2188572

Men Having Babies?

I remember freshman year when I had this long, drawn out debate with my roommate Tighe about whether it would be ethical for science to allow men to have babies. He objected saying it was unnatural (though he supported cloning). Ironically, it seems cloning could make human reproduction sans women a possibility. Check out this article http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2001/01/31/eggs/index.html.

2188157

On “Welfare Mothers”

Whilst reading about the increase in the 70’s and 80’s of unemployment rates due to structural unemployment due to increasing numbers of women and youth in the workforce (due to increasing opportunity costs related to women staying in the home due to increasing costs in housing) and about “welfare mothers” being considered by some to be part of the “phantom unemployed” as they are considered unemployed even though they don’t really want to find work (making token efforts at job finding to continue to obtain income transfers from the government), I came to a conclusion. Underprivalaged women are put at a terrible double standard which in turn subjectsunderprivalaged children to a double standard of their own. If one thinks about it, the upper middle class and upper class, particularly those prescribing to right wing political oppinions are perhaps some of the biggest proponents of women remaining in traditional homemaking, child-rearing roles rather than entering the work force. Certainly they advocate offering this choice. Consider the frequent rhethoric of what I would deem the conservative feminist who expounds on the fact that traditional in-home roles of women are every bit as demanding and rewarding as a career. However, when a women is poor, single, and a minority the response quickly becomes “get a job!” This seems terribly unfair. I think few would argue that the term “welfare mother” has a negative connotation, however, when one examines the actual position of a “welfare mother”, one quickly sees that a “welfare mother” is nothing more than someone who would rather spend time in the home caring for her children than enter the workforce. Why would a situation supporting such a traditional “family” value be so looked down upon in society? The motivations for such hypocrisy are unclear, but the implications are extremely lucid. This sets up an incredibly unfair double standard.

Mothers who come from middle/upper class backgrounds are not neccessarily forced to choose between parenting and financial stability. A women could have sufficient education and skills so as to obtain enough financial stability to sustain her through the years that she choses to stay home with a child. Similarly, I would argue that most middle/upper class women are in a position where the household could be sustained financially by the income of her partner (though this seems to be rapidly changing). Also, upper/middle class women have increased access to situations that allow their partners to take an increased role in parenting so they can pursue their careers. Finally, they have increased access to quality child care so that they can insure their child’s happiness and continued development if they choose or are forced to enter the workforce or obtain additional education.

For a “welfare mother”, however, the choice between parenting and career is zero sum. As many are single, they cannot be supported by another income. The cruelest irony, however, is that if an underprivalged women decides to enter the job market, her lack of skills, coupled with gender based wage inequality ensures that she will make only a subsistance income. If she wishes to obtain additional education or training to improver her standard of living, she must still make the same parenting trade off. As high quality child care is virtually inaccesible to underprivalaged women, the negative impacts of the womens situation are only compounded.

While the odds stacked against a “welfare mother” are certainly great, it is her children who are the real victims. I would argue that children benefit greatly from a fostering, nuturing environment. The hikes, story time, trips to the museum and library, and later nursery school certainly gave my brother and I a distinct advantage over other children. I think that a clear correlation can be drawn between children who had a great deal of parental interaction and quality child care as young children and children who succeed later in life. By forcing underprivalaged women into the work force (to avoid the “welfare mother ” stigma, as well as to maintaing government support), we are depriving their children of great opportunity and ensuring that they will continue to be part of this cycle of inequality. The cruelest reality, however, is that the amount of money that underprivalaged women make when they move off welfare (and therefore sacrifice time with their children) is so little that they cannot offer the benefits of increased economic prosperity to their children. Their children are, in effect, doubly screwed.

What can society do about this problem? First, quality child care needs to be accessable to all children, regardless of economic standing. Also, employers and educational institutions must make it easier for mothers and fathers to juggle career and parenting. Finally, the social stigma assigned to underprivaleged women who choose to focus on parenting should be removed. Government support via welfare is a small price to pay for increased opportunity for children. If conservatives truly value women taking a more traditional, child-rearing role, they ought to support it across the board, and not just for the wealthy.

