All Quiet on the Western Front

July is going to be a rough month for updates. As you may have already noticed. We’ll see how August shapes up.

In the meantime, I receive spam from several online sources, and one particular email caught my eye; so much so, I forwarded it to my regular email from my work one so that I could share it to my blog. It contained such gems as:

  • He was a young lady
  • traffic was a beast and your egomaniac sister is acting up again
  • She realized that could have been a mistake when Date Nine looked her up and down then frowned
  • Dating can be fun some fun!
  • Sorry for exposing your secrets, roughness
  • Be well picked Pete, I’m not used to that kind of date
  • dodge personal topics
  • Perfect for finding things that you have that resembles your date.

Until finally closing on this last helpful piece of advice:

  • And speak your

The Last of the Light Bleeds Out

I stood on the concrete in my bare feet and watched the world come to an end.

The sky was orange, ailing sunlight swollen across the dull clouds of a humid evening. Sound still existed alongside the nothing – cicadas singing throatily at each other in the ditch behind the apartment – but there was no laughter; no crying, no talking, no cars on the road or evening joggers. Across the street a TV flickered silently in a living room window, but the people inside were all gone. There was no one left to turn it off.

I watched the world end in my bare feet, and I wondered why no one had called me to tell me it was happening. To exchange I love yous as the day faded away into flat silence, to ask how you’re doing (“Oh I’m fine. And you?”) just because it’s familiar and polite. To say goodbye and then almost add “Talk to you later” because it’s habit, only to pause and say nothing instead, right before you both hang up. But no one had called. The world had stopped but I’d missed the train in the station, which had churned and eaten up the tracks, gaining speed without a warning whistle before disappearing into the darkness without me.

The sky bleeds a heavy purple and red, time’s last sunset slowly melting into a blackening horizon at the end of earth’s shortest and longest week. It will not rise again. I stand on cooling concrete, listen to the cicadas’ courtship call, and for some reason I know this is all right.

Someone will be by later, to pick up the stragglers.


Where does nonsense like this come from? From the fact that my stupid air conditioning is broken and I have to listen to the stupid cicadas dialogue at each other in the stupidly humid night air. In the meantime I’ll be over here, waiting for the world to end.

Updates and Corrections

This time, I blame my parents for the week break from my blog. They were on vacation here in Fort Wayne, and thus so was I. They also cleared up a few things from the last couple of posts:

  1. The insect brutally murdered by my father, on camera, was a box elder bug. Like so*:
    **
  2. Also, apparently Dad fled the scene and dashed across the street at St. Paul’s second Easter service, meaning the entire family was there. His correction either kicked off a memory or a spurt of imagination, because now I think I remember that the story came up over dinner because Dad asked Mom if she’d noticed. She said (again, if I’m not making this up) that she did notice him leave, but other than thinking it was weird, had already nearly forgotten about it by time the ham was coming out of the oven.
  3. And finally, this one is not a correction but an update, pointed out by my mother: the gnats in my apartment didn’t set up a cemetery on my bathroom counter; they’re suiciding into my nightlight. I was more astute with my original choice of gif than I realized:

    1. Also, proof:
      ***

 


*iStock photo stolen from this website: https://www.pestworld.org/pest-guide/occasional-invaders/boxelder-bugs
** not actual size

***Because I’m worth it.

Once More, with Feeling

Happy Trinity Sunday everyone! Almost forgot about the annual posting of “Apples Are Apples.” I meant to publish it as a picture book by this Sunday, but today is not that day. Maybe next year, Aragorn.


Apples Are Apples

The teacher was young, pretty, bright and unpaid;
She volunteered Sundays to teach second grade.
With felt board and markers, activities, more,
She’d gone through the stories they’d heard of before,
At length thought she’d tackle mysterious this:
That God is three persons, three persons He is.

“Good morning,” she started, “I know that you know,
“There’s only one God to whom we can go,
“That one God is greater by far and by most,
“Called Father and Son and also the Ghost.
“So we say there’s one God, yet we pray to all three –
“Can anyone try and explain that to me?”

Silence first greeted her as she expected,
As five pairs of eight-year-old hands lay neglected.
Then one hand in front, with cautious progression,
Raised slowly, like maybe she’d asked a trick question.
Her encouraging “Yes?” got, “It is what it is?
“God is three persons, three persons He is?”

