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Tuesday, November 13, 2012


So, I had an amazing response to my second sculpture, so I thought I should post the first one and get some input from everyone. There's something not quite right about it - to me. Tell me what you think. This one is called Evolution.

I should have pictures of the new one in a few days.

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have horribly mean cats; don't make me use them.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

For now...but only for now...

The clock is ticking. I promised this would be the year. I pat myself on the back when I finally input 4300 words several days ago, but then can't find time to do another 4300 and another 4300.

I want to believe I'll finish it this year. I want to believe that what I consider to be important, not just for me but for many people in my situation, that this will make it worth finishing. Why can't I make myself?

So, for now, I seem to be in a holding pattern, wanting so much to finish so I can move onto the next thing, but not being able to let go until this thing is perfect.

Any ideas are welcome... I can't say I won't scoff at them or nod my head then not put them to use, but I can try, just like anyone else. I can try.

Tomorrow, I finish a sculpture due for the appropriately titled, "Sculpture" class. I have hesitated telling people what it is until they see it because, as I tell them, I don't want to influence their critiques. I'm hoping to post a picture of it when I finish tomorrow.

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have horribly mean cats; don't make me use them.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Flying and The Thud

It's been months of scattered sleep.

It's been weeks of waking in sweat.

It's been days, touching without connection.

I heard of a condition, this woman comes to the doctor asking if what is happening at that moment is real. The string that kept her tethered to this world has dissipated, disintegrated as she went about living. She felt like the pink balloon at a child's party, her string cut, drifting in the puffy clouds. She asked him if she was already dead because she wasn't sure, having never been dead previously.

These drugs, this disease, it turns me into something so wrapped up and insulated that I can't feel much anymore. The godsend is that the gripping and crippling depression that would creep into my bed with me while I slept and would hold my throat between its fingers went I woke, it's gone. My ties to it have threaded and we have become estranged. The horrible part is feeling devoid of all the glorious ecstaticism that existed in equal doses. The flying and the thud.

For weeks, I have moved forward, mostly out of competitiveness. The last string that tied me to soil unraveled between my fingers and suddenly I was free, but I floated nowhere. The worst of it was to go back to being poor again, unable to help those who need us, unable to help ourselves. The best part was no longer being able to buy my way out of a bad mood.

The first few days after this all began, I corralled my roommate and my son into the backyard and made hard work of things I convinced myself needed to be done - moving large rocks, tearing up hard soil, breaking my already broken back. I dug and dug until the light went out of the sky.

Weeks went by, and I started replanting, but without conviction. If it lived, it lived. If it died, it was replaced. I bought plants on their deathbeds, marked down for mere pennies, their color drained. I brought them home like rescue puppies, in equal abundance. Our watering system had long been broken by an incompetent landscaper so anything that went into the ground went with a roll of the dice.

Without thinking, I went one day and bought the few things that required me to learn more about what was buried underneath the top layer of immobile clay and unforgiving rocks. I learned where things snaked and I figured out how to repair what I did not understand. But as luck is a funny girl, I found an unfixable leak that flooded and took all the power away from everything that had been repaired. Almost no watering outlet worked just because of this one injury to the line.

I looked up different ways to fix it, all requiring drastic measures - a cut that once done, if not repaired exactly right, would damage everything and cause all the previous work to be for nothing.

I measured what was in the ground. I stood in aisles pondering over the correct materials. I scoped my options if it did not work. I did not prepare for if it did.

After sitting with the problem, watching it waste what little resources we had to keep everything else alive and going, I finally made the brutal cut. There was no way to turn back.

After only a few moments of replacing, adjusting, testing, and readjusting, the leak had disappeared. All the water flowed perfectly.

Every day since, I go out at night in my bare feet. I walk my small garden, from the front with honeysuckle, the sides with the struggling hibiscus, the back with the pink-leafed bougainvillea. I can see the thing I am carving out of air, carving with their vines and flowers. I can see the home that will be after we are gone, after another house struggles under our footsteps and weight to become our home.

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dead Bunnies Wake Up a Sleeping Giant

It's been months since I last wrote on here, but not the since I last wrote in general.

The other thing is I've started doing my artwork again. Whoo-hoo! So I'm shooting to get into the October 5, 2012, First Friday event in downtown Las Vegas. I'll post if I get in so everyone can come down. I'll be setting up an etsy site, too, with some interesting new wearable artwork. Some of the artwork lends itself more towards tattoo art, so if anyone has any idea how to generate income from that without actually doing tattoos, let me know.

Also, I ended up getting into the recording studio and finally doing a few new tunes. I'll post them here as soon as I can. I think I have to post them as a video, so that might be, um, interesting. I think Ill be channelling Celine Dion without missing concert dates because (cough, cough) I'm ill.

I'm working on a new piece, hoping I can get it up here soon. It's called "The Dead Bunnies of Hitler's Regime"...and, yes, there's a story about the title.

My husband and I were driving home one afternoon, and we saw a smushed bunny in the middle of the road. I said, "I used to get so upset about seeing the little dead rabbits, but as a Buddhist, I starting thinking of it as if it were someone who was a really bad person - like Hitler - who'd been reincarnated as a furry rabbit who gets run over, over and over."

As we drive down the road, we kept seeing more dead rabbits in the road (with all the newly built houses in our area, the coyotes have taken off for Fiji, leaving the rabbits to multiply like...rabbits.) As we passed yet another one, I said, "Must be another one of the dead bunnies of Hitler's regime. "...and a title was born...only to get run over by a semi two seconds later.

But that's for later.... Hold your breath, your questions, and we'll get this thing in motion again.  Thanks for making this worth it.

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I meant it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Final Frontier...

Lightning Bug became my final piece that I submitted for the writing class. I added 50% more, so there's more meat to it, for sure. The first go-around, I was only allowed 4-5 pages (on some people's computers, it turned out to be 6 pages... yeah and their scales probably say I weigh 460 lbs...)

