Friday, December 19, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 47

Shawn has spent the last 2.5 years convincing people he cannot use the letter "z."

Yes, he took his inspiration from part of a Monty Python sketch. When his parents forced him to transfer in the middle of his sophomore year of high school, the only way he could cope was to have some fun with it.

It has taken more dedication than he would have guessed, but Shawn has neither written nor spoken the letter "z" since the transfer. His diligent work has finally paid off-- he is giving the salutatorian speech at graduation, and he's going to amaze the entire student body with his miraculous recovery.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 46

Patrice doesn't realize there's something in her hair.

Throughout the day, people have made gestures of varying degrees of subtlety, trying to let her know that there's some... gunk... in her hair.

If she knew it was there, she wouldn't be able to tell you what it was. She would try to remember if there had been a food fight or a silly-string war sometime over the day, but surely that would leap to mind, right? No, nothing would ring a bell.

In reality, it was a prank by a classmate, who assumed Patrice would find it right away. However, due to people's indirectness posed as politeness, no such luck.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 45

Sherry doesn't believe in food expiration dates. At worst, the food that has "expired" simply becomes a new food, or at least has a new use.

She has been known to eat something well past its date, and is particularly fond of eating around the mold on old bread. (She picked this up from an ex-boyfriend who detested the idea of waste. After all, if you can see the mold... then you know where the mold isn't.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 44

Annie has been known to refuse discounts.

It bothers her that two people can pay such radically different prices on the same object, simply because one has a coupon. She stands on an odd principle that everyone should pay the original price on any given item, whether or not it's the President's Day Weekend Blowout Sale-a-bration.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 43

Mabel is as skilled an understudy as they come, though one of her biggest fears is actually being called on-stage.

She has understudied for huge parts and big names. She memorizes entire choreography repertoires and learns every word of the Shakespearean monologues that might some day-- God forbid-- become her own to perform.

Mabel typically works with the biggest attention whores in the industry, as they're the ones most loathe to share the limelight. While many understudies step in for weekend matinées or the occasional weeknight performance, Mabel ducks the opportunities as often as possible.

When the absolute need arises for someone to step in-- an injury on stage, say, or a last-minute illness-- she's ready and willing. But overall, Mabel is simply there for the theater ambiance. Her best friends are theater folk, and she loves listening to the performances night after night from her place in the wings.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

New challenge/cry for help

Happy Sunday, dear Where Aren't They Now readers! All... dozen of you!

That's what I'd like to talk to you about. I've written 40+ stories so far, but I have some pretty dismal readership. I'm talking numbers here-- those of you who DO read leave awesome feedback and comments. About 4 of you even rate the stories, which I appreciate so much!

Still, I'd love to see if I can pump those numbers up. I'm not ready to shut down the blog yet, but perhaps it's time for another challenge?

Challenge: convince a few people to read the blog. Right now I have 12 readers through the feed-- I'd like to make that 20 by the end of the week. If you like the stories... if you find them funny or interesting or amusing in any way... tell a friend! (And if I can't get 8 more freakin' people to read this blog, perhaps I need to evaluate my stance as a writer.)

I'll post another Young Erica picture + story here if we can make it to 20+.

Note: if you read this blog but not through a feed reader, leave a comment on this post and tell me so. Merci!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 42

Meister has been called "Meister" so long he can hardly remember his own name (which he never shares).

It started in middle school football, when such nicknames tend to form. If you're a guy and you don't go by your last name, you get something vaguely masculine like Champ or Hambone. Meister got Meister.

It fits him. It's like he's been crowned the master of something, but he's not sure what. Everything, maybe. Meister of the Universe. World Meister.

He's nervous about getting a job because he knows that they'll want his real birth name which is nowhere near as cool. He wonders if he can walk in and say, "Hello, my name is ----- ------, but folks call me Meister"?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 41

Brant has three dance moves, which he has to use sparingly.

He doesn't know if his moves have names but he knows there are only three of them. He's tried to create new ones, or at least variations on the old ones, but no dice.

