For more about Allison and her books visit her website at For now, please relax and brace yourself for the occasionally coherent ramblings of Allison's mind.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Hurry Now for the Earth Day Sale!

Maybe someone can explain something to me. When did we as a society decide that every italicized date on the calendar needed a corresponding retail sale? It dawned on me a couple weeks ago as one of the most absurd sentences I’ve heard in a while belted from my TV during a commercial break:

“Hurry now for 20% off our entire stock of bed linens during our Martin Luther King Day sale.”

Ok, now I’m no historian. And I wasn’t alive during the Civil Rights Movement, but I feel like I can say with confidence that Dr. King’s big dream wasn’t for future generations to save 20% on bed linens. I’m fairly confident those college students who risked everything to sit at a lunch counter in a Woolworths weren’t discussing how great it was going to be that one day their children could get 0.9% financing on an SUV.

A Martin Luther King Day sale? Really? And then it occurred to me that we also hear things like “Veteran’s Day sale” and “Memorial Day Sale” and “Labor Day Sale.” Personally, I’m pumped for the Arbor Day sale. You already know from my Mother’s Day post how I feel about trees. I can’t wait to honor them with a new set of towels.

Look, I get it. We’re a capitalist society. Capitalism functions a lot better when its citizens buy into consumerism (slight pun intended). For consumerism to work, you need materialism. For materialism to stay viable retailers have to convince us we need things we don’t by bombarding us with percentage signs.

But still, Martin Luther King Day? A great, brave man gave his life for a cause that reshaped our entire culture, and we’re asked to honor his memory by shopping. You really want to impress me Mr. Car Dealership and Ms. Retail Outlet? Show me how you better your community by sending your employees on a service project. Spend your MLK Day advertising budget explaining what you’re doing to fight for justice, equality, and doing what’s right as an example for your customers.

And no, extending store hours until midnight doesn’t count.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

So You’re Old, Now What?

When did you first figure out you were old? I used to have this theory that age is relative. Maybe I still do. I’m not talking about “you’re as young as you feel.” I’m talking about life transforming each of us in different ways at different times. Call it maturity, call it circumstance, but I don’t think anyone would argue that two 20-year-olds aren’t really the same age. We all know a 30-year-old second cousin who makes our neighbor’s teenager look like a responsible adult.

So who’s older? The kid who raised herself, has a house, child, husband, and full-time job at age 23, or the sheltered 30-year-old scanning temp agencies for beer money? How much does a date on a driver’s license really compare to the transforming experiences a person collects from birth on?

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been an adult all my life. I’ve been middle-aged since I was 22. At 29, I’m checking my mailbox for the inevitable AARP propaganda. By 40, who knows. I’ll probably be checking out retirement communities I can’t enter for another quarter of a century.

So what makes us feel old? If age is relative than the progression of age is more of a comparative venture than an inherent one. Age is an evaluation of lost opportunities, an observation of the younger (and older) generation’s milestones. It’s the collection of our own milestones. It’s a game of subtraction.

You didn’t feel old until the toddler you babysat got married. You didn’t feel old until you realized there are a host of infant dreams you will never be able to achieve. Friends and family boast about their 19-year-old who’s making gas money touring the country with his sub-label rock band. Try that at 39 and see what they think.

Ironically, the physical flags of aging generally come much later than the comparative ones. I just started paying attention to the Sensodyne commercials and wondering if I should switch to the more expensive line of under-eye cream. Yet, I realized four years ago I’d never be a rock star and could no longer pull off the denim mini-skirt. I’m still clinging to my cute tees and street chic hoodies, but honestly, as a mother of two, I’m flirting dangerously close with What Not to Wear. Ten years from now I can see my then fourteen-year-old son explaining to Stacie and Clinton how embarrassed he is that his mom attends his hockey games in her faux fur cardigan and tiny Decepticon graphic tee.

Like I said, it’s a game of subtraction. You reference college like you graduated a month ago. You feel old when you do the math and realize it’s been 7 years. You check your files for a receipt for something you bought recently. You feel old when you realize it’s been 3 years. You schedule events far in advance. You feel old when they actually come to pass.

