A little bit of this, a little bit of that

I wasn’t sure how to categorize this post (besides under the label “late”) because I have a lot of little bit of nothing to say about everything. I’m also simultaneously watching/listening to Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice” (the one with Christopher Walken sitting/dancing with his hands in his pockets/flying) because I thought the chorus went “Little bit of this, little bit of that, little bit of this, little bit of that.” Apparently, it is actually:

You can go with this
Or you can go with that
You can go with this
Or you can go with that
You can go with this
Or you can go with that
Or you can throw with us*

Who knew?

So let’s do this in order:

  1. I know, I know: Monday updates. Even better, the only person to bug me about the missing post wasn’t either of my two (related) watchers, but a third unrelated watcher. Good heavens, I’m moving up in the world.
  2. My excuse: I was packing. Whether or not the delay was also motivated by a distinct lack of motivation is up for debate.**
  3. The second proof for “The Bump Under the Bed” showed up on my font porch this morning. We are almost up and running, folks! I’ll have an advertisement video out later this week, though possibly only on Facebook depending on the amount of media file storage space I have left on this website. While you can certainly run out and buy a copy through Createspace — the company that actually prints the physical copies of the book — right this second, the approval process for Amazon will take another 3 – 5 business days.
  4. And finally, Part 2 of “December/Christmas 1995,” in as short of hand as I can manage:

My conscience ate at me. Every night after bedtime prayers I’d lay awake while the sin of both writing the note and letting Sean take the blame for it grew to nightmarish proportions, assuring myself over and over again that by the time I was in fourth grade the guilt would have faded. I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone knowing I had done such an evil thing. If I could last out the guilt, surely it would stop bothering me. No one would ever have to know.

Months of this went by before I broke down. I could forget about it during the day, but every night it was there with me, filling the silence of nighttime with the awful weight of I know what I’ve done even if no one else does. I made no plans, just got out of bed one night, crept quietly up behind Mom and Dad (either sitting in the living room or watching television downstairs) and confessed all. I couldn’t live with it anymore.

I wasn’t there when they told Mrs. Anderson what I had done. Afterwards, when I asked how she responded, they simply said, “She was surprised it was you.”

And that was it. She chose not to tell either Ostrich Boy or my scapegoat, undoubtedly because it had been, you know, months since it happened. The enormous burden was not only gone, it had been long forgotten by everyone involved. The only real consequence came at the end of that month, during prize time. Mrs. Anderson had a number of prize boxes for her third graders; the more stickers you earned on your chart by the end of the month, the better quality prize you got to choose. She drew our names at random to determine who would go first, and that month my name was pulled from the box last. I’ll never know for certain whether that was purposeful, though it seems a good guess. At the very least, it was a relief to receive some sort of punishment. It felt wrong to choose a prize from the grade-A quality pile anyways, but I did so, though I couldn’t look at her when I walked past. I hid the small toy at the bottom of my backpack, ashamed for her to see me play with it.

As for me, for the next couple of years I became a confession junkie. Between Luther’s Evening Prayer and the Choosing of The Stuffed Animal (I was afraid of showing favoritism towards my stuffed animals — and thereby inadvertently making them feel bad — so I asked Mom or Dad to pick the one who got to sleep with me at night, sidestepping the emotionally scarring experience by using the arbitrary hand of a higher authority), I’d run through every sinful act I could remember from that day, unburdening my soul. I’d learned how good the sweet relief felt.

Years later I found out that, before starting the reformation, Martin Luther did much the same to his own confessor, Johann von Staupitz. He’d confess for hours, running through every sin he could think of, afraid of missing any his own mind had tried to hide from himself. From the 2003 movie “Luther:”

JOHANN VON STAUPITZ: You know, in two years I’ve never heard you confess anything remotely interesting.

Poor Mom and Dad. No wonder I’m a Lutheran.

*Or alternately “You can blow wit’ this/Or you can blow wit’ that” depending on which lyric site you’re perusing.

**It was.

December/Christmas 1995

Ostrich Boy sat two seats over.

I was aware of this because I hated him, with every bit of little goody two shoes that I was. We were making Christmas ornaments and I was busy spooling yarn around a cardboard square, making a sheep for the family Christmas tree. I acted like you’d expect (I lived in mortal fear of disappointing the adult figures in my life, and cried whenever I earned less than an A on any of my assignments), but I had a streak of stubborn independence; it seems appropriate that I chose to make a black sheep on this particular day, rather than a white one. My hands were sticky with glue from my tissue paper wreath, yarn fuzzies coating the pads of my fingers, but my mind was five feet back and to the left, where Ostrich Boy sat coloring (very badly, I thought) the back of his own wreath. That wasn’t even the assignment.  I watched him from the corners of my eyes, scribbling hard with a colored pencil.

