The Packet of Despair and Something(s) Else(s)

I just realized that the title to this post has a double meaning. I won’t tell you how just yet. That’s called foreshadowing.

It’s been a while. I’m posting because of procrastination really. I am avoiding my packetly duties. If you know the packet I speak of and you have your own to attend to, DO NOT READ THIS POST AND, INSTEAD, FINISH YOUR PACKET.

Everyone knows what a packet is really. My packet happens to actually be called a packet in this case, but you all have or have had your own packets I’m sure. At the Vermont College of Fine Arts we have a packet due every month. Each packet contains the bloody and tear-stained words that we have chosen to commit to writing. We arrange these words with careful precision (or last minute panic) before attaching them all to an email and pressing the send button at exactly the minute our advisers have asked of us, which is usually at 8 or 9 in the morning. We then sleep for two days or play video games for many, many, MANY hours while awaiting the return of our precious, golden, chocolate-covered babies only to find that, when the children come back home, they were really just all a big ball o’ sweaty mess.

The wee babes we nurtured come back to us butchered.

This guy…

Dylan Thomas - Smoking of course

…said it best.

Now my saying shall be my undoing,
And every stone I wind off like a reel.

~Dylan Thomas, Once It Was The Colour Of Saying

Our most chiseled and polished down work often becomes our own undoing. At least, it has been for me.

Take this most recent packet. After my July residency in beautiful Montpelier I began my very first absurd, potty-humor-filled attempt at a middle grade novel. In the first chapter, my main character, Jimmy, is pulling a prank on a telemarketer (thanks for the inspiration, Steve). The character and his father have an ongoing contest to see who can come up with the best prank to pull on telemarketers. His father is first introduced when he races down the stairs to grab the phone only to be beaten by Jimmy who then goes on to pull the best prank ever (you’ll have to read it someday…if it is not thrown into one of those red bags along with the used needles and liposuction waste). This whole time, his father, who has yet to say a word, is standing nearby, stifling hysterics while tears roll down his cheeks. He then…wets himself. When I wrote this, and every time I read this part to someone, I would have to stop for a minute because I’d be laughing so hard at my own brilliance. See…the dad’s just this guy who hasn’t even really been introduced yet and then we see him peeing his pants. He’s peeing his pants! That’s funny stuff, man!


Someone wetting themself


Quick side note before I continue. I applied to VCFA after some years of being an elementary school librarian and getting to know some of the faculty members’ books very, very well. In fact, I can honestly say that some of the best children’s book authors alive teach at VCFA. I still get moony every time I hang out with any of them. I wrote papers about their books in my kid lit classes for crying out loud.

Anyway, one of the deciding factors for my application was that an amazing author by the name of Franny Billingsley teaches there. I had written a 10 page paper on her book, The Folk Keeper. If you haven’t read it yet, please, stop reading this monstrosity of a blog and read it now.
(She also has a brand new book out that is awesome and amazing and it won her the Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor and it is called Chime and even though it has kissing and love and gooey times, it is also a dark and swamp monster-filled, boy-likable book. Buy it here.)

She is also my adviser this semester.

Here’s what Franny, one of my heroes in life, had to say about the dad wetting himself:

I love potty humor, but the dad peeing didn’t make me laugh because there wasn’t any context for it.

Context?! CONTEXT!? He’s PEEING!

My point: It is our best efforts that cause us the most trouble. Ergo, don’t ever give it your best.

My 2nd “Packet of Despair” came today. I have failed. I have smoked.

I HATE Ayn Rand. Just look at her with her cigarette and her big ol’ fountainhead.

Stupid Ayn

I was having a horrible writing day. I have 6 days until packet 2 is due. I’m freaking out. And then I come across….randomly I tell you…this brilliant quote by that horrible woman:

“I like Cigarettes; I like to think of fire held in a man’s hand.
FIRE, a dangerous force, tamed at his finger tips. I often wonder about the hours when a man sits alone watching the smoke of a cigarette, thinking. I wonder what great things have come out from such hours. When a man thinks there is a spot of
fire alive in his mind – and it is proper that he should have the burning point
of a cigarette as his one expression.”

~ Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged, 1957)

So….0 days since last accident. There is tomorrow I suppose.

Until then, picture me: Cigarette in hand on the back stoop, hunched over, one of my feet propped up on a step. I’m looking out at the moon whilst taming fire.

‘I wonder what he’s thinking,’ Ayn asks.

I’m thinking, quite seriously, about the context of a grown man wetting himself.


18 thoughts on “The Packet of Despair and Something(s) Else(s)

  1. So can I just go outside periodically and gesture with a burning stick to prove my command of fire to myself and others?

    You know… I *do* have a lot of sticks. It would be way cheaper.

  2. Are you no longer a librarian?

    Good luck with the packet(s) and good luck quitting smoking. Janaki just quit and it was a difficult struggle.

    Kids are right, pee and poop are just damned funny. Maybe its because they are a part of every day but we aren’t supposed to talk about them. I don’t know.

  3. This is the funniest blog post I’ve ever read. Hands down. I did not pee my pants. If you make me pee my pants some time, I will take a picture and post it on your blog. Promise.

  4. The following post comes with a complementary mixed metaphor!

    Ever since Prometheus, fire has helped us become godlike. Whether it’s fire in the hand (a pipe of Nat Sherman 536, for instance) or fire in the gut (Speyside scotch or a good tequila añejo, if you will) creation requires a cataylst. If you want to have the spark without the smoke damage, maybe we can distill things down to find a safe alternative and help you reclaim your 16 year old self. Burn incense for scent/visual appeal and put on some angst-ridden teenage music (I favor The Cure’s “Pictures of You” or whatever it’s called). If that doesn’t do the trick, try burning some
    effigies (“it’s like a piñata, but with FIRE”).

    If you need effigy ideas, I say start with Rand.

  5. Everyone slips up once in awhile e.g. myself, as I smoked, too. But it’s been five days now, so we will see. Trying to abruptly quit smoking, let alone anything, after 18 years is going to take some adjustment. Frankly, it’s just not going to happen overnight. Catch up to the wagon and jump back on. Like you said, there IS tomorrow (of course tomorrow is now yesterday but anyway). Quitting sucks, plain and simple. If it’s of any encouragement, I’m experiencing the same struggle. I love this blog post. I laughed at the pee because bodily functions are funny, context warranted or not. Good luck with everything! Love, Doog

  6. Former boy tells….nothing. NOTHING!

    I like this blog. It’d be even better if you used it to tell us things.
    It’s enough to make me wonder if you have a wife, a boy, a job, and packets to write.
    (Nah. Still not an excuse.)

Go ahead, you can tell me.

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