Monday, February 28, 2011

In Which It's Almost Pointless

There are times when I think about words, and how one word can have totally different meanings depending upon context. After spotting something in the local Family Dollar the other day, I got to thinking about the word "almost".

In most cases, it signifies how close you came to something but ending up short. You almost won the game. You almost got that promotion you've been after. You almost picked the winning lottery numbers. In other cases, it can mean that you avoided something bad. Your significant other almost killed you trying out that new recipe last night. You almost stepped in a pile of dog crap. You almost wound up working with Smelly Steve, the office ablutophobe, on reorganizing the cramped supply closet.

Seeing the phrase "Almost Real!" on a box containing a battery-operated hamster is another way the word can be used. To describe the utterly ridiculous. 




There is nothing "almost real" about this. It's a battery case/motor/wheel assembly shoved inside a fabric carcass that sort of looks like a hamster. I'll concede to the fact that it has a passing resemblance to an actual hamster, but only in the way that Bugs Bunny looks like your everyday rabbit. To me, it looks like a small, furry torpedo with ears. 

And here's another thing. Saying that something is "almost real" should mean that it is only a few small steps away from being the actual thing. This $5.00 wonder of mechanical engineering is as close to being an actual hamster as the current-day Michael J Fox is at being a skilled surgeon. In other words, not very close at all. 

And yes, before you ask, I almost bought it. 

Almost.

Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, February 25, 2011

In Which I Speak Too Soon

The Boss and I have been dog-sitting at my parent's house this week. Thanks to a spur-of-the-moment decision made by my parents, they went on vacation to Florida and needed someone to watch their dog. The plans for said watching of dog were made and then, on the day they left, the plans fell through. We jumped in to save the day, so here we are. Staying at my parent's house, an hour's drive from home and work.

Due to how quickly we left home to come up to my parent's house for the week, The Boss and I weren't able to pack much by way of groceries. On the first night we were here, we ordered pizza from a place up the street. As I shrugged into my jacket to go pick it up, The Boss made a few requests.

"Can you get some chocolate milk?" she asked innocently. "And some ice cream?"

Not wanting to deny a pregnant woman her desires, I acquiesced. Once at the store, I carefully selected her ice cream flavor and chocolate milk, and brought my purchases up to the counter.

"Is that it?" the cashier asked. He was probably in his late fifties, and looked like your stereotypical backwoods Mainer. Sweatshirt with a snowmobile maker's logo on it, ratty jeans, beard, and either a Leatherman or pocket knife on the belt.

"No, I ordered a large pizza, too," I said, nodding towards the only box resting on top of the oven. "Half ham, half pepperoni?"

"Got it," he said, and turned to bring it up to the counter. Once everything was all together, he started to ring everything in. Two pints of Ben & Jerry's, a quart of chocolate milk, and a large pizza. There was silence between us for a moment as he worked. He spoke again when he was bagging the ice cream and the milk.

"This looks like a meal fit for a king," he said. I had to agree, and the words were out of my mouth before I had a chance to think about what I was saying.

"Or a queen," I said. 

The cashier stopped what he was doing, his facial expression an odd combination of blankness and surprise. He blinked a few times and color rose up into his cheeks. I was about to ask him if everything was okay when I replayed back in my mind what I had just said.

"And a queen. I mean and a queen. My wife. She's pregnant," I stammered, trying to make it go away. "It's a meal fit for a king and a queen, right? Right?"

"Uh... su-sure," the cashier replied, not meeting my eye. "Whatever you say." 

Up to this point, the cashier was moving at a rate of speed that a sloth could have beat. Now, though, clearly uncomfortable, he was taking care of things like his hair was on fire and his ass was catching. 

"That'll be twenty-six fourteen."

Defeated, I handed him some cash and directed my eyes towards the floor. He made up some speedy change, dropping the coins into my hand from a safe distance and putting the bills on top of the pizza box. I collected the bills and stuffed the change into my pocket. 

"Thanks," I mumbled.

"Welcome." The cashier suddenly found something to do behind the food prep counter and made himself scarce. 

I can only be thankful that the store was empty other than he and I. If I had had an audience for that, I don't know what I would have done.

Have a good weekend, everyone. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In Which I Finally Make It Through

Something momentous happened Monday night. 

I turned the last page of the last book of Stephen King's Dark Tower series. As I sat there, dumbfounded over the ending and trying to contain the sheer breadth of it all, it occurred to me that I had just finished reading every piece of fiction King has published in novel or short story collection or e-book. Everything.

In total (including a few non-fiction books), that means I've read fifty-nine books. I read forty-one of those in the past 14 months alone. In addition, I own everything that I've read. It has been a long road getting to the end, and while one in my position would be tempted to call out the similarities in my journey to the end to Roland's quest for the Tower, I just can't. I'm still trying to get used to the notion that it's over. Not just the Dark Tower stuff, but all of it.

