Ancient history: Stage Script: Overlooked

Luke and Tim, both 17, sit beside each other at the Friday night football game. A pep-rally is scheduled for next Friday at the end of the school day . As captains of the soccer team, they are expected to have a short speech prepared to introduce the team. 

LUKE: Have you thought about the pep-rally next Friday? We should do something sweet this year. I’ve been thinking about this all day. Every year it’s the same thing. We get our 30 seconds, and the rest of the assembly is all about the football team. Why are they more important than anyone else? This year it should be about us. It’s time we get back. This could be our one chance to get even. How cool would it be if this crowd was at our games?

 

Crowd roars at something on the field as Luke pauses to look at Tim’s ambivalent reaction

 

LUKE: Dude, you know no one else is going to do it. No other sport has been singled out like soccer is. How many years have we put up with their taunts every day? “Field-fairy, soccer-fag…” It happens so often we almost don’t recognize it anymore… Every time I walk into the gym… Anytime I do something stupid… Anytime I do something cool… It’s as if we’re not worthy of the oxygen they breathe. I hate coming here.

Remember yesterday when the bus full of football players drove past our soccer practice? There were probably three coaches on that bus, and they didn’t hear the things that were yelled? Nobody cares. That’s why we have to stick up for ourselves this week. It’s time we finally put them in their place.

[pause]

Did I tell you Greg spit in my face last week? I snuck out on Friday while Mom was passed out. So I’m at his party, just trying to have a good time, not doing anything to offend anyone, when they start talking about us, like they want to get me ticked off or something. Finally, I stood up for us and said something about soccer being way more difficult than football… I probably didn’t use those words, but that was more or less the gist of it. So Greg walks over with Mike and Bryan, and spits in my face. It was disgusting. Look at him, down there on the sidelines… he’s not even good.

The thing I really don’t understand is, the team sucks this year. Look at the score: 3-27. They’ve been riding on the coattails of older players for the past 3 years, and this year they’ve finally come crashing down to earth. Meanwhile, we’re sitting pretty at 3-0 on the season. You, and me, and the rest of our team have been playing together for 10 years. This is the year we’ve been waiting for all our lives. It’s time for us to really have our share of the spotlight.

So here’s my plan. You’ll have the mic first, and you say, “We’re really excited about this season,” and then you ask me, “Luke, why should everyone come to our games this year?” and hand me the mic. And I’ll look at the football team, and say, “Well Tim… (stands up) that’s because we will actually be winning our games this year.” (Luke closes his eyes, raises his hands and tilts his head back, as applause roars from the stands.)

Ancient history: Stage Script: Lunchtime Loser

This is a one-scene play written to be submitted for possible use by a summer camp for kids hosted at Westminster College.

 

5 round tables sit onstage, surrounded by chairs. Four of the tables have someone sitting at them. Mike, 14, walks on from stage right with a tray in hand. There appear to be various items of low-quality food on it, with a half-pint of milk. Mike looks around nervously and approaches the nearest table.

Mike: Do you mind if I sit down?

Seated guy: (looks annoyed) Football players only. I don’t recognize you.

Mike: Well, soccer is called football in some places…

Seated guy: Get out of here!

Mike backs away, looking slightly paler. He moves to a table where a young woman is seated.

Mike: Ca-Can I sit here?

Seated girl: (turns up her nose and begins pointing at chairs as she speaks) Well, Jenny is coming, and Kayla, and Tiffany, and Julie, and Julie’s BF Bobby. There’s no room for you.

Mike shyly looks down and moves away to another table. He approaches a person wearing glasses with his/her head in a book.

Mike: (looking hopeful) Excuse me… (pause) Um… Do you care if I sit here? (pause) Hello?

Seated person: (looks around confusedly, then narrows eyes at Mike) What!? I’m trying to do my homework. I can’t believe it’s the first day of school and I already have homework.

Mike: (tries to look sympathetic) Well, can I sit down with you? I’m just trying to sit down so I can eat.

Seated person: No. No, definitely not. I’m meeting people here to make sure I understand everything, and I need space for everyone. Plus your food will distract us.

Mike: (shoulders slumping) Sorry… (He looks around and spots his older brother seated at another table)

Mike: Jason, can I sit with you? I just need to eat and then I’ll leave. 5 minutes.

Jason: Are you kidding me? I’m not going to let anyone see me sitting with a freshman. Your friends will want to sit here, and then I’ll look like a total dork. Go find someone else to sit with, little bro.

Mike: (looks exasperated) You suck! I’m telling mom about this when we get home. I hope you get grounded for a week.

Jason: (shrugs) Whatever. She knows you’re a little dweeb.

Mike looks around sort of dejectedly, and makes his way to an empty table. He sets his tray down, but pushes it aside as he sits and stares at the table. As he stares off, two 14 year old boys and a girl approach, each with trays in hand. Mike looks up, surprised, as they sit down around him.

Boy #1: Mike, where have you been, we were looking all over the cafeteria for you.

Boy #2: Yeah, man. Did you have class with Mr. Black yet? He’s the coolest teacher I’ve ever met. Why didn’t they hire cool people in junior high? Are you going to watch the football game Friday night? My dad can give us a ride.

Girl: (eyes light up) I’ve been waiting all day to tell you, I was talking to Tina first period, and she thinks you are so totally cute. I think she’s going to the football game too. Maybe you can sit together…

All three: Ooooooooooooo (make kissing noises and start to laugh at their collective comic genius)

Mike smiles and starts eating. Lights fade to black as they chatter away.

Ancient history: Stage play script: Too Late

This was an exercise in creating a one-scene “silent etude,” a stage play script in which no words are spoken and everything is communicated via the movements of the characters on stage.

Two chairs sit side-by-side onstage. Matt and Brittany walk around opposite sides, open imaginary doors, and sit down. Matt moves as if to turn the ignition. He begins driving motions with his hands while his feet push imaginary pedals.

