Friday, April 5, 2019

The Meow Meow Gang

Description: This was originally meant to be a short children's story but then I realized that it's probably not appropriate for children. Maybe 16 and up. 

Buggy and McCatney are tough kitties who prowl the streets of Orlando in the Meow Meow Gang. 

Buggy is a pint-sized fur ball of fierce. She's named after Bugs Bunny because of her big ears and cute little face. She's small but don't let her size fool you. Buggy is all meow and all bite. 

McCatney is a big tiger-striped cat from Alabama. Since he was a kitten, he dreamed of living in Orlando for two reasons: Number one, he didn't like country music, and number two, he heard about Mickey Mouse and wanted to see the big famous mouse for himself. So he worked his way south by jumping on the back of trucks until he reached his destination. Once in Orlando, he met Buggy and the two became friends. But to become a member of the Meow Meow Gang, McCatney had to eat an entire bowl of catnip. He was awake for two days and ended up in a bowl of noodles behind a Chinese restaurant. The owner of the restaurant came out the back door. When he saw McCatney, he yelled, "Shoo! Shoo!" Buggy came just in time and yelled at the man, "Nobody messes with my friend! Meeooww hisss!" The owner shook his head and went inside. 

One day, McCatney and Buggy were hanging out at PetSmart. McCatney looked down at his claws and said, "These are too long. Buggy, distract the workers so I can use this scratching post a while."

"Sure thing," Buggy said. She jumped up on a high shelf full of dog treats and shoved them all to the ground. Then she ran and hid behind a stack of cat litter. A young man walked around the corner and saw the mess. He sighed and cleaned it up. 

Meanwhile, McCatney was hard at work on the scratching post. When he trimmed his claws, he went into his own world. He went into a frenzy, his head bobbing back and forth, low growling sounds coming from his throat. Finally, when he was finished, he was exhausted.  He saw down on the floor and purred. 

Buggy walked over, a bag of Meow Mix chicken-flavored treats hanging from her mouth. She dropped the treats to the floor. 

"You really get into your scratching," Buggy said as she opened the bag with her teeth. 

McCatney began playing with a little squeaky mouse, batting it back and forth between his paws. He looked at Buggy. "Have you ever been to Disney World? I heard there's a big mouse named Mickey there. I have to see him for myself."

Buggy wrinkled her nose and her whiskers twitched. "I haven't met him. But I've heard he's a real asshole and he's really big. You wouldn't be able to catch him."

McCatney whacked the mouse across the floor. It slammed against a container of cat litter and squeaked. "I like to challenge myself. If someone tells me I can't do something, then I have to try it. Don't you have dreams, Buggy?"

Buggy grabbed hold of a dog bed with her claws and dragged it closer. She jumped in and kneaded the soft cotton for a couple minutes before lying down. "I have dreams of taking a nap right now."

"I'm serious, Buggy. Don't you ever get tired of this? Living on the streets, sneaking into pet stores and stealing food and catnip? There has to be more to life than this."

Buggy stood up again and pressed her paws into the bed. "What are you talking about? Just because you were named after some famous human, you want a glamorous life? This is the best we can do, cats like us."

McCatney jumped to the top of the scratching post and looked down at Buggy. He raised a paw into the air. "No! We can do better. The street life is no way to live. Somewhere out there is a loving family who would take us in, feed us, pet us, cuddle us, maybe even take us to see Mickey Mouse!"

Buggy stretched and yawned. "Come on, McCatney. What kind of catnip have you been sniffing? No one wants us. Look at us." She looked down at her matted fur. "We're dirty kitties. We're wild. We're street cats and that's all we're going to be. No one would want to adopt us. Now stop being silly and go grab a box of Meow Mix. I'll grab some catnip. We need to go before the find us and kick us out."

"Alright. Let's bring some food to the rest of the Meow Meows."

Buggy and McCatney walked outside and stopped when they saw a big white van with "Humane Society" written on the side. 

Buggy leaned up against a street post and began licking her paw and washing her face. "These creeps again," she said. "Driving up in their weird white van. No way am I getting in there. Don't care if they have the best treats in the world."

"Shh," McCatney said. "Don't be rude."

A lady with bright red hair stepped out of the can and walked slowly to the cats, smiling. 

Buggy decided to call her "Fire." Another woman walked out behind her, followed by a short man with curly hair. 

"Hey, little guys. Let us bring you to the shelter. You must be hungry," Fire said. 

McCatney looked at Buggy. "We're okay, we just had some Meow Mix."

The fur on Buggy's back stood up and she arched her back. "Yeah, we're fine," she hissed. 

Fire smiled. "Come here, you." She leaned down and tried to pick up Buggy, but Buggy batted at her, giving her two quick slaps, and ran around the corner. 

Fire looked at McCatney. "We can give you a nice warm bed and find you loving homes. I bet you could use a bath, too."

McCatney licked his paw and wiped his ear. "I already had a bath."

Buggy peeked her head around the corner. "Come on, McCatney. Let's find the rest of the gang."

McCatney looked at the van then back to Buggy. "We should go with them, Buggy."

"Hell, no. Life on the streets is all I know."

"Come on," McCatney said. "Maybe it won't be so bad."

Buggy's tail twitched. "You just want to meet Mickey Mouse."

His tail waving back and forth, McCatney stepped closer to Buggy. "Yeah, maybe I do. But I want more for us. We have nothing to lose. Don't you trust me?"

Buggy rubbed her head against the side of the building then walked over to McCatney. "I do trust you. You're my best friend."

McCatney and Buggy let the rescuers take them into crates and put them into the van. It smelled like other cats and the ride was bumpy. When they got to the shelter, the nice people gave them baths and a man in a white coat gave them shots. Buggy was mad at first, but calmed down when she saw a bowl of delicious food. 

One day, after they'd been in the shelter for a few weeks, Buggy nudged McCatney. "Hey, no one has adopted us and this is boring. We should escape."

McCatney lapped up some water from his bowl. "We can't give up hope. Besides, I heard them talking while you were asleep. They said we would get adopted together."

"I sure hope so," said Buggy. "Although you'll have to do something about that gas when we're in a house. I don't know how that smell can come out of a cat. I mean, I can see it from a cow, but--"

"Alright, alright, I got it!" McCatney said. "Stop nagging. Maybe when we have better food my gas will go away."

They both looked up as a pretty young woman walked into the room. She smiled at Buggy and McCatney. "Oh, look," she said. "Aren't they precious?" She stepped closer and bent down to pet them. "I'm Cindy. It's nice to meet you."

McCatney leaned in to let her pet him and buried his face in her cleavage. 

