Wednesday, July 1, 2015

You either die a hero...or live long enough to resuscitate another insect


Heroism is not only in the man, but in the occasion. - Calvin Coolidge


I'm pretty much a normal guy.

I like my coffee black, I have a penchant for Mexican food, I'm obese, I love Nic Cage, and I love Jesus.

I never asked to be a hero. Some men have heroism thrust upon them in the heat of the moment, like Nic Cage in Con Air, and some choose heroism at great risk to their lives, also like Nic Cage in Con Air.



I was swimming by myself in our pool the other day, when I noticed something struggling to free itself from the waters. I grabbed my net, ready to absolutely murder a wasp or bumblebee, and swam (floated) over to check it out.

Lo and behold, a lightning bug was on the surface, paddling rapidly with its tiny stick legs and making no progress whatsoever. The struggle was real. My heart twisted with sympathy for the little guy, and I knew I had to act. My time for heroism had come.

Image Credit
I lifted him gently out of the torpid waters and placed him gingerly on the rail of the pool. I'm going to be completely honest with you, it didn't look good. He appeared to be quite waterlogged, and had difficulty standing.

Obviously CPR was out of the question...but was it?

Determined to save my little lightning bug friend, and realizing that even the lightest of chest compressions would produce a messy end, I did the only part of CPR I could manage. I blew on it.

Between you and me, I didn't really regulate that first breath, and I dang near blew the little bugger smooth off the edge of the pool. But he held strong, and his little wings spread out as though to dry them off, and I thought, "This is it, this is my moment," and "One Shining Moment" started playing in my head, and I blew on that little lightning bug (gently) until...

The lightning bug took off! Into the breeze he flew, and I could swear he did a little dip as he did, thanking me for my service. I was intensely moved by the experience, and may have even shed a tear at the thought of being so intimately involved with nature.

The story should end there, but it doesn't.

Two days after resuscitating the lightning bug, I was once again swimming (floating) in the pool when I saw something else struggling in the currents.

Looking closely, I saw it was a butterfly, and it was in real bad shape. Its wings were soggier than the unfinished Raisin Bran that sits in my kids' bowls when they realize they don't like Raisin Bran. Its feeble attempts to free itself from the water induced panic in my nature-loving heart and I immediately lifted it out of the water and sat it on the edge of the pool.

Image Credit
I looked towards the heavens.

"WHY GOD?" I screamed.

And I did the only thing I knew how to do.

I blew on it.

Again, I didn't really regulate the force of that first blow, and this time it was almost a deadly mistake. The butterfly caught the full gale, and flipped off the edge of the pool, but somehow managed to grip the side of the rail and hang on. Mentally chastising myself, I pulled the butterfly back up on the railing and very gently continued my life-giving efforts.

Eventually, the butterfly was dry. He flapped his wings, testing them, and then soared into the heavens (about five feet above the pool) and looked as though he would take off.

But he paused, right above my head, hovering there. What happened next took me completely by surprise.

The butterfly landed on my nose, tickling it, but I didn't sneeze. I knew this was a moment, and I didn't want to sneeze the thing right back into the pool. That just seemed counterintuitive.

I looked into its tiny little butterfly eyes, and I swear it winked at me. Then, gently, it reached out a tiny butterfly leg and brushed my cheek in a gesture I can only assume was a thank you for services rendered.

A single tear rolled down my face. At that moment, I felt more complete than I ever had before. And then the butterfly took flight, free at last, swooping into the wind and into the Great Beyond.

Alright that last part is a lie, but I saved a lightning bug and a butterfly from drowning last week and not a single one of them thanked me, so I'm allowed a little creative license.




Monday, June 15, 2015

Hey Guys I'm a Food Blogger Now: Bacon Wrapped Sea Scallops with Serranos

We're currently on vacation in sunny Destin, Florida. Aside from the fact that Drake literally just took a dump on the bathroom floor, things are going pretty good.

The water was pretty rough today, not red flag rough, but too rough to take the boys down, who are too brave for their own good. I got super bored, and after we visited the Gulfarium, which is friggin amazing, we stopped at a seafood shop and got some shrimp and scallops, which are just about my favorite seafood in the world.

Before I started cooking, I thought, "Why not do a food blog?" And since no one around me said, "Hey man, that's a bad idea," I went for it.

