I'm working on a new short story for you. But I'm also going ice skating with my family.
Our car is leaving.
Wait for meeeeeeee………..
Merry Christmas, dear readers! I made a short Yuletide video, which you can watch by clicking HERE. Yes, I know I'm squinting in the video. I did it outside since it was an uncommonly lovely day, and I guess the sun was a bit brighter than I'd anticipated. I live in Texas. Oh well.
This Christmas was a bit different from the others I've experienced before. Sure, we did what we always do on Christmas Eve--go to my grandparents' house where we eat dinner, exchange cookies, open presents, and reenact the Nativity story with candles. I always learn a Christmas carol on the piano, and this year, I did Linda Hartman's arrangement of "What Child Is This?". By the grace of God, it turned out nicely.
It was our Christmas Day that was a bit different than usual. Normally, we'll open our presents, then have our grandparents over for dinner. This year, we had our grandparents over for brunch before leaving for a friend's house. I decided to stick my nose in a book and hide until the gift exchange, in which I narrowly avoided a catfish dinner with our hostess's eighty-something-year-old stepfather and ended up with a Dairy Queen gift card.
I was two weeks old when I first celebrated Christmas. Now, at eighteen, I'm trying to transition from a child's view of Christmas to an adult's. I'm full of questions. Am I too old to decorate sugar cookies? To what extent do I help clean up the kitchen after Christmas Eve dinner? How much am I supposed to spend per person?
My newfound status as an adult has also shaped my wish list. I asked for a few nice long-sleeved shirts that I can wear to work (that aren't sweaters) and stuff for my hope chest. I got a cast iron frying pan and a sword-shaped letter opener. I also got the "No-Fear Shakespeare" version of Macbeth, which includes the original play and a modern English paraphrase side-by-side. I might be an author, but I can't understand Shakespeare any better than the average college student.
Last but not least, my sister got me a mug cake. I'll eat it on New Year's Day, since I have to work at Domino's on New Year's Eve and I'm already dreading it. Why, why did I agree to go back for a week after Christmas? Oh, no time for regret. I'm taking my dog to the park in an hour and need to eat lunch. What's in the fridge? Do we have taquitos? And I have to eat some of these Christmas cookies before my sister does.
December 24, 2004
Merry Christmas Eve! So much has happened in the past few weeks that Christmas, believe it or not, has taken the back burner. At least for me.
It started on the 9th. I woke up to find Mom crying on the phone with Aunt Miri. Jackson was in the hospital; his heart had taken a turn for the worse. He might need a pacemaker; he might need a transplant. But I wasn't going to stand for either. I filled my backpack with research and, instead of taking the bus to school, headed for the hospital. To be honest, I didn't know what I was going to do once I got there. I knew Uncle Pete and Aunt Miri were probably going to be there, and any number of doctors and nurses. I knew there was going to be medical staff. But I didn't care. I was going to help Jackson.
I got halfway there when someone tried to steal the backpack right off my back.
I whirled around. It was Derecho, dressed in black with a ski mask and tinted goggles, not an inch of skin or strand of hair showing. "Buzz off, Derek," I snapped. "Yeah. I know you're Derek Whitley. I know you're upset that I stole your victory in the science fair. But my cousin might die if I don't get the serum to him. Let me take care of him, then you can beat the snot out of me."
The robotic voice gave me chills. "Derek. Stop."
"I'm not Derek."
"Fine. Derecho. Whatever. Just let me get to my cousin, he's dying."
"Give me the research." He stepped closer to me, edging me towards the street. "Keep the serum. I get the research. I get the victory. You get Jackson. We both win."
I was tempted. But Jackson will need more serum eventually, and I can't save him once and not again. I have copies of my research--I typed it onto a library computer, and it's stored in a pair of floppy disks in my closet. Somewhere. I should be able to print it.
I was about to say yes, but instead, I said, "What are you doing to do with the serum?"
"I'll grow stronger," Derecho screeched in his robotic voice. "I'll grow unstoppable."
I was going to create a monster. I couldn't do that.
I took another step backward and slip off the curb. A pickup whizzed inches from me, honking, catching my backpack on its mirror. I was flung down, and Derecho was on top of me, trying to steal my backpack.
My research. My serum. Jackson's life.
I kicked him and slammed his face into the stoplight post. Nothing happened. He was insulated by his clothing. I needed to get his mask off. A glove. Anything. If he touched metal, he' would discharge. Shock himself. Hopefully incapacitate himself.
