Sunday, February 25, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapters 12 & 13: Au Revoir and Meetings

These two chapters are very similar in theme, and both short, so I'm combining them here.  They center around beginnings and endings, doors closing and opening, and every other cliche you wish to apply.

They also concern the opening of the new Burger King on College Ave, which replaced the VERY popular "Train Station."  I wrote a chapter about that day, but never typed it in.  I made the first sandwich in that place- a Whopper Jr with cheese.  The BK there lasted a few years, then went back to being a bar.  I worked at this BK for maybe a month before quitting.  I hated it.

In any case, chapter 13 introduces another major person to the story: Virginia.

I don't know what Virginia would think about my transition.  No one I know is in touch with her.  I called her once back in 2008 to tell her that I'd written this book, and to offer her a chance to read it before it was published.  She declined.  She's married now and has multiple kids.  That's all I know.

But what would she think?  I think she'd be repulsed.  Guess I'll never know.


Chapter 2.12:  Au Revoir

Sunday, October 5, 1986 Reagan assails House for curbs on weapons

            The new BK was opening down on College Ave.  A bunch of us were transferring there.  The restaurant was taking the place of a bar called the “Train Station” and would be one of the largest BK’s in the country. 
            So I was working my last shift at the BK on University Drive.  Judy was working Whopper board while I worked burger board across from her. 
            “You going to the new store, Judy?”  I asked.
            “No.  I live across the street from here.  Why?  Will you be going there?”
            “Yeah.  It’s like a block from where I live.  I’m told it’s a really nice place.”
            Bob, the manager, walked over.
            “Judy, could you take a quick mop to the dining room?  And Lance, you can start on those dishes.”
            Judy rolled her eyes and smiled at me.  I went back to the sink and the immense pile of trays, plastic containers, and everything else.  Shit.  I hated doing greasy dishes.  Still do.
            I spent over an hour on those dishes.  During that time, Judy finished her shift and left.  She smiled and waved as she did.  I went back to the last of the dishes and thought about her smile.  Why didn’t I have the guts to get her phone number?  Well, it didn’t matter.  She had a boyfriend anyway.
            My shift ended half an hour later, at the same time as Ashley’s. 
            “I hope you liked the play last night” I said.
            She smiled shyly.  “I did.  Thanks again for inviting me.  That was so nice of you.”
            “Thank you for coming.  Busy tonight?”
            “Yes.  A few of my sisters are going to see Robin Williams, and they have an extra ticket, so I’m going too.”

From the Daily Collegian, Monday October 6, 1986 

            “That’s pretty generous!  Those tickets are fifteen bucks each!”
            She smiled.  “That’s what sisters are for!”
            “Well, I’m going as well.  Maybe I’ll see you there?”
            “Maybe.  I have to go.  Bye!”  She turned and walked across the parking lot.  I watched for a moment.  She really did have a nice butt. 
            Then, I unlocked my bike and rode back uphill to my apartment.  The sun was shining, and the leaves were turning.  Summer was over, and fall was just fine.

Chapter 2.13: Meetings

Wednesday, October 8, 1986 Nicaragua puts American from plane on display

            I needed my check, and the other BK wouldn’t forward it to the new store, so I had to head back to the old one.  Well, at least it wasn’t far, and maybe I’d run into a friendly face.  Funny how sometimes mundane shit snowballs, isn’t it?
            I went through the door into the back area, where I found Judy on her knees cleaning a tall stainless steel fry rack.  She was so determined to finish that she didn’t hear me come in.  I watched for a moment, then finally said “Hi sexy!  Come here often?”
            She jumped a bit, and some stray black hair came out from under her visor.  She looked up at me and smiled.  “Hi Lance!  You scared me!  How have you been?”
            “Ok.  The new store is a pain.  It looks like you’re having fun.”
            She looked at the fry rack.  “Yes.  Lots of fun.”  She rolled her eyes.
            “Uh, listen, um, could I have your phone number so I could, like, keep in touch?”  I asked.
            “Sure!  I thought you’d never ask!”
            She stood, straightened her uniform, then wrote her phone number on a napkin.  I did the same.  I was so nervous.
            “Thanks!  Well, I’m gonna get my check.  Can I call you tonight?”
            “Sure!  I’ll look forward to it!” she said, still smiling.

