Summer reading tips

There appears to be some confusion over getting books over the summer break that are assigned reading.  Here are some insights to make it easier.

Assume that you will not be able to renew a book that you have to have for summer reading. Three weeks is plenty of time if you actually dedicate yourself to it. This means you can’t play video games for three hours every day. It might mean you have to take it on vacation with you. Take the number of pages and divide them by the amount of time the book is checked out. That way you know how many pages you have to read every day. Go ahead and exert the discipline on yourself and read it.

There are other people who are waiting for it. There may be 500 kids who have to read that book for the summer but the library can only afford 200 copies. This means you have to share. Do not wait until two weeks before classes resume in the fall to request your book. You will not get it. When school lets out at the beginning of summer go ahead and request the book.

When you get it, take notes so that you can remember the book later when school starts. If you’re someone who likes to take notes in books, don’t do so in a library book. Consider buying a copy at a bookstore or online if you need to have it longer than three weeks or want to write in it.

Just getting the book and reading it is part of the assignment. This prepares you for the future when you have a job. You can’t say that you weren’t able to do your assignment. There are no excuses other than you have died. It is not fair to the other people who are waiting for the book for you to keep it longer than three weeks. It is not the library’s fault if you don’t have your book in time in order to read it. This too is part of the test.

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The cuckoo

They studied the population carefully. Select only the isolated ones, the weak ones as hosts. Select the ones who have low self-esteem, who feel grateful for any attention, even if it was from an “other”, an alien, an outsider. Humans need attention from others like flowers need rain. Not enough and they fail to thrive.
They studied the native large wild cats too, saw how they would select the weakest of the herd, separate it from the pack. This was who they would use – not the strongest. No, that was dangerous. It was too much risk, too much effort. Playing this invasion on the quiet was the best course, they realized – no need to show your hand. You might get shown the door, and in this case it meant not just homeless but permanently without a planet.
This was a one-way trip for many of the Xohni, and they knew it from the beginning. Outnumbered and running low on resources, they left their besieged planet decades ago. The invaders let some go voluntarily into the transport ships, packed together like sardines, feet to head, barely room enough to scratch an itch. Some were given up by their own kinsman – the misfits, the outlaws, the ne’er-do-wells, to be sold at auction like so much cattle. No matter however they ended up on Earth – voluntarily or not, they had to adapt to their greatly reduced circumstances. They had to breed, and fast. They barely had enough resources to shelter and feed themselves, however. There was no room on the ships to bring more than the basics for even those who went willingly. Those who were given up by their kinsman had less than that.
There was no time to set up homes with nurseries, no time to raise their offspring. If they’d taken the time, they wouldn’t stand a chance of recovering their home world. Many held out hope that they could return, somehow, some when, and rebuild their smoking husks of cities, razed to the ground by the faceless invaders. They needed to breed, to create troops from their own flesh, to be able to do this.
So the men found the softhearted ones, the quiet ones. The ones who were a little or a lot overweight. The poor ones, the less than clever ones. The host wasn’t important. Their DNA would not contribute in the slightest to this process. They were unknowingly broodmares, surrogates only. They would carry a child in their bodies but it would not be theirs. The alien men would mate with one of their own women before this event, and like the seahorse, would carry the fertilized eggs within himself. Up to a year could go by before they had to find a cow, as they termed the unsuspecting human women. Meanwhile, the embryo waited, not dividing, not growing, in their father’s womb sacs.
Once a cow had been located, it was quick work to charm her just enough to take her to bed and deposit his precious cargo inside her. Pregnancy was guaranteed. It didn’t matter if she was ovulating or not, on the pill or not. Her fertility was not in question because her eggs never came into the equation. What was deposited in her womb was already fertilized, already alive, and already stronger than anything she might have provided. These alien offspring were engineered to grow faster and larger than any human baby ever did. They were more aggressive, louder, more belligerent too. There was no debate that they were different, for sure. Everyone knew it, but none were willing to talk about it openly.
Teachers and pediatricians chalked the differences up to the fact that they were raised by single mothers, because they all were. The alien fathers never stayed around to raise their children. That would slow them down, take up too much time, and require resources they didn’t have. They left town the same day they talked their hapless targets into going to bed with them. Once fertilization was over, they had no need of them. It was time to find another cow. The fathers only came back at the time of the child’s maturity.
In this way, it was all too easy to double their population just a few years after landfall. Sure, the offspring were young, but they were strong. Native Xohni customarily went into the army at age 12. It was their coming-of-age ritual. While some cultures would have a party or give the child a new name to mark the crossing of maturity’s threshold, the Xohni went to the battlefield, and did so joyfully. Violence was as much a part of them as hair or eye color. It wasn’t a choice. Those who tried to suppress their violence by attempting to continue their education or by choosing to marry a human were shamed by their family and peers.
The fathers came back years later to claim their children. The cows were grateful for any attention, even though it wasn’t positive. They gave the boys guns to play with, and gave the girls baby-dolls. They knew that whatever you give a child as a toy becomes who they are. They needed the boys to be soldiers and the girls to continue providing eggs. This was the only way there was any hope for the reconquest of their world.
But it took too long. The invaders were too good at their job. The world was decimated by the invaders – cities were destroyed, land was salted. The Xohni continued anyway. Their aberration became normal on Earth by sheer volume alone, and they blended in as well as they could. Why would they care that their children were so different from those of the natives? They were strange looking, violent, and unable (or unwilling) to speak the local language properly. They had to rethink their plan. Perhaps in a matter of years they might alter the fabric of society enough to make Earth their permanent home instead of just a temporary base. Perhaps by then their deficits would be seen as credits in a society that had come to praise the lowest common denominator in a perverse effort to shrug off elitism.