Anyway, here it is. Enjoy and comment away:

Lightning Bug
I liked that one best - noctiluca. I found it in the encyclopedia Mama brought home from the Piggly Wiggly that a lady paid for with S & H green stamps but never picked up (Mama only got A through L because that’s all the lady had ordered, but she promised me she’d get the rest someday.)
The book said in Latin that’s what they called them, noctiluca. It sounded like castanets when I said it aloud, but I preferred lightning bug. The colloquialism made me think of the luminous glow in their bellies, flickering in the dark. (Colloquialism was the section I found on language, just before the encyclopedia ran out, but Daddy says to quit using it ‘cause it sounded nasty.)
Our front yard back in Pearl, Mississippi, was filled with lightning bugs. When I was little, I thought they were invisible during the day, hidden by the sunlight like fairies, revealing themselves when the sun disappeared behind the hill’s edge. I’m eleven now, so I know better. Now I know they sleep during the day; and at night, after they stretch and wake up, they go to look for dates, much like my Uncle Rudy.
After the sun dims in our neighborhood and the yellowed living room lights seep out onto the roads, the steps in front of the clapboard houses crowd with mothers. They sit with their daughters between their legs, untangling their daughter’s long hair with their fingers and the local gossip with their tongues. 
Mama likes to sit with the ladies, sometimes messing with either of my sisters’ hair. Both Lou Ann and Amy still had flowing strands that cascaded down their backs. Mine was short and bobbed, making me look more like a boy to all my classmates.
I used to have long braids on each side of my head, but one night I stumbled into the bathroom and didn’t see one of my braids had ended up wet until it was too late. Mama chopped my hair off rather than, “…let you end up with typhoid.” I didn’t want to tell her that the encyclopedia said I’d have to ingest the toilet water for me to get sick.
I told anyone who asked that I cut it off because I was going to be a scientist when I grew up and it didn’t make sense to let it catch on fire in a Bunsen burner. I tossed my head at my sisters, them trapped between Mama’s knees, showing off how I got to run and play while Mama dug deep into their scalps with her Barbasol-dipped brushes. I liked it better chasing the lightning bugs with my cat, Brown Kitty, than listening to stories and having my head pulled raw by combs.
Once in awhile, a lightning bug would fly into my hand. For one moment, I would watch its tail light, the glow luminously lighting my own hand where it landed. I got so excited, cupping my hands around the lightning bug, feeling it flutter lightly against my palms. Over and over I would do this, feeling the lighting bug land calmly, getting so excited when it realized it was trapped, how frantic it became, not knowing I had no intention of hurting it ever. When the ache of holding one prisoner for too long tugged at me, I opened my fingers and let the lightning bug flutter clumsily away.
It was two months since we left Pearl and our pretty front yard, having been skirted away in a 1959 Ford van Daddy bought from Mr. Humphreys. He told Daddy the shift was on the column, but that it could pull stumps out like no ox ever could. And it was a good thing, seeing as Mama never could bring herself to get rid of half of the things she bought. Grandpa and Daddy hooked up a rented trailer to the van’s hitch, both taking turns to cuss out my mother’s frugalness, then turning to smile gently when she approached, arms loaded with sweet tea and Girl Scout cookies.
In the near dead of night, we set off for Hot Springs, Arkansas, exhausted from packing and crying good-byes. It was to be the first time we had ever lived more than 10 miles away from Grandpa and Grandma and I wasn’t quite sure we’d find our way back in a timely manner. Mama and Daddy promised we’d still all go to Florida later that summer with them; my Aunt Lavetta; her toy poodle, Punkin; and Uncle Rudy and his latest girl. (They didn’t add that last part, but I knew as sure as Uncle Rudy’d be smoking his cigars, he’d have some teased-haired woman from Branson on his arm if he could stand up straight long enough to ask her.)
The ride to our new town was simpler than I expected. The trailer swayed back in forth on the road, forcing Daddy to drive with two hands the whole time. Summer was easing into its middle, causing my sisters and me to sweat profusely while we slept in the back seats, even with all the windows rolled down. I was the only one who didn’t mind leaving; the only one who didn’t have someone other than family to see them off.

Hot Springs National Park was considered a thriving tourist town. Ladies in bathing suits and sunglasses in the hotel lobbies; men in three-piece suits, fanning themselves in the air-conditioned insides of the auction houses; shopkeepers filling their cases with horehound sugar sticks and cedar souvenirs, marking them all with a “Hot Springs, Ark. – The Natural State” stamp, a keepsake for every budget.
It had been like this for centuries, bringing in Frank and Jesse James to rob the Northerners on the trains when they came to town to rest and play the horses. Even Al Capone and his gang came down for a summer, holed up in the Arlington Hotel when their rival gang checked into the hotel across the street. Al and the other fellow meet in the middle of the street and shook hands, saying how there wouldn’t be any fighting on account of everyone being on vacation.
But for me, it was just one long day that was so hot and humid, that as soon as I stepped outside, it felt like I was walking through mud with a blow dryer on my face. Some days, I took my bike down to the Piggly Wiggly to trade in bottles so I could buy sheet music down at the piano store, but no matter what time I went, the streets were deserted like I had walked out in the middle of “The Andromeda Strain” (which Daddy let me watch with him the other night when Mama went to go to the new neighborlady’s house to play Hearts. She was always making friends so easy like that while me and Daddy stayed at home watching Andy Griffith reruns.)
At night, I went to play with the lightening bugs, but the heat kept them hibernating in their own homes, the humidity too heavy on their wings. I had only seen one or two since we moved and didn’t even dare catch them for fear of harming them. So few had appeared in our time there, I half thought I’d have to write to President Ford to see about getting them on the Endangered Species list.
I was thrilled when after months of either playing alone or sitting watching Perry Mason reruns, Mama announced we’d be starting school two weeks earlier than back home. She said when she went to register us, the superintendent told her it was because of the roofers.
“These men,” he said, taking a puff on his Marlboro, “they cain’t work the tar once the devil has gotten in the wind. The air’ll burn ‘em when it touches them. Tar’ll do worse. Get ‘em in here earlier, I say, and the children don’t got to smell it neither.”