Through everything I have read of his, I never tired. If anything, I hungered for more. Up until just recently, there always was more. All I had to do was put down the book I had just finished and pick up the next one in line. Now, knowing there is nothing left, I'm still left with that hunger. I want more, need more. Selfishly (and I'm not the only one who thinks this, I'm sure), I hope that King has a few more up his sleeve.

I estimate to have spent the last two and a half years reading the works of Stephen King. That's a lot of time to spend in someone's mind, a lot of time exploring the depths of your fears and fantasies and the rawest of human emotions. It's a lot of time to analyze and appreciate the growth and progression of an author who managed to keep me guessing with each and every book. Thirty months is a lot of time to spend doing anything, and I say this with sincerity that it has changed my life.

Anyone who has read anything I've written recently can see the influence King has had on me. I can't (nor won't) deny that. Reading his work opened my eyes to ways of expression and styling, and showed me that it's okay to write about the gritty stuff, the grisly stuff. If it has a place in your imagination, your thoughts, your nightmares, it has a place on paper for others to experience. 

At the end, just as I did when I was in the middle of it all, I find myself with a variety of questions. What would it be like to be Carrie at the prom, or the pyrotechnic Charlie McGee? What if it were my job to bring the oddly powerful John Coffey down the Green Mile to his death? If I switched places with Jack Sawyer and travel across country and through other worlds, would I be strong enough to reach the talisman, too? What would staying in the Overlook Hotel be like? Could I stand up to Pennywise the Clown in the sewers of Derry? Would I be immune to Captain Tripps and live to fight against Randall Flagg? Would I be able to remember the face of my father and become a gunslinger alongside Roland Deschain? 

The biggest question of them all, though: What's next?

I've got a bunch of other books waiting to be read, one's that I've been itching to read for a while. I'm going to read some classics, and see if some other big-name authors are all they appear to be. I'm worried that, in comparison to King, anything else I might read would pale in comparison, but we'll see what happens. I'll do my best to give them all a fair chance. All I know is that there is a lot of great books out there, a lot of doors to other worlds that I've only heard about, and I'm excited to dig in and experience it for myself.

I set my watch and warrant on it. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

In Which It Happened Again

Remember a while back when I wrote about how I become a bumbling doofus around this one guy at work? You know, the really cool and confident guy that always seems to have his shit together? Well, it took me just about a year (and moving to a bigger office where I almost never see him) to get over my insecurities and embarrassment over what happened the last time. I thought I had made some real progress... and then I went and did something lame again.

There's a long hallway that connects the break room to the bathrooms at one end of the office. I was on my way to attend to my screaming bladder, and had been walking hurriedly up to the point where the break room ended and the hallway began. I heard the bathroom door squeak open and looked up. The aforementioned guy had just exited, and was making his way down the hallway. 

I slowed my pace to what felt to be an average speed, trying to hide the increasingly urgent signals radiating from my bladder. He was walking at a leisurely rate, hands in his pockets like he had all the time in the world. I told myself to keep it cool, play it smooth, because in a few seconds, just as our paths were to cross, there would be some kind of acknowledgement. It might be the obligatory head nod, or maybe just some raised eyebrows. I doubted he'd say anything, given my previous reaction at our last encounter, but I had to make up for my shortcomings. 

The distance between he and I shortened rapidly, and that's when it happened. Just as he was acknowledging me with an upward head-nod/raised-eyebrow combo, I scrunched up half of my face like I had just tasted something sour and started bobbing my head like I was grooving to a song playing in my head. There was enough time before we passed each other for his expression to change to wide-eyed curiosity, and then it was over. 

As I ducked into the bathroom, I internally admonished myself about what had just transpired. What the hell did I just do? I probably looked like I was suffering a minor stroke or Bell's palsy or something. Sure, I could blame it on the fact that a lot of my conscious energy was being directed towards not pissing myself, but still. I've never done anything like that before. I'm quickly making myself out to be quite a weirdo. 

Or rather, more of one.

Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, February 18, 2011

In Which I Make A List


I work for a pretty big company. I know the company is big not because of the number of employees or locations we have, but by the number of acronyms we use. Last week I set it upon myself to compile a list of as many of these acronyms as I could think of, and after a few days of working half-assed on it, I came up with 34.

Here's the list, alphabetically:
  • AHT
  • AML
  • AOS
  • ASM
  • ATM
  • AVP
  • BSA
  • CCD
  • CCS
  • CSI
  • CSR
  • CSS
  • CTR
  • CWI
  • DCI
  • DCO
  • DDA
  • DIP
  • EIN
  • EFT
  • FSR
  • LOC
  • NCR
  • NRA
  • NSF
  • ODP
  • RMM
  • ROO
  • RSS
  • SAA
  • TCD
  • TIN
  • TCR
  • WOC
That's even with leaving a few of the obvious ones out. Thirty-four. The crazy thing is that I use pretty much all of these in the day-to-day goings on in my job, and I don't know how I can keep them all straight. Seeing them all in a list like that is kind of dizzying. I have the habit of referring to departments or forms by their abbreviated name right off the bat that when I encounter someone who doesn't recognize it, saying the long version of it seems almost archaic. Fortunately, though, I don't have to worry about TPS reports. 

