Last Sunday was Father's Day, and for some reason, I didn't put as much stock into it as I did into Mother's Day. Sure, I bought my dad something--a white baseball cap, because his collection of black ones doesn't work well in the torturous Texas sun--but I didn't get him a card until I was on my way to the restaurant where we were eating out for lunch. (This is a place with grilled cheese sandwiches on the adult's menu. It's incredible.)
On Mother's Day, everyone is focused on giving Mom the day off. And she deserves a break. It's hard enough babysitting; I can't imagine what it's like trying to turn a child (or multiple children) into a functioning adult while simultaneously doing laundry, cooking, and keeping the house from looking like a tornado hit it. But on Father's Day? It's Sunday, so most dads don't have to work, anyway...do I grill something for him to eat while watching golf?
I was prepared for a quiet Sunday locked up in my room when Dad came to me and said, "At 2:30, you can teach me how to make one of those pin thingies."
I grinned. I'd been wanting to show Dad how to make a penannular cloak pin out of copper electrical wire for at least two weeks. I didn't know why I wanted to. I guess I'm still five years old inside, holding up pictures and books and penannulars and saying "Daddy, look what I made!" And part of me, I guess, just wants to spend time with Dad. When he's not working, he's watching TV, and my sister commandeers most of whatever social energy he has, sparing enough to give me hugs and encouragement and the occasional three-minute conversation at mealtimes or right before bed.
So when we spent about an hour making half a dozen penannular cloak pins, I was ecstatic.
At first, he was just watching me make them. It's simple, really. All you do is bend a piece of copper wire into a horseshoe shape, then hammer it out a bit, making sure the ends are especially wide. The hardest part is using hammers and pliers to attach a pin around the ring, loose enough so that it will move and pivot, but tight enough that it won't slip off the ends. (The end result is basically the prototype of the safety pin.)
I truly enjoyed that rare gem of time I spent with my dad, but I realize that other people aren't as lucky. My sister recently had a birthday party, and I took her and a friend to buy a few last-minute supplies. While we were at Kroger, I was about to say "Let's not forget to buy a Father's Day card" when I stopped myself. The friend I was with had lost his father to a heart attack several years ago. And even though I didn't realize it at the time, that day was actually the anniversary of his passing.
I know that so many people have lost their fathers to sickness, accidents, or even war. But so many more have lost their fathers to alcoholism, apathy, or laziness. They have dads who won't take time to be dads. Some of them may have left the home; others might as well have. I realize that death is a part of life, and that there will be fatherless children as long as this earth spins. But there are far too many right now, and a lot of it can be prevented.
Dads are important. A real dad does more than put food on the table. He disciplines his kids. He teaches them to be respectful and selfless. He shows his sons how to treat women, and his daughters how a man should treat them. He's the spiritual leader of the home. I respect a single mother, but I know she deserves some help.
My dad isn't perfect, but he's great. I know he'll lay aside his work to help me if it's necessary. I know I can talk to him. And I know that, even if it takes a few weeks, he'll find some time to spend with me.
How did you celebrate Father's Day? If you're a dad, what does the perfect Father's Day look like to you? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to like us on Facebook!
The term "imaginary friend" is kind of a misnomer. Just because no one else can see them doesn't mean they're not real.
To me, Kida was real. She was the greatest. Dressed in the coolest of Samurai armor, with one sleeve longer than the other to hide the tiger-bite scar near her elbow. I didn't know that there were no tigers in Japan. I just wanted to think of an animal as tough as Kida, and I thought of a tiger. But Kida won every fight she ever had with a tiger.
I loved Kida. I knew what her voice sounded like. I drew pictures of her and talked to her, and I introduced her to my next-door neighbor Heather. The three of us would play together in my backyard, or we'd go over to Heather's house and play Littlest Pet Shop. Kida didn't play Littlest Pet Shop with us. She'd always wait in Heather's back yard, letting the wind push her in the board swing that hung from a tree branch.
Sometimes, I'd look both ways and cross our street, and play with Gloria Mendez. She had tinker toys and a pool table and board games like Mousetrap and Operation. But more often, we used our imagination. Gloria liked to pretend she was a cat. But Kida never went inside her house, either. She'd wait outside and look at the neighbor's puppies, or wander through their flowerbeds. And since Gloria didn't often come to my house, where Kida was more expressive, she didn't know her very well.
But usually, Kida was the only one I had to play with.
