Draco’s Perspective

Today’s prompt, and many more, can be found here. Rewrite a book scene from a different character’s perspective.

I chose to rewrite the scene in the first Harry Potter book (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) when Harry and Draco first met in Madam Malkin’s shop in Diagon Alley before they started at Hogwarts.  I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Draco as although he is definitely a little shit, the book puts him in a horrible light all the time.  The original scene is below:

One wild cart ride later they stood blinking in the sunlight outside Gringotts. Harry didn’t know where to run first now that he had a bag full of money. He didn’t have to know how many Galleons there were to a pound to know that he was holding more money than he’d had in his whole life — more money than even Dudley had ever had.
“Might as well get yer uniform,” said Hagrid, nodding toward Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions. “Listen, Harry, would yeh mind if I slipped off fer a pick-me-up in the Leaky Cauldron? I hate them Gringotts carts.” He did still look a bit sick, so Harry entered Madam Malkin’s shop alone, feeling nervous.
Madam Malkin was a squat, smiling witch dressed all in mauve.
“Hogwarts, dear?” she said, when Harry started to speak. “Got the lot here — another young man being fitted up just now, in fact.”
In the back of the shop, a boy with a pale, pointed face was standing on a footstool while a second witch pinned up his long black robes. Madam Malkin stood Harry on a stool next to him, slipped a long robe over his head, and began to pin it to the right length.
“Hello,” said the boy, “Hogwarts, too?”
“Yes,” said Harry.
“My father’s next door buying my books and mother’s up the street looking at wands,” said the boy. He had a bored, drawling voice. “Then I’m going to drag them off to look at racing brooms. I don’t see why first years can’t have their own. I think I’ll bully father into getting me one and I’ll smuggle it in somehow.”
Harry was strongly reminded of Dudley.
“Have you got your own broom?” the boy went on.
“No,” said Harry.
“Play Quidditch at all?”
“No,” Harry said again, wondering what on earth Quidditch could be.
“I do — Father says it’s a crime if I’m not picked to play for my House, and I must say, I agree. Know what House you’ll be in yet?”
“No,” said Harry, feeling more stupid by the minute.
“Well, no one really knows until they get there, do they, but I know I’ll be in Slytherin, all our family have been — imagine being in Hufflepuff, I think I’d leave, wouldn’t you?”
“Mmm,” said Harry, wishing he could say something a bit more interesting.
“I say, look at that man!” said the boy suddenly, nodding toward the front window. Hagrid was standing there, grinning at Harry and pointing at two large ice creams to show he couldn’t come in.
“That’s Hagrid,” said Harry, pleased to know something the boy didn’t. “He works at Hogwarts.”
“Oh,” said the boy, “I’ve heard of him. He’s a sort of servant, isn’t he?”
“He’s the gamekeeper,” said Harry. He was liking the boy less and less every second.
“Yes, exactly. I heard he’s a sort of savage — lives in a hut on the school grounds and every now and then he gets drunk, tries to do magic, and ends up setting fire to his bed.”
“I think he’s brilliant,” said Harry coldly.
“Do you?” said the boy, with a slight sneer. “Why is he with you? Where are your parents?”
“They’re dead,” said Harry shortly. He didn’t feel much like going into the matter with this boy.
“Oh, sorry,” said the other, not sounding sorry at all. “But they were our kind, weren’t they?”
“They were a witch and wizard, if that’s what you mean.”
“I really don’t think they should let the other sort in, do you? They’re just not the same, they’ve never been brought up to know our ways. Some of them have never even heard of Hogwarts until they get the letter, imagine. I think they should keep it in the old wizarding families. What’s your surname, anyway?”
But before Harry could answer, Madam Malkin said, “That’s you done, my dear,” and Harry, not sorry for an excuse to stop talking to the boy, hopped down from the footstool.
“Well, I’ll see you at Hogwarts, I suppose,” said the drawling boy.

[Excerpt From: J. K. Rowling. “Harry Potter 1 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” iBooks.]

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This is my version, from Draco’s view:

Draco was standing awkwardly on a small stool, a witch fussing over his measurements and getting him to try on different robes.  He’d been there a long time; he knew the witch was nervous after the talk his father had given her earlier.  It had been out of earshot, but the boy knew exactly what had been said.  “Make sure these robes fit perfectly or else,” was basically how it would have gone.  His father was very passionate about the image he and his family displayed; it went hand-in-hand with being one of the most well-known wizarding families in the country.
Draco shifted his weight from foot to foot, getting increasingly impatient.  Madam Malkin was walking around the shop, fixing up displays, occasionally saying offhanded things to the witch next to him like “remind me to order in more Hufflepuff patches” and “don’t forget to allow room for growth when you measure!”.  She seemed to be doing it out of habit and with no real conviction behind it.  It sounded like she was just trying to fill in the silence.
Suddenly, the front door opened and a boy around Draco’s age entered.  He was pale and skinny, with cheap glasses perched on his nose.  He looked nervous.  Madam Malkin looked relieved for the distraction and hurried towards him, smiling from ear to ear.
“Hogwarts, dear?” she said, when the boy opened his mouth to speak. “Got the lot here — another young man being fitted up just now, in fact.”
The boy looked around, his eyes landing on Draco.  Madam Malkin lead him to the stool to his right.  When he didn’t stand up on it, she gestured for him to do so.  He looked around nervously, then did as he was asked.  Before he had a chance to say anything, she pulled a robe over his head and grabbed her measuring tape, which began floating around him in the same way a tape was doing to Draco.
“Hello,” Draco started, glad for a way to break the monotony, “Hogwarts, too?”
“Yes,” said the boy.
“My father’s next door buying my books and mother’s up the street looking at wands,” Draco explained. “Then I’m going to drag them off to look at racing brooms. I don’t see why first years can’t have their own. I think I’ll bully father into getting me one and I’ll smuggle it in somehow.”
He was waiting to see the boy’s reaction, to gauge whether he recognised the trademark Malfoy blonde hair.  Everyone seemed to know him if they were pureblood.  It had always been that way.  The boy was too nervous to give anything away, much to Draco’s annoyance. “Have you got your own broom?” he asked.
“No,” said the boy, once again not giving anything away.
“Play Quidditch at all?”
“No,” the boy said.  Draco thought he saw a flicker of confusion across his face, but maybe it was still just nerves.  Surely anyone headed to Hogwarts would know about Quiddich.
“I do — Father says it’s a crime if I’m not picked to play for my House, and I must say, I agree. Know what House you’ll be in yet?”
“No.”
Draco was growing very tired of the boy, and began to assume he was one of those filthy mudbloods who got sent a letter out of nowhere.  How else could the boy’s nerves and confusion be explained?  Despite this, Draco kept talking, knowing the boy was his only source of entertainment until this was over.  “Well, no one really knows until they get there, do they, but I know I’ll be in Slytherin, all our family have been — imagine being in Hufflepuff, I think I’d leave, wouldn’t you?”
“Mmm,” the boy murmured in agreement.
Suddenly, something caught Draco’s eye from the shop window.  He whirled around.  A giant black mass was blocking out almost all the natural light.  It took his eyes a few moments to realize the mass was actually a huge, heavy-set man in an even bigger cloak.  He was holding two ice cream cones, though they looked tiny in his colossal grasp.  “I say, look at that man!” The man began waving at the boy and pointing to the treats.
“That’s Hagrid.  He works at Hogwarts.”
“Oh,” said Draco, surprised the boy knew of anything magic at all.  “I’ve heard of him. He’s a sort of servant, isn’t he?”
“He’s the gamekeeper,” the boy frowned at Draco.
“Yes, exactly. I heard he’s a sort of savage — lives in a hut on the school grounds and every now and then he gets drunk, tries to do magic, and ends up setting fire to his bed.”
“I think he’s brilliant,” the boy’s face darkened.
“Do you?” Draco sneered.  Who was this kid?  Why did he think a servant who lived in a hut is brilliant?  He’d never heard anyone describe Hagrid as that, or anything nice at all really. “Why is he with you? Where are your parents?”
“They’re dead,” the boy muttered, trying to turn away but finding it difficult with the oversized robe over his shoulders.
“Oh, sorry,” Draco said flatly, deciding it was time to ask the question that had been dancing on his lips the whole time; the only really important question his family had to anyone they met. “But they were our kind, weren’t they?”
“They were a witch and wizard, if that’s what you mean.”
Draco was surprised, but relieved.  His father wouldn’t take it well if he’d found out he’d been talking to a mudblood.  He still didn’t really like the boy, but he felt a lot more comfortable with him now.  “I really don’t think they should let the other sort in, do you? They’re just not the same, they’ve never been brought up to know our ways. Some of them have never even heard of Hogwarts until they get the letter, imagine.  I think they should keep it in the old wizarding families.”  Draco stopped.  As the boy was moving, he thought he saw something on his forehead.  But no, surely it couldn’t be.  “What’s your surname, anyway?”
“That’s you done, my dear,” Madam Malkin interrupted, and helped the boy off the stool.  Before Draco could ask anything else, the boy hurried out of the store, leaving with Hagrid.  He went to ask Madam Malkin who the boy was, but didn’t get the chance as his father glided back into the shop, his long, flowing hair following behind.  As his father began berating the witch for taking so long, the thoughts of the strange boy faded from Draco’s mind.

Let me know what you think 🙂

-JD

Excruciatingly Embarrassing

My most embarrassing moment was a few months after I turned 18, halfway through my last year of school.  I did a lot of dumb things back then – as we all did.  One of the more stupid things I decided to do was try to take units 3 & 4 in Music, after only starting to learn guitar a couple of years before and not being very good…mostly because I hated practicing.  I didn’t take any music units at school prior to deciding to do it in my final year (well, not since the mandatory lessons back in Year 8, which was a long time before).  I’d been taking guitar lessons for a couple of years, and that had given me an unhealthy confidence that I could take on the challenge.  The music teachers didn’t think it was a good idea either, warning me it’d be very difficult, but like the naive teenager I was, I did it anyway.  How hard could it be, right?

