Saturday, February 16, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: The Optimist in Hell

It was the hottest day of the Age of Sauropods. Through the high levels walked The Risen Man, and even his brow shone with effort.

The Risen Man came across a man aflame, burning from his hairline to his toenails. The man sat beneath the broadest tree in the levels, as close as he could muster without spreading his fire to the bark. To The Risen Man’s surprise, the man’s crackling lips were smiling.

He inquired, “What do you enjoy about your condition, Siree?”

The flaming man responded, “At least I’ve found shade.”

Friday, February 15, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: She'll Come Around, Redux

She fell in the puddle in front of his house, and he fell in love. He got his Pa and they helped her dry off. While her folks came, they played with his anthill.

The next day, she said ‘Hello’ passing by him in the hall. She’d never done it before. He beamed all the way through Algebra.

A week later, she’d forgotten he existed. His brothers elbowed him to do something about it. Go ask her out. Go ask if she’s started that ant collection. Go pretend to bump into her.

He did none of it. “She’ll come around,” he said.

She did great in Math, so he tried hard and made it into Advanced Placement with her. He’d watch her from the other side of the room and struggle to figure out the number of degrees in a pentagon. She never offered to collaborate when they assigned group work.

“She’ll come around,” he said.

She liked puppies, it seemed. She got a summer job at the Hearth Animal Shelter, the one with the uncomfortable location across from a cemetery. He lit right up and got a job as the assistant groundskeeper. She never came over to chat.

“She’ll come around,” he said.

She left town for college. He went to the bar when he knew her sisters were there, to overhear things about her. She switched from Mathematics to Education. She was a teacher. She got her own house. She got tenure. She got cancer. She beat cancer. She still got letters from that first year of kids she’d taught. She was thinking of writing a book.

In time, she passed. Her remains were shipped back to the town where she’d grown up. There was a big service with her sisters and cousins. A lot of crying and nice stories. He stayed out of the way, listening and offering the occasional box of tissues.

After the service, he came up and filled in the grave. When he finished, he patted the dirt with his shovel and said, “I knew you’d come around.”

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Imperfect Couple

She was Unitarian, and he didn’t know what that meant, and she didn’t mind. He was a Mystery buff, and she didn’t see why that meant watching made-up stuff instead of solving crimes, and that lead to fun disputes and a lot of necking. Working retail made her ankles sore and the soles of her feet growing unbearably hot for hours afterward. Working in the graveyard and unheated funeral parlor left his back and shoulders almost frozen to snapping. After work they lie in the funniest positions on their twin mattress, her feet resting on his spine, soothing each other, a detective movie streaming on the laptop, and something Literary on her Kindle.

They were perfect for each other for thirty-eight years. They were grateful for every minute. Some minutes? Merely in retrospect.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Immigration

Don’t we have some responsibility to the heathens?

It is not our fault that we succeed. It is our boon and glory, and I would not detract from it, nor admit any heathens within our walls who would do those traits disservice. We made this harsh landscape work when all they could do was beg. Their peoples had the same destroyed lands as we. These arguments I will not profane.

Yet no man or woman standing in this hall built it. We enrich and till fields that were constructed by forebears, and forebears familiar with the values of life. Today our walls stand against the mean beasts, and preserve agriculture and culture in general. We benefit for the protection. Is it not in our moral interest to admit and naturalize heathens into the proper ways of living?

Today we’ve heard argued too often that we do enough by admitting anyone worthy and there are simply none worthy in the camps. Yet the camps themselves are a moral peril. Thousands without enough food, without knowledge of medicine, who built their own tents and cluster among so many desperate strangers – is there any wonder that there is violence? There are men who arrived at those camps children and still wait for expiation. Moral decay is all but inevitable in such circumstances.

I dare any man or woman standing in this hall to dispatch his or her child to those camps and reclaim them in a year.

Do you fear the child will not be alive at the end of the year? Then what fortune is a heathen, who has come from nothing but cultural failure, to anticipate? Who can be without sin in half a shelter, itself shared by likely death?

These people arrived of their free will. They elect to remain in the camps and await our assessments, yet the camps only exist because of our walls and laws. Do we not have investment in the business of their suffering? I feel my share of it in my pocket.

For remedies, I have few. We could abolish the camps and drive off the heathens, and thereby damn all, even the innocent minority, to life without illumination or certainty. We could have free immigration and rob the camps of their necessity, and accept the consequences of mingling with so many heathens. Of these two reforms, I anticipate little support. But know that every man and woman standing in the camps tonight who fails our assessments does so because we make them wait there.

They already number a dozen to any of our one. To sit by with legs crossed until the walls and laws are likewise outnumbered will damn our entire enterprise. If you will not expel or admit them, then you must behave with ethical fervor.

Is there any among you with the fortitude to migrate into the camps and share some of our secrets so that they no longer need us? And perhaps thereby learn anything they have determined and which we have missed in our safe piety? To give gifts unto people of no less blood than yourselves, for chance to return with sundry others, and regardless, return with security for the commonwealth of our enterprise?

