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.