Living My Best Life in The Ascent

The Ascent was a day-one launch title on Xbox Game Pass. Because I am ardently in love with my Xbox Game Pass subscription, I jumped on the chance to play it with my friends, Bubba and Damien, as soon as it came out.

Now, I didn’t play the game to its conclusion. Far from it. So this isn’t going to be a review. It’s more of a hilarious side story.

Okay, so in The Ascent, you play as cyberpunky indentured servants, called Indents, to a mega-corporation on a planet that is basically a giant city. You roam around waste processing plants, neon-colored streets, and packed tenements. Most of the gameplay revolves around shooting mechanized bad guys and thugs in sunglasses.

It’s as fun as it sounds.

Bubba, Damien, and I made our way through the tutorial mission pretty quickly. I may have gotten distracted by the copious amount of lore entries in my codex menu, but we still had oodles and caboodles of fun running and gunning around. We jam-packed our skill points recklessly, choosing whatever attributes we wanted with little thought to crafting a serious build. We just picked up whatever guns suited us and went forth.

At some point, we bit off more than we could chew.

Though we were leveling up decently, certain areas in The Ascent are locked off to lower-leveled characters. The game does this by having these spots spawn insanely high-leveled enemies.

Bubba, Damien, and I were rather slow to leave one of these areas, and we all got slaughtered.

When my character respawned, imagine my surprise when I appeared to be invisible.

It was like my character had just disappeared, and all I could see was the environment.

I tried moving around, and the background moved with me, as if the character model was still there. It was at that point that I noticed my character wasn’t entirely gone.

My gun was still there.

A teeny little pistol was floating in the air, the only indication that my Indent was where it should be.

After calling out to Bubba and Damien, I learned that Damien was also cursed with this invisibility. Bubba was the only one we could see.

We briefly considered restarting the game to see if our characters would come back, but after a minute or two of goofing around and playing literal hide-and-seek, we decided to continue on, playing the game as floating guns.

What followed was the most side-splitting romp I’ve ever had as an inanimate object. Damien and I looked ridiculous. We were like two Jiminy Crickets on Bubba’s shoulders, twin gun cronies helping him mow down packs of Ferals, invisible cyberpunk warriors of the night.

I mean, we still had to take cover on occasion, because our health pool could still go down, but the visual of a pistol hiding behind a wall made everything worth it.

We haven’t hopped on to play The Ascent in a while, but I enjoyed it despite the various glitches that ended up plaguing us. Damien got stuck in a gun shop twice, and Bubba was unable to leave a game at all through the in-game menu (it was like The Ascent wouldn’t let him go). But what can I say? I have a soft spot for things that make me laugh so hard I can’t breathe.

Cutting in Line

The strangest, silliest, and most awkward thing happened to me and my mother.

We were staying at this fancy hotel in Tucson. We came over to visit my sister for her husband’s birthday, but since a friend of his was also planning to come over at the same time, we couldn’t stay at their place. I honestly didn’t mind that too much. Being able to relax in a spa-like environment was a consolation. 

After an early wake-up thanks to my mother’s internal alarm clock being set to three in the morning, the two of us went to go get coffee. We meandered past the hotel’s lobby, drinking in the do-nothing leisure of the morning. The resort’s coffee bar was located past this bridge/walkway connecting the lobby to a part of the building that housed conference rooms and ballrooms. On this bridge, you can look out on a gorgeous view of the Arizona desert. The sky was a silvery grey and the land was a muted red speckled with cacti. My mom and I paused a bit to admire the scenery.

Since it was so early, there weren’t many people out and about. Only one other person stood on the walkway, a bearded man in work-out clothes, earbuds plugged into his ears, his eyes glued to the phone in his hand instead of the horizon. He was leaning against the walkway’s railing, and he ignored my mom and me as we stepped past him.

The coffee bar was situated right by the entrance onto the walkway. So as soon as we entered the chill, air-conditioned space, we could see the line to order. Only two people were ahead of us, and we walked forward, chatting about my sister and her visit. Nonchalantly, the man from the walkway stepped past us and cut us in line. He did this almost unobtrusively, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. My mom even halted her progress forward in the queue because it seemed like the man knew his business. It seemed like he was going somewhere else, that’s how officious and I-know-what-I’m-doing his demeanor was.

I exclaimed once to my mother in dismay, but then we shrugged in acceptance. People being unfair or thoughtless is just part of life. We settled in behind this man and continued our conversation.

“Excuse me,” a homely, Southern drawl sounded behind us. My mother and I turned. A large bald man, with an American flag tattooed on his arm and emblazoned on his shirt,  was standing over us. “Did that man just cut you off in line?”

Surprised at having our shame addressed so openly and also amiably embarrassed about the whole thing, we nodded our heads and said, “Yeah, but it’s okay.”

The bald man shook his head in grim consternation. “Man, it really burns my asshole when folks do that. It’s rude, and they think they can just get away with it.”

His genuine outrage at what we considered a minor misfortune caught us off guard. “Sorry,” we mumbled apologetically.

