October 16

Isaac Asimov

Sparknotes. That was the overall consensus, which was deducted from a tenuous poll of my extended family.

It was collected in coherence with the stuffing and cranberry sauce that cluttered our green linen tablecloth in so many trays and casserole dishes- a true Island of Misfit Plates. As all 23 of us huddled around the dining room table, like frisky Eskimos in a snowstorm, being physically connected to one another somehow lent its significance to our unseasonable and mountie-muddled cause.

It also made it easier for my grandma to smack me:

“What are you putting all this time into reading some science fiction novel for? YOU ended things with HIM. Be done with the guy!”  She shot me an exasperated look.

“Better yet, just say you’ve read it and give it back to him,” asserted my aunt.

It was my uncle who provided me with a truly cunning solution. “Skim the pages,” was his suggestion.

Yet eventually they all agreed that the best way to solve my problem would be simply to look up a summary of the book online.

Here was my dilemma:

You see, for the past few months I have had a crush on a boy named Jonah Mitchell. Slowly, our relationship escalated from “picture of him hidden in my closet” to “picture of us proudly set as my iphone wallpaper.” And yet, even after such a tentative, gradual lead-up,  everything came to pass with the brilliance and brevity of a dying star.

I do not disillusion myself so far as to believe, as many other girls my age suffering from a break-up where the aftermath outlives the actual relationship, that I was in love with him. Nor do I continue to assert, neglecting the true motives of any present company, that he and I should have had six children and moved to Bangladesh. I mean only that, while the relationship was short, it meant something, and when it was over it sucked.

I ended things with Jonah because certain aspects of the relationship had begun to get on my nerves. For starters, we share three classes and two extra-curriculars. Add in a few group hang out sessions, as well as some one-on-one dates, and we were spending 75% of our waking moments together: simply too much time. Another point of friction is that we are in different stages of life; Jonah does not have a job, a car, or even a driver’s licence; I have all three. Rather than to constructively deal with these issues, however, I chose, in typical ham fashion, to break it off before the relationship became more serious and a separation could do any substantial emotional damage.

It was during the early phases of our brief relationship that Jonah lent me a book. Actually, it was his all-time favourite, sporting so many frays that it appeared more well-loved than the velveteen rabbit. He rather insisted that I read it, this compilation of the three Foundation novels written by sci-fi champ Isaac Asimov, saying that “the book is me. I am the book.”

It was six days after our break-up when all 11 meager AP English students, the herd having been thinned out as a result of flood, famine, and the cruel Ms. Feyre from last year, gathered around the boardroom table as Mrs. Joyce articulated excitedly about the joys of reading.

“It makes me sad to see so many of you who aren’t passionate about literature! When was the last time any of you got excited about a book?”

Blank stares.

“You know what? How about all of you try to remember a book that made you really excited about reading, and bring it in to discuss for Monday?”

As we all began babbling about our favourite novels, a glance to my left confirmed what was already obvious to me.

Jonah started, “I wa-”

“I know.”

He wanted the Asimov book back.

The only problem was that I had never read it, and I somehow got it in my head that the only way to salvage a friendship with Jonah was to finish the book, no matter how long it would take. This is how I managed to sentence myself, over Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, to 36 hours in inter-galactic prison.

Part of me also wanted to finish the book to prove that I was capable of committing to a relationship, even if it was one with paper and ink. Because, when I thought about it, reading a book is a lot like being in one.

Ending a three-month relationship doesn’t require the same courtesy and explanation as breaking off a real anniversary-churner (I’m not talking week-a-versaries here, people). In the same way, a reader is satisfied with an unsolved mystery at the close of a 200-300 page thriller, but once the author crosses over into the lofty 500+ page range, one demands the details with righteous indignation. By this point in the novel, even the author has usually abandoned his pomp and his poetic devices; after 6 years of marriage, a wife can take a dump in front of her husband without a second thought. In fact, if an author even tried to write an elaborate and roundabout explanation to a concept so late in the novel, I would holler at her to “just come out with it already.” And to “make me a sandwich.”

This is how I felt by the end of the 510-page, size 8 font Foundation series. I needed some sort of award. I needed Asimov, making me a sandwich.

The point is that Isaac Asimov clearly had a lot to say, and that I stupidly volunteered myself to sit for 36 hours as he said it.

More on this later!

Avery

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August 13

Redneck Thanksgiving

Maps that plot my location on a Westjet flight make me question why I didn’t just walk that far…

I mean, I get it. It’s not as though they could make the image of the plane to scale. But really?  According to some of my past live maps, I have travelled in airplanes twice the size of Florida. If the back of the plane is in Washington, and the front half is down in Utah, where am I exactly? Do they expect me to remember my seat number?

