Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Good Grief

Grief is a strange thing. It will hit you all at once, then go away while you busy yourself with something, only to return at some trigger, a sound, a sight, a feeling, a thought. Memories flood your head. You want to remember everything, every moment, or maybe you don't. Maybe you try to ignore it, blast the sound in your car with the windows down, wind blowing in your face as you're doing 80 without even realizing it. The thumping music fills your head, distracts you, pushes memory and thought aside.

What do you use? Drugs? Work? Religion? Various vices to help you forget, make you ignore it, for a little while at least. It can put doubts about a loving God into your head. How can an all-loving all-powerful omniscient being let something like that happen to someone completely undeserving of it? A stroke? A skiing accident? Something else? The faithful will take comfort, and say something like it's part of God's plan. Part of God's plan? Maybe he needs to rethink his strategy because looking at the world today, it looks pretty goddamn shitty. They might also say “well now they're with God.” Well that's awesome for the all-powerful all-loving being, but what about me? Couldn't he have gone without them for a little longer? I guess He's selfish. I mean, He will eventually get to have them for eternity, right? So why take them now? I guess His Plan doesn't allow for much rescheduling. I don't know. Some people take comfort in organized religion, and that's all well and good for them. It doesn't do very much for me.

I wonder how much we should grieve? There's obviously no answer. There is such a thing as too much, when it becomes obsessive, when it detracts from living your life. There also can be too little. If you feel you didn't grieve enough, does that make you a bad person? Did you not care about them as much you thought you did? Or are you just becoming cold to the world? Too much or too little, and we have gotta ride the line over and over. The knowledge of meaningless death is the curse of our consciousness. Man, I gotta say that line's pretty damn good. Curse of our consciousness? Shit, I need to put that on the back of a self-help book or something. Hell it could even be the title. Eh, forget it, it's probably already been written by Dr. Phil.   

Blogs are kind of strange. They feel personal, yet impersonal. They feel enclosed, as I know less then a handful of people will read this, yet in reality, it is completely open to the inter-connected world. Maybe that's why I keep things very general, unspecific. I'm unsure what I want to put out there in the world, even if I want to write about it.

So I wrote a thing.

When Something Happens

The phone rings and it's someone close. A family member, a parent or a sibling. You answer normally, no reason to expect that anything's wrong. Until they say they have 'bad news' about someone, someone you know, someone you're related to, someone you care about. Your stomach drops, your voice is suddenly morose and questioning. “What happened?” You say, perhaps expecting the worst, perhaps not. Maybe the person wasn't doing so good before, so it's always been in the back of your mind or maybe it's completely unexpected. They answer your question and you suddenly stand, unable to remain sitting. Tears well up. Your head is suddenly flooded with memories. You want to remember everything, every moment. Every interaction is a precious resource. “What?” Your voice is a croak. You already know what, but you can't accept it, it's too hard. It doesn't make sense. Can't make sense. Yet it does. Horribly logical if you rationally thought about it. But you can't. You react emotionally. You pace in your room, wanting to go, to leave, anywhere but where you are, doing anything but hearing the news you're hearing. You're still on the phone, hearing the other person talk but barely listening. Maybe the person on the other end is crying too. You finally fall into your bed, burying your head in a twisted pile of blankets and pillows. Finally, you get up, go to the bathroom, and splash water on your face, while taking deep breaths. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I Can't Think of a Good Title

My last blog post was rather an angry rant about how I don't care about my future. I apologize. I was attempting to create a good introduction(Because if you're going to become a famous blogger, you better have a damn good first blog post, I mean, that's like blogging 101 right there), and it kind of just became something out of my control. That's how writing is, really. You start with a definite idea, but it grows and changes, until it's become something completely different then the idea you began with. Perhaps it's the subconscious coming out to play, or maybe an alternate personality showing through, who knows? I think maybe it was all the crap I get for being an English major, all the comments about the classes I take (Some comments are probably deserved...I mean I did take a Detective Fiction course and am taking a Stephen King film class...), it all was just building up and my irritation came out.

Regardless, I've actually been writing recently. Surprising, I know, considering all of the procrastination that has been taking up my time. You may not know it, but a procrastinator's schedule is incredibly busy. I mean, there's so many things I have to put off doing. You might think actually doing things takes time, but try not doing things. You'll be surprised at how long it takes.