Ads like this were common and Fun (I thought)  Daily Collegian Oct 8, 1986

            The rest of the day was very busy.  Eventually I had time to call.  I listened to her phone ring.  Why am I so nervous?  Am I that lame?
            “Hello?” a female voice answered.
            “Hi!  Is Judy there?”
            “Hi Judy!  This is Lance.  You know, from work?”
            “Hi Lance!  It’s eleven o’clock at night!  Do you always call so late?”
            “Oh.  It is?”  Shit.  Guess I should’ve looked at a clock.  “I’m sorry.  Did I wake you up?”
            “No, we were just studying.”
            “Yes, My roommate Virginia and I.”
            “What are you studying for?”
            “Biology.  Blech!”
            The line clicked as someone picks up a phone.
            “Is that on your side or is the CIA tapping my phone again?”
            “It’s here.  We have two phones.  Are you on, Virginia
            “Yep!  Now why did you signal me to get on?”
            “Oh, setting me up, Judy?”  I asked.
            “Yes!  Virginia, this is Lance.”  Judy said.
            “Hi Lance!”  Virginia said.  Her voice is a little higher than Judy’s, and not nasal.  Her voice sounded just a touch sultry, or was she just tired?
            “Hi Virginia!  Nice to hear you!  So a threesome, huh?”
            “I guess,” Virginia said as Judy giggled.
            “Anyway, would you two mind if I came to visit?”  I asked.
            “At this time of night?  You’ve got some strange friends Judy!”  Virginia said.
            “Would you mind, Virginia?”  Judy asked.
            “I don’t bite.  Hard, anyway.”  I said.
            “I don’t mind.  I just need to put on some clothes” Virginia said.
            “Sure!  Come on over, Lance!  Do you know where we live?”  Judy said.
            “Um, I know you live across from the BK, but that’s it.”  I said.
            Judy gave me quick directions.  I pulled on my white Drexel hooded sweatshirt and headed out.  It was a cold and windy five minute bike ride, followed by ten minutes of trying to find their apartment: 670B Sutton Court.  I practically had to search the whole building. 
Sutton Court was across the street from BK, but not directly across the street.  It was a large, three story, U-shaped building bordered on the base by University Drive, by East Prospect Street to the north and by East Hamilton Street to the south.  The parking lot was on the west side and a small courtyard was nestled “inside” the U.
            Finally, I found the right place.  I knocked and a few moments later, Judy opened the door.  I’d never seen her outside of her rust colored work uniform, so I was a bit surprised.  She was wearing a tight pink sweater with rose, turquoise, and pale blue stripes which really showed off her beautiful breasts.  Judy’s black hair was parted in the middle and flowed to maybe an inch past her shoulders.  Her tight jeans showed off her slender curved hips.  She was wearing just a little makeup, but that was enough.  Her nose wrinkled just a bit when she smiled.  I was smitten.  Wow!
            “What took you so long?” she asked.
            “Your directions weren’t exactly perfect” I said.
            She giggled a bit.  “Please come in!” she said.

