New Year Update

January 2012 update: Welcome to a new year and some new posts! I hope to reward my readers with regular updates now that the holidays are over. Keep reading and enjoy! Please leave a comment or two, if you feel inspired ;o)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

When the Willow Whispers - Page 10

     As the evening wore on, tea cups were emptied and the fire died down. Sleepily, the four of them said their good nights and headed upstairs to bed. Since Emmy had moved to the city, her mother had left her room virtually the same aside from replacing Emmy's full size bed with two twin beds on opposite sides of the room. As she and Maia entered the room, they each took a bed without discussion. Maia had visited Emmy's parents many times, and always slept in the bed by the closet, while Emmy always took the bed by the window. Diana had left pajamas on the beds for each girl along with a set of towels. They changed into their pj's and took turns in the bathroom brushing their teeth and washing their faces and crawled into warm beds.
     "What's this?" Maia asked as she landed on something squishy and warm.
     Emmy who had pulled her blankets further back, already knew. "Hot water bottle. Mom put them in the beds to warm them up for us after she boiled the water for the tea."
     "Ooooh, I like it. It's so warm."
     "They're great on a cold night. And they stay warm until morning. They're great to cuddle up to. Like a warm stuffed animal! I have one at the flat that I use in the winter." Emmy switched of the lamp next to her bed. "'Night Maia"
     "'Night."



     For a moment, when Emmy woke up the next morning she forgot about the tree and where she was. As she looked around the room from her childhood she started to panic. She had the distinct feeling that something was wrong. She began to think she had slept through her alarm and was running late for school. Her eyes swept over to Maia in the twin bed on the other side of the room and she remembered two things. One: she was an adult now, so she didn't have to worry about being late for school. Two: her and Maia had decided to spend the night here at her parents, after driving all the way out here to plant that damn willow tree. Then a third realization hit her. The willow tree. Crap! She suddenly had the overwhelming urge to get outside and see if it had taken it upon itself to grow another five years over night. She jumped out of bed and was instantly hit by the crisp morning chill that had permeated the old house through the night. She quickly grabbed the jacket she'd left by her bed and then put her shoes on to race downstairs.
     As Emmy had been noisily dashing about the room, Maia started to wake up. "Hey, what's going on? Is there a fire I should know about?" She asked, sleepily.
     "'Morning. No, there's no fire. I just want to get outside before my parents do, and see if that tree grew again."
     "Can't you just look out the window?"
     "Oh. I hadn't thought of that." Emmy pulled the curtain aside and peered out the window. "It's too foggy. I can't see more than fifteen feet at best."
     "Well, hold on. I'll get up and go with you. I'd like to see this miracle for myself!" With that Maia jumped out of her own bed, threw on her own coat and shoes and the two of them quietly ran down the stairs together.
     A blast of chill air hit them as they stepped out the backdoor. Maia wrapped her coat tighter around her. "I thought it was supposed to be spring. Why is it so cold and foggy?"
     "It gets foggy in the middle of summer out here. As for the cold, I think we're going to have a late spring. It definitely makes me want to stay curled up in my warm bed." Emmy jammed her hands into her pockets and pressed on. All of a sudden they saw it. Looming up out of the fog. "I'm not crazy. You see it too, right?"
     Maia stood for a few seconds frozen in disbelief or of cold, Emmy couldn't be sure. Then her mouth dropped open and closed a few times without any sound coming forth. Emmy let her friend get her head around things. Finally Maia spoke. "I knew you weren't crazy, but I couldn't quite believe it, either. This is amazing. Now, I'm a little frightened that maybe I'm going insane. How is this possible? Did we get the right tree? You sure your mother doesn't already have a willow somewhere else in the back yard?"
     "Nope. No other willows anywhere on the property. This is definitely the tree we planted last night. How far would you say it's grown this time?"
     "You're the garden expert. I have no idea how much it's grown, but I'm pretty sure it's not supposed to be so noticeable."
     "You'd be right about that, Maia. I'd say it's had at least another three year spurt over night. How am I going to explain this to my mother?"
     "I have no idea, but I'm getting cold again, and there's nothing more we can do out here, so lets head back inside, and we'll try to figure something out before your parents wake up."
     "Good plan. I'm cold too."
     With that, they traipsed across the backyard, back inside the marginally warmer house, and up the stairs to their beds where their hot water bottles were still warm enough to take the chill off, and brainstormed.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Every writing process is different

     I digress from my tale of Emmy's magic willow seed tonight to reflect on the writer's process. I find myself sitting here and thinking about when I started this project. I'd been wanting to create something new for a while and my intent when I opened this story was to sit down and force myself to free-write. I've always been told to do a stream of consciousness when my creativity is blocked, and see where it leads. I've also been told that to teach myself discipline in my writing, to write something every day, and if nothing comes to mind then let the stream of consciousness flow.
     So, when writing the opening to "When the Willow Whispers" I had no intention of making it into a story of any kind. I kind of figured it would end up being a bunch of gibberish. As I started to type, however, the words and ideas for Emmy's first scene just came to me from nowhere. When I had finished that first post, I knew that Emmy's tale must be told. Of course, I had no idea how it was going to unfold, just that it must. While shopping at the super market, I derived my inspiration for my seed. I  can't tell you how, as it may give away aspects of the story that are yet to be written. I can tell you that I told my mother about the willow seed and the magical story to come and she couldn't wait for me to write it. In truth, neither could I. For, while I know the gist of where Emmy is going, her journey as she gets there is as much a mystery to me as it is to everyone following along.
     I find this a strange way to write, but also very exciting. I love reading. Writing in this fashion is almost like reading another author's book. In the past I had a very clear idea of where I wanted my story to lead, what characters I would cast, their motivations and aspirations. In short, I had the entire story mapped out in my head, but only to be written. This book however, continues to take me where it wants, and opens my eyes to new possibilities and paths that it can take, every time I sit down to write. I'm enjoying the ride, so far, and I hope that you are too!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

