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Within the past few years, our country has been ravaged by war: 9/11 was a national tragedy; followed by the unending military action in Iraq; and last year we were subjected to the ever dire Dragon Wars.

But, perhaps now, we must bear witness to the most horrific and life-threatening conflict yet.

The Dance War.

At first, it seemed as if the dance war would be contained to just Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba. The rivalry between the two began almost a year ago, with an unexpected animosity steadily growing, ultimately cultivating into the recent declaration of war on January 7th, 2008.

“I only know Bruno from sitting two chairs away from,” Carrie Ann stated. “But I’m sure we’ll butt heads. They want us to butt heads.”

But now it seems that both sides have so far recruited over a combined dozen troops to battle. At the time of this reporting, there has not been any loss of life on either side, but there is no telling how many casualties there may be in the near future.

“These are fresh young kids … We’re really asking a lot of [them] … It’s a bit nerve-racking, because what I do… will determine how my team does. I don’t like the feeling of taking somebody’s opportunity away. But you have to decide on their potential. That’s where you stick your neck out,” Carrie Ann explained.

“We set them up,” Bruno confessed bluntly.

Dance war correspondent, Drew Lachey, reports that, while tensions are high between the two opponents, he is optimistic that a resolution will be reached within about six weeks, although he is less optimistic that it will be due to a peaceful settlement.

“We were thrust into this awkward position. Nothing that I had done before had prepared me,” he said.

Both Bruno and Carrie Ann are optimistic that their side will win the dance war, no matter what the consequences of their barbaric actions are.

“We always say what happens… isn’t personal [but] if they don’t like my team, then I’ll have to cut somebody,” Carrie Ann said. “I’m excited — but I’m not going to lie — it scares me.”

“If she gets in my way, she’s gonna get it. I think the madness will return … I am very physical. So I might have to be restrained,” Bruno countered. “You know what I’m like; I don’t mince my words.”

This reporter wants to assure you that, while I don’t support the dance war, I do support our dancers and hope that they return home safely.

Your friend (and part-time lover),
Boom Boom Storm Cloud

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Another fantastic fucking Ohio winter, I thought, as I trudged through the sleet and ice and snow towards the corner of Washington and Long St., where I was to meet my bus.

Great time for my car to break down, I cursed over and over.

In good weather, it was only a ten-minute walk from my job to the bus stop. This, as earlier stated, was not good weather.

After twenty-five minutes of plodding a trail across unplowed sidewalks and parking lots, I reached the corner, only to see the number sixteen bus, my bus, fly by.

Fuck.

I raced around the bend, furiously trying to grab the driver’s attention, but it was no use. It was already long past.

I wanted nothing now but to stand and wait for the next bus, alone and angry, cursing the fates, but the fates never did like me.

Sitting at my bus stop was a cute caramel-colored girl — cute in a way that all girls are cute when all you can see are their eyes and just the bridge of their nose — bundled up in more clothes than I even own.

After a not-quite-bad-but-not-quite-good day at work, the horrific slushy dirty weather, and the fact that I would have to stand out in the cold for at least another half hour waiting for the next bus, only one thought crossed my mind.

Please don’t talk to me. Please don’t talk to me. Please don’t talk to me. I’m not a good person to talk to right now. I will hurt you feelings. Please don’t talk to me. Please don’t talk to me. Please don’t talk to me.

Again, with the fates thing.

After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, the girl, whose name I later learned to be Amber, unwrapped herself from the scarves and woolen hat like a present on Christmas morning. Then, she pointed, with ungloved hands, at her wrist, and asked, “Do you know the time?” and then quickly replaced her hands in her pockets.

I told her it was about a quarter after one, and then resumed my silent waiting.

Amber stood up abruptly, walked through the ten or so feet between us, and sat down again, right next to me.

“Did you say a quarter past one?”

Yeah.

“Wow. The number six is really late. Which bus are you waiting for?”

The sixteen.

“You just missed it.”

I know.

“Fucking weather, huh?”

Well, that’s Ohio for ya.

