Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fame and Misfortune

Well, you'll soon be seeing my picture on the news, and it's not for the reason you think. (What do you think?) I'm guessing I'll soon be famous for setting a record for most library books checked out at once. I just checked my account online, and right now I have 47 books checked out. I'm pretty much the most devoted library patron ever. On the downside, that's 47 chances that I'm going to lose a library book, which is not totally unheard of at my house.

We lost a library book last year that we never found. It was one of those Easy Readers for kids who are just learning to sound out words. I can't remember what it was called, but it was something like Run Bun Sun, I'm sure. Or Scat Rat Cat, or Bug Jug Hug, you get the idea. Anyway, the thing was about 6 pages long and as thin as a sheet of construction paper. Now, really! Should libraries even be allowed to lend out books as small as that? That little micro-book was just begging to be lost!

Sure enough, that's exactly what we did. My late fees starting piling up to the ceiling, and I was looking everywhere for it. Do you know how many places a book the width of a CD could be hiding? With the CDs, for one. Behind the toilet, under the living room rug, in the flour barrel (yes, I have a flour barrel). It could be wedged in a recipe book. Good heavens, I would never find it there! I make all my dishes from memory. Spaghetti, tacos, pancakes. That's it. Just those three. I rotate them, though, so it's not like we're eating the same thing every night.

Eventually I went to the library to confess that I could not find the book. Before I went, I practiced getting tears to well up in my eyes while declaring that the $37.90 I now owed in late fees was more than my meager budget could handle. I wore my most bedraggled outfit (coincidentally, the same one I wear each time I blog and/or make spaghetti) and blacked out a tooth with a Sharpie. I approached the librarian with a look of abject humility and surrender, and told her I had lost a book and couldn't find it and would have to either pay for it, or legally change my name and take out a new library card with no late fees on it.

She looked at me somewhat askance, as all librarians look at people who are book-losers, and told me that the cost to replace the book was $1.97. The sun broke out of the clouds as I turned my face toward heaven. Hurray for skinny books! She even told me that if I would pay to replace the book she would waive my late fees. Obviously not a financial wizard, but I didn't argue with her. I'll let the library's board of directors handle that one.

So, now my card is free of late fees and my conscience is free of Run Sun Bun, or whatever it was. However, if you are ever at my house and you see one of 47 other books lying around, let me know.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Caryn sat in Biology and wondered why she was so unlucky. Today was the day Mr. Thomas was pairing his students up as lab partners for their dissection project, and Caryn had been planning for it all week. In addition to crossing her fingers that she'd be paired with Wyatt, she'd also planned her outfit and shaved her legs, just in case Wyatt happened to brush up against her, in a scientific manner, of course.

He was just so hot! And she would know. She spent an hour everyday sitting behind him in Biology with nothing better to do than study the way his neck and shoulder muscles shifted and curved when he bent over his notebook or leaned back in his chair to stretch. She found herself constantly fighting the temptation to lean forward and run her fingernails across his broad back.

She'd planned to wear green. With her strawberry blonde hair being more strawberry than blonde, she was one of the few girls in school who could really pull off green. Not being a natural knock-out, Caryn had learned to work with what she had. And great hair was one thing she had.

So, she'd come to school in a jewel green top and her skinny black pants, hair straightened, then curled at the ends only, then glossed, and finally, sprayed. Possibly she'd also sprayed the rest of herself with Tickle, The New Body Fragrance for Women, in the girls' bathroom earlier. She was hoping the exotic notes of jasmine and sandalwood mentioned on the label would prove to be irresistible. All in preparation for dissecting a frog. With Wyatt, of course.

But wouldn't you know it, Wyatt had walked in late today, after the pairings had already been made, and Mr. Thomas had shooed him over to the team closest to his desk, which was now a threesome - Jacie, Meghan, and now Wyatt. That was a sight that made Caryn's stomach churn. The star running back flanked by two adoring female cheerleaders. Caryn glowered at the back of Jacie's head as she laid a hand on Wyatt's forearm, her little silvery laugh carrying to the back of the room, where Caryn was stuck working with Ian and wondering why she was so unlucky.

She tore her gaze away from Jacie and Wyatt long enough to glance briefly at Ian, then immediately regretted the action when she saw him vigorously scratching the inside of his ear with his pinkie.