Brittany sniffles and wipes her mascara-smeared face as she gazes to the right.

Matt fidgets uncomfortably. He reaches at the center console. Coldplay comes on. He abruptly reaches back and the music stops.

Brittany glances at him hopefully. Matt stares straight ahead, jaw clenched.

Brittany lets out a sob and covers her eyes with her left hand.

Matt begins a rolling motion near his left shin. Brittany begins to shiver and glares at him angrily. 

Matt rolls the other way and looks at her, annoyed.

He reaches toward the center console again. The Carpenters. He quickly reaches and the music stops again. He slumps in his seat, props up his left elbow and holds his head up.

Brittany continues to sob. She leans forward with her head in both hands. Matt ignores her.

A sign is lowered onto the stage beside them. Free Choice Medical Clinic. Matt presses his foot to the floor, and pushes an imaginary gearshift into park. Matt moves to his left and stands up. Brittany doesn’t follow. He glares at her until she finally does. She walks behind him off the stage.

Ancient History: Short Story: Swing Away

 

This story was an assignment in my Southern Writers English course at Westminster College. It was a two-part assignment. Part one was to carry a camera around with me and try my hand at taking pretty photos. Behold the spectacular quality of my camera and camerawork below. Anyway, part two was to find inspiration from one of my pictures and create a short story to go with it. Here it is.

Digital Camera

 

That swing still has an aura, even after thirty years. Real or imagined, everything just seems… lighter when I’m there. To you it may be just some broken down old swing, but to me, that swing is the beginning and the end of the world.

At first it was just my swing. Dad built it for me himself, so I could play and watch for him to come home from a long day of work at the farm. He was a teacher, but he took care of the farm in the summer. He said working hard all year kept him young. I just loved sitting there in the shade by myself, swinging lazily as the cows slowly moved and laid down in the sun. Sometimes I’d watch with jealousy as they waded into the pond to cool off in the muggy heat of a Western Pennsylvania August.

Even then, I knew I was lucky. Most kids had to wait all day for their fathers to come home from work, exhausted from another day at the Mill, or drained from the toils of the office. I got to see my dad all day in the summer, as he painted a new coat of deep red on the barn, or drove the tractor back and forth through the fields, cutting down row after row of hay. Every time I saw his blue ’57 Chevy rolling back down the road, I rushed inside. He must have been so tired in the evenings, but he never failed to give me a big smile and hold me on his knee. “How was your day, Maggie?” he’d ask, knowing full well that I’d been on the swing watching the farm since he’d been gone.

“Pretty good, daddy,” was my canned reply.

When my little brother was born, I was afraid to lose this attention. I didn’t hide it very well either. When Mom told me she was pregnant, I tearfully ran straight to my room and threw my head under my heavy down pillow. Mom lifted the pillow from my head and looked knowingly at me with her deep brown eyes. “You know, Maggie, it’s going to be just like having a new friend who looks up to you.”

“It’s gonna take all your attention,” I said.

“Don’t be silly, Maggie. We’ll love you every bit as much when she gets here. Look at it this way: you’ll have someone to play with all the time when I’m busy, and you’ll get to hold her, and look after her, and she’s going to look up to you for advice.” At this I smiled. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to be an older sister after all.

As it turned out, Mom had a boy. They named him Kevin. True to Mom’s word, I got to hold and try to feed Kevin when he was just a cute little baby. As he started to get older we became nearly inseparable. In the winter we’d walk past the swing with our wooden toboggan on the way to the steep hill of the farm across the street. Usually I pushed, jumping on the back just in time, as snow flew by us in the wind. Occasionally, Kevin asked me to ride in the front, because it was “so much faster with me weighing down the front of the sled.” I punched him in the arm but complied, knowing he meant nothing by it.

In the summer, we both went out to the old swing to watch Dad work; picking corn, or mucking out the wagon that the cows ate hay from in the winter months. I tried to tell Kevin about the world, me at the wise old age of 12, while Kevin asked me again and again to push him higher.

“I wanna touch the sky,” he’d say, short blonde hair blowing in the wind. “Don’cha wish you could fly?”

Ignoring his question, I chose to impart some recently learned wisdom. “When you get to sixth grade, things are different. Boys and girls hafta sit at different sides of the table.”

“Mom and dad don’t sit at different sides of the table.”

“That’s cuz they’re married, stupid. When you’re married you’re allowed again.”

“Oh.” He looked out at the farm with Dad’s piercing blue eyes, working it over in his head. “Things must get confusing when you’re older.”

“Yep, but that’s why you have me to look after you.” Dad was coming home now, so I gave him one giant push. I had to dive out of the way at the last second to avoid a swing in the face. Kevin jumped off and we both lay on the ground, giggling and holding our sides as if they were about to burst open.

I wish that summer could have lasted forever. He never lived through another.

That fall, Kevin began to get weak. One night in October, Mom and Dad watched him nervously as he pushed away another plate of food. Having barely taken three bites, Kevin pronounced himself full.

“Honey, you have to eat. You’re never going to feel stronger if you don’t. Food gives you energy,” Mom insisted.

“I don’t feel good, mom. I was hungry earlier, but I can’t eat anymore,” Kevin replied.

Mom frowned at Dad. They got up from the table and went into the next room. We could hear their muffled voices.

“What do you think they’re talking about in there?” He asked.

“Probably how you’re being such a pain in the butt, complaining all the time when you won’t even eat.”

“I’m just so tired, Mags.”

“Tell you what. If you take two more bites, I’ll throw the rest away and tell Mom and Dad that you finished and went to bed.”

“Thanks Maggie.”

He walked out just as Mom and Dad came back into the kitchen. Mom looked like she was crying. Dad looked flushed. Both of them looked relieved when I told them Kevin finished before he went to sleep.

