…. you spend the last forty-five minutes of a decidedly long and arguably boring six-hour nursing meeting passing notes with the most feared and formidable teacher in the nursing program.

Yeah—for those of you who know Mrs. Harris, pathophysiology and acute medical-surgical professor extraordinaire, that’s who I’m talking about. The whole time I was waiting either for my alarm to go off and wake me out of a very strange dream or for the earth to split open and half of us to fall into hell and the rest of us to drift up through the ceiling.

(Though that sounds kind of bad, like I’m implying something about the moral status of our nursing students. It’s just an illustration, guys.)

This morning I actually got up and exercised, if riding your bike for 40 minutes can be called exercise, which in my book definitely is. (As opposed to sleeping another hour, anyways, which is what I wanted to do.) I’m pretty pumped to have a bike, because in my mind’s eye it looks like losing the seven pesky pounds that have rather stubbornly attached themselves to my personage since I started college. We’ll see.

Also, as I was walking across campus today in a rather hungry, sleepy, dizzy daze of having just sat through too many hours of presentations and inductions and other nursing what-not, I spotted my friend Meagan walking towards me. No one else was around, which becomes important in the story. So I waved really big and said, “Heee-eeey!” in that extremely too-many-syllables Southern way. But instead of responding, she just stared at me. At which point, of course, I realized that the girl I’d accosted was, ah-hem, not Meagan at all, and I didn’t know her from Adam.

I’m pretty sure she was a freshman, too, because she had that totally freaked out, why-didn’t-I-just-go-to-the-state-school-with-all-of-my-high-school-friends look. Oops.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

“Against stupidity the very gods themselves contend in vain.”

—Friedrich Schiller

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…. you go to Kroger, select what you need, get in the check-out line, purchase it, take your receipt, and walk away.

Specifically, without what you went in to buy. And the cashier lady has to yell after you, “Ma’am, you’re a complete bass-ackwards idiot and forgot all of your stuff!” Or something to that effect, anyways.

Marvelous. This is what the first day of school, not enough sleep, too much humidity, an unfilled prescription, and too little chocolate will do to you.

But other than this rather embarrassing faux-pas (which I’ve also done embarrassingly often), today was a pretty exemplary first day of class. I stayed awake in all my classes (chapel does not count, because Dr. Burks says the same thing on the first day of chapel every year), actually used some of my groceries, kept my room clean, took a shower, and managed to make myself utterly detestable by channeling my inner Hermione in my ethics class by being totally unable to stop answering questions. Over all, the perfect beginning to a semester, even if the humidity was typically Arkansian (or whatever) in its dependable way of hovering around 113% and slowly expanding my hair to the size of a small asteroid.

And even if every time I have used my groceries I have been faced with Murphy’s Law Subparagraph 2.3 Phrase 0.3: If your mother is not present with you in the kitchen, whatever you are cooking will explode, overheat, catch fire, run over, or do other inexplicable things that would not have happened if she were with you, even if you were doing seemingly the exact same thing. (Needless to say, I ruined boiled eggs today….)

Additionally, I would also like to point out that I have already started on the mountain of homework that is vaguely reminiscent of the workload Harry and Ron and Hermione experienced during their O.W.L. year. Which is pretty good, considering how much I really just want to curl up and sleep.

I have to admit, I think this is going to be a good semester, even if I do spend a lot of money on things I just leave at the cash register.

. . . . . . . . . .

“It is not my fault that I never learned to accept responsibility!”

-Unknown

Dog vs. Boyfriend

Posted: July 30, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

  vs.

I’m about to begin my senior year of college. Well, sort of, but I won’t get into all of my staying-late and I-have-enough-hours-to-have-graduated-my-sophomore-year-of-high-school gripes right now. But in lieu of this unavoidable fact, I started thinking back to who I was when I began college and who I am now.

That person is really rather different.

For one, I’m a nursing major now, instead of an English-major-who-might-go-to-PA-school-if-she-doesn’t-do-what-all-English-majors-do-and-just-go-to-more-school-so-their-great-great-great-grandchildren-will-still-be-paying-off-her-school-loans. (Although I still like long hyphenated phrases).

I study a lot more than I used to.

Also, I wear dresses and skirts now and my hair is longer, which I guess means I’ve finally given up my elementary school dream of being a vicious-awesome tomboy.

