The midsummer sun was pounding down on me while I dug my hands into the dirt. I could feel the wetness in the layers of mud as I kept sifting through the moist soil. My daughter’s voice ran through my head after every rinse in the water hose, just wear gloves, Gideon, but I never listened—why would I? I liked the feel of it. The grunginess of my hands after a long day outside, they made me feel like a mechanic. At first, I thought it was unusual that planting flowers and various herbs was my way of escape, but it felt right. So, I quickly got over the judgmental stares of passersby watching a six-foot-tall man with his knees in the dirt because I kind of had to.
Today though, it wasn’t about the flowers or the herbs. Today, I was tasked with tearing apart the dirt in front of my daughters’ home. Tasked to destroy what was once beautiful, but it had to be done. There were unwanted dandelions, chickweeds, purslane, and bluegrass interrupting the growth of the sunflowers and morning glories I planted a few months ago. These pesky weeds were relentless; they kept coming back, even over the summer. Although, I could never understand why she couldn’t do this herself. All it took was a good pair of gloves, and a little patience. The task was easy, but ever since we buried her husband a couple months ago, she wasn’t motivated to do any of the outdoor chores. Although, I was amazed that she even invited me over—my wife must’ve had something to do with it. We never got along, even before my grandson’s father died. Our relationship was fine, but it was always uncomfortable. The tension was inevitable though; she’d never forgive me for what happened.
My thoughts were quickly interrupted by a checkered ball hitting the window and landing in the array of weeds in front of me. Soccer. They were playing soccer. My grandson quickly rushed over, apologized, retrieved the ball, and ran back to continue playing with my daughter before I could respond. I looked over and she didn’t acknowledge me; she was still mad. She’s lucky my wife was persuasive enough to get me here.
Last time I saw my daughter was a week after the funeral when I let slip that I thought his son should return to his biological mother. I’ll never understand why she couldn’t let him move back. She always had this way about her where she just had to control everything; including him.
His son’s life was never just his, just like my daughter’s was never really hers. After my son-in-law was six-feet-under she had to start anew. Discover who she was, where she belonged, and what she needed to survive. She barely scraped by after his passing, it’s no wonder she never let his son leave her side. Don’t get me wrong, I love the kid; he just doesn’t love us. The word grandpanever came out of his mouth, but collectively we were a familyfor over a decade. It wasn’t his fault though, it was his fathers. He alienated them from us, and if I hadn’t have done what I did, I’m not sure how much longer it would’ve been before I lost my daughter completely.
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.
I’ve published 49 things over the span of four years. That’s it. 49. Well, now there will be 50. What started out as a basic journal, has turned into a plethora of things. Projects from school, NoWriSum (which I inevitably quit), and various other writings.
So, what about this deems me as a writer? On average, I’ve written 12-13 blogs each year… which sounds ridiculous. However, “writer” is still plastered on all of my social media platforms. I’m constantly talking about how I want to be a published author, yet I can’t sit down and write for the life of me. Does that mean I’m any less of what I claim to be? Well, I don’t think so…
The majority of my writing has been about things that have occurred in my life, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As Jake Gyllenhaal says in Nocturnal Animals,
“Writers don’t write about anything other than themselves.”
That isn’t direct, but it was something along those lines and it’s 100% true. I’m going to let you all in on a little secret… Madeline is a more extreme version of myself (read about her here in chapter one). She’s introverted, she has a long-haired cat, and she daydreams a lot. There’s more to her than just that, but ultimately the whole idea of Madeline has come from my main personality traits.
After I watched Gyllenhaal, (who, let’s face it, I’m madly obsessed with… especially in Nocturnal Animals), play a writer and use such relatable quotes, I’ve come across a few realizations:
(for anyone who creates, just replace your hobby with “write”)
You don’t have to write every single day in order to be a writer. As long as you put your all into things you do write, you can deem yourself a writer all you want.
Blogs are not just for the followers. Just because you think people aren’t reading it, doesn’t mean no one is.
If you ask your friends to read your blogs or even drafts you’re unsure of, they most likely will if they really want to support you and your craft. I’m not sure why it took me so long to figure this out… but it turns out that it’s true.
