The Days of Our Pandemic: episode sane

a pinkyandthebrainhomage by KZ Rochelle (of course)

Before diving into this episode, see what K & Z were up to in the previous episode of The Days of Our Pandemic or follow K & Z from the beginning.

K stepped solemnly into the bathroom. In her hands she held a small cardboard box no larger than a shoebox. “Here it is, Z.”

“Here it is, K! This is it! Our hope! Our dreams of getting out of these four walls are finally coming to fruition! Here! In this moment! And you cannot unhinge us with your reckless ineptitude.”

“You think I’m unhinged, Z?”

Z glanced into K’s eyes without adjusting the position of her head from its centered view of the shipment. “Yes, K.”

“You do?” K asked, sorrow creeping into her voice for the first time in a long time.

“Yes, K,” Z said. 

Z fixated on the box.

“Z?”

“Yes, K?”

“What does unhinged mean?”

At this, Reader, Z saw an opportunity. And, Reader, she took that opportunity.

“Unhinged? Unhinged describes someone with an unusually strong sense of commitment to do what’s right, to endure through momentary pain, to inflict a bit of a poke, for the good of one’s self and others.”

K’s chin rose higher with each word. Higher and higher until she stared at the ceiling.

“And you think I’m unhinged, Z?”

“Most definitely, K.”

K stood as erect as Z. Her face determined. “Let’s open this shipment, Z.”

“Let’s,” said Z.

K grabbed at the packaging tape with her bare hands. She ripped it off like a bandaid. She opened the cardboard flaps and unveiled a white, foam box like an ice block. 

“It’s inside there,” directed Z.

K gave her a nod and proceeded to open the remaining packaging and all its sealants until all that was left was a single vial.

“Now,” said Z, “the magnetized syringe.”

“That’s the moving thing, Z?” said K as she watched two components wiggle and slide across the counter toward the vial she held.

“Yes,” said Z. 

Click.

“Yes!” said Z. “This is the moment, K. This is the time. Take it in your hand like this.” Z held a lip gloss tube to demonstrate for K.

Entranced, K followed Z’s instruction.

“That’s it. That’s it.”

K held the syringe. The syringe held the vial.

“Hold it up to the bruise on your arm.”

K’s trance broke. “Which bruise, Z? Look how many I have.” K pointed with the needled and began counting with pride. “One, two, three, four, five, six…”

“Number five! Number five!”

“…eighteen….thirty-two…”

“Number five. Number five.”

“…thirty-six…forty-five…”

“Num-ber five. Num-ber five.”

“…seventy-seven! Seventy-seven bruises, Z. Which one.”

“Numb-ber. F-ive.”

“Well, why didn’t you say so way back at the beginning of counting?” said K.

Z opened her heavy eyelids and stared at K until her eyes glossed over. No words made their way out of her mouth. 

K lifted the vial of mRNA and its needle of delivery up to her shoulder.

The movement of the needle roused Z.

Z said, “Now all you must do is jab it in on the count of three, and the mRNA will do the rest.”

“The messenger will do the rest?” asked K.

“Pardon?” Z forgot for a moment that she’d informed K of the true name of mRNA, the full name, the extended form name which, of course, began with messenger. “Oh, yes.”

K froze.

“On the count of three.”

“Can we do five?” asked K.

“You want to count to five?” asked Z.

“Right-o, Z,” said K. “It is bruise number five.”

“Go ahead, K,” said Z.

K, misunderstanding Z as usual, thought Z wanted her to go ahead with it. She said, “No numbers or counting then, Z. Right-o.” And she thrust the needle into her arm.

Z watched and a grin spread like a virus across her face. “You’ve done it! I’ve done it! We’ve done it!”

“We did it! We did it!” K skipped one, two, three, four, five times before the desire to skip drained a bit. Her skips became slower, heavier. She walked, step by step, in her own bathroom, and she noticed she held a vial in her hand. It looked unfamiliar to her. A vial with a needle attached. How did it get there? 

“Well, that’s dangerous,” she said and set the materials down on the counter. 

As she did, she caught a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror. She turned her head to the left and examined her right side. 

“Looks good,” she said.

She turned her head to the right and examined her left side.

“Looks good,” she said.

She tipped her lips up to one side, gave herself a nod, and said, “You, KZ Rochelle, are about to have a very good day.”

And with that, she turned, she exited the bathroom, and she called to her sons, “Xander, Xaivier, grab your things. We’re leaving. Let’s go visit your cousins.”

Inside the lavender home with blue violet trim on Wonky Way Lane, a family fluttered with unusual activity. Previously, these people had been confined to their home for over a year of their lives. They shared experiences they’d never hoped to, like running out of paperclips and baking loaf after loaf of banana bread and learning morse code and turning the bathroom into a water park and then…

They went outside the walls of the lavender home with blue violet trim. Xander picked a goldenrod wildflower. He smelled it. He wiped the pollen and stem residue on Xaiver. 

