LJI:21 current events

“Honey, are you okay in here?  I brought you some tea.”  Garret nudged open the door to his mother-in-law’s study.

Cathy was sitting...Collapse )

LJI:20 Open topic
As Band of Sisters trickled into their home base, they were very discouraged.

"This is not going well," Olivia said.Collapse )

***It's time for the infamous Open Topic at LJIdol.  Several years ago I was voted out just before the topic "Captcha the Flag" was used, and I've had this story idea in my head ever since.  Find other takes at the link.***

LJI:19 Invitation
Wednesday 11:45am, Lunchroom

Emily smiled as she sat next to Rose at lunch.  “Look what I found in my locker this morning.”

Rose took the piece of paper from her friend and unfolded it to read.  “’Do you have a date for Prom?   Meet me in the science lab at 4:04p today (come in from the North hallway).’  And its signed Peter.”

“I was hoping he’d ask me.”

“I thought the few dates you’ve been on were only okay, and he stuck his tongue way too far down your throat at the end of the last one - I remember gagging sounds when you told me.”

“I know, Rose, but Prom is this weekend and I want to have a date.  Peter isn’t forever, he’s probably not even until the summer, but he’s nice enough and will be cute in the photos.”

“That’s cold, Em.  As long as you know what you’re getting into.  What’s up with the specific time and directions?”

“Probably he has something planned for the asking – you’ve seen those videos.”

“Sure, but I think the idea that Peter is going to come up with something like that is giving him more credit than he deserves.  I think it’s weird.”

“Maybe so Rose, but I’m going.  I’ll call after and tell you all the details.”

Wednesday 1:20pm, Lockers

Laura bemusedly looked at the note she had pulled out of her locker.

“Is that a note?  Did someone actually leave a note in your locker?” asked Blair from the next locker over.

“It is.  Apparently now that I’ve broken up with Cody every guy in school thinks he’s going to be the one to take me to Prom.”

“Who is that from?”

“Peter – who wants me to meet him at the science lab this afternoon.  It’s not even asking me to the dance, exactly, but its implied.” said Laura.

“So wait, which one is Peter?” Blair closed her locker and leaned against it.

“He’s on the football team, has dark wavy hair.  I thought he was dating Emily.”

“Apparently he wants to go to Prom with the head cheerleader instead.”

Laura glared at Blair.  “I barely know him, we only speak in AP Lit class.”

“You going to toss the note?”

“No.  I think I might go.”

“What?”  Blair yelped.

“Shh.  I don’t have a date for Prom, and nearly everyone is already taken.  This is, okay, weird, but I’m curious.  Worst thing that happens is I tell him no and waste a few minutes of my afternoon.”  Laura shrugged.

“Fine, but text me immediately afterwards.”

Wednesday 1:45pm, Library

 Nicole sat down in the library.  “Sophia, what are you so zoned out about? I waved when I came in and you didn’t notice.”

“Sorry.  I got this weird note in my locker from Peter.”

“Peter, the guy you tutored through Chem last semester?”

“Yeah.  I think he’s asking me to Prom.  Or asking me to meet him so he can ask me to Prom.  Here see for yourself.”

Nicole read the short note and looked back at her friend.  “That’s …odd.”

“Right?  He never made any move to ask me out before.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Show up, I guess.”  Sophia shrugged.  “It seems rude to just ignore him.”

“I don’t know, he put a note in your locker.  You could just claim to have never seen it.”

“He’s a nice enough guy.  I don’t know why he’s asking me to Prom, but it could be fun.  Or not.  I get out of the newspaper editorial meeting just before that, no harm in stopping by.”

“If you say so.”

Wednesday 4:04pm, Science Lab

Peter adjusted the jacket of his tux.  He gave a thumbs up to his friend Jacob who was livestreaming this, and called out “It’s time.”

Emily, Sophia, and Laura each entered from their instructed doors.  Peter grinned wider, he had known this would work.

“Ladies, welcome to – Prom Invitational.  One of you lucky ladies will be able to claim me as their date for this Saturday’s prom.  Don’t worry, it’s just answering a few questions, nothing physical.”  Peter paused and winked.  “Unless you want it to be.  Who wants to start?”

Emily stared and looked hurt.  Laura looked confused.  Sophia burst out laughing.

“You expect us to compete?  For you?  Oh, that’s not happening.” Sophia continued laughing.