Technology is a sneaky culprit as well. As if it’s not hard enough keeping track of the constant streams of upgrades that quickly become necessities, try looking back even just a few years and see how old you feel. I was recently re-watching a popular TV series from my high school and college years. The actors and actresses still looked modern by today’s standards. Their hair was right. Their cars were sleek enough. The girls even wore their knee-high boots over their skinny jeans. Everything was fine, until they pulled out their cell phones the size of my forearm. Until they answered them without caller ID. Until they needed to contact one another and didn’t use texting. It would have been a totally different show if even one character had access to a smart phone. Another show featured a character desperately trying to find a phone line to hook up her laptop modem. And now, I’m old. I forgot about the dial-up modem. I had a dial-up modem. My pre-schooler navigates an iPhone. At age 4 I was hanging on my brother’s crib pretending to be a garbage man.

So, I’m old, now what? The problem with aging isn’t just retrospective, but prospective as well. What do you do when you realize you’re aging before you’re actually old? It’s scary enough to look back on what’s already passed. It’s completely paralyzing to stand at the very edge of youth and realize you’re still young enough to pursue most opportunities if you act now. If only you knew how. It’s terrifying to face the prospect of looking back from the future and realizing you lost time you knew you had. They say youth is wasted on the young. I’m fine with that. It’s a lot scarier to be young and completely aware you’re wasting it.

My guitar instructor once gave me a chord progression to work on for the week. Of course the music-loving over-achiever in me had to arrange them into a song and add lyrics. As you can see, this anxious crossroads has been haunting me for a while.

I’m waiting for the train. I missed my bus and plane already.
I’m an hour early but I fear I’m still too late
I don’t know where I’m going, but I know I need to get there.
It’s too late to go back, but I’m paralyzed with fear that I’ll get stuck here.

So I wait, I wait to find forever
I wait, I long to be a believer
I will, I will ride into the future
If it takes me

So when did you realize you were old? Maybe you’re not. Maybe none of us are. Maybe we all are.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Excerpt: Roman Totally Promised Not to Eat Us

Although this blog tends to veer off on every tangent imaginable, its roots will always be in writing and following the journey of an aspiring writer. Having said that, we haven’t ventured into that world in quite a while so it’s time to pop back for a quick peek. Here’s an exclusive glimpse at my latest project (working title: Roman Totally Promised Not to Eat Us).

The premise: Nathan Hatfield’s roommates had the brilliant idea of adopting a lonely vampire zombie-wolf they met in the alley outside their apartment.

The problem: His roommates are idiots.

Chapter 1: The Set-up

Nathan Hatfield was average. Well, he considered himself average. Women would probably say he was above average in the looks department, although not an inaccessible heart-throb like his roommate Travis. His professors would say he was definitely above average in the intelligence department. Maybe one day his grades would even reflect it if he’d stop over-thinking those stupid standardized tests. He was definitely below average in the finances department, but money wasn’t everything. Or so his single-mom tried to explain as she contributed her good will and periodic laundry services to his college education. Maybe all that balanced out to average.
            Nathan was more self-aware than most. A global thinker. Cerebral, but relatable. He could philosophize with the best of them, yet was still grounded enough to charm the average bar patron. He was well-rounded, well-groomed, athletic, and personable.  Blessed with an easy smile that was hard to forget. He even played lead guitar for a semi-professional rock band. A few shows a month. Nothing to get excited about.
He was what others would describe as “a good guy.” Maybe even a guy you should seek out if you didn’t already know him. Sure, no girlfriend, but not for lack of offers. After all, he had a lot going for him. Just enough to admire him, but not enough to hate him for it. Nathan Hatfield had a solid foot in reality, a driven spirit, a decent future, and a sharp intellect.
His roommates did not.

