Week 7: "When you live for someone you're prepared to die"

"When you live for someone you're prepared to die"

My Barbie doll didn't wear a dress. She wore a black wetsuit that was so much a part of her identity that it was painted right on to her skin. She had plastic pink flippers and a pink one piece bathing suit that complimented her immaculately applied makeup. (Waterproof mascara, no doubt.)

She was supposed to be a whale trainer at SeaWorld, but I decided that she was a marine biologist named Sandy. This is exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. That is, before finding out that in order to be a marine biologist, I would have to be able to both swim underwater and dissect animals. The horror.

Sandy's hair was a frizzy mess from too many undersea adventures. She bore the scars of deep teeth marks on her thigh from when the dog got hold of her. I later explained her injuries as a shark attack. She was so brave.

The girl across the street – Nicky - had a very different idea of what the perfect life for her doll entailed. Her Barbie (actually named Barbie) was a party animal. Her favourite past times were trying on different outfits and dancing to Ace of Base and Michael Jackson with every handsome Ken doll we could find. There was actually only one of these so he was forced to take on many different identities.

Barbie didn't want to collect data with Sandy on endangered sea urchins, because she didn't want to ruin her hair. Sandy was stuck trying on stupid ballgowns that clashed with her wetsuit. I felt sorry for her.

Eventually, it was decided that both Barbie and Sandy would marry Ken. (As mentioned, we only had one boy doll between the two of us so it couldn't have gone any other way.) The sisterwives both became pregnant.

I declared that their lives were over and everything would now be boring. Nicky tried to convince me otherwise, but having Barbie and Sandy carry around toilet paper bundles (babies) had no appeal for me. Sandy abandoned her nameless bundle to Barbie and took off on an adventure to never be seen again. Perhaps she had postpartum depression.

Twenty years later, I still look back on this and wonder what made me feel so opposed to the idea of motherhood, even then. Women with babies come into the restaurant all the time, eyes full of expectancy. They seem to be waiting for the waitresses to coo and exclaim over their sleeping infants. It seems almost cruel to purposefully deny this and pretend that the car seats they've towed in don't even exist. When forced to acknowledge them, I have to ply my lips into a tight smile that I can only assume makes me look like the Grinch. I should really be kept away with a ten foot pole as to not traumatize entire families.

Two and a half years after Sandy's fatal aquatic downfall, my sister was born. I was twelve. Mum, busy with the dishes tried to hand Sydney's flailing, screaming body to me.

“No,” I shook my head. “I'm busy.”

“Nichole. She's just a baby.” Emphasis on the word 'baby'. “ Why do you hate her?”

I didn't hate her. I was terrified of her.

I held her anyways, her body red and hot from screaming. Her face perpetually tear strained. I was told she had collic, but I didn't know what that meant. Just that no matter what I did, it would never stop her from belting out her misery and disrupting everyone within earshot from whatever they were doing.

My mother quit her job to become a stay at home mom. The neigbourhood that we lived in had deteriorated and was now no place to raise a baby. We moved to Strathmore – otherwise known as The Middle of Nowhere. Our famous house parties stopped. Family friends visited less and less. On the few occassions that they did, they'd wink at me and make comments about how I'd found myself a new job as a built in babysitter. I'd shut myself in my room until well after they'd left.

Sydney, now eighteen years old, delights in these stories. “I was just a baby,” she says. Emphasis on the word 'baby'. “I couldn't help it.”

“I know,” I say. “Neither could I.”

She laughs. My sister laughs as easily today as she cried when she was a newborn. Her eyes are full of mischief and humor. “Tell me again about when you had to tow me to the hospital in the red wagon.”

“When you jumped off the sofa and split your lip?”

She nods.

“Alright. But you should send off your tuition deposit first.”

She's been accepted by two different universities to study biology.

Sandy would be so proud.


LJ Week 6: All of the Ignorance, None of the Manners


This is a MadLib.  Take the following list and copy/paste it into either a blank document or the comment field at the end of this entry.  (Make sure not to read the entry before filling in the list!)

Fill in all of the appropriate words.

Scroll back up and match them to the appropriate numbered line.


