Epic Dreams of Dirt (+ Announcement)

I eat a lot of hot sauce. I used to put it on everything and get the really spicy ones so that I could be that guy, but I’ve calmed it down a little in recent years. I also used to specifically eat something spicy right before bed, because I noticed doing so gave me really vivid, really strange and surreal dreams.

Now I’ve stopped doing that entirely, but I guess I conditioned my brain enough to think it’s alright to give me strange dreams most nights. One such was just the other night…

Oh! I should put here that I’ve been playing a lot of Deep Rock Galactic recently, and I only say that because it’ll soon become obvious the ways that game influenced the dream. (If you haven’t heard of it and you don’t feel like following the link, in short, it’s a game where you play as a space dwarf mining crystals and minerals out of a giant asteroid-planet-thing.)

Anyway, the other night…

Like most dreams, I don’t remember how I got to the start, but I knew I was being hunted by the Italian mafia. Somehow, at the beginning of the dream, that meant I GUESS that I was in a motel outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico while on the run from them. Of course, one of their hitmen finds me and I’m sure you can guess who it is.

That’s right, Danny Trejo.

So Danny Trejo shows up going full Machete on me, showering the motel in bullets while I run, duck, and dodge behind cover.

^In case you wondered, this is what “going full Machete” looks like.
It’s a fun movie.

Eventually, he runs out of ammo and hops in an old car, trying to run me down. Now my memory gets kind of spotty around this point in the story, but the end point is that I successfully kill him in self-defense. (I think I trick him into crashing the car, or something. Let’s just assume it was something clever.)

That dramatic scene winds up placing me in Witness Protection. I remember they handed me a special form to fill out for, like, my preferences of what kind of Witness Protection I would prefer, and in the special comments section I just wrote “No Italians, please.” Which is several shades of stupid, but made sense in the moment since I was on the run from the Italian mafia.

It doesn’t wind up working.

So Witness Protection places me in a sort of special boarding house that looks like an old Victorian manor out in New England. (Heh, I just noticed the dream keeps taking place in “New” places. New Mexico to New England. Weird.) The boarding house is run by a kindly old woman with red hair and she shows me to my room toward the back of the manor. My paranoia sets in, and on one of the first nights, I remove a couple panels from the floor and I start digging.

The logic at work is that I’m going to construct a series of tunnels to really live in, or at least have as a getaway in case the mob ever finds me. I think I distantly remember reading about or hearing about an either Roman or Chinese emperor who did the same thing with their palace, filling it with a hundred rooms and sleeping in a different one every night to confuse would-be assassins.

Which is basically what I did.

I dug a whole bunch of tunnels into the ground beneath the mansion, and I filled those tunnels with a bunch of dummy routes, dead ends, tunnels that looped back in on themselves. I dug enough dirt to last eleven lifetimes to make sure the mob would never find me.

Along the way, I met another resident of the house, a young girl named Alyssa, who found my series of tunnels and asked to help me dig more because she thought it was cool. At first I said no, wary of outsiders and not wanting to share my masterpiece with another, but ultimately relented.

I also found this awesome, green, furry mole-ferret creature while digging. I never really thought of a name for him, but he was adorable, helped me dig, and loved to snuggle while making this soft purring noise. He was great.

At this point, there’s a bit of a time skip, or a fast-forwarding. I met Alyssa, found my giant ferret creature, at one point we struck ground water and essentially dug out a massive underground grotto or lake. We brought in bamboo from the Overworld (just the regular world, but we’d become underground people) to build scaffolding and walking pathways around this body of water. It was a good time.

But nothing good lasts forever.

One day while I’m hanging out on the big wrap-around porch of the house, I see a car with tinted windows drive slowly by. The window rolls down and a bald man with a scar on his cheek stares me down for a moment, before rolling the window back up and driving away. (No idea why, but I name him Spencer.

My God. I’ve been found.

