Fragmented Scribbles: The Witches #NanoWriMo2016

The witches
A grimy hovel squatted in the oaks and ashes. It was built into the base of a great and tall tree. A horribly thatched roof. Round windows. Ivy nearly covered them. Walls with copious moss wedged between cobble stones. A chimney that was falling apart, nonetheless emitted smoke. A child’s doll haphazardly dropped in front of the doorway. 
A concussive flash rattled the windows. Two hags inside screeched in surprise, and one followed it with a cackle that wore its welcome. The two where raising a din, industriously moving about, and creating. One was at a mortar and pestle, grinding away kingsfoil herb and the bones of a dwarf. She was at a large table encumbered by flasks, condensers, distillers, beakers, crucibles, and spiraling tubes, herbs, books, even a spiraled and straight horn with a tuft of white hair. The other was in front of a cauldron, stoking the flames. Its bilge frothed and belched luminous verdant mist that creeped along the floor. A third witch sat dead and disemboweled on a stool, hands fettered behind her back. Her face rested in a grimace. Coals still burned within her abdomen, even though she’d been dead for at least a a pixie’s nap. The glyph for “heretic” was burned into her skull. 

The shack was crammed. Thick volumes. Plants. Cages. Newts and toads frittered around. Even the rafters were burdened with faggots of long herbs and vegetables tied to them.

The red haired witch momentarily stepped away from the cauldron and returned with a massive heart, which she skewered on a dangling hook above the brew. Red essence dripped into the concoction, and it reacted with tumbling. She grinned a slobbery maw. 

The warty one, less balding—but still no less homely—borrowed a flame from a candle nested on a skull, and lit a smaller one beneath a crucible, then turned her attention to a beaker. She carefully and patiently added the mortar’s greenish chalk into the beaker’s yellow viscosity. A raven cawed and flew to another tall bookshelf when it sparked and smoked. 

Fragmented Scribbles: The Call to Adventure #NaNoWriMo2016

He rejects the good herald’s call and goes to the fortune teller. She is a gypsy. She has a big nose and big eyes that bulge. Middle-aged. A mouth checkered with dark spaces where teeth once where. Her robes are bulky, like she is hiding a dozen things inside of them. She wears a peasant man’s hat (like a bomber) with a wimple draped over it, but is adorned with opulent necklaces and bracelets. Her carriage is drawn by two draft horses. Too strong for such a small burden. One mottled and the other dark black.

HERO approaches the carriages path and hails her. She pulls the reigns on her steeds and he greets her politely and with more formality than he can gauge she’s accustomed, because he wants her to do give him quality service. She bears an entertained laugh and dismounts, not speaking more but sets up shop.

She opens the carriage door. It has a thick woven curtain behind it, on the inside of the carriage. Once inside it’s starkly dark, and he can see why the redundancy of the curtain. The dank air smells like patchouli. Earthy. Heavy. Cold. Dark. Slightly sweet. Almost moist. Crisp. Nutty. Oaky. Minty. Ancient. A pop and then a vigorous ripping sound, and the cabin is illuminated in phosphorous orange. In a moment it dies down to the glow of a candle wick. He sees her by a squat kettle-like oil lantern, and watches her set down two stones with remnant embers on them.  She doffs her headdress, and a bushel of brown, thick curly hair bounces out from underneath the cap, like an escaping prisoner. Somehow the dim lighting reveals more of her than the overcast sky had. The wrinkles in her eyes and mouth reveal laugh lines. Her eye sockets are deep, especially against her high cheek bones, but her caked eye shadow and eyelash mud diplomatically distract. She’s also missing half her ear. Her throat also wears the necklace of a failed cutting.The tell-tale stitching was hastily and crudely done, possibly self-administered. She was once beautiful.

