Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Fresh Start



Cover Page

Description: 
          A Fresh Start, about a young adult David, born an Amish, but feels like he needs something more. He leaves the Amish community and tries to adapt to the Modern world, an intriguing but different place than he is used to. Fast paced technology and pop culture are a few things he has read about, but barely comprehends.

          David tries to acclimate, but meanwhile he also has fresh eyes and can see where the Modern world has gone wrong, and where it has become destructive to its people and environment. Will he reach his dreams of becoming an educated member of Modern society? Will he return to the Amish community as so many often do? Will he be able to handle the chaos of the Modern world, and embrace his Amish roots simultaneously?
          Join David as he tries to get A Fresh Start.



A Fresh Start
 By Arielle Breen

PAGE 1 Introduction:
The first thing that one must know is that I am discontent.

I am an Amish who is dis-satisfied with his life. I am missing out and I don't know what it is that is missing. So I am leaving my Amish community to live amongst the "English" to search for answers to the questions I have yet to ask myself.

I am David Miller from Middlebury Indiana, and I am lost. This journal was a gift from my friend to help me decide what I am going to do, how I am going to escape. You see I was born what is commonly called Amish. I am nearing the end of my Rumschpringe which is a time of adolescence. It is also a time where the standards are slightly lax, and adolescents get to choose to stay with their community and be baptized as an adult, or leave and start a new life.

Even before this journal I had an inkling of what I may choose. You see I am a very curious person. I love to learn! I have many varied interests ranging from reading about anything from pirates to the animals of North America. I have always loved to travel, and learn about other ways of the world. I enjoy being surrounded by nature. But most of all at this moment, I despise the church. It stifles me in ways one cannot imagine. So comes the choice, do I stay with my familiar, loved and close family, and endure the church which is ingrained in every part of the lives of my community, or leave and face the uncertain.

The unknown. It does make my stomach quiver, but also with resolve. I feel it best to leave my known community and family, to search for what is missing. I only know how much I will miss them, and they me. Poor Naomi, she is my littlest sister. She is ever fond of me, hanging on my words as if I were a holy beacon of light. Jerry the oldest after me will look after her well, and along with Daniel, Lorene, and Frieda, they will all be fine, I just know it. I hope they will.


(Later in evening)
I will sleep on my decision and then formulate a plan of action. I love my family very much but I have different needs than they, and they are content here, whilst I am sadly not. I look at my brother Jerry and though we look similar, tall in height, medium brown hair and intense blue almond shaped eyes, we differ vastly from one another. He on one hand is a devout Christian, loves to socialize with the girls, and is much the morning person. I, did at one time honor the Christian ways, but have since decided that I am very unsure about what has been told to me, that doesn't add up. I don't mind socializing in small bouts, but find the girls rather boring. The exception to that is Sarah. She does not share my distaste for Christian ways but does agree with me on much. We have been friends since we were toddlers and I love her as a sister. As for mornings, I would much rather sleep in.



Entries from David's Journal
My Amish Days are limited, or are they?
*The first of October 2010.
Waking up at 4:30 am is not something I feel I will miss if I decide to leave the Amish community. A good long rest is very overdue for me. Subsequently I would love to spend my days reading, writing and learning. As it is I have to sneak this into my schedule since we are not educated past grade 8, and some of us not even that. I was lucky and my parents understood how much I loved my classes so they let me continue until grade 8. They must have known I was staying up late to read into the wee hours of the morning, only to roused me at such an un-godly hour the next morning.
I am not a typical Amish, at least I don't feel it. I go through the actions of each day: Milking the cows, helping my family build sheds, barns, houses, plowing fields harvesting, going with the seasons. But It is not what I am meant to do. I do not feel I am living to my potential.
Today after a breakfast of quail eggs, toast, warmed oats and ham, I helped my father Joseph, and countless other males of our community, to finish the new roof on the Yutzy barn. It was mind numbing. I take no real pleasure as I should from the sort of building jobs I do on a regular basis. It's as If my mind just goes blank and as the "English" would say I'm on auto-pilot.
Sometimes I have a hard time identifying with being Amish, sometimes I say "they" and other times I say " we". I will leave this community and venture forth on MY onw adventure, MY own life.
I also fed, watered, and milked the 20 dairy cows that we have in the barn. I brushed and fed and watered Haylie my Bay Dun Quarter mare. My father debated whether to get her for me or not due to how fast she is compared to her endurance. True to her breed she is a sprinter but if there is anything you must know about most Amish, it needs to be done the "Amish way" and most instances its about slow and steady. But as you can tell, I won out and got my lovely Halie.
After my daily chores were done and dinner was done I headed up to my shared room for some alone time. Here is where I contemplate, read in secret and just recover from the daily routine. It isn't the hard work that I regret, it's the endless rules of the order, the lack of curiosity of the outside world, and education in general. Tomorrow will be a better day, I hope it.
*Second of October
One thing I do love about the fall is there is so much work to be done around harvest season there is not much time to mope. It does give me much needed time to think about how to leave and what to do when I finally do. Plus I love the smells, spices and flavors of autumn as well as the colorful sights. There is much to do before the winter.
This morning we ate warmed pumpkin bread, yogurt, sliced apples, chicken eggs and had cider as well as a treat since there was much t do today. We painted the barn a typical red, worked on the house siding, helped our fellow Amish neighbors to the south to set up the "Amish" auction that they are hosting in their field. All the large horses are gathered and penned up ready to be auctioned off. I also went to help my brothers mend the hog fence so the hogs wont escape!
It was a chaotic day but at the end I do so much enjoy the peacefulness of my shared room.
*The third of October 2010.
Today was church. How I despise Sundays, for the mere fact that I am required to sit in someones house (whoever is hosting church for that week) and listen to the monotonous chatter. I really am not a religious person. My family is, that's great for them, and the rest of the community. But I just am not. I suppose I am, what is that English term, the black goat? Something like that. I suppose I am the black goat of the family, and the whole community. I really am tired of keeping my head down. Until tomorrow.
*Fourth of October.
It was 33 degrees this morning, with frost on the ground.
Everyone was sluggish this morning as we ate turkey sandwiches, grilled cheese, sliced tomatoes and more sliced apples.
After breakfast my brothers and I had to work on fixing the roof on the out house as it was leaking, and no one wants to have it raining or worse, snowing on them when they are using the outhouse! The day warmed up to a comfortable 64 degrees with barely a gentle breeze. We had a bit of a break from our normal chores because when we were fixing the outhouse roof father was doing our morning chores. He had already taken care of the chickens, hogs, dogs, cows and horses. And mother was feeding the barn cats the leftover meat scraps and grease mixed with bread from our breakfast. So I went on out to the side corn field that hadn't been cut down yet. I love to walk through the corn and since its taller than I, I can get lost in the wondering of where I'll end up when I come out. Finding a corn-less patch where a large rock was I got up on that rock, lay there and think of all I wished to accomplish when I leave the Amish community. After that I just thought of how beautiful it was to hear, smell, and be surrounded by nature. It made me glad I am surrounded by nature. I had been to town many a time and one thing I noticed was that it just wasn't complete. Everything always seemed tense, hustling, but exciting. The community was never that exciting, and that is the Amish way. I am excited to try out the English world to try my hand at it!
*The fifth of October 2010.
Today we went to town! I secretly have a library account there and I picked up a neat book on travel to the Orient, A book on saddles, Two books on Running for sport, a book on how to use a laptop (since I have taught myself how to use a personal computer it won't be too difficult for me to understand I'm sure of it), one on philosophy, and a book about coffees, cappuccino,and mochiatos. That last one would require some translating as many of the terms in it I am unfamiliar with.
After we got back home everyone else was eating and getting ready for bed. I was reading. I finished the Philosophy book, and the two saddle books fairly fast even for my standards. I am quite ready to be done with this sneaking around just to read business. I am ready to leave my community.
The eighth of October 2010.
The last few days have been a blur of normalcy. All I can do is plan for my departure. I have taken up more duties so as to have more money saved since I don't know how much I will need. I have been saving for quite some time and after all the odd jobs such as working on English peoples houses, extra roofing jobs and the like I have a total of $300 saved up. Well I am tired since I have had a longer day than usual. Til tomorrow.
*The ninth of October 2010.
All day today I could only think of being free. Of having the leisure time to read whenever I wish. To have alone time at a whim. To not have to answer to the elders and their religions rule, which by the way, are mostly ridiculous in my opinion. I have been planning some more and have figured the best time to leave without a fuss. Sunday. Not tomorrow, that is too soon. But the 17th of this month, I will be free.

Not all Amish groups are the same. I sometimes meet with local farmers, who know some of our culture, but don't understand that we are all different. I feel this is something I will have to explain when I go to the modern world.  Most farmers if they don't know us, think we are cookie cutter molds of each other. Always doing what we should. Some Amish even have cell phones, tractors, freezers, electricity because their orders are different. Some shun those who leave, while others are more relaxed. It really depends on where you are. And we usually learn Pennsylvanian dutch, very similar to German. We read the Bible in German, but usually aren't fluent German speakers. I don't know any better way to explain this to outsiders than this.

*The 11th of October.
Yesterday we went to church, here! It was even more chaotic than going to some other persons house, since we had to make all the preparations. My mother and sisters ran about the house almost as if they were mad! I don't know why they care so much what others think. I just don't get it. It was worse than if another family had hosted since everyone still clung around for far too long afterward. They were relentless! I don't hate them, I just would love a minute to myself. The elders would say that I am being selfish but am I really?
*15th of October, 2010.
This week has been pretty good. I helped gather potatoes most of the time. We had a large dinner at our house with two other families who had brought food as well. It was a nice laid back dinner. Now these I like! Give me casual any day! Now we are all full and my family are resting in their rooms.

I had been thinking how glad I was that my parents let me take time last winter to take classes at an alternative education place. Unlike any Amish I know, I have a high school diploma, thanks to my parents, and thanks to my persevering. I'm so proud of myself! I did it! I was reading about qualifications for college, and what I read didn't say that you had to have a diploma before you started college. Besides some high school students do what's called 'dual-enrolling', where they are in high school and take college classes too, sometimes the school pays for it. Oh how I wish I could have done that too! To not worry about the price, and just focus on going and studying, that would be great!

I think this will help me a lot though to have my 'high school education' completed, and have some reference when I start college. Oh I am so excited just thinking about it, it's going to be hard to sleep tonight.
*17th of October.
Today was church, but was much better than last week. It was held at the Beiler's, who are a really nice family I have come to like. They even have a daughter a year younger than I, whom I did have affection for at one point. But I never acted on it and after seeing her for who she really is, have decided she really isn't my "type" as the English would say.
We had a great dinner after church of applesauce, apple pie, potatoes, chicken, and turnips. After dinner we all went home but the weather had changed to drizzle and so it was a long miserable ride.

*The 18th of October 2010.
The drizzle last night has turned to pouring rain this morning. The temperature has also dropped to a cold 38 degrees Fahrenheit. This weather usually turns to sleet or snow when it gets colder. Usually we have snow around Halloween, but you never can tell. Sometimes it will snow on Halloween and then whatever snow you have around Christmas melts, so you have no snow on Christmas! I don't like that one bit. A note on Halloween, Amish don't celebrate it. Well non-black goat Amish don't. Which leaves me to run naked at midnight. I do love Halloween and so I carve a pumpkin but have to hide the pumpkin, seeds etc. One year my father's best friend saw me carving a pumpkin on the porch in the sunshine. I was carving a skeleton from a stencil kit I had borrowed from the Middlebury Community Library on Winslow street in town. Let's just say that I seriously do not want to get caught carving a pumpkin again.
I have not left yet, since yesterday was not very opportune for me. I now have over $400 saved up though, which will make it ever so much easier on me when I do leave. Perhaps this Sunday will be better than yesterday. I want to leave Sunday because even if they know what I am up to, they are unlikely to stop me since they don't want to cause a scene in front of all the families gathered for church. So I will as the English say, "cross my fingers".
*19th of October.
Even if I wanted to play a musical instrument I could, were I to leave. Not that I am musically inclined. But then again how would I know? I plan to experience the world, travel, see things, be with open minded people, know the world! I am so excited, and frightened simultaneously.
__________________________________________________________________________________________



Chapter 1; 
Present Day
***
"So...ahem, David, what would you like to get today?"
David was broken from his reverie, as he always became somewhat calm, and nostalgic whenever he thought of the life he had left behind. In some ways the transformation was so astonishing he could hardly believe it. In other ways it was shocking, and he had to take baby steps to adjust to the fast paced world. "North" by Phoenix was playing on the cafe radio, and it had a quiet unique tune that seemed to carry on and on. He only knew what it was called because the radio announcer said that was who it was by and what it was called. "....and up next is take me out by Franz Ferdinand and..." and he tuned out to answer the barista.

David said in a certain tone of one who was well versed on the topic but has not had a chance to practice their rehearsed speech of the matter: " I'll have the mo-chi-at-to please."
The barista or server, he wasn't sure on her title at present, looked at him as if he were an alien. The green kind. With tubers and horns sprouting from his face. He didn't quite understand that he had done or said anything wrong. Perhaps she was merely dense, or perhaps he had made another in a long string of errors he tended to make. He had gotten better, significantly better in fact.

After he got his finished order he had to get up and ask for an ice cube. He still had not gotten how average people could drink the molten lava. One more thing he needed to adjust to.
In general his departure from his Amish community had mixed results. On one hand it had gone well. He had left his family a letter explaining his need for individual freedoms and that of coarse he still loved them. He had suffered mostly confusion though when interacting with the English. He still had yet to master their differences of speech, and mannerisms. Some things they took for granted, however, intrigued him beyond belief.

After closing his journal that he still managed to write in, detailing his enterprises the best he could given that he was usually just so bent on enjoying himself.

His latest contingency included riding a train and drinking this unique drink called bubble tea. Bubble tea is, for those who don't know, a tea, superficially sweetened with gummy candy like substance which are supposed to be the bubbles. The drink was amazingly sweet but interesting.

It was little things like this that he had decided to fill his time with. He would soon need to get a job of some sort since he had needed to buy clothes and the like. He had done some roofing jobs along the way to pay his cheap rent but he required something a little more permanent. Something easy nothing stressful. He intended to continue to enjoy himself, even when working.

He saw a flier as he was walking down the lane back to his efficiency apartment. The only reason it caught his eye were the girls, well women in fishnets, dark eye liner and roller skates. It was a flier advertising roller derby. He tore off the information and put it into his second hand messenger bag. He had bought the bag at his last excursion to Goodwill and salvation army. There he had found some clothing styles he was fascinated by like the ripped, and studded clothes. After asking around and researching at the library he had found that he liked the punk, or grunge styles. Anything with studs, buckles, and safety pins tempted him. Plus by going to the second hand stores they were cheap, and usually already had rips made for him.

By being away from the Amish community he had learned that women, well actually everything, was, different. The women he noticed had bodies. Some liked to show them while others didn't really show as much. But you could see their overall body shapes much better than in those silly dresses. And hair, their hair came in so many types, styles, and colors. They were some who wore it up, some down, some in these puffy in the front and ponytail in the back things. He had even seen one woman with a mow-hawk, which was surprisingly flattering on her.


Chapter 2;
Snowfall

It had started to snow. A slow meandering snowfall. It was soothing and calm. Large fluffy snowflakes. He couldn't help but to think of his family. They didn't care much for the snow, mostly since it meant more wood had to be hauled to keep the house warm. He had gotten better. He didn't reminisce nearly as much as he had to begin with. He missed them, but enjoyed his new found freedom more so.

As he curled up to sleep after slinging his messenger bag on the floor of the small room, he thought only of the soft slightly wet snow, and how warm it made him feel inside.
***


After brushing his morning breath away he made his way to the fridge. The refrigerator was one of the many things he had come to really appreciate. They really made things easier not worrying about how to keep foods protected from animals and yet still cold.

Today he had plans to go to the library and read and study. He had already gotten his social security card something he previously did not have. As soon as he took care of some other various paperwork he would also be signed up for college come the new year, and that was something that kept him going. The thought of learning, of people encouraging him to learn more than the elementary basics was an exhilarating thought. Looking at the calendar he saw the picture for December was a horse drawn carriage. One word came to mind: irony. He had promised himself not to think of his family today as when he did it turned his mood quite sour. No, he resolved to stay happy. He WAS going to have a great day.

He dressed for the cold windy weather and peered out his dirty window next to the door. It had snowed heavily during the night and he was glad to be up early to enjoy the sunny yet cold day. Grabbing his messenger bag he headed out the door and made a beeline for the Library.

Since moving from Middlebury to the more heavily populated Elkhart, he had enjoyed the various businesses, coffee shops, river walks, museums and the like. It was huge and very overwhelming.

Being so close to the Saint Joseph River was great as he always had liked the water. He had plans for that river when the weather warmed. He had visions of fishing, wading, and watching wildlife.

Back to the present moment his stomach reminded him to eat. He had become addicted to coffee too. So delaying his study and reading time a little he went into the "Heavenly Brew" and looked at the list searching for a pumpkin spice or apple spice drink. He was in the mood for something warming. He found it and ordered the closest thing to a meal he really felt like ordering. A Sandwich, a scone, and a spiced coffee of sorts would have to do for now.



As he took his seat at a table he noticed a stray dog out the window, some sort of terrier mix. His mind wandered to the terrier like dogs they had had in his family. They were great rat dogs and sometimes you could get them to herd. His thoughts wandered back to the present and were distracted from his original intended coarse with thoughts of another type.

Across the way was a young woman with dark brown hair, and intense eyes. She was reading a book entitled "I hate my neck." By Nora Ephron, and had a picture on the cover of a woman pulling her turtle-neck op to her nose. This young woman was maybe a year older than he and was very immersed in her reading. He would love to have the courage to go sit and talk with her, or anyone for that matter. He desperately wanted to be socially comfortable in groups or pairs. But his English while good, was still awkward and accented from years of mainly speaking a dialect of German. This made him apprehensive to join in with others.

So he watched her politely, and went back to his small breakfast.

After eating he looked in the direction of the woman he had seen, but she had left without his noticing. He left the cafe in hopes of returning later that evening as a treat after he finished with his day.

The outside was comparably colder, windier, and much snowier than the cafe had been. He was so lost in thought he had inadvertently ran into a pedestrian with his chatting friends from the next shop over. They both apologised simultaneously, and then went on about their way. David couldn't help but wonder where they were going. What they had on their mind. What their troubles were. At this moment he vowed to make social contact with others in the community, little by little. Fist step was to go to the other cafe he frequented, the barista there knew him by name, that would be a start.

The barista at the Sunrise Canyon Coffee house had started work the same day he had come to town with all his awkward Amish-ness. They had soon formed an easy and joking relationship. She acted like an older sister to him. She would ask him about his progress with the modern world and he would ask her about her college classes. Since he had to wait for the next semester to start, he was dying of curiosity. Farrah was the first of her family to go to college and much was expected of her. She complained to David whenever he wasn't complaining to her. After about a month they both had a casual friendship. He had issues with opening up to others so this had been a great step towards learning to eventually function in a group of English people. It was a small step in the right direction.

He made his way from one cafe to the next, and was soon face to face with Farrah. He hadn't been sure if she would be here since she wasn't usually the opening person. He was relieved that she was.

"Hi Farrah." he said trying to sound casual.
"Hey Dave." said Farrah. She liked to call him Dave most of the time. He thought it suiting, even though he didn't much like the name, he did like someone giving him a nickname, it was very endearing. This helped to set his resolve even more.
"Okay, I am just going to cut to the chase here, You know how I am still adapting to social situations with the English?" he asked her.

She giggled. She always did when he referred to the general modern, non-Amish populace as "English".
"Well, I want to get some more practice. I want to be able to feel somewhat comfortable in a group setting. I want to eventually be able to go on a date if I wanted to."
"Whooo! Who is the lucky girl?!" She said too enthusiastically, like an older sister might ask a younger brother about his crush at school. He somewhat liked it, but like a younger brother might feel a little abashed, he did so too. Thus was their odd relationship they had developed.

" I really don't feel com... What girl?" he asked thinking he had masked his blunder.
"Ohhh! Snap! you found one!" she was incorrigible.
"Ok that is not the point of the matter. All I am saying is if there was someone I wanted to approach hypothetically, then I would want to be comfortable around others first. So will you help me? Maybe have some of your mates from college come over, do what they do and introduce me, have me interact, the works." David said this matter-of-factly.
"Mates? Where did you learn English? In Britain? Ha! Man you are a piece of work. Yeah sure, we were all going to get together tonight anyway to let off some steam since were all pretty stressed with finals and all. They are a motley crowd so you should feel comfy with at least some of them. This is great, maybe I can use you for credit as a community service, you know taking the kid who'd been raised by wolves and helping him into society. I could seriously win an award for this!" Excited she started to ramble some more until David cut her off.
" I was NOT raised by wolves! I just have a harder time since there are many different social cues you English use..." It was her turn to cut him off.
"OK. Stop. You want my help? Stop calling us "English" . If you are going to get along, you have to relinquish your hold on your title as an Amish. You talk about the Amish as "them", and yet you refer to non-Amish as "them" as well. You need to find an "us" that you belong with. I think this will do you well. I have some crazy type of friends too, so just pay them no mind if they freak you out at all." Farrah said all this rather fast in her excitement.
What had he gotten himself into?


Chapter 3;
 Modern Friends

After he went to his apartment to eat and change before the gathering at 6pm, David wrote in is slightly neglected journal:
December 11th
Since leaving I have noticed that I have grown in some areas, fatter. My pants which I bought when I first left no longer fit me. And my belt has had to move from the 3rd hole, to the second hole. I am not too concerned but I also do not want to end up looking like so many that I see on a daily basis. So perhaps I should, what is the English term, .......exercise?
I am just about to leave to go to my first real party. With kids and pizza and movies, how exciting! And I am making a vow to myself to be comfortable with the other people at the party.
Until later...

After setting down his journal he went to his closet to look through his wardrobe that had expanded after leaving. He found a black rock band tshirt, a studded hoodie with punk written on it in, his pre-ripped jeans that he had added safety pins to for flair, and threw on some biker style boots. He looked in the full length mirror on the back of his door and went to the kitchen to grab a PB and J sandwich to chomp on while he read a bit. After reading 2 chapters from "Body Toxic, an environmental memoir" by Susanne Antonetta he bookmarked his spot looked at the clock and realized that only 20 minutes had past. He was too wired, and too excited. Maybe he could just show up early. It was at Farrah's house, so it wouldn't be that awkward to show up early. So he set out for Farrah's.

It took him nearly a half hour to walk to her house and he almost got lost since he wasn't familiar with this part of town yet. He walked up her small flight of stairs to her porch, and knocked on the door that had a rust stain from the peephole. Immediately a large dog started attacking the window to the left of the door, barking and salivating on the window. His heart instantly jumped to his throat at having been frightened by the dog, who at this point looked rather rabid.

He heard Farrah's voice chiding the dog from the inside and opened the door after a pause at the peephole. She looked surprised to see him and he started to explain.

" I was just too excited to wait at home, and..." He said rather guiltily.
"No need to explain. Come in." she said gesturing him in as she held her dogs collar to hold it back as it furiously tried to sniff him. Once the door was shut she let got of its collar and it bounded right at him knocking him over. As he thought he was a goner, the dog started licking his face just as seriously as it had barked at him through the window.

"He's harmless. Just cant stand people on the porch, so he acts like he's gonna bite 'ya but he's a wuss, honestly." She said this as she crossed her arms over her chest.  "Well what am I going to do with you now that I have you here? You are adorable, getting all psyched over a little exam party."

David answered with " Hey do you need any help in the kitchen? Or anything else, like setting the table, or..."
"Setting the table! you ARE precious. Nah we are college kids. Rule number one about that is we don't set the table 'nless were at home for thanksgiving. Number two we usually order out if we can afford it, but you're in luck we can't afford it, so I have to go shopping, and you will be my helper. This will be fun!"
David seriously doubted that. He hated shopping. He never liked it. And every time he saw a seriously overweight person at the store it made him just want to leave his food in the basket and never eat again, but he had offered to help and help he was one to stick with things.

*Author note:(5,603 words thus far from before June NaNoWriMO camp)




Chapter 4;
 Grocery Store Ruminations


Who... am I?
David walked through the aisles of the small grocery store, trying to figure out who he wanted to be. Who is David, and what do you want, and where are you going? All these questions seemed so simple, but held such a weight. They also couldn't be answered nearly as simply. Obviously he knew his name, but who was deeper. Some people just use it in context. If a friend asked them who they are they may resort to listing off their attributes such as job titles, awards they have won, whether they are a parent, their major or minor in college, any special training they may have.

Who? It is so much more than that though, to know who you are. David thought he at least knew who he wasn't, an Amish, but wasn't completely sure about that either. Farrah's earlier comment really had him thinking.
Farrah stopped reading the ingredient list on a can of nacho cheese that could feed his whole family. She eyed David with what he was told was a stink eye.

"What are you up to?" Farrah said. "Nothing, just.." he paused "thinking. Just thinking." "think any harder and your head'll crack with the effort!" said Farrah, always dramatic.
"Tell me about your classes. What are they like? The teachers, the students, all of it.
" David curiously asked. 
"Adorable Always adorable" she said as she pinched his cheek enough to make it lightly sting. "Well, my racism class is always a hoot." This earned them a rude look from the lady walking by, she seemed to be of a darker skin color. 
"They teach racism in school?!" Farrah burst out laughing so hard he thought she was going to hurt herself or roll on the grocery store floor, right into the stack of cola. 
"Oh...my...oh...." She gasped for air. 
"Apparently the answer is no, they don't teach racism at school." David said a little affronted. David walked on a little ways leaving Farrah catching her breath. He was usually fascinated by her, but at this moment he was tired of being the joke. How was he supposed to learn this new culture if people couldn't be adults and just correct him politely and let him move on to the next new thing?

He needed a teacher. A mentor he could learn from and not be constantly judged. It was definitely passed time to enroll in classes and pursue his dream.

How was he going to pay for everything though? He had heard about student loans and such, but he had also read about scholarships and grants.

Farrah caught up to David and interrupted his inner monologue. She quickly pecked him on the cheek, standing on her toes to do so.

"I'm sorry Dave. It's gotta be rough tryin' to get all this new stuff. Im not trying to pick on you."
It was almost as if she read his mind. Sometimes she was eerie like that.
They made their way to the register, passing old ladies holding their glasses in the funny way they do so they can read the tiny print on boxes better. The small store had yellowing walls, and a musty smell from all the years of use.

The cashier rang up the purchases. He looked weirdly at the Godzilla sized nacho cheese container, then the behemoth can of custard. He probably didn't even know they sold that size, judging by the layer of dust on the lid, it may have been purchased when the store opened 30 plus years ago.

"That will be twenty seven nineteen." the cashier said. Farrah reached for her wallet in her 'Hippie satchel' as she called it. "Ive got this." David reached into his pocket, and gave the cashier two twenty's. "Hmm, that was nice! Thanks! I suppose you are trying to make me feel guilty for earlier? OK." Farrah said.

"No, that's not it at all, just trying to be nice.OK?" said David. "Aight. ok, fine, Thanks" Farrah said as they made their way to the car. A family was getting out of a silver minivan next to them. While they waited for the mom, dad, and children to get out David was struck by the unexpected twinge of guilt.

Would he see his family again? Did he want to? Did they want to see him? What would happen when he changed so much from what they knew, would they respect him? He didn't miss them enough to go back, not yet.

