By Bettina Buhring
On the afternoon of October 1, sitting at the kitchen table, Melina gleefully zipped shut her heavy school binder with an air of triumph –she had finished her homework early! She wasted no time in getting outside. The screen door banged shut behind her and she looked around her large front lawn for any mischief that could entertain her. She spotted couple of gray squirrels chasing each other around the big oak tree. Her blue eyes sparkled as she got an idea…
John, her dad, saw her
from his home office on the second floor.
He had been trying to come up with possible solutions for the County’s
homelessness problem. Surely, beating up
the homeless was not the best way to deal with this. Or was it??
Sigh. His gaze fell on the clock
in the bottom right-hand corner of his monitor.
He decided he’d had enough of banging his head against intractable
problems that had existed since the dawn of humanity. He was looking forward to the evening and
wanted to get going. He opened his Word
document about suddenly-sentient teddy bears living in a gritty urban
environment and printed 10 copies. Then
he propelled his big voice out the window to his daughter, who was slowly,
quietly sneaking up on the unsuspecting gray squirrel that had given up the
“Melina!! Time to go!”
scampered away, leaving her feeling that if it hadn’t been for her dad’s
annoying meddling, she would have caught it.
“But, Dad! I almost got
him!” Still, she remembered that there
were other fun activities planned for this evening, even if they didn’t consist
Meanwhile, Pat politely
thanked Dr. Driscoll for the checkup and the doctor disappeared, white coat
floating behind her. “These doctors are
all the same,” Pat thought to herself, ”always telling us what to do –don’t eat
this, do eat that, stay out of the sun, yada yada.” Dr. Driscoll had spent the usual 7.5 minutes
with her. “And not a second
longer!” Still, it was a beautiful,
sunny day outside, and Pat was happy to leave the medical office as she pushed
open the heavy glass door to walk to her car.
Like Melina and John, Pat was also looking forward to the evening. Good thing that, through her phone, she could
access her love letter to someone in her past, because she wouldn’t have time
to go back home to print copies. She
wondered how it would be received that an old boyfriend had proposed to her
while he was being interviewed for a job!
She chuckled to herself in anticipation of everyone’s reaction at
hearing about such a unique event.
Mario was crammed under his kitchen sink, his legs surrounded by bottles
of Windex, cleaning wipes, and a box of tall trash bags. “Darn this stupid thing!” he thought to
himself. He tried to adjust his back so
it wouldn’t hurt any more than it already did.
He gave the nut one more tightening for good measure. “Ahora sí!”
He was glad that it was done, because he had an event that evening that
he didn’t want to miss, or even be late for.
He was looking forward to getting feedback on the next installment of
his science fiction novel, especially regarding how he described the
characters’ dinner. He hoped that the
food descriptions would add a realistic and vivid touch.
Ken carefully folded the last shirt on his bed and neatly placed it on
top of the rest of his clothes in the little blue suitcase. “That should do it!” He looked through everything in his suitcase
one more time, to make sure he wasn’t forgetting anything. Everything seemed good. He was looking forward to the trip to his
alma mater and seeing his old friends Gene and Hal. Before that, though, he had another event
this very evening that was sure to spark intriguing conversation. He picked up his folder with the printouts of
his poem about Maryland birds. He had
worked hard on meter and rhyme, had even woven in a reference to Edgar Allan
Poe, and he hoped that folks would understand the baseball and other references
that he had included. He gave his wife a
kiss on her cheek and walked to his car with a smile.
Vickie typed as quickly as she could, trying to finish a couple more
emails before heading out. College kids
these days required a lot of hand-holding apparently! She wondered whether the development of young
adults these days was actually being artificially stretched out, ironically
enough, even as they studied child development.
“There!” she thought. “That
should clarify what I was asking for in that assignment,” as she pressed
“send”. She hadn’t had time to write new
material for tonight’s writers’ meeting, but she knew that providing feedback
to others was crucial, and she had a keen eye for details like perspective
Connor, too, was typing quickly at his computer. He wasn’t writing emails like Vickie, but was
working instead on the much more engrossing topic of a Sasquatch’s life in a
forest. He put the finishing touches on
the weapons that his protagonist, Marduk, used to defend his territory against
humans who constantly wanted to get a glimpse of his kind. When he was satisfied that the weapons and
traps had been described in sufficiently vivid detail so that the reader could
picture it, he printed it out, expecting his dad, Daniel, to come pick him up
Indeed, Daniel had just
finished invoicing a customer for repairs on the Harley. That was a beautiful gleaming machine, to be
sure. Daniel valued being able to make a
living off of something he truly enjoyed, but even so, he was glad his workday
was done. He had already printed the
continuation of his scifi novel the previous day, so the paper copies were
ready to go. For this excerpt, he was
looking for feedback on the ship’s description and how the android Bailey
assigned positive and negative valence to humans and to occurrences. With any luck, it would portray a coherent
whole. He locked the doors to the shop and got on his motorcycle to pick up
Lynda, sitting at her computer in her office, suddenly realized how late
it had gotten. She had been grappling
with a complex foreclosure case that was giving her no end of headaches, and
the afternoon had just evaporated. She
printed out the spreadsheet and walked over to her coworker Jim’s office. She plopped it on his desk, “Here, this is
for you to work on. I’ve also emailed
you the master file. These numbers need
to be double checked with the bank by Thursday.” Not waiting around for any ifs, ands, or
buts, she continued cheerfully, “I’m heading out –see you tomorrow!” She swept out of his office, and out of the
building, glad to be able to spend the evening socializing and figuring out how
well the details of a story fit together.
Tina hastily looked up the order of grant reviews that she would have to
listen to tomorrow. Whew –the grant
applications assigned to her were not being evaluated early in the day. That meant she could stop for an iced coffee
on her way to work. Small pleasures are
key to a happy life, right? Today had
been filled with answering emails. Since
NIH’s grant submission deadline was coming up, researchers were crawling out of
the woodwork to get feedback on whether their science was relevant for her
funding institute. Seeing new ideas
about how the brain might work was the best part of her job. It had allowed her to realize that even
science, and perhaps especially
science, benefits from creativity.
Still, she had been looking forward all day to the writers’ group
meeting this evening. She had already
printed her excerpt in which she contrasted a grandfather’s and his grandson’s
math ability, when each was 12 years old.
Tina hoped that it would be relatively clear that the contrast in brain
activity rhythms resulted in very different math abilities. Hearing others read their pieces was also
always engaging, and of course socializing would be fun. The variety of everyone’s occupations, ages,
cultural background, and general interests always made for stimulating
conversation, even apart from the official business of reading and critiquing.
When all these interesting persons met at their local Mexican restaurant
on October 1, they conversed, laughed, ate, and read out loud. They exchanged a plethora of helpful
feedback, including debating how to expand on a love letter to create a memoir
around it; whether every line in a poem
needs to have the same rhythmic structure;
and how to balance descriptions of a mythical character’s violence with
his empathic and protective side. They
also discussed how teddy bears could possibly eat without having digestive
organs; when to use perspective shifts
in a story; how to best use punctuation
to convey slowness in speech; and how to
break up long descriptive passages when a particular futuristic world needs to
be portrayed. Through the course of the
evening, without even being aware of it, they wove a beautiful tapestry with
threads that were sparkling blue, rainbow-hued, tie-dyed, raven-black,
forest-green, red-wine-hued, oddly glowing, and even a shimmering, almost-transparent
aluminum. Created from living interactions,
this tapestry was unique, never having existed before this evening, and now
residing only in each of their memories.