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September 24, 2009

Note: I haven’t really revised this. I simply read it over. Thanks for reading!

My Language Arts teacher gave us an assignment–write. There were only a few guidelines. Those are very sweet words… I jotted down “drawbridge” in my typewriter notebook after watching the drawbridge over a near river rise. Although I’ve lived here for most of my life, I had never seen this before, and it was fascinating. Hence…



Minute One:

The setting sun held onto its luminescence, its bright power, its omnipotent rays persistently. The contrast of cool and warm on my skin resulting from both the steady, ever-present air emanating from the air-vents and the sun’s warming beam created within me a sense of uncomfortable yet intriguing lopsidedness. My left hand, the cool one, slid down toward the bottom of the steering wheel while my right hand stayed firmly where it was. My right foot, which I had before now been tapping absently on the matted floor of the car, ceased to move, while my left began to dance within its shoe.

I abruptly sat upright as I noticed a slight change in the proximity of my car and the car in front of us. We were moving. I eagerly drove forward, so slowly and cautiously that the car was lurching backwards and forwards, without any sense of rhythm. I heard the sound of my son’s plaything slipping from his hands and plummeting from the cars-seat to the floor.

“I dropped my Transformer, Dad,” he said these words in such a way that you would have assumed he had dropped his toy from the outrageously high roof of the Sears Tower* and had been subjected to the loss of every one of its thirty minuscule pieces, not simply the foot and a half between his car-seat and the floor.

“We’ll grab it later, Sean, when we meet Rufus and Lee,” I said, comfortingly, simultaneously wondering whether or not, under these circumstances, we would ever reach the park.

Our present predicament was one to drive any living being with a driver’s license irrevocably mad. Inevitably, the madness only appeared to be irrevocable. We were certain to calm down and return to our indispensable senses approximately three minutes after we struggled through, and to slap a happy smile on our face quickly, before any of our peers had the opportunity to observe our irrational irritation.

It seemed as though every driver in the cars surrounding ours had fallen asleep, passed out cold, or possibly died even colder. In reality, we were all, whether patient or impatient, waiting the required time it took to raise the drawbridge, allow the gargantuan boat beneath us to pass through without anything impeding its way (which meant, ironically, impeding our way), and to then let the sections of the bridge that had raised to lower themselves back into their happiest position—the one that let all of us pass on.

Coming to terms with the fact that we weren’t going to be in need of our steering wheels for a while, I let my hands (which by this point had slid in such opposite directions that they almost appeared to have been the hands of two separate bodies) slacken their grip and, along with the arms they were paired with, entwine themselves across my chest.

I presently entered into the realm of perilous thoughtfulness that I feared so much.

Minute Two:

I could see from where I sat the tang-colored light dancing from one car hood to the next along the crowd of cars that could easily have contained enough people to colonize a new continent.

I tended to wonder, when I viewed such a large expanse full of people—human beings not unlike me, how many diverse lives were led by said people. I peered into the back of the heads of the people in the cars in front of mine, not noticing their hair color or cut, but attempting to let my eyes sear through their hard cranium, into their minds, to take one, brief, momentary glance into their lives.

I could not explain why it was that, although probably a majority of these people were in the same hole I was in, and possibly digging deeper into, I could not imagine their lives as mine was. I could not comprehend fully the idea that, out of the six billion plus people in the world, there was someone, or, possibly, there were some people, with lives dinged with the same arrows, pained by the same wound.

It was, after all, the year 2009, one of the worst financially for a considerable amount of time. I, if I felt compelled, could flip on the news and immediately be bombarded by stories worse than mine, worse than those of my peers and neighbors. Perhaps that was what I needed. Not a spoonful of sugar, but a spoonful of something bitterer, something sour, to awaken my senses and scream pungently to me that I was indeed not the only person in the world and that my family of three was indeed not the only family in the world who could not afford to grasp onto what they had bought and couldn’t have afforded it when they bought it, either.

