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 chase.
“Melina!! Time to go!”
Melina’s squirrel 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 of squirrel-chasing.
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 shifts.
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 any minute.
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 Connor.
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.