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Jane’s Story
By
Sara Keats
ACT I
Scene 1
The scene shifts in time and space fluidly, and
there are no set changes. Anya is simultaneously
telling stories at the children’s library and in
conversation with Jane at various points in their
relationship. Jane functions as a narrator and
speaks to the audience directly, as if she were
telling a story like Anya is, only to adults, not
children. She too often breaks off to converse
with Anya, ignoring the audience. *Italics
indicate a character speaking to other character,
non-italics is to the audience or an unseen group
of children.
ANYA
It began on dark winter’s night...
JANE
All of her stories started this way.
ANYA
..the snow fell gently about a far away house...
JANE
Always the winter. No one was haunted in summer I
guess.
ANYA
...where there lived a man and a woman...
JANE
This too was constant, man and woman in the house, man
and woman in the snow. I asked her about it once,
whispered it to her late at night in bed. I said, How
come its a never two women?
ANYA
Oh, don’t politicize it, babe.
(She kisses Jane playfully)
JANE
She would say. But I couldn’t help it.
ANYA
...lived a man and woman and their baby, whom they
loved very very much...
JANE
The first few lines of the story were always so fucking
happy. I felt bad for them, this man, woman and baby,
so happy, and then again and again, one dark night...
ANYA
One dark night...
JANE
As if there were nights that weren’t dark
ANYA
...there was a knock on the door...
JANE
A knock on the door of the house in the woods with the
man the woman and the baby and probably a dog, though
we never heard about him.
ANYA
...and behind it loomed a mysterious woman, cloaked in
horse blankets as dark at the night.
JANE
When Anya first started telling her stories at the
children’s library, the mysterious woman wore a coat
with many pockets, like my many pocketed cargo pants. I
thought that a coat with many pockets probably wasn’t
period and told her so, but she said
ANYA
Period? You’re thinking too much, the story is doesn’t
have a specific time. When did you think it was taking
place?
JANE
I’d guess like, early 19th century. But she knew what I
was thinking.
ANYA
Don’t read into this, Jane.
JANE
Why does she have to have a coat with many pockets,
when you’re always making fun of all of my
pockets? How can I not "read into it"?
ANYA
She has to have pockets to keep all the hands she
collects. That the whole point of the story, she says
’Would you lend me a hand’ and then she really gets the
kid’s hand, chops its off, y’know, puts in her pocket,
and then the man grabs her, but she escapes and he only
has the coat, and he find all the hands...
JANE
I’ve heard it before.
ANYA
So they bury all the hands, and the little children
ghosts run around and try and kidnap the baby, but
then...
JANE
I was there. I know what happens. I’m always there.
ANYA
The kids love it. I mean, the regulars know what’s
coming, but they love it too, they fall dead silent
when I’m like, "He reached into the mysterious woman’s
coat pocket and--
JANE
The kids are terrified of them.
ANYA
They like being terrified.
JANE
They like being braver than their friends. You can see
them looking around to see who’s the most scared. But
they probably go home and wet the bed at night. My god,
why are you grinning?
ANYA
Ghost stories are good for you.
JANE
I disagreed, but I let it go. The fact was, Anya was
good at the stories, the same ancient Russian beauty
that I loved in her so much made her ghost stories
stark and terrible and somehow richer.
ANYA
They opened the door slowly out into the dark and cold
night to reveal a tall, and beautiful woman...
JANE
a lanky, and hollow woman...
ANYA
a deep, and distraught woman...
JANE
a sad, and lonely woman...
ANYA
with
JANE
dark hair and green eyes,
ANYA
with a
JANE
broad nose and flat feet
ANYA
and a
JANE
lover who took everything about her and made it
grotesque. Anya. I know it’s me in the stories. Why are
you telling them? When I sleep beside you they’re all I
can think of, the stolen hands of children claw me in
my sleep. But you know that isn’t how it happened, you
know that it was only one hand, and it was a mistake.
You know that everything is okay now, why are you
telling these stories?
ANYA
Its just a story, Jane. You were just the inspiration.
So yes, the mysterious woman is often tall like you.
JANE
Like me.
ANYA
And she also like clothes with lots of pockets.
JANE
Pockets. Safari vests, cargo pants, coats.
ANYA
Just the coat, yeah.
JANE
This isn’t helping me deal with things, Anya.
ANYA
What do you mean, "deal with things"? How have you not
dealt with things? I thought you said everything worked
out, that everything’s okay now.
JANE
It is okay now, but I shouldn’t be fodder for your
stories.
ANYA
It’s an entirely made up story! No one connects it with
you at all!
JANE
You do. You know you do.
ANYA
I should leave, snacks are almost over.
JANE
I’m not at a point where my life should be ruled by
snack times. I should be back in Nigeria.
ANYA
Nigeria-shmeria, you should be here.
JANE
Anya had met me in a post-Africa slump, following my
dismissal from an organization that sent medical
professionals to other countries to provide free and
economical healthcare where it was needed most. I went
to Nigeria as a surgeons assistant, but when I got
there, the doctor and I split up to cover more clinics.
Not exactly kosher, but we thought it was right. The
town I was working in had a massive gangrene outbreak,
whether from a bacteria growing the plant or our camp’s
introduction of junk food into the local diet we can’t
say for sure. But there were swollen hands and feet
everywhere, and not enough medicine to go around. So I
had no choice but to cut a lot of hands off. Better I
do it sterile than they do it with a machete. I didn’t
feel great about it, but it was genuinely my honest
choice, and I didn’t think much more off it than I did
when I helped women abort their babies or told the
families of old people there was no hope. I wasn’t
happy, but I made peace with it, and the village did
too, but the organization didn’t, and I was asked to go
home. So I did. I told Anya the story of the hands by
way of explanation when she found crying in front of
the painting of a be-handing in the art museam. She
thought it was hilarious. I cut off too many hands, so
they sent me back to New York.
ANYA
That’s too rich, that’s too rich.
JANE
How could I not return her smile? She was radiant.
ANYA
Have you eaten lunch yet?
JANE
Yes, but I’m happy to watch you eat. And a few months
later...
ANYA
I spend so much time here, I ought to just move in, and
we can split the rent instead.
JANE
It was good. Between us we had four good hands. But
guilt, that co-habitual ghost and ever present shadow,
would not leave my side.
ANYA
But you thought you were doing the right thing.
JANE
Maybe I thought wrong.
ANYA
It isn’t as if you were holding onto them. It isn’t as
if you were a hand collector.
JANE
We couldn’t help but giggle. But then,
ANYA
...on a dark winter’s night...
JANE
There came a wanted ad seeking storytellers for the
childrens library.
ANYA
...in a house in the deep woods, there lived a woman
JANE
and another woman. And the house was an apartment where
they were threatening to cut the power if the bill
wasn’t paid.
ANYA
There came a soft knock on the door...
JANE
And behind it was the land lord. So one of the women
took a job at the children’s library...
ANYA
The woman was clever, and though she cared deeply for
her family...
JANE
She’d have to face the the mysterious woman to keep
them in bread.
ANYA
She loved her family very much...
JANE
So she begrudging accepted the hands in her pockets.
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spring is for leaving;
there is a glory
to it, then
versus the winter
wherein we roost
upon our discontent
swallow,
sleep and fatten
wary of roasting
on our excess,
we ruffle our untidy
featherbed bedheads
whispering of spring
talking of migrating
cousins
snuggling
pecked clean
in haywire
hothouses
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I've been sitting here for forty-three years now, and if you think that's long you must not talk to many houses.
No, I'm a youngin', this'll only be my forty-fourth winter. You'd think once you'd seen one, you'd seen them all, but when you stand as still as I do, you start to notice subtle differences.
Like the year they cut back on plowing, and the streets filled up faster, or the year the garbage trucks took it extra slow.
And you notice more subtle stuff too, the way the smallest change in the wind can effect where the powder lands ever so slightly.
And how your family deals with it, of course, if the kid's are excited, or if it just holds them up. They're all gone now, and Mrs. Jones too.
But me and Mr. Jones'll stick it out, weather another winter.
He loves the snow, can't get enough of it, sometimes overreacts, and who am I judge?