"McCatney!" Buggy hissed. "Stop that."

Cindy picked him up and held him. "Silly boy," she said. 

Then she put him down and picked up Buggy, who purred and rested her head against her chest. "How about you guys come live with me?"

McCatney meowed loudly and Buggy amped up her purring. Cindy laughed. "I'll take that as a yes."

Buggy and McCatney spend the next few days exploring their new home. It was big and there were plenty of toys all over the house. There was always yummy food and clean water to drink. Cindy loved to play and cuddle with them, too. 

One day, Buggy was rolling around in a pile of catnip and meowing loudly. McCatney sat next to her, eating from his bowl. He looked at Buggy and shook his head. 
Cindy walked in. "Oh my goodness, what have you gotten into, little one?" She picked Buggy up and held her, petting her. "You opened the catnip all on your own?" She laughed. "I'm going to have to hide that better, Buggy-Bug." She set Buggy down and looked at McCatney. "Your little sister is a wild one, isn't she?"

McCatney washed his paws. "Don't I know it?"

When Cindy left the room, Buggy went to the middle of the kitchen floor and stood for a minute, her eyes to the ceiling. She let out a long sigh. "Meeoooow. . ."

"Buggy! What did you do? We have a litter box for that," McCatney said. 

"She hid the catnip. When she stops hiding it, I'll start using the litter box again. You have to train your humans, McCatney. All cats know this."

"That's just rude," said McCatney. He jumped onto the counter and pushed a roll of paper towels onto the floor. 

Later that night, Buggy and McCatney were lying in front of the fireplace. "I sure am thankful the shelter people took us off the streets," McCatney said. 

"Me, too," said Buggy. She rolled over onto there back and licked her paw. "You know what I could really go for right now? I'd love some catnip."

McCatney purred and shook his head. "Oh, Buggy, what am I going to do with you?"

Buggy got up and moved a little closer to the fireplace. McCatney's ears stood straight up when he saw what she'd been lying on. It was a colorful piece of paper with a picture of a big mouse dressed in red pants, a black shirt and white gloves standing in front of a castle. 

"Buggy!" McCatney pounced on Buggy. "That's the place with the mouse! We have to go there!"

"I know," Buggy said. "That's why I'm making sure Cindy sees this in the morning." She picked up the picture with her teeth and jumped onto the coffee table. She carefully slid it under a set of keys. "She won't miss this. When she decides to go, we'll just sneak into the back of the car."

"Buggy, you're the best," McCatney said. 

"I am, aren't I?" Buggy purred and hopped back onto the floor. She looked around the room. "Now, help me find that catnip, would you?"

The End
Meow

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Donner Chronicles - Read this First, then scroll down for more episodes!

OK, so when I was 16 I wrote a bunch of episodes for a funny series called The Donner Chronicles, about a ridiculous redneck family from Alabama or Arkansas, they aren't sure where they live. I just came across it the other day and it still makes me laugh so I'd like to share them. First, I give descriptions of the family, so here goes...

Dad - Tommy Leonard Donner   Age 80  Height 5'3  Measurements 40-22-30

Mom - Marguerita Donner  Age 53  Height 6'2  Measurements 48-38-50

Oldest Son - Ricardo French Fry Donner  Age 30 Height 4'11 Measurements 38-30-38

Youngest Son - John Kristen Vivian Hope Billie Franco Jack Susan Evon Peter Laura Sami Carrie Will Austin Lucas Kate Victor Marlena Celeste Alexandra Stefano Bo Mike Micki Belle Roman Donner
Age 18  Height 7'4  Measurements 80-20-80

Oldest daughter - Mercedes Volkswagon Donner  Age 26 Height 6'4  Measurements 42-36-42

Youngest daughter - Jasmine Vanilla Honeysuckle Donner  Age 16   Height 6'3  Measurements 36-24-36

Dog - Stupid  Age 40 Height 2 inches  Measurements 10-20-10

Cat - Thatdarncat  Age 50  Height 4"   *note: has no hair and one blue eye and one brown eye

Horse - Big Yeller-Eyed Mule  Age 100  Height  48 hands

Other horse - Dr. Evil Kaneval  Age 20  Height 60 hands

Other cat - I Love Beer   Age 20  Height 2' Tail length: 5 feet
 *note: stay away from I Love Beer, she tends to whack unsuspecting victims with her 3 inch think tail

Skunk - Here, Kitty, Kitty   Age 20 Height 3'
  *Note: this is how you know he's going to spray you: his eyes change color and roll around in his head

Deer (3)-   I Like Running Out In The Road and Staring at Oncoming Headlights

                 Bambi

                Leonardo

                    *note: The family named this deer after Leonardo DiCaprio, although they are a bit confused; they think Leonardo Da Vinci and DiCaprio are the same person. They think Da Vinci was frozen and brought back to life in the early 90's and made to look Germanly handsome. They always say, "He sure don't look Italian anymore! And I ain't seen none of his paintin's lately!"

Mule  - Isaac   Age 13  Height 6'
     Famous quote:  "They keep chasing me with a stick that says Ugly on it"


Part One of a screenplay: Dollhouse (thriller or horror movie)

This is Part 1 of a screenplay I wrote for one of my workshop classes at UCF. Stay tuned for Part 2.

(OS means "off screen," the character is speaking but is not in the shot. MOS means a character is talking but we can't hear what they are saying, like he's standing across the street talking on his phone.)


                                                                     DOLLHOUSE


INT. KITCHEN - DAY

ANNIE ARCHER, 12, is small for her age with the face of a porcelain doll: fair skin, rosy cheeks, bright green eyes and black hair lopped into a bob. She stands defiantly, hands on her hips, looking at her older sister, KATE, 16. Kate raises an eyebrow and scratches her head, messing up her pink hair.

ANNIE
Come on! I’ll hide and you come find me.

KATE
Really don’t feel like playing this again.

Kate rolls her eyes before covering them with her hands.

KATE (CONT’D)
One, two, three . . .

Annie takes off running.

INT. ATTIC - CONTINUOUS

Yellow late afternoon light shines in through the small round window at the end of the room, illuminating dust in the air. The door opens and Annie bursts in, closing the door quietly
behind her. Her head moves from left to right, searching for a place to hide. She tiptoes quickly to an old couch and crouches down behind it, peeking her head out to look at the attic door.

INT. KATE’S BEDROOM - SAME

Kate lies on her bed, her cell phone to her ear, talking MOS.

INT. ATTIC - CONTINUOUS

Annie peeks her head out from behind the couch again and frowns. Her eyes scan the expanse of the room. A few feet away, three female Russian nesting dolls lie, cracked open, on an old bookshelf. The mother doll lies in between two smaller dolls. Annie crawls out of her hiding spot and takes the smaller doll from the bookshelf, studying it.

