Friday, July 30, 2010

Things You Forget

Sometimes forgetting your wallet is a lot like forgetting your address. You know where it is but can't get to it right now. Yesterday, on my way to the gym, I figured I'd stop at Borders to pick up a new journal, and I'd go to Bi-Mart too, since it's next door.

I had this super saver coupon for Borders, and actually wanted to stop on Tuesday, but then I remembered I also had a gift card left at home, so I waited. Thursday rolls around, like a marble in the dirt, and I make sure my coupon and gift card are in my purse before taking off.

Then I get to Bi-Mart. I never go to Bi-Mart. I haven't gone there for at least a year and a half, ever since I moved towns. But I still have my Bi-Mart card. A Bi-Mart card is like a Gold Circle Club card, only it allows you access to flannel and discounted cans of cashews. Regardless, you need it to get in.

There I am, in the parking lot, rifling through my purse looking for my wallet so that I can pull out my flimsy plastic yellow card to flash at the employee standing at the door, who will then let me swirl myself through the rotating metal gate. I swear these particular Bi-Mart employees are exactly like bouncers at some hot Hollywood club, only they are lacking in biceps and wear red cotton vests. Or is it blue? It's been so long I don't remember.

Only thing is, I can't find my wallet. So I figure, it probably fell out in the car. So I walk back to my car, look around, and find nothing but a used paper cup. It's then that I remember that I left my wallet in my book bag, which I toted around at a three day conference earlier in the week. My initial reaction is to drive home immediately to get my wallet, because no wallet means no driver's license, and that is breaking the rules. Logic hits and I realize that the only other place I am going is the gym, and I will go home straight after that anyway. So whatev.

But I still want to go to Borders. Luckily, my gift card has just been sloppily thrown in to my purse, much like how a child puts away his toys. Though if I had thought to tuck the card into my wallet while at home, I probably wouldn't be in this predicament. I do some mental math and figure out how much I have left on the card. As long as I don't buy a journal worth more than eleven dollars, I'm good. Plus, I've got the coupon.

I walk inside. The AC hits me and it's like cold sheets on a hot summer night. The smell of a bookstore is much better than the smell of a library. While they both have that really excellent scent of thousands of pages, the bookstore boasts freshness. No water damage or boogers found in the middle of pages.

If I could write my own love story, I'd be perusing some new literature in a bookstore when some dark-haired, handsome, artistic-type notices the book cover and says something to me like "Oh, I read that while vacationing in Italy." And I'd ask him how he liked it (both the book and Italy) and he'd describe it all to me, and we'd get to talking, and there'd be so much to talk about that he'd ask me to coffee, and I'd say yes even though I hate coffee. But then I'd order tea and he would tell me how he plays the guitar and writes love songs for the girl he's never met, but of course now he's met me, so he can start using my name in them instead of just ambivalent descriptions. However, this will never happen to me because I'm always looking at the wrong sort of book covers in bookstores. Sophie Kinsella books rarely lend themself well to male interaction. But I digress.

There I am in Borders, looking for a journal. I find one I like shortly after, and start to do the math. One-hundred, minus the percent of my coupon, multiplied by the cost of the journal. Then what's twenty subtract eight thirty-eight? Do I have enough? It's that childhood memory of being in the drugstore, counting out your dimes and trying to figure out if you have enough money to buy the Silly Putty and the candy bar. I realize I'm twenty-three cents short. No problem, I think, I've got a coin purse. But then I don't. It's in my book bag at home, too. For a fleeting moment I think about asking strangers for quarters. But my pride and lack of confidence leads me back to my car, digging around in one of the compartments for loose change. While I'm out there, I decide to make a phone call to the Borders Gift Card Center to find out exactly how much is left on the card. With this verified information, I do some more math and realize I don't need the change anyway. But I put the coins in my pocket just to be safe.

I walk back in, find the journal again, get in line, and pray I haven't made some stupid miscalculation that will cause me embarrassment. Like maybe the coupon is only good for books with words in them, not blank journals. Or maybe my gift card is only good on Fridays. I approach the cashier. He has dark brown hair that needs to be cut. He smiles at me, and I think about asking him if he plays the guitar or has been to Italy.

I lay the coupon on the counter with the book, and he asks me "Do you have your Border's rewards card?" Because, oh shit, it's in my wallet. And you can't use the coupon unless you have your member card. Luckily for me, I drove here, which means I have my keys, which means I have my key chain, which means I have that little plastic thing on it, next to the one I swipe every time I go to the gym. Just last week I thought about taking the dumb thing off, because I don't shop at Border's that much, and I have a card in my wallet, and why would I go shopping without my wallet?

"I have this little guy," I say, as I dangle the baby card on my keys, much like how Michael Jackson might have suspended his infant out of a window, God rest his soul.

"That works," says the Border's employee. He does all of his scanning and I walk away with a new journal and fifteen cents left on my gift card. Which might be enough to buy a single tea bag, should my lover ever find me at Borders.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I need to get...

I've realized I was really terrible at writing frequently during the month of July. As of today's date, I only posted 9 different times. And there are 31 days in July. I could post 7 times a day for the next 3 days to remedy this problem. Or not. Because who even cares?

You might think "Oh, Joelle must have been really busy working on one of her novels. That's why she's been horrible at posting." But no. The novels didn't get any attention either. But I did open up one of the documents last night and read 11 pages, chuckling at how funny I'd been in a self-absorbed sort of way.

I just got home from the gym, a place I like to be, but really don't like to be, if you know what I mean. The gym gives you a lot of thinking time. Since I have the day free tomorrow, I thought about all the things I need to get.

10 Things I need to get (in no particular order):
1) with it.
2) a haircut. I'll take recommendations if you have one.
3) bookshelves for my living room.
4) a handsome suitor.
5) a clue.
6) A roommate or two. You want in?
7) toothpaste.
8) a new journal because I only have 3 pages left.
9) help.
10) out of bed.