Two weeks later, Kevin and I were in the back seat of Dad’s Chevrolet, while Mom and Dad rode silently up front. Normally our car rides were fun. We played “I Spy,” and “Categories,” laughing and arguing about the validity of each other’s contributions. This ride was silent, morbid. Dad clutched the wheel tightly and stared at the road while Mom watched him, occasionally glancing back at Kevin, who sat diagonal from her.

Kevin’s pallor had visibly whitened in the past month, though it was hard to tell because everyone was losing their tans. He stared out the window as we passed new churches and houses; they were springing up where there had only been trees before.

“Where are we going, again?” I asked. I had a short attention span.

Exasperated, Mom sighed. “To Dr. Baker’s office. He wants to take a look at Kevin.”

Five minutes later, we were there. Dr. Baker’s office was an addition to the Baker family home. His three-story house had white siding and a wrap-around porch. Directly in front of the stoop, a heavy wooden door led into the house. We walked past it to the opposite side of the porch and opened a white door with a square window.

Dr. Baker sat inside, waiting for us. He was a tall, thin man with a bushy, white mustache that nearly covered his mouth. The mustache gave his face a sad look that belied his generally jovial manner. Kevin was directed to a wooden table with an afghan laid across it. After a series of tests that I didn’t really understand, Dr. Baker very seriously asked Kevin and I to wait inside the house while he talked to Mom and Dad.

When the three of them joined us in the house, Mom was crying. Dad, who never cries, looked on the verge of tears, and Dr. Baker looked sadder than ever. Dad and Dr. Baker sat down on a plaid couch opposite us, while Mom sat next to Kevin with her arm around his shoulders. Dr. Baker began to explain to Kevin that he had Leukemia.

Kevin took it all in like a champion. He looked very scared in Dr. Baker’s house, and continued to for some time afterward, but I never saw him cry. At the time, I thought he didn’t understand. In fact, I don’t think he ever understood; not the way Mom and Dad and I comprehended the situation. On the other hand, maybe it is more appropriate to say that we never knew what was going on the way that Kevin understood.

In the next few months, Kevin became increasingly bed-ridden. Mom and Dad stopped sending him to school after Christmas break, afraid that he might catch something and become even more ill. I knew he was lonely, so I picked out books at school that I thought he’d like and brought them home to read to him. His favorite was the Hobbit. “Will you read it to me again?” He asked me once in February.

“It’s so long, Kevin… How ‘bout one of Grimm’s?” I replied.

“Just read me the part where Bilbo flies with the eagles. That’s all I want to hear.”

I think he loved the idea of such a grand adventure, especially as it now juxtaposed with his condition. So, I read him the chapter. I would have read the whole story for him if he’d only persisted.

He lasted through Easter, although he wasn’t feeling well enough to go to church. One day that spring, when the sun was shining through his window onto his face, I walked into his room to see him looking brighter than normal. His eyes had regained some of their knife-like intensity, and blood that was absent from his face for months seemed to have returned. He hadn’t been outside in 3 months, but he turned to look at me and said simply, “Let’s go out to the swing.”

After bundling him up in a blanket, I helped him outside, doing most of the work. He sat down on the swing, and I pushed him silently as he stared up at the sky.

“I wonder what the clouds feel like. Do you think I’ll ever get to feel them?”

I was crying now, but I tried to stabilize my voice long enough to answer. “I’m sure you will, Kev, up in heaven… clouds will be everywhere.”

Kevin answered in a faraway sort of voice. “I feel like God is watching me, up here, with you… I know I’ll be gone soon, but when I think of flying up high, with God and Grandma, and Grandpa, I’m not afraid anymore.” He turned and smiled at me, and I couldn’t hide my tears. “How about one great big push, Mags? I want to touch the sky.”

Kevin passed out of our lives two weeks later. It is so strange now when I look back to that afternoon. All those summer days, I thought I was teaching Kevin the lessons he would need in life. In the end, he taught me something far greater.

Even now, thirty years later, that swing holds the same vibrancy; luminous with memories. And when I sit down in that chipped, green seat I think of God, and that soaring spirit that Kevin never really let die.

Ancient History: Short Story: Doldrums of Delays

I wrote this while I was bored in the airport coming home from a pre-preseason trip to London with my Westminster College soccer team; I was just trying to write something amusing to keep me occupied.

Doldrums of Delays

I.

Ben Knauff is bored at the Newark International Airport. His flight has been delayed for three hours. Justin Rivas sits before Ben and yawns as he flips through the pages of a UK-Edition Maxim. A brunette model named Sophie graces the cover. To Ben’s left, Samwise impatiently waits for the flight to commence. He has urgent business in Pittsburgh; the Allman Brothers are teaming with Tom Petty for a “CAN’T-MISS” event. Rumor has it that Stevie Nicks may even appear on stage with Petty.

The plight of young Sam is shared by Blake Ordell (sitting to Ben’s right) and Cory Burns and Ande Saporito, who sit at 1:00 and 11:00 respectively. Nick Hoover is talking as usual. In between words he plays with his fingers. Rounding out this group are Garrett Horvath, Keith Little, and Todd Atwood. Todd incessantly types on his phone to an unknown recipient. Garrett and Keith are in the midst of a grueling match of movie wits (by way of a game developed by Nick Hoover). Since Nick is too preoccupied to supply Ben with a name for the game, the author of this tale will henceforth attempt an explanation of the rules: One player names a movie at random, after which the subsequent player/team must supply the name of an actor in the movie. The first player then has to supply another movie that said actor appears in. The game continues as such until one player “draws a blank.”

The airport seems to vary between stages of unrest. At present it is relatively quiet, but soon the concourse will be crowded once again. The volume of passengers seems to be taking a toll on the terminal, as small articles of trash abound on the blue carpet of gate 108B. Unfortunately, the maintenance lady who just walked by failed to notice the mess. Apparently, she is only paid to maintain the integrity of the trash cans…

Several newcomers have now entered the fray. Nathaniel Gibboney meanders over to Ben and asks him about a “love letter.” Silly man. Also joining the group is Steve Hogya, who views the author of this note with speculative curiousity. Mark Sadler and Girsh Thakar have taken seats in the fringes of the homeward bound group.

