Reset: Chapter 24: Thursday, September 6, 2001 (5)

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Students in varying states of chemical enhancement poured in and out of downtown Hollister’s various establishments, scarfing down pizza, drinking from bottles hidden in brown paper bags, and generally causing commotion. Every once in a while the scent of cloves or cigarette smoke wafted by, and even marijuana. In short, it was the perfect place to get lost in.

“What’s this girl’s name, anyway?” Joe asked as they knifed towards Hollister House of Pizza, shoulder to bouncing shoulder with their peers.

“Stephanie or something,” said Jonesy.

“Huh,” said Joe. “Steve and Stephanie.”

“Yeah, Steve and Stephanie, sitting in a tree,” said Nick. “You can serenade us later, Cyrano. Where are we going?”

“Who’s Cyrano?” asked Jonesy.

“Cyrano! You know! The guy with the nose?!” said Nick “Don’t they teach you kids anything anymore?”

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“What are you even talking about?” said Carlos, his surliness on full display.

“What does it matter, anyway? The point is that this is a bad idea.”

Joe sighed. “Since you couldn’t come up with anything better, I don’t want to hear it.”

“What do you mean, I couldn’t come up with anything better! My plan made a hell of a lot more sense than this, I can tell you that.”

In no mood to fight, Joe hung his head, hoping beyond hope that they would all just make it through the night alive. “Let’s just get a seat.”

Inside the pizza shop, Carlos scanned their environs, a sour twist to his mouth. “What seat?”

“We’ll stand somewhere,” said Joe. He pointed towards an empty spot near the pool table where some students were involved in a serious game, twenty dollar bills laid across the table’s edge. “Over by the wall.”

“There’s no room,” said Jonesy, standing on his tiptoes in a bid to look around the players.

“Is that Journey on the jukebox?” said Nick. “We’ve got to get out of here. I told you this was a terrible idea!”

“Again,” said Joe, “if you have a better suggestion, I’d love to know.”

“There was no Journey involved in my suggestion,” said Nick.

“What I want to know,” said Carlos, “is where those guys got all that money.”

“Your mom,” said Nick, before quickly raising his hands. “I’m sorry. That was a terrible joke. ‘Your mom’ jokes are not, nor have they ever been, funny.”

Jonesy laughed all the same.

“Whatever,” said Carlos, his crankiness ratcheting up a few levels. “Let’s go somewhere else. Nick’s right: this is a dumb idea.”

“Yeah, it’s much smarter to let yourself get cornered,” said Joe. He stepped into one of the three lines before the counter. “Tactical brilliance.”

“What are you standing there for?!” said Nick. “Don’t tell me you’re hungry.”

“It’s kind of rude to come to a restaurant and just stand here without ordering anything, isn’t it? You’re the one with a pizza place. You should know pizza etiquette.”

Jonesy turned to Nick, his face scrunched up with puzzlement. “There’s pizza etiquette?”

“Yeah,” said Nick, “Pay for your food and get the hell out. That’s the strategy.”

Tactically speaking, if you have no food to pay for, then what are you doing there in the first place?”

“He has a point,” said Carlos.

“Nobody asked you,” said Nick.

“I’m pretty hungry,” said Jonesy.

“Of course you are,” said Joe. “Look, I’ll pay. You guys just go sit down.” He waved a hand at the tables, all full.

“Again: where?” said Carlos.

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“You’re a pretty godawful general,” said Nick. “Patton my ass.”

Anger surged like vomit. Joe could understand Jonesy and Carlos acting like kids, because they were kids. But Nick? No matter how he looked or felt, his mind was still that of a grown man. He should know better.

Unless he was going native.

The thought was terrifying. Hadn’t he himself felt a little like a kid, his mind and body awash in a sea of late-teen hormones? Especially when he was around Gwendolyn. She had a way of making him feel once again like a hapless kid. But it was intoxicating; he had forgotten how good it felt to be young, how vital.

“Then we’ll sit outside,” said Joe. “Or stand. I don’t care. Just stick together, alright?”

“Sure,” said Carlos, blessedly taking the initiative and leading the others to the door. “Let’s go.”

Joe stood for just a few minutes, the line moving with agonizing slowness, when he heard Nick’s bellow soaring above the din. “Back off, alright! Just back off!”

The sound of the crowd changed in that way crowds did when they smelled the prospect of violence. The buzz grew sharper, quieter, a dagger in the hands of an assassin. His guts turned cold, Joe abandoned his place in line and, fighting the crowd, made his way outside. Continue reading Reset: Chapter 24: Thursday, September 6, 2001 (5)”

Reset: Chapter 23: Thursday, September 6, 2001 (4)

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There was a message on the whiteboard: “COME TO JONESYS!” And on his desk, a hastily scribbled missive on a sticky note: “at jonesys come find us!!! urgent!!!!!!” It was so urgent that Nick had time to write all of those exclamation points.

Joe picked up his phone, deciding to call Carlos and Jonesy first to see if there really was a problem, or if Nick was being typically hyperbolic.