Nathan dropped his books on the counter of the kitchenette and sauntered toward his room with a weary sigh. It had been a long day and that was before the four classes that capped it off. Shower, food, and bed. In that order. Maybe just shower and bed.
            He turned the knob on the bathroom door and shuffled inside. The fluorescent light flickered to life and he stared at himself in the mirror for a moment. He should have shaved that morning. The scruffy facial shadow worked for a few days, but was veering dangerously close to shaggy mess at this point. If only he hadn’t pulled the zombie shift at the diner. But his manager hated him for some reason and …
Nathan froze and stared to the left of his reflection. He wanted to turn around. No, not really. He had to turn around, but he didn’t want to. He wanted to sneak back out of the bathroom and pretend he didn’t see the intruder lounging in their tub with eerie nonchalance.
            “Hey,” it offered, lifting its hand in a casual greeting.
            Nathan blinked and stared. It just waved. It…
After a deep breath, his paralysis eased and he managed to slip back into the hallway. He pulled the door shut behind him and closed his eyes. His heavy breathing echoed through the silence as he leaned against the chipping paint. There wasn’t a strange being in his bathroom. It didn’t have fangs. It didn’t just say hello. It definitely wasn’t wearing his Nirvana shirt. The one he got from that guy in Seattle who claimed to have had breakfast with Kurt Cobain the day before his death. Finally, he found his voice again.
“Travis! Chris! Sam!” He marched toward the kitchen and waited for the inevitable creak of bedroom doors and rustling of footsteps. Just as he approached the main living space, Sam returned through the front door and noticed Nathan’s white face.
            “What’s going on? You don’t look good,” Sam observed.
            Nathan shook his head and was about to respond when the other two joined them in the kitchen. “Oh, hey, Nate. Sam. You’re back. What’s up? How was that econ exam you were worried about?”
            Nathan stared at them with an incredulous expression. “What’s up? What the heck is in our bathroom?”
            “There’s something in our bathroom?” Sam asked, entirely too enthusiastic about what should have been a horrifying concept.
            “Yes! Tonight was supposed to be a relaxing night in my room, and then all the sudden, there’s this, this thing in the bathroom!”
            “Oh, you met Roman,” Chris explained.
            “Roman? You named it?”
            Chris and Travis exchanged a glance and Travis cleared his throat. “No, of course not. He already had a name. We picked him up in the alley outside our building. He’s a vampire zombie-wolf.”
            Nathan could only stare. He should say something. Like “huh” or “what” or “I’m sorry, that didn’t register. Please, repeat that.” But he could only stare.
            “A vampire zombie-wolf?” Sam offered instead. “Wow. What does it even eat?”
            The spell broke.
Nathan turned to Sam in disbelief. “I’m sorry. ‘What does it eat?’ That’s your question?” He spun back to the others. “What in the world is a vampire zombie-wolf and why is there one in our bathroom?” he cried.
            And that’s when Nathan realized they’d all lost their minds. He was in Hell. Or a medieval prison. Or some generally accepted place of relentless mental and physical torture. They stared back at him like he was the slow one. “What do you think it would be? It’s part zombie, part vampire, and part werewolf. A vampire zombie-wolf.”
            “Yeah, it’s like the most amazing girl magnet miracle ever.”
            “I’m sorry, what?”
            “A girl magnet,” Travis explained. “Did you see it? It looks like a combination of all those girly book covers. The thing is built too. You should see its abs.”
            Nathan couldn’t speak again. It had abs. His eyes shot back down the hall and he swallowed. Hard. Finally, he clenched them shut and drew in a deep breath. “You mean, the monster locked in our bathroom is dating currency?”
            “Exactly. My baby sister is into all that crap. Girls can’t resist those things. Don’t ask me why, but they go nuts.”
            Breathe. If only he could. “And how exactly is their attraction to that thing in our bathroom going to help you get dates?” It was way too rational of a question for this highly irrational situation. There couldn’t possibly be an answer.
            There wasn’t. The two idiots exchanged another look and Nathan shook his head in defeat. They hadn’t even thought that far out. They were all screwed.
            “This is crazy. And awesome!” Sam interjected. “But you never answered my question. What does it eat?”
            Chris and Travis shrugged. “Brains and blood, obviously.”
            “Wait, what?” Nathan cried. What else did he expect? Of course their monster would require a steady supply of brains and blood.
            “Relax. We already found out it’s fine with animal brains and blood.”
            “I don’t even want to know how you discovered that,” Nathan muttered.
            They ignored him. “Look, we know it’s a lot to absorb, but he’s not a threat. I mean, maybe, we can’t be sure, but probably not.”
            “We don’t think so.”
            “There’s a part zombie, part vampire, part werewolf monster who feeds on blood and brains living in our apartment. How is that not a problem?”
            “We understand your concern, Nate, really, but he’s actually pretty dumb.”
            “He’s not smart.”
            “I know what you meant by ‘dumb.’ I mean…never mind.” When his roommates could note missing light bulbs in someone else, that meant something.
            “Just try to get to know him. You might like him.”
            Nathan stared in disbelief for one more moment, certain he must be sleeping. He’d probably wake-up in a booth at the diner with the manager spitting in his ear. He needed coffee. No, he needed whiskey, then coffee. “I have to go. I…” He grabbed his keys off the counter and bolted for the door.