I did my school at home. I'd start at 8:30 on the dot, and I'd take a break at 10:00 for a snack, and I'd wrap everything up around noon, just in time for lunch. But since Heather and Gloria worked until 3:30, and then had homework, I'd usually only get to see them on weekends and over the summer. So more often than not, I had to entertain myself.
I'd normally do one of three things. I might hang out in my bedroom, watch television, or play outside. And Kida usually did all three of those things with me.
Sometimes, Kida would invite me into her own world. She had so many friends--deer and foxes and birds and all the other animals that I'd read lived in Japan, and a boyfriend who just so happened to be a character from one of my favorite TV shows. My home became the forest she lived in, surviving on her own and killing tigers and generally being the coolest person I knew.
The only thing we had in common was that we spent most of our time alone.
I had the benefit of having a family. Kida's family died when their house caught fire, and she was raised by the Samurai until the government disbanded them. I, on the other hand, had a mom and a dad who loved me, and a brother who didn't, and a wonderful set of grandparents who lived so close to us, we could see their front door from our back door. But Dad worked, and Mom kept house when she wasn't homeschooling me, and Nick had obedience issues that made him an angel in public and a parental-attention-commandeering devil at home.
So it was basically just me and Kida.
As a writer, I do a lot of crazy things in the name of research. I've told you about some of the things I've done--like learning how to process wool. The whole deal is a pain in the butt, and I'm so glad I can just buy my yarn from Walmart. I've also learned how to nalbind, which is a process similar to knitting or crocheting, and tablet weave (as the name suggests, a form of weaving).
But this past week, I had some friends do the research for me.
My sister loves to cook, and she's very good at it. We have a mutual friend whom we'll call Jane for the sake of privacy. Jane also likes to cook. And since I've been meaning to cook something in the name of research for a while, I decided to try some good old-fashioned delegation.
I challenged my sister and Jane to a cooking competition with a twist: whoever made the most disgusting dish won.
If you've read Where the Clouds Catch Fire (which you can purchase by clicking the "purchase" tab above), you'll know that Alynn McNeil is a terrible cook. She can make oatmeal without a hitch, usually, and she's mastered a few soup recipes. But when it comes to being creative and making do when supplies are low, our heroine falls short. And she doesn't just fall short, she falls flat on her face, because she's also clumsy. And the kitchen is a very bad place to be clumsy in.
In the book, when Alynn runs out of oats to make oatmeal with, she tries to substitute parsnips. Now parsnips are similar to carrots, but they're white, and they have the faintest hint of radish-y spice to them. Originally, Alynn was going to ruin the mixture by accidentally adding yarrow, which I've also referenced quite a bit in my blogs. Yarrow stops bleeding, so it's nice to have in the kitchen with all those knives around, especially if you're clumsy like Alynn. However, yarrow is also extremely bitter, and it can resemble parsley when you're in a hurry.
When Jane and my sister made parsnip porridge to see if yarrow would really ruin the mixture, I also gave them a list of other ingredients they could use. It was a short list--salt, pepper, parsley, onions, and garlic--but Alynn wouldn't have had much else on hand. Even pepper was pushing it, because it was only available via trade with India and the Middle East at the time.
I went upstairs and lost myself in a library book until I heard my sister's voice; "Lukas, breakfast is ready!" I smiled and headed downstairs to find two bowls filled with something that looked like lumpy mashed potatoes. There was also a glass of water and a trash can, just in case.
I took a bite from the first bowl and about died. I didn't think my kidneys would be able to process all the salt I'd just eaten. Have you ever drunk salt water? That's nothing compared to the saltiness of what that bowl contained.
We ended up giving a spoonful of it to my dog, but we didn't want to mess up her thyroid, so we chucked the rest of it into an empty field. Turns out my sister had made that first disgusting bowl. The second, the one Jane made, was a bit more palatable. The texture really wasn't all that bad, and I can see myself using unsalted parsnips in dishes sometime in the future.
Needless to say, I did a bit of editing that evening.
What's the most disgusting dish you've ever eaten? Have you ever eaten a parsnip? If not, will this blog post encourage or discourage you from doing so? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers. Have a wonderful day, and don't forget to like us on Facebook!
So what did you guys think of "Target Twenty-Eight"?
Personally, I loved it. Being a Chicago Italian myself, I was able to put in a few things I loved about living up north--like the Brookfield Zoo, which my family went to every so often. But I was fortunate enough to live in the suburbs, where the mafia wasn't that much of a problem. Thank God.
