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My Creative Writing Class

Monday, March 31, 2008

Page One

I have been working on a short story. I hope you like what I have so far. Tell me your thoughts, critiques, etc. Some of this you have seen before in previous blog posts.

Little Sisters and Drumsticks

Throughout my life, I have come up with some ridiculous plans, ideas and explanations for the way that things were. I have always tended to seek fault in other people for my shortcomings and problems. I avoid conflict by creating and adhering to elaborate non-confrontational rules. Understanding my rationale for my habits and life-rules eludes my family and friends. Yet, the key to understanding is that each rule begins with a story.

Being that I was the shortest and the smallest in my childhood home, I actively worked to make my sister feel inferior and scarred of me. I still explain to people that I hated my sister because I had not been properly prepared for her addition to the family. Since she grew taller than I before she left grade school, I knew that I had to rely on more than my wit to stay on top. I needed strength in case our frequent arguments escalated into violence. I joined the track team during middle school to have access to weight machines and trainers to become physically equal to my very athletic, taller and bigger little sister. It seemed easier to build muscle rather than just try to get along with my sister.

I used the same type of rationalization, when I gave up chicken drumsticks. Dinner at my house on fried chicken night had become a battle of wills over who would get the prized drumsticks. Sometimes, my mother would make extra drumsticks and other times we would make the drumstick undesirable to anyone but ourselves by touching it repeatedly or sneezing on it. After one particularly nasty drumstick duel, where I literally passed the butter (almost hitting my sister in the head), I declared that drumsticks were for children. Teaching myself to dislike drumsticks meant I could avoid the dinner table wars. I should probably mention that I have never really learned to deal with conflict directly.

In my early teens, I hated making kool-aid. I would avoid drinking the last cup in the pitcher to avoid being shamed into making more. I just wanted to be able to drink it. This changed for me when I became friendly with a cool high school senior. The charming senior shared his wisdom with me when he informed me that Kool-Aid was nothing more than flavored sugar water, and as an athlete, he drank Gatorade, which had electrolytes. Being a Kool-Aid drinker and an aspiring member of the cool athletic crowd became conflict of interests. I developed my first rule: I could no longer drink Kool-Aid--also known as candy water for kids. Of course, I did not actually stop drinking Kool-Aid, but it did make a good cover story for why I would not make it and helped me get closer to the cool athletes at school. Eventually, I stopped drinking it completely and I still tell people that Kool-Aid is for children. (I also tell people that White Zinfandel is Kool-Aid for adults, but that is another story.)

My list of rules was ever expanding. I made plans to deal sneakily with everything, even if I was only fooling myself. In my first job after college, they hired a tall, thin woman, a poor secretary but a professional quite adept at undermining my job position and responsibilities. Because of her condescension, I resorted to wearing heels to work so that I could look her in the eye when I needed to have a talk with her. Actually, I have found that a pair of good shoes works wonders on job performance, which leads me to my shoe proverb:  Hurt More, Pay Less.

My rules were many and diverse. As single woman living in the Akron, Ohio, it took only a few stomach-turning take-out dinners at local Chinese restaurants to develop my Chinese food rule. Simply put, if the dining area is absent of waiting or eating customers, I take it as a cue not to order food from that restaurant. There is no reason for me to be the only person in Akron or Toledo eating terrible Chinese food. The crochet habit that threatens to leave me crippled in a few years have compelled me to teach myself to complete tasks with my left hand. I am now quite adept at using a left-handed mouse, eating left handed and left-handed hair grooming. Once again, I have successfully avoided the obvious: that I might need to stop crocheting for a few months.

I do not just have rules. I also have a great number of odd maxims that I developed over the years to explain the peculiar events that occur in my life. Once I left college, I began developing lists one of things I wanted to accomplish before each of my life’s milestones. For some people, they can be marriage, investments, or educational aspirations. For me, I kept my lifelong goal very simple and easy to accomplish. I merely wanted my obituary to say: “She never mowed a lawn in her life.” I did not choose this phrase randomly. Before discovering it, I happened to be playing a drinking game where you make statements about things that you have never done. After the game, I wished I had been able to utter the phrase, “I have never mowed the lawn.” I would have won, for sure. Actually, I’m not just lazy, I have terrible grass allergies. I have no intention of ever mowing the lawn, because I would be in bed for a week if I did.

Speaking of allergies, I have been pricked, scratch and otherwise exposed to a dozens of common allergens about 240 times since 2000 to test for allergies. With each subsequent test, I have acquired more allergies. At one point, I was paying $75 a month in pills, sprays, drops and ointments just to live a quasi normal life. Despite my maintenance regime, with each new test the doctor would reveal more triggers. I felt trapped inside my sinus cavities, my itchy skin, and my dry eyes. It took some investigation into my family history to learn that the debilitating allergies had skipped my sister and originated with my father. Karma is a bitch. To express my utter frustration about hay fever, I composed this spoken word poems and dedicated it to my father and my little sister.

My Father's Gift
Hay does not NOURISH me
This FEVER will not SUBSIDE
I am one of FIVE Americans
Who need MEDS to survive
It’s NOT a forever cold
My sneeze is NOT contagious
I am NOT a freak
But my MUCOUS lasts for ages
Years of shots, PILLS and drops
To control my eternal rhinitis
My father’s gift,these allergies
And every six MONTHS there’s sinusitis
I had turned something that debilitated me into inspiration for performance art. I also made amends with my little sister.


Third Eye said...

Interesting work. Looking forward to the next part.

Rita Robinson said...

Thanks, still waiting on an edit

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