Monday, June 30, 2014

Prompt: Today my daughter told me her underwear was malfunctioning. Discuss.


I was young, in maybe second or third grade.  Keep in mind, this was back in the VERY early '80s, when fashions for young ladies were not quite as casual - or comfortable - as they are today.  Think polyester turtlenecks and corduroys ... and plaid, lots of really ugly plaid.

Anyway, I had this red turtleneck shirt that I wore a lot.  It was mostly comfortable, once I managed to squeeze the too-tight neck over my head (which inevitably squished my plastic-framed glasses down on my nose so hard I saw stars, because I never remembered to take them off before I started).  The sleeves were almost long enough if I hunched my shoulders just right, and if I didn't, well, that just allowed them to ride up enough to show off my awesome Mickey Mouse watch.  But no matter how groovy it was, the most notable feature of this shirt wasn't its color, or its neck, or its sleeves - it was the snap crotch.

Yes, this shirt had a crotch... with snaps.

See, back in my day, mothers were somewhat obsessive about the whole "keep your shirt tucked in" thing. They were always telling kids to tuck in their shirt, only slobs go around with their clothing untucked - were you raised in a barn? In the interest of making shirts that would stay tucked, no matter what, someone invented the snap-crotch turtleneck.  You'd put it on like a regular shirt, then fasten the two or three metal snaps that were on the flap that came between your legs.  It was sort of a onesie for the elementary school set, if you can imagine that.

Given that I was tall for my age (see comment about sleeve length above), wearing snap-crotch shirts was inherently fraught with danger.  I had my choice between hunching over to keep from embedding the snaps in my delicate regions, or standing up straight and hoping the snaps didn't let loose and send one of my overstretched shirttails flapping up in the air.  Yes, that actually happened.  I'm sure one of my friends on Facebook will be happy to confirm that for you.

By far the worst part of wearing a snap-crotch shirt was the fact that I generally forgot how much extra time was required to deal with it during bathroom trips.  Inevitably, the snaps would get stuck just when you were really hoping they'd come undone, and trying to get them fastened again was a nightmare of awkward maneuvers and mis-matched snaps.  Add to that the fact that I tended to try to "wait it out" rather than raise my hand and walk past all the other students to the bathroom, and it was sort of a recipe for disaster.  There were a lot of near-misses, but only one trip was truly horrifying.

I don't know what had possessed me that morning, but I had somehow managed to snap up my shirt before I put on my underwear.  But I didn't realize it, or else I forgot all about it in my hour of need.  So when I finally got desperate enough to use the bathroom, I slammed the stall door, threw down my corduroy pants and Underoos, and sat down to business, forgetting all about the snap crotch I hadn't bothered to undo.

I noticed something was wrong almost immediately, but being only seven or eight years old, I had neither the presence of mind nor the control of my bladder required to prevent this disaster.  So, smack in the middle of my school day, I peed all over the bottom of my shirt.  It soaked in almost immediately and began slowly wicking its way up my body, like some sort of ammonia-scented nightmare.

My mind has somehow blocked out what must have followed - the embarrassed hiding in the bathroom until another student was sent to fetch me, the cringing attempts to wring out the tails of my shirt, the whispered consultation through the crack in the door, the summoning of the teacher, the call to the office for a plastic bag and a fresh shirt, the teasing of my classmates who could only imagine what I had been through but teased me about it nonetheless.  It's horrible and cringe-inducing enough in my imagination - thank goodness I don't have to actually relive the memories.

I do know, however, that snap-crotch turtlenecks were no longer a staple of my wardrobe after that incident ... and now, thirty years later, I NEVER tuck in my turtlenecks, no matter how sloppy it makes me look.  There are some sacrifices for fashion that are just too much to bear.

Prompt: Write a passage that illustrates what you think a "Dinglefloffer" does.

Write a passage that illustrates what you think a "Dinglefloffer" does.