Then, after speaking a few more words of dissatisfaction, he strode past us and just got up in the other man’s grill. This man, the bearded one with earbuds, was still plugged into his phone, so he flinched and his eyes widened in shock when the big bald man thrust a finger in his shoulder and started scolding him for his audacity. Our “defender” gesticulated angrily, imparting his disdain in direct fashion. He pointed at my mom and me a few times. His victim was nonplussed, flabbergasted, and his gaze flicked back and forth between the behemoth in front of him and us.

As soon as his anger was spent, the bald man picked up his coffee and left. The man with the earbuds stared after him, stunned, but then made a derisive snorting sound at the back of his throat. He spared one more glance toward us, then went back to his phone.

My mom and I looked at each other, her with social panic and me with amused hysteria. What were we supposed to do or say after that? The people at the coffee bar were all staring at us. The scene had been quite loud.

Afterwards, the whole thing made for a fun story to regale my sister with. She laughed at the awkwardness we had been placed in. But she also commented on how the situation was a prime example of how people’s perspectives differ. Exploring the different viewpoints of everyone there perfectly showcases how people can approach courtesy and right versus wrong. Justifying your actions can take different forms.

The man with the earbuds justified getting ahead of me and my mom because he was planning on just ordering a water. We found this out when I tried apologizing to him for the altercation. I don’t think he heard what I was saying. He never acknowledged my words. He just kept repeating, “I’m just getting a water.” He probably thought the bald man made a mountain into a mole hill. 

The bald man, on the other hand, felt justified in berating another person out of a sense of chivalry, perhaps. Or maybe he had had a real bad day and the sight of an unrelated injustice enraged him as a result.

As my friends know by now, since I’ve bored their ears off retelling this tale over and over again. I’m having a lot of fun analyzing the situation. It fascinates me. 

Life Update #9: The Arrival of Harvey

It’s been a long time (a really long time) since I wrote a Life Update post. If I’m being honest with you, I actually kind of forgot about them.

Why?

Well, a pandemic happened, and it’s like my life just stopped updating.

However, I’m here to let you know about the next chapter in a perhaps forgotten saga.

Long-time followers of the blog will recall that I made friends with a daddy long-legs that lived in my bookcase. I named him Hardcore Henry, and he ended up dying a sad death. However, he had successors, so my bookcase was never unoccupied.

This particular update is to let you know about a new acquaintance I made about a week ago.

Get yourselves ready, folks. You’re about to meet Harvey.

The boyfriend and I were sleeping in bed. It was around 6 or 7 in the morning. We were nestled in a bunch of blankets, the majority of which I was admittedly hogging. The weight of the blankets and the proximity of the boyfriend was making me almost uncomfortably warm. He did not seem to notice or care, but my raised body temperature woke me up.

I shifted around, in a state between wakefulness and sleep, possessing moderate awareness that maybe I should remove a blanket or two. As I thought this, the heater turned on, and I slid into a sharper state of being awake based purely on my growing irritation at what would be an inevitable increase in warmth thanks to the ill-timed heater.

That’s when I heard a metallic skittering far above my head, right where the air conditioning vent was on my bedroom wall. Before I could even consider that this noise might mean something was wrong with the heater, something smacked into the side of my head. I jolted awake, the innate panic of an unknown being near my face dispelling any sleepiness I had.

At first, I thought the heater had just blown out some strange gunk from the vent, and that was what had shot onto my hair. But as my fingers probed through the tangle of my bedhead, and I touched something hard and brittle, I realized that was not the case.

Especially after whatever it was moved.

In disgusted alarm, I started to swat at my hair in quick flicking motions. And that’s when the cockroach that had fallen on my head got swiped off, plopping right onto the blanket covering my boyfriend’s chest.

Side note: The boyfriend sometimes sleeps on his back. He’s really talented this way, and I’ve been a bit jealous of this ability he possesses. However, after these events, I’m not so envious. I mean, if I had been sleeping on my back during this moment, that cockroach could have landed right between my eyes. Or worse…in my mouth.

“Danny, cockroach.”

That’s all I uttered in a short, raised tone of voice. He was instantly awake, but by that time, I had already grabbed the blanket and swept it off our bodies. Our huge pile of blankets rested on the floor, and we spent a few shocked moments staring at them.

Inaction was never an option, so I retrieved a shoe for my boyfriend, he positioned himself by the blankets, and I readied my nerves for shaking out each one individually.

Of course, the cockroach was equally ready for us, and as soon as it fell from the sheets, it scuttled under my dresser more quickly than lightning strikes a rod.

During the days after this event, as I planned to write about it for my next blog post, I imagined describing to all of you what it was like living with a cockroach somewhere in your bedroom, a mysterious and rude guest you never wanted. I told myself I would name him Harvey, and I delighted myself with coming up with ambiguous endings for his story.

I even had a Hardcore Henry versus Harvey comparison post in the works.

But shortly before the boyfriend left to go back home, Harvey made one final appearance near Danny’s suitcase. Subsequently, Harvey was murdered, courtesy of my Converse and Danny’s quick reflexes.

So that’s the end of Harvey, but before I go, I just want to assure you Above Average readers that I live in a very clean house. I have no idea what Harvey thought he was doing coming into it the way he did. I also want you all to know that I will forever keep you updated on any more visitors that make their way into my life. I don’t know if that’s what my Life Updates will be from now on or not.

