The girl in the tree by Mario Salazar

(This is my contribution to the homework for August 2, 2016)

The girl in the tree

First sentence

The rescuers found her hanging by her hair from a small tree near the top of a 1,000-foot precipice.

Summary:

There was a cryptic notice in the main newspaper indicating that she, a 15-year-old girl, had been thrown out of the car in which she was travelling along with her uncle, his wife and his brother in law. The notice was dated February 12, 1931. She was the only survivor. If it hadn’t been for this, I along with another 25 people would have never been born. The girl was my mother. Her life was very interesting and mostly sad.

5 Reasons Writing is the Worst Job Evey

5 Reasons Writing is the Worst Job Ever (And Why We Do it Anyway)

July 14, 2016 By Jamie Cattanach 18 Comments

“I’m a writer.”

Ah, the romance of the title. You declare your ownership of the pen, and suddenly whoever asked you what you “do” certainly pictures you sitting in a coffee shop, demurely sipping your cappuccino behind your fabulous (if a little weather-worn) horn-rimmed glasses, tapping away at your Macbook Pro.

Masterpieces filled with earth-shaking insights flow easily from your fingertips, soon to be delivered straight into the brainspace of the world at large via magazines like The New Yorker and The Atlantic and Vogue.

You carry around a little notebook filled with non-chicken-scratch lines of brilliance, and no one thinks it’s eccentric when you flip it open to jot down those sudden, perfect sentences, which you’ll definitely return to as leisure allows.

Nope.

Writing is a terrible profession. Perhaps even the worst ever.

If you’ve been writing professionally for any length of time, this fact is probably self-evident.

But for those of you aspiring to the page — or those of you with pen in hand, looking for a way to procrastinate (that’s right, I know your tricks, and don’t try to convince yourself it’s “craft work” instead of procrastination just because this is a blog about writing) — here are five reasons writing is the actual worst.

  1. It’s so flipping hard

And it never gets easy. I mean, it gets easier with practice, but “easier” still means “nearly impossible” when you’re talking about writing.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll face down every single new piece of writing without a clue on earth how you’ll ever be able to do it.

  1. It takesallyour energy

Think doctors and lawyers take their work home with them?

Try walking away from your keyboard while you’re thinking through a piece — and spending a whole day worrying about whether or not those two paragraphs need to be switched. Watch yourself end up cleaning your home within an inch of its life because you can’t quite get that pesky sentence right.

Try putting an essay firmly into the digital trash can, only to drag it back out after you spend a whole day out with friends, totally disengaged in everything you were doing, thinking, “UGH MAYBE I CAN MAKE THAT ESSAY WORK AFTER ALL IF I SINK 17 MORE HOURS INTO IT.”

Try pulling over to the side of a busy highway to text yourself that all-too-perfect line before you lose it.

If you’re a writer, you’re writing. All the time. Get used to it.

  1. Your very best writing is probably unflattering

Pitch eight essays and I guarantee you, the embarrassing one is the one that’s gonna get snatched up. Or the one about how selfish you are.

Here’s the thing: Your writing voice is probably strongest when you’re being brutally honest with yourself.  And yeah, it’s great that writing allows us to be our true selves and relate to one another through the distancing action of words on the page.

But also there’s my headshot attached to that digital page, and my mom wants to read everything I write.

And obviously I had to write about my ill-advised love affair with a stranger in a foreign country, incredibly dangerous motorcycle ride included.

Sorry, mom.

  1. Pitching is possibly even worse than writing

Once you’ve somehow managed to create a deeply beautiful, personal piece of work, you’ve only just begun.

Now you get to jump through a thousand hoops to figure out what outlet it even belongs in, let alone which editor to contact.

And maybe her email address isn’t listed on the website, so you should probably spend some time digi-stalking her and end up reading back 10 pages of her Twitter, and oh when you dosend the email can you please make your 1,500-word essay look sexy and publishable in two paragraphs or less? We’re all very busy.

Do all that, spend even longer on the pitch than on the article itself, and then sit. And wait. And maybe just don’t ever hear back.

There is an upside, though. You’re gonna be better at dealing with rejection than any of your friends, since about 80 percent of your job is composed of running headlong into it.

  1. Money? LOL

Wait, you want to get paid for your writing? Can’t you just be happy with a byline? Hell, we’ll be super generous and give you a link back to your portfolio — as if people can’t easily Google your name and find that website you spent money you didn’t have to set up for the reward of three viewers a day.

Or maybe you do find a paid gig, making $0.15 per 100 words, and dig deep into the fascinating world of automobile instruction manuals. Oh, are you OK with ghostwriting, where don’t even get credit, in lieu of a living wage, for your brilliance?

