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September 22, 2006

Shoot down the guests at a shotgun wedding?

I've been doing various and sundry little writing exercises in the hopes of getting in the habit of writing more often, as well as improving my writing. The first one I found interesting was about perspective shifting. The task is to take a Dear Abby style letter and turn the perspective around - write it as if it was written by the subject of the letter. What would be their take on the situation? How would they feel? How might they express themselves?

I've tended to mimic the original structure of the letters just for balance, but that's not necessarily necessary.

Dear Miss Manners

My 20-year-old daughter was recently married. She is also pregnant. One of the guests at the wedding gave a gift of Pampers and baby wipes. I was simply livid. It was such poor taste. I would like to know what is an appropriate response to this obvious slight.

Dear Miss Manners

I was recently invited to a big, fancy white wedding. The bride has been living with the groom for years, and is visibly pregnant, but still wanted to have her fairy tale wedding complete with massive pile of gifts. The registry included a vast array of fancy crystal and expensive linens, but I can't help but feel with a baby on the way, a more practical gift might be in order - what do you think?

September 29, 2006

Doing His Worst

Dear Carolyn:

Is it a bad sign for a "doing his best to be supportive" father, father-to-be and husband (to a wife struggling with depression-anxiety) to develop strong feelings with a female co-worker? The crush is (hopefully) one-sided, and things are mostly professional except for a conversational friendship of two people who have a lot in common as far as movies, music, etc.

Although it's great to be around her, I can't take the happiness mixed with overbearing guilt feelings that go along with it. I'm just hoping she will move on to another job soon, as her contract is almost up.

Dear Carolyn,

Is it a bad sign that a co-worker is paying too much attention to me? He's a father and husband, with a pregnant, depressed wife (he tells me about her during our all-too-frequent conversations). We have a lot in common so I enjoy chatting with him, but I feel like he's developing a crush on me.

Although it's nice to be around him, I can't help but feel like I might be encouraging him. I'm thinking of not renewing my contract just to get away from him.


Dear Carolyn:

I'm having trouble getting over my ex, and it's affecting all aspects of my life. Problem is, I'm a man in my mid-20s, and my guy pals don't understand any problem that can't be solved by drinking, sex, or just forgetting about it. I don't have a lot of close female friends, and I abhor shrinks. Whom should I seek out for guidance?

Dear Carolyn:

One of the guys in our group is still hung up on his ex, and it's totally bumming us all out. We've tried to take him drinking and get him laid so he'll just get over it already. He won't go see a shrink and he keeps trying to get us involved in deep conversations about relationships. We don't even talk about that stuff with our own girlfriends - how can we find someone else for him to unload on?

October 6, 2006

Mechanical Failure


Dear Amy:

I have a cousin who is a mechanic. He is superb with cars. He works at an auto repair shop and is always busy.

In the beginning of last month, he started working on my dad's car. His car is still not running because my cousin has not finished the work.

My cousin keeps saying, "I'll finish over the weekend." The whole month has gone by, and my dad is getting impatient.

Now my car is also not running well. I do not want to ask my cousin for help, even if we live together under one roof.

I don't understand what his problem is. Maybe it's because in the past our family has not paid him for working on our cars. He fixes other people's cars in no time.

The price for the job I want done is $180, which is much cheaper than any other shop, but I don't want to ask him to do the job because he doesn't keep his promises.

What should I do?

I'm a mechanic and I share a house with my uncle and his family.

In what little spare time I have (I work at a busy autobody shop) I try to help out with the family cars, but after a long day at work, the last thing I want to do is come home and fix more cars. My cousin, though, is constantly nagging about the latest repair job on my uncle's car. And now I've noticed her engine knocking and I fear I'm about to get yet another task I don't want.

Her job would only cost a couple hundred dollars at the garage, where I have all the equipment I need to get it done. I'd be happy to get her an appointment and cut her a deal, but I don't want to give up any more weekends to my job. I'm not sure if I can ask a family member to pay me for my work, though.

What should I do?

October 13, 2006

Privileged Information

Dear Carolyn

My boyfriend of two years makes snide comments insinuating that I'm spoiled and "privileged." I live at home while finishing my undergraduate degree. Most of my tuition is paid for through scholarships. Both of my parents have higher-paying careers than his parents, but I don't consider us wealthy, and we live a frugal lifestyle in comparison to my parents' colleagues. He claims we look down on him for not having a college degree (neither does my sibling) and I'm getting tired of feeling defensive on behalf of my family. Should I start looking for someone with a more compatible background?

