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Johnny kicked nervously at the sandy grit on the edge of sidewalk, blowing into his hands and rubbing them together, he stared at his feet. March was a miserable time of year this far north, all dirt and melting snow. Everything looked grey and bleak. The park was situated down by the river, well treed and poorly lit just like Sam had said it would be. It wasn't cold enough anymore for real jackets, nah this was try not to shiver in a sweater weather, if you shivered they'd know you weren't made of tough enough stuff.

Sam was supposed to have been there an hour ago. The backpack was heavy, but he wouldn't dare put it down, as Sam had said, "that's when they getcha. When you're weak kid, that's the moment they strike." Sam was never very forthcoming with information, he preferred to speak in riddles, never giving much info about who "they" were, but apparently you had to watch your back in this business. Johnny wasn't even sure what the business was really, everything shrouded in innuendo and suggestion, but he knew enough to know he wanted in.

The familiar neon orange sneakers were the first clue Johnny had that Sam had strolled up beside him. He raised his gaze up slightly to see the bright red hair and freckled face of the guy he'd come to meet.

"D'ya bring the goods?" Sam slurred slightly.

"Yeah," Johnny replied shrugging the backpack off one shoulder, "see", he unzipped the bag just enough for Sam to peer in.

"Nice going, kid, ya done alright here," Sam grinned slyly, reaching over and relieving Johnny of his burden.

"Uh, thanks Sam, hey listen, you're gonna pay me for that right?" Johnny asked glancing around the deserted park.

"Heh," Sam grunted with a grin, "lesson one kid, lesson one." And without another word Sam turned his neon orange sneakers around slung the bag over one shoulder and whistled off down the walkway toward the center of town, leaving a cold and confused Johnny to scramble after him.
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She rummaged frantically through her dresser muttering to no one in particular, "I know I have them in here somewhere," as she shoved aside socks, a passport, and, a few pieces of long forgotten costume jewelry. "Ah ha! There they are," she exclaimed tucking the precious artifacts into her purse before tearing down the staircase and sliding effortlessly into her boots.

Somehow this time of year always caught her off guard, even in the years when she'd helped the rest of the town meticulously plan the demonstration of gratitude, her own tribute always snuck up on her and left her scrambling.

As she tripped down the path to the center of town hearing the familiar chimes of the town clock signalling five minutes to midnight, she realized if she was going to make it on time she'd have to run.

The snowy mist clung to the icy pavement somehow softening the harsh November air, it would have been a pretty night to watch the fog roll in off the ocean; from somewhere warm of course, maybe with a hot cup of cocoa. Instead she picked up her pace through town, skidding and sliding across what would soon be snow covered lawns.

Her lungs ached by the time she reached the old well by the church, most of the towns folk had been and gone but one or two stragglers like herself were still dutifully scrambling up the well trying to complete the ritual before midnight.

Despite trying desperately to catch her breath before approaching the well, her words still tumbled out airy and exhausted as she tossed her years savings, two gold orbs, into the well, "I give you these thanks, in exchange for another year of peace and harmony for our village."


At the bottom of the well, a tax collector in a grey business suit sat shivering under a protective canopy, he'd been counting the orbs as they'd come in, keeping meticulous track, the entire profit margin of every business or person had been tossed in as tribute yet again this year. Despite the cold, he managed a smile to himself, astounded at how profitable peacekeeping could be.
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A very small man, in a very long tailed coat, with a crooked nose, and hair that has mostly migrated from the top of his head down toward his ears, wades his way through a crowded amphitheater, "Hi, hi, excuse me, pardon me. Step to the side please. Thank you. Excuse me. Pardon me. Thanks."

After a thousand apologies over stumbling through the sea of people he reaches the stairs to the stages and scurries up to the podium. Climbing onto the small step-stool that allows for his voice to just barely reach the microphone, he clears his throat rather loudly and in an overly nasal tone he begins, "Ahem. AHEM. Hello, good evenings, so glad you could make it here today. We have a special guest speaker joining us from Getoutofbedsburg she is the reigning queen of "I'll get to it tomorrow's" with an impressive resume of half finished projects and wild ideas, it is my ultimate pleasure to introduce to you, the one, the only..."

Just as the suspense in the room reaches the pinnacle of pre-climax a tall man in a dark suit starts waving frantically stage left making throat cutting motions, desperate to get the attention of the announcer.

For his part the announcer turns ever so slightly, to see a peanutbutter covered pajama-clad toddler tripping her way across the stage. Her outstretched sticky hand shoves out a crumpled piece of crayon-covered paper. The announcer flinches slightly reaching into his pocket and pulling out a pair of silver rimed circular spectacles; attempting to read the note as best he can.

"Wait what?" he half-whispers into the microphone, "What's that say, right there underneath that raisin?"