Writing isn’t meant to just give and give and give. Ultimately, you’re writing for yourself. So, if you love writing and just want to put all of your thoughts into a notebook/Word .doc, then do it! You don’t need to share your thoughts with the world if you don’t want to.
Support goes two ways when you first start out, it’s all about spreading your work as far as you can. If you have friends/family who want support from you, ask them to read something you wrote in return.
Don’t second guess! Writing is hard. Carving through mental blocks, rereading things in your own voice, or just opening up the laptop is hard. If anyone tells you otherwise, then they haven’t struggled to run a blog. It might come easy to some, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for everyone.
Writing comes in many forms. IT’S A FORM OF ART! Writing can be random poems, songs, cute paragraphs you write to your significant other or friends, vents you write in the notes section of your phone, or just random typography that you doodle in your notebook. Writing itself is subjective.
Learning how to market is a must if you’re going to continue to pursue a lifestyle as a blogger/author. While it’s just as important to write for you if you’re going to take on writing as a career… it’s also important to share your blog wherever you can.
Unofficial ninth tip: Try to pull inspiration from anywhere you can! Producing quality photos for a bookstagram is just as important as the actual content. Create eye-catching photos, use editing software (Lightroom and VSCO are my go-to), and just have fun!
Ironically, while I write this… my bookstagram has remained on standstill for a little over a week, and the last blog I wrote was published a few days ago. However! This blog is also going to work as an advice/motivational piece for a later Danielle–which is always nice. So, I hope that whoever reads this uses it in the same way. Keep these tips in mind. They’re valuable tidbits I’ve received from friends, fellow bookstagrammers, bloggers, and classmates. Some of them are things I’ve told myself since I started my English Writing degree last May (’17). However, no matter where they’ve come from, they’re always going to be useful and to all my fellow artists, writers, poets, liberal arts majors, songwriters, or whatever else you deem yourself…
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.
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.
It was a humid, yet chilly Wednesday night; which oddly isn’t unusual for Texas. The sun had just left to awaken a new part of the world and I was just getting off work. As soon as the clock hit 10:23, I would leave the confinements of C.R. Clements and set off to my destination: home.
Copperas Cove, Texas was a small town that I knew like the back of my hand. It used to only take 20 minutes to get through the entire thing, no matter which direction you went through. Surrounded by five hills, with a school district that worships the Bulldawg football team and faculty scandals, Copperas Cove isn’t a place that is well-known. Yet, it’s very close to the third biggest military post in America: Fort Hood (1). Primarily made up of military brats (me included), the town only holds 32,000 people as of 2016 (2). So, it’s a melting pot.
Now, the school that I worked at was my old intermediate, my fifth-grade alma mater, and where I walked the halls as a part of Ms. D Smith’s Snakes; my homeroom class. As a freshly graduated eighteen-year-old, it was a bit uncomfortable to walk the halls as a custodian, but I did it anyway. I started the full-time custodial position in August of 2014, so by November, I was already three months into my job. At the time, I was living with my mom and I was about to hit my one-year mark with my boyfriend Cody Lee. We started dating my senior year of high school, but we went through a long and winding path until we finally were the complete high school definition of official; it was on Facebook. However, we won’t go too far into those details because they’re pretty personal. Let’s just say, that we were both involved with other people when we first started hanging out, I met his parents, he met mine, and we were basically dismissing the inevitable.
“You know you like him, I don’t know why you’re staying with that guy who hasn’t talked to you in two weeks,” my mom would say while I’m on my way out the door to see Cody.
“I know. I know. I know. I have to break it off because we’re going through the same cycle of nonsense that we go through. Every. Single. Time,” I’d tell her.
This wasn’t the exact conversation, but at the time I still dismissed it. Eventually, I realized I wanted to be with the beautiful brown-eyed boy I met in the aisles of Wal-Mart a few months prior. So, I had to break it off with the guy in Indiana who had been ignoring me for weeks. Since he blocked me on Facebook (wow, I was clueless when I was seventeen), I decided to text him and break off the relationship officially before we finally crashed.
