30 January 2012

California State University, Northridge

"Mama, are we near Disneyland yet?"
"Remember, Trevor, that I told you Disneyland would have to wait till another time?"
"They have a pirate cave ride where things explode!  It's real fire and everything."
"Wild World has rides too.  Lots of them."
"But they don't have pirates, do they?"
Trevor asked this in the dejected tone of a boy who already knew the answer.
"No, I don't think they have pirates, but they do have roller coasters."
Trevor's mother plucked the Dr Pepper out of the flimsy cupholder and finished it off.

She was treating Trevor to a day out that a boy would enjoy.  Paying for eight hours of babysitting was an unpleasant idea.  She couldn't afford both the Disney admission and the round trip drive to Anaheim, which would be almost $10 in gas, more if they had to sit in traffic.  She also couldn't afford to take unpaid time off of work, but Christmas came and went with only promises.  Trevor didn't complain, but she could tell he was a little down for it.

Trevor's mother pointed to the empty aluminum can.
"Trevor, there's a roller coaster on the can here.  Can you read what it says?"
Trevor picked it up and studied it.
"$5 off."
"That's good!  But I meant the name of the roller coaster, the big fancy words there."
He squinted at it.
"I don't know what it says."
"Well, sound it out.  One letter at a time."
"M...mmmmm...mah...tah...door.  Mah-tah-dor?"
"Matador!  Good!  Perfect!"
"What is...matador?"
"That's the name of the ride.  I bet it will be exciting!"
"Matador.  Mad at door.  I am mad at the door.  That's a funny word."
Their two-door Honda puttered past Trevor's primary school.
"Mama, why is there no school today?"
"Today is Martin Luther King Day, Trevor!  Didn't they tell you that in school?"
"I don't know."
"Today is a national holiday in honor of a man named Martin Luther King.  He fought for people like you and me to have rights like everyone else."
Trevor took this in.  Why was a king fighting?  Doesn't being king mean everybody does what you say?
"Who did he fight?  Pirates?"
Trevor's mother laughed before she could stop herself.  "Oh, no!  He did not fight with violence, he used his words to lead the people.  This was happening when your mama was a little girl."
Mama is really old!
"Tonight when we get back home we will watch a program about him on TV.  They have a big concert in Washington, D.C., which is the capital city of America."
Trevor looked uninterested.  Kings were kind of cool, but they had to stay in the castle.  Pirates had the whole ocean.
Radio ads for an MLK weekend blowout on all Sealy, Serta, and Simmons repeated on every break.

They pulled into the Wild World parking lot.  A bright red roller coaster snaked overhead.  When they got out of the car, Trevor's mother reminded him, "Now remember Trevor, if anyone asks, you are five years old."
"I don't want to be younger.  I want to be older.  Why do I have to say I'm five when I'm not?"
"We can get the same ticket for a little less money if you are younger.  And that means we can go on more rides!"
Trevor knew they weren't rich.  The same backpack since kindergarten with the left strap ripped off, the packed lunches that sometimes left him hungry, no presents this Christmas.  He saw his mother come home from work really tired, so he would help her where he could - making dinner, emptying the garbage, keeping his room clean sometimes.  But he didn't want to lie, even if meant going on more rides.
"You can say it.  I don't want to say it."
This was her 'you need to do what I'm saying' tone.
Trevor screamed.  "No!  I don't care about these stupid rides!  I don't want to go!"  He turned around to go back to the car.
"Trevor, get back here!"
She turned and grabbed his arm.
Trevor unhinged his jaw with a piercing screech.  Other guests in the parking lot turned to look.  Tears streaked down his cheeks as he struggled against her.
"Trevor!  Trevor, Trevor, calm down.  Calm down now, please.  Calm down!"
"No, get off me!  Let me go!"
She picked him up and heaved him over her shoulder, rocking him.  He began to quiet down.
"Shhh, shhh.  It's okay.  You don't have to say you're five if you don't want to."
"I'm not supposed to lie.  You're not supposed to lie.  It's not good."
"I know it's not good and Mama was wrong to ask you to do that.  I'm sorry, okay?  Okay?"
She put Trevor down.  He wiped his nose on his arm.  "Okay."
She unlocked the car and pulled a napkin from the side door.  She cleaned his face off.
"We will go to Disneyland and ride the pirate rides some time.  It's just a lot of money.  Now do you want to have fun today?"
At the ticket booth, Trevor's mother handed the Dr Pepper cans and cash over to the attendant.
"One adult, and one six year old."
Trevor was hopping up to see through the ticket window.
He said, "I'm the six year old."
The attendant smiled and slid the tickets under the window.
Trevor stopped jumping.
"Mama, the ground just moved!"
"I know!  The Matador is a real big roller coaster, isn't it?"
"The roller coaster did that?  Okay.  Can we go ride it now?"
"We can ride it as many times as you want, baby."

A fine photo of a cell phone photo of CSUN's campus orange trees.

