Spanking is Wrong for These Three Reasons

As a psychologist, I often am asked questions related to children, child rearing, and development (Despite not being a developmental psychologist!). As a generalist in teaching psychology, I do my best to give researched and nuanced answers. One comment I often get from students and parents alike is that they disagree with most experts on spanking. They believe it’s an effective form of punishment and (in some cases) have told me that they will not change their mind. I figured today I’d take some time to explain the reasons why spanking is wrong, giving you a chance to think about them and debate.
Continue reading “Spanking is Wrong for These Three Reasons”

Defying Classification

I’m writing this post, the first in over a month (my bad!) from a hotel room in New Orleans. I’m down here for the Southeastern Psychological Association (SEPA) conference, having brought with me 5 of my undergraduate students from Delta State. The conference seems to be having the desired effect – students are excited to see the very real possibility of themselves presenting material here in subsequent years. What seemed big, ominous, and unknown, is now something they see within reach. It means a lot more work for myself in terms of advising students, but it’s work I’m happy to do. 

  
The topic of this post isn’t about my academic pursuits, or the symposium that we presented on perspectives on a campus shooting. While the symposium was a success, thanks to the lead author Sally Zengaro, and my collaborators George Beals and Franco Zengaro, there isn’t too much I can say about it that hasn’t already been said. And while the academic nature of the conference has been fulfilling (I’ve seen some interesting talks, and gotten some ideas for my own research as well as my students), it also doesn’t merit my putting electronic pen to paper. My topic tonight is the one part observation of human behavior, and one part my own warped philsophy of the world. And it’s best summed up by the title, Defying Classification.

Psychology conferences are interesting places. Scores of undergraduate students looking to get their feet wet, teams of graduate students trying to be noticed on a larger stage, and professors presenting either to fulfill pre-tenure obligations, out of respect for their science, or out of love for their field (Sometimes all 3!). You tend to notice trends in how they walk, talk, and appear. Undergraduates dress in typical teenage and early 20’s style, with some (who were clued in, like my students) dressing slightly nicer and more professional. Graduate students tend to dress in the most professional attire, with professors taking a more laid back approach. Professor standard attire for men tends to be jeans or slacks, with a button down shirt or polo, and occasionally a sport coat. No suits, few ties. We look, more or less, like grown up versions of our undergraduate students. Other conferences differ slightly – the business school crowd dresses more formally, and I assume other professional schools clean up a bit more than us ratty PhDs. 

Today I was wearing my standard professor uniform: Khaki cargo pants, black shoes, dark blue Carhartt t-shirt covered by a black polo shirt. On my belt I had my camera in a case and my cell phone in a holster. I like to keep my pockets open during conferences to (a) have a place to put my room key without depolarizing it and (b) have a place for business cards and my conference name badge. After the last session tonight, I went out in the same ‘uniform’, adding in a black 2600 hat. I tend to shy away from logos, but I make an exception for brands I like to show support for, and 2600 is a publication I feel is important to the technology community.

Anyway, I proceeded to ‘take myself out on a date’, (because I’m awesome and I’d date me if I were single). I hit a few shops, watched some dueling pianos, caught the sunset over the Mississippi River, and picked up a gift for Karey and a birthday gift for a friend. On the way back to the hotel, I decided to get some food, but didn’t feel like having anything fancy. When you’re alone, sometimes all you want is something simple. Tonight I thought of something I hadn’t had in awhile: Popeyes Chicken. So I wandered over to Popeyes, walked in, placed my order, and walked back out. Holding my drink and Popeyes bag, I noticed a shorter scrawny gentleman come quickly up to me on my left. “Cocaine man, I got good cocaine”. I shrugged him off, and wandered across the street wondering if dealers with subpar products strategically make fewer promises. As I got nearer to the other side of the street, a security guard from one of the hotels spied me and asked “Hey, are they busy in there tonight?”. I replied “No, they’re pretty open” and she thanked me. 

