Dearest Peter: A Letter from Wendy Darling to her darling Pan

I love love love metaphors, and metaphors that incorporate fables, mythos or already beloved characters is a bonus. And so I originally wrote this as a writing exercise/what-if situation. It grew wings and flew away from me a little bit, but I wanted to share.

Dearest Peter,

Your Wendy Darling here, waiting patiently at the windowsill again on another sleepless night. Still bewitched by your shadow, although even he hasn’t been around to amuse me lately as summer moons shine bright and then give way to the autumn chill that creeps in a little bit more each day. I tick them off on a calendar on the nursery wall, and cannot believe I’ve still got another month before the real chill settles in.

Tell me Pan, do you really mean it when you say you’ll never grow up? Do you believe it like you believe in pixie dust? I guess that works because it has given you wings of a sort after all. But why, Peter, why don’t you want to grow old with me? Is being a lost boy ringleader such a nom de plume that it bests disillusionment?

Do you remember when we sat by the lake? We shared reality for that instance at least. You took my hand and made such promises. I want to believe in your dreams, Pete, but you’ve never asked me mine. Wendy Darling had so many dreams other than a boy in tights at her bedside, and these dreams didn’t fly away when my feet left the ground to follow you. We make great friends but now you’re asking me to be a mother to your brood. I don’t know that skill. I never learned it somehow.

I see dark clouds on the horizon, the blackest, heaviest clouds I’ve ever seen. Can any ship, even a flying one, get through clouds such as these? What lies ahead troubles me and scares me, because I cannot predict where you will be, nor even my own whereabouts. Especially when you disappear to Neverland for days on end, and I’m left to wonder if perhaps you were only a product of wild imaginings.

You’ve been fighting Hook for so long. This man has left such scars on you. I’m amazed you can laugh at all, facing him so incessantly as you do. My heart is a pixie in a jar because I can see you flying away from me and I’ve forgotten how to rise against the air myself. Where did the magic go? There was a time you’d have reached for my hand and shown me how. I wanted to stay with you in Neverland, but the children back home need me. Besides, we both know Hook is not my pirate to fight; no enemy to me. Take care, Pan, he will kill you if he gets half a chance.

Oh Peter, I’m just not sure what to say when we meet again (And meet we shall, because the world has proven itself to be a small one after all). Will you even know me after I’ve aged and you’ve retained such nubile young grace? John and Michael and all the other boys are no comfort to me. I’m still holding on to the fantasy you promised.

Thirty seems awful far away and yet it’s no further than any of the other stars I see across this night sky. When I’m a tri-decade, will you roost awhile and entertain notions of sleeping a full night and waking with me in the same bed? What do married folk do anyway? Mother and father never could give me illustration on such matters. The term quality time seems cluttered and obtuse. I can’t seem to hold a clunky idea like it too long in these lily white hands. Will we fly like we used to or only have someone there to reminisce the sensation being aloft gave us each in our turn? Or would our union only produce little Pans that will quietly go into dark Neverland and not return again? Youth swallows some whole.

Dearest Peter, these are things Wendy Darling wants to know. But I’m used to your absence by now, and know I’ll perhaps never know that much of you. Just know, it does not decrease your mythos for me. But, I think too, perhaps it is time for one of us to grow up.

Love always,


(Thoughts? Comments? Please do share.)

Just My Typo is one writers can laugh at while looking over their own manuscripts

Just My Typo: From “Sinning with the Choir” to “The Untied States” Compiled by Drummond Moir

I decided to read this little book as a break from a massive tomb on evolution that I’m slogging through. This delightful piece of brain candy was what I needed to break up the pain my mind was feeling from trying to process natural selection repercussions that are generally quite bleak.

Just My Typo: From “Sinning with the Choir” to “The Untied States” is a collection of English misses and gaffes compiled by long-time editor Drummond Moir. Since most of these mistakes printed in the book are headlines, titles, and other short instances, this book only took me about a day and a half to read.

This book contains errors that will delight English majors and really hit home with my fellow journalists. In every chapter, there are featured typos called “When Typesetters Lose it” that hit home with those of us in print that sometimes substitute a random non-sensical letter block for words we intend to fill in later. Forgetting to go back and actually replace logical speech for “asdfjkl;” causes laughable errors as showcased by this feature in every chapter.

The book highlights typos in every field, displaying them in such a way that makes for a fun exercise to spot the error in each block of text. The chapters include typos in literature, media, historical and political significance, abroad, food related, legal, and typos that have actually cost a pretty penny to rectify. One such example is a real doozy, that occurred in 1962 when a missed hyphen resulted in NASA’s Mariner 1 being sent into the ocean rather than its intended destination of Venus. Ouch.

One other particularly enjoyable chapter is “Autocorrect Dysphoria: The Future of the Typo.” We are all aware of how autocorrect can completely change what we mean to say with its supposedly well-meaning suggestions. This chapter provides some real laugh out loud instances of this relatively new phenomenon in English troubles. Fair warning, most of the errors here and in the rest of the book are amusing to those with only the most refined sense of potty humor. For example, the most common of all typos seems to be the missing ‘l” from “public” that instantly turns any sentence it contains into something of quite a different meaning. The Autocorrect chapter is followed by the charming chapter on typos from children. These two chapters alone make for a good excuse to pick this book up.

There may not be a lot of substance to this book, but it is amusing and provided a much appreciated laugh in every chapter as well as a reminder to all readers and writers to be conscientious in their proofing.

I received “Just My Typo” by Drummond Moir as a complimentary review copy from the Web site Blogging for Books. All opinions and statements in the review above are my own.

