Not Non-Fiction

Stories.

Summer Lights.

There have been more lightning bugs this year than I can remember seeing in a long time. Last night I walked through the yard and lost count of how many there were, each one drawing a distinct J shape in the air as they lit up the darkness. And yet I always feel guilty when I see them because I remember how many I sent to their deaths when I was a kid. Not that I wanted to—there were just some things I didn’t understand, mainly that if you put a bunch of lightning bugs in a jar and leave it next to your bed overnight it doesn’t matter how many holes you punch in the lid. Unless the holes are big enough for them to get out. It’s something I only did a few times but still I think I should have learned the lesson after the first time I woke up to find a jar full of tiny corpses on my bedside table. That also didn’t stop me from performing some pretty disturbing science experiments, like the time I put a lightning bug in the freezer for one minute. When I pulled it out it had stopped moving so I ran outside to the air conditioner and held the lightning bug under the hot blast of air. After a minute or so—I didn’t think to time this part of the experiment—it revived and flew up into the air. So I caught it again and took it back to the freezer for two minutes. Again the air conditioner was able to revive it, although I might have gotten the same result if I’d just left it on the warm ground. At three minutes it took much longer to revive and, sensing I was at a crossroads with one divide leading to a possible career as a serial killer, I let the lightning bug go off into the night, hopefully to find a partner.

It wasn’t until several years later that I read an Appalachian folk tale that, had I read it earlier, might have stopped me from experimenting with lightning bugs. Maybe it would have even convinced me to just let them be. It seems a man was sitting out on his porch with a bunch of his buddies one night watching the lightning bugs and he remarked that they must be cowards, afraid of the dark, to carry their own little lights. A lightning bug heard this and challenged the man to a fight.

“Meet me in the town square tomorrow night,” said the lightning bug, “and I’ll show you how cowardly we are.”

“Will you be bringing any of your friends?” the man asked.

“I won’t need to,” the lightning bug replied.

The next night the whole town showed up to the square, everyone having heard that one of them was going to fight a lightning bug. The lightning bug was there, all lit up.

“All right,” said the man, putting up his fists, “let’s have this fight!”

The lightning bug immediately flew up his nose and the man punched himself in the face. He fell down unconscious and the lightning bug flew out his ear. Another man, not entirely sure what happened, put up his fists and challenged the lightning bug. It flew up his nose and he knocked himself unconscious. A dozen of the town’s biggest, strongest, and not exactly brightest men went down in this way.

Circling over their bodies the lightning bug asked if anyone else was up the challenge but the remaining townspeople just quietly backed away.

Now I also let the lightning bugs alone, even if I’ve got my own reasons.

Old School.

Source: FOBO (Fromoldbooks.org)

Grammar mnemonics and rules I found written down in a notebook from 7th grade that I had completely forgotten:

I before E except after C and when it sounds like “a” as in “neighbor” and “weigh”.

And also when it sounds like “i” as in “heist” and “Fahrenheit”.

And also for some reason when it sounds like “e” as in “protein”, which is weird.

 

Never end a sentence with a preposition unless the sentence ends with “a preposition.

 

Confusing “who” and “whom” is really the worst

So never ever ask “Whom’s on first?”

 

Be more or less specific and decisive if that’s okay with you.

 

“I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

“Gray” is spelled with an “a”

Except in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and also the UK.

 

“Color” and “flavor” are spelled without “u”

Except outside the United States, pretty much anywhere you’d want to go to.

 

A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea, but it seems like ideas should get a category of their own.

 

“Sesquipidalian” should be replaced with something that sounds less like a deep sea animal.

 

Splitting infinitives is to usually be avoided.

 

A “dessert” has twice as much sugar as a “desert” if your dessert is sugar-free because deserts don’t have any sugar at all.

 

A “principle” is a rule or belief, a “principal” is a school leader who pretends to be your pal to maintain the status quo, and Victoria Principal wasn’t the one who shot J.R., was she?

 

Most sentences are subject-verb-object and “subject”, “verb”, and “object” are three nouns that really need a category of their own.

 

The “b” in “subtle” is pretty much what it says it is.

 

Now you know how to tow two toes.

 

Double negatives should never not be used.

 

Similes are like metaphors but different.

 

The only rule that has no exceptions is the rule that there’s an exception to every rule.

 

No one remembers who Mnemosyne is.

Source: Imgur

Hey, Aqualung.

Stages Of A Cold

Day 1, Morning: You wake up with a sore throat. It doesn’t seem bad, but it’s a harbinger of things to come. You gargle with some warm salt water and assume that the gagging that follows must be enough to dislodge any infection.

Day 1, Late Afternoon: The runny nose starts. This also doesn’t seem bad. The fluid is clear and a few good blows into a tissue seem to clear it out. By the time you walk out of the bathroom and down the hall your nose is running again and you decide you’d better just take a couple of tissues with you.

At this point you could take some cold medicine but why would you when you haven’t got a cold?

Day 2, Morning: You’ve got a cold. Your head feels like it’s stuffed with cotton, your voice is an octave lower, and you can’t pronounce glottal stops. You blow your nose into a tissue until it’s completely soaked through and starting to disintegrate. This takes approximately twenty-three seconds.

