The Devil’s Night

faceless_death_scythe_rain_sky_night_moon_80054_2048x2048Apparently the Devil has one night out of the entire year when he can run rampant across the earth, and it just so happens to be the same night little kids are out in droves begging people for candy they didn’t earn, and the same night where teens are blasting each other with shaving cream they didn’t buy. If Santa is indeed keeping a naughty list and a nice list, I’m thinking the naughty list should probably fill up with teenagers and such on this night of all nights. Perhaps the Devil and Santa should get together and make a plan.

Or perhaps they already have.

When I was a kid I think this was my opinion of Halloween. It was based on the hard science of my mother’s religion coupled with the things other children said that scared the pants off of me. Besides, I wasn’t allowed to go trick-or-treating so basically anything could have been happening out there as far as I was concerned. Kids would tell me stories that could shake the ticks off a dog, and I would nod along, thinking in my head that there was absolutely no way they could have possibly survived.

Then the morning after the Devil’s Night I would see the busted eggs on the ground, the toilet paper in the trees, and the exploded pumpkins, and my mind would about burst along with them. I kept my head down, headed to school, and hoped that all would be well again with the world by that afternoon. Most times it would and I would exhale for yet another year, until the dark night would rear its ugly head once again.

My mother traded on the idea that it was a pagan holiday, and our church didn’t hold with it in the least. It wasn’t even like they were trying to co-opt it, to make it okay like some churches do. There was no dressing up like John the Baptist or Noah. There was no recreation of Biblical stories or church candy parties on Halloween to keep us in and off of the streets. I honestly think the church’s plan was to ignore it altogether and hope we forgot it was even a holiday celebrated by just about everyone else in the known world.

But of course it didn’t work. It had something to do with all the candy. You see, kids love candy, and anything that has to do with candy should be ours. So we felt like Jewish kids on Christmas, like we were left out of something monumentally huge, and like no one else cared. Why should they? They were all getting their candy, eating their candy, and enjoying dressing up like Wonder Woman and Elmer Fudd. And we were sitting at home on Halloween night hoping no one came to the door because it would force us to remember what was going on all around us.

I kept hoping things would change at some point, that one day I would wake up on Halloween and a costume would be laid out on my bed in all its glory. I wouldn’t have even cared if it was Robin, or a giant potato, or even Theo Huxtable (I kind of looked like him anyway). I would have celebrated like it was 1999, but Halloweens came and went in an endless line, and I became an adult without ever realizing that dream.

Until I had kids of my own, that is. Now the Devil’s Night is all mine, at least vicariously. Which is good enough. Now if I could just fit into this Pony costume…

Sam

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Stigma

abstract-art-wallpaper-black-and-whiteThis is devastation
Dressed up in gaiety
Taken by surprise
In its darkest hour
And left to decay
Trivial as it seems
Life masquerading
On a layered stage
Caught in the spotlight
That accentuates lines
Carved into features
Long caricatured
These rictus stares
Frozen in canned laughter
Or a chance at redemption
A connection between souls
But it’s been too long
This pain a heavy weight
Anchored to the perfect sin
Of surviving again.

Hell or High Water

I will finish my novel this year. I will finish my novel this year. I will…

Yeah, I’m going to finish my novel this year, during the month of November, just as I’ve done every November since 2012. That’s three novels over 60,000 words each, in 30 days apiece. Yes, it’s as hectic as it sounds. And I don’t claim to be completely done with any of the 3 novels, but the rough drafts have been completed in those crazy, stressful, yet ultimately fulfilling 30 days.

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and I’m at it again in just four short days. How is it that that time flies by between Novembers? I was supposed to finish a separate novel and get it published by this point, but life takes over, and I’ll have to take a time out from that one to get this new one done. I did something similar back in 2013 when I took a hiatus from a current novel I was finishing to bang out one for NaNoWriMo. So I’m not worried.

What I am worried about is all the other stuff going on this year that I’ll have to navigate at the same time, many things I haven’t had to face in years past, the primary of which is the fact that I’m teaching this semester. That used to be my excuse for so many years when I didn’t do NaNo. “Oh, I would reaaaallllly love to do NaNo, but I’m teaching, and it’s just too much to take on in a month’s time!” But I’m not making excuses this year. I’m going to just do all of it instead. May god have mercy on my soul.

