New short story!

Because I prefer tinkling with my blog than grading my pile of papers.

Another short short story (actually kind of a snapshot) from last year at some point: Fighting the antvasion!

Some of you will probably relate, others might just laugh or shudder. Keep those fingers crossed so it won’t happen to you!

Enjoy and do share if you’ve had similar battles.

Blog on,
Ali J.


Holiday Travels

From the moment the elderly couple latched onto me at the train station, I knew this trip would be good.

The night stretched deep into the winter morning and I had to keep moving to avoid frozen toes. The elderly couple was talking to someone, who turned around and asked me if this was the right train then bid them goodbye and left. Right after, the couple inched to the side and stayed quite close, asking me a few questions because “we’re not used to taking the train.” Usually, I might’ve become irritated and wished they’d leave me alone, but I felt quite compelled for company and welcomed their ‘intrusion.’ We chit chatted about the cold, the train and our respective vacations. I don’t think they understood I was changing continents, and I didn’t press the matter – I didn’t want to shock them too much.

The train finally arrived, late, and I found my seat, although it was occupied by a sleeping student-aged woman. Already mentally complaining, I had to stop myself and realize this was probably better because I was getting off at the next stop and it’d be really cumbersome to sit by the window while managing my three bags.

Once at the airport, I stood in what I thought was a long line, humoring the employee asking if I packed any dangerous items. “Well, unless you count chocolate… no.” Her face showed no amusement and she proceeded to interrogate the person behind me. After finally getting to the counter, I found myself harping on the French slowness of things. Stop chatting with your colleague and speed it up, can’t you see the line? The fact that she spoke English to me as soon as she spotted my American passport and didn’t acknowledge my French question did nothing to help either. Until she handed me a ‘Fast Track’ pass to skip the longer lines. Score! I turned around and noticed how long the current line was. Hah! I take it back, my line was short.

At last, I made it by the gate, and nibbled on some snack in lieu of breakfast. Might as well start grading those papers. I’m pretty sure I get some weird looks from people not understanding why I’m stifling laughter when students misspell “autopilot” as “autopalate.”

The flight itself was fine. My neighbor had to ask me for help a couple of times to figure out how to turn the light on/off or where to plug in his headphones. I gotta say, the touch screen was really nice, except when it came to playing games on it – my arm would get quite sore. Although I didn’t play all that much, and tried very hard to finish my grading but could only manage my 3rd year papers (and yes, I did watch two movies). I might’ve napped for an hour. And I definitely scarfed down the lunch they served, my only proper meal the entire day.

Once in Washington D.C, I had to wait for my luggage only to recheck it, go through customs then security again. I managed to find the right currency and got myself a smoothie before going to my gate 5 mn before the boarding time. Except, there was still no aircraft. Sick of sitting after about 10 hours, I stood in line, because I could. It didn’t take long before the announcements had the passengers groaning, and the people around me were surprisingly chatty.

The lady behind me commented on the delayed flight. “As long as we have a plane.” Chitchat was abundant until the plane arrived at last and the passengers unloaded. Never had we seen a plane unload so quickly. Despite the employees’ attempt to clear the lanes to facilitate the unloading, people aimed for the shorter route: cut directly behind the employees’ counter. “We have your back, literally.” My neighbors laughed.

I kept the jokes coming until we could finally board the plane – only an hour late. But contrary to our expectations, the plane stayed on the tarmac for another 30 minutes, and when we finally kicked away from the gate I got to talking to my neighbor. Turns out, he spent 3 years in Japan! Talk about a common interest. We had a nice conversation for the next two hours.

“How’s your Japanese?”
“Not as good as yours.”
“How do you know!?”
He just laughed. (But seriously, how did he know!?)

He gave me his number in case I wanted to go down to Torrance for “the best” Japanese food and entertainment (his words). We chatted some more until I gave in to my exhaustion and managed another nap. When we finally got to LAX, we taxied for some time while the flight attendants kept asking the passengers without a connecting flight to stay seated until those whose connections were waiting could get up and leave. By that point, I didn’t care, as long as I got my bag, found my dad and got to the car. Figures, the flight attendant’s “we’ll leave in just a few minutes” wasn’t the only lie they told us. “Your luggage will be at carousel 3.” Nope, it sure wasn’t!

But that’s alright. I was, after all, home in one piece and with my luggage. The positive outlook all those hours ago certainly made this trip positive despite all the opportunities to get mad or annoyed. And after some real food (my second real meal for the day) I went to bed at 10a.m., my Saturday.

Happy Holidays! Spread the cheer around. ~(^o^)~
Ali J.

New category: Sudden Snapshot!

While eluding sleep, it occurred to me I should just make a new category to group the random tidbits from daily life I might happen to write about.

The previous post fits perfectly, and another came to mind, so when I’m no longer drowning under papers, grading and packing pressure, I’ll be sure to update. Who knows, things happen during long trips, and inspiration comes from all places because “reality surpasses fiction!”

On that note, (holiday) cheer on!
Ali J.

