June 30, 2010

RSI is continuing (unsurprising, that)

I just spent a considerable quantity of time in my room, talking to Sadie. We discussed such fascinating topics as nail polish, college, and how the hell guys manage to go bike riding without damaging their junk. In short, highly academic topics that I would never have been able to discuss elsewhere.

I just had to leave to find Ululani or Kareem, as they are my next door neighbors and their alarm was going off and it was highly annoying. I can still half hear it, which is extremely unfortunate.

I should be writing more. I should be writing about walking with Miles to his lab this morning, and eating nothing in a whole day but a donut, coffee, and chocolate-covered pretzels. I should write about spending the entire afternoon lounging in the student center with Dawson, talking about the fact that we're having difficulty with our mentors and suffering from extreme lack of focus. I should write about the fact that my lanyard broke, so I'm stuck outside of the building, so when I went outside to play frisbee and Rube called, I had to talk to him while lying on the turf, and then whenever I rolled over everything started to spin.

I could talk about the severe dizziness I experienced yesterday, when I tried to climb off of the spare bunk bed during bedcheck, and everything started spinning, and I ended up leaning on Dawson and Miles as if I was drunk, and now I've got enough inexplicable bruises on my body that it looks like my abusive boyfriend was grabbing my thighs and forearms, and I'm still not sure what happened.

I could talk about going out to dinner with 41 other people last night, and getting counted every four seconds, and finally getting to talk a little bit with Anders (and I would mention that there was a good bit of talk at Girl's Night about his general attractiveness, but I know he was reading this a while back and I don't know if he still will. Oh, whoops, I mentioned it anyways. Gosh darn it), who had been very interesting to 'speak' with prior to arrival. I could talk about a lot of things, but I need to shower, and I have gotten very little work done because I have been doing much socializing in place of much working, and now I am writing, and it is quite not-good.

So I will work. Farewell for now.

June 28, 2010

Mentorship is mostly worked out

which is quite nice. Aside from that, we have a Nobel Laureate speaking tonight, which is somewhat unbelievable but is sure to be awesome. Also, tonight (after the speaker) is Girl's Night, which consists of the 23 girls (because, of course, we only have 23 (for all interested parties, that means that there is a 2:1 ratio of guys to girls (also, there is a wonderfully large number of tall Asian guys (insert shifty eyes here))) and can fit in one room) sitting and doing fun activities such as 'gossiping about boys.' I will continue with my current gossip method, which is to mention how easy on the eyes Donny is, which everyone then agrees to, and then we have a lovely bonding moment. It's really quite fun.

Stupid emacs. I keep trying to save with ctrl-x ctrl-s because that's how you save on emacs. My personal opinion of this is that emacs is a complete and utter butthead, because, seriously, that is far, far too many buttons to perform such a delightfully simple action.

Now I'm trying to remember what I did last night. It's remarkable how much of a blur my life has become. We had international night, in which people from other countries made food and then talked about their homelands. I, for my part, made chocolate chip cookies (pure American goodness) with the help of three of my fellow Americans (Tem, Jasmine, and Vanessa).

Later on, after bedcheck, which was spent with three other people trying to arrange ourselves in such a way that we could lie on a single mattress without risking physical contact, Miles took a group of us outside to play with a boomerang.

I would give more details, but I need to go get ready for that formal-wear lecture. Suffice to say we spent most of the time throwing the boomerang, then ducking because it was dark, we couldn't see, and boomerangs have an awful habit of coming back.

June 26, 2010

First Week is Done

And I am extremely thankful. I will, thankfully, not have to be awake before eight any time in the next five weeks.

I just made my mini-presentation, which I did on how sticky Nutella is, and I am now sitting in the computer lab next to Kris, who appears to be actually doing RSI related things.

The night before last was Meet Your Mentor Night. I got all dressed up so as to make a good impression only to discover that, in fact, my mentor had neglected to make an appearance. I sought out my tutor, Kaylee, who informed me that my mentor is Dr. Bohdan (I apologize if there is a legit person named Dr. Bohdan somewhere out there, because I blatantly made that name up) and that he hadn't been resonding to emails. She advised me to just show up at some point the next day.

So, that's what I did. Yesterday morning, I woke up at 8:30, ate breakfast, checked my email, and went in search of the proper building, which turned out to be converniently located less that one block away from the computer cluster. I found the proper room, and there was a woman sitting at a reception desk. I went up and introduced myself, and she informed me that she was actually someone else's assistant, but that Bohdan's assistant would be there in ten minutes.

I sat down and occupied myself with some engineering magazines (there was a riveting article about designing nanodevices to actively deliver drugs), and about a half an hour later, the assistant finally showed up. I introduced myself, mentioned RSI and the CEE, and she looked vaguely confused and then told me that Bohdan was at his summer home until Tuesday, but that she could make me an appointment then, so I made said appointment before leaving.

I then called up Kaylee, who said she'd come over and sort things out (because Kaylee has a PhD and is thus capable of magically sorting things out). She walked in, all business despite ridiculously tall cork platforms she was wearing, and attempted to find one of Bohdan's students.

The assistant's first assumption was that Kaylee was another high school student who believed that she, too, was supposed to be working with Bohdan, which I found somewhat funny. However, we did get ahold of Chad and Nelson, two of the grad students. They had no idea I was coming, so they called the other grad students, who also had no clue (including the one who, like me, specializes in the many flaws of the electricity transportation system), but declared that this was "typical Bohdan" and that they were sure it would all get sorted out on Tuesday. Then Kaylee left, and Chad and Nelson decided to give me a tour of the lab. Well, Nelson gave me a tour of the lab. Chad got somewhat bored and left after a couple of minutes.