My girlfriend of two years is more than a little bit spoiled. She lives at home and her education is all paid for by scholarships and her parents, but insists it's all no big deal, and "I don't need to feel bad about my background". I've worked hard for everything I have, and I'm tired of feeling defensive about my family and lack of education. Should I start looking for someone with a more compatible background?

Dear Carolyn:

She's black, I'm white. We met in college and were best friends for six years, then dated for two. "Susan" and I are now engaged, and I couldn't be happier, or more in love.

During our (mostly) platonic period, she learned a lot of important things about me -- including that my parents are mildly bigoted, and very opposed to interracial coupling. Even once we started dating, she was okay with that; we both recognized it as a challenge we'd have to deal with together.

Recently, during a family dinner, my father said something so rude and insensitive that Susan called off our engagement that night. She claims it's nothing I did wrong, that she just can't imagine marrying someone whose family hates her for something she can't change.

Not to mention having to raise "these people's grandkids."

I say we're still engaged, present tense, because she's on the fence now, and I think we still have hope if I play my cards right. I don't want to lose her.

He's white, I'm black. We were best friends for six years before we added romance to our friendship 2 years ago. We're engaged and in love.

The trouble is his family. They're utter bigots and completely opposed to 'miscegnation' (ugh). When we started dating, I thought it was a challenge we could deal with.

The other night, though, we were having dinner with his family and they made such bigoted, hateful comments that I just couldn't stand it. He did nothing, and I just can't imagine facing his nasty family without backup. Can you imagine raising kids with racist grandparents and a spineless husband?

As far as I'm concerned, the engagement is off, but I told him I'd think it over. How do I make him see that this is never going to work out?

October 20, 2006

Out to Lunch

Dear Amy:

There is a situation involving my 12-year-old son and his friends that I am not good at handling.

Often they arrange to come to my house and then head to the deli or pizza place for lunch. They enjoy this activity, as it makes them feel a little independent.

These children know beforehand that this is the plan. However, they arrive with no money, or with only a dollar or two. My son is then left to pay for their food, often after they have ordered it.

I have asked my son to tell his friends before they arrive to be sure they bring money, but he feels uncomfortable doing so.

I have even mentioned to one mother that they are planning to go up to the shopping center for lunch, but the child arrives with empty pockets. I don't know why the parents don't make sure their children have enough money to cover their own expenses when they eat out by themselves.

I usually reimburse my son for the extra expense, as he doesn't get much allowance, but this annoys me and puts a dent in my budget. How would you handle this?

Dear Amy:

There is a situation with one my son's friends that I'm not sure how to handle.

Often, we'll arrange for our son to visit the friend at his house, but then the mother will send all the kids off to the mall for lunch.

I don't feel safe having my 12 year old son unsupervised in such a busy place, and my budget doesn't stretch to cover these weekly restaurant lunches.

I've tried sending my son over without enough money to cover lunch, but the mother still sends them off to the mall. I feed him before I let him go over to visit, but when everyone else is going out, he doesn't want to be the one to stay behind.

I even tried mentioning to the mother that my child doesn't carry money for those kinds of outings, but she sends the kids anyway. If she doesn't want the kids at her house, why does she invite them?

October 27, 2006

Pr0n Addict

QI recently discovered my husband's "sick" obsession with Internet porn. I wish I didn't know the horrid sites he's been frequenting. Am I conservative? He's sworn to me that he wasn't visiting porn sites. So not only is he a pervert, in my eyes, he's also a liar.

Is it worth trying to save this marriage of over 20 years?

Q: My prying wife recently found some porn sites in my Internet history. I wish she didn't know about it, and she's so prudish and nagging that I had to lie and pretend they weren't from me.

Is it worthy trying to save this marriage?

November 1, 2006

Updated WW Fic

I've done a quick update to my West Wing Fic and put a draft up on the web since writer's workshop is tonight. I'd still welcome more comments and such, since I kind of like this bit, and would like to keep working on it.

You can read the whole thing in HTML or in a much more nicely formatted PDF. If you want to comment, directly, you can still ask to be added to the Google doc.

December 6, 2006

Workshop Assignment

This month's assignment was a scary ghost story. My way too long for the requirements draft is below. I'm taking it to workshop to talk about tonight, but if you've got any feedback, I'd love to hear it.

The brass were determined to demonstrate an appropriate and forceful reaction to the situation so they had every available officer on site, making Patrol Officer Caswell one of about 3 dozens cops crowding Craigie Alley. Since that was about 2 dozen more than were necessary to the investigation, and a dozen more than were needed to keep the media away from the site, she was reading the engraved memorial plaques that hung along the brick wall of the Stafford Building.

