Hoops

Prompt: School


Hello Wednesday,

Do you find sometimes that the most valuable lessons you learned were in primary and elementary school? I mean actual academics, not lessons about sharing and communication, since I’m not sure I learned anything of great value about life in any stage of school.

But addition and multiplication tables— all that repetition mostly stuck. And cursive handwriting— once out of fashion but now sneaking back into curricula— and all the practices hoops and lines, page after page.  It comes in handy— it’s like a kind of speedwriting when compared to printing, and is simpler and more personal than keyboarding. I’m not forgetting spelling and reading, though I think it’s often true that we learn our love of reading despite early school lessons, unless the methods and resources have changed. Have they?

I honestly don’t remember early school as a series of life lessons. I was already familiar with bullies of all ages. Sure, I had to share during recess, but I’d already learned that at home with three brothers and sisters, though it’s also one of the earliest playground lessons, if you don’t want to get beat up. The conning of teachers was an early learned skill; I used to play the “cute” card a lot as a wee girl, while not even knowing what “manipulation” meant. One thing that was drilled into me was obedience to authority, and that was a lesson that did not serve me well as I matured. It allowed me to abandon responsibilities, turn away from injustice, and accept the unacceptable.

School was never, sadly, a bright glorious light for me, even though as a typical young child I professed to “love” school and adore my teachers. It was a more a part of an inescapable routine, frequently boring, sometimes enlightening, less frequently stimulating and challenging. And of course, it kept us off the street, where we might get up to thieving and pillaging.

I think in general schools have changed for the better (at least in where I live), but I would like to know more. I have teacher friends— I suppose it’s time I hauled them in for an interrogation. I never learned how to interrogate in school… but neither did they.

On the topic of “school”, may I now present a few of my favourite cartoons loosely related?

cartoon summer vacation

cartoon math blackboard

cartoon teacher money


Peace, fuzz, and uniform hoops,

~~FP

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White Resigns

Prompt: Never

blue-choppermartineau

Dear Wednesday,

Smoke fills the air today as firefighters battle with a fire on the mountain side. At the moment they are concentrating on preventing the spread of the fire and letting the centre of it burn out— and that makes for billowing clouds of pale smoke that drifts and settles up and down the valley.

The roar of helicopter engines fills the air today as they dip down into lakes and then carry their cargo into the fog. I can’t help but feel this is putting out a bonfire with a teaspoon, but I trust they know what they are doing. The heat is scorching and the fire hops from perch to perch, jumping lines in its hunger for fuel.

Meanwhile we float on the lake, lazy spectators of a massive natural drama.

And I ponder today’s prompt, “never” by presenting a few of my favourite cartoons, which may or may not relate to the topic:

two-polar-bears

bigfoot

white resigns


Peace and love,

~~FP

Teach a man to yodel

Prompt: Taught


Dear Wednesday,

Memorable teachers I have known:

Miss Howard: My grade one teacher was a kindly old woman (was she really old, I wonder? I remember her as grandmotherly). See Spot run. Look, baby, look! A good introduction to school for a sensitive little boo like me. My younger brother and sister were not so lucky.

Miss McGillvray: My second and third grade teacher was young and pleasant; liked kids and loved her job. She had freckles.

Miss Ferguson: My fourth, fifth and sixth grade teacher was a gem. Pushed us hard because she knew we could excel. I learned to write essays (yes, essays) in her class, a skill I needed and used in university. She once rapped my knuckles with a ruler for passing notes. She saw me as a feverish loony when she made a house visit when I was off school for three weeks because of strep throat. I missed my stage debut as Mrs Flintstone in the Christmas play because of this illness, which probably dashed my future career as an actress.

Mr Fraser: A prankster. It was fun to have a teacher with a sense of humour— also got my sense of humour.

Miss Connor: The one who called me a dim bulb, and failed a story I wrote because she didn’t know what a “gremlin” was. No, I still hold a grudge.

Miss McIntyre: Never was a teacher more well-intended but more boring. I used to pray for nuclear war to put an end to the mental paralysis caused by the topic “portage”.