He knew of Amish who left and they got lonely, and then went back home. All their efforts lost. Their freedom lost.

On the drive home it started to rain. A dreary to the bone wet coldness. The stuffy car was unwelcome and smelled like wet dog, and musty french fries.

He liked the taste of fries, but after reading about the ingredients, he didn't want to eat them again. The same was true with chicken nuggets, he found that most fast food places have silicone in their nugget batter. It was enough to make you quit eating altogether, or eat better at least.

He missed his mother's home cooking, her warm meat pies, the simple and savory meals that filled you with warmth on cold days and made you feel great because you had earned it out chopping wood, or prepping the fields for spring.

Now he ate, and that was it. Sure he enjoyed the food, and loved trying all sorts of new foods. Ethnic foods from all over the world. Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, oh it made his mouth water thinking about it.

Cry for you by September came on the radio. He liked the tune, and the dancy beat. Farrah either liked it too or noticed him looking at the radio with a look that said 'Hey I like this song! Turn it up!'.

he had never really been one to really over analyze a song but it seemed to have some sort of deep meaning. While it was a dance beat song, it seemed somehow sad. "You'll never see me agaaaaain. No matter what you do." sang Farrah. Well that hit home. Just when he was getting excited he started thinking of them again. One line though made him think of how he needed to do this, needed to make this change.

"Forever and ever, life is now or never, forever's gonna slow you down." said Farrah with the soft chorus. She started back singing, not the best but she didn't seem to care.
David wondered what this song meant to her. Was it just a great tune, or did it have some meaning to her about some heartbreak she had gone though?


CHAPTER 5;
 Ruined Parties and Other Things

The day had heated up to a weird sixty three degrees, and pretty sunny. Any snow they had accumulated had quickly disappeared, leaving mud and pale grass.

Back at Farrah's house, there were a few bikes and a new car in the driveway. A white cavalier Z24 was in the driveway to the right of Farrah's usual spot, now puddled and muddy.
David walked to the house with two paper bags tucked in his arms carefully. He was fumbling with the screen door when someone he hadn't yet met opened the door for him.

David thanked the new girl and set the groceries on the cluttered table. A thin, smaller framed young adult who looked to be around 19. She had dark hair, asian eyes and complexion. She wore a flowy pale pastel pink skirt that touched her brown sandals, a simple purple tank and a little jean jacket. She started leafing through the groceries and putting them on the already cluttered table. "Hi, Im David, a friend of Farrah's." he said. She stopped looting to introduce herself. "I'm Sumire, Farrah's housemate, nice to meet you. she said. 

"Hi, uh nice to meet you too. I am sorry, but can you pronounce your name again I'm sorry?" said David uncertainly.

"No problem, Soo-mee-de. The r's are a bit different in Japanese. Kind of a weird cross between a d, r, and an l" she explained.

"Oh so you're Japanese?" he asked. "Yeah. So's Farrah though she doesn't look it.Doesn't have the eyes, and she's blonde. Well, she's half anyway. You couldn't tell could you? She hides it pretty well though she doesn't actually mean to. She isn't ashamed or anything, just tends to make others uneasy when they know you are different, you know?"

"I get that, I really do. I was Amish, so yeah, talk about making others feel awkward. They usually think we are like aliens or something. So many people think we are all inbred, smelly, drunken, stupid, hermits. They get some of the preconceived notions right, but they also get a lot wrong." David confided.

"It seems to be the thing. You know many people still see racism as people wearing swastikas and KKK masks, but its often the sneaky subtleties that cause the most damage, and actually live to discriminate another day. The little racist jokes, the watercooler talk, the people who aren't taken seriously because they look different..." said Sumire.

"I agree, got lost a little bit with talk of water coolers but I got the gist of it." admitted David. Suddenly Sumire turned her head like she was listening to something and David heard raised voices outside. He followed her to the lawn where a crowd had gathered.

On the side of the driveway closer to the road was a man in his twenties, dark goatee, about 6' 2 by the looks of him. Ripped jeans, dark brows and hair pulled into a sleek ponytail. He looked like a modern pirate, only chic. He had another guy in a headlock.

The other man may have been around a similar height, medium brown hair, but a thin build unlike the thicker one holding him hostage.

"Hey Dean! Got yourself in it this time buddy! You choochin it bud?" said a tall bystander in a red shirt and ragged baseball hat.

Dean struggled to get free, causing the two to tumble on the already muddy war zone. It seemed they had been at this for a while or had made fast work out of Farrah's newly snow-free lawn.
Out of the corner of his eye, David watched as Sumire walked up to the thicker man, with something in her hands that looked to be a stick.

"Let go of him Jack. I got this." she said as she walked backward. David could now see what was in her hands. A bow. And arrows.

The same bystander from before saw the bow and arrows, laughed, and spoke up again. "Wow, bud, you aren't just choochin it, but now its a double si-grit butt nose chooch!"
"I don't know who you think you are! Coming here after we had to patch things up! Omae baka! subete o dainashi ni! she said.
Ether no one believed she would shoot, or no one wanted to get in her way, but no one moved to stop her. Her face was contorted with rage.
Farrah came over and had red eyes stained with tears.
What had he missed? Another bystander held Farrah and comforted her.

The man yelled out and David looked away from Farrah and realized that Sumire had shot the man in the leg, with an arrow. This was crazy! Who shoots people with a bow and arrow?
One bystander nonchalantly called a number and started talking about the injured man as if it was a regular occurrence. A woman next to her with red hair in short dreadlocks edged away from the phone like it was something dangerous.

Farrah went inside and Sumire and the woman with dreadlocks followed, bow still in hand. David thought he heard an ambulance but maybe it was a different one, for someone else. The dreadlock girl certainly didn't make it seem like an emergency. If he was an EMT he certainly wouldn't have been in a rush basing off of how she explained the accident and victim.
David started to uneasily approach the shot Dean laying in the muddied grass, but the guy Sumire had called Jack grabbed him back.




CHAPTER 6;
 Humanity and Explanations

After seeing how adept Jack was at keeping Dean in a headlock, he just let Jack lead him away from the now cursing Dean and toward the house.
Jack stopped about ten feet from the door and looked like he was going to tell him something important. Then he closed his mouth shut with an audible snap.

"What?" said David curiously. "It's Farrah. She dated the asshole, and he was abusive. Not just physically but mentally too. The jerk was always playing mind games telling her she wasn't good enough, that she shouldn't listen to her friends so much. He tried to isolate her. She was actually starting to think there was something wrong with her." said a worried Jack.

"Then, it was Sumire, she kicked his ass. Farrah didn't even know what was happening. The Inner Circle had an intervention meeting, with just us no Farrah. We tried to figure out how we could fix this. Farrah's like a sister to us. She may seem so spunky, fiesty and " I got this" about everything but just like anyone else she just wants to feel okay about everything you know?" Jack backed away a little and rubbed his thick stubbly chin.

An ambulance slowly pulled in the drive without lights or sirens. Jack walked back to Dean and crouched down.

"You might now wanna get Sumire pissed off again. And telling the EMT's who shot you might not be a good way to keep her happy. Know what I mean?"

The two EMT's came over with a white stretcher and loaded Dean onto it. Dean winced the whole time with an ashy face and a smirk on his contorted face. At least it looked like a smirk to David.

Jack grabbed David's arm as the EMT's talked to Dean about his injuries. Jack led him back to the house again, this time making it as far as the large enclosed porch. He sat on the old scruffy brown couch, and David chose the only other option.

His wicker chair was stiff and uncomfortable just what a proper wicker chair should be.
"So tell me about Dean and Farrah, what happened?" asked David.

"They dated, then like I said we, er well more like, Sumire ended it. Farrah wanted out but was afraid. Once we told her we had her back she seemed more comfortable. That was months ago, but today he showed up. May have had a few to drink, or not dunno. Started bugging Farrah, said some shit. So I head locked the ass. We should have hired a hit man." Jack explained.
"Hmmm wow that is um..." said David a bit shocked he would kill someone.

"Joking David, just joking. So do you like Farrah? You seem to really like her." Jack waggled an eyebrow.

"I look to her as my life raft in the confusing waters that are the modern culture. I mean she's attractive, but...I don't know. I don't know what I'm doing with anything, let alone the fact that I've never been romantic with anyone ever. So it's complicated. For now though I think no. I just want friendship. I just wanna live right now, explore the culture." David said.

The red haired woman with dreadlocks came out from the house, old wooden screendoor slammed shut behind her. She came up to them and leaned against the railing then hopped up to sit on the ledge like the railing was uncomfortable.

"What's up Star? How is she?" a worried Jack asked.

"She's dealing." Star said with her high pitched chimy voice.
Jack nodded like he understood.

"Hey I'm Star" she said.
"Sorry, Star this is David, new friend of Farrah's and an ex Amish." said Jack. "Amish huh. My family are all Hippies I dig the Amish peoples ways, they understand things in ways we rarely do. You must have been raised to respect nature? What's it like being in our society where we blatantly use and abuse all the resources and life nature offers?" Star's chimey voice belied the anger and resentment underneath.

"Um, well. Most days they do. Sometimes it's not so much about nature but a religious thing, but yep. They can be more gentle on things. Usually less wasteful." David explained.

David thought about the time he went to Ponderosa, an all you can eat buffet. So many people would leave their half eaten plates of food. Mashed potatoes, bits of chicken, bread rolls all cast off after the novelty wore off.

He saw so many obese people eating and eating, then getting up to get more food and leave their cluttered plates or bowls behind for waitresses to pick up. Of coarse the patrons weren't all fat, but those were the ones that stuck in his memory. He hadn't gone back since, it was too traumatic. And wasteful.

Sumire came out and sat on the ledge by Star and David across from Jack. "Why couldn't we have gone with plan C? You could have just dated him Jack! You could have dated for a few months, stole his heart, maybe dumped him or stayed with him I don't know...Anything would be better than him hanging around here like a stalker ready to pounce! Maybe we should have hired that hit man." she saw David's shocked expression.

"Just joking, we wouldn't kill him." she explained.

David thought perhaps they had had an honest discussion about getting a hit man, but had discarded the option.

"That's what Jack said." said a reluctant David.

Star looked curiously at Jack. " I really don't think Dean is Jack's type though...I mean Jack likes dudes that are better than that, not jerks. You shouldn't insult Jack like that, not a cool move. Bad friend award." said a confused Star.

David had no clue that Jack was gay, he never seemed what others thought of when they thought of a gay man. Usually they had certain notions about how they talk, or dress. Jack didn't really fit those much at all. Perhaps the only cliche was that he dressed pretty cool.

Jack nervously looked at David, looking for any sighns of anger, or disgust maybe. David may have been Amish, but he never really believed in all the religious views that came with it.
"It's ok. I'm not going to lynch you or anything." 

David said assuringly. "So the party is going to have to wait, Farrah just wants to be alone now, so lets get together tomorrow night and figure out what we'll do." said Star.

"Tomorrow night I think I am going to watch some Roller Derby. Ive never been to a match before and thought it would be really cool!" said David.

"No way, I want to go! Why don't we meet up there at the track then, or we can meet here and then go to the track. What do you think? I'm sure it's been a while since Farrah's seen some good ol' Roller Derby!" said an excited Sumire.

"Why don't they have Roller Derby for dudes? Do they have derby for dudes? I don't think they do...That's not fair, they shouldn't have sports off limits to dudes or chicks. Im an equal rights chick through and through and that just isn't right." Star said concerned.

"'Kay we'll meet here around what, six?" said Jack. 

"Yeah that sounds good, come in your grunge clothes, wear your eyeliner, you too David. If you don't have any we can help you out. Chicks dig eyeliner on dudes. Look at Billy Idol, Captain Jack you get my drift." said Sumire with a mischievous smile. "We should watch Whip It! tonight, get us in the spirit! David you wanna watch a killer movie? We can bring the movie to your place if you want." said Sumire.

"Sure, its a pretty small place though." said David nervously. He hadn't had any friends over before. He was worried they wouldn't like him. Many self doubting questions crossed his mind, but then he thought of the troubles the others had expressed so far and figured they all had their problems and insecurities, he might as well put himself out there and try his best.

"That a boy! I'll go grab the eyeliner, and the movie. Star you are in charge of food. Jack bring pillows and blankets, we gotsta be comfy!" Sumire winked at him and then was off and running.



CHAPTER 7;
 Fishnets and Revelations

After watching the film Whip It!, David had a better understanding of how the game of Roller Derby was played. He also had found he was an absolute fan. 

Usually the rough and tumble aggressiveness of most sports repelled him, but this, this was something deeper, better.

Farrah, Sumire, Jack and Star often called themselves The Inner Circle, sure they had other friends, but they were the roots. Other groups of friends often came by like moths to the flame, wanting to be near The Inner Circle's magnetic charm. They drew people in, each having separate unique personalities, but fitting together in an odd mixture that worked so well. Maybe that's what Dean wanted. Sure he probably still wanted Farrah, but deep down he probably missed being surrounded by people that were so deeply rooted and free at the same time. David didn't blame him for that.

The Inner Circle met up and made their way in Jack's car. A red Grand Prix. They all fit snugly into it like happy sardines going to see Roller Derby.

After they parked and made their way through the throngs of mostly rocker clad fans, they found the stalls selling gear, photos, and other merchandise to support the teams.
They paid admission and took their seats. It smelled faintly of urine, beer and sweat, and their was little oxygen in the indoor arena.

The girl directly in front of David had blue and pink hair in a sort of half mowhawk mullet style, and it partially blocked his view so he had to crane over her. Star sat next to him and was knitting while she waited.

"I didn't know you knitted. Not too many people knit at Roller Derby do they?" asked David. Star looked at him intently and looked like she was deeply thinking about whether Roller Derby fans often knitted while in the stands. "I'm not sure on that one, perhaps we ought to take a poll. Then we would know for sure." replied Star.

Farrah sitting next to him started chuckling at this. "It's starting! Stand up, David c'mon!" Farrah urged. The teams were introduced, their players and coachs stood at the ready. The fans were in an uproar waving flags, homemade and bought banners of all colors. One couple was naked and only had paint covering themselves in black and red, presumably colors of their favorite team. They also held up a sign, the man held one side and the woman the other. David could only make out the word Naptown on the sign as they waved it furiously.

Farrah caught his gaze.
"They won't be here long, they always get caught and kicked out, but the team loves it and the one player even left the rink to help them out of getting arrested. She started making out with the cop, who was a woman. It sort of worked, it broke her attention long enough for them to get away but the lady cop who wasn't of that persuasion wasn't happy about the kiss, or the couple getting away." exclaimed Farrah.

"The craziest stuff happens here, just get popcorn and you have all the entertainment you could want for $10" Jack informed him.

The whistle bleeped and the teams were off, trying to make lapse around the other team and score points. The hard part, though, was the other teams blockers.

The red and black clad Naptown Girls were hard to distinguish from the red, black and white wearing Fort Wayne Derby Girls. David did make out a sticker on one players helmet since she was sitting down. It read "Kick her in the Cooter and he had heard her refered to as Booche.
There was so much going on, while your attention was on the scorers, then a blocker would knock someone down. It reminded him of the scene in Harry Potter when the twins Fred and George said that Quidditch was a rough sport, and that people even vanished, but would turn up in a month or two. This was like the real version of Quidditch, so much going on, so fast, it was invigorating.

He still couldn't believe the players didn't have constant bruises, they had bruises but doing this all the time David would think they would be permanent.
The Naptown Girls won, but the game was really close. Both teams were sweaty, bruised and some bleeding a little by the end.

Seeing his first Derby game, David realized it was just like life. He thought about this as they made their way to meet the players. The players had all hair colors, and styles. They all had different backgrounds and had come to Derby for different reasons.
The one common factor was they were strivers. They strived to live their dream. They knew they weren't getting paid the best, let alone what they deserved, but they tried. They tried and hoped that one day they could make it big.

They trained, and fell, and got back up, and often had other jobs aside from Derby. They had families, and goals. It reminded him of most peoples lives.

You are born, you learn your world, strive, fall down literally and metaphorically, get hurt, set goals, hope and yearn for those goals, block others from you getting where you want, score, and sometimes if all is played well, you win. Little victories and big ones. Sometimes you lose, and you learn, and get up and rethink it all, then try again.

Life on the track mirrored that off the track in the grand scheme. David didn't believe in some 'master plan' like so many others did, but he did see the intricate design of human interaction. He thought some days were the best and couldn't be better, while others downright sucked, he often doubted himself and then looked back and saw that he shouldn't have been so disbelieving in his abilities.

When they got back to Farrah's the conversation started on spring classes. This was a topic that made David and seemingly Farrah, perk up.

"I'm supposed to be taking e-d-u one hundred, but I may get stuck with Behrend. I wanted to take it with Fasset but it won't work with my schedule unless I change the whole thing," Sumire griped, "Plus I have to arrange my schedule with the Courtside Cafe so I can keep my job, that place was hard to get into!".

David wanted so much to know what they were talking about, to be in the know as they say. He desperately wanted to belong in this scene, instead of the dorky puppy who always tags along in the conversations, never really knowing where he belonged.

"Who did you have last semester for English two seventy?" Sumire asked Farrah. "I don't remember I took it online like two semesters ago, back when I thought I wanted to be a teacher. I have to change my major again, I still am registered as an Education major." said Farrah with an edge of worry in her voice.

Star sat on a pile of cushions gazing at the ceiling absently, and stroked the tassels on one particular pillow that looked like it had Indian designs on it. Then quite suddenly she hopped up and skipped to the kitchen.

A few seconds later David could hear light banging of pots and pans as she searched through the cupboards. None of the others took notice to her odd behavior so he turned his attention back to the conversation.

"Eh, you'll figure it out. quit worrying! Lots of people take a while to figure it out. Though it can be expensive to do it that way..." said Jack, "You could go to Ivy Tech and transfer your classes. Community College is much cheaper, and you can just transfer the credits towards your major at Indiana U. Plus I could see you even more than I already do!".

"I need to register and get everything ready to take classes this spring. I really have no clue where to start though." David worried aloud.
"Well how are you going to pay? out of pocket?" prompted Star. "Ha! No not with what I have right now. I can get some more work to make extra cash, but I don't think it's enough to pay for a semester. That's another thing. I hear people always talk about how expensive it is, but exactly how much? What's an estimate?" said Jack.
Jack looked at him meaningfully. "That's why I advise people to go to Community college first then transfer your credits where you need to. So much cheaper, especially if you aren't one hundred percent sure of what you are going to do as a career. For me a full time semester with twelve credit hours is around a thousand four hundred. I only spend like a hundred on books. I rent from the library if they have them, and buy dirt cheap used books to cut the cost." explained Jack.

"Compare that to mine which is almost four thousand four hundred, and you could go bald by the time you graduate!" Sumire exclaimed.

"Ok so maybe starting at Ivy Tech would be better for me at this stage." replied David.
"Either way you can still apply for grants and scholarships. Some depend on grades while others don't. How are they going to check your grades when you are, well were er.. well Amish?" said Farrah.

David thought about that. He wondered how much harder this was going to be for him than traditional student. Even home-schooled students couldn't have it this confusing could they? He wasn't even raised to consider college as an option and now he was having a crash course, sink or swim session right now. It was a lot to take in.

"While it may be different for you, I just walked right up to the counselor at the campus and said 'Look, I have no money to pay for college, but still wanna do it. Can you help me find grants and stuff to make it easier for me?'. She sat me down talked to me about my interests and looked at my credentials, grades and told me ones I qualified to apply for. I signed some forms, wrote a few essays and I won a few of them." Sumire said.

Star came back from the kitchen with a steaming tea kettle and tea cups for everyone. The tea smelled faintly of vinegar, and familiar. She set it on the table with a soft clang and handed out cups.

"Thanks Star. You read my mind! I was just thinking how great some Kombucha would be!" said Sumire.

"What's Kombucha?" said a confused Jack.

"Fermented tea with good bacteria in it." said Star.

"You make your own Kombucha! That's great, my mom makes it too. It tastes really good!" said David.

"And its super good for you! Ancient Chinese secret!" said Sumire.

Bringing the conversation back to the point David said "Can't I apply for scholarships, I read this great book called 'How To Go To College Almost For Free' by Ben Kaplan and it told about how you can apply for scholarships on your own." .

Farrah explained that you can apply for scholarships on your own, but that it it more time consuming. However you can get the more variety than what the school's offer. In tern many students don't even know that they can search for and apply outside of their schools.
"So there's a large supply of financial aid that many don't know about. This leads to a large number of students getting student loans when they haven't even tried to apply for grants or scholarships because they think its just a given!" Farrah added.

"Weren't there colleges in California that were free? Or free to some students?,"Sumire asked, "I really thought there was at one point."

"I thought I heard about that too, but not sure if it was real, I think my parents talked about it." said Star.

"Star's parents were and are Hippies. They used to live in California. Her Grandparents were Hippies too. Generations of Hippies living under one roof, let's just say it's interesting. And I hope you like patchouli burgers." Jack said.

David had no idea what patchouli burgers were, but he was busy planning out how he would pay for his college expenses. He always read about parents that start a college fund when their kids are born, or little. Or parents that help their kids to pay for college, it all sounded so...very like a fairy tale. He wouldn't mind his fairy godmother helping out of this one.

He still didn't quite know what he wanted to do either. He had many interests, but to pick something for him to do for the rest of his life, now that was an overwhelming thought to say the least.

David remembered reading about seminars for high school seniors that helped them to choose a vague career outline, potential classes and the basic how to's when it came to college and what to expect.


CHAPTER 8;
 College is for Babies

The next few days were a whirlwind of thoughts and plans. Outlines and pointers littered Davids desk. He had found the desk near a dumpster was like new, small scratches here and there but structurally sound. So of course he had to snatch it up.

Jack had lent him his older laptop so he could do some research on more college stuff, and it was really hard getting to know the college information, on top of that though, he was having to learn about computers.

David had rented many books on computers, laptops and current devices, but using them for the first time was different. He was astounded by the amount of information available, but it was an overwhelming process just to get to it. And too much to take in.

So he would take breaks when he got frustrated learning how to handle the scroll pad on the laptop, or what certain menu's did. He used the internet at the coffee shop.

Some were self explanatory like bookmarks bookmarked a page, but other functions like reloading and refreshing seemed odd.

He had succeeded in finding out that first (as Farrah had said), he needed to fill out a form called a FAFSA which stood for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and was apparently a god send for many students.

The others that didn't qualify for aid usually didn't like it because it meant they had to fill out a form anyway, since it was used on so many other aid forms and the like.

After he filed his FAFSA he wanted to check out the campuses of Ivy Tech and Indiana University. He figured he would take Jack's advice and just start there. If he was able to afford it later and when he was ready he would transfer to Indiana U, or any other University .
That was a big realization. He could go any where. Really he could. He could go to Conneticut, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont. Heck Japan, Vanuatu, Germany, Kiribati, France, Suriname, Togo, Egypt, anywhere!

This was all so overwhelming. He needed to meet with someone, a counsellor perhaps. He didn't have the kind of money that would buy a therapist, besides he didn't need therapy right now, he needed calm, and order. To be able to organize, all this new information into usable bit sized morsels is what David felt he needed.

He had decided to start with a school counsellor. He would start where he left of, sort of. He looked up the closest high school and found out where they were. He was in luck, just a short bike ride over and he found the place.

He knew people often made appointments for these sort of things, he had watched movies after all. He decided to take his chances and at least see if he could get a lead on who could help him.
David saw a round overhang and columns. In places the high school seemed almost Greek, which somehow seemed fitting of a high school.

After he checked in with the office he was sent to see Bonnie Kauffman, they said because his last name started with a 'M' and she handled last names Ho-Mo.*

David told them he wasn't actually a student, but perhaps their old habits die hard. He waited in the chair that looked more comfortable than it was and watched the comings and goings of students and faculty. He noticed how different the teachers behaved with each other compared to how they were with the students.

It was like the faculty saw them as...children, which they were. But they weren't. They were teenagers, stuck between adulthood yearnings and childish brains. Most wanted deeply to be considered adults, to have the so called freedoms, but weren't even aware of the burdens that come with.

David had been learning this himself. He had no clue some of the things required of people living on their own until he had started. Little things teenagers oft to be ignorant to. Things like buying trash bags (who thinks about that, or wants to buy something that gets thrown away, when you can spend your money on way cooler things?).

Then Kauffman came up and asked him to follow her. They sat down in her office, which looked like something on HGTV. Looking around he saw plants, and even an Hesston College class of 68' diploma.

Turning his attention back to her, he noticed she had a naturally smiling face, blonde hair and she looked like she loved to be outside on a sunny day, gardening or boating.
"It's not everyday that I meet with non-high school students. What can I help you with today?" she asked with what seemed to be genuine interest.

David didn't really know where to start, how much was pertinent, so he told her everything. He told her about his education at home, his independent study, leaving the community, everything.
It felt great to just unload all his worries, but then he felt a little bad for puting it all on her shoulders.

She didn't look troubled at all, actually her face brightened. Maybe she liked the idea of a challenge, or of a student who valued education so highly.

"Well, that is some story! You have been through a lot, and have come a long way." she said.
"What I would suggest is making a list of all the top things you like to do best. Activities that make you complete, let's say if you couldn't do these things you would feel heartbroken, lost, or not yourself, not David" she suggested.

David looked sheepishly for paper, and asked her to use some.
"No, sorry I didn't mean right now, when you are alone, comfortable take some time and do this. Then look through the catalog of classes at Ivy Tech since you said you thought you would start there. Just highlight the ones that seem awesome to you. For your first semester I recommend getting core classes which are those that are basically required anywhere you go, and classes you would love.

So if you want to go full time pick two classes you think sound interesting, and two classes that still sound good but are required." she explained.

"So I will need to talk to...a counselor at the college to find out what's required?" he asked.
"Yes and no, no you don't have to but in your situation I would definitely sit down to at least get a feel of what's expected of you. You may not be able to come up with a map of classes yet, but you can get a feel of the institution and all that." Ms. Kauffman said.

"You seem so determined, and passionate about your education, it's inspiring. I wish more of my students had that spark! But I don't want you to burn out either, it would be a shame to see you get overwhelmed and give up down the line. Remember baby steps, it sounds childish and insulting, but thats how you can succeed at almost anything, just take baby steps and you get there! I only say this because I can see how much you are already having to take in with the cultural change." she said.

"I would also recommend finding an ex-Amish who has successfully made the transition. A mentor. Someone who knows what you are going through and can help." Ms. Kauffman suggested.

After thanking Ms. Kauffman David left and started to walk towards his bike. He thought how much he learned during his visit, not really tangible learning if there was such a thing possible, but she was right, just sitting down with someone and talking it out had a different effect. It really helped him to focus. He was in a completely different place, and understanding mentally than before he entered the school.

He was right all along, he needed a mentor, but he never thought to turn to...an Amish, well ex-Amish. the idea was brilliant. But how would he find one, on the internet? In the phone book? In the newspaper help suggested section next to the help wanted ads?

*Note from Author to reader: I did not make that up-if you research Elkhart Central High, it says that Bonnie Kauffman helps students with last names of Ho-Mo. So was not meant as a joke, but actually a tie to reality.



CHAPTER 9;
 Amish for Sale
David woke to a knock at his door. Looking at the clock next to his bed he saw it was ten twenty seven. Who would be at his door at ten thirty in the morning?

He put on a shirt and walked up to the door, which had a blurry peephole. Put that on the list of things to clean. It was Jack.

