Gun Play


Yesterday I witnessed several murders. People died by gunshots, swords, and foam pool noodles. That last method took a while and left pieces of aquatic pasta all over my floor. I know this for a fact because I observed these gristly deeds as I do every year. The location for this massacre was the front of my classroom, and the people who died were Montagues and Capulets. I could have helped them, I suppose, but why interfere with fate?

Death by pool noodle - not as painless as one might imagine

Death by pool noodle – not as painless as one might imagine

The assignment requires students to write a modern day version of the bard’s classic that retains the original meaning. While last year’s group took the cake with props and preparation, this group held their own with creativity. I watched Romeo and Juliet join the Kardashian clan, and I must say that the drama performed in front of my marker tray was some of the best stuff that family has produced to date. At least it looked real. Then I saw the two warring factions square off as social media competitors, and all conflict had to be interpreted through hashtags and Facebook status lines. But the most gripping moment came when Lord Capulet took Juliet’s cell phone as punishment. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as members of the audience reached down to possessively pat their own device as they tried to envision such a horrible fate.

The words "cell phone restriction" and "fate worse than death" are interchangeable to students.

The words “cell phone restriction” and “fate worse than death” are interchangeable to students.

Aside from the themes, students put their all into acting, as they delivered lines and waved Nerf guns in the air. They were allowed to carry their scripts, but even then over eagerness sometimes got the better of them as they missed cues or skipped ahead. Of course, you had to know the play like a Thespian to catch such subtle nuances, but it wasn’t hard for an old pro like myself.

“Halt, I say, Tybalt, or – What are you doing, man? You’re supposed to be over there – or I’ll be forced to draw my – Why did you hit me in the arm? We don’t fight for two more lines- sword and take you out!”

But I think my favorite moment came with the group that used a gun app on their phones. These phones had a picture of a gun on their screens that would cock and shoot with authentic sound effects. Of course, during the double suicide scene between the two star-crossed lovers, Juliet had trouble getting the gun to fire, so Romeo resurrected himself, punched a couple of buttons, then lovingly fired a bullet into the temple of his young bride before resuming his pose of eternal rest. Now that’s true love.

And I’m pretty sure that if Shakespeare could see all the flavors added to his 500 year old classic, he’d be in search of his own happy dagger.

© 2014 – Traci Carver

There’s Peanuts and Then There’s Just Nuts …


We’ve always been the type of family to own pets. Never too many at one time, you understand, but we always had one good yard dog and a friendly house cat, maybe two. But in recent years, the felines that have come to live with my mom have been a tad on the strange side. Let’s take Mr. Billy, as an example.

Mr. Billy was a gift from my brother, who had the very best of intentions. He was a Ragdoll breed and was probably the prettiest cat I’ve ever seen with his seal point markings and bright, blue eyes. His breed was known to be lap cats, and for this reason alone, my brother just knew that my mom was going to love him. He even came with papers, which was a real change from the kittens we normally picked up at the dump. But there was a problem with Mr. Billy. His high breeding and sophisticated bloodlines had left him nervous about life in general, and he had a terrible compulsive disorder that manifested anytime Mom tried to change the furniture in the living room. The day she rearranged the recliners, he strolled in from a nap, saw the chaos, and began howling in earnest. The very idea that people should watch television facing due west was more than his tender nerves could bear, and subsequently, became more than any of our nerves could bear, either. Restructuring applied to people as well as to sofas, and if Mom and Dad tried to switch places from their assigned seats, Mr. Billy would dart back and forth between the two, screaming about a world gone mad until my parents relented and put the universe back in its proper place. He was a fragile soul that never would sit in laps, but he looked lovely curled up on an ivory afghan.

Years after the departure of Mr. Billy, mom found herself the benefactor of feline charity in the form of two kittens she dubbed Linus and Lucy. While not from an aristocratic family tree, they still came with eccentricities that we link back to the unconventional manner of their birth: they were found in an empty cement mixer in July. So while it’s difficult to ascertain if soaring Florida temperatures did anything to upset the delicate balance of their psyche, we knew from the beginning that mom had a couple of atypical felines on her hands. They gnawed wallpaper from the sheet rock like a couple of termites with an appetite for interior design, and to this day they have a difficult time with sudden movements that they deem sinister in nature. Like opening the refrigerator. One crack of that door and Lucy will all but rupture a disk hightailing it around the hall corner, claws clicking along the wood floors, to disappear under the bed where she will remain for a modest 6 hours or until I go home. Anytime Mom and I observe one of their psychotic episodes, we simply wag our heads and say, “A little too long in the cement mixer.”

Linus is thinking, "Little does she know, I just unraveled great-grandmother's pink doily."

Linus is thinking, “Little does she know, I just unraveled great-grandmother’s pink doily.”


Mom sometimes mentions that she wouldn’t mind having a little dog in the house, but I always ask her, “What if you get one like Linus and Lucy?” And that sobering thought is enough to stave off any adorable canines for the immediate future.

© 2014 – Traci Carver

Cupcake Confessions

I'm pretty sure I shouldn't mix brands, but I was like a severely depressed person getting dressed - who cares if your shirt and pants match?

I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t mix brands, but I was like a severely depressed person getting dressed – who cares if your shirt and pants match?

“So Savannah was wondering if you’d be willing to make cupcakes for her birthday party.”

The request wasn’t surprising since I’d helped out with this very endeavor a couple of times before, but I needed to clarify something before I could commit. “Wait a minute, does she mean those horrible box cupcakes that I made the first year, or can I whip up something from scratch? I could even do a lovely Coca-Cola cake that the kids would love. It’s so moist.”

“Well . . .” Shannon replied.

“At least ask her, ok? If she really wants the kind you dump out of cardboard, I’ll do those.” And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what you call a grand concession. It’s not that I have anything against working moms who need to cut a few corners to save time or even those parents who simply don’t want to spend even five more minutes than they have to in the kitchen. But I love to bake. And I’m a darn fine baker. I may not be able to decorate a five-tiered wedding cake or sculpt the Golden Gate Bridge out of fondant, but I can make some mean brownies and my cream cheese pound cake always draws a compliment. So when the response came back that Savannah wanted the cupcakes that I had made in the past, I sighed and wrote “cake mix” on my shopping list in deepest black.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Why not just make cupcakes from scratch and never tell? What are the chances a child would notice?” Well, if they’re anything like my teenagers, they can spot the difference between homemade and store bought the way my friend’s Doberman knows that there’s a pill hidden in a pinch of bread. And here’s the part that should peel the enamel right off your teeth: they prefer store bought until you train them. I’ll never forget the day a group of my kids turned their noses up at my peach cobbler and then cheered when a classmate brought in a plastic tray of Walmart cookies, complete with radioactive green icing. It took me a week to recover from the trauma.

So I swallowed my pride and stood in front of the Duncan Hines section of the baking aisle, throwing furtive glances over my shoulder like a shoplifter with a Rolex down her blouse. I bought something with confetti in it and tossed a can of chocolate icing into my cart that probably has a shelf life that will postdate the next nuclear detonation. At least the roaches will have something to eat.

I baked and delivered my wares and received a report a couple of days afterwards that the party was a roaring success. At least I was in St. Augustine at the time, so I had a perfectly solid alibi against baking crimes committed that day.

© 2014 – Traci Carver