The Selection on Sale

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For a limited time, grab the thrilling young adult scifi adventure novel “The Selection” from author Jason J. Nugent for only .99!

 

Humans colonized the planet Kepler 186f after Earth’s near total global collapse. Soon after, supply missions ended leaving the colonists to themselves, renaming the planet Anastasia and building a new society far different than Earth’s.

As population imbalance threatened stability in the settlements, a horrific and brutal institution known as The Selection was created.

Centuries later, haunted by the screams of his dead older brother, eighteen year-old Eron fears the unknown terror waiting for him and all boys his age in The Selection. He has thirty days to survive to Victory Point and reunite with his crush Mina. He will have to endure brutal circumstances and forge unlikely alliances if he’s to survive The Selection.

Time is short. Threats are constant. Survival means life. Failure means death—or worse.

 

Between June 9th and June 11th, you can get this action-filled story for only .99! Go to mybook.to/the-selection today before time runs out!

 

JasonJason Nugent was born in Cleveland, OH in 1974. He moved to rural southern Illinois in 1992 and lives there today with his wife, son, and mini-zoo of three cats and two dogs.

Jason is the author of two collections of dark fiction short stories: “(Almost) Average Anthology” and “Moments of Darkness” and the young adult scifi novel “The Selection.”

Jason has written for Sum’n Unique Magazine and game missions for an independently produced video game titled “Status Quo.”

He writes regularly on his blog almostaverageblog.wordpress.com and can be found at jasonjnugent.com.

Thankful for Moms

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Mommy’s Comfort by Thomas Galvez

Mothers are awesome. As a child, instinctively clinging to the woman who gave you life or has put yours before her own, there is no more important person. She’s the one you call when you wake after a nightmare, run to with your boo-boos. You count on her, not just for the things you need, for the mere comfort of her presence. Until you’re a teenager.

I see this occurring with my son now. He’s approaching the age where he wants less to do with his parents. Hugging him is allowed under the strictest of protocols. Who else might see the hug? Is it accompanied by a kiss? How long will the hug last? Is there the potential that his hair might get messed up?

The first time one of my hugs was rebuffed, a twinge of shock and disappointment seized my breath. How much worse would it have been if I’d labored for hours before his birth and carried him in my body for months before that? The teenage years begin a lapse in our memories. While we try to figure out who we are, we forget that it doesn’t matter to the person who loves us more than anything, unconditionally. I forgot. One day, maybe my son will have kids, and they’ll forget as well.

For moms, there is good news. A day will come when mothers’ importance and the gratitude we owe them collide with deafening impacts in the middle of our hearts. The realization that we are blessed with only one mother, perhaps one we hardly see in our adulthood, will send our fingers frantically dialing our phones. And they will answer, overjoyed to hear from us, because they are our moms.

Those fleeting teenage years, when our mothers seem to cling to us with stifling love, are over before we know it. The years that follow are busy growing, learning, and maturing, sometimes with months between phone calls to dear Mom. Maybe the challenges of new parenthood jolt our memories and make us think about our mothers with new awe and appreciation. If anybody deserves to say “I told you so”, it’s a new grandmother.

Let’s remind our kids how special their bonds are to their mothers. Before their teenage years, let’s plant the seed of gratitude and water if often. It might not bloom for years, but it will take root. One day it will bear fruit. That’s always a welcome gift, on Mother’s Day or any other.

Happy Mother’s Day, to my mother and yours. Let’s help them celebrate the day because they give so many other days to us.

Leave me a comment and tell me something you appreciate about your mom. I’ll wait if you want to call her first.

Nidor- A Writing Prompt

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For Christmas, I received a book of “questions for creative exploration”. They are writing prompts, not all questions, and I decided that I would include my responses to them in my blog. They’re meant as daily exercises, but I just picked one I liked and got to work. Because I’m a rebel, baby! I also slightly deviated from the instructions because the book’s not the boss of me. The exercise for this day was…

Write a vignette infused with nidor, the particular scent of cooking meat or burning fat.