I thought of him as Ostrich Boy because he’d used the description himself. Born at two and a half pounds with something wrong with him (I remembered the two and half pounds but not the something wrong, because he’d brought in a licorice bag for show and tell that weighed as much as he did when he was born, so he said), he wore leg braces and said that he ran like an ostrich, which was true. He had gumption, but also one of the most manipulatively sniveling personalities I’d ever met. He was not the good little boy that I thought disability kids were supposed to be. He laughed at the expense of others, joked to be cruel, and I’d once heard him actually curse. Yes, curse. To my eight-year-old ears, this was the pinnacle of bad kid behavior.

But the worst part – worse than any swear word, worse than the grin, than the leg bracings that gave him a free-pass to the former – was how he used tears to his advantage.  As the youngest in my family I implicitly understood that crying for effect was a deeply unfair strategy. That was dirty pool. You only cried if you meant it.

Earlier that week he’d called Jessie four eyes. Jess was popular because she actually deserved it, wore glasses and a kind smile, and the insult had been pathetic. Four eyes was the cop-out insult. But then his insults always worked like that: innocuous on one level, mean-spirited anyways. He had grinned, the boys at his back had laughed (idiots), and Megan had jumped to her defense. She was a four eyes too and Jessie’s best friend, so it was her fight for the taking.

“You’re stupid.”

As retorts went, this was bad. Still, we were all good girls and in the middle of the hall, so no one dared to actually say “a butthead” where a teacher might hear it. I backed her up with a mean laugh (it was supposed to sound mean, to let her know she had done good), and Megan cocked her hip and smiled.

His eyes welled immediately. Unbelievable, except that it worked.

Megan dropped her hip and quite suddenly I was in a hall full of doves, all cooing their condolences.  Tim (big, athletic, and sometimes a jerk; I nearly wore him down while playing tag once – with two older siblings my endurance was something to behold – but he called time-out a couple of inches before I tagged him and used it as a breather before simultaneously shouting “Time in!” and sprinting away; another height of criminality in the third grade) pushed off the wall to see what was wrong.

I saw it in their faces. Here was this poor kid, two and half pounds at birth, runs like an ostrich, and suddenly we were all remembering that his life was unfair. With his eyes pricking red, it became an easy thing to forget that he called Jessie four eyes, squinted when he smiled (like a rat planning something), and laughed when other kids tripped.

When the consolation session had finished, when he turned back into his usual, wretched self, he swiveled on a braced leg, caught Tim’s eye, and I know – I know – I heard it, said, “They are so damn stupid.”

(Though “I know” is, admittedly, something of an exaggeration. He was quiet enough that I’m not entirely certain how the insult went. But I know I heard “damn,” even if I didn’t know exactly who are what he was condemning to eternal punishment in hell.)

“Did you hear that?” I demanded. There was a general outcry when I leaned in to Megan and explained in a hushed whisper (he said “darn” only the bad way, I swear I heard him), but the scandal settled way too quickly for my taste. I wasn’t hurt on behalf of the popular girls (I was friendly with them but not friends; I didn’t know how you got into that group and it wasn’t really worth it if you weren’t in automatically ), but I couldn’t stand injustice. It roiled up hard anger right at my forehead, deep behind my skull where most of my headaches start, because he manipulated everyone and I was the only one who saw it.

So I was sitting there, the day melted mostly away and the end of school ticking closer, watching his hand scribble, scribble, scribble, when brilliance struck me so suddenly it actually made my eyes twinkle.  Not that I had a mirror to see, but if smart aleck cleverness can show up on someone’s face, it had to have just showed up on mine.

The best part about being one of the good kids is that no one ever sees you coming. The third out of three golden children my parents had had the good fortune (or perhaps fortitude) to raise, I had come to realize that being good meant you got away with more. I rarely got in trouble; usually because I didn’t ask for it, but sometimes just because being smart was about being clever. I pulled out a piece of paper, hid it between my desk and my lap, and wrote the word “crybaby” with my left hand, disguising my handwriting. I could smell the glue from my fingers, several inches from my face as I kept my body scrunched as far into itself as possible.

“Oh!” Kelly said, leaning with remarkable and unexpected speed over my work. Her hair swept sharply forward, accusing me. “That looks really cute!”

I startled very quietly (a trick I’d learned growing up with a brother who liked jumping out at me from dark corners), and all the pencil did was punch a hole into the paper.  She didn’t see, which was good.  Friend or not I remained smart about this. I knew, even then, that the only way to keep a secret was to make sure I was the only one keeping it.

For a moment I couldn’t think of what to say.

“Thanks,” I finally remembered.

Fortunately, Kelly returned to her work, which involved pulling bits of red tissue paper off her fingers. She plucked at the green when she was finished, and I was safe to wait for opportunity to knock.

