A cure for jerks?

“In my opinion, we don’t devote nearly enough scientific research to finding a cure for jerks.” – Calvin and Hobbes

I am a rule follower – always have been, always will be.  With the exception of a few wrong turns, I like to think that I’ve lived my life on the straight and narrow.  I never try to get something for free that I haven’t earned or don’t deserve.  I can’t bring myself to cheat on a test. I honor deadlines and commitments, and try my best to be kind and courteous to others. I’m a firm believer in Karma.  I’ve experienced the outcome of spitting into the wind.  It’s not something I care to repeat.

This is not to say that I am perfect.  I’m not – far from it.  I can be grumpy, foul-mouthed and even spiteful when provoked. On my best of days, I still get a chuckle out of slowing down to irritate the jack-hole tailgating me down the tollway – while the two lanes next to me are free and clear.  My heart will sing as he finally whips around me and gives me the finger – mission accomplished.  Will I go to hell for this?  Maybe, if I believed in hell.  Besides, I was raised Catholic.  We have purgatory just for these occasion, right?

Road rage notwithstanding, I really do try to be the better person.  I’ll give a rude store clerk a smile and a cheerful “Have a nice day”, tip the Sonic car hop a buck even though my drink only cost $1.27, let the guy on the freeway merge into my lane so he can exit even though he planned poorly and I now find myself inconvenienced.  I try to be mindful that my wants and needs are no more important than the next person.  So when I have one of those days, like today, when I am surrounded by people who are drowning in an over-abundance of self-importance, I get a little frustrated.  Perhaps, even lose my faith in humanity.  Like when the girl from gymnastics calls and gives me an hour’s notice of the summer schedule change, or the coach that tells me that I should have been told three o’clock instead of two o’clock – can you come back?  Or BMW 6 series dude at the gym who must back his car into a spot, holding up a good half-dozen cars while he gets it perfectly centered between the yellow lines.  Or the old hag in the gold Buick who nearly t-bones me because she decides she is too good to use the designated driving lanes in the Target parking lot.  This, of course, is in addition to her going 30 mph across the parking spaces designated for parked cars.  Can you say douchebaggery? 

People are jerks.

But they’re not.  Not everyone, at least.  Those rare, un-jerkifed people appear out of the blue, quite unexpectedly and perform deeds of unparalleled kindness – just when you think all is lost.  Today’s good Samaritan – a sharply dressed woman with perfectly coiffed hair.  She heroically ran across the Target parking lot to save my poor, abused bumper from the sting of yet another runaway shopping cart (that some ass hat was too lazy to put into the cart return).  Impact averted – just in the nick of time. 

While wearing four-inch heels. 

Faith in humanity restored.

Today in My History – Happy Birthday Grandma; RIP John Wayne

Grandma

June 11th marks a day in my history that I will never forget.  It is my little Italian grandmother’s birthday. If she’d lived, she would be 82 today.  Unfortunately, we lost her at the young age of 56 – way too soon.  So, today I will remember that sweet woman who let me help cook in her kitchen, and watched the Sound of Music, the Wizard of Oz, Princess Diana’s wedding, and news stories about bears eating campers with me.  A saintly soul, who once told me that although the little girl who lived around the corner was indeed an evil bitch, it was not in my best interest to beat the crap out of her for breaking the personalized license plate that my dad had given to me for my bike.  She taught me to be the better person – at least on paper.  There are other ways of getting back at people, she told me that hot summer day when I was ten.  Indeed there are.  I miss my grandma.

In addition to being my grandmother’s birthday, it is also the day the world lost a great entertainer.   On June 11, 1979, John Wayne succumbed to terminal stomach cancer years after having successfully battled lung cancer.  Now you may be thinking to yourself that this is an odd thing for me to be writing about, after all, I was only a few days shy of turning seven when John Wayne passed away.  I shouldn’t remember it, but I do.  I

John Wayne

remember it because it was the first time in my young life that I could recall seeing my father speechless.  He sat at my  grandmother’s cracked formica table, the newspaper spread out before him, in total and complete, jaw dropping shock.  His idol since childhood was dead.  I, of course, had no idea who this man was pictured in full color across an entire section of the newspaper.  I didn’t recognize him, never heard his name before that day.  But my father was visibly upset by this man’s passing.  That small moment from my childhood would leave a deep imprint on my impressionable mind.

