, well I prefer to see what’s around me, but thanks for the suggestion.” Get away!  my brain says. Gah!

He lurches forward before I can react and slings his arm around my shoulders. I am stuck on my bike and cannot back away. Is he trying to . . . hug me? My mind plans an escape route, but he backs off after a moment. “Well, it is nice to meet you,” he says jovially, flashing a lopsided grin. “Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” It’s the beginning of May.
 “Uhhh. . .” Again—is this a joke, or is he crazy? “You too.” My feet hit the pedals frantically.
“What do you mean, girlie?” he asks as I start to move. “They’re not for months yet!”
“Well enjoy them when they come!” I call back to him as I zoom down the hill.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Zombies Exist

So you know what they say about cockroaches surviving nuclear holocausts and living for years without their heads? I don't know about the first part, but I believe the second. Now.

Two days ago, I was lounging in my bed, reading about attribution theory, when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. I glanced over the side and saw a cockroach lying dead on the floor, toothpick  legs scrunched against his chest.

Now, I pause for a moment to relate to you my deep-seated terror of cockroaches. It's not a phobia, because my fear is completely rational. Cockroaches are the literal spawn of the devil. Their eyes gleam with malice. They dream of soaking your house with gasoline, then running unharmed through the flames to slaughter your children and grandparents with hatchets. So it's really no wonder I'm terrified of them.

I jerked back onto my bed, beginning to hyperventilate. A cockroach. On the floor. In my room. I peered over the edge of the bed. It lay there, motionless. Dead. My breaths came in quick bursts, all inhales and I made an effort to slow them. I looked back over at the lifeless villain. I stared at his corpse, collapsed in on itself in death, until I could breath again. Then I took my trusty orange bug-squashing cup and tip-toed over to him, preparing to jump back if he moved. Nothing. I thrust the cup over his body and left the room. I'll take care of it later, I thought. No need to overexert myself today.

The orange cup sat like a traffic cone by my bed for more than a day. Finally, Staci and I returned from a jaunt to Panera this evening. I peered in my room, bed stacked with books and binders, a laundry basket on the floor. "Soo. . . I have a dead cockroach," I told her. "I can't move it." I looked at her with pleading eyes. She collected a wad of tissue from the bathroom and ventured in my room to investigate. I stood in the hallway, hands clasped.

It was quiet for a moment, then--"Augh!"
I jumped. "What? What is it? What happened?!" Fear iced through my spine.
"Uh. . ." She sounded distracted. "You might want to stay back," she cautioned.
I began to tremor and retreated into the kitchen where Heidi was washing a bowl. I stood ramrod straight, holding my arms tightly. She looked at me oddly and I shuffled my feet.

I waited for a few minutes then, hearing scuffling sounds, I ventured a few steps back into the hallway. "Stace?" I called.
No answer.
"Um. . . So. . . is it a zombie? Is it loose in my room?"
"Uh--you're only right about one of those." Her head popped up from behind my bed and she emerged from the room holding a ball of crumpled toilet paper.
I backed away. "Uh, he's not loose in my room?"
"So he's a ZOMBIE?!"
". . . yes," she said hesitantly as she flushed the monster down the toilet.

I wanted to see, but I knew it might give me a panic attack. I instead stayed in the hall and asked, "How?!"
"I pulled off the cup and he ran out. He was really fast!"
I shuddered.
"But I got him to run in circles, and then I squished him and his head popped off."
My face contorted into a grimace. "Euhh!"
"And then both halves were still moving." Staci glanced into the toilet and flushed it again. "And now he won't flush."

After that, Staci went to bed and I crept hesitantly back into my room, checking every corner for the lurking beasts. "How did he get in here?" I kept whispering. Finally, seeing no more insects from hell, I settled down on my computer. As I opened my email, I heard a buzzing sound above my head. I glanced up and groaned. "Great," I muttered to the owl on my desk. "Now I have a bee on my ceiling."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Storytime with Shreen, Part 1: "Death Poems and Ed J." or "Adverbs 'R' Us"

Recently, while taking an extended break from thesis edits, I began sifting through a folder of old writing I found in my computer. It doesn't have a lot in it--I'm missing years of clich├ęd stories, wince-inducing poems, and surprisingly good scraps of prose--but I've got a good enough sampling. From what I've seen, it seems I thought that adverbs were in danger of becoming extinct, so I jammed them in wherever I found an opening.