It’s overly spacious inside. Soft. Throw pillows. Blankets. Complex colored linens of fine quality and craft. Mismatched. Festooned. Obviously from separate places. Some it he recognizes from his own royal court. Others bear the sigils of far off kingdoms. Space is maximized with storage and drawers everywhere. Under the seats. Above. There’s a wardrobe. Everything is tightly secured. Things that shouldn’t be in a carriage because of their instability are, but secured to the walls and to the floor. dressers with small drawers, small enough to not fit more than fingers in. Jewels. Silver. Gold. Strewn in places and the floor. A chandelier swings. There’s too much inside of the carriage. Despite it’s deceptively large space, it’s cramped because of all she has. It’s amazing that a criminal managed to organize this well. He took a seat. She told him her price would be high, and it wouldn’t be worth his money. She spoke in a rough, glottal accent. One from across the hills, but obviously rough enough to be due to her scarred esophagus. He ignored her and threw his gold on the table that was nailed down to the floor. She acquiesced and unsheathed her crystal orb. It’s purple glow overcame the lantern, which curiously dimmed itself.

“You already have your question in heart?” She asks while concentrated on the ball.

‘I–,’ he begins to respond.

“Do not privy me! Hold it in heart!” she interrupts as she deftly stirs her hand above the glow without breaking eye contact.

He saw a concentration of lavender that moved oddly, organically, ocularly. It shifted around the room creepily, landed its iris on him, and lingered. He shifted in his seat. And it blinked. Then lazily rolled backwards to face the gypsy.

A low, low hum, almost imperceptible, enters the cabin. It didn’t reverberate in his seat or in his body. He questioned if he heard it. It seemed to be coming from inside his head. She clearly felt it too, because she began squinting and tilting her head in the same way that HERO did, yet less so, as if she were accustomed.

The darkness beamed more opaque and dense, and the purple light contrasted more sharply against it as it grew closer to them. The ambient light wasn’t retracting, it was fighting the dark, glowing brighter but losing its ground. The gypsy’s green eyes pierced into the crystal, looking left and right at details. She looked slightly concerned, but retained her professionalism.

A drop in temperature from behind him. The down plush lost their warmth. The dark rallied. He was fearful. He looked around and was concerned he wasn’t close enough to her.

“Shall I go on, varrior?” her voice irreverently cracked the atmosphere. He looked at her and she was rapt with attention on him, like a harpy. No longer attuned to the sphere. He nodded, but with unsurety that she percieved.

Her mood changed, and eyes softened. She tilted her chin and gazed at him over he nose, and slowly and gently rolled her head and shoulder. “Peradventure. Your coin. Gold buys many things. Especially when so heavy,” she purred in an odd contrast to the feel of the room. Her hands moved from the surface, one to her scarf and the other went to her knee. A bare leg retracted from her dress and the undertable.

He immediately felt a head rush and his pulse quickened, mouth agape. Here? Now? It didn’t make sense. And he wanted to. What a hap to tell his brother! He blinked hard and took a breath: no! He mustn’t. He never had to fortitude to cross this far into the darkness before. He wouldn’t do it again, and he couldn’t miss his chance or lose his focus. He dug into his purse and threw another piece on the table.

“You don’t vant dis, varrior.” She chided as she remodested her leg and rested her hands on the surface. “It is too dangerous. You–are dangerous. It doesn’t bode vell. I don’t sink you or me much prepared. You have much potential. However, it’s not vhat you want. Or vhat you should want.” She pushed the pile of his gold back to him, passed the still glowing ball–although he noticed it looked like less than what he gave her. “Go to se servitude. Be servant. Make your your gods et your ancestors ploud.”

He bristled in the dark, and breathed a heavy gust. ‘Give me what I paid for, lest I tell the hamlets that you’re a cheat and a charlatan,’ he growled.

“Don’t sreaten me, boy,” she icily spoke back, but without overt malice. The frightening kind of quiet discipline that makes one anxious and scares more than shouting. She whispered something harsh, foreign, and directed at him, then cooly went back to work. All the while the room was frigid and brimming with potent dark.

“Have you in ever life asked you vhat it’s like to bad? Live bad?” A mist gracefully crept outward from the base of the ball.


“You can be gleat.”


“You can be. . .” She went silent.

He waited. He heard his own breath. The hum remained, and fogged his head. His eared wined with a pitch, and then the hum dissipated. The cloudiness remained. A whisper. He looked to his right. Immediately the whisper again. And then behind him, and to his left. The cabin got colder.

The gypsy woman’s countenance was no longer impressed by what she saw in the crystal. She looked concerned again. Her pupils were dilated and mouth pulled into a frown. Without a blink her eyes shot at him, and she slowly smiled.

“You must—choose,” she said with patience before the last word. “Se dardk gods have much for you. You vill not be veak. You vill not be fettered. You can be gleat.