21 November 2011

Syracuse University

"I swear..."
"...he's been spending more time..."
"...with that video game than with me."
The lean young woman finished up her round in the softball batting cage.  She dropped the bat and wiped her brow.  The behemoth brick student gym beside the batting cage blocked the setting sun, but the air was still warm.
"And I don't understand.  It's not like I don't put out."
She took a swig from her water bottle, letting a small splash disappear into her sports zip-top.
"Trevor, I appreciate you taking time out of your visit to drive me to the cage.  It's nice to finally see some courtesy."
Trevor van Ness, he of the wispy moustache and old polo shirt, and aspiring priest, began to get uncomfortable.  He had no problem being a sounding board for other people's issues, but when the subject became personal friends, he was unsure how to handle it.
"Salena, I'm sure Ish is not purposely ignoring you.  Has he invited you to participate with him?"
"Sure, tons of times.  But why do I want to be staring at a screen, cutting virtual fruit with The Fruity Ninja or whatever it's called."
"It can be a decent workout, good for reflexes and reaction time too.  And it's Citrus Samurai."
"Citrus Samurai, great.  I don't mind that he has an interest different from me - "
Trevor thought she did.
" - but only that it has no practical value.  That game is useless."
A voice spoke up from outside the cage.
"Useless?  I just won fifty dollars with my Citrus Samurai skills!"
Ish, he of the mini-fro and anime print shirt, and aspiring...aspirer, waved his reward in the air in triumph.
"Ish!  How did you get here?"  Salena zipped up her sport top an inch.
"Teammate dropped me off."
Trevor said, "Ish!  Fifty bucks?  Congratulations!"
Salena grabbed the prize.  "What's this, a gift card?"
"Yeah, to GameStop."
"GameStop?  Hoo-RAY."
Ish asked, "You two have fun?"
Trevor said, "Salena is a good hitter.  And she plays second base, just like I did!"
"You play second base?" asked Ish.
Trevor and Salena answered, "Yes."
"Oh I know Trevor did.  I though you were outfield."
"That was last season."  Salena punctuated her jab with a whip of her ponytail.
Trevor clapped his hands together.  "Okay!  How about some smoothies on me?  I've been staring at inflatable giant fruit in the window for a while."  He pointed up to Otto's Smoothie Cafe on the second floor of the student gym.
Ish said, "You're the giant fruit."
Salena ignored the immature remark.  "Sure, I'd like a smoothie.  But lots of times they run out of bananas, and I can't have anything else there.  Allergies."
Trevor said, "May I ask what is your allergy?"
"Citric Acid.  It's on citrus - "
"Citric Acid!  You've got to be kidding me!  You're the first person I've met that has the same allergy!"
"You have it too?"
Trevor said, "I've got it bad.  I can't even so much as touch a lemon or my face melts."
"Same here!  Maybe not the face-melting.  But hey, that's at least two things in common."
Ish interrupted.  "Smoothies it is, then!  Here Salena, let me get your bag."
Ish flung it out of the cage.
"Whoa, what's this brick doing here?  Dangerous."  Ish kicked the cinder block outside the gate.  The gate clicked shut.
"Ish, that door locks!"
"I see now.  Where's the key?"
"In my bag, which is now outside of the cage.  Thanks."
Trevor said, "Well, hold on.  I think we can reach the bag and drag it over.  Ish, toss me the bat."
Ish picked up the aluminum bat.
"Wow, this is lighter than I would have thought."
As Ish twirled the bat around, a crash came from above.  All three of them jumped.  Shards of glass tinked off the cage crossbars.
Salena and Trevor ducked down.
Salena shrieked, "Hey!  What is going on up there?"
A wooden crate lay on its side, halfway out the window.  A student worker in a black t-shirt and visor leaned out, grasping the crate.  He had an 'I'm fired, aren't I' look on his face.
A small lime dropped out of the crate.  It fell onto the batting cage netting.  Trevor, Ish, Salena, and the smoothie worker watched it slowly roll through a frayed hole in the netting and drop into the basket of the still-running pitching machine.  It rolled past the regulating latch, which was designed to time the softballs every few seconds.
Ish wrapped both hands around the bat handle.
He instinctively faced his shoulders to the machine, leaned low, arms and bat dangling loose between his knees.
The lime stopped.  It was stuck in the feeder basket, which was not made for lumpy fruit.
Trevor and Salena exhaled.
Salena said, "Let's turn off the pitching machine, please."
Ish turned back to agree, "Good idea."
Trevor yelped, "Ish, get out of the way!"
The vibration of the machine had freed the lime.  It dropped in between the two spinning wheels and shot out at an unfruitly high speed.
In one smooth motion, and with a wild HUUUU-AH!, Ish swung the bat to his right, up, then down, slamming the lime out of the air and into the dirt.
Ish sniffed at the cloud of red dust.
The smoothie worker up above gasped, losing his grip on the crate lid.  Ish saw the contents: dozens more limes, lemons, oranges.  Citrus fruit.
Trevor scrambled to his feet.  "I'm gonna click this thing off now."
Ish thundered, "STAY BACK."
Trevor froze.
Ish returned to his ready position.  His eyes narrowed.  His nostrils flared.
"Get back and cover up.  There will be pulp."
The fruits tumbled out of the crate, filling up the netting, sagging under the weight.  One by one, they crowded into the feeder basket.
With a thwip thwip thwip thwip thwip, fruits came at Ish at 50 mph.
Trevor and Salena covered up as best they could, shielding their faces.  They heard only squish after thud after squish after thud until it became a single squddd.
Ish was still in first-place form.  Ten fruits became twenty became thirty.  Each one met Ish's aluminum solidly and cleanly.  After each fruit missile, Ish inched toward the machine.  He had to increase his reaction speed to keep up as he got closer, but seemed to have no problem picking up the pace.
The crate finally emptied.  The smoothie worker pulled it back inside.
Ish kneeled down and pulled the plug on the machine.  It whined to a stop.
His shirt sprayed with pulp, he picked up a battered orange.  He squeezed it.  Juice ran down his arm.  He wiped his hand across his cheeks like edible warpaint.
Ish cleaned off the bat and flipped it back to Salena.
"Get your keys."
Ish yelled up to the second floor.
"You just couldn't have dropped a box full of bananas, could you?"
"Sorry, we're out of bananas."