As Ben looks around he feels a certain familiarity to this airport. It’s almost intangible, yet present all the same. The gates are incredibly similar to their counterparts at Pittsburgh International, the airport from which Ben hails. It brings somewhat of a calmness to his mind, despite the calamity around him. As he gazes at the white walls, moving walkways, and large windows, he feels strangely at ease. That was, until two unexpected events forced Benjamin out of his reverie. Blake struck first, asking Ben to pick up his weighty luggage. Ben agrees, but in doing so loses his state of euphoric relaxation. Keith moves in for the kill, hitting Ben with a barrage of dance moves. Though he was caught unawares, Knauff is able to maintain a modicum of concentration. Soon thereafter he falls back into the lull of familiarity.

 

II.

            After much delay the group has finally found itself seated randomly on a Pittsburgh-bound 727. It seems as though concert and company have decided they must scalp tickets to recoup their money. Illegal! This writer won’t tell though. Ben is receiving far too many compliments for his writing. Someone should probably knock him down like Nate always does. Ben gazes out the window at his right side. The scene seems eternally unchanging: a retracted walkway, a mobile staircase, a tranquil luggage cart, a squat control tower in the distance. Across the aisle to Ben’s left, Garrett worries about his wounded knee while he tries to distract himself by reading a book titled, How to Live the Holy Life. A noble choice.

Meanwhile, Keith has lost himself in the fantasy realm of Ipodia. Who knows what thoughts are coursing through his mind to the gentle tunes of Mike Jones. Atwood has borrowed Ben’s pencil. Ben hopes he doesn’t use too much lead.

The plane finally taxis out to the runway at 7:11 PM. It was a 3:40 flight. Ben is rather distraught, as with each passing moment he is inching closer to a scheduled meeting with his Playstation at 9:00. He’ll probably miss it. In his restlessness, Ben follows Keith’s blank stare to the cracked and grassy runway outside. The scene afforded by the cell-like window is now noticeable different. Several planes seem to be in line for takeoff. Our captain informs us that he is going to try to “bully” his way in, but perhaps we are being bullied out of the way.

Nick lets out a hearty laugh in the back of the plane and proceeds into a joke about two old guys. It is met with scattered laughter.

The plane jolts to a start. Finally, home we come.

Ancient History: Short Story: A Day in the Life of a Dreamer

This was a short story written as part of a final project for a Detective Fiction/Criminalistics cluster course that I took in college. It was based on details from a staged crime scene. My professor said I didn’t focus enough on the parts of the crime scene that I was supposed to. Probably true.

A Day in the Life of a Dreamer

Joel Postema smiled as he backed away from the poker table. It was the last time anyone saw that particular emotion grace his face.

***

Ben Knauff couldn’t believe the scene before his piercing blue eyes. As Chief Investigator of the New Wilmington Police Department, he had never seen a murder case before, let alone a brutal slaying like the one at hand. Pools of Postema’s blood mingled below his body as they drifted together toward a small drain in the center of the courtyard.

Knauff paused to reflect on the events that led him to this point. So often in life things don’t turn out as you plan. Knauff originally wanted to be a lawyer, but after several dull years, he realized that his soul would be better served if he could help people in a more direct way. Investigating was his passion, his be all and end all of human existence. It was perhaps also his bane.

A lonely man, Knauff had never married. He thought he might have loved, but invariably his drive and determination to help people resulted in a whirlwind cycle of pain and regret. Love for him wasn’t meant to be. He had more important things to do.

Knauff gathered his thoughts and pressed his attention back to his work. He closed off the area and began his methodic, concentric search for evidence. A scrap of paper reading “Court Yard 10 pm.” A bottle of Jim Beam. A can of Diet Coke. A bloody knife lying beside Postema’s body. A jack of diamonds that had fallen out of Postema’s pocket. It was missing its face, a hole bored straight through it. Knauff paused to think. The evidence seemed inconsistent and manufactured.

The courtyard was really a small pavilion, the result of two buildings connected by a hallway of classrooms. It was accessible by two sets of double doors on opposite ends of the pavilion, but on one side a sidewalk led straight to the crisp morning air. The bottle of Jim Beam was primarily distracting Knauff. It looked unnatural, nestled in the corner of the lower set of double doors. He dismissed it for the time being but noted that it would have to be analyzed for prints. Too bad. Knauff knew glass surfaces are notoriously difficult for print lifting. He would have to be lucky.

Knauff cautiously collected the peculiar evidence and sent it to the New Wilmington Forensics Lab for testing. He checked his phone for the time. 8:15.

“That’s odd,” he thought.

His phone had no service. Knauff suspected it was a temporary problem. His phone was very unreliable. He would have to track down his suspects in person, not that this was such a bad thing. Knauff had a knack for gathering vast amounts of information about someone before they even had a chance to speak. It scared him sometimes.

He walked to the office of Dr. Ann Murphy. Dr. Murphy was the professor who found Postema in the courtyard. She approached his bleeding body to see if he was ok, but when she touched him, he stiffly slumped over. There was no question about his condition, and in his now prone position several wounds were visible on his back.

Knauff speculated. Postema was found sitting on a bench where both doors were visible. Someone could have snuck up behind him and surprised him via the opening in the courtyard.

“I need more information,” he muttered to himself as he walked in to see a weeping mess of an instructor.

Knauff expected to have a hard time gleaning information, so he was surprised to hear about a secretive poker club called the PPOW. His mind drifted as he began to think of potential scenarios.

“…Dr. Sprow?” Knauff was shaken back to the land of the living by the inquisitiveness of Murphy’s voice.

“Sorry, could you repeat that?” he asked.

“I said I expect you’ll be wanting to get in touch with Dr. Bersett, Professor Garrison, and Dr. Sprow?”

