Beetles In Braids

Peekaboo.
November is upon us. I just looked up and realized as much.

I also realized that the novel I chose for NaNo has a process that is slightly uncongenial to the whole NaNo goal. *sigh* Of course, I’ve hit around 20k, so it’s time for retrenchment–going back and reading the first bit so I can see the shape of the rest lying under a blanket. Feeling around for the story’s contours is vaguely unsettling–you can’t tell what’s going to move under the sheet, or when a tentacle or cold fingers will suddenly clasp your wrist–but necessary.

So most of the wordcount today has been filling in the hills and valleys I can see from my vantage point in the story. There’s some moving bits I haven’t accounted for yet, and I want to make it more complex than this world perhaps needs to be. On the other hand, it’s the YA my agent wants, so she’ll get teenage-protagonists-dealing-with-adult-bullshit. At least it won’t be sent out on submission.

Small mercies.

Other things that happened today: I washed a dead beetle out of my hair and Miss B tried to kill me. Apparently running on windy days will fill my mane with all sorts of crap, even when it’s braided. I may have shrieked in a less-than-dignified fashion as soon as I realized what the holy hell that knot near the ends actually was. Fir needles I can live with, dead leaves or grass, rain, that’s all fine. But I draw the line at beetles, Mother Nature.

I suppose I should be grateful it wasn’t a bee. I’d feel awful is a bee died in my hair, instead of just hitching a ride for a short while.

I did take B on my run, and she didn’t really try to kill me then. I should have known her halfhearted attempts meant only that she was saving herself up for a larger challenge. While the kettle was heating up for my second cuppa of the day, I did a little stretching–got to take care of your body, the old corpse needs flexibility, stretching’s good for you, right? Except I may have made a noise that led B to think I was dying, and she launched herself at me in an attempt to save her beloved owner.

And knocked me over. Onto the tiled floor. And stepped on me several times while trying to ascertain just what was wrong with me. I may have used some unbecoming language during that whole episode.

At least I didn’t hit my head on the oven. There’s that. And life is never boring with a hyper-charged herding canine around.

So now, sore, full of adrenaline, and with a fresh tankard of tea, I am all set for the afternoon’s games.

Wish me luck.

Imagination Doesn’t Hobble

So yesterday, not ten seconds into my morning run, Miss B thought she heard another dog, lunged, took out my knees, and sent me to the ground in a singularly un-graceful fashion. I was bleeding so badly I had to take her home, deck myself with sticking plasters, and head out the door again (alone, for which she did not forgive me for hours) to run six and a half kilometers. Then, in the middle of the run, my nose started to bleed and my email notification dinged for some not-quite-pleasant news.

In short, it was a Monday.

Today, aching in various places, I essayed interval training, and took B along. I mean, what was the worst that could happen? I was a little smarter than yesterday, because I put her in her harness, which she hates. She hates it, you see, because she can’t pull while she’s in it; the marvels of modern design mean its collection of straps and buckles redirects her attention to the human holding her leash. Or the human with the leash knotted about her waist.

This is, in Miss B’s estimable opinion, Not How Things Should Roll.

Anyway, she’s sacked out in the hallway, sleeping the sleep of a very tired (and hence, well-behaved) dog while Odd Trundles, upset because my bedroom door is closed and he can’t trundle in to sleep on my bed (long story, suffice to say I grew tired of washing my coverlet daily) is groaning and grousing. Eventually he will settle on the SUPER EXPENSIVE, soft as a cloud, FANCY-PANTS DOG BED in my office, the one with the WASHABLE MICROFIBER COVER.

Truly, the life of Trundles is a harsh one.

I can’t yoga to stretch all the stiffness out, since my palms are shredded and my knees look like I knelt on frozen peas until the skin broke. I know, first-world problems. Some days I grouse like Trundles.

Tomorrow is yet another interval training session, because clearly my capacity for punishment is wide and deep as the seas.

But for right now, my imagination doesn’t limp or hobble. I can write the scene where the all-girl traveling group in the zombie apocalypse administers sweet bloody revenge to a Certain Character. Oh, and I should probably do my regular enshillening of my book wares at some point today. Marketing waits not for the slow, nor for those who loathe it.

Trundles has settled on the FANCY DOG BED and is beaming grouchy sleep-beams at the back of my office chair. I’m glad I painted it with nap repellant earlier, and further glad I have another tankard of coffee to get me through the first half of Tuesday.

