Accountability Chapter 3

I’m sorry that this installment in the story is a little late, but I was on vacation in Seim Reap looking at the amazing ruins of Angkor Wat. It was quite the trip and had given me a great perspective on the way things are working in the world right now. Look for that story in the next couple of weeks with some spectacular pictures as well. But until then, here is the third chapter of Accountability.

3

When I opened up the front door, there was a teenage girl standing next to a postman. She had dark black mascara under each eye about an inch thick. She wore bright red lipstick that glittered when the light hit it just right. Her jet black hair was puffed out so it created the look of licorice cotton candy sprouting from the top of her head and cascading down to hide her face in a dark shadow. She wore a red push-up bra peeking through the top of her tight fitting white tank top. It pushed up what little she had of breasts to turn them into pale oranges. She also wore tight black jeans showing off every muscle in her legs except for her calves which were hidden behind black knee-length high-heeled boots. In her left hand, she dangled a little black purse with a picture of Hello Kitty on it. She looked like she had just been pulled off the street from her night job, and the postman looked like the one required to drag her to stand at my front door. He held a clipboard in his hand and looked down at the name on it.

“Is there a Robert Young here?” he said as he looked over my shoulder to see if I was hiding him somewhere in the house. The girl snapped her gum loudly behind him.

“He’s at work right now, but I am Rachael Young, his wife. Can I help you?”

He looked down at the clipboard again and growled. He looked over his shoulder at the girl rolling her eyes at him and he turned back around to me. “I guess you are close enough. Can I get you to sign here?”

He held out the clipboard and removed a pen from behind his ear for me to use. I looked down at it and saw Robert’s name written on a certified mail slip with a big X next to the place asking for a signature.

“Can I ask what this is for?”

“I’m delivering a piece of certified mail and I need you to sign for it in order to get it off my hands. You are his wife, so you can sign for him.”

I started to hear Lindsey crying upstairs in her room, so I bent down to quickly sign the piece of paper. Everything was piling up on itself really quickly, and I wanted the man to give me the piece of mail so I could go attend to Lindsey’s needs. I looked up at him after I had finished signing and said, “Thank you very much, and if I co…”

“She’s all yours lady,” he said and turned from my front door and ran back to his mail truck.

The girl strolled in like she owned the place. The tips of her high heeled boots clacked upon the linoleum as she sashayed her way over to the big couch and plopped down, dangling her boot heels over the edge of the arm. While she was waiting for my response, she dug through her purse until she was able to extract a small compact mirror from it. She popped it open so she could look at herself and make sure her hair was still poofy and proper. I was lost as what to do because Lindsey was starting to move from a gentle cry to a full blown-out scream. She had never been forced to wait this long for me to attend to her needs.

The girl looked up at me and asked, “Are you going to take care of that? It’s really annoying.”

It was as if I needed her words to give me leave to go run upstairs to make sure Lindsey was alright and that’s just what I did. Lindsey was standing up in her bed. Her mouth was opened wide like a bottomless cave unleashing the howl from down below. Her eyes were creating streams of water flowing into that dark cave decorated with five stalagmites and three stalactites dangling from its edge. Her new Baby Bear was lying on the ground five feet from her bed. I picked it up and handed it to her.

“Don’t cry honey. I have your Baby Buddy right here,” She grabbed the bear from me.

She threw Baby Buddy across the room and started to scream louder, “I want my blankee!”

It was stupid of me to give her the newest toy when the one that traditionally comforted her would have been the one she wanted. I quickly scanned the room for her blankee, but I couldn’t see it anywhere. “Honey, where is your blankee?”

This put her into a stage three temper tantrum. This wasn’t the worst stage, but it was still devastating to see. Lindsey would scream while crying and lay down on her stomach to bang her fists into whatever object she was laying on. “You lost my blankee!”

I knew I had to stop this temper tantrum before it hit stage four or it would take me forever to calm her back down. I knew the only way to prevent this disaster would be to find her blankee and quickly. My mind raced to think where I had seen it last. We had it with us when we went to drop off Zach at school and I remembered seeing it in the car next to Lindsey’s car seat when we were done at the post office. In fact, I remembered seeing it there when I took her out of the car seat because she cared more about her new stuffed Baby Buddy then she did about her blankee. I remember thinking it was a nice improvement to have her care more about her new toy than the one she usually dragged around all over the place.

“I know exactly where your blankee is. I’ll be back with it in just a second.”

She calmed down a little bit. The tragedy was reverting back to stage two. She was starting to sit up, but the tears and the howl still continued. The blankee would help return her back to normal within a matter of seconds. When I thought she was in control of her senses enough, I ran down the stairs to the garage. I would have been able to get her blanket and be back in less than a minute, but as I ran into the living room, I had to stop because I realized there was one more thing I had to deal with, the young lady checking her make-up in the compact mirror as she lounged on my couch.

I moved closer to the girl. I had my index finger ready to point and was about to say something when she snapped her compact closed. The stranger looked up at me with blue eyes hidden away behind too much black eyeliner.

“So, where is Robert?” she said. She made sure to enunciate the “b” in his name so I could see her bright red lipstick make the condescending sound.

“Who are you?” I asked her.

She rolled back her eyes and let out an exaggerated annoyed sigh. “Robert didn’t tell you about me?” She made sure to make that condescending “b” sound again.

My mind raced

Was Robert having an affair? He had been a little more aloof lately. Why would he be having an affair with somebody so young? She was old enough to be his daughter. Had he been going to the Mother Mall to find a younger model to replace me? If this were true, why would he have told me about her? Why wouldn’t he just go to the Mother Mall and pick one up instead of taking his chances by ordering one by mail. I looked back at her and stammered out a, “N-n-no?”

She puffed out another annoyed sigh as she got up from the couch. She reached down her shirt and pulled out a tattered envelope from her bra. She handed it to me, “That should explain everything.”

I looked at the unopened piece of mail. It was addressed to a Palin Young and it had come from the Department of Motherhood. What did the Department of Motherhood have to do with my husband and this girl who shared his same last name? I looked up from the envelope to see this girl get up from the couch and bend over to unzip her boots.

“BLANKEE!!!!” screamed from upstairs, and my thoughts returned to the other crisis going on in my house.

“I’ll be back in a second to deal with you young lady,” I told the stranger who had invaded my humble home.

She rolled her eyes at me and worked to pull off the tight fitting boots. “Whatever.”

I didn’t have time to deal with her at the present moment, so I let her pick up the remote to the television. She started to flip through the channels as I ran to the car to grab Lindsey’s blankee from the back seat. When I had it, I ran back upstairs. As I was passing through the living room, I noticed the girl had done something with the television and a smaller box appeared on the screen saying something about locked channels. I knew I had to prioritize and I would figure out what she was doing after I had calmed down Lindsey.

I came back into Lindsey’s room and her meltdown had moved from level two to borderline level four. A river of snot had joined the river of tears covering her face in a wet, messy goo. She had quit pounding her bed and was now rolling on her back instead. Her mouth blared out decibels not meant for human ears to hear. I grabbed the box of Kleenex on the dresser in hopes to clean her up a little bit after I calmed her down.

“Honey, mommy has your blankee,” I said as I handed her the prized possession. She opened her eyes a little bit to see the thing she most desired. She reached up with one hand to grab the blankee and took the index finger and middle finger from her other hand to stick into her mouth. The crying and screaming had stopped, but a huffing gasp of air continued through the small spaces created by her lips wrapping themselves around her fingers. She laid down on the bed and continued to whimper. I took out a couple of Kleenexes and used them to wipe away her tears and the snot spreading itself across her face.

After I had cleaned her up to the best of my ability, I asked her, “Are you doing better now?”

She nodded back her answer. That was when I started to hear the strangest noises coming from the family room. It was the combination of a woman moaning and a man grunting. I looked out Lindsey’s door wondering exactly what was going on downstairs. Lindsey stopped whimpering long enough to sit up in bed and look out the door herself. With one crisis diverted, it was now my time to turn my attention to the other one.

“Lindsey, there is something that mommy has to do downstairs. Can you stay up here until I tell you it is okay to come down?”

The noises got louder and faster, and Lindsey looked out the door like she was terrified of what she would find downstairs. She looked back at me and nodded more enthusiastically this time. I left Lindsey’s bedroom and went downstairs to talk to the invader.

