writing prompt

Traffic

Traffic had become unbelievable lately. Daryl would sometimes eat lunch during the commute, to maintain his stamina. He’d even started packing extra food and water, just in case.

Today the traffic was worse than ever. The clock in the truck didn’t work, and the jam stood locked in place so long that Daryl lost all track of time.  Seasons passed. Civilizations had toppled and rebooted. Children had stepped into the shoes of their ancestors. That’s what it felt like to Daryl at least. Forever plus one day. Of course he was overreacting.

It couldn’t have been that long, could it?

PHOTO PROMPT -Copyright-Roger Bultot

PHOTO PROMPT -Copyright-Roger Bultot

My entry for the Friday Fictioneers 100 Word Story Challenge, based on the photo prompt above.  Curated by the amazing Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

Click on the link below to check out some of the other entries.

I was too busy to participate last week, and of course with school starting next week my life will basically be over. Or least significantly occupied by tending the childrens and sitting in traffic.

I always pack extra food and water, just in case.

The Impermanence of Memory

“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.”

― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore (via goodreads)

 

Back before the Fall

Back before the Fall

On a recent trip to the doctor my mom and sister were driving home and were stopped at a red light. Plastered on the bumper of the car in front of them was a bumper sticker declaring, Joy Comes From Within.

What do you think about that, Mom? Joy comes from within.”

I can almost hear the annoyed sigh my mom must have made. “Joy come from within, huh? Well, let me know when it comes out.”

This has become an inside joke amongst us as we battle for meaning in the face of my mom’s Alzheimer’s. We will remind ourselves that joy comes from within as we laugh in the face of the depression we feel. These are the memories I will hold on to. I don’t want to remember the tears, the confusion, the sad pleas for help. I want to remember the joy that comes from within.

I have accepted the fact that my mother is dying slowly, not unlike my father. Her path will be different, but the destination will be the same. In my father’s case his body went before the brain, while my mother’s descent will proceed in the opposite order, her mental state deteriorating until the body fails. I often wonder as I watch the Deer Hill Dinner Theatre which is preferable, to lose control of one’s mind or one’s body. When I struggled through those years watching my father battle his own body after his accident, many of his favorite things in life taken from him as a C-4 quadriplegic, I could imagine no greater tragedy than being confined to a wheelchair. But having seen my mother’s sad dive into dementia, I realize that there are so many important parts of life that stay unappreciated. How many people give thanks for the ability to walk, the ability to feed themselves, the ability to remember yesterday? How many people truly understand the significance such simple actions?

Seeing the people you love suffer is not easy, but the shock is somehow eased through the process of acceptance. In the case of Alzheimer’s, what is perhaps saddest is that my mother herself will never be able to reach this final plateau of the grief hierarchy, that she will never be able to embrace her condition and comprehend the trajectory. Not only is she unaware that she has a disease which will eventually destroy the part of her brain that controls the autonomic function of her internal organs, but she has no idea that she is even sick. Another cruel trick of fate. She still calls the disease old-timers, and considers her memory only slightly hindered. Sometimes she has a moment of lucidity and realizes that something is wrong with her, but cannot understand the implication of the reasons before the moment fades away. My father was well aware of the fate that eventually awaited him, and I’d like to think he was able to accept it and move on. I often wonder if that gave him closure.

Closure is another ambiguous term that gets thrown about when people discuss grief and loss. Is it coincidence that the fifth and final step of the standard lesson format most teachers learn in their training programs is called closure? Closure provides summary and context. Closure deepens understanding through scaffolding and connections with preexisting knowledge. Closure creates a bridge between what happened today and what will happen tomorrow. Closure is supposed to be the part where the other portions of the lesson introduced earlier come into focus, leading to deeper meaning and understanding. Closure is when everything gets wrapped up in a neat little package that students can take with them. It is considered the most important part of the lesson, and is also the hardest part to get right. Unfortunately not all lessons can be so easily wrapped up with a bow. Some lessons are open ended and ambiguous. Some lessons remain ongoing and aren’t ready to be closed. I felt that if I transcribed all these memories and saw them on paper, that meaningful closure would come to me. I am still searching for it. I know it must be here somewhere.