Over and out.

Rain, Dogs, Run

Lock, Rain Drop, After Rain, Drops
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Rain! We only had misting and a damp-down yesterday, but I woke up this morning to tapping fingers on the roof, tree branches weighed down with welcome water…and dogs unwilling to go down the deck stairs because they’re forgotten what that water falling from the sky is. Odd Trundles, simpleton that he is, finally bowed to the inevitable pressure in his bladder, but Miss B had thoughts of finding a drier and more congenial spot to unload.

Like, inside.

I put a quick stop to that and almost had to chase her down the damn steps. She finally bowed to the inevitable, but not before giving me a filthy look. She still hasn’t completely forgiven me, but there’s a 5km run in her immediate future, so that will go a considerable way toward ameliorating her fury. (Read: She’ll smell so many interesting things she won’t even remember I made her pee outside in the RAIN.)

You guys are aching to hear about the tiny plastic crossbow, I’M SURE, but that story’s going to have to wait until Friday. (I know, I’m evil.) The squirrels were in a frenzy to bury all sorts of things last week; they could probably sense the rain coming. So, being distracted, they didn’t care so much about the dogs being in the yard. I think they’ve figured out Trundles won’t ever catch one, and if they come out in pairs Miss B wants to herd them instead of catching them. *eyeroll* Suffice to say there have been Hijinks, but I don’t know how many times I can retell “Miss B almost, ALMOST caught the squirrel” before you lot get bored. So I’m going to ration the stories, and only bring you the best ones.

Not that the wielder of the plastic crossbow is a squirrel. Oh no. That would be too easy, wouldn’t it. Besides, if those arboreal fuckers figured out projectile weapons (other than pinecones) I’m afraid humanity’s place on the food chain would slip a bit.

ANYWAY. I have practiced my French and my Korean this morning–Duolingo finally has a Korean program, and the Drops app is pretty spiffy for learning Hangul and basics–and absorbed some caffeine, so it’s time to get out and run in the rain. At least I’ll be able to breathe, without both snot and sputum being full of smoke particles. (I’ll spare you the description of just what color one’s snot is after breathing forest fire ash for a while. You’re welcome.)

They’re even saying there might be thunderstorms later. Which delights me, but will not delight Miss B at all. Fortunately she can hide under my desk, and probably will. The only drawback to that is her possible state of dampness after we get out for a quick 5km.

But oh well, if it makes her feel better, wet shins are a small price to pay.

Over and out.

Poor Queequeg

I finished Moby-Dick this past week. A common complaint is that the middle part of the book, pages upon pages of whale biology and whaling history and and and, is somehow “boring.” I think Melville deliberately structured the book to follow the pacing of the hunt itself. A whaling voyage, he says, could last two to three years, and of course there were long stretches of sailing time full of nothing but daily work and one’s own thoughts. The spike of activity near the end when the hunt reaches its apotheosis comes as a jolt and pulls the reader on.

Miss B, of course, wanted to know why I was sniffling a little when the book ending. She kept sticking her nose in my face and asking who on earth I was crying for. I rubbed her ears and could only repeat, poor Queequeg.

Now it’s my headcanon that Queequeg somehow escaped the vortex, and while Ishmael clung to the coffin Queequeg drifted in the opposite direction clinging to a broken bit of the mainmast (clutching the doubloon, too, because he effing deserved it) and finally after many adventures reached his home island, where he was a king again, and like Conan wore a jeweled crown upon a troubled brow, thinking of his lost mate.

That’s my private story, and I’m stickin’ to it.

The Penultimate of Canary Shed

My good intentions get me into trouble. We all know this.

So, just to bring you up to speed, there was the squirrel, the dogs, the crushed and fragrant lavender, a garden gnome so upset he was considering giving up pacifism, and just-barely-caffeinated-yours-truly. The first was making a lot of noise, the second were both shut inside and bemoaning the fact, the third was crushed (but would recover) the fourth is still muttering distinctly uncharitable things about “that crazy-ass girl”, and me? Well, first, I decided, I had to find my shoe.