2173831

Distributed Philanthropy

Unfortunately, most of my posts to this journal have been very blippy. I just don’t have time to write at length, as most of that time has gone towards writing my ex-principal about a proposed plan to elect a student to the school board. I might write more on this later, or just publish the e-mail dialogue. Anyway, I just came across this site in Wired, and it’s pretty cool. The site is http://www.fightaidsathome.com, and it is the web site for a group that is trying to use distributed computing technology similar to distributed.net or SETI@home to help research potential AIDS drugs. The most interesting thing, is that this isn’t entirely a non-profit venture. The company, Entropia, dedicates a portion of the computer crunching to for-profit ventures. While this could lead to some scary conflict of interest scenerios, overall, I am really thrilled about the whole profit for a purpose idea. It’s gotten me thinking about what other applications could use a distributed computing model to achieve a greater good. Also, the massive donations received to upgrade blogger, have started me thinking about how groups trying to achieve positive social change in society can obtain funding.

2111365

Quote of the Week

“Don’t tell me they’re gonna let the audience fucking stand out there! Seriously! This is retarded!”

— Britney Spears, having a hissy backstage at the Rock in Rio concert last week.

1967137

Promises

They promised me that college would be different. That I would just have to play this stupid high school game for four years and then it would be over. I would be free, I would be enlightened, I would be thrown in amidst people like me. I just had to stick things out a little longer until I got the reward. Things would be different.

Things aren’t different. As much as I hated high school, as much as I saw all the good teachers burn out and give up and most of my friends burn out and give up, I was, for the most part happy. Now, I am completely unhappy. Now, I see that there is no escape, I see the cruel light of reality. Now, I see that life really is like high school. You can’t escape it. It’s like high school++. The cliques, the drugs, the booze, the kids who don’t care about becoming better, or making the world better. It’s all there, across america, on the majority of college campuses. But the worst part is, college is like training for the real world. All the evils that I see around me are the evils of society. There is no more bright future to look upon. I am committed to 50 years of bleak reality.

Can I make it on my own? Can I become better than I am, can I survive, thrive, do well, despite my environment, just like I did in High School? Yes, that is what I must do. Still, I feel betrayed. They all promised that things would be better. That for four years I would find a respite from stupidity and ignorance, that I might find people like me who I could surround myself in and feel happy, and safe, and free. I’ve always had to make it on my own. I’ve always had to defend my decisions and ideals from all sides, and its tiring. I just wish, just for a little bit, that I could have a couple of things that go my way. I’m tired of fighting, I’m tired of being alone, but I’m not going to compromise the only things that make me worth anything as a person.

They said things would be different. They’re not.
They said life would be better. It’s not.
They hung the future in front of me, a golden reward, like a carrot before a carriage horse. After I toiled, and sweated, spurring myself on, when I got the carrot it was rotten and soiled.
The promise was a fucking lie.

1958202

The Morning After

Umm, yeah, for most college kids I suppose the phrase the morning after has some sort of conneciton to massive alcohol consumption or sexual impropriety. I guess for me, partaking in neither of the aforementioned activities, it takes on a different conotation. It’s just that when I have fun, when I have a really nice experience, I’m completely incapable of just saying “gee, that was fun. That was great.” and just being happy with that. I’m always reminded, or perhaps, I always remind myself how fleeting moments like that are and I find myself terribly sad.

Yesterday afternoon I had a practice debate round with Varu and I think I beat her even though she defintiely out spoke me. We hung out for a while at my house and I gave her some echinatia [sp?] tea as she is fighting illness. I feel so akward every time I bring someone by the house who isn’t in my big friend group, It’s just kind of weird. So then we picked up her friend Erin who I know from a couple of CIS classes, and went to this nice vegan restaurant in town called Dragonfly. They have a very limited menu, and are pretty expensive, but the place is excellent. The service was very good, we had this really funny sort of sissy waiter who took the time to explain everything to us and our water glasses were always full. I ordered this dish that was seitan w/ carrots, celery, and onions in a faux wine/meat sauce topped with horseradish mashed potatos. It was super filling and really, really good. I don’t get out much in Columbus, but it’s nice to know that when I do get out, at least there is one place that I can feel like it’s mine. The prices put it behind Singapore Vegetarian Chinese as my all time favorite restaurant, but it’s a close second.

