Ode to the Procrastinating Student

Guzzle the coffee, chug a can of energy,

the deadline is just hours away!

Stay awake through the night, alone in the dark,

while your family dreams of summer days.

What happened to promises of time better spent?

Calendars marked and alarms put to use,

spreading out tasks in workable chunks,

to avoid the last minute push, as you do.

Eyes bleary and sore, neck tight and cracking,

fingers numb and wrists ache while you work;

your shoulders get knots, you can’t feel your bum,

no extension from your teacher, the jerk.

The word count is your focus, not spelling or grammar;

she probably won’t even read this, you think.

If I make the font larger, and increase the space —

please don’t let me run out of printer ink!

I’ve been where you are, dear procrastinator,

writing on essays until the light of early dawn.

I know the pressure and the rush of success,

and the pain when you save but your work is gone.

Beware the computer crash: save often, use the Cloud,

and next time, do your work ahead of sched.

The adrenaline’s addicting, the bragging is fun,

but you’re better off using your head.

Remember that kid relaxing, playing games ’cause he’s done?

That could have been you, had you tried!

Instead you’re hunched over, losing sleep, stressing out,

and tomorrow you’re going to be fried.

I appreciate the effort, you’re doing your best,

believe me, I’ll pore over your every sentence.

Think of your teacher with her piles of assignments,

and know that I’m stretching my own patience.

When the sun is hot and the sky is blue,

the last thing we want is to be staring at pages.

We have that in common, pupil of mine,

because summer comes to school in stages.

Denial: there’s lots of time to finish up!

Anger: what happened to the rest of the year?

Bargaining: can’t I have until the very last day?

Depression: this desk will never get clear . . .

Acceptance: I’ve got to get moving and finish the job

or repeat the damned class next semester.

The good news for you, kid, is when you pass, you’re gone,

while I’m still going to be here.

So stay awake and complete what should already be done,

hand the work in, then hit the beach.

Take the break that you’ve earned, even if it’s last-minute,

celebrate the goal that you’ve reached.

Reflections on a Successful Field Trip

Despite the long LONG drive yesterday, the late night and early morning, I surprised myself by staying fairly alert throughout the day. I had a few moments where I completely forgot what I was doing or where I was going, but aside from minor mental lapses and occasional clumsiness . . . well, anyway, I didn’t keel over or curl up under my desk to sleep. Lots of coffee and then a nap after work in which I kept getting interrupted by this or that. I hate that sudden lurching hot surprised feeling from being shocked out of a sound sleep.

Working on the photos from ComicCon, deleting some and tweaking others. I do enjoy digital editing, cropping and enhancing colour, etc. And going through them reminds me of some of the awesome things we saw and experienced.

There was a guy dressed as Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, and he had all the physical mannerisms and vocal patterns down to a “T” — one of my students thought he really was Jim Carrey for a minute! And it was astounding how he never once broke character throughout the weekend. Every time I saw him in the crowd, he was Ace Ventura. Fantastic! There were a couple of other absolutely dedicated cosplayers, such as the lady playing Effie Trinket (she’d hand-made both her costume and her friend’s, and they were gorgeous). I really admire that. ComicCon and FanExpo are basically fantasy-playgrounds for the highly imaginative. I’d love to be able to do that one day — come up with a really kick-ass costume and sink into the role for an entire weekend.

Watching my students’ reactions to the cosplayers, the vendors, the artists, the panelists, the celebrities and listening to their discussions afterward was entirely worth it, though. I heard them critically analyze the value of being an artist in this day and age, assess the effectiveness of workshops, rate the convention as a whole, and reflect on how well they did or didn’t budget their money. Whenever one of them scoffed (happily) at the idea that this trip was (air-quotes) educational, I reminded them that it really was, for all of those reasons. Maybe it connects to the concept of learning through playing, or maybe it’s being given small responsibilities within a framework. But they all concluded that it had been a valuable as well as highly entertaining (and even life-changing) experience.