The lab was completely and utterly awesome. There was a random car in the middle that had been opened up, so you could see the engine and all of its component parts. There were also various smaller engines in different locations around the room that Ethan and others were working on. There were types of lights designed to turn on in new ways (I'm fairly certain I'm not supposed to reveal what people are working on via the internet), and a giant lightbulb used to test solar panels, and screw drivers and tools everywhere. Nelson showed me what sautering (I'm sure I butchered that spelling) is, and demonstrated. He works with ultracapacitors, which are pretty much extremely awesome. I think my favorite bit of everything I saw was just the volume of stuff everywhere. Unlike the sterile image of a biology or a chemistry lab, in which everything looks so white and clean and new that one should not touch it (or, at least, that's what they look like on TV), this looked like my garage, but about 6x as dangerous.

I realize that I will most likely end up doing an experiment that is more theory than construction. However, the whole 'building' thing is completely awesome, and Nelson said he'd teach me to do some hands-on stuff if I wanted, and I think that I definitely want, because how can you really engineer anything without getting your hands dirty?

I realize that I haven't really done any engineering yet, and I've barely even touched any power tools, but I think it would be a good idea to learn. I'll have to have Dad teach me when I get home, although I'm a wee bit worried that I'm too clumsy to handle that sort of activity.

But if I can just sit in a room of component parts for all of eternity, I'm not at all certain that I'll care.

June 24, 2010

I will have time to post again....

someday. Not sure when, at this point. I do know that I got my first choice schedule, so yay for that. I've been here at MIT, working my butt off. Classes are fun, but often difficult to comprehend. Well, the chemistry course is difficult to comprehend. The biology is completely manageable. The humanities is mostly just a struggle to stay awake, since it starts at about 8, and I start functioning at about ten pm, which is really when I should be sleeping. Logical? Not so much. But it does mean that I get to make midnight phone calls (to Rube, of course, since I can't say for sure if anyone else will be awake) which is rather fun.

The poor computer-tech-help guys must be ready to murder us for our severe stupidity. I just heard one of the first-week TAs trying to explain that "it isn't working because you typed point one point eight. .1.8 is not a number."

I should get back to work. Once I get this mini-paper done, I will hopefully have enough time to provide you with some sort of update (and to call my parents, which I haven't done yet. Whoops.).

I mentioned the midnight phone call thing to Maxwell last night at around midnight, when we'd left the dorm to go to the lab and work on the paper/presentation thing that I should be working on right now.

Me: I'm not used to staying up this late, but I keep making phone calls, so it just keeps happening.

Maxwell: Well, at least you're talking to your family.

Me: No, I haven't called my family yet.

Maxwell: But you're still talking on the phone.

Me: Yeah....

Maxwell: Who are you talking to then?

Me: People....person...um.

Maxwell: A guy?

Me: Yes.

Maxwell: Are you seeing him or something?

Me: Well, no...

I then awkwardly changed the topic. 'Twas fun (not really).

June 21, 2010

I have computer time

and, since I'm not particularly good at taking naps, I've elected to write you a post.

I am at RSI. I should be very, very tired, but, as I just had an extremely delicious coffee, I am not. 'Tis lovely. Absolutely splendiferous. I wonder how long it will be until my sleeping patterns adjust. My roommate is named Leila, and she has been brought in all the way from Catalonia, and even though she speaks Catalan natively, she's better at Spanish than English, so she doesn't mind my feeble attempts at practicing. She studies some sort of astronomy, and she has this big paper with lots of fancy-schmancy math in it that I understand only bits and pieces of (apparently there is far more to Keplar's law than just, you know, Keplar's law).

When I first got here, I was very, very afraid of all of the people, because, as most of you are aware, I really really really really really do not like crowds. However, I'm good with small groups, so I've mostly been starting small and then working my way up, which has been working alright, since I've learned a lot of names (and people talk to me! It's quite exciting.)

Another highlight was the battle in the ballpit. Because, you know, we have a ballpit. It. Is. AWESOME. I keep jumping into it somewhat randomly, because it really is extremely fun, but last night we got a good group going, and we had the plastic equivalent of a snowball fight. My team lost, but I did a decent job of weakly chuckign the things before I discovered that it was much more effective to pretend that I was in a pool and 'splash.'

Anyways, this morning, I had my first day of classes. I am taking chemistry and biology. The bio, unsurprisingly, is fairly easy. The chem, which I did not sign up for, is far over my head. I had to get someone to explain electronegativity to me, which did help, but I am still, overall, somewhat confuzzled by the idea. At the very least, my moaning "I have taken exactly 6 weeks of chemistry and I DON'T GET IT" has caused a few people to laugh, although I'm not sure if it's just because my complete inadequacy is making them uncomfortable.

Hopefully I will never need to find out.

June 20, 2010

Because I know I will be too busy tomorrow...

Here is a video. It made me happy. Also, I found it by myself, without the help of Nyx. Not that I generally have the help of Nyx. Or Cammie, for that matter. No help at all.

June 19, 2010

Holy Bejeesus

I'm leaving tomorrow morning. This is absolutely completely and utterly terrifying. Completely mind-boggling. I just need to focus on being excited, because I started getting homesick in advanced last night, and that just qualifies as generally bad, and I feel like while I'm at RSI it will be harder to get Rube/Ginny to tell me to stop it, since they won't be there, although I suppose Rube sort of will, even if I may not actually get to see him, and I'm sure that if I call Ginny and beg a teeny bit she'll talk to me, so I guess I don't really need to worry about that.

Oh, and, right, yeah, I'm leaving? I haven't finished my essay, and I haven't even bought all the stuff I need to bring, and I've barely started packing, and I don't even have any bags at all (although I did get (and hide) my traveler's checks). Anyone who would like to squeeze in a final goodbye, come by this afternoon or evening. Also, that includes Nyx. And Cammie, who wanted me to mention her.

