Refill Time

It started on Friday, a marvelous late-morning coffee session with Curtis Chen (read his Kangaroo books, they are AWESOME); then I went home and pushed to get the rest of Sparked finished and sent off to the agent. (That’s the YA she wanted me to write, the one I found out needed another character arc jammed into its structure.) Both good things, but together they turned me into a quivering mass of nerves. Then, Saturday rolled around, and while I was twitching a friend texted, “YOU HAVE THE DAY OFF. COME PLAY.”

So we went…out. There was even window-shopping clothes, which was oddly soothing. Socializing for hours kept my brain busy so the usual post-book eating-itself was relegated to a thin, exhausting background mutter. Then Sunday came around, full of household chores and turning the earth in the most southerly garden boxes. We may still get a cold snap, but I planted hardy things like Alaska peas and fava beans. Hopefully I got enough of them in the ground that the squirrels and their buffet habits won’t wipe out the entire crop before it can sprout.

All of that was good, but I ached all over by evening, and spent a restless night with blisters and a headache. Now it’s Monday…and all I want to do is sit and stare. The massive flywheel of Finishing A Book has wound down, but I’m hollowed out, scraped dry, and need a chance to refill.

I have a slightly longer run today, but still within Miss B’s range. She’ll enjoy the chance to get out and work–she spent yesterday’s gardening time chasing squirrels, digging in her approved spots–I’m glad I bought a house so I don’t have to worry when she digs–and attempting to help me plant favas and radishes. Her attempts to help are mostly “Mum, you dropped this and it got covered with dirt, but I found it for you! I are good dog!”

Meanwhile, Odd wanted to stay inside, since his nails got clipped and he got his long walk of the week, which meant he was exhausted by all the activity. Not too exhausted, though, to moan-mumble at me when I came back inside, piqued that I had dared to do things without his supervision. Had it been a wee bit warmer, he would have wished to sunbathe in one of his Particular Spots, but I’m kind of glad he was achieving a liquid state inside. There was enough squirrel action that Miss B threw clods of dirt everywhere. Thankfully, she didn’t run head-on into any trees, but it was a close call. I believe the furry arboreal menaces were enjoying the game. At least they didn’t bomb me with pinecones, though I’m sure they marked each spot I planted something with extreme interest.

…I had another post planned, about infrastructure, ubiquity, and privilege, but I’m far too snarky today. I have very little patience left, and my give-a-fuck-o-meter is pretty well busted. My forties are gonna be the decade of rolling my eyes and deciding not to sugar-coat, I guess. A couple times lately I’ve had spoons and time enough to call a few people in my mentions on bullshit instead of just muting and moving on, and visibly doing so feels like a Good Deed. It’s no substitute for direct action in other ways, but an addendum.

Anyway, I have crossed the Sparked revise off my master to-do list. Up next is prepping Roadtrip Z‘s Season Three for release when the serial reaches that point and working ahead on the fourth and final season, not to mention giving Harmony a hard revise. It’s about time for a new master list as well, since I’ve crossed off five of the eight things on the current one.

But first, a run–and I’m going ahead with my Lovecraft re-read. I might spend the entire day curled up on the couch reading about Cthulhu with gallons of hot tea. It’s not quite a vacation…but close enough for me.

Over and out.

Uh, whoops…

Yeah, so, yesterday I changed a single tag on some SquirrelTerror posts and WordPress decided to vomit them ALL up as new posts, everywhere. Sorry about that. :/ (I am told Mercury is retrograde, so that’s what I’m blaming.)

Yesterday I could barely settle to a damn thing until around 3pm, when I’d achieved enough caffeine to impersonate a satellite launch. Fortunately, after that things were much easier; Beast of Wonder, Pocalypse Road, and Combine’s Shadow all lined up for work and were attended to in order. I think spending most of the day on Mastodon instead of Twitter improved my productivity tenfold. Twitter is a garbage fire of harassment, even though I have a truly robust block list. The effort of swimming through that toxicity is gargantuan; still, though, I have to retain a presence there because I’m a mid-list author. Having to hold one’s nose and do something is full adulthood, my friends.

So today: wordcount, revisions, Latin, Greek, piano practice. A full docket, and I have to get out the door for some speed work. I’m not sure I’ll take Miss B–she’s not fond of intervals. They probably interfere too much with her trying-to-kill-me rhythm.

So, I’m sorry about yesterday’s email blizzard, blog subscribers. Next time I change a tag…well, maybe I just won’t, because oh my God who needs that kind of hassle? Forgive me.