David unlocked and opened the old wooden door with a squeak to Jacks excited face. Jack came in and started talking pretty fast.

" I was just watching TV and saw the most crazy show ever. It was about Amish who leave, and become ... well not Amish. It was crazy!" Jack shared all this rather fast, like he ran over here as soon as he saw it.

"I couldn't stop watching it. There were some cute guys on it too, are you Amish hoarding all the cute ones?" asked Jack jokingly.

"I wouldn't know, but I don't really think the guys are that good looking." said David matter-of-factly.

"Well they clean up pretty well. But you weren't joking, you really are a lot different from them, even the ones who have already left. You don't have a thick accent either. And you aren't acting like a twenty one year old who can just legally buy alcohol who goes crazy and drinks all day and night." Jack said.

"I read a lot, and had a next door English neighbor my age I used to go and hang out with before he got too good to hang out with me, or afraid of what the other kids would say. So I have a lot of experience with the language, plus my neighbor would always correct my pronunciation. I don' like to be corrected so I learned fast." David explained.

"You forgot the drugs too, a lot of Amish in and out turn to drugs in secret. Meth is a big one to watch out for. I don't know where they get it from, but I hear stories. Nah, I have my goals set and am pretty focused on getting where I need, no time, or money to spend with the drugs or drink." David added.

"Oh and there was this guy, who used to be Amish. He mentors those trying to make the switch. You need a mentor. He was explaining how hard it is for non-Amish to really get it, to get what it's like. You should find a mentor close by. There are a lot of Amish in this region, you would think there would be someone taking little lost Amish under his wing." said Jack.
"I was just thinking that myself. I thought that it would be good to talk to someone like me and get pointers, what to do and not to do." said David.

"Oh, hey are you coming to Star's sex toy party?" asked a completely straight-faced Jack
"What?" David said astonished. What would people do at a sex toy party? Was that like some weird orgy?

"Saturday Star is hosting a sex toy party. I imagine they probably didn't have those in Amish-land did they? It's where you get together with a bunch of friends. Theres usually a catalog with toys, lubes and all that that you can order from. You can try out some of the stuff to see if you want to buy it. Most people will try the stuff out on their arm or something, not on their junk. HA! Your face! so funny!" laughed Jack.

"Wow. that's a lot to take in right now. Sure. I don't wanna try anything, but would like to watch and see what it's all about. I have to learn the culture right? Ok what time?" said David.
"Starts at four, usually goes for like two hours. OK so see you there?" asked Jack.
Here I go Again started on Davids radio. His alarm. He walked over and turned it off, as much as he liked White Snake he wanted to start researching soon and he needed to keep his head focused.

Before he shut it off the line 'Like a drifter I was born to walk alone.' made him hope he could find a mentor, and that he wouldn't have to walk this one alone.

After Jack left David got on the laptop and looked up ex Amish mentors in the North East Indiana area. After about an hour of research he found what seemed to be a lead. A man from North West Indiana who was in Allen county nearby. After reading his blog he had only found out basic information, not the guys background. David wanted to know so much. How did he cope, did his family still talk to him? Did he miss them? Would it get easier, How did he leave? Did he go to college. Most of all did he know others like them?

He felt like he was running up a steep hill, fighting gravity, and at some point he wouldn't be able to make it. Like he might tumble backward, ruining the progress he had made. That it all would have been a waste. He had to keep going, so that all of it won't have been in vain. At first the fear of returning to living in the community was enough to scare him. But now, it was wearing off, it wasn't enough. He needed positive plans, goals that would help spur him on to replace that catalystic fear.

Ms. Kauffman talked about baby steps, but all he felt he needed right now but a noticeable difference. He needed to be able to see the progress he had made to spurn him on. Then he could do baby steps. He appreciated her advice, but this is what he needed right now.
He emailed the email listed and hoped for a speedy reply. After five minutes of checking his email, and hitting refresh, he shut the laptop and let it go to sleep.

David couldn't stand the waiting game, so he headed out for a quiet bike ride. He enjoyed the fresh air, the smells of the trees. He really liked this park. It spoke to him of his childhood, of the seasons. That was something he was starting to miss, in the old community the the people were so much more in tune with the seasons. The foods, and activities were directly linked to the changes in seasons.

One week you would be eating blueberries, and the next it might be pears. One month you are cutting, raking and stacking hay, and the next you would be cutting wood to keep you warm in the winter.

Perhaps the English were missing out on this. All they had to do was go to the grocery store and get blueberries whenever. Amish can too but there is more emphasis on what you and your local community can grow, with supplementation from the grocery stores.

Those in the modern community only have to turn on their central air, or electric space heaters. Some use wood stoves, corn burning stoves and the like, but the norm is much different than in his old community. It makes you sit up and pay attention, you know when it's winter, even when you are inside. Here you could easily forget until you went outside or looked out the window.
It was winter outside, and people sometimes looked at him like he was crazy for riding his bike because of this. It was cold, and even more when the wind was whipping past him but it helped him to think.

He saw a woman ahead, bundled like an eskimo.

"You come from a land down under, The women glow and the men plunder. Can't you hear? Can't you hear that thunder? You better run. You better take cover. Yeah" sang the bundled woman walking down the River Walk. She had large headphones on and was swinging her head back and forth, presumably in tune with the music.

She caught his gaze when she cam towards him. She smiled slightly, just a polite smile nothing more.
That made him think of the Amish, and how they would wave to other locals, whether they were Amish or not. Well some of them did this, especially if they had seen you around.

The late December weather had felt more like March. The weather had been unseasonably warm and always started people to worrying, or at least it did with farmers.

People often worried about what it meant. Like it was a religion and reflected on their behavior. If you are good you get good weather, but if you mess up you get unpredictable weather.
That reminded David of the books he had read about mythology. The people really believed in controlling the weather by giving sacrifices to keep the gods and goddesses happy. What sort of message does that send to people that you need to bribe and appease those in power if you want to stay alive and thrive?

David thought this was somehow tied to our everyday activities still. We may think we are really advanced, and evolved and mature beings, but deep down we still wonder what it means when the weather acts differently and gets our attention.

Any one who had listened to people like Stephen Hawking and the like talk about our universe, time and the realities is usually given leave to feel dumb or overwhelmed, but even those of us we consider brilliant can only know about as much as teenagers in the long run.

The brightest humans are like teenagers, they think they know a lot more than they actually do. All one has to do is look to our history, even as close as the middle to late nineteen hundreds we still can see practices and beliefs that we know today to be silly, downright harmful or fatal. David thought of Smoking tobacco, usage of cocaine, or barbaric dental and health practices.
David decided to head back and check his email again. He had needed the fresh air and was glad he got out of the stuffy house. It seemed to lack character to him, his apartment was flat. When he visited Farrah he saw her personality shining through in everything, but his reminded him of the stark Amish houses, non decorated, and lacking in individuality.

It bothered him because he wanted to be flavorful like Farrah, Star, Jack and Sumire.
David arrived back at his apartment and was glad to check his mail, only to realize there still was no response from a possible mentor.

David decided to look through the class catalog. The cover on one of Jack's Ivy Tech catalogs had an extremely happy looking young woman, a young man that looked bored and or contemplative and a woman writing on a clipboard while another watched smiling.
He flipped though the first pages he would read them later when he felt more dedicated, and not just passing the time til he got an email response.

David breezed through the A's which were mainly accounting classes which sounded like a legal form of torture. He saw Agriculture and winced. The automation and programming seemed neat but too much for his first semester. Arts 204 women in art sounded interesting, so he wrote it down and the page reference for later.

AUTC 103 Principles of Alternative and Renewable Energies sounded neat so he wrote that down. He was always up for keeping things renewable! AVIT 235 Powerplant Fluid and Indicating Systems sounded scary!

Then the banking section, that just about put him to sleep just looking at it. Then the chemistry, and computers.

Then he saw Comm 204 voice and articulation, and knew he wanted to take that. Then he read that it required Comm 101 assuming that was Communications 101. That one got a star on his mostly empty notebook.

He wanted to get up and checked his mail but forced himself to go through a few more letters. He promised himself he could once he made it to the d's. Crime and the justice system sounded complicated and not fun, He had no idea what the CSTC classes stood for but gathered that they were surgical and associated with doctors. And he made it to dentistry faster than he would have thought.

Hopping up he stretched his legs from laying oddly on the floor. Then went to his desk and logged onto the computer and his mail. He checked his mail and read a message from a person signed Your Mentor, Sent from God.

Before he even started reading it David crossed his fingers, even though he was skeptical, especially with that self righteous and god centered subject line. David still hoped though, to find inspiration and guidance. It read:

"Dear David,
I hope to find you well. I help many troubled Amish who are just starting their lives outside of the Amish Order. I work with a group close by. We bring the word of god and his guidance to those seeking it.

We should meet up and talk together about what your situation is. I do charge a fee, but it goes toward helping you spiritually, and toward human needs like clothes, toiletries and the like.

Looking forward to your reply email,
we will be praying for you in the meantime.

Micheal Stanton"

After reading the email, he uncrossed his fingers. He was disappointed and could tell this wasn't what he was looking for, or needed. David would email him back when he wasn't feeling so let down.

Maybe he could just ask this Micheal if he had a list of to do's and not to do's, or an outline of frequently asked questions, since David had no intentions of going and meeting in person, just so he could 'be saved'. He just wanted some friendly non-judgmental guiding advice from people who had been where he is now.

David started 'surfing the net' as Sumire called it, and randomly looking up phrases like 'ex-Amish' and 'left the Amish' to see what he could find. He found some stories from people who had done what he had, and some who hadn't. Some like more of the women, went to college, while others continued to do what they knew; manual labor. So a lot of the guys he came across were farmers, construction workers, roofers, and doing a collection of odd jobs.

David was hungry and planned to loot the fridge, but felt lazy and decided to just do a little research first.

Then he came across a few forums for former Amish. It was perfect, there was even a news section that told about what was going on in the community. For those who hadn't seen their families this must have been amazing.

There were some posts though that were obviously by people from outside the Amish community. Some of them were so idiotic David questioned whether they had finished school.
He also read some comments on video sites about how the Amish have no crime and they wish they were Amish. There were ones that said "I don't believe in God or Christianity but one look at the Amish people and you can tell they simply get it. There is no greed, no crime, nothing. If there was a God, this is how he would want us to be.", and their spelling errors didn't make David think any better of them.

David thought they had to be dim witted, or else really naive. There was a comment he agreed with though, "I admire some of Amish philosophy, but I think Rumspringa isn't entirely honest. The idea is, let them see the outside (they would say "English") society, and make up their own minds whether to be Amish or leave. But this doesn't happen until late teens, by which point their upbringing makes it a foregone conclusion that most will choose to stay with what seems familiar and safe - and few would have the courage to make the leap to a new culture. So it's not really proof that Amish ways are best".

David laughed at some of the thoughts non-Amish had posted about Rumshringe, it wasn't exactly where the Elders say "Hey either stay with us or don't". It was much less of an actual choice. To David he believed that was why the largest percentage left at night, or fled when no one was there or conscious to stop them. David thought, you didn't just walk away waving to your family as they blew their noses weeping and wishing you the best in life.

David even came across some pop culture movies featuring Amish. One he found was called 'Witness', and another seemed to be a comedy called for Richer or Poorer. He would have to put these on his growing list of movies to watch. He would especially like to see how Hollywood has viewed Amish in film and mass media.

If the ridiculous forum and video response posts were any clue, then David thought Hollywood wouldn't have anything better to add to the collective idea about Amish.

David heard his stomach grumble softly and remembered he was planning to make something to eat before he found the forums.

Going to the fridge he couldn't remember the last time he went for groceries, except with Farrah. He needed to make a run. He also planned to get some starter plants or seeds to grow inside, herbs and such. He was tired of buying all his food and missed that special bond between growing your food, watching it grow, and eating it, knowing all your and it's, hard work are put to good use.

He couldn't help but remembering a video of animals being tossed like they were nothing. It was a PETA video, but it showed the reality. If they did that with animals he could imagine how reckless they would treat the plants that lacked the cute puppy eye faces to persuade their killers.

David remembered how the Amish treated their animals. Depending on who raised them, some would beat the animals while some were great caretakers, but they never had huge feeding operations so common for large meat companies.

After looking through the fridge he found he could make some miso soup courtesy of Sumire. She wanted him to try some foods of Japan and she had threatened to break into his house and stock his fridge. He foolishly hadn't taken her seriously. After the incident with her shooting Dean, he should have learned to believe her when she said she would do something. David vowed to never make that mistake with her again.

He made the miso soup according to the instructions in the bag. He cooked the bonito fish flakes in water until small bubbles rose from the pot, and then scooped them out, then cooked a small piece of cut kelp until small bubbles rose from the bottom of the pot and removed it.

The golden broth smelled delicious. He separately cooked the precut daikon radish, onions, carrots and cubes of tofu, and added them to the main pot. Then he turned off the heat, added a few spoonfuls of miso paste and 'melted' the miso into the mixture.

The result was an interesting soup unlike others he had tasted before. It was delicious.
He read the second note attached to the bag and read Sumire's blocky writing.

"Hey David, thought you might get hungry. Your fridge didn't have anything suitable for a human in it so I will bring you some more goodies later. Hope you like it some people have to warm up to miso soup as an acquired taste. Perhaps I will teach you haw to make a staple food we eat called soba noodles next time. Sumire yori.

He had some soup left so he put it in a container in the fridge. Then decided to head out and get some groceries.

He took off on his bike in the still warm weather. Sixty degrees in late December was not normal in Northern Indiana. People were still thinking about their holidays but it lacked the seasonal excitement that coming in out of the bitter wind and cold brings. Like when you don't work hard for something, and you are still rewarded, it feels good but not as much as when you work your ass off for it, or so David thought.

Going by Farrah's David made a snap decision to stop in and thank Sumire. He walked up and knocked on the faded wood door. Surprisingly Sumire was the one who opened the door, and looked as if she was expecting him. She saw the shocked look on his face that she knew it was him.

"Im not psychic, Star said to expect you. She's the one with those para-natural gifts as she calls it. What's up? Did you eat the miso finally?" asked Sumire.

"Oh, yeah, I loved it. I wanted to say thanks! Hey if you aren't bus do you want to give me a list of foods I can get to cook some more Japanese food? It's so simple and refreshing, and healthy." he said.

"Eh how 'bout I come with you. I need out of the house Star and her psychic Vodoun voodoo is getting me on edge today. She even was talking about the neighbor's dog dying in her mysterious voice. She gets like this once in a while. She's usually right, but it can be a bit much with her creepy aura in the house. Besides its freaking sixty something out and sunny....in December. These days don't usually come in Indiana this often. Might as well take advantage of them right?" she said.

Sumire unlocked her bike, a coaster bike that looked different than the newer trying to be retro types. Hers looked like it was a legitimate older coaster style bike with a basket. However it had a kickstand like none he had seen before. She saw him eying the bike and explained that it was made in Japan.

"They don't make them like they do there. They are more sturdy, like the older style bikes but even the modern models are still built well. I went through three American bikes before I begged my grandma Obaachan to help me get a Japanese one here. My American bikes kept breaking. Bent axles, crushed ball bearings, the bike repair people kept asking me if I had crashed into anything. I hadn't but they insisted that was the only way the bearings could have been crushed and the axle bent like that. So I'm happy now! Look at this baby!" Sumire said.

"It's nice! I got mine on craigslist for a dollar. But yours looks great! Thanks for coming to help me!" he said.

"No prob, besides I'm doing it for you and for myself." said a smiling Sumire.

They rode to the Deloris Carol's House of Herbs and Sumire's eyes lit up looking at the herbs. The store smelled really nice, a mixture of spices and plants. The cashier was super friendly, and David left with a small bag of herbs Sumire had picked out.

Next they went to the International Market Place, Cueramaro Supermarket, and then finally Kroger. Each store they only got a few items, Sumire said they got the best at each store rather than getting sub par all at the same place. She said many places would have onething fres but other things you needed weren't. So she solved this by visiting multiple stores and she had learned what she liked from each one.

Many of the cashiers and store workers knew her by name and she knew them. They carried on light conversation and even at Kroger she knew the guy in the produce stacking the new bananas,and the woman in the meat department stocking the lamb.

They left with a few bags loaded in their bike baskets. They rode back to David's apartment since Sumire still didn't want to deal with Star just yet. They unloaded the bags into the cupboards, counters, table and fridge.

"You see the trick isn't to shop like Farrah, who usually gets enough to feed an army for a month, but to shop like the Japanese do, buy a little bit of the freshest that will last you about a few days or a week. Then you don't waste more money when things go bad. That's another thing. Buy things that actually can go bad. That means its fresh. If the mold and bugs don't want it neither should you." Sumire informed David.

"It took me a while to get used not eating like a typical American, when I first came here.
I first just wanted to explore the culture, try all the foods you know. Then I started to feel tired midday, I didn't have much energy, I didn't want to do much, which was a big change from how I was. See most people don't notice it because they don't have the healthier version of themselves to compare it too and turn to drugs, supplements etc thinking that its mostly normal. But if they would just eat foods that are real, well, who knows they might just find that they don't need to turn to supplements, pills, and all that." she ranted.

"I think you are on to something. And I think I need to get some more exercise too, since I left I haven't been doing the normal work that kept me healthy, now I am getting sluggish and gaining weight. I think I would like to go jogging. But I wouldn't want to do it alone." said David hopefully.

Sumire laughed out loud, almost a snort but not quite, like she caught herself before she snorted. She picked a glass salsa jar out of the trash and began to wash it in the sink.

"Don't look at me man. I like the idea of jogging, but I am too lazy, I might go walking with you...But Jack jogs every day and he might want a jogging buddy, so ask him, and if I see him before you do I'll ask him, though he said he was going out on a date today, so hopefully we won't see him for a bit if his date goes well. He deserves a break, he's been studying so much lately, and hasn't had a steady healthy relationship for almost a year." she said as she took some dried herb and put it into the clean and dried old salsa jar.

"He's the first person Ive known that's gay. People never really came out in the Order, but you hear rumors. I know that gay Amish exist, but have never met anyone else who admitted to it. Since it's seriously looked down upon in the community no one would want others to know." said David.

Sumire looked thoughtful as she dug through his trash pulling out more containers. She started washing and laying them on the counter to dry.

"Jack hasn't had it easy either. He may not be a gay Amish, he has still had his share of hardship. People on this side of the Amish fence can still be very hateful, hurtful and violent. I won't say anymore, if you want to know more you'll have to talk to him. That's his story, not mine to tell." said Sumire who had paused midway drying another jar.

"What are you doing?" David finally asked her.
"I'm putting away your groceries, you leave 'em in those plastic bags and it changes their flavor, plus plastic leeches formaldehyde and other hazardous-to-your-health chemicals. Want that in your food?" informed Sumire.

"OK, didn't know that, but why are you digging in my trash?" he asked.

"Silly David. Glass is completely recyclable, it doesn't deteriorate after recycling like plastic or metal. It doesn't absorb bacteria and all that like plastics do, and doesn't change the flavor like metals can do. It makes it the perfect tupperware and left over container. And you are throwing it away. Even if you don't wanna use it the least you could do is recycle it!" said a heated Sumire.

David hadn't seen Sumire this passionate about something before. He had seen her excited, happy, pissed even, but not passionate. She pulled foods out and put the new glass containers in the cupboard, after she was done the cupboard looked so organized and somehow added flavor to his apartment, that flavor it was missing.



CHAPTER 10;
 Japanese flavor

"So have you heard back about a mentor at all?" she said.

Sore subject, David thought, but he answered anyway. "Yeah, it's a no go they are totally not on the same page as me, they are pretty much all about religion which I am so over...I did find a lot of forums and other stories from others like me. So I'm happy about that." he said.

Sumire finished putting herbs and other foods into containers and asked him "I need a piece of paper, scissors, sharpie and small amount of tape.".

David went to get the items without questioning her, he had learned that much.

"Thanks." she said as she cut small squares out of the paper and wrote with the sharpie the names of the items in the jars, and taped them to the jars. It looked great and you could easily tell what was in them. He had to give her credit she did a great job.

"OK so I am going to teach you how to make killer soba noodles!" said Sumire.

"I don't really want to kill people with it though right?"asked a confused David.

"No, its a saying, like killer awesome, means good, really good. I'm not killing anyone." she laughed.

"Anyway, so first thing, you take your soba noodles and put them in a pot with water, I put them in a big pot and only put enough water to cover them, then cook only for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off, pour into a colander to drain. Then rinse with cold water.
Let it strain and get a small bowl. Ok you see here?" she said as she gestured to his honey.

"You take a spoonful of honey, then pour a little soy sauce maybe 3-4 teaspoons, and then a cup of water and dissolve the honey. " she said.

David watched her intently, observing the buckwheat noodles, and the soupy looking mixture she was making.

"K your done. Just take your noodles and you will take each mouthful of soba noodles and swish them in this soba sauce, then you eat them. Some people just dump the noodles into the sauce and eat them that way. If you like it that way, fine. But most Japanese will keep them on a dry bamboo platter that keeps them ready to eat until dipping time." she explained.

"Hmm, it looks so simple. but is this a meal?" asked a curious David.
Sumire glanced out his kitchen window at the clear sunlight. It was a soothing, not overwhelming light that exuded a calm energy that made one want to lay on stomach, and read something.

"Well you can eat it with sides of vegetables and miso soup, or it can be a snack like in the summer its a great food to eat when its hot out, with some mugicha too! Its a barley tea we drink cold on hot days. It cools you right down. I 'll bring you some next time." she said as she offered the soba noodles to him with chopsticks on the side of the bowl.

He tasted the noodles in the broth and loved it straight away. They had a slightly sweet, slightly salty, deep earth flavor to them and he devoured them.

"That is delicious! Oh my gosh, wow!" he exclaimed.

"Glad you like them." she replied.

David imagined going shopping every week with Sumire. He liked to listen to her talk. She would go on and on, and then suddenly catch herself like she was ashamed of taking up all the talking turns. He liked to listen though.

"Would you like to do this every week, you know shopping with me?" David asked tentatively.

Sumire looked glad at the proposal.

"Sounds great, if I get another dirty look from Farrah about my healthy food, or one more 'what IS that?' comment from someone I could scream. It was nice going with you today, nice and soothing. OK so homework for you, you need to read the book 'Japanese Women Don't Get Old Or Fat' by Naomi Moriyama. You will like it." said a happy looking Sumire.

She moved toward the door, said goodbye, and left, David could see dust motes in the sunlight from the open door.

After being around Sumire and her excited talk, David felt much better, more perky and awake than before. Plus the soba noodles were delicious and that made him doubly happy.


David looked around at the room that now lacked personality since Sumire had left. He wanted it to always be as flavorful as when she was here. He decided it was time for a major overhaul.

Pulling out a scrap of paper and pen he jotted down a list of all the messy and boring places in his apartment.

After seeing what Sumire had done with the cupboard he was really in the mood to make the rest of the place feel better.

The previous tenants had left heaps of items behind, mostly trash but some useful. He didn't have to buy dishes, or garbage bags because they had a big box of trash bags, and left their cups and owls behind, and dirty.

He got the place cheaper because he volunteered to clean the mess, so it was a win win for him. However he hadn't cleaned up a lot of the stuff. There were piles of magazines that he knew Sumire would want him to at least recycle. Loose piles of women's clothes and children's clothes. He would have to keep an eye out for anything Farrah, Sumire or Star might like.

He tackled the bedroom, bagging up the clothes and trinkets left behind that didn't suit him. He had no use for dog shaped knick nacks and children's farm animal toys.

He found an empty fish tank hiding under a pile of papers and it had a lid, light, filter and gravel. He figured he could get some cheap fish for it and it would liven up the room. After he cleaned it since the previous owners didn't clean it before it dried, leaving algae on the sides, and was that a fish carcass in there?

He found an old magazine from 1990 that had a great article about organizing techniques and after he read it tossed it in the 'to-recycle' bin which was a big old grey tupperware. After cleaning the bedroom it looked so much cleaner, and somehow less stark. Like a welcoming blank canvas instead of an intimidating one.

He moved on to the bathroom, and since he didn't use half the stuff left behind he recycled and tossed a lot of it. Old shampoo bottles, used razors, a loofah, a washcloth he wouldn't use. Clearing all this stuff out he realized he didn't have much stuff which was actually a comfort and made the place look less cluttered, more simple, and most important to David, a personality.

Deciding to take a break David rode his bike up to Goodwill to see if he could find anything he might need for organizing his newly personalized apartment.
He found a nice cheap bookshelf marked down to five dollars, and a brand new futon. Nothing really caught his eye until he saw some vertical storage units, and a small wooden corner unit. He thought they would be great for his book collection that currently resided on the floor in stacks.

He didn't have a way to get either home, but he at least had a better idea of what he wanted his place to look and feel like.

He rode back and it was near nightfall when he walked in the door. The house was musty from the windows being shut and the warm weather. He opened the kitchen window to let some fresh air in.

His apartment had already started to look better and would only need a few hours of work. David logged onto Jacks computer and looked up scholarship applications. He saw a few that he could do right away and check them off his list. Easy ones but he had less chance of winning, sweepstakes and drawings.

Some were monthly drawings others were annual, he entered as many as he could in the two hours. He saved a few others and emailed the info to himself that required essays or more than just a quick drawing entry.

He felt tired and decided to call it a night. As he lay in bed he kept thinking about what classes he could take for his first semester. He found a few that interested him but many more that didn't. He always heard his neighbor friend complaining about his required classes. He didn't want to end up like that, ungrateful, non-appreciative of his educational opportunities. He wanted to learn everything.

He also didn't want to get into a situation where he had to take a class he despised, if that was possible for him to not like learning.

David dozed off thinking about classes and desks, reading textbooks, and getting all A's on his report cards.

David made himself a bowl of oatmeal. He put sunflower seeds, milk and butter in it then chopped up small pieces of apple. Then he dashed on some cinnamon, drizzled some honey and put it in the microwave for a minute.

It wasn't the quick cook variety, but his favorite hardy kind. Putting it in the microwave softened it, but didn't turn it to mush like the other kind.

As he sat at the kitchen table he started looking at the catalog that Farrah had given him for her sex toy party. He leafed through the pages baffled by what the various items were for. Some were clearly labeled and he got the picture so to speak, while others were so vague he felt he could give as a present to his grandmother and no one would be the wiser as to what the heck it was.

She would probably pat him on the head as she had done as a child when he gave her rocks and pebbles he found in the driveway. Then she would proudly display them on a plate on the table after she washed them. He always felt so proud of himself for finding the best rocks. Now he felt so glad that she hadn't called his silly gift rubbish and chucked it out like some people would.

He idly wondered if he gave her one of these odd toys if she would display it on the table on a nice plate. With it's odd shapes and protruding thing-a-ma-bobs, and loud colors.

Thinking of his grandmother made him lonely. He missed her. She often went against the Order, keeping to herself like a little hermit. She was spunky and told the order they could shove it. Maybe she had been around too many English. She was known to have many English friends. She only stayed in the Amish community to stay with her family and because she had a hard time providing for herself, with all the hard labor it took to reside in the community, it would have been hard for her to make it outside of the community.

He didn't just miss her, but his parents, and brothers and sisters as well. He missed them all. The way they interacted. How they fought over the silliest things, often just to make a point.