So, after we ate, it was really funny eating actually, because Varu and Erin are very childish together and like sharing food off of each other’s plates and stuff. It’s really funny, if I didn’t know them, I’d probably take them for a really cute lesbain couple or something, I don’t know. It’s good to have friends that you can just have good inoccent fun with though, I think that’s really important. So after we ate, we went back to Erin’s and just hung out and talked. It was pretty cool, I hope I didn’t monopolize the conversation too much. It’s weird they were very inclusive, I just hope that I wasn’t like a third wheel. Varu and Erin are really good friends and I don’t think they get to hang out very much so I hope that I wasn’t getting in the way. So we hung out and talked about life, relationships, books, This American Life (yay!), and whatnot. It’s cool to have really good conversations, I liked it a lot. I don’t know, it seems that I converse/get along better with girls these days. At school, I guess I don’t really have any super close guy friends.

So yeah, basically I had a really fun night. I like eating good vegan food, and I like just sitting around talking with smart people. The thing that I guess I just can’t get over is that it seems so temporary. I only have experiences like that every once in awhile. It also makes me feel lonely in the relationship sense. Hanging out with girls is hard like that. It’s not as though I am sad because these girls are my friends and not my girlfriends. In fact, I’m totally satisfied with our relationship as friends. The thing is, I’m sitting and having what I think are some pretty good conversations, having a great time, but at the same time I’m just thinking, this is what I would want a romantic relationship to be like. So what’s the difference, if I can get the stuff that matters to me from non-romantic relationships, why is it so hard? I don’t know. I can’t put my finger on it. I’d like to think that’s its something other than just the primal urge for possession, to have an amazing girl that I don’t have to share with anybody, but who know’s, beneath it all, I could just be a really tired, simple man. However, I think it’s more that I want to be desired. Like it’s one thing to have people who like you and respect you as a friend and I think you can have really deep and intimate friendships, but I think its something else to be desired. I dunno, it’s hard to say that’s what I want as I don’t think I’ve ever been sought after by any girl that really mattered, but I just think it would be really nice to have some girl just be totally smitten with me. Not the image that society makes of me, not the false bravado that I try to wrap myself up in, but the real me, the one with all it’s imperfections and flaws. I just want a girl who can recognize that despite all the bullshit that I throw about, the arguments, the constant verbal sparring, the neurotic comments, the anger, that I’m trying really hard to be the best person I can be, I’m trying really hard to leave some lasting positive impression on this world and I just think it would be nice to meet someone who recognizes that and brings out the best in me. (wow, that sounded incredibly sappy). Basically, in the end, even after a night of hanging out with people I really like (in terms of friendship), I still feel very alone.

1845399

The Writing Game

Over break Peter taught Tim and I this game, which, for lack of a better title, I call the writing game. It’s not really a game, in the sense of having a winner or loser, but it’s a good way to get people thinking and having fun (“hey guys, lets sit around and write short fiction” usually doesn’t work too well). The rules of the game are simple. One person picks the title. Another person picks the first sentence, and another person picks the last sentence. Then all the players have 10-30 minutes to write a story with the given title, first sentence, and last sentence. It really is fun, and it is my new favorite game to play. I haven’t written fiction in so long, and it felt really good to get my mind working in that way again. Below are some of the stories that I have written over the course of winter break. Enjoy.

HOT CAJUN CRUNCH MIX

“Big booty Hos!” The spearkers blasted the rude rap lyrics, base bass sounds falling dead against the walls of the darkened room. Sam shifted his gaze momentarily to the ray of light peeking through the closed shades of his windows before returning it back to the bare, colorless walls. He didn’t remember turning the radio on, hell, he didn’t even lik rap music, but it was better than silence. It seemed that was what filled his life now. Racous noise, any noise, anything to fill the silent void that seemt to have hung over his house, his life for almost a year. He listened as a note played, disrupting the song. He stopped and listened carefully. No, it wasn’t a note from the radio, it was the doorbell.

Sam slowly pshed himself off of his bed and trudged wearily down the stairs. The living room, like his bedroom, was still dead and shrouded in artificial darkness save for a few bands of light holding particles of dust captive in their rays. Captive, silent. The room was sterile, not the room of a young family, but like that of his grandparents when he had visited them long ago. The bell rang once more as Sam quickened his steps across the room and to the door. He opened it just as he saw a small green clad figure turning to leave down the porch steps.

“Hey, what do you want?” he called after her.

“Oh, someone’s home,” the young girl replied. “I wasn’t even sure if anyone even lived here.”

“Well, yeah, we live here,” Sam replied. “What’s up?”

