Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Captain's Log, Day 136: Update on the Midway family

          So, each year we kids of the Midway family write up a newsletter and send it out with our Christmas cards...and each year, I want to put it up on Maximum Effect here, and each year Mom threatens my life if I put it up before she gets a change to send it out, and each year I forget about the stupid thing until sometime in February, when it's a bit late to do anything about it. THIS year, however, I have remembered! It helps that Mom got them out a bit early this year...
          So anyway, here's the newsletter. As tradition requires, I have updated all names because, frankly, I think our nicknames are cooler. Mom doesn't share my opinion, sadly. Enjoy!

Merry Christmas from the Midway Family                                                                          2014

Nemesis writing (poetically) about Radar
Radar Midway is smart, he’s strong and strong-willed, / Good thing he is too, or he’d get himself killed. / His face on the homestead we now rarely see, / He’s at college for a master’s degree. / Engineering is his mastering field, / And from what I have heard, his grades never yield. / He cooks on his own (yes, with ovens and knives / Which is proof in itself he possesses nine lives). / The apartment he occupies hasn’t been wrecked, / I was down there last summer, so trust me, I checked, / But the fact that it’s standing unscathed makes no sense, / Since he is to blame for our home’s many dents. / Well, he’s in college surrounded by friends, / So right about here’s where my testament ends.

Squirrel writing about Quill:
All hail Quill, reader of books, maker of muffins, and master of Scrabble! A junior at college and a frequenter of the Dean’s List, Quill’s time this year has been fully occupied. One of her favorite parts of the summer was the opportunity she had to visit England with her Literature on Location class. She greatly enjoyed seeing all of the literary sites, although she did say that English weather makes our climate look tropical. Her 21st birthday fast approaching; Quill is excited about the prospect of having a celebratory beverage with older brother Radar, but even MORE excited about writing the next great American novel. We couldn't agree more; I’m hoping to have my copy signed.

Quill writing about Nemesis;
We are very proud of Nemesis for graduating high school with honors in May. He was elected valedictorian by unanimous choice, and was also voted Person Most Likely to Have Stunning Good Looks in the school yearbook. The fact that he formed the voting constituent for his entire class may have had something to do with his reception of these two awards. After a productive summer working for a plant nursery, he entered college, where he has maintained his record of stellar grades. An active contributor to campus life, Nemesis co-captained his intramural Ultimate Frisbee team, rode his dorm’s float for the homecoming parade, and is an active member of the college’s pro-life and English clubs. His older sister thoroughly enjoys having him with her at college, although she has noticed that he only visits her apartment when she’s cooking dinner.

Radar writing about Squirrel;
                This squirrel had a productive year; upon turning 16, she got her driver’s license, which caused her three older siblings to promptly vacate the state. She then entered the PSEO program at college, where she enjoys her painting classes and…um…actually, we haven’t heard about much else. At home, she continues to regale her family with pies (the ones who are there, anyway; she incites jealousy in those of us who miss a pie or twenty being off at college!) and torture us by listening to Taylor Swift songs. Repeatedly. 

We are so blessed in our loving and generous parents, who continuously offer support and sage advice on any subject, from moral dilemmas to the fact that laundry won’t become cleansed unless placed in a washing machine. Although her work with our parish’s Perpetual Adoration chapel keeps her busy, Mom still suffers from near-empty nest syndrome. She threatens to cope with it by getting more dogs, one for each absent child. Dad, however, occasionally forgets that he has kids. His college-bound offspring kindly jog his memory by calling to ask for money.

 We all wish you a blessed Christmas and great 2015!  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Captain's Log, Day 135: Domestic Warfare

          Editor's note: We at the Committee for Excellence in Writing are auditing this post for accuracy and content. The events taking place here may or may not be strictly accurate. Honestly, we saw this taking place and we're still not sure if we're hallucinating.  

          I geared myself up. First, of course, was the protective lab coat, then the thick pants, then came the goggles and glasses. Taking a deep breath, I walked into the combat zone and gingerly picked up the first item.
          I was just about to use it when my phone buzzed. I was pretty wound up--I yelped and jumped. The egg exploded all over the kitchen.
          "Aww, come on!" I yelled in frustration. "I haven't even been in here five freaking seconds!"
          I took off my now egg-stained glasses and chucked them into the sink, peeling off my gloves. Sure enough, it was Shorty, with her amazing sense of timing. I told her (not without a slight pang of regret) that no, I could not play Halo 4 right now because reasons (battling foodstuffs in the kitchen did not seem to be an adequate--or even sane--response, and I didn't feel like lying) and put my phone on silent. I snapped the stovetop on, turned to grab a pot out from under the counter, and caused a pot avalanche.
          "I gotta stop playing Jenga with my cookware," I muttered, digging myself out from the pile and selecting a nice saucepan...and performing a few swordfighting moves with it while yelling, "I have GOT to get me one of these!!"
          Editor's note: Radar will take any opportunity to quote any movie. Including, it would seem, Tangled

          I started hunting around for my gloves again. I couldn't find them anywhere. I was checking under the couch cushions in the living room (you know, in case I'd thrown them and they'd bounced off of two walls and ricocheted off the floor to bury themselves in the depths of my command chair) when my smoke alarm helpfully informed me that I'd left them on the stove, and they were rapidly being converted back into their separate component atoms.
          After swapping out the saucepan for what was left of the gloves, I threw the butter on the stove, yanked the smoke alarm out of the roof, and retired to my bedroom for a change of undergarments, sprinting back out to the kitchen posthaste when I realized it would probably be better to put the butter in the pan.

          Editor's note: In case it's not immediately obvious, he spent way too much time today in lab. His brain is obviously fried.

          I turned back to the counter and had a small debate with the second egg about where, exactly, I wanted it to go; obviously, holding it DIRECTLY OVER THE BOWL wasn't quite enough direction, as it tried to hurl its contents after its fallen brother. I managed to catch the majority of it, though, and decided to unwrap the butter, figuring that paper in the pan would probably not sauté well. And might, y'know, set something on fire. Again. 

          Editor's note: We lied. It's Sunday and he's spent his day building random Lego machines and wearing a cape. It's entirely possible he just lost it. 

          I decided music might help me focus. I settled on "Highway to Hell" as being the most appropriate for the fiasco I was now embarking on and decided to move the racks around in the oven before I turned it on.
          Apparently, the oven had already been on for a while. My retreat to the sink for first aid purposes was swift and dignified, and was certainly not littered with alternating cuss words and screaming.

          Editor's note: It totally was. Sounded like a little girl sailor. It was hilarious. And how does one forget that he turned on the oven?

          I pulled out the flour, carefully and precisely measuring out exactly one cup before accidentally inhaling some and sneezing violently, applying the cup of flour carefully and precisely to my entire apartment. I decided to roll with it. "THE ENEMY IS TRYING TO SMOKE US OUT! WE MUST HOLD OUR POSITION!!!" I yelled and belly-flopped to the ground, landing face-first on the pots I'd completely forgotten about.
          The ensuing crash sounded like two knights in full armor crashing their horses together. (The snorting noises were supplied by me trying to get the flour out of my nose.) I picked myself up, kicked half of the pots across the kitchen, and held my breath while measuring out the next two cups of flour. I checked the recipe, discovered that I needed shortening, and tripped over the pots going to get it, managing a beautiful swan dive right into the trash can.

          Editor's note: This guy works in a lab. How he's survived so far is anyone's guess. 

          I brushed off a stray banana peel and confiscated the shortening from the cupboard, reflecting on how my diving talents were wasted in the hostile and inhospitable combat zone I now found myself in. I put one of the bigger pots on my head, hoping it would protect me from any more blunt-force trauma; then I decided to test it with a spoon. My head was fine, but the ringing in my ears reminded me that there were worse things in life than concussions, so my enviably fashionable headgear was discarded.
          I managed to finish the dough without any incidents worse than a water faucet sneezing (no idea how that happened, but I'm not ruling out poltergeists). I was rolling it out when I remembered that I'd forgot to add the butter, which had completed the solid-to-liquid conversion and was now partway through the liquid-to-gas conversion and spitting greasy death at all comers. I put my helmet back on, snatched up a pot lid shield, and grabbed my sword--which promptly drooped dejectedly, reminding me why no one used dough as an offensive weapon. I swapped it out for a spatula and charged.