For years to come, I would be reminded of his reaction on many a Saturday afternoon when I sat and watched a John Wayne movie with my dad.  There was Fort Apache, The Fighting Kentuckians, Sands of Iwo Jima, Rio Grande, Hondo, The Searchers, Rio Bravo, The Horse Soldiers (one of my favorites), The Alamo (which I always had a hard time watching but was one of my dad’s favorites), The Man who Shot Liberty Valance (this one introduced me to the music of Gene Pitney, although the song is not used in the film), North to Alaska (I can hear Johnny Horton signing in my head now), Hatari! (my all-time favorite), Donovan’s Reef, McLintock!, Circus World (never liked this one), The Sons of Katie Elder, El Dorado, True Grit, The Undefeated, Rio Lobo, Big Jake, The Cowboys, The Train Robbers, Rooster Cogburn and the Shootist.  Of course, this is a mere drop in the bucket of John Wayne’s entire body of work, but these are the ones that were my dad’s favorite and therefore, they are what we watched most often.  I miss my dad.

So today, June 11, 2011, I raise a glass and toast my grandmother on her would-be 82nd birthday and pay tribute to the man, the Duke, who was my father’s hero on the 32nd anniversary of his passing.  Salute.

My Friend Monday

No, you didn’t wake up in some time warp, and no, I’m not an idiot. It is indeed not Monday.  I was, however, inspired to write this on a Monday – though I did not begin to write it until yesterday.  I suppose I could have waited to post this until next Monday but then I would have had to come up with something to fill its place and well, I didn’t want to.  Deal. 
 
Monday – that dreaded day that marks the end of a fabulous weekend and the beginning of another mundane week of grueling work.  It’s the most hated day of the week.  Unjustly scorned by so many.  The Mamas & the Papas harmonize about the day’s un-trustworthiness; the Bangles’ “Manic Monday” had them longing for Sunday.  Even Duran Duran sang about a “New Moon on Monday” – was it a good thing or bad, that song?  Who knows.  It was the early 80s and I never really understood a thing Simon Le Bon said anyway.  I was to busy staring into his beautiful eyes to care about the words coming out of his mouth.   
 
Monday gets a bad rap.  I feel a pang of sympathy for it every time I hear grumblings of Monday bashing.  Can you imagine going through life knowing you were the most dreaded and vilified day of the entire week?  Surely Monday feels some sort of resentment for it all, especially towards his nemesis Friday.  Look at him there at the end of week getting all of the attention.  Everyone loves Friday, toasting him with Facebook statuses proclaiming TGIF.  Happy hour is filled with rounds of discounted buckets of beer bought in his honor.  Friday can do no wrong.  Sort of reminds me of high school.  You know, Monday is that nerdy kid nobody talked to, eating all alone in the cafeteria; Friday is the big, handsome jock that all the girls moon over.  Hm.  I am suddenly reminded of why I don’t go to my high school reunions.  High school sucked.  
 
I love Mondays.  It’s the start of a brand new week and how you approach it will set the tone for the other four days.  It’s all about attitude.  You can either go into Monday feeling glum and angry, tired and snarky, setting yourself up for a miserable existence with nothing to look forward to but Friday; or you can choose a different path – a more positive path and enjoy every precious moment of the Monday that will lead you into Tuesday and then into Wednesday, and so forth.
 