The crumb covered munchkin shrugs and exits stage right, much to the bewilderment of the announcer who leans back into the microphone sighing dramatically, "Ladies and gentlemen, our sincerest apologies, it appears our much awaited guest is presently passed out on the couch watching House Hunters."
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Going to attempt another mini-season of LJ idol. So uh, look out world here I come?
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And I think it was Siobhan who used to dance in my living room singing Tori Amos' "Girl" as if it were a prayer for my new born offspring. Oh on the eve of 11, if I could just spare her the next 20 years of anguish and term oil I would.
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And she said to me "that can't be a song about you, it's about the singers own personal experience you weren't there! There's no 'open to interpretation' it's a song about a time in her life not yours" and I felt stupid and small.

And you said to me "that song can't be about him, it's about an experience the singer had as a kid growing up I don't know why he feels it's about him, he's such a goof", and I understood.

And you wondered why I missed him so fiercely after he died, and I can't explain it better now than I could then. But I listen to those songs, and I know.


Apr. 9th, 2015 03:21 pm
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Some days I feel this journal has become a series of unsent love letters.

I crave your company and a bottle of wine in your kitchen. I lack the freedom to drive past your house wondering if you'll notice.

It's never been the sex I've craved though that's always been the tool used to open the door. I suppose I should have learned years ago to stop fucking my friends.

When I think of you it's always your company I'm longing for, your pontificating while I sat silently embracing your rawness, your ego, and the fabrications you embellished to mold into your own truth. I crave that unabashed bravado the ability in myself to be still. I could have tolerated you from our distance forever if you hadn't been so possessive.

My life again echoes the busy yet stagnant the loud nothingness.

I miss the lake, your words, my wholeness.

I don't miss your sex but I'd be willing to partake if I could have your conversation back.
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If you know your brothers child can't be vaccinated for medical reasons and is fragile and you don't care enough to inform him that you've decided against vaccines you're not being a very supportive or helpful sibling.
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I drove past your house 3 times tonight glancing at you through the window. You always hated curtains. More than two years since last we spoke. I think of you often. I pick up my phone, dial your number, knowing full well that mine has changed and would be unfamiliar. I hesitate to call. My fingers dance around the thought of no pressure over endless cups of coffee and the glass table in your kitchen. Mind drifting briefly to the sex that was alwaysnevermorethanenough. You were a perfect fantasy that didn't translate into substance. I miss your friendship like a hole through the heart-Ache of a social life left shattered by sleeping with too many friends. My fear; you might mistake my nostalgia for somehing more than friendship.
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I bought butter and garlic flavoured croutons instead of the zesty garlic flavoured ones I usually buy and they just aren't as good.
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The Starbucks by my house is out of Zen tea until tomorrow so I either have to go to another Starbucks or drink the china tips.
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If I hide in the corner of the internet selling $1000.00 baby carriers oogling things I not only don't need, and can't afford but would never purchase even if I could justify it and had the money, then maybe it wont be the end of the world. Instead of studying for my credentialing exam on Tuesday or doing the housework, or trying to come up with an explanation for how someone who's reasonably intelligent and highly coordinated with a great ability to multitask could somehow manage to flunk a driving exam 5 times (this is just your regular old drivers test nothing exciting the same one you all took at age 16). And yet still pass the parallel parking EVERY SINGLE TIME with minimal effort. Due to my lack of drivers license it will likely be an extra 2-3 weeks of downtime before I can start earning money again.

Maybe if I just hide from all of these things staring at baby carriers for my toddler who's too big to really be warn anyway... maybe none of these things will matter.

And I wont have to have a panic attack every time I come across the #whyistayed hashtag, because it's too soon and I'm not ready even though it's been what now? 7 years since I've lived it? I should be over it. I should be able to talk about it. I should be righteous in my anger and validation and righty-right-rightness in my leaving.

Everything feels heavy and I'm lost again downtown in a sea of buses hiding behind a book on success; hint number one; successful people don't take the bus, because they have cars, and drivers licenses

Successful people don't wake up from nightmares of their former husband smashing through their living room windows and trying to take their babies and when in your dream you phone the police for help, they show up, and they tell you well "he's their father" and "he's entitled to see them" and "he can't be that bad, he seems calm right now, and if he were really so bad, so violent, why didn't you get a restraining order?" and you say nothing to the dream police-men, but you know it's coming when they leave, you're sure in that moment that like all the bad news articles you've ever read, he's going to murder you and your children as soon as they leave but before your new husband gets home from work.

And you wake from it, shivering and awful, knowing it wasn't real, the doors are locked, it's 3am and everyone's asleep.

