An Observation: The Writing On The Wall

Yesterday, I took a little day trip up to one of my favorite places in the world. I doubt I would have known it was going to be one of my favorite places in the world had my mom not landed a job in the community the summer before my sophomore year of college.

I hesitate to use phrases such as “nestled deep within the Arkansas Ozarks” or “gem hidden away among the mountains,” because it might imply that I’d been reading a book of cliches. You can try to paint the picture in words of the feeling of the place…but I’ve yet to find the proper words that capture it all. (And I like to think I’m pretty good with words, darn it.)

Little Red Cow Shoals May 2016 Watermark
I suppose this will do for now.

The town is Heber Springs, Arkansas. As I mentioned, my mom took a job in Heber Springs several years back. While she no longer lives there, the place stayed with me after years of spending some of my weekends and a couple of summers in her little house near Greers Ferry Lake.

And her little house is where this story is set.

Sure, I could take you out into nature and let you explore the Little Red River…or Sugarloaf Mountain (whichever Sugarloaf Mountain you choose–yes, there are two)…but I’d have to start using cliches, and I try my best to avoid cliches like the plague.

Her little red house on the lake was, in a word, cute. Walt Disney couldn’t have come up with a more idyllic setting, where deer would walk up to the front yard and look directly at you as you glare at them for eating the pears from the pear tree (no, I’m not bitter about that).

It was a split-level house with a bedroom at the top of the stairs. Mom decided this would be my bedroom when I came to visit. The crow’s nest. The walls were painted a faded yellow and the windows offered a view of dense forest in the sparsely-populated neighborhood. It’s exactly the kind of view I needed after staring at dorm room cinder blocks for weeks on end.

The view from my dorm room did encourage creativity in Christmas decor, however.
The view from my dorm room did encourage creativity in my Christmas decor, however.

I’d been going up to the little red house for about two years when I discovered something…an accidental discovery.

I was up in the crow’s nest reading one evening when the last light bulb on the overhead light went out. (I’ve always been lazy about changing light bulbs. They all have to burn out before I’ll take action. I’m short and I don’t like heights. So there.) Well, don’t you know, we were out of light bulbs and it was too late to go to the store, so I turned on the lamp next to my bed. I never used that lamp; it served more of a decorative purpose than that of functional illumination.

I wish I had thought to turn it on much sooner after I looked up at the wall.

The previous owners of the house had teenagers when they moved. The light from the lamp climbed up the wall at just the right angle to see that their kids had used their fingers to write their names into the yellow paint as it had dried.

The names were surrounded and enclosed by a finger-painted heart.

My mouth dropped open as I marveled at my discovery…my own little domestic version of cave paintings.

I turned off the lamp. The names disappeared in the darkness.

I turned the lamp back on again and saw much more than names on a wall. I saw a glimpse into a family’s history–of people I had never met and will probably never meet.

I reached up and traced the outlines with my own fingers and smiled. I envisioned the memories they had made as I made memories of my own going up to visit that little red house for seven years.

Memories like walking into that bedroom as four people had hidden out in closets and under the bed trying to scare me.

Of trying unsuccessfully to walk down the steep driveway after a massive Christmas ice storm.

Of casting a fishing lure clean off the end of my line and out into the middle of the lake when I realized I had not tied the knot tight enough.

We tried to start a little tradition of our own when Mom installed a storm cellar. Every time we were forced to run to the “‘fraidy hole” out to hide from the weather, we took a permanent marker and etched a tally mark on the concrete wall.

Unfortunately, the humidity decided the marker wasn’t so permanent after all.

The memories are pretty permanent, though…even if we didn’t leave actual writing on the wall.

A State Of Af-Fairs: Major Awards

Well, I suppose I can call myself an award-winning writer now!

About a month ago, I decided to enter a couple of photographs in some Arkansas State Fair competitions. Almost by accident, I discovered that they also have a short story category. After spending time and money having the photographs printed and matted, I decided to print off one of my short stories to add to my pile of entries.

