Saturday, August 14, 2010

Horror in the Laundryroom

(Image courtesy of
I can still remember the first slasher films I ever saw, although it's taken me an hour and a lot of random internet surfing to remember the title, Silent Scream.

All I really remember are a lot of terrifying moments in a big rambling seaside house. And then a horrible screaming madwoman escaping from an attic, all wild black hair, wild eyes and wildly swinging knife blade.

The heroine, the now-iconic Last Girl Standing, was forever walking into a room, down a hallway or out in the yard and suddenly finding horribly mutilated, bloody dead bodies (cue alarming violins). And screaming really loud.

She would reach into dark holes and shadowy recesses, from which things would grab her and pull her in.

In fact, she did all those stupid things that Scary Movie would later spoof, for example, in the banana scene.

When I got home that night after going to the movies, my mom asked me to go get the laundry out of the dryer, which was out in a detached garage.

I walked out into the cool night, flicked on the dim light in the garage, and looked over at the still-humming dryer, far off in the shadows.

Standing there in the doorway, I surveyed the darkened interior and thought of all the places a homicidal maniac might hide, behind the shelves, under the car, in the many dark corners.

In those days, we were already taught to be scared by events that occurred around us, horrifying true events that took on legendary proportions as we talked about them. Just two years earlier, a stranger brutally raped Mary Vincent, a teen runaway hitchhiker, cut off her arms and left her for dead on the roadside.

The orange groves in the town where I lived were legendary crimes scenes, and if we had to bicycle past them at dusk, we would do it frantically.

So with all those thoughts in my tender head, I slowly entered that place of noise and shadows.

As I approached the dryer, I saw something behind it, something large, flesh-colored and . . . trembling.

A dead body? A severed leg? My heart was racing, my ears ringing. What was it?

Did I turn and run back into my house screaming? No. Family dynamics in my childhood home didn't allow for any of that. Unless I was actually dead, I was expected to return to the house only if I had the clean laundry in my arms.

So I had no choice but to solve this mystery myself.

Swallowing my terror, I edged closer to the vibrating heat of the dryer and cautiously peered behind it.

I half expected to see bloody horror back there. At the same time, the back of my neck prickled as I half expected something to grab me from behind.

But here I am to tell the story, so we all know no homicidal maniac lurked in my garage that night.

My dad had attached one of my mom's old nylon stockings to the dryer vent to catch the lint. When the dryer was going, the stocking filled with air and lint, filled into the shape of a human leg, bouncing gently in the dusty, cobwebby shadows behind the dryer.

Sighing in relief, I loaded the warm clothes into the basket, shut off the light and went back into the house. My parents never knew.

Monday, August 9, 2010


I get to blog at work now sometimes.

Blogging at work is a Special Project. My boss will wander into my cubicle, ask how I'm doing and then say the words I love to hear: "I have a Special Project for you."

It's always something fun and interesting, something outside the box. One day, I took a client sightseeing. One time, I rummaged through boxes to find something. One day, I proofread a press release. One day, I wrote a brochure. One day, I made a cake.

Blogging is a regular thing, though, and it happens about once a week.

Over time, my understanding of the technology I'm expected to write about has grown. I've only been studying it for a little over a month. I read technical manuals and textbooks over my lunch.

At first it was hard to write, hard to set free the writer in me, when I wasn't even sure of which words to use to string together the technical terminology and jargon.

As teachers of writing know, the surest sign of someone using a term they don't understand is which little words they surround it with; which prepositions they use will show how close their own relationship with the term is.

In linguistics, your (the reader's, the writer's, the speaker's) relationship to the action is hidden cleverly inside those little terms. Think of deixis. Think of dramatism. But I digress (more about digressions later).

Well, that novice writer, that awkward user of unfamiliar terms: that's me at work.

Not only that, but maybe I wanted to liven up the writing, use unexpected active verbs, be creative. At first, I didn't dare. My blog entries were uncharacteristically short, a little stiff.

Now, most recently, I finally wrote about something I actually understood. It was fun, it flowed. But when I digressed in a totally interesting (to me) direction, I was instructed to cut that part out.

So now, it seems, I have leftover parts -- little things I've written that are going to have to wind up somewhere. And of course, by somewhere, I mean here.

Coming up next: The amazing journey of the salmon migrating not only hundreds of miles upstream but also migrating from my work blog to here. Stay tuned!