critiques
Date: Oct 13th, 2009 1:48:28 pm - Subscribe
Mood: hesitant


Ian Sacks
10-13-09
Engl352

I like the way you begin the story, talking about the shooting star and the impact that had on the narrator and tie that into the rocky place and the story. It's a really good piece to transition into the story. But I feel like there's a little too much there before getting to Minerva, who is obviously a main component in the story. She drives the narrator to do what he does, but I'm curious as to what power she has over him. Why is he so drawn to her? Yes, she has raven hair and dark eyes, but what else is there to her? I feel like you've developed her sufficiently enough, and neglected the main character a little. What's his story outside of Minerva?
It seems like it could easily be leant to a love story, and I'm glad you didn't take that approach with it. It works really well--that childhood friendship that eventually fades and disappears through time. We all have those people in our pasts and it's easily to relate to
You've created a lovely array of descriptions for the town they live in and the humble nature of everything in it, but I think I missed where it's at, what kind of climate it has, and so on. When does it get cold on the beach? What kind of beach is it? Lake or ocean, perhaps a river? Think it through, maybe do a little research into fossils and where they would be found and what kind would be where, and just how often they go unnoticed like that. It'd have to be in a pretty abandoned area for such a large collection to have gone unnoticed by anyone but a couple of little kids.
I really like the way you chose to end it, talking about the last dinosaur and how it wasn't lonely. It gives a good final insight into the characters and gives the reader a sense of closure and finality that is crucial when writing short stories.
-Victoria Hunt

Chris Akins
10-13-09
Engl352

Spell check!!! Please!!! And just because a word is in the dictionary, doesn't mean its the right word, also be utilizing grammar check.
Having that off my chest, I enjoy the situation you've set up at the beginning, with the frustrated young man in a seemingly small town with a dead end job that he'd rather be smoking during anyways. Where is this town though? What's its name? Which mountains does he retreat to? Think it over, be a little more specific about what animals he would encounter, and what kind of fish he's wanting to catch.
You have some excellent dialogue taking place in the shop, but this is where I caution you of the dangers of writing colloquial language in the wrong grammar. "One of those sons a bitches" should be "one of those sons of bitches" and "You're full a shit Harry" should be "You're full of shit, Harry" It doesn't change the way the character's language sounds, but it makes more sense this way. Try saying your dialogue outloud if it concerns you.
I like that you incorporated the surroundings into the character's difficulties, particularly with the high altitude. And I think you've chosen a good point of view to write it from. But what are these shadows/lump? It is something demonic or something natural? Perhaps its human even. Think about it, and describe more specifically the entities that they are and the capabilities they have. Once you have that figured out, verbs and adjectives will come naturally and organically to the scene with them.
-Victoria Hunt

Ben Fairbanks Critique
10-13-09
Engl352

You've done some good character development since the first installation. I feel like the characters have grown a little, become a little more significant. And I appreciate the way you've worked through some of the language difficulties you had. It's much more colloquial and reader-friendly this way.
I want to know more about the bar scene. What ethnicity are they that they're being refused entrance? Remind the reader, perhaps in the dialogue, of what's going on. Don't assume they've been reading as closely as you've been writing. It says its been restricted to the upper class, but I have a feeling there's a lot more happening in that scene than meets the eye. What's going on historically in this time period? Use the dialogue to reflect that by perhaps giving them lines that are suggestive to the inequalities going on in that age. Play with the narration as well and see what happens when you experiment putting it in there.
I like that you're involving more characters, and wow, are they characters! I feel like a story is finally emerging as you go into the whore house and Rosaline's history. I LOVE that you created the a matriarchal line of descendants through which this business is passed down, and that he's the exception. It gives the story an ethereal feel like there's something more pressing at stake than what is initially entailed.
-Victoria Hunt

Ashley Krsel
10-13-09
Engl352

You have a really interesting premise to build off of. We've heard a man's perspective of cheating on his wife, I'm glad you took a different look at it from the wife's point of view. Being the other woman is also a commonly heard of story. People don't stop and think about the implications it has on the original woman. And since this isn't a story we hear too much, I'd be curious to see where you take it and how it resolves, if it gets resolved. Does she go on feeling resentful of him? Or is she a woman who is just so glad to have gotten him back that she doesn't bother leaving him or kicking him out?
I don't feel like I have a good sense of who this woman is. At one point, its inferenced that her marriage is over, and at another she feels a sense of pride for having "won" him back. Some prize. But women really are like that, so its believable that even though he's done these horrible things to her, she's convinced herself that if she can just get him back, he'll stay with her, that things will change. I just want to see that change (or lack thereof) in their relationship after the affair is over and everything is said and done.
You have some beautiful phrases in here that fit so poetically into the subject matter. Human dilemna is a brilliant area to delve into all those metaphors and similes we think of through the day, and you incorporate them really well.
-Victoria Hunt