Anyway, it takes me a while to formulate a new short story. And since I was at summer camp last week, my parents are under the weather, and my sister's birthday party is this coming weekend, I haven't been able to put much thought into what I'm going to write about next. I can tell you that it will be a bit more lighthearted than "Target Twenty-Eight."
Now, if you'll excuse me, my sister just dumped the contents of my pencil holder onto the floor, so I've got a bit of cleaning up to do....
Being a writer means that you know things most people don't. For example, I know that, in Viking-age Iceland, it was illegal to shoot a moose with a bow and arrow while skiing on private property. Will anyone need to know this in real life? No. Will it prove useful to me? Most likely.
Knowing things that most people don't means that you also notice things that most people don't. You catch grammatical mistakes and spelling errors in both Facebook posts and published books. You wonder why all the characters in the movie Ever After have British and American accents if the movie is supposed to be set in France. And not only that, but you also tend to reverse-engineer movies and books.
I do, anyway. The first time I recall doing this was while I was watching Night at the Museum 3: Secret of the Tomb. I hadn't yet seen the first or second movies (oh well), and I was having a movie night with my mom while my dad and sister were out of the house. I remember pausing the movie (to get more snacks) while protagonist Larry Daley battled a snake-demon-goddess-thingy and mentioning to my mom, "Do you remember when the Neanderthal used the defibrillator earlier in the movie?"
"I'm pretty sure they're going to use it later on in the movie."
And, spoiler alert, guess how they won the battle with the snake-demon-goddess-thingy. With a defibrillator. I felt so pleased with myself.
I notice other things in movies that most people don't--especially clunky dialogue. I cringe when characters repeatedly use figures of speech or bad metaphors. Even a simple "That's what I'm talking about!" can really make a scene less fluid. One metaphor I loved, though, was in the movie The Spy Next Door, which I recently watched with my family: the villain is described as being "so crooked he could eat nails and poop corkscrews."
And don't get me started on medieval movies. Especially How to Train Your Dragon.
I love this franchise. The books, the movies, the TV shows, and even the holiday specials are made with excellence. But I've spent the past few years studying Vikings, and I'm going to make some critiques to the historical accuracy.
First off, I really can't complain much about the outfits. And not because they're historically accurate; these guys live in Scandinavia, and "a few degrees south of freezing to death" as protagonist Hiccup puts it in the first movie. No one would be wearing short sleeves. But the producers were aiming for a children's universe where historical accuracy is optional. and I myself will confess to dodging costume protocol in order to establish character. (This is one of the reasons my own character Lukas wears brown instead of black; it's friendlier and less depressing.)
That being said, I'll say that Hiccup's outfit is probably the most accurate of the group's. A long-sleeved tunic with trousers and boots is standard Norse fare. Even his hair is fairly period-accurate. My issue is primarily with the girls' costumes. Astrid and Ruffnut ought to be wearing full-length dresses with frocks over them, not short skirts and leggings. In Dreamworks' defense, I'm pretty sure that Astrid--the pretty blonde on the left--is wearing a shirt made of nalbinding, which is a Norse fabric-making technique similar to knitting or crochet. But I'll talk about nerd crafts another day.
I've read the first six books in the series, and they aren't much more historically accurate, although they're obviously well-researched. They refer to horned helmets and huts rather than longhouses. They also refer to an assembly of local tribes which is simply called The Thing.
At first, I laughed. And, honestly, I used to make me feel better about my own writing. "Come on, M.J.," I'd tell myself, "all writers think their own work is stupid. I'll bet Cressida Cowell wished she came up with a better name than The Thing." But turns out that The Thing is the actual name of the Norse parliament, and it was indeed a meeting of all the tribes in the area.
Am I ever going to stop critiquing movies for every little thing they get wrong? It depends. If a movie is exceptionally good, for instance, I'll be so drawn in that I forget to critique. But I'll probably watch it for a second or third time and say, "But medieval people didn't have toilet paper!"
Do you notice the little things in movies? Are you a fellow fan of How to Train Your Dragon, and are you awaiting the third movie as eagerly as I am? Who's your favorite character? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
That beeping...that deplorable beeping...I will smash whatever is making that noise with my bare fists and throw it into the bear grotto at Brookfield Zoo....