When the Willow Whispers - Page 9

     "So, I'm not saying I believe you, or anything. Well, not entirely, but what happens if your mom comes out here to see a fully grown tree tomorrow?" Maia asked as she peered into the hole.
     "I haven't thought that far ahead yet. I figured I'd worry about it when it happens." Emmy replied, as she tried to wipe some dirt off her face, but only succeeded in spreading it around her forehead.
     The girls legs were covered in the dirt and dust from digging their hole. They were almost finished and just about to head around to the front to grab the tree. Emmy looked up at the sky. "You don't see stars like these in the city."
     Maia followed Emmy's gaze. "No. No, you don't. You were lucky to grow up out here." She set her shovel to the side. "I've been in a city all my life. I'm not sure I'd know what to do with myself out in the sticks, but I do appreciate its beauty."
    Emmy laughed, "Are you kidding? You'd go mad in 10 minutes without the trains and taxis and people honking their horns in traffic jams!"
     Maia gave Emmy the best hurt expression she could muster before breaking into giggles. "It's true! Where would I be without rude people shoving into me on the pavement, or yelling at one another in the flat next door at 2 am?" She grabbed Emmy's shovel from her and set it down next to her own. "Shall we go get the tree from the truck and finally stick it in the ground?"
     "Yep. Let's hurry. My fingers are starting to go numb." With that, the girls traipsed around the side of the house to the driveway, pulled the tree from the truck-bed, and dragged it slowly back to the hole in the corner of the backyard. Emmy grabbed the tree by its base and pulled. It came easily from the soft soil that she had loosely put into the bucket less than 24 hours ago. She indicated to Maia to hold it in the hole keeping the place where the base and the roots met just a fraction of an inch below ground level, and started piling dirt back into the hole around the root cluster. Every time she accidentally brushed a root she would hear the faint strings of music before it faded into the silence of the countryside. Sometimes she wasn't sure if it was music or just the crescendo of the crickets and frogs. When she was done she patted the earth around the tree, grabbed a bucket of water from the stream and watered the newly planted tree before she and Maia headed back into the warmth of her mother's kitchen.
     Diana was sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea and a magazine. "Just in time. Dinner was finished cooking a few minutes ago. I was just keeping it warm in the oven til you girls were ready. Tree all planted?"
     The two girls could hear the television in the living room with the new's caster announcing a cold front coming. "All planted, mom. Although, I hope the impending cold won't kill it." Emmy pondered. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if the tree did die. At least then there wouldn't be any awkward conversations.
     Maia started giggling. "Maybe we should go wash up before dinner. If I look anything like you do, then we're both a mess!"
     Emmy playfully punched her friend in the shoulder. "Be right back mom!"
     As they passed by the living room, Emmy's step-dad looked up from the tv. "Oh, high honey. Your mother told me you were out back planting a tree. It's kinda cold and dark to be gardening at this hour. Everything go ok?"
     "Hiya, Dave. Yeah. The tree's in the ground and watered. We're just washing some of the dirt off ourselves before we eat." Emmy smiled and the girls continued on to the downstairs bathroom.
     "You know", Maia nudged her friend, "Dave's kinda cute!"
     "Eww! Maia! He may be my step-dad, but he's still my 'dad'!"
     Maia shrugged. "I didn't say I wanted to jump him or anything. Just saying, for an old guy, your mom remarried well."
     "OK. I don't want to talk about this anymore. It's just getting weird. Let's get washed and have dinner. I'm starving!"
     Once everyone was washed and ready to eat, they all sat down to a family meal in the dining room. "Thanks for having us stay for dinner, Di. I enjoy family meals with you guys. I never got to have many with my own family."
     "You're welcome, Maia. There's always enough to go around. I think Dave, here, gets tired of leftovers sometimes. You two are always welcome to come visit us any weekend. I don't get to see my daughter nearly as often as I would like these days.
     "It's true. I don't get out here as often as I would like to either" Emmy thought that was possibly about to change.
     "You two sure you don't want to blow off that hair appointment tomorrow and stay over night?"
     Now that the tree was planted, Emmy was less worried about it growing out of control. She also thought that it might be a good idea to be here and see the fate of her willow first hand, in the morning. "Well, maybe we could. It would be nice to have a family tv night by the fireplace. Can we make hot cocoa and popcorn?"
     Her mother laughed. "Of course! You can make anything you like. The beds are already made up in your room, too"
     "What do you think, Maia. Wanna stay the night, and drive back to the city tomorrow? Or will staying out in the sticks too long make you a little insane?"
     "Ha. Ha. Very funny. I'd love to stay, Di. Thank you."
     When dinner was digested they all had their créme brulée and tea before piling into the living room to curl up and watch some prime time tv before bed.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

When the Willow Whispers - Page 8

     The two girls decided to take Maia's truck, opting for the ease of loading the sapling into the bed of a pickup as opposed to cramming it into the back of Emmy's two door hatchback. Once loaded, Emmy ran back upstairs to grab her purse and keys, and, with a quick pat on the head to Othello, she was out the door. Emmy's mom and step-dad lived about an hour and thirty minute's drive away. They had a big and fairly isolated place where the nearest neighbor could barely be seen from the house. The girls drove out of the city and on through the suburbs which gave way to a small bout of farms and fields before meandering up through a green forested mountain range and then down the other side. As the highway continued on, the countryside turned into soft green hills with small homesteads and meadows dotting the landscape. It was early evening by the time the girls drove up on Emmy's parents property.
     As they opened the doors to the truck the chill evening air of the cooler countryside hit them and they both cursed the fact that they hadn't thought ahead to wear warmer clothes. Just then Diana, Emmy's mother, opened the front door with two warm fleece jackets in hand and met them at the steps to the front porch. "Thought you to might be needing these." As she smiled down at the two of them starting to shiver.
     "I don't think I'll ever learn that it's always at least 10 degrees cooler out here then it is in the city." Emmy said as she took one of the fleeces from her mother.
     Maia took the other fleece on offer. "Thanks Di. You always know we'll be unprepared." She said with a smile.
     "A mother knows." She winked at them. "Come inside and we'll get you something hot to drink. Are you sure you girls don't want to stay the night and plant your tree tomorrow? You'll be losing the light soon."
     The two girls exchanged a quick glance which did not go unnoticed by Emmy's mother, but she decided not to ask. Maia started, "We'd love to, but -- "
     "We can't!" Emmy sqeaked. "I mean, I can't. I have that hair appointment, you know. I'd hate to cancel last minute. It's so rude." Emmy was terrified of the tree growing more again over night. She just wanted it in the ground as soon as possible. She would worry less about it's impossible growth spurts once it was safely planted in the solid earth.
     "Well, you certainly have time for something to warm you up before you start digging my yard up in the cold. I've already picked out a spot for you, and started softening the earth with a little water." And with that Emmy's mother headed inside leaving the door open for them to follow.
     The three women passed through the foyer with its main staircase, headed down the hallway that skirted between the family room and dining room on one side, and the den slash library and Diana's art room on the other, and landed in the kitchen, kept warm by a wood stove, and emitting the comforting smell of fresh baked bread and the scent of a home cooked diner wafting out of the oven. Diana put the kettle on for tea and brought a tin of biscuits down from the cupboard.
      Diana placed the tin on the kitchen table as the girls sat down. "So, who gave you this tree for a gift, then Emmy?"
     Emmy took a biscut from the tin. "Oh, I don't really know. There was no card. Someone just left it by my desk at work. The card probably got lost during the delivery."
     "How did the delivery guy know that he had the right person, then?"
     "I don't know. Maybe he didn't. It was already at my desk when I got back from lunch. I never saw the delivery person."
     "What an odd gift to give someone. Sounds like a mystery to me. 'The mystery of the gifted willow'." Her mother smiled at her, grabbed the whistling kettle from the stove top, and started pouring the tea.
     Trying to shift the conversation from the "mystery" willow, Maia piped up. "What is it that smells so delicious in the oven, Di?"
     "I know what it is." Emmy said. "I'd know that smell anywhere. She's got a lamb roasting in there with some rosemary and potatoes . Ah, the good old dinners from my childhood."
     "She's right." Diana replied. "Lamb, potatoes, and carrots. There's also créme brulée for desert. Sure you don't want to stay for dinner, at least?"
     Maia and Emmy exchanged looks. Since in the end it was Emmy's call, she replied, "Well, maybe we can stay for dinner. But we should really get out there and get this tree planted before we eat."
     "OK. Follow me, I'll show you the spot I've picked out."
     Diana led the way out the kitchen door, through the sun porch and into the backyard. If Emmy's friends thought that her roof garden was amazing then they should have seen her mother's back yard. It was the perfect blend of wild and tame, trees and flowers, edibles and ornamentals. There was a natural brook that ran through the back of the property with a little foot bridge leading to a small orchard and apiary. Emmy's mother took them over to one side of the yard where a garden swing sat not far from the brook. "I figured this would be a good spot here, next to the water, since willow trees are drawn to it naturally."
     "Looks perfect!" said Maia.
     "Yeah, this is a great spot mom." Both girls grabbed the shovels Emmy's mother had left nearby and started digging while her mother headed back into the warm house.
  