She'd started with Carter Grayson, born March 19th, 1970, died December 7, 1996. Apparently he'd been a loving father and a proud soldier. She remembered when he'd been stabbed to death. Then there was Cassandra Lincoln, born April 12th, 1980, died December 7, 1986. A beloved daughter. At least until she'd been strangled.

She read Alexa Donahue (b. July 26, 1943 d. December 7, 1976) and Maurice Maissoneuve (b. April 11, 1918, d. December 7, 1966 ) and James (Jamie) Jameson (b. January 4, 1923, d. December 7, 1956) and Maya Ling (b. June 29, 1912, d. December 7, 1946). Shot, shot, stabbed and thrown from the roof, if Caswell recalled the summary from the papers.

In the waning light, she couldn't read the ones further into the alley, but like every child who'd grown up nearby, she knew that they ended with Calvin Westmorling, born September 9th, 1817 and hung by an angry mob December 7th, 1876.

"Caswell," the Detective in Charge waved her over. "It's too dark to do anything else here tonight. You've got the scene until the morning." He gestured towards the journalists crowded near the cordon line, "Keep the riff-raff out."

"Yes, sir!" she replied smartly. Guarding a crime scene wasn't exciting, but she'd long ago promised herself she'd be as helpful and enthusiastic as she needed to be to get promoted out of uniform.

The body had been removed hours before, so the scene cleared quickly once the detective called a halt. It wasn't long until Caswell was alone on the corner. She parked her patrol car in front of the alley and stared into the darkness.

She thought about the plaques. About the names and about the dates. Every 10 years like clockwork, someone died in Craigie Alley. A serial killer, the papers screamed as the anniversary approached. A serial killer, sure, but a serial killer that had been killing for 130 years?

Still, the local media had been playing it up for the last month. They'd done stories on the history and on the theories and on the investigations. And after they'd whipped up a frenzy of fear, they'd done stories on that, too, interviewing people at the airport and the bus station on the way out of town. Finally, when they ran out of even invented news to talk about, they hauled out the psychics and the crazies to talk about how the Alley was haunted.

All Caswell had was a police radio, but she didn't need to have a TV to see the story. She could picture the frothing mouths of the reporters as they wildly speculated about what was going on. A day early! The Craigie Alley Killer had come a day early. What could that mean to all the theories about ghosts and serial killers and unusual psychic energy readings? The reporters had been on scene all afternoon asking questions for their 6 o'clock news broadcasts, pretending the theories that had been shaken hadn't been their own.

It was just past midnight when she'd finally had enough of the stuffy air in the car. She got out for a stretch and a closer inspection. Peering into the alley, she could barely make out the markers left by the forensics team. There was a little placard where each bullet had been found, and numbered flags where other evidence had been collected.

She stretched her arms above her head, mentally checking her form as her yoga teacher had taught her. Breathing in and out to a four count, she brought her arms back down. As they dropped, she saw a spot of light in the alley. She raised her left arm again, twisting it to see if she could recreate the flash with a reflection off her watch, but that didn't seem to be the source. Turning back towards the car, she saw the flash again.

Careful of the evidence markers, she ducked under the crime scene tape. As she stepped past the main blood spatter, she heard a voice behind her.

She whipped around to look, knocking over an evidence flag in the process, but there was nothing there. "Probably just the radio," she muttered as she bent to right the flag. It was stupid of her to be back here, especially without a flashlight. Even stupider was the fact that she was actually sort of scared.

From ahead of her came another voice. This one she heard clearly. "Welcome."

"I heard that," Caswell muttered as she stepped deeper into the alley.

"Welcome," came a deeper voice from somewhere further back.

"Welcome!" A little girl's voice this time, from behind her. She startled and turned and saw nothing.

"Welcome." An old man.

"Welcome." A French accent.

"Welcome." Very quietly behind her.

Caswell was spinning in circles now, following the voices. She drew her gun, but as she thrust it forward it connected with something solid. In the darkness, she stumbled and fell.

Laying on the ground was almost a relief from the dizziness she'd felt, but soon the voices crowded nearer. "Welcome." "Welcome." "Welcome."

As the chorus grew louder, the light she had first been chasing reappeared. It grew larger, dimming as it spread. Soon, all she could see was hazy grey and the voices overwhelmed her. She fired two shots at the nothingness around her.

--

It was a media frenzy again two months later when people gathered in Craigie Alley for the memorial. The Mayor gave a speech. He didn't mention the bullets or the pool of blood, but the reporters wasted a lot of film pointing out the details of the now clean crime scene anyway. They focused especially hard on the dent in the Maya Ling plaque where the bullet had ricocheted. Finally, he revealed the newest memorial plaque.

Allison Caswell
Born October 9, 1981, Died December 7, 2006
Beloved Daughter, Faithful Protector

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