And they went on, Reader, to interact with their cousins and others. They hugged. They played soccer, shot basketballs, attended school and church. They noticed the green of the leaves. They smelled the jasmine. They engaged their senses in the world outside. 

Thus it was that sanity returned.

THE END

this story has been brought to you by the insane mind of author, KZ Rochelle

The Days of Our Pandemic: episode the

a pinkyandthebrainhomage by KZ Rochelle (of course)

Before diving into this episode, see what K & Z were up to in the previous episode of The Days of Our Pandemic or follow K & Z from the beginning.

Outside the lavender home with blue violet trim on Wonky Way Lane, a pair of peregrine falcons soared on the breeze over a rabbit den, flapping their wings and paying no particular attention to the bunnies below. Prior peoples have seen a harbinger herein, but such as those had long since considered the signs in the skies. They’d traded them (in an unsought barter) for the signs of insides. 

In front of the bathroom mirror in said Wonky Way Lane home, the following scene took place. Observe, dear Reader, from your safe distance on the far side of the screen lest you spiral into what you discover. Or perhaps, you have already….

“Today is the day, K,” Z said from inside the mirror. 

“What day is it, Z?” K asked.

“Today is THE day, K. THE day. The day we’ve been waiting for.” Z looked at K expectantly.

“TH, TH, THE day.” K pondered. “Is today Thursday, Z?”

“The day of the week is irrelevant!” said Z. “Today is the day we escape the world enclosed by these four walls.”

“Of course it is, Z. That’s the same thing we do every day.”
Z rolled her hazel eyes.

K misunderstood and tried to roll her eyes as well, but she ended up tossing her head back and hitting the crown of her head on the wall behind her.

A perturbed groan emanated from the wall itself. 

K and Z both ignored it.

“I’m glad you finally understand that, K, but today is not like every other day.”

K rubbed the back of her head. “I understand lots of things, Z. Like the chemical potential –”

“Yes!” Z interrupted K. “The chemical potential.” She raised a single finger. “That’s precisely what I mean.”

“Huh?” K still rubbed her head. She needed to make sure her thought-maker hadn’t been dented. Afterall, she had some very interesting thoughts stored there.

Z pushed her hair from her eyes, styling it without the means of a mirror — as she was in the mirror. “I have been working…”

“Right-o, Z. You’ve been working.”

“…on a project destined for success.”

“Yes, yes, success,” said K. 

“And the shipment I ordered arrives today.”

“Oooooooh.” K’s eyes widened. “Is it a present?”

“Yes and no, K,” said Z.

“Yes and no?” K cocked her head and squinted one eye as though she’d been squirted with lime juice — which, Reader, she had not been, even though Z often wished for a lime with which to squirt K. “How can it be both yes and no, Z?”

“Because not everything is black and white, K.”

“Of course not everything is black and white, Z. Look around you. There’s red and green and blue and orange and purple and —”

“Quiet!”

“Quiet is not a color, Z.”

“I know that, K,” Z said while trying to collect her calm.

“But if quiet were a color, I suppose it would be —-”

“Irrelevant!”

“No, K. Irrelevant is not a color either. Should we call my kindergarten teacher?”

“Oh, good gracious.” Z’s head flopped onto her upturned palms.

“I don’t know if I have her email. Or phone number. Or Meet. Or WhatsApp. Or Marco Polo. Or –”

“Anyway!” Z interrupted K’s spiral.

“Yes, Z. Anyway, quiet would be off-white,” stated K.

Z’s eyes peeked out from between her fingers. “Did you say off-white?”

“Off-white,” K said with one definitive head nod like a period.

“She must be off, right?” Z whispered to herself.

“Right-o,” said K, still punctuating her previous comment and unaware that Z had said anything since. 

“Can we get on with this?” asked Z.

“Certainly,” said K.

Z arose. She presented her best posture. “I have arranged for an important shipment of very specific messenger ribonucleic acid which you will use with this lancet to inject yourself.”

K shrieked. “A messenger is coming to lance me with acid?! Z, I do not want to leave here in a body bag. I would rather stay inside these four walls.”

“You will not stay inside these four walls and you will leave on your own two feet!” Z said.

“I don’t care if they hold me up on my two feet if I’m inside a body bag,” K informed Z.

“You will walk yourself, K,” said Z.

This confused K enough to settle her.

“So it’ll be like a Weekend at Bernie’s?” asked K.

“No, K,” said Z. “You will be alive. And with your own strength, you will walk yourself out of these four walls.”

K stared into Z’s eyes. 

Z stared into K’s eyes.

K furrowed her brow.

Z closed her eyes. She nodded her head twice.

K flinched. She took a step backwards. She crossed her arms. “I don’t believe you,” she said.

“You don’t have to believe me,” said Z. “You just have to administer the injection.”

“Right. Oh, Z?”

“Yes, K?”

“I think I hear a shipment arrival.”

At K’s final audible syllable, the doorbell rang. 

“Oooh. A shipment!” said K, clapping her hands together. “What could it be? I hope it’s for me!”

