Posted in Storytime

True Story, Bro: A Humorous Autobiography Part I



Ah, the theatre. A wonderful place full of magic, music, and several awful backstage personnel. Except for Kayla and I, of course.

For some unknown reason, my friend Kayla and I decided that it would be a bright idea to join the Theatre Club at school. But not as actresses, but as backstage workers. I had always had an interest in equipment that was used to run such productions and it was my dream to work with this fun technology (this was back in a time when there was no such thing as “Smart-phones” yet).

However, the first day we went, Kayla and I were split up. She went to the costume department (per her request) and I was assigned to the lighting department (per my request because of my biggest dream ever).

As soon as I got near the “birdhouse” in the back of the theatre that housed the light boards, a thin, wiry boy with more metal in his mouth than a box full of screws glided into my path. He had fair red hair, a thick layer of freckles, and a permanent sour expression plastered on his face. (Let’s refer to him as…Pinchy Face.)

He was less than pleased when I explained that I was to join their group. Scoffing and sighing every time I tried to tell him I was ready to learn everything about the equipment.

After what seemed like an eternity, I finally convinced Pinchy Face to let me get near the light board. He kept on glancing over his shoulder as if I was going to suddenly reach my hand over and fuck up the whole board with one foul swoop.

Minion Two (I like making nicknames…I’m sorry…but not really) was organizing chords on the theater floor below as Minion One was discussing lighting options with Pinchy Face in the booth. After completing their conversation, Pinchy Face turned around and stuck out his hand. I stared at it like it had green scales all over it, quizzically looking up to his face and wondering what he wanted.

“Your glasses.”

“Like hell I’m gonna give you my glasses. Why do you need them?”

He signed like this was his millionth time telling me.

“You can’t wear your glasses on the catwalk.”


“Just give me your damn glasses, kid”

I’m a Junior, you’re a Freshman. Call me “kid” one more time and we’ll see what your face looks like punched inward ya beanstalk…

He impatiently flicked his fingers at me like he was motioning a dog. I rolled my eyes and pulled off my thin-framed glasses and handed them to him. I had to play by his rules if I ever wanted to touch, let alone learn about, the equipment.

It was a bit fuzzy after that, literally. I helped him carry some giant, boxed light bulbs up a flight of creaky wire stairs to the catwalk. Along it was strung several lights, aimed towards the stage. As I walked, carrying the bulk of the packaged lights, the catwalk swayed ever so slightly with every movement. When we reached the middle of it, he placed the boxes on the catwalk, I proceeded to do the same.

“Did I tell you to put them down” he asked.


“Pick them up before we trip on them.”

I began to scoop them back into my arms angrily all while huffing, puffing, and flipping him off when his back was turned to me. By the time I had gathered them up into my arms, he had already changed two of the giant lights with ease. We moved down the catwalk a bit before Minion Two (or was it Three) yelled up to us,

“Dude, [insert random tech babble here], we need your help!”

“Okay, I’m coming!”

He turned to me and spoke like he was the damn president of the United States, “I have to go, it’s urgent. Say here and don’t move.”

He pivoted on his feet and began sprinting down the catwalk. The catwalk began to shake violently.

“Hey! HEY! DUDE! Don’t go so fa…”

I was interrupted by little alarms going off in my head as my balance began to waiver. Then that little Shit decided to dismount the catwalk like a damn monkey. His giant leap cascaded a devastating quake right to my little feet and I felt them begin to levitate off the catwalk.

In a panic, my arms instinctively reached for anything to grab onto, forgetting the precious cargo that was in their care. When I landed on my back, my hands gripping the lower guard rail, I watched helplessly as gravity carried the fragile boxes to the ground below.

With every sickening sound of glass smashing against the ground, my fate as a stage technician slowly began to disintegrate.

The good:

No one was injured by the expensive boxes that fell from the sky (except for my pride).

The bad:

I wasn’t allowed to touch any of the equipment again.

So naturally, they assigned me to the woodworking shop with giant band saws and nail guns. Perfect.

At least my dear friend Kayla was with me this time. Even though we didn’t know shit about how to build anything but the occasional piece of Ikea furniture, we were still determined to prove the boys wrong.

