Sunday, February 17, 2008

Haiku for Jen

Guitar Hero Dear?
Yes. I see you beautiful
in concentration.

Parents are stupid

Parents are stupid. Mom wants to be mayor again. She has been mayor of this hick town for 4 years and she wants more. Dad has a million dollar idea. He wants to remake his flower shop into a music store / studio / flower shop boutique. He'd call it "Mums and Roses". Dad also thinks he can make more money if there is a three story flashing neon sign outside the shop. The Town Council didn't like that idea and Mom didn't want to have an exception made for her family, so Dad wants Mom to lose the election. I figure that he wants Mom home more, and that he wants his friend Bubba to be mayor so Dad can get his sign. Mom doesn't know that Dad was behind the letters to the editor that said she shouldn't be reelected.

Talking about stupid I'm not even going to mention my little brother. Me, I just want a normal life. Fat chance. Oh yeah, and now Mom gotten even weirder. She is not making my life hell! We aren’t arguing anymore. That is very weird. I was telling all this to my little brother when he said "I know why she’s not bothering you. She’s not mom. She doesn't have the big scar on the back of her knee. She cooks better too. And she lets me play video games all day."

As stupid as they are, little brothers aren't always wrong. Mom wasn't likely to make Mac and Cheese ten days in a row. She didn't usually let us out at the grocery store with $100 and shout "get more food." Mom had made it clear for several years that she thought two kids were at least enough but now she was telling Dad "I need more babies. At least five." . It was not like her to have a campaign slogan like "Save money; give me your extra kids." It was not like her to take long walks between 2 and 4 in the morning and say she was "just visiting her friends (don't tell Dad)".

"Ok Smarty, who is Mom if she isn't Mom?"

"You know that sentence doesn't make any sense. You can't be someone if you aren't that someone."

"Nothing in my life makes sense, so just answer the question. So who is she if she isn't mom?"

"You know that meteor we heard about a couple of months ago? The one they couldn't ever find? I bet aliens in it stole our Mom and gave us this new Mom. They must want something. They didn't come gazillions of miles just so we could have more Mac and Cheese. "

Well, Mom had been different for the last couple of months. And she had started wanting babies in that weird way. So if Mom is an alien, then they must want babies. That made a freaky amount of sense. And there is so much stuff about aliens on the Internet that there must be something to it.

Fine, this sucks. So now it would be harder to get babysitting jobs with aliens stealing babies. Just my luck. That iPod I want is starting to seem more and more like a noPod.

Then my little brother pipes up "Ok, we need to do something. I told Mom I was getting sick of Mac and Cheese, and she suggested Spaghetti and Cheese instead. I can't stand the thought of having anymore babies around here, either."

What do you do when your Mom is an alien? You go talk to Dad. Even if he is stupid.

At the store, Dad was trying to put together an order for his wholesaler by pouring over old celebrity magazines trying to figure out what flowers rock stars like. Mom came in just as we got there. Dad said "What are you doing here, Dear?"

"The girl and the boy need to go get more food. Send them." She turned around and was walking out when the radio started its 60's hour. "What is that sound? It is calling to me."

"It's the Rolling Stones, Dear. But you always hated that song ever since it was playing when the police showed up while we .…" He remembered we were there too. "Uh. Nevermind."

"It is telling me to have a meeting here tonight at 6:06 pm. Send everybody away from here then. I will go hunting babies now."

"OK, Dear." He turned to us. "Kids, how long has your Mom been like this?"

"Days, Dad. Days and days."

"Great! Bubba's a shoe-in now. I'll call the newspaper today, and the doctor tomorrow."

That would take care of Dad's problems, but it wouldn't get our old Mom back. For lack of any better idea we decided to hide in the back of the store during the meeting and try to learn something. At 6, Mom came in and sent Dad home. By 6:06 there were 25 people there who seemed just as weird as Mom.

Mom started to talk: "We have been given new instructions. Listen." She turned the radio on-to the Golden Oldies station. It played "Michelle" by the Beatles. After the Beach Boys sang "Good Vibrations" everybody went "aahhhh". The radio then played the Rolling Stones again and they listened intently. After that, Mom spoke: "We have made a mistake and must go back. Free the humans. We will leave them their loud babies and all those used diapers. Go now."

I know a good idea when I hear one, so we went, too. We ran out the back door and back home. We just hoped that the aliens would do the right thing. Mom wandered in an hour later with a headache, dirty clothes, and a little red wagon filled with diapers and babies. "I don't feel well. Whose babies are these? Am I still Mayor?" We knew it was the real Mom.

Mom won the election and Dad settled for a one story sign. Now I know that aliens are stupid, too. Is it smart to go a gazillion miles by mistake and then take advice from Mick Jagger?


Darcy kindly contributed the following ideas.

1. Create a list of things that you'd like to write about (ideas for stories)

What if humanoid aliens invade a midwestern town in search breeding stock?

How would a faith-based singer redeem himself/herself if he/she fell from grace in a very public manner?

What if someone accidentally developed the ability to fly?

