What Carrot does during the school day.

So once upon a time, I use to play with making mead. And when I say “play with” I really do mean it. I have this delightful inclination to go full on Lab Kid* when doing anything halfway arty. I can’t say halfway sciencey because we all know the difference between fvcking around and science is writing it down.

I was not writing it down in those days.

In that Fvck Around Phase I made some hella good mead. A few stands outs were a my plain sweet, a morat (mulberry mead), and a peach mead. My brewing process went as follow –

1.4 cup orange juice to start off a packet of Montrachet yeast

2.5 gallons of tap water (Lake Michigan for you aqua connoisseurs)

2.5 gallons of blackberry honey from the Great North Wests somewhere. I think from Glory Bee.

I’ll give a few of you a moment to wipe the coffee you just spit all over your screen. Yes. 2.5 gallons. We good? Okay – so I like mead sweet. Those of you with even the smallest bit of fermenting knowledge will not be surprised to hear it took me nearly two years for it to be drinkable. And I bet it could have gone longer, but as soon as I brought some bottles out to test drink, it went fast. Any notes I took – if I was even halfway that organized – had me do some math. I only remember this math on the alcohol content because I did it several times over, 100% certain I had totally fubar’ed my math and it just wasn’t humanly possible.

It was clocking in at 20%.

Okay, you really need to stop drinking when you’re reading my hilarious interludes. Get a fresh cup and come back.

This ridiculously high alcohol content is hilarious because I am a lightweight beyond compare. I bring shame upon my known-for-heavy-drinking ancestors with my two drink drunk. Alas.

My morat ran as follows –

Same juice set up, 3 gallon bucket, who knows how much honey, topped off with water.

No notes. Because I was full on mad scientist, which wasn’t really all that sciencey because no documentation. Who knows what my alcohol content was. But that got drunk as fast as the blackberry sweet.

The peach?

Same juice set up

12 pounds of mashed peaches with skins ripped off (you can’t really peel peaches when they’re really ripe, just mutilate them)

Oh hey, look, I have some left over honey in this three gallon bucket. I have no idea how much honey is in there, lets just dump it all in and add some water and call it a day.

See? Very precise. Such Math. Much Science.

Even with my lightweightness, that had a kick. I had racked them into 16 oz Grolsch bottles I had saved for this project. Half way through one of them I had to lay on the floor and recover. Five years later it was still amazing. I only know this for it having shown up in a Mystery Brew Box (for having no label) where adventurous re-enactors would drink for a dollar donation. It was the hit of the evening.

And now we are here. I have a little black book now and am more sciencey than arty.

Raw honey and here we go! I know some of you are thinking – why is the water and honey separated? Are they supposed to be mixed?

Yeah. I guess so? I did this with my blackberry sweet. I’d have to roll the carboy every couple of weeks to agitate the top layer of honey as the yeast slowly ate its way down. I’m pretty sure that’s the only reason the yeast was able to accomplish this task, it gave it time to build up tolerance. Also I’m sure there’s some sort of very niche-trick of slow fermentation that impacts the final product something something wine snob goes here.

Weirdly, the water/honey was more homogenous until I poured in the o.j. with the nicely foaming yeast. Cleared it like oil and water. Fascinating. So now my yeasties beasties are going to slowly nibble from the top down.

I guess we’ll see what we get? In two years? It’s only three gallons, so maybe we’ll see in one year.

Wish me luck.

He’s getting better.

(scene opens in dining room not Carrot’s. Family party in progress, mostly adults around the table)

Beta: (takes empty chair, downs the last of a bottle of root beer)

Cousin K: You drank it all?

Beta: Yeah.

Carrot: I thought you liked root beer.

Beta: I do. Just that it was super flat. I went to take off the cap and it just fell off like someone had opened it.

(silence falls)

Aunt T: It’s a good idea not to drink bottles that have already been opened.

Husband: That’s someone cracking it open at the store, taking a drink and putting it back.

Me: Or putting something inside of it.

Beta: (shrugs)

(scene ends)

(new scene in grocery store refrigerated aisle)

Me: (looking at prices of small juice bottles) It says three for five – did you want to try the cranberry flavor? Get an OJ, apple, and then cranberry?

Beta: Sure.

