Vanilla

Exercise:

  1. Think of a scent
  2. Write all words/phrases associated with it
  3. Write a scene with the same emotions

Scent: Vanilla

Words/Phrases: Her, high school, band bus, color guard room, skipping class, taste, cake, frosting, firsts

Scene:

          Jenny was mid-sentence when she caught a whiff of the perfume. She paused and looked around for the source. It was like dessert… Sugary, sweet, frosted cake dessert. But Dianna was nowhere to be seen.

          “You okay?” Sean asked to draw Jenny back to the conversation.

          “Huh? Oh, yeah, fine. I just thought – Never mind. What was I saying?” Jenny flushed. Dianna had this effect on her; even when she wasn’t there.

          “Something about going out with me this weekend?” Sean said, pulling up on the end to make it a question. He wasn’t quite confident enough to pull off just telling her.

          Jenny smiled but she shook her head. “I’m sorry. I started seeing someone.”

          “Oh, sure.” Sean tried to play off his disappointment. Of course. Jenny was seeing someone. “Well, I guess I’ll see you in class later?”

          “Um, I think I’m gonna skip today, actually. I don’t feel like pretending to care about computers.”

          “Oh, okay.”

          Jenny fought the urge to ruffle Sean’s hair as she walked away. He just looked like a defeated little kid. He asked her out at least once a week. This time, though, she’d been able to give him more than just an “I’m busy” response. Even though she had been busy. Busy hanging out with Dianna. They’d been testing the waters. Exploring their depths.

          Jenny stepped into the band hall and cast her eyes around to see who was in the room. No blonde hair stood out to her. She crossed the room and went into the color guard room. And there she was. Sprawled on the floor with a book open in front of her.

          “Hey,” Jenny said. The scent of vanilla perfume filled her nose and she felt a little dizzy.

          “What’s up?” Dianna flashed her brilliant smile up at Jenny and patted the floor next to her.

          “I was hoping to find you here. No math today?”

          “Not for me there isn’t.”

          Jenny laughed as she sat down. “No computer for me either. I’d rather hang out with you.”

          “Don’t be compromising your GPA for little ol’ me.” Dianna teased and pushed against Jenny’s leg, hand lingering on her thigh.

          “You’re more important.” Jenny rested her hand on top of Dianna’s and fought to keep the blush from her cheeks. “Whatcha reading?”

          “Hamlet. For class.” Dianna flipped the book closed. “Wanna make out instead?”

          Jenny giggled.

          Cookies, and cake, and all things sweet filled her mind as Dianna leaned into her for a kiss. The aroma enveloped them and Jenny became intoxicated with it. With Dianna.  

*

Retail Life Episode #16

                Some people have a lot of nerve. They think they can get away with anything. They have probably gotten away with a lot of stuff when no one was paying attention. They get gutsy. They get brave. They get stupid. They get caught.

                Example number one; Older man walks into the store. I’m near the front, stocking a food cart. I greet the man and he says hello in return. He rounds the corner and asks if we have any of the bud ice beer in the back. So, see how we’ve interacted with each other? I know he’s there, he knows I’m there, he knows I know he’s there.

                A minute or two goes by. I’m still working the food and he’s still over by the cooler wall. I know this because now he’s talking to another customer about how hot it is outside. Another minute passes and then I see him walk up the chip aisle and beelines right for the door, carrying a gallon of sweet tea. My moment of shock passes quickly and I shout, “You gonna pay for that tea?”

                He stops and I can see the shock all over his face that he’s been caught. Like, how dare I be standing there seeing him do this. Shame on me for being exactly where he knew I was because we’d already exchanged a few words.

                His answer? “Well, no one’s ever at the counter to check me out!”

                “You didn’t even go to the counter. And if you did, you’d see the bell sitting there to get someone to come up there. But my cashier is standing over there right now.”

                “He’s finally over there!” He makes his way over to the counter, pulling a wad of cash out of his pocket.

                “What do you mean finally? He’s been there this entire time, ringing people up.”

                “He’s never over here.”

