Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Blogging A to Z: Noodles


            (First time visiting during this year's A to Z Challenge?Start here.)
            Note:Clearly, I am not going to make it to Z by the end of the month.  I considered giving up entirely, but that felt lame. And I considered trying to catch up, but that felt impossible. So, I will persist as best I can, and though it may not be until the end of next month, I will complete the challenge. So stick around.

                Noodles.  That should have been my first clue that today was going to be one of those days.   I walked into the dining room, my hair still wet from the shower, and there was my son, Elliot, seated at the table, napkin on his lap, necktie over his t-shirt, eating a bowl of pasta.  For breakfast.  He had sprinkled what appear to be almonds over the top, and had some sort of fruit, a peach maybe, sitting on a plate. 
                "Good morning," I said, attempting to make eye contact.  He was staring at his pasta and did not look up.  
                "Elliot, we have been working on this.  When someone says 'good morning', the polite thing to do is look them in the eye and say 'good morning' back.  Can you try that, please?"
                He looked up at me.  Right in the eye.  I held back an audible sigh of relief.  I felt my shoulders relax, though I hadn't realized they weren't already.  I waited.  One prompt, said the therapist.  Don't nag.
                "Nice," he said.
                This is puzzling.  Usually, he either humored me and mumbles "Good morning," or said nothing at all. 
                "Nice what?" I asked.
                He shrugged.  "Nothing."
                I realized at that moment that I needed coffee if I was going to continue this conversation.  I walked into the kitchen. 
                I called into the other room.  "Do you need a ride to school today?"  Brooks Elementary is three blocks away, but sometimes, particularly when there is a chance of rain, or even a chance of a chance of rain, Elliot would rather not risk the raindrops.  Cold and wet are his two least favorite sensations, and he avoids them at all costs.  Personal hygiene is a challenge for us. 
                "Not necessary," he called back. 
                Not necessary.  A complete thought.  But there was something else that pricked my consciousness when he said that.  Not necessary.  Alliteration.  I am, after all, a middle school English teacher.  If there's one thing I know, it's poetic devices.  I walked back into the dining room.
                "Is today an  N day?" I asked.
                Elliot beamed.  Jackpot.  "November ninth," he replied. 
                Suddenly, it all made sense.  Noodles, nuts and a nectarine for breakfast.  A necktie.  I looked down at his feet.  Nikes.  I felt triumphant.  My son is a ten thousand piece jigsaw puzzle and for one moment, I had actually put two pieces together. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Blogging A to Z: Monday's

                   (First time visiting during this year's A to Z Challenge?  Start here.
        Monday's my favorite day of the week.  One time, I heard some white guy with a suit say TGIF to this other white guy in a suit at the bus stop, and I asked my friend Neecie what it means and she said it means, "Thank God it's Friday," because the weekend is coming, so now Neecie and I say TGIM except we say it like T-gym, and it's secret code for us because we both like Mondays best. 
                If you came to visit my house, it's the one with the peeling green paint and the trash in the yard, you would know why I like Mondays best.  Mondays are school.  Neecie and I are both in the seventh but we're not in the same class like we were last year.  That was so great.  This year, I'm in Ms. Burgess's homeroom and she's in Mr. Angelo's homeroom and we only see each other at lunch time and when we walk to the library afterschool so that neither one of us has to get home to early.  Neecie can never stay too long, though, because she brings her brother David with and he always gets to whining about how hungry he is after we've only been in the library for five minutes and you can't eat in there because of how rats like crumbs.  I know rats like crumbs because my house has them.  Crumbs and rats, I mean.
                But you were asking why I like Mondays the best, and I guess I haven't really been clear on that.  Let me tell you about my school.  Everything there is clean and neat.  We each have our jobs to do in homeroom, and this month I am in charge of watering the plants, which is sort of fun but last month I was in charge of sweeping the floor which was better because the tile is smooth and flat and real easy to get the crumbs off.  Plus, there's not that many crumbs because Ms. Burgess doesn't let us eat in there.  Some kids get mad about that but I don't mind because at my house my mom doesn't have any rules about where you can eat and my brothers, all five of them, they eat wherever they want and the crumbs get into the cracks in the floor boards and no matter how much I sweep, which I do a lot, it never gets clean.  But the classroom floor is so clean that you could wear white socks and no shoes and I bet they wouldn't even get dirty.  At my house I keep my shoes on because even when I sweep up the crumbs, the floor still feels sticky and I do all the laundry and I don't feel like washing my socks all the time.
                Also, at school, everything has its right place.  Like, if I need a new pencil, I just go over to the closet and find the bin that says pencils, and there they are, a nice, neat row of them, all yellow, all sharp.  At home, when the cans of food come from that place down the street, my mom just shoves them wherever she feels like and that drives me totally crazy.  I'll be trying to fix dinner, which when you have five brothers is a lot of dinner, and I don't know if we are really out of tomatoes or if they are just under the sink or maybe even down in the basement, and by the time I find them my brothers are hungry and they just microwave cups of noodles which have a lot of salt and no good vitamins.  I know because I saw it on this TV show with doctors. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blogging A to Z: Long