"Being a Dinglefloffer?  Interesting?  Nah.  Same damn thing, every day.  I come in to work, change into my coveralls, grab some coffee before I head for the floor.  I work for two hours, then I get a break so I can pee and get more coffee.  Another two hours, then I get to eat lunch.  The cafeteria food is decent, even if they put fish in everything.  Damn Norwegians.
"So after lunch it's another two hours on the line, then a break.  By then my dogs are really barking, so I sit down for a few minutes in the break room and amuse myself trying to read the newspapers other people left behind.  I've been here for four years, and I still don't know what all those extra circles and dots over the letters mean, or how to say them.  Being functionally illiterate kinda sucks, know what I mean?
"Anyway, after that I got to get myself back to my station and put in my last two hours.  I'm really dragging by then, and generally my productivity is crap for those last two hours.  It's a good thing I don't work on the part of the line that's on a continuous feed ... it would look like that old I Love Lucy bit, only with stupid ski hats instead of chocolates.  I can just about keep up with the supply during the main part of the day, but by 4 or 5 o'clock, it just isn't happening.
"By the end of the day my coveralls are covered in trimmings from the line.  That stuff gets everywhere - in my hair, up my nose, in my mouth.  It just clings to everything, and you can't brush it off.  I'm going to come down with Acrylic Lung Disease or something if the plant managers don't give me a face mask or something.  I've complained a bunch of time, but I'm not sure they understand me.  I get lots of nods and smiles, and someone hands me a fish, and we all go on exactly like I never brought it up.
"So at the end of my shift I strip off the coveralls and leave them here.  I don't know how they get the fuzz off - maybe they just burn the suckers and give me new ones every day, I've never asked.  I try to get as much of the stuff off of me as I can, but I still end up dragging it out the door.  My car is coated in the stuff.  It's in layers, you know, because we work with a whole bunch of one color for a few days, then switch to something else.  After all this time, I could probably peel that layer of fuzz off my seats in one piece and turn it into a poncho or something.
"So no, dinglefloffing isn't exciting ... it's barely even interesting.  Still, I'm lucky to have a job.  I don't read the language or even speak it very well, and I never worked in a factory before I moved to Flekkefjord a few years ago.  I met the plant manager in a bar, and after a few glasses of aquavit he offered me a job fluffing up the pom-poms on the tops of the ski hats.  I figured it would be a good way to make a few bucks, meet a few people, and keep myself busy until I moved on to someplace more exciting.  That was four years ago, and I've been a Dinglefloffer ever since."

Prompt: I just had a life-changing short rib sandwich

I just had a life-changing short rib sandwich.  Write a nonfiction narrative about a memory you have that centers on food.

(I cheated and sent them an old blog post from 2007)
Liza's got the pukies (don't worry, no pictures today). So far today the laundry total includes : carseat, carseat cover, straps, and buckles; Liza's jacket, mittens, expensive pants, expensive sweater, socks, and necklace; Jason's sweatshirt, my jeans, my socks; my fleece jacket, my fleece pants; four pairs of Liza's pajamas; my watch; the wool rug in the family room; the washable rug by the back door; about 14 different places on the wood floor (including one where there's a 1/8" gap between the boards, and I had to try to fish out the worst of the chunks with a table knife); the kitchen sink; the bathtub (because I gave Liza a bath after the first episode, stupid me); and probably a few more places I've either forgotten or haven't found yet. And it's only lunchtime.

