The one about 6th grade and Afternoon Delight

I don’t particularly like listening to DJ led radio stations. They tend to be snarky 20-30 year olds trying desperately to seem relevant. On this morning, it was cold, so I stayed in my heated car while waiting for the bus. On the radio were some ZooCrewHeyWeAreHavingTheFunNow bunch of bozos talking about dirty songs that never actually say anything dirty. They focused mainly on songs from the 70’s; for some reason, the songs of that decade were a bit more subtle than today’s “I lick balls” lyrics*”.

I tuned out most of what they were saying until the song, “Afternoon Delight” was mentioned.

And the memory floodgates opened.

The year was 1977. I was 11 years old, enjoying my last year of being a kid before puberty jumped on my back and rode me like its bitch**.

My teacher that year was Mrs. Tarkington. I loved that woman. She seemed to innately understand hyperactive, wildly imaginative, fantasy prone Little Nik and channeled those energies into creative venues that kept me out of detention***.

I’ve always been what some people call “obsessive”; I prefer to call it “hyperfocused”. When I have an interest in something, it’s dive bomb into the deep end, baby! Back then, I think my interests were UFOS, Bigfoot, and the TV show, Man from Atlantis, where Patrick Duffy spent 95% of his time wet and in swimming trunks*.

Mrs. Tarkington let me run with my specialized learning programs. I created a club called The Monster Hunters and we submitted a cryptozoology exhibit to the science fair and she allowed me to put on a play called Hunting Bigfoot. Trent Ridley wore a parka and we hunted him by tracking him down thru his footprints cut out of construction paper. The play ended with me and two other kids dissecting Trent/Bigfoot and throwing construction paper organs over a bedsheet.

The woman, to put it bluntly, was a freaking saint.

How does this all relate to some softcore pop porn?

Sigh.

So, it is late in the school year and Mrs. Tarkington let us have a party. We all brought snacks and our own personal 45s* to play on the record player*.  It was the usual fare. Bay City Rollers screaming about Saturday Night. Barry Mainly droning on about Mandy.

And then there was “Afternoon Delight”. ****

After a few verses into the song, she had the weirdest look on her face.

She pulled the needle off the vinyl and said, “What do you all think this song is about?”

I had no idea. For me, the appeal of the song was its fun, swinging, easy to dance to rhythm.

I raised my hand and said, “Maybe something you like to do in the afternoon?”

A very tight grin crossed her face. I recognize that look now;she was holding in a laugh with every muscle of her face. “Oh. You think so?”

“You know,” I continued with all innocence. “Like eating ice cream?”

That’s all she could stand. She was laughing so hard, she could barely put the needle back on the record.

I remained completely unphased and completely convinced that the song was about eating a contraband bowl of ice cream before dinner.

Hand to God.

*Google it.

**That was the year they made the boys go outside and stand by a fence while the school nurse told us what to do if we started our periods. We were to raise our hands, go to the office and ask for a “pad”. I swear, I thought the “pad” was to write on. Which made me even more anxious because I didn’t know what they wanted me to write! Was I going to be punished?  No fricking clue.

*** And off medication. I would’ve never made it out of childhood now.

**** For those of you unfamiliar with this 70’s classic, here are the lyrics.

Gonna find my baby, gonna hold her tight

Gonna grab some afternoon delight

My motto’s always been “when it’s right, it’s right”

Why wait until the middle of a cold, dark night?