Miss Campbell: Miss McIntyre after 30 years a teacher and thoroughly bored (and still boring).

Mr Cummings: a young teacher who somehow got me through Math class, which I took by mistake since I was hopeless and disinterested, and congratulated me after graduation at a basketball game for passing the final exam, when I was embarrassingly high as a kite and just grinned and drooled silently like a maniac.

Mr Creep: Several of my post high-school teachers fit this mold. Yep, creepy comments, asking me out, penalizing my work if when I didn’t cooperate, downright sexual harassment. One of these was expelled by the University of British Columbia because of me. Well, not me directly. My mother and a few other parents petitioned the Dean of Women after hearing a few of the stories, which I told as if they were jokes. She didn’t tell me this for 10 years.

The teacher who told me every single word matters hugely in a poem you are writing, and every single stroke counts mightily in a picture you are drawing.

And may I now present several of my favourite cartoons, some tenuously related to today’s prompt, “taught”?

cartoon janitor conference

cartoon give a fish

cartoon viii skater


Peace, love, and early season cherries,

~~FP

Bad Goldfish

Prompt: Unrelated


Hello Wednesday,

As summer approaches we get busier here in tiny town, with gardening, watching fish mate, visitors, making up species names for birds, wondering what “that smell” is, mentally putting out forest fires, and treating sunburn. It is a magical time of year.

We are thinking of getting a puppy. There is a local farm litter of chubby creatures of unknown lineage, and a couple of shepherd/ lab puppies now available at a local SPCA. Life is so easy and peaceful without a puppy, dear Wednesday, so I’m of two minds. My brain is split. My heart wants a cuddly fur ball, but my muscles, joints, and sleep centre all scream ARE YOU SURE?

Decades ago I did this: I woke up in the morning and noted that I felt cheerful enough to hum a random song, that it was supremely easy to propel myself out of bed, that I felt healthy, fit, alert, awake, energetic, and optimistic about the day ahead. I wondered if that moment would be worthy of a spot in my memory. It was a worthy thought. I appreciated, even if for just a fleeting moment, my youth and vigour, and as I now am greeted each morning with bizarre little aches, pains, random bumps, vague mental lapses, and a desire for a puppy, at least I have that vivid sense memory of a time when my body sang, even if my brain was annoying and juvenile.

The saddest thing in the world: a lone duck or Canada goose gliding across the lake,  obviously looking for a missing mate. Also puffins washing up on shore starved to death because global warming has caused their food fish to flee to colder waters further north. Today I recycled a wax milk carton, so I’m part of the solution.

Before I go and peel an orange, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons of no particular theme?

cartoon switch on

cartoon reserved table

cartoon bad goldfish


Love, peace, and happy memories.

~~FP

Of Course

Prompt: Memory


Hello Wednesday,

Here’s a random memory:

When I was backpacking in Europe, my travel companion and I borrowed/ leased a really terrible car (a lemon of a VW Beetle) for the latter part of our journey. While in Greece, we had to surrender the thing to a garage for some necessary repairs, and this set us back financially. We arranged to have some money sent to Zurich, and to reach the city economically we took on two paying passengers, Richard and Brian.

The car was mechanically sound by now, but a wreck nonetheless. The driver’s side door had been struck by a motorcyclist and could no longer be opened. The driver’s seat had come off its rails so needed a person in the rear seat to brace their knees against it for stability so the driver wouldn’t be flung backward. The passenger side door wouldn’t securely close, so once we were all seated inside it was tied shut by a length of twine. The gas gauge and reserve tank did not function and we were constantly running out of gas in the middle of nowhere (once in the country on the opening day of hunting season– scary). The heater was constantly blasting, and the windshield wipers didn’t work at all.