Some observations: 
  • We have hardwood floors in every room. There are two rugs on the first floor, and the kid has managed to cover both of them. The cats do the same thing. Is there some sort of puke magnet built into the rugs that I wasn't warned about when I bought them?
  • What was the thought process that made it seem like a good idea to include hideously stain-inducing red food coloring in a rehydration solution? Someone without a carpet puker did this ... or maybe it's a conspiracy led by the carpet industry.
  • Why is it that the kid can be happily sipping Pedialyte for an hour, watching videos and asking to be tickled, but as soon as she gets down and makes it to a virgin piece of carpeting, the fountain starts again? Why, why, why?
  • Why, when called for emergency backup at lunchtime, would my husband choose to bring home food from Taco Bell, the place I've only been able to eat at once in the past two years because a particularly bad bout of stomach flu had me puking up the same burrito for a day and a half? Why, why, why? Dude, the smells of vomit and Taco Bell are now so firmly linked in my brain that the restaurant is dead to me. Dead, I tell you.
  • Essential supplies for toddler pukefest: large sheet of vinyl-coated fabric that used to be the stain-catcher under the high chair (used to protect sofa or floor from puke); plastic bucket to fruitlessly try to catch puke (even if you get there in time, she'll be so pissed that she's puking that she'll slap it away, so you'd better have a good hold on it); as many rolls of paper towels as you can find in the house; as many pairs of easy-to-change clothes as you can find (for both of you - zip-fronts work best, as they keep the puke out of your hair when you're changing); as many DVDs as you own or can beg, borrow, or steal. We've watched two hours of Baby Einstein and Curious Buddies today; this afternoon I'm going to indoctrinate Liza with the finer points of the Muppet Show.
  • Oh, and did I mention that my stomach doesn't feel so great, either? Hopefully I'll wait until she's done before I start ... I'm having a tough time keeping up with the level of cleaning now, I can't imagine trying to keep up while being sick myself.
  • On the positive side, Liza has learned new words today, including "puke" and "sick," and has gotten plenty of practice saying "YUCK YUCK YUCK" at the top of her lungs. Nothing like a little stomach flu to improve a kid's vocabulary.

Prompt: this fountain

PROMPT: This fountain in front of the Delaware Museum of Natural History.

