Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hatchlings: A Love Story

The sun came up and revealed the dozens of tiny eggs laying on the damp patch of sand. The eggs were from many mothers who lived within the same community, and shared the same customs, and often the very chore of raising the young into independent young turtles. Hatchling A poked his head right through his shell, looked around, and promptly started to cry as there was no one there to tend to his needs. Instantly, his mother recognized his wails as her own offspring, and came forward to tend to his needs. Feeling secure and loved, he followed her back to their den. There was a cozy fire burning, a big pot of savory stew cooking for dinner, and papa turtle sitting in his worn recliner chair smoking his pipe. Hatchling A, which they began calling Frank, sidled up to his father and listened closely to his every word. The elder tortoise loved teasing his brood. It was his nature, and indeed if too long a period went by with no teasing from Papa, his children would grow depressed, for this was how they knew that they were loved. 'Frank my son, what happened to your tail? Why, it's so short, it looks as though a confused fish mistook it for a worm, and bit it off!' Frank smiled, knowing that his father was very fond of him now. The seasons drifted one into the other, and pretty soon it was time for Frank to go out and start a family of his own. There was a rumor going around that arriving into this world on the same day as Frank was a very serious young female hatchling who lived on the other side of the island. Euridice, as she was called, grew up in an entirely different world than Frank. Her parents were very young, and didn't quite know how to care for their little hatchling. They only knew how to take care of their own needs and desires, and this they did very well. There were always half empty bottles of expensive wine sitting about the house from the previous night's party. Her father, being the traditional nomadic polygamist of his tribe, had invited his new wife to come live with them. Euridice was then given even less attention than before, and what's worse, was delegated to wait on the new wife, who wasn't much older than she was. The father was often absent due to long hours spent at the office. This was a good thing for Euridice and her siblings, as he was a moody man, and given to wild outbursts with little provocation. But the family tradition she least adored was that of the constant criticisms. Nothing was good enough for her father, and his tirades when displeased were tireless and exhausting. He could spend hours yelling about how the chicken she cooked for the family dinner was not big enough to feed the whole family, and then he would continue on until a diagram of the anatomy of a full grown chicken was mapped and drawn and hanging from the kitchen wall for all to examine. She couldn't take him too seriously, but still, she often wished that there was someone out there who might appreciate her. Despite her desires, she had a strong mistrust of most people, and who could blame her. When all you knew was criticism and contempt, where does love fit in? But she knew how to love and care for the poor and helpless creatures of the world. She was always rescuing drowning ants, and abandoned baby birds. So one day as she was searching for water for their camels, she spied a new turtle. She hid behind an acacia tree. It was Frank. The community where her family lived had several families, and it was miles away from other communities. She knew everyone well, but this turtle she had never seen before. She peeked her nose out from behind the tree to get a better look at the stranger. He had disappeared! She was so confused, and then she felt a small tug on her tail. She turned around quickly to scold whoever was annoying her (she really abhorred her tail being pulled), and there was Frank, acting non-challant and casual, though a turtle with such a short tail in her neighborhood was certainly an odd sight. 'I'd appreciate it if you refrain from grabbing my tail like that' she retorted coolly. 'If you are trying to impress me, you're not doing so well'.. Frank was not used to such a cold reception, and wasn't sure how to respond. In his world, a nice, firm tail-grabbing is just a way of starting a conversation. He started to walk backwards very slowly. Euridice noticed that the bright smile he was wearing initially had completely vanished and was replaced by a distant look of sadness. She realized that she really needed to see that smile again. She wasn't sure why, but she felt if she didn't see it again, she would die of thirst. So she abandoned her chores, and came over to Frank, and was more courteous. She told him it wasn't so terrible that he grabbed her tail, it just startled her is all. He really didn't understand her, but decided to stay and chat just the same. He didn't have turtles like Euridice in his village, and he thought her soft little shell needed someone like him to look out for it.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Testing the waters again

Last week I found myself in the office of career services provided for the students at OCCC. The woman who came out of a back room didn't care that I was just a normal person walking off the street, with no affiliation to the college. I imagined being the only one to have walked in that office all week, as classes just began for the semester. Students were too busy to think about looking for a job. The woman who greeted me had a blank expression on her tawny-toned face, and warned me that if I wanted to apply for one of the full time jobs I'd have to bring in my resume and set up an appointment with her. She handed me two thick binders filled with jobs in the area. I've been very casually perusing help wanted sections over the past few months, but the same stock jobs are always there, and the dream job never is: 'Dynamic woman wanted for international travel, must be willing to learn Bantu language and train with elite runners'. I keep checking, but so far, nothing really came close to that. I leaf through pages of clerical positions, dental assistants, the same old stuff.. Then I find it: Teacher wanted for female correctional facility inmates. Why hadn't I considered this before? And why was this appealing to me? I think this is the first time I saw an ad for prison teachers.. I didn't realize prisoners had academic options. And of course the appeal was working with a new culture. I pictured organizing training runs on site, and whipping them all into shape and redemption.. With a few creative writing lessons tossed in for balance. I returned the next week for my appointment with Linda. I brought a cold with me, so I figured Linda wouldn't mind that my resume was not typed. She did. She has a choppy army drill sergeant way about her, and she looked at me deadpan, after dragging my congested self over for the appointment, and told me, 'I can't look at a resume that isn't typed'.. I've stopped taking no for an answer from people of authority a few years ago.. It still feels new and daring to challenge them, but I will never take no again, if I really believe they're being unreasonable. 'Oh, come on.. Can't you just look at it?' 'Well, I can look at it, but we won't fax it for you.. You'll have to type it up'.. 'Of course! That'll be great, thanks'.. I was relieved. It's hard to argue with gumption when your nose is clogged and threatening to leak at any moment. She went into the back to get her reading glasses, and I quickly crossed out the line I had written to fill up space under job duties at the phone company:
. Assisted customers in resolving telecommunications issues in a PSC regulated call center
. Exceeded employee sales goals
. Put up with a lot of bullshit (this one)
Good thing too, because apparently my resume writing style was not jibing with the 2007 standards. Linda went down the page with a pencil marking off everything that needed to be fixed. Her humorless demeanor didn't exactly scare me, but it made it tricky to get her assistance as I tried figuring out how to format this on their PC. I decided to lean on the 'poor sick me' tactic.. Made sure my voice cracked a little whenever I called her over.. Two hours later (for a one page resume), when she realized the position I was applying for, she offered, 'I taught at a correctional facility once'.. I was taken aback a little.. Could I really have something in common with this woman? 'Did you like it?' I asked..'It was alright'.. I prodded more, 'They were probably motivated since there's nothing else to do there'.. 'Not necessarily', she shot down my hopes.. 'Sometimes they showed up and sometimes they didn't'. Wow. Another fantasy job down the drain. Well, I had a feeling teaching inmates for me would be an entirely different experience than it was for Linda. For one thing, I can't imagine her ever thinking anything about the job was blog-worthy. I finished up my resume, tucked it safely in my backpack, then turned to her: 'Thank-you so much for all your help. This has been very productive for me'. And then it happened! Her face lit up! It wasn't exactly a smile, but I saw the subtle change. I wondered how long it had been since someone appreciated Linda. I'm remembering how grim life can be when you are working in the same job day after day, year after year. I unzip my backpack and pull out my resume copy. I exit the office, and then drop the document lightly into the nearest garbage can. I walk out of the building and unto the well-groomed campus. It is a beautiful late Summer day. I find a quiet patch of grass, sit down, and prop myself up on a lone tree. I take out my slim copy of The Little Prince, and blissfully remove all previous notions of trying to be an adult.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007