It's a shame, because he loves to go dancing! But once he gets to the club or the bar he knows that he has a short supply to dole out. He tries to save them for the prettiest girl or the best song, but usually ends up playing wallflower until the very end of the night and busting them all out at last call.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 40

Shreeveport was pretty much your average dood. He modeled his wit
after Kevin Bacon, and he modeled his hair after Kevin Costner. But
our dear Shreeveport had a personal secret, for years he woke up with
a long, wet purple ribbon strewn out across his bed. And every
morning, he embarrassingly would gather them into his backpack and
throw them into a dumpster on his walk to school. He was able to keep
these beautiful ribbons a secret until one fateful day when his father
had to sneak into Shreeveport's window after cheating on his mother.
To his horror he saw his sleeping son convulsing and shooting a long
ribbon from his mouth. He immediately showered, changed clothes, and
then called 911.

Years later Shreeveport is dealing with the disease. Doctors have
diagnosed it as Rheumatoid Night Ribbons and are working on
preventative medication. So far Shreeveport has tried the following drugs, with little success:

Plexowim (side effects may include ankle wristing, ear husks and in rare cases bowel monsoons.)

Seudocrod (side effects may include sports breath, vase jumping and in rare cases anne b. davis eyes.)

This entry is a GUEST POST! Evan Oliver is taking the reins today. If you'd like to write a guest post let me know and I'll send a picture your way!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 39

Joe's in a phase where he's really into, like, old junk. Not antiques, nothing as lame as that. Old junk.

It started with a turntable that his father was going to sell at a garage sale. His father's records were long gone but Joe had a pretty easy time finding ones he liked online and at thrift shops. When he heard how cool the records sounded on the old machine, he decided to see what else his dad had lying around.

Now Joe's collection has stuff like a Walk-Man, a kickin' compass with a picture of a topless chick inside it, an empty snuff box and a binder of yellowed baseball cards. He loves the way old stuff is made better, and sounds different, and even smells like things he's never smelled before. He's totally going to build his collection-- this is just the start.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 38

Kurt believes that some people have soul mates.

He met a girl once who for a while Kurt believed was his soul mate. It was just a feeling he had, after spending every day with her for two weeks. It wasn't that they had a lot in common or that their views aligned; it was simply how he felt around her.

But she left. She was transferred to another high school, and there was no way for him to go with her. In Kurt's limited belief system he maintains that nothing can come between soul mates, and since distance quickly and ultimately came between them, he must not have found his match after all.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 37

Darby is so picky an eater that he has erroneously been hospitalized for anorexia before.

He likes his popcorn stale and his orange slices completely free of rind. He dislikes anything that looks like, smells like, or reminds him of potatoes. No food can touch any other food and if he even imagines them mingling in his stomach, Darby has to breathe deeply into a paper bag. He will not eat anything that had a fin or could make a shadow puppet. He just flat out hates ketchup.

His stay at the hospital made things even worse. Once he'd been fed intravenously there was no going back.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 36

Cath could do any puzzle, no matter the amount of pieces, in minutes. This was not nearly as useful a skill as she had hoped it would be.

Quickly solving a Rubik's cube is a great party trick. Being a Boggle master or an anagram whiz can even get you set up as a code cracker for the CIA. Solving puzzles rarely comes up, has never proven useful for Cath, and basically just alienates anyone who might have wanted to solve the puzzle in the first place.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 35

Tam's favorite article of clothing is her pair of "paint pants." She has worn the same pair of jeans to every stage crew meeting she has attended since 9th grade.

Much of the paint was accidental-- there's no way to completely avoid getting paint on yourself when you're as involved in stage crew as Tam is-- but over the years a few of her friends have left their marks. There are hand prints, quick cartoons, and layers of colorful and contradictory (Name) ♥'s (Name).

This year Tam will wear her paint pants in her first home. High school is far behind her and most of the names on her legs are people she no longer speaks to. Still she wears her memories... and accidentally splatters new ones from time to time.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 34

Andy has one dozen memories of his father, but one is clearer than the rest.

His father worked construction, though Andy couldn't tell you exactly what his job was. One evening, his father brought him home and heavy rock that looked just like any other you'd see after breaking up the ground for a new foundation. Andy stared at the rock, then at his father who beckoned him to come outside.

Andy watched as his father set the rock down on the ground, then fetched a sledgehammer from their shed. He motioned for Andy to scoot back, then he raised the hammer over his head and brought it down on the rock. He returned the hammer to the shed, tousled Andy's hair, and walked back inside the house.

When Andy approached the rock he saw that it was twinkling. He picked up a shard and marveled at what he would later learn was a geode.

Andy no longer has the pieces of the glittering rock, and regrets losing them.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 33

Jackie mends.

She has noticed that people don't fix things anymore. It's too easy to buy, to replace.