“Would you please pass me the—”

I pushed the glue over without looking, because I couldn’t bear to let anyone stop me. Sometimes sinning is as simple as keeping up your momentum.

Ostrich Boy stopped scribbling suddenly, and I became keenly aware of my own heartbeat. Not the beat itself, but the way it made breathing difficult. He looked at the result of his mess of an art project, and when he took himself and his purple pencil with an ostrich, ostrich, ostrich walk to the pencil sharpener, the time to make my move was officially nigh.

I followed him to the back, alibi in my hand (my own pencil, in case anyone asked what I was doing), and I made sure with a subtle side glance that no one was looking. Mrs. Anderson – wonderful, with blonde hair, a smile that crinkled her face with amusement, and a way of answering any question you could think of to ask – was nowhere to be seen. In truth I was watching for her, because the deepest shame I could imagine involved her finding some reason to be disappointed in me. Justified though I knew my cause to be, it would kill me to get caught.

I was very smooth. The note went into his desk as I passed, slightly crushed, but that fit the handwriting on the lined paper. I couldn’t look at him when we crossed, but I smiled at no one, pleased with myself. The sharpener made a scrumming noise that vibrated through my hand, and I went back to my seat. Nonchalant. Casual.

Ostrich Boy found it way too fast.

I sat down with all my organs in the wrong place. I actually had to pass him as he discovered what I had done. I hadn’t counted on that. I expected him to find it later, when I wasn’t around to smile or start or give myself away, but I still couldn’t stop the tugging of my mouth. Success (yes!), but I was still feeling my heart press my lungs to the front base of my throat.

“Hey,” he said suddenly, throwing up the note to Cody, who sat behind him. “Who wrote this?”

Eject, eject, eject, and my breath was crawling backwards into my esophagus. He was not supposed to show it to anyone. He was supposed to take the note to heart, feel bad, and then move on with his life. This was not how it was supposed to happen.

Cody took it, then passed on note and the question.  “Who wrote this?”

Tim took it. They were all gathering around his desk now, and my heart beat a hard ba-THUMP into my ribs, pounding as the boys passed my seat to get to his.

But my ploy had worked.

“It was Sean,” one of them decided.

Sean was actually meaner than Ostrich Boy, with the disadvantage that he had neither the guts to swear in school or the leg braces to make everyone his friend. He was also well-known as the worst kid in class. With the worst handwriting.

Shane let go a “hmph” of breath through his teeth, and agreed. “It’s Sean.”

Tim (and at this moment I couldn’t stand Tim), said: “It has to be.” Size meant authority and this, as much as the crappy handwriting, made it true.

Mrs. Anderson called them both to her desk, Sean claiming innocence the whole way, but no one believes the boy who cried wolf. I was clever; I was safe. They never saw me coming. Never even dreamed it might’ve been me.

And I felt the guilt start to coil deep and snake-like into my stomach.

In my continuing defense, at some point in the past I worked very hard on these

A Mouse Tale
By Andrea

Eeny, meeny
miney dragon
Have you been
plane in my wagon?

Eeny meeny
miney to Have
you been sleepn in
my shoe?

Eeny meeny
miney wink
Have you been
Planying in my sink?

© 1993/94

You thought I was kidding about scalping my Elementary schoolwork for blog material, didn’t you? “A Mouse Tale” has been transcribed exactly as written, and looks only slightly less like a series of texts written by a drunk person in the original handwriting. In my defense I was six (or possibly seven) at the time, and had only learned to write either a few weeks or a few months before. Mind you, this was not the first book I ever wrote. But I’ll save that remarkably good read for another time.

Oh! But speaking of texts (or more accurately – modern phones), two grades later, in the Fall of 1995, I came up with the following invention:

The crazy wacky wierd telophone.

When you press a button you can say the persons first and last name and it will dial the number for you. And if its to soft it will louden it up for you. I invented it so if you dont know what the number you can just press a button and say the persons first and last name and it will dial. You can buy it at malls. It costs $900 dollars.

I think someone in the phone industry may owe me a good deal of money.

At the end of the year – or so I’m guessing, considering its placement in the back of the file marked “Third Grade” – is a story that has actual plot, dialogue, and markedly improved sentence structure and spelling. That was my first year with Mrs. Anderson (I had her again in fifth grade), and she still rates high in the rankings of my favorite teachers. I can trace everything I first learned about story structure and plot progression to her.

So, without further ado, The Story Folder now presents “Among the Stars,” a third grade production of daring adventure in space, first brought to the world probably late in the Spring of 1996!

My story starts in Missoula, Montana in the forest. There’s a pond many, many trees and there is my house. It is pretty, white with black trimmings and it has a big garden.

