Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Volume of Mundane Adventures, Episode 2

We return now to the adventures of Agent D...




     We'd been stuck in the same room for weeks, months...maybe years. Always They forced us to do the same tasks, stacking contradictory knowledge into a pyramid of confusion. Always They forced us to examine the Numbers, the omnipresent, omnipotent Numbers. The undercurrent of their presence ruled our thoughts, our words, our calculators. They left us one option of escape, but the consequences that followed would leave indelible marks, marks that sent even the bravest reeling. Fools took the easy way out and tried to brush it off. Fools tried with only half their hearts and failed, earning, in the end, only suffering.

     I was one of the misfortunate thousands who had to suffer through the Numbers.

     My line of work calls for a cool, calm, and collected demeanor. I'm never allowed to show my true feelings, no matter how strong my emotions may be. There are always people depending on me, always lives at stake, dangling from the thread of my false bravado. I can't crack. But that doesn't stop me from being afraid.

     As I approached the building, the building with the Numbers, my stomach twisted into knots more tangled than the pretzel I wished I'd eaten. The structure stood like an iron sentinel, challenging my confidence. I wavered. What was a simple agent against something so terrifying? Something that not only managed to snare countless hostages, but could keep them placid and obedient for months at a time? I shook my head. I couldn't let Them sense my fear. I had a mission to complete.

     I threw open the double doors and strode into The Room.

     The Room boiled, full and brimming over with tension, the roiling nervousness eating away at our minds. I wanted to reach out, reassure the frightened people that it would be alright, that after today we wouldn't have anything to be scared of anymore. The calculators couldn't hurt us. I stared at the machine in my hands, craving reassurance. The machine stared back, its exterior blank and cold. I swallowed. The calculators couldn't hurt us. 

     They handed us papers, each sheet whiter and more sickening than the last. Scattered laughter did little to mask the curling scent of fear and spiking heart rates. I was silent. I had to focus; if I didn't... Well. If I didn't, then the calculators wouldn't be the only thing to fear.

     Silence fell. The frantic scratching of lead on parchment, the clicking of keys, the occasional whispered curse word: those weren't noises. Those were the tangible outworkings of our numbed minds, a mere outworking of the Numbers. They were a curse of The Room. Nothing more.

     Someone stood up. They gathered their papers, their pencils, their calculators, and strode to the front of the room. Then they did the unthinkable, the unimaginable: they handed over their paper and left. Hope sparked in my heart, and I bent over the paper with renewed fervor. I could get out of this alive.

     Soon enough, I completed my task and surrendered it to our all-seeing overseer, then fled. I wouldn't know know if I'd succeeded or failed for weeks, months even. But I felt sure that I hadn't hoped, hadn't believed, hadn't suffered for nothing. The Numbers hadn't wholly claimed me yet.

     Later the truth would unmask itself, crashing in clearer than daybreak and washing my mind of its fear. My doubt slipped away, and I allowed myself one tiny smirk, one little exhibition of triumph.

    I smiled knowing I'd passed Probability and Statistics.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

In Which I Survive A Haunted Golf Cart Ride

     I went back to Kansas. And this time I didn't wait more than six months to write out my thoughts about it.



     It’s not every day you get to survive a haunted golf cart ride.

     Three of us, tingling with excitement, squeezed onto the vinyl seat. We were elated that the S’s had chosen us, deemed us worthy to endure the exhilarant terror of the golf cart. What more was there to life than this? Then the engine roared to life, and I knew immediately that we had made a terrible, terrible mistake. The contraption bucked and rattled, clearly unhappy with new presence of such na├»ve, inexperienced passengers. I knew deep in my shaking bones that pleading for mercy wouldn't save us, so I clung to the metal bar with all the desperation of a warrior making their last stand. My friend held onto me for support, but I'd already volunteered to speak at her funeral; I couldn't keep her on the mad chariot of death if it chose to cast her away. Mr. S. had promised that the seat belts would protect us, but where were the seat belts? 