Once and Never Again

I’m posting a short-story I’m reconfiguring to release with my re-release of Disarm. I wrote this sucker 7 years ago with the original Disarm manuscript. It is written from the antagonists point of view and it has never seen the light of day besides the time I used it in workshop for a creative writing class. I’m posting so I’ll have it somewhere to spur me to finish tweaking it. It means a lot to me and so I get frustrated with it, and think…maybe just let it return to the box for another 7 years. So here is half of it. Hopefully the other half will be typed and semi-polished by the month’s end.

Once and Never Again
by Jarrett Nathaniel Mahers

The impact of the goon’s knuckle against my lip, my teeth and even a sliver of my tongue brings forth the strong, bitter taste of crowded blood welling in my mouth. Shock sends the majority of the blood down my throat, making for a nasty meal for my rumbling stomach. The remainder spews from my mouth in a lovely fountain display. They’re not pleased as it has put blood literally on their hands and clothes. Yet, before all this registered in my chemically assisted brain’s awareness, I felt the bliss of finally getting what I deserved.
These punches, and this beating from these two hired nobodies, is what I want. It’s debatable if it’s what I need. This difference has been the hardest lesson for me to grasp. It’s hard to admit that your blind want has to be let go. My happiness is not important in comparison to the cost for which it comes. I will not have her experience the terrible ache of loss like I did. Her soul is too precious to crush. She pulled me from the darkness. I won’t let her fall into its abyss, just because I feel sorry for my reckless self.
I don’t blame anyone but myself for what has happened. No one deserves these punches more than I. Besides, I learn best when the weight falls on my head like it has now. I make my decisions for myself, and I don’t want others’ futures tied in with the process. I see that what I am to do will hurt both parties less in the end. If a relationship never forms, it can never be killed.
True, my philosophy wavers in application to Eleanor. She could guess, but it’s true she’d dissolve all my work. She could destroy the philosophy, my livable existence, herself, and my everything if only I lapse for a moment. She’ll think I’m selfish perhaps, afterward, but it’s for us I make my choice.
Soon, unconsciouses will overtake me, because they will keep hitting me. Somehow their non-existent persona is leaking out in even the most primal of acts. They will beat me until they’ve had their fill of physical revenge, but I still won’t pay. I lay here without caring, feeling this small bliss. I deserve every ounce of pain for what I am doing to the girl I really care for: the sweet, strong Lenore. I will suffer through hell and more for what I’ve done to her and continue to do even now. I can except that, the punishment, but I can’t stop the direction I’m headed. These junkie goons and dealers will come to kill me soon, because I refuse to pay for my disease. I choose the cowards route of assisted suicide. I only beg from her alone with a plea of forgiveness, but not with remorse.

See the devil may do as the devil may care. He loves none sweeter as sweeter the dare. Her mouth the mischief he doth seek. Her heart the captive of which he speaks. So not all ye lovers in love with the sound. Your world be shattered with nary a note of one Cupid’s arrow under your coat. “Cupid De Locke” -The Smashing Pumpkins

The first time I encountered Elenore was the fourth grade. She probably doesn’t remember our first meeting though. At the time, and for six years after, I didn’t imagine there was anything to that nameless girl I med that rain sodden elementary school day.
It was my first year at the local elementary school as my family had moved from somewhere inconsequential to here. It had been a good year for me, and I fit in well at the school. In one of the final weeks of that school year it was a rare recess period that I found myself opting out of kickball with my friends to simply walk the blacktop alone. At my age, it was a bold move I assure you.
I soon tired of being ad rebel and rounded the side of the building to head back towards the classroom early when I heard great little sobs coming from the fifth-graders spring garden. I hopped the low gate and followed the sounds of the feminine choked voice muttering and sniffling. Behind the row marked for peanuts the in shadows of the failing corn stalks, a girl in a red jumper and a ridiculous polka-dot shirt knelt with a lark cradled in her shaking fingers. She looked up at my approach, but it was doubtful she could really see me through all those tears.
“Please don’t tell on me,” she whispered as thought whomever she feared was near.
My ten-year-old brain wanted to do exactly this. I wanted to run to the nearest authority figure and inform them of this crazy girl in the garden, stroking a half-dead bird with her stubby little fingers. Yet, her words stayed me.
“Why not?”
I was a horrible little punk at ten. Still am.
“I’ve been taking care of it all week. If you tell, they’ll make me stop, and it will die.” She finished with a touch more drama than the situation required.
“We all die,” I said. “Do you want it to be in pain?
“No.” She shook her head furiously, her tears watering the okra plants to her right. “I know he’ll get better. I know he can.”
She had conviction at eight years old. Astounding when I think back on it. She ran her smallest finger down the bird’s back. It only opened and closed its eyes in a slow, painful sort of way.
“I’ll do it,” I offered.
She was quiet, still stroking the lark.
“It’s not going to get better,” I added cheerfully.
She nodded.
“You’re right. We’ll do it together,” she resolved.
I knelt in front of her and we both put a finger around the birds neck. She was no longer crying, and as we applied pressure to the bird’s soft, warm surface and it began to squirm, she clenched her jaw and willed herself to break the bone.
I felt it give under my finger and the bird only struggled for a minute longer until it grew still. I stuck around long enough to watch her dig a hole for it and put a dandelion on top of its still body before she covered it up. We parted ways without another word spoken between us.
She moved across town to live with her grandparents after that school year. Her parents said they needed a break from being parents, a six year break to be exact, until Eleanore’s grandmother died and she was shipped back to her folks. I can’t say I thought about her after that day in the garden and I didn’t learn all about her uprooted home life until after we met again the summer before my senior year of high school.