1.) Verb Ending in ING -
2.) Food item, plural -
3.) Noun, plural -
4.) Location -
5.) Noun, plural -
6.) Body part, singular -
7.) Verb ending in ING -
8.) An Emotion -
9.) Body part or parts -
10.) Location or place -
11.) Object -
12.) Noun, plural -
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14.) Adjective -
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16.) Animal -
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18.) Verb Ending in ING -
19.) Emotion -

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LJ Idol: Week 5: Pupa

Steven is hovered over me, blue eyes glistening in the clear afternoon sunlight.  He holds up a large green caterpillar with vibrant yellow spots.  "I think I'll call him Henry."

I wrench my face into a smile, hoping that my disgust doesn't show through.  "He's lovely."

"Well.  Not really," he acknowledges.  "But I hear that the uglier caterpillars turn into the most beautiful butterflies.  And if you find a beautiful caterpillar, it will most likely turn into a moth."

"I'll keep that in mind," I say, digging through the soil at the base of a poplar tree.

The Adult Preschool class has been tasked with finding caterpillars for our butterfly assignment.  The class took off when adult colouring books became a craze.  Some people thought that perhaps, with so much cynicism and world weariness abound, what adults really need is a simpler way of functioning.  The program is mostly populated by individuals on E.I, stay at home parents, and myself.  I'm an undercover researcher uncovering information on my thesis - "Recent Trends in Self-Help: A Retreat to Childhood".

We're to put the caterpillars all into one tank where they will, hypothetically, create cocoons and turn into butterflies.  We've already completed drawings in crayon of what we want our butterflies (or moths) to look like.

I finally discover a small brown caterpillar crawling up the weathered trunk of the tree.  "Do you think this one will do?"

Steven scratches his receding hairline.  "I don't know.  That seems more likely to be a worm."

I sigh, scraping the worm off of the bark and placing it inside of my glass mason jar regardless.  "Maybe.  I guess we'll have to find out."

"What if it's a parasite bug?"  Steven asks.  "What if it eats all the caterpillars?"  The concern in his eyes is heartening.

"I hope not."  I say.  "Maybe he can have his own separate tank, just in case."

Steven sighs, relieved.  "That might be a good idea.  Because when my caterpillar turns into a butterfly, I want to pin him to a styrofoam board.  You know, take it home to show to the family.  The kids would like that, I bet."

"Not alive, you don't mean," I say.

"Well that's the only way to do it," he informs me.  "That's the way that scientists or whats-it do it."

"Is it?  I don't know if that's the purpose of the assignment.."

"I've already spoken to Ms. Jones about it," he says, eyeing the poor unknowing caterpillar - Henry - inside of his own mason jar.  "A lot of the other students want me to help them do it with theirs too.  It'll be tricky, but I have a way with this kind of thing.  Do you want me to help you pin yours once it hatches?"

"I... no.  That's quite alright."

"What are you going to do with it then?"

"Set it free," I say.

"That seems a bit of a waste for all that hard work.  You gotta have something to show for it."

"Do you?"

Steven nods, knowingly.  The crows feet at the edges of his eyes giving the impression of hard won wisdom.

Week 4: We All Have The Movie.

I drop off a smoking blue Romulan Ale to a table of four - two of which are dressed as sailor scouts.  This isn't surprising considering that I work at a medieval nerd bar.  I'm careful not to let the long draping sleeves of my elven tunic dip into their Beefbarian Stews or Chickpea Fries.  Practice makes perfect.

The generic beats of some sort of dance album play over the speakers and I have to shout in order to be heard.  They still don't hear me.  My voice is small.  I have to repeat myself. "I said, did you want another Tattooine Sunrise?" I belt out to the lone gentleman at the table.  It may or may not be of interest to know that he is wearing a tophat and a needlessly robotic looking monacle.  He nods.  Stoically.

I make my way back to the POS system - cursing the dance beats echoing through my head and threatening to erase any of the orders I have stacked up in my memory.  Usually we all take turns choosing the music, but I've been banned from ever going near our Songza, Spotify or Youtube playlists.