Which, you know, pretty much sums it up.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Kiojah Tree

         In the forest there grew a young tree called Kiojah. Kiojah was small, and the color of its bark was light. The tree hoped to grow tall and straight to become a home for vibrantly colored birds and butterflies.
Kiojah grew in a clearing without many other trees. At first the rain would come often, and the tree’s leaves grew lusciously green and wide. The trunk grew thicker and birds would come to nestle in its branches.
Then the winds came. Because Kiojah was young and not very strong, the harsh winds would beat upon the tree, causing it to grow crooked. Since there were not other trees near to help endure the blows of the wind, the tree withstood it alone. Kiojah was now slanted, and its branches began to curl into twisted contortions. But the rains still came and the birds still flew to the top of the tree.
One day a grizzly bear came to Kiojah. He was enraged, furious from some dispute with another forest animal. His eyes glinted burgundy at the edges and his fur stood up at the back of his neck. The heavy bear took his claws and grated them into the white bark of Kiojah. His fury tore deep into the tree’s phloem, exposing the inner wood.
Kiojah hurt. But the tree accepted what the bear had done, because it had been told all along that its purpose of living in the forest was for the animals. Kiojah’s bark was now scarred. The cambium that had healed the slashes had grown in black.
The crooked tree with its twisty branches and blemished trunk continued to grow and stand in the forest. Its girth had widened and its arms had expanded. Other trees had grown in near Kiojah, and the height of their bodies quickly overtook the size of the tree. Kiojah’s place had become shadowy, and it had to fight for a chance with the sun.
A group of people lived in a town nearby, and they would come to the forest to hunt or to swim in the river. Men and women would walk past Kiojah, and instead of carving their initials with a heart around it as teenagers in love might, they withdrew their knives and carved into the bark their secrets and lies. Sap oozed from the tree like dark blood from a wound, for their cuts were deep and their secrets grave. Why were the people so drawn to Kiojah? So determined to reveal their betrayals? Maybe the tree’s bent body and twisted limbs reminded them of their gnarled hearts, their pockmarked souls.
Instead of displaying these etchings of truth clearly, Kiojah scarred over in bumpy knots, closing in over its wounds and concealing its secrets deep within the trunk. When Kiojah tried to heal itself of the many cuts, the new bark grew in the color of black charcoal, as it had when the bear inflicted his wrath. Because of this, the once white tree now turned ebony. Moss grew over it to disguise some of the ugliness, and the pain was well guarded.
Kiojah grew old. The shadowy place had become nearly as dark as a cave, for the other trees had long choked Kiojah out of the sun. Instead, the tree grew in the moonlight, for no one else cared to compete for the faint lunar glow. The blackened tree grew more gnarled and twisted, its bark forever scarred, its branches eternally crooked. The birds and butterflies had long forgotten the tree, landing instead in more pleasant places. Kiojah became a home for dark things—the bats of the night, the beetles with their hardened shields, the secrets and lies of hearts gone by.
The leaves of Kiojah whispered softly, asking for a miracle. Years passed as Kiojah stood there in the darkest part of the forest, where the sun hardly shone and where butterflies became a myth, their existence so rare. Parts of the tree had begun to rot; fungi overtook the crevices.
One spring a lumberjack walked through the forest and stopped in front of Kiojah. He wore a puzzled expression and stared at the tree for a long time. The tree looked down at the man and thought, “Maybe he sees a part of me that is still beautiful. Perhaps there is a patch of bark on me that is still white and unmarred.”
But the lumberjack left without a word.
He came back a few months later, a chainsaw in hand. He started the machine, which screamed and threatened Kiojah.
“Please!” The tree cried. “Please, no. I don’t want to die. Don’t cut through me, for then you will see all that I am hiding.”
The tree weeped.
The lumberjack began to saw through Kiojah, a sharp pain in the side. He thought the rain started to pour because he didn’t realize it was the tree’s tears falling on him.
It was nearly the end, for the man only had a bit more left to saw. “This is it,” thought Kiojah. “I am about to fall.” Kiojah glimpsed its death with fear.
The man finished sawing the last inch of wood and the great tree crashed to the forest floor, dead. Everything was over. All of Kiojah’s pain and suffering, secrets and lies, were revealed in the rings of the trunk. It could be hidden no more.
The lumberjack took a step toward the stump of Kiojah, surprised at what he saw. Though the bark of the tree had been slate, the core of the tree was a soft white. What amazed the man the most was the shape of the rings. Because Kiojah had closed in on itself so much to heal all of the pain, the rings had twisted out of a circle and instead formed a perfect heart. Heart ring upon heart ring, surrounding Kiojah’s core.
Kiojah did not know, could not know. The dead tree had forgotten how it had started and could not see what was truly inside itself. But the white heart was there. It had been there all along.
The man stepped back silently and smiled. Kiojah’s beauty had been revealed at last.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cover your ears

Of course on the day that I get to sleep in, I wake up at 7:20 to the sound of construction workers hammering nearby. It basically sounds like they are popping popcorn in the microwave, if the microwave were larger than a house and the kernels were made of aluminum. I can't see the building, due to the giant tree separating my house from the construction zone, but I am going to go out on a limb (haha) and say that they are nailing on the roof. I'm guessing this because yesterday I drove by and saw a conveyor belt angled up to the rooftop, transporting packages to the top. Which I guess would be normal if you were Santa and it wasn't July.

So there I am, lying in bed, ears pierced by the sound. To make matters worse, I didn't go to bed until two a.m., because I went out last night. Not that I have a hang over or anything. I totally don't. But I don't feel like eating anything, either.

