Motive

This single-scene, two-character play that only came about because my English teacher assigned it to me will soon be a major motion picture (in an alternate reality of course.) Enjoy.


The sunlight streams through the living room window and reflects off of the photos on the mantel; family trips, pee-wee soccer games, and a wedding kiss are seen inside the frames. It’s a beautiful day and the children should be outside, but they’re not. If not outside, they’d be in the living room watching TV, but today only their father sits on the couch. Another man is sitting in the recliner across from him. Between them is the coffee table and on it rests an untouched plate of cookies, still cooling, and a gun.

Man in recliner (Butch): [gesturing toward gun] I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this, but it seems you need some motivation.

Father (Mr. Fisher): [making worried gestures with his bound hands]: P-please don’t s-s-shoot me! My f-family!

Butch: Yes, little Sarah and Samuel. And who could forget your lovely wife, Jess? So kind of her to put out a snack for us.

Fisher: [losing the stutter as his concern for his family makes him try to seem more forceful in an attempt to intimidate Butch, though fear is still evident] Where are they? What do you want?

Butch: The Boss made it very clear what she wants.

Fisher: I already told her that I couldn’t do what she asked. I tried to gain access at the precinct but the case has gone federal. Everything was packed up and sent to an FBI evidence locker. There’s no way I can get anywhere near it.

Butch: [leaning forward]: Well Mr. Fisher, the Boss believes in you. See, she thinks that you’d be more than capable of getting your hands on those files if you just applied yourself. That’s why she decided to help you out by giving you a little push.

Fisher: [With the same conviction, though this time the fear is more subtle]: Where is my family?

Butch: [Reclining in the chair] Relax Mr. Fisher, they’re perfectly fine. The Boss is having me keep an eye on them to give you more incentive.

Father: [attempting to rise despite his bound feet.] If anything happens to them I swear I’ll⸺

Butch: Now now Mr. Fisher, no need to get all riled up; we’re just having a friendly conversation. In fact, since we’re friends and all, I even brought you a present. [He pulls out a small ring box with a carefully tied bow around it from his coat pocket and hands it to Fisher. Fisher struggles to open the box due to his bound hands. When it finally opens, he gasps in horror and drops the box on the floor. The audience finally sees that inside the box is a woman’s severed finger with a wedding ring on it.]

Fisher [voice breaking in anger and panic]: You said they were fine!

Butch: And I meant it. Missing a finger don’t mean dead. Now, if you don’t like my gift I won’t bring you another, as long as you give the Boss what you owe. [He rises and grabs his gun and a cookie off the table.] I’ll be back to check in on you soon. Same time next Tuesday? [Fisher gives a worried look as Butch begins to work toward the door. He opens it, takes a bite of the cookie, makes a sound of satisfaction, then turns to Fisher.]

Butch: [Almost mockingly emphasized] These are incredible. Jess is definitely a keeper.

[Cut as the door slams shut after Butch.]

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The Revelation

This is one of several stories in my memoir in the making. For the full collection click here.

 

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Me: at the top looking disapprovingly at Cassy’s ridiculousness. Cassy: at the bottom, being ridiculous.

 

Under the fluorescent lights of Publix, everything’s aglow, especially the lovely pregnant woman ringing up our groceries. Her belly is out two feet in front of her and she wears a ring on her left hand with the tiniest diamond you’ve ever seen. Her green vest has a name tag that reads “Marcy” and her smile is as radiant as her flaming red her as she greets us: “Did you find everything okay today?”

“Yes, thank you,” we say. We stocked up on the essentials–Cape Cod chips, Nutella, sushi, and two slices of cake.“Mmmmm chocolate, my favorite,” says Marcy as she eyes the cake. “I’ve been craving it all throughout my second trimester, with a few modifications of course– applewood smoked bacon and jelly beans–I can’t really explain it,” she laughs.

