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If we've recently friended each other, please let me direct you to The Official Introduction To All Things Kizzy. And, as always, feel free to ask me/let me clarify anything. Thanks!

LJ Idol 10: The Blue Hour
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I'll let you in on two little secrets:

1. I play a certain version of a simulation game on my phone.
2. My favorite time to play is the hour before I go to work.

I stumble downstairs, check to see if the coffee's still brewing, let the dogs out. If it isn't too cold I'll step out with them. Standing on the back porch, eyes lifted to stars, moon, black branches just beginning to silhouette against sky fading from blue-black to blue-violet. Except for the dogs scuttling in the leaves, everything is quiet.

It's a lot like that in the game too, with blue-violet sky, houses dark and quiet unless something via my bidding is happening.

There are currently fourteen neighbors in my town. Meg and Niko are my “central” couple who lived next door to each other in those early days and worked together at the fire station. They married and now have a toddler, Josh. Josh pretends he's a superhero when he's not smearing fingerpaint on an easel or playing pirate in his kiddie pool. Every night Meg and Josh hang out in the front yard waiting for Niko to come home. She watches Josh run around and struggles to keep her eyes open. Sometimes neighbors visit her. She knows everybody. Everybody likes because she is nice.

It's funny, everyone is nice, especially in daylight, and especially to Johan, the token “old guy”. He lives alone in a half-furnished studio with a creaking twin bed. Nobody is his age, but Chelsea, his neighbor who's a cop, always makes sure he's included, whether at the pool or stables,. She makes sure Chaz and Michel invite him to their weekly dinner and dance party. When it's twilight quiet and Johan is sound asleep, Chelsea sometimes hears murmurs about him. She sometimes hears Scott, Johan's young punk neighbor on the corner complaining about his baldness, his age and why he should either die or move. Remy, agent who'd leased the flat to Johan, admitted that she's been avoiding him since the night he tried to kiss her. She hasn't spoken to him since. Lucy, down at the end of the street, briefly dated him before marrying Bud. Johan had kissed her too. When they'd parted in that quiet of violet, she dashed home and took an hour long bath.

“Please be nice to him at the pool party tomorrow,” Felicity, Scott's girlfriend, pleas one late evening in the park. “For all we know he could be a really nice, if awkward man.”

Scott snorts, then kisses her.

Chaz and Michel, are newlyweds and argue a lot in the night when they're not painting. Chaz thinks Michel's orientation may be not what he thinks it is because he catches Michel' staring at Meg, or Lucy, even Felicity. Chaz wants them to adopt a baby. Michel doesn't want a baby. He kisses Chaz hard and wanders off to Lucy's because he knows Lucy's husband has the overnight shift and she'll be up with her baby. Sometimes Chaz follows him from a distance.

Chelsea does her woodworking deep into the night. Plane, measure twice, cut once. She's not sure what she'll make from the growing pile of boards under her workbench, but maybe it doesn't matter. She loves it here, with the slight breeze ruffling the leaves overhead, glancing up to notice the stars gradually dimming as the sky becomes that shade of dark blue tinged purple at the edge of the horizon.

When daylight comes the neighbors rub their eyes. They take showers, change clothes, eat breakfast, go to work, amuse babies and toddlers. They visit the stable, swim at the pool, always talking,m always smiling. They converse. They call each other friend.

It's funny how everyone is nice in the daylight.

LJ Idol 10: Take A Hike
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The afternoon my mother was officially diagnosed with dementia, I jumped into my Jeep and took off down Route 3 toward the Cape. I passed the exit to work, the exit to my mother-in-law's, exit to one sister-in-law, another sister-in-law. I had no idea fast I went, only that I whooshed past signs, trees, and other vehicles, eyes half on the road, mind somewhere in blank space. My husband was with my mother, no doubt panicked and angry at me, while trying to do...well, whatever he had to do to contain my mother if she already wasn't floating in her own fragmented world.

I didn't care.

It suddenly occurred to me as I neared the bridge where mainland ended and Cape began that maybe I should turn around. She's my mother, after all. What kind of a daughter are you to dump her on your husband?

He's better at handling her.

True, but you're HER daughter.

She's not the mother I know.

Nor are you ten years old anymore, like the time you took the train to the city by yourself because you didn't like what she said. What was that about anyway? You were angry, and instead to crying you scooped change from her bureau, took the bus to the station, got on the train, got off downtown, walked around for a bit, then returned home. She nearly killed you when you waltzed through the door.

I caught myself smiling in the rear-view mirror and softly chuckled.