Still, I laughed out loud at a few things I wrote. Some are hilarious. Some are atrocious. I thought I'd share the best parts with you in a series of blogs. This first one will summarize a short story I wrote for English in high school, complete with quotes and commentary. I won't subject you to the entire thing. That would just be cruel. Keep in mind--I thought this was fantastic when I wrote it.

So the story, endowed with the mind-numbingly boring name "The Dilemma," begins in a school hallway with a protagonist inexplicably named "Zebina" and her friend, Leia. Leia tries to tell something to Zebina, but Z leaves because Leia is histrionic and prone to exaggeration (basically).

In class, she talks with her other friend, Geena, and the obligatory good-looking dude, "Edward Jamison, on whom [she] secretly cradled a crush." Ole' Ed asks Z some question about the homework and she melts in joy. Or something like that.
(Note on Ed: I wrote this before Twilight existed. That crazy lady stole the name from me!)
(Note on Geena: I remember trying to write her character as an exaggerated form of myself--practical, studious, calm. I'm not sure why I thought this described me.)

Anyway, Leia finally tells Zebina that she's being stalked by "The Rat," who is a crazy social outcast. I included a helpful description:
Albert "The Rat" Ratzschnen could quite accurately be called the creepiest person in the entire school.  He was approximately five-foot-three with short, bristly black hair.  He wore enormous horn-rimmed sunglasses and had about five different floppy black coats with chains and abnormal apparatuses hanging from them.  The extent of the acne on his face was only surpassed by the seven or eight bizarre piercings scattered amongst his eyebrows, nose, and chin.  And perhaps weirdest of all, he always carted around a wooden cane with the likeness of a gold mallard duck adorning its peak
I almost died when I read this. Horn-rimmed sunglasses? Ahahaha! Where would you even get those? And a gold duck cane? O_o

So the duck-caned little man put a creepy poem in Z's locker. The poem is fabulous. I'm rather proud of my teenage self:

From the first day I saw you,
I knew you would be
The perfect one for me.
I knew that someday

we would and could
be united together
in death.
When worms
and other such creatures
burrow through our corpses,
I’ll know that we were meant to be

Great, right? So she avoids him, blah blah blah, the story drags on, she worries a lot, and then she gets another poem. Huzzah! Except this one's just poorly-written and stalkery, not about being jointly devoured by worms: 

My eyes follow you
but you don’t see me.
I’m just out of sight,
I cannot be seen.
Perhaps you don't know
who to look for;
perhaps you don't know me.
But you will.

After this, the story drags on a while longer. Z talks to Ed J. some more 'n' stuff. Then she gets another poem that's not even fun. The Rat tells her where he wants to meet her, but he's too brilliant for foolish ole' Z, so she can't understand his cryptic message. So instead she she finds him "after gym class, [while he is] stopping to tie his grodalated old tennis shoes.
His eyes, somewhat out of focus, narrowed when he saw me.  "What do you want?" he asked guardedly in his nasally voice, standing up to lessen the distance between us.
I remember he was fun to write. Unfortunately, the story gets super boring from here. She confronts him and finds out that he's been writing the notes for Ed J. the whole time. Yay! The high school girl gets a boyfriend and avoids the creepy rat-man. Fourteen-year-old me is so original.

Thank you, thank you. I do deserve your applause. *bows*

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Psychopath and the Masochist: A Tale of Our Pets

"Here you go, Crazies." I placed the purple-bottomed waterer on the chickens' food shelf. Tabitha cocked her head at it, then pecked at my shoe which was apparently more interesting. Carefully stepping over her, I maneuvered out the tiny doorway to avoid getting caught on the wire. When I turned around to shut the door, Tabitha was perched on the edge, staring at me.

"Tabitha," I began. "You can't come out here." I pushed her back inside, but she hopped back on the ledge, this time sticking out a foot as if to jump off. "No!" I laughed and pushed her farther in, shutting the door behind her. A bell jingled behind me as Jamal, our insane kitten, leapt out of the tall grass. He crept up slowly, peering in at the chickens. Tabitha came to the wire and gazed at him in admiration, puffing out her feathers. Jamal whined and scratched at the side of the coop. "No, Jams. No chickens for you. C'mon, let's go find some clover for the sweet friends."