I think, too, that if I organize another ComicCon trip next year (as many students are urging me to do), I’ll put together some kind of interactive game for them to challenge while they’re walking around. One or two were already doing that on their own — 17-year-old J decided he needed to take four photos with the 4th Doctor (different cosplayers) throughout the weekend, and he did it. 19-year-old B wanted to photo bomb as much as possible, but shied away after a while, even though it was fun (he has an absolutely perfect “soon” face). It would be neat to create a ComicCon / FanExpo scavenger hunt, or a BINGO card, asking the cosplayers or vendors to sign off on them as proof of completion. And I could provide a prize for the winner, like an event t-shirt. Just a little something extra, especially for the few individuals who were underwhelmed by the number of things to do that didn’t involve line-ups or vendors on the first day. Those few had expected more hands-on activities, I suppose. 18-year-old D thought it was more of a nerd-based merchant / trade show than anything else, and there is something to that. I was glad to see him attending many of the workshops and panels, instead of just sitting around. Anytime a student told me that they were going to an event, I told them how awesome that was, because it’s true.

But now it’s over, I’m compiling the photos and making copies available for some (especially our group shots around the DeLorean Time Machine and the TARDIS, and the groups who went with me to get photos with Paul Wesley and Billy Boyd), and I haven’t unpacked yet. I’m terrible at unpacking. It will honestly take me until the weekend. I have marking to catch up from last week, final numbers to submit and the bus bill to pay, plus keeping up with the lessons for this week. I’m contemplating booking a personal day next week, just to be able to get a day of quiet and rest after all this hustle. That’s something else — my proof copy of Crystal and Wand arrived, so I have to get moving on checking through both the pdf and the paperback. There just isn’t enough time for all of the things. Not at all.

If you’ve been following my journey of taking students to ComicCon in Ottawa, be patient — I’ll try to get a few  more pictures loaded tomorrow.

The Snowmobile Story project nearly complete!

I’m starting to see some light at the end of the writing tunnel, for this particular project, and more students have been reading it in my class — and telling me they’re enjoying it. Just two or three, here and there, but that makes the effort most definitely worthwhile. It would be so nice to have a proper title, but maybe it will come to me after I finish it up.

The funny thing is that the surprises keep coming. I thought I knew how the falling action and denouement would turn out, but once again, my characters are doing things I didn’t expect. And some of their motives are suspect. Such is the way of writing in first person — one never knows for sure what goes on in the minds of others. Even if the others are creations of my own imagination.

Because once again, I’m finding that even with the struggles I had in starting and continuing this piece, the individuals have become very real to me. They’re composites of real people I’ve seen and talked to, but they’re also very physical in my head, and I’d recognize them in real life if I saw them walking down the street. Adam Poirier, my sixteen-year-old protagonist, with his lanky build and dark hair. Penny, his girlfriend, all quiet sparkle and tidiness. John Murphy, the old man in the woods, who is very much the stereotypical bearded hermit, but with a dark and twisted personality.

Sometimes it feels like the story is carving itself out of a block of stone, chipped into the open a word or a letter at a time. And sometimes it feels like it’s more organic than that — a tree, maybe, with roots that extend out into other shoots and branches that cross over each other. That’s what I see in my head, realizing that the other characters have their own interesting stories that could also be told.

Two more days, as of midnight. Three of my students have now hit their word count goals for Camp NaNoWriMo, and the others are encouraging their peers to try to make it over the finish line. We’re having an awesome waffle party on Friday, to wrap things up, and then next week, it’s back to regular lesson format for them. No more daily writing. I’m convinced that as a class project, all of this has been totally worth it. But it will be nice when we have all caught up on our sleep again.

Ravings and rantings on blockages and teenagers (really just another Tuesday night)

I have broken my rule on writing breaks, and lost some momentum in the snowmobiling story. I didn’t make my word count yesterday, and I’m out of ideas and steam for tonight. The best I’ve got so far is another animal threat — a lynx, this time — and I might work on a conversation between Adam and the old man. Try to find some answers.