But given the way life is currently going, Harvey actually felt like a weird highlight.

A D&D Story: The Rogue and the Mirror

Our Dungeons & Dragons party hunkered in a hallway outside a room where we knew a big battle would take place. Our game sessions had been leading to this moment for months. We were nervous, excited, and more than a little unprepared.

Weeks ago, our party had fought a giant abyssal creature, and it had driven one of our characters insane. (Seriously, our Dungeon Master thought it would be nifty to fiddle with Insanity Rolls.) No longer trusting anyone, our resident Wizard snuck away from the group without leaving any word of where he was headed. When the rest of our characters finally did learn where he was hiding, we also learned that he had made friends with some dark entity from another dimension, and our misguided Wizard was trying to bring it over to our world.

We had to stop him.

Which led us to this hallway, in an old fortress, waiting to enter a room.

Both in real life and in the game, we were pumped to dive in and rescue our friend.

Here’s who was playing that day:

Our newest party member Tekoa was playing as a sprightly Monk our group had found adrift on the sea while trying to locate our Wizard friend. She was great in a pinch, willing to lie to trick the bad guys, and packed a mean wallop with every roll.

Christian was playing his Rogue, sneaky to the millionth degree, his penchant for getting into trouble matched only by his ability to get out of it.

Mia was playing the practical but probably-incredibly-tired-by-our-party’s-shenanigans Druid. She has healed us more times than we can count, and her level-headed use of spells during a fight is irreplaceable.

Dalton had the honor of playing two characters at once. He was the one who had lost his Wizard to insanity, so he was still in charge of that guy. He had also made a new spell-wielding Dwarven Automaton character to accompany the rest of us in bringing his original wayward character back into the fold. Dalton would be playing both a villain and a hero in this encounter.

And lastly, there was me, playing as my optimistic Fighter. She was a small Gnome with a massive amount of Dexterity at her disposal, a force to be reckoned with at close range with finesse weapons.

We might seem like a crack team of D&D players, but if you’ve read any of my other D&D Stories, you know we’ll always find a way to mess things up.

Our group had coerced a diminutive Goblin to lead us to the room where our Wizard was attempting to contact this dark entity. The Goblin mentioned he only knew of one secret way into the room aside from the main entrance. And it was tiny.

My small Fighter instantly volunteered to go through the opening the Goblin indicated. “I’ll do it! I can do it! I’m going in!”

Mia’s Druid held up a hand, saying, “No! Wait! Let’s come up with a plan first!”

Our Dungeon Master (DM) looked right at me and asked if I would heed the Druid’s warning. Knowing that my Fighter was overconfident and headstrong, I figured she would have already rushed in the small passage. I said as much, and Mia could only grit her teeth in annoyance.

Not knowing what might await my character, the rest of the party decided to enter the large room without me, hoping that the passage the Goblin was leading me down would allow me to flank our Wizard at the end of it. They gathered themselves by the main entrance under our Druid’s lead. My careless Fighter had left them one man short.

Just before the door was opened, Christian’s Rogue placed his Ring of Invisibility on his finger. He disappeared from view.

Now, this ring is Christian’s prize possession. It allows him to deal huge amounts of damage when he sneaks up on an unsuspecting victim. Before a big fight, he usually puts it on in preparation.

So as the party burst through the doors, the Rogue was invisible, as per usual.

The sight that awaited my friends was distressing.

Our Wizard friend was standing before a grotesque portal with strands of fleshy material tethering it to the wall, ceiling, and floor. An eerie light was emanating from it. Our DM told us, however, that the energy in the room felt like it was mounting for something bigger. Clearly, the portal wasn’t open yet, but it would be very shortly.

Unfortunately, my friends didn’t have long to glimpse this horror. As soon as they came into the room, the Wizard whirled around, a grim smile on his face. With a wave of his hand, he removed a large cloth sheet from a mirror that was mounted directly in front of the door my friends had just used. As soon as the mirror was revealed, the DM told them they all had to make Charisma Saving Throws.

I bit my nails nervously (in real-life, not in the game) as everyone at the table rolled their 20-sided dice. Mia, Tekoa, and Dalton all rolled high numbers for the Druid, Monk, and Automaton respectively.

Christian rolled a terrifyingly low 4. His Rogue was not a particularly “charismatic” character, so there was not much he could add to increase that number.

With special enthusiasm, the DM began to describe what happened to the Rogue. “You feel a strange light surround you, and a strange sucking feeling at your feet. All of a sudden, you feel like you’re pulled away. You blink, and you’re no longer in the room. You’re in an infinite white space with fog all around you.” The DM turned to the rest of the party (the Druid, Monk, and Automaton) and said, “You see your friend disappear.”

Mia, ever aware of practicalities and inconsistencies, furrowed her brow. “But…he was invisible.”

The DM paled at this forgotten bit of information. “Oh…right. Umm, then I guess none of you see anything happen.”

Stunned silence hit the table as we realized that we just lost our Rogue friend to a magical trap…and none of us were aware of it.

Side note: Yes, technically speaking, as players we all know Christian’s character got trapped. But our characters, in the world of the game, have no clue. And as part of playing D&D properly, we have to maintain their ignorance.

