Finale of I Drew a Monkey in a Math Book and Now I’m Married

Gorrilla Cover Part VI

(Start at Chapter One)

Midway through the summer between Junior and Senior year of high school, Jennie and I found ourselves on a trip in South Texas. We had to drive back home to Oklahoma. It was just us; no parents, no adults, and just miles upon miles of open road running the central Texas prairie. We spent the whole day together, most of it submerged in torrential rains. There was a monster gulf storm that seemed to follow us the entire length of Texas. We laughed about it and talked for the whole trip. There are a lot of things we still talk about from that trip. After a nine hour drive that should have only taken five, thanks to the storm, and luck perhaps, we arrived back home. By the end of the day, though, we weren’t quite ready to part ways.

We stayed together for what was left of the day and we found ourselves talking again in her room. That night, I was laying on her bed after we had been talking for a long time. It was not a particularly special conversation. If my life relied upon retelling even a single word of it, I would be gone forever. It was just more of the same little nothings kids in love talk about late at night; music, movies, each other, the events of the day.

There was a moment of silence where I began to think back about the day. It was perfect. I had spent the whole thing just hanging out with this beautiful wonderful girl who made me happy. I wanted it to be like that forever. The seed of a notion began to take root and reach up toward the light in my mind.

“(What is going to happen to us after high school? Will we be able to stay together?)” I wondered.

“(We probably won’t be able to. Not in the real world. She’ll probably go to college and who knows where I will end up?)”

“(I don’t want to lose her. Probably, the only real way this could work is if we got married.)”

“(I wish we were old enough that getting married might be an option.)”

“(Why, exactly, aren’t we old enough? What really makes a person old enough to get married?)”

“(Why should I wait until I am older to find the girl I want spend the rest of my life with, anyway?)”

(Jennie is everything I want…)

Returning to reason, momentarily, I caught hold of the hazardous progression of thoughts taking place in my head.

“(This is crazy. I am only seventeen. I can’t know what I want in a woman. Why would I even be thinking is?)”

I laid in silence for a while longer, pensively staring at the ceiling. This idea of mine wouldn’t leave me. I kept on thinking about the inevitable reality that High School couples don’t last after High School.

I decided the only way to resolve the situation was to give her the responsibility of proving to me that this was supposed to happen. There would need to be some test to validate my inkling. It would have to be something difficult, but that a good wife would be able to do, at least by limited imagination of what it meant to be a good wife. If she somehow passed the test, then my mind would be made up. If she failed, perhaps it was never meant to be, anyway. I could be done with the emotionally charged internal debate and go back to being a seventeen year old kid, free of the ludicrous tugging of fanciful heartstrings. Fate would determine what I needed to know.

“(She is great, but there needs to be something else. I need a woman who gets me. I think that a good wife should be able to understand when something is wrong with her husband, even if he doesn’t say anything at all. I have probably been thinking about this for a while. If she asks me in the next minute if something is wrong I am going to ask her to marry me.)”

It was an impossible thing to ask. It wasn’t fair to her to ask such a question. I had based the future of our relationship on a belief that a wife needed to have a telepathic level of empathy toward her potential partner. It was wrong to do that to her, put so much of a burden on her that relied on her never even knowing she was being tested. It was a foolish thing to do. A wiser person would have realized that thoughts like mine were the types of ideas which ruined what would have otherwise been beautiful relationships. If I were a wiser man, I probably would have never said them, but that didn’t matter.

Had I had the time to consider my thought processes, I may have dismissed it as the uncontrolled daydreaming of an infatuated youth. I didn’t have the time, though. As I finished that fateful sentence in my mind, literally, as the period landed in the sentence of my thoughts, I heard a whisper from the other side of the bed.

“Jon, is everything alright?” Jennie said.

“…”

“(What? Seriously?)” These were only real thoughts I could muster. I was startled at the immediacy of which my test was passed. I didn’t even have time to realize what a stupid idea that was! To place one’s fate in the whims of miraculous luck! Perhaps, however, it wasn’t really luck. Perhaps it was exactly what I needed to do, and her reaction, was exactly what I needed to hear.

“(Umm… No. It is ok.)” I thought, gathering myself.

“(She is the perfect woman for me. And I did say that I would, so I am going to. I’m doing this.)”

I rolled over and looked at her. She was concerned by my apparent absence. I talked to her and told her what I felt. I told her what my mind had been up to and what I had decided. I told her how much the time we spent together meant to me and how I never really wanted this day to stop. I told her that I wanted to spend my life with her.

That’s when I asked her to marry me. That was it. That was all the thinking about it and planning that I done. I hadn’t ever really considered it before that, not really. At that moment, though, I made a choice that was by far the most important of either of our lives, and I did it almost completely on impulse. There was no planning; no consultations; and no time for hesitation.
In all honesty, if you find a woman who is sweet, smart, hardworking, and wonderful in all the ways you need, you should consider taking a few chances for her. If, however, you find a girl who does all this and also instinctively understands you so well that her abilities border on clairvoyance, you really need to drop everything and take the leap of faith. I was rash like a child and almost completely driven on emotion with only the slightest ounce of reason to back it up.

Her concern for my few minutes of silence from a few moments earlier could now, more easily, be described as a stunned silence.

She said she would have to think about it…

Think about it.

Those words hung in the air for a moment and my heart sank. Sank is perhaps the wrong word. It’s too soft of a word. It crashed to floor taking with it my raptured spirit. Both descended with an almost audible thud.

What had I just done?

I told her that thinking it over would be fine and that I understood. That was a lie. I was scared, terrified to be precise. I was struck sick. Once the cold realization of the brash actions and all the potential consequences were fully realized I was left with the feeling that you get that there is a deep, deep chasm in your chest when you suddenly realize that you have already lost something extremely important, but the actual event was yet to occur. It was the looming presence of doom. More than anything, at that moment, I was wishing so very, very much to have been afforded, just for one moment in my life, the ability to return three minutes back in time and forget the whole thing ever happened. Internally, I was a wreck. Outwardly… I said that I understood. As I said before, that was lie.

It was late, so I slept on her couch that night. That was one of the worst nights I have ever had. I knew that was one the most reckless things I had ever done.

“Oh God,” I thought. “She is going to get freaked out and break up with me.”

“She will tell the whole school and make a laughing stock of me.”

“I should just walk in there and take it back… Stupid.”

“Then again,” I considered. “She might say, ‘Yes”…”

I eventually went to sleep. The next morning I went to see her. We talked for a few minutes. She didn’t bring it up, as if neither of us must have been thinking about the giant, invisible thing sitting there in the room with us. We would probably still be sitting there if I didn’t work up the courage to ask, again. I asked her what she thought about last night. After the night I had just had, I have never been so afraid to ask a question, let alone, ask it again. All my worrying and the cold sweat I finally fell asleep in didn’t prepare me for what she said.

She said that she spent the whole night thinking of reasons why she shouldn’t do it. That was swift kick in the stomach. Then she opened her mouth, as if to finish the thought. The next thing she said was that she couldn’t come up with any.

She said, “Yes.”

That was how we decided we would get married. We were still seventeen.
We didn’t tell anyone because, frankly the community wouldn’t support two seventeen year olds considering the idea of marriage. We grew up in a small town, but this wasn’t the 1950’s, after all. It just wasn’t wise. It wasn’t normal. It was ludicrous by almost any standard you could logically imagine. The town would not be understanding. And then there would be our families.

We spent the next year “preparing” ourselves for it, it being a life of marriage directly following a life of childhood. After school we laid in bed talking about our fantastic plans and built up our dreams together. ‘How many kids would we want?’, ‘What type of house would we want to live in?’, ‘What jobs would we have?’, ‘Would we have dogs or cats? Or both? How many?’
I think that that year was actually much more important for us than the romantic story above. We really contemplated our situation and started to really grasp the things we had to do. We began to think like married people as we kept up our secret engagement.

That’s when, I think, “I” and “me” started to dissolve into the much greater solution that is “us” and “we”. It’s an important transition. I don’t think most couples appreciate the moment. You don’t really realize when it happened. There was just a moment when you stopped making plans for you. You instinctively wonder how your choices will affect not only yours, but her life. If you’re lucky, that other person will feel the same way. Everything is “we” from then on.

In keeping up with our tradition of secrecy, I went, on my own, to the local jewelry store. She may only be a girl to the eyes of many, but she was my fiancé. I wanted her to feel like a bride. I wanted her to feel like an adult and that I was serious about her. I wanted to give her a ring.