One of my students (I’ll call him Benny) wanted to know whether I blog about their antics in my writer’s craft class — I’ve shared with them this 365 Days of Blogging project I’ve given myself — and my response was no, not usually. See, by the time I get home and transition back into mom and partner, and then into writer mode, much of what has happened in the day is tucked into a file in my head, unless it’s something upsetting or troubling (in which case my anxiety is heightened and I have a hard time letting go). However, since I said I would talk about shenanigans, here are a few for your enjoyment:

  • One day, a few months ago, Benny found my stash of Hallowe’en decorations and props from the haunted house in October. Included was a broomstick / mop handle without bristles or mop head, which we’d thought about using for the Snow Queen performance. He rather enterprisingly found a way to poke a hole in a prop severed hand and pushed it onto one end of the broomstick. It has stayed that way ever since. Very interesting, too, as the mop handle has white and black polkadots on it. I now call it my Handy Stick and it gets used for various means, such as pointing, in the classroom. Benny also likes to twirl it around his shoulders until I see that he’s doing it and I make him stop. I have to remember to bring in a light sabre for him to fiddle with instead . . .
  • My seniors noticed, at the start of the semester, that I keep a kettle in my classroom. They started a hot chocolate fund and brought in their own mugs. They don’t have hot chocolate every day, but some of my juniors have begun following suit, dropping twenty-five cents in the jar marked “Help the Writer’s Craft Ballers” or whatever they’ve put on the jar . . . I should take a picture of it and update this post tomorrow.
  • You remember, of course, that I wrote a song about cellphone rudeness in the classroom and posted it. Now I get frequent requests to sing the song, and not just in my classes — I had to cover a colleague’s period 3 the other day, and some of the kids who were in it are also in my period 2, and they’d told their friends about the song. I didn’t have my lyrics with me, sadly, so I didn’t regale them with my glorious musical skills. I did enjoy moving around the art class, though. And taking a few phones away from those who were misusing them . . .

I will try to jot down other interesting anecdotes as they come up. Some of my grade 9 boys tend to try play-fighting or tickling or other rough-housing activities on occasion, stopping when they’re told. Some of my grade 9 girls try to make trick shots with balled up paper thrown over their shoulders. I’ve picked up on something interesting with that group: they do tend to be more productive as a whole when the class divides off, with a small group of girls in an empty classroom next door, a small group of boys (/wrestlers) on the couches in my classroom, and maybe a very small group of three or four in the hallway or stairwell. When the genders are separated, they become competitive with each other, in fact, each accusing the other of slacking off, when they’re actually doing about the same amount of work.

And to help motivate them, heaven help me, but I’ve been playing them off each other a little bit. “Girls, the boys next door think you’re not doing any work in here. Prove them wrong!” “Boys, the girls think you’re slacking right now. Show them you’re doing better than they are!” It’s sneaky and underhanded, but it’s working. And despite the wrestling (mainly boys) and high-pitched-giggle-shrieking (mainly girls), I think I’m seeing a lot less showing off and open flirting with the groups separated. If I were to do a debate with them, I’d ask them how they’d feel about gender-segregated schooling, but they’re not ready for an activity like that.

After days like today, wrangling hormones and sugar rushes into corrals of knowledge and skill, writing fiction gets a little harder. I’m feeling worn out. I spent time with my kids, but only after I had a nap to recharge. There are some days where I come home and I don’t want to talk to anyone or have any demands on me for a week. The good news is that we’re halfway through the semester. The bad news is that this week the weather is going to be crummy, and that’s not going to help anyone.

Meanwhile, my daughter has come down for the third time since I put her to bed — has to pee, is thirsty, wants crackers (crackers!!!) — so I have to summon up the flickering remnants of my patience and make sure she stays in her room this time. I also want to get further in the damned WIP but uuuuunnnngggghhh.

At least I know I’ve been at this point in Camp NaNoWriMo before. This is the wall. I can get through it. I’ve done it before. If only I could type in my sleep — that would be nice. Why can’t I be a sleep-writer? Or a sleep-cleaner? Imagine that: waking up having cleaned the house while dreaming! Come on, scientists, let’s get to this!