It was then that it hit me: I looked like a security guard or a bouncer. I had things on my belt, I had a black polo on, I had cargo pants, I had a black baseball cap with some strange number on it, and I had just bought food in between two other similarly dressed gentlemen who were off to work at different places according to their polo shirts. The lady who put my food in my bag at Popeyes asked how my day was – I had replied “Busy”. She replied “The more you do the more you make, huh”. I absentmindedly agreed, despite the fact it isn’t too true for me. I am huge, a trait normally found in private security personnel. As I came into the hotel, I realized that absolutely no one on the street would have guessed I was a professor, or a scientist, or a published author, or a computer programmer. I looked like a security guard, and likely New Orleans local. 

And I’m just fine with that. The point of this long rambling post is simply that joy can be found – true, unabashed joy – in simply being yourself. If you defy classification, than so be it. If you are the epitome of who you’re supposed to be – own that too. Be the professor with the tweed jacket and elbow patches (on a side note: I hardly see those anymore). Be comfortable in your own skin, and let others think what they may. Honestly I like blending in – it means people are more likely to treat me as a peer and tell me their story (After all, that’s why I got into psychology in the first place). Others prefer to stand out, signaling to the world that they are individuals. Both mindsets are perfectly fine. And switching day to day is allowed. What you shouldn’t allow is yourself to be consumed by the tyranny of the shoulds, to use a term from Karen Horney. Be all the bouncer professor you can be.

(But stay away from cocaine, good or bad!)

Chapter 30: Quiet

[nnwm15]

Well, here it is – the last chapter. These last 10 chapters have been on the shorter side, definitely something I’d expand out in a revision. Sometime in early December I’ll be posting an epilogue to the book, so be on the lookout for that. All told this has been 30 days, and 67,167 words. A 172 page paperback. A bit on the short side, but hey, I wrote it in my spare time – which I’m looking forward to having back again! Thanks to everyone who has taken the crazy journey with me! Continue reading “Chapter 30: Quiet”

Chapter 10: Repression

[nnwm15]

 

After that dim, the core group spent much of the next day trying to regain their composure. Ryan and Jamie basically ignored each other, with Sara Beth, G-ma, and Mrs. Corum wishing they could go back to a time before such tension existed in their group. On one hand, they all felt bad for Ryan in that he was an angry soul that nothing in this realm could placate. How could one go about living any sort of normal life in the mind of someone he disliked, with the feeling being very much mutual. On the other hand, Ryan had done very little to ingratiate himself to the group, taking the information he was given and using it to his own ends, seldom trying to work out any of the questions the group still had about this place. He would go off on long walks, now alone since Jamie had decided to stay with the other women. Continue reading “Chapter 10: Repression”

Chapter 9: Escape

[nnwm15]

 

“Come over here”
“Why are you whispering”
“Just follow me”
“I don’t want to”
“Just do it”
“Fine”
“We’re gonna get out of here.”
“How?”
“I have a plan.”
“It will never work.”
“Sure it will – just because they think it won’t you’re gonna believe them? They don’t know everything. They think they do, but they have it all wrong.”
“What makes you so sure you’re right?”
“Because I know how she thinks – I know what she’ll do. I know her better than anybody here.”
“Hey, what about me? I think I know her pretty well!”
“She’s ignored you for years, she’s all about the special one. You’re closer to me than you are to her!”
“No way!”
“Face it, it’s true. You with me or not?”
“What if we get hurt?”
“Well, we might – but eventually we’ll win. We’re stronger. Just stick with me – you’ll see.”
“I hope you’re right about this.”


Julie McKay was an interesting subject to ponder, and for the five people trapped in her mind, she was really the only subject to ponder. Slowly a picture emerged of the average 12 year old girl, written by those who arguably knew her best, the people stuck in her subconscious.

On one hand, you had Julie the ‘good kid’ who had been through ‘rough times’ in the past, as evidenced by the school counselor’s report that passed through Mrs. Corum’s desk months ago. Family was stable, but her mental health wasn’t always. Mood swings, impulsivity, and other issues in slightly higher than normal concentrations.

On another hand, you had Julie the friend and sister, with both Jamie and Sara Beth thinking of her in that regard. An extremely uneasy truce had developed between the girls. Having not met before, they simply had what they had heard of the other to understand their new brain companion. Sara Beth had heard that Jamie was a whiny annoying younger sister who would bother her older sister incessantly. Jamie had heard about the almost-god-like Sara Beth, whom her sister looked forward to seeing each day after school. It wasn’t surprising that neither was that warm to the other.