                “Someone not standing at the counter doesn’t mean you can just steal things.”

                “You know what, you can keep this tea.” Sets the gallon down in someone else’s shopping cart.

                “And you can get out of my store and not come back.”

                “I’ll do whatever I want.”

                “And I’ll call the cops.”

                He slams his way out the door.

                Now. I know he wouldn’t go to jail over a gallon of tea, so maybe I wouldn’t waste my time calling the cops for that. However, he was clearly drunk. I could smell it and it was obvious in the way he was acting. And he was attempting to buy more beer. So, the cops would have been interested to know about someone drunk in public. Someone who, I found out later, had just barely gotten out of jail in the first place.

                Example number two; a regular customer walks into the store. I’m standing behind the checkout doing paperwork. I say hello. She doesn’t acknowledge me and walks straight to the shampoo aisle. Not a rare occurrence, so I just go back to what I’m doing. A moment later, she comes up to the counter with three different bottles of conditioner and a stick of deodorant. I start to ring them up when she says, “I’d like to return these.”

                All I can do is stare at her blankly.

                She says, “If that’s okay.”

                I say, “You just now walked in here with nothing in your hands.”

                “No, I had these.”

                “No, you didn’t. I saw you walk in, you walked right by me. You weren’t carrying anything.”

                “I had them right here.” She pats the front of her pants.

                “You had them in your pants?”

                “No, I was carrying them.”

                “No, you weren’t.”

                “Ugh, girl!” She looks like she’s about to cry right now. But no, I don’t feel sorry for her. I have overheard this woman tell other customers all kinds of crazy stories to get money or free things from them. I know she’s got some addiction issues, the way she looks, acts, and handles money. So, no, I don’t feel sorry for her not getting her way with me.

                So, I say it right back. “Ugh, girl.” Followed by, “And I bet you don’t even have a receipt, do you?” Because she frequently brings random items back without a receipt. Those other items may or may not have been stolen and then returned later. But this time it was so clear that she’d walked in to grab random things to try and get money for them. I know this is something people do at Walmart. But at Walmart, the greeter isn’t the same person as the cashier; whether you walked in with an item can’t be determined by the person processing your refund.

                Anyway, she sighs and walks out. Without even trying to take the conditioner and deodorant with her. Which, in my opinion, was the ultimate admission of guilt. Because, if she’d actually bought those items and wanted to return them, she would have insisted on taking them with her when she left. But she didn’t. Because she knew she’d been caught.

                I just can’t believe the things that people do sometimes. I know that crazy stuff goes one when I’m not at the front end. I’m sure people have gotten away with walking out without paying before because we were working. And I’m sure people have returned things that they picked up while in the store. But the fact that I was right there, right there, when they tried to do it and they were shocked that they were caught? It just blows my mind.  

Ghost Story #3

                “Where are we?” Mary asked. She peered out the window, but it was too dark to see anything. When Jack didn’t answer, she smacked his arm. “Are we lost?”

                “No.” Jack squinted and leaned over the steering wheel.

                “Then what’s this street called?” He said nothing. “Jack! What the hell?” She pulled out her cell phone to look on the GPS. “Great. There’s no cell service out here.” She pouted and slumped down.

                “Relax.” Jack shifted around in his seat. He tightened his grip on the steering wheel as the car lurched over a hill he hadn’t seen coming in the dark.

                “Jesus! Take it easy, would ya?” Mary’s hand had flown to the handle over her window and she left it there. She attempted to look out again and saw trees, and then a fence. “That’s a cemetery.”

                “Mmm.” Jack mumbled. He switched back and forth between the high and low beams, but it made little difference. “I think I need to turn around.”

                Mary rolled her eyes. “Ya think?”

                “Shut up.” Jack slowed and did a neat three-point turn.

                “I think I see lights out there.” A chill crept over Mary’s skin. “This place is giving me the creeps.” A few moments passed by. “Why haven’t we gone back over that hill yet?”

                “I don’t know.”

                “That’s weird, right? We didn’t go down the road that far, did we?”

                “I don’t know.”