Cody on the other hand, well, his story is for him to tell. All you need to know is that, after months of self-doubt, we officially got together on November 12, 2013.
After he got off a shift at Wal-Mart at 10pm, he walked up my parents’ driveway with a bouquet of roses and asked, “Will you go out with me?”
To which I promptly replied, “No,” and walked away.
“Okay then,” Cody said as he walked back to his Suzuki Forenza.
“No, no, no stop, wait! I was kidding! Yes,” and I ran up to him, put my hands on his face, and kissed him.
Now, there we were almost an exact year later. November 11th. While I was walking to my car after a long shift, my “David Tennant as the Doctor” text tone went off and I checked it.
Are you still coming over, Cody asked. (We had an agreement that I’d sleep at his parents’ house tonight because we stayed at mine quite a few in a row.)
So, I texted him back: Yes? Let me go get my things and I’ll be right over.
Drive safe. Text me when you get there.
I arrived at my moms’ house at around 10:40pm, sent a quick text to Cody, and went inside to get my stuff and tell my mom about my day. It was my usual routine, so I grabbed my makeup, hair products, pajamas, and a few outfits. I always tended to overpack, so it all went into a suitcase. After a year of dating and sleepovers, Cody’s parents were definitely used to me hauling in my things. So, I updated my mom, said a quick goodbye, and as I headed out the door she said, “If he proposes, you better come back here and tell me.”
“We’ll see,” I yelled back at her as I shut the door.
When I pulled up to Cody’s house, I texted him that I finally arrived at around 11:45pm. The moon was glaring through my ’77 Chevy C10’s windows and the air was cooling down. As I got out of my truck and went to grab my array of bags, David Tennant went off again.
Just come in the front door… don’t knock.
The text wasn’t usual. The whole thing wasn’t usual. So, I decided to leave my bags. Cody would’ve normally helped me with them, or he would’ve at least came out and opened the front door for me. Walking straight into the house though? That never happens. The door was always locked after 10pm. However, I continued my journey down the driveway and up to the front door where there was a note. Since this was a few years ago, I don’t remember the exact words, but I believe the note said to walk inside and follow the clues.
Inside the house, the lights were dimmed and there were red rose petals scattered on the floor. On the side table, next to their brown pleather couches, were more rose petals and another note. It read:
Danielle, if you’re a piranha. Then I’m a piranha.
The next note is where we baked our first batch of cookies together.
The saying was from Finding Nemo. Originally it was from the little girl in the dentists’ office, named Darla, who tried to shake Nemo awake (3). She was kind of a terror. Sitting in the dentists’ chair, she revealed her braces and said, “I’m a piranha.” Somehow, it evolved from there.
On the way to the next note, I avoided stepping on the rose petals on the destined path while I walked through the house. The next note was found on the kitchen table, also scattered with rose petals. This makes note number three over a span of maybe thirty feet from the front door to the back door. The clues were unneeded, but they were such a nice touch and the moment felt so surreal. My mom’s voice was running through my head, “If he proposes, come back and tell me.” Nevertheless, I continued to read the note:
I love you to the moon and back, now check the back door.
Quickly, I looked behind me. The back door was unlocked, but there was a note covering the peephole. This made note number four. Which simply said to open it and when I did, Cody quickly told me to shut it which caused my anxiety to act up. I started to get a little shaky, but I only waited a few minutes before I cracked the door a little and asked if he was alright.
“I’m fine, I’m ready, come on out babe,” he said.
I walked onto the back porch and there was a fire going with stuff for smores on a chair next to it. The air was only getting colder, so I was glad that I was wearing my letterman that night. Along with the fire, the smores, and the cool winter night, there was Cody. Kneeling on one knee in a suit holding open a silver box.
My hands flew quickly to my mouth. I was in complete shock. After all of the clues, I kind of knew what was coming. I had my mom’s voice in my head yet, I still couldn’t believe what was going on. My boyfriend, of a year almost on-the-dot, was kneeling in front of our favorite pastime; roasting marshmallows.
“Danielle Mahriahna-Skillings Johnson, will you marry me?”