Patrick Webb Critique
10-13-09
Engl352

Watch your verb tenses! I love the stream of consciousness you use, but feel like you need a little more focus when doing so. Don't interrupt a monologue with simple human needs like needing food or needing to use the bathroom unless that has something to do with the monologue. When you find a really good expression like "shit eating grin" you might just want to use the wording of it once, so you don't overdo it for the reader. If you want to reference the same smile, say something like "the mischevious smile he'd worn earlier reappeared on his face," instead or something to the like. Like anything really great, if you use it too much, it loses its meaning. Be wary of that. I like that you included some history of his family, but how relevant is it to this man's struggle to reconcile his relationship with Courtney? That's the story I'm interested in.
I LOVE the dialogue you scribe to Cody. It brings him to life and gives him actual character, and the fact that he takes off after the nurse...I like it. But I feel like Courtney's reaction (or rather Parker's perception of her reaction) to him again comes on a bit strong. It doesn't sound believable she would be that upset with him if he just broke up with her. Did he cheat on her in some horrible way? What's so horrible about their past? Dig deep, and let the reader know.
If you're going to end this part of the story like that, I really hope you plan on giving Parker some resolution eventually. If you don't, you'd be a tease to lead the reader on to think that something was going to happen, only to have it be a dream in the end.
But I'm genuinely interested in the story you've created and curious to know what's going to happen. I think I'd like to see a little more of Mark and Cody though. Cody is well incorporated into the hospital scene, but I'm curious what Mark's story is too. Why is he so amused by the mentally disabled? Try and incorporate it subtely into the dialogue or narration perhaps at the beginning if you don't feel it's right to add him in later like you did Cody.

-Victoria Hunt
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critique
Date: Oct 6th, 2009 4:30:20 pm - Subscribe
Mood: sedated


Kristi Hickman:
Your writing is entertaining, I enjoyed Lucie's character. I'm curious to see what happens with her and Jake. It's refreshing to see a different genre of literature in class, and it kind of reminds me of something light and fluffy like Meg Cabot.
My favorite part is when Lucie rummages through her purse, you can tell so much about a woman by what she carries around with her! It's a really subtle way of showing the reader what's important to the character, I just thought it was a brilliant idea.
I'm curious what's in the works for this character. How is she going to change? You've left a couple good plot strands to keep the reader interested, such as the trouble at work, and of course, the run in with the ex.
Personally, I feel that Jake came on a little strong at the end. I was following the story just fine through Lucie's emotions and thoughts but couldn't imagine that Jake would be so forward. But you know your characters better than I do. I just wanted him to be a little more suave and coy in his approach.

Michael Olson:
I did not like the first part. It felt disconnected and was paced rather slow. If you could speed it up a little, and find a more blatant way to tie it into the next section, it was really well written and utilized some really fabulous words. "A morning where we wake up and we all find ourselves lying on our beds, restless and asking the textured ceiling if this is all that life has to offer, that maybe we have not started to live just yet." I love that line.
I like the concept you've created with the perspective that is restrained to his bed. Reminds me of one of those stories where the protagonist got so drunk the night before he can't remember what he did to end up in the lion's cage or something. So you have intrigue going for you straight from the get-go.
Make sure you're proofreading everything first though. Check tenses and spelling as well. It gets a little distracting. Another thing to keep an eye on is at the end, at one point you reference that Vincent has been absent for 8 years, then a page later, you say only 4 years. Create a story and be consistent with it, unless one of your characters is a pathological liar, that is.
Keep going, develop Vincent and Bartolo a little bit more, build their relationship. I'm curious.

Mitch Clark:
You have a lot of excellent dialogue in here. I admire the way you've really captured the speakers in their conversation. That's all that's really there though. Action and dialogue. Where's the character development? And who is this unknown man at the end? Is he superman, because that's the image that springs to my mind right away.
You say that you're working on the fact that some of the characters are nameless, but I think they work without the names, it gives the reader more of a connection to Regina because that's how she associates with them. They aren't people to her, they're the men attacking her with the scar on his face or the men that are ringleading Twitch to rape her. Unless you're really committed to naming these people and giving them real lives, I'd leave it the way it is.

Ryan Boetel:
You really know the city you're placing the reader in. I really appreciate the knowledge you've either created or educated yourself on. I love that the Peabody Hotel is the setting for this. You might incorporate the hotel's history into the story a little more.
Consider the pacing at the beginning, it kind of slow until Dubler admits that there was a murder, and then it's as though that's where the story starts, and that all of the exposition didn't really matter. I think it'd be okay if you started with the reporter and then lead into the actual "meat" of the story.
I wanted better details when describing the death. It all happened so fast, I wasn't quite sure who did what and who had actually died in the process.
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critiquing...
Date: Sep 30th, 2009 8:51:39 am - Subscribe
Mood: addicted


