Entries By Holden
Displaying 1 To 30 Of 185 Entries
Celestial bodies. They knew a longevity that outshone the longest-surviving archaeological finds. The sky gave Mike a comfort: no matter where he ended up, or where the Earth ended up, the stars would still be there, and they would still be beautiful, a sort of beauty that transcended subjectivity; comets would still be plummeting towards the sun and then turning forever away in hyperbolic escape. Astronomy was, to him, learning about the stuff that lasted.Posted By Holden On 05.11.2013 @ 9:26 pm
Jane had more soap than she needed, and she had a mental database of them, in her head. She collected bars of soap from fancy hotels. At the bathroom of a rest stop or a restaurant she would smell the soap, and remember the places that used the same flavor. Pina colada, watermelon, strawberry banana, lemon mint, soft lavender, chocolate, even. She liked shaking the soap from the box, tracing the outlines of the logo (Dove, or Ivory, or Dial), lathering it on as warm mist filled the shower. She hated it when soap cracked, like land in a desert.Posted By Holden On 05.09.2013 @ 7:47 pm
It had taken Thomas two weeks to find enough of the tiny scabroot plants, a whole day to grind their stubborn, granite-like bodies into powder. He carefully tipped them into the water; they flashed red as if saying good-bye, and then disappeared, no more than a dream.Posted By Holden On 05.02.2013 @ 12:30 pm
On the battlefield, love ensued. Wasn’t that what it was? People drove sharp implements into each other and blood, the liquid of passion, spurted out, a flowering red. Soldiers bellowed, passionately, and then were silenced, by peaceful sleep. And when it was all over you could see the ravages of love, thousands of bodies littering the ground, vultures attracted to the stench welling up like a warm thermal.Posted By Holden On 05.01.2013 @ 6:31 am
John had blocked off the bottom of his door with scrap wood, and still the little furry enemies slipped in, night after night. It was a daily battle. He vacuumed the floor, made sure nothing touched it: no bread crumbs, backpack, clothes, nonslippered feet. And in the morning there would be another dead rats in the trap.
In the mornings he would put his gloves on, holding the trap away from his body, and dispose of it. Mona, who lived next door, who was always up early, would eye him like a stern nun as he passed by. Rats never bothered her. Because she told the mice not to (she insisted on calling them mice), and she never harmed animals, she said, ignoring John’s scientifically-minded protests. “Maybe you were a mouse, or will be on, in another life,” she said, “Have you thought about that?”Posted By Holden On 04.29.2013 @ 1:36 pm
Elena looked up at the crow, a stain of black against the blue sky, cawing its complaints against the chilly un-April weather. How she envied crows! To be despised by all gave you a kind of freedom; for her, if she tripped just a little bit, there would be eyes all around her, previous valedictorian and now still, somehow, clinging on to a 4.0 she suddenly didn’t care about maintaining anymore.Posted By Holden On 04.29.2013 @ 9:44 am
Why was it so hard to throw a ball in a straight line? Sheila should stay rigid for a second after the ball left her hand, and she would check that her arm extended in front of her–fingers still extended, as if holding an invisible bowling ball–was straight; her eyebrows would tensed, as if by concentration she could keep the bowl on track. But invariable it curled away, hit one or two at the edges.Posted By Holden On 04.25.2013 @ 12:47 pm
Mr. Bernard saw himself as a planter. An unconventional fifth grade teacher in the relative freedom of a charter school, he led his students in weekly projects on biology, political activism, game design, ethnography, the list went on. His goal, he always felt, was more to foster inspiration and purpose rather than knowledge.
It was always hard saying goodbye at the end of the school year. He planted the seeds of a hundred different flowers in his students’ minds, but he wouldn’t be around to see them blossom.Posted By Holden On 04.24.2013 @ 12:21 pm
Plink, plink. Josh kicked the little rocks, bouncing them against the “Danger, Stay Back” sign like a tennis player doing drills.
“Josh, come on.” His mom, camera in hand, leaned against their van, door open.