Chapter 2: Roman Becomes One of the Guys.

Nathan did eventually return the apartment. He probably shouldn’t have. In fact, he probably should have contacted some local law-enforcement agency. But no matter how many times he practiced that conversation in his head, it never went in his favor. In fact, it usually ended up with him in some kind of permanent facility eating applesauce which he hated. Plus, his name was on the lease and all his stuff was here. And his books. And they only had a few weeks left in the semester. Too late to start uprooting his life because of one incredibly stupid monster living in his bathroom. He’d managed to survive two years with the other three in the neighboring rooms.
            Travis and Chris took care of the monster better than he expected. They made sure it had its steady fill of animal brains and even outfitted it with a very modern, yet flattering wardrobe. And they were right. The thing had amazing abs. Even Travis whose schedule revolved around maintaining his physique had to envy the perfection. One morning Nathan even caught Travis glaring through a crack in the open door as it changed its shirt. To date, that might have been the most disturbing moment of Nathan’s life.
            As time passed, they began to grow accustomed to its lurking presence in the bathroom. Sometimes it tried to make conversation. It seemed to possess an irritating need for acceptance, and Nathan started dreading his morning routine. Based on the animated voices accompanying the others’ bathroom visits, however, it seemed to have more success with his roommates. See, Nathan considered the bathroom a refuge. A place where a person should have complete privacy to indulge grooming habits that would be inappropriate anywhere else on the planet. The bathroom was a haven of solitude. It wasn’t the place to make small-talk with vampire zombie-wolves.
            But Roman seemed particularly chatty that morning, and Nathan sighed as he squeezed toothpaste on the brush.
            “Look, you’re cool with this, right? I mean, I know it’s weird having another dude living in your bathroom.”
            Nathan studied the thing in the mirror, not sure how to respond. “You have a reflection.”
            “Oh. Yeah. That’s a myth, thankfully. How the heck are you supposed to do your hair without a reflection?”
            “Good point. And admire your devastatingly good looks.”
            Roman nodded in agreement. Nathan rolled his eyes. “I guess what I mean is, I get it. I mean, all the brains, and blood, and everything. Most people don’t even give me a chance. They’re all judge-y and scared and what-have-you before we even get to exchange names. You guys are my first friends, like, ever.”
            “Lucky us.” Nathan tried to focus on his own tired reflection and not the earnest sincerity of his companion’s. Too awkward. But the dam was already opened, so now he had to say something. “So what’s the deal with the bathtub? I mean, you’re not chained up or anything.”
            “Oh yeah, that.” Roman pointed toward the ceiling, and Nathan nearly fell into the sink.
            “Is that…is that some kind of hex?”
            “Yeah, kinda. It’s like a spell to keep me in this spot. I mean, I’m not mad about it or anything. Your friends weren’t entirely sure I wasn’t going to eat them, so they decided to lock me up for a while until I could prove myself.”
            Sadly, Nathan was more startled by his roommates’ foresight and successful execution of a plan than the fact that their plan involved confining a vampire zombie-wolf to their bathtub. “Well, I’m glad you seem understanding about it all.”
            “Hey, it’s paradise, man. Really. I mean, brains, blood. It’s a constant chore trying to secure that stuff all the time. Serve me on a silver platter and I’ll chill out in a bathtub as long as you want.”
            “You know this royal treatment doesn’t come without a price.”
            Roman shrugged, but didn’t seem concerned. “Yeah, I know. I can hear what you guys talk about. They want help with women.”
            “And you’re ok with that?”
            “The only thing I love more than brains is women.”
            Nathan couldn’t believe he just listened to that sentence. And understood it. And found it strangely comforting. “You don’t…you don’t eat them do you?”
            Roman laughed. “Eat them? Of course not! I told you, I love women. Why would I eat them? Geez. No, I eat disgraced politicians mostly. And the occasional pharmaceutical rep.”
            Nathan couldn’t tell if the guy was joking. He feared he wasn’t. “Ok, so you really are on board with helping them out?”
            “Hey, like I said. They’re decent guys. They gave a vampire zombie-wolf a break when most people would just reach for a stake or silver bullets or whatever. The least I can do is get them a few dates.”
            “I don’t really know how to respond to that,” Nathan replied. He clasped his hands and offered an awkward attempt at a smile. “Well, I’ve got to get going. But um…good luck with everything…and…yeah.”
            “Sure. Thanks, man. Nice chat. You know, you should give yourself more credit, though. You’re actually a pretty good-looking guy. I never really noticed until your shower this morning.”
            Nathan could only stare. “Oh. Um… Thanks.”
“No problem. I didn’t mean that in a weird way.”
“Oh... Well…that’s... I should go. I’m just gonna…ok.”      
“Yep.” Roman settled back into the tub and closed his eyes. Nathan escaped through the door.
            He moved toward the kitchen, still reeling from their guest’s uncomfortable compliment. For once he was grateful for the hectic day ahead if only to distract his mind from that alarming revelation and how he should possibly process it. 
            He sifted through the contents of the refrigerator and his anticipation quickly turned to disgust. He always considered himself a tolerant person, sympathetic even, but somehow the shelves of brains tested the limits of his understanding nature. He’d watched enough celebrity chef shows to know the culinary world referred to them as “sweet breads.” A deceptive euphemism if there ever was one. Sweet breads. That was a cinnamon raisin bagel, not cow guts. He reached around the stacks of butcher paper for the milk and cursed.
            “You have to be kidding me,” he mumbled, shaking the empty container in disbelief. His roommates could manage a shelf of cow brains but not a gallon of milk.
            “Hey, Nate. Morning.”
            Nathan turned to Chris and dropped the empty jug on the island between them. “Really?”
            “Oops. Sorry about that. Travis finished it last night. It’s on our list.”
            “And yet you returned it to the refrigerator.”
            “Yeah, we should have tossed it. Travis put it back to remind us.”
            “I thought you had a list.”
            “What about Travis?” Travis asked as he entered and pulled a shirt over his head.
            “The milk,” Chris explained.
            “Oh, yeah. Sorry. I didn’t want to forget.”
            Nathan only shook his head in frustration and tossed the jug in the recycling bin. “Look, guys. We have to talk. This needs to stop.”
            “I know, man. Really, we’re sorry. We already talked about keeping a list on the fridge…”
            “Not the milk, the zombie,” Nathan interjected, even more annoyed. “He took notes on my shower this morning.”
            “He watched you shower?” Travis asked in surprise.
            “Yes, exactly. He said I was attractive. But not in a weird way.”
            His roommate looked hurt. “Really?”
“I know. Disturbing.”
Travis didn’t even hear him. “He’s never commented on my showers.”
“Wait, what?”
Travis shrugged. “I don’t know, I would have thought he’d say something to me. I mean, I work out ten times more than you do.”
Nathan stared at him.
“Ok, yeah, it’s creepy,” Travis clarified. “But still…just a small acknowledgement would be nice.”
“You’ve lost your mind. All of you,” Nathan cried, grabbing his jacket and books. “I want him out of here! This is ridiculous. He cannot live in our bathroom anymore. I want my bathroom back!” He didn’t even care if Roman’s vampire ears heard him say it.