“Good,” she said slowly, but didn’t quite mean it,
And pulled out an apple to get them to see it:
“An apple is made of three parts, that’s the key,
“The peel, and flesh, and seeds to make three,
“And yet though all different they all make up one –
“Like Father and Spirit and Jesus the Son!”

She waited one moment and then all en masse,
An “Oh” went around through most of the class.
She’d known it was in her to break it down low
To eight-year-old levels with language they’d know.
Quite pleased, she then called on a hand from the back,
Which answered, “So God is in pieces, in fact!”

“Uh…” said the teacher, but jumping right in,
The kid from the front said, “Three bits in one him!”
“I see!” cried a girl, but the teacher said, “Wait –
“You’ve misunderstood, you must get it straight,
“Though all three are different, each are full God,
“Not pieces nor bits nor three peas in a pod.

“You see,” she continued to fix what she’d taught,
“Each person’s full person not thirds like you thought.”
She paused with the hope that they’d understood that,
Waited to see if they got it down pat,
Then: “Huh,” said a boy, “So it is what it is?
“God is three persons, three persons he is?”

“Well…yes,” said the teacher, “But let me make plain –
“The apple was not the best way to explain –
“So here,” she said moving the apple from sight,
“An egg has a shell and a yolk and a white,
“And—wait,” she said seeing the same problems here,
“A shamrock…no, pretzel…no, water, my dear!

“Now water, yes there is a three-things-in-one.”
There, she thought calmly, I won’t be undone.
“Water is something we see every day,
“Can anyone tell how it lives in three ways?
“You can’t? Well I can, and I’ll say in a trice:
“Water is liquid or steam or it’s ice.”

But once again from the front row came a thought:
“So God changes forms for each name that He’s got?”
“At last it makes sense!” called a voice from the rear,
“So He’s not bits and pieces?” a boy said, unclear.
“No, sometimes He’s father and sometimes He’s son,
“And sometimes He’s—” “NO,” said the teacher, undone.

“God’s always Father and God’s always Son
“And God’s always Spirit: three persons in one.
“He doesn’t change into each one as he likes
“He’s always each one, yet separate alike –”
But jumping the gun, one girl cut in: “He is?
“So God is three persons, three persons He is?”

The teacher sighed loudly and blew out her breath,
Wracking her brain for a sample they’d get,
Then turned to the board, pulled the cap off a marker,
And drew the sun sharply, her face and tone darker.
She held up a hand just to take a time out,
Then faced them still smiling; quite grimly, no doubt.

“Now here,” she pushed onwards, “You see what I’ve drawn.”
“A sunset!” one said, though another cried “Dawn!”
“Close enough,” said the teacher, “And now I’ll explain:
“The Father’s the sun, and the sunshine – it’s plain –
“That’s Jesus, and heat’s where the Holy Ghost’s at.
“Now tell me, please tell me, you understand that.”

First quiet then, “God is just offshoots of God?”
“I guess,” spoke a boy with a mystified nod.
“Well that can’t be right,” the front boldly declared,
“It must,” said a girl who knew teachers prepared.
“Not a chance,” scoffed a boy, “Yes He is,” she sneered back,
And teacher, poor teacher, her expression turned black.

“Fine,” snapped the teacher, “I don’t understand,
“It makes no more sense than a God who is man,
“Or a Word that can make into being what’s not,
“Forming the world like a potter his pot,
“Or wine that is blood and just ‘cause he said,
“With body that’s in, with, and under the bread,
“An ‘is’ that means ‘is,’ no matter how dense
“We sinners as sinners can’t make it make sense,
“And who here has seen someone raised from the dead?
“Put your hands in His side or seen where he bled?
“So, no, I don’t get the impossible math,
“How three can be one and one in three hath
“A wrath taken on by a three in the one,
“Or that then a three of the one – not the Son –
“Proceeding, creates in me faith in a one
“But also in three (impossibly done),
“And yet here I am and I’m saying to you:
“In unity Trinity, fully God through.”

Deeply stunned silence was all that they had
For the teacher they clearly supposed had gone mad.
They made not a peep, she shared not a grunt,
When “Oh!” went that kid, the one sitting up front,
“You’re saying you mean that it is what it is,
“That God is three persons, three persons He is.”

Beaming, the class sat with backs proudly cast,
Glad to have answered her question at last.
“Yes,” sighed the teacher in quiet defeat.
“Oh good,” said a restless girl, tapping her feet.
“Is it time for the craft?” one went on to add,
Unaware that they’d trashed every project she had.