So here you go: Bacon-wrapped sea scallops with serrano peppers and a butter glaze.


Here you see my ingredients, those sweet, sweet scallops, a few serrano peppers, some Great Value butter and bacon (shut up, we're poor, we spent all our money on the condo), and some Greek seasoning we brought from home.


Next step, cut the bacon in half, then line those fatty pork belly slices up on a sheet tray. You have to par-bake them, get them sizzling, otherwise you wind up with raw bacon and scallops drier than a British comedy. I baked the bacon slices for 7 minutes at 350 degrees.


This is me laying bacon on the sheet tray, I'm smiling because bacon, obviously. Anytime I touch the stuff it excites me in a way that my wife normally excites me, if you're picking up what I'm putting down (bacon).


Next I cut up the serrano peppers. I suppose you could use a milder pepper like a jalapeƱo, and let me know if you decide to do that, I'll get you a skirt while I'm down here and mail it to you. I wanted habaneros, but the ones I brought with us were ruined, and Alicia couldn't find any at Walmart down here. I cut them in about half inch slices.


Next I cubed up the butter, then threw the Greek seasoning on top and tossed it in the microwave, and I'm including this picture just because it's amazing. Look at the detail. If I can't make it as a food blogger, I can definitely make it as a professional butter photographer, and don't tell me that's not a thing, because just look at that butter. Look at it. Oh and microwave that until it's melted, if you need a time, you're an idiot.


Now we're cooking with peanut oil. Here are the scallops, I rinsed them off, and they are freaking gorgeous. Just pearly white cylinders of sweet, tender oceanic goodness. If I could pull these things out of Fort Gibson Lake, I'd never eat anything again. I pulled the bacon out of the oven next, got too excited about it to take a picture.


Here's the assembled product. I just took a serrano, put it on the scallop, then wrapped the whole thing with bacon and secured it with a toothpick. Might want to soak those toothpicks in water first, but other than that, this is what they look like when they're done. I had three scallops left with no bacon on them, if it was any other food that'd be a shame, but these are scallops. I just tossed them on the sheet tray. I also didn't take the bacon grease off the sheet tray, because, well, if you need to do that, just throw all this stuff away and go get a vegan burger.



Here are a couple of detail shots, first on the cutting board and then on the sheet tray loaded up with bacon grease. I threw the peppers on there too, figured they couldn't hurt. I basted everything with the butter mixture, but kept about half of it back for after cooking. I kept the oven at 350 degrees, and I baked them for 15 minutes. Now, when they got done, the bacon was still a little soft for my tastes, so I cranked the heat up to 425 degrees for about 5 minutes or so. After cooking, I glazed them with the butter again because scallops are naturally a healthy food and I needed to do everything I possibly could to make them bad for me. In the end, the bacon was still a little soft, but I couldn't wait anymore because, well, look at them:


Here's the finished product, all plated up and ready to eat. These things pair well with whatever it is in that glass, my wife picked it out, all I know is it's a white. To be honest, these would pair well with raccoon urine, and if you try that, let me know how it is. The heat level was perfect, the scallops were cooked through just right, and aside from being a little soft, the bacon was sublime. We ate on the patio while the kids had hot dogs and Velveeta shells and cheese because scallops are "gross" and "nasty."

When it's all said and done, it's safe to say that if you set one of these scallops on top of your head, your tongue would beat your brains out trying to get to them. I ate every single one on that plate, and sat there and stared at my wife's (she didn't have peppers on hers) until she finally looked at me and told me to go eat a hot dog.


Before anyone gives me crap, those are leftover peppers, I didn't pick them off. So that's it, I'm a food blogger now, if anyone wants to get in touch with Food Network on the Pioneer Woman, that'd be great. Now we've got to go down to the beach and hunt for crabs and try not to lose a kid in the high tide. Wish us luck.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

04AN022E-001




"Travis have you talked to your wife?" 
"Yes." 
"Was she upset?" 
"She was, very." 
"Well I'm going to need you to call her back. You'll never guess what happened." 

***

This story has been a long time in coming, and after spending a week away from technology and clearing my head, I felt like I was finally ready to tell it.

Then, this morning, as I was walking across the church parking lot, bathed in the voices of worshippers headed to their cars, I heard a voice cut through it all.