I don't blame my coworkers.  Without fail, when asked to put on music, I inevitably pull up the full album from Mamma Mia. To accompany this, I'd even pull up the movie on Netflix to play over our steampunk decorated television sets.  (I've been banned from our Netflix account too.)

When you're working at a busy tavern on one of the busiest streets in Vancouver, sometimes a little bit of cheery music can go a long way in retaining your sanity.

Apparently everyone else doesn't share these sentiments.

So I go from table to table, channeling my inner Meryl Streep and humming "Money, Money, Money" in my head - hoping that this doesn't translate to dollar signs showing in my eyeballs when I speak to each customer.

LJ Idol Week 3: Fremdschamen

Definitely not my favourite thing I've ever written.  And it's late (so I think I'm disqualified from participating this round.)  But I wanted to post it anyway.


My mother has a habit of starting every conversation as though we're in the middle of an argument. “Don't tell me you didn't mean for this to happen. Aah. Now what will we tell the rest of the family? My shame will follow me to my grave.” She set a clay mug of boiled sage water on the table, still untouched, gazing beyond me as if looking into her dark future. “It won't be long now,” she added.

“Nobody will know it was us. That woman brought this on herself. You don't show up to someone else's Wintervale celebration without your own wine. And you certainly don't drink the wine that others have left unattended. It's bad etiquette. Everybody agrees on this.” I know this is what my mother wanted me to say. She wanted me to calm her nerves. I was tired of the job though and part of me felt resentful at having to provide it once again.

“Yes,” she conceded, allowing herself to take a sip of cooling sage water. “You're right. Ebby's behavior at celebrations has always been outrageous. Tss! Do you remember last winter when it was her time to host? She sat all of the young men right beside her at the head of the table and all the ladies and older men on the far side. Then she kept all of the best morsels of fish, breads, and stone berries in front of her and never passed them down. Even everyone's bottles of wine. I don't know what Ebby was saying, only that Old Gerry's boy said he never heard a woman speak so honestly. He didn't look as if he meant it as a compliment.” Here, my mother raised her eyebrows above the rim of her spectacles for emphasis. “He just said he was glad that we were there afterward to help make excuses for his departure.”

I remembered telling Ebby that he had been feeling sick. Maybe he had gorged himself on too much fish. Maybe there had been something wrong with it, my mother contributed. We both feel fine, we told her. But neither of us had any fish. I smirked at the memory of Ebby's face blanching to the colour of a trout's underbelly.

“But Leona,” Mother said, concern twitching at the corners of her lips again. “Why did you bewitch the wine? Our own wine? Surely they will know that you've meddled in the forbidden arts. And for what purpose? You've doomed us both.” She raked her fingers into her leonine hair, scrunching her eyes in pain and leaning them against her palms.

“They won't see her behavior as anything out of the ordinary,” I soothed. “As you've just said, she acted ridiculously at last year's festivities as well.” I curled my toes inside of my shoes, holding my breath and hoping that I was as smooth at talking as I estimated.

“Leona,” she gazed at me through crystal clear hazel eyes – still vibrant despite her old age. Those eyes were older than anybody even knew. Keeping her longevity a secret had been the key to her existence for longer than I had even been around for. “Nobody announces their monthly cycle to every dance partner they encounter. They don't whisper to each friend how long it has been since they last washed their bed sheets. Or how many days it's been since they've changed their stockings. Or what they believe is causing indigestion. Women, in general, don't share these kind of secrets.”

I met her eyes for a moment, evaluating her words, and took a sip of my own tea. It was now lukewarm. “Perhaps you're right. We'll tell them that perhaps our wine was just more than regular women can handle. That we have a higher concentration of grapes in our brew. ” I smiled, happy with the ease that I was able to fabricate the truth.

“Yes. My daughter is so smart,” Mother said. “All the other mothers would be so proud to boast of a daughter able to solve every problem as quickly and efficiently as mine.”

I felt my smile widening at this statement.

“Oh. It seems that she has ever so many problems to solve,” she continued. “And she comes up with solutions to all of them. I wonder what her solution would be if she saw her mother as.. someone who perhaps had a powerful secret. A secret that, once known, could prove advantageous to any who discovered it. What a long happy life she would have. Forever self-satisfied in her own cleverness.”

