Monday, February 20, 2012

Honking for Freedom!

This was the scene in front of Qdoba Saturday.

Members of the Syrian community in Louisville were drawing attention to the plight of their homeland with a protest on Bardstown Road. This came as a crushing disappointment to me and four of my girlfriends. Don’t get me wrong. We have nothing but sympathy for people struggling under the boot of oppression. Our disappointment stemmed from a simple misunderstanding.

As we approached the protest, multiple cars honked their horns. Of course, we automatically assumed the horns were for us, five attractive women beginning our girls’ weekend with an afternoon of shopping. When we piled out of my car earlier, another car slowed down so the occupant could yell, “Woo Hoo! Ladies night!” at 1:00 in the afternoon. We obviously had it going on.

Imagine our chagrin when we got closer and heard the shouts, “Honk for Freedom!”

Truthfully, Freedom is pretty cool. My friend, Pam, took the pictures and even had a brief conversation with a couple of the women protesting. I hope their friends and family in Syria find Freedom and peace.

My girlfriends and I found our own brand of freedom (Note the lower case f. I do realize it’s not in the same universe as Syrian Freedom.) in our second annual escape from work and family responsibilities. We strolled up and down Bardstown Road all afternoon, wandering in and out of funky boutiques, consignment shops, artists’ studios, used book stores, and even an African bakery and craft store. We tried on hats, shoes, vintage dresses, and handmade jewelry.

I bought a pair of awesomely funky shoes. Here they are looking hot beside Tammy’s boots.

The day was gorgeous, partly sunny and mid to high forties. No sign of the “white death” the hostess at Cracker Barrel had warned us was coming. Tammy thought she was warning us about the 2012 apocalypse. We were momentarily confused since it’s only February. I’ve decided White Death will be my karaoke stage name…or the title of my next book.

We stopped for a late lunch/early dinner at Impellizzari’s Pizza. Linda ordered a beer and claimed it would probably fill her up too much to eat. After which, she proceeded to make a massive piece of the deep dish Sicilian sampler her bitch, along with two slices of the thin crust margharita pizza and several breadsticks.

The pizza was excellent, but the company was better.

We shopped a bit more after eating, but decided it was time to call it a day when a member of our party who shall remain nameless spent $20 on a bracelet made of string. In her defense, $20 for braided string seemed perfectly reasonable after a couple of beers, and it was cute.

When the shopping wound down, we geared up for an evening of music and dancing. On the way in to the tavern, a car honked. Pam declared that it was NOT a honk for Freedom.

We heard some great music. The band opened with Pink Floyd, and four teachers belted "we don't need no education" at the top of our lungs, but sadly the dancing did not come to pass.

We were ready. See? Don’t we look cute?

We had our dancing shoes on, but when we got there…

Linda, “This is like the Inferno. What fresh hell is this?” (You’ve gotta love a friend who combines Dante with Dorothy Parker.)

Pam, “This is enough to make me never drink again.”

Tammy, “Not enough alcohol in the world to get me out there.”

See Linda’s face?

Let me paint the picture she’s gazing upon in horror.

Three women dancing, all wasted, beyond wasted, probably didn’t leave the tavern under their own power wasted. Now, I’m not throwing stones at their degree of drunkenness. And Linda is no shrinking violet. A trio of trashed girls in and of themselves would not elicit this face.

One of the girls is overweight. So what, right? There's more. Her shirt is askew, and her bra is twisted. The only thing sort of covering her large breasts is the stack of Mardi Gras beads around her neck. She rips her shirt open again in front of the band’s lead singer. He hands her the beads, but turns his head. She is way too drunk to notice, but seriously, if the dude is turning away from your breasts, you should probably quit flashing them.

The second girl keeps her shirt on and would probably be cute sober and not grinding on everything with a pulse. Boys, girls, it really doesn’t matter. She grabs people and loops her beads around their necks, essentially trapping them in an obscene embrace. Some, like the bass player in the band, look slightly alarmed as he tries to keep the beat with a girl humping his leg. Others, like the chick with the boobs and the beads join in with gusto. At one point a guy squeezes in between me and Tammy to get a better look.

“What the hell? Is she motor-boating that girl?”

“I’m trying not to watch.”

“It’s a f’n train wreck. How can you not rubberneck?”

Tammy turns and looks at him like he is a piece of toilet paper on her shoe. It's daunting, and he backs away.

Pam has this to say about the last girl in the dance floor triumvirate. “This is her night off. She’s way too good on those stilettos to be an amateur.”