From all this I am reminded above all that I have lots to be thankful for, but in the tumult of daily life it is easy lose sight of this fact. It usually takes tragedy to remind us of these things we should be thankful for, which ironically is a tragedy in itself. Must we really have something taken away from us before we can appreciate it? Is it that absence makes the heart grow fonder, or can we never truly see that which is right in front of us? Are we destined to lament and covet what is missing rather than exalt and celebrate the amazing abilities and relationships we still possess?

These memories of my father and mother are the memories that have shaped me, and I hold on to these memories tight, afraid to let them go. Some even argue that our memories make us, that without our memories we would not be the same person. I’m not ready to tackle this debate, in truth. But in order to prevent forgetting I will continue to write them all down, everything that makes sense and especially everything that doesn’t. I will read it over and over and try to reach an understanding of what it means. Hopefully the act of writing it all down will prevent me from forgetting. Somewhere in this act I will find closure.

Understanding now that the persistence of memory is never guaranteed, I don’t want to lose these memories, no matter how painful, because if we don’t have our memories, what is left?


 

Written for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Memoir Madness

I had been working on this piece to publish this Wednesday, but decided to publish a little early for the Weekly Writing Challenge.

What do you think? Any feedback, advice, or constructive criticism is always welcome.

The Super Friends

We usually ended up playing superheroes despite my uninspired opposition. The only superheroes I knew were the Super Friends and Spider-Man, both of which aired on the sugar-frosted animation festival known as Saturday morning cartoons.

Eddie Bell always wanted to be Superman. Any excuse to wear that red cape around the neighborhood or to school or to somebody’s birthday party. When he put that cape on it was like he actually convinced himself he was Superman. One time he broke his ankle jumping off the roof, yelling something about leaping tall buildings in a single bound as his cape flapped behind him like a tangled parachute. Later he told us the ground must be made of kryptonite.

Lester Burkes was Batman. He would always disappear into the crawl space underneath the house, his Bat Cave. When he came out he would have cobwebs on his mask and in his hair, mud all over his hands and jeans, emerging from the dark muck like something less than human pulling itself out of the primordial ooze.

My little brother Jimmy wanted to be Spiderman even though he wasn’t in the Justice League. Jimmy would start throwing pinecones and any other pointy objects he could get his hands on if he didn’t get his way, so that didn’t leave much of a choice for me. Was I supposed to play Robin and follow Lester into the Bat Cave? They told me I could be Aquaman or Wonder Woman. Not my style.

Instead I invented my own superhero called Cyclops. Cyclops had robot strength and a single grotesquely large eye in the middle of his forehead. His eye was all seeing. Unimpeded by binocular vision he could see into the past and future. His secret weapon was a headbutt that caused amnesia.cyclops

Eddie told me I couldn’t make up my own superhero, especially such a stupid one.

Lester told me there was already a superhero named Cyclops that shot lasers out of his eyes.

They all told me that I should just be a bad guy, so that the super friends could come together and deliver Cyclops the villain a proper serving of justice league justice.

But Cylcops didn’t want to be a villain. His all-seeing eye could not be constrained by the good and evil dichotomy. Cyclops told Superman he didn’t play by the rules, and Superman told Cyclops if he didn’t play by the rules he couldn’t be a Super Friend.

So Cyclops went inside and sulked by the window,  peeking through the blinds occasionally with his all-seeing eye. His visions of the past were depressing, and the future hung in front of him like a grave, dystopian noose. Some superpowers just weren’t for everybody.

My mom saw me having my little pity party by the window and brought me some jiffy pop. We watched some Gilligan’s Island and it felt, just for a little while, like all things evil in the world had been defeated.

SuperHero (by ‘J’ on Flickr)

Felonious

“Assault, driving under the influence, hit and run, forgery, kidnapping, impersonating an officer, trespassing, conspiracy, grand larceny?” The booking officer looked at me over the reading glasses perched on the end of his nose. “It sounds like you had quite an evening, son. What do you have to say for yourself?” I just stared at his bushy grey mustache while he tapped his pen on the desk and waited for me to say something.