Daily Collegian Oct 8, 1986

            The front door opened to a small hallway.  Maybe three feet in was the entrance to the kitchen, which was big enough to have a medium sized table- huge by college standards.  I hung up my coat on a hook inside the door, and we turned left a few steps to the living room.  It was huge- as big as my whole apartment.  A couch wrapped around two sides of the room, with a small rectangular table in front of that.  Against the far wall was a desk, and in the corner a TV on a stand with a stereo turntable beneath it.  The left wall had windows looking out to the courtyard.  The walls were light tan and the carpet was a darker shade of tan.  In fact, everything was earth toned.
            As I walked into the room, the girl lying on the floor bounced up.
            “Virginia, this is Lance.  Lance, this is my roommate Virginia” Judy said.
            “Nice to meet you, Virginia!”
            “Hi Lance!” she said, smiling.  She had an infectious smile.
            Virginia was about five foot six- a full four inches taller than Judy (even without the boots).  She wore extremely tight jeans that showed off her curves and black boots with three inch heels.  Her hips were wider than Judy’s and she had a nice butt.  She wore a hooded maroon sweatshirt with the letters AXP in blue.  Even with the thick sweater, I could see she had very nice breasts.  Her face was oval with a delicate, angular jaw and sad hazel eyes.  She reminded me a lot of the girl on the cover of Dylan’s “Freewheelin’” album: Suze Rotolo, except Virginia had very short brown hair- cut shorter than mine. 
It made for an interesting look- almost butch, but not.  Virginia was almost the perfect foil for Judy: Judy was so incredibly feminine and in some ways delicate, while Virginia had the whole “ball-buster” thing going for her.  I know that sounds fucked up, but that was the 80s.
Judy put a Queen album on the turntable, and the three of us sat on the couch and talked.
Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you no man ask for
Under pressure - that tears a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets
Virginia was from Boyertown, which was forty minutes up the road from where I grew up in Spring City.  She was also a Crow little sister, and she majored in speech pathology.  Like Judy, she graduated high school in ’85, and came up for that summer session to Penn State.  They hung out a lot at Crow house, and that fall pledged as little sisters.  Virginia currently didn’t have a boyfriend, which I found hard to believe.  I was of the opinion that a girl with a figure like hers could get any guy she wanted.  She really tried to be the “tough, no-bullshit” type, but even I could see it was a front.  She was hurting: sad, angry, or both.  She didn’t want to let anyone close.
Judy was very open.  She was from Cherry Hill, New Jersey.  She wasn’t Italian, like I first thought: she was Jewish.  Really Jewish- almost orthodox.  She was majoring in Health Planning and Administration: HPA.  I already knew that Judy had a boyfriend.  Richard was a senior when they met during summer 1985, going into his fifth year at Penn State.  He, Judy and Virginia hung out that whole summer, but he ended up dating Judy.  Funny how everyone but Judy called him “Rich.”  To her, he was Richard.  Judy had a way of making me feel I was the most important person in the world to her while we were speaking.
I told them a bit about me: about Drexel, Skull House (Virginia couldn’t believe I was a Skull,) my rescue work, all of the basics.  I didn’t want to tell them too much, as I’d begun to figure out that mystery is a good thing when trying to get women.  Maybe I was finally getting a clue?  Nahhhhh!
Next thing we knew, it was three in the morning.  I didn’t want to leave- I was having so much fun- and the girls seemed all too ready to stay up (neither of them had class until noon). 
I hopped back on my bike for the windy ride back to the apartment: all uphill.  All I could think about was Judy.  My God- what I wouldn’t do to go out with her!  It wasn’t like things weren’t complicated enough, what with Ashley and Jill and all, but things with them were going nowhere. 

I went to bed at three thirty, setting the alarm for seven so I could make my eight o’clock class.  Three and a half hours was plenty of sleep after all!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Skirt Dropping Interview

Monday, February 19 was a cool and cloudy day.  I awoke early to take my roomie and bestie, Linda, to work, then got ready for the day.

I had a job interview- the first since being heave-ho'ed from the bookstore. ("Execute Order 66!")  I won't say where it was; just that it was at an LGBT center for a University nearby.

A friend told me about the job, and I applied.  I somehow passed the phone interview, and was invited for an in-person one.  I was scheduled for 10:30 AM.

Ready for the Interview!

I did my research on the position and the University, and headed off early.  I was told I'd be met by someone who would give me a parking permit, so parking wouldn't be an issue.  Unfortunately, the parking lot was completely full.

A woman came out and gave me the permit and a bottle of water, and gave me options on different parking lots.  I decided to swing around that one more time just in case.  The woman said she'd wait.  I found someone leaving.  She indicated I should take her spot, so I put on my blinker.  As i turned into the spot, a girl came speeding up in an SUV.  I had committed to the spot (and had my turn signal on) but she still gave me a one fingered salute.

Parking surrounded the building

true to her word, the woman waited for me.  We walked up to the back "patio" of the building, chatting.

Then my skirt fell down.

Completely.  As in belt on the ground.

Fortunately, I was wearing pantyhose.  But my panties?  Boring cotton granny panties.  Nothing interesting, like maybe French cut, or a thong.  Or even stockings and a garter belt.