Are #NativeAmerican #reservations really sovereign? (First 100 Days in Office, 2036, Bill #3)


Since I was a kid I thought Native-American culture was pretty dang rad. I enjoyed the idea of living off the land, being in touch with Mother Earth, tribal garb, and being skilled at stealth. [Call that stereotyping, but I was a kid. Baby steps.] Boy Scouts helped me appreciate American-Indian culture more, since Scouts, cursorily and respectfully, albeit clumsily, loan aspects—especially into their Order of the Arrow program. The rites, the religions, the conservation all interested me. Full disclosure: I do not claim to be an expert on indigenous Americans! Like most Millennials, one of my first primers in Native culture was Disney’s Pocahontas; a sad fact. Living in Alaska helped me gain more of an understanding; but not as much as I would like. The older I got the more I saw the cultural clash between whites and Natives [don’t ever call a Native Alaskan an Eskimo unless you mean fighting words, ya ignorant putz!*]. Sadly, many Alaskans suffer from the same jaded view that other states with high Native populations do, reducing them to tourist-trinket vendors and street drunks. It wasn’t until college that I began to appreciate these peoples again. Through my history classes and through reading Sherman Alexie’s brutally honest The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, I learned who they were in the past and who they are now. I don’t know everything, but I do know they have very rich and complicated cultures and philosophies, which are intensely different from European-Americans. For example, to the Woodland tribes of New England, you couldn’t own land. You borrow and use what she gives you, and could be a caretaker, but you cannot own it nor especially sell it. Another is that justice was met in murder by murdering back. Similar to the Old Testament eye-for-an-eye, it puts in perspective many of the conflicts that the American Colonists had since one Native death meant a white life had to be claimed. Now, as an adult, living in the Pacific Northwest, where Americans try very hard to pay respect to local tribes, I’m gaining a clearer appreciation for Native Americans.

It doesn’t take a scholar to determine that the state of Indians is not the as favorable as it was before European-Americans colonized. The United States government has a history of crossed-fingered promises screwing them over. I’m not about to recount all of the instances. And it’s not all history. Some of it is recent. And this blows my mind. I’m pretty sure the Indian reservations are regarded as sovereign nations; and I feel stupid in having to state my lack of surety since it should be pretty common knowledge—yet, there is a difference in saying they’re such and legally regarding them as such. The tomes and tomes of legalese that govern them somehow maintain them as still being subject to the United States’ government. And I don’t know why! If a nation has to appeal to the court of a foreign nation for grievances then that nation isn’t actually sovereign. Rather diplomats from each country should meet to discuss terms. Presidents should speak. This is the normal course in geopolitics. Furthermore, Amerind nations should have the power to embargo or levy. They should have the power to raise militaries. They should be able to build a border fence. They should be enabled to do anything a recognized country should do. In fact, each of the United States should also be entitled do to these things, as the agreement was meant to be with the Constitution. Okay, maybe that’s a little more a la Articles of Confederation, but, the national government doesn’t need to boss any of the states around, and especially not any of the Indian nations.

When I’m president in 2036, this can happen. Not to be a white savior—but has anyone else said it?

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Gov’t vs criminals = gov’t vs all of us (eventually) #Apple

  Forgive me if this is old news, but the Apple vs. FBI dispute is poignant, and more than I think the average person realizes. Apple is taking a decisive stance on liberty, and we should pay attention. 
Tim Cook says creating an iOS with a back door creates a Pandora’s Box that, once leaked (which John McAffee, creator or the eponymous security software says takes only an average two to three weeks) will put every iPhone user’s data at risk. Not only will it put it at risk at the hands of law enforcers, but criminals will capitalize on it. Petty thieves will jack the delectable $600 phones and sell them to more organized criminals for the devices’ worth and the data mining that can be done. Identity theft is already huge, but can you imagine what will happen once the criminal tech industry has it easy to crack iPhones? Even worse, what happens when our geopolitical enemies get a hold of this ability? (Even President Obama is concern about that.) Not cool, FBI; and not cool, Bill Gates for saying the request isn’t a big deal. Shame on you, bro. Don’t play dumb. I knew I never liked Windows in the first place. 😡