          Editor's note: The description of the following battle was deemed inappropriate for all audiences and was censored due to excessive violence and gore. Honestly, how Radar turns a simple recipe into an R-rated story is beyond me.

 anyway, I got the butter wrangled into the dough and rolled it out again. It was time. I reached for my rolling pin, only to realize that it wasn't in the right drawer. After turning the kitchen rightside-up (it was already upside-down--pay attention), I remembered that I'd never, in fact, bought a rolling pin; I'd only considered buying one, which was not the same thing, unfortunately. Fortunately, I had a nice tin can that would work. Sort of.
          I forced the dough to roll nicely into my pan, which took only about an hour and a half and didn't end up looking like the Mountains of Moria. Satisfied, I screamed, "FINE, DON'T LIE FLAT THEN!!" and hurled the can into the trash, where it ricocheted off of three walls, two chairs, a bow, my couch, my command chair, the counter edge and bonked me in the forehead. Fortunately, I was still wearing my enviably fashionable headgear.
          I took a moment to remind myself that there were worse things than concussions (the ungodly ringing in my ears from that stupid pot being but one example) and discarded the metal hat. I sliced up the apples and threw them over the mountainous terrain before plopping the rest of the dough over the top and throwing it in the oven as anti-climatically as possible.

          Editor's note: Anti-climatic??? The pan ricocheted off two walls, the ceiling, the bookshelf, a ceiling fan, a stray cat (where did THAT come from??), the kitchen table, a closet, a bicycle, two elves (we're not even surprised anymore), and Radar's forehead before making it into the oven. Oh, yeah, and he burned himself again.
          Cleanup didn't take too long--

          Editor's note: The government stepped in and declared the site hazardous on a Chernobyl scale. They're sending helicoptors in to seal everything in concrete as we speak.

          --and fortunately, I'd remembered to set a timer for the apple slices.

          Editor's note: NO HE DIDN'T. 

          Success was achieved! Despite all odds, I'd won the battle to cook apple slices!! Don't ask me how...I don't actually know.

          Editor's note: HOW...WHAT....that's NOT possible!!!! *makes vow to never audit Radar's posts again*

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Captain's Log, Day 134: Translations Across the Pond

          I'm not really sure who started this. I'd like to claim credit, but I'm pretty sure Nemesis and Quill were the ones who instigated this whole thing...mostly because Dad threatened to throw me in the last time he caught me drilling holes in the pond. (Translation: we used it for ice skating, and he kept tripping over my excavation sites.)
          Anyway, it was getting to be summer, and the pond had not yet melted. Actually, since the weather went from 20 to 70 degrees in about 24 hours, this wasn't terribly surprising. Spring? What's spring?
          I'm pretty sure Nemesis and Quill either realized that the skating season was over, or they just didn't hear Dad threaten to freeze my skinny kiester off. They went to town in the center of the pond, managing to open up a pretty big hole and breaking clean through the ice to the water below before they called me out to take a look. Despite my annoyance that they hadn't invited me, I trotted out to gaze into the fathomless (read: five foot) depths of the Arctic Sea (read: pond).
          "Hey, that's pretty cool," I nodded, tracing the edge of the ice/water boundary with my hand and promptly freezing my digits clean off (read: I was a wuss). "That's...what, a foot thick? Foot and a half?"
          "Yeah," Quill nodded eagerly. "Isn't it cool?"
          My mind was already spinning furiously (translation: trying to figure out an excuse to push Nemesis in). "Agreed," I confirmed, standing up and taking a few steps back casually. My siblings mirrored my moves; long years spent with me had taught them to always move the direction I was. It made it harder for me to flank them. We all froze, though, as a crack was heard.
          "Please tell me that was your stomach," I muttered; despite the danger, I was always happy to pull an Ice Age quote.
          "I think the ice pulled away from the side of the pond a bit," Nemesis pointed.
          "That was already like that," Quill pointed out. "The stones there helped it melt."
          "So we're standing...on a free piece of ice...with a hole in the middle," I thought out loud, scanning the surface of the pond. Now that I knew what I was looking for, it was the work of a few moments to spot it. "It cracked! Right across the hole!"
          "We're not going to fall in, right?" Quill asked nervously.
          "Please," I scoffed. "This is a foot and a half thick. I think we just weakened it enough to--MAKE AN ICE FLOE!!!"
          I started running closer to, and then backing away from, the hole. The stress eventually caused the pond to literally split in the middle. We had an ice floe!
          Quill had, by this point, retreated to the shore. No amount of entreating could get her back out the ice, so Nemesis and I tried running back and forth across one of the halves in an attempt to break it up. After an eternity (translation: five minutes), we gave up.
          "Let's get the ax and score the ice," I suggested, thinking back to how Dad made our sidewalk. "It should crack along the...uh, stress lines." I was quite proud of myself for remembering a phrase like "stress lines."
          Nemesis agreed almost instantly, figuring that I had hatched a plot to dominate an ice floe and wanting one of his own. We got the ax and a few hoes and went to town on the ice. About thirty minutes later, our patience was rewarded as the ice cracked. I immediately and predictably claimed the biggest floe, Nemesis the second biggest, and Quill took the last one. We pushed them around with the hoes for a while, but given that we couldn't actually shuffle them due to their size, it got boring after a while and we ran off to the woods.
          The nest day, we decided to revisit the ice. This time, when I stepped out on the ice, it cracked almost instantly, giving me two floes instead of one. I yelped.
          "What?" Nemesis demanded, before seeing what I'd done. "Hey, cool. Wonder if I can get mine into two?"
          "Try it, lardbutt," I suggested (translation: we'd just found out that he outweighed me by twenty pounds and I was still a little sore about it).
          Nemesis stuck out his tongue at me and skipped out on the ice, jumping on a few choice spots and breaking Quill's floe into three pieces and his into four. I threw a hoe at him. "Oh, come on!"
          He caught it deftly. "Want me to do yours?"
          "Shut it," I growled, managing to break my floe into five pieces a few minutes later.
          "I'm not trying that," Quill told me, stepping gingerly onto the ice. I gave her a hoe, too (maybe a bit less violently than I had given Nemesis his) and we started shoving ice around. After a few minutes of ice-boating around, we decided to quit laying claim to the ice chunks (translation: we kept forgetting who owned what, there was so many floes floating around).
          "Ice duel!" I yelled and jumped from floe to floe to challenged Nemesis with my quarterstaff (read: rake). We fought back and forth across the ice until Nemesis managed to jump on a floe and shove off, getting far enough away that I couldn't get to him. I was not terribly upset (translation: Quill sneaked up behind me and challenged me almost instantly).
          It took us longer than usual to get bored with dueling. Once done, we sailed around for a while, trying to come up with a new game.
          "I got it!" I finally yelled.
          "Got what?" Nemesis asked, poling his way over to me.
          "You! Tag! You're it!" I snickered, smacking him on the shoulder and punting his floe far enough away that he couldn't tag me back (and so fast that he almost fell in the water).
          "Hey guys, what's up?" Squirrel asked.
          "TAG!" Nemesis yelled as he got Quill.
          "Nope," Squirrel announced cheerfully as she picked up a garden implement and chose a little floe for herself on the far side of the pond.
          Quill shot after me; I switched floes and shoved my previous floe out of jumping distance as Quill landed on it. Quill hooked mine and started pulling me back. I jumped from mine to a new, wayyy too small floe and used it as a springboard to get to a bigger one.
          "I can't believe that worked," Quill informed me as the small piece of ice bobbed to the surface a few moments later.
          "I'm good," I informed her.
          That was pretty much our day right there. We raced back and forth across the pond, the only minor incident occuring when Nemesis missed a jump to the side of the pond and landing in the shallows. We almost fell over laughing as Nemesis hopped around, shrieking like a banshee (read: he got ice water in his boot). We finally gave it up and went inside, mostly because it was time for supper.
          The next day, we eagerly raced out to the pond. I won the race, which was a really good thing for the others, since I got to be the one to find out the floes were unstable (translation: the first three cracked underneath me, forcing me to keep jumping until I found a solid one).
          "Why did those break?" Quill asked.
          "I think it's because they're melting from the top down," I explained, starting to grin. "They're getting thinner. We're basically going to be playing Russian Roulette out here today!"
          Quill, Nemesis, and Squirrel shrugged and followed me out onto the ice and we started playing tag again. Everyone fell in at one point--Nemesis went first, splashing down in the shallows; Quill followed his example, and Squirrel technically fell in over by the bank, but she was so close to the edge that she barely got her boots wet.
          Unfortunately, I had the most epic plunge.
          I was getting chased by Nemesis and launched myself at a nice, big, promising floe, which immediately betrayed me (translation: it split right down the middle, where I landed, and dumped me in the drink). Because I'm so lucky (read: not lucky at all), I was right above (translation: in) the deepest part of the pond, which was about five and a half feet deep. At sixteen, I was six feet tall. You'll note two things: one, that is an incredibly embarrassing age to be jumping around on ice floes like a complete moron (translation: I am an unrepentant ice jumper and will keep on doing it!) and two, that only leaves six inches of me that was not submerged. Also, the nearest way to get out was the ice...and what is ice known for?
          Yeah, being really freaking slippery.
          Actually, to be perfectly honest here, I didn't mind, for the first two seconds. Apparently, my body took a few moments to process the reaction, which gave my mind time to think, Oh, hey, this wasn't as bad as I thouaaaaaaeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII--
          Okay, that last thought may have escaped through my vocal cords (translation: it definitely escaped through my vocal cords). I started scrabbling around for ice floes, trying desperately to heave my freezing kiester back onto something that would not feel like it was quickly removing various body parts. (Yes, I realize the irony of using ice to prevent myself from freezing. Now, anyway. At the time, it was not so much ironic as it was necessary, so hush up.)
          It took me an embarrassingly long period of time to realize wading towards the bank would be faster than chasing ice floes around, but when that thought finally percolated through my ice-covered neural pathways, you better believe I acted on it. I found myself on the bank moments later, throat and siblings inexplicably sore (translation: I'd been screeching continuously the entire time and my siblings pulled stomach muscles, they were laughing so hard). Fortunately, it was 75 degrees out, so I plopped down on the ground to warm up and dry off a bit...before getting right back on the ice.
          However, we did eventually learn common sense.
          (Translation: we totally do this every spring.)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Captain's Log, Day 133: Footloose, My Kiester!