School was my most favorite thing in the entire world. I could barely sleep nights before a test, not from fear, but from excitement, the sheer pleasure of handling the freshly mimeographed pages, smelling their sweet ink in the air and feeling the dampness of the pages, and then looking down the pages at all the questions lined up in rows.
When my old teacher, Mrs. Robinson, assigned us fifth graders a project of selecting a country and then presenting it, most of my classmates showed up with discarded shoeboxes filled with cutouts from their mothers’ Good Housekeeping magazines. I had carefully selected Italy and spent the prior three weeks shaping a dome to mimic the cathedral foyer I read in the section on Caravaggio, holding myself nearly upside down to paint the interior with the cobalt blue I bought over at the Ben Franklin store.
I used gold for the fleur-de-lis I painted on the ceiling, fresh sprigs of rosemary to imitate the decorative bushes in the foyer, and then I rigged Daddy’s leftover tiny, white Christmas lights to look like sconces near the alter. I turned the lights off in the room when I presented my diorama that Friday, and had borrowed my cousin Kyle’s Walkman so I could play Pavarotti singing like he would be in my chapel.
The room was quiet and chilled, even after I turned the lights back on. Nobody in the room would talk to me, not even Mrs. Robinson. Kim Crittenden whispered behind her hand to Christy Whittington and I heard the word brownnoser behind her fingers. I wiped my face, just in case.
It wasn’t the first time the room got quiet after I was done, but I didn’t mind. I was used to sitting by myself at lunch. Sometimes, I’d sit with June Connell, who nobody – not even the girl with purple fingers that everybody teases and says she has lice – would sit with June. But even that tapered off after awhile and I began eating my bologna sandwiches alone while I reread the outside of my Partridge Family lunch box.
Still, I loved school. I loved hearing Mr. Stiles, our principal, announce my name first when he called out the scores for the state tests or every six weeks when report cards came out. Mama would pat my head when I showed her and dig into the back of the freezer for a drumstick ice cream just for me.

Mama took me, Lou Ann, and Amy over to Little Rock to pick out new school dresses. She said, “Hot Springs don’t have nothing that nice girls can wear outside a they front yards. We just have to find the next big town over.”
And Little Rock was the biggest - four Sears, two JC Penney’s, and a full 2-story mall just like they had in the movies with its own Swenson’s and Casa Bonita.
Hours later, we emerged with white crisp bags full of dresses, tights, and slightly-high heeled shoes that tapped like dance shoes while I walked. My favorite dress was the creamy colored one with bright red cherries all over it that Mama found for me hidden in the size 8s. When I turned around to show Mama how I looked, the skirt lifted up and made me look like a ballerina in the mirror. I made sure I carried that bag all around the mall and kept it with me the whole two hour drive home, rather than let it sit in the trunk and get car fumes all over it.
“This year will be different, girls,” Mama said to the three of us. “Won’t it, Grace?”
“Yes, Mama,” I replied happily.
“We’ll get you some friends for sure,” she said more quietly, but she looked in the rear view mirror at me and smiled.
“Yes, Mama,” I replied hesitantly.

The night before school started, I tossed and turned, excited to wear my new dress and use my new supplies. Fresh pencils have such a fine sharpness that makes my signature look even more daring and creative. It irritated me to no end when one broke, especially during a test when I was concentrating hard. Every time, I’d be forced to walk to the back of the class, being watched as I was, listening to the snickering behind the boys’ hands, a slight push as I went by.
One time, right after pep club started, Mama spent the night before making my gorgeous regulation gold puffed sleeved shirt. I had worn it that morning in spite of having a test because there was a pep rally after school. I had gotten up to sharpen my pencil and on my way back, I saw Kim Crittenden whispering to Mark Bailey. Before I could figure out what she was saying, Mark’s foot went right out into my path. I came down hard on the floor. Kim rushed to help, she said later, but instead she jabbed my elbow hard. Normally, it wouldn’t have mattered, but Kim knew I was harboring a large scab under the silky golden fabric, a scab she put there just the week before, a scab that easily came loose, causing blood to ooze out and permanently stain the elbows of the shirt. I sat in my seat, in front of Kim and Mark, making sure to wipe my tears only when I could make it look like I was scratching an itch.
I didn’t want Mama to see the stain after all her hard work so I lied and said I didn’t like pep club afterall and I quit.
I laid in my bed remembering, looking over at the fresh white plastic bag on my new dress. They were going to ruin it, I just knew it. I got up and took it out, pulled it over my sunburnt face. I wanted one chance to wear it before they messed it up.
I stood in front of the mirror, turning from one side to the next, the cherries dancing even in the pale light. I smiled as it shimmered as I turned. But then I saw how my belly pudged out just a little, making me look fat and round. I saw the choppy haircut the girl from the beauty college had given me, taking the shine and bounciness out of my face. I could see the wrinkles under my eyes that had been there since I was a baby, always making me look a little older. I could see what they saw, Kim and all the rest. “No wonder,” I whispered. They had ruined my dress and I hadn’t even worn it yet.
I nearly tore the dress off, leaving it in a crumble on the floor. I fell back into my bed, my fresh pillow now burning against my cheek, fresh tears collecting on the pillowcase. I fell asleep without dreaming about my new crisp folder or my scented notebook paper or my brand new cherry dress.