The idea might have come from my mother or hers, since we lived next door to my grandparents at the time. I can’t remember my age, but I couldn’t have been more than ten or eleven. My sister was seven or eight, a pig-tailed bundle of mixed joy and mischief. Wherever the idea originated, it sounded like fun, maybe the best idea ever (for a bored, pre-internet, ten year old kid, anyway). As the older kid, I was in charge, and I took responsibility as seriously as my Cub Scout oath.

We received empty cans, the family-sized variety that held a week’s worth of applesauce or baked beans. My mom cut little windows on the bottoms of the open ends, where we could feed fuel into the upside-down can. The tops got punctured around their circumferences to let the fat drain and fuel the flames. That was where the meat would cook, as if on tiny griddles.

We turned the cans upside-down in the gravel driveway and set out to find small twigs for our fires. Wood was plentiful where we lived, plenty waiting in the yard normally splintered by the lawnmower. While we gathered, Mom prepared burger patties.

The kindling got stuffed through the window of each can. Mom provided the matches and let us start out fires with bits of wadded newspaper. The flames warmed us in the shade of the maples, summer’s heat seldom oppressive there in upstate New York. My stomach growled in anticipation of lunch.

The can fires consumed the twigs almost as quickly as we could feed them, until Mom pronounced them hot enough to serve as stoves. She fetched the patties and plopped them onto the cans. The roar of sizzling meat startled us, and in moments the heavenly scent of the cooking beef wafted up to taunt us. Fat gathered and congealed along the sides of the patties. Little flames shot up from the grease vents, at which Mom would caution us and snuff them with her spatula. Any moment, the piping-hot burgers would be ready to eat. Or so I thought.

Mom flipped the burgers that still wept blood and grease, fearful they would burn. My hunger built until its ache swelled beyond my belly and threated to eat me. The scent of hot grease engulfed me, teased my nostrils with its promises. Still the burgers sizzled but defied my impatience. They took nearly an hour to finish cooking. To two hungry kids, that felt like forever. Not only were we waiting for them to finish, but one of the neighborhood dogs sat nearby. We’d dubbed him Picnic Puppy after he’d snatched a sandwich out of my sister’s hand a couple of years before. None of us wanted to take our eyes off him while the burgers remained targets.

I don’t know if it was the best burger I’ve ever eaten, but it was surely the most highly anticipated. I devoured it in record time and could have eaten another if there had been room on top of the can. The experiment had been fun, but I remind myself of that day whenever I have to wait more than a few minutes for fast food.

 

 

Boots- A Writing Prompt

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bootsFor Christmas, I received a book of “questions for creative exploration”. They are writing prompts, not all questions, and I decided that I would include my responses to them in my blog. They’re meant as daily exercises, but I just picked one I liked and got to work. Because I’m a rebel, baby! I also slightly deviated from the instructions because the book’s not the boss of me. The exercise for this day was…

Consider your favorite outfit or article of clothing. Describe it in detail here.

These days, I don’t have a favorite article of clothing. Now that I’m technically a grown-up, I mostly dress for work. I don’t enjoy the shirts and slacks that only remind me of my adult responsibilities. In my off time, I wear what’s comfortable. Usually that’s a worn pair of blue jeans and geeky t-shirt ensemble. I’ve never had a sense of style, but I remember when I thought I did.

My college years were the early 1990s, when grunge crowd surfed its way over the remains of hair metal, and flannel replaced leather. I still clung to my rock-n-roll mullet for a while, even though everybody thought they were duty-bound to convince me to cut it. I wasn’t about to sell out. I met a girl who thought my hair was cool and wore her own tributes to Guns-n-Roses and the rest. For my birthday, she bought me the baddest leather boots ever. They were patterned in faux snakeskin. The silvery caps over the toes protected them from dings during the breaking-in period, when I still felt like they were clown-shoe sized. The heels catapulted me to an almost dizzying 5-foot-six. Flared tops allowed me to tuck my ripped jeans inside. By far, the best feature was the removable leather strap, complete with silvery buckle, that circled each boot like a gunfighter’s belt. ROCK-N-ROLL!

