Thursday, April 29, 2010

Choking on Testosterone

I am the only girl in my house...well, except for Biscuit, but she's furry, walks on four legs, and worships the ground my boys walk on, so she's not really any help. Most of the time, I'm okay with being the only girl. I've learned to adapt.

I can get ready for anything from a stroll in the park to a formal wedding in 20 minutes flat. That includes showering, dressing, hair and make-up. When we decide to go somewhere, boys won't wait. I never sit on a toilet without looking first. I routinely wash clothes that ought to be put in a biohazardous waste container. I can talk football or baseball with authority. I don't blink when I see a phone or laptop wallpaper pic of a buxom woman in a tiny bikini.

I can even roll my eyes at the semi-regular pissing contests. Yes, I know that's a crass expression, but it's apt. And yes, women play power games too, but not in the "I'm the alpha dog" way of men. Like I said, I can roll my eyes, and usually do, but I must admit, it's tiresome.

The thing I still struggle with...the thing I'm choking on at the the male expression of emotion. Sadness is expressed as anger. Frustration is expressed as anger. Guilt is expressed as anger. Anxiety is expressed as anger.

Are we detecting a pattern here?

What is it about the male psyche that transforms every difficult emotion into anger? Maybe the other emotions just leave a person too raw and vulnerable, and vulnerability is difficult. I don't know, but I'm becoming more adept at playing Name That Emotion. I get my head snapped off in response to an innocent question, and I know someone's feelings are hurt, or someone is worried about something. I ask a few probing questions, and if I've asked the right ones, I discover what the real problem is. If I've asked the wrong ones, well...there is growling and baring of teeth and someone ends up grounded.

I've had friends say, "You should be glad you don't have girls. There's always drama."

You think there's no drama with boys? Lord God Almighty, save me from drama. With boys, you get snarling instead of tears.

It's telling that so many fictional romantic heroes are sensitive and in touch with their emotions. I suspect I'm not the only woman who occasionally chokes on too much testosterone, and the real fantasy is the man who can express a difficult emotion without reverting to anger.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Hi. My name is Kathy, and I'm a sore loser...but not today.

The title of the blog says it all. Thursday, I redeemed myself after last year's humiliating crash and burn in our school's team competition. Some of you may recall my "Confessions of a Sore Loser" post. You can click through to read the whole sordid story, but suffice it to say my pathological need to win cost my team the game. Some of my colleagues still gleefully remind me that the English teacher and writer spelled "chihuahua" wrong. I promise you, I'll remember how to spell that word to my dying day.

This year, our principal shuffled the teams. Instead of interdisciplinary groupings, he teamed us by department. So my team was English teachers, World Language teachers, and some support staff (including the school secretary who is the most organized, efficient woman in the world). My buddy, Linda, also a sore loser, was on Team Social Studies, so we were pitted against each other this year.

Once again, the final competition was a Jeopardy-style quiz where you bet points, and once again, my team entered the final competition in the lead with Social Studies right on our heels. Last year, when we started getting questions wrong, I panicked and bet too high against the advice of my teammates. This year, I resolved to sit on my hands when it came time to wager. And luckily for English, we have Scott who mysteriously disappears to Vegas every year during the first week of March Madness. He worked the odds and the bets for us on each category.

I actually contributed some correct answers this year. I knew that Casey Kasem was the voice of Shaggy and that the Professor and MaryAnne were originally left out of the Gilligan's Island theme song. Our team is diverse with many interests, so everybody contributed. We only missed two questions. We didn't know what breed of dog won at Westminster this year or how many Facebook friends our principal had. Every team guessed We underestimate his popularity.

As the game progressed and Team English pulled ahead, Team Social Studies panicked and started betting the farm on every question. Linda made snide comments about my newfound self-restraint. I'd like to claim I've turned over a new leaf, but Scott was running the numbers. He did such a good job, that by the last question, we were in a no-lose position and only bet 1 point.

It feels good to win, and in spite of Linda telling me I suck, I'm being gracious in victory. Far more gracious than I was in defeat.

This one's for you, Linda!

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Good Morning! Although I started my day sluggish, choosing pseudoephedrine side effects over hacking and draining (ah, Spring!), I am wide awake now. I am heart pounding, gasping for air, fight or flight adrenaline surge awake.