Waiting for a parking spot at the university

Anyway.  I stopped, bent over, pulled up my skirt to over my fat tummy, smiled and said "I've lost a lot of weight lately.  Ok, let's just forget that ever happened."

And we walked inside to the interview room on the second floor. 

The first part was with a group of LGBT students.  Part two was with HR and the person who would be my boss.  Y'know- the person WHO WATCHED MY SKIRT FALL DOWN.

Yes, she's the head of the department.

So, the last premade question they had for me was about handling stress.  Seriously.  Well, I talked about my paramedic days- running into burning buildings, making split second life or death decisions, and all that.  I mentioned working retail and having people call me every name except "child of God" and taking it without acting.  Then I smiled and said "Talking about stress, I was walking in here for this interview, and my skirt fell right to the ground.  Plop.  Right in front of [person.]  I just pulled it up, and kept going.  Later, I'll probably cry into my glass of wine or something, but no one here will see that.  No one at work sees it."

That got a good laugh all around.

I was then given a tour, and ended up speaking to the director one on one.  And then it was over.  I went to the University bookstore, which was in the building, to get a car magnet for my Wife.  You see, this school is her Alma mater.

I drove towards home, picked up Linda, who was halfway through her six mile walk home from work, and we went to lunch.

The Full Ensemble with the Fall Away Skirt

After lunch, we went back to the apartment.  I changed clothes.

Now, I wait.  I think the interview went well, all thing considered.  But I usually think they go well until I hear nothing or get the brusque email saying, in so many words "You suck."

I have an interview set up next week with a different place.  (Two in two weeks!  A record!)

Hope I can keep my skirt on this time.  Or shall I wear some interesting panties, just in case?

Be well.

Update March 11:  I didn't get the job.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 11: Cheeseburgers

Ok, after two vignettes that wouldn't make the cut if this were to be published, it's back to the plot.
Jill was another coworker whom I was attracted to, but I cut her from the book as nothing came of it, and it was a dull side-story.  In editing, she will disappear.

Jill was a nursing student at a nearby nursing school.  A former homecoming queen, she had an two year old son whose father ran out on them.  She was my age (20) and no nonsense.  I'm sure she did well in life.

I refer to "the Objects."  They are the Objects of the fraternity, which are learned by every Skull pledge, and are noted in earlier chapters.  


Chapter 2.11: Cheeseburgers

Thursday, October 1, 1986 Reagan Gorbachev to Meet

            Another shift on another grey and rainy day- at least Ashley worked with me.  Jill and Judy were both off.  The customers were few and far between, so Ashley and I talked about classes and other stuff.

 From October 1, 1986 Collegian

            “Are you going to see “Streetcar Named Desire” this weekend?”  Ashley asked.
            “I was thinking about it.  What about you?” 
            “I’d like to.  Some of my sisters are going.  I want to take advantage of all the cultural opportunities I can.  Have you seen it before?”
            Hah.  ‘Cooperation in the educational and cultural programs…’  I thought.  Wow- the Objects actually come through. 
            “No.  I heard that the movie is really good.”  I said.
            “It is really good!  Marlon Brando is incredible in it!” 
            Just then some customers came in, and we were a little busy.

            After Ashley clocked out, I waved her over to the burger board where I was making a whopper junior. 
            “Why don’t we go to the play together?”  I asked.
            “That would be nice!” she said.
            “Can I have your number, y’ know, call you?”
            Where did I get the sudden infusion of guts?  My stomach knotted. 
            “Sure!  She picked up a grease pencil that we used to mark wrappers and boxes, and she wrote the phone number on a yellow cheeseburger wrapper.  I then tore off the bottom part of the wrapper and wrote down my number on that.

From Oct 1, 86 Collegian

            I felt excited and sick.  I couldn’t believe that Ashley- Ashley!  - said yes!  Face it, since coming to Penn State, I managed to have a lot more luck than ever getting phone numbers from girls, but I had yet to turn those numbers into anything substantial.  I guess the girls sobered up before I called.  But Ashley gave me her number, and she was sober!
            So why did I feel a little like I was cheating on Julianne?  I mean, I owed her nothing.  She had a new boyfriend. 
            Ashley smiled and said goodbye as an order came over the speakers.
            Two cheeseburgers.