Nathan knew he made a mistake obeying the message from Chris the moment he entered the restaurant. His three roommates looked up from their table as he approached and their solemn expression frightened him more than the vampire zombie-wolf in their tub. They had conspired. They were united in something and poised for an intervention. They’d made a plan. Without him. That never ended well.
            “Glad you could make it, Nate.”
            “What’s this about?” Nathan asked, not interested in the menu they handed him.
            The three exchanged uncomfortable looks and finally Travis cleared his throat. “We’ve been thinking…” He stopped and studied his napkin.
The silence was deafening.
“Look, I’ve got class in twenty minutes. The last time you guys ‘thought’ we ended up with a monster in our apartment. The suspense is killing me.”
Chris gripped his fork and glanced up at Nathan. “We think it’s time to free Roman.”
Nathan breathed a sigh of relief. “Finally! That’s great. Please, free him and we can go back to normal.” He didn’t like the way they looked at each other again. They shouldn’t be looking at each other. They should be nodding and smiling, happy for Nathan’s approval.
“No, that’s not what we mean. We mean, he seems really cool and he totally promises not to eat us. We think we should let him out of the tub and live like a normal person.”
Nathan blinked. “I’m sorry, you want him to live with us? Like a normal person?”
They nodded. “Like we said, he wouldn’t eat us and he swore he’d pull his weight. The brains are getting really expensive and he said he has a good relationship with a supplier so he could get them himself again.”
“He’s a zombie! And a vampire, and werewolf or whatever!” Nathan lowered his voice when the other restaurant guests stared over at them. “He can’t just live with us!”
“We don’t think you’re being fair. How’s he going to prove himself if you don’t give him a chance?”
“I don’t even know what to say. I don’t…” he stopped and clenched his eyes shut. He drew in a deep breath and tried to calm the fury in his head. “He can’t live with us. Monsters kill people. They don’t live with them.”
“He’s not a monster,” Chris defended. “Well, technically, maybe, but not in a way that matters. He just wants to be friends and so far he’s been really great.”
            Nathan shook his head and rose. “I’m not talking about this. You guys got us into this mess. Now get us out,” he commanded, storming from the restaurant.