However, one of the most substantial differences is this:

I would much rather have a dog than have a boyfriend.

When I first started college, I went in with the firm and unwavering determination to find a boyfriend OR ELSE, OKAY?! I was a little scary, in truth. I liked about half of the male population at Harding my first semester, and you think I’m joking. Those first few months probably would have made a really good B-lister rom-com that all the girls at Harding who were exactly the same way would have loved. (I know this because I’ve watched all of these movies with my friends. Hooray college.)

But I have seen the error of my ways and come to a much better understanding of life. Dogs are simply better than boyfriends. Don’t believe me? Allow me to convince you.

Reason Number One

Dogs are uncomplicated. Dogs need five things: food, water, exercise, sleep, and you. (Well, six things if you don’t fix them, so you know—spay and neuter your pets, kids.) And the thing they need the most of is you. Boys need food, water, exercise, sleep, a mid-afternoon snack, football, time alone, guy time, video games, movies, nachos, more football, magazines, girls, and undoubtedly nameless unfathomable things that girls don’t know about it. The list goes on and on.

Reason Number Two

Dogs do not give a cat’s tail if you are in a bad mood or not. It’s wonderful. You can sit and complain to them about absolutely anything you want, from the fact that Gossip Girl is in re-runs, again, or how you don’t have any friends or how your best friend didn’t sit by you in class today or how the library didn’t have the book you wanted or… you get the picture… and it doesn’t matter to them one iota, no matter how long you go on (so long as you take them to the bathroom after a few hours). You can even pet them while you complain. Just try complaining for six straight hours about how much you hate your chemistry teacher to your boyfriend while petting him simultaneously.

Reason Number Three

Dogs are easier to potty train. You teach them to do their stuff outside and that’s the end of it. Try teaching your boyfriend not to splash or leave the toilet seat up. Again, just try. Let me know how it goes for you. Not that they don’t want to, but unfortunately, milkbones don’t have quite the same effect on significant others as they have on the canine species.

Reason Number Four

When dogs use too much tongue, it’s cute. When guys use too much tongue… yeah.

Reason Number Five

Dogs have fur, and fetch, and let you give them tummy rubs, and do tricks if you give them treats, and are cuddly, and… huh. That is mostly the same, except the cuddly part, although I’ve met a few guys in my time who are rather a lot like teddy bears….

Anyway, it’s not that I have anything against guys. Obviously. Guys, especially tall guys, give great hugs (which dogs can’t do), and generally smell nice (which dogs almost never do), and are usually a good deal more straightforward than girls (whereas dogs can’t talk and have no opportunity to be straightforward or otherwise). Also, if you take a guy for a walk, you don’t have to pick up their poop, and after a summer of working at the Humane Society, that’s really quite a plus. One day, I hope to find one—a guy—who is really, really awesome. But, at this point… they don’t have anything on this:

And that, my friends, is why you’ll find me at the animal shelter instead of hanging out in Keller or Allen or Harbin lobby this next semester. Cheerio.

So….. It’s been a while.

Basically, I’ve been very, very busy.

First, I volunteered as a counselor at Camp Clot Not. Besides having a really gross name—I mean, the word “clot” just kind of makes me want to take a bath in hydrogen peroxide—Camp Clot Not is a week-long annual camp in Alexander City for kids with hemophilia and von Willebrand’s disorder, both of which mean that your blood doesn’t clot correctly.* In a word, it was awesome. I won’t even try to explain it to you, but I will tell you this: that week, I absolutely fell in love with those kids, and I miss them every day.

Also, it didn’t hurt that I was the only female counselor under the age of 40 and there were four extremely attractive male counselors all of college-age with whom I got to practice Being Normal Around the Opposite Sex, something I don’t usually get to do. It’s a necessary casualty of being a nursing major.

Then I got home Thursday, and at 7:00 Friday morning we were driving to Bentonville for Ben and Rachel’s beautiful wedding. Also I got to ride a horse while I was there. No big deal.

Then I had Monday to recuperate, Tuesday to do… something, I don’t even remember… Wednesday and Thursday to work, and then immediately after work on Thursday I headed to Lisa’s house for an incredibly fun, wonderful, and ridiculous weekend of making obnoxious Facebook videos, shopping, Stone Mountain, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and the FREAKING GEORGIA AQUARIUM, MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD. On this side of the world, anyways.