But real talk here. The scarier prospect is just as real, but less people consider it so. Let me paint you a picture. One with witches in seventeenth century Massachusetts. Now, let’s juxtapose a picture of anti-communists and mid-twentieth century Washington D.C. I think you know what I’m talking about. It’s not really a juxtaposition at all. The liberal use of a catch-all term for those we don’t like and need to have gone. Yeah, I know—it’s easy to guess that I’m going to relate that to the word “terrorist,” huh? Cute, right? And next I’ll say how my proof is the Patriot Act. How unpredictable! Well, think about it. Haven’t we seen people stretch the term for a purpose greater than we had pre-9/11? Hasn’t the Patriot Act chiseled away the Bill of Rights? Honestly, here’s a link. Tell me if you think we have half of those. I’ll give you a minute.

*               *               *

Now that you’ve pondered, let me make two points: 1. privacy (the Fourth Amendment) should be protected like the right to self-defense (Second Amendment), and 2. terrorism’s definition can easily be applied to anyone who does anything violent or frightening. All you have to do is look through their social media or phone to assemble a political agenda they would posses. But even if you’re not a “terrorist” in the most liberal sense of the word, you have reason to fear. If you’re suspect of anything, your phone can be used against you. And the pressure on Apple is a slippery slope. Four examples:

  1. Husband kills estranged wife at mall. Murder suicide. He was Caucasian, she was African-American. Police found text messages with the word n***er. He’s a racist domestic terrorist. Media flames it up. Society enraged.
  2. Road rage incident occurs. First fight on road median. One party’s phone is left at the scene. Other party presses charges using extracted data.
  3. Homosexual couple trespass and perform wedding in Southern Baptist chapel. Insight religious backlash. Outspoken Twitter users are pursued for hate speech. Some accounts are difficult to associate with real names, until one neighbor narcs. Police arrest suspect on charges of unpaid parking tickets, hacking phone once in possession. Charged with conspiracy of domestic terrorism.
  4. Elementary school stabbing takes place, suspect escapes. Apple is pressured to reveal any iPhone user GPS data gatherable that would indicate a suspect. As per precedent, they comply.

Too specific? Too hokey? Well, ask any of your nerd friends that are into programming and cyber security. This is a real threat.

Don’t take liberty for granted. 

Update: FBI Accessed San Bernardino Shooter’s iPhone Without Apple, Drops Lawsuit

Food review #1: DeLong’s Deluxe

 So, for a couple months I’ve been meaning to start a book club with my friend, TWagus, and we’ve had several books we’ve considered starting with, having a weird range that goes from Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradleto Robert Ludlum’s Bourne Identity. Similar, right? Emily’s friend, Sarah, wanted in, and naturally, I had to force Emily into jumping on the bandwagon. Then, as I was getting my haircut, my barber told me how he used to go to a dinner club and a film club. He liked being able to see a flick and, as he put it, “get smashed and talk sh**, ya know?” (Ivan is clearly gay, and he does a mean haircut.) And lo, came the idea to do all three in one cluuuuuub! 

Em and I go out to eat a few times a month, and watch a ton of movies, so this is a very actionable plan. Sarah is known for her self-proclaimed love of bad movies. When I pitched the idea to TWagus, he said we were trying too hard. Fair ’nuff.

And today, I had the convenient inconvenience of being away from the house around lunch time, and near DeLong’s DeLuxe. Em makes fun of me for thinking it’s an oil change shop, but that boxy shape and blue-collar typeface though. Look at this crappy pic and you’ll be on my side. 


Nice Subaru, huh? 

Immediately upon disembarking from my whip, I got the most trusted endorsement that businesses kill for: a word-of-mouth referral from a friend. A friend from a company I was attached to was in the parking lot, and had just grabbed his burgers. I asked him if the food is good, and he answered in the affirmative. He said he goes there all the time (tasty enough for repeat business), but their service is a little slow, so order early. Duly noted.

Since we’re low-carbing, this review will be incomplete. The food-service artisan helpfully offered to put the innards of our burgers on a “bed of lettuce.” Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? Five minutes later, I had a bleu cheese, motz, and bacon burger and Em had the original (way to screw the pooch, Emadumb). There are only a handful of basic burger variations to choose from. Lots of shakes and sides. But we didn’t get any of those. Just hamburgers.

