A Clean Start

This certainly was not a part of my plan.  I sighed and stepped out of my old, rusty car.  From the driveway, I looked up at the second story of the Ingram family’s house.  It was a beautiful work of architecture.  The skirt of my dress rippled in the breeze as I walked from the carport to the front door of the job I never intended to do.  I slaved away at college for years to get my degree, only to come here.  I glared bitterly at the doorbell.  My features relaxed as I thought about how we all had to start somewhere, and this was my start.  I lifted my hand to push the bell but before I touched it the door opened slightly.  I looked in and saw nobody.  I looked down the aperture of the door to see a blue eye gazing up at me.  “Hello,” I said.  The eye blinked. 
          “Are you Ms. Louis?”  I nodded affirmatively.  The eye disappeared as the girl turned her head and shouted back into the house, “Daddy, the maid is here.”  The maid, I repeated in my mind.  I sighed and with the exhale I felt my pride deflate.  I heard a man’s voice holler back, then footsteps.  The door opened fully and I looked up to see Mr. Ingram who welcomed me into the house.  The man seemed pressed for time as he handed me a detailed list of things that I was suppose to do.  He rushed me to the downstairs utility room and showed me the equipment there.  The little girl followed us silently; her eyes trained on me like I was an exotic animal in the zoo.  We then marched up a flight of stairs to find the other utility room.  After a speedy introduction of my duties as maid he left me in the upstairs utilities room.  I looked at the instructions in my hands for guidance of what to do first: clean and vacuum the bedrooms.
          I pulled a bulky vacuum out of the closet into the hallway.  The little girl was there to my right.  I smiled at her and said. “You can call me by my first name, Jenny.”  The little blue eyed-girl swayed on her feet indicating contained child energy waiting to be unleashed.  “So what’s your name?” I asked uneasily.  The girl giggled and vanished through the door of a nearby room.  Peculiar child I thought.  I heaved the vacuum to the end of the hall and to the door of the large master bedroom.  I opened the door and I blinked for moment at what I saw.  This room was a complete contrast to the appearance of the beauty and luxury of the exterior of the house and the entrance.  The master bedroom was a wreck, so much so that vacuuming was an insane proposition.  Things were strewn all over the place.  Skyscraper stacks of paper sat on the floor, on top of the nightstand, and on the chest of drawers.  Articles of clothing, not sure if clean or dirty, were laying on the bed and floor, unfolded and disheveled.  Apparently, the room not only was used for sleeping but as a trashcan too.  There were dirty dishes, empty bottles, cups with unfinished drinks, and wadded up napkins on the floor and any other surface that something could be sat on.
          My body quivered slightly as part of me wanted to drop the vacuum and dash out the front door and the other part, my character, knew to stay and do the job.  Who am I kidding; character had nothing to do with this. It was my desire to get paid and have a good job reference that made me stay.  This is where I have to start, I reminded myself.  I put the vacuum cleaner to the side, since I didn’t need it yet.  I was able to vacuum an hour later.  It was near relief to take a break to just move the vacuum sweeper along the carpet.  I was unplugging the vacuum from the electric outlet when a little girl, not Blue Eyes, appeared at the doorway.  She seemed younger than Blue Eyes, and was wearing a puffy pink princess costume dress and a tiara.  She was watching me from the doorframe.  Princess spoke with an adorable voice and asked me, “Ms. Louise, can you come and help me and my sister.”  How could I say no to such a precious child?  I followed her to what appeared to be a playroom.  The room looked like Toyland had been attacked by a series of natural disasters and anarchy.  I had to kick cloth dolls and plastic cars out from under my feet so I could walk.  “Are all the rooms this messy?”  Princess said only a few.  Blue Eyes sat crossed legged on the floor, playing with some plastic animals.  Princess pointed at an open closet door and said, “There is a toy on the top shelf we can’t reach, could you get it for us.”  I looked around at the room.  “Don’t you have enough toys out already?” I asked.  Princess passionately explained that this toy was a limited edition Barbie and was very special.  I shrugged and stepped into the closet.  I stretched upward to feel along the top shelf.  “Are you sure it’s here?”  I was answered with the closet door slamming shut, and the laughter of Blue Eyes and Princess.  In the darkness I gasped, realizing I had been tricked.  I grabbed the doorknob and tried to twist it.  It was locked and the lock was on their side.  I demanded they let me out, but they only laughed.  “The monster has been captured, my queen.  What shall we do with it?”
          “For now we will leave it where it’s at and think it over.”
          “I think we should roast it and make stake for the entire kingdom,” claimed a voice of a young boy.”  I crouched down on the floor of the closet and peered through the crack beneath the door.  I saw three pairs of feet.  How many children did Mr. Ingram have?  I reached up for the doorknob and felt a pin-sized hole in the center of the doorknob.  I smiled; it was only a childproof knob.  All I needed was something that I could poke in the hole.  I groped around on the floor and the shelves, searching for a bobby pin or a toothpick.  I suddenly remembered that last night I had dinner with my parents at a restaurant wearing this same skirt.   When we were leaving I had pocketed a free toothpick from a bowl on a table next to the door.  I rummaged through my pocket, finding the toothpick.  I grinned at my luck; those kids were in for a surprise.  I knelt at the door and carefully found the hole and stuck the toothpick in.  After a few frustrating tries I heard a click and could turn the knob.
