Tag Archives: 2010s

Entry for Hone Your Skills Blogfest: Esperanza

No one believed her name was Esperanza, but honestly, none of us cared enough to try to ferret out the truth either. Since Esperanza means “hope,” a lot of people called her Hopeless behind her back. Although her hair was always brushed, it never actually seemed to be clean, and she never did anything with it. Her clothes were clean enough, but we weren’t sure her mother had an iron.

Laurie had to share a locker with her, since their last names were so close together alphabetically. Poor Laurie. She said everything Hopeless had – her furry navy blue winter coat, her school books – all smelled like cigarette smoke. Rhonda said it could be worse; she wasn’t sure Hopeless bathed all that often and the cigarettes probably covered up worse smells.

Don’t think for a minute though that Hopeless smoked. We thought smoking was sort of cool, and so of course we ruled out right away that it was her own cigarettes that we were smelling.

Mr. Norris hated her. He was our English teacher. Everyone knew that he taught high school English so that he could stare at cute teenage girls. His coffee cup would have a half-dressed girl when the coffee was hot. Unbuttoning the top couple buttons of your blouse, wearing short skirts or low cut tops, these are the things that brought your grade up in his class. She wasn’t even a little cute and didn’t even try. Worse, she thought he was a dork.

Naturally, everything she turned into him was slashed to bits by his red pen. The thing he killed the worst was her poem. It was nearly Christmas, and she wrote this:

Holly –
But ultimately

Of course I remember every word of that short poem, because it was a dig at me. Not that I was all that crazy about my name, but it wasn’t hers to mess with. So anyway, when she wrote the poem, I knew that I was on her radar. That might sound a little weird, but really, until then she mostly pretended none of us existed. Now I knew that she was perfectly aware of us, or at least of me. It wasn’t that great of a feeling, to be honest. So I wrote my own poem. An acrostic.


OK, so it wasn’t exactly a Shakespearean sonnet. I wrote exact in there because she had this weird meticulous thing she did. Things had to be on her desk and in her locker just right. But not everything. Like, her books were always stacked largest to smallest, and always smack up against the right side of the locker, but at the same time her papers would be just shoved in next to them. Everything on her desk was perfectly aligned, but it looked like her purse hadn’t been emptied in years. That’s probably why no one knew how long she was carrying the gun.

So anyway, one day Mr. Norris asks her to stay after school. It’s nearly Christmas, so it’s stinking cold out and it gets dark early. She has her dark blue furry coat that stunk like cigarette smoke, and she’s mad at Mr. Norris because he destroyed her Holly poem. He’s mad at her because she said something against me, and she stunk, and she wasn’t pretty, and she didn’t care. And she thought he was a dork. I don’t know if she didn’t have the sense to have a friend go with her to his class after school, or if she just didn’t have a friend, or if she asked someone and they said no.

Mr. Norris said that she was distraught over her poem. He said that he got shot trying to take the gun away from her, but she’d already shot herself once. Luckily for him, he only had a minor wound. Before she died, she said that she’d shot him trying to protect herself, that he attacked her. Pushed himself on her. You know what I mean. Of course, no one believed her. I’m sure if she had a funeral, only her mother went. Her mother, smoking the whole time, no doubt. Stinking.

I didn’t think about her after that. It was almost Christmas vacation. When we got back to school, Laurie got a new locker partner, some girl named Evalyne. She was more normal, and life went on. We had a lot to do, like get ready for finals. Time just sort of passes, you know? And then it’s another semester, although I didn’t have Mr. Norris this time, and then it’s finally summer vacation.

I ran into Mr. Norris over the summer. End of July, early August. That time when you’re bored of summer vacation but don’t want to admit it. So one of my babysitting jobs turned out to be in the same apartment complex as Mr. Norris. The money was decent, but the kids were pretty awful. Mr. Norris said I could come over and have a beer when I was done. He said I looked like I really needed one.

