NVDT #84 – The Faulkner-Buck-Hemingway-Morrison-Eliot American Nobel Add-on Pack Available for Immediate Download

I knew it was coming – We’ve had this in the music business since 1998. Since the 70s if you want to get nerdy about it, since wire and tape and Musique Concrete if you’re history retentive, but let’s stay contemporary. Today it’s Download the DJ Whatsisass Producer Pack! All kits/styles played by real musicians! Up to 8 types of keyswitchable articulations for maximum expressiveness!

Seriously, a program called ACID ph1 was the first to offer operational usefulness in allowing the user to drop, tempo match and assemble slices of audio into “songs.” I’ve been saying it was coming, just like I said back in the 90s that the first people to get hardware synths into computers would be the winners. Been to a music store lately? The keyboard department is a tenth the size of the 80s and 90s. In fact a Music Director friend of mine said he’d gone into GC Hollywood and “I was like where’d all the keyboards go?”

Por exemplo – I was in an empty office the other day, fired up the TV and hit the music channels, landed on some Drum and Bass. I left 3 hours later. It was the same, long, uninterrupted song. A song anyone could download the components of for $10 and “produce” in their bedroom.

Well, what follows is the demise of the indie writers as would be arteests. Not that 98% of us shouldn’t stop polluting the internet anyway. Maybe this will do away with the overabundance of adverbs, inside out sentences, bad dialogue, hiccupping continuity. Won’t do a thing for the plethora of “I’ve got a chef or Danger Barbie and Hunky Ken, too!” clones. Unfortunately we won’t be able to spot the female ESL Hallmark moment poets from T.S. Eliot except from the comments section.

I’m already inspired by the graphic below. I see a series where a dwarf with propecia, a mangled left ear and a wooden leg wanders the underworld carrying a squeeze bottle of Clorox Gel Bleach and a magic brush looking for the one toilet ring he can’t clean. That particular toilet being his portal of escape. That is, if he can find someone willing to flush him.

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Okay, God. I Apologize

For what I don’t know.

Last week after a brief tête-à-tête with an idiot jaywalker I gave her the finger and she screamed “Racist” and I replied “Idiot Ass is color blind.” But we’ve gotten so far off the porch on political correctness it’s become illegal to fart at the zoo. The karma police don’t have time for that sort of offensive minutia. And Idiot Ass is color blind.

Thursday a hard drive full of personally curated audio samples got flaky and died before I could back it up. Fortunately it was (mostly) a copy of a drive on an old computer in the garage. I got a new external SSD. When you go to copy a drive you’ve been maintaining the contents of since 2006 (the year of the first and only big crash that ate 20 years worth of sampling data) you realize just how much shit you’ve accumulated and how easily 723GB pares down to 232GB that’s useful. Like editing the written word. But it still takes hours to comb through, sort and copy.

Friday morning I scratched my left eye. I have no idea how. At first I thought I had an errant eyelash or some boulder in there, but after a day of trying to flush it with saline I knew better. It’s unwise to leave anything about your eyes to chance so I hit the urgent care down the street. I got antibiotic drops. Even better I got a black eye patch. Arrrrr, Matey!

Sunday morning my dryer stopped getting hot. I know why, but I won’t call Oprah and blame anyone publicly for my suicidal feelings. Instead I ordered the part on Amazon, watched a video and dismantled my dryer. With one eye and no depth perception. I could hear the power screwdriver saying with not a little eye rolling “To the right, idiot. The screw is to the right.”

Monday afternoon the part arrived. The old politically incorrect saying “So simple a blind man could do it” shone on me like the Star of Bethlehem because screwed back together and switched on it performed like new. A 45 minute job that took three hours. And saved me $700. And I only got a small nick on my left hand and no blood.

Tuesday morning my wife got her second cup of coffee. I went for mine and the bottom needle in the Keurig broke. The fault message was “clean the needles.” Which I did, loaded another pod and when I pulled it after failure two the needle fell out on the floor. Okay. Take a shower, go buy a coffee maker.