Something about me believed that a woman deserves enough respect from a
man for him to sacrifice his wages to show he loves her and wants others to know it, too. Those wages aren’t just some obligations. It is a symbol. Those lost wages are a symbol of something more. They symbolize the very real time that was given up working, doing jobs my not like, for people you may not enjoy. That means something. That means a real sacrifice. It means that that person is willing to suffer for you to be happy. It doesn’t matter if she was seventeen or seventy. It is a romantic gesture to be sure, but more than that, it is a gesture of deep love. I am old fashioned, obviously. I know it might be materialistic, but I wanted her to know that I would work for her. I saved up my money and I went to find a ring.

I wasn’t stupid about it, though. I may be reckless and haphazard with most major life decisions, but not with my money. We were too young and too poor to be stupid. I went right after Christmas to take advantage of one of the best sales of the year. (Thrift is important to young couples, by the way.) It was January and we still didn’t want anyone to know, but the girl who helped me just so happened to be in our class. We lived in a small town and gossip was still more of a hobby than the internet. Well… I walked in, saw her and decided that this was just how it was going to have to be. The girl behind the counter, Myka, was, however, a very trustworthy person, and a good friend. She didn’t tell anyone about the ring. She just held her hands up to her mouth, wide eyed with glee that comes from someone living vicariously through the experiences of a friend. It felt really good to have the first person I told be so genuinely supportive and happy for us. She helped me pick out a great one. It was $500, but perhaps a more precise measurement would be to say that, simply, it was everything I had.

A few months later, we made it official. By this time, our families knew that we would probably get married, but they didn’t know that we had already been planning for the better part of the year. I showed them the ring at moments when Jennie wasn’t around to see. She still didn’t know I had it for her. My mom and I went on a family trip to San Antonio and we invited Jennie to go, too.

As the week drew to a close, I took her out to a very nice dinner. It was March 20th and exactly one year to the day since we first went bowling, or rather, didn’t. It was the anniversary of that first awkward date, that first pizza, first movie, as well as the first of many other firsts. I formally presented the little band on the one year anniversary of our first date. We were sitting in the restaurant, looking out across the city in lights. I gently held her hand as she looked over the sparking cityscape. As subtly as I could, I slipped the ring around her finger. She didn’t look away from her view, but a large smile painted itself across her face. To ever receive a ring like that was a surprise to her. At least now we had a story we could tell to people about how we decided to get married, though. Jennie still polishes it lovingly with pride.

The important things that I remember about it was the complete sense of shocked support we received from the community. Basically, I think everyone loves a love story. You will always get support at the face value, but when they think about it, people thought we were silly kids, that we had a lot to learn, but mostly, they thought Jennie was pregnant. Well, it’s been over a decade since then and no little Jons or tiny Jennies are running around, so I hope that theory has been officially debunked. We were young and had a lot to learn about the real world, that much was true, but we would learn that together.
We were married on June 1st, two weeks after we graduated high school. The ceremony was a lovely little quaint affair. “Lovely”, “quaint”; these are euphemisms that are best translated as cheap enough for kids to afford. We were married by the pier of the lake. It was a perfect summer afternoon, except for the rain. It rained, of course. Nothing in our story is storybook, after all. Weather didn’t interrupt the ceremony, though. We were already at the reception when it started. We aren’t superstitious people, but it still makes you nervous. On the way to our honeymoon at a romantic little bed and breakfast near our hometown, there was a rainbow. Jennie saw it. You know, sometimes it’s important to forget the rain and remember the rainbows.

We were eighteen years old then. We were each other’s first real boyfriend and girlfriend, first loves, first… well, we were young and experienced a lot of firsts together. We had been dating for a bit over a year and a few months. We probably would have done the same thing as everyone else our age. We could have kept dating after we went to different colleges, tried the long distance thing and then either would have broken up or gotten married a few years later, anyway. That would have been the sensible thing to do, but that’s not the way the Davis house works. Some bets you just don’t hedge. You go all in or don’t play at all.

We went all in. We did whatever it took to stay together, even if it meant that we had to be worlds apart. I knew that I had responsibilities now. I had a young wife, going to college in a few months. I wanted her to have a good life. I knew that I didn’t want to rely on our parents to support us, now fully realized adults in every sense of the word. I had to make some difficult choices. The most difficult choice would be how we would support such a young marriage; two kids by most people’s standards, no skills, fresh out of high school. The solution was simple. I had to leave.

When I knew that we were going to get married, I felt that the only way I could ensure that we would have the things we needed, food, security, and a place to sleep, was if I joined the military. I joined the Marines. We were signing paperwork to on our honeymoon, a fact Jennie was very aware of. She was strong, though. She understood that this was something we needed to do. She was strong. She was always strong in those days. Perhaps it was her strength that kept me going through far more than I would have wanted to go through. We spent only one week together before I had to leave. I left for Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California on June 6th.

It would be another two years, three deserts, two moves, three hundred phone calls and twelve time zones before we could ever really be together again after that, but that is a whole other story altogether.

I Drew a Monkey in a Math Book and Now I’m Married – Part 5

Gorrilla Cover Part V

(Start at Chapter One)

It’s probably impossible to guess how much we needed each other. She was still horribly shy. I was completely awkward in everything imaginable, but I played the part like I knew what I was doing.

The fact that we were dating was semi-miraculous. I’ve mentioned it to her often that she didn’t give me a single clue as to whether or not she liked me. There were no obvious flirts, no batting of the eyes, and none of the silly girly things that in any number of ways would confirm a young man’s suspicions that he was the object of her affections. I was basically just rolling dice and hoping on twelve. Of course, I realize that probably wasn’t true. In her way there were probably plenty of signs. It would just take time for me to learn her and understand what those ways were. Regardless, I was probably too inept to have noticed either way.

In fact, we almost never went out at all. I got her number. That was great. Good for me. Of course, social media didn’t exist back then and texting was luxury that no one I knew would waste the money on. No, you only had one option. You had to call her. It might be an evil and overprotective older brother on the other end, a wicked baby sister, or worse her mom or even worse than that, Dad. Dealing with whoever else answered was a fearful enough event in and of itself, but that wasn’t even the hard part. Then you have to ask her out all over again.

Yes, you got her phone number. Bravo, but now the courtship ritual progresses and you must ask her out a second time on more actionable terms. You have to commit to a real date at a real-time with actual activities.

Better have a plan there, too. A friend of mine invited me to a double date with him and his girlfriend. It seemed safe enough. This plan had potential.
I thought it would be smart to go bowling, a spur of the moment decision, calculated in the unexplainable battle focus that takes place in a young man’s mind during the hyper-alertness that happens directly before he asks a woman for a date. I decided on bowling for one reason, I am not any good at bowling. I thought that there wasn’t a better way to make a girl warm up to me than to fail gracefully in front of her, laughing the whole way through. It also seemed a good idea to work as a team for a period to build some closeness and comradery. Anyway, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I hoped she didn’t change her mind, get a boyfriend or get married in the last five days. I held on to the number for nearly a week, too afraid to do anything about it. Finally, on Wednesday as I remember, I called her. I invited her to the date, movie and bowling.

She hadn’t decided she was furious at me for stalling so long, though she was anxious and wondering why in the world I wouldn’t call. She was fine with me picking her up the next day and sounded happy to go out. By the way, up to this point in the time, we were probably still only up to about twenty or so words which I can positively remember her sharing with me. She was still the beautiful mystery whose shell I was beginning to crack. The phone call probably put it closer to thirty.

Our first date was something rather special. Perhaps it wasn’t, compared to the first dates of others. Perhaps it was just another one of millions that millions have experience and not special at all. It is special to me though. At the very least, it went much better than most first dates did for me.

Our first date movie was “Old School” staring Will Farrell, Vince Vaughn, and Luke Wilson. It was a hopelessly awkward experience for a first date movie between two teenagers. If you’re not familiar with the film, just know that it is a very odd choice for such an occasion, most especially the carrot class scene featuring Andy Dick. That’s all I will really mention about that.

More than the movie, looking back I remember the way she held my hand. I honestly didn’t know if she was really into me when we walked into the theater, and then she held my hand. It was so tight and all-encompassing, almost as if she was afraid I might suddenly escape and run away if she ever chanced letting me be free. I became very nervous. I had never really had anyone show me attention and affection in a romantic sense yet. No girl ever made me feel special without playing games. This was the first time, and even though I wanted it, more than anything, it scared me very much. Still, I was smart enough to just accept it. Being loved too much is a kind of concern that fades with time, and you really learn to enjoy it.

