The Things We Find When We Clean…

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” – Joseph Addison

When you’re a book lover and you move, your books provide as much physical exercise as they usually do mental exercise. Between packing up and carrying duffel bags of books to and from the car, up and down the stairs, and then maneuvering, carrying, disassembling (when necessary) the corresponding bookcases, I have to actively look at the process as contributing to my much neglected exercise regimen so that I don’t get too frustrated and rashly decide to give away my library-in-progress. I still have one bookcase to move and resettle (it will join the seven bookcases and one smaller mounted shelf-unit already in place).

The moving process is full of blessings and curses. In addition to the workout/hassle of physically relocating possessions amassed over time, there is the necessary evil of cleaning. And not just the superficial dusting or vacuuming but going through boxes of old things that haven’t seen the light of day in years. Of course, this can lead to unexpected strolls down memory lane and discoveries of days gone by. My niece, for instance, has been having a ball playing with costume jewelry from my own dress-up days and learning about toys I’m not sure they make any more (do they still make Lite-Brite or Wee-Waffles?).

One of the discoveries I made during this cleaning/moving period is a short story I wrote for class during my sophomore year of high school. Since I’ve removed some of my other pieces for publishing purposes (fingers crossed), I have decided to share this blast from my past entitled “The Price of a Good Time.” It’s nowhere near as dramatic as the title suggests (and keep in mind, this is at least ten years old now).

Here’s a little taste:

Krysten drummed her newly polished nails on her bedside table and sighed. Though the radio was blasting music from her favorite station, Kiss 108, on the other side of the room, all she could hear was the thick silence from the phone she held up to her ear. She shifted position so that her feet were at the head of the bed and her head at its foot. Nervously, she blew on her nails again to make sure there was no chance that they were still wet.

“Com on, Jen. You’re running up my phone bill. Where are you?” she said into the receiver. No answer. She hated call waiting when she was the one stuck waiting. Her foot began tapping against the headboard as she always did when sprawled on the bed in such a manner.

The next instant her friend was back.

“Sorry about that,” Jennifer apologized. Krysten wished Jen could see the look on her face. That would make her really sorry. “My mother is so… she must have asked me a million questions about school and how things are here. I mean, come on. I’m sixteen, I think that I can be at home alone for a few hours and survive. It’s almost like she doesn’t remember the fact that I spend more time baby-sitting for other people than I spend at home. If I can keep four kids under the age of seven out of trouble, I think I’m capable of taking care of myself.”

“Jen,” Krysten cut into her friend’s frustrated monologue. “You were saying something before you put me on hold…

“Oh, yeah. Sorry. Keith, my cousin’s friend Keith, is having a party next Saturday,” her voice was suddenly all business and serious, like a partner giving an update presentation for a Board of Directors. “I can get us in. Can you make it?”

 

Read the full story here.

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Book Review – The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallfloweris another one that goes in the category of “recommended ages ago and I’m just now getting around to it.” And I honestly wish I had read it sooner. Even though Charlie’s experiences in high school are so completely different from what mine were, he is an easy character to relate to. It’s more than just the general (and usually tiring) “high school is a time when no one feels like they fit in anywhere” and “true friends are the ones who see us for who we really are and accept us” themes. It’s in Charlie’s straightforward and simple representation of his observations and reactions.

Charlie is beginning his freshman year of high school and he knows that he’s different, even if he can’t quite put his finger on it. Open about troubles in his past, including the suicide of a close friend, there is something almost scientific in the way that he writes letters about himself and his life, all addressed to an anonymous friend. Charlie luckily finds friends in two seniors (who miraculously overlook the fact that he is a freshman). Patrick and Sam provide Charlie with something to observe and “participate” in.

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Flash Fiction – Studying for Chemistry

Very few students manage to make it through their high school careers without being forced to take chemistry. No one is immune to the traps of chemistry. Honors chemistry junior year started out with twenty-one kids and ended the year with only eleven.

As terrifying as the prospect of having the midterm and final combine to form twenty percent of the final grade, it was what saved most students. Not specific enough to screw anyone up to greatly, everyone would score two grade levels higher than usual (an “A” instead of a “C” for example) and it was enough to bring up the grades from the rest of the year.

Where as in most science classes, biology or physics, students dreaded lab days because they took up study periods, in chemistry students looked forward to actually doing something. The lab write-ups were a different. Labs meant looking up expected values, which would sometimes take hours.

Towards the end of the school year, whenever labs were due everyone would convene after school in the cafeteria to figure them out together. They always started the same way, with everyone gathered at the same round table.

“I’m hungry. Does anybody want to got to the vending machine?”

“I’ve got… a buck seventy-five.”

“I’ve got some change. Here, get some chips.”

“I found a bag of candy in my purse.”

“Can someone get me a drink?”

“Sure. Whataya want?”

“Orange if they have it.”

Candy and snacks accumulated in the middle of the table, everyone contributed.

“Do you have any idea what he wants us to do for calculations?”

“I just guessed about the equations. Were you able to find an accepted value anywhere?”

“I was online for three hours last night and couldn’t find a thing. My computer froze about five times before I gave up.”

“What kind of computer do you have?”

“PC.”

“Hey, how’d you do on that last test?”

“Oh, I failed. Again.”

“No way. You failed too?”

“I think the highest grade in the class was an seventy-one.”

“Did we all do that bad?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“Did you see number five? Did he ever explain how to do that one in class?”

“I was out that day. I stayed after to ask him about it but it only made me more confused.”

“Here. I have it in my notes.”

“Damn. I messed up the structure. I had the angles all wrong.”

“Oh man. I’ve gotta go. My brother’s got practice and I got stuck with taking him.”

“Good luck finishing the lab.”

“Maybe he’ll be out again tomorrow.”

“Yeah right. Don’t get my hopes up.”

“Just remember, there’s only another month and a half.”

“Only thirty-three school days total.”

“Then we’re seniors.”