This one? It's not too bad, we've seen worse. Pretty though. Nothing like that first snow.
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Whammy

A lot of things were different than Tessa had pictured. The house should have felt homier than the apartment, not false and excessively cheery like it did. Micheal should have been keeping more regular hours and more money with his new job, instead of going out with the boys sporadicly throughout the week and leaving Tessa clueless as to when we was coming home. The only thing that was as perfect as Tessa had envisioned was Jimmy. At eighteen months, Jimmy was everything Tessa had dreamed of in a son, and she doted on him endlessly, determined that motherhood would be one part of her reality that was perfect. He was quiet in public places, got along well with other children, and was all in all a wonderful child. Tessa loves him more than anything and relished every moment with him. He did have one hang up though: food.
Firmly established in the solid food stage, Jimmy was uniquely fussy about what he consumed. He liked apples, but only if peeled and cubed. He liked instant macaroni and cheese, but only if he could stir in the magical cheese-powder himself. He liked his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made conservatively, with the creamy peanut butter and strawberry jelly spread so thin that they could not be seen from the outside. He took his ultra-light PB&Js without the crusts and cut into three manageable strips, an art dutifully perfected by his ever-exhausted mother.
But Tessa found comfort in her exhaustion. It made her feel like she was doing something right. She had no recollection of her own mother being nearly this invested in her happiness when Tessa was a kid-- she had the fearless taste buds to show for it. Though as the youngest, Tessa had never known the loathsome adventure of mobile home living, the culinary arts of such a lifestyle had permanently defined her mother's dinner repertoire. The family's upgrade to a mud-colored walk up with a real oven did nothing to motivate Tessa's mother to cook, and it wasn't until a senior year Home EC class that Tessa learned to prepare an entire meal without microwave or take-out box.
When Jimmy was ready to eat solid foods, Tessa went to town in the kitchen, pouring over the cookbooks that had piled up Christmas after Christmas from Micheal, each inscribed with the promise to make a house and home. Micheal's dinner attendance was spotty and unexpected, but in Jimmy she found a captive audience, her own culinary prisoner and test subject. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, Jimmy proved a fussy critic. He refused Tessa's painstakingly crafted chicken cordon bleu, scoffed at her roast turkey, tuna salad, mashed potatoes. He merely frowned at her vegetable soup and shoved her clever English muffin pizzas to the floor, where their pepperoni faces fell in anguish. At an impasse and worried her only son would die eating only minimalist PB&J, she turned to other women for advice. Every mother agreed: cut the fancy crap until he's older and invest in restaurant supply-sized bag of flash-frozen chicken nuggets-- dinosaur if possible. Tessa acquiesced, uneasy at the prospect of a buy-six-get-one-free offer for a ten-pound bag of processed chicken formed into dinosaurs shapes.
The chicken-dinosaurs were now a staple in Jimmy's diet and by association Tessa's. Toaster oven set to 350º, ten minutes on a foiled pan, and Tessa was serving up white-meat dinosaurs on a blue plate next to a pond of ketchup. She set the plate in front of him and pointed the breaded morsels. “Dinos for dinner!” she sang, kissing her baby boy on the cheek and sashaying to the sink.
“Dinos!” exclaimed Jimmy. Tessa gasped and dropped the dish towel she was folding, charged back to the table and scooped him up, dancing around the kitchen. It was his first real word. She carried him to where the telephone clung to the wall, glancing at the clock to see if she could catch Micheal before he left work. “Dinos! Dinos! Dinos!” bleated Jimmy. He was not nearly as phased by his emergence onto the speaking scene and was still intent of dinner. Micheal's work phone rang and rang and went to voice mail, and Tessa returned Jimmy to his seat before the dinos.
Jimmy, as always, began his meal by sorting the dinosaurs by shape. The triceratops in all their roundness were his favorite, followed by the tyrannosaurus rex, with the stegosaurus bringing up the rear. He would not eat they brontosaurus, their thin necks were too crunchy. He placed the long-necked, too-crunchy reject dinos on the napkin beside him. He pushed the napkin toward Tessa's seat, reaffirming her responsibility to eat the leftover long necks. Tessa eyed the pale dinos and turned one over in her hand. “Whatdaya think, honey?” she said to Jimmy, “Mommy's not going to fit in her pants if you keep her handing her dinosaurs like this.” She held her breath and waited for another word from her son.
“Mmm” Jimmy hummed instructively, tearing ketchup-bloodied chicken-triceratops head from chicken-triceratops body.
“Can I have some of your ketchup?” Tessa asked in her over-friendly Mommy voice, fishing for another word.
“Dinos!” chirped Jimmy. It wasn't an answer, but Tessa couldn't help beaming.
“When do you think Daddy will be home?” she ventured, again looking at the clock. It was 7:30, nearing bath and bedtime. Generally, she exalted her time alone with her son; he was the light of her life and though she loved Micheal dearly, she did harbor some doubts about his natural abilities as a parent. But it had only been eighteen months, he had time yet, and if he happen to come home tonight instead of hitting the bar, Tessa might still get to bask in the glory of her son's first word with his father. She cleared Jimmy's plate, but left him at the table, first trying to coax more words out of him, but eventually letting him return to his long-standing project: writing and illustrating his memoirs in incomprehensible one-year-old script. Flakes of cheap crayon wax littered the table nightly and Tessa carefully swept them into a jar kept on the top shelf the pantry, forever planning to melt the bits of wax into some super crayon. She gathered every broken bit of the cheap crayons apologetically, promising Jimmy again and again that someday the flakes would make something solid and complete. For now, it remained and bright and dizzying mess.