After the movie we went bowling. At the lanes we hit a snag. It turns out there is such a thing as “league night”. No exceptions for star-crossed lovers. I was a bit flustered. I had no plans from this point. We all decided to just wing it from this point on. My friends went off together and Jennie and I went together as well. I suggested a local pizza place not far away. We sat down and started to talk. I was really afraid that it would be just me talking in silence the whole night, but she opened up nicely. It turned out, she confessed to me, that she was terrified at the idea of going bowling. I asked her why and she told me that she just assumed that, since it was the first thing that popped into my mind, (and that it was so weird, which I found out years later) I must have loved bowling. I must have been great at it. She must have imagined me with the odd shoes, eyes focused and with a determined look on my face, gliding up to the lanes for a release with perfect form. She just knew that she would show up, lob the ball like a drunken duck and I would be furious with her for making us lose. I realize that she couldn’t have known that I had planned on being terrible, but I can see how she would have been afraid that I’d be mad at her. She really is terrible at bowling. I would find that out later. I just couldn’t believe how wrong she was about my motives. It’s worth a laugh.

We talked about the nothings that people do on their first romantic evening together. She reminded me of things I had forgotten. For example, I had forgotten that on that day during enrollment, it was her that I had shown around the school. As quiet as she was, it seemed I had forgotten altogether that it was her. And again that same year, I had forgotten about my confession I gave about not getting a girlfriend and the following counseling I took from her during art class. I would have forgotten a lot if not for her. She told me what her real first impressions were on that first day, she thought I was an arrogant jackass. She also told me how ironic it was that I would confess all those things about never getting a girlfriend to her when she had such a crush on me the whole time. We laughed about what it would have been like if I had only asked the question. I never knew at all. We joked for a while. I told her about how this restaurant was where my mom had brought me to teach me how to take a girl out on a proper date when I was ten. I hoped Jennie wouldn’t think that was off for talking about something like that, but she thought it was sweet. Honestly, men don’t know how to handle being called “sweet”, but I considered it good thing. We talked about when we were little we both used to play the games in the back corner and enjoyed our pizza.
I remember thinking about how so much of our lives we shared so many of the same experiences living in the same tiny town. We were dragged to the same grocery store with our moms, went to the same daycare, and played the same arcade games at the same pizza places. We had likely crossed paths hundreds of times, never realizing that we were more than just background in the crowd to each other. Eventually, we would matter to one another, that other random girl in the crowd would be grown and sitting opposite me at this table.

Eventually, it came time to go home. One thing to know about where we lived is that nothing is close. Everything good is twenty miles away at least. It’s a hassle when the economy is in the tank, but the silver lining is that there is always a lot of time to talk on the way to where you’re going. I don’t know at all what we talked about, just that I didn’t really want the conversation to end. We reached her home and I walked her to her door. I had a decision to make that I just knew I was going to screw up. I told her goodnight and that I had a lot of fun. I asked her then for a second date and said goodbye. No kiss, just goodbye.

We didn’t have our first kiss until the next date. It was my first. It was in my room on a bean bag that would be a very important part of our life for far longer than it deserved. The movie we were watching didn’t really matter all. It wasn’t very interesting anyway, not nearly as interesting as melting through this mysterious girl’s icy walls.

I was hers from then on.

I don’t remember a time where we weren’t trying to be together from that day on through the end of high school. Even through hard times, of which there were many.

Many times we would be alone in my room. She would be very silent and very distant. I could tell something was obviously wrong. She usually had just come from spending time with her father. She would clam up and it was impossible to get her to talk. It may have been perhaps a poor decision for most, but I wouldn’t let her not talk to me. I feel I have to always express myself. I don’t know how someone could live not doing so, especially given what I would find out she was suffering through.

She would lock up for maybe an hour at a time. Jennie would just lay there crying silently and motionless, looking as if there was something she wished to say, but couldn’t. I finally discovered the trick to unlocking her. I promised I would stop asking her.

“This is the last time I will ask you, and then I promise to leave you alone.”
I don’t know if it was some sense of avoiding abandonment, or the desperation that I put on her that she wouldn’t get another chance, but she opened up, always. She told me about what had gone on between her father and her mother over the last few years. Without going into details, it was a very ugly time. Divorce of parents is a terrible burden to endure when you are young, but a common story among people my age. We all seem to be raised this way. I was a child of divorce too, only my story ended happily when my father wasn’t part of the picture. Jennie was going through something altogether more terrible. She loved both her parents. Watching them dissolve was a horrific ordeal for her.

It was worse than that actually, as I would come to understand, much later. Jennie’s room next to the living room, where her parent’s fought nightly. She was in the middle of it all and completely alone. She was the older of two sisters and did what she could to prevent her younger sister from knowing what she could. Their parent’s relationship had grown bitter and their rivalry tore the girls apart. It also explained a great deal of the idiosyncrasies I was growing to know in this girl lying beside me. Every day, she was beaten with the knowledge that her parents were not the people she thought they were. They were less. They were human with human flaws, human weaknesses, human cruelties and human failures. She had lost the naïve worship of a child looking at the perfect people who raised her. The worst of it happened in freshman year. Now it made sense that the girl never talked.

I also came at a time when she really needed it. As it turned out, I asked Jennie for her number not a week after her parent’s divorce was final. After four years of heartbreak, I just arrived on the scene.

I didn’t understand the scope of it all. I just listened. I didn’t need anything from her, besides a kiss from time to time, I just wanted to help her. If anything, I think those afternoons talking on my bed were probably the wisest investment of time I have ever made. We built our relationship during those times; not the enjoyable memories you visit on cold winter days, but the foundational emotions that make up the true bedrock of a relationship. She knew that she could trust me with her deepest needs, even if it was difficult for her to express them. I just knew I wasn’t able to idly do nothing. At that time all I could do was listen and try to give her some new perspective, some advice, distractions, silver linings. Jennie told me once that she was apprehensive about opening up to me in the beginning. She was just sure that I would break up with her because she was a crazy person and that she was very thankful that I never did. I couldn’t believe she would think that. I suppose some guys might have, but the thought never crossed my mind.

The truth was that I needed her too. I was lonely and needed someone to need me back. Honestly speaking, I could have ended up in a very bad situation with a lot of very girls with far less character than Jennie. I probably would have been the type to fall for any of them. I’ve seen many a lonely individual give in to the temptation of women not worth their attention, but that, however, wasn’t my bad luck. I found Jennie. For whatever reason, she was perfect, as least the perfect I needed. She was soft and she was gentle and supportive. She was a steadiness that balances my erratic and irrational randomness. Most girls I probably would have fallen for would have left me devastated, but Jennie was exactly who I needed and who would be able to make me happy. We really did need each other and ways I can’t fathom, even today. I just didn’t realize it then.

We were the perfect couple, though and had many wonderful memories from that first month. One of my favorites from our brief courtship was the first time she cooked for me.

She invited me to her house for dinner. It was the first real-time I met her mom and her sister, Katie, officially anyway. I’d met her mom briefly before our first date, but I didn’t actually know her yet. I knew Jennie’s sister from school. She was only fifteen months younger than Jennie so there was the very strange situation that they grew up together almost as twins. Katie gave me the finger once after Jennie and I started dating. I wasn’t fond of her back then. A vial creature Jennie’s sister was back in those days, but that’s a different story. Today though, it was about me eating from Jennie’s plate. Jennie was cooking her chicken enchiladas. I was really nervous because I had never had enchiladas and was terrified that I would hate my girlfriend’s favorite dish. Turns out that wasn’t a problem. Jennie is a master chef, at least in my eyes. More importantly my stomach was in complete agreement. It was so good. Absolutely delicious. I love my mom and my grandmother, but my poor mother never stood a chance in the kitchen. I don’t know what it was about those days, but all of my mom’s tutelage in kitchen affairs came from a long line of Depression era survivor women who thought “burnt” was the only palatable way to eat food without death by salmonella. But Jennie, her food was marvelous. It was how I might imagine chewing on the wings of baby angels. Just thinking about it is so good you start writing nonsense. I don’t even remember what we had for dessert. Those enchiladas were divine.

I had gorged myself to the point that I had to have something more to drink. I pulled myself away to get something from the fridge. Among the things I noticed was the milk. There were two gallons; one Skim, one 2%. Now, this may seem a bit odd, to some rather stupid, but I really love milk and it is one of those things which I am very particular about. I don’t like 2% or 1% and certainly not whole. Keep it away, don’t bother me with and yes, I do think less of you if you do partake in such things. I sorry if this offends some of you, but a person who doesn’t believe in anything is simply not a person. It simply isn’t a negotiation. I looked and considered the gravity of the consequences that lay before me. If Jennie drank the wrong milk, to put it simply, we had no future, even considering the enchiladas.

“So… who drinks Skim?”

“I do,” said my beautiful flower.

I smiled and said, “Me too.”

In my mind I smiled to myself and thought about all the miraculous ways in which we were perfectly compatible in every way that mattered. I laughed inwardly and said to myself in jest that I was going to marry that girl.