Ooh and every time that I”m with you I’m alive. Ooh and every time I think of you there’s a light. And I felt it too. “The Boy” -The Smashing Pumpkins

My friend Stephen invited me to join him, his girlfriend and fa few other friends to the Cloak’s Fine Dagger to see the local buzz worthy band, HomeWrecker. Simply to humor Stephen, I agreed. He had been my next door neighbor since I’d moved here in the fourth grade, and we became as thick as thieves at the end of junior year of high school.
That was when my former best friend and brother, Trent, Began his move on campus for his first year of college. I saw him rarely from then on as he grew up and away. My only objection to Stephen’s presence has been and continues to be his girlfriend. She is fiendish. I was always glad to be single in comparison to his fate.
At any rate, the CD was packed the night of the show. We arrived just as the moshpit began its formation and I motioned Stephen towards it. I was overruled as Cleo caught his wrist and begged him to wait with her until her other friends arrived. I rolled my eyes as he shrugged. Alone, I pushed through the bodies and to the front of the stage as the music started. I had come to hear music in its live form, complete with the ritual beating of the moshpit. Stephen was on his own with the leech.
The show as a rough one, no doubt, and it got rougher with each number they screamed out at us, but I was having a hell of time. I was completely in my element. I had attended my brother’s band shows since middle school. No crowd got too overwhelming for me. I looked from the stage mid-show to those are me, pressed tightly into me, limbs everywhere and felt my adrenaline kick was still going strong. I laughed aloud at simply being alive. Yet, I cut it off short as I felt something clutch my leg. Looking down, I saw a girl had fallen and was using my leg to pull herself back up. She pulled herself up to my elbow level and grimaced as the pushing continued.
She was being pressed on every side like we all were, but she simply didn’t have the physique for it. The guys in the front row were too rough, and weren’t thinking about who got hit as they moved. The girl had a fierce look in her eyes thought as she flung her arms out and pressed to stay upright. But I saw behind those eyes a glimmer of fear. IT was the most attractive thing I’d ever seen. The whole crowd shifted and she began to fall again with a little annunciation of alarm.
Had it been another day, and I been in a different mood, I could have been looking another way, let her fall, and missed all of this. That, I think, is the strangest part of my action. I care little for other people, but something about her made me reach out and halt her fall. Pulling her upright, and linking arms with her I yelled: “Stand your ground, little sister.”
Having saved her from another fall, I could have let her go, but I felt responsible for her somehow. The music continued and still I held her close to my side. And she didn’t seem to mind. When the show ended, and the majority of the sound that the music had been occupying, was free, I suddenly felt very conscious of this stranger latched on to me. I let her go and moved quickly to the exit. She said something muted to my ringing ears, and I waved nervously as I felt those black eyes on me, sifting through my soul and picking out the little faults there. I couldn’t get away quick enough. I had unintentionally picked a commitment, and that wasn’t something I wanted.
Outside, the chilly air brought a bit of comfort to my racing heart. I chastised myself mentally. I had been rude, running out on her, but we really had no connection, I justified. I’d done more than most by just holding her up. Girls in the moshpit, what did you expect? I shook my head.
I pulled a Camel from my pocket and patted my pants for my lighter, but with no success. More than likely it had been claimed by the mostpit. What a bummer, I thought glumly. I looked down the wall I leaned on for a fellow smoker to answer the call and there she was again, flicking a lighter to her own cigarette’s end. I started at her a moment, feeling such a fool. But what the hell. I saw nothing more to do, but give in to karma’s roundabout way of kicking me in the ass.
“Got a light?” I said over her shoulder.
She turned and choked on a puff of smoke. I could have killed myself for being involved in this cliché. The awkwardness was mildly unbearable.
“Sure,” she said, sparking the almost empty lighter multiple times until the flint struck. She cupped the flame towards my cigarette’s end.
In the streetlight, she looked vastly different to me. I have always hated my weakness of smoking and couldn’t stand it when one of my friends finally kicked the habit, but that day and always, she made cigarette’s look like a wonderful, harmless extension of herself.
She pulled the smoke in and a fiery cigarette end lit up those eyes again. They were brown, like mine, but with dark pits that had no defined color. I can hardly tear away from them even now. They’re not beautiful or anything. They just hold such a sadness that I don’t understand.
She was thin and pale, but the cold air, the concert and the nicotine gave a healthy, red glowing tint to her cheeks. She had freckles. Her hair was such a dark brown I had mistaken it for black. But yes, now I saw it was just a chestnut sort of color. She was really quite ordinary looking. Yet, this is all really superfluous description. Describing her is like trying to put fantastic into a bottle. I certainly don’t know how, and it shouldn’t be done anyway.
“Jarret Nathan Mahar,” I said as hr eyes ran over me as well.
I felt my first name would be insufficient, and that while I was telling her my last name, I might as well get the middle one out of the way too.
I hope I didn’t make a face when she said that, but I didn’t like that name. Elenore has class and character while Lenore is quite dreary. Elenore has a tendency to over dramatize things and so Lenore fits her, but Elenore is her true name. I’ve never been able to call her Lenore.
“Short for anything?” I asked.
“Yeah. Elenore. But call me Lenore,” she said, all punk intimidation, but then smiled out of the corner of her mouth and started to say something, but then Stephen came up into the middle of the scene with the Siren holding his hand.
Elenore know Stephen from his abysmal girlfriend and they pursued that topic in introductions and following small talk. She wasn’t a quiet sort of girl, but I found I didn’t mind. As she talked, it gave me an excuse to look at her, her familiar face, and try to remember where we’d met. As we finished our cigarettes and flicked them into the street, the memory of the girl with the bird resurfaced from nowhere. That girl that had been trapped in my memory so long was now released to join her updated self. The awkwardness increased tenfold as I thought she might remember this past version of me and the upper hand would be completely lost.
“Jarrett, are you going with us?”
I was brought back. Elenore looked at her cigarette end without interest and then crushed it on her boot heel. If she remembered me, then she must have been very good at concealing her facial expressions. She was good at this game, I’m sure. I was better.
“No. Trent and I have to make our 1a.m. House of Waffles date.”
Trent’s wonderful timing displayed itself as his car squealed to a stop across the street and I waved farewell to the group, and ran to it, already breathless, from cigarette inhalation or Elenore, who knows?
I got in hastily and accidentally shut my jacked in the door. I reopened the door with a curse, freed it and shut the door again, sinking back into the seat. Trent was looking at me with that shit-eating grin of his. He’s only a couple of years older than me, but acts like he understands everything, including me, perfectly. He knows a lot, but my plans will always surprise him. They surprise me at times.
He put the car in drive and shrugged with a smile. We had ordered our waffles and were waiting for our food when he spoke.
“So, who is she?” he said, not remotely hiding his grin behind the orange juice.
I hated him seeing through me. I had been unable to think of anything but Lenore since I’d left her side. She was a mystery kaleidoscope I couldn’t see through; a puzzle I must solve.
“Lenore, she says.” I admitted.
“Is she hot?” he said, dousing the eggs that had just been laid before him with hot sauce.
Trent had a full ride to the local college, but he hadn’t yet wised up on girls, and indeed anything that remotely was useful for daily life. He’s much better these days. Dad’s death changed him for the better. I believe I took it the worst of the two of us. I didn’t go goth or start wearing spikes and dog collars, but I was pretty emo and definitely not who I was before.
Trent spread the sauce in a uniform coat over the eggs and began eating them.
“Don’t fall in love, Jarrett. It’s just an excuse to hurt and be hurt.”
He is hilarious when he tries to preach to me with song lyrics.
“Which folk singer did you rip that off from?” I asked.
“Bright Eyes,” he admitted with another shrug.
“Aw man,” I pushed my plate away. “That Oberst makes me nauseated with his angst. Don’t you have any GWAR words of wisdom on love?”
That was a contradiction if there ever was one.
“GWAR? Now, I’m nauseated,” he said and be laughed a bit so that Elenore was able to fade completely from my mind for the night.
The next morning though, her nagging presence was back and I called Stephen to ask him to give her my number.
“Right on it, man,” he said and I could feel his smile over the phone.
I didn’t care if I sounded smitten. I didn’t care that I wasn’t waiting two days to call or whatever the bullshit rule was. I felt an invisible clock ticking over us and just wanted to get to know her soon. She was on me like the pull of gravity. I never thought we’d be here, with hurt and betrayal in the ranks where love and trust once here. I certainly didn’t mean to. Life just happened to us, I guess. I admit, Oberst had some of that stuff right.