"DADDY!"

There must have been ten kids hollering for their fathers, but I recognized that voice. I turned, and he was smiling at me, head full of curly red hair bouncing as he struggled to get away from mom and run my direction. That cemented the decision to write.

This is a story about 04AN022E-001.

Of course, you might know him as Drake.

***

Hopefully, if you're reading this blog, you're all caught up on our family situation at the Sloat house. If you aren't, I'll give you the short version, and then you can click here and see all the stories. 

My wife and I have adopted three children. These children all share the same biological mother. We adopted the first two, Aven and Akeeli, earlier, then got a phone call about Drake, the youngest. We finalized on him earlier in the year, and changed his first name to Greyson, although we still call him Drake. 

Many of you read the blog I wrote when Drake was born. Of course I didn't know his name, I just knew that my two children suddenly had a brother, and my wife and I were faced with the decision of "What to tell the kids." How do you let them know they have a brother they'll never meet? 

We did the best we could. Our children grasp things fairly quickly, possibly as a result of so much change in their lives. They've never had the luxury of having many abstract thoughts, reality struck them much too harshly, much too early on. They accepted this brother without much emotional involvement, kind of an "out of sight, out of mind" philosophy. A philosophy that didn't come easily to Alicia and I. 

Then of course we got the call. 

Drake had been taken by the state, and he'd be coming to see us. Foster care, possible adoption. I hate the term foster care, but no matter, the kids were finally going to get to see their younger brother. 

Then we got the email. 

"We've found a kinship placement, he won't be coming to see you." 

There are certain words, when strung together in a certain order, change your life forever. Being notified of the death of a child or loved one, a relationship ending, or sitting in a doctor's office as he uses the word "terminal." Certain words in a certain order can proclaim worse fates than death. 

So we cried. 

A few months later, we got a call. 

"The kinship placement didn't work out. Can you meet us to pick him up?" 

So we cried. And we drove. 

I will never forget that drive home. I will never forget strapping that curly-headed monster into his car seat, I will never forget Aven and Akeeli calling him "bubba," and I will never forget when Drake pointed at me as we were driving down the road and said, "Dad!" 

And thus our lives were changed. 


***

We got still yet another call. 

"Travis, the biological mom won't terminate her parental rights. We know you have a way with words, can you write her a letter letting her know Drake is in good hands?" 

I have written stories about murders, tragedies, and love. I have written a commencement speech. I have written cover letters and resumes, and I have written numerous blogs to convey important points to my readers. 

None have ever come close to the importance of the letter I wrote to her. 

After reading the letter, she decided to terminate, but was fearful of the biological father's more stubborn attitude about relinquishing. He is in prison, but had said he would not terminate. She didn't want Drake to go back to him, and we understood her fear. 

And so we waited. 

***

We got still yet another call. 

"Alicia, the biological father is refusing to terminate. He has court on this date, and we're going to try to get the judge to terminate then, but technically he can have some time to try and accomplish the things required to get Drake back. He has said that he will not give up his rights." 

So we cried. And we prayed. And we enjoyed our time with Drake, dancing on the razor's edge of hope, hanging on to the truth proclaimed in God's Word that all things work together for the good of those who trust Him, and that if God is for us, no one can be against us. 

Finally the court date came. 

Alicia and I waited nervously by our phones, and kept refreshing our email inboxes, waiting for the news, dreading the appearance of certain words and the order they might be put in.

Finally the email came. Through tears, Alicia told me that the biological father had refused to terminate, and the judge had not granted the state's request to terminate. Through tears, I told her that things would be okay, there's no way any judge in the world would give a child back to a man in prison for the crimes he was in for. 

Alicia said she was going to call the social worker for clarification on a few things. Things did not get any better after that call, which prompted me to call the social worker and ask a few questions of my own.

"How can they consider handing him back to that man after what he's done?"

"Well, it's a jury trial, and they might convince the jury that he's a great person except for that one night when he made one bad decision, or they might say that a child this young needs his biological father since the mother gave him up." 

"I just don't see how anyone would ever see it that way." 

"Stranger things have happened. We'll see how it goes." 

I hung up, crying, and called Alicia. 

I told her everything, told her God was still in control, and I hung up the phone. 

About ten seconds later it rang again. It was the social worker. 

