Chapter One: Commute Home

Before reading, see: Prologue//Flashback: Maddy’s 

Disclaimer: This is a revised version of chapter one! I workshopped the hell out of it in one of my classes this semester, so I thought I’d update it here too. Thanks for reading! I hope you guys like these characters just as much as I do and that this is the start of something worthwhile. 

Chapter One: Commute Home (Revised)

Today, I decided to walk home a little lackadaisically. It wasn’t my usual speed, but I knew it would get me to where I was going — especially since I wasn’t in much of a rush. For some reason, this particular Friday just felt different. It was nicer outside than it had been this past week, so I decided to take it all in. The cool spring air was slowly caressing my bare legs with each step. It was chilly and almost unbearable, but I didn’t mind. After all, it’s my fault that I woke up with hope that the Texas weather would stay consistent throughout the day. The mornings were always deceiving compared to the afternoons.

With each step, I noticed the trees were coming back to life, the grass was slowly becoming greener after each watering, and the animals were thriving off it. It’s sort of ironic to see all of the animals coming out of hiding, as if Texas knew what the winter season was. Here we just get a handful of freezes and a bunch of cold wind. We barely get any snow. Most birds even come here from up north to avoid their states’ weather, as if the sunny beaches of Cancun were too far of a flight.

As I walked, I counted the steps between each sidewalk crack. “One-two-three, one-two, one-two-three-four,” it was almost like a dance, albeit an unusual one, but the counting came naturally. I started to imagine a polka band playing at each step. The casual “oom-pah-pah, oom-pah-pah,” that was filling my brain took me down my path. I took this course home every other day, so I was bound to get there eventually.

After quite a few “oom-pah-pah’s”, I turned the corner next to my family’s old diner and knew I was almost home. Or rather… I thought I was, until I bumped into something sturdy. I should’ve looked up, god damn it, I thought to myself as the man I bumped into started to turn red.

“Shit! Watch where you’re going!” he exclaimed, holding his cup away from the damage I just caused. He didn’t notice I was watching him until he started wiping off his laptop bag and flannel with his hands. With just a quick glance, this man really had a lumberjack thing going on. Beard and all.

“Oh my god, I’m so, so sorry. Please let me help you,” I said to him, while I opened up my backpack to find my pack of wet wipes.

“Thanks, but I’m fine. It’s fine,” he said kind of aggressively, but his expression softened when he finally looked up; his light brown eyes pierced my greens. “Ugh, I’m sorry. I’ve just had a long day,” while he held his hand out, “My name’s Alexander, I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

I didn’t expect him to take such a turnaround, but I closed my bag and shook his hand anyway, “Maddy, my name’s Maddy. I’m so sorry.”

“Please, just stop apologizing. It’s okay. I said it’s fine, and I meant it,” he said more calmly while he put his hand on my shoulder.

Almost immediately, I shrugged his hand off, “Okay, are you sure you’re okay? That coffee had to have been really hot. Please, let me buy you another one.”

“Alright, alright, you can buy me a new cup. Is the diner fine?”

“Actually, would it be okay if we went down the street to Starbucks instead? I don’t really want to set foot in there.” Immediately, I mentally crossed my fingers and hoped he wouldn’t ask why. Especially since Gordon and I haven’t had time to fully evaluate it.

“Umm, yeah. That’ll be alright. I’d actually prefer it if that’s what you’re more comfortable with. Just lead the way,” he said.

* * * *

On our way to Starbucks I realized that there was more to this guy than I thought. He wasn’t just a tall, rugged man, but he had quirks of his own. Not only was he avoiding the sidewalk cracks as he stepped, but he kept the same number of steps between them too.

“What on earth are you looking at?” he asked.

“Oh, nothing,” I laughed nervously. “I just noticed that you never step on any cracks. I do the same thing.”

“Were you counting? I try to keep at least two to four between each crack. I’m not superstitious or anything,” he chuckled while he rubbed the back of his neck, “I just kind of kept the habit from when I was a kid.”

“Oh, I suppose I was,” I blushed, “I do the same thing… except I imagine polka music playing.”

“Polka, huh? Care to elaborate?” he asked, and I reluctantly let him in on my little secret, because he let me in on his. And to my surprise, we ended up walking my weird, and quirky way all the way to the coffee shop.

* * * *

When we got to Starbucks, I ordered my usual iced green tea latte; the matcha was my favorite part. It made me feel as though I was actually taking a step towards something healthy. I didn’t even know Starbucks had this drink until a few weeks ago, but I fell in love at first sip.

“Your total is $5.75,” the barista said. So, I quickly went to search my backpack, but noticed my wallet was missing. I could’ve sworn I had it earlier, and it wasn’t long until I started shaking in panic.