Laura looked to Emily and Sophia.  “Well you’ve got good taste, I’ll give you that.  But do you really think you’re worth all this?”

“Not the way he kisses he’s not.” Emily said, walking towards Laura.  “In case you’re thinking of asking me out again ever Peter, the answer’s no.”

Laura took Emily’s hand.  “Absolutely not.”

Sophia joined the other two girls.  “While I admit to being curious about what the questions could possibly be, I don’t think so.  Bye Peter.”

All three girls turned to walk out together, and started laughing as they got to the hallway.

Saturday night, Prom

Peter stayed in the corner of the gym.  He had asked Jacob to film his ask thinking there might be a catfight, but instead the three girls turning him down had gone viral, everyone in school had seen it.  To make things worse they had come to prom as a trio, they all looked amazing, and were having a great time.

He was getting ready to slink away when Matt, the class president, took the stage.  “Everyone it’s time to announce the Prom King and Queen.  Or not quite, there were a lot of specific write-in votes this year, so” he paused and held up an index card “we have three Prom Queens.  Laura Errington, Sophia Tam, and Emily Zawada please step forward.”

The gym burst into applause and hoots of congratulations.  Peter left by the closest door.

Wednesday 2:30pm, Study Hall

“Wait, Dude, how is this going to work?” asked Jacob.

“I invited three girls to the science lab and told each to come in through a separate door at the same time.  When they come in I’ll be there in a tux and tell them that one of them is going to win the chance to go with me to Prom.”  Peter grinned.  “I made a cool sign that says “Prom Invitational” to put on the easel, and I have one perfect red rose in a vase in my locker, I’ll give it to whichever girl wins.”

“Do you really think any of them are going to go for this?”

“Prom is in four days and none of these girls have dates.  I am a prime catch.”

“I think you’re a prime idiot.  Why didn’t you ask Emily last week?”

“She wasn’t a great kisser.  And hey, she’s still in the running!”  Peter slapped Jacob on the back.  “So you’re going to be in the corner filming it, right?”

“Why do you want this filmed again?”

“Come, on, there might be a catfight.”

“I think that’s unlikely Peter, but yes I’ll be there.”

“I’m going to run home after final bell to change.  Meet me in the science lab at 3:45p.  I’ll put up the sign, find the perfect place for the rose and you can check the lighting.  This will be awesome.”

***LJ Idol continues,  There are 34 of us still writing, check out everyone's take on this week's topic Invitation.***

LJI:18 location, location, location (intersection)
I am where I want to be in my life.  I am married, have a good job, and we’re getting ready to buy our first house.  What I don’t have is children.

It was a little awkward this Mother’s Day.  I am of a ”Mom” age, and the frequent assumption from kind strangers is that I must have children.  When a grocery store clerk and my yoga teacher each wished me a Happy Mother’s day, I smiled and said thank you, knowing there’s no need to explain or correct random folks.  But it feels weird, like I owe the world an explanation why I’m 44, in a good stable marriage, and childless.

My now-husband and I talked about having children before we talked about marriage.  I brought it up because I am a few years older than he is, and if we were going to try for babies I wanted to do so with as young a body as possible, especially given some medical issues that had recently come up.  He asked my opinion and I said I wasn’t opposed to children, but not very excited about the idea either.  If he really wanted them, then we should try.  J laughed, and said he felt exactly the same way, not opposed but not excited, and two people meh on the idea should probably not be parents.  We each had siblings who had kids, so we decided to lean into being Auntie and Uncle.

It helped that our parents were already grandparents.  For me, it would have been much harder to make this decision otherwise.  My mom, who is and was a great Mom, is a fantastic Grandma.  In all the pressure I’ve occasionally felt, none of it has ever come from her.

But the topic doesn’t ever go all the way away.  Friends and relatives still ask when we’re having kids.  That’s always the question, when we’re having kids, not if.  It took some practice but I’ve gotten better at replying “We chose not to have kids” and then saying nothing else, even after the almost inevitable follow up questions of “Why not?” or “Are you sure?” or my least favorite - the knowing “You’ll change your mind.”