The entries almost didn’t make it to Little Rock.

I was exhausted. Completely and totally exhausted. My brother’s wedding had taken place the weekend before, I felt like I was working 25 hours a day to catch back up with everything, and the last thing I wanted to do was drive to Little Rock on a Saturday that I could have used for rest.

Let’s face it…it was a level of exhaustion that can best be portrayed through interpretive sleep.

However, I figured I’d regret not trying, so I promised myself a reward in the form of a stop at the Bulldog Cafe in Bald Knob in order to justify the trip. (Good stuff, folks. Worth the drive.)

The photos received their own special place in the passenger’s side of the car, away from any potentially disfiguring objects. I angled the air vents towards them using a combination of mathematical calculations ranging from the Pythagorean theorem to Avogadro’s number…or something like that.

I almost left the short story in the living room as I walked out the door. I had placed it in an unmarked manila file folder. I ran back in the house and grabbed the folder, cramming it under the sun visor in the car.

The photos didn’t place.

The short story won a blue ribbon and BEST IN SHOW honors!

I never thought I'd win anything with the word "livestock" in the title. Never say never.
Best in Show! Short Story Category! I never thought I’d win a ribbon with the word “livestock” in the title.

I wanted to wait until I had collected my ribbons–and my Bulldog Cafe meal–before I posted the story online. I haven’t cashed in my prize money yet either, but that thirteen dollars will sure come in handy for…something.

And…here’s the story.

 

Dangerous and Armed

The copier jammed for the third time in five minutes. Office equipment is my kryptonite. I could have done the sensible thing…call the front office and put in a work request.

Stubborn won this one-sided argument.

I reached over from my desk chair to remove Tray 1. Tray 1 is infamous. Tray 1 has the ability to jam the copier even while it’s empty. If strategically placed, Tray 1 could jam traffic.

The space vacated by Tray 1 was only three inches wide, but my arms are thin. I knew I could reach in as far as my shoulder to clear the jam. I started to roll up my right sleeve, stood up from my chair, and got down on my knees to take a closer look inside the belly of the beast. Tray 1 was banished to the floor, where I just know it started thinking about double-knotting my shoelaces.

I could see the piece of paper…crumpled into a contemptuous wad, its edges knotted into fan-like folds, reminding me that I have no influence over office equipment whatsoever.

Teacher face won’t work here.

I’d been suffering from a nasty head cold all week and the last thing I wanted was to pick a fight with the copier. However, I didn’t start the fight. I only asked the machine to do its job. I wouldn’t tolerate insubordination from anyone or anything in my classroom.

I looked back at the piece of paper. Its brow was wrinkled in a permanent state of defiance.

The copier was just as indignant.

β€œYeah, look at me,” the copier thought. β€œWhat are YOU gonna do about this? You’re the one who asked for fifty copies of a letter at 9:15 in the morning. And you were whistling.”

No, sir, copier. Not today. This teacher is going to teach you a lesson.

As the piece of paper continued to taunt me from deep within the copier, I reached for it.

All the way to my shoulder.

For the longest second in existence, my thin little arm was stuck.

For the longest second in existence, an elaborate scenario began to play out in my head.

I’m on the floor, on my knees, and too far away from the phone to reach around with my free arm to call the office for help. The next class doesn’t come in for another thirty minutes. I could hang out here for thirty minutes, except…

…the outside doors locked behind me. Curiosity probably won’t get the best of this group, either. The weather’s too nice. They’ll stand outside. I could yell at the top of my lungs, but my office is in the back of the building. They’ll be talking. They’ll never hear me. My car is in front of the building, but they’ll just decide it’s Friday instead of Thursday. They don’t have band on Friday.

“Ms. G. is here. There’s her car. Wait…isn’t today Friday?”

“I thought it was Thursday.”

“No, it’s Friday. We’re supposed to be in the gym.”