The teacher peered into the bag she had prepped,
Past clover green paper and ice as it wept,
Past glue for the yellow yarn meant for the yolk,
And all of her samples the Godhead just broke.
She finally said, “I’m afraid not today,
“Let’s go get some sunshine, let’s go out and play.”

And later they all ate the fruit she had brought,
For apples are apples and aren’t what they’re not.

No Harry, no! Don’t look at the light!

If I close up shop (and by “close up shop” I mean turn off my computer) by 8 o’clock in the evening, then I know I’ll be getting to bed on time. There’s a few dicey hours that follow, where I may or may not be able to peel myself away from my monitor in a timely manner, but if I’m still on my computer after 10, I’ve officially lost the ability to make myself pack it in. I’ll sit there mindlessly for hours, glancing with ever more urgent guilt at the clock as the night progresses; it wouldn’t feel so wasteful if I was doing something productive, like sacrificing sleep for writing, but I never am.

Which is how I came to be watching black and white episodes of “What’s My Line?” on YouTube at half past 1 last night. “What’s My Line?” was a game show back in the 50s/early 60s, where a panel of four judges would essentially have to play 20 questions to figure out what a person’s line of work was. The show would flash the occupation on the screen for the audience, and the judges were allowed only 10 “no’s” when asking questions, earning the contestant up to $50. One contestant was a very old, grandmotherly lady who embroidered blankets for elephants, and “Do you train these animals?” (as they started to hone in on her occupation), got a quavering, “I used to.” The host, John Daly, laughed and translated that to a “no,” putting another $5 on the scoreboard.

Here’s one such example of the addictive show, which is also an excellent showcase of a time period of charmingly polite manners:

As I was watching these episodes (each section is a deceptive 3-10 minutes, meaning  it’s really easy to consume a lot of them at once without realizing how much time you’ve lost), it began niggling at me that I recognized this somehow, though I knew I’d never seen it before. About an hour later, it struck me:

I finally get that reference. I finally get that it is a reference.

(So I ended up feeling accomplished last night after all.)

As to how I finally convinced myself to go bed, the bugs plaguing my apartment finally drove me to it. I live next door to a creek/ditch, and over the past few weeks I’ve been quietly invaded by mosquitoes and tiny swarms of miniscule gnats. These things could make their home on the head of a pin, but they like to spend their evenings – once all the rest of the lights in the house are off – dive bombing my computer screen.

Last night, one flew right into my eye. By time I fished it out (blinking furiously and hoping it hadn’t somehow destroyed my retina), I found that it had actually drowned in my eye boogers. And that’s how I got off one of my YouTube kicks at ten after two in the morning.

As a side note, every morning there’s a new batch of their corpses littering my sink. I’m not sure why or how they’re suiciding there, but it’s become something of a popular place to die. A gnat graveyard; only slightly less impressive than an elephant one.


Title reference:

via GIPHY

Chunky Milk

I tried to eat cereal for breakfast this morning, but twisted the cap off the gallon container only to discover that half the remaining milk was floating like some sort of slimy landmass on top of the still liquid other half. It went down the drain with the sound and feel (it poured in lurching fits and starts out of the container in my hand, jerking as I tried to hold it steady) of a little kid gulping down soft lumps of food, and I used the garbage disposal afterwards to make sure it was dead.

If you never hear from me again, the milk rolled back up and out of the sink, pulled itself across the counter, plopped onto the floor, left a long, viscous trail from the kitchen to the bedroom, and throttled me in my sleep.

This has been your I-nearly-gagged update for the week. Thank you for your time.


Oh my word, I just had a flashback to the scariest episode of the scariest TV show of all time. The Sister will appreciate this from our long ago summers at Grandma and Grandpa’s in duh UP:

We referred to this episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? simply as “Blue Chunks,” for pretty self-explanatory reasons. This clown fellow (“The Ghastly Grinner,” or so the internet has informed me) infected all of the adults in our main characters’ lives like so:

Remind me again, Boonder, why we always made sure to catch this particular show? Television programming bored you easily, but don’t think I’ve forgotten that we watched this one at your insistence.

Unseen Crackdown

Almost a week of consistent updates consistently followed by a week of almost no updates. This is my schedule now.