If I’m honest about it, even in my daydreams I never saw myself married with kids.  Occasionally with a child but no husband, never as a classic family unit.  I’ve heard women describe that yearning to be a mom, but I’ve never felt it myself.  I’m happy to hold someone’s baby, but don’t melt and wonder what if when looking at tiny infant hands.  I love my Mom and know we share a special bond.  My Grandma (her Mom) and I were super close too.  When it occurs to me that I’m never going to experience the other side of that bond I feel wistful, but that’s all.

I do wonder every once in a while if this means something is wrong with me.  After all if you’re in a hetero-normative relationship, having children is still the common thing, so we’re the odd ones out.  Or I am, it fascinates me that J almost never gets asked about us having kids.  Somehow answering for this decision we made falls entirely to me.

We are content with our decision.  I don’t feel like anything’s missing from my life.  But it’s still hard sometimes, to put my best face to the world as a woman who doesn’t have or want kids, and to be that person unapologetically.  Sometimes it feels as though the world is maneuvering me into a story where I’m among the broken, and I’m the bad guy for not wanting to be fixed.

***For LJ Idol this week everyone partnered up and wrote one of two topics.  My partner is tonithegreat (and she is), her entry on very different Mother's Day thoughts is here.  As I started thinking about this topic I got lyrics from Chess stuck in my head "Now I'm where I want to be and who I want to be and doing what I always said I would and yet I feel I haven't won at all." which led me to take location in a more introspective, less physical direction.***

Thunder hail

Thunder hail

The sound is astonishing.

LJI:17 the rent I pay
The truth is that we’re all getting older.  Whether you are in the suspended animation of youth or have the over-40 aches I do, it all comes from the same place, our bodies are technical marvels that wear down over time.  The desire to keep us young forever has inspired researchers for years.  More and more studies are coming to similar conclusions.

Bodies are meant to move, through all of their possible range of motions.  Movement is medicine.  But throughout history we’ve created ideas and machines that in their drive to simplify tasks take our movement out of the equation.  That’s a wonder and a time-saver and a joy and it might be driving us to a future where we all become the people from Wall-E in the auto-loungers.

Human bodies are amazing.  Friday night I stayed up way past my bedtime to watch ‘Breaking2’, the Nike sponsored attempt to “science the shit” out of running a sub-two hour marathon.  Eliud Kipchoge finished in 2:00:25.  At the final straightaway to the finish, after having maintained an already blistering pace, he sprinted to the finish line.  Sprinted!  That time is faster than any person has run that distance in recorded history, and after the finish he smiled, and high-fived the spectators who were there, and thanked his pacers (most of them world-class athletes in their own right who gave up spring racing to be there and assist).  He did something that no one else has ever done.  There are limits to what the human body can do, but one of them was smashed.

I’m not going to run a two hour marathon.  I’m unlikely to even run a four hour marathon.  Like many distance runners, I’ve daydreamed about qualifying for Boston and have a plan.  Get 15 minutes faster than my current personal best, and maintain that for 15 years so I can qualify when I’m 60 – heh.

But to do that, to do anything really, I have to move.  After my husband threw his back out this spring it became obvious that we also have to move smartly.  So I am figuring out how to re-build my body from the ground up, or more accurately from the hips out.  If I kept running but did nothing else I’d have a few years left before the tightness in my right hip and glute and the plantar fasciitis in my right foot meant I was done.  But if I get smart, I can still run when I’m 60, or even 80.

So I’ve started a proscribed set of stretches that take about 25 minutes every morning, with additional stretches that should happen in the evening.  Every few weeks I feel out what’s working and what isn’t and add more things as needed.  I am waiting for the day something feels fixed enough that I can remove a stretch but that hasn’t happened yet.  Yoga class once a week is a necessity and more than one would be better.  I need to warm up before a run, and stretch out after.  Sitting up straight, especially at my desk (and I was slumped as I started typing that sentence) is vital since it’s where I spend the majority of my time.  I want to realign my skeletal system to make good posture the default and to do that I need to stretch and strengthen some muscles that have been dormant for a long time.

All of this hurts a little and is time consuming.  Changing habits is never easy, I find myself still skipping things I know I should be doing, thinking that I’ll get to it tomorrow.  But I’ve only got one body, and this is the time and effort I need to put in now to get the results I want: to still be moving with as few restrictions as possible in twenty years and beyond.  I’ll continue to marvel and take inspiration from the athletes who spend their lives perfecting their bodies for a single activity, and remind myself that living is an athletic feat too.