Unexpected Challenges of Writing for Today’s Teenagers

I showed one of my Writer’s Craft students what I have so far of the snowmobiling story, and she gave me some excellent feedback, including some information on current slang being used by teenage boys in our area:

  • “He had stuff to do that afternoon . . .” — my source said the boys she hangs out with would say “shit” instead.
  • “Maybe that explained why they could just change their minds at the last second and do whatever suited them.” — kids up here would say, “whatever the hell (f@#$) they wanted . . .”
  • “It was a perfect day for snowmobiling, so no wonder they wanted to do more than a loop and back to town again.” — “. . . day for a rip, so no wonder . . .”
  • “. . . his hands tightened on the handlebars of his Skidoo.” — apparently they’re called “bars” or “risers” . . . the more you know!
  • “I’m just kidding! Relax, man!” — should be “I’m just kidding! Relax, bud!”
  • “Turning around halfway through a run did not show anything but being a wuss. Adam sighed, anticipating the bad-mouthing he was about to get.” — my first instinct to use “pussy” instead of “wuss” was correct, but I missed the fact that they refer to bad-mouthing as “chirping” or “chirps“, so it should be more like:

    “Turning around halfway through a run did not show anything but being a pussy. Adam sighed, anticipating the chirps he was about to get.”

  • “Smoke break,” Danny told him, grinning. “Want a dart?”

    “Naw, you know I’m quitting.” Adam waved him off and looked away.

    “Yeah, you keep saying that,” Steve said. “But I keep seeing you in the smokers’ pit at school.” — my source says that a lot of the kids she knows who are into snowmobiling only smoke cigars, and then, only when by the fire pit and/or at a party. Again, something I didn’t know, and it’s rather interesting, a reality I didn’t expect.

  • “He exhaled a long puff of grey-white smoke mixed with the condensation of his breath.” — I have been advised to describe the cigar smoke as white and sweet-smelling. Confession: I actually do enjoy the scent of a good cigar, although I’ve never smoked one myself.
  •  “It was in his eyes when he watched her coming to sit down next to Adam in the cafeteria . . .” — I didn’t use the popular vernacular, “caf” instead of “cafeteria”
  •  “They’d goofed around, just being idiots and re-enacting MMA bouts . . .” — her suggestion here was to refer to hockey fighting.
  •  “Girls, they snuck around and snarked at each other and sent nasty texts . . .” — I should use “bitch” instead
  •  I have to remember, also, not to use the terms “snowmobile”, “snow machine”, and “Skidoo” interchangeably, since the latter is a brand and not a generic reference to the thing
  • I’m sorry if I made her uncomfortable,” Danny would shrug, his eyes all innocent. — the suggestion here is to be more meh: “Sorry if I freaked her out . . .

These are all fantastic suggestions, and it was interesting to ask one of my seniors to read it through because we have just done an assignment on appropriation of voice, which is pretty much what I’ve been attempting to do with this story. That being said, when my target demographic read the first page or so, they didn’t pick out any of my errors at all — not even the bit about the gas tank. Did you know that snowmobiles aren’t supposed to have full tanks, like, ever? Never underestimate the value of research, fellow writers!

But as I read through her remarks, I started to wonder whether I should be writing this in first-person instead of the third, to really get into the use of the slang. Should the vernacular stay in dialogue only? Doesn’t it isolate out-group readers who may not understand chirp or dart? I’ll admit, that’s why I made reference to cigarettes and smoke deliberately in the narrative, to help provide the context for the reader. It feels awkward and strange to try mixing slang with regular prose. However, if I move into telling as the character — if I try to become Adam while I’m working on this — maybe it won’t seem so unnatural.

If I do that, I might take some risks with the spelling and grammar. For example, many of these kids forget to capitalize their proper nouns, or drop the ends of their words. (The Grammar Nazi within is cringing, pleading with me to stop it already.) But then . . . if I abandon the rules of grammar and spelling, leave aside my cherished language conventions to adopt the relaxed style of an average 16 year old Northeastern Ontario boy, is that a good thing because it gets them to read? Or a bad thing, because at that point it’s no longer modelling effective language?