Or maybe it was like the time I purposely skipped freshman math class because I thought Mr. Freedman was a jerk for yelling at the kids who couldn't comprehend the Pythagorean Theorem. Throwing Marty Harris out of class for “insubordination” during one of those instances sent me down to the girls' room during second period where I hid in the last stall, blowing cigarette smoke into the vent next to the toilet . Freedman found out, of course, and cuffed me during lunch.

I should've hit him.

No, you would've gotten into more trouble than you were already in.

He was a shit teacher.

Maybe, but the school system thought otherwise.

There were other incidents, of course, like the time I discovered I was a front for my in-the-closet boyfriend, a guy I was violently, horribly, in love with who never proved he felt the same about me. He was lucky I just took off without a word instead of throwing things at him. Or the time I took off on another boyfriend I wasn't terribly crazy about but who was violently, horribly in love with me. He wound up with a mutual friend of ours and they eventually married.

Or the time I walked off a job. No, make that two jobs. I liked desks as long as I could sit there doing what I wanted to do.

I passed the exit to work. Glanced down at my phone. Four missed calls.

I pulled over at the rest stop before Exit 8, thinking I was going to cry because that heavy, hot molten feeling in my stomach bubbled into my throat. I didn't, though. I cut the motor and stared blankly at the pavement.

You HAVE to go home. You know he's going to be angry. You can't blame him because if he were in your shoes you'd be angry too. Your mother isn't going to understand. She's only going to care that you're there. Just don't fight in front of her or it'll cause more problems and who knows, maybe you'll end up in New Brunswick the next time.

Hey, New Brunswick! That's right, the border's only 6 hours from here!

Start the motor. Go home to your husband and your mother.

I pulled into the driveway twenty minutes later, cut the motor, and stared blankly at the street.

LJ Idol 10: No Comment
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At the time our now ex-housemates, husband and wife, were, respectively, a retail sales manager and a teacher. They'd returned from their jobs without a hello and disappear upstairs to their room (aka my childhood bedroom), Maybe they'd emerge, maybe not. It depended on their moods.

An only child of a widowed mother who seldom entertained and discouraged me from having friends visit, I was too used to quiet except for the television's drone. Having a husband holed up in his home office with his computer didn't help. After changing clothes and fixing myself lunch, I'd turn on the TV and check email on my laptop while being mindful of the office door.

“Dammit, turn off the TV, will you!”

“I thought I had it down low enough!”

“You don't even know what show is on! That drives me crazy!” (cue slamming door)

I was thrilled at the prospect of housemates. I can make dinner for everybody and we can sit around the table and talk about our days! Somebody can help me with the chores! I can talk with someone to whom I'm not married and who isn't a canine and who actually lives in our house!

Sometimes E, the wife, literally couldn't talk after coming home except to heave a deep breath, her voice raw and tight (“This is what happens when I raise my voice all day,” she once rasped). If she trudged upstairs and dropped her book bags with a leaden thud at the top of the stairs, I knew her taking a hot steamy shower was imminent. She reappeared in the kitchen an hour or two later wrapped in a fluffy baby pink robe, hair damp against the collar, and made herself a cup of tea. She headed back upstairs before I could say anything.

K, her husband, spent his days off glued to the couch or to their bed, intently playing games on his tablet. I quickly learned that just because he paused a game didn't mean he wanted to chat. His look said it all.

“You don't have to make dinner every night,” E once said. “We don't necessarily eat meals as a rule because of K's work schedule. I'm tired.”

“I would have thought,” K once said with an edge in his voice, “that you, being in retail, would understand why I do what I do on my days off.”

One day my husband left the office door slightly ajar. I peeked in. He seemed intent on whatever he was working on, so I quietly backed away just as he looked up. “Please, I told you don't even come to the door when it's mostly closed. I'm busy. I can't have interruptions.”

“But I – the door --”

“I don't want to yell or be mean but I didn't realize the door popped open. You know I can sense when somebody's around especially when I'm busy. I just can't have that. I'm sorry.”

I walked the dogs three times that afternoon. I also started walking them when otherwise I thought we'd all be sitting down to dinner or sharing our days. They like it when I talk to them. Sometimes they talk back.

It's a pity they can't speak English and I can't speak dog, though.

LJ Idol 10: Where I Am Now
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I've been living in a a local hotel while my kitchen floor, victim of a longstanding undetected leak, is being replaced. If I remain here into next week, it will be just shy of a month since I slept in my own bed, watched Netflix, cooked from scratch. The dogs are with my husband, whose job is in a neighboring state 4 hours away. My work schedule seldom allows visitation; his ancient car, liable to conk out on I-95.