17 September 2011

University of Ottawa

A version of this story placed 3rd in the 2011 ArtsRolla Writing Competition.

The faded red Honda skidded through a rolling right turn.
In the passenger seat, Sara Brookings squeezed tighter on the upholstery.
She would usually get on her Dad's case about coasting through a stop sign.  Today, though, she was grateful to have a reckless driving father.
Dave Brookings flicked his eyes between the road, the clock, and his daughter Sara in the rearview mirror, as he navigated the slick streets of Ottawa.  He wiped the perspiration from his forehead, grooved from years of fluorescent light, computer monitor glare, and frustrating government accounting.
He hate, hate, hated to be late.  And to make someone else late due to his own poor planning, that was unacceptable.  But make that someone his daughter, on one of the most important days of her life, it was...well, it was unforgivable!
He tried to reassure the two of them.
"We've still got fifteen minutes, Sara.  Plus whatever buffer time your dorm mates need."
Sara asked, "What are we going to do about the groceries?  I might not have time to unload them."

Plastic bags full of fresh supplies from the west side Sobeys rattled in the backseat.
Dave and Sara had driven in the day before from their town near the Michigan-Ontario border.  They stayed the night in a motel west of town.  Dave was unusually chatty at the motel, going on about his daughter to the front desk manager.  On move-in day, they both unpacked Sara's luggage and accessories into her new room in uOttawa's Residential Complex.  Sara had brought a few boxes of essential nonperishables, but Dave, wanting to postpone the goodbye, proposed to completely stock her mini-fridge.  And Sara, taking a second look at her meager rations, quickly accepted the offer.
She reminded him that she had to be back by 5:00 for new resident orientation.  Not that the orientation itself was important - she could figure out where the laundry room was on her own - but the first orientation led to the first dinner led to the first night out.  These crucial opening encounters would determine a young lady's social life for the next four years, and perhaps even post-university.  Making headway into an already established clique was nearly impossible.  She had already experienced this uphill battle in secondary school when her Dad moved them for a job relocation.  She had laboriously cobbled together a patchwork of disparate friends at her new school but was eager for today's fresh start.
They had found the Sobeys easy enough.  Dave rarely lost his way.  But now he found himself dealing with a not-quite-familiar city grid, misty weather, and Friday afternoon traffic.