A sweet voice calms me. Perhaps the beeping object must be fixed, not smashed. "Is that a smoke detector?" I ask. My voice is abnormally soft, and a pain erupts in my chest. I try to rub it away, but a hand grabs mine.
"Don't move. You'll pull your IV line again. You're in the hospital, Max. You got shot when you were trying to protect me."
I open my eyes to see Valencia. She sits on the edge of my bed, smiling softly. "You're going to be okay," she promises.
I look around the hospital. Everything is a sanitized white or a bland toupe, except for the picture of a forest on the wall below the television. Valencia has been watching puppies play on Animal Planet.
"You like dogs?" I ask.
"Only the little fluffy ones."
"My grandmother had a Shih Tzu once...." Another pain stabs my chest. "It was a psychopath."
"My neighbor growing up had a psycho dog. Ronny the black lab." She smiles, and I smile back.
"You look lovely today." I want to go back to sleep, but I don't want to leave Valencia either. Especially with the shirt she's wearing--a lovely red shirt that flatters her figure and comes just low enough at the neckline to excite my imagination. The morphine does nothing to benefit my self-control.
Valencia blushes. "Thank you."
"I'd get you some flowers, if I could...red roses, to match your lovely shirt...." The pain strikes my chest again, and I must wince, because Valencia hits a button on my bed.
"Do you want some more pain meds?" she asks.
"I'm already high. Don't bother. How long was I out?"
Valencia smiles. "Nineteen hours. They had to give you anesthesia so they could get the bullet out of your chest. The first time you woke up, you tried pulling out your IV lines, so they sedated you again. And that was about three hours ago."
I realize that Valencia's dark hair is frizzy on top, and that her beautiful shirt is rumpled. It must be the middle of the night. When a knock sounds at the door, I am surprised, and Valencia calls for whoever stands behind it to enter. I'm not surprised to see a man in a suit with a badge. I resigned myself long ago to the fact that I would be put in a federal prison, most likely on death row, but I have a strange hope that my fate will be different.
"You're Massimiliano de Angelis?" the suited man asks.
"You're the Navy SEAL turned assassin who killed eighty-four people?"
Valencia pales, but I shake my head. "I killed twenty-seven people. I will give you their names. But the remaining fifty-seven were relocated to different countries--" I pause to take a breath as the pain in my chest grows unbearable again--"I will give you their names, aliases, and last known addresses."
"No need. We already know." The man flashes his badge. "Timothy Close, FBI."
I hold out my hands to be cuffed, but I quickly fall back with a grimace. "Why does it feel like there's an ice pick stuck in my arm?"
"There was a shard of glass stuck in it after the sniper shot my kitchen window," Valencia says. "You're ex-Navy? Also, are you sure you don't want more morphine?"
"Pain is weakness leaving the body," I say. "I was in the Navy. How else could I have learned my ways of getting rid of people?"
"And the government wants you back," Agent Close says. "We have enemies, too--terrorists, mainly--and we need someone to help keep the world safe. Technically, you'll be on work release from Marion Penitentiary. Don't think you're getting out of this without consequences."
I smile. "I never thought otherwise."
"So you'll take the job?"
I look at Valencia, and she takes my hand with a soft smile. "I think he should wait until all the morphine's out of his system before he makes that decision."
"But if I say yes?" I ask.
Valencia's eyes sparkle. "Then I'll tell you to be careful."
"Think carefully about your decision," Agent Close says. "We'll be contacting you within the next few days. Get well soon, Max." He nods and leaves, and I am grateful.
I turn again to Valencia, and to the book she left on the chair beside her. I can barely make out the title: A Rare Benedictine.
"You read the Cadfael Chronicles?" I ask.
"Gosh, yes. I love them."
"Could you read out loud to me?"
Valencia smiles and opens the book, and I lie awake listening to her soft angel's voice. Not even a murder mystery is frightening when she reads it.
May has flown by, and with June comes summer camp. Honestly, it snuck up on me. I was surprised to realize that, next week, I'll be sweating and playing Human Fooseball with a bunch of other teenagers under the viciously hot Texas sun. It's fun, I guess, and I'm looking forward to it. But there are several aspects of camp I don't necessarily enjoy, and I know I'm not the only one.
First is the lack of sleep. I'm not like most teenagers. I tend to go to bed early (ish) and wake up early (ish). While waking up at 7:00 every morning is nothing I don't already do, staying up until midnight is a test of my ability to keep my eyes open. And that's under normal circumstances. When a full day of physical activity, broiling sun, and socialization is thrown in, I'm exhausted by ten.