Several years (and girlfriends) later, the boots collected dust in the back of my closet. I’d replaced them with a pair of hiking boots. My jeans were still ripped, but I wore a knotted flannel shirt around my waist, courtesy of my grandfather’s closet. Nobody needed to know that part. My roommates and I hosted a party with the theme: ’80s. My girlfriend talked me into letting her make me up like a glam-rocker, and the boots completed the ensemble. They received enough compliments to outweigh the derision from several years before. My mullet was gone. What was left got spiked and shellacked to lethal sharpness before eye makeup and other assorted powders were applied. When I was at last allowed to view the results in a mirror, I missed my mullet. Even though the costume wowed people, I couldn’t wait to smear cold cream over the gunk and scrape it off my face.

I considered wearing the boots from time to time but never had the nerve. Some kind of nostalgia, even over that short period of time, kept me from getting rid of them. I would look back the days before I sold out and wonder how I could have liked that music and admired those gravity-defying hairdos on MTV. I think my younger sister eventually appropriated the boots, and I never saw them again. She probably wore them far better than I ever did.

Someday my son might own those boots, or more likely some other clothing accessory that he finds awesome. I’ll try to remember how cool those boots made me feel before I tell him he looks silly. If he ever wears anything I think is ridiculous, I’ll bite my tongue and look forward to whatever fashion takes its place. Wouldn’t it be funny if those boots came back into style? For the sake of humanity, I hope they never do. If they ever were.

Do you have a favorite article of clothing or outfit you used to love from earlier in life? Drop me a comment and let me know. Extra points if you look back at it and cringe like I do about my old boots.

The Roof Mystery Writing Prompt

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For Christmas, I received a book of “questions for creative exploration”. They are writing prompts, not all questions, and I decided that I would include my responses to them in my blog. They’re meant as daily exercises, but I just picked one I liked and got to work. Because I’m a rebel, baby! I also slightly deviated from the instructions because the book’s not the boss of me. The exercise for this day was…

There’s something strange on top of your roof right now. What is it?

I like the ladder I bought, but I hate using it. The ladder telescopes to adjust its length and hinges at the middle, where it can be locked open or into a stepladder position. My fear of heights, more a fear of falling, can be experienced on any ladder, stool, or flight of stairs. It’s more about potential energy and precarious position. I feel somehow safer in planes and on rollercoasters.

The fear makes cleaning the gutters an ordeal, even though I live in a ranch home. I triple-check the ladder’s position to make certain it’s level and on firm footing. Whenever possible, both of my hands grip the rungs or side rails. If I use it near a door that might collide with it, everyone in the house is loudly and sternly educated concerning the dangerous mission I’m about to undertake.

For all of this fear, I occasionally venture onto the roof itself. There has to be a significant accumulation of pine straw (pine needles, for you Yankees), or the drier vent has to be virtually plugged with lint. Of course, my wife holds the base of the ladder as I make my transition from ladder to shingles. There is repeated back-and-forth.

Me: Are you holding it?

Her: That’s what she said.

Me: Seriously! Please, for the love of God, hold the ladder.

Her: I’ve got it! Relax.

But there was one time, clinging for my very life at the top of the ladder, that I momentarily forgot to be scared. Something was up there on the roof, something that should not have been there at all, let alone be perfectly intact like the day it was made. It defied reason. It could only be real if I held it in my hand.

I wiggled to test the ladder, and when I was satisfied that it wouldn’t slide away from the roof, I climbed up. The object was lodged in some pine straw where two roof sections met. I needed to gather up the pine straw anyway, before it all washed into the gutters during the next inevitable thunderstorm. I flattened myself against the shingles and eased my way toward it.