He wanted to visit them but knew it would weaken his resolve, knew he might go back, knew they might possibly reject him. He wasn't sure. He knew he couldn't go back to the religious stuffiness of the community, but he did dearly miss his immediate family enough to think about going back.

David changed his thinking back to the sex toy gathering. Farrah was excited about it. She said there was so much to show him. Plus, she said she was going to have to take pictures or video of his face as she showed him the items.

For David it wasn't as if he was a prude, but he didn't really understand the fixation with buying items for sensual encounters. What more could couples ask for than each other. Why would they need anything else? He wasn't familiar with the activities per se, but he could imagine. He did read books afterall.

Reading more in the catalog he thought he had it figured out. It was the surprise, and novelty factor. It reminded him of a scene from the SciFi film Alice. The scene shows a white room, with people bidding on vials with vividly colored liquids, almost like a futuristic stock market. The liquids were the novelty items of human emotions. The people bid on the human emotions to get the next high, and also used them as a form of currency. Then when the newest emotion came on the market, it was sought after by all.

He was beginning to see the frequency at which those in the modern world tended towards these type of activities. Keeping up with the Jones', was only part of the issue.

Saturday mornings were often quieter than other days since most people could sleep in, and didn't have to worry about school and work. Mothers and fathers didn't have to run their spoiled children everywhere, students didn't have to worry if they had studied for their stress management class, teachers don't have to wake up extra early revising their research submissions and lesson plans. Dogs had to hold it longer than usual, but it was only by a little before they woke up their people and told them what was what. For cat owners it was much the same as any other day as they had the litterbox.

Plus it was also Christmas holiday, so no one really got up that early. David loved the early, quiet, cool mornings. He didn't like the getting up early part, but sometimes he happened to be awake enough to enjoy the splendor of it all. This morning was much cooler than what the weather had been, it was still unseasonably warm, but cooler than it had been the week before.

He rinsed out his enormous oatmeal bowl in the sink, and left it there. He thought about getting groceries with Sumire soon, and remembered he was running out of money fast. With rent and electric bills coming due soon, he needed to look for a job. Roofing jobs hadn't been frequent. Although he did have someone ask him to fix the leak in their ceiling.

He was thinking about the coffee shops he frequented and the other local businesses. He thought maybe Farrah and Sumire could put in a 'good word', as they called it, with their work. Sumire's job as a bartender at Mad Anthony's though was out of the question. She was a bartender, but she was also a barista on campus. David wondered if she just looked through the B's in the phonebook or something.

He would just have to ask her when he saw her next, she did have a habit of breaking into his house, so maybe, he thought, it might be sooner rather than later.




CHAPTER 11;
 The Accident

After a week of borrowing Jack's laptop, David felt bad enough to finally return it. He still wanted to do tons of research, but needed to look through the boring monotonous descriptions of classes in his class catalog. He still hadn't figured which classes he was going to take.

He hadn't looked at the catalog since he received the email from Micheal Stanton. Since then he hadn't felt like doing anything besides cleaning and organizing. Now his place was great, but he needed out.

It had been a few days since Sumire had showed him how to cook soba noodles. He had since made okonomyaki, and curry rice. By looking up the simplified recipes online it meant he didn't have to bug Sumire every time he wanted to try a new food.

David decided to walk to Farrah's instead of biking. All the sitting around the house had him feeling like he needed it physically and mentally. Plus he hadn't shaved for a few days and was starting to look a lot like a scruffy homeless person. He kind of smelled like one too.

David passed the cafes that opened early in the morning. The birds had started to sing for the day, and the air had that special morning smell that it loses the longer the sun is out. The air was really too warm to genuinely feel like Christmas Day and he wondered whether they would get snow again anytime soon.

One coffee shop he passed had Christmas themed decorations and writings on the windows that overlooked the street. College kids often frequented the place, and it was more packed than usual. He decided to stop in and get some tea to go. Not that he was cold, but it was supposed to be winter and he figured it had been a while since he had been in there.

He walked in and it felt like the establishment had the air conditioning on. That couldn't be right, David thought. It was warm but not warm enough for the air to be on.

He got in line behind a woman wearing earth tone clothes and dark brown hair. She had a brown jean jacket and an olive colored swishy skirt. She reminded him of Star.

She ordered a bagel, oatmeal and a regular coffee. The cashier asked if she wanted it to go or to stay. The woman said she would stay and they pulled out a ceramic bowl, large ceramic cup and started preparing her food.

David wondered the swishy skirt lady was doing, where was she going after she ate her oatmeal and bagel. Did she have a husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, mother, father, children, dog, or cat? Did she work, or was she a student? What kinds of hardships had she suffered? Did she have it easy? Had she lost anyone close to her?

These were the things David wondered about nearly every one around him. He also wondered about himself some of them. Who did he have in his life now? Now he had friends he dearly cared for, but no one he 'loved' per se. Before he had no real friends he could completely confide in, but
he had his family whom he loved.

He had lost an uncle who he wasn't close to. But it was a shock to see this person, that others in his family were close to, and see the deep worry In their faces. He told his uncle, whispered in his ear when he was sick, 'please don't die'. He had died, that too seemed a slap in the face since he rarely asked the universe for favors, but when he did they were usually thoughtful, meaningful, and usually the favors were granted. He didn't really believe in god, or powers of the universe, but he did ask, and hope for karma, or...something. He wasn't sure what he did believe in, but was more certain in with what he didn't.

Then it was his turn to order and he asked for a passion plum tea for him and a cranberry apple tea for Jack. David was feeling generous and wanted to do something nice for Jack. It didn't have anything to do with him asking to be jogging buddies, but simply because he was feeling spontaneous, and generous, and this was the end result.

On the plus side he remembered reading in one of those silly, yet at times insightful magazines aimed at women in their late forty's, that researchers found (though who they were wasn't specified) when you give something or do a favor for someone without want of repayment it makes you more happy and boosts your memory for hours afterward.

Besides the reward of happiness and increased memory, David also wanted to thank Jack for lending him the laptop, especially for a week. David knew that Jack must have missed it. He remembered Jack even saying how it was like his twin and he had a hard time going places without it.

“Here you go. One Passion Plum, and one Cranberry apple. Would you like honey or ice for these?” asked the barista.

He replied with “Both please.”.

It was a good thing that the Inner Circle's house wasn't far. When he walked up their short driveway to knock on the door, David saw a rabbit start run-hopping and dart under a bush in the next yard over.

Even though the day was heating up it still had the sweet smell of morning, and the dew was still on the ground. David really thought it was odd to have such a warm winter so far. However it would be great for jogging, or so he guessed. But he thought it might not be since it was so warm and when he exercises he heated up pretty fast.

Bailing hay for English folk, doing hay the traditional Amish way, and other summer chores in the sun and heat were torture for him. He couldn't understand how he hadn't passed out in the heat every time he exerted himself in the summer heat. He was just glad he didn't live further south like some of his relatives.

The tree next to the white wooden porch was filled with birds swinging about, and chattering.

Farrah opened the door looking sleepy. She opened it all the way when she saw it was him, and without saying anything went in and flopped onto the couch and covered up in the blanket pile.

He didn't really know what to do, since he had always been at their house when someone was there or at least awake.

He was saved from awkwardness when Jack came down the stairs fully dressed in a black Tshirt and shorts.

He saw David and said hi.
“What you doing? How's my baby doing” Jack asked.

David pulled the laptop out of the small bag on his shoulder. He was glad to be able to set it down, the strap was digging into his shoulder and throwing his back off.

“Here it is!” said David with a smile.

Jack looked his laptop over, and then ran it upstairs before coming back down and thanking David for returning it.

“Thanks a bunch, it was so helpful! I will go to the library to do the rest of my research but I have made some great headway in figuring a plan for my educational goals. Hey I wanted to ask you for another favor.” he said.

“Yeah, what?” Jack said, seeming to be in a hurry.

David wasn't sure how to ask without putting Jack on the spot, so he decided to just go for it.

“I was hoping you needed a jogging partner. You see, since I left the Amish I have been kind of ...not as active as I was and for the first time in my life I am getting fat. So I was hoping to have a friend to make it more fun. Sumire said you jog, so I thought I could at least ask. If you don't want to, or just like to go solo, thats totally ok, I will understand.” said a nervous David.

There was a slight pause while Jack looked like he was thinking it over.

“Sure, why not." Jack replied, “You ready to go right now?”.
David was wearing jeans and a Tshirt. He usually liked to plan for things ahead of time so he was absolutely prepared, but he also liked to be spontaneous once in a while and just do something so he thought it would be perfect to start jogging today.

Jack lent him a pair of long dark grey basketball shorts that still had the tag on them. It read $3.29, Goodwill on a blue price tag. They fit David well and he came out of the bathroom to show David that he was ready.

Jack gave him a water bottle and a rag towel.

“Sometimes its nice to have some tunes to listen to but since you don't have anything we can just do without for this time. Next time have some music on an mp3, ipod, hell even a cassette player or something will work. The music if it has the right beat count can help you by keeping up your heart rate and increasing your ability to go further, faster, harder.” instructed Jack.

David hadn't thought about listening to music while jogging. He was so new to the entire exercising world that he hadn't given much thought to clothes, water bottles, or music. He was grateful he had someone like Jack around to help him.

The two left the house on the back porch and took a trail from the backyard that looked fairly well worn. David wondered if it was only worn down by Jack or if it had been there from previous owners.

“You want to start out slow, don't go too fast and burn out, that's the first mistake people usually make. You can watch some videos when we get back or something about the proper form of jogging though since I can't teach that. I don't even know if I have 'proper form.” said Jack using air quotations when he said proper form.

“Ok, thanks” said David.

Jack kept his head facing upward, while David tended to watch his feet a lot. David was worried that he would trip over tree trunks and such and they hadn't even started jogging yet.

Jack led David to a large stump near a grove of trees and showed him how to stretch. Jack said they were doing the jumping jacks and windmills for fun because it always put a smile on his face.

“Just go at my pace. Today I will be going slow since I'm feeling kind of rough lately. So that will work out great for you.” Jack said, “I like to walk down this hill and then casually break into a slow jog, using it as a sort of diving board for my jog”.

David could see the winding pleasant hill, covered in dead grass and leaves. The old trees reminded him of a scene from his Robin hood book, the one of Sherwood forest. It seemed like any moment Robin hood and his followers could easily pop out and rob them.

“Ready? Here we go.” said Jack as he started walking down the hill and then started to jog.

Jack was right, it was a natural way to start the jog. It felt so much less awkward too than simply starting a jog out of nowhere. David also liked the cover of the trees. It was always a habit when he saw someone running, jogging or even walking somewhere, he had to look. It was unavoidable.

So it made him feel secure to be in the woods for this reason and others. He thought of his childhood. He would have days of mushroom hunting and sometimes had to wander looking for lost farm animals in the woods near his house. He loved to volunteer to get the stray animals because no one really knew how long it would take him, and they couldn't easily watch him, so it was a nice relief from the constant family surrounding him.

Jogging was nice too. It wasn't as easy as it looked, but it wasn't complicated like he thought it would be. You just did it. The hard part was just putting one foot in front of the other, over and over again. It got to be a bit much and Jack must have noticed because he slowed to a fast walk.

“Wow, it feels really good. But at the same time it kills. But its in a good way. I can't wait to drink a huge glass of water, my water in this is getting pretty warm. And heavy to carry.” said David gesturing at his water bottle.

There was a happy glint in Jack's eye when he heard this. He nodded his head in acknowledgement.
“It is isn't it. I love it. Who needs drugs, or anything else, a runners high beats anything. You are doing yourself good and its fun! Win win!” Jack exclaimed with gusto.

They started back up again after a short break of fast paced walking. The forest seemed to get denser and denser. There were even trees still with leaves on. Grass that was still green, mostly. It was as if the center of the wood was protected not just from the seasons but from time as well.

He knew it wasn't, but David couldn't help thinking about some of the woods from fairy tails. The original ones, like Hans Christain Anderson, not Walt Disney versions, the real fairy tales told to children to keep them from the possible dangers of going in the woods by themselves. The Lord Of The Rings seemed to have root in this place as well.

David was curious to know how long the wood had been there, how long had humans been part of it, what was it's history. Did it have a name?

He thought to ask Jack after the run what the name of it was.

The reached the trail behind the house where they started, going at a slower walk they were bothe sweaty.

They hadn't talked much but it seemed they had each loosened up quite a bit around each other. David was feeling super euphoric but he wasn't sure if that was just the runner's high as Jack called it, or just genuine happiness that he had had some time to be with nature today.

David had been missing a lot more than he thought he would from his former life. It was alright, but unexpected. He hadn't taken advantage of so many things in the Amish community that he now nissed them even more than he may have had he been more caring and observant rather than so bullheaded and only focused on escaping.

Some things he once hated, he now found himself loving. He craved to garden, and many foods his mother used to make him eat.

These feelings sort of crept up on him, but now that he was feeling the runners high they were pushing at the surface saying “Hi, yup, oh us, yeah were still here. Don't worry about us, we'll still be here at the end of the day”.

“If you want we can go one more lap. I'm feeling I could do one more. What do you say?” asked Jack as he wiped his forehead with the small towel.

David followed his lead and wiped his too. He dumped some of the lukewarm water on the towel and rubbed his face and neck before answering.

“Sure I think I can do that. Boy am I going to sleep well tonight!” said David happy to go another lap.

David wasn't sure he made the right choice, and didn't want to get burned out on a jogging routine before he started but he was genuinely happy he was jogging. He could feel how red his face was, his breathing ragged and and felt like his lungs were burning a little. His feet ached a little and his knees had had better days.

He knew he could look up proper jogging form when they got back, but he liked to do things the way they ought to be done. Another reason he liked to plan ahead.

He wondered how women jogged together, whether they could talk, or whether it was rude to talk. He thought he knew the social protocols of talking and interacting with guys, but that was with heterosexual Amish and he wasn't sure what applied here in the case of Jack, so he hoped it wasn't rde to keep to himself and kept quiet.

When they got back, Jack showered while David cleaned up with a wet towel. He looked around at the living room and saw the Christmas tree adorned with odds and ends, there was even a slice of dried up bologna, though whether it was intentionally put there or not he wasn't sure.

Old shiny wrapping from pop tarts, empty soda and beer cans, little bows glued to bottle caps painted like the world and hung by a rubber band. Gingerbread women oddly resembling Farrah, Sumire and Star, and a whole host of oddly cute home made decorations. It was a real tree, with the price tag still attached. Perhaps it was meant as another ornament.

David looked around the room and realized Farrah was still sleeping on the black couch, covered by at least three blankets from what he could see.

David quietly sat down on the blue couch and started flipping through a magazine on the end table. The magazine went into detail about 'various ways to deal with holiday stress' on the current page. After reading about taking a sea salt bath, breathing deeply, doing yoga or drinking a hot beverage, Jack came out of the shower.

“Hey, I forgot to say Merry Christmas!” said Jack who came over and sat on the same couch after looking at Farrah still occupying the entire part of the black couch.

“Merry Christmas to you too! What are you guys doing for Christmas, any special plans?” David politely asked. Since Amish Christmas was a little different than an English Christmas, he was happy to talk about what The Inner Circle had planned.

David hadn't thought much about the holiday, mostly on purpose since it made him miss his family more, but also because he was not in the mood for religious-ness. He was aware that there were other holidays around December, but none as prominent, nor as shovey as Christmas.

Almost all the shops would wish you a merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas. Then occasionally someone would be more sensitive and say Happy Holidays, but most people tended to get offended when you said Happy Holidays, like it was offensive to be polite. It was offensive to be inclusive of everyones beliefs and non-beliefs. Even if you don't celebrate any of the December holidays, you can still enjoy the holidays since you will probably get some work off from it, thereby benefiting you and taking a holiday as the British say.

David wasn't in a sour mood, but he wished for people to be more than just tolerant, but more inclusive, making that effort to bring in the kid the others were too cool to be seen with, in this case, Kwanza, or Hanukkah.

Talking with Jack he knew he was probably just making the assumption like most everyone that he celebrated Christmas, as a Christian, especially since he was Amish. It made sense and he couldn't get mad about it, but he didn't have to be happy either.

“Well, Star usually boycotts the holiday because she says she isn't celebrating a strategically planned holiday originally made by the Catholic church. Im not a huge fan either but I like the presents part, as you can imagine Christianity is kind of iffy with me, what with being a sin and all. Farrah and I swap gifts keeping it simple since both she and Sumire try to refrain from consumerist tendencies. And then we all go out to the bar and drink hairy Irish balls at the Brewery in town. Farrah usually misses her mom and dad, I try not to miss mine as they aren't comfortable with my sexuality, Star will see hers tomorrow, and Sumire's Okaasan and Otousan jutst arrived from Japan by plane last night. So yeah, that mostly covers Christmas around here” Jack explained.

David didn't know where to start. Jack's explanation was completely unexpected, and what was that bit about hairy balls and Sumire's family?

“uhm. Yeah. Ok. So you guys are going to the Brewery and Sumire's family is here?” said an uncertain David.

Jack laughed at David. Farrah stirred on the couch and emerged from her pile of blankets like a beetle from the earth.

“Don't let Jack fool you, he's just as excited to see Sumire's parents as you are. And hairy balls is a drink at the Mad Anthony's and actually called the Hairy Balls Irish Stout.” explained Farrah, “ You should hang with us today. Unless you plan to go out to Amish land and visit your folks?”

David wanted to, but he also didn't. He wanted to see them, but he didn't want to put himself on the table. He didn't want to feel rejection right now. He was just starting to get a hold on modern culture.

He looked at Farrah and then answered.

“Sure, sounds good.” he replied.

Jack hopped up from the couch and went in the kitchen to presumably make some food.
“Great, but you can't go like that. We have a little time before we go out, so we'll eat and then get ready to go. But your gonna have to change for the night scene.” said Jack mischievously.

Star came down the stairs and openly stared at David. He waited for her to say something for what felt like a minute.

“Star. Your staring.” said Farrah.

“Wear the black shirt. Don't let Jack talk you into the white one. K?” said Star not taking notice to David's being uncomfortable, or Farrah's verbal prodding.

“Ive got cocaaaaa-ine runnin around my brain. Cocaaa-ine. I got Cocaine runnin around my brain.” sang the woman on the radio.

Farrah and David burst out laughing.

“What?” Star asked genuinely, apparently oblivious to the timing of her odd comment and the lyrics to the song.

“Nothing, but you were scaring Dave. Something about a shirt.” Farrah explained.

“mmhmm. So when are we leaving? I'm starving.” Star said.

Sumire walked down the stairs and had to stop since Star was still there. Sumire poked Star in the head with her pinky fingera few times getting her to look up.

Sumire was still in her black and hot pink flannel pajama pants and black tank top, and had full on morning head.

She walked up to David put her arm around his shoulders and he could smell that she had morning breath too.

“'Ohayou Davey man!” Sumire said.

She let go of him and smelled her breath on her hand, and apologized.

“Sorry, I usually save that for Jack, where is Jack?” asked Sumire.

Star looked at Sumire and paused, but before she could answer or say anything mysterious, Jack answered from the kitchen.

“Jack is making breakfast for you lazy birds. You can thank me later, go brush your smelly mouth Sumire! No one wants to smell it. Your ruining Davids first real Christmas!” yelled Jack.

Sumire stuck her tongue out at the Jack she couldn't see, and raced up the stairs. David followed Farrah and Star into the kitchen.

The kitchen smelled of butter, spices, eggs and some kind of meat. Upon looking closer David saw that it was a mixture of vegetables, including peas, carrots, sliced onions, and cauliflower. David was cooking eggs and had started cooking slices of tofu and cheese in the pan with the eggs.

After sitting at the kitchen table with was a round light colored wood, Sumire came back down the stairs. She wraped her arms around Jack from behind him as he cooked. Then she blew air into his face and stuck her tongue out.

Jack turned to face her and said “You see, that's how you should greet me everyday, not morning breath you nasty chick!”

Sumire mumbled something that David could only guess was Japanese. It was nice to see her so lively. Not that she wasn't lively normally, but she was happier it seemed. He wondered about her parents, what sort of people were they?

And why was Sumire so fluent in English, when her parents lived in Japan? Was she raised in Japan and had a personal tutor, had one parent spoke Japanese and the other English? Was she an only child? Did she have siblings?

“How was their flight, besides long. Any problems?” asked Star.

David laughed out loud involuntarily at this. He thought it was a little funny that someone likeStar with 'natural' gifts, would ask this question.

Sumire looked at him and smiled like she knew what he was thinking, Star however didn't show that she noticed anything at all.

“Thanks for asking. They are well, They flew by American based airlines so yeah it was kind of rough. They always have problems coming here, but going home it's usually a snap. Our Airlines here suck, and they usually have so many problems coming in. Um yeah, My mom's luggage was lost, so she's borrowing some of my clothes, Im glad it wasn't my dad's 'cuz we'd have to go out and buy some, since he can't wear Jack's clothes, Jack's too big..”

“You make me out like I'm a giant or something. Why not just call me Godzilla!” screamed Jack as Sumire's mother walked into the kitchen.

Sumire's mother looked Jack up and down for a minute and said in flawless English, “ You, are not Godzilla. You're actually quite scrumptious. You're lucky I am married Mr.” said Sumire's mother.

“I'm just kidding.”she said.


The whole kitchen was bursting with laughter except Jack who looked unsure if he should laugh or hide.

“It's OK Jack. She isn't going to sneak into your bed at night. She know's you're gay, and off limits.” as Sumire said the last part she eyed her mother meaningfully.

Sumire's mother seemed unperturbed and looked at all in the kitchen with a light smile.
She had deep brown hair it was almost black, short chin cropped hair, high cheek bones and kind brown eyes.

“Everyone this is my mom, Saitou Noriko. You can call her Noriko-san to keep things simple. We don't need everyone going around calling both my mother and father Saitou-san now do we?” said a smiling Sunmire.

“Hello!” said Jack, Star, and Farrah.

“Nice to meet you,” she said “Fumio will be down here in a minute, he was just finishing unpacking. I don't have that particular problem though thanks to the airlines.”.

Sumire pulled another seat for her mother and started making what looked to be tea.

“Star. Nice to meet you!” said Star as she bowed her head politely.

“Oh nice to meet you Star, I have heard a lot about you.” said a pleasant faced Noriko-san who then turned her attention to David sitting on the side of Star.

“And you must be David since he is Jack.” Noriko-san asked.

She took in his newly growing beard that needed shaving, and his sweaty clothes from jogging. At least he had washed his face and neck earlier. She didn't seem to criticize, but she did notice.

“Yes ma'am” replied David who was unsure how to interact with someone else's mother, especially one that was Japanese, or was she Japanese American, he didn't know.

Star stood up and a few seconds later Fumio-san came in sleepey eyed but otherwise in jeans and a navy blue polo shirt and plain slippers.

“Morning dad, yoku nemuremashita ka. Did you sleep well?” asked Sumire who gave him a hug.
Fumio-san was much more tan than Sumire or Noriko-san

“Yes. Oishii so. It is good seeming.” was Fumio-san's reply.

Unlike Noriko-san, Fumio-san had a heavier accent. He was taller, but broader. They were of similar height and dress, but he was heavier in build, more muscular. Noriko looked slighter, but her demeanor said she could take care of herself. David saw the resemblance between her and Sumire even clearer when he realized this.

Everyone introduced themselves to Fumio, and then the food was ready. David thought the vegetables tasted amazing and aksed how they had such a meaty flavor and smell.

“Shitake mushrooms and coconut oil, it gives it a bolder taste. You like?” asked Jack as he waggled his eyebrows in a funny way.

David nodded and finished his mouthful, “Very much, very delicious!” said Jack.

Farrah too liked it and said “Oishii! Honto ni!.

Jack must have understood because he bowed quite ceremoniously and thanked her for her generosity.

After they finished eating the Saitou's said they were going to explore town and go shopping for windows. Since Fumio-san said it he wasn't sure if they were going shopping for windows, or if he meant they were going to go window shopping.

Jack said he would hook David up' with clothes for the outing, and went up stairs all excited. David wasn't sure whether to be frightened or excited that Jack was dressing him. It wasn't that Jack didn't dress nicely, but it was different having someone tell you what to wear, and also intimidating. Especially since they are putting the effort in and seem to want you to be happy. His English friend used to dress him so they could go out in public and play without people staring at David the whole time. Until he was caught by his mother. Seeing her disappointment hurt, like he was ashamed of being with the Amish, ashamed of being with his family that he had to declare to the world he wasn't Amish.

It wasn't why they did it, but that was how she saw it. After that he never dressed in English clothes until he had left for Elkhart.

Jack brought out a pair of faded jeans, a black tank, and a black button down shirt. He went in the bathroom to change. The tank top was far from what he was used to wearing, too clingy, but piared with the button down and it was quite nice. The jeans were a little too long and a little baggy, but still looked good enough. He thought how far he had come, how he more he felt much more comfortable in his own skin than he had months ago.

David looked at his hair, clothes, face and even posture and felt it was going to be ok, for once he was where he belonged, catching up on where he thought his life should be. He might always miss his family, but he at least knew he had made the right choice.

He checked himself over once in the mirror from the front. From the side. After it looked good he came out of the bathroom to Farrah, Jack, Star, and Sumire crowding the hall way eager looks on their faces. Their faces slowly changed as they registered the clothes on him. Jack's face looked disappointed when he saw the pants, but Sumire and even Star were clapping and smiling.

“You look so presentable.” Farrah said seemingly impressed as she gave him the thumbs up.

Jack started to dash up the stairs when Sumire caught his arm and said “Nope, nope, no time, gotta go, I wanna see my parents later on and I'm not going to be late. He looks great! Thanks Jack.” and she gave him a hug as he looked ready to squirm away, but Sumire won him out in the end and they all piled into Farrah's car.

The group headed out to Mad Anthony's, a micro brewery and restaurant. It had interesting drinks with even quirkier names like the Ol Woody Pale Ale, and Raspberry Wheat. Star told the group that the place is rumored to be closing. David wonders who she heard the rumor from.

They sat at the bar and Farrah ordered from there. She orders the table a Greek, portabella and spinach and artichoke unwraps, an assortment of veggies, water, and the Hairy Baals Irish Stout for each.

Star started knitting this time with a new project. It was round so far, Deep brown, and various shades of green. It could be mistaken for something from the woods until David looked closer. Her needles clacked together in a sound that reminded him of the sound his grandmother's needles used to make.

David's grandmother would sit for hours knitting, clacking and afterwards she would be in an even better mood. He too would be in a better mood. He wondered what she had knitted today. He often had the dreaded worry that he tried to keep at bay that she might die. He knew everyone did, and would eventually, but he dreaded it. He didn't want her to leave his life. Even though he had left hers-temporarily. He did have plans though not yet formed, of visiting her.

He thought of what it would be like without her there to raise hell in the community. Always resisting their silly rules. Always spunky and giving guidance to any who asked.

He didn't like thinking about losing her. He was sure that no one ever did about their loved ones. He knew he needed to get a message to her, and meet her somehow. He could always ask Farrah, Sumire, Star or Jack to visit her for him. He knew that he couldn't go there right now, he needed more time, but he at least wanted to get the message to her that he had not meant to abandon her.

David tuned back in to hear Farrah and Star angrily debating which was better The Yeah Yeah Yeah's or Alice in Videoland.

“Just because The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have a larger fan base does NOT mean that they are better, they just might be less understood, less mainstream, or need more time to get around so that people are aware of them.” said a heatedly intense Farrah.