I picked up the tiny black cat and carried him to the sunny part of the yard where the weed-vine I called clover (for lack of a better name) grew. As I picked the green treats, Jamal rolled onto his back and mewed for attention. "Sweet kitten, " I murmured, patting his stomach. He purred in contentment and closed his yellow eyes.

On the way back to the chicken coop, Jamal trailing behind, I saw a swarm of ants surrounding something on the concrete. "Jamal. . ." I raised an eyebrow at him. "Did you. . ." I crouched to look at the object. It was a lizard tail. "Jamal!" He looked up at me with huge eyes. "Did you steal this lizard's tail? And. . . what did you do with the rest of it?" He seemed to shrug and sprawled on the ground, sniffing the pile of ants. I glanced around for a dismembered lizard--and saw another squiggling trail of ants leading from the grass. "Jamal!" He jumped up and followed me to the body of his victim.

The dried-up, partially-eaten carcass lay on the concrete. Two legs were missing, as well as its tail. The face had obviously been chewed on. Ants were cheerily carrying off bits of gore. "Jamal!" I turned around to see where he'd gone. He lay on his back, gazing up at me with sweet kitten eyes. "I am so cute!" he seemed to say.
"You tortured him!"
"He was bad. Baaaad!" Jamal mewed. "He would have eaten us all!"
"I'm not letting you play with my chickens," I grumbled, leaving the dismembered lizard carcass behind.

As I opened the door to the coop, Tabitha jumped with excitement. "Friend! Large friend! Cat friend!" She tried to squeeze out the door to join the waiting Jamal. "Tabitha," I admonished. "He just mutilated a lizard." Jamal grinned what was probably meant to be a sweet smile. He looked like a tiny panther.
"Yes!" Tabitha hopped up and down. "Play with him!"
"You are not very bright," I told her, shutting the door. Jamal yawned, showing his pointed teeth, then leapt back into the grass to find another victim.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Two Perspectives on a Failed Feast

My story:
"Aaaaaaaugh!" A piercing chicken-scream sounded from outside the window. Staci and I stared at each other in alarm. "What was that?!" I ran to the glass door by the coop, switched on the light, and peered into the darkness.

My gaze was met by two glassy black eyes, a pointed, whisker-stabbed face, and a worm-like tail. Pointed teeth protruded from the edges of grey gums. "Hey!" I yelled at the opossum. "Get away from my chickens!" I clapped my hands, but he stood frozen in place, staring at me with what looked like defiance.

As I pried open the groaning glass door, he fled into the tall grass. My chickens were running around the coop, yelling at each other and at the place where the opossum had been lurking. A long stick, which I had carefully positioned as a roost through the gaps in the wire, was hanging out of the side.

Slipping on my flip-flops, I hurried toward the heat lamp. Then I heard a rustling in the darkness and gasped, shrinking back. "Staci!"

She was already outside, grabbing a huge white pole from against a pillar. She poked at the grass with it, testing it for snaggly-toothed inhabitants as I crept toward the power outlet and plugged in the lamp.

As the chickens settled into their favorite spot by the warmth, Aunt Marge gave me a disapproving look. "You almost got us eaten," her eyes told me.
"I know--I'm sorry."
"It'd better not happen again." She closed her eyes and fell asleep, disapproval still seeping from her pores.

His story:
A large red chicken sleeps on the roost, feathers fluffed against the cold. Snaggle-Tooth smells a delicious, feathery scent and creeps from the shadowed grass. He sees the snack, so plump and luscious. He stretches out his hand to grab it--but he is foiled by a hard, scratchy barrier. Suddenly, an idea strikes him. If I pull the stick, the chicken will come with it! Excited, Snaggle-Tooth grabs the stick in his mouth and yanks. The almost-snack screams and flies into the air, waking all the other feather-morsels. As the sneaky opossum realizes his mistake, a light appears, showing one of those crazy hairless monsters behind a clear wall. He stares in shock as the monster claps its hands, clearly enjoying the show. Then the wall begins to move with a horrible noise and he flees, vowing to return for his chicken feast another day.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


 This evening I thought, "My goodness, tonight seems to be a fine time to work on my thesis proposal!" So I opened the document filled with my advisor's edits and started to work. After perhaps five minutes of red-splotched pages and suggested revisions and deletions, I gave up and decided to write a poem instead. So. . . Enjoy.

The pen a blood-red knife
slicing through pages,
oozing ink in scratches.

Stabbing errors,
bleeding changes,
murder in thesis form.