I usually walk through my morning routine on auto-pilot. Unless Bruce has a crazy early morning, I'm the first one up. I turn on the early morning news, stumble into the shower, get dressed, and go in and out of young son's room 25 times until he gets his snarly, groggy self out of bed. Then I go downstairs, make lunches, feed the dog and cat, and I'm out the door. Today was moving along like every other day until it came time to feed the dog.

I should note at this point that we've had a mouse problem this winter that no amount of traps baited with tantalizing tidbits has been able to resolve. I refuse to use poison because although Biscuit makes me crazy on a regular basis, I love her, and she eats anything she can get her paws on. She even sprung a couple of the traps, trying to get to the peanut butter. So the mice have prevailed.

Can you see where this is going?

The 40 pound bag of dog food is in the garage. I fill Biscuit's bowl in the kitchen every morning before I leave. The bag is only about a quarter full right now, so this morning, I had to reach way down to the bottom to fill the scoop.

As I mentioned, I'm having allergy issues, so my eyes were a little watery and I had a coughing fit about the time I pulled the scoop out of the bag. Something looked off, but I was hacking up a lung (lovely image, huh?), and I didn't really see what it was at first. The scoop was overflowing, and some of the dog food was in my hand. Except it didn't feel right. Dog food is not furry. I was on the steps leading into the kitchen when I realized what it was.

There was a dead mouse IN. MY. HAND.

I screamed like a bimbo in a cheesy horror flick. I flung the scoop as far away from me as I could get it. Kibbles and dead mouse rained down in both the garage and the kitchen like rocks from that volcano nobody can pronounce. Biscuit was dancing around me in circles and barking, and I couldn't stop screaming. And coughing. And screaming.

Ugh! I'm still shuddering. At some point, I knew I needed to stop screaming. It was making my cough worse and my throat hurt. But there was a dead mouse IN MY HAND!!!

Bruce staggered into the kitchen in a panic. "What's wrong!"

"There was a dead mouse IN MY HAND!"

"Geez, Kath. You scared the crap out of me."

"I scared you? There was a dead mouse IN MY HAND!"

Bruce looked down at the floor. "So that's why they weren't interested in the traps. It's fat."

"I had a dead mouse IN MY HAND!"

"Don't let Biscuit get it."

Then he LEFT! He went back upstairs to get ready for work, and I had to deal with the big fat dead mouse on my floor. And I had to deal with it. Biscuit was sniffing at it with considerable interest. Where are the knights in shining armor when you need one?

I grabbed a paper towel and picked it up by the tail. It was in full rigor mortis. Ugh!!! I carried it out to the trash bin already at the curb, shuddering and making noises of disgust in between coughs. Then I scalded my hand in hot water and used half a bottle of soap.

Really, there's not enough soap in the world to make me feel better about having a dead mouse in my hand. I've stopped twice while typing this to use the hand sanitizer.

So what have we learned? Don't leave an open bag of dog food in the garage. I'm stopping at the store on my way home to buy a trash can with a top that seals and a new bag of dog food. I can't give Biscuit dead mouse dog food.

Actually, I might buy more traps, and this time I'm baiting them with kibble.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Challenged Books

The American Library Association (ALA) published their annual list of most frequently challenged books last week. As this past year was the last one in the decade, they also posted their Top 100 most frequently challenged books of the decade. I use these lists every year when I'm teaching Fahrenheit 451, which, ironically, is on the Top 100 list. As always, these lists make me shake my head in dismay.

The ALA defines a challenge as a written, formal complaint requesting that materials in a library or school be removed or restricted. A challenge does not include a parent asking that their student not read a particular book. I've encountered both of these situations, and although I found both disheartening, there is a distinct difference.

Early in my career, John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men (#5 on the Top 100) was required reading for freshmen on the pre-AP English track. One parent decided that not only was her daughter not going to read it, nobody else's child should either. She sent a long letter to the school in which she had a list of every curse word in the novel and how many times it appeared. The "shits," "hells," "damns, " and "son-of-a-bitches" were all neatly listed in a table with a number next to them to show how many occurrences there were in the book. Underneath the table, several passages were quoted to show the profanity in context.