The first thing I notice after the kitchenette are the door handles: Push up to open, not down. Insert the key card and it gives you five seconds to enter. There are two room phones. One is for show. The one on the nightstand is a direct line to the front desk.

It's off season so I'm not expecting to share my wing, but there are a few people, mostly women. They look cheap but not cheap, poor but not poor. Burly men pick them up in rattling dented cars and return them laden with overstuffed bags from the dollar store. Sometimes there are children. They are silent and disappear as soon as the door handles flip open.

I notice these women in the laundry room where the machines are free to use. They seem to acknowledge each other but there are no lingering conversations. A couple of them notice me and scatter.

They have flip phones and, if one has a long conversation, she's more apt to go out to the parking lot, talk, chain smoke.

I run into a woman I'll call Pam one afternoon in the smoking area. She too has that poor-not-poor-cheap-not-cheap look, a look I've seen on both former coworkers and customers. I tell her about my kitchen floor woes and not seeing my husband nor dogs. She tells me she walked away from a 20-year marriage, new house, new SUV, because it finally clicked in her to perhaps do something before her husband killed her.

Before I can say anything, her voice, tight and fast, flashes past me: Thank god no kids, I stayed with friends, had to stop because I didn't want them getting into trouble, too scared to go to the police – he was my HUSBAND – see this scar? He bashed me one night. Somebody told me about the agency. I didn't want to go, but I did and I'm glad I did. I'm safe now. This is the best place to stay because it's clean and you can cook something and best of all the staff doesn't look at you like you're scum.

I start to say something but Pam continues , drawing on her cigarette. “I've been here two years now. Saving up for my own place. I'll probably will have to move out of state because if he finds me, he's gonna kill me. Craig can't stay with me, he can only take me on errands. Can't get a job . If he finds out I'm working he'll find out where and kill me. I can't do that to other people. I just can't.”

“I didn't know that about this place,” I ventured.

“You picked it because of its price, right?” Pam laughed. “No restaurant, no pool. People stay here on an overnight on their way somewhere or they're like you or like me. The other places like the Hyatt over there? Forget it. We've got basic cable and the housekeeping staff's really nice.”

“Craig's that big blonde guy I see you with?”

“Yeah. I call him my boyfriend but he really isn't. It's good for him, being in AA and no job, you know? He goes around to all the hotels and takes everybody on their errands.”

“That's nice of him.”
“Yeah. Yeah, it is.”

I can tell she wants to talk more, but I suddenly remember, and tell her, I need to run an errand, nice meeting you, see you around. Her smile fades into a straight line.

I push my key card into the slot and push up the door handle. I can see her through the hallway window. I make a dash to my room, fling open the door, jump on the bed, staring at nothing in particular.

LJ Idol 10: Heel Turn
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Charlie wasn't entirely surprised sitting there in Mr P's office, flanked by Denise the HR rep on his right, and Steve, Mr. P's assistant, on his left. Mr P adjusted his glasses and read from the paper in his hands.

Item #1: Being too friendly with subordinates.

“We see you talking with girls more than you should be,” Steve said. “Their productivity is not compliant. Have you looked at your recent numbers?”

Item #2: Not enforcing company policy.

“Two weeks ago I caught your night person drinking a soda,” Steve continued. “Last week your day girls were spoken to more than once about gossiping. They need to be more closely supervised, and I don't mean discussing their boy problems with them.”

Item #3: You have yet to document anybody.

Mr. P peered over his glasses. “Let me reiterate that if you don't document it will potentially be grounds for your dismissal.”

“Why should I document anybody if anybody hasn't done anything wrong?” Charlie said in a small voice.

Denise shook her head. “Oh, Charlie, when I see not reprimanding one of your employees for something we both witnessed? That alone is grounds for me to document you.”

“You know better,” Mr P added. “It's not like you're brand new to management.”

Slap on the wrist with a written warning. Charlie let Denise leave first while Steve stayed behind and closed the door. Around the corner Denise gritted her teeth. “Dammit, Charlie, I TOLD you, game face the minute you walk in here! I TOLD you if you don't develop that game face your ass will be in a sling! What's the matter with you?”

Charlie looked down at his feet. Denise sighed and retreated to her office.
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LJ Idol 10: Fear Is The Heart Of Love
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Pull in driveway, bang open side door. Fur explosion, licks, wagging, paws on my chest, swiping my thighs. Get changed, grab a bite, check email. Sitting pretty front and center. Look at me, look at the door, me, door. Eyes are saucers. Wag, wag...wag?