Add a section--
maybe three.
Put this at the end.

Delete, rephrase,
explain this more.
The blood-ink oozes faster.

Hobbling on ice-thin legs,
the tortured thesis
gasps for breath.

I'd almost rather
hear her say,
"Scratch this. Change it all,"

than slog through
death and blood and words.
But my zombie-thesis LIVES.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Death and Other Delusions of Aunt Marge

"Heeeeeelp! Help help help! Death! Dead! Deaaaaaad!" My chickens screamed at me from the back porch. I sighed, closed my book, and went to see what was the matter.
"What's up, Looney Goons?" I asked as I took stock. Water, check. Food, check. Grass, check. Heat lamp, check. "You seem to be fine," I told them.
"Noooooo! Aunt Marge opened her beak wide and screamed at me. "Deaaaaaad!"
I looked at her in suspicion. Clarice, laying behind her, ruffled her feathers and yawned, easing into sleep by the heat lamp.
"I really don't think anything's wrong," I repeated.

Three eerie howls sounded from far off. "Seeeee?" Aunt Marge screamed again. "Death!"
Agatha ran up and shoved her head under Aunt Marge's stomach. "Hiiiiide meeee!"
Bagpipes sauntered over, curious as to why they were still awake. "Ladies. . ." he began. Then he heard what they were saying. "What, death? Really? Death? Deaaaaath?" He began to screel loudly and tried to hide underneath them both.

By this point, Tabitha had wandered over and was staring at the trio with her head cocked. "Whaa?" she asked. Then, "Death? Deaath?" she tried out the new sound, then decided it wasn't for her. She headed over to sleep next to Clarice.

Agatha, her head finally under Bagpipes's belly, decided this was good enough for her. Ruffling her feathers, she settled herself down. Bagpipes took this as a good sign and started to lay down beside her. But Aunt Marge would have none of it. "Noooooooo!" she screamed. "Deaaaaaaath! Heard it! Dead! Death! Deaaaaath!"
Agatha perked up again at this. "Death?" Then remembering that she was supposed to be terrified, "Right! Death!" She spun her head around, crazy-eyed.
Bagpipes, eyes closed, gurgled a soothing rattle in his throat. He was much too tired for this. "It's okay, loves. . ."
"No death, no death," Bagpipes gurgled again.
"Nooo. . ." His eyes closed.

"Death?" Aunt Marge looked around, but no one was listening. "Death," she muttered to no one in particular. "Dead death. . . deadness!" She scuffed the ground, then settled down for an uneasy rest, still calling out at irregular intervals, "Death? Deaaath?" but much softer now.

A buzzing sounded near Tabitha's ear. Her eyes sprang open and she saw a long-legged flying thing in front of her eyes. "Eat it!" her brain called. "Taste like cricket! Maybe!" she jabbed out her beak and caught the flying thing. "Yum!" she yelled, then carefully tip-toed away from the fuzzy group of sleeping bodies. "Yum yum yum. Bug of mine! Bug for me!" she sang, bobbing her head back and forth as she tried to maneuver the struggling insect into her throat. Then suddenly, as she flipped the insect to get a better hold on it, it jumped out of her beak and flew into the light. Distraught, Tabitha watched as it spun wildly around the metal cone, its buzzing becoming ever louder.

Aunt Marge, who still wasn't quite asleep, heard the racket and glanced up. As she watched, it came within her reach. She thrust her head forward and. . . "Got it!" All thoughts of death forgotten, Aunt Marge gobbled down Tabitha's insect as the smaller chicken watched in dismay. She smacked her invisible lips, scratched at the sand a few times, then settled down to sleep.  Tabitha gave what appeared to be a chicken sigh and laid down beside her. As the mass of feathers and fluff finally fell silent and began to breathe in unison, a train whistle sounded in the distance.

Monday, March 12, 2012

My Melodramatic Chickens

"Help! Help!" my chickens screamed at me from their coop. "We're being attacked! We're almost dead! Save us!" It was the same sound Tabitha made when she thought the cricket she was eating was attacking her.
"What's up, chickies?" I crouched by the door. Five pairs of dinosaur feet rushed toward me. Agatha and Aunt Marge, the largest chickens, stretched out their necks and peered at me with round eyes. "What?" I asked again. Clarice was busy eating sand.