The woodworking shop backstage was anything but a lumberjack’s dream. It was dirty, grimy, and full of the smell of burning wood. The walls and floors were painted an unappealing grey with touches of paint splatter outlined on the floor. There were giant grey shelves, which took up most of the room, full of lumber with one band saw. Nails, hammers, screws, and candy wrappers littered the ground and counter space like little elves had a party and trashed the place while drunk on sugar.

This was also at a time when no one wore goggles or earplugs when running the machines because the department apparently couldn’t afford to keep the drama students safe (but the football team did get new jerseys. So much more important…)

But what made it even worse was the other group of boys that were building a simple table. Kayla and I, on the other hand, were given the blueprints for a window with no actual windows, (‘cause apparently the football team needed a new locker room…which is apparently more useful than the arts… just sayin’).

We thought it would be a simple build. It’s literally a box with a few little pieces crisscrossing the inside to make it resemble a window. Nothing to hard, right?

Wrong. Very, very wrong.

Kayla and I struggled for what seemed like hours that day, trying to figure out what the hell we were doing wrong. We would measure the wood to the exact length needed. Mark it with a pencil. Bring it to the saw (I let Kayla do that part, I preferred to keep my limbs intact), and place it on top of the full-size layout where it should go. Then we would rifle through the large industrial shelves full of wood, find another piece, and repeat.

It wasn’t rocket science.

But every damn time we cut a piece of wood, went to get another, cut it, and placed them together, they wouldn’t fit the outline. It was a phenomenon that Kayla and I couldn’t comprehend. What the hell were we doing wrong?

Kayla and I were getting a bit riled up. I mean, we weren’t stupid. The wood couldn’t have suddenly shrunk when we were gone. We weren’t cutting it wrong.

And then it happened.

As Kayla and I were picking out another piece of wood from the shelves way in the back. I managed to catch a glimpse of the other group that was building the table. I peered through gaps in the wood piled on the shelves all the way to where our project lay on the floor.

I watched Dumbo One (Yay! Nicknames!) reach down and pick up a piece of our wood.

Strange. I thought, Oh! He’s going to help us out…



Dumbo Two laughed as Dumbo One placed the piece of wood that we had been working on for hours back on the layout.

Little light bulbs starting going off in my head like fireworks on the Fourth of July. Kayla, after realizing I wasn’t responding to her request to help her carry the wood back, turned to face me. She froze,

“Natalie, what is it? What’s wrong?”

I shot off like a jackrabbit and swerved between the shelves, my eyes locked on the target.

“NATALIE, WAIT!” Kayla yelled.

But I drowned her pleading voice out. “Crazy Natalie” had come out to play.


“What do you mean?” said Dumbo One, coolly.

“Don’t play coy with me you asshole! Why are you cutting up our wood when we’re away?” I said.

“Geez, don’t get so worked up.” Dumbo Two said as he headed for the exit.

“Are you serious? You’re making us look like fools!” I said, on the verge of tears in pure rage. My whole body began to shake like a leaf as it rushed with adrenaline.

“Well, you shouldn’t be working back here anyway. You guys obviously don’t know what you’re doing.” Said Dumbo One.

Kayla had emerged from the shelving unit in a tizzy, frantic to defuse the situation, “Seriously guys? Just stop doing that and leave us alone. Natalie, dear, calm down. It’s okay, they’re just being stupid boys.”

“What are you gonna do about it? She’s the stupid one here. She cost the department thousands of dollars breaking those bulbs. Isn’t that right, ya clutz.” Dumbo Two said.

“I’m going to get the director, this is unacceptable.” Kayla said as she bee lined for the door.

“Yeah, go run to daddy and be the tattle tale you are, “Dumbo One said, “Geez, what a bitch. Can’t even take a joke.”

At this point, I honestly blacked out in a full on rage. According to school lore, I proceeded to pick up a piece of thin wood and hurled it like a javelin. I hit Dumbo Two, who crumpled to the floor. Dumbo One tried to make an escape for it, but I launched myself at him like a cheetah and slammed him against the wall. (Side Note: I was 4’11”, he was 6’1”).