I see Monday as a sort of do over, if you will.  A chance to get this week right, finish up those left over annoyances that fell through the cracks last week, and just work at being productive.  Indeed, it’s usually my most productive day.  Sure, there will be hiccups along the way. Life can’t always be sunshine and roses.  By Wednesday, I may feel like going postal on the next person that cuts me off on my way into the office; or even my poor, saintly husband may fall victim to my sharp tongue and expert stink eye.  Sometimes he even deserves it because he likes to push my buttons.  This week he successfully pushed them all by Tuesday.  Maybe a record for him.  But, I can honestly say that I began this week with a openmind and a smile on my face.
 
Does that make me strange?  A sort of sadist?  Maybe.  But the way I see it, I win when I stand up for my friend Monday.  Remember him sitting there in the cafeteria all alone while Friday yucked it up with all the popular kids.  Well, Monday is now a hugely successful entrepreneur and philanthropist spreading his goodness around the world, while Friday is bald, sporting a beer belly and living in misery with his ex-high school cheerleader wife who is virtually unrecognizable after having her fifth child.  She harps at him day in and day out leaving Friday wishing for Monday so that he can get the hell out of the house and go to work.
 
Think about that next Monday when you roll over to hit the snooze for a second or third time, all the while mumbling hatefulness in the general direction of my pal, Monday.  It’s not his fault.  It’s all in what you make of it.  You are, after all, the master of your own destiny.  Make a new destiny for yourself – a destiny that includes a bright smile and a friendly hello to your new friend Monday.
 

“Ima gonna kick your ass.”

Sydney Bristow - Alias

I should probably begin this post by acknowledging its inspiration.  A couple of days ago, one of my fellow Write Clubers, Bill Chance, wrote a very insightful piece about the movie Kick-Ass.  Now, I’ve never seen the movie myself.  Those sort of bloodbath flicks aren’t really my style, but what inspired me was the conversation that transpired as a result of his post, during this week’s meeting of the minds.  The notion of this ass-kicking little girl made me think of all the other ass-kicking “girls” that I love so much, both on film and in print.  I recommend you take a minute and read Bill’s blog yourself – (here)   

I’ve always been drawn to strong female characters.  These are characters who aren’t afraid of getting a little grime beneath their perfectly manicured fingernails, or speaking their minds and educating the ignorant masses in the ways of the world.  Women who know how to handle a weapon, any weapon, and aren’t scared to use it – relish in using it, even.  These female characters would never need a man to do their saving.  They can save themselves, thank you very much, with much more finesse and efficiency than any male counterpart – in heels and a cocktail dress, no less.  They have chutzpah – or balls for my non-Yiddish speaking friends. I love that.

If you know me, then you’re probably well aware that one of my all-time favorite television characters is Alias Sydney Bristow.  I got to know her quite well when I was in the midst of getting my formerly fat butt into shape.  She got me through hour after hour of seemingly endless pedaling to nowhere.  I have a special place in my heart for Sydney Bristow.  To me, she is the epitome of ass-kicking greatness.  She’s smart, tough as nails, focused – and who isn’t just a little bit turned on by the over-the-top costumes she dons?  All in the name of saving the world from evil masterminds hell bent on destroying us all. 

Of course, she isn’t the only strong female character out there.  There’s The Closer’s Brenda Leigh Johnson – a powerful woman with a dogged determination that keeps her obsessively focused on getting her suspect’s confession.  Her balls of brass tenacity coupled with her “bless your heart” southern drawl makes her a formidable foe to many a bad guy.  Then, there is Lisbeth Salander from Stieg Larssen’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy.  Not your traditional heroine, I will concede, but strong and admirable, nonetheless.  Of course, you have to get passed the emaciated, Goth thing she’s sporting and overlook her very disturbed mind brought about by an equally disturbed childhood.  Peel all that away and you will find a girl who will stand up for herself and those she loves, no matter what the cost.  I mean, how could you not love a character that will break into her rapist’s apartment, hog-tie him to a bed and tattoo his crimes in red ink across his chest?  Not necessarily how I would have gone about enacting my revenge, but it shows she’s got chutzpah.