She is over six feet tall in the heels, and she has a banging body. She drops to the floor and slides back up a person in one smooth motion, even blind drunk. We see that move a lot. When she gets up close and personal with the lead singer, her boyfriend pulls her off. Her boyfriend is a mountain of a man. If she is six feet, he’s six-five easily, broad shouldered with hair past his waist. I can’t tell you if he’s cute. I never see his face under the lion’s mane of blond hair. Together, they get into a head-banging, hair-slinging contest that clears the dance floor. Even boob girl and bitch-in-heat get out of their way.

Can you see it now? Just out of the frame?

So yeah, we didn’t dance. But the band, Stone the Crow, was very good. They mostly played classic rock covers, but they did it well. The lead guitarist was incredible. Watching him almost made me forget the train wreck on the dance floor.

The icing on the cake came when we left. The temperature had dropped, and our coats were in the car, so we sprinted from the exit. I dived into the front seat without looking right or left, so I didn’t initially see why Pam was screaming.

“OH MY GOD!!!”

OMG indeed. In the SUV right next to us, live in Technicolor, a woman was “taking care” of her man. Or a man. One wonders if it was actually her man since they didn’t wait to go to their house to do the deed. We backed out of the parking place and rolled down our windows.

“Look in that car!” Pam yelled to a group of people approaching. “Hurry! Right now! Look!”

Six people pressed their faces to the glass. They screamed and then laughed. We honked on the way out of the parking lot. For Freedom, baby!

We ended the night at Krispy Kreme followed by Steak and Shake. What? Life is short, eat dessert first, especially if dessert is hot and fresh Krispy Kremes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Being Nice makes you Happier

Another flash fiction challenge offered up by Chuck Wendig enticed me to play. The game this time is to write an unlikable protagonist who remains compelling and readable, 1000 words or less. Mine comes in at 747. Enjoy.

Being Nice makes you Happier
Condoms? Yeah, good luck with that, buddy.

Out loud, “Big date, tonight?”

The teenager flushed underneath his zits. “No, but you can’t be too prepared, right?” He reached for a nonchalant smile and failed. “That’s what they taught me in boy scouts.”

Boy scouts don’t get laid.

Brody examined the box before bagging it. “Ribbed for her pleasure,” he read. “Very considerate. You are a boy scout.”

The boy laughed nervously, shifting his weight and clutching his wallet with white knuckles. The soccer mom unloading groceries on the belt behind him radiated disapproval.


Brody grinned and totaled the order. “Okay, box of condoms, pack of gum. That’ll be $4.78 with tax.”

The kid threw his money at Brody, grabbed the bag like he stole it, and hurried out the exit.

“You embarrassed that boy on purpose.”

Brody fixed an impassive stare on the woman. She stared back.

He shrugged, “If you’re man enough to have sex, you ought to be man enough to buy a condom without turning five shades of red.”

“It was unkind.”

“So it was.”

And speaking of Trojans…

Brody typed a code into the register before he scanned the first item. The display screen dimmed slightly, indicating his program was running in the background. He swallowed another grin and scanned silently.

Vegetables, fruit, chicken. Damn, this chick needed some red meat in her diet or something. Whatever. Produce was easy to hide behind.

“Being nice would make you happier.”

Your money will make me happier.

He allowed the grin to show. “I couldn’t resist teasing him. He reminded me of my little brother. But you’re right. I should’ve been nicer.”

The muscles in her face relaxed, but not enough to produce a smile. He slid a box of tampons across the scanner. Bitch must be on the rag. The bag of Oreos confirmed it.

“Those cookies were marked on sale. That’s not the sale price.”

“I’m sorry. Do you remember the price? I can send someone to check.”


He voided the cookies at $3.78 and punched in $2.99. He considered killing the worm. She didn’t fit the profile. She was paying attention and confident, and he had nullified his native charm dicking around with condom boy.

Would she go home and examine the receipt?

“Shouldn’t you tell someone those cookies are ringing up wrong? A manager or something?”

“Technically, the sale starts at midnight. The guys on the floor got a jump on the signage.” He pointed to the plastic pinned to his chest. “I am a manager.”


She kept her voice neutral, but the raised eyebrow told Brody exactly what she thought of his managerial skills.

Game on.

He scanned her organic milk. The shit was expensive, and the worm left it alone. People paid attention to the pricier items on their ticket. Her eyes were glued to the display screen.

The block of cheddar cheese rang up .30 higher than the correct price.

She didn’t blink. Neither did he.

Cheerios, .20 higher. No reaction.

A loaf of fresh-baked bread, a nickel higher. She flicked her eyes from the display screen to his face. He smiled pleasantly.