“Yeah, I know. It gets worse in northern Ohio.”

Yeah, I said. I’m from Cleveland.

“Medina,” she said.

A few minutes of silence passed.

“My boyfriend, well, my ex-boyfriend, was supposed to pick me up from class today, but I guess he just didn’t feel like it. What about you?”

No, I don’t think your ex-boyfriend is going to pick me up, either, I replied.

That earned a little giggle.

“No no no. I meant do you have someone to do stuff like that for you? Pick you up from school? Or work?”

An ex-boyfriend? No. No, I don’t.

Another giggle.

“Ex-boyfriend. Ex-girlfriend. Current boyfriend. Current girlfriend. Whatever.”

No. No ex- or current girlfriend to do that picking up stuff. And no ex- or current boyfriend at all to do those things.

“Aw, buck up. I sure the right guy is out there somewhere for you,” she smiled. Her giggles were becoming addictive.

“So, when was the last time you had one of those ‘significant other’ thingies? Mine broke just before Thanksgiving.”

It’s been almost two years since my last real ‘significant other’ thingy broke.

“Your last real girl? What does that mean? The last real?”

It was a little over a year and a half ago that my last girlfriend and I split. Our schedules didn’t quite fit; there was a slight age difference, and there were kids involved. It was just for the best to split when we did. Wanted to end it before anyone got hurt.

“And…”

And then, a few months later, I met this girl. We became good friends. And I feel in love with her. At least, I think I did. I’ve never been in the ‘L’ word with anyone before, so I couldn’t tell you if it was the real deal or not.

It just felt… complete.

“And how long did you two last?”

We didn’t.

“Why not?”

I never asked her out. We were just friends. I don’t think she even knew that I was in the “L” word with her.

“Why didn’t you ever tell her? You chickenshit!”

No, it’s not that I was scared to tell her… okay, I was terrified to tell her, but it was something more that that.

“What?”

When I looked at her, I saw the whole package: dating, marriage, the house on the hill with the white picket fence. A couple of kids, a couple of dogs. Growing old together. Grandkids.

“And it scared you?”

No, actually it felt great. I knew she was the girl for me. The only girl for me.

“But…”

I knew she was the girl for me, but I knew I wasn’t the guy for her. She deserved better. So I never told her that I loved her.

“That is so… heartbreaking.

It hurt like hell.

“How did you ever get over it?”

I don’t know if I ever did. I just gently pushed it to the side and tried to quietly sneak around it.

“Man, I’m sorry.” After a pause, she shivered, “Well, here comes your bus. It was nice having someone to talk to.”

It’s no problem, I said, waving the bus on.

“That was your bus, the sixteen,” she said.

I know, I said, handing her my gloves. Another one will be by in a while.

Besides, it’s such a beautiful day.

What had turned out to be a pretty uneventful day was shaping up to be an equally uneventful night.

Even though it was unseasonably warm for this time of year, I spent the day slumped over on the couch with Rebecca, in her cramped loft apartment, staring at but paying no attention whatsoever to the TV, rising only to retrieve more coffee or for frequent bathroom breaks.

Rebecca had been my closest friend for so long that I forget when and where we actually first met. We did everything together. When she got a job, in high school, at a crappy little movie theater concession stand, just so she would be able to get free popcorn and candy, I applied as well. When she wanted to start a punk band, even though neither of us knew how to play any instruments, I joined up with her. When she left to attend a school that was an hour away from home, I signed up for classes, too. So, it was no surprise that when she dropped out to follow her life’s ambition of being unambitious, well, I was right behind her.

It was starting to get dark now and, after wasting away most of the day, we decided to finally leave the apartment. (However, the thought of actually doing something was not the catalyst for our departure as much as it was the fact that we were out of coffee.) While it was warmer throughout the day, it was cooling down as night grew nearer; I grabbed my coat and she put on an extra shirt, but chose to leave her jacket behind because, she reasoned, “we weren’t going to be out that long anyway.”