"Gross!" she muttered under her breath, leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms in front of her. Ian reminded her of Shaggy in the Scooby-Doo cartoon. A little too tall, a little too skinny, and a lot too immature. As if to prove her point, Ian looked over just then and saw that she'd caught him overhauling his ear, but just grinned like he could care less. "Want some?" he asked, waving the pinkie in her direction and actually brushing the sleeve of her shirt with it in the process.

"Gross! Get away from me, you heinous pig!" Caryn screamed, jumping out of her chair and toppling over the tray with the dead frog in it at the same time. The whole class burst out laughing, and Ian laughed along as he picked their frog up off the floor and made a big show out of dusting it off and making sure it wasn't hurt. Caryn, in the meantime, stalked over to Mr. Thomas, demanding an immediate partner change. The last thing she needed was an earwax stain on her jewel green top, for the love of Pete.

Too busy, or too weary, to care, Mr. Thomas quickly gave in. "Fine," he said, barely looking up from the stack of papers he was grading.

"Wyatt's group has three people," Caryn added helpfully.

Mr. Thomas glanced over at them. "Great," he said, more loudly this time. "Jacie, you're with Caryn now. Ian, join Wyatt's group over here."

Caryn mentally groaned as Jacie sent her a look that would chill a Flamin' Hot Cheeto. This day was not looking so good, and it was only 2nd hour.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Miss Appleton

Shirley Appleton woke up and stretched. Her alarm clock was chirping with the sounds of KGLD, the local golden oldies station.
It was exactly 6:00 a.m., and it was Tuesday, which meant it would be a good day.
"Rockin' robin, tweet, tweet, tweet," Shirley sang along softly as she sat up and gingerly stretched first her legs, then her neck, then her back.
She certainly couldn't bounce out of bed the way she had when she was a youngster, but she was happy to be getting up with a purpose. Tuesday and Thursday were the days she volunteered at Madison Jr. High, and the semi-weekly interaction with the staff and students kept her feeling young at heart.
Making her way to the kitchen, Shirley noted that the crack in the linoleum by the fridge had become more pronounced. Oh, well. She put the observation into the back of her mind while she stirred up a pot of oatmeal on the stove, and thought instead about what her task might be at the school that day. Sometimes she worked in the office, and that was her favorite. As she filed and sorted mail she could listen in on the conversations of the students as they wandered by or stopped in with their tardy slips.
The bookstore was another place she regularly worked, usually in the company of a student aide. The bookstore was a little less lively, and therefore not her first choice, but she did enjoy getting to know the students she worked with.
Less frequently she was asked to help individual teachers in their classrooms, usually during their prep period, putting up bulletin boards or whittling down the endless piles of papers to be graded.
A former English teacher herself, Shirley could be counted on to help in any way, and to complete her tasks with accuracy and attention to detail.
She smiled contentedly as she sprinkled a little brown sugar over the sticky mound of oatmeal in her bowl.
"Maybe a little cream today," she thought to herself. "After all, it is a Tuesday."

* * * * * *
Wyatt groaned, looking up from the cash register and out the window that separated the bookstore from the hallway beyond it.
"What?" Jenna asked, turning from the t-shirts she was straightening.
"It's Miss Appleton," Wyatt said.
"So, we can't have any fun when she's here. 'Everything must be ship-shape,'" he mimicked.
Jenna giggled. "Poor baby, can't hang keychains from your ears or build mechanical pencil teepees today."
"Hey, I've got to pass the time somehow," he said, rolling up the sleeve of his t-shirt and examining his right bicep while he talked.
Shirley walked in just at that moment, raising an eyebrow at Wyatt.
"Good morning, young Mr. Langford," she said. "I trust your arms are in good working order today."
Not the type to be easily abashed, Wyatt responded without hesitation. "I don't know, Miss Appleton," he said. "I'm a little worried that my right bicep might be a little bigger than the left one. What do you think?" He flexed both arms for her, showing off the muscles he'd developed lifting weights for football.
Never one to be flustered herself, Shirley took her time examining the proffered muscles before responding demurely, "Dear me, I believe you may be right. Perhaps you better start writing left-handed and see if you can't correct that deficiency."
Jenna snickered and Shirley winked at her as she came around behind the counter and went to work, straightening and dusting things that were already straight and dust-free.