All I want is support, I think, but maybe that’s all the others want as well. Maybe, if we all flipped on the television and realized that we were all in for the same thing, we could band together, throw down our shovels, use each other as obliging footstools, and climb out of the hole we have yet to stop digging.

Minute Three:

“What time will it be when we get to Lee and Rufus?” Sean’s five-year-old, pleasantly high-pitched voice sung from behind me. I could tell by his tone that he had, without my knowing it, unbuckled his ridiculous amount of restraints and climbed onto the floor to retrieve his toy. This suspicion was soon confirmed by the clicking of plastic robotic joints behind me.

I smiled, thankful for his interrupting of my constructive thoughts, and twisted in my seat to look directly at him when I replied, “I was hoping to get to the park before the sun set, but I don’t know if we’ll make it in time. We might not be able to play at the park if it’s too dark. We might only have time for dinner, we’ll see. Mommy wants the car back by nine so she can run to Target.”

His smile was replaced by a pout that I feared would not be wiped clean from his face until he saw the grimy playground. I, realizing that no consoling words from Dad would reconcile him to the depressing fate I had deemed a possibility, turned back and looked through the windshield.

I was nearly certain my son’s play time would be cut short as I noticed the edges of the drawn bridge were becoming less distinct, fading into the color-collaged sky, opposed to the obvious, choppy, lines they were by daylight. My impatience grew. It wasn’t just that Sean wanted to play with his pal, Rufus, but I wanted to “play” with my pal as well, Rufus’s father, Lee. I had been looking forward, all through work, to talking to him while we watched our sons throw woodchips at one another. When working a desk-job, a more exciting goal was necessary to making it through the day. The monotony of the workplace can only be kept at bay by lively thought.

Naturally, I began to grow weary of the wait. The little monster in my chest, the “bad side of Andrew Kent”, seemed to awaken, rolling around groggily. The revolting animal, which even sickened me once it had fallen back into dreamless slumber, yawned, spreading its arms above its head, popping its joints. The other side, the one I identified with, hoped in vain that the soft purr of the car engine and the mystical appearance of the sunset would loll the creature back to sleep. Instead, despite my good side’s wishes, the monster, defiant, screeched as it awoke, shattering my mental self-control. As the animal’s senses perked and, consequently, its anger reached unsafe heights, my thoughts dove into the depths of irritation and intolerance.

I cursed the inventor of the strange, useless (useless at this moment only because I directed all my pent up anger at it in one, fell swoop) contraption preventing me from reaching the point I so longed to reach.

My adult, rational mind of reason and honesty told me, quite clearly, that I was being ridiculously childish. This calmed the animal a bit, but its snores did not return, and its eyelids did not droop.

Minute Four:

Typically, when the reigns of my body and mind were hesitantly handed over into the care of this monster, I would comply with its wishes through the simplest and most harmless means possible. I might growl, curling my upper lip inward, or speedily remove myself from the room in which I had been made aware of the unpleasantness of some infuriating situation and instead throw open the door to the staircase, leap over multiple steps at a time (occasionally missing the wall at the staircase’s curving point by mere inches), until I had the opportunity to throw open yet another door and fling myself onto the bed, where I would proceed to rip a few of the loose threads from the comforter, releasing my anger with each, precise swipe and pull.

Presently, I feared my growl would upset the already disappointed young man in the backseat, and leaping from the car would do no good, as I would either land on the hard, uncomfortably hot asphalt, or find that I had finally succeeded in doing a belly-flop into the deep end. The idea of gulping in water when all I yearned for was air, fresh and enlivening was enough to ease a bit of the monster’s oppressing anger.

I could not refrain from pounding my hand—now a fist—onto the steering wheel and smiling as I heard the horn echoed as others followed my lead.