Should I say…

That the night was young and I wasn’t done yet, that I still had some felonies left to commit.

That I was innocent of the hit and run charge, but he forgot to mention the indecent exposure, piracy, and public nuisance.

That I thought he had a groovy mustache.

That I wasn’t sorry as I laugh like a super villain.

That I didn’t mean to, oops, my bad.

That I regret nothing.

That I regret it all.

Was there one single thing I could say that would make him understand?

What would you say?

NO TRESPASSING (by morserj on Flickr)

DP Daily Prompt: Break the Silence

Family Reunion

Chauncy had slept with each of the three sisters and married two. He cheated on his first wife, the eldest, with her youngest sister, resulting in her impregnation. When his wife found out about their affair she filed for divorce, and ever since the two sisters never spoke. The middle sister, who had always been passed over for her two more attractive siblings, became enamored with Chauncy’s flirtatious advances, and they were wed before the ink on the divorce papers had even dried.

Between the three sisters Chauncy had fathered five children. He was their father and their uncle. They were cousins and half-siblings. These things get confusing, as is often the case with families, especially one so tangled up in itself.

Chauncy’s mother-in-law had died and the sisters would be together in the same room for the first time in years. The entire family had already gone into the church, but Chauncy loitered outside in the parking lot to smoke a cigarette and bolster his nerve. He wondered how it would pan out. Would all be forgotten and forgiven with kissing and hugging and what were we thinkings? Would his first wife make a scene like she always did, embarrassing everybody with her accusatory rants, calling the youngest sister a slut and a whore in front of the entire family? He envisioned the casket getting spilled into the aisle in the hair pulling scuffle, that the tragic reunion would be far more depressing than the actual funeral.

He stamped out his butt and made his way to the entrance, but discovered the door to the church locked tight. The sisters had decided that the best way to keep the peace during the service would be to exclude Chauncy altogether.

At least they could agree on something.

chicago- north center (by like, totally on Flickr)

The DP Daily Prompt: I can’t stay mad at you,

The DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Flash Fiction

 

Humorous Sorrows

I deal with the blues by using humor. I don’t know how but it makes me feel a little better, but also can have the unintended consequence of hiding my true sorrow.

I was in an accident recently that was pretty bad, and ended up missing almost 3.5 months of work. Here is an email update I sent to my boss (the principal). He took it as an indication that my spirits were doing well. It guess it masked the serious depressed sentiments I had at the time. I sent this email exactly one month after the accident.


re: News from the doctors…

Thursday, November 07, 2013 12:39 PM

From: Science Teacher [SV]

To: Mr Principal  [SV]‎; Mrs Office Manager [SV]
Cc: Mrs Vice Principal [SV]‎; Miss Union Rep [SV]

Greetings,

I got some good news and some bad news today. First the good news. My ankle looks great, and the surgery went perfectly. I got a plate and four screws installed, and I think my ankle will now be both bulletproof and bionic. It may also help improve my cell phone reception and be usable as a wifi hotspot, and the hardware does come with a one year warranty. I also got my stinky old splint off and got a shiny new boot. Even after only 12 days the stench on that plaster splint was debilitating and probably neurotoxic. So yeah for the shiny new boot!

Now for the bad news, which unfortunately is more plentiful. I’ll number the items so you can keep track.

