Process

In mid-May, a 22-year-old student at the local university was riding her bike at 2 o’clock in the morning when a registered sex offender intentionally hit her with his vehicle. He then kidnapped her, killed her, and buried her about 45 miles from her home.

This story is only complete now, months after the occurrence, after leaking out in bits and pieces. First, posters offering a $10,000 award for information about Mickey were plastered to every pole in the city. Local businesses held fundraisers in support of the daily search parties. The local Walgreens flashed a Bring Mickey Home message on its billboard, which flashed side-by-side with an ad for milk.

A woman where I work proudly displayed her brand-new pink taser, which she had bought after Mickey’s disappearance. She demonstrated how it worked. It made a sizzling sound.

Posters offering a $25,000 reward were taped to walls of building and car windows.  Judy Blume retweeted a Bring Mickey Home message.

Students stuck Solo cups into a fence facing a busy street–the cup’s bottoms facing out to read Bring Mickey Home in bright red.

It was headline news when her bicycle was found bobbing in a river by fisherman 25 miles outside of the city. The damage to it indicated that it had been hit by a car. Then footage was released of a white pick-up truck that had been caught by several different security cameras at the time of the kidnapping. White trucks are as common as oxygen here.

A registered sex offender was arrested. A press conference was held, which all of the local stations aired live. Police from several different agencies filed in to report that they had arrested the man for murder and sexual assault, but would not disclose any details on how they determined that Mickey was dead.

Here’s an odd thing about living in (what I would deem) a small city: I’ve been to the bar Mickey was at before she was kidnapped. The small diner she was reportedly urging her friends to visit to for a post-bar bite to eat? I pass it several times a day. The Taco Bell she actually ended up patronizing? I know exactly where it is. Everyone knows exactly where it is. There aren’t that many Taco Bells around here.
So that’s the odd thing about living in a dainty Southern city. When such a horrific thing happens, your daily commute turns into some sort of morbid death tour. Going to Walmart? See Mickey’s final Taco Bell stop. Bring Mickey Home. Bring Mickey Home.

After the arrest, new posters went up around Lafayette, proclaiming that the search for Mickey would never stop. I only saw a few of those.

“Did you hear about that student?” people asked. “Did you see her creepy-looking friend being interviewed? Did you hear they found the bike? Did you hear that search parties dragged the river yesterday, and didn’t fish anything else out? Did you hear they arrested somebody? Did you hear he had teeth marks on him? Did you hear he won’t tell where he buried her?”

So when Mickey’s body was finally discovered yesterday, far from the epicenter of all of the interest and fascination, I felt a kind of sorrow that I hold absolutely no claim to. I admit to be totally embarrassed by that sorrow, being swept up in the sick salaciousness of it all, as embarrassed as if I’d been caught picking my nose or adjusting my underwear in public. But there it is.

I’ve been editing two novels lately. In one, the murder of two boys is played for laughs: there’s an image of their limbs circling lazily through the air, and I love that image.
In the second, a murder mystery, the death scene maintains a kind of coy vagueness, as is required by the genre. “Murder” is a stand-in for “bad thing.” “Murderer” might as well be “cigarette smoker” or “person who rips Band-aids off of children without telling them.” I feel a little strange about it. And that’s really all I have to say about it, is that I feel a little strange and sad.

Practical.

P and I went to Blockbuster today to pick up a copy of Ghostbusters, which I’ve never seen; while there, we were investigating whether we could pick up a copy of the Batman XBox 360 game. There were none on the shelves, so I suggested we ask the employees if maybe they had a copy of the game that had been just returned–or was otherwise hidden.

aaand the scene unfolds thusly!

Me (to cashier): You wouldn’t happen to have any copies of the new Batman game, would you?

Cashier (to fellow employee): I don’t know. Mark, go check if there are any copies of the Batman for XBox on the shelves, can you?

Me: No, that’s okay — we already checked the shelves. I just wanted to see if you had any recently returned copies.

Cashier: Mark, can you go see if there are any copies in the return box?

While Mark searches.

Me: The game must be pretty popular, huh?