Large companies love their acronyms. I've worked for a number of nation-wide businesses in the past, and they all had their own crop of them. The list for my current job sticks to the three-letter acronyms, but if I were to include two-letter or four-plus-letter acronyms, the list would probably triple in size. You'd think there would be some corporate dictionary to help the less familiar decipher them all, but that'd be way too easy. 

They serve a purpose, but it seems like there is a new one to remember every other week. To help pass the time, my cubicle neighbor (a good friend who somehow survives on a diet of candy and pretzels from the food court) and I will try to come up with alternate meanings to some of the acronyms. 

I'd share some of them with you, but they're NSFW.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

In Which I Might Have More

"Sorry I'm late," the heavyset man in a cheap suit said as he rushed into the conference room. "There was a situation I had to handle with the printers. The colors were all wrong on the proofs they sent over for the Marg Helgenberger piece. She looked like one of the victims she tries to find justice for on CSI." The man sat down in the only remaining chair in the small conference room to polite laughter, and faced the group of impatiently waiting colleagues. He wasn't truly sorry he was late, to tell the truth. He's the editor-in-chief, after all. The meeting wouldn't start without him.

"We're here to talk about the upcoming issue. As some of you may have heard, Your Baby Magazine has seen a slight drop in subscribers over the past quarter. We've got to pick up the slack and get those numbers back up. Let's hear some ideas." He scanned the room, and happened upon Jane. She was all but bouncing up and down with excitement in her chair. She always had to be the first to talk. He sighed. "Jane?"

"Thanks, Steve. I was thinking about an article on the psychology behind nursery room colors. You know, which colors affect the subconscious in a positive way, which colors make your kid a brat. That kind of thing." She looked at Steve excitedly.

Shrugging, he said, "Sure, why not?" He groaned when she clapped her hands with joy. "What about you, Gordon?"

Gordon sat up and cleared his throat. "I've been down in the lab a lot recently, testing which non-toxic cleaners are the best at getting stains out of cloth diapers without using bleach. There's a lot of good stuff here, stuff that I think people-"

Steve flapped a hand at him. "Yeah, yeah, heavy duty for diaper doodies. Got it. Run with it. What have you got to contribute, Alexa?"

Alexa was the quiet one of the bunch. She jumped a bit in her chair at the mention of her name, and she pushed her glasses up on her nose before she began. "I was looking at a lot of other baby and parenting magazines lately, and a lot of them don't talk about the obvious things. My idea is to do just that."

Oddly enough, Steve was intrigued. He leaned forward. "Go on."

"Well, why not give them 25 reasons motherhood rocks. You know, something to get the mothers-to-be excited about what's around the corner."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Steve said, pumping his hand in the air like he was stopping traffic. "Twenty-five reasons? Don't you think that's a bit over zealous? I mean, I'm not even sure there are that many reasons."

"Yeah, why not pick a number that's more attainable?" Jane suggested. "Something like sixteen... or fifteen."

"Stop talking, Jane," Steve said. "She's right, Alexa. Maybe for your first piece, your first real piece, you shouldn't set the bar so high. I like the idea, but what about nine reasons? How would that do?"

"Wouldn't that send the wrong message?" Alexa asked. "As if we couldn't think of any more reasons why?"

"No, I think it'd be good not to overwhelm people. Besides, nine is a nice even number."

"Actually, Steve, it's an odd num-"

"Shut up, Gordon," Steve snapped, and sat back in his chair. It groaned under his weight. "Well, I think we've got enough filler pieces in the stock files to flesh out this issue, and with Little Miss CSI on the cover, we should be good. Let's get to work."

---

And so it was:




Talk about setting the bar a bit low. I'm not a mother (or a father just yet), but I'm thinking there are probably more than just nine reasons why. But what do I know?

Monday, February 14, 2011

In Which It's Valentine's Day

Ah, Valentine's Day. The one day a year it costs you money to say "I Love You." Being proactive, I planned out the gift I planned for The Boss weeks in advance (a gift certificate to a local day spa and salon), so I'm resting easy today.

I'm a bit burned out from this past weekend, so in lieu of a regular post I made you all a Valentine's Day card. My computer froze in the middle of making it and I had forgotten to save my work somehow, so really I made this twice. I hope you like it.




Happy Valentine's Day, from me to you.

Oh, and Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, February 11, 2011

In Which I Don't Know Where It Comes From

I was no further than three steps in the door before a salesman jumped out at me from the shadows cast through the glass storefront from the mid-afternoon sun. He was tall and thin, and boasted a huge, veneered smile. I groaned inwardly, casting away my hopes for a solo shopping trip. The guy was just doing his job, but I could tell already that he was a bit too aggressive for my tastes.

"Welcome to the Big and Bigger Suit Store!" he cried jubilantly. "How can I help you?"

"I... uh... I need a suit," I said, for lack of anything better to say other than the glaringly obvious. I had been to a couple other suit stores already, but none of them carried anything that would accommodate the particular kind of girth I was sporting without tailoring. To further accent the obvious, I lifted one hand and pointed weakly at a nearby rack. 