Once upon a time there was a mischievous god who was kind of an asshole.  His favorite activity was disguising himself as an animal so that he could visit the kingdom and reward those he found causing trouble.  He did this frequently - so frequently, in fact, that the residents of the kingdom soon became used to the idea of a huge wild boar that seemed to like watching them.  Soon the people took no notice of the boar-god and did things in front of him that would otherwise have cost him quite a bit of money in pay-per-view fees.
The other gods - especially his wife - thought this behavior was incredibly tacky, and they came up with a plan to teach him a lesson.  They waited until the next time the boar-god was distracted by the shamelessly wanton behavior of nearby humans.  Then they struck, using their combined powers to freeze him in place, his haunches reclined on the ground while his front half leaned avidly forward, drool slowly spilling from his opened mouth.  He was stuck in a shell of bronze that prevented him from moving ... but not from thinking.
The boar-god's thoughts see-sawed from one extreme to another.  How could they do this to him?  Actually, it was kind of a good trick - it would be hilarious if they had done it to anyone but him.  When would they let him out?  He should pretend to want to stay here, just to annoy them.  No, seriously - how long was he going to be stuck here?  He wanted to get out, NOW!  And that was all in the first second or two - the boar-god was kind of a drama queen.
The other gods congratulated themselves on a prank well-played, slapping each other on the back and giving each other high-fives.  After a few minutes, one of them declared it was time to release the boar-god from his prison now that he had been taught a lesson.  The gods all looked at one another, nobody's face showing the slightest sign that they knew how to dissolve the curse that had trapped the boar-god.
The god of fire finally came up with an idea.  The god was trapped inside the hollow shell of the statue - so if she could melt or cut her way through the outer layer, the god would be set free.  So the fire god summoned a blowtorch and set to work cutting through the bronze.  But since she was a former girlfriend of the boar-god (and kind of pissed off at him for how he had ended their relationship), she attacked the spot on the statue which was most likely to cause the boar-god pain if something went wrong ... which it did, almost immediately.  The second the blowtorch touched the crotch of the boar statue, the metal began to melt and flow, shrinking it instead of cutting through it.  As the shell began to thin, more metal from the surrounding areas melted and flowed to the thin spot, ensuring that the torch never punched through to the inside.
The boar-god, meanwhile, was horrified to see his ex-girlfriend approaching his package with a blowtorch.  His thoughts rose to a fevered pitch as the flame got closer and closer to his favorite body parts, and he just about passed out when the flame hit him for the first time.  His consciousness bounced around inside the statue like a ping-pong ball inside a lotto machine, staying far away from the heat and anticipated pain in the statue's groin.  He waited for his opening, ready to escape through even the smallest pinprick of an opening in the bronze, but none ever came.
Eventually the fire god gave up, as did the rest of the gods who had played the prank.  They washed their hands of the situation and went back to whatever it is that those guys do all day, leaving the boar-god stranded on the outskirts of the kingdom.
Oh, well, his wife thought, dragging the heavy statue behind her as she started toward home.  I better find someplace safe to stash this until we figure out how to get the nimrod out.
She found a museum under construction and offered the statue to the managers, free of charge if only they would take it off her hands.  The managers were a little surprised to see such a small woman single-handedly dragging a huge bronze statue across their parking lot, but they readily agreed to her suggestion.  It was a science museum, not an art museum, but they were happy to explain to all of their visitors that "pigs are science, too - kind of boring science, but it still totally counts."
The boar-god was delighted in the change in scenery his new installation allowed ... right up until the first visitors to the museum decided to use him as a jungle gym.  Kids climbed up, over, and around him, using the least appropriate parts of his body as footholds and handholds on their ways up.  It's probably a good thing the boar-god was still trapped inside the statue and couldn't feel anything other than the existential embarrassment of having a bunch of Kindergartners use his wang as a stepping stone on the way to sitting on his back.
This went on for years.  Then one day, a morbidly obese boy decided he wanted to climb to the top of the statue.  He placed one foot on the base of the statue, then put his other foot right on the boar-god's genitals.  As soon as he tried to put his weight on his second foot, that part of the statue snapped off, tumbling him to the ground.  The boy hit hard, and he was still trying to clear his head a few minutes later when he watched a dense purple smoke pour out of the small hole he'd made in the statue.
"Later, bitches!" the boy heard echoing across the parking lot as the purple smoke dribbled away into the camouflaging darkness of the nearby forest.

Prompt: Your character's name is Zebley

PROMPT: Your character's name is Zebley.  Write a description of this person (or animal, or whatever) in as much detail as possible, using short scenes or quotes from other characters rather than tell-y adjectives.

It was an investigation technique that had worked well for him many times - start each interview with the same question.  In this case, he spent days asking variations of, "So, tell me about the missing man."
Shift manager: "Zebley?  Not a bad worker ... assuming you get him to show up on time and stay awake during his shift. On his good days, he was one of my best guys.  But I wasn't surprised when he didn't show up yesterday.  He's been late more times than all of the other first shift workers combined.  You find him, you tell him not to bother coming back - I don't need a worker I can't count on.  I've let him talk me into taking him back before, but not this time."
Coworker: "Zebley?  Pfft.  The boss seems to like him, but those of us on the floor never know when he is going to actually show up to work, or if he'll be awake enough to be useful.  I spend half my shift covering for his narcoleptic ass, and the other half scrambling to make up my own work before the end of the day.  With him gone, management will have to bring in someone new, and we'll get back to having a consistent workload.  To tell you the truth, I'm glad he's gone."
Wife: "I can't believe he would just leave like this!  He works so hard for me and the girls - after all those nights spent at his second job and things he's had to sacrifice, he wouldn't just leave us ... would he?"
Bartender: "You mean Big Z?  Yeah, he works here.  I love the nights he's manning the piano - that dude can play, let me tell you.  We get a lot more people in the bar on nights he plays.  Plus, he splits his tips with me."
Bar patron: "I don't know why you're asking me about him.  Sure, I talk to him sometimes, and once or twice I might have let him buy me a drink.  But that's all - really!  It doesn't mean I know him - it's just a thing girls do, right?  Let cute guys buy them drinks?  It doesn't mean we're sleeping together or anything..."