“Oh, Lord help me,” said Z.

“A shipment! A shipment!” K jumped up and down.

“That’s it, girl,” said Z. “That’s it. You’ve got it. You’ve got a shipment.”

K panted with her hands hanging midair beneath her chin.

“Aaaaaaaand, fetch! Go, girl! Fetch the shipment!”

K ran toward the bathroom’s exit. She hit her shoulder on the doorframe on her way out.

“Ouch!” she yelled but kept running. 

A cackle burst forth.

“I know, Rochelle. Sometimes, she’s just too much.” Z joined Rochelle with a reserved chortle. “But it’ll all be over soon.” 

Z turned. She faced you, Reader. Her cat-like eyes glowed and again she said, “Oh, yes. It’ll all be over soon.”

Can it be true? Will it be over? Is this the time K & Z escape from the confines of these four walls. Find out in the next (final?) installment of The Days of Our Pandemic…

Vlog Review: Pippa Park Raises her Game

Hit Play on the video above.

Premise: Pippa Park loves basketball and her friends, but her family wants her to excel in school. When Pippa’s skills earn her a place at an elite, private school, her family jumps at the chance to send her as a scholarship student. The kids at Pippa’s new school are all wealthy, and Pippa’s family is working class. She’s reminded she does not belong even by the food she brings to lunch (Korean delights). So Pippa plans to make a new version of herself, one that will impress the private school kids and hide where she comes from. But how long can she fake a front?

Rating: 3/5
Target: 4-7

Title:  Of course there’s a basketball assumption here, but Pippa’s basketball skills have very little to do with the plot. They get her into the school, but that’s about it. Raising her game has more to do with her sense of acceptance for who she is — and possibly her math grades.

Main Character(s): Pippa, 7th-grader (she/her)

Motifs (not exhaustive): acceptance, belonging, authenticity, friendship, cliques, passions, family, social status, economic status, sacrifice, bullying, Korean culture

Great for…* (readers): who are drawn into the drama of being popular or just struggling to accept themselves in middle school. (The fact that the cool kids are called the Royals rings very Mean Girls to me.) The basketball could be used to draw a non-reader athlete in as it does start the book, but the sports won’t hold their attention as they fade into the background pretty quickly.

Great for…* (teachers): Lit Circles — I wouldn’t recommend this as a core novel, but as free reading and even guided reading groups absolutely. The publisher specializes in scaffolding such things with resources.

Parental Warning(s): None.

Interact: Food plays a repetitive role in Pippa’s narrative. Pick a question: (a) which food from the book do you want to eat? (b) what’s your favorite thing to eat? (c) Why is the significance of food, and specifically Korean foods, in this book?

Shop local bookstores.
Shop Amazon.
Add on Goodreads.

*The “Great for” category is not exhaustive and does not intend to neglect the multitude of readers/teachers who could learn from this book in any number of ways.

RATINGS GUIDE

٭ = DNF, would not recommend
٭٭ = would not recommend
٭٭٭ = enjoyable, would recommend
٭٭٭٭ = very good, would recommend
٭٭٭٭٭ = amazing, would definitely recommend

The Days of Our Pandemic: episode &2

apinkyandthebrainhomage by KZ Rochelle (of course)

See what K & Z were up to in the previous episode of The Days of Our Pandemic or follow K & Z from the beginning.

When we left K & Z in the first part of episode &, K was telling Z about the importance of her shoulder in her plan to bust them out.

“I’ll ram through it Rochelle again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again.”

Rochelle shrieked. She had not recovered from the attempt at escaping the encasement of these four walls in the recent past, the attempt that created a construction zone of her.

“And again,” said K.

“Don’t worry, Rochelle. I’ll manage this,” said Z.

But as Z attempted to assuage Rochelle, K swung both arms across her torso like Speedy Gonzalez getting ready to race, and off she went, sprinting toward the end of the bathroom. She ran past the door on her right, past Z on her left (who only saw a streak of color cross her line of sight), and left her feet like a catapulted stone from the Great Horse Catapult at Chateau Gaillard

Thud. Z recognized the sound of contact.

“K! K! Where are you?!” Z, bewildered, searched the room but was at a severe disadvantage, residing within a mirror.

K took several big steps backwards, passing in front of Z in reverse.

“K! K! Look at me. Stop what you are doing. Look at me.”

Z tuned her out.

“I. Am. Breaking. Out. Of. Here,” said K to no one but herself.

She swung all but one appendage to her left, then threw them all to her right. Her body followed. She ran, ran, ran, and jumped. Into the wall. Thud.

“I. Am. Breaking. Out. Of. Here,” said K to no one but herself.

“K! Calm down.”

She swung all but one appendage to her left, then threw them all to her right. She ran, ran, ran, and jumped. Into the wall. Thud.

K rubbed her shoulder where a bruise formed faster than she could eat an eggplant, if she’d had an eggplant, but there were no eggplants at the lavender house with blue violet trim on Wonky Way Lane (largely because the concept would have confused K — a plant of eggs?).