Who am I to need you now? To ask you why, to tell you no, to deserve your love and sympathy. You were never meant to belong to me. And you may go, but I know you won’t leave, too many years built into memories. Your life is not your own. “Crestfallen” -Smashing Pumpkins

I remember when I started letting go of Eleanor. When I made the conscious decision not to let her know I loved her. My father died in July, a few months after graduation and my long life that was college to start, so maybe I should have been grateful for the coincidence. He was gone so suddenly, but that’s a stupid cliché as well, because that’s how death always is. I surely don’t want mine to stretch out any longer than it already has.
The night he died, I had just had dinner with Eleanor and Trent and was already a bit miffed. The pair of them had sided against me in telling me I needed to nail down my major. It seems such a trivial thing to be angry about now, but I hated having no direction and then further being called out on it by two of my best friends.
“Would it kill you to be on my side for once, Trent?” I said, slamming the door behind me as we entered the house.
“She was right, Jarrett. You’re going to have to make a decision eventually, and then live with it. You’re afraid of consequences and you always have been. I’ve held your fucking hand since you were born, so don’t say I’m not on your side.”
“Oh right, I forgot. You honestly just say whatever suits you, Trent. You’re hardly ever home during breaks from school. This is like the first time we’ve really talked in a month, man. Yeah, you’re really holding my hand while you’re out with your friends like always. I’m sure.”
“My silly friends? You’re the silly one Jar-head. I know what this is about. You’re just angry you can’t afford dorm life and have to live at home this year.”
I was, but it was really shitty of him to bring that up. We were in my parents bedroom at this point.
“You can…” I stopped short in yelling whatever was next.
Anna, our mother, had raised her head from the bed where she’d been lying face down. Trent went to her side inquiring, but her tear stained cheeks told the story. My father’s name on her lips. I knew something terrible had happened to him. Our mother never cried and now great wails were shaking her entire body while Trent held her together.
He looked at me with venom as if it were my doing and then broke into tiny sobs of his own while he stroked her hair. I skipped grief and got stuck on anger. It was the first time my father had really let me down. The first time he wasn’t there when I needed him. You were supposed to grow old, Father. Barely out of your forties and doomed with a soft heart that just couldn’t take the pressure.
That was the worst summer of my life.
I pushed through the anger and encountered bone crushing grief. I had foolishly tried to suppress it and it was blotting me out in turn. It brought its buddies Blame, Hate, Self-Loating and a Depression most severe. I love drugs, but the more I took the worse I felt, so I eventually pushed away anti-depressants too.
I’d met Eleanor that previous summer and we had bonded instantly from that concert we met at. She was a mixture of a twin sister, a girlfriend, a best friend and none of the above. She wouldn’t let my sorry ass be as we went through death together. After I eventually heard the detailed news of my father’s death from my distraught mother, I called her.
“Jarrett…did I leave something in the car?”
“Elenore,” I said again, my voice a flat sound that I didn’t even recognize.
“What’s wrong?”
“My dad…he’s had a heart attack. He’s dead.”
“Come over.”
Her parents lived about a fifteen minute bike from my house, but the ride had barely begun when I was at her door. She was standing in its frame, her father silhouetted in the background.
“Talk to him and then come back in here,” he said, staring me down.
“He’s staying over.”
“Like hell he is girl. No pothead is stepping foot in this house. You talk to him and then come back in here.”
He pushed her out the door and shut it. I waited nervously at the bottom of the steps. She seemed to think for a moment.
“Hold up a minute. Be right back,” she said.
She opened the door, went in and closed it. I sat on the bottom step, wanting just to leave and deal with this on my own as I usually did with things. I heard yelling and slamming coming from within the house. She appeared a minute later with her backpack on, a sleeping bag under one arm, and a foldout tent under the other.
“Come on,” she said. “Let’s get out of this shithole.”
There was a campground near our houses, and she rented a campsite for us for the night. We slept in the tent she pitched herself. She cooked hotdogs and played The Smashing Pumpkins all night on her cd player.
We only had one sleeping bag and she insisted she didn’t care that I had it, but I didn’t care about much of anything but not being alone. So that was the first night I slept with her in my arms like a life-sized stuffed animal. We have slept together like that most nights since we moved into the same apartment complex.
Nights that she’s not at the apartment, I can only manage a few hours of sleep. I broke down in her arms many times during those months after his death, and she was with me every moment to offer endless devotion to restoring me to whatever normal I could manage.
Trent filled his life post-dad-death with a full calendar of social events, drinking, and lots of smokes. He was no longer my immature older brother, but he was no longer my happy friend as he’d once been. It became hard to laugh around him, because we shared the weight and being together was a reminder of our burden to continue to do so. He didn’t have time to be sad anymore with his life full of college kid drama. It took me well past that summer and up until mid-March to rebuild my own life.
My father had been my closest relationship tie, and the loss of the tie ripped me out of reality. I decided that I would never get so close to another again. The pain of severing a relationship was too great for me. This was a rule without exception and so sadly the one who helped me through it all was pushed away constantly. Every time she showed emotion towards me, I acted like I didn’t notice. I felt, but I never showed it. It seems easier this way.
I am in love with Elenore in ways I can’t even describe, but I was going to break her heart irreparably if I let her know anything of my thoughts. To lose her from my life completely over a petty boyfriend vs girlfriend melodrama was not an option for me. I wanted to keep her forever.
You see Ellie? I love you too much to do that to you. I have hurt too much already and I can’t take it again. I made the decision that we would never be that couple. Sure, we gave up things, but I think we got a lot more in return. I hope she will understand. I know she didn’t that day at the circus. One year after my father’s death, when the decision to be a semi-sociopath was still new, I hurt her physically. It’s the sickest thing I’ve ever done. And I hate myself for it.