You play it over in your mind until sleep reclaims you sometime around 5. Doze for an hour or two and get up, go to your drivers test and fail for the 5th time. All the while thinking about the first time you ever drove and how icy the road was in his bald-tired 1972 Ford LTD. You think about him yelling at you, the way he stripped you of any worth always breaking it down to what an embarrassment you were, the wife of a professional driver who couldn't or wouldn't learn to drive. And it became a part of your identity to take the bus, you clung to it, made excuses to have learners permit for 11 years...

And now here you sit, and you need this thing for work, and it's serendipitous, you can't avoid the issue of domestic abuse that week. And despite all those lessons over the summer, the last year of real effort made, of trying to GET OVER IT...

And here I sit, with another strip of freshly bought bus tickets, because I can't re-test for another 2 weeks.

I need a license for the new job.

I need it.

But I don't WANT it, and I'm #notready to take this all apart and get over the road block that has me reading my book on the bus.
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We interrupt your regularly scheduled internets to bring you a thought about child protection. Grab your coffee spike it with some Baileys and get ready for Ani's Unpopular Opinion Time TM.

Ok kids recently in the news there have been a number of parents arrested for what can only be described as "questionable parenting practices". Things like letting your 9 year old play alone at a park, or allowing your child to walk unaccompanied. Now I don't personally care whether or not YOU think it should or shouldn't be legally allowed for children to walk, to or play in the park without another adult. I also don't care whether or not you did so yourself as a child that age.

What I wanted to talk to you about today is the idea of alerting the authorities. If I had a dollar for every self-righteous woman on a parenting forum who advocated the advice of "call child protected services" or "alert CPS" I'd be a rich, lazy, woman myself. However, the mystical powers that be don't pay me to watch other sanctimonious women berate eachother on the internet. They also don't pay me to be judge and jury while trying to decide who should and who shouldn't be allowed to parent or how or when or where or why.

The reality is parenting is a series of judgement calls. And sometimes we all get it wrong. Every single one of us. Some of us, get it really wrong. Some of us belong in jail, and our kids truly are better off raised by "the system". But before you or anyone else gets to make that judgment call we need to consider the following:

1) Is reporting this to the authorities a better option than offering to help? Is offering, your time, money or assistance or suggesting resources a possibility? If you have offered or tried to help. If this is not a first time you've witnessed whatever "bad" parenting practice from this parent then by all means continue to clutch your pearls and move on to question 2.

2) Is reporting this to child protection in the best interest of the child? What are foster homes like where you live? Are they made up of classy well educated people of similar color and class as the child you think you're going to save? Or are they more like the foster homes you read about in the news? Do you know for certain that foster-care is a better option for this child than the environment with the "bad" parenting you've witnessed? Are you aware that older children tend to end up in emergency shelters or group homes than in foster families? What are the realities of the child welfare system where you live?

Now I hear you, you're saying "well not all reports involve removing the child(ren) from the home Ani, you're being awfully quick to judge the system! And you know that's true, and I am all about educating and assisting more than I am about tearing families apart and after all you are just trying to help...

And some kids really do need help from someone more than just a concerned neighbor, which leads to this next question you need to ask before you start alerting the masses.

3) Who is the proper authority to report to? Should you call the police? Child protective services? A school counselor? What about the child's other parent or grandparent? Sometimes the police or CPS aren't needed, a kid you see often walking home alone from kindergarten may have a new baby sibling that's unwell and mom may not have a car. Sometimes what looks like neglect to you isn't really so much neglect as it is survival. Not everyone is sorrounded by caring friends and family. So that kid you see walking home from school alone who looks way too young in your opinion to be walking two whole blocks, well maybe dad or grandma can pick the kid up and drop him off? Or maybe mom doesn't know about the school's position on low income assistance for the school bus or maybe it's just none of your business. Heck maybe you can offer to help out yourself.

So now before I get off my sap box I have one last thing for you to consider before you reach for the phone and your local branch of the child protection office.

4) If the child remains in the home and you've meddled, gotten the proper authorities involved etc, are you, or is someone else going to be around for the fallout? Is the child going to be in more danger from the parent, step-parent or other siblings for the disruption?

Well all knew that kid, the one who's mom got reported to family services, and then the nothing happened, except maybe they moved and you never heard from her again, or he came to school with a black eye the next day and no one said anything because "well, we did report them". If you're going to disrupt a family, even a dysfunctional one, you have to remember that the children in that family need an advocate and a voice, if it seems wrong and you are seeing clear cut abuse and neglect one phone call isn't always going to do any good. Open your mouth and you really need to be prepared to open your heart, your mind, and maybe even your door.

We seem to have forgotten somewhere between carpools and violin lessons and keeping up with the Kardashians Jones' that it takes a village, that we are a global village trying to raise these children to be whole happy functional adults.

Sometimes it is a clear cut case of "yes this child needs help, anywhere would be better than living with those monsters at home" but in the case of a 9 year old playing in the park while her mother works in the McDonalds's across the street, would we not have been better off handing the girl a leaflet for a local free or low income "keep kids busy in the summer program" or offering to introduce ourselves to the mother and keep an eye on the kid ourselves? At what point are we forgetting that the key piece in calling the police should be about getting help for those in need, not punishing those who have less.