Jackie set up a service where she mends things for free. You can stop by her home or mail her an item (if you're willing to pay for shipping), and she will mend it as best as she can. Most of her requests are about buttons that have popped off, but Jackie also darns socks, hems pants, fixes rogue stitches. She even fixed a table once, with mixed results-- it's not exactly level, but it has a few more years in it now.

She loves her work with small repairs, and hopes she is keeping items out of garbage cans and landfills. While she does not charge for her mending service, she makes a bit of money teaching a one-time seminar on these small home ec-like chores. A few more people show up each time she offers.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 32

Did you know there are professionals trained exclusively to maintain funhouse mirrors? That's how Will makes his living-- anyone in the carnival business knows the half-dozen people who specialize in this maintenance.

Will stumbled into this job-- how else might one get in?-- but immediately fell in love with it. Did you know, for instance, that you can't use standard Windex on these mirrors? The glass is of a different nature, for one thing, and any streaks on the mirror make the intentional warp effect less pronounced.

Will also builds the mirrors on the side. He has created some gorgeous pieces that can make you look lonelier, more at peace, or just tanner.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 31

As far as he knows, Gary invented " void astronomy" (also known as "inverstronomy").

Void astronomy is the classification of the sky based on the space and shape between constellations... or simply put, constellations created by where stars aren't.

His idea began with the popular optical illusion of the vase/faces. He realized that so much is defined by the space and void around it-- the anti-matter, the shadow, the rest of the shape.

Applying that to the sky was simple. The eye is naturally trained to look at the stars, but with a slight perspective change Gary found he could focus instead on the space where there were no stars.

Gary is currently working on an illustrated book of new constellations from the perspective of void astronomy. It will change the way you look at the night.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 30

Erin taught herself to play guitar.

Erin is also deaf, but the first time she picked up an acoustic guitar it hardly mattered. She was very attuned to the vibrations in the string; she plucked out rhythms and chords that felt good to her fingertips.

She wasn't always deaf; she lost her hearing after some head trauma when she was 4. She has almost no memory of what hearing was like, but she is aware that her guitar playing has a different effect on other people than it does on herself.

Because Erin uses such a different technique to create music, her compositions sound like nothing else. They are unique and true to her, and there are a good deal of people who find her music very pleasurable. The songs sound very experimental, but not devoid of cadence and feeling.

New pictures!

Starting today, you'll see a slight shift in the pictures that are published here!

I used a full page of a generous donor's yearbook, but I ran out of pictures. I am now moving onto another benefactor's yearbook-- the pictures are slightly smaller and they're from an earlier year, so if things look a little different that's why.

Thank you to both people who have sent me yearbook pictures so far! I hope you're enjoying the project!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 29

Craig simply could not be impressed.

People tried! His parents were particularly diligent, sending Craig to Cirque du Soleil performances, monster truck rallies, historical re-enactments, you name it. Craig was not impressed by anything that he ever saw.

None of his other emotional faculties suffered. He was not a sociopath, he was not autistic. He expressed glee on his birthday! He cried when his sister needed surgery.
You should have seen his interpretation of Hamlet at the community arts center.

Only he could not be impressed. He visited all of the Wonders of the World-- even the ones that no longer existed, by virtue of a special virtual reality museum that was created in his name.

His story has been told in countless newspapers and on every major news network. When asked what he thought of his strange disorder, Craig is quoted as having said, "Eh. I guess it's fine. Nothing to write home about."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 28

Harold was once the reigning Dimple King of Schaumberg, and troubled was the head that wore the crown.

Harold's smile won people over when he was still in diapers, and when the local hardware store decided to hold a competition comparing dimpled children, Harold was a natural candidate. (The contest was in some way tied to a popular brand of staple gun, but no one much remembers the details. The endorsement was a stretch.)

Harold, then 6 years old, was an easy favorite of the judges' panel and handily won the competition. He spent much of his adolescence trying to shake the popularity that came with the much-coveted Dumpling King title.

He finally outgrew his dimples late in high school, but his title stuck. True, it opened many doors for Harold in the years to come and was quite the conversation piece on his résumé, but the effect on his self esteem was immeasurable.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 27

Joel is a die-hard Weird Al fan-- always has been, starting when his mother listened to Dr. Demento's radio show when Joel was only a child.

Joel is often teased about his admiration for the accordion-wielding parody king, but he finds solace in Yankovic's oeuvre. And not just the parodies, thank you very much-- some of Joel's favorites tunes are Al's original work, such as "She Never Told Me She Was a Mime," "Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung," or the pseudo-love ballad "Good Enough For Now."