Not only that, if I move into Adam’s voice, it makes this story even tougher to write. I will have to ignore my instincts. Adopt local youth culture as my own, for a little time each day. Do more research on snowmobiling and local terminology, because it seems as though each region has its own set of slang vocabulary for the sport (although some overlap). Honestly, it’s really like learning a second language. And the old stand-by words like cool and bro — they’re not going to cut it.

So, I guess I’ll sleep on it for now. I might make a copy of the draft as it is so far, revising the narrative into the first person, and maybe even toy with making it present-tense. I’m also going to have to continue interviewing my story subjects, to really make sure I’m getting the vernacular and conversational tones right. It’s almost like a sub-culture’s time capsule. Like Professor Higgins tracking the particular vocal habits of unfamiliar communities. Like, some of their terms I get because I hear them a lot in class — chromeburntbuzz, etc. — but they’re very much background noise. If I’m going to get this right, I need to pay closer attention. Make notes. And ask lots of questions.

Back to the Snowmobile Story, WITH sensory details this time!

The last echoes of the skidoos racing eastward faded. Adam had turned off his ignition, so the quiet was absolute. Even the wind had died down, and it was too cold even for the ravens to squawk. He opened the engine compartment, closing his eyes for a minute to appreciate the odours of gas and oil, and fiddled with some plugs. He kept checking over his shoulder as he listened for any signs of his friends coming back. Not that he really expected them to do that . . . well, maybe Danny would, if only to ride Adam’s butt about his old machine and his girlfriend.

The silence didn’t stop a bunch of thoughts from cycling through his head. In fact, it was hard to ignore them. He checked the oil, shoving the wire harder than necessary back into its slot, willing his brain to stop thinking.

His buddy never said it directly, but Adam knew Danny had the hots for his girlfriend. It was in his eyes when he watched her coming to sit down next to Adam in the cafeteria, the way he looked her up and down, his gaze settling on her chest until someone yelled at him to pay attention. It was in those stupid jokes

———-

Okay, so I know I’m breaking a cardinal rule here by going back through the draft before it’s done, and adding stuff. I’m wondering now, though, whether I should have more conversation earlier in the exposition, showing Danny’s attitude toward Penny. Hmmm . . . (glances back at the complete draft) — How about this? 

———–

Something in that shit-eating grin Danny had on his face just now really bothered him, when he’d said Adam should bring Penny to the party.

He could already predict what that party was going to be like. It would be the same as always: loud music that would get louder as people got drunker, a bonfire in a home-made fire pit that some fool would try jumping over and end up wiping out next to on the ice that formed from the melting snow (next to the fire, if he was lucky — more likely to wipe out on the fire pit), Danny hitting on every girl until he got one who was drunk or stupid enough to think he was actually funny. And if Danny scored with a girl who actually had a boyfriend, there would be a fight.

Come to think of it, Danny would probably focused on a girls with a boyfriends just so that he could get into a fight.

Adam and Danny had never been in a real fight. They’d goofed around, just being idiots and re-enacting MMA bouts, tossing each other off of docks in the summer and into snowbanks in the winter. Hell, they’d thrown each other off of any surface they could climb onto: the roof of the bottom story addition of his house (winter), the railing of Danny’s back deck (winter), the flat top of AJ’s boat house (summer), the flat top of AJ’s grandparents’ garage (winter) . . .

Of course, they didn’t need a bit of high ground to throw each other down. Back in grade five, Danny’d taught Adam how to sweep a leg out from under his opponent, passing on whatever he’d learned in the karate classes that Adam couldn’t afford. And then Adam had shown Danny how to pile-drive, what it took to do a decent sleeper hold that could really knock somebody out, and the pressure points that Adam’s dad had showed him. Danny loved finding out about those, just little sensitive spots between thumbs and forefingers that could keep a kid on the ground for as long as you wanted, if enough you pressed hard enough.

Good times.

But they’d never yet taken a swing at each other. Hadn’t had a reason to. Especially not over a girl.