The red doors. Abandoned project #1

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And tomorrow I will go into the smaller door, the lesser door. Always and forever the grand door, the steps leading upwards, but not to the light, no, never that.

You’d think so, with the wide entrance, the columns and the arch. You’d think so, but you’d be wrong. That is the way that leads to the world.

This world is the world of doing, of broken promises and prom dates and first kisses and grandparents who die. The whole ball of wax is there for the taking.

But the other door? The plain one, the one you can’t see in until you’d reached the top step, the landing? It isn’t for nothing that you have to take eight steps to get there. Too high for anybody in the room to peer in. It is the best kept secret after all.

Door not locked, not even there, even. Not even any hinges for the door. Never were. And that light! Warm and low, like a late afternoon in September, when the skies are clear and the summer heat is a memory.

No, that doorway you only go through once, because there’s no coming back, no backtracking – not as far as anyone knew. There could be a mind wipe, a re-cycling, an up-cycling, but we’d never know.

Yes, tomorrow it shall be.

 

(Photo from Pinterest. Bramham House, England. Copyright belongs to the photographer.)

The Donor

Jane had no reason to suspect Craig was the reason she was always sick. He was her joy. He cheered her up when she was down. He bought her flowers and turned them towards her saying she was the sunshine that they fed on. He noticed when she paused over a piece of art and bought it months later as a surprise. She often thought to herself that she’d never had such a kind and considerate boyfriend her entire life.
He never minded that she was often cranky because of the pain. The chronic feeling of un-wellness kept her up at night, made it hard to spend time with friends. Often all she wanted at the end of the day was to curl up on the sofa with a book and let her mind escape into the pages. At least there she could forget the dull but ever-present pain that ruled her days.
She drank anti-inflammatory tea by the gallon, did everything her therapist suggested, and still she had no relief. She had come to believe that pain was part of who she was, just as much as her bunions and her curly hair. She could no longer remember a time when she wasn’t at least a little achy, since a little had been a lot for so long.
It had started when she was in college, the year she met Craig. Under hypnotism much later she realized it was the very night she’d first seen him at a frat party that the aches had begun. They were mild at first, like the ache from being hung over. Then it continued, like she was getting a summer cold. Then it never left.
She had been dating someone else then, but Craig caught her eye and they had chatted. It was a few months later before she ran into him again, and by then she was single. The last relationship had left her a little sour on the idea of dating again any time soon, and she had told Craig so when he inquired. He understood and respected her space. There had been no question about it – he honestly and sincerely accepted her feelings. There was no hidden agenda of pretending to wait just so he could date her later. It was the first time in her life she’d ever felt like a potential suitor actually cared about what she wanted.
She’d decided to date him after six months, after she’d had enough “me” time and wanted “we” time again. Maybe it was the lack of pressure. Maybe the pain was wearing her down. Or maybe the hex sign he’d sketched out between her shoulder blades had done it.
