Archive for February 2016

Literally no one asked me to overanalyze Avril Lavigne’s early work   Leave a comment

In 2001, the film Josie and the Pussycats was released. It was part of the trend of adapting old TV shows to movies. In the movie, Josie, Valerie, and Melody are aspiring pop stars called “The Pussycats”. When the biggest boy band in the world, Du Jour, all disappear in a plane crash, the trio are plucked off the street by a desperate studio head. In the end, it turns out that all pop music that exists has subliminal music telling your subconscious to buy new clothes and eat McDonalds. It was a pretty dumb movie.


This song makes it all worth it somehow.

Someone online pointed out that the movie predicted the rise of female power pop artists, and that said rise would replace boy bands.

In 2002, Avril Lavigne released her first album, and she was unleashed onto the world. For those of us who rejected the mainstream, studio-generated, wholesome bubblegum pop, she and her ilk were the perfect alternative.


Not that pop-punk didn’t have its share of interchangeability, no sir.

They were angry and they wore terrible clothes terribly because they were real artists, not just models reciting generic love songs written by five people at studio headquarters.

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Her first big hit was probably Sk8tr Boi. It was about a preppy girl and a skater boy who are totally into each other.

He wanted her.
She’d never tell.
Secretly she wanted him as well.
And all of her friends stuck up their nose.
They had a problem with his baggy clothes.

He was a skater boy.
She said, “See ya later, boy.”
He wasn’t good enough for her.
She had a pretty face but her head was up in space.
She needed to come back down to earth.

So the preppy girl was a bad person for listening to her friends and being high-and mighty in her social status. That’s not how it works in the real world! Don’t we all relate to this feeling, being rejected by the popular people? Later in the song, Lavigne crows:

Sorry, girl, but you missed out.
Well, tough luck, that boy’s mine now.
We are more than just good friends.
This is how the story ends.

…I’m with the skater boy.
I said, “See ya later, boy.”
I’ll be backstage after the show.
I’ll be at the studio singing the song we wrote
About a girl you used to know.

She even brags, “Too bad that you couldn’t see/ See that man that boy could be/ There is more than meets the eye/ I see the soul that is inside.” Because, you see, this girl is so shallow! Not like Avril Lavigne! Are you shallow? Or are you like Avril Lavigne? “Does your pretty face see what he’s worth?” Avril Lavigne mocks.

One of the most-remembered parts of the song is probably the opening (He was a boy, she was a girl, can I make it any more obvious?) but I think that a key part to the subtext is in the next line:

He was a punk
She did ballet

Mrs. Pancakes is unknowable - Imgur
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She does ballet. The girl does ballet. Now, in elementary school, maybe being into ballet is rather girly — lots of girls do it, they dream of being pretty princess ballerinas in poofy pink tutus. But I had a friend in high school who did ballet, and let me tell you. It’s hard to balance school, friends, and ballet. You’re always tired. You’re not left with a whole lot of time. Certainly not enough to pursue a relationship outside of your immediate friends group. But Avril Lavigne only knows her boyfriend’s side of the story.

The other big single on that album, Complicated, did take a kinder view to finding relationships outside of your immediate social group. But that’s not saying much.

Somebody else ’round everyone else
You’re watching your back like you can’t relax
You’re tryin’ to be cool
You look like a fool to me

…I mean, relatively speaking. After all, Avril Lavigne is one of the guys. That’s her persona. Check out the music video for this.

avril lavigne complicated

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She is literally surrounded by her dudes at all time, equally active in aggressive, boy activities. She’s even specifically shown rejecting femininity by straight-up attacking it:

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Except that she’s not one of the boys. She’s singled out by her damned womanhood. They do things with her that they wouldn’t do to their fellow dudes. They put on a fashion show for her, trying on the outfits of different personas. When she teases them for it, they pick her up.

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Like, they literally pick her up, playfully, because she’s a woman and they’re guys and they’re bigger than her and so they can and so it’s funny. As someone who has been picked up for similar reasons, it is funny! It’s fun to be picked up by big strong dudes! But, you know, guys don’t lift up other guys just because they can. It’s far too physical and, specifically, flirty.