By the way my name is Andrea Lynn Schultz. I have a friend named Czechislovakia. I’ll call him Chuck. He’s a skinny young boy and has blond hair, blue eyes, and is almost 4 feet tall. We both are 9 years old. One night Chuck and I were sitting on the front porch just enjoying ourselves. Suddenly a huge light appeared out of no where and it landed. The light ceased. In its place was a rocket!

My friend got scared stiff and almost fainted. I just stood there. It was blazing with the light of stars. Printed on the side of the rocket in golden letters was Star Lab. It had a blue stripe on the top of it, and the rest of it was gray. It was shimmering like a crystal. There was about a million ridges on it and was about 45 feet tall. On the tip of the nose of the rocket was a fire ball. It wasn’t burning the rest of the rocket, but I think that’s what kept it shimmering. It had the power of at least 20 trucks and was in the shape of a cone. It looked like it just had been polished. But right then to my horror the door opened and Chuck and I were sucked in! Finally he got to his senses and I wasn’t so frightened. Inside of the rocket were green buttons, red buttons, blue buttons, long buttons, small buttons, buttons of all different shapes and sizes. I couldn’t believe how many buttons there were! The inside of the rocket was painted teal and it too looked like it had been polished. It had two little chairs that were soft and could be twirled around. It had a couple of windows shaped into a circle. Then I remembered I had to get out. I tried and tried to get the door opened but it was locked! I was trapped and frightened!

Just then there was a jolt, and I flew back and landed on a big green button which turned the rocket on! I tried pushing a button but the pressure pushed me back and off we went! Finally the rocket slowed down and then what do you think happened? Chuck and I went floating through the air! I pushed myself toward the control room and found a little blue button which was labeled gravity. I pushed it and whump, bump Chuck and I came bumping down to the floor.

Then I looked out the window and I saw the horizon, the zenith, and then I saw Missoula. I started crying but I stopped crying because I knew it wouldn’t help getting home. Then I looked up and I saw many many different kinds of constellations. I saw Aquila, that means eage. And I saw Cassiapeia, Corona Borealis, Cygmus, Delphinus, Draco, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Lycra, Ophiuchus, Serpens, Orion, Pegasus, Polaris, and last but not least, Ursa Minor.

I was not sure where I was headed but it looked like I was going for the sun! But right when we were about to hit we took a sharp turn and there in the back of the sun was a green mushy mucky gooey planet! Yuck! What a disgusting planet! “What should we call this disgusting planet?” I asked Chuck.

“Beats me,” he answered.

“How about gooey green and mucky thing?” I said.

“No, that sounds like some monster covered with slime.” Chuck answered.

“Yah. I guess your right. Hmm I wonder.” I said.

“Hey! I know,” Chuck said. “How about the planet Oableck,” he said.

“Yah! Cool! Awesome! Radical! Nice name.” I said.

“I wonder if we will land.” Chuck said.

“Nope not on this planet. But I wish we would.” I said.

“Me too.” Chuck said. But I wouldn’t get out. I looked out the window again. Now the stars were shimmering even more than before. I looked at the world, and it was really small now. I sighed and said “I wonder if we will ever get back?”

“Wait a minute,” I said, “why don’t we turn this baby around.”

“Don you touch anything!” yelled Chuck. “I don’t want to get killed!”

“Oh don’t be such a baby.” I answered.

“Well O.k.” Chuck said. “Then lets get moving. Here’s a red button that says turn.”

“Then push it!” I said. “O.k.” And so we turned toward the sun.

I told Chuck to get some food because both of us know it is midnight snack time, so Chuck went to get some food that we found in a pantry. He came back, tripped on a bump and came jolting forward and hit a button that said “full speed ahead.” Aaauugghh! “We’re going straight for the sun!” We both yelled at the same time! I pulled at along skinny button that said stop, reverse. I pulled that, but I guess the pressure was to strong and it snapped off! Chuck and I knew that the long skinny button was our only chance and now it was snapped off.

We both started screaming as loud as we could and when we just started screaming, whump I fell out of bed! “Whoa What a nightmare,” I said. I jumped out of bed and then heard a small clunk. I looked on the floor and laying there was the long skinny button! I almost fainted I was so surprised! At breakfast I told my family about what happened last night, but no one believed me. I even showed them the long skinny button! I guess it was invisible to them. When I went to school I told all of my friends except Chuck about what happened and I showed them the long skinny button but nobody believed me and they couldn’t see the button either! Then Chuck came running up to me and he said he had a really bad dream and he told me about what happened. He was telling the story of what happened last night! When he got to the last part of it he ended it like this and when he was finishing I showed him the button and it sounded like this, “Then I um woke up” and he fainted.

“What a sissy,” I said. And now I knew I really had been among the stars.