She jumps when a box near her feet begins to shake. She GASPS and backs away slowly, her eyes never leaving the box. The box tips over and a doll similar to the one Annie is holding rolls out onto the floor with a CRACK. The doll opens in the middle and a smaller doll rolls out, coming to a stop
by the bookshelf.

A blinding light flashes between the two halves of the larger doll. Annie shields her eyes with her arm. When she moves her arm, she sees MISHA, 14, tall and thin with long black hair. She has a nasty case of resting bitch-face. Her eyes narrow at Annie.

Annie stumbles back, her mouth wide open in shock.

MISHA
Hello, sister. It’s been too long.

The smaller doll on the floor begins to vibrate. Annie clutches the doll in her hands tighter and takes off for the attic door.
 
Misha takes a step forward and glares at Annie’s back.

MISHA (CONT’D)
You don’t remember me?

Annie yanks the door open and bolts down the stairs.

INT. HALLWAY - CONTINUOUS

Annie slams the attic door shut behind her and runs down the hallway. She nearly collides with LINDA, 40, who catches her by the shoulders. Linda looks like a fashion editor at Vogue magazine, complete with a thin figure and messy dark bun.

LINDA
Whoa, honey. Slow down. What--

She stops mid-sentence when she sees the doll in Annie’s arms. Taking a shaky step back, she covers her mouth with one hand.

ANNIE
What, Mom?

Linda steadies herself against the wall. Her eyes move between the doll and Annie. The doll looks
exactly like Annie.

LINDA
What were you doing in the attic?

She reaches out and takes the doll from Annie.

ANNIE
We were playing hide and seek.

LINDA
I told you to never go up there.

Linda looks down at the Annie-doll in her hands then to Annie.

LINDA (CONT’D)
You have to be very careful with these dolls. They are worth more to me than...

She stops and wipes a tear from her eye.

LINDA (CONT’D)
Where are the rest of the dolls?

Annie’s eyes widen as she looks at something behind Linda.

Linda turns and the attic door slams shut.

LINDA (CONT’D)
Kate! Come out right now! I told you guys to stay out of the attic.

A bedroom door opens down the hall and Kate steps into the hallway looking confused.
 
KATE
What?

Linda GASPS, putting her hand over her chest.

ANNIE
It wasn’t Kate. There’s a girl up there.

Linda’s mouth forms a small “o” as her eyes travel to the attic door.

LINDA
Just one girl?

ANNIE
There were these dolls in a box and then it fell...The doll...opened and it was really bright and then
she was there. A smaller one was on the floor but I ran downstairs.

KATE
Wait, there’s someone in our attic? Shouldn’t we call the police, or--

LINDA
(under her breath)
Misha and Natalie.

KATE
What?
  
LINDA
No, it’s OK. Girls, go to your rooms.

KATE
Mom, what’s going on?

LINDA
Just take your sister and go to your room. Now.

Kate frowns and leads Annie to her bedroom. The door closes.

Linda goes to the attic door and opens it. About two dozen marbles come flying down the stairs. A few hit Linda. She shields her face from the onslaught.

LINDA (CONT’D)
Aah!

MISHA (O.S.)
Go away.

Linda looks up at the top of the stairs. Misha is holding one of the dolls. She tosses it down to Linda who barely catches it before it hits the hardwood floor.  Linda looks closely at the doll. It’s the smallest of the set. She clutches it close to her chest and looks back up to Misha.

LINDA
Oh, Misha, honey. I didn’t know you were---I couldn’t take care of all of you. But I can now! We can be a family again. Please talk to me.

Linda takes one step up the stairs. At the top of the stairs, Misha is holding a bowling ball.

MISHA
No, thank you, Mommy Dearest. But you’ll be sorry for what you’ve done. Keeping us locked up. You forgot about us.

LINDA
I didn’t forget. I told you--I’m sorry, I didn’t know you’d be awake! Please, Misha!

Misha holds up the ball and laughs maniacally.

Linda slams the door shut behind her and runs down the hallway toward the kitchen.

INT. KITCHEN - CONTINUOUS

She yanks open a drawer and pulls out a small gold key.

INT. HALLWAY - CONTINUOUS

Linda runs back to the attic door and inserts the key, locking it. She takes a few steps back and stares at the door. The doll in her hand shakes. Linda kneels and gently sets it onto the rug. The vibration speeds up until it looks like it will explode. Then the doll splits and the two halves roll apart leaving a blinding light in the center.

Linda takes a step back and looks away, shielding her eyes. When she looks back, a little girl stands before her. NATALIE, 5 years old, smiles wide. She looks identical to the face on the doll.

NATALIE
Mommy!

Linda rushes forward and pulls Natalie into a fierce hug.

LINDA
Baby, are you OK?

NATALIE
I’m fine, but...

She turns and points to the attic door.

NATALIE (CONT’D)
Misha is mad.

LINDA
I know, honey. I’m going to get you guys to Aunt Maddie’s house then I’ll try talking to Misha.

Natalie shakes her head.

NATALIE
I don’t think she wants to talk.

INT. KATE’S BEDROOM - DAY

Linda opens the door. Kate and Annie look up, confused.

LINDA
We need to pack up and go stay with Aunt Maddie, OK?

KATE
Mom, what’s going on?

Natalie peeks into the room.

LINDA
Natalie, come in and wait with Kate while I help your Annie pack.

Natalie walks in and smiles shyly at Kate and Annie.

LINDA (CONT’D)
Kate, do you remember?

Kate’s eyes widen at the sight of Natalie.

INT. LIVING ROOM - NIGHT - FLASHBACK
Linda stands with the largest doll split in half at her feet. Next to Linda, Kate stands with her doll, open at her feet. In front of them, a medium-sized doll begins to vibrate. It cracks open in the middle and breaks apart, leaving a smaller doll inside, unopened. A burst of light pours from the two halves. Misha appears and dances over to Linda and Kate, hugging them. The next doll follows the same pattern, vibrating until it bursts open, the two halves engulfed in blinding light. The light fades, Annie in its place. She jumps over the wooden halves to join Linda, Kate and Misha. The four stand close, holding hands as they watch the smallest doll vibrate and crack open. A flash of light then Natalie hops over her doll and runs to join her family.

Linda turns to Misha.

LINDA
And you’re sure you’re OK with this? You can say no.

MISHA
It’s OK, Mom. I can sleep for a while and you wake us up when you can.

INT. KATE'S BEDROOM - BACK TO PRESENT DAY

Kate jumps up and runs to Natalie, hugging her.

