Friday, July 28, 2006

500 word final submission

The last thing I am to do with my online class is to submit a 500 word creative piece. It can be on anything. I struggled with what style to write. I actually thought about submitting a piece that I had already written, but then changed my mind. I can do that. I'm a writer. I decided to just come up with anything. Start from scratch and see where it takes me. You'll remember that my main character's name was Ralph when I posted the first paragraph. I've changed his name to Jake. I don't know why, but I did. So... without further ado... here is my 500 word creative piece (that has yet to have a title worth mentioning).


The piercing sound of the alarm clock brought Jake’s arm up from under the quilt he had buried himself in the night before. As he randomly attacked the clock to restore his peaceful surroundings, he realized the day had dawned. His mind warred with his body to gain consciousness, and his body was winning. It wanted to continue the blissful slumber that would repair all his aches and pains. At the cookout the night before, Jake had found himself playing two-on-two basketball with his brother-in-law and nephews. He had never felt out of shape or felt the completion of his 40 plus years. But now, as he stumbled out of the hot shower and frantically searched for the Icy-Hot that was tucked in the recesses of his bathroom cabinets, his years began to speak to him.

After applying the ointment to both knees, Jake wrapped a towel around his waist and walked to the sink. He almost slipped on the wet tiled floor. Is this how he wanted to begin his forty-second year? He sighed heavily as he wiped the steam from the bathroom mirror and took a long look at his stubbled face. He didn’t think he looked any older. He checked the profile of his body and felt pretty good about himself. He still tried to work out a couple of days a week and he did his best to eat right.

As Jake crossed to the dresser in his bedroom, he stubbed his toe on the corner. Surely to God this day was not going to be a foretelling of the year to come. If the last 12 minutes were any indication of the next 12 months, he would turn in his resignation on Monday, cash out his 401K and head to Tahiti. He grabbed a t-shirt and boxers from his dresser drawer and was making his way to the hall when he caught the fragrance of fresh coffee brewing. Who could be in the penthouse? It certainly wasn’t the cleaning service, they had instructions to arrive at 11:00 o’clock. He quietly opened the bedroom door and looked into the kitchen from the loft area where a dark shadow moved. Whoever it was had not turned on the lights.

Jake quietly moved back to the bedside table and withdrew his 9mm handgun. He crept into the hallway and was momentarily stunned by the bright lights that flashed on. As he was pulling his weapon around, he heard his brother’s voice.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! You don’t want to shoot your favorite brother.”

“You’re my only brother, Chance.” Jake said through clenched teeth. He had to work to unlock his jaw. “What in the world are you doing here anyway? And how did you get in?”

“Mom gave me the spare key.” Chance said.

“I thought Mom and Dad were out of the country. I thought you were going to stay at their place,” Jake said.

“I was, but Mom and Dad are remodeling the kitchen and I can’t stay in a place with no kitchen. Besides,” Chance grinned, “You’re kitchen has state-of-the-art, high-tech gadgets and what not.”

Jake failed to suppress his grin. This was Chance after all, his free-spirited brother. If anything was going to help Jake face his forty-second year, it would be Chance.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Continued Rantings of the Lunatic Mind

I always thought that my vehicle was a means of transportation. Little did I know that it is a statement of my abilities, intelligence, political ideals, religious affiliations and sexual preferences.

I learned to drive on my father’s 1968 VW Bug. It had belonged to his father, and we inherited it when Grandaddy Bell passed away. It was an automatic and I have fond memories of driving around the house and running over my mother’s favorite flowering shrub. I’ll never forget the look on her face as my father yanked me out of the car and berated me for not remembering the difference between the clutch and the brake. Mom was infinitely more concerned with the fact that the Bug was now planted firmly on the flowering shrub that had begun to bloom for the first time in years. It was a while before I drove again.

It was my father’s idea to give me the Bug when I turned 16. I was very excited and on the first day I drove it the approximately four blocks to my high school. I was so proud. At the end of the day, I drove it four blocks back home and had just turned into my driveway when the car stopped suddenly. The floorboard had apparently rusted out and the battery fell to the ground. My dream car was no more.

The first vehicle that was actually mine was a 72 Ford Mustang. It was red. It was actually a faded red with a few spots of rust and an eight-track tape player. I am certain that I was the hold out for the conversion from the eight track to the cassette tapes. It was because of me that record companies continued to manufacture eight tracks. Who didn’t enjoy being in the middle of Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” when the track changed? If I search through the attic, I am certain to find my soundtrack to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. But, I digress.