I'll never forget that moment with the English department as we read the letter together and were rendered speechless. Steinbeck's masterpiece on loyalty, loneliness, power vs powerlessness, dreams, and most importantly, friendship was reduced to a list of four letter words. Kids are moved by this book. They remember it long after they've put it down, and it has nothing to do with the 42 (I made that number up. I don't know how many times it's in there.)occurrences of the word "shit." It has everything to do with that final tragic scene between George and Lennie. Discussion as to whether George's final act was selfish or selfless continues over multiple class periods. Kids think critically, form an argument and then articulate it, and challenge their own pre-conceived notions of friendship. It's good stuff.

In the end, the parent backed down with an agreement to give her daughter an alternative assignment. The girl wasn't in my section of the class, and I don't even remember what the alternative assignment was. I do know her daughter missed out on a rich educational opportunity. What really hacked me off was the parent's attempt to deprive every other child in the pre-AP program of that opportunity. I respect a parent's right to make decisions for her own child, but I don't believe she has the right to make decisions for mine or anyone else.

Just this school year, I had a parent insist her son not read Paul Volponi's young adult novel Black and White. I blogged about it, and you can read the whole story here. The incident made me ill, but it didn't outrage me in the same way as the Of Mice and Men challenge. This parent took the book out of her own son's hands, but she wasn't trying to take it out of any other child's hands. I don't like it, but I can live with it.

At the beginning of every school year, I do a reading survey with the kids to get a sense of their reading habits and to discover what books they've read and loved. Many leisure activities compete with reading for a kid's time and interest, but I've discovered that most of them will still give a book a chance if it captures their imagination. The list below represents books on one of the two ALA lists that one or more my kids has named as his/her favorite book ever.

The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult
Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Meyers
Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan
The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
Cut, by Patricia McCormick
Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissenger
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle

What was your favorite book as a teenager? Did the experience of reading that book affect your subsequent reading habits? I wonder how the kids who listed these books would have been changed if someone had deprived them of their favorite book ever.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Our Tax Dollars at Work

Today is tax day, and instead of complaining (like I did all day Sunday when I was finishing mine), I'm going to be thankful.

I'm thankful for public libraries.

I'm thankful for interstate highways.

I'm thankful for the inspectors who make sure my food is safe to eat.

I'm thankful for the National Weather Service.

I'm thankful for Mammoth Cave National Park, The Wright Brothers National Memorial, Gettysburg National Military Park, and The Great Smokey Mountains National Park.

I'm thankful for the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the Smithsonian, and Independence Hall.

I'm thankful for the Center for Disease Control.

I'm thankful for the NASA scientists who developed the technology that made medical imaging, fire resistant fabrics, and shock absorbing helmets possible.

I'm thankful for air traffic controllers.

I'm thankful for the men and women who serve in our armed forces.

I'm thankful for the University of Kentucky and California University of PA where I acquired part of my education.

I'm thankful for the public school system.

I'm thankful for my fire fighter friends.

I'm thankful for the police officer that lives two doors down the street.

Tax dollars make our lives better a thousand times every day. I've heard a lot of angry rhetoric in the last couple of years about the hundred ways that government has failed us. Governments are made of people and people are fallible. Could we do better? Sure. We can always do better. But when I look at the short list above that doesn't begin to cover the services our government provides, I realize I've gotten a lot of bang for my buck.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Truth and Nature of Love?

Eyes, look your last!
Arms, take your last embrace! and, lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing death!

We read these lines today in class. They're my favorite lines from the entire play. Listening to them got me thinking about romance and the very truth and nature of love.

Have you seen Shakespeare in Love? Will makes a bet with Lord Wessex that he can show the very truth and nature of love in a play. When Queen Elizabeth sees Romeo and Juliet performed, she declares Will the winner of the bet. I have a lifelong love-hate relationship with this play, and as I reach the end of it with another group of students, I have to disagree with Liz.

When I first read the play in high school, I hated it. I mean HATED it. In spite of the language which I've always thought was cool, the ending just ruined the whole thing for me. I've always been a happy ending kind of gal. In college, I read the play again. HATED IT...maybe more than I did in high school. By college, I'd experienced some of my own real life heartache, and I craved happy endings in my fiction even more.

Then I became a teacher of high school freshmen. Suddenly, it was my responsibility to introduce this play to students. I couldn't very well dive into their first meeting with Shakespeare by saying I hated the play. And honestly, as I immersed myself in the language, I realized I didn't hate the play. Okay, Romeo and Juliet were still totally whiny, overwrought, and self-absorbed, but the story arc was perfect. The pacing spot-on. The plot twists engaging.