My smile was still widening. I couldn't stop. It felt like laughing when you know that the joke is no longer funny. That your laughter is suddenly inappropriate. But you carry on regardless – you are unable to do anything else, because it has already taken you. My smile was growing and growing. I could feel my lips melding into my cheeks. My tongue felt like it was beginning to curl against my teeth. It felt rough.

Alarmed, I tried to call out, but only a strangled yowl erupted from my chest. The room was growing larger around me and I felt hot. Too hot.

When I awoke, mother was placing a necklace over my head with a silver bell on it.

“Poor daughter,” she said, stroking my head. I involuntarily began to purr at the caress. “The truth-telling spell has always been a favourite method of getting me to confess the secret of my longevity. I believe that it's been five daughters who have tried it so far? No.” She paused, the stroking of my ears stopped. “Maybe it's been twelve of you now. Pff. So unoriginal. You all try the same method. But it does work. I'm telling you now, aren't I? It's the least I can do so here it is. The spell to eternal life requires a human soul tied to each of the nine lives of a cat. There. Now you know.”

It was the first time I'd ever seen pity in her eyes.

And I was afraid.


LJIdol Topic 2: Follow Me

“It's been one hell of a crazy ride, everyone. Follow me on Instagram – bananaboy69bigbrother.” I had waved goodbye to the cameras and stepped out the door to a cheering crowd and an eager host congratulating me on making it to the final three.

I'd come so close to winning the hundred thousand dollars and a shopping spree to Mark's Furniture Warehouse.

I stood surveying my new basement suit. We still didn't have a kitchen table. The space was so small that our television and sofa had to be pushed into a nook beside the fridge. I came to the realization that we wouldn't be able to watch Big Brother together on that sofa without having our thighs and elbows touching.

I still hadn't met my new room mate who I'd found on craigslist. All that I knew about her was that her name was Rebecca and that she worked reception in a dental office. I didn't get to have a showmance – although the effort had surely been there – but maybe I'd get to have a real life showmance if things turned in my favor. I had to remember not to get ahead of myself. I hadn't even met the woman yet. For all I knew, she would never get over being starstruck and asking me about my game strategy and why I never secured the alliance with the Happy Gang. Superfans. I sighed.

A knock on the door. She didn't wait for me to answer it. Poked her head through – red hair, a pointed freckled nose - “Hi! You must be Tom. I'm Rebecca. I've started setting things up already, I hope you don't mind. Not much of a decorator.” She slung a duffel bag from her shoulder and propped the door open. “Still moving in a few of my things.”

“That's fine. Let me know if I can help. I'm Tom Johnson.”

“Nice to meet you. Hey, I have a few pieces of furniture to move into my bedroom. I was wondering if you could give me a hand.”

Bedrooms. I hadn't even looked at the bedrooms yet. It seems like she'd already decided which was hers. Most likely the larger room. After three grueling months of continuously being a have-not, I was determined that my life outside of the game would be lived on my terms. No slop for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. No living in dark confined spaces. No not having a choice in the matter. I never got to win a competition and spend a week in the Head of Household Room. My room outside of the game would be a permanant HOH room. I'd been reassuring myself of these things since I walked off the stage.

“Uh. You know, I haven't had a chance to look at the rooms yet. Did you maybe want to...”

“Oh, they're both the same.” A dismissive wave of her hand.

“Are they though?”

“They are. She moved swiftly across the kitchen-living room and pushed open the door to one room. Walked to the other side and opened the door to the other. “See? Same size. I didn't think it would matter.”

“But this one is east facing. The other is west. One is bound to get more sunlight, right?”

“I really don't think it will matter.” She shrugged. “I already had my parents move my bed into this one. If you think you can drag it to the other, be my guest. Honestly, it would take a lot of upper body strength.” She gave me a once over with a dubious look painted across her face.

"Listen, I came close to winning tons of endurance comps.” I assured her.

“Right. Well. I have some friends coming over to help us unpack tomorrow. I'd suggest they help move that bed, but I really want to start getting settled in tonight.”