It it hard.
Really, really hard.

First off, because I’d been taught guitar in tabs, not sheet music.  Music class was all about sheet music and the theory behind it.  Add to that, musical theory and maths go hand in hand, and I’ve always been terrible at maths, to the point I wasn’t even doing it in my final year.  Still, I scraped through class by class, barely passing but not failing either.

Now, you’d think this would force me to take things more seriously and focus on it more.  You’d think I’d get my gameface on and try.  After all, I’d been the one to defy what the teachers had told me to do it anyway.  Instead, I didn’t take it seriously at all.  I guess in my defence, I’d already done two final-year classes the year before, so I knew if I really bombed in Music, then I had those results to fall back on (at the time, only the top five results counted towards your overall mark so the worst two classes for me would drop off and not count).  Also, about halfway through my final year I was accepted into film school, which in turn led me to be even more relaxed about school and my final marks.

Anyway, aside from theory, there were also practical exams for music.  Like I said, I’d only been playing guitar for a couple of years and I wasn’t great.  I wasn’t awful either, but I certainly wasn’t anywhere near the standard I should have been to be taking the class (I know that now!).  As part of the lead up to our exams, the teacher decided it’d be good practice to have a performance night in the school hall, where parents and friends could come and watch how everyone was going.

Again, you’d think that’d make me knuckle down a little.  I mean, it’s a freaking performance in front of people other than peers.  Instead, the date kept creeping closer and closer, and I’d practice in class and at my music lessons.  Even though I wasn’t nailing it, I thought “it’ll be fine”.  Having never had to play an instrument in front of anyone, I didn’t really get it.  I just assumed it’d somehow – magically – come together.

So, the night came.  I went out on stage with the other people I was performing with.  The hall was maybe half-full, so it wasn’t a huge crowd, but it seemed pretty big from where I was standing.  The music started, and I froze up.  I missed where I was supposed to come in.  Then I tried to overcome that by joining in, and missing the timing, then having to stop and start again.  Then, stressing more, I started to forget the notes.  The longer it went on, the worse my performance was, until by the end I’d basically stopped playing so I wasn’t ruining it for the others on stage.

I’d never been so humiliated in my life, and I knew I had nobody to blame but myself.  I hadn’t put any serious practice in and this was what I deserved.  I’d been lazy, overconfident, naive, dumb.  My face was burning as I left the stage.  I collected my stuff as quickly as possible (which isn’t that quick when you’re lugging a guitar around), expecting people to pay me out.  Nobody said anything, which I guess was the best I could of hoped for.  I got out of there quick smart, and was thoroughly embarrassed for about a week.

At least one good thing came out of it.  By the time my real practical exam rolled around, I’d practiced so much I could almost play it with my eyes closed.  I wasn’t going to so stupid again.  I knew it wasn’t just going to come together, it took real work.  I still didn’t get great marks in the class overall, but at least I didn’t totally stuff up the practical exam.  Phew!

This was inspired by the prompt ‘your most excruciatingly embarrassing moment. We’ve all got one.’ which can be found here.

I Want a PlayStation!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Out of Your Reach.”
Was there a toy or thing you always wanted as a child, during the holidays or on your birthday, but never received? Tell us about it.

While I’m sure there were a lot of toys I wanted when I was really little, I don’t remember them.  I had a lot of toys growing up, so I’m sure the ones I really wanted, I got.

What I do remember desperately wanting and constantly being told “absolutely not!” was a PlayStation.  All my friends had them and I wasn’t allowed.  My mum believed they were a waste of time and if I got one, I’d never get off it.  She was probably right, but it didn’t mean I didn’t feel hard done by.  Why could all my friends have one and not me?

I tried pleading with her, sucking up to her, doing extra chores.  Nothing worked.  I even decided to do a school project on the history of the PlayStation…I don’t even know why I thought this might sway her stone-cold resolve.  This went on for years.  It wasn’t that mum was totally opposed to video games, as we had several for the computer, all of which she’d bought for us at one point or another.  I guess she just thought we spent enough time on the computer as it was playing them, that we didn’t need another gadget to kill time on.

We didn’t get a PlayStation until I was working, and I had to pay for it myself.  After years of wanting it, I scrimped and saved as much as I could, and finally got one.  By that stage, though, all my friends who’d had them for years had started outgrowing them, and the machine didn’t get as much usage as you’d expect.

I guess I’m just more of a PC gamer.  I don’t know whether that’s because that’s what I grew up with, or because I find they are easier to use, but even now, after buying another console a couple of years ago, don’t get very much use out of them.  The only real time they get turned on is when friends are over, and even then it doesn’t happen much.

I guess it’s like the old saying goes – “you only want what you can’t have”.  I only wanted it because I didn’t have it, and once I finally had it, it lost it’s appeal.  Lesson learnt!

“What show from your childhood would you love to bring back?”