Brian lasted as far as Rome, where he bolted in horror never to be seen again. Richard persisted. He was a sentimental, horny fellow from Rhode Island, USA, who once, at our request, drew a map of Canada that looked like a pizza. He was a bit of a health nut, and kept a biscuit tin of vitamins and supplements, plus aspirin and other OTC remedies that he had simply emptied out of their bottles into the tin. It was a colourful if daunting melange of meds of different sizes and shapes, but Richard could confidently identify each one.

This was fine until we reached the Swiss border. We were selected, perhaps because of our rather scruffy appearance, to have our luggage searched. They also took apart the poor beleaguered VW Beetle. And of course they found Richard’s stash of unlabelled pills.

The put the car back together (without fixing anything, alas) and cheerfully told my friend and I we could carry on, but Richard and his biscuit tin were suspect and he would be detained at least overnight. Richard was aghast and panicked. “Wait for me,” he pleaded as he was marched away, perhaps fearing he would rot away in a foreign jail cell without anyone ever knowing. “Of course!” we called out to him.

We spent a comfortable night at the border town on the Swiss side and in the morning packed up the car, excited to be so close to our destination. We weren’t sure where Richard was, and in any case, much to my eternal shame, we didn’t really care. I suppose we were naively optimistic about his fate as well as hungry (close to literally) for the cash that awaited us in Zurich. So we got in the car and drove around the town, looking for the directional sign to get us on the road to Zurich.

Purely by accident we came across Richard meandering down a sidewalk with his backpack. He waved ecstatically and climbed in with great relief. “I knew you wouldn’t desert me,” he said in gratitude.

“Of course not!” we said.

May I now present a few of my favourite cartoons relating to the prompt, memory, the first of which I don’t totally understand?

cartoon memory refresh

cartoon bad memory

cartoon watering can


Happy memories!

~~FP

Buried Treasure

Prompt: Success


Dear Wednesday,

A funny thing happened on my way to a deep depression.

I got away from my life for a few days simply by being a tourist in a big city for a change— walking, shopping, sight-seeing, eating, drinking, playing, getting up early, falling into bed exhausted, and forgetting I am meant to be completely miserable.

Instead of dragging myself around in a state of constant fatigue, I had energy and enthusiasm. These were like strange, quirky friends who had dropped off the radar but whose sudden reappearance made me realize how much I’d missed— and needed— them.

I found comfort in the things I do, my reactions to them, the people around me and how my words and actions could affect them for the better; I realized I am not wholly terrible and hopeless but just may have something inside me that is worthwhile and that I can share. And, importantly, that there are emotional crutches and destructive self-medications that need to be eliminated from my life.

So I’m a little busy at the moment, getting rid of the “piles” in my life, both physical and metaphorical— those heaps of things that I’ve neglected for so long.

It helps that spring is here, with all the scents of hope and renewal that it brings.

Recently I came across an old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon (they are all old now, since creator Bill Watterson retired the strip in 1995) and thought it might be fun to share some of Calvin’s life philosophy, a capsulated guide to success…

cartoon calvin ta da

cartoon calvin fort

cartoon calvin treasure

Peace and love,

~~FP

Home Alone [Repost]

Prompt: Bedtime

laundry basket with hand

I was so terrified the first night I had to be alone in the apartment that I tried to keep busy, and even to tire myself out.

I took two loads of laundry back and forth from the communal laundry room, which was frightening in itself. A laundry room in the basement of a public building? Perfect bloody crime scene. It was a dim, colourless and chill room, despite the running of the dryers. There were no windows and one of the two lightbulbs was perpetually out, so I could barely see my shadow as I unloaded the last pile of clean clothes into a basket. I gagged at the combination of the First Day of Spring dryer sheet smell and the scent of damp dust that clogged the ventilation screen.

There was a thin film of grime on the concrete floor: Did no one ever clean this place? And for some reason there was a large once-clean plastic tarp stuffed in the corner of the room. I tried not to imagine what it was for, or consider that someone might have placed it there with deliberation, for a future purpose.

There was one entrance to the laundry room through a heavy door which was supposed to lock but didn’t. Once closed, no one in the building could hear a person scream.