We laugh too. There’s something so refreshing about her kindness and energy. I ask her the name and gender; she’s expecting a girl, Annalise. Cassy (the eldest Joseph sister) and I both agree it’s a lovely name. She hands us our receipt and wishes us well, we do the same.

We step out of the frigid air and artificial light of the store into the parking lot where afternoon is turning to evening, painting the sky sapphire and dotting it with shining stars, as we walk the tree and lamppost lined sidewalks on the familiar path back home.

I scan the sidewalk intently, looking for leaves that would be the most satisfying to step on, pebbles to kick all the way back home, and lizards to avoid accidentally squashing. Cassy is walking alongside me, listening to music so loud that I can hear it from the earbud dangling at her chest. She’s playing “Walk Out” by Preedy; she’s always playing that song. Her current obsession with Soca music annoys me to no end. It’s not the songs– they’re pleasing to the ear and the hips– it’s that the stream of Soca music is nonstop. It flows through the house constantly, and even though I only hear it in the brief intervals when I’m not wearing noise-canceling headphones trying to drown out her music with my own, it’s still too much.

Despite the music blasting in her ear, she is passionately telling me of her plights as a college student and how Mom is trying to ruin her life. I’m almost a little surprised at this: Mom is out of the house and so are we, so we’re under no obligation to play nice.  But we do.  I listen and nod my head, still looking down at the path in front of me and the little pebble I’m kicking with each step, trying to think of the right words to say. I can’t relate to her problems– I’m what is known as the “perfect,” “favorite,” or “golden” child, so I’ve never had such issues. Nevertheless, in terms of sisterly wisdom, I am a master who can resolve any issue with a few smart words, so I dole out a simple truth that completely blows Cassy’s mind:

“You’re just like Dad and I’m just like Mom,” I say. “That’s why you two don’t get along.” Cassy considers this fact and I can see in her facial expression the moment this revelation dawns on her.

“You’re right,” she says, almost surprised. Her unwarranted surprise is the only unexpected thing in this situation. Of course I’m right; I’m always right. But I elect not to remind her of this fact for fear it will be too much for her to handle. Instead, I tackle one astonishing truth at a time and elaborate on the I just told her.

“You have Dad’s people skills and some of Mom’s smarts,” I say, half expecting her to hit me for that “some of” remark. She doesn’t, so I continue. “I have Dad’s ability to sleep everywhere and Mom’s . . . well, everything.”

She nods in agreement, probably coming to the conclusion that I’m always right on her own, saving me the trouble of having to break it to her.

“Unfortunately,” I add, “we both have Dad’s looks.”

“Unfortunately for you maybe. I’m cute,” she quips back.

I trip her slightly for that and she shoves me back. Our laughs are drowned out by the sound of cars zipping by, but we both know without looking that a smile has spread across the other’s face.

Sabine Joseph and The Temple of Doom

Bored.

That was my primary state for most of Spring Break. I worked hard and played harder, taking advantage of the Hulu subscription I’ll have for a limited time (I finally caught up on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and it’s bittersweet.) On Wednesday, my friend Giuly came to save me from my cocoon of misery. I went over on the pretense of doing homework, but as always we quickly abandoned that in favor of gossiping, snacking, and watching YouTube videos. I played with her (but really my) dog Bubbles whom I’m missed dearly. By the time I went back home, I was pretty much out of my rut and feeling a whole lot better.

Two days later, I left my cave and went out into the world once more. I had a free student admission ticket to the Youth Fair (thank you MDCPS!) so my godsister took me to complete our month-long quest for fried Oreos.

To give you some context: I’ve been staying with my godsister and her mother since early March while my mom is away on a business trip. From the moment I stepped in the house, my godsister constantly expressed her craving for fried Oreos. We went to Dolphin Mall just to stop by the Cobb Theater there that she thought sold them. They did not. I tried telling her we could make them. She refused. I tried getting my friends who retired from selling them to make a batch for her for her birthday. They continuously forgot despite my reminders.

