Spontaneous Semester

Spontaneous Semester

At the beginning of the semester a student occupies an energy state called READY. Rested, fed, and hopeful, full to the brim with anticipation, skis locked on, goggles on tight, poles dug in. She crouches, eager for the push.

The first week is misleading, like a bunny hill. A slight downward grade. Still sufficient hours to sleep, eat, and laugh. Lectures don’t seem like time wasted when she should be writing a report or studying for a test. Even the professors smile.

End of the second week: activation energy gets sharply and suddenly steeper. The climb out of bed and into the flow of the day is exothermic. Labs start, homework is due, that first orgo quiz looms like dread in the closet. The universe demands your tithe of entropy. No time to fold the clothes. Just let them rest where they land.

Third week. Lectures no longer seem bright and shiny. That cute guy smells unwashed and hasn’t shaved. Professors pile on new material every damn day. Skipping a lecture isn’t worth the hole it digs that you’ll have to climb out of. No time to eat. Just grab a coffee. No time to exercise. Just lug the heavy bag half a mile across campus. No time to brush the hair. Just pile it on top and jam on a hat. No time for make up. Just wear yesterday’s mascara.

Fourth week. First round of exams. Why do they all schedule them at the same time? (Do the math. It’s logical.) Someday in your real life after college, the baby will puke on you and the tire will flatten when you’re late for a flight while time shrinks to a pin-prick. College is life training; it’s a preview to show you how much you can take while your choices lead you to the life they all told you you wanted.

Fifth week. Are you kidding me? There’s still a month until Fall Break? You climbed the activation energy required for that first round of exams, did your best, blamed each exam for the one-letter-grade lower you scored on every other one, called mom and cried twice but then talked her down and begged her not to come to campus. You tried to find that blue shirt that matches your eyes. You tried to find two matching socks. The universe has shuffled the world. Instead you found half a granola bar and ate it anyway.

Week ten. You count 40 chapters of material learned in five courses so far. Well, maybe “learned” is too strong a verb. That much material cannot get in and actually stick. You glossed over most of it. Hoped the harder parts wouldn’t be tested and maybe you could guess your way on the multiple choice. If only your dog was here to hug.

Fall break blooms like four dizzy days on an oasis. You will eat. Laugh. Play. Catch up on everything. Instead you sleep like the newly dead. You do not shower. You hardly speak. You take energy in to try to climb back up to that READY spot. You can see it but it’s too high. You rationalize there are only six more weeks, so you only need to get halfway back to READY. You fall asleep on your mother’s clean rug, exhausted from thinking about it all. You awake hours later under a blanket someone has draped over you. You smile and drift back down to sleep some more. On the Sunday before you have to go back, you decide to drag your bags of laundry out of the trunk, a bit worried about the odor you’re certain to find there. Instead you find clean and folded clothes, socks matched, towels fresh for the first time since August. Mom.

First Monday back you go to 8 am lecture and the room is full. You’ve never seen these people before.

By the second day back, you have decided you’ll make less laundry if you just wear the same clothes until they must be changed. Most of your clothes are comfortable enough to sleep in anyway. Wednesday morning 8 am goes by without a thought and you miss a quiz. You email the professor asking if there is any way you can make it up but never receive a response. You email a second time and craft a mild catastrophe, an excuse, a cry for mercy. The notification dings on the email response: read the syllabus.

Four weeks rush by with no notice of the passing of time, with no day-by-day plan for survival. You simply fight each fire. Another round of reports and exams leave you wobbly and weak. Sleep and food are for wimps. You’ll sleep in December.

You lift your eyes to the horizon on the Friday before final exam week. Before you stands the highest mountain. It is your own personal mountain and must be climbed alone. You hoist your brick-laden pack while cold rain pelts your face and the only rations are Ramen noodles and coffee. Gotta get to the other side with your soul and some sanity still stuck to your core. Buckle up, buttercup. A college degree is printed on hefty parchment in indelible ink for a reason. You are here because you are smart, so smart. And determined. And worth all of this effort. Ask your mother. Ask your dog. Heck, even your professor sees it.