It was eight-thirty when Micheal came in through the front door and bellowed. “I'm home! What's for dinner?” Tessa gasped, torn suddenly from her concentration on doodling her yawning son on a napkin. Though Jimmy continued to color, he was yawning often enough it seemed an appropriate portrait. Tessa jumped up and busied herself finishing the dishes as Micheal entered the kitchen. “What's to eat?” he said, giving her absentminded, whiskey-flavored smooch.
“I thought you'd eat while you were out. I didn't know when you'd be home.”
“Well, what did you guys have?” He went over to the table and mussed Jimmy's hair. Jimmy screwed his face up, frowning with hints of Tessa's father in his face.
She knew it was a long shot, but she had to try it. “Why don't you ask Jimmy?” she said in a voice that was almost coy. “Jimmy, sweetie, what did we have for dinner?”
She pointed the to dejected chicken nuggets lying pale and guilty in front of her place. Jimmy scrunched his nose, glad to not be eating the long-cold long necks, and looked to his mother. Tessa smiled encouragingly. “What did we eat for dinner, Jimmy?”
“Dinos!” he exclaimed again. He beamed and his eyebrows shot up. “Dinos!”
“Oh, hey, little tyke talks now, whatdaya know?” said Micheal from the depths of the fridge. “Where's that Chinese from Sunday?”
“Isn't it wonderful?” gushed Tessa, kissing Jimmy again on the head and sweeping the offending dinosaurs into the garbage. Jimmy stuck out his tongue and went back to coloring.
“Does he say anything else yet?” asked Micheal facing the counter. He was sliding take-out lo mein into a microwave safe bowl. “Do you mind if I finish this?”
“That's fine, and not yet, but there should be more coming soon. 'Mama', 'Dada', that kind of thing. 'D' and 'P' sounds at first so 'dinos' makes sense”
“My first word was 'penny'”
“Oh, you sister, that's sweet.”
“I think it was a regular penny actually. Like I found a penny and announced it.”
“Its almost bath time, I had better--”
“Oh yeah, go ahead.” Micheal made his way into the den. Tessa listen to the high-pitched snap and hum of the television turning on. There should have been a camera; relatives should have been called. There should have been fawning and celebration. Well. He had had a good nap today, he could stay up a little later. She gathered her son-- their son-- in her arms. He clung to her, sitting easily on her hip and resting his head on her shoulders. She carried him into the other room, where Micheal sat illuminated in the slight blue glow of the television. She sat with Jimmy on her lap on the couch next to him and flicked on the light. He raised his eyebrows and regarded her briefly over his shrimp lo-mein, then turned back to his program.
Flashing lights were going around a board in the middle of the screen, and the contestants faces beamed eagerly down above it. It must have been a re-run; even to Tessa's unfashionable eyes the outfits looked out of date. The shot changed to focus on one contestant, a woman with hair piled impossibly high and shoulders padded for battle. “C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon,” the woman on screen intoned, her voice growing in volume and pitch. The light hit at such an angle that Tessa could see her reflection on the screen, a ghost over the woman's face. “C'mon, and STOP!” The moving light halted its dance around the board, landing on a square that framed a devilish-looking cartoon character. The creature's square fell beside reflected Tessa where Michael would have been if the light had shown a little brighter. On screen, the contestant's face momentarily fell in total devastation, like she had witnessed the greatest atrocities of the world seven times over and was the only one to live to tell about it. For the briefest flash, she held a look of dumb-struck horror, before shrugging and performing a sheepish smile to the tune of the live studio audience's collective sigh and sympathetic applause. A panning shot shaded Tessa's face and body with hundreds of clapping hands and smiling faces. The woman was back on screen, with Tessa reflected on her shoulder. Super-imposed over their images danced the little devil creature, grinning and filling the whole screen. He cackled as he danced, cracking up as the contestant's money count rolled backwards to zero. He seemed to be looking straight into Tessa's eyes, his laugh mocking and terrible. The little devil man was a taker but he was only a cartoon. He was a realization of the bad luck that robbed the contestant of their money but he couldn't be stopped. No one could do anything to him because he wasn't anything at all.
Tessa blinked and ran her free hand through her hair. “Let's see if we can get him to say something else,” she said airily. For a moment it was like when she was a teenaged babysitter, and would drag boyfriends to houses nicer than their own all over town, playing house and getting paid. “C'mon, let's see if he'll say something else,”
Micheal slurped up the rest of his noodles and placed his empty bowl on the coffee table. It rang with a cheap note of finality. He twisted to face his wife and her son. On the television, the show was about to go to commercial and the devil-man was dancing again to the tell-tale jingle. “Whammy” said Micheal to Jimmy, pointing at the cartoon. “That's his name, 'Whammy',”
Jimmy lifted his eyes to the screen for a moment, than looked at his mother. “Bath.” he said plainly. “Bath?”
“Bath,” said Tessa, oddly triumphant, resolved, and relieved. She pushed up from her seat with Jimmy still balance on her hip and hugged him all the way to the bathroom. She adjusted the bathtub facet to the perfect temperature and ran a bath for her perfect son.
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The Author, Her Story