Park means little kids rushing up to the playground fence, it's the wolfie dogs, can we pet them, can we say hi? Older neighbors nod at us, cars slow down, drivers grin. Oakley follows the sidewalk straight shot, ears pricked, scanning trees, side yards. Max pulls hither and tither, snuffling this, snuffling that...oh wait, missed something, gotta go back (No you don't!) Estuary means r-i-d-e in the c-a-r, spit of grassy ledge poking into salt marsh. Oakley scans for squirrels and chipmunks, Max stops short because there's a woman in his way.

Oh they're beautiful, she coos in a slight accent, how old are they, where did you get them, how much did you pay for them, are you going to breed them?

They're both old men, they're rescues, don't remember, they're both fixed.

That's too bad. I'd love to see them run. May I pet them? She leans in before I can answer. Oakley gives her his best I'm cute grin while Max tentatively sniffs her shoes. Do you ever let them off leash? Would you sell them? I'd love to have both of them. I can give you good money. Oh, aren't you handsome? Your fur is so soft! My dog would love both of you. He would. He really would.

What kind of dog do you have?

She stiffens. Are you sure you don't want to sell them?

Let's go, boys. Time to go home.

JJ's a former trainer who amuses the boys while I'm at work. She's tall and sinewy, with a penchant for crazy hats, crazier footwear, and an unflappably calm demeanor. JJ doesn't like it when I tell her we go to the estuary, or to the huge park three towns over, or even to the slip of beach where the interstate roars overhead. Her face goes pale when I tell her about the woman. She asks me what time were we there.

Two, three in the afternoon?

You can't go there, not at that time. In the morning it's OK but not after, say, eleven.


People size you up. People with kids are probably OK. It's people either in pairs or alone you have to be aware of. Even people with dogs. Don't look at me like that. I'm serious. Your dogs are valuable to certain people, and I don't mean people who simply like snow dogs.

What do you mean?

She explains dog fighters love huskies because of their stamina. They'll grab Oakley in a nanosecond. Max will be automatic bait because of his hips. They'll remove their microchips and destroy their collars so they can't be traced. They'll crate them while they wait their turn.

You've got to be shitting me.

It's a felony here.

Here, yes. But not in other states. Huskies are particularly vulnerable because they run if they get loose, and many times owners will give up on them. The less exposure they have outside of your neighborhood, the safer they'll be, especially if it's just you and them. People know the three of you around here. They look out for you.

But you take them places when I'm at work.

I take them in the early morning when people are less likely to be around. If I'm approached I have a protocol to follow to ensure both their and my own safety.

Which is...

I'm not at liberty to say other than I've been doing this a long time. I mean it. Don't go anywhere with them by yourself unless it's around here. You were lucky with that woman. Next time you might not be.

I don't like this. It's not the walking around the neighborhood or the park – the boys love it, of course, but then they always love going outside – but it's the glancing at people, neighbors, glancing without meaning to, wondering, playing the what-if tape in my head.

What if that dog across the way charges us?

What if that elderly gentleman, the one who's lived around the corner for decades, is really a front for somebody else?

What about H, who noticeably doesn't care for them to begin with? He looks like the type who'd have a gun somewhere. Then there's the guy up the street with the Rottweiler who could swallow Max's big fuzzy head in one gulp.

Why is the guy down the street suddenly paying so much attention to us when we walk past his house? And why does that woman with the pointy nose want to pet them every time she sees us?
And those kids! Why are they so interested? No, they can't be working for somebody unless...no, that's silly. On the other hand...

I make the boys skirt people. If we see another dog, we immediately either cross the street or change direction. Oakley whines. Max snuffles. They wouldn't know what hit them if a van drove up and some masked guy snatched them. I wouldn't know either. Just that thought makes my eyes water.

I miss the estuary. I miss the huge park, the beach.

If we stay home, I can breathe.

LJ Idol 10: Push Me (Brushback Pitch)
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There must be something about me which attracts people who like to push:

several Former Employer managers
my old softball coach
my college advisor
one of my two student teaching mentors
She Whose Identity I'll Never Divulge (let's just say our paths crossed and it wasn't pretty)
my current assistant manager at What's Now Current Employer (not pretty at times either)
my husband (grrr)

it's weird how they manifest themselves to me compared to how I see them attempting to manifest others.