Finally, we went to the Fair, and that’s where she found them. I felt like Indiana Jones (though I’ve never seen the movie) traveling to the temple to get the golden idol. We walked with purpose past all of the stands selling fried food that we didn’t come for until we saw a beautiful hut gleaming in the sun with a crown of fried Oreos on the top. We finally did it. It’s true what they say: victory is sweet (and fried and covered in powdered sugar.)

 

What Black Panther’s Minority Representation Means to Me

 

By Sabine Joseph Yes, it’s that serious. The premier of Black Panther in my little Town of Miami Lakes was as glamorous as the one for Hollywood’s hottest stars and most acclaimed critics. Excited viewers who arrived early had to be kept outside behind velvet rope to prevent the theater from becoming an overcrowded fire […]

via The Importance of Black Panther’s Minority Representation — The Harbinger

The Sisters

This is one of several stories in my memoir in the making. For the full collection click here.

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Top: the youngest sister, Sabine. Bottom: the eldest sister, Cassandre.

 

Between every set of sisters is a dynamic as unique to them as their DNA, and each has a moment in their lives that can perfectly sum it up. The Joseph sisters have a habit of getting on each other’s nerves and laughing at the other’s pain, so naturally, this is how their defining sister story goes:

Two sisters–one young enough to still wet the bed yet old enough to form full sentences, the other a temperamental dancer very proud of and vocal about her various abilities–sit together on the eldest’s bed on a fine Sunday afternoon. This is a rarity in the Joseph sisters’ room: “You stay on your side and I stay on mine,” was the general rule, but today is a different day. Today they sit in peace for the first time in a long time, finally following their mother’s instruction to “play nice.”

They do for a while. Everything is gumdrops and lollipops until an argument starts out of the blue. There is no logic behind the spat–there rarely is when children are involved–but these two intensely emotional and stubborn sisters take it to the next level.

“Stop it or I’m gonna pee on your bed,” says the youngest.

“You wouldn’t,” her sister replies.

She’s right. Ordinarily, her sister wouldn’t dare making such a move; it could get them both in trouble and ruin a mostly perfect Sunday, not to mention doing so would be the classic rookie mistake of pulling out the big guns on the first play. But she wasn’t backing down.

“Oh yes I would. 1 . . . 2 . . .3 . . .”

And the stream begins flowing as she stretches out the final number for dramatic effect. It slowly creeps toward the eldest sister, gradually shrinking her dry mattress island. The eldest gives a horror-movie-worthy shriek of the simultaneously most comforting and terrifying word a child (especially a mischievous one) can hear: “Mom!”

So Mom came running. She first begins fretting over whether or not her babies are okay, then she takes in the scene. Her face shifts to slight annoyance upon realizing that her quiet time (the first she’s gotten in a long time) has been interrupted by what is not a life or death emergency.

“Bibine peed on my bed” the eldest complains.

The accused looks as innocent as can be despite the pool of evidence she’s sitting in, so her dutiful mother gathers her in her arms, ready to carry her to the bathroom for cleaning.

“Clean it up,” her mother says; you can almost hear the cartoon sound effect of the eldest’s jaw-dropping. She looks at her mother incredulously and her mother stares back with a look that says “Well? That wasn’t a request, so get going.”

As her mother cradles her, the culprit turns and smiles at the eldest like Michael Jackson at the end of “Thriller.” It is a memory that brings a smile to the youngest’s face and a cringe to the eldest’s to this day.

Mass Shootings and Domestic Violence: Direct Correlation or Disturbing Coincidence?

It has been well established that mass shootings are an American epidemic primarily perpetrated by white males, but what hasn’t been established is why.

Some argue that guns are too easily accessible; after the recent Sutherland Springs shooting Trump attributed them to mental illness; but there is another trend that some believe suggests that mass shootings are linked to domestic abuse.