Remember guys, it takes a village to raise a child.

This is my take on this weeks topic for idol. I just barely made it through last week and this week felt inspired to rant about current events who knows how that will go over, wish me luck!
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Madelynn sucked back a bong rip like a teenager at a house party, “if Checkhov’s gun, were in the box with Schrödinger's cat, would Occam’s razor suggest that it would still have to go off?” she exhaled as she spoke spewing pot smoke into Gloria’s face.

“I have no idea Mads,” Gloria responded trying her best to imitate her friend’s smoking technique without actually inhaling much of the mind altering haze that swirled around the beautiful blown glass object that seemed to take up half of Madelynn’s coffee table.

“I know you’re not inhaling it Glorie I don’t even know why you bother coming over here anyway, it’s not like this is your poison of choice. Hell, I’m not even sure you have a poison these days. What do you do with your time now anyway?” Madelynn sucked back another hit before moving the bong off to a side table beside an ashtray shaped like a human skull and assorted other dingy gruesome treasures.

Gloria started counting off on her fingers her list of weekly accomplishments, “well I work a lot, and there’s school, Brad and I are talking about maybe getting married and moving out to the suburbs, I chair a committee at the university, you know a women’s rights type of thing, and Friday night is lady’s night at bar up the street so a few of us get together there, you know the one I keep inviting you to that you’re never available for?” she tried her best to make the question pointed but the swirling of the dope smoke was making her head swirl and as usual she was regretting coming to visit her oldest friend.

“Yeah bars aren’t really my scene, neither is that women’s lib stuff, I mean don’t we have rights and shit? Like I have the right not to shave my legs or go to lady’s night. I’d rather get high and go to guys night, watch the drunks stumble around an play darts. And I work too ya know!” Madelynn ran her hands across the skull shaped ashtray before picking it up and dumping it’s contents into the waste basket next to her chair.

“Oh I know you do,” Gloria scoffed, “it’s just, isn't working in a head-shop kind of a kids job? I mean we’re both in our 30’s aren't we supposed to outgrow this type of thing?”

Madelynn lit up a cigarette and took a long steady drag, “well first of all I’m the assistant manager of that head-shop and we sell books and clothes and stuff too, plus I get an excellent employee discount and well… I do have some side work you know,”

Gloria rolled her eyes, “yeah Mads, dealing dope to the local kids how noble”

“Hey Glorie, I feed stray cats and keep the kids off of hard drugs by selling them my product at a reasonable rate. I’m practically a pillar in the community!”

“Whatever you say Mads, I just think it’s about time you start thinking about what you want out of life I mean don’t you ever want to get married or have kids or any of the normal stuff? How about getting out of this apartment, you've been here since we graduated high school!”

“Hey listen up Barbie I don’t judge your choices, aren't you still in school? Where’s your husband, and 2.3 children? I like my apartment, I like this neighborhood, I like my crappy job and my weed, why do you even care?”

“I’m less than a year from getting my masters, Brad and I have been dating for 3 years, we’re planning to get married and have a baby or two yeah, I just… I want you to be a part of my life I always thought we’d grown up together!” Gloria raved waving the cigarette smoke out of her face, her cheeks hot with frustration.

Madelynn responded by grinding what was left of her cigarette into the eye socket of the skull tray, “Look Glor I didn't drag you down to the bad part of town you grew up in. I didn't force you to sit in that chair and pretend to smoke with me like back in the day. So why don’t we cut the crap and just tell me what you came here for.”

Gloria sighed exasperated, “I’m pregnant you idiot, and getting married and I want you to be my maid of honor and the baby’s godmother and maybe not be high the whole time you’re doing it!” Gloria blurted out tears tumbling out of the corners of her eyes.

“Aw shit,” Madelynn jumped up and opened a window, then turned on the ceiling fan before flopping down on the couch next to her friend, “Why didn't you just say so! For real? A baby? That’s so cool! I can be crazy aunt Maddy? Wow this is great!”

“You mean it?” Glorie sniffed, “like really?”

“Of course I mean it, you’re my oldest friend! I can’t let you go it alone through uncharted waters! This is going to be amazing! But Glorie I still gotta know one thing?” Madelynn asked with an impish grin breaking through the fog of her mid afternoon daze.

Gloria grinned, “If it’s about Schrödinger's cat in the box with Checkhov’s gun I’m pretty sure Occam’s razor would suggest that the cat is definitely dead Mads.”

“Excellent,” Madelynn replied with a cackle rubbing her hands together, “we’re going to have the coolest baby!”