     However, despite all our expectations, we somehow emerged unscathed from the wrath of the haunted golf cart, and that glorious ride is indelibly seared into my terror-tinged memory. Near that new memory is an old one, recurring echoes of the gang I somehow started last workshop. I longed for those friendships to return, but they belonged in another week and another year. Still, I came back to Kansas expecting sameness.

     Of course, this workshop was different, gloriously different, but I still wanted the same answers, the same peace and joy I found last year. Instead, I found a different kind of sameness in a handful of all-too-familiar emotions. Sadness. Fear. Loneliness. I shook them off as best I could and tried my hardest to Have A Good Time. I mostly succeeded, but the expectations lingered. At the top of the list floated the longing for another workshop epiphany. “Fair Winds and Following Seas” gifted me with the courage and humility I needed to finally become the person I’d been afraid to be. But this week passed without another blinding realization. Instead of driving away my ghosts, the workshop seemed to intensify them, amplifying the noise in my head until I couldn’t hear anything else.

     Then one day in critique group, my friend handed me back my excerpt. She’d circled all the ‘I’s in one paragraph, revealing far too many of that particular pronoun for a few sentences to contain. While I didn’t think much of it at the time (beyond a note to revise my narrator’s train of thought), those spirals of ink contained that missing epiphany: my life is a paragraph with too many ‘I’s.

     As a narrator of a first-person novel, it’s impossible not to talk about myself. However, no two novels are the same. Some narrators choose to begin each sentence with themselves, with an ‘I’. They talk about the things they’ve done, the things they’ve accomplished, the golf carts they’ve survived. But others manage to find different subjects. They manage to talk about anything and everything, and when they do talk about themselves they gloss over it with a grace that lifts others up and fills them with excitement.

     I’m that first narrator. The proud, selfish narrator that can’t think of another way to begin a sentence.

     To be fair, I’ve done my share of interesting things. In Kansas alone, I danced and sang on stage with a myriad of joyful personages, joined the dab squad, wore multiple tiaras, and impersonated Darth Vader. I even survived a haunted golf cart ride. But I forgot that even though the narrator is important, there are other characters in our first-person novels. Some of those characters are known and well beloved, while others are little more than annoying necessities. The richest stories explore these other characters and acknowledge how important they are, even if we don’t always like them. Even if they hurt us. Even if we give and don’t get anything back.

     My workshop epiphany reminded me that my first-person novel is very much a work-in-progress. I’m still afraid to walk into a roomful of people, my perseverance is weaker than my muscles, and wonder is awfully hard to come by—and that’s not even mentioning such unattainable things as selflessness. But the workshop managed to penetrate all my cowardice and weakness and teach me one thing: life’s a little bit like a haunted golf cart ride, One has to have courage to get on it, to do what we know we should, and, before that, the perseverance to wait for our one glorious turn. But when that turn comes, we hold on, screaming and laughing, to the wonder of that ride, because after the sadness, after the fear, after the loneliness, there is always joy.



Thursday, April 13, 2017

An Ode to Benedict Cumberbatch

     Going through some of my old(ish) documents has yielded many odd gems. My festive Marxist Carol provides flourishing evidence of this. Going through the aforementioned old documents has also convinced me that my writing is rather awful I should share more "creative" bits of writing with the vast, unpredictable, indelible world of the internet. For once, then, it will not be myself who shall be kept up all night, weeping over such misfortunate creations. Instead, it is you, my dear readers, who must suffer.

     Disclaimer: I in no way claim to be good at poetry, and realize this supposed follows no sort of expected Reason, though it does Rhyme. Thus, I apologize in advance for the agony this brief piece might induce.

     Second disclaimer: In the intention of preserving honesty, my source for many of the names used in the poem is this blog, rather than my imagination: benedictcumberbatchgenerator.tumblr.com




Oh Bombadil Countryside,

Your name is known both far and wide.

(On the internet it cannot hide.)


Oh Benadryl Claritin,

Is messing up your name a sin?

(At least we don’t say “garbage bin”.)


Oh Beetlejuice Snickersbar,

Your name is heard both near and far.

(Were the letters formed on a distant star?)


Oh Burgerking Wafflesmack,

Why does your name sound like a snack?