I have a discussion with the headmaster lady of the house, and she gives me a sort of “Ah, alas. I feared this day would come” sort of monologue, and says she’ll prep the house for battle – or something of the sort. Eventually, it falls to dusk, and a train of twelve cars pulls up in front of the place. Out of each one, a uniquely dressed, themed, and deadly hitman steps out with an intent to kill. They charge the house, and I kung-fu fight with about four or five of them around the house, killing or incapacitating them mightily before I begin to tire and worry for the worse. All around the house, the headmaster lady and other residents are doing their own righteous battle with these (apparently still supposed to be Italian mafia) hitmen.

I’m wounded, and the headmaster lady tells me to fall back, and that they have it from here. So I do, and retreat into my tunnel system. While down there, Alyssa finds me and tells me that our ferret isn’t doing so good, she thinks he’s sick. So I pick up the little guy, he purrs against my chest and neck while I carry him down one of the tunnels, across our underground lake (taking up the bamboo walkways behind us), and into the deepest tunnel that is my Sanctuary. For extra security, I lay a couple of satchel charges in the dirt (which I apparently have) and lie in wait with my ferret creature.

The End

I woke up at that point, but I assume that Spencer the Hitman followed my trail down the tunnels and would have fallen upon me and my ferret, but got blown up by my booby traps. That’s my head canon and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway, if you’ve stuck with it this far or just skipped down until you saw “The End”, either way: The News!

I’ve stopped announcing these sorts of things with any regularity, both because life is busy and because I’m not sure who’s listening with bated breath on this, my tiny, eensy weensy slice of the internet, but we’ve got another publication in the books! (lol Pun.)

Flame Tree Publishing is coming out with their Gothic Fantasy ‘Alternate History’ anthology early next year and are including a reprint of one of my first ever stories, “The Sixth-Gun Conspiracy Letters”, wherein we learn the tragic, twisted truth behind the cloak-and-dagger game which shadowed the American Civil War and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

It’s an oldie, but a goodie, and I’m extra stoked about this one because Flame Tree is based out of London, UK, which means ya boi has gone international! And I think that’s worth a nod. -cheers- (<– the polite gesture at a dinner party, not a crowd erupting with applause)

Anyhoo, that’s all for now. Thanks for sticking around. Ciao, everybody.

Like What You Like, a Pirate Taught me That

I don’t know why I was thinking of this earlier today, but I’m glad I was. And don’t get ahead of me thinking there was some clutch moment where that life lesson of self-acceptance saved the day. Nope, just a mundane day at work where the thought caught me and it made me smile. In fact, with this lengthy preamble, I’m already treating this nugget of life advice like it’s some unknowable secret I’ve mastered that you probably haven’t figured out yet. Psh.

It was a scholastic book faire, circa 2006. I’m in middle school, and I should preface (some more) that I went to a tiny, tiny Lutheran private school – and yes, it was about as cool as that sounds. It wasn’t because of any sort of privileged position, either. Just that it was right by our house and my mom wanted to do her best as a parent. In truth, I would now as I would have then traded in my time for the same years spent at a public school where I could have begun cultivating meaningful friendships sooner.

At the Lutheran school I attended, it was Kindergarten through 8th Grade with around 120 kids – total. TOTAL. That meant that if you didn’t fit in with your 15 or so classmates, it was tough nuts, because you were stuck with those same 15 kids your entire time there.

I did not fit in with my classmates.

By my memory, their interests largely ranged between baseball, horror movies, Top-40 pop music, none of which interested me. Baseball? Not a sports guy. Horror movies? I’ll take a comedy, thank you. Pop music? I like Metallica. And I played D&D and read manga, things that only nowadays are sniffing “cool” territory (except you, manga, you’re still a pariah from what I hear).

So yeah, book faire.

We peruse the pencils, browse the books, and excavate the piles of colorful erasers looking for favorites, and exit into the gymnasium. Two other boys, we’ll call them Jimmy and Timmy, are poring over their haul, namely a couple of sports magazines. They ask what I came out with, and I show them: an issue of Shonen Jump with Monkey D. Luffy on the cover.