"I'll take whatever needs to be cold back to the motel fridge.  I can bring it all back later tonight or - "
Sara cringed at the thought of her Dad showing up at her dorm on a Friday night.  Dave noticed her facial rebuff.  He stifled a laugh and continued:
" - or tomorrow morning I was going to say."
"Yeah, can we do tomorrow instead?"
"That's fine."
"Thank you!  I can call when I get time."
Dave knew his daughter.  And he knew what university life was like.  She'll call when she has time?  That meant he'd be taking the food back home with him
He suddenly spotted a familiar landmark.
"Ah!  Rideau Canal!  We're getting close."
They turned right onto Queen Elizabeth Street, paralleling the canal.  A curved glass building revealed itself.  Dave read the chiseled nameplate aloud:
"'Ottawa Convention Centre and Opera House'.  Ooh la la."
The street narrowed into two lanes of gravel and potholes.  A construction worker covered in reflectors waved cars through.  Dave slowed to a crawl but the Honda still bottomed out against the ground.
"Gah!  What is this?  Off-roading in Ottawa?"
They passed underneath a highway bridge.
"Dad, turn around up onto this bridge.  We can get to the other side that way."
"I can get us closer.  Remember that footbridge?  I'll drop you off, you scurry across, meet your buddies."
The road smoothed out.  Dave saw university buildings.
"See, we made it.  You know I'm so proud of you, Sara."
"I know, Dad.  You've already said that.  A few times."
"Good, that means it's sunk in."
"There's my dorm."
Sara pointed up to a ten story brick tower.  Not one bit of architectural flair, but it did the job.
"Whoa, hold on now," said Dave as he hit the brakes.  A long line of cars sat in front of them.
And sat.
And sat.
"What is going on?" asked Dave to no one in particular.
Sara saw blue blinking lights ahead.  She offered, "There are police up there."
She groaned and hit the sides of her head with her palms.  She pulled at her chestnut highlights in frustration.
Dave asked, "So you're fine without these groceries tonight?"
"Yes.  I'm fine without the groceries."
"Then just run to the footbridge.  Who knows how long we'll be sitting here."
Sara agreed.  "Okay."  She opened the door and ran around the driver side.
Dave got out and hugged her.
He said, "Love you."
"Love you too!"  Sara ran off.
Dave got back in the car.  He didn't like protracted goodbyes, but that one seemed short even for him.
Traffic at a standstill, he looked across the canal.  There was a flurry of young women streaming out of his daughter's dorm.  He peered off to the right, waiting to Sara emerge from campus and join her mates.  He kept an eye out for her sandy hair, black blouse, and blue jeans.
She finally appeared.
Back in front of him.
Sara was frantic now.  She had noticed the other students gathering too.  Dave rolled down the window to listen.
She said, "The bridge is blocked!  A car fell in the canal and there's a big fire truck-crane-looking thing pulling it out.  But it's parked in front of the bridge and the police won't let me through and my dorm is about to leave me behind and they will all form their groups without me and I'll have to transfer schools..."
"Calm down, Sara.  You won't have to transfer schools.  You say there's a car in the canal?"
"It didn't sink?"
"The water was up to the windows, about."
Dave thought.  The canal is barely a meter deep.  Could he carry he across?  No, he couldn't abandon the car - traffic was inching forward now.
"I got an idea.  Get back in the car."
"Back in the car?"
"Yeah, come on."
She maneuvered herself back into the front seat.  Dave unbuttoned his polo shirt and pulled it off through his gray trenchcoat.
"Dad...what are you doing?"
"Like you said, the canal is shallow.  You can walk across it in my clothes.  Throw yours into one of those grocery bags.  Carry it over your head so you've got dry clothes to change into at dinner."
"Wear your clothes?  Dad, no.  Can't I just...uh..."  She didn't have any other ideas.
Dave flipped off his shoes.  "I can drive back to the motel in my coat.  You need to get to your buddies over there."
The crowd across the water was slowly walking away from the dorm.  Sara watched with a pained expression.
"Okay.  But don't look!"
"I'm not going to look.  But I need one eye to drive."  Dave shut his right eye and kept his left eye on the road.  He struggled to tug down his jeans.
Sara reached back to grab a grocery bag.  Cans of soup fell onto the floor.
"Oh!  Sorry!"
"Don't worry about that."
Sara unbuttoned her top as quickly as she could.  A twelve-year-old boy in the car to the right stared, slack-jawed.
Sara saw him.  She slapped the car window and hissed at him.  He turned away, sitting bolt upright.
"What are you doing?" asked Dave.
"Some kid is giving me the bug eyes."
"I'll beat him up for ya," said Dave, with exaggerated mock anger.
"Not necessary," reprimanded Sara, in her best British headmistress accent.
Dave took a mental snapshot of this shared moment.
Sara pulled on her new outfit and put up her hair.
She said, "Okay, you can open your eye."  She got out of the car and rounded to the driver side again.  The shirt and pants sagged on her small frame.  She kissed her Dad on the cheek through the open window.
"Thanks, Dad.  Wish me luck!"
"Good luck, punkin."
She waddled over to the granite edge.  She climbed down the side of the wall, one hand holding the bag of clothes up.
The water came up to her chest.  She thought, it's cold but just keep walking.  Momentary embarrassment is better than four years of isolation.
She had to use her free hand to hold the pants up.
As she waded across Rideau Canal, Dave said to himself, "Only I would send my daughter into an urban waterway."  He sat silent for a moment.  He laughed when he realized aloud, "And only my daughter would agree to it."
Other drivers pointed in concern at the strange girl in the river.

On the other side, one of the upperclassman dorm advisers had noticed Sara walking in the canal.  She took two other girls to go back and help get Sara out.
They all hauled her up the stone wall.
The adviser asked, "What are you doing in the canal?  That's dangerous!"
Sara shuddered from the air on her Dad's wet clothes.
"I had to get to orientation.  I'm a little late."
"Oh, you live in this dorm?  Yes, we just finished.  What's your name?"
"Sara.  Sara Brookings."
"Hi Sara, I'm Tina, why don't you get dried off?  We're about to head to dinner."
"Sounds great!  I've got my dry clothes right here."
As the group walked off, Sara turned to wave to her Dad.

Dave had been watching intently.
Yes, Sara had decided on wading through the canal, but actually getting across was something else.  Fortunately he saw three other girls come to her aid on the other side.  He exhaled.  When he saw her struggling to keep his wet jeans around her waist, he let out a gentle laugh.  She looked like the Sara from years ago playing dress-up.
When she waved back, his heart jumped into his throat.  This took him by surprise.
He distracted himself by turning up the heat.  He buttoned up his trenchcoat to the collar, now his only article of clothing besides his boxers and shoes.
Though traffic was moving, it was still stop-and-go.
The car in front of him stopped.  Dave squeezed his brakes.  The brake pedal did not depress.  He tried again.  It was stuck.  By the time he realized a soup can had rolled underneath the brake pedal, it was to late.  His front bumper crunched against the car ahead of him.
The rest of the groceries joined the soup cans on the floor.
Dave spit out a profanity.
A police officer had head the accident and had wandered back to investigate.
Dave started, "Sorry, officer.  There was a can of soup that rolled under my brake pedal."
The cop looked at the man in the full body trenchcoat.  A can of soup?  What's going on here?
"May I see your license, registration, and proof of insurance, sir?"
"Certainly, certainly...um..."
Dave patted his sides.  Of course.  No pants, no wallet.
"Actually my daughter has my wallet."
It's always something, thought the cop.
"I'm going to need to ask you to step out of the car, sir."
Dave swallowed.  "Do you need to pat me down or something?"  He gurgled out a nervous laugh.
"No, we don't do that anymore."
Dave relaxed.  He opened the car door.
The officer continued, "But I will at least need you to remove your jacket."