All you have to do is run away, and steal yourself from me. Become a mystery to gaze into. You’re so cruel in all you do, but still I believe. I believe in you. “Behold! The Nightmare.”-The Smashing Pumpkins

I can’t say for sure that Elenore remembered the date’s heavy history. She simply wanted to go to the circus, and I didn’t want to be alone that night. If I was alone, I knew I might be tempted to pick at the raw scab in healing that was my metaphorical heart.
We sat on the hard benches of the budget circus while a scattered cornfield of popcorn and gummy mazy of half-eaten candied apples made dirty love under our feet. She had gotten a green snow cone which we shared. She kept sticking out her absurdly vividly colored tongue when I threw popcorn kernels at her. She helped me relax and almost forget. We were not being quiet, but the circus crod was slim on a Sunday, and we only earned a few hell gazes from mothers of squirming toddlers.
The acts were unremarkable. The only one that held my attention at all was the archer shooting an apple off his trusting wife’s head. I found it intriguing because I knew I could never put my life so wholly in another’s hands. It was a simple wrist bob and shed face certain death. She smiled: seemingly unaware. I don’t think any human should have that much control over another’s existence. It’s that thought that terrifies me and makes me reprimand Elenore when she leans too heavily on me. So, I can’t say I really liked the act, but it wasn’t bad.
Elenore was fascinated by the clowns. Whenever those mockeries of human plights came falling, stumbling, or swaggering out, her face lit up with unrivaled joy. They took her to a place where the world couldn’t touch her. I envied that simple ecstasy.
“Why don’t we join the circus, Jarrett?” She said, putting the snowcone straw under my mouth again as the clowns finished up.
“I’m too grizzly a fucker for the circus.”
She giggled and pulled my absurdly long hair to her. It rivaled the lion’s manes to be sure.
“You crazy metal kid. Don’t you think it’ll be fun? Just run away and be carnies for awhile?”
I lifted my eyebrows.
“Possibly…” I conceded. “What would our talent be?”
The final act was wrapping up around this time, and she twined her arm with mine as we waited for the lower bleachers to clear.
“You’re a master bullshitter. Maybe you could be the ringleader,” she jabbed as we made our way down the steps.
“You’re losing your touch, Ellie. Pray tell what would you do?”
“I’d be a trained poodle,” she said simply.
I just shook my head. Her logic was baffling. I think if I had to join her silly circus tirade, I’d be one of those stupid fucking clowns she fancies. When you’re a clown, everyone laughs at your misfortune, and that’s common place for me. It’s your job to make misery funny, and I think I could handle that. It would also be nice to make Elenore smile. A challenging, but satisfying job, I think.
We got in the care and she drove me to my house. The boxes were by the front door. I was finally moving out of that house and into the apartment complex where I live now, the one next to her. I suddenly felt very agitated like I had at dinner with her earlier that night. The school year at the new college without my father and still no major was wearing on me.
“You ever think we’re wasting our time?”
“High school certainly seems proof of our time wasting capability. You mean us in particular?” She asked.
I appreciated her taking my philosophical questions seriously. Trent blew these kinds of questions off. She listened. I pulled a cigarette out and after a few puffs, handed it to her.
“You see these lions and tigers in those circus cages and that’s the only way we’ll ever see them.”
She nodded, smoking in her beautiful way. I was tempted to watch, but I had a point to make.
“I wonder what they’d be if they were out in another town, another cage, or another field? Would they be more of a lion or still that sad bit of spoiled meat jumping through another ring of fire?”
She didn’t answer as she handed the cigarette off. I was ruining her night. I wanted to wallow in misery for awhile, and while she usually stopped me early on, she wasn’t holding me back tonight.
“I’m never going to get out of this town,” I finished, looking away angrily.
There was a pause before she said, very quietly.
“Maybe this town needs you.”
I turned on her. Her hand was in mine and I had begun to squeeze it tightly.
“Well, I don’t need it or anyone here.”
She didn’t understand she had to stay away from me. She was angry now though. Her terrible quiet anger where she said just the right words to hurt.
“I’m with you because I want to be, idiot. I don’t NEED you or that bullshit,” she said clearly, pulling her hand from mine.
Something snapped in me. I was wanting a safe distance from her but not abandonment. That…I couldn’t handle. I couldn’t be left alone again. She knew that. How could she say that? She reached for me or I for her, because my head was spinning and I’m not sure. It was probably she who reached to comfort me. She always does that after she realizes she’s said something awful. I felt my nails dig into her skin of her tiny hand, drawing blood as I tossed it away from me.
“You wouldn’t have said it if you didn’t mean it,” I spat at her downcast eyes.
I got out of the car and ran to the door, angry tears springing to my eyes. I lay against the front door panting and seething. I could see her dark figure in the car still, hunched over the wheel. I pulled at my hair and went back to the window. She wouldn’t look up. Ashamed of me. The worst punishment possible.
“It’s the first anniversary of my dad’s death, Elenore. I’ll call you in a few days when I cool down.”
I should have apologized. Later, I’d look at her hand and see those two ghost-like scares I left. I didn’t deserve her to come back to me. I never said sorry. But then again, neither did she.