A flash of recognition in Annie’s eyes, she follows Kate and hugs Natalie.

KATE
How could we have forgotten?

Linda smiles.

LINDA
When you’ve been in human form for as long as we have, you tend to forget. I’ve wanted us all to be
together for so long. I had no idea you could still be conscious in doll form.

ANNIE
But Misha was.

Linda frowns and embraces all the girls at once.

LINDA
She was. I didn’t--

A loud thud cuts her off. She looks up in horror. The girls hug each other tighter as they look up to the ceiling. Misha’s maniacal laughter echoes down from the attic.

LINDA (CONT’D)
We should leave. I want to try talking to her again but I want you guys out of here first.

KATE
Talk to her? She’s crazy!

Linda shakes her head and begins throwing clothes into a suitcase.

LINDA
I know.

A loud CRASH sound down the hall. Then a THUD sounds outside the bedroom door. Linda peeks out.

INT. HALLWAY - CONTINUOUS

A bowling ball rolls straight down the hallway and CRASHES into the door of the hallway closet, leaving a hole in the door with splintered wood fragments all over the floor. Linda runs back into Kate’s bedroom and slams the door,locking it. The three girls huddle together in the corner of the room.

ANNIE
What happened?

Linda puts her finger to her lips in a shushing gesture. She listens, her ear against the door.

KATE
Do you smell that?

Linda sniffs the air.

LINDA
Oh, God, no.

A door slams shut.

LINDA (CONT’D)
We’ve got to make a run for it! Leave your bags. When I count to three, run as fast as you can to
the front door, OK? The three girls line up at the bedroom door. Linda opens it and pushes the girls in front of her.

LINDA (CONT’D)
Go, go!


INT. ENTRYWAY - CONTINUOUS
Linda, Kate, Annie and Natalie rush to the front door. Linda yanks on the door. It won’t open.

ANNIE
Aahh!

She jumps back and points to the window. Misha’s face fills the window frame. She smiles wickedly.
Tendrils of smoke dance behind Linda and her daughters. Linda looks behind them to the kitchen. Smoke is pouring out into the living room.

LINDA
Let us out!

Misha’s smile transitions back into a bored scowl. Kate kicks and bangs on the door. Misha ignores her and stares at Linda, who steps closer to the window.

LINDA (CONT’D)
I’m sorry, OK, sweetheart? I’m sorry. Please let us out. We can all be together now.

MISHA
Too late.

Linda turns and looks at the kitchen, which is now filled with smoke. She grabs a vase from the entryway table.

LINDA
Stand back, girls!

She throws the vase through the window.

EXT. PORCH - CONTINUOUS
Misha jumps back, caught off guard. She stumbles and loses her balance, falling down the steps.
The door bursts open and Linda and the girls run outside to the sidewalk across the street. Linda talks on her cell phone MOS. Kate points to the front lawn.
 
KATE
Look!

Misha cuts through the trees and drops something in the grass before she disappears behind a neighbor’s house. As SIRENS wail in the distance, Linda walks over and picks it up. It is the Misha-doll. Looking closely, there is one large crack along the side. Annie and Kate run up behind her.

ANNIE
Maybe she can go back in doll form and then she won’t be able to hurt
us.

Linda stares at the doll for a beat then turns to Annie and Kate. She points to the crack in the side.

LINDA
See how it’s cracked there? Once the wood is damaged, she can never return to the doll.

Annie’s head jerks up and she points down the street.

ANNIE
Mom! Look!

Misha stands a few hundred yards away under a street lamp, staring at them.

The SIRENS grow louder and a fire truck turns the corner onto their street behind Misha. A slow smile forms on her face before she turns and runs the other way, her long dark hair flying behind her in the wind.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Movies are Weird: Insights on Creativity and Entertainment

 
“The tremendous leisure industry that has arisen in the last few generations has been designed to help fill free time with enjoyable experiences. Nevertheless, instead of using our physical and mental resources to experience flow, most of us spend many hours each week watching celebrated athletes playing in enormous stadiums. Instead of making music, we listen to platinum records cut by millionaire musicians. Instead of making art, we go to admire paintings that brought in the highest bids at the latest auction. We do not run risks acting on our beliefs, but occupy hours each day watching actors who pretend to have adventures, engaged in mock-meaningful action.”
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow


  

 I had live-streamed Bonnaroo on my laptop on June 15, 2014. I had been talking to my sister who lived so close to the festival site (Manchester, Tennessee) at the time that she could hear the music. We are both huge Jack White fans so she was ecstatic to be able to hear his set live from her backyard and I was green with envy as I sat in Orlando watching it live-stream on my laptop. But I recorded a few bits and pieces of his set onto my voice recorder on my iPhone as I listened. Today I was going through all my old voice memos and heard one from Jack's Bonnaroo set that I wanted to share. It's just something that I've thought of many times and to hear someone else say it was pretty cool.

    He quotes a conversation he had with a movie director one time who said, "I think films are so strange. If an alien came down and walked into a movie theater, and watched [all the people watching] two people talking to each other on a screen, an alien would've said to a human being, 'so you come in here and pay money, your hard-earned money, to sit down and watch two people talk to each other? Why don't you do that at home? Why don't you do that at home?'"

     I just think that's interesting. I've always felt a little strange watching TV or watching a movie. (don't get me wrong, I can binge-watch all 9 seasons of The Office, and I also love Grey's Anatomy) but I've always thought, "why am I sitting here watching other people do things? It's weird. Why don't I go out and do things?"

    It's also a topic covered in a book I read a few years ago called, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly. In it, he writes, "Although watching TV is far from being a positive experience—generally people report feeling passive, weak, rather irritable, and sad when doing it—at least the flickering screen brings a certain amount of order to consciousness. The predictable plots, familiar characters, and even the redundant commercials provide a reassuring pattern of stimulation. The screen invites attention to itself as a manageable, restricted aspect of the environment. While interacting with television, the mind is protected from personal worries. The information passing across the screen keeps unpleasant concerns out of the mind.”

  I guess my point is, watching movies and TV has its place. Sometimes we need to do something mindless and escape our reality for a while. I just think we need to be careful not to go overboard and let our lives slip away. It feels so much better to create something yourself, whether you're dancing, singing, writing, painting, crafting, designing a video game, a website, starting your own biz, quilting, making handbags out of your cat's shedded fur...

Anyone else agree?