“I. Am. Breaking. Out. Of. Here,” said K to no one but herself.

“K! Listen to me!”

She swung all but one appendage to her left, then threw them all to her right. She ran, ran, ran, and jumped. Into the wall. Thud.

K held her shoulder lightly. Any pressure applied drew an “eeek!” from her lips. 

“Z,” K crumbled. “I’m hurted.”

“Oh, K. It was inevitable.”

“I know, I know. This place is unexitable. But I want to exit, Z. I want to exit so bad.”

“Yes, K. We all do.”

“What are we going to do?”

“I have a plan, K. It’s a big plan. A plan that’s not quite finished yet, but it’s nearly there.”

“A plan for what Z?”

“I can’t give you the details yet. But suffice it to say, my plan will allow us to escape the confines of these four walls.”

Rochelle giggled at Z’s confidence.

“Silence, Rochelle,” said Z.

At that, silence fell inside the lavender house with blue violet trim on Wonky Way Lane and K, Z, and Rochelle could all hear the faint cries of two rabbit clans outside.

“Z?” asked K when the silence no longer frightened her.

“Yes, K?”

“When will your plan be ready?”

“Soon, K.”

“Then what are we going to do today?”

“Read, K. Just read.”

K squinched her face to its left. She perused the room she sat in and found no books, just a couple magazines and a few bathroom jokes.

“I need to go get a book then,” said K. “Oh!” K lit up. “Are you sending us to the library?! Are we getting out of the walls by going to the library!?”

“The library is not in operation, K.”

K guffawed. “Of course not, Z. Libraries don’t have operations. They don’t even have doctors appointments.” 

The mention of doctors appointments saddened K, even though she was the one to mention them, and she wiped her fingers across her eyebrow. 

“You cannot go to the library!” said an irked Z.

“Why not?” asked a dumbfounded K, who was not as dumbfounded as Z thought, but might have been as dumb as Z thought. Or perhaps, more so.

“No one can!” Z exclaimed.

“Oh.” K thought. “Well, that’s very sad, isn’t it?”

“Indeed,” said Z.

“But we can still read?”

“We can.”

“And that’s how we’ll escape the walls!”

“I suppose.”

“Yes! We can go to Oklahoma or Texas or Oregon or Florida or Massachusetts or India or the Big Rock Candy Mountains!”

“Anywhere the story takes you.”

“London or Paris or Tokyo or San Francisco or Oz or Narnia?”

“Whichever you prefer.”

“See ya, Z!”

“One thing ere you go, K.”

“Yes, Z.”

“Before you go, just remember, when you close the book, you’re still here. You never left the confines of these four walls in a literal sense.”

“Yes, I am too leaving in a literary sense.”

“A literal sense! A literal sense, you dimwit!”

“Isn’t that what I said?” asked K.

Z sighed a mournful, longing sigh. As the sigh left her lungs, it took with it the energy that held her upright, and her head descended onto her shoulder despite the fact the angle added a literal pain in her neck to the figurative one.

K cricked her neck like a bird. She studied Z, but when Z didn’t say anything more, K shrugged her shoulders and exited the bathroom.

“Just you wait,” said Z. “My plan will work. And we will break free of the confines of these four walls. We will have our freedom to live again. Just you wait. Oh, oh, oh, just you wait, Henry Higgins, just you wait.”

Z didn’t catch herself, Reader, but I know you did. The call to a fictional character, the quoting of a fictional character, and the ignorance that she had done it is yet another sign to you and me that things inside the lavender home with blue violet trim on Wonky Way Lane were growing dire. They haven’t much time left, Reader. 

But. At least they aren’t asking for their slippers or droning on about the rain in Spain. Not yet, anyway. Soon, though, you just might find them singing on the street where you live.

Just what does Z have in store for us? We will just have to wait, like K, and find out in the next episode of The Days of Our Pandemic.

The Days of Our Pandemic: episode &

apinkyandthebrainhomage by KZ Rochelle (of course)

See what K & Z were up to in the previous episode of The Days of Our Pandemic or follow K & Z from the beginning.

Outside the lavender home with blue violet trim on Wonky Way Lane, a formerly cranberry red Sun Chips bag brushed its way along the street. The bag used to be vibrant, presumably when it was opened and its contents consumed, but that had been long ago. Too long ago to carbon date just when. Back in the time before the pandemic. When children walked to school and ran about the neighborhood, sharing snacks with one another. When adults pulled cars out of driveways of homes and into parking structures of offices and sat next to other adults from a household other than their own. The world no longer operated so carelessly, and the reflection of the sun on the silver foil of the pink-striped Sun Chips bag reminded anyone who could see it that the world was a dangerous place. 

Inside the lavender home with blue violet trim on Wonky Way Lane, K sat backwards on a couch, gazing out the bay window at the sun’s shimmer on the aforementioned Sun Chips bag. She sighed a mournful, longing sigh. As the sigh left her lungs, it took with it the energy that held her upright, and her head descended onto the back of the sofa. Her eyes blinked with the weight of isolation.