But of course, his roommates completely misunderstood his rant. Somehow they interpreted his unwillingness to discuss Roman’s freedom as permission to act as they saw fit. It took every ounce of Nathan’s resolve not to turn around and flee from the apartment when Roman’s pale face greeted him as he moved through the door.
“I know we got off on the wrong foot,” Roman began.
“You’re a vampire zombie-wolf.”
“Yeah, and you’re a communications major.”
“You eat cow brains.”
“You eat cow bellies, legs, ribs, and muscles.”
“You could kill me.”
“But I won’t.”
“How do I know that?”
“Because you’re my boy. All of you are. Seriously, I could cry just thinking about it.” He quieted and adopted the same glazed expression his roommates had when they struggled beyond their mental capacity. “Know what?” he continued, giving up. “We should have a secret handshake. Oh man, that would be sweet. A roommate handshake.” Roman got out a notepad and scribbled furiously. “Chris will love that. We could do this…and this…and then…” He furrowed his brow.
Roman was right. Chris would love it, but Nathan wasn’t about to encourage him. He watched the thing choreograph his hands for a moment and quickly lost interest.
            Suddenly, Roman shook his head and rekindled the conversation. “You’re probably wondering how I came to be a vampire, zombie, and werewolf all at once.”
“Not really.”
“I should warn you first that it’s not a pretty story.”
“Really, I have to…”
“It’s an unfortunate chain of events, but I guess it all worked out for the best if it brought us together.”
“Please, don’t…”
“It all started about eighty years ago. See, I was a werewolf first.”
Just then, the main door interrupted them as Sam, Chris and Travis returned from their grocery trip. They seemed surprised but pleased that Nathan and their new friend were bonding. “Hey, guys! You’re hanging out. That’s great.”
“I was just about to explain to Nathan how I came to be a vampire zombie-wolf.”
“Actually, no. He wasn’t. I was about to go get ready for work.”
The other four were clearly disappointed and Nathan couldn’t believe he even felt remotely guilty. It was absurd. Absolutely ridiculous. He sighed. “Fine. Tell your story.”
“As I was saying, it all started eighty years ago. I was a werewolf living in the secluded woods of upstate New York.”
“Wait, how’d you become a werewolf?” Chris asked.
“I don’t know. How’d you become an upper-middleclass suburban college student?”
“You weren’t bitten or anything?”
“Yeah, in the woods. By another werewolf.”
Roman rolled his eyes. “Oh yeah. Like we have nothing better to do than run around the woods turning hikers into werewolves.”
“What else do you do then?”
“Do your hotdogs turn into humans when you bite them?”
Chris quieted for a moment. “Well, no.”
“Anyway, it doesn’t work that way. Biting a human only gets us a ton of annoying shrieking and unwanted news coverage.”
“So you don’t eat people.”
“Too much risk, not enough payoff. We prefer squirrels.”
“Squirrels?” Chris looked disappointed. “But big squirrels, right? I mean, only the most ferocious ones.”
“No, just squirrels.”
“Ferocious squirrels?” Nathan asked in irritation, quickly regretting his decision to stay. They were actually having this discussion. And they were serious.
“Ok. So, I’m in the woods…”
“Wait, sorry, quick question,” Travis interrupted again. “The werewolf thing…is that, you know, how you…well…I guess…the thing is…”
“He wants to know about your muscles,” Nathan smirked.
Roman looked surprised and glanced down at his chest. “My muscles? Oh, you mean this.” He pulled up his shirt and Travis nodded in wonder.
“He’s jealous.”
“I’m not jealous,” Travis protested. “It’s purely research. If it’s something other than the werewolf thing, I want to know.”
Roman sighed. “Sorry, man. It’s the werewolf thing, and a little of the vampire thing. I can do about two hundred crunches a minute.”
Travis deflated. “Two hundred?”
“On a bad day. But hey, if it makes you feel any better, you’d probably look even better than I do if you were a vampire zombie-wolf.”
Roman’s consolation drew a relieved smile from Travis, and Nathan rolled his eyes. “Ok, can we get on with this please? So you’re a werewolf in the woods. Then what?”
“Oh, right. Ok. So yeah, one night I’m chillin’ in the woods, hunting squirrels and the next thing I know there’s this girl. I mean, gorgeous. She’s real rebellious, you know? Long dark hair. Black eyes.”
“She’s a vampire,” Sam guessed, and Roman seemed annoyed.