Nobody answered, nor did Joe have any messages of his own. He hung up, tapping his fingers on his desk. He really wasn’t in the mood for adventures tonight. All he wanted was to grab a bite and go to sleep. But a tugging at his conscience kept him from turning in for the night. Nick, for all his faults, cared about his friends: if he said that someone was in trouble, they probably were.

What did we used to do before texting? he thought, running through the mental checklist: Whiteboard, sticky note, voice message . . .

Email.

Joe darted out his hand, tapping his mouse to unfreeze the screen, and logged in to his email account as fast as his then-cutting-edge desktop would allow. He had a message from Nick, timestamped about ten minutes ago: “We’re leaving Rodger and we’re coming there!”

Joe calculated the distances and times in his head. If they had indeed left ten minutes ago, it would take them less than ten to get here, especially at the pace Nick walked. He could just wait, but he was curious to see what was wrong.

Curious, and a little nervous. That sense of dread that had crept up on him like a frost while walking into Gwendolyn’s room hadn’t left, and while Joe normally didn’t put much faith in hunches, the week’s events had challenged many of his long-held certainties. With a huff, he put his coat back on and went outside.

He knew the path his friends would take to Paxton, and hurrying in the cool night, met them at the halfway point across the street from the student union building where a hill led down to an outdoor basketball court. He waved his hands and shouted for them.

Nick pointed and said something, and he, Jonesy, and Carlos started running towards Joe.

“There you are!” said Nick, grabbing Joe by the shoulders. Joe felt a momentary twinge of guilt when he saw the swelling in Nick’s upper lip. “What the hell, man?!” said Nick.

Joe’s heart quickened. “What the hell what?” He looked each of them in turn, scanning for any sign of injury, of panic, of grief. Instead, he just saw confusion.

“Where’ve you been?” said Nick.

“Where’ve I been?”

“Yes.”

Joe rolled his eyes. Turning to Carlos, the most sensible of them all, he asked, “What’s going on?”

“Jonesy’s been accused of rape.”

“Rape?”

“The girl, remember?” said Nick. “At KPD?”

Joe turned to Jonesy. “But you didn’t touch her.”

“I know!” said Jonesy. “I think.”

“There was no sign of anything,” said Carlos, “but these dudes don’t care, man.”

Dudes?”

“Her boyfriend and his crew,” said Carlos. “They’re out for blood, man. Sending threatening emails, making calls . . .”

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“And I didn’t even do anything!” said Jonesy, spreading his small hands.

Joe patted him on the shoulder. “I know. We were there–we saw the two of you. She had her underwear on, you had your pants on, and that’s that. But why now?”

“Who knows?” said Nick, throwing his hands up. “Women are crazy. You of all people should know that.”

“You’ve raped somebody?!” said Jonesy.

“No I haven’t raped anybody!” Joe snapped. He glared at Nick. “I’ve never even had a girlfriend. Remember?”

“That is true, actually,” said Nick. “Joe’s a total virgin. Like, never even kissed a girl before. It’s pretty sad, when you stop and think about it.”

“I think they get it,” said Joe.

“Wow,” said Jonesy. “You mean I’m actually cooler than you?”

“Joe’s not cool,” said Nick. He actually sounded offended. Continue reading Reset: Chapter 23: Thursday, September 6, 2001 (4)”

Jane Austen: The Conclusion

So now that I’ve read every single Jane Austen novel, ever, it’s time to make sense of it all, isn’t it? Isn’t that what blogs are for, to try to create a context–a larger story–even when there isn’t one?

Especially when there isn’t one?

Or maybe, just maybe, I really enjoy writing about reading. And writing.

In any event, I can safely say the following two things:

  1. Jane Austen’s novels are fantastic,
  2. Jane Austen may very well have written the best dialogue the English language has ever seen

What? That’s high praise from a dude reading chick lit, man! But like I said in my very first Jane Austen post many moons ago:

 In reading Sense and Sensibility, I’m struck by how nice it is to enjoy a story where men are manly and women are womanly, each sex exhibiting strengths, weaknesses, and in general complimenting each other the way those in healthy relationships should. Throw away all of the social stuff regarding the limited opportunities for women at that time and enjoy the story for what it is.

No, this isn’t some evil member of the white male patriarchy lamenting his lost power (first of all, I never had any power to begin with). It’s just . . . unique to read a story from a world where people seemed to have confidence in their identities. For starters, there wasn’t any self-loathing or existential angst in these stories. That would invade literature later.

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Anyway, I’ll divide this post into The General section and The Specific section (names subject to change). In the former, I’ll go over what I admire about Jane Austen’s writing, her strengths, and any criticisms I may have. And in the latter part, I’ll give a brief rundown of each book, my takeaway, and an overall rating/ranking that I’m sure will upset most people who study Jane Austen’s works more than I do, but what the hell, it’s my blog. So here goes! Continue reading “Jane Austen: The Conclusion”

Reset: Chapter 22: Thursday, September 6, 2001 (3)

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“Earth to Joe!” said Madison, the blonde girl. “How’re you going to explain this to us if you’re already off in space?”

“Are you drunk?” said Carissa.

“Joe doesn’t drink,” said Gwendolyn defensively.

Carissa shrugged. “You don’t know that.”