When everything’s a little clearer in the light of day

And we know the night is always gonna be here any way

[Pre-Chorus]

Thinkin’ of you’s workin’ up my appetite

Looking forward to a little afternoon delight

Rubbin’ sticks and stones together, make the sparks ignite

And the thought of lovin’ you is getting so exciting

[Chorus]

Sky rockets in flight

Afternoon delight

Afternoon delight

Afternoon delight

[Verse 2]

Started out this morning feeling so polite

I always thought a fish could not be caught who didn’t bite

But you’ve got some bait a waitin’ and I think I might

Like having a little afternoon delight

[Chorus]

Sky rockets in flight

Afternoon delight

Afternoon delight

Afternoon delight

[Bridge]

Please be waiting for me baby when I come around

We could make a lot of lovin’ ‘fore the sun goin’ down

[Chorus]

Thinkin’ of you’s workin’ up a’ appetite

Lookin’ forward to a little afternoon delight

Rubbin’ sticks and stones together make the sparks ignite

And the thought of lovin’ you is getting so exciting

[Outro]

Sky rockets in flight

Afternoon delight

Afternoon delight

Afternoon delight

The one where Grammar saved the day.

November 24, 2019

Yesterday, I spent my Saturday doing all the Responsible Adult things. Laundry. Housework (a bit more deep cleaning than usual with Thanksgiving looming next week). Groceries. Paying Bills. ALL THE THINGS!

By the end of the day, I told myself that I would spend Sunday doing Creative Things. My mind flew in all sort of directions about all the THINGS I would get done. I went to bed feeling hopeful and excited.

And then the day came.

Yay?

I stared blankly at my List Of Things To Do and felt my guts tighten.

I started it with some baking. Blueberry bread. Hey, it’s still creating.

I fiddled with my printer which for some reason no longer wants to do its ONE DAMN JOB.

After giving up, I pushed the traitorous printer aside and sat down at my desk.

After taking a deep breath, I decided to do something easy. Let’s get those wheels turning by doing some journaling. It’s spreading ink on the page. That counts, right?

I love journaling. It’s a way to talk out problems and finding answers. Sometimes, it is like your subconscious can find a way to talk back to you. There is something magical about it.

I started writing about my latest battle with Imposter Syndrome. How I haven’t written anything since October 1.  And the panic I’m feeling because in a week, I’m supposed to talk to a writers’ group about my adventures of being a writer. HA! Who am I to tell anyone about BEING a writer?

And that’s when my subconscious chimed up, “Ah, there’s the problem, isn’t it, Love? That adverb. BEING. That’s a passive a To Be verb. And WRITER? That’s a noun. Nouns are active so snip that down to WRITE. Not Writer; nouns aren’t active. They just sit there. You need to clip that and just use the active verb. WRITE. Just write something. Anything. Don’t worry about it being good or if anyone will like it. Just grab that Silver Flame and mold it into something NEW. ACTIVE. Get moving.

And that’s what I did.

Here it is.

I don’t know if any of this is good or is just another post about me whining, but I did it. At least it is a start.

The one where I start rambling and finally pull my head out of my ass.

My last story was finished on October 1, 2019. It’s called Brother Marvel’s Old Time Revival.

*Shameless plug*

And, until today, when I sat down at this cold keyboard, I haven’t written anything since.

It’s not because I don’t have ideas. I have a whiteboard looming over me with a list of projects. Looking up at it, I can hear it whispering, “For chrissakes, just write one sentence, a paragraph, anything! Get those wheels rolling!”

Here’s the rub: There is a part of me that desperately wants to stop. To never write another word, sink into mediocrity and just stay still.

Perhaps it is because I am too content.

I have a job that pays my bills with a very small spillover that allows me to buy books and pay for my Pilates addiction. Thank the Muses I don’t have to live on my royalty checks. The last I received from Kindle wouldn’t pay me a cup of coffee.

I made the rounds at a few book fairs this year and was grateful to make my table money back. However, if you really wanted to be anal about it, if you consider the overhead involved in putting on those shows, I am drowning in the red.

At this moment, my writing career is a classic case of diminished returns.

If there is no monetary incentives, why keep at it? Or, considering the lack of writing I’ve done lately, why do I even worry about jumping back on that horse?

Why am I even wasting my time bitching about it?

Because in the end, it doesn’t matter how much money you made or how many times you were published. In the end, IT DOES NOT MATTER.