Cara:
I'm strongly reminded of Alice Sebold's "The Lovely Bones" by your story "Vanishing Acts" I love the narrator you've constructed and the relationships around him to describe his personality. I love how you incorporate others into his life. Like the sneaking out when Wren has a boy, not only does that say a lot about Emery that he isn't so naive that he's incapable of knowing what's really going on, but it feeds us good information about Wren and who she is.
Besides the excellent character development, you have some brilliant phrasing in here, "It was an echo with no voice...keep at bay the pulse that lured me" I think I would have liked to see more of the town, you've left it up to the reader to create the town. I get the feeling that it's a small rural town by the fact that they can ride their horses around town, but paint the town for us, otherwise you're giving your power to sculpt over to the reader.
I think I'd like to know more about Laurie though, maybe just include more allusions back to her life throughout the story. One of the few things we get to know about her is the essay on Shakespeare that she wrote, it doesn't seem to work. I don't find it believable that a fifth-grader would write such a title or an essay that would fit with it. I know I wasn't reading King Lear when I was ten.
Why is Emery so focused on her? What draws him in to her? And what was with the moth visiting him?? I'm afraid I don't quite understand that. It's a good image to associate, but I'd rather it just be a ghost or something a little more tangible. And I see where you're trying to go with the unconventional phrasing at the end, but I don't think it works just the way it is. But, at the same time, I don't have many suggestions on what would help. Just play with it a little, because I think it could work if presented right.
Brian:
I like the idea you're going for. You have a lot of good things going for you, particularly in the first segment. You've really grasped the spirit of a young kid being forced to do work, on his birthday none-the-less. Your descriptions of the cattle drive itself are good.
But I think I'm missing the bigger picture. The first part seems to end before too much happens, and then it feels like it jumps to an entirely different story in the second half. Are the two connected? How? And then how can you convey that to the reader?
If they are parts of the same story, make more allusions to that, create ties between them. Also, make sure you're proof reading it. There are a lot of typos in here that can become distracting. And when does this take place? It has sort of a timeless feel, but it'll give the setting a lot more character once that's figured out and prominent in the piece.
Teal:
You've described Molly so exquisitely! I really liked the story. You've really put a lot of work into the details of your story, and it paid off big time. Molly's introduction is done well, as is her fascination with secrets. It's introduced as something that we think is just gonna be a small detail about her personality, so it was a pleasant surprise to find it evolve the story.
I didn't really like Rapunzel-girl. Or perhaps I didn'd like being introduced to someone so soon after the main character. I had to go back and read it a couple times to figure out if she was just in Molly's head, or if she was an actual person.
Great use of symbolism with the colors you planted in peoples eyes, how Molly's were green instead of blue of Snow White's, and how Rapunzel's eyes were blue, and then Ahere had green eyes. The continued repetition of it really hits the reader over the head with the importance of it.
You don't really go into setting at all though. The attic and the small room are described sufficiently enough for the role they play in the story, as a portal for this magical place Molly meets Ahere at, but what about the outside surroundings? What kind of climate do they experience. At one point, its November, and there's enough snow on the ground for her brothers to have a snowball fight, does that mean its a more northern city than in Nebraska? I'd like to see you develop those aspects a little more.
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spider summer parts 1 and 2
Date: Sep 24th, 2009 8:37:09 pm - Subscribe
Mood: interested