*
In the third grade she did a book report on Number of the Stars. While other kids were making shoe box dioramas and glue stick posters, she wrote a page-long poem about the heroine's beating heart in the rocking boat in the dark night hiding from the shadow-clad Nazis. She got an A and a sticker and her mother hung it on the fridge.
*
At Beth Shalom Synagogue, the sixth graders put on a fundraiser play every Mitzvah Day with varying degrees of success. Though her brother, two years her senior, had put in the minimum amount of time selling intermission concessions, Hannah played an impressive Mrs. Frank in a cut-to-PG rendition of The Diary of Anne Frank. She read the book cover to cover even though her brother, who had read it in his seventh grade English class, warned her it was gross.
*
In four years, her tenth grade confirmation class had dwindled from a eighteen person Bar and Bat Mitzvah group to five dedicated scholars. Two of them-- Sarah Goldstein and Mark Landis-- had parents on Board and had no choice in the matter. Same for Jonathan Lesh; his mother ran the Sisterhood. Jordyn McKaffrey's mother had remarried and her family celebrated Christmas, but her father was Israeli so there that was. Hannah Rosenbaum was there for the synagogue sponsored trips. The last week of Christmas break, they piled into Rabbi Leo's minivan and went to Washington, D.C. They didn't have much to say to each other on the drive down, but in the last room of the Holocaust museum, surrounded by whiteness and candles and prayer, they fell into a different kind of silence. After almost decade of being tolerable acquaintances, they held each others hands and each others backs and knees like friends. Back at the hotel, while the other girls went for a swim, Hannah sat on the floor between the beds and wrote in her journal.
*
At Williams Hannah tried to be academic about it. She learned German over the course of two summers. She took classes on propaganda and sociology. She took a class on the Great Depression following WWI. She took a poetry class, she wrote for the school newspaper. Her final thesis was on theater in Nazi Germany. The cases of censorship terrified her; the revelations of subversion thrilled her.
*
She moved to New York with half of her graduating class and wrote for some magazines. She had a roommate and a post office box. She also had a cat named Lola and a lot of books. She was happy.

When her grandmother suddenly died, she went home. She half sat shiva and half took care of her parent's house. She spend a lot of time with the cat, Lola, who she had smuggled onto the train in a large canvas purse. She meant to stay for a week at home, but she stayed for three, working over that new and wondrous mail you could send over the phone lines.

Before she and Lola left again for the city, her mother presented her with the thin gold ring that had been in the family for generations, the ring that made it through hell on mud-covered toe, under a parched and papery tongue, slipped in the most secretive places of the self.

Hannah washed it a little guiltily, then hung it from a thin chain around her neck so that it fell just below her heart.
*
On the train she turned the ring over and over in her hands. She took out a steno pad and started a list. She titled it “Holocaust book.” She started writing down chapter titles.

When she got to the city, she took Lola home, greeted her stoned or sleepy roommate and headed back out to the library. She returned six hours later with three plastic bags bulging with borrowed books.
*
Three years, two roommates and a boyfriend later, she had a manuscript she titled A Holocaust Story. She dedicated it “To Nana, for the stories and the ring and for Lola, for staying” Exactly seven people knew Lola was a cat, though only six would admit it. Marissa, Hannah's editor, swore that if anyone asked, she would tell them Lola was the name of an old great-aunt.
*
It took them two years, but the book was eventually published by subdivision of a publishing house with clout. It was unabashedly heart-wrenching--maybe that's why no one wanted it for two years-- but when People magazine called it one of the best books of the year, the reading readers of People responded with their wallets. A Thin Gold Ring, the book's final title after a stack of e-mails and hours of phone calls, sold like milk before a snow storm.
*
Hannah was asked to do an early morning news show, and obliged. The wardrobe people put her in a gray suit. The hair people defrizzed her hair, the make-up people rubbed off her drug store lip gloss in favor of a mature nude. She spoke quietly and eloquently and after the taping signed a few books outside of the studio.
*
Two weeks later no one recognized her walking down the street, though she still got some very nice letters and invitations to speak at libraries and colleges in the city.

*
This is her two hundredth lecture. No one has been counting but Hannah. The talks were thrilling at first, what a rush to have them hanging on your every word, to have fans. By the fortieth lecture, they weren't all fans, but they were all readers. By the hundredth lecture, she could tell by their SAT structured questions that someone had made them read the book before hand. Fifty later and she was sure she had answered every possible question about A Thin Gold Ring and had explained her process to every undergraduate English major on the east coast. But that's the funny thing about college students, they just keep coming.

The book had been out for six years. Lola remained, fattening with age. Embarrassingly, she carried a picture of the cat in her wallet. Lola looked out the picture window at the front of the house every time she loaded up her '96 Honda Civic and drove wherever the tides of academia bid her.
* * *
She is eating lunch with Marissa, long-ago editor and long-time friend. Marissa is eating a chicken Cesar salad with the dressing on the side. She is methodically picking out shards of cheese, croutons, and chicken, nibbling at the accidental lettuce leaves that grace her fork.

Hannah is thinking about the memoir she is going to write, about how maybe Marissa should be in the dedication. “To Marissa, dissector of salads, long time friend, and fearless editor” Marissa isn't really fearless, but the phrase demands an adjective. Friendly? Nit-picky? Well-dressed?

Marissa is talking about her kids, but keeps looking over the rims of her two-hundred-eighty dollar glasses. Though her mouth goes on about her son's Halloween costume, her eyes says something more like, “Well go on, Hannah, out with it,” They both know this is a business lunch, and not just because Little Island Publishing is paying for it.

Hannah takes a gulp of seltzer and opens her mouth to speak. “Marissa. I'm going to do a memoir next”

“Oh, Jesus, Hannah.”
*
Hannah is sick of giving the same lecture every time and she says so.

“I just so sick of doing the same lecture every time”

“I know,” says Marissa on the other end of the line, “But that's your niche”

“I don't want a niche”

“Don't be such a brat, Hannah” Marissa tucks the phone between her head and shoulder and slides in front of her computer. She punches the “on” button.

“I know, I know,” sighs Hannah with same head-neck phone-tuck. She flips through the mail. She gestures to no one with the electric bill, “I just hate being the Holocaust golden girl. Of course it's serious issue, of course we need to keep talking about it, but can't we all take turns talking about it?”

“You know about a thousand Judaic studies majors would kill you for saying such blasphemy”
“Not to mention my mother”

They laugh the way old friends do.

“But seriously--”

“Hannah, I know”

“--when I finish the memoir--”

“Hannah, just, hold on”

“You're going to love it,”

“But this weekend, Hannah, this weekend. Amherst College, Wednesday night. You're still going,”

In her house, Hannah flops on the couch provoking a waking frown from Lola, “Yeah, I'm going,”

“I really appreciate it. Dr. Kurakowski is so excited; he's been e-mailing me like every day. I wish I could come, back on the old stomping grounds”

Fat Lola frowns as Hannah rubs her head. “You totally could, you know everything I could possibly say. Fax me directions?”

“On their way,” says Marissa, punching in Hannah's number by heart.
*
She’s trying to figure out what to wear. Not so much what to wear today; she will be in the car for while and it doesn’t really matter, but what to wear tomorrow and the next day and on the  way home. Packing has always stressed her out, even for pleasurable vacations and of course this is far from that. This is business, a business trip. She sighs into her shallow closet.

She packs a gray wrap and stretchy dress pants. Nana's gold ring hangs from her neck as ever, though she's shortened the chain twice over the years. There was a time she might have worn it proudly outside of her clothes, look everyone, here it is the real thing. But if she's sick of even talking about the book, goodness knows she's sick of people staring at her necklace like she ought to be in zoo.