We exchanged in silent conversation as we ambled to the café on the corner, bored slightly in our nightly ritual. Our hushed peaceful stroll, however, was cut short after a car full of teenagers from one of the local high schools drove past, slowing down just enough to pelt us with water balloons. It was new and exciting and unexpected and lasted all of twenty seconds before the freshness of the experience wore off, and we realized that we were now just wet and cold.

After standing in silent shock for multiple seconds, Rebecca let out a high-pitched screech followed by and angry rant.

“Fuck! Fuck you! Come back here, you fucking fuck-ass fuckers! Fuck!” she called after our long-gone aggressors, with an eloquence usually reserved for angry rappers.

Calm down, I said, not so much for her own well being but because passers-by were beginning to stare.

“I can’t believe it! Fucking kids these days! We never did anything like that when we were in high school!”

No, I said. You just sat on Missy Peterson’s head and made her repeat “Just because her family has money doesn’t mean that they weren’t still white trash.” over and over.

“Well, they were.” Was her only defense.

“C’mon,” she continued, pulling on my arm. “I’m cold and need coffee now more than ever to warm me back up.” We resumed our journey, in desperate search of shelter and a fresh warm brew.

Unfortunately, we found neither.

Upon finally arriving at the coffee shop, a walk that on most nights eats up about ten minutes, tonight taking somewhere around twenty-five, we discovered it closed. A sign on the door reminded us that, on Sundays, they closed at 9:00 PM and, after checking our watches, it was in fact after nine.

Rebecca let loose a frustrated scream and I rubbed her back, trying to soothe her.

It’s okay. We’ll just go back to your place and I’ll make us some tea. It will warm us up and calm us down.

“Tea’s for bitches,” she muttered, disgruntled.

Nevertheless, we should head back.

Rebecca uttered a few fake sobs, staring longingly through the large decorative windows at the glorious coffee makes unfulfilling their duties, before finally turning around, head down and, after wrapping my arm around herself, walked next to me back towards her apartment.

“I just wanted some French Roast,” she whimpered.

I know, sweetie. I know.

In a much shorter time than it took us to originally get to the café, we made it back to the apartment. Rebecca rummaged through her purse and then her pockets trying to find her keys, but failed both times. It was becoming clearer and clearer that we never should have left the apartment.

“Shit!” She cursed. “I think I left them in my coat pocket. Dammit!”

It occurred to us that we might be able to shimmy open the bedroom window from her fire escape, but once again we would be wrong.

Giving up temporarily, I sat down, my legs dangling through the bars of the balcony railing. Rebecca dug out her cell phone and called her landlord, who told her that he would be down within the hour to unlock the door.

Within a minute or two or hanging up with her landlord, she sat down next to me. Again she fumbled through her purse, ultimately pulling out and lighting up a cigarette; more so for heat, I wagered, than habit. She exhaled, shivering slightly, so I took off my jacket, dry now but probably not too warm yet, and draped it over her shoulders.

“Thanks,” she said, taking another drag.

We talked little, as we waited. I hugged her close, trying to massage some warmth back into her arms. I tightened my embrace slightly and then loosened again. She giggled softly, then laid her head on my shoulder for a moment before picking it back up again and lightly pressing her lips against mine.

What was that? I asked quietly.

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “It just felt right.”

Did it? I asked, wondering if she was merely drunk from lack of caffeine.

“Yeah, it did.”

Right, I said, gently placing a kiss on the area between her lips and her cheek.

“Listen, I just wanted you to know,” she began.

But in the end, her landlord arrived just in time to unlock the door and interrupt what seemed like a pivotal turning point in our friendship. Rebecca jumped up and raced down the fire escape stairs to greet him, never finishing her thought. They exchanged a few pleasantries and I could overhear them laugh at the situation.

I remained on the balcony for a few extra minutes, before heading down myself, thinking about how both nothing and everything had changed.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a doctor.

Not because I wanted to help people; fuck that. No, I wanted to be a doctor for the glory, man. I’m in it for the glory.

I wanted to be able to use words like “stethoscope” and “enfeebled” and “amyotrophic lateral sclerosis”.