Dalton, as his Wizard, spat out a “Dammit!”

We all laughed as one, knowing that from the Wizard’s perspective, his mirror trap absolutely failed to ensnare anyone.

The fight to close the portal and reason with our insane Wizard friend began in earnest. Several goons were protecting him, so the Automaton and the Monk started hammering away at them. Mia knew where our priorities should lie and had her Druid cast Moonbeam over the still-barely-closed portal. White, ethereal light shone down on the fleshy tendrils, burning them slowly with radiant damage.

Meanwhile, our Rogue tried running around in his infinite interdimensional pocket, to no avail.

Tekoa’s Monk decided to abandon the fight with the goons in favor of punching the lights out of the Wizard. She had come to the group after his departure, so she had no compunctions about hitting his face to kingdom come. She landed some hefty hits on the Wizard, and Dalton had to struggle to keep track of how both his Automaton and the Wizard were faring in terms of health.

Meanwhile, Christian’s Rogue tried cutting a whole in the floor to escape; it didn’t work.

My Fighter had been having a tough time following the Goblin through the secret passage. A magical fire trap actually killed the Goblin halfway through the tunnel, but my Fighter survived by the skin of her teeth. Traumatized and singed, she emerged in the room where the big fight was happening after a few moments.

With the Druid focusing on the portal, the Automaton focusing on the goons, and the Monk focusing on the Wizard, it was hard to decide where my Fighter should go next. But after Tekoa’s Monk was given a beating by some goons who stepped up to support the Wizard in his fight against her, she was not looking too good. I sent my Fighter sprinting over to assist her.

The fight continued as Christian’s Rogue went crazy trying to figure out a way to escape.

Finally feeling merciful toward Christian’s plight, the DM allowed the Automaton to make a History Check. This is not only a roll to see if he remembers what this mirror is and how to deal with it; it is also a roll to see if the Automaton can make the logical leap that the mirror was a trap our invisible Rogue might have fallen into. A very average 11 ensured that the Automaton at least recollected that destroying it should release whoever is inside. The metal behemoth trudged over to the mirror and began whacking at it.

Mia’s poor Druid was left to attack the portal by herself while also fending off the goons the Automaton had previously held at bay. “You guys, the portal!” she cried out desperately.

Tekoa’s Monk was on the brink of death, however, so she crawled as far away from the fight as she could to try and recuperate.

My Fighter, in the meantime, was attempting to start a dialogue with the Wizard, her former friend, in the hopes of reaching a peaceful resolution to the situation.

The energy from the portal reached critical levels.

The Automaton swung a mighty blow against the mirror, and it shattered into hundreds of pieces. Our Rogue appeared from out of nowhere, gasping in relief and visible for the world to see. Unluckily, he was not the only being trapped in one of the mirror’s interdimensional pockets. Three Drow Elves, a Dwarf, a handful of beasts, and a Mind Flayer all suddenly appeared in the room.

Mass chaos ensued as everyone began fighting everyone.

My Fighter’s dialogue with the Wizard halted as we both turned to look at the suddenly much more crowded room. Tekoa’s Monk huddled in a corner trying to heal. Mia’s Druid begged us all to turn our attention to the portal one final time.

That’s when the portal finally opened fully, and a gargantuan Beholder floated out of it with a hideous cackle.

Things went downhill from there. Tekoa’s Monk ran away in fright. The Automaton got petrified and charmed by our Wizard. Mia’s Druid got tossed out a window and fell 60 feet. The Rogue used his Warp Arrows to teleport outside to save her, but he ended up shooting the arrow too far; he appeared by the fortress walls instead. My Fighter then used her Broom of Flying to try and catch her as well, but that failed. Our Druid didn’t die, but it was a close thing.

Those of us that could flee had to run away from the fortress. Dark clouds gathered around the battlements, and we could hear the Beholder’s laughter in our minds as we sprinted away.

At the end of the session, the DM leaned back in his chair and rubbed at his eyes. “I guess we’ll pick this up next week?”

5 Movies I’ve Had To Drag My Sister To See

My sister is a reluctant moviegoer.

She wasn’t always like this. Going to the theater with my father used to be a weekly thing when we were children. That all changed when we saw Dragon Wars.

If I’m being one hundred percent honest, it was my idea to go see Dragon Wars.

But come on! It looked like an epic fight between dragons in a city, Godzilla-style. I was and am very partial to big monster movies.

However, what we ended up watching was a massively disappointing film with terrible writing and acting that barely scratched the surface of what a monster movie could be. It was corny, cringe-worthy…in short, it was a bad-movie-night movie.

And my sister hated it.

Seriously, I got more enjoyment from watching her disgusted and disbelieving expression than I got from watching the movie itself.

But ever since then, Alya has distrusted my taste in movies. No matter how much I tell her that I’m aware they are bad movies and that I think they’re funny, she thinks I have terrible taste when it comes to film-watching.

This means that I frequently have to drag her to see movies with me. And while it does pain me to have to cajole my own sister to have a good time in a theater with me, it does come with its perks.

I get to witness my sister’s sudden reversal of opinion when I take her to a good movie. This has happened on more than one occasion, and it’s especially enjoyable the more my sister thinks the movie will be bad.