I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I think it was enough for him to know that if he ever called my friend that name again, I’d break every bone in his body, let them heal, then break them all again out of spite.

By the time the director came with Kayla in tow, I was back to little quiet Natalie. Shyly rocking back and forth on my heals as the Dumbos hid behind their table. (Let’s just say I had a bit of a temper when I was younger…okay so a really big temper similar to a supernova on steroids.)

In the end, they never got in trouble.

The director didn’t believe Kayla and me.

They continued for harass us.

So we quit.

Not because we couldn’t handle it, but we were sick and tired of being treated like ditzy girls who knew nothing. Because we were so much more than that, and we didn’t need their approval to convince us that.

So, to Pinchy Face and his Minions along with the Dumbos, I don’t have time (nor the space) to write out word-for-word the life lesson that you should have learned by the end of this story.

Because I’m too busy working with the EQUIPMENT at the television station I help run and building COFFEE TABLES to be bothered to remind you that woman can do just as good a job as any man. Sometimes even better.

True story, Bro.



(P.S. Shout out to the awesome folks at TV10. Thanks for believing in me! Also thank you to the “teachers” who taught me all I know about the equipment in the studio…you guys are da best)

Posted in Storytime

The Things We Aren’t Supposed to Talk About: Act II

He pushed the pencil to the end of the desk, making a clear path in the grit that covered it. I need to clean this s*** he thought.

He returned to the pad of paper sitting in front of him:

She was like a soft summer rain. Beautiful in every way. Her laugh could brighten my day. We would sit by the fire, swapping stories like we did as kids, her arms tangled in mine.

Tahir could hear those familiar footsteps trotting down the hall at full speed. He quickly whipped open the drawer by his right knee and threw the pad of paper into it, slamming it shut just before the footsteps reached the door.

“Tahir! What’s up, man?” Derek said as he peeked around the corner of the office door. He pushed his wiry frame against the doorway, leaning in like a curious dog, tail wagging and everything.

“Uh, not much. Just trying to write my short story for this week’s column.”

“Oh, come on. You know that’s not what I’m talking about.”

“I really don’t know what you mean, Derek.”

“The cutie at the front desk with the brown eyes, what you wrote about last night on your blog.”

Tahir stared, confused.

Derek tried again, “Short black hair, orange spring dress, beautifully tanned skin…”

“Ah, yeah, that one. Um, it was a story Derek. We never really talked at all.” Tahir said.

Tahir remembered her as he walked into the office this morning. She was a beauty, and he was in love. She had short black hair that hung straight, framing her caramel colored skin. Her eyes were like uneaten chocolate candies sitting on white porcelain plates, fringed with long dark eyelashes that curled to meet her thin brows. Her lips. Her lips is what took his breath away. They were a plush, soft baby pink that when it crept into a smile, they looked supernatural in beauty. The peach silk dress she wore flowed over her body like water, highlighting every curve with vigor.

She was beautiful in every way.

Derek interrupted Tahir’s thoughts, “What? So she’s up for grabs? Dude, I call dibs now.”

“Derek, you can’t!”

“Unless you want me to tell her you like her.”

Tahir sighed, “Don’t just…I got a lot of work to do, Derek. Send in Julia, I need to speak with her.”

Derek huffed, “Fine. But if she says no to you, she’s all mine.”

“Deal” Tahir muttered.

Geez, he’s annoying. It’s not a competition…but if he asks her first, I’m gonna punch his smug little smile right off of his boney face.

“Tahir, you asked for me?” Julia stood in the doorway, gripping a stuffed manila envelope.

She wasn’t anything that beheld much beauty. Her skin was pale, making her gawky in appearance. She had dull hair the shade of a fat-free chocolate and dark beady eyes hidden beneath large purple frames. Her cheeks had a rosy glow, but would be considered too pudgy by any fashion magazine. Her sweater was a bright pink that covered her overused, grey muscle shirt. Her muffin top was highlighted by the flowing khaki’s she wore almost every day, but she was so used to sucking it in, no one could barely notice anymore.

“Ah, Julia, yes. I wanted to ask you how your trip to Ireland was.”