Canary!Squirl: FIGHT YOU! FIGHT YOU ALL!
Emphysema Joe: THERE’S ONLY EMPTY SPACE BETWEEN US, CRAZYPANTS.
Me: *muttering* You are not helping, Joe.
Miss B: *behind the patio door* MUM! MUM! LET ME OUT! I’LL HELP! I’LL HEEEEERD IT LET ME OUT PLEEEEEEASE!
Odd Trundles: BORKBORKBORK! *from my bedroom window* OOOOH MUM I AM ALOOOOONE AND ASCAIRRRRT AND SOMEONE IS YELLING! BORKBORK!

I made it to my black slip-on shoe, thankfully right next to the concrete walkway, keeping a nervous eye on Canary!Squirl’s dancing. Emphysema Joe, well past the limits of even his patience, was all but frothing at the mouth. Willard and Phil, blinking blearily, peered around the fir to see what the rucks was, and Willard started to moan. Phil popped a pebble in Willard’s mouth–for a concrete zombie gnome, Will’s amazingly like a toddler–and cleared his throat.

Me: What?
Phil: THIS WON’T END WELL.
Me: Oh, now this is revealed unto you? How did she get up there, anyway?
Canary!Squirl: FIIIIIIGHT YOU! IIIIIIIII…WANNA BEEEEEEEEEEEE…AAAAAANARCHY!
Phil: I THINK SHE’S GIVING A CONCERT?
Odd Trundles: BORKBORKBORK ASCAAAAARIT MUUUUUUM…
Me: Have you seen my coffee mug?
Phil: WHAT?
Me: Never mind.
Emphysema Joe: YOU’RE OFF KEY, YOU PUNK WANNABE! COME DOWN HERE AND FIGHT IF YOU WANNA! I USETA BE A CONTENDAH!
Miss B: *throwing herself at patio door* MUM! MUM! I’LL PROTECT YOU! MUUUUUM!
Willard: MRPPPHBLEGRRRRP
Me: Oh, my God.

I dumped grass and pebbles out of my shoe, got it on, and stood up, somewhat shakily. I eyed the shed and the dancing, screaming squirrel, sticking my fingers in my ears to ameliorate the noise.

Then, deciding nothing about this was going to be simple, I edged across the yard. There were several problems to solve, but number one was getting to the shed door. That’s where all the shovels are, you see.

Now, if you read those last two sentences and said, “Lili. Honey. Don’t,” YOU WOULD BE RIGHT. You would be much smarter than I was at that point.

I had, you see, some hazy idea of getting a shovel, or finding something to make a squirrel-ramp out of, or something like that. Canary!Squirl made another attempt to leap into the fringe of the cedars and thudded back onto the shed roof, rattling both the sheet metal and, I suspected, every bit of rodent brain she possessed.

Canary!Squirl: AAAAAAANARCHYYYYYYY!
Emphysema Joe: IMMA CLIMB THIS WALL TO GET TO YOU, YOU–
Me: Watch yourself, Joe.
Emphysema Joe: DID YOU SEE WHAT SHE DID?
Me: You know Miss B gets excited–
Emphysema Joe: THE GODDAMN DOG AIN’T THE PROBLEM, MA’AM!
Me:
Canary!Squirl: FIGHT YOU! FIGHT YOU BOTH!
Me: Oh, Lord.

I gathered myself for a tricky bit of business. You see, in order to get into the shed, one has to kick away the rock holding the door closed, then open the door outward, then step into a dingy, spiderweb-festooned, Very Small and Crowded Space. The door has a habit of swinging closed when someone is inside, but open when nobody is–look, don’t ask me, it’s par for the course around here.

ANYWAY. The thought of being inside that cramped dark space with a wild squirrel loose on the roof was not appetizing, but if I was going to get the tools to get the damn squirrel off the roof, I had no choice.

That was, at least, what I thought.

So I braced myself, thought I should cross myself though I haven’t been Catholic in decades, glanced at Emphysema Joe–who was ranting something about knowing a few Hell’s Angels–and nervously at the shed roof, where Canary was making a fuckton of noise but, because of the angle, could not see me. (Or so I hoped.)

I made it under the shed eaves. Kicked away the rock, hunching as far as I could. I swung the door open, and I ducked inside. The door kept going–I may have used a little more force than necessary–and hit a hummock of dirt right at the edge of its arc. That, of course, shook the whole shed, even more than the dancing on the roof.

Which…stopped. And so did Odd’s yowling, which probably meant Miss B had trotted into the bedroom to boss him around, being unable to see me clearly anymore.