It was completely in jest. Completely.

I Drew a Monkey in a Math Book – Chapter 4

 Gorrilla Cover Part IV

(Start at Chapter One)

As I sat there quietly and curiously wondering if it was possible that Jennie was in possession of the book I had vandalized a year prior, I caught the look in her eyes. Her face may have still been half directed to the math book, but her eyes shifted to me and a coy smile crept across her face. I think it was the first real time I looked into her eyes or seen her smile. She had a beautiful smile.

“It’s yours.” she said through a playfully condemning smirk. Her face communicated more than her words. The subtle smile told me what I really wanted to know. She knew my secret. She knew what I had been up to a year before. She had indeed somehow been issued the very same math book I had improved upon only a year earlier!

In the moment, I couldn’t believe the odds, but I do suppose someone had to have it. We didn’t live in a large town, so I guess it would be easier there than anywhere else. Still, I was lucky at my good fortune that my shameless act of delinquent shenanigans would reward me with this opportunity to carry on a conversation with one very particular girl. I made a smirk of my own, a guilty grin of one who had been caught, but lacked the necessary remorse of his transgressions.

My guilt, obvious by now, beamed as I interrogated further to ascertain the depths of her knowledge.

“So… did you find the monkey?”

She shook her head in feigned disapproval. “Yes, I found him.”

She lightened up further and told me that she enjoyed the “artwork” and that it had gotten her through a lot. I couldn’t know how much then, but I never considered that my little rebellion would place me in the thoughts of a girl who was going through some very hard times a year later.

Her parents were ending a very ugly divorce. She alone was the bearer of so much of the hardship of that breakup. She absorbed it woefully and the time damaged her greatly for someone so young. I’d like to think that in those nights, when she had to do homework regardless of what happened in the world outside of the Algebra classroom, I was there, in a very small. It makes me happy that a comic romp between a wayward fool and an obstinate ape may have given her an unexpected smile when she may have no one else to give it to her. In either case, my presence was in her mind, in much the same way she was in mine, and I never had any way of knowing it as she couldn’t have known that a simple “trusty” look could have put her in mine either.
As we sat there laughing and giggling, for the first of many times, I remembered the depth of my antics. I had forgotten just how bored I was. Then it hit me. Mr. Blevins!

“Oh! Did you see the pictures I drew in the back?”

Of course she hadn’t. I had erased them, but I remembered during my purging that the impressions were deep enough that if I could just get a hold of the book next year, somehow, they could be redrawn. No one else could have known about them and it was doubtful she would have discovered them either. Well here was my chance. I showed her the impressions and begged her to let me borrow the book. She allowed my request and I took it back to my desk.

She watched as I sketched out the delicate lines of the faces I drew on the pages. I decided I would take my time. In the first place, I owed it to the world to give my absolute best in the artistic pursuit of perfection. Secondly, and more honestly, it afforded me a continued excuse to spend more time with her. I finished after a few days, but that wasn’t good enough. I didn’t want the same thing to happen to her that had happened to me. I went over it all again, in pen. The heartless censorship of creativity would not be an affront to the decency of the education system a second time. Idealism aside, I stole a few more days with her.

I know what you might be thinking. “Weren’t we in class?”, “Wasn’t there something we were supposed to be doing?” Well perhaps in a better school, but what can I say? The Oklahoma school system was hopelessly flawed at the time. It still is in many ways. Just suffice it to say that apathy of our administrators also played to my favor in at least this instance.

Then Spring Break happened. The few weeks we shared an hour or so at a time were a pleasant diversion to the monotony of small town life, but it couldn’t go on forever. I had no more excuses to steal her book without seeming like someone who is just a little bit too obsessed with defacing school property. That sort of thing is only an interesting quirk for a short time, I think. So I didn’t have a reason to ask her for time or her attention. Spring Break was also around the corner, but Spring Break was something I wasn’t looking forward to. What probably would lie before me was a week alone in my room with nothing to do and nowhere to go. All my friends were going skiing or to the ocean or something and I was stuck in my sleepy little farm town. It would also mean that I would have a week where the two of us wouldn’t be seeing each other, just enough time for desires as yet still in their infancy to cool and vanish like a vapor. The fact was that I wanted very much not to spend the whole week alone, doing nothing. Basically, when Spring Break finally did roll around I wanted to spend that time with someone and do something new, something exciting, and something fun. Most of all, something involving a girl who I enjoyed being with.

And it was Jennie that I wanted to be with. For whatever reason, I went from being curious about that quiet girl… to wanting her… really, really wanting her. I made up my mind. I was going to ask out Jennie. I was done debating with myself about if it would be the right thing to do or not. It also didn’t matter that she gave me no actual indication that she had any more romantic thoughts of me than she would have had for a puff of wind.

It was the Friday before Spring Break started and there was only one hour until school let out. I was heading to the field house for athletics and she was about to head off to her class. We wouldn’t be able to see each other after this. There wouldn’t be another opportunity when we might just walk past each other. There was no possibility of that one last chance encounter passing one another in the hall again whereupon I might finally be able to steel myself for the courageous encounter. This was that last time and this was my last chance.

So I made the long march down the hall, teaming with students eagerly bustling around, their minds already completely checked out for the holiday to come. I proceeded down the hallway to where her locker stood. As the crowd thinned I could see her standing there, as if the nothing else really mattered. My eyes were fixed and my footsteps purposeful as I made my way to her. I got closer and closer until I finally was even with her, and then…

I kept on walking.

I kept on walking like the hopeless coward that I was. I made it about ten steps, all in shameful self-loathing. I made it to the door to leave the High School. As my fingers touched the exit I was overcome by a seemingly inexplicable force. I was compelled to turn around as if by some otherworldly vigor. It was as I was being empowered with the most vehement compulsion of my entire life.

“Turn around!” was the message clearly being communicated to me by the ethereal impulse.

I’ve often believed that when the beyond reaches out to you for seemingly insignificant purposes, you should just give into wherever that spirit may lead you to. To be clear, I am not one to normally believe in accounts of divine intervention. The vast majority I dismiss as senseless superstition, ignorance of much more rational explanations, or outright fraud, but there are some things that even a rational skeptic can’t deny. For seemingly inexplicable reasons, things just happen within yourself which are beyond rational account. Sometimes you just accept that perhaps things more powerful than you are putting you into certain places at certain times to do certain things, of which you may not be invited to know the significance of in the moment, if ever. I believe, if ever I was actually guided by more than me, it happened in that moment. It was extraordinary, and I was suddenly fortified with the courage that I had failed to muster on my own.

I turned around.

As I turned my head, the thought crossed my mind that perhaps she wouldn’t be there anymore. Perhaps she had already gone and I had missed my window. Would I chase her?

Such fears were relieved when I turned and saw her there, still at her locker, completely unaware of me and my miraculous moment in which she was the focus of forces beyond our knowing.

I walked back over to where she stood, quickly calculating a plan on what to say and how to approach her. So that you know, ten steps is not a lot of time to prepare a well thought out plan of action. I greeted Jennie in what had to have been the creepiest way possible. I just kind of sprang out of nowhere, at least from her point of view that is how it happened. It would appear it was another ambush. It wasn’t my intention to do so, I just lack skills in the delicate art that is romantic courtship rituals for teens. I swear I was trying to be cool about it, but in reality I showed up like the creepy butler from Adam Sandler’s Mr. Deeds.

“HeY, JeNnIe!” (In this narration, you can see the terror in my voice as I shakily attempt to force what is supposed to appear a casual encounter.)

“Hey.” (A simple narration of quoted words can’t accurately describe the obvious look of surprise on her face. “Frightened,” or “startled” may have been more appropriate choices in phraseology.)

“So I wAs JuSt SoRtA WoNdErInG (Pull it together man) if you were doing anything for Spring Break.”

“No, not really.” She replied.

“Oh cool.” (Really Jon? ‘Nothing’ was cool now? Flippin’ idiot. Get to the point!)

After a pause that would have probably amounted to the longest single second of my life I took the plunge.

“Well I was just wanting to know if you would like to go out sometime next week to see a movie or maybe go bowling or something.” (Bowling?! Why would you say bowling?! You don’t even know how to bowl! You haven’t bowled since you were six!)
“Um… ok.”

“Oh? Great. Well could I get your number?”

Yes, for those paying attention I literally said, “Oh?” as if to ask if she was sure. Still it worked. We went out (didn’t go bowling) and then we went out again and a few more times. That first month was the perfect way to start off the next year together, and so much more to come.