Saturday, November 19, 2011

When the Willow Whispers - Page 7

     With a need to be discrete and the desire to talk in a secluded place, away from open ears, Maia and Emmy decided on take out, to be eaten at Emmy's while she let her story unfold. She made some tea to have with lunch and started the story with the mystery box appearing on her desk as if by magic. She told her friend of her humiliation in front of the other girls in the office, and how she almost felt relieved when at last they noticed a seed. At least there had been something in the box. She explained the music she seemed to associate with the seed, but that no one else seemed able to hear. Finally, after asking Maia to, "please, stay open minded. And don't think I'm crazy..." Emmy told her that she planted the seed last night in a bucket outside. She didn't see the need to tell her that it was originally toppled by her cat and then scooped into a bucket with the dirt she meant to save. Next was the tricky part. The place of no return. Emmy asked Maia to follow her outside to the roof garden.
     Emmy held her breath as she pushed the french doors open and led the way outside. She turned around and pointed at her little willow. At first Maia started laughing, but when she saw the somber look on her friend's face her laughter died away. "Really? This isn't some sort of joke to get me back for the other week when I put a quad shot in your coffee?" When Emmy just kept looking at her with that serious look and slowly shook her head, she knew her friend was not joking.
     "I'm not crazy. I mean, I don't think I am. This really was just a bucket of dirt last night. I don't know what's happening, but that's why I invited you over. Maybe we can figure it out together. Not only that, but I can't have a freaking willow tree growing on the roof! I need you to brainstorm with me on a relocation plan." Emmy briefly touched the leaves and the music came to her again. When Maia absentmindedly touched the leaves too Emmy thought she might hear the music as well, but there was no indication that such intoxicating music had wafted Maia's way.
     "Too bad you can't leave this thing up here. It would be a beautiful addition to your garden." Mused Maia.
     "Yeah. I'm sure the neighbors downstairs would appreciate the root system growing through their ceiling, too." Emmy quipped back. "I was considering transplanting this thing in the park around the corner, but I'm not sure how much trouble I could get into if I got caught planting a tree in a public park."
     "Have you ever just considered cutting it up and throwing it in the compost?"
     "Are you kidding, Maia? Haven't you ever seen 'Fantasia'? I don't want 50 more willows growing out of my compost bin!"
     Maia laughed at that. "Well, you don't know that that would happen, but I get your point. What about your parents' back yard? Your mom doesn't live that far away. You could easily drive out there to visit the willow and see what happens."
     "I'm not sure I want my parents involved in this. I mean, how will I explain a willow that grows five years over night? It's not like my mom's not gonna notice a full grown tree in her back yard."
     "Yeah, well, you won't have to worry about public park officials, and you'll have the tree pretty much all to yourself. Unless you wanna leave it up here and take your chances?"
     "No. No, you're right. Mom's house probably is the best place. I'll give her a call and see if she wants a willow tree for the backyard. Will you come with me and help me transplant it?"
     "Of course I will. Any excuse to get out of this city for a few hours. Plus, I love your parents house. You get your green thumb from your mom, you know."
     "I don't know about that, but thanks."
     Maia followed Emmy back inside while Emmy called her mom. Emmy told her mom that someone had given her a willow sapling as a present for her garden, not really thinking about the fact that Emmy's garden was on a roof, and Emmy wanted to know if her mother would be interested in it for her backyard. Her mom agreed, saying she'd always wanted a willow tree on the property, and that she would be home all weekend. Emmy insisted on driving up this afternoon, as she had a hair appointment the next day, and hung up the phone. She turned to Maia, "It's all set. Lets pack up that tree and head on out to my parents."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

When the Willow Whispers - Page 6

     Jogging along the tree lined streets of her neighborhood, Emmy couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched again. She turned to look behind her, but saw no one there. She concentrated her thoughts on the morning. The cold crisp air filling her lungs. The puff of breath that escaped as she exhaled. The sun, not up long enough yet to be warm, but beautiful none the less shining through the branches overhead, and glinting off the morning dew on flowers in window boxes. She thought about the weekend ahead. A trip to the hair dresser tomorrow. Lunch with her bestie this afternoon... Grocery shopping for the coming week's supplies... Laundry... Dishes...
     It was getting harder to keep her mind from wondering back to that damned tree. What was she going to do with it? Apart from the fact that her roof was hardly capable of supporting a fully grown tree at the best of times, this thing was growing far faster than she ever imagined possible. What if she got back from her morning run to find it aged another five years? Or ten? Would she even have a garden left to come home to? If it hadn't caved in with all the weight. Or an apartment for that matter? Seeing as a bucket wasn't going to hold a fully grown tree and with her luck it would fall right over on top of her living room. All this worry was making Emmy want to head right back home without finishing her routine jog.
     This was silly. There couldn't be a five year old tree in that bucket of dirt. It must have been her imagination. A dream! It had to have been a dream, and it just seemed so real. After all, she had had that dream where she was standing in that beautiful garden next to her crush. It had seemed pretty real at the time. This was just part of that dream...
     She finished her run much more relaxed then when she had started, and certain that when she got back up to her apartment, she would find that this whole mess had been all in her head. She ran up the three flights of stairs to her flat and in her enthusiasm to prove herself wrong, skipped her cooldown stretches and hurried outside.
     Well, she was officially insane. Though, it hadn't grown any more then the last time she had seen it, the young willow tree was still there, and still very obviously an established young tree. OK. What do I do with this thing? I can't leave it in the bucket, it'll bust through and fall over if the roots get any bigger. Maybe I should call Maia and ask her to come over. I can't do that. She'll think I'm crazy. I don't know if I can handle this all on my own, though.
     After a bit more internal arguing, Emmy decided the tree would have to be removed to a safer location. She had also decided that she would call her best friend Maia. She wasn't sure that she wanted to tell her everything, but she knew she wanted to see what other surprises this seed had in store for her and she needed to bounce ideas off someone for the ideal place to transplant it. Not to mention, she did want to tell Maia about the nearly empty box. She was looking forward to dissecting the issue and making a list of possible senders. That was settled. She would call Maia and solidify their plans for lunch this afternoon.

