Question of the Week #79

For $20,000, would you go for three months without washing, brushing your teeth, or using deodorant? Assume you could not explain your reasons to anyone, and that there would be no long-term effect on your career.

Seriously? $20,000 to basically do nothing? Where do I sign up? I mean, sure, I’ll probably be unpleasant to hang around after the first few days. But who says my personality wouldn’t typically rub people the wrong way after a few days anyway? The fact that I wouldn’t be able to tell anyone about the cash payoff in three months just makes the situation funnier. And it would be interesting to know which people in my life would just be polite and say nothing about my foul stench and which ones would be true friends who would say, “Dude, you stink.” I value honesty, people.Labyrinth - Air Is Sweet.gif*The Question of the Week can be found in The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

VTnessa’s Challenge

Time to come back to another challenge issued by another reader. The second comment on my initial blog post came from VTnessa, who provided the following prompts…

  • Character Name: Hezekiah Tribido
  • Setting: The plains/prairies of Canada
  • Object: A lobster boat
  • Emotion: Relaxed

Gladiator - GrassI honestly couldn’t remember how long I had been walking. Days? Weeks? I stopped keeping track of time when my phone died and I subsequently dropped it in the middle of a field.

I wasn’t even sure where I was. At some point, I must have crossed over from Alberta to Saskatchewan. But I had no idea where that would have happened. At this point, the entire landscape was beginning to blend together.

The only thing I knew for sure was that I was feeling good about the decision I made. I just decided to leave my life in Calgary behind. There was nothing left for me there. Nothing but tragedy, that is.

It started when my parents died in a car accident right after I began my first year at university. I returned home to take care of funeral arrangements and to “mourn appropriately” and discovered that my father had not been honest with us about how he made his living.

As it turns out, he was a career criminal. I don’t know how he hid that side of his life from me and Mom. Though, I guess I’ll never know for sure if he kept it from Mom. For all I know, I could have been the only one in the dark. Thanks to his criminal activity, all assets were frozen, leaving me with no inheritance. I wasn’t even able to access life insurance funds to pay to have them buried.

One of Dad’s attorney friends (probably another criminal) tried to make it so I wouldn’t lose our house, but that ended up being seized, too. And that was the last straw for me. I just started walking with no more than the clothes on my back and the $50 in my wallet. The authorities may have asked me to stay local, but where did I have to go? At this point, I figured, if they want me to stick around so badly, they can arrest me. At least then I’d have a place to stay.

So far, I’ve walked alone. I’ve had no one asking about me, that I’m aware of. Like I said, my phone died and I chose to throw it away. So if anyone was trying to call me, I would never know. I was having a hard time caring. All I could think was that, maybe, I could make it all the way to the east coast and start a new life. Maybe I could learn how to catch lobsters and sell them to all the seafood places. At least it was a more acceptable career than whatever my father had done.

Somehow, I’d managed to continue walking without getting tired. I’ve watched the sun come up and I’ve watched it set. I’ve watched as the stars danced across the night sky. I’ve looked at nothing but farmland and empty fields for more days than I can count. Nothing has broken up my long walk.

I had resigned myself to the comfort of seeing nothing and nobody for as long as I could avoid them. And then I heard the crash behind me.

Turning around, I saw something odd about 100 feet from where I now stood. It was a boat. It was busted up as if it had been dropped from the sky. “Huh…” I said. Well, it may have been more of a grunt. It was the first vocalization I’d made since I walked out of the house.

I walked toward the boat. I was too curious not to. What was a boat doing in the middle of the Canadian prairie? How did it suddenly appear out of nowhere?

When I got close enough, I shouted, “Hello?” Then I rolled my eyes. “Why am I saying hello? Who could possibly be on this boat?” I said to myself.

Knowing it was probably entirely unsafe, I climbed aboard the wreckage. I had never spent any significant time on a boat before, so I have no idea what I was looking for. Anything, really. Or nothing. “I should just keep on walking…” I said, again talking to myself.

But I didn’t. I was in full-on explore mode. On the deck, I saw what looked like small cages. “Are those lobster traps?” I was still thinking out loud. “That’s funny, I was just thinking about…” I trailed off as I made my way to the cabin.