Also, I think it is worth mentioning that I had the plague while all of this was going on, too. Think sinus infection from hell, plus sore throat, hacking cough, and some freaky heart stuff. Well, the heart stuff really isn’t related, and I got a Z-Pack to clear up the sinus infection, and I’m going to St. Vincent’s in a week to have an echocardiogram. Go figure.

All of that to say that I haven’t blogged or worked on Snell or done much of anything. Except read, of course. I’ve got one book to go until I hit the twenty books mark, and even though I now know I’m going to fall shy of fifty, thirty won’t be bad, either.

Anyways, that is really all I have to say for now, so that this blog post doesn’t get too long, and because I’m getting a slight computer-headache, and because I followed my brother around the golf course in 236% humidity with a literal-not-exaggerating temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit today, and… well, I want to read my latest book.

So Honey Nut Cheerios for now.

. . . . . . . . . . .

*In case you’re wondering, it doesn’t mean that if you get a papercut you bleed to death and die. It means that you get bleeds in your muscles and joints and other internal sorts of bleeding, and it can be really hard to stop. Therefore, these kids have to be given daily or bi-daily intravenous injections of “factor,” which is an unbelievably expensive kind of medicine that attempts to replace the missing protein in your blood that helps to prevent uncontrollable bleeds by causing your blood to clot. Now that is bravery. Imagine getting IV push meds every single day for your whole life. And by the time these kids are in their early teenage years, most of all of them will have learned how to self-infuse. Incredible.

Last night, I was filling up my water bottle, as per usual (I’ve been averaging between six to seven liters a day, but that’s another story), when I noticed a flash of light through the kitchen window. Mom and I went and stood out on the back porch for around fifteen minutes watching a storm off in the way-away distance, so far from us that you couldn’t even hear the thunder. It was very peaceful, with the lightning flickering on the horizon and the crickets violining and the night air calm and warm.

Then today, I was sitting outside of the McAlister’s on Lakeshore Drive, eating a roast beef sandwich with au jus on the side (om nom). It started raining, but I was sitting in a sheltered part of the overhang and decided just to enjoy the rain. I was reading, which was probably part of the problem, because when I read, it’s basically lights-out-Kellum and I totally phase out of the environment. Which explains why I failed to realize why the wind was getting blowier and the thunder was getting closier and the rain was getting… um… rainier.

And then all of the sudden, a bolt of lightning struck not a hundred yards away. It was absolutely the brightest thing I had ever seen—and I just happened to be looking right at the power pole that it struck—and the thunder absolutely split my brain open. You can bet I scurried inside at that point, heart trying to follow my brain out of my body.

I felt really like I had stared death in the face in that moment. Usually it is so far away, just a storm on the horizon that can be fascinating to watch but never moves in close. But occasionally, it visits you like a hangman, pulling back the curtains on your house and peering in at you with those blank eyes as if to say, ‘I haven’t forgotten about you. I’m watching you just like every other living creature on this planet.’

Humbling, to say the least.

That’s a picture of me thinking, Oh no, is this story even working? Ah!

Here is another installation of Snell. I’d love to hear some feedback from you guys—is it all making sense? Do you like it? Are the characters consistent? Do you like it? Do you like it?

Ha.

Also, I dreamed last night—again—that I was signed up for Marine Biology next semester. This is the second time I’ve had that dream, and I woke up more stressed out than I do when I dream about getting devoured by hot pink velociraptors. Marine Biology? Really? Why brain, why?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

On my first day of work at Boys Ranch of the Appalachians, I discovered that for basically my entire life, the books have been lying to me.

In my time, I have read quite a lot of these. Books, I mean. If I had five dollars for every book I had ever read, then Mom would have never even needed to write Hans the Great and we would be living in a palace in Rome being fed grapes by godlike Italian men and none of this would have ever even happened. For the sake of my education, Mom had even hired a team of metaphorical Clydesdales to drag me clawing and scratching and biting through some of the classics, an experience I had yet to fully recover from.

I had read fantasy books with covers sporting mostly naked women carrying swords in the middle of a forest and science fiction books displaying mostly naked women carrying laserguns in the middle of a spaceship. I’d read historical fiction, historical nonfiction, steampunk, cyberpunk, realistic fiction, realistic nonfiction, nonrealistic ish-fiction—you get the picture. I simply loved to read.

