A Dog Fight on a Loop

Wild DogJPGDo you hear a lot of dogs barking? I wonder beneath the 80s music in the cafe.
I’m convinced there’s a wild pack of dogs advancing, but no one else seems to notice. It’s like a dog fight on a loop in the verdant park just outside the door.
Two men enter delivering crates of bread. They say nothing of the wild dogs, referring only to the weather and Sunday plans.
“Hungry like a Wolf” plays in the cafe, and I’m sure the universe is playing a trick on this tourist. Still I heed the warning of the song because there are messages everywhere (and this one is in English) and perhaps “they are on the hunt. They are after me.”
  • Following is a list of short stories made into films. These pieces are interesting for the way the story is translated to make something unique.
  • 36 hours and Roald Dahl’s “Beware of the Dog”
  • Total Recall and Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”
  • The Swimmer and “The Swimmer” by John Cheever
  • The Minority Report and Philip K Dick’s “Minority Report”
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and James Thurber’s story of the same name that is more like most recent version
  • The Killers and Hemingway’s story by the same name
  • The Adjustment Bureau and Philip K. Dick’s “The Adjustment Team”
  • Brokeback Mountain and the same story by Annie Proulx
  • There’s a ton of Stephen King ones, including “Shawshank Redemption”
  • The Incident at Owl Creek Bridge and Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and F Scott Fitzgerald’s story
  • Brewster’s Millions and the novel* by McCutcheon

 

 

Misunderstanding

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During English class in Arrazola, we played with cootie catchers* to practice the future tense: you will find your true love: you will find satisfying work.
I did not know what the word cootie was. It turns out to be lice (and that’s a whole different conversation, involving lice eggs). Anyway, I said, it’s what my mother told me boys have.
And one of my students, impatient and confused, politely inquired, “Excuse me, do you mean a dick?”
Certainly blushing, I said, “I can see how you arrived at this question, but no, the word I am looking for is lice, piojo.
The young man’s fortunes were hilarious (mis)fortunes (perhaps curses): you will be eaten by a shark, you will lose your job, you will have ten sons. I asked why he hadn’t added “you’ll be bald and toothless.”  He simply lacked the vocabulary, not the cruelty.
We were still laughing about this activity when my friend, who’d arranged this exchange, arrived and commented that the terraza had been filled with laughter all afternoon.
We agreed but dared not offer any explanation.
Instead, we laughed some more.

* A cootie catcher is also known as a fortune teller, a chatterbox, and because of its appearance, a salt cellar (picture it upside down), a whirlybird, and a paku-paku (think Pac Man).

  • Show how misunderstanding can lead to hilarity. Show what happens when our limitations in vocabulary and/or understanding can lead us to great laughter.

Questions

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I

This morning, you saw an anarchist on his way to work, and you wondered whether he, all covered in black, with a bandana covering his face to his eyes, was running, as you  would, because he was late, or if, perhaps, he was already on the job.

How would you know?

II

Most of the rest of the city is quiet, fans gripped to television sets and any news of the nation’s soccer scores.

How can we care about the world when our team is down three and time is running out?

III

More than two dozen people plead for me to buy something I don’t want.

Isn’t there a better way to support a family?

 

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IV

Women in wide skirts and men in sandals folk dance on the plaza as if there is something to win in the moves.

Is there? And…

if so, who will tell me?

V

How can I know whether these are even the right questions?

 

  • Another question: And what happens if we all don’t vote? 

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Use questions to drive a tense monologue.

 

 

Frenemies and Word Play

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I just ended one of my intercambios for the summer. I had a whole family: two aunts, three cousins, a grandma, and an uncle. We were a spectacle in the market. I was training three booths in a bustling market how to respond to English-speaking tourists.

We drilled on the difference between fifteen and fifty dollars, between a shirt and a skirt, between wood and wool. We practiced our colors and cordial phrases.

At one of the booths, upon learning the word ugly, the littlest girl shouted it out at an elderly American man. It sounded like a long and loud: uuuuuugleee!

I (as straight-faced and stern as I could muster) reminded her that he could understand her.

I confided to her patient mother that English can be dangerous.

Still I helped the girl write a composition about a “friend” although the child felt compelled to write that the friend has a long mouth and dirty ears. I had to inquire how the recipient would know, from the note, she is truly friend.

The tiny terrorizer decided to add that though the frenemy has greasy hair, she has clean teeth.