Joel grew up knowing the parodies long before he ever knew the original songs, and still tends to sing along with the wrong version when stuck in elevators or at Applebee's. Once at a karaoke bar he even signed up for Don McLean's "American Pie," but instead sang all the words to the parody version "The Saga Begins."

Joel is downright proud to be an Al-coholic.

(Okay, okay, Joel is more than a little bit me. Happy 27th story, everybody.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 26

Tony's fondest memory is of the time when he played the Big Bad Wolf in a 2nd grade production of Little Red Riding Hood 2: Back to Grandma's!

Often in his formative years he would model Big Bad's behavior. It was a source of strength and courage for Tony, and filled a sort of father figure role that was otherwise missing from his life. As he learned to morally separate good from bad, he abandoned the darker, sinister side of the wolf while retaining the wit, the power and the hunger that epitomized his favorite childhood character.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 25

Kyle hates tongues!

He is not sure how it started, but for as long as he can remember he has been completely repulsed by the concept of the tongue. Not only is it like some kind of heavy slug living in the human mouth, but it makes vile sounds. Not speech-- that's another topic altogether-- but the slapping, slick sounds as the tongue interacts with food, with teeth, with bubblegum.

Movies are almost impossible for Kyle to watch. Even in the seemingly most benign movies, the most artistic or even the most action-packed and violent films, there is always a passion scene where two characters are jumping at the chance to slosh their tongues together.

The very thought of it turns Kyle's stomach inside out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 24

Dani made a fortune when she created the first neck brace disguised within a turtleneck. The brace was outrageously popular with people injured in embarrassing ways or while involved in illicit activity that they did not wish to be called on. For this reason she had a difficult time finding users who would provide testimonials, but in time she built quite the niche market.

You can see Dani modeling the prototype here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 23

Karen saw an angel once.

She was 14 when it happened, but she never bothered to tell anyone. If someone had told her the same story, she would not have believed them for anything. But Karen wholeheartedly believed herself; she had definitely seen an angel, and she was content to keep the vision to herself.

14 is a scary age, and Karen had taken to spending time solo. She hadn't called upon the angels, hadn't been praying or even deeply reflecting at the time. Karen had been writing things in the gritty sand at a park, scrawlings that expressed things she would never say aloud. An androgynous figure approached her-- not closely enough to make her nervous, but near enough that Karen could see a humming glow around its skin. Karen's head ached when the angel smiled, and it left as quickly as it had come.

There was a new message etched in the sand when Karen's head cleared, but she will take those words to the grave.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 22

Darren had a type of reverse-OCD where everything had to be asymmetrical, awkward, skewed, chaotic. Most people afflicted with obsessive-compulsive disorder favor order and calculation, but these things drove Darren to distraction.

A few of Darren's favorite things:

1. The Illustrated Guide to Entropy, purchased by a caring aunt

2. Jackson Pollack paintings

3. LEGOs (dissembled, scattered)

4. The games "Perfection" and "52 Card Pick-Up"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 21

Most "goths" manifest in late middle school/early high school. Mary Anne ("Aryan," as she called herself as early as in the 6th grade), on the other hand, developed a taste of the trendy occult before most of her classmates learned to count to ten.

Mary Anne/Aryan is pictured here with a hint of her fangs, filed into her teeth at great expense. She was one to scoff at the fair weather goth-types who put more emphasis on the sleek slickness of their hair than in any passion for the dark arts or core black rituals.

In high school she was encouraged to put her knowledge and passion to good use by forming an after-school activity, which casually became known as the "Blood Club." The group was well-attended and raised record-setting amounts of money for school fundraisers.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 20

Lynne was born with a rare disorder in which the only hair she could grow was bangs. It's a form of alopecia found only in Lynne and three other documented cases in the United States.
Honestly, it neither helped nor hindered Lynne's personal life. Kids can be cruel, but there simply aren't that many jokes to be written about such a specific issue. For many years Lynne wore hats, scarves, bandannas, etc... but around puberty she discovered that her classmates hardly noticed her hair, so caught up were they in their own various awkwardnesses.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 19

Robert had the kind of eyes you couldn't help but fear.

He hated his eyes. They set people against him right off the bat, made women look at him timidly over their newspapers. He'd even tried thinning his eyebrows and wearing lighter shades of contacts, but the shock of his eyes proved deeper.

