A sizeable part of me, probably the part that dragged the rest of me to a place like Wabash, loves tradition. And so, I’d like to start a little tradition on my blog. I’m going to call it the Wednesday “What Now.” Every Wednesday, even with a broken computer and a trek to the internet, I will post four mini-post tidbits about my thoughts—as if you didn’t get enough of that already!—and life here in Ukraine. Like the directions on a compass, these four points will give some indication where my mind has been and where it is heading…
1) I’ve been on a sort of Jimmy Stewart movie kick for the last month or two. Starting with probably one of my all-time favorite movies, It’s a Wonderful Life, around Christmastime, I’ve watched seven of his movies in that short period of time: Vertigo, Anatomy of a Murder, Rear Window, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Philadelphia Story, and You Can’t Take It With You. Almost all of them were available at our regional library in Rivne; only two were acquired with…er…other means. I’ve liked just about everything I’ve seen him in, including Harvey back home before I came to Ukraine. I’m not sure why I like him so much, except that maybe it is because his movies, along with a lot of old-timey films (and with the exception, perhaps of the Hitchcock duo on the list), tend to be uplifting, happy tales at the end of the line; it may not always be “real life” but we see that enough as it is, so why not use the screen to convey the good things in life that we may sometimes overlook when living in “real life”? Then again, maybe I like him because he’s so against type for a leading man, he’s a tall, gawky fella with awkward charm, and perhaps this reminds me of some other fella I know quite well. Also, he’s technically from Indiana, which will give anyone a leg up in my book…despite the fact that his “Indiana” is a city in Pennsylvania.
2) I feel that I am waiting for spring, pining even, more eagerly than any other time I can remember in my life. I want to see grass and feel warm rain, I want to see Rivne, my city, green and bright…and I want to be able to walk (or run) without being afraid of falling and breaking my coccyx. A certain beautiful volunteer with gorgeous eyes, a volunteer I like very much, never fails to inform me that “last winter was so much colder and worse” when I mention this, but I can tell her that though I wasn’t in Ukraine at the time, my last winter in Indiana was also worse than this, not to mention the fact that I worked outside every single night through the whole thing…and I STILL didn’t long for spring as much as I do right now at this moment!
3) Somehow, through magic perhaps, I have kept up with three of my favorite TV shows from back home while I’ve been here in Ukraine: House, How I Met Your Mother, and The Office. Don’t ask me how I’ve gotten my hands on these programs every week; besides who knows how magic really works anyways…and even if I did know, a magician never reveals his tricks…and no, magic cannot be illegal, why do you ask? The shows give me a welcome, little weekly taste of home, for sure, but they also make me miss home a bit more every time I click play. Because, despite being able to watch these shows at my convenience, I have no one to share them with, no one to text back and forth with our immediate favorite one-liners while the show is still going on, not to mention, no one who will shout the answer when I simply say, “LEGEN,” and leave it at that. I guess what I’m really saying is that I miss my brother Justin—let me just say, that I miss all of my brothers terribly…and maybe my sister too…no, just kidding, of course I miss her…I’m a jokester…I tell jokes!—but no single person has had more of a direct effect on my television viewing habits as Justin has; he is almost single-handedly responsible for my love of Scrubs, How I Met Your Mother, and Californication—oh, snap…I should downl…er…use my magic to get that one too—not to mention all of the strange and silly movies that he discovers purely by his own brand of luck—the movies that become our personal classics. Also, while I’m on this subject, I’d like to wish my brother, Joban, a speedy recovery—I fell and broke my computer, but he fell and broke his shoulder ribs, or something like that, whatever it was, it sounded super painful.
4) Since my last short story received such an overwhelming response—overwhelming in the fact that it received two comments on the site, and one “I liked it” over the phone—I’ve decided to end this inaugural WWN with yet another cheesy, but loveable IWO training story…about a light bulb.
The activity: “What is the what?”
Every basic story needs to give some sort of answer to the 6 “wh” questions: who, when, where, what, why, and how? This story was one I wrote and read as a sample story to the students I was working with, both to make them listen closely for answers to the 6 Q’s and to give them an idea of how to incorporate the information (relatively) smoothly and naturally into a story (OK, full disclosure: I punched this one up a little bit…the version that the kids heard was a bit simpler…no “flippities” for them).