“Are you sure? It was Wednesday yesterday.”

“She would have opened the door by now.”

“Yeah. Okay, it’s Friday.”

This thing does have wheels, though. I can just unplug it, roll over to the phone, and call the office for help…

…but I’ve just remembered this nasty head cold has resulted in the complete and total loss of my voice.

Now that I think about it…why did I even come to work today?

Stop it. That doesn’t help anything right now.

Wheels. Go with that.

Unplug and roll out into the band room…to the security camera. Wave like crazy. Someone will definitely see that on the security camera…

…the security camera that’s down for repairs right now.

This really is the longest second in existence.

I guess the sidewalk’s the limit.

I pulled my arm out of the copier, without the piece of paper.

I looked at my shoes. Tray 1 hadn’t had enough time to make its move.

I decided it was time to take complete control of the situation.

I sat down at my computer to email my letter.

An Observation: World Emoji Day

Today, July 17, is World Emoji Day. (They have a day for everything.)

As far as I’m concerned, emojis represent another subtle step in the decline of language. Granted, had the ancient Egyptians not taken what was then a big leap forward and used their own form of emojis back in the day, written language as we know it might not have evolved to a more sophisticated state.

However, emojis–little characters on a screen–seem to possess enormous power among younger generations. More so than written language itself.

I’m sure you can find entire articles about how poorly-placed emojis ruined (fragile) relationships. Relationships rooted deeply in love, trust, understanding, and texts. Relationships in which the two parties had never actually spoken to each other…

True love.

My true love is, apparently, written language. I love to paint a picture with words, and I’m in awe of those who can do it beautifully. Words are powerful, and sometimes I fear that they are slipping away with each new generation.

That’s not to say I never use emojis.

They can add a nice touch to a text, since texts sometimes can be misconstrued. (See also: sarcasm.) I still contend that if it’s something terribly important, you should use the actual phone or meet in person. However, a quick message or request or simple “hello” can be accented nicely by the emoji of your choice.

World Emoji Day. Definitely a smiley-faced sign of the times.

An Introduction

You’d probably like to know why you’re here.

I ask myself that philosophical question at least a dozen times a day.

However, you’re probably thinking more practically than that, so let me give you an idea of what I will be feeding you via this webpage.

Grilled StuffΒ Β  (That’s not exactly what I’ll be feeding you, so don’t worry.)

I could describe myself in lots of different ways, but I think the best way to put it is that I’m a meticulously observant observer.

Case in point…if you were to create an acronym from that description, it would spell “M.O.O.” However, if you met me in person, you’d never associate the image of “cow” with my petite frame, so I suppose I’d be one of those skinny cows you hear about on the television, and…see what I mean? If it can be overthought, I’ll overthink it.

When social media came along, I finally had an outlet for all of my observations. Facebook was where I discovered my comedic voice. Twitter came along and helped me to choose my words carefully thanks to the character limit. YouTube…well, I haven’t fully utilized YouTube yet, but I’m sure I’ll find a way to embarrass myself there. (If I haven’t already. Everyone has a camera phone these days, so I could be a YouTube sensation for tripping over my own left foot and just not know it…)

As I started compiling these observations and generally refining my wordsmithery, I made the decision to begin working on a manuscript for a book. I’m editing at this point and very excited about the possibilities.

But, I guess you’d still like me to answer that all-important practical yet philosophical question.

Why are you here?

Read some of my stories.

Think about some of my observations.

Rest assured that grammatical correct-ness still exists…or, yeah.

Check out my landscape photography (and maybe buy a print or four).

Follow an eclectic hodgepodge of hobbies.

Laugh.

See, the thing is, I just want to make you (yes, you) smile. If you enjoy my webpage, great! If not…don’t tell anyone you don’t like it. Instead, tell a friend who might actually like it that they should really give it a read and…

I’ll stop now. In the meantime, I’m going to continue working on the page.

Welcome, enjoy, and have a lovely…whatever time of day it is.