Mine was great. To start out, the obvious crux of a burger is the cow. It was medium-rare, and had a punchy, beef savoriness. There’s lots of places, even dives or mom & pop shops whose patty melts in your mouth in a bad way. This didn’t. It was distinct from the lettuce bed that it lounged upon. The bacon, too hot to be under the mozzarella bedsheet, was thick and unlike the chintzy pork you find elsewhere. Looked like what you’d cook at home, and nothing like it’d seen a microwave. 

The bleu cheese was pungent, and pulled the flavor from the ground beef onto my taste buds. It contrasted in a nice way and could have been pedestrian. It could have had no flavor at all, like a weak Wendy’s burger. 

Something I didn’t expect and found pleasantly unique was the dolop of cream cheese in the corner of the burger box. I wish I could say it was intentional, but couldn’t because of its real estate. I wish it had been spread on the meal. But, reconsidering, I admit that this judgement isn’t completely fair because—again—my food was sans bun. It’s possible that they would have normally spread the schmear on the bread. But the fact is, cream cheese on a hamburger is nice. It gave it a nice—what’s the opposite of flare?—evenness. 

I think I chose well in assuming their most complex burger would showcase their aptitude. The bleu cheese bacon burger is not unique, but they did it right. The clerk seemed to be happy to be there, and that says a lot about an establishment. I would bet that a handful of employees work there, and that they’re more like family than peers, like the bistro I worked at. 

I approve of the work they do here, and recommend it. Unfortunately, half of my squad wasn’t present, so I can’t account for their critiques. Em thought it was “good.” (Again Em, give the dog a break.)

For what it’s intending to be, I give  DeLong’s Deluxe 4.5 spoons. With a more diverse menu, it would get the full five.

How to be a BAMF boy: Boy Scouts of America

I love Scouts so much. As a kid I dug it because it gave me adventures that the normal kid didn’t. I learned how to stay the night and cook in the woods, how to shoot a rifle, how to recognize evidence of a bear coming though your camp during the night because he ate the Sloppy Joe mix you left out, and how to not be a pansy about the outdoors. As an adult, I learned how rich of a program it can be through being a scoutmaster for three months.

I researched my kid’s opportunities and read every page of the the leader’s handbook (a daunting task that I think one percent of scoutmasters even try). I bought the most rad of the merit badge manuals, and set up a year plan for them to do the riflery, shotgun, crime prevention, fingerprinting, camping, emergency preparedness, citizenship in the community, personal fitness, archery, and wilderness survival merit badges. I wanted and had the tools for my boys to be young civilian equivalents of Army Rangers—shoot, maybe Green Berets. I started the process to turn these boys into men! Sadly, my tenure was short, so I wasn’t able to see many fruits of my labor, but I saw some. I saw the light in a kid’s eye when he grasps a concept. I saw a group of rowdies pull together and willingly do the community an impromptu service. Scouts has potential to make gods among boys. I effing love it.

One aspect that doesn’t get touted is the moral codes that scouts are bound to live:

Boy Scout Oath or Promise

On my honor, I will do my best 

To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; 

To help other people at all times; 

To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

  As puts it, “Note that the Boy Scout Oath has traditionally been considered to have three promises. Those three promises are delineated by the semicolons in the Oath, which divide it into three clauses. The three promises of the Scout Oath are, therefore:

Duty to God and country,

Duty to other people, and

Duty to self”

While a particular religion isn’t mandated, scouting requires a boy (or girl, if a venture scout) be religious. [If you feel that’s descrininatory, remember that the BSA is a club, not a government branch, and can discriminate all they want because it’s your prerogative to join, or even to create an atheist competitor to the BSA. Having said that, I think they did the right thing to change policy from discriminating against gay adult leaders, since the old policy de facto assumed that all homosexuals were child molesters. If the moral code is abided by adult leaders, it shouldn’t be a problem.]
DUTY TO GOD AND COUNTRY:  US Scouts breaks it down more: “Your family and religious leaders teach you to know and serve God. By following these teachings, you do your duty to God.

“Men and women of the past worked to make America great, and many gave their lives for their country. By being a good family member and a good citizen, by working for your country’s good and obeying its laws, you do your duty to your country. Obeying the Scout Law means living by its 12 points.” If this kind of philosophy doesn’t blow your mind when you put it in context of someone like a disadvantaged middle-schooler, then try being a substitute teacher. Kids have a rough world to find themselves in. 