This is my piece for week 15 of LJ Idol topic: Checkhov's Gun. Feel free to check out the other stuff that's up this week, there are some really great writers out there!
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You see a lot of weird stuff as a barber, people tell you their secrets, they confess their sins. Like a priest or a bartender or any other type of amateur therapy job, barbers hear and see some weird stuff, after 45 years in the business Jake had figured he'd seen and heard just about everything, that is until he met the stranger from down south.

Jake's barber shop had been on the corner of 142nd Street and Morrow Ave for as long as anyone could remember, it was one of the oldest shops in town and just about everyone knew crabby old Jake Simmons who owned the place.

It was a sunny Wednesday in the fall of '98, the south wind blew through the tiny northern Ontario town bringing with it the first round of tumbling maple, elm and oak leaves in varying shades of gold, rust and chocolate. Jake was grumbling to himself sweeping the scattering debris off the steps leading up to his shop, muttering under his breath that his no-good nephew had missed some spots on the candy-apple red trim he'd repainted over the summer. Jake was so preoccupied with his busy-work he barely noticed the heavy set stranger's approach.

"Howdy," the man drawled with a glaringly American accent, "y'all open today?" He asked.

"Yes, I am, you here for a trim?" Jake replied taking stock of the man in front of him. The stranger was younger than Jake by a wide margin, probably not much over 40, he had the palest blue-grey eyes lined with large round eye-glasses, baring a striking contrast to his darker hair that looked about 2 weeks late for a trim.

"Yes sir," the younger man replied, "the name's Pete Crow, I'm a trucker from down south, just passing through but seems this little town was just to pretty to not stop by a take a look around."

"Well Mr. Crow, I'm Jake and this here's my shop" said the barber, "come on in and have a seat and we'll get you trimmed up and on your way."

"Thank you kindly sir," Pete replied.

"Mr. Crow I'll need you to take off your spectacles and we'll get started," Jake set to wiping the sterile solution off of his combs and scissors, and draping a cape around his clients neck, when he was all set he looked up at the man from down south to find his glasses still firmly perched on his face. "Your glasses, Mr. Crow, they'll need to come off," Jake repeated, trying not to sound annoyed with the stranger.

"I'm sorry sir but I can't do that, you'll have to cut around them," Pete replied.

"I beg your pardon Mr. Crow but in all my years as a barber I have never cut around a set of eye glasses, you'll need to take them off so I can give you a proper cut," the barber replied, his frustration now barely contained.

"Again Mr. Simmons I'll have to respectfully decline to take them off," Pete retorted, calm as the moment he'd walked up to the shop.

"Sir, I insist, this is bordering on absurd, I simply cannot in good faith charge you for a proper hair cut with your glasses on your face! May I ask you why you can't take them off?" The barber argued trying desperately to remain as polite as possible.

"Well Sir, I suppose I may as well just show you," replied the truck driver reaching up and pulling at the temples of his spectacles.

Well they say Jake turned an unholy shade of red that day when he saw those glasses come off the face of that stranger along with the poor mans prosthetic ear in one swift movement revealing the natural facial feature to be completely lacking.

"You see Mr. Simmons, I was born without my left ear, I hear just fine out of the right and they've given me these great glasses to even me out, but honestly Sir, you can just cut around them, I promise you it'll be easier that way."

Jake blinked wildly, trying desperately to hide his embarrassment, failing miserably of course, and quick as Mr. Crow had put his glasses back in their place, Jake was trimming and apologizing for his prior insistence.

Mr. Crow for his part, just chuckled, paid his bill and was on his way, but they say Jake was never quite the same around customers with glasses after that.

This is my entry for week 14 at LJ Idol, topic: Confessions From The Chair. This story is based on a true story I heard from a local barber when I was a very small child, whether or not any such thing ever took place however, I couldn't actually say.
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I breathed in your poetry, your head on my chest.
Played through the curl of your hair, plucking the harp-strings one by one.
The melody, a remedy for the dull ache in my chest.
Wrapping myself around your scars, a human bandage for immeasurable pain.
There was a tragic beauty in the ether of that photograph,
entwined in the newness of spring.

The venom you spit, acrid and sallow,
shallow threats and the subtle dissolution of character, of self.
The rain falling bulbous and protruding on our flower garden,
drenching dried earth, as if to fill gaps; the cracks in our hearts.
Tigerlilies snapping their fire-wide jaws, thirsty for our longing,
poised and yearning for our next fight.

September brought it's north wind into focus,
the leaves shifting their shade inward.
Perspectives changing, wants becoming needs unsatisfied.
The pile of your laundry left stagnating in the corner,
as if to mimic the leaves that lay on the lawn,
untouched and unwanted, bracing for frost.

Not far from this place, is the land of continuous frost,
the ground never thaws and the ice seldom melts.
Our winters were long enough, our hibernation spent,
huddled against the glow of an old space heater.
Together enmeshed again, we braced ourselves,
for the separation spring would bring.

