Y’all, Day 2. Let’s celebrate my tenacity, my stick-to-it-ed-ness. I made it to the second day. Only 28 more to go. Let’s hope I don’t burn out. Say it with me now: One day at a time.
Today’s post is set in contemporary times and features a newcomer to American pop culture: The Blogger. This one’s male. On a whim, he creates a fake blog where he impersonates a mother of four who has just been diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer. Lucky for me, I’m only writing the beginning so I don’t need to get him out of his jam. I just need to get him in.
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DAY 2: INSPIRED BY LIFE
Jim Thorpe didn’t think of himself as a man who had particularly great ideas. In fact, science had confirmed he did not. Before he was hired as a world sciences teacher at the Thomas A. Edison middle school, he was given a test designed to measure his creative thinking, his analytical abilities and his problem-solving skills. On the creative thinking metric, Jim scored in the lowest quartile. He got the job anyway and trudged his way through his probationary period and the requisite seven years before earning tenure.
So he can’t be faulted for not realizing it was a great idea (or for the fact he didn’t characterize the idea at all). To Jim, he was just putzing around on his computer. The night before his Great Idea he’d disabled his WordPress account because no one read his blog. Not even his mother, the omni-supportive Clareen Thorpe, could bring herself to read Jim’s posts, all of them turgid, ranty odes to Johnny Lydon (popularly known as “Johnny Rotten”) and the Sex Pistols. According to Jim’s blog, “not nearly enough has been written about the Golden Age of music, those day when the bands like the Sex Pistols weren’t afraid of original thoughts or guitar riffs.” Apparently, he was wrong. Plenty had been written and the theme was thoroughly ground down.
Without his little blog and its meager following to rail against, Jim found himself staring at the empty white screen with the blinking vertical line. He heard the cursor say, “Write something, Damnit!”
“Fuck it,” he said out loud. Then, he bent over the keyboard and wrote his first line. “I’ve got stage IV metastatic cancer and four children under the age of eight.” Then, his second. “This on-line journal is a love letter to my young children and my husband of fifteen years.” His third. “They are the loves of my life, and I want them to know before it’s too late.”
Jim wrote for over an hour. Shamelessly, he borrowed the tragedy of his colleague, Elizabeth Gatsbell, the beloved art teacher, whose classroom was across the hall from his. Elizabeth got her diagnosis three weeks ago, and the grim-faced bean-counter of a principal, Dr. Beau Stanton, had gathered all the teachers in the lounge for an emergency announcement. The librarian, PE teachers, and ESL specialists all burst into tears the moment the word cancer slid from Dr. Stanton’s lips. Jim had grabbed the box of tissues from the window sill and passed it around.
He didn’t cry at the time.
During the meeting, he’d worried about Elizabeth’s kids, all of whom he met at the annual end-of-year picnics. He could picture their four sets of brown eyes, crumpled with fear and grief over their mother’s health. Such a happy family, why them? Jim wondered aloud.
He’d contributed to the fund started by the criers who hoped to defray some of the out-of-pocket expenses for the Gatsbells. He wrote a check for a hundred bucks, no small amount for a public school teacher.
Jim respected the way Elizabeth brought her enthusiasm to the students’ yearly self-portrait projects. Last year, she’d started a unit called “as inspired by.” The students got to pick their artistic inspiration. She was undaunted when half the students chose the obvious Picasso and Monet. Jim knew she was going to tinker with the concept and try again this spring.
Jim bought the new domain, after giving the name a total of three minutes’ thought. Of course, he kept his identity anonymous. He typed in his credit card number, then it was his. Inspired By Life. He leaned back in his chair and squinted at the screen. He needed a tag line. He stood up and walked to the kitchen. “Tag line, tag line,” he muttered to himself.
When he sat back down, he typed it out. “One mother’s journey to record her love in the face of a stage IV cancer diagnosis.” He’d written “before it’s too late,” but deleted it. Too morbid.
Really, he was just goofing around. Putzing. He never meant for it to go anywhere.
The morning after he published the post, Jim awoke to 400 emails on the gmail account he created (firstname.lastname@example.org). Ellen DeGeneres retweeted the link. It was shared on Facebook over 12,300 times.
Viral. His first post went viral.