Saturday, May 1, 2010

This is why I haven't been blogging

An excerpt from my story "Frances," one of the stories from my thesis:

Alan Butler was always mean to my best friend Frances. Every day she'd have more bruises from him picking on her in the lunch line, in gym, at recess, everywhere, and the coward almost always waited for when I wasn't around. It made me so angry that I'd pick a fight with him at least once a week. But he had bigger friends, and the teachers were on his side because I was a troublemaker with a potty mouth. So every week I'd end up with bruises to match Frances', and we'd compare their size and color on the bus each Friday, my arm to her thigh on the sun-heated pleather bench seat. Somehow in the sunshine and the musty school-bus air, we'd find something to laugh about, and there we'd be, giggling like we were ten again and none of this mattered. I remember her gray, crinkled eyes glistening in the shadow of her hair. I remember silently promising to kill whoever hurt her.

So today, for the first time in my life, I'm going to get the drop on Alan Butler. James, Frances' dad, told me not to cause any problems or to make much noise while he's out foraging, but I've made up my mind, and today's the day. The rifle's barrel is getting heavy – I don't know how long I've been watching Butler through the sights – so I rest it on the windowsill and move the butt around until his big, fat head is back in the cross-hairs. Nobody's listening, but I whisper, "For Frances" anyway. I remember to put the butt snug against my shoulder like James showed me, take a deep breath, and squeeze the trigger gently, gently, and the rifle kicks back against me and I'm on my back on the dusty bell-tower floor in the First Community Church.


I heave myself back to a crouch, my ribs and tailbone and shoulder searing from the fall. Down below, the crowd of shambling monsters has changed little, but I look for the hole in the herd that will tell me I finally killed that asshole motherfucker. He had been on the corner of Main and Peach when I first spotted him around lunch. All afternoon, I sat in the tower, eating the leftover Vienna sausages from breakfast and watching him. He proved to be a tricky shot – perhaps there was something of the old Butler left in that rotted brainpan? – as he shuffled behind the light pole, the crashed bread truck in front of the cafĂ©, and Mr. Johnson, who's at least six foot three. When I find the empty spot in the crowd of zombies, I slap the rifle to the floor. Butler’s still where he was, his big god-damned mouth still dribbling some poor sap’s blood and guts all over the sidewalk, still dead – still alive? still dead? – still staring, like they all do, into some unseen eternity. Next to him, Mr. Johnson hasn’t noticed that he’s missing an arm where I shot it clean through at the elbow.

"That god-damn son-of-a-bitch!" I curse a long string that would have gotten me detention had this been before, and I instantly feel bad for using them. In another life, my parents would have been disappointed to hear me say them or to find out I got detention again for using them. But hearing the cuss echo in the belly of the bronze bell behind me is comforting, a brassy validation of my anger. The words have always come to me when I'm white-hot and angry, when things are unjust or nonsensical. Frances told me once that I make the world happen with my words, that it doesn’t exist until I’ve yelled at it. She’d always sit by my side, completely quiet, when I got that way, even if it was her I was angry with. I don't know what to do when I feel nothing, it's only numbness and a soundless scream inside, when Frances is not beside me, when Frances walked off to march with the decaying throng weeks ago. I am wordless at night.

But now I'm in a noise-making mood. I mutter out the window some more. I feel it's my duty. The other people were quiet to the very end – that’s how the zombies got everyone without even a scream. They were just so busy trying to make sense of it that they didn’t have a chance to get scared. They crawled on scraped knees to the million nameless places people go to die, brows wrinkled, trying all the while to decide which promised apocalypse had befallen them. I know they were working it out in their dull little minds: Is this what the Second Coming looks like? Has society had gone too far in its search for scientific breakthroughs, had re-engineered one too many genetic codes? Or perhaps the Soviets or the Chinese have finally cashed in on their grudges. Oh, we were so sinful, so hasty, and so stingy with our democratic values, they thought, as their lives were pulled from their bones by dozens of snatching fingers. 

So now it's my job to make noise, to scream, to yell, to fill up this silently shuffling town with words, even if James is right and it'll bring the zombies running to our tower, even if Frances doesn't know I shout for her. I'm not going to die like the others, quietly and alone. I shudder because that's exactly how Frances died. I must be strong, though. I'm not going to spend my time wondering what caused this. It's a waste of time. The end has been really too real to be predicted by any ancient tome or stupid analyst's report. No wormy woodcut or low-budget History Channel special could depict a catastrophe so vividly wild as the one outside the window.

