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Four Years at the Mount

Humor on the Mount

(April, 2013)

Mating Season

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

I imagine her endless preparation for that night. She probably had to beg for permission from her parents. I bet she spent hours making herself look so beautiful and composed. Unlike most females, she didn’t go out and buy a new outfit; she merely cleaned the one she already had. Her mother probably marveled at her daughter’s appearance as she emerged into sight.

No one could look at her daughter and not find her stunning. The daughter’s eyes were filled with innocence, her legs long with strength and her sleek figure filled with poise. Her parents must have been concerned when they learned that she was going to be traveling by herself, even though she claimed she knew the way. I bet they were still hesitant to let her go off alone and insisted that they escort her. I bet she was embarrassed by her parents and refused to have their accompaniment on her journey. Adolescents are like that, aren’t they? Of course, the nerves of a first date must have been getting to her as well.

I can picture her walking down the street to his neighborhood with her heels tapping on the pavement and butterflies in her stomach. I can see her thinking the glimmering lights from inside indicated the correct direction and leaping toward them with excitement, until she found herself dizzy and in a heap. She lay on foreign ground. Her thoughts must have been jumbled and, with her head pounding, she must have questioned her surroundings in search of her destination. "What just happened?" she had to have wondered. She hadn’t moved from where she had tumbled into the house, until she heard voices and became frantic. "Gosh, I must look a mess!" must have run through her mind.

In a panic, she must have decided to sprint up the stairs still intent on heading toward the lights. Following the only open path, she fumbled up the steps and through a narrow hallway that led to the kitchen. She was trying to be composed and well mannered but she became clumsy with her lack of familiarity. The smooth wooden floor caused her heels to slide. Her legs sprawled out from under her once again. With a bang she slid into the kitchen table and knocked it over along with a few chairs. Distressed by the piercing crash, I quickly turned around and watched as she fell in a heap once again. Utter confusion was beginning to set in for the both of us.

Gaining motor control, she was able to balance back onto her feet again. With her standing, we happened to be eye to eye.

That was the only time we met. We stood from each other only within an arm’s span. She stared into my green eyes and I gazed into her brown eyes as if we were communicating. She was flustered and had clearly realized that this was not where she was supposed to be. This stranger startled me, though her beauty mesmerized me. She was puzzled and I was, too. In our confusion, we were both paralyzed. Standing still, our eyes were locked, conversing without words or motion until I broke the silence. "You’re alright," I whispered, in a voice barely audible. Her ears flickered gently and I knew she had understood. She glanced side to side, as if exploring her options and then grasped hold of my eyes again as if to apologize. The next instant, she was gone. Heavy footsteps signaled her departure as well as the glimpse of white that waved back at me.

The way I tell the story is that she had a wonderful first date. After she mistook the dimly glowing lights for the sunshine on an open field, she was successfully able to rendezvous with her date. I like to think that he was a gentleman and was not upset at her tardiness. I can see them grazing next to each other and communicating back and forth. I think she must have told him all that had happened and they shared a laugh or two. They must have then watched the sunset and waited for the stars to reveal themselves. I like to think that they fell in love. I envision them staying together and sharing their own piece of land in the neighborhood and starting a family.

Released from her trance, I maneuvered through the kitchen and picked up the table and chairs. I straightened them and pushed them back into place. I walked down the stairs and examined what was left of the door. Pieces of varying sizes of Plexiglas were scattered across the foyer. A gaping hole was positioned in the center of the storm door where she had leapt through. I looked out through the hole in the door into the dusk outside. I searched to see where she had run off to, but she was nowhere in clear sight. I turned to head back upstairs but was halted by what I saw in front of me.

On the wooden stairs, she had imprinted her footprints permanently as she had rushed off. The proof still remains. The way I tell the story is that she is living happily with her mate. I like to think that among the population they are still there. They don’t have to live in fancy house or anything; a field with some shrubs for shelter is luxury enough. I don’t think that it is too far-fetched to believe that she will live happily ever after. After all, no one truly knows what happened after she left my house that night and so far she hasn’t come to offer me any corrections on the version of the story I tell.