Oh and this, my friends, has nothing to do with writing, but behold: an mp4 file I’ve labeled “Human Behavior.”

 

“Unseen Crackdown” might be a better name. Please note the series of events:

  • 1 second in, with the volume turned up, you can hear people talking in the background as the Alleluia verse starts. Off camera and out of sight, a couple of unseen ne’er do wells in the front of the chapel (likely at the bottom of the hidden stairs that run down and behind the altar) apparently hadn’t realized that there was a service going on, and were definitely not trying to keep their voices down.
  • 2 seconds in, and the Dean of the Chapel, realizing this is a problem, gets the attention of one of his student workers.
  • The student worker
    doesn’t understand at first until, after a few hesitant glances are exchanged, gets it; he disappears with a sharp nod at 7 seconds.
  • Presumably out of the corner of his eye, the fellow in blue catches the student worker moving rapidly away, and figures out that something is going on.

  • He either puts two and two together after staring after him for a long moment, or gives it up. Either way, he takes the opportunity to try to complete the sweep, sneaking a peak behind him to see who’s singing.
  • It doesn’t work. I’m lurking in the shadow of a column just too far to his right, and he realizes he’s reached the outskirts of the range of a casual glance. Anything farther would look weird. Now 0 for 2, he gives up a second time and goes back to his hymnal.
  • (The loud talkers are never heard from again, by which we can assume the student worker fulfilled the contract the Dean of the Chapel silently called out on them, and killed them.)

There is no earthly reason I should find this as funny as I do, but I spent a good five minutes yesterday afternoon cackling and replaying the few short seconds over and over again after I noticed the exchange while I was editing videos. There is nothing like immortalizing the throw away moments that make life interesting. When my dad served as minister at a church up near the border of Canada, a couple at the congregation used a multi-camera system to record the services from several different angles, wide shots, and closeups. Ten years of Sunday mornings, and Dad’s favorite video involved the casual murder of a near distraction when, in the middle of one of his first sermons as their pastor, he spotted a small, black insect crawling along the top of the pulpit. The camera was zoomed close enough that you can see the moment he catches sight of the intruder: flickering glance and then a double-take with his eyes. “You know as soon as the congregation sees it they’ll stop listening and spend the rest of the sermon watching it,” he explained later while skipping forward through the DVD copy, trying to find the moment to prove it to the rest of us. Without so much as faltering in his preaching, he casually but swiftly swept the bug into his hand, rolling it with brutal efficiency into a squashed ball between his thumb and his index finger.

“Vvvt,” he narrated as we laughed through a viewing of the moment for a third time, providing the sound effect of the bug being pinched right off the pulpit. Dad cackled again when he realized you could definitely see him casually drop the corpse on the ground. No one–no one–in the congregation noticed. Mission accomplished.

Another family favorite from our DVD collection of church services took place on Easter Sunday, years later. Dad had to steamroll through three worship services for the high feast day, and the family had abandoned him at one church’s early service in order to make it to pre-service Easter breakfast at the other, so he was, again, alone. Deep into the service, Dad realized that he had forgotten the prayers, which were special collects he had printed off at home plus prayer requests specific to the congregation. Fortunately, there was a hymn coming up right before prayers started. He calculated the timing in his head (3 to 4 minutes and maybe longer when you took into account the fact that the farther our organist got into her eighties, the slower she played), and thought: I can make that.

As soon as the hymn introduction started he made a break for it. On the video you can see him confidently exit stage left and down the aisle to the back of the sanctuary. Not on the video, he exits it into the hall and starts running. He then runs across the street to the parsonage, down the stairs, searches with increasingly panic-driven desperation for the prayers in the piles on his desk, finally finds them in the printer, runs back up the stairs, back across the street, down the church hall, and then, business-like, walks with the same nothing-to-see-here confidence he’d left with, marching back to the front just as the hymn is concluding.

At this point in the story, Dad had found the right spot in the video. He let it play, and the absolute best part was when he started praying. He sounded like he was choked up with emotion, and not a soul in the congregation knew he was trying to catch his breath. When my uncle pointed out that if Dad had been hit by a car while crossing the street he’d have left his congregation sitting in baffled silence, only to discover an unsolvable mystery when they finally found him dead on the street who knows how much later, he set off a howling round of laughter; topped off, about 30 seconds later, with Gram’s exasperated, “That isn’t funny.

And yea, how the Schultz clan laughed.