“Oh” Julia hesitated to answer, surprised Tahir remembered, “It was good! I had a lot of fun. It was really beautiful there with the green and rolling hills. I would recommend it the next time you feel like traveling.”

“Awesome, sounds like you had a great time. We’re glad to have you back.”

“Thanks, I’m glad to be back.”

A moment of silence followed, Julia fiddled with the corner of the envelope she was holding while Tahir stared at his empty screen.

“Tahir…I…um…was wondering. Did you…um…want to go…” Before Julia could finish her sentence, Derek flew into the doorway like a hawk and shrieked,

“Dude! Do you know that gorgeous, blonde receptionist you like?

“What about it?” Tahir asked.

“I asked her on a date, and she said yes. Boo yah!” Derek said as he sprinted down the hall towards his office.

“WHAT THE F*** DEREK! Geez, what a prick. I even told him that I really liked that girl. She was the prettiest I had ever seen.” Tahir looked to his window. “I’m never going to find another girl that that.”

“Yeah. Sure. I guess there’s not enough pretty girls to go around.” Julia said.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Tahir said, surprised at the lack of emotion in Julia’s usually peppy voice.

“Nothing,” Julia took two hard steps forward and tossed the envelope she was holding in her hands. It landed heavily on his desk with a thud, sending dust flying up into the air. Before he could get out another word, Julia was gone.

Tahir immediately stood up and lurched for the door. He grabbed the frame of the doorway and used it to gain momentum towards her office. He counted three doors before forcefully turning the knob on the fourth and pushing it open.

Julia sat at her desk, she didn’t even look up when he came in.

“Julia. What’s wrong?”

“Go away, Tahir.”

“Julia, listen. I didn’t mean to say that you’re not, you know, pretty. I mean…”

“Seriously. You think I’m shallow enough to be upset that you don’t think I’m pretty?”


“Tahir, I like you.” Julia’s eyes looked straight into his soul as those words spilled from her thin lips.

“I’ve always liked you, Tahir. You’re smart, creative, and kind. I help you with drafts, grammar, spelling, and copying. I go out of my way to help you because I know that you would do the same for me. I like the way the one piece of hair always sticks up on the top of your head, no matter how much hair gel you put in it. I like the way you use your words to describe beautiful people and the love you hope to find. I like the way your awkwardly laugh whenever you’re with people you’re not too familiar with and so much more,” Julia sighed,

“But your view of love is as clear as dust.”

Tahir was stunned. His jaw nearly hit the floor.

“Julia…why didn’t you tell me?”

She paused her typing and moved her hands to her lap, spinning slightly in her chair to reveal her eyes glossy with tears.

“Because. I will never look like them or be like them, Tahir, the girls you always seem to write about. I hate thunderstorms, I can’t stand the bugs outside. I wear clothes for comfort. I’m not skinny. My hair doesn’t effortlessly flow down my back. I don’t wear glasses for fun, I wear them to see things. Dresses make me uncomfortable, and I would rather sleep 30 more minutes than put on a full face of make-up.” She paused and looked down at her hands in her lap.

“Plus, we aren’t supposed to talk about this kind of thing. If we like someone we have to keep it hidden like buried treasure. Because no one wants to take the chance. No one wants to get hurt. Please, just go away, Tahir. I’m already embarrassed enough as it is.”

“Julia, I’m…”

“Just, go.”

Tahir slowly backed up to the hallway and could barely feel his legs propelling him forward on his way back to his office. When Tahir got back to his desk. He sat there in some sort of trance. Here he was, thinking he was unlovable only to be loved by the last person he would expect it from.

He picked up the pencil on the edge of his desk and pulled his notepad out of his drawer. He looked at what he wrote earlier. Within seconds he ripped it from the bind, crumpled it up, and pushed the dust filling his desk to the side with it.

Then, he began to write:

Title: The things we never say to each other

“I like you” she said, her glistening brown eyes looking up at me…

Posted in Storytime

Have You Ever Tried to Fly? : A Short Story

Astronauts ready? Begin countdown. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4…

I remember it so clearly now:

The sun was creeping along the tattered deck. When it reached the tip of my gangly fingers I hopped down the stairs and laid flat on the warm crabgrass by the edge of the farmhouse. I watched the clouds inch by across the blue sky and geese flying in formation overhead, honking as if they were mocking me. There they were, flying high in the sky while my little body lay adjacent to the ground. Stuck.

