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.