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.

November 12, 2014

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.

Chaos: A Short Play

Characters

Psylas Grayson

Willow Grayson (Psylas’ mom)

Denny Grayson (Psylas’ dad)

Doctor James Lanham

Doctor Margeaux Skillings

Doctor Michelle Fillmore

Waiting Room Guests and Nurses

Time: The present

Setting: A hospital waiting room

The curtains open to a hospital waiting room. Psylas and his mom are sitting in two individual chairs amongst several other impatient spouses and family members. There’s a woman sobbing in the corner. Kids are playing in the little waiting section made especially for kids. Psylas’ grandma, Aimee, just went in for heart surgery. Psylas and his mom are sitting and waiting for a result from the doctor.

Psylas: Where’s dad?

Willow: I’m not sure hon, he said he was on his way. You know how he gets when his mom gets put in the hospital.

Psylas: Are you serious? (His voice raises slightly.) I thought he put the whiskey away… he just earned his 5-year chip from AA.

Willow: Honey lower your voice please… I didn’t want you to find out. Ever since your grandma got diagnosed with heart cancer, he’s gotten off the wagon. It’s been tough since your grandpa died, I don’t know if he can take losing another parent.

Psylas: Mom… why didn’t you tell me?

Willow: I didn’t want to worry you. You’ve been so focused on finishing your degree, I didn’t want you to lose your focus. Plus, I knew you would’ve told Johanna and I don’t want our business out there like that. Especially since you two had a falling out after your trip.

Psylas: Mom, if you would’ve told me not to tell her, I wouldn’t have told her. It’s okay.

Willow: I know sweetie, and you know I love her to death. I just didn’t want anyone else to know. I’m sorry, I should’ve told you.

Psylas: (Puts his hand on his moms’ leg to comfort her.) It’s fine mom, I just wish I would’ve known.

(They continue to sit there for a little bit with Psylas’ hand on her leg. A couple minutes’ pass before they see Doctor Lanham come out onto the stage. Psylas and Willow stand up almost immediately and notice Dr. Lanham’s sullen face.)

Psylas (whispers to Willow): I don’t think this is going to be good news…

Willow (whispers back to Psylas): We don’t know that Psylas, calm down.

Psylas: Mom. Just look at his face.

Willow: Shush, Psylas.

(Doctor Lanham walks up and shakes both of their hands.)

Doctor Lanham: Hi Psylas, Mrs. Grayson. Let’s have a seat. (Gestures towards the seats they were just sitting in.)

Psylas: (panicky) Something’s wrong, isn’t there? Why else would you be telling us to sit?

Doctor Lanham: I’m so sorry Psylas but…

(There’s a loud crashing sound made off-stage and the left side of the stage breaks apart. The guests in the waiting room scramble away. Nurses and doctors run towards the accident to make sure no one was hurt. Willow shields Psylas, while Doctor Lanham shields them both.)

Doctor Lanham: (stands up.) Doctor Skillings! Is anybody hurt? Where’s the driver?

Doctor Skillings: Luckily, the car only managed to reach the second pair of double doors in the lobby. Nobody was hurt, but we had to call the firefighters to get the driver out so we can assess his injuries. The front of the car was pretty smashed up.

Doctor Lanham: Psylas, Mrs. Grayson, I’ll be right back. I should make sure the driver is all right.

Psylas and Willow: It’s okay. Go ahead.

(Doctor Lanham runs to the scene.)

Psylas: (Looking towards the sound of the wreck.) Um, mom. Isn’t that dad’s car?

Willow: Hon, do you have any idea how many Toyota Corollas there are out there?

Psylas: Mom… I have his plates memorized. That has to be dad.

Willow: Why on earth do you have your dads’ plates – you know what, forget it.  Let’s just find out if it’s him or not.

(Doctor Lanham runs back to the Grayson’s.)

Doctor Lanham: I’m sorry, but your father has just been officially admitted into the E.R. It appears that Mr. Grayson has been driving under the influence, but we’ll take good care of him.

Psylas: Oh, kind of like how you took care of my grandmother?

Willow: (yells) Psylas! Stop it! Doctor Lanham is doing his best.

Doctor Lanham: I’m so sorry Psylas, but I have to go.

(Doctor Lanham walks off-stage.)

Psylas: Go check on him mom, I’ll stay here to see if anyone can give me an accurate update on grandma.

Willow: Are you sure? I don’t want to leave you.

Psylas: Yes mom, go. Be with dad.

(Willow walks off-stage to check on her husband. Psylas finds a seat to sit down in for a moment to think about what just happened. A few moments pass until Doctor Fillmore comes into the lobby holding a clipboard.)

Doctor Fillmore: Hi, Psylas. I’m Doctor Fillmore. I was one of the surgeons on your grandmothers’ case. Has anyone told you anything about your grandmother?

Psylas: Not exactly, but I have a bad feeling that I already know what happened.

Doctor Fillmore: I’m sorry Doctor Lanham got caught up in the wreck, but I have your grandmother’s charts right here. Your grandmother passed away due to a tear in one of her arteries. She lost way too much blood and her…

Psylas: Her age prevented you from defibrillating her heart because it was too weak because of her age. I thought so. (Tears start to fall down his face.)vAlso, she signed a DNR so you couldn’t bring her back anyways. There wasn’t anything else you could do.

Doctor Fillmore: Oh. Did Doctor Lanham already tell you about this?

Psylas: No (Sniffle.), but when he kept apologizing. I kind of took the hint. Plus, I’ve watched a lot of Grey’s Anatomy with my old friend Johanna. I know it isn’t accurate, but I’ve done the research involved in some of their cases (wipes face with his shirt sleeves) and some of the outcomes are realistic.

Doctor Fillmore: Well, Psylas, (Hands him a handkerchief from her jacket pocket.), shows like Grey’s give us a bad reputation, but your prognosis was accurate. I’m so sorry about your grandmother.

(Pyslas starts to sob. Doctor Fillmore puts her arm around Psylas to comfort him. Willow comes back onto the stage. Psylas sits up.)

Willow: Psylas. Oh, Psylas. Doctor Skillings told me what happened to Aimee. Come here. (Wraps Psylas in her arms.) Doctor, can you give my son and I a moment alone?

Doctor Fillmore: Yes, of course.

(Doctor Fillmore leaves the stage.)

Psylas: Um, mom. How’s dad?

Willow: Your dad’s going to be fine. He managed to get away with a few minor bumps and bruises but he’s okay. However, he was really drunk so they put him into a room so they can watch him overnight.

Psylas: Does he – Does he know about grandma?

Willow: No… he doesn’t. Doctor Skillings and Doctor Lanham thought it would be best to wait until he sobered up a bit before telling him any bad news.

Psylas: That makes sense. I can’t believe this happened. Grandma and I were so close. (Sniffle)

Willow: I know baby, but we’re going to be alright. Let’s go check on your father.

Psylas: Okay, mom. (Continues sobbing down the hallway, holding onto the handkerchief Doctor Fillmore gave him.)