Of the ten deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history, nine of them were committed by men with a history of domestic abuse, and 54% of the mass shootings that occurred between 2009-2016 involved domestic violence, according to analysis by gun-control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety.

Sutherland Springs shooter Devin Kelley had a history of domestic violence that got him dishonorably discharged from the Air Force. He beat, choked, and threatened his former wife with a firearm, abused his current wife, and struck his infant son hard enough to crack his skull. The shooting was called a “domestic situation” because Kelley had sent threatening texts to his mother-in-law, and it is believed that he targeted the church to kill her.

Many other shooters in recent shooting incidents also have a record of domestic violence. Omar Mateen, the perpetrator of the the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, was abusive toward his ex-wife who reported that he repeatedly beat her and called her the Afghan word for “slut.”

The man who opened fire at a GOP charity baseball practice, James Hodgkinson, and injured Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and several others had a previous arrest in 2006 for choking and hitting his daughter.

Robert Dear, who fired shots at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015, was accused of domestic violence by two ex-wives and was arrested for rape in 1992.

However, the Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock does not follow the trend. Because of this case and other exceptions, many believe that domestic violence is not a direct causation of a mass shooting, rather a mere coincidence.

“Right now we don’t have enough data to have a pattern,” said director of the Ortner Center on Family Violence and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Susan B. Sorensen, in an interview with Time. “[Domestic violence] might just be one of a series of bad behaviors. The issue might be something else entirely, and we just don’t know.”

“The one thing that we know that they all have in common is that they have access to massive firepower,” she continued. “That’s the single unifying force at this point in time”

Though some experts are convinced of it, many others think that there isn’t enough data to tell whether domestic violence and mass shootings are linked.

All that experts currently know for sure is that some elements of domestic abuse, including violent rage, feelings of masculine grievance, and a desire to be feared, are also found in mass shootings. Hopefully, the data set of mass shootings never expands enough for them to find a definitive connection between the two.

Snapping Smiles

Yesterday was Photo Day, a class-favorite activity in the Pinkroom. We were given fifteen minutes to frolic in the school courtyard and take pictures of anything. I know, it’s a big deal.

The allure of Photo Day is that it gives a bunch of giant toddlers who are treated like adults a chance to be themselves. Our adviser always tells us that we’re so amusing to watch because we all revert to our five-year-old selves.

We’re curious and adventurous again. Everything is a mysterious and new and it’s beautiful and wonderful. We chase lizards and moths and butterflies and birds. We roll in the grass and climb as high up on a tree as we can before getting lost. We wander around the familiar campus and see magic and stories in the things we once thought were mundane. We have young, reinvigorated eyes and the school we thought of as “plain Jane” suddenly became a place full of photo-worthy possibilities.

As everyone examined grass or trees as if they’d never seen them before, I watched them. Their smiles were as bright as the sunlight bathing them, and I was transfixed by the wondrous looks in their eyes and the thunderous laughter that boomed from their mouths. So naturally, I photographed them.

Unfortunately, due to some technical difficulties, a lot of the photos (and I mean a lot, like upwards of 100) were lost. Fortunately, I was able to save these favorites.

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Mass Shootings: America’s Fastest Growing Epidemic

The Harbinger

By Sabine Joseph 

The recent attack on the Route 91 Harvest 3-day country music festival in Las Vegas–the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history–has ignited the hotly contested issue of gun control in the United States.

While the efficacy of strengthened gun control laws acting as a panacea for mass shootings is debated, the one thing that is clear is that mass shootings in the U.S. are an epidemic.