It's hard to tell if written jokes will be funny. Sometimes, I think something will be funny, but as a writer, you never quite know what the reader will think, what they'll take seriously, or whether your sarcasm will actually come through the text. Or maybe the jokes are just terrible. I'm known for making terrible jokes, so maybe I'm being successful? Can someone be really good at making terrible unfunny jokes?

I'm getting off-topic. The whole point of this post was to put up a piece of the short story I'm working on. It's one I've finished, but I'm re-writing it. It's post-apocalypse, but the first draft didn't go into what the apocalypse actually was, so I've been reworking it. It's come to my attention recently that maybe there's something scarier then zombies or plagues or nuclear bombs. What do we do if the earth itself rises against us? We've seen what happens, even in Japan, a place as ready for an earthquake as any place could be, was devastated. What do we do against something like that? How do we prepare for it?


The earth groans beneath me, and I hope an aftershock won't follow. I walk over warped pavement, cracked and pitted. Abandoned vehicles fill the street, some flipped over, windows smashed and tires flat, some strangely pristine, like nothing had happened. The paved road isn't even close to flat, various plates of concrete rising above others, at strange angles, some rising so high I have to go around. Beside the road is mostly rubble, buildings of every shape and size collapsed, though some still stood, others leaned, and still others lay completely on their side, once organized structures reduced to chaotic hills of brick and mortar. I maneuver over the uneven landscape, boots crushing shards of glass and bits of debris, keeping an eye out. I don't see anybody in the town. Nobody alive, that is. That's the other thing, besides the cars, besides the smashed buildings and ruinous pavement, bodies lay haphazardly strewn all over the ground.

It's hard not to look and impossible not to smell. Rotten flesh. Crushed bones. A leg sticks out from underneath an office building's wreckage. Blue jeans. Bare foot. I shudder, turning away. Wind whirls about my face, briefly making the stench worse. I gag, nearly throwing up. I probably would have if anything had been in my stomach. I thought I'd gotten used to the smell. Maybe it's not the kind of thing you can get used to.

Ahead I spot a house still standing. It's leaning slightly, the windows are smashed, half the roof has collapsed into the second floor, but other then that, it looks stable. There might be something in there, if someone else hadn't already gotten to it first. I move through the open doorway quickly, eyes darting to take in everything. Foyer, long hallway forward, doorways on each side. I put a hand on the grip of the 9mm holstered on my right side. It, and the kevlar vest I'd snatched from a dead SWAT officer, reassured me. I make my way through the first floor of the house carefully.

My steps creak over the polished wooden floor, and I remember the earth groaning earlier. Once again, I hoped an aftershock isn't coming. There are large cracks in the walls, framed pictures on the ground, smashed and broken. In the living room, a bookshelf is toppled over, books strewn everywhere. A large flat screen tv that had hung on the wall now lies on its face on the floor, a glass coffee table had been reduced to shards. My feet leave brown carpet for green tile as I enter the kitchen. A large white refrigerator lay on it's side, door open, nothing inside. Cupboards were open, contents spilled everywhere, silverware, pots and pans. My boots crunch shattered drinking glasses beneath my feet. I spot a plain wooden knife block on its side on the floor. There are no knives in it anymore, and none that I can see on the floor, other then dull butter knives. The pantry door is open, a large walk-in closet. Inside, the shelves are empty, but the floor is clean. At the end of the pantry, a small half-door was open. It resembles the wall and if closed, would've been hard to find. A secret basement?

I unsnap the holster and pull the gun free. I quietly open the door all the way, revealing a rough wooden staircase leading down. It's dim down there, but there is a source of light, coming from something. I slowly walk down, my heart beating fast. One step at a time, wincing at every squeak, every low thud of boot and wood meeting. The stairs lead into a large dirt floor, cement-walled room, about half the size of the house. A large water heater was in the corner, pipes connected to it and leading back up into the house, though most were disconnected, snapped or broken in some way. A washer and dryer, both on their sides, lie in another corner. Light comes from a dim gas lantern hanging from the ceiling, near the far wall, where a thick wooden door stood ajar. Beneath the light, two bodies.