Cashier: Just because the game isn’t on the shelves doesn’t mean it’s popular. It just means that the number of people who have checked out the game are equal to the number of copies that we have.

Mark does not find the game.

Overheard While at the Rock-Climbing Gym, from a Small, Loud Boy

“Take that, wall! Take that! I am a MAN! I am NOT a girl like the kids at school say I am! Rock climbing is my passion! I am NOT a loser like the kids at school say I am!”

Two Interactions

At My Place of Employment: A Clothing Store

I’m straightening up clothing coming out of the dressing room when a young, skinny woman approaches.

Her: Can I try on those pants? The label says it’s a size zero, right?

Me: You can have the pants, but they’re actually a size eight.

Her: Rears back in disgust, shudders

Me: Tempted to throw the pants at her and scream, ‘Contagious! Size eights are contagious!”

———

At line in Target, buying about twelve pounds of bananas, because the bananas at Target are nine cents cheaper per pound than any other local grocer

Cashier: That’s a lot of bananas.

Me: Yes, I drink a lot of smoothies. It’s that time of year.

Cashier: Weighing bananas

Me: Did you know that you guys at Target are instigating a price war? All of the prices on bananas locally keep dropping, which is pretty great.

Cashier: That’s cool.

Me: Yay for evil corporations, right? little pom-pom motion with hands

Me: Not that Target is evil. I mean, I love Target.

Cashier: casts out a dubious look

Me: clears throat, frantically searching for way to mend budding commercial-type acquaintance with cashier

Me: Hey, at least WalMart is always more evil!

Cashier: Definitely more evil.

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banana party! no one wanted the apples or sweet potatoes to come, but they tagged along.

in other news, i am breaking new barriers with my no-vegetable salads: am currently obsessed with massaged kale / pinto beans / half-ish of a potato / some guac / tons of pico de gallo

On Scolding and Cognative Dissonance

I was walking Montana this morning when we came across two dogs off of their leashes: one little black curly-haired dog, and the other, a Golden Retriever. Their owner was a woman around my age with short pink shorts and a big blonde bun on the crown of her head.

Montana was trotting behind me on her leash when she suddenly came to an abrupt halt; I turned to see she’d tucked her ears back and had her tail between her legs because the Golden Retriever had approached her.

I tried to tug Montana along, but her instincts were obviously telling her to stay still, and her haunches were pretty dug in, and the blonde girl goes, “No, wait,” grabs the Retriever’s collar, and then kicks him in the chest. Hard. Like you’d kick a soccer ball. It was kind of surreal, this innocuous-looking sorority type choking her dog out. The Retriever squished his eyes up and winced.

I was absolutely horrified, and, of course, wanted to say, “Don’t kick your dog! What the hell is wrong with you?” But I didn’t. Because it probably wouldn’t have helped.

But it raises the question, whose job is it to speak up for those who can’t defend themselves? As a society, we get all up in arms about doing our best to mitigate the weakness of those we view as our vulnerable members. Child molesters are considered the scum of the earth for this reason, as are wife-beaters. And everyone’s temporarily enthusiastic about the anti-bullying movement.

And this puts animals–where?

I’ve absolutely had low moments with Montana. When she was only a few weeks old and would cry and cry all. night. long., I did not empathize with how terrified she must have been to be separated from her mother and alone for the first time in her life; instead, I lay there thinking, “Jesus Christ, will that dog shut up.”

There was more than one walk in her childhood where she’d be so bratty on a walk that I’d hoist her up, stick her under my arm, stride back to our apartment, and then push her in her crate, absolutely fuming about how she would not cooperate with my plans for that day.

But those situations are now few and far between, in part because her behavior is much improved (although she has the annoying habit of standing between your line of sight and the television as you’re reclining on the futon, and then dropping socks on your face) and also because I think P and I have come to appreciate her as a creature of incredible love and incredible loyalty.

If P and I take her outside together, and one of us walks away, Montana throws a fit; she sees it as her job to keep the pack in tact, goddammit, and she’s not leaving anyone “behind” without a fight.