But for all the smörgåsbord of literary delicacies that I had sampled, I had noticed something which, in my new life in the bustling metropolis of Meat Camp, was glaringly and inexcusably misrepresented in almost every case.

Horsemanship.

Don’t get me wrong. I like horses. They can’t talk. They don’t make me act in awkward and blazingly home-schooler ways. They don’t care if you look like the unholy offspring of Sasquatch and Frankenstein’s monster because you just rolled out of bed. Their noses are really soft, and they mostly do what you tell them to. Unless they’re a stallion and there’s a hot mare around, but I won’t even get into that.

But being a stable boy—let me just tell you, there is absolutely nothing you can glorify about that, no matter what the books say about it being peaceful and simple and earthy and satisfying. It’s all crap, both the lying books and the stinking job. If you can find something poetic and laudable about shoveling horse crap, standing in horse crap, smelling like horse crap, or anything else about horse crap, send me an email, and I’ll give you a prize. Because that’s what being a stable boy is about. Lots and lots and lots of horse crap, with a little straw thrown in to, you know, stick to the horse crap that’s sticking to you.

And also being bitten by Tolon, that blasted four-legged terrorist. It was all I could do not the get out the mane shears and lop off the two enormous baubles hanging between his legs and hang them on one of the trees outside like Christmas ornaments, just to piss him off.

So in case you haven’t figured this out yet, I was in an absolutely diabolical mood by lunch. If looks could have killed, Boys Ranch of the Appalachians would have been turned into a nuclear waste field.

I was sitting on a bench underneath a Bradford pear—I hated Bradford pears—eating a turkey and salami sandwich—I hated turkey and salami—and drinking strawberry lemonade—I hated strawberry lemonade—glowering down at an ant crawling across my lap and trying to fry it with my laser vision of Bad Mood Extreme Addition when someone sat down next to me. I was surprised, in the way that a polar bear might have been surprised if a five-year-old with cerebral palsy came up and petted it.

“Hi!” said the person brightly.

I looked up. A girl, maybe two or three years younger than me, was smiling broadly at me. So broadly, in fact, that her eyes almost vanished into her cheeks. She had dark, olive skin and a sheet of glossy black hair that fell almost to her waist.

“Uh,” I said. “Hi.”

She was sitting on her hands and staring at me unashamedly.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“Snell.”

“Oh, wonderful!” she exclaimed. “I have a weird name, too! My name is Risso. Oh—not that your name is weird in a bad way, but I’ve never heard of anyone named Snell before, and I’ve never heard of anyone named Risso, either. But Risso is sort of weird in a weird way, if you know what I mean. My mom named me that. She wanted to called me Rizzo, like, after the Muppet. But my dad put his foot down so she changed it to Risso because he said no daughter of his was going to be named after a rat, even a cute one. Then he left right after I was born but by then the name stuck.” Suddenly she frowned, her eyes getting enormous. “Oh. I’m doing that thing. Where I talk too much.”

I wondered if the unholy stench of the horse manure had actually caused me to hallucinate.

“It’s okay,” I said. “I, uh, don’t talk too much. So you’re making up for both of us.”

Her smile returned immediately, and her eyes disappeared again. I’d never seen anyone who wasn’t Asian do that.

“I like you, Snell,” she said. “I think we’re going to be friends. I work here, too, you know.” She looked critically at my poo-spattered jeans. “But, um, not in the stables. Thankfully.” She laughed. “Because no offense, but you reek.”

Maybe I should have taken offense at this, but I didn’t. I guess the offense done to my nose by the stables was all the insult that the rest of me could take for one day. I grinned, too.

Strangely, Risso’s ability to talk the hind legs off a horse—or hopefully, in the case of Tolon, the testicles—actually made me talk more, rather than less. Before long, I found myself telling her all about the move, Bob, and Mom’s purchase of The House.

Again, her eyes grew round when I mentioned The House.

“I can’t believe someone has finally bought that old thing! It’s going to make all the stupid teenagers in Boone sad that they can’t come and camp in there and break the windows and smoke pot in the back yard.”

Hmph. That explained the small plot of rather questionable plants in the very back corner of the garden.