I have soft close toilet seats. All they require is a gentle tap and the pets can’t drink out of them. No one (grandkids) can bang them in the middle of the night. No one gets grossed out lowering the seat and lid. Tap n go. I raise the seat so I can tinkle while the shower heats up, and out of nowhere I’m doing my thing and the fucking hinge on one side of the seat breaks. The lid stays up, the ring nose dives into the commode and takes up residence ass end up like the Titanic while, to avoid splatter blowback, I implement some knee bends and redirects in an attempt to pee through the hole.

Now there are two things that need mandatory repair before the sun rises.

I got a dual purpose Keurig on sale. Pods or carafe. Screw me once needles, but not twice. I should mention the replacement part is half the cost of a new machine and according to most of the reviews it’s good for a day to four months. Plus I had to wait a day for it. Screw. That. I almost bought another brand of dually but it required the insertion of various adaptors on the pod side to function properly. Screw. That. I was able to obtain the seat replacement at the same store. It’s the little blessings, you know?

Now it’s Wednesday. I might not get out of bed.

NVDT #83 – “Y’know, anymore I take Viagra just to keep from pissin’ on my shoes.”

Michael “Rocky” Johnson – Men’s Room, Southwest Guitar Show, 2015

PART OF OPEN LINK BLOG HOP

Prompt – How often do you overhear an awesome one-liner or witty comeback, and tell yourself you need to write that down to use for one of your characters?

Who, me? Duh...

“Jack-sown, my man!” Dash interrupted Jackson’s rummage through the laundry basket. “Bruise on your arm needin’ backstory.”

“I was helping Cynthia with a script…” he shook out an inside out black Van Halen tour t-shirt, eyeballed it.

“Just put it on, brother. Ain’t nothin’ gonna show on a black shirt ‘cept white cat hair or fresh love juice. That one bein’ clean, the inspection an all be like, know what I’m sayin’? Lemme see… Cynthia…” He closed his eyes, index fingertips to temples. “Ah, yes. All spice extra nice apple bottom ex-centerfold plays softball on my brother Casper’s wet dream team. How might you be persuaded to, as is commonly said, give it up?”

The screen fluttered, polarized for flashback, slowly came into focus…

Her hand paused at the split-point in the curtains. They were a soft white with an oriental tree dotted with a few blossoms motif that ran two-thirds of the way up from the floor. “I’m not sure what I expected of your decor, so I shouldn’t be surprised by the unexpected.”

“I had help.”

“Of course you did.” She pulled the curtains aside, cranked the window open, shivered slightly, rubbed her hands together.

“ ‘Think tasteful,’ is what I was told. ‘Not in terms of gender or guests. Think of your space as your own livable gallery.’ I quit listening after the curtains.”

She stared out the window saying with light rabidness, “Certainly you had to ask someone for advice on everything else.”

“Give me a little credit.”

“Credit only where it is due, Darling. Next you’ll tell me you’ve learned to cook, become a Godhead chef and wine sommelier. A world away from your roots as an inconvenient Bohemian.”

“Those would be lies. Bohemian suits me these days as long as the place stays clean enough to find the floor.”

 “That’s a relief.” She rolled the window almost closed. “What sort of day, I wonder?” She paused, distracted by a glance in the full-length mirror. “Where I was a day like this would be sometime in summer. A cold morning mist, an evening chill on its heels. Midday perhaps a brief, seductive kiss of golden sun with its empty promises of warmth. As self-righteously steadfast in infidelity as a lover caught in a lie.”

“Enchanting, my dear. I hope whoever you got that from is as long forgotten as they are dead. As we’re exploring the unexpected, the black is fetching, if not Puritanically severe. Anyone I know?”

“The loss of anyone you should know in this Godforsaken colony wouldn’t be the least lamentable to me. No,” she turned at last from the curtains, caught herself in the mirror again. “This is for me.”