For those not in The Know, One Piece was a cartoony pirate adventure, and that grinning doof in the middle is Luffy, the happy-go-lucky pirate captain protagonist

I still remember the looks on their faces and the sound of them laughing at me. And especially as an eleven-year-old, I’d been defensive and embarrassed before. I knew the reflex to hide it in my backpack and say, “Yeah, no, it’s kinda dumb. It’s for my-” blah blah blah.

But today was different.

I don’t know where it came from or why, but a muse of some kind came out of the ether, broke into my thoughts, and said, “You know what? No. Fuck these guys. One Piece is cool, and I like this.”

It wasn’t anger behind the thought, either, just complete and total dismissal. Their thoughts and opinions on my interests could NOT bother me one bit. And I credit Luffy’s dorky grin, now that I think back on it. He felt like backup, telling me it was totally alright to enjoy the things I found enjoyable, other people’s thoughts on the matter be damned.

And good goddamn am I ever grateful that lesson occurred to me as a kid. I think we all know someone who – or maybe ourselves struggle with this – lets the opinions of others dictate their interests and pastimes.

Bottom line is this: Like what you like, be secure in your opinions because your the one who they’re for. Try new things, sure. And if someone wants to disparage your interests, like your an adult who likes video games and cartoons or someone in a biker gang that enjoys crochet, just realize it’s the limitation of that person’s worldview. Take pleasure in the things you like.

Or else, hell, what else are we even here for?

Ciao for now.

Circus Throws and the Value of Perception

Being a kid in high school means being an idiot, or at least it did in my case. You do dumb stuff, and you’re supposed to. Most will say that it’s because it’s for the experience of growing and becoming wiser, but that’s only about half of it. The main reason is because, if you survive it, you should come out of it with some funny stories to tell people later. Yes, of course, you should learn from them too, but they should also be good at parties.

This one was sort of a lesson in what happens when you give power to those who aren’t ready for it, kind of like teaching an unstable person forbidden martial arts. You’re arming them with an ability they aren’t otherwise fit to use. Such was the case when some poor idiot taught two other poor idiots how to perform what they called a “circus lift.”

Basically, you grab your left wrist with your right hand while standing opposite someone else doing the same, and then you each grab the other persons right wrist with your open left hand. What you should have between you when you’re done is basically a net of your arms. We were told – unwisely, as time would show – is that you can toss willing participants really, really high when you have them sit on your newfound arm-net. Just bend with the knees, count to three, and launch them.

And you know what? It works. It really, really works.

My buddy Peter and I became a regular sideshow attraction most lunch periods by the Senior Steps, taking volunteers and hucking them up into the air. We got good at it and an eensy, teensy bit famous for it. So it just became what we did for a few weeks. Then we had That Day happen. You know the one, the one that earns those capital letters, and the fateful dun-dun-duuuun piano bass.

It had rained pretty heavily the night before, and our usual launch pad was the grassy slope next to the Steps. As you could imagine, it was still slick and muddy by the time lunch came around, and that should have given our regularly schedule launches cause for postponement. But this wouldn’t be the Tale of Two Idiots if we did that. So of course we kept throwing people that day. (And in our defense, it should be The Tale of About a Dozen Idiots given how people kept stepping up, despite the slippery conditions.)

It comes to our last throw of the day, and a friend of ours steps up – we’ll call her Ana, for the sake of this. So Ana sheds her backpack, takes a seat, we do our countdown, we launch her, and…well, you know those times you get a feeling? A Bad Feeling? It’s the moment directly after doing some irrevocable that forces you to raise your eyebrow a bit and think, “Uh-oh. That might have been a bad idea.”

Right away, you can see that Ana’s trajectory and mid-air balance are off. She went pretty high, too. The way she hit her arc and is on her way down doesn’t look too promising, but there’s nothing to do but cringe and see how she ultimately sticks the landing.

She does not stick the landing.