Sometimes, when I head home at dusk, I search for the signs in yellow diamonds that display their address. I locate the glowing eyes that contain caution and mystery and think of the ones that were so captivating that evening. I watch their ears as they quiver back and forth with the sounds of motion. I raise my hand to wave as they turn and raise their tails to say goodbye. In reflection, I laugh at how she gave the phrase "OH DEER" a whole new meaning.

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen

Lessons from the Editor

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

Ahh April, a time of spring, renewal, rebirth, and most importantly, laughter! For some reason, we seem to lose track of laughter somewhere in between the idea of spring and the festivities of Easter. Through all the chaos of preparations, we lose a little bit of humor.

I’m happy to say that my life is full of little nuggets of humor: moments when people and events seem a little more humorous than they should. In honor of this time for laughter and mirth, I’ve decided to share some of my experiences with you.

Perhaps one of the more humorous parts of my life is working here at the Emmitsburg News-Journal. It’s been an amazing place to work, especially when I’m getting paid to write. In addition to getting the chance to put my ideas and experiences on paper, I’ve had the opportunity for more than a few laughs thanks to Mike Hillman, our editor and the man who has built this paper from the ground up.

One would assume and anticipate that our meeting conversations would be filled with incredible professionalism and moments extolling the virtues of journalism from a man who runs a very professional paper.

But, that one person would be quite wrong.

I had received an email early on in my first semester of my freshman year asking for English majors who would be willing to write for a local newspaper. Being the young go-getter that I was, I of course applied in a heartbeat, hoping for the chance to get paid for writing my experiences and sharing my insights with the whole campus and with the town of Emmitsburg. Later that month, I got another email saying that not only had I received a position with the paper as its freshman columnist, but I was also supposed to contact Mr. Michael Hillman for further information. Excited beyond all reason, I grabbed my cell phone, sprinted down the stairs like a caffeinated jackrabbit, and dialed Mr. Michael Hillman. So went my first conversation with Mr. Hillman:

Me: "Hello, Mr. Hillman?"

Mr. Hillman: "Yes this is Mr. Hillman who is this?"

Me: "This is Kyle, your new freshman columnist."

Mr. Hillman: "Oh hello Kyle, call me Mike."

Me: "Sure! I have to say Mr. Hillman…er…I mean Mike, I am so excited to write for the paper!"

Mike: "Well we’re glad to have you. Oh and Kyle before you start, you should know something."

Me: "Sure, what is it?"

Mike: "I failed English in college."

Yes folks, the man in charge who built the paper from the ground up had bombed his English class like a literary Hindenburg. Hearing this come from the other side of the phone was more than a little shocking, but after a moment to gather my thoughts I replied, "Oh wow, that is actually rather funny." In the back of my mind, I could not help but think, "Dear God, what have I gotten myself into?"

Luckily for all of us, though Mike may have failed English in college, he runs the newspaper incredibly well. He makes sure that only the best content finds its way into the pages of the paper, and that not only is the information enjoyable for our audience but also informative. In addition to policing the content, Mike’s incredibly concerned with our personal growth as writers. He challenges us to come up with creative themes and (when the need strikes him), he gives us assignments to help pique our creative interests.

Coming into this environment, I was impressed by the way Mike runs things. He has an incredible memory for the standards of newspapers around the world, particularly the London Financial Times (if that paper was a woman, Mike’s marriage would be in serious jeopardy) and the standards for professional writing.

Which was great because Mike has absolutely no memory of our names.

I remember I could not stop fidgeting immediately before my first payment meeting with Mike and the other writers for the Emmitsburg News-Journal. I could not believe that I was going to get my first paycheck for something that I had written, and even more miraculously, there would be more paychecks coming my way because of my writing. I was sitting in one of the plush chairs in the library with the other student writers when a thin man carrying a bundle of papers and wearing a flannel shirt came up to us.

"Hello everyone….and who are you?"