The next day, Mama made me wear the dress after she picked it up off the floor, “Must have fallen in the night,” she said, dismissing any other possible reason. “None of them kids’ll notice the wrinkles.”
I shuffled through the morning silently, going from the office to get my New Student cards then going to each office to drop them off. When I came to my new sixth grade teacher’s room - Mrs. Hart – she had already started by having the whole class get up individually to introduce ourselves to each other by coming to the front of the class.
When Mrs. Hart leaned over to talk to me, I saw the boys in the class try to look up her dress. She was still young and wore a one-piece mini dress that came just above her knees, just like the girls on Charlie’s Angels. Her Love’s Baby Soft perfume floated around me as she told me quietly to sit in the back row. When she turned back to the class, they all quickly turned their attention to a little shiny-haired girl who talking about her summer at Springdale church camp.
Everyone took turns talking about themselves, and as each one came up, the others would make jokes or say their names in funny ways, the way they had for all the years they had known each other. I was the only one in the room who had not been in kindergarten up until now with the same children.
Mrs. Hart called me to the front and I hesitated. I had never not done something a teacher asked me to do.
“Don’t be shy,” she said warmly. “Everybody here’s your friend.” I figured she must be very young if she believed that.
When I stood at the front of the class, they were all silent, listening intently. I saw the shiny-haired girl, called Savannah, lean in to whisper to the boy named Elmer. When she pulled back, I saw her smile at me.
I started slow, talking about back home and school, but after awhile I forgot where I was and I started telling them all about my piano and Brown Kitty.
When I finished and started to pass by Savannah’s desk to reach mine, my whole body tensed and prepared for the fall. Instead, she reached forward with a fresh pencil, offering me one of hers with butterflies on it. “I like your dress,” she whispered. “I think the butterflies would look nice with them.”
When lunch came, a small group filtered out and crowded around me, asking me one smiling question after another, so curious about this place so far away, farther than they had ever been. A few of the boys looked on with curious gazes; others nodded with seemingly knowing and understanding nods, as if they knew exactly where I was talking about and that we were compatriots in our great travels of the world.
After school, we all clamored together, teasing and tickling as we walked through our new neighborhood. When we came to our house first, Mama seemed surprised but she recovered quickly and asked would “Miss Savannah” like to join us for dinner. She did indeed and went inside to call her mother, who was only too delighted to have one less person for her maid, Elsie, to cook for.
Mama made me change and gave Savannah one of Lou Ann’s old dresses to play in. We ran around my new front yard while Mama cooked dinner and Amy and Lou Ann argued over whose hair was longer. Savannah ran her pudgy fingers through my bob and said, “I like yours better. Looks like an ice skater.” I mentally made a note to see if I could be both a scientist and an ice skater.
Daddy got home and Mama called us in for supper and root beer ice cream, Savannah went back outside in the oncoming dark to wear a new path in our new yard. We pulled out my sisters’ Barbie cases and played with their Wal-Mart dolls, playing fairyland in our bushes.
As the sun dipped below the hang of the trees, three lighting bugs appeared, twinkling under the weeping willow. Excitedly, I pulled Savannah over to watch. I didn’t dare touch them myself, but Savannah easily put out her fingers and let one light on her fingertips. I watched her and then finally did the same.
I peeked inside and watched the lightning bug lighting the inside of my hand, turning it pink. I hadn’t seen one up close since we left Pearl. I smiled, wanting to tickle his belly. As I watched, I saw my lighting bug start to become agitated. I was just about to let him go, when Savannah said, “Wanna see something neat?”
Suddenly, she took a hold of her lightning bug between two fingers and dragged its tail across her shirt, leaving an iridescent trail. She looked at me, smiling, the remnants of her bug in her hand. “See, isn’t it pretty?”
I smiled back weakly, feeling my lightning bug clamoring against the bars of my fingers. I picked him up by his thorax, shaking. Looking at Savannah, I dragged his body against my shirt, leaving a shimmering trail behind. I quickly dropped the remainder and looked down at my belly, all beautiful and lit now, already beginning to fade.
I smiled at Savannah and she returned it, all big and loopy and giddy. She grabbed my hand and off we ran into the bushes, into fairyland.

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hello Latvia!

Hello Latvia! I just saw we have several more unofficial views from this great country that I, coincidentally enough, almost ended up living in.

Way back when the 90's were on the wane, I got an offer for a job where I would spend 6 months of the year in Riga. The company had recently bought a small company there and wanted to maintain it, but change it a bit. This was apparently a huge problem, as (according to the people I interview with) the people thought of their co-workers as family. They didn't like to have people unceremoniously fired or laid off as we Americans were getting in the habit of doing.

In the end, the idea of being forced to fly every six months was a deal breaker for me. At the time, I hadn't discovered my true flying friend, Xanax, which meant every six months, I was definitely going to have a breakdown. Either I was going to have to learn to fly my own plane or me and Diana Nyad were going to become swimming buddies. (look it's on wikipedia.)

Anyway, a great welcome to those of you have just joined our program. We are happily sponsored by no one and hope to continue that glorious tradition!

I would very much like to visit your great country. Maybe once the new book is done and I can come to write about you.

Wikipedia's version of Latvia

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I meant it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Lions at the Door; Ants in the Sink

I know the majority of people who know me think I'm loud, sometimes funny, sometimes obnoxious, some have said strong, some have said fierce. One has said resilient. I like that one best. The funny thing is I don't really think I'm any of those, except the resilient one. I'm Teflon, for sure. All the women in my family had to be. You take what they slap you in the face with and you figure out how to use it to make a meal for 5.

For a long time, I was like that. I remember this boy from Arkansas Governor's School - Roger, I think his name was. I'm FBed with him, but I can't remember his name right now (damn class 2 drugs...). Anyway, I had this horrrrrible crush on him and anything he said to me, I mentally tattooed on my brain for reference later. He was wonderful and funny, so it's not like this was misplaced "love". Anyway, he one time said he noticed that when I took the stairs coming down, I always jumped and hopped to miss the last one or two steps, like I was excited and bouncy. I liked that image of me, even though it was disjointed and all together wrong. But I liked it and I wanted to be it.

The funny thing was I actually wanted to be like those misunderstood girls I read about or saw on tv, the ones that are mysterious because they hardly talk and when they do it's something terribly deep. This was not a reality at 16 for me. I ran my mouth like a lawnmower. I was always memorizing really good comics' bits to redo in front of other people, inserting my own patter so I could be entertaining, because I truly felt that was my unofficial job. I must entertain.

When I was in grade school, I wasn't always like that. I remember auditioning for this little 6th grade play some of the guys in our class had written based on a Shakespearean play (no, they are not the ones that started that trend in Hollywood). In my head, I knew how every single line needed to be read. I could see them clearly and knew how to move, how to gesture, everything. When it came time for my turn, I barely mumbled my lines. I was lucky I even got a speaking part. I had two lines, neither of which was worth remembering or repeating.

Somewhere along the line, I let go of whatever stone was in front of my mouth. I let everything go. I wasn't always rude. I just wasn't always overly polite. I didn't ask permission to give my opinion, which apparently is a huge no-no in the South, and particularly for women. I pretty much assumed that because it was funny, people would listen to what I'd say. And they did. Of course, some people held it against me and I'd suffer later.

