Saturday, April 22, 2006

Stage Whisper

When I was about thirteen years old, I went into a stationary store with a group of three other girls. We were looking at Garfield stickers and Snoopy pens when the owner told us he wanted to give us each a free pencil eraser shaped like an animal, one that would represent our personality. The shyest in the group got a turtle, no suprise there. I got a squirrel, an animal I'm not terribly fond of -- the last one I saw made me scream in fright, evil vixen that it was. The chunky girl got a pig, unkind perhaps, but the worst was yet to come. My friend Christine got a vulture, which I hate to say, suited her personality to a tee. She had an aura that exuded misery and persecution, but still! We each left with our erasers and despite my irritation over the squirrel, I felt lucky to be pegged as such. It wasn't a great thing, but hey, it wasn't a vulture, feeding off the dead bodies of others. I thought about that eraser episode for a long time after, the way you consider a poison gift, a back-handed compliment, something you weren't supposed to hear, stage-whispered in a loud enough voice that you couldn't miss it.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

Stage Whisper

This drink requires that you put all the ingredients in a blender and dust lightly with cayenne pepper.

1/2 cup pinapple juice
1 1/2 oz. vodka
1/2 curry power
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 dashes of Tabasco sauce
1/2 cup of crushed ice
cayenne pepper

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in Karamu:

The Thing You Hate

For my last appointment of the day, I met
with a man who owned a computer store in Grosse
Pointe. Halfway through the interview, he rolled up
his sleeves and showed me his scars. "I tried
to kill myself three times last year, but I don’t
know if you’ll want to put that in the article," he said.
I didn’t. Writing part-time for a pull-out advertisement
section of the EastSide Weekly as my second job, I never
got to handle the tough issues, just ended up dead
tired at the end of the day, wanting to go home.

Earlier, I’d gotten lost looking for a car wash
in downtown Detroit where the owner ranted
about capitalists for five minutes before letting me take
pictures of the building. "You become the thing
you hate," he said while I finished off my roll, wondering
if any of the shots would turn out. I didn’t want
to come back, already late from my lunch break
at my full-time job. Now the room was getting dark,
but the computer shop owner didn’t reach for the lights;
instead, he sat at his desk, sleeves rolled up, thoughtful.

He explained that he was trying to begin again, that he’d burned
some bridges in the past, but that was all behind him. "Sometimes
it’s good to get a new start," I said, even though I don’t believe
that. I never find it difficult to lie, given the right circumstances.
"I love this job," he said and smiled, rolling down his sleeves.
"I dream about programming at night." I dreamed about deadlines
I wasn’t meeting, things I’d forgotten, the continual exhaustion of someone
always ill-prepared and worried about being found out. "Can I see
the article before it’s in the paper?" he asked. "Sure," I said, knowing
I wouldn’t have a chance to drop it by, trying to leave before it got too late.


Cindy said...


Wayne State, love it!

Cheri said...


These posts of yours are incredibly entertaining to read and I look forward to checking it once a day. I hope you're enjoying your trip. =D

John said...

Dear Michelle,

Those boots were made for walking.
Another great post.

Wichita-Lineman said...

"I never find it difficult to lie, given the right circumstances."

That's very honest, yet rarely admitted.

Good stuff. The eraser guy, what a character, I can't believe "The chunky girl got a pig" It's almost funny