(It always reminds us of cookies we lack.)


Oh Blenderdink Crumplehorn

Why are your characters so forlorn?

(Perhaps your name is what they scorn.)


Oh Britishguy Sillyname,

Nothing is greater than your fame

(Even if no one can pronounce your name.)


GIF found on giphy.com

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Marxist Carol


     By way of a hastily cobbled together explanation...

     In a certain literature class, a certain teacher has his students give speeches rather than write essays. Occasionally, he will include an option to tell a story in the midst of possible speech topics. As my mind follows odd pathways sometimes (read: always), I opt to take advantage of this opportunities as often as I am allowed. While  these stories are generally ludicrous (and probably childish), they seem to bring some measure of joy to the class. For in this harrowing journey through school, life, and the universe, one needs all the laughter one can do.

     Thus, without further ado, the Wandering Typewriter presents...




     Okay, yeah, so maybe I’m kinda the reason Karl Marx had an “economic breakthrough” and shoved his ludicrous ideals on the world, but hey, I had my reasons. Very, very good reasons.

     Alright, fine. I was bored. In fact I’d just been forced into a marathon of Keeping Up with the Kardashians; Kim’s crying face was clouding my judgment--and my will to live. Well, technically I’m not alive to begin with. I’m a ghost. But that doesn’t mean that fake reality TV doesn't bug me, or that I’m unemployed. Take that, starving college students. Well, I suppose shouldn't taunt them too much--my job is to send out other ghosts to haunt people. I don't know where I squeeze in the time to binge Youtube and Netflix, but somehow I do it. But hey, I'm not complaining; someone has to be in charge. Besides, humans need this service of ours--they generally won’t do anything without outside prodding.

     I entertained the idea of haunting Thomas Jefferson with the specter of Alexander Hamilton (it’s hilarious how long he’ll argue with a ghost after the inevitable initial screaming), but instead I decided to be “responsible” and opted for something that would stay out of the history books. American history books, at least. Americans tend to ignore world events and zero in on their two hundred year blip of existence.

     I glanced at my roster. Two of my crew had just gotten back from their respective hauntings: one from Denmark, one from Africa. I sauntered out of my office and snagged them both before they went home--cashing in on a favor, I said. What favor, they said. You’ll see, I said. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come had been floating through the hallways all evening, ostensibly trying to figure out how to work our semi-corporeal vending machines. I grabbed them too.


     Oh, also: when I’m not haunting people, I like to dabble in economics. A few centuries ago you might have called me an expert, but I’ve long surpassed that. What’s after expert? Master? Wizard? All-seeing Sensei Ghost of the Stock Market? Anyway, I felt like annoying some poor unsuspecting student, a business major, perhaps; someone unimportant in the grander scale of human history.

     If my choice in TV shows didn’t tip you off, you should know that sometime I have really terrible judgement.

     I’m not sure if Karl Marx greeted me in expletives or spluttered a polite invitation to sit down and enjoy some hot tea and biscuits. Hard to tell with German.

     “Tonight,” I said, “You will be visited by three spirits. One--well, I don’t want to ruin it for you. Listen well!”

     I receded back into the shadows and let my man Hamlet do his thing. He emerged, armor and all. Marx puffed up like an overly optimistic cookie batch.

     “Karl,” Hamlet wailed, “ I am thy father's spirit, Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night--”

     “Vhat?”

     “Revenge my foul and most unnatural murther. The bourgeois, Karl! They stole my life, like they stole everything else. Bah!”

     Marx stroked his beard. “You are sure? They seemed such good, hardworking folk.”

     “No! If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not. Avenge meeeeeee….” He howled, and disappeared into the wall behind him, armor and all.

     Marx, shaken, returned to his work. If I had an eyebrow, I would raise it. Hmm. Less scared than I’d expected. Well, next in my lineup was none other than Mufasa--that would show him. I’m not sure how the lion managed to create a pseudo-African storm in such a cramped room, but as he spoke, the room boomed with thunder.

     “Karl, you have forgotten me,” he rumbled.

     “Who are you?”