According to Dr. Murphy, they were the only other known members of the club. Apparently, she found out about the members when an email was mistakenly delivered to her inbox. It was a memo from Postema, labeled for Bersett, Garrison, and Sprow. The memo read simply, “5 card stud Apr. 12. Usual place, usual time.”

“Interesting,” Knauff thought. At that moment he would have been willing to bet his entire life savings that the murder was connected to this memo. Then again, he hadn’t saved much.

Knauff thanked Murphy for the information and gave her his card. He walked briskly to the nearest pay phone and alerted the secretaries of the departments that he would need to speak with Bersett, Garrison, and Sprow immediately.

At 9:00 am sharp, Professor Garrison was the last of the suspects to enter the room. Knauff silently shut the door and smiled at the group as they nervously looked at each other.

“You need to tell me what’s going on here, now. I have no reservations about detaining each one of you for suspicion of murder if you don’t tell me exactly what is going on here,” Knauff said solemnly.

Garrison shifted in her seat.

“It’s just a poker club,” she cried. “Joel was kind of our unofficial leader. I hope you don’t think we had something to do with what happened…”

“So, what did happen last night?” Knauff asked.

Garrison was struck silent. Knauff wasn’t sure if it was because her fear had now turned to terror, or if she was just surprised by the bluntness of the question. He guessed the former. Finally, Bersett spoke up.

“It was just a typical game, you know? Joel doesn’t usually fare too well, but last night he mopped up. I lost $100 to him in the final hand of the night, but we all lost big. It was one hand among many,” he explained

His honesty piqued Knauff’s interest, but Knauff decided not to press the issue just yet. He turned to Sprow, who was sporting several red marks around his neck.

“Signs of a struggle?” Knauff wondered.

“Dr. Sprow, where were you at 10 o’clock last night?” Knauff asked.

“I was watching TV with my wife. She may have been taking a shower at that particular time but I’m sure she can substantiate my story,” he firmly replied.

His body language betrayed no sign of dishonesty. Knauff needed some time to think.

“I want all of you to stay in your offices for the rest of the day. I’m going to notify your secretaries that you are not to leave,” he said

After sending them away, Knauff bowed his head in thought. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d already solved the murder; he just had to work out the details. He looked at his phone. Still no service. Knauff walked to the nearest phone and dialed the number for the lab. Mallory Bugel picked up the phone on the second ring. She did it every time.

“New Wilmington Forensics Lab,” she chirped.

“Mallory, its Ben. Do you have any information for me?”

“This evidence is all pretty sketchy, Ben. There is a single fingerprint on the Jim Beam bottle, but I don’t think it’s going to tell us much. I had to fume it to get anything at all. I also ran IR and UV-Vis on the alcohol and soda. They’re both what they should be,” she replied

“Alright, thanks Mallory. My phone’s not getting any service so I’ll check in with you in an hour.”

Knauff was starting to sweat. He wondered if it was the rising heat or the pressure mounting on his shoulders. He walked back to the courtyard to look at the scene. Postema’s body had been removed, but traces of the spilled blood were a grisly reminder of the horrific tragedy. It didn’t take long for Knauff to decide he would really be more comfortable somewhere else. He decided to walk to Bersett’s office so he could begin asking questions individually.

Knauff walked into Bersett’s office to see him rummaging around through his desk.

“Missing something?” he asked.

“Um, well, I thought I had a bottle of Jim Beam in here, you know, for safekeeping.” Bersett sheepishly replied.

“Funny. Dr. Bersett…” Knauff began. “I’ve got to be honest with you. You are pretty high on my list of suspects right now. Is there anything you can tell me about your crones that might help me out?”

“I am not a murderer!” was Bersett’s red-faced reply. “And if you think I’m going to implicate my friends, you can forget it. Anyway, I was at a concert last night after our get-together. Lots of people saw me there.”

Knauff was a little taken back by Bersett’s flaring temper. Why would he be so aggressive if he had nothing to hide? Knauff decided it was probably best to let things cool down. He took a phone number for someone who could corroborate Bersett’s story and stepped out of the office.

Knauff again checked his phone.

“Finally!” he said to himself.

He now had a full four bars of service. As he smiled at his phone it began to vibrate. Incoming call.

“Chief Inspector Knauff,” he said.

“Knauff! Stop calling yourself that. You’re the only friggin’ inspector, and a lousy one at that!”

It was Lieutenant Davoli.

“Who do you think you are, investigating a murder with your phone off?” he continued.

Knauff rolled his eyes. Lieutenant Davoli had no respect for his capabilities as a detective.

“I didn’t have service. What’s the problem?” Knauff replied.

“You’re going to be working in food service if you continue this way. Where have you been?”

“Investigating the case, like any good detective would.”

On the other end of the phone line, Lieutenant Davoli was slamming his phone against his head. He took a while to reply.

“You moron. Dr. Sprow came to the police station with a confession over an hour ago. Have you been badgering suspects all morning?”

“Well…” Knauff stammered

“Sprow’s wife was angry with him for losing so much money. She choked him until he told her he would kill the man responsible. He snuck up behind Postema as he was sitting in the courtyard and stabbed him in the back. Then he planted a bottle of Jim Beam to implicate Bersett. We checked, and what we could glean from the fingerprint on the bottle matched Sprow’s right thumb. Case closed. Come back to the station. I’ve got some papers for you to fill out. God knows you can’t do anything else right.”

Knauff thought he could hear the phone being slammed onto the hook. It was probably just his imagination.

“Ah,” Knauff thought. “Another day, another mystery solved.”

He couldn’t help being a little disappointed, but his mind was at ease. He would get his chance. He could feel it. Knauff walked off in the relentless sunlight of a spring afternoon.

Naive Poetry: January 2006 – July 2007

A handful of probably ill-advised poems on varying topics that I wrote between January 2006 and July 2007. Enjoy?