From Oct 1, 86 Collegian

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine 18

I started writing this entry on February 14, 2018- Valentines Day.  (VD)

I've written before about my opinion of this Hallmark holiday.  Not a fan.  For one, it's amateur night at restaurants.  Everyone who never goes out goes to restaurants, runs the server like a slave, and doesn't tip.  It's crowded, loud, and the cooks are overworked.  THE worst night to go out to dinner of the year.

February 13, 2017- backstage at Vagina Monologues

I'm lucky.  Wife doesn't care for Hallmark holidays.  She doesn't like getting gifts.  She sees VD as a waste.  I agree- I showed her my love 365 days a year- I didn't need a special day for it.  Yes, we would do a VD dinner, usually several days before.  It was far more sane.

As it stands, this year will be our 25th wedding anniversary.  We have been separated since I was thrown out by her mother in August 2013, but we are still married.  Still, we have lived apart for over four years.

Today, Wife felt sick, and called out of work.  I had things to do (like applying for jobs- I was fired the day before) but when I finished, I called her.  You see, her mother is away for the week.  I suggested that we watch a "grown up movie" before Daughter came home from school.  By "grown up," I mean a movie that we enjoy that has language or situations that our daughter is too young to see yet.

I chose Airplane, and went over.

And so I sat on the couch.  Wife lay on the couch, her feet in my lap.  She hadn't seen that movie since before Daughter was born (ten years) and we both enjoyed it.

Then, as the movie ended, Daughter returned from school.

And that, dear reader, was my Valentine's Day.  I am now back at my apartment.  Linda, my roomie and bestie, just made dinner.

Just another day.

Men of the Skull Chapter 10: Quag Monster

I thought and thought about whether or not to post this chapter.  It isn't nice at all, and serves no purpose.  I wrote it out of a sense of completeness, really.  If the book ever sees publication, this chapter would be cut, as it serves no purpose.  I'm not proud of having written it- what does it say about who I was when I wrote it?

It said that I hated myself, and hated people like her-  this woman never even spoke to me.  She looked at me as I was completely unworthy of female attention.  She would sleep with everyone in the House except me.  I doubt she even cared to know my name.

At PSU in summer 2008, as I was finishing the book

I understand why, now.  I wasn't a guy to her.  Many women saw through my "facade" of manhood. "I don't see you that way."  "I don't think of you as a guy- you're one of the girls."  But, when I wrote this chapter, I was still deep in denial.

This person exists. And she wasn't the only one like her.  Looking back, I think she was very insecure, and needed to feel love in some way.  Or not.  Maybe she was just enjoying yourself, and that's fine.  It was her life, and it was the 80s after all.


Chapter 2.10: Quag monster
Thursday, September 25, 1986  Informer: Mob had Testa killed for slaying of Bruno
            She was a hot girl, well she had been hotter once that’s for sure.  She looked worn out- overused.  Her eyes looked old.  She had short blond hair which she poofed as high as it would go all around, and always wore fashionably tight-ish clothes- always the right shoes.  If you caught her early in the night, she was impeccable dressed and coiffed.  However, late in the night she looked rumpled and fucked hard.
            She was the Quag Monster.
            The Quag was the name for the area around the boilers and water heater.  There were sofas there- old and musty.  The Quag Monster was well known for blowing or fucking almost every brother back there.  She loved her cocaine back in that damp cellar room.  She paid for it there as well.
            I know she was in a sorority, but I forget which.  Perhaps Tri Delt?  That didn’t matter.  She was also a Skull Little Sister and she was many guys ideal of what a little sister should be.  She sucked and fucked and went away.
            Me?  I don’t think she even knew my name.  She never even spoke to me.  That’s ok- I knew her name: she was Quag Monster now and forever.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 9: Coke

This chapter is among the shortest in the book- and one of the nastiest.  It was also among the last that I wrote for the book.

Why is it nasty?  Well, because it tells an unvarnished Truth.  This is a Truth that many of the brothers don't want told, but everyone knew.  It was far from a secret- in fact Skull had a reputation as a "drug house."

Not THAT bad though!

It was the 80s, and drugs were common.  I think I was the only lame ass who DIDN'T know how or where to score drugs, because I didn't want to do so.  I'd seen what drugs could do to a person, and I had enough issues with my drug of choice; alcohol.   Still, if you wanted to be popular, you did drugs- lots of them.  