You have good instincts, but you can be better. Watch me.
You don't want [particular store] to have the number one in-store bake, do you?
Two outs, Lori's on third. You're up [said with that sort of look which happily mingles with the pit of your flluttery gut]
You know [name of classmate], if I suggest to Kiz to rewrite she'll do it because she knows where I'm coming from. You don't get it, do you?
I don't care that your arm hurts. I've got a bad back. Have I ever asked you to do [whatever] for me? Of course I haven't because [whatever] is MY responsibility, not yours.

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LJ Idol 10: *THAT* Friend
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I noticed on Facebook you invited my husband to your holiday cookie exchange but didn't invite me.

That's OK. Considering I haven't been able to get out of work the last couple of years to attend, I don't blame you.

Of course you'd invite my husband. You two get along better than you and I do. Plus he and your husband get along famously. They spin words into stories and stories into epic living room performances which amuse you and your daughter to no end.

You know I'm going to bake the cookies my husband will bring with him. That's really what you're after, isn't it?
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LJ Idol 10:Needing The Struggle
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I'm tougher than you, faster than you, better than you...I work in inhuman temperatures, and I like it that way. I don't have to sleep every day if there's work to be done now; you get the work done. Only got a couple hours' sleep last night, and you've got 18 more hours of work ahead of you. Good...You can sleep later...I bought into that mantle because the work was hard and I had to think like that to get everything done... (Michael Ruhlman, The Soul Of A Chef)

In the heat of the moment at work I'm not kind when behavior either impacts general business or whatever I'm doing.

I'm the one who's very THIS IS WAR MOVE YOUR ARSE. I'm known for putting an incredible amount of pressure on myself, and others to accomplish stuff most people don't have the wherewithal to attempt. In the heat of the moment, you're dead to me if you can't keep up.

"This is how it works," one of my first supervisors explained. "There's a lot of work pointing toward that brief moment to create that first impeccable impression. We want repeat customers. We won't have repeat customers if we put out mediocre product, which means nothing burnt, no burst pie crusts, even browning, make sure your knife cuts are even, line up your cookie dough the way I told you so they don't touch, EVERYTHING! And wipe that look off your face. You have no opinions once you walk into this department. You're in my army now."

After being on both sides of that army for almost three (!) decades, I'm still there. I'm older now, of course, probably a bit slower (thank you *#$^@$@% arthritis), a little less patient with those who don't take the work as seriously as I still take it (GODDAM IT WHEN I WAS YOUR AGE I WANTED TO CONQUER THE WORLD AND THAT INCLUDED WHAT YOU'RE DOING NOW AND I DON'T CARE YOU FIND IT CRUSHINGLY BORING IT NEEDS TO BE DONE!) I set my bench, donut pumps, and product racks the way I like them set up and will growl if I find one thing out of place.

You don't want to hear me growl. No, really. It's ugly. I'm ugly in the heat of the moment. I'm not proud of it. It's completely opposite of who I am when I'm not here. I'll apologize, of course, but that won't dispel the ugliness you witnessed.

Want to know something else? It's exhausting. Oh yeah, everybody KNOWS how exhausted I am. I've liked it that way because it was one thing which made me different from everyone else. It's also the one thing which ultimately derailed my family's restaurant. I wasn't alive then but the story persisted, and my family took great pains to discourage me from even thinking it as a career path. My grandparents suffered from lifelong physical ailments brought on by that work. Up until my grandfather lost both legs to diabetes, he was still cooking 6 days a week, 18 hours a day. It was just in him. My grandmother too -- she took over after the amputation. It was who he, she, they were. They had no time for anything else. Everybody in the family worked there. It was the only place where they could be together for an extended period.

They crashed and burned. I've never known the entire story.

Maybe I already am, too, but I'm refusing to succumb. It's not in me. I may complain about exhaustion but I'll be damned I'll let it win.

Because if I do, I'm dead. And I'm not ready to die.

LJ Idol 10: Introduction
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Hi, you're really here! I honestly didn't think you'd show up. I have this tendency to forget that people I know, like you, exist unless they're right in front of me. I also tend to go into my hidey hole a lot, so if somebody doesn't yank me out I'm liable to stay there. But wow...you're here! How are you?

Please excuse the clutter. I'd be a better housekeeper if I didn't work as much as I do. I hope you don't mind husky fur. No matter how much I vacuum, it just keeps replicating. Double coated snow dogs, y'know? Now you know why I don't wear a lot of black.

You do like dogs, I hope? Yep, here come The Boyz. Max is the older one, the larger one. He'll study you while Oakley will give you a hug and demand belly rubs. They've got the run of the house. It's their home too.

