My favorite scene from ‘Everything That Counts’

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<At this moment in time, this is (in my eyes), the best scene I’ve written.>

Homeroom was the place where the last vestige of freedom a teenager held was stripped away.  Even the nurse was unavailable to me if I fell to the floor and had a seizure, unless I also had written authorization from a teacher to visit her.  But, I followed the rules, because that’s how I would get a scholarship.  Then I would appease my parents by attending GW, get my graduate degree from Berkley, and become an astrophysicist so I begin to grapple this word we call existence.
The stranger breezed into our class.  A waterfall of hair the color of spun gold hung over one shoulder, she had dark outlined eyes, jeans, and an orange sweater that, thankfully, looked as if it had been shrunk in the dryer.  Before she even spoke, I thought she was the most interesting girl at our high school once I saw the silver loop through her belly button.
Her voice was light as a hummingbird, “Hey, I’m Zoe Malone, is this the right home room?”
“Yes,” Mrs. Tanner straightened up in her dark pantsuit and took a slip of paper from the vixen’s hand.  “Where are you from Zoe?”
“Denver.”
“Welcome to Cape Saint Claire High School,”  The teacher’s eyes moved across the page.  “It looks like you have a few classes and lunch period with Blake Morgan.  You can sit next to him, and he can give you the grand tour throughout the day.”
My heart stopped.
Zoe turned to the class, “Umm, which one is he?”
“The one in the back, with the glasses.”  Mrs. Tanner pointed at me.
The new girl’s hips swayed as she walked to the back of the class.  The closer she got, the more my face burned.  I slouched in the chair as if preparing for impact.  The rest of our peers continued to talk, but the only matter in my universe was her.
“Hey,” The goddess sat down.
I tried to speak but instead started coughing, loudly.
“Are you ok?”  Her dark eyes wide.
“Yeah,”  I pounded on my chest, “All good.”
“I’m Zoe,” she giggled.  “But, I guess you already know that.”
I wanted to say that, I was indeed the infamous Blake Morgan, and it would be my pleasure to attend to her every need until the next Ice Age.  All that came out was, “Blake.”
“I like your hair.”
“You what?”
“Your hair, just makes me want to…”
And that’s when it happened.  Day became night, the sun went out, and black holes were no longer a mystery when she ran her hand through my hair.  Up until that point I was unaware that girls like Zoe would ever contemplate touching a loser like me, much less do it.  My confusion and excitement must have shown on my face when she pulled it away.
“Oh, sorry.  I’m just a hands-on kinda girl.”  She shrugged as if that made it OK to run your hands through a stranger’s hair.
Which it totally did.
“So what do you guys do for fun around here Blake?”  She twirled a lock of hair around her finger.
“You mean like, me and my friends?”
“Yeah.”
The truthful answer was: quiz each other for Academic Decathlon, play video games, watch horror movies, or simply study in the same room.  “We go to D.C. sometimes.”
“And do what?”
“Just you know, hang out.”  At the Smithsonian, I should have added.
“Isn’t the Naval Academy nearby?”
“Yeah.”  I almost dared to ask if she was aware that Annapolis was also the capital of Maryland.  But, she was beautiful, therefore I thought better of it.
“So, there’s like a bunch of hot guys there, right?”
“I don’t generally check out the Midshipmen, but my friend Sophie likes to go at the end of school for plebes-no-more.”
“For what?”
I pushed my glasses up my nose.  “The freshman, they call them plebes, and at the end of the year they have to traverse this pillar that’s over twenty feet high and pull a uniform dress hat off the top.”
“What’s so hard about that?”
“They grease it up, and tape down the hat with like, duct tape.”
Her eyes widened.  “What’s the point?”
I shrug.  “To not be called an underclassman.”
“And why does your friend Sophie like this?”
“You’d have to ask her, but she drags me there every year.”
“Will you take me this year?”
Her words did not make sense to me.  “What?”
“Would you take me to check out the Naval Academy?  You seem really nice and since we’ll see so much of each other I thought it would be fun.  I mean if later you think I’m a freak you can totally back out and I won’t hold it against you.  Or, whatever.”  She shrugged.
I don’t know if I said it because I wanted a change or, because I was completely enamored by this person.  “Yeah, sure, sounds great.”
The bell rang and I ushered her to the photography lab.