"I’m Kyle, Mr. Hillman. We spoke on the phone."

"Oh, well hello Kyle."

Our meeting went on for another 30 minutes as Mike picked over and analyzed our work and wrote out our checks. He went through everyone’s name and stopped at me.

"Kathryn, Megan, Sam….oh whatever your name is!" he exclaimed.

"Its Kyle, Mike."

"Oh! Don’t worry I’ll get it."

Spoiler alert, he didn’t. Every time the checks were passed around I was boy-of-no-name, much to my amusement of the others. Finally, after my freshman year and the majority of my first semester of sophomore year, I have moved up from "that guy" to "Kyle." There is no guarantee with my last name or anyone else’s. If he happens to remember (which is very rare indeed) he will have no idea how to spell it. When asking you how to spell your last name, he will get so distracted by a new idea he has that he will end up spelling it wrong anyways.

In the end, there are many funny things that Mike has done, but they have served a greater purpose. The sole purpose of our columns is to take our experiences and make them applicable to our own lives and the lives of our readers. I am proud to say that my editor has given me some laughs and more than a few experiences along the way. I’m Kyle Ott, won’t you sit and read for a while?

Read other articles by Kyle Ott

Diaries are dangerous

Nicole Jones
Class of 2014

I’ve always been very fond of writing, and like many young girls, I used to keep a diary as a child. Many notebooks came and went, but the focus of this story is a small notebook I decorated myself. The cover was a ridiculous glittery scrap of cardboard covered in orange paint and craft jewels, which I took great pleasure in gluing on in the shape of my initials. Pages of inviting blank paper lay in between, just waiting to be scribbled on. It was my prized secret possession.

Many times I had tried and failed to continue with keeping a diary, but I thought this time would be different. This time, I would write in it every day, even if it were just a line or two. Centuries later, after I was six feet under, people would find it and know that I had lived. I would be famous. Posthumously famous, but famous nonetheless. That night before bed, I wrote my first entry on the crisp white paper, and slid the gaudy orange notebook under my mattress for safekeeping.

The next day, my cousins came for a visit. Olivia, about 16 at the time, and her brother Andrew, about 13, always had a way of bringing excitement and maybe just a touch of chaos with them wherever they went. This visit was no exception.

We lounged around my bedroom, laughing and playing games. Little did I know my mattress defense mechanism was being infiltrated and the precious diary was being stolen right out from under my unsuspecting nose. I continued my day in the care-free bliss of a child. It was not until later that I would discover what treachery had taken place.

That night, I wandered into my brother Zack’s room, where I found Andy. He twitched as if I had startled him. I was instantly suspicious. What was he up to? Andy gave me an ornery smile and glanced at Zack, clearly sharing a secret that I would be stupid not to ask about. Slowly, with a widening grin the Cheshire Cat would envy, Andy reveals the bright orange diary in all its glory. I gasp in horror. How dare he read my diary?! There was only one entry in it; nothing important. It didn’t matter! It was the principle of the thing and the violation of my privacy. What an outrage! I huffed and puffed all night long.

The next morning, I approached Olivia. She had to help me exact my revenge. We girls had to stick together. What should we do? Come up with a plan. The two of us concocted in secret all morning, devising a way to make sure Andy faced proper retribution for his sticky fingers. The plan had two steps. The first: an obvious, outright attack on Andy’s person. The second: a more subtle affair that he would never see coming, thinking our bloodlust already satisfied by the first attack.

With the plan solidified, we began to prepare. Rope. Check. Blindfold. Check. Prison. Check.

And then we waited.

That afternoon, my cousins and I sat around the living room watching television and eating lunch. We casually chatted, commenting on the show and giggling when appropriate. Andrew and Olivia sat on the sofa while I bided my time in the rocking chair, steadily rocking back and forth. The conditions were perfect. Andrew was relaxed. Zack wasn’t around to save him. I made eye contact with Olivia. She nodded. The wheels began to turn as the plan was set into motion.