  1. Even though I am in a boot I can only put partial weight on my foot, so will still need crutches until the big screw gets removed. Putting too much weight on my foot may result in the screw breaking, which I’m told would be very bad. In case you didn’t know, breaking things in your ankle is bad, even if they are things that aren’t really supposed to be there in the first place.
  2. The necrosis on the front of my shin has finally revealed a large open wound in the center where the impact occurred. The wound is so large they recommend a skin graft operation, which will happen as soon as the wound heals a bit more underneath. In the meantime the doctors had to debride the dead flesh, which looked like an impromptu scene from the Walking Dead. What is left is a great big window through my flesh straight down to the bone. Luckily the extensive nerve damage in the area means I could not feel any pain during the procedure, and feel no pain now. Who ever thought nerve damage could be lucky? Perhaps this should have been included in the good news above.
  3. They finally took a much closer look at my knee. There is an MRI scheduled for Monday to confirm for sure, but the initial diagnosis today was that I most likely completely tore my ACL, MCL, and possibly the PCL, but the LCL is strong like bull (3 out of 4 ain’t bad). My knee is extremely unstable and I am recommended not to put any weight on my leg at all to protect the knee, even though I am supposed to put partial weight on my foot to help heal the ankle bones. The burly medical knee brace that is supposed to help protect my knee from twisting and popping wildly out of joint can’t be worn with a boot, and my eventual skin graft will probably also inhibit my ability to wear the knee brace properly. I am thinking of designing a hybrid walking boot knee brace to help fulfill all my doctor’s wishes and improve my locomotive potential.
  4. I was referred to a plastic surgeon about the skin graft. The area is so messed up and swollen she told me it may be a month or more before I would be able to undergo the procedure. She told me I should keep my leg elevated above my heart at least 22 hours a day. I’ve decided the easiest way to do this is to learn to walk on my hands like an ambidextrous acrobat from Cirque du Soleil. Unfortunately my initial attempts have not proven successful. I fear the percoset may be inhibiting my powers of proprioception, but luckily also makes the prospect of falling on my head less inhibiting.
  5. I have basically been given three completely contradictory courses of treatment from my doctors. Foot doctor: start putting partial weight on your ankle to stimulate healing, but don’t break the screw. Knee doctor: don’t put any weight on your knee without wearing the knee brace that you can’t actually wear. Plastic surgeon: keep your shin above your head at all times except when using the toilet or trying to take a one footed shower with a plastic bag over your leg. Luckily percoset not only helps with pain, but also helps one deal with paralyzing bouts of irony.
  6. Each of my doctors has told me that completely removing my leg and installing a fully bionic model is not an option.

Okay, so what’s next? I’m not sure honestly. All I know right now is that unless I can perfect my hand walking technique, my date of return is still up in the air. I was really hoping that I could return by November the 18th but that’s looking less and less likely, as I will possibly be needing additional (up to four) surgeries. My numerous doctor’s notes excuse me from physical activity until 2014!

It is getting harder and harder for me to keep up with the planning and grading of my different classes. At what point does hiring a long term sub become an option?

I really really really really really really wish I had more good news to share. Unfortunately this is what I got. Let me know what the options are moving forward.

Cordially, Jefe

the shiny new boot

Reposted for the DP Daily Prompt: Singing the Blues

Pretending to be a Grown Up

I feel like I’m always pretending to be something I’m not. I won a Teacher of the Year award a couple years ago and I still worry that they’ll eventually  discover I’m some sort of fraud and cart me away, just another impostor pretending to be teacher. Apparently pretending is one of my strongest skills. Sometimes I wonder what I’ll really be when I grow up, if I ever do.

Here’s my list of things I’ve at one time or another wanted to be when I grow up.

  • Comic Book Artist
  • Dinosaur Expert*
  • Stephen King
  • Professional Baseball Player
  • Circus Clown*
  • Ozzy Osbourne
  • Fireman
  • Pizza Artist*
  • Hobo
  • Herpetologist*
  • Matt Groening*
  • Zookeeper
  • Graphic Designer*
  • Photo Journalist
  • Mountain Climber
  • Bank Robber*
  • Entomologist
  • Radio Announcer*
  • Screenwriter
  • Science Teacher*
  • Marine Biologist
  • Professional Skateboarder*
  • Cowboy*
  • Fabulously Wealthy
  • Stunt Man*
  • Retired
  • John Carter of Mars*
  • Professional Surf Bum*
  • Organic Farmer
  • Microbiologist
  • Landscape Architect*

When I was younger I used to think that I could be anything I wanted when I grew up.

I wonder when this idea of endless possibility became some silly childhood fantasy?

Hopefully it’s never too late to grow up and become anything you want.

( * indicates things I have actually been and/or pretended to be)

when i grow up i wanna (by globochem3x1minus1)

Posted for the DP Daily Prompt: The Great Pretender