I half think about opening my window and grabbing one of the squirrels that lives in the giant tree to sling-shot him over and try to knock the irritating construction guys in the head. Only, you know, they're wearing safety helmets.
 My anger is assuaged only because I have a massage later this morning and know I'll be able to sleep mostly naked on a table for an hour while listening to tweeting birds and crashing oceans as a stranger twists my shoulders and cracks my spine.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Meg Cabot Interview

Make sure you read the "Insatiable" post first. It's below this one.

As much as I would love to contact Meg personally, this is a lot faster. Here are the good parts of an interview she did with Oxford University Press Blog. To read the whole thing, click here.

OUP: If you were bitten tomorrow, and had to choose a vampire name, what would it be?
MC: Well, obviously, Meg Cadaver.
OUP: If someone attacked “Meg Cadaver” with a stake, and you only had Dracula to block the blow, would it work?
MC: Absolutely.  My super vampire strength, combined with the amazing power of Bram Stoker’s prose, would easily defeat their piddling human arm and wooden stake that was probably made by Ikea.
OUP: If Dracula had a Twitter handle, what would it be?
MC: The possibilities are so endless . . .
Although personally, I’d probably go with a simple 8U.
OUP: What is the most fascinating thing about vampires?
MC: They never seem to die.
OUP: What is the most boring thing about vampires?
MC: They never seem to die.
OUP: I’m upset that most modern vampires don’t wear cloaks. How do you feel about this?
MC: I agree.  In Insatiable, I gave my vampire a black Burberry trench coat, the tail of which flapped around a lot in the wind during moments of high tension, to give the impression of a cloak.  But it’s definitely not the same thing. In my defense, the only way to give a vampire a cloak in a book set in modern times and not have him stand out like a big freak is to either make him be an eccentric bestselling author, have live him in the subway tunnels of NYC with the mole people, or have him work at a Medieval Times restaurant.  None of these are particularly appealing options, especially the first.

Clearly, you can see why reading her books are so utterly entertaining. Pick one up.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I finished reading Insatiable two days ago. It's written by Meg Cabot. I know the cover makes it look like this is a super smutty romance novel (with maybe some dagger stabbing involved), but it's not really. I laughed about every other page. I'm thinking about buying a copy and mailing it to Stephanie Meyer, author of Twilight. Why you ask?

Well, here is Insatiable's general plot line: The main character, Meena, is a dialogue writer for a soap opera called--you guessed it--Insatiable. She's fighting for a promotion, but then finds out that her skinny bitch co-worker gets it instead. The boss explains that Insatiable is competing with vampire shows, such as Lust (which is obviously in reference to shows like The Vampire Diaries and True Blood). Their ratings are going to die if they don't do something, which is why the network has requested that they go "all vampire, all the time."

Only thing is, Meena hates vampires. She thinks the media hype over them is ridiculous. She's totally sick of hearing about them and watching them on TV. Since she's one of the writers, she starts planning how she can introduce a new character to kill off the vampire character that her co-worker created. Here are her thoughts:
"Vampires always seem to choose to prey on pretty female victims. And yet for some reason women find this sexy. The idea that they’re nobly restraining themselves from killing is supposed to be attractive? Excuse me, but how is knowing a guy wants to kill you hot?"

I won't reveal everything, but you should also know that Meena later meets a handsome Romanian professor and begins to get suspicious about him.

This is my favorite part.

And Alaric was very fond of his sword, SeƱor Sticky. The blade, unlike humans, did not lie. It didn't cheat, and it didn't discriminate...even if vampires were stupid. Especially American vampires. They hung out in places Alaric himself would never have gone, especially if he were immortal. Such as high schools. And Walmart.  --pg 28

In your face, Twilight.

I seriously think Meg Cabot wrote this as a parody. I recommend this book to you if you've read Twilight, because that will make it all the more humorous. I also recommend this book to you if you haven't read Twilight, because you and Meena probably share the same sentiments.

Tomorrow: an interview with Meg Cabot.

Friday, July 16, 2010

An HGTV Moment

For about two weeks I turned my garage into an HGTV design studio, where I re-painted and re-upholstered this ugly chair and three of its friends.
I think it speaks for itself.

And then I got to work and ended up with this.

The paint color is called Oasis and was left over from a design I did in my bathroom. The fabric is Indian Duponi silk, and looks mostly orange but shimmers pink in the sunlight. Let me just tell you that this project was not a two-day thing. Getting staples for my borrowed staple gun (thanks Natalie's dad) was a two-day thing. Sanding was a two-day thing. Painting was a five-day thing. And getting the screws to cooperate when re-attaching the seat was a two-day thing. But whatever. It's finished.

I added the chairs to my patio, which was quite blah, as seen below.

And then I got some more stuff to put it all together, and voila, here it is.

In the daylight...

And also,
at night. 

Here's everything I used:
old nasty wooden chairs, from a relative
Oasis paint, left-over from bathroom project
orange/pink Duponi silk, Hancock Fabrics
folding table, Target
orange and pink polka-dotted table cloth, is actually a flat sheet folded in half, and has been in my closet for years
Moroccan table lantern, Ross
mosquito net canopy, used to hang over my bed when I was a high school student
mini mirrored star, Target
bulb string lights, Craft Warehouse
various plants, Home Depot

It is pretty simple but took much longer than expected, because everything that can go wrong will such as:
*peeling paint
*having no staple gun
*having wrong sized staples for staple gun
*screws not going into side of house because my siding is practically made of steel
*having to borrow a ladder from my sister
*solar string lights not working, having to return them, and finding an alternative

But it is finished. Any one want to come over for dinner at dusk?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Surgery Update

I know I left you hanging last Thursday. Here you've probably been thinking I've been drugged up and can't even crawl to my computer to type an incoherent sentence, such as this one: i djdust cnt cee stght vry wll. Ndee grugs!