Inside was a mess. “I wonder if this is what Dorothy’s house looked like after it landed in Oz.” I was actually beginning to convince myself that this boat had actually fallen from the sky. But there weren’t any tornadoes. There wasn’t even any wind. This wasn’t Kansas. And it sure wasn’t Oz.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I didn’t find anyone aboard. I was a little afraid that I was going to come across a dead body in some nightmarish state. What I did find may have been more disturbing.

As I looked for signs that life had once been on this boat, I found a desk with several drawers that had all fallen halfway out. In the top drawer was a wallet. Maybe there would be ID inside that would give me a clue about… I really didn’t know what.

“This wallet looks a lot like mine,” I said. But I brushed that thought aside. Wallets are a dime a dozen, right? Well, no, they’re a lot more than that. But you’ve seen one black leather wallet, you’ve seen them all. This one just looked worn. Extremely used.

I opened the wallet and pulled out the ID. And there it was. I think I’d have rather come across a dead body. The picture on the ID was mine. The name, Hezekiah Tribido, was mine. For a moment, I began to panic. If anyone else had been there, they might have commented that I looked like I had seen a ghost. Is there a different look for someone who might have seen their own ghost?

I dropped the wallet and went back onto the deck of the boat, boards creaking under my feet. I carefully climbed back down to solid ground and stared at the wreckage. It didn’t take long for my panic to dissipate. Once I was calm, I began walking again. I walked away from the wreckage of the boat. I walked away from the wreckage that was my life.

If I never find out where that boat came from, that’s okay. If I never find out how my wallet could have been in two places at once, that’s okay, too. My plan is just to keep on walking. And maybe find work on a lobster boat when I get to the coast.

A to Z

Challenge AcceptedCaitlyn issued another challenge on the Twitter. I have to write a story in which each sentence begins with a different letter of the alphabet, beginning with the letter A, and moving sequentially, i.e., B, C, D, and so forth. That gives me 26 sentences to tell a coherent story. I feel like this one will be quite the challenge. Let’s give it a go…

All the other kids were jealous when Cameron came to school in the stretch limousine. But she earned that month of free limo service fair and square. Cameron stayed awake for 72 hours straight, outlasting every other contestant who tried to win the contest. Despite her delirium by the end of the contest, she was excited that she would have access to a comfortable, chauffeured ride for the next 30 days.

Every morning, she would wake up and get ready for school, and there would be a limousine waiting for her at the curb in front of her house. For an entire month, anytime she needed to go anywhere, she could call up her driver and he would take her (between the hours of 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.).

Good news,” said Martin, approaching Cameron as she exited the vehicle. “Half of the student body now wants to be friends with you so you can give them rides everywhere, but the other half just thinks you’ve done all this to get attention.”

I think,” said Cameron, “that I’ll just ignore the entire student body and utilize my temporary limo service the way I see fit. Just because my life is a little different doesn’t mean I suddenly care what everyone thinks of me.”

Kid, don’t shoot the messenger,” Martin said.

Look, I know people are going to talk, and I know that I’ll be forgotten in a month.”

Martin reached for Cameron’s hand, but she shyly pulled away. No one knew that she and Martin were dating, and she wanted it to stay that way. Only her friend Vicki knew they were officially a couple. People knowing about Cameron’s private life made her anxious.

Question,” Martin began, “why can’t we tell people we’re going out again?”

Really, Martin, do we have to have this conversation all over again?” She knew she was a contradiction. There was no way she could logically explain how she didn’t care what other people think of her but got anxious at the thought of them all knowing who she was dating. Usually, she could talk her way out of these define-the-relationship moments, but she wasn’t sure she had yet recovered from her 72 hours of non-sleep from last week.

Vicki sidled up beside the (happy?) couple, threading her arm through Cameron’s. “Where are we going after school today?”

X-Men is playing at the Zenith Theater for two bucks apiece,” suggested Martin.

You know I’m a sucker for 15-year-old superhero movies,” said Cameron. “Zenith Theater it is!”