“I’m selling snacks for my girl scout troop. Would you like to buy some? We have, umm, cookies, obviously, and some other stuff.”

“Do you really like to wear that uniform?” asked Sam.

“Well, not really,” blushed the girl, her eyes darting furtively as if her words had somehow betrayed some solemn vow. She smiled, “yeah, I guess its kinda goofy. It makes me feel like a little kid. I mean, I’m almost eleven. It’s ok though. A couple of my friends are in girl scouts with me and we have fun on camping trips and stuff.” “Umm,” she blushed again. “Sometimes we’ll go sneak off and hang out with the boys at other campsites. Last time one of the boys gave me a cigaretter, it was kind of gross. I didn’t really like it.”

“Well, smoking’s a bad hait,” Sam replied, the pack of Camels hidden in his pocket suddenly feeling heavier than lead. “You shouldn’t do it.”

“Yeah,” replied the girl.

“Yeah,” said Sam, smiling a little.

“So, umm, my mom is the one who usually buys this shi–, err stuff, but she’s not here right now,” said Sam.

“Oh,” replied the girl, pouting slightly.

“But, umm, what’s the cheapest thing you have?”

“Well,” said the girl, “there’s this cajun crunch mix. It’s only four dollars.”

“Ok, put me down for one of those,” he said, his hand fishing through his pocket for four crumpled bills. He handed the bills to the girl adn her pout now turned to a smile. “It’s so easy for them,” he thought, “no worries, no idea of what’s lying ahead, and no cares even if they did have an idea.”

“Thanks,” smiled the girl. “Hey,” she asked, “do you have a little sister my age or something? I saw a girl’s bike propped up against the garage.”

“No,” the boy paused, “that belonged to someone who used to live hear. I guess she just left it.”

“Oh,” replied the girl. “I guess I should get going. I still have a lot of stuff to sell if I want to go to camp this summer.”

“Okay,” said Sam. “It was nice meeting you.” “Oh yeah,” he called as she walked away, “stay away from those cigarettes.

Sam walked back into his house and shut the door. The room was dark and still once again. He walked towards the stairs but paused as he noticed a beam of light reflecting off of the glass covering of an embroidery piece hanging framed on the wall. It read, “From whence we have learned, the knowledge we have perceived to use in a world such as ours.”

BACK PAGE

So there I was, naked behind the strip club. Well, not completely naked, but it is doubtful that the ragged strips of cloth that now hung on my body would be considered clothes by anyone. My overcoat, the only article of clothing that had survived the incident intact was now covering the tiny, shivering, mass crouched behind the dumpster.

“Damn her,” I thought, “damn her to hell.”

I had often spoke ill of my college’s school paper. “Juvenile drivel!” I would often shout as the others in the lecture hall would roll their eyes or avert their glance. But when a friend finally became tired of my whining, she dared me to join the paper and do something about it. It was then that I realized how time consuming it is to publish a paper, drivel or not. The reviews of the awful bar bands, the openings of trite plays directed by anorexic black clad theatre majors, the petty debates over tuition hikes, that became my world for the quarter. It seemed there was little opportunity for muckraking at the school paper. Hell, this place was really as boring as we all complained. I wanted to write something powerful, something that would expose some great social injustice, some horrible wrong. Sure, there were things like binge drinking, cheating, probably things like rape too, but that was old-hat. Rather, it seems, that most of my peers had grown callous to these issues, as I myself had only smirked at the half-hearted attempts of past college journalists to decry these everyday attrocities. So, I was sitting at my desk in my room, trying to finish up some write-up of the football team’s latest victory when I got a call from Tom. Tom was one of my ex-fraternity brothers that I had known the last year before I decided that my 2.5 grade point average probably wouldn’t get me into even the most mediocre gradauate school.

“Hey Tom. What’s happening?” I asked in a bored tone.

“Aww, nawthing much,” he replied, his speech slow and slurred. “Whh-Whassup dawg, a hehe?”

“Not much,” I replied. It seemed even three years of higher education hadn’t made much of a mark on this boy.

“Umm, me an somofda guys, uhh, we were gonna go to that strip club in town, and I was like, hey why don’t I call Mark, he was always one for the ladies. So, choo wanna come?”