Not true. I had my surgery on Friday morning, but really I should just call it an extraction. I mean, I think I can only call it a surgery because I had an IV. All I really have to show for it is the nasty green bruise on the inside of my arm, where I was stuck with a needle. It sort of looks like maybe I shot up some heroin in a dark alley way or something. But I'm totally clean. I didn't even take any Vicodin.

I was up and active on Saturday morning, where upon I went to my sister's house to watch Lenay host Ten on Top on cable TV. Then my sis hit the county fair (for free) like we do every year. The county fair is really not that awesome, but she and I hold it dear to our hearts as we spent a week of our childhood summers there every year, like camp. (For a funny related story, read Criminal Intentions).

And I've been eating tons! The first day it was a lot of bananas and chocolate pudding, (which sort of sounds like a PMSing monkey?) but now it's just the regular food, plus the pudding. So much for summer diets. Ha!

Maybe you're like, okay Joelle, enough of your weekend and pudding cups, what was the tooth yanking like? Because you're dying to know. Basically I sat in this hydraulic chair and suspiciously eyed the tropical plant sitting in the corner while the two assistants swabbed me and hooked me up to heart monitor and blood pressure machines. Then the doc stuck me with the IV needle. I was lying there, staring up at the ceiling, not feeling sleepy or anything. I don't even remember shutting my eyes.

But the next thing I know, I'm in a dimmed room with my eyes shut and gauze in my mouth and I hear the assistant telling me to try to wake up, which is the last thing I want to do. I mean, can't she just let me sleep? I kind of blink my eyes open a bit, and about every four minutes the blood pressure arm band contracts and displays my numbers. After I manage to get my eyes open, the assistant's all "we need to try to get your blood pressure up before we can let you go home." Which you know, will be basically impossible since I have hypotension (see post Open Up Nice and Wide).

She tells me to wiggle my toes. I do. It doesn't help. I ask her what my numbers are. It's like 110 over 68 or something, which is basically the highest it's ever been. But it's not enough. So I start to do the bicycle move with my legs. I'm lying there, thinking that the nurse probably thinks I'm high on drugs, but she doesn't understand. If I have to lie there until my blood pressure goes up, I'll never go home. And I really want to sleep on my couch. After I do a few Lance Armstrong moves, the band contracts and my numbers are up.

They wheel my out, my mom drives me home, and I conk out on the couch. Oh yeah, I forgot. The entire left side of my face was numb and felt like rubber. So I poked at it a bit and it felt funny. But all that wore off within about four hours. Then I finally got to eat. So you know, super exciting.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

10 things to do before surgery

Wisdom Tooth Pulling Prep

1. Consultation w/ oral surgeon, who I discovered went to high school with my dad's cousin's wife. Check.
2. Prescription for 4 different drugs. Check.
3. Sign waiver of life. Check.
4. Find driver to take me to surgery appointment. Check.
5. Fill prescription drugs, which results in me lugging home a whole sack full of narcotics. Check.
6. Fridge full of yogurt, pudding, and applesauce. Check.
7. Books on bedside table (like my vision will allow me to read), CDs handy, journal next to bed. Check.
8. No food or drink for 6 hours before surgery. Uhhh, I still have like, four hours left to stuff my face and slurp up ice water. This is going to be super hard since it is basically 92 degrees outside.
9. Computer completely turned off so that while I am under the influence of drugs, I don't write any really emotional or revealing blogs or send hate/love messages. Not yet.
10. Mentally prepared to have my jaw chiseled and my arm stuck with a needle. Not quite.

This happens Friday at 8:15 am, Pacific Standard Time, people. Too bad I couldn't live blog it. That might be interesting. Especially the part where I'm knocked out and having psychotic visions.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Why No One Will Go On A Date With Me