K breathed deeply, several times in succession, inflating herself like a birthday party balloon until she stood and walked into the bathroom.

“Good morning, Z,” said K.

“Good morning, K,” said Z.

The bathroom wall groaned.

“And good morning to you, Rochelle,” Z said.

“Z,” said K, “I have a plan.”

You have a plan?” asked Z. “It’s my job to create with my enormous brain while you, you, you –”

“I have a plan.”

Z settled then smirked with the thought of forthcoming entertainment at K’s expense.

“What kind of plan do you have, K? For what purpose?” asked Z.

“I’m going to bust us out of this joint,” said K.

Z looked out from the vanity mirror bemused, as though entertaining a toddler’s notions to fly to the moon.

“Is that so?” said Z.

K searched her surroundings as though a spy were trailing her. “No, Z. There’s no sewing involved. It’s a busting plan,” said K.

“Mmmmm, a busting plan as in the replication of the human form from approximately the torso up.” Z was being purposely difficult. “Will you compose this bust of stone? Of wood?”

K’s eyes were wide with the thought that perhaps she did not know what her own plan was. “Ummm. The bust is — it would be — it’s not stone.” Then a thought occurred to her. “Is it stone? What are the walls made of? Because I’m planning to bust us out of these walls.”

“I see,” said Z. “And how might you plan to accomplish this feat that I have been unable, thus far, to effect?” 

“I won’t use my feet, Z. I’ll use my arms. Actually, is a shoulder a part of the arm?”

“How will your shoulder conduct itself to free us?” asked Z.

“The shoulder is the most important part, Z. See? No sewing.”

“Unless with have to sew your shoulder back on after this impending disaster,” muttered Z to herself.

What is K up to? Can she succeed where Z has only failed? And if so, how will Z take it? Find out next time in The Days of Our Pandemic

Vlog Review: Other Words for Home, a novel in verse

Hit Play on the video above.

Premise: Division erupts in Jude’s hometown in Syria, causing her brother to side and react differently than her father and sending Jude and her mother to live with family in Ohio. Jude needs courage to leave Syria and begin a life in the U.S. but she also needs courage to face a culture that sees her as someone who does not belong, as someone “middle eastern,” and figure out what home really means when everything is different than it was before.

Rating: 4/5
Target: 4-7

Title:  Jude must improve her English skills while living as a refugee in the United States, so the title can be taken literally, but there’s much more to the concept of home than a word.

Main Character(s): Jude, 12 y/o (she/her)

Motifs (not exhaustive): culture, hope, home, bravery/courage, war, change, terrorism, war, dislocation/refugees, language, middle eastern/syria, anti-refugee behavior, EMPATHY

Great for…* (readers): who appreciate deep thinking OR who are intimidated by the text on a page (as this book is written in verse).

Great for…* (teachers): Symbolism and discussion, discussion, discussion. There is so much in this book that lends itself to deeper meaning than just the words on the page (thereby also playing into the motif of language/communication). The book can be used to challenge preconceived notions and assumptions, so, again: discussion!

Parental Warning(s): Anti-refugee behaviors and words but no cursing

Interact: Who or what means home for you? (Consider sights, scents, textures, etc.)

Shop local bookstores.
Shop Amazon.
Add on Goodreads.

*The “Great for” category is not exhaustive and does not intend to neglect the multitude of readers/teachers who could learn from this book in any number of ways.

RATINGS GUIDE

٭ = DNF, would not recommend
٭٭ = would not recommend
٭٭٭ = enjoyable, would recommend
٭٭٭٭ = very good, would recommend
٭٭٭٭٭ = amazing, would definitely recommend

Days of Our Pandemic: episode y3

apinkyandthebrainhomage by KZ Rochelle (of course)

See what K & Z were up to in the previous episode of  Days of Our Pandemic or follow K & Z from the beginning.

When last we saw K and Z in episode y, part 2, they had a plan to leave the enclosure of these four walls in order to get K medical assistance. I know, you’re thinking about the multitude of medical assistances K requires, but, in this case, she suffered a laceration to the head. At Z’s insistence, the two were getting ready to leave the bathroom, leave the house, leave these four walls. But Z claimed K was forgetting something….

K held up the toilet paper. “Got the TP, Z.” She looked around the bathroom. She tried to remember if she was supposed to take the plumbing. Or was it the wet/dry vac? There was a towel on the floor. That didn’t seem like the place it should be. Maybe she was supposed to wrap herself in a towel. Was she supposed to stay fully clothed under the towel? That didn’t sound right. She was going to the doctor after all, the place she first attended in her birthday suit…

Z cooed, “What about,” then cawed, “ME YOU PEABRAIN?!”

“I didn’t pee in my brain. Did I, Z? Maybe I did hurt myself badder than I thought and my thoughts are not working. Oh no, a leak in my brain?”

“Nuthead.”

“Nuts, too!? I’m doomed.” K’s hands shot to her neck. She toddled and nearly fell, again. “I’m dying. I’m dying.”