*zooms away into the sunshine*

Looking for Love

Me: I can’t believe I’m doing this.
Louis: YOU’RE A REAL PAL. OKAY, SO IS THIS A GOOD POSE?
Me: I guess?
Louis: YOU’RE NOT HELPING.
Me: Look, the last time I saw you, you were shooting at everyone.
Louis: I SAID I WAS SORRY.

Louis: SO OKAY, IT SHOULD GO, SINGLE MALE LOOKING FOR FRIENDS.
Me: Friends?
Louis: YEAH, WELL, IT’S GOTTA START THERE, RIGHT? LIKES: LONG WALKS, NATURE, COLD BEER. SHOULD I PUT DISLIKES?
Me: I’m not sure there’s space.
Louis: GOOD POINT. ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE. DID YOU GET MY GOOD SIDE? DO I LOOK RELAXED?
Me: …you look fine.

Louis: OKAY, SO HOBBIES. LET’S SEE.
Me: Well, what do you like to do?
Louis: KILL ZOMBIES.
Me: …other than that.
Louis: DRINK BEER.
Me: How about reading? Do you like to read?
Louis: WEAPONS MANUALS.
Me: *trying to keep a straight face* Cooking? Do you like to cook?
Louis: I CAN ROAST A SQUIRREL.
Me:

Yeah, poor Louis is looking for love. I’m not sure online dating is for him, but he’s insistent, and since he’s going to be living in the backyard with the rest of the crew, I might as well try to be helpful.

Meeting Louis Darrul

Miranda was right, as usual. It wasn’t raining the next morning, though the forecast said thunderstorms later. So I bopped out, holding a mug of scalding coffee. I rather suspected I’d need the caffeine; and it’s handy as a weapon if the mug is big enough–or the coffee hot enough. I reasoned a crossbow firing toothpicks wasn’t likely to be out of coffee-flinging reach, either.

What? Yes, I do occasionally reason, my friends. Not often enough, to hear my exes talk, but hey, there’s a reason they’re ex.

Miranda: HELLO, DEAR.
Me: Good morning, Miranda. How are you?

(She, like me, prefers a little formality.)

Miranda: RATHER SHORT ON SLEEP. WE STAYED UP LATE, TALKING. BUT I’VE CONVINCED LOUIS TO MEET YOU, AT LEAST. HE IS…SOMEWHAT SHY.
Me: Im sure his habit of shooting at people doesn’t help.
Louis: THEY AIN’T PEOPLE, MA’AM.

Me: JESUS CHRIST.
Miranda: LANGUAGE, DEAR.
Louis: FUCK!
Miranda: *rather loudly* LANGUAGE!
Me: What the hell are you?
Miranda: LANGUAGE, DAMMIT!
Me: *shifting backward on my haunches, lifting my mug* Yeah, yeah, language. I repeat, who the hell are you, dude?
Louis: *eyeing my coffee mug warily* LOUIS DARRUL AT YER SERVICE, MA’AM.
Me: You’ve been shooting at my backyard residents?
Louis: FRIEND OF YOURS SENT ME.
Me: *bracing self, with a sinking sensation* Oh yeah? Who?
Louis: A MISS MEL. I WAS…WELL, HER CHICKENS ARE KIND OF…LOOK, I DIDN’T KNOW SHE KEPT THEM FOR EGGS, ALL RIGHT?
Me: *digging for my phone* Oh, hell no.
Miranda: IF YOU TWO ARE GOING TO USE IMPROPER LANGUAGE, TAKE YOUR CONVERSATION ELSEWHERE.
Me: *texting furiously* Miranda, you are the backyard oracle, and due respect, but for right now, my friend, shut up.
Louis: DON’T TALK TO HER LIKE THAT.
Me: I will settle your hash in a minute, Mr Darrul. Be quiet.

Now I shall present to you, my friends, an excerpt from the text conversation with my lovely, wonderful, mischievous writing partner, the Selkie.

Me: WHAT. THE FUCK. MEL.
The Selkie: What?
Me: You sent me a hillbilly with a crossbow?
The Selkie: Oh, yeah, him. He was irritating my chickens.
Me: FOR GOD’S SAKE.
The Selkie: What? You like zombie hunters.
Me: He thought your chickens were zombies?
The Selkie: It’s a long story. Enjoy.
Me: I swear I will get you for this.
The Selkie: *smiley face*

I stuck my phone back in my hoodie pocket and eyed the fellow. He eyed me right back, and his tiny finger twitched.