“Mourning for yourself?”

“The death of my banishment.” She fluttered a loose lacey black sleeve in a tossing off gesture. “The end of my exile.”

“An exile as I recall completely of your own –”

“Darling! Your tone! Is it such a rancid memory that we can’t speak of it without you becoming tiresomely corrosive?”

“You left us, ‘Darling’. Without a word. And you have the nerve to celebrate it now, throw it in my face?”

“I simply asked what sort of day it would be, but since we’ve arrived at this destination, I shall try to explain…” She went quiet, full furrowed brow pensive. “One’s behavior in certain situations… may appear from the outside to be… selfish… When in truth they are acting, or reacting, unbeknownst even to them, in response to a… a higher calling.” She returned, gradually, from thoughtful to carefree. “Today I bury that chapter of my life and move forward. You must accept that, Darling.”

“So the formative work you were suddenly called to complete by unrecognizable spectral groanings in the ether is behind you? Look out feminism, I’m back? That’s your story?”

“Yes. You needn’t be bitter or snide. What?”

“Nothing.”

“What!”

“I’m waiting for the part with the magic carpets and a Fabio clone Genie in a jeweled jockstrap to grant your last two wishes.” He stepped to the window, cranked it until the pane stood at a right angle to the frame. “Today the sun will burn off the drizzle and haze, it will be in the seventies by early afternoon. Depending on where you are, you might need a light wrap this evening. Or…” he stalled, looked deeply into the mirror… “a… cape?”

“Don’t be facetious, Darling. I suppose it’s the ocean that keeps the clime so temperate,” she said, absently. “I never found a warm beach in England.”

“I heard the French keep those to themselves.” He turned, still shaken by the mirror. “Here, this time of year, the surfers wear wet suits, but most of the Santa’s are in Hawaiian shirts. I told you, it’s like living in a shopping mall nine months out of the year. With mudslides, earthquakes and fires thrown in to interrupt the boredom. If you want cold beaches in summer, they’re up north.”

“That would be up by Frisco?”

San Fran-cisco. The City. No one says ‘Frisco’ except in old moves. Saying it out loud is considered gauche.”

“No more than Santa Claus in a, in a…” she got the giggles, turned red. “Oh shit, Jackson…”

“I’ve been waiting for the fold since ‘selfish’ came out ‘shellfish’.” He dropped the Xeroxed script on the coffee table, rolled his shoulders. “Who wrote this crap?”

“Someone who believes mirrors purchased from aging child stars in scenic, too clean ocean-side small town antique shops tell forever-fated-to-be-lover’s stories across the centuries?”

“Bull. Shit.”

“This junk sells, Jax,” she waved her rolled up script. “Look at your Golden Glob for Twice is as Good as Forever. Talk about some pure dee crapola.”

“Globe. Golden Globe. And it was for incidental music, not –”

“If you collected it in half a hotel ballroom in Anaheim with the studio tan techies and not on TV, it’s a Glob.”

“Touché. Are you sure this is a good idea for you, though? Career wise?”

“I don’t have a career, Jackson. I have some flattering partial nudies and a thin gold necklace for being foldout of the year, going on three years ago. Which means I’m an old lady now to the pimply faced boys who read that shit and I’m sick of signing three-year-old slicks of myself in a negligee at freaking conventions. I’m also short, so I’m always a Snickers bar away from being Rubenesque on camera. Like right now. And I’d like to eat a Snickers bar now and then without thinking about it. So if I drop four or five next week and can repeat this crap in under four takes I’ll have coaxed my final shot out of what’s left of my foldout capital. I do this film in a push-up bra and low-cut costumes that are as Victorian as your Impala and I can fund myself until the pysch Ph.D. starts to pay.” She dropped her glasses down on her nose, fanned the script.

“And eat a Snickers bar when you want one. Like this morning.” He glanced at her butt. “I get it.”