June 16, 2010

A Busy Day


I should, theoretically, be going to sleep about now. But, for some strange (but entirely comprehensible) reason, I can't gather the motivation.

I blame Rube. I'm sure that you are all completely (not) shocked by this revelation. He is, overall, very easy to blame things on. This includes the butter currently on the handle of my door, which is, I would like to report, very greasy.

I would also like to report that, despite somewhat extreme skinniness, he has a very comfortable lap.

That is all.

June 15, 2010

Potential Highlights


I thought to myself this morning: gosh, at least one nice thing about RSI is that people will stop going "oh, you're doing that summer thing. Isn't it hard to get into? I mean, really, really hard to get into?" and then look at me expectantly, like Mr. Mubble did this morning. I'm still not certain what he was expecting.

Oh, no. My sisters decided to play music while doing dishes. That Matt Nathanson song that is supposed to be all sexy and yay but just sounds depressing and awful to me. I will attempt to tune it out.

Anyways, Mr. Mubble. I am really truly going to miss him next year. I think I may have to just drop by randomly with questions when I finally get around to actually reading The Elegant Universe, which I really, really wish I had time to do.

To be honest, though, I think I would have time, if I didn't keep handing said time on a platter to Rube. I'll have hours in front of me, and just a bit of work, and I'll go to take a break, and then I look up and forever has past and I've gotten nothing done and that Gene Wolfe anthology is staring at me, desperately, pleading to be read.

I'm midway through the second or third story of said anthology. The tale centers on the son of a man engaged in human trafficking on a distant planet, and thematically it's centered upon the question of humanity.

I hate how much easier it is to find themes in science fiction than it is in everything else, although I do enjoy it so. I should read more of it, I think. At the very least, it'd be more invigorating to the psyche than the endless stream of bodice rippers is.

Speaking of bodice rippers, I really do need to get Nyx's sister's (Kiwi, is it?) back to her.

Somewhat unrelated but also worth noting: during physics jeopardy in ASR today, team Julie+Tea+Angela beat team everybody-else. It was extremely wonderful.

June 14, 2010

The Obligatory Scheduling Post


This upcoming year, I have three options.

My first choice:
1 AP English
2 free/fiction
3 ASR
4 AP spanish
5 AP physics c
6 multi bc
7 mid east/free
8 AP chem

My second and third choices (I'm not sure, at this point, which is second and which is third.)

1 ap english
2 ap chem
3 free/fiction
4 spanish (I'm tired of writing ap all the time)
5 physics
6 multi
7 mid east/free
8 asr

1 english
2 chem
3 asr
4 spanish
5 physics
6 multi
7 mid east/free
8 fiction/free

Let us take a moment to note the fact that I have singletons periods 1, 4, 5, 6, and 7.

If I still have any readers left, please inform me of what classes you will be in (particularly in my 2nd and 3rd choice schedules so as to serve as a dividing factor between the two).

June 13, 2010

The Whole Extended Shebang

The Prompt:

Take Me To the River

For your final assignment of the year, I'd like to give you a chance to play some more with language and here, fiction. Like Twain, you'll create a picaresque/episodic short story that includes at least two (more if you like) shorter stories, based in some way on your freewrites over the past weeks, woven together by geographical motif and by some theme. If none of these will work, you're welcome to create new episodes.

To assemble this, then you might consider all of your freewrites, or a tleast their spirit, and how they might work together. Let your brain go loose, and thread through your thinking your geographical place- or another just as familiar and evocative. You might attemplt a classic, satiric, picaresque anti-hero; the most true picaro ranks low in social class and grapples with a corrupt society. Then again, you might now. Up to you.

You'll have noticed that Twain doesn't make a huge attempt to transition gently into his episodes; that's characteristic of picaresque fiction that you'll find in novels like Moll Flanders and Tom Jones and Candide. You also should feel free to shift somewhat abruptly, so long as your geographical location smooths the way and your overarching theme is present. Notice I didn't say obvious. We don't want to hit with a two-by-four!

Your tone can swing; consider how Twain's tone moves from the lyrical description of nights on the river to his rolloicking narration of Huck's attempt at disguising himself as a girl. In the same way your piece might move from clearly autobiographical, non-fictional pieces to those that are just as clearly fictional- or at least hyperbolized or altered significantly.





Tina and I sat at the counter in her living room, a counter that looked rather like a bar, and could have been convincingly said to be one, if shot from the right angle, provided that Tina and I were not spinning the seats around and around, kicking each other with each rotation, laughing from the sheer joy of being seven years old and happy.

After a few more spins I was clutching the counter. "I'm dizzy," I said.

"I'm," she said, turning once more before kicking her feet out and stopping against my chair. "Not. But I can stop."

"Good."

"You always get dizzy first."

"I don't get as much practice."

"No, you're a dizzy monster."

"A what?"

"A dizzy monster!" Tina hopped from the stool, picked up a discarded dress-up scarf, and began to twirl in circles again. "Blerrrgh." She attempted to grumble the sound in the back of her throat. She twirled over to me and pulled at my arms; unlike her, my feet were only inches from the ground, so I easily joined her motion.

"I'm a dizzy monster," I said.

"Oh no! Don't make me dizzy."

"I will too!"

"No you won't! I don't get dizzy. I'm magic."

"I'm magic. I'm a monster."

"Monsters can't talk."

As always, I went with her rules. "Blergonna eat youarghh."

"That's talking."

I stopped spinning. "I don't like not talking."

She stopped too. "Fine. Let's make a song."

"Do we have to?"

"Yes."

"What kind of song?"

Tina started to sing. "We are on a boat."

"Sailing on the sea," I said, repeating her melody.

"Lots of waves."

"I'm getting dizzy."

She gave me a dirty look before continuing. "I'm on a boat."

"We did this part already."

