Headed home

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Desperate clouds of exhalation from the creature were the only suggestions that life remained within at all. White puffs of chalk dumped and expanded on cold asphalt. The deer, beautiful, young and strong and like no animal I had seen before, was crouched in the center of bright orange bulbs of light. Stale and weak in the cold, the joyous king laid in between two times – the forest at his back and the fields and the hills at his head. White puffs of chalk again.

I looked at my wife and saw in her fear for this animal. She bit her lip, fingers tightening around the door. Her fair skin stood out in the darkness as she went.

Its head turned neither toward my headlights in surprise nor away from them in despair. Deep and black, endless it seemed, his eyes were somewhere distant, somewhere I could not see. Searching for a fleece in the backseat and finding the door handle, my hands worked on their own. My eyes never shifted – white puffs of chalk again.

– Honey. I said, fleece around my shoulders. The voice echoing from my chest was one that I did not know, one which I would not have said belonged to me at all.

I watched as she touched her white hand to the creature’s back. Like a sole spot of moonlight pooling through a window, changing with the waning night, her hand moved, weightless with care, down the animal’s tense spine.

The air was cold with silence. My wife, the deer, and I, surrounded by fog. It pushed over the hills to our left, it swam through the trees to our right.

Amid the quiet, white puffs of chalk poured from the deer’s nostrils, swirling in the stillness of the air. My own breath rose before my face.

Buckled legs straightened. A graceful and long back arched, coiling and extending, turning and rising into a large and beautiful creature. My wife’s hand, previously still on the animal’s back, settled to her side.

– Ready? I said. I was cold. The wind was cracking at dead trees and nipping at my ears. It served only to make my want for the warmth of the car stronger.

For an instant, my wife was mesmerized. The eyes of the deer, deep and black and endless, had met her own. They met together, gazes entwining, for a short time before the deer turned away. Trotting, running, and bounding, it’s shadow blended into the night. Over the stone fence and through the field, the deer’s structure drained out into the fog.

I walked to my wife and put the fleece around her shoulders. She was colder than I.

The headlights shone brightly into our eyes as we walked back to the car, our hands clasped as one. Warmth padded every inch of our skin as we buckled our seat belts again, and as I started the engine once more I felt lighter. I looked at my wife, and ease in her smile said that she felt the same. We – both the deer and my wife and I – were headed home.

Realiz(s)ations

My name is Peter, but most of my friends don’t call me that. Somewhere in the murky waters of ninth grade, many of my friends started calling me “Peetah”. By no suggestion of my own, my name had changed into its phonetic pronunciation from across the pond. The reason for this switch is simple.

To us Americans, phrases like “Peter”, “Harry!”, “Rubbish”, and “Hello, Governor!” are infinitely more fun to say when said in a British accent.

As someone who has always done impressions and voices well, I have seen firsthand the ridiculous obsession many Americans have with British accents. I was flocked, in grade school, anytime I told Malfoy to give it here, or I’d knock him off his broom. In seventh grade science, I despised a temporary substitute teacher enough, within the first few moments of hearing him talk, to speak strictly in a British accent for the next three weeks. I took two things away from that experiment. I learned not only that “Sickle cell” is very hard to say in a British accent, but that if you constantly lie to someone about your personality for three weeks, they won’t be very happy with you when they’re your full time teacher the next year. Thank goodness for the memory of the look on his face when I first broke character. Ah, was I ever a cheeky little bugger. Years of entertaining others with British catchphrases has been a fun ride, but it has left me with one conclusion about the relationship between Brits and Americans that I don’t very much like.

Americans, for the most part, fail to recognize that there is more than one accent from the country of England.

They deny the existence of any British voice outside of what they hear on television. When speaking with the average American, dialects one might find in Liverpool or Birmingham are ignored, and Cornish and Suffolk might as well have never existed. Cockney, thanks to Oliver Twist and Bellatrix Lestrange, has remained comical. But, because of the rise of international media in recent years, the Queen’s English (what is heard on BBC) is, exclusively, the voice of Great Britain which Americans hear and accept. In essence, most people in America associate a British accent with the voice – and demeanor – of Sir Ian McKellan.

ian-mckellen

For English folk, this gigantic generalization can be a good thing. They benefit from American ears, which associate the accent they hear with positive things like knowledge, high class, and sophistication. When an American hears an English accent, they think of all the posh and well-educated characters they have ever seen on television or in the movies. The antithesis of my Ian Mckellan statement, however, is much less satisfying.