“Beeach,” Josh said, “You said we were going to the beach. Not these cliffs.” He gave a sideways soccer kick and spun and spun and a scree of rocks sailed through the little mouseholes in the fence.Posted By Holden On 04.20.2013 @ 8:08 am
I love the math majors. But I need someone who will do more than stand at a balcony and stare at the stars. I’ll be the one who does that: here, look up at all that beauty. He’ll be the one who puts his hand lightly at the back of my head: look down, Trianca. Look at all the lights in the city. He’ll take my hand and drag me down the stairs and say, “It’s called nightlife, Trianca.” I’ll say no but he won’t listen, and I’ll be glad he didn’t listen. Some things, you have to be forced to do.Posted By Holden On 03.17.2013 @ 10:49 pm
Sentenced again to the broken chair in the corner, James tattooed new vocabulary words (learned from his middle school friends) on the desk with a paper clip. It was a pattern now: someone came to close to him or looked at him wrong, he hit the offender with Lunch Box, and then he enjoyed the company of Broken Chair. Worksheets came to his desk, with holes for him to graffiti in, and they came back to him frowning in red marks.
It got him used to his life, fifteen years down the line. All the little prison bricks his new friends, though they didn’t accept his graffiti as easily (no markers). Around then, the numbers started becoming his friends too. He couldn’t explain why, aliens who never quite liked him, but they jumped alive from his worksheet 365×12+366×3 days ago=5478, then forward in time, scrambled up in orderly lines in his mind. They were trying to get his attention: listen to us James. We’re your ticket out.Posted By Holden On 02.28.2013 @ 8:32 pm
Even with the Fist on, he announced his presence by knocking. He swung his hand back, smiled, flexed his fingers, and delivered the traditional notice of visitation. Except of course, when his knuckles touched, the door splintered like glass from a bullet. His victim, upon hearing the sound, as if he knew he would be doomed, didn’t turn from his laptop screen. Just a faintest twitch of the lower thigh muscles, a finger frozen in a mouse click.Posted By Holden On 02.27.2013 @ 9:15 pm
Eep! she would say when she walked in the bathroom door as someone else was just on her way out. When John closed the window in calculus class by releasing the latch and letting it free-fall, her hands flew towards her ear before the bang, shielding it from imagined shrapnel. Sam, who threw snowballs at everyone, didn’t throw snowballs at her.
She revealed during get-to-know-each-other bingo: she’d never broken a bone. Alice, she writes, and now you have four-in-a-row. A fragile name, like an icicle at the top of your window: beautiful, translucent, unpreservable: once fallen, will shatter.
She had a twenty-pound backpack (deep blue), it would topple her chair when hung incorrectly. It was big on her small frame, and seemed to pull back as she bounded upstairs recklessly (after every class, it seems she has another one). You worried, but you never said anything.Posted By Holden On 02.25.2013 @ 6:40 pm
A round dark spot embellished the curve in her cheek, the part that bunched up when she smiled. It drew your eyes in the first time she laughed, you jerked your head like you had a photographer’s knack of noticing something odd from the corner of your eye. Was that a fly on her face? No, just her own personal dust bunny, a personal sticker on a apple.Posted By Holden On 02.24.2013 @ 10:47 pm
I cried a lot when I was a kid: stab a finger, lose a game. Sometime during adolescence my cry mechanism got shut off, and with everything going on, it wasn’t something I noticed. I look in the mirror and I seem a stone-eyed man, someone who doesn’t show emotion anymore. (They say crying helps relieve stress? Should I close my dorm door and try?) Is my mind trying to overcompensate, like a overdamped motor controller, too low, then shooting past the mark, and shooting back, never to be balanced?Posted By Holden On 01.11.2013 @ 6:23 pm
“Assessments measure mastery of learned material.” It started with a joke. Harold’s younger brother Tim liked learning. Liked structures (parts of a computer), lists (planets), classification (fungus kingdom). At least he didn’t go around spouting off world capitals to everyone like Nick at school, instead just copied things in his ever-expanding, dog-eared “notebook of learning.” “Teach me something,” he begged of Harold and Harold came up with something bogus: diseasology, talked about how disease cells multiply in your blood, divide into three in a process reminiscent of meiosis instead that it contained 13 stages (some redundant) instead of 8 (was that it?), and involved releasing needles, poison sacs, and glue. He quizzed Tim afterward.