There are a slew of other woman – a list that I am surely not doing justice – but the few that pop into my head at this particular moment are: Sigourney Weaver’s alien ass-kicker Ellen Ripley, Tomb Raider’s Lady Lara Croft, Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta, Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan, Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, Resident Evil’s Alice, Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia, In Plain Sights’ Mary Shannon, Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet.  Yes, Elizabeth Bennet – the future Mrs. Darcy – an inspiringly strong woman, especially in the context of her time.  No, you’re not going to see Lizzy packing a Glock 38, riding a motorcycle through the English countryside to save Mr. Darcy from the evil clutches of Mr. Wickham and Mr. Collins.  I agree, that would certainly make for some great entertainment.  I’d watch it.  However, for a late eighteenth/early nineteenth century, middle class woman she was remarkably defiant against the walls society placed around her.  She mocked the status quo.  Sure, she ended up marrying the handsome, rich guy and living happily ever after, but she did it on her terms and without compromise.  Something I greatly admire in a female lead.  Perhaps this is the very reason I can’t jump on board the Twilight crazy train.  Bella is a character I would kill off the minute an opportunity presented itself.  Grow a backbone, girl!  Get yourself a gun that shoots silver bullets and a big wooden stake.  Do the world a favor – get rid of those obnoxious werewolves and sparkling vampires.  Go find a real man – or don’t – just stop sniveling over those two pathetic saps.     

These kick-ass women, and countless more, are the kind of characters I find intriguing and aspire to create within the pages of my own work.  A daunting task to be sure, especially in a literary world where so many female characters are portrayed as damsels in distress. What about you?  Who are a few of your favorite kick-ass women in the world of fiction?

**The title of this blog comes from a line of dialogue in Season 4, Episode 3 of Alias.**

My Phobia Trumps Your Rationality

“What are fears but voices airy?
Whispering harm where harm is not.
And deluding the unwary
Till the fatal bolt is shot!”  Wordsworth

Inside my head there is a voice – a voice I imagine belongs to a neurotic little troll with wild hair that stand on end and is the color of rainbows.  He runs through my mind in nary a stitch, scared of his own shadow and whispering of the gloom and doom that will surely rain down upon my head should I do anything involving a plane, boat or a bear.  
 
“In everything one thing is impossible: rationality.” Friedrich Nietzsche
 
Phobia is a funny little word – [foh-bee-uh].  It’s weird how it just rolls around your mouth.  Say it.  I bet you make some strange faces as you run through the syllables (okay, you can stop now because you look like an idiot and I can’t have idiots reading my blog).  Hearing the term phobia always makes me think of those people you read about who haven’t left their houses in two decades or that movie about those spiders that scared me so badly, I slept with the lights on for a month after I saw it back in 1990 (I’m getting the heebee-jeebees just thinking about those disgusting little hairy things).   The  word embodies the very definition of incapacitating fear, but a phobia is nothing more than the irrational fear of something.  Everyone has phobias.  Some are indeed as significant as the name implies, others not so much – but all are very real to those who suffer from them.  I fear three things:  flying, boats, and bears.  Odd combination of things, you say?  Not really.  I think they all fit together quite nicely.  They all involve nasty, painful deaths – MY nasty, painful death.
 
I fly.  I don’t like it but, as I often do, I accept it as one of life’s little necessities.  I suck it up.  I am an adapter, after all.  I will book the flight and file it away under “to worry about later” in the card catalog that resides next to the troll in my mind.  I always organize my stressors in this fashion otherwise, I’d be a big pile of goo on the bathroom floor.   Dealing with them one at a time, in the order of importance, keeps the chaos down to a dull roar and allows me to function as a productive member of society. 
 