Writing is hard… but we do it anyway

Why do we put ourselves through this crazy profession that asks everything from us and sometimes gives so little in return?

Because putting what’s in my brain into your brain through black squiggles on a page is the best kind of magic we have as people.

Because it helps us find each other and ourselves. Because at its best, writing reminds us that we are never alone, and that we’re all driven by the same hopes, dreams, desires and needs.

And because, well, you just had to major in English, didn’t you?

 

A Misunderstanding By Holly Huxford

 

The night was sweltering and humid. Why did it have to be so frigging hot? While Adam had the police car’s air conditioning running at full blast the chilly air never quite seemed to cool him down. The Kevlar vest made it seem that way. So many times he wanted to just leave the vest off as some of the other officers but his wife was adamant about him leaving it on. She’d insisted she didn’t care if his clothes and undershirt was rank with sweat by the time he got home and she had to do laundry. She just wanted him to come home.

A call came over the radio, “10-32 at N. Frederick Ave and Montgomery Village Ave. White male, black t-shirt, black pants and dark colored baseball cap.” A man with a gun. Great. Just great. He sighed and accelerated his patrol car. He was just around the corner from the location.

“5086 to base, I’m 10-60.” Adam radioed in, letting the dispatcher know he was in the area. Slowly he began scanning the streets and sidewalks. As he turned onto Montgomery Village Ave he caught movement out of the corner of his eye, just over the grassy hump in the mall parking lot. He caught a glimpse of a white male, black t-shirt and a dark blue baseball cap before the guy disappeared behind some shrubbery.

As he threw his car into park and hit his lights, he radioed in, “5086’s out on a subject matching 10-32 suspect, Montgomery Village Mall parking lot, Montgomery Village Ave side!” He launched himself out of the car and pulled his gun out as he ran up the grassy embankment. Coming down the embankment into the parking lot he saw the guy a few yards ahead, walking with his head slightly down.

“Stop! Police!” Adam cried. The guy kept walking away! “I said STOP!” His heartbeat began to increase. Why was the guy still walking away? Was he going to run? Was he going to turn around in a moment and shoot at him? Suddenly the night air seemed to be stifling, making it hard to breathe.

“STOP!” He started running toward the guy as he heard a car siren blaring from just down the street. Thank goodness for back-up! But the guy still wasn’t stopping! Suddenly the back-up patrol car squealed into the parking lot, it’s red and blue lights going like a welcome beacon.

The suspect wheeled around, eyes wide. Abruptly he started to reach into his pants pocket.

Oh my God. He’s reaching for the gun! Adam’s heart seemed to jump into his throat as he raised his gun and aimed at the man. “DON’T MOVE!” he yelled! The guy paused for a moment. The baseball cap was keeping Adam from totally seeing the guy’s eyes as the man dropped his head slightly and began fishing in his pocket furiously. “PUT YOUR HANDS UP! DON’T MOVE!”

As the man bent over slightly, his hand still in his pocket and the other hand reaching over toward it, Adam began to tighten his finger on the trigger of his gun. “Dear God, please don’t…” he started to say, as he heard another car squealing into the parking lot. More back-up!

“STOP!” he screamed at the suspect. “God damn it, PUT YOUR HANDS UP!”

The guy started to straighten up, something in his hand. Adam tightened his finger on his gun even more.

“ADAM STOP!” he heard yelled from behind him. “Stop! He’s DEAF! I know him! He’s DEAF! Lower your gun!”

Tony ran up beside him as Adam realized that what the guy had in his hand was a small notepad. He saw Tony’s hand come up and cover his gun, pushing down on it. The suspect’s eyes were wide with horror and fear and his mouth hung open. He was rapidly shaking his head back and forth as he put out his hands in a stop motion and dropped the notepad.

Jesus Christ. He’d almost shot a man because the guy was reaching for a notepad to communicate with. Adam’s hand began to shake as he slowly re-holstered his gun. Tony stepped forward, fingers and hands flying in what Adam could only assume was sign language. The deaf guy and Tony communicated for a minute and then Tony said he was going to give the guy a ride over to his apartment, just down the street. Adam nodded, his heart still racing, and turned back to go back to his patrol car. He was shaken to his core. He’s almost shot an innocent man. Jesus Christ!

He climbed the embankment and came down onto the sidewalk, shaking his head. As he looked up there was a man walking toward him in a dark blue t-shirt. He had dark pants but no cap on his head. The guy started to reach into the same pocket the deaf man had. Was this guy deaf too? Was he supposed to be with the deaf guy?