David noticed a woman staring from just across the room. At first he thought she was staring because of the two music fans next to him, but he noticed that she was staring at him and not Farrah or Star.

He tried to look away and see if she kept staring, and yep, she was. So open. Blatant staring. She was dressed slightly odd too and had high waisted pants, and a t shirt tucked into them. He got the distinct impression though that she was mentally handicapped.

David knew all about people with various disorders as the Amish gene pool was often pretty small. People were often closely related to their marriage partners and in turn would frequently develop certain disorders.

He listened in on another conversation next to his group. Two young women in their early twenties were discussing their new diet plan. David was shocked. They talked about not eating healthy, but calorie counting, weiging themselves and the like. They berrated themselves. One said “You're so luck you arent huge like me, it's so gross when I look in the mirror. One diet my friend told me about even had a ban on mirrors in the house.”

The other replied “No way, your waist is really nice, not like my blubber. That mirror trick might work!”

David was disgusted with the way they talked about and put themselves down as they 'put the other up'. Perhaps that was one of the downfalls of the non-Amish clothing people wore. David thought because they were wearing tighter clothes that were more individual and in some cases revealing it was sometimes detrimental to men and women alike.

He thought of an article he had read on the subject, it talked about how dissatisfied women were with their bodies, and increasingly men too. It showed correlations between media images and so called beauty ads and increased self esteem issues.

He was saddened by the effect it was having on these otherwise healthy, unique, and attractive ladies.

The waiter brought the unwraps and drinks, much to David's pleasure. He was starving, though it hadn't been more than two hours since he ate last.

They unwraps were interesting, reminded him of pizza, only the homemade kind his mom used to make occasionally. Thin flaky crust and all. The drinks were unique, though he didn't much care for beer. He drank it anyway and it had a pleasant dark coffee aftertaste to it.

Star and Farrah looked at each other seriously, and laughed, ending their mini band related quarrel and started eating like fiends.

Jack hailed a man walking by and introduced him to the group as Bae. A broad somewhat tall Korean from Jacks business class at Ivy Tech. Jack scooted over and made room while Sumire dragged a bar stool over for Bae. It seemed that Sumire and Bae had met, whil Star and Farrah hadn't met him before.

Soon enough Bae had ordered a few Bavarian pretzels and Artichoke dip with veggies. He started talking with Jack about video games and David tuned out again. Farrah snapped her fingers in front of his face getting his attention.

“Lost in space again are we Dave? What's on your mind, I'm not drinking so you have to entertain me?” asked Farrah to his right.

“Just thinking, about my grama. She's all alone. Well not literally, but she might as well be. She isn't like the others. She fights the Amish rules and tells them off. She's got balls.” David said as he held up his drink for emphasis.

“Sounds like my kinda woman!,” said an excited Farrah, “I would love to meet her!”

“I think she would like you. I want to visit her but I'm not ready yet. Do you think I could send you with a message and you could visit her?” asked a hopeful David.

Farrah looked thoughtful and asked if tomorrow would be good. David was thrown off, he hadn't had time to plan for this. Such a spontaneous important step was probably what he needed but it made him uncomfortable, hard to breathe.

“Uh, yeah, OK. Don't you think that's a little soon?' asked a hesitant David.

“Dave Dave Dave, you play it so safe. Heres the scoop, you would just keep putting it off and putting it off, and end up postponing it so long that the next time you actually see her, it would be too late, then you would blame yourself for not having enough courage to stand up and see her. I'll send her the message you don't have to be the nervous one. Just write her a nice letter and Sumire and Star and I will go visit little old granny tomorrow. No sweat!” said Farrah, convincingly.

“Well, sometimes she can be pretty rude and very up front about things, where she doesn't sugar coat it. It sometimes seems to come out of nowhere, so keep that in mind.

Farrah nodded. Since everyone was finished eating except Bae and Jack, the rest waited listening to their conversations ranging from computer programming, Linux operating systems, World of Warcraft games, and banning destructive fracking practices often used to collect natural gas from the earth for commercial benefit and ecological destruction.

After it was obvious everyone was ready to leave David and the others said good night and happy holdays to Bae who left and went on his way. It was already dark, but since it was winter the days were shorter and often the sun set around 5 or 6 P.M.

After piling back into the car Sta soon fell asleep on David's shoulder. He would like to fall asleep himself but always felt queezy in cars, especially the back seat. He still preferred the cold, but swaying movement of the buggy he used to drive to the sickening and fast movement of the common car.

They drove passed businesses that had closed for Christmas, fancy decorated shops with bows and wreaths. David thought how ironic the supermarket's windows were, covered in painted on snow when there was no snow to be seen or magically conjured with a snow dance.

He remembered the days when it would snow even before Halloween, covering the ground in a warning blanket. The warning said the real snow would be on its way soon, but for now heres a treat. The real snow was deep, cold, unforgiving to a humans exposed flesh, and David loved it. He loved how cold you could get, but knowing you could look forward to a toasty warm inside and cup of dark cocoa.

David loved his hot cocoa, the way it was meant to be made, not the way most modern people drank it from pouches made of sugar and powder. He liked it with the deep chocolate taste made from baking cocoa, a little honey and milk. Sometimes his mom would add cinnamon, nutmeg or a tiny pinch of chili pepper for variety.

Christmas especially was the day to enjoy warm cocoa, or tea, any hot beverage he supposed. How it flowed into and warmed the soul, down to his feet. He would have to pick up some baking cocoa from the store since he was now craving it so from thinking on it.

Star had started to fall asleep almost as soon as Farrah pulled out of the restaurant parking lot, so now she was nearly sound asleep on David's shoulder.

Suddenly the car violently jerked, accompanied by a loud clashing noise. David's head was thrown forward and into the seat in front of him wrenching his neck, Star lurched forward and then against the window. He heard someone scream in a high pitched voice, a sound of pain. Sumire was pushed against David and she grabbed him for support, before her head slammed onto his back leaving her with a bleeding nose.

David looked around and saw the car was now facing oncoming traffic, their bright lights blazing into his eyes, and illuminating a minivan next to stars window. About ten feet away the light blue minivan had enormous dents on the front of it, part of the front bumper was hanging. The driver wasn't moving.

David quickly looked at Farrah who was breathing in gasps and clutching the steering wheel, but looked otherwise in tact.

“Is anyone hurt!?” demanded Sumire with a catch of fear in her voice from his left. Blood continued to stream down her front onto her yellow shirt. It oddly made David think of ketchup and mustard, even though he knew this was o time for such thoughts.

Jack, sitting in the front was clutching the side of his head and mumbled something unintelligible.

“My shoulder and neck hurt, but I think they are ok. Jack, is your head ok? Jack! Answer me!” said a panicked Star. That was a first, he had never seen or heard Star loose her cool laid back demeanor, except if she was arguing about bands with Sumire or Farrah, but even then there was still a laid backness to it. This time she was genuinely worried.

David was so confused, he had no real clue what had happened. He was scared, and his adrenaline was going. His neck hurt and his face felt like it was stinging.

Sumire opened her door, vomited and shakily stood up heavily leaning against the side of the car. David looked at the minivan and vaguely heard sirens in the distance. He looked at the minivan's driver again, who still was unmoving, but a passenger had gotten out and was walking toward Farrah's car.

Sumire walked over to Jack's door, opened it and was looking at him, and asked if he was ok. He lightly nodded though Sumire didn't look entirely convinced. She pulled her cell phone from her pocket and dialed numbers. She talked and said there had been an accident. There was a pause. She looked wildly around her and told the person on the phone where they were, and there were injured people, one with a possible concussion and told them to hurry.

Farrah, still heavy breathing released her deathgrip on the wheel and slowly got out of the car. She didn't lean against the car or vomit like Sumire, but she did walk shakily over to the woman walking towards them.

A person that had gotten out of a stopped car came running over and asked if anyone had been hurt. One of David's favorite songs from the XX's , called Intro was playing on the radio all eerie and making the night seem somehow like time had stopped.

Sumire talked with the woman who said her father was alright but in shock and couldn't move. Sumire told her an ambulance was on the way as a police car came and parked with lights and siren on.

He came and checked on everyone, paying special attention to Jack who she said probably had a concussion. Her partner was busy setting up cones and waving traffic away.

The officer introduced herself as officer Pierce and said she would need to talk to each of us to better understand what had happened.

David was at a loss for words, what was he supposed to tell her, when he didn't know. He was sitting in the back seat, and then he and his friends in the backseat were thrown around like ragdolls? What good would that do anyone.

The ambulance came and checked out Jack who was now talking a little better, but still looked bad. Blood coated the right side of his face and it looked like there might have been more on his shirt.

Star and David finally got out of the car, legs shaking and head spinning. David's head was literally spinning, and Officer Pierce told him and Star to stay sitting down, so they sat on the ashfalt of the road gazing, partially unseeing the wreckage.

The side of Farrah's car was dented and bumped with scratches. Chunks of paint had left and left the metal exposed. The part where Jack had been was the worst, metal deeply sunken in, small streaks of light blue that oddly matched the color of the minivan.

The idea of being in a car wreck had never occurred to David. He hadn't given it much thought especially since he didn't often travel in cars. When he lived in the Amish community he worried about getting hit by others, but that fear had abated since he now traveled by bike.

Even by bike he probably didn't worry as much as he ought to have, afterall he could have easily been hit by a car, driver not paying attention.

The EMT's may have even been the same who hauled Dean away after Sumire had shot him. They put Jack on a stretcher and Sumire, Farrah and he all went up and asked if Jack was ok.

“We need to get him to the hospital, he has a concussion and may have other issues, you can get a ride up there with an officer if you like.” said the EMT as they closed the back of the ambulance and hurried away with the siren on.

David had the weird urge to laugh even though he couldn't think of a logical reason, when Star burst out laughing, almost maniacally.

It was like the laughter was helping her work through the confusion. David thought perhaps he should join her.

No one had died, and only one person had a major problem, but David felt his world had changed, it had narrowed and expanded simultaneously. It narrowed when he thought of the danger, the constant danger we all face. It expanded when he knew he would not be the same person afterwards. He knew it was one of those life changing experiences that changed your perception.

He had an Amish friend for a while who was really careless, always pushing his luck, then one day his luck wasn't as easy on him. He and David often worked on roofing jobs even from a young age. David's friend fell from a roof and broke both his legs and his left arm. His dad said he could still hammer so then he had to work on the ground helping the others by handing tools and equipment up to them. Other Amish thought he was crazy and often gave him the high risk jobs. The broken limbs were only the beginning of many years of dangerous accidents.



Chapter 12;
 The Aftermath and mutual relationships
A week had passed since the accident and David was listening to a band called The Lumineers. They had a nice slow paced, thoughtful sound. He looked at the cover of the CD he had rented from thr library. It was a homemade cd cover that looked like someone had gone online and printed the first photo of the band they could find.

The cover had 3 people on it, and was a black and white photograph. The man on the right looked oddly similar to woody harrelson and caught David's attention.

He was listening to the slow paced Morning Song. It reflected his feelings at that moment; slow, melodic and contemplative.

He hadn't talked to any one since he came home after the car accident. He couldn't. He didn't know if Jack was alright or not, but he couldn't deal with the shock of it all.

He always thought he was a stronger person, that he had some sort of character strength but he felt oddly worn down from struggling to learn the ways of the world around him. He had been struggling for what felt like an eternity. Nothing usually came easily for him and sometimes it took it's toll. He literally felt like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders, as cliché as the phrase was, it felt exact.

The accident wasn't due to some 'bad guy'. It truly was … an accident. Neither driver saw the other, and an accidental clash happened. End of story.

David didn't like to think that 'these things just happen' as Star said. He didn't want them to happen at all. He wanted to believe that bad things happened to bad people and those who strive, and do the right are rewarded. In this world-not in the next as the Christians often assured him.

Why?

He understood the reality of it but didn't want to just accept it as it was. But since he couldn't figure anything out to change it, he moped.

Listening to mopey music, watching mopey music, and eating mopey foods until he deemed it ok to try again.

Farrah had stopped by, knocking on his door for about ten minutes, then she left. David was home, and she knew it, as she said he couldn't hide forever.

She said she was sorry through the door and he believed her, but didn't say anything. He couldn't face her. She would think him a coward for hiding away like he was. She with her courage, and spunk, couldn't understand how ashamed he felt for his feelings.

He wasn't mad at them, but he was. It was difficult to explain, even to himself.

The next day Sumire knocked and left him a note. He didn't answer the door then either. After a few days of Farrah, Sumire and Star taking turns to try and get him out of the house or answer the door they had stopped coming.

That made him sadder than when they had tried, it made him feel they too had given up on himself. If someone else believed in him it would have given him a spark of hope, but now even that spark was lost.

He made himself a banana smoothie and soba noodles. He saw Sumire's not on the counter with it's fold marks still strong.

He toyed with it before reading it again.

“Dave, What happened? Are you ok? We are all really worried about you. Let us know what's going on. Star said she saw you close your blinds yesterday and that you obviously knew she was there.

Farrah especially feels terrible about everything, she thinks its her fault you won't talk to us. It really was an accident, and she truly feels terrible.

Let us know that you are ok, please.

Just in case you were wondering, my parents go back to Japan in a few days, you might want to say goodbye to them. My mother really likes you

Sumire”

David was startled by a pounding knock at the door. The knock wasn't Sumire, Star, or Farrah's tenative knocks.

“David open this door. We know you are in here.” It was Jacks voice, and he sounded mad.

He went up and opened the door without thinking. He was face to face with Jack. An involuntery image of Jack, face bleeding and in pain flashed into David's head.

The Jack in front of him now looked fine. Slight bruising covered part of his face, brownish green, and small cuts and stiches, but other than that, he looked fine.

David had thought he might have died, or ended up in a coma. He hadn't thought that Jack would be fine, and knocking on his door.

David opened his mouth to talk and hear a familiar voice behind Jack.

“How did- ... Grama?” asked a shocked and disbelieving David.

Jack moved to show David his grandmother, simply clad and angry looking as ever.

“Boy, you need to move.” Then she told him he had worried her in German. She learned to speak nearly fluently in German, unlike most Amish. She taught some to David so they could talk without other Amish having much of a clue what they were saying. It was like their secret language.

A shocked David moved aside and held the door for his grandmother, Jack and to his surprise Star, Sumire and Farrah.

Farrah looked close to tears but non said anything.

“These young folk came to see me. Worried they are. What happened was an accident. Why are you mad at them?” asked his grama.
“I'm not mad Grama.” said a nervous David who looked at his feet and refused to meet his grandmother's gaze.

“ You also did not say goodbye” she said in a heavy accent.
David could tell this was what hurt her the most. That he had left, and not told her of his plans.

He didn't know why he hadn't told her, it wasn't as if he didn't trust her to not turn him in. He just didn't want to leave her behind, she would have been truly alone and David knew this. Plus if he had been caught his chances of leaving again would dwindle and he couldn't handle the disappointment in her eyes. Had he been caught, then she would have been sad since he most likely couldn't leave the community she herself so badly wanted to leave.

It was her turn to look at the ground.
David felt the need to explain himself to her, to let her know it wasn't meant to hurt her.

“I wanted to protect you, and if I failed, I didn't want to disappoint you. I knew you wanted to leave too. How did you get here without getting caught?”

“Actually.” she smiled, her weathered face seeming years younger.
“I was sent.”

“What? Who could have sent you?” asked David.
She rubbed her forearms in a comforting gesture. Her face had darkened from years of refusing to wear the bonnets so commonly worn by women in the Amish community. She said they were ridiculous and like blinders for horses.

“Your mother and father. I actually would have done it anyway but these two,” as she pointed to Farrah and Jack, “showed up on our door mat, asking for me. I knew it was my chance to escape.

Your mother and father have missed you. So have other's. They thought you would have visited by now, and had no way to find you, I told them I had to go look for you and keep an eye on you since you had no family here.”

Jack looked at Jack and Farrah. Farrah still looked sad, but hopeful.  Jack looked angry.

“ You. Did this?” asked a bewildered David voice nearly cracking.

Jack nodded, and started to smile. Farrah also nodded.

“Star said it was an option, it was her idea, but she said she was scared of your grandmother, of her aura's personality or something.” explained Farrah.

“I saw her in a vision, she is a powerful lady, and she has a temperamental aura, I just...” she looked at David's grandmother nervously.

“Oh tish-tosh. I don't know what you are going on about.” answered David's grandmother with a small smile curving her lips and making her eyes glisten. It made her look at least ten years younger, but it also made her seem dangerous.


“Don't you have some food or anything to offer a starved grandmother?” asked David's grandmother.

Sumire jumped up as if she had sat on a hot car seat.

“I'll get it, you guys talk” said Sumire.

“I'll help.”said Star who ran after Sumire. She didn't even look back.

David told her about his escape. She complained about his short letter of explanation.

He talked about the difficulties he had been facing in the modern world, and his search for a mentor.

“Sometimes you have to just do it yourself. It would be great to lean on others for a rest, but sometimes we just can't.” she explained.

He told her about his hopes, and fears, especially related to the car wreck. He worried of losing the people in his life.

Star and Sumire came in with sandwiches for all. Pumpernickel bread, cheese and avacado. He knew his grams would like that.

As they ate he thought about that night. The night of the accident. Perhaps, he thought, he was just scared of losing them, and that it would be better if he kept his distance. That was why he refused to answer the door. He thought if he cut ties it would be easier than losing them in other ways, like accidents.

What if there was a next time, and what if that next time they weren't so lucky? What if Jack had died. Or Star had lost her legs. Or Farrah had gone blind from flying debris. Or Sumire got brain damage that ruined her chances for a career of her choice after college?

There were too many uncontrollable factors, and at the time, he wasn't ready to deal with them. The accident merely opened his eyes to the morbid possibilities. How could people live in such an unpredictable world?

Sure there were risks of death, injury and brain damage in the Amish community but he knew of those, these risks here were unknown and seemingly infinite. How did moderns cope? Is that why prescription drugs are often abused?

He had read about so many of these modern problems that were different from his own at the time, but they somehow seemed a faraway thing, like they wouldn't happen to him. Now they all seemed feasible, like any and all of them might befall him or his.

He wondered lightly if he had developed a case or post traumatic stress syndrome.

“Well I'm sure you have figured out my plan, but just in case...I am moving in with you.” said his grandmother non chalantly.
What? David hadn't seen that coming. He barely could get out of his own head enough to comprehend the idea. His grandmother. Living with him.

She lived with him in the family house before but this was different. He didn't feel like a bachelor disturbed, but rather he had never thought of the idea.

“We can talk about it later, right now you need to go get my bags, and then go talk with your nice friends. They deserve an apology for all you've put them through. Go on...” she insisted.

It was all a lot to take in. He couldn't turn her out, she had no where else to go, and she had come here for him. Well, partly because of him. Mostly for her. One day she even said she would move in with the devil himself if it meant getting out of that community. She was destined for other things just as much as David was, it was torture to be held back when he could do so much better, she must have felt the same way.

All those years of her complaining about the hypocrisy, and religious practices, his mother and father would shush her, afraid an Elder might hear. The Elders knew, they must not have seen her as a threat, more of an old woman going senile. Who would believe what she said? David did. She didn't care so much about the educational issues like David did, but they agreed on everything else.

David walked silently out to Farrah's car lost in thought. He saw her car in the sunlight for the first time since the accident. It didn't look horrible. Dented, and scraped, but otherwise no worse on the outside. He thought how much more resilient metal was than human beings. David wondered weather human mortality something to be cherished, damned or both?

He grabbed hid grandmothers two large bags that were probably filled with clothes, and fabric for quilts. She always did like to make quilts. Some were the typical simple Amish style, while others had brilliant colors, and patterns that the Amish typically avoided.

He remembered fondling a particularly bright quilt one day as a child. His mother saw it, looked him, and hid it upstairs before coming back down to spank him with a paddle. Afterwards he heard his mother in an argument with his grandmother about her prideful quilts.




David dropped off his grandmothers items, and left with Farrah and the gang without saying anything to Grama.

He was actually feeling anger. Illogical rage. He wanted to scream with anger, and sadness and confusion. All these feelings welling up from seemingly no where.

He seemed to never be able to get anywhere. He did but there were times like this that he was just so damned tired of always fighting tooth and nail to make headway in the world. Why did he always have to try so hard. Why did it all matter to him so much. People sometimes complimented him on his tenacity, and then criticized him on not having the same virtues as them in other ways. Who were they to judge him.

Why was he feeling this. He should be happy to see her, and see that Jack was well, and that Farrah and the others weren't mad at him for his illogical behavior. It was just too much, he guessed. Boiling point, straw for the camel, and all that.

He could tell that Farrah was looking at him in the rearview mirror, but he didn't make contact. He didn't want to look at her, much less talk. He would probably just say something he would regret.

Star and Sumire also looked like they were trying to make contact. It was Jack that spoke.

“You know, you're kind of being an ass.”

David didn't answer. He knew it was the truth but he wouldn't admit it right now. Everyone else was irritating him right now and he couldn't much help it. Stuck in a constant state of irritation. He had craved their presence this past week, and now that he was near them he just wanted to be far away by himself, sitting on a hill under a tree, reading a book, a thousand miles from anyone.

Maybe he just needed some time in nature, too much time in the city? No that wasn't it either. What was he mad about? He was glad that Jack was safe, and everything, happy for his Grama to finally have her wish of escape from her past.

What was it? David couldn't put his finger on it. He decided to try to make polite but bare minimal conversation, hoping it might get him in a better mood, or ...something.

He looked at Jack to his left in the back seat. Then he looked out the window at the buildings they passed. The whole world looked so different from the inside of a car, he thought. He preferred going by foot or bike, especially since the accident had scared him. He really didn't want to be in the car.

“STOP! Stop the car Farrah! Let me out, now!” screamed David. It sounded irrational even to himself but he didn't care. He just needed out.

Farrah slowed to a stop near a playground with monkey bars, and a spider web shaped dome made of metal bars. David got out and oddly wondered why children's playgrounds were so unforgiving, how many children had been hurt playing on them?

He sat on the wood chipped mulch between the playground and the curb under a tree. He laid back and looked at the world from his upside-down angle. His view looked so right, like the real world should see everything from this way. It was a better view, more interesting, and easier to spot the irregularities.

It had a special rightness to it, it just felt right. He was gazing up at the gloomy sky, and then to the ground. They sky was so overrated, people always looked to it for answers, and then they trudged on the ground without appreciation. David would bet a lot of money that humans could learn a lot if they asked the earth beneath their feet as well as the sky above their heads.

Being out of the car felt great until the others joined him there, each laying by his side and looking up too. He felt their questions before they asked them.

“I don't know why, I'm sorry. But I feel so angry right now. It doesn't make sense, and you are the ones who should be mad at me, but I can't help it.” said David honestly.

“Maybe you are just dealing with the accident in your own way, and are traumatized by the car.” said Star intuitively.

“I been tryin to do it right, I been livin a lonely life, I been sleepin here instead, I been sleepin in my bed, sleepin in my bed, so show me family, or the blood that I will bleed, I don't know where I belong, I don't know where I went wrong...But I can write a song...I belong with you, you belong with me my sweetheart...I belong with you, you belong with me my sweet...” sang David remembering the song from the Lumineers called Ho Hey that made perfect sense.

“I don't know where I belong, and I have been lonely. I don't feel like I deserve you guys...” he explained.

Jack turned slightly to look at David, and then went back to looking at the grumpy looking rain clouds that just wouldn't give rain.

“For the longest time I felt a lot like that. I didn't even know why I was different. I may have known I was gay, but I didn't, hadn't realized it yet. I knew I was different, but thought there was something wrong with me. And after I knew, I wanted to share the realization with my family. The reactions were mixed, but it was hard. My mom and dad couldn't understand. They didn't yell, or scream, or kick me out like some. They were just quietly disappointed. They became distant. It was almost like they quit caring. Some of my gay friends have really supportive families that accept them. It made me really jealous, but also lonely-like even among this group of outsiders I was an outsider. I felt-feel so lonely at times,” he took a deep breath to steady himself, “Some people think its just about the physical-the physical relationships, the physical abuse from people, but so much is in here.” he said as he tapped his head lightly.

“It's so hard for us to feel welcomed and included. Even with people who support me it can be difficult for them to see me as just another person and not as 'the gay friend'. I understand, but it's hard. Maybe more so than for others. When someone can tell you are, you can see it in their eyes that they have classified you, they stick you in the gay friend corner and you can't fit in any other categories. It can be limiting. And lonely...To be an outsider amongst outsiders.” said a solemn Jack.

David hadn't thought about it that way, how Jack must feel. He always seemed to take things so well, and seemed generally happy. That must have been a lot to come to terms with, especially to say out loud...to others.

How could his parents have been disappointed in him, he was so brave, and had overcome so much. He thought of all the people that had inadvertently told Jack he couldn't. To overcome the internal voices of a negative nature as well as everyone else's...

David continued to look at the world upside down. Was this view really upside down? Or did it just differ from what everyone expected like with Jack.

They laid there, all quiet. He even wondered if they had fallen asleep, but he felt their awakeness around him, all deep in thought.

He felt as if things would somehow work out. It might take a while, but they would. He would make them. He would be his own mentor, he would learn from his mistakes, he would try his best, he would be there for his friends and ask them to be supportive of him. He didn't have Star's gifts, but he could tell. Everything would eventually be alright. This is what he thought before he fell asleep on the cool damp wood chip covered playground.



CHAPTER 13;
 Sex Toys and other mysteries


 After the deep, thoughtful playground conversation David and the inner circle were back to talking, though he had decided he wasn't riding in any cars from now on.

Things weren't completely un-awkward, but they were getting better. David needed to focus on getting his paperwork done. He needed to get financial aid and he wanted to sign up for his classes. On a whim he had filled out his forms last year. They were sent back to him requesting his parent’s information. Apparently even though he was legally an adult, he couldn’t technically file on his own without them until he turned 24, or got married, had a child, joined the military, or legally emancipated himself. He had no intentions of doing any of those just to get aid.

So he forged their signatures, and wrote his estimation of their earnings and submitted them. To his surprise it worked. He thought for sure he would be arrested or denied at the very least.

Reading on the paper FAFSA form he currently had he read it was good for the fall and not for the winter or spring semester.

David dug around until he found the old FAFSA from a pile of papers that needed to be organized.  He read that was eligible for more than a full time semester at Ivy Tech. He also read that the form he had filled out on a whim had saved his butt. The one he previously had filled out was for this coming semester and he had been approved for enough to take the classes and pay for his books.

David was so relieved. He felt so much more excited and calmer at the same time. What a relief to have things fall into place, to have the means to accomplish his dreams, all there represented on a simple piece of paper.

He read further not understanding some of the small print and the wording they used. To get the full semester amount he had to be enrolled full time, which is what he already had planned. Now he still had to pick out his class list, and he figured he might as well finish the form for this fall while he had it out.

David finished the form, writing his mother and father’s names and then went to show his grandmother his happy surprise. He knew she would be happy for him, she always told him to pay attention to school, and that he should someday leave the Amish for college. Though, he wasn’t sure if she thought he would do it.

Grama living with him felt weird. There was no way around it. She was there all day long. She would make dinner and lunch and if she woke up early, breakfast. It was nice to see her sleeping in and relaxing thought he had to admit it was odd.

Today she was sitting on his small porch, looking at the neighborhood waking up. She was in her simple Amish clothes, something he would help her be rid of with a trip to a used clothing store. She sat quietly hands clutching a steaming cup of tea. The tea was a deep red so he assumed it was his African Rooibos tea, but he couldn’t be sure.