“Yes, she’s a vampire. We start talking and I find out she’s pissed at her gang and wants to turn a werewolf to get back at them. I’m like, what the heck, she’s hot, so we get down to business and she turns me.”
“So a werewolf bite can’t turn you into a werewolf, but a vampire bite can?”
Roman grinned. “Oh, it wasn’t a bite, my man. It was definitely not a bite.”
“No biting at all?” Once again, Chris seemed on the verge of pouting.
“Well, maybe a little biting if you know what I mean, but nothing that had to do with the process. Anyway, I can’t tell you all the details, but here’s the important part: I’m already a werewolf.”
“And you’re immortal,” Travis concluded.
Roman furrowed his brow and shook his head. “No. Werewolves aren’t immortal. But we aren’t human either. So when she turns me, I don’t turn all the way. My werewolf side stops the process somehow so I only partially die before the vampire thing kicks in.”
“And that’s the zombie part,” Nathan concluded, hurrying this along. “That’s very interesting, Roman. Ok, well, I have to go, but thanks for the back-story.”
Roman seemed hurt, and Nathan couldn’t believe he actually felt bad. “Well, yeah. Wow. I never really figured out the zombie thing because I never met one, but yeah, I guess that makes sense. Maybe it had nothing to do with zombies at all, just bad luck. All I knew is that when I woke up with Krista the next day I not only craved blood, but also brains.”
“Krista is the vampire?” Travis clarified.
Roman nodded. “Yeah. She dumped me though when she realized I wasn’t a true a vampire and was now part zombie too. She said we weren’t intellectual equals.”
“Bitch!” Chris cried.
“Well, she’s wrong about you, man,” Travis offered. “You’re the smartest zombie I’ve ever met. Heck, I wouldn’t have even known you were a zombie if you hadn’t told us.”
“And you didn’t eat brains,” Sam added.
“Aw, thanks guys. Anyway, so I’ve been wandering on my own ever since. The vamps hate me because of my zombie and werewolf side. The wolves hate me because of my vamp side. So I’ve got no one.”
“What about the zombies?”
Roman sighed. “They’d let me join their horde, I guess, but have you ever seen a zombie horde? Not exactly a rewarding relationship.”
“A lot of staggering around, huh.”
“Nothing but staggering around. I need more than that.”
Travis slapped Roman’s back and grinned. “Well, you’ve got us now.”
“Yeah, you guys are the best. Thanks for taking me in and all. I know it’s been weird.”
“So do you still turn on the full-moon? What should we expect?” Nathan asked, not sure why they were avoiding the most important question besides whether or not he’d eat them.
Roman cleared his throat and looked away with a sheepish expression. “Yes.”
“You do?” Nathan was now very concerned. “When’s the next full-moon?”
“Three days.”
Nathan cursed. He knew it. Dangerous monster. The others would have no choice but to see his side of the argument. “Ok, so what do we do? How do we control you when it happens? Do we need to find a cave or mine shaft or something to lock you in?”
Roman bit his lip and stared at the kitchen counter. “Not exactly.”
“No? Then, what?” Nathan cried, frustrated that the open book in front of them suddenly became hesitant when they hit the practical parts of his story. “You said you still turn. That means you’re probably dangerous and I think we need to…”
“I’m not dangerous.”
“I’d say a giant vampire wolf running around the city is pretty dangerous,” Nathan charged.
Roman quieted and looked at them. “I don’t become a giant wolf.”
“You don’t?” Chris asked. “Just a regular wolf?”
“Not exactly.”
“A vicious monster dog, then.”
“More like…” he stopped and his eyes shifted. “More like a beagle... With bat wings.”
Chris nearly choked on his beer.
“You become a flying beagle?” Nathan asked in disbelief.
“But at least you fly. That’s something,” Sam offered, but Roman shook his head.
“Well, I can’t exactly fly. I mean, bat wings don’t support the weight of a dog.”
“So you don’t fly,” Nathan clarified.
“I can hover.”
“You hover,” Chris repeated quietly in defeat.
Nathan clenched his fist to keep a straight face. “So on the next full moon you will transform into a hovering bat beagle.”
Roman coughed. “More or less.”
           “Ok... Well, that’s... Yeah. Now I really have to go before I’m late. Have a great night guys.” Nathan moved to his room, still trying not to laugh. He didn’t know whether he should celebrate or cry about the fact that his roommates had adopted the most disappointing monster on the planet.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