           “Of course you should trust me,” I say. “My fingerprints are already on file with the FBI.”
            He regards me with a look of shock I typically reserve for the intoxicated transvestite who occupies the corner of Richmond and 5th at night.
            “I’ve only just met you,” he says. Which is true. We’ve been sitting in this booth together for oh, twenty minutes. My friend Roshanda set us up. I can already tell that this blind date isn’t going well, but it probably has more to do with the fact that our server is part of a drug cartel and less to do with my choice of hairstyle.
            “I swear to you,” I say to Sam, “I’ve seen him before. If I go home alone tonight I’m a dead woman. He recognizes me.”
            “He didn’t say anything when we first came in,” Sam says.
            Dear Lord. These dates just get dumber and dumber.
            “Of course he wouldn’t say anything,” I hiss. “What, you think he’s gonna be all ‘oh hey, I think I know you from Morton Street. You know. Because I run a drug ring in my basement and you live four houses down’?”
            “But how do you know he’s running a drug ring in his basement? Are you a cop?”
            I look into Sam’s dark chestnut eyes. He’s really quite beautiful. It’s too bad we won’t go on a second date. You know, because I’m going to be dead tonight after Mr. Tony Montana-server gets off his shift.
            “Sam,” I say evenly. “Trust me. I’ve been investigating this guy for the past three months.”
            “Investigating?” Sam raises an eyebrow. “What does that mean?”
            And okay, I get it. Doing Google searches and pulling up county property records doesn’t seem like much. But I’ve also gotten on my roof several times in the dead of night with binoculars. And maybe once or twice I’ve followed a red van clear to the next county. I know what I’ve found. By looking into Sam’s face, though, I can tell he doesn’t think I’m a sane person. He thinks he got set up with Miss Lost-Her-Marbles.
            “It all made more sense tonight,” I say, hoping he’ll forget about how I’m avoiding his questions about my investigational skills. “I didn’t know he pretends to be a server. But it makes sense. This is probably where most of his communication happens. People come into the restaurant and he negotiates with them.” I peer around the room, and sure enough, see several seedy looking characters.
            “Wait, wait.” Sam puts a hand on the table. “Pretends to be a server? How do you know he isn’t really one?”
            “First of all, his name tag says Alex, but I know it’s Alessandro. The guy owns 19 properties North of Malheur County, totaling in over five million dollars. There’s no way he’s actually a waiter.”
            “How do you know this?”
            “Public property records,” I say.“He owns 19 properties but spends most of his time in a run down house on Morton Street. Why is that?”
            “But how do you know he sells—”
            I immediately knock over my water glass in Sam’s direction and it pours all down his lap.
            “Shit,” he says. Anything to shut him up, because Alex (Alessandro really) is back with the food for the neighboring table. Like I want him to overhear our conversation. The brute-like fake-server sees Sam overreacting.
            “Can I get you a towel?” he asks Sam. Alessandro’s eyes look from my date to me. I smile nervously.
            “I’m so clumsy,” I say. “How embarrassing.”
            “A towel would be great,” Sam replies, irritated. “And maybe the check.”
            I stare at Sam, horrified. Both of our plates are still full. Our date had just started. How can he tell if I’m his soul mate in twenty-five and a half minutes? And more importantly, as soon as Sam pays the bill, he’ll leave me and I will have to go back to my house alone, where I know immediate death will quickly follow. Or at least a kidnapping.
            “Please,” I say desperately. “Don’t leave. Your life’s probably at risk now, too.”
            Sam finishes mopping up his crotch with a napkin and looks at me.
            “You’re life is not in danger. I will be fine. You watch too much CSI.”
            Which is totally not even true. I watch Glee.
            “I’m not kidding you,” I say. “Now that he’s seen us together, he’ll think you know everything that I know too.” Tears spring to my eyes.
            Alessandro’s back with the towel. He hands it to Sam and then takes me in with his menacing eyes. In a voice rougher than sandpaper he says, “I’ll bring your check in a moment.”
            As soon as our shifty server leaves, Sam says, “If you’re so concerned, why haven’t you gone to the police with this?”
            Now was probably not a good time to tell him I thought a crooked cop was involved as well.
            “I have,” I lie.
            I make up a story. “They couldn’t tell me much. Confidential case and all that. But they told me to stay away for my own safety.”
            “As you should.”
            “I can’t! He lives four houses down from me.”
            “How are you so sure he knows you know? Whatever it is you think you know, that is.”
            I don’t want to tell Sam about last Thursday night, either. About how the red van was getting loaded with boxes from the garage at three a.m., and of how I may or may not have accidentally knocked over some metal garbage cans while spying. There was a flashlight in my eyes for about two seconds, and then I ran. It’s a miracle I’m still alive, actually.
            My mouth’s still hanging open when Alessandro brings the check. This is really not how I thought our first date would go. The tears that my lids have been holding finally pop and start to stream down my face.
            “I wish that you would believe me.”
            Sam starts to pull out his wallet.
            “Make sure you leave a big tip,” I say. Like that will help.
            “Elle,” he begins, “I’m really sorry this had to end this way. I really am. I think you should call your friend Roshanda or somebody.” And then he stands up to leave, wet pants and all. I scramble out of the booth. He doesn’t get it. Hasn’t he ever watched Slumdog Millionaire? Drug lords show no mercy.
When I get outside, Sam is there, stopped, staring at my car, which is parked along the curb. I mean, I know I waxed it last Saturday, but it’s nothing breathtaking. And then I notice what he’s staring at. It’s my back tire, which is now flat. Like somebody slashed it. My eyes jump to his car, which is parked close by. His tires are fine, which makes sense. Alessandro and his gang probably recognized my car because I drive up and down Morton Street all week and park it in my driveway. Like me, they hadn’t seen Sam’s car until today. They probably don’t even know it’s his.
            Upon seeing my slashed tire, I begin to sob audibly. Sam does something unexpected by putting one hand over my mouth and grabbing my right hand into his.
            “Come on,” he says. He pulls me towards his Volvo and shoves me inside. “Pretend for one second that I believe you.”
            My tears stop and I nod.
            “What am I supposed to do about it?”  
            I guess I hadn’t really thought of that.
            “Come to my house,” I say. “I’ll show you everything.”
            Sam puts my hand down. “I thought you said that wasn’t safe.”
            “It’s not,” I reply. “But I really think something’s going to happen tonight. And then we’ll have evidence and can call the cops while it’s happening.”
            “Are you for real?”
            “Sam. If nothing happens tonight and I really am sick in the head, then tomorrow you can forget all about me. If you’re so sure all of this is fake, you have nothing to fear.”
            He surprises me again by asking “And if it’s not?”
            “Then this is about to become your most memorable first date ever.”