And Adam honestly didn’t want to do that. Not that he’d ever tell anyone, out loud.

It wasn’t that he was scared. He could take Danny.

It was just . . .

Adam slammed the cover back down on his snowmobile. The bang startled a distant raven into cawing loudly as it flew away.

Guys fought, didn’t they? They fought and then they got over it. Fighting cleared the air. Girls, they snuck around and snarked at each other and sent nasty texts until they were ripping at each other’s hair and rolling around school hallways. Girl fights lasted for weeks, or even months.

When Danny went after some other guy’s chick, the guy would call him out either at the party where the thing happened, or at school the next day. Adam privately thought it was stupid to do it at school, but there had to be an audience. His mom once said, after she’d heard about one of these fights, that it had to do with something called ‘saving face’. Whether Danny and whoever went at it right away depended on the other guy’s temper — or fear.

Adam sat on the snowmobile and stared at the remains of Danny’s cigarette in the snow, his nostrils crinkling in the cold air. The grey ashes looked like dead snowflakes. Zombie snowflakes.

Sometimes, after Danny had a fight with a guy, and there was snow on the ground, there would be blood spattered on it. He only ever needed to fight a kid once and then the problem would be over. Nobody ever challenged him twice.

If Danny was going after Penny now, Adam would have to fight him. Guaranteed.

Damnit, why couldn’t all of this be as simple as gliding over drifts and along the edges of embankments? It wasn’t Penny’s fault that she was pretty and smart; he was lucky to have her as his girlfriend, and he knew it. How long would it be before someone better than him came along and they broke up?

It might as well be Danny as anyone else. Then he wouldn’t have to deal with wondering who she was with. Then again, he might have to stop being friends with the jerk.

The ticking of the engine as it cooled off brought Adam back to reality. It was too confusing to just sit there and think; easier to ride. Pivoting on his heel, he threw his other leg over the seat, rammed on his helmet and started the motor, leaning into the curve as he turned his snow machine around and headed back down the trail.

It felt better once he’d picked up speed, the dark trees whizzing past him on either side. He relaxed his body into the seat while tensing his shoulders and arms, his legs working to mould him against the machine. The heavy vibration blended into his muscles until he felt like he and the skidoo were almost connected, working together to virtually fly over the contours of the trail. All at once, like the driving was blowing cobwebs out of his brain, he saw clearly what he needed to do: warn Penny that Danny was going to hit on her, and then tell Danny to back off. It was as simple as that. He could even run their conversation through his head — his and Danny’s, not the one with Penny — and predict how it was going to go.

He never had trouble talking to Penny. With her, he just felt comfortable. But Danny had a way of twisting other people’s words that was fun to watch, when it was happening to other people.

Adam gunned the engine as he approached a hill, catching air over the crest and bracing himself right before the impact seconds later.

“Dan,” he’d say, keeping his voice serious and low to keep from attracting attention. “Lay off of Penny, okay? She doesn’t like you like that.”

“Lay her? Sure, I’ll lay her for you!” Danny would probably laugh, and he’d do it loudly too, making sure everyone could hear. “I know you’re still saving yourself for marriage.”

The trail forked just up ahead, with the main branch — the official path — leading off to the right and back to town by following the uneven shore of the lake. Adam bent his left elbow and knee to direct the snowmobile over the rough pile of snow toward the southeast, relishing the thrill of the machine diving into deeper powder. The shortcut over the lake would save him five, maybe ten minutes if he really pushed it. Just had to watch out for patrols, but he could just explain that he was running out of gas and needed to get home fast.

“Dan, I need to talk to you,” he’d say instead, so that his long-time friend would know he was serious. “It’s important. Penny wants you to leave her alone.”

“I’m sorry if I made her uncomfortable,” Danny would shrug, his eyes all innocent. “I was just joking around. Maybe you shouldn’t be with her if she can’t take a joke.”

Adam shook his head, gritting his teeth. The snowmobile shuddered over a patch of rough ice as he zoomed onto the lake. He had to come up with something to say that Danny couldn’t turn around on him, something that his friend would respect.