I've found two solutions to this problem. First, wear earplugs--and bring extra just in case you or someone else needs them. Second, bring an extra t-shirt that you don't plan on wearing. This t-shirt is preferably plain and soft, without beads or sparkles or anything that could irritate your skin. Simply place it over your face when you go to bed and fall asleep before the lights are out. Or, you could always buy a sleeping mask. Whatever lends buoyancy to your aquatic vessel.
Another plague of camp is the fact that you have to carry things around with you. Not very many things, of course--just a water bottle, probably a notebook, and maybe some snacks. If you decide to buy anything from the camp store, you're stuck toting it around until the next time you're scheduled to be in your cabin. Last year, I invested in a camp knapsack. Any old backpack, tote bag, or satchel will work, but I like my knapsack because it's light and roomy. It's also nice to have something that goes on your back or across your body (like a crossbody satchel) so you're less tempted to set it down somewhere and forget about it.
If you're camping in the woods, odds are, there will be bugs. Here in Texas, we have three-inch-long grasshoppers, mosquitoes the size of small birds, and more types of spider than I care to count. Bug spray will work, but my mom found a citronella bracelet at Walgreens last year. I just put it on my ankle, forgot about it, and spent the entire week bug-free. Personally, I also think that citronella smells great.
Have I mentioned the heat? Texas is notorious for its high temperatures, but since summer camps obviously occur in summer, heat is almost guaranteed. I'm still not very good at beating the heat. I tend to do whatever outside work I need to do in the mornings and evenings and stay either inside or at the pool in the afternoons, but that's not an option at camp. Unless you get heatstroke and are banished to the nurse's cabin, you're stuck outside during the hottest times of day.
Drinking water is one of the few ways to stay cool. My camp has water coolers situated at all of the outdoor activities. I bring my own water bottle so that I'm never without hydration and refill it when needed throughout the day. My water bottle of choice is a simple disposable one so that if I lose it, it's no big deal. Sports drinks are also great and help replace your electrolytes.
Your choice of clothing in the heat is paramount. I, like everyone, recommend light-colored, light-fabric, loose-fitting clothing. Do not, under any circumstances, wear a tank top under anything. It's not only another useless layer, but also very tight-fitting, which doesn't allow heat to escape. If you can, wear workout shirts--and, if you don't need pockets, workout shorts. Just make sure they're up to dress code.
And as far as sharing a bathroom with seventeen other people goes...I can't give you much advice. Just try to shower at a time of day when no one else showers, even if it means going to dinner with wet hair.
What are you looking forward to at camp this year--or, if you're an adult, what's your fondest memory of summer camp? And have you found some workout pants with pockets? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to like us on Facebook!
We speed through Brookfield, blowing red lights and stop signs and ignoring the honking of other cars we nearly hit. Valencia refuses to move into the passenger's seat, but stays on the floor, clutching everything in sight. "Max, you're going to crash and kill us both," she breathes.
"Would you rather drive?" I snap. I check the rearview mirror. A black Sedan is behind us, exceeding the speed limit to catch up with us. "We're being followed."
"What do we do?"
I glance at the Glock lying on the console. "Can you shoot?"
"Try anyway. Aim for their tires or their engine." I pass the car in front of us, earning another honk from traffic in the opposite lane. "Actually, don't shoot."
Valencia looks up at me. "Do you think they know where we're going?"
"It wouldn't surprise me."
"Then shouldn't we go somewhere else?" She jumps as Suzanne tells us to turn left.
We skid as I slam on the brakes and turn, earning a few more honks from oncoming traffic. "Where else can we go?" I ask, my teeth clenched.
Suzanne refuses to acknowledge the gravity of the situation. "In half a mile, your destination will be on--"
Her voice is drowned out by an earsplitting crash. My car jolts, Valencia screams, and we spiral out of control. We crash through the window of an abandoned storefront. The airbags deploy, trapping me against the back of my seat.
As soon as the airbag deflates, I grab my Glock. I look at the car that hit us--fortunately in the rear--and out of the back seat steps the deplorable New Yorker, Skylar Keeson himself.
Valencia fights against the airbag, shaken but not apparently injured. "Max...."
"Stay in the car, lock the doors, and call 911," I tell her. I clutch my pistol so my hand will stop shaking, and I exit the car to face Keeson.
