Indentured Elves

Yesterday, Hugo started telling me about the letter to Santa he wrote in school. I was folding clothes, only half listening to him ramble on about video games, when he said something about asking to borrow an elf so he could have new toys year round.

“Okay. That’s pretty smart,” I said, “but that’s slave labor.”

“No, Mom. I would pay Santa for him, and I would pay him too.”

“With what money? Do you have some secret hoard that I don’t know about?”

“No, but he wouldn’t need much anyway. And once I run out of money, I’ll give him back to Santa.”

“So he’ll be Santa’s slave again?”

“It’s okay,” said Hugo. “He likes working for Santa. The North Pole is way better than where he’s from.”

I probably should have stopped asking questions at this point, but I was starting to think this might become a teaching moment. Slavery is not just an American History topic; there are still people being sold for all sorts of reasons throughout the world, not to mention those people who work for so little income they mine as well be slaves. I don’t want my son thinking any of that is okay.

“Where do elves come from?”

“The H-E-double-L place I’m not supposed to say.”

“The ‘H-E-double-L place.'”

“Yes,” said Hugo. “You know: the Underworld.”

“So that makes it okay for them to become slaves?”

“Well, the Underworld elves are evil. They build evil robots that kill people. Santa saves them and turns them good.”

The teaching moment has disappeared. Now, I’m just interested in the story and where he’ll take it next.

“Santa magically turns the elves nice,” I ask. “How does he do that?”

“He’s so jolly. They just can’t help it.”

“So…Santa’s jolliness saves the world from homicidal robots built by evil elves in Hell?”

“Yes.”

“That is so much better than The Night Before Christmas.

“I know, right!”

Dream Sequence, Part 3

My dad didn’t leave. He didn’t die. But there were things in our woods that wanted to hurt us, so we moved. We lived in every backwoods, or back road clump of trees, we could find. We should have stayed away from trees; those things kept finding us. One’s own demons do have a tendency to follow.

My mom, my little brother, my two sons: they were all with us. We tried to keep everyone safe.

Dad went to sleep in a bag a few feet from mine. He didn’t wake up again. Something else used his hands to squeeze my throat. I nearly died. Whatever was left of my dad made it stop and dragged the thing away with him. I was left with open eyes; I could see the truth: my dad had been dead a long time, my little brother had never been born, and I only have one living child.

Three of us were alive. The rest were the things we had brought with us, moving place to place, hoping to escape the past.

It got weird after that…

I stopped wearing shoes and smelled like a pine tree. My mom said we were related to Anne Rice and were going to go live with her. I tried to avoid it; I didn’t like the thought of having to pretend to like her books. Anne Rice does not impress me.

My son was the only rational one in our group. He went somewhere I couldn’t follow. I wasn’t worried; I knew he’d be all right.

I saw a man named David. He and I went to school together. He grew up to be a jerk, with good looks allowing him to get away with it. I walked away from him when he said something rude. I walked away from my mom telling me about Aunt Anne. I walked right by a man with a cane who said hello and asked how I was.

It was Aristotle. I looked back, and he was gone, walking away. I ran after him. A group of people were between us. I couldn’t get close. He went inside a church, and I followed, in spite of my vow.

I found him sitting in the middle of a pew, surrounded by people. He held his cane in front of him, looked straight at me, and said I love you.

His eyes were green.

Scratch ‘n Sniff

What causes inspiration? More, importantly, what makes inspiration worth sharing? A large group of people can write with the same topic in mind , yet only a handful may create something worth reading.

English professors make a point to discourage their students from self-publication; they say it is not widely respected in the academic community. This opinion is difficult to dispute, especially when you actually start reading some of the self-published, and obviously unedited, digital garbage now available. I bought a Kindle the year they were first released; I have a lot of my classics and favorites in my cloud, but I still prefer to flip through pages.

I sometimes wonder if any book that lacks a paperback version is worth my time. This attitude is likely a result of a lifelong addiction to the library. Printed words have more meaning when they can be touched and smelled. (My name is Jane, and I am a book sniffer.)

There are, however, a lot of horribly written books that continue to survive the test of time: The Epic of Gilgamesh, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and anything with Chicken Soup in the title. I was forced to read Gilgamesh for three different classes, and the story was worse each time. Just because it is (one of) the oldest written work(s), doesn’t mean it’s any good. The James Joyce I only had to read once, but I didn’t make it past chapter three. And I went through my Chicken Soup phase about the same time I was exclusively watching Lifetime T.V. I deserve to be mocked!