1. Marian

The summer was wet that year. Cool and wet. Every other day was raining and overcast. Mildest summer on Minnesotan history where it only reached over 80 on two occasions. Swimming pools experienced a drop in admission rates and kids were running around wearing long sleeves and jeans all summer. Without the summer heat making them restless, teenagers stayed in at night rather than going out on the town and wreaking havoc.
Society was in a chaos of sorts, you might say. And then the spiders invaded.
No one knows where they came from, I've heard it said that it was because of the chilled season. Maybe it was the rain. Some of the reformed hippies in town said that it was the gods bringing their reign down on us, that the spiders were sent to spin our futures into different paths than they'd previously been on. They believed it was a crime to kill these spiders and that it would fate our destinies to something worse than death. "Eternal Agony" as they phrased it.
The only sympathy I had in regards to the spiders was a result of a story my mother spun for me when I was little. Like any little girl, I was dressed in frilly dresses and taught to tap dance on the porch in the summer, supplying any neighbor who wanted to watch with a show through their dining room window. That being said, I wasn't brought up to be particularly tomboy-ish. So when a spider would creep onto my dance floor, I'd immediately scream and run from it.. Eventually I learned that I was bigger than it, and that my foot was invincible to the small invertebrate. The first time my mother saw this reaction from me, she stopped me mid-stomp to explain what bad karma it would have caused me to kill that one small spider.
Yeah, she would have been one of those hippie types.
But no good ever came to me by avoiding to kill that spider, or any other spider. You could say I have a chip on my shoulder. My parents divorced when I was still small, and between being carted from dance lessons and music lessons (so I could be the classical little girl my parents always dreamed of) and being tossed between custody households, I never really got to know my parents on a personal level. The day I turned 18, I moved out with my boyfriend at the time just so I could get out of my parent's grips. With no real life experience, I was thrown into the real world and almost drowned by my own naivety. My boyfriend hit me, but to move out would have been to surrender that I needed my parents more than I was willing to let them know.
So, I stayed longer than I should have. I finally left one liberating March day, and moved back with my mother. I was there with her just long enough for her and I to reconcile our sketchy past of arguments before she passed away, a brutal side effect of her diseased colon and her inability to stop drinking.
There I was, in a house I had horrible memories of, alone with the images of my mother haunting every corner and crevice. What was there to do? I sat there and thought for days on end. I contemplated suicide. Thought of every moment I spent with her, and the ways those moments could have been better, had they not been wasted yelling at each other, disagreeing at every point.
My father wasn't taking it much better than I was. He spent all of his adult life infatuated with a woman who could never muster the same amount of emotion for him. He was lost without even that green light to gaze upon. She was his Daisy, and now she was gone. So he drank his sorrows away, spending the majority of his wasted hours passed out on the floor of his small apartment that no one dared visit anymore.
And thus, the chip on my shoulder was born.
Now Alice, that's the roommate I got after my mother died, was completely the opposite of me. I've often times joked that I would have starved if she'd not been there to get me to eat. It isn't really a joke, as the truth sometimes masquerades as such. Alice had been to college for a year or two and decided it simply wasn't for her, so she dropped out and moved back to Stillwater where she got a job making just slightly more than minimum wage. Her parents paid for her school, so she has no debt. She can comfortably go to work, stand around in a chicken costume, get paid peanuts that she puts toward rent, volunteer in her spare time, and live happily.
I wish I had the same ability, to live happily. But I digress from those damn spiders. I'd just started living life again when I started finding their cobwebs in the corners of my room, and seeing them scuttle across the floor late at night. Like I said, spiders freak me out. It's one thing when they're outside disturbing the other outdoor predators, but an entirely different thing when they're inside, on my turf, giving me the creepy crawlies at three in the morning.
So I would get up and hunt those spiders in my room, follow them out into the living room, tear up the furniture looking for them as they escape me. Alice would come out of her room after I've turned on all the lights and made quite the ruckus doing so and ask,
"Spiders again, Marian?"
To which I'd simply nod a tired, defiant head gesture and she'd take her slipper off her foot and say, while holding her slipper menacingly enough in a position set to strike,
"Well, don't just stand there, let's go get them,"
That's why I loved having Alice in my life. She fed me, she went spider hunting in the middle of the night with me, she helped bring me to the surface. We were an unlikely pair of friends, but we balanced each other.
One day, finally fed up with the situation, I embarked to the hardware store in hopes of finding a poison for solution. It was one of the few seasonably warm days of summer, so I walked the couple of blocks from 2nd Street to Main Street and the block to East Myrtle Street where Miller's Hardware was situated. The sun streamed in through the vibrantly green trees and I felt as though I were walking through a kaleidoscope with prisms of light falling all around me in perfect halos of color.
Stepping out of the cool breeze, the air seemed to catch around my throat when I entered the shop. That shop could have been the definition of 'stuffy' that afternoon the way the warm air only moved around stagnantly in the enclosed space, briefly disturbing the dust that was impossible to rid oneself of in such a work place. A bell sounded as the door shut behind me that day.
Tom was already in the middle of an animated discussion with a customer on planting and maintaining sod. Why he would need to plant sod in this town is beyond me. But he looked like a yuppy newcomer to town that perhaps had just gotten married and bought a house here to start his new life and was intent on having it look perfect. I bet the spiders messed with the image he was going for. I wondered if they bothered him as much as they bothered me.
I found the aisle with all the insect repellent, an entire aisle full of the shit, would you believe that! From environmentally friendly to pet friendly to the more harmful things that would kill your grass and plants. I thought briefly of Sod Guy still at the check out. With no real concern but to get rid of the arachnids, I picked something out of the middle range of price and walked up to the counter.
It was then I realized there had been someone behind me. Hugo, the town shut in, had meandered into the store just after me and lingered shiftily in the insecticide aisle. His appearance was just slightly better than a homeless man's. His ragged cut off shorts looked like they hadn't been washed in years in the same fashion that his long sleeve plaid flannel shirt hadn't either. He'd rolled the sleeves up slightly to accommodate for the warm temperature. He kept his hair only as short as he could get it with his kitchen shears of his small apartment. He always seemed to have a five o'clock shadow even at noon that day.
He seemed to be just as nonplussed as I was about the products. He grabbed the cheapest thing he could off the shelf and shuffled up towards the front. By this point, yuppy Sod Guy has left and Tom is left alone, looking rather haggard in the heat of his own shop. Tom always struck me the kind of guy that would look older than he actually was. Wearing jeans and an old construction t-shirt from before he injured his shoulder, he looked like he would be comfortable enough in the warm shop. But he looked tired, his tussled black hair prematurely going gray and the soft lines of his youth hardening into wrinkles on his forehead and beneath his eyes. He looked like a man who needed a vacation.
"Hey Tom, this stuff gonna get rid of my spider problem?" I asked as I flourished the spray beneath his gaze.
Tom chuckled in a small raspy voice and replied, "That might get rid of a cattle problem if you had it," and proceeded to punch numbers on the cash register until my total was displayed in the old blocked white numbers. Tom hadn't caved to merchandising pressure and bought the high tech registers with digital displays and scanners. Tom had an old time quality about him that made him rely on things before they became more accurate. He enjoyed reading the face of a clock, punching the numbers into a calculator, actually reading a book as opposed to listening to them on tape or CD or just watching the movie.
"Excellent...these damn spiders are driving me batty," I said, paying twenty dollars for the solution to my obsession, "Thanks Tom! Take it easy," and with that, I exited with a jaunt to my step as the cool breeze graced my face.