It seemed that Rebecca and I were off to a rough start. She was underestimating my game right from the beginning. The gears in my head were already turning. I could campaign to her friends about the room situation and get it all sorted. Form an alliance against her.

“Do you want some tea?” She asked, unpacking a bag and tossing things into cupboards. “I was thinking I might have a cup.”

Now she was playing nice. Trying to get me on her side. I wondered what her ultimate gameplan was. Keeping the room. What else..?

“Also, what do you do for a living? I don't know that much about you, Tom. Maybe we could play 20 Questions later tonight.”

“Do...for a living? Do you even- wait. No. I can't play 20 Questions tonight. We need to watch the show.”

“Oh, the game? So glad you're a fan too. What a relief!” She grinned. “Go Riders!”

“I can't tell if you're kidding around or if you're trying not to come on too hard,” I said. “But it's fine. Everyone watches Big Brother. I get it. Let's just get it out in the open. I'm a celebrity and .. maybe that can be intimidating to some. But I really just need to do what's best for my game if this is going to work out. We need to discuss this room situation.”

Rebecca stared at me. Obviously feeling sheepish for her behavior, I assumed. Maybe I wouldn't have to try to put her on the block for eviction just yet.

Then she burst out laughing. “I thought you were serious for a second.. with the whole celebrity bit. What's Big Brother?”

This has been a submission for The Real LJ Idol.


LJ Idol Mini Season

Well, hello.  (I'm alive.  Was not killed by an endless flood of water as suggested by my last - slightly ominous - post)

Posting to declare my intent to begin updating this journal again - mainly with submissions to LJ Idol.  If you'd like to also take part in the mini season, you can do so here.

As requested.. three prompt suggestions:

1.) A Dictionary for Dreamers
2.) This All Happened
3.) Doppelganger

LJ Idol: Week 24: Cupertino Effect

I wait until Frankie is on the front porch, readjusting the arms on his Swiss Army backpack.  I can see him trying to work out which direction the straps should be pulled through the plastic holsters.

The dorm is empty now.  I sit down amidst the empty chip bags and beer cans littering the sofa and coffee table.  I'm ready to liberate myself from my relationship with Mia and indulge in a life of single bachelorhood with my bros.

My fingers speed along the surface of my iPhone's keyboard.  "I'm sorry.  This just isn't working out."  I think about going into deeper explanation, but why make it even worse on her.  She doesn't need to know that I'm having too much fun at SFU to be tied down.  It's not like I'm heartless.

That's it.  It's done.   I breathe a sigh of relief.

The screen on my phone lights up.  A message back.  "What isn't working out? Did you do your taxes?"

Well, that's frustrating.  She's making this more difficult than it needs to be.  I won't play into her game though.  "Us.  You and I."  I decide not to bother with the tax question.  Maybe she figures that if she can change the topic, she can just avoid dealing with the issue.  I don't know.

A text back.  "I've been thinking that for a long time too. Glad we agree. Seriously, did you do your taxes or not? I have room for 1 more on my Turbo Tax account if u need it."

"Enough about the taxes! You're just trying to distract me from ending things.  The truth is, I just don't think your fun enough."

"That hurts, Daniel. I'm not sure what part of Turbo Tax doesn't seem like a party to you.  Swing by on Sunday to pick up the disk."

Passive aggressive bullshit. Mia had never been one to be so unaccomodating. A girl's true colours certainly do show once the shit hits the fan.

"I'm not coming by Sunday. Or ever again," I type.  "Do you understand?!  This is over.  I have a new life now.  And your not in it!!!!"
I felt that the extra exclamation marks were necessary in conveying how mad I was.

"I guess you won't be needing any money then?  Sad. & I was going to make your favourite.  More lasagna for everyone else."

"I dont kno what your on about but I dont find this very funny. I was just trying 2 have an honest conversaton with u and this is how u respond?  What a bitch.  I am so done with u.  U weren't even that good in bed. Ur just mad that ur stuck there in that shitty town while I'm off at SFU actually doing somethin with my life. I dont want 2 end up like our parents. Or like u."  I know that my typing has gone to shit, but I'm so angry that she's trying to make things more difficult than they need to be.  I'm impatient to have this be over and done with.