Today, I had a fleeting desire to buy the new Stephen King. Two things stopped me: 1) my preference for borrowing, and 2) my dislike of name brands. Okay: a third reason is that Mr. Mercedes really is awful.

New books are too pretty. There they are all shiny and unblemished on store shelves, like centerfolds; you know you’re not the first, or even the twenty-first, to touch their words, yet they present themselves as being unread. The tramps. Used ones are more honest. They sit in libraries and second-hand stores gathering dust and waiting to be noticed. Some have stains and tears from careless hands. Their bindings are cracked, their yellowed pages showing through worn covers, and yet they are more enticing to me than the beauty queens vying for my attention.

New books are beautiful, but they’re too easily damaged. Paperbacks read once or twice become grotesque: spines bend, covers wrinkle and flap away from fluffed out pages. Used volumes, in comparison, retain their shape; library copies especially maintain a dignified loveliness, perhaps because, rather than in spite, of being loved so many times before.

It won’t matter for Revival; the library will have a brand new, non-bendy hardcover. It’s more about the principle: why buy a book you haven’t read? You don’t know if you’ll enjoy it. What if it’s only good for one read and then just gathers dust on your shelf with no hope of ever being picked up by someone else? Stephen King is a brilliant author. He’s written some of my favorites: The Dark Tower, The Stand, The Green Mile, Dr. Sleep, etc. But he’s also written trash like Pet Sematary, Thinner, and Gerald’s Game. He’s become a name brand; people buy his work because they know he’s good, but they forget that he is still a man who can make mistakes.

My point: I’m not interested in buying the author; I’m after the story, and some stories just aren’t worth the cost.

Steve Jobs: The Next Generation

My son Hugo is a handful. Within the first month of his life, I started referring to him as Hurricane Hugo because of the swirl of strawberry blonde hair on top of his head: it looked like the eye of a storm on Doppler. The moniker became permanent once I realized his personality matched.

He was always advanced [a lot o moms think their babies are super smart (they’re usually correct)], and for the first four years, I was overjoyed that he was such a little genius. He talked early — with complete sentences by his first birthday — and clearly; strangers could understand every word and probably thought he was just a midget three-year-old. Since he skipped crawling and started walking one week before eight months, anyone with achondroplasiaphobia undoubtedly ran in the opposite direction. At nine months, however, he would have caught up.

Preschool: that is where my vicarious happiness died. It took only a few weeks for the behavior reports to appear, and then the phone calls and suspensions. K-4 is not a requirement where I’m from (not sure if it is anywhere), so after a few parent-teacher-principal meetings, the school just went ahead and expelled my son.

K-5 was no different. The teacher didn’t like Hugo, possibly because he had called her fat the year before (in his defense, she did have a strong resemblance to Tweedle-dee’s brother). She made it clear she had no patience for a “troubled child” and fought to have him removed from her class. And she succeeded; by his sixth birthday, he was in an isolated classroom with three other special needs children: a girl in a wheelchair whose physical limitations prevented her from being in a regular class, an autistic boy who couldn’t say more than a few words, and another boy who had “violent tendencies” just like mine.

At some point, the school also decided that there must be a specific cause for Hugo’s behavior and that that cause must be his home life. There must be something wrong with his mother, since she’s the only parent he has. If not for my family, the school would’ve had him taken away, all on the assumption that I was unfit as a single mom. Although I was going through a difficult time, that boy was always taken care of.

Needless to say, we got the hell away from that place and found a school better suited to his needs. At least, I thought we had. We’re in the middle of a diagnosis war: the school says ADHD, his doctor (five failed medications later) says Opposition/Defiance…I say genetic Depression/Anxiety, but I’m just the mom, so what the frosty do I know! When the medication choices run out, maybe someone will finally say “hey! Maybe mom is on to something!” Until then, everyone gets to deal with my anger and frustration about the phone calls, suspensions, violent outbursts, and hysterical crying (his and mine on that last one).

My son is my life. Most of my hope in this world is gone; however, I know that he and I will get through this rough (five-year) patch, and he will become an incredible man.

Hugo is crazy about Steve Jobs. My son loves to build and create; he wants to be an inventor and an engineer…and possibly a hotel owner. Just last week, he surprised a librarian by approaching her and asking for help locating the engineering books. I didn’t tell him to ask; he took the initiative and ended up with several books on aviation and car mechanics. Although they were written for a teenage audience, he’s already devoured them.