Teaching life vs writing life

I just scared myself by looking for my writing notebook in my drawer. It wasn’t there.

I looked for it under a pile of papers (debate groups, collected assignments, written self introductions) but alas!

Uh oh… This can’t be happening. I’m pretty sure I had brought it back from my trip a month and a half ago. It couldn’t be lost!

Momentarily defeated, I sat back in my chair, doom and gloom in my heart.

That’s when I noticed the white spirals under school calendars and half graded translation papers. Miracle!

It was just there, on my desk. Phew! Disaster avoided. (Until I look at those papers again.)

A glimpse into the (messy) teaching life overtaking my (hidden) writing life.

Ali J.

I’ve got a problem…

Maybe you can help me?

NaNoWriMo helped me get a lot closer to finishing my first draft, and it was great – in a weird, awfully stressful way. But then life (more work than life actually) took over and I was busy making and planning tests and I dropped off the writing rails again.

It’s not that I don’t think about the story, rather, I think about the book as a whole, already complete, and what I can do to publish it and how to advertise it. You don’t have to tell me, I know it’s all backwards. But these ideas (and what great ideas they are!) are almost dominating my mind more than the story line!

So I was thinking… maybe I need to set a deadline to finish my first draft. I saw a widget or something on here that works as a countdown. Maybe if I NaNo-dictate myself, the pressure will come back and my fingers will fly off the keyboard again?

If I could, I would print everything out and take it on the plane with me next week – but I feel terrible ‘wasting’ paper! Unfortunately, I’ll probably be too busy grading tests…

On that note, I’m off to visit dreamland. Who knows, « la nuit porte conseil »* and maybe I’ll wake up with the perfect idea to fill in that hole in my draft! Or whatever my wise counsel, oh supreme subconscious, will answer any question I pose.

Dream on,
Ali. J

* An expression usually translated as “sleep on it” when unable to make decisions.

Monthly Blurb #3

A much overdue Blurb! To be fair, I did attempt NaNo, and work got a little crazy – although the craziness has, frankly, only started and I can’t tell you how much dread grading hundreds of tests fills me with!

Anyway, I will attempt to update more regularly, but here is December’s Blurb to fill this holiday season with some giddiness.

You may feel free to share, reblog, or comment, but please do not steal my words or take credit for them. Thank you. © Alison Juste

Prompt: The beginning of an epistolary romance. Min. 500 words.

She’d only needed one night to be interested in that dark curly hair outsider. They not only resembled each other, but they had similar tastes, as evidenced by his astounded face at one of her songs in karaoke. But the best part was of course leaving the potluck party after dessert with her friend only to see him following and basically inviting himself over. But her friend was a great wing-woman and a gracious host. The walk home in the frigid night amid the narrow walls of icy snow and treacherous sidewalks only fed the tension, what with a reason to be closer to hear each other speak and avoid falling every other step.

If the night had been young at the end of the party, it was about to get younger as time went on. The host friend performed a Chinese tea ceremony – which apparently made us “tea-drunk,” cue giggles – and provided excellent discussion topics. Time ticked on yet they didn’t tire like their host, with their faces first reddened by the cold wind and now warmed by the kotatsu, continuously working those cheek muscles through infinite genuine and teasing smiles.

The host had since changed into pajamas and was dozing off, unable to keep watching Matt Damon’s amazing kick-ass scene in a Swiss U.S. Embassy. The curly haired guy, stranger to the movie, was half watching but still distracted enough to engage in conversation every few minutes. He kept glancing at his phone and left it on the table, so she took a chance.

Swift like a cat, she grabbed it when he wasn’t looking and began to type messages rather than speaking them – perhaps a gesture to prevent their voices from waking up their mutual friend, yet the movie got no quieter. And so the exchange continued uninterrupted, until his phone nearly ran out of batteries and needed charging, then it began again.

“Aren’t you sleepy?” Between giggles, she kept yawning, and she could see him look sleepier and sleepier still but he insisted he was fine. Then suddenly, the first film ended. The host woke up, amazed and bemused at their refusal to sleep, asking if they planned on doing an all-nighter. They both denied the accusations, yet the guy shared a truth.

“No, no I have work at 10.”

Both friend and host gasped and fussed, insisting he get some sleep or go home before heading to work. Unable to grasp social cues, he stayed, his eyes getting redder still. Hours ticked by and the conversations via phone shot in all directions, including whether he should make food for her poor grumbling stomach. Soon, the second movie ended but the host didn’t stir.

By the time he deemed it ‘late’ enough to excuse himself, it was only about 8:30a.m. Seeing a slight opening, she dived in, boldly handing him her phone to add his contact info. She then sent him her information via text, waved him out the door and locked behind him. The host stirred, complaining about not anticipating an all-nighter but dropping huge hints that he’d only stayed so long to spend as much time with her as possible.

Just before she lied down for a much needed nap, she received a text.

“Thanks! I got home ok. Off to work now.”

Word count: 555

As always, any comments, constructive  criticism or reactions much appreciated! Happy Holidays 🙂

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