"Travis have you talked to your wife?" 
"Yes." 
"Was she upset?" 
"She was, very." 
"Well I'm going to need you to call her back. You'll never guess what happened." 
"What happened?" 
"He was walking out of the courtroom, stopped, turned around and looked at us and said he was ready to relinquish. Said he wanted one more visit, but he'd sign him over immediately." 

I hung up, crying, and called Alicia.

I would not even begin to guess the amount of phone calls made since the telephone was invented. But I can say with complete authority that none of them has ever made anyone happier than that phone call at that time.

We finalized on March 30. As the social worker was having us sign all the paperwork, I saw a number across the top: 04AN022E-001. Drake's number.

I snapped a picture. "One day I'll blog about this."

Oh and the visit? It never happened. He decided he didn't want to see him after all.

***

It's not all been roses and amazing phone calls since that day. In fact, about an hour ago, I had to spank him for not laying down and taking a nap. Right now, as I'm proofreading this blog, we just discovered he's had a relapse on his potty training and has pooped his pants. He can be insufferable.  

He is hard-headed, has a will of iron, and can be as immovable as only red-headed children can. 

He is handsome, has a million-dollar smile that makes you feel like the best dad in the world when he gives it to you, and can turn a simple word like "Daddy!" into something that can take my spirit from the lowest depths to the highest peaks. 

He just turned three. He looks so much like me that people constantly tell me, "You can't deny that one." I look at Alicia, and we just laugh. He's officially spent more of his life with us than anywhere else. He's a holy terror to his older brother, and a real-life baby doll to his older sister. He loves Mickey Mouse, nachos, and milk at bedtime. He has nightmares that are painful to witness at 3 a.m. He drives me crazy because he won't eat when he's supposed to, and he doesn't always like to tell me goodnight, which cuts me deeper than anything, and I just pretend it doesn't. 

He's my son. He's a Sloat. 

***

One day, I'll get to meet Jesus. 

I have a lot of questions for Him. 

But I think the one I'll ask first, the one that will be on the tip of my tongue before I even get to the throne, will be what made that man change his mind on the way out of the courtroom that day. 

I believe in miracles. I also believe in science. I know there's a chemical in the brain that made him change his mind, and I know that God is in charge of that chemical and every other aspect of our lives. But I've got to know. I've got to know how He did it. 

In the meantime, I'm satisfied with the fact that God took an impossible situation, named it 04AN022E-001, and entrusted him to our care for the next fifteen years. I'll do my best, and when things seems impossible again, I'll remember that God is big, and we are His. 

The boy who lived.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Commencement Address for the Class of 2015

I had the enormous honor of giving the commencement address to the Okay High School Class of 2015 last night, and I've had a couple of people ask if they could have a copy. 

Here it is, with changes I made mid-speech struck and highlighted in red. 

I only tripped up in a couple of places, thank God. I just want to say again, this was such an honor. 

Good evening.

Here I decided I probably should thank the senior class, really not sure how I didn't get that in there, I'm basically an idiot.

In September 2014, I took a selfie with the President of the United States. Obviously I think more of you than I do President Obama, so will you take a selfie with me?

This got struck because Katey Holland decided to do it in her speech, I'm not mad at her. While on stage I decided I'd open with the fact that I'd Googled how to give a graduation speech when I first found out, and then Mariah Whiteday decided she'd use that as HER intro, and long story short, I just winged it. Seemed to go over well. 

Thank you.

I first met the class that is graduating tonight in 2009. I was here as the ISS teacher, naturally a very popular job, and I was occasionally a substitute. I can remember vividly things like making Mr. Thurman run extra laps around the gym, making Mr. Thurman stand outside and count out loud to prove he could, and just in general making Mr. Thurman’s life miserable. Mr. Thurman, when you are successful in life, tell them it was Mr. Sloat who built your character.

When I started as an intern in August, I noticed a couple of things immediately about this senior class. The first was your inquisitive nature. Trying to explain a senior term paper to Mr. McVicker was near impossible, but we sewed shut all the loopholes he created, and we got through it.

The second thing I noticed was the fighting. Now, hold on, this isn’t a bad thing. You see, I was raised in a house with three younger brothers. There was rarely a moment when we WEREN’T fighting. So while some may choose to look at your arguments and see dissension, I see a family. Families fight. Families argue. Families take cheap shots at each other over the senior trip. But, most importantly, families love each other.