I glance down, still muttering, to find the silencer - the one James told me I must always use - laying on the floorboards, and I'm back to shouting. "Fuck fuck fuck!"  I was supposed to use it. I could have used it. I just wanted a better shot. I didn't see the zombies swarming, I reason. I don't hear them clawing or moaning or anything the movies say they do. Maybe everything's okay. Maybe I could take another shot at Alan, make it worth not using the silencer, but I know I'm in trouble with James already. He's a very particular man, the kind that likes things done his way and his way alone. One time he told Frances - and right on cue, I hear James' heavy footsteps on the ladder. At least I think they're James', hope they're just James' - yes, there's his key in the lock. I watch the trapdoor swing open, and he's in the room and angry.

"Oh, hi, James," I manage to get out before his hand comes crashing down and across my face and I'm spun to the floor.

"What did I tell you about shooting? About the silencer? They'll come running now. We'll have to escape again, and where are we going to go? Who's going to fall behind this time, Leah? You're fucking lucky I even made it here before they did."

I have slivers in my hands. The heat is rising on the left side of my face, and echoes of pain reverberate from bone to skin and back again. I speak, my lips half-numb now: "But they- they're not- I didn't see them come-"

He explodes at me. "Goddamn it, Leah! You want to fucking risk that? Get the ropes; we might have to rappel out of here. We'll see if I even take you with." He paces towards me, and I cringe again, but he only leans over me to peer out the window. He stands there a long while, fixed on the scene below, until he is satisfied that we won't be stormed, that we won't become like them.

He kneels and gently lifts my chin. My eyes meet his, and I see that they're watery. "I'm sorry, Leah. After Frances- after the monsters killed my Frances-" James stops and searches the floor for words. "You and Frances were all I had. And now that it's just you- it scares me, Leah. Those, those things could come get you or me at any time. We need each other, so I need you to be careful. You got that? I'm sorry."

I nod. I'm still dizzy from the blow and all of a sudden tired. His argument makes sense, though. We're stressed. Scavenging has been hard lately, our fellow townspeople hungry. I shouldn't have been making noise; we're not sure what sets them off yet. Maybe he just snapped. It's understandable. 

I shift my weight until I can lie my head on James' shoulder, and he falls back on his butt to sit. We watch the tip-top of the sunset  like this, gazing up and over the rooftops, trying to forget about what's under our town's eaves. 

"You're a lot like her, you know," he whispers, and I try to smile. Nobody has ever told me this before. My mind searches for any similarities, but I'm loud, a troublemaker, and she's quiet and sweet; I'm stout, freckled, blond, and she's tall, oblong, with dark hair and gray eyes; I'm plain and she is - was - perfect, unique, my only- then James catches my eye and beams. 

"Yes, you're just like my Frances."

Friday, March 26, 2010

Holy crap!

New blog look! Blogger was so kind as to update its (relatively antiquated) layout system so as to allow for an enormous variety of backgrounds, a super-simple color-chooser (yeah, I had to go find the hex code before when I wanted a color not in its standard 64-pack; it was a pain in the ass), and more configurations than I have sections to configure. I know I asked you guys about what header I should use (and then I ignored you all, just like a politician, and picked the one that fit the season), and although I've done away with a picture header for now, I'll probably go back to them sometime when I'm all done trying out the new "pretties". And pretties there are! Expect lots of random changes.

Of course, changes to this blog are worthless if I don't start posting some things. So here's an update:

- I'm working on my thesis, which, when finished, will consist mainly of two (longish) short stories. One, "Blinds," is one that I drafted last semester, but which I am going to scuttle and rebuild mostly from scratch. It's about a young woman trapped by rising floodwaters and her struggle to come to terms with her loneliness, her imminent death, and her past. The second story, "Frances," centers on a young teen caught in a zombie apocalypse, her reaction to the zombification of her best friend, and her relationship with her best friend's dad, the town's only other survivor. While I'm excited to write these both, I'm increasingly worried about having enough time to do a good job. Meanwhile, I've been tied up with:

- Finding an apartment. First it was six of us searching. Then there were four. Now it might be just Ian and I trying to find a place. This week has been a never-ending series of Craigslist crawls, apartment/house tours, and questions ("Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance?"). And my mom doing the math (4 people + 3 bedrooms = ???) when I told her about our search didn't help. Ugh.

- Finding employment. It turns out that you need money to have an apartment. Huh. Who knew? I haven't kept very good track, but I think that, so far, I've applied for around twenty jobs around here. On Wednesday, I had two (2!) interviews: one planned, one a complete surprise. 

The planned one was to be a sort of Merry Maid (though with a completely unrelated, completely local company); it went well enough that, although my schedule doesn't currently have enough hours, the boss offered to train me and give me whatever weekend work came up between now and May. Interestingly, almost everyone I've mentioned this job to has had an immediate repulsion to it. "Maid work? Don't take it! Don't do it! I hate to see you end up in maaaaiiiiidddd wooorrrrrk...." Guys. It pays $12 an hour. I currently get minimum wage or less. It's a job. GET OVER IT. 