There is no concrete data on mass shootings, because of the ambiguity behind the definition of “mass shooting.” According to a 2013 USA Today investigation, even the FBI’s database is only 57 percent accurate. By the widest parameters, a mass shooting is one where the gunman shoots four or more people at the same general time and location; the narrowest parameters, set by the Congressional Research Service, require that a shooter kills four or more people at random in a…

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Living Batteries: The Dark Horse of Alternative Energy

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      Two “living” batteries have been made in recent years that may revolutionize the way we generate energy: bio-batteries (short for biological batteries) and microbial fuel cells (MFCs). The former are made from organic compounds (such as sugars, carbohydrates, proteins, and enzymes), while the latter are powered by bacteria.

    At this point, these batteries have yielded substantial results, with one experiment even suggesting that a sugar-powered bio-battery has ten times more energy than the traditional lithium-ion battery used in smartphones.

    While it is unlikely that bio-batteries and MFCs will power our TVs, computers, or cars anytime soon, their development is still quite significant. Current models have already shown to be effective energy sources to power medical devices essential to saving lives in rural areas without electricity.

    That may not mean anything to people who don’t directly feel their impact, but it means the world to those who receive life saving medical care they wouldn’t have otherwise.

Anything that helps people who suffer and die day after day of treatable diseases because of poverty, inaccessibility of medical care, or inferior technology is extremely worthwhile to most, but for those who are less sympathetic, there is cause for you to support bio-batteries as well.

    It seems that some particularly astute researchers took notice of the fact most organisms use ATP to convert glucose into energy, and decided to make a sugar powered battery because of the immense quantities of untapped energy that sugars hold (ex: a single bowl of rice has the same energy output as 96 AA batteries).

    So far, the latest news on these sugar batteries is a 2014 Virginia Tech experiment and the latest practical application was the use of a Sony sugar battery to power RC cars, but there is still hope for this form of bio-battery to power high-energy  devices.

    The chief researcher in the Virginia Tech experiment, Y.H. Percival Zhang, estimated that the sugar batteries would be ready for commercial use in three years. Yes, we are in 2017, three years after that statement was made; however, the year is not yet over and there is still time (albeit very little) for Zhang to meet his projected deadline.

    It is also worth noting that even if the batteries aren’t ready by this year, that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be ready any time soon. History has continuously proven that many things once thought impossible are quite possible, so considering science already establishes the possibility of these batteries, it is not too far stretch a to believe that they may become a reality in the next few years.

    Whether that “few” means the next year, decade, or century (all relatively short periods in the grand scheme of things), it will happen. Our bodies are already capable of doing it, so it is only a matter of time before scientists in all of their brilliance develop a way of manufacturing that process outside of the body to produce bio-batteries with energy outputs suitable for our energy expectations.

    And when that does happen, we will see a host of other benefits. Not only are these batteries safer and inexpensive, they will make all of us a little “greener” too.

    Rather than having to carefully dispose of toxic batteries, we will have batteries that can be recharged with materials that are safe for consumption, like sodas and energy drinks (though it is more likely that a 15% maltodextrin solution will be used) whose only byproducts are electricity and water. Some batteries even use wastewater or other waste materials, so we will contribute less trash to the environment while also helping to clean it up in the process.

    This clean-up goes for the air as well as our waste. If bio-batteries and MFCs are made to power cars and other fuel-powered machines, we can reduce our reliance on burning fossil fuels for energy, which is the primary factor of climate change.

    It may seem like a longshot, but at some point so did developing planes, cars, phones, computers and basically every other modern luxury we now enjoy. If today’s scientists ignore naysayers and work diligently like those of the past did, it is likely that commercialized bio-batteries and MFCs will become a reality, taking us one step closer to rehabilitating our deteriorating planet.

AHS Cult Casting Controversy: Can We Just Forgive and Forget? — The Harbinger

 

By Sabine Joseph American Horror Story (AHS) has become an instant cult classic, but its “cult” of fans was quick to abandon their favorite binge-worthy show after the cast of the the latest season was announced. Lena Dunham and Colton Haynes, two actors scheduled to appear on this season, have been dubbed by the internet […]

via AHS Cult Casting Controversy: Can We Just Forgive and Forget? — The Harbinger