So for today, I thought I’d run you through the top five movies I had to force my sister to watch and that she ended up appreciating.

Let’s do this.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

To be fair to my sister, she wasn’t entirely against watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes. We both had a fondness for the original Apes film with Charlton Heston, so there was precedent for her enjoying this type of genre.

It was a late night though, and my asking her to come with me was a spur of the moment decision. After a few oh-I-don’t-knows and are-you-sure-this-will-be-goods, the two of us went to see it.

The big crowd in the theater surprised the two of us, but what was even more surprising was how much we enjoyed the movie. It wasn’t just fun, it was good. The two of us shared shocked glances when Caesar first spoke, and we were riveted the entire time.

While my sister remembers this as that one time I convinced her to see a late-night movie she enjoyed, I remember it as a rejuvenation of my love for the Apes movies. I watched every subsequent film more than once in theaters, with the trilogy becoming some of my favorite movies.

District 9

Alya seriously thought that District 9 would be a dumb little sci-fi movie. Don’t blame her though. She had not paid a single ounce of attention to any of the trailers or marketing schemes for the film. So she went into this one blind.

I on the other hand had been watching this movie’s progress for a while, knowing it was the kind of science fiction I could really bite my teeth into.

The movie horrified us, but it also engaged us with its shocking portrayals of alien immigration and the connections it was unsubtly making to real-life comparisons.

Alya specifically remarked to me when we left the theater that she hadn’t expected to feel so much while watching this movie. I got a spring in my step after that comment, even though I myself had nothing to do with making the film.

All I had done was manage to convince my sister to take a break from homework to go watch it with me.

Watchmen

My sister thought I was a complete crazy person the day I saw Watchmen for the first time.

See, I had been a long-time fan of Alan Moore’s phenomenal graphic novel, so of course I’d take an immense interest in the film adaptation.

I was so interested in seeing the movie, I was willing to go see the midnight premiere for it even though the next day I had an exam to take in my AP World History class.

Side note: I had to fight my parents to see this movie. I basically promised them I would get an A.

I remember Alya, studying for a class of her own at night, watching open-mouthed as I left the house at 9 pm to go see the movie at midnight. And when I came back home at 3 in the morning and she had fallen asleep while studying at our dining table, her mouth fell open once more when I woke her up singing the movie’s praises.

Maybe that’s why she didn’t complain as much when I asked if she would see it with me one more time.

Afterwards, she expressed an interest in reading the comic book, and now the two of us can quote it at each other all day long.

Star Trek

Both my sister and I are huge Star Wars fans, but only I ever made the jump to Star Trek. My sister saw one episode of The Original Series (the one with the meatball monster) and thought it was stupid.

So I was asking a lot from her to go see the new Star Trek movie with me. She was groaning the whole time, from my pre-movie bathroom break to buying popcorn to sitting in our seats.

But then that opening sequence commenced, when Kirk’s dad saves everybody aboard the USS Kelvin in a suicide maneuver, and Alya’s eyes were glued to the screen. And when the opening title appeared on the screen with the Star Trek theme blaring in the background, she half-whispered, half-yelled, “Holy shit, that was so good!”

How To Train Your Dragon

If there is one thing my sister loathes more than any other kind of bad movie, it’s a bad kids movie. She is used to Pixar-quality kids movies, always has been, so when she watches some low-bar, DreamWorks Animation shit, with pop culture references up the wazoo, a vein pops in her temple.

So try to imagine her initial fury at my audacity in asking her to watch How To Train Your Dragon with me.

But, as those of you who have seen the movie should know, it’s not your typical DreamWorks fare. It does not strive to make itself relevant with popular trends; it just tells a sweet story about a boy and his dragon.

During the montage of Hiccup trying to train Toothless, Alya leaned over to me and said, “I want a Toothless!” with hints of a squeal in her voice.

And that was the start of never having to beg her to watch a How To Train Your Dragon movie with me again. Though she was less impressed with the sequels, she was invested in the characters enough to always give them a shot.

Monday Morning with Froley

Sunday night, I was playing some Minecraft with my friend Bubba. We can spend hours just goofing off there. This particular time, I was busy crafting a roller coaster while Bubba was industriously building us an underwater house. When it was 9:30 pm, I realized I had yet to put Froley to bed.

Normally, Froley has a very strict bedtime and awake-time. He gets twelve hours every day so that he doesn’t become a grumpy birb. 9 am to 9 pm.

Glancing over at Froley’s cage, I could see him staring at me with his beady eyes, indignantly asking me with a look why I hadn’t taken him to his bedtime cage yet.

I’m just kidding. He was taking a nap on his cuttlebone perch.

Side note: A cuttlebone is basically a chewable mineral supplement for birds. I bought Froley a perch specifically made to hold his cuttlebone. He uses it to take naps in his daytime cage.

I quickly told Bubba to give me a sec, pulled off my headset, and approached Froley’s cage.

“It’s bedtime, Froley,” I sang at him. “Are you ready to go mimis?”

He opened his eyes and his beak at me in displeasure.

“Do you want to go mimis with me, Froley?” I continued, ignoring his bad mood.