Tears streamed down my face before I could even get the words out; this moment was so surreal. “Yes, oh my gosh, yes!” He stood up, put the ring on my finger, and it fit perfectly. I was seriously in-awe that he remembered my ring size; I couldn’t believe it. He wrapped me in his arms and I just continued to cry. After all the failed past relationships I went through in the past to get to this point; I was engaged, I was happy, and I was utterly in-shock.
It immediately hit me that I had to tell my mom. It couldn’t wait, and she wouldn’t have liked it if I waited until tomorrow. I had to tell her. So, I told Cody and he said that he already knew we would have to go over there. In fact, he planned to take me back home afterwards to tell her regardless.
So, we walked back in to the house and both of his parents were standing there in their pajamas with their chihuahua. They were in on the whole proposal the entire time.
“Welcome to the family! Even though you’re already like a daughter-in-law to us,” they said while hugging the both of us. I still couldn’t believe it. I was going to be an AllBee.
In this blog, I’m going to discuss a Creative Non-Fiction piece and answer a few questions. This piece, in particular, caught my eye because of the name and the hook the author wrote in the beginning. The following is a link to the piece itself by Jane Bernstein:
Summary:The Marrying Kind is a short essay about the narrator getting ready to officiate the wedding of someone they’re very close with (the bride). She then proceeds to discuss more in-depth on the lengths her officiating goes through, bringing up her past marriage, the several weddings she’s officiated, and her relationship to the first bride she writes about.
At first, she doesn’t think she would or should do it. She thought that an online officiating site was just a scam until she joined her first couple in matrimony. After that, she continued to keep on going. Marrying people left and right. Same-sex couples, different religions, different families, she just kept going further on her quest to be an officiator but she still only married couples who she felt were in love.
Now, for the questions:
1. How does the form contribute to the meaning of the piece?
The form of this essay is traditional and it carries several descriptive characteristics. It’s estimated at around five pages of text and it kept me hooked throughout the entire thing. While this essay could’ve fit into the “shell” of a hermit crab essay, I feel as though the traditional route was better in this instance. Throughout the piece, the author incorporates several different factual statements, along with analogies, irony, and a few flashbacks.
2. What literary devices make this piece aesthetic?
The author uses quite an analogy when writing about the process of officiating a wedding ceremony. They compared a wedding ceremony to a simile; the form is precise.
There’s also underlying irony in the text as well. The narrator often points out that it’s great being single, while also on her way to officiate a wedding that’s very dear to her. I found it ironic that she was relieved that she was divorced from her husband, yet she still found the sanctity of marriage to have an emotional aspect. However, this irony also gave her a reason to keep officiating. She knew all the trouble it took to be in a relationship. All the fights and the turmoil were inevitable, but if these couples were truly happy she wanted to be there for them because she went through them herself.
The author also uses flashbacks to make the story more in-depth. The narrator points out in the beginning that she knew the bride because she knew the bride’s mother. She brings up moments from the past in order to build onto the relationship she has to the bride and I feel as though it was very successful. A few would be:
the time when she felt the bride’s mother’s stomach before the bride was born
when she planned her wedding to her ex-husband
when she left her husband
her past relationships where she didn’t marry, but “played house”
In one of my personal writings that I’m working on, I’m including flashbacks as well. I feel as though this tactic is very effective in increasing relatability, depth, and potential tension.
3. What sort of ethics does the writer seem to be following?
Along with the irony that the piece has, she often points out the different characteristics of marriage. Due to her recent marriages, she predicts which couples are going to be happy and which ones aren’t by the way they interact with one another. She went through a lot of what everyday couples go through; arguments/disagreements/etc. So, she followed through with the ones she felt would last. The ethics she follows might not be solid in logic, but they’re her own beliefs and she wouldn’t go through with something she felt was wrong.
When we were young, we were so innocent. We had the ability to imagine anything. Sure, I grew up with body books, knowing where babies actually came from, but that didn’t make me any less of a kid; it just made me more educated.
“They come from the uterus, not your stomach,” said Kindergarten me at school.