“But that is so exciting! There’s always been a sort of… mystique about that place. I like that word—mystique. No one has lived there for over forty years, and before that it was just this ancient old crabby woman that no one liked and who never came out. Apparently she died there and had lain in there for, like, a month, rotting in the summer heat before they found her.”

“Oh,” I said bleakly. I decided not to ask her in which room the crotchety old hag had decayed, not wanting to start having nightmares about a figure with strips of flesh hanging off her standing over my bed.

She chattered on about two boys at her school that she missed dreadfully because they were off working at a summer camp in Texas. They were also identical twins, which complicated her feelings even more. Almost accidentally, I told her about my encounter the previous day with Dimitri, and how I was supposed to meet him for a party at his house that nice.

Again, the round eyes. I was beginning to notice a pattern.

“Oh, but this is so exciting! I’m going too! Dimitri is, like, my best friend for forever.” Then maybe she noticed something in my face, something I hadn’t even meant to show or even consciously thought. “Don’t worry though, Snell, he’s like an absolute brother to me.”

She winked.

So it happened that that night, after I scraped off the horse manure and tried desperately to scrub the stench out of my hair for nearly half an hour, Risso and I rode together to Dimitri’s house in her “ghetto jeep,” which she named thus due to its cacophonically broken muffler.

I’m not sure if “cacophonically” is a word, but if it’s not, just call me Shakespeare. Cacophonically could be the new bedroom.

Anyways. Dimitri lived in Boone, the bigger town about twenty minutes south of Meat Camp. Over the heinous sound of Risso’s engine, she blasted 90s music as loud as the rather substantial speaker system could go. I tried not to goggle as she belted out “Oops!…I Did It Again” and Shania Twain like the salvation of the universe depended on her pure volume.

“Sing, Snell!” she shouted above the wind, and the engine, and the music, her hair blowing like the branches of a palm tree in Hurricane Camille. “Sing!”

I just grinned sheepishly. Maybe this was one of those things you learned in public school—how to sing really loudly with someone you’d barely even met and not give the first sign of a darn.

We parked outside of a lovely little apartment complex. I slid out, looking uneasily at the number 16. No backyard gardens to obliterate here.

Risso marched around the side of the ghetto jeep and placed her hands on my shoulders, looking intensely into my eyes. I liked Risso, but the concentration in those eyes almost made me take a step back. Then she smiled broadly and said, “You’ll do just fine.” Then she flounced towards the door marked with the big red 16.

And to my greatest surprise—you know, the kind of surprise when you’ve been expecting your parents to give you a new shirt for your birthday and instead you get a Maserati—I did. Just fine, that is.

Dimitri opened the door right as Risso was raising her fist to give what undoubtedly would have been a resounding knock, grinning so widely that I thought his face might split in two. He immediately pulled Risso into an enormous bear hug. I prepared myself to feel awkwardly out of the loop, but then he pulled me into one, too.

“You made it!” he said happily. “And I was hoping you two would become friends tonight and, as usual, Risso, you’ve beat me to it.”

Risso bowed deep and then punched him lightly on the arm. “Of course! Any time.”

He ushered us inside, and for a moment the street lights illuminated his eyes, and again I was struck by the infinite kindness there in those ocean-deep eyes, swimming there like fish in a sea current. Something inside of me loosened and relaxed—later I rather thought it was the abnormal tendon that had been constricting whatever organ gives people the ability to be smooth and normal—and I stepped through the door.

“My parents are out tonight, gone to Asheville for the weekend,” he said. “So we’ve got the place to ourselves.”

“Hooray!” shouted Risso, and she immediately leapt onto the loveseat and began leaping up and down, chanting, “No parents! No parents!” at the top of her lungs.

Dimitri looked at me and shook his head, laughing.

“Is she always like this?” I asked.

“Oh, you know, usually worse,” he answered. “She’s on her best behavior because you’re new.”

We grinned at each other, then quickly looked back at Risso. The tips of his ears, I noticed, had turned a pale shade of pink.

Risso quickly bored of couch-jumping, though no before she had come close to destroying a lamp that Dimitri seized deftly when one of her wildly flailing limbs threatened to send it into orbit. She then ran—going fast, always, seemed to be her primary mode of transportation—into the kitchenette and pulled down three packages of chewy chocolate chip cookies. Then we launched into a rather ferocious game of charades, which according to Risso’s rules always had to depict dying in some terrifically gruesome manner. Points were, of course, awarded according to how gruesome our ideas turned out.