That’s the dream of being One of the Boys, but it’s also the tragedy.

In 2007, Avril Lavigne released a single called Girlfriend. Some people have called it the end of the “punk” part of her career, and that’s not without reason.

avril lavigne girlfriend 1

She lost the iconic tie, her shirt is white, she has on a miniskirt and fishnets instead of the bulky cargo pants that were inexplicably popular in the early 2000s. It’s more than just the fact that her outfit changed significantly five years, though. The content of her song has changed too.

The early 2000s white adolescence was marked by a culture war between “preps” and “punks”. I referenced this even in the beginning of this essay. When I said, “For those of us who rejected the mainstream, studio-generated, wholesome bubblegum pop”, what I meant was, “For those of us who were punks.” There was an alternative, geeks, and their neutrality eventually rose to supremacy above preps and punks. But for the first few years of the twenty-first century, everyone had to be either punk or a prep.

A large part of this culture was the assumption that preps were on top. It was assumed that they had money and popularity, that they wore the right clothes and listened to acceptable music and that adults would listen to them because of their perceived goodness. We all knew they were secretly terrible, cruel bullies to punks, lording over us with their ill-gotten power. So punks had to wear terrible clothing and listen to terrible music, because it was real and cool.

That paragon of great literature, My Immortal, has a great example:

A fucking prep called Britney from Griffindoor was standing next to us. She was wearing a pink mini and a Hilary Duff t-shirt so we put up our middle fingers at her.

Avril Lavigne’s One of the Boys persona fitted this attitude perfectly. But with Girlfriend, she flipped that on her head: the punk was outright stealing another girl’s boyfriend.

She’s like so, whatever
You could do so much better
I think we should get together now
(And that’s what everyone’s talkin’ about)

Over the course of the video, Avril:

Flirts with her boyfriend in front of her:

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Knocks her go-kart off the track:

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(I just want to point this out)

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Snatches her out of a photobooth so she can take pictures with the boy:

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Steals the giant churro just before they finished eating it (just before kissy times ensue):

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Whacks her in the head with a golf ball:

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She actually hits her hard enough in the head that she loses her balance, stumbles, and falls over. That’s a pretty mighty hit.

Then, in the resulting confusion, Avril finds the boyfriend and finally steals him.

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Upon finding them, the girlfriend charges them, but then trips and falls into a porta-potty, where she screams in impotency.

Avril’s antagonist is an interesting character. She’s also played by Avril Lavigne, and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen her play a not-Avril.

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In each skit, the first few seconds always shows Boyfriend and Girlfriend doing their dating thing. They actually seem to like each other. He’s always smiling at her. She can sucker him into doing what she wants. They go out and do all these cool things (go-karting, golfing, eating giant churros), and they do them just the two of them, so clearly they enjoy each other’s company. Visibly they’re a completely mis-match, because she’s wearing pink and plaid and he’s wearing black and white, but if they were wearing similar colors they would probably look fine together.


*coughs*

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It’s only when Avril Classic enters the picture that trouble enters paradise. Which means that the protagonist is the villain of the story. We can’t trust Avril Classic or Avril Lite’s interpretation of the story. So when the Boyfriend is shown smiling after Avril Classic steals the churro, kisses him, and runs, what does that mean? Is he just so easy-going that he’s just happy to be kissed? Or does he really, truly, want to date Avril Classic and not Girlfriend?

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I find Girlfriend’s outfit fascinating. It’s a pink cardigan over a pink polo shirt, with a knee-length plaid skirt, knee-high socks, and black flats. It’s hideous. It’s disgusting.

It’s also totally, completely, 100% in. Not the colors, oh no, not by any stretch of the imagination. No one would mix that bright pink with that dark plaid. And the skirt is formless. But the schoolgirl style is in: part geek chic, part layered, equal parts classy and casual, it was especially popular in the mid-2000s, when this video was made.