Eventually he married a feisty Italian woman who wasn't afraid of anything. Robert made a name for himself in ninja movies, which specifically cast men with strong physiques and memorable eyes to glare through the traditional black bindings.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 18

Angela dreams in black and white.

She's read stories about why this happens-- they say that if you were raised with black and white television you dream without color. Her friends all had boxy color TVs, but in Angela's home everyone huddled around an ancient, rabbit-eared set each night before bed.

She has always wondered what it might be like to dream in color. She assumes she's missing something important, some deep and meaningful layer of detail.

Angela tried to force it once, in a weekend-long binge of color television. She focused mostly on game shows, which are the brightest and most visually offending. It didn't work; she dreamed of Rice-a-Roni for a few nights, but still in dingy grays.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Don't forget to rate!

Thank you for those of you who are already rating the stories. If you're not one of those, uh, two... please take half a second to star 'em so's I know what's good and what's not-so-much good.

So far you don't like sad stuff. Good to know.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 17

Cass writes horoscopes under the name Cassiopeia. She has been writing astrology pieces since she was 17, but picked up a real following when she found a niche focus-- the following is a taste of her nationally syndicated Horoscopes for Cats line.

Aries (March 12-April 19): This month is rife with danger with your Mercury in retrograde. Find a new tight space.

Taurus (April 20-May 20): This is prime time for the bull-cat! Throw your weight around-- you've earned it.

Gemini (May 21-June 20): There is something you're not telling yourself. Try being honest.

Cancer (June 21-July 22): A gift you give a loved one will go unappreciated.

Leo (July 23-August 22): You wear your heart on your sleeve, but tolerating those around you will pay off big. Take things slow this month. Do some hunting.

Virgo (August 23-September 22): If you feel the urge to mark some territory, go with it! This is not a time to be coy, and no one's going to do it for you!

Libra (September 23-October 22): Toward the end of the month, be on the lookout for a stranger. Guard your sunspot.

Scorpio (October 23-November 21): You will feel pensive as big changes are made around you. Keep your chin up; you will be rewarded on a rainy day.

Sagittarius (November 22- December 21): An old friend makes an appearance. A new possession is suddenly lost.

Capricorn (December 22-January 19): You're not making yourself heard, or you're experiencing a language barrier. Try a new method.

Aquarius (January 20-February 18): Your dreams will be interrupted by something greater. Fight the urge to lash out.

Pisces (February 19-March 20): As a cat with a fish within, you will deal with grave inner conflict this month. Others will see you as moody, but those closest will understand.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 16

Bea fancied herself a hardcore skeptic. She intentionally cocked her eyebrow at the last moment during this picture; she was hoping to use her yearbook photo on the jacket for a book she was writing (The Lies You Help Me Tell, which she abandoned promptly after entering middle school).

Religion was her favorite concept to reject, and she was especially vocal against atheism: to Bea, devoutly claiming to know there was no God was every bit as presumptuous as proclaiming there was only one.

She was an intense girl, smart and quick to play the devil's advocate. Though she would surely have excelled on the school debate team she avoided it, preferring to make conscientious cases at town hall meetings and on local cable-access TV.

Though an argumentative personality can distance many people, Bea did find a group of friends attracted by her passion. Bea never outgrew her sly opinions and contrary perspectives. After college she taught high school for many years, where her staunch skepticism found new ways to express itself.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 15

For a couple of years now, Andrew has been having a recurring dream. Actually, it's more of a recurring dream element-- the dream itself changes, but not the device of an escalator.

The escalator has manifested itself in five different ways in Andrew's dreams:
1. An escalator with no side rails.
2. An escalator which does not go straight up or down, but rises and falls in hills, almost.
3. An escalator moving at incredible speed.
4. An escalator with no set landing points, so that riders must jump off between floors.
5. Some combination of 1-4.

Andrew tries not to take much stock in dreams, but this escalator (or series of escalators) pops up frequently enough that Andrew sought out a therapist's opinion. The therapist believes that the device speaks to a control issue in Andrew's life: each form of the escalator forces Andrew to balance, almost surfing precariously on the stairs, with nothing to hold onto and no control over where he's headed.

After taking a good look in the mirror, Andrew has been able to limit the occurrence of the escalator, though it still makes an appearance from time to time.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 14

Nicole is voting today.

She is urging everyone she knows to also vote today. She believes it is her civic duty, her responsibility, her right and her privilege to vote in this and every election.