About the time I need to start thinking about packing for my little plane ride, the calamity in my head begins.   It seems my panic-stricken troll has discovered our impending trip.  Into a frenzy he goes.   It will begin as a nagging whisper, gradually increasing in intensity until my troll has convinced me that this trip will be my last and thus, I must prepare for my imminent demise.   Out comes the Will and the life insurance policies.  Next, I will begin to obsess about that family trust I’ve never set up and wonder if there is time before the fast approaching departure date to meet with an attorney or an extra grand in the budget to pay for said attorney and documents.  In lieu of spending the grand on the trust, I will seek out the counsel of my boss to have the same conversation I’ve had with her a million times.  For the millionth time, she will roll her eyes at me and tell me the same thing she always does, sending me on my way with a loud sigh and a pat on the head.  I’m beginning to think she’s grown tired of having this conversation with me.  I’m sure she will be thrilled come July.  That is when my next trip is planned.
 
Boats are another thing that sends my beloved troll into hysterics.  Or perhaps it isn’t necessarily the craft itself that is bothersome.  A boat, after all, is nothing more than a harmless vessel.  Put it in a body of water – any body of water – and it becomes a death trap.  So, I suppose it would be more accurate to say that my troll and I aren’t fans of water.  I don’t believe I can honestly lay this one solely at my troll’s feet, however.  My father, bless his heart, bears some measure of responsiblity in instilling this fear in me.   He meant well.  How could he have possibly known that sticking an overimaginative 5-year-old in a twelve-foot Jon boat and then paddling to the middle of a dark, alligator and snake infested bayou to fish would do irrevocable damage?  Impossible to predict, I’m sure, but plausible nonetheless.  If there is one phobia that I find almost debilitating, this would be it.  I do not swim, not even the doggy paddle.  I do not float.  I think life jackets are nothing more than pieces of brightly colored false hope.  If you are stupid enough to get on a boat, you’re going in; and if you go in, you will drown.  If, by some miracle, your lungs aren’t crushed under the weight of the water and you do manage to surface for air, you will be picked off by massive Megalodons that have been awaken by your thrashing.  Either way, you’re toast – or in this case, fish food.   There is simply no other possible outcome.
 
Bears.  Some of my friends are giggling right now.  I can hear them.  Shut up.  All of you.  In my mind, bears are everywhere.  It matters not that black bears and grizzly bears and brown bears are not indigenous to every state.  I believe that if there is a campground and a hiking trail then there is a bear in the vicinity – and it is bent on eating me.   This is, yet again, the result of an overimaginative child exposed to things that are beyond the ability of such a young mind to comprehend.   My grandmother, bless her heart, could have no idea that simply watching a news story could do as much damage to me as my father’s fishing trips.  However, that tragic story about the young couple eaten by a pack of bears in their tent, in the dead of night was scarring.  It didn’t matter that it happened several hundred miles away, my little ears heard only the words camping, tent, bears, dead.  That was enough for me to know that camping was not something I ever wanted to do because I didn’t want to be bear food anymore than I wanted to be fish food.
 
I know what you’re thinking.  I’m being irrational.  After all, the probability of being thrown overboard and eaten by a Megalodon is quite low – as is being eaten by bears on a camping trip.  I hear what you’re saying.  I do.  But the troll inside my head does not.   For him and thus, for me these phobias are all too real and no matter how much you argue their absurdity, they aren’t going to go away.  So, let’s just agree to disagree.  If you will promise not to come crying to me when you get yourself  eaten by a Megalodon, I will promise not to gloat and say, “I told you so.”  Deal?
 

What’s that smell? It’s called morning…

What?  I can’t understand you.  You’re grumbling. Not a morning person, you say?  Blasphemy!  I love mornings.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the jump out of bed, happy as a clam morning person.  I have fantasies about bashing those obnoxious nitwits in the face with a baseball if they dare to breathe my air.  No,  I’m more of the roll out of bed, where’s my coffee, give me an hour of silence before you speak to me kind of morning person.  Not your definition of a morning person?  Meh.  It’s mine.

