Stuck On The Tracks (SOLS) 05/31/2011
Craft Lesson: Creating a Dramatic Scene
Embarrassing Memory - Getting my car stuck on the railroad tracks.
I looked dubiously at my car wedged between two parked white whales disguised as cars. At six in the morning, snagging the space that hugged the rail track seemed worth the risk. The faint cry of the incoming train pushed away any hovering anxieties. In my defense, the space on the driver's side was open and whale-free.
Now, as twilight settled over the train station, i regretted my morning haste. Physics and solid bodies restricted any type of angling movement. My only egress: backing straight out, edging a bit over the train rail and then zooming off. I could not wait all night for the owners of these behemoths, I reasoned. Alas, I didn't zoom, glide or careen. The track clutched my immobilized car.
Don't panic...There is a way out. A strange calmness enveloped me. Think. You can't move the car. It is 5:50...the next train will be here in...ten minutes. You need to get out. Run and tell the station master to stop the train. That's it.
Except the station master questioned my story. He insisted on walking back to see the beaching for himself despite the looming arrival. Only then, did he radio the train with a warning. We stood together waiting. Fortune continued to be elusive as both the tow truck and the train arrived simultaneously. The tow workers found the scene hilarious. The angry commuters emerged from the delayed train and gawked at my stranded, humiliated Escort. I tried for a nonchalant stance while praying for invisibility.
Twenty minutes later, I trudged to the public phone with borrowed coins to call home. I had to hang up when my family's hysterical laughter drowned out my rational explanation. "It was the angle!"
The next day, I found myself named in the local paper as the resident who stopped the evening commuter rail.
It's Gross But Fascinating (SOLS) 05/24/2011
Elsie’s post last week about an unexpected guest prompted my own memories of hunting down suspects. So I am offering my own story inspired by Elsie (Thank you).
Craft Lesson: Finding Voice in the World Around Us. I based my voice on all those detective novels I have read.
The first thing I noticed was the color: bright, tennis-ball yellow. A frisbee? A crumpled piece of shiny fabric? I drew closer and discovered a sponge-like neon blob ensconced in the garden.
Ewwww. Throw up. Disgusted and fascinated, I wondered what could have produced such a vivid color. This wasn’t your everyday throw up. I scanned the yard for any other clues. Nothing. I needed to have my facts straight even though I already had my suspicions.
First on my list to call: my sister (aka mother to Boss). Yep, Boss carried a lot of baggage. Neurotic from birth, diagnosed with separation anxiety, banned from area dog groomers, and an MO of eating indiscriminately and getting sick. Perfect. Unfortunately, he alibied out. My sister, with some vehemence, insisted Boss hadn’t visited for weeks.
I followed up with a call to my other sister. I described the scene, referenced her two college-age sons and asked her to connect the dots. She used the mom card and said her boys wouldn’t do that. Hmmpf.
Stumped, I turned to my reliable informant: Google. Within seconds of searching the key words, Google id’d the perp. It was a case of dog vomit fungus. Since I deal with facts, I learned it technically wasn’t a fungus but a slime mold. The blobs usually appear after periods of rain in mulch-type environments. The molds feed off dead organic matter. They have a short life span. Within hours, the bright spongy appearance hardens, fades to a dull brown, and breaks apart. Just another of Nature's sob stories.
Although I solved the case, I couldn’t let it go. There had to be more. Since my blob evidence disintegrated, I obtained similar neon blob images through Google. I used them as visuals and incorporated my experience into a focus lesson on asking questions and seeking answers. I knew the gross factor would hook the kids in.
Weather Silence (SOLS) 05/17/2011
Craft Lesson: Using Sensory Details
This is an area of weakness. I blame my news writing background and a tendency to skip over long descriptive passages when I read (I know...that is bad). I rarely use similes and metaphors or figurative language.
I will not talk about the weather.
Do not ask me why I am cocooned in woolly sweaters.
I refuse to reference the numbing chill
That follows like a stalking portable refrigerator.
I will not acknowledge the persistent patter of rain
That is like a nozzle set to infinity
Swiveling to a steady trickle
And back from a loud rush.
You shall not hear comments from me
About the eternal gray that
Encases and bleakens the world.
Shades of elephant, concrete and dull books.
I will refrain from making dramatic comparisons,
Even though the rain is, indeed,
A blues musician riffing off
Endless variations of forlorn gray.
A Night Person's Morning (SOLS) 05/10/2011
Craft Lesson: Using Stronger Verbs: replacing passive and humdrum verbs. (This is similar to cracking open general words except the focus is on verbs. In reviewing my first draft, I noticed may passive verbs: am, is, has been. Again, I italicized my replacements.)
In five weeks there has been no transformation. Despite getting up early every single day, it still hasn’t gotten any better. An inveterate night person, I have yet to see the upside of being awake in the early morning. Nope. No adjustment. No getting used to it. No revelations about noticing the errors of my ways. And definitely no perkiness and tra-la-la sunshine.
Once reluctantly ambulatory, I travel in a state of heavy fog. Trudging replaces walking. Short, monotone mumbling passes for talking. My sluggish morning persona most resembles a high-level functioning zombie with just one goal: snatching down time.
I seize all opportunities. While waiting to use the bathroom, I lie on any available bed. I push myself to complete a task by holding onto the possibility that I might squeeze in some sitting-on-the-couch time. My bed beckons me when I daydream. As I pass the kitchen window and its view of robins, cardinals and mourning doves, I gaze at the chair that will facilitate the necessary watching.
Since I now rise so early, you would think I would be more productive. My morning state dulls initiative and movement. I long for night and its energy.
Until then, it is okay to just stand here and zone out.
Being Responsible 05/04/2011
(Craft Lesson: Cracking Open General Words. I italicized the words that were put in as substitutions/replacements or as inserts.)
My sister Kate and I are heading to the hospital when the cell phone rings. We receive instructions from another sister that my father wants us to bring in a diet drink.
Kate pulls in to the parking of a small pizza place. She grabs her bag. “I think I left my card in my scrubs.”
“Uhm, I don’t have any money. I left my ATM in the car ‘cause I thought I was driving,” I say.
“I don’t think I have any money either.” Kate says as her hand blindly searches the bulky pocketbook. “Yeah, I left it. Can you believe it?”
I fish through all my pockets. “I have forty-five cents.” Kate comes up empty-handed from her bag. We scrounge through the car. A sense of relief and triumph hits when we open the storage holder between the seats and spy the pile of change.
I peer closer and watch my sister rifle through the clinking mound. “Eww, that money is dirty!” and pull away. Grime coats the discolored coins.
“Don’t be silly. Here is...another $1.05.” Kate holds out her findings.
I slowly pick out a nickel mottled with green growth. “I can’t take this moldy nickel in. It has fungus on it!” Kate pushes it back. “You need it.”
Walking in the take-out store, I decide to pretend that I don’t know anything when I hand over the money. I anticipate the disgusted look the clerk will give me.
It doesn't matter because, once in the store, I am told I don’t have enough money. Returning to the car, still clutching the grungy coins, I begin to laugh uncontrollably. Kate is bent over the wheel, shoulders moving up and down, giggling.
We opt to continue to the hospital. As we drive in, we realize we won’t be able to park in the lot.
“Kate, we don’t have any money.”
A teacher and reader who wants to practice writing--despite being a procrastinator and one of the slowest writers in the world.