31 August 2011

Old Dominion University

Most people assume that the best part of The Real World fiasco was my newfound notoriety.  Yes, the fifteen minutes of fame was fun, but my most satisfying takeaway is knowing that I can survive that intense drop in temperature.  That whatever physical hardship comes at me now, it can not possibly be colder than atop that windmill.

And then I fall overboard into Puget Sound.

Instantly soaked to the bone, I am woefully underdressed for these conditions.  The waves brought on by this storm are lifting us up ten feet at a time.  My neck is slightly warmer, since there is a sled dog, Charlotte, slung across my shoulders.  She belongs to my newest acquaintance, who is also in the water with me.  Taylor...gosh, I don't even know his last name...Taylor is having a time keeping afloat with the other dog, Moose, who is much heavier.

When the ferry almost tilted over, we were on a crew-only deck with few protective barriers.  Holding onto the dogs, we both tried to catch the railing with one hand as we slid down.  I have a bruised forearm and Taylor tells me he thinks his hand is broken.  His head is bobbing in and out of the water as Moose keeps pushing him down.  I gesture at him to let go of Moose.  He can balance on his shoulders like Charlotte is on mine.

While Taylor is struggling with this task, I wave my arms wildly at the ferry.  Most of the windows are up on higher decks.  I can't even see the top of the ship, the clouds are so low.  I realize no one can see us.  I lower my arms, not knowing how long I will need those muscles to stay afloat.  I am amazed at how calm Charlotte is on my shoulders.  I guess full time sled dogs need a higher tolerance for hellish conditions.

Though the ferry is still rocking, it's also slowly sailing away from us.  I see no one on deck, but I go to yell anyway.  I have to cup my hands close to my mouth to keep seawater and rain from streaming in.  My inhalation is short since I'm already breathing quickly.  My voice is weak and scratchy and my yell carries nowhere.  Taylor probably can't even hear me ten feet away.

Now I can barely see the ship.  I see no land.  I see nothing but my own hair as Charlotte ruffles it into my face.  She catches her toenail on my hair tie and pulls it out, along with some hair by the roots.

Enough.  Can someone else man up now?

"Persephone!"  We have to swim closer and scream to be heard over the storm.
"Which way should we swim?"
"Swimming will tire us out more and get us more lost.  Better to stay on the ferry path."
"We're just going to tread water till the next ferry?  That's suicide!"
"I've got one good hand.  I can't swim."
"Come on, do you want me to drag you?"
I know it's weird that I am thinking about this in our state, but at that moment any possibility of me sleeping with him died.
"You don't have to flex the muscles.  Just wrap the fingers together and paddle.  Is it that bad?"
He shows me his swollen purple hand.
"Okay, it is bad."
He says, "Let's try your idea anyway."
I help him tear the sleeve of his shirt and tie it around his right hand.  Its effects are probably zero, but it gives us a tiny task-completion boost.
I turn to look at the fading ship, my one point of reference, but it's gone.
I say to Taylor, "Okay, I am getting scared now.  I can't even see the back of the ship - bow, stern, whatever it's called.  I'm not a nautical person.  I am a businessperson.  I am supposed to be boarding my flight to Singapore soon.  I should have never gotten on the ferry!"
"Then why did you come with me?"
"I did not think I would fall overboard!"
"No.  Let me restate it.  Why did you come with me and not just go on your own?"
"Because it's nice to have company?"
"Or because you were attracted to me."
I cock my head and squint.  Is he taking it this direction, of all times, of all places?
"Wwwwhat!  What are you talking about?  Can I not have one day where someone does not hit on me?"
"I know.  Life must be rough as an attractive woman."
"What are you, Taylor?  God's gift to womankind?"
"Hey, I don't go around flirting to get free sled rides."
"I'm not going to give it up because you showed me around Seattle.  You could've refused."
"Like you're refusing right now."
"Right now.  Right now?  Are you kidding me?  Right now we are lost, freezing - hopefully not to death - and it's almost night."
"Here's a tip, then we can drop it: if you want to know if a man is going to hit on you, look at his hand.  If there is no ring, the answer is yes.  If there is a ring, the answer is still yes."
I roll my eyes.  "What a great husband you'll be."

We float silently for a long time.

The sky is darkening.  The waves are calming down, but there is still a thick fog all around us.
Taylor says, "We need to conserve body heat if we want to make it through the night.  Then I pray it clears and the morning ferry will see us.  Come here.  Put your left arm around me."