"Sing!"

"No."

"Fine. Let's play a game."

"What game?"

"You can pick."

"I can?"

"Sure."

"Let's play orphans."

"But we always play orphans."

"We can play escaping orphans."

"Only if we actually get to escape."

"We'll see."

"We have to escape!"

"You can't decide in the beginning!"

"Why not?"

"Because."

"Fine. Outside?"

"Okay."

We went through the door behind the bar and lay down on the patio.

"Guess what," said Tina.

"What?"

"My butt hurts."

"That's 'cause you're an orphan."

"No, it's cause I need to fart."

"Tina, you're ruining it!"

She blew raspberries, then, in an attempt to create louder noise, she brought her forearm to her mouth.

"Tina, The Giant will hear!"

"I'm not Tina, I'm Annie."

"You're always Annie."

"That's cause it's the best name."

"I want to be Annie."

"Annie isn't tall. You're Mary."

"How come Mary is tall?"

"Stop arguing, The Giant will hear."

I decided it was time for us to wake up. I reached over and poked her.

"What?"

"The Giant isn't here, we should escape."

"Okay, let's go."

She crawled to the edge of the patio and then began to roll down the grass. I sat at the edge, indecisive. She stopped, sat up. "Come on!"

"I don't think I'm supposed to roll."

"Why not?"

"I'm just not."

"But you're too big. He'll see you."

"Really?"

"Yes, really. Now, come here!"

I stretched out on the grass and began to push myself along, over over over, until I bumped into her. She rolled more, and I followed, rolling and rolling. She stopped a few feet before a tree, and I slammed into her. She went forward, then yelled.

"Oh no! The Giant!" I said.

"You broke it!"

"What?"

"You made me break my fairy houses!"

"Did not."

"Did too! Look." She sat up, and I followed. There were shattered remains of houses in the imprint of her body. The leaf roofs had fallen to the ground, and were lying about the houses, slightly crumpled, very browned. Half the twigs were snapped, littered about. Some had merely fallen from where they had been pushed carefully into the ground, and the rest had merely been pushed somewhat further in. I felt sorry for the houses, but it still was not my fault.

"You made me roll."

"You didn't stop."

"That's why I'm not supposed to roll."

"That's stupid."

"Is not."

"You broke my fairy houses!"

"No, I didn't!"

"Yes, you did!"

"I don't care."

"I care."

"They're stupid. Fairies don't actually live in them."

At that, Tina stood up. "I quit."

"What?"

"There are fairies."

"No."

"I say there are."

"But how do you know?"

"I can feel it."

"What do you mean?"

"I can feel them at night. I look out the window, and I feel them."

"You see them?"

"I feel them. They plant little flowers outside of their houses, and every night they grow and grow until they touch the sky."

"The houses?"

"No, the flowers."

I looked up. The sky seemed very far away. "That's tall."

"Yup."

"Do they really get that big?" I was still staring up above me, trying to figure out just how far away the sky was. I couldn't seem to describe it using any words I knew.

"They grow forever."

"Wow." I was quiet.

"Now they won't grow."

"Huh?"

"You crushed them and they won't grow."

"We can build them again."

"Later," she said, and got up off the ground. Standing, she managed to be taller than my seated form. I stood up, towering above her again, and she tugged my hand. "Come on. Let's go play."

Vignette 2

I stood at the corner of Tina's yard, armed with a towel that had a piece of fabric sewn onto the side that could be used to actually hold the towel itself, creating a bag that was just large enough to hold my bathing suit, her birthday present, and, of course, the swimsuit itself.

I was there for Tina's eighth birthday. I'd spent so much time trying to find the towel, which she'd given me for my own birthday two months previously, that I was running late. The yard was full of girls, her friends, all of them small and blonde, mysterious and unknown and entirely unreachable. There were many of them, and I couldn't see Tina in the flood of unfamiliar faces, so hugged my own mother goodbye and went inside to find Tina's. She was in the kitchen, unloading bags of groceries.

"Hello Mrs. Bloom."

"Hi Shelby. Why aren't you outside?"

"I have to put on my bathing suit."

"Tina's upstairs changing, if you want to go there."

"Okay." I turned to leave. "Here's my present."

"I'll make sure she gets it."

"Good." I turned, left the kitchen, and went upstairs. I pushed open Tina's door while simultaneously greeting her. I didn't see her for a moment, then spotted her standing just inside her closet, wearing only the bottom half of her swimsuit with her hands on her hips. "Hi, Tina," I said again.

This time she responded. "I can't find it."

"Find what?"

"The other half."

"Wasn't that the one your brother used for the Happy Half-Birthday Halloween thing he went to?"

"Oh! Yes! I'll go get it." She turned, walked around me, and went out into the hall. "I forgot how you're smart."

I began turning my towel-bag inside out to get my suit.

"See you later," she said, shutting the door behind her.

"Yeah, I'll have to..." I trailed off. She was already gone.

I walked over to the window after I'd changed. Tina was rolling down the hill again, and three other girls were following her down, laughing and smiling. There was a group of girls in the tree, another with their legs in the pool, and another kicking their legs in the hot sun where Tina and I had been sleeping mere weeks before. They were happy, all of them, no playing of orphans, no getting sick from twirling. Perhaps if I was there, with the girls, it would be fun for me, too.

I went downstairs, outside. When I was closer, I was still taller than them, but they somehow felt bigger. I didn't know them, and Tina was busy, so they all continued their games as I walked towards the tree where Tina kept her fairy houses. I sat down to look at them, but the ground was empty. I looked for the bits of leaves and scraps of wood, and I finally found them in a small knot in the tree, stacked up neatly. I pulled them out and carefully, precisely, constructed a tiny house. It had three wooden walls, one with a tiny peephole, just big enough for a miniscule eye. I placed a leaf in the middle, the first floor, then another on top, to mark the roof. I was glad that faeries were light, because even the breeze was almost enough to knock it over. I watched the house for a time, hoping that, just this once, the faeries would forget that I was here and come during the day, that they could plant their flowers, and that the stems could rise up and up until they covered me up and I would stand still, perfectly still, a part of the tree, and Tina would come over and visit me because she loved the faeries' plants, but the people were too loud for us to truly disappear.