Me: Don’t even, dude.
Miranda: HE NEEDS A PLACE TO STAY.
Me: Oh, of course. Of course he does.
Miranda: IT’S NOT HIS FAULT, HIS HOME WAS OVERRUN BY–
Me: Oh, sure. Sure. I’ve got ceramic squirrels, a koala in a corset, a fucking Batman, what’s a psycho with a crossbow? Sure, great, wonderful, welcome to the goddamn backyard, Louis.

I was not very graceful at that point, I guess, but can you blame me? My nerves were somewhat shot. Miranda, thankfully, did not tell me to watch my language. I suspect she knew I would not take the suggestion kindly.

Louis: I WON’T MAKE NO TROUBLE, MA’AM.
Me: You are going to have to stop shooting at Willard. And at Joe.
Louis: WHO? YOU MEAN THE…BUT, MA’AM, THEY’RE UNDEAD.
Me: They are productive citizens of the backyard realm, sir.
Louis: …YOU SURE?

I tipped my head back, my jaw working. I could feel my teeth groaning under the strain.

Miranda: YOU SEE? DESPITE HER TEMPER, SHE IS A VERY GOOD RULER.
Me: I doubt I’m in charge here, Miranda.
Miranda: WELL, NOMINALLY, AT LEAST.
Me: *bringing my chin back down* I suppose I deserved that one.
Miranda: *quietly* YES, YOU DID.
Me: Okay. Fine. Sure, what the hell. If you stop shooting at Willard and Joe, Mr Darrul, you can stay.
Louis: WHAT ABOUT THE SQUIRRELS? THEM’S TASTY, AND A MAN’S GOTTA EAT.
Me: Oh, good Lord.

So I ended up gingerly closing my hand around Louis’s middle, trying to avoid the crossbow–

Louis: CAREFUL, WOMAN. THAT’S MAH KNIFE.
Me: I could hold you by your head.
Louis: *extremely quiet*
Miranda: VERY GOOD, THEN.
Me: Sorry for cussing, Miranda.
Miranda: THAT’S ALL RIGHT, DEAR. YOU WERE IN SOMEWHAT OF A SITUATION. OH, YOU’LL NEED BURN CREAM.
Me: For…? *standing up, a bit too quickly* Oh, fuck.
Miranda: THAT.
Louis: BE CAREFUL, DAMMIT!

I’d forgotten just how hot my coffee was. I swore all the way carrying him inside, ran my hand under cold water while swearing, and introduced him to Fred, George, and Tiny!Batman in a rather perfunctory fashion. George got him a cuppa, Fred clucked over the state of his boots, and Wendy did not take to him but she was polite.

Later, of course, I found out he really was a good ally in the event of squirrel attack. But that’s (say it with me) another story.

Moss, Miranda, Bactine

The Backyard Oracle

When we last spoke, dear Readers, I had decided to visit Miranda. It’s kind of hard to keep a straight face when you’re cleaning off a statue’s tatas, but I managed.

Miranda: THANK YOU, DEAR.
Me: *peeling moss from well-formed breasts* Miranda, someone’s shooting at Phil and Willard.
Miranda: JUST WILLARD.
Me: …okay. *brushing away dirt and polishing her shoulders* And Joe.
Miranda: YES, WILLARD AND JOE. THANK YOU, DEAR.
Me: And putting moss on you. *pointing at the dead campfire* And building fires.
Miranda: I BELIEVE HE THOUGHT I MUST BE COLD.
Me: *gathering all my patience* Miranda, he shot at me too. This isn’t good for the backyard community.
Miranda: NO, I SUPPOSE IT ISN’T.

That’s the thing about having an oracle in your backyard. They’re sometimes a little frustrating to talk to. At least there were no more crossbow bolts winging by. So I gathered my patience again.

Me: *brushing off her skirt* Miranda? Do you happen to know who this person is?
Miranda: OH YES, DEAR. IT’S LOUIS.
Me: *finally feeling like we’re getting somewhere* Lewis?
Miranda: NO, LOUIS. SPELLED FRENCH, PRONOUNCED OTHERWISE.
Me: How did you know I spelled…oh, never mind. Look, so where can I find this Louis-pronounced-otherwise? I really need to explain some things to him.
Miranda: I CAN INTRODUCE YOU, IF YOU’D LIKE. HE CAMPS HERE AT NIGHT, OFTEN.
Me: Good Lord. Okay. When?
Miranda: COME BY TOMORROW MORNING.
Me: *remembering weather report* It’ll be raining.
Miranda: NOT WHEN YOU COME BY. ALSO, YOU’RE OUT OF BACTINE.
Me: You mean I’m going to need it?
Miranda: *nods, smiling gently*
Me: Oh, fuck.
Miranda: LANGUAGE, DEAR.