Peeling an apple in one coil, reading a love story, laughing while we cry: things women do

Peeling an apple in one coil, reading a love story, laughing while we cry: things women do

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The light of the bright fall afternoon shines through the windows at the back of our house and glances off Bethany’s glasses as she peels apples, slowly, each in one long coil. She mixes butter with flour, not gently. Clouds of the white dust waft around my kitchen. Eventually, each speck succumbs to gravity, settling upon any horizontal surface that will stop its fall and convert kinetic back to potential energy.

My daughter is the only functioning body in the place. The cat sleeps on the heating vent with his long, bushy tail shielding the day from his eyes. Joey must be under his bed again. Eddie hasn’t moved from the blue chair yet. The stubble on his chin is graying. I imagine his breath is deadly. He is pathetic. I should feel sympathy for him because he looks like he could use a hug. But I don’t. I can’t yet because I don’t understand his reaction to my death. I wish I could have hugged him and made him smile more while I was alive, but we squandered our time together. Regrets overwhelm me.

I watch my Eddie frown when he smells the apples and cinnamon from the kitchen. I know he’s thinking about me, about us. I try to stay away, but he pulls me into his thoughts with the same magnetic intensity as when he pulled me into his arms thousands of times, still never enough, when I lived.

Anna?

Cinnamon reminds me of you. I can’t go into the kitchen. With both of his large hands, he rubs his face hard and blows out his breath.

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Enticed by the good smells from the kitchen, Joey creeps down the stairs and climbs up on the step stool. He leans to Bethany for a hug. She starts to cry when she hugs him back. She sits him in a pile of flour on the counter. Joey is alarmed by her tears; now that his sister has started to cry, she can’t seem to stop. She wipes her face on the belly of his shirt and gives him an apple slice slathered in sugar and cinnamon.

He takes in the mess of flour and butter she’s concocting and asks shyly, “Apple squares?” He pops the chunk of apple into his mouth.

Bethany nods as she wipes her nose on her sleeve and eats a slice, too. Joey thinks he can help her stop crying. He says with a full mouth, “Hey, Bethy, hold your tongue and say apple.” He shines his wicked grin on her.

Bethany sticks out her tongue and holds it and says, “Athole,” and Joey loses himself in giggles. Eddie hears the sound from the other room, and we both think at the same instant: My children are laughing?

Now, I have left them all. It was not my intention, and I am infinitely pissed. Given a second chance at that choice, now I would have stayed home on Friday, November eleventh. I would’ve tried harder to stay on the same team as Eddie to keep us from falling apart.

As I watch my children, I feel like they are holding my heart.

Death really hurts.

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Excerpts from Chapter 4 of OR NOT TO BE

© 2014 Laura Lanni

used with permission from LMNO Press

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A note from the author

My debut novel OR NOT TO BE will turn 5 years old on Monday 11/11/19 and some of you have neither read it yet nor gifted it (wrapped in glittery paper and a big bow) to your sister or best friend for Christmas or her birthday. Here’s your incentive to pull this story to the top of your TBR pile.

For one day only (11/11/19) the Kindle version of OR NOT TO BE will be available for FREE! Click here.

BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE! Suppose you read this tragic love story and LOVE IT (or like it quite a bit or even very much). Then you’ll surely want a copy of the paperback to gift to someone you love. So here’s a second and even better offer for OR NOT TO BE fans: Post your review of OR NOT TO BE to Amazon.com or Goodreads or both. Send a link to your review to me on Goodreads (lauralanni) or email lauralanni2014@gmail.com, and we’ll arrange payment and shipping details. If you do all of this, LMNO Press will send you two copies of the paperback for $11.11, free shipping (of course) to anywhere in the continental US. What a great BOGO.

This BOGO paperback offer will last until 50 pairs of copies are claimed or 11/25/19 at 11:11 am EST, whichever comes first, so get started with your #free #Kindle copy on 11/11/19! Limit two (2) paperback copies (for $11.11) per customer. Please allow 2-3 weeks for delivery. Permission to share reviews is granted by all who participate. Always read the fine print.

balancing what I want with what I need

A few years ago, I found my perfect job.