I dodged the series of punches he threw, then launched myself at his torso. He grabbed my backpack and tried to get it off me, but I twisted around and got a glove off.
Metal. I need something metal.
There was a penny on the sidewalk. I picked it up and pressed it into his palm, but I was unable to move before he discharged. He was shocked, I was shocked, and I think we were both robbed of our powers.
I was dizzy. My heart pounded, but with whatever strength I had, I ran to the hospital and took the elevator to the fifth floor, the cardiac floor.
I didn't know which room Jackson was in. I just knew I was getting dizzy, and my vision was blurring out. I ran from room to room, syringe in hand, trying to find Jackson. Finally. Room 520. Aunt Miri and Uncle Pete were there, and they were both startled to see me, but I plunged the syringe into Jackson's white arm just before my vision blurred too badly.
"Give him five minutes," I gasped. "Don't let him touch metal."
The next thing I knew, I was in a room of my own, with Mom and Dad talking to Uncle Pete. I felt like a wreck. I was weak, disoriented, dizzy, but I was alive.
"Where's Jackson?" I whispered.
Mom and Dad made a show out of calling me "sweetie" and asking how I was feeling and what I thought I was doing and sweet things like that. I ignored them. "Where's Jackson?"
"He's doing better," Uncle Pete said. "What did you give him? Cocaine?"
"An electrolyte serum," I said. "It won't hurt him. It didn't hurt me."
"He's undergoing testing right now," Mom said. "The doctors are going to review it, and they might put your findings in a medical journal. Would you like that?"
I nodded. Of course I'd like that. I looked at the TV to see a picture of Derek Whitley handcuffed to a hospital bed. I guessed justice had been served.
Well, now it's Christmas Eve. Jackson and I are home from the hospital, Derek is in juvenile hall, and I'm about to have the best Christmas of my life because Jackson is doing well for the first time in forever. He can play Dance Dance Revolution for an hour without passing out; he can participate in P.E. and stay up late and be a normal teenager.
I couldn't be happier.
Gotta go--we're heading down to Aunt Miri's for dinner and a few presents. I can't wait!
Kassie Kittredge, signing out!
"What are you doing to do today?" Mom asked as I finally sat down to breakfast at 9:00.
I nibbled at my granola bar. "Absolutely nothing."
I'd spent the night dreaming about filing papers and catching a stomach bug from one of the kids at work. There was about an hour during the night that I couldn't tell if I was awake or if I was just dreaming that I was lying in bed awake. But I woke up at 6:45 with postnasal drip and a stomach scolding me for eating expired fruit for dinner.
What did I do between 6:45 and 9:00, you ask? Well, I have the amazing ability to lie in bed and do absolutely nothing for hours on end. Normally, I'll take this time to plan out scenes for my books. I'll watch them in movie-form in my head, over and over again, tweaking what the characters do and say and where they're standing in the room and things like that. I'm pretty sure that I spent most of this morning dozing. After that, I read my Bible (distractedly), played on my phone, and finally acquiesced to my sister's demands to help her connect her PS3 to WiFi.
I'm done with both work and school until after Christmas. I figured I deserved a break.
Part of me rejoices in being lazy. Granted, my definition of 'lazy' probably doesn't match anyone else's. It involves getting out of bed at 9 (after waking up at or before 7:30), wasting time on my phone, playing piano, and going barefoot. I'll definitely get dressed and brush my teeth. I might write or crochet. I might watch an hour of YouTube, but I won't spend half the day marathoning my favorite movie or TV show.
Normally, there's a little nudge somewhere inside me that tells me to get off my laptop, put down my phone, and clean my room. But for some reason, it's not there right now. Maybe it only shows up when I'm browsing classical art memes or How to Train Your Dragon fanart on Pinterest.
I didn't use to be lazy. When I first moved to Texas at the age of twelve, I was both a perfectionist and an overachiever. My mom, sensing that I was overworking myself, got me a friend who was a bit more laid back than I was. She introduced me to the finer points of internet usage, staying up past midnight, and movie marathons. The hope was that we would rub off on each other. We did.
Winter is a good time of year to be lazy. You get to stay inside and cuddle up with a warm blanket, away from the wind and the clouds and any precipitation. (In my opinion, there's nothing drearier than rain in 40- or 50-degree weather.) In Texas, summer is also a good time of year to be lazy, simply because it's too hot to do anything. And for me personally, after a week of work and a weekend of Christmas parties, I'm ready to make a pillow fort and hunker down.