2. Create, in a little more depth, three characters

The Villian: Handsome, smart and self-assured, the villian is well-liked and respected by the community. Only those close to him know he has flaws. He is power hungry and will stop at nothing to achieve his goals. The only visible chinks in his armor are his vanity and his incessant knuckle popping.

The Hero: Slightly dorky (but in an endearing sort of way), the hero is obsessed with something (video games, pies, a television reality show -- you pick 'em). His obsession keeps most people from really getting know him and has helped to brand him as a semi-outcast. His specialized knowledge comes in handy when solving the conflict.

The Heroine: Everyone always thinks they know what's best for the heroine but all their "help" has landed her in her current predicament. This time, she's determined to help herself. That would be a lot easier if she wasn't such a clutz.

3. Create some sort of conflict(or if you're feeling generous*, a couple of conflicts and your victim co-author can choose which one he/she likes)

The hero or heroine’s mother is the mayor of the town the story is set in, and it’s election year. The entire family is pressuring the hero/heroine to act as if there is nothing wrong/different so Mom will be re-elected.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

boy scouts

1,000 boy scouts
500 tents
no ice cream yet?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Strut at 40

Almost 40 is not almost dead, and Ellen Clare Spear was determined to prove that this summer. Ellie was mother of 2, Wife of 1, PTA Secretary, and a Star. That is not how her kids or husband thought of her, but it was what she was day-dreaming about as the mini-van pulled into the camp parking lot.

Her kids had been going to camp for years. This year they had earned the right to take the out of camp trips. One was going sailing, the other was doing a camp-ground to camp-ground hike. Both of them would be out of touch for two full weeks. Her husband was taking 2 weeks off to organize the charity golf tournament this year. It was generous, great fun and good business for him and it was as boring as could be for her. If she stayed home she knew she'd end up either working, or bored, or feeling guilty.

So Ellen Clare Spear was taking those weeks to meet her college chums and return to the days when she was Ellie Spike, who had her own band "Strut" and whose band had a "reputation". She never quite knew what the reputation was, since the band was Strut on stage and band nerds off stage, but she had been proud of having one. She did realize that not everyone would think her band days were quite so wild. The band members had all met in the college marching band. They were, in fact, all members of the band sorority. They may well have been the most rebellious girls in the marching band, but only because this was a small school in upper Wisconsin.

Strut was 4 girls that had been friends in the dorm. They also were all in band and they started noodling around in the band practice and slowing the practice down. The band director decided that he could either be hard-ass and kick them out, or be a bit more subtle and occupy them in some way, so he let those rebels put together a “special project” during some of the regular rehearsal time, which might be used in one of the half time performances. However they had to show that they could skip some of the main rehearsals and still not lose their way during the main performance. It worked pretty well, the gang had fun, they paid attention during the real rehearsals, and the band director could direct the whole band not, as he said in a moment of despair, “babysit the goof-balls”.

They had to audition their performance before the director would let them do during a game. He expected to find that they were going to come up with something that wasn’t good or that wasn’t acceptable. Their version of “Sympathy for the Devil” didn’t sound right, he had to cut short their audition of Donna Summer’s “Love to Love you” before anyone else recognized the song. He thought the “Still haven’t found what I’m looking for” was more appropriate than they suspected. Unexpectedly it was “in-a-gadda-da-vita” that seemed to work. The instrumentation was odd (tuba, drums and bagpipes) but it worked for the half time version. People would recognize it quickly and the goof-balls could have their 30 seconds of fame. The band director didn’t actually like what they played, but the crowds did and the director liked crowd loyalty. Based on the half time shows Strut also got some jobs at frats and the club in town. They didn’t claim to be good, but they were enjoyable and enjoyed themselves. Their odd instruments worked really well for a crowd that wanted volume and pretty girls more than fine musical craftsmanship. There were a lot of boys who were jealous of Ellie’s bagpipe. Nearly all of them remained that way until she graduated.

This year Ellie heard there was a convention of Band Fraternities and Sororities, so she asked Cynthia (the drummer) to make the reservations and arrangements for the convention. The convention was in a Kansas far from anywhere. When they pulled into the parking lot it wasn’t what they expected. There were lots of beater cars, motorcycles, and scruffy looking guys wandering around. Many of those guys appeared to be attached to their six packs of Rolling Rock.

In the lobby it was more of the same except that it was now also loud, crowded, and smelly. Ellie muttered: “There must be some other convention going on too. I wish they wouldn’t have two at once.” At the registration table she got the first good look at convention banner. The banner proclaimed that this was the convention for “The International Organization of Banned Sororities and Fraternities”. There were now enough Greek organizations that had gotten into serious trouble that some alumni had decided to form their own special interest group to provide guidance and legal support. The majority of attendees however were making a good case for banning more fraternities than reinstating any. These guys (and they were mostly guys) were faded boys trying to relive their young days and age hadn’t help them to do it better the second time around.