I sat for a moment. Now I’m no angel. I’ve fucked my share of girls and have sat impassionately through my share of porno movies, but had never been to a strip club. It always seemed too real for me. It was easy to watch the debauchery while on my couch, but it seemed that it would be harder to escape real images of flesh and lust. “What the hell, I’ll be over in 10.” I heard myself reply into the mouthpiece of the phone. Oh well, I thought. Maybe I could get a story out of it. “Ha,” I laughed to myself as I pictured the headline. “College males flock to local strip club.” Considering the content of our paper though, it could probably even get printed, at least on the back page.

I walked down the snowy streets of the town, branches lining the streets seeming like the arms and fingers of corpses. I quickened my step as I jammed my hands deeper into my coat pockets. Past the drugstore, the bookstore, the coffeehouse, all closed at this hour. I turned the corner, off the brightly lit street of cookie-cutter commercialism and walked a few blocks more, my mind noting the marked change in scenery that came with only a few hundred yards of distance. As I went over the crest of the hill I saw the old neon sign below. It read, “Live ude Gils”. As I neared the bar I noticed Tom and another boy I had known playfully punching each other and throwing snow. Tom noticed me and shouted, “hurry up you faggot, let’s go see some titties.” I stifled my laughter and went into the smoky bar. I looked around. The three of us were the youngest inhabitants of the bar by a good twenty years. Most of the men were old enough to be my father, hell, my grandfather even. I sat down as an overweight girl, fat spewing forth from her two sizes to small skirt, came to take our drink orders. I looked then, for the first time at the stage. It was a sad site indeed. The women on the stage was far from the breathless harlets of my pornography collection. No, she was older, at least thirty, beutiful once, to be sure, but her sorry form now telling a story of too many late nights and hard years. She moved slowly and deliberately, her slithering form and pouted lips almost a parody of eroticism. “Come on, take it off,” shouted a man, seemingly clad entirely in free Marlboro clothing, as he spilled beer on himself resulting in a fit of laughter. “Yeah,” spouted Tom’s friend, “take it all off.” Tom leaned over to me and said, appologetically, “don’t worry, it gets better. They always put the old bags on first, you’ll get to see some hot ass all right, just wait.” He looked at his friend again, and then they both started laughing, “Take it off baybeeee, take it all off.” The pumping, bad house music faded and the lights dimmed. I returned my gaze back to the stage as the men up front began to howl, their voices now no longer even reminiscent of the basest human instincts. Their voices were bestial, something less than human. As they whistled and laughed, a slight figure, wearing what, had it a few more yards of fabric, would have passed as a dark blue evening gown. She sauntered up to the pole in the middle of the stage and smiled viciously at the men in the front of the room. Quickly deftly, she straddled the pole and then spun rapidly around it, the gown somehow falling, as if it were liquid, from her pale flesh. As she turned again to face the meager audience her eyes burned with false passion. But as I looked, I noticed the fatigue behind the facade of lust. As she tossed her long blond hair and arched her back, thus forcing her prominent breasts to protrude even further to the delight of the old leches, and my companions, I came to a sudden realization. I knew this girl.

I didn’t even remember her name, but she had been in some of my classes freshmen year. She had struck me as odd. She wore the makeup and the designer clothes that were so popular of the prettier college girls, but at the same time, her gaze always maintained that strange intensity, that seriousness. It lacked the bored, blank, emptiness of many of the girls in the class, and also the flirtatiousness possessed by the rest as they stole glances at the football players carrying on in the back. I had even been to her dorm room as we had been assigned to work on some project together. I remember that she had ignored my attempts at gentility, she was all business.

I returned my gaze to her as she twisted and writhed in mock ecstacy, her form now completely naked, a small pile of bills already formed before her pulsating figure like an offering to some dark goddess. For a moment our eyes met, and I saw a look of shocked recognition, but it only lasted for a moment, before it turned to a sneer of contempt. I quickly averted my eyes, as did she before sprawling onto the floor of the stage, beckoning to one of the drooling audience members. “See,” spoke Tom, “I told you we’d get to see a nice piece of ass.” “Did you hit that shit?” asked his friend. “Naw,” he said, “but you better believe I’m gonna.” They both laughed. “What about you? I bet you would like to fuck her,” said Tom as he turned to me. I remained silent. “Ha,” laughed his friend, “I bet he’s just a faggot.” They both laughed. The music had stopped and a cadre of scantilly clad girls suddenly appeared to refill the glasses of the customers. “We’re going to go across the street and get some forties, this place is too damn expensive,” said Tom. “Yeah, some fotaayys,” giggled his friend in horribly done ebonics. “Ok,” I said, “I’ll wait here.”