From a young age, we were pushed into Young Adult novels that sparked your imagination. We created characters in our minds while we read about the green-eyed boy with the lightning bolt on his forehead (you know the one). For some of us, reading books was like watching movies in our brains and for the lucky ones, reading still gives us that feeling.
Then there were the beings that were made up for us.
During our childhoods, most of us had Santa, the strange magical man that came into your house with presents. If you were raised in Germany, there was St. Nicholas, the guy who left candy in your shoe and Krampus, the half-man/goat who punished you when you were bad. We also had the tiny fairy who came in and collected your teeth. Oh, and let’s not forget the rabbit who hid the eggs that he laid or the Sandman who “helped” kids sleep.
Yet, when we got older, our dreams were smashed. Our parents lied to us, and for what? To help keep our innocence? To keep the magic of childhood alive? I’d assume so. All of the stories were passed down through generations of families, and luckily kids were gullible enough to believe them (me included).
The only things our parents (or sometimes friends) couldn’t take away from us were our imaginary friends if we had them. Ah, our friends. If you had them, they stuck with you through it all. They were your therapists, your secret friends, they went on adventures with you and hopefully kept you out of trouble.
These all sound great right? Why can’t the friends you make in the real world match up to the imaginary? Well, to be honest, while your imagination is what came up with your seemingly life-long friend, there are always downsides. For instance, my imaginary friends weren’t all that friendly. In fact, they weren’t necessarily my friends at all.
Ever since I could remember, there were creepy things in the dark. I would imagine faces between the figurines in my room. There would be figures standing over me, I would see shadows lurking. And none of it was actually there. I told my parents about it, which resulted in two kinds of therapy. The one where you play board games with a psychologist once a week, and the other that draws your blood, talks to you and tells you what meds you could try; a psychiatrist. Some think they’re the same thing, but in my case, they weren’t.
They weren’t just for the spooky things though, they were also for my inability to concentrate, but we might get to that later.
Anyway, the spooky monsters didn’t exactly leave. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s seen them or imagined them, but they’re the reason I can’t watch paranormal or scary movies that are set in houses. The overactive imagination grew with me, hence why being an artist/writer came so easily to me.
I wish I could say I was making all of this up for some kind of metaphor. I could say that the creepy monsters were the inevitable adulthood that I was growing into. I could make them into a meme that has their creepy faces plastered with the words “anxiety,” “bills,” or “heartbreak,” but I won’t.
Instead, I’m going to leave it at this:
Despite the childhood figures getting crushed in my brain by stories told to me by friends or classmates, the monsters still stayed. No one could take them away from me, talk them out of my brain, or prescribe anything for them. The only things that seemed to help were the stuffed animals that are still on my bed. The monsters still didn’t leave though, they were just not as noticeable.
They still show up when I’m in the shower and close my eyes.
They’re still standing outside in the distance of dark windows.
They’re still in my room when my lights or TV aren’t on when I’m asleep.
And yes, they are also under my bed when my leg or arm is hanging off.
While I write this, I realize it’s coming off a bit cliche. Who doesn’t see things in the night or hear things bump around in the dark? I’m sure everyone has at some point. Yet, that’s not the principle of this. I’m writing about it because I’ve yet to talk about it… and because I just met Sully in Supernatural.
As Lakoff and Johnson state in Metaphors We Live By, life, in general, is a concept. It’s a concept that we cannot understand because it is not obvious (Lakoff). However, it’s up to us on how we choose to live that concept. Sure, it’s easy to dissect and evaluate your own life, but there always seems to be an underlying meaning behind it all. The simple four-word sentence I wrote above could be dissected in a number of ways, so here I am to do just that with help from the aforementioned book.
When anyone asks what I do, the first word that comes to mind is “writer.” Yet, it used to be “artist.” I often wonder why it can’t be both. Writing is an art. It’s a form of expression and it leads to a result you’re proud of; even though you’ll always be your worst critic. After all, writing is never perfect and neither is art.