2. Hugo

The sun was too bright, and the wind rustling my clothes felt unnatural in a way that made me uncomfortable. It felt like what I would imagine bare hands on my skin to feel like. I kept my head down, staring at the cracks in the pavement as I walked briskly to Miller's Hardware. The quicker I made this trip, the sooner I could get back home.
The situation at home had gotten unbearable. Spiders crawling out of the blinds, up through the sink, into my shoes. It was to the point that I was sleeping fully clothed complete with shoes just so they wouldn't crawl in and surprise me next time I slipped my feet in. It took me three tries to get out the door that day, and the second I did, I immediately felt suffocated.
I went to a psychiatrist one time. Actually, that had been the last time I'd been out of the house. Well, he pronounced my Agoraphobic and tried prescribing me some medicine to help with the anxiety, but I wouldn't have none of it. I just went back to my room and laid there. Didn't venture back out to get the meds, no need to if I was bound to stay in.
I got someone to come to my house and hook up the internets and I set up a credit account online that allows me to buy just about anything I need to have. The local church has a program set up where they'll deliver meals to me, so I get one good meal a day off that and the rest of the time, I order small groceries to the house. I come by my money as honestly as anyone else does in these days. I sit at home and take surveys where they pay me at the end of my input. Goes directly into my online account that I pay for my groceries with. Can't remember the last time I actually handled cold, hard cash.
I cursed the inability for anyone to ship me some spider insecticide as I watched a spider follow the young Hanlin girl into the hardware store. I bet she didn't even notice that she had an eight-legged friend trailing after her like a lost puppy. I walked into the cluttered shop, and instantly felt slightly more at ease, with the features of walls and structures around me. I lingered a bit around the door, not wanting to get too close to anyone, especially if that spider was gonna scuttle after Marian all through the store. Didn't want it following me home, you see.
In through the door, I shuffled nervously from aisle to aisle looking for the correct one. I didn't need no paint or hammers, and didn't understand why it should have been so difficult to find something everyone in that town must've been after in these days. It felt like there were stares on me from every direction.
Finally found it, next to the fertilizer and Off spray. Marian Hanlin was still there, so I crept in slowly behind her, anxious not to have her stares on me either. She was a pretty girl, but pretty obvious she carried her scars around with her. Mousy brown hair that hung just below her shoulders, she seemed to be in deep concentration as her brown eyes scanned from label to label. Left hand in her jean pocket, the other hanging down by her leg, her fingers preoccupied by an unconscious habit of twirling her thumb ring around and around. There was a split second in which she stopped the behavior and seemed to resign in her decision of which brand to get as she swung her hand forward to grab a red and black labeled can.
She whipped out of that aisle like a slow and slender tornado, graceful as ever, barely casting a glance in my direction, which I was grateful for. Four shelves of solution sat in front of me now, all looking exactly the same, so I just grabbed one off the top shelf and slowly shuffled behind Marian as she made small talk with the shop owner.
The store had been designed in the 1950’s and wore faded black and white tiles on the floor that were cracking and chipped on the edges where they met. The walls featured a color so pale that through the years it had faded to a discolored white that was impossible to tell the original hue of it. As ever, there were layers of decaying dust on every surface and in every crevice it could reach.
The sun streaked in through the half-moon shaped window above the door, separating the dust particles in the air. The small prisms of light floated through the air in a way that made light and air more tangible. I felt the collar of my shirt constrict a bit as I grew more uncomfortable by the minute.
“Thanks Tom, take it easy,” and a swirl of wind caused a disturbance in the dust particles as the 19-year old left the shop, so as just Tom and I remained. Here was one stare I wasn’t about to be able to avoid…
“Hi Hugo, you having spider problems too?”
“Just a bit…can’t seem to shake them. They’re everywhere I go,” I tried to pretend I was normal, if only for a bit.
“I’ve been getting a lot of that lately, can’t decide which theory I prescribe to just yet,” I knew he was referencing the different rumors around town about the weather patterns.
“Well, if it were just the gods, I might be able to wait it out, but this season ain’t going to get any better,” It was only June after all, best case scenario, we still had another 3 months of this shit. Tom chuckled a bit at the insinuation I wasn’t scared of religion smiting me down as he rang up the purchase.
“That’ll be $13.44 today then,” he said with a final flourish of keystroke on the register. So I pulled out the hundred dollar bill I kept around just for emergencies, for if anything would be an emergency, it was spiders in the apartment, and went to hand it to him. Tom got all flustered and a little red in the face as he explained, “Oh, I don’t think I can break that just right now…”