     “You have forgotten who you are, and so you have forgotten me. Remember who you are. You are a champion of the proletariat, and the one true visionary economist.”

     “But--”

     “REMEMBER!”

     The clouds disappeared. Marx stared at them like he was expecting something to pop out of them, then shook his head.

     “I do not have time for zis. I’m late--Engels awaits me at ze factory. I must--”

     Like a Nazgul descending from the heavens, The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come materialized and screeched in his face. Marx screeched back and dove to the floor, trembling.

     “Mercy--please! I vill change--I vill never vork again! I will...share this visdom you have imparted to me. Vill that be enough? I vill protect the proletariat with my life.”

     A few assorted Ringwraith noises later, the Ghost disappeared. So did Karl, except he ran, screaming, out of the room instead of vanishing, howling, into the ceiling. I decided to leave too--the Netflix wasn’t going to watch itself. You might wonder how I could exit so calmly after such a screw-up, but listen, this isn’t the worst thing I’ve done in my haunting career. Actually, perpetuating communism is pretty high on the list of my mistakes, but hey. It’s easy to live with yourself when technically you aren’t living at all. And at least Marx learned something: listening to the advice of fictional ghosts is way more important than actually going out and working.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Volume of Mundane Adventures, Episode 1

     Sit down. I may knock you off your feet with the sheer magnitude of the tale I am about to unfold.


     My story begins on a Wednesday night.

      I pull into the Kroger parking lot, radio at a somewhat reasonable volume because, even though there's nobody there to complain about the music, I am a Safe and Responsible Driver. It's cold, so after I cross the street I run into the store like I've just stolen the Declaration of Independence. I snap, an echo of the Doctor summoning the TARDIS, and the automatic doors slide open.

     The real business, the Serious Business that called me forth through the cold and lonely dusk, begins.

     I'm wearing a flower crown, but that doesn't mean I'm not intimidating, oh no. I march through the aisles like a have a purpose--I do have a purpose. There are few people in the store, which minimizes the casualties. Anyone who is unfortunate enough to stumble into my path will most certainly regret it. I have a mission.

     I grab the Items of Utmost Importance and move to pay for them. I'm not a criminal, just carrying precious cargo--so precious that I couldn't even sacrifice the time to wait in the one-person line. I walk up to the self-checkout like the adult I'm not and pay for the Items in cash. I collect the change and leave, snapping again as the automatic doors part before me.

     I walk out of the store carrying my mission. My Items of Utmost Importance. My precious cargo. 

     I walk out of the store with twenty-four Reese's Cups.

Monday, March 13, 2017

In Which I Finally Talk About Kansas

     Hello. College decisions are snapping at my heels, school looms dark and cackling in the near future, and I have a screenplay to finish. What's a blogger to do?

     I'm going to finally talk about Kansas.

     Now, this shan't be about Kansas as an abstract concept; I don't know enough about the state to summarize it, except perhaps as "it felt like the inside of a water bottle that had been left outside Too Long". Instead, it shall be a short essay. A sappy essay. An essay I wrote to get into college. And guess what? It worked.


     Let's begin.

     Once upon a time, I accidentally created a small gang. The fact that we succeeded in instilling some amount of fear into the local authorities surprises me and worries others. However, our actions are rendered somewhat less alarming when one considers that we were at a writing workshop, and the “local authorities” were our venerated teachers.

     Yes. A writing workshop. This summer, I was blessed to take my own masterpiece--that is, the somewhat vile first draft of a novel--to the flat otherworld known as the Sunflower State. Why? Well, the workshop prominently featured “critique groups”: a handful of writers in a hot room who are given permission to gently shred one’s ideas to bits. And who doesn’t want their writing pulled apart and examined under the microscope of a second opinion?

     Gentle sarcasm aside, I journeyed to Kansas to learn; learn how to hone my prose, learn if I wanted to pursue writing as a career, learn if I was any good at putting words on page or if I should dump my draft into the nearest recycling bin. As one can see, I had expectations higher than the little bumps the Olathe locals called “hills”.