My father surprised me with the car on my 18th birthday. It was a bargaining chip. He told me I could either live on campus at MTSU or I could commute and get a car. I probably should have moved on campus… then again, knowing the life I led in college, I was better off at home. My car was not great to look at, but it kept itself together until that fateful night that I started home from my job at a retail mall department store. As I was pulling out of the parking lot, my car shimmied and shook with great intensity. It was as if I had run over some large metal object. As I looked into my rearview mirror, I realized I had run over a larger metal object… namely my transmission.

The first car that I owned was a Chevy Chevette. I purchased it from a rental car sales lot. It was a white hatchback and it had a four cylinder engine in it. I paid $108.00 a month for it, and I was so proud until I brought it home. It was not what my mother wanted for me. Much like the guys I dated were not the guys she wanted for me either. She didn’t want me to settle for cheap, unattractive and fuel efficient. She wanted me to purchase my dream car. But this was the 80s in middle Tennessee and my dream car was a brand new Red Corvette with t-tops. To this day that is my dream car… and I have yet to own one. The Chevette did well for me for a few years until I had to replace the alternator. Then the starter. Then the fuel pump. If I was heading up a hill and I had the air conditioning running, I was barely able to muster enough speed to pass a hitch-hiker making his way across country. By the time I had paid the car off, it was time to trade up.

I was finally working a 40 hour job and could afford the step below my dream car. I had always wanted a Camaro, and was very, very excited that the President of the Credit Union where my father sat on the Board of Directors just happened to have a Camaro that was two years old and he was looking to sell. There was no problem with my loan being approved and in 1986 I drove away in a 1982 Chevy Camaro that was a limited edition Olympic model. How does one tell a special edition Olympic model from a regular car? Why by the small Olympic decals on the side. This car had a cassette player and air condition and black leather upholstery. I learned a lot about black leather upholstery in the dead of a middle Tennessee summer. Gets stinkin’ hot. I’ve never had a car with leather upholstery since, and I doubt that I ever will again.

This baby sat low to the ground and I wore mirrored sunglasses and let my freak flag fly! I drag raced people down the interstate with Motley Crue booming through the tape deck. I drove that car into the ground! It was the very first car I bought AND paid for! It was the first car I had a title to and I wasn’t giving that car up for anything! I replaced the transmission and then the air conditioner went out. I couldn’t afford to have that fixed too… so I drove it for three Tennessee summers before I finally had to move on to my next dream car. A convertible.

I wanted a convertible so bad I could taste it. I had not lusted after a vehicle for years… and I Was. Going. To. Have. It. I found a used Ford Mustang convertible and was in heaven. It was great! I kept a perpetual red nose and sunburned scalp for years. The problem came in trying to keep the fabric top clean and the fact that I had no trunk space. This was the perfect road trip car, as long as you didn’t plan to go so far that you had to pack heavy. I learned early on that ice cream cones were not something you wanted to consume with the top down. I replaced the normal things, battery, alternator, starter, etc. But then, the roof began to leak around the windows and I found that I had to keep towels in the car in the event that a rain storm hit. I was caught on more than one occasion driving through a rain shower with the top down… thinking I could outlast the rain. I rarely did. But the final straw came when the top would go down… but would not go back up. It was, time for a new car.

I was getting older and so were my friends. They were tired of having to climb in and out of a two car vehicle and so my next car desires were simple. Four doors and a trunk. Everytime I walked onto a car lot and was asked what I was looking for, my reply was Four Doors and a Trunk.

“What type of car?”

“Four Doors”

“No, I mean, what model.”

“Anything with four doors in my price range”.

“What color?”

“I don’t care. As long as it has four doors and a trunk”.

“You’re pretty easy to please.”

“You have no idea.”

So I purchased a used Oldsmobile Alero. It was green. It had four doors and a trunk. And it was the worst car I have ever owned. It was in the shop more than any of the others cars I owned combined. I hated it. I bought a CD player and had my friend Leon install it. It was the first vehicle I owned to have a CD player. The player came with a remote control, which at first I thought was very funny, because truly, the dials are an arm’s length away… until I began to really use the remote, and then I would just laugh at myself. The only redeeming memory of that car was the fact that the Lord worked through its repairs in a profound way. But as soon as I got the note paid down close enough, I paid it off and gave it to my little brother to give to let my oldest niece to drive. It has not given them a bit of trouble. I could have named that car Christine.

I am now the proud owner of my first brand new vehicle. A Hyundai Santa Fe that my friend Lou Ann helped me pick out. I test drove EVERY small and mid-sized SUV on the market and this one won hand’s down. It was the smoothest of all cars and I would endorse it in every way. It has a six CD changer and I love the fact that I have come a long way from the days of my eight track.