If you have yet to buy a Christmas gift for the reader in your family, don't despair! Where the Clouds Catch Fire is available for purchase (with free shipping!) by clicking the "purchase" tab above! Do you enjoy taking a day to do absolutely nothing? And what's your favorite Netflix show to binge-watch? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear reader, and don't forget to like us on Facebook and Instagram!
December 4, 2004
I think I know who Derecho is.
Quite a few kids were missing when we went back to school on Monday. That's only natural, considering that lots of people travel over Thanksgiving and all, but everyone was back on Tuesday. Everyone, that is, except Derek Whitley.
He came back on Wednesday, so I asked him in science class if he'd been sick. He nodded. When I asked him what he'd been sick with, he said he had a kidney infection. And then it all started to click.
Last year, Derek was terrible at P.E., but this year, he's one of the school's top ten athletes. He beat me in a chin-up contest once. I thought it was just him growing up and wanting to impress the girls and everything, but he admitted to doing nothing but playing video games and messing around in the science lab all summer. No one goes from last place to top ten without effort.
Point two: I made my science project last year about my reverse-robotic serum. It got second place, and Derek was a runner-up. He might have gotten third if it hadn't been for me.
Point three: Derek didn't seem at all interested when someone brought up the gas station robbery at lunch. All the other boys were going crazy--"Do you know who did it?" "Are they offering a reward?" "Dude, I'd tell them it was my brother. That way, I wouldn't have to see my brother again, and I'd get some extra cash."
Plus, he's been acting weird. He doesn't touch doorknobs with his bare hands--he pulls his sleeves over his hands first. He says it's because of germs. But today, he touched the metal rim on a pencil, and I saw him jump and drop the pencil.
I don't know what to do about this. Should I confront him? Tell a teacher? What do I tell them? Will I be forced to give up my own experimenting? And what about Jackson? He hasn't been doing well since Thanksgiving--he's white and tired all the time, and Aunt Miri gave him a pizza Lunchable for lunch today. She only buys him special stuff like that when his appetite is down, and his appetite is only down when he's having a bad day. He says he has a doctor's appointment on Thursday.
I want to do one more experiment on myself. Just to make sure it's safe. Just to make sure it works. But I don't know if it's going to work or not. I might overdose and kill myself, or I might end up saving Jackson's life.
This might be my last diary entry. If it is--whoever finds and reads this, my research is in a file labeled "Robots" in my closet. Please publish it under my name. And please apologize to George and Macy. I'm sorry I ever suspected them.
Kassie Kittredge, signing out
First off, I want to thank each and every one of you who checked out our Live Stream Q&A on Sunday! You can still view it by clicking HERE but I might not answer any questions you post. I'll definitely be having another Q&A soon. A shorter one. But I had a blast.
I'd also like to note the fact that I'm wearing short sleeves right now. In December. Part of me is upset, but the other part of me is happy that I don't have to wear a sleeping bag with arms every time I leave the house. But at the same time, being cold is fun. When I lived in Illinois, I'd always enjoy feeling the gentle kiss of a frosty wind on my face or cuddling up with my comforter on a cold night.
There were things I didn't like about the cold, of course. I kept gerbils for a few years, and I'd wash out their cage once a week. I'd normally do this outside, but in the winter, I'd run some water in the bathtub and sanitize it afterwards. My nine-year-old self disliked sanitizing the bathtub. In fact, my now-eighteen-year-old self dislikes cleaning tubs and showers. But the thing about washing the gerbil's cage is that your hands get wet. And when it's cold and windy and your hands are wet, they start to hurt and go numb, which is a rather unpleasant sensation. So I was forced to stick to the bathtub.
The wonderful thing about a northern winter is the snow. Snow is pretty. It shows animal tracks. You can build snowmen, make snow angels, go sledding, and have snowball fights. I'd try to build an igloo every year, but we never had quite enough snow for that.
The terrible thing about a southern winter is that there's no snow. There's just dead grass. I believe I once compared the empty field behind my house to a sloth pelt. It's a brownish-yellow color, not unlike a bale of hay. Add the skeleton trees and a few clouds, and you've got yourself a dreary landscape.
Not that it's all bad, of course. Like I said, I'm wearing short sleeves. I've been wearing sweaters and turtlenecks all week for work, and it's nice to have a break. I feel free! I thought my sister was crazy for getting me a short-sleeved Christmas shirt. Turns out, she wasn't!