Froley instantly became more amenable because he knows what sleeping with me means. It means his bedtime cage gets placed right next to my bed so we can “sleep together.” He hopped onto my finger right quick after that and allowed me to take him to his bedtime cage. I then carried the whole cage to my bedroom, gently setting it down by the head of my bed. The top of Froley’s bedtime cage reached the top surface of my bed. I can look down at the cage from my pillow.

After hurriedly covering Froley’s cage with his polar bear blanket (he never sleeps without it), I went back to Minecraft. I stayed up till around midnight playing with Bubba before going to sleep. When I did go to bed, Froley hissed at me when I got under my blankets because I was making too much noise. But after we both settled in, sleep was swift and silent.

Dim light eventually filtered in through my window blinds, waking me up at around 6 am. After verifying on my phone that it was, in fact, 6:32 am, I pulled the polar bear blanket off of Froley’s cage. “Good morning, Froley,” I murmured.

He hissed at me.

I opened his cage and got him on my finger, depositing him on top of his cage. He was now eye-level with me.

Normally, Froley will fluff up on top of his cage, ready for morning naps after this initial wake-up. I’ll participate in this activity too, sleeping in for maybe two more hours.

Not today.

Froley wanted to get cuddles this morning.

He pooped on top of his cage, then waddled over to the edge of it. Then he hopped onto my bed and scrambled onto my head. Then I heard him beak grinding, which meant he had decided to take his nap on my head.

After snapping a quick picture of him because he was too cute for me not to, I settled back into my pillow for those two extra hours of sleep. I got some good dreamtime while I was at it. I dreamed I was in the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender and I was fighting the Boulder at the Earth Kingdom fighting arena.

At some point, Froley waddled to his cage to poop, and then clawed his way back onto my head. He is a well-trained and fastidious bird. (Some of the time.) The two of us slept more after that.

Eventually though, he decides that he is ready to greet the day. I am awoken by the sensation of Froley preening my eyelashes. He starts at the corners of my eyes, grasps an eyelash in his beak, then nibbles his way along it. It’s a gentle process, unless he happens to find an eye crusty.

Side note: Eye Crusty: (N.) Discharge and other debris that accumulates and hardens at the corner of your eye. Don’t judge me, bruh, we all get eye crusties.

Well, Froley happened to find an eye crusty, so instead of waking up to that gentle, ticklish sensation of him simply trying to preen me, I’m woken up by an eyelash being torn out by my pet bird.

Committing To Awkward: My Theater Bathroom Encounter

Not often, but sometimes, I’ll share embarrassing shit that I’ve done on this blog.

Today is going to be one of those days.

So recently, I went to go see Underwater with my Dungeons & Dragons buddies. We’ve gotten into the habit of seeing movies together, and it’s quite the enjoyable experience. As a matter of fact, they’re the ones who I went to go see Cats with. (For more on that, be sure to check out my rant on the film.)

Part of our joy in watching movies is from raucously yelling at the screen. We like expressing our disdain, enjoyment, or disbelief out loud. Rest assured, we do this when no one else is in the theater.

That was partially why I wanted a late showing for Underwater. The later we went, I assumed, the less likely other people would be at the theater with us.

Side note: Underwater is actually an okay movie. It’s got the usual horror movie tropes, but if you’re looking for an underwater horror experience, that’s exactly what you get. It’s decent. Plus, there’s a delightful surprise for any classic horror fans at the end.

So when we all entered our particular theater, I was thrilled that the six of us were there alone. We could be loud to our hearts’ content. When we went to see Cats, there had been two people who were at our showing as well. We still snorted with laughter and all, but I felt guilty about it afterward.

Now, anybody who knows me knows that I like to pee right before a movie starts. It’s all a part of my theater experience. There’s nothing I hate more than getting the urge to take a leak right at the good part. So in order to prevent that from happening, I often jog over to the bathroom right before the film actually starts. I like to think I’m completely emptying my bladder so that it can then be adequately refilled during the course of the movie with my water/soda/etc.

Thus, after we took our seats, I promptly stood back up and popped off to the john.

The layout of our local movie theater is fairly straighforward. There’s a main concession area, then two hallways that lead to different theaters. One of these hallways is shorter and only branches off into two theaters. The other is longer, and it has more theaters connected to it.

Here, I’ve made a stupid diagram of it.

The red splotches are doors. I didn’t draw out the theaters.

The showing of Underwater that my friends and I were going to see was in one of the two theaters leading into the shorter hallway. So it was a short walk to the bathroom nearby.

Just as I entered the bathroom, I saw a man leaving the concession area and heading toward the hallway. He looked to be in his forties, had a bag of popcorn in his hands, and was presumably going to watch a movie that night.

I stopped in the middle of the bathroom after entering, looking back over my shoulder out the door. The door to this bathroom is notoriously slow, so it was inching closed like molasses, allowing me a good long look at this man.

‘Dammit,’ I thought to myself. ‘What if he’s heading to see Underwater? We won’t have the theater to ourselves.’

So great was my desire to have the theater to myself and my friends, I decided to ascertain right then and there whether or not this man would be watching it with us. The bathroom door was still ponderously closing, so I stepped right next to the door jamb, staring at the man’s now-retreating figure. If he made a right into the longer hallway, I would know he was seeing something else. If he continued straight, we were doomed to polite silence.