She smacked his arm with her script, he sported a small crooked grin when he picked up his copy from the coffee table.

“What’s with the smirk, cowboy?”

“You. This morning’s Snickers bar. Rubenesque. All of it. Reminded of something a friend of mine’s Dad used to say.”

“The smirk says I’m the trigger for that memory.” She folded her arms, rolled up script in her right fist. “Own it.”

He cleared his throat, dropped his voice. “So you wanna go to Hollywood, huh? Well, you should go.”

“Yeah?” her eyebrows came up slightly.

“Yeah.” He leaned, leered theatrically at her backside. “The walk will do you good.”

What do other bloggers do? Click the link below.

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Thanks to JGM and “Big” Bill Jordan for the final tag.

NVDT #82 – And Then, Um…Everybody Lived Happily Ever After!

PART OF OPEN LINK BLOG HOP

Is (Are) ‘genre-bending’ and ‘genre hybrid’ a reality(ies) or a fallacy(ies)? Has plot changed since Shakespeare or the Bible?

Yes, they are. And not much. But first – Story time –

“First there was a mean lady. I ‘member her ‘cause she had some really, um, mean ugly daughters. They were so ugly their names were the Fuglies and ’cause they were so ugly was why the lady was mean ’cause she was gonna be stuck with them f’rever ’cause of it. An then there was a party in the castle an everybody wanted to go but ‘Rella couldn’t ’cause her clothes were sucky but some birds and mice got helped by a big dog so they could ran away from a cat and and they made a magic dress for ‘Rella but the mean lady an the Fuglies messed it all up an ‘Rella cried ’cause she couldn’t go to the party. And and then a mom who was a fairy came and fixed it all with a wand like Tinkerbelle’s only she was kinda fat not like Tinkerbelle but with the same wand and and and she wanded the mice into horses and ‘Rella went to the party in a pumpkin. Then, um, the pumpkin turned back into a pumpkin. An a man in white pants with only half his glasses ’cause he only needed to see one foot knocked on the door and and he, well, he brought the glass shoe inside to see who was there could wear it an the Fuglies cut off their toes even and there was blood an everything but the shoe didn’t fit their Fugly fat feet anyway, and and and then the mice ‘scaped ‘Rella and she ran downstairs to see the half glasses man an the shoe fit her! And and and then ‘Rella gave the mean old lady an the Fuglies the finger and…Um… everybody lived happily ever after!”

“Did your Papa read you this story?”

“Um… Yeah. An we ate popcorn and drank two lemonades.”

“And Cinderella gave the Mean Lady and the Fuglies the finger?”

“Well yeah ’cause they were total butt heads to her. Who you callin’?”

“Papa.”

Deviations in language or other incongruous updates are not “bent.” Same story, same plot. It could become the Biker chick dystopia sub genre of Tough as Nails female lead genre. A sub genre of Hero’s Journey – RomCom Female lead, sub genre of Hero’s Journey – RomCom sub genre of Hero’s Journey – Comedy, Sub genre of Epic-Comedy… until we end up at the Adventure or Fantasy or Drama header. Which is why this conversation really belongs in the same room with people who think grammar rules should apply to dialogue, but it’s not. So…

Further confusion arises when film types randomly interchange Genre with Style, and when other articles posted on the all knowing internet misfire and call the basic elements of fiction plots. Posted by teachers who should know better. Worse, “Conflict” and “Resolution” are being taught as mandatory “story elements” in elementary school. Is peripeteia really a requirement to be entertained?

And the bastardized “Elements” of fiction are now trending to adults as “beats.” Check out most of the “how to” fiction writing being purveyed and you’ll discover “beats”’ are all the rage. “Beats” are the age old Elements of Fiction, repackaged. I assume for the benefit of the authors who are pandering to our crowd, hoping through lack of exposure by prior vocation or design that we are unaware their “secrets” are older than the written word.