What does matter is answering this question truthfully:

ARE YOU HAVING FUN?

If you answered, no then STOP. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Just STOP, get off the horse, dust yourself off and find something else.

Now I don’t have some rose colored perception about the writing life. I don’t expect it to be a mile a minute, raucous adventure zone cavalcade of fun fun times. It’s hard. Soul sucking, frustrating and depressingly hard work with sometimes little to no rewards (see the royalty statement paragraph above). Your work will more than likely never be read, be forgotten or, God forbid, your work will stay unfinished and molder in gut like a tumor.

So, if you’re not having fun. If even on your best days when the story is flowing like lava from your fingertips and the Word Genie is throwing a rave inside your head and you aren’t having fun, then stop.

Stop and find something else. Because, dammit, there’s no reason to clamp your knees around this bucking horse if you can do anything else.

And that’s it, isn’t it? Can you do anything else?

If I were to quit right now, go to school, and become something professional, profitable and respectable, the entire time I would be thinking “How could I turn this into a story?”

It’s how my brain works. I think in metaphor. I search for stories. I look for connections in unlikely things. I think sideways. Like Janus, I see both sides of the door.

I guess, maybe, I’m a little nuts. Perhaps, too organized a thinker to be diagnosed as schizophrenic but, in a way, I think all creatives are a little cuckoo for coco puffs.

Maybe that’s why I’ll keep on writing.

Not for money. Not for some kind of fickle fame. I’ll do it because it’s what I am, what I do and how I keep sane.

So, with that in mind, let me give my apologies. In a few years when my corpse is laid out on the cooling board in the morgue, I apologize to the poor soul who somehow ends up with my boxes of unfinished manuscripts, unpublished dreams, indecipherable journals and files named ‘future story fodder’.

I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it. It’s just how I was made.

But, until that, hopefully, far away day, you’ll need to excuse me. I’ve got some new stories to tell.

Y’all I think I figured it out.

I was eating lunch when a news article I read suddenly popped into my head.

CANNIBALISM COULD SOLVE WORLD HUNGER”

And, I started thinking about it and, ya know…it would but how do we as a culture de-stigmatize the idea of eating people for food?

“Well,” I answered myself. “What if we had a very select people and isolated them, kept them well fed, healthy and completely ignorant that they are not so much a country but a herd. And when they are ready to be culled, we just take a few.

“Think about it. We could push diets on certain selections of the population in order to make them taste a certain way. Some meats could be leaner, some fatter. Some more seasoned and some less so. We could even have some conform to an idea that they won’t take certain medications so that they could be our “free range” or “organic” crop.”

And then it hit me. Oh, shit. What if it is already being done? And it’s AMERICA that is the cannibal food herd?

Think about it. All the diet crazes. We have some parts of society who are absolutely fitness crazy and others who are slobs to the point of being stupid. Some who are healthy, vaccinated and full of preservatives and a bunch of those who are unvaccinated.

“But how would they know when we are ready to be culled?”

That’s where Fit Bits come into play. And what about those “biometric” exams we have to take to keep our insurance. Our phones taking count of each footstep and calorie you’ve burned. All of it just another way to keep track of the herd

It all makes sense.

Excuse me but I’m going to unplug before the Farmers find out I’ve figured it out.

An explanation

This is the dedication in my latest story, Rumble.

I thought that this dedication needed a bit more explanation.

So, sit back and listen to why she was the best teacher an eleven-year-old little weirdo could hope for.

I remember the first day of sixth grade. 1977. Mrs. Tarkington, a tall, strikingly beautiful woman with skin the color of mocha and large, dark eyes, said to her class, “I want to let you in on a little secret. Last night, you went to bed on the planet Earth but, this morning, you woke up on Mars.”

Now, this was a mind shattering revelation to 11-year-old Nik. You must understand that I put teachers, like books, on pedestals. They were ALWAYS true. Everything that came out of their mouths was gospel.