***This is my entry for LJ Idol week 17.  There were four different topics handed out at random this week, you can collect them all!  My favorite quote from Kipchoge in the pre-recorded stuff Nike created so we didn't just watch men run in a large circle for two hours: "Running is thinking.  You need to focus fully and think positively."  He is completely amazing.***

LJI:16 thunderclap
Dan took a deep breath.  The lights came up on the clowns doing their thing onstage.  That transition had gone smoothly, even with the quick change, and he could relax until intermission.  

Dan preferred touring even though the first show in a new city was always nervy for stage management.  He liked the extra complexity of fitting the same show into different spaces.  Touring fit neatly into his whole philosophy of theater, “it all looks the same from backstage”.  Of course, every show looks different from the front, and this vaudeville-like show with clowns and singing interspersed amongst the story was quickly becoming a favorite.

The clowns usually did some improvisation before the final scripted bit and Dan was moving to the downstage wing to listen when he noticed some frantic movement further offstage near the prop table.

“What do you mean it’s not here?  Where else would it be?” whispered Elizar.

“I don’t know.  Atlanta?”

“You can’t seriously think that we…”

“It’s not in the box,” whispered Al.  “And I didn’t pack your practical sound box in the last load out.”

“Neither did I, that local intern kid must have put it somewhere else.  We have to keep –“

“Gentlemen, what’s the issue?” Dan asked.

Al, the props master, pointed at Elizar, the backstage sound tech.  Elizar glared back and said “The squeezebox is missing.”

“And we didn’t notice this until minutes before we need to use it in the show why?”

“The practical sound effect makers are props -” Elizar started.

“They live in a props box, but I was told in very clear terms that they weren’t to be on my prop shelves or tables, they were special, and sound would take care of them.” Al retorted.

Dan sighed.  The weird cross-over responsibility of practical sound effect makers backstage had been a pain in his ass from the beginning, but the director and sound designer liked the authenticity they added.  The company had done a partial run-through of the show that afternoon after load-in had finished, but they were short on time and Kelley the lead clown wasn’t feeling well so all of the clown bits had been skipped.

“You’ve both looked everywhere obvious?”

Al and Elizar nodded uncomfortably.

“We need to improve our load out and in protocols and have a conversation about which pre-show checklist all the sound makers need to be on, but that can happen after the show.  Right now, they’re expecting to hear a loud squeezebox offstage left to button the scene shortly, any suggestions?”

The three men stood backstage and heard Phil say “My stomach feels strange, do you think it could be something I ate?” which was the start of the final bit, the one that ended with Kelley holding Phil down while he farted so emphatically he nearly blew himself offstage.  It was a lovely bit of physical comedy, but without the sound cue it wouldn’t make much sense.

“Umm… I could make a fart noise with my armpit?” offered Al.

“Not loud enough, Alfred. What else is in the sound box?” asked Dan.

Elizar ran the few feet to the open road box and looked inside.  “Chimes won’t work, the bike horn is too corny.  We could drop the glass-box.”

Al shuddered “That sounds painful, not funny.”

“What about that?” Dan pointed to the thin metal sheet suspended by the rail.


“I think if you don’t do something you might explode” Kelley said from onstage.

“We’re out of time, use it.” Dan said.

“If YOU think so” Phil said.  Then the cue line, a very quiet “oh dear.”

Elizar shook the thunder-sheet slowly at first, and then for all he was worth.  It was a rolling, booming sound and Dan could already hear the lead actor complaining that the thunder in the Act II storm didn’t ordinarily sound like that.

Dan looked out at the stage and saw Kelley and Phil extending their physical bit to match the different sound, and at least one glare directed offstage.  Finally the thunder finished reverberating through the theater, and the clowns were collapsed on the stage.  As the lights began their fade to black the audience burst into wild applause.

***This is fiction, though I have been backstage on a show that used a thunder sheet, they are cool and nothing you want to stand next to while in use.  LJ Idol rolls on, you can read other talented folks' take on Thunderclap here.***

LJI:15 Patchwork heart
The Pierce children desperately wanted a pet.  Not just a pet, a dog.  Mom and Dad had tried several other options: goldfish that died, a hamster that ran under the couch and never reappeared, and a canary who sang too shrilly and had to go back to the store.  Finally the parents came to me, as the tutor and nanny, and asked me to help the children pick out a dog from the local shelter. Their only specifications were that the dog should be medium sized and something the children could take care of themselves.