Archetypes and stereotypes and genre and beats… Quick – Four Trickster Archetypes – uh, uh, Coyote, and, and Goldilocks, uh… B’rer Rabbit (and his Nigerian cousin Zomo) and Bart Simpson who grew up to be Dionysus! Great! Now, they’re all on Mars, shapeshifting and sycophanting their way into a giant Gefunkensnot 19 heist Three acts, nine beats, offstage violence, lots of humor. Go!

Difficult to pigeonhole? A whole new concept?

Crime Fiction- sub genre comedic heist or caper, dystopia.

I used to think that Genre was the costume, the set, the environment, the complete “om-be-awnz” inhabited and traversed by the story’s population with setting as a subset. I still do, quietly. It’s not worth entering into the story form vs genre vs style argument because at some point it’s simply semantics. Examples: Science Fiction is a certified Genre. Action/Adventure (sub Epic) is a certified Genre (or two). So what’s Star Wars? Mad Max? Mystery is a certified Genre. So is Horror. Is Alien a sub genre of Horror or Science Fiction or Mystery? See? Pigeonholing them can be done, but why bother… They’re all costume dramas of one kind or another.

Plot, though, makes more sense because it is the totality of EVENTS in the dramatic story form. The storyline. Plot is independent of genre and setting although sub genres will suggest form (procedural, say, which might be a quest…Jesus…). Plot is the infrastructure of the story, even if at times it seems to vanish or become ambiguous. However something is always happening on every page. Scenes are being set, characters act and respond (or don’t) to some activity by persons or nature and there are consequences, immediate or telegraphed or for simple entertainment value diversion. Whether or not those activities are part of a goal driven story (conflict and resolution) are not relevant because the goal might take an entire series of events (the plot) to be exposed. Or it might be two hours SOC in the St. Louis airport on Mother’s Day. I have an entire riff on what is valuable content here.

This page at The Pulp.Net will send you to the plot chroniclers Polti, Palmer, Heath and the Grandaddy of them all, William Wallace Cook. Think maybe you or someone you know has reinvented the wheel? Check out Plotto, the real deal wheel. Take old guy married to young woman. What can go wrong? The Miller’s Tale to A Perfect Murder and probably thousands of procedurals from cozies to time warp vampires to Midsommer Murders. More of that Genre cross curriculum activity. It’s also Number 213 in Plotto, with cross references for sub plot(s). Call central casting and embellish them in genre as you will, the story can still be boiled down to framework.

Genre and Plot. Plot is, Genre is subjective. Don’t believe me? Say no more…

To see what other hoppers think click the link below

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Yes, I own Plotto. It will do nothing for skill, but it will help get Danger Barbie and Hunky Ken out of a grass hut in a monsoon because they got there and, and, and…

NVDT Totally Random – Type. Hit Return. Repeat As Necessary.

Or – Thanks for the whine, I’ll keep the change.

From time to time I build up a real head of steam over the whole “new fangled shit sucks” commentary. From music to art to the Gutenberg Block editor. The latter I am about to take in hand. Because good luck hanging on to yesterday. As Chad Stuart wrote, ” …that was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone.”

News Flash. Things change.

News Flash. Nothing is really new.

Want a classic example of block editing? Stonehenge. What do we give kids to build their spacial relations and motor skills? Building blocks.

Gutenberg Technology has a much wider scope and larger foothold in the web presentation community than just WP. GT is showing up everywhere inter-and-intranet content development takes place from the big shot corporate web publishing “partners” to do it yourself and “assisted” publishing sites for “authors”. The concept is everywhere, and isn’t new.

Take the most widely used presentation software for three generations. What is Power Point in its basic form but a block editor with some behind the curtains graphic and audio capabilities? Conceptually GT is the same thing, only slicker. Designed to take the old, simple but obviously still viable concept of chunking and paste-up to web content design. I’m not here to sell GT, but I would urge anyone complaining to research the purpose and impact of the product and its booming acceptance in the corporate world, or get left behind complaining about what is the next wave of content management and development. Look at it this way –

Before Power point…

After Power Point.