Continue on to Part 5

Training, the Number One thing Businesses Should Learn from the Military

Enduring Freedom/Operation Marjah/Operation Moshtarak


 

I’ve worked in the tech startup scene, retail sales, and real estate, mostly in operational roles, either as an owner or in a manager’s role. I was also a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps with two tours in Iraq. I feel qualified to answer the question of what could businesses learn most from the military. More specifically, what shortfalls are prevalent in the business world, have a solution which the military has overcome?

To me, the answer to that question comes down to training. What I have noticed most outside of the Marines was that the rest of the world doesn’t actually put any investment into training. Sure, they might get convinced to allow their associates to go to a conference a few times a year, mostly to get drunk on the company dime and three days away from their tool of a boss, but they have no clue what the real value of training is. I’m not even sure if most businesses would know how.

Consider this, a new employee is going to be hired. You know that every report you read talks about the importance of the search for new talent, because it is so impossibly expensive. Add to this is that the search could take four or five months to find a right fit for some jobs. That’s opportunity costs of an employee not being productive. I’ve seen companies spend tens of thousands in this process.

Now, a new employee is hired. Woohoo! A lot of companies welcome you aboard for a two week honeymoon phase, then you better knock down walls in the next month or you just aren’t good enough. You failed, better cut our losses. They will then spend the next six months giving impossible tasks to build a case for the failure’s dismissal and then out the door you go with a modest severance package so that you won’t blab company secrets or bad mouth it to the outside. In the civilian world, most people, at least most people I’ve dealt with, think they did a good job by giving you a chance and then sink or swim. This sounds brilliant and hardcore, so it has to be good strategy. Keep only the strong and we will be strong. Kill the weak! Rawr! Yeah, tell that to the Marines. That isn’t how they work so you should stop that nonsense, too.

So you think your startup that created a social network for dog lovers is really hardcore because you just fired your sixth receptionist in 12 months. Well bravo, you just blew maybe two hundred thousand on a series of failed investments, for a position only paying, maybe, $35,000 annually, have lost a year of productivity and are nowhere closer to the finish than you were when you started. Don’t forget that you have also lost countless hours yourself, replacing said employees and “training” them. How in the world is a receptionist worth what amounts to hundreds of thousands in straight loss and absolutely no progress over the course of a single year? All of a sudden, sink or swim is starting to look pretty stupid, huh?

Would you like a better solution? Now consider this, the United States military has to work, obviously, one of the most difficult jobs in the world. They have world wide responsibility over trillions of dollars worth of equipment and oversee what amounts to one of the world’s largest logistical support networks. The average age of the Marine Corps is 20 and you know what? Every one of them is a master in their specified field by year two and are responsible for some of the most advanced technological systems on the planet. And management? By the time many are twenty three years of age they have already been promoted to a leadership role, responsible for a team of trade veterans. I haven’t even mentioned anyone shooting at you. What’s most surprising? Almost none of them are degreed. Virtually all the labor force is made of only fresh high school grads and not even the best and brightest of them. They possess almost no formal educations in their fields that most people work for years just to get on their resume before even starting their job. Still, they are somehow made ready to do the missions that are world scale and never lose. Wars may be lost, but that is mainly due to political decisions, yet you have never heard in the last 30 years, “The Marines were pushed out of X.” How do you explain that?

Training. Look, in the military, people aren’t expendable. It’s a contradiction of the stereotype we get from movies and such, but a front line troop is a valued and irreplaceable asset. They are viewed, quite literally, as an investment to the United States military. It’s odd to think that the military places a higher value on a low performing high school graduate than you would treat an Ivy League Summa Cum Laude in Computer Science, but business views everyone as temporary, and only worth a certain economic value. The military doesn’t. In the military, you have this person and that is all you get. You can’t hire another. You can’t replace them with someone else. You can’t fire him. You’re stuck, and so is he. If he is lost, for any reason, the job of the rest of the unit suddenly because exponentially harder. He has to make the grade. The training, the discipline, the yelling and the constant rehearsals are all part of making sure that that Marine or soldier succeeds in his mission and returns home. More so than that, it is a known truth that his success will also be bringing back others as well.

In business, the attitudes are much “nicer”. Everyone is polite. No one can be offended or HR has to be involved. It certainly feels like everyone is getting the respect they feel they are entitled to, but motivations are much more selfish. An employee is only as valuable to you as the money he can make for you.

Return on Investment

Didn’t realize how shallow the business world really is, did you? So here is my advice. Over the next few weeks, I am going to break down how the military utilizes focuses on the art of training to progress the arts of warfare and passing that knowledge on to future generations. I will also provide some advice on steps your company can take to be a more evolutionary company by utilizing them. Everything that follows will are parts of the training culture that are all taken very seriously in the military. When you are in your quiet time as a leader, you need to think about how to implement them in your company or area of responsibility if you wish to focus not only on growing, but on growing your people.  Make to sure to follow this blog for updates for more.

Blues


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I Drew a Monkey in a Math Book – Chapter 3

Gorrilla Cover Part III

(Start at chapter one)

It’s a year later now, somewhere around halfway through Junior year. I had gone through a string of bad pseudo relationships and was depressed at my complete inability to attract any among the population of the fairer sex. I moved when I shouldn’t have, but worse, I was afraid to move when I should have. The dance baffled and befuddled me. I was hopeless.

I had recently endured a particularly damaging attack on my own self-esteem. Leave it to say that girls of a certain age can be lacking empathy what they are more than blessed with in beauty and grace. Perhaps that isn’t enough to say. I had fallen for a girl who made me feel special, only to find out a few days later, I was just being used to make her old boyfriend jealous. Give it six more months and this same girl got the drop on me again, same story, but with a different guy, and on my birthday, no less. It was a devastating ordeal at that age, but as I understand, not all that too uncommon.

Tangentially speaking, I’m willing to venture that most people remember that one person they just wanted so badly, but that tore them to pieces, instead. I think that we as a society worry too much about the cruelty visited upon each other in war and poverty. I think if we really wanted to avoid unnecessary suffering we should just outlaw teenagers from dating, but if that were the case this story might not have happened, along with so many other beautiful stories as well.

Returning then to my story, I spent about a month mulling over my loserdom, listening to an endless cycle of The Calling’s CD, Camino Palmero. You might remember them for their one hit Wherever You Will Go, which somehow still plays from time to time, serving as the never ending reminder of misbegotten misadventures and misfortunes of an ill spent youth. It also serves as a reminder of mercifully unanswered prayers, at least for me, anyway. Safe to say, that entire album exists as the soundtrack to one of those months every soul goes through at some point or another in isolation alone in their room. Either way, the ordeal made me certainly reevaluate the meaning of beauty, though I wasn’t aware of such things at the time.

Eventually I left the cave and was able to put it out of my thoughts, for the most part anyway.

It was around that time that I started looking around and noticed a certain girl. I had noticed her before and she entered my thoughts from time to time, now for a while. I had actually been thinking about her before the whole thing with this other girl, but then that happened. You’d think by this point I would have learned my lesson and focused on living the virtuous life of the ascetic monk, freeing myself from the worldly burdens of the feminine form. To be honest, I’m not a particularly wise person. I don’t profess to be a quick learner and often need to have things repeated to me. I was open to another mistake.

This other girl was quiet. I mean she was seriously quiet. She never said a word. Literally, in the three years I had known her, she had spoken all of maybe five words aloud, to me or to anyone else as far as I had seen. You probably know the girl I’m talking about. Not even after a rather odd encounter we had endured two years earlier in an art class did she ever have anything to say that I could hear. She always just sat quietly by herself, with her head down in a book or off somewhere else entirely. But she was cute and I was seventeen so that was the only real qualifier. I really didn’t plan anything with her, I just looked over and thought there was something different about her. She was still mesmerizing in her mystery. Something about the look she had that just seemed like she was someone you could really trust.

I suddenly became aware of my thoughts, and as the very young often will do, did what I could to stifle the notion. I remember in particular the very thought in which I dismissed the idea that of a look of trustworthiness would be a worthy trait in a potential mate.

(“’Someone you could really trust?’ What are you, gay?”)

I’m sorry if I’ve disturbed your modern sensibilities, but this is how seventeen year old boys of the age thought. So I did nothing about this idea of the trustworthy girl, and did what I could to dismiss it. After all, a trustworthy look wasn’t a factor in the algorithm of love, or at least not the love which boys of a certain age imagine, which might more readily be described as something between overly enamored infatuations or even more appropriately, lust.

Still, the feeling lingered. It lingered for perhaps another month or two. It lingered even for perhaps another momentary crush or two.

As the months rolled on during our junior year, she became part of my thoughts more and more often, most often of which during this class which we shared. I was distracted from my studies, mostly due, once again, to my own boredom and unchallenging teachers. I had more than enough time to stare off into the nothingness and fantasize about whatever my heart desired, least of which being American History. One day, a day not so uncommon that I can remember anything else significant about it at all, I remember sitting in class watching her again, specifically.