On yet a third hand, you had Julie the granddaughter, sweet and perpetually stuck at age 4. G-ma knew what she’d been told about her oldest grandchild, but still didn’t quite believe it. She hadn’t ever met her in person at age 12, she’d only experienced the tremors and floods of the mind. It was just easier for G-ma to think of her as 4 rather than 12.

And finally, on the last hand, you had Julie the crazy annoying girl in class. Ryan didn’t know quite why Julie annoyed him so much, but he knew it was insanely enjoyable to torment her. Adult level sadism has nothing on adolescent, and Ryan was merciless in what he would imagine doing to Julie in his mind. As many pranks as he could pull. As many ways to embarrass her in front of the class. As many jabs he could deliver as he saw her eyes begin to melt. Ryan was in control and he loved the power. The only thing that prevented him from executing all of his plans was the fear of getting caught, or worse, the fear of himself being humiliated again in front of his adoring fans and potential victims. To describe Ryan as a bully would be generous to other lesser bullies. He likely wasn’t in their ballpark or even their league.


 

“They’re gonna do it”
“How do you know?”
“I heard them. They didn’t know I was nearby.”
“They think it will work?”
“Yes, they’re pretty convinced. Well, at least one of them is, the other seems reluctant but will go along with it”
“I’m worried”
“About?”
“Well, I don’t think they have a chance in hell of it working. It seems stupid, but also seems incredibly dangerous”
“Why?”
“Think about it. If they do what they say they’re going to do, it’s not going to get them ‘erased’ or ‘repressed’ or anything like that. It’s just going to make her mad. And when she gets mad…”
“Things here get a little crazy”
“Exactly”
“But here’s what troubles me”
“Besides it being dangerous to us all?”
“Yes, besides that. I agree it’s stupid, and it can be dangerous, but in the end, we have absolutely no way to stop them”
“Well, I’ve thought of ways…”
“Now who has a plan that doesn’t have a chance in hell of working”
“Shhh… keep your voice down.”
“They’re in their own little worlds anyway”
“Yep, but they don’t need to hear that we have a plan for fighting back, even if you don’t think it will work”


“Tonight right before it dims, OK?”
“Fine, we’ll try it.”
“You’ll thank me later!”


 

All day there had been an eerie silence among the group. The adults were busy chatting about their previous lives, joking about places they’d traveled and the colossal let downs they’d been. Sara Beth and Sonic sat a bit away from the rest of the group, playing a new game that Sara Beth had developed whereby Sonic wheeled his ball around in time with her guide on the tether. The goal was to see if the taught line on the tether would go slack, as the little hedgehog kept up with the predetermined path of his owner. It wasn’t much, but it was a diversion.

Ryan and Jamie seemed to have an uneasy truce, with Jamie apparently feeling it was better to hang out with her sister’s tormentor than her sister’s best friend. ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’ was apparently the philosophy she had decided to take.

The previous day had been filled with ‘group’ activities in a sense. After the pain incident, Mrs. Corum felt it would be useful for all five of them to sit around that day and discuss their interactions with Julie, and how their actions now might affect her still. Ryan seemed disinterested in much of the conversation, only curious if the older women had ever thought of getting out of this place. Mrs. Corum admitted that she hadn’t given it much thought since she felt it was probably impossible from the moment she arrived, however apparently G-ma had felt differently.

“It was 2 days after I arrived”, G-ma began, “And I was ready to do anything to leave this place. That was the day I realized that I could run here and not feel any pain, any exhaustion, or any need to stop. So I started running. I ran as fast as I could and as far from where I was as I could. I felt there had to be some exit, somewhere, that I could hit. Even if it were a wall, perhaps I could run up against it at full speed so many times it would finally break, or maybe I’d break, either way, the problem would be solved. Thinking back on it now, I passed the light valley we saw the other day, and I probably passed other things that I’ve now long since forgotten. The point is, I ran from dim to dim, day after day, direction after direction, and found nothing. Eventually I decided to just return to my spot, and found that I was only a day away from it. It was at that moment I realized that I couldn’t trust anything here. I could run for days, and then turn around, and be back at the spot I started at in a few hours of walking. I wouldn’t find any walls. I wouldn’t find any doors. It was all the same. The only thing I learned from that experience was that this place does change from time to time. When I came here, the ground was much flatter. The little hills and valleys didn’t really exist. All I can figure is that as Julie grows and matures, so does this place”