I’m always the first one up in my house, usually by 5 or so.  Never have been any good at that whole sleeping thing.  On a bad night I might average 3 or 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep, on a good night 6 tops.  Don’t feel sorry for me, though.  I’m used it.  It’s one of those things in life that you just learn to accept – sort of like accepting that as soon as your husband falls asleep (which will be 2.5 seconds after he lays down) he will roll your way and start snoring.  It’s been the same night after night for the last 17 years.  It’s not going to change.  You just accept that smothering him in his sleep will get you nowhere but jail.  And then who comes out the winner there?  Him.  Who needs that?

For me, early morning is a time to collect my thoughts, plan my day and savor the coffee from the pot that brews at precisely 4:45 every morning via a preset timer.  Top ten inventions of all time, in my book, and yet another reason not to smother my husband.  He makes some damn good coffee.  I wish I could say that I sip from my favorite mug while typing feverishly away at my morning pages but alas, I do not.  Writing first thing in the morning is beyond even my capabilities.   A complete failure on my part, I know, but to get up enough energy to string a few hundred words together before the coffee has time to do its magic is just plain craziness.  Instead, while I await the collection of my thoughts, I engage is more mundane activities.  Perhaps I will read a book from the stack that covers my nightstand and has started to bleed onto the floor.  More likely though, I will surf the internet, troll Facebook and play some stupid, mindless game while listening to Morning Joe or the NBC 5 morning crew repeatedly report the same stories on the half hour with weather on the fives.

Not impressed with the morning activities of a self-proclaimed morning person yet?  Well, sometimes on particularly nice mornings when I don’t have to be anywhere, I will venture out my backdoor – in my pjs, cup in hand.  When was the last time you step outside just as the sun was coming up over the horizon?  It is an awesome sight to behold as thin fingers of light peel away the darkness.  Stars and planets slip from view and the moon slowly makes its descent giving way to a new day.  All right before your eyes.   Now take a deep breath.  What do you smell?  Dirt? Grass still wet from last night’s rain?  The sweet scent of roses drifting in on a gentle breeze?  An aroma as alluring as fresh-baked bread.  Listen.  Hear the Mourning Doves cooing and calling to each other, the munch of grass as the rabbits come out for a bit of breakfast, a lawn mower – uh oh.

So, yes, I am a morning person and with all these things to see, hear and smell right outside your bedroom window, I can’t begin to fathom why you are wasting your time sleeping.  Sleep is overrated.  You can sleep when your dead.  Get up, grab a cup of joe and join me on the patio. 

Just do me a favor – don’t spoil the mood by speaking to me.  I’d hate to have to bash you in the face with my baseball bat.  Tends to start the day out on the wrong foot.

My Character Inspiration

“All characters are based on elements of a writer’s personal experience.”  Robert Holdstock

I’ve always been a watcher.  No, not in that creepy Keanu Reeves (The Watcher) sort of way.  My watching tendencies come more out of an innate curiosity of what makes people tick.  I often sit and wonder at the lives of the people I come in contact with on a daily basis.  Are they rich?  Poor? Do they have a good marriage?  A good job? Are they nice or more of a self-centered prig?  Do they have mannerism that I find interesting or repulsive?  Why did they pick those shoes to wear with that blouse?  Are they a secret spy?  A terrorist?  A serial killer stalking their next victim? 

For instance, take the man from Starbucks my writing group observed last night.  He was tucked away in one of the room’s only comfy chairs, “reading” a self-help book.  I say this with air quotes because, although he had the book open in front of his face (and I mean literally blocking his face), he was talking on his bluetooth.   At least I assume it was a bluetooth because surely he wasn’t sitting in Starbucks, pretending to read a book AND talking to himself.  What the heck was this guy all about?  We all took a peek at him and speculated.  Was this man a secret spy?  Perhaps he was sent to observe the man across the room wearing a nondescript baseball cap and typing feverishly on his laptop.  Or perhaps he was waiting for that girl he met on that dating site and hoped to impress her with his choice of reading material.  Or maybe he was just a douchebag hiding behind a book we all knew he wasn’t interested in reading and talking way too loud on the phone.  I ruled out secret spy right away –  Jason Bourne he was not – and settled on the latter. 