Fourteen years ago I stood on this same stage in this same gym and I delivered what I was sure at the time were words of inspiration to my classmates. I don’t know if they left inspired, but I left that night with two goals: The first was to one day deliver the commencement speech for a future class at Okay High School. The second was to one day become a teacher at Okay High School.

Both of those have now happened. 

I realized suddenly that both of those have NOT happened, because I haven't signed a contract for next year. I thought it would be funny to jokingly call out the administration and the school board on hiring me next year. This also seemed to go over well, everyone laughed and no one said, "You're fired." That's cool. 

That means I get the chance to give you a few pointers tonight that you, like my classmates all those years ago, will probably forget the minute you walk out the door. But first, I want to tell you something I’ve learned during the years in between about things that are fireproof.

Completely screwed this up with my ad-lib comment on hiring me. Completely. I then admitted that I'd lost my place, which is essentially the number one thing you should never do while giving a speech. But, the simple truth is, people screw up, even those of us who you might think have it all together. I'm not perfect, the graduates won't be either. There's a life lesson there. That's how I'm spinning this. 

What does fireproof mean?

When I hear “fireproof” my mind immediately flashes to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace. The flames danced around them, and yet they emerged unburned, unblemished by the fire. Now, we’re not Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, but we all have something fireproof inside us. That doesn’t mean it can’t be touched by the fire, but rather that it will not be consumed. Although the outside may sustain damage, the important stuff, the stuff on the inside, can’t be burned. It’s fireproof.

So the one lesson I’ve learned, that I want to share with you, is that these three things are fireproof. You may find more on your journey, but these are the ones I know:

1. Your dreams — You will find throughout your life that people will try to set fire to your dreams. But dreams? Dreams cannot be burned by anyone but the dreamer. What do you want to do? Some of you may have your life planned out from now until the day you die. That’s fine. Some of you may not have plans that last past this evening. That’s fine too. But your dreams are fireproof.

2. You — Believe it or not, you are fireproof. In much the same way as dreams, the world will try to burn you. A toxic relationship, family that doesn’t act like family, a struggling economy, social injustice and coworkers so bent on making their own way, they’ll throw you under any and every bus they can find. These are all ways the world will try to burn you. But they can’t. You will walk away with a few scars, yes, but what makes you YOU will not be consumed.

3. This town — I know so many who’ve left this school on this night saying “I’ll never be back.” They can’t wait to burn Okay to the ground and never look back. I stand here to tell you that Okay is fireproof. Go on. As you leave tonight, flick your match, drop your napalm. Okay will survive. And when you turn around and look through the smoke to see it’s still standing, remember that some of us, some of us are still here and we’re making a difference. I’d invite you to join us.

Now, here is my advice to you as you go out into the world:

The first thing is, look around you. In the years that come, stay in touch with the people you see tonight. With today’s social media and what’s no doubt coming in the near future it seems like this wouldn’t be a problem, but I think it is. You see, we have a tendency to mistake liking a status or retweeting someone as communication. It isn’t. Before you leave tonight, get phone numbers. Get email addresses, those are far less likely to change. Send a message on Facebook instead of a comment. Don’t be silent when you see their sorrow. Call. Text. Empathize. To this day, my best friend is someone I graduated with.

Secondly, Don’t regress – I think a lot of people leave high school and actually start regressing back to their most basic educated state.  While some of the things you learned in kindergarten — be nice to your neighbors, don’t pick your nose, and sharing — are things you should never forget, you’ll also need things you learned in high school. Yes, maybe even the Pythagorean Theorem, (I spent all day pronouncing Pythagorean wrong, then asked the math teacher right before I went on if I was saying it right. She corrected me, and I spent the last 20 minutes before the speech just repeating Pythagorean over and over. Caught her eye as I said it, and she gave me a little nod, it felt good) although I’m still waiting to use that one myself. Some think the learning journey ends when they leave here, and that’s not true. Whether you go to college, start a career, or just sit at home for a couple of years trying to figure it all out, you will never stop learning. I don’t care if it’s working towards a doctorate or memorizing all of the fatalities in the latest Mortal Kombat…never. Stop. Learning.

Expected a lot more laughs at the Mortal Kombat line, I guess you live and learn. 