In Metaphors We Live By, they used the metaphor “argument is war” as an example. They said that if we were to change “war” to “dance” we would view arguments differently (Lakoff). When I think about war, the first words that come to mind are strategies, defense techniques, artillery, military, treaties, and foreign countries (unless it’s a civil war). When I think about arguments, the first words to come to mind are defensive, close-minded, social media, debating, and a resolution. By combining the two, it makes the word argument out to be this horrid thing when in fact, it can be eye-opening. However, would comparing an argument to a dance make arguing come off as any less evasive? Yes, yes it would, but would it make the statement about an argument being similar to war any less true? No, it would only lighten the load a little.
Well, let’s get back to the original metaphor at hand. “Writing is an art.” When we take the two contents of the metaphor; writing and art, what do you get?
Personally, when I think about writing, I think about pens, pencils, laptops, BlueTooth keyboards, and notebooks. Coincidentally, art involves most of those things too. When you write, the whole point is to put your voice on a page. When you draw you’re putting your personal view of things on a page. No artists are the same, they merely contain different mediums or styles, just like writers do. Except in the writing world, we call our styles our, well, styles and we call our mediums fonts.
Putting a pen to paper, a brush to a canvas, or your fingers on a keyboard are all similar. They all do one thing: express the style of the person behind it.
As a writer, I feel it’s important to consider writing as an art. It’s not just a task you set out to do just because you’re assigned a paper or have to write a resume for a job. Writing is another form of expressing yourself, as I stated several times above, therefore, it is an art regardless. While you read you can create your own versions of the stories you read in your head. You create the images, but the writer creates the imagery. The mind is such a crazy, imaginative, and wonderful thing and when you express yourself, it’s even better.
Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. Metaphors We Live By. Univ. of Chicago Press, 2011.
Music is a universal language. The simplicity of listening to a group of instruments and vocals can result in a complex mood change, or even help create a memory of someone/something significant. A strategic rhythm set to a beat can get stuck in your head in an instant. The magic of a symphony in an auditorium can give you goosebumps—especially if you’re listening to John Williams or Stephen Sondheim. Luckily, today there are several other ways to listen to music other than live. Whether you’re looking for country, rock, pop, indie, folk, opera, metal, or post-hardcore, music will always be powerful. However, in this case, we’re only going to narrow the vast subject that is music down to one genre and one band.
The subject: Dance Gavin Dance. The adjective: post-hardcore. The collective noun: band. Established in 2006, in Sacramento, California, Dance Gavin Dance consists of five members: Tilian Pearson (clean vocals), Jon Mess (messy vocals), Matthew Mingus (drums/percussion), Tim Feerick (bassist), and Will Swan (lead guitar). This band contains a lot of attributes towards grammar, not only with their lyrics but with the group members themselves.
To further explain what “messy” vocals are–they’re vocals that are “screamed” into the microphone. They create an intense effect on the lyrics and exaggerate (or italicize), their meaning. By switching between messy vocals and clean vocals, the band creates different rhetoric altogether.
Usually, the messy lyrics would consist of primarily utter nonsense, but when Jon Mess screams them, they somehow seem to fit. For instance, in their song “Chucky vs. the Giant Tortoise,” the line (or should I say a sentence): “Riding a rhino pico de gallo. Roosters beak, I’ll go to sleep when I leap that jeep,” is screamed by Mess (CITE). Even with the rest of the context, it’s unusual:
“[Jon Mess] I’ll go in cryo and return to life h-. And make a Bisque, some tomato basil s—, Riding a rhino pico de gallo. Roosters beak, I’ll sleep when I leap that jeep. (Mess)
[Tilian Pearson] Don’t close your eyes tonight. Perfect melodies are hard to find. I got a feeling we could touch the sky.” (1)
When you listen to the lyrics, they come off a little easier. Also, since the “screamed” lyrics aren’t entirely necessary for some of their songs, Jon Mess’ portion would/should be surrounded by parentheses.
Tilian also partakes in partial “messy” singing. He often switches back and forth between the two when it’s necessary, but he isn’t the “messy” vocalist because he doesn’t scream. His way of choosing either way of singing would be the perfect example of a slash in grammar.
The simple act of singing and playing their guitars/drums would be their verbs. They play their guitars, drums, and bass. They sing/scream their lyrics. The names signed on their instrument cases are an example of apostrophes because they’re possessive. Also, in brackets next to their part on their lyric sheets, there should be the bands’ names.