I sighed, then went around the edge of the coop to check their food dish. The mechanism to keep it flowing out wasn't working and the tray was empty. "See?" their eyes accused me. "Broken! Starving! Have to eat sand!" Clarice had followed the others, but was still munching on the floor-covering.

"Poor chickies!" I exclaimed and opened the door. When I stepped inside, Tabitha ran over to me and cocked her head at my toes. Then she inched forward, pecked one, and quickly retreated. Seeing that I didn't mind, she followed my feet and tried to eat my toes as I fixed the food dispenser. It was soon swarmed by the feathery monsters, who sent food flying as they stuffed their mouths.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Green Smoothies of Death

Now tell me--on a scale of one to ten, how appetizing does this look?
(This is supposed to be a smoothie, by the way.)
A. . . 0? Okay, it's not that bad. It's a lovely shade of green. Never mind that green is the color of VEGETABLES and LEAVES. Never mind that smoothies should contain FRUIT! *grumbles*

In some fit of insanity, I convinced Staci to do something awful. (Yes, my decision. *heavy sigh*)

We are doing an elimination diet.


My friend Jaz did the same one last year, and I thought it sounded really fun (ha!). Basically, you start out eating only a couple things and then add stuff back in. It's good for finding allergies, or just to jump-start healthier eating. The major draws for me, however, were that it would a), show me new delicious recipes (I have a book), and b), be fun. Oh yes, fun.

"I can be creative with my food!" I told Staci. "It makes me stretch the options farther!"
She offered a glumly raised eyebrow. "I find eating real food more fun, actually," she responded.

When we actually get to the food, I'm sure it'll be fine. But right now, we're in the "Smoothie Phase" or the "pretend-blended-kale-tastes-good-if-you-add-an-apple-and-also-that-you-also-don't-want-to-die" Phase.

I have never before craved yams and lentils with such ferocity. Two days of this? *bleargh*
I am glum.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Horror Story

"Hey look, the house doesn't smell like death anymore!" George grinned at his mate and hoisted his bag higher on his back.

Thelma grinned. "Great. That must mean it's safe. Let's move in."

Finding an entrance wasn't a problem, and they soon found themselves in a warm, enclosed space right within the wall. George put down his suitcase. "Hey Thelma, there's a light comin' in through this wall--we could live right here!"

Looking up from hauling her own suitcase, Thelma nodded at George. "Good idea." She busied herself unpacking her things: toothbrush, soap, hairbows, while George explored their new home.

"Thelma!" she heard him call. "Lookie here! The last guys left their stash of food!" George had vanished out of sight.

"George?" she called. "George, where are you?"

His head popped in through the hole, partially blocking the light. His whiskers shook with excitement. "I just wanted to look around a bit. Look!" He held up a small green pellet. "Food! It's delicious. Kinda salty, though." He gnawed on it, crumbling bits onto his furry chest.

Thelma looked at him suspiciously. "George. . . I'm not so sure you should be eating that."

He ignored her. "I'm gonna go find some water."

Thelma pointed toward a dripping noise. "I think there's a leaky pipe over that way." She picked up one of the green crumbs George had left behind and sniffed it.

It smelled like . . . death.

"George, wait!" she yelled, dropping the pellet and racing after her mate. But he had fallen into the puddle, dead.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A New Type of Spider

"Hey Stace!"


"Come look at this bug! I wanna know what it is."

She peered at the small, amber lump on the baseboard. "Hmm. A spider."

"Really?" I looked at the bulging and hairless body—much different from my room's usually sleek arachnid inhabitants.

Staci began to reach toward it.

"Noo!" I shrieked, scooting my chair away.

She laughed, drawing her hand back. "What?"

"Don't touch it!"

"I'm just gonna scare it."



"I don't want it in my room!"

Staci glanced around us. "This your spider-catching cup?" she asked, holding up a large orange glass.

I nodded and shrunk away.

She moved the glass over the spider. Then, "Oops."

"What?" I couldn’t see from where I was and I didn’t want to get any closer.

"I squished it." She looked chagrined, then brought the cup down on the spider's body twice more. I heard a pop, then a squelch as the bubble burst. Brown liquid splattered, then dripped down the wall and onto the spider’s crumpled corpse.

“That’s so gross!” It looked like a tiny bomb had exploded in the spider’s abdomen. I put my face in my hands and shook with half-hysterical laughter while Staci stoically embalmed the spider in toilet paper and sent him to a watery grave.