As of now I don’t have a plot, a theme, a list of characters — anything. All I have is the belief that on November 1st all of those things will come to me like magic. Then it’s off to the races. My goal this year is to write 1,800 words a day. In the past I’ve set goals like 2,000 words a day, but I’m trying to be more realistic this year. We’ll see how I make it, but the one thing I can’t do is get behind. I have to hit my totals every single day or it gets to be a mountain too big to climb. Last year it was a challenge hitting my goals every single day, but I did it.

And I’m going to do it again this year, come hell or high water (but I would prefer hell. High water just ruins my pants legs). Bring. It. On.

Sam

Boarders, Volume 5

new_york_state_department_of_motor_vehicle_thumbI went to the DMV last week to finally get the title to my car changed, and they gave me a routine form to fill out. As I went down the list I scribbled in each entry, until I got to “Home Address.” I started to write in “7478 East Street” as a matter of rote, but I stopped myself before I finished the “4.” It was something so simple, but scratching out those two numbers was incredibly difficult to do. I’ve already been gone from that physical address for nearly 3 weeks now, but to me it’s still home.

This place certainly isn’t.

I ended up writing down the PO Box because what they were really asking for was the mailing address, but it was one moment in about a million lately where I have been acutely aware of the things I took for granted. Laundry is another. I’ll explain. Having our own washing machine and dryer was a definite bonus, even though our basement had a low ceiling, and even though I had to bend over almost double to fit down there. But it was ours, and I could wash clothes anytime I needed to. I just loaded up a basket and went to town.

Now, though, I tiptoe to the basement here with a basket in my arms and my fingers crossed. If I see clothes in either the washer or dryer I am loath to move them because I’ve gotten yelled at for moving clothes before, for taking a load out and putting my own in, even though I put the retrieved clothes in one of our baskets like a good citizen. If there is nothing in the washing machine, and I am alone in the house, I usually throw in one load and pray that the timer goes off on it before anyone else arrives.

I don’t want to have to explain why the machine is tied up. I’ve honestly even thought about going down to the village laundromat to wash a few loads just so I don’t have to explain and get “the look.” I’m trying my best to avoid “the look,” and I’ve done pretty good so far today. It’s all about looking at the shadows instead of directly into the light. Avoid the light, that’s the ticket. I totally took being able to wash our clothes for granted, and I’ll never take it for granted again.

Sometimes it’s those little things that remind us of what we’ve forgotten, that help us put things into perspective. Like a form in the DMV that asks for something that should be simple. But nothing is ever simple, not these days, and it’s in how I adapt, that’s what will prove my mettle. That, and a timer that goes by fast enough so I’m out of the basement before anyone else needs the washer.

Sam

Chatting With Lexi: On Respect

got-respectToday was an exercise in patience, and not like forcing my brain to control my mouth, but like lifting heavy objects to keep myself occupied, to thwart my anger. I don’t know what’s been happening lately, but little by little I’ve been losing my little girl and gaining a premature teenager, with all the angst and agita that comes with it. It all came to a head today.

We were at the hairdresser’s, who also happens to be a friend of mine, and all my ladies were there to get their hair washed and cut. Of course that means there are in-between times, when two out of the three are sitting there waiting. And you know how it is; the waiting turns to restlessness, the iPad gets taken away, and the real fun starts.

Lexi: But how come I’m the only one who gets my iPad taken?

Me: Because you’re the one who wouldn’t listen to your mother when she said it was your turn to get your hair cut.

Lexi: I was almost done!

Me: It doesn’t matter. It’s not about “almost.” It’s about doing what she says when she says it.

Lexi: I shouldn’t have to do what she said, what you say. I should be able to do what I want.

Me: We’re the adults. We’re in charge of you. You should listen to us when we tell you something.

Lexi: Why should I have to listen? I’m allowed to stand up for myself.

Heidi: This is not standing up for yourself. This is being rude and disrespectful. We’re your parents. When you get a job and pay your own way in this world then go ahead and make your own rules. These are our rules, and you will follow them.

Lexi: Hmmmmph.

Me: And you can cut it with the attitude. You’re not getting your iPad back right now. Be lucky your mother is letting you earn it back through good behavior. If it were up to me I would take it for the whole day.

Lexi: But it’s myyyyy iPad.