As fate or fucking chance would have it, the man seemed to sense eyes on him, so he turned around and looked right at me.

At that moment, I had a choice.

I could either hurriedly duck away from view and pretend that I hadn’t been eyeballing his movements this whole time.

Or I could commit to what I was doing.

Side note: In stressful situations, a moment of nonplussed inaction is my usual recourse.

So I fucking committed to this stare, and the last thing I saw as the bathroom door finally closed shut was the quizzical stare of this 40-something man as he looked into the girls bathroom and saw a freak with glasses and a beanie unabashedly gazing at him with a deer-in-headlights face.

And that was probably the most embarrassing thing I’ve done this year.

So far.

I still have eleven more months to go.

Froley’s Miraculous Poop Story

My sister swears up and down that this is a true story.

I was asleep, so I can say nothing as to its veracity.

It was early morning, and Alya and I were sleeping in the same room, different beds. I had placed Froley’s bedtime cage next to my bed so he could sleep next to me. (We enjoy each other’s company that much.)

Anyway, the faintest of light was coming through the windows. I woke up briefly to take Froley out of his cage for a bit. This is a little ritual we do every time Froley sleeps in my bedroom. It’s like a second nap.

So I opened his cage door, got him on my finger, then deposited him on the roof of his bedtime cage. Then I went back to sleep.

Sometimes, Froley will stay on the roof and sleep like the fluffy flufferton he is. Other times, he’ll amble over to my bed, hop onto my pillow, then climb on my head/neck/shoulder. When he naps there, I can hear his content beak grinding right next to my ear.

So…

apparently, on this particular morning, Froley elected to sleep on my shoulder. Alya woke up and saw this, thinking it was the cutest thing ever. She tried taking a picture with her cell, but before she could, Froley stepped off of my shoulder and back onto the cage.

Disappointed, she put her cell phone away and cursed her bad luck.

However, to her utter astonishment, Froley did a little poop once he was on his bedtime cage, his messiness landing squarely on the poop-sheets below. Once done with his business, he waddled back onto my shoulder.

Alya thinks Froley is a secret genius now, thanks to his good judgment, consideration, and miraculous poop skills.

Life Update #4: Living with Hardcore Henry

I’m not overly fond of spiders.

In fact, they freak me the fuck out.

I wouldn’t say I shriek and run away like a stereotypical arachnophobe, but I do flinch and maybe panic a bit…which is not all that different, I suppose.

There is one type of spider I’m not all that scared of, and that is the daddy long-legs. They have thin, spindly legs and the smallest of bodies. Their webs are wispy and frail, occasionally looking like hair more than webbing.

They’ve been a part of my life for a long time, for as long as I can remember. They heavily populated the garage and were sometimes seen indoors. My dad once picked one up and showed it to me and my sister. He said they were helpful in keeping other, more dangerous spiders away. So even though my mom might shriek and demand the death of every daddy long-legs she can find, they always had a hall pass in my book. As long as they kept the ever-threatening presence of those “other, more dangerous spiders” away, I was totally cool with them.

About a year ago, I noticed there was a daddy long-legs taking up residence in a corner near where my bookshelves are. While it initially jump-scared me by popping out when I was reaching for a book, I decided to leave it alone. I dubbed it Hardcore Henry and just took extra care when selecting books from that shelf.

Henry and I began a steady relationship from that day forward. I said, “Good morning, Henry,” every time I passed by that spot, and he’d sit in his web, chilling. I even introduced him to my boyfriend, who should by now be accustomed to my penchant for naming things.

However, I made the mistake of introducing Henry to my mother.

I mentioned that I had a daddy long-legs I was keeping around, and she freaked out. I didn’t tell her Henry’s exact location, but she knew he was around my bookshelf.

One day, she found Henry when I wasn’t in the house. She yelled aloud as soon as she saw him, and my boyfriend, who happened to be nearby, told her, “That’s Henry. Amanda is keeping him.”

The next day, when I passed by the bookshelf, Henry wasn’t there.

I’ll admit, I was saddened at the thought that my bookshelf companion was gone to the big web in the sky, but I didn’t hold it against my mom. I, too, am afraid of spiders and will not hesitate to squish them if they even think of getting too close.

But Henry was different.

He was a cool spider.

A couple of weeks ago, I was walking by that bookshelf again, when I noticed some webbing was there. I took a closer look, and what should I find but another daddy long-legs.

I am calling him Hardcore Henry II.

And this time, I’ll just keep his presence between him, me, and the rest of you guys reading this.

The Spider This Morning

It started like any other morning.

(Isn’t that always the way things start?)

My phone was booping out some generic alarm, so I opened my eyes slowly. I could feel the slight crustiness in the corners. (It’s fun to scratch that stuff away.) I reached for my phone in the darkness of my bedroom. I squinted from the bright light of its screen and jabbed the alarm off. The room was cold, so it was a real struggle to simply pull the thick comforter off of myself. I did it anyways and slouched to the bedroom door. My favorite pair of slippers were right there. They were light blue and as soft as the softest bath towel. They also made the most delightful slapping noise whenever I walked on tile.