"My men tell me disturbing things, de Angelis," Keeson says. He seems shaken too, as if he hadn't intended to hit me so hard. I see the driver of his car slumped over the steering wheel--perhaps dead, perhaps unconscious, but no one I can afford to be concerned with right now. What matters is Keeson, and Valencia, and keeping her safe.
"I am surprised," I say, "to learn you have the mental capacity to be disturbed."
"Shut up." Keeson aims a pistol at me, and I return the gesture. "Why can't you just do a job, de Angelis? How hard is it to rid the world of a single witness?"
"I'd like to think that you wouldn't kill someone merely because they caught you embezzling." An idea hits me, like lightning from God. "Then what else are you afraid she knows? You're into computer software. You aren't selling viruses, are you? Illegally collecting information? Rigging the stock markets?"
Beads of sweat form on Keeson's forehead. "I told you to shut up."
I hear the unmistakable click of a car door opening, and I wince.
Skylar Keeson smiles when he sees Valencia, only her head visible behind my car. "You truly are a master of your art, de Angelis. You got her to trust you. Now finish the job."
Valencia pales. "What's going on?"
"Massimiliano de Angelis. He's a hitman." Keeson glares at her, then at me, and fires his pistol at Valencia. She shrieks--which hopefully means Keeson missed, because a dead woman cannot shriek--and falls behind my car. Keeson cocks his pistol again. "A terrible one at that."
A siren wails in the distance, and it grows quickly louder. I smile, but my hands sweat. "Skylar Keeson, consider yourself arrested."
Keeson scowls and curses me. I want to shoot him--at least in the foot so that he cannot run--but I keep my finger off the trigger. "You failed me."
I glance at my car to see Valencia's frightened face hiding behind the front fender. "Only a sick man would take another's life to preserve the quality of his own," I retort. "And I find no pleasure in taking lives, especially those of the innocent. Valencia Marianne Beltramo is innocent, and so long as I draw breath, no harm will come to her."
The sirens grow louder before they stop. Car doors open and slam again. Keeson finds yet another gun aimed at him. "Freeze! Police! Drop your weapon!"
Keeson smiles--a sick, twisted smile--before pulling the trigger. Something rips into my chest. It hurts no more than a bee sting, but the world begins to spin. I hear the voices of police officers and see the face of Valencia Marianne Beltramo before my world grows dark, then disappears completely.
I bought myself something pretty cool the other day. I got a gift card to an online medieval store, and I decided to buy two things with it: a cloak-pin and a pair of bracers.
Bracers are awesome. They're arm-guards, usually made of leather or steel, and they look awesome while providing you with some protection while sword fighting or wrestling with tomboyish sisters. But then I looked at how big they are. And then I measured my arm. And sure enough, I was going to need a child's size--which, although less expensive, were far less cool.
I've been a twig for as long as I can remember, and I'm proud of it. I'm healthy, I feel great, and I look nice, too. And to be honest, I can't do anything about it. I spend most of my time sitting at my desk, I eat ice cream almost every night, and I've been known to pig out on pizza. God's just given me a high metabolism. But for all my friends and readers who are a little on the stout side--don't worry about it. Being skinny comes with its own share of troubles.
First off, everything hurts more. Have you ever rammed your hip into a countertop? It hurts even if you have a protective layer. But bones and wood-edged granite don't mix well, as my ten-year-old self found out time and time again as I practice rollerblading in our kitchen.
Even sitting hurts. My sister is into sports, and I've spent quite a few hours sitting on hard metal bleachers watching her. But my posterior is not very well padded. After the first half of the soccer game, my tailbone starts to ache. That's why you'll most often find me sitting on my jacket--if I bring one, in this infernal Texas weather.
Speaking of Texas, it's hot here. The sun is a flamethrower, the air is an oven, and the ground is one big frying pan covered in fire ants and prickly things. Having a high metabolism means that I burn off a lot of energy, usually in the form of heat. But I'm surrounded by heat, at least in the summer months. And that doesn't always go well.
And the winter poses its own challenges. I'm glad to have a high metabolism that heats me up when it's cold out, but it only works to a certain extent. I find that, when I'm sitting around doing nothing, my metabolism drops. I start to get cold more and more easily as the day goes on. One particular evening, I was sleeping over at a friend's house where the thermostat was set to 64 degrees. I about froze to death for lack of insulation.