I like being able to run around barefoot. I'd run around barefoot in Illinois, too, but not without Mom and Dad telling me to put on a pair of socks. I spent so much time standing on our tile entry-way floor that my feet are nearly immune to cold; I don't notice that they're cold until they start to hurt. I will go outside to feed my dog barefoot when it's thirty-five degrees and drizzling.
However, the few times I've gone on a hike over Christmas break and decided to wade across a creek that's higher than my snow boots, I've regretted it. It's cold, of course. It's painfully cold. Boots that are designed to keep water out are also pretty good at keeping water in. It's like walking around with your feet in fish tanks. Squish, squash, your sock is falling off, ouch, pins and needles, swords and shark's teeth. Where's the nearest shortcut out of the woods?
Next time I hike, I'll be sure to bring a canoe. Or at least a decently long two-by-four so I can make a bridge. If I hiked in Illinois, though, I might have more dire things to worry about. Like hypothermia or falling through a thin patch of ice.
In that aspect, a warmer Christmas is a better Christmas.
Do you enjoy snow, or would you prefer a warmer holiday season? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
November 30, 2004
Thanksgiving is over. And I'm still clueless as to who Derecho is.
We got to Aunt Miri's house early, around noon, because for whatever reason it's perfectly acceptable to eat Thanksgiving dinner at 2:30. Jackson was there. He was sitting at the kitchen table, peeling and chopping potatoes.
"I have to take it easy," he said as I joined him. "Mom treats me like a baby."
"Are you okay?"
Jackson shrugged. "I got a little worked up playing Dance Dance Revolution last night."
"With Macy?" I asked.
"Yeah. Hey, I heard your gas station got robbed. You okay?"
"A bit shaken up. I still work there and all." (I mean, I still need money for food. I'm not about to stop experimenting on myself just because I got scared. Jackson should be able to play Dance Dance Revolution without having to fall breathless into a chair after every round.)
"Yeah. Mom took the three of us food shopping, so we didn't find out until we got home and heard your mom's voicemail."
"All three of you?" I clarified.
"Yeah. George had to carry the turkey, and Macy just loves shopping in general. I just asked to come with because I was tired of sitting at home the whole time."
So scratch George and Macy off the list of suspects.
I mean, who else could it be? Someone from school? Who are the science nerds at school? Amy Kessinger, Ollie Cooke, that quiet guy who I think is named Sam. It might be him. Isn't it always the quiet ones who snap the loudest? And who am I forgetting? Derek, Asahel, Maggie. But those are only the ones in my grade. What if it's a senior?
I couldn't enjoy Thanksgiving dinner nearly as much as I normally do because I was thinking. I mean, I ate like a pig. I hadn't been legitimately full since I started experimenting on myself, and it felt so nice. But I hardly tasted anything, which was a shame, because turns out Macy is really good at making pecan pies.
School starts again on Monday. Hopefully, I'll be a little closer to figuring out who did it by then.
I've given up on finding a costume, but I found a scrap of blue fabric and made a mask out of it. I don't want to have to save someone from getting robbed again. But if I do, I want to have something besides a cleaning rag to conceal my identity. To be honest, it's a really cool mask. It covers my mouth and nose, then there's a slit for my eyes, and it covers the top of my head so my hair will hopefully be less noticeable. I feel like a superhero when I wear it. I want to help people with my powers. But things might go badly like they did at the robbery. Well, I guess they didn't exactly go badly. I was still able to help Mr. Harris, and I don't think Derecho got off with much cash. God knows Mr. Harris needs every penny he can get. He actually gave me $20 for defending him.
But if I fight Derecho again, I might die.
I guess I'll figure something out.
Kassie Kittredge, signing out!
BREAKING NEWS: We will be having a Facebook Live Stream event this Sunday, December 9, at 2:00 P.M. I hope you'll be able to come see us!
Anyway, onto the blog.
A few weeks ago, I was having lunch with Mom when she asked me, "What do you want to do for your birthday?"
I shrugged. I've come early to the realization that the best things in life aren't things, so as long as I have fruit snacks and a laptop, I'm happy. "I'll be eighteen," I said. "I should have a grown-up party. Go out to dinner, maybe invite all three of my friends to my house afterwards for cake and presents. That sort of thing."
"Live a little," Mom said as she took a container of Medjool dates out of the fridge. "You're only eighteen once."
Mom leaned against our counter and looked at me, date in hand. "What about going to the Medieval Times in Dallas?"
Apparently, my eyes lit up before the logical part of my brain did. Mom smiled again. "You get free tickles during your birth month," she said.