“What’d ya doing Mei?”

“Nothing, Gran, just looking at the sky”

“At what? Ain’t nothin’ up there but air and birds.”

“I know” I said. I rolled over to my stomach and locked onto her old, faded brown eyes, “I was just thinking that it would be nice to fly like the birds.”

Gran plopped onto her rocker on the deck, “Who says ya can’t?”


“Yah don’t know unless ya try. So, have you ever even tried to fly?”

“Gran, I can’t fly! I’m a person and I don’t have wings!”

“Superman ain’t got no wings from the looks of it and he flies ‘round like a gnat everywhere and stuff…”

“But he’s Superman.”

“And you is a little girl, Captain Obvious”

I rolled my eyes and flopped my back against the ground. I could hear Gran mumbled choice words behind me as she creaked her rocker back and forth in rhythm. Her crackled voice pierced the silence of the late afternoon,

“Instead of just lying there ‘n doing nothing, why don’t you go on and get the mail for me.”


I let out a huge sigh, lifted myself up off the ground, and started down the long drive. Her mailbox was so far away that it took someone at least 40 minutes just to walk there and back. However, I enjoyed running to make it go by faster and release some pent up energy I stored like a winter squirrel, as Gran would say.

With the farmhouse out of sight, I began with a slow jog. Then it picked up to a slow run. When I was fully running down the gravel drive, I suddenly remembered what Gran said about flying. I guess she was right that I never really tried to fly at all. But that was about to change.

I picked up to full speed ahead and ran as fast as I could down the gravel driveway. My feet pounded the ground with each step and my hair flipped around in the wind. I kept running until I could barely feel my feet anymore and I launched my little body into the air with all my strength.

As soon as my feet left the ground, a sense of excitement rose in my gut and for a moment, I was flying. Soaring above the gravel road like a drunk goose. My arms were flailing in the air and my shout of excitement sounded like honk, but it was quickly deflated as the ground smacked a sense of reality back into me.

For a good minute, I let the fact that I just attempted to fly like a bird and failed, unsurprisingly, sink in for a minute. I eventually rose from the ground and assessed the damage. Bleeding, dirty, and shredded clothing. She’s gonna kill me.

It was near sundown by the time I finally limped my way back to the house, with one letter tucked under my arm. However, she didn’t say a word as I came in looking like I was tossed into a blender. She simply put her hand on my shoulder and led me to the hallway cupboard to retrieve her mini first-aid kit.

I was sitting atop the kitchen counter and Gran was on her knees tending to my wounds. As she slowly peeled the backing off each plastic bandage and placed then on my cuts, a smile began to cautiously make its way to the corner of her lips.



“Yeah right! Why you smiling like that?”

“‘Cause, I thought for sure you were gonna fly.” She let out a short snort before she burst into a fit of giggles.

“I did, though!”

“Ya did?”

“It didn’t last that long, but I did!”

She calmed down and wiped the back of her hand against her glistening forehead. She leaned back on her heels and let out a deep sigh.

“I’m glad you did, honey. It’s tough fightin’ gravity like that”


“Gravity. The thing that’s keeping those scrawny legs of yours planted to the ground.”

I had almost completely forgotten about gravity. All of those physics lectures in class started to flood into my memory. Mr. Montgomery mumbling as he fussed around with the Bill Nye VHS. The classic theme song pouring out of the television and my classmates lips. It was there I had remembered I learned about Space. Where people float rather than sink to the ground.

Gran interrupted my thoughts as she clipped the first aid kit shut. I hopped off the counter, looking more like a patched quilt than a person, and made my way back to the porch. I sat down on the stairs which Gran settled into her creaky rocker. She flipped through a few pages of a book and eventually settled on a starting point.

As we sat there in silence, my eyes never leaving the disappearing horizon, I thought long and hard about my little stunt earlier. When the sun became nothing but an orange glow on the horizon, I turned to Gran,

“Gran, I’m gonna try to fly farther tomorrow.”