“Suit yourself,” said Tom.

I got up and walked to the bathroom. I went to the sink and washed my hands. Suddenly feeling excessively dirty, I splashed water on my face. It didn’t do much good. I still felt dirty. I exited the bathroom and was rounding the corner when I ran into the girl who had just danced on stage. “Hey,” I said. “Do you remember me, I think we were in the same English class or something.”

“Oh,” she replied, her words dull and cold.

“You know,” I said, “most girls get a part time job at the library or the mall.”

“Well,” she said, her words still cold, but now twinged with a dangerous sharpness, “some girls don’t have parents who buy them SUVs for their birthday, and don’t give them cash so they can spend it galavanting around strip bars.”

“Ouch,” I thought as she pushed past me.

I returned to my table in the bar. Another girl was strutting up on the stage illiciting another round of whoops and cat calls. She was beutiful, but at the same time lifeless, plastic, like a real-life Barbie doll. Her eyes seemed to be little more than painted glass. They seemed to lack any emotion whatsoever, neither lust nor contempt.

I waited for another 15 minutes for my companions but they never returned. I paid the waitress, both for my drinks and theirs, and then turned toward the exit. I was almost to the door when, overcome by sudden embarresment, I turned and walked back trhough the bar to the rear exit. I openned the heavy metal door and as the door swung open, I was struck both with the harshness of the frigid air and with the sounds of drunken laughter breaking the silence of the night. I turned to see Tom and his friend standing over a body crouched against the wall.

“Come on, yeah give it to me. Yeah, I saw the way you were looking at me in there. I know you want it.” Tom panted, pressing the shuddering figure up against the wall.

“Leave her alone, lets get out of here,” I shouted.

“Oh, come on, we’re just having some fun. Aren’t we baby?” he grunted.

“I said leave her alone,” I said more forcefully this time. I moved towards them. “Walk away,” I thought. “Just walk away.” I kept moving towards them.

“Oh, I’m sorry, how rude of me,” Tom said as his friend broke into a series of guffaws. “I didn’t offer you any.” More laughter. “Do you want a turn on her? Sorry that you’ll be getting sloppy seconds, but I saw her first.”

“Get the fuck away from her,” I shouted, my steps turned to a jog.

“See,” laughed Tom’s friend, “I told you he was a faggot.”

I reached the group, and grabbed Tom, trying to move his massive form from off the girl. “What’s the problem faggot? You got a problem with a couple of guys just having some fun?” spouted Tom’s friend, drenching me in saliva and tobacco juice.

I didn’t even respond. I pushed him to the ground and becan to kick him. My blows falling heavy against his ribs, his neck, his head.

The panting behind me had stopped I turned and saw, to my horror, the girl from my class. Her lips parted, as if to scream, but no sound came forth. Tom turned to me, and spoke, suddenly sober, “hey, I thought we were friends.” I tried to block the blows which came next. I think I might have gotten some punches in. We must have rolled around a bit, among the filth and refuse of the gutter. I realy don’r remember. All I know is that I eventually blacked out before waking here. Broken, naked in an alley with a stripper shivering beneath my overcoat.

I turned and started running, cutting through the back alleys of the town, behind the halls where I would have my classes the next morning, hoping to god that I wouldn’t be spotted by someone I knew, or worse, by the campus police. “Well,” I thought, the journalism building standing cold and resolute as I darted past it, “this night would make one hell of a story.” “Frat boy rapes stripper.” The inside scoop, the story to lift the veil of innocence from our eyes, to expose us to the dirty secrets of our boring little town, our boring little collegiate lives. Then again, I thought, it probably wouldn’t even make the back page. There is, after all, a big game this week and the administration is talking of making a zero tollerance alcohol policy in the dorms. No, I thought, no matter how much we wish, no matter how we desire, things never turn out the way that we expect.

WAR WITH THE EVIL POWER MASTER

“Scooby Snacks are tasty.”