"But it's too expensive for the rest of y'all," I objected. "Isn't it forty-some dollars a ticket? For three people?"
"Four people. We're bringing a friend."
"I'll go book tickets! You go sign up for the email thing."
So we're going to Medieval Times. One of my three friends is coming, along with her sister and mom. When we found out that my aunt and uncle will be visiting from Chicago that day, we invited them to come with, too. So we might end up having to take two cars.
I don't know what I'm getting into. But I know I'm dressing up.
When I am exceptionally bored, I will make costumes. They're not for parties or plays or any special occasion. I just enjoy playing dress-up. My most recent foray into sewing was, unsurprisingly, a Norse ensemble. It looks halfway like a historical reenactment and halfway like a child's Halloween costume. I hope no one notices I used the ends of a can of cinnamon rolls for brooches, but the tablet-woven belt and nalbound pouch should make up for it.
Today was my first day off school for Christmas. So, in a spirit of freedom, I went to Hobby Lobby (and got there seven minutes before it opened) for a fabric remnant that cost $2.13 with tax. With the help of an online pattern and a YouTube tutorial, I made a hood to finish off the outfit. I haven't sewed it yet, but it'll look something like this:
Is that real wool? You can't find wool fabric just anywhere. I used calico. I'm cheap. I'm pretty sure that my cloak is made out of curtain fabric.
I'll post a picture of myself wearing the full ensemble as soon as I finish the hood. As for now, I need to fix my hair and head off to work. I get a new assistant teacher today, and I'd like to get all my prep done early so that we can socialize for a bit.
Which one of your birthdays was your favorite, Dear Reader? What made it so special? Let me know in the comments below! God bless, and don't forget to watch our Live Stream on Sunday!
November 23, 2004
I was cleaning the bathrooms at Mr. Harris's gas station when I heard shouting in the front. At first, I hoped it was just Mr. Harris refusing to sell beer to an already-drunk customer (it's happened once before) until I heard a crackling voice say, "Open the safe!"
Now this was the scariest voice I've ever heard. It was worse than those robot-voices people get if they lose their voice boxes to throat cancer. It clicked and popped and crackled, and it made my hair stand on end.
I knew it was Derecho.
I grabbed a mop and, on my way into the hallway, realized I needed to protect my identity. So I grabbed a cleaning rag, tied it around my nose and mouth like a Wild West bandit, and took off.
Okay. Maybe I didn't take off. I wanted to have the element of surprise, so I snuck around, hiding behind a few displays, until I was able to smack this guy in the head.
He--or she, I couldn't tell--was dressed like a traditional bandit, completely in black, with a ski mask and tinted goggles. I couldn't see an inch of their skin or a strand of their hair. Just black, and tinted goggles.
I need to learn their costuming ways.
Anyway, I smacked them in the back with the metal handle of my mop (the plastic protective end fell off last week) and almost pinned them to the check-out counter. But Derecho whirled around, grabbed the mop, and almost--not quite--wrenched it out of my hands. I took the opportunity to drive my fist into their nose. If they were bleeding, I couldn't tell. I was too excited to see if the black of the ski mask was turning into a dark red or not.
And then they shocked me.
I don't know how they did it. But somehow, they took their electrical energy, shot it throught the metal mop handle, and shocked me. It should have given me more energy, but instead, it fried me. My chest hurt. My muscles hurt. My joints were killing me. But, fortunately, Derecho lost a good bit of their power and slumped over the checkout counter.
Mr. Harris grabbed Derecho's shoulder and asked me, "How did you do that?"
"Karate lessons." I wasn't exactly lying. I took two lessons when I was eight, before I decided I was more of a nerd than an athlete. But I felt like I was dying. My chest was cramping, getting more and more painful with every heartbeat, and I was dizzy.
While Mr. Harris was getting his phone out to call the police, Derecho punched him and bolted. I tried to run after him, but my bones and my joints and my chest were hurting so badly that I fell over. I think I blacked out for a second, because Mr. Harris was sitting beside me when I opened my eyes, and he's slow.
"You alright, kid?" he asked.
Not really. But I got up, finished cleaning the bathroom, and went to bed as soon as I got home. I told Mom I had a headache so she would leave me alone. I wasn't lying.
It's been two hours, and I think I'm better now. But I'm scared. I don't want to give a police statement. I don't want to test this serum on myself anymore. I don't want to face George or Macy again. What if it was one of them?
Thanksgiving is in three days.
I don't know what to do.
Kassie Kittredge, signing out.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.