More fun with prompts

My mother just drove 10 minutes out of her way to buy gas somewhere that was 10 cents MORE expensive than the place 1/2 mile from her house.  Tell me the real reason she drug me along with her.

        She slammed the car door, leaning back in the open window to say, "I'm going to run in to the bathroom.  Need anything from the store?"  Her daughter shook her head and sighed heavily.
She forced herself to walk at a normal pace across the parking lot.  No need to show anyone how nervous she was about this.  She pulled open the convenience store door, wincing slightly at the electronic beep it made as she walked through.  Keep cool.  No one is looking at you.  No one cares that you are here, or why.
She glanced around, hoping to see a sign to point her in the right direction.  Despite what she had told Gretchen, this gas station wasn't the one she usually used, and she didn't know where to find the restroom. She wandered the aisles, pretending to look at the snack foods on display.  She'd better locate the bathroom quickly - she had only a few minutes to make the drop and get out of there.  She hugged her purse to her side, nervously feeling for the bulge of the package.  It would be gone soon, and things in her life would get back to normal.  She would stop getting cryptic messages on her phone, stop looking for tails in the mirror every time she left the house.  She just had to hold herself together for another few minutes ... and find the women's room in the damn Wawa.

Well, hi there!

While I was out of town a few weeks ago I decided to keep up with some writing friends by sending them writing prompts, which the three of us then worked on individually.  I won't share their responses - that's their job! - but I thought it might be fun to record what I came up with ...

"Oh sweet Jeebus, my mother has these huge mutant striped crickets everywhere!  Your prompt for today is to write something from the mutant cricket's point of view as it plots world domination through scaring the jeepers out of me."

"They're coming!" I whispered to Ron, who was cowering behind me, useless.  "Retreat!"
"I can't!  You're standing on my shoelaces," he said in a quavering voice.  I sighed and shuffled my feet.  Who wears lace-up shoes to an alien invasion?
We backed down the hall, careful to make no noise, but the advancing army kept pace with us.  There had better be a locking, air-tight door around here somewhere, or we were going to be toast.
Ron's elbow hit a hatch with a clang that must have given away our position - the skittering of thousands of chitinous claws on the walls, floor, and ceiling of the passageway grew louder as all of them converged on us.  Ron turned to open the hatch while I kept my weapon trained down the corridor.  I didn't stand a chance of holding the invaders off for long, but I could at least try to give him time to escape.  He fumbled with the wheel, turning it the wrong way until it jammed in the locked position.
"Move!" I screamed, elbowing him aside.  He caromed into the corner, and I heard a snap as his arm hit the wall.  Great.  Now I was responsible for saving someone who was not only useless, but injured, as well.  I wanted so very, very much to leave him where he stood sniveling against the wall.  But his DNA contained the only weapon we had found effective against the invaders, so I wrenched the wheel the proper direction and slammed open the hatch, propelling Ron through by his uninjured arm.  I slammed the hatch shut and spun the wheel on the inside of the door, flinching as a hailstorm of small clicks heralded the arrival of the swarm.  I shook my head and straightened my spine.  I was on this side of the hatch, and the invaders were on the other, unable to operate the lock.  We would be safe.
I looked up to see if Ron had noticed my momentary lapse into fear.  It wouldn't do to have a civilian aware of my weakness.  I would distract him, perhaps by berating him for his slowness at the door and his carelessness in getting injured.  But his eyes widened and fixed on a spot over my head, and I realized I had a much bigger problem on my hands than one useless test subject.  
I let my eyes roll up slowly, raising my chin and tilting my head to look at the wall above me.  The horrible, multi-faceted eyes of the enemy considered me coldly for a moment before the creature attacked.