We squeeze together, chest to chest.  Our heads are over each other's left shoulder, cheek to ear.  Our right arms are out, slowly treading, slowly tiring.
I haven't separated my fingers in a while.  I think they're starting to freeze together.
The dogs are half submerged, paws and heads over our right shoulders.

We float.

I am tired.  Tired in the sleep way, not just the sore muscle way.
I burble out in a monotone: "I want to cut open this dog.  Stick my head in its guts for warmth."
Taylor's eyes are closed as he answers.  "We're not going to do that."
"Okay.  A hot tub."
"I don't even want a hot tub.  I want to lie down, dry, in a hundred yards of soft flannel.  Then a grounds crew will roll me up like a burrito."
"I want a burrito."
"Me too."
"With dog meat."

We float.

"I don't want to lose my hand, Persephone."
"You won't lose your hand, Taylor.  We're keeping it warm."  His left arm is sandwiched between us.
"It's broken and frozen.  I think they will amputate it.  I will need a new job.  I can't drive a dogsled with one hand."
"I can drive my car with my knees."
"Dogsled is different."

We float.  My sentences lose their structure when my words sputter out of my blue lips.
"Lose hand not end of world."
"Let me shave your head."
"Lose hair end of world."

We float.  I am reduced to mostly noises.  My eyes hurt.
Taylor joins me in the subzero grammar club.  "What you say?"
"Ngghhhhhh.  No shine light in face."
"Not me."

Our mental processing has slowed.  Charlotte and Moose, silent for hours now, start barking.  It is a sharp pain to my ears.  I pry my eyes open.  They catch fire.  The sky was deadly black a second ago.  Now it's bright enough to bring a headache.
Am I dead?
I can see two figures under the light.  My money is on God and Jesus.  One of them speaks.
"Sir!  It's the corpses.  They're being devoured by mer-wolves!"
"Step aside...they're not dead."
I hear splashing, coming closer.  My vision is still spotty from the light.  Next thing I remember is being hauled up and over into a sitting position.  Never felt so good to sit.  I feel something...dry!  I blink.  Things slowly come into focus.
I almost sound disappointed when I say, "We're not dead?  Where am I?  Who are you?"
"Lieutenant McDonough.  You are aboard the USS Monarch, ma'am."
Taylor is sitting next to me, also wrapped in a blanket.  One of the officers is toweling off the dogs.
Taylor asks, "How did you navy guys find us?"
"US Coast Guard.  After your ferry docked, no one came to claim the dogs in the kennel.  We retraced the path of the ferry to you."
Taylor looks at me.  So he was right.
I say to him, "You never did tell me your last name."
The dog-toweling coast guard guy says, "That's a good sailor's name.  Tell your sister Susan hello."
Taylor looks at him.  "Huh?"
"Uh, I don't have - "
"It's a joke!  Did you sleep through all your classes or just American History?"
"I'm Canadian."
"Sorry to hear that."
Lt. McDonough says, "Stop harassing them, officer.  Folks, this ship is due to be sent for recommission in District 5 in Norfolk, Virginia, tomorrow morning.  Technically, now, this morning.  It is our honor to return you safely to US soil for our final District 13 assignment.  There is medical staff awaiting you on shore."
We both thank the lieutenant.
Taylor says to me, "I'd still like to meet up on your next..."  He seems to measure his words, "...stopover."
I smile.  "Next stopover, definitely."
He then asks the lieutenant.  "Are we going back to Seattle?"
"No.  We will be landing in the town of Sequim."
I laugh.  "Ah ha!  Skwim."

Accidentally deleted my Norfolk photos, so here's your basic Constant Center shot

27 July 2011

Seattle University

A smattering of dark birds hovered over the Clipper.  Persephone Evelyn Bumbaugh pointed at one.
"Is that a...?"
"Red tailed hawk."
"No, no.  Right there."
"That's an American Bald Eagle.  Their populations are slowly recovering in the San Juans."
Her eyes followed it from one end of the ship to the other.  She caught the pilots up in the bridge smiling at her.  She returned a wave and a shake of the hips.
The chilly wind whipped Persephone's hair into her face.  She flipped it away and turned to Taylor, her dogsled-musher-turned-tour-guide and newest acquaintance.
"An American Bald Eagle in Canada?  A tourist, eh?  Just like me."
"Friday Harbor is actually still in Washington State."
Persephone pointed to a village ahead on the shore.
"Is that it?"
"No, we've got a ways to go."
The ferry lurched to starboard.  Taylor caught himself on the railing, with Persephone sandwiched in between.
He asked, "You're in a hurry now or something?"
Persephone pushed her way out of his arms.
"Just getting antsy.  How are the dogs?  I bet they're getting antsy too.  The kennel is deck five, right?"  She turned and weaved through other passengers toward the cabin stairwell.
"What?  Hey...hey, you know that wasn't me?  The wind and weather here can get - "
The iron door thunked shut with a cold finality.
" - unpredictable."