"Well," he said with continued over-enthusiasm, "you've come to the right place. What kind of suit are you looking for?" The salesman, after giving me a once-over with increasingly wide eyes, placed a bony arm around my shoulders and lead me to a section within the store. 

"I need a suit for a regional conference at work. I'm shooting for a promotion, and I've got to look the part. Nothing too flashy, but nothing that looks like I picked it up second-hand, either. I also don't have time to get it tailored, so I'll have to find something that fits at least reasonably well off the rack."

The salesman nodded his head fervently, and looked as if he was formulating in his mind what would best... er... suit me. The thought of him possibly mentally undressing me got to be creepy after a few moments, so I broke the silence. 

"I was thinking something dark blue or gray," I said haltingly, waiting for him to cut me off. "I have a lot of-"

"Oh, I've got just the thing," he said, his face lighting up. "How tall are you?"

"Six feet."

"Don't move," he said, holding out his index finger. He spun on his heel, and went to the back of the store, and disappeared into the obligatory Back Room. He came back a minute or two later with a garment bag in each hand, his shoes squeaking on the linoleum floor as he approached. He beckoned me towards a three-way mirror in front of the changing rooms, and hung the garment bags up on a hook. He looked excited, and I tried my best to appear interested. Shopping really wasn't my thing, but hey, I needed a suit.

I turned down the first one he showed me because the particular shade of blue reminded me too much of a Navy uniform. The other suit was a much more understated grey color, and I took a liking to it. I shrugged into the jacket, and it fit like it was made for me. Full arm movement, and no button puckerage in the front.

I stepped behind a curtain in a changing room to try on the slacks. They, too, were a good fit. The salesman, while decidedly odd, was good at his job. The suit felt like it was tailored to fit me, and it was straight off the rack. Just what I needed. After giving myself another scan in the mirror, I pulled back the curtain and stepped-

A brisk hand slapped me across the face. I rocked back on my feet, stunned. After righting my glasses on my nose, I looked  up to see just what was going on. 

A man of average height stood in front of me, dressed in a white t-shirt and khakis. He had his arms crossed in front of himself, and the mustache on his upper lip curved down in a grimace. 

"What the heck was that for?" I ask, rubbing my face.

"The suit," he says in an accent I can't quite place. 

"What about the suit? I like it. Very much, actually. I would like to-" His hand is a blur as it snakes out and slaps my other cheek, hard enough to send spittle flying. 

"No suit for you," he says briskly, and begins to pull the jacket off from my shoulders. I resist, holding onto it as much as I can, but this guy is strong. I look up to the salesman, and see him standing off to the side, wringing his hands nervously.

"What's up with this guy?" I cry. The salesman shrugs uselessly, and looks nervously to the front of the store. The man in the white t-shirt continues to pull on the jacket, and finally I give up. He shakes the jacket out and hangs it up.

He gestures to the pants I'm wearing that match the suit. I open my mouth to say something, but he cuts me off before I can manage anything.

"NO SUIT FOR YOU!" he yells, and then lunges for the zipper fly. I do what I can to protect my self, and manage to fend him off for a moment or two. "NO SUIT FOR YOU!" he cries again. "NEXT!"

At the last word, he jumps in the air like some crazed stuntman and grabs me around the waist. I stumble back into the changing room, and hit the wall. Hard. Things go black for a moment and then-

THUMP.

I sit up on the couch, startled awake. A trickle of drool runs down my cheek, and I palm it away mindlessly. My surroundings are coming to me, but slowly. A dream. It was a dream, one that changed from normal to unreal all because of a late-night rerun of Seinfeld playing on the TV. Thanks, Jerry.

This is what I get for an overactive imagination.

Have a good weekend, everyone. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

In Which It Depends Upon Perspective

A lot of things in this life depend upon perspective. How to raise one's child, how aggressive or passive one should drive, how much cologne is appropriate to wear... and as I've heard it said many times, opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one.

Perspective especially applies when it comes to decorating one's home. What some people might consider to be garish and outdated might be someone else's dream. Your house that is decorated a la "Rustic Country" might make someone else think "Redneck Country". I'm no interior designer, but I know that it's a great thing to be able to make your surroundings comfortable and suitable to your physical and aesthetic wants and needs. And the best thing is that when you've outgrown whatever decorations you have, you can always donate it to the local second-hand store like Goodwill or Salvation Army.

The Boss loves to go to thrift shops, and I don't mind it too much, to tell the truth. I like to check out whatever old books or records they might have, and when I've run out of things to look at I usually swing through the home decor department and take a look at all the ugly shit this particular store has to try and sell. Yesterday I think I came across what is quite possibly the ugliest thing I have ever seen. Behold:




Yes, you're not hallucinating. You're looking at a sculpture of two manatees. The light in the picture doesn't do it justice, but it's lightly painted to near-lifelike detail. It's made out of an odd material that reminded me of a pumice stone, but it was heavy like concrete. It looked porous, but really, that was the least of it's problems. 

Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against manatees. From all I've heard, they're docile, peaceful animals. I've never had any problem where I felt manatees were to blame, but I just cannot fathom anyone seriously thinking that a five-inch tall concrete sculpture of two manatees gently grazing the ocean floor for vegetation would complete their underwater-sea-creature home decor theme. I mean, there has got to be other better looking sea creature statues out there to festoon your shelves with rather than one made in the likeness of two grey-colored pieces of wrinkly dog crap. 

What gets me is here this statuette actually belonged to someone before winding up at the thrift store. I wish I could have seen the face of the guy sorting through the piles of donated crap and coming across this piece. I'm willing to bet he seriously considered just throwing it away, and then figuring, "Well, someone will probably buy it," slapped a fifty-cent sticker on the bottom of it and hoped for the best. 

And if you ask me, fifty cents is a bit steep.

Monday, February 7, 2011

In Which I Give You Part Two

As promised, here is part two of "Threads of Destiny", the end of the story that I started with last Friday. If you're coming into the post not having read part one first, please go back and read it. Enjoy!

---

Violet thought she had prepared herself for whatever James Gormley could tell her, but there was no way anyone could have predicted something like this.

After she had demanded some answers, James took her into the back half of the store by way of a narrow door that Violet couldn't exactly remember seeing before. He wrapped one arm around her shoulders and she thought about shaking it off, but it gave to her some warmth. It suddenly felt very cold in the shop.

The door opened noiselessly onto a large, windowless room. There were stacks and stacks of cardboard boxes and wooden crates stacked to the left and right sides of the room, leaving room for an aisle that led down to the far wall. Violet barely noticed the boxes, any of which, if bumped, could have caused a veritable avalanche. What she noticed was the far wall.

It was covered in a maze of thread.

On the left side of the wall were small metal plates. Attached to the plates were individual pieces of thread of various lengths, some running only a few inches from the plates while others spanned the distance to the other side of the wall. The closer she got to the wall, she became able to see in greater detail. The metal plates numbered in thousands, if not tens of thousands. At the end of some of the threads was a small nail, and the thread was tied around it. Those with nails numbered only a few. The majority simply hung in mid-air, suspended by some supernatural force.

As she approached the wall, she became vaguely aware that James was speaking. She could hear the baritone of his voice, but not the words. She was too focused on reading what was embossed on the plates. There were names, and the true horror began when she recognized some of them.

Especially her own.

A bony hand clamped onto her shoulder, and Violet screamed.

“I'm sorry, my dear!” James said. “I didn't mean to frighten you.”

Violet was speechless, her mind working furiously to try to process what she was seeing. It was then that she saw the wooden pedestal that stood at the end of the aisle leading up to the wall.

“I can explain everything, Violet. You'll just have to remain open minded,” he said, and pulled her shoulders so she faced him. She pulled her eyes reluctantly from the wall and the wooden pedestal.

“Just tell me why my name is up on that wall, and why my husband's name is up there, too.”

“I'll do my best, my dear.” He breathed in deeply, and began.

“I'm one-hundred and eighty-nine years old,” James Gormley said. “I was born in 1822, the only son of a powerful Quinault Indian. My mother died in childbirth, and my father, who was very fluent in the ways of my people, tried to use his magic to bring her back. He failed, but his work produced what you see in front of you right now. While he discovered it too late in his life to save himself or my mother, he found a way to hold off death, even avoid it altogether.

“All the lives of those who live on the land of his people, the land that became incorporated as the town of Sammamish, are controlled by their strands of thread. They never age, they never get sick... and they never die. That is, unless their thread is broken.”

He gestured to the closest thread that was tied to a nail. “That thread belonged to Alexander Stead. He was one-hundred and thirteen years old when his thread was broken in 1956. He was one of my best friends, and I miss him dearly.”

Violet was starting to feel more composed, but was only able to manage a feeble word.

“How?”

John laughed ruefully. “Well, the coroner's report said he died of natural causes due to advanced age. Before his thread broke, he didn't look a day over thirty-five. When I buried him that same afternoon, he was a mass of wrinkles, liver spots, and white hair.”

He must have seen the look of confusion on her face, and clarified. “When one's thread is broken, the person ages very rapidly, as if they're getting caught up to what age they should be. Alexander aged seventy-eight years in a matter of minutes. His heart didn't have a chance.”

He cleared his throat and went on. “Everyone that lives here is frozen at the age they were when their thread was put up on this wall. That's why Mary Hawkins is still pregnant, and while Julie Bolduc still has two-month-old twins. Everyone has the potential to live forever here in Sammamish, and the magic behind their thread keeps them none the wiser.”

Suddenly, Violet couldn't stand the feel of John's hand on her shoulder. She shook it off violently and clutched her arms around herself.

“Any questions?” he asked, a wry smile creeping across his face.

“Just one,” she said, finding her voice. “Why?”