The gun shakes in my hand. I move forward, still slowly, still carefully. The corpses are fresh. A woman and a child, she's blond, eyes wide with fright, gazing at nothing. The woman's grubby shirt had been ripped open, baring breasts in a black bra. A large kitchen knife is in her hands, bloody. It's obvious what had killed her, a large hole in her stomach. Thankfully, it's too dim to see into that hole. At her side is a child, a young boy maybe twelve years old, messy brown mop of hair on his head. His eyes are shut, mouth open in a scream that would never come. There's a slit in his chest through his faded blue t-shirt, a stab wound, deep.
I close my eyes, sway, nearly fall over. I shake my head but it does nothing. I fall to my knees, and retch. I dry heave, only thick spit coming out, dripping onto the dirt.

The heavy wooden door moves suddenly and my head snaps up. Hand too, gun out, shaking. A man enters the room, shotgun in hands, barrel pointing at me. He's wearing a flannel coat and plain brown pants, black cowboy boots showing.

I can't stop myself from crying out, “What did you do?”

He shrugs, shotgun at ready, eyes on me, searching. “Nothing. She was crazy. I just wanted some food.” 

There's a strange glint in his eye, a hint of something I can't identify. “She stabbed the kid and came after me. What was I supposed to do? What would you have done?”

“You're wrong.” He has to be wrong. I stand up slowly.

“It got to her, man. It's the end of the world and some can't take it. If I had been faster, I could've saved the kid.” He sighs as if sad, but it feels fake. Is he trying to hide a smile? I notice a bloody patch at his side.

“You're right.” The pistol in my hand is shaking less. “She did kill him.”

We stare eye to eye and then suddenly, I can imagine what happened.

The woman and him struggled, she stabbed him, but he had the gun. He could make her do anything he wanted, her and her son. He had that strange glint in his eyes, sick smile on his face. She told her son to close his eyes, not to worry, everything was going to be ok and then...

I can see the madness and just as suddenly as I know, he knows. We fire at the same time. I feel something hit me in the chest, hard, sending me stumbling backwards. I gasp for air, pulling the trigger again and again. But he's gone, back through the door. I fall to one knee, still gasping, gun still up, just in case. I breath in and out painfully, and struggle to my feet, holding the gun in both hands, steady.

“If you leave now, I won't kill you.” The man's voice comes from behind the door. His voice is shaky. I must've hit him.

“You sound hurt,” I respond as confidently as I can. “How about you toss the shotgun out here or I just stay here until you bleed to death? How does that sound?”

A minute passes. I'm back on my feet, ready, waiting. The shotgun comes out, hitting the dirt, followed by the man, hands raised. He's breathing deeply, blood seeping through his shirt at his right shoulder, one of his hands bloody.

“Now drop the shells and get the fuck outta here.”

He looks surprised, and then has the nerve to smirk. He really is crazy. “Not going to finish me off?”

“Do you really want to push your luck?” I snap. I could put a bullet in his head and end it right now. For some reason, I don't. Maybe I can't.

He shakes his head. “You won't last long.” He staggers to the stairs and up. 

I keep my gun raised until I can't hear his footsteps upstairs anymore.

I move quickly, crouching down and shutting the woman's eyes, then to the shotgun. I snatch up the dropped shells, pumping them into the gun until it's full. I make sure to keep an eye on the stairs. I glance at the two bodies. There was nothing to do for them and staying any longer in this place was dangerous. I go through the big wooden door. Shelves on the wall are filled with food. Canned fruits and veggies and soups and more. It was enough to make my mouth water and my stomach grumble, reminding me how long it'd been since I'd eaten. I snatch the walkie-talkie at my belt and press a button. Static. “Bring the truck. I'll be outside. Watch out, there's a bad one running around.”

“Roger that,” comes a cheerful feminine voice. It sounds out of place, like it's from a different, happier world than this one. “Found something?”

I close my eyes, taking a deep breath. “More then I wanted to.”

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Beginning of the End of My Free Time

I'm sitting in my room, staring at my computer, struggling to find something to do. I've surfed the web, I've caught up on all my shows, the latest movies, played video games to pass the time, what now? It's not that there's a lack of things that need doing, there never is really. There are things for class I can do, a take-home exam due in two days, assigned reading that I've been behind in for weeks, and papers to write.