Believe it or not I produced presentations the old way. Doing that is a process essay on its own. So I don’t get the Gutenberg whining.

Type, hit return, repeat.

WTF is so hard to “get” about that? Every word, every sentence, every phrase, every paragraph we create is already a block. People who pay attention to their output grab those chunks and drag them around until the product equals the concept. Scrivener and every other dedicated script, screen and novel software are all based on visual feedback and the ability to drag, drop and rearrange content by scene, chapter, paragraph plus the ability to archive and recall those archived resources for reuse.

Well, there’s the learning curve, or I work like this, or… Like the GEICO commercial – 15 minutes could save you a world of time and hassle. Here’s one of those scenarios. My father-in-law (RIP) used an office type program from probably the 70s or early 80s, and all he ever used was the spreadsheet. He did his financial justifications in it, kept records in it, even had a template for mailing labels and writing letters inside of stretched cells -in a freaking spreadsheet! Sometime in the late 90s he got a “new” computer and asked me if I could transfer those templates into the new box. I said, “There’s a program in there for writing letters, with your choice of templates.” Nope. Then I had to break the news to him that he’d skipped a bunch of years of updates that might have brought those files forward but that option was way past its sell by date and he was going to have to adapt. He was one unhappy camper.

Look, our workflows will get interrupted, it’s the way we live. I was an on demand product specialist for a piece of software going back to 1988. It was my software of choice for music. Over time it morphed from Atari to Mac and PC to Mac only. It exists today as the Apple product Logic ProX .

When Apple bought it I didn’t move to a Mac or become my father-in-law. I had a deadline, blocks and tracks are blocks and tracks. I got an artist/industry comp on another product and went back to work. As my fictional hero Jackson says, “Listen, jam, take it where it needs to go. Spool it, print it, call a courier.”

From ’88 on I heard how Logic (Notator) was “too deep”. What?

If you don’t need all of it, don’t use it. Software isn’t judgemental. Type, hit return, repeat. Just like politics and traditional publishing. Same ol’ same ol’.

For all the block editing whiners out there I leave you with some visual blocks to play with.

Next time you want to whine about blocks you can help me do this…

With this

Or do this….

With this.

NVDT #81 – Life’s Too Short To Read Shitty Books

PART OF OPEN LINK BLOG HOP

PromptWhat does it take to impress you when you are reading someone else’s book?

Good Writing – Unfortunately there’s not a… No. Here’s a little parable. Remember back before GPS was everywhere, were you ever in a cab where you had to tell the driver how to get wherever the hell you needed to go? Like they knew two words – airport and Galleria. Lots of people write like that set up. They either have no idea where they’re going or how to get there, or they spend the entire ride giving directions.

What keeps me in a book is if I get something out of the first several pages. And to find those two pages, I’ll pick up things from everywhere. I throw a lot of them back. Fishing that way brought me to Barbara Park and Laura Levine, Edgar Box, John Trench.

Never heard of John Trench? Me, either. But there were four or five quotable lines in the first two pages, plus the answer to an issue I had with a critical scene in a WIP hauled up right off the page and bitch slapped me. So much so I was in a state of euphoric Eureka! for at least half an hour. Also, I find these older books have an acerbic sense of social stereotype satire we’re missing in the modern formula factory output. Or, with the L’Amour, the old adage of don’t start with the weather takes a hike because the opening is an exceptionally well-drawn, compact weather/location scene. If I could put a couple of out of work broke cowboys under a train trestle in shitty weather that well, I’d be rich and famous, too. But – seeing how he does it helps me put an over partied kidnapped grad student in a squat without wasting your day getting there.