: “Many people need help. A cheery smile and a helping hand make life easier for others. By doing a Good Turn daily and helping when you’re needed, you prove yourself a Scout and do your part to make this a better world.


: “Keeping yourself physically strong means taking care of your body. Eat the right foods and build your strength. Staying mentally awake means learn all you can, be curious, and ask questions. Being morally straight means to live your life with honesty, to be clean in your speech and actions, and to be a person of strong character.” 

WHAT?! Are you kidding me? A kid that does this? Unstoppable. A nation of kids that do this?  Psshh—. Pshhhh—! Shut down the juvie detention centers, we’re good. 

Boy Scout Law

A Scout is:












and Reverent.

Wow. Am I right? A boy or teen is going to learn how to take care of himself in the woods, community, and be a selfless person? I can’t even. I just can’t.


Boy Scout Motto

Be Prepared!

Hurrican Sandy? Katrina? Newtown? 

Boy Scout Slogan

Do a Good Turn Daily!

  For some reason, as a scout this had more of a hold on me than the admonition of the same from a pulpit. Could be because it put the onus on you, sans consequence except your own esteem.

The Outdoor Code

As an American, I will do my best to 

  • Be clean in my outdoor manners
  • Be careful with fire 
  • Be considerate in the outdoors
  • Be conservation minded.

Hippies can’t be mad with the last one. If they donated lobbying money to the BSA instead, government wouldn’t have to force stifling policies. Citizens-once-scouts would just choose better, and teach they’re families likewise. Teaching youth how to enjoy and respect the outdoors would do so much in preventing environmental crimes (and alleviate much of the nation’s depression and obesity issues).

I haven’t even touched on that these kids become talented! The subjects that merit badges cover are many and astounding! And many help boys explore skills they either don’t have access to in resources, or ones they wouldn’t happen upon via their peers.

 Now, I must say that my Church heavily sponsors scouting. It’s the core of our male youth program. Hearsay is that the BSA was broke and about to go under until the Latter-day Saint church rescued it with a grip of cash and personnel. Yet, and I can’t say why, but we don’t really do scouts. Not well, at least. This article says how, and that has been the hard part to articulate. I’m really glad Mat Greenfield wrote it, since it was the leaping point I needed to write my own piece on why scouts is so great.

I’ve mentioned the fraternity before here, and I can’t praise it enough. I wish I knew more about Girl Scouts, but sadly my survey is small and incomplete. If you have knowledge on them, please share in the comments. Youth programs are important to raising good adults. If you love your kid, make them a scout!

Fiction draft 2

Four walls peremptorily shouted back the round’s thunderous crack into the muzzle. Gaseous and ruthless power pulled the round backward with all the gentleness of an angry god, and simultaneously its respective cartridge case shrank, unplugging the breech. Propellant followed suit of the primer and calmed from eruption. Like a mechanical John Henry, the primer punched the firing pin and the hammer arced backward. The twisted spring strained under pressure, and the trigger lever pulled my index finger.

But first I anticipated relief.

*                         *                         *

I’m glad this never happened. It’s been six years since I considered self-termination. They call it the coward’s way out. I’m not a coward. Is it cowardice to guess and fish for affinity and brotherhood and returnedly fail? Seeking for rapture and only finding mediocrity? To strive to overcome but be shackled by fetters of doubt, self-loathing, and guilt? They say that insanity is repeating the same behavior and expecting different results, and that wisdom is to learn from one’s and others’ mistakes–but what if you don’t know which you’re doing? Am I alone?

Call me Ahab. Yes, that’s my real name. My parents are devout Orthodox Latter-day Saints, and they chose the name so I would chase the White Whale of perfection. Is it funny that Alice chased a white rabbit into insanity? In no way did they think that this Moby Dick may likewise be my quietus. The question demands to be asked if perfection can be had in mortal life by mortal people. Is it ambitious or disastrous?

They raised me right. I can’t attribute anything to wrongful beatings or being chained up in the basement without hydration or nutrition save urine and dog food. Cruel words are absent from my past. Nothing of this has to do with them. Except maybe genes and misguidance. But they were doing their best, as all parents do–I mean most parents. I’m grateful I didn’t draw a short stick and be born to parents addled with abhorrent vice or who didn’t want me and simply have to rough it out till I’m eighteen. This is all against the point.