He opened the screen door and went out to sit with her, bringing his paper quietly folded in his hands. He extended the paper to her and said “Here, read it”, with a smile.

She looked pulling her glasses down to see it better. A wide smile broadened across her face. She could put the Cheshire cat to shame with its size and creepiness.

“You haven’t seen your mother’s signature have you?” she asked slyly.

David tried to recall. He hadn’t seen his mother sign anything. She usually initialed. It wasn’t that she was illiterate, they had to read the Bible after all, but he couldn’t remember. He had seen his father sign for wood receipts when English bought slab wood from him. Most people didn’t care about a receipt but some people did for taxes or something, he wasn’t sure about that.

But his mother, that was a different story. He thought long and hard and eventually replied that he hadn’t.

His grandmother looked wistful and said, “When she was a young girl she had this loopy scroll, then when she got older maybe 6th grade or so, it changed ever so slightly to this elegant professional writing. I loved the little notes she would leave me, so darling. I thought she should one day be a writer, or something. I thought she would move far away and finally do what I had never done. I blame her father. I was glad to be rid of him when I was, but I fear he put too much of that nonsense in her head, you know. The strict ‘Amish way’ nonsense, and maybe that is why she stayed. Well that and she liked your father too much, and you know him, stuck in the mud with his routines, he too loved the Amish ways.”

David thought she was right. His mother did talk of someone who would have loved to travel. She even had a book she kept in her nightstand, filled with newspaper and magazine clippings of far away locales. Smarmy beaches, rocky coastlines, golden deserts, tropical rainforests. She kept it hidden, perhaps from his father; he wasn’t sure who she was hiding it from. Maybe even herself.

Her father had left the Amish for his own reasons. To join up with other Amish. Ours were too lax she once recalled. She and others thought he had left for a combination of reasons. He may have thought there ought to be more rigid rules for a society to function properly, he wanted to be one of the religious leaders, and he wanted a different wife. One who was less stubborn? He would rather her be more like a door mat.

He remarried, somehow duping or persuading the new Elders he hadn’t been meant to marry David’s grandmother Elloise, but instead God had intended him to marry his new wife. Rosy, or doormat as David’s family called her.

They had gone to visit when David was little. He remembered the long buggy ride, and the tense nerves from his mother, father and Grandmother. He hadn’t quite understood the situation, but gathererd bits of the story later as time went on.

After the met his grandfather’s new wife, he could see why they called her doormat. He could also see whey they called his grandfather some unsavory names. What he couldn’t get though was why his Grandma Elloise had anything to do with a jerk like that. How could she, a woman of some intellect, and who possessed a spine, have been with someone like him.

Even David’s father was in love with the Amish way. He thought there would be more women to leave, since it could be more oppressive to women depending on where they lived. Perhaps the ideals were drilled into their heads more. To David it felt like brainwashing. To others though, it just seemed natural, it was their culture.

David turned his attention to the two men walking down the suburban road. They were animatedly chatting about something he couldn’t hear. He loved the excited quality in their eyes and gestures. Their faces alight.

They seemed to be students, judging from their backpacks. David pictured himself like that; talking to a friend he had just met in class. He really could visualize it and he couldn’t wait for that to be him.

He looked back at his Grama Elloise, and oddly wondered if she had accomplished all she wanted in life? Certainly she had things she would like to do, but did she do most of them? What would he be like when he was her age?

How would he feel, not just physically, but about his life sentimentally? How would his life experiences shape him? He really wondered.

He also wondered how much time he had with her. It seemed that he took her for granted when he was younger, and more carefree. Now he cherished everything, even when she annoyed him, he cherished that.

Each time she had to hold his arm for support, he knew it must pain her so much to have to ask for help in that little way, but the pain must be too great to not.

Every time he helped her he could feel her, like when he rested against a tree and he and the tree shared a bong, a short tangible and UN-tangible bond. The tree shared its problems and offered shade and support, and David did the same, offering moral support to the tree, telling it to ‘ganbatte’ as the Japanese said, do your very best!

He had decided a while ago to just spend as much time pleasantly with her as he possibly could. Even the smallest things could be fun. Going for walks, looking at wildlife at the park, eating a home cooked meal.

He looked at her for real this time and it seemed that she too was lost in thought, he would love to know what she was thinking about. Sometimes she would tell you exactly what she was thinking, while others she would keep it to herself. Maybe that’s where he got his half introverted half extroverted self from, but most days he leaned toward the introvert.

“So were you thinking of taking some classes with me this semester?” asked a slightly joking David.

Grama Eloise chuckled heartily as though that were the funniest thing.

“When you get old, like me, you tend to want to take things easy. All that walking from class and then running to the next, and going without food because you are a starving college student, that’s not for me, I like to eat!” she said.

So did David, but he figured he could make his meals and carry a lunchbox around with him, learn some easy lunch Japanese recipes from Sumire, and do things like that.

David was complaining that since school had let out for holiday all he had done was eat, and that spurred him to up his jogging routine.

They planned to jog each week together for fun, but he hadn’t mentioned it after the break of not speaking to them.

There was a buzzing noise by his Grama Elloise and then a ringing telephone noise. His grandmother seemed oblivious at first, and then she looked surprised and looked in her pocket to pull out a ringing cell phone and looked at the number calling.

“Moshi moshi…ha! Did you like that Sumire!?” she asked. Since when did his grandmother have a cell phone? He didn’t even have one. He couldn’t afford one, but also he didn’t much like them. Sure they were convenient, but he saw people so addicted that it was unsafe. Plus he and Star had talked about all the damage they do to your body, like decreased bone mass from constant exposure, not to mention the cancer risks. No, David wanted to live a long time.

Eloise talked on the phone for a few minutes about nothing really, and hung up. He was going to lightly tease her about the cell phone, which she had somehow figured out how to use, (maybe from practice?), but was interrupted.

“That was Sumire, she wanted to know if you wanted to go on a road trip with them!” she said excited.
“No way, are they idiots?” he yelled uncontrollably.
“We were just in a car accident and they want to go not just for a ride, but on a road trip, a long car ride? Are they out of their minds?” He asked with no intentions of listening to an answer even if there was one.

David went back inside, screen door slamming behind him. Did they just not get it? How fragile life was, and how dangerous cars were? David had never thought them stupid before, especially Sumire, but if they expected him to go on a road trip, they were stupid and crazy.

Besides every movie he had seen so far always showed two things associated with road trips, crazy stories where people are often drunk or on drugs and in dangerous situations, and or family and friends at each other’s throats with anger and frustration. He wanted neither of these.
He placed his head on the cool wall, tacky from his sweat. He had started sweating just thinking about getting in a car, and an accident.

It wasn’t that the accident was horribly brutal and severe, but it had traumatized him, because next time, he thought, he might not be so lucky.

He felt bad for possibly hurting her feelings, she looked so proud of herself to be using a cell phone, and he didn’t give her a chance to explain, it wasn’t her fault they were crazy. He felt petty and childish. He wanted her to be able to see him as an adult, but he really felt scared at the prospect of going in a car, much less increasing the odds of an accident by doing a road trip.

Perhaps they wanted him to get over his fear. Maybe this was their way of throwing him in the water, and showing him he could handle it, since they might think it not as big a deal as David did. He really didn’t know what they were thinking, he could only guess. Or ask them.

He walked back out onto the porch. His grandmother was still sitting there as he had left her, cell phone in hand, except her excitement and giddy behavior had faded and she looked lost in thought again. Lips pursed, eyes intensely focused on nothing in front of her.

Immediately he felt responsible, she looked up at him like why?
Like a shocked child who has just had their dreams ripped from them, and told it can never come true.

She hmm’ed and then said nothing. Not being able to stand it he apologized.
“Im sorry grama, I don’t know how much they told you, but we were in a serious car accident. Jack was hurt with a concussion or more. I saw him. His head bleeding it was terrible. Star was hurt too. The whole thing is just burned in my brain, I can still hear it, and feel it-the impact. Why would they want to relive that?” he explained.

She looked pensively at the tree in his yard for what seemed to him to be five minutes.

Finally she turned hugged him and said
“This is something you must do. They want you to, though it might be harsh. I want you to too. You must do this. Do you want me to be un happy?” she said, reminding David of a gypsy Itallian grandmother. Maybe a gypsy-Italian-ex-Mafia-grandmother, frail on the outside, tough as rocks on the inside.

Why did everyone insist on pushing him way passed his comfort zone, sometimes that was ok, but others like now it was horribly stressful. He felt like he was having a panic attack. He wanted to be able to do it, but this was too much and too soon.

Her phone buzzed, and then rang again. This time it was less of a surprise.
This time she answered “hello?” instead, no playfulness. He had sucked away her joyful playfulness. That was not in the job description, as Jack would say, for a grandson.

“mmm. OK, Really?,” she said with intrigue, “Alright. I will. Goodbye. OK. No you hang up first! OK I will hang up now. Now.”.

“Interesting…” was all she said after she had hung up the phone.

“What do you mean ‘interesting’?” he asked.

He wondered what they had said, especially about what was so interesting. It probably involved him, he thought.

Eloise got up and started inside. David jumped up, realized his leg had fallen asleep without his notice and limped after her.

“Grama! Hey wait! Grama! What’s interesting? What did they say? Was it about me?” David questioned.

“You will see. Star has seen. She told me not to worry about you, as if that were possible. Me not worry about my grandson. But she told me you would go on this road trip and you would grow. She saw you as a tree, growing healthy because of this trip. So I stand by what I said. You must go.” She said as she turned and walked to the refrigerator.

She pulled out a glass pitcher that had some sort of tea he got from Sumire. No doubt some Japanese tea, she would ask him later if he had tried it yet. He was still dangerously low on foods and wanted to go shopping with her. Maybe then she could explain what Star had ‘seen’ in plain English, instead of Grama’s mysterious talk.

“Oh and today is sex orgy.” She added, this time for sure sounding like an Italian grandmother.

“What!?”
“You know, Farrah’s sex thing today, it sounds weird, but fun. You should go and bring me back something.:”
David thought it was all just too weird, her living with him, having a cell phone, talking about orgies…He had had a hard enough time adjusting to this culture, and now he was dragging another generation along for the ride. And weirder yet she wasn’t a prude who skirted from subjects like sex, or orgies.

“Hurry up, get dressed. Go visit your orgy friends”. He never thought he would hear those words come from his grandmother’s mouth. Ever.

“They aren’t orgy friends, no orgies Grama,” he said, “not today” he added under his breath as he walked toward his room to get dressed.

“No orgies!” he yelled once he had shut the door. Perhaps Sumire had taught her that word, or said it was an orgy, he could see her doing that.

He could hear her banging around getting ready to cook something, muttering to herself in a sing-song voice “Orgy! Ora-jii! Orgy! David is going to an orgy!”.
He couldn’t believe it. He burst out chuckling, the sound of her was just too funny, he couldn’t imagine how ridiculous it would look if he peeked out his door to watch her. He could bet she was doing some silly little dance to go along with it. That was his grandmother, always unpredictable.

David got dressed in jeans and a black t-shirt, and left his room, gave his grandmother a hug and kiss, said he would be back later that evening, and went out the door.

He hopped on his bike and pedaled easily, loving the flow of the pedals on the smooth concrete below him. He love to bike, the best form or transportation he thought. Walking was great, but it didn’t hold the speed, power, or finesse that a bike had. It had the power to make you seem like a blur to passers by, and to you the world could be absorbed faster, but still at a somewhat manageable speed. Plus the travel time was faster than by foot, safer and better suited for humans and the environment that automobiles. It was a double win scenario David thought.


He passed the riverwalk, one of his favorite spots to bike through. He went by dozens of little shops in the older downtown district, saw people walking and driving in a hurry, somewhat oblivious, or uncaring.

His intentions when he walked into Farrah's door was to just say no, and tell umire or whoever's idea it was, why they were crazy. To ever think of trying to get him to go on a roadtrip was ridiculous and rude to insinuate that he was a pushover.

He finally got to Farrah's house, left his bike on their still unfrozen yard. He walked up to the porch and saw they had a giant plastic vagina on the porch, maybe 5 feet tall, next to it was a basket with a ribbon, and to the other side of the door he saw a large rubber penis. He poked it and it wobbled. What the heck?

David knocked distractedly and noticed Sumire and Star crouched by the window a few feet away, hands over their mouths giggling.

Farrah opened the door. He thanked her and walked in looking for Sumire. He didn't have to go far since she found hoim, coming out of the living room where she was presumably spying his reaction to the private parts turned into rubber on the porch, like some museum collection.

“Is't it awesome!?” asked Sumire excitedly waving him to look at all the decorations that he was just now noticing.

He saw streamers with breasts, a cake with plastic penises of all colors, and many little confetti in the shape of body parts male and female. In the living room he heard bumping music and wondered what the event was going to be like.

“Not everyone who hosts one of these does it quite like we do, nor is it as cutely tacky as this! Looks like a bachelor-bachelorette party don't it? Normally we do all girl parties, but Jack attends too. So unless you are gay too you will be the only hetero guy we've ever had at our pleasure parties.” she explained.

Now he felt shy, and embarrassed, what happened at these sort of parties anyhow? He had read the catalog and such, but it didn't give him much of an idea about how it went down.

Sumire led him to the living room, anger temporarily forgotten in place of his new emotion: fear. Farrah and Star were sitting on the black couch talking about food of all things. Then he heard what they were talking about. Sumire headed back into the kitchen and David realized he was mentally alone in the room. Star and Jack seemed so excited, as did Sumire and Farrah

He felt his face getting hot and he turned his attention toward a sort of booth they had set up in the corner of the room, almost like a stage.

Sumire came back from the kitchen and David got up to talk to her away from the others.

“I really don't think I should be hear. I don't think Im your guy for these sort of things.” he whispered in her ear catching Star and Jack's attention by doing so.

“Nope, uh-uh, I saw this coming,” said Star, then she looked at Jack, “You know what to do.”

Jack got up from the couch and walked towards David as if he were a feral animal who could either lunge or run at a moments notice. Then Jack clobbered him with his large arms and bear hug tackled him til Star and Sumire dog piled on top of him. Jack left the mess and looked down on David laughing.

“You ain't getting outta it that easy partner.” said Sumire and tipped her pretend cowboy hat with her hand while the other held him down.

After a few minutes of not being able to breath David finally yelled “OK! Fine, I will stay, just get OFF me!”

Star looked as if she thought it might be a trick, but Sumire got off and nodded to Star to move. He sat up and rubbed his neck which was feeling crinked from the dog pile, or Jacks bear hug.


David heard a knock at the door, and then a bunch of high pitched voices saying “Hi, it's great to see you! It's been too long!”

The group of women came in and David thought how odd it was that women often talked to each other like that when they saw each other for the first time in a long time, a sort of surprised, high piched with a rising tone on the end.

Farrah came in after them and introduced them to David. Sylvia was the one in the brightest pink shirt he had ever seen. She was shorter than Farrah with dark brown hair. She had an athletic slightly muscular build, and her shirt read “I am going to have sex” in big letters but when he read it properly with the tiny letters it read “I am going to have a sex party”. She shook his hand awkwardly and then he met Rita who was taller than Farrah. She was actually the tallest person in the room save maybe Jack. She had broad shoulders and had a thick waist. She was wearing a simple pantsuit and looked like she had just come from work. Rita smiled at him and shook his hand less awkwardly than Sylvia.

Henna looked like she might be best friends with Star. She was much bigger, and slightly taller than Star. Her curly reddish brown hair reacher the middle of her back and she wore what seemed to be completely wooden earings. She had a black shirt that said “Skeletor”, and a bohemian styled patchwork skirt that mostly hid her feet. Instead of shaking his hand she curtsied, leaving David absolutely speechless and clueless as to how to respond.

Thankfully the next girl introduced herself abruptly as Gianna. She was easily the shortest in the room with a pixie haircut and lightly blonde hair which had black streaks running through it. He noticed that she was wearing platform-esque shoes even so she had to have been at least an inch shorter out of them. She shook his hand firmly with no hesitation and he noticed her hand was really soft, not at all what he had expected.

Farrah explained that he had just recently joined the American culture and asked them to guess which culture he originated from.

Henna asked if he was from Europe and then unexpectedly broke into a fit of giggles. Gianna looked at her with disgust etched on her face.

“Um, well my ancestors did a long time ago, but I am technically from America, as in I live here and so has my family for generations.”

Rita looked like she knew the answer, but Star came over and shouted “Amish! He's an Amish!”. Judging by Rita's face, she wasn't going to guess Amish.

“Ok, let's get this going. We've got some icebreaker games first so everybody stick your hand in this bag, and pull out a condom and wait to get started” said Farrah.

David reached in and pulled out a blue square. It read “Condom” in bold print, and studded in small letters. He turned it over and it had a bunch of small print.

“Now we each have to partner up and we have an even number-perfect. David you will be with Henna,” Farrah explained, “The goal is to blow up the condom, and then tie it with your string around you like a tail. The condom will be like your tail. Now your partner has to try to pop the condom in a few ways. One, no hands allowed. Two no teeth. And three no foreign non body parts like pens, needles whatever”.

David was excited to start it sounded fun. He tried to think of all the ways he could pop it. But since it would be near someone's butt it made him second guess the whole process. Looking over at Star and Rita he saw them trying to squish it between them, while Jack and Sumire were trying between Jack's elbows.

Henna helped him tie his tail on and asked how if he wanted to try and pop it first. He decided to let her go ahead of him. At first she told him to bend over, but that was too extreme of an angle and the condom balloon just pointed to the ceiling in an unreachable way. So she told him to sort of squat with his legs together so she could reach it and tried to pop it between her knees.

She asked Farrah if they were allowed to use their hands indirectly, so she could put more force on her knees, but Farrah said no. Since that wasn't working they looked around at the others and saw Jack and Sumire had switched places and their balloon popped as a result of Jack smushing it between her and his chest.

After that they all did different variations of the same thing, some popping theirs and others not. Henna managed to pop theirs, but David could have swore it was from her zipper clad Skeletor shirt. He thought it caught in the zipper and quickly tore rather than actually popping, but didn't say anything since they were the last two standing anyhow. Jack and Star started clapping, triggering a room full of people clapping to congratulate each other on a job well done.

“Whether you are religious, or not, straight, trans-gendered, bi, or gay,” she said as she looked meaningfully at Jack who rolled his eyes at the attempt at humor to lighten the mood further, “Whatever race, whatever your walk of life, as long as you are of age, we don't judge. This party today is meant to educate, titillate the senses, and just have fun. Oh and sell the products with the proceeds going to our favorite charity! So whether you are a veteran or a newcomer-no pun intended, we want you to open up your horizons and mind. Don't be afraid to ask questions, any questions, there is literally no stupid question here. OK, Lets get started shall we?!”



Everyone either clapped whistled, or hooted in support to her introduction. Next up Farrah handed out the catalogs and grabbed a wicker basket lined with tan cloth, and showed one by one the toys, lingerie, and any other items one could possible want for their bedroom lives.

Some were crazy shaped, others plain. Jack started waving one around and it jiggled like jello, while Farrah explained explicitly how to use the product.

David was learning a lot. You could only learn so much from books and research, but to have things drawn out made it much easier to comprehend. Farrah also talked about sexual health being very important, and she related it to all health. Sexual health, she said, was nearly as important as nutrition, and exercise, it helps the mind and body and helps to balance everything. She also showed them some charts and graphs that showed the increased life expectancy and lower depression rates among those who had what they deemed to be healthy sex lives.

One graph complete with a collage of pictures showed people young, old, middle aged, various races, genders, sexual preferences, and ranging income levels. She concluded that you could buy the products she was offering at a greatly reduced cost, or you could just keep in mind the benefits, even if you were solo, she said, you could still have fun.

David and the others clapped for the final time, and Farrah took an overly dramatic bow to show her thanks.

“We've got all sorts of foods and such thanks to Sumire and Gianna for making it all!” said Jack.

“Oh it's nothing, some of it I bought at the store, I didn't make it all.” Gianna replied.

“Either way I am starved! No one feeds me at home and I'm too lazy to do it myself, I think that's why I eat out all the time.” said Rita as she rubbed her stomach.

There was so much food David didn't know where to start. He followed Henna's lead and grabbed a plate and went along the long table laden with foods like bratwursts, hotdogs, shrimp, clam, chicken, simmered kale, homemade banana pudding made with real banana chunks, lentil chips, soba noodles, and miso soup.

  He sat at the blue couch next to Farrah who sat eating her myriad of food on her plate. Now completely at ease, he thought these 'pleasure parties' weren't so bad after all, he had actually had a lot of fun and learned quite a bit.

Farrah looked at him knowingly. “You had fun didn't you!” she said as she poked him lightly in the chest.

It wasn't fair that she could read him so easily while others usually seemed to have a hard time doing so. He was still mad about the road trip suggestion, but he was too content to ruin his mood. He wasn't as mad as he had been earlier, it wasn't a simmering feeling but more dormant now.

“So are you spending the night because you Grama said you were, she brought your bag of clothes and toiletries ahead of time, and said she was locking you out-so she said not to come home. I wasn't sure if she was joking or not.” said Farrah quizzically.

His grama, she would do that wouldn't she, he thought. He could try to break in the back door with a card, like he had to do before, but she would probably hear him, and stand there by the door keeping it locked. Sometimes it was no use fighting her. She was nearly as stubborn as they come.

“Oh and she said she wanted you to buy her something from the catalog.” Farrah laughed at the awkward request.

“What! No, that's not...what!?” asked David.
She laughed, and then choked on her food. After she had quit coughing, she said “It's ok, I think she just wants you to get out of your comfort zone. But relax I have a gift bag, and you can give her something like pheromone spray. It is something relatively normal, it contains pheromones that make other people more pleasant around you. Some waitresses use it so people are more pleasant, relaxed and tip better. It doesn't do anything weird but calm people around you mostly. Some people use it for other things but I think that and the little gift bag could be harmless enough, and not creep you out.”

David still wasn't sure about the whole thing, it weirded him out. But maybe this way she would let him back in the house if he bribed her.

Every one started to either leave or put food away since it was pretty late. Rita, Henna, and Gianna all had left and Star and Jack were helping put the food away and clean up. Farrah was loading the dishwasher a,d David started to watch. He had never seen a dishwasher except in the movies he had watched, and he didn't watch TV. His apartment didn't have one and of course he didn't have one when he was Amish.

It was a weird design, basically a box with two racks where the dirty dishes went. He thought he could build one that was more efficient, but realized he knew nothing about electronics. None the less he thought the usage of space wasn't very good, and he remembered Sumire complaining about the cost of it, since they had just had this one replaced.

What sort of people would spend more money so they could buy the product, then on the electric bill it costs, just so they can have to rinse most of the items and sort it all anyway? It seemed pretty illogical. They said it was because it was easier. David thought it was easier to just wash them by hand, or wash them when you were done using them. He had been finding many of these so called conveniences that people modernly used, that they thought they couldn't live without. So many of these items were more work than just doing the stuff in the first place and the old fashioned way. The only real benefit he saw to the dishwasher was its ability to store the dirty dishes until you washed them, making it look like the room was clean, but not having to wash them right away till it filled up.

He didn't feel like arguing the loony factor of it all and asked Farrah where he would be sleeping. He had the Blue couch, because Jack often came out and slept on the black couch in the middle of the night. No one really knew why, but that's just what it was.

David got ready for bed, brushing his teeth since his grandmother packed his toothbrush with a note that said “Brush your teeth, and wash your balls, and don't come back until you go on the road trip!”.



David slept harder than he had in months, but woke when he heard Jack coming down stairs to settle on the couch. He took a while to settle down, but when he did David asked him “How come you sleep on the couch. Is your bed uncomfortable?”.

Jack took so long to answer he thought he had either sleep walked downstairs, or had fallen asleep really fast.

“There are a few reasons,” Jack said, “It holds my back in a better position so I don't snore. And I have a fear of people coming to get me in my bed, which weirdly enough doesn't apply to the couch. I love my bed, but I can only sleep for a few hours at night in it.”

The silence in the room after he explained seemed too quiet, and awkward. Why didn't he just sleep on the couch permanently then instead of going up to bed and then waking up, only to come back down here and sleep?

“One year I was at camp. I was still trying to figure out how I felt about guys, well boys I guess. I hadn't figured myself out yet, why I felt so different from the other boys my age. I thought I had something wrong with me, or... I don't know...Anyway a couple of the other boys in my cabin came in and apparently they knew I was different, or maybe they were just like that in general. They poured a bucketful of crayfish on me when I was sleeping. I can't stand those things now. I have friends who go fishing and will pick them up and...” he shivered though the room was about 70 degrees.

“I don't know if they meant it to be the big deal that it was, they all picked at each other, I dunno if it's the same for Amish, but boys here often try to one up each other and just pick and pick at each other trying to show they are the best at whatever. I loved to play sports and stuff but the mentality of many guys is just...It makes it really stressful to do anything. That's why I love rowing. Everyone has to work together as one, not try to out do the others of their team, because it won't get you anywhere you see?”

David was only vaguely aware of what rowing was. He knew it was a sport with little boats and a few people all rowing paddles into the water to go faster than the other boats with peopla, but that was all he knew.

“That sounds fun. With Amish it is sometimes like that, but not so much. We have to work together to get stuff done, just like rowing. I mean there are those guys, and even girls that act like they are better than everyone, but it's really against how the community is run. You don't want to be the one sticking out though, so if others are doing something and you don't join in you could be in trouble, they might just try to come after you somehow, like those boys did with the crayfish. I was talking to Sumire about this same issue. She said it is often a similar situation in Japan, where it's good because so many people can work together for the good of everyone, but if you stand out somehow it might be a problem. It's very similar, but a little different with the Amish. It sucks when you are the one who sticks out, in one culture, but I am also happy because I left them because of it. Some want to leave and never do, because they fit in alright within the Amish. I wanted something different. So different from what they could comprehend. My Grama too.” said David.

He felt lighter, somehow, having someone to talk to. He never knew that other people could be feeling almost the same as he, especially from such different cultures as they came from.

“I'm glad to have met you David, and I'm glad to have someone to talk to about it. Even in the gay community it is sometimes hard to find support, sometimes I don't feel at ease because I'm not what some people expect when they picture a gay man. There are tons of double standards everywhere, it's nice to have someone who understands.”said an honest Jack, his sincere face partially lit by the dim kitchen night light.

“And I sure am glad you are ok, I know I didn't talk to you much at the playground, but....I would have missed you a lot had you died. I want you to know that, ok? I wasn't so much mad at you, but the situation. And Sumire trying to get me to go on some stupid road trip!” said David.

Jack was silent. Maybe he was tired, or had he said something to offend him? He didn't know.

“Ok, let's try to get some sleep, Ive got a long day tomorrow, and you probably do too...Goodnight, and thanks again David” said Jack as he yawned.

“OK. Goodnight”

David sat thinking about how frustrated Jack must have been, dealing with everything, especially as a young boy. It must have been rough. But then again he had had his share of childhood frustrations too, having deep desires to take his learning to the highest level, not have to be spoon-fed and brainwashed into believing the same way as his community's Christian beliefs. From what he had read the Amish had originally even left their home country to come to America, so they didn't have to have people tell them what to believe, it seemed pretty hypocritical to him that they in turn do the same to everyone else, but the world outside the community was also filled with hypocrisy abound and he was learning that it was basically the same scenario the world over.