Heidi: Actually, Alexa, did your money pay for it? Are you the one who worked hard all week to get a paycheck to purchase it?

Me: This is not about you being allowed to stand up for yourself. This is about us doing what’s best for you, as your parents. If you’re disrespectful you should have a loss of privilege. And you’re not making anything better for yourself with the way you’re acting right now.

Lexi: I just want to be able to make the decisions for myself.

Me: You’re nine years old. Maybe you think you’re going on 30, but you don’t want to force that time to pass. You want to enjoy being young because it only happens once. Do you know how many children don’t have what you have? And you’re so ungrateful for it that you’re going to pout because we took away your iPad?

Lexi: Well I can’t wait to be an adult so I don’t have to listen to anybody else.

Me: You always have to listen to other people, Lexi. That’s how your mother and I make decisions that are best for you and your sister. We listen to each other and we make decisions together… for your own good. And all we ask for in return is some appreciation for what we do for you. You’re being incredibly ungrateful right now.

Heidi: Take time and think about why what you did today was wrong, how it was disrespectful to your father and me, and to Miss Debbie and her hair salon. You won’t get your iPad back for the rest of the day, but be lucky you even have one to lose.

Lexi: Hmmmmph.

Me: You’ll understand one day. But until then you’ll have to work harder on being grateful and appreciating what you have. Otherwise you just won’t have as much anymore. There are so many things you have that you don’t need, that we give you because we’re kind and generous, because we want you to have opportunities to express yourself. But they’re not necessities, and if you don’t appreciate them you won’t keep getting them.

Heidi: And Lexi, if you act like that ever again we won’t go to the nice hairdresser who does a great job on your hair and doesn’t hurt you while doing it. I’ll keep bringing Madeline here and I can take you to someplace where somebody isn’t nice like that. Is that what you want?

Lexi: No.

Me: So how are you going to be?

Lexi: I’m going to be respectful of other people and their stuff.

Me: And you’re going to say it less sarcastically?

Lexi: Huh?

Me: I’ll take it.

Sam

Perfect Skin

“If I feel this feeling, will you crawl out of your perfect skin and climb into mine?” ~Black Lab

There was just something about the rain that captivated her, that steady drumming on the tin roof of the little house, the water occasionally finding imperceptible holes, forcing its way inside. She could sit in the mud room for hours, on that little bench that used to accommodate her so well. But time moves in mysterious ways, an hourglass bolted fast to the floor, and she squeezes into the well-worn spot on the bench just enough to sit still and ponder the rain.

Her reverie is broken, however, by the sound of tires squealing to a stop in the driveway just beyond the front door, and she realizes she has been sitting there for far too long. A dip of her head, a tap of her foot on the floor, and she rises from the bench before the door opens, knowing that every moment counts. The slamming of a car door sounds closer than it could possibly be, but it arrives muted to her ears as she melts into the house, just another puddle on the floor on a rainy afternoon, just another silent scream waiting to explode.

As she waits in her hiding place for the series of moments to pass, for the footsteps to fade away, she absentmindedly touches the scar on her face, the one blemish on her entire body. She often stands in front of the bathroom mirror and tries to figure out ways to make it disappear, to be perfect like she used to be. Perfect is now merely a dim memory, a faded yellow photograph that doesn’t seem real anymore, like it was taken by ghosts. She pulls herself into a ball while she waits, no longer scared like she used to be. Just hoping to survive.

The rain comes down heavier now, pounding relentlessly against the tin, hammering firmly on the little house like an implacable beast, suddenly ominous in its ferocity. The storm has begun. Her fingers worry themselves like cricket’s legs, friction mounting as they scissor back and forth, trying to force herself not to touch her face again, because she knows she will open her mouth and let loose a guttural, primal yell, and she cannot afford that small solace. Instead she imagines perfect skin, an endless expanse of smooth, unadulterated skin, a beauty without comparison that she wishes were hers.

She hears him approaching her hiding place, the sound of his feet slapping across the tiles, and she knows that perfection is a lie parents tell their children to make them obey, to make them think they can thrive in a world that wasn’t made for everyone. Her fingers stop the twitching dance of their own volition, and she can’t seem to help herself as they flutter to her face, one touching perfection and the other jagged ridges, existing in equal measure.

Which is all she can say for life. As she opens her mouth to scream.

Sam

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