Preps wear pink. Preps wear schoolgirl outfits. Despite our rejection of those atrocious colors, Girlfriend is meant to be a stereotype of a prep, seen through a pop-punk so pop-punk that she’s forgotten how to behave in social situations. The protagonist (the villain) shows her making snotty faces in her introduction, but why should we trust her interpretation?

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I also find it really interesting that Avril is shown having female friends for the first time. In fact, in contrast to Complicated, Girlfriend features a lot of female faces. They also happily help Avril in her quest to torment Girlfriend.

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We see here again two Preps — note the schoolgirl/layered outfits, although less insanely colored this time. Avril and her friends intimidate them into the leaving the bathroom, breaking into their personal space and jumping at them until they leave. They don’t really do anything wrong, they’re just standing where Avril and her friends want to stand.

Pretty much the only male face that we see in this video is that of Boyfriend, who is more of an object than a character. He could very much be a Sexy Lamp Test fail. This video, unlike her earlier videos, takes place in Girl World. And it’s a nasty, vicious place, isn’t it? Boy World features inept mall cops and friends banding together to have a good time. Girl World has cat fights, personal vendettas, and concussions as conclusions to romantic drama. But it’s okay, because the punk beat the prep!

I spent my early teens in that mindset: punks vs. preps. When I see the writings of kids that age in these mid-2010s, I see the discussion focusing on gender and equality. Why should girl attack girl? Where is the boy’s consent in all this? The kids might not have the best vocabulary to think their arguments out entirely, but they can sense something wrong in this piece. Why should Avril get the boy just because they both wear black shirts?

That is why Avril’s last big hit was Girlfriend. The song was too far from the perspective that built her up. One of the Boys cannot live in Girl World.

Posted February 22, 2016 by agentksilver in writing

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Because hallucinations are ~hilarious~   Leave a comment

So Deb was out of the hospital, and now she’s back in the hospital. But today they decided that she was doing well enough that they could take her breathing tube out, if her family agreed. Deb is sick of having the tube out, so James agreed, provided that someone in the family was there. Since I got off work at noon, I volunteered to go to the hospital.

I showed up around 3:00, and they removed the tube at 3:10. It went swimmingly. At least I assume it went swimmingly. Once the respiratory specialists showed up to take the tube out, I was ushered out of the room. I chatted with a nurse about a new movie theater in town, but mostly I just stood in the lobby of the ICU, trying not to look casual. The room next to Deb’s has way comfier-looking chairs than the ones in Deb’s room. I plotted.

Anyway, the tube removal went swimmingly. I took out my book of word puzzles and a pencil and began working on a puzzle.

After a few minutes, Deb began murmuring. I went to her. Because of the damage from the breathing tube, her voice was really shallow and hushed; I could only pick out a few words. I finally managed to get “forgot the handle” out of her. It sounded medicalish, so I went and found a nurse.

“She’s saying something about a handle?”

The nurse went to investigate. She listened carefully, then finally:

“Ma’am, where do you think you are?”

Deb whispered an answer.

“Well you’re at the hospital. You’re in your hospital bed.” The nurse produced her staff badges as proof. Deb studied them, and reluctantly agreed that she was, indeed, in the hospital, and not at her friend’s house. The nurse smiled and said that James would arrive soon. The nurse told me that, as Deb was getting off of the sedatives, she was going to be a bit loopy. Whenever she got like this, we just had to explain nicely that she was in the hospital and that everything was okay.

So Deb coughed and moved her hands from her lap to her mouth, and I did word puzzles. I checked on her toes to make sure they were covered up (they were), and I brought her tissues and a washcloth when she asked. I also had to keep pulling the sleeves of her gown up, to keep her modesty.

I looked up from my word puzzles one time to see her gesturing at the remote on her lap. It was a TV remote, but it also had the giant red button asking for a nurse. It’s plugged into the room.

I struggled my aching body up and went to her.

“They can take the plate away now,” she said.

There was no plate. Deb hasn’t had solid food for days. Surely I had misheard. I leaned in closer and asked her to repeat what she had said.