One spring Saturday morning, not too long ago, a man named Fred was walking to the store to buy a light bulb.
This had not been a particularly meaningful morning for Fred. He had gotten out of bed as usual at 6:00 am sharp, had taken a shower and shaved as usual, and as usual had eaten two eggs, a piece of toast, and half of an apple with orange juice for breakfast. The only thing that was out of the ordinary for Fred that morning was that when he opened his refrigerator to get the eggs and orange juice, he noticed that the light bulb had burned out. Since it was Saturday, and Fred didn’t have to teach on Saturdays, and since it was a sunny day outside with not too many clouds and no chance of rain, Fred decided to walk to the store that very moment to buy a new bulb. He was afraid that he would forget about it if he waited too long.
So, Fred was walking to the store when he noticed his neighbor, old Mrs. Crabapple, watering her petunias. Though he had known her for over 15 years, had met her on the first day he moved into the neighborhood as a fresh, young bachelor teacher, Fred never failed to remark to himself how delightfully odd it was for a woman named Petunia to plant them in her front yard garden.
He also always thought it not only a strange and unfortunate parental choice to name a child Petunia, but an even stranger and more unfortunate coincidence that she had met and married a man with the last name Crabapple. Petunia Crabapple. He thought it all amazingly hilarious, but would have been caught dead before he ever said so.
“Nice day, eh, Mrs. Crabapple?” Fred chirped cheerfully.
“Don’t know what’s particularly nice about it,” she croaked, not turning from her flowers. “Nothing much better about it than yesterday and won’t be much better than tomorrow, I suppose.”
Fred stopped in front of the house, looking at Petunia Crabapple’s back. No matter how hard he thought—should he say something nice about the flowers? should he comment on the weather?—he found that he had nothing to say that could break through such soundly negative logic.
So, he simply shrugged happily at her back, and with a quick smile and a “Well, goodbye!”, he turned to keep walking down the sidewalk.
Only, at that moment, the sidewalk moved swiftly out from under his feet…or so he imagined, as he saw his feet fly up over his head and felt himself falling. He hit the hard pavement with a wicked “THUMP!”, let out an involuntary “OOF!”, and everything went dark.
…When Fred woke up, sometime later, he saw that the sun was still high in the sky and there were thick puffy clouds floating lazily away in the distance. Mrs. Crabapple was standing over him with a bucket of water in her hand.
“Fred?” she cried, though her slightly heightened voice was already falling back into its familiar grumble. “We were sure you were dead, Fred, but I was just about the dump this water on your head to make sure!”
She explained to him that her grandson, Johnny, who had been playing unnoticed under Fred’s feet while they chatted their brief chat, and who was also very curious and very fond of both experiments, had spilled all of his marbles on the sidewalk in Fred’s path “just to see what would happen.”
Fred groaned and started to sit up.
“No, Fred, you should stay where you are and lay down. We should take you to the hospital.”
“I think I’m okay,” Fred said as he stood, his head only slightly aching. “I should get going though. I was just about to—”
Fred stopped brushing the dust off of his clothes and scratched his head, pondering. Some grass clipping drifted down from his tussling hair. He stood like this for a full minute and a half.
“Uh, Petun…er…Mrs. Crabapple,” he finally asked, sheepishly, “did I happen to tell you where I was headed before I fell?”
“No, you surely didn’t. At least, I don’t remember. This old memory, though…you know it isn’t what it used to be.”
“Well, that’s strange. I don’t really remember, either. I guess I should be heading back toward home then.”
“Be sure to put some ice on your head when you get home, Fred.”
“Okay, sure thing. Catch ya on the flipitty, Petunia.”
The words floated back from Fred’s mouth as he walked away, but were chopped up by the sound of a neighboring lawnmower and drowned as Mrs. Crabapple once again turned the hose on the flowers.
The air-conditioning felt good against Fred’s hot skin when he opened the door and walked into the house. He wanted to lay down on the couch, put on the football game and take a nap, but he remembered what Mrs. Crabapple said about the ice. He walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator.
“Hmm,” Fred thought out loud, “the light bulb in the refrigerator is out. I guess I’ll need to go down to the store to get a new one!”
Would you let me see the world behind your eyes…