This one is an easy question for me, and only has one answer.

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My all-time favourite kids show.  I’d love it if they bought it back.  I remember watching it when I was little – I used to call the show “Chucky”.  It wasn’t until I was about ten I realized it actually had a different name.  I remember when my sister was a toddler, mum wouldn’t let me watch it “because it’s making your sister talk funny” (not true, as it turned out to be an actual speech issue and she had to go to a speech pathologist for it.  Despite that, the ban still stayed for quite a long time).  I love all the characters and that in some way, they’re all relatable.  I adore the movies.  I even really enjoy the “All Grown Up” series, although nothing beats the original.  They just don’t make shows like this any more!  My favourite character is definitely Tommy (like most people!) but I also love the adult characters like Betty and Stu, who seem to become so much more relatable now I’m grown up too.  Let’s be honest, despite the weird hairdos and horrendous lack of parental supervision, we all secretly wanted to be part of this family!

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This prompt, and many more, can be found here.

Showdown at Big Sky

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Showdown at Big Sky.”
How do you handle conflict? Boldly and directly? Or, do you prefer a more subtle approach?

I hate conflict.  Like, it actually makes me extremely uncomfortable to the point it can leave me feeling physically sick.  It’s almost like I’m allergic to it.  I don’t know when that reaction started happening…I don’t remember it being there as a kid.  I also don’t know where it stems from, though I suppose my years in retail haven’t helped the issue.

In terms of how I handle it, I guess it depends on the situation.  If it’s between friends, for instance, I am all about subtly and talking it out.  I guess I’m bold in that I’m usually the first one to openly address the problem, but I won’t do it in a confrontational way, even if I’m angry or upset about it.  I know most people tend to shut down when you approach them that way, and the last thing I want is to lose one of the few good friends I have left over something that, even at the time, I can usually appreciate is small and probably trivial.

When I was in management at my old job, I handled confrontation differently.  I wasn’t afraid to tell angry, abusive customers where the door was, and that they are out of line speaking to staff in that manner.  I was never comfortable in those situations, but it was part of the job, and I learnt pretty quickly that subtly doesn’t usually work as they think they’re winning and getting their way.  My worst confrontation happened about six months or so prior to me leaving the job.  It was a flat out Saturday, all the staff were exhausted and run off their feet, and an older lady (not elderly, but not young either) came in, carrying on about her bill and the wait time to get served.  Basically, just being a real sour puss.  One of the girls served her and tried to explain the situation but the lady wouldn’t listen; she’d overtalk and argue and basically was being a rude cow, intentionally drawing attention to herself by speaking loudly and looking around the shop at all the people patiently waiting to be served.  This went on for a long time, I think maybe half an hour.  That’s a long time to put up with someone’s rudeness, even in retail.  Eventually the girl couldn’t handle it any more and excused herself to take five minutes out the back and cool off before she lost it at her customer.  Anyway, I was serving a different customer but I’d been keeping tabs on the rude bitch since she came in (that’s what managers in telco have to do in case it suddenly escalates).  My store manager was also on the floor, serving customers, listening to everything.

The rude bitch decides she’s had enough and gets up and marches over to the store manager, demanding he help her at once.  At this stage he’s at the register and there’s at least five people waiting, and her issue was one we actually couldn’t fix in store (the girl who was serving her tried to explain that many times).  Anyway, the store manager tells her in no uncertain terms that she is to sit back down and wait, and he’ll be over when he can.  He wasn’t rude about it, though he was blunt.  She wasn’t happy about this at all, and decides she wants to speak to the original consultant right then and there.  She marches over to the door leading into our back room and slams her fists against it so hard I thought she was going to punch through it.  I was standing right next to her (literally about 30 centimetres away) and I lost it.  I’d been getting pretty angry at her from the moment she’d come into the store, though I’d kept it inside as she wasn’t my customer, but I couldn’t handle it any more.  I completely forgot I was halfway through serving a customer.  I whirled around, screamed at her “EXCUSE ME, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”
The lady took a second to realize that the yelling was actually directed at her, and from a member of staff no less (I have a feeling she didn’t even notice I was standing there).  She looked up at me, anger dancing in her eyes, but also a little bit of fear.  I’ll bet she wasn’t expecting anyone to stand up to her.  “I want to speak to the girl again.” She spat.
“SHE’S OUT THE BACK CRYING FROM THE WAY YOU TREATED HER.  YOU WON’T BE SPEAKING TO HER AGAIN.  NOW GO AND SIT DOWN LIKE THE MANAGER TOLD YOU TO OR GET OUT.”

I’d never raised my voice to anyone in public like that before in my life, let alone a customer.  I was seething.  She was rude, aggressive and wasn’t willing to listen.  The whole shop – which was still packed with customers – had gone dead silent the moment the old bitch started trying to break down the door.  I guess she’d only just noticed because suddenly, she looked around, embarrassment slowly overtaking her anger.  She slunk back to her seat, sat there for about ten seconds, then got up and left.