Taylor found Persephone kneeling down by the kennel.  She was petting his sled dogs through the chain link fencing.
She smiled.  "Yeah, forgot I don't have the key."
Taylor tossed it to her.  One by one, the dogs sprang out.  Persephone started to clip on the leashes.  Taylor bent over to help.
"You know that was the boat, right?"
Persephone waved him off.  "What?  Oh, yeah.  Yeah, don't worry about it.  Let's get these dogs some air."
They all made their way through the cabin, where most of the passengers had come in out of the cold.
Persephone pushed on the door to the deck.  It didn't budge.
"This one's locked."
"Can't be.  We just used it a minute ago."
Taylor hefted his shoulders into it.  It slowly swung outward.  He turned his back to the door and pushed his arms against the door frame.  At the halfway point the wind caught it.  It slammed open against the whitewashed wall.
"Whoa!  Muscle man!"
"No, that was the wind again.  Unfortunately."
The six huskies piled outside.  It took them a second to gain their footing on the metal deck, slick now with rain and seawater.  They playfully nipped at each other, tangling themselves up in the process.
"Come on, dogs.  Settle down."  He squatted down to unclip the leashes and straighten them out.
Persephone looked out to the sky.  Through the rain, the island village she could see earlier is now just a few lights.
"Taylor, I'm not liking this."
"It's your basic storm in the Sound.  I know you've been in worse.  While standing on a windmill of all places."
"I'm serious.  It's giving me a - "
The sky exploded with a flash.

k k k k KRBOOM oom oommm

Yelps go up from the deck.  The dogs scamper off.  Taylor is left with a wad of wet leashes in his hands.
"Hounds!!" yells Taylor.
The intercom bing-bongs and crackles to life.
"Attention all passengers.  The captain has advised the crew of incoming severe weather.  Please make your way to the main deck."
"So maybe you're right.  Persephone, get inside.  I'll get the dogs."
"You gonna find six dogs all by yourself?  We can't even see the top of the bridge!"
Taylor looked around.  Yep.
"Okay.  Check in the lifeboats, under benches, anywhere dark or dry."
He handed her three leashes.  The soaked duo split up - Persephone around to starboard, Taylor remained on port.  He could see through the foggy plexiglass into the cabin.  Staff were busy assembling the passengers.  He got a better porthole view when the ferry rolled again, slamming his front into a door.  When the ship righted itself, he fell back.  He landed hard on his tailbone and the back of his head.  It knocked the perpetual squint off his face for a moment.  He spit out through his semi-maintained scruff.
Two white dogs came out from under a tarp.  They trotted out to Taylor and licked his face and head.
"Oof.  Castor and Tofi, good dogs.  Even when you run away, you stay together.  Stay with me now, okay?
Taylor continued checking under each lifeboat tarp.  Five boats in, he spied a pair of sharp blue eyes looking out.  Taylor reached in and awkwardly hauled out a gray husky, who shook off water when Taylor put him down.
"Pierre, come on.  We need to get inside."
Persephone rounded the bend.  One hand on the rail, one pulling a large dog.
"I think I found Moose."
"No way, you wouldn't be able to drag Moose.  That's Senator Ted Stevens, see the black on the end of the tail.  He's the only one you could find?"
"That's all."
"Still missing Moose and Charlotte then."
Another lightning bolt cracked overhead.

k k k KRBOOM

Taylor and Persephone held fast to the leashes this time.
He said, "We gotta get them back in the kennel.  Here's the keys.  I have to keep looking!"
Persephone pulled Castor, Tofi, Pierre, and Senator Ted Stevens inside.
Taylor double-checked Persephone's side of the ship.

You just couldn't help it.  You chat up some mystery blonde you'll never see again and it gets you two lost dogs.

Chat up someone potentially amazing.  She takes so many international trips that Singapore is ho-hum!

Yet here you are, a Vancouver Islander, a NORTHERN Vancouver Islander, thinking you have a shot at anything more than one day with her.

Of COURSE you do, you run a self-made business, own a nice place in beautiful land, and care for a pack of dogs, that shows responsibility.

She doesn't know and she wouldn't CARE.  She used you for a free sled ride and is here for a stopover from a flight.  A STOPOVER.

One of many to come, she said.  She made a point to mention.  She hinted.

She HINTS not one damn thing.  Now where are those dogs??  She just HAD to let them out.  They're YOUR dogs.  YOU know when they need to -