The Bone was full of Dead heads.  There was a LOT of pot in the house.  But the major drug was cocaine.  That was true of many of the houses.  Rumor was that, for one of the houses, their house philanthropy was to give a charity a cut of the money they earned from selling drugs as the house business.

Times are different now.  I'll almost guarantee that most of the brothers don't touch drugs any more.  After all, that was college, and they are now mature, respectable family men.  But this happened, and to ignore it would be to remove a major part of the Truth of this book.  And I wrote this book to be about the Truth.  

To this day, I have never smoked pot.  I tried coke three times.  Hated it.  Never tried anything else.  I stuck to booze.  It caused me enough trouble.  

Chapter 2.9: Coke

Thursday, September 11, 1986 10 miles of Delaware River fouled by tanker’s 200,000- gallon spill

            It’s funny the ways that knowledge can serve.  I noticed that a number of the brothers seemed to have allergies.  They had red eyes, sniffled a lot and sneezed.  Now, these were rich guys.  It didn’t take me long to connect the dots.  The final clue was how some of these guys were absolutely hostile to me- as if they had something to hide: Paranoid.
            With all the fancy book learnin’ I got when training as an EMT, I put together the pieces: Cocaine.
She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie;
Yeah.  Lots of mirrors on tables in the house.  Not in every room to be sure, but plenty.
You could tell when they were hopped up: usually at parties.  Some of them would use it as fuel to kick down people’s doors.  Assholes.  Still, there was one guy who had a major problem.  He would snort any and all he could whenever he could.  He owed a lot of people a lot of money because he kept borrowing to buy, or he snorted other people’s stash.  Not a good idea.  The coke heads looked down on him like he had no control or something.
So I’m guessing a lot of those guys were so paranoid that they thought I was a cop.  That would explain a few things.
Driving that train, high on cocaine,
Casey Jones is ready, watch your speed.

Still, I mean the amount of money some of these guys spent on coke alone, never mind pot, would easily have paid a person’s tuition.  And these guys not only bought for themselves, oh no!  Many many sorority girls would do anything for it.  The term then was “coke whores.”  Glamorous shit, eh?  That was the 80s.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 8: Ashley

In this chapter, I introduce another person.

Ashley was my first Penn State crush.  She was whip smart (far smarter than me), beautiful, and had poise.  To me and my, well, limited experience, she was everything I expected a college woman to be.

And, she actually talked to me.

Unlike Judy (mentioned in a previous chapter,) Ashley was unattached.  You see, Judy had a boyfriend, who had graduated the previous year and saw her on weekends.  Ashley was free.

Im my mind, college relationships would be about discussing books, studying together, laughing while making dinner together, and, of course, passionate sex.  It was grown up stuff, not high school kid stuff.  I had no idea what I was doing- I was a lost in a dream.  I wanted... actually I had no idea what I wanted.

In many ways, I just wanted the Pain I was feeling to just go away.  I was still hurting over the breakup several months before with Julianne (first girlfriend) despite the fact that it was a one sided relationship doomed to fail.  I wanted the deep Pain, that I no longer dared name, to go away.  And I knew just how to end that Pain- the Pain of being Transgender (I didn't have a name for it then; I thought I was just a freak): get into a relationship with a grown up relationship with a Woman.

I just had NO idea how to do that.

In any case, I have no pictures of Ashley then.  I had no camera that semester.  I found her on Facialbook while I was writing this book, and we connected.  She remembered me.  She's married, many kids, great career- exactly what she wanted.   However, like so many, she disappeared when I transitioned.


Chapter 8: Ashley

Tuesday, Sept 9, 1986 Law and Morality in ‘Baby M’ case

            I stood with my back to her all day.  I sneaked glances at her ass as I worked.  I was on whopper board so the customers were staring at my ass all day, so it seemed fair.  See, behind me were the counter, and the cash registers, and running one of the registers was Ashley.
Ashley was a fellow PSU student, my age, majoring in mechanical engineering where she had a 4.0 in her junior year.  She came from my neck of the woods- Trappe, Pa.  That’s next to Collegeville where Julianne lived.  Really close by.