Another very important lesson is learn how to be charming – Whether it comes down to needing a job or a spouse, you’re going to need a little charm in your lives. Some of you, like Mr. Holman, may have that figured out already. But in case you don’t, here’s how you can be charming: Listen well. Don’t be the talker in every conversation. When someone starts talking, maintain eye contact and let them speak. Don’t interrupt, no matter how much cooler your life may seem. Smile frequently. Provide non-verbal cues that convey your interest. Nod. Shake your head. Change your facial expressions appropriately. Make the person you’re listening to feel like they are the most important person in your life at that very moment. You’ll find that being charming, combined with a lack of face tattoos, will get you just as far in life as an education or a good work ethic.

Another bit of advice is to always see things through – At some point in your lives, you’re going to find yourselves at a job you don’t want to be at, in a class you don’t want to complete, or stuck on the 89th level of Candy Crush with not enough lives to finish. Here’s the advice I’d offer you. Stay focused. See it through. Wait for that next job offer to come in before throwing your computer across the office and leaving a profanity-laden letter of resignation. Take that final exam before skipping the last two weeks of class and getting an incomplete. Go spend $2 on in-game purchases to get to level 90. When you spend the time or energy on finishing something, it provides a feeling of accomplishment. That feeling is addictive, and it’s the one addiction worth cultivating.

Candy Crush line was a bit dated I think, still got a few laughs. Probably should have researched the latest and greatest app, but I didn't think I could work a Tinder line in there. 

The last token of knowledge I have for you is Take your time…if you want to — There’s a quote that goes around every teacher’s social media this time of year. It says, “We’re asking young people to make decisions about their futures and their careers, when a month ago they had to ask to go to the restroom.” There is an enormous amount of truth in that statement. If you need some time, take it. That doesn’t mean ignore your responsibilities, but if you want to work a job instead of going to college while trying to piece together what you want your future to look like, go ahead. You may realize that computer technology isn’t for you, and you may get married, drop out of college twice, adopt a few kids, then go start a degree in education and come back to where it all started. While I don’t recommend that road, I can say without hesitation that I’d do it all again in a heartbeat, because I am truly happy. The time I spent figuring out what I wanted to do with my life was not wasted. You cannot waste your time, your youth, or your potential: these are fireproof things and they are yours to spend as you choose, according to your needs.

I would be doing a disservice to you if I did not leave this stage tonight without giving you the exact same words I gave my fellow graduates 14 years ago.  Words that can be found in the Bible, in the book of Jeremiah, chapter 29 and verse 13.

My lovely wife sent me an email at 3:30 in the morning saying, "Isn't it Jeremiah 29:11? It totally is, and I'm very glad she caught it. 

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.


Go. Be great.

I really wanted to scream this last line, or at least deliver it with more authority, but I couldn't figure out how closely to hold the microphone to my mouth without blasting everyone out of the gym. Live and learn. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

In Which I Discover George Strait is a Master of Quantum Physics

image credit
I'm going to do something very unusual on this blog today.

Some of you may be familiar with my "Why Music Sucks Now" posts, but while this post will focus on music, it will not be focused on horrible music. Actually the song and artist I'm discussing today are both amazing.

You are familiar, I am sure, with George Strait. I am sure you're also familiar with his hit song, "I Can Still Make Cheyenne."




I guess the video won't play through the blog because UMG is a bunch of ninnies, but click on through and familiarize yourselves.

I have a mind-bubbling theory about this song. It occurred to me whilst driving down the road the other day, and hit me so hard I almost had a wreck.

Here's the theory:

Only the first thirty seconds of this song actually happened. Everything after is a fictional representation of an imagined 'worst case' scenario that played out in her mind immediately after picking up the phone. 

So let's break the song down before we go on.

Scene is set at a house, the phone rings, it's late, the woman's man-friend is on the line. He's had a hard go at the local rodeo, and he failed to qualify for the next round. Tired and beat up, he decides he's coming home.

But alas, while he has been out riding bulls and carousing with cheap women (probably) his significant other has taken another lover, and he "sure ain't no rodeo man." She tells her man-friend not to bother coming home, that she'll be leaving and won't be coming back.