Day 2, Evening: You can’t remember whether the rule is “Starve a fever, feed a cold” or the other way around. Not that it matters because you’ve lost your appetite. The good news you still have your senses of taste and smell. The bad news is you don’t really want anything you can taste or smell.

 

Day 987: Actually it’s Day 3, Morning: It just feels like it’s been that long. You can’t tell if it’s the cold or the cold medicine that makes you feel like all you want to do is lie in bed and shiver.

Day 3, Late Morning: A scaly crust has formed on your upper lip. A quick search tells you the divot under your nose is called the “philtrum”. This is mildly interesting but you don’t see how you’ll ever use this information since at the moment you’re hot, sweaty, and leaking fluids and can’t imagine wanting to be near another human being ever again.

Day 3, Afternoon: All you want is just a few minutes of normal breathing, the kind you had in the distant, hazy past that was last week. And now the coughing has started. It’s just small coughs. You’re hopeful this is as bad as it will get. You’re also wrong.

Day 3, Late Afternoon: You remember seeing people put a towel over their heads and lean over a pot of steaming water. You decide to try this to see if it will work. The bad news is it doesn’t. The good news is you now know the fire extinguisher you’ve had in the kitchen for decades works. Next time will you take the pot of water off the hot stove before you hang your towel-draped head over it? Of course not. You’re never going to do this again.

Day 3, Evening: Still shivering uou take your temperature. It’s 68.9. Oh, wait, you have that upside down. It’s 98.6. Is the rule “Feed a cold”? Let’s just say it is. You heat three cans of condensed chicken soup. You’re halfway through slurping it straight out of the pan when you realize you didn’t add any water. While you’re finishing the rest you order a pizza. While you’re picking it up at your front door your six boxes of Chinese food arrive.

 

Day 4, Morning: The cold medicine you took last night is labeled as “working for up to eight hours”. At exactly seven hours and fifty-nine minutes terrible, hacking coughs cause you to fall out of bed. You stumble into the kitchen and blow your nose into a paper towel which now looks like someone hit it with a spoonful of crème brulee.

Day 4, Lunch: Your nose has become a gelatin factory. The less said about this the better. You’re cycling through hot beverages: cider, tea with honey, tea with lemon, tea with orange juice, tea with maple syrup, tea with yak butter.

Day 4, Evening: You’re tired but not so listless. You crawl into bed and almost immediately slip into a dreamless sleep.

 

Day 5, Morning: The cough persists but you can breathe deeply through your nose without any trouble. You think you just might recover.

 

Day 10, Evening: You’re out for Trivia Night with some friends. The host yells out, “What is that divot under your nose called?” You’re about to answer when a guy on the opposing team says, “Philtrum!” You avoid him. You don’t want to catch whatever he’s got.

 

 

The Change.

A friend of mine told me, “I’ve been having these dreams that I’m running through the woods on all fours. I’m chasing something and I think that running on two legs would be better, but somehow I find myself going faster than I could on two legs, and it just feels natural. Anyway if I’m not around during the next full moon maybe this is why.”

And this is my reply:

Congratulations! You’re about to go through one of the great Changes Of Life. It’s like puberty in that you’ll get a lot of hair in places you never had it before, as well as extremely strong emotions, and an overwhelming desire to run around naked. Unlike puberty this isn’t a change most people go through, but I’m glad you shared it with me because I can offer you some advice.

First, it’s not the moon, it’s the mood. The moon may be full or it may be gibbous, and I’m not just saying that because “gibbous” is a funny word. It’s cyclical but it’s irregular. You’ll find it hits you primarily spring and summer, but also sometimes in the fall. Pray it doesn’t hit you in the middle of winter, especially when it’s been snowing.

Second, when the mood hits you avoid people. Just get away. This is where it’s also like puberty: you’re going to want to have some companions around you but you’re also going to be irritable and difficult to deal with, even for people who know what you’re going through. You’re also not going to want to be around people, and that’s for the best. Someone could get hurt and no one wants that. Also people don’t taste very good.

Third, keep a change of clothes in your car. While you’re going to feel better after a nice long stroll through the woods chances are you’re going to forget where you left the ones you were wearing. Figure out a nice secure place to store your phone, wallet, and keys. This should probably not be inside your car since they’ve all got this auto-locking feature now, and anyway you wouldn’t want to go off and leave all that stuff in an unlocked car anyway. Hollow logs are a bad idea because animals like to go back and forth through those and you don’t want a raccoon getting your credit cards. Putting stuff under a rock usually works.

Fourth, remember where you parked your car.

Fifth, yes, silver bullets can kill you. So can copper bullets, steel bullets, pointed sticks, rocks, getting hit by a car, and pretty much anything else that can cause serious injury.

Sixth, you may feel the desire to mark your territory. I recommend you do this late at night with the lights off. Your neighbors don’t want to see that.

Finally, relax, this is all perfectly natural. If you just go with it you’ll find it can even be a lot of fun, and most of the time it’ll just pass without anyone even noticing anything. Oh, before I forget, though, if some morning you wake up in the woods naked and smeared with blood you’ll want to get checked for tularemia.

Welcome to the pack, good luck, and here’s hoping we don’t run into each other!