What happens is she breaks her damn ankle. It was a loud, pretty sickening cracking sound that I can still hear pretty clearly in my head when I think about it. I remain pretty proud of my instincts, because I didn’t waste any time in acting. It was pretty clear precisely what had happened, and I’m off to the nurse like a lightning bolt. I’ve always been a tall kid, and as a seventeen-year-old Energizer Bunny, I made really good time. I get to the nurse, quickly explain what’s happened, and lead her to the site of the accident.

The only problem is that I didn’t tell anyone I was doing that. So to everyone else, I just threw this girl in the air, heard her ankle break, and Usain-Bolt’d out of the scene like a complete a**hole.

Things wound up alright in the end, and I’m a lot better at communication nowadays.

Little Surprises

Who doesn’t like little surprises now and then? They’re good for a little spice to keep life interesting, to break routine, or to provide a serendipitous little boost when you might not have known you needed it. It can happen when you see a friend you weren’t expecting to, get some good news, find those five dollars in your wallet you forgot about, or happen to come across a box of .45 calibur magnum rounds of ammunition in your mother’s kitchen cupboard.

Yeah, that sh*t happened as we moved her out of her last house, the one she’d lived in for sixteen years. Turns out we’d been keeping the plates and cups within inches of what is technically a tiny box of controlled explosives for almost two decades.

Got them turned in/disposed of at the nearest police station, but just…damn. It’s food for thought, you know? Never know what’s in the walls, n’ stuff.

Why I Can’t Watch Hockey

Unlike what the misleading title might have you believe, I have an enormous respect for hockey athletes, and this story has almost nothing to do with that anyway. In fact, I don’t even write that “enormous respect” thing lightly, either. I mean it. It’s mind-boggling to me the way they can coordinate movement on the ice and the incredible dexterity of handling the puck all with the tactics of play with their teammates and opponents.

Insane.

ANYWAY, I know a bit of this because of one time Amanda, Pierre, and I went to a hockey game being hosted at an ice skating rink near us. It wasn’t a pro league, obviously, and in fact it was a bunch of seniors – which made for a really easy sell even to me, a non-hockey fan.

“Hey,” Pierre pitched, “you want to watch a bunch of old guys play hockey? There might be a fight.”

I was in.

So we’re sitting there, watching the game, when I try to point out something regarding one of the players. I think he’d done some fancy skating I wanted to call out, I don’t remember- doesn’t matter. The point is his jersey number was #78, and I tell them this to try and identify him, to which they say, “Who?”

“He’s number seventy-eight.”

“Where?”

“Right there.”

“Where? I can’t get a clear look at his jersey.”

“He’s number seventy-eight,” I say, beginning to get exasperated. “There, by the other goal. He’s wearing a green jersey and red shorts.”

“Who?” says Pierre.

“The motherf**ker in red shorts, by the opposite f**king gate now,” is my reply.

He looks at me, confused. “Evan, they’re all in black. No one’s wearing red.”

I’m shocked. Never before in my life did I think my eyes would deceive me such that I confused black fabric with bright-ass, unmistakeable red. I look back to the players.

“He’s…he’s in a green jersey…”

“Yeah, I see the green jersey, but his shorts are black, dude.” He taps Amanda on the shoulder for back-up. She nods and reinforces his assertion that Red Shorts was, indeed, wearing black shorts.

I stammer, watching the players now with a bit of existential dread. Is this what color-blindness is? I thought. That is so surely scarlet red, how am I seeing that if it’s black? Uh-oh. I don’t know all how, but this will definitely affect a bunch of things in life. Ink choices, traffic signals maybe, for sure my fashion sense. Am I-

Then I see them snickering, and I’m finally allowed to have it dawn on me: I’m being gaslit, and my gullible ass bought that fable hook, line, sinker, the pole, the fisherman, and the whole damned boat.

We like to think of ourselves as mentally secure, most days. We may have our baggage, sure. It comes with life. But we see or hear stories of people that believe outlandish things, simpletons that throw in behind transparently deceitful cult figures. They’re like goldfish, with the sphere of their beliefs visible from the outside in its entirity, and we can laugh at how foolish the fish must be fore believing their bowl to be the extent the world.