Evangelical Housecleaning

Last night, I made a valiant attempt to go to bed early. So, naturally, I started vacuuming at 9:35 p.m. This is not the first time this has happened. Between my consistently late if equally unplanned chore hours and the fact that I occasionally land like an elephant after sliding down my banister*, my neighbors (especially the downstairs one; sorry, Alyssa) must hate me.

Mind you, I didn’t mean to still be cleaning my apartment 45 minutes later, but, like all good children, I’m turning into my mother. I used to hate seeing the Electrolux come out in lieu of a dustpan when I was a kid, because no matter how exasperatedly she promised that she was just using it to pick up that particular pile of dirt, about 20 minutes later Mom would be halfway down the hall and nearly in the bedrooms with the vacuum still WHOOOOOOOOing like a jet engine that couldn’t quite take off.

I get it now. It’s just one pile of dried mud, and then you notice the cat litter stuck along the baseboards, and then the floof of cat hair in the carpet, and after that the unsorted papers on the counter and goodness the floor around the commode has gathered quite the audience of hair and toilet paper dust, and by the time 10:15 rolls around I’m in my bathroom scrubbing gooey soap scum off the back of the faucet while I consider the state of the mirror. I also pulled Cousin It out of the drain using a barbed piece of yellow plastic, but that’s a description for another day.

Speaking of derailed plans, I will not be finishing a picture book for the second spring running. I kept waiting for the Spirit to move me, and He did not.


*

My Aunt and I found a way to amuse ourselves while my Uncle booked their hotel using the computer on the upper level of the loft, listening to us cackle like witches and undoubtedly wondering what was wrong with us.

Posted by Andrea Schultz on Thursday, May 2, 2019

Until Morale Improves

For the past week, I’ve set my alarm for the vomitously loathsome hour of 5:30 a.m. It’s a part of my biannual attempt to establish good writing habits; this particular iteration is an attempt to assign all of my writing “chores” (like website maintenance, artwork cleanup, blog updates and maybe even parallel Facebook posts) to the hours before my regular work day. They might actually get done this way, and I get to feel accomplished, even if I do nothing else after work.

Of course, observant readers will not that I said I set my alarm at 5:30, not that I get up at that time. It would undoubtedly help if I’d also spent the past week going to bed before midnight. For now, however, I am operating under the assumption that I will eventually exhaust myself into submission. There is nothing like misery to motivate compliance.


Today’s post brought to you by the letter ZZZZ and the number 203—plus a shout-out to my boy, George MacDonald. He ended his 1883 children’s novel with the news that though, yes, his main characters did get married when they grew up, their kingdom ultimately passed over to a wicked man when they died childless. Decades of greed finally caused the capital city to fall in on itself in a roaring crash (“The cries of men and the shrieks of women went up with its dust, and then there was a great silence.”), which became a wilderness and was forgotten from the lips of men.

I want to know who spit in George’s tea.


Oh, and I discovered this fun fact from a Reddit thread the other day, though I haven’t verified it yet:

Crows remember faces and memorize the work habits and other living patterns of people; they know your neighbors better than you do.

I find this more pertinent than I perhaps ought to. Also, I want to write a story about the best friend in a young adult prophesy adventure (you know, where the hero/heroine is the chosen one). I’m going to call it “Buffoons and Traitors” and kill everyone who seems remotely competent, leaving only the losers to not so much save the day as survive and get through it. That, and I want to get around to writing a story about someone really decent, with a normal life, who comes from a nice family. The kind of guy you don’t really pay attention to but you want around.

But I should probably write some of my other ideas first.

What’s that I hear in the background…?

Sometimes, when the coldest watches of the night creep with swift and stealthy silence towards midnight and I’m finally getting ready for bed, I’ll notice something weird on my wall; not abnormal weird, just a paint bubble in the wall or a crack in the ceiling sagging just slightly toward the floor. In the half-light I’ll reach toward it to see exactly what it is. And in that moment I’ll realize that the only thing thing that doesn’t make this the first kill in a horror movie is the lack of a musical cue.

But the idiots in a horror movie don’t hear the soundtrack either, do they? So I’ll quietly withdraw my hand without touching the abnormality — but natural-like, as though reaching out to touch it hadn’t ever been my intention — whistling cheerfully and defiantly into the crowding dark as I finish my evening toilette.

And, naturally, sleep with the covers over my head.