             (First time visiting during this year's A to Z Challenge?  Start here.
              "Long time, no see."  Every week, on Thursday afternoons, Gerald the librarian greets me thus.  For awhile, I wondered if he was being ironic, or perhaps this was some sort of inside joke between us, except I was not really on the inside.  After months and months of this, though, I have decided that no, this was just his way.  Perhaps sitting behind the desk for hours each day, accompanied solely be the beeping of the checkout scanner, he really does lose track of time.  Or maybe this is how he greets all of the patrons of the Engleburg, Iowa Public Library, a way of falsifying the familiarity that people expect from a man in his position.  Or maybe a week really is just a long time, if you think about it.  It can certainly feel that way.
                Having received my weekly greeting and handed off last week's stack of completion, I roll to the elevator and punch the number two with my stubborn left hand.  It lights up.  I ascend. 
                Exiting, I roll toward the fiction second.  Even though my eventual destination is predetermined, I peruse the shelves with interest.  I begin at the end, the place where I will never arrive, and view the titles there with the sort of longing that I imagine a bespectacled shrinking violet of a high school student feels for the captain of the football team.  Not that I would know.  I was a cheerleader.  The quarterback was mine for the taking.  Or I was his, so to speak. 
                As I pass through the T section, I espy several books by Mark Twain.  I seem to recall that Michael, the freckled boy that got away, thought that Twain was quite humorous.  I could, of course, use some humor in my life these days, but T is still a long way off.  I roll on.
                With effort, I twist my left wrist toward me and scrutinize the hands of my watch.  2:27 pm.  At 3:30, Arina will arrive, smelling of exotic curries, to give me my bath.  It is time to get down business.  First row, second section, third shelf from the top.  Making it to the third shelf was a relief, as the books are within my grasp.  The third shelf is my favorite.  Next week, I will be down to the fourth, where, if I stretch and turn in just the right way, I will still maintain my independence.  After that, I will require the assistance of whichever gray hair volunteer is willing to come to my aid.  But today, shelf three.  The sweet spot.
                I run my finger across the spines.  I glance briefly to my left.  The vanquished titles of months gone by.  The week that I read five books by Isabel Allende was a great one.  But now, I am firmly entrenched in the letter B, and will be for weeks, perhaps months to come.  
To Be Continued.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Blogging A to Z: Kleptomania

              (First time visiting during this year's A to Z Challenge?  Start here.
                Kleptomania runs in my family.
                Family lore has it that my great-great-grandfather, Elias Embry was very popular with ladies of means, providing a welcome distraction from their wealthy but emotionally distant husbands.  The relationships lasted as long as it took the ladies to figure out that their supply of jewelry and silver was gradually disappears.  He was shot by a jealous husband before he could cash out, and was buried in a potter's field.  Or so the story goes.
                My grandfather found a quasi-legitimate outlet for his sticky fingers, lending money at usurious rates to destitute farmers during the great depression.  He died of natural causes, which is to say that he was poisoned by an enterprising farmer's wife who fed him with a tainted apple pie, given in gratitude for services rendered.  Upon his death, his safe contained over one hundred thousand dollars in cash, more than enough for him to retire on, had he chosen to do so.  He did not, and death by dessert was his poetic fate.
                My own father inherited a sum of money sufficient for a life of ease, and for awhile it seemed that the family propensity toward thievery had passed him by, or so my mother thought when she married him.  Then, when I was fifteen, he was busted for insider trading and sentenced to two years in prison.  The last thing he said to me was, "Sorry, son.  I never thought I'd get caught." 
                After my dad went to jail, I considered trying to break the family mold, but honestly, my heart wasn't in it.  By then, I was already a fairly competent pickpocket, and had apprenticed myself to a computer hacker that I only knew by his moniker: Ninja Boy.  The real problem, as I saw it, was not that I came from a family of thieves.  The problem was, they kept getting caught. 
                Let me backtrack for a minute and tell you what it feels like to be a kleptomaniac.  Have you ever tried cocaine?  Probably not.  Neither have I.  But I have heard that the experience is similar.  I see something I want.  When I was little, it was little stuff:  candy bars and action figures, mostly.  In the second grade, it was Emily Swanson's sparkly pencil topper.  I see something, and I feel like I have to have it.  I become obsessed.  It's all I can think about.  The world sort of melts away and my mind is totally filled with the object of my desire.  So I start to think of a plan, a way to get what I must have.  
To be continued.