Everyone listened to G-ma’s story, even, surprisingly, Ryan. It was as though he realized that his original plan for escape had probably already been disproven. A sullen look came across his face as the conversation turned to the emotional feelings everyone had experienced, likely at the direction of Julie. G-ma realized that the small amount of warmth she had always felt was probably Julie’s familial love after Jamie reported feeling something similar. Blood was thicker than water, after all, and it seemed that even if Julie wasn’t always fond of being with her sister, she still cared a great deal for her. Sara Beth said she reported a similar feeling, but wouldn’t describe it as warmth, more like it was a light embrace. She described it as being tucked into something, a member of a group, which she felt probably was how friends of Julie’s felt.

Ryan, on the other hand, had to be prodded to share his feeling.

“Nothin’”, he muttered.

“Ryan, even though you’re probably not anywhere near Julie’s favorite person, I have a hard time believing that she has no feeling directed toward you. In fact, she probably has a major feeling directed toward you”, Mrs. Corum said.

“Nope, not a thing”, he relayed.

In reality, he was telling more of the truth than they thought. He did feel something, but it was best described as ‘loose ends’. It was a sort of eternal shakiness of the mind – Ryan continually felt as though something small may be off. He’d check his shoes, they’d be tied. He’d run his fingers through his hair, finding it mostly straight. He’d repeat whatever he was planning on saying aloud in his mind, worried that he was on the verge of saying something stupid or incorrect. It was never the feeling that something major was wrong, just a feeling of uneasiness. And it was driving him slowly crazy. He knew he had to find some way out of that subtle disturbing feeling.

So on the next day, when everyone was off doing their own thing, Ryan put a plan in action, recruiting the only one of his companions that wasn’t, in his mind, freaking insane. Jamie had been here with him longer than with the others, and while Jamie loved her grandmother, she also loved the idea of getting out of here. Jamie disliked Sara Beth, so Ryan figured he’d pass on trying to recruit her. And the old women, they’d never go for this plan. They wouldn’t be able to do it.

Shortly before dim, Ryan looked at Jamie, and they began to move farther off from the rest of the group. G-ma and Mrs. Corum didn’t seem to notice, and neither did Sara Beth and her hedgehog. By this point, Ryan and Jamie knew about the fact that sound dampened quickly, but hadn’t learned that Mrs. Corum and G-ma had trained themselves to hear farther than the rest.

As it turned out, they wouldn’t need to hear them to know what they were doing.

“You’re sure this will work”, Jamie asked, for about the seventh or eighth time.

“Yes, stop worrying!”, Ryan replied, “Just follow my lead. We’ll get Julie to push herself to forget about us. And when she does, we certainly won’t be here anymore. I’m hoping that we somehow get pushed back to our own minds, reversing how Julie got us here”.

“When did you get so sure of your scientific theories?”, Jamie asked sarcastically.

“Yesterday night, actually. I figured if there was a way to copy someone, there must be a way to push them back out, or for Julie to get us to copy ourselves back. Something weird like that”.

“You’re just doing this and hoping it works. And I’ll try it with you, but I don’t think it will do anything.”

“Just don’t chicken out”, Ryan said.

After they’d walked far enough that they could barely see the others in the distance, Ryan began his mantra.

He’d been practicing it all day in his mind. He’d remembered a time in 4th grade when another kid had bothered him on the playground. Ryan’s response was to create a sentence that combined all of the insecurities his target had. Realizing that most bullies were childish in their statement, and that the perfect zinger could incapacitate his victim more quickly, Ryan had refined this skill over time. Today he’d thought of all of the things that made Julie different and annoying to him, and he wrapped them all up in a vile, disgusting, sentence that was only correct in grammar, style, and syntax – not in moral or ethical behavior.