While each member plays an essential and vital role in the band, Tilian and Jon are the direct objects because they’re always front-and-center. The rest of the group are indirect due to them playing in the background and supporting the singers. However, musically, each instrument couldn’t stand alone, or else this wouldn’t be a post-hardcore band (since they can’t stand alone musically, this would be an example of a conjunctive adverb).
Dance Gavin Dance has changed a lot since 2006. They’ve gone through several members over the years. The band cycled through Jonny Craig and Kurt Travis before Tilian came along in 2013. Before it was just Will Swan, he played alongside Sean O’Sullivan back when the band began; before there was Tim Feerick on bass, there was Eric Lodge. These weren’t the only switches over the bands lifetime, but we’re only going to focus on the 2018 edition of the band. Coincidentally, there hasn’t been a change in their role-call since 2013.
Before their sets, the owner of the venue announces the band, which would be an example of metadiscourse. The owner informs the audience who’s up next, and Tilian tells the audience what song they’re going to play. These announcements would result in the venue owner or Tilian being considered as the appositives due to them explaining who’s next or what song is up. Along with these announcements, a colon would be placed on the general admission ticket or flyer announcing the set: “The Black Sheep Presents: Dance Gavin Dance and Chon, featuring Eidola and Vasudeva.”
Most of the bands’ cohesiveness (or when all the words in a sentence link together to give the sentence more meaning), is when the members are all playing together. For their music to make sense and stay in rhythm, they must agree with one another. Each member of the band must make sure that their hands and mouths are playing/singing in coordination with each other. In general, all bands must follow this rule, or they wouldn’t thrive and continue to gain fans. Coincidentally, the coordination between the band members results in a hyphen. They’re used for word division, yet they also combine words. In this case, they’re combining the members. Without cohesion or coordination, Dance Gavin Dance’s music wouldn’t be able to create the symbolism they have, which would result in a lack of underlying meaning in their music.
For instance, in their song “Here Comes the Winner,” there’s plenty of symbolism behind it if you read between the lines. The song was released in 2016 when the presidential election was going on in full force. One of the verses (or clauses) in the songs suggests that all the public figures were lined up on a stage to win the hearts of America. They incorporated a few political statements within the messy vocals, and altogether they made everything agree.
Another line that could be used to show symbolism is a verse from their song “Inspire the Liars”:
“So, let’s start a religion, they’ll believe in what we say. Let’s start a religion; we can blind their eyes with faith. A new religion, we’ll tell them where our spirits go. Start a religion; I need my ego to explode.” (CITE)
This verse is towards the end of the song, and it symbolizes the “cult-like” mentality of some of the religious groups in society. It suggests that some of the religions result in “blind” followers and that people will follow anything that interests them.
Throughout their songs, there is a known-new contract. As you listen, you begin to learn the choruses (the known) and are gradually introduced to the verses (the new). In this “contract” they also created ties into their listeners’ expectations, (or readers expectations). Their fans expect their set to flow together and their music to keep with their usual style, (or the way they establish their overall mood or meaning). To keep the contract and the expectations of their listeners up-to-par, the band also needs to keep their (sentence) rhythm.
Rhythm is among the top qualities every type of band needs to know. If one instrument/singer is off-beat, then the whole group is off. The bands’ rhythm would be where the punctuation would set in. Their music breaks between lyrics could be considered as semi-colons because they create a new mood. The breaks between their songs would be considered commas due to the literal breaks between independent clauses (or songs). The line, “Are you ready?” would end in a question mark, and their lyrics all contain quotation marks around them because they’re direct quotes coming out of their mouths.
The choruses could pass as a predicate. They’re the primary voice in the song, and they contain verbs that state something that they’re doing or are going to do. For instance, in “Inspire the Liars,” the chorus represents an antithesis (by showing opposition in one sentence), and a predicate: “Say you want to know the truth, well you can ask me a question. I’ll tell you something that you may wanna hear, but I’ll lie” (3). The chorus states that if you want to know the truth about something, then you should ask them even though they told you they’d lie. So, why ask them in the first place?