          I thought it was going to be a night like any other. Get home from college, eat dinner, plop down with a good book in front of the fireplace and--
          "Everyone in the car!" Mom announced five minutes later.
          "Come on," I grumbled. Eyes never leaving the book (I was a vociferous reader at sixteen--still am, actually), I wandered into the mudroom, fumbled around for my shoes, wandered back to the stairs, put on my shoes, and walked right into the closet trying to get into the garage.
          ...dang, I thought I was better than that.
          The nearest town was about a ten-minute drive; Dad drove us the other direction to a slightly further (and substantially bigger) city. I was grateful for the extra ten minutes, though. This really was a good book. Mom kept attempting to ask me questions about how my day went, to which I mumbled answers which may or may not have even been remotely related to what she was asking.
          "How was school?" "Fine."
          "What did you eat for lunch?" "Good."
          "Did you talk to your lab partner?" "Sandwich."
          "Anything interesting happen in lab?" "Reading."
          "You read in lab?" "I'M READING NOW. BOOK FIRST, TALK LATER."
          Needless to say, my priorities were in order.
          We arrived at our destination, wherever that was--I refused to pull my head out of the book as I climbed out of the van. "Alright, let's go--Radar, put the book down," Mom ordered in exasperation as I fumbled around for the handle to close the door.
          Reluctantly, I complied, flipping the book facedown on the chair and scanning the parking lot. "Oh, hey, this is Quill's dance place, isn't it? Are we going to watch her practice?"
          "Guess so," Nemesis muttered, sounding like he'd rather get a root canal.
          "Nope!" Mom announced cheerfully, as if she was giving us great news. "You're going to learn to dance. I signed us all up for dance lessons!"
          "Awesome!" Quill and Squirrel raced for the doors. Dad gave Mom a look of patient suffering and followed the girls at a more sedate pace. Nemesis and I climbed back in the car.
          "Not a chance," I shot back as soon as I was safely buckled.
          "Radar," Mom started, a note of warning in her voice.
          Being the rather stubborn kid that I was, I refused to allow the warning to faze me. "You can't just sign me up for something without...without my knowledge or consent!" I was rather proud of the legalistic phrasing and took a moment to mentally pat myself on the back.
          "I'm your mother," Mom pointed out.
          I thought about saying something sarcastic, like no way!, but decided that wouldn't help my position. "I'm in college, Mom. I'm supposed to be getting ready to make my own decisions. I'm not doing anything that I wasn't told about first!" I protested. When she started glaring at me, I threw her a concession. "You can probably still do that to Nemesis though."
          He hit me.
          "Dancing is a valuable skill though," Mom pointed out. "It will help you meet girls--"
          "Like I care." I snorted. "Why would I want to meet girls? I already have one as a lab partner." I didn't feel the need to mention that it was halfway through the semester and I still hadn't talked to her.
          "You will one day," Mom informed me, mouth twitching a little.
          I scoffed, my 16 years of experience outweighing her decades on the planet. "Never going to happen."
          "Uh huh," Mom agreed, trying hard not to smile and not entirely succeeding. "Well, I'll tell you what--if you do these dance lessons, I'll never sign you up for anything else without telling you first."
          "Telling or getting my consent!" I demanded, still proud of my phrasing.
          "Fine," Mom acquiesced, probably thinking she'd be able to talk me into future endeavors. (News flash--she wasn't.)
          "And I only dance with my sisters," I pressed my advantage while I had it.
          "Well, I don't know--"
          I crossed my arms, not realizing what a horrible decision I had just made. Mom probably realized that she couldn't force me to dance if I didn't want to, so she capitulated. "Fine. Sisters only. BUT--" she raised a finger for emphasis, "you have to try to dance."
          "Great," I grumbled, unstrapping myself and climbing out of the car. Nemesis stayed put. Mom sighed. "You too, Nemesis."
          Nemesis gave me the my brother, my brother, why would you abandon me? look and followed me out of the car, all but volubly wishing for a lightning strike. Like prisoners on their way to the chair (but not as lucky--we knew our ordeal would stretch out over several weeks), we marched inside the gulag--er, dance studio. To our surprise, we found some of our friends--another family had joined ours, and the boys in their family had the same reaction we did. The two boys that Nemesis and I were most familiar with, Goose and Berg, were making gagging motions in the corner, but brightened up when Nemesis and I walked in, apparently anticipating shenanigans.
          Shenanigans there were, but not as many as anticipated--Quill and Squirrel were serious about learning how to swing-dance. I danced with Quill; it only took about thirty seconds for me to realize what a horrible decision my "sisters only" policy was. She stomped on my foot--hard--every time I made a mistake or looked like I was going to do something goofy.
          "You're too loose!" Wham. "You're too tense!" Wham. "You're still too tense!"
          I dodged. "Why do you think that is??" I demanded.
          "Oh, you're just a wuss," she dismissed me.
          I fell over my feet every other second, partially due to clumsiness and partly due to my refusal to learn anything. Finally, Mom came over. "Still having problems?"
          "He's pathetic," Quill complained.
          "I don't get the step!" I snapped back, tripping over my own feet again to underscore my point.
          "The nice thing about East Coast Swing is that it's all Taekwondo," Mom reassured me.
          I stared at her. "What?"
          "Minor-horseback riding stance to short front stance. That's all you're doing with your feet," Mom explained.
          Crap. I thought getting her to join me in Taekwondo would have been a good thing.
          "Just spin Quill around a lot. Every time she faces you, step back," Dad put in his two cents.
          "That's not how it works!" Mom protested.
          "Sure it is! See?" Dad snickered, demonstrating. Sure enough, every time Mom spun back to face him, he stepped back. "Easy!"
          Well, now I couldn't pretend to not know how to do it. I settled for spinning Quill around until she threatened to throw up on me. While she got her balance back, I looked around for Nemesis and Squirrel. They'd gotten further ahead than any of us, mastering a move called the "Tabletop" and were spinning around together in the corner so fast I got dizzy just watching them.
          "That's impressive," Dad applauded them. "Uh, guys, you can stop now...guys....guys?"
          Apparently they didn't know how to stop. The instructor showed them how to get out of it, then demonstrated a new spin move for all of us. It was one he really liked, because, as he put it, "You can put a flourish at the end of it! See?" He waved his arm gracefully in the air. Goose, Berg, Nemesis and I exchanged looks.
          "Not a chance," I muttered. Quill eyed me severely.
          "I can do this!" Goose whispered eagerly. He spun his partner into the move, but instead of the flourish, he made an "L" with his fingers and put it to his forehead. We all doubled over laughing, except for his partner, who had missed the whole thing.
          "Awesome!" I clapped, immediately dubbing the move the "Loser." It was a great hit with the boys--no amount of sisterly foot-stomping prevented us from using it at every conceivable opportunity.
          An opportunity quickly arose, for the instructor put on "Footloose" and told us all to practice. The music was way too fast for us beginners, who were doubly outraged by the instructor telling us to "do what the music says and just flow with it! Be footloose!"
          "Yeah right," I muttered under my breath, "accidentally" kicking Quill in the shins after she stomped on my foot again.
          The next few weeks went by rather painfully but, by the end, we'd learned enough East Coast through osmosis (we certainly weren't trying) to qualify as dancers. I promptly shelved the ability and didn't pull it out until...
          ...I was 18, had moved to college, and yeah, was trying to impress a girl.
          DANG IT, MOM.        