It didn’t help matters that that previous summer, I devoured UFO magazines. I spent that hot summer doing chores or just outright stealing money (I had a very lucrative side grift but that’s for another post) to fund this new obsession of mine. And those UFO magazines, pulpy pieces that Adult Nik sees as outright lies and complete conspiracy drivel, to Kid Nik were absolute truth.

So, when she said that we had been mysteriously whisked away from Earth to Mars, I thought, “Huh. Okay. Wow. Really? Wow. How?” And then my brain started concocting all sorts of scenarios ranging from Government conspiracies to Alien abduction.

So, the idea that we went to bed on Earth and woke up on Mars? All right. Cool. What’s next?

After much back and forth between the more skeptical of the class that turned into outright arguments between the Earthers and the Martians, Mrs. Tarkington clapped her hands and said, “GOOD! That’s what I want. My goal this year, class, is to teach you all how to think critically. NEVER accept anything that comes out of my mouth as truth. Always ask for proof. ALWAYS.”

This was life changing. While I was still very much a Mulder (my Sculley days were still years in the future), I loved her too much to be angry at being tricked for very long.

As the year went on, her classroom became a sanctuary for me. My homelife at that time was not good. I don’t want to go into it here but…it was the beginning of a very dark period of my childhood. So, having 8 hours in Mrs. Tarkington’s class was a bright point.

And, man, that year…Jesus….looking back, it really was the last year of my childhood.

I was eleven. Puberty had yet to take hold on me and most of the kids. There were a few girls that had boobs and we all looked at them with a mixture of envy and anger. Yeah, anger. I remember feeling betrayed by these girls. It’s crazy but that’s the truth.

As for me, ha! Puberty was still a year and change away. I had both of my feet fast in being a kid and, dammit, I wasn’t going until the hormone Gestapo came to get me, kicking and screaming.

I was a weird kid. I’ve said that a thousand times and I’ll say it a few times more. I’m thankful I was weird in the 70’s; two decades later and I would’ve been drugged up to my gills.

And I was blessed to have a teacher like Mrs. Tarkington that gloried in my weirdness.

She let me start up a Monster Hunter Club. She sponsored us for the school’s Science Fair when we entered a Cryptozoology display. We had a floating Giant Squid in an aquarium, a Bigfoot diorama with a homemade plaster foot, a papier-mache Himalayan mountain for the Yeti.

We won Honorable Mention. This was validation in my book.

Mrs. Tarkington gave me carte blanche to put on a play, Hunting Bigfoot. Trent Ridley wore a parka and three of us hunted him all over the classroom, following his footprints we had cut out of construction paper. Once captured, we pulled up a bedsheet and then performed an autopsy. We tossed construction paper guts and limbs out into the audience which was well received by the sixth graders.

And, best of all, she was the first person to light up the writing bug in Yours Truly. She published a poem I wrote about autumn (I remember it had something to do with squirrels and nuts) in a class journal. She also pushed me into public speaking by submitting an essay I did to a contest. I came in second place but it was my first experience at seeing my words actually make an impact.

My biggest regret is that at the end of the year, when we all lined up to say goodbye before leaving for summer break, I did not hug her. I’m not a hugger by nature; I’ve gotten better but, when I was a kid, it was absolutely out of the question. I can still feel how my stomach flipped at the idea of being pulled into someone else’s body. The suffocation of the hug. Their heat. Their smell. No…no…I couldn’t do it.

So, instead, I shook her hand and said, “Bye!”

And walked out.

But I never forgot her.

So, I joined the pack…

I joined up with Patreon. I’ve got some pretty cool tiers and my first goal is to get enough revenue to make Dinosaur Cubicle Fun Time into a book. Just in time for Christmas Office Parties!

Oh, how I keep myself sane at the dayjob.

If you’d like to help me out, I’d appreciate it it.

https://www.patreon.com/nikkinelsonhicks

I’ve some cool tiers with fun prizes. Check it out.