            Sam buckles up, starts the car, and we’re driving.
 “Where to?” He asks.
I give him some directions. We go through a few intersections, stop at a few signs, yield left, and then travel for a few miles on the freeway. I look in the rearview mirror.
“Take exit 258,” I command.
“I thought you lived near the cinema.”
“I need to get a few things at the store,” which is a lie.
We weave in and out of lanes, and get to the Wal-Mart parking lot. Sam is looking for a space. I check the mirror again.
Someone is following us.
“Never mind, Sam. Just keep going.”
“But I thought—”
“I DON’T need to go the store. It was just a trick to see if the black Highlander that has been tailing us for the past eight miles was going to keep following us or not. Alessandro probably called one of his buddies.”
Sam checks the mirror too. He presses the gas a bit too quickly and we pop over a speed bump.
“Get us out of here as fast as you can. But be casual. We don’t want them to know that we know they’re following us.”
“Right.” I sense a hint of nervousness in his voice. And clearly it’s not because of my outfit.
“This never would have happened if we had raided my trunk before leaving the restaurant,” I lament.
“Why’s that?”
“I keep a disguise box in my car. Wigs, glasses, hats, you know. The basics.”
“Right, right. The basics.” His voice cracks. “I mean, why doesn’t everyone keep a disguise box in their glove compartment?”
“I keep telling my friends.”
            It’s then that I realize we need to go through the drive-through.
            “Sam, we need to find a Taco Bell or a Burger King or something.”
            He cranes his neck and looks at me. “How can you think about a Chalupa when we’re being tailed?”
            “So you do believe me.”
            “I believe the guy behind us is following us, yes. Whether or not he’s involved with selling drugs, I don’t know.”
            “Listen,” I touch his arm. “We go through a drive-through. Order something. If he follows us, then the restaurant’s camera will pick up his face and we’ll be able to ID him later. I mean, I don’t want to be the one to hand him his Happy Meal at McDonald’s, but that doesn’t mean Beatrice behind the window can’t. We’ll get all of it on video.”
            “And then what? Is he going to follow us for hours?”
            “And then we’ll shake him.”
            I can tell by my date’s facial expressions that he doesn’t know if he should trust my idea or not. However, three minutes later we’re pulling into a Wendy’s. Perfect. I was in the mood for a frosty. Besides, Sam hadn’t given me a chance to eat my dinner at the restaurant.
            “Welcome to Wendy’s. I can take your order when you’re ready,” the box squawks.
            “Uh….a large fries please?” 
            I lean over Sam so I can get closer to his open window. “And a baked potato—no sour cream, side salad, and a small frosty please.”
            Sam’s brows show a puzzled expression.
            “What?” I say. “While we’re here, might as well take advantage. You might not get to eat for a while. Especially if we get kidnapped.”
            Sam’s eyes jump to his side mirror. Sure enough, the black Highlander is idling behind us. This tells me two things. 1) They are interested in finding out more about us, because if they wanted to kill us, they would’ve had a perfect chance while we were immobile. 2) They like their burgers cut square, or else they would’ve gone to the Sonic that is twenty feet to the left.
            “Would you like anything else?”
            “Yeah. An order of ten-piece chicken nuggets.” Clearly the reality of this is beginning to wear on Sam.
            “That’ll be $11.49 at the window.”
            We get our food and Sam pays (second dinner in one night), and then we’re sitting at the curb trying to merge back into traffic. The black Highlander is still behind us at the window, faking like they’re getting food too. But I know what will happen. As soon as we get in a lane, the vehicle behind us will dart from the pick-up window whether they’ve paid for their food or not.
“You need to wait,” I tell Sam urgently. “Wait until a lot of traffic is about to come, and then gun it. That way maybe we can get a few cars in between us and our stalkers.” If the process doesn’t get us smashed to pieces, that is.
“Right,” Sam agrees, biting his lip. Sweat beads are rolling down his forehead, like he’s actually worried or something.
Currently, there’s a big gap in traffic. A normal driver would pull in now. But we are not under normal circumstances. I can tell that the light from the intersection down the street has turned green, because all of a sudden a large stream of traffic starts cruising towards us.
I can sense Sam’s foot on the gas pedal, ready to go.
“Wait more.”
A green Nissan is quickly approaching.
I check the rearview mirror.
Sam’s knuckles grip the steering wheel.
Then, at the last possible moment, without any urging from me, Sam turns his car into the lane of traffic. I hear a screech of tires and a honk from the Nissan. Sam’s flooring it. The ominous black Highlander gets stuck behind five other cars.
“That was really excellent, Sam!” I say excitedly.
Pretty soon we’re weaving in and out of traffic, going 50 in a 35, running yellow lights.
“Start making some turns. Turn everywhere so they’ll lose the trail.”
He does. Left onto Jackson, Right down Oak. Left on Water, Right on Paloma. Fairly soon the black Highlander is out of sight, but we don’t dare stop driving.
Thirty minutes later, at 8:26, we pull into the driveway of a gray two-story house. Sam turns the engine off. I’m confused.
“Where are we?” I ask.
“My parents’ house,” Sam replies.
Here I thought our date wasn’t going well, and he’s already brought me to meet his parents.
Sam jumps out of the seat while the engine’s still on, punches a code into a key pad mounted near the garage door, and next the mouth of the garage slowly starts to open, like Jaws (if Jaws were a slow, gear-powered, gray house instead of a fast and deadly gray shark). Sam gets back in his car and pulls it inside the two-car garage. A blue Honda Civic is parked in the other spot. The door closes behind us and we’re safely concealed.
I follow Sam out of the garage and into the kitchen of the house. It’s quietly empty.
“Where are your parents?” I ask.
“Out of town on vacation.” Sam fills up a glass of water and takes a swig. And here I thought I’d get to meet my future mother-in-law.
“So what happens now?” I question. Because obviously, Sam has to take me home at some point. We can’t just hole up in his parent’s suburban home all weekend. Not on a first date.
“You’re the detective, you tell me.”
I sit down on the bar stool near the kitchen counter and ponder for a moment. I think of how we need to get back to my street, to catch Alessandro and the drug gang in action. If we only could get back to my house safely. I’ve got binoculars, radios, disguises—everything we would need. I think of Sam’s parent’s Honda parked in the garage, of his mom closet up stairs. I piece together a plan.
Fifteen minutes later, after I’ve convinced Sam to have a drink of his dad’s brandy, I start to tell him my ideas.
“Hell no am I driving my parent’s car back into town.”
Okay, so I should have waited for him to have two drinks.
“But we have to,” I plead. “And no one will recognize us. We’ll be driving something different, and we’ll disguise ourselves with your parents’ clothes. Once we get there, we’ll park a few blocks away and then hoof it to my house. Then we can catch them tonight.”
“Sam, haven’t you ever wanted to save the world?”
“No. I wanted to be a dentist.”
“Alright. Just imagine this is tooth decay. Rotting the mouth of the city. It needs to be stopped.”
We sit in silence for five minutes. Sam is massaging his temples like he has a headache, and I’m thinking of some other way I can convince him.