This echoing seemed to reinforce my earlier thoughts on life. My hand slowly dropped to my side, my fingers relaxed. Wasn’t this a testimony of union? Of equality? Understanding? I was not the only man in the world who had somewhere to go and something to do and was being held back by some gargantuan problem or puzzling circumstance. These men and woman around me—whose cars were bellowing just as mine had—seemed to have a goal and place to be. Under what pretense was I living? What was it that was instilled in us at birth, or possibly before, which commanded our conscience to believe without doubt that we were indeed completely and entirely unique in our troubles, our misfortunes and errors? We see this principle at work at every age. As a child, we believe we are misunderstood, as a teenager, more so. As an adult, we believe that we, poor unfortunate souls, are very much alone in our troubles and grievances, when, all along, we have a spouse at our side, or sister, brother, etc.

Worst yet is our ridiculously ungrounded belief that our faults are the effect of someone else’s error. Our foolishness is not genetic; our mistakes are not caused by the lack of judgment of somebody else. We adapt to the world as a child by watching others, by observing both their right and wrong doings. It is no wonder that we make mistakes, yet, somewhere deep inside of our being, we are, must be, consciously deciding to take the chance, live on the edge—and, unfortunately, we are apt to fall off.

I laughed at myself. I had never realized what a turn my thoughts took when left to dilly-dally in idleness. They seemed to abandon every character that marked them, “Thoughts of Andrew Kent”, and instead offer themselves up to some other personage, some other mind, where the topics took on a much deeper meaning.

I rolled down my window and leaned out of it. The car in front of me had begun to roll steadily backwards. I called out, “You’re rolling, Mr. 373 VZJ!”

I realized my lapse in judgment when I noticed that the temporary license plate I had just read from which was glued to the rear window, and the reflective spotlessness of the car, implied that the car was a new one—and the license number was likely unfamiliar to the owner.

I panicked as the car continued to move towards mine. This car was the only one my wife and I owned—and it was new. New in our minds, as it was only two years old. When our financials had taken a turn for the worst, we had attempted to sell it… in vain. No one was willing to pay for its worth. We decided to keep the hunk of metal that was now our only means of transportation. I didn’t intend to allow its face to be marked permanently, in hopes to put it back on the market once the market looked more promising itself.

I tried to open my door, but the cursed thing was locked. I slipped my finger beneath the lip in the plastic lock and popped it upward. I swung the door outwards and, lo and behold, felt the car shudder and jitter as the door slammed into the concrete partition between groundless air and the road.

I froze while my son asked, “What happened? Dad, why did you throw the door into the wall like that?”


I, knowing I would have to at some point, stood up, stepped mechanically and absently over to the car in front of me, and, in a voice unlike my own, whispered, “Your. Car. Is. Rolling. Please. Don’t. Hit. Mine.”

The man muttered an embarrassed sorry, turning off the blazing radio screaming some nonsense about how so and so was the only one for so and so, and hastened to drive forward and park.

I wandered back to my car and, without glancing at the damage, climbed back into my seat and buckled myself in.

Minute Five:

I stared silently through the windshield, not heeding my son’s questions. I watched as the heat waves that had been dancing over the asphalt began to evaporate, leaving the street strangely desolate, like a room after the party guests have all gone home to their various houses and the only evidence of festivities are the napkins and crumbs littering the floor.

Why is it that everything I do or cause to occur ends badly? For me or for other people? Kill me now, if a majority of my life is to be spent scratching metaphorical doors.

I grunted and leaned back in my chair. I pulled the lever that reclined the seat until my son’s voice sang, “You can’t lean back anymore! My knees hurt!”