Monday, October 6, 2014

Captain's Log, Day 132: Learning Curve!

          I've always been a quick learner.
          Unfortunately, sometimes (read: almost always) made me overconfident. Hence, when my 16-year self decided to learn how to snowboard, he decided to SKIP all forms of training.
          Might not have been the best idea...
          "...are you nuts?" Dad asked as I checked the box for "Snowboard" as my family began getting their equipment.
          "Yeah, I want to try something new," I told him, trying to figure out what goofy-footed meant. I figured I was pretty goofy, so I checked that box too.
          "Whatever. It's your head," Dad muttered as he went to go collect his skis. An unfortunate prediction, as it turned out.
          We were all fairly good skiers, having been taught by a Polish foreign exchange student a few years back; I'd learned the quickest, but was slowly losing my bragging rights as the rest of the family caught up to my level of expertise. Hence the snowboard. Also, I was curious about it--my lab partner in college was an avid snowboarder, and I'd heard enough about it to want to try it. It couldn't be that hard, right?
          I had my gear and was out the door before the rest of my family had their act together. "Where are you going?" Mom called after me.
          "Meet you on the slopes!" I yelled back, making a beeline for the nearest ski lift before she could order me back.
          I definitely preferred being on my own for first attempts at...well, anything. My family was great, but they would tease me mercilessly if they saw me wipe out. By the time they came out, I was at the top of the hill and deciding which side to ski down. I settled on a blue hill--not as easy as the green beginner hills, but I figured the black hills would be a bit too hard for a beginning snowboarder. I pushed off.
          The first twenty feet were great. I even managed a gentle turn, before trying to cut back the other direction. I cut and...
          ...woke up a few minutes later, flat on my back with my head ringing. Really glad Mom didn't see that.
          I checked my watch, verifying that I'd only knocked myself out for a few minutes instead of, say, an hour. Apparently, the back edge of my board had caught the snow, slamming me on my back so fast I never even realized I needed to catch myself. Fortunately, the ice had kept the massive lump on the back of my skull down to manageable conditions, so I dizzily pushed myself to my feet and set off again, wiping out about every 30 feet.
          Finally, I made it to the bottom and wobbled my way over to the ski lift. The ride back to the top cleared my head somewhat, so the next hill (a green--I used my head for something other than blunt-force trauma for once) went easier...easier here meaning I fell every fifty feet instead of every thirty. Not being a quitter, I headed back up to the top, deciding that I'd definitely been concussed on the way up when I almost fell off the chair.
          Oh well, what can ya do.
          I started down the next hill, and was on my best stretch yet (100 feet!) when I heard yelling and hollering. From...above? I looked up and went board over head into the nearest snowbank. I rolled over and looked up.
          "RADAR! RADAR! RADAR!"
          Ahh, Dad and Squirrel on the ski lift. I should have guessed. "What?" I snapped back angrily.
          They both smiled angelically. "Don't wipe out," Dad suggested before they both dissolved into laughter.
          Unfortunately, the snow was too powdery for decent snowballs, but that didn't mean I didn't try. Trolls. I picked myself back up and gave it another try. And another. And another. For about an hour.
          Finally, I threw in the towel. My head hurt wayy too much for another shot at this. I figured (and subsequent days proved) that I'd figured out how to do it, but my dizziness and headache was preventing me from actually pulling it off. Plus, I was pretty sure I'd sprained my wrist about a half an hour ago. I returned to the ski lodge front desk.
          "Hey, can I swap this out for some skis?" I requested.
          "Sure thing! Can't figure this out?" the man asked, not unkindly.
          "Pshh, I'm doing fine," I lied unconvincingly. "I'd just like both today."
          The man pretended to believe me and accepted my gear back, giving me a set of skis. I got them on my feet with a minimum of attention and walked outside to switch the boots around--apparently, I'd put them on the wrong feet. Oh well.
          I got back in line at the ski lift and headed back up to the top. Given my impressive record on skis and my past ability to ski black hills easily, I went to the black hill right at the front--the one facing the ski lodges below. I kicked off confidently.
          ...and suddenly remembered: a) I was massively concussed, b) I was dizzy (and thus couldn't turn), and c) this hill was considerably more vertical than I remembered, although that might have just been the concussion talking. Unfortunately, I was going warp factor 5 by the time those thoughts finished crossing my mind.
          I was told later that Nemesis and Dad were headed up the ski lift immediately adjacent to the hill I was on. Nemesis caught sight of me--moving far faster than anyone else--and whipped his head around to follow me, so fast Dad thought he gave himself whiplash. Then he turned to Dad and asked, "Was that Radar?"
          "Nah," Dad replied. "I just saw a streak, but he's not that stupid."
          I taught them a valuable lesson in underestimating me. I was going so fast that snowplowing was about as effective for breaking as flapping my arms was to flying. In other words, I couldn't stop, I couldn't turn, and I couldn't fall down (again, going too fast). To my horror, I saw that I was headed...straight for the ski lodge. Lord, save your people! Specifically, this idiot!!
          I may have been screeching. Fortunately, I was not on target for the wide-open door to the ski rental area--who knows when I would have stopped. Unfortunately, I was directly in line for the imposing (and very solid-looking) front log cabin wall of the lodge.
          I had just registered that when my skis hit the six-foot-wide asphalt strip right in front of the lodge. They stopped abruptly. The rest of me, unfortunately, did not. And by did not, I mean my boots were ripped right out of the skis and I sailed, completely vertical, straight into the wall.
          I probably knocked the lodge backwards a few feet. I definitely rebounded so hard I was thrown back to my skis, landing spread-eagled between them, half on and half off the asphalt. I decided to just lay there a bit and let the snow cool the bump on the back of my head. Interestingly enough, my face didn't hurt as much as I thought it was going to. Maybe it will later--
          My musings were interrupted by an elderly gentleman walking up to me. He offered me his hand, tears streaming down his face. "Do you--hahahahahaha--need a hand up-*snort*hahahahaha--young man--hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha--I'm so sorry, but...oh, hahahahahaha I can't help it!!"
          I couldn't help snickering a little myself. "No problem, sir, that probably was pretty funny." I turned my head to look around. Most of the other kids nearby were literally rolling in the snow laughing. The adults weren't much better off--most of them looked halfway ready to join their kids on the ground. I laughed, promptly regretting it as it went straight to my head. "I think I'll just rest here for a moment, sir. What do you think, I should avoid that hill today?"
          That did it. He staggered off, laughing so hard he started coughing. I sighed, looking up at the sky. "Thank goodness my family didn't see that," I muttered. "Although...I'm never going to hear the end of this one."
          Finally, I sat up. Most of the laughter had died down by this point, and I waved off the few others who offered assistance. I picked up my skis...
          ...and got back in line for the ski lift. I was nothing if not resilient. Besides, if I remembered correctly, there was a hill that had jumps on it down the back side.
          Maybe I'd have better luck there?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Captain's Log, Day 131: A Little Lake Lounging