Yeah, those are my parents. That movie-star type photo of my mother was taken back in the early 50s, I think. She always hated that photo. I think she's gorgeous. That's my dad before he got sick. That's how I remember him. They bought this house when I was seven, maybe eight?

I hope you're hungry. I've been wanting to make this particular dish. I could make it for myself, or for myself and my husband, but he works weird hours and sometimes he just isn't hungry or he's travelling so it's usually just me. I'm okay with eating alone. I did it a lot as a kid. That's how I started reading cookbooks like novels. I went to culinary school because an ex was upset that I never cooked for him the way he cooked for me. I was petrified he wouldn't like anything or I'd make him sick, but he didn't believe me. After we broke up, I figured, if I officially learned to cook, maybe I could be part of things instead of observing. Or, as he'd say, give instead of take. Now I bake for a living. Baking's a solitary pursuit. The irony, right?

Most of my friends are in my laptop. Sometimes they materialize, like you. I start work in the middle of the night and leave when the world is on is on its lunch hour. I don't really know anybody as a result, so I did what everyone did in the day – log onto the internet and eventually found a tribe. My husband was part of that particular tribe. It has long since disbanded but we're both in touch with a few people. My tribe now – our tribe, I should say – has scattered. We may not be as close as we once were, but the fact that we still show up when summoned, I think, says more than a lot of other tribes.

It's community, you know? If you have community you need to feed it, literally and figuratively.

Anyway, I'm glad you're here. Let's have a cup of tea, chat some, and maybe we could make that dish together?

Because I Know I'm Nuts
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And yes, I question my sanity every single day.

Yeah, well, it's another season of LJ Idol and I can talk a good game about not playing but we know I'm lying through my teeth

Seriously, we'll see how far I go with the madness that's my life right now.

LJ Idol Friends And Rivals: 404
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I was the best dishwasher at culinary school. I was proud of that because I had the tightest system of anyone when it came to the deluge of pans, bowls, utensils, plates and spoons, measuring cups, the blade to the Robot-Coupe, that damn 20-quart stockpot. Put your stuff here, not there. Group all your shit together, especially the silverware. Don't leave your fucking pot with the boiled-over crap on the stove because it'll be a bitch to clean out and then Chef will yell at you for destroying school property. Goddam it, I don't give a shit about “Ooh, I have to time this to one-tenth of a minute because that's what the recipe said” - get the rest of your crap over here!

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LJ Idol Friends And Rivals: (An Entry In) The Encyclopedia Of Dreams
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Breezy warm spring night, moon making shadows just beyond the bedroom window. Time? She shifts and looks at the clock, 12:41. He lays curled into her, his breath warm and slow against the crick of her shoulder. She closes her eyes.

She doesn't remember when she suddenly opens her eyes. only the gauzy dark figure surrounded by shimmering colors appearing at the foot of the bed.

She remembers blue bleeding to neon purple and the gauzy dark figure.

She remembers trying to sit up . Her shoulders are stuck to the mattress, her head glued to the pillow. She remembers opening her mouth, her mind screaming,“WHO ARE YOU? GRANDMA? AUNTIE JOAN? DADDY?” but doesn't remember actually screaming. She remembers gaping at the figure, wondering if it was going to move.

She doesn't remember waking him up but she knows she must have because there he is, startled awake, groping in the dark for her arm, her shoulder. His deep untethered voice asks her what the matter is, why are you breathing so fast, what's the matter, darling, how can I help?

She can't speak, can't move. The colors are still there, shimmering from blue to purple, red-gold to pink. The figure is now at the doorway. It retreats into dark when she finally manages to flip around to him.

He cuddles her, tells her everything is alright, I'm here, go back to sleep. They embrace. He falls asleep.

She doesn't because she's still staring at the colors now dancing at the window.

They kiss goodnight. He falls asleep, his hand on her hip. She glances at the clock: 1:34. She closes her eyes, then opens them.

This time the colors are brighter and backlit. They float in wavering strips starting at red fading into orange, which tinges to gold yellow, yellow to a rich green. She tries to follow a strip of red-tinged pink with her eyes but it dissolves into dark.

She wonders if the colors are angels because they flutter. Do angels have colored wings? She tries to remember if Uriel and Gabriel are archangels like Michael, and because they're archangels, it'd make sense to see them here, on earth, in this very room. Cherubim and seraphim are always invisible because they sit at the throne of God. Cherubim adore; seraphim sing a perpetual hosanna. She doesn't remember whether they have wings and something about real cherubim not being the same as chubby child-sized angels in Renaissance paintings. If they are archangels, why aren't they telling her something?