Lately, I've been more withdrawn. Maybe it's because I barely speak to anyone during the day at my job. I don't really have to. I already hate talking on the phone, so this is just one step farther. Text messaging for someone like me is fantastic. I don't even have to acknowledge I've seen it. Who would know, seriously?

A couple of weeks ago, something odd happened. I went to a party for a friend. I knew only the person who invited me and one other person. I had just come from a rehearsal, so the songs we practiced were in my head and I hummed or sang parts of them throughout the day, not during anything important, but still. A few days later, my husband asks me if I'm okay. I kind of feel around my arms, legs, belly. Yes, I'm okay. Well, he says, he's heard from someone that they're concerned about me because I wasn't acting my normal self. One person had commented that it appeared like I was on drugs (I am thank you for noticing.), but I chalked this up to my singing about. In fact, the other person that I knew there had somehow become so angry about something I had done - unbeknownst to me at the time - that she had decided to cut me out of her life partially.

I was, understandably, stunned. No, I take that back. I was pissed. I was. I was pissed that things I had done as myself had been misconstrued, repackaged, and relabelled into something slightly resembling the truth, but not enough to actually be the truth.

Junior high school started seeping in under my door and it made me mad and sickeningly sad all at once. I had another rehearsal just 30 minutes after being told this, and it so wrecked me that I couldn't say hello to many people coming in because I kept bursting into tears.

It's stupid, I know. I had all my limbs. I was employed. I had a great family. There was nothing truly wrong with me. But somehow, my anger balled itself up and produced itself in the form of tears. I was hurt that people were talking behind my back. But I was mostly pissed - and I think I said this out loud, even - that I had grown-up problems to deal with and didn't have this kind of time on this planet to worry about little things like this. And it pissed me off that I didn't.

I was utterly and soberly pissed off that I no longer had the time to worry about petty things. I had my big girl panties on and had to worry about things that removed people from this earth and took others out of their homes. Worry about whether or not someone took your chair just wasn't on my list of luxury worries. And I was pissed that it was on someone else's, that they had taken the time to ensnare me in this type of drama, spin me around, and try to make this thing important.

I want to be truly Buddhist about this. I want to have compassion for these people and chant for them to be enlightened. At the same time, I want to push pins into their tires. That's the bad Buddhist side of me.

I don't wish these people ill; I just wish them better. I don't wish that they only had hard things to deal with, sweeping away the need to focus on the tiny; I just wish they saw the lions at my door and didn't try to distract me with the ants in the sink.

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I meant it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Different Train Station; Same Baggage

"Get rid of the past. Let it drop on the ground like a bag of rocks." or something to that effect. That's what I heard tonight on the tv show I used to like so much, "The Big C". It's about a woman who goes a little cuckoo at first after learning she has an incurable version of cancer. She does all these crazy things and then tries to not be so crazy.

I started watching because in the beginning; it mimicked so much of what I had felt when all this illness started in my body, or at least when we first figured something wasn't quite right. I remember laying in the hospital bed after six weeks and being told they were going to transfer me to UCLA in Santa Monica and saying something like, "Really? It's that serious?" as though the previous six weeks hadn't clued me into that. I just couldn't fathom that anything I had happening to me physically could be that serious.

But it was/is that serious. A lot of people die from this so quickly they never find out what's wrong with them until the coroner tells their family.

So, tonight, this character starts talking about dropping the past and letting it go and it reminded me of a recent report on NPR about a new procedure they had come up with so that people could forget horrible bits of their lives (rape, abuse, etc. - although, I knew already that if the abuse is bad enough, you don't need no stinkin' laser to help you forget. Your gorgeous brain will do the honors for you.).

Anyway, I though what an awful idea. Sure, it might help you forget some atrocities you saw in Kabul or most of junior high, but didn't it also erase some of the very things that made us who we are at the moment, some years later? Didn't it also put us at risk to have it happen again? Like, if you can't remember the event, can you not remember the person who did whatever to you? And then, what happens when you turn the corner and the dude is there in your face? You don't recognize him so you don't run. But he recognizes you. And you ain't carrying around no sign, lady, saying you paid to ditch these memories...

And what about that book you were going to write about what happened to you, turning yourself into the material of a fictional family? You're not going to write that because you don't remember it now. So what happened, Mr. George Bailey, when you're not there to write that book that some women need to read so they can recognize themselves on the page and finally leave the men who are using their words, fingers, and fists to reshape their insides and outsides? What then?

Sure, I think these scientists have their hearts in the right place. They want to rid us of the pains of these experiences. But when I burned my hand in a fire, I learned not to do it again. Take that away, that memory, and I might do it over and over again, and yet wonder where the first scar came from.

Dropping the baggage of my past, eternally erasing my past to make an exceptionally clean mind... these things I do only if to erase myself, not physically, but mentally. And really, what's the point if I'm truly not here?

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I meant it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Prisons and Graves

Slowly, pieces of the story are coming into view and falling where they ought. It's a struggle to write, having spent so many years being told over and over not to ever talk about these things, at least, not outside our family. When a girl I hung out with briefly had become witness to the aftermath of a particular struggle, she confronted my mother in front of a lot of my friends, dangerously and recklessly so. I left on the arm of another friend who had been sheltered from any of the true goings-on in our house. My mother caught up to me as we left the building, whispering in my ear, "I told you not to tell anyone. Now look what you've done."

I was often reminded that telling meant breaking up our family, disjointed and fractured as it was. So, I naturally kept quiet. I had seen enough "Burning Bed" movies to know, it don't end so well for the victims who told or fought back. It's either the grave or prison for us. And every day above ground has got to be better than one behind bars.

It's no wonder I struggle now to dig into the garbage of my past. The mess is worse than week-old mayonnaise and over-ripe bananas mixed in with used sick baby diapers, gravied with vomit. But I don't know how else to get close enough to my characters to let them tell the truth.

So, my fingers dig into the mushiness warmth, staining my fingernails and making my gag. But if I pull it back, maybe the characters can breathe long enough to tell the story that prevents one girl from saying "yes" when everyone else knows it'd be better if she ran screaming from the page, yelling, "no!"

This is the ladder, though, that allows me to climb out. If I dig long enough, I can leave myself with enough strength to toddle up and breathe, too. I just have to find a way.

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I meant it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.