Afterwards Tim was always trying to get Harold to play Test with him: Take turns making up material and teaching it the way a bad teacher would, then ask ridiculous test questions that had nothing to do with the material. Then Tim began to be serious: he started just writing in his notebook: fake science, fake languages, fake history and geographies. Like a textbook, with Fun Facts, quotes, comprehension questions, and chapter assessments. Tim gave it to Harold and hovered over his shoulder, watching him read. Unlike Harold’s random lectures, the “textbook” actually made sense—in an odd way, as if the material could actually be true in a world structured far, far differently from our own.Posted By Holden On 01.10.2013 @ 6:38 pm
Being a reader is antithetical to being in power. Perhaps this is why most politicians don’t deeply understand the issues they make decisions about. When you’re telling others what to do, you simply don’t have the time or energy left to just absorb others’ wisdom. But then, the world needs readers, and it needs deciders.Posted By Holden On 01.09.2013 @ 5:56 pm
It’s easy to create fake musts. You must take geometry to take algebra 2. You must get a 2100 on the SAT to go to Ivy Leagues (2400 preferred). You must work hard to succeed in life. You must give a coin to the homeless guy who plays guitar in the subway (if you want to go to heaven). You must remember to call your grandparents sometime and say you miss them.
Adrian went to Harvard and dropped out, made a start-up and made monies, didn’t give the homeless guy a cent because he had to uphold a certain standard for music. Then his grandparents passed away a month before he would have graduated, and he missed them, and it was too late.Posted By Holden On 01.07.2013 @ 7:45 pm
Mrs. Collins didn’t look forward to taking her kids to the library for research. Five years ago, there would have been no trouble. But today, she had to ask the librarian to turn off the computers, as she intended introduce her students to the encyclopedia and World Books. Of course, now there was always someone who asked, “Why not just use the Internet?”
How do you explain the pleasure of pages to someone who grew up on screens?Posted By Holden On 01.07.2013 @ 6:31 am
How many of you want to be writers? Most hands shot up.
You know the difference between a writer and storyteller? Professor Miller looked dwarfish, bent forward to peer between us, his elbow on the table, thumbnail on his chin. The table was a big ellipse, and he sat in the middle, at the tip of the minor axis. No one spoke.
A writer wants to write, and looks for something to say. A storyteller wants to say something, and finds a way to write it. Now I ask, how many of you want to be writers?
Students look at each other, confused. A blonde girl with a notepad raises her hand and then lowers it.
He didn’t harp on the usual check-your-grammar, show-not-tell, know-your-characters. “This is not what love *is*,” he said, tapping a story with his knuckles. Or: “Have you met someone who’s mentally depraved, Julie?” His eyes were earnest and hard to look into.
I couldn’t finish my second story for the class. “If it’s the day before it’s due, and you’re tearing out your hair, just Drop Everything and Live,” he said, “Go to a party or whatever you young people do nowadays. Better a late story than an empty one.”
I got a N on my transcript: No grade. Office of the Registrar says: A “N” grade is the result of incomplete assignments, deferred due to unforeseeable circumstances. Once requirements have been satisfied (arranged individually with the instructor), the professor can change an “N” grade to the appropriate grade. If no change has been made by the last day of the next semester, a “N” grade automatically becomes a “F.”
In Professor Miller’s office on the last day: “I don’t get math majors often. I’m sure you have something to say that the literary ones can’t. Life of a mathematician, perhaps? What drives you to writing?”
I shook my head. I couldn’t admit a mid-college crisis because admitting it made it real. I was still in one piece. Math was just a… obsessive twin brother I needed to get away from. For a while.