Pearls of Wisdom

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<A middle school teacher asked me to come up with something that would let her students know that a first draft is not a final draft.>

Writing is easy, right?  Wrong.

To prove my point think of the bestseller ‘The Fault In Our Stars’, it should be easy to write a teenage love story that connects with people of all ages, right?  Wrong.
John Green spent four hours every day writing, it took him three years to ‘complete’ it until he sent it into his publishing house.  Once they got a hold of it John Green spent another four years re-writing and approving edits before the tome was put on bookshelves and became an international sensation.
I began writing my first published short story ‘Blood On The Potomac’ when I was 28 (and that’s about how old you should be before you read it).  I spent at least an hour each day for two months writing, before I showed it to other writers, then I spent another month re-writing.  And it’s only seven pages long.  It wasn’t published until I was 29, because my editor had to review all the stories in the collection.

I must be a terrible writer, right?  Wrong.

I understand that my first draft is purely a stream of consciousness that no other human should read, because it’s not good enough, and I can do better.  I re-work every sentence before I show it to my writing buddies, they give me feedback, and I use a machete to cut out about half so I can start over.

But, only writers would spend so long on one manuscript, right?  Wrong.

Think of your favorite musician.  Do you think they only practiced each song once before they recorded it?  Does your favorite sports team only run a play once before the big game?  Do the actors in your favorite movie only do the scene once before it’s put into the film?  Would you trust your doctor if they’d only stitched up one person before they start on you?

No, you wouldn’t.
They review their work again, and again, and again, until their sick of whatever it is.  Then they do it again.

I have a friend who’s been a professional stand up comedian for over 20 years.  Granted he is hilarious off the cuff, but when he’s on stage, he’s told those jokes at least a hundred times in a hundred different places.  I don’t need to ask him why he seems so at ease because I know that he practices every day to protect his craft.
Even this took me three hours to write.  I started by just typing everything I thought, then I read over it and re-wrote it.  I took a break to get some perspective then looked over it again, because I have pride in what I do.

And if you don’t take any pride in your writing then at least take pride in your education.  You can’t get anywhere in life without it, and the knowledge that you have is something no one can ever take away from you so, hold it dear.

-Melissa Algood  2014

A peek at ‘Everything That Counts’

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The air smelled like salt, a cool breeze washed over my face, the moon glittered on the water.  I couldn’t wait to leave Maryland, after eighteen years of drudgery, opportunity hovered on the horizon.  Yet, I’d always miss the water.
We sat on the warped wooden bench looking out onto the Magothy River.  Sophie at my side, scraped the bottom of her cup, then tossed it to the trash can.  She missed by a yard.
I laughed.  “I don’t know why you try anymore.”
“Because, one day I’ll get it.”  She walked over to the remnants of deliciousness and placed it into the receptacle.

Favorite lines according to writer’s group

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He had never been able to describe the way the words jumped off the page and neatly filed themselves in his brain.  Each sentence correlated to another in a different place making a web of information that he sifted through with ease.  Able to find a pattern of similarities in everything from a map to music notes on a page.  The environment that surrounded him as he read would also be intertwined with the sentences.  So, for the rest of his life a group of rabbits would be associated with bubblegum, nicotine, and Samantha’s steady breathing.  

Molly

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Molly
by Melissa Diane Algood

The neon-orange glow at the tip of the joint was all that existed.

“Get back in here, Jason!” Aaron yelled. “It’s the best part of the movie! Ya know, where the baby is crawling on the ceiling!”

“You’re a sick fuck. This isn’t the best part of the movie.”