She trails us from room–to room–to room–because obviously she sees our presence as the best thing she’s got going.

If she drops a sock on your face 10 times, and at no point do you throw the sock or play with her, she doesn’t hold a grudge; she’ll just curl up next to you and try again the next day (well, after blocking your view of the television for several moments).

I think I’m pretty casual in my vegetarianism. When people ask me about it, I chalk it up to being a habit, but it really is more than that–on some level, I do find eating meat, and the meat/dairy industry in general, totally morally abhorrent. Taking advantage (is that a sufficient euphemism for “torturing” and “killing”) of weaker beings is morally abhorrent.

I recently had a conversation with an acquaintance who revealed that she shows cows, pigs, etc., in the way that one could show a dog at Westminster. (That’s what they do on farms, I guess.)

Someone asked her what happened if her family ate their pigs, or cows, and she reared back and said, “Of course not! They’re our pets.”

I asked, “But you eat other pigs and cows?”

“Well, yeah,” she said. “Because they’re not ours.”

And one of those phrases slipped into my head–you know, phrases like, “not the brightest bulb,” or “not the sharpest crayon in the box,” or “not the sharpest tool in the shed,” and then I thought, “No, this is the power of cognitive dissonance, right here.”

So yesterday I ordered an iced coffee and forgot to ask for soy milk in it. I watched the barista pour in the cow’s milk. I took a few sips, and decided that, really, I couldn’t do it. Just couldn’t do it. Donated it to P.

ETA: stupidest conversation with a non-vegetarian as of late:

Guy [at a restaurant]: You’re a vegetarian.

Me: Yes.

Guy: You know, I was vegetarian for a week. And then I just got really angry. Like, I was driving down the road, and I was feeling all road-ragey, and I thought, you know, maybe I just need some meat.

Me: [incredulous stare]

Me: Okay.

Me: [turning to talk to someone else]

On Complaining

A few days ago, I went to a meet-up of local women taking place at a “seafood hut.” I’ve been to a few of these events, and because most of the women aren’t well-acquainted, conversation tends to bounce around erratically as the women jump on different facets of sentences and then draw out conversations (“You ordered a coffee? I used to live in Seattle!” “You used to live in Seattle? I just bought my mother a Mac laptop!”)

One woman talked about how much she hated her first year of teaching, and how she stopped breaking up fights between students after she got punched in the nose with a stray fist. A second woman discussed how she’d been caught in an unfair speed trap four days ago, and a police officer had given her a $200 ticket.

Then a late-comer arrived. She sat down with a flourish, and raised her hand flourish-y to get the server’s attention, and said, “My assistant called me a condescending bitch today. I need a drink!”

We then got the whole story of how she went on vacation for eight business days, eight business days, and gave her assistant a very short list of things to do while she was out of the office, with, like, bullet points, and none of the bullet points got completed, and yes, the speaker admitted, she can sometimes be condescending, but that kind of language isn’t ever appropriate for the workplace, not towards a superior, and everyone in the office agrees that her assistant is not a good assistant, and she hates to get a single mother fired, but…

and on, and on, and on…

I snuck out shortly thereafter, mostly because everyone had already ordered their food, and because the only vegetarian option on the menu was the fried mushroom appetizer, I declined, and wasn’t really keen on sitting and watching everyone eat shrimp and clams for the next hour. Well, I  snuck out partially because of that, but mostly because I wasn’t really enthused about listening to these women ranting while biting off shrimp-heads.

Nobody likes complaining–it’s not like complaining ever makes anyone feel better–and nobody enjoys listening to complaining, and yet everyone always has a complaint. It’s my theory that 90% of the cell phone conversations that you overhear are along the lines of, “I couldn’t believe that she…” or “I was blown away that he had the audacity to…” (<– I live in a college town.)

I wondered what a complaint-free week would sound like. What if I refrained from complaining about anything for a week? Would I feel better at the end of that week, or would I, like, explode into little burdened bits?

Currently reading:

Completed activities this morning:

Learned to bake a cake with a KitchenAid mixer! As a result, batter was super-swanky.