“The waited can take the plate away, I’m done with it.”

“Uh, Deb,” I said, “You’re in the hospital. You don’t have a plate.”

Deb gestured at the remote and said, “I don’t care if it’s a paper plate. They need to take the plate away, I’m done with it.”

“That’s the remote.”

Deb stared at me.

“James will be here soon,” I said, as much to myself as to her.

I had difficulty looking at her for a while, I was so embarrassed over how I handled her hallucinations. When I looked up, she was carrying on a conversation with the wall. She didn’t seem to need anything, and indeed seemed quite happy, so I buckled down and focused on my work puzzle.

When I looked up again, Deb was staring at me. She was wide-eyed. She looked…concerned? Panicked?

I hopped up as quickly as my stupid body would let me, and hobbled over to her. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Who’s giving you a ride home?” Deb asked. “Are you riding home with me or James?”

I sucked in my breath. I was supposed to remind her that she was hallucinating, but I really couldn’t do it. “Don’t worry about it,” I said. “James and I came in separate cars. I drove myself here, so I’ll drive myself home. James isn’t even here, but he’ll be here soon. You just get some rest.”

Deb nodded and went back to coughing and dabbing at her mouth. She started drifting in and out of sleep.

I texted Lacey and asked if it was okay that I found Deb’s hallucinations funny. I wasn’t laughing, but I thought it was pretty funny anyway. But they shouldn’t be funny, right? She was hallucinating. Lacey replied that it was okay to use humor to deal with stress. Deb would probably find it funny, too, once she was all better.

Finally James did show up. He checked up on Deb, talked with the nurse, helped Deb get comfy, then helped me finish my word puzzle. We chatted about how she had been for the past few hours. I took off the ace bandage on my ankle, and we reapplied it while we explained to Deb that I had sprained it. And somehow I started talking about how my sisters are doing and how Katie and I are going to take our children to art museums.

Deb murmured something. James immediately went to check on her. He leaned in and listened.

“Who’s Kevin?” he asked.

“Kelsey’s wife,” said Deb.

“Uh,” said James.

Eventually Deb’s sister, Lynette, showed up, and James and I went to dinner. When we returned, I left, as I had been at the hospital for five hours, it was 8:00, and I had been up since 3:30AM.

I said goodbye to Deb.

“Don’t hurt yourself at work,” she said.

“No more wild parties,” I told her.

I stepped out of the room.

“So Deb says you’re three months pregnant,” said Lynette.

We laughed.

Posted February 21, 2016 by agentksilver in Personal

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Boy do I feel like an idiot   Leave a comment

When I came back from my honeymoon, everyone at Home Depot asked me, “So what part of your body is injured now?”

I’m getting a reputation for this, guys.

And it hurt, because I had to reply, “My tailbone. I broke it while skiing. So now I can’t sit down.”

They would laugh, so I would laugh, and then we would move on to other things.

So because of my tailbone, I’ve been sitting with my legs at weird angles, so as to not put pressure on my tailbone. It’s been hurting less and less, so now I can sit almost normally for short periods of time. One of the most comfortable ways for me to sit in a chair is sitting on one foot. This puts my bodyweight all on one buttcheek, away from my tailbone. It’s fine. I’ve done it a ton of times in the past few weeks.

So last night I had a normal dinner (chicken tenders and frozen veggies). I played SimCity and Plants vs. Zombies. Then I decided it was time to clean up, so I stood up, not realizing how completely dead my left foot was from sitting on it for a while. My leg completely folded under me, and down I went.

I screamed in pain for a minute or so. I inspected my foot and saw how swollen it was. I tried to rotate my ankle, but it didn’t move very far. I had definitely heard a noise from my ankle as I went down — was it a crack? A snap?

I called 911. I felt like an idiot for doing so, since I wasn’t, like, dying, or anything. But I couldn’t stand. I had heard a sound. I actually had to crawl up the stairs to the bedroom to get to my phone. I had never called 911, but I told myself that I wasn’t a prank caller, at the very least.