This is my entry for week 13 of the real LJ idol. We had an open topic this week so I ventured out of my comfort zone. A big thank you to my wonderful editors and proof readers who do their best to get through my word-vomit week after week despite not understanding how LJ works or why I'd want to write int his type of competition <3
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Scott-Allen flipped on the old slide projector, it was an archaic and unnecessary misuse of technology, especially in this day and age but he loved it all the same, especially for the one lecture he insisted on giving himself, a pet project lecture he called "Introduction to Hospitality Engineers Licences Limited". He pulled out his best Ben Stein-esque monotone and started on his presentation flicking painfully slowly through the old slides, "In 1939, at the beginning of what they refer to as the second global or "world war"," he began prattling, even adding the effect of miming finger quotations when he said "world war" just for that extra added non-dramatic effect.

He paused briefly glancing around the room before continuing, some wise-ass in the back row of the lecture hall was sticking a #2 pencil into his eyeball thus proving Scott-Allen was doing an excellent job with his torture by boredom lecture. The front row was sitting directly under a vent that by all rights and reason should have been blowing cold air into their climate controlled environment, the AC had been on the fritz lately and the vent chugged sticky humid warm air into the already overcrowded and poorly vented space. While Scott-Allen had fully intended to have it fixed the truth of it was he really didn't mind watching the new recruits sweat it out, especially the brown-nosers who thought somehow they would make themselves more appealing to him by sitting front and center of the dreary lecture hall.

He continued on his disquisition; "We saw internally here in the bank of S.O.U.L a minor uprising of some of our best and brightest, who thought they were perhaps ready for a full scale takeover of the mainstream culture. Now what we learned from the little adventure of one Jim Baker, who for those of you who weren't present or paying attention in history class, renamed himself to one Mr. Adolf Hitler, believing as he did that German names and identities were substantially more fear inducing than more English or American sounding names, he had also considered several Russian name choices including Vladimir Putin an unoriginal choice by one Don Brown who decided to merge top side most recently, was that conquest of the people top-side is not for the faint of heart and full scale dictatorship of a population base that large is best acquired via financial means. So we founded the Savings Our Users Love bank and trust shortly after Jim Bakers failure at absolute authority and have grown into a multinational conglomerate force in the past 60 years. Such ventures as Starbucks, McDonalds, and Disney all got their major funding from the bank of S.O.U.L and we are slowly encroaching on 3 billion members world wide. Contrary to popular belief we were in no way affiliated with George Lucas, the success of Star Wars was honestly a rare case of extreme luck."

Scott-Allen flipped through another half dozen slides that appeared to have nothing to do with what sounded like complete drivel coming out of his mouth. Just as it seemed he was losing his new recruits to day dreams of scrubbing toilets with toothbrushes or listening to insufferable aunt Martha talk about her latest colonoscopy, he paused his lecture, pushing his circular framed glasses up his pointed nose.

With a glint of flame-red flickering across his eyes he said; "Now do we have any questions?" The room remained silent, "Good now if you'll just turn to page 247 in your new recruit manual you will have 10 minutes to review all of this information after which there will be a brief quiz on material you are in no way familiar with that was not covered here today at all. No you may not leave early, yes your scores of the test will determine your placements in our organization. In all likelihood however you will end up cleaning out the cages of the flying monkeys, at least in the beginning, those of you who prove to be useful flying-monkey-feces collectors may advance in our organization, remember we are capitalists and teamwork will not be tolerated. Work smart not hard."

As he packed up his projector and began wheeling it's screeching metal case out of the lecture hall, he turned back to the room of horrified looking individuals from all walks of life, and said, "oh yes, my name is Scott-Allen Timmothy Andrew Norris, you may call me Mr. Norris, on behalf of all of us here at Hospitality Engineers Licences Limited, welcome, the air-conditioning should be fixed sometime next week."

Thanks for reading my LJ idol entry for week 12, these characters have appeared before here and here but the stories are in no way sequential or required reading. Please consider reading and voting for your favourites when the polls go up :)
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Welcome to the Department of Redundancy Department, where we specialize in cyclical redundancy cycles. An original thought has not been had in ages. Everyone is bored and no one could give even an eighth of a damn what you say or what you want. As you're new here you'll have to fill out form 57A subsection 7 paragraph Q; New or returning Employees who haven't already filled out form 57A Subsection 7 Paragraph Q, containing the exact same information as Subsections A through P. Are you done? Good, now move on to the next 18 pages of exactly the same information just phrased differently so as to confuse you.

When you've been job hunting long enough and you've filled out enough "potential new employee" forms eleventybillion times and heard "we'll check your references and then call you next week" after every single one of them you learn to expect the disappointment when the calls don't come, or your calls aren't returned. That's when you know my friend, that's when you know you've been...