Amazing students on a beautiful campus. Two hours from home. Someday maybe it would be home, or so I thought. But that didn’t happen even after three years. The longer I waited the more I realized it would likely never happen.

The exhausting effort of maintaining two homes and all the weekly driving have left me ragged. So I’m giving up this wonderful job for a different wonderful job, near home. I miss my husband. Living apart during the work week has worn me down so I will sacrifice the best job I’ve ever had and limp home, deeply sad but a little relieved. And I’ll start another job on another campus that I will love.

Goodbyes hurt. I’d rather sneak away than face the friends and students I’m abandoning. I feel selfish. I’m not accustomed to making decisions for myself. Alas, in my heart I know for a plethora of twisted reasons that this is the right decision. I’ve survived painful decisions before. I can do it again.

sticky fiction

It only took a month to write the first draft of the screenplay of my novel INFINITY LINE. Seven years to write the novel, one month to convert to screenplay. Crazy math.

My vivid insight of the characters (because I birthed them) helped me quickly mine the complex story into scenes. It starts with Lorelei, an angry and unethical chemist in 2070, intent on fixing monumental societal problems beyond the scope of a single person. She sets up the actual story, so she only gets 10% of the script. Flash forward a few centuries and Alex, Maya, Daniel, and Aida take over for what at first seems to be the end of Lorelei’s quest, but is actually the beginning of a new mess: humans survived self-extinction by sacrificing their humanity.

It’s a web of unfixable messes with characters who try anyway. The essence of humanity. In a dystopian society devoid of humanity. It’s complicated.

I’m old and I pay attention. I feel both the daily struggles of individuals and the common challenges of being one of almost 8 billion humans on a small rock in a small galaxy. Ours is a crowded rock. Our rock has sacrificed its carbon-filtering trees and ecological diversity to infinite consumption to produce more and more mass in the human form who must all fight for finite resources to sustain their mass. Unsustainable math.

Themes come from annoying disregard of logic.

We so often hurt each other without intent. A good friend faced conflict, reacted with emotion, reflected on it all and came out stronger. She did not become a bully. She did not belittle others. She merely grew stronger, wiser, with a new tool in her arsenal for the next conflict. Such humans give me hope. We can fix our problems, but there will always be new problems to tackle. Unless we don’t try. When we give up trying and hoping and working together, we will lose it all. Everything. Gone.

Fictional characters emerge from the love and support of some humans scrambled over high heat with the regrettable behavior of other humans.

The themes and characters in INFINITY LINE ought not be taken literally. Fiction is fantasy with just enough reality to make it sticky. It worms its way into your psyche and keeps you worrying, caring, and ready to take action. Even if your action is the opposite of the path taken by the fictional characters, at least you weren’t merely morphing into a couch cushion with your neck bent over a screen while the world ended.

I’m revising this screenplay because not enough of you have read the novel, yet. I can’t just sit here and hope you read the book. Maybe you’re waiting for the movie.

[Note to my favorite actors: read the book and call me if there’s a part you’d like to play.]

Nothing going on, but here’s a stupid story about an egg

Nothing going on, but here’s a stupid story about an egg

Entropy is disorder and cannot be tolerated. We wash dishes and stack them away. We hide dirty ones in the dishwasher. We fold clothes. We make the bed. We hide messes in drawers. We sweep up crumbs. We plan and schedule our time, to gain a sense of control in the unending battle with entropy–all while the universe snickers.

On a lovely summer day filled with boat rides, music, ice cream, cooking, company, dishes, cleaning, listening, waiting, working, insomnia and guilt, I boiled an egg and lost it.

I remember putting it in the fridge. I think. I’d made potato salad and kept back two cooked eggs from the five I boiled; I ate one right away (warm and delicious) and I saved the other for later. I plotted a time theft, to steal back 13 minutes the next time I wanted an egg and say “Ha!” to the snickering universe with her relentless tick-tocking pendulum.

The next day I looked for my egg.

It was gone.

Into the void, where I could almost hear the black hole grinning.

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Update: 10 hours after I yelled “Where’s my EGG?” into the void, it yelled back “I ATE it!”

Oh, and the universe’s name is Jim.