Monday, November 14, 2011

When the Willow Whispers - Page 5

     Morning came without any more nighttime capers from the cat. Emmy got up, to disgruntled murmurs from a still sleeping Othello, put the kettle on for her morning tea and threw on some sweats for her morning run. Kettle boiled and running shoes laced, Emmy poured herself a cup of tea and headed outside to the roof garden to enjoy the clear crisp morning.
     Contrary to Emmy thinking she was poor at tending to her plants, she had a lush roof garden. An oasis that many of her friends were sometimes jealous of since living in an apartment in the city usually didn't provide one with any sort of garden small, big, or otherwise. And since most of Emmy's friends lived in apartments of their own, with nothing more than a three by six balcony to stand on, she found herself entertaining company often. Pushing her way through the french doors she made her way across the brick laid patio, around the fire pit, past the potted fuchsias and petunias, stopping to watch the birds drinking from the splashing fountain,  and finally over to the bench swing shaded by the clematis vine-ing it's way over its arbor. Cupping herself around the warmth of her tea and against the crisp chill of the early morning she sat down and when she looked up she nearly dropped her steaming teacup in her lap.
     Next to the gray stone wall of her apartment, to the side of the french doors, where she kept her garden soil and empty pots was the bucket of dirt she had brought outside during the night. Only it wasn't a bucket of soil anymore. Growing from the bucket was a sapling willow tree. It looked as if it was at least 5 years old already. But how could that be? She'd only put that seed in the soil the night before. After getting knocked over by Othello last night she wasn't even sure it had made it into the bucket with the dirt. Aside from that, a seed doesn't grow over night into a fifteen foot tree!
     Emmy set her tea down on the nearby table sitting in between two cushioned patio chairs and crossed back over the the bucket on the other side of the roof. She slowly put her hand out and touched the tips of her fingers to the bark of the tree. As her fingers brushed along the tree and whispered through its delicate branches, the music that had called to her yesterday whispered back. She pulled her hand away and immediately the music ceased. This was crazy. She was surely going insane. This tree couldn't be real. That music, clearly couldn't be real. Yet as she reached her hand towards the tree once again, her fingers felt something solid under them. Emmy was at a loss for what to do.
     Just then Othello came out of the french doors and began winding his way around her ankles. Well, the cat certainly didn't seem perturbed by the sudden appearance of a new tree on the roof. Othello went over to the bucket the willow was growing from and rubbed up against it as if to convey his approval of its unexpected existence. Once he had had enough attention, he made his way over to the fountain and fixed his large green eyes on the morning finches coming and going.
     Emmy didn't know what to do. She wanted to know if she was going crazy. She didn't feel as if she were, but then that was the first sign, wasn't it? What she did know was that she was beginning to freak out a little and she needed to clear her head. So, weighing all her other options, she decided to head out for her morning jog...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

When the Willow Whispers - Page 4

     She was standing in a beautiful garden. The grass was lush and green under her bare feet and the sun was shining its warmth down onto her bare arms and face. There were hidden birds twittering off in the trees and a baby rabbit hopped out of the underbrush only to see her and turn around to hop back into hiding. Deer were munching on the sweet grass at the other end of the garden. Emmy was standing next to a huge weeping willow with its long branches sweeping the ground in the breeze. The was a stone wall nearby with an iron gate in it that let out onto a country lane. The same haunting, ethereal music she had been hearing off and on all day was playing somewhere down the lane. She was suddenly aware of the beautiful antique carriage parked by the gate with its huge draft horses snorting in the sunshine. A man came up behind her and took her hand to lead her to the carriage. She looked up and right into the green eyes of the man from her office building.
     "What are we doing here? I don't remember coming here. It must have been a long drive from the city. Why don't I remember?" She asked.
     "Why, I'm about to take you on our first 'official' date." The man replied with a smile that made her heart flutter. "I don't know what city you're talking about, but you've been here ever since my family moved here over a year ago. Is everything ok? Should we postpone our plans? If you're not feeling well..." He didn't finish his sentence.
     "No. No, that's okay!" She wasn't going to pass up this opportunity no matter how strange it seemed. There was no way he was ever going to talk to her back at the office. Just then Emmy thought of something. "Hey, I don't even know your name?"
     The man laughed at her. Not a mean laugh, but more like one of camaraderie. "Now I know you must be joking! Or you've hit your head? How long have we known each other Emmy?"
     She gave a nervous giggle. "Oh. Right. You know me. Always kidding" How awkward. She was just going to have to hope that they would run into someone at some point in the date and that his name came up in conversation, before she would need to use it herself. Just then, as luck would have it a woman came riding up on horseback. As she came closer, Emmy thought it looked like Teresa. What was she doing here?
     "Hi Emmy!" It was Teresa. And then she turned her head to look at the man. "Hi..."


     She heard Othello hiss at something in the kitchen and then the sound of something like pottery breaking. A second later the cat streaked across the bed and up onto the top shelf of her bookshelf. "What the hell, Othello!? You better not have broken anything important, or I swear to God..." She got up, wrapped her robe around her and started winding her way through the apartment looking for the source of the noise. When she came to the kitchen she saw the pot missing from the window before she saw the pile of dirt and earthenware on the other side of the counter on the floor. "That damned cat." Gathering up the broom and dustpan, she pulled the kitchen trash over to the pile and began sweeping it up. So much for planting my seed. Oh well. I haven't much of a green thumb anyway. But instead of dumping the dirt into the trash can she picked out all the broken pieces of the pot and then got a bucket to throw the soil into. No point wasting perfectly good potting soil. She put the bucket back outside with the rest of the empty pots and unused soil for the roof garden and went back to bed.