The room was buzzing as usual. Cliques were chatting throughout the room. Most days I would have attempted to be part of those coveted social circles in which the valued relationships of my little society exchanged information, opinions and the other forms of social currency still valued today. Conversations, gossip, storytelling and the flirting that is exchanged among youth was all that could be heard. Certainly not instruction, to be sure. Remember that this whole time we have been in History class.

That day, however, I was more distracted than most and not even on the sidebar conversations taking place around me. Instead, I was quietly watching the unobtrusive girl sitting on the edge of the room beside the wall. She was focused on her math. She must have wanted to get all of her homework done while there was time to do it. Smart girl. She was hunched over intently, shutting the rest of us out masterfully.

It wasn’t that I was interested in watching her study. I’m relatively certain that a poll of any number of young men at that age wouldn’t rank “The way she studies” as a key turn on. No, it was just her. She was the focus. Something about her was now engaging my attentions more than just her dedicated and scholarly aura. As the days went on, leading to that day, I began to realize just how pretty she was. I am not sure I could have articulated it as such, but that was what I started to see. She was a very attractive girl, I just never noticed it before. Her hair was bobbed again, shorter than two years before. She had experimented with a very short, spiked look during Sophomore year, which was rather flamboyant for the quiet mouse. I thought it was different, in a good way, despite what others openly thought. By now, it just flowed down to the nape of her neck, the waves dangling over her bowed head catching the light fancifully. Her lightly freckled skin accented a subtle tan. Nothing she wore was particularly amazing. Her fashion sense was clean and conservative, modest, but not prudish or pretentious. Just an ordinary look, barely worth mentioning except to note that to her, dress was a function. She gave it only so much focus as to not attract any unnecessary attention either for caring not enough about her looks, or for caring too much. Her eyes also lacked an intensity and vibrancy, which often I coveted in the girls who want to be noticed. It might sound odd that such a statement be said as complimentary, but the way her eyes rested their gaze was a calming one, which is not valued as the eyes of those too easily excited. No, she didn’t seem to be the violent gale of other storm ridden waters, but instead she might be the soft warm breeze on the water’s edge. She had a soft expression, one which showed her focus, but little particular attachment to the activity with which she was engaged. I never would have noticed such a girl if not for the rare and misfortunate experiences which had befallen me, but today, I really didn’t want to stop watching.

I remember being so curious about this mysterious girl who tried so hard to disappear from the rest of our view. I could have stared all day if I had wanted to do so. She would never have noticed if I had, but nothing comes from looking at things be pretty. I was in luck that I was in the middle of a phase that suited me. Personally speaking, I had been engaged in something of an adventurous streak, as much as such a streak could get for me at the time. I had started taking more risks, nothing noteworthy, but a lot for me. I was overcome with the foolish sense of adventure that has led to the greatest expeditions as well as the sinking of the greatest ships.

Eventually, I worked up the courage to go over and talk to her. Not all of a sudden, mind you. These things must be done delicately. I had to be cool about this sort of thing. You don’t just walk up to a girl and say, “Howdy,” with whom you’ve barely ever shared a word with. I’d have to find a way to show interest. I have to open her up. Let her know that I was interested in her without telling her I was interested in her. This was a dangerous situation, you know. All my friends would be watching, to be sure, if she turned up her nose and dismissed me. Plausible deniability had to be maintained, lest my intentions become the talking points of their gossip throughout the whole school.

Of course, even if such a thing were to happen, it’s funny to consider it such an important issue as to necessitate the illogical strategizing of teenagers trying to appear aloof in spite of very fervent desires. It’s a thing of beautiful nonsense to be young.

Of all the thought that went into it, the best plan I had come up with was what might be rightfully described in some applications to have been an ambush. I walked over and plopped right down in the seat directly in front of her, one arm on the desk, one arm on my new chair and leaned against the wall behind me. I was looking directly at her with a smirk as I said in that first second,

“Hey Jennie.”

It would appear that one could simply walk up to a girl and say “hello” like a fool. All that really mattered was the rationalizing that took place prior, if a defense were needed. I think my plan was to catch her off guard. I doubted that asking her for permission to have a conversation would have come off as anything other than odd.

The interruption indeed gave the impression that it set her off balance. She was indeed working on homework and didn’t change its focus as her face remained locked to her textbook. Her eyes, however, told a very different story. They made her confusion, and perhaps annoyance much more apparent. They danced back and forth as if searching for explanation from some otherworldly source within her view.

With a closeted defensiveness, she politely replied to my greeting with little more than a nod.

And then nothing else. It was awkward, to say the least.
I wondered what I was doing. She was doing the same, I am sure. I knew I had to find something to talk about or this would be a quick exercise in how not to approach girls.

“So… watcha’ workin’ on?”

It was obvious and in hindsight kind of a stupid question. Still, it filled the void.

“Math.”

Her reply was less than inspiring for further conversation. This would indeed be harder than I thought.

“I see… Whose class do you have, Blevins or Hunt?” I replied.

She answered back, “Mr. Blevins.”

“Oh. I’m sorry. I know how boring he can be. Almost everyone in our class would fall asleep, like, every single day.”

She laughed a little. A crack in the oaken façade!

“Do you like him?” I asked.

“I guess. He’s not bad, but I guess he is pretty boring.”
She was smiling just a touch. Still reserved, still shy, but I could feel as if I wasn’t unwelcome in this space. It was only small talk, but it was nice. There was still the issue of the horribly awkward, forced moment we were sharing, but it was at least pleasant enough not be too unnervingly uncomfortable.

I was trying to discover somewhere else where our conversation might go, trying desperately to discover some sort of inspiration. The conversation was dry and I was beginning to wonder if I actually was welcome or if she was just polite. I was about to give up when I thought that maybe I could find something by looking at what she was studying. I had been in her math class the year before, so maybe I would remember it and we could talk about that. I’m sure that many a happy marriage was founded upon deep discussions of mathematics. I looked down to see if there was something worth starting a conversation about.

Among the facts and figures I noticed a peculiarity in her book. It had a small clock drawn on the bottom corner of the page. I recognized that clock. I recognized it very well. I too once had a math book with a clock in the bottom corner of the page. In fact, it had many, and in fact, I had drawn them. At first, I wondered if there could be a possibility that two people in this tiny school could have vandalized their Algebra books in the very same way.
Inquisitively and hoping not to reveal too much, I quietly asked her,

“Jennie… who had your math book last year?”

Continue on to Part 4

Is it Better to Own a Gun for Self-Defense, or Is That More Likely to Cause Problems

Carrying a firearm for the expressed purpose of self-defense isn’t really your best choice. I am basing this on years of weapons and self-defense training. Let me explain…

First off, a personal reference. I spent a few years in the Marine Corps as a weapons instructor. I trained hundreds in the use of standard issue rifles and pistols. I also have a black belt and trained a great deal with the Marine Corps martial arts program. The reason that this is valuable is that it gave me a great deal of insight on the nature of self-defense and weapons.

Now as far as home defense goes, you need to consider several factors.

1) A gun will only be used about .00002% of the time that you own it.

You will be keeping and storing this weapon the whole time you own it, even though you might get attacked once or twice in a lifetime. The problem with this is that at any point something with the stored weapon could go wrong, such as losing pieces or unwanted people getting into your weapon. Granted it’s hard for a pieces to suddenly go missing, but it isn’t difficult for curious children to explore.

Second, recent surveys have shown that household members were only present in about 27% of cases of break-in. You are much more likely to have a burglar take the gun from under your bed while you are at work or on vacation than to actually arrive when you are present. Think about it, if you were to rob someone, why not take your time and not get caught.

2) Weapons are actually difficult to use.

This is a shotgun, a good choice in home defense. You need to understand each piece and how it fits together as well as how to strip, clean, inspect, lubricate and reassemble the weapon. Good luck, you should only need the one shot.

Weapons like a gun have many pieces that have to be regularly maintained. You need to have training into how to take care of your gun. This doesn’t have to be in depth, but a person does have to research the information of the weapon. They have to know how to adjust the sights and zero their rifles. They need to know how to disassemble and clean their bolt or inspect their firing pins for imperfections. It takes time to figure out all this and is a lot easier to screw it up than to get it right. And if you don’t get it right the weapon might not work or even get you hurt as the burglar laughs at you.

 

 

 

 

3) Guns don’t shoot themselves.

No. You can’t “curve the bullet”. It doesn’t matter how much you try.