It is my last semester after all, so I should study and work hard to end my college career with good grades, right? It feels just the opposite however, classes feel meaningless, chunks of time spent thinking and discussing the morality of Killing Things, learning about Popular Culture and Global History, watching and discussing the Films of Stephen King, and studying the way our bodies use energy and dietary nutrients in Sports Nutrition. It all sounds rather important, doesn't it? (except perhaps the films of Stephen King...) Thinking critically and talking about the morality of killing, of when it is morally permissible and when it is not, in situations such as abortion, animals, war and self defense, sounds like something incredibly important, doesn't it? Shouldn't this be a subject deeply considered, discussed and argued about, so we can see all the sides, so we can continuously make better judgements about these things and work towards a morally better future, in regards to killing? But no, it's a 'philosophy' class, meaning it has no 'real' application in the 'real' world, right? People laugh about it, ask me if it's a 'hippy' class about how we shouldn't kill animals and hug trees and be vegetarians and blah blah blah. It's not. It's a real discussion about the way we live and has us question the way we should live, but it's not going to help me in the 'real world' so it's useless. Isn't that something we should be doing all the time, questioning the way we live? But it doesn't matter, because it's that dreaded useless subject, 'philosophy', which even worse then 'English.' 'Philosophy' is just people talking about nothing. So why am I even taking this class?

The rest of my classes are more of the same. Pop culture shows how media and society define us, how advertising tells us who we are and should be, teaches us how to question and analyze the messages we are bombarded with day in and day out, but who cares? There's no practical application for that, nothing that's going to help me get a job. And what am I going to do with the knowledge of Global History? Americans are good and every one else is bad, be patriotic, hate foreigners, that's all I need to know. Sports Nutrition is probably the only class I've taken in my college career that's of any  real use. The rest? English and film classes, learning to read, watch, study and write critically. Four years spent, and what can I do? Everyone asks me what I'm going to do with an English major and laugh when I say live on the street in a cardboard box, but that seems to be the only thing I'm qualified for, especially with graduation looming on the horizon.

So why bother doing work for classes? Might as well keep putting that off for as long as possible.

There's things I could do for my future, study for the MTEL(Massachusetts Test for Educator Licensure) which I'm taking in May, work on my resume, and apply for teaching positions for next year. Teaching, that's the ticket. Teaching english, preferably. Yeah that sounds like fun, attempting to force kids to read horribly dull texts in a time when reading has gone out of fashion. Reading is considered lame and boring these days, when watching tv and movies is easier, faster and there's less thinking involved. Teaching is a noble duty, right? Training the kids for the future, teaching them vital skills they will use throughout their life and all that. Or maybe it's just another job, one where it doesn't matter how well you teach, but rather how long you teach. Get the kids to pass the right tests and you've done your job, do it for twenty years and you're set for life. Good job, here's tenure and a pat on the back.

And so I put that off too, after getting overwhelmed by the number of jobs and programs, by not knowing the right things to put on my resume, by not knowing virtually anything about teaching, and by the fact that graduation is coming and the feeling I'm doomed no matter what. It's my own fault, I know, I've doomed myself by picking such a useless major.

That's when I come up with a brilliant idea. A blog, I think. That would be perfect. What better way to procrastinate then to write up bad stories and useless thoughts of my own in a place where nobody will see them? Whenever I have something to do, I can simply say, "Well I need to post on my blog first, then of course I will get right on that thing I have to do." It's a perfect procrastinating tool, and I recommend it to everyone that reads this (which is nobody at all of course, because nobody cares about blogs anymore, I've come much too late to the whole blogging craze).

"Why a blog?" you might ask. To get rich and famous of course. Why else? I will attain an immense following that will check this blog daily for my awesome posts. Eventually I will have to get twitter because of the hundreds of awesome witty remarks I think of during the day, not to mention the fact that everyone will want to know what I am doing at all times. My tweets and posts will become books which will become terrible tv and movie adaptations that everyone will watch. Hopefully, Charlie Sheen will be involved.

Ahem, perhaps this has gone on too long. I realize I've ranted and raved and rambled on, which, I think, is entirely what a blog is for. I was merely attempting to come up with a decent first post and this is what happened. It's your own fault, really. Nobody made you read it.

Anyways, here I will put ramblings, thoughts, stories, and who knows what all. If you enjoy anything, good for you, if not, oh well, leave a comment if you feel the need.

Read at your own risk of boredom.