          “What is he doing with the radio?” Dale demanded.
          I shrugged, not even bothering to look up. Well, down—I was gazing at the sky. “I dunno. Looking for music?”
          “He stole it!” Dale pointed out.
          I could have pointed out that Dale was in Skipper’s customary spot, but opted to stay out of this one. “Hey, it gets better reception down here,” Skipper pointed out, as he found an oldies song--"Hard Day's Night," to be specific.
          “Keep it riiight there,” Dale told him as he fumbled for his phone. “I gotta get a video of this.”
          I laughed—I knew exactly what he was talking about. I leaned back again to enjoy the eighty-degree day, wishing the water was a little warmer than the 32.5 degrees Fahrenheit it was currently at.
          “See, this is why we like taking you out on the lake,” Dale told me as he finished his panoramic sweep of the boat.
          I was feeling too lazy to even attempt to make the obvious joke about me buying gas. (I’d beaten Dale to the register earlier.) “Why’s that?”
          “Because you get it,” Dale expounded.
          “Just reliving the old days,” Skipper chimed in.
          I did get it. We were on a 1956 Crestliner, powered by a ’63 Evinrude, listening to sixties swing on the transistor radio Noah probably had on his ark. The only really modern thing that was currently with us was Dale’s phone, and I figured we wouldn’t have that for much longer—if he kept gesturing with it, it was going to end up in the drink.
          I stretched a little and took in the view. It was, admittedly, gorgeous. The leaves were just beginning to change, as benefited the norm for late September; the day was warm, which was decidedly not the norm, but I wasn’t going to complain. Also, we pretty much had the lake to ourselves.
          We sat in mostly silence, punctuated by brief, half-hearted disputes about which station to listen to next and whether the AM stations needed the antenna or not. (They did.) After about a half an hour, Dale stretched.
          “We should probably get in one last round of waterskiing,” he suggested. “This might be the last good day for it.”
          I looked at the water. “You first,” I offered. Dale and I had each done a round before Skipper had joined us, and, while waterskiing was fun as always, the preliminary dunking of my kiester in cold water had elicited a shriek from me at an octave I didn’t know my vocal cords had been capable of making.
          “Sure thing,” Dale agreed, making a weird hissing sound as he wrapped the still-freezing life jacket around his torso.
          “Skipper, you should probably drive,” I added.
          “You got it,” Skipper nodded, finally popping up off of the back bench seat. “Why, you don’t want to?”
          “It would probably be easier for Dale to ski if I wasn’t driving,” I explained. “Last time, I forgot to check which direction the motor was pointing before throttling up. ‘Bout spun us in a circle.”
          Skipper laughed as he took the wheel. “Yeah, I’ve done that a few times myself.”
          “Remember, take off quick,” Dale ordered as he prepared to lower himself in.
          “Basically, don’t let you sit around freezing?” I joked.
          Dale glared at me. “Exactly. YAAH—that’s cold!”
          I couldn’t help laughing as Dale hung half in and half out of the boat. “Want me to push you in?”
          “Don’t you DARE,” Dale threatened me as he dropped the rest of the way. He took the cold water with more grace that I anticipated that I would. “Skipper, start it up!”
          Skipper moved the boat forward; Dale had his ski on in record time and was waiting impatiently even before Skipper got the line tightened. “You ready?” Skipper yelled.
          “SKI OR FLEE!” Dale yelled back.
          I’d never seen him get out of the water that fast once the boat started moving. I think he defied physics.
          Skipper took the boat on a long looping course around the edge of the lake, where the water was calmest. Dale did pretty well until the rope somehow snagged on the engine. The ensuing jerk of it coming free took the rope out of Dale's hands. He handled that gracefully, sliding to a halt in the water while Skipper brought the boat back around to pick him up.
          Surprisingly, Dale opted for the path of greatest frigidity and requested the rope back. After a few mishaps with miscommunication (Dale missed the rope the first time around), the skier was back up, the captain was dragging him around the lake, and the spotter in the copilot's chair was completely forgetting that he was supposed to be watching for mishaps out the back and was enjoying the lake scenery.
          Fortunately, I wasn't so enamored with the view that I missed the big splash when Dale finally decided he was done.
          "I think it was warmer where I wiped out!" Dale complained as I got the ladder set for him to climb back aboard. "You wanna go again?"
          "Sure, but maybe we should go back to where it was warmer?" I suggested hopefully as I accepted the life jacket from him. A moment later, I squeaked a little. "Geez, didn't you warm this up at all?"
          "There's probably not that much difference between there and here," Skipper pointed out. "Dale probably just got warmed up."
          I shrugged and checked the skis, handing them to Dale. "Whichever, I suppose. I'm gonna freeze my kiester off again anyway. What the--dude, don't throw them in!"
          Dale had automatically chucked the skis overboard for me. The slight wind set them on a leisurely drift towards the stern. He grinned. "Oops, guess you're gonna have to swim for it. Better get in quick."
          "Ahh, shut it," I muttered, lowering my legs into the liquid ice and hissing at the cold. "You may have to push me in."
          "Really?" Dale asked with entirely too much eagerness.
          "No," I snorted. "You can just stay over there."
          Dale reached out, probably to pat me on the head. I have a bit of a thing about people messing with my head, so I hurled myself backwards off the boat. "Get your flea-picking paws away from meeEEEEE!!!"
          That last word scaled up to an octave I had no idea that I could produce, and definitely outside the range the human ear was designed to pick up. This was probably a good thing, because I dropped several expletives that I was really hoping the twins wouldn't pick up.
          "Cold?" Dale asked, grinning.
          I yanked the skis on my feet so fast I thought I gave myself a friction burn. "I GOT THE ROPE GET A MOVE ON HOLY *BLEEP* IS THIS COLD!!!!"
          Skipper tightened the rope up. "Are you rea--"
          "SKI OR FLEE ALREADY!!!!" I shrieked.
          There was a helpful tip that Dale always told me: stay in the ball in the water until the boat was up to speed. Well, screw that. I popped up almost instantly, trusting the boat's motor to keep going. Fortunately, it did. Whew. I started doing a little victory jig and almost fell over.
          I started zig-zagging back and forth across the wake again, pulling goofy stunts (like "Tebowing," the splits, and crouching so low I was almost sitting down) until Skipper put the boat into a turn. I tried to stay in its wake, before remembering something. Skipper was driving, and he liked turning hard. I flew out to the side. Whoops.
          Fortunately, it wasn't too hard to recover, and I made it without wiping out. I managed to snag a leaf on the way to the next turn, holding it up for boat inspection and dropping it as Skipper made a hard left. I cut hard, trying to get behind and inside the boat, so when it turned hard, I'd
          ...okay, he took this one slower.
          Not good.
          The rope got so slack, it hit the water. I slowed down; leaning back, I tried to keep the tips of my skis above the water. (I'd learned the hard way what would happen if I got them caught underwater. Think really fast faceplant.) Skipper throttled up, but fortunately not hard enough to yank the rope out of my hands...and a few seconds later, I was back up!
          However, now I was tired, so I rode the wake back over to where Dale had wiped out earlier and bailed. What do you know--the water did seem warmer over here.
          "Nice recovery," Skipper greeted me as he pulled the boat up.
          "Yeah, did you see the rope hit the water?" I asked, kicking my skis off and passing them up to Dale.
          "That's why I didn't take off too fast. I figured that'd help," Skipper explained.
          "You wanna turn?" I suggested mischievously as I began boarding.
          "I don't think he's gonna," Dale laughed.
          "No swim trunks," Skipper explained with the cheerful air of one who would be keeping his kiester in a relatively unfrozen state.
          "I could lend you mine," I joked.
          Dale laughed. "Well, we should probably get back for dinner."
          "Mind if we go cruising for a bit first?" Skipper asked.
          "Hey, fine by me," I shrugged, grabbing a towel and trying to dry off.
          Once Dale had the gear stowed, Skipper started the motor and we cruised out onto the middle of the lake. I couldn't help grinning. "I gotta get me a boat. Whaddaya think, Dale?"
          "THIS IS THE LIFE!!!" Dale whooped.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Captain's Log, Day 130: Secret Agent Man