“Um, Alex? Do you mind getting this?” I asked nervously, “I can pay you back later. I promise.”

“It’s Alexander, and are you asking me to pay for your coffee after you spilled mine all over me?”

I couldn’t read if he was serious. All I could get out of my mouth was, “Oh, yeah… I’m sorry. Um, I might have some kind of cash in this bag somewhere,” and I started to search again.

“Nooo, stop! I’m kidding,” he smiled and put his hand on mine. “It’s really no problem, I swear. You can get the next one.”

We went to a table in the back corner of the cafe to wait for our order, and I still couldn’t stop thanking him. He even pulled my chair out for me, and suddenly I couldn’t remember the last time I was ever out with a guy. Clearly, I wasn’t used to this kind of chivalry.

“Maddy, it’s fine. Stop thanking me,” he said. “But, if you don’t mind me asking, what was that back there?” he asked.

“What was what?”

“Why couldn’t we go into the diner? I mean, I prefer Starbucks, but you seemed a little reluctant to go in there.”

“Oh, it was nothing.” I could tell by the look on his face that he didn’t believe me, so I quickly added, “I just have a few bad memories there, that’s all.”

“Yeah? If you don’t mind me asking, what are they about?”

“That depends,” I said, “Why Alexander? Why not just Alex?”

“I just don’t like shortening my name. My mom gave me my whole name for a reason, ya know?” he said, while he messed with the straps to his bag. He was fidgeting, just like what I do when I’m talking to new people. This is insane. We really were so similar.

“Oh,” I said. “So, I suppose you’ll just call me Madeline then?”

“Madeline, huh?” he winked, “Would it be alright if I called you that? It’s so beautiful.” Suddenly, I could feel my cheeks turning red, this guy really had an effect on me. I couldn’t believe how easy it was for him to make me blush.

“No, I suppose that wouldn’t be a bad thing. So, now I guess I have to tell you my story then,” I started, right before my order was shouted out to the whole café.  “Well, that’s me,” I moved to get up, but Alexander stopped me.

“I’ll get it, they just set mine on the bar as well.”

“Uh, alright. Thanks.” I shot him a smile and he went for our cups, but on his way back, I noticed that he was looking at my drink like it was a foreign object.

“How on Earth do you drink this stuff?” he asked, while holding up my drink and inspecting it. He looked like he was looking at an undiscovered object. Like matcha was the strangest thing ever.

I laughed and asked him, “What do you mean?”

“This dark green stuff… it looks like there’s dirt in your drink.”

“Uh, have you ever tried matcha before? It’s ah-maaaze-iiing,” I informed him.

“No, I haven’t. I don’t tend to drink or eat food that looks like dirt,” he said, and I immediately felt myself start to shut-down. We just met, and he was already criticizing my drink.

“Well, it doesn’t taste like dirt. I’d ask you to try it, but you probably don’t have fantastic taste buds considering you got a grande black coffee at Starbucks of all places,” I snapped.

“Woah, woah, woah… calm down. Madeline,” he grabbed my hand, “I was just kidding.”

I quickly pulled it away from him. “Well, it’s really hard to tell if you’re kidding Alex. I don’t read sarcasm very well with you apparently and I don’t know how to deal with it.” I slowly started to scoot my chair away from the table, “Maybe I’m overreacting, but you’re not great at being facetious.”

He threw his hands up in defeat and said, “Okay, okay, okay. I’m sorry. I’ve been told that my face isn’t very great at expressing itself.” I could see the remorse in his face, and I felt horrible. I really need to stop doing this to everyone. “So, what is it about the diner? I know we just met, but I wish you’d talk to me. There’s just something about your eyes that resonates with me. I want to know everything about the girl who spilled coffee on me,” he said, while rubbing his finger along the outside of his coffee cup lid.

I could feel a wave of warmth wash over me, I seriously needed to interact with more people, I thought to myself. It shouldn’t be this easy for him to make me feel this way. Reluctantly though, it was only fair I told him a little bit about myself, so I decided to tell him, “Okay, well since you told me your weird name thing, that diner actually used to be my parents. The place was originally named Maddy’s after my grandmother, who was also my namesake. At first, it was awesome. They bought it when I was around eleven-years-old. I spent all my summers there, my first job was there, and it was great… until they sold it. Now it’s just a run-of-the-mill restaurant. I’m just glad the new owners kept some of the nostalgia intact even though my parents’ menus aren’t there anymore.”

“I’m really sorry to hear that, it must’ve been hard having to adjust. Have you gone in there since?” he asked, and this time I let him grab my hand. First, this man is everything. He was complex, but I could still understand his quirks at the same time. Second, how did this all come out of a spilled coffee?

Before answering his question, I decided that it was time to leave before things got a little too personal. “Actually, I hate to cut this short, but I should probably get going. Swanson needs me. We can always dig into this later, if you want?” I scooted away from the table.