Another moment of silence passed.

“And even further the next day. I’m not gonna stop” I said.

“Good. Ya know where to find the first-aid kit.”


Right here in my pocket…Thanks Gran.

…3, 2, 1, Lift Off.

Posted in Storytime

Why Spiderman?

In lieu of the new Spiderman movie coming out soon, I decided to give a little story explaining why Spiderman is my favorite superhero.

You’ve all probably heard me say that for at least 5 straight Halloweens, I dressed up as Spiderman. Yes, this little dorky girl dressed up as Spiderman and I loved every second of it. What kid doesn’t want to be a superhero?

But when I was a kid, Spiderman was more to me than just a superhero. He was someone that helped me learn to love myself a little more every day and it all started the first Halloween I dressed up as Spiderman.

I remember that the weather was freezing with a forecast of snow (typical Minnesota for ya) and my mother wasn’t about to let my sister and I outside without a coat. So, that night I dressed as “The Abominable Spiderman” and ran around fully costumed yet covered by a purple winter jacket. The only part of the costume truly visible was the mask that I was wearing.

My sister and I ran from house to house with a collection of neighborhood kids gathering candy like crazy. However, there was this one particular house I ran up to that was handing out little princess key chains and Hot Wheels cars (Ah, the good ole days). My sister got there first (dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz) and received a keychain. The others followed and received their respective items. But when my turn came along, the lady reached into her black, plastic caldron and placed a bright blue car into my pumpkin bucket, “Here you go, dude. I love the costume!”

I was only able to be taken aback for a few seconds for my sister yelled at me to hurry up. I quickly bounced down the steps and ran across the lawn to the next house where she was waiting. I thought, did that really just happen?

When I got home that night. I held that little car in my fingers, running the tires along the palm of my hand and first thought, I can’t believe she thought I was a boy. Then a large grin crept across my face, that’s the first time I didn’t have to ask for the “boy toy”. I thought about all the trips to McDonalds and my mom having to ask for one girl toy and one boy toy, even though she was standing there with two little girls. Honestly, if I wasn’t so hyped up on sugar in that moment, I would have cried.

To some, it may have just been a simple misidentification because of the mask. But isn’t that what Spiderman is known for? Being a dorky little boy whose always made fun of but then puts on the Spiderman costume and he becomes something else entirely, a super hero.

So every time during my youth that I put on that costume, I become someone else. My own superhero. A superhero with the power to hide their identity so people didn’t judge me by the way that I looked or for the gender that I identified as.

Especially when I was younger, people would always feel the need to tell me their harsh opinions on what I needed to change to “fit in” better. For example:

  • “You should wear your hair down, it makes you look more feminine and professional.”
  • “You should get contacts. That way you can see better and won’t have to wear your glasses.”
  • “You need to start wearing clothes that flatter you instead of those baggy ones.”
  • “You need to start wearing make-up to help with your acne.”

And so on…

But all of that went away for one single night wearing one single Spiderman costume.

So, now that I’m older and starting to use the “#adulting” phrase more often, I still think back to why my answer is “Spiderman” when asked who my favorite superhero is. And no matter how cheesy it sounds, Spiderman will always be my favorite superhero because he taught me that even though the world may treat you like an outsider, you have so much more potential then you realize.

To sum it up, just because the world thinks you’re nothing but a weirdo, it doesn’t mean you’re not still a superhero.

Who’s your favorite superhero? Why? Let me know in the comments below.

Posted in Storytime

A Tree Growing in Winter

The soft crunch of the snow beneath my worn-out boots filled the quiet morning street with life. I watched snow flick off the tip of my boots as I marched across a sea of white. I exhaled and my breath became one with the cold in a burst of fog before thinning into nothing. But before long, my puffs of air disappeared altogether as the warmth of my inner pith faded.

I reached the lone stop sign near what I believed to be the end of the street and I climbed up on the snow drift beside it. Even though I knew fully well that not a single car would cross my path. I planted my feet into the solid ice shell covering the last snowfall and began my long wait.

To keep warm I kept my limbs moving and practiced my greeting.