          The year was 2006. The place? Deep in enemy Russia.
          I kept a tight grip on my gun as I crawled up the hill, undergrowth poking me in the stomach. It took all of fifteen feet for me to get thoroughly sick of that, so I stood up and charged up the hill in an awkward crouch that was undignified in the extreme but kept me effectively invisible.
          I reached the top, only to discover that--oh crap--the guardhouse was populated by watchmen!
          WHAM. I belly-flopped. Then I sprang back up, stifling a yelp, and hurled myself onto a less thorny patch of earth. From this new concealment, I pulled the thorns out of my frontside and tried to figure out how to bypass the guards.
          "See anything?"
          I almost shot my fellow agent, who had snuck up on me. "SHHHH! Yeah, they got guards over there."
          Agent Zam Corsello cocked an eyebrow at me. "Is that why you dove into the briar patch?"
          "Shaddup," I muttered, pulling out the last of the thorns. "We can duck back into the forest and take the creek route to their headquarters, or we could try the ridgeline here. That would be riskier, though--"
          "I vote ridgeline," Corsello voted, scratching himself. "Fewer insects."
          "Wuss," I snickered, shoving him. He shoved me back unexpectedly.
          I climbed back up the hill and we crept along the ridgeline. After a few yards, I tucked my gun back into my pants so my hands-and-knees crawl would work better.
          "Hey, what is our plan?" Corsello asked from behind me.
          I stopped abruptly. He ran into my backside. "Don't you ever listen at mission briefings?" I demanded.
          "I was working on my samples," he responded in a huff. "They weren't reacting."
          I rolled my eyes. "We're trying to break in here for food because our supplies ran out," I hissed. "Also, we need to plant a new bug so we can listen in. They found our last one."
          "Oh." Corsello shrugged. "I didn't miss much."
          I groaned softly. "Please tell me you brought the bug."
          Corsello reached into his pockets and pulled out a bug. As in, a six-legged one. He shrieked and dropped it. I almost kicked him. "Keep your voice down!"
          Corsello sheepishly and gingerly dove back into his pocket and came up with a penny-sized object. "Here it is."
          "I'm gonna die with a moron," I complained to the heavens. "Come on, let's go!"
          We made it to a good observation point a few minutes later. "So how should we do this?" Corsello asked.
          "Pay attention during the mission briefing!" I ordered him. "We gotta brush off and infiltrate through the back door there. I have the key hacker."
          "So I went camo for nothing?" Corsello demanded.
          I turned to look at him. He was literally covered in leaves and sticks. I sighed. "There's a bug on your head."
          Corsello shed his disguise faster than I could publicly disown him. We crept towards the back door, when suddenly--
          "Get down!!" I hissed, diving for the side of the house. We barely made it around the corner before it opened fully. We both flatted out and held our collective breath.
          A jingle. Door slam. More jingling. And then a dog was licking Corsello's face. I snickered. "Apparently they let out the guard dogs."
          "How do we get rid of it?" Corsello asked, shoving it towards me.
          I scooped up a rock. "It's probably a pretty stupid dog. Let's try this."
          The dog tore after the rock I'd just hurled into the woods, probably thinking I wanted to play fetch. I figured he'd find the dead raccoon in the creek and be occupied for the next few hours. "Coast is clear! Let's go!"
          "Got it." Corsello drew his gun as we scurried over to the door.
          "Are your feet clean?" I questioned him over my shoulder as I pulled out the key hacker and held it up to the lock.
          "Yeah, yeah, I know--if we track mud through the house, we'll get shot," Corsello muttered. "I'm not an idiot."
          "Could have fooled me," I shot back, turning the handle and slipping inside before he could come up with a suitable retort.
          We dove into enemy territory, guns drawn and communicating with hand signals. Corsello was all for slipping the bug into someone's unattended boot. I replied with a rude gesture communicating his ignorance and pointed towards the meeting hall, which looked a bit like a dining room. We crossed silently over to it and slipped the bug underneath it.
          I gestured towards the kitchen, indicating that I would go check it out. Corsello tried to beat me to it, but I ordered him to stay by smacking him in the chest. Fortunately, the kitchen was unattended, because the impact might have been a bit louder than I intended.
          I opened the pantry and surveyed it with the eager eye of the desperately hungry. I shoved a chocolate bar in my pocket before pilfering some of the more substantial items and--
          --oh crap, footsteps!
          Knowing that a new unit of time would be needed to measure my life expectancy should I be caught (milliseconds was years too long), I chose the path of least resistance and dove into the pantry, pulling the doors shut after me and hiding under the bottom shelf. The footsteps marched around for a while. I heard water being poured. Then the person walked back out.
          I shot out of the pantry like I'd found a hornet's nest under there, snagged Corsello, and hightailed it out the backdoor to the relative safety of the woods. We caught our breath in a thick clump of shrubbery, where I shared the crackers and chocolate with him and we patted ourselves on the back for a job well done.
          Corsello wiped crumbs off his face. "Now what?"
          "Now we go spy on the guardhouse--" I was cut off by a yell. from the general direction of enemy HQ. "What was that?"
          "Sounded like something about lunch," Corsello mused as we shot back up to see what was going on.
          Across the way, we saw the guardhouse open as our sisters spilled out of it, chatting animatedly as they ran for the house. We heard the call again. "Boys come in, it's time to eat!"
          "Good thing we left the crackers back there," my brother laughed as we ran to answer the call.
          "Yeah," I mused. "By the way, Nemesis, you suck as a lookout. Why didn't you warn me Mom was coming in the kitchen?"
          "I didn't know what our signal was!" Nemesis protested.
          I groaned. "Nemesis, pay attention during the mission briefings!!!!"

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Captain's Log, Day 129: New (Watery) Frontiers!

          I was totally freaking out and cheering as the Starcraft throttled up and skimmed out onto the surface to the lake--even though I maintained a death grip on the boat, confident that the next turn would capsize us like a turtle in an earthquake. Give me a break. It was my first time out on a speedboat.
          I was freaking out for an entirely different reason a few minutes later.
          " you're going to want to remain in the ball until the boat comes up on plane. You'll feel it," Dale reassured me as I tried to figure out a graceful way to decline what I saw as a session of inevitably-get-dragged-around-on-my-face-behind-the-boat-for-a-while. Besides, the water looked cold. And the life jacket was a little too big. I gestured at it. "Um, I don't think this is gonna work for me. Got any others?"
          Dale came over and yanked on a strap, which grudgingly tightened to fit. Crap. "There you go. Are you ready?"
          I tried to give an enthusiastic "Heck yeah!" before walking over towards the side of the boat. The boat rolled alarmingly. I retreated back towards the middle. "Oh, I hope I don't flip this, though."
          "You can't," Dale's brother and twin, Skipper, announced from the captain's chair. "See?" They both began rocking the boat until I swear we were perpendicular to the water and balancing on edge. Needless to say, I reestablished my death grip on the nearest object. Well, the second nearest--the nearest happened to be Dale's leg, and I figured I was having enough of a hard time maintaining my calm-in-the-face-of-certain-drowning image without clinging to THAT. How do I get myself into these things?
          This whole adventure started back in early spring, actually, when I saw Dale's homescreen on his computer and casually mentioned, "Hey, that's a neat-looking boat." It turned out that the Starcraft was a boat that the twins had bought and restored for the purpose of waterskiing, of which they were both avid enthusiasts. After talking up the finer points of waterskiing and boating with me for a while, they casually asked if I ever wanted to try. I admitted that it certainly sounded fun while privately deciding that the odds of me faceplanting my way to a watery grave were probably high enough for me to want to avoid that sport like the plague. I did, however, definitely want to go out on the boat and said as much. They promptly extended an invitation, which I promptly accepted and then forgot about...until closing time at lab that afternoon a few weeks later, when Dale had casually asked, "Hey, what are you up to tonight?"
          "Nothing that I can think of," I grumbled, privately wishing that I'd had the courage to ask that cute girl I'd seen at church yesterday out on a date.
          My thoughts otherwise occupied, Dale's next comment surprised me. "Well, it's finally warm enough, I think. Let's go out on the lake, maybe get some waterskiing in!"
          I thought about it for a second. It was maybe 70 degrees out, so the odds of actually waterskiing were pretty low (in my estimation); however, I never actually thought that the twins would trust a klutz like me out in their boat, so my ability to gauge odds was obviously flawed. Still, I didn't want to spend the night playing Halo again (87 nights and counting), so I agreed.
          However, as I lowered myself over the side of the boat, I was now deeply regretting my decision. I tried hard to keep from screaming like a little girl, opting to gasp out instead, "Did this melt yesterday??"
          Dale tossed one of the skis over the side, either ignoring or not listening (given the superfluousness of my comment, unsurprising). "I got them set for you. Just slide the skis under your butt and kinda sit on them while you get them on."
          Having worn a life jacket maybe twice during my entire life (one of which times, I managed to ditch it as soon as the Hawaiian reef tour guide had his back turned), I was not expecting it to actually keep my skinny kiester afloat. Needless to say, trying to tread water while trying to jam a ski onto my foot led to my inevitable capzation.
          "Just let the life jacket hold you up," Dale suggested when I'd righted myself and he'd stopped laughing.
          Violent wobbling aside, I got the skis on like a pro and managed to grab the rope he threw me with a minimum of juggling. Skipper cranked up the throttle and tightened up the line before throttling down. "Are you ready?" he yelled back.
          I sighed. Might as well die trying. I took a deep breath and courageously shouted back their own catch phrase. "SKI OR FLEE!!!"
          The boat took off like a tiger with its tail on fire. I curled up into a ball and maintained a death grip on the rope, trying to figure out when I could stand up. Come on, Radar, this is basic physics! Suddenly (and I'm not entirely sure how), I was standing up!
          "Hmm, not bad," I muttered to myself, trying to balance in the rocky wake of the boat. Skipper suddenly waved an arm over his head in a circle. I wanted to wave back, but before I could get up enough courage, the boat suddenly spun. Apparently, the arm-waving had been a signal and not a friendly greeting to the courageous soul being towed at ungodly speeds towards an epic faceplant.
          "COME ON!!!" I yelled. "You said nothing about TURNING!!!" I quickly ran though available options and tried to figure out the physics here, finally deciding on leaning out, away from the boat, and angling my skis out. I shot out to the side,considerably faster than I thought I was going to, and hung on for about three-quarters of the turn (the twins informed me later) before freaking out and bailing.
          By all accounts, the wipeout was impressive--and yes, I faceplanted in a rather epic fashion. I'd forgotten about the life jacket again, which cheerfully and speedily brought me back to the surface almost before I realized I wasn't, in fact, destined for Davy Jones' locker.  I could hear the twins cheering and laughing as they brought the boat around to pick me up. Dale was standing up and waving both arms over his head, yelling something like "That's how you do it!" Skipper, by contrast, was simultaneously congratulating me for my first attempt and apologizing for turning so hard.
          I managed to collect the skis before they reached me. "So how exactly do you turn?" I demanded, laughing as I snorted lake water through my nose as I tried to get the skis back on.
          "Like you did," Skipper assured me. "You just stay with it!"
          "And don't get freaked out," Dale added before dissolving into laughter again.
          I laughed as well as they pulled the boat back out, grabbing the rope handle again and yelling "SKI OR FLEE!!!" as loudly as I could. The boat took off and I popped right out of the water again, this time pushing out of the boat's wake into the calm water off to the side.
          It was, of course, considerably easier to stay upright now. I felt confident enough in my balance to let go with one hand and wave to the twins. Dale made a swooping motion back, which I correctly interpreted as "cut across the wake to the other side." I glanced at the wake, decided oh what the heck, and carefully navigated the treacherous waters to the other side. I angled as hard as I could once I got to the calm waters, ending up next to the boat.
          ....okay, this was getting fun.
          I started swooping back and forth from side to side, managing to navigate Skipper's next turn without bailing out (thanks to much shouted direction from Dale). I was starting to get a little tired, though, so I straightened out and tried to signal Dale to tell Skipper to stop...only to discover that I didn't know what the proper hand signal for stop was. Palm out looked like a wave, and I couldn't make a classical "time out" sign without dropping the rope. I settled for a chopping motion across my throat. Dale looked confused for a moment before holding both fists out straight in front of him and opened his hands, miming let go of the rope.
          It was my turn to be confused. Dale repeated the signal a few times before finally hollering, "Let go!" I looked from him to the handle, shrugged, and let go. Jesus, take the wheeeEEEEELLLLL.......
          God apparently was my copilot. I coasted gently to a stop, gradually sinking until I was back in the water. Didn't even get my head wet...ter than it already was. I started laughing.
          "How'd you like that?" Skipper yelled as he brought the boat back around.
          I punched both fists in the air. "THAT. WAS. PHENOMENAL!!!!!" I yelled at the top of my lungs.
          "Someone got bit by the ski bug," Dale remarked parenthetically. "We're going to have to do this again."
          "Darn straight," I agreed, laughing. "Who's up next?"