Dimitri fell behind almost immediately in the points, or at least he would have if we’d really been keeping score. It was like that kindness bubbling up out of his eyes came from a place so deeply ingrained in him that it prevented him from even imagining anything truly horrendous. The best he came up with was a witch burning. His depiction of it, however, left Risso and I rolling on the floor in laughter fit to fracture our ribs.

Risso and I, on the other hand, went for each other’s throats like wolverines with toothaches. She started out with being ripped to shreds by Tasmanian devils while having the lower half of her body slowly disintegrated from an expanding pool of battery acid. Inspired by Dimitri’s rather pitiable attempts, I savagely followed up with being trampled by horses after escaping from a witch burning and having my scalp ripped off by a particularly vindictive horse who decided to take a bite of my hair. (Which was perhaps a touch inspired by Tolon as well.)

By the end of the game, we had all collapsed in a heap, tears streaming down our faces from laughing so hard. I felt so at home with them you would have never thought that I had only just blasted in from outer space (also known as Alabama) and landed in the middle of a friendship that was over a decade old. Our companionship felt seamless, something I had never experienced with anyone outside of Mom, and this was even different than that, newer, fresher, a taste of wind blowing up from a deep valley of pine trees.

After we had progressed to the inevitable point in charades where everyone starts picking subjects that are completely incomprehensible, Risso bounded up and pulled out the drawer under the television and started flipping through movies. She pulled one up and held it out like a trophy.

“The Notebook!” she shouted, eyes disappearing into her cheeks.

Dimitri and I both gave her such identical looks of horror that she immediately shoved it back in the drawer.

“Okay, I guess not,” she muttered, and I thought I caught her saying something like “too soon” under her breath. Suddenly, the room felt too hot.

Eventually she settled on some old John Wayne movie that Dimitri said belonged to his dad, who was obsessed with John Wayne. Apparently Risso was too, because she started giving us all the background to this particularly film, including the names of all the obscure actors and actresses and what other equally obscure 60s movies they had played in and—well, lots of other stuff. I wasn’t really paying attention, because Risso had chosen the only armchair in the living room, leaving the loveseat to Dimitri and me.

What a stupid, stupid name for a piece of furniture.

Risso immediately snuggled into the armchair and sunk into the movie, leaving me and Dimitri stranded in the corner. He looked at me sort of shyly, his mop of curly hair falling into his eyes so that he had to push it back out of his face.

“You aren’t much of a John Wayne fan,” he said. It wasn’t a question, but from the bored-out-of-my-gizzard look on my face, it didn’t really need to be.

“No,” I said, “but it is light-years better than The Notebook. I don’t know of a worse movie in the history of Hollywood, unless you’re counting those B- and C- and D-rated zombie-vampire-werewolf apocalypse films.”

He chuckled. “Those are definitely preferable to even the previews of that movie.” He looked at me, a bit of puzzlement in his eyes. “I was wondering—do you think we’ve ever met before? You look sort of familiar.”

I shrugged. “Probably not. I’ve lived in the super-city of Charming my entire life and not hardly ever left except for one hellish trip when I was eight to visit my Aunt Fiona in New Jersey.” I paused for a moment. “Aunt Fiona is a cow.”

He laughed, causing Risso to hiss, “Shhh!” across the room at us.

“Tell me about Charming,” he said.

I raised an eyebrow. “There’s not much to tell. It’s too hot in the summer and rains a lot in the winter. The only thing that’s smaller than the town itself is the minds of the people who live there.”

As soon as I’d said the words, I regretted them, wishing I could reel them back in like ugly fish on a line.

“I mean,” I said quickly, “People are just not that… open-minded. If that makes sense.”

Still looking at me—his steady gaze was the tiniest bit unnerving—he nodded slowly. “Tell me about it.” He said this not like, “Oh my gosh, like I know,” but as in, “Go on.”