As usual, she was right. (Don’t ask. It had to do with a frightened cat, Odd Trundles, and leftover spaghetti. I SAID DON’T ASK.) Not about the language, but about the…well, anyway, the next morning I checked the iron-clouded sky, sighed, poured more coffee, and sallied forth.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Under Fire

Me: What on earth–
Phil: DON’T ASK.
Willard: *grooooooan*
Me: Does this have anything to do with the little plastic crossbow–
Phil: I SAID DON’T ASK.
Me: But–
Phil: I’M JUST GONNA SAY, THERE’S SOMEONE GONNA GET HURT.
Me: *picks Willard up, gingerly* Oh dear. Are you hurt, sweetheart?
Willard: *mumbles incoherently*
Phil: *pops pebble in Willard’s mouth* YOU NEVER CALL ME SWEETHEART.
Me: You’re not helpless.
Phil: DAMN STRAIGHT. STAY INSIDE FOR A WHILE, OKAY?
Me: You know I can’t.
*whooshing sound*
Phil: WOMAN, GET INSIDE.
Me: *eyeing the tiny plastic crossbow bolt buried in beauty bark at Willard’s feet* This is…exotic. And you’re sexist.
Phil: *vanishes*
*a long yodel floats from the roof*
Willard: *moans around pebble*
Me: *trying to look everywhere at once* Oh, hell.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Canary Shed Finale

So, when last we spoke, dear Readers, I was crouched inside my shed while a squirrel danced on the roof.

Our shed has its idiosyncrasies, just like the house. I think part of the reason I fell in love with this place was that it seemed just as weird as our little family. (That, and the air-conditioning.) One of those little fiddles, as I mentioned, is the fact that the shed door will not close when the damn thing is unoccupied, but it will slam shut in a hurry if someone’s fool enough to pause inside. (Don’t tell me “it’s the floor.” That fucker is on a concrete slab.)

So the door, which had hit a hummock and shaken the entire structure, began to rebound, and I realized that soon I was going to be in the dark with a squirrel on the roof and dear God, how do I get myself into these sorts of situations?

Sheer genius, I guess. Anyway. True to form, the shed door began swinging closed. But what was this?

Oh, my dear Reader, I’ll tell you what it was.

Silence. Deathly silence, except for Emphysema Joe getting warmed up on a string of obscenities breathtaking in scope, style, and sheer vitriol. (I gather some of the roof detritus had slid off the roof and onto his poor wee head.)

Now, things happen very quickly after this. Bear with me.

Picture Your Humble Narrator crouching in close quarters, mildly surprised that she fits next to the lawnmower and far too close for comfort to the rake-and-catcher duo used to scoop up the dogs’ daily peristaltic offerings. Overhead are the rafters, full of implements which might be of use–cultivator, two business-sized shovels, pitchfork, you get the idea. There’s also the compost turner and the rake on the back wall, but getting there requires balletic contortions and for reasons that will soon become obvious, time was of the essence.

Now, as the silence deepens and the door begins to swing shut, imagine the gloom of the shed growing deeper, and imagine my face changing as I hear a skitter-stomp overhead. It may be dark inside there, but there’s nothing wrong with my ears, and said ears are busily triangulating the location of an arboreal rodent on the other side of far-too-thin sheet metal.

Skitter-stomp. Skitter-stomp. Skitterskitterskitter.

STOMP.

The door, suddenly weighted on its top edge with however-many-ounces of flying rodent, swung wide again.

Because you see, my dear Reader, Canary!Squirl had only vaguely remarked my presence, but she sure as shit noticed the door, and its top must have borne a striking resemblance to a moving branch she could use to catapult herself to some precarious safety elsewhere. Now, I’m sure a squirrel knows a lot about branches, and even more about leaves, and all there is to know about pinecones. I remain, and will definitely continue to my dying day, firmly convinced that no squirrel, no matter how intelligent, grasps the concept of hinges.

I can only surmise the door, momentarily confused by Schrodinger’s Tree-Rat being neither inside nor outside the shed, couldn’t decide what the fuck. Canary!Squirl’s application of force sent it careening outward at high speed, while she clung to the top. But then, well…remember that hummock? The one that charitably stops the door each time it’s flung wide?

Yeah.