Of course the children had a lot more ideas.

“He has to want to run around in the back yard with me and chase sticks” said Tony.

“SHE has to cuddle on the couch with me” said Grace, sticking her tongue out at her older brother.

“Mark, what do you want a dog to do?” I asked.

The youngest Pierce looked at me with big brown eyes.  Everyone told me he could talk, but in the three months since I arrived I hadn’t ever seen his mouth without his thumb inserted so I couldn’t prove it.

By the time Tony and Grace finished the list of things this one dog should be, it was immense: fluffy, but not shed; friendly with people, but protect the family; give dog kisses, but not too slobbery; jump excitedly in greeting, but not on people.  Grace admitted she wanted to play with the dog, and Tony whispered to me that he hoped the dog would sleep in his bed.

With this list in hand, I took the children to the shelter.  We spent a fabulous morning petting and playing with all the dogs they had.  We narrowed it down to two: one was friendly and energetic, but it was a small yippy dog that jumped on everything.  The other was fluffy and gave non-slobbery kisses, but was too calm and didn’t seem to like any of the children much.  Neither Tony nor Grace was certain which dog they wanted, and Mark did nothing to break the tie.  We went home without a new dog that morning.

But I knew I could fix this.  Since moving to the city, I hadn’t had a chance to use my family’s talents.  Finally all the equipment I had secretly moved into my room would be useful.

A week later I asked the children to bring me something special to them, something that represented what a dog would be in their lives.

Tony brought a shooting marble.  “It’s my best one; I hardly ever miss with it.  It’s because I want a dog to be playful and fun and good, but live in my room at night.”

Grace brought a piece of fabric.  “It’s from Mom’s dress…”

“You cut up Mom’s favorite dress?”

“It’s not Mom’s favorite dress; it’s my favorite dress of Mom’s.  It has a scalloped hem now, I stitched it all even, and this is what I cut off.”

“You’re going to get in trou-ble” Tony sing-songed.

“Won’t.  I want a dog to be friendly and cuddly and bright and soft, and I kept thinking of Mom.”

I smiled.  “That’s a lovely idea, and both the fabric and marble were very thoughtful.  Mark, did you bring something?”

Mark pulled a small jar out of his pocket and put it on the table.  Floating in it was a thumb.  I checked quickly to make sure Mark still had both of his, one in his mouth and the other attached to the hand on the table.

“Mark, you know you’re not supposed to go into my room when I’m not there, and certainly not take things.  Why did you bring a thumb?”

Mark looked at me and stopped sucking his thumb.  He sat up straight and said, “Igor”.  Then he deliberately put his thumb back in his mouth, watching me closely the whole time.

“So you do know my name.  Would you care to explain the thumb?”

Mark sucked his own thumb, loudly.

“Or not.  Thank you children; with these gifts from you I will be able to finish the Pierce family dog.”

“Can we see it?”  “Can we watch?”  Tony and Grace’s voices tumbled over each other.

“When you’re older I will teach you more of my special arts, but now you are too young.  Run along and let me do my work, your new dog will ‘come home’ tomorrow.”
The children left and I went into my workroom.  I removed a small piece from the center of Tony’s marble, so it would still roll, and took several threads from Grace’s piece of fabric.  I clipped part of the nail from my Uncle Igor’s thumb, and returned the jar back to the cabinet.  I added all three of the items from the children inside the animal, in a small pouch of my own design that wouldn’t interfere with any necessary organics, and began the finishing stitching.  That night a thunderstorm rolled in as predicted.

The next day I introduced the children to their new dog.  His eyes were different colors and his tail seemed small for a medium-sized dog, but he was fluffy and friendly, played games and cuddled, and was all the best parts of a dog (or two).  His name is Scraps.

*** Yet another week of LJ Idol, you can go and read all the other takes on Patchwork Heart here.***

LJI:14 Campfire stories
I’ve seen or met several ghosts in my life, mostly in theaters.  That has always made sense to me; packing hundreds of people into a room every night to practice the willing suspension of disbelief necessary to make a play go weakens the boundaries of reality, at least a little.  The light left burning center stage overnight is called the ghost light for a reason.  But there’s only one ghost I lived with.