4th Quarter Movie Reviews

It’s been a while since we’ve done movie reviews here at the blog, so here’s a recap of the 4th quarter. We usually do this monthly, but this time we’ll do the best and worst of the movies I’ve seen since November.

Best Movie Since November: Exam (2009)
I’m a sucker for these problem-solving puzzle psychological thrillers. From a pure production and critical standpoint, some of the other films I’ve seen were probably better (Sunshine, 2007; The Adjustment Bureau, 2011), but in terms of the most memorable that kept my interest from beginning to end, this one did the job.

This is a challenging genre for a writer. Whether it’s a novel or a film script, the payoff at the end of these types of enigmatic thrillers almost never lives up to the build-up that gets us there. One of the few exceptions in my opinion was the fantastic Fermat’s Room (La habitacion de Fermat). Fermat’s Room is sleek, engaging, and actually does the impossible of pulling itself together tightly in the end. It’s a pretty film to watch and even the string of challenges for the characters are interesting.

Exam is a distant second, but still worth the ride. Basically, several job candidates are vying for a prestigious position and must answer a single question while locked in a room. There are only a few rules and, as you can guess, psychology intervenes leading to tension and chaos.  The ending isn’t terrible, but was a little weak compared to the journey toward it. 

The last time I saw Luke Mably was as Julia Stiles prince charming in The Prince & Me. I’m sure he’s been in many other things, but I didn’t see them so I when I saw his name in the credits I immediately had flashes of a pleasant, dapper lad in formal military attire. I enjoyed seeing him as anything but a prince charming in this film. He can play a jerk with the best of them which is a credit to the actor in my opinion.

Honorable Mention: Gnomeo & Juliet, 2011 (I can’t not mention a film that has James McAvoy in the credits.); Sunshine, 2007

Worst Movie Since November: The Roommate (2011)

To be fair, this actually isn’t the worst movie I saw, but some are just impossible to review. (e.g. The Deaths of Ian Stone left me scratching my head, but not in confusion. I got it I guess, but …what was the point of even making it?) So we’ll go with The Roommate because it was the worst major film that was trying to be good.

First of all, there was a huge, glaring problem right from the opening credits: Minka Kelly as a sweet, nurturing girl next door.

Now, I don’t know Ms. Kelly. She could be the nicest person in the world, but she’s doomed as an actress by her own physical perfection. I have trouble believing she’d be the type to take a needy outcast under her wing. She just has that crippling flawless beauty that makes her unbelievable as anything BUT the snobby head cheerleader. As you know, I was a huge Friday Night Lights fan where she managed to transition from cheerleader to damaged girl next door, but it took several seasons, multiple in-depth storylines, and plenty of help from other characters to get there. I didn’t believe her character for one second.

Having said all that, glaring problem number two was believing Leighton Meester as a social misfit psycho-stalker. The movie tried hard to explain her character, but again, she was just too pretty. I also had trouble believing she would get away with all the horrifying acts she committed without repercussions. If I were the blond, curly haired girl who was repeatedly terrorized, I’d go to the police no questions asked. I don’t care what kinds of threats the crazy girl made or what dirt she had on me. She just tortured me in the shower. She’s getting arrested.

One plus was Cam Gigandet. I’ll admit I find him fascinating as an actor. He may not be my favorite (I’m on record for the James McAvoy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt camp), but he’s unique in a very obvious way. Actors are frequently typecast, but rarely as two opposite character-types. I’ve seen him in several films and he’s either a very believable villain or a very believable supportive boyfriend to the female lead. It’s not often you see an actor who’s typically cast as the bad guy also pull off the supportive boyfriend. He was the only character I believed, which is ironic considering how many times I’ve seen him scowling and sneering at heroes.

Honorable Mention: The Deaths of Ian Stone; Vanishing on
7th Street; La Belle Personne