But really, these situations deserve more empathy. They ought to be approached with a mindset of “There but for the grace of God go I,” for any one of us is capable – within the right circumstances, upbringing, environments, or pressures – of believing what is antethetical to that which is before our very eyes. It should be a lesson of how malleable we can be, how vulnerable even the sanctity of our own minds can be, of fatefully temporary we all ar-

Ahem. Yeah. Anyway, um, yeah. I don’t really watch a lot of hockey. Cool sport, though.

A Real Love Story

You know those dreams where you’re fall or trip, and the shock of that is enough to jolt you awake so you wind up really trying to catch your balance? Yeah, I’m pretty sure most of us have.

But have you ever hurt someone doing that?

Technically I did, when I was nine. I was travelling up to Oregon with my uncle, aunt, and two cousins. I was the runt while they were both teenagers, so I sat in the bucket seat. I had some sort of falling dream, woke up flailing, and smacked them both symmetrically in their respective groins. I still remember my cousin Kacy’s response, a remarkably calm, “Okay, man. You alright?”

<sigh> Good role model, that man.

But that’s not really the thrust of our anecdote here today. This one is goofy, not really something anyone should be proud of, but also one of my favorites. For it, we hearken back to circa 2012, Amanda and I are early-twenty-something’s that have just started dating, and after a month or two start regularly sharing a bed most nights.

When you start sleeping next to another body for the first time when you never in your young life have before, some funny things happen. All that rolling around you’re used to just doing without knowing you do it suddenly encounters obstacles, like odd elbows and knees. I’m a sturdy Stomach Sleeper, but more than once inside our first couple of weeks sleeping beside one another, we’d bumped foreheads and woken up from it.

Why do I bring this up? After all, these things happen.

Simple: context.

So, I’m having this dream, right? I’m a counselor at some kind of summer camp for young tykes, and for unknown dream reasons, I get into a fight with another counselor. Obviously, it’s my dream, I’m on Home Turf, so I’m going to kick his ass. But our fight takes place next to a set of stairs, and I guess my subconscious was more accurately in-tune with my real world Dexterity Score than I am, because I go to throw a punch with my back to the stairs and my foot slips off that top step.

Cue muscle impulses to punch- oh, and now you’re falling.

So I wake up mid-punch.

Remember how I mentioned I’m a Stomach Sleeper? Well that means I sleep with one arm under my pillow to support my big-ass head, and this particular night, that happened to be my left arm. That left it perfectly cocked back when the Whoopsie Signal left my dreaming brain to punch poor Amanda squarely on the forehead, who was asleep facing me on my right.

Poor thing. She trusted me, and she never stood a chance.

Now, hear me out, I knew right away what I’d done. I was wide awake the instant my knuckles connected between her sweet, innocent eyes. But when she sniffed loudly, demonstrating she’d come to a bare, drowsy sort of consciousness, I absolutely squinted my eyes and strained my voice like I was in the same way.

“Oof, are you okay?” I half-chuckle, half-whisper. “I think we bumped heads,” I lie.

“Oom,” she replies sleepily. “Sorry. You okay?”

We trade tired yes’s and goodnight’s, and lay our heads back down on our pillows, me pretending to fall “back” asleep. But make no mistake, my eyes are wide open, fixed on her, watching her reaction. When she settles back into softly snoring, I doze off too, grateful to have gotten away with it scott free.

The next morning, I come clean. I ask if she remembers anything from last night and she sheepishly goes, “What’d I do?” because normally that’s how I would introduce telling her she snored or tooted or something. When I tell her that what she thought was a bump of heads was actually me punching her in the face, she – shockingly – was less than thrilled with it.

“You let me fall back asleep??” she chided. “I could have had a concussion.”

Weirdly, one of the best compliments I’ve been given, to think I’m strong enough to deliver a zero-wind-up knockout punch in my sleep.