A pair of girls came up behind me, looking over my shoulder. "What's that?"

"A faerie house."

"Why would you build that?"

"Tina likes them," was all I said.

"That's stupid, faeries aren't real," said one of the girls, and the other nodded her assent.

"But if people think that they are," I said, "maybe..."

They laughed, and ran to Tina, and I couldn't quite hear them, but I saw Tina laugh too, and then she looked at me in a way that said that I'd done something wrong, only I didn't know what it was. I stayed with the house for a time, trying to adjust it so that with each rush of children, it still stayed upright. Then Tina's mother came out, carrying an armful of shaving cream cans, one for each child. I tried to stay by my house, but she called me over, and I accepted my very own can. It was light green, and it said on the front that the insides would smell like mint. When she blew a whistle and the girls began to scream, I sprayed a bit into my hand. It sat there for a moment, a dark gel, then began to grow. It grew and grew, spreading and stretching, turning while and filling with air until it towered above me hand. I put another drop on top, which sunk in that began to grow as well. I thought that the faeries would have liked to see it, the sticky stuff that could match their flowers.

Vignette 4

We were ten, and still at different schools, but Tina still came over every so often. On this day, we sat together under a tree in my backyard.

"What do you want to do?" I asked.

"I dunno, what do you want to do?"

"I dunno, what do you want to do?"

"I dunno, what do you want do do?"

I laughed. "Remember back when we would build faerie houses every time we visited?"

"Yeah, you said they were for babies."

"I was just saying that, though. I still liked building them."

"I know! You started building one when I had all my friends over, and they were like, wow, that girl is so weird."

"Hey!"

"They said it, not me."

"Fine, I won't get angry then. At least, not this time."

"You never get angry."

"Maybe someday I will."

She shrugged, doubtful. "So, what do you want to do?"

"I dunno."

"We could build faerie houses, like we used to."

"Do you want to?"

"Sure. You want to try to get some sticks?"

"Okay, you go for the flower petals. We'll regroup in seven minutes."

"Seven?"

"Ten is too many, and five isn't enough."

She thought about it for a moment, then nodded. "Sounds good."

I went to some bushes in the neighbor's yard, forsythia that had long ago stopped blooming, and broke off a leafless bottom branch. I scavenged around a birch in the front and a dogwood in the back, looking for branches that felt right. When we regrouped, Tina was holding a pile of petals as well as a few interesting leaves. We sat in some dirt near the wall of the house where we couldn't be seen from the windows. She passed me bits of daisies and I handed her discarded daffodil stalks.

Her constructions were tiny but complicated. She put twigs in a criss-cross and placed a single flower into each and every one, crafting rainbow walls more fragile than glass. I built one like a tiny wigwam, with sticks in a round circle, ferns woven in and out, and a maple leaf on the top. I built my next out of shreds of bark pushed against each other like playing cards, trying to match her fragility, while she followed my Native American idea and constructed a teepee. We soon had a small village constructed of barely there houses, of trees without trunks and tiny platters of inedible food. We divided our halves with a small indent, a river that would bring water to the whole village. When we were done, our supplies exhausted, I sat back. She continued to trace her finger along the tiny, waterless river.

"Do you think any will come?" I said.

She was silent.

"I mean, I know they don't exist, but a girl can always dream."

She still didn't speak, and as her finger reached the base of the river, right next to her knee, she let it stop and looked up at me. "I'm moving."

"Do you want to swap spots? It's pretty comfortable here."

"No, I mean, I'm moving to a new house."

Now it was my turn to look at her.

"It's in California. The trees are funny there, all big, and you can't reach the branches even if you try."

"California is far away."

"Yeah."

"When are you leaving."

"Tomorrow."

"Oh." Tomorrow was very, very soon. "You hadn't mentioned it."

"I don't like thinking about it."

We sat in silence. I began to trace the path of the river, as she had before, then stopped and began to create a second river surrounding my half of the village. Tina was unmoving.

"Do you think," she said "that these will grow?"

"The rivers?"

"No, the faerie houses. Will they put down roots and grow flowers that touch the sky?"

"Maybe."

"You have to look."

"I'll look at night, when they grow."

"It'll grow big enough for you to visit me."

"In California?"

"Yes."

We were silent again, and I looked over to where the sun was, since I knew that was west, and looked for California. The farthest I saw was Long Island. "Tina?"

"Yes?'

"Did the ones in your yard ever truly grow?"

"No."

"This one won't either, will it."

She looked at me, and she said the same hopeless word as before.

Vignette 5

Tina had been gone for two years when we finally, finally got to visit her. We arrived first to a restaurant in San Francisco, where she now lived. San Francisco was big. Everything was bigger than it was at home, where there was nothing but empty space, big green yards, and the occasional house. But there was a beach near the restaurant, a little sliver of the outdoors, and after we ate, our parents let us leave, and we began to walk.

We were in middle school by then, and we were old and all grown up, so we tried to talk instead of play. We walked from one jetty to the next and back, sharing words of growing up, of her friends back home whose names I've finally learned, of the hopelessness of middle school boys. We tried to talk of who we were becoming, but we were soon back to where we once were. We recounted a thousand childhood games in precise detail, the name of every pirate ship, the each daydream of a lonely orphan. I thought about suggesting play-acting again, but it somehow felt as if here was not the place.