(Carrot reaches up to get the cranberry juice)

Beta: Wait! Look at the lid.

(camera close up on broken seal)

Beta: We probably shouldn’t drink that. See? I can learn! (laughs stupidly)

Me: Your father would be so proud of you. You just might live to see adulthood.

All figured out.

(scene opens in a tossed dinning room)

Delta: (eating post school snack) Wouldn’t it be great if people figured out what the meaning of life is?

Me: (looks up from laptop, suspicious) ….yes. Yes it would.

Delta: What do you think the meaning of life is?

Me: (quiet for a moment) Creation. The whole reason we’re here is to make stuff.

Delta: Do you know what I think it is? Happiness.

Me: That seems like a good answer.

Delta: (sighs, satisfied) Now we just need to let everyone know what the meaning of life it!

Me: (stares)

Can’t argue with that.

(scene opens in cluttered kitchen)

Alpha: (hunting breakfast) Ha-HA! (pulls bag of leftover pizza from ‘fridge)

Me: (pointing) HA! Ha-HA!

Alpha: Ha-ha-ha-HA!

Me: HA! Hu-ha-ha-ha. HA!

Husband: You guys are dorks.

Alpha: (draws himself up) You married her. You made me.

Me: He does have a point.

Husband: I was cool once.

Fantasy Football

(scene opens in near empty waiting room, tv in corner blathering on)

Alpha: What in gods name is that?

Me: (pained) Real Wives of New Jersey.

Alpha: Why the hell is she so obsessed with her nose?

Me: Well, when you only see your worth in your looks, every little wrinkle counts.

(show drones on, petty dramas are petty)

Alpha: I don’t understand what’s going on.

Me: (slowly going mad) There’s no such thing as reality tv. Nothing about it is real. They follow them around for 24 hrs and cut the best parts in to one hour and take everything is out of context. Not only that, but then every single one of those people aren’t real. Nothing about them is real. They’re pretending. They’re making up these ridiculous characters that make dumb decisions. They’re putting on airs and wearing silly clothes and doing whatever they can to generate ratings and get the most screen time. It’s just all…. (stops, growing look of horror Carrot’s face)

Nurse: (enters into waiting room) Alpha?

(Alpha leaves, Carrot remains seated)

Me: (whispers to self) Reality tv is larp for non-larpers.

(home audience dead silent, fade to black, cut to car commercial)

Anticipa…

(scene opens in cluttered kitchen, conversation in progress)

Me: I’m really sorry they’re moving. I wanted to hang out with him more and make fun of each other.

Beta: (attempting to be witty) You’re bald! (crickets) And I’m out! (turns to leave)

Husband: Beta, come here.

Beta: (nervously edges toward the door room) No!

Husband: I said come here. (crosses room)

Beta: (whimpers)

(Husband embraces Beta gently, pats him on the back)

Husband: Sorry I missed your concert tonight. I heard you did a great job.

Beta: (confused, whimpers again) What just happened?

Husband: (lets him go, picks up tea mug, smiles)

Me: Good night, Beta.

Beta: (edges out of the room, slightly panicky) I don’t know what’s going on.

Me: (sotto voce) There is nothing he can do to you that is worse than your own imagination.

Husband: (smug humming)

School Days, School Days

(scene opens in chilly mini-van)

Gamma: Mom, how come my school has numbers instead of grades?

Me: (weary sigh) Grade schools like to go with numbers, for some reason. By the time you get to high school, you’ll be back on that whole A, B, C grading system.

Gamma: What’s a GPA?

Me: (tries to remember the words) Grade Point Average. Every letter grade is worth a certain amount of points. As are like 4 and Fs are 0. You add all those points together and divide them by how many classes you took and that’s your average. If you get all As, you have an A average. If you get a mix, you might have only a C average. Its hard to get your grade point up after a certain point because of math.

Gamma: Why do we have GPA?

Me: Well….okay. The way it was taught to me was that you had to get good grades in grade school so you could get into honors classes in high school and get more points on top of your good grades so you had a wicked high GPA so you could apply to colleges and they’d go “Wow! Look at this GPA! I bet they’re really smart!” and they’d let you in so you could get more high grades and put that on your resume and companies would go “Wow! Look at that GPA! They’re really smart, we want them to come work for us!” and that would translate to more money.