“Good morning! How ya doing…no, to easy” I muttered.

“Oh, I got it! What about, ‘Hey! You excited for school’…nah too dorky.”

But my practice was cut short as the trudging and scraping of familiar boots interrupted my thoughts.

“What’s up?” he called.

“Hey…” before I could get another word out, he exclaimed, “Why the heck are you standing in the drift? Your feet are gonna be soaked ya know. Geez, your always such goodie-two-shoes, just get on the street.”

He motioned for me to stand next to him on the lightly frosted street, but I just looked down at the snow that was up to my knees. To be honest, my feet didn’t feel cold at all. They were safely cocooned beneath me and I felt no reason to move.

“Suit yourself…” He scoffed.

As we waited in silence, him attending to his precious Tamagotchi, I gently removed my hat from the perspiring crown of my head and nestled it in the canopy of my jacket. The cool air brushed through my hair and whisked it about my head. The fluttering strands danced along with the breeze keeping my mind occupied on pushing it away from my eyes until the bus arrived.

Right on time, as usual, the bright yellow bus appeared in the distance. Shining in dew, it roared to a stop in front of us. I shuffled out of the drift and climbed on. When it took off, I watched the world pass in a white blur until we arrived at school.

The classroom felt the same as it had always felt, a cold and empty space where others seemed to flourish and I fell short. They would fervently raise their hands whenever a question was asked. They would zip through math problems and scurry about in gym. I guess you could say I didn’t have enough energy to keep up.

Even in music class I couldn’t keep up with the beat of the song. I would move my lips to the songs, but never actually make any sound. I was as quiet as the morning snow, but down to the very roots of my being I was trying my best.

I worked harder than most of the students, focusing on how to best adapt my weaknesses. I was the bud that never blossomed at the right moment. Not at the same time when all the other students were being nurtured and cared for. When I finally understood something, it was a long past thought to the others and my accomplishments were flat lined by their taunting blades.

But on this particular day, something amazing happened. Not just any normal kind of amazing like when a child takes its first steps, or when someone catches a Hail Mary in a football game. No, it was more than that.

It was during a typical third grade English lesson discussing the basics of figurative language. My teacher asked us all to write a simile, using the words “like” or “as”. I watched as all the other students scribbled out one idea to the next. They shouted them to friends across the room in excitement proclaiming their brilliance. The car was as fast as a cheetah, the man was as tall as a skyscraper, and the train roared like a lion to name a few.

I sat there puzzled for a few moments. All of those ideas sounded perfect, but they all sounded so plain. Something that had been written before. I stared across the room for inspiration and found myself looking out of the teal-framed window. It wasn’t much of a view though because the thick branches of a tree filled the frame. The thick bark was bare as it held a part of the morning snowfall on its limbs. It cast a billowing, patterned shadow into the classroom as sun broke through the clouds.

After some contemplation, I jotted down a line on my notebook and tore it out to turn it in. But then the dreaded sentence came from my teacher’s lips as she told the class that we would be reading them aloud.

I froze in fear. There was no time to practice and I couldn’t just mouth the words of the poem. My thoughts swirled as each student spoke their sentence and a roar of claps spread across the room. When it came my turn, I gingerly stood up from the safety of my chair and fell into the spotlight.

My fingers gripped the piece of paper as my heart began to practically beat out of my chest. It’s paced beating a cold reminder of the time that was ticking by as I stood in front of all their cheeky expressions. I glanced over to my teacher and she gave me a soft smile and a quick nod of approval to begin. My lips parted, but no sound emerged. I was frozen with fear as the pressure of the eager eyes around me intensified. I drew in a short breath before I slowly and painfully moved my lips and tongue to form the words I had written down,

“The moon rose slowly like a tree growing in winter.”

I quickly sat back down into the comfort of my seat and held my little hand to my chest as if it would quiet the sound of the rhythmic pounding of my heart. When I finally gathered the courage to look at my teacher, she was standing in awe.

There was not a sound among them, not a single hand clap. I felt ashamed because I knew that it was too different. It was probably wrong and I would have to be put down gently by the teacher, again.