                A rock pinged into Mary’s window and she had to stifle a scream.

                “Shit!” Jack slammed on the brakes and the car slid to a stop.

                A woman stood in the middle of the road with her back to them. She hadn’t moved an inch as the car had approached. Jack beeped the horn, but she still didn’t react. He unbuckled his seat belt and Mary snatched at his arm.

                “What are you doing?”

                “I’m going to see what’s wrong.”

                “Jack, no. That’s stupid. Do not get out of this car.”

                “Don’t be ridicu- “

                Mary cut him off with a scream. The woman now stood at his window; her face covered in shadow from a wide brimmed hat.

                “Get out.”

                They couldn’t see her mouth move, but they heard the words clearly. It was almost like they’d been spoken inside the car.

                “Go, Jack, go!” Tears fell freely from Mary’s eyes.

                “Get out.” Louder this time. The woman began to raise her head.

                “Jack!” Mary did not want to see what was under that hat.

                Jack slammed his foot down and they sped away, dirt kicked up behind them.

                The woman disappeared as the dust settled back into the road.

Just a Thought

                The other day I had a thought…

                When do we stop being fearless?

                As a child I remember climbing the tree in my front yard as high as the branches would hold me. I was way up high, even with the second-floor windows of our house. Even though I was super afraid of heights. I even fell out of the tree several times, and it never phased me. I swung around the branches like a monkey. Climbed up, jumped out into a pile of leaves and then did it all over again.

                And don’t get me started on how I rode my bike. We lived on a hill and I’d go up to the top and race all the way down without a helmet. I went as fast as I could, enjoying the wind on my face. At the bottom of the hill I would screech to a stop and then go back up and do it over and over until I was exhausted. Even after I wrecked in the street and busted my knee open.

                On the playground I’d climb over everything. On top of the monkey bars and all around the jungle gym. I’d hang upside down and jump off of anything. But now…

                But now, it seems I’m hesitant and afraid of so many things.

                Don’t climb too high, don’t drive too fast, don’t go where it’s dark, don’t go alone.

                So, when did this happen? Sure, there’s the common sense factor that kicks in; when you realize that you might hurt yourself when you try something crazy. But does that slowly eat away at urge to ever do the crazy things? The desire to experience the thrill diminishes over time and you stay where you’re safe. But why? You didn’t get hurt too badly as a child or else you wouldn’t have made it to the present, right? Why not be a little crazy?

                Just a thought.

Ghost Story #2

                The building was old, that much was clear. The front lobby might have been redone to give the impression it was still a strong structure, but the bones were deteriorating. The old gym, attached to the back, hadn’t been worked on in over fifty years. There were holes in the bleachers, the old-fashioned lights barely lit up the room, and there was a smell of rot and decay in the locker room. What might not have been clear from all of this, was how many people had died here.

                Junior high wasn’t a pleasant time for most people. It was worse for some more than others. And it was worst for the ones that lost their life in the girls’ locker room of the old gym.

                The first was a young lady by the name of Emma, in 1868, only two years after the school was built. She was found hanging by her neck in the showers. Emma’s friend Mary told authorities that she’d last seen her in the cafeteria. A particularly nasty girl named Margaret had been picking on her. It later came to light that Margaret had bullied Emma since the beginning of the school year.

                In 1883, another girl was found hanging in the shower. Alice had never been bullied. In fact, it later was overheard that some were happy to see her go; that they would no longer be ‘terrorized’ by her.

                The next happened in 1905. And again in 1926. After Carol was found in 1947, the school boarded up the showers to keep it from happening again.

                It’s the year 1993 and Sarah is crying in the corner of the locker room. Her mangled glasses are clutched in her hand as blood dripped from her nose. Anna had shoved her into a wall again, a little harder this time. Then she’d tripped her and stepped on her glasses. She couldn’t take it anymore.

                The door slammed open and Anna walked in, hands on her hips.

                “I found her, Coach Lemon!” she said over her shoulder. “What are you doing in here, crybaby? Skipping class, crybaby?”

                “Leave me alone,” Sarah mumbled and turned away.