The customer I was midway through serving was so nice.  “Are you okay?” she asked.  “If you need to take a break, I’ll wait for someone else to serve me.  I worked in retail for awhile, I totally understand how that must have felt.  People just have no respect or manners any more.”

I assured her I was okay (a giant lie) and finished serving her, before going out the back.  Three staff members (including the girl who’d been serving the bitch) couldn’t stop talking about what happened and how brave I was and how it took them a minute to even work out it was me yelling because they’d never heard me do that before.  I felt physically sick.  I sat down, hunched over, my stomach in severe pain.  I don’t know why the yelling caused that reaction, but God did it hurt.  It took a good twenty minutes for it to start subsiding.  I was the hero of the store for the day, but I felt rotten for it.

This is why I’m kind of glad I’m not in management right now.  I mean, I enjoy leading the team and organising events and whatnot, but having to be the one to resolve conflict and disputes…it’s tough for someone who can’t handle fighting or aggression.  I’ve definitely gotten mentally stronger since I started in telco all those years ago (the first few times I got yelled at, I started crying), but the trade off is physical pain instead of mental.  Why can’t everyone just be nice to one another?  It’d make my life so much less complicated!

My Top 5 Movies of All Time

My Top 5 Movies are:

The Shawshank Redemption
This movie was introduced to me as part of my Year 12 Media curriculum.  I’d heard it mentioned in all the “Top 100 films” countdowns, but I didn’t understand how a prison movie could possibly make its way to the top of each countdown.  Then I watched it, and was blown away.  I love the storyline and how it keeps the audience guessing.  I love the characters and how different they all are.  I love how it’s not a romance movie, but you don’t even notice that it’s missing.  I love the actors, I think they do a phenomenal job.  Everything about the film is timeless and awesome and so well done.  I could watch this anywhere at any time and get just as much enjoyment out of it that I did the first time.

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Titanic
This movie has been my favourite since I was about ten.  Leo was my first celeb crush, I watched the movie so many times I knew it word for word (and probably still do).  The film inspired me to learn all about the sinking, and when I was about twelve I’d read about it for hours, scouring the library for books on it.  I was devastated when I accidentally taped over the movie…so much so both my parents and my uncle bought me properly copies of it that Christmas.  This was back in the days of VHS, so I’d constantly have to rewind the tapes every time I’d finish it so I could watch it again.  I had the soundtrack, I had posters and movie stills stuck up around my room and on my desk at school.  Obsessed was an understatement.  When we finally bought a DVD player, I bought the ultimate collections edition, which had 4 disks worth of extras.  While my obsession has since subsided, I still love watching this film.

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Interstallar
This is the newest addition to my list, and I was in two minds about whether to add it, but it wound up on here.  I saw this in the cinema and it completely caught me off guard.  It’s fantastic, in a crazy, far-fetched sort of way.  I love how it keeps you guessing, it gets you thinking about the future, about decisions somebody at some point in time will probably have to make.  It touches on space travel and science, both things I’ve watched many a documentary on.  I know the film is probably not accurate at all, but it’s still pretty cool and really interesting.  I love movies that can make you think about things in a different way.

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Shutter Island
Another Leo movie, although vastly different from Titanic.  This movie scared the shit out of me the first time I saw it.  It’s dark, morbid and creepy, but the twist at the end is mindblowing and fantastic.  It highlights how mental illness and the way it’s dealt with has changed over the years, and shows how it used to be handled.  The storyline is interesting, the characters fascinating and the setting mega-creepy.  You constantly have to question who to trust and what to believe and I love this.  I’ve watched it many times and I always find new things that I’ve missed previously.  Leo is fantastic in it, as always, as are all the other actors.  It really does feel like you’re stuck on the island with them.

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All 3 Rugrats Movies
This one seems to be a stark contrast to all the others on my list, I know, but I adore kids movies, and 9/10 times that will be what I put on if I want to watch something.  I can’t decide which one I like best, so I cheated and said all three of them.  I love Rugrats so much.  It reminds me of childhood and fun.  I grew up with Tommy and Chucky and all the others – I started watching when I was only a couple of years older than them!  While the storylines aren’t as complex as any of the other films I’ve listed, they’re a lot of fun and easy to watch.  I remember seeing the first film at the drive-ins with my parents.  All those memories make watching the films so enjoyable that I often pick these over any of my other favourites.

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What are your top 5 picks?