That’s love.

A Snowball Fight in Summer, and the Fart that Started It

It’s a useful talent to be able to turn an awkward mistake into an opportunity to make it funny, or at least to find the humor in it. If you can’t laugh at yourself, what’re you gonna do, right?

I thankfully had an example of the lesson early when I was ten. I’d just taken a shower – like a big ol’ boy – and was coming downstairs, making a show of swiping my hairless armpits with deodorant, to see my mom sitting in her chair watching TV.

She worked night shift at a hospital as a nurse, but would spend her mornings this way at the time. I made some joke to get a laugh (duh, what jokes are for), and she replied with a dull, tired stare. When I plum asked her for more of a reaction, she looked me in my eyes and ripped a big ol’ fart.

A cheek-flapper.

A real Blue Ribbon winner.

A serious fog horn in a bear cave kind of sound.

She then of course starts laughing hysterically at her own fearsome flatulence and I, being ten, begin comically swiping the air in front of me with my deodorant stick in lieu of a proper air freshener. That’s when the white, chalky stick flies free from its plastic pocket and slams up against the television screen and splays in all directions like a synthetic snowball.

I think it’s further hilarity, but the abruptness with which my mom’s laughter suddenly stops could have halted traffic.

“Oh, come on,” I say wisely, “you have to learn to laugh at these things.”

Deadpan, my mother stares at me for a hard moment before dryly exlaiming, “Ah-HA-ha…”

Which of course gets her to crack up at her own funny all over again.

I blame the sleep deprivation.

My Watchmen Experience

You know those days where you can’t do anything wrong? Not like you’re all super righteous and above reproach or anything, but you’ve just woken up on the right side of the bed and things go right. So it may not exactly be a case of “can’t do anything wrong,” but days that are just born good. It doesn’t even have to be anything incredible or momentous, like winning the lottery or saving somebody’s life. No, you have all your homework done ahead of time. You have just enough cash on you for a donut with coffee and a sandwich for lunch. You find that thing you thought you lost. A ton of small, tiny, happy moments that make for a great day.

That’s the kind of day I was having one time as a senior in high school. I couldn’t miss. Woke up easy, had a good hair day so I was feelin’ pretty, got to school early, smoothly hit all green lights when I longboarded to that donut shop, finished the book I was reading that free fifth period, The Works.

“Hmm,” I sighed as I got off the bus that afternoon to walk home, “I think I’m gonna finish reading Watchmen today.”

If you somehow aren’t familiar, Watchmen was a graphic novel written by Alan Moore from the 1980’s. The short version is that it was set in a world wherein the caped-crusader, masked crime fighter phenomenon struck, but in a gritty, noir setting. And when I say gritty, I mean that sh*t was dark. One of the story’s most recognizable characters Rorschach’s – a vigilante type, so named for the psychiatric ink-blot test his mask is designed after – famous speeches goes as follows:

“The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown.

The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout ‘SAVE US!’

And I will look down and whisper ‘No.”

No kidding, when it’s described as an edgy (like unto a razor), harsh take on the costumed heroes, it means it. Near the beginning, there’s a newspaper clipping describing a story wherein one hero catches his cape in a bank’s rotating door during a robbery, so the criminals, reasonably, brutally gun him down. It’s not long into it either when another of the main cast exposits his backstory to reveal his joy at raping his way through Vietnam.

Being an angsty, “edgy” (like unto a butterknife) teenager, it was right up my alley.

To that point, I’d read it in bits and pieces over the course of a couple of weeks, and was about halfway through with it. That speaks both to my traditional, savory reading speed, but also to just how freaking dense of a story Watchmen is. I’d sipped my way through the first half and, feeling full of myself that particularly happy day, decided to gulp down the rest of it that afternoon and evening.

So I got home, unloaded my backpack, sit on the couch with a coffee like a sophisticated individual, and got enthralled with the grimdark story until the sun had gone down…

…then I went to bed early and cried myself to sleep into my pillow.