Anticipated activities this afternoon:

Folding pants the fancy-pants way, with the folded seams in front.

 

A Love Letter to Jillian Michaels

o jillian

my love for you will never be reciprocated

in part because i cannot do two push-ups in a row

not even the girly ones

with knees on the floor

 

and yet when i shadow your movements while ripped in thirty spins in its xbox

i am inspired to lunge harder

lunge like the people in the nike commercials lunge

like really good lunges

 

and my confession is

when i skipped the second set of side step-lifts that you requested

to go to the kitchen and drink a glass of water (and, yes, glare at you)

my conscience ate at me so

that i did the set after our cool-down

and after you had told me to have a wonderful day.

 

and as i lifted my electric green weights grossly foamy with sweat

in my guilt-ridden side-steps

that you had requested of me

i thought fondly of you, jillian

remembering our time spent in boot camp

and the windmilling we did with our arms to warm ourselves

 

Writing in a Capitalist Society: A Self-Serving Marxist Perspective

I recently answered an ad to be a writer for a blog exclusively run by women. I sent an e-mail outlining my credentials and attached my resume and writing samples. The blog administrator responded, acknowledging I was super-duper qualified, and said they were looking for someone to submit one blog entry per day.

She wrote, “This is not a paid position. While we are growing and hope to one day get there, at the moment we are all here on a volunteer basis.”

I was pretty taken aback at an organization requesting that I contribute however long it takes to cobble together a presentable daily blog entry–let’s say five hours a week, conservatively?–with not only no pay, but with no discernible alternative benefit such as widespread exposure. (I wasn’t communicating with HuffPo.)

A writer’s left to ask, “You’re asking me to contribute content to drive up your numbers, but what’s in it for me?”

Writing is a skill, and I’ve been trained extensively in that skill, and if you hire me to write something for your website, that website will have more polished, more interesting content than if you’d hired someone more–well–linguistically clunky.

But why are writers expected to source all this rhetorical fun at no cost? If you hire a plumber, or a maid, or a babysitter, to come to your house five hours a week, there’s no expectation that that individual will perform their services for free. Yet someone (a me kind of someone) working as a college instructor–with an advanced degree–who has been previously published–is expected to act as the blogging equivalent of an unpaid intern.

I decided to be honest in my response, and wrote, “While I’m still interested in writing for the site, submitting 7 blog entries per week would be a major time commitment, and committing that much time without compensation wouldn’t be a smart move for me at this point.”

I offered to submit one or two blog entries a week, which I’m willing to do because it would simply be for my own enjoyment, and hey, I can slap it on my resume, and I can get that done in the amount of time it takes to watch an episode of Home Improvement.

What the puppy looks like after a 3.5 mile walk:

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Dramatic.

Foolishly, she walks for free.

Lost Items

When I was 15, I placed my paper-thin driving permit in a Ziplock bag, and then promptly dropped it somewhere in the neighborhood. Some kind soul picked it up and followed the address to leave it in the mailbox.

As I was walking along today, I spotted a driver’s license on the grass. It belonged to an 18-year-old. I kept walking, then realized this was my chance to reap Good Birthday Karma, or maybe pay forward the Saving the Irresponsible Teenager Karma that I benefited from a decade ago. So I turned back, picked up the license, Googled the address, and dropped it off at the correct house.

It’s very satisfying, when things come full-circle.

I also took a trip to Breaux Bridge today, which is where tourists go to antique shop. P was drawn in by a cover of Rolling Stone with the Beatles on it; glancing at the date, we realized that it was a faux-sixties cover that was printed in 2004. (This would explain why it was $6). There was lots of Mardi Gras paraphernalia, several racist statuettes, and lots of cups and saucers. When P and I came across a section consisting of swords and army knives, I turned and ran; P later got his revenge by pretending to jab me with a pie spatula.

Tips to Male Authors

I get it: you want to establish that your female protagonist, speaking in first person, is attractive. However, having the first three men she interacts with say something along the lines of “I bet you don’t have any problem getting dates,” or “You’re a fine-looking woman,” or “Aren’t you sexy,” comes across as, er, clumsy.

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