Consequently, this development was sparked by a recent trip to Edmonton, Alberta to visit my grandparents. Canadian Thanksgiving takes place in the middle of October (severely displanting the relevance of a Black Friday sale), so I missed two full days of publicly-funded, condom-stomping Catholic school to hang out on my grandpa’s hobby farm, shooting unlicensed guns and racing retired army jeeps from the Second World War. Often by mid-October, Edmonton’s snowy season is already in full swing; one year, I now recall with nostalgia, we used snowmen for shooting practice.
But unlike the snowmen, each year unfailingly we do things like play flick-stick hockey, eat borscht soup, and a have a piñata (in fact, it’s been the same piñata for five years running, sporting more duct tape and looking less recognizable each year; my grandparents are a little cheap!) This year, though, that poor multi-confetti-colored donkey finally met his match in the form of a Winchester 1200. Instead of hanging the piñata so that the younger cousins could try their luck with a stick, we decided instead to blindfold my father, hand him a shotgun, throw the piñata in the air, and run for cover. A shower of bullets hit it on his first try! The only downside was that all the candy inside was subsequently filled with lead fragments. All things considered, a small price to pay for such an awesome occurrence.
Another new development is that, after the piñata, my grandpa surprised me with a green Volkswagon Beetle for my 16th birthday! He collects cars, and has always been determined to buy one for each of his grandkids. His generosity and kind spirit did not stop him from adding a small clause to a pretty sweet deal, however: a “spoiled rotten” license plate must be worn on the front of the car at all times. A prime example of his malevolent sense of humour… ;) I suppose those lovable old saps aren’t so cheap after all!

Most of my Tuesday was eaten up with travel and allowing myself to be rocked slowly to sleep by the discombobulated jostle of a plane and the fuzzy, impassive voice of Sheila our airline hostess over the PA system. It was for this reason that I felt particularly well-rested as I boarded the bus today for my triumphant return to public education. As I had only returned to school this morning, I could barely stifle my startled squawk when I was called out of History before lunch and summoned to the drama room. The last time I had stepped foot in that room was months ago for musical callbacks, and those didn’t quite go as planned (think actual squawking). Now, to understand the sheer intimidation I felt as I walked into that den of arts performers and theatre junkies at 11:45 AM on a Wednesday, it is important to realize that the drama room looks less like a conventional classroom than the gorilla enclosure at Calgary Zoo. Its overhanging spotlights and intricate networks of wire cables and pulleys squinted down at me from three storeys high, while low-lying lamps draped with Boho-chic scarves provided most of the understated lighting. Red velvet curtains had been pulled back far enough to allow students to work and create on the black wooden floors, marked up with tape and peeling paint, but still their muted presence was unwavering; noticed and deliberate. Props from musicals past were placed randomly about the room as if to represent little inside jokes; the ultimate manifestation of this collective’s superior and exclusive nature. It could have been a hoarder’s nest, and yet each item seemed to fit mystically with the others in perfect synergy.
Yet, the atmosphere was not abrasive or standoffish, as one might expect. Rather, everything in the room worked to welcome and excite me as its visitor, leaving me with a profound sense of belonging and adventure.
None of the other drama students acknowledged my presence, as if it “gelled” with what they were doing, and I was thusly absorbed. I made my way over to the Mrs. Gerund, who sat making large, ecstatic hand movements from a cross-legged position on a table in the corner of the room. At first, I thought it was odd that I hadn’t noticed her immediately, as she was speaking loudly and moving her arms about wildly. I now realize that the room had been absorbing her, too.
I was halfway to her table when she saw me and leapt up to greet me. The sullen form I remembered seated conventionally at a table and chair during my musical audition two months ago did not match the fountain of energy now before me. She cupped my hand in two of her dainty ones and pumped it up and down, then led me through the curtain-cloaked doorway of her office to a couple of mismatched chairs.
Her smile was mischievous as she asked me how I was, and why I was still in class.
“Advanced placement.” I said dismissively.
“Ah. You know, I don’t see how they’re allowed to do that. That’s why I could never teach a real class.”
I seemed to recall the lectures I had heard over the years from every other option teacher I knew after their elective was referred to as “not a real class.”
“So anyway, I don’t know you very well, but I’ve been thinking of you a lot lately. As you know, we gave Jakob Holden one of the leads in the musical, and he has not been putting in much effort these past few weeks. Mr.Rachel and I have decided to replace him. Now, when we discussed our options, you kept popping into my head. I know, it’s weird, because I barely know you at all! Anyways the more I thought about it, The more I realized that Jakob’s role could be converted into a girl part without much effort; all his relationships are platonic! We’ve thought about it a lot, and are prepared to offer you the part!” She gave me a long look. “Don’t feel pressured to respond right away! I know it’s a lot to ask. You can let me know on Friday.”
I felt my heart leap up into my throat. I somehow found the words. “Can I say yes right now?”

So, basically, I have one of the lead parts in my school musical! What makes it even better is how deliciously random it is! It must have been my going away for two days that did the trick; after all, absence makes the heart grow fonder. ;)
What’s more is that Peter plays the title role in the musical this year! (If any of you remember him from my pathetic, dreamland rant about his accolades in my first-ever blog post.) He came up to me today to congratulate me, and no-one else knew what was happening. Mrs.Gerund is going to tell the rest of the cast tomorrow at rehearsal, but for now I have the smirk of a private joke semi-permanently plastered across my face.
This is going to be so awesome! I cannot wait to have my first practice on Monday!
Bye for now,
Avery

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