After many lengths, we returned to our families. Her brother, who still only toddled, had surrounded herself with tiny piles of sticks, and my sister, Ella, who was already in elementary school had placed leaves on them, trying to make them beautiful. We sat with them for a time, adding layers, shifting piles, until we'd created another miniature world, this one decorated with shells in place of petals.

This time, I did not bother to ask Tina if she thought our plants would grow.

Vignette 6

In high school, one develops these annoying chores, one of which is babysitting one's younger sister. I usually did this by ignoring her, and this evening was no different. I was on the computer in the living room, using an instant messenger to pretend that I wasn't stuck at home. For once, Tina was online. I said "Hello."

She responded. "hi wats up"

I said, "Oh, not much, and you?"

"sum stuf. nm. g2g."

I had to look up her abbreviations online. I didn't talk like her anymore, didn't think like her. I'd tried to talk with her before, and it was always the same; I'd try to reminisce, and she'd use such cryptic terminology that I soon became utterly lost.

I stood up from the computer and went looking for Ella. She wasn't in her room, wasn't in the basement, or watching TV, or even in my room. I went into the kitchen to use the phone to call Mom, certain that I'd lost my sister, when I finally spotter her outside.

She was sitting beneath the tree in the backyard, staring at a house of sticks that she built yesterday, filled with with flowers and little pieces of popsicle. It began to rain, but she still sat there, so I went outside to bring her in. As I got closer, I heard her talking.

"Priscilla, how are you today? And your son? Did he like the cold sugar? It's my favorite. Are you happy here? Would you prefer to be by the shed?"

"Ella?" I said.

She looked up at me, smiling. "They talk to me."

I stopped, and the rains began to pool on the tops of my ears and slide slowly, slowly down.

"They talk to me, Shelby. I can hear them."

"They don't exist."

"Yes, they do! They're here. I can feel them."

"You can?"

"Come here. You can feel them, too."

I walked closer, and she tugged my hand, pulling me down. Her tiny palms were damp with rainwater.

"Look, Shelby. See them?"

The house was small, smaller than small. She'd worked on it carefully, each twig elegant, each leaf precise. She'd even crafted furnisher, a feat that Tina and I had never managed.

The faeries weren't there at that moment, she said to me, but when they did, the house would be alive, and the twigs would stand, and tiny little flowers would grow around it. The flowers would grow until they touched her knees, her waist, her shoulders and her brow, until they wrapped up around and stretched up and over the tree, over the house, up and up until they circled the very stars.

She said it would grow soon, because it was raining, but that we needed to be very still.

We sat together and watched until it was too dark to see, and the twigs and branches and flowers had sunk deep into the all-consuming mud.

June 12, 2010

I'm Back and In Business

Well, I'm in buisiness in if going to do library to study and do homework because the house has been inundated by members of the extended family counts as business, and I say that it does.

It's good to be back. I was gone for quite some time because, as I explained in my previous post, I was busy making an animation.



And there, my darlings, is said animation. Hooray for being done! Hooray for staying up past midnight to finish! Also, hooray for book awards, for taking two hours out of my animation time (it's okay, I got cool books. Yay Shakespeare!)

I'm still a bit sleepy, which manifests in some rather severe overenthusiasm. I apologize.

June 5, 2010

My Time is Devoted to Video


For English, we have to make a thirty-second visual. I've elected to make a thirty second animation, using the computer, of said visual. So far, I've had three false starts (I'd picked a scheme that was beyond my meager abilities).



There is one of them, embedded above. Now I'm working on another, in which we see kids just sitting in a classroom, occasionally raising hands, and we see both their thought bubbles and how pissed off random gifted kid gets when his teacher, after he asks too many questions, begins to ignore him. In this one, I plan to actually animate the people, which should be a big help.

June 3, 2010

Muddy Waters

The two of us stood at the edge of the road. The pavement was hot, hot enough that I could feel it through the thick calluses on my bare feet. The street we stood on was lined with trees, it’s entire surface coated in the mottled shadows of leaves. We were in the edge of this darkness, at the barrier.

In front of us, to the left and right, was a stone wall. The wall was unbroken, unworn by time or use. The stones fit perfectly next to each other, the cement was smooth, and the barrier, despite the fact it came up barely past my waist, seemed insurmountable. We had been walking alongside the wall for a time, as we had finally turned left from Julie’s house and gone away from the beach, and now, right here, there was a wall.

In the wall, at the place where we had stopped, was a gap. It was as wide as the three of us if we stood shoulder to shoulder, so a hair wider than the usual door. The sunlight seemed to push outwards from the smooth lawn beyond, and the only thing blocking us was a single chain hanging across the gap. The lawn was small, barely bigger than my garage, but at the end was a wooden dock that glowed in that way that metal ones couldn’t, and beyond that, the mud.

“I want to go in,” said Karen.

“I really don’t think we should, though.”

“But it looks so nice.”

“It’s somebody’s yard, though,” I said.

“I want to feel the sun,” said Karen. “I’m going in.”

She ducked under the chain and turned around, expectant. I looked at Julie.

“You go,” she said.

I considered ducking the chain, but a closed gate was a closed gate, so I went to the wall, the smooth-cut wall, pushed my arms on it, and hoisted myself up. My ankle caught on the corner, and I felt a slight snag before my entire foot caught, and I tumbled off of the wall into the light grass. I stood up immediately and looked out at the lot. The grass, even while I stood on it, seemed unreal, but the dock looked as if it would be more tangible. I walked towards it, to it, stepped onto it. I could feel Karen, who stood still by the gate, watching me. I stepped forward again. I moved closer to the shore, then closer, and then I was at the edge of the dock. I looked down to see the water and discovered that it was mud, dark and thick. I bent, picked up a pebble, and dropped it into the muck. It rested on the surface, not rippling, not sinking. I stared at it, entranced.