 

1/18/06 “Five-Leaved Friend/Fiend”

Arising from the deep forest/Hidden in the dark recesses of ancient wilderness

The emerald majestic plant god/The mystic green plant waits for man to unleash him.

Burns for the pleasure of millions./Pandora’s box will not suffer itself to be shut.

 

1/18/06 “Detached”

All hope has long since failed,

Everything right has been derailed.

A train slithers into the dark midnight,

An atrocity devouring all things in sight.

Where this snake goes, no soul can reveal.

This vile journey, my life it will steal.

 

1/18/06 “Perils of Education”

An arduous task to bear this weight on my shoulders,

My mind viciously strained, pushing vast boulders.

Painstakingly taught so information I can recite,

Discussion avoided, no applications in sight.

This system is flawed, to the benefit of none.

True intelligence shunned, no gain when done.

I toil to prepare for an alarming world ahead.

Alas, what should be helpful is useless instead.

 

1/18/06 untitled

Hateful leaders pursue unjust causes in a nefarious manner.

The populace watches on in silence as thousands weep.

The silence is deafening.

 

1/19/06 “What, Am I A Loser?”

So near is the person who calls himself seer.

The peer who will cause so many a fear.

A tear will roll down my cheek as I leer.

At the deer who stares me down as I steer!

On the road I turn and make a quick veer.

To miss a steep cliff, walls are so sheer.

It’s clear to me that my life has been dear.

To all who crowd around and do sneer.

 

1/22/06 “How Do I Fit In?”

I want to say so many hard things,

I only hope for what tomorrow brings.

She looks at me with a frown on her face,

It tells me that I need to find my real place.

More than anything I want her to enjoy

This life and leave sorrow for this boy.

Her smile radiates like the stars of night,

She shows it, I feel like I could take flight.

Please let me know just what I can do,

So I can see that smile and take it from you…

(I’ll try to give it back)

 

1/22/06 “Broken”

There once were good times, I have to admit.

Though what’s happened since obscures it.

I always fell for your gentle charms,

You could never help falling asleep in my arms.

Even our fights, though they were rare

Were moments with you I enjoyed to share.

Those times created the melancholy feeling

My mind held when you left for Darjeeling.

You took my fragile heart and flew far away.

Promised to love me again someday.

I couldn’t bear to see you leave me,

But in the end I knew that it must be.

Still I loved you and could not change,

Tried to move on but felt it so strange.

I wanted you back but you would not submit.

It wrenched my heart but I weathered it.

We thought of days past and it seemed we both sighed

It was only much later I found out that you lied.

You said I was still the only one in your life,

But your lies became clear, to my heart like a knife.

I forgave you so many times for your wrongs

But you tore my heart out and stole my soul’s songs.

The love I once gave away without any fear

Could no longer be reached, was no longer near.

Happy was I, and so little felt wrath,

But now to my heart I can’t find the path.

I’ve given you up; you’re out of my mind.

But the lock and key to my heart I can’t find.

I’ve found someone new, who cares more than you.

So how do I find the closed doors and pry to?

 

1/30/06 “Density…Destiny”

This life is not controlled by fate, or directed by any preconceived destiny. Rather, I walk my own path and no force but my will determines the choices i will make.

 

2/3/06 “Find Me”

Who knows what new search for it finds

With friendship antiquity it often binds.

Innocence makes it easiest to gain,

Loss of it inevitably begets pain.

Lucky children have it ever to savor,

Most blessed of parents can return the favor.

Psychoactives do not in fact increase it.

Precision guides it to bottomless pit.

In weak heads it will never be found.

Nay, the thing is trodden on ground.

Control it and gain most powerful of arts,

It carelessly smites the mightiest of hearts.

Naiveté may cause effort to leave it unused

Without it the psyche is no less abused.

 

2/21/06 “Let Me In”

I look in your eyes and lose all my might.

I could never wish for a lovelier sight.

I guess I can’t promise you anything,

But if you ask, for you I would sing.

I just want to be the one always there;

Through toil and pleasure to see your heart bare.

Where I’m headed, what I’ll be,

I don’t know

I just know I want you with me,

When I go.

 

12/20/06 Civilized

Barreling through space at

nine million times the speed of sound.

Time can not be bound with so hasty a pace;

the craft is unbridled by size shape and mass. None

watch the ship pass stars planets and particles unrestrained

by the invisible forces Sir Newton maintained.

Hybrid polymers separate its passengers

from a vacuum and the magnetic

forces of wormholes of doom

 

At fore things are bustling

Captain shouts orders from his chair.

Midshipmen are hustling

From station to concourse to lair.

 

One man has a mission, an order to deliver

He strikes out on a journey,

the ship spans a mile.

With twisting corridors and anterooms;

a labyrinth of tile.

It’s a jaunt of a week, or a day if he’s lucky.

But his stay will be short; arrive and then flee.

 

At aft things are secret, and brutalities commence. Poor men pour lives into indentures of servitude in the luxury ship, hoping to get ahead, hoping for cheap transport hence. Few survive the journey. The engine rooms spell danger. Virulent radiation pours out of gray engine housings onto the impoverished and needful. They draw straws for the next to perish. Attempts at escape are met with sanguinary vengeance. The area smells of blood, of sweat, of foul flesh.

 

Up in the control room the Captain grabs his mic

“The Andromedous Nebula is coming up soon.

All passengers look out to starboard if you like.”

He leans back and smiles as he thinks,

Ah, to be civilized…

Thank Science, thank Science.

 

1/7/07

The only one who invades my dreams

Not controlled, unfair it seems

That I endure such daily pain

I wonder often if I’m still sane

Now I think you’re of like mind

Now for naught I think I’ve pined

So close to me yet always so far

Friendship that I am afraid to mar

 

2/2/07

I lie here dreaming, me

A wet paper fantasy

Hopes up, hopes down

Heart kicked around

Still I await

Faith is my fate.