To be continued…(hopefully!)

The Business of Comics: book review on Brian Michael Bendis’s “Words for Pictures”

This review is on a complimentary book I recieved from I chose the book, and the thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own.

For this book review, I chose Brian Michael Bendis’s “Words for Pictures: The Art and Business of Writing Comics and Graphic Novels.” I’m not planning to write for comics anytime soon, but I chose the book because it is a recent publication (July 2014) and is pop culture relevant for all the influence comics are displaying these days. Plus, it’s GetPopCultured week at Barnes and Noble and I’m reading Bryan Lee O’Malley’s “Seconds” in addition to this read. I’m just in a comic based type of mood these days.

Bendis is a big name writer in comics and has worked on such notable titles as Ultimate Spiderman and the currently trending “Guardians of the Galaxy.” If you are looking to take advice from someone in the business, Bendis seems like a good mentor.

As your mentor, the first thing Bendis says in Words for Pictures is that he doesn’t want you to write like him. He wants you to write like you. Also, he wants you to write a lot. Every day. He’s going to be tough on you for these 200 pages as your guide through what it’s like to write for comics, but also he believes in you.

In Words for Pictures, Bendis shows us the nuts and bolts look at creating comics. He never downplays that creativity and art are important in the business, but he says that the business aspect of it is just as important as the art…if not more. For every Bendis in the industry, there are 1000 other great writers and artists that will never get published. To this effect he covers the business from front to back, bringing in artists, comic executives and even a savvy co-business owner (his wife) to write alongside him.

Page 14 offers the best description of why writers write. Spot on. I won’t ruin it for you.Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction show up as well as 14 other artists who write on writers of the industry. It makes sense to include this, and to have artists pulling a lot of the load of this book because…artists are a big part of comics. If you are writing for comics, you are more than likely going to have to collaborate with artists more often than not.

One of the writers I most respect is Neil Gaiman, and he’s a shining example of writers crossing over into comics, and how great having a good writer with talented artists can be. An artist for his “Death” graphic novel, answers some questions for Bendis in one section of this book as well. He confirms (like every other interview I’ve ever read) that Gaiman is a delightful human to meet and work with.

This book has everything you are looking for if you love comics, are curious about the process of how comics come into being, or want to break into comics yourself. It’s written for your average Peter Parker type, and defines all the terms that may trip you up. Plus, the artwork included on every single page is gorgeous. Bendis brags in one sections that the “business of comics” chapter is worth the $25 cover price alone. Maybe so, if that’s what you’re looking for, but I would purchase this just to have these beautiful comic prints.

Bottom line: the book is full of good advice for writers in any medium and will thrill comic fans. Worth owning.

A Curious Man: A Difficult Read

This is a book review on a manuscript provided to me by the Web site called “Blogging for Books.” They provide free book copies to those who will write an honest review.

A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe it or Not” Ripley by Neal Thompson.

I chose “A Curious Man” from the repetoire of books on Blogging for Books, not merely on a whim or the book description this time. Rather, a biography on Ripley appealed to me because of some childhood memories associated with the Believe it or Not tagline.

When I was growing up, almost every summer I would visit my grandmother in St. Augustine, Florida. St. Augustine is a quaint and wonderful touristy town that claims the title of “Oldest city in the US.” As such, it features attractions like the oldest schoolhouse, Fountain of Youth, and several historic stone forts. History is fun stuff and all, but as a kid, I was most interested in the Ripley’s “Believe it or Not” Museum in downtown St. Augustine.

Every year, we’d beg our parents to let us go to the antiquified mansion surrounded by a stone wall, hung with iron chains and spikey mace balls. And (almost) every other summer our parents would give in and sacrifice a day of beachgoing or seafood scarfing to walk their weirdo children through a musty museum of oddities of shrunken heads and deformed animal oddities like a cat with nine tails or a bull with two heads or whatever madness it was that was on display.

And so Ripley’s museum is a treasured part of my strange little upbringing. Even now, as I write this, I am on vacation in St. Augustine, with one of Ripley’s legacy of museum locations only a few miles away. Thus, I thought it appropriate to bring his biography by Neal Thompson with me on this vacation. I thought, reading this will allow me to uncover the story behind this man who traveled all corners of the world, bringing all things wierd, all facts obscure, all trinkets strange back to the freaks of America who would value them. Like me.