She brings two extra pairs of underwear, an extra pairs of socks, and an extra white dress shirt. You never know.

She still has a few things to do before she goes. She needs to buy some snacks, she needs to pick up a book on tape from the library, she needs to make a cup of coffee and pee, possibly twice. In her head she will hear her mother “It doesn't hurt to try” She 's thinking about purposefully forgetting her notes, then maybe she can say what she wants to say, about writing as an art, about her life, instead of what they want her to say, about writing as a science, about her mother's life, about her grandmother's life, about a lot of dead people she's read about and a lot of nearly dead people she's talked to.
*
She knows she's in the town before she even sees the school, not just because of the signs but because of the air, or something in it. The weather worn posters, the trendy coffee shops, even the trees ooze with high-nose college hippie yuppie goodness. She's too early to check in to her assuredly quaint bed and breakfast, so she parks her car in sets out to walk around. There's a fair or something going on in the middle of town and she decides to browse, trying to take note of student-aged faces that she might see again.

At the fair, there are people selling things, woven bags and ponchos, little glass sculptures, paper for rolling cigarettes.

Oh.

She sniffs the air and it makes sense. No wonder everyone is just laying around in the grass. Only in Massachusetts. She laughs to herself and buys a cupcake from smiling girl in dreadlocks.
*
In her too-cold and too-expensive room late that night, she writes out her notes on the bed and breakfast stationary from memory. Down to the size of the bullet points they look identical to the notes for every other college-level lecture she has given of this kind. Short reading, true story, craft, research, emotions, questions. In and out. She is a pro. The only difference is the stationery's heading and the name of the people she should thank, which she will print neatly and phonetically at the top of the page.
*
In a fresh gray knit suit and open-toed dress shoes, Hannah stands before a small auditorium half full of sleepy looking college students and comfortable looking professors. The room seems to be sorted by age, with the adults in the front and the blank faced freshman in the back.

She drinks deeply from the provided glass of water.

She is being introduced by the department head, that Dr. “Koo-rah-cow-skee”

“Please join me in welcoming Ms. Hannah Rosenbaum”

There is polite round of applause. She folds her notes and slips them carefully in her pocket and clears her throat daintily.

“If it's alright with you,” she said says with too much breath, “I'd like to start with a story that has nothing to do with the Holocaust, my ancestors, or the golden ring,”
*
“I wore lime green to my junior prom. My mother hated it and I think that's why I bought it. Cliché, I know, but the dress was beautiful. It didn't fit me very well, but it was so pretty on the hanger I was determined to make it work. My mother begrudgingly took me to the dry cleaners across town, the only one owned by white people.

There was a particular woman there in charge of fittings. She was the smallest, grumpiest woman in the world, and ancient. When I emerged from the little box that served as the changing room, she snorted: 'What a color'. I merely smiled. 'It doesn't really fit' says this awful woman, so I just said, 'Welp, that's why I'm here' She told me its wasn't a very good shape for me, that it would never fit right and that I had big hips and smacked them, as if I didn't know where my own hips were.

I was so embarrassed and offended and upset. I cried the whole drive home. But you know what, that dress looked awesome. Now, I couldn't get my left leg in it now, but its still the first dress I think of when I need get something fancy. I'll be standing in the dressing room, trying on 'Missus' dresses and I'll still think of my green prom dress. No one thought it would look good, but it turned out great”
*
“Are there any questions?”

“Yeah, can you talk a little bit about the golden ring?”

“Hey, is that it? Are you wearing it now?”
*
Hannah leaves early the next morning and does not stop until she gets home. She drops her bag, calls in take-out, and turns on the water for a bath. The message machine's light flashes. Hannah presses play and scoops Lola off the window sill, hugging her for a moment and placing her on the ground. It's Marissa, using her stern mother voice:

“Hannah Rebecca Rosenbaum, you call me back the second you get home”

Without a moment's hesitation, Hannah picks up the phone and dialed.
*
“...totally unacceptable behavior...”

“...completely unprofessional”

“...an embarrassment to yourself and to me...”

“...what were you thinking?”

“...without even telling me, without even telling them...”

“...word will get around fast...”

“...the reason they hired you...”

“...again with the memoir...”

“...don't speak that way to me...”

“Excuse me, what did you just say to me?”
*
“I said, 'Well then, maybe we should end this professional relationship. Sure, Marissa, I'm 'breaking up with you'. We can still be friends, but as soon as we can fix the paperwork, you are not my agent any more. Yes, I'm serious. Of course not, I just got home, are you kidding me? Hannah. I'm fine, I'm fine. I just don't want to talk about the goddamned Holocaust anymore. Do you hear me? It's been almost a decade. I want to talk about something else.”
*
She's kicking it old school. She tries to be nostalgic about it instead of just sad. She's licking envelopes and sticking stamps and remembers the last times she did this you still had to lick stamps. She using all her dimes on the library copy machine and double-checking addresses and names. Some of the magazine have moved and she has to call around old friends.

“What happened to Marissa?” they ask when she finally gets a hold of them.

“We had a disagreement, we're just taking a break”

Sometimes they cluck their tongues and sometimes they sigh, thinking of the breaks they have taken. “Well,” they say, and clear their throats, “well, send it on over and we'll see what we can do”

“It's funny,” Hannah chirps, “you'll like it, it's funny”

“Just send it over and we'll see” they say. Sometimes they say, “No promises” and hang up the phone without saying goodbye.
*
It's a Monday. It's raining. Hannah left the heater on the morning, so when we walks into the house with a bag of groceries, two dry cleaned shirts, and today's mail, it feels like an oven. Lola is hungry and mews to tell her so. She drops the groceries on the counter, drapes the dry cleaning over the couch, and stands in the middle of the kitchen, holding the day's mail. She hasn't taken her coat off yet, and it's got to be like eighty degrees in there. Lola mews and snakes between her corduroyed legs. Hannah flips through the mail. Junk. Junk. Bill. Junk. Bill. Ah!

A postcard from Off-Beat. Their logo, a titled abstract beret in bright blue, flashes in the otherwise rain-gray kitchen. She flips it over.

“We regret to inform you that we have decided not to...”

In one fluid movement Hannah tears the paper in half, pops open the garbage can with her foot, and drops the two halves of rejection. They flit like dead butterflies into the can.