And the words, oh the words. I read them five times every year, and I love them more every time.

The more acquainted I became with your average 14/15 year old (Juliet is not quite 14), the more I stood in awe of Shakespeare. Shakespeare's true genius is his understanding of the human condition. Real teenagers are totally whiny, overwrought, and self-absorbed. Lord, God Almighty, you should read the angsty love poetry I'm subjected to on a regular basis. Young adult literature's bread and butter is the emotional messiness of adolescence.

It's taken my whole life, but I love Romeo and Juliet. Really. I LOVE it, but I don't think Shakespeare captured the very truth and nature of love in this play. I think he captured the truth and nature of adolescence. Throw heartbreak into the middle of those hormonal, irrational, impetuous years and tragedy is a real possibility.

As adults, we poo poo young love. We poo poo it because it is so impulsive and overwrought. "It's high school. It's puppy love. Get over it." Most of us did. Although, I bet if I took a poll and got honest answers, a lot you reading this would admit to scars from a teenage heartbreak. Sometimes those scars haunt our adult relationships.

I've seen teenagers self-destruct over a high school relationship.

Romeo and Juliet isn't romance. It's rebellion and defiance. It's dangerous secrets. It's testosterone. It's the epitome of impulsiveness. Romeo and Juliet is youth in all its dangerous glory.

What Juliet really needed was a sassy gay friend.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Say, Say, Say...It's a Home and Garden Show

Spring Break is winding down, and I'm preparing for that 8 week sprint down the stretch to the finish line. The week has been both relaxing and productive. I did a lot of writing, and I'm happy about that. I spent the last couple of days visiting with my in-laws who were in from New Hampshire.

They visit us twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. The fall visit revolves around football (everything revolves around football in the fall), so in the spring we try to find some interesting local flavor activity. We've toured bourbon distilleries, done the wine tasting at Elk Creek Vineyards, gone to Keeneland, visited the Horse Park, and watched countless baseball games. Honestly, we were out of ideas and didn't really have a plan for this visit.

Our problem was solved when Janet saw an ad for the Central Kentucky Home, Garden, and Flower Show. I live here, and I didn't know about the Home and Garden Show. I am the Grim Reaper for green and growing things, so garden and flower shows don't appear on my radar. But hey, I didn't have a better plan, and an early dinner in Lexington sounded good, so what the hell.

The Central Kentucky Home, Garden, and Flower Show takes place at Rupp Arena and the Lexington Convention Center. I mention this because either one of those spaces alone is big, but this show fills both of them, plus the outer halls, and smaller meeting rooms in the Convention Center. Every imaginable vendor for anything you could possibly want in your home or garden is there. I told Bruce it kind of felt like a really big Lowe's...a Lowe's you have to pay to enter.

Yes, that's right. One has to pay for the privilege of having home and garden pitch men sell you their fantabulous products. $7.50 per person. No discounts for senior citizens. Only kids 14 and under get in free. I'm admitting right here in public. We totally lied about our youngest son's age (my oldest laughed derisively when I asked if he wanted to go). We were pushing it too because young son is quite tall...actually he's the tallest person in our family. The ticket lady appeared bored by it all and just waved him through, so my guilt at lying was partially assuaged by her lack of diligence.

Young son was actually the most enthralled by the whole thing. The pest control folks had a collection of live critters, and my son delighted in freaking his mother out with a tarantula. I'm still shuddering. Then he found a vendor selling $700 beanbag chairs.

Yeah, it's cool. The vendor even encouraged us to take a running leap and jump on it. Of course he did. He knew the customer was my son, and asking a teenage boy to take a flying leap into a giant beanbag is just good salesmanship. Cool or no, I ix-nayed the beanbag chair.

Then we saw the people selling some sort of magical elixir that leaches all the toxins in your body out through your feet. I have no idea what this has to do with either a home or a garden, but there they were. One soaks one's feet in this clear liquid that turns a revolting shade of brown after 20 minutes. The schmutz in the water is proof the toxins have been released. As soon as the salesman said it was great for athletes, my son was hooked. For the special convention price of $20, he could try it out.

Ummmm...that would be a no.

I was the Queen of No. No $700 beanbag, no $20 toxin-leacher, no free massage, and no teeth whitening treatment. My issue with the massage and the teeth whitening were the long lines. I was all about looking and moving on.