It was the summer of 1999 and I had been hired as the assistant production manager for the Dorset Theater Festival in Vermont.  It was a town so small there weren’t numbers on any of the buildings, mail was addressed to your name in Dorset and it always found you.  They were very proud of their history; Dorset was founded in the 1760s and many of the homes and other buildings were nearly that old, including the house the full-summer staff lived in.

The house was three stories tall and had multiple bedrooms, eight of us slept there.  Most of the staff was new that summer, but a few days after we had settled in the costumer from a previous season stopped by to chat.  She asked if we knew the house was haunted, and wanted to know which room each of us was in.  When it was my turn I said I lived in the corner of the third floor, across from the hobbit bathroom (so nicknamed because the roof line came down oddly at the doorway and you had to duck to get in).  “Oooh, your room has the best story…but I shouldn’t tell you.  You might have trouble sleeping there if you knew.” Then she just grinned and refused to say any more.

Once I knew there was a story it took me about a week to hunt it down.  But I finally found someone who was less worried the story would scare me away and more happy with the beer I bought him.

It seems that the Lincolns had stayed in the house on their travels, and the oldest son Robert had particularly enjoyed it – he kept coming to visit when he was on holidays from university with friends.  Robert’s friend who became my ghost, known only as Yale Boy, broke his leg doing some sport at school, and had been brought to Vermont to convalesce in my room.  But the process was slow, there was a lot of pain, and the doctors at the time (1870’s ish?) couldn’t promise that he’d walk again.  After several weeks in the house Yale Boy pulled himself out of bed and over to the window, where he jumped out.  He landed on the cobbles below, and died.

By the time I heard the story I had been living in the room for a few weeks.  Some odd things had happened, returning from the bathroom to find a light I was sure I left on turned off, or vice versa.  The bookmark kept being in the wrong place in my book, and a few small items seemed to be in a different place every time I looked for them.  I had attributed all of it to basic absent-mindedness; I had never had a job with so much responsibility and was stressed about doing it well.  Now that I knew about Yale Boy though, I wondered.

When I got back to my room that evening I decided on action.  I went in, turned on the light, and said “Hello.  I can’t just call you Yale Boy so I hope Henry is okay.   I’m really sorry about what happened to you, but I’d appreciated it if you stopped messing with my things.  Thank you.“  I paused and stayed very still, but nothing happened.

From then on I said “Hello Henry” when I entered the room and said goodbye when I was leaving for the day.   The light still turned on and off mysteriously sometimes and I talked to Henry about it, “What is up with the light Henry?  Do you not like that lamp?”  I never got an answer, but nothing else moved.

Then midsummer night proved to me that befriending Henry was the right choice.  I came down for breakfast the next day and heard the stories from my housemates.  In a room on the 2nd floor that was also said to be haunted, the windows slammed shut around 11pm.  The radio turned on and changed stations, the lights blinked on and off.  The other rooms on the 2nd floor had lights blinking as well and a weird tapping noise.  Even the other two bedrooms on the third floor had similar issues that night, weirdness with electronics and tapping.  Several of the staff members ended up sleeping on the couches in the downstairs living room.  As the person in the house living with a specific ghost they wanted to know what had happened in my room.

“I went to bed early last night, and woke up when the light came on for no reason.  I turned it off and got back into bed, and then this tapping started making a circle of the room.  So I said “Henry, please knock it off, I’m really tired.”  There were a few more taps on the outside wall and I rolled over and said “Henry” in my best stern voice. There was one louder tap on the wall, and that was it.  I fell back asleep.”

Most of my housemates didn’t realize I had named Yale Boy, or had been talking to him all summer.  Everyone was astonished that it worked, my haunting that night was the shortest anywhere in the house with the noises and lights continuing for hours in some spots.  But Henry and I had reached an understanding, and I’m grateful he let me sleep.

At the end of the summer I packed my things and said goodbye to Henry.  I hope whoever stayed there next year gave him a new name and talked to him.  Loneliness makes all of us do crazy things.

***Campfire stories are often ghost stories so that's what I went with.  This story is true, and while I remind myself that the house was really old which could explain the tapping noises and weird electrical issues, I also wonder how Henry is doing these days.  Read other entries for LJIdol here.***

LJI:13 Abandon hope, all ye who enter here
“That’s it everyone, get out of here and find something to report.”