Emotionally, I can be a bit of a tenderfoot, I admit that wholeheartedly. But Jesus Christ guys, that book did not f**k around, especially for my young, virgin mind (in a literary sense – mind out of the gutter, kids). Children are murdered, dogs get cleavers to the dome, throats get cut, loved ones are betrayed, people explode, heroes question meaning in and of reality – The Works.

I don’t remember clearly, but I may have been a bit out of it the next day, too. That thing took a toll. But if you’ve somehow made it this far into life without seeing either the movie or spin-off HBO show, do yourself a favor, steel yourself, and check it out. This is one of those rare exceptions where the film is perfectly just as good as it’s written counterpart.

Just grab some consolation cookies and a hanky beforehand.

That Time I Upset a Karate Master

(I came across this gem while digging around through some folders on my laptop. It’s a story back from 2019, and I think one of the first ones I shared on here. That said, it’s been a bit since it’s been aired out, and I don’t want it to ever be said that I pass up an opportunity to humble myself with an embarrassing tale. Like the Half Man from clan Lannister once said, “Let me give you some advice, bastard. Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”
So, before further adieu, a story about me f***ing up in front of a whole bunch of people…)

If I may, let me set the scene:

We’re in a martial arts studio currently packed full of kids in their gis, parents line the room, an old guy with a white ponytail stands in front of them all, and there’s a giant tiger painted on one wall with its claws sinking into a big ol’ Ying-Yang. The front door is open so you can hear the cars passing and see the Chinese food place across the street. I’m a cheerful, curly-headed eight-year-old in the judo class that’s wrapping up. I’d just earned my orange belt probably the week before, so I’m smiling big and feeling powerful.

Class wraps up, we bow to one another, and clear the mat so the karate students could have their time. I grab my dufflebag and head off to the bathroom to change, knowing some sweet, sweet orange chicken and fried rice will soon be mine.

Let’s pause real quick to address two personality traits that will soon unfortunately take center stage. They don’t sound that bad, but by their powers combined led to the most embarrassing moment of my life (and I’ve farted in front of a middle school crush in gym class).

One, I’m generally a pretty jolly, easily excitable guy. It was true as a kid and has largely remained that way into adulthood.

Two, it’s really, really, really easy to mess with me. Like, I’ve had to grow a thick shell of skepticism to protect my soft, gullible underbelly, but that doesn’t always work (and has actually been used to enormously great effect, but more on that later – lookin’ at you, Pierre). Nonetheless, I’ve seen more than my fair share of gas-lighting and stupidly easy pranks.

Right, we all set? Good.

So class wraps up, I grab my duffle bag, and hit the bathroom to change. To this day, I have no idea how to explain what took over, but I started singing. I don’t remember what it was or why I felt the need to do it, but I apparently felt a song in my heart and needed the porcelain throne to know it (maybe it was the acoustics). I don’t even remember what song it was, but I’d wager good money it was Celine Deon’s “My Heart will Go On” or something. So picture that.

Anyway, about a minute into my solo, there’s a knock at the door. First hunch that comes to mind is that it’s my friend being impatient for the bathroom, so I pause, tell him to give me a minute, and get right back to belting out my tunes. I only get a couple more words in before there’s another knock. It never crosses my mind that maybe he has to poop or something, so I tell him again, a little less patiently, that I’ll be out in a second and try once again to resume my singing. Immediately, the knocking continues.

Now, I realize what you’re probably thinking, oh Rational One: “Hey, Evan, it’s probably a kid who needs to poop. Give up the john.” And to you I say, “Yeah, that would have been great advice at the time. I really wish I’d had you there” (not IN the bathroom, God, but you get what I’m saying).

What did I do instead? Well, you remember that orange belt I was so proud of? I coiled it up and whapped it against the door like it was a disagreeable stepchild and I was a parent in the 1930’s.

…yup.

I was proud. I’d stood up for myself, didn’t fall for my bully’s antics, and stopped the knocking. I looked at myself in the restroom mirror and put my hands on my hips proudly.