Young son was entertaining to have along. He made me choke when he told the guy selling smokers that his extra-large smokehouse looked like the concentration camp ovens in his history textbook. Then there was the rousing game of "which of these would you rather find in your bed" at the pest control place. My choices were giant hissing cockroaches, the aforementioned tarantula, and a scorpion. The cockroaches won that contest hands-down...or six creepy-crawly legs down.

I was tempted by the steam mop. The guy demonstrating them was the same guy who sells them on QVC (or so he said), and he was very persuasive and the demo was all kinds of awesome. Janet bought one and had it shipped to New Hampshire. As I was reaching for my credit card, I remembered I hate cleaning with a blue passion, and why in the hell would I spend $150 on a steam mop? But oh, he was good. Bruce actually shook his hand and said, "Great job, man." From Bruce, high praise indeed.

I also decided that at some point in my life I absolutely must have a gazebo with a gas-powered fire pit. Even with the special convention price of $6500, I walked away. I know, only $6500. What was I thinking?

I got my rings cleaned for free, bought a raffle ticket for a 2010 red Camaro from the state police, and registered to win a Big Green Egg. Other than the raffle ticket, the only thing I bought was a magic hair clip. The lady twisted my hair into three different elegant updos with this one clip. I've yet to recreate any of them since I got it home.

The day was interesting, and frankly, I was shocked at how many people are willing to pay to listen to a sales pitch. The place was packed. I guess everybody was looking for a great deal, but $6500 gazebo fire pits notwithstanding, I just didn't see it.

Remember this blast from the past? This is what the toxin-leaching elixir brought to mind.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Go Ricky!

I had an interesting conversation in the checkout line at WalMart. I was buying items to send to Pam, my bff currently serving in Iraq. (Sixty-one days and a wake-up and she comes home for good! Yay!) One of the items was a People Magazine. Time is slow over there. She once told me if you want to live forever, move to Iraq. Time stops. I figured knowing how Sandra was holding up after her split and seeing new photos of Brad and Angelina's twins might make the days go faster.

So the boy running my items across the scanner was maybe 20. I knew he wasn't local for a couple of reasons. One, I've taught in this county long enough that I recognize almost every kid who has passed through our building in the last decade. Gotta love a small town. Two, his accent was pretty thick. Okay, okay...I have a Kentucky accent. When I lived in Pennsylvania, I was reminded daily of how funny I talked. I will never be able to pass for a Northerner, but a Central Kentucky accent (where I live), and an Eastern Kentucky accent are not the same.

The boy ran the first item across the scanner, looking up briefly.

"How are you?" It sounded more like "Hire you?"

"Fine, thanks."

I was still unloading the cart onto the conveyor belt, so I wasn't really looking at him. I heard the rhythmic beeping as he began scanning my groceries. I unloaded the cart to the same rhythm. Beep...beep...beep. I'm reminded of a heart monitor when a really efficient checker is doing the scanning.

Suddenly, the beeping stopped, and my heart monitor imagery was reinforced when I heard a gasp. I glanced up to see the boy staring at the People magazine with eyes as big as saucers. He looked up at me in wonder.

"Ricky came out."

The word "out" has two syllables here. Ay-ot. I struggled to maintain a neutral expression.

"Yes, he did. I heard it on the radio yesterday."

Actually, what I heard on the radio was, "The sky is blue. Bears live in the woods, and Ricky Martin says he's gay." I remember because it made me laugh.

The boy abandoned my groceries and took the magazine over to the next aisle where a girl about the same age was scanning an older man's groceries.

"Look! Ricky Martin came ayot! He's ay-ot!"

The girl stopped scanning to look at the magazine. The old man said, "Out of where?"

"The clawset a course."

The old man wore an expression somewhere between suspicion and bewilderment, and the girl got a clue and started scanning again. The boy came back to our aisle, scanned the magazine, and reluctantly put it in a bag. I know he wanted to read the article.

"There's a whole stack of those magazines at the front of the aisle."

"I know. I'm gon' read it on my break."

I put the rest of my groceries on the belt, and he resumed his scanning. Every couple of seconds he said, "Go Ri-acky!"

He never stopped grinning, and it was contagious.

Finally, I said, "Where are you from?"

He named a town so small, I'd never heard of it. He had to name another couple of towns close by for me to place it.