When I got downstairs, she had herself sprawled out on the couch, and she was watching television. This was the source of the sounds I was hearing. On the screen was a naked woman on her hands and knees moaning loudly as her breasts swung back and forth like over-bloated udders underneath her. Behind her was a naked man grunting rhythmically as he banged his pelvis into her rear.

The girl sitting on my couch looked up at me and said, “Hey, look, I was able to unlock the Playboy channel for you.”

I picked up the remote and quickly turned off the television.

“Hey, I was watching that. You are, right now, breaking Standard Number Three: A mother should not impede the learning and exploration process of her children.”

I threw the remote back down on the coffee table. “That would be great if I was your mother, but I am not. I don’t even know who you are.”

The girl sat up on the couch and said, “Didn’t you read that letter that I gave you, yet?”

I had completely forgotten about the letter. It was in the back pocket of my jeans. I pulled it out and opened it up. The girl on my couch rolled her eyes as she picked up the remote and said, “That letter should explain everything.” I stood in the middle of my living room feeling like a stranger in my own home as I read:

“Dear Palin Young,

I am sorry to report to you that your mother has failed her assessment for the third year running. Because of this, she is required by law to be sent to the Capital Limited Re-education Center. Since this is the second time she has been sent to be re-educated, and because she is an only mother, you will be relocated to another mother who can be a better role model for you.

Our records indicate that you have a father, a Robert Young, who is living on the opposite side of town. He is married to a mother who has performed exceptionally well on her last three assessments. We at the Department of Motherhood believe that this is the perfect environment for you to achieve your full potential. Her name is Rachael Young and she will now be your new mother. You’ll be delivered to her through certified mail by the United States Postal Office and the mothering will officially begin the moment someone in the household signs for you.

Due to the circumstances, if you encounter any difficulty making adjustments to your new environment, please contact us at 1-800-555-LOVE. Ask for your case manager, Miss Allison Torpedojager, to help you through any tough times.

Thank you and enjoy your new mother,

Allison Torpedojager”

I looked down at the letter and said, “Robert has another child?”

Palin flopped herself down on the couch. “Oh, didn’t daddy tell you about me?”

“No.”

I thought I knew everything about my husband. He was a great provider for this family, but I had no idea he had a past, especially one including this stranger now invading my home.

“Well, he should have. It seems my biological mother and he were quite the item back in high school. They were voted prom queen and king and that was the night good old daddy knocked up mommy dearest. Nine months later here I come as their bundle of joy. Of course Robert tried to do good by mom by marrying her right out of high school, but they just weren’t meant to be together. Robert eventually divorced my…”

“Wait a minute, Robert has been married before,” I said as I slouched down in the seat behind me.

Palin gave me a look of genuine surprise. “Wow, there is a lot old Robert hasn’t told you. Don’t worry it didn’t last long. Robert and my mom fight all the time. It was over by the time I was five years old.”

A lot of questions raced through my mind, “What do you mean ‘fight all the time’? Does he still see your mom? When was the last time you saw him?”

“Oh, he comes over about once every other month to see how I’m doing, but for the most part he makes himself pretty scarce. Most of the time he comes over, gives my mom a little money, they fight some, he talks to me for a bit, and then comes back here to the family he apparently really loves.”

I was in complete shock. How could he do this to me? How could I have lived with him for the last seven years and not have known about his other family? If he was keeping this a secret from me, what other things about my husband were out there I didn’t know about? It made me feel like I had been living with a stranger for the last seven years. I started to wonder what I really did know about my husband. We courted for such a short time, and quickly had Zach right away because of my love for children. He never took me to his work; I never met any of his co-workers; I didn’t even really know what he did for a living. I knew nothing about this man, and his past had just knocked on my door, waltzed into my living room, and blessed us with free porn for all eternity.

Palin continued on with her story, “So when my mom failed her assessment again due to some minor glitch about boyfriends, she was sent to The Capital Limited Re-education Center and I was left to my lonesome again. Grandma died a couple of years ago. That’s who took care of me last time, so all that’s left is Robert. He’s my closet living relative. So, because of some freaky new rule, I am the newest edition to your family.”

I looked over at this teenager lounging on the couch in my family room and muttered out the only thing that I could think of, “I guess that makes me your mother.”

Palin fluffed the pillow behind her head. “Yep, that’s right. Now let’s get things started off right. You can go get me a soda, mother.”

Accountability Chapter 2

The serial continues, and I am amazed at how some of the characters I created five years ago are still around today leaving their mark on America’s education system. I hope this story gets people to wake up to the real problem so they can start to make the appropriate changes to this field before it becomes too late. It is already getting hard to find good teachers, and that is because they are treated so poorly in the United States that they go overseas to find more respect and as a side bonus, more money.

2

The easy transition into my son’s school day didn’t go as smoothly as I hoped it would. A commercial for the newest Buddy Bear appeared after the episode of the cartoon was over. The newest Buddy Bear was Billy Bob Bear. Billy Bob Bear had grown up in a broken household and was eventually left on his own because his real parents didn’t care enough about him. He was lucky enough to stumble upon the Buddy Bear family. Mama Buddy felt sorry for Billy Bob Bear and knew he needed a strong mother figure in his life, so she adopted him. Even though Billy Bob Bear was a little rough around the edges, he thrived under the caring love of Mama Buddy. He started to learn how he too could be a wonderful influence on the people in his life. I used to look at stories like this as a real inspiration and wished I had the opportunity to be like Mama Buddy sometime in my life.

Anyway, Billy Bob Bear wasn’t the problem. It was the fact he was being introduced in doll form that very morning. Zach had all the rest of the Buddy Bear collection and after he saw the commercial, he felt he needed to get the newest edition. He jumped up and down and begged me to buy Billy Bob Bear. I knew these toys were expensive. If I spent the money I was given as an allowance by my husband on this new toy for Zach then I wouldn’t have enough left over to get the haircut I desperately needed at the time. I knew it was a painful decision and my hair would need to wait for a couple more weeks, but my children came first in my life. I knew how important it was for Zach’s happiness, so we went out and got him Billy Bob Bear that day.

We didn’t have enough time to get one this morning and make it to school on time, so I told him we would pick it up later in the day. But Zach stressed how important it was he had one for school that day. He screamed and shouted and refused to get in the car unless we went to the toy store that morning. There was no way he could show up at school without the latest edition of the Buddy Bear family to display for his class. This seemed reasonable to me because it complied with the Department of Motherhood’s Standard Number One: A mother should insure the popularity of their children so they would have a healthy amount of self-esteem. Because of this, we set off to the nearest toy store to get a Billy Bob Bear before I dropped him off at school. We got to the store and of course it wasn’t open until 9:00, but I could see the display for Billy Bob Bear inside. It took awhile for Zach understand we couldn’t buy one until they opened the store. I showed him the display and we spent the hour staring at it in order to appease him.

Lindsey, on the other hand, was being the angel I always hoped for with my children. She quietly sat on the sidewalk and sucked her two fingers while I pointed out all of the exciting things the toy store had to offer to Zach. I felt so bad she wasn’t getting something for herself, so when the store finally opened, I bought her a new stuffed Baby Buddy. She played with it in the back seat as we dropped off Zach at school. I had to sign him in at the front office and I was scolded by my son’s teacher who was on her break at the time, but what did she know about being held to such high standards. Teachers didn’t have to deal with the threat of their reason for living being taken away from them if they couldn’t perform up to the required standards. I know I had done the right thing with my son and I gently took her scolding with a grain of salt, because when she was held accountable like I was then she would have room to talk.

I also stopped by the post office to see about the certified letter Robert had asked me to pick up, but the lady behind the counter told me they had sent it to my house already, special delivery. She said that I could expect it sometime in the afternoon and she didn’t even have to go in the back and check. I should’ve known something was up when they had the rest of my mail for me. I thought it was weird they would send the certified letter ahead of my regular mail, but I took the rest of the mail because it helped to validate my trip to the post office. Lindsey was once again the perfect angel while we were at the post office. It seemed purchasing the Baby Buddy for her was a great idea because it was the new toy that kept her occupied while I talked to the lady behind the counter. The postal employee even commented on how well behaved Lindsey was, and how I must be the greatest mother to have such a wonderful child. It always made me feel like I was doing the right thing when other people recognized what a great job I was doing.

By the time we got back home and ate lunch, Lindsey was wiped out from all of the running around we had already done. I tucked her in her bed to take a nap and she still had the new bear tucked under her arms when I snuck downstairs to read the newspaper and the mail.

I loved the house we lived in. It was a larger version of the dollhouse I used to play with as a child, except now I lived in it. Each room was designed for a specific purpose with comfort in mind. It was also a stimulating environment just as required by the National Caring and Loving Behavior Act. Every room in the house had a large flat screen television that could be viewed from any of the comfortable chairs surrounding them. Bookcases were in every room with various knick knacks and the occasional novel made into a movie.

One of the rooms was made into a library which housed our large collection of DVDs. They were arranged in alphabetical order by title in the various genres: children’s, horror, science fiction, action, romance, comedy, and Brad Pitt movies. If one couldn’t find a movie that they would find entertaining, they just weren’t looking hard enough.

The basement was turned into a game room with another large screen television. All of the video game consoles were there from the Wii, the PS4 and the Xbox with Connect. There was also a collection of all the newest, as well as classic video games. The couch in the room was the most comfortable one ever made. Anyone who sat in it felt like they were sinking into oblivion. There were many times I had to convince Lindsey and Zach to leave the confines of this couch in order to join Robert and me for dinner.

They were never required to join us for dinner, of course, but there were many nights we spent that meal together as a family, at least once a week. When we shared dinner together it was at the table in the kitchen. I would serve all of the kids’ favorites as long as they had some nutritional value, such as hamburgers, pizza, tacos, vegetables (as long as they were deep fried for taste), or omelets. Every night for desert we would enjoy some frozen delight served from our soft serve ice cream machine. The children were so good at using it they were able to make their own deserts any time they wanted to during the day.

The kids’ rooms were a joy for me as well as them. It was the perfect environment for them to stimulate their minds while enjoying the privacy of their own space. They each had a 3-D television big enough to enjoy, but not big enough to spoil them, 42 inches. They would often have many of the 3-D movie selections in their rooms during the course of the week, and I would have to remind them that they needed to be returned to our video library. Then I would return them to our video library. They each had their own gaming system as well. I tried to find the most educational games for them, such as Baseball and Football so they would get their sports, Medal of Honor so they could learn their history, and the Zelda and Final Fantasy games for literature. We also made sure that they had some of the fun games as well like Grand Theft Auto and Silent Hill, but we encouraged them to play the more educational ones.

Robert had his office upstairs next to the children’s rooms where he was able to finish his work. It was actually an extra bedroom we had converted into an office, and we put our guests there when they came in from out of town. I also had my special spot, and that was, as I’ve already said, the kitchen. This is where I would prepare the meals, pay the bills and watch over the kids if they happened to be in the family room playing. The kitchen table was the place where I would be able to wind down, look the mail over and read the newspaper every once in awhile. On the day my life changed, I had put Lindsey down for a nap, made myself comfortable in the kitchen and read a front page headline that caught my attention.

Secretary of Motherhood Avoids Assassination Attempt

Dr. Nancy Ann Blur, the nation’s first ever Secretary of Motherhood, was attacked by a crazed individual wielding a frying pan Monday afternoon at a speaking engagement at the Angelina Jolie Auditorium. She was talking about how important it was for mothers to follow the standards laid out by the National Caring and Loving Behavior Act. The attacker was a Miss Beverly Robinson who had made it up to the stage where Dr. Blur was giving her speech. She was stopped short by security. When Miss Robinson was detained, she threw the large frying pan she was carrying at the Secretary of Motherhood, coming very close to hitting her in the head. If it wasn’t for Dr. Blur’s athletic ability the outcome might have been completely different than it was.

Witnesses who were attending the event and were sitting next to Beverly Robinson stated they, “…noticed something strange about her behavior. Before Dr. Blur took the stage she was clutching on to her large purse and muttering something about ‘Wanting her to give them back.’”

Security guards who stopped Beverly Robison from reaching her goal said she had shouted, “I want them back b#&ch!” right before she threw the frying pan at the beloved secretary. They believe the frying pan was being concealed in the large purse and that is the reason why nobody noticed the deadly weapon when the Miss Robinson entered the Angelina Jolie Auditorium.

Beverly Robinson had just been released from the Capital Limited Re-Education Center near La Junta, Colorado two weeks prior to the incident with high marks. She was going to be reintroduced into the motherhood program when Thomas Stannish had offered her a job taking care of his two children. They had recently been left without a mother due to the inability to live up to the expectations of her duties. Beverly Robinson had found herself in a similar situation one year earlier when she was unable to have the children in her care pass the Motherhood Assessment Program (MAP) test for three years running. According to the rules of the National Caring and Loving Behavior Act, this violation is what led to her being placed in the re-education program.

Dr. Blur, whose approval rating is at an all time high of 78%, said about the incident, “It is sad indeed when things like this happen, but this is the reason I worked so hard to make sure the National Caring and Loving Behavior Act was passed in the first place. There were too many mothers out there who just weren’t being held accountable for the way they were raising their children. It is vitally important for our youth we weed out these bad mothers and replace them with ones better equipped to handle the job.”

I remember sitting there and staring at the paper. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to attack this wonderful woman who had done so much to make sure mothers got the attention they deserved. At the time, it was clear to me that Beverly Robinson was insane and there wasn’t any amount of re-education that could be made possible to turn her into the perfect mother the act intended. I was sure Dr. Blur had done everything in her power to help this woman and she was just beyond help. I thought it was sad that not all women could be great mothers like I was, but I was sure that was why the government created the National Caring and Loving Behavior Act, to make sure these mothers, like Beverly Robinson, stayed away from children before real damage was done. I used to believe this act was making sure every child had a wonderful mother and it was all due to that amazing woman who wrote her historic report.

Dr. Nancy Ann Blur used to be my idol. She had grown up from small roots to take control of her life and be one of the most respected women of the United States. She grew up in the small town of Jeffery City, Wyoming where her dad was a science teacher and her mom was a school secretary for the elementary school in town. She was the only girl growing up with four brothers and in her teenage years she spent her afternoons with her mother at the school helping out in the after school program. It was there she found her love for children and discovered how important it was for parents to raise their children correctly. If kids weren’t given this opportunity, they would be led down the wrong path of life. Her brothers taught her that the stronger gender was actually the woman and it was what the mother did with her child that was more important in life than the father.

After she graduated from high school, she went to college. She attended five different colleges before she was able to graduate from the prestigious Eastern Wyoming Christian College in Casper, Wyoming with a degree in journalism. It took her six years to earn the degree. Part of the reason was because she couldn’t find a college that fit with her moral beliefs, and secondly because she grew up in a large family with such a low income. She was forced to raise her own money in order to make it through school. Luckily, she was blessed with charisma and she was able to earn a scholarship by winning a couple of beauty pageants. It was her talent with the trumpet that really impressed the judges the most. She even went as far as to come in second place in the Miss Wyoming pageant of 2007.

After she graduated from college, she earned a job broadcasting sports at the local Fox affiliate in Cheyenne, Wyoming. She pushed hard for the station to cover the local sports instead of focusing on the larger teams coming out of nearby Denver, Colorado. She earned their respect and spent most of the broadcast focusing on rodeos, beauty pageants, and high school sports. It was on one of her trips to cover a sporting event in her hometown of Jeffery City when she became aware of the corruption taking place in that town. She learned that Sam Hogston, the mayor, was fiddling around with the finances of the town. She vowed to resolve this problem. She quit her job in Cheyenne and ran for mayor of Jeffery City.

She won the election 635 to 211 by running under the campaign of making sure the children received the funds denied under Mayor Hogston. I didn’t watch the debates for the elections when they originally happened, but as I learned more and more about Dr. Blur I went back and watched them on YouTube. Dr. Blur was able to make Mayor Hogston look like a fool through the debate. He was not an attractive or imposing man to begin with, but when the debate was underway she made the short, fat, bald man look like a fumbling, bumbling idiot. After the election, she lived up to her promise by raising $14 million dollars through grants and donations to create a rodeo fairground for the local high school. She would have been able to finish the fairgrounds in a record amount of time if it wasn’t for the fact that the media, the People’s Network, had dug up some useless dirt about the mishandling of finances.

With all of the good she did for the children of Jeffery City, the President of the United States took notice. She continued to climb the political ladder when she wrote her report and soon afterwards was nominated for the newly appointed position under the National Caring and Loving Behavior Act, the Secretary of Motherhood, which she proudly accepted. She quickly laid out her philosophy of how the department should be run by writing the national bestselling book, Mama Grizzly. I had a signed copy of the book and at one time, it was the greatest treasure that I owned. I used to keep it safe on the bedside table and I had even gone so far as to sit down and read the first three chapters of the book. This is where I learned so much about Dr. Nancy Ann Blur’s life.

I used to believe the awful thing about Dr. Blur I had read in the paper that fateful day just helped prove my point about how some people did not take what she asked them to do seriously. Beverly Robinson, Dr. Blur’s attacker, probably didn’t understand that if she just took the time to live up to the standards presented in the National Caring and Loving Behavior Act, she would see that they are wonderful guidelines to help raise her children. There was no reason to fight the standards, but by accepting them she would become a better mother, the children would live in a secure household, they would grow up to be responsible adults, and the United States of America would thrive as a country.

I, on the other hand, was not afraid to show what a wonderful mother I was. I had always been ready to show the Department of Motherhood my skills every year and my two children shined with every assessment given in my household. The next assessment really excited me. It would be the fourth in a row with excellent marks. I was just waiting for the date to be announced when one of the assessors would come over to my house and observe what a wonderful environment it was to nurture children. This was why my hands started to shake when I saw the letter tucked away in the pile of mail I brought home from the post office. It was from the Department of Motherhood. Before opening it up, I looked around me like a sinner who was about to do something that would send her to hell for all eternity. When I knew I was alone, I focused back on the letter in my hand.

My index finger wiggled its way under the flap and I ripped the envelope open. I slid out the single piece of paper and closed my eyes before I read it. When I found the courage to open them up, I read the following words:

Dear Mrs. Rachael Young,

It is my pleasure to inform you the assessment period is once again upon us. We have diligently gone through our records and they show you have exceeded expectations for the last three years. Because of this, we will be scheduling you early in the process with one of our elite assessors. Please, be ready at the time indicated, as we know you will be. The assessment will be taking place on April 2nd at 10:00 AM and your assessor will be Dr. Nancy Ann Blur.

Thank you and have a nice day,

Department of Motherhood

I stared at the letter and had to look again after reading the name of my assessor this year. I couldn’t believe the Secretary of Motherhood would be coming to my house to be my assessor, but there her name stood out on the sheet of paper in front of me. I could tell that it was even her signature because it was exactly like the signature I had in the copy of Mama Grizzly that sat on my bedside table. She would be in my house and would see what a wonderful job I did raising my children. I was so happy. I believed this was the most amazing honor ever bestowed on me. I looked up at the calendar to see how far away the date was. It was only two weeks, but I knew I would shine because I had been following the standards all year long. I knew my children were ready to prove to the world what a wonderful mother I was. The excitement that rushed over me was so great I wanted to scream, but I knew if I did I would wake Lindsey from her nap, so I held it in.

Instead, the doorbell ringing two seconds later was what woke her up.

Accountability Chapter 1

Education had been on my mind a lot lately, especially when I think about the way it is heading in the United States. It reminds me of my first novel that I wrote that was never published. I finished writing it four years ago, but it seems more timely now. I have since become a better writer, and there are flaws in this piece that I have not gotten around to fixing due to the fact that I am finishing up my next novel, the first part in a horror serial, and am in the process of writing my next, a satirical look at the educational system of Korea as it compare to that of America. In the meantime, I thought I would release my first novel as a serial over my blog with a new chapter coming out each week. Please excuse the typos and silly mistakes, but enjoy the story while thinking about the current state of education in America. I hope you enjoy Accountability.

 

PART 1

ASSESSMENT

1

Did I dream of this?

When I was young, is this what I hoped for?

Did I dream of ending up in this dead end job or did I have greater ambitions?

Can I mark the exact moment that my dreams got taken away from me and I was sent down the path to this pitiful end?

Now I can. I know looking back I can pinpoint the exact moment my life changed. As a teenage girl just graduating from high school and embarking on a new life I looked at the moment differently than I do now. But of course, I was distracted at the time. The most handsome man in the world, Robert Young, had just proposed to me, and even though my parents didn’t approve of our match, I didn’t care because I was eighteen and I was in love. So what if we had only been dating for two months? When it is true love, you know in a matter of seconds and no length of time will tell you differently. And I looked at him and I saw he could give me everything my heart desired: a beautiful home, a loving husband, and a prospect for children on the way. So what if he was ten years older than me? Love could conquer that age difference.

But this wasn’t the moment that changed my life. It happened later in the summer during the wedding planning and the moving into his house. I saw it unfold on the national news. I used to love watching the People’s Network for news. Robert would get angry at me if he caught me watching, but he wasn’t around the day the news broke. I was picking out the music for our wedding and I wasn’t really paying attention anyway. I had the TV on more for background noise, not planning to be influenced by the propaganda Robert believed it portrayed. But there she stood on that big screen television, the woman who would eventually change my life, Dr. Nancy Ann Blur. She was taking about the report she had just written and filed with the United States government. That was the exact moment my dreams had officially been taken away from me.

It was 2014 when Dr. Nancy Ann Blur came out with her famous report, A Family at Risk. It pointed out that the central core of the family unit was at risk because too many mothers were becoming too busy to take care of their children anymore. They were always working on their careers or making sure they were moving up the social ladder. Their families often took a back seat. It was because of this that children were growing up to be disrespectful of their elders and unfit to become productive members of society. Dr. Blur was debating another woman on the television show who claimed what the good doctor was suggesting was absurd. I got to know that woman really well. When she was debating the good doctor, the People’s Network placed her name under her face so we would all know that she was Mrs. Karen Shatney-Moore. That lady was the CEO of the greatest company of that time, Homewide Inc.  Every mother in the world had at one time used a product created by Homewide Inc. Most of the mothers could even tell you which products they used were created by Homewide Inc. The company made quality products that were able to make life easier for mothers no matter what stage of development their children were in. They made nursing blankets and breast pumps for the time when the children were still babies. For the children in the pre-school age, they created fun games that taught the children about their colors and counting, all the while engaging enough not to bore the mothers silly while they played the games. They had a collection of authors they employed that were some of the most skilled authors out there. The writers told stories that were fun to read and easy enough for the children to read, yet were able to connect with every generation. The company also created equipment for outdoor use that was fun for children of all ages. The best part of this equipment was the children enjoyed it so much they would want to get outside to grab what the day had to offer. I remembered growing up with Homewide Inc. products and memories of the times I used them were some of my fondest.

The CEO of this company claimed that the problem was societal. The raising of the next generation should be the concern of everybody and shouldn’t be placed squarely on the shoulders of one group of people. It was an interesting debate, and at the time, I thought Dr. Blur gave the stronger argument with quick one-liners and witty retorts. Her argument stated that something should be done in order for the significant framework of the American culture to not get lost in the wake of these terrible mothers that were infiltrating the families of this great nation. She demanded that mothers be held accountable for the way they were raising their children, and the great men of Congress agreed with her. Within only a short year, they drafted and passed the National Caring and Loving Behavior Act to make sure the youth of America were no longer subjected to this atrocity. It was a bi-partisan bill that only garnered six “No” votes, most notably Congresswoman Shelly Perkins and Senator Sarah Hathaway. The American people took care of those dissenters by not voting for them in the next election. It forced them to go home to become the housewives as the stipulations of the National Caring and Loving Behavior Act said they should have been in the first place.

When time moved on and it came down to people losing their jobs and other people speaking about my future, I started paying more attention. I had felt pride in a nation that was starting to take the profession I would be going into more seriously. I was proud to be one of the trailblazers helping to bring this new piece of legislation into reality. I was still not a mother yet, but as I licked the envelopes of my wedding invitations, I knew Robert and I would be trying to have children soon afterwards. It would be during the birth of my first child, Zachary Noel Young, a year later that I excitedly started to uphold the standards of this now famous bill.

The National Caring and Loving Behavior Act was a simple bill. It established a new department of the national branch of the government, the Department of Motherhood. This department would be headed by the Secretary of Motherhood, and during the birth of my second child, Lindsey Ann Young, they had found the perfect person to take on this prestigious role, the woman who worked long and hard to make this law a reality, Dr. Nancy Ann Blur. She had established a series of standards every mother needed to live up to when raising her children. Each year a representative of the Department of Motherhood would visit the home of every mother in the United States and test the children to see if the mother was living up to the standards laid out by the act. If the mother passed the examination, her name would be posted on the National Accountability Website and the ones who had exceptional scores would be profiled in the newspapers. I had been featured in The Elbert County Gazette for three years in a row before my life took a dramatic turn. The mothers who did not earn proficient marks were taken from their children and sent to re-education centers. These centers supplied the mothers with the proper training so they could be more like the exceptional mothers making this country great. Each center was built by the leading economic force in America, the Capital Limited Corporation. Capital Limited’s goal was to make sure that every American, no matter their age, was given the opportunity to become a productive consumer within our society and these re-education centers would help to achieve this goal. They claimed it was not a perfect system, but they were tweaking it every year to make sure the standards were strong enough to reestablish America as the leader of motherhood it had always been.

I never complained about the act because I believed it was making this country a better place to live. It wasn’t yet living up to the standards laid out but that was not because of mothers like me. It was because of all of the other mothers. They spent all of their time fighting against the wonderful ideals this act could accomplish. I believed if the dissenting mothers would just take responsibility for their jobs in life and quit nick-picking over the little things this act doesn’t do, they might find it was a fair and honest way of raising their children. I thought they would see that everyone benefited because of it. Mothers had better relationships with their children. Children got to know their mothers better and they learned all of the skills they needed in order to make it in this difficult world or become caring mothers themselves.

I still mull over these thoughts. I constantly wonder if there was a moment when I could’ve done something differently or if I was a victim of fate from the exact moment A Family at Risk was presented before a confused nation. It doesn’t matter for me anymore, but if some other mother out there could learn something from my experiences, then my telling this story will be worth it.

The moment I can really pinpoint as the time when I should have realized my fate was decided for me, was a couple of weeks before my second to last assessment. It had started off as many mornings had before that day, in the kitchen.

The kitchen was, and still is, the place where I feel most comfortable. Nobody had ever outdone me in that arena, especially when breakfast had to be served, and people needed to be prepared for their responsibilities for the rest of their day. It was all about the timing to make sure everything was perfect and all I needed to hear to get going was what I considered my starting gun, my husband’s alarm clock. It was the sound I waited for every morning, but until I heard it, I stood in the ready position. My fingers stretched out from my sides making sure they were limber enough to take on the challenge. My mind ran through the list of all the things needing to be done and the order in which they needed to be accomplished. I always made sure my lips were moist. It was a superstition of mine. My legs would tense up as I got ready to spring. My eyes would narrow down upon my opponent, the stove, and I would wait.

On the day my life changed, I stood in the kitchen like a gunfighter at 12:00 noon, ready to do battle with the man in the black hat. The only difference was the gunfighter was dressed in chaps, a dirty shirt and vest, and I was dressed in pajamas with red hearts all over them, a pink bathrobe and fuzzy bunny slippers. The other difference was that the man in black was actually an inanimate object that I had complete control over, the stove.

Robert’s alarm started to screech from upstairs.

I sprung into action.

I leaped to the drawer underneath the stove and pulled it open. I gathered two frying pans and a large, square, flat griddle. I placed the griddle on the back two burners of the stove and the frying pans on the remaining two front burners as I kicked the drawer shut. I turned the right front burner on with my left hand while opening the fridge with my right. I pulled out a new package of bacon, a dozen eggs, a tub of butter, and a gallon of milk and placed them on the counter beside the stove. I grabbed a knife from the magnet on the back wall, sliced open the package of bacon with it, placed it back on the magnet pointy end up, grabbed the plastic from the package and ripped it down to expose the uncooked meat. I peeled the bacon off one at a time to place it on the heating-up frying pan. The first piece of bacon started to sizzle as I put the fifth piece down. I went through the whole package until the pan was full. This was like any other morning, and things were running smoothly. The routine was a machine and I had perfected it.

I listened upstairs to make sure that part of the machine was running smoothly also. I heard the water running in the shower in our bathroom. That meant Robert was at the appropriate place that morning, but I hadn’t heard from the children yet. I grabbed the gallon of orange juice and the maple syrup and plopped them down on the kitchen table before I ran to the edge of the stairs. I looked up to see Lindsey, my four year old daughter, standing on the top of the stairs. She still had her pajamas on. Her index and middle finger of her right hand were being sucked gently in her mouth, and her left hand clutched her pink blankee.

“Lindsey, is Zach up yet?”

She shook her head no.

“Well, go wake up your brother, and tell him I said so.”

Lindsey turned to run off towards her brother’s room as I headed over to the coffee pot. I put the pot under the running faucet as I prepared a new filter with the morning coffee in it. I put the filter into the coffee machine, and then I poured the water in. I turned it on and started to hear the coffee percolate through as I checked on the bacon. The bottom side hadn’t cooked enough yet for me to flip it over, but the sizzling sound told me things were going according to schedule.

I opened the cabinet to the left of the oven and pulled out two large mixing bowls. I cracked four eggs into one of the mixing bowls. I poured in some milk, added just the right amount of sugar and flour from the canisters that were on the countertop, and grabbed a whisk hanging from a small hook underneath the cabinets. As I turned on the two burners underneath the griddle, I threw the whisk in the bowl. I popped open the butter, grabbed a spoon from the silverware drawer, took a healthy scoop out of the tub and threw it on the griddle to let it slowly melt down into a brown liquid glaze. I threw some more butter in the other frying pan, and turned the burner under that one on. I checked on the bacon and saw that it was starting to shrink but noticed it was still not ready to flip over.

With the other mixing bowl, I cracked open six more eggs and poured in just a splash of milk. I grabbed the first mixing bowl and started to whisk quickly in order to create a fluid, even batter.

The shower had just turned off. Two kids stumbled into the room and took their seats at the kitchen table; one of them still had her fingers in her mouth. The bowl got placed on the counter so I could pour the orange juice sitting on the table into two juice glasses. I placed one in front of Lindsey and the other in front of Zach. Lindsey took her hand out of her mouth so she could pick up the glass with two hands and drink it down. Her blankee fell to the ground. Zach just sat there and stared at the glass of orange juice.

I quickly picked up the blankee and draped it over Lindsey’s shoulder.

I remember this happening because she looked up at me and smiled, “Thank you, mommy.” Back then I thought I needed more, but now I see all I needed were those little thank yous in order to validate how great a mother I actually was.

I picked up the mixing bowl and started whisking again, I looked over at Zach and gave him the jumpstart he was looking for, “Zach, honey, drink your orange juice. You need to get ready for school.” It seemed to wake him up from his slumber and he picked up his glass to drink it down.

I made my way over to the griddle where the butter had melted evenly. I poured the now perfect batter onto the griddle making eight perfectly round pancakes. I quickly flipped over the bacon at just the right time and grabbed a new whisk from where it hung on its little hook underneath the cabinets. I started to whisk the eggs in the other mixing bowl until they turned into a perfectly smooth yellow liquid. I looked down at the other frying pan and saw the butter had melted as well. I poured the egg mixture into the frying pan and let it sit for a moment.

The pancakes were cooking nicely, the bacon was cooking nicely, the coffee was almost done, and once again I was right on schedule. I grabbed two coffee mugs and placed them at the two open spots on the kitchen table. I worked my way over to the front door, opened it, walked outside, picked up the paper, waved to Sheila, our neighbor across the street, and walked back inside. I pulled the paper out of its plastic wrapper, pulled out the Sports page, placed it on top, and put it on the table in front of Robert’s spot.

I walked over to the paper towels. I pulled off two and folded them in half. I pulled a plate out of the cabinet, and placed the paper towels on top of it. I flipped over the pancakes, and scraped up the eggs so they made fluffy delicious nuggets. I pulled the bacon out of the frying pan and placed it on the plate with the paper towels on them. The paper towels started to soak up the hot grease as the smell of bacon wafted over the kitchen. I poured the excess grease into an empty coffee can I kept under the kitchen sink and placed the hot pan in the sink.

I grabbed the coffee pot filled with coffee and the bottle of French vanilla creamer from the refrigerator. I poured a little splash of the creamer into both of the coffee mugs. I gave myself a little more because I like things sweet, and poured the hot coffee in after it. As soon as I was finished, Robert came down the stairs. He was in the process of tying his red tie I loved so much. It was a good color on him. He was always more of a spring, and the color gave him a sense of flair to his strong jaw and broad shoulders. He came over to where I was standing by his chair. He gave me a quick kiss on my cheek.

“It smells wonderful. You’ve really outdone yourself again, Rachael.”

“Well, I will have it plated up for you in just a second. Why don’t you sit down, get started on the paper, and have a sip of your coffee.”

“You’re too good to me honey,” he said as he sat down and unfolded the Sports page.

“That’s what love is all about,” I replied as I headed back to the stove and pulled out four plates.

The exchange was part of our routine. We had said the same words to each other every morning for the last two years with only slight variations.

Looking back at that moment, I should have been mad about the exchange, but I was so lost in my morning I hadn’t noticed how insulting it actually was. I placed the food on each plate in a formation. Two pancakes at the two o’clock position, four slices of bacon at the ten o’clock position, and a healthy amount of scrambled eggs at the six o’clock position. I usually gave Zach and Robert a few more eggs than Lindsey and me because I believed, as I still do now, it is important for us ladies to keep our girlish figures. That day was no exception. I brought over the boys’ plates first and they dug in right away. By the time I had turned off the stove, placed the dishes in the sink, put the milk back in the fridge, and brought over Lindsey’s and my plates, the boys were already half done eating.

I sat down, unfolded the napkin and placed it gently in my lap. I remember looking over my perfect family and smiling. That morning Robert looked up from his paper to notice the odd expression on my face. “Is everything alright, honey?” he asked me.

I was shaken from my thoughts about how lucky I was to have such a wonderful family and looked back at him. “Yes, everything is perfect. Just enjoy your breakfast honey, or you’ll be late for work.”

“Oh that reminds me,” he said as he shoveled more eggs into his mouth, “I got a weird notification yesterday at work. It said something about a certified letter they were trying to deliver to me yesterday. The post office actually tried to deliver it to me at work. They were having a hard time finding me even though they shouldn’t have tried to deliver it to me there in the first place. Anyway, I was wondering if you had a little extra time today, maybe you could swing by the post office and see if you could pick it up for me.”

“I would love to. I can do it after I drop Zach off at school.”

Robert finished his meal and quickly got up from his seat. He grabbed his briefcase while he was on his way over to where I was sitting. He kissed me on the other cheek this time and I could smell the coffee on his breath as he did so. “Thank you, honey. I knew there was a reason I married you.” And he was off. Behind was left a dirty plate and a pile of crumpled up newspapers. Zach was also finishing up, and he seemed a bit more awake now that he had some food in his stomach. Lindsey continued to try to shovel more of her breakfast into her mouth, but more than half of it landed on her lap. The responsibilities of the day were coming at me with full force and if I wanted to make sure Zach got to school on time I would have to get started, but I was enjoying the feeling the morning had left with me. It was one of those moments when you are truly happy. I had everything I ever wanted: a beautiful house, a wonderful husband, and two amazing children. I let out a sigh of joy and then got up grabbing the dirty plates as I went.

“Come on, Zach. Why don’t you go get dressed? We’ll need to leave for school in just a couple of seconds.”

Zach got up from his seat and looked over at me, “Okay mommy.” He pushed in his chair and ran up the stairs to get ready for school. Lindsey looked longingly after Zach as he ran up the stairs and then she looked back at me.

“Do you want to get ready too?”

She nodded her head up and down.

“Go ahead and get ready like a big girl.”

She smiled at me. She lay down on the seat of her chair and slithered off on her stomach. When her feet touched the ground, she turned around, grabbed her blanket, and then ran up the stairs to get ready like her older brother. My perfect family had left me, and all I had left to remember from it was the remains of a served breakfast. I grabbed the last dirty plate off the table and took it to the sink. I started to wash the dishes as I thought about how truly blessed I was. A lot of my friends would constantly complain about their families when we met for coffee every Tuesday afternoon. Back then I couldn’t understand why they would complain because I was living in the perfect household thanks to my ability as a mother. The government kept assuring us we were living in the age of the mother and they did everything in their power to make sure the good mothers were recognized for what the government believed was the proper way to raise a child.

Other mothers would always complain about how the government was intruding in their houses. They would also complain about the way the system was set up. They thought it was an unfair system that would eventually ensure that all mothers would fail. This way the government could come in and take over the official duties of motherhood.

Usually when the conversation reached this point, I would start to laugh. Why would the government want to take over the duties of motherhood? What could they possibly gain from watching over the youth of America? Where would they find the money needed to make this a reality? It was so preposterous I had to sit back and laugh.

The other mothers didn’t like my laughter. They believed I hadn’t reached the point with my kids yet where this act would cause the same problems they were having with their children. It was only a matter of time when I would start to feel the same pain they were feeling.

I still dismissed it as a just a bunch of whiny ladies who regretted the mistakes they made with their children and were looking for an easy target to blame. The government is always the first one in cases like theirs.

These thoughts raced through my mind as I washed the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen from the morning’s meal. Right about the time I finished up, Zach and Lindsey had made their way downstairs. They were in the living room watching television before we had to pack up and go to school. I walked into the living room and saw them happily staring into the wonderful world of The Buddy Bears. It is the cartoon brainchild of the Capital Limited Corporation. They constantly show it on the kid’s channel. It is a family of bears called the Buddys. Each ten minute episode has a family problem resolved by the mother using the standards laid out by the Department of Motherhood. Capital Limited claims they work with the Department of Motherhood to produce this show as a way of teaching kids what they need to know when they grow up.

When I went downstairs, they were in the middle of an episode and I knew it would be foolish for me to turn off the television before the episode was over. I had tried doing this once before when Zach was younger and had just started school. He had become so mad he threw a temper tantrum. My actions were a direct violation of Standard Number Two: a child should never be denied the experiences that life has to offer.

I knew by waiting for the commercials to come on, I would have a better chance of not disturbing the natural happiness of my child’s life and I would be able to get him to school easier as well. He might be a little bit late, but really education wasn’t nearly as important as my child’s happiness. So I sat and waited for the antics of my son’s favorite cartoon to end before I rustled him up from the couch and drove him off to school.

Tag: A Cautionary Tale

Book Cover (r.4) (1)

4 out of 4 stars


Review by Scerakor

What I liked most about this book, however, is that after a few chapters pass, the genius of this story comes out in droves. Like an onion, once you rip off the outer layer that is the simple childhood game, you are rewarded with layer after layer of sub-text. There is the (still light-hearted) suggestion that this group of kids not only “invented” the game of tag, but in the process of doing so, also “invented” many other childhood games we know and love. There is the witty banter between the naïvety of the old man and the sassy, but not exactly wrong, little Lizzie. This banter reeks of a battle between the super-ego and the id. There is a dark and foreboding layer that outlines how low humanity can stoop simply by imposing rule after rule upon its occupants. This layer is eerily redolent of books like Animal Farm or, even more so, Lord of the Flies. Finally, there is also that silent warning layer that screams how difficult (if not impossible) it is to pull out the deeply rooted traditions, prejudices, conventions, and preconceptions that are littered throughout our society. It shows how, despite being pestilential to our very existence, it is extremely difficult to change how we think and feel once we have an idea in our head and are willing to fight for it. – OnlineBookClub.org

Top 25 list for 2016.
Everyone needs a Little Lizzy & old man friend. – Tony Parsons

A Good Read Indeed! – Amazon Customer

A perfectly timed read with infuriating characters and unbelievable events that somehow represent what the United States (and much else of the world) seems to be going through more and more these days. This story gives light to the incoherent and twisted perspective of those who abide by the Just World Phenomenon and should motivate those who don’t share that view to get off their butts and change the conversation. A good read…Read More
 

Available for purchase at

http://emsapublishing.com/books/tag-a-cautionary-tale/

and Amazon.com

Opening

The old man shuffled his way to the foot of the great hill where sat a smooth boulder, protruding from the ground. He arrived every day, at precisely at 7:01, with the precision of a German engineer, as if he’d just disembarked from a bus or a train somewhere around the hill, and taken only the time needed to waddle over to the rock, and sit in the indentation worn into it by his butt over the years. He’d become a slave to this routine over the years, sitting there, on rock at the foot of a burnt out hill, undisturbed by the people who passed him as they moved about their day. They probably didn’t even notice him, seeing as they had other priorities to possess their time.

The man remembered a time, long ago, when the hill possessed the highest peak in the town. If a person climbed to the top of it, he could look down and take it in at a glance. But progress had seized the town, and large buildings soon grew to obscure the view, until the hill served as no more than the outline for the roundabout, designed to take busy people to their busy places. If any of them ever took the time away from their busy pace, how many of them would wonder how this old man found his way across that busy street to sit on his rock?

The current aesthetic labeled the hill an eyesore, an abomination, best residing on the other side of the tracks. If any of the fools ever put forth the effort, they’d march up to their representatives in the city hall and demand that the
representatives move it to the place where it actually belonged. No doubt those representatives would get right on the task, filing injunctions, posting notices, and writing bills about the town’s eyesore. And still the hill would remain as the busy people rushed their way through the roundabout towards their destination, never considering the state of the hill’s dilapidation. The representatives did, however, get around to putting a chain-linked fence around the hill with imposing ropes of razor sharp barbed wire on top, to keep out all the busy people who never wanted to go in in the first place. The fence marked, to all who cared to notice, the speed of “progress”.

After all these years, the hill remained. Nothing would grow on it. No one would walk on it. Not even the birds would feign to fly over the flimsy, metal barrier to land upon the hill’s desecrated domain. No one else seemed to even care about it but the old man, and he cared enough to visit it on a daily basis. So often had he visited the hill that he’d almost became a permanent addition to it. Except for the fact his clothes would change from day to day, people might have mistaken him for a statue.

He sat on the rock leaning heavily on the cane he carried with him, craning to get a better look at the nothingness the hill had to offer. What had begun as a mild interest in the hill had grown to such an obsession, that he would often squint his eyes at it, as if hoping to read the words somehow typed into the typography. His bald head protruded from his shirt collar so much that an onlooker might mistake him for a turtle, taking its first trembling steps onto the sands of some foreign beach, if, that is, they stopped long enough to notice. He thought he might need to find a place to rest his weary head, or it would fall from his body. Instead it came to lie on the gnarled and knobby hands he’d wrapped around the handle of his sturdy oak cane.

Day in and day out he sat, fearing any change in his routine, until Little Lizzy showed up to change that routine for him, having found her way across the traffic to the burnt-out oasis of the hill. Her blonde curls bounced giddily as she skipped her way over to where the old man sat on his rock. She wore a pink dress barely long enough to cover her chubby knees. She carried a box in her hands, about the size of a Bible, which she brandished with extreme importance.

The old man watched as Little Lizzy made her way around the fence line to approach him. When she noticed him, she stopped and stared at the sight, as if she found it hard to believe another soul had found his way over to this parcel of land. She dropped the box in her hands and it disappeared in the shadow of the rock. Because items not in the immediate view of children are seldom remembered, the box remained there as she slowly walked towards the ancient anomaly.

The old man sat there, unmoving. Little Lizzy approached with caution, as if she feared chasing him away by her approach.

First, she waved at him from a safe distance; the old man did not move.

Then, she skipped into the old man’s peripheral view and tilted her head; still, the old man did not move.

Finally, she took a spot in-between the old man and the object of his attention. She grabbed the sides of her fluffy skirt and twisted it right and then left, wearing a pouty expression on her face. At last she said, “Hi.”

The old man responded, “Go away.”

She took a step closer and said, “My name’s Lizzy.”

“Go away, Lizzy.”

Little Lizzy looked at the old man closely, then turned her head to follow his gaze. “Whatchya looking at?”

“Right now? A little girl who won’t go away.”

Still Lizzy was not deterred. She ignored the slight and went on with her questioning. “What were you looking at before that?”

The old man lifted his head from his crooked hands, and looked at Little Lizzy with renewed interest. “You’re not going to leave me alone, are you?”

Lizzy also ignored the man’s attempt to change the subject. “Are you looking at that hill?” she asked.

The old man finally gave into the girl’s interrogation. “Yes, I’m looking at the hill. Now, go away.”

“Why would you want to spend all day looking at that hill? It’s sure an ugly hill. Not even weeds grow on it. It is probably the most worthless plot of land in the whole town.”

The words of the young child enraged the old man. He stood up from his seat and used his cane to point at the hill. “How dare you call Arbella Hill a worthless plot of land? If it wasn’t for that hill, this town would never have existed. It’s thanks to that hill that you see all this around you.”

“Why?”

“Why? Why? WHY?”

Little Lizzy looked at the exasperated old man as if wondering why her question would illicit such a response. “Yes,” she said, undeterred. “Why?”

The old man considered Little Lizzy’s question with a new respect. He placed his sturdy oak cane back on the ground, and snuggled back into his groove in the rock. “Well, that requires a complicated answer, little girl.”

Lizzy’s eyes brightened up. “Does it involve a story?”

“Yes, and what a story it is!”

Lizzy took this as an invitation. She sat down Indian style on a soft patch of grass in front of the rock, smoothed her skirt out, and rested her chin in the crag of her fists.

The old man’s eyes grew foggy, as if looking at a faraway place. He cleared his throat and began.

“This place once looked quite different than it does today…”

Chapter One

Back then, roads didn’t exist. Big buildings didn’t block out the blue sky. Even the cars didn’t hurry off to the places where cars hurry off to. Tall trees circled the expanse of the field. Of course, a few stray trees here and there offered their shade to those in need on sunny days, and shelter to those in need on rainy days. Arbella Hill stood over there, the steep sides of it also covered with trees. On the top of it stood the mightiest of all trees, a proud oak. And, of course, this rock I’m sitting on sat right here.

Back in the day, we didn’t call the hill Arbella; that name came later. We only called the hill, “The Hill”, just as we called the rock, “The Rock” and each individual tree, a tree. We didn’t spend a lot of time naming things back in those days. We had more important things to do. We had a big field.

I couldn’t tell you where everybody came from, but we came, none the less. We all wandered out of the woods and across the horizon, drawn by this majestic mound. It stood above everything else on the plain, rivaled by no other formation in its beauty. On it, assorted fruit trees and tall pines pointed their peaks towards the heavens, wondrous wildflowers blossomed, rearing their heads to the world, animals scurried under the protection of the hill, peeking their happy heads out whenever they saw fit. If they ever noticed us looking at them, they would dart back into the shadows. They didn’t know they had nothing to worry about because we cared about them as much as they cared about us. We had many more exciting things to do, besides.

We ran. Not to or from a specific place—doing something like that didn’t interest us much. We ran more for the why, rather than the where.

What was the why, you ask? Well, why not?

But just imagine a huge field stretched out before you, soft and supple grass growing just tall enough to tickle your toes as the drops of dew danced upon your bare feet, the subtle sun warming you as you wind your way through the maze of dandelions. And if ever its heat gets too hot, the shade of a nearby tree is there to comfort you. If you’d rather continue on your run, the wind was there to blow a refreshing breeze your way. As far as we were concerned, the field had been created just for our pleasure, and we took every opportunity to partake in that gift.

As was the case with the hill, the rock, and the trees, we didn’t bother with each other’s names. We didn’t even bother to acknowledge each other’s presence. We weren’t very social at that time—running occupied most of our time.
We didn’t care about speed or direction—some of us sprinted from one end of the field to the other; some of us twirled in circles, arms outstretched; some of us darted this way and that; and some just meandered from place to place, spending more time taking in our surroundings than those who surrounded us. It probably helped to get it all started, I guess.

The first uproar was caused by two kids of opposite natures. I later learned that their names were Tommy and Franklin, but I just knew them as the Fat Kid and the Focused Kid.

Tommy ran with purpose. He focused directly on where he wanted to run and when he got there, he turned right around to focus on getting back.

Franklin didn’t run so much as meander all about the place. His head constantly turning to observe the world around him, darting from place to place, to stoop down to look at a wildflower, or up to the sky to watch an eagle fly. Rarely was his head in what he was supposed to be doing down on the field.

As in all other aspects of life, when you have two opposites such as Tommy and Franklin, they are destined to clash, and clash, they did.

Franklin backed into Tommy one hot Thursday afternoon, too busy watching a wild turkey dart across the field while trying to get out of its way, running backwards, not really looking where he was going. Tommy, on the other hand, was so focused on where his run was taking him that he didn’t see Franklin coming. Franklin weighed more than Tommy, and it was he who took the tumble and landed flat on his butt.

Tommy wasn’t much of an orator at that early age, but of course none of us were. Later, Tommy would become the great speaker you may have heard about, but on that fateful day, he looked at where he’d landed in that big field of grass, and said the only thing he could in that situation: “I’s It.”

Rather, that’s what Franklin thought he’d said, for even though Tommy talked as if he’d marbles in his mouth, he wasn’t one to practice such bad grammar. He also didn’t back away from a confrontation, particularly one spurring from an intrusion concerning his right to run.

Tommy stood up, and walked over to where Franklin was standing. Franklin tried to stammer out an apology, but was unable to articulate the thought before Tommy pushed him, and Franklin landed on his butt.

Franklin could not believe Tommy capable of performing such an act of anger. He looked up at his antagonist, hoping for an apology he knew wouldn’t come. Instead, Tommy responded with a retort that would endure in the cannon of our consciousness for all eternity.

“You’s It!” he said.

Interlude One

“And that’s where it came from.”

“That’s where what came from?”

“Why, Tag, of course, Sarah.”

“Lizzy!”

“Whatever. Tag started that day.”

“What’s Tag?”

“What’s Tag?”

“Didn’t I just ask that?”

“I can’t believe that you haven’t heard of Tag.”

“I can’t believe you were there to see the beginning of this so-called Tag and you still can’t tell me what it is.”

“It’s a game.”

“And the object of this game is to push each other over?”

“No! You’re not listening to what I’m saying”

“I am. You said all they did was to push each other over, so they would sit.”

“It was a little more complicated than that.”

“It doesn’t sound that complicated. I push you down and say, ‘You sit,’ then you push me down and say, ‘You sit,’ and apparently, if I get really tired I can sit down and say, ‘I sit.’ It sounds more boring than complicated to me. Maybe you should have called it Sit instead.”

“We called the game Tag.”

“Well, I like Sit.”

“Well, that’s just stupid.”

“Like calling a game Tag when all you do is sit isn’t?”

“No, you don’t understand the game.”

“What don’t I understand? I mean look. I sit. You sit. We all sit. It sounds like a game my mom would make up when it’s her Special Juice Time.”

“The game had rules.”

“Like how to sit?”

“No! Just…listen, okay?”

“Okay, but this had better get interesting quick because skipping sounds a lot more exciting than this story does.”

Hell, and God, and Nuns with Rulers

Hell and God and Nuns with Rulers full cover 2

TOP INDIE BOOK of 2015 – Britbear Books

5 Stars – In Tristan, Collings has created a character with which many teens will identify (indeed, most adults as well). Regardless of the religion in question, most of us struggle for a balance between the pious and the secular, and the ability to live our lives whilst pleasing both our parents and ourselves. And while many of us don’t grapple with the same potentially life-altering, game-changing issues as Tristan, we grapple with the issues nevertheless. That Tristan holds on and refuses to give up who he is to the pressure of others makes him not only memorable, but inspirational. – Britbear Books

5 Stars –  I was immediately blown away by the intelligent, almost satirical nature of Collings’ writing, which was straight-forward and authentic to the age and acrimony of a teenage boy. Tristan has a distinct tone—a real voice—and it is instantly potent. – Please Pass the Book

A witty suburban coming-of-age storyRedNoise

(Throughout the course of the novel, the main character, Tristan Adamson, has to write a series of essays for his Literature and Composition class. They don’t always go as well as he hopes. This particular essay he wrote gives the story its title.)

Hell, and God, and Nuns with Rulers

Some people would say that Jewish parents have cornered the market on guilt. This noble race knows better than any other type of parent how to make their children feel uncomfortable at any given moment. They can use the fires of Hell and the pains of their past to make their children feel bad when they complain about the scratchy pants they received for Hanukkah. Even though they might have pretty effective skills when dishing out guilt, the Catholics have made strong inroads with this ability. In fact, the parents of Catholic children have made so much progress in this area of expertise that they now hold the title for the best guilt trippers on the planet.

Just like the Jewish people, the Catholic parents have the fear of Hell on their side and they know how to use it. They instill it in their children at a very early age. From the moment their child can enjoy stories, these parents pull out their big old picture book of Bible stories. These books tell wonderful stories about animals going into an ark two by two, or how three wise men showed up at the birth of some random kid to give him gifts of precious metals and smelly stuff. But other stories involve what a young person’s life will be like if they are condemned to Hell. Red painted men with horns and long tails walk around with pitchforks forcing people to take leaps into big old pits of fire. Parents force their children to look at pictures of the anguished faces of people burning for all eternity while Lucifer dances behind with glee. Catholic parents will point at these pictures and tell their children, “Look what happens if you don’t brush your teeth at night.” On a side note, Catholics generally have very happy dentists.

If Catholic parents can’t scare their kids by using the devil, they can always use God. We should all fear God; at least this is what they tell children at a very early age. God will not be undone by a mere human. If He thinks someone is showing Him up in any manner, He will use His might and power to smite that person. Many Bible stories confirm this. Children’s Bibles even furnish pictures to better illustrate these messages. God threw Adam and Eve out of Eden. After Noah got on the ark, God flooded the earth. The picture in the Bible depicted men drowning as Noah sails by with a smile on his face and a cute cat in the crook of his arm. Imagine being five years old and seeing a picture of a man wearing a toga and yielding a sharp knife to stab his son, or the picture of the Hell on Earth that God created while he destroyed Sodom. These frightening pictures, combined with terrifying stories, can even help Catholic parents guilt their children into being potty-trained.

Finally, Catholic parents having something that would make the Holocaust look tame. They have nuns with rulers. There is nothing scarier on this God-given Earth than a nun with a ruler. Just one of these formidable beasts will stare down an army of highly trained super ninjas. With one crack of that ruler, it will cause those ninjas to wet their pants (they don’t have many Catholics in Japan) and run away like Shaggy and Scooby Doo being chased by some imaginary ghost. The only problem with being a Catholic child is that when faced with this dilemma, they can neither pee their pants (see earlier argument) nor run away. They must face the nun and whatever terror she may inflict upon the knuckles of said victim. Many Catholic boys and girls wake up with their knuckles aching, and they don’t even know why.

So it is obvious that even though all parents know how to use guilt trips to their advantage, no parent knows how to use them better than Catholic parents. They have many more tools at their disposal, such as: Hell, and God, and nuns with rulers. Just feel lucky you don’t have Catholics for parents.

# # #

This time Mrs. Baker went backward down the list as she talked to each student about their essays. I followed Stephen Bluestein. She started off by pointing out her pride at the fact that I could use a semicolon correctly. I guess this would mean a lot to me if I knew what a semicolon was. She then went on to explain her dissatisfaction with the fact that I couldn’t stick to the prompt. My voice and subject matter interested her but she couldn’t understand how it had anything to do with the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. She would even accept my consistently writing the five-paragraph essay if only I could stay on topic. Maybe I could stay on topic if I actually sat down and read Macbeth, but I just can’t get into Shakespeare.

She handed back my paper with a big red letter F on it. She went on to explain that she might’ve found it in her heart to give me a D if I hadn’t dismissed the Holocaust as being less terrifying than a nun with a ruler. Apparently, they never taught a theology class at the public high school she attended. She is definitely not making any brownie points. I can’t move her to the list of teachers that I like. But considering the fact that only my first grade teacher, Mrs. Flarrety, has made the list, I doubt Mrs. Baker would really care.