“Wait, who’s Swanson?”

“My cat. He’s very particular about when he gets his food,” I said while I stood and started to put my backpack on.

“Oh, you have a cat? That’s another interesting note on Madeliiiine… what was your last name? Mine’s Woods,” he said.

“Alexander Woods, huh? That sounds fitting,” I told him. I almost had to stifle a laugh to cover up the irony. This man looked like a lumberjack, and his last name was Woods. He was definitely going to hear about this later; if there is a later. “I’m a MacCarthy. Not like Melissa, more like the usual Scottish last name.”

“So, Madeline MacCarthy. That explains your hair and eyes. Are you Scottish?”

“You know what Alexander, seriously. Let’s save this for another time. I really need to get home to Swanson.”

“Alright, alright, alright. Let me give you my number and we can meet again? Maybe next time you won’t get my shirt dirty,” he joked.

I pulled out a scrap of paper from my backpack and a pen, “Sure, actually, here’s mine. Don’t lose this,” I grinned.

“Oh, trust me. I won’t.”

 

Digital vs. Analog Writing

Click-clack-click, click-clack-click, are the sounds of the keyboards’ keys beneath my fingertips as I type out this writing log. Ah yes, we’re in the world of digitally typed up manuscripts, roughly written down notes, and the inconsistent savior we call auto-correct. The simplicity of typing gives us such ease that we almost forget how nostalgic it is to put pen to paper. Our pens/pencils sit idly by on our desks in cups, drawers, or pencil pouches.

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My QwerkywriterS: a typewriter-inspired BlueTooth keyboard

More often than not, they’re only picked up to keep our hands busy.

While our fingers tap away at the keys, our pencils sit in their designated areas woefully. Thier erasers untouched, the points left either unsharpened or brand new, and they’ve never felt the warmth of a hands’ embrace; or at least, they don’t remember the feeling. Even the iPencil gets more attention than the average pencil or pen. It comes with the ease of digitally drawing or writing, as well as the several options the iPencil plus the iPad gives us.

However, the iPad isn’t the only thing that provides us several options when it comes to the digital world. As I’m typing, I’ve found that you can read this more legibly than if I were writing this by hand.

I’ve often found that I tend to take advantage of the ease of access during a digital writing session. The thesaurus is just a mouse-click away (even though there’s a physical one on my desk), and instead of drawing out photos I can just Google them. However, there is something that writing with a pencil gives us that typing on a computer doesn’t and that, my dear readers, is nostalgia.

Picking up your handy black Ticonderoga, shoving it into the sharpener in front of a class or at your desk, and cramming that #2 pencil onto a piece of paper can take you back. Writing by hand can give you more nostalgia than typing will ever give you, (Unless you have one of those orange desktop key covers from fifth grade – ya know, the typing test ones?).

Regardless, just look at these results! The differences between the two are so clear and obvious.

Halfway through the “old-fashioned” writing, my hand cramped up! I’m not sure if it’s the many years of 12-hour RockBand marathons, or if I’ve been writing too much, but ow! Also, did you notice the cursive? It seems as though it’s a lost art in today’s society. My fifteen-year-old brother was never taught how to sign his name or write his ABCs in cursive and he’s already in ninth grade! It’s ridiculous.

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Just a few of my pen/pencil cups.

I remember back in first-grade when we got those little handwriting journals to practice in. They were always my favorite because we got to write in the books and you don’t get to do that often. Still, to this day, I’ll admit I love workbooks. I’ve even bought a few from Barnes&Noble, ya know, the “100 Writing Prompt” or “List Yourself” books? They’re usually no more than $10, but I love them. Like I said, there’s just something about writing in books that is just so revealing and, here’s that word again, nostalgic.

It seems as though nostalgia is the number one difference between the analog and digital worlds of writing. Yet, how important can nostalgia be if we continue to ditch our pens/pencils in their rightful places? I’ll tell you all one thing, I’d choose the click-clack-clicks over the hand cramps any day. While nostalgia may be a fun characteristic of life, we’ve evolved into the digital world for a reason: simplicity.

Yes, I said it.

Simplicity.

The digital world has made it to where we can avoid those writing cramps and illegible notes. It’s wonderful that we have the option to alternate between the two as we desire unless you’re an online student like me… then it all has to be digital. Fortunately though, currently I can watch Freaks and Geeks while typing this blog, so the all-online option definitely has its perks.

Now, don’t forget about the pens/pencils you’ve bought and forgotten. While they may be with others in their many jars, they could still be used for art, writing, or just simply jotting down reminders. So, next time you go to write, pick up a pencil and let it take you back to the days in grade school before you learned how to type.

Also, make sure to keep up with me these next few weeks.