From that day's Daily Collegian (from the online archive)

Ashley was maybe five foot eight.  Her chestnut colored hair flowed just past her shoulders.  Her faint blonde highlights commanded attention as well.  Her eyes were blue as robin eggs and just as fragile.  Her face was delicate with subtle cheekbones and a bit of a pointed chin.  She wore a lot of foundation to cover some ancient acne scars- her only flaw.  I’ll bet she shed a lot of tears over those- really. 
Ashley was thin with very delicate arms.  Her breasts were a small B at most, but that was ok.  Her outstanding feature was her lower body- her hips and butt.  Curved perfectly and just the right size- that balance between perfection and fat: hypnotic.  That was a balance- delicate as an egg yolk.  Years later, Jennifer Lopez would rise to incredible fame for her ass.  Ashley’s put J-Lo’s to shame.  Really.  Hell, everything about her was absolutely feminine, down to the blush when she smiled.  I’d never met anyone like her.
In fact, Ashley looked like an older version of Julianne with a better body and cuter face.  Does that make sense?  Well, it’s true.
Most important, Ashley was really nice.  She didn’t realize how cute she was.  In fact she was fairly shy. 
So why did she make me feel so nervous and self conscious?
Was it because she reminded me so much of Julianne?  I mean I’d met several girls but let’s face it, I still missed Julianne.  Badly.  I still hadn’t worked everything through yet.  Hey, I wasn’t even twenty and this was my first real breakup.  Give me a fucking break!
Maybe it was because I was still a child, and she was a woman?
Anyway, so we talked a bit when we weren’t busy, which is how I learned all about her.  Did I mention her sorority?  Kappa Phi: the Christian service sorority. 

From that day's Daily Collegian (from the online archive)

The customers began to fade away and Ashley’s shift ended.  She worked until two, while I was stuck there until three.  Management pulled me back to burger board where I’d make everything for the rest of my shift.  As she walked by, Ashley stopped.
“It was a pleasure meeting you Lance!” she said, smiling. 
“Pleasure was mine!  It’s so rare to meet someone as smart as she is beautiful!”  What a fucking corny line.

She blushed and looked down at her feet.  “Thanks” she said.  She looked at me, said goodbye, and left.  I finished my shift and rode home, thinking about her.
From that day's Daily Collegian (from the online archive)

Friday, February 2, 2018

Story Challenge- 999 words or less. "The Gift."

My friend Mel gave me a writing challenge.  999 words max.  The story has "feature a jacket in the plot", as well as an "unattainable deadline.".

998 words (not counting the picture caption).  I call it The Gift.

Comments welcome.


Got the coat in 1984.  It’s electric blue satin, button up, with a white stenciled Star of Life on the front left breast.  The people from my rescue squad bought it for me when I passed the Emergency Medical Technician exam in January. I was seventeen years old, and a high school senior.

I wore it to school for the rest of the winter.  It was flashy and stood out (remember this was the 80s) and, best of all, I’d earned it.  In my rural school, it REALLY stood out, but it meant (I thought) that I was a hero.  I was a volunteer on the ambulance and rescue squad, and I saved lives.

I found out later that the other kids thought it was extremely dorky, but that’s not the point.

I stopped wearing it when I went to college.  I volunteered at the ambulance company in the college town as well.  While I was there, earning my teaching degree, I also took the Paramedic course and passed that.  Soon after graduation, I took and passed the Paramedic II course. 

I moved to another rural community, and started teaching history at the local high school.  While there, I also volunteered with the ambulance and rescue squad.  When I started, the school was small and underfunded, as was the emergency services. 

Eventually though, new highways opened up the area to the city, and the population exploded. 

In the mid-90s, I was on a call for a bad car accident involving an elderly couple.  I ended up saving the old lady’s life, while her husband was out cold.  Both survived. 

Couple months later, that old guy showed up at the rescue squad building, carrying a large paper shopping bag.   Turns out he was an army medic in World War II.  Fought in Europe.  France, Belgium, Germany.  Made it out without a scratch.  In the bag, was his old medical gear- a couple bags, pouches, all on a harness to carry it all.  The equipment was mostly still in it- forceps, hemostats, some bandages and stuff.  He gave it to me, telling me how much he was grateful for me saving his wife.  “One medic to another.”  