                “Aww, poor thing’s upset? I thought you’d be happy to be rid of those stupid, geeky glasses. I was doing you a favor, four-eyes. No one wants to be friend with a nerd.”

                “I said, leave me alone!” Sarah jumped to her feet and ran from the room.

                “Psh. Crybaby.” Anna went over to the mirrors to fluff her hair.

                The lights went out.

                “Hey! Who did that?”

                A crash and a slam and then the lights were back on. Every locker hung open, one door still swinging on its hinges. But there was no one in the room.

                “Who’s there?” Anna said, her voice shook as she lost a bit of her bite.

                The lights went out again.

                Out in the gym, the rest of the class heard a scream. They ran as one to the locker room, Coach Lemon getting there first. There was nothing to see, but a persistent thud could be heard from inside the boarded-up showers.

                By the time someone came to tear down the boards, Anna was dead, hanging in the shower. The word ‘bully’ was written across her forehead in lipstick.

Retail Life Episode 14

                Sometimes I just don’t know how people rationalize their behavior. I thought we were supposed to stop throwing tantrums when we were children. And yet, working in retail, I’ve seen grown adults throw a fit. I’ve seen senior citizens basically stomp their feet because they didn’t get their way. I just don’t get it. How have they survived this far in their life without being told no? Who made them think they were the king or queen of everything and they could always get their way?

                So, there’s this old man that shops in my store. I used to think he was a sweet old man. He walks with a cane, he talks all quiet and slow, he never seems to be in a hurry. I’ve helped him shop multiple times when he couldn’t reach something. I’ve marked stuff down because the package was damaged. I’ve always been nice to him.

                But then one day he bought some kitchen bowls. They’re on a shelf with a strip that says “$1 wow!” all the way across it with individual labels for the different colors spaced out accordingly. Well, there were two colors that were being discontinued and “$0.60” clearance labels were placed in front of those specific bowls. The “sweet” old man bought some of each color. They weren’t all sixty cents. He doesn’t notice until he’s home that he’s been “overcharged.” So, he comes back to the store with his receipt, but doesn’t bring the bowls.

                He comes in yelling right off the bat. Most of it is nonsense since he’s mumbling, but I hear the words “overcharged” and “swindle” and other words of the sort. I calmly take the receipt and try to figure out what he’s talking about, because I’m not the one who rang him up. He’s still yelling about them all being on sale and he wants his money back, etc. etc. I realize the problem and try to explain that not all of the bowls are clearance, just the ones with the signs in front of them. He doesn’t like this, of course, and yells that they all had signs. I ask him to follow me and I’ll show him what I’m talking about and he refuses.

                But he doesn’t just refuse to let me explain, he decides to attack me personally. Because this is obviously all my fault. He starts going on about how we should feel privileged to have him has a customer because he’s got a lot of money. (Then why he’s worried about .40 cents? I’m not sure.) He yells about how he probably has more money in his pocket than I make on my paycheck at my menial little job. (Now I’m curious as to why he’s carrying around over a thousand dollars in cash since I’m the salaried store manager, so I make a decent pay check. And why the old cripple feels safe yelling about it. Like, do you want to get robbed?) And he continues to degrade my job and tell me I’m too stupid to know when to give a customer their money back.

                So, I’ve tried to remain calm through this entire episode, because I know it’s not really about me. I’ve done this job long enough to know that when people act like this, it’s not really me they’re mad at, but still no one likes to be screamed at (especially over .40 cents). I tell him he can bring the bowls back and I can refund him his money. But he doesn’t like this option. He wants the bowls. Duh. Instead, he yells about how he’ll never shop here again and we’re all incompetent and we’ll pay for this, etc. etc. I ask him if he wants his receipt back and he just waves his hand at me and storms out the door.

                Wow.