I know that if you have ever seen a movie you know how to shoot, right? No. It is actually very difficult to learn how to shoot and hit the thing you are aiming at. You have to understand how the weapon’s sights work. You have to learn how to focus on only the sights while placing it in front of your target, without ever looking directly at the target. If you think that not focusing on the target makes no sense then you’re more of a danger to yourself than to the bad guys. In any case, learning how to accurately fire the weapon is very difficult and takes a great deal of time to master. If you ever want to get a weapon you need a great deal of professional education in one-on-one training in controlling your weapon and placing your shots where you intend them to go. This absolutely isn’t something you can teach yourself or your cousin Billy Bob can teach as you shoot stuff down by the river. You will only develop bad habits that will do you no good when you need it. Also, turning the weapon sideways doesn’t help, at all.

(If you’re curious you should check out the question Why do gangsters hold their guns sideways? for some interesting theories on why people do this, besides that they have never been trained.) 

I have been trained by the best weapons instructors in the United States Marine Corps. I’ve literally shot thousands of rounds from several different weapons systems and even in a completely stress free environment; a nice indoor range with my family just practicing, and I still don’t always hit where I want to. If you have never fired before then how well do you think you are going to do when you really need it?

(Heads up: This is going to end badly. Don’t quite see what’s wrong? Notice how she has the scope right against the eye, but the buttstock isn’t seated properly in her shoulder to absorb the recoil of the weapon? Think about it.)
“If only he had his gun…”

4) Emergencies never happen in the way that you can be prepared for.

I know that many people get hyped up with stories of dangerous encounters like someone breaking in at night, but this doesn’t happen as much as you would think. Some things to consider, there is more than one guy, the guy could be a child, the guy has a bigger gun, the guy attacks outside when you are in the city, the guy comes in the day when you are gone (and you just gave him a gun.)

The point is that you can’t say that you will be prepared and safe because you have a gun. You never know what you might be facing. You will be able to hedge your defenses much better if you instead invest in a very good security system. It will scare away predators under most situations, call for backup from police and help give you peace of mind even if you aren’t home or suck at shooting.

 

5) Guns are dangerous by design.

Shocker right? I know if you are reading this it makes it seem a bit patronizing. If you are considering a gun at home you need to think about the fact that at any point, it is always a gun. There is no safety that can’t be overcome, by a six year old. This stuff does happen.

Consider this horrifying scenario, what if you are disarmed because you aren’t ready to use the weapon. Now your weapon is his weapon, and you are worse off than if you just got a dog. What you can do is buy yourself a weapon with special biometric locks, but they’re expensive and rare. You could buy a gun safe and gun locks and all sorts of other things. These are great, but if you haven’t noticed, you will be fumbling and stumbling around in the middle of the night making noise and unable to even get the thing that is supposed to save you in the first place. These are things that take a great deal of time when you should be on the phone to the police anyway.

Yes, it’s still dangerous, yet adorable.

6) You shouldn’t ever “carry” a weapon for personal self-defense.

As a side note, I also have a serious grievance with those who think that they can use a weapon for personal self-defense outside the home. The fact is that if you are considering carrying a weapon in your pocket or purse, you are literally endangering everyone around you with virtually no chance of being of any use to anyone. First, a weapon that is not holstered is one of the most dangerous things a person can do to those around them. There are many ways that a weapon floating around can go off. If you carry one like this, I hate you. You’re going to hurt someone. Secondly, please imagine a time when you might need the weapon.

 

A robber comes up to you late at night beside your car. He pulls a knife and demands your purse with your car keys.

“Oh hold on just a second and let me find my gun.”

A few seconds go by. The robber impatiently reminds you of his presence.

“I’m very serious, about this you know. I am robbing you.”

“I know, I know. Just give me a second. I know it is over here somewhere.”

A few more seconds pass. The robber is getting very impatient.

“You see that I have a knife, right?”

“Just be patient.”

“I’m truly sorry, but I really must be going. I’ll be taking your purse now.”

“Oh, just one more second!”

He takes the purse and steals your car. Then as you stand there contemplating how the gun should have solved your problems, as you did when you bought it in the first place, the robber rolls down your window and throws your gun out to mock you. You hear Janie’s Got a Gun by Aerosmith playing on radio that used to belong to you. As you stand alone in the empty parking lot, you reflect on the song’s irony and how this didn’t play out the way you thought it would.

“…Damn.”

As a final note, if everything goes perfectly right, you might just have to kill someone.

The idea that you can bluff your way out of situation is not a good tactic, especially if you are dealing with someone truly violent. If you have a gun it needs to be for the purpose of killing someone when the need comes. If they view that their future lies in keeping you quiet, or if they feel that their life is being threatened (by your gun) they may attack you. In that case you will have to be able to kill him. There is no “shoot the knife out his hand or shoot him in the leg stuff.” It sounds nice, but you will be lucky to hit him in the chest like you’re supposed to (see point #3).  Do a self-analysis and ask, “Could I deal with killing someone, even if they are going to steal my stuff or hurt my family?” Yeah your first response is easy to say, “You bet I would,” but would you really?

I have been to Iraq twice and have had to think long and hard about what it would be like if I had to kill someone. Could I live with myself? Could I look at my wife the same again? I saw it in many of the other Marines who had. It is a traumatic experience that changes a person. If you really think you can’t do that, figure out a strategy you can honestly deal with without a moral breakdown. To add to your moral dilemma, according to Bureau of Justice statistics, you should also know that offenders were known to their victims in 65% of these cases. Consider, now, that that robber won’t be some random thug that you are doing the world a favor by wiping from the surface of existence. Instead, think about that target being your brother, cousin, friend or neighbor and then ask please ask these questions again.

What should you do?

My advice is that you think about prevention. It sounds cliché, but statistics support this. Of the break-ins that occurred, about a third happened because of an open or unlocked door or window. Installing a security system also makes you about 300% safer, as it hardens the target for burglars and scares away most when the alarm goes off before any people or property can be damaged. A good one can even send in the police when a break-in occurs. In this case, the best defense is actually a good defense.

house-alarm-system-install

I know that questions like this are often asked out of fear. People want to have a great deal of control over their situation, but when others put you in danger you can almost always never get it back. If you have recently experienced danger, I feel for you I really do, but moving without caution or reason isn’t the solution to your insecurities. The best bet is to rationally consider your options before a situation occurs.

The odd thing is that I actually support gun ownership. I agree with the purpose of the second amendment and have a few myself. I enjoy them and like to go to the range to practice the art, but I doubt I will ever need to use them again in my life. Most of my motives for this post, like I have said before, are that I really don’t think people think about all that goes into the reality of weapons ownership. I don’t think people who are afraid really consider the better defensive options to guns. I don’t think that they do the proper research and put in the time to practice, give respect to the safety rules, take proper care of their weapons or put enough effort into making sure the wrong people don’t use them. I don’t think they have the ability to protect themselves in such a case as this question and do think they would probably be putting themselves or others they love in danger.

In reality, I blame these individuals for much of the problems in the gun world. Have you ever wondered where so many of the unregulated guns come from? Many trace their roots to frantic people who just need to have a gun to protect themselves, then decide three weeks later that they just don’t want a gun in their house then dispose of it in whatever haphazard manner they come up with in another fit of fear. These weapons, lost in rivers, sold at unregulated pawn shops, or just given to some guy, are many of the weapons that enter the unregulated weapons stream and into the hands of those who would do wrong to good people. These are, often, the weapons that members of the gun regulation lobby advocate need to be restricted. This does little to the underground market for weapons, but much to punish those responsible gun owners who house and use their weapons legally. After all, it isn’t they who will be breaking the law with the weapons later on down the road.

california-guns-lawmakers-target-620x412

In closing, I really wish more people took more time before buying their first weapon. I wish it was a decision that more first time gun owners entered into with a rational mind, rather than with a reactionary, emotional mindset. I wished they did more research on weapons and spent more time training in their use. Sadly, this isn’t the case, so the best I can do is at least give people something to think about.

I Drew a Monkey in a Math Book – Chapter 2

Gorrilla Cover Part II

(Start at chapter one)

When I was a sophomore in highschool I was in an Algebra class. It wasn’t that math was a problem for me really, I was good at math. I didn’t find it particularly challenging, and that was the problem. At that age, I was more concerned with those things with whom whose beauty cannot be so easily expressed so concretely as the neatly prepared equations and rudimentary algorithms of 10th grade Algebra. The difficulty was that, I was terribly bored.

I felt my teacher was fine at his job, it was just that listening to him was like murder to my psyche. His tone was as if you were listening to ticking of a clock. His unceasing and tedious tone, never changing in neither rhythm nor pitch was a melodic vacuum of monotonous narration. It could distract you from your thoughts from time to time, and you would think that you could have been getting something from it. At some point, though, it simply fades into the background as another form of white noise, like the culling of gulls on the breaking sea shore or a distant fog horn piercing the fog. By the end of most days, those who remained faithfully conscious were only so lucky to have bee lulled into a hypnotic trance of dazed lethargy.