“No worries, I know you’re good for it, just whenever you get around to it,” What good was $80 cash going to do me lying around my place? I didn’t foresee needing cash again anytime soon, and Tom was an honest fellow, I knew he’d get it back to me before that time would come around that I’d need it. The beauty of living in a small town, that was.
So without a single more word, I pushed the bill across the counter and grabbed the can called “Bug-B-Gone” and exited briskly out of the dust ridden air. I’d heard it said that going home always took much less time than it took to get somewhere else. That day I learned why. Knowing what I was headed to, that it was safe, either made the trip more enjoyable or made me more anxious to get there, but that walk back took much less time than first trip.
I breathed easy when I got behind that wooden door, welcomed home by the comforting carpeted floors and soft cushions of the 80’s styled chair and couch. I went about my normal business, ate the meal that’d been left for me, hopped online to do some surveys, did the dishes, lounged in front of the television. About five o’clock, an unusual sound came from the door.
Someone was knocking. I went to the door and had to dust off the peephole to see out from it, that’d been how long it’d been since I’d felt the need to see through it. There was a tiny mop of sandy hair that seemed to be without a face or eyes. So, I called out,
“Who’s there?” purposefully roughing up my voice a little more than I would normally.
And with that, the mop turned around, revealing a face after all. She was young, twenty is all, I imagine, and had deep blue eyes set into her creamy complexion that was surrounded by her sand colored hair that swept around her chin and neck.
“Oh, hi! I’m Alice, Tom from the hardware store sent me over with your change, are you Hugo?” She was very perky and innocent. She was the type I would have pegged to be a cheerleader in high school.
“That I am. You can just slide it under the door,” I’d made enough adventure for the day, I didn’t particularly feel like opening the door anymore.
“Oh, okay,” her head bent down for a second as something slid under the door. When she re-emerged in view, her face seemed to be puckered up a little in a look of disappointment. “I was hoping we’d be able to talk a little while…”
She had my curiosity, she could at least have her say. “Well…go on, talk then,”
“I was just going to suggest something. I volunteer at the hospital, and every Monday night, we have group meetings, I thought maybe you’d be interested in joining us sometime,” her voice had turned hopeful and her expression cheery again.
“That’s kind of you to think of me, but I don’t get out very much,”
“I know, that’s why I thought maybe, if I could…” her expression seemed ready to pucker back up to disappointment like before. It wasn’t a pretty look for her, and I didn’t want to be the one to cause it. So, real quick before it could get that far, I said to her,
“But maybe I’ll think about it,” really contemplating not giving it another thought, saying it just so she could feel as though she’d made a difference to someone that day.
“Really?? Fantastic! We meet at 6:30 on the 6th floor, take a left at the first hall and all the way down, then take a right, hope to see you!” And with that, she bounded off quickly before she could hear another negative thing out of me.
Every once in a while, there would come someone that would think they could change me into someone else, assimilate me back into culture so that I could walk the streets and see the sunset.
I did miss the sunsets…my apartment faces the St. Croix River to the east of town, so I only ever catch the pink and purple hues reflecting from behind my view. When I was little, my father would take me fishing on that river. We’d sit out and enjoy the sunrise while eating the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches he’d packed for us. Never caught a single thing, but it didn’t matter so much back then.
That’s why this apartment was so great for me. It captured the best memory from my childhood in a perfect frame every morning as the sun rose over the eastern horizon, painting the sky with brilliant oranges and reds that reflected off the water. I’d never even thought I might want to see the color fade from the sky.
Monday night rolled around, I found myself crawling out of my door, as uneasy as ever, and making my way to the local hospital for that group thing the cheerleader at my door mentioned. Up to the six floor, check. Turn left, check. Down the longest hallway I ever saw, check. The grey painted walls portrayed a blank emotion, not calming, not exciting, just nothing. The floor was composed of a blue speckled linoleum that you might expect to be in a kitchen or bathroom, I imagine it was easy to clean up in a hurry. Take a right, is what she said. So I took a right. Another long hall, there was light in a clearing at the end, so I pushed through just a little more.
As I walked toward the light, I passed rooms of people sitting there in the dark mumbling to themselves, pacing back and forth, moving their faces with their fingers to create grotesque masks peering into the hall. The very last room had its light on and a lonely middle aged man sat there twiddling his forefinger and middle finger as he moved his lips soundlessly. His hair was beginning to recede and his glasses perched crookedly on his nose, creating a shine over his eyes that could have been from the light reflecting on them or caused from whatever drugs they were filling him with for whatever affliction had landed him there in the hospital chair staring out his window.
Did I belong in such a place?