So it turned out that Hopeless was telling the truth. Esperanza. But I didn’t tell anyone. Not then. Neither had Rhonda, second semester. Nor Laurie. When school started again, though, Laurie guessed. She gave me a piece of paper that had been in her locker.

Holly –
But ultimately

Neither of us said a word. But I managed to add a little something to Mr. Norris’s coffee cup a few days later – think of it as a little bit of hope for the girls who came after us.


Savoring Summer — example poem for students

The endless hot, sunny days of summer
Make it seem like everything
Will always be OK
Until the monsoons come

Sleeping late is great
Wearing jammies all day
Not having to put on
Coats and hats and gloves

The sky outside is
So bright
and blue
It hurts your eyes

Summer feels like
Will last forever
Until the monsoons come

Race to 200 Contest Entry: Kitten Karma

Yes, there were definitely kittens on my back patio and yes, the mother cat was definitely no longer around. My job? Find them a home before either of them, if they were female, went into heat. However, the kittens each had a piece of yarn around their neck as notice that they technically belonged to the maniac in the corner apartment — the one who threw the pregnant mother cat outside and refused to feed it, telling his kids that the cat was capable of finding her own food in this apartment complex. He was eventually right — I fed her, and her babies. But now what?

As I fervently hoped they would move away and abandon the kittens so that I could morally claim ownership and find them new homes, I also explored my options. How hard would it be to get rid of adorable kittens? Everyone wants an adorable kitten, right? Since I already had two cats of my own in my apartment, I couldn’t keep them. I did let them in on hot days and cold nights, though, and named them Fred and George.

I put an add in Freecycle. Two kittens. They could go alone or together. They could be indoor or outdoor. They just had to go. Time was of the essence. Fluffier words about how adorable and flexible they were, but you get the idea.

After a few repeated postings, someone finally expressed interest. Of course, this meant that a total stranger would be entering my house. That seemed better than being evicted for having four cats in my house, though, and they had to go before one of them turned out to be a girl in heat.

The visitor came by, with a friend of hers and a cat carrier. Clearly, this was a great plan. Even if she took only one, that would be one less kitten in the house, and karma would decide that if one found a home, the other would as well. However, karma was out having tea in a marketplace in Istanbul. The kittens, as well as my own cats, hid from these women who smelled like dogs. When they were finally able to be in contact with the kittens, the woman who answered the ad declared that she “just didn’t feel it” and left kittenless. Seriously? A kitten is a kitten. You take it home and fall in love once it’s in your house, not in my living room!

I asked people at work. I shamelessly asked my students to ask their parents. I asked people at workshops. No one wanted kittens, and time was passing. Finally, I was at a workshop with a woman whose kids were participating in something at the local Humane Society. She would come over. Obviously, I was saved. Obviously, karma was now out trying on clothes at the Mall of the Americas.

As far as my cats were concerned, the difference between this woman and the dogs she smelled like was negligible. She didn’t “feel it” either. She wanted a kitten that would bond with her immediately, as if that were likely to happen when she lived with dogs.

Perhaps I was trying too hard. Perhaps if I let the cosmos work properly and stayed out of the way, the right person would just appear. Seriously? That’s a plan of action? Doing nothing?

Try not to look too shocked when I tell you that soon “George” went into heat. And as a responsible person I of course took the newly renamed “Jasmine” to the vet to get this taken care of, right? Um, of course. Not. I did what I apparently had done the last time I had this experience, in 1986 — I threw her outside when the howling was too much and I couldn’t sleep. And so, when the time came, Jasmine’s kittens were born under my bed.

I eventually found homes for Jasmine, Fred, and most of the kittens. I kept one, and she was fixed the day that she was medically old enough to do so. I noticed karma sitting in the vet’s office with me, reading a magazine. Worthless thing.