I had thought I would start by stating my emergency, but actually the first question out of the dispatcher was “what is your location?” I gave her my address. Then my phone number. Then my name (do I say Hancher or Meyers? I went with Hancher) Then I explained that I had fallen and hurt my ankle.

“An ambulance is on its way,” she assured me a moment later, after a few more questions about how I had injured myself.

An ambulance? Surely that was overkill? But I had called 911. Ambulances were part of the equation.

“How old are you?” the dispatcher asked.

I considered saying 29, since I’m a week away from my birthday, but I said 28.

She asked if I had any free-roaming pets (yes, so get them locked away). Did I feel safe hanging up? Yeah, like, it’s just my ankle (it’s not like I was getting murdered). Okay, make sure to pack up any medications in case they have to take you to the hospital. Feel free to call back if I needed further assistance.

And that was that. That was my first 911 call.*

Fortunately Cornelius had been following me around, so it was easy to just take my phone and crawl out of the bedroom, then shut the door behind me. I sat on the stairs and hopped down, then grabbed my medication and my crossword puzzle book and put them both in my purse. Then I crawled over to the recliner and grabbed my Hamilton biography and then crawled over and set that next to my purse. I decided I didn’t want to be seen in my pajamas by the ambulance people (you know, just so I didn’t look so much like a screw-up), so I crawled back upstairs and exchanged my pajama pants for jeans. Then I slid back downstairs, unlocked the front door, turned on the front light, and then sat on the stairs and waited.

Well, I called James and told him not to panic if he came home and there was an ambulance. It was my ankle, not anything serious. He sounded tense. Well, of course he was tense. His mother is in the hospital and his wife called an ambulance.

After a few minutes I noticed that my ankle didn’t hurt nearly as bad. It was still really, really swollen, but it didn’t hurt. So I stood on it. I could stand on it, but I couldn’t really walk. It could share my weight, but it couldn’t hold all my weight. What was that weird noise from when I fell down? Maybe it was just the same sound that comes from when you crack your knuckles.

So when the ambulance arrived, I said, “Guys, I have to be honest, I think I called you in the initial panic. I think it’s just a sprain.”

They checked me out anyway. They agreed that I had really, really bad swelling. They had me rotate my ankle (I was able to move it way farther than a few minutes prior, which I pointed out). They had me stand on both feet. The fact that I could do just that was a really good sign that it wasn’t broken.

They had me sit on the recliner. The woman asked me questions while the man took my vitals from a weird boombox-looking machine. I could remember the name of my doctor but not her practice (but I assured that I couldn’t remember that in the best of times, I always have to look it up). I told her my birthday and reiterated my phone number. I had to tell them that I took Sertraline for depression. I told them that I had recently sprained my toe, and broken my tailbone and my ring finger.

“Do you want us to take you to the hospital for an X-ray?” they asked.

Here’s the part I regret: I said no. I genuinely thought it was just a bad sprain and that an X-ray wasn’t necessary. So they wrapped up my ankle in an Ace bandage and gave me an ice pack and left.

But today I want an X-ray. I want to know if it’s broken or just sprained. I want crutches in any case, because I can’t walk around a whole lot and that’s getting really old really fast. I have work at 5:00 and I want to be able to tell my managers what it definitely is when I call them. I think I could drive, but I don’t know how to get to my car, or if I should call 911 and say “hey, can you drive me to the hospital?” or if I should call a taxi. I don’t think I need an ER, but I should visit Urgent Care.

So now I’m just sitting on the couch, trying to figure out my next move.

James is being great. He fed the cat and put my phone on the charger and offered to make breakfast for me, until I said that that would involve making coffee. He helped me get settled on the couch last night with my computer and painkillers and water and a heating pad. He clipped Cornelius’ toenails when I complained that his back paws were hurting me (at one point he did the head bump thing with Cornelius and it was so cute). But James had to go to work.

Maybe I’ll call my mother.

*Once, I called a non-emergency number, because I got cat medication in my eye back when I first got Marty McFly. But that was a non-emergency number and the answer was “does it hurt? No? Okay well flush your eyes out and call us back in a week to let us know how it goes.”