Jamie, upon hearing the mantra, was a bit taken aback. It was so cruel and biting that she was almost felt protective of her sister. Ryan motioned to her, and she reluctantly joined in. She felt a bit bad about it, but wanted out of this prison.

Off in the distance, G-ma, Mrs. Corum, and Sara Beth braced themselves for potential trouble. Astonishingly, they could hear what Jamie and Ryan said crystal clear, almost as if it was being broadcast over some mind wide public address system. About a minute into the mantra, the sky began to take on the copperish tone that Mrs. Corum and G-ma had noticed before the previous earthquakes. Sara Beth gripped tightly on to Sonic’s ball, the tether tied around her hand as well. But to the surprise of all five, the sky did not stay copperish in tone – it turned darker and darker, until the only hint of color was a streak of burgundy, with the occasional splotch of scarlet red.

“This can’t be good”, G-ma said.

Off in the distance, Jamie was beginning to waiver in her commitment to the cause.

“I can’t keep doing this”, she said to Ryan, as she ran back to the other 3 group members. G-ma grabbed on to her and held her tight. G-ma wasn’t happy about her granddaughter’s actions, but in the end, she figured there would always be time for a stern talking to after this passed.

Ryan, on the other hand, wasn’t phased in the least by the sky turning colors. He kept on chanting his mantra. Finally after an eternity of time, or so it seemed to the rest of the group, he gave up. As he approached the group, the sky began to revert to it’s normal color. Ryan expected a smug look of satisfaction on G-ma and Mrs. Corum’s face. After all, his plan hadn’t worked. He was stuck here with them. Instead, they looked at him in horror.

“What?”, he said, “I tried to get her to get rid of me. I wanted her to repress me or transfer me back or move me somewhere or something – why would she want me in her mind anyway??”

“Ryan”, Mrs. Corum said slowly, “Look at your arms”.

Holding his arms out in front of him, Ryan flipped his wrists down toward the ground. On the underside of each arm, red welts appeared slowly, starting at the wrist and snaking their way down toward his elbow. Blood appeared to start pouring out.

“I don’t feel anything”, Ryan said, just as Sara Beth shrieked.

They looked at her, and then themselves, just in time to see all of their arms beginning to bleed in the same manner.

“This hasn’t ever happened before”, G-ma said, not in her usual matter of fact tone, but in a tone that betrayed more than just a little bit of concern on her part.

By that point, it was time for the sky to dim again, as usual. As it grew dimmer, the five looked at their arms, hoping to see the bleeding stop.

Suddenly, about an hour after it began, it abruptly stopped. The marks, however, would stay for considerably longer.

Chapter 4: Sara Beth

[nnwm15]