If Americans listen to an English accent and hear Ian McKellan, the quintessential Brit, then who is the quintessential American? Who do British people hear when they listen to an American accent?

If Brits, or people of any nationality, for that matter, hear John Wayne when I speak, I think I might take a vow of silence. Nothing against the Duke, but I don’t roll my own cigarettes or swig whiskey. In fact, I don’t roll anyone’s cigarettes and I don’t think I’ve ever swigged anything, and assume those characteristics based on my voice would butcher the truth.

If a stereotypical British accent implies knowledge, then a stereotypical American (or Australian) accent implies ignorance. Since a general English voice brings to mind high-class, one can infer  that an American voice rings of classlessness. Where sophistication is found in one accent, impulse and crass are found in the other.

john wayne

In light of American society’s ridiculous associations and assumptions, resurrecting that seventh grade identity for the duration of my children’s development phases has never seemed like such a good idea. It’s for their own good.

Two Old Men

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“And that is precisely what I’ve been saying for years!” said the man with the beard. “What a wonderful connection!” His voice was warm as the corners of his eyes curled with appreciation.

There was a silence after he spoke, one which at first was heavy, made comfortable with the resounding gladness of his voice. Time passed coldly. The comfort between the two men, as the wrinkles at the corners of the bearded man’s eyes, seemed to fade away.

Lips near shrouded by wiry grey beard scowled. His glance shifted out the window, away from me. I could not see on what his eyes laid.

For the first time since I sat down, the smaller man spoke.

“And it is a shame. I know that it is, believe me. To celebrate what we have within the walls or to tear them down altogether is something many people fail to truly recognize as an issue which must be addressed. And I see the value in both sides, I really do.” The younger man paused, moving his drink he held in both hands to his mouth. “But my heart tells me that you’re right, I think. If we are to lift ourselves out of these bogs of society – hostility and difference – we must reach, with open, outstretched hands, to the other side of our walls.” His voice was worn. His intonations were not new. He had said this many times, in many coffee shops before.

The bearded man had not moved. It was as if he had not heard the smaller man at all. The smaller man’s words had dissolved, like the warmth of February breath, before they ever had the chance to pad the bearded man’s ears.

A heartfelt suspiration.

Unscrew the locks from their doors …..

Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs…. 

There was a shared sobriety between the two men. The smaller man’s eyes looked away from me now: somehow I had not noticed the change. His eyes took in the same portrait as the glance of the bearded man – an airy and unobtainable scene, somewhere 1000 miles away.

Before the third bite of my muffin, the two men stood up and left, their eyes still fogged by what they had both seen.

I watched them go. The smaller man waited for the bearded man to go first, and the bearded man held the door for the smaller man as the exited. They stepped out onto the sidewalk together. I watched them for as long as I could, but as people with more immediate things to do than listen to old men squabble enveloped them, I could follow their path no longer.

The bearded man and the smaller man were swallowed up – a pale end to a means in a heedless world.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/writing-challenge-dialogue/

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

To anybody reading this who has ever been to the beaches of Delaware, this should be an interesting view of a familiar structure. It is a look inside of one of the towers at Tower Beach.
For the overwhelming majority of people who have never been and will never go to wimpy little Delaware, this is the inside of a long-abandoned defense tower. It, along with several others lining the Delaware coast, was built in the 1940’s to defend against the threat of German U-boats.
I was born not far from the beach on which this tower stands; I have seen this tower or the others like it dozens of times. However, this picture is the only time in my life that I’ve ever seen….inside!

100 Word Challenge

This (very) short story is my first entry to the 100 word challenge. I promise it has less than 100 words.

The prompt is

..but where did the noise come from…

 Enjoy!

“NOBODY. LEAVE. THIS-TABLE.”

Each pupil was suddenly glued to the dinner in front of it. I couldn’t tell which child of mine was the perpetrator, and anarchic smiles from lowered heads made it clear that no sibling was prepared to throw a fellow disputant of the dad regime under the bus.

It had been the loudest fart, I’m sure, ever heard in this galaxy. Even worse – it bookended my big speech on manners.