What if he told him that if he kept harassing his girlfriend, they couldn’t be buddies anymore?

Did guys even do that sort of thing?

Snowmobile Story continued: trying to stay in a 16 year old boy’s head

The last echoes of the skidoos racing eastward faded. Adam had turned off his ignition, so the quiet was absolute. Even the wind had died down, and it was too cold even for the ravens to squawk. He opened the engine compartment and fiddled with some plugs, checking over his shoulder as he listened for any signs of his friends coming back. Not that he really expected them to do that . . . well, maybe Danny would, if only to ride Adam’s butt about his old machine and his girlfriend.

The silence didn’t stop a bunch of thoughts from cycling through his head. In fact, it was hard to ignore them. He checked the oil, shoving the wire harder than necessary back into its slot, willing his brain to stop thinking.

He could already predict what that party was going to be like. It would be the same as always: loud music that would get louder as people got drunker, a bonfire in a home-made fire pit that some fool would try jumping over and end up wiping out next to on the ice that formed from the melting snow (next to the fire, if he was lucky — more likely to wipe out on the fire pit), Danny hitting on every girl until he got one who was drunk or stupid enough to think he was actually funny. And if Danny scored with a girl who actually had a boyfriend, there would be a fight.

Come to think of it, Danny would probably focus on a girl with a boyfriend just so that he could get into a fight.

Adam and Danny had never been in a real fight. They’d goofed around, just being idiots and re-enacting MMA bouts, tossing each other off of docks in the summer and into snowbanks in the winter. Hell, they’d thrown each other off of any surface they could climb onto: the roof of the bottom story addition of his house (winter), the railing of Danny’s back deck (winter), the flat top of AJ’s boat house (summer), the flat top of AJ’s grandparents’ garage (winter) . . .

Of course, they didn’t need a bit of high ground to throw each other down. Back in grade five, Danny’d taught Adam how to sweep a leg out from under his opponent, passing on whatever he’d learned in the karate classes that Adam couldn’t afford. And then Adam had shown Danny how to pile-drive, what it took to do a decent sleeper hold that could really knock somebody out, and the pressure points that Adam’s dad had showed him. Danny loved finding out about those, just little sensitive spots between thumbs and forefingers that could keep a kid on the ground for as long as you wanted, if enough you pressed hard enough.

Good times.

But they’d never yet taken a swing at each other. Hadn’t had a reason to.

And Adam honestly didn’t want to do that. Not that he’d ever tell anyone, out loud.

It wasn’t that he was scared. He could take Danny.

It was just . . .

Adam slammed the cover back down on his snowmobile.

Guys fought, didn’t they? They fought and then they got over it. Fighting cleared the air. Girls, they snuck around and snarked at each other and sent nasty texts until they were ripping at each other’s hair and rolling around school hallways. Girl fights lasted for weeks, or even months.

When Danny went after some other guy’s chick, the guy would call him out either at the party where the thing happened, or at school the next day. Adam privately thought it was stupid to do it at school, but there had to be an audience. His mom once said, after she’d heard about one of these fights, that it had to do with something called ‘saving face’. Whether Danny and whoever went at it right away depended on the other guy’s temper — or fear.

Adam sat on the snowmobile and stared at the remains of Danny’s cigarette in the snow. The grey ashes looked like dead snowflakes. Zombie snowflakes.

Sometimes, after Danny had a fight with a guy, and there was snow on the ground, there would be blood spattered on it. He only ever needed to fight a kid once and then the problem would be over. Nobody ever challenged him twice.

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Okay, faithful readers — yes or no? Is this sounding like a 16 year old’s thought processes? 

Once again, night is defeating me, and it’s a bad one because we’re losing an hour of sleep with the stupid time change. I wish I could write through until I can’t form words anymore. I wish I could pound this story out in a whirlwind of writing, because tonight, at this moment, I’m convinced I could get it done in a week. Sadly, that’s not reality. 

But guess what? Tomorrow I’m testing my limits in a downhill ski race! So I’d better get some sleep. 

But do tell me what you think of this part of the story, please? I’d love the feedback.