I looked out of the moon roof, trying in vain to take in the vast world of nothingness above me. The clouds, so vibrant and sweet in appearance, were more powerful than I was, although they were simply water vapor. They had the power to shift forms, to oppressively consume the sky and to disappear into another realm, letting the sky take a breath. It was not for those reasons, however, that I envied the almighty mass of air and water dangling above me. I envied their freedom to move without the worry of some other force stopping them in their tracks. I envied them their ability to move aimlessly with a purpose, although that made no sense whatsoever. I envied them their power to move with an unwavering grace. My movements were choppy and quick, like a staccato note on a piano. Also like music, they were bound to end somewhere, and bound to have moments of rest—moments of rest to replenish their force, but also moments of rest brought on without their consent, moments when their force wants to drive them forward, but the composer has put one of those dastardly curving symbols smack dab in the middle of their path. Consequently, their energy builds up behind the dam, threatening to burst forth. Unlike music though, which always does burst through the barrier and continue on in its sonata, life’s barriers can cause weariness, deplete all sense of eagerness, and cause us to, even when the barrier is opened to allow passage, remain where we are, to lie and rot.

Why did the “composer” have so much power—just as the controller of the drawbridge had the power to stop us in our tracks?

I shook my head (I was now so absorbed in my thoughts that I physically reacted to them). That was wrong. Of course, the composer did have the power to make the music flow as he wanted to… but wouldn’t that make the composer of our lives ourselves? I could hypocritically ignore the conclusion I had come to earlier. Had not I just determined that the only mind in control of us was our own? That the faults and judgments of others did not affect us as strongly as we imagine? The composer of our lives, while we like to believe we keep our lives moving slowly, was us. We are neither brilliant nor wise, and I had to admit that the person throwing the rests in our paths was also us. What was it though, that caused us to halt our progression?

I smiled at myself. I was not a particularly smart human being. I rarely found myself on the verge of personal discovery—goodness, I had never found myself on the verge of the said discovery—but it took no old hand to realize that I was finally at that point of my life. Perhaps I was suffering from a pre-midlife crisis of personality. The thoughts that had passed through my mind in the past—I glanced at the clock—five minutes were completely different from the norm. They stood apart from everything I had thought in my thirty-three years of life.

Just as I was wrong in my thoughts about the composer, I wrongly gave more credit to the man running the drawbridge than was his due. That man was simply a means of making things happen, not determining what things were to happen. That unnamed, insignificant man followed orders. He followed the lead of the ship. It was the size of the ship that caused the man to lift the bridge, to stop us divers in our path, to disallow any further movement. Only a ship of massive size would call for the lifting of the bridge.

What then, hindered our mental road? The road leading to someplace we want to be and something we want to do. What caused the bridge along the way to fold in upon itself as this one in reality was doing? What caused the mental drawbridge to lift? What were our mental ships?

Again, something within me screamed that I was wrong, that I was asking the wrong questions. I realized that, while I was speaking of the composers being ourselves—each and every individual—these ships must be just as individual, and so, to explain in the specific answers I was searching for, could not be thought of as our ships but as my ship. It was my life we were speaking of, and while my mistakes were much like others, my goals and personality could not be more different from the man in the car beside mine.

So, what was my mental ship? The mass of steaming metal that caused a pause in my life. What could it be but something that hindered my moving on with my family? I was resolute to speak honestly to myself and I could not deny that I was the issue standing in the way of my life. Girls and boys cannot simply be made of sugar and spice or simply be made of slugs and snails and puppy dog tails. How could we function? We would either give all we had to everyone, leaving us without nourishment and penniless, or we would be sick hogs dying sadly alone and unloved. It was the gastropod mollusks (I was a boy at one time, and took a revolting interest in slugs and snails) in all of us that completed our ships, the bad sides, the bitter to our bittersweet personalities—they piled one on top of the other to construct our mental roadblock.

It seemed that the only way for me to keep my life moving smoothly was to rid the waters beneath my path of the polluting boats, to rid myself of my extreme stubbornness and eagerness to ignore the dirty work that was necessary until my family’s lives literally depended on my stepping up to the plate.

All of a sudden, the car in front of me that not too long ago had been coming dangerously close to us, moved forward. I peered through the glass and saw that there was no longer a large, cement structure blocking my view of the city’s skyline. We were moving. I could see to my left the large boat that had clogged our passage. I sighed happily as we moved forward. Many of the cars around me were speeding in their excitement. It was remarkable how deep the mark that five minutes left on a person could be.