-JD

This prompt, and many more, can be found here

The Old Man

They talk about me like I’m deaf. Stare at me like I’m blind. They assume that behind my tall stature and solemn eyes, that I’m tough. How can I tell them I’m just a baby inside? That their words keep my eyes open at night, and their actions make my insides cold?
At my age, everyone assumes I’ve heard it all. Maybe they’re correct in that assumption. Hearing something more than once, however, doesn’t lessen the sting that the echoed words create, nor does it heal the heart it breaks. Doctors have told me I’m what they call ‘depressed’. Back in the day, you were told to have a stiff drink and move on. Now they’re jumping at any chance to medicate me, educe me into some faux-happy stupor. Oh, sometimes I think it’d make for a nice change. Sometimes, late at night as I stare up at my well-studied ceiling, I can’t even fathom my own reasons for denying the drugs. Sitting in the warm spring sunshine, watching my youngest grandchild learning to walk in my favourite little park, however, I realize this is what all the grief and unhappiness has led me to. Rebekah is constantly wishing for me to take the pills. It’s the accepted norm for the world now, a world that has shunned me into it’s darkest corners and rooms they politely call ‘retirement villages’. Those places that cater for our ‘heightened needs’, but in actuality are lonely rooms filled with lonelier souls, forced together by families who now see us as burdens instead of caregivers. Oh, the place has a games room and the nurses are polite and at times even seem to care slightly, but this is always outweighed by the crisp air that follows a death and the cereal that lands in our lap extra-soggy for the ‘retirees’ who refuse – or forget – to put their dentures in of a morning.

Like any place that forces strangers together for extended periods of time, I have a few people I am more fond of than most. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to name them as ‘friends’. I can’t remember the last time I’ve called anyone that. One of the more lively of my acquaintances is a Ms Sally Wheeler. She’s always ready to entertain us with a funny anecdote from her past, or give a hug – surprisingly strong and warm, given her age – to clear our heads from the clouds of doubt. Possibly I would call her a friend did I not think she lied through her teeth on a near-constant basis. In this place, this isn’t unusual, however it’s not usually with consciousness that they are uttered, but rather because of mental illness or lack of memory. Sally, though, suffered none of that, and lied nonetheless. For peace’s sake, I kept my observations to myself. After all, who was Ms Wheeler really harming when most of her audience wouldn’t remember the next day, or the next hour?

Those people who suffer from memory problems, I envy them. It seems strange to others, possibly, but should I suffer like the man simply known as Billy, I’d never have to dwell on my past, on my mistakes or on the words of others. I’d simply live in the moment, completely. Of course Billy never knows what day it is, nor recognizes me or anyone else, and for that he does suffer. Yet, he always seems perpetually happy compared to the few of us completely conscious of where we are and what we’ve done.

It’s funny, I suppose, that Billy doesn’t get hounded by doctors wanting to medicate him. They’ve pretty much written him off as a lost cause, spouting ‘the damage is done’ to his family each time they enquire with the false hope that maybe one day a miracle pill will form and he’ll remember their names once more. I say ‘it’s funny’ because the damage has been done to me too, in the past, and is what almost solely has formed my depression and yet, I never hear the the end of doctors telling me how wonderful their medication is. If they are so willing to help cure a patient who isn’t interested, why can’t they help Billy’s family, who desperately are? The world is cruel like that, I suppose.

*

This is one of my old attempts at writing fiction.  I say ‘attempt’ not because I think I’m no good or I can’t do it…I just never have the patience to follow through to the end.  I’m sure if I could, I’d enjoy writing professionally.  Alas, it remains a hobby instead.  This was written back in 2010, but has always been one of the short stories I’m most proud of.

This was inspired by the prompt ‘Post a previously unreleased chapter from one of your books’, which can be found here

“Top 5 Social Media Tips”

Being a Gen Y-er and growing up with social media, this is something I’ve had plenty of experience in, both good and bad.

1. Privacy is really important.  Seriously.
This is one of those lessons I had to learn the hard way.  When MySpace and MSN were all the rage, nobody really cared about security.  It was all about talking to random people, collecting friends, sharing statuses.  I guess back then, privacy wasn’t really an option.  I mean, I’m sure there were basic features, but it wasn’t talked about or really known, and nobody did it.  It’s only relatively recently that companies such as Facebook have gotten people to seriously focus on it, myself included.  My social media settings are pretty much on maximum now – I only share things with people I’m friends with on Facebook and Instagram, people can’t message me on Facebook without being friends with me first, people can’t see any personal details about me without being my friend.
The trigger for all this started about six years ago, when I started to become really close to one of my now best friends.  He was going through stalker issues that at the time, I knew nothing about.  He was embarrassed and we’d only just gotten to really know each other so it just hadn’t come up.   I was contacted on both Facebook and YouTube by someone who was telling me awful things about my friend, stuff that I at first assumed to be true as I didn’t understand what was going on.  It really upset him I believed it, but in my defense, it was early days and I’d never had any sort of contact with stalkers before so I just didn’t really understand.  After that, I removed all my YouTube content and switched to super private mode on everything.  It’s not worth the risk or hassle to have it set any other way, and ultimately I’m not sharing things for my friend’s brother’s cousin’s wife to see, I’m sharing it for people I know.