She’d never noticed at the time. How could she? That evening had been a little hazy, what with the kamikaze she’d consumed. It had tasted so good on that hot summer afternoon, sitting on the front porch of the frat house. Her friend Fish, a resident of the house, had mixed it for her and it was a little stronger than she liked. So when Craig offered to give her a back rub when she mentioned how her shoulders ached, she thought nothing about how he warmed up with some delicate tracery on the bare skin between her shoulder blades. She didn’t know he had traced a sigil. She didn’t know it was a sigil of marking, of ownership. She didn’t know that his attitude of indifference afterwards was just an act. In that moment, she was tied to him for as long as he desired, and that was for as long as she was useful to him.
He had been born normal, like any other child of the Midwest. Nothing exceptional had happened that would have raised any red flags. No one would have ever suspected a thing until Bebhinn saw them together years later. She was a friend of a friend, really, not connected to either one. This made her objective, like a reporter. She was a curious about them as a couple since she’d noticed them at the Yule party three years ago. Sure, they had been at other parties before then, but this was the one where she had finally seen them, seeing the energy between them, and it wasn’t good.
Electric blue lines streamed from Jane to Craig, but none the other way. Bebhinn had seen that only once before, and it was in her native Ireland. A man had drained his wife’s life from her, bit by bit at first and then more and more as he grew hungrier and she grew weaker. The less she was able to give, the more he wanted until there was nothing left.
The town priest was secretly an exorcist. This was in spite of the official church statement that such activities were not in keeping with the rites and canons of a post Vatican 2 faith. He named the cause of the poor woman’s death, having seen it many times before in other guises in his native Nigeria.
The dire priest shortage in Ireland had meant that he’d had to transfer to this backwoods village a long decade ago. Bebhinn wasn’t pleased with the change in accent most of all, finding his heavily accented sing-song voice at odds with the native lyricism of her people, but what other option was there? So many parishes had closed or merged when their priest had finally died and not been replaced. So few young men chose to be priests these days. She should be grateful her parish’s doors were still open, even if the doorkeeper was almost unintelligible. For a while she decided to pretend that the mass was in Latin again, and just let it wash over her. After a few months she started to make some headway in understanding him. She decided to try to befriend him, to help make him feel at home in this wild, wet land, so different from everything he knew.
It was during their weekly lunches together that he confided to her that he could see spirits. She was the only parishioner he’d told and the only one he would ever tell. He knew, with the same sort of knowing that had led him into this clandestine club, that she had the same ability. Over the years he taught her all that was safe to teach a layperson. It was these skills that Bebhinn used now.
Jane had stopped going to church when she entered college, the same as many young people. Unlike them, she still had an interest in God, but didn’t have the time. Most quit because they no longer had to go as a prerequisite for free room and board. If she had continued to attend, her pastor might have seen the biggest change in her – the light slowly leaving her eyes. There wasn’t a spring in her step or song in her heart anymore. The change had come on so gradually that it would have been impossible for anyone to notice if they’d seen her every day.
Craig had been draining Jane for years before Bebhinn noticed her at that party. He was sly about it, withdrawing only tiny bits of energy at a time. He had to be sly – otherwise she might notice and leave, and then he’d have to groom another donor. For that’s what she, and at least 60 other women before her were – donors. Unwilling, unwitting, certainly, but donors nonetheless. They’d not signed a card or registered with any agency, but a part of them was being removed nonetheless.