Joe looked around at the study room. They were sitting at a large circular table that took up most of the space, their notes spread before them. A TV/VCR stood on a small table in the corner and a whiteboard hung on one wall. Used to touch screens and other technological marvels, Joe found the whiteboard refreshingly quaint.

He wondered if he were getting used to things in this time. And if so, whether he should just stop worrying so much about everything.

An image of airplanes striking skyscrapers flashed in his mind, like a still from a horror movie spliced into a children’s film. “I’m fine,” he said, giving his head a quick jerk. “I just–I found out my aunt has cancer.” It wasn’t something he particularly wanted to share, and while it wasn’t the truth, it was a truth. Better still, it would redirect the conversation.

“Oh my God!” said Gwendolyn. She put her hand on Joe’s sending an electric thrill up his arm. “I’m so sorry.”

“Is she going to be okay?” said Jessica, genuine concern in her voice.

“Yeah,” said Joe. “They found it early. She should be alright. If you don’t mind, can we talk about something else? Like stars?”

“Of course,” said Gwendolyn. She gave Joe’s hand a brief squeeze before lifting her own.

“So today’s class made, like, no sense,” said Madison, speaking perhaps a bit too fast, her voice perhaps a bit too bright, though Joe appreciated her efforts to lift the mood in the room all the same. “All that stuff about periodic tables and whatever.”

“Elements,” said Joe. “The Professor was talking about where they came from. Supernovae. Like when a star explodes.”

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“I might be blonde, but I know what a supernova is,” said Madison.

“I just meant–”

“I’m kidding,” said Madison, flashing a devilish smile. She rattled a few of her bracelets absentmindedly. “You should, like, totally see your face.”

“I’ll be sure to take a selfie next time,” said Joe, enjoying the cool wave of relief.

“A selfie?” said Gwendolyn. “Like, a self-portrait?”

“More like a bad joke,” said Joe. Continue reading Reset: Chapter 22: Thursday, September 6, 2001 (3)”

Reset: Chapter 21: Thursday, September 6, 2001 (2)

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“YOU TOLD HIM?!

“Don’t yell at me!” said Joe.

Nick waved his long arms like an angry silverback. “You’re such an idiot! What the hell’s the matter with you?!”

“Nothing’s the matter with me.”

“And I’m supposed to be the dumb one,” said Nick. He dragged his hands down his face. “This is a disaster.”

“Can I speak?” said Joe.

“I think you’ve said enough!” said Nick. He slumped onto their couch. “What a catastrophe! What a total catastrophe!”

“You’re one to talk,” said Joe.

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, WOULD YOU LET THAT GO?!Continue reading Reset: Chapter 21: Thursday, September 6, 2001 (2)”

Reset: Chapter 19: Wednesday, September 5, 2001 (4)

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Even Nick started getting bored with the college life. “If I have to play another video game I’m going to shoot myself. Did we really waste this much time with those things?”

“Sad, isn’t it?” said Joe, not looking up from The Great Gatsby, the assigned reading from that afternoon’s English class.Cover of the book The Great Gatsby“All the things we could have done with that time . . .”

“Like study?”

“Learn an instrument, another language, date girls . . .”

Joe brandished his book. “Read, maybe?”

“That too.” Nick sat on the couch, wiggling his fingers. “My eyeballs are starting to bleed from all of it. My fingers, too. They feel like . . .”

“They should be holding a books?”

“Alright, alright!” Nick stood, pacing around the room. “I can take a hint. I’m not a total moron you know.”

Joe turned a page, his highlighter at the ready. “Never said you were.”

“No, but you implied it. We all know how powerful implications can be.” Nick picked up a textbook from his desk. “Take education, for example.”

 

“That’s what I’m trying to do.”

“I’m feeling philosophical tonight; hear me out.” Continue reading Reset: Chapter 19: Wednesday, September 5, 2001 (4)”

Reset: Chapter 18: Wednesday, September 5, 2001 (3)

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“I like her,” said Nick. “She’s fun. I think I’m staying in this class.”

Joe finally exhaled as they walked out of Franklin Hall. “That was too far, Nick. Too far.”

“How could it be? Nobody knows!”

“I don’t think so,” said Joe. “Did you see the way Bessarab was staring at us?”

“Stevie!” said Nick. “Good dude!”

“He can tell something’s not right. Carlos, too. I think that the better people knew us back then, the more it bugs them when they see us now.”

“That makes no sense,” said Nick.

“It makes just as much sense as the rest of this.”

“Then why aren’t people having this feeling about each other?”

“Maybe they do,” said Joe. “Or maybe they only do with us since we’re the ones who set off The Machine. You, actually, but I was there.”

They were walking towards the Burns Center, intending to work out before lunch. “That’s a pretty arrogant worldview,” said Nick.

“It makes sense. Admit it.”

Nick waved a hand. “Maybe nineteen individuals we’re particularly concerned about will change their minds then.”

“You don’t really believe that, do you?”

“It makes just as much sense as the rest of this,” Nick murmured, jamming his hands into his pockets like an angry child, keeping silent for the rest of their walk. Continue reading Reset: Chapter 18: Wednesday, September 5, 2001 (3)”