Having said all that, I am proud to state that I have never placed a bumper sticker on any of my cars. Nor has there been a fish symbol or a Darwin symbol. When I owned a Ford, I did not belittle the Chevys and when I owned the Chevy, my car did not speak ill of the Ford. I have not seen fit to install mud-flaps with silhouettes of naked women on my SUV. I have been through many a Presidential election without using my car to voice my opinion. I have campaigned against legalized gambling without my opinion affixed on my vehicle.

I don’t have cute, pity sayings that are written so small that you must tailgate me to read a punchline. I don’t threaten you with bodily harm from a 38 special if you follow too closely. I don’t have cartoon characters peeing on another vehicle’s logo or giving you the finger. I’m not bragging about the ability of my pre-school toddler or my high school student. I don’t have praying hands or the name of my significant other scripted on the passenger side window. I do not have rainbows or triangles or a moniker announcing that I am a flaming heterosexual. I just don’t see the need for it.

I love my car. It gets me from Point A to Point B without my having to make any statements about life in general or the state of the world specifically. Alas, but that all cars would speak as quietly.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Creative Writing piece - first stab at it

So... I've been struggling with what is supposed to be my creative writing piece. By the end of my online class, I will submit 500 words of a creative piece to be evaluated by the instructor. I had toyed with the idea of submitting something I had already written; however, that almost felt like cheating. Plus, I wanted to find out if I could really make something out of nothing. So... this is the first part of my creation. I have no idea where it is going, but it should be fun to watch.

First Draft:

The piercing sound of the alarm clock brought Ralph’s arm up from under the quilt he had buried himself in the night before. As he randomly attacked the clock to restore his peaceful surroundings, he realized the day had dawned. His mind warred with his body to gain consciousness, and his body was winning. It wanted to continue the blissful slumber that would repair all his aches and pains. At the cookout the night before, Ralph found himself playing two-on-two basketball with his brother-in-law and nephews. He never felt out of shape or felt the completion of his 40 plus years. But as he stumbled out of the hot shower and frantically searched for the Icy-Hot that was tucked in the recesses of his bathroom cabinets, his years began to speak to him.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Sly Little Bunnies Galumphing Away...

It's okay for me to galumph. I'm a writer. This is actually an assignment that was given to me and the purpose was to take three objects and just write something. Anything. My three objects were rabbits, radio and a golf course. Here's what came to me. Do not ask me to explain... because I can't. I'm a novice galumpher. Thankyouverymuch.

Sly Little Bunnies

There was a quiet knock on the door of Sophie Sutter’s den. She was startled by the sound that brought her out of the best dream she was having of Mr. Merriweather’s carrot garden. Who in the world could be at her door at this time of night? She hopped from her bed and padded softly to the door.

“Who is it?” Sophie whispered. The last thing she wanted was to wake her family up at this time of night.

“It’s me, Marcel. Come outside and play.”

Marcel? What in the world was that hooligan up to now? Peeking back over her shoulder to ensure she had not been heard, Sophie quietly whispered back through the door. “I can’t come out. I’m in my PJs.”

She could hear the frustration in Marcel’s voice. “Get dressed quickly and come outside. I want to show you something. Hurry, we don’t have many hours before the sun rises.”

Sophie paused for a moment, willing herself to use good sense and tell Marcel to beat it. Her father had warned her about spending time with that jackrabbit, a term he did not use in a flattering manner. But Sophie always felt a warm glow when Marcel was around. She knew he was not the scoundrel everyone accused him of being. No one who saved the baby field mice who had been misplaced after the last storm could be all that bad. Sophie could not deny that Marcel had stolen her heart as she turned to pad back across the room and put on her clothes.

Marcel listened intently for Sophie. He heard her inch away from the door and with every passing moment, he worried that she had gone back to bed and had no plans to return. Marcel couldn’t figure out why he enjoyed Sophie’s friendship so much. She was a good little bunny, full of life and energy and so kind to everyone. Even him. He knew he was not the kind of bunny her parents dreamed for her, but she still never failed to send a smile his way or speak a kind word to him.

Sophie was coming of age now, and he wanted to be free to woo her. He knew her father would not approve, but he hoped that he could convince her that his intentions were honorable. He wanted to share his good news with her. But was she coming outside? He continued to wait, and wait, and wait. Then finally, his heart leaped to this throat as the door slowly opened and Sophie appeared.

“Where are we going?” Sophie quietly asked. “I can’t stay out late. I’m taking a huge risk as it is.”

“Don’t worry Sophie”, Marcel replied. “I promise to have you back here in an hour. Just follow me.”
Sophie fell in line behind Marcel as he hopped down the path. She was so nervous about being out this late in the evening. She dressed comfortably in her favorite pink running shorts and matching top. Pink was definitely her signature color and even though she was nervous, she wanted to make a good impression on Marcel. Where were they going? She glanced around Marcel to see they had come upon the 16th green of the Stable Bay Golf Course. But there was something at the flagpole. What was that? Oh my.