Oh lord. I ran up the stairs with my basket of laundry, didn’t even take the elevator, and then slammed the door so hard once safely upstairs and in the apartment again, that the dishes in the kitchen cupboard rattled.

I vacuumed the apartment and cleaned out the inside of the dishwasher with a pitcher of water mixed with Alka-Seltzer, since I couldn’t remember what my sister told me about some naturally fizzy cleaning solution. I tried to phone her but there was no answer. I hoped she would call back, even if she thought I was asleep. As if I could sleep.

They say some serial killers operate over 10, 20, even 40 years, stalking their victims and getting to know them just enough to gain their confidence. Then boom! Look out. I didn’t care who came to the door, I would not open it. Not even if it was the kindly old woman who lived on the first floor, and whom I nodded to if I saw her in the hallway. I had never seen her face close up. She could have been anyone.

Sometime the serial killers took souvenirs of their victims. God, I didn’t want to think about it. They usually liked a type. Were there any murders over the past 40 years of young, freckly, red-headed women? I was almost sure there was. I was a type, a popular murder-victim type. Shit.

You couldn’t talk them out of it either. They were psychopaths, or something. They didn’t care. You couldn’t appeal to their conscience or sentimental side because they didn’t have either. I could say I had to live because my child was in the Intensive Care Unit weeping for her mother. A serial killer would laugh. You just had no chance. You had to hope your serial killer would at least be quick, not one that keep their prey locked up and…

The phone rang. Thank god, maybe it was my sister. Maybe she would come over. But when I got to the phone, there was no one there, just a dial tone. A dial tone!

It was after 10 pm, who would call and just hang up? No one I knew would do that. The security guy in the lobby at work, the older one with the comb-over and the big hands, would have access to my phone number, and he had been staring at me. Yesterday he had started to wave at me, but I was distracted and ignored him. Maybe that triggered something. It didn’t take much to trigger a psychopathic serial killer.

But maybe it wasn’t a serial killer. Who wanted me dead? My mind raced. Gregory at work didn’t like me. I got promoted before he did. I didn’t like him either; he wore too much cologne. Was lusting after a job enough motivation for a brutal murder? It was in films and TV. Some people were just very ambitious.

I took a hot shower to calm my nerves. That was a bad idea, for obvious reasons. I showered with the bathroom door open, and the shower curtain undrawn, so water got everywhere and if the killer was in the apartment he would have seen me naked. How was that supposed to help?

When I started to dial my sister’s number, I realized it was now close to 11 pm. She would be in bed, and start to worry about a call so late, and for what? Her younger sister, with a foolish, overactive imagination, panicking about nothing. Calm down, you silly bitch. Calm. Down.

So I watched a recording of Love, Actually before I went to bed, to get my mind off the dark and onto the frothy, but I discovered I hated that movie. What was I thinking? Hugh Grant was just a big pain in the ass. They all were.

It was too warm in the bedroom, but I dared not open a window.

A sleeping pill. No, better not. I was tired, my bones ached from weariness. It had been a long day. I was desperate for sleep. But who could sleep? I was a common serial killer victim type. They took souvenirs. I was completely alone. Someone was stalking me by phone.

Who had called? Did Gregory want me dead? Was the old lady really old, really a lady? Why hadn’t I been more friendly to the security guy at work? What was that noise? Why didn’t my sister call back? What was that big plastic tarp doing in the laundry room? Was I about to die?

…Finally, morning. Finally. Finally, daylight.

I put some coffee on, my hands trembling and weak, then went to get the newspaper. When I opened the apartment door, I noticed something. In my rush to get back into the apartment from the laundry room, I had left my key in the lock of the door. There was a pink feather dangling from it, and my key to the mailbox, and a mini-flashlight.

My key was in the lock of the outside of the door, and had been there all night.

I immediately called my sister, who, in her always empathetic way, shared my complete horror at my mistake, and didn’t laugh when I burst into tears.

Still, why had my serial killer spared me? I pondered this for the entire subway ride to work.

 


  • Original Prompt: Misstep, March 12, 2016