2. Parents, perverts are real.  They’re out there.  Take it seriously.
Again, I know this from experience.  While kids use different platforms than I used to, I guarantee the same sickos still lurk there, waiting for your child to try to meet some new friends in cyberspace.  That’s why I started talking to people I didn’t know on MSN.  I don’t even remember where I met them (maybe they added me), but they seemed nice enough at first.  They’d let you talk about school and friend dramas and they always seemed relatable.  They’d talk to your for awhile, and you think “okay, this is fine”.  This one guy I spoke to didn’t even bother trying to hide the fact he was 30-something, which I suppose was lucky in one way – if he had of pretended to be my age, who knows what could have happened?  After awhile, he started asking more personal questions.  One I remember in particular was “what bra size are you?”.  Then suddenly, he’s sending naked pictures of himself.  Luckily, I was smart enough to delete and block him straight away.  I wasn’t out looking for this kind of thing, but it found me anyway.  Kids are online more than ever (a lot more than I was back then), and it’s so easy for pervs to contact them.  Most gadgets and social media have privacy controls.  Learn them, set them.  More than that, educate your kids.  You can change settings all you like but kids can always turn them off.  Don’t expect schools to monitor your children for you, don’t expect your kids to listen to their boring teacher when they try to teach cyber safety.  Sit them down and explain it to them so they’ll understand – you know your kids better than anyone else.  If you don’t understand technology, research it.  It might save your child’s life.  Also, don’t think “oh, they’re too young for me to tell them about the mean old world”.  I know I just said you know your kids better than anyone, and it’s true, however I firmly believe if they’re old enough for gadgets such as iPads, laptops and phones, they’re old enough to be told the dangers of it.  My friend is a grade one teacher (the kids are between 6 and 7 years old).  For the two years she’s been teaching that level, she’s had countless awkward situations where she’s caught the kids looking up porn, googling “girls kissing” and all sorts of other mindblowing stuff.  Your kids are curious.  They see it on TV, their friends talk about it.  If you don’t educate them, they could end up learning about the dangers the hard way.  I can’t stress this enough.

3. Don’t send game invites.  Nobody is going to start playing because you sent them.  You just piss everyone off.
I know this is one of the biggest annoyances on social media.  No, we don’t want play Candy Crush, we don’t want extra corn on FarmVille, we don’t want extra coins on Bingo Pop.  If we wanted to play, we’d do it without you spamming us.  Thankfully, there’s a way to turn off these annoying invites on Facebook, and anyone who has those annoying friends who don’t seem to get it should probably learn how – it’ll save your sanity.  And to those of you who do it, think before you press “invite to play”.  Sure, you might earn a small bonus for it, but you also lose the respect of all the people you spam.

4. If someone posts an offer that seems too good to be true, it is!
You’d think people would be able to spot a scam when they see one by now.  We aren’t in 1998 any more where everything is new and scary.  Sure, scams aren’t quite as obvious as the old “Prince of Nigeria” emails, but they aren’t challenging if you’re aware of them either.  I see countless people in my newsfeed posting things they shouldn’t be, spreading the scam further across cyberspace.  The easiest way to spot something dodgy is to look at the link – does the website look like it’s legit?  Most scams on social media these days pretend to be from major companies.  Do you really think Qantas would use abc.squizzers.com to give away “free tickets”?  Second thing to look for, is the spelling and grammar correct?  Almost always, the website is poorly written, have extremely bad grammar and often the spacing in weird too.  If American Express were to run a promotion, don’t you think they’d pay someone big bucks to make an impressive website and, I don’t know, use spell check?  Lastly, use your common sense.  Do you really think your local movie outlet is giving away free screenings “for the first 1000 people”?  That would put them out of business.  Do you really think your favourite airline is giving away “a trip anywhere in the world” if you share the link with all your friends?  Nothing is for free in this world, and that is especially true in cyberspace.  A lot of people have the mentality of “well, if it’s not real then I haven’t lost anything”.  Wrong.  Firstly, those scams ask for personal information.  At best, you’ll probably get heaps of junk email now flooding your inbox.  At worst, you could open your computer up for malware and wind up being hacked.  On top of that, if you’ve shared the link with people and they’ve been sucked in too, you’ve also dragged them down the same path.  If the link is even potentially dodgy, don’t click it!  If it’s from a big company, go to their official website.  If the offer isn’t listed there, it isn’t real.

5. Don’t post things you don’t want the whole world to see.
I know I harped on about privacy settings and educating your kids about cyber safety, and I’m not taking anything away from the importance of that.  You just need to be aware that anything you post has the potential to be saved, shared, copied and otherwise spread around, no matter how careful you are.  If you don’t want to risk that “cute” picture of your naked toddler winding up on some perverts computer harddrive, don’t post it.  If you don’t want your dick pics or boob snaps shared, don’t send them.  If you don’t want people knowing where you live, don’t check in there.  While privacy settings are generally pretty good, it doesn’t mean other people have the same settings or your best interests are heart.  It doesn’t take much for things to get leaked, and 99.9% of the time, it isn’t going to make you famous like Kim K.  It’s more likely to do a lot of psychological damage to you instead.  There was a big focus on sexting the media a little while ago, and victims were saying how their ex’s shared their naked pictures and sex tapes with everyone, and how it’s ruined their lives.  When asked why they thought it was a good idea in the first place, they went on and on about it being their choice and nobody has the right to tell them they can’t do it.  I’m not going to argue with that – if those people still have that mentality after all they’ve been through, then I say let them do it, but don’t be surprised if it happens again.  It doesn’t matter how in love with someone you are, and how amazing a person you think they they are, if things go south, they have some seriously damaging stuff.  It might seem like cheeky, harmless fun at the time but it can come back to haunt you.  Think about it before you share it.