Sunday, September 4, 2016

New Flash Fiction/Short, short story

Wanted: Someone Who Hates Faith Hill as Much as I Do

     Reaching across the table, I take Charlotte’s hand and squeeze it gently. She smiles and gives me a light squeeze in return. It’s our third date and we’re sitting in a booth in the back corner of T.G.I. Friday’s. I had made reservations (unbeknownst to her) at an expensive French restaurant but Charlotte had insisted on Friday’s because she loves their mojitos. I think she might be a keeper.

     As soon as the server leaves, Charlotte slides the flip booklet in front of her and starts thumbing through the pictures of drinks and desserts. “Ooh, look at this,” she says, pointing to a picture of molten lava cake.

     I nod and start to reply but my heart skips a beat. I look around the restaurant and register the song flowing out of the speakers above us. It’s that song. God, how I hate it. And as if that isn’t bad enough, the music video is on the television above the bar. Why don’t they have football on? Faith Hill is sitting atop a giant peach, swinging back and forth, singing about a kiss that was apparently so powerful she had to write a song about it. I had seen the video years ago when it came out, but now it just seems stupid. The cheesy melody, her perky vocal inflections full of overdone joy, it’s too much. I normally don’t have such strong opinions about music, but there is a reason this particular song irks me so much. I remember being in the sixth grade and having to take the bus to and from school every day.

     I stood at the end of my driveway by our faded black mailbox and watched as the big yellow bus slowed to a stop in front of me. After some puffing noises from the engine, the folded door opened and I looked up to see Mr. Evans. He was leaning over in his seat, his large hand gripping the lever. Wiry tufts of grey hair spread across his hand like old, dying trees in a forest with a peach floor and tiny brown ponds scattered throughout. Looking back up at his face, I watched him raise his eyebrows and give me a half-hearted smile. I hesitated. There was still time to run back to the house.

     He rolled his eyes. “C’mon, son,” he said. “Haven’t got all day.” I did this every morning and every morning Mr. Evans would say the same thing, an annoyed look on his wrinkled and weather-beaten face. I sighed and climbed the steps, praying Benjamin would be home sick today. But no such luck. He was sitting in the back, as usual, away from Mr. Evans, away from any possibility of him hearing what went on back there.

     Benjamin sat up straight in his seat as soon as I stepped on. “Hey, Matt!” he called out. “I saved you a seat. Come on, buddy!” He slapped the seat next to him loudly and laughed, looking around at his friends who laughed with him. My eyes scanned the entire bus for a seat away from him but they were all taken. The only open seats were in the back. Resigned, I made my way back to an open seat two rows ahead of him.

     “Aww, you hurt my feelings,” he said. “I just want to be your friend.”

     I ignored him and sat down, putting my backpack on the floor in front of me. Then I felt a sharp searing pain on the top of my head. Turning around, I realized Benjamin must have switched seats with someone so now he was sitting directly behind me. Hitting me on the head with his book was his favorite, followed by shooting spitballs at me through a straw. And then, like clockwork, “This Kiss” from Faith Hill started playing on the radio. 107.1 WJAM must have played it fifty times a day and I heard it every single morning on the way to school and sometimes on the way back home, too. It was the soundtrack to my torture, courtesy of Benjamin Pruitt, the nightmare of the sixth grade at Lexington Elementary.

     He continued his attack, alternating between the spitballs and the whacks to the top of my head all while taunting me, saying things like, “Why are you such a nerd, Matt?” and “Everyone hates you, why don’t you just jump out the window?” As I yelled at him to leave me alone, while trying to get Mr. Evans’ attention (he was too busy singing along to the stupid song), and dodging the wet pieces of paper flying at me, the words blared from the speaker, “It’s. . .the way you love me, it’s. . .a feeling like this, it’s. . .centrifugal motion, it’s perpetual bli-iss. . .” 

     “Hello? Earth to Matt,” Charlotte’s voice rings in my ears.

     I blink. “I’m sorry,” I say, glancing around. The song is over.

     “What happened? Are you OK? You were gone for a minute there.”

     “Oh, yeah, I—“ I start. Should I tell her or will she think I’m crazy? Hell with it. “That song just. . .it makes me—“

     “Oh, God. I hate that song,” Charlotte says, sticking her finger in her mouth and making a gagging noise. “It’s so annoying. A song about a damn kiss? Really? So lame.”

     I laugh and breathe a sigh of relief. “I couldn’t agree more.”

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Sam

I think of Adam as my savior. His name is even the same as the first man on earth. This is according to my mother, the star of the church choir and the blondest of all the Stepford wives in Celebration.  Let me just say that I am not an entitled millennial from a wealthy family who ran away from home. The truth is, Adam saved me from a very dysfunctional home. I got out of there a month after graduating high school and have not looked back. Adam was twenty-one and had his own place when I moved in with him. He owns his own business. He comes from a good family. I don't know what he is doing with me.
Sometimes I feel lonely at night, even with Adam lying beside me. It's not normal to be so disconnected from your family, is it? Then the guilt creeps in and I wonder if it was all my fault. Maybe I was a bad daughter. Maybe I don't deserve Adam, my loyal, caring boyfriend of three years. When these ugly thoughts come, I can feel my heart speed up and a thick fog rises from my chest to my throat. I put my hand over my heart, turn my head to look at Adam in the dark, afraid that he can hear my heart pounding, afraid that the sound will give me away, that he will come to his senses and leave me, but he is fast asleep, snoring softly. Then I wonder what it is, this dense air, this substance that is steadily rising up, threatening to pour out of my mouth. Is it the truth? Is it that I'm really a bad person and one day, sooner or later, everyone, including Adam, will see it? The cat will be out of the bag one day, I just know it. I can't fool him forever. Then, as I lie still next to Adam, listening to his steady, deep breathing, I talk myself out of it. It wasn't my fault. My father is an abusive, sick bastard and my mother didn't give a shit. The only thing I did wrong was not leave sooner. But I'm never entirely convinced of my innocence.
It is July and our air conditioner has been broken for the past twenty-four hours. Our landlord does not seem to understand why we are getting impatient. This cannot be healthy. Adam has taken matters into his own hands and called the air conditioning company himself because that’s what he does.
I huff and look up at the thermostat. It reads eighty-four degrees. I snatch up a folder from the counter and start fanning myself. "This is insane. When did they say the air would be fixed again?" I close my eyes and tilt my head up facing the ceiling, praying for one small glorious gust of cold air to come out of the vent.
"Probably tomorrow. The manager said he would call us back by eight tonight to let us know. I'm sure it'll be fixed soon, hon." Adam smiles, tracing his fingertips along my arm. I look into his deep brown eyes, so calm and sure that everything will be OK. He is so Zen all the time, sometimes it is unnerving.  
"I hope so."
He tilts his head and smiles at me. "I know so."
I soften and reach my arms around him, hugging him tight. His damp shirt clings to mine and he smells faintly of sweat and I'm sure I do, too.
He hugs me back, kisses my cheek and then pulls away, starting to walk out of the kitchen. But he stops and whirls around to face me again where I stand by the oven. "Is the oven on?" His eyes are wide.
I raise my eyebrows and look at the stove then back at Adam. "I wanted to make brownies."
"But you're complaining about the heat and that just makes it hotter in here."
I shrug and toss the folder back onto the counter. "I'm going to change," I say.
"You make no sense, Sam."
"I know." I ruffle his hair as I pass by him on my way to the stairs.