The door slammed open.  Persephone stumbled out.
"Any luck?"
"No!  Why did you have to let them out again?  They were fine in the kennel!"
"You were the one that said they hated being locked up.  I thought I was doing them right."
"Obviously not!"
Taylor glared at her through the sheets of rain.  She quickly crushed her impulse to back down.
"I'm sorry!  I was trying to take care of them like you do!"
"Like I do?  You just met them!  You just met ME!  You can't take care of them like I do.  NO ONE can take care of them like I do!"
Persephone's heart jumped.  She couldn't be sure, but Taylor's face seemed wetter.
"Hey, let's stay calm.  We can find Moose and Charlotte.  We definitely know they're on the deck.  Let's stick together this time."
Taylor said nothing.  He led the way.
He saw two tails sticking out of a covered raft crate near the far bow of the ship.  The section was guarded with an iron handrail, yellow nylon cord and a CREW ONLY sign.
Taylor ducked under it.
Persephone asked, "What are you doing??"
"I see my dogs.  I can hold Moose.  I need your help with Charlotte."  He walked off.
"Ohhhh my.  Oh my.  Oh my."  She crept under the rope and up to the raft crate.
Taylor pulled out Charlotte easily and handed her to Persephone.  As he worked on extracting Moose, Persephone looked off to port side.  The fog had cleared a little bit.  It allowed her to see a large swell approaching the ferry.  It was growing in size as it neared.  Her heart jumped again.  Taylor heaved Moose over his back.  Persephone shook Taylor's shoulder.
"Taylor?  Hey Taylor, we need to get inside."
He glimpsed the wave, now massive, and stopped.  The four of them were halfway between the crate and the roped-off entrance.
"We won't make it back in.  Get back to the crate and get in.  NOW."
The ship was already tilting to the right.  Persephone could only slip in place on the deck and struggled to get back on her feet.  Taylor fell on the same spot on his tailbone.  All four of them started sliding to the starboard edge.
"Grab the handrail!  Grab the handrail!"
At this point, though, they were moving too fast.  They may as well have tried to catch a wet baseball bat midswing.

No grip.

 All bruise.

  Handful of husky hair.

   Forty feet down.

    Noseful of Puget Sound.

10 July 2011

University of Washington

Persephone Evelyn Bumbaugh stepped off the dogsled onto Pike Street.
"Who says dogsledding is animal cruelty?  Look at their faces - they had a blast!"
The musher noted her faux fur-lined hood.
"Hope you did too.  You make a beautiful dandelion!"
Persephone snapped off her hood.  Her puff of golden curls breathed to life.  He corrected himself: "Okay, now you look like a dandelion."
Dogsledding was not common in Seattle, but neither was accumulating snow.  Persephone, with twelve hours to kill until her connecting flight, was not going to waste the opportunity.

Taylor, a dogsled guide from "The" Vancouver Island, came down to the Emerald City for an outdoor expo.  The unusual snowstorm was the perfect backdrop for him and his pack, but scared the expo organizers enough to postpone the whole deal.
The outdoors can sometimes be too outdoors.
With their plans scrapped, Taylor decided to take his dogs along on a self guided tour.  They had been patiently immobile on the 4 hour ferry ride and needed to move.  The 30 degree streets proved to be a genuine workout for his six huskies.  They rarely got up to their full speed.
This allowed a sharp-eyed blonde to flag them down and work her charm.
In only two minutes, Persephone had talked her way into Taylor's mini exploration.  He took it on his own to lend her his jacket, which she was now returning.

"This was an amazing - "
Persephone was going to say layover, but caught herself.
" - stopover, I really appreciate it, Taylor.  Here's your coat back.  Thanks."
"Now where are you flying to again?  If it's somewhere cold you can keep it."
"I appreciate it, but it's Singapore.  Pretty hot there."
"Singapore!  Exotic!"
"I guess."  Persephone knelt down to pet the huskies, who were now sprawled out on the packed snow.
She thought, He's older.  He seems cool.  I can tell this stuff.  Go on, divulge.
She continued, "I'm over there a lot for work, so it's no big deal for me anymore.  Kind of getting sick of it, actually.  It'd be like you and...uh, Tacoma maybe?"
"Yeah, Tacoma blows.  Sequim too.  And Port Angeles is a hole."
"Skwim??  I wouldn't like Skwim either.  Skwim.  What about places you do like?"
"Up north, Victoria.  Down south, Astoria."
"And way down south, Pretoria.  Been there?"
"Where's that?"
"That's a no.  It's in South Africa.  Heh heh...Skwim."
"You really want to go to Sequim!  I can tell!"
"Not with the sell job you just gave me!"
Taylor's dogs, having rested for a while, are now ready to get moving again.  They start nosing him.
"Hold on now, pups.  Listen, Persephone, if you ever have a longer - "
Taylor was going to say stopover, but caught himself.
" - layover in the area, you really should consider a ferry up to The Island.  It's beautiful land."
"I'd love to do it right now even, but my plane..."
"Yeah, I know.  It's almost a 4 hour one way, because they stop...at..."
Taylor stopped.  He squinted at his watch.  He put one hand on his hip and  brought the other to his lips.
"Whaaatcha thinkin'?" said Persephone, imitating herself, twenty-five years younger.
"They stop at Friday Harbor.  A town in the San Juans.  Two hours one way.  We get off there, where we get my dogs a run and us some dinner.  Then I get the next passage to The Island.  You get the next return to Seattle two hours later!"
"With time to spare!  I like it.  When does the next ferry leave here?"
Taylor turned to point under the highways and toward the piers.  "You see that giant boat in the distance?  It's here now.  What do you say?  Hop on?"
The dogs were already in position.  Taylor held out his coat again.
Persephone slipped it on and grabbed onto Taylor's waist.
"Mush me, dogsled man!"
As the canine convoy pawed down the street, Persephone yelled, "So what's Friday Harbor like?"
Taylor yelled back.  "Almost as nice as The Island."
"Almost as nice?  You need to work on those selling skills."
Taylor ignored Persephone's half-joke.  A minute later she cut the silence.
"Hee hee...Skwim."