Lola mews and Hannah goes to feed her.
*
Two editors have the decency to hand-write her rejection letters. “We would really love to publish you,” she reads between the lines, “because you're famous and we could put your name on the cover”

But a rejection letter is still a rejection letter, “However, this isn't funny or insightful or any of the things an autobiographical essay should be, so we have to say 'no'”

The other sixteen publications send pre-printed form rejections, flat as old soda and generic as toilet paper.
*
Suddenly it's May, and Saturday. She goes to the bank and the flea market to hide from the mail. She gets a coffee and sits flipping through a magazine for hours. Even when she drives home she sits in the car for an extra ten minutes, feigning for herself interest in the news story on the radio. It has been eleven weeks since she fought with Marissa.

Eventually she realizes she should probably turn off the car and go in the house. And get the mail.

Six more. She should be used to the rejection by now, right? Was it this bad last time or have the time really changed that much? Is it hope that keeps her going or something less poetic, something like delusion or just stupidity.

She throws the letters out. She feeds Lola. She falls on the couch and flips on the television.

She doesn't believe in signs from the universe and reminds herself of this. She even says aloud to herself, or maybe to Lola, “I don't believe in signs from the universe”

Life is Beautiful plays on the television.
*
She crawls into the back of the spare hall closet and pulls out a dusty and disintegrating box. Under programs and notebooks and curling paper certificates, she pulls out a poorly aging high school year book. By-passing the sports pages and the clubs, the dazed looking portraits of freshman and sophomores, until she opens to the junior prom collage. Where is it, where is it, where is it? She knows it's there somewhere, she remembers. Ah yes, small and in the corner, but well visible in good light. She and three girls she hasn't spoken to in years have their arms around each other and are dressed to the eleventh-grade nines, they in different shades of blue and she in bright green.

She sighs aloud because everyone was right. The dress is ill-fitting and hideous. She coughs on the dust that rises when she slams the yearbook shut.
*
“Hi, Marissa. It's me. It's Hannah. I was wondering if we could grab lunch this week. I've been thinking a lot about propaganda, Nazi propaganda, you know? There might be something too it, maybe not. But
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The Author, Her Story


Hannah Rosenbaum moved to New York with half of her graduating class. She had a degree in journalism and a cat who was named Lola. She wrote for some magazines and had a roommate and a post office box. She was happy.
When her grandmother suddenly died, she went home. Home was in New Jersey. She sat shiva and took care of her parent's house. She spent a lot of time with the cat, Lola, who she had smuggled on the train in a large canvas bag. She meant to stay for a week at home, but she stayed for three.
Before she and Lola left for the city, her mother presented her with the thin gold ring. It had been in the family for generations; it was the ring that made it through hell on mud-covered toe, under a parched and papery tongue, slipped in the most secretive places of the self. It had been her grandmother's and it had survived a concentration camp at her grandmother's side.
Hannah washed it, feeling a little guilty, then hung it from a thin chain around. It fell just below her heart. The chain was long enough she could tuck the valuable ring under her clothes when she wanted it hidden.
On the train she turned the ring over and over in her hands, deep in thought. She took out a steno pad and started a list. She titled it “Holocaust book.” She started writing down chapter titles and when she got to the city, she took Lola home, greeted her stoned or sleepy roommate and headed back out to the library. She returned six hours later with three plastic bags bulging with borrowed books.
Three years later she had a manuscript she titled A Holocaust Story. She dedicated it “To Nana, for the stories and the ring and for Lola, for staying” Exactly seven people knew Lola was a cat, though only six would admit it. Marissa, Hannah's agent, swore that if anyone asked, she would tell them Lola was the name of an old great-aunt.
It took them two years, but the book was eventually published by subdivision of a publishing house with clout. It was unabashedly heart-wrenching--maybe that's why no one wanted it for twenty-five painstaking months-- but when People magazine called it one of the best books of the year, the reading readers of People responded with their wallets. A Thin Gold Ring, the book's final title after hours of phone debate-ridden calls, sold like milk before a snow storm.
Hannah was asked to do an early morning news show, and obliged. The wardrobe people put her in a gray suit. The hair people defrizzed her hair, the make-up people rubbed off her drug store lip gloss in favor of a mature nude. She spoke quietly and eloquently and after the taping signed a few books outside of the studio. Two weeks later no one recognized her walking down the street, though she still got some very nice letters and invitations to speak at libraries and colleges in the city.
Before long, it was added to some lighter undergraduate syllabuses, and colleges from all over the country wanted to her to come and speak. Marissa fielded it all with grace, and together they feel into a comfortable rhythm of setting-up and attending-to speaking engagements.
Today is her two hundredth lecture. No one has been counting but Hannah. The talks were thrilling at first, what a rush to have them hanging on your every word, to have fans. By the fortieth lecture, they weren't all fans, but they were all readers. By the hundredth lecture, she could tell by their SAT structured questions that someone had made them read the book before hand. Fifty later and she was sure she had answered every possible question about A Thin Gold Ring and had explained her process to every undergraduate English major on the east coast. But that's the funny thing about college students, they just keep coming.
She sips her water and begins.
***
Thank you so much, Dr. Kurakowski, it is such a pleasure to be back here again, though it's hard to believe it's been six years since I was here last. For you students who might not know, Amherst was one of my first stops when A Thin Gold Ring was published-- my agent, Marissa Robertson graduated from here in '96, '97? She's a year older or younger than me, I can't remember, and I graduated from Williams in '98. Marissa and Dr. Kurakowski still talk, so when he asked her to have me come back and lecture, I was glad to do so.
*
She is eating lunch with Marissa, her long-time friend and agent. Marissa is eating a chicken Cesar salad with the dressing on the side. She is methodically picking out shards of cheese, croutons, and chicken, nibbling at the accidental lettuce leaves that grace her fork.
Hannah is thinking about the memoir she is going to write, about how maybe Marissa should be in the dedication. “To Marissa, dissector of salads, long-time friend, and fearless agent” Marissa isn't really fearless, in fact her excessive worrying is what has made her so successful,but the phrase demands an adjective. Friendly? Nit-picky? Well-dressed?
Marissa is talking about her kids, but keeps looking over the rims of her two-hundred-eighty dollar glasses. Though her mouth goes on about her son's Halloween costume, her eyes says something more like, “Well go on, Hannah, out with it,” They both know this is a business lunch, and not just because Little Island Publishing is paying for it.
Hannah takes a gulp of seltzer and opens her mouth to speak. “Marissa. I'm going to do a memoir next”
“Oh, Jesus, Hannah.”
*
I think you've all read the book, yes, or at least know the premise of it? Well it's based in truth, the gold ring of the title that I follow throughout the book really is a family heirloom, and it was my grandmother-- my mother's mother-- that carried it through Neuengamme. I quickly realized I wanted to expand the book beyond just my grandmother's story, that it made sense to talk to a lot of survivors and do a lot of my own research. The ring was certainly a great start, but I've actually always been interesting in the Holocaust. I grew up in a New Jersey town with a decent sized Jewish population, and being the geek I was, I was super into the Holocaust.
*
Hannah is sick of giving the same lecture every time and she says so.
“I just so sick of doing the same lecture every time”
“I know,” says Marissa on the other end of the line, “But that's your niche”
“I don't want a niche”
“Don't be such a brat, Hannah” Marissa tucks the phone between her head and shoulder and slides in front of her computer. She punches the “on” button.
“I know, I know,” sighs Hannah with same head-neck phone-tuck. She flips through the mail. She gestures to no one with the electric bill, “I just hate being the Holocaust golden girl. Of course it's serious issue, of course we need to keep talking about it, but can't we all take turns talking about it?”
“You know about a thousand Judaic studies majors would kill you for saying such blasphemy”
Not to mention my mother”
They laugh the way old friends do.
“But seriously--”
“Hannah, I know”
“--when I finish the memoir--”
“Hannah, just, hold on”
“You're going to love it,”
“But this weekend, Hannah, this weekend. Amherst College, Wednesday night. You're still going,”
In her house, Hannah flops on the couch provoking a waking frown from Lola, “Yeah, I'm going,”
“Dr. Kurakowski is so excited; he's been e-mailing me like every day. I wish I could come, back on the old stomping grounds”
Fat Lola frowns as Hannah rubs her head. “You totally could, you know everything I could possibly say. Fax me directions?”
“On their way,” says Marissa, punching in Hannah's number by heart.
*
Usually, it's at this point in the lecture, I recant my process. The story of how this book started is in the introduction: after my grandmother died, my mother passed the gold ring on to me and finally fleshed out the story of how it had made its way to America, on my grandmother's toe, under her tongue, any secret place on her person she could keep it from the officers. This was nearly impossible tasks; it's a miracle enough she survived herself, let along saved this ring, which had been in the family for six or seven generations that point. Anyway, from there I decided to write this book, I did a lot of research, interviewed a lot of people, started working with an agent and eventually got the book published. Of course I'm over simplifying a little, but the process, though long, was not that complicated, so I think, for once, I can skip it.