But then, the miracle happened. My teacher ecstatically jumped from her chair and exclaimed, “This is exactly what I’m talking about. That was amazing! I’m…I’m in shock…” She trailed off as she smiled at me with bright eyes glowing in pride.

She began to clap and the rest of my pupils followed as the sound of their hands rustled the silence out of the classroom. I felt a warmth spread across my cheeks as I blushed.

I never had thought it possible that being different could feel so good.

That night, as I lay in my loft bed tracing shapes on the popcorn ceiling, I couldn’t help but wonder if a tree really does grow in winter. Or if the moon really rises or simply appears to as it circles the earth. My finger caught a few loose pieces of the popcorn and they fell onto my blanket.

I picked one up and analyzed all of the rough edges and uneven white paint distribution. I rolled it between my index finger and thumb and imagined it as a little snowflake. A snowflake that fell millions and millions of miles only to be stopped from hitting the ground by my thin little fingers.

I then flicked it to the floor of my room, rolled over, and snuggled into the warmth of my sheets. Before I drifted to sleep, I imagined a forest covered in white snow and in the middle of this forest full of tall yet bare trees, there was a little tree, barely a couple feet tall, flourishing with bright green leaves.

Huh, I guess some of them really do grow in winter.

Posted in Storytime

100 Years of Dorothy

A frozen breath curled from my lips and vanished into the cold night air. Above the violet, neon signs and the clustered crowds slurring from bar to bar, I could just barely make out those three familiar dots in the sky. Uniformed in a line amidst the constellation Orion. Even through the clouds of dust, deceit, and murky breath the stars still made their routine appearance over my apartment building. Their twinkling eyes peeking through the fire escape like the steady orange glow at the end of a cigarette.

While walking past Leland and Cecile’s, a patron swung the door open and a waft of cigarette smoke filled my nostrils. Most would find it to be revolting, but for me it was the scent of a memory. Her laugh. Her laugh is what played in my head the most. The nasally, asthmatic chuckling of a dedicated smoker. She was so dedicated that she only quit smoking because the cost was too high. Even when the doctors told her she had throat cancer, she quit for a while, but went back to it as soon as she was cleared. It was this sweet, smell of dirty tobacco that rebelled against her body as she did society.

She lived by no one’s rules but her own. A tough and sassy rebel with the kindest of natures. We would sit in the gazebo out back after my parents would drop my sister and I off for the evening. Her, smiling and leaning in to our eager little faces as she whispered for us to keep this our little secret. Click, Inhale, Exhale. The dirtied breath leaving her lungs as the smell of tobacco invaded the springtime air. That’s when her stories began. How the barn blew away in a tornado, how she survived living in a house with only one bathroom (and raising four daughters in it), and how Great Grandpa Bert went to escape all the drama in the garage and danced around to The Eagles while building furniture.

There never seemed to be a dull moment in her life, that is, until her time on earth came closer to its end. Her lively attitude faded slowly as the twinkling stars did when the morning sun crept above the horizon.

She could barely get out of bed. She said that Bert needed her in heaven and to meet him by Orion, so she replied that she wanted a soda. The daughter by her side followed her bidding and gingerly took her time going down both flights of stairs to the basement. The daughter retrieved the drink and went back upstairs. How strange it must have felt to get a soda that was doomed to be left undrunk. I mean, this tough rebel hated soda. She despised soda. But she loved her daughter enough to leave a lasting memory rather than a lasting nightmare.

As my boots softly padded against the concrete with each step, I couldn’t help but wonder what stories she would have told now. Like how she would have laughed watching me try to swing dance, how she would have pinned my picture to the fridge to show me off to her friends, and how she would have hugged me and laughed when I told her I loved the smell of her cigarettes. The story possibilities were infinite, but this short life we live isn’t.

She would have been one hundred today. For one hundred years she would have been here, making memories. But instead I am left to reminisce the ashes of the ones she left behind.

To the world, these past one hundred years may have looked like progress, smelled like success, and sounded like innovation. But to me, it looked like her, smelled like tobacco, and sounded like a rusty laugh.



*1st place at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Center for Writing Excellence Spring 2017 writing contest (Theme: Centennial or 100)*