Saddened, but not surprised, the man-friend simply says, "It's totes cool, babydoll, I'd leave me too, but I gotta go, cause there's a rodeo up in Wyoming and I think I can get there if I leave RIGHT THIS SECOND."

Then there's some driving, the chorus again, and before you know we hit the end of the song, which repeats the first few lines.

She never knew what his calls might bring,
With a cowboy like him, it could be anything. 
And she always expected the worst in the back of her mind.

And there we have it. Those three lines give us all we need to know that almost the entire song has been a figment of her imagination, which played out in the span of a few seconds between her answering the phone and him leaving the phone dangling off the hook.

Confused? So was I at first.

You see, she was so worried about what he might say when she picked up the phone, that she subconsciously created a scenario in which he told her he was coming home, and she told him she'd found someone else (she hadn't, really, it was a test, women always come up with these little tests) and he didn't even bother hanging up, didn't get mad, just said, "Baby that's cool, I gotta bounce though."

See?

She always expected the worst in the back of her mind

Him not caring about her leaving is the worst thing she can think of.

So George, the master of Inception-esque temporal physics it would seem, has basically sung us a three minute ballad the equivalent of Bruce Willis being dead the whole time.

So, if you were as concerned as I always was for this tragedy of a romance, take heart, it never actually happened. The whole thing was a dream.

That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

Also, as a complete side note here, there's no way George Strait and I aren't related somehow. You put a hat on me and there's virtually no difference in our looks. Uncanny really.

Uncanny.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Battle of Snapchat Bridge



Travis couldn’t see it, but the battle for his life was being prepared for as he was driving home. Angels and demons were gearing up, dressing for battle in the way soldiers did in ancient times.

If he could have witnessed the preparations, he would have noticed they started their armaments at the bottom and worked their way up. Lightweight sandals were put on, then greaves, made out of a metal he’d never now the name of. A belt buckled around the waist, then a breastplate, something that looked heavy, but didn’t appear heavy in their experienced hands.

Finally, a helmet went on. The helmets looked Corinthian, and again, heavy. Once on, the angels each grabbed a shield and a longsword.

One of the angels – Jeff – was on the hood of his truck like an ornament, and he was obviously the leader. Jeff was crouched low, and wind should have been whipping through his hair, but with a helmet on, whipping hair was hard to achieve, and he was not happy about it. He had amazing hair.

There were two angels on the roof of the truck, one on the driver side and one on the passenger. The one on the passenger side was supposed to be riding shotgun inside the cab, but he had eschewed that duty for the roof because, simply put, he liked it better. His goofy grin hid the nervousness he felt about the coming battle.

The last four rode in the bed of the truck, heads low, discussing tactics and potential scenarios. These were the footsoldiers, the untested, the “bullet-stoppers.”

It was dark, and Travis had just worked a sixteen-hour day. He was exhausted. 

The road he was driving home on was monotonous, traveled thousands of times since he was first given a license. 

Nothing exciting ever happened on the road, except that one time when a deer jumped unexpectedly in front of the car he and his family were traveling home in. He had dodged the deer expertly, earning rare praise from his wife. “Good job, Travis, that was close.”

But tonight, no deer.

The road climaxed in a one-lane bridge. The bridge was ancient, and had recently been the subject of an investigation that had ruled a new bridge should be built. Construction would start any day. But tonight, the bridge would be traversed.

Travis had the windows down and the music blaring, blissfully unaware of the passengers congregated across his truck. He was singing along unashamedly to Taylor Swift’s “22,” because it was 11 p.m. and not a soul was on the road with him.

The proverbial troll under the bridge sat just a quarter mile away…under the bridge. He spoke in hushed but firm whispers to his troops.

“Tonight’s the night,” he said. “Tonight we take him. He’ll cross the bridge momentarily, and we attack. His truck will be defended with…” he spat on the ground, “…His people. They’ll know we’re here. Prepare yourselves.”

His soldiers nodded quietly. They rarely won these battles. There was a running joke among their kind that the least-wanted demons were used for these battles, and the word expendable was tossed around a lot. But tonight, they had a leader who had fought many of these battles. While his success rate was mediocre, he’d never been killed. That had to count for something, right?

They took their positions.

“Change Your Mind” by Sister Hazel was next, something Travis would always sing along with as well. He sang a lot. In fact, recently, he’d taken to recording himself singing on Snapchat and posting it for his friends to see.