Monday, May 19, 2014

Captain's Log, Day 128: The Midway Golfing Incident

          Mom and Dad were gone on date night.
          Food had been eaten.
          The Midway siblings were looking for a game to play, but bored with the usual entertainments.
          That's when Radar (the typical instigator of new adventures) came up with an idea in his predictably crazy manner.
          "Let's play golf! I found Dad's golf bag yesterday when I was cleaning out the garage!"
          Quill looked dubious. "Yeah, I'm thinking not. We're not allowed outside, remember?"
          "Plus, we have no idea how to play golf," Nemesis pointed out.
          Radar waved their objections away. "Puh-leeze. We play indoor golf--like, say, downstairs--and I think we can figure the rules out."
          "You hit a ball into the hole. Right?" Squirrel asked.
          "Yeah, and then challenge other people's shots if they're too good," Radar expounded eagerly. "The loser has to put his ball back."
          "How do you know who the loser is?" Quill asked.
          "You duel," Radar explained, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
          "Uhh...I don't think that's how it works," Nemesis began.
          "Please. They're called clubs," Radar snorted. "What else would they be good for?"
          Such logic was unassailable. The others quickly dispersed to collect the clubs. Nemesis, by good fortune, remembered a small mini-golf practice mat that would serve well as their hole. The siblings retired to the basement to set up their course, sticking the hole halfway down the furnace room hallway and started two corners away, over in the TV room.
          Radar opened up the festivities, as befitted the mastermind. His shot bounced off the couch and rolled to a stop next to the bookcases. Quill's shot was a bit worse; she hit the couch as well, but hers ricocheted backwards, netting her about three feet of gain. Nemesis's shot was far better; he managed to skim between the couch and coffee table, ending up in the great room with almost a straight shot to the hole.
          "I challenge that!" Radar yelled and lunged at his brother. The outcome seemed inevitable, as Radar was the better of the two at swordfighting; but the eldest got cocky and tried to get fancy with a spin/thrust combination. Nemesis slid under his guard and clocked him across the side of his leg.
          "You win," Radar grumbled, rubbing his thigh.
          "In that case...I CHALLENGE!!" Quill whooped, charging her brother. After a brief clashing of clubs, Quill managed to graze Nemesis's arm, earning her the win and forcing Nemesis to retake his shot. He missed this one, bouncing it over to where Radar's ball lay.
          Squirrel, being the non-violent person that she was, decided to quietly take her shot while the eldest siblings yelled at each other. She'd previously been amusing herself by taking pictures of the unfolding conflict, getting some marvelous pictures of the sword--er, club-fight. It was discovered later, upon examination of the pictures, that the fight had taken place next to some rather breakable picture frames, but thanks to insane luck and divine intervention, none of them had been taken out in the fracas. Her shot actually went further than her older sister's, but not by much.
          Radar opened up round two by banking his shot off the game cupboard and getting it behind the trampoline leaning up against the wall. As he'd previously declared it illegal to move any furniture, it was decreed that he would have to play it where it lay. Needless to say, his siblings refused to challenge his shot, leaving him no choice but to concede. Quill couldn't navigate the couch again, bouncing it over to the bookshelves. Nemesis smacked his off the cupboard and down the hall, almost to the hole. This was such an unreasonably good shot that Radar screeched, "CHALLENGE!" and charged. This time, a quick twirl-thrust combination on Radar's part planted his club's head firmly in his brother's stomach, netting him a win. Nemesis retook his shot, duplicating his earlier feat. Quill challenged him; Nemesis defeated her handily, letting him keep his position. Squirrel stayed stuck behind the couches, possibly by design; the bloodthirstiness of her siblings was a constant source of wonder for her, and she possessed the swordfighting capabilities of a sick sponge (she preferred pretending to be the cook whenever they played pirates or Robin Hood, so she never practiced the noble art).
          For round three, Radar managed to clip his ball weakly and roll it about halfway down the hall to the hole. Quill and Nemesis promptly challenged him...simultaneously.
          "Oh, come on!" Radar protested in a volume that would have been heard over a jet's engines. "How is this legal?"
          "Nowhere in the rules says it isn't!" Quill pointed out, parrying a thrust.
          Radar looped a strike over his head towards his brother, cancelling it midway to block a jab from Quill. "We've been making up the rules, you doofus!"
          "Exactly! Oof!" Nemesis pointed out cheerfully, before taking a club to the midsection. Radar grazed Quill on the arm moments later, ending the contest and glaring at Squirrel. "Are you going to challenge me too?"
          Squirrel held up her hands in the universal sign for "Do I look like an idiot?"
          Quill made it to the mouth of the hallway. Nemesis missed the hole. Squirrel stayed safely put behind her couch barricade, snapping pictures.
          Radar missed the hole. Quill missed the hole. Nemesis missed the hole. Squirrel stayed behind the couches. For the next five rounds.
          "Got it!" Radar finally announced triumphantly, spinning to confront his siblings. Given the the hallway was too narrow for them to attack him together and given the deranged light in their eldest sibling's eye, they opted for the path of sanity and lengthened life expectancy and declined to challenge him.
          Squirrel gave up. Quill and Nemesis took repeated shots at the hole. Quill finally made it about ten shots later. Nemesis challenged her; for a wonder, Quill won, leaving Nemesis to take repeated shots at the hole, getting madder and madder. Finally, he scooped up the ball, slammed it in the hole, and yelled, "STAY THERE!!"
          His siblings were convulsed with laughter on the floor. Nemesis gave them the evil eye.
          "We should play again," Radar suggested when he caught his breath.
          "We can't," Quill told him, a little sadly. "Mom and Dad are supposed to be back soon."
          Radar sighed. Well they knew Mom and Dad's prohibitions against anything remotely fun, such as indoor golf. "We should clean up, then," he lamented.
          And clean up they well, in fact, that Mom and Dad didn't know about the game for several years; until Radar mischievously put some of the pictures in his brother's graduation slideshow.
          Needless to say, their mother did not approve. Fortunately, the statute of limitations of punishment had expired on the event!!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Captain's Log, Day 127: Any Port in a Storm!