"Daniel..?  It sounds like we need to talk."

Great.  Let's prolong the process even more.

I notice an incoming call on my screen, but it's not from Mia.  Panic hits me.

For Christ's sake.  Have I just broken up with my mother?
Sure enough, there it is.  In place of Mia's name on the conversation header is 'Ma'.

I answer the call.

Topic 1: Last Chance Idol: In the Garden

In the Garden

It was our second date and I wanted to leave. I wasn't into him. However, Bradley looked so enraptured by the idea of a Saturday night party that I felt too bad leaving him at the beach. He bought rum, pineapple juice and Sprite, plus some cups made out of coconuts to mix it all into. He looked so ecstatic, it was as if he'd been invited to his first junior high jellybean dance. I could practically see the mushroom cut on him fifteen years ago. His ears would have stuck out awkwardly and he would have had blue elastic bands on his braces. He wouldn't have danced with any girls, but played Magic the Gathering with his friends in the corner. At the very least, Pokemon would have been discussed. He definitely chose Squirtle as his first; I could tell.

“This might not be your kind of thing,” I told him. “I love my friends, but they're not for everyone.” I don't know why I felt so nervous trying to justify my life when I wasn't even attracted to him.

Bradley slipped his lukewarm hand into mine as if to reassure me. I hated the feeling of his smooth knobby fingers in between mine and desperately wanted to pull away. I didn't though. I just hoped he wouldn't try to kiss me.

The house – the one that I lived in and which I jokingly referred to as 'the commune' since we had no working television, computers, radio or anything more complex than a record player – was a two storied seafoam green relic with a jungle of trees out front. I took Bradley to the back door. A giant cartoon cat head was perched on top of the fence. Bradley touched it's nose. “Nice.”

“Hey, if you want to leave at any point, feel free. I mean, just so you know.”

Bradley squeezed my hand. I nearly retched. I led him into the garden to be introduced to everyone.

Several cats pranced around the area in high spirits. The commune owned about five dark and wild eyed felines. There was someone eating and juggling fire while a girl with a shaved head and purple glasses played the ukelele. The yard was crowded with plaid flannel and long hair and wafts of cigarette smoke and slow laughter. Some people were dressed up for the summer solstice. Anna, the party's host, was one of them.

She was in a white dress with a crown of white daisies on her head. There was a wine bottle in her hand with a dripping yellow candle fitted into the neck. I introduced her to Bradley and then fled to the kitchen to mix some drinks into the coconuts and explain my self-induced Bradley dilemma to Chelsea.

Chelsea was unsuprisingly unsympathetic.

A long yeowl followed by a banshee wail interrupted our discussion. A small group of us followed it outside and stood on the porch to watch several cars whiz by.

Anna was sprawled over a small black shifting mass in the middle of the street, the white dress wilted around her legs. She was moaning as if she was in physical pain. I thought it was she who had been hit at first. Bradley was beside her with his hand on her shoulder. We watched them pick up one of Anna's cats – Bear – and carry him to the side of the road. “Is he dead? Can you look at him? I can't look,” she was sobbing.

I could see both of them caressing their thumbs over the top of his crushed black head.

“He's gone,” John said. “He's already gone.”
They took him to the vet. The rest of us, Chelsea, Bradley and I, stayed behind.

The party in the garden raged on regardless. Some people spoke about Bear's death and the summer solstice as two mystical events intertwined. “Did you notice that the candle stopped burning the moment he died?”

Everything seemed wrong and heartless. The partiers were oblivious to anything further than a collective easygoing delerium.  Both repulsed and compelled, I stayed.

Also, it's where I was living. It's not like there was much of a choice.

“I had a really good time,” Bradley assured me, reaching for my hand.

LJ Idol - Last Chance

I was forced to drop out of LJ Idol due to the move, living in the hippy commune and having no television, computer, radio, etc. I now have my own place and have time traveled back to 2014. There's apparently a chance for me to jump back into the competition - via Last Chance Idol - and this is my entry stating my intention to do so.