I’d be very surprised if he didn’t have at least a ninth grade reading level, since he’s been racing through Percy Jackson, Eragon, and any other SF&F he can find in the library’s teen room. He was recently tested at 99-percent recall, and he reads faster than I do — faster than my mom, who can kill The Hobbit and the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy in less than a week — and, as a devoted book nerd, I couldn’t be prouder.

One day (hopefully twenty-plus years from now when he’s all rich and famous…and mature), he’ll find himself a girl who reads (something other than romance), and I will have the coolest daughter-in-law ever! It’ll be especially helpful for us to have a common interest when he puts me up in that nice hotel he’s planning to buy.

Dream Pictionary

I woke up when my childhood started falling apart. My old bedroom was infested with termites. As I put my clothes away — hung up dresses that were increasingly gaudy and not at all my style — the nasty creatures started falling out of the ceiling.

My mom was no help. She just said “we’ll get someone to look at it” and went back to the kitchen. My brother Pedro was in his room (right next to mine) sick from something he caught while working on utility poles. He couldn’t get it of bed.

My other brother’s room was occupied by Aristotle (this guy I have a small crush on at work). He lets me hold his baby girl, which is confusing because he doesn’t have any kids. He’s even more single than I am! Yet, there was his girlfriend (or wife): a beautiful woman with snow-blonde hair. Her skin was made out of blushed plastic, just like the doll that was her daughter.

Is anyone else getting this creepy image of a man who collects dolls? I hope he’s not that guy!

Dream interpretation is ridiculous. If dreams do have meaning, then those meanings are personal to whomever is dreaming. They cannot be defined and thrown in a guidebook. For example: dreams of losing one’s teeth signify insecurity. Sure! I’m an insecure person, so I’ll buy that! However, my reoccurring nightmares of having my teeth fall out and pressing them back into my gums in the hope that they’ll re-root may just be the product of ten-plus childhood years spent in a dentist’s chair being told it’s my fault my teeth are awful. I just didn’t brush enough.

After all the cavities, abscesses, extractions, retainers, braces, etc., I would just like to say: my current dentist thinks I have beautiful teeth. So, ha! to you, every other DDS. This one is a keeper.

Still, I have a constant fear that something bad is going to happen. Sometimes, I convince myself that some of my teeth are loose or that I must have a cavity because one side of my mouth is getting sensitive. Then there’s my genetic baby tooth; I was told I would lose it by 19 and would have to have a fake one literally screwed in its place. Now I’m being told that it has a solid root and could last until I’m 35. (Thank you, Dr. Keeper!) Whenever I do lose my baby tooth, it will be a big deal; it’s right in front where a gap would be very noticeable.

I’m not afraid of getting old, but the idea of having dentures is terrifying.

As for my termite infested dollhouse dream, I’ll blame that on a combination of melatonin and Empire of the Ants. My subconscious may have supplied the scene and the characters, but that little melt away pill definitely wrote the script. And anyone who has read that book knows that it can cause some seriously weird thoughts and images even while awake.

Oh Captain, My Captain!

My final year of college, I took a course on Charles Dickens. The class quickly became one of my all time favorites, and the professor became one of my favorite people, as well as a good friend. As an experiment about halfway through the semester, she started dropping hints about her military career. She had everyone in the class convinced she was retired Army. She eventually admitted to me that it was a joke, but I never told any of my classmates.

My class consisted of about twenty-five women and one man. They were mostly English Education majors who were sitting for the required Authors credit. I became increasingly afraid for the future of high school English every day that I had to listen to their stories about the local bar scene and various dating dramas. Some of the things they contributed to the class were also incredibly ignorant, and I’m fairly sure my son, who was three at the time, could have corrected their grammar. (I did name him after a fictional linguist.)

Dickens was not an easy course. The Captain (as I called my professor) was a tough grader. If papers were not well thought out — if they did not present a new idea and defend that idea to the point of convincing her — then you were lucky to get a C. I only managed one A for the entire semester, and I was her best student. There was no curve. It was the greatest challenge I had in college, and also one of the most enjoyable experiences I had while earning my degree. I still have that A paper — a Biblical reading of Great Expectations — and look at it sometimes when I need to smile.

My favorite book from that class was Bleak House, but I’ve read a few since graduating: Dombey and Son, Martin Chuzzlewit, and David Copperfield. I have the complete works of Charles Dickens on my phone, yet I can’t read him that often; I need to be in the right mood. I’ve tried to read The Old Curiosity Shop three times and have failed. Perhaps I’ll try again in 2015, or maybe in December. I’m not worried about reaching my goal anymore; my son and I finished Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident last night: that was book number sixty for me.