"People were so narra-minded there, I had to leave. Now, here I am in the big city!"

I hated to put a damper on his enthusiasm, but I felt like he needed a little honesty. "There are narrow-minded people everywhere I'm afraid. This town isn't that big."

He paused for a minute. "Well, it's bigger than my town, even tho ya'll still hang out at WalMart here." That made me laugh outright because it's true. "And look at you. Yer nice. I meet nice people in my line all the time."

I left the store smiling and feeling pretty good about my small town. The bag with the People was right on top, and I could see Ricky Martin's face peering up at me.

"Go Ricky!"

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Crazy, Scary Place

This past week marked my 50th Jazzercise class since I joined in January. I'm nothing if not obsessive when I like something. (I read the entire Anita Blake series in two weeks when I discovered it a couple of years ago.) My instructor, Leanne, is a lot of fun, and honestly, one of the big reasons I've remained so diligent about going. At a key moment, when my muscles are burning and I'm gasping for air, she'll say something that makes me laugh, and I push through to the end of the routine.

She said something in class yesterday that really resonated with me. She made a random comment about the song playing, and then laughed and said, "My brain is a crazy, scary place."

I can relate.

I think that crazy, scary place we call our mind is both the blessing and the curse of creative people. We couldn't do what we do without the strangeness that lives inside of us. I'll write a scene that's waaaay out there, and when I go back and read it later I'll think, "WTF. Where did that come from?"

Leanne told us she sings in her head all the time. I get that because I write in my head all the time. I invent stories for the people I see while I'm grocery shopping (which probably explains why I come home without half the stuff I need). I even write in my head during Jazzercise.

We do a routine to Melanie Fiona's "Bang Bang" in which she talks about locking and loading and targeting the man she wants. I like the song and the routine although Jazzercise choreography is not above some cheese. We make guns with our fingers and pretend to shoot.

Leanne looked out at us from the stage and said, "None of you are smiling when you make your guns."

We're supposed to smile when we shoot someone?

Hmmmmm...the wheels start turning, and I see a woman holding a gun. Her hand trembles. Her eyes are wild, her face streaked with mascara and tears. She wipes the back of her hand across her face, smearing her ruined make-up even more. But while the gesture does not cleanse her face, it does calm her mind. We see the panic leave her eyes. Her hand is steady, and just before she pulls the trigger, she smiles.

The music changes, and it's a Latin rhythm. The same woman is in a salsa club, head thrown back, hips undulating with the seductive beat. A man approaches. The dance floor is crowded, the lights strobing wildly in time to the music. Later, she won't be able to tell the police if he was tall or short, dark or light, the shape of his face, or the color of his hair. All she remembers is his eyes...dark eyes glittering with secrets held close.

I'm working out his secret when the music changes again. Rascal Flatts is playing a country song backwards. He's getting his house back and his dog back and truck back, the big screen TV and the DVD. I'm blank for a moment, and then he gets his achy breaky heart back, and we're back in business. Dark eyes still glitter, but now they're squinting in the harsh light of a West Texas afternoon. A cloud of dust rises on the horizon. Deeply tanned hands twitch, and then slip a bowie knife out of its well-worn sheath. Calloused fingers stroke the handle as the cloud morphs into a truck. A bluetick hound's muzzle peers around the cab. The sun glares off the windshield, but it doesn't matter. He knows who's inside. He flips the knife, holding it loosely by the blade as a red stiletto emerges.

"Evacuate the Dance Floor!" Flashback to the club. A piercing scream, blood pooling on the floor and the strobing lights are the garish lights of police cars and ambulances. The woman allows the gun to slide out of her hand, and when the police push her, cuffed and silent, into the back of a waiting cruiser, the grotesque smile is still plastered across her face.

When the music changed to "Bitty Boppy Betty," a fun little number about a drag queen, I stopped mentally writing and listened. The lyrics to that one need no embellishment.

Later in the strength training portion of the class, we were working our adductors (the inside thigh muscle). Leanne noted, "I didn't even know I had inside thigh muscles before I started Jazzercising. Justin Timberlake helped me find my inside thighs."

I must have worn a smirk on my face because I was definitely thinking big dumb eighth grader thoughts. Leanne pointed at me with a smirk of her own, and declared, "That's not what I meant!"

Yeah, I know, but my mind is a crazy, scary place.