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spider summer still
Date: Sep 22nd, 2009 3:53:28 pm - Subscribe
Mood: edgy


The summer was wet that year. Cool and wet. Every other day was raining and overcast. Mildest summer on Minnesotan history where it only reached over 90 on two occassions. Swimming pools experienced a drop in admission rates and kids were running around wearing long sleeves and jeans all summer. Without the summer heat making them restless, teenagers stayed in at night rather than going out on the town and wreaking havoc.
Society was in a chaos of sorts, you might say. And then the spiders invaded.
No one knows where they came from, I've heard it said that it was because of the chilled season. Maybe it was the rain. Some of the reformed hippies in town said that it was the gods bringing their reign down on us, that the spiders were sent to spin our futures into different paths than they'd previously been on. They believed it was a crime to kill these spiders and that it would fate our destinies to something worse than death. "Eternal Agony" as they phrased it.
The only sympathy I had in regards to the spiders was a result of a story my mother spun for me when I was little. Like any little girl, I was dressed in frilly dresses and taught to tap dance on the porch in the summer, supplying any neighbor who wanted to watch with a show through their dining room window. That being said, I wasn't brought up to be particularly tomboy-ish. So when a spider would creep onto my dance floor, I'd immediately scream and run from it.. Eventually I learned that I was bigger than it, and that my foot was invincible to the small invertebrate. The first time my mother saw this reaction from me, she stopped me mid-stomp to explain what bad karma it would have caused me to kill that one small spider.
Yeah, she would have been one of those hippie types.
But no good ever came to me by avoiding to kill that spider, or any other spider. You could say I have a chip on my shoulder. My parents divorced when I was still small, and between being carted from dance lessons and music lessons (so I could be the classical little girl my parents always dreamed of) and being tossed between custody households, I never really got to know my parents on a personal level. The day I turned 18, I moved out with my boyfriend at the time just so I could get out of my parent's grips. With no real life experience, I was thrown into the real world and almost drowned by my own naivety. My boyfriend hit me, but to move out would have been to surrender that I needed my parents more than I was willing to let them know.
So, I stayed longer than I should have. I finally left one liberating March day, and moved back with my mother. I was there with her just long enough for her and I to reconcile our sketchy past of arguments before she passed away, a brutal side effect of her diseased colon and her inability to stop drinking.
There I was, in a house I had horrible memories of, alone with the images of my mother haunting every corner and crevice. What was there to do? I sat there and thought for days on end. I contemplated suicide. Thought of every moment I spent with her, and the ways those moments could have been better, had they not been wasted yelling at each other, disagreeing at every point.
My father wasn't taking it much better than I was. He spent all of his adult life infatuated with a woman who could never muster the same amount of emotion for him. He was lost without even that green light to gaze upon. She was his Daisy, and now she was gone. So he drank his sorrows away, spending the majority of his wasted hours passed out on the floor of his small apartment that no one dared visit anymore.
And thus, the chip on my shoulder was born.
Now Alice, that's the roommate I got after my mother died, was completely the opposite of me. I've often times joked that I would have starved if she'd not been there to get me to eat. It isn't really a joke, as the truth sometimes masquerades as such. Alice had been to college for a year or two and decided it simply wasn't for her, so she dropped out and moved back to Stillwater where she got a job making just slightly more than minimum wage. Her parents paid for her school, so she has no debt. She can comfortably go to work, stand around in a chicken costume, get paid peanuts that she puts toward rent, and live happily.
I wish I had the same abilitly. But I digress from those damn spiders. I'd just started living life again when I started finding their cobwebs in the corners of my room, and seeing them scuttle across the floor late at night. Like I said, spiders freak me out. It's one thing when they're outside disturbing the other outdoor predators, but an entirely different thing when they're inside, on my turf, giving me the creepy crawlies at three in the morning.
So I would get up and hunt those spiders in my room, follow them out into the living room, tear up the furniture looking for them as they escape me. Alice would come out of her room after I've turned on all the lights and made quite the ruckus doing so and ask,
"Spiders again, Marian?"
To which I'd simply nod a tired, defiant head gesture and she'd take her slipper off her foot and say,
"Well, don't just stand there, let's go get them,"
That's why I loved having Alice in my life. She fed me, she went spider hunting in the middle of the night with me, she helped bring me to the surface. We were an unlikely pair of friends, but we balanced each other.
One day, finally fed up with the situation, I embarked to the hardware store in hopes of finding a poison for solution. It was one of the few seasonably warm days of summer, so I walked the couple of blocks from 2nd Street to Main Street and the block to East Myrtle Street where Miller's Hardware was situated. The sun streamed in through the vibrantly green trees and I felt as though I were wakling through a kaleidoscope with prisms of light falling all around me in perfect halos of color.
Stepping out of the cool breeze, the air seemed to catch around my throat when I entered the shop. That shop could have been the definition of 'stuffy' that afternoon the way the warm air only moved around stagnantly in the enclosed space, briefly disturbing the dust that was impossible to rid oneself of in such a work place. A bell sounded as the door shut behind me that day.