(moment of silence)

Me: Which….if you think about it….is really kind of soulless. I want you to get good grades because it means you’re learning and understanding the material. Theoretically. Learn. Learn, learn, learn, never stop learning. Learn to love learning. Read books, watch documentaries, talk to experts. Hell, observe the world and talk to people who’ve sunk thousands of hours into their hobbies. Figure out what you like to do and we’ll go from there and make it work somehow.

(mini van pulls into drop off)

Gamma: I’m going to be a YouTuber.

Me: (disappointed sigh) Maybe something better than a YouTuber.

Gamma: (scathingly) Way to support your own daughter, mom. (Jumps out of van)

Delta: I know what I want to do when I grow up.

Me: Oh yeah?

Delta: Have fun.

Me: Good attitude to have, Delta. Have fun at school.

Delta: And you have the best day of your life, mom.

(Delta exits van, fade to black, cut to car commercial)

That’s one for the books.

(scene opens in frantic parlor, three out of four spawnlings in scout uniforms.)

Me: Everyone got their shoes on? Uniforms on? Find your coats.

Husband: Gamma. Fix your belt.

(camera cuts to Gamma in Webelo uniform, scout belt all twisted)

Gamma: (struggles with scout belt)

Husband: Did you miss a belt loop?

Me: (aggravated) Here, let me help. This part is…. (hesitates) Gamma? You somehow managed to tuck your pants into your pants.

(everyone pauses, exchanges looks)

Husband: (sighs) I’m getting in the car. Head out when you two are ready.

Life Advice, Not Beer Commercial

(scene opens in frosty min-van)

Gamma: Mom, what’s 6th grade like?

Me: Oh. Well, my 6th grade was part of the Jr. High building and so we’d swap classrooms with 7th and 8th graders for different classes. Like for science or math…

Gamma: (interrupting) No, I mean the social part. Like popular kids and stuff.

Me: I hate to break it to you, but I wasn’t a popular kid.

Gamma: That much was obvious.

Me: Ouch, that hurts. (thinks) Okay, well, what’s the point of being popular?

Gamma: To have a lot of friends.

Me: Fair. But sometimes people are friends with you only because you’re popular. By whatever metric they’re using to scale that. If you stop being popular, they’ll find someone else to be friends with.

Gamma: Oh.

Me: In 7th grade, I realized I would never be the prettiest, or the smartest, or the tallest, strongest, fastest, most talented at anything. There would always be someone who was any or all of those things better than me. So I decided then and there to be the most interesting. If I was the most interesting person in the room, people would want to hang out with me. So. Read a lot of books. Listen to a lot of music –

Gamma: (interrupts) Got that covered.

Me: Learn a wide variety of strange and random skills that serve no real purpose save that you want to learn how to do it. Constantly make people amazed at your unexpected know-how on something. Trust me, it is way more fun to be interesting than it is to be popular. Popularity is fleeting. Interesting is forever.

(mini van pulls into drop off)

Me: Okay kids! (starts to sing) Have the best day ever!

Gamma: Please don’t.

A little called out there.

(scene opens in cluttered dinning room, merit badge work in progress)

Carrot: (typing around Delta in her lap) Okay, requirement #2b says you have to pick a book of a “best of” list that you think you’d like to read and write it down.

Beta: (unenthused)

Carrot: (after the third list heavy on the “Live, Laugh, Love” bullshit) Wow, its a lot harder than I thought to find something to read.

Beta: Try narrowing it down to just best science-fiction of 2021.

Carrot: Here we go. (starts to scroll, points to the screen) Read that one. Don’t recommend. Oh! I read the first one of this series! (camera cuts to screen, showing Harrow the Ninth)

Beta: (skeptical)

Carrot: Stay with me. It’s got a very Warhammer 40k setting.

Beta: (skeptically interested) …..yeah?

Carrot: And everyone has a different flavor of necromancy.

Beta: (explodes) What is it with you and necromancers!? First its necromancer vampires! Then its necromancer space marines! (waves arms in Muppet flail) Look over there! Necromancer ponies!

Carrot: (loses it completely, laughs copious fat tears into Delta’s moppy blond curls)

Beta: Seriously. What the hell is wrong with you?