*
She’s trying to figure out what to wear. Not so much what to wear today; she will be in the car for while and it doesn’t really matter, but what to wear tomorrow and the next day and on the  way home. Packing has always stressed her out, even for pleasurable vacations and of course this is far from that. This is business, a business trip. She sighs into her shallow closet.
She packs a gray wrap and stretchy dress pants. Nana's gold ring hangs from her neck as ever, though she mostly tucks it under her clothes. There was a time she might have worn it proudly outside of her clothes, look everyone, here it is the real thing. But if she's sick of even talking about the book, goodness knows she's sick of people staring at her necklace like she ought to be in zoo.
She's thinking about changing her notes, then maybe she can say what she wants to say, about writing as an art, about her life, instead of what they want her to say, about writing as a science, about her mother's life, about her grandmother's life, about a lot of dead people she's read about and a lot of nearly dead people she's talked to.
*
For the rest of high school and college, I was really fascinated by the Holocaust. Though it is thankfully rarely reduced in magnitude, the Holocaust is all too often simplified into statistics or abstract themes, which is useful, to try and grasp the ungraspable darkness of it. But the individual stories are also really important. I think that's where my real interest in the Holocaust studies comes from, an interest in the stories of individuals.
What I think people miss while reading the book it how much of myself is in there. Yes, it is about the Holocaust, but the stories that caught my attention did so because of my life up until that point. I wasn't that much older than many of the student here, three years out of undergrad when I started the book. So, though I've already mentioned the Holocaust related parts of my youth, I thought I would tell you a little bit more about myself outside of that.
*
In her too-cold and too-expensive room late that night, she writes out her notes on the bed and breakfast stationary from memory. Down to the size of the bullet points they look identical to the notes for every other college-level lecture she has given of this kind. Short reading, true story, craft, research, emotions, questions. In and out. She is a pro. The only difference is the stationery's heading and the name of the people she should thank, which she will print neatly and phonetically at the top of the page.
*
Like I said, my brother was two years older than me, which meant when he left for college, I got his car, which was a 1987 Ford Taurus, which I had named Jose, both because the car was a bull and because in the summertime it always smelled like tequila. Though I'm convinced my brother adopted the name as well, he was not nearly as vocal about it as me. All my friends knew to call Jose Jose when I was driving, and my friend Carol even made a tape of Spanish-sound songs that I played to ribbons. I would address Jose by name when he took too long to shift gears, and moaned his name when I got in my first accident coming off the Betsy Ross Bridge. The woman in front of me, slammed on her breaks, and I tapped her bumper as I skidded to a halt. “Goddammit, Jose,” I said, as the woman and her son, both Hispanic, stepped out of their car. I was mortified. The woman started yelling at me in Spanish, and her son ran to the gas station and called the cops. It was only a scratch, but I must have really offended her. To this day, I regret not trying to explain it to her. Not that it would have done much of anything, but it felt dishonest-- not to mention unfair to me-- that she walked away thinking I had said something inappropriate. Now I'll never see her again, and wouldn't recognize her if I did, but I still wish that I had said something. So look for those moments.
*
In a fresh gray knit suit and open-toed dress shoes, Hannah stands before a small auditorium half full of sleepy looking college students and comfortable looking professors. The room seems to be sorted by age, with the adults in the front and the blank faced freshman in the back.
She drinks deeply from the provided glass of water.
She is being introduced by the department head, that Dr. “Koo-rah-cow-skee.” He is a tall and leathery-looking professorial type with the tweed to match. He speaks with a slight accent: “Please join me in welcoming Ms. Hannah Rosenbaum, author of The Thin Gold Ring”
There is polite round of applause. Hannah folds her notes and slips them carefully in her pocket and clears her throat daintily.
*
Another lesson that I think is really important-- especially in world of writing and publishing-- is to do what you want and the rest will follow. Look, you have to eat, of course you do, but in the long-run, you have to do what makes you the most happy. Case in point: I wore lime green to my junior prom. My mother hated it and I think that's why I bought it. Cliché, I know, but the dress was beautiful. It didn't fit me very well, but it was so pretty on the hanger I was determined to make it work. My mother begrudgingly took me to the dry cleaners across town, the only one owned by white people.
There was a particular woman there in charge of fittings. She was the smallest, grumpiest woman in the world, and ancient. When I emerged from the little box that served as the changing room, she snorted: 'What a color'. I merely smiled. 'It doesn't really fit' says this awful woman, so I just said, 'Welp, that's why I'm here' She told me its wasn't a very good shape for me, that it would never fit right and that I had big hips and smacked them, as if I didn't know where my own hips were.
I was so embarrassed and offended and upset. I cried the whole drive home. But you know what, that dress looked awesome. Now, I couldn't get my left leg in it now, but its still the first dress I think of when I need get something fancy. I'll be standing in the dressing room, trying on 'Missus' dresses and I'll still think of my green prom dress. No one thought it would look good, but it turned out great. You have to stick with what you really want to do.
*
Hannah leaves early the next morning and does not stop until she gets home. She drops her bag, calls in take-out, and turns on the water for a bath. The message machine's light flashes. Hannah presses play and scoops Lola off the window sill, hugging her for a moment and placing her on the ground. It's Marissa, using her stern mother voice:
“Hannah Rebecca Rosenbaum, you call me back the second you get home”
Without a moment's hesitation, Hannah picks up the phone and dials.
*
So are there any questions I can answer? About where I'm coming from, how's it has effect my writing and my life today?
*
“...totally unacceptable behavior...”
“...completely unprofessional”
“...an embarrassment to yourself and to me...”
“...what were you thinking?”
“...without even telling me, without even telling them...”
“...word will get around fast...”
“...the reason they hired you...”
“...again with the memoir...”
“...don't speak that way to me...”
“Excuse me, what did you just say to me?”
*
Oh. Well, sure, I can certainly talk about the research process, I just thought it might be more interesting to talk about something else. Of course. Well, I started with interviewing my family neighbors. Like I mentioned, I come from a community with a pretty sizable Jewish population, so the JCC-- the Jewish Community Center-- near my parent's house helped set me up with some other survivors in the area. I also read a lot of books and watched a lot of old footage. The book were the most thorough, but the interviews were the most interesting because I got to see the similarities and differences between different people's experiences.
*
“I said, 'Well then, maybe we should end this professional relationship. Sure, Marissa, I'm 'breaking up with you'. We can still be friends, but as soon as we can fix the paperwork, you are not my agent any more. Yes, I'm serious. Of course not, I just got home, are you kidding me? Hannah. I'm fine, I'm fine. I just don't want to talk about the goddamned Holocaust anymore. Do you hear me? It's been almost a decade. I want to talk about something else.”
***
Marissa had the courtesy to fax Hannah the dates and contact information for all her remaining engagements. Marissa also had the gall to write, “Canceling these, call and apologize if you want to keep them.” She did not sign it, but Hannah knew Marissa's handwriting as well as her own.
A few days later, Hannah received an official looking letter documenting the official termination of her contract with Marissa. She taped it to the now rubber-banded folder with Hannah's entire collection of Marissa papers. She stuck the folder as far back as it could go in her overstuffed filing cabinet.
She called everyone on the list back, and though they were a little uneasy, having just heard from Marissa, they all kept her on the schedule. Her personal anecdotes were met with the same flat apathy and disgust. All anyone wanted to hear about was the Holocaust, the ring, the book, her grandmother. But she persisted, never doubting that the youth that shaped her as a person shaped her as a writer as well.
After the lecture schedule Marissa put together ran out, Hannah didn't do much for a few weeks, then for a few months. She noticed her saving were shrinking and started writing for magazines again, this time for a little more money-- some people still knew her name. Despite plenty of offers, she refused to rehash the same why-we-still-need-to-talk-about-the-Holocaust essay she had first written six years ago. For a solid year, she swore off the Holocaust, even if it meant working at her local Starbucks. She tried to expand the green dress story to full personal essay, but no one especially wanted to publish it.
Once, after a particularly disheartening heating bill, she flopped on the couch to watch some television. As a rule, she didn't believe in signs from the universe, but there was something almost spooky storybook about what happened. Life is Beautiful played on the television. She sighed so loudly, Lola cracked her eyes open for a moment before going back to sleep.
Drunk on coincidence or symbolism, she crawled into the back of the spare hall closet and pulled out a dusty and disintegrating box. Under programs and notebooks and curling paper certificates, she yanked out a poorly aging high school year book. By-passing the sports pages and the clubs, the dazed looking portraits of freshman and sophomores, she opened to the junior prom collage. Where is it, where is it, where is it? She knew it was there somewhere, she remembered very clearly. Ah yes, small and in the corner, but visible in good light. She and three girls she hasn't spoken to in years have their arms around each other and are dressed to the eleventh-grade nines, they in different shades of blue and she in bright green.
She sighs aloud because everyone was right. The dress is ill-fitting and hideous. She coughs on the dust that rises when she slams the yearbook shut.
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Rollingaroudn
thanks, M.S. paint.