These days I read, sometimes inadvertently, to learn something about craft. If I don’t notice it, then I tell myself, go back, figure out why you’re halfway through this book, effortlessly. Laura Levine–I’m forty pages in what would be a less professionally handled tosser farce. I skip the 70s moralizing in MacDonald’s I haven’t read because been there, done that, but I drink deep from his well of three-word descriptions that put whatever it is in my face. The way Robert B. Parker ends a chapter. Quit when you’re there, not just when you’re ahead. The way Hammett and Faulkner crush modern writers of ensemble scenes. In books I’d never heard of. How writers snake through the characters and the setting of a scene. How action needs very little set up (The Switch). Characters that might be cliché but rock it. Characters you wonder do people really do that shit for a living?

There are myriads of good writing templates available to put over our work, and we should, just to see if we’re close. If you’ve never done that, go ahead and nail your other foot to the floor now. For instance, I’m always harping on all the descriptive folderol that should be left up to reader to get them to invest. How can you do that if you don’t know that in 12 novels and numerous short stories we are never told an exact age or given a detailed description of one of cozy’s archetypes for the current plethora of every-woman detectives. If Ms. Marple can do it, why do we need to know about Danger Barbie’s auburn curls and Ancestry.com lineage of CIA assassins, white heels, short blue skirt and designer handbag? Are the readers reading or playing Barbie with an imagination coach?

Entertain me, make me suspend disbelief with well-written work. I’ll give anything a chance because I believe any book just might just be the next I Ching or Runes, or Don Shimoda’s Messiah’s Handbook.

“Open it,” he said, “and whatever you need to know is there.”

Or might be.

To see what keeps others reading, click the link below –

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NVDT #80 – Divine Intervention

PART OF OPEN LINK BLOG HOP

Prompt – Did you ever get picked last in gym or some other class? Have you used that in your writing?

I probably did. I was lousy at basketball, but I avoided it. In doing so I must have avoided the embarrassment. But have I used those years and experiences in my writing? This is a cutting room floor casualty from a WIP that will never see the light of day. If this isn’t enough and you’re curious about more true stories -The Blue Bag and the Valentine’s episode – White Lies and Dirty Laundry and Deanna- With Two Ns

Roosevelt Junior High, November 1971

“Jackson. Mis-ter, Jackson, come on. Get up out of there. Jackson! Move it!

Dammit. Jackson scrambled under the row of seats in front of him in the Roosevelt Junior High auditorium trying to pick up his science book, notebook, pencil and the single page mimeograph doodle sheet containing the synopsis of the 16-millimeter science film of the day because the girl on his right had gone ape shit and exploded on him. The girl on his left was about to cry, he could feel it. And the man who started films for science class every day, who was also his gym coach and homeroom teacher, was yelling at him. Gaw-odd-dammit.

“He dropped everything when she hit him, Mr. Stephens.” Janice, the girl on his left, tried to cover for him and not cry because someone was yelling.

“I don’t care, Miss Hurst. Jackson! Get up!” Mr. Stephens was leaning into the aisle, hands on the backs of the seats on either side of the row. “Jackson! Now!”

“He better never, never, never, ever, ever, ever do that again.” Connie, the girl on Jackson’s right, whacked the shit out of his back again. “You butt hole!”

“Miss Howard, that’s enough. Jackson!”

Stephens handled his own discipline, so at least this wouldn’t go to the office or his mom. If his mom found out he’d poked a girl in the boob with a pencil, even the eraser end, even on accident, she’d kill him. How did this shit happen? He sat up.

“Jackson, what the — ”

“He poked me in the…He poked me with his pencil in the…” Connie Howard couldn’t find the word she wanted for boob.

“It’s my fault, Mr. Stephens.” Janice was right on the edge of crying.

“Christ on a crutch, Miss Hurst. How is this your fault?”

“I, I asked him could I borrow a pencil, and then… it happened.”

“Somebody needs to tell me exactly what happened, before I yank the three of you off this row.” Stephens saw the flood coming and put his hand on Janice’s shoulder.