This is what makes people watching so fascinating to me – speculation and the “what if” game.  Like the woman I see at the gym every so often with the ginormous…um…let’s call them ta-tas.  I see her float past me during my hour-long, 27.9 mile ride to nowhere.   I am always shocked and amazed that she can walk with such impressively good posture – shoulders down and back, perfect alignment over the hips, head up.   I don’t know much about physics but I would certainly think that she is defying gravity in her ability to remain upright with such a disproportionate top load or maybe she has a spine made of steel.   Hadn’t thought of that possibility until just now, but I digress. 

As she passes me, I always look around expecting to see a Bravo camera crew trailing behind her, catching her every move for the yet unannounced new addition to the series – The Real Housewives of Denton County.  I am forever disappointed that she is all alone because who wouldn’t be tickled pink over another Real Housewives to add to the DVR lineup.  No?  Just me?  Hm.  It is a this point that my mind begins to ask questions.  Is she a stripper? A kept woman? A kept woman who used to be a stripper?  Sydney Bristow in costume preparing to take down the membership manager who is really an arms dealer using 24 Hour Fitness as a front?  I always thought he looked a little questionable.  I’ve been meaning to run him through public data. 

The peculiar man from Starbucks and the buxom blonde would both make great supporting characters in a novel.  Neither would make it to the end of the book alive, but we all need those expendable characters to keep the story flowing.  Right?  You know I’m right.   But what about those instrumental protagonists?  My former history professor is character inspiration gold.  Not in the sacrificial lamb sort of way but as leading man material.  He looks like a young, very thin Ben Affleck with nerdy glasses and displays some distinctive and, often times, funny tics.  He is a brilliant historian, versed in his discipline with more than his fair share of passion on the subject.  He paces the room as he lectures, his voice getting louder and more animated with every breath.  Sometimes I feel like I am in church (if i went to church – don’t judge me) because his voice will suddenly boom and reverberate off of the four walls of the small room.   This is always the point in class where the devil inside me rejoices because his sudden increase in volume will cause the snoozers to jump out of their skin, knock their empty spiral notebooks onto the floor and look around in wide-eyed shock.  Maybe that’s why he does it.

He says “right” after every couple of sentences and he’s not asking a question.  He just says it.  Maybe it’s a Minnesota thing.  He is also shamefully disorganized and clumsy, dropping piles of unbound, coffee stained lecture notes onto the floor so often it becomes such a part of the daily routine that students don’t even notice anymore.   I see him not as this odd, little professor teaching me a freshman level history course, but as the lead in a romantic suspense novel.  Perhaps, the absentminded professor schtick is just a cover.  What if he is a super secret spy, a member of an off the books black ops team only activated in times of great crisis (are you seeing a pattern here)?  What if he will have to team up with the to be announced, tough as nails female character to save the world?  What if he is just what he seems, a quirky intellectual who is inadvertently dragged into some sinister plot?  Better yet, what if the bodacious blonde from the gym and the obnoxious dude from Starbucks are assassins bent on killing the president of the community college (the president that reminds me of that lawyer).  The professor stumbles upon the plot becoming a target himself, then he must team up with the aforementioned compelling character, eliminate the blonde and the Starbucks dude to save the president’s life and dismantle the bomb hidden beneath the library atrium with only his knowledge of World War I trench warfare tactics to guide him. 

Or maybe not.

Characters are the driving force in every story.  Without them, there is no point to putting pen to page.  Next time you are at the grocery store, standing in line behind that lady with one too many kids who wants to pay with an actual paper check, take a look around you.  See, that man in the next aisle?  No, not him.  The other one.  Yes, the one with the carton of milk and toilet plunger.   Take a good look at him.  Ask yourself:  Who is he?  Why is buying milk and a toilet plunger?  Could he be a super secret spy?  A terrorist?  A serial killer hunting his next victim?  Oh crap!  Did he just smile at you?