“I’m going to ask nicely one time…”

I waited for an echo of the gaseous grumble to recede before continuing.

“Where did the noise come from?”

Marlboro Man, 2.0

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Look at this butch, beach-sun, back-lit bro.

Strolling down a February shoreline has never been so masculine-Noir. Champion of solitude and self-possession, our knight in shining Armani walks on toward an untold destination. As the chilly wind nips at his scruff, he pulls at both his collar and his Blu electronic cigarette – eyebrows cocked with a faux pensive confidence all the while. Chambers of silver smoke shoot from his nostrils, and as he looks the camera head on, his gruff cheekbones and deep brown eyes assure America that he is, with the help of his smoking habit, the coolest person in the whole world ever.

Ladies and Gentlemen – meet Marlboro Man 2.0

When I first saw the commercial for Blu electronic cigarettes featuring the man above, I was  in Times Square, New York City. I have seen it on my television at home several times since, but there was something about that first time. There was something about looking up at a god-knows-how-many-pixel screen alongside thousands of families to see a million dollar advertisement promote “nicotine refreshments” that really made me cringe. It felt uniquely strange, and I realized that never before in my life had I seen a television commercial glorify cigarette culture. That was, luckily, a phenomenon eliminated far before I was born.

Advertising for tobacco products on television and radio was banned in 1971, and there has been a constant battle between Big Tobacco and the FCC ever since. As recently as 2010, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act prohibited tobacco companies from sponsoring sporting, music, or cultural events, virtually eliminating explicit tobacco promotion from anything the public might see or hear. The cultural endorsement of tobacco products once seen everywhere – which successfully presented a malignant habit as a masculine one – was eradicated from the media long ago, and for good reason.

Advertising appealing to young males, which displays cigarette smoking as tough yet sophisticated habit, is a frighteningly successful strategy. Take the original Marlboro Man, for example.

marlboro man

Marlboro Man was first introduced as an advertising strategy in 1955. In just the first two years of his existence, his rugged demeanor increased Marlboro’s sales from $5 billion to $20 billion: an increase of 300%. The trend only continued. Marketing specific to young men quickly spurred an epidemic of cigarette culture which has only recently been beaten back. My short lifetime has witnessed the disappearance of smoking in bars, in restaurants, in many hotels, in just about anywhere that is not outside. Tobacco on school property is a serious crime, and programs are brought in to schools by the dozens each year to inform students of the life long dangers of nicotine addiction. All of this success and recovery is threatened, however, by Marlboro Man 2.0 and the electronic cigarette campaigns which created him.

Electronic cigarettes as a concept are not the problem. Although not regulated by the FDA they are, for the most part, less of a health risk than conventional cigarettes, and they provide a viable medium of emancipation from nicotine addiction. Unacceptable, however, is the advertising strategy employed to sell them, which through the use of flavored vapors and commercials like Marlboro Man 2.0 is blatantly aimed at young adults. As the results of this resurgence of smoking culture in the media begin to appear, it is clear that this nefarious marketing scheme should be addressed by law sooner rather than later. Electronic cigarette use and, consequently, conventional cigarette use has increased significantly in the last five years according to the CDC, with the use of electronic cigarettes among middle and high school students doubling between 2011 and 2012. These and tens of other similarly troubling statistics reflect not only a misguided appreciation of smoking, but a lack of appreciation for its terrible consequences among America’s budding adults.

For this reason, electronic cigarette advertisements, which promote the pernicious rut of nicotine addiction, should be banned from all types of mass media. If electronic cigarettes are to market the same skewed view of smoking as conventional cigarettes, they should face the same social elimination as conventional cigarettes as well.

It is important that we as a society perpetuate the truth to our youth: that smoking culture is a culture to be admonished, not admired. The families of Wayne McLaren, David McLean, and Dick Hammer – the three Marlboro Men, each of whom died of lung cancer before the age of 60 – would say very much the same thing. There is no glory or fashion in the culture of smoking smoking, electronic or not, and to advertise otherwise is a perversion of reality. To do so before the vulnerable eyes of youthful future generations is especially immoral.

If we are to learn from the societal disaster enacted by the original Marlboro Man, we must end his 21st century counterpart before it is too late.