Olivia began to tickle Andrew. In his attempt to evade her nimble fingers, he found himself writhing on the floor. I dove for the tools Olivia and I had strategically placed under the couch. Rope quickly wound its way around Andy’s wrists and ankles and the blindfold fastened itself across Andy’s line of vision until everything was dark. He thrashed and struggled so loudly that my parents probably thought there was a wild animal in the basement. They weren’t entirely wrong.

Olivia lifted Andrew at the shoulders while I grabbed his squirmy legs and we hauled him into the laundry room where we shoved him into a dog cage. The latch slid into place with a satisfying snap. High five. Justice had been served.

The prisoner managed to escape his bonds and began working at the latch, protesting loudly, "What was that for? There was nothing in your diary! You guys suck!"

Olivia and I looked on in amusement. Let him escape. It was only a matter of time before he truly suffered.

The rest of the day remained relatively quiet. Andy silently fumed a little and avoided us by hanging out with Zack and playing video games. Late after dinner, with my parents in bed and us cousins up probably later than we should have been, we set the second stage into motion.

Olivia and I casually walked into Zack’s room.

"We’re going to make chocolate mousse. You guys want any?"

"You know how to make mousse?" asked Andy.

"Duh. It’s really simple. We’ll be back in a sec," and the two of us skipped up the staircase and into the kitchen. What should we use but the vilest concoction of ingredients: chocolate syrup and mayonnaise. Perfect. Stirring together the gloppy combination, we tried our best to make it as fluffy and appetizing in appearance as possible. With two cups prepared, we returned downstairs to the awaiting boys. Sharing a sly smile, we delivered our false confection to the boys.

Zack instantly knew something was wrong, but he couldn’t speak up fast enough. It was too late. Andrew had taken a bite. Just as quickly as the chocolaty gob of mayonnaise disappeared into his mouth, it reappeared in the cup. As he ran to the bathroom gagging, the rest of us howled with laughter. The taste, he says, still haunts him to this day.

We never let Andrew forget that last bit – being tricked into eating a spoonful of mayonnaise. It has been recorded in cousin history and shall remain a source of endless teasing and torment for years to come. Needless to say, he learned his lesson and my diary – if I still had one – would be perfectly safe from his prying eyes.

A better revenge has never been had.

Read other articles by Nicole Jones

Picture perfect meal gone wrong

Samantha Strub

I hear a knocking at the door. Amidst the smoke, I know who it is without opening the door. When I open the door and see Public Safety standing there, I’m defeated. I’m done. My picture perfect meal blew up in smoke.

The fire extinguisher is pulled out and its contents are poured out onto the remains of my meal. Once that clears, the Public Safety officers ask what happened. I take a deep breath, not knowing where to begin. My mind goes back to where it all began…

The image was in my head when I saw the "pin" of the delicious-looking dish on Pinterest. I immediately got the idea of making a feast for my roommates. It was a picture perfect moment. I knew exactly how I wanted it to turn out. I had seen the pictures and the directions on Pinterest. It all looked so delicious. The expected result was set at a high standard. I knew how I wanted the meal to turn out. I could just imagine my roommates and friends all seated around the table complimenting me on the hard work that I put into the feast that was there before them.

This crazy idea ended up taking on a whole other life, which was why I was standing in my smoky room with Public Safety in front of me. It started out with mentioning the idea of a "family dinner" to my roommates. They got excited and immediately began discussing what we would make. I quickly showed them the picture that started this crazy idea in the first place, and all discussion ceased. It was the picture perfect meal.

What was the recipe that was so perfect it was impossible to resist? Spinach-stuffed chicken breasts topped with marinara and mozzarella cheese. Does that not sound heavenly?

The preparations began. It started with returning to Pinterest to find ideas for the rest of the meal. I was drawn toward the roasted mushrooms while Kirsten was drawn toward roasted potatoes and Colleen toward the Caesar salad. It was going to be a wonderful meal.