Or that’s what I thougt I heard from the back of the room. What the fuck is that? Some kid acting like a damn five year old trying to make some drug reffrence in the worst impression voice I’ve ever heard. I roll my eyes to the back of my head and hope that maybe this time they’ll stick there giving me an excuse to get out of this prison. Or, at least I wouldn’t have to look at Miss Carleson or her short skirts and makeup flashing smiles at the male students. I think hers is the only class where the jocks sit in the front of the room.

Unfortunately, my eyes do not stick in their sockets so I instead turn my head back into my textbook. Textbook, ha! At least that’s what Miss Carleson things. Instead, I employ a trick that I’ve been using since third grade and hide a paperback novel between the tired textbook pages, against the heards, obscenities, and doodles that would make Larry Flynn blusg. It almost makes the period bearable. It doesn’t matter how much authority little miss evil power master in hot pants thinks she wields, she hasn’t mastered mind control yet!

It’s hard to focus on my book amidst the buzz of the broken florescent lights. The dull white light and the dull white waslls and row after row of dull yellow desks dull my senses. Help! My brain is being sucked out. She is the evil power master and this is her torture chamber. If I don’t crack from boredom, I will surely find a way to commit ritual suicide if I hear one more bad Scooby-Doo impression. I can’t help but giggle out loud. The thought of that stupid bitch screaming her head off as my bloody corpse, number 2 pencil portruding from my jugular, slumps onto the desk, red blood filling the grooves of “Sarah Loves Tom,” and “FUCK Y,” etched into its surface is too much for me to resist. I must have laughed too loud because I hear her footsteps. She descends on me like a polar bear on a baby harp seal.

“What have we here, Barret?” she cackles. “Do you think you’re too good to read the assignment like the rest of the class?”

“No,” I mumble, “I just prefer to read something that isn’t comprehensible by my 8 year old sister.”

“Well then,” she smiles, her voice dripping with sacharine sweetness, “you are welcome to leave, young lady, but might I remind you that you will miss today’s quiz and that will seriously endanger your chances of getting your precious A in this class.”

Damn! I close the book taking care to mark my page, and slip it into my bookbag. I would love to stamp out of the room, flashing an insolent smile at the evil power master and her minions, but the risk is too great. That’s okay though. There will be other battles, and I will be victorious in the end. Through all this, I find one thing is true, life is full of choices.

BOOMTOWN

I have a certain distaste for the vegetables of my youth. Cauliflower, brocolli, brussle sprouts, all those cursed foodstuffs that my mother forced upon me still disgust me as an adult. Indeed, I think it’s not just a hated food that persists from childhood to adulthood but many other things. Think what you will of Freud, but I think he was onto something. Surely, the person I am now is defined by the experiences of my childhood. Just like a fine piece of marble under a sculpters hands, once the first chips are made, there is no going back.

I remember that summer well. It was just as our small town had become a bedroom community for the major metropolitan area an hour south of us. Our small hamlet had become a boomtown with new houses, appearing, as if from thin air, on a daily basis with their strange, exciting inhabitants following shortly after. It was not only the new houses that were filled with these strangers, but the established neighborhoods as well.

It was mid-july when her family moved in. I recall peering through the slits in my blinds as the U-haul truck pulled up to the curb and the family station wagon pulled to a halt in its wake. She was second to exit the car and she took my breath away. I was only ten at the time, so my thoughts had not yet slipped into the depravity of male adolescence, but hers was a beauty that transcended sexuality, and unfortunately the years. I remember as she played in her yard, long black hair flowing behind her, the tall green grass in stark contrast to her dark skin. That memory, that fleeting vision of innocence will haunt me until my dying day.

Over the course of the summer, we became fast friends. Our parents didn’t talk much. Her father, an engineer recently immigrating from India was a small, terse man in sharp contrast to my own father, a large good natured man who worked at a local factory. Still, I went to her house often, romping through the odd new world with all its bizarre sights and strange new smells. I would show her my world as well. We spent many a summer afternoon amongst the crude tree forts or hideouts constructed of tires, logs, and rusted out oil cans. We would sit in the shade of this crude childhood architecture and talk for hours, her of her apprehensions for the rapidly approaching school term, I of my plans for baseball season. I was enchanted. I hung onto her every word. We rambled through our magical world. Like Adam and Eve lost in our own paradise. But as was the case in the biblical tale, our paradise came to an end. One week before school started, her family was gone, the house sold, my love gone. All my life I’ve searched for that lost innocence. And that is why I am a pedophile.