It was whole, fluffy, and golden like it fell straight out of a TV commercial. The biscuit, probably of the fast food breakfast variety, was completely unmarred: no bite marks, no evidence it had even been pecked by a lucky crow. If I hadn’t found it on my roof, I probably would’ve slathered some honey on that sucker and wolfed it down with my coffee.

The laughter started slowly but eventually caused me tears and aching ribs. Until my feet slid out from under me. Thankfully I didn’t slide far before I found my footing at the expense of the biscuit, half crushed beneath me. I threw it over the side along with the pine straw, but I set it aside for the birds after I climbed down to bag the pine straw.

The only explanation I could imagine was that someone had thrown it up there. Maybe a kid walking to the bus stop didn’t want it. Maybe a bully stole it and flung his victim’s breakfast out of reach. Surely a bird would’ve taken a few experimental pecks before it decided it would rather have an English muffin. I would never know for sure, but I was glad to stand firmly on the ground again.

Have you ever found anything strange on your roof? Drop me a comment and let me know!

Video Game Mini Reviews

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Since I started reviewing games for Nerd Bacon, I haven’t posted many reviews in this blog. I can’t recall even mentioning what I’ve recently played or writing any video game related posts. There are some games that I don’t think I could review for Nerd Bacon, mainly because they’re heavily geared for online, multiplayer play. I don’t normally play games with or against other people online. For one, I have the reflexes of a 40+ year old man (because I am one). Also I had a fair amount of negative experiences playing online when I was younger, and I never thought the fun outweighed the juvenile, even abusive, behavior. That said, I don’t think it’s fair of me to review a game when I haven’t tried the core aspects of it. The single-player campaigns of these games, if they have them, are often short and wouldn’t supply me enough for a whole review, but here are some I’ve played in the past few months that are worth noting.

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Destiny got a lot of hype, and most of it was deserved. The big Bungie project reveal looked incredible when I saw trailers, and with a teen rating it was acceptable to buy for my son to play on our new Xbox One. It is undeniably beautiful, with impressively crafted environments, alien races, and a mind-bending variety of weapons, armor, and spaceships. I was disappointed that the spaceships weren’t for players to pilot, only for travel during cut scenes, and the land vehicles were limited to hover-bike type vehicles and occasionally a hover-tank when it was available to steal from enemies. The missions soon became repetitive, but I still find myself returning to the game. It’s fun, no doubt, and its heroic elements and challenging play are a welcome addition to my game collection. The always-online play allows complete strangers to cooperate during sandbox play and to be matched up for tougher missions, and these experiences have only been positive for me. There’s been a heap of DLC for the game, and I’ve enjoyed most of it, though I haven’t purchased the latest update. The game is just not compelling enough for me to shell out the asking price so close to its launch. Eventually I will probably buy it, since my son and I both enjoy the game.

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Star Wars Battlefront was another game I bought primarily for my son. OK, fine, it triggered my nostalgia button big time. From the opening screen, when the music started, I was entranced. All the familiar battlegrounds were available, if I was willing to shell out additional money for them, but I was happy to play those that came with the basic version of the game. The split-screen, cooperative modes are my favorites, because my son and I can fend off waves of Stormtroopers and other Imperials together. Playing as one of the heroes or villains, like Vader, Luke, Boba Fett, or Han Solo, wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be, but that has been pretty typical of most Star Wars games I’ve played where that’s been an option. The online battles are massive, and weren’t much fun for me, though I appreciate the chance to pilot a Tie Fighter, X-wing, or AT-ST. If you’re a fan of the movies and like co-op play, I recommend the game, though I find its replay value limited and wish there were a single-player campaign.