Mr. Lawson ended every meeting of the school newspaper like that.  I left the Lit classroom, determined to find something new and interesting happening in our little town.  I was in charge of human interest this semester, a big deal for a freshman, and didn’t want to print another story about Mrs. Schimming’s garden or Mr. Mike’s dachshund.

The weekend provided plenty of story material.  I was at the concert myself on Friday, and Saturday I interviewed other attendees and the band itself.  Sunday afternoon I tracked down Brian from the AV club and that evening I stayed in to pull everything together into an amazing story.

After classes on Monday I found Mr. Lawson.  “I have a great story for the paper this week.  It might even be front page material.”

“Jessica, I’m glad to see you so enthusiastic.  If you can wait a few minutes I’ll read it right now.”

“That would be great.”  Mr. Lawson sat down on the corner of his desk to read.  I had worked on this article for so long I could almost see the words go by in his head.


The first concert to happen in our small town in more than two years ended in bad luck for the band when their van broke down, stranding them here.

“We left Topeka after a gig Thursday night and Tommy found a place for us to perform in Wichita on Saturday.” said Joey, the lead singer.  “We didn’t want to sit for a night when we could be playing so we left the interstate and wandered a bit until we found a place willing to let us set up and play.”

The pink Grid Iron Café wasn’t prepared for anything quite like this.  Owner Shirley Feeney said “They’re nice boys.  I told them they could set up in the open area if they helped move the tables before and after, and they could play after we stopped serving at 8pm.  I told my nephew Len that a band was going to play and asked him to spread the word to his school friends.”

Nearly all of Hope High School was at the Grid Iron Café by 8pm to see the rarity of a concert in our town.  Drummer Mark collected $5 at the door from everyone, and was overheard complaining that they weren’t in a bar.  Around 8:45pm the band began to play.

With Joey singing, Johnny on guitar, Tommy on drums and Mark on Bass, they were the first punk band ever to play our town. They played like crazy people and announced they’d play one final song when Officer Stanley pulled up.  He checked his watch and told them it was 10:57pm, as long as they were done by 11pm it would be okay.  The band slammed into one more song and were done.

A few of the band members slept in their van, and a few others were taken in by friendly locals.  Saturday morning they restored the café and packed up their gear.  Once they were loaded up and had said goodbye to new fast friends the band was ready to hit the road.  Their van wasn’t.  It made a horrid grinding noise and then just stopped.

Of course D&E automotive is closed on weekends, though usually Mr. Douglass or Mr. Evans will come out to fix an emergency problem.  But they were both away, Mr. Douglass on an anniversary trip and Mr. Evans at an auto show in St. Louis.  As the town grapevine spread the word about what happened various people stopped by to see if they could figure out what was wrong with the van, but not even Russell, who got the highest grades in shop class, could solve it.

The next issue was how to get to their concert in Wichita.  Several of the AV club boys offered to help and brought over family pick-ups.  They emptied the van of musical equipment and loaded it into the back of two trucks, and while Mr. Anderson towed the van over to the repair shop, several trucks and cars caravanned out of town to bring the band to their next show, with a built in audience.

Sunday around noon the caravan returned.  The gear was unloaded back into the still nonfunctioning van, and most of the town folks stumbled home.  The band mostly hung out at the café for the afternoon until they were shooed out by Ms. Feeney closing up for the night.  By this time they’d all made friends in town and each found a place to bunk for the night.

Mr. Evans looked at the van when he returned Sunday evening but has to order a part to fix it that won’t be in until Wednesday.  The senior class officers held a quick meeting to make sure that the boys in the band will have a place to stay every night while they’re stuck here.  The band offered to put on another concert but Officer Stanley said one of those a week was enough.  In the meantime everyone here in Hope is enjoying spending time with future rock stars while it lasts.


Mr. Lawson looked up at me.  “It’s certainly an amazing story Jessica.  This piece needs a little editing before it’s ready for the paper.  You have a lot of details about some things and almost none about others.  For example, does the band have a name?”

“They do, but it’ll be in the headline.”

“In the headline?  You have an idea for that too?”

“Yup.  It should read: ‘A Band in Hope “Ye Who Enter”, here for weekend’.”

Mr. Lawson stared at me for a second and then shook his head slowly.

“Isn’t it great?”

***Blame my husband for this one.  Find other LJ Idol week 13 entries at the link.***


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