          The three children sat in the center of the room having a powwow to decide my fate.  They froze and stared at me as the door opened.  Princess theatrically exclaimed, “ Oh no! The beast has escaped.”  She fled from the room screaming and leaving her brother and Blue Eyes at my mercy.  I crossed my arms and said impatiently, “My job is to clean, not to play pretend.  Leave me alone and I leave you alone, ok?”  They nodded under the influence of my wrathful glare.  I nodded with satisfaction and left the room, straddling over toys and junk.  I finished my day at the Ingram home with no other excitement. 
          Mr. Ingram went to the front door with me to let me out.  “Sir, if you don’t mind me asking, why are some of the rooms so. . .”  I felt bad commenting on it, and hesitated to insult a man’s home.  I didn’t need to finish, as he understood.
          “My wife, who is currently in the hospital, has been sick for a very long time.  I have been juggling her care, my work, and my children.  Maintaining the house has not been very important, and things start to pile up.  However, my wife is going to be home in a few days and I wanted her returning to the house she left.  I hope it wasn’t too much for you.”  I thought about mentioning me being locked up in the closet.  I didn’t.  He looked so tired and what would look worse that some maid complaining about his kids.  I claimed it was easy and that the house will be completely clean by the end of my service, which is five days.
          After the first day, the shock of the state of the inside of the Ingram home was gone.  I knew to expect it.  What I didn’t expect was for the Ingram children to persist in their pranks.  At one point of moping the kitchen my bucket of water went missing.  I went to go look for it, and giving up I came back to the kitchen and the bucket had been returned, but empty.  They put silly putty on my car keys so that when I reach into my pocket at the end of the day and grabbed my keys I had an unpleasant surprise.  I made the mistake of leaving my list of chores in another room once and they artfully drew on it with crayons.  I never saw them do the acts, but I knew.  They were like little trolls, sneaking around doing mischief while no one was watching. 
          There were no pranks on Thursday.  The house was silent when Mr. Ingram let me in, no children running around or screaming.  I went about my routine; I was to clean the bathrooms and kitchen sinks and counters on that day.  I completed the downstairs, had lunch, and then went upstairs.  I was in the utility closet when I heard the murmur of voices.  Supplies in hand, I walked down the hall.  At the door of the master bedroom, which looked much cleaner since that shocking first day, I saw Mrs. Ingram for the first time.  She rested under the sheets of the bed, her brown locks of hair spread out on the pillow and her face pale but for the glow of joy.  Princess was cuddled up in her mother’s embrace while Blue Eyes and their brother sat on the bed.  They all turned when I entered and I felt like an intruder.  I excused myself and went past them to the master bathroom.  Blue Eyes followed me.  “Mommy says that what we did was wrong.  We’re sorry.” I looked down into her clear eyes and accepted her apology.  She smiled and hugged my legs before disappearing into the bedroom.  Mrs. Ingram’s voice came from the bedroom, “I wasn’t expecting a college girl when my husband told me he hired a maid.  I was expecting someone, older.”  She had a calm, soothing voice.  I began wiping the counter dry.
          “This is definitely not my career choice. I hope to get a better job soon, but until then I have to do something.  I graduated from college last spring and have been on the job hunt ever since” 
          “What did you major in?”
          “I see.”  I began cleaning the faucet.  “The children were telling me about all the things I missed while I was gone and it slipped that they locked you in the closet.  I am very sorry for that.  They can be so spirited at times” I reassured her it wasn’t much of a problem. 
The following day was my last day.  The children were actually pleasant.  They talked to me and stayed out of trouble.  Princess even drew me a goodbye card.  When she gave me the card I realized that it was her artistic handiwork on my chores list.  In the last hour, Mr. Ingram examined the house and was pleased.  He handed me my check and walked me to the door, but paused before opening it.  He handed me a piece of paper with his handwriting.  “My wife told me that you majored in journalism and that you’re looking for a career in that field.  I have a friend who might be interested in hiring you.  That is his number and his company name.  From there you can get an interview.”  I looked down at the card.  Hope was bubbling inside of me.  It manifested itself into a smile on my face.  I thanked him and waved goodbye to Blue Eyes who was watching from the staircase.
          I reached my car, but stopped with my hand on the door to look back at the Ingram house.  From this whole experience I gained only three tangible things: a check, a hand made card, and a paper with a phone number.  I looked down at them in my hand, three pieces of paper with hope I got in my car and drove away never to return, never needing to, but glad I had come. 