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The Division is one of only several military-style, first-person shooters I think I have ever purchased. I’m just not big on games where I semi-realistically kill human characters. Of course, all the humans killed in this game are bad guys: murderous looters, vigilantes, criminals, and terrorists. Your role is like that of Judge Dredd and less like a police officer. I bought the game to play online with a friend, but we’ve only managed to do so a few times. The game really pushes cooperative play, going as far as dedicated match-up mechanics at checkpoints throughout the game’s environment. While there is a single-player campaign mode, the story was lost on me most of the time. It was so difficult to get very far in the story as a single player, that I often lost track of what was happening with the story. Many of my play sessions were spent randomly fighting with opponents around the city to claim gear I could sell. This allowed me to eventually obtain new gear and weapons that could hurt my enemies, villains who could withstand hundreds and hundreds of rounds before succumbing to their wounds. I enjoyed the challenge of more realistic movement and tactics than in games like Destiny, but I have found little reason to return to the game after finishing the campaign. The DLC holds no real interest for me. I imagine I will return to it, once the opportunity arises to play with my friend but not before. I can’t really recommend the game, especially after experiencing buggy play and connectivity issues with the Ubisoft servers nearly every time I started it. Since an internet connection is required to play, it seems like they would have worked harder to iron out such a wrinkle by the time I had started playing, months after release.

What am I playing now? I’m attempting, with disappointing results, to replay Dying Light on the “hard” difficulty setting. I wanted to see if there would be better gear unlocked by the difficulty change, but it looks like it will all be the same. I plan to return to the game, Styx, a dark fantasy game heavy on stealth and black humor. That’s a title that I hope to review for Nerd Bacon in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for that. Red Dead Redemption has also been tempting me to finish it, and I will likely start it over again since it’s been so long since I played.

What are you playing that you would recommend? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Pre-Orders for “The Selection”

Jason Nugent’s new novel is available for pre-order on Amazon, a steal at $.99!

(Almost) Average

I’m beyond excited to share that pre-orders for my upcoming novel “The Selection” are available on Amazon!

The official release date is March 30th. You can grab your copy now for only .99. After it’s released, it will go to the normal price of $2.99.

Unlike my dark collections of short stories, this novel is more of a young adult-sci-fi-adventure story. I do hope you’ll consider picking up your copy today, I’d be grateful if you did.

The Selection

Humans colonized the planet Kepler 186f after Earth’s near total global collapse. Soon after, supply missions ended leaving the colonists to themselves, renaming the planet Anastasia and building a new society far different than Earth’s.

As population imbalance threatened stability in the settlements, a horrific and brutal institution known as The Selection was created.

Centuries later, haunted by the screams of his dead older brother, eighteen year-old Eron fears the…

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The Smirk – A Writing Prompt

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For Christmas, I received a book of “questions for creative exploration”. They are writing prompts, not all questions, and I decided that I would include my responses to them in my blog. They’re meant as daily exercises, but I just picked one I liked and got to work. Because I’m a rebel, baby! I also slightly deviated from the instructions because the book’s not the boss of me. The exercise for this day was…

At a raucous house party, one woman stands alone near an open window with a smirk on her face. What’s her story?

The thumping bass rattled my teeth and vibrated my ribs. I stared at the purple beverage in my red plastic cup to see if it rippled, as if in response to T-rex footsteps. Lights strung along the walls pulsed to the beat. In synch to the tapping of my foot, a beautiful girl appeared and disappeared.

Hers was a high-maintenance beauty, pristine after hours of preparation. She could only have been more stunning if she smiled. Instead she smirked toward the DJ’s raised platform. When the light flashed again, she stared off toward a knot of the fraternity brothers who hosted the party. Next her eyes fell on me, so I smiled and tentatively raised my cup in her direction. If she returned the gesture, it was hidden in the next instant of darkness.

In a few days, all the exams, parties, and chances for college fun would be over. It emboldened me, that prospect for at least abbreviated humiliation. I sheltered my beverage against my chest and dodged oblivious dancers. Someone spilled beer on my sneaker, so it squished through my sock with every other step. For a moment, the girl was lost, and my pulse raced in terrified regret. I’d gotten turned around in the semi-dark, and when I got my bearings she still smirked past me toward the hosts.