 

7/10/07

We’re here in our spaces,

Making our own way.

Trying to find our places,

With future bills to pay.

What leads the quest

Into the great unknown?

Can faith carry us forth

Or love set the tone?

We look ever onward,

Without care for the now.

But here is where we are,

And we avoid it somehow.

So little care for the people

Who mold and shape us

And disdain for the events

That comfort and save us

We overlook the vital

Times we should savor,

And look ever onward

Avoiding present labor.

So doomed are we who look

To the future for reason.

Until we pause and find

That present’s the season.

Ancient history: Movie Review: The Princess Bride

Movie Review: The Princess Bride

            The Princess Bride is the hilarious tale of true love. Cary Elwes and Robin Wright star in the 1984 film, with acclaimed director Rob Reiner at the helm.

The film is the big-screen rendition of William Goldman’s 1970 book, The Princess Bride. The story centers around Wesley (Elwes) and Buttercup (Wright), two young lovers who are separated by poverty. Five years after their separation, Buttercup agrees to marry the prince of her land, with the assumption that Wesley–who never returned–is dead. Soon Wesley returns and immediately begins his attempts to retrieve Buttercup from the evil prince.

A spectacular cast highlights this very funny comedy. In one of his first roles, Fred Savage (Wonder Years) plays a sick young boy who is read the love story by his grandfather. Andre Rousimoff(also known as Andre the Giant), plays Fezzik, a big-hearted giant. Billy Crystal plays a hermit magician named Miracle Max. Mandy Patinkin (from Dick Tracy) plays Inigo Montoya, a drunkard master swordsman. Christopher Guest turns in a great performance as the villainous prince.

The soundtrack adds to the film with a well-written score. Singer/songwriter Mark Knopfler, of the band Dire Straits, created the music for the film. He also wrote a romantic song for the movie, called “Storybook Love.” The music does well to portray the story’s themes of love and violence. It is soft and romantic during touching parts, but loud and shrieking when fighting occurs.

Ancient history: Movie Review: King Arthur

Movie Review: King Arthur

            King Arthur is not the typical Arthurian story of Camelot and shining knights in the middle ages. In fact, this story, based on real archaeological evidence, makes Arthur a knight during the decline of Rome.

Arthur (Clive Owen) is a famed Roman general in Britain, who commands several knights to protect the British area from attacks by Saxons. His knights are all native to the country, but were captured by Romans when they invaded Britain. Eventually, Rome decides to abandon the area, and charges Arthur and his knights to find and safely retrieve a Roman man deep inside enemy territory. Their reward for their deeds would thus be freedom.

This movie is an exciting and touching realistic view of Arthurian legend. The movie opens with fighting and ends with the marriage of Arthur and Gwenevere (Keira Knightley). Owen turns in a masterful performance, accurately portraying Arthur’s sadness for his knights and his respect for democracy.

With stunning visual effects and fight scenes, King Arthur is a “can’t-miss” film.

Ancient history: A brief biography of Herb Brooks

Herb Brooks: American Hero

            He may be the most influential coach ever to live, yet until a recent movie brought him back into the spotlight, the average American did not even know his name. Although it is easy to take a snapshot in time and appreciate it as just that, the story of Herb Brooks began a long time before 1980, and his legend continued to grow long after the conclusion of those Winter Games.

“The strength of hockey in the United States is a testament to Herb Brooks and the historic Olympic triumph in 1980,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said shortly after Brooks’ recent death. Herb Brooks’ life abruptly ended on August 11, 2003. He fell asleep at the wheel on his way home from scouting players for the Pittsburgh Penguins north of Minneapolis (Kovacevic).

The triumph Bettman refers to, of course, is the incredible run of the 1980 US Men’s Olympic Hockey team, a group of inexperienced college kids who shocked the world by winning gold against some of the best players in the world. The hockey world will never forget Brooks for the way he led, prodded, and pulled his team to victory. The “Miracle on Ice,” as it is referred to, was no miracle, though. It was a long time coming for a coach who poured his life and soul into the team he coached.

Brooks was born in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, a town near St. Paul. Though Brooks was best known as a coach, as a young man he was an excellent player himself. He tasted success for the first time at a very early age. The Johnson High School hockey team that he played on as a senior won the state championship in 1955. After graduation from Johnson High School, Brooks attended the University of Minnesota until 1959. At the “U,” as he came to know it, Brooks would continue his hockey career, garnering three varsity letters in his time there.

Shortly after completion of college, Brooks became a member of the 1960 US Olympic Ice Hockey team. This experience gave him the drive and desire that paved the way for the rest of Brooks’ career. He sincerely hoped that he would be able to play, but as the Olympic Games drew near, he found that he would not be able to achieve his goal. The coach had to trim the roster down to meet the maximum player allotment for the Games, and Brooks was the very last player cut. That team would go on to win a gold medal, while Herb Brooks could do nothing but observe. He never gave up, though. Four years later Brooks stayed in the lineup, four years after that he was named captain of the team. The 1968 games would essentially spell the end for Brooks as a player, however.

Although he continued playing for several years, Brooks found his real niche in life in 1972. By this time, Brooks was a bit too old to keep playing at a high level. What made him such a great player, though, was his innate ability to lead. This ability, he found, would translate excellently to coaching. A good coach has the ability to gather respect from his players, and use that respect to move everyone toward a common goal. From the very outset of his coaching career, Brooks would prove himself extremely adept in this area.

When the University of Minnesota decided to hire Herb Brooks as their new hockey coach in 1972, they probably thought of him as a work in progress. He was a great player and leader on the ice, but those attributes don’t necessarily translate well to coaching with no previous experience behind the bench. In addition, the team that Brooks was given had finished dead last in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association a year earlier. Two years later, Brooks brought home an NCAA Division-I National Championship for his alma mater. Hockey fans now realize that with Brooks as a coach, it is prudent to expect the unexpected.