“Fine,” I say. “Will you at least let me drive the Honda back to my house? You can stay here. Pick up the car when you’re parents get back from the weekend.”
Sam’s eyes settle on mine, and he bites his lip in frustration. Even though I’ve just met him today, I know he won’t let me go back alone. Not now.
“I’ll go back with you,” he says in a whining voice.
“Great,” I say cheerfully. “Now about those disguises.”
Within moments I am browsing through Sam’s parent’s walk-in closet. Right now Sam is wearing dark-rinsed jeans and a red t-shirt, which shows off his biceps quite well. He needs a good disguise, maybe a mustache. I’m wearing a blue cotton sun-dress with sandals, which obviously needs to be changed. Like you can spy in a mini-skirt.
From Sam’s father’s side, I pull out a tropical printed Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts. Then I spy a set of golf clubs nestled in the back of the closet, which gives me a clue about Sam’s father. I look around for an argyle printed polo shirt and white pants, because I’d much rather be seen with a golfer than with a tourist. I show Sam his options.
“How is that going to help me go unnoticed?”
Geeze, picky picky. He probably bought one of these shirts for his father for Christmas.
“This is just your driving outfit.” I yank a black shirt and pants off the hangers. “When you get to my house of course you’ll have to dress like a ninja.”
“I’ll wear that on one condition.”
“I get to pick out your outfit.”
“Go for it.” Like it was a big deal. I’d be wearing whatever get-up he chose for forty minutes, tops. Once we got to my house I could slip into my black cat suit. That’s just an expression. What I mean is, I have dark clothes and a black beanie at home. This isn’t Entrapment.
I watch as Sam thoroughly enjoys himself picking out my disguise. He pulls out a long denim jumper and a peach colored top. I instantly grab it from him and hold it up next to me. He can see that the jumper is seven inches too long, and about ten inches to wide. Not that I’m calling his mother fat. Sam recognizes the problem and instead chooses a pair of shorts that fall nearly to my ankles, along with a mint green shirt with a picture of a kitten on the front. I’ll do her a favor and not return the shirt. Eyeing a basket of accessories, I start to dig for a belt, because I know I am going to need to cinch those shorts to hold them up. I also find a pair of sunglasses and a hat. I grab all of the stuff and take it into the master bathroom.
“Get dressed,” I command as I shut the door. After slipping in to my roomy disguise, I root around for make-up. Discovering a tube of Mary Kay lipstick, I apply the red cream generously to my lips. Next, I place the hat and sunglasses on and look into the mirror. I burst out laughing.
“Check this out,” I say, opening the door of the bathroom that joins the bedroom. Sam is standing there, trying to buckle a belt around his dad’s chinos. He wasn’t wearing a shirt.
For a guy who aspired to be a dentist, he sure did have nice abs. They were rippely and sort of tanned and I swore he flexed them on purpose as he pulled on his knit polo shirt. Even so, I couldn’t help but snicker. Clearly Sam is taller than his father, because the pants looked like high-waters.
            He looks in the mirror at himself, then looks at me again. Laughter erupts from his lungs. It sounds like it is coming from deep within, from inside his soul or whatever. I start to laugh some more, tears springing to my eyes.
            I grab my sundress. “Got your ninja clothes?”
            “Let’s roll out.”
At ten-thirty we are picking through bushes in the dark, trying to get to my back door. We ditched Sam’s mom’s car three blocks over.
“Ouch,” Sam whisper-screams, and I know he’s just been attacked by the blackberry bush thorns. “I can’t see anything,” he whines. Which is totally the point. If he can’t see anything, then nothing can see him. Which means we’re safe.
“Come on,” I say, grabbing his hand and pulling him along. I’ve traversed this bush tunnel once or twice myself, though never on a date. Sam’s hand is rather large and I feel dumb holding it, because right now it’s like I’m his mother, dragging her child behind. I mean, I’m even wearing her clothes.
Eventually we hit a fence. It’s my fence, to my backyard. “Hoist me up,” I whisper. Sam more or less throws me over the top, and then climbs over himself. I squat in the backyard for awhile, listening to my house, trying to decide if it’s safe. I jam my key into the backdoor and enter, not turning on any lights. Once in the kitchen, I feel around for a cupboard and find a flash light.
“Wait here.”
I crawl into my dark bedroom and use my flashlight to search around for some equally dark clothes. I find a pair of black sweatpants and my black sweatshirt. I change quickly, grab my binoculars from my closet, and then crawl out to the kitchen again.
“Sam?” I don’t see him. My heart is beating out of my chest. “Sam, where are you?”
“Over here.” He’s sitting in the living room, already changed into the dark clothes that he toted along.
I crawl over to the living room window to peer down at Alessandro’s house. Most of it was out of my line of vision, but I could see that the lights were off and no cars were parked out front. Which meant we had time to wait.
“Are you sure something’s going to happen tonight?” Sam whispers to me over my shoulder. He’s crept up next to me.
How do I explain to him that I just know, because I have this feeling? I know people. I know what they are going to do.
“Sam. I’m a teacher. I work with a bunch of kids, and when they are trying to be sneaky, I know. I know they are going to be sneaky and do something bad before they even know it. I use clues.”
“This isn’t fourth grade.”
            So he was listening to that part during dinner.
            “Just go with it.”
            What I’m mostly concerned about is getting out of my house while it’s still safe and finding a good location to spy. Lucky for me, I have another brilliant idea. They are building a two-story house next to mine, and it’ll make a great place to hide. As far as doors go, there really aren’t any yet, unless you count the sheet of plywood that I can easily slide out of the way. If we can get up to the second story, it will be the perfect place to watch our suspect’s house. The height will give us a better view, and no assassin will think to search a construction zone. I mean, the place doesn’t even have electricity yet.
            “Come on, Sam, we need to leave.” He follows me out the backdoor and into the eerie darkness. I reach for his hand again, though this time it is mostly out of fear. I’m glad he’s a foot taller and about 80 pounds heavier than me, though from today’s performance, I’m not so sure he would be any better at protecting me than a toy poodle. But he did lose the Highlander, I’ll give him that.
            We creep to the side of the next door house and I start to pull the sheet of wood away so we can get inside. Sam helps me. We move it back once we’re inside. The floor squeaks and it smells like a lumber yard. I’m not sure about the floor plan so I turn my flashlight on and shine it around. The frame of stairs has been installed. The steps are missing, so we have to carefully tiptoe up on about one inch thick of wood. Once we get to the top, I find a window that overlooks the drug lord’s house. We settle next to it and I take a deep breath in. I realize that I’m tired. Tired but not sleepy. It’s been a very long evening, and also the longest date I’ve ever been on. I’m extremely alert. My ears are listening for any sound of movement, and my eyes are zooming in on 7425 Morton Street. I’m also incredibly aware of Sam’s breathing and proximity.
            “So…what do you do for a living?” I ask. Because clearly he’s not a dentist yet.
            “I’m a human resources consultant.”
            “Oh.” I think. I have no idea what that means. “What do you do exactly?”