Upstairs in our bedroom, I thumb through my dresser for something light and cool to put on. I come across an old pair of shorts from high school and pull them out, tossing them onto the bed. They are bright blue with faint yellow stripes. My mom bought them for me on a back to school shopping trip. That was her way of coping with the misery of living with my father: shopping. Over the years, my father, Dr. Oren Reilly, had increased his drinking, going from a couple beers a night to the harder stuff, his favorite being Jack Daniels. The night that I called Adam—February 24, 2013—my father had downed a bottle of Jack and I had a busted lip. My mother had been hiding in the bedroom, pretending that everything was OK as usual. Fifteen minutes after calling Adam, I was already outside, standing next to the garage, my "get-away" bag (having been packed a week prior) slung over my shoulder when Adam peeled into the driveway, tires squealing. I was miles away from the house before my parents knew that I left. My mother had called me throughout the night and into the next day, begging me to come back home. She promised everything would be different. That's when I lost respect for her. She was a grown woman; if she wanted to be in denial and stay in that hellish existence with my father, that was her choice. But what kind of mother would want her child to live there?
As I slip on my flip-flops, I hear the doorbell ring and come downstairs. I see Adam making his way to the front door, so I go back into the kitchen to check on the brownies. They are done so I put on my polka dot oven mitts and pull the pan from the oven.  
Wondering who is at the door, I peek out from the kitchen and over Adam's shoulder. There is a young woman with red hair standing on our porch. Adam is leaning slightly to the right, his hand resting on the doorframe and I can see the left half of her body clearly. 
"Hi, neighbor. I'm just across the street," she says, motioning with her thumb over her shoulder. Adam doesn't respond at first. The woman's wild copper hair points in every direction and her white tank top is soaked with water or sweat so that we can see her neon green bra underneath. Her denim shorts hug her thighs and are so short that the pockets peek out from under the hem. Classy. On her feet are hot pink flip-flops that have seen better days.
She is saying something but I can't hear well enough from the kitchen. I take a few steps toward the doorway to the living room. The woman is smiling at Adam. She says, "So, can I borrow one if you have an extra?"
Adam nods and starts to speak but the woman leans a little to her right and looks at me. I am standing at the edge of the living room holding the pan of brownies. Adam moves slightly to the side and I see her completely. I lock eyes with her then look her up and down. Still looking at her, I say to Adam, "You going to introduce me to your friend?"
"Oh, she just stopped by, she lives across the street and. . ." Adam trails off.
"And I asked to borrow a fan if you can spare one. I'm Kristy." She smiles and looks directly at me, mimicking me, looking me up and down.
I turn and walk back into the kitchen. "There might be one in the basement. Tell her she's more than welcome to go look for it," I call out. I can hear the bitchy tone in my voice but I don’t care.
"I'm sorry. Let me go see if I can find it. Come in and have a seat." Why did he invite her in?
"Why not?" Kristy says, shrugging, before choosing the big green chair facing the kitchen.
"Make yourself at home," I call out. What I really mean is, 'get out of my house and stop flirting with my boyfriend' but I don't say it.
"Thanks."
A few minutes later, Adam comes back into the room holding a large white fan. "Here you go," he says to Kristy.
After the redhead leaves, Adam turns to me. "Let's go somewhere for dinner. I have to get out of here. It's too hot."