“Herb Brooks’ tremendous ability to lead was surpassed only by his brilliance as a hockey strategist,” said Lou Vairo, an assistant coach of Brooks’ during the 2002 Olympic Games.

Although he was a champion already, Brooks was never satisfied. His Minnesota teams would win two more championships in the seven years he coached there. Eventually he compiled a 165-96-18 record as the University’s coach. He still holds the highest all-time NCAA tournament winning percentage with eight wins and 1 loss, and became the only coach to lead an NCAA Division-I team to a National Championship without a single foreign player (Complete Herb Brooks Bio). Eventually he became known for coaching with a “prickly personality and fanatical preparation.” It was not unusual for Brooks to single out a player if he thought it would motivate them to play at a higher level. He would prepare for games incessantly, but not by watching films of other teams. “Those who spent time with him on the ice said he could watch five minutes of a practice and perform a comprehensive evaluation of a player,” (Kovacevic) He liked to believe his players had the innate ability to win. It was just a matter of playing to their potential. His success with the Golden Gophers of the University of Minnesota soon vaulted him into a position coaching the long-shot 1980 US Men’s Olympic Ice Hockey team.

Today, Olympic teams are filled with the biggest stars from around the world, but the team Brooks was hired to coach stands in stark contrast. The team was composed entirely of kids in college or fresh out of it, while European rosters were dotted with experienced professional stars.  As a result, Brooks “held numerous tryout camps, which included psychological testing, before selecting a roster from among several hundred prospects” (Fitzpatrick). After tryouts, the team spent about a year and a half under the tutelage of Brooks. Brooks, who knew that the US team had no chance of matching the talent of European players, emphasized conditioning and discipline. Consequently, the time his players spent with him was somewhat grueling both mentally and physically. Several players also still held grudges from past college games, and Brooks often united them against himself. He knew that before his players could play for him, they must first be able to play with each other as a team. He continually asked them if they wanted it enough, and several confrontations ended in shouting matches (Fitzpatrick). At some points it seemed it might be a struggle just to keep his players playing for him.

“He messed with our minds at every opportunity,” said forward Mike Ramsey.

As the 1980 Olympics neared, Brooks’ team was looking competitive. They were fast enough and conditioned enough to skate with anyone, even if the talent wasn’t there. In the opening round the team struggled a bit at first against Sweden, but beat Czechoslovakia 7-3. Consecutive victories against Norway, Romania, and Germany sent the team into a semifinal match-up with the USSR, a favorite to win the gold medal. The Soviet team was made up of veterans in their prime, including Vladislav Tretiak, considered to be the best goaltender in the world. In addition, the whole nation was looking to this team for some kind of hope during a time when everything looked bleak. The Cold War was in full force. Fuel prices were skyrocketing because of supposed shortages. Tensions were high between nations, especially the United States and the Soviet Union. Brooks knew he had to say something before the game to get his players to relax and realize their potential.

“You were meant to be here,” he said. “This moment is yours.”

In sixty minutes, one of the hardest fought hockey games in history was over. The United States came out on top. Two days and one championship game later, the Americans were standing on the winner’s podium with gold medals around their necks. The nation’s youth watched it happen, and a sudden exponential growth in hockey interest developed. Given this sudden surge in interest for hockey, it is no wonder that Brooks and his team would win the 1980 Lester Patrick Award, given for outstanding service to hockey in the United States.

After his incredible success with the Olympic team, Brooks was hired as head coach of the New York Rangers of the NHL. His winning ways didn’t falter. He was named 1982 NHL Coach of the Year by his peers in his first year of coaching, and soon reached 100 wins faster than any coach in franchise history. He continued coaching the Rangers until 1985. His NHL coaching career also took him to Minnesota, New Jersey, and Pittsburgh.

Partway through the 1999-2000 season for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Brooks stepped in as head coach. With 29 wins (including his 200th as head coach), Herb guided yet another team into the playoffs (Kovacevic). The Penguins would eventually exit in the second round of playoffs, and Brooks decided to retire permanently. He said he wanted to spend time with his family, but many believe that the players, with their gigantic egos, had driven him away. He remained in a scouting and player development capacity with the Penguins for the rest of his career, even spurning a million dollar deal to coach the Rangers in 2002.

Tragically, Brooks’ life would come to an untimely end shortly after the Penguins named him Director of Player Development in the organization. Disney Studios recently chronicled the inspirational story of his 1980 Olympic hockey team in its’ 2003 movie, Miracle. Brooks was extremely honored to be depicted on screen. In support of the film, he talked several times with movie star Kurt Russell, who portrays Brooks on the big screen. He passed away too soon to see the picture made. The movie, seen by thousands of children who have only heard mention of the great “Miracle on Ice,” will probably inspire still more children to play hockey for the first time.

In regard to his 1980 Hockey team, Brooks once said, “We are the makers of dreams, the dreamers of dreams. We should be dreaming. We grew up as kids having dreams, but now we’re too sophisticated as adults, as a nation. We stopped dreaming. We should always have dreams. I’m a dreamer.” Indeed, it was Brooks’ dream which inspired thousands of kids to lace up their skates for the first time. All great coaches aid the success of their own teams, but it is a select few who aid in the growth of their very sport. His contributions to the growth of hockey make him possibly the most influential coach in history.

 

 

Works Cited

“Complete Herb Brooks Bio.” USAHockey.com. 8 Feb. 2006

<http://www.usahockey.com/usa_hockey/main_site/main/home/herbbrooksbio/

herbbrooksbio/herbbrooksbio//>.

 

Fitzpatrick, Jamie. “Miracle on Ice: American Hockey’s Defining Moment.” About.com.

30 Jan. 2006 <http://proicehockey.about.com/cs/history/a/mriacle_on_ice.htm&gt;

 

Kovacevic, Dejan. “Brooks Dies in Crash.” Pittsburgh Post Gazette 12 August 2003: A1.