High metabolisms have one more downside--that being, I'd be the first to die in a zombie apocalypse or any other survival situation. And it's not because I'm a wimp (I took karate for a couple years growing up). It's because high metabolisms require lots of energy (and, therefore, food) to keep going. In other words, I'm not really fuel efficient. If your body runs like a Kia, rejoice! If, God forbid, you're ever stranded on a deserted island without food, you stand a much better chance at surviving than I do.
The last downside to being skinny is something that most people probably wouldn't even notice. When I was thirteen, I broke my collarbone in a bicycle wreck. It's healed nicely, but now my right collarbone is visibly thicker than my left collarbone. If I wasn't so skinny that my collarbones weren't visible in the first place, this wouldn't matter. But I'm a twig. You can see my skeletal deformity, and I can't do much to hide it. But honestly, you shouldn't be looking that closely at me in the first place.
With so much pressure in the world today to have the perfect body shape, it's easy to think that thin people have everything going for them. In all honesty, we don't. There are plenty of actresses and celebrities who are far thinner than I am; I can't imagine all the skinny people problems they have. Is being a healthy weight worth it? Absolutely. But being too thin is no better than being overweight, and that 'perfect' body shape usually isn't worth the struggle.
I'm not going to ask you any weight-related questions today. Instead, tell me in the comments below how you plan to spend your summer! I'm hoping to get a part-time job and save up for my first car. God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
I arrive at Valencia's house at 5:00 that morning. She is awake, but barely, and I want to fall asleep myself after a mere two hours of sleep. But Valencia's eyes widen when she sees me, and her fear helps me wake up.
"Did you get my voicemail?" I ask her.
"No, what's going on?"
"Call in sick to work." I shut and lock the door behind me as I enter her house, and I make sure all her blinds are closed. "The man who wants you killed is impatient. Does the date November 15 have any significance to you?"
Valencia's eyes are wide. "That's his court date."
I shove Valencia's cat into the laundry room and shut the door. "Why is he going to court?"
"My husband--Dale--he was an accountant for Skylar Keeson's company. After he was promoted to manager, he found out that there were some--illegal things going on. The company was charging the employees fees for things like use of technology and breakroom supplies, but none of that money went to anything good." Valencia's voice trembles. I guide her to her sofa and place a blanket around her. She clutches it around her shoulders and takes a deep breath. "Two weeks after Dale confronted Keeson about it, we were eating lunch together, he started throwing up, I thought it was food poisoning--"
She wipes her eyes. I hand her a Kleenex, and she buries her face in it before looking up at me. "But not before he filed a claim. There was a hearing scheduled for November 15, and I was going to testify in Dale's place."
"You need to give that testimony now," I tell her. My eyes begin to water; I stand and rifle through her cabinets until I find a Benadryl. Then, I take a glass and fill it at her sink.
I glance up at the sheer curtain that hides the inside of Valencia's house from the rest of the world. It is a lovely cream color, except for a single red dot of laser light. Briefly, I scan the room for its source, but the dot moves as I do. My mouth turns dry.
Outside, something explodes. Glass shatters with an earsplitting crash, and something pricks my bicep as I turn to run. I grab Valencia by the arm and fly out the door into my car. More shots ring out, but they hit the ground around us. We zoom away, ignoring stop signs and speed limits, hopefully before whoever shot at us was able to recognize the make and model of my car.
"Max, what's happening?"
I take Suzanne off my dashboard and toss it to Valencia, who is sitting on the floor of the passenger's side. "Where's the nearest police station?"
"Just tell her where the nearest police station is. She'll get us there."
"Just do it!"
I'm about to reach the end of Valencia's neighborhood when I finally hear Suzanne's voice: "In point three miles, turn left onto Eleventh Street." I hardly slow down to turn. Someone honks at me, but I ignore them.
Valencia buries her face in the passenger's seat. "You almost hit that car."
"In five miles, turn right onto South Brockett Street."
I move into the right lane. I check my mirrors, but I see no one following me. But just because I see no one does not mean that no one is there.
"Valencia, there's a zipper under the passenger seat," I say. "Can you open it?"
I hear the pocket unzip. "It's just seat stuffing," Valencia says. "What do I do with it?"
"Dig through it."
My face is set as I focus on the road, and on making sure no one is following us. Yet part of me anticipates Valencia's reaction to what she's about to find, and the other part of me dreads it.
Her voice is like a scolding teacher's. "Max, do you have a permit for this?"
I smile as I take the pistol she hands me. "I sure don't."
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.