The sudden quiet was unnerving, to say the least. I found myself crouching next to our lawnmower, peering up at the shed rafters where the shovels (including the SHOVEL, brought from the other house, if you’ve read SquirrelTerror you know the one I’m talking about) are. Normally I stand in the doorway and lift one of the implements in the rafters down, but having a squirrel land on my head didn’t seem wise, right? Plus, there was the rake hanging on the back wall, and I had a hazy idea that might be a better choice for squirrel rescue, perhaps?

But…there was the sudden silence, and in it, I heard Emphysema Joe take in a startled breath. There was only one explanation: Canary!Squirl had noticed something.

That’s when things got…interesting.

…TO BE CONTINUED

The Ballad of Canary Shed, Part II

I ask you, my ever-faithful Readers, have you ever carried a very excited Australian shepherd up two flights of stairs while a squirrel screams imprecations from your shed roof and a garden gnome is using language he probably learned on a Grateful Dead tour?

…maybe I should back up.

So I compounded my error of opening the damn door by actually going down the stairs, and peering around the fir. It was too-early-o-clock for the amount of noise Canary!Squirl, on the shed roof, was managing to produce. I’m sure the neighbors already hate me, there was no need to add to it, right?

Not only was the goddamn squirrel screaming, and Emphysema Joe using language unfit for the gentleman he usually is, but Miss B was in what you’d call a perfect goddamn fury. She worked around the shed at top speed, busting through the kiwi vine on the south side, knocking over various stacked garden things, desperately seeking a way up to get to whatever was making that glorious, wonderful, oh-so-interesting noise.

I will admit, I stood there for a second, my pre-caffeine fog thinning but by no means lifted, gaping.

Canary!Squirl: FIRE! FLOOD! FUCKING ANARCHY!
Emphysema Joe: YOU STEP ON MY GREEN AGAIN IMMA RECONSIDER MAH PACIFISM, YOU GODDAMN–
Miss B: HEEEEEEEERD IT! HEEEEEEERD IT!
Odd Trundles: *sound drifting out my bedroom window* BORK BORK BORK ALERT ALERT LONELY SAD! WHY MUST BORK? BORK BORK BORK!

Part of herding is, of course, circling, which B was bound and determined to do, stopping every quarter-revolution or so to attempt launching herself at the roof. Each time, she was doomed to fail, so she would visibly decide circling was the best strategy, only to get overexcited and attempt again.

I made it cautiously across the yard, downing gulps of scorching coffee. Of course, I had the hazy idea that catching B’s ruff while juggling a full cup wasn’t optimal, but not enough horsepower to realize that maybe I should have just set the damn thing down. In any case, I was between one mouthful and the next, B landed in the lavender, Emphysema Joe began to really get warmed up, and Canary!Squirl made an amazing leap for a fringe of cedar branches hanging over the roof.

Miss B: HEEEEEEERD! HEEEEEERD!
Emphysema Joe: *spluttering curses*
Odd Trundles: WHY THERE NO MUM? ALOOOOOONE! ALOOOOOONE AND LONELY BORK BORK BORK!
Canary!Squirl: *splat*

That’s right, friends and neighbors. Her leap was a masterpiece of power and passion, but it…fell short. She landed on the roof with a hollow bong! that was hilarious. Or at least, it would have been if B hadn’t come around the corner again, intent on wrecking more of the lavender launchpad, and almost took my knees out from under me.

My coffee mug, thankfully empty, went flying. Emphysema Joe sucked in a horrified breath. I let out a “JESUS CHRIST!” worthy of Graham Chapman, almost fell onto a metal bar that had once held up deer netting (previous owners, I guess, thought we’d have suburban fawns? I don’t even know) and Canary!Squirl, suddenly conscious of our presence, began to scream afresh.

Canary!Squirl: I’LL FIGHT YOU ALL TOGETHER! I’LL FIGHT YOU ONE AT A TIME! ANNNNNNAAAAAAARCHYYYYYYYYY!
Miss B: YOU HEEEEEERD TOOO MUM HEEEEEEERD GET IT!
Emphysema Joe: HOLY FUCKNUGGETS AND DOLLY PARTON, YOU OKAY?
Odd Trundles: *still in my bedroom* MUM? MUM IS THAT YOU? MUM I’LL SAVE YOOOOOOOU!
Me: *using “fuck” as every other syllable, and every part of speech, too*

I managed not to get stabbed by my own garden architecture, braced myself, and caught Miss B by the scruff on her next round. Barking hysterically, she was not amenable to being dragged by said scruff all the dim-damn way across the yard, nor was I particularly enamored of that strategy. The only other thing I could think of was getting my legs underneath me and my arms around her, and picking her up like a shepherd with a particularly naughty sheep.