The hostess seats us at the far corner of the restaurant and as we take our seats in a booth, Adam begins removing his silverware from the napkin. "You were rude to her."
I lean back in my chair and look away. Stop with the truth already, will you?
"Hello, Sam?"
"What?"
Before he can say anything, the server comes over, places two gray tinted glasses of water in front of us and takes our order. When he leaves, Adam sighs and looks at me, his eyebrows raised.
 "What do you want me to say?"
Adam shakes his head but says nothing. He looks away and I do the same, staring out the window. We sit in silence until the server is back, setting our hot plates in front of us.
After a few bites, I put my fork down. "This chick comes over dressed like that, starts flirting with you and I'm supposed to be nice to her?"
Adam slams his fork down onto his plate. His brows are knitted tightly together.
"Now you're mad?" I say.
I lean forward, my eyes wide. Adam looks down and begins twisting his napkin in his hands. His forehead is wrinkled and he bites his lip before speaking. "I remember when we first met. You were so happy," he says.
My jaw drops. "I was happy? I was running away from an abusive father and a clueless, plastic mom. I tried to off myself. I was just a ray of sunshine."
Adam sighs. "You know what I mean. We were happy together. You trusted me. I just don't know why you'd be threatened by some random woman who lives across the street."
"That service dog over there." I motion with my head. "He looks just like one I used to have."
"He went out the door. I can't see him."
As we stare out the window of our favorite restaurant, a gust of wind comes through the front door, blowing over a stack of menus from the stand.
"Why does it seem all we do is argue, Sam?"
I shrug. "I used to believe we never would. But, we don't really. Not that much."
Adam frowns and pulled the Peg Board game towards him. He stares at the small wooden triangle with the red, blue and white pegs protruding from the holes. Old coffee stains splatter the surface.
I slide my chair closer to the table. "Not as much as them," I say, pointing to the television in the corner of the ceiling where two presidential candidates were debating.
"Why do you always change the subject?"
I swipe the Peg Board game away from Adam and start playing.
 "You know what I did a week after we met? I was out shopping and running errands. When I passed by a jewelry store, something made me go inside. I spent an hour looking at rings and had one picked out for you."
"You never told me that," I say.
Adam nods and pushes his dinner plate to the edge of the table.
"Well, why would you want to marry me?"
He smiles and reaches for my hand. "Because I love you, Sam, believe it or not."
***
I'm still thinking about our conversation the next morning on my way back from the gym. He was going to propose? I'm way too messed up to be marriage material. He should know that, I think. I pull into the driveway and hope Adam isn't home. I am in a weird mood and don't want him to see me like this. I just want to grab a post-workout snack and lie down for a while, slip into oblivion. Walking into the house, I see a pile of mail on the counter. Great, probably more bills, I think. I flip to an envelope with "Mid-Florida Hospital" printed on the outside. Oh, look, here's one now! Because I don't have enough to worry about.  I open it and the first thing I see is a number that is way too large and a red stamp: "Past Due." Thirty thousand dollars. I feel nauseous even though I haven't eaten yet. I toss it into the file where the rest of the past due hospital bills go: the tall stainless steel can under the sink with a plastic bag in it. I call it the Bye-Bye File. Adam doesn't know about my debt and he doesn't need to. I am already enough of a burden on him. I wish I could tell him all my secrets. They are jumbled up inside me and I feel like an overstuffed trash bag that cannot hold one more thing without bursting open. But it is all so ugly. I can't let it burst, I can't let him see inside.
I go lie down in bed and the next thing I hear is the front door closing. I look over at the clock and realize I've slept for an hour. When I come downstairs, I see Adam standing at the sink. He turns when he hears my footsteps. In his hand are crumpled pieces of paper and envelopes. Damn. He found them.
"Sam. What are these?" he asks, holding them up.
I know what they are without looking. I cross my arms over my chest. "They're nothing. I'm handling it."
"By throwing them away?"
"It's not your problem. Why were you digging around in the trash?"
"I was getting ready to take it out and one of these fell out." He tosses a few crumpled sheets of paper onto the counter. "These are from three years ago and it is my problem. We share problems, that's how this works."
I sit at the table and cover my face with my hands. "I don't want to think about three years ago." About six months after I left home and came to live with Adam, I had attempted suicide. I felt so guilty for running away from home, leaving my mother alone with that monster. I had stayed in the hospital for two days under close observation and had to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
Adam sighs and pulls out the chair next to me, sitting down. "Of course you don't. You're better now and we've moved on. But you can't just pretend these don't exist. You told me your insurance paid for it."
I don't know what to say so I sit silently, my face buried in my hands. Who would want to be with someone with all this debt? We are both so young. Why does he stay with me? It makes me so angry, the unfairness of it all. My eyes start to burn. I always cry when I'm angry and this only makes me more upset.
"Sam, I'm not angry. Let me help you with this. I can call them and set up a payment plan, OK?"
I stand up from the table and wipe my eyes with the back of my hand. "Why aren't you angry with me? You really should be. You always have to rescue me."
Adam grabs my hand. "It's my job and I'm happy to do it."
I laugh. Why, I don't know, but I have a sick, burning feeling in the pit of my stomach and I need to push him away. It's for his own good. "Well, aren't you a saint? God, it's so pathetic." I want to take back the words as soon as I say them. He is silent, looking at me with those kind brown eyes. He only looks mildly irritated. I try to decipher the look on his face and then I realize it is pity. That sends me over the edge. "I can't breathe. I'm going outside." I say before opening up the sliding glass door. I walk outside and close it behind me, looking through the glass. Adam hasn't moved. He looks sad, as if he is about to cry. The glass between us may as well be ten feet thick. My chest aches and I have to turn away.
Our neighbor's children are outside playing and their laughter, like little bells, drifts over. I feel cold even though it must be eighty degrees outside. As I sit on the old plastic chair on the porch, I decide to skip work tomorrow and go somewhere. Where, I don't know yet. I just need to get away and think. There are two people inside of me; one who wants to run away and be alone, and one who wants to run inside and wrap my arms around Adam and tell him I'm sorry and that I love him.

The next morning Adam kisses me goodbye, saying, "Don't worry about this. I'll take care of it. I love you." He hugs me and it is almost too much. The guilt, the dense fog is creeping up from my chest again and wants to escape but I push it back down.
I wait until he leaves and call my boss and tell him I have the flu. Then I get dressed and throw my large straw hat and towel in my bag. I'm going to the beach. It always makes me feel clean. It is the only place I can think. It is about an hour drive and I love long drives. They always make me feel powerful, like I am making a decision, taking control of my life. Maybe if I just spend the day there, I will feel better and I can come back and talk to Adam. But I just can't talk to anyone right now. I feel raw, like my chest is wide open for the world to see and everyone can see my ugly, bruised heart and all its dirty secrets.
In the car, I wrap my hair in a scarf, roll down the windows and turn on the radio. I have to keep changing the station because so many of the songs make me want to cry. Finally I find an alternative station that doesn't remind me of anything. I sing along and after a while, the air starts to smell salty. It starts to feel cleaner and lighter. I can already feel the fog in my chest dissipating.
I cross over the causeway, glancing to my left and right, taking in the sparkling blue water, the sunlight dancing on the surface. Cars zoom past me and I realize I am driving slow.
When I get to the beach, I find a spot in front of a set of steps leading down to the sand. I reach into my glove box and grab a few quarters for the parking meter. Sliding quarters in one after the other, I wait until the little faded screen reads “3:00” and then I grab my bag and head for the steps.
It's Wednesday so the beach is almost empty. The only people here are a few older people on their morning walk and a family wearing bright neon baseball caps with "Florida" printed on the top in cursive.  
I find a spot about twenty feet from the family and spread my towel on the powdery sand. Tossing my bag to the left, I decide to keep my shorts and tank top on for a while, until the sun warms me a little more. I sit in the middle of the oversized neon striped towel, lean back and close my eyes, feeling the sun's warmth gently pressing onto my eyelids. It's still early and there's a light breeze sweeping over me, giving me goose bumps every few seconds. I shiver and a memory of the hospital room from three years ago pops into my mind. I had goose bumps in that room, too. I had been living with Adam since the night he came and took me away. One night, Adam had been working late and I felt sad and didn't know why. I had convinced myself everything was OK now that I was out of my parents' house. But then I had seen eight missed calls from my mother and a voicemail.
"Samantha, this is your mother. Your father and I are worried about you. He is sorry he hit you. He lost his temper. . .Sam. You can't talk back to him like that, you know how it makes him. Anyway, honey. Look. He has cut back on his drinking. He is getting help. You need to come back home where you belong, not live in sin with that boy. You know that's wrong, Sam. We didn't raise you that way. Call your mother back, Samantha. If you love me at all, you will call me back."
Somehow my phone had ended up broken and Adam had come home to find me lying on the floor, an empty pill bottle next to me.  The next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital, IVs and tubes everywhere, and Adam sitting on the chair next to the bed. Right before the doctors discharged me, he had taken my hand and said, "You're going to be OK. I'm here. I'm not going anywhere."