“This isn’t film theory, Lizzie.” Aaron inhaled deeply, the fire on the tip of his fingers burned so bright she could see the outline of his chiseled jaw.  

He brushed his long blond hair out of his eyes, and passed the joint to Lizzie. As she came down, she didn’t fall flat on her face, but drifted like a feather to the bottom of the valley.

“Ugh! We’re out of beer!” Maya pulled away from Jason just long enough to call from the kitchen.

“Wanna go for a ride, baby?” Aaron arched an eyebrow at Lizzie, dark eyes shining.

Jason’s dad had a black BMW, perfect for an evening jaunt; so they all loaded up and headed out. Lizzie didn’t know anything about cars, but this one had heated leather seats and a badass speaker system. Every thump of the bass line hit her like a hammer. So she closed her eyes and let the night wash over her, as she smoked her cigarette attempting to avoid barfing. Needless to say, this car was a vast improvement over Aaron’s junker. He’d wrapped that old tin can around a light pole last winter.

“Hey, aren’t the Miller’s in Sedona for the weekend?” Maya piped up from the backseat, like always tangled in Jason’s grip.

Aaron made a sharp left toward the house, swerving onto the curb, and hit a stop sign. The pole skimmed the side of the car.  They all yelled at once, and then they giggled.  At last, they parked next to the brightly colored house.

Aaron used the bobby pin from Lizzie’s hair to pop the lock. The four of them stumbled into the house. Maya danced around the entryway, spinning Lizzie with her. The boys went to the fridge in the garage, where they knew the beer would be.

“The – Miller’s – Have – A – Pool!” Lizzie stressed every word to Maya. The girls stopped spinning and ran toward the backyard with squeals of glee.

They tumbled out of their clothing, leaving on only their bras and panties. Maya dove into the pool like an Olympian. Even faced out as she was, Maya still had the grace of a ballerina. When Lizzie dove, every molecule of water kissed her skin, every ripple felt as if she’d been taken out to sea. It seemed as if it took years for her to touch the bottom and pop back up laughing. Aaron and Jason rushed to the edge and began taking off their shoes, shirts, and pants.

“Mind if we join?” Jason asked the girls, right before cannon balling into the pool.

Drops of water shot up into the sky, a prism that glittered in the moonlight, enchanting Lizzie. The four of them floated on their backs, looking up to an unending ocean of stars.

“This water feels so…cooool,” Jason whispered.

“Yeah! Beautiful.” Lizzie heard her voice say, but couldn’t feel her lips move.

Maya swam toward Jason. They melted into each other. Lizzie remembered the last time she was in this house. She paddled over to Aaron.

“Come on. I wanna show you something.”

Somehow she was able to coax him out of the water. Maybe he eagerly followed her upstairs because she sucked on his index finger. The room was exactly as she remembered from when Mr. Miller, her coach, brought her here after practice. Midnight black silk sheets, red walls, and the massive headboard.

Lizzie couldn’t stop to analyze the last time she was there. Every nerve in her body ached for the safety of Aaron. All she knew was his tongue running along her collarbone, melting her like butter. He picked her up. She wrapped her legs around his toned frame and let herself fall into the feather bed. Every touch of his lips on her skin was like an explosion.

In her sixteen years, she had no better way to explain it other than, awesome. It felt like hours that they spent tangled in those sheets, which the housekeeper had so impeccably tucked into the king size bed. When Lizzie looked at the clock, it had only been ten minutes.

“Hey bitch!” Lizzie heard the roar. “Gabby just texted me about a rave! It’s in an abandoned house on 4th.  Stop fucking and get down here!” Maya’s voice echoed in the house.

Lizzie and Aaron redressed once they got back to the pool, where they had left their clothes. Before leaving, they raided the fridge, pantry, and medicine cabinet. Everyone hopped into the newly stolen Jaguar, and drove into the night, leaving behind the banged up Beemer.