The point is that without an outlet like a podium or oil paints you’re just crazy. You can have much of the same attributes as Warhol or Shakespeare, yet sans fame you’re hopeless and intolerable. Those motivational posters that say Einstein was a failure at school because his teachers just didn’t recognize genius make me laugh bitterly. I didn’t miss out on the right teachers, and I’m not a genius. But the posters just go to say that it’s okay to be crazy because you could be the diamond in the rough. Doesn’t that give false hope? “Get famous and you’ll be lauded.” The trappings of narrative.

Yet isn’t the narrative the American illusion? No one is actually out there telling us what to do. Sure, there’s people that would like to, but they only are if we listen. Demagogues, pop stars, health gurus, Sqweezy-Cheese® all tell us how it really is, but the liberating thing is that none of that is real. There are a million choices to listen, and you get to choose which one you hear and heed. Life is what you make of it, and you’re only enclosed in the trappings you choose. At least that’s how I decided to come out of this . . . funk.

I was twenty-three and at college. She had long brown hair, and a face that begged you to protect her innocence. She never noticed me, but was always friendly when we’d collide in a group project or at the vending machine. Studying in the same discipline, we grew into the humanities together–I alone more than she. She had my company, but she didn’t know. As creepy as that sounds, it’s not that. A day that I saw her at the quad getting harangued by someone who must’ve been an ex-boyfriend, I leapt upon a bench and started singing, to the general student body, Sixpence None the Richer in my best Rick Astley baritone, thus providing her a distraction to get away. Upon turning back around to finish and seeing her gone, the ex kicked in a trash can, and I bowed my way out once he stormed off.

A month later, I stopped seeing her in class. I thought I may see her coming out of other classes in the art building, but despite my hours spent doing math homework in the gallery, I never saw her through the room’s glass that showcased the hallways. It was another month before I was gassing up and saw her working behind the register with a tacky red polo with an even gaudier road-stripe logo on her name tag. The space provided for her name was empty, but she had obviously been working there long enough to get a cadence. “Alice,” it would have said. I watched her as she helped the spud farmer in front of me, put the proper amount on pump #2, and with a nuanced ambiguity of forlornness–just a hue cooler than her Sunday-morning self–she told him to “Have a Route 66 day!” I stepped forward as he exited. She took the crinkled and near fuzzy Andrew Jackson from me and rang me up methodically, her eyes focusing on something more distant than the register display or the till as the drawer opened. She didn’t recognize me. I could see those eyes had bigger problems than identifying me outside the classroom or the Fibonacci Sequence in Renaissance works. But she was still exquisitely graceful and maintained reverent beauty. I saw she needed respite. I took the shot and interrupted before she could wish me her obligatory farewell.

‘Listen, I don’t–forgive me for being forward, but do you like Thai food?’

She was caught off-guard, understandably; but she regained poise faster than I could have, and said she loved it.

‘Excellent. I’d like to have lunch with you at the place by the skate park,’ I smiled the offer.

I’m grateful that A) I have unusually charming teeth for my family, and B) the college is an LDS one, fostering a community of trust and an eager dating scene. An attempt like this many other places wouldn’t have permeated her initial skepticism, and rather earned me something far less enjoyable than her flattered laugh and accepting reply. I comforted her that we have share a class, and she instantly seemed far more at ease. That is, at least until I told her my name. And then she thought I was joking.

Thanks, Mom and Pop.

‘Or Abe. Just call me Abe.’ The finesse lost a lot of ground, so I moved on by asking if tomorrow at 12:30 worked. It did. She wrote her number on my receipt and I said I would call her.

She had never been to Thai-phoon, and liked the fusion peanut burrito I recommended. The ensuing walk through the audible autumn leaves was bracing. We got to know each other more and the chemicals between us paired well. Her countenance brightened. She laughed at my obsession for blaxploitation films, and I teased her for her honorary Hogwart’s graduation certificate she said hung at her parent’s. Turned out that she was a local. I decided not to ask why she hadn’t been coming to class, or school at all, for that matter.

I saw a girl that I did the same thing to and repeated the process and then