-------- The End

I had written this a year or so ago as a guest blogger and I thought I'd share it.  Please share your thoughts in the comments; they're very appreciated.  Also if you like this story please share the link on twitter or facebook or whatever social media you fancy.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's NestOne Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

  What inspired me to read this book was the movie. I had seen the movie years ago and really liked it. When I found out that there was a book, I had to read it. The story is about Randle McMurphy, a wily and rambunctious man who gets himself committed into a psychiatric ward to spend the rest of his prison sentence. Chief Bromden, a fellow patient in the ward who pretends he’s deaf and dumb, narrates the story of McMurphy’s antics and rivalry with the authority of Nurse Ratchet.
  I was really excited before reading the book and my expectations were well met. The first few chapters were a bit slow. However, by the middle of the novel, I knew I was giving this book five stars. Seeing the ward through Chief Bromden’s eyes and his internal dialog was great. It gave the story a very unique edge. The writing is marvelous as the little isolated world of the ward and the patients are painted before the reader. As the plot progresses, the story also explores themes dealing with the human spirit.
  I loved this book and highly recommend it.

View all my reviews

"You had a choice: you could either strain and look at things that appeared in front of you in the fog, painful as it might be, or you could relax and lose yourself." -Chief Bromden

Musings & Trivia:
  • Book(1962) & Movie(1975): The movie and book are generally the same, but of course some things are changed.  The biggest difference is that the movie is not narrated by Chief Bromden.  It is more of a third person presentation of the story and the Chief is just another character.  Not to spoil anything I'll only say there are other various elements that are re-arranged and merged together in the movie.  No major plot elements are left out in the movie.  In the film Jack Nicholson plays McMurphy and won an Academy Award for Best Actor for this role.  Actually, in total the film won five academy awards and was nominated for four others.  Quite a decorated film.
  • You know, in print you find typos every once and a while.  It happens but this is something else:

  • About the Author: Anyways, after some googling, page 5 was the correct one.  Ken Kesey was born September 17, 1935 in La Junta, Colorado and then his family moved to Oregon.  In 1957  Kesey received a degree in speech and communication from the University of Oregon's School of Journalism.  In 1958 he enrolled in Stanford's creative writing program.  One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was inspired by Kesey's experiences as an orderly at a veteran's hospital in California in 1959.  He passed away November 10, 2001 at the age of sixty six from complications after a surgery.
Next Book Review: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
Curious to know what other books I'll be reading? Click here to find out

Have you read this book? or seen the movie? If so what do you think? What is the worst typo you've ever found? Feel free to reply here or on twitter @MandyCalvin .  Comments are appreciated.


The Postman

The PostmanThe Postman by David Brin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Postman by David Brin is a science fiction adventure set in a crumbled United States during the aftermath of war and disease. Society has been blown back to a primitive age where survival is the only priority. Gordon is a drifter traveling through the wilderness when a series of events led him a long abandoned postal truck. He puts on the uniform and takes the bag of mail and thus begins his role of a Postman going from clan to clan exchanging hope for food. However, what begins as a ploy for Gordon to get food becomes something greater as his role inspires a call for change in others and in himself.

The plot is intriguing and sees the reader interested to the end. The book over all was ok. There were moving moments, but some of the suppose-to-be-epic moments came off as more trite than epic. The characters were diverse and memorable which I found to be a redeeming highlight in the book along with the progress of the story. Brin plays a bit with philosphy and some social issues in his book, which was more of a sideshow than an addition to the story.

There is a movie out there with Kevin Costner, which is good. However the movie and the book are extremely different. Aside from artistic changes during an adaptation, the plots are two completely different animals. Characters are given different roles or missing completely in the film and multiple key factors are changed. So watching the movie would not replace the book, not in the least.

Next Book Review: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

Curious to know what other books I'll be reading? Click here to find out Have you read this book? If so what did you think?

Feel free to reply here or on twitter @MandyCalvin . Comments are appreciated.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Hercule Poirot #4)The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I will ascend that I had been spoiled by a review before I read the book. It probably robbed me of some of the suspense, however I'd like to think I was able to better assess the quality of the story. Despite that I knew the ending, I did find the journey fascinating. There is no doubt that this was a brilliant murder mystery; the plot twisted so many times, it's dizzying. The characters were developed and memorably charming. My only qualms were that it was difficult to really get into the story due to lack of imagery in the writing. If you are looking for a good mystery with an outstanding plot, this is with out a doubt a perfect story to read.
"Understand this, I mean to arrive at the truth.  The truth however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to the seeker after it." -Hercule Poirot
Musings & Facts:
  • It's interesting how all the little clues come together when you figure out the end result.  Especially in this mystery, almost everything was a clue.  Although all the clues were there, the answer was still elusive.  That's what I think makes a great mystery; the answer is stuck to your forehead.
  • About Agatha: She was born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller in the UK on 15 September 1890.  She worked as a nurse during WWI.  She married her husband, Archibald Christie, on Christmas Eve 1914.  Six publishers rejected her first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles.  However, she was not discouraged and almost five years after writing the book, it was published by Jone Lane in 1920.  She divorced her husband in 1928 after finding out he was having an affair.  She then remarried to Max Mallowan, in 1930 whom she shared 46 years of marriage which ended with her death.  Agatha Christie wrote 66 mystery novels, short stories, plays, and under the pen name, Mary Westmacott, 6 romance novels.
  • I loved the character of Hercule Poirot and Caroline Sheppard.  They both had very distinguisable characters.
  • The story is written in first person from the point of view of Dr. James Sheppard.  However most of the story is dialog between the characters and some in between action.  It didn't include much imagery like I said in the review above.  I've read that a writer should balance the amount of dialog in their writing.  Too much or too little could be bad, but I think it depends on the subject your writing about.  If you're writing from first person you can get away with less dialog since you are in the head of a character, they can kind of dialog with themselves.  Too much dialog can get a bit boring and sidetracked if the write isn't careful.  Of course that goes back to the rule that every sentence must have a purpose pertaining to its story, dialog or not.  The dialog in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was well done and every bit of it was crucial to the development of the plot. but there was just not much in-between all the talking.  However.... no no no, I don't want to spoil anything if you decide to read the book.
Next Book Review: The Postman by David Brin
Curious to know what other books I'll be reading? Click here to find out