Sara Beth sat in the corner of the room crying, alternating from light sniffles to harder sobs as she tried harder and harder to tuck herself into a ball. She wanted to block out the whole world, and while successful in doing that, she wasn’t very successful in calming herself down. She never had actually gotten this particular method of coping to work well – she might push herself into a tight, small, space, but her problems remained as overwhelmingly large as possible.
It had been utterly cruel of her friend to say those things to her. All over some silly argument. Sara Beth grasped at the tether looped around her hand, tugging slightly on it to make sure she still felt resistance. She did, and it reassured her slightly in between hysterics. At least he wouldn’t betray her trust.
It had all started 5 minutes ago. The two girls had been playing with Sara Beth’s pet hedgehog, Sonic. Sara Beth never did quite understand why her parents felt it would be a fitting name for the hedgehog – it was something related to an old video game – but she was so happy to have a pet that she was alright with her dad trumping the naming rights. He had brought home little Sonic to her a few months before, along with all the appropriate hedgehog gear. Sonic was a friendly hedgehog, despite his spikes, and Sara Beth had become a good parent to Sonic, rarely holding him in the wrong way, rarely seeing the business end of his most prevalent defense mechanism. Sonic seemed to like Sara Beth, although one wouldn’t know how exactly to tell that from a hedgehog’s demeanor. Perhaps it was the way he would roll his little ball near to her when he was ready to go home to his cage, or the look on his face when she smiled at him (At least she saw a look on his face, others told her she was nuts). His ball had a small hole in which a tether could be looped. It made sure he didn’t roll too far away, and was very useful when your eyes are so full of tears you wouldn’t be able to see your new best friend rolling away after like your former best friend had.
“She’s jealous”, Sara Beth thought in her mind. “Jealous of Sonic and jealous of having a pet – her parents would never allow it!”. Each time Sara Beth would take Sonic out and let him play in his ball, her supposed best friend would try to snatch him away, play with him a bit too rough, or lightly push the ball around, throwing Sonic into a bit of confusion.
5 minute earlier, Sara Beth had had enough. Poor Sonic seemed disoriented and dizzy after being unceremoniously pushed by her friends foot.
“You can’t do that!!!”, she screamed as she snapped the tether onto the ball, in essence keeping Sonic tied to one spot, “He doesn’t like that!”
“How do you know – he looks like he likes playing with his Auntie”, came the sing-song reply of her friend.
“You play too rough with him, he’ll get hurt!”
“It’s fine Sara Beth, you worry too much. I wouldn’t do anything to hurt him… unless you made me really mad”, she said with a sly smile that Sara Beth couldn’t tell the true intent of. 99% sure it was a joke, but not 100%.
“You don’t care about him… you just want to play rough. And… and…. you don’t care about me! If you did you wouldn’t do it”
“That’s not true!”
“Yes it is”
“No it’s NOT”
“YES IT IS”
“NO IT’S NOT!!!”
Sara Beth mustered all of her courage and proclaimed:
“I HATE YOU! YOU AREN’T MY FRIEND ANYMORE! GO AWAY AND DON’T EVER BOTHER ME OR SONIC AGAIN!!!”.
She then tumbled to the floor while the other girl ran away.
Almost immediately, she regretted her words and actions. She was constantly told at school to act like an adult, but the impulsiveness of a child was still present at her age, and in this case it may have cost her a friendship she’d had for years. They’d practically grown up together, and while so often these spats resolved themselves, this was the first time either had used the H word. She hoped she’d hear her friend return and say something, anything, that would make things normal again. A long while passed and no timid small voice broken into Sara Beth’s balled up figure. This likely fueled her hysterical sobs that punctuated the silent sniffling in the empty classroom.
Eventually, she decided it was time to move on. To raise her head and get ready to go home. While she was old enough to be a ‘latchkey’ child, her parents were skeptical of how she’d do alone, so each day they dropped her, and Sonic, off at an after school program. They’d do some art projects, read stories, and have time at the end to work on whatever they like. From time to time, though, even the older kids like Sara Beth would have a breakdown, evidence that they weren’t quite yet the teenagers they aspired to be.
To her surprise, when she lifted her head, the room was darker than she remembered it. As her eyes focused, she began to realize that not only was it darker, it also wasn’t even the same room.
“Hello?!?”, Sara Beth called out, wondering if in her hysterics someone had come and taken her to another part of the school. She looked down and saw Sonic, still in his ball, still securely attached to her wrist. At least wherever she was, she had a true friend with her. Sonic looked up at Sara Beth in confusion.
Slowly she rose to her feet. Sara Beth hadn’t yet experienced her growth spurt that the others had begun to endure. Her small frame still spoke of childhood, not adolescence. It seemed to fit her well. Her blue eyes pierced through her pale complexion, hair neatly pulled back in the same pony tail that her mom had been putting it in for years. She wore her school uniform, today consisting of a simple red cotton dress, which sharply contrasted with the gray scenery around her.
She spent a few minutes wandering around before it hit her: She wasn’t at the school anymore. She wasn’t anywhere that she’d ever been before. She wasn’t anywhere that she’d ever heard about before.
She sat back down on the ground and tried her best to ball herself back up in the way she had been before, crossing her fingers. But when she looked back up she didn’t find herself magically back in the classroom, she was still in the barren abyss. Pushing her head back, she let out a long wail. The sobbing had returned.