We talked  maybe an hour or so, and I asked him how he managed to get through all that shit without getting hurt.  He reached into the bag to something wrapped in a black cloth.
It was a knife.  Sanssouchi Fighting Knife, he said.  While in France, he saved some guy from the French Resistance who was bleeding out after losing an arm at the elbow.  Tourniquet.  The guy’s buddy gave him this knife to thank him.  French resistance fighting knife.  Big.  Still sharp.  The medic said that it was good luck charm.  He carried it through the war, and it kept him from being hurt.  Through Korea too, he said.  And now, he was giving it to me.  His most prized possession. 

“One medic to another.”

“Take care of it, and it’ll take care of you.”

Sanssouchi Fighting Knife, WWII

Saw a couple months later that he died.  Heart attack in his sleep.  Widow maker.  He never felt a thing.  I went to his funeral.  Full military honors.

I kept the knife with me whenever I went on a call.  Late 90s, there was a house fire.  I was one of three guys who put on air packs and went in looking for a mother and little daughter who we could hear inside.  We found them just as the floor above them collapsed, burying them in flaming debris.  I could hear them screaming, even over all the noise and gear.  Tried.  Couldn’t get to them.  Other two guys, they pulled me out because our tanks all started ringing, meaning our air tanks were almost empty.  I didn’t want to go. 

Hours later, after the fire was out, we were digging through the debris with the fire inspectors, looking for the bodies.  Found them after a bit.  Floor was unstable, but we still managed to get them out after taking pictures and measurements.  They were both burned to charcoal, and fell apart when we tried to move them.

Mom was twenty two.  Girl was five.  The mom’s boyfriend set the fire hoping to collect on insurance.  He didn’t know they were in there, waiting to surprise him.  You see, she was pregnant again.  Just found out.  Their first kid together. Were gonna surprise him.

Dead.  Charcoal. 

Me?  Not a scratch. 

Year or so lately, wife left me.  I was drinking too much and not talking to her.  All I could hear were the screams of those two whenever it was quiet. 

Now I’m in my fifties.  The rescue squad and ambulance are all “paid professionals.”  I retired from teaching after twenty five years.  Wife remarried.  I now work on the ambulance, usually driving.

So today, I decided to wear my Blue satin EMT jacket.  Got it out of storage.  It’s a little small.  Little frayed.  Still shiny.  Brandon and Ashley, the crew I’m with today, they laughed and teased me.  I just smiled.  They’re just kids.  Early twenties.  Probably same age that little girl would be now. 

Right now, I’m sitting in the driver’s seat of the ambulance.  Those two are in the Applebees getting lunch.  I said I’d wait out here.  Not hungry. 

I pulled out the knife.  Still sharp after over eighty years.  It’s quiet, and I hear the screams.  Still.  Twenty years later to the day.  The screams of those I couldn’t save.

Took the knife and jammed it into my spleen.  Twisted it.  It really fucking hurt.  Screams died out.   I’ll bleed out within a minute if that.

That’s when over the radio, the tones dropped- cardiac arrest.  Maybe a few miles away.  Rule of thumb said the victim only had a few minutes before he would be beyond help.  The kids would be here in seconds. 

They’ll be too late. 

Poor victim.  I don’t think they’ll make it to him in time. 


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Failed Again

As some of you know, I applied to PSU for my PHd.  I was applying to study American Studies/ Women's Studies- essentially melding the 2 into a course in transgender studies.

The advisor, Dr. Haddad, seemed enthusiastic.

Guess he wasn't.  Today I received a letter from PSU Harrisburg.  I didn't get in.

"... the committee believes that, at present, you lack the necessary background and training in a Humanities field."   

Like English and history.

Y'know- my undergrad degree.

They say I should go shell out for another masters degree that I can't afford, then re-apply.

So much for that idea. Yet again, I learned the hard way not to Hope. Hope is for other people, not me.  All it brings is torture.  I didn't think I could be hurt anymore- that my soul was just one mass of scar tissue.  I was wrong. 

I wonder if Burger King is hiring. That's about all I'll be able to get at this point.

As you can guess I'm miserable.

Just another day