Perhaps author Thomnpson and I had similar aims. Sharing the story of Ripley should be a fascinating endeavor. LeRoy R. Ripley, who would later adopt his middle name, did so much, saw so much, knew so much, and was a talented artist that compiled all his trivia into daily cartoons, surprisingly well drawn, that ran in newspapers all across the country.

Ripley came from exceedingly humble beginnings, was orphaned fairly young in his life, fired from his first string of newspaper artist jobs, and had to show a determination (and often a callousness for others who would have him support their ambitions) to make himself into the household name we all know. This is all fascinating stuff that intrigues a reader to push through the life story of an individual. Yet, even so, no matter how dilligent a reader, there comes a point where the fight for the facts will be surrendered if the trivia and minutia make the read too much of a slog.

Unfortunately, this is what A Curious Man turned into for me. I rarely to ever get so fed up with a book that I abandon it, but this book tested that will time and time again. By page 70, I was begging for the author to get to the point. Much like this review has rambled to get to the point that this is a read that will be difficult to hold interest with.

I kept getting the lingering suspicion that the author didn’t have much of a story to tell on Ripley, and therefore would thoroughly beat every detail of Ripley to insure the book reached a length of 400 pages. The story seems like it could easily (EASILY) be told in 200 pages or less. After one particularly harrowing description of Ripley’s attempts at playing minor-league ball and his fondness for the sport of handball, I had to set the book down and watch a program on the world’s cutest cat videos. It just seemed an effort more worthy of my time.

Chapter 4 and 5 were a particularly long slog, and many times I found myself asking myself, why am I dedicating so much effort and pain to get through this story? Perhaps by this time I was just frustrated with the constant alluding to Ripley’s shortcomings. Every single chapter, every 10 pages at least, there was a reference to Ripley’s buckteeth or his tendency to stammer. Kudos for the synonyms used to describe these though. I got “terrible teeth,” “buck-toothed,” “crooked teeth,” “deformed teeth,” and even “fanged” appearance in one particularly eye-rolling effort. At this point, I wanted to stop everyone I met on the street, grab them by the shoulders, shake them, and say, “Believe it or not, Robert Ripley had some pretty bad teeth!” Cut out the references to Ripley not being a handsome, outgoing, or particularly kind man and your book-length is considerably shorter.

Not to say A Curious Man is not interesting. Once the author gets to the point of what he’s trying to say, there’s some really fascinating facts about Ripley. It’s an interesting portrait of a exciting, yet short, life of a determined man. Howeer, at the end, it felt like a lot of work for what I could have gotten from a fully flushed out Wikipedia article.

What was great was the 10ish page insert in the book that provided lots of pictures, and brief descriptions. I think I got more enjoyment out of these pages, that could also be scanned with a smart phone for additional material, than I did from anything else.

If you are a persistant reader, and enjoy the trivia of every mundane factoid, perhaps you’ll get more out of it than I did. The book is thoroughly well-researched and will be a nice addition to a history buff’s library.
Believe it or not it may even pass for a beach read. That’s certainly where this girl is headed next.

-Anna R. Kotopple

Dear Luke, We Need to Talk. Darth…and other pop culture correspondences

This blog is a review of my recent read “Dear Luke We Need to Talk, Darth…and other pop culture correspondences.” I recieved this book free of charge through a nifty little Web site called Blogging For Books. While I didn’t pay for this book, I did choose it from a selection of titles. I disclose this in the interest of full disclosure for any bias this may predispose an author to.

 Dear Luke is a recent publication (still on our new in paperback table at the bookstore) by author John Moe, host of Wits and McSweeney’s contributor. This book is a humorous look at all things pop culture from Star Wars to Friends to Harry Potter. Moe does a good job of throwing in something that I imagine almost anyone can relate to. Part of the fun is in deciphering what piece of pop culture he is going to reference next.

The book is almost 300 pages of brief communication from favorite characters like Mickey Mouse, the shark from Jaws, Kurt Cobain, Dorthy of Oz, Bill Cosby’s sweater collection, and more and then more. Looking at that list though, it’s actually a list of not-so-favorite pop culture icons that Moe speaks for in Dear Luke. No aspect of popular media feels neglected though. With lots of references to music, movies, sports, TV, and even politics, there’s a chuckle here for almost anyone. I feel like I kept up with most of the references, but I did have a couple go by me. I’ve never seen Breaking Bad or the X-Files and so those were more of just a nod of acknowledgement on my part. 

I was not a fan of the “Rejected Super Bowl Half-Time Show Proposals” that were scattered throughout the book ever 5 to 10 pages. It covered the history of super bowl half-time shows, but it seemed like a thin stretch on humor. Then again, I’m not a sports fan or a fan of the half-time shows, so perhaps these sections just weren’t for me. 

I went through as I read and dog-eared all the pages where things that were particularly clever and/or funny stood out to me. My count of marked pages in total came to eight. For a 300 page book, eight instances of entertainment is pretty good. It’s not a spectacular count, but it’s not a total wash either. The book reads almost like a parody movie on pop culture, a popcorn flick, something good to see from Red Box on a rainy day. It’s a standup routine, and it’s effective for a few laughs. I think, that probably being the purpose of the book, it succeeded in this.

My favorite of the comedy vignettes included one from the management of “The Hotel California,” Axl Rose’s manager critiquing his song lyrics, Kurt Cobain writing to the board of Teen Spirit deoderant, the Walking Dead online forum for walkers, a CIA letter about special threat Barney the Dinosaur, and the backstory of the ghosts from Pac Man. Moe did a good job in most of the references to musical pop culture and the mainstays of pop culture. I think the struggle came to some of the less well established pop topics.