The choruses could also represent parallelism because they’re repetitive and show importance throughout the song. Their parallel structure is consistent throughout all their music when it comes to how often their choruses are played.
If Dance Gavin Dance were to break down, it would result in over-excessive songs with minimal lyrics or meaning—which could also serve as a run-on sentence, (or in some cases a comma splice). Luckily, to decompose the system a little, music breaks (or their form of semi-colons), can help divide up the extended run-ons or potential comma splices.
Musically, the band creates a solid post-hardcore sound altogether. While they’re not the only band in this genre, they are certainly unique in their own way. Since 2009, they’ve had a significant impact on my life. A big part of the reason why I got into Dance Gavin Dance was that of their unique song names and unique verses. It’s part of their style and their voice. Actively, they sing these lyrics with pride and create their overall rhetoric by doing so. Dance Gavin Dance proves that music is universal with their take on the genre they’ve been placed in. With their careless demeanor and their relatable lyrics, this band really puts the phrase, “fake it ‘til you make it” to good use with some of their songs.
Mess, Jon. I’ll go in cryo and return to life h-. And make a Bisque, some tomato basil s—, Riding a rhino pico de gallo. Roosters beak, I’ll sleep when I leap that jeep. “Chucky vs. the Giant Tortoise.” Mothership. Vinyl. Interlace Audio Recording Studios. 2016.
(1) Pearson, Tilian. Don’t close your eyes tonight. Perfect melodies are hard to find. I got a feeling we could touch the sky. “Chucky vs. the Giant Tortoise.” Mothership. Vinyl. Interlace Audio Recording Studios. 2016.
(2) Pearson, Tilian. So, let’s start a religion, they’ll believe in what we say. Let’s start a religion; we can blind their eyes with faith. A new religion, we’ll tell them where our spirits go. Start a religion; I need my ego to explode. “Inspire the Liars.” Mothership. Vinyl. Interlace Audio Recording Studios. 2016.
(3) Pearson, Tilian. Say you want to know the truth, well you can ask me a question. I’ll tell you something that you may wanna hear, but I’ll lie. “Inspire the Liars.” Mothership. Vinyl. Interlace Audio Recording Studios. 2016.
As I laid my head down on the already fluffed pillow, I heard a small sound. At first, I wasn’t sure what it was or where it was coming from. It sounded almost in agony, yet it was so soft, so quiet; I didn’t realize it was coming from my own bedroom. Quickly, I threw my maroon comforter off of my recently cocooned body and I got up. My first instinct was to turn on the flashlight on my phone and check under the bed.
Around the light, it was pitch black, and the chilling feeling of someone watching me crept over me. The darkness under my bed always creeped me out; I’ve seen too many horror movies. After too much overthinking, the hairs on my neck stood up; the noise was back. Except, this time, it was closer. I quickly scanned the room with my flashlight in hand and I saw it.
Or rather… I saw her.
Underneath the dark wall of clothes that lined my closet, I shined my flashlight in her direction and her shiny blue-eyes looked up at me with exhaustion washed over her face. I walked over to her and saw that the blanket on the floor was spattered with blood. I quickly inspected the area around her and at a closer glance, I saw quite a few jellybean toes, along with ten unopened eyes, and five pink and black noses. My beautiful blue-eyed baby girl just gave birth to five squeaky little kittens.
Theodore Toe-Fur Meowsevelt
Disclaimer: This is a creative non-fiction story about a 15-20 second moment in my life. I decided to write about this particular moment because it was the day my grandkitties were born (April 24, 2015). I kept two of the five and they’re pictured above.
Theodore Toe-fur Meowsevelt is the kitty on top. He almost died at six-months by eating a shoestring (you can read about it here: A Matter Of Four Days ). I’m so happy he made it through and he’s still my baby munchkin.
Patrick Meowsevelt, on the other hand, is still a chubby little man. He’s definitely grandpa’s cat, but he’s very particular and judgmental when it comes to who is in his house. They’re both such characters, and they’re little punks, but I love them unconditionally.
To read more on my boys and their mama, see the following: