Showing posts with label college. Show all posts
Showing posts with label college. Show all posts

13 January, 2020

“Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.”*

I had recent conversation about higher education and my thoughts on returning to the classroom, and while digging through some old files (looking for something else) I found this word collage. Names have been changed, and I apologize to the family of A.A. Milne and the creators of The Flintstones.


"During this review period (... one calendar year [January 1, 2008- December 31, 2008]...) your TEACHING SCORES -- RANGING FROM 1.17 TO 1.37 AND AVERAGING AN OVERALL 1.25 -- ARE BETTER THAN THE DEPARTMENTAL MEAN FOR BOTH YOUR RANK AND THE LEVEL OF CLASSES YOU TAUGHT. Students comment on your entertaining style and your pedagogy. "
Your annual performance evaluation for this year is as follows:
Teaching: 2
Service: 1
Professional Development: 1
Overall: 1.8
{NOTE:  3=Meritorious performance. 2= Satisfactory performance. 1 = Unsatisfactory performance}

"Your self-evaluation with no supplemental materials offers little evidence of service contributions and no evidence of professional development..."


{NOTE: ON COURSE EVALUATONS, the lower the number the better. So a 1 = to an 'A'}

To: The Grand Pooh-Bah
Sent: Wed Mar 04 07:37:20 2009
Subject: Meeting to Discuss Annual Review
I am sending my annual review back signed, via campus mail, and I have saved a copy for my records. However, as you will notice, I would like to discuss it in more detail sometime soon. My score for Service does not reflect my contributions on the Steering Committee THIS academic year – which I did mention (and I thought, at some length) in my self-evaluation. Also, as with my evaluation last year, I am at a loss as to what I can do about Professional Development, as most of the opportunities that might apply are either not conducive to my schedule or too expensive.
Moreover, I am still left with the impression that being a good instructor means little or nothing… which seems ironic to me, since that’s what I was hired to do.
I am on campus on MWF and I teach from 7:30-12:40.  Is there a time soon that we could sit down and chat?


_X_ I will schedule an interview to discuss this review.
__ I will not schedule an interview to discuss this review.

From: The Grand Pooh-Bah
Sent: Wed 3/4/2009 10:29 AM
Cc: Pooh-Bah No. 2
Subject: Re: Meeting to Discuss Annual Review
Main Office staff makes my appointments.
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

* Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

02 February, 2012

Baboon in the Bluegrass, Part 3: Morehead, Kentucky

NO. It's not a sexual request.

It's a city... well, more like a town... a town that will, undoubtedly, be swallowed by the monolithic beast that is Morehead State University (Curse it's name!) and become a plaza shopping and living pavilion... with oodles and oodles of parking, of course. (They really did bulldoze a park once, and put in a parking lot. Well, it was more like a grassy knoll. Ok... more like an abandoned field by the side of the road. But it WAS green space.)

The nice thing about being gone for so long (George and Laura and I decided that my last visit to the area was maybe 8 years ago.) is that there's hardly anyone around who might remember me. At least, no one hanging around on the street or in the coffee shop. This is to my advantage; I wanted to walk around, see what changed, and take things in without people asking How I Am or What am I Up To. I could walk around, be perceived as slightly creepy, take pictures with my cell phone, and slip back out of town again without raising too many eyebrows.

But where to begin? 

One of the problems I have in coming back here -- other than a the fairly good chance of running into some ghost of my old self -- is that when I think about the place, image in my mental map of the place is a bit dated... circa 1995 or 96. When I think about Morehead, I think about driving into town on KY-32 and seeing the mountains on fire the year there wasn't much rain, black smoke blocking out the sun for what seemed like an entire summer. I think about the year there was too much rain and the whole North end of town flooded -- including a house of Melissa's Theater Department friends who were too stoned to realize they needed to leave. That happened when I was in graduate school, around 2001... but it's still part of the elemental 1995 map.

There are houses gone that I expect to be gone, and houses gone that I expect to be there. Every single structure I lived in with my daughter's mother, Anna, is gone. It is as if our marriage -- brief and ridiculously dramatic as it was -- has been erased from the landscape. To be honest, I find it oddly comforting. The number of people who have any memory of that botched disaster of a relationship is shrinking. Even my daughter -- the only good to come out of my first marriage -- has no memory of her mother and I ever being together. For this, I am eternally grateful. Anna's parents are dead. Her grandparents are dead. My mother isn't, thank god.

But she has the courtesy not to bring up my early marriage as one in a catalog of mistakes I made In Spite Of Her Telling Me So.

Morehead has more parking lots than I remember. The Fuzzy Duck Coffee Shop, once located in what was once the back store room of Coffee Tree Books, which was located in a nominally interesting shopping center, is not located -- along with Coffee Tree Books -- in the building that was once the movie theater downtown.

(This was replaced by a six screen multi-plex out on the by-pass. More screens for more lousy movies. And really expensive popcorn. But the bubble gum under the seats is more fresh, at least.)

 It's theoretically more space. The coffee shop takes up what was once the concessions and lobby. The problem is, that it still looks like a movie theater, only with no popcorn, Ike&Mike's, or stale Reese's Pieces and over priced watered down pop. They do the whole coffee, soup and sandwiches thing, along with all the usual coffee boutique items... coffee mugs (though not ByBee Pottery... a travesty, as far as I'm concerned.) froo-froo coffee contraptions, French coffee presses, ground and whole bean coffee, and a plethora of teas.

"Well, you told me I have a plethora. And I just would like to know if you know what a plethora is. I would not like to think that a person would tell someone he has a plethora, and then find out that that person has NO IDEA what it means to have a plethora."

But if ever there was a town that needed a bar... it would be THIS one.

The problem, however -- at least according to conventional wisdom -- is that no bar in downtown has ever succeeded for very long.

Scratch that. No downtown bar has ever been ALLOWED to succeed for very long.

At least, that's the assertion of an old friend, Clark. Back in the day, Clark was one of those Those Guys. He played guitar. Girls liked him. Generally people thought he was something of a pretentious ass... but he was still likable too. Clark has been living in Morehead almost exclusively for the past 20 years. One of the things we sat and talked about -- in the newish location of the Fuzzy Duck/Coffee Tree Books was how much town had changed since the last time I was here. The new Wal-Mart. The new Public Library, which, while it's not in the middle of town anymore ... which is decidedly inconvienent if you don't have a car... is a much nicer, much bigger space.

The old library is being adapted into the new home of the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music, which now occupies a Main Street storefront location.

The new space will have class rooms, recording studios, and will generally be a  nicer space. 

The other advantage of the new space is that it won't be owned by this guy... the biggest, sleaziest slum lord in town.

The Dixie Grill... one of the downtown townie restaurants knowns as much for the oderiferious air as the cheap food, is now a hair salon. Main Street Records is now a bakery. One of the bars where I used to go for dime drafts on Thirsty Thursdays is now a church children's youth center. (I blame the Bapists.)  The other bar -- the one with multiple names and multiple owners -- is now a Thursday night Karaoke /Dance Club. (Not sure if the Soot Scootin' Boogie or the Macarena is still in vogue.

When I told Clark that I didn't know how I felt about the coffee shop residing in the lobby of the old movie theater he nodded, but said "It grows on you."

As we continued our conversation, he admitted to a certain ambivalence regarding his life in town. "I don't know," he said," whether I'm really stuck here or whether I stay out of a sense of obligation."

The obligation he meant was his the obligation he felt to his children. He has a son, who is 13, and a younger daughter. Both of his children are with different mothers. Both mothers still live in the area, and he has to see them on a regular basis. But he also seems to understand that a parent is more than provider, protector, soundboard, bank, and bed and board landlord. He also knows that maybe the best function a parent serves is an object lesson.

Clark told me a story about taking his son, at the time 12, with him on a road trip to a city. Clark, who's early drinking experience was made up of house parties and music gigs (with him on stage); he admitted that to not really ever having a bar experience until the Buffalo Wings and Things, took his son around to different bars in the city they were in. Clark sipped on drinks while his son took in the general atmosphere.

This is BW3's. It's too bright, too plastic, and costs too much.
Oh yeah, and the bartender, who looked 10, didn't know how to make a proper Bloody Mary.
This sorority girl and others like her,. who will probably be praying  for forgiveness on Sunday when they go to church, is one of the things that makes BW3's entirely too loud to be a place worth drinking in.

"He was loving it," Clark said. "And that was the point. I told him..." he paused briefly, as if he were gathering the words, or maybe thinking about his own life for split second. "I told him if he ever wanted to DO anything, that he needed to get out of here."

That pesky left foot is always late.

Morehead is the kind of place people go, stay for a specific but undetermined period of time, and then leave. It's like most college towns in that way. For that matter, it has always been a suitcase campus -- students would pack up and go back home for the weekend, and I saw nothing that made me think that had changed. It's easy to think it's almost planned out... that the university Board of Regents, the Chamber of Commerce, and the town council all got together with the cops and decided to make the town as unappealing to college age people as possible without being too overt about it.

There are other, less subtle but nonetheless accepted forms of creeping fascism. Yes, I call it fascism. When the corporate institutions intermingle interests with the political and financial life a community, the prevailing system becomes something like a a slightly more benevolent form of fascism. It may not be too intrusive, and certainly not enough to upset the too young to be paranoid college age kids who, by their silence, accept the rule of the regime.

Don't even get me started on what's wrong with this... I would like to point out, however, that tobacco money built the fucking campus. It's the #1 legal cash crop of the state. I'd also like to point out that there's a Taco Bell in the student center.

This is the entrance to what used to be  the English  Dept. Building. Now  it's the College of Business, which is kind enough to allow the English Department to say. See the sign? English Majors are people too!

This is one of the places we used to stand and smoke... before the  fast food financed fascists took over.

And this, dear readers, is where all the money really goes.

The new and updated Adrian Doran University  Center (ADUC) Your tuition and tax dollars at work.

There are still a few remnants of my past here, though. And some aren't even all that depressing.

The front door to 122 W. Second Street. The house I shared with  Jared, Bobby, Dave,and  sometimes, Eric. My primary function was to screw over the landlord, who charged per student rather than a lump sum of rent.

Douchebag apartments next door. They weren't there when I was  a student. Merely  pointing out that they're a blight. And Douchey.

I did more drinking than I can remember here. Really.  Pictures would  be appreciated. Really. Or... you know, forget it.

When I started here as a Sophmore, these two urinals was  a single long narrow trough. Keep your eyes on your own winkie, dammit.! God is watching.

I just think this is cute. Like those poor dumb kids are really going to find JOBS.

Oh, and see that diminutive bell tower behind the signs? Once upon a time, there was a tall, healthy, beautiful pine tree there, that had stood for as long as anyone remembered. It was cut down because someone with money wanted to put up a bell tower with her name on it.

 Did I mention diminutive? It's more like a vibrator for a hollowed out porn star. It plays show tunes sometimes, too.

[I need to extend my thanks to Paul V. Christensen, Mike Frazier, Brian Parsons, and Dixie Parsons for some welcome donations. Thanks to you, I've bought my train ticket from Ashland and expect to be in Norfolk on THURSDAY FEBRUARY 9th.

If you like what you read here, you can help by:
  1. Passing the link around.
  2. Graciously donating to the cause using the button on the right hand side of the screen;
  3. Contact Catherine Sellers at Greyhound, 415-331-6049. Tell them you are asking about a sponsorship when the operator picks up. I write about them enough. They should be helping me help them. Right??
Thanks for reading.]

10 February, 2010

Thick … As a Brick (dedicated to all the fantasy girls of my youth)

Shit jobs were easier to get 15 years ago. Even when you weren’t good at keeping them (and I surely wasn’t), there were still plenty of low paying, soul stealing, dignity defying sustenance jobs. If you knew where to look. The best system was suggested to me by a friend in college. Her name was Cheryl. We used to get drunk at her place to avoid having to go anywhere else. She also made a fantastic hangover breakfasts: one of those homemade masterpieces complete with cheesy eggs, sausage, biscuits, and gravy that always made the sunlight just a little bit easier to cope with. She also had these huge, gravity defying tits.

We were sitting on her couch and talking; I’d shown up to the party early because I wanted to tell her I was dropping out of college (again). I don’t know why I wanted to tell her, or what made me think I needed to show up early and tell just her; within five minutes of walking in the door, everybody else knew anyway because she, in addition to being a spot on cook and having gravity defying watermelon sized tits, she also had an incredibly big mouth. But she was beautiful, though not in that usual way that a woman can be beautiful.

At the time I think I had convinced myself I had a crush on her; it wasn’t difficult to talk myself in it. But I didn’t think she’d go for a guy like me. For one, I have always been on the large size, and not in a good way; I was large around the middle, but my legs and arms have always been shorter than they were supposed to be, so my clothes never fit me right. Back then I wore my hair long – I’m talking down to my ass, all the way around; unless I tied it back, I looked like Cousin It from the Addams Family. I’m lousy at games; I couldn’t hit a ball or throw a frisbee or play hacky sack to save my life. I’m also a longstanding social catastrophe. Even in high school, all I had to do was look at a girl I liked and she immediately assumed I was odd and wouldn’t talk to me; and then within 3 minutes neither would any of her friends. Eventually I learned it was easier to friend them than it was to fuck them – but even the friendship process was a lot of work and usually involved the help of third parties to lead the conversation.

“Temp agencies,” she told me after giving up on telling me I should finish college. She sighed when she said it, pushes the words out with what sounded like a slight tone of regret. She was wearing this cute hippie print sun dress that accentuated her boobs and showed just the right amount of leg. She had a B-girl’s body with the brain of a future rocket scientist. For a second, I allowed myself to think she sounded disappointed. Then again, I thought, don’t get your hopes up. That would mean she’d miss you, and there’s no way she would. She was getting cozy with a friend of mine, an ex-swimmer who was also good writer and, as far as women were concerned, a scoundrel. Not that I thought he’d mind if anything happened between Cheryl and me; but given the choice between my friend’s broad shoulders and mostly flat abs and rolly poly me, I figured I knew which way she’d go. I mean, why not?

“Get in with a good agency and they do all the leg work for you,” she said. “Especially if you’re not looking for anything permanent.”

I’d never been to a temp agency before. Sometimes I answered ads in the papers; sometimes I randomly showed up and asked for an application; sometimes a friend got me a job on their shift. A temp agency was a new thing. I asked her if it worked for her, and she said she’d been with the same agency since the summer she graduated high school. All she had to do was call them and say she was available and wanted work. She told me she was never out of work for more than a day when she wanted to work.

After leaving the following week and finding refuge in Cincinnati, I set about finding work. I called the closest branch office of Cheryl’s temp agency. The voice on the other end of the phone – a woman’s voice – asked me what kind of job I was looking for. I told her anything would be fine.

“Office or industrial?”

“Either really. Industrial I guess.”

The voice set up an appointment for me for ten the following morning. She told me to bring a copy of my resume, if I had one. I did, but it wasn’t much to look at. Besides, I didn’t see how it would make much of a difference. I printed one off and took it anyway.

When I got there the following morning I was greeted by the girl who belonged to the voice. She gave me a clipboard with an inch thick of paperwork on it. The first part of it was an application; the instructions read to fill it out even if I brought my resume with me. Then what’s the point of the resume? I wanted to ask the girl who belonged to the voice, but I didn’t want to make a bad impression by questioning office rules. I’d been fired for those kinds of things before – like asking the shift supervisor why the inspectors got rubber mats to stand on when the rest of the people assembling the stupid little plastic toys had to stand on the concrete floor for eight to ten hours a day. I filled out the application, the tax forms, and another ten or fifteen pages of a questionnaire that asked me to describe my skills and abilities in detail. When I was finished, I handed the girl my clipboard, and she told me to take a seat and wait.

After twenty minutes another woman walked out from the back and introduced herself to me. Her name was Kerri. She was shorter than me, but not too short, and dressed in a very smart gray business skirt suit and white blouse. She had these blue eyes and ultra white teeth. She was wearing make-up, but it was obvious that she was covered with freckles. I wondered briefly if she was freckled everywhere. She told me to follow her down the hall for a series of tests – standard procedure at temp agencies. “Just to see what your strengths are,” she said. So I followed her, half listening to her talk but mostly watching her ass, meticulously round and magnificently wrapped in her business skirt, sway as she walked.

Kerri led me to a small room with a computer and told me to take a seat in the chair in front of the computer. After I sat down she leaned over me and signed me into the testing program. she smelled good and when she leaned over, I got a decent side view into her blouse; nice seized tits encased in a red bra. I wondered if she was one of those who matched her bra and panties. I imagined she was.

“Just follow the instructions,” she smiled. “I’ll come back in and check on you in a couple of minutes.”

I found out much later that mostly they waited for you to finish before they came and printed out your scores; at the time, though, all I was focused on was getting through the tests so I could pick up a job. I was also focused on her red underwear and the shape of her ass in that skirt. But I figured a girl like her already had a boyfriend; there wasn’t a ring on her finger, but that didn’t mean anything. There was no way a girl that cute didn’t have somebody watching the clock and waiting for her to get off work and get out of that gray suit. No way at all.

So I set about my task. The first part was a math test, and there were some word problems. Math was never my strong subject, so I muddled through the best I could. The next part of the test was multiple choice; I was offered a series of work related scenarios and given choices of how to respond. For every situation I chose the answer that would best suit any employer, regardless of how asinine it was. After that was a typing test; the content of the test was this page long diatribe on what makes for a good employee, beginning with a quote from Mark Twain that was taken out of context.

A few minutes into the scenarios section, I heard Kerri saunter back in. “How’s it going?”

“It’s okay,” I said. I expected her to turn around and walk out; but instead I could feel her standing behind me. If I had reached up, I could’ve reached in and grabbed one of her boobs. The thought of that excited me a little and I had to shift in my chair. I stayed focused on my tests.

“So, “ she said, placing her hand on the back on the back of the chair, “are you in a band or something?”

The hair. Always when I had the long hair people assumed I was in a band, like nobody else would grow his hair out. “No,” I said. Then I said (and I don’t even know why I said it) “I’m a… writer. More of a writer. Really.”

“Ooh,” she cooed. Or I thought she cooed. Maybe I just wanted her to coo. I couldn’t tell if she was impressed or if she was making fun of me; it kind of sounds the same. “Have you written anything I’d have read?”

“Uh, probably not,” I stammered. “I mean… the places that publish my stuff don’t have a large distribution.” In fact, the only place I’d been published had been in a magazine I started in college. The magazine was short lived, much like my stays at college.

“Ooh,” she said. I felt her remove her hand from the back of the chair. I was increasingly uncomfortable. I felt myself start to sweat and I just wanted to finish the test. I still didn’t know what to make of her tone. She turned and left when I finished up the scenarios and was set to start the typing test. The scent of her lingered in the room, and it still excited me. I botched the typing test from the discomfort and raging erection she left me with. When I finished I did my best to be able to stand up; it’s not as easy as it sounds. All that shit people tell you to think about – baseball stats, your grandmother, your high school gym coach – none of those things actually work. It’s a work of the will to get a raging erection under control; deep breathing, mantras, and prayers are all a waste of time. After I’d managed to get it under control (sort of) I stood up and walked out and told Kerri I’d finished. She smiled, pointed to the chair in front of her desk, and told me to take a sheet. She smiled and her eyes flashed. Then she stood up, slowly. It almost seemed too slowly, like she was maybe letting me look her up and down. Then she sauntered into the little room I’d just been in, printed off my scores, and came back. The front of her skirt was unpleated and clung to her hips. She was wearing black pantyhose; I wondered if they were silk ; I hoped they were. Then I wondered they were the kind a woman stepped into or the kind held up by a garter.

She looked at my scores and told me she’d be back in a minute. I wondered if she really had to do something or if it was an excuse for me to see her walking away… again. When she came back, she brought a guy with her. He looked like an office manager. He was followed by three other people, all of whom had desks in the office and probably had the same job Kerri did.

“So,” the guy talked. “What kind of work are you looking for?”

“Something,” I said. “I just moved back into town and I need something. It doesn’t have to be anything major. Just a job.”

“I see on your resume that you’ve had some college,” he said.

“Yeah.” I loved it when they said it that way. “Had some college.” It kind of sounded like “had a case of pneumonia.”

“We’re looking for somebody to work here,” he said. I looked over at Kerri. She was smiling at me.

“Doing what?” I asked. “You need a janitor or something?”

Everybody giggled. Apparently they thought I was making a joke.

“No,” the guy said. “We’re looking for an Employment Associate. We need somebody to work with clients who want industrial work. And you’ve had plenty of industrial experience, I see. You’d be the kind of person they might respond to.”

I was interested. The office was clean and Kerri worked there. The other girls who worked there were also cute and seemed nice. “So I’d have a desk and talk to people looking for factory work?”

The guy pointed over to an empty desk. “You’d sit over there,” he said. “In addition to being the agent for our industrial clients, you’d also be responsible for calling places to get them to hire us for their employment needs. It’s kind of like sales; and you’d get a commission on every sale.”

“Base salary?”

“Ten dollars and hour. Plus benefits.”

I’d never had a job that offered benefits. I looked over at Kerri. She was smiling. I imagined what it would be like to come into work and see her everyday. Maybe I could ask her out for a drink one day after work. We could go out to lunch on Fridays or paydays. She looked like she had her own place.

“There’s just one thing,” Kerri said.

“What’s that?”

The office manager spoke. “You’d need to cut your hair.”

The words fell heavy in the air. Cut my hair? Why would I need to cut my hair? When it was tied back, it looked well kept. I kept it clean.

“Why? I mean, I’d be dealing with people who want factory work, right?”

“Right,” the guy said.

“A lot of people – guys anyway – who work in factories look a lot like me. Seems like it would just make them more comfortable.”

“It’s a corporate thing,” Kerri said.

“But why?” They were all looking at me: Kerri, the guy, the other office people. “Why does it matter? I’m a clean guy. I keep it clean. I’d keep it tied back. What’s the difference?”

The office manager shifted on his feet. “Look,” he said. “You’re a smart guy. You’re too smart to be working in a factory at minimum wage. This is a good opportunity for you. And all we’re asking you to do is one, small thing.”

I looked at Kerri. Was that hope in her eyes? Did she want me for a coworker? Did she want me for something more? If she liked me with my hair, would she like me without it? Would I like me without my hair? I’d been growing it for a long time; it was a part of who I was, a part of how I saw myself. It sounded like a good job. I could settle in okay for that kind of money. No worries. I needed some kind of job before rent came due.

Or was Kerri flirting with me just to get me to take the job? What if I cut my hair and took the job and then found out she was dating a body builder named Ted? What if I was misreading her entirely? Maybe she was just one of those girls who like to flirt for the hell of it. Maybe she wasn’t flirting at all; maybe she was just being friendly. There was no way a chick like that didn’t have some swinging dick waiting on her when she got home. No way.

“I can’t,” I looked up at the office manager. “I mean, I know it’s just hair… but it’s mine. I appreciate the offer, but I’m really just looking for something so I can get squared away. Really.” I looked over at Kerri. She stopped smiling and was looking at me like I was slightly insane; that was a look I’d seen before on numerous occasions. “Thanks, though.”

Kerri told me she’d call in a couple of days, but I knew she wouldn’t. the cardinal sin in any office setting was a lack of ambition, and I had turned down a job for what they saw as the silliest of reasons. As I left, there were other people in the waiting area, sitting the chairs and filling out the papers on clipboards. They all looked like corporate wannabes; the kind of guy Kerri probably wanted to begin with. I walked out the door and checked my wallet; I had enough money to stop in someplace for a drink. A few days later the office called. It wasn’t Kerri; it was some guy named Scott. He had a very confident tone and he told me he had a job in a Totes warehouse, where they made slipper socks. It was second shift, and paid a quarter over minimum wage. I told Scott I’d take the job. When I hung up the phone, I thought about Kerri and wondered what she’d wore to work that day. Then I turned on the TV and watched a rerun of Sanford and Son.

14 January, 2009

Sauce Pot Requiem

When I came home, supper was almost ready. We traded off days – or, at least, we tried to. We were still in school, and Rhea was still little… less than a year old. We tried to set up a schedule so that we went to class and worked on opposite days… I went to school and worked on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and she went Tuesday and Thursday. Any odd day where we both had to do something, her parents would watch the kid. It was tough, but we had a support system and we were young. Down deep, we knew we loved one another. It was a Wednesday, and I had gone to class in the morning and worked one of my two part-time jobs in the afternoon. I was tired. I wanted a beer. I wanted to melt into my chair and watch TV. I had homework to do, but I wasn’t even thinking about that… an essay on the Byzantine Empire. Ugh. I was starting to wonder about the point of it all. Who cares about all this dead and gone bullshit? Why does it matter? We’re here NOW and we have our own worries.

I knew by the smell that she was making one of her variations on macaroni and cheese. Which variation depended on what we had in the fridge. Sometimes it was ground beef. Sometimes it was tuna. Sometimes she tossed in an onion or part of a green pepper if we had one. A box of macaroni and cheese – the generic kind with the powered cheese packet – sold five for a dollar. I was sick of macaroni and cheese. We were BOTH sick of macaroni and cheese. On the weekends, we ate with her parents. Her mother wasn’t much better as cooks go. But at least it was something different.

Rhea was sitting in her bouncy chair on top of the kitchen table, smiling. People say babies don’t really smile, but most of those people don’t have kids. Rhea was a happy kid; I mean to say, she was normal. She still cried sometimes, like babies are supposed to. She cried when she needed a new diaper. She cried when she was hungry. She cried if the lightening scared her. Babies are supposed to cry. Anabelle was going back and forth between the stove and the kitchen table talking baby talk and stirring the pot like a prospector looking for gold.

“It’s almost ready,” she said.

“Ok. “

“I need you to set the table.”


I dropped my book bag by the recliner and walked into the kitchen, which meant walking two feet and stepping up. We were living in this tiny trailer near a rural airport. We were about 300 yards from the end of the runway. Sometimes the planes flew so close the windows rattled. I tickled Rhea’s belly. She laughed – it was a tinkling light laughter. Laughter like fire flies and Christmas lights. A baby’s laughter. It was hard not to smile. I squeezed between the table and Anabelle hovering over the stove. I wasn’t sure why she was hovering. It wasn’t as if there was anything complicated to be done. Boil the pasta. Drain. Add butter and milk. Add what have you. Add contents of powdered cheese packet. Stir. Plate. I took a couple of plates out of the cabinet and set them on the table. Rhea was watching me. Smiling. Always smiling.

“Did you have a good day?” I asked Rhea. “Did you and Mommy have fun today?”

“She didn’t want to take a nap today,” Anabelle said.

“Did you give her the warm milk like she likes?”

Anabelle snapped her head around at me. “Do I LOOK like I’m stupid?”

Shit. “No.”

She didn’t respond. She hardly ever did. I set the table. Anabelle took the pot off the stove dished out the gruel. The spoon made a sharp, loud sound on the each plate. I checked to make sure my plate didn’t crack. We sat She was already drinking a can of Coke. I got a beer out of the fridge and sat down.

“What did you do today?”

She looked up from her plate. Her expression said it all. “I watched Rhea,” she spat. “That’s what I did. I watched Rhea. I started laundry, but I didn’t finish it. You’ll need to finish that tomorrow. I also didn’t get to the store. You’ll need to do that, too.”

Sigh. I took a sip of my beer, and flavored the mass of melted powered cheese with some hot sauce. It was a store brand generic hot sauce that was mostly salt and red food coloring; but it helped. “Ok.”

“I haven’t even had a chance to read those three chapters for Early Childhood Development,” she said, “and I’m sure there’s a quiz tomorrow.”

“Study after supper,” I offered. “I’ll clean up and watch Rhea,” I pulled at one of her little toes. She always liked it when I did that.

Anabelle glared at me. “I KNOW you will,” she snapped. “I need to call Janice to see if I can look at her notes. That might help.”

“Don’t you have your own notes?”

The fork slammed down. “I lost my notebook,” she growled. “I told you that. Don’t you remember me telling you about it?”

I didn’t. “Oh, sure.”

She didn’t respond. Rhea was smiling and gurgling. I pulled on a different toe. Her feet were so small. I wondered sometimes how she’d walk on such tiny little feet.

“I’ll leave right after I eat,” Anabelle said.

“Ok.” God damnit, I thought. I didn’t mind watching Rhea. I didn’t even mind if Anabelle went out. But whatever her fucking problem was, it wasn’t my fault.

“We have an appointment tomorrow,” she said.

I looked at her. I must have looked confused. She sighed and shook her head. “Dr. Williams.”

Shit. “Oh. Yeah.”

“Mom is going to come over and watch Rhea.”


Anabelle watched me for a few moments, her eyes narrowing. “Don’t you WANT to go tomorrow?”

Sigh. I took a sip of beer. “No,” I answered. “Not really.” Dr. Williams was our marriage counselor. We’d been seeing her once a week for three months. It wasn’t helping. This was our second bout in marriage counseling. The first one was six months into our marriage, when we were still living in married student housing. One of our fights were so loud that one of our former neighbors called the police. That was before Rhea. This bout of counseling came after Rhea. We still fought, but it was different. Quieter. Most of the time, anyway. Dr. Williams spent most of our sessions agreeing with Anabelle that I didn’t help out enough, that I didn’t communicate enough, and that I had anger management issues (most often defined as me raising me voice.) It didn’t seem to matter that, of the two of us, the only one who had actually hit the other was her. I’d had the bruises to prove it. Dr. Williams, however, seemed to be of the school that marriage worked best when the husband was whipped beyond belief and the wife was a total controlling bitch. I had made a point to look at the good doctor’s ring finger once. No ring. I wasn’t surprised.

“WHY NOT?” She still had her fork in her hand.

“Because,” I said, “it’s not helping.”

“You’re not giving it a chance. Dr. Williams said you’re not giving it a chance.”

“Dr. Williams says a lot of things,” I answered. “That doesn’t make her right.”

“Do you think you know more than her?”

“Yeah. I think I do.”

Anabelle looked at me warily. “Really? YOU know more than a doctor?”

“A counselor,” I corrected. “And yes. She’s not even married.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”


“You’re such an ass!”

I drained my beer and stood up to get another. “Oh, go right ahead,” she harped. “Get another beer. Get drunk. Beat me up.”

“I’ve never laid a finger on you and know god damn well know it,” I said, my voice getting louder.

“What about THAT?” she pointed towards the door. It was a metal door, common to older trailers. There was a sizable dent in it from where I had punched it two nights before.

“Yeah, but I didn’t punch you,” I cracked open the beer and took a drink.

“You WANTED to,” she accused.

“Maybe I did,” I answered. “But I didn’t. “


“Oh, so you’ve made a breakthrough?” I asked. I tried to focus on the macaroni and cheese. Looking at it was making my stomach turn. I looked back up at Anabelle. “You think that MEANS something? Well, it doesn’t mean a fucking thing. At least when I get pissed off, I take it out on inanimate objects. You get pissed and decide you’re allowed to punch and kick the shit out of me. Why don’t you ever talked to Dr. Williams about that? Huh?” I shook my head. “Not that it matters. She’d probably agree with you anyway.”

“What’s the matter?” she taunted “Don’t want to admit that you got beat up by a girl?”

“I could care shit less,” I answered. “But you don’t go and see that bitch to help our marriage. You go because she tells you what a good job you’re doing and what a lousy husband I am.”

“Well?” she countered. “Aren’t you? Why aren’t you out working a regular job? Why are we living like this?”

“You didn’t mind it before,” I said. “And what kind of job should I get? Stock boy at Wal-Mart? Maybe a line jockey McDonalds? We both need to finish school, you know.” This was an old conversation. I was sick of it twenty times ago. “Besides, I HAVE a job. I have two jobs.”

“OOOH,” she said. “Well good for you. You don’t make shit!”

That was fair, at least. I worked in one of the offices on campus, answering phones, making copies, and running errands. I also delivered newspapers – loading the big stacks from the printers into the back of my car and taking them around, filling the machines. She had a job on campus, too, and sometimes, she did hair on the side. Her folks helped us by letting us do laundry there, feeding us on weekends, and by being a free babysitter; but somehow Anabelle took credit for that, too. I guess she felt like she could because my family didn’t help out… but only because I didn’t ask them. Also, they didn’t live as close.

“I’ve got two more semesters,” I said. “Then I’m done. We just have to ride this out a little longer.”

“You don’t want to finish,” she accused. “You could’ve graduated last semester, but you changed minors.”

“So I can make more money when I get out,” I said. “We talked about this. You agreed. Remember?”


“THAT,” I countered, “isn’t my problem! And what would be different, anyway? You’d still be in school because YOU changed majors last year. REMEMBER THAT?”


“Sure,” I said. “So why do you expect me to be any different?”


“My JOB?” I asked. “Where are we, the 1950’s? Who the fuck are YOU, June fucking Cleaver? If you are, I gotta tell ya, you’re the shittiest cook I’ve ever seen.”



Anabelle started crying. I drank my beer. Then I looked over at Rhea. She was still in her bouncy chair. Her blue eyes were wide open watching us. She still had smile on her face. At least she’s too young to know what’s going on, I thought.

I looked from Rhea over to Anabelle. I tried to imagine Anabelle the way she’d been when I first met her – that was one of the strategies the first counselor recommended. I tried to imagine who I had been when we first got together. We’d been young. We were still young. But it was different. We hadn’t gotten married because Anabelle got pregnant. We’d gotten married because we were in love. I remembered our wedding day. I remembered how she looked the first time I saw her, all wild haired and laughing. Free.

“I can’t do this anymore,” I said quietly.

Anabelle looked at me.

“Look at what we’re doing,” I said nodding over towards Rhea. “I don’t want to do this. It’s no good.”

“So what does that mean?” Her tone was softer. She almost looked heartbroken. Almost.

“I should leave,” I said.

“Where will you go?”

“I can crash somewhere tonight,” I answered.

I stood up and walked back to the bedroom to pack a bag. I wasn’t sure where I was going to go, but I knew I couldn’t stay there. When I walked out of the bedroom, Anabelle was standing in the middle of the living room. She was holding Rhea. I set the bag down and took Rhea in my arms. She was warm and soft the way babies are warm and soft. I could feel the life in her. I could hear her breathing. I kissed her on the cheek. My beard tickled her and she giggled the way babies giggle. Then I handed her back to her mother, picked up my bag, and left.