Still keeping her eyes on the shifting colors, she manages to wriggle enough to wake him. He opens an eye, reaches up, strokes her hair. She asks if he sees them. Sees what, he asks. Them! They're dancing by the window in all these colors, don't you see? I want to sleep but I can't because they're so...bright! And they keep fading and keep reappearing!

Baby, he says, I don't know what you're talking about. The window is open. All I see is the the curtain moving. Go back to sleep.

She closes her eyes. He falls back asleep. She opens them and wonders where the colors went.

A few nights later she jerks awake and sees the dark gauzy figure standing in the doorway. The jerk awakens him. He sees her staring at the doorway, wide-eyed, arms and neck taut, her skin ever so slightly damp. She opens her mouth but doesn't utter a word. He reaches out to her. She stiffens, still staring at the doorway.

She wants to ask the figure why it doesn't move, who are you, what did you do with the archangels, they were so beautiful, and if they're angels, then you are...

His fingers pause near her arm.


The figure disappears into the hallway.

He touches her arm. She sinks back into the bed, staring at the ceiling. She takes a deep trembling breath. He wraps his arms around her. He notices she doesn't respond because she's now gazing at the fluttering curtain.

She smiles.

LJ Idol Friends And Rivals: Liquidated Damages (a hybrid radio playlet)
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“Corey? Corey! What are you doing?”

“Oh, Jules, you gotta see this. Watch. You take a cotton ball, pull it apart, squeeze both of them like so to get to smaller compact balls, soak one in a capful of your nail polish remover, but wait, wait, you gotta see this --”

SOUND: Click of lighter and immediate whoosh.

“Look, it's just like the YouTube, you can actually play with this and it doesn't burn you! See?”

“Corey, please, please, put that down! Don't roll it on the table! It's gonna burn!”

“No, it won't! See? Isn't that neat?”

“What are you doing? Stop juggling them! What if you drop one of them?”

“Look at that...they're fireballs! The video mentioned something about this being a cold fire which is why you can handle it and not burn yourself. All I have to do is catch both of them, squeeze, and see? They're both out.”

“Corey, you gotta do this stuff outside, not in here.”

“It's freezing out, in case you didn't know, Jules.”


Mr. C--- the landlord, lives in the basement apartment. He states that both the minor and the minor's sister are “good kids” and he has never had an issue with neither them nor their parents. He also states the family has been in the apartment for a little less than a year.

“Corey, now what are you doing? And where did you get that can of lighter fluid?”

“Oh Jules, you gotta see this. I'll even do it in the kitchen sink. See, you take a pan of water

SOUND: squirting liquid

add some dish soap, mix it up a little

SOUND: hand swishing in liquid

add a little lighter fluid

SOUND: liquid sloshing in a can

mix it up--”

“Wow, that sure makes a lot of bubbles.”

“I know, isn't it neat? Now Jules, watch. I wet my hand, take a scoop of bubbles then light the bubbles--”

SOUND: click of lighter, whoosh, female screams, male laughs

“See how quickly it went out? That's because my hand was wet. I couldn't' do this with dry hands. I'd burn myself.”

“Don't...you...EVER...scare me like that AGAIN!”

He is in many ways you typical 10-year old boy. He plays shortstop on his Little League team, thinks space exploration is “really neat”, and likes experimenting with different household items. “I remember hearing something about ordinary alcohol being flammable,” he recounts. “So one day after school I took some out of the medicine cabinet at home, put a bit in a saucer, and set it on fire with my dad's lighter. Yeah, it was neat. And then I couldn't wait to see what else I could use so I could scare my sister,” he smiles.

Another cold day, Corey alone in the apartment after school. He turns on the laptop, goes to YouTube, and types in “science experiments with fire”. He watches a few obviously expertly-made clips – ambient lighting, he thinks it's called – but they all involve tea lights, different sized glasses, candles, a nail here, dishware there. He rewatches the video with the dish soap and the lighter fluid. He scrolls through the list and comes across a video he knew he hadn't watched.

Parts of the video, the narrator intones, are made with a high speed camera so you can really see what's going on when something is ignited. One demonstration is pouring a line of acetone on a tile floor then igniting it. The high speed camera first catches a whoosh of yellow orange flame, then a slowly undulating blue wave of flame creeping under the the yelllow orange like water on a shore. The blue rolls over itself in slow motion making a long cylinder. Corey watches it, mouth open. When it finishes, he hits replay and watches it again. And again.