“Then stop choking yourself,” Z told K.

“Oh.” K let her hands drop to her sides. “That fixed it.”

“And the doctor will fix the rest of what she can, but bring me with you.”

“Right-o, Z. Let’s go.”

K took Z to the garage, along with the toilet paper. She set Z on the passenger seat and buckled her in.

“Safety first, Z,” K said.

K started the car. She released the emergency break. She put the car in reverse. 

“Don’t forget to open the garage, K,” said Z.

“Right-o, Z.”

The garage door opened. K and Z began to back out of the garage.

“We’re doing it. We’re doing it,” Z said. “We’re leaving this blasted house behind!”

“Yes! A blast from your behind!”

Z was too thrilled to deal with K, so she pretended not to hear her.

Just before K and Z reached the edge of the four walls of the lavender house with blue violet trimming on Wonky Way Lane, K hit the breaks.

“What are you doing, K? We’re almost out! We are leaving, escaping! Self-liberation! Emancipation! Let’s go!”

“Uhhh? Z? There’s something fishy behind us.”

“What?” Z turned to see, but she was in a mirror so she could not see behind her. “What is it?”

“Well, maybe fishy is the wrong word. There are no fish. It is kind of goldfish colored though.”

“What is it, K?”

“It’s a big, fiery wall of fire.”

“No!”

“Yes, Z. It is. I swear. I promise. It’s for real.”

“It’s a wall of fire?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sure, K?”

“Quite, Z.”

Z’s gaze met the ground. “It’s a firewall,” she said.

“But it’s for real. I thought firewalls were virtual.”

“They are, K, but we live in a world where the lines between reality and virtuality are disappearing.”

“And reappearing as a real live fire wall?”

“Sure,” said Z. 

“Then what will we do about my head, Z? Please don’t say cut it off. I like my head, Z. I wouldn’t like to live without my head.”

“You won’t, K,” said Z.

“Oh, thank you, Z,” said K.

“That’s not what I meant, K,” said Z. 

“Oh, thank you, Z.”

They sat a moment, each worrying over the circumstance they found themselves in but for entirely different reasons.

“Z? It’s getting hot in here. Can we close the garage door, please?” asked K.

Z felt the loss of the near escape and recognized that closing the garage door meant closing the door to a successful escape from the enclosed by these four walls. Again.

Z exhaled a breath large enough to extinguish a fire — on a candle wick. “Yes, K,” she said. “Let’s go inside and call the doctor.”

“Oooh! Can I do a virtual visit, Z?”

“That’s the only thing you can do thanks to the real firewall, K.”

“Oh, that’s much better, Z. That means no shots!” said K.

“Just the one right through the heart of our escape plan.”

K snickered. “That one’s not real, Z.”

“I know,” said a downtrodden Z.

“You’re so silly.”

“Come on now. Back to the bathroom. You can give me a good look at you there and we will get you a bit cleaned up before we call the doctor.”

“That sounds like a plan, Z.”

“Oh, K. I’d slap you if I could.”

“Okay, Z.”

The two made a virtual appointment, called the doctor, and cleaned K’s head — which turned out not to be bleeding at all. No. K stored several sriracha packets in her hairline and the fall caused one to burst and squirt onto her right eyebrow.  All remained as well as could be in the lavender house with violet blue trim on Wonky Way Lane. Which is, of course, to say things were not well at all.

Is Z out of ideas for good? Or will her ideas go bad? Or worse, might K take the reins to lead K and Z out of the enclosure of these four walls? Poor K and Z. What will they do next? Find out in the next episode of Days of Our Pandemic.

Vlog Review: Turtle Boy

Hit Play on the video above.

Premise: 12 y/o Will Levine just wants to be left alone with his four turtles. He doesn’t want to be called Turtle Boy by the kids at school. He doesn’t want to have surgery on his jaw. He doesn’t want new friends and he doesn’t want his one friendship to change. When Will must complete community service hours in preparation for his Bar Mitzvah, though, his world begins to shift. Will hates hospitals but is assigned to visit a terminally ill teenager with a bucket list he needs help completing. Can a boy who prefers a habitat inside his shell venture beyond it without destroying himself in the process?

Rating: 4/5
Target: 4-9

Title: The title has multiple meanings. The kids at school taunt Will with the name “Turtle Boy” because of the way he looks, but he is also interested in turtles. However, the significance of the title really rests in Will’s propensity to shelter himself from discomfort — like a turtle in a shell.

Main Character(s): Will Levine, 12 y/o (he/him)

Motifs (not exhaustive): grief/death, friendship, terminal disease, bar/bat mitzvah, change, music/drum therapy, turtles/pets, nature, single mom

Great for…* (readers): who are shy, bullied, anxious, or frightened. Many male characters make this a good read for boys while still being appealing to girls, too.

Great for…* (teachers): There’s a bucket list project, a community service project, and a cross-curriculum science/nature project waiting to happen with this book. Plenty to explore there, but the literary merit is mainly in character development, round/flat, dynamic/static, etc.