She recognizes that there is big change on the horizon and she is anxious to be a part of it. She is excited about where her country is headed and knows that throwing her hat in the ring is crucial to that progress.

Nicole has not always been this politically involved and feels apprehensive about pushing politics on other people. She remembers what it was like to be uninvolved and how pressured she felt in the past (and even in the present) when people tried to cram their beliefs down her throat. But for the past couple of years she's spent time carefully evaluating her stance on things, her place in the world, her values. She truly wants to make her voice heard and hopes others will follow her lead-- even those who find politics difficult to swallow.

She realizes that this story is a cop-out but she doesn't care because go vote.

Monday, November 3, 2008

New: rate the stories!

You can now rate and every Where Aren't They Now post! Each post has a star system at the bottom, and if I did this correctly you should be able to rate through your RSS reader as well. (Please let me know if this is not the case for you.)

[UPDATE] Um, I don't think you can rate through RSS. Sorry. I'll look into it in the future.

I'm no code monkey so I'm pretty pumped about this. I'd love to know what you think of the stories, and I believe this will make it simpler for you than commenting every time. (You are of course still welcome to do that. I love comments.)

As we start to get results, future readers will be able to search by the most popular stories... so get to rating!


Where Aren't They Now: 13

At 28, Sarah doesn't look like this anymore and is sharply aware of it.

She assumes that other women feel the same unease in their skin, but Sarah lacks the courage or energy to ask anyone else about it. She's walked into too many "blame the magazines" conversations this way-- that's not it, exactly. It's a smarter pressure from within.

In the moments of roughest discomfort she scrunches her face up and focuses on the herself. She's no longer 9, or for that matter 19, but she knows enough to realize that in 10 years she'll yearn just as hopelessly for these days. She cannot enjoy the moments now, but that won't stop her from being something-like-jealous in the future.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 12

Nicki named her town: Pumpkin, Michigan.

Previously, Pumpkin was known as Springfield, Michigan. In elementary school, Nicki took it upon her bright and precocious self to write her congressman a letter, stating that there are far too many Springfields in the world and that their town deserved a moniker of its own.

Nicki suggested that a name like Pumpkin would put them on the map-- literally they are of course already on the map, but figuratively as well. In her letter she described how people from neighboring towns would flock to Pumpkin in the weeks before Halloween, in order to mail their greeting cards with the perfect postage mark.

The letter might have fallen on deaf ears if Springfield's congressman had not been in his final term and eager to make a name for himself. He championed the cause, and after the renaming he hung the letter in the Pumpkin branch of the USPS. Hoards of out-of-towners read it every autumn.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 11

Tyler made that sweater, you know.

No, his grandmother didn't teach him. No, he didn't take a course at Michaels' Crafts. He taught himself, out of a book he found at the library. It wasn't that hard, once you got the hand of the basic knots. He could even do it while he was watching television.

Tyler never brought any of this up in front of his friends, of course. His knack for knitting wasn't the kind of thing a growing kid would willingly advertise, but it was the only thing that made sense to him. He wasn't great at any of the subjects in school-- much better at working with his hands. The crappy magazine collages you do in art class hardly count as expression.

In high school, when Tyler was finally introduced to classes like wood shop, he recognized that there were other interesting ways to work with your hands. But for the majority of his prepubescence he came home after school, knitted until his mind cleared, and went to bed.

Each time he finished a project he unraveled it. The exception is the sweater shown here, but it made him blush so brightly for the entire day that he did not dare to wear it a second time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 10

Simone was named well before she was born. Her parents planned for her, pined for her, could not wait to become parents to a darling little girl. When they counted ten fingers and ten toes they resolved not to have more children; Simone was all they wanted in the world.

This is a lot to live up to as a child, but Simone did what she could. She excelled in her bilingual charter school and became a graceful, intelligent child. She did not resent her parents for their devotion, but there is a time in every child's life when they begin to itch for certain freedoms.

When she was 12 she wheedled and pleaded until her parents agreed to let her stay on her grandparents' farm in Iowa for the summer. She came home two and a half months later a happier and more grounded individual, and had a difficult time staying indoors.

Her parents, misinterpreting, signed her up for equestrian classes, but Simone was more involved with a new group of friends at the local 4-H. She grew and chased her passions, but never fully embraced them until her mother passed away when Simone was 31. Simone finally left her hometown and put everything she had into a farm in Idaho, making a name for herself in an insightful study about the effects of orphanhood on developing livestock.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 9

By the time Theo was 30, he had broken up with 28 women. Most, as simple math might indicate, were short-term relationships. Some women cried, many were completely surprised, and none of them speak to him today... but for Theo this is the daily grind.