Marcel turned to see Sophie’s expression as she approached the dinner table he’d set up at the flag of the 16th hole. He knew his hard work had paid off by the astonished look on Sophie’s face. As she slowly approached him, he pulled out her chair and helped her sit. He moved aside to turn on the battery-powered radio. Soothing jazz music filled the air as he took his seat across from Sophie. He reached over and removed the silver top of the serving dish that covered the honey-glazed carrots his mother had worked so hard to prepare.

“What is the meaning of all this?” Sophie asked.

“I wanted to celebrate my new job, and I wanted to celebrate with someone special. Sophie, you have always been so kind and sweet to me. You didn’t seem to judge my actions when I was on the wrong end of the watering hose in Mr. Merriweather’s cabbage patch. I’ve done some silly things in the past, but I’m turning over a new leaf. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be the undergroundskeeper here at the golf course.”

“Marcel! That is great news! I am so proud of you!” Sophie’s excitement was not surface, but truly heart felt. She was excited for Marcel and she wanted to tell all her friends and family members who said this jack rabbit was good for nothing. She knew in her heart that Marcel had what it took to be a responsible bunny. Now, he had taken the first steps to respectability. Maybe now her father would see past the past and realize the warm heart that beat within Marcel.

As Marcel dished up Sophie’s first serving of carrots by candlelight, he continued to explain himself to her.

“Sophie, I want you to know that I intend to ask your father for permission to take you to the dance on Saturday night. I know that he might turn me down. I know that he doesn’t think very much of me, but I am going to win him over if it is the last thing I do.” Marcel glanced up at Sophie to see her reaction to this news and was stunned at the shimmer of tears in her eyes. He panicked. Had he said something wrong? Were the carrots too spicy? He sat in a stunned silence and waited.

Sophie’s heart had never been so full of joy. She knew her father would most likely decline Marcel’s request. Then again, she also knew the best way to her father’s heart was through his golf game. Sophie may not be able to go out Saturday night, but if Marcel kept his new job, her father would see the hard worker and kind hearted rabbit she knew existed under Marcel’s leather jacket and tough exterior.

“Marcel, my father will probably say no.”

“I figured that was true. But, I will ask him again next week, and then the week after that and the week after that. I want him to know how serious I am about this Sophie. I want you to know it too.”

Sophie smiled. She was as serious as Marcel. Her eyes lit up as she took her first bite of the sweetened carrots. “You know Marcel, my father just loves to play golf.”

“You don’t say.” Actually Marcel did know Sophie’s father loved golf. That is why he worked so hard to get this job. By the glimmer in Sophie’s eye, he could tell her mind was swimming with the possibilities of working her charm on her father. He knew without a shadow of a doubt that soon Mr. Sutter would acquiesce and allow him to pursue his daughter.

My instructor's response:
Your Instructor writes: Not only are you a great galumpher, but it's clear that you enjoy yourself writing. That's a great predictor of a future full of writing. Thanks for the story.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Am I a Calvin… or am I just lost?

July 4, 2005 - This entry is a year in the making. I've told the story countless times, but now it is time to actually post it. Enjoy.

I hope that my greatest fear in life will come true. I hope to one day be the overachiever that is my mother. I cannot possibly tell her that in person, because she would simply get the big head and there would be no living with her.

We’ve had a difficult summer here in the Bell house. Life had been going right on along as normal, or as normal as the Bell family can be. We were watching softball and baseball games. We shopped for clothes with the next generation of Bell females. Everything was going well until Mom couldn’t walk one day.

It is amazing how something can hit you so quickly. One day you’re standing on top of the world, the next day you are being poked and prodded by a physician who is ordering tests done and before you know it, there is an appointment with an Orthopedic Oncologist. We are grateful beyond meaning for words like “benign”, “negative”. Those words became music to us in a short couple of weeks.

Mom was diagnosed with some sort of mass under her knee. She had knee problems for years, and we truly do not know how long this has been around. Mom’s not one of those who makes a yearly appointment to a doctor. This fruit has not fallen far from the tree. But that is another matter. She was a brave trooper to have endured four different doctor visits and two sets of MRIs before the surgeon wanted to cut on her. She was solid when they wheeled her into the surgical ward and she didn’t have to stare at our somewhat solemn faces while we waited in the Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s surgery waiting area with a few hundred of our closest friends.

John and I kept things light-hearted. That is our job. We are the comedians of the family. Earl can be pretty funny too… but he is usually the brunt of the jokes that John and I are wielding like light sabers. People in a surgical waiting room are typically not there for fun and games. This only eggs John and me on even more. If it’s going to be a long time… might as well get a few laughs in. My church friends understand that about us too. We generally amuse them if they care to join us for any length of time.