*Now called Willis Tower, but all people familiar with the building will undoubtedly remain partial to the original title, and consequently call it by the recently deemed incorrect name. As Mr. Andrew Kent, my main character, grew up in the age of the Sears Tower and watched it happily pass through its prime, he will continue to live his life calling the skyscraper Sears Tower, as will my entire family and myself.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. juju permalink
    September 25, 2009 10:17 PM

    Hey Birdie,

    I see Quimby! I’m smiling.

    I had a choice between giving you compliments (you write well, you have a large vocabulary, that was a cool minute thing) or I could have done an easier thing and just typed what I did.

    I was reading out loud (pretty much to myself) and Mitch told me to stop because he was watching TV and I told him that Birdie is a better writer than everyone else’s work he reads. As good as Stephenie Meyer. You write thoughtful stuff. And cute, stuff (Enrico!). I also corrected myself that you write better than Meyer (now that I look back at it I wonder how she made so much money with just another vampire romance). She just had a story to tell. You can talk about nothing at all and no one would notice.

    Wait! Impediments was just all thoughts. I’m right. I didn’t notice.

    Then Mitch told me that I was lied and that Birdie couldn’t have writen that. I pointed out that this was and that it was called wordbird, her nickname, and that our LASS teacher assigned a writing assignment not too long ago. I’ll stop now. I said a lot more but Mitch kept saying that I lied.


    You do write very well.

  2. Quimby permalink
    September 24, 2009 8:28 PM

    Lol, it really is exciting to hear from you too! You’re my best bud on the internet, and I always enjoy talking to you. ( : And I agree, especially outside of HER for a change.

    Actually, I would love it if you emailed me! Feel free. ( :


  3. Quimby permalink
    September 24, 2009 6:57 PM

    Gracious, Birdie, you are truly talented. Your writing style is so rich and detailed, and I’m really impressed with how much it’s improved over the past year. I don’t think I’ve improved as much in that time; but then, I do far less writing these days than I used to. ) : Your writing, anyway, is probably better than mine. ( :

    I like the setting of this story, and how you effectively used that to illustrate your theme. Sometimes settings are just backdrops in fiction, but you have to try to aim for them to be influential on or metaphorical to the story or characters, and you’ve done that well here. ( : I also like the unique way you divided the story into “Minute One,” “Minute Two,” etc.

    Overall, this was a really intelligent piece, and I think you’ve undoubtedly got a future in literary fiction. Alas, I doubt *I* do. Despite the fact that I’ve been writing since I was about seven or eight, I’m starting to think I’m not meant to be a writer. My writing style may be good, but half the time I don’t know what the heck to write and I’m agonizing over scenes and plots and characters and driving myself crazy and starting over and making no progress…yeah, perhaps I’m better off sticking with history and music. : \

    Anyway, forgive my digressing. ( : Miss you! Keep up the excellent writing!

    -Quimby, your NDBF

    PS: The Sears Tower has been renamed?? When did that happen? Lol.

    • September 24, 2009 7:34 PM

      It excites me every time you post! It’s hilarious, my heart starts beating faster and faster… I guess it’s just the thrill of seeing you and speaking outside of the well-meaning but constricting HeR. ( : Thanks so much for stopping by again!

      Haha, yes, the Sears Towers was renamed in… *checking the almighty Google*… March? Sometime around then, anyway.

      You always shower me with compliments, and the moment you start writing more, I’ll bombard you with the gallons building up behind the dam you strengthen ever minute you don’t write. It’s cruelty, really. Know that it hurts some little girl far away from you every time your fingers stop moving swiftly across the keyboard or release your pen!

      Hey, Quimby, do you mind if I email you? If you do, that’s a-okay – I understand!

      ♥Madeleine/Birdie, your NDBF

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