We decided to have our meal on a Friday night, that way we could go grocery shopping after classes and cook. We were going to be culinary chefs. We were undaunted by the task even though we probably should have been. We thought we could do anything, including cooking this meal.

We studied the recipes in order to make sure we had all of the ingredients. We printed out the recipes so we would be able to easily look at them while we were cooking. The Friday came and the three of us went out grocery shopping. It was defiantly an interesting shopping experience. We did not know where some of the ingredients were, so we ended up walking aimlessly up and down aisles in order to find the correct ingredients. We did succeed in this part of our picture prefect meal, obtaining all of the necessary ingredients for our splendid plan.

We brought the grocery bags up the four flights of stairs, which was an impressive feat in itself. We unpacked the groceries and began making the necessary preparations in order to begin the cooking. We decided while we were at the grocery store that we should make brownies as well, so we figured we would make those first. That was probably our first mistake. Kirsten said she would make them. Allowing her to make the brownies was our second mistake. Kirsten succeeded in getting the brownies prepared and in the oven. However, not realizing she did not set a timer, we went along on our merry business. The brownies were out of our minds until we smelt something burning. Realizing our mistake, we rushed to save them, but it was too late. The horrible smell overtook the apartment. The attempt to remove the smell was futile, even with the windows open and fans circling the air. The only solution was to remove the brownies from the room. We scraped the rock hard brownies from the pan and brought them outside, but the smell still lingered. We were disappointed that the dominate smell was the repulsive smell of burnt food instead of the tantalizing aroma of brownies.

This night would turn around...or so I thought…

We moved our focus onto the main event. The main meal would go according to plan. We had the recipes and ingredients. All we had to do was mix it all together and keep an important focus on the timer.

Our attention became divided. Kirsten focused on the roasted potatoes and mushrooms. Colleen focused on the Caesar salad. I focused on the main course—the spinach-stuffed chicken breasts topped with marinara and mozzarella cheese. We cleared the table and each took over a section of it in order to prepare our portions of the meal. The spinach-stuffed chicken breasts topped with marinara and mozzarella cheese would take the longest to cook, so I asked Kirsten and Colleen to assist me in grating the cheese and stuffing the chicken breasts. This was a time-consuming process, but it was enjoyable because we listened to music and chitchatted while we waited.

Once the main dish was in the oven, Kirsten and Colleen focused their attention on their parts of the meal. It was looking delicious and the main dish was tempting us with its aroma. The meal was coming together. We washed the dishes that were dirtied so far and made sure to keep eye on the mushrooms and potatoes.

It appeared as if we had the situation under control, but things are not always what they seem…

The spinach-stuffed chicken breasts topped with marinara and mozzarella cheese were simmering, but somehow some of it fell onto the bottom of the oven. This is generally a minor mishap that sometimes happens during the cooking process. However, our oven thought that it was a mishap that should haunt us. When I checked on the food I did not notice the food that was at the bottom of the oven. The food was being cooked very nicely but in the midst of cooking, the food that fell to the bottom of the oven was burned.

This went unnoticed by us until we saw smoke coming out of the oven door. We quickly opened the door and smoke poured out, spreading all over the room. We had trouble seeing and started tearing up because the smoke was burning our eyes. I closed the oven door in order to grab a towel to spread the smoke around but suddenly I heard a loud beeping noise spreading across the apartment. The smoke detectors were going off…oh no…

The buzzing continued as I attempted to clear the smoke by turning on the fan, opening a window and waving a towel. The attempt was futile. It was only a matter of time before Public Safety showed up.

Then there was the knocking at the door. The smoke swarmed out of the apartment while the officers stepped in. They put out the small fire that had started in our oven.

My mind went back to the memories of my excitement when I saw the "pin" on Pinterest, but the Public Safety officers sure did not look as excited as I was when I saw the pin. The Public Safety officers were understanding and merciful though, and I cannot help but think they were laughing at me while I explained the story.

We will forever be known as that apartment that started a fire attempting to cook dinner.

Read other articles by Samantha Strub

Read Past Editions of Four Years at the Mount