“You’re right. I’m just trying to write before I have a story to tell.” The girl with a scar on her face wrote about “passion.” It made my “passion for mathematics” feel a lie.
I went home for Christmas break. Listened to the adults converse, my baby cousins go “choo-choo” over the train set. Adult conversations seem more interesting with new ears. Like classical music, I didn’t appreciate until dad circled notes in Bach’s canons: “Look, you translate these notes over in time and in pitch: an exact copy.”
How to get experience? “Drop everything and Live.” It felt funny, writing “Get more experiences” as a new year’s resolution. It reminded me of the Buddhist group I used to attend with Mom, where they would chant and then sit in a circle to “share experiences.”
But you couldn’t get any more specific than “experience,” could you? If you could quantify it, write down a definition, then Living would be a matter of reading, and you could learn it in a book. The very idea of experience was supposed to be, you don’t know it until you have it.Posted By Holden On 01.06.2013 @ 9:47 am
Pure math. His fellow high school mathcampers convinced them that was where it was at. Kevin was now a senior at Harvard, with more grad math classes up his sleeve than you could shake a stick at.
“What’s the use of pure math?” laypeople asked.
He had an answer for that, memorized and worn into his brain like the delta-epsilon definition of limit, like the spectral theorem, like the Riemann-Roch formula.
“It is the pinnacle of the sciences, absolute reason.”
Math is the most transferable skill! Ms. Nelson, 6th grade. Made them build boxes out of cardboard, how to build the one with most volume?
Graduate Texts in Math piled up in yellow towers in his dorm. He felt he was strapping more and more tools on his belt. He wanted to go on an adventure, yet so much baggage.
“Stats is where it’s at,” Matt told him. “Do you know how much stuff in AI relies on nonparametric stats? No one’s doing it. Like, all the pure mathies turn up their noses at stats.”
Kevin sort-of zoomed out senior year. Took less classes. Read books. He didn’t use to read that much.
“What’s the use of pure math?” laypeople asked.
“Pure math is like the Glass Bead Game,” he said.
They walked away confused.
Transferable? “Do you know what happened to Joseph Knecht?” he asked an imaginary Ms. Nelson. “He drowned.”Posted By Holden On 11.04.2012 @ 6:51 pm
“What’s the American obsession with smiles?” Aunt said. She flashes her tea-stained teeth at me. Anyone else might think she smoked obsessively.
The dentist had talked nonstop for three minutes about how I had to get braces, to “improve my smile.” Aunt didn’t come to my defense then. She kept her mouth shut, wisely perhaps.
She knocked at the brochure of smiling people in braces with her knuckles. “These smiles are fake. You know how I tell? Look at their eyes.”Posted By Holden On 10.21.2012 @ 12:59 pm
“This is my self-charging robot,” Jim said, “I named it Magnemite. It looks for outlets with its sensor, and then plugs itself in. When it’s done, it unplugs itself.”
“What does it do, besides charging itself?”
“Nothing, really,” Jim said, “But that’s not the point. Do you know how hard it is to identify a power outlet?”Posted By Holden On 10.20.2012 @ 2:10 pm
During their lunch breaks, Mr. Miller, the math teacher, would always be hanging around with Mr. Roberts, the history teacher, both of them holding cups of black coffee roasted from the staff lounge, leaning over the stair banisters and watching the student rush to lunch. In class, Mr. Miller showed off his correspondences with Mr. Roberts: “Imagine you’re Thales of Miletos, you just arrived at Egypt, they don’t care for any of your Greek geometry, and you have one chance to impress them. Find the height of the Pyramids.”
It grew to be a routine, the way he conducted class: when someone came up with an answer, he would give her chalk, and say, “Show us.” He sat in the vacated chair, careful not to touch any of the student’s textbooks or papers, and look forward like an attentive student, half a foot taller than the rest of class.Posted By Holden On 10.20.2012 @ 9:59 am