          I've always loved catching small furry things. Actually, I've loved catching basically anything that moves, which has proved interesting on the occasions I've gone after snakes, spiders, and wild cats. (I'm surprised I still have a face.) I've even caught birds and bats. Today, though, I looked out the window to see a cat stalking a chipmunk, one animal I've never yet managed to get my hands on. (The chipmunk, not the cat.)
          "Nemesis!" I yelled for my brother, forgetting that most of the house was asleep. "Wanna catch a chipmunk?"
          My brother was game. I snatched up some gloves (I'd been bitten by more things than I care to remember, and I was finally learning to avoid the biting) and barreled out the door, Nemesis in my wake. In our excitement, we both forgot to grab shoes.
          It was a little brisk, making me glad I'd worn jeans. Nemesis and I raced around the side of the house towards the garden, pulling up short when we saw the cat and his prey...sitting side by side.
          "Okay, that's just embarrassing," I muttered. "I thought he'd have grabbed it, at least."
          "I thought it would have been dead," Nemesis muttered back.
          "Nah," I returned, making a wide circle and beginning to creep up on the chipmunk. "The cats usually play with them for a while before killing them."
          "Still ridiculous," Nemesis snorted.
          My hands had almost closed around the chipmunk, who seemed out of breath, when he decided to bolt. I yelped; Nemesis moved to cut him off, and we charged after him. The cat finally decided to get off his lazy kiester and join us as well.
          Nemesis chased the chipmunk (whom I privately named Munky) out of the garden. The cat headed him into a bush. The three of us gathered around it, peering through the branches. There were no leaves yet, but it was still a lot to try to see through.
          "Where'd he go?" I wondered aloud.
          "There." Nemesis pointed. "He's on the branch."
          Munky had indeed climbed higher and was peering out at us. I hoped he would come a little higher, thus putting him in reach of me, but the cat chose that moment to try to bat at him. The chipmunk spooked and made a flying leap out of the bushes towards the front of the house. Nemesis almost snagged him, but he ducked into another clump of bushes. We harried him around the front of the house, towards the driveway. He made a hard left at the corner and shot out in front of the garage.
          The cat gave up. Nemesis and I were made of sterner stuff. Our fingers brushed him multiple times as we snatched at him and yelled orders at each other, but despite our persistence, he cleared the garage. That's about when I realized what Munky's objective was.
          "The woods!" I yelled. "He's going for the woods! We gotta cut him off before he gets there or we're never gonna get him!"
          Nemesis chased him around the side of a tree. I charged the border and got between Munky and the woods. He barreled straight towards me; I dropped to my knees and sat on my heels right in front of him. He dodged my hands, barreled straight between my legs, and slammed full-tilt into my feet.
          I guess his next thought was Hey, any port in a storm!
          "YEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIIAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!" I screeched, springing up and grabbing at my thigh.
          "What?" Nemesis demanded.
          "He's IN MY PANTS!!!" I shrieked, dancing around and clutching the limb to prevent the errant beast from climbing any further. "GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT!!!!"
          Munky obliged, shooting out of my pant leg and vanishing into the woods. I glared after him.
          "He's on the tree there," Nemesis pointed.
          "Ahh, to heck with him. He wins," I conceded with poor grace, muttering unkind things about Munky's parentage as we turned to walk back to the house.
          "Did he really go up your pants?" Nemesis asked, trying to conceal his grin.
          The humor of the event suddenly struck me. I giggled. "Yes," I replied solemnly. "I had a chipmunk in my pants."
          We were still laughing about it ten minutes later.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Captain's Log, Day 126: Ground Targets

          I throttled my A-20 Havoc up, the powerful engines purring. My squadmates were already gliding down the runway and leaping into the air, out for blood. Hands on the sticks, I sent the Song of Silence hurtling after them.
          The runway was perched quite near to the edge of a cliff, so I deliberately kept my speed down, gliding the Song over the edge and jamming the stick down to send her diving towards the ocean. I pulled up at the last second, sending plumes of water rising towards the sky behind me. I quit goofing around and turned towards the battlefield.
          The other Allied forces were strung out in front and above me, climbing into the sky. As I've mentioned before, my favorite strategy involved ground-hugging, so I punched the afterburners and drove hard towards the combat line. Let the others chase each other's tails up top; if someone tried to chase the Song's tail, he'd be eating an awful lot of lead, a strategy which usually worked well for me.
          At the breakneck speed I was making, I soon found myself at the battle lines. The forces were bogged down at a river, exchanging fire across it in a bit of a stalemate. I decided to give our side a bit of a push; targeting an enemy artillery battery, I squeezed the trigger and blew it away. Banking hard, I maneuvered down the bank, systematically blowing the artillery and AAA batteries away. I took a moment to turn the volume the comm, as the shouts and commentary of my allies dogfighting it out in the clouds was a bit annoying. Glancing at the radar, I saw basically everyone up there from both sides, leaving me in relative peace as I destroyed guns.
          Well, for a little bit. An ambitious fighter dropped out of the clouds a moment later to line up on my rear. I took the time to destroy one more battery before switching to my dorsal gun and opening fire.
          For some reason, I couldn't hit the bugger. He twisted madly, missing me with all of his shots as my shots blistered his paint, but did little else. We exchanged fire for about three minutes before he peeled off. I thought about letting him go, but decided I'd invested too many bullets in him to let him off that easily and chased after him.
          As I turned, I saw the enemy airstrip out of the corner of my eye. So that's where he was headed--for refuel, repair, and reload. I wondered if he was out of bullets, even as I lined my A-20 up on him and fired.
          Slightly better results. I saw metal fly from his fuselage, but he was, again, barely scratched. He skipped away; I twisted hard on the sticks, but couldn't duplicate the maneuver. I made a mental note to see about upgrading the Song when I got back to base.
          "A-20, come my way and I'll help you out."
          I frowned at first the comm, then my radar. I couldn't tell if that was directed at me or not, as I didn't see any friendlies on my scope. I shrugged, decided it didn't matter, and chased after my prey. A lumbering B-17 dropped out of the sky a moment later a few klicks ahead. The fighter decided that looked like easier prey than the fierce Song and charged it. It was blown out of the sky an instant later as at least three turrets locked on and destroyed it.
          I sighed. That was my kill, I groused to myself, but decided to be polite anyway. "Hey, thanks for the assist."
          "No problem," the B-17 replied, throttling up and heading back to the battlefield. I thought about following, but decided to have some fun with the base first. I dove.
          A few minutes later, all the base's defenses were nothing but a pile of shredded metal, and I'd gotten to test out the new rockets I'd upgraded the Song with. I grinned and headed off to find a new target. I decided on the cruisers anchored offshore and began heading that direction. After a few moments, I decided to check the stats as long as I was idling...
          "What the heck?" I yelped. All of my teammates were down, with myself and two enemy fighters the only craft currently in the air. I decided to conserve my rockets and broke off my attack run to search out the fighters. A moment later, the stats registered one of them crashing. I scanned the sky for the last one.
          There he was, diving on some of my side's tanks--a Spitfire. I grimaced. Great. Spitfires were notoriously hard to kill. This was going to be a bit of a toss-up.
          He spotted me a moment later and twisted hard to charge me. We bore down on each other; I had a slight height advantage, which I appreciated. At the last second, I threw the Song into a roll, opening fire with my six nose-mounted machine guns and simultaneously unloading all my rockets at him.
          Incredibly, somehow, he avoided all my rockets and only sustained superficial damage as he thundered past, dangerously close. I straightened out invitingly as he looped around to get on my tail, switching to the turret controls.
          The Spitfire opened up, pieces flying from my rudder and elevator. I returned fire, pulverizing his engine. It exploded, fire streaming around the fuselage. He wobbled into the sky. I poured more fire into him...he staggered and--
          Oh, crap.
          I twisted the sticks, but as fast as I was, I was just a second to slow. The pilot, evidently a sore loser, drove his fighter straight into my side, cutting off half my elevator and most of my right wing before dropping like a stone into the ocean below. The Song, mortally wounded, spiraled out of control. I wrestled with the controls, cursing a blue streak, as I tried to aim for the shallows. When I'd gotten her somewhat lined up, I bailed out.
          I watched the Song splash down, within easy salvage distance of the shore. "Sorry, girl," I told her aloud, again cursing the stupid rammer. At least I'd scored quite a few kills; last count, sixteen ground targets destroyed, an almost unheard of number. Plus, y'know, one plane and one assist. I sighed and looked down at the water, itching my nose.
          Gosh, that looks cold.