Friday, November 11, 2011

When the Willow Whispers - Page 3

     The horrendous work day was finally over. Emmy packed up her things to leave and caught a glimpse of the box she'd shoved to the side on her desk. She quickly shot out her arm, snatched the box up, and shoved it in her purse. She had no idea why she wasn't just throwing the thing away, but she felt this curiosity that couldn't be ignored.
     On her way down in the lift, her crush joined her from the fifth floor. She was so busy staring at her own hands, she nearly missed it when he smiled at her. She looked up to see what floor they were coming to and caught him smiling at her in the reflection off the elevator doors. Suddenly she wanted to rail at him. Wanted to shout "It was you! Wasn't it? Why? What's the joke? 'Cause I don't get it!" But she kept her mouth shut. What if it wasn't him? Why would it be him? She may have been harboring a crush for him ever since he started working in this building a year and a half ago, but he had never even glanced her way, favorably or not. Until now. If it wasn't him playing a nasty joke on her, though, it was someone else, and then she would be mortified over the prank, embarrassed for yelling at him, and horrified that he would then know she'd been made a fool.
     All this over a little box filled with nothing. Correction: Filled with a seed. Well there was only one thing to do. Emmy was going to go home and plant this seed and see what grew from it. Maybe in a few months it would grow into a beautiful flower, then not all would be lost and she could then bring it back into work and rub it in the prankster's face that the joke had backfired!
     Emmy's gaze had drifted to her purse as she thought of the seed inside of it, and when she looked up again the doors were open and the man with the green eyes was nowhere to be seen. She stepped out of the elevator and made her way out of her building and down the street to her bus stop. As she walked along the road she couldn't help thinking about how shiny her seed was. Even when she had thought it was sand it was abnormally brilliant. She'd seen sunlight glint off a sandy beach before, but this was the most lustrous piece of sand she'd ever seen. It had blazed and glittered in her hand. Now that she realized this was a seed it was even more fascinating. Emmy was no master gardener, but she was fairly certain seeds were not supposed to glitter. The more she thought about it, the more excited she became over the prospect of what sort of plant it was. She couldn't wait to get home and put it straight into a flower pot!
     When she first stepped on the bus it had been packed with people. Fairly typical for this time in the evening. A couple blocks away from her stop Emmy started to feel like she was being watched. She tried to surreptitiously look around, but there were only four other people left on the bus and they all seemed preoccupied with something. One was sleeping, greasy head lolling against the grimy window. Another was immersed in what seemed to be a good book, if the smile on his face and occasional chuckle that escaped his lips were anything to go by. An old lady was in the middle of knitting something warm. The fourth, a child, was lost in daydreams staring out of the window into the early night. That left only the bus driver, and obviously she was keeping her attention on the road. So, Emmy dismissed her uneasiness as a symptom of an odd, if not disappointing, day.
     The bus reached Emmy's stop. She got off, walked the rest of the way home, climbed the steps to her third floor apartment, and, setting her purse with the seed in it aside, put the kettle on for some tea while she cooked dinner. A cat started winding his way around her ankles asking for his food, while she stood at the stove. "Hey Othello. You want dinner?" She fed the cat and then fed herself before finally turning her attention back to the box with her shining seed. Emmy took the box from her purse and went out to the roof garden to collect an empty pot and some soil. Again, when she opened the box and removed the seed, she heard the ethereal music that seemed to haunt her all day today. She knew it must be her imagination, but she still found it strange that her mind had chosen to associate this music with a seed in a box. Shrugging it off as having a song stuck in her head, though not quite able to tune it out, she brought the pot in and set it in the south facing garden window in the kitchen, headed for the bath, and finally off to bed where Othello curled up next to her as she fell asleep...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

When the Willow Whispers - Page 2

     Two hours later, when Emmy had exhausted her excuses to avoid opening the box in front of her co-workers, which had the side effect of making her look like an extremely efficient employee, more so  than she already was, and with an audience three times the size it would have been had she opened the gift when Lisa had first approached her desk, Emmy finally succumbed to her work mates cajoling. Lisa, Terri, and Sam waited with bated breath as Emmy slowly lifted the lid from the box. As the lid raised, she realized she could once again hear that faint, haunting music from earlier that day. "Which office is playing that music? It's beautiful, but a bit loud if we can hear it all the way in here."
     "Music? I don't hear anything." said Lisa, and the other women nodded their heads in agreement.
     "Well, I don't know what Sam's excuse is, but maybe you and Teresa need to invest in some hearing aids. You are older, after all."
     "Ha. Ha. Very funny little whipper snapper." Teresa, the oldest of the four, replied.
     At that moment all four women looked down into the now opened box. Silence, during which Emmy could still hear her haunting melody, followed by a gasp of disappointment from Teresa and laughter from Lisa and Sam as they stared at the object lying in the bottom of box.
     Emmy's worst thoughts had come true. There was nothing in the box. And she had opened it up in front of the girls for them to see that. She felt a tear escape.
     "What is that supposed to be?" asked Sam
     "There's nothing in there!" cried Lisa. "All this built up anticipation and there's nothing in there!"
     "I'm sorry, dear." Teresa soothed. In an attempt to make Emmy feel better, "Maybe what ever it was fell out of the box before it got to you."
     Something caught Lisa's eye and she picked it up. "Some joke. Here's a piece of sand! If it hadn't caught the light just now, I wouldn't have even seen it. You'd think who ever thought up this stupid prank could come up with something better than a piece of sand." She placed it back in the box and shut the lid. Immediately the music, which had been wafting its way to Emmy so softly in the background, ceased.
     Emmy was a little curious now. "Seriously?" her voice cracked. "You guys didn't hear that music? It stopped when you put the lid back on the box."
     Sam just looked at her with that pity Emmy had been expecting to see all along. Lisa and Teresa shook their heads. All three women walked away, and went back to their desks.
     Emmy picked up the box and lifted the lid a crack. Instantly her head was filled with the eerie refrain. She opened the lid the rest of the way and picked the piece of sand up, then shut the lid again. The music continued. She curiously looked at the piece of sand, rolled it over in her fingers, lifted it closer to her face, and realized it wasn't a piece of sand at all, but a seed. Well, that's just silly. Sand or seed, it's not a damn music box! She put the seed back in the box, closed the lid, and shoved it aside to get more work done. Once again the music stopped...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

To My London Boy, From Your London Girl

my heart is broken
I never knew it was whole
no words will be spoken
a story untold
no voice will ring out
no hugs will be given
for you are no longer
among the living
I called it before
once was afraid
but a friendship forgotten
and just laid to waste
left too much time
and allowed me to mellow
I had nearly forgotten
you were such a sad fellow
my london boy
so far away
your london girl
missed you that day
you came to my city
you asked around
but it was not meant to be
I was nowhere to be found
an ocean still parted
us from each other
I came home from college
to a note from my mother
two ships in the night
we were not meant to meet
I missed you today
and I started to seek
I imagined the worst
still hoped for the best
but I got the news
I feared most, but had guessed
I'll miss you my friend
should have said something sooner
my heart will mend
but its' mass will be fewer
for you always will carry a piece of my heart
but I will never get to tell you how important you are.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Some of My Music

Feel free to watch the movies or just listen to the tracks. I only made slide shows, as I didn't
know how to upload audio alone. All pictures are taken by me, except the last video, which is a collection of themed pics from the internet when I was researching a tattoo.

Instrumental #1
video


Rip My Heart Out
video


Instrumental #2
video




This last is just an amalgamation of the photos I downloaded from the internet when I was researching what I wanted for my tattoo...which, btw, I never got.
My Sweet Disease
video

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Poetry of a Friend

I first read this poem 15 years ago. Recently, I pulled my guitar out along with my folder of poems and songs I wrote all those years ago. Hidden in this folder alongside my writings were a few poems by a dear man I knew so long ago. I had forgotten how beautiful his writing was and I think it far outshines my own. I'm posting this, in hopes that one day he may do a search and come across my page. All my old contact information for him leads me to dead ends. So if you see this, Matt, please let me know. It would be nice to talk to you again...