Karen came up behind me. “What are you doing?”

“Look.”

She moved next to me, then looked down at the rock.
We stood in silence. I looked up, following the muck. There was water, out there, but the mudflat stretched out all the way to the island in the middle of the river. I looked at it, wondering what was there. Karen’s eyes were still on the pebble, and her gaze was calculating.

“Do you think,” she asked, “that it could hold us, too?”

“Probably not.”

“But would we sink all of the way?”

“I dunno.”

“I’m going to try it.”

“But you’ll get your pants dirty.”

“Fine.” She undid the tie and took them off, hanging them on a support. “I’m going in.”

“Wait.”

“What?”

“I’m taller than you. If we’re testing for the bottom, I should go first, because I’m less likely to sink over my head.”

“Okay.” She looked at me expectantly.

I shucked my own pants and hung them atop hers before sitting on the edge of the dock. I stuck my legs out in front of me, not touching the mud.

“That won’t work.”

I made an annoyed noise, then began to lower my heels. The right made contact first. The mud was cool. It held under my foot, its surface bending as I pressed downwards. I lowered the other foot, pointed my toes, and slipped in.

“Do you feel a bottom?”

“Not really, but…” I wiggled my toes around a bit, feeling the chilled pressure along my skin, between my toes.

“But what?”

“It feels strong.”

“What?”

“We won’t sink.”

“If you say so.” She prepared to leap in.

“Don’t jump.”

She came and sat next to me, pressed in her feet, then stood. She sunk slowly until the mud was just past her knees. She lifted her leg, stepped forward, then looked back at me.
I stood, and I sank. The mud rose, slowly, pushing up and up till it stopped, about a foot higher than it had started. I lifted my left foot, pulling against it, then cleared the surface. The mud sucked into place beneath me, and my foot felt suddenly free. I lowered it again, this time further, and repeated the process with my right leg. Whenever my leg came up, the mud was dirty, grasping, grimy. When it went in, it was calm and warm and good.

Karen had already progressed a good ten feet. “Are you coming or not?”

“Coming where?”

“The Island.”

“Oh.” I stayed where I was, wiggling my toes, feeling. “Isn’t the mud enough?”

June 2, 2010

The Ohhhh Man

The group of us were as tight as cat-dog, the animated Siamese twin gone wrong in Karen’s favorite TV show—if anything, we were tighter, as we would never dream of fighting. After all, we were ten years old, double digits, and well beyond such a juvenile activity.

On this particular day, it was morning, an August morning that, even while the nighttime cool attempted to settle in, the sticky warmth to come was visible in the clear sky that had already hit its bluest. I was up early, more or less, but I was almost finished with my fourth read-through of Half Magic, so I’d spent a few hours reading it before I picked up the phone to call Karen.

I unwound the cord of the phone and began my attempts at communication. I had to dial three times, as whatever sticky substance resided under the keys did an even better job at getting buttons stuck during the summertime. The number finally went through, and Karen didn’t pick up. I hung up on the answering machine and called again. No response. I called a third time, and when I heard her younger brother announcing “we aren’t home right now, but Mom—uh, Sharon--says hi,” I dropped the phone back onto its base.

“Mom!”

“I’m outside,” she called back.

“What?”

“I’m outside!”

“Oh!” I put on sandals and went out the door. “I’m going to Karen’s. Sharon says hi.”

“Tell her the same. Call if you aren’t coming home for dinner.”

I walked past Mom, further down the yard, to a collapsed section of stone wall tucked behind the hedge. I went down the steps before closing my eyes and continuing. I stuck out my arms, always cautious, but I enjoyed the reminder that I could, in fact, truly make this walk with my eyes closed.

When my hands hit her gate, I opened my eyes again, pushed through, and ran further down the hill to her back door. I took off my shoes before unlatching it and entering.

“Hello?”

I heard nothing for a moment, followed by some loud thumps. Her dog, a black lab as wide as he was tall and with a tail thicker than my fist, was banging himself against the door to the kitchen. I followed him over and saw Karen’s mother with her arm deep in the freezer, digging.

“Hi Sharon.”

“Good morning. Did you sleep well?”

I shrugged. “My book was good.”

“That’s lovely.” She resumed shuffling through whatever was in the back of the fridge.

“Where’s Karen?”

“She’s with Anna. I think--” she grunted before finally yanking something out.

“Okay, thanks.”

“Finally got it.” She waved a chocolate bar at me. “I’d give you some, but I know your mother wouldn’t appreciate it.”

“Oh, right, Mom says ‘the same.’”

“Doesn’t she always?”

“Yes.”

She peeled back a section of wrapper. “Have fun at the beach.”

“What?”

“That’s where Karen and Anna went, the beach. At least, I think it was the beach, although it might have been Anna’s house, or maybe the Deli, but they’re out somewhere. They only left a little while ago, you could probably catch them.”

I nodded and left, this time through the garage, which I closed behind me using the keypad outside. I had barely made it out of Karen’s driveway before I saw the pair rushing towards me.

“Oh! Good! We were just coming to get you!”

“You were?”

“We saw,” began Karen, but she cut herself off with a breathless gasp, so Anna filled in.

“It was terrifying.”

“Crazy.”

“So scary.”

“What was it?”

“Oh.”

“Well.”

They looked at each other for a moment, then began to talk at the same time. “The omen,” said Karen, at the same time that Anna said “the box.”

“The what?”

“You mean we didn’t tell you?” said Karen.

“Didn’t tell me what?”

“About the omen!”

“You definitely didn’t.”

“Are you sure? Because I think we did,” said Anna.

“I think I’d remember.”

“You never know, you could have forgotten,” said Karen.

“I wouldn’t forget.”

“Doesn’t everybody forget?” said Anna.