Theo researches the fine art of the breakup. It began as a casual joke between friends at a bar and ended up becoming Theo's graduate thesis. He studies, as objectively as possible, the nuances of a breakup: the ducking and weaving, the unbridled emotion, the way old arguments tend to bubble up unbidden.

Each time he attempts to take a different stance, a new approach. The environment matters. The time of day matters. The wording-- by far his favorite part and where he spends most of hours-- is crucial.

There has recently been some push in the department for Theo to broaden his subject matter, as so far all subjects have been women.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 8

It wasn't until Cameron was 10 years old that she realized she saw things differently than other people. For the first ten years of her life, she assumed that every person saw a thin ring of color surrounding other people, a ring that shifted depending on mood and personality.

It was how she learned to read people, and she was very good at it. When its all spelled out in the aura, you can be sure who to avoid, who needs your attention, who is aching. You can be the one to fill the need they might not even realize they had. But when she was 10 and old enough to notice the simple traps other people walked into, she began to realize that she had a certain gift.

And a gift it always was. Her family was supportive and never treated her as any kind of freak. She had a psychologist for a while, but eventually he came to the conclusion that it was less a delusion and more an odd wiring of the brain. As long as Cameron wasn't acting ill-adjusted or unstable, he recommended they see where it took her.

Cameron managed to live a normal life and mostly kept the auras to herself. Her friends knew her to be sympathetic and sensitive, but being near-sighted as people tend to be, they never guessed anything more.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bonus post: my end of the bargain

Did I really think I'd get ten comments? No. Am I pleased as punch that I did? Absolutely.

Thanks to Ryan, Taylor, Kristin, Jane2, Luckeyfrog, Elaineskeldon, Yvette, Redheadedreader, Meggorie and Ambrosia, I now have to cough up some yearbook pictures.

I've decided to show you two instead of just the one, because the first one's a bit dull. It is, however, the picture that I alluded to when I mentioned the Forehead Hair Tube™.

The second is the photo from my 5th grade yearbook. Ambrosia specifically requested a younger one, but I'm saving the 6th and 7th grades.

Do I even need to point out the blue lines and the star sticker? Just in case I forgot who I was, I guess. Helpful for amnesia and all that.

Let me share some epistles from my 5th grade yearbook, in lieu of a story.

"God made rivers
God made lakes
God made Erica
Well, we all make mistake"
--Erica Ellington

And Always"
--Kristina Helton

To my writer! You keep it up next year!"
--Mrs. Canter
(Oh my god. Didn't expect to find that one.)

"Remember the friend in the city
Remember the friend in the town
Remember the friend that came to school
and ruined your book by signing around and around"
--Amber Warman

"Have a nice summer you dork. Ha, ha sucker! (Just a joke.)"
--Krystan Slick

"Some sign on foots
Some sign on backs
But I signed on the crack"
--Jessica Hinson

"Erica, You are already for the 6th grade! I know you will enjoy it! Keep up the great writing, you are so talented. Remember me when you are famous!"
--Mrs. Emery
(Crap. I'd better hurry up and become something.)

Where Aren't They Now: 7

It is difficult to discuss Anna without also mentioning Rebecca ("Becca"). Though the girls argued more often than they got along, they were rarely out of one another's presence through much of their adolescence. Theirs was a powerful bond that made many of their friends jealous; sometimes it felt as though they shared a single mind.

I should mention, of course, that the girls were not twins, or even sisters at all-- Anna and Becca were simply two girls that looked exceedingly similar. Blood tests have confirmed that there was no familial relation whatsoever.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A spot of housekeeping + a CHALLENGE!


Tomorrow will mark a week's worth of Where Aren't They Now stories. That is a very small milestone but I'll take it.

Visits to the site spiked sharply and then plummeted, which either means people dislike what I'm doing here or they're subscribed through RSS. So, it's either really bad or really good and I have no tools to tell me which it is. Huzzah! If you like what you're reading and what I'm doing, please feel free to leave a comment or email me at redrabbit [at] gmail [dot] com.

For now I've decided to make this blog weekdaily, which is a word I might have created just now. (Dangit! I am so wrong!) This takes a small bit of pressure off of me and plus you have so many crazy awesome things to do all weekend, remember? Like that thing? That you were going to do? On Saturday?