Painting with Water

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At the beginning of summer, I traveled to China: Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai. At the Summer Palace in Beijing, I watched this man calligraph with water, painting logograms onto the sidewalk. In the warm afternoon air, his words evaporated before our eyes.

Regardless of our comprehension of what the images represent, we were a rapt audience.

The creative writing students are blogging again this semester. And, we need you to help us expand our understanding of audience. Please follow these bloggers, like them, and tell your friends about Cosumnes River College’s diligent and creative writers.

  • CRCMindImages.wordpress.com
  • ThePlayList2018.wordpress.com
  • LettersFromSacramento.wordpress.com
  • GoSeeDoWrite.wordpress.com

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  • You Go to School to Learn
    By Thomas Lux
    You go to school to learn to
    read and add, to someday
    make some money. It—money—makes
    sense: you need
    a better tractor, an addition
    to the gameroom, you prefer
    to buy your beancurd by the barrel.
    There’s no other way to get the goods
    you need. Besides, it keeps people busy
    working—for it.
    It’s sensible and, therefore, you go
    to school to learn (and the teacher,
    having learned, gets paid to teach you) how
    to get it. Fine. But:
    you’re taught away from poetry
    or, say, dancing (That’s nice, dear,
    but there’s no dough in it
    ). No poem
    ever bought a hamburger, or not too many. It’s true,
    and so, every morning—it’s still dark!—
    you see them, the children, like angels
    being marched off to execution,
    or banks. Their bodies luminous
    in headlights. Going to school.

Where do you go to learn? What are you really being taught?

Little Prayers

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The streets are nearly empty, but the sound of the game hovers over the city, blaring over the playground with children squealing, flinching, cheering in unison; roaring from shop windows, whispering from cell phones for circles of people as if assembled for a campfire. Even the strays seem to listen for the score will ArrrArrrArrrrooooo as the Mexicans protract Goooool as an opera singer stretches a note. I am rooting for Mexico, for the joy of the whole city, for the pride of a nation.

There is an electric jubilation in the streets that makes the hair on my arms stand at attention. We all have goosebumps for the potential.

Another Oaxaca politician has been murdered. The newspaper reports the 150 bullets fired into the truck, the other casualties. The body is unabashedly published in black and white.

The people at the cafe watch the game on the iPad cash register. The Irish bar above the cafe waves the Mexican flag today. The patrons chant and cringe and watch together, eschewing real problems.

I wonder how many people are praying for a win. I wonder whether this is the right thing to pray for. Even more, I wonder if it will work.

When something makes me nervous or upset, like having an unexpected argument, I switch my mind to other things. The music on the radio, the breeze blowing through the windows, how delicious cinnamon is in savory dishes. This is how I cope with the tension in the air.

Even the gum sellers wear patriotic green. The baristas take the news of a point scored by the opposing team as they practice pouting expressions and milk to form designs on top, filming the process.

How long is this game?

I can’t take the groans from the Irish pub. I can’t bear the dismay of the baristas, I escape the cafe, but even Constantino, the man who sells rugs, is certain it’s already over.

Part of me knows that a sport should not mean so much. Part of me knows the value of metaphors and charms.

What happens when my lucky jersey doesn’t bring a win—when prayers aren’t answered?

Ants!

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This girl has a sack of giant flying ants. That is one of them crawling on her left knee.

A horde of us have been out hunting ants, in Llano Park and throughout the city, since sunrise.

A woman fills her red jacket’s pockets; a man uses his moto helmet as a basket. A valet and a waiter scramble to fill grocery sacks with ants. The shoe shiner loans bags to customers. A man pushes ants, wings and all, into a Coke bottle as his wife zips them in her purse.

Some trappers bring crumbs for the birds (as distraction for the competition); some gatherers team up, use their children.

Some gratefully praise the fortune falling from the heavens, and some think I don’t know that chicatanas (giant flying ants) arrive with hurricane season, that I cannot know two full days of rain signal the joyous beginning of hunters harvesting ingredients.

I have sampled this salsa. I have dabbled in the seasonal delicacies here. I know what flavors the weather brings.

  • Most of the poems featuring ants make them metaphor for how infinitesimally small we are in the cosmos: https://hellopoetry.com/words/ants/. A bit more creative, some poets make them industrious little builders. Of course, there are also the picnic destroyers. I like to think of these insects as the Oaxacans do, as a special food delivered by the rains, as sustenance, as sport. How can you freshen a metaphor by drawing from a different culture’s views?