(I’m fond of shoe noises.)

I went to take off my retainer and brush my teeth. Then I shuffled down the long hallway to the kitchen. Some lights were already on there, but the rest of the house was dark.

As I entered the living room and then turned the corner to the kitchen, I was greeted by my sister, who was busily making coffee for the two of us. I said a sleepy but good-natured hello in return, and then proceeded to wash some of last night’s dishes.

(My sister and her husband are notoriously bad at doing the dishes in a timely fashion, so whenever I stay with them, dish-washing falls to me. I don’t mind because they do most of the cooking in return. I’m not much of a cook.)

Alya has a teacher schedule, and as any fellow teacher will know, you have to wake up early if you’re going to prepare for your day at school properly. Alya always woke up at 5:30 a.m. so that she would have time to lesson plan and walk her dog, Ushi, before school. I had set my alarm to 6 so that I could keep her company. It was pretty hellacious on my sleep schedule since I never compensated by going to sleep early, but hanging out with Alya even a single second more made it all worth it.

After doing the dishes, I knelt down to greet Ushi.

Ushi is an absolute darling of a dog. She’s a large, St. Bernard-Great Pyrenees hybrid whose only objective in life is to get love.

I was thoroughly occupied in helping Ushi achieve that goal when all of a sudden, I heard Alya shout, “Oh my god! Is that real?!”

I looked up at Alya from where I was crouched on the kitchen floor with Ushi. Alya was standing close to the living room while still in the kitchen, and she was staring at the ceiling in disbelief.

I followed her gaze and felt my fists clutch at Ushi’s thick white fur in dismay.

On the ceiling, a spindly, hairy spider held perfectly still.

Alya and I glanced at each other. We both thought the same thing: Fuck. 

(Yes, Alya and I are that close that we know what each other is thinking.)

Alya started to panic. “Oh, what are we going to do? Is it alive? I can’t see it moving. Maybe it’s dead. Where’s the broom?” She said all this in a rush, then went off to find the broom.

I stayed sitting on the floor frozen for a moment, but then I scuttled away on my behind in a hurry, heart thumping unpleasantly. I grabbed Ushi by her neck fur and dragged her with me. She slid along the floor uncomplainingly, unaware of the terror that was unfolding before her.

(I am massively terrified of spiders.)

However, once Alya came back with the broom, Ushi finally realized something was up. She began looking all over the kitchen for whatever was going to get swatted. She even trotted up to the backyard sliding glass door to see if something outside was causing the broom to appear.

She failed to see the nightmare that was still perched on the ceiling.

Alya brought the broom up as if to sweep the spider towards me. “Amanda, get out of the way!”

“Whoa! Not here!” I was standing by the sliding glass door as well. I pointed to a more open space of the kitchen, in the complete opposite direction from me. “Do it there.”

Alya tilted the broom a bit so that its bristles would sweep the spider away from us.

“Are you ready?” A tinge of excitement colored my sister’s tone. I both hated and loved it. That tone meant that she was having fun. I was legitimately concerned. It did bring a certain amount of lightheartedness to the whole situation though.

Before I could properly steel myself, Alya swept the broom in an arcing motion. It hit the spider perfectly, and it plopped onto an empty space of tile floor. It didn’t move.

Reassured of its lifelessness, Alya and I walked up to its body.

And that’s when the fucking thing decided to move.

(Spiders are dicks sometimes.)

Alya and I shrieked bloody murder. The most I could do was scurry backwards and press up against the sliding glass door. Alya started whacking at the spider with the broom like an erratic game of Whack-a-Mole. It’s like the broom was a hoe, and she was furiously pounding the earth.

Unfortunately, the broom’s bristles did not carry enough pressure to properly smush the beastly spider. I think I saw its body bounce a bit, but it was still very much alive throughout all of Alya’s broom attacks.

Ushi just stared with her tail wagging as her owner brought the broom up and down on the floor.

Alya eventually stopped to check her work. The spider was not moving as much as before, but its legs were twitching. “I need a chancla,” Alya declared.

She had a pair of flip-flops by the sliding glass door. I reached for one slowly, making none of my movements too forceful.

(Everyone knows that spiders can only see you if you move.)

I tossed Alya the sandal, and she caught it with one hand. The other hand still held the broom at the ready.

Ushi’s attention was riveted by the sandal, as if she thought she was supposed to catch it. She completely ignored the eight-legged monster on the floor.

With one expert motion born from years of swatting flies and mosquitoes, Alya brought the chancla down. We both let out one final shriek as it made its impact on the spider and the kitchen floor with a sharp slap.

When Alya pulled back the chancla, the unmoving body of the spider was all that remained.

It had tried that trick on us once before, so we approached it more cautiously the second time around. Upon further inspection, it was clear that the spider was crushed, defeated.

Alya and I sighed with relief and started laughing at our own silliness. Using a napkin, she picked up the spider and tossed it in the trash.

(I am so freaked out by spiders, I will not touch them even when they’re dead.)

We continued on with our morning, a little exhilarated by the thrill of adventure from the spider-killing.

After all that excitement, Ushi lay down right where the spider had met its doom and took a nap.