That Time I Got Beat Up By a Girl

I’m a sarcastic individual. If you only know me through this blog, I would hope that my sarcasm comes through in my writing. But I know it’s difficult to convey tone through the written word. Anyone who knows me in real life can pick up on my sarcasm easily. One of my best friends even told me that my sarcasm will get me punched in the face someday.

Little does he know, it kind of already happened. It’s not something I like to think about. And it’s probably the sole reason why I keep a lid on the sarcasm until I’ve really gotten to know people. I’ve got to be friends, or at least comfortable acquaintances, with someone before letting my smart mouth off the leash. They need to understand how my sense of humor works and know that I never say anything with the intention of hurting feelings. Sure, it still happens sometimes, but I don’t mean for it to.

Like I said, the sarcasm has already resulted in a punch to the face. I was in 5th grade. I was a chubby kid. Mom probably would have called me “husky.” But it was pre-anorexia, so I wasn’t small. I hadn’t yet discovered that if you let out a smart remark or insult, you better be willing to deal with the consequences. Or be fast enough to run away from those consequences. I was neither of those things in the 5th grade.

I’ll admit, what I said was mean. But, again, this is before I learned how to filter myself. I was just a kid and I came up with a witty comeback for something that had been said to me. I couldn’t not say what was on my mind, right?

We started coming back in from recess on that fateful afternoon. Our teacher, Miss Barlow, had rearranged our desks while we were outside. She now had us sitting in new groups, which placed me next to the Amazon girl, Stephanie. I don’t think she was really an Amazon, but may have been held back at some point. She was about a foot taller than me. I really don’t know anything about her. Could be that she just hit a growth spurt earlier than all the other kids in our grade.

Around that time, Stephen King’s It had been made into a television mini-series. Being the person I am, for some reason, I must have quoted it more than a couple times. Stephanie, upon seeing that she would be sitting next ot me, said, “Great, I’m sitting next to It.”

This is where I get mean. Please not that I’m confessing to being a real jerk here and that, as an adult, I would not say something this hurtful to someone. Probably. Stephanie suffered from early onset acne. It was bad, y’all. Like, the kind of acne problem that most of us didn’t start worrying about ’til freshman year. I can only assume that she was pretty sensitive about it. Because, without missing a beat, I said, “Great, I’m sitting next to zit.” I mean, it rhymed. She started it by calling me “It.” Why shouldn’t I say it? Because you’re about to get the crap beat out of you, that’s why.

Question 43 - Beat Up By a GirlI never saw anyone cross a classroom that quickly before. You know how some guys will joke that when they get in a fight, there will be two hits, “I hit you, you hit the floor.” That’s basically what happened. Her fist made contact and I was down. I may have foolishly tried to take out her legs in a halfhearted effort at fighting back. That was a mistake. She then kicked me while I was down.

So I still use humor as a defense mechanism these days. But I certainly don’t use the sarcasm as a comeback unless I’m using it with someone I know won’t rip me a new one. Stephanie got sent home early that day. I’m pretty sure she got a couple days off school for that, too. We weren’t close after that. Not that we were ever close before.

My New Pet Peeve

Kids, I’ve recently discovered that I have a new biggest pet peeve.

For years, my biggest pet peeve was people who refuse to use a turn signal. Didn’t matter if it was because they were changing lanes or turning onto a different street. The signal is there for a reason. It’s not just a courtesy thing. It’s a safety thing.Decision 16 - Hans Moleman CrashBut, and I feel I should congratulate all of the bad drivers out there, the turn signal thing now pales in comparison to my current biggest pet peeve…

INCONSISTENT DRIVERS

I understand that not all cars come equipped with cruise control. And when you’re driving down the highway, sometimes you can lose track of how fast you’re going. But come on… Do you really have to come up on me going 20 over the speed limit, only to pass me, then drop to 10 under once you’re in front of me?

See, I do have cruise control. And I utilize it quite often. It’s not that I don’t think I can properly regulate my speed without the aid of the machine. Most of my adult life, I drove a Ford Escort that did not have cruise control and I did just fine. But I figure if I’ve got it, why not use it? So I’ve got the thing set on roughly five over. I’m sure we can all agree that’s a pretty safe speed to go so as not to get pulled over. With the cruise control set, it becomes incredibly frustrating to play a game of cat and mouse with an inconsistent driver on the interstate.