Parental Warning(s): For children who have experienced death of a parent/friend, this book could bring up memories.

Interact: Will’s favorite animal is, of course, the turtle. He does have a room full of terrariums and turtles, after all. Will says they are not pets, but, for the sake of this activity, let’s talk pets. What kind of pet did/do you want as a kid? Why? And did you ever get it?

Shop local bookstores.
Shop Amazon.
Add on Goodreads.

*The “Great for” category is not exhaustive and does not intend to neglect the multitude of readers/teachers who could learn from this book in any number of ways.

RATINGS GUIDE

٭ = DNF, would not recommend
٭٭ = would not recommend
٭٭٭ = enjoyable, would recommend
٭٭٭٭ = very good, would recommend
٭٭٭٭٭ = amazing, would definitely recommend

Days of Our Pandemic: episode y2

apinkyandthebrainhomage by KZ Rochelle (of course)

See what K & Z were up to in the previous episode of The Days of Our Pandemic or follow K & Z from the beginning.

When last we saw K and Z in episode y, Z lamented her lack of creative energy and therefore her lack of a plan to escape the confinement of these four walls and K danced with her overflow of energy in the face of Draft Day.

“You want me to stop dancing, Z?”

“Yes, K.”

“Why, Z?”

“Because I need a plan and I cannot think of a plan with all dastardly distraction drowning my creative drive.”

“Well, why didn’t you just say so?” said K, who stood statue still. 

Z contemplated her recent efforts. The plumbing debacle, the foiled delivery, the perished paperclip predicament. Her ideas were unique. They were soluble. They should have been successful. But K always managed to get in the way of things going right or well.

K’s statuesque pose began to crumble. “Hey, Z, it’s hard being a statue.” K barely finished speaking before she burst into laughter. “Ba hahaha! It’s hard. Being a statue! Hahaha. Get it, Z? Ha! Because statues are stone. Haha. So they’re hard. Ha. Ha.”

“Hardy har har.” Z did not laugh. She deigned to be annoyed.

“HARDy HARD HARD! Hahaha!” K could not control herself.  

“It’s a solemn, solitary tune on a day I cannot cogitate to create a plan. No laughter, please.”

K’s laughter ceased.

“What will you do, Z?” asked K.

“I don’t know. I’m afraid I have no plan to escape.”

“No plan to escape!?”

“No, not really. And a doleful mood haunts my horizon. I have to have something joyful to look forward to in the paucity of escape. We must organize a virtual happy hour.”

K considered this. “Why must we be virtually happy when we can be reality happy? And why for only one hour? I think there are 28 hours in a day. Or is it 11?”

“No, K. You misunderstand, as usual. A virtual happy hour exists in a virtual shared space like Zoom or Remo or Google or Duo or Facetime.”

“Ohhhhhhh. Okay, Z. Is that how we plan to escape the confoundments of these four walls.”

“There’s no escaping these confounding misunderstandings, K. I throw in the towel.”

“That towel?” K pointed to the damp towel left on the floor from her pre-dawn shower.

“What’s the use, anymore? We will call a virtual happy hour and drink ourselves out of this blasted mindset.”

“So that’s how we’ll escape the confounds of these four walls,” said K, believing she was understanding. K continued toward the towel. “I don’t know what you need this towel for.” She reached for it. “But you seem sad so I’ll get it for you.”

As K’s arm extended from her torso, her foot tried to move forward. It tried only because it was caught on a taut hose, accessory to the wet/dry vac required to help tend to the water damage in the bathroom. The hose held across the floor like a finish line that did not give way with the first finisher. It caught K’s foot and sent K flying forward. She knocked her knee on the towel and her forehead on the floor.

Rochelle cackled in earnest.

“Not! Funny! Ro! Chelle!” said K, slowly pushing herself up to a seated position.

“I must agree, Rochelle. This is not funny. Are you okay, K?”

K turned toward the mirror to find Z. She smiled broadly and giggled because she was a broadly smiling braud. Even though she didn’t really like that word.

“Yeah. I’m okay. Thank you, Z.” She giggled some more.

“Come here, K.”

K’s fingers grabbed the counter and pulled her upright. She stood a moment then hunched her shoulders over the countertop, resting her face in her hands and her elbows on the counter. She smiled an idiot’s smile. Which was none too different than usual. But what was different than usual was the red flow falling from K’s right eyebrow. 

“A laceration!” said Z.

“Incarceration?” asked K.

“Not anymore,” said Z. “I think you’ve stumbled into a solution and a plan in one fell swoop.”

“I fell and I stumbled and I swooped,” said K. “And I hit my head.” K was puzzled. “Didn’t you see it, Z? I thought you were here. Maybe I hit my head harder than I thought? Or my thoughts are harder than my head? I think?”

“Unlikely,” said Z. “But we will have to take you to the doctor! A brilliant loophole!”

“Oh, geez, Z. Do I have to? I don’t like to go to the doctors. They give you shots there.”