During Mom’s surgery John and I stared with increasing interest at a poor down-trodden soul who, we are fairly certain, suffers from narcolepsy. Not being trained physicians ourselves, we are not entirely certain of the fate of this gentleman… but we had a pretty good time trying to determine whether we needed to call the ER team in with a crash cart to revive the man who had slumped over by a telephone and either passed out or fallen asleep. Our mercy was obviously lacking that day. I suggested that we grab some popcorn and begin to make notes of the times that he would awaken and eagerly return to his blissful unconscious state. John would rather place bets on the time he was going to come fully awake. John’s a gambler… and I think a bit of a bookie. If he wasn’t such a good cheat, I might have put money on that with him. But I’ve known him my whole life, and he would have found a way to get around paying me off if I actually won anything from him.

We were excited and thrilled with Mom’s quick recovery and trip back home. She was excited too. She had physical therapy coming three times a week and she was back to her overachieving self as soon as she could make do. She was doing very well, right up until Friday. We had a bit of a set back on Friday.

Seems there was an infection creeping around in her system that no one could really see. Her pain medication contained acetaminophen, which was masking the effects of the infection. There was no mask though come Friday afternoon, July 1, 2005. Mom began running a fever that was dangerously high and she began shaking to the point that I could barely hold her down. The doctors later called her symptoms “Reigers”. So, a week after coming home, we were in an ambulance with a weepy and frightened 73 year old heading back to Vanderbilt. Mom’s fever spiked to 104.5 by the time we were at the hospital and she was quickly tended to by a highly qualified emergency room staff.

My friend Requelle came to join my brother, my father and I in the waiting room. She was great to have around… she became the audience that John and I so desperately needed. There was only one guest allowed in the ER with Mom at any given time, so we took turns coming and going through electronic doors. By 8:00 p.m., I told Requelle to head on home, because it was obvious that we were going to spend the night and there was no reason for her to stay. She needed to go let her dogs out anyway, so she bid us good night as she left the hospital.

At about 9:30, I was in the room with Mom when it became quite clear that the atmospheric pressure of the ER had changed. Suddenly there were doctors and nursing staffers running to and fro – there were police officers and EMT personnel all looking very grim and speaking in short, staccato-esque phrases. After a few minutes passed, we were told that the ER was locked down because there had been a gunshot wound brought in and the rumor was that the shooting was gang related.

As I watched the seconds turn into minutes, and the minutes into 30 minutes, I came to the realization that we were not going anywhere soon. The men of our family could not get in, and we could not get out. We got a message through to them to just head on home and they did so, while we waited for our time to be sent to a room. And then we waited. And then we waited some more. At about 11:30 pm I told her to get comfortable because we weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Logic told me that if the ER was shut down and they didn’t need the bay we were in, we’d just be sitting there. And sitting there some more.

A break in the monotony came when two med students popped in to take on the old lady and her symptoms. She’d had blood drawn (many vials) while in the ambulance and more drawn from the hospital personnel and these doctors needed to figure out the problem. One student was a man and the other was a woman. Mom took right kindly to the guy, but not the girl. Apparently the young lady was too “aggressive” and was spouting phrases like “elevated liver enzymes” and that just was not something my mother wanted to hear, in relation to herself. If it wasn’t a condition that was associated with the knee surgery, she was having no part of it.

Finally, as I suspected, a nurse stepped in to tell us we were being moved out because they needed the ER bay and had found a room for us. We were whisked out of the bay and there was a line-up of people waiting to be whisked into the ER. This is where we met Calvin.

Calvin was the orderly assigned to take us to our new home. Calvin was a very nice man and Calvin was doing his best. Of course, it is close to 2 a.m. and Mom and I are pretty slap-happy at this point. But Calvin was fun and had lots of energy, and that is just what you want when its 2 am and you’ve been in the ER since about 5:30 pm. Calvin has been given his orders on where to take us and OFF WE GO!

Vanderbilt Hospital is a teaching hospital, and is therefore rather large. There are many buildings on the property and there are a series of catacombs underneath the buildings connecting one to the other. Calvin is taking us back to the building that we had stayed in last week, and it is about a half-mile trek, up a hill to get from Point A to Point B. About mid-way up the longest slope, Calvin informs us that it is his first night on the job.

My blood turned to ice. As nice a fella as Calvin is… I knew in my heart of hearts that we were going the wrong way. I think Mom knew it too… as she kept glancing over at me, as I am huffing and puffing my way up the ramp. Finally we reach the elevator, and after some banging around (literally) Calvin, Mom and I are on the elevator and Calvin speaks these immortal words:

“Hit the button for the eighth floor.”