Monday, April 16, 2012

First Day of Rehearsal

I don't know that I've ever been the first on the schedule for a play. Certainly, I've been the first for a read-through, but then everyone is. I think it might have been all the way back to when I was in high school and doing work at school and at the Community Arts Center (which sounds impressive but was really only a few steps up from a double wide mobile home. For a town of 36,000, it was fine... acceptable... okay... disappointing.).

I remember seeing my first play there, first one for me with grown-ups in costumes and not kids in outfits made of pillowcases that there moms threw together the night before. Not our mom, however. She always sewed everything she could. She loved it when the schools sent home patterns (yes, friggin' patterns!) for the moms to sew together for a Christmas play. There was one year and one year only my sisters and I all went to the same school because I was almost 5 years older than my youngest sister. That year, we all had to have angel costumes made and not one of us had a real part, not even Chez, who was considered the most beautiful and who the teachers all tripped over themselves to do things for her. They were horribly simplistic patterns but the material was so good, all of us wore them for years as our pajamas. We were identical except for our heights and the fact I was so dark, I looked like the maid's kid. Eh, it was a running joke. A joke they laughed about, mind you..

Anyway, my first real play to see was at the Community Arts Center. I remember being so dumb about the whole process - where to clap, where to stand - all the little things that show you've been here before and aren't a total ninny, in other words all the little gestures and whatnot we use - yet again - to judge each other by. Anyway, when intermission came scurrying by in "The Glass Menagerie", I thought it was a weird place to end a play. I didn't get it. Of course, I have never seen a play with two acts. I was a kid, for Pete's sake. I never saw plays I wasn't in.

Anyway, I thought about that the other night as we were getting ready to rehearse. About how I went from someone participating by force to someone watching to someone participating by choice. Even that was a bit tempestuous. I started out working backstage, getting yelled at by The Lion in "The Lion in Winter" because he was, in his words, " character and you were in my bloody way!"


Then the following year, my sister's boyfriend's older sister was directing "Sleeping Beauty" and asked me to sing for Sleeping Beauty. You read that right. I was to sing for her; not be her. Apparently, the girl cast was beautiful, which I was not, and I could sing my head off, which she could not.

I knew it had to be embarrassing for her, but look, I was the one being forced to be backstage not because I couldn't act but because I wasn't as pretty as she was. Still, she would do weird things onstage to throw everything off. She would speed the song up and make it brighter than necessary, making my haunting version of the song sound like it didn't match. It was just bizarre. I mean, hell, I wasn't the one who gave me this weirdo role. It wasn't my fault I could sing better than her but she could look good in a bathing suit without a cutoff girdle...not that I did that...much.

Who am I kidding, man, I used to wear girdles and tights IN HIGH SCHOOL when they were most certainly NOT in fashion. I used to wear them so tight I got gas and had a glorious muffin top I'd hide with baggy shirts, thereby subtracting the very reason for wearing the gas-inducing girdles. 

Anyway, I knew eventually I'd find my way around the stage. It happened by accident. I was the prop master on my high school's version of "Story Theatre" when the director came to me because a girl in the cast got kicked out of not only the show but also out of school because she'd been drinking. She asked me did I want to take on the part. She said, "I don't even need to wait for an answer, You look like you're jumping out of your skin to take it. It's yours."

I had done other parts in junior high, but this was huge. Huge, huge, huge to me. I got to do something like four or 5 parts because of the way the story was structured, my favorite being The Fisherman's Wife. I don't even remember the story for that scene, I just remember the costume and how my family took incessant pictures of me during the play's short run, every single night.

And I loved that part, I loved being asked. So what if I got it by default. It wasn't going to say that in the programs. So, I acted my friggin fanny off AND still got all the props together, including seven edible mice (Twinkies painted with a gray mixture of food coloring...and on the last night, injected with a syringe with red food coloring into the gooey parts... yes, I am a bit macabre... what of it?).

So, here it is, almost 30 years later, and I'm still doing this. It just felt weird walking into the rehearsal room, just me and John, the director and the stage manager, and starting to talk about the characters we were going to dig our fingers into and mold. I could almost hear Norma Desmond voice from the empty piano room beginning, "I don't know why I'm frightened. I know my way around here...." But, it felt good. So good, I think I'll go back.

We are currently in rehearsal for "Oliver!", directed by the British National Theatre Company of America and produced by Super Summer Theatre. This will be at Spring Mountain Ranch Wednesdays - Saturdays beginning July 11-28, 2012. More information at

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I meant it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Critique of "Untitled"," Waking Dream", and "For Better or Worse I Give You Me"

Critique of “Untitled”, “Waking Dream”, and “For Better or Worse I Give You, Me”

I preface these critiques by firstly saying, I dragged my feet on these. I don’t know if it was the Not Wanting to Let Go of My Spring Break Blues playing in my head or the material, though I suspect it was the former rather than the latter. I was pleasantly surprised by this week’s crop, including the fact that two of the writers had coincidentally (not ironically as all the old Alanis Morrisette listeners would have incorrectly labeled it) given their main female characters the same name, right up to the spelling – Lori. However, I’m never one to chase anything less than an “A”, so I dug in and did my work.

