Hi. I'm Ken Zinser. I do projects, and this is my blog.


Exercise 1

January 17, 2008

In-between filling prescriptions, Neil spent his time thinking about Jenna, the girl with brown, pixie hair who worked in the bakery; her, of course, his thesis project, and the placebo effect. Neil stood at the pharmacy counter wondering if he would stop feeling nervous around Jenna if he convinced himself that she liked him—but right then Jenna walked past, startling him so much that he sent the tramadol prescribed for a Mrs. Schallberg flying up in the air. She saw the commotion and began to chuckle, but stopped herself, as she walked by the counter, swaying her hips so that her green apron seemed to swim along. He followed her across the store with his eyes until she was behind the rows of bread and pies and then he hurriedly bent down to gather the pills he spilled.

Exercise 2

January 22, 2008

I’m still in bed, waiting to truly wake up. I try my luck every now and then, opening my eyes and craning my neck to look at the clock on my wall. I’m not quite ready to wake up. I dip my toe into consciousness. Maybe I’ve just been rudely pulled from a wonderful dream, pulled up and up, rushing past clouds and sky in my dream world only to be dropped into my body lying on its right side in my bed. This rude awakening makes me demand answers from the clock on my wall: eleven-O-four. It’s not even noon yet. I turn over because my left side hasn’t had enough sleep. I need to sleep equal amounts on my left and right sides—or so I tell myself. Really what I am doing is turning over my brain, my dream, like a cassette: there’s an A-side and a B-side. I try and see if there is anything left to dream. If I’m lucky enough, my visit to consciousness is brief and I begin to dream right where I left off. Sometimes I have a completely new dream. And still, other times I try and fabricate a dream that I’ve had recently, rewind my wonderful dream so that I may enjoy it all over again.

I haven’t fallen asleep because the sunshine is flowing through the window where the window shade is absent. I’ve turned over so I can feel my back warming from the light, and I’ve buried my face in a mix of blanket and pillow. I force a dream. I cling to one image in my mind, one scene: her and I, miraculously together, but together nonetheless. Our legs entwined through soft blankets. Her smile stretches her cheeks and hides her eyes—but that’s it, the one image. I replay it again and again in my head, over the sound of my breathing muffled against the pillow. My breaths get shorter as I try harder and harder to make more. I try and I try until everything becomes black and I retreat to sleep.

I dreamed about her. That’s the first thing that comes to my head as I open my eyes, exactly seven minutes before I should have, perhaps it’s even the reason I woke up. It is 6:53am; my alarm clock doesn’t go off for another seven minutes. The sun isn’t even up yet. I lie on my back with the covers across my chest thinking of her and my dream. I get up, twist the shower knob, stand under the lukewarm flow of water and think of her and think of my dream. I put my clothes on: underwear, then socks, then pants, then shirt, then tie, then shoes—and I think of her and think of my dream. I straighten the sheets on my bed and take on last look around the room to see if anything is out of place, and then head towards the sound of my percolating coffee pot. Yesterday’s stack of mail is on the two-person table waiting for today’s mail to replace it, but it’s much too early for that. The mail doesn’t come until, well, I’m not sure when it comes because I’m always at work come to think of it. Of course being at work isn’t a bad thing, I tell myself as I pour a cup of coffee. It’s not so bad because she is there. It gets lonely here in my apartment. I take a sip of bland coffee and let it heat my heart.

Maybe today will be the day she says something to me. It’s not like I don’t put myself out there; I stand at the pharmacy counter Monday and Tuesday, and then Thursday through Saturday. That should be plenty of time for her to be curious. I think she’s getting curious. She laughed at me yesterday; that’s better than nothing. All I have to do is wait for her to say something. I don’t think I could ever start a conversation with me, she probably doesn’t even like me. And even when I muster up the courage to walk over there, the obstacles seem endless: the counter, first of all, the thirty or so feet it takes to get to the bakery, the display of Entenmanns cakes standing up in the middle of the floor… I would surely lose focus and courage before then.

Exercise 3

January 24, 2008

He looked down at the folding table spread with a paper tablecloth. He looked at the neat pile of napkins next to a tray of chocolate chip cookies and a tin of assorted sugar cookies. There was a stack of Styrofoam cups next to a half-empty bottle of Coca-cola and an unopened bottle of Diet Coke. Near the edge of the table were two Sharpies and several blank name tags, the kind that say “Hello, my name is ________!” The man picked up a Sharpie and wrote “Ronald” on a nametag—he wrote “Ronald” even though an ID badge hanging on a lanyard around his neck read “Steven Malone”—then pressed it hard to his chest. Steven, or Ronald, reached for a sugar cookie and then looked around the gym. There were rows of chairs, less than half of them occupied. Steven, or Ronald, walked to the last row, his weathered oxfords clacking against the wooden floor and the wet trench coat draped over his arm swaying to his steps. He sat down in a chair and placed his coat in the seat directly next to him, and then took a bite out of the cookie.