 
 
Delayed Protfolio

by Matthew Huffman




I'm measuring ticks of the clock just by smoke
I'm measuring life poisoned by tasteless jokes
I'm living in shadows and black hearts and masks
I live by the code of "just trust me, don't ask"
I'm moving in time with the currents and waves
And storm clouds of life's little traumas and saves
I'm seeing with no kindly filtering eyes
I'm smothered by hints, innuendos and lies
I am the heart that reaches and weeps
But never will beg for just what it needs
I steal for a living and run to survive
I swallow my friends and treasure my pride
I ask myself, why do I keep hanging on
To each everything that's gone and went wrong
I wonder just when at last I will know
The street lights of my life to turn green for go

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Freewrite (The Beggining of Emmy's Tale) When the Willow Whispers - Page 1

    Emmy sat at her desk looking at the clock tick the hours away. She found herself wondering where the time had gone. Not just for the day, but the last few years of her life. A decade almost. She reminisced about the dreams she had had when she was younger. Life had seemed so full of possibilities then. As she sat there, lost in her revelry, more time past. When she refocused on her desk she noticed a small box that she was sure had not been there five minutes ago. Though she had been adrift in her thoughts, she was pretty sure that no one had passed by her desk since lunch time, which was three hours ago. She picked up the box. It was light. She turned it over in her hand. It was the size of a box that may hold earrings and it was wrapped with the most beautiful wrapping paper she had ever seen, complete with an elegantly tied emerald green bow. No card.
    Now, if Emmy had a boyfriend she would expect the box to be sent by him. Emmy did not have a boyfriend. If she had an office romance, she might expect it to be from her coworker. Emmy did not work with any men on this floor. As far as Emmy knew, there was no one there who even had their eye on her, though she wished that the green eyed, dark haired man on the fifth floor, who she stood next to everyday in the elevator would look her way. From what she could tell though, he never even glanced in her direction during the thirty second ride up in the elevator, at the end of which the doors would open and she would mentally curse the fact that she had to continue up to the eighteenth floor while he walked out through the doors and onto the fifth floor. One day she was walking up to wait next to him at the elevator, when she tripped and accidentally spilled coffee across the floor. He barely turned his head in her direction. That was how not-noticeable she was. Not that she wanted to be known for being a klutz, but sometimes she thought any notice at all, might be a good thing.
    Well the box was definitely not from him. It wasn't her birthday, or any special day that she was aware of so she couldn't figure out why one of the girls would have given her a gift. She set the box back where she'd found it, and looked away. When she looked back, it was still there. She didn't know what she had been expecting. For it to sprout legs and walk away, perhaps? She grabbed the box back up, and tugged at the emerald ribbon. It fell open easily, and the wrapping gave way as she carefully picked the tape holding it at one end. She hated to waste such beautiful paper. Maybe that was all the box was. A lovely wrapped box with nothing in it. It was awfully light after all. Someone's idea of a joke. She slowly lifted the lid and thought she heard faint music. She closed the lid and looked around for the source of the sound. The music stopped.
    Just then Lisa walked up to her desk. "Oooh. Someone got some jewelry! Who's it from?"
    "I don't know", Emmy said. "There's no card. And I haven't opened it yet. I don't think it's jewelry though. Who would randomly give me jewelry. Today's no special occasion"
    Lisa contemplated this for a moment. "Maybe you have a secret admirer? Go on, open it. I want to see what it is."
    Emmy couldn't explain it, but she didn't feel like opening her gift with an audience. This moment seemed like it should be private....

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Night was Dark and Stormy

    The other night I was left home alone, while my boyfriend was at a "slumber party". Who knew boys could have slumber parties, but there it is. Apparently they are much like girls' slumber parties in that they pig out on junk food and stay up late watching movies. Of course, no male gathering would be complete without the obligatory playing of video games and consumption of alcoholic beverages.

    My boyfriend had told me the previous night that he would be going to said slumber party, and left that morning at 7am for work. I had been gearing myself up all day for my night home alone. I spent the day at work laughing with the girls about the boys having a slumber party. None of us could get it through our heads that those existed. Or that grown men would ever admit to attending one. I was very excited to have the house to myself all night. It was a dreary day, and by the end of the work day all I could think about was going home, cooking dinner, putting the kettle on for a warm cup of tea, and relaxing with my feet up without interruptions. Not to mention having the bathroom to myself so I could shower at anytime I felt like, instead of having to rush in before the boyfriend to make sure I get first dibs at the warm water.

    Upon arriving home after work, I pull up to a dark house. I had a closing shift that day, and forgot to leave the porch light on in consideration of getting home in the dark that evening. That's alright, I've come home in the dark before. There's a street light at the end of our block which throws enough light you can see by. I walk in the door and immediately get bombarded by my Lhasa Apso. He can't stop jumping up and down and spinning in circles. I know that this is his way of communicating how much he has missed me throughout the day. That, or he just really has to pee. I head to the kitchen to let my other dog, a Cairn Terrier, out of his kennel, and let them both outside. While they're out, I start my kettle and my dinner cooking, I feed them, the cats, and the bunny, let the dogs back in, and pop in the shower. So much for not rushing to the shower right away.

    I try to let my evening alone sink in. I should mention that the sinking had started before the shower because I went to both the front and back door to check that the deadbolt and lock on the knob were locked before heading for the bathroom. Twice. Then I closed the hall door to discourage the bad guys in case they broke in through the deadbolt only to see the hall door closed. Surely at that point they would think, "The hall door is closed. Bugger! She's on to us. This is getting too complicated. Let's leave."

    I finish my shower, start the tea, dish up dinner, and plop down in front of the TV. I'm enjoying the silence. I don't have someone trying to chatter to me while my program is on. I'm enjoying having the couch to myself to stretch out on. It's getting later and soon I will have to go to bed, as I have work early the next morning. I start thinking about how I'll have the bed all to myself. Then I start thinking about how I've never spent the whole night alone in this house. On this side of town. The bad part of town. With the park next door, where I haven't ever seen them, but I'm sure drug dealers and murderous cretins congregate late at night. This house, where the very first night I spent here I was woken up by police lights flashing in my window and drunken shouting from across the street. This side of town where the news always mentions shootings while displaying their darling little map with the pin pointing to a  street conveniently located in my neighborhood. 

    To make my evening more ominous, it must be mentioned at this point, the boyfriend neglected to check in with me for an entire 38 hour period, which had me slightly worried. I don't mean to be his keeper, but we do live together and this was our first night apart in four years, aside from when I visit my parents out of state. I thought a quick drunken, "Hi! Things are great here. We're having fun kicking ass at video games. See you tomorrow!" would have been nice. But alas, I sit at home alone on the internet, and watching TV, without a single peep from my telephone. 

    As I barely pull myself together to drag myself to bed, I head to the back door to let my dogs out. Of course by now I'm convinced that every time I open the door I'm going to see a mad man lying in wait on the other side. And it doesn't matter if it's the back door or the front door. Even if I ran really fast between the two and opened them he would run around the house and be there too. 