Adam put his hands up in a placating gesture and began to point over the embankment to where he could still see the police vehicle lights. He reached up and keyed his microphone on his shoulder, “Hey Tony, I think I’ve got someone that might be with your guy..”

The man in front of him pulled a gun from his pocket and raised it at him.

Adam’s eyes went wide with surprise and fear, as spark of light and puff of white emerged from the barrel of the gun. Adam felt the bullet tear into his throat.

JESUS CHRIST!

He dropped to his knees as he clutched at his throat, blood pouring over his fingers. He’d almost shot an unarmed man and then dropped his guard because he’d second-guessed himself with another. Why had he dropped his guard?! WHY? My mistake.

He pitched over onto the sidewalk as he saw the man with the gun take cover behind the hood of his patrol car and begins shooting at the officers who were coming over the embankment from the mall parking lot.

Please God, don’t let him kill anyone else.

He was cold. When had it got cold? Darkness began taking over his vision as he heard, from a distance, Tony and someone else screaming his name and yelling “Shots fired, SHOTS FIRED”. He knew they were yelling that last part into their radios.

Please God, let me live.

The coldness seemed to seep away and he felt lighter somehow.

God, if you need to take me, okay, but please look after my wife.

Two hours later, Adam’s wife glanced out the front window and saw a police car pull up in front of the house. The police chief and another officer got out of the car. Adam’s wife swallowed hard and tears began to form in her eyes. Not Adam. Not HER Adam! She moved to the front door and slowly opened it to reveal the officer’s standing there.

“Beth… I’m so sorry,” the chief began. “Can we come in?”

Both officers caught her and she began to sink to the floor. A wail of anguish and loss rose up into the night…

A Misunderstanding, by Nancy

A Misunderstanding

  1. out loud:  “I am angry that you left the party for so long.”

(J. inside:  I felt alone and not cared for.)

 

  1. out loud: “Sorry.  Let’s drop it.”

(C. inside:  I was panicking around all those people, but am ashamed for you to know.)

 

  1. out loud: “I don’t understand why this keeps happening?”

(J. inside:  It feels like you don’t want to be with me.)

 

  1. out loud:  “Whatever—let’s move on.”

(C. inside:  On no–she thinks something is wrong with me.  I can’t handle this.)

 

(J. inside:  He doesn’t care about me.)

 

(C. inside:  I am terrified of disappointing her.)

 

A slight misunderstanding

We had been in country for about two months. This was the first real mission that we had been sent on, well kind of. It was fairly close to an American base and we would spend only four nights out. 

We were supported in the field by a company of armor (tanks for civilians). We felt confident that we could take on anyone.

Around noon that day we had stopped at a weird place. The only structures visible were these large hives made of brick. Someone had speculated that they had been part of a bakery, where the bread was made. While walking around someone had found a hole behind some growth. The hole was about 30” in diameter and about four feet deep. After prodding inside with a stick, our Six (captain), decided that someone should go down into it and see if it was the mouth of a tunnel.

Well, who was short and skinny in 1966? You got it, I was told to grab a 45 and a flashlight and jump

The skinny dud in 1966.
The skinny dude in 1966.

into the “tunnel”. I thought I had it.

Surprise, the “tunnel” was nothing more than a fox hole with an L shaped profile. I jumped out and saw the look of disappointment in the faces of some of the more gun-hold officers.

This was but the preamble of what took place that night. In the tropics nightfall is sudden, and it comes at the same time every day. It gets really dark until the moon comes out, sometimes not for several hours. After we set up camp in a second growth forest and got ready for our night’s routine, all hell broke loose.

It was about an hour after dark. We saw that on a spot of the perimeter defended by a tank, a flare had gone off. This was followed by several thousand rounds from the tank in question and other soldiers in the perimeter. Then we heard someone screaming (what we figured later was the password) and the shooting stopped. The flares had been set off by our own troops, that somehow ended up in front of our defensive perimeter defended by a M48A3 tank.

Fortunately, their aim was not very good and there were no friendly casualties. But, what was the misunderstanding that resulted in friendly troops in front of our perimeter at night?

To prevent such occurrences, overlays are made of where friendlies are, ambush patrols, listening posts, potential fire zones and other strategic locations. Usually the Exec officer is tasked with the integration and synchronization of all these overlays. Then they are sent back with instructions and warnings for the company level infantry officers to act.

Somewhere along this chain, overlays of friendly locations were mingled with the ones for the ambush patrol for one company. The ambush patrol was sent to the place where our tanks were situated.

As they say “shit flows downhill”. The captain of the unit in question that received the overlays and instructions from the Exec was deemed responsible and promptly transferred to another unit. He was the only Black officer in the battalion.