He laughed haughtily. “Why? Why not? To live forever and never age, to never get sick or hurt, to be able to see all the wonders of this world? This is my father's legacy, and I've protected it and kept it running since time out of mind! It's my job!”

“It's not your job to play God!” Violet cried. “You're trapping people here, playing with their futures and their destinies! What if one of Julie Bolduc's twins would grow up to discover the cure for cancer, or if Mary Hawkins would give birth to a child who would establish world peace?”

“Needless what-if's, my dear. If there is never any worry of cancer, why do we need to cure it? The magic behind the threads makes the people of Sammamish very peaceful, so the peace of others is not my concern. Let them fight their wars. We'll continue living for decades longer than anyone else ever has.”

Color was rising into his high cheekbones, and Violet saw for the first time anger on the face of this kindly old shopkeeper.

“Wait,” she said, thinking of something suddenly. “If the threads keep you from getting old, how is it that you have aged?”

John seemed to calm a little at this. “That's the downside of using thread. As it ages, it starts to break down. Here, look at my thread at the top. You'll see.” He gestured to the top of the wall, where a fraying strand of black thread was attached to a plate with “J Gormley” stamped on it. It looked unbelievably fragile. “If a thread weakens, the individual age advances instead of remaining still, but they age at a very slow rate.”

She turned and walked towards the pedestal. John had turned his back to her, surveying the piles of boxes and crates that crowded the room. Inside the pedestal under a glass panel was a pair of antique sewing scissors. The gears in her mind started turning.

“I bet I know what these are for,” she said quietly, and lifted the glass panel. She picked up the scissors, which were surprisingly heavy, but rested comfortably in her hand.

John spun around, and knocked over a box containing sheaves of paper. “No!”

With the scissors open, their sharp edges gleaming even in the dim light of this back room and seemingly hungry to bite into something, Violet Isabelle Kramer approached the wall.

“You don't want to do that, Violet,” John said steadily.

“Give me one good reason not to.”

“I have plenty. Mary Hawkins? If you cut her thread now, she would advance through the last trimester of her pregnancy in seconds. Her unborn child would grow to the size of a two-year-old before it even left the womb, and the act of such forceful and unnatural childbirth would certainly rip her apart.

“Julie Bolduc's twins would become adults in their late twenties with the minds of infants, and while they might survive, if they were being driven home by their mother, she would most likely die of multiple organ failure and cause a major accident.”

Violet began to understand that John was right. Cutting the threads to give the people of this town a normal life might actually result in killing them. Some of these people had been under the magic of the threads for decades. There would be no escape for them until their own threads started to fray with extreme age. But her's and Osgood's...

“I imagine you're thinking of cutting your own thread. You are, aren't you?” John walked slowly towards her, his feet creaking on the wooden floor. “Very unwise, my dear.”

“Why? It's only been a year and a half. I can take a few wrinkles and a few pounds.”

“Yes, but who knows what rapid age progression will do to the brain? Perhaps something benign will form, but perhaps it will be malignant. Is it worth the risk?” His voice was calm and convincing, but Violet stood strong.

“What really happened to Alexander Stead?” she asked.

This visibly threw him, and he rocked back on his feet as if he had been slapped. John looked down at his feet and mumbled something.

“I'm sorry, what was that?” Violet asked.

“I said I cut his thread!” John roared, spittle flying from his lips. “He found out about the threads and was going to go public with it. I couldn't let that happen, I just couldn't! The land of my people would become tainted and overrun with those seeking everlasting life, and my father's life work would be for nothing.”

“Screw your father's life work, John. These are people's lives you are playing with!” She opened the scissors with an audible snick sound, and held them out to the wall. John was taken aback for a moment, and then tried to stop her.

Violet shoved him back with her shoulder as he advanced, and when he was off balance she kicked him in the stomach. He tumbled back into the stacks of boxes and was soon covered by them. When he struggled to free himself, more boxes fell down.

With John otherwise occupied, Violet searched for her name and Osgood's name on the wall. She had the blades of the scissors around the two threads by the time John managed to free himself. She tried to sever the threads, but it was like trying to cut through steel. She bore down with both hands on the handles of the scissors, and just as John grabbed her shoulders and wrenched her away, the threads snapped.

She felt something like a brisk wind rush out of her lungs as she fell back. Her heart skipped a few beats like a misfiring engine, but then evened out and continued beating, thudding heavily in her ears as boxes and crates fell around her. She remained still, and only started to pick herself up off the floor when she felt John struggling to move beneath her.

Gaining her feet, she turned around and faced him. She pushed away the initial worry about his health and well-being, realizing that she was facing the man who was literally pulling the strings behind the entire town.

“You've been in control long enough, John Gormley. I think it's time you carried on.” She bent and picked up the scissors from where they had landed when she fell. They thrummed in her hand, and the feeling of ultimate power flashed through her. Caught up in this revelation, she barely saw John jump up from the floor with agility that she wouldn't have thought he could have possessed. He hit the hand that held the scissors, and they flew up in the air.