With all the love I have for Mr. Dickens, there is one book I cannot enjoy. I first read A Christmas Carol in sixth grade. It was interesting back then; I was ten and familiar with The Muppets version. However, I read it again just a few years ago (also since graduating), and it made me angry.

My upset is not that commercialism continues to alter and abuse the story every holiday season (although that irritates me too); it’s because of Scrooge. I love Ebenezer Scrooge right up until the end; Dickens destroys his character. There is nothing wrong with disliking Christmas; Ebenezer has every right to be bitter and to be left alone with that bitterness. Yes, he is an ass hole, but at least he’s honest and true to himself. Then a few spirits scare him, and he’s suddenly drenched in love and kindness.

Excuse me while I vomit…

This year is bothering me. I can’t get into the spirit of Christmas. That’s a big problem where I work; it’s a month-long celebration: every department decorates a tree, has Secret Santa, and encourages everyone to dress like elves. Right now, it looks like Rudolph took a magical glowing shit around my desk, and, with all the grunting I’m hearing, I’m sure he’s not done yet. The cubicle walls aren’t high enough; my eyes are being assaulted by festivity. It’s depressing.

I’m not trying to be a “fun sucker,” I just don’t like holidays. The more flamboyant my surroundings, the less cheerful I feel. The bright lights hurt my eyes. The jingle bells hurt my ears. And why are there so many snowmen? There’s a reason I moved to a place where it doesn’t snow. Why does everyone thinks it’s okay to put those creepy things everywhere!

Winter is a nightmare land.

We also have a company Christmas party. We all get to leave for a couple of hours in the middle of the day on the condition that we go to the party, eat free food, and listen to spiritual music. This year, I’m boycotting. Every song praises Jesus, and the big event is prayer.

Sometimes, I want to scream I don’t believe what you believe! But that wouldn’t be wise: the owners are Christian, the executives are Christian, and my boss views me as a project — someone to convert to his denomination. Just mentioning that I don’t go to church nearly lost me a good friend.

I’m not an Atheist, but my friends and coworkers wouldn’t understand that. If I told them my reasons for staying away from religion, they would try to convince me that those are the very reasons I should believe. I prefer to be like Ebenezer before he conformed to society’s holiday cheer.

Beyond Ben & Jerry

Boyfriend. Girlfriend. Relationship. Love. Devotion. Marriage. Monogamy.

Stop!

These words are freaking me out! I don’t want to be attached to one man (or woman) for the rest of my life. I can’t even pick a favorite ice cream. Most kids like chocolate or vanilla (the little racists); I had to have Neapolitan so I could vary the order in which I ate the flavors. Then, I discovered cookie dough, and life became chaos.

Men are not ice cream (unless you lick it off them), but it’s a decent metaphor. Until I try all 51 flavors, I won’t know what I’m missing, so how can I be content?

Are there still 51? Or was it 52? More? Less? …I may be an ice cream whore.

As for current non-boyfriend — (Because he is not my boyfriend. I made that quite clear.) — I don’t know what number (flavor) he is, and I probably wouldn’t admit to it even if I took the time to count back through fifteen years of dating (sampling). If I ever reach the triple digits, I’ll be sure to retire my vagina, just as a courtesy. Unless I’m given the Royal 39 treatment twice over, I have another twenty years left in my…self. Why would I want to waste two decades on a man who will either ask for a divorce or have me killed.

I may be cynical, but I’m also realistic; even if there were “someone for everyone” in this world, it is highly improbable that two people are each others’ someones. On the off chance that two people are perfect for each other, or are the perfect complements of each other, it seems unlikely they would meet in a world that has however many billion.

In other words: all those scary words that opened this post are synonymous of settling for someone less than you deserve. We have a limited time in this physical plane; therefore, we supposedly don’t waste it by falling in love with, or even marrying, whomever we can tolerate living with / having children with for our lifetimes. However, I argue that by not wasting time we end up wasting our lives, or a large portion of them.

What if? That will always be the question.

It’s very doubtful I will ever marry, and I am content in that understanding. The “what if” is too strong; I cannot move past the doubts no matter how long I am with (or not with) a person. For example: P.J. (that’s what we’ll call the current guy).

In my previous entry, I covered much of why he and I are incompatible; yet, I also have been questioning those areas where we do seem to mesh, such as: the sex is amazing, but what if I only think it’s amazing because it’s been so long since I’ve been touched by anyone other than myself?