That’s my top five tips.  What’s yours?

-JD

You can find this prompt, and many more, here

“The Word No is a Complete Sentence.”

This took me a long time to learn.  I guess I’m still learning it.  I think we’ve all been taught you can’t just say “no” with no explanation.  It’s rude.  It’s blunt.  Why?  You can’t say it without a reason.  Parents drum it into children.  “Why?” “Because.” “Because why?”.  Teachers demand explanations.  Bosses want answers.  All this is fine, and in some places and instances, you do need to supply an answer.  But sometimes you don’t.

If you don’t feel comfortable, if you don’t think it’s in your best interests, if you think you’re gonna get hurt, you can say no.  You don’t have to tell you friends or your partner why if you don’t want to.  You shouldn’t feel like every time you use that word you need to justify it with an answer.  What happens if the answer isn’t good enough?  Then you feel obliged to do whatever it is you don’t want to, or make more excuses.

You shouldn’t feel forced to do anything.  If people want to think you’re rude or a flake or a scaredy-cat, then let them.  No is a powerful word.  A very powerful word.  If you start to throw in reasons and excuses, it loses it’s power.  It allows people to twist it, change it, weaken it.  You don’t want to go home with that guy?  No.  You don’t want to drink tonight when you’re out?  No.  You don’t want to take that dead end job?  No.  You don’t want to let someone treat you poorly?  No.

It’s tough.  It really is.  I didn’t drink when all my teenage friends did.  Every time I turned down a drink, they wanted to know why.  They wanted to change my mind.  At first I gave excuses, but after years of coping it from people – including people saying “I’ll just slip some alcohol into your coke!” – it was easier to give no explanation at all.  Why is it anyone’s business but mine?  Why do I feel the need to justify my answer to anyone who’ll listen?

It’s time to break the habit.  It’s time to stop letting other people’s questions and opinions overrule your judgement.  It’s okay to use the “N Word”.  It’s okay to stand by it.

No.  No no no.

Grumpy-cat-no-5

This, and many more prompts, can be found here.

“What is Your Favourite Childhood Christmas Memory?”

Christmas was one of my favourite times of year as a kid (as most people will say).  The countdowns with advent calendars filled with terrible tasting chocolate, writing messy handwritten letters to santa asking for ridiculous things, all the school activities in December leading up to it.  It’s magical.

Every Christmas Eve we’d sit around the TV as a family and watched the Carols (for people outside Australia, it’s a three-hour show where celebrities – I’m using the term loosely – sing Carols and the Wiggles and Santa Claus would come on for the kids).  My sister and I would put cookies and milk out for Santa in front of the fireplace, and shaved carrots for the reindeer.  We’d hang our oversized stockings up and head to bed, with my parents strict instructions “No getting out of bed until 7, otherwise Santa won’t come!”.

I’d always sleep terribly, too excited for the presents waiting in the lounge room.  The second the clock hit 7am, I’d be tearing up the stairs, bowling into my parents’ room, begging them to let me open my presents.  My sister wouldn’t be far behind.  My parents were always way too slow for my liking, but eventually we’d run down the stairs and into the lounge room.  There were always piles of presents, some under the tree (the presents “from my parents”) and ones in front of the fire place (from “Santa”).  I remember one year “Santa” changed it up and left me and my sister bikes behind the couches instead.  Another year, he left us a trampoline in the backyard.  This was probably the most memorable Christmas as within 24 hours of getting that trampoline, my sister (who was about 4 at the time) broke her leg on it.  We were on it together and we must have bounced too close together or something, and the next second she’s howling in pain.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t anything to do with the exposed springs, which is usually how injuries on trampolines happen!

I remember my dad rushing her to the closest doctor’s office – one we’d never been to before – and him coming back, carrying my sister awkwardly, telling mum they’d said it was just sprained.  My sister was still screaming and crying, and I guess mother’s intuition kicked in as she told dad to go straight to our normal doctor’s office instead (I’m not sure why he didn’t go there initially…I guess they may not have been opened that early or something).  I remember the time dragged on and they were there a long time, and when dad came back, my sister had a big cast over her whole leg (right up to her hip) and she had something called a ‘Green Stick Fracture’.  I didn’t know what that was, but it sounded funny.  I now know it means she basically broke the bone clear through.  She was so little that my mum had to hunt around for crutches small enough.  For the next six weeks, she had to have baths with a garbage bags over her cast, she had to go into her old stroller that she was miles to big for, that her kindergarten had to make special arrangements for her.  There was also a new rule that was never broken (possibly the only one to not be!)  – “only one person jumping on the trampoline at once!”


This prompt was found here, along with a whole bunch of others.