about bulletins books Maureen Johnson dot com blog f.a.q. contact community
suite scarlett
girl at sea
13 little blue envelopes
the bermudez triangle
the key to the golden firebird
vacations from hell
let it snow

Monday, May 22, 2006

Spaz and the fort of doom

So, the other night, I was walking home from yoga class. It had been a particularly hard one. You know it’s not going to be a good night when the first words you hear are, “We’re going to be doing lots and lots of split variations.” This implies many, many splits.

An hour and a half later, I was walking out (to the best of my ability, given that my legs were no longer speaking to me). I decided I needed a cookie from the amazing bakery/diner on the corner—the one that makes its own everything and pumps out hot, doughnutty air. Specifically, I needed a lemon M&M cookie—a big, crumbly thing that sheds the chocolate and explodes into a big money crumbly mess the minute you look at it. It’s not that many calories because at least a third of it turns into dust, and either drifts away on a current of air or winds up on you.

So, there I am, contently walking home under cover of darkness, munching my cookie, crumbs going everywhere . . . *munch, munch, munch, crunch, munch* . . . past my neighbors who were walking their terrified-looking cat on a leash, and into the building, past the mirrored table in the hallway . . .

And there I found another creature. And again, I knew him instantly. It was Spaz, Deadline’s best friend.

Spaz accepts a Diet Coke with lime; Deadline runs to greet him

Yes! I should have realized he’d be on his way! Wherever Deadline goes, Spaz is sure to follow. What a pair! Like Deadline, Spaz is instantly recognizable. His wide open mouth, his many arms to grab, claw, and throw everything in sight . . .

They are natural companions. When Deadline looms—generally rendering you sleepless and one-noted in your total and utter panic—Spaz comes in through the back. You know he’s arrived when you hear yourself on the phone with friends saying things like, “look, I can’t talk—I have to finish this thing, and I’m never . . . OH WHAT’S THE USE?”

People react to Spaz in different ways. I seen people scream and cry, go slightly catatonic, and destroy computer equipment. I tend to ramble in a panicked haze. At some point, I wind up at a friend’s apartment, mumbling under my breath about how doomed I am, unable to concentrate. Many baked goods usually appear along with Spaz (like lemon M&M cookies).

One of my absolutely favorite Deadline and Spaz stories was from the same period in college that found me being dropped on my head in the lobby of my dorm on the eve of a midterm.

My friend Marc was a history major. He was in his final semester, and had spent the last eight months working on his thesis—a fifty pound document on German castles. It was due on the last Tuesday of the semester, at precisely twelve noon.

We literally didn’t see Marc for the last three weeks of school. This was astonishing, as we lived with him. I don’t know where he was hiding. All I know is that on Tuesday morning, at 11:15 AM, he came through the door with a heavy air of victory. He held up his bag, which had to have had about two reams of paper in it. He looked extremely sleep deprived. The last time we could confirm that he had slept had been the week before.

“It is finished,” he said. “I don’t know what to do now. I’ve been working on this for so long. I have forty-five minutes. I seriously have no idea what to do. Maureen, what do I do now?”

“Clearly,” I said, looking up from my book, “you need to build a fort.”

He immediately knew that I was right, and dropped his bag where he stood. We proceeded to tear the room apart. We disassembled bunk beds, pulled off the mattresses, got chairs from other people’s rooms. Soon, we had what was easily the best fort constructed on the Eastern Seaboard in the last fifty years.

We were working on improving the tunnel entrances when Marc asked a very important question, and went completely white in the process.

“Wait . . . what time is it?”

In our zeal, we had disconnected or buried the clock. He found his watch in his pocket.

It was 12:05.

I don’t remember exactly what Marc said; it was more of a noise—a noise sometimes only heard by animals under attack. He was gone—he picked up and started running. Marc was maybe the most athletic person I’ve ever known, so he was going pretty quickly when his backpack came open in front of the building he was running to. That’s when the who even knows how many pages on German castles came flying out. It was only because he looked so stricken that the department secretary accepted the reassembled pages an hour or so later and rolled her timestamp back to 11:30.

But that’s a very Spaz and Deadline moment.