oh and PS. right on, tori, this is a great idea.
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All over the world today, there are approximately 6,720,500,000 chairs specifically designated for use in the office workplace. Of those, about 65,320,400,000 are equipped with wheels. Yet the origins of this unique piece of furniture are rarely brought to attention.

Though patented in 1923, desk-bound workers have been attaching make-shift wheels to chairs since the late 19th century. These early versions were cumbersome and more of a novelty for employee's amusement than an tool for increased mobility. In 1914, the Catholic League for American Workers (also know as the CLAW) publicly denounced the rolling chairs as "frivolous" and "sin-encouraging." Other immigrant-minority religious groups soon followed suit, and by the end of the decade, rolling chairs were virtually gone from society.

They reemerged only in the roaring 1920s, when the rule-bending generation of bootlegger and speakeasies brought the wheeled office chair back into popular, albeit underground, culture. Unlike booze, however, wheeled chairs had never been outlawed, merely publicly shamed. On a drunken dare in 1922, Robert M. Jordan filled out a patent application for the Wheeled Office Chair. By the following year, the patent was his. And the rest is history.

Mr. Jordan died in 2008, just days after the publication of his memoir "Rolling Around Laughing: How A Night of Drinking Made Me King of the Office Furniture Industry"
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olive-oil-sautéed green beans and sliced almonds.
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sourdough bread grilled cheese with tomatoes, onions and sharp cheddar cheese.
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It feels sad.

Attempt, like, um, Twelve?

Okay. So, I made this account today, literally moments before I shot this video on my silly little webcam. And I was about to put into silly little windows movie maker, but I decided that maybe I'd just post it as it and someone who actually kind of knows what they are doing can do something interesting with it.

The main problem is that I'm not saying anything particularly interesting to begin with. I'll work on that for the future.

I would sort of like to be the vlogger (am I using the Internet-word word correctly?) that Sloane Croesley would be if she were a vlogger...and also me...yeah.

Don't say plain ol' mean things, I'm just trying this out.

Peas and love,
S. Keats
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