    What I have failed to mention so far is that my Cairn Terrier is food aggressive. I can see where it looks as though I may be getting side tracked from my story, but bare with me. He is food aggressive and currently my dogs are going through a -"feed me feed me feed me! now I will sit here and stare at my food all night" - stage. So, the food aggressive terrier has not eaten a kernel of his food. What does a food aggressive dog do when there is food around? Why he guards it of course!




    If you get too close, or god forbid try to reach for him or his dish he WILL bite you. Hard. With puncture marks for a souvenir. We have discovered a trick to getting his food away from him when he's like this. We grab a blanket from off the couch, throw it over his head like a net, and grab the food dish away. Once the food dish is gone he's back to the happy-go-lucky if slightly neurotic terrier we all know and love. Unfortunately for us, he has learned our technique, studied it, and is currently attempting to find fault with it. When he first associated the blanket with us taking his food he would growl when we would come near him with it. More recently he has taken to growling and snapping as soon as we have grabbed it from the couch even though we are still 10 feet away.

   On this night, though, of all nights. The night when I am alone and expecting robbers, and murderers, and general drunken nuisances to bust through my door. This is the night when as soon as I grab the blanket I become a matador and he becomes an angry bull. As I call to him to go outside for "nighttime potties" he gets closer to his food dish and hovers his head over it. A sure sign he's in guard mode. I try to coax him away at first, but he just scoots closer (if this is even possible given his already close proximity). I approach him and he wrinkles his lip at me. I know what I have to do. I go to the couch and grab the blanket. He immediately starts barking and growling and charging in my general direction. As I approach him with the blanket he leaps two and a half feet in the air and flies into the blanket, teeth snapping, going for blood. My calm terrified little terrier has become the vicious attack dog from Hades! He doesn't even need the other two heads. He's frightening enough with just the one. 

    We play a frightful game of tug-o-war with the blanket, me all the while trying to keep the blanket strategically placed between my skin and his teeth. In the end I manage to cover him with it, and as he growls and writhes beneath it turning himself into the blanket monster from hell, I fumble to pull his food dish away before he finds his way out. Terrified and shaking, I pull the blanket away. As he starts to realize his food is no longer available to him, he starts to snap out of his insane rampage. I manage to get him and the other dog, who has been watching the proceedings with a weary eye, outside with him grumbling all the way out the door. 

    I flop down on the couch exhausted and shaking from my emotional trauma. As the fear of my own dog subsides, the fear of being alone returns and I am once more reminded that when I open the door for the dogs to come back in some serial killer on a rampage will be standing there waiting for me. I'm starting to fear for my dogs safety, being out there all alone in the dark, when the dogs bark to come back in. I check out the peep hole before opening the door. Of course this doesn't matter, as the serial killer is surely crouching over out of view of the peep hole. As the deck seems to be clear I open the door and the dogs come rushing back into the house, the terrier running straight to where his food was just to make sure it really has been taken away, and I start to turn off the lights. 

    By now I'm really wishing the boyfriend had called, so I could be sure he was staying out all night before I chain the doors, but he hasn't. We haven't chained the doors since our first month in this house over two years ago, but this night, all alone, I set the chains. I put the dogs in the bedroom, check on the cats and the bunny, and check the chains again. I get a glass of water, go to the bedroom, get into bed, get back out of bed, go to the front and back door and check the chains a third time. I crawl back into bed, arrange the pillows just so, and try to enjoy my big bed to myself for one night.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

My Pets Taught Me How To Read


     I remember being three years old and sitting in my bed made up with my favorite Strawberry Shortcake sheets, propped up against mountains of pillows, along with Buttermilk the rabbit, Blue the cat, Mama and Baby koala bears, and many other precious stuffed animals. All of my stuffed animals had to be facing out so that they could all breathe and see everything that was going on. 

     “What book are we going to be reading tonight?” my father would ask.

     “This one!” I would respond, as I would climb off my bed, run across the room to my little three shelf bookcase already full of books, grab The Dark Crystal, and run back to shove the book into my daddy’s hands before clambering onto the bed and settling back into my pillows. This was the regular nighttime ritual. Usually storytime was with my dad, but sometimes with my mom instead. I loved story time with both my mother and father, although it was not always the same. With my mother, sometimes, we would skip the book and she would make up stories off the top of her head about fairies and unicorns and all sorts of mythical creatures. As I got older, I would have to plead with her to do this. I enjoyed story time with my father because I loved looking at the pictures, and, as I learned to read, I loved to help him read the story.
The reading ritual would start out ordinary enough, with my father reading the words and me and my stuffed animals looking at the pictures. Then as weeks, or maybe months, went by he’d start to follow the words with his finger so that, if I was paying attention, I might start to follow along. Pretty soon I picked up that reading involved moving your finger along the page. So, I would help my dad read by moving my finger along the page for him. Eventually, he picked out easy words for me to read until I was reading full sentences. This was how I first learned to read.

     Once I learned to read, I would read all the time. I read at school on the playground while the other kids played. I read in class while I should have been doing school work. I read in the car on the way to school or the supermarket or even Disneyland. I checked out book after book at the school and public libraries. No one could stop me from staying up ‘til early morning hours with a flashlight under the covers, or in a makeshift tent depending on how old I was, reading chapter after chapter until I was too tired to keep my eyes opened. 

     I get my love of books from my mother. My mother was, and still is, an avid reader, who buys books anywhere and everywhere. Books line the walls at our house and spill out our ears. Today, the first words out of my mother’s mouth whenever I meet a new fella are always, “Does he read?” and “What does he read?”

When I was in first grade or second grade -- I can’t be sure -- I would sit up against the bolster in my bed. I had two bolsters. One ran along the side of my bed against the wall to provide stadium seating for Buttermilk and the gang. The other at the foot of the bed to prop up the foot of my lean-to tent which was made from: One – king-size white sheet with pink flowers all over it that I nicked from my mom’s bed linen, One – white shelf filled with yet more stuffed animals above the head of my bed, and One – afore mentioned green and blue bolster to keep the bottom of the tent off my feet by propping it a few inches off my twin size bed. With my stuffed animals all sitting on top of the bolster behind me so that they could look over my shoulder and my cat on the bed next to me, I would read out loud to my cat. For hours, I would keep Faline enthralled in one book after another of the Sweet Valley Twins series. I think at one point I even tried to teach the cat to read.
Once more, when I was in first grade I made up my mind to teach my dog, Mickey, how to write. I would put the pen or pencil in between her toes, and write things for her, and then show these miracle writings to my mother. 

“Look! Mickey knows how to write her name! I told you I could teach her how to write!”

My mother placates, “That’s very nice dear.”

Mickey was very adept with a crayon as well. “Mommy, Mommy! Look what Mickey drew!”

“Yes, Honey. That’s lovely.” And so this lasted for probably a couple, maybe as much as four, weeks. 