I looked at the control panel and calmly replied, “Calvin, there isn’t a number eight on this elevator.”

“Are you sure?”

I forced myself not to make my squinty cartoon eyes, but I began to count aloud as I pointed out the numbers, “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven… Yep, that’s it. It stops at seven. Are you sure we need to go to eight?”

“Yes, ma’am. (Calvin was always polite) It says 8th floor north something-something tower.”

Silence. I look at Mom and she is looking at me and we’re still standing still on an elevator with the doors closed as Calvin ponders the situation. Then he speaks:

“I tell you what… just go ahead and hit the seventh floor. We’ll see what’s going on up there.”


The elevator empties out onto the seventh floor and Calvin wheels Mom out. He tells us not to go anywhere and he’ll be right back. Then he walks away. Walks. Away. I look at Mom and she is trying not to laugh too loudly because, well, it is close to 2:30 IN. THE. MORNING. And then, Calvin returns having visited the nurses' desk with his paper work and receiving his new set of directions. We get back on the elevator, we go back to the ground floor, and we head back on the half-mile trek through the catacombs. (If only it were dank and dark and Edgar Allen Poe’s Raven had made an appearance).

We found another set of elevators that we jumped on (after more banging and maneuvering of the gurney) and this one indeed did go to the eighth floor. We arrive on said floor and I remembered hearing that we were going to be in Room 230 of the North Tower. As we get off the elevator, a sign points to the Right for the North Tower and to the Left for the South Tower. We are in the North Tower. It only made sense that Calvin instead took Mom to the left. It was too much to bear this time. I had to stop him.

“Calvin… we need to go over here to the right. To the north tower.”

“Oh, no ma’am. We need to go this way.”

“I don’t think so Calvin. I really think we need to go this way”

“No, just follow me.”

“How about I just wait for you here?” And that is exactly what I did. I waved to my mother who was frantically turning around to see if I had truly abandoned her to Calvin’s misdirections again. I waited about two minutes when what to my wandering eyes would appear, but Calvin pushing my mother’s gurney back to the North Tower.

“You were right. I sure am sorry about this. You know it’s my first night here at Vanderbilt”.

“I know Calvin. You’re doing a great job. This is a big place to learn your way around in one night. Hang in there, and follow me.”

I led Calvin to our new room and he banged the gurney in through the door. By this time the Mom and I are so giddy from exhaustion that we can barely contain ourselves. The nurses would be in to help Calvin relocate the Mom from the gurney to the bed as soon as possible but Mom was ready to be off the very uncomfortable gurney. Calvin was attempting to lower the rails of the gurney to ease her over, but apparently Rail Maintenance 101 was not a course he had taken as yet. He couldn’t figure out how to lower the rail.

I’m not a doctor or a nurse, but I apparently play one on TV. I walked over and gave Calvin a quick lesson in how to lower the rail. Calvin mentioned that he should sign his first paycheck over to me because I apparently knew his job better than he did. I reassured him that it would become second nature to him in no time. Mom was through with talking and waiting on nurses. It was now 3 am. She was tired and hungry and had to go to the bathroom really, really bad. It didn’t matter that she’d just had knee surgery a week ago and could not walk yet. It didn’t matter that she’d had a raging temp of 104.5 just a few hours ago… this overachiever wanted in that bed and she DID NOT want Calvin’s assistance.

That Wonder Woman slung her leg off the gurney… bunny-hopped her way to the bed and lay down. Calvin left the room with an amazed look on his face and as soon as the door closed, we burst into laughter that we had held for about an hour.

The room that we were in was located just a few floors down from the hospital’s helicopter pad. There were many landings and lift-offs the next few days. One rather bumpy landing made me rather nervous, until Mom decided that Calvin must be on his first day behind the controls of the copter.

Oh, goodness, we laughed and laughed and laughed. Who knew that something as silly and trite as our hiking through the bowels of the hospital was just what the Great Physician ordered to lift our spirits? We will never forget Calvin… or the role he played in Mom’s recovery.

But I Don't Like Sushi

So why am I at a Sushi bar?

I’ve mentioned my addiction to peer pressure in the past. I have decided it is an addiction for me. Some people drink, some do drugs, some sniff White-Out… I succumb to peer pressure.

I started out surrendering to peer pressure, even against my mother’s sage advice. She always encouraged me to be different and to go my own way. Those words have turned around and bitten her more than once, but I think she still likes me just like I am.

I submitted to peer pressure the most when I was in college. I should just consider my college days to be my “I’ll-do-whatever-I-need-to-do-to-fit-in” days. I threw the parties. I bought the booze. I went into debt that took 20 years to get out of. I was, in a word, stupid.