                But guess who came back a week later to shop and wanted to act like nothing happened? 😊

July Reads

                Wow, July seemed to fly by. But I still managed to do my reading, coming in right under the wire again like last month. This time wasn’t due to procrastination or being busy, however, it just came down to the length of two of the books I decided to read. One of which was a book I could mark off my overall reading list. Also, the last book I read ended up being a DNF. I would have finished it in time for the month cut off, if I’d been able to get past page 50. But I just couldn’t do it.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

                I became attached to Lyra very quickly. She’s a very spirited little girl that seems like she’d be so fun to be around. I love that she speaks her mind, even if it’s going to get her in trouble. And speaking of trouble, everywhere she turns she seemed to get herself into a tight spot. Lucky all the time though, she managed to pull through.

                My only real problem with the book is how often a section ended with “presently she…” Just one of those things where I feel like I would have noticed that I over used a word. Other than that, it was beautifully written. Colorful descriptions really showed off the world to the reader. The way people talked jumped off the page without being too overbearing. Accents were done just right, letting us know that people were from different places or classes. But it wasn’t to the point where we couldn’t understand what was being said.

                The story is exciting. Even if you can tell Lyra is always going to make it through each difficulty, it isn’t always clear how. Nothing is completely revealed until necessary and we’re left with several questions at the end in order to be pulled into the next book of the series.

                All the characters in Lyra’s life are also brilliantly written. She loves, hates, or fears them so deeply that we feel the same as her. It’s also very realistic how she can simultaneously hate and admire Mrs. Coulter or fear and love Lord Asriel. We feel her pain and empathy alongside her. The characters are very well developed. They were fun to go on this adventure with. Couldn’t wait to read the next book.

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

                This second book in the series has struck a different chord emotionally. I’ve become so attached to these characters that I feel more strongly about what’s happening to them. And we meet Will, another child destined for great things, and you can’t help but feel for him right off the bat. The problems with his mom and the men after him throw you right into his chaos and you just wish you could help him.

                Just gonna say this once more… he does the “presently…” thing again :l But it’s fine.

                The second installment fills in a lot of blanks, but also give us more questions that need answering. It also shows more about what the whole story is really about. I’m on the edge of my seat getting ready to read the final book. I need to know what happens.

                The characters continue to be amazing. We see old ones, meet new ones and both are fantastically written. It’s also clear that each one of them have a purpose. There aren’t any used as fluff.

                I also enjoy how the dialogue is used purposefully. Nothing is said or thought without reason. Nothing is given away too soon and nothing is overdone.

                Overall, amazing. Can’t wait to get to the third book.

-Will not title or name names- (Did not finish)

                I was hoping there was a good story in there somewhere. I really wanted to love it. I wanted to tell this acquaintance that their book was phenomenal. But I just can’t. Which is why I will not reveal what the book was or who it was by. I don’t want to talk bad about anyone. The only explanation as to what could have happened with this book was the writer deciding against hiring an outside editor before self-publishing.

                I couldn’t get any further than chapter five. I tried.

                The descriptions and adverbs were overwhelming. I couldn’t focus on what was actually being said. I felt like the characters’ entire lives were dumped on me in one paragraph and I couldn’t keep track of which details were important. It was hard to even keep track of which character the details were for because the author kept head jumping. One moment we’d be in H’s head and the next it would be M. Plus there were the character relationships that kept confusing me. In each paragraph the dynamic would change. Do they hate each other or love each other? Is she a mother figure or are they best friends? On top of all that, I kept getting dropped into flashbacks without warning that didn’t seem relevant.

                I’m sorry. I tried. Time with a great editor and I’m sure the story would have shown through. I just couldn’t follow.

Rise of the Machines by Kristen Lamb

                My technical book for the month was by one of my favorite authors and bloggers, Kristen Lamb. In all honesty, she’s the entire reason I have a blog at all. I was gifted her book We are Not Alone a few years ago and since then I’ve developed my platform into what it is today.

                This book was even more amazing than the first one that I read.  It’s full of tips on how to sustain your author platform, how to come up with ideas on what to talk about, and how to stay on the audiences’ good side. After reading it, I’ve decided to revamp my blog and my presence on other social media sights. The changes should go live on September 1st.  I owe so much of what I’m doing to Kristen.

                What have you been reading lately?