Through my second, third, and fourth grade years I started slowly writing my childhood novel The Fox and the Rabbit. It was a story about a fox and rabbit that were friends based on some trauma from when they were babies. These magical creatures could talk, and belonged to a little girl who would talk to them and take care of them. She was the only human they would talk to, or who even knew the animals could talk. It was very good, but sadly unfinished. I have since lost the full paper copies. I find a few pages here and there sometimes. Sadly, computers no longer have those huge floppy disk drives for the huge floppy disk on which my novel is saved in some archaic DOS program called Ability +.

As an adult I am lucky enough to be able to go home for Christmas every year. Every Christmas Eve I slyly approach my father, “Daddy, I’m going to bed now…can you read me Night Before Christmas?”…

When I was 23, I spent Christmas with my boyfriend’s family in England. On Christmas Eve I called my father at home in the States. “Happy Christmas Eve, Daddy! We’re about to go to sleep over here…. Can you read me The Night Before Christmas?”

My dad chuckles, “You want me to read it over the phone? But it’s not Christmas Eve yet.”

“It is for me!”

“Oh, yeah. Hold on. Let me have your mother find the book.”

I am now 27 years old. I still plan to go home every Christmas. And Every Christmas Eve I will slyly approach my dad after I’ve gotten ready for bed and ask, “Daddy, are you ready to read Night Before Christmas?”

My dad always chuckles and says, “Yep. Hold on. Where is it?” And every year we go on a mad search all over the house for this tiny book. After we ask my mother were she “hid” it, and blame every living being in the house for not being able to find it, we finally find it on my book shelf in my old room -- Although, now that I’m moved out, I think we actually keep it in the living room by the fire place. -- I curl up in my comforter, snuggle into mountains of pillows, and hug Simba, my current “grown-up” stuffed animal, to me while my father finds a seat on the edge of my bed. As he reads the book, it slowly tilts further and further out of my sight, so that he can read it easier. I look up at my father with the best “daddy’s little girl” pout I can muster and exclaim, “I can’t see the pictures daddy!”

“But you’ve seen them a thousand times.”

“So!? I like looking at the pictures. It makes me feel like a little kid.”

My father laughs at me. “All right.” as he turns the book back towards me. I no longer help my father read by moving my finger along the page. I just cuddle up in my blankets and enjoy the pictures that I’ve seen for 26 Christmas Eves while my father finishes the story and we say goodnight.
  
(Footnote: This is taken from an essay I wrote in college one year. Sadly, I am no longer 27 years old and I no longer get home for Christmas, but I still call Dad up on the phone and listen to him read The Night Before Christmas every Christmas Eve.)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dear Burger King Employee

Dear Miss. or Mrs. Burger King Employee,

   Today, at lunchtime, I decided to forgo my usual sandwich from one of the two sandwich shops near work. Upon exiting the front doors of my building, I could smell the enticing aroma of Burger King hamburgers wafting in my direction. The fast food joint called to me. It said, "Kat, why indulge in a healthy sandwich when you can enjoy a questionable beef hamburger with processed cheese, a side of deep fried onion rings, and a carbonated chemical liquid to wash it all down?" To be fair, I had put off my lunch for so long that at this point I was famished and an old stale piece of toast could have persuaded me with the promise of a smudge of jam on top, but this just smelled so much better.

    I hopped in my car and drove over to the Burger King drive-thru. I have to commend you at this point Miss. or Mrs. Burger King Employee. You were very prompt with answering the speaker box and asking for my order. When you repeated the order back to me, you had everything correct!...


    This is were the praise for you ends. Presently, I proceeded to pull forward, as you requested. You had stated that my meal today was going to cost me $3.49, so I diligently collected the necessary funds to hand over for my fast-food feast. Now, at this time I have far too many pennies, and not much of anything else, in fact the only other coins I have are two quarters. I gather together three dollar bills, my two quarters, and the nine required pennies. I'm ecstatic! I finally get to rid myself of some pennies and add a new coin to my repertoire. For all you following along so far, this is a dime. My very own.

    The predicament begins... I pull up to the payment window and wait. And wait...and wait...and wait. All the while I'm having an internal conflict going on in my head. On the one hand I don't like to be kept waiting without a "Hi. I'll be right with you." or a "One moment please" or any number of platitudes. I think it's very poor customer service. Especially at a fast food drive-thru. I'm teetering on the brink of just driving away and going somewhere else. On the other hand, I am absolutely starving. If I leave now, I have to think of somewhere else to go, drive there, wait through the ordering process again, and then get my oh so precious food. Of course, if I'm forced to wait here any longer, I'm beginning to think it may take longer than the aforementioned driving-somewhere-else scheme.

    Just as I made my mind up to drive off, and was cursing you for wasting my time, you came to the window and peeped your head out. It was like a hallelujah light shining down from heaven...only out of a small Burger King drive-up window. I was so weakend by my starvation that I can't remember if you asked politely for my money or just stuck your hand out at me like a beggar, but considering the deterioration of this transaction, I fear it was the latter. Upon handing my money over to you I made sure to state that I was handing $3.59 to you. See, I've tried this trick before, and have not received my change. They assume you are giving them the correct change instead of trying to downsize the amount of coin in your purse by over paying and getting one nickle/dime/quarter back instead of up to four more pennies. Doesn't anyone else do this anymore??

    Anyway, your confusion at seeing my money in your hands almost outweighed your stupidity, for you looked at your hand, you looked at me, then looked back at your hand, pushed the coins around to double check your count, and then looked back at me, confounded. I didn't understand the problem, so I reiterated that no, it was not a mistake. I had given you $3.59.

    "I counted correctly, right? That is $3.59, isn't it?"

    You then proceeded to stick your hand, with my change in it, out to me. You said, "You could just give me the 50¢ and I can give you a penny change." I think what you didn't say but was implied was, "Take your pennies back you dumbass."

    "I don't want a penny change. I would like a dime back, thank you." Is this really a difficult math equation to grasp?

    Thank god you did not push the point further. You deposited my change into the 'til and presented me with my much awaited dime. Then Miss. or Mrs. Burger King Employee, you walked away from the window. So I waited. And waited some more. This time it was not as long a wait as when I first pulled up to the window, waiting to be greeted and acknowledged for my patronage, but I feel an "I'll have your food in a moment" might have been appreciated. Your rudeness does not end there though, does it? Nope. Once you had my food bagged and ready to hand to me, you thrust your arm out to your side, jabbing my bag of food at me while looking...I don't know. At the car behind me? At your register?

    To top off my bad experience, I had to practically jump out of my car and through the drive-thru window, to stop you shutting it, before I could ask for my ketchup which you dumped a handful of unceremoniously into my bag.

    I'm sorry to say Miss. or Mrs. Burger King Employee, but I will no longer be taking my patronage to your location. You have sullied the name of Burger King, with your ineptness and rude behavior. In future, if I desire a "char-broiled" cheeseburger and onion rings, I will have to drive out of my way to the other Burger King down the road.



Sincerely,
Kat


P.S. Please extend my gratitude to your cooks this day. My cheeseburger and onion rings were both delicious.