The silence was interrupted by three more knocks, this time quiet and timid ones.

I threw on my pants (yup, hadn’t gotten those on yet) and opened the door. To my shock, I wasn’t met by my friend Troy, but Sensei Ponytail. I don’t remember what he said, I was just too busy looking at the ROOM FULL OF STUDENTS AND PARENTS PRETENDING NOT TO LOOK AT ME.
Like, shit. I wish they’d just laughed outright. Trying to spare my dignity in that moment as I realized what I’d been doing was like emotional keelhauling – which Adult Me now congratulates Ponytail for doing. I can honestly say it was a fuck-ton (metric, of course) of character-building in a pretty small window of time. But my mind was suddenly arrested by imaging that first minute before the knocking, the minute where they’re all just sitting there, listening to me, smiling and thinking “No. What? He’s- he’s still- he’s still singing? Like, he knows that door is thin as hell, right?”

He brought me in front of the karate instructor as the students went to their drills and I apologized to him. To this day, I’ve been as sincere as I was in that moment probably just a handful of times. He played the Tough Guy move and told me to give him push-ups until he got tired.

I did…like, three.

Remember the “orange chicken and fried rice that would soon be mine”? Mmhm, well, I focused on that a lot more than push-ups as a kid, so when he called for push-ups, he got, like, three. A heartfelt and earnest three, but also shaky as hell and absolutely no more than that. All the while, the parents’ hot gazes bored into the back of my head like angry little gophers.

I’d love it if this was my superhero origin story and I could tell you that today I’m a total Marine-bodied stud who doesn’t take his morning shit without pumping out fifty push-ups, but I’m super not. Instead I’ve chosen just to never sing loudly in bathrooms like a dick again. (If you sing in bathrooms, by God more power to you. Just don’t be a dick about it.)

Anyway, on that note, catch y’all later.

The Laundry Disaster of ’05

I’ve alluded before recently that I can take instructions a little too literally at times, and that that’s had a history of getting me into funny spots. As I’ve thought on it, I’ve come to realize that’s actually been a bit of a longtime habit and not something I’ve just started doing in recent years.

One occasion that is a favorite of my mother’s to bring up was a time I ruined an expensive household appliance as a kid.

The year is 2005 – got up to a lotta sh*t when I was twelve – and I’m upstairs in my room. I’m probably playing PlayStation when my mom calls up the stairs, “Hey Evan, make sure you do your laundry.” I probably make some complaining, groaning sound, to which she out-groans me and shouts, “Just take all of your clothes and do a load, okay?”

Well’p. You heard the woman.

So I do. I take all of my clothes, jaunt down the stairs, start the load with an indeterminate amount of detergent, and bound back upstairs to get back to my game. About thirty minutes later, I hear my sweet mother’s voice again screech, “God DAMMIT, Evan!”

Hmm, can’t be too good news what follows, me’thinks.

I peer around the corner of the top step to see the door to the garage open, light spilling from the doorway, and a ton of smoke. Thin, white smoke, so not a huge fire or anything, but still: a lot of smoke. I run down the stairs, look in the garage, and see the dead, fried up remains of what used to be the washing machine, choked to death by an <ahem> unknown assailant. She asked me what I did, and I told her: I took all of my clothes and did a load of laundry.

All of my clothes, a load of laundry.

What she didn’t care too much for was the way I’d taken all of my clothes – dirty ones, clean ones I thought I’d “freshen up,” snow pants I’d worn once a year ago and no longer fit, a sweater I’d worn last Thanksgiving that had gum on the sleeve for some reason, a dress shirt or two that was hanging in the abyss of my closet, everything – and stuffed it all super-pack style mercilessly into the yawning pit of the twenty-year-old appliance.

That poor machine died a thankless, inglorious death.

I’m not saying that I stand by the actions of my twelve-year-old self, but it does make me think I might be part genie for the way I can happen to find any possible Monkey’s Paw approach to requests.

Take THAT, Ancestry.com!