Waking Dream

 The writer made some interesting choices in this piece – twins, waking coma, struggle over keeping someone around just because you want them not because it’s what’s good for them. These were some nice choices. However, the follow-through for most of the choices just weren’t there. For instance, the whole thing of them being twins never gets played out properly. Why make them twins if you’re not going to really use that to further your story? It’s like putting a gun in the room – if no one is going to fire it, why is it there?
The writing was pretty good. The descriptions of the waking dreams were fairly detailed and engrossing, which made other parts confusing. When it came time for Brooke to talk about them as children, she had nothing specific to draw on. She made sweeping remarks that sounded like she was describing a stereotype, remarks that an outsider might make, definitely not someone with inside knowledge. For instance, (and could for the love of Pete, could somebody please start using page numbers I their work? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally dropped a pile of printed out sheets and had to guess which order they were supposed to be in – which is another telltale sign of a troubled story line. If you can drop the pages, mix them up, and not tell automatically where they go without page numbers, then you’ve got a problem…), in the section where Greta starts asking questions about the twins’ connection, Brooke merely responds, “Twins, we have always been inseparable. We even swore when we were kids that we would never be apart, that we would grow old together….” Unless she’s closed up tighter than a drum, she’s probably going to give away a more intimate detail. For instance, she might remember them being in a treehouse their father built the summer before he left their mother. Reember, she’s in a vulnerable state at this point. She’d be more open to accessessing these intimate and personal memories than if she were in a boardroom or at the grocery store chatting with the clerk. Her sister is likely dying. It will cause a person to drudge up all sorts of memeories, ones you’d likely thought you’d forgotten. You’ll remember smells and the feel of a dress’ fabric. And, yes, there’ll be odd memories mixed in with the bunch.
You’ll also forget to eat. It one of the worst kinds of diets, but your head is so filled with trying to capture everything you’re sure you’ll lose when that person passes that you can’t think about doing everyday things, simple things like eating, or putting gas in the car, or watching the series finale of a show you’ve watched for eight seasons.
I liked that you included Vivienne’s process through this journey. It seems to be a story of both sisters coming to terms with Vivienne’s death – Brooke wanting to tether her sister in this world while Vivienne is trying to muddle her way into the next. For me, that part of the story needed to be stronger. It was hidden beneath too little specific detail.
And when I say “too little specific detail” I mean in places where you reuse the word “gray” over and over in one paragraph, but don’t give use anything new to help expand the vision of what either girl is seeing. I have nothing against “gray”. “Gray” is a great word to describe loneliness, depression, gloominess, but it doesn’t tell your story alone. If it did, you could just write “gray”, turn off your laptop, and go sip on some Tequila Sunrises by the pool instead of writing anything more. Give us another angle to see the picture you see.
The ending was pretty abrupt and for all the previously drawn out process, this didn’t match. It would be different if it were something like Brooke had to sign some papers to allow them to pull the plugs. She might do that in striking and hurried motions in order to jump from the desperate feeling of wanting to keep her sister alive to being okay with letting her go. However, that’s not what you’ve written. If you want to stay with what you’ve written, it’ll need more there.
I liked your opening line. First lines are always the kicker. You need to write them in such a way that draws people in, but also makes them want to find out more. Like I said, I liked your first line.
(By the way, you describe the twins as being inseparable at least twice that I can find without looking hard. Find something new to say about them. Anyone can say they are inseparable. I want to read what you have to say about them, what you found unique and interesting enough to want to write about them. Something drew you to these two characters and made you want to put them on paper so they wouldn’t be forgotten. So, make them unforgettable. Tell us what makes them stand out. Point them out in the crowd with your pen and paper.)
Keep going at this one.


This was a cute and interesting story. Seriously. It was engaging and the pacing was good. I liked how she slipped in an out of what she said aloud and what she said to herself. This is a very quiet piece, something that lends a hand to underscore traits of your main character. The ending need sot be rework a little. It’s too pat. Plus, the way the story begins, it seems more like conflict between Lori and Marissa (sorry for my comment earlier. I go the characters’ names mixed up. Lori is a secondary character in this one, not a main character… but I digress.).
I have very little to say about this because I think you’re fairly close on this one. You’ll need another draft or two to get it closer to home, but it’s definitely there. You have the usual grammar problems we all find when we’ve worked on a piece for too long. There are a few punctuation issues, but nothing that can’t be fixed. The main thing is you have something that, in my opinion, is on its way to being a beautiful sketch of a simple life and a hurried resolution.
I definitely would want to see what you do with this, even if you don’t use it as your final piece in class.