Don’t get me wrong. The non-signal-users do nothing to lessen my road rage. But they have been officially replaced as my top pet peeve.

Look, you can go slow. I don’t care about that. It means I can pass you at some point. And you can go fast. Doesn’t bother me one bit if you pass me like I’m standing still and get a ticket three miles up the road where that state trooper is waiting for you. But don’t speed up, act like you’re gonna pass me, then hang out in my blind spot for until I suddenly get behind someone driving three miles an hour less than where my cruise control is set. I’m not saying I’m going to run you off the road, but the thought will go through my mind as I grip the steering wheel and mutter incoherent phrases under my breath like Joe Pesci in Home Alone.Home Alone - Joe Pesci

Carpool Karaoke

One of my favorite things to do in this world is to get in the car and drive while cranking up the radio/iPod/CD player and singing to the tops of my lungs. Mostly, that’s because singing is one of my favorite things to do in this world. The driving, I could take it or leave it.

Generally, when it’s just me in the car, I could leave the driving. Not that I hate the driving part or anything. I just get the road rage.

Language - Road RageBut as much as I love singing in the car when I’m by myself, I love it even more when there are others riding with me. Now, you can’t always convince your passengers to join in on a good sing-along. But when you can, it’s a guaranteed good time. Especially when the appointed DJ is able to find some entertaining songs to sing along with.

Recently I got a chance to spend some time in the car with a trio of ladies who were not only willing to play along but were almost overjoyed at the suggestion of Carpool Karaoke. Kids, it was glorious.

It actually started as an outdoor movie night at Mountain Lake with a group of friends from church. Mountain Lake, you’ll recall from 20th-century history, was the location where they filmed the 80s classic, Dirty Dancing. But that’s not important to the story. Really, the movie part isn’t important to the story, either. But I mention it because Mountain Lake is a bit of a drive from Blacksburg, where we all live. Not horrible, but it’s the kind of location where people would want to carpool.

The ride down was filled with conversation with light song stylings playing in the background. No singing, whatsoever. The ride back, however, was a different story. As we made our way down the winding road, I made the suggestion of Carpool Karaoke. Like I mentioned above, my passengers were kind of excited to play along.

Being in the front passenger’s seat, I assigned Rebecca with DJing duties. And she delivered. She provided the car with hits from Shania Twain, High School Musical, and Grease. And I will forevermore associate Hinder’s “Lips of an Angel” with that car ride back into town. The only disappointment that these ladies may have had came when Rebecca could not find anything by One Direction on my iPod. I think I have “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful” on my computer, but it’s not one I carry out to the car with me. Because I probably rank that particular boy band up there with Justin Bieber.

I watch as James Corden performs the Carpool Karaoke with various celebrity guests and, I’ve gotta say, I get a little jealous. It must be incredibly fun to sing with artists as they sing along with the songs they made famous. It’s probably more fun to sing with them as they sing along with the songs that they didn’t make famous. Unless it’s Bieber. I’m not jealous of that episode.Carpool Karaoke - Adele

AFI #60 – Duck Soup

Duck Soup - PosterDuck Soup

1933

Directed by Leo McCarey

Netflix says… Thanks to the patronage of well-heeled widow Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont), Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) becomes dictator of the tiny country Freedonia. But when the ambassador of the bordering nation of Sylvania declares his love for Mrs. Teasdale, Firefly declares war. The Marx Brothers are at their sidesplitting best in this raucous political satire, in which Chico, Harpo and Zeppo co-star as spies and counterspies.

Another Marx Brothers movie. And, again, I kind of don’t get it. When I watched A Night at the Opera I blamed my inability to “get” this humor on the fact that humor is different now than it was in the 1930s. I don’t necessarily think that’s the case though. Maybe it’s just that I don’t seem to be able to appreciate the humor of the Marx Brothers. Pretty sure this is the last one of their films on the list. And I won’t be disappointed by that fact.