Nonfiction—”Snakes and Spiders”

When I wake, the cats are at the door – they want to slip into bed and lie in my warm vacancy. One is black with a teacup on her chest, the other gray as elephant’s breath with muted stripes. In the darkness, I fumble against their fur, locating rump, scruff, finally head, and I pet what I can find until they roll over and expose their tummies – a trap. Under the bluing shade of early morning they are furry dead spiders.

Cats aren’t the only parasite squirming in the bedwaters – my wife, snorting like the Union Pacific, snakes her cold fingers and toes toward me, seeking flickers of heat like sausages over a campfire.

Shower. Toothpaste. Size 40 pants instead of last year’s 38. An XLT button-down that’s starting to hug. The cats follow me to the living room as I pick up a satchel and keys. Jenny lets me pet her back – she has a funny habit of bursting forward when my hand reaches her tail, to circle around for another run. Remy sits on the couch, feet tucked under his chest like a chicken in a coop. I think of saying goodbye to the snoring pile of hair in the other room, but my wife doesn’t work until 9. Still, what if I never see her again?

I open the door and step into a world devoid of Julie and Jenny and Remy and the little routines of morning before the light.

Nonfiction—”Starry White”

I open the year with a joke. “My name is Mr. White, like the color of my [the students look expectantly toward my skin] walls.” Cue enough laughter to sustain the joke next period. But now it’s noticeable, the harsh white of the room, a combination of paint and the clinical spray of ceiling bulbs. We are as illuminated and shadowless as models in a photoshoot, sans forgiveness.

There is one window: a square portal on the door. When I sit at my desk, I can see “Starry Night” through it, one of the Van Gogh prints distributed through the school. There’s an apocryphal story of how he painted that landscape in a sanatorium. Unable to see the city from his window, he imagined it in his hand. It gets me wishing they’d let us paint our madness on the canvas of our walls. Why let filth color us? Scuffs, gum, “fuck school” in blue pen, a poster of an iguana saying “character is who you are when no one is watching.” Let swirling blacks, blues, and yellows, stars and cities and black towers roil down the hall, drowning disquiet and sterility of asepsis.

Fiction—”Once there was an empty classroom”

Its stomach grew between ripe Science classes and a weedwork of electrical wires and the pink-feather of insulation. The door remained unlocked; the lights were flicked on in the morning by a sleepy department head and flicked off by a custodian whose back vac made her a ghostbuster. A general lack of students kept the air icy and mostly free of the muck-must of human bodies, a scent corrupted by cheetos and armpit and the cheese of feet, although the room occassionaly fed on students looking for a place to study, romantic couples with forged hall passes, and a red-nosed assistant principal who napped on Fridays by the cabinets—some of their grease and wet spray of conversation remained behind as particles on the carpet. The only noise was the buzzing tempo of air-conditioned lungs.

Since classrooms have no natural predator, the room sat, and sat, like a forgotten box of baking soda in the fridge—without purpose—without function — absorbing funky odors. The first pang of its profession came with the appearance of a bearded fellow, shaggy and shortsighted as a bear with spectacles, who lumbered into the room and occupied the desk, a vantage which offered the desktips and distant blue cabinets—a corner where he wouldn’t fear a sneak (in truth, the fellow only dreaded poisoned coffee). The hermit hid there, received his paycheck, watched for enemies at the door, and put up posters that read, “You never fail until you stop trying,” and “It’s okay to not know but it’s not okay to not try.” Perhaps he operated under that mantra of bibles and baseball movies: ‘if you build it, they will come.’

No one came. The fellow died in the fetal beneath his desk.

Published—”Flexible Groups”

Defenestration published my short story “Flexible Groups” in its December 2016 issue (for context, they release an issue every April, August, and December). I was influenced by Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” and my experiences in professional education. One of the members of my writer’s critique called this style “snarky with a soul.” I’m keeping that.

Defenestration is an online publication devoted to humor in all its varieties, and its About page boasts such accomplishments as selling its life story to Christopher Nolan (you might have heard of a little something called The Dark Knight) and successfully defending the Earth from Martians.

Define Man in Two Words

That’s the challenge I posed to my Humanities course. I made it clear that I was using the gender-neutral variety of “man” (meaning I wouldn’t accept a “cheating pig”), that I wanted to avoid unrewarding labels like “Homo sapien” and “human being,” and that I preferred an adjective paired to a noun, or a genus and specific difference.

Think, I said over confused glances. What makes man different from every other living and non-living thing?

Their answers were wonderful.

Continue reading “Define Man in Two Words”