David fell back to sleep dreaming about fishing. He was standing in the shallow water, holding his simple wooden fishing pole, the woods to his back, mosquitoes occasionally biting. The sun was shining somewhat blindingly off the water. The small lake was clear with small earthy brown pebbled near his wader boots. He looked to his right and saw Jack fishing too, a small white bucket to his right between him and the shore. Leaning a little he saw it was filled with crayfish.

He looked at David and made a gesture with his hands that looked distinctly French and said “Bon appetit, were eating well tonight!”, then David looked at his pole which had started to tremmor slightly. He reeled in his line and holding his line with no hook was Henna. She had a string of condom ballons that were floating to the sky at least thirty feet up as if they had helium in them. They were all colors and seemed to be a mini vertical rainbow.

He continued to reel in his line and realized Henna had a tail that looked like a fish. She frowned at him and swung her mighty tail knocking him into the water. Sputtering he wiped the water from his face and gave her a look of surprise.

She said “What do you think I am a Mermaid? Someone to be caught? Something to be acquired, a thing or possession?”.

David was thoroughly confused. Wasn't it her who had grabbed his line? He hadn't caught her, and there was no hook.

“If you want to woo me you would have to do it the real way, and treat me like an equal,” she said as she suddenly stood on human legs leaving her fish tail floating in the water, “and not as some catch.”.

“How should I do that then?” he had no clue why he had said that. He didn't like her like that, he didn't want to 'woo' her at all, did he? He was so confused.

“Watch out Dave, you don't want her to pour crayfish on you now do you? If you want to have a proper relationship you have to first show her respect, and you aren't doing a good job of it.” said Farrah who popped her head out from the top of a bush nearby the bank.

She had on a black tophat and white gloves, but the rest of her was dressed for the beach, jean shorts and a tank top.
“Eh eh eh” said Star twitching her finger at him. She walked up to him and placed a wreathe of breasts and penis shaped macaroni around his neck.

Sumire walked over to him, laughed rather girlishly, and shoved him into the water.


CHAPTER 14;
KIDNAPPERY

David awoke choking on his drool. He normally never drooled, but when he was stressed out it sometimes happened. Wiping the drool and sitting up he felt he was moving, he rubbed his eyes looked around, and to his shock he was in a car.

Star was next to him and sleeping, and ahead of him were bars, he felt like he was in the back of a police car. He couldn't think of how had he gotten there.

“Stop the car! Jack!” David screamed yanking on the bars that weren't decoration apparently.

I wondered when this would happen said Star who looked like she had not just been sleeping on Sumire's shoulder.

Star's large eyes peered at him seeming to look deeper than just at him, but through him. She patted his hand softly and told him it was ok, that they all were and that if he wanted to adapt to society he needed to at least try again.

He couldn't believe it. What had they done, carried him when he was sleeping, and put him into the car that they had fitted with police bars?

And Jack, after he had opened up to him, was this the thanks he got? He was done. Done with them trying to tell him what he should and shouldn't do. He thought it was ridiculous, and told them as much.

“You haven't asked where we are. Or where we are going. Don't you want to know? No? Fine then I guess you will have to wait.” said Sumire obviously put out that he wasn't interested in the where.

Star opened her mouth to say something only to have Farrah to her right cut her off. “And don't you go spoiling it for him Star! I mean it. Not everyone has your gifts, but some of us like to be surprised once in a while.” said Farrah rather reproachfully, making Star pout for a minute, until she started twiddling with her bracelet.

Turning to Star he said “How did you guys get me in here anyway, What did you have Jack throw me over his shoulder and then Star pinched my nose and pulled my hair for fun?”

“Of course not, if I had pinched your nose you would have woken up and then we never would have gotten you in here silly!” remarked Star.

Jack laughed and then looked at him in the rear-view mirror. “Actually you walked. No one really made you, more like guided you.”

Farrah turned her gaze from the fields with cows in the early morning light and sipped on her straw while looking at him. Her large cup say Quique stop and he assumed it was a slushy, or coffee or something. He thought if they had stopped once they would stop again, and then he would refuse to get in the car, he wouldn't be unconscious then.

“My mom used to whisper in my ear on weekends 'You're going to miss the bus, you'd better get up!', so I did something similar. I told you if you didn't get up you couldn't go to school. It took a few tries, but it worked. You just sleep stumbled with our help. We just guided you to the car.” Farrah said as she dug out a few ice cubes and handed the to him.

“Here you might want to put these on your head, you bumped your head when you got in here.” she said as she reached through the bars from the front passenger seat.

He shoved away her ice cubes and felt his head, where sure enough there was a bump, nothing big, but definitely sore. “ I don't believe it, Im being held hostage! AND I just woke up, so I have to go to the bathroom. Farrah's slushee drinking or whatever isn't making it better.” David said as he looked at Jack.

“Nope. Don't think it Jack. He will just refuse to get back in the car.” said Star in warning.

“What are you a mind reader now,” asked Jack snippily looking at her in the rear-view mirror, “I have a better idea.... Almost there, you can pee in a minute buddy.”


Jack pulled off at the next rest area, which to David’s dismay was empty. No one around meant they may use force to get him back in the car if need be, whereas if there were rest area visitors, he would have a better chance they wouldn't. Hen again knowing them it might not make an ounce of difference he thought.

“Hold on you two,” Jack said to Sumire and Star, “Sumire go ahead and get out I have to ask you something really quick before Star gets out.”

“Oh goodie, I wonder what it is!” said an excited Star.

Sumire got out shut the door behind her and left Farrah in the Front, as Jack exited as well, and Star next to David on his right. At that moment David contemplated writing the makers, producers and users of child safety locks on car doors to tell them about such things as kidnap.

Sumire opened her door and let Star out. As soon as David scooted over to get out on their side Sumire shut the door hard and fast, and Jack quickly locked it.

Farrah looked amused, but curious as to what was going on.
“If it makes you feel better, I have to pee too.” she said.

“Of course you do, you've had that whole slurpee thing, but at least you can actually get out, UNLIKE ME! He yelled and beat the inside roof of the car to get Jack's attention. Jack popped his head in.

“Ok here's the deal. Farrah, Sumire and Star are going to go in and raid the vending machines, and use the restrooms. You are going to have ten whole minutes by yourself, where you can pee in either Star's bug cup, or you can go in the pop bottle back there. Either way I'm sorry, but you aren't getting out. OK see you in ten!” said Jack rather fast and he shut the door.

David banged on his window and door, though he knew that it was futile. He couldn't believe it today had just been random weirdness. He looked at the cars digital clock that shone a light blue-green color and read 8:30. It was only 8:30 and he felt as if he had been held hostage for forever.

He really did have to urinate though and knew they were serious. He waited for them to leave watching them go into the small gray concrete building. Star playing with her wooden bracelets as she skipped next to Farrah. Jack looked back at him and shrugged, perhaps as if to say 'Sorry', though David wasn't sure.

He decided to go with Star's big plastic fast food cup, though he hoped they wouldn't leave it in the car, if they did he would rather use the pop bottle as that had a real lid, instead of a staw. Well if they did it was their own fault so he used Star's anyway, hoping they would leave it in the car and suffer as he had. He thought they would deserve it for kidnapping him.

He felt better, and put the over sized cup on Sumire's seat, he had a sudden image in his mind of her or Star sitting on it and getting it everywhere. While gross he still thought it was a little funny, given the situation he had to take what humor he could. He knew it was childish, but then again so was kidnapping.

Sitting in the quiet car it felt like what he imagined a tomb would feel like, quiet and suffocating, but oddly smelling like popcorn.

Jack remembered reading about safety levers in car trunks that would let people out. He thought maybe he could get the seat forward, get into the trunk and get out. He wasn't fearing for his life or anything, but it was the principal of it all, you kidnap people and make them pee in pop bottles, it was just wrong, and weird.

He fumbled around the edges of his seat looking for a lever to gain access to the trunk, and finally realized this probably one of those cars where it was on the side closest to the door, and that it was best to have the door open to reach it. He heard voices outside and gave up since it was Star, and Sumire, followed by Jack and Farrah, chatting away.

He scooted in the middle and held the locks down on both doors. Star struggled with the door handle while Sumire sneaked around to his side. He laughed at their feeble attempts to open the doors knowing he had them. Sumire sounded like she was trying the key on his door, but he thought it couldn't do her any good, he had them.

Star rapped on the window with her knuckles and pressed her smiling face against the dirty window.

“Pretty please David! C'mon! Please!”
Just as he was getting ready to blow her a raspberry, the door on his left opened and Sumire jammed herself in. She shut her door and reached in over him to unlock Star's door.

Star nearly sat on the urine container and David waited to see if she would, out of spite. She saw it and set it on the floor nearest him.

“Thank you Sumire. Hey where'd you get that screwdriver?” she asked.

David looked and saw Sumire had a long flat head screwdriver in her hand and was putting it into her bag.

“I always keep it on hand, this door never works and Farrah refuses to get it fixed. Handy little bugger isn't it?”

“What did we miss?” asked Jack as he and Farrah caught up and got in the car.

“Oh nothing, but it smells like pee in here.” said Sumire

“It does, doesn't it, here Star hand me the urine cup and I will throw it away, just roll down your window and hand it to me” said Farrah as she stood at Star's window.

David realized he could have just rolled the windows down to escape and he had to laugh out loud about the whole situation. He had a hard time stopping, and knew he was scaring them a little. Good they needed it, he thought.

After Farrah had thrown his urine container in the trash nearby she came back and was the last to get in the car after Jack.

Jack started the car and they were off again, back on the freeway seeing roadkill deer, opossum, raccoon, skunk, porcupine, and the occasional rabbit. David remembered seeing them from the perspective of an Amish.

First, if it was summer they would catch little whiffs of it if it was large enough, or decayed enough. Then they would see it coming for a long ways, and could see it personally. They would see that it was not just a raccoon, but a young or old one, or that it had a unique fur pattern. These were things you couldn't really make out if you were in a car travelling the speed limit on a free-way, and because of that, David thought many people that lived in this way were even more disconnected from nature and their surroundings than if they were to slow down. Even riding his bike he is able to see these things.

His bike now was different than the one he had when he was Amish, if he could really call it his, because it wasn't. It was a family bike he shared with his brothers, and father, though his sisters wanted to ride it his mother wouldn't let them.

Trees, and farmland whooshed past in a vague blur in the car. Soon they reached what the green sign said to be Bloomington.

The town seemed to be bigger, and busier than Elkhart. David had no clue what they would be doing here, and asked Jack where they were and why they were here.

“You'll see. Were in Bloomington. Southern part of Indiana. Much warmer than our Northernly Elkhart.” he said.

They could see a huge golf course, and a baseball field. David had always liked the idea of baseball, but he hadn't played it. He could have, his brothers often played their own version of it after they had finished their work.

He started to see brilliant architecture, richly made buildings, and he absolutely loved it. Farrah and Jack were discussing something quietly about where to park, but David was too enthralled to properly eavesdrop.

David saw white arching entrance gates, a large clock tower in the distance, white, and pointed and regal. Huge older buildings made of brick and stone looming high above others that were still large in their own respect.

He still didn't know where they were going. He wondered if it was some cathedral judging by the buildings. Then he saw the sign that read 'Indiana University', and he knew what they were up to, well sort of.

“What do you think man? This place is crazy isn't it?” said Farrah.

David thought it was, but kept silent. His anger slowly abating in place of his enthusiasm. He just wanted to get out and go everywhere, explore the whole campus. Then the campus just kept coming and coming. As they drove around seeking a suitable parking spot where they wouldn't get a ticket, David kept seeing more and more ancient buildings.

Perhaps they weren't ancient to most people, but to him they were the oldest buildings he had ever seen outside of a book.

The wonder he felt was like a culmination of all the years of hoping. These buildings, where students had studied for years, gave David the feeling that he would undoubtedly be here some day. He felt like anything was possible. He just wanted out of the car.

Finally finding a parking space, David tried to hide his excitement, but when Sumire held the car door open for him he didn't care. They each were looking at him, as were some passing students. That would be him, he thought.

He knew he was where he belonged. Sumire and Jack smiled openly, obviously happy their surprise was worth it.

“We don't have a scheduled tour, but we thought we could take you here and show you around. This is my schools main branch. It's huge isn't it? Ive only been here once for paperwork, but, I loved it. Jack printed off a map of campus and we are going to go exploring the campus. Maybe one day you will go to this campus, who know's where you'll be. We just want you to know we care about you and we wanted to cheer you up. Sorry we kidnapped you. It was partially Eloiese's doing, but partly our idea too.” said Farrah rather fast, like she was afraid he might yell at her.

“I might forgive you guys. I dunno. It may depend on how much cool stuff I see and you have to feed me too, cars stress me out which makes me hungry. So basically spoil me today and I'll see what I can do.” said David rather smugly.

He had heard Sumire say a variation of this when Farrah or Jack wanted her to do something she didn't want to do. It seemed to work.

“Yay!” Star squealed as she launched herself at him and gave him a big hug. Meanwhile Jack messed up his hair and said “And maybe we can get you a haircut while were here. It's getting kind of Bieber-esque lately.”

Jack got out the map and Farrah opened the trunk. David would have had a hard time escaping through the trunk. It seemed like they had packed for the end of the world. Food, reusable water bottles a large jug of water, blankets, random books and magazines, were crammed into the trunk.

“Were you expecting Armageddon?” David asked.

“I.U., Indiana University. Hey, I guess you could say IoU to us David for bringing you here! HA! I crack myself up!” said Star laughing hysterically.

David looked at her quizzically having no clue what she meant. She took no notice, but Farrah did. “An I O U is when you say that you owe someone. So like, if I borrowed five bucks from you, I could say I owe you which is shortened to the letters I, O, and U. In this case Indiana University's commonly known as I.U. So Star being the silly head that she is, tried to make a word pun out of IOU and Indiana University, leading me to have to explain the entire thing because not everyone can follow her odd logic.”

“Ohhh, I see. Hmm, we'll see about that Star, I still haven't been spoiled with a nice lunch or dinner yet, so you're not off the hook yet.” he said as he tried his best to glare at her, leading her to laugh and tell him that he made the funniest faces.

They each took a little messenger bag with sandwiches, fruit and a water bottle. Sumire had packed everyone a lunch so they didn't have to spend money at the overpriced dining halls, or vending machines, plus she added, that they were tasty and healthier.

They came in the west sample gates which they had seen on their way to a visitor parking space. The arching gates were even larger in person, and more elegant, but in person David could see where the college had tried to cover up the years that were shown underneath the paint. He thought the years added character and that perhaps the paint was just unnecessary, and too showy or flashy.

They walked along the sidewalks, and the well manicured lawns, even in winter David could tell they kept it all just so. They saw the Law building, and other buildings, then Dunn's Woods in the middle of the quad area. They saw Simon Hall, Ballantine Hall and Indiana Memorial Union building. Jack pointed out that they could have parked behind Ballantine hall, but also said it wouldn't have made much of a difference in the amount of walking they had to do.

Farrah talked about the reason behind their tuition prices and said a lot of it had to do with the beauty, and upkeep of the buildings, lawns and such.

Then they moved over to the next quad area with large area in the center around which all the buildings seemed to gravitate around, like little universes. He saw the Musical arts building and the Wright Education building. Nearby they saw what was called the McKinney Fountain, a beautifully made fountain that would have looked even better in the summer. As it were it wasn't running due to it being winter, though with the recent weather they may have been able to.

Jack showed them a grainy set of photos of the fountain, some where it had fish in it. David thought about sitting around the fountain on a hot summer day, reading his textbook readings, dipping his hand in the cool water, the hungry fish would come up and nibble on his salty fingers. He wanted to be here, not just presently, but for a long time, he wanted to complete his studies here, and feel at home.

They also saw a large orange metal sculpture near the Musical Arts Center, it was as if a crescent moon were leaning against two pointy and triangular foxes who had paws joined in celebration. Perhaps they passed their Music exam and were dancing, David though, and laughed quietly.

By Morrison Hall Sumire started talking about Jim Morrison, asking if the hall was named after him in honour of his hotness and musical talents. The side walks changed from the gray concrete to a red brick. Jack informed her that he didn't know.

“But it says here that 'Morrison Hall is the home of The Kinsey Institute; founded in 1938, named after Alfred Kinsey, pioneer of human sexuality research.' So perhaps they were inspired by Jim Morrison's sex appeal?” offered Jack. This made Sumire laugh, and she said it would make sense if that were the case.

They would walk through the wooded land, through paths strewn with leaves. He could see how students from the city would be especially fond of the nature scene at Indiana University. He, who was from the rural Middleton, even missed his woods, and trails. The birds that call and the scurry of an unknown animal small or large.

The call of a frighted pheasant, the chatter of an upset squirrel, the call of a mourning dove going hoo, hoo...hoohoo-hoooo and truly sounding mournful. The damp leaves clung to his feet until other damp leaves clung to and replaced them with new leaves. He saw small deer prints along the path, and Star pointed out a rabbit that noticed them and lazily hopped along, obviously used to college students pointing and talking about it. They saw fat squirrels who on a normal winter day would be cuddled up warm in their tree hollow, but today they were fat, and obstinate, refusing to move from the path and eying David like he either had food, or that he might be food.

They even went on wooded bridges and looked at the forest and it's well worn paths, with ridges on either side. The stopped and quietly breathed in the sweet natural air, seemingly untouched by pollution, cars, and noise of the city. Though Elkhart wasn't as big as Detroit, or Nashville, it was larger and more city-ish than Middleton, or these woods in Bloomington, and these sights and smells brought a longing for home. Not the Amish who lived there, but the feel of home, and a sense of security he felt in the woods.

Any problems he had he could usually go into the woods and emerge from them having solved his dilema. Another dilemma though was that he often forgot the clarity and peacefulness they brought to his life. He often forgot that if he just went for a walk, or jog, or sat under a tree, in the woods, that he felt calmer, and more cleared. It reminded him of a recent article he read online when he borrowed Jack's laptop. The article said the research was shown that the oils in trees, whether it was derived from their trunks or the leaves it didn't say, calm the human brain, ease stress, and provide clearer thinking. It was also related to smaller rates of depression among those who lived by the woods.

Another one he read talked about healthy bacteria in the soil, which many in the concrete jungle were not exposed to in amounts as high as those in the country. These healthy bacteria were shown to increase immune system functioning among other benefits. This all made him wonder why for so long humans have been trying to do things like making more cement, asphalt, and other ways that lead them away from nature and its benefits. Even from a purely opportunistic standpoint, David felt humans had been doing things the wrong way. While he disagreed with the Amish, he did appreciate the way they lived in accordance with the natural world. He did appreciate how they had a more or less mutual relationship.

This college, he thought, was borderline mutual. It seemed to at least make somewhat of an effort to at least include the natural world on their campus. Perhaps it was done to increase productivity, health and happiness of it's students. David doubted many colleges had a forest in it's middle, where students travelled through woodland paths to get to class, and little wooden bridges.

He had even seen a large stone gazebo with stained glass in the ceiling that he thought he could live in. It reminded him of Hagrid's hut from the Harry Potter films and books. Though the gazebo was no hut, nor was it shabby or wooden, it was round and all it's windows showed some deep forest making it seem to have a similar deep woodsy feeling like Hagrid's hut had. They found that it was called Rose Well House.

The whole of campus had little things that seemed so magical they reminded him of Harry Potter's world, the feel of it. Perhaps it was the same for other students that lived, and studied in this seemingly magical place.

“Apparently it was made 'After a devastating fire, the two surviving portals from the old College Building from the Indiana Seminary campus were used to design this pavilion housing the only water cistern at the new Dunn’s Woods campus. The open-air structure is named for its benefactor Theodore F. Rose'. Or so says this printout on the thing.” said Jack reading from his home printouts, that seemed as if his printer ink had nearly run dry.

They rested here and ate lunch. David pulled out a rice ball, wrapped in seaweed paper. He bit in and on the second bit he tasted his favorite, tuna and mayonnaise. Sumire had introduced him to the rice balls called onigiri and he soon loved them. The crunch of the seaweed paper, the light salty and savory tuna, perfectly complimented by the small amount of mayonnaise mixed with the tune.

He thanked Sumire and noticed that each of their lunches was different, and she had packed everyone's favourites. She packed natto for herself, a Japanese fermented soy-bean dish that was super sticky and was hard for some to like. He hadn't tried it yet but didn't know that he wanted to due to the smell coming from Sumire's.

David had even seen a statue sitting on a park bench of a thick man, pants pulled to his ribs and tie blowing in the wind. It was Herman Wells, who was apparently either the well liked eleventh president of the university, or the narcissistic eleventh president, for David saw a few more things dedicated to the man.

As they each sat there in a calm exhausted, happy silence David thought he could do this. He thought he could definitely do it all, go to college, learn from his experiences as an Amish, be a productive member in modern society, achieve and dream, all of it. It somehow seemed so much closer, much more tangible than it had before.

David was silently grateful to Sumire, Farrah, Jack and Star for bringing him here, they may very well have changed his destiny for the better. Not that he believed in destiny, he felt if you tried, and that was the hard part-the trying, you could reach your ambitions.

After they had eaten what Jack called first lunch, they headed to the Library on campus. David and the others were excited to see it. He had only been to the local public library, but he had seen pictures and read about enormous libraries, with sliding ladders that reach the gargantuan ceilings. He didn't expect to see that here, but it would be nice.

The sun was starting to get lower in the sky, though it wasn't late in the day, the early winter sun had other plans to tend to. Star remarked on this as they walked to the Library.

Some of the buildings they passed were blocky and a sandy color. The whole place was at times a hodge-podge of new, old, and in between buildings. The newer ones had no undoubtedly crept in over time as the college grew bigger, more renowned.

After a large opening, resembling a tidy field of grass and sidewalks they reached what Star said had to be the Wells Library. Another building named after the guy. The building looked newer than some of the old architecture, like a square mushroom with many rectangular windows and several square pillars in front jutting out, like little soldiers guarding the institutions learning retreat.

Inside the library there were halls that reminded him of what he thought the Ministry of Magic from Harry Potter might look like back in the day, with up to date wood paneling in funny spots. It had a long corridor with white floors and off white square pillars. There were lounge chairs for students, though none were present.

They visited the reference room with it's tall wooden bookshelves, and square wooden tables and chairs for studying. It smelled like an older building, though not in an unpleasant way. They also saw the information commons with all its computers for students to use. Sumire was super excited when she saw all the technology. He could almost see her living in there, setting up a cot in the corner and never leaving. She often talked about how much of a tech nerd she was, though David wasn't quite sure what that entailed.

After they left the library Sumire started singing “It's about life! It's about fun, its over before it has begun!” she told them it was a song from Lilix, called It's about life. She told them how she felt it was applicable.

Star pulled out her electronic device and played the song for them. After five times of replay they were almost back to the car. He knew almost all the words. They continued to sing the song together, and Sumire said they were making memories together. He felt the same. He didn't know where he would be in a year, or more, but he knew that right now he was having fun, living his life and making up his mind about what his next steps would be.

The trip that day weighed heavy on his mind, in a pleasant way, during the drive to the restaurant. The stopped at a small and seemingly simple place that read The Sushi Bar in plain red letters. It was bigger and nicer inside than it looked from outside, not opulent but nice. The Japanese and oriental designs caught David's attention and he could see why Sumire was proud of her culture.

They were seated and to their right they could see a bar area where some people sat on bar stools. Sumire ordered a few of the Sushi and Sashimi Combos. David also ordered some sashimi fish, and teryaki. She also asked for tea for everyone and a little sake for David to try. David didn't know what sake was but was willing to try any new foods.

They got miso and a salad with their tea to start them out while the other food was made. David thought the salad was delicious with its citrus flavor and the miso was just as good as Sumire's.

They talked about all they had seen at the campus and their dreams of someday going there. For Farrah, Star, and Sumire it was easier since they already attended Indiana University, just in a different city, and their branch was very small and humble compared to Bloomington.


David told them how he would go to college for the winter semester with Jack at Ivy Tech, and transfer what he could to Bloomington as soon as he could. He told them how he had enough financial aid because of his applying on a whim, which saved his butt.

Star stared at her hands on the dark wooden table like she was trying to read something, but couldn't make it out. Sumire and Jack nodded at David without noticing Star's staring. Star said “ you'll get there, some day. When you get your first baby steps done, then you can move on. Just keep Bloomington campus as a goal to work towards, something to strive for.” she said knowingly.

“Baby steps...” said David as he thought of what the counselor had said. He knew there were times when he just went so fast and tried to do everything all at once. Baby steps. Then there were times when he would be stagnant and not accomplish anything, where he wouldn't really think about or plan for his future. He used to blame this on his being Amish, on the heavy work schedule, but deeper down he knew better. Baby steps, to ensure you get there without burning out, baby steps. The tortoise who won the race, taking what seemed to the rabbit slow baby steps.

He looked around not thinking of his food but his distant future, not taking in the medium colored wood paneling. When he got home he would go through and make up his class schedule, then he would come up with a list of goals short and long term for him as a person and a student, and eventually for his career.

He could write down some ideas for careers or at least interests and try from there. He couldn't wait to get home. His stomach fell a little when he remembered his grandmother lived with him. Not that he minded her being there, but he wanted some quiet time for his planning, and he didn't want to admit that she was right either. He mostly didn't want to hear her gloating about the road trip, or anything for that matter. He loved her, but sometimes her childishness was unbearable, she would gloat as she had always when she was right and he had been wrong.

The Asian waitress brought them the first platter which had raw tuna, salmon, and other raw fish. David thought it all looked so beautiful. He knew most American people disliked the idea of eating raw meat, especially since most foods bought in the everyday supermarket were not truly fresh. Because of this American's had to learn to not eat foods raw, and cook them well as a result of the food being dangerous, the same with eggs. In Japan and other countries however, David had read about the safety of the fish, and eggs. Because so many people eat them, they have to be kept safe, ensuring a cycle of clean, fresh, and safe raw fish and egg.

Jack told him to try the mackerel, and then the tuna, then the salmon. He said if he tried the salmon he wouldn't ever want to eat any other food again because it was that good.

David took his advice and mimicking Sumire and Star he put the whole thing in his mouth and chewed. It wasn't at all fishy, or gross as he imagined. When he fished, and cut his fish he often found little gray parasites on some of the fish particularly blue gill, he wondered how they avoided that, or if these fish just weren't prone to them. The Mackerel was the best fish he had ever had, he couldn't imagine the tuna and salmon being better than that satisfying morsel!

He had also eaten a few pieces of fresh sliced ginger, which was only slightly pink, unlike the other stuff he saw at the super market, that probably changed color when pickled. He also ate some wasabi with each piece as advised by Farrah.

“The wasabi kills any parasites that might be in the food, it is one more thing that makes the fish even safer. So when eating raw, always get a bit of wasabi.”

David wasn't sure if the parasites she was talking about were the same as the little gray one he often found on bluegill, but he listened to her anyway. The taste was pleasantly explosive. Benign at first and then bam! His nose caught on fire, or so it felt. A stinging burning that opened his sinuses.

The others around him were mmm-ing and ahh-ing at the wonderful taste. He tried the tuna and thought it just as good as the mackerel, not much better, but a little. Then he tried the salmon and had soon found what he was convinced to be the best. He ate some of the garnish which Jack told him wasn't for eating.

“You can eat it if you want to, its just a vegetable. Most people don't but some people nibble on it.” explained Sumire.