Perhaps, in hindsight he wasn’t the best teacher after all. Either way, he’s an accountant now. Whatever his true calling may or may not have been, I was hopelessly bored in math class. A master of self-amusement, I took the initiative to find for myself ways of occupying myself beyond the more productive practices of dutifully enduring my studies.

I would stay up hours at night teaching myself my lesson until I competed it. Listening in class was a worthless exercise. I envied those who could simply fall asleep for the hour. Perhaps “passed out” would have been a more appropriate term. I can’t sleep in a room with noise and things going on. Ticking clocks, rustling of papers, the ironic snores of my peers; they held by attention despite my best efforts. So I couldn’t fall asleep, but his voice was just distracting enough that I couldn’t just teach myself in class either. I had to wait until I would get home that night and work alone in the quiet. I simply sat there and attempted to learn what I could. I did my real learning alone in my room, late at night, for hours, if need be. As disciplined as I was, a young man, alone in his room, doesn’t always do what he should.

As the time ticked by, I made what seemed to be a choice that had very little consequence at all, but would, in fact, be one of the most important choices of my entire life. That’s only my opinion of course. You’re free to decide on your own.

I began to draw in my book, and with pen no less. Such an act may not sound like a life altering event, but I will get to that.

Now, more than ten years later, as someone who teaches children of that age, I understand that drawing in a book was really an act of rebellion against a teacher for not educating me in the manner I saw fit. I was apparently angry that so much of my time was being robbed from me to do things that, I felt at the time, had no value. At the very least, it was not communicating clearly to me what the value of such a task was, if I would ever need it, and if all the hours I had lost would ever mean anything. At least that is what the research I have read would say. The truth is, I don’t remember being angry. I only just remember being very bored and somewhat easily distracted. I gave in to my uncharacteristic venting of frustration. Still, I am sure that any good psychologist might think differently, being that my first act of rebellion was in the form of a clock.

I drew a small clock in the bottom right corner of one of the first pages. It was very simple; only a small circle with a small arm pointing to twelve o’clock a four tick marks to denote the quartered face. A small tremor filled my spirit as I looked with unabashed exhilaration and a repressed pride at my act of egregious vandalism. I was a criminal… and it felt good. Something you must understand is that I was not a very wild personality in my youth, much more quiet and reserved than I am today. Having reveled long enough in my adolescent escapades, I smiled slyly to myself and returned to my lesson.

The next night, I found myself in the same predicament. The same numbing exercises, only skewed enough to ensure as much pain as I had experienced the night before. I remembered the delight I had experienced. With a grin of self-satisfaction, I drew more clocks, each one on another page, directly behind the last, decreasing in five minute intervals. I think I got the idea from an old show I used to watch in the 90’s. Each night after, during a break I would give myself, I would draw a few more clocks. Eventually I reached 12 o’clock again exactly one hundred forty-three pages after I had started. I now had something to do during class. I had created a little flip book for myself. As his lectures went on through what seemed a mild eternity, my thumb would stroke the pages in the bottom corner and I would watch as the time ticked by, symbolically as it were. It was a temporary escape from the tedium.

Eventually, we had reached a point where we were studying matrices. They really aren’t that interesting for most of us. It was 2002, though, and the movie “The Matrix” was still current in our minds and our imaginations. I was disappointed that actual matrices are so boring at the level of a high school sophomore. There was nothing about these things that, to me would inspire a Hollywood movie in the slightest.

It had also been a long time since I had vandalized anything. I had the itch. I remembered imagining a scenario where a person may be trapped in the Matrix, from the movie. I had perverted it, however, to a person, instead, trapped inside the book. I imagined a character hopelessly trapped inside my math book, his only escape being the charitable self-sacrifice of a student who would intentionally fail for the sake of this stranger in need of saving. Over several pages I drew my little fellow explaining his situation and pleading for help. I left the student with an ultimatum. Fail the next three assignments or my little stick man would be doomed to suffer an eternity as a prisoner. He disappeared with hope and optimism. Several pages down, four lessons to be exact, he returned to scold the student for their selfishness. Sometimes my greatest delights are the smiles in people I will never see.

I thought it was an enjoyable exercise. At the very least I liked to imagine the chuckle it might bring to the next person, whomever that might be, also bored in a math class someday in the future. I knew if I got caught I was in for it. The only other person who had the book was a girl a few years my senior, one which would never have done this sort of thing. I was enjoying myself, though, so my crime spree continued.

Over the next month or so I continued my antics. At some point, I remember incorporating a poorly drawn monkey which antagonized my character. In all manner of impractical adventures the two battled throughout the book.  Perhaps my favorite was the shooting where the monkey (more appropriately “ape” since I am pretty sure he was a gorilla) tried to shoot him. It was fun animating several pages of a dodge sequence reminiscent of Neo fighting Agent Smith. I don’t even remember what else I drew. All I do remember is that the monkey won every time.

My final act would be my masterpiece. As I watched my teacher stand at the board in characteristic stances, iconic to those of us who studied under him, I felt inspired. When his eyes were averted, I would sketch the image of his stance in the back of the book. He was a living archetype when he took his characteristic poses. His right hand extended with a dry erase pen in his hand to the board, his left hand cradling a book as if were in swaddling. Accented with his characteristic button downs and his burly beard and you had an image that few could forget.

The work of art took several weeks to finish, being that I had to do this in a clandestine manner and only at the times he was standing at the board. I’m reminded of painters who specialized in painting beautiful scenes of the natural world, but only in fifteen minute intervals. They did this to capture the specific light that was cast at only that one interval a day and only during a specific time of the year. It may take weeks or even years to complete such a masterpiece. My works were not so profound. Mine would probably be better compared to the “street art” done by one of the more talented hoodlums rather than the graffiti mere of a common street urchin. Even though this may have been the case, I was quite proud of my work. I drew another portrait, this time of him at his desk, stooped over grading worksheets, homework and tests. Finally, a third on a different page, of just his face. I really am quite proud of them and I miss them greatly.

Pride may have been the wrong word. Cocky perhaps is a better one. I was caught by another one of the students and showed it off to her. As is the way of the pride, it was when I desired accolades for my accomplishments that my downfall became real. Another student overheard and found out. I can only imagine the motives of exactly why, but this particular dead soul tattled on me for my transgressions.

“Mr. Blevins, Jon drew pictures of you in his book!”

That little rat threw me under the bus for no other reason than to feel a sense of self-satisfaction to alleviate what time would one day prove to be an unsatisfactorily boring life. Still, the joke’s on him. It was the best thing anyone had ever done for me, before or since. Perhaps it was the greatest act of fate for me in my life, or shall ever be. Of course he didn’t know that, nor did I, but I’ve said before, I’ll get back to that later.

Mr. Blevins, in his most unflinching tone, called me to his desk. As I walked back to his desk with the evidence I couldn’t help but feel the pain of regret, mixed with the almost completely insuppressible pride of my endeavors. I hoped that all he would see was the portraits and that he wouldn’t investigate further. The portraits were tastefully done and respectful, barring of course the medium which I used to convey my artwork. I didn’t have as much of an excuse for the monkey, the trapped man or the clock.

When I finally did open the book to show him, I suppose he expected something where a comedic caricature of himself had been drawn out in some lewd or obscene pose. I’d like to think he was delightfully surprised. I’d like to think he was impressed. I’d like to think the man showed any reaction at all. Mr. Blevins wasn’t a very expressive man. Most of all I’d like to think he at least regretted a little bit what he had to do next.

“You’ll have to erase it Mr. Davis.”

I protested, as much because I was genuinely proud of the artwork as much as to ensure it was the topic of his focus, rather than a certain series of clocks and one particularly ill-tempered ape. He made me erase it anyway. I went back to my desk and erased the images. He never did find everything else, though. So, I suppose that in that respect, I got away quite nicely. It was still sad to watch something you worked hard on melt away in blackened flakes of rubber and disappear into the wind with a self-defeating blow of obligation.

But hope wasn’t lost completely. In the shadows of a dozen buzzing lights, I could see something on the pages in the back of the text. I slowly rubbed my fingers across the paper to feel the impressions of my pencil still present. A closer look revealed it, too. As plain as day you could still see the pictures, if you knew to look for them.

I smiled to myself in realization that something I had done still existed and the censorship could yet be undone. Not this year, though. Not while it would still be on me. I’d have to wait for a chance encounter, some slim margin of an opportunity that I couldn’t predict, but could hope for.

All I knew was that I wasn’t done with that book, yet…

Continue on to Chapter 3