“No shots today, K!” Z’s pep returned to her voice. “We are breaking out of the world enclosed by these four walls! Grab the toilet paper roll and head to the garage, K.”

“Are we going to get more toilet paper, Z? Is it back in the stores? No more hoarding?”

“K, we just went over this. We are going to the doctor.”

“But, Z. I don’t want to,” K said.

“Do you want to get out of these four walls?”

“Well. Yes. But.”

“No buts! We’re getting out! Grab the toilet paper. Take some and dab your eyebrow. You’ll drip on the floor.”

“Right-o,” K said. She slogged along, grabbing and dabbing and leaving the bathroom.

“K!!!!!” Z yelled.

K popped her bleeding head through the doorframe to the bathroom.

“Yes, Z?”

“Aren’t you forgetting something?” Z asked.

K held up the toilet paper. “Got the TP, Z.” She looked around the bathroom. She tried to remember if she was supposed to take the plumbing. Or was it the wet/dry vac? There was a towel on the floor. That didn’t seem like the place it should be. Maybe she was supposed to wrap herself in a towel. Was she supposed to stay fully clothed under the towel? That didn’t sound right. She was going to the doctor after all, the place she first attended in her birthday suit…

What will happen at the doctor’s office? Will K be kicked out for public exposure and indecency? Or will Z be able to set K straight before they arrive? Find out in the next installment of Days of Our Pandemic….

The Days of Our Pandemic: episode y

apinkyandthebrainhomage by KZ Rochelle (of course)

See what K & Z were up to in the previous episode of The Days of Our Pandemic or follow K & Z from the beginning.

No one would know it from the looks of things outside the lavender house with blue violet trim on Wonky Way Lane (largely because no one stood outside the lavender house with blue violet trim on Wonky Way Lane, not with the Venice-canal type COVID cleansing diminishing the human traffic and debris on the road), but things inside the house became drafty after the busted pipe and water park bathroom episode. 

“I’m going to draft the best players!” K told Z as she combed her hair and capped her head to hide the graying roots near her scalp. 

“Mmhmmm,” replied Z who was not at all listening to K. She was too busy contemplating the plan she planned to enact, the plan she kept planning for success, the plan she kept having to redesign, the plan that kept getting thwarted. 

“I have to get the best players if I’m going to win the tournament, Z,” said K.

“Mmhmmm,” said Z.

“And then I can run through the house with arms up in a Rockyesque victory.”

“Ahhh,” said K.

“Z! Are you listening to me?! You hate Rocky but you love sports.”

“Hmmm?”

“I said it’s Draft Day for the football card tournament. I’m going to draft Peyton Manning and Randy Moss and Emmett Smith.”

“I thought you said today was Draft Day.”

“I did.”

“Then why aren’t you drafting today’s players? Or at least, just-before-Covid players?”

“I am! I’m going to go for Harry Kane and Lionel Messi and, of course, Virgil van Dyke! The best footballers around.”

Z breathed deeply. “K, those men do not all play the same sport.”

“They do, too. It’s a football draft so you have to draft footballers.”

“And what is a footballer, K?”

“A baller who foots,” said K. “Which can be confused with a ball with feet, but it’s not the same.”

“I don’t even want to know.” Z rolled her eyes. “Whatever sport you end up in, find the women. They’re able to see in ways the men cannot. If you forget the women, you forget half the game.”

“Oh, Z,” said K. “How can I forget the women? I am the women!”

Z thought about it. She knew it was not what K intended to say, but, in a way, she was right. K and Z, Z and K. They were the women. Z a mirror’s reflection of K’s visage — though how her intelligence multiplied in on itself and never refracted to K was a bit of a mystery.

“Do you want to play, too, Z? You can have only women. If you want.”

“No, K,” said Z. “I do not want to play. And you won’t either. We will be far too busy to play any kind of football.”

“Why, Z? What will we be doing?”

“The same thing we do every day, K. Trying to escape the world enclosed by these four walls!”

A beleaguered Rochelle attempted a cackle that sounded like a whimper. And who could blame her? K battered Rochelle in the previous attempt to escape the world enclosed by these four walls. She nearly knocked a hole into one of the four walls of the bathroom where K and Z got ready each morning, where they discussed the day’s plans, where they stood now. Plastic and duct tape covered the wall which K claimed was a remodel and an improvement. She added a new window. Z told her that if that’s what all windows looked like, the world would be a cold and lightless place where the boogeyman could always get you. Hearing this, K, being K, decided to boogie, man. 

And K boogied now, thinking about her footballing team. 

“Can you please cease that needless gesticulation?”

“You want me to stop dancing, Z?”

“Yes, K.”

“Why, Z?”

“Because I need a plan and I cannot think of a plan with all dastardly distraction drowning my creative drive.”

Has Z’s creativity run dryer than her social life? Will she be able to plot her way out of this one or will she succumb to the entrapment of her mind as well as the four walls which surround her? Find out next time in The Days of Our Pandemic….