Dragon, Part I

Once upon a time, there was a dragon named Sagittarius. He thought it was a weird constellation to be named after, but Draco was already taken. He also didn’t like it because as a young dragon, he was called Saggy on more than one occasion. He didn’t take that well, of course. Eventually, as all dragons do, he grew up and moved into his own cave. Well, sort of his own cave. Eventually a cat and a troll lived there with him.
Near the cave, well, near enough as the dragon flies, was a castle. Of course. There’s no point in having a dragon without a castle. The troll used to live under the bridge, on the only road leading to the castle, but that got to be tiring. He was constantly challenging people on their way in and out of the castle, and really, he shouldn’t have had to do that. He really wanted actual companionship, and a steady diet that was a lot easier to acquire than hassling people crossing a bridge.
One day, he wasn’t feeling very well. The last people he’d bothered had the flu, and when they coughed on him he caught the flu as well. Eventually he was so sick that he just crawled part-way up the river bank and lay in the sun. He hoped the sun would warm him and kill the flu. The cat had gone to the river in search of fish, and returned to the cave. The cat let the dragon know about the sick troll, and so the dragon brought the troll to the cave. Now you wouldn’t think that a dank cave would be all that great a place to recover from the flu, but the nice thing about sharing a cave with a dragon is that there is a constant source of fire if you need one. So the cat gathered things that burned and the dragon kept them burning. The troll was nice and toasty, and ate fish soup that the cat made, and recovered. After that, he just stayed in the cave with the cat and the dragon.
The three started passing their nights sharing tales of their past. The first to talk was the troll, since the dragon and the cat were most curious about him.
“Sometimes I forget my name. It wasn’t always that way! Once upon a time, I belonged to a rather decent family. I had a mother and a father and two sisters. We lived in a house in the woods, sort of near the castle. We did the usual stuff. We hunted game and caught fish. My mother would gather all these plants and roots and do all sorts of amazing things with them. Some were good for curing things, for healing. Some were the sorts of things that ladies put on their skin. Some were used for cooking. And some just smelled nice.
“She would sell these things by the side of the road. She would have everything ready, and when we heard a wagon coming from far off, my father would take the table out to the side of the road and my sisters would take chairs, and they would sit and sell things to the people passing by. Everyone knew them, and many a traveler watched my sisters grow up over the years.
“There were other trolls in the woods as well. People think that trolls fall from the sky one at a time or something. Nope. We had a whole village in the woods. I remember we had this one neighbor who had sheep. He’d take them out to graze every morning, and then every evening bring them back into the woods. He had a cozy set-up for them, for nights and bad weather. Then he’d shear the sheep, and his wife would use the wool to make cloaks.
“She would sell the cloaks to the passers-by, at a table next to my mother’s. Now, my mother and she would also use what they made to exchange goods with the others of our clan, of course. So you’re wondering why they needed to sell to the travelers for money. What need did we have of coins? Well, that’d be the tax. The king in his castle taxed us, of course. He claimed that the woods were his, and so we needed to pay taxes to live in the woods. Of course, most of the families didn’t do the sorts of things that would generate in income. They didn’t make things to sell to the non-trolls, things they’d like. Plus, most of us weren’t quite the sort, looks-wise, that could sell to the people. We were more along the lines of the sorts of trolls that people use to scare their kids into behaving.
“We didn’t mind that so much. It meant that we weren’t bothered that much by outsiders. We lived our lives, and my mother and the neighbor earned enough each year to keep the king happy. Because of this, the other neighbors were generous to us and the neighbor family.
“Did I mention the festivals? Every full moon was a night of feasting. A full moon meant fullness. But we were not all greedy or anything. It might not always mean a full belly. Sometimes we feasted on music, filling our ears with as much music as our ears could hold! Sometimes we ate something not very big, but we filled ourselves with flavor. There was this one pie, it had the richest taste and even richer smell. When the women were baking, the forest smelled so good that even the trees drooled. And that’s what we’d eat that night: Each family had a pie. One. That was the whole meal. But the senses had a feast – the tongue, the nose … you can see even now I’m drooling again.
“Sometimes we feasted on wetness. Really. In the warmest part of the year, we’d play in the river for that full moon. We’d splash, frolic, even try to swim some of us!