Antiperspirant, a full dollar higher. I’ve got a Secret too.

Her eyes returned to the display as he scanned a two-pack of toothbrushes, .20 higher. Toothpaste, razors, and a bottle of Midol.

“Your total comes to $76.42.”

Her brows knitted together, and she stood frozen, debit card in hand.

Come on Mama. Scan your card for Snakebyte.

Deliberately, she returned the debit card to her wallet and pulled out her checkbook. Brody ran the check and handed over her receipt.

“You have a wonderful day, ma’am.”

She slid the receipt into her checkbook, eyed him suspiciously one last time, and walked away silently.

“Being nice makes you happier,” he called after her.

She kept walking and Brody chuckled. The cash drawer popped open of its own volition, and he removed $5.20 and slid it into his pocket. A grain of sand in his rapidly growing sand castle, and undoubtedly, the best $5.20 he would earn today.

His gleeful meditation was interrupted by the sound of screaming children. A woman in sweats threw her credit card at him and struggled to unload an overflowing cart. The toddler on her hip crushed a fistful of goldfish and reached for the opened bag on the belt. A red-faced infant screamed from its seat in the cart.

Snakebyte smiled sympathetically and punched in the code.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Youth and Beauty

I’ve enjoyed the hell out of the last several weeks in my classroom reading To Kill a Mockingbird. The kids have enjoyed it too. Every day, we challenge a different stereotype. What does it mean to be black? White? Southern? A girl? Poor? Educated? Mentally healthy? Religious? Old? Young?

Our discussions have been rich, and the kids seemed to embrace Atticus’ philosophy. You never really know a person until you get inside his skin and walk around in it. I was energized. Attitudes were adjusting, including mine. One book really can change people’s lives.

Cut to today.

“Who were you rooting for yesterday, Ms. Owens?”

“The Giants.”

“Really? Why?”

“Well, normally I’m not a fan of either team, but we have a couple of connections to the Giants, and that seemed like a good reason to root for them. Plus, I’m over the Patriots, and yeah, that’s probably sour grapes from when they beat teams I like, but whatever.”

“But Tom Brady’s hot! You have to root for him.”

“So is David Beckham, but I’m not buying his underwear.”

I watch a girl’s eyes glaze over. “I totally would.”

I realize my eyes have glazed over, and I shake myself back to reality. “Come on people. You do not have inferior minds. Surely, you base decisions like which team to root for and what products to buy on more than just physical beauty?”

Beavis and Butthead in the back of the room, “huhuhuhuhuh…Go Daddy!”

“I bought M&Ms this morning, but I based that on humor. They had the best commercial. Plus, I like M&Ms.”

“OH! It’s that kind of party!" Everyone laughed amidst general agreement that M&Ms had the best commercial. (This was the first commercial mentioned by students in every class. Good job M&M/Mars! You reached your target audience.)

“What about that half-time show? How old is Madonna anyway. She’s like my grandma’s age or something?”

“Yeah, seriously. Why do they keep getting old people?”

Ouch. This one hit home, and my knee jerked.

“Madonna hit the charts when I was in high school. She has adapted for thirty years. How many of your favorite artists will still be relevant when you’re in your forties?”

“Justin Bieber.”

I’m not making that up. I might have thrown up a little in my mouth. I resisted the urge to make a snide remark and further pigeon-hole myself. I had already planted a flag in “old people” land.

“Who says Madonna is still relevant?”

“We’re talking about her aren’t we? She played to a billion people last night. A lot of them are talking about her too. Plus, that awful song she just put out is on the radio every five minutes.”

“SEE!! You don’t even like her anymore! She’s old!”

“I don’t like that song because it’s stupid. Let’s see if I can sum up this discussion…Only hot people are worthy of our attention and fandom, and old people need to get out of our faces because they aren’t relevant anymore. Is that about right?”

Beavis and Butthead, “hehehehehehe….yeah.”

Everyone else backpedals warily, smelling a trap.

“Betty White is old, and we like her. She’s funny.”

“So old people are good for a laugh in a commercial, but leave the half-time show to us young, relevant folks?”

“You are totally twisting our words, Ms. Owens!”

“Then, please, tell me what you really mean.”

Several false starts, then, “Nevermind.”

“Uh huh…get out your homework.”

I’d like to say victory was mine, but it was hollow at best. I’d like to blame it on the fact that these kids are 15 years old, but I saw the same discussion on Facebook and Twitter last night.

We are only willing to get inside someone else’s skin and walk around in it as long as we can go back to our own young, beautiful skin to live.

My favorite commercial? The Audi headlights that blew up those eternally young, eternally beautiful vampires.