I thought peer pressure would ease up as I got older. Then I met Brent Gambrell and the pressure only intensified. On the day that I met him, he handed me a serrated bread knife and instructed me to climb a magnolia tree to cut branches to use as decorations for a reception. At the time, I didn’t know what a magnolia tree was, and he had to point it out to me. So, what did I do? I climbed up that tree and cut magnolia branches, what else? Was he a fun guy I wanted to hang out with? Yes. So.I.Did.It.

Brent is also one of those people who want you to experience whatever it is that he is experiencing… and he expects you to enjoy it just as much as he does. I cannot begin to tell you how many times we have been in the kitchen talking (while he is concocting something as off the wall as lemon-pepper-crusted Salmon/Spam patties with a touch of rosemary, sage and thyme) when I’ll turn to him to say something and find myself with some food particle shoved down my throat. Did I ask to nibble on that piece of braised alligator liver? No. I did not. How in the world is it that I have eaten a piece of fried blue whale gizzard? Why, I stopped by Brent’s house, that’s how.

So… after having known Brent for 13 years now (dear Lord, how is THAT possible?) there is no fighting him when it comes to enjoying new adventures together. Whether I want to enjoy them or not is a moot point.

Take for instance a couple of weeks ago. Brent and I attended two separate birthday bashes for people turning 30. Yes. 30. They are still babies. 30. Geesh. The first was an All-American type cookout with burgers, dogs, Indian chicken, chips, cake, etc. It was fun. It was a lunchtime party and it was blazing hot in the middle of Tennessee summer. We were sweating before we got out of the car, but we got to see a lot of people that we had not seen in some time. We both RSVPed to the birthday couple and let them know we were bringing each other. No. We. Are. Not. A. Couple.

After eating and helping clean up, we headed to the Artisan Festival being held here in a local park. It was fun and I was able to find THE PERFECT GIFT for my friend Amy. She will love it, and I am so proud of it. Now it was dinner time and on to 30th birthday party, number two. At a Sushi Bar.

“I don’t like Sushi.”

“You’ll love this place.”

“I don’t like Sushi”

“They have other things there.”

“It’s a Sushi bar”

“Yes, they have great food.”

“I don’t like Sushi”

“You can get other Japanese cuisine there”

“Have you watched the Iron Chef? I don’t eat Japanese cuisine.”

“Japanese food is good.”
“There will be an eyeball floating around somewhere… and the spine of a squid”

“Squids are spineless. You’ll come, you’ll eat, you’ll enjoy.”

“I don’t like Sushi”

“We’ll have Sake”

“I don’t like Sake”

“It will be great”

So I went right on in to the Sushi bar and did not order sushi because I Do Not Like Sushi. I ordered a teriyaki chicken rice bowl, because it wasn’t sushi. We both ordered Cokes to drink and Brent ordered, you guessed it, sushi.

The salads came… because everyone gets salad and Miso soup with their Japanese food. The salad looked really good. I would have probably enjoyed it a lot more, except that the salad came equipped with chopsticks and no forks. No. Forks. Hello… I’m sorry… I’m an American… I need a fork. I stared at the chopsticks and I looked across the table at Brent.

“Here… let me show you how to use these. You’ll love it. You have to eat Japanese food with chopsticks”

“This isn’t Japanese food… this is a salad. I need a fork”

“You’ll do great. Here let me show you.”

“I hate sushi”

For the next few minutes Brent tried to contort my fingers in what was the equivalent of a Second World War torture technique as he attempted to instruct me in the proper use and handling of the chop sticks. After the cramping of my fingers subsided and I determined I would not have to sue Brent for the onslaught of carpal tunnel syndrome, I found myself in a moment of heightened frustration where I attempted to stab a cucumber with a single stick. I realized I was wasting my efforts. Finally, a waiter passed close by and I grabbed him.

“I. Need. A. Fork”

He was kind enough to bring me the PROPER EATING UTENSILS and by then the salad was soggy, having been immersed in a soy-based vinaigrette dressing for about 45 minutes of my finger calisthenics. I pushed the salad aside and went for the soup. Amazing, don’t you think that the Japanese embrace the spoon, but not the fork? I think there is a conspiracy here. I think Fork Lovers should UNITE!! And does it help that your friend is wielding his own chop sticks as if they were extensions of his fingers and he had spent countless years as a Japanese ambassador… or better yet… spy? No. It does not. His only purpose at this point of the meal is to eat the things that are floating in my soup. Things that he assured me were supposed to be there.