Ronald, or Steven, looked around the room, looked back at a set of orange double doors, and then back to the rest of the room. His jaw continued to chew on the cookie but his eyes stopped and focused on a woman with blonde, curly hair drooping to her shoulders. The woman with blonde, curly, drooping hair sat in the front row talking to the woman seated next to her. The blonde woman’s nametag, placed above her left breast, read “Rhonda”. Rhonda let out a laugh and turned her head. Steven quickly looked away and then placed the rest of the cookie in his mouth, chewing quickly as well.

Steven walked into the store. A jangle of the little bell hanging from the top of the wooden door prompted the head of Jenna to appear from behind a bookshelf. “Hello,” she half-yelled from near the back of a narrow aisle, the entire store was narrow. Steven smiled and continued slowly into the store looking all around him. He wore a trench coat over top of a gray suit and a periwinkle necktie with a knot too small for his face. Steven stood browsing indifferently through a section of fantasy books in the front. Jenna got up and walked to the front of the store, behind the counter and asked in a kind voice with a hint of familiarity, “It’s been awhile since I’ve seen you here, can I help you find anything?”

Steven turned over his shoulder and fumbled with a book in his hands, stammering, “no, I’m fine, thank you.” He replaced the book and continued to run his bare fingers over the spines of books although his eyes weren’t focused on their titles.

“Well, just let me know, okay?” she said, smiling, as she picked up a tattered book and began turning its pages. Jenna wore an apron even though she dealt only with books. She pulled the pencil out of the bun in her hair to mark something among the pages. Steven continued through the narrow aisles

Exercise 7

February 21, 2008

“Of course you shouldn’t do it,” Hal said into the headset’s microphone, his feet propped up onto his cubicle’s desk. “Well, I mean, that’s what I’m supposed to say at least. What’s really bugging you? Just because, this is a big decision here, you know?” Hal scratched the side of his head while the voice on the other end of the phone murmured back at him. “Uh, huh. Uh huh…right, but is that really worth going through all that trouble?” The murmur turned into a muffled shriek, “you’re right, you’re right: you called the hotline, you’re contemplating suicide, you have so much to live for…let’s just try and be reasonable,” Hal calmed the shriek back to a murmer. He took his feet off the desk and reached for his mug of coffee, taking a quick ssssssip and readjusting his headset.

“So, dead end job; what kind? … Newspaper? So you’re a journalist, I always wanted … No?” Hal swiveled back and forth in his chair, “oh, you make the actual paper it’s…and I thought I had a shitty job, y’know,” Hal tried excusing his honesty with a quick apology and then cleared his throat.

“So the job sucks….yeah, so the job sucks a lot. But how are things at home?…hello?” The murmur began again. “Oh, sorry, thought we got disconnected…go on. Left you?…for the neighbor? And they expected you to move out? Jesus, the nerve…I tell you what, I wouldn’t take it out on yourself. If I were you I’d head down the hall, knock on that door and hit ‘em across the face with a baseball bat, none of this…oh you did? Well okay then…I’m sure a kitchen knife works just fine…yeah, I imagine it would be a little messy.” Hal began drawing different sized kitchen knives and cleavers with his pencil in the margins of the list-of-procedures hand-out—“by the way, this call may be monitored for quality purposes…yeah, just one of those things. They make us do it, I don’t know why.”

“Anyways, how did that all work out for you?” Hal continued. “…you don’t say? …and the other neighbors, they heard it?…well naturally, of course you can’t leave any witnesses…and so now what?…you think the doorman heard the commotion and came up and saw it? Why would the doorman leave his post…no, there has to be some kind of doorman-code…okay, so what if he did? Why didn’t you just go down there and get him too?” Hal asked, picking a cookie from its package and taking a bite. “yeah, true. But if he did see, he’s probably called the cops…right, and that’s why you’re in this predicament. I tell you what, it’s not looking good…but realistically, I mean really… oh, so you think you can take on the police department?…does your door have a good deadbolt? …let’s list your options then.”

Hal took another, sip of coffee. “Option one: turn yourself in…just hear me out…turn yourself in, plead insanity, all that stuff, do five years and…and listen, you can decide whether or not you want to do it in there or maybe come out a new man…two: how high up are you?….fourth floor? Yeah, probably not high enough…maybe if you landed on your head, maybe…okay, three: you could do the pills thing, except that might just make you throw up…oh, oh, the toaster in the bath tub, yeah?….just a stall, no tub? No wonder you’re doing this…what do you mean you’ve gotta go?…so he did see it, ohh. Well, I’d shake your hand or something…the knife, perfect. See? You didn’t even need me…okay well then I’ll talk to you later, have a good one…mhmm, bye-bye.”