With her eidetic memory, Violet remembered what happened next in slow motion. The scissors spun in the air as they came close to the wall. Their upward momentum carried them up to the top of the wall, and one of the hungry blades came down on a thread. This particular thread had been up there for so long it had started to deteriorate.

It was attached to the metal plate stamped with “J Gormley”.

The thread broke with a twang. Violet whipped her head around to look at John, and there was a moment frozen in her memory where she saw pure fear on his face. He was finally facing death, after almost two centuries.

Then, he simply went to dust. Violet thought she saw his skin turn translucent and that there was a moment where there was nothing but a skeleton standing in front of her, but before she had much time to blink, all that remained of John Gormley was a pile of dust.

Violet caught her breath, tucked the scissors into the back pocket of her jeans, and walked out of Someone Else's Treasure for the second to last time.

Three months later, Violet found herself standing in front of the town in front of Sammamish's only antique shop. She told them of what she had found out, and at first there was an uproar. When she finally managed to get them all to settle down, she told them something else.

“You all have a choice to control your own destiny from this day forward, as you should have been able to ever since you came to this place.” She held up the antique sewing scissors, and they glinted meanly, hungrily in the afternoon sun. “What will you choose?”

At that, she fell silent and walked through the open doors of the antique shop, ready to pass on the gift of life, life with an end, to those that should choose it.

---

Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, February 4, 2011

In Which I Give You Part One

Thanks to an extra day off from work due to some snow, I was able to spend some time writing another story from the suggestions I had you all give me a little while back. This one in particular came from Faye, and while it started off slow, it soon picked up and I couldn't stop writing. It ends at just shy of four-thousand words (which would make for one hell of a long post), so I split it up and today I give you part one. Enjoy!

Title: Threads of Destiny
Name: Violet Isabelle Kramer
Location: Sammamish, WA
Emotion: Fearful confusion
Object: Antique sewing scissors

---

Sammamish, Washington was not an old town by any means. Violet found that out very quickly without trying. The residents of this small and recently incorporated town were very proud of their land, and wouldn't hesitate to tell you if you gave them half a chance. The common thread of conversation was that their roots ran deep, and that this little town nestled against its namesake of Lake Sammamish had nothing if not an abundance of history. Even after Violet had heard just about everything about her new town, however, it still took her a number of months before she started to suspect that there was more to it. She understood that all towns, regardless of age, hold some secrets, but what she didn't expect was how far some people in town would go to keep their secrets safe.

Violet was Violet Isabelle Kramer, the newly married wife of Osgood Kramer, architect. They had moved to Sammamish because of his new job at a firm in Seattle. It afforded them a comfortable life in a nice home overlooking the lake, but with no children to help make the house less lonely during the long days her husband worked, Violet spent a lot of time in town. People in town loved to talk, and Violet was a very good listener.

Most of what she heard was town gossip, of course. Who was sleeping with who, who was getting a divorce, who was the town drunk or drug addict, who was stealing from the till, the usual stuff. She wouldn't have admitted it if you had asked, but Violet loved gossip. Not so much the passing it on part, but she had a thirst for hearing the latest word. Over the span of the eighteen months that her and Osgood lived in Sammamish until her awakening, she was just as much a part of it as anyone else.

When she tired of gossip and started to crave history, her favorite place to go to hear stories was the antique shop. The owner of Someone Else's Treasure was an elderly man named James Gormley. The fact that he was in his eighties did not prevent him from flirting with her. Violet allowed it, thinking he was a harmless old man, and besides, he seemed to know everything about this town. Whenever she visited his store, she would wander the aisles and look at the various things he had for sale, and James would talk almost endlessly. Everything in the shop was from Sammamish, she found, and everything had a story. She often wondered how he knew all that he knew, and after a year and a half, Violet thought she had heard everything this man would have to say.

She was wrong.

They had lived in Sammamish for just over a year and a half when the first major realization struck her. It took her a few days of heavy thinking to convince herself that she wasn't going crazy, and a few more days of culling the memories she had gained since they came here, but in the end she couldn't quiet the realization in her mind: the residents of Sammamish weren't getting older.

While at the grocer's the afternoon before, Violet had bumped into Mary Hawkins. She was pregnant and glowing. Her being pregnant wasn't the problem, but rather that she still was. Violet had a distinct memory of talking with her at the grocery store just weeks after her and Osgood moved in, and Mary had told her that she was six months along. And now, almost a year later and still pregnant?

Her mind drifted towards the children in town. Every child she could bring to mind, especially those that were at the age where growth spurts and puberty were just around the corner, hadn't changed. There were only a few infants in town, and as far as she could remember none of them had grown. And hadn't she just seen Julie Bolduc, who had two-month-old twins when the Kramer's first came to Washington, pushing her double stroller down Main street?

Then there was the odd fact that she couldn't recall ever hearing about birthday parties or anniversaries. It occurred to her with cold fear that her own birthday had gone overlooked, as well as Osgood's. Even their first wedding anniversary had passed them by. A pit formed in the base of her stomach, chilling her through and through.