Delta (echoing) Yeah mom! What’s wrong with you?

(Carrot laughs until it hurts, fade to black, cut to car commercial)

Literary References

(scene opens in messy kitchen, Carrot hastily making school lunches)

Gamma: Mom? Can I wear this jacket? (holds up ratty Starfleet letterman)

Me: (pained) I’d rather you not, the sleeves are peeling and I’ve not replaced them with real leather yet.

Gamma: Please?! Look! It almost fits me! (puts it on)

Me: (defeated) Sure, just be very careful with it? I don’t want it to get beyond repair. (goes back to making sandwiches)

Gamma: Mom? What’s Battlestar Galactica?

Me: (taken aback) What? Uh…its another space show. About humanity’s survival against the Cylons. Sentient robots – maybe androids – that rose up and rebelled against their masters.

Gamma: (with deep and excessive sarcasm) Oh. Robots rising up against their masters. Where have I heard that before?

Me: All this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.

Gamma: Wut?

Me: Nothing. It’s a trope. Tropes are reoccurring themes in entertainment and literature. They’re meant to convey certain concepts. Everything is referencing something else. If you understand all the references, you get a much deeper story.

Gamma: (dismissive) You’d think they’d come up with something new by now.

Me: Yeah, well, everything old is eventually made new. Get your boots on, it’s go time.

The importance of literature.

(scene opens in bitterly cold min-van, conversation in progress)

Gamma: And then my teacher said Slytherin was the best house. When she asked me to hold open the door, I said she had to make Gryffindor just as good as Slytherin. And then I held it open. Gryffindor is the Hero House

Me: (considers that, sighs) Okay. So. As much as I enjoyed the books, the idea that one house is all good and one house is all bad is very simplistic writing. The real world isn’t like that.

Gamma: But Draco is Slytherin and Slytherin is evil.

Me: Draco is not evil and neither is Slytherin. Draco was taught hate and bigotry by his parents, that’s why it persists over generations. Slytherin isn’t evil either. Ambition, while not exactly a virtue, isn’t an evil thing. Its good to be ambitious, to want to be the best at something. To excel.

Gamma: Like Hermoine!

Me: Yes, Hermoine is a very ambitious woman. Where ambition goes wrong is when winning is all that matters and comes at the expense of the safety and well-being of others. Ambition without empathy. As for the Hero House, being brave is all well and good, but sometimes being brave is following the rules. How many times did Harry and crew break the rules?

Gamma: All the time!

Me: And it always worked out for them in the end, which is also nothing like real life. Rules sometimes exist for a reason. The flip side of brave is reckless. Breaking rules just because you think rules don’t apply to you is extremely selfish and somewhat dangerous.

Gamma: Dumbledore gave them extra points when they broke rules so they’d win the house cup.

Me: Which was poor form. It might as well be cheating and abusing a position of authority. Now, as for Hufflepuff, the flip side of Loyalty is giving your loyalty to someone who doesn’t deserve it.

Gamma: Like Crabbe and Goyle! They were very loyal. Why weren’t they in Hufflepuff and not Slytherin?

Me: I don’t know. Maybe their parents were in Slytherin and they wanted to be just like them. Sometimes kids will do whatever their parents say – like Draco – or try to be just like them because they think if they don’t, their parents won’t like them any more. That’s how you perpetuate generational hate. They’re being hateful to other people to win their parent’s love and approval. Anyway, being a loyal friend isn’t supporting them 100% of the time. Sometimes being a loyal friend is standing up to them when they’re about to do something dumb or hurtful or dangerous.

(car pulls into school parking lot)

Gamma: What about Ravenclaw?

Me: The flip side of Intelligence is believing your own hype. You get to the point where you have so much faith in your own smarts, you can’t possibly think that anyone is as smart or smarter than you. So you refuse to listen to experts in their own field. No one is an expert on everything. There will always be an expert that knows more about a subject than you do, and you should listen and learn what they have to teach.

(stops car)

Me: Now. Go to school, learn new things, stay warm, I’ll see you later.

Gamma: Bye! (hops out of car runs off)

Me: (drives the circle to Delta’s building)

Delta: You talk a lot, mom.

Me: Thank you for listening.

Delta: You’re welcome. (hops out of car, runs off)