I want to throw around cool phrases like, “Yes, I’m a doctor and I have cancer. But I don’t care whether I live or die. I care whether you live or die”, you know, like they say on all those cool medical dramas on TV.

But, apparently, to be a doctor, they want you to go to med school, and, you know, be smart, and not faint at the first sight of blood.

And, well, you know, fuck that.

To whom it may concern,

What the fuck is the matter with me?

I ask myself this question pretty often, sometimes multiple times a day, but it’s usually meant to be… meant to be… damn. What’s the word that means a question that doesn’t necessarily need an answer?

Shit.

I’ve been losing words lately. Being a writer, you can probably tell how much this distresses me.

Most of my recent writing suggests that I am paid to create MadLibs:

“‘I’d like to go to the (place) ,’ said (person) . ‘Do you think we should tell (person)_ that we are going to (verb) at the (place) once we’ve finished (verb) ?'”

I despise MadLibs.

It’s not just that I’m just forgetting words, either; that I could handle. Not well, mind you, but definitely better than I am this. No, I’m losing words. They’re disappearing from my life; my expressions ending, colloquialisms ceasing.

I open up books to find random words missing. Gone, like a mass printing error. My dictionary is missing the entry between “infinity” and “infirmary”. By the end of the week, I expect whole pages to be erased from existence and, by the end of the month, I wouldn’t be surprised if every one of my carefully chosen and purchased books, magazines, newspapers were nothing more than numerous mounts of fresh, virgin sketchbook paper.

And it’s not just the written word, either. Words have gone AWOL from my usual speech patterns, as well.

I fear that as my fluency of the English language deteriorates, as I literally become dumber and dumber by the day, I will become more adept in the speech patterns of the modern day caveman:

Grunt… ugg… beer…bah… football… grunt… boobs…”

I made an appointment with a wordologist, recently, to get my condition diagnosed and, after several spelling tests and grammar exams, he wrote me a prescription. He told me to take two prepositions and call him in the morning. Unfortunately, I think they were merely placebos.

In my desperation, I have resorted to more disgraceful and less legal methods of dealing with my problem. Late at night, I meet with shadowy figures in alleyways and darkened corners, purchasing dictionaries and thesauri that have “fallen off of a truck.” I feel awkward and shamed but, they assure me, “everyone’s doing it.”

My dealer gave me a Word-A-Day desk calendar after one of our first transactions – The first taste is free, he told me – and, for a while, I was fine. But, then, I just couldn’t help myself; I was taking three, four, sometimes upwards of nine or ten words a day. I would sit alone in my room, absorbing word after word. By the time January was over, I was through half the words in April and already lost most of the words from March.

No one knew of my pain.

After I finally admitted my problem, I looked for help. I started attending Linguistics Anonymous, on Tuesday nights at the library, but quit after only three meetings. During our breaks, those hypocrites would sit around, furiously scribbling numbers into their Sudoku puzzle books, trading one filthy addiction for another.

My life is in a downward spiral and I fear that it won’t be long before I hit rock bottom. It’s already taken all of my strength and concentration to write this much.

Please, if in the coming weeks and months, my end of the conversation is lax, consisting of only words of one syllable – or just a series of grunts – if you should receive a letter or email from me that looks like a dyslexics nightmare, or if you should stop hearing from me all together, please, understand my dilemma. Should you see me begging for wordscraps outside of a bookstore, be kind, be generous.

But, most importantly, stay safe.

If, one day, you’re doing a crossword puzzle and just can’t think of the answer for 34 down, if you’re conversing with a friend or neighbor and suddenly a word just slips your mind, don’t make a joke about it or laugh at your “brainfart”.

I’m doing everything I can to raise Vocabuloss awareness – Surely, LOST’s Jorge Garcia would play myself in the poignant and moving Lifetime made-for-TV film, At A Loss For Words: The Frank Cvetkovic Story. – so, please, don’t ignore the warning signs. Get yourself checked out. Learn from my life and my mistakes.

I would hate to see anyone else have to suffer the same afflictions that I have.

Frank Cvetkovic