Rodents in the Orchard

April 13, 2009

In which the author briefly rehashes an old story by considering what he doesn’t remember.

I don’t remember how long I searched the orchard for them, or exactly what time of year it was. The peach and plum trees may have been dropping rotten pods already half eaten by sparrows, or were budding or heavy with sweet-smelling fruit. I’m not certain when I told my parents what had happened and which one of them had gone into town and returned with ice cream from Dairy Queen. Or when I stopped running in circles and began standing, heaving, yelling into the approaching darkness the names of my friends: Mario, Luigi.

What I do know is this: when I was seven years old I decided that my white hamster was mean because he was white, and that if only he, like my preferred hamster, was brown, he would be perfect. And to make him brown I would take him, no, both of them out into the loosely packed red dirt that covered out flat land.

I marched into the orchard behind my house in Aspermont, Texas with Mario and Luigi in hand under a scorching June sun or through a dust-filled October wind and found a hole somewhere beneath a fruit tree. There I sat them, with the hope that I was doing something to better them, to better us. Go play, I said. And after their black eyes stared at one another and their small faces twitched, they ran in opposite directions.

I don’t remember how long I searched the orchard for them, only that I stood over an empty hole, panicking, searching for tiny trails of dust rising from the earth.

New Comic Wednesdays

April 8, 2009

In which the author wonders about the use of fiction.

At the New York Comic Convention earlier this year there were zombies offering free hugs near the Marvel booth and a harem of Batman villainesses being photographed near the food court. Crowded guest-panels entertained questions regarding the physics of superpowers and the love lives of esoteric characters. Lines formed in front of writers and artists and editors who signed no more than three items per attendee. At the end of the day I walked away with a bag full of free postcards and posters and original works of art, but I wasn’t happy. 

Despite my admitted superhero fandom and tendency to geek out in general, comic conventions are never as satisfactory as I hope they will be. I want Ms. Marvel’s signature, not that of her writer, her penciler, her letterer, or the girl who has poured herself into a black spandex costume with a lightening bolt on the chest. I’d like to sit down with Cyclops and explain to him how his struggles over the last 40 years have affected my life how the strive for mutant rights in his universe has helped me make sense of my own world. I want to make a pass at Northstar, but I’m left only with back issues.

It’s tricky to be a comic book writer, and as such it is something that I have never aspired to be. Continuity and persona are more my focus. Every rabid fan has a unique and absolute idea of what a character’s personality is like. If a writer makes a continuity mistake or uses the wrong regional accent in someone’s speech bubble, the backlash is swift and brutal. Walking down the aisles of a convention, you hear things like Emma Frost would never wear that or Captain America would never have suggested that battle plan. The resolute understanding of another person is something I find comforting, even if said someone is fictional. I can anticipate the reactions of individual X-Men and Avengers to imagined scenarios with absolute certainty, because I’ve known them for so long, and so completely. I’ve incorporated them into myself. Remy LeBeau taught me to flirt. Iron Man warned me of the dangers of alcoholism. I’ve been reading comic books since I was seven, and I know the backstories and personalities of heroes and villains better than those of my friends and family.

When I’m feeling overwhelmed, it’s nice to know that they will be waiting every Wednesday.

Service Based Selling

March 10, 2009

In which the author has been doing a fair amount of shopping. 

Hi, ladies! How are we doing today? That’s fantastic! I’m so glad to hear it! Resort wear has just arrived, so make sure you check out our latest caftans in this year’s variation of chartreuse. If you need anything please ask now because for the next half hour I will be in the break room on the phone with one of our stores in some unfashionable Midwest town that has a surplus of recently price-killed shoes in my size. In fact, if you have a question you should ask Kris. He’s the associate over there looking statuesque in men’s denim. We hired him for his cheekbones, but he also has a 59% success rate of finding additional sizes, making him both fashionable and functional (just like our new beach totes).

Are you all finding everything all right? No, I’m not talking to anyone in particular, but this sale area as a whole. I’m very busy right now and can’t be expected to give individual attention to customers who won’t drastically impact my daily sales goal. Did you see what is engraved under my name on this tag? Visual Specialist. I have been hand-chosen for this position based on my work ethic, my meticulous attention to detail, and the belief that homosexuality makes me stylish. I alone face the task of dressing and polishing all of the mannequins you see on the floor. This store would unravel without my expertise—a sea of ill-steamed creases and incorrectly popped collars adorning headless statues with scuff marks on their feet. And that is why I am paid a dollar more an hour than the common sales associate. 

That blouse? Honestly, I think you’re going to have to go up to a 4. As a general rule, anything worth buying this season is cut a size too small, two if it falls under one of the following categories: slim, tailored, designer, modern, contemporary. We like to keep a “boutique” feel here, so we keep our sales floor lean in terms of both stock and size. It’s not that we don’t carry XXL, it’s just that we don’t want that much material out on the sales floor. Please order extended sizes from our web site or wait until the next warehouse sale.

Shopping for a special occasion, sir? I recommend our “Exclusive Black Label Luxe Going Out Shirt” for anyone wanting to look his best on a first date. It is especially dashing when paired with our limited edition, signature cufflinks. Yes, it is similar in style to the modestly priced non-black label, non-luxe, non-exclusive, staying in shirt, but (and I’m probably being too honest with you here) the cheaper shirts are of a very poor quality. One of those would surely ruin your first date, perhaps even keeping you from your soul mate and resulting in a life of solitude. The Exclusive Black Label Luxe buttons on this shirt, however, will shine like little beacons of hope when your date notices them, shadowing all of the mundane males in his or her past. “My God, this man has style and is not afraid to pay for it,” your date will think. “Maybe I will sleep with him.” And I’d say that’s worth the extra $120, wouldn’t you? 

You cannot combine these two coupons. You can take $50 off or $15% off, not both. This one is expired. This one is only applicable to full price items, on select styles of umbrellas, and blue shoes (those are more of a teal). This one isn’t for our store. This one is only for our stores in Utah. If it were up to me, you would get a incredible discount, but there is just no way our computer will allow me to do that. The system is rigid and I am helpless against it. The only exception would be for you to apply for our store credit card, in which case I can probably bypass the system completely since our store is a few dozen cards behind our quarterly goal.

All of us here admire your purchasing power and impeccable taste, and now that you’ve got one of our classic shopping bags in hand, the world will admire you as well. Have a wonderful day. We already await you return! The second wave of our Spring line will be out in two weeks, and you’re going to look fabulous in it. We want you to know that you are valuable to us, that you are valued, and that we are here to serve you to the best of our abilities