Billy Budd (Or How I Learned That I Do Not Actually Hate Melville)

I get that it is a good idea to have kids read books they would otherwise not have read. I get that the classics are important to a well-rounded, quality education, even accounting for the narrow and kyriarchal way “classic” is defined. But man, can you turn off a kid from reading an author when they are set loose with an obscure text and no guide to at least rise to the level of appreciation. That is exactly how I came to loathe Melville. But I have been redeemed! Continue reading

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High School Ultimatum

“Were you sitting next Shelby on the bus?”

“Yeah.”

“Why would you want to sit next to her? You know they suspended her for smoking pot, right? She’s not the kind of friend you should have.”

I can’t stop my eyes from rolling, and I gotta speak before Mom starts in on me about that. “I wanted to get her side of the story. I’ve only heard rumors about it.”

“And?”

“Yeah, she did it.” Mom makes her I-told-you-so face. “But everyone’s treating her like she murdered someone. That’s just stupid.” I grab my backpack from the floor, deciding homework will got a lot faster in my room than in the kitchen.

“I don’t want you hanging out with her.”

“I don’t do drugs, Mom.” I’m out of the kitchen and heading up the stairs. Mom isn’t following me, which is a little surprising. This is the kind of thing she usually digs her teeth into. I pass the framed homecoming picture of Dad and her, not King and Queen but part of the court.

In my room, I slough off my grey hoodie and notice a ketchup stain on my left boob right over Darth Vader’s face. Great. That was probably there when I shoved that football player into the lockers for crowding Tina and stuck my finger in his face and told him exactly what kind of asshole he was being. Everyone knows she’s claustrophobic. A laugh snorts out of my nose while I dab what I can of the mess. He wouldn’t even know how to expect something like that from a 5 foot nerd. He even apologized to her.

The textbooks get heavier every year. We won’t even get through half of this biology monstrosity. It lands on my bed. Start with art. I should save what I love for last, but whether food or work, that’s never been my style.

The polite knock comes as I finish the sketch of the tree outside of my window.

“Lilith, you got a sec?”

I teenage sigh, “Yeah.”

“Can you come downstairs, please?”

“Fine.” I cover the picture with my Pre-Cal book.

Mom is sitting at the table, arms crossed. She had too much time to think about how I won that last conversation.

Dad started, “We’re concerned about your behavior lately.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means your mother and I would like to see you … tone it down a little bit.”

“What is ‘it’?” My eyes haven’t left Mom. She returns the favor.

“Well, your attitude.” Dad is letting that sink in while he grabs the cookies from the pantry.

“No, she doesn’t get cookies. This is not a cookies conversation, Stan.” He puts them back, sighing. Time for him to exit this stand off. He sits down at the other end of the table and just waits.

We glare at each other. Dad coughs once or twice, sighs a few times, and pulls his Blackberry out. He leans down into the chair, legs stretched out and rolls his eyes as he logs in.

“I think my attitude is just fine.” Mom thinks she’s won because I spoke first, but I’ve now set the rules.

“Well, I – we – disagree.”

“So?” Two letters hit her, and she adjusts.

“So, if you don’t figure out how to be a nicer person, you’re going to spend the rest of your high school life grounded.” I smile. Mom’s face turns red.

“Okay.” I get up to leave.

“Sit. Down.” I look at her. How much ground does sitting concede? “Sit down or no more internet.”

I hesitate but sit. Hint of a smile at the corners of her eyes. Damn my Achilles heel!

“I am not going to spend your high school years miserable in this house. Your uncle made us miserable, and you are not going to make me go through that again.” I look at the ground. “So figure out how to act normal or we’re going to -”

“What? Send me off?”

“Maybe. You and your grandma get along.”

“Wait, so I sit next to some girl on the bus, and you are READY TO JUST KICK ME OUT OF THIS FAMILY!” Dad is back up, hand on my arm. I throw it off.

The timer dings on whatever healthy casserole is supposed to be dinner tonight. Mom gets up, “You know that is not what this is about.” Her back to me, I storm out of the kitchen and try to stomp through the stairs. She’s yelling at me to come back, and I slam the door on her voice. The door slows my slide to the ground, and I drop my head into my hands. Maybe grandma’s would be better.

Transition: (Final) Day 31 of the Story A Day Challenge

Today, the final day of the challenge, the prompt is to write a story of transition.


The hood of the car dipped under the weight. They leaned back and let the car hold them as they search for shooting stars. Tomorrow she would leave. Tomorrow was a new life, a new person she got to become. She’d miss the creative writing classes and contests. They were part of her childhood, and it was time to put childish things away. She could still write on her own or something if she wanted to.
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215: Day 30 of the Story A Day Challenge

Today’s prompt is the number 215. This story is a start, and it is on my list to keep writing into a full story.


Everyone gets 215, then they die. We know that. What we don’t know is: 215 of what? Some people’s 215 seem obvious: car crashes, black-out drunk nights, heartbeats. People that’ve figured it out tattoo their visible skin: hands, feet, necks, heads. People whose loved ones’ 215 happened too fast tattoo their hidden skin. The most tragic stories push out into daylight.

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Dialogue: Day 12 of the Story A Day Challenge

Today’s prompt is to write a scene entirely or mostly in dialogue. I am revisiting characters from Day 6 and taking them out to dinner.


JACKIE:     So this place is cheap but really good. I –

CILLA:     Yeah?

JACKIE:     – probably come here too much. Yeah. Are you a vegetarian or anything?

CILLA:     Was, but not since college. You?

JACKIE:     Yeah, since college.

CILLA:     Well, I don’t eat that much meat, you know, since I went back. Just –

JACKIE:     It’s really okay. Just wanted to –

CILLA:     – a couple ‘a days a week.

JACKIE:     – tell you they have this great veggie burger, in case that was your thing.

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