Through the window, Lizzie saw neon flashing lights arrayed against a black canvas sky. That night, in the cold Arizona desert, there was house music, drugs, and a horde of teenagers crammed inside of a condemned-looking house.

Lizzie took another dose of medicine with the rest of them and sped up. If there was a door, none of them knocked on it. Each of them became an integral part of the mass. Even though it was chilly, Lizzie burned, as she ran her hands over Aaron’s body. She didn’t just feel the music; she became the drumbeat, bass line, and guitar chord. Every drop of perspiration, flicker of light, and body movement was absorbed by Lizzie and expelled back into the group through her dancing. When she opened her eyes, sweat dripped down Aaron’s forehead. His eyes were dry and bloodshot.

“Hey, let’s go to the chill-out room,” She suggested, pulling him close.

Lizzie directed Aaron down the hallway to the first door on the left, along with a few wayward youths. She did feel herself turn the door handle and gasp when she opened it. The entire room was soft, soundproofed, and blue.

It was long and narrow. The floor, covered in navy beanbag chairs, glowed under the black light. On the far side, across from Lizzie, Breaking Bad was projected onto the wall. Aaron and Lizzie weaved their way to a set of empty seats, each falling down into the most comfortable spot ever.

To her left was a couple making out. On her right another fucked against the wall. But most of the inhabitants were completely entranced with the moving images in front of them. Maya and Jason cuddled, closer to the screen.

No one acknowledged Aaron or Lizzie, even though they were hyper aware from the drugs. The tiny beads that they sat on, the padded walls, the shades of blue that bathed them, and the tenor of television all soaked into Lizzie’s consciousness. The space engulfed her senses. They were all so in tune, that right on cue, the whole gathering shouted along with Jesse Pinkman, “Magnets, Bitches!”

All the lights and sounds in the sapphire abyss were calm, until Jason’s nose started bleeding.

“Damn, I feel weird,” Jason whispered.

His eyes rolled to the back of his head. Maya, along with the rest of the room, were oblivious as the black light magnified the lines of red dripping from his dark eyes. His gasps blended with vibrations emanating from throughout the building.

“Hey look! Jason’s dancing!” A classmate pointed to Jason’s jerking body, writhing on the floor.

The group pounded their feet and clapped their hands in time with his frantic movements; until he went still. His blank face covered in blood, held no interest for them, so they turned their gaze back to the closest sparkling object.

“I wanna dance!” Maya jumped up, spun, and pulled Lizzie up from her seat.

The boys stayed behind.

What was once a kitchen and dining room had been transformed by spray paint and black lights. The DJ mixed Lana Del Rey and M.I.A., which pleased Lizzie as she was absorbed into the faction. She and Maya mirrored each other’s movements. Their groins rocked, fists pumped, hips rotated, and they shook their heads so that their hair cascaded around them. The room screamed with glee.

Suddenly Maya pulled Lizzie close, brushed a lock of hair from her face, and kissed her. Maya was soft, and tasted like a lollipop; too sweet. Lizzie tried to pull away, but Maya’s arms wrapped tight around her, like a vine. Lizzie felt Maya run her hands over her back, ass, and breasts.

Lizzie wanted to forget, get lost, so they became one in time with the bass. It might have been moments, or hours, until she felt the crowd shove her, finally breaking her from Maya. Lizzie didn’t hear the sirens, or know where the boys were. All she knew was the bright bubblegum pink lips in front of her.

“Run!” Lizzie heard Aaron scream beside her.

Aaron’s long slender tattooed arm yanked her out of the room, through a hallway, and into the still Arizona night. She blindly followed him, but Jason wasn’t with them. For a moment, Lizzie remembered seeing his body go limp on that floor. Then half the basketball team rushed past them. Lizzie giggled as the teenagers ran away, like a hive that lost their queen. Every time her sneakers pounded the pavement she felt the reverberation throughout her body. It shot like sparks into the starry sky. They ran for blocks, or miles, for what seemed like forever.

They were free.