Have you read this book? If so what do you think?  What do you think makes a good mystery?  Do you think that too much dialog is bad?  Feel free to reply here or on twitter @MandyCalvin .  Comments are appreciated.


My Summer Reading List

The sun is shining, the temperature is rising, the bugs are buzzing, and I decided it's an ideal time to sit indoors and organize my reading plan.  I spent the past few days googling lists of books trying to sort out a few that I wanted to read this summer.  I jotted down ten titles and then painfully whittled them down to six, a goal possibly attainable. When making this list, I focused on a getting a diverse set of well-written books.  This isn't ordered in any particular way, I have yet to decide which one to start with.

  • Breakfast At Tiffany's by Truman Capote.  The goings on of a female city socialite narrated by a man who is a tenant in the same apartment complex.  I'm not quite sure what to expect out of this novella, but Capote's work is well respected for his mastery of prose.  This novella seems to be mainly character driven, so I'll be getting a taste of that.
  • The Postman by David Brin.  Set in post-apocalyptic America, a cold and hungry man finds a United States Postal uniform, and sack of mail and poses as a post man for food and supplies but also gives hope to the people.  I've read that the touching plot is what makes it worth reading.  I know there is a movie out there with Kevin Costner, but surprisingly I've never seen it.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey.  A man fakes insanity to escape a prison sentence and instead goes into an insane asylum.  I've seen the movie and now I'm even more excited to read the book. 
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.  Through he eyes of five Russian aristocratic families we see the story of Russia during the Napoleonic era.  The book delves into many philosophical discussions along as a historical narrative.  I am pretty sure I'll save this book for last and will likely finish it sometime before I die.  War and Peace is one of the longest books ever written somewhere over a whopping 560,000 words.
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie.  A detective murder mystery that investigates the death of Roger Ackroyd, if you didn't catch that in the title.  Agatha Christie is considered the best of the best when it comes to detective murder mysteries, so I hear.  On top of that this novel is considered her best work. So I deduce that when it comes to detective fiction, this novel the best of the best of the best.
  • Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.  A story about a boy growing up in Ireland who discovers that he wants to be writer and his struggles grow as an artist.  This story is suspected to be semi-autobiographical of James Joyce's own life.  It's said the style of writing in this novel is spectacular; that's why I'm reading it. 
I sure have my work cut out for me.  After I finish each book I'll do a review and analysis post.  For the lack of content in the last couple of months, I apologize.  I'll be getting back to my three posts a month in June.

Have you read any of these books? If so what did you think? What's on your reading list? Which book do you think I should start with?  Answer in the comments below or tweet me @mandycalvin .  I love feedback.
*edit- links added Aug 9, 2012

60 Uses for a Fork: Divergent Thinking Practice

This challenge is an indirect writing exercise.  Indirect because I'm not actually going to write but it's a practice in creative/divergent thinking which is the life source of fictional writing.  I was inspired by RSA's video Changing Education Paradigms.  They mentioned a test in which they asked people to think up as many uses as they can for a paper clip.  Some could come up with 200 unique uses.  I've always been meaning to give it a try just for the fun of it.  However, instead of a paper clip I'm going to use a fork.  This exercise is untimed and you stop when you can't think of any more ideas. It's also fun to set a number goal or to make it a game between friends to see who can come up with the most uses.  Feel free to try it yourself with whatever object you wish.  If you post your list on a blog or website please leave a link below in the comments.  I'd be great to see all the ideas you guys come up with.