For Better or Worse, I Give to You Me

Ever seen Switch? It’s film with Ellen Barkin and Jimmy Smits. Your story reads like a married version of this film. It’s rife with misandry, which is a dangerous road to go down. It’s pretty tricky stuff to alienate a good chunk of your reading audience (see: Zachary Kinsey’s critique of this piece for a typical internal dialogue of someone you piss off, someone who in most cases has just bought you book/story/manuscript and is now searching his/her apartment for their Barnes & Nobel receipt.) Am I saying you shouldn’t write about this? Nope. I’m one of those rare writers who really believes – and doesn’t just say s/he believes – that a writer should be free to write about anything. It doesn’t mean I, the reader, have to buy it, though.
So, let’s dig into this piece, shall we?
First, I like this humorous take on role reversal, but again you might want to make it a little less one sided. Imagine you’re on a see-saw when you’re telling this story. You don’t want the other side to leaving you hanging, or worse, drop you suddenly and very hard to the ground. You want him to go along with you story. Remember, you’re not just talking to the women who are fist pumping along with you, you are (seemingly) trying to make the other side see something new about themselves, something you obviously think they need to change or improve. Comedy is a great way to approach touchy subject like that. But, people tire of being the butt of the joke. They like it better when you can laugh at yourself, too. They’re more willing accept the criticism and listen when you smile and tell them they have lettuce in their teeth. You’re not telling them to hurt them. You just figure they didn’t know and probably didn’t want to go to their next meeting, grinning with their lunch gunking up their freshly bleached chompers.
Secondly, find another doctor’s name. Likely, if anything happened with this story, the real Dr. Laura would have a probably case against you. You’ve put her in your story that, while obviously parody, does not parody her enough to make someone believe it couldn’t be her (Although you could argue with the whole giving-an-unknown-patient-vials-of-drugs thing, though even that might not go in your favor.) The point is this – avoid a lawsuit if you can. Pick another doctor’s name. Her being named Dr. Laura really adds nothing to the story and you don’t parody her enough to make it worth the possible hassle.
The Dr. Laura call in the beginning had a lot of good dialog, but it needed to be trimmed. It also needed to be formatted correctly because Lori’s responses were mixed in with Dr. Laura’s questions. That can be easily straightened out. Go back in and look at what you can remove from the dialog that doesn’t take away from the story line. What details can you afford to lose?
Listen to one of these calls in shows a couple of times. You’ll hear how the radio personalities are very adept at directing their callers. Most callers are prescreened, but even when they are, radio hosts have to be able to structure and push and pull a conversation to make it interesting. Dr. Laura would be doing most of the talking. If someone flips through the channels on their way to a country station, they want the listener to be ale to identify them easily and stop rather than slide on down the dial.
The transition from Dr. Laura asking Lori questions to asking her if she’s willing to do anything is too abrupt. She’s not even asked her what she’s done so far, and certainly nothing Lori has revealed would convince anyone that the situation was at such a crisis that voodoo was the next logic step. I realize you’re looking for a quick fix to get your story going in the direction you want, but you rally forced the wheel on this one. Nobody’s remaining in the car with you on this one – you a crazy driva’, as my 2 year-old niece likes to say.
Okay, I buy that maybe Lori is at her wits’ end, trying to save this marriage, and while when she’s on the phone she might be whipped up into a frenzy that’s frothy enough for her to go along in that immediate moment with what Dr. Laura is saying, but no way that with the simple written instructions that are sent along with the vials do you have me believing that Lori is still in that same mental state. She’s had ample time to come back down to Earth. Maybe if the box arrives, she discards it because she does realize it’s crazy, but then her husband does something so egregious that she feel it’s the last straw. She goes to the closet, grabs up the box, pops the tops on the vials, pours it in his favorite beer, and goes smiling to deliver it to him, apologizing as she does – he thinks for the arguments, she for what she about to do to him.
You want funny? Take another crack at describing Lori’s first attempt at peeing like a man. Ask your husband/boyfriend for funny stories about it. The funniest ones I’ve heard were ones about after a guy’s has sex at night, but forgets about it when he goes to pee in the morning. Apparently, it clogs the “drain pipes” and causes the urine to go flailing in multiple directions, completely uncontrollable. Now, that’s funny – to me. Maybe you end the night before by her sighing and giving in to having sex him, figuring the potion didn’t work and she’s stuck with the same old same old. The next morning, she’s painting the walls with his pee.
I like the nicotine bit. I’ve never smoked, so I don’t know what that intense, instinctive drive to light up feels like, but you described it aptly for my tastes, or lack thereof.
The phone call to the brother is completely believable. Of course, she wouldn’t know what she sounds like! She has spoken yet! Good call on that detail.
I’m with the reviewer who said if you’re going to use slang and/or cuss words, spell them out. We’re grown-ups. We can take it. And if we can’t, there’s a nursery in the main building where someone can drop us off until after class.
(Besides, this is a perfect time for Lori to start feeling the testosterone coursing through her veins, and grow her some balls – or maybe feel the ones she grew the night before).
Brandon’s greeting of Sean (“Are my sister and the kids all right?”) is stiff. Likely, he’d call her by a pet name or a shortened version of her name. I know, I know, he name is already short. But think about it. The relationships, unless strained, between Sean and Brandon is likely to be very intimate, for guys. He probably knows more about what’s going on in their trouble marriage than Lori does.
I like that his previous ailments – his bad elbow, for instance – are issues she has to deal with now. (By the way, Subway in this case is the name of a company. Go ahead, capitalize it.)
I love the details about being in line and getting a hard-on for the barista/counter girl. Here’s a detail you might want to use. There’s a product truckers use that’s basically baby powder and it’s to help with chaffing. It’s called Anti-Monkey Butt. I kid you not. We have a container of it at home. It works great, and had a fantastically hysterical name, especially for a short story.
The bits about all the stuff she had “him” do that he would never do are great. Here’s a great detail. Instead of nicotine gum, consider having her pick up his old prescription for Chantix. Not only will he stop smoking, he’ll have God-awful nightmares.
Of course, the problem by this point is that you’ve now heaped a lot of flaws on Sean and not a one on Lori (though without you telling me, I can point out she’s a controlling bee-yatch who needs to take it down a couple of notches, but that’s just me. Maybe she needs to pick up her old prescription for Xanax.)
Maybe she finds out that he is arranging for a standing order of monthly flowers to be delivered to start on hr next birthday, or while searching for the maps in the truck, she finds a book she’s been going on about that’s out-of-print that’s he’s bought for her. You’ve given him enough flaws. Let her use this as a chance to find out the things she’s stopped looking for - the things she chose him for. She loved him once. Is it possible she’s becomes so blinded by what she wants that she can’t see the loveliness of what he’s giving her?
Cut all the stuff from Sean’s point of view. This has been Lori’s story from the beginning. It’s too abrupt and doesn’t add enough, unless this is a straight out revenge story (which is sounds like it’s shaping up to be.)
I’m guessing you have an ex-husband in your near past, or will about to have one, at least if he reads this.
For instance, Sean jumps up and can’t find Lori or his body, but immediately assumes she did this. That’s not a logical leap or conclusion. A logical one, even if he hates her, is to first consider something he did to get in this mess. He probably wouldn’t even notice her missing until he starts thinking about where his body is. Once he notices that, he might freak out because he doesn’t know if something happened to his body or if it’s gone for good. Calm and adapting would not be in his wheelhouse at this point.
The “Hey go f@#* yourself man don’t be look’n at my wife” bit is great. But here’s the thing…if she’s getting his spontaneous hard-ons caused by his testosterone, then he’s not going to be turned on by her body. Likely, he’d be turned on by the guy who just cussed out. And that, that is funny.
When Lori’s dad shows up, we get that they’ve switch bodies. You don’t have to reexplain it to use. We get the awkwardness of Sean hugging up on his father-in-law while Lori glares at her dad and husband.
You gave away your ending, though, and that just killed it. You had this great, funny ending, and you told the punchline six paragraphs too soon. In fact, you bury the punchline by giving it away TWICE before it’s even necessary. Ugh!
The lines coming out of Dr. Laura’s mouth off the air are offensive. I get it that maybe that’s the way you want her character to be, but she sounds like a parrot of Lori, so it sounds like it’s coming directly out of the mouth of the writer – again, you’re reading audience is looking for their receipt.
The ending paragraph is rush and sounds like you were trying to beat a deadline and needed to tack an ending on.

Okay, all this to say, you have a conflict – the “magic” changing them into each other and their struggle to get through it and Lori’s struggle to change them back. You even resolve it in the last few sentences. But you’ve alienated the majority of your audience by this point – if they’ve stuck around for the ending, which you gave away like a sixth grader who can’t stay behind a curtain without sneaking an arm out to wave to the newly seated crowd.
Go back, make some changes, and come at this again. This could be good fun.

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I meant it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.