Finally, the main course arrives. I have a bowl of rice with chicken and some vegetables that didn’t really look like food I would eat, but I picked around at it enough to make a dent, because I love Japanese food so much. Brent’s food… did I mention he ordered sushi?... arrived on a wooden board. What is that about? Can we get a plate, here? Geesh. Apparently, this is a cool way to eat your food in Japan. Yep. Little clumps of rice and raw fish that he maneuvered rather well using his chop sticks. It made him look as comfortable as Jackie Chan drop kicking the nearest bad guy off a 500 foot building.

I, however, am proud to be an American. I stuck with the fork and was able to actually pass the food from the plate to my mouth. But at the end of the evening, the truth remains the same…

I don’t like Sushi.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Flip-Flopping Away - An assignment on dialogues

My writing course assignment this week is about dialogues. We were supposed to find a subject and write a conversation with it. I thought about many different items to converse with, but a pair of Flip Flops that my friend Amy Dean gave me a few years ago kept haunting me... or taunting me, as the case may be. Other students have written dialogues with their brains, pets, bed sheets, candles, etc. But I'm digging the shoes... and I'm really going to wear them tomorrow.

Dialogue with my Flip Flops

Me: Hey! There you are! I almost forgot about you.

FF: Yes, here I am. Waiting in the closet. Waiting, waiting, waiting. I can’t believe you haven’t seen me before now. I never thought I would be overlooked. I was a gift… and a right sparkly one as well.

Me: Yes. I remember when Amy gave you to me. I was so excited!

FF: I know… it was your birthday.

Me: I put you on right then and there and showed you off to everyone around.

FF: My, how the mighty have fallen. I’m just a cast off now, I suppose. Hanging out down here with the Tevas and the Doc Martens. But don’t worry about me. I’m just a pair of beaded flip flops. It’s not like you’ve hurt my feelings or anything.

Me: I’m sorry. I had no idea that shoes had feelings.

FF: Of course we do… don’t be silly. It’s a dog-eat-dog world here in the bottom of your closet. There is always pushing and shoving around. Haven’t you noticed that one day everything is tidy and the next is a mess?

Me: Well yes. I guess I determined that was my fault.

FF: Nope. It’s all about power here in the underworld. Kickin’ your way up the ladder so that you aren’t forgotten.

Me: Huh. I guess you learn something new everyday.

FF: If only that were true. I’ve been sitting around the bottom of your closet for over a year now. I’m feeling a little neglected. Like… what is the phrase? A red-headed step-child.

Me: That’s impossible. You could never be neglected. You shine far too bright.

FF: I thought so too, but then I’ve been forgotten for almost an entire season. How you could have picked those cheap discount store flips to take to Florida instead of me is incomprehensible.

Me: Um, maybe I didn’t want to get all that grit on you. You are a special pair of flips.

FF: Obviously not special enough to make it to Florida. To borrow a phrase from The Princess Bride, inconceivable.

Me: Wow. That’s a pretty big word for a pair of shoes. How did you come to be so well versed?

FF: I’m a movie buff. Plus, I read what I can. I enjoyed our treks to the library, but I don’t get out that often anymore, as you well know…

Me: Do I need to continue to apologize? I already have once.

FF: It didn’t feel heart felt though. You lack sincerity.

Me: Okay. I promise that I am really, really sorry. I’m here now, picking you out again. I’m even truly excited about finding you. Does that make you feel better?

FF: Emotionally yes. Physically no.

Me: Why not? Are you going to start whining now because I’m going to wear you outside?

FF: Its not that I’m ungrateful, but…

Me: But what?

FF: Well, you have put on some weight since last summer.

Me: (Gasp!) How did you know?

FF: The Nikes warned me.

Me: Ah. Well. They would know.

FF: Can I let you in on a little secret?

Me: Sure.

FF: They are grateful that you are wearing them again… but they’d like it if you would utilize them for their purpose. You know, its one thing to put on a pair of Nikes to go to the mall, it’s another thing all together to actually get up and hit the Y every once in a while. They have been yearning for a treadmill excursion.

Me: Really?

FF: Oh yes. AND the step aerobics class. If you asked them, they would really want you to go back there.

Me: You’re kidding right? I thought I was going to die after just 15 minutes in that class. You should have been there. I was doing my best not to throw up or pass out.

FF: I don’t really fit in at the Y. No arch support. But you may be hitting the proverbial nail on the head with the Nikes. I mean, that’s the word on the street.

Me: Word on the street? It sounds like you’re in a bad B movie. The next thing you’ll tell me is that the Nikes are the Godfather of my shoe closet.

FF: Well… if the shoe fits…

Me: (groan)

FF: Hehehehe. Seriously, you know what they say… “Leave the gun, take the canoli”.

Me: What the heck is that supposed to mean?

FF: It means that if anyone crosses the Nikes, they sleep with the fishes.