I could see this being a book I would buy my dad for father’s day or for a guy friend. For some reason, it doesn’t seem like something I’d reccomend to a female friend. Not that I think that women wouldn’t enjoy the references, it just seemed like something maybe an adolescent boy would get the most kicks out of. This book is very current in covering the trends of what’s popular now or things that have a timeless sense of humor to them. Unfortunately, I think this book will fall off into obsurity in a year or so because it is so current and it dates itself in a big way.

Bottom line: If you see this book in a used bookstore for a couple of bucks, pick it up for a relaxing, light read. Set your expectations low, have fun, and you are good to go. 

A Harrowing Account of Laundry Day

This tale may not interest anyone at all, but it’s just far enough south of mundane for me to recount it here. 

All I wanted was three dollars in quarters so that I could do my laundry. I’ve been trying to do my laundry all week. But laziness, work, and Netflix hampered this effort day after day. When I finally got set to do my laundry yesterday, I found that I didn’t have any quarters in which to feed the machine. I didn’t have cash on hand to turn into these quarters either. And so it began. 

I stopped by a gas station after work, because I figured, surely, gas stations are a guaranteed place for cash back, and when they hand me my cash, I can just ask for a couple of dollars worth or quarters. I needed gas anyway, and so I filled up and went inside to purchase a snack so that cash back could happen. I have been wanting to try the new bottled version of Baja blast, and so I grabbed that as well as a bag of the waffle cut white cheddar and black pepper chips. Looking forward to trying these, I took my purchases to the register.

I was not greeted by the cashier as she grabbed my purchases and scanned them. She asked credit or debit as I scanned my card, and then as I asked if I could do cashback on my debit, she informed me that that was not something they did. Eff. 

I went home and had my snack and relaxed for a few. The baja blast gave me a second wind in which I determined, I needed to have a small outing before I tucked in for the night and I may as well try to get this laundry coin exchange thing going. After a browse at the bookstore, where I was greeted by a loud shout at the door and then ignored by four other employees as I looked around, I stopped by the ATM for some cash I could convert into coinage and decided that Krystal was on the menu for dinner. Again, I thought, surely…a food service place will give me my change and have no objections to a couple of dollars worth of quarters…especially on a Thursday night when they aren’t exactly hopping with business.

And so I pull into the parking lot of Krystal. No customers. As I park, I see two employees stare and glare at me through the dining room window. Oh boy. I enter the Krystal and greet the man who has made the effort of leaving the dining room to take my order. He grunts a hello and stares some more as I glance at the menu. Ready to order after a moment, I step up and say, “Hi. I would please like two cheese Krystals, two Krystal chiks and an order of chili cheese fries.”

As I am ordering, I pause after every item to allow him time to enter this in the computer. Because I know that I don’t like when customers come up and ramble off “skinnytwopumpmochawithsoyat120withnowhipandraspberrysyrup…regular size.” But after each pause, this large man, sweating through his white button down, a shiny assistant manager badge on his chest,  is doing nothing but stare at me, vacantly. I beging to wonder…is there something on my face? After placing the entirity of my order, I wait another pause and he repeats the order back and then moves to punch it in.Well, thank god we are communicating, I think. 

He gives me my total, and as I reah for my twenty, I ask, almost forgetting the whole reason for journeying out: “Oh, would you mind giving me a couple of dollars worth of quarters as you hand me change?” 

I figure…this is no big deal. Customers come to me with this request at least a couple of times a week, and I’ve got no problem with it unless I’m out of quarters, and even then I’ll probably call for a manager to help out. But no, this is not the case outside of my cafe apparently, because the assit. mgr of Krystal gives me the most sour face and the stare down resumes. I wait for his answer. He stares at my twenty like it’s dirty money, I’ve obviously gotten from some nefarious scheme I just completed prior to stopping for fast food. The food is probably just an elaborate ruse so that this junkie can get quarters to feed her vending machine habit, he thinks as he considers whether my need merits the use of his illustrious tarnished silver manager’s key. 

I am judged, and found wanting. But after a beat, he takes the twenty and tosses a ten on the counter as he rummages in the change drawer to get my quarters. He drags out the three dollars of quarters I need and hands them over, beginning to chuckle at this silly female and her obsession with silver shiny things. In an effort to lighten this awkward situation that has developed, I say: “Gotta have quarters. It’s laundry day. You know how that goes.”

He responds: “No.”

“Um…” I’m at a loss for a minute, because I’m not really sure how someone doesn’t know what laundry day is all about. Or at least has the customer service skills to fake it to appease the dumbass customer trying to make small talk. “Well, laundry day at the laundromat is just like doing it at home.” I say.

“So you throw it in and then take a nap until it’s done,” he says. 

As the customer, I have the power at this point to be a real snarkbeast, and give him some of his own medicine. He can’t do much about it because I”m the customer. But I don’t do that because I’ve been verbally abused by customers before and I know that it sucks. Plus, I try to reign in asshole tendancies whenever possible. SoI just nodd and smile. 

A few minutes later, as he hands me my food, he says, “Come back and see us when you need quarters again.” 

Customer service at its finest. I guess I have worked so hard to give good customer service to people who didn’t really deserve it over the past three years, that when I am given bad service for no other reason than people are in a hurry and don’t want to deal with me…well it offends me. I “waste” a lot of time making people happy with the coffee services I provide for them, and all I ask is that I am accomodated to get what I want without grief when I’m out spending my money. First I was let down at the gas station, then the bookstore, and then at the fast food restaurant. Convenience, retail and food service all failed to perform. On top of all this, my food was sub par. 

At least I got my quarters. 

But by the time I got home from all this, I lost my slim desire to do laundry in the first place. There’s always tomorrow. 


Postscript: If you didn’t enjoy this little tale, look for my next blog. I’ve joined a blogging site where I get free books in exchange for blogging an honest review about the book. I will be getting a copy of “Dear Luke, We Need to Talk. Pop Culture in postcards” soon and I will let you guys know what I think of it!