After a while, I look around the beach again and two birds catch my eye. I have no idea what kind they are, only that they are small and white. One is slightly larger than the other and they are identical except that the smaller one has a marking on its head that looks like the Nike symbol. I decide the smaller one is female and silently name her Nike. Their movements are both graceful and jerky at the same time. The two peck around in the sand for a while, looking for food, until they bump into each other. Nike is suddenly flustered, her wings twitching and she starts to chase after the other one. The bigger one takes off in flight for a few feet then settles back down again on the sand. He sits still and Nike comes over, continuing the assault. The larger one squawks loudly and Nike stops in her tracks and the two stare each other down for a few seconds. Finally, Nike flits off on her little spindly legs. I watch, fascinated with the drama until finally Nike slowly comes back to her mate. I expect the fighting to start up again but the larger one sits calmly while Nike approaches. Her mate takes a couple steps towards her and begins preening her, gently pecking at her feathers.
      My eyes start to burn and I feel a tear escape and roll down my cheek. He never leaves. After all that I've put him through, he loves me, accepts me as I am. Maybe he knows something I don't. Then it dawns on me: I must be really tough. Look where I came from and somehow I'm still alive. I'm a fighter. That is something. 
     I wipe my face with the edge of my towel and stand up. The birds who were about ten feet away, fly away when they see me. They disappear into the blue sky, becoming tiny white dots until finally I can no longer see them. I look around the beach one more time. The family to my left is still there and the mother looks over at me and smiles. I smile back and throw my bag over my shoulder. Time to go home.  

Friday, February 19, 2016

....................................The Drapey Shirt............................

You have this shirt you bought at Ross. It's white with an attached drapey vest in wide autumnal stripes. They are horizontal stripes, not vertical ones, and any fashion magazine would tell you this is a no-no. Despite this, you still bought it. And you wear it. What can you say? You're a rebel. It goes great with jeans and brown boots. You have to wear slim-fit jeans with it because with the shirt being loose and drapey, you will look like a frump if you wear loose jeans, like say, your boyfriend jeans. Or if you wore khakis or shorts –uggh I have to stop, this is painful—no, let's just say you must wear form fitting pants, preferably in a dark color and jeans are the obvious choice, unless you are fashion forward enough to think of something else. And if you are, please call me because I need help. I tend to look deceivingly well put-together because I wear a lot of black and white. It's easy to match. Buy me something with more than one color or in a funky, trendy style without giving me a complete ensemble and I will slap you. Not because I'm greedy and mean, but because I will have no clue what to wear with this beautiful piece of fabric you've given me and it will inevitably end up in the back of my closet for years where I will periodically stop and stare at it for a few moments, frowning, feeling desperate to wear it but having no idea what to wear with it and shrugging my shoulders, I will just push it back again and pick something easier.

Back to the sensible soccer mom flowy shirt-with-attached-vest. This shirt is a pain in the ass. It looks great once you manage to get it on and pair it with a cute pair of jeans and stylish shoes. Maybe add in those turquoise arrow-shaped earrings that bring out the soft yet deep blue (on second thought, maybe it's teal) in the shirt. All your accessories go with this shirt; you have a lot of blue, brown, and rust-orange jewelry. You're just an earthy kind of gal. Here's the problem: getting it on is a ten minute ordeal. It seems easy—and my but it's not, I tell you. The delicate yet sturdy brown lacy top of the vest gets all twisted and the pretty stripey part that makes up the drapey portion of the vest that hangs down on the sides of your waist and hips is all twisted and flipped over. But it is deceiving; when you pick up the shirt, it looks innocent enough and you think to yourself, "Cool, I'll just slip this on over my head and be out the door in a jiffy!" Oh, how wrong you are, dear child. Part of the cleverly attached vest is actually inside-out even though it really doesn't look like it. And then when you try to right it, try to flip it back over, it only gets worse. Think Clark Griswold with the Christmas lights. It's chaos. And you feel so silly because it's just a damn shirt. It's not that complicated. It shouldn't be anyway.

Maybe it's me, you think. Maybe I just am not good with things like this. Yet you know you're not an idiot. You can fix a computer issue (they wouldn't hire you on the Geek Squad at Best Buy, but you can impress your co-workers with your limited PC know-how), you are college-educated. You are not void of all common sense and know-how. You can figure things out. But this type of thing, this evil fabric that must have been doing flips inside your dresser drawer, just does not work for you.

Over time, the shirt begins to look less and less appealing. What you first saw on the rack and how your eyes must have lit up at this beautiful sight that you just couldn't wait to take home and make a part of your fashion life is now a burden. And it's so sad, really. You didn't want it to turn out that way. And you feel stupid for buying something like that yet again, knowing what hell it was going to put you through. OK, maybe I'm exaggerating, but you get my point. Having to deal with all the hassle of trying to get it to "work" just ruins it for you. You do believe in hard work. You do believe in having to put a little extra effort into something to make it work. You think there can be great rewards and satisfaction in doing that. You don't want or expect everything to be easy and you like a challenge. But there reaches a point where you just stop caring. The effort of it all wears you down. Because you are putting all the effort in and the shirt is an inanimate object and does nothing. It just stresses you out more than anything because you realize you are the only one who cares in this shirt-person relationship. The shirt is just a piece of fabric and cannot, does not, and will never care. Nothing you do will ever change that.

So, one day, you get fed up and you either throw the shirt out or take it to Goodwill. A friend comes over and is waiting for you to get ready for dinner. You are thumbing through your clothes in the closet and your friend asks you, "Why don't you wear that drapey, stripey vest shirt thing? It's really cute and it looks great on you." You stare at her for a moment and have a small pang of regret. You think, maybe I should have given it one more chance. Maybe I was just imagining things. But then, you think back to all the times you wore it and even though you enjoyed it when you actually got it on, behind the scenes was a different story that no one will ever know. "But the poor shirt! It was just a piece of clothing and you are a human being. What the hell is wrong with you? You couldn't figure it out?" your friend asks, trying unsuccessfully to hold back laughter after you tell her why you got rid of it.

No, I couldn't figure it out, you think to yourself. Because wearing a piece of clothing, something people need to do every day to not only cover themselves but to protect themselves from the elements—a necessity in life, like breathing and eating—shouldn't be so hard. You need clothing—shirts, specifically, and especially if you are a woman—to wear and you should be able to enjoy it, too, don't you think? You really shouldn't have to put so much thought and effort into it. It should be fun and come naturally, especially since you've been wearing clothing since you were born. It's just something we, as human beings, need. But what we do not need is a shirt that makes you take several minutes longer to get ready and break a sweat trying to unravel the puzzle that seems to have formed on its own after having only laid it on the bed. You are worth more than that. Shirts from Ross can be hit or miss, anyway, you just never know what you're going to get. Go out and buy yourself something that not only looks great on you, but will be enjoyable to get dressed in when you're at home alone.