Tom was already in the middle of an animated discussion with a customer on planting and maintaining sod. Why he would need to plant sod in this town is beyond me. But he looked like a yuppy newcomer to town that perhaps had just gotten married and bought a house here to start his new life and was intent on having it look perfect. I bet the spiders messed with the image he was going for. I wondered if they bothered him as much as they bothered me.
I found the aisle with all the insect repellent, an entire aisle full of the shit, would you believe that! From environmentally friendly to pet friendly to the more harmful things that would kill your grass and plants. I thought briefly of Sod Guy still at the check out. With no real concern but to get rid of the animals, I picked something out of the middle range of price and walked up to the counter.
It was then I realized there had been someone behind me. Hugo, the town shut in, had meandered into the store just after me and lingered shiftily in the insecticide aisle. His appearance was just slightly better than a homeless man's. His ragged cut off shorts looked like they hadn't been washed in years in the same fashion that his long sleeve plaid flannel shirt hadn't either. He'd rolled the sleeves up slightly to accomodate for the warm temperature. He kept his hair only as short as he could get it with his kitchen shears of his small apartment. He always seemed to have a five o'clock shadow even at noon that day.
He seemed to be just as nonplussed as I was about the products. He grabbed the cheapest thing he could off the shelf and shuffled up towards the front. By this point, Sod Guy Yuppy has left and Tom is left alone, looking rather haggard in the heat of his own shop. Tom always struck me the kind of guy that would look older than he actually was. Wearing jeans and an old construction t-shirt from before he injured his shoulder, he looked like he would be comfortable enough in the warm shop. But he looked tired, prematurely going gray in his hair and the soft lines of his youth hardening into wrinkles on his forehead and beneath his eyes. He looked like a man who needed a vacation.
"Hey Tom, this stuff gonna get rid of my spider problem?" I asked as I flourished the spray beneath his gaze.
Tom chuckled in a small raspy voice and replied, "That might get rid of a cattle problem if you had it," and proceeded to punch numbers on the cash register until my total was displayed in the old blocked white numbers. Tom hadn't caved to merchandising pressure and bought the high tech registers with digital displays and scanners. Tom had an old time quality about him that made him rely on things before they became more accurate. He enjoyed reading the face of a clock, punching the numbers into a calculator, actualy reading a book as opposed to listening to them on tape or CD or just watching the movie.
"Excellent...these damn spiders are driving me batty," I said, paying twenty dollars for the solution to my obsession, "Thanks Tom! Take it easy," and with that, I exited with a jaunt to my step as the cool breeze graced my face.
**
The sun was too bright, and the wind rustling my clothes felt unnatural in a way that made me uncomfortable. It felt like what I would imagine bare hands on my skin to feel like. I kept my head down, staring at the cracks in the pavement as I walked briskly to Miller's Hardware. The quicker I made this trip, the sooner I could get back home.
The situation at home had gotten unbearable. Spiders crawling out of the blinds, up through the sink, into my shoes. It was to the point that I was sleeping fully clothed complete with shoes just so they wouldn't crawl in and surprise me next time I slipped my feet in. It took me three tries to get out the door that day, and the second I did, I immediately felt suffocated.
I went to a psychiatrist one time. Actually, that had been the last time I'd been out of the house. Well, he pronounced my Agoraphobic and tried prescribing me some medicine to help with the anxiety, but I wouldn't have none of it. I just went back to my room and laid there. Didn't venture back out to get the meds, no need to if I was bound to stay in.
I got someone to come to my house and hook up the internets and I set up a credit account online that allows me to buy just about anything I need to have. The local church has a program set up where they'll deliver meals to me, so I get one good meal a day off that and the rest of the time, I order small groceries to the house. I come by my money as honestly as anyone else does in these days. I sit at home and take surveys where they pay me at the end of my input. Goes directly into my online account that I pay for my groceries with. Can't remember the last time I actually handled cold cash.
I cursed the inability for anyone to ship me some spider insecticide as I watched a spider follow the young Hanlin girl into the hardware store. I bet she didn't even notice that she had an eight-legged friend trailing after her like a lost puppy. I walked into the cluttered shop, and instantly felt slightly more at ease, with the features of walls and structures around me. I lingered a bit around the door, not wanting to get too close to anyone, especially if that spider was gonna scuttle after Marian all through the store. Didn't want it following me home, you see.
In through the door, I scuttled nervously from aisle to aisle looking for the correct one. I didn't need no paint or hammers, and didn't understand why it should have been so difficult to find something everyone in that town must've been after in these days. It felt like there were stares on me from every direction.
Finally found it, next to the fertilizer and Off spray. Marian Hanlin was still there, so I creeped in slowly behind her, anxious not to have her stares on me either. She was a pretty girl, but pretty obvious she carried her scars around with her. Mousy brown hair that hung just below her shoulders, she seemed to be in deep concentration as her brown eyes scanned from label to label. Left hand in her jean pocket, the other hanging down by her left, her fingers preoccuppied by subconscious habit of twirling her thumb ring around and around. There was a split second in which she stopped the behavior and seemed to resign in her decision of which brand to get as she swung her hand forward to grab a red and black labeled can.
She whipped out of that aisle like a slow and slender tornado, graceful as ever, barely casting a glance in my direction, which I was grateful for. Four shelves of solution sat in front of me now, all looking exactly the same, so I just grabbed one off the top shelf and slowly shuffled behind Marian as she made small talk with the shop owner.
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