Finally: a CHALLENGE! If I can get... let's say, 10 people to comment on this post, I will post one of my own yearbook photos. (Is this an incentive? I have no idea yet.) It might be interesting for you to see the author at her 3rd grade finest, or whatever yearbook I am able to dig up. If this challenge works out I'll up the stakes with the year I decided that the thing to do was to curl my bangs with a roller every morning. Geezus. It's like I was trying to patent the Forehead Hair Tube™.


Where Aren't They Now: 6

Jeremy was born with a hypersensitive palette. While most kids were going through their pickiest phases, Jeremy was trying any foods he could get his hands on. By the time he was 7, he was helping his dad in the kitchen, and when he was 9 he was doing most of the cooking in his household.

There are a variety of jobs available to any individual with such a knack, but Jeremy bored easily while employed as a flavor chemist, an experimental chef, an import sampler and head of the quality control division of Chiquita. Inevitably, within weeks of taking these positions his mouth got restless.

Though he is best known as an acclaimed (if confrontational) international food critic, he has also supported culinary arts with a number of grants for mixology research, creation of innovative test kitchens and scholarships for fellow SSS's (Super Sensate Students).

(Special thanks to my brother Bradley for help jump-starting Jeremy's story.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 5

Christian grew up in a tattoo parlor; his mother (Vivian) was a skilled tattoo artist and his father (Buck) acted as her human canvas at trade shows and conventions around the nation. By the time Christian was 18 years old, Buck was completely out of room on his body and Christian happily stepped up.

At the first tattoo session, Vivian drew some sketches of what she had in mind for her son. Christian, however, had other ideas and produced a tattered list that he'd been carrying around since he could write. Christian's wish list, as seen illustrated on his body in most tattoo magazines, is as follows:

--A flamingo riding a horse riding a shark, all animals wearing Blu Blockers

--A tribute to the band The Spin Doctors

--A snake with a skull head shooting pool with a priest (Catholic)

--The Disney castle being blown up by an F-14


--The full lyrics to Lynyrd Skynyrd's "That Smell"

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 4

Everyone who knew Jason would say the same thing: that he was happy. That despite the steel mill closing, despite the hard times and his family troubles, Jason was undeniably happy.

Throughout his life he maintained solid groups of friends and a string of healthy relationships that ended amicably. He was a solid student and the founder of his high school pep squad, the Up-Up-and-Aways. He was a joy to be around; one could not avoid being sucked in by his unrelenting optimism.

Unfortunately, by the time they discovered the blood clot, it was too late.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 3

Sharla-Ann was every bit as popular as you might imagine. Plus she was the only Sharla-Ann in her hometown-- in the whole state, as far as she knew.

Sharla-Ann never had much luck with boys, however. Her parents always encouraged her to go out, paint the town red, but she rarely found the boys at school to be very stimulating.

After years of casual, unsatisfied dating, Sharla-Ann answered a personal ad out of the paper. The man sounded interesting enough, and was very complimentary about the photo she'd mailed him.

It was love at first sight-- as it turned out he had a major hair fetish (that is, a fetish for major hair) and she fit right into his Hell's Angels lifestyle.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 2

You might recognize Alexandria ("Alex") from a slew of diet pill commercials she starred in during the mid-90s. She looks a little different in the spots, but the smile and the freckles are a pretty good giveaway.

Alex's real goal had always been to go into pharmaceuticals, but she grew into her own down-home beauty and let an agent sweet-talk her into delaying college plans for a chance at something bigger.

She did eventually go back to college after the TrimItz company went under, having squirreled away enough to attend a community college. Her passion for medicine had mostly fizzled, but she became a capable nurse's aide. She's the one they send in when an old man is ready to pass on-- they usually go a little easier when they see a smile like Alex's.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Where Aren't They Now: 1

Denise had always hated her name for as long as she could remember. It sounded like a spice, and not a pleasant one; no, denise would be toward the back of the rack with a thin film of dust along the top.

In 8th grade Denise begged her parents to let her change her name, but they refused. (She was named, after all, for a beloved aunt who died before she was born.) Denise spent much of 8th grade preparing for her transition to high school, when she believed she could have a fresh start.

She poured over baby books, soaking up the names and balancing each in turn on her tongue. Eventually she decided on a name from the family Bible.

Jezebel still lives and works in Madison, WI.