“Mr. Stephens, he didn’t do it. On purpose, I mean. Really. I saw it.” The voice one row down, one seat over from a red-faced Connie Howard suspended time because it came from Deanna Collings. The Hot Girl. Head cheerleader, president of everything, queen of whatever was left over.

“If you have some insight for me, Miss Collings,” Stephens relaxed his grip on the seat and Janice, dropped his head momentarily, muttered to himself before raising it. “I’m all ears.”

“Well, first,” Deanna shifted to face them, ankle on knee, arm over the back of her seat, “Janice asked Jax if he had a pencil she could borrow. He said ‘No, but Connie always has some.’ When he said that he pointed at Connie with the eraser end of his pencil, like this,” The Hot Girl turned her hand and demonstrated Jackson’s boob poke, “and poked her, here.” She pointed to the side of her left breast. “He wasn’t even looking at her when he did it. It was an accident. Really.”

Stephens scratched his chin that always seemed about a day away from his last shave, and waited.

“Mr. Stephens, my mom would kill me for poking Connie in the boob. And I’d never do that on purpose.”

“That she would.” Stephens held his laugh, checked off all of them with his eyes. “Can we all agree with Miss Collings that this little, um, ‘episode’ was an accident?”

Deanna flashed the Miss Popularity smile that turned just about everybody but Jackson to mush. “Connie, you know it was an accident. I’d let him go if it was me.”

Connie frowned, but let it go. “Okay. It’s alright. I’m sorry I hit you, Jax. But you’re still a butt hole. Janice?” She leaned across Jackson and handed Janice a sharp, new pencil, smashing her recently indignant left boob right into his chest.

Mr. Stephens walked back down to his projector shaking his head, crepe soled wingtips squishing all the way. Jackson. Poor kid. Completely surrounded by thirteen- and fourteen-year-old estrogen on that side of the auditorium and nowhere to hide.

Jackson leaned forward and reached long, careful to stay way out in front of his neighbor’s boobs and tapped the Hot Girl on the shoulder. She jumped, looked back at him.

“Deanna? Thanks, you know. Really.”

“You’re welcome.” She smiled a different smile that did turn him a little towards mush. He’d never seen her look anything like confused before, either, but she sorta did.

Deanna waited in the hall outside the auditorium after science class, grabbed Jackson’s shirt sleeve when he walked by, an action that threw a big wrench into the Hot Girl’s entourage. “I know you didn’t do it on purpose and it’s just not fair how you get in trouble all the time for nothing. I’m in your homeroom this year, sorta, so I had to, uh, you know… when you were getting it from Connie and Coach for nothing.”

“Yeah, um, thanks, you know? But girls on one side, us on the other. Kinda the same homeroom, but not really.” He was aware he’d need to not pee his pants if he talked to the Hot Girl for very long.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” She started to vanish into the crowd around her. “No, I won’t, it’s Wednesday!” She was walking backwards, almost shouting. “Where do you go with that big blue bag on Wednesdays?”

“Later.” There wasn’t time for the Tale of the Blue Bag. She was gone, swept away in a sea of popularity. This had to be the worst day of his life so far. Poking a friend in the boob by accident. Everybody in eighth grade watching him about to eat it with Stephens before the Hot Girl’s divine intervention. And then she talked to him. What did he say to her? Something stupid, probably. She sure was cute. More than cute. His mom had said, “Peaches and cream and big, bright eyes. You should be so lucky, Jax.”

Even though she’d made an effort to talk to him he still didn’t stand in line to hang with her before school or be part of the crowd when the two gym teachers decided to give them five minutes of co-ed home room. Why bother? She was pretty much sold on Matt, the guy with a few years too-late Beach Boy haircut, flip in the front, dyed Summer Blonde streaks and all. All the girls thought he was cute. Jackson thought he was a wuss, but he seemed to be by himself with that opinion. He and Mr. Stephens, anyway, Stephens saying to him one time during a Blue Bag handoff, “There’s a word for guys who put that shit in their hair, Jackson. Don’t be one of them.”

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