It was 11 p.m., but some of his friends might be bored, so why not?

He pulled his phone out of the cup holder it had set in most of the drive home, and he opened the Snapchat application. His iPhone was big, but then again so were his hands, so tapping the screen at the top to switch the cameras usually wasn’t a big deal. Tonight though, the long day caught up with him, and he dropped his phone in the floorboard of his truck.

He murmured a profanity and bent down to grab it.

The loud clank of his tires striking one of the steel plates on the bridge was his only indicator that this whole driving thing might be something he needed to pay attention to.

“NOW!” cried the demon and angel leaders simultaneously.

The battle began.

Jeff launched himself off the hood of the truck, not yet seeing the enemy, but knowing they would appear. In the moments after the battle, Travis would assume his quick reflexes had taken over, and he’d applied just the right amount of braking power.

He hadn’t.

As Jeff was flying through the air – a feat greatly helped by the fact that he had wings – he spotted the first demon clambering over the bridge. Unfortunately for the demon, he was paying too much attention to clambering, and as he looked up, the first – and last – thing to go through his head was, “Wow, I’d like to look through that armory.”

That was the only easy kill of the evening. The rest of the battle went back and forth, and the demon leader made short work of two of the angels who were so busily preparing in the bed of the truck.

Then Colin, the grinning roof-rider, met up with the demon leader as Jeff was finishing off five or six of the expendable guys whose only legacy would be to perpetuate the rumor currently circulating that it was absolutely not better to rule in Hell than it was to serve in Heaven.

Colin and the demon leader’s swords clashed. Sparks flew. Later, Travis would think that his truck had kissed the steel beams of the bridge ever so slightly and had thrown a shower of sparks. But when he got home, his truck would be untouched.

What Colin lacked in swordplay, he more than made up for in confidence. Confidence tended to come easy when you spent your off days in the presence of Him. He never took a defensive stance, constantly staying on the offensive, persistently moving toward the demon leader, pushing him back.

The rest of the battle had stopped. Angels and demons gathered and watched the swordfight as it continued. This temporary truce was interrupted only once by one of the more subversive demons trying to sneak around Jeff and cut his throat.

It didn’t work.

As Colin backed the demon leader to the end of the bridge, things began to look bleak for the demons. But the demon leader had not survived thus far without gaining an intimate knowledge of angel tactics.

Angels didn’t get tired, per se, but they did get sloppy. In his constant and confident offensive, Colin got sloppy.

And a few moments later, he paid for it with his life.

An audible gasp rippled through the crowd of onlookers equipped with the eyes to see the killing. Travis would later mistake this for a gust of wind bringing a thunderstorm.

He was wrong.

The demon leader roared, and his comrades roared with him. Travis would attribute this to the thunder on the horizon.

He was wrong.

The demon leader looked at Jeff, pointed at Travis, and said softly, “He is mine tonight. I’ve won.”

Jeff hadn’t yet taken his eyes off Colin’s lifeless form, but after the demon leader spoke, he raised them slowly, in a manner calculated over many eons to bring fear to anyone on the receiving end. The gaze alone had been known to kill, and was, in fact, responsible for several deaths of humans in biblical times when angels had been allowed to comingle visibly with mortals.

The demon leader didn’t die, but immediately recognized that he soon would if he continued his present line of thinking. He murmured something under his breath, something that sounded an awful lot like “Discretion is the better part of valor,” and promptly disappeared.

Alerted by the loud clank, Travis jerked his head up just in time to see the oncoming car at the other end of the bridge. He braked, remarking silently on his amazing reflexes, then felt a bump and saw sparks at the front of his truck.

“Crap. It’s new,” he said.

He backed his truck up and allowed the other car to pass.

By the time he fished his phone out of the floorboard, Sister Hazel had been replaced by Family Force Five, and the feeling of singing self-promotion on Snapchat had passed.

Another loud clank signaled that he had crossed the bridge, and to those with the eyes blessed – or cursed – to see, he appeared to drive right through the ghostly figure of a man crouched low, cradling the limp body of someone else.

They weren’t visible when the truck drove away.

With Sister Hazel in his head, and the recent lesson of paying attention to the road flying ungratefully right over his head, Travis grabbed his phone and called up Twitter.


At least he was awake now.