I am only one such person, and alone will be consumed as a drop of dye into a lake. However, a mass of dye great enough will not disperse so swiftly. You’ll have until the morning to let me know.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: The Diet Scam

Lita made all the meals. This was in part because she was an amazing baker, and part because he was terrible at cooking, and a large part was utter complacency. He loved her cooking; he never questioned the source of such buttery scones, untouchable pizza dough and jams. She didn’t seem to question it either until that doctor visit where his cholesterol came back at 285.

Now, the man exercised. She goaded him into it, sometimes dragged him out to jog with her, and even brought him tea as he soaked in the tub afterward. She had, in his words, the unfair advantage of being a titan against his hobbit. True to his inner hobbit, even if he did jog or play with dumbbells, he ate half his own weight in snacks almost immediately afterward, and grew a most spiteful temper at the mere suggestion of removing them.

He never questioned her dominion over cooking, and so she could have made him cook for himself, if she hadn’t tasted his cooking. It was too mean a thing to do to him. And yet no conversation argument would get him off the stuff that was killing him; he became so sour if she forbade any snacks from the kitchen. It was all a sullen demeanor she couldn’t get at with emotional prods.

He never questioned her dominion, and was certainly too loving to complain when his scones began tasting drier, heavier of flour. When garlics and peppers grew fainter. He didn’t know anything about how to make what she’d made, only that as she cajoled him to come on hikes with her, the stuffed cabbages and vegetable soups somehow took on more flavor than his old snacks, and as sore as he got, he’d settle for almost any flavor. Any flavor that wasn’t as bad as what he cooked. He tried baking his own tarts once, and it was the only time she ever willfully sabotaged him. It didn’t take much help for him to give up and go back to reading.

By the time his cholesterol resumed safe levels, he was actually asking after her vegan chili. It almost worried her that he’d want to learn how to make it.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: What Is Your Reason For Going Back In Time?

“I’m a teacher, and a strict one, because I know what they say about kids is largely bullshit. I grew up very ambitious, very smart, top of my class because I worked hard. I didn’t lead the debate team, but I remember being the linchpin that took us to the State finals. I always stood up for the right thing, whether it was the vegan option in the cafeteria or making sure my sister wasn’t alone the time she broke her arm and spent all Christmas break in the hospital. But a month ago I was talking to my sister, really, arguing with her, and she said I was never there for her, and barely remembers me visiting her. And on an impulse, I started looking up some of my old journals, and they’re kind of shallow. I think of myself as having once been smarter, more virtuous, the best of youth that I claim I don’t see in any of the kids in my classrooms. So I need to go back to see if I really was any of those things, or if I’ve been holding people to an imaginary self my whole adult life. If I’ve been beating myself up, too, for being only a good person when I should have lived up to great potential. I could be better, but I need to know if I’m working to return to being a better person, or to become one for the first time. I’m guessing time travel is the quickest possible journey of self discovery.”

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Middlemarch Character Guide, #NaNoReMo Update #2

For my second #NaNoReMo update on Middlemarch, I'm sharing my character list. This has been vastly helpful going through the residents of Middlemarch, who have sprawled out for 400 pages so far, and have 500 more to go. While the journeys are distinct, there are at least a dozen key players amid a booming cast, and I have the worst memory for names.

Beats Downton Abbey.

Dorothea Brooke (sister): Christian, conservative; loves Pascal, perceives herself as logical. Doesn’t understand art. A focused lens through which Evans is clearly going to fire satire.

Celia: Dorothea’s sister. First awakened lady, starts questioning things and thinks she likes it.

Rev Edward Casaubon: stuffy misogynist, a fixer-upper of a man. No passion about him. Kind of a tool. So naturally, he marries Dorothea.

Rosamond Vincy: Is so used to being pursued that she thinks everybody is in love with her. Well-read but not particularly bright. Sometimes the strawman. At one point falls in love with the idea of a man falling in love with her, even though she doesn’t like him very much. He is not in love with her. Favorite description: “She found time also to read the best novels, and even the second best, and she knew much poetry by heart.” Something about "even the second best" slays me.

Mary: Rosamond’s buddy; shrewd, judgmental. Best quote: “It is the blameless who are most exasperating.”

Fred Vincy: Rosamond's brother. Romantic, might love Mary; down on his luck, a debtor; probably screwed.

Mr. Lydgate: swears he’s going to be rational about women. Didn’t see a black widow coming. Is probably screwed. Low social standing since he’s only a surgeon, not a proper doctor. Very progressive, seems like he might have the closest to Evans/Eliot’s point of view on social issues like skepticism and compassion.

Mr. Bulstrode: Middlemarch powerbroker. Can be meanspirited, very political. Doesn’t eat much or indulge in many vices, yet I can’t stop imagining him as huge, usually as Hardy from Laurel & Hardy.

Mr. Farebrother: Mr. Lamppost Name. Gambles only to support his sick mother, a preacher people from other neighborhoods visit to watch, almost religiously pluralistic or deistic, and so nice he won’t be mad if you vote against him for a job he needs. This guy is screwed.

Mrs. Garth: Mary's mom. Smart lady, probably leader of her household; harder on women than men. Strong female characters who hates women?

Mr. Garth: He’ll have to ask his wife for a personality.
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