There’s bound to be more.

 

 

Podcast: Fiction

From the time I learned how to read, I’ve always read fiction. I could get lost in Wonderland or Hogwarts, just by opening up a book. The simple stumble into a couple hundred pages could result in many hours, or even days, spent entwined in the content between the cover pages. Yet, one of the best parts is the smell. Oh, the smell of a book. If you’re an avid book reader who’s in love with printed literature, describing the smell is almost impossible. It’s easy to get lost in it. Just picking up a book and sniffing the pages, old or new, it’s enticing. A digitally printed book doesn’t even compare to a hard copy, especially since a hard copy could be placed on a shelf. Personally, I love having my books on display.

Ah, the display. IKEA really has some fantastic bookcases even though they’re cheap. Alphabetically organized and divided between read and unread, the books give off a floor-to-ceiling library effect. Now, let’s not forget about the people responsible for my aesthetically pleasing case.

There are currently 266 books, or rather 178 authors that are alphabetically aligned on my shelves, but let’s get down to the authors I have the most books from. Off the top of my head, there’s JK Rowling (who we all know and love), Danielle Rollins (a, as she puts it, candy-coated horror novelist), and Chuck Palahniuk (who you might know as the man behind Fight Club).

These three authors have the most books on my shelves, and here’s why:

For one, all three authors write in some form of fiction. Whether it’s considered fantasy, horror, or transgressional, fiction is always my go-to.

Joanne Rowling, or JK Rowling, is the writer behind the entire Harry Potter franchise. Naturally, I have more books of hers than I do anyone else’s (besides Chuck’s) and I’ve been reading and rereading her books since 2006.

The Harry Potter series has had such a big impact in my life. Right from the start, my mom read me 60 pages a night so I could get through them before the big AR tests we had. Now, for those of you who don’t know what AR tests are, they’re Advanced Reading tests we used to have to take in elementary school. We got points for each one depending on our grade and I was number 2 in all of the fourth-grade class of Martin Walker Elementary, all thanks to JK Rowling and her magical books. Immediately, I got hooked on Severus Snape (RIP Alan Rickman), Mad-Eye Moody (may he rest in peace, as well), and all of the mythical creatures throughout the books. While the series may be finished, Rowling still continues to produce widely-loved novels even to this day. I’ll always appreciate the boy who lived under the stairs, and I’ll always appreciate the woman behind it.

Danielle Rollins is a different story. She’s a fireball with her words. One minute I’d connect with a character and the next I’ll start feeling queasy due to some gory scene she slipped in. Her books are like roller coasters and if you go under her pseudonym, “Vega,” they just get gorier. Now, I’m not talking Saw-gory, because she is technically candy-coating some of the scenes and the books are for young adults. Yet, somehow, someway, I can’t read them all the way through without taking a few breaks. Rollins, or Vega, has published a total of six books, and I barreled through them in a matter of weeks. Now, let’s get into my all-time favorite author, Chuck Palahniuk.

From this point forward, for the sake of not mispronouncing his last name, I’m going to refer to him as Chuck. Chuck is a trangressional fiction novelist who refers to his fans as Chuckleheads. All of his books plotlines were written so that the main character broke out of societal norms. For instance, in Fight Club, the main character got tired of working a nine-to-five job, so he started doing illegal activities after hours. Which, coincidentally, I can’t talk about due to the number one rule: “Don’t talk about fight club.”

Chuck has published a total of 21 books and I have 17. Alphabetically, by book title, there’s Beautiful You, Choke, Damned, Diary, Doomed, two copies of Fight Club, Fight Club 2, Haunted, Invisible Monsters, Invisible Monsters Remix, Lullaby, Make Something Up, Phoenix, Pygmy, Rant, Snuff, Survivor, and Tell-All.

Surprisingly, there’s actually a story behind one of the copies of Fight Club. On Black Friday, my fiancé and I woke up at 7am to go and get a signed copy of it. Now, we didn’t meet Chuck because he wasn’t there, but we now own a signed first-edition copy of Fight Club and we’re planning on putting it in a shadow box. It’s become one of our prized possessions and we don’t let anyone touch it, which sounds obsessive, I know, but the Chucklehead in me can’t resist.

Anyway, I think that’ll be enough for this podcast. I hope each and every one of you go out there and find a good book, get lost in the pages, and have the same experience I do when I find a new favorite. Make sure to keep up with me to find out more about the vast world of literature, multimedia topics and the study of writing.

Reflection

My composition process changed by switching to a more audio approach because I had to think about how I’d say it while I typed it. I included commas where I’d usually take a breath.  On Microsoft Word, I typed up the blog so I could read it easier. That way, I could double-space the text and increase the readability. Overall, this was an interesting and fun experience and I’m glad I finally did a podcast.