So I did. I told him about Melissa’s farm and her horses and dogs that I spent my days with, wondering the trails and streambeds in the acreage she owned as well as the large swatches of land that had DO NOT TRESPASS signs posted around the boundaries that I tended to ignore. I told him about Charming Hills Apartment Complex, and the two restaurants and how good they were, and the way everyone thought Mom and I were something like Satan’s ambassadors because I was black and she was white and uninterested in men.

In turn, he told me a little about growing up in Boone. Both of his parents were professors at Appalachian State University and he’d grown up with a never-ending stream of college students coming in and out of their apartment, the down-on-their-luck ones sometimes staying in the guest bedroom for a semester or two before they got back on their feet. They always got back on their feet, he said, because that’s just the kind of people his parents were—the kind that helped people find their sea legs and learn to walk all over again. He told me about going to Watauga County High School, and how half the teachers spent their time gossiping about the students and the other half talked bad about the first half gossiping about the students and how mostly no one ever got taught, unless it was football or baseball.

He asked me where I had gone to high school and what it had been like in Charming.

“Oh, I was a home-schooler,” I said.

“Really? I wouldn’t have guessed.”

“Ha—right.”

From the armchair, Risso hissed at us again.

Whispering, he said, “No, really. You really don’t seem like a home-schooler.”

I realized with a touch of surprise that he hadn’t intended to be sarcastic at all. With time, I realized more than that—Dimitri didn’t have a sarcastic bone in his body, not even one of the really small ones in his fingers or ankles.

“Well,” I said slowly. “At least I’m not like the other Charming home-schoolers. They all thought that one plus one equaled Jesus.”

We eventually lapsed into a comfortable silence, enjoying each other’s presence much more than the cowboys and shoot-outs playing out on the television screen, no matter how nice looking John Wayne had been in his younger years. Once, I caught him smiling at me out of the corner of my eye, and I smiled back, and I did not feel even a hint of a blush hiding under my dark skin. I felt… content. At peace. I didn’t even feel the need to obliterate my feelings under a slew of  internal sarcasm.

That was a new one for me.

The past week, I’ve been listening to a rather wonderful audiobook called East, a retelling of the Norwegian folktale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” by Edith Pattou, which is essentially the Nordic version of Beauty and the Beast. Essentially… well, okay. This needs its own separate paragraph.

Essentially, a young girl named Rose lives with her family in ancient Norway. Her sister Sarah becomes extremely sick and her family is going bankrupt when one night a white bear appears at the front door and offers to make the family prosperous again and to heal Sarah if Rose will come away with him. Despite her family’s protests, Rose goes with the white bear to Fransk, or France, to live in a huge castle within a mountain. Of course, she comes to love the white bear, and it’s very Beauty and the Beast, but very original and with lots of new twists. For instance, the man who had been turned into a white bear had been transformed by the Troll Queen who lived in the farthest reaches of the north with all of her troll subjects. The Troll Queen is very beautiful, powerful, and smart, and also very politically intelligent.

Even though I positively loved Rose for her spunk, ingenuity, and sturdiness of both body and mind, apparently the idea of the Troll Queen got pushed deep into my psyche because last night, I dreamed that I was something very much like her. I was beautiful, with long straight hair and always wearing lovely ball gowns. There was a prince who was visiting from another realm who had come with a delegation to my castle, and apparently a marriage between us was a desirable political move for my family.

So what did I do? Did my absolute best to make him fall in love with me, using feminine arts that in real life would have either been totally ridiculous or utterly impossible for my personality. For example: walking straight up to him, entwining my arms around his neck, and forcing him into a rather nice kiss.

(Here’s the funny thing about whenever I kiss someone in a dream… which, of course, is the only way I’m kissing anyone. Every time, I nearly immediately realize at that point that it is a dream—har, har—and then I find myself kissing… nothing. They disappear, whether it’s some nameless prince or Damon Salvatore or Doctor Who or, rather less than pleasantly, Ron Weasley. Last night, when I kissed the prince, I found myself kissing the curtains where I, uh, might have shoved him. Innocently. Very innocently.)

Later, I was talking to my nurse maid/advisor—another throwback to the Troll Queen, who had one of these nurse maid/advisor people—and she accused me of hunting him down like a vixen. Yeah, she used those words. My brain is insane.

“But I actually do like him, too,” I told her. This was true. He was shy and quiet and totally terrified of my advances. It was sort of fun.

Anyways. Ah-hem.

Another Snell post coming tomorrow.