     In reality, the week in Kansas not only taught me how to improve my craft, it taught me to overcome fear. No matter how hard they try to deny it, everyone has something that keeps them up at night. However, besides the ordinary sort of worries, like spiders or someone we love getting harmed in some way, we have slower, deeper-rooted fears. Rejection. Betrayal. Abandonment. Every small disaster serves to reinforce these fears. Though I doubt most people have dueled their closest friend to the death at sundown, other things mirror and intensify the emotions that could lead to such a violent act.

     Back to Kansas.

     There I stood, fresh off the airport shuttle and marveling at the lack of mountains. As I lugged my suitcases through the cloudburst and up the stairs, I wondered what the week would hold. Would I return home with the contact information for a dozen new friends? Or would I pass the time in relative loneliness, acquiring knowledge instead of friendships? To save myself disappointment, I was inclined to resign myself to the latter, despite the twinges of self-pity accompanying that decision.

     Enter the first group of writers.

     The Narnian garb and the talking bacon pillow might have thrown many people into mental acrobatics, but I’d been around enough creative types to merely accept it. What shocked me was how friendly these people were--particularly the ones who’d attended past workshops and had therefore already established strong friendships. One of them in particular was rather famous in that community of writers, having won the highly competitive novel contest among other things. I was shocked by their inclusion of me in their antics. Was this workshop already breaking from the mold I’d cast for it?

     The journey to the cafeteria interrupted my musings. After squeezing into and subsequently extracting ourselves from a booth, we journeyed to the first session, which announced the theme of the week: “Fair Winds and Following Seas”. Besides giving us a beautiful explanation of the metaphors in that phrase, the leader entreated us “not to hide in the introvert corner”. And so, in accordance with the nautical feel, I started testing the waters. Or, stripping away the metaphors, I started making friends. Soon, the aforementioned gang was born and the rest of my initial fear melted away.

     The rest of the workshop sped by, cramming a bookful of knowledge (as well as the odd smattering of top hats and late-night explorations) into a few short days. Nobody wanted it to end; the atmosphere, the people were too lovely to leave.

     Saturday, the last day, dawned.

     I returned my keys and waited for the airport shuttle amid literal weeping. It seemed like everyone was hugging someone like it was the last time they’d see them--and it probably was. Honestly, the only thing keeping my eyes dry was the looming threat of missing my flight. As I was finishing my goodbyes, I noticed a young lad, rather well-known in that community of writers, wandering about, hugging essentially everyone he talked to. As I had spent a bit of time with him over the course of the week, I went over to bid him farewell.

     He hugged me for a long moment. As I tried not to cry over a goodbye to a stranger, he looked me in the eyes and told me to read John 16:33: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

     The moment passed. The shuttle arrived, I flew home and reality resumed its normal course, but I doubt I’ll ever forget that moment. It captured the soul of the workshop. Yes, we were utterly ridiculous, we had deep conversations about figments of our imagination, we walked about in cloaks and tiaras, but in a few short days we learned to care about strangers like we’d known them our whole lives.

     In Kansas I learned I didn’t have to be afraid, especially of other people. Yes, I still worry about what people think, what they could do to my ego or reputation. But often I think about the workshop and remember, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

Thursday, November 17, 2016

In Which I Am /Technically/ a Senior Citizen


     I vanished for a while; surely I've been up to something interesting.

     ...hmm, surely I can think of something... Let me just fish around in my memory a bit.....

     ....

     What day is it?

GIF found on reactiongifs.us

     In all seriousness, though, what have I been doing? And why did I disappear yet again?

     Well, in short, I ran out of things to talk about.

     Actually, I ran out of things to talk about, then when I did have something to talk about I ran out of time. An observant reader might point to NaNoWriMo as the source of my busyness. However, my novel remains gloriously unwritten in lieu of a screenplay and college essays. Speaking of these essays, I'm quite pleased with how one turned out and shall probably post it shortly. (Hint: it involves my sojourn in Kansas.)

     As I have several deadlines ominously wielding machetes in the distance, I must cut this short. Good luck to my fellow senior citizens. I mean, we're seniors in high school, at least, though I suppose our lack of a career negates any retirement money we could try to claim, barring time travel, of course. Or something like that.