 

“What should we do today, Sonic?”, Sara Beth asked her prickly friend. Sonic looked up at her, but failed to answer. The sky had undimmed and Sara Beth could make out the familiar splotch of gray that appeared almost directly over the spot she liked to sit in, the same spot she had been sitting in when she arrived.
“I’m so glad I have a way to keep track of you”, Sara Beth continued, “You’d be so easy to lose here”. Indeed Sonic’s grayish colors would act like natural camouflage if it weren’t for the ball made of light pink plastic that he lived in most of the time. When it got close to dim, Sara Beth would often take Sonic out and let him walk around the circle of ground enclosed by Sara Beth’s arms. She figured he needed his exercise, although he never stretched the way he used to when she took him out of the ball. Maybe he wasn’t as stiff.
It had been about a 2 weeks since Sara Beth had arrived. In that time she’d progressed through several emotional stages. For about the past 3 day/dim cycles she’d been mostly stable, and now found that talking to Sonic relaxed her.
“Maybe today we’ll go for a walk again”, Sara Beth proposed, “We’ll go see that spot that looks like a dinosaur before we come back here and wait.”
Waiting was all she could think of doing. If somehow she had been taken to this place, then somehow she could be taken away, right? It seemed so simple. The universe dumps you in a strange land you’ve never seen, somehow it should dump you back out. Maybe this was a crazy dream.
“You know Sonic, we have to wait right here, so that they’ll know where to find us”, she said with a forced smile, “What’s that? No, they’ll come back! I’m sure they miss us. Yes, even her – she’ll come back soon, and I’ll even let her be your Aunt again – I know she just made a mistake when she rolled you that last time”.
Sonic hadn’t eaten in 2 weeks, but of course, neither had Sara Beth. Sonic hadn’t slept, but neither had Sara Beth. Sonic hadn’t wept, but Sara Beth certainly had. Even on her ‘good’ days she still spent a good deal of time crying in some way. The long wails and sobs had subsided, but now the subtle tears of loss and longing had taken over.
Sara Beth’s parents were both busy people who loved her, but had very little time for her. Her father, an overworked police officer, was one of the most dependable people on the force. This meant he often was corralled into taking on double shifts, arriving home either right as Sara Beth had to go to sleep, or right as she was leaving for school. Every 9 weeks, when the school quarter ended, provided she got good grades, she got to ride along with him in his police cruiser for a special date with her handsome police officer dad. That was supposed to be three days ago, but the date never happened. She imagined him looking for her, missing their special ritual just as she did.
Her mom worked as a line supervisor at a local factory. She got off work around 5 PM daily and would pick Sara Beth up and go run errands. Some nights they’d go to the pet store to pick up something for Sonic. Other nights they’d just go home where Sara Beth would help her mom make dinner. She was old enough to start learning the sacred recipes her mother guarded with her life. Yesterday she was supposed to learn the secret to her mother’s sugar cookies.
“They wouldn’t leave me”, she told herself as the sky dimmed each night, “They’re looking for me”
“They’ll find me.”
Three statements she’d repeat time and time again, only to see the sky brighten each morning without a visit from her parents. The memory of them the only thing she could hold on to. Sometimes if she listened really intently, she’d hear something that sounded like voices in the distance, but they never came closer.
Sara Beth and Sonic had begun their daily walk, out over the small hill toward the place in the sky that looked remarkably like a T-Rex, if you looked at it the right way.
“It’s safe, Sonic”, Sara Beth would reassure her little companion as he rolled alongside her, “They’ll certainly wait at the spot for us if we’re not there, besides, it’s good to get out”. She had no idea if that were true – maybe it was good, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it was the only thing that stopped her crying.
When they’d reached the T-Rex, Sara Beth noticed something she hadn’t before. The T-Rex was changing color. It was almost brownish, as opposed to the gray it had been.
“Something must be happening today!”, Sara Beth said to Sonic, “I bet it’s Mom and Dad! I bet they’re coming to find me. The T-Rex is telling me that’s true”. Sara Beth needed no further proof that this was true. What else could it be?
Sara Beth raced back to her spot. But all that awaited her was a rain storm. She picked Sonic’s ball up and held it close to her chest, keeping him dry from the rain as it poured forth. The rain started slowly, but it gradually increased in magnitude and force.
“What if this is punishment, Sonic?”, Sara Beth said, as water streamed down her cheeks.
“What if this is what happens when you push away your best friend? I wish I could tell her that I was sorry. I wish I could tell her that I didn’t mean what I said. I wish I could take it all back and see her again. I’d let her play with you – I know she wouldn’t be too rough. I’d invite her along with Dad and I – she’d be so excited to ride in a police car. I’d teach her how to make Mom’s cookies. It could be like it was”
Sonic looked up at Sara Beth, but even Sara Beth couldn’t infer emotion in his little face. As Sara Beth thought about her friend, momentarily focusing on their friendship and the fight, the ran slowly stopped. The sky returned to it’s normal shade, and Sara Beth looked out from her huddled mass covering Sonic and his ball.
It was at that moment that the most magical thing happened. It was the thing that would keep Sara Beth from almost certain insanity in the days to come. It was the thing that gave her hope that this world wasn’t as bleakly depressing as it appeared.
As she sat there, Sara Beth began to feel a warm feeling from within her. It was as if she was covered in a warm blanket. All of her worries about her parents and her friend evaporated along with the rain, and she swore that when she looked down at Sonic, he was smiling at her, his little snout pointed up so she could see the curve of his mouth. Suddenly she didn’t care if her parents ever found her. She didn’t care if she were stuck in this world forever. In that moment, everything seemed perfect and right, to the point she even wondered what she had been worried about moments earlier. The sky brightened, and Sara Beth could swear that it looked like a glorious yellow sun might come out from behind the thick gray wall. Slowly Sara Beth stood up, extending her arms out. She prayed this feeling would never end.