“I get to review and edit policy manuals and write job descriptions. I also provide training to employee groups on HR-related topics, stuff like that.”
            I nod my head. A real thrill-seeker, this one.
            “What sort of hobbies do you have?”
            “Um, well. I like to go hiking and white-water rafting. And rock climbing, occasionally.” 
            I tilt my head, puzzled. Clearly I don’t have him all figured out.
            We sit there talking for like, two hours. I learn that he broke his leg skiing when he was eight. That he hates pickles as much as I do. He has a dog named Tessa. He got sprayed by a skunk at summer camp in 7th grade.
            I’m about to doze off when Sam touches my shoulder.
            “Elle. Hey, I think something is happening.”
            I snap to it, grabbing my binoculars. The red van is parked in front of Alessandro’s garage. Alessandro is loading something into it. He’s still wearing his server apron. I shift my sights onto another man, kind of balding, with a goatee. I realize I also recognize him from the restaurant. Pretty soon a silver BMW pulls in. A man gets out of it, carrying a briefcase, and Alessandro takes him inside. Two other guys continue to load the back of the van.
            “Look,” I whisper fiercely, grasping Sam’s hand until my knuckles turned white. It was pitch black so I couldn’t check to see if they were for sure, but if it were daytime, I’m sure my knuckles would have been white. Girls’ knuckles are always turning white with fear while clutching their boyfriend’s arms. And okay, it was just a first date. But whatever. I guestered to the black Highlander inching down the street. No one got out of it. I suspected they had their eyes on my house. I swallowed.
            Sam took out his cell, ready to dial the police.
            “Wait,” I say. “Something’s not right.”
            “What do you mean?”
            I scanned the scene. The street was dimly lit, shadows were lurking everywhere. The darkness enveloped the neighboring houses like an eclipse.
            “Mr. Fitzpatrick’s house. His light’s out.”
            “So? It’s two o’clock in the morning.”
            “No. Mr. Fitzpatrick is an insomniac. He always watches TV in his bedroom late at night. He’s like, seventy-five and never sleeps.”
            “Big deal, so he took some Lunesta. What does that have to do with calling the cops?”
            I notice the green truck parked near Mr. Fitzpatrick’s driveway. It had the name of a landscaping business printed on the side, but no phone number. That didn’t make sense.
            “He’s not home.”
            “He lives right across from Alessandro and he’s not home.”
            “Should we be worried?”
            “I don’t think so. Let’s just wait a little bit longer. Besides, what are you going to say when you call? That a van is parked in its owner’s driveway?”
            “No,” Sam replies. “I was going to do it Home Alone style. Say there was a robbery in progress at my house at 7425 Morton Street.”
            We wait. The brutes finish loading up the van and go inside. Two minutes later, the door of Mr. Fitzpatrick’s house flies open. Eight guys wearing vests and combat boots, carrying shields, and armed with guns come piling out. A second later four cop cars pull up, though their sirens are silent and their flashing blue and red lights are turned off.
            I smile. They already knew.
            Sam turns to look at me.
            “Elle. Elle, what’s happening?”
            “It’s okay,” I whisper. “It’ll all be okay. Just wait.”
            We hear yelling.
            Gunshots go off.
            The black Highlander tries to peel away but an officer shoots its tires and apprehends its driver.
            Fat men wearing chained necklaces are handcuffed.
            The contents of the van are transferred to the back of the SWAT team vehicle.
            “You were right, Elle. You were right. I should have believed you all along,” Sam tells me in awe.
            I smile softly. He puts a hand over mine.
            We watch all of it, waiting for everything to get wrapped up. But evidence has to be marked and itemized, photos need to be taken, and the entire property needs to be fenced off with yellow caution tape. By the time everything has ended, the previously dark sky is starting to shine pink at the edges. A ray of sun beams out and hits the glass of the window we are sitting behind.
            Sam yawns.
            “So,” I say casually, “any chance for a second date?”

Thursday, July 1, 2010


I totally lied (as per usual with my estimated deadlines). My short story will be posted tomorrow. Or tonight at midnight. I'm trying to finish it right now. It's at 4,266 words, which sounds like a lot for a short story, but I just couldn't skip over the good parts to get to the end. I'm trying to wrap it up right now. But I should probably edit it a little tomorrow when my brain is fresh. You are going to love it. Seriously. And if you don't, well, keep it to yourself.
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