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I.

1985, we stole fistfuls of change, slipped fingers into jean pockets and cup holders, mined pennies from the asphalt. In school, the nuns lowered their papery eyelids. Ethiopians are dying, they said, and offered us build-your-own UNICEF boxes, corner to corner, flap into slit. We watched videos of the suffering, the frottage of polyester uniforms on our thighs.

As a writer with a Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing, I make most of my living teaching composition, argument and rhetoric to college students. This means I have the often-unenviable job of pointing out to students when their thinking is flawed, which in this era of anti-intellectualism is a dangerous and radical idea.

“What’s king cake?”

Silence.

Five of us have come into the kitchen to refill our wine glasses. Four pairs of eyes are scanning me in confusion. The silence breaks with someone’s machine gun-like titter.

“You’ve never had king cake?” one of them replies, hand on her hip.

Thomas Thwaites is an interesting fellow.  He describes himself as a “designer (of the more speculative sort), interested in technology, sciences, and futures research,” and his work as “communicating complex subjects in engaging ways.” Armed with an MA from the Royal College of Art Design Interactions, Thwaites has written a book called The Toaster Project: Or a Heroic Attempt to Build a Simple Electric Appliance from Scratch (Princeton Architectural Press, 2011).

It was selected as one of NPR’s Best Books of 2011.

“Andrea, you have the strangest collection of jobs I’ve ever seen.”

Some time ago I was driving to work with one of my many bosses and telling him about some of the other gigs I do when not working for him. I think at the time I was up to about five or six occupations altogether, but I can never really keep track. At any given point in the past year I have been a tour guide, a tutor, a videographer, a researcher, a receptionist and a waitress.

At times these jobs can be cushy (receptionist), mildly soul-crushing (tutoring rich kids in the SAT, thus perpetuating our society’s heinous class-based educational inequities) and occasionally even satisfying (documentary researcher). But of all my jobs, the strangest has to be working as a guide for a ghost tour company. It is also, needless to say, the most fun.

Meg Tuite’s novel, Domestic Apparition, challenges the strictures of the novelistic form. One could qualify it as a “novel in stories” or even call it a collection of stories, but by the end of reading it, its cohesiveness and narrative pull firmly place it in the land of the novel, albeit a unique one, both in structure and content—one that perhaps only a small press would publish (and by saying that, I’m applauding small presses everywhere).

30 Days

I threw the tea pot out the window.

It plummeted three floors and shattered into a hundred white porcelain pieces right behind Mrs. Epstein, whom I had never much liked anyway.

“Hey!” she yelled up at me.

“Sorry,” I said, hanging half my upper body over the sill. Then I turned back inside, grabbed half a dozen tea cups and dumped those out, too.

I wasn’t that sorry.

The Jenny Craig Weight Loss Center I knew was located in one of the blank-faced strip malls that  make  up  a majority  of the  commercial architecture where I grew up. South Florida is a place where impermanence is part of the culture—the result of the collective influence of hurricanes, tourism, and retirees. This atmosphere of change persists today in storefront  plastic surgery shops, where you can buy a new shape  or a more  expressionless  face on your lunch hour.