Anyway, the second interview was for a "patient care coordinator" at an audiology clinic (which, by the way, would pay about the same as the maid work). If I get it, it sounds like I'd be doing a variety of tasks, which is a-okay with me! They're willing to train on things I don't know (bookkeeping, products, etc.), and there's a possibility for me to move up or around in the company. On other fronts, my expanding list of feminist, English-major moms (the awesome ladies for whom I babysit) is on the lookout for editing/publishing jobs for me. So keep your fingers crossed!

Friday, February 12, 2010

The kind of girl who clocks people

Here are some of the comics I made when practicing for the actual Hourly Comics Day! I hope you like them. Maybe someday I'll post a real blog.

Don't look at these. No really, they're bad. No, don't–!
Lemme explain. These were the practice comics for the practice comics and should probably be burned, but here they are.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Yay tiny grannies!

It's good to know that there are some in athletics who are as disturbed by the upcoming Focus on the Family Superbowl ad as I am. Thank you for speaking up, my good sirs.

And fuck you CBS.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hourly Comic Day 2010!

If you weren't around me over the course of February 1st, you may not be privy to the glorious holiday that is Hourly Comic Day. If you're too lazy to follow the link and look around the website at the other end of it, here's HCD in a nutshell: every January, the very talented John Campbell of Pictures for Sad Children spends the entire month making a two-panel comic, every waking hour, about what happened in his life that hour. That is many hours and many comics, so on February 1st, in solidarity with John's cause (whatever the hell that is), a bunch of people (cartoonists, artists, and even laypeople like me) join in by making a measly day of hourly comics. I have wanted to do HCD for a couple years now, but only this year have I gotten my act together in time to actually do it. I did a few practice comics (they're hilarious; maybe I'll post them sometime), marked the day in my planner, and set to it. Of course, I was an idiot and missed the first hour, but I think I made up for it a little.

And so, without further ado, my poorly-drawn, not-so-funny hourly comics (click on any to enlarge, btw):

Friday, January 22, 2010


I always hate when my favorite webcomics/blogs/bands go on "hiatus." It's a detested word. It is never used to mean, "I'll be back soon." Instead, it is code for, "I have abandoned this creative pursuit forever, left it stagnant, incomplete, and frozen, and I won't be honest enough to admit it to myself or you." I didn't want to use that word when I stopped blogging last fall (effectively going "on hiatus"), but now that I face the last six months from a new living situation, I can see that my life and my writing suffered from a paralyzing stagnance. My home environment, something that affects my emotional state greatly, was cramped and hostile, crippling everything from social interactions (you can't have anyone over when your roommate lives in the living room and there's no room in your bedroom because two people are sardine-canned in) to creative pursuits (I only touched my banjo to dust it; I only wrote to fulfill assignments) to making food (I had to clean the entire kitchen before using it. Every time.) My whole life was on hiatus.

I don't know what to say here now that I'm back - and, my friends, I do plan to be back and to write often. This whole thing - the roommate situation - was a mistake I hope not to make again. I could rehash what has happened these past two months, but I doubt that that would be beneficial to anyone. The situation cost me a friend, a semester of productivity, and not a little sanity.

These last few weeks have been bittersweet. After two weeks of cleaning and rearranging, Ashley and I now have much-needed private space, room to stretch, and a clean living room and kitchen, but the spectre of guilt still tries to wheedle its way in. Neither of us is much into confrontation, drama, or putting ourselves before others, so the process of detaching ourselves from our roles as the enablers of our roommate and friend has been rather trying. The fact that it meant hardening ourselves enough to throw that same friend and roommate out on the street in order to save our sanity made the whole affair somewhat of an epic struggle. Ashley's the hero of this one; I was her silent sidekick, the go-between with a quiet agenda, the mole - the coward. I stayed quiet and let her take the fall for being "selfish" for casting Randi out into the cold, and for that I owe her an enormous apology.

At last, though, I have an environment in which I can work and be happy, a class and work schedule (15 credits and 11 hours of work) that leaves time for me and for what I want to do, and positive relationships to inspire me. Hiatus? Over.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Vote or Death!

Okay, maybe I won't actually kill anyone if they don't vote. After all, how can I blame my upwards of four readers if they are apathetic about an infrequently-updated personal blog? Anyway, here's the pitch: you get to help me pick out the theme of this blag for the next little while (code for "whenever Caitlin decides to change it again"). Should I keep the one that's up now, or should I put one of these lovely options up instead? No pressure, I mostly wanted to show off the other options.