Black balled.

So you try and get creative, you list a manager who liked you, or even Debbie in accounting, yeah she always liked you, as your "most recent employer" hoping maybe, maybe that threat your boss gave you about never working in this town again if you leave, maybe you can work around it somehow. Week after week, interview after interview, you shake hands with the guys in head office who say you are the perfect fit for the position, they'd like to hire you to start Monday, just have to dot some i's and cross some t's if ya know what I mean.

Week after week, they don't return your phone calls, you speak to some squeaky-voiced receptionist who tells you not to call again that the position has been filled.

You know it's not you, right little buddy? I mean, shit you've never had a problem getting hired before, you're amazing at what you do, heck Scott-Allan Norris head hunted you out of a fortune 500 company, swept you right up, paid you more money than you ever thought you'd be making anywhere. Your resume is top notch, you ace the interviews and then they call. They call your references and they check up on your last employer and that's when it all goes south.`

That wretched cockweasel, always getting in your way, as a side note; is cockweasel one word or two? It must only be one word, I'd hate to waste precious space on that turdmuffin your boss is. Turns out once you work for Mr. Norris there really isn't anywhere else to go, wish they'd told you that on the original form 57A Subsection 7, Paragraph something or other, maybe it was on that godforsaken form, somewhere in the fine print masked by all those zeros at the end of the paycheck.

This job you do didn't look so bad in the beginning, on the surface it looked so normal, just some papers to shuffle, some golf on a Friday afternoon, lunch with the clients, it was all fine really until, well until the unpleasantness. No man, I don't blame you for not wanting to think about it, best to just block it out. Who knew when they said top shelf Scotch is just one of the job perks, how quickly it would become a crutch.

Well buddy there's not much you can do now, grab your pitch fork and get back to the mines, Scott-Allen Timmothy Andrew Norris is waiting for you down in the layer reserved for bureaucratic lawyers and used car salesmen, time to push some pencils around a desk, maybe chase some unsuspecting coworker around with a stapler. It was nice of them to give you that corner office. I mean really man, it could be worse, you could be one of those guys out there on the floor making phone calls under those fluorescent lights, asking people if they want to Switch to AT&T, or get their very own subscription to the New York Times. Those poor little gerbils making phone calls, in their little booths, trying desperately not to stick pushpins into their eyes, wonder what they did to end up here huh buddy? Who knew they had cubicles in hell?

This is my entry for week 11 of LJ Idol, topic: Recency Bias. This piece uses some of the same characters (universe?) as a previous piece though you certainly do not need (to read) one for the other to make sense.
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Tip; the bartender on your way out the door.
Tip; your hat as you pass by him on the street.
Tip; the cab driver as he drops you in front of the bridge.
Tip; the bottle back and feel it's amber solace slide down your throat.
Tip; be sure to take off your jacket and boots.
Tip; as you stumble up to the platform, grab the railing.
Tip; over the edge as you fall into the dark.

Some days it feels like there is no other answer, just the bottle and the dark.

His last text message to her read: "Let love reign always, no matter the cost." When they found his body in a crack house two weeks later she wasn't surprised. Another of the drunks he'd worked with spared her from having to go down and identify the body. The two of them were really the only friends he'd had.

"You couldn't have saved him ya know," her partner offers the night of the funeral.

"I know," she replies; the tears starting again, stinging against the mascara that trails across her cheek bones, "but I could have tried harder."

Things are different after, she tries harder to keep her distance. He's not the only one, there are more, they come down daily for their liquid courage injections, don't want too much blood in their alcohol streams. One of them had a stroke a few weeks ago, came in to confess over a series of tequilas and vodka & waters.

She suggests a wager, to see who could be sober the longest. Bet a thousand dollars she didn't have on it. He's a competitive drunk and he accepts, they'll start next week, no the week after... It goes on.

In the DJ's jeep on a Thursday night ride home, she confesses to the wager and the DJ replies, "If he quits drinking we all lose. That guy spends a hundred grand a year in the bar. Your little bet could ruin us all!"

The lump rises in her throat as she counters, "We all lose if he drinks himself to death too. He's already had a stroke; he's got a fatty liver and an enlarged heart, the doc's only giving him six months if he doesn't smarten up."

"Yeah but, I mean, he can't quit drinking..."

She bites her tongue thinking loud enough that she's sure her friend can hear her. I can't have another one die on me. I'm at four since September. I can't do this anymore. Her tears are whipped away by the wind in the jeep and he kindly pretends not to notice.

The radio kicks in, breaking the silence as they bound over the potholes in the west end of town, some crass pop tune ringing in her ear drums as they turn the corner onto her street.

She jumps out of the jeep. "Thanks for the ride love, see ya tomorrow." She slams the rickety door and blows him a kiss, stumbles into her darkened house, reaches into the cabinet, mixes the vodka with some water.