“Not me.”

“Well,” said Karen. “I suppose I’ll have to tell you. But, I don’t know, you might be better off not knowing.”

“Yeah, it’s a pretty scary story.”

“Tell me!”

“Well, are you sure you can handle it?”

“Yes!”

“Really sure?” added Anna.

“YES!”

“In that case,” began Karen, “we need a good location.”

“Does it really matter?”

“Of course it matters. I need to go right where we were, when it happened.”

“If you say so,” I said.

“We should go,” agreed Anna.

“Well, where was it?”

Anna looked at Karen, who appeared deep in thought. “The tree.”

“What tree?”

At this, Karen looked up. “The one by the tennis court, near the Sloat’s house.”

We walked together towards said tree, which was actually a network of trees, a pine hedge with a soft green coating hiding a spacious inside with the perfect concentration of large, sturdy branches.

“Anna,” I said, “I need a least a hint.”

“I’m no good at hints.”

“Yes, you are.”

“No, I’m not. I’ll give too much away.”

“No hints,” said Karen. “You’ll find out when we get there. It’s only around the block.”

“It’s a big block.”

“It’s half the size of my old block,” said Anna.

“You’re old block was megabig, then.” I turned to Karen. “Tell me.”

“No.”

Then to Anna. “Tell me.”

“Nuh-uh.”

“Fine.”

We walked in silence towards the trees, before crawling through our usual gap and settling ourselves among the branches. Karen was the littlest, so she was on a flimsier, higher branch. I was clumsy, so I was leaned against the trunk towards the middle of the tree, straddling a branch so thick it was practically a log. Anna was perched a few feet in front of me, where my log began to thin. To our left was an empty branch, somewhere between mine and Karen’s in sturdiness. When Harriet arrived later, the final fourth of our group, she would sit there, and we would hold court to plan the day’s attack upon the world.

For now, though, we were only three, and all I could see was a story that was shared by two.

“Now,” began Karen. “The story of the O Man. On this very morning, we saw him, for the first time, and this experience has—“

“I thought you said it was an omen,” I interrupted.

“No, I said O Man.”

“You definitely said omen.”

“No, I didn’t. Anna, did I say omen or O Man?”

“O Man.”

“Like I said,” continued Karen. “Today, on this very morning, we first saw the O Man.”

“If you’ve only just seen him, why do you call it the first time? It’s not like there are other times.”

“Do you want to hear or not?”

“I want to hear.”

“Then listen! Today, we first saw the O Man. Well, actually, we first saw the O Box. This box was large, and it was cardboard, and it was right there.” She pointed behind her, towards the house of the neighbor to whom these trees belonged.

“Where?”

“Right inside the tree wall.”

“Oh. It can’t have been a very big box.”

“It was.”

“But there’s not a stamp in the needles.”

“That’s ‘cause it blew away.”

“Oh, right.” That made sense. I hushed up and let her continue.

“First thing in the morning, Anna and I were walking towards the beach. Now, we weren’t going to come in here, because this is the thinking tree, but we heard this awful noise coming from the driveway of the house—”

“Was it a car?”

“Be quiet,” said Anna. “I can’t hear.”

“You don’t need to hear. You were there.”

They both shushed me, and Karen continued. “There was a crunching noise, a big, loud crunching noise.”

“Just like this,” said Anna, breaking a small stick off of the tree and rubbing it against its trunk, “but louder.”

“Exactly. Well, we heard this noise, and we didn’t know what it was, but it sounded dangerous, so we crawled into here and climbed up a tree to hide.”

“This tree?”

“No, the one closer. I wanted to see what was happening.” She paused. “Anyways, we climb up, and then, while we’re sitting up in the tree, the crunching gets even louder.”

Anna began to rub her stick against the tree again, for effect.

“Then, we see the box. It’s right underneath our tree, and it has a big red O on the top.”

“O like the letter, or Oh, like oh my gosh?”

“The first one. Why would someone put O-H on a box?”

“Maybe it’s their initials,” suggested Anna.

“Or maybe it’s not.”

“It could be, though,” I said. “Owen Heart, or Oliver Hephastus.”

Karen, who had been about to cut me off, looked confused. “Hephastus?”

“It’s this poisonous thing that miners get.”

“Well, this was a man, not a kid.”

“That wasn’t what I—never mind. Who was the man?”

“I’ll get to it. We’re sitting in that tree, and we’re hearing this noise, and we suddenly see the box, and that’s when we realize that the noise is getting louder, and maybe the noise is coming to take the box!”

“Why?”

“Well, what would you think? The box and the noise, both didn’t make sense, so they had to be together. Anyways, we rushed back through the branches, and we were moving so fast that if the man had seen us, he probably would have thought we were escaped monkeys or something, but then we were sitting further back, and then, through the tree, comes a man.”

“The O Man,” said Anna.

“He took the box,” said Karen, “put it in his car, and left.”

“I thought you said the crunching wasn’t a car.”

“I said it didn’t sound like a car. There’s a difference.”

“Oh. So, what do we do now?”

“I dunno,” said Anna. “But we could try to figure out who he is!”

“How? It’s not like we’re going to see him again,” said Karen, “but, well, maybe—now I don’t know that this would work, but it’s an idea—maybe he’s stopping at all of the trees like this, and there’s another box, with another letter, and they spell something.”

“But where are there other trees like this?” asked Anna.

“At that house on your street,” said Karen. “The one with the big fancy gate.”

“The one where you have to push buttons to get in?” I said.

“That’s it. I bet our O Man is going there.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“We should go,” I said.

“We can eat lunch when we reach my house,” added Anna, “and we can stop and get Harriet on the way.”

“Good plan,” said Karen. “Ready?”

“Ready,” responded Anna and I in unison. The three of us high-fived, climbed down, and then began to walk.