Well, the door hit that collection of dirt, castoff cedar fingernails, pebbles, and what-have-you. And, confused even more by my presence inside the shed, the urge to close, the urge to continue on its outward way as kinetic energy demanded but the hummock halted, and Canary!Squirl’s sudden, hellish, and extremely loud scream, it opted for closing.

With a vengeance.

While I may not be blessed with much in the way of youth anymore, dear Reader, I do still retain some excellent reflexes. One of them is the quick darting motion of the hand for anything nearby that can serve as a weapon when my hindbrain decides enough is enough and there’s self-defense to be done.

I’ve told you about the rafters, and about the back wall of the shed. But on the left side as you come in is a small occasional table, one I used for my laptop many ages ago when I was in a small-desk phase. It holds smaller things one uses in gardening, right near the shed door for easy access. Things like, oh, you know. Gloves. Small clippers. A bulb-dropper. Plastic plant identification tags. The prospect of being locked in the shed with a crazed, screeching, anarchist tree-rat was not pleasant, to say the least. The door was closing quickly, the darkness was rising, and I had to ride into battle, so to speak.

I gained my full hominid upright stature with a lunge that would have made my old ballet teacher proud, pivoting on the ball of my left foot, and my right hand flickered out, closing around a rubbery handle. Veteran Lili, the part of me that has endured many a bar fight, was not quite finished, though. I was armed, after a fashion, but the old battlemonger in the back of my head made a number of calculations, looked at the results, tossed them out, did a few sums she liked better, and sprang into action without pausing to ask the rest of me (especially my executive functions) for an opinion or even a quorum.

In short, my dear Reader, I saw the ass end of a scrabbling squirrel clinging to the shed door and approaching at high speed, right about head level. My right knee came up, my foot pistoned out, and I heard one of my ex-boyfriends saying, softly, don’t kick it, kick THROUGH it. (Now he was a LOT of fun. Only time I ever dated a Marine, though. Once was enough.)

For once, friends and neighbors, when faced with a squirrel, the gods were on my side. It was a beautiful fucking kick, even if I did almost fall over onto the lawnmower and the dogshit-gathering tools at its end.

BAM.

Me: JESUS CHRIST!
Emphysema Joe: –AND I’M GONNA DENUDE YOUR TAIL LIKE BRIGITTE BARDOT WITH A POPSICLE, YOU PUNK!
Canary!Squirl: SKREEEEEEEEEE!

The door, now thoroughly confused but still subject to physics, made a hollow cracking sound and retreated from my sudden application of foot. Like I said, I almost fell over, saved myself just in time, and regained my balance with a lurch. My shoe flew off for the second damn time that day.

And the squirrel? Well, she clung to the top of the door, and for the umpteenth time, the hummock served its ordained purpose of stopping said door.

The Canary Anarchist, bold and brave, flew.

Over the fence.

Between two cedars.

Through small branches.

Across the neighbor’s yard.

And landed on the neighbor’s nice new deck.

Still screaming.

And that, dear Readers, is how I ended up hobbling out of my shed at high speed, searching for my shoe for the second time that morning. It wasn’t until I finally found said shoe that I realized I was holding a weapon.

Canary!Squirl: FIGHT! FIGHT YOU ALL!
Emphysema Joe: COME BACK HERE! COME BACK AND TRY IT!
Miss B and Odd Trundles: *inside the house, hearing strange sounds through my open bedroom window* MUM? MUM WHERE ARE YOU? WE ARE ASCAIRT!
Me: …sonofabitch.

I decided discretion was by far the better proportion of valor and hightailed it across the yard, stopping only to grab a poor coffee mug, thankfully unbroken, I luckily encountered along the way. I made it into the house, shut the patio door, and the dogs scrabbled out of my bedroom and down the hall to greet me, since I had clearly been gone for YEARS and they had waited PATIENTLY and now I was BACK and they had to tell me how SCARED they were without me and how GLAD they were I was back.

And, my dearest, most faithful and constant readers, I realized I was still armed. Want me to tell you with what?

Are you sure?

Okay.

With a tiny, handheld gardening shovel.

With all the adrenaline going on I barely needed a second dose of coffee, Miss B had forgotten all about the squirrel atop the shed, and Emphysema Joe is still upset about the lavender. The shed door will probably never be the same. Odd Trundles, of course, just wanted to know if the little shovel was food, and if it was, if it was intended for his gaping maw. I did see Canary!Squirl later that day, when I went out to close the damn shed and put the shovel away…

But that’s (say it with me) another blog post. I’m gonna count this particular interaction as a win, even if I did lose my shoe. (Twice.)

Thus ends the Ballad of Canary Shed.