I will spare you the details of the language I used, the language Canary!Squirl used, and the horrified moaning that commenced from Emphysema Joe as he began to take stock of the smooshed green. I shall also spare you the details of how I lost a shoe, staggering across said yard with an excited, wriggling, extremely flexible and motivated 50lb+ Aussie in my arms. I have a bruise on my hip from hitting one side of the stairs on the way up, fell on the landing and managed to keep hold of her, got her to the door, had to put her down and sink my fingers in her ruff to free a hand and get the door open, then toss her inside.

Odd Trundles: MUM? MUM IS THAT YOU? MUUUUUM I’M ASCAIRT! BORK BORK BORK!
Miss B: *scrabbling at patio door* LET ME AT IT! LET ME AT IT! I ALMOST HAD IT! I HEEEEERDED IT!
Emphysema Joe: JUST LOOK AT THIS. JUST LOOK AT THIS MESS.
Canary!Squirl: THAT’S RIGHT MOTHAFUCKAS, ANARCHY IN THE BACK YARD!
Me: …I liked that mug.

I collapsed outside the patio door and gathered what little wit I could lay claim to.

Damage: Bruised hip, hiccups (all tasting of coffee), torn fingernail (I don’t even know), possibly broken coffee mug (goddammit), crushed lavender (that’s fine, it’ll give Joe something to do), lost shoe somewhere in the yard (why me, God, why me?), possibly insane squirrel (is there any other kind, I’m wondering?) still on shed roof, neighbors no doubt awake and cursing me roundly, and dog slobber all over my arms and pyjama top.

*sigh*

I won’t deny I sat there for a few moments, feeling utterly unequipped to deal. But if there’s one thing motherhood has taught me, it’s that dealing is not optional. You don’t have a choice, especially when you suspect that crazy-ass squirrel might not be able to get down under her own power. Besides, I had to go find my mug anyway, right?

So I made my third bad decision of that morning, my dear Readers.

I made up my mind that a squirrel rescue was in order.

TO BE CONTINUED…

photo by: Alex E. Proimos

The Ballad of Canary Shed

Morning. I am absorbing my coffee at the dining table and thinking about the day’s work–another fifty pages of revisions is my short-term goal. I swear to all the gods I intended a hundred a day, but this book is…crunchy. And complex.

ANYWAY, all of a sudden, there is a noise.

Not your average noise, no. Not even a regular morning noise, like Odd Trundles’s back end terrifying him with a sudden trumpet blast, Miss B chewing on one of her paws while she looks blankly at me and wonders when the hell we’re getting out the door, car doors slamming as neighbors set out for work, or (when the wind is from the east) a train whistle or (when the wind is from the west) chimes and playground noise from the local elementary school.

No, this was more like…a gong. And claws.

Me: What the fuck?
Miss B: I HEAR SOMETHING! ALERT! BORK!
Odd Trundles: *startled out of a sound sleep* HUHWHUH? DANGER! ALERT! *snortwhistle* BORK BORK BORK!
Me: *cannot hear anything*

I made it to my feet, temporarily deafened but still possessing enough mental horsepower to triangulate the sound. Peering out the door to the deck, I can’t see anything amiss, so I made a terrible decision.

That’s right. I opened the door.

In my defense, I was only partially caffeinated and Miss B was producing a lot of noise. Odd, still ensconced on my bed, began to get a little worked up. He is used to following Miss B’s lead, and of course, if she’s barking he has to, but he was All Alone and I did not immediately come into the room to soothe him. Plus, I think he’d gotten turtled on his side or back, sprawled amid my pillows.

Miss B was out the door like a shot, and I belatedly realized that was not my smartest move. I checked to make sure I had footwear and shuffled out onto the deck, cradling my coffee protectively. Miss B scrabbled down the stairs and set off for the far back corner of the yard. I couldn’t see much, because the fir was in the way. I weighed the advisability of just going back inside and waiting for Miss B to…

Oh, hell no, I couldn’t. I just could. not. She’s a lovely dog, my companion and buddy, but she does not make good choices.