“Hey,” I half-yelled when I got close enough.

Her eyes widened in surprise, but a smile followed. Her lips formed something I decided was acknowledgement. She pointed at her ear and shook her head. I slid closer.

“Hi. I think you’re in my history class,” I said through her long blond hair, where her ear hid.

“Professor Stuart’s?” she shouted. Then, before I could reply, “Yeah. I’ve seen you looking at me.”

A lump caught in my throat. “Oh. Busted.” I smiled, and she pulled her hair behind her ears. “My name’s Dave.”

“Candace. Nice to meet you, Dave.”

“Do you know the guys throwing the party?” One of the hosts had lived down the hall from me during my freshman year and had invited me. I figured that might score some points.

“Uh huh. I was friends with just about all of them.”

“Was?”

“Do you know Chad?”

“Not really,” I said.

“I used to date him.”

“Oh. Still friends with him though, since you’re here.”

“No. They’re all pretty much jerks. But I wanted to be here for this last party, you know?”

“Sure. To say goodbye?” I guessed.

She put her arms around my neck, and her warm breath tickled my ear. “To watch it happen.”

She raised her chin and pulled my lips down to hers. My pulse raced at odds with the lights until she pulled away. When I opened my eyes, her tongue rested between her lips.

“Where did you get that?” Her eyes darted to my cup.

“There was some left over after they made their signature cocktail. Sully let me have what was left. Why?”

“Only the brothers get that. Usually everybody else just gets beer at these things.” She removed my hand from the small of her back. “I’m sorry, Dave. I didn’t mean for…uh, oh.”

I followed her gaze back over my shoulder. The group of partying brothers held their hands to their stomachs. A couple raced toward the back, where the bathroom lines stretched toward the DJ platform. They pushed and shoved their ways to the doors and hammered the wood while they doubled over. The crowd parted, hands waving in front of disgusted faces.

When the pain clenched my gut, the girl was gone. At the moment, she was the furthest thing from my mind. Weeks later, I was actually able to laugh about it, but I never saw Candace again.

 

Springtime Weed Massacre

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Winter was a dreaded season during my upstate New York childhood. The cold, snow, and inevitable illness every winter made moving south an easy decision. North Carolina winters still get cold, but I can’t remember a time when I had to dig out my mailbox or shovel a path to my backyard so my dog could pee without getting lost. A NC winter welcomes several months of mosquito-free living and a break from mowing my yard. (The word “yard” gives too much credit to my landscaping ability. It’s more of a free-range weed ranch.)

This year, spring started in late January, about two months early. Even though we still had some cold nights, the weeds threw a party and invited all their seedy friends. I thought it would be late March before the pollen started its ticklish torture of my sinuses. Instead, mid February, I mowed my lawn for the first time in the new year. I think it’s a record in the dozen years I’ve had a lawn to mow, and not one that pleases me. Also I received my first mosquito bites for the year. Bonus.

strawberriesThe weeds in my yard are pretty, from a distance. Some wear a distinctive purple flower. Others produce miniature strawberries. There are some, with running, red stems and leaves, that seem to find and cling to every tiny crack in my sidewalk and driveway. I hate them all, with total respect for their perfect adaptations to my lawn ecosystem. Worst are those that spread their leaves, like satellite dishes, to shade out the grass and gorge themselves on sunlight, leaving broad brown holes in my lawn if I pull them up. Their stems are flexible enough to defy mower blades and even the weedwhacker twine. They spring back in place after I’ve mowed and taunt me like hundreds of raised middle fingers.