“I need to go shopping, all this college stuff is reminding me that I need to get my binders, and some more clothes. I only have four pairs of working pants. The rest are ripped, or don't fit right. Hey, Eloise was talking about how she needed clothes too. Maybe we could take her shopping!” said Farrah.

“That's awesome, please do, I want some quiet time to myself to mentally organize for the new semester.” said David. When no one asked him what he meant he realized he wasn't the only one who had to get in the zone and figure it all out mentally. He sometimes had to do that with big projects, he had to go through everything on paper and in his head for him to feel fully secure about it. Other time he could just wing it, but not with things as big as school.

“Ok that's settled, we will pick her up, go to Goodwill, then Salvation Army, then Kmart, Target, and Walmart for anything we can't find at the used clothes stores.”


CHAPTER 15;
Ready, Set,... GO!

David sat in his quiet room, the shades up, curtains open, and the fresh warm air breezing in. There were only a few days before classes started. He had finally picked his classes out for a full schedule. He had tried to pick a nice balanced full time schedule that wouldn't overwhelm him. He was taking English 93 Introduction to College Writing , Gardening 110 Fundamentals of Horticulture , Health and Wellness for Life , and CINS 074 Computer Literacy .

He had come in for an interview for work studies, he had gone shopping with Sumire for foods he could easily make for lunch and pack that were cheap and healthy. He found a nice cheap backpack in a dumpster, that was completely clean and only lightly used. When he was standing in line to buy his textbooks at the bookstore, he the guy in line behind him, around his age with dark curly hair, had a backpack in hand. David had just looked at the price on them, nearly eighty dollars. David couldn't believe some one would pay that for a backpack. They could even go to their local store and find them cheaper than that!

He talked to the guy, asking him why he would buy one that expensive. He said it was for his girlfriend as a gift, and that he got all his school supplies for free because his family worked for Indiana University. After talking to the guy, he came across as ignorant and naïve, so David turned back in line and waited to check out.

His books cost more than he thought they would, even though they were used. He was beginning to see just how expensive it was. He was thankful to the deepest, that he was able to have it covered by his financial aid. He had also gotten a letter in the mail for a one thousand dollar scholarship. He had written an essay about how being Amish had changed his life, and how he hoped college would change it in a way that he wanted.

In the essay he had talked about the positive and negatives living as an Amish had had for him. He talked about how some ways that would at first seem negative actually benefitted him though he wouldn't wish others to go through the same.

When he talked about the religious oppression, he showed his optimism by saying that if he hadn't known that, he may not have been able to enjoy the more lax modern religious freedom. Religious freedom in modern society may be a joke compared to what people think it is, but it was at least nicer than what he had endured before.

He did value the self sustenance, growing the food, and making the clothes they needed. He showed how the responsibilities associated with these had made him stronger physically and mentally. His outlook on life was a little different from others. Even Farrah, Star, Sumire and Jack didn't see the world from his perspective, but then again he didn't see it from theirs either. He felt that each person's unique view helped to shape the world, and could make it a better place to live.

David thought it was so interesting that so many people could see the world in so many ways, so many people all different, often with similar motivations, and such different views.

He didn't think he would win the scholarship, but was happy not just to win the money for his dream, but also for the chance to write his story and share it with others. One of the stipulations of the scholarship was that he had to write a blog and share his story with others who may be going through a similar life change. His plan was to keep the blog to help other Amish who wish to leave their communities, ease them into society.

He felt it was a great use of time and effort. Plus the scholarship was availabe for renewal if he kept his grade up, and kept with his project. One idea he had had was to set up a half-way house for them to stay in while they looked for a place to live. He also thought he could gather donations, or inexpensive clothing since it was often difficult as an Amish who has just left to fit in when they looked like they were from a different time period. A bed to sleep in, clothes and a warm meal cooked by his grandmother for them was his plan. He wanted to get the word out that there was support out there whether they were religious or not, and give them the support they would dearly need.

He thought back to all the little hardships he had had when trying to adjust, though he was still adjusting, he was much better than he had been. He would have loved to have had a mentor that was interested in him as an individual and not as 'one of god's children'.

He had told his grandmother about the plan and the scholarship, she was ecstatic about it, and thought it was long overdue. They would pay back their good karma with more for others.

Eloise was out shopping, and the whole house was nice, so serene, he almost started to fall asleep it was so peaceful, though it was only eleven in the morning. He wanted to go for a jog with Jack as they had been doing, but he wouldn't miss the house being like this for anything.

He watered the newborn plants his grandmother had planted inside with a small watering can. She probably could have planted them outside as warm as it had been. The baby morning glories were growing fast, while the tiny thyme was slow to grow. She had bought a few house plants, a cacti, spider plant, wandering jew and she also had a large flat container full of succulents like Cape Blanco Sedum and Orostachys. The nursery attendant told her she could plant the succulents outside since they were hardy, but she wasn't chancing it. Besides they brightened the place up, and made her happier as she would glance up at them occasionally while she read her newspaper.

David was so anxious, he had been for days. It was a good anxious but unbearable. He was so excited to start school. He hadn't even gone to school with anyone not Amish before. He had hardly even liked Amish school, where the older students often taught the younger students, it was ok and all, but David often knew more than those teaching him since he did so much reading on the side at the library.

He wondered if his teachers would like him, he was also scared that his classes would be like those in the films he had seen. He had even rented as many college themed films as he could during the week before classes. He wondered if the classes were that huge, if the teachers that snotty and uncaring as they were in the films. Were the students that dumb? What was the point in paying so much money for college if they were just going to party, kill their braincells, have sex so often you may end up becoming a parent thus possibly ending your college career, and any other idiotic activities he thought.

He gave some extra water to the dry wandering jews that grew like crazy and were easy to get cuttings from. Next to the wandering jew in its glass container were the fish. His grandmother insisted on getting a little round tub for them. She had a mix of koi, and plain goldfish. She had pond plants and rocks in it, it looked like an outdoor pond, small and zen like. The mini water fountain was in the middle. The fish begged at the surface, asking for food. David din't feed them, his grandmother said the trick to healthy fish was hungry fish. She fed them, but she didn't over indulge them. If he thought they looked particularly hungry he would give them a few of ther pellets, but most times he felt they were fine since they weren't skinny.

 
He heard a knock at the door. He set down his watering can and went to the peep hole to see Jack's face enlarged and disproportionate. Openeing the door he said good morning and let Jack in.

Jack took his shoes off leaving them on the little mat where they kept the shoes. He found that it kept the house much cleaner just by taking them off at the door. He didn't do much house cleaning when he was Amish, but when he came here he would clean and noticed the difference right away.

Well are you excited?” said Jack, sounding rather excited himself.

The went to sit out on the ground floor balcony. He sat in the lounge chair and Jack sat in the other one usually reserved for David's grandmother. She would often sit and read her newspaper or book on a nice day.

Yeah, I'm also a bit nervous.” he admitted.

We all get that, the butterflies, the 'what should I wear my first day to make a good impression' thinking.” Jack explained.

Yeah but you've been to school before, real school with teachers and students from all over. With more than twenty pupils in the whole school. I've only had small class experience, much of it centered around religion. Do you know they never even taught us proper history? I had to research it at the library to find out who Abraham Lincoln, and others were. I'm not complaining....just....nervous.” David said.

That's true, but school is school, and you've adjusted great so far. I hardly hear an accent anymore from you. That's dedication! You got this. I however have calculus and fun business classes to worry about.” said Jack.

David remembered that Jack was studying business, and he was happy that he knew what he wanted specifically. Happy that he had that certainty. David's future was less certain to him. He wanted to do so much. He had so many interests, but he hadn't found his passion yet, he thought maybe college could help him, and he had plans to take some exploratory courses.

David and Jack talked about their plans, they talked of teachers Jack liked, those he said to avoid, classes that were boring, intriguing. They talked until Eloise, Star, Sumire and Farrah came back from shopping.

It was nice to have ha the quiet morning he thought. Now the kitchen was loaded with women, and Jack, and soon enough he joined the food making festivities.

It seems we like to celebrate anything and everything with food doesn't it David?!” asked Star.

David agreed, but found no issue with the fact. In fact he rather liked it. They ate healthy enough, much like his Amish family. They were always using the freshest herbs, roots, and fruits from the garden. They even kept bees and the honey was the best dark honey he had ever tasted.

His grandmother, and Jack were the cooks in the house so Star, Sumire, Farrah and David sat at the kitchen table meant for two. Sumire still hovered getting them ingredients and putting foods away.

I thought you were going clothes shopping?” asked David.

We did but we figured since we were out you needed food stuffs so...” explained Sumire putting the miso, yogurt, and cheese in the fridge.

Do you remember the cheese I used to make Davey? Hmm?” asked Eloise.

Yeah why did you stop making it?” he asked.

Your mother thought she could make it better, so she took over, said I was too old for butter churning. It was the thickest butter ever, I used more cream than your mother did. Made it taste better I think.” she explained.

David thought about his mother, always trying to keep his grandma from doing much, worried she might fall dead of exertion he imagined. He never gave much thought to how his grandma would feel, being protected like that, it must have been demeaning and freedom clinching, like much of his old life.

Soon it was hot in the kitchen and the tasty smelling fumes were overpowering for the hungry bunch who then tore into a bag of lentil chips and hummus like fiends. Sumire also cut up some apples, carrots and celery for them to munch on while they waited.

Oh my god you're making curry fries! They are the shit!” exclaimed Farrah.

Well sort of, they aren't curry fries as you know them, more close to chilli dog fries almost. When you run out of food at home, you get creative. Since all I had one day were some condiments and cheese in the fridge and potatoes on the table, I made potatoes with lots of curry, chili powder and other spices, top with cheese and you are set to go! Plus they are kind of good for you with all the spices and what not. Then Sumire showed me how to use the Japanese dashi stock, to make it, such a nice subtle flavor! Mmmm mmmm!” said Jack.

And ever since he has been surprising us with awesome food!” said Sumire.

Star sat reading a magazine and the others munched away mindlessly hungry. After Grandma Eloise and Jack were finished cooking Star hopped up to set the table with plates bowls cups and silverware. It turned out that Sumire and Grandma Eloise had been planning a big dinner before classes started. They were both excited to see the culmination.

Grandma was smiling and Jack said something about her having swallowed a canary. Neither David nor his Grandma understood the reference.

They all talked about their coming classes, and Grandma Eloise surprised them all with a bit of excitement of her own.

Well I think now is as good a time as any to tell you. I too will be taking classes! I start same as you do David. I am taking some self help classes some on campus and some off. They offer a special program for senior citizens, some even let me sit in on classes for free, I just don't get credit for it because it's free. And it's all thanks to Sumire and Farrah for their help. Thank you you two, couldn't have got here on my own. And thank you all for such a lovely dinner, and for bringing me here to my sweet David.” thanked Eloise.

David looked around like it was some joke, like they were all going to burst out laughing, but no one did, except in congratulations. David was happy for his Grandma, he was, but he somehow felt like the spotlight had shifted, or something like anger, but not. Jelousy? No, he didn't think that was it.

He congratulated his Grandma with everyone else, and thought they could all share the spotlight, he couldn't really be that selfish to be mad at her.

He concluded that it had to just be shock, mostly. Partly it was light anger, mostly since she never took education as seriously as he did, and now here she was the ripe old age of seventy four, and she was going to take classes. He knew it was partly jelousy at her courage, that she had the courage to do it even though most college students weren't her age, that she might stand out a little for that and that she was born Amish. All those things scared him, well not his age since most students were of his similar age.


They called it a night and went to bed, or went home in the case of Farrah, Star, Jack and Sumire. David went to his room but decided since it had been a long time since had last journaled that he ought to. He caught the journal up by telling about his new friends, how close they had become, how they had brought him Grandma, how they got into a car wreck, and how they had kidnapped them. He wrote about his new life style with his Grandma living with him. He wrote about the smart move he had made by filing his financial aid forms the year before. He thought about how far he had come, and wanted to be able to write about these exciting happenings all the time. He wanted a scheduled writing time.

He also wrote about his mixed feeling for his Grandma going to school. On the one hand he was intensely happy for her, to have the bravery to do it, and he also envied her that. He figured it would all work itself out and he thought he shouldn't spend his time worrying about it. He started his work studies in a day, and he was nervous about that. His job was working with people to monitor the computer areas, type up stuff, and help students. That made him super nervous, him and computers. Well, he figured, it would give him the practice he needed. He had no clue how he had gotten the job, he thought he did awful in the interview. Jack had even interviewed for the same position.

After his interview he left, and passed Jack waiting outside, he looked embarrassed but he said he was interviewing too. He hadn't dressed up like David had, so perhaps that was why he had gotten the job, though Jack was a computer whiz. It was a little suspicious, but David was getting drowsy.


He closed his simple notebook journal that held his pondering, whining and other human emotions put into writing, and suddenly felt the need to run. He didn’t want to think about tomorrow.

He had the sudden urge to scream, well his muscles did, though he wasn’t mad. He had been cooped up for a week now it felt like. He had seen other humans, but he hadn’t really been out. He had mostly been stuck in his books and planning, and stressing about school starting.

He needed out, he needed to just go, and get some sort of exercise, oxygen flowing, heart pumping. Sumire had lent him her head phones and mp3 player as she said he needed to expand his musical palette. He grabbed the little white and silver electronic thing with dangling headphones, thinking of how Star would berate him had she known he was using such things that could cause cancer.

He changed into his jogging clothes and left his room, he had already said goodnight to his Grandma, but he wanted to let her know where he was going so she wouldn’t worry.

He could see the lamp on in the living room and saw her reading a magazine or pamphlet, her reading glasses almost falling off her nose as she read with the quiet radio on classical.

He didn’t want to frighten her since she was so into her reading, so he walked heavily and scuffed his feet, clearing his throat was too cliché, and that would scare her.

“Oh honey, what you doing?” she asked.

“I can’t sleep, I need to go for a jog. I will see you in a bit.”

“Ok, be safe.”

“Goodnight if I don’t see you before you go to sleep. Love you”

“Guten Nacht.”

David walked out the front door shutting it quietly and felt a little underdressed. The early night air was starting to become much colder than it had. It felt like snow was coming. He missed the snow. Loved it, he would love to go jogging in the snow and ice if he wasn’t afraid of slipping.

David felt great to get out, he loved the clean air, it wasn’t depressive like the house had become. It was as if the entire atmosphere of the house had changed since he had been cooped in. It felt heavy, boring, dreary and nearly all negative things one can say about a house, or so David felt whilst suffering from cabin fever. The saddest part was he had done it to himself, he could have left at any time, could have escaped the doldrums just by going and prepping the flower bed for spring, or going for a walk, or a ride, or even sticking his head out the window for a bit.

The outside world never seemed so fascinating and alive as it did to him at that moment. Breathing in deeper, he focused on his walking and turned it to a jog, watching all the houses around him, streetlight illuminating most of the street. He avoided the dark areas. He had seen enough modern movies now to know what happened when people split up, lagged behind in the group, or went into the darkness. While that was movies he felt some of that seemed to be good common sense to live by. That and don’t say “Helloooo, is anyone in here” in a creepy house or abandoned place, that’s just asking for trouble.


He quickened his pace, loving the ease with which he increased, though his knee felt sore from not using it his muscles had been lazy during the week and were loving the challenge. He passed a couple walking a small white dog little enough to fit on David’s head.

He passed closed businesses some with their lights on, some with lights off. Some businesses were open late and he saw the people going about their mundane activities, absorbed only in their little problems at the time, inside their heads oblivious to anyone else.

He passed a small marsh as he edged out of town, and wondered at it’s cattails, water still unfrozen. David’s face and legs were getting colder and he wondered if it was because it was getting colder, or if he had been out too long.

He saw a group of teenagers just sitting in the road on the asphalt, smoking weed and drinking. It was a dead end road just out of town. They looked up at him, asked him if he wanted to join them.

“No Thanks, I’m training for a marathon” and he was, of sorts. The marathon of life he thought. He didn’t have time, money or brain cells to devote to their activities. He had his own goals and he was striving ever so hard to get to them, he knew what they were doing would only serve to distract him from where he wanted to be.



He pulled over away from the view of the possibly judging eye of the teens and got out the forgotten mp3 player. He took a second under the dim streetlight to figure out how to work it, then it blared loudly in his ears before he yanked the earbuds out and turned the volume down. When he got it figured out and playing he got back on his bike and pedaled to the mortal kombat theme song. Star and Jack had made him watch the film and they reinacted some of the fight scenes using exaggerated facial expressions and martial arts. They even tried to get Sumire to join in and she explained that not all Asians actually knew Martial Arts.

He chuckled lightly to himself. He biked passed empty flower beds and beds with dead plants shriveled over, some with plants still green and alive, though David was sure they would get snow and that would be the end of them.

He worried if the snow got bad enough if they would cancel the first day of school? They wouldn’t, he thought, though there was a chance if it was icy enough. He never knew what to expect in this modern world. His classes at Amish school, while Bible related, were never really canceled, but he remembered Farrah telling him about how she had a teacher last semester who called out so often they missed nearly half the syllabus. She said she felt the whole class was a waste and that she might as well take it with another professor who took it seriously. She was obviously offended and upset so they didn’t bring the subject up again.


He just felt like doing anything right now, anything besides what he should be doing. Sleeping. He just couldn't get to sleep yet and he knew it. He was too excited, too nervous too many unknowns to put his mind in the sleep world.

He wondered if his grandmother would be able to sleep either. She wasn't used to having an entire room to herself but David kind of felt bad that she slept in the living room on a futon on the floor. The futon was actually more comfortable than his own bed and thought to trade her but she often complained of her back and he wasn't cruel.

She didn't really have her own space, and Sumire had suggested they get some portable room dividers to create a section for her, but she didn't want it.

David unconsciously slowed his pedaling while he thought.

Did she miss her Amish family like he often did? Did she long for them to accept her choices but refuse to ask for it like he? What did she hope to gain from college? That was the question he wanted to ask her, but didn't know how. He wanted to know now. He still didn't know how to ask but sometimes bluntness was just what he felt was needed. At times it was too abrupt, but others, he felt, called for it.

He turned around to head back to town after the street lights became more spaced out. He wasn't afraid of being robbed, much, but he didn't like to tempt fate as Star had said. He pedaled faster now wanting to get back and hoping his Grandma was still awake and willing to talk.

He took a different route home and wondered at the fountain in someones lawn. They had it running and he thought they had been duped, or they should have checked the weather today. Perhaps they thought to run it since it had been so warm the last few weeks.

He could feel it was getting colder but he had worked up a sweat so it felt good on his skin. Even his scalp was sweaty. He only passed a few cars, and he rode on the sidewalks where it was safer. He was told that bikes aren't technically supposed to be used on sidewalks, but are meant to be on the roads. He completely disagreed and thought that was a crazy rule that he was glad wasn't strictly enforced. It was completely unsafe riding near cars, he thought. Just having to ride on the shoulder when there were no sidewalks was scary enough, just having to watch for cars that weren't watching for him was crazy enough, and just having to watch for cars pulling out of businesses as you were going down a hill and they weren't paying attention as they blocked the sidewalk path was nerve wracking for David.

He had no idea how cars and feet powered bicycles were supposed to get along. He pulled into a business that had closed down, its parking lot resembling a fabled Western ghost town, complete with saloon doors. It had dead weeds that had grown through the gaps in ashphalt, and live ones that were strong enough to survive.

He cut across the lot to a shortcut Jack had showed him. He wondered how he and Jack were going to continue their jogging tradition with their schedules. It had become more than just meeting up, or just jogging. It had become a tradition with meaning, and he found comfort in that. He could look forward to it, and knew it would perk him up whether he wanted to talk or not, he still had a good time. He wasn't one to always have everything planned out, he did like planning but not planning routines, he liked to let those develop naturally and then embrace them.

With Jack he especially had fun, they talked culture differences between Amish and English, they talked about the people in his life, and David's. They talked about so much it was relaxing. It wasn't the same type of sharing that the girls seemed to do, and it wasn't the constant one upmanship that most guys did, but it was a nice mix between.

He passed the library, and some small businesses along his way.

How could two very different people from such different cultures understand each other's problems and relate so fully, he wondered. Their meetings seemed to be so therapeutic, they didn't have to talk at length and get into specifics like Sumire, or Farrah did. Star and his Grandma seemed to be less descriptive, often being direct, and unpredictable, especially Star.

He was glad he had made such great friends, and thought about the many fun times they had had and how greatful he was to have had them, and then he realized... He didn't have a mentor, he had four. He didn't need any other mentors the ones he had were great, he thought he had taken them for granted just a little and wanted to show them his appreciation.

He thought about everything he had learned, at such a faster pace because he had been fully immersed. He could see how that would be too overwhelming for some, and they might return to the community, but for him, it was perfect. It was the perfect combination of everything to make him grow as a person, culturally, and in his overall life experiences.

He had even learned random phrases that took them forever to explain so that he could understand. Like elbow grease. He still laughed at the term.Even his accent had improved so much! Some people couldn't even tell that he wasn't English, though he felt he was more than ever...English.

He was coming to the realization that while he was the most English he had ever been, he also had gotten over his blindness as it were. He could now see his previous blindspots when dealing with the English culture. As an alternative to his own culture he so desparetly wanted out of, he latched onto and idealized modern English culture. At first it gave him something to strive for, but after a while he was able to see that the litlle negative things he previously would have ignored because they made the English way of life seem imperfect, maybe he couldn't have handled it at that time, he thought.

He hit a pothole hard and jostled his bike and nearly knocked him from his bike. He hoped to be home soon as he couldn't see much between the streetlights.

Now he noticed some of the daily activities that really were against his own way of living. His way of living was separate from the Amish and the English, but similar to both. There were certain things he highly valued from both, but also many things from both that he despised and wished were not the way things were done.

Why did the Amish value religion so highly, often rejecting some of the modern equipments he liked, strictly enforce some rules he felt were silly, and others that he valued-were not enforced? Why did they not care about education like he did?

Then again how was it that typical English ate such terrible things they knew to be 'bad' for them? Why did they have a need to cover all the earth in concrete, ashphalt, and cement? Cutting down trees and naming streets after them was another obnoxious and oxmoronic practice he knew he would never understand. He couldn't understand how many English claimed to be as much percentage Native American, Irish, or Italian heritage as they could, often bragging about it, and puffing their chests with pride, when previously the English had killed, deemed filth, or otherwise mistreated such groups, but now it was the hip thing to claim heritage.

He admired the Amish's use of self sustenance, gardening, and sense of community. He liked their simplicity at times, and their usual mindset of not shirking. He liked how they would often just do something, where as English folk would often procrastinate as much as possible, or whine prodigiously beforehand.

He liked that the English were often all about the individual, that they valued creativity and took solace that they were unique. It wasn't always a thing of contempt, it could be, but wasn't necessarily. He loved their emphasis on love, friendship, and meaningfulness but not at the expense of the individual.

He deeply believed that both parties could learn from each other. He wanted to see English treating their communities and resources with more respect. He wanted to see Amish valuing education and individuals more. He wondered if it was possible as he came in sight of his apartment.

The wind had started to get serious and the temperature was much colder than when he left for his ride. He wondered if it was cold in Middlebury too.

He could see the light was on in the living room. He pulled into his driveway, locked up his bike, and went inside. The inside was much warmer than outside though they hadn't turned the heater on yet during the season.

“Hey Grandma. I'm Back.” he said taking off his shoes and going into the bathroom to wash his sweaty face.

The cool water felt good on his soon drying face. The fresh water made him think clearer, or maybe it was the energizing ride.

Walking out to the living room he sat on the end of the couch, as his Grandma lay flopped on her stomach deeply engaged in her book. She looked up at him expectantly saw the look on his face as he figured out how to word his question, and put her bookmark in, and sat up to listen to what David was going to say.

“Can you...Would you tell me about your reasons to go to school. How is it going to help you, and why do you want to do it? What does it mean to you?” asked David, uncertain of what his real question was so he asked it every way he could think.

She looked at him, her eyes seeming lighter than they used to. Was it the lighting, or was it that a weight was lifted metaphorically from her shoulders when she had finally left. He could make an educated guess.

She picked at her fingers perhaps seeing hand of her younger self, in a time much different from his, a time harder to escape, and with stricter rules and punishment.

“I think I can better know myself. It will help me to learn the ways of the English. I am neither Amish nor English, but wish to understand both. I know far more than I wish about the Amish, but know so little about the English who are so different yet similar to myself. I hope to find myself, and understand them. That is why.”

Leave it to his grandmother to put such a complicated matter simply. He expected a long conversation, maybe get into her childhood, something. He should have expected something so forward. It made sense, she usually did. Sometimes not at first, but usually in the end, he understood.

“Tomorrow I will ride with Jack to school. How are you going?”

“I thought it would be fun to walk or take the bus. I feel I do better with walking as I did before, all this sitting like the English is not healthy, too lazy they can be.”

David laughed as he felt the same. In some ways they were so revolutionary, so forceful and accomplished, while others they were absolutely complacent. It was a wonder.

“I am sleepy now. Good night my little grandson.”

He hugged her goodnight and went into his room where he changed, turned the light off, and lay in his bed eyes still open. His ride and talk with Grandma had given him a lot to think about. He was excited and nervous still, about tomorrow, but he was finally tired.

He didn't want to look at the clock for fear of what it might say, but he had to set his alarm for his early day. It was only just after ten thirty so he would still get enough sleep for his early start. He kind of missed getting up really early, there was something about it he never before really fully appreciated.

He dozed off jerkily thinking about the films he had seen about college and the recent tour of Indiana University he had gone on. Both were fresh in his mind as he slept.

CHAPTER 16
THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF...your first day of school

David awoke slightly in a panic to his alarm. It was loud, obnoxious, and he was in a bad mood from it until he remembered today was his first day of school, arguably ever. Though he went to school with Amish, he didn't consider it real school, tainted less by the virtuous hands of religion.

He brushed his morning breath and used only baking soda on his toothbrush as his grandmother insisted. She said that the stuff in the stores was crap and that rat poison might have better ingredients.

He dressed in his pre picked outfit, though Jack told him not to call it an outfit around others because of the implications it may have, he didn't know what else to call it.

His simple navy long sleeve and jeans looked nice together. He put a small amount of gel in his hair to spike it just a little. Enough to look good but not enough to draw unwarranted attention to himself. He was there to learn, not meet a spouse.

He went to the kitchen and pulled out the little lunch Sumire had packed for him, she told him he couldn't open it until his lunchtime, but he couldn't help but take a peek. Beautiful colors of fruits, and vegetables that lay on a bed of rice. She had also packed a mini thermos presumably with Miso. He packed his backpack with his fresh binder secured with dividers and paper for ample note taking. He also brought pens, pencils and a large eraser.

When he did everything he thought he could think needed to be done before his departure, he sat on the couch to wait for Jack. After several minutes of watching the clock and waiting he grabbed his grandmother's magazine and started reading. There was some nonsense about losing weight, and personalities. He got bored and anxious an couldn't focus on reading. So he waited.

What would the students think of him? Did he care? Should he care? These were things he and Jack had discussed, and that he said everyone else felt, but he wasn't so proud. At that moment he wondered if that was an Amish thing, or an English thing to feel. Or both?

Finally Jack showed up and honked. David said goodbye to his grandmother and left her a note thanking her for everything, and that he would see her later. He wished her luck and headed out the door.

Out there, the first day of the rest of his life awaited.

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