It was the thought of her missed anniversary that put the second realization in her mind. No one was getting sick or injured, either. Not once had she fallen sick or had a seasonal allergy attack since they moved here, and her husband, who always claimed to have an inferior immune system, hadn't had so much as the sniffles.

There was one last thing, something that made her mouth run dry. She couldn't remember seeing or hearing that anyone had died. With the amount of gossip going around, that definitely would have been a hot topic. When she put her mind to it more, she realized that through all of her travels throughout the town, she had not seen a single cemetery.

Was any of this real? Was she just remembering things wrong and highlighting some of the oddities her subconscious had picked up on? Violet had always been able to rely on her eidetic memory before, but this tested the limits of her acceptance. How was this even possible? What kind of magic was at work in this town?

Almost a week had passed before Violet felt like she could return to town without gawking at everyone. She went on unsteady feet to all of her usual haunts, even stopping at the uniquely titled coffee shop, The Daily Grind, for a cup of liquid encouragement. No one asked her where she had been for the last week, but that didn't surprise her. Everyone she saw and recognized called out to her like normal, but it seemed to her that there was suspicion thinly veiled behind their smiles and friendly greetings.

At last she went to Someone Else's Treasure to speak to Mr Gormley. Surely the man with the loosest tongue in town would have some answers. She walked with confidence through the front door, the bell hanging on a wrought iron hook affixed to the door jangling pleasantly.

Having heard the bell, James Gormley came up front. His face brightened when he saw who his latest patron was.


“Violet! Such a great sight for sore eyes!” he cried, his voice warm and crackly in a way that reminded her of her grandfather.


“Hello, Mr Gormley,” she replied. “I'm surprised you noticed. No one else in town did.”

“Bah,” he said, flapping a hand in the direction of Main street. “Most town folk don't have the chance to have the sole attention of the prettiest woman in town on an almost daily basis. And when she stops coming in, you notice.”

Color rose to her cheeks, and she momentarily forgot what she had come in here for. She smiled, and picked up the small jewelry box she always admired whenever she came in here. “Have anything new since the last time I was here?”

“Actually, I do,” James said, and started towards the back of the store. He started talking about it, describing it and detailing its history to her as was the way he always did. Violet listened and murmured agreeably in the places where required. She didn't care at all about whatever new trinket he put out for sale. She just knew that talking with James Gormley was like starting your car in cold weather. Sometimes you just had to let it warm up for awhile before heading off to your destination.

Realizing that he had been doing most of the talking, James fell silent. “I've been talking your ear off again, my dear. I'm sorry. You know I tend to ramble.”

“Don't worry about it, Mr Gormley. I like to hear you talk. You seem to know so much about everything.”

He smiled, giving purpose to the wrinkles that lined his face and crow's feet at the corners of his eyes. “Do you have any questions, Violet?” He always asked at this point in the conversation, which basically gave him back the floor to continue talking.

“Just one,” she said. She looked up at him and met his gaze. “How old are you?”

He blinked, and gave a short laugh. “I'm old enough to know better, but young enough to not care just yet.”

Violet smiled patiently, but didn't relent. “How old are you, really?”

His eyes widened and color drained from his face. His bottom lip quivered slightly before he cleared his throat and composed himself. He stood silently for a few moments, their eyes still locked on each other.

“You know,” he said at last, sounding stunned.

“I know something is not right about this town, and I figured you'd be the one to let me in on the secret,” Violet spat out angrily, the anger surprising not only Mr Gormley but herself as well. “I've been here for a year and half, don't you think it's time someone told me why I'm not getting older?”

“I didn't tell you for lack of wanting to, my de-,” James started to say.

“I'm not your dear, so don't start up with that. I just want to know what is wrong with this town, and I want the truth.”

---

Part two goes up on Monday. 

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

In Which I Make A Line

Having an analytical mind is both good and bad. It's good because it allows one to consider things from different angles and perspectives, and that can make finding a solution much easier. It's bad because once you've been looking at things and analyzing them for so long it becomes almost perfunctory, it's difficult to just let things be what they are and not focus on the faults or differences.

A perfect case in point is the linoleum floor in the break room at work. It's your basic, generic floor consisting of random patterns and groupings of color. There are only three colors (white, black, and grey), and all of them are slightly speckled to give them an illusion of texture. Most people who walk through the break room during the day won't notice the floor. After all, it's just something you walk on, and generally not anything of interest. For me, though, I look at the floor and see patterns and shapes.

Specifically, Tetris pieces.




What it looks like:















What I see:











First, it's noticing that the shapes on the floor look like Tetris pieces. Then, I'm thinking about how they could be shifted and turned to fit together to make a line. Then I'm wishing I could shift and turn them to make the line. Of course I can't, because they are glued to the floor, and it'd be pretty crazy of me to really do it, but if I could just get one corner picked up...

No. Not going to happen. I'd have some explaining to do.

Only in the mind of an OCD geek, I suppose. I'll stick to playing a knockoff version of Tetris on my phone. It's less destructive, and there is less commercial linoleum tile adhesive involved.