The members of Strut looked at the banner and then looked at Cynthia who said “I asked if it was the Band convention and they said yes.” Blaming Cynthia would do no good, and it was late so they would just have to check in, bar the door, and move on tomorrow disappointed. At checkin they found, to their surprise, they actually got a “suite”. It amounted to 2 standard guest rooms and a big hallway, but they could all fit in there, lock the door, turn on the TV and drink some wine.

They were all slept late and had a mild hangover. They got an edible breakfast at the diner next door and started to re-plan their trip. It turns out that this part of Kansas was no fun at all. They couldn’t get to any desirable city in less than 8 hours, and they couldn’t get a hotel room anyway. Having conventions in Kansas doesn’t make much sense, but there are a lot of people who have no sense, and a lot of them were downstairs right now. They were stuck for the weekend.

Ellie was about to send Cynthia out for lots more wine when there was a knock on the door. Outside was a very young and very perky woman in a professional looking pant suit. “HI. My name is Buffy. I’m the event planner. I hope you’re having a great time. When would you like to do the sound check?”
“The sound crew wants to make sure they have time to get some dinner and finish their setup. When do you want to have the sound check?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You are ‘Ellie Spike and Strut’ right?” Ellie wasn’t expecting to have a scheduled performance, but apparently Cynthia had signed them up. “Your description in the registration sounded so good that we have Strut down as the main act tonight after the buffet. That’s why we upped you to this suite. Nice isn’t it?”
“We’re not playing, we are hiding here in the room until we can get out of here. There was a mixup, we’re in the wrong place, we’re scared to leave the room, and we’re laying low.”
“What? Shit. No. Wait, You were the only ones to sign up to play and this crowd is crazy. It’s the first time I’ve been in charge of a meeting myself and it’s all going to hell.”
“Telling us the crowd is crazy is not really making us comfortable about getting up in front of them.”
“These guys are idiots. They’ll riot if they don’t have a band. Shit.” Buffy closed her eyes. “OK, I’m taking a deep breath. I’m centering. I’m thinking. OK, I’m going to have to get some extra security here anyway to toss the jerks out if we cancel the entertainment. What if I get some extra extra security? My boyfriend can get the high school foot ball team out for a few bucks. We’ll put them between the stage and the crowd. You’ll be safe or my boyfriend Biff is going to be out of luck for a long time.” Buffy was young, but she was determined.
“We’ll split if it looks unsafe, but we’ll give it a try.”
“Thank you. Thanks. Thanks! What do you need? When can you do a sound check? Thanks. Thanks. Thanks. Bye.” Buffy was out the door without waiting for an answer.
I guess we’ll do with out that sound check Ellie thought.

So Ellie and Strut got out their gear and went to setup in the big meeting room. They hadn’t actually practiced with each other in 15 years, so they wanted to have a little warmup. They had two unexpected advantages for this gig: Marching band teaches you how to play loud, and the acoustics on the room were terrible. Even if they were good the sound would be a mess so playing loud and long would work as well as anything. A hour or two of practice would be plenty.

In the break after the third song Ellie was alarmed to see a young thin guy with a couple of beers coming down the aisle clearly drunk and loudly shouting “I want to sing. I can sing better than you. I can sing much better than you”. She also saw Buffy at the edge of the stage mouthing “Don’t worry. Don’t worry.” The jerk was getting down close to stage when the football team security team rushed him, picked him up, and threw him out an open window. The members of Strut were staring at each other, but Buffy was still standing next to the stage and she was now beaming and pumping her hand with a thumbs up sign. She passed a note over: “Biff arranged that. Nobody will think we’re kidding now.”

After an hour and half Ellie announced they needed to stop. “Got to hit the road early, and the management said they’d call the cops if we played later.”
“NO NO, you can’t go!” The crowd, those who hadn’t passed out yet, started slapping the table and stomping their feet. Even Buffy shouted “One More.” So the crowd got the longest and loudest bag pipe and tuba encore version of "in-a-gadda-ad-vita" ever performed.

All the members of Strut slept well that night, until the knock on the door at 7 am. Ellie dragged herself up to find Buffy. “Uh, you should pack up and get out of here. Oops, Ok, Hi, that was great last night. It kept almost everybody out of trouble. You guys really want to get out of here.”
“Why do we want to get out? You said it went great.”
“Well, uh, it did, well yeah, the police are going to show up and bust everybody they can find. Anyone who has even has a parking ticket is going to have to spend a long time getting things sorted out. The cops figure that a lot of their acquaintances might be here.”
“Buffy, how do you know this?”
“Uh, never-mind, This is not a big town if you grew up here. Don’t tell anybody I told you. Didn’t Biff do a good job? He and the team did great. No need to worry about getting lucky now!” At this Buffy turned beet red. “Uh, I mean I’ll thank Biff and the team separately. I mean differently. I mean pizza. I mean I need to shut up now. You're all set and checked out. We took care of the bill. Bye. Thanks. Good luck. Bye!!” Buffy disappeared down the hall.

They packed up and were out the door in 30 minutes. On the drive home Ellie was happy to notice that she did not feel almost dead at all.