Chapter 2: G-ma

[nnwm15]

Mrs. Corum stood there, blinking several times to be sure she was seeing what she thought she saw. There sitting before her was a woman, slightly older than herself, knitting. Well, she would have been knitting, if she had actually had yarn or knitting needles, but her fingers moved in concert as if they were present. The woman sat on the ground, legs crossed, hands busy with their imaginary handiwork. She wore a scarlet handmade sweater, and simple black slacks. House slippers adorned her feet. Her face showed the signs of age, with her wispy grey hair loosely framing features.

“I’m sorry if I startled you”, the old woman said. Mrs. Corum stood there, still not saying anything.

“Please, come sit down with me”, the woman continued.

Continue reading “Chapter 2: G-ma”

Chapter 1: Mrs. Corum

[nnwm15]

 

I hope you enjoy this story. In it we are introduced to Mrs. Corum, a lovely person, albeit a tired person. I haven’t decided on a title for this project yet, so for now we’ll just go with the Chapter titles. This is part 1 of 30. Happy NaNoWriMo!

Mrs. Corum opened her eyes and yawned. She barely remembered the previous night, no doubt one punctuated by grading papers and planning lessons. One wouldn’t think that 6th grade could be as hectic as the 2nd graders she’d left a few years back, but it surely was. At least the kids were a little less rambunctious, on most days. Nights felt like they were sent from God in heaven – a time away from the noise and activity. She could rest in her bed, away from the job and the world, for a blissful 8 (or more commonly, 5) hours.

Continue reading “Chapter 1: Mrs. Corum”

Announcing Jon’s National Novel Writing Month 2015 Project: A Serial Novel You Can Read Here!

Several weeks ago I sat with a group of students and asked them to think about all the things they had going on in their lives. I had a list of my own, which numbered around 28 items (The students actually helped me remember a few things I had left off!). We talked about commitment, overcommitment, and trying to avoid commitment. However as evidenced by the fact that you’re reading this prologue and will be reading the subsequent novel, I suspect you know that I was less than successful in my effort to avoid taking on new projects. At precisely the wrong time in my life (as if there is ever a right time), I’ve decided to devote a good chunk of time toward writing this piece of fiction, to be published serially, during National Novel Writing Month, 2015. While it’s not exactly November yet, I did get up this morning with a great idea, and have my 2,000 word outline ready to go.
As part of the fun this year, I’ve decided to publish my novel serially though the blog you’re reading right now. Starting tomorrow, November 1, I’ll be posting a new chapter a day. I’ve got 30 of them outlined that I just have to… you know… write… and I’m excited to share my story with you (Which, as of now, doesn’t have a name… might look for one later today). So get ready for some original work, starting tomorrow morning!