Posted February 5, 2016 by agentksilver in Personal

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And now for something completely personal   Leave a comment

My grandmother died in August 2009. She had been very sick for a long time, and when it came time, her insides were eating her, slowly shutting down one by one. It was time. I remember how swollen she was; she had always been a slender woman, and in her later years her skin had become delicate and paper-like. The woman on the bed before me didn’t seem like my grandmother at all, a red, swollen, Gramma-shaped creature.


This is her in December 1987. I am the baby on the left, saluting.

We all arrived at the hospital to say goodbye, and to watch her die. My grandfather told us that someone had to hold her hand at all times, so that she wouldn’t feel alone. I replied that hearing is actually the last sense to go, and so talking to her would be better. Grampa snapped at me for being so cold. I felt stung and walked away sulking, but I know now why he snapped at me.

She died surrounded by her family; her husband, her two children, their spouses, several of her grandchildren. Unable to come up with words, we took turns reading the Bible aloud. When all of our voices gave out, we sat in silence, watching her chest rise and fall, less and less and less.

Two hours had passed.

Gramma’s chest rose.

Gramma’s chest fell.

Mom stood up.

Gramma’s chest didn’t rise.

“Sit down,” Katie hissed.

Mom sat down, but Gramma’s chest didn’t rise again. Gramma was gone.

*********************

Most of James’ family did not attend our wedding. They live several hours away and have small children, so it made sense. We invited them, but didn’t expect them to attend. But at the last minute, several of the Yesses on his side of the family dropped out. Even one of his groomsmen cancelled. James’ grandfather was dying, and most of them felt it was more important to say goodbye to him than to see James married. Which made sense. If we weren’t getting married that weekend, James probably would have gone to see his grandfather as well.


This is one of the few members of his paternal side that was able to attend. Almost everyone else from James’ side that attended was from his maternal side.

My grandfather’s girlfriend also wasn’t able to attend. She was still recovering from surgery. In fact, she’s still in recovery. We were able to see her the next day after the wedding though, which was wonderful, because she’s a lovely human being.

James’ grandfather died while we were on our honeymoon.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this in a public setting ever, but James’ mother has been in and out of the hospital for the past four years. It was a trial for her to be able to attend our wedding. But James is her only son, goshdarnit, and Deb was bound and determined to attend.

Deb was admitted to the hospital while we were on our honeymoon.

She ordered everyone not to tell us because she didn’t want to disrupt our honeymoon. We found out as soon as we came back.

Today, her spasms returned with a vengeance. We spent five hours in the hospital with her today, doing what we could to ease her pain. She took a strong painkiller, but she was too tense to have it actually work. She panted and squirmed and shook on the bed. We helped her with her bedpan. I waved a magazine, hoping to cool her down. We helped her drink water through a straw. James helped bend her legs at the knee, hoping to ease the tension. It didn’t. Nothing helped. For five or more hours, Deb could do nothing but sweat and writhe in pain on the hospital bed.

I took a break and got some coffee from the Starbucks downstairs. I did a crossword puzzle. I watched Deb gasp into the phone that she wanted a strawberry milkshake for dinner. The nurses arrived to try to get a liquid painkiller in her, so we left and sat outside the room. We listened as the nurses struggled to get an IV in her, but she couldn’t stop shaking. I worked some more on the crossword puzzle, sipping the coffee and trying to think of something, anything.

James drank some water. The nurses were gone. I didn’t want her to be left alone, so I came back into the room.

I looked down at Deb. She gasped and shook with pain. The spasms were much less violent, but they were still there, and they were still painful.

“They should put you on some knockout gas,” I said.

Deb chuckled. “They should,” she said.

Then a strange look crossed her face.

“It’s gone,” she whispered.

Then she closed her eyes and went still.

I thought, Oh my god she’s dead. Oh my god I killed her.

But a quick look showed that her chest was rising and falling. She was fine. She was just asleep.

Posted February 4, 2016 by agentksilver in Personal

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