Some days it feels like there is no other answer, just the bottle and the dark.

This was my week ten entry for LJ idol: topic "“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time” please read/comment/vote when available, there are some really talented writers out there.
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The sign on the door read, Scott-Allen Timmothy Andrew Norris, in precise gold lettering that glimmered as it reflected the flickering firelight of the lobby. Tallulah grabbed the knocker with all the confidence of someone who'd had a three martini lunch and slammed it against the solid wooden door. Slowly the door creaked open, as a blast of cold air sucked the breath right out of her chest.

"I'm done Scotty," Tallulah gasped, quickly recovering her composure, her hair pulled back in a tight bun, she was dressed all in black as always, her ruby colored square framed glasses reflecting the fire in her eyes. She thrust form 71B of the Hospitality Engineers Licences Limited hand book at him, "here's your resignation. I am done with this place."

The meek looking banker sitting in the over-sized leather recliner couldn't have been more than 5 foot 4 his legs dangled above the marble floor and his small circular glasses hung down of the tip of his nose. No one would have expected Mr. Norris to look so... So... Puny. People had this belief he was larger than life, a muscular overlord who owned far too much and gave far too little back. He'd owned the chain of hotels as well as a series of banks under the title Savings Our Users Love inc. for what felt like eternity and yet he barely looked a day over 30.

"Well then Tallulah, what exactly are you going to do? How are you going to pay back this debt you've acquired? I believe you're still under contract to us for another 45 years? And your debt to the bank is close to immeasurable. I can't honestly fathom where you think you'll go from here," he wheezed from his chair.

"Yes Scotty and I don't care if it takes me a thousand years I can't work another day in this place, send me up there, I’ll strip to pay you off," she said still full of fire and conviction, her years of loyalty and service had only been rewarded with more and more debt and a conscience that was drowned daily in vodka. Tallulah had reached her breaking point long ago, but Mr. Norris had a reputation and she hadn't dared to leave him until now, the torture that was her job had worn her down and she just couldn't stomach one more day.

"I do believe I have some connections in Winnipeg, I could send you there..." Mr. Norris snorted with a bemused smiled, as he toyed with one of the subtle platinum chains he wore around his neck.

"Where's Winnipeg?" Tallulah asked, suddenly getting concerned, she'd been banking on Las Vegas she knew she could bail herself out of debt there.

"It's a small city in central Canada where the winters hover around -40 and last 6 months of the year, in the summers it sky rockets to a humid 90 in the shade and these small blood sucking vampire insects called mosquitoes come out in full force devouring anyone who dares to go outside, I do believe they have a few strip clubs still, I'll have you set up there for tomorrow Tallulah, but be warned, if you leave I'm not letting you come back, and you'll still be paying down your debts, you'll have very little for yourself you know, it wont be like here where I can take care of you."

"That's fine Scotty I'll go to Winnipeg, anywhere is better than here," she smiled triumphantly.

"And how exactly do you think you'll make it as a stripper, I've never seen you wear anything but a pant-suit with your hair in a bun, you can't walk in heels, and you've got all the grace of a rhinoceros after a Jack Daniels bender, I can't imagine you spinning on a pole," his whiny irritating voice drove her over the brink.

"I'll improvise Scotty, it's what I do best, you've said so yourself,” she started.

“Yes and I've also said you’d never leave me,” Scott-Allen wheezed.

“Besides we know I can wield a whip, we know I can work with some restraints and you damn well know I'm flexible, a stripper in Winnipeg has GOT to be better than a Hooker in-"

"Don't you dare say it Tall," he cut her off, "don't you dare mention this place by name aloud, or so help me, I will banish you right back to the chambers and increase you debt to the point where your great-grandchildren will still be stripping in Winnipeg to pay it off."

Tallulah stormed out, slamming the door behind her, glad to be rid of Scott-Allen Timmothy Andrew Norris. Nothing could possible get in her way now.

When she arrived at the airport in Winnipeg on a blustery Monday morning in January she'd assumed she'd have a minute or two to herself, and yet waiting for her in the lobby was a short muscular gentleman named Bruce who had quickly ushered her into a car, "you're on stage in 20 minutes, do you have costumes?" He'd asked.

"I think I have something that will work," she replied nervously pulling her torture gear from her purse.

When they got to the bar there were only two people drinking light beers in the back as they plugged bill after bill into the slot machines. She walked over to the bar and ordered a double vodka martini.

The cute blonde bartender handed her the drink grinning, "First show? Ya look new!"

"Yeah," Tallulah replied taking a sizable gulp of her drink.

"Where'd you work before this?" the blonde booze goddess asked her.

Tallulah stared into the abyss of her drink taking too long of a pause before downing the remaining contents of the plastic martini glass, “Hell”.


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