Maybe it was allergy season sleep deprivation. Maybe it was frustration at mowing the same strips of lawn multiple times. Maybe it was the realization that there might be ten months of lawn mowing this year. In all likelihood, it was a mixture of all of them. It drove me to a breaking point of chlorophyll lust I had never before experienced and shudder to remember. It was like some Jekyll-Hyde transformation. One second, I was unspooling cord for my electric weedeater. The next, I was on my knees, grasping fistfuls of weeds and wrenching them from the ground. Dirt peppered my sweaty face, pollen assaulted my nostrils. My eyes streamed in irritation, and my throat begged for water. I couldn’t, wouldn’t, stop. They were everywhere, and I would not suffer defeat.pricklyweed

I ground my teeth, and I cursed them unto the seventh vegetation generation. Why had I
previously denied myself the satisfaction of rending them with my hands, instead depersonalizing the process with a machine? How much would it cost to just pave over my whole yard, perhaps adding a basketball or tennis court?

At last, I coughed myself to a standstill. Around me, piles of weeds were haphazardly strewn where I had thrown them in my landscaping rage. Did I remember to pick up dog poop before I began crawling around my yard? Thankfully, yes. What were the odds that my tantrum had only seeded the rest of the yard with more weeds? Probably good odds. I’ll know in about a week.

Raking and bagging the weeds allowed me time to reflect that I could probably pay some kid to wage war on the weeds for me. A win-win, if ever there was one.

The Cup – a Writing Exercise

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For Christmas, I received a book of “questions for creative exploration”. They are writing prompts, not all questions, and I decided that I would include my responses to them in my blog. They are meant as daily exercises, but I just picked one I liked and got to work. Because I’m a rebel, baby! I also slightly deviated from the instructions because the book’s not the boss of me. The exercise for this day was…

Think of a person and describe his or her personality through writing about a cup they often drink from (real or imagined).

Mr. Avon taught shop classes. To us students, he was Shop. I remember seeing him in the hall outside the teachers’ lounge, even before I took one of his classes. A steaming mug dwarfed his hand, as he stood talking to Mrs. Reid, the music teacher. No smile interrupted his wild beard, but the corners of his eyes crinkled in response to whatever made her laugh. At the bell, he spun on his heel and marched down the hall without spilling a drop.

A year later, I attended my first class in Mr. Avon’s domain. He leaned back against his fortress of a desk and explicitly described the severing of a student’s thumb due to negligence at a band saw. His voice was as monotone as the sand-brown mug at the corner of his desk, the same one I saw him holding outside the teachers’ lounge.

The handle was repaired, I deduced from the thin white lines circling it in two places. It surprised me, those lines, since the mug looked sturdy enough to be a geographic landmark, chiseled out of stone by wind-blown grit and glacial advance. It sat in the desk’s corner, placed so that its edge barely touched those of the desk’s front and right side.

I stared at the mug’s surface. At first glance, it shone with a clear finish; however, underneath there was a sandpaper texture of darker specs over a lighter background. Maybe I had it backwards. I wasn’t sure. The center slightly bowed out, as if the contents exerted enormous pressure, enough to stress the stone. A nearly indistinguishable band of slightly darker brown rode this bulge’s middle, circle around circle.

Mr. Avon cleared his throat and poured coffee into a split in his beard, where his mouth likely hid. The mug returned to its precise resting place, and when he turned his attention back to us, he appeared to notice my eyes fastened to the container. He said nothing about it, though I whipped my eyes forward to the wall of tools hanging behind his desk.

The handle pulled my gaze back to the mug. I hadn’t noticed before, but it looked like half of a heart, the valentine kind. Could the other half be on the inside of the cup? It seemed unlikely, and the realization made my breath catch in my throat, an emptiness swell in my chest when I thought of the missing half. What had broken them apart? Would they ever reunite? I was so certain it began as a whole. Who wants half a heart?

Later, in my art class, I abandoned my clay project to start something new. The walls were thin, a bit misshapen. Surely it lacked symmetry. I didn’t care much if it was perfect, or even if it would leak. I obsessed on the handle, both halves of the heart: one to be grabbed and the other, on the inside of the mug, to make it whole.