“So, you watched the video a number of times that afternoon, correct?”
“Yes, ma'am.”
“Was anybody home?”
“No, ma'am.”
“Now, I want you to tell me exactly what happened after you stopped watching the video.”
“Well...I looked down at the kitchen floor and thought maybe I could do what the video showed.”
“Meaning pouring nail polish remover on the floor then setting it on fire?”
“Yes, ma'am.”
“And where did you find the nail polish remover?”
“In my sister's room.”
“What did you light it with?”
“My dad's lighter.”
“Corey, I've seen the video. It was done on ceramic tile. Your kitchen floor was linoleum."

The fire first melted the linoleum flooring in the R---s apartment, then burnt through and down through the subfloor. The tenant in the apartment below the R---'s first noticed an odd odor around 4:30PM coming from the ceiling in her kitchen. She phoned the fire department when she noticed the smoke, then the ceiling caving in as the fire spread. She then contacted Mr. C--- the owner, who lives in the basement apartment. The fire was put out quickly with no injuries sustained. Damages are roughly estimated around $50,000. The fate of the R---s, is currently unknown.

LJ Idol Friends And Rivals: Void
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There you are in the middle of a ten-day work week. You keep getting called in because coworkers keep banging out and you chase money so saying no isn't an option. Your schedule is all over the place thanks to their absences: Is it really 6:30PM, Mr. Time Clock? You mentally calculate making/eating dinner (1 hour minimum), feeding and walking dogs (1 hour minimum), doing a rush load of laundry (another hour)...and you're back at 4AM. Five hours' sleep IF everything goes smooth. Thank the gods for valerian root.Read more...Collapse )

LJ Idol Friends And Rivals: Terrorism
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The only house – a cottage, really – Deb and Jeff could afford squatted on a winding road with a small beach which followed the shipyard's shore.

They signed the papers in the spring right before Annie's third birthday.

Deb and Annie loved the sun dappling on the water and sailboats appearing in the small marina across the road. They craned their necks past the the marina watching tankers slicing the water toward the fuel depot. If they stood on the marina side, they could see the draw bridge off to their right; beyond that, the small refinery which made perfumes for laundry products. The real estate agent had been adamant: No accidents, no odors.

After dinner, Jeff and Deb, Annie in tow, ambled on the marina side, following the curve and the houses like theirs. They always stopped at the crest because Deb didn't like how the houses changed. They were big with double doors and peeling paint, some with bowing roofs, others with broken windows, all with dirt yards.

Deb gazed at up at a house, picked up Annie, and hugged her close.
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LJ Idol Friends And Rivals: Boomerang
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In those days there were smocks, not aprons, hairnets, not caps, the oven a long hole in the wall where shelves revolved over flame. My second day, Shelly introducing me to cookies. “What's your name again? Oh, that's right, I should've remembered. OK, see how they're set up, six across, four down? Don't pick up each one individually. Grab three in each hand – see? Shingle them in the bag. Grab another three in each hand and shingle them on top of the others. You fold the top over like so, and you wrap the tabs around like this. Got it?” She shoved a tray of chocolate toffee chunk at me.

“Three in each hand,” I murmured.

“Where's your gloves? You have to wear them. And remember to change them before they get all gunky.”

I nodded and turned to the tray. Three in each hand, shingle into the bag, three more in each hand, shingle into bag...

“Hey,” Shelly said, “you're pretty good at this. Are you sure you've never done this before?”

“Never have until now.”

“You're going to get really fast if you keep doing this, ” she murmured.
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LJ Idol Friends And Rivals: Trust Everyone But Cut The Cards
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There's this guy, Ted, who recently transferred into our department here at work. Nobody knows anything about him other than he was in Logistics, which is in the other building.

He never utters a word. He passes my desk and Donna's desk maybe five, seven times a day doing whatever-it-is he's doing.

Ted never says hello, but he nods to Fred if Fred has his office door open. Ted never makes eye contact either. You say hello to him and he does this leaning away thing with his chin. It's weird.Read more...Collapse )

LJ Idol Friends And Rivals: The Giving Of Thanks
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It's one of those shivery, gray mornings common this time of year. I don't want to get up from the chair because my knees crinkle and crack. The dogs drape themselves over furniture or pretend they're scatter rugs. My husband must be on the phone in his office because I can hear his murmuring, low as a hum, above my head.

It hurts to make my hands into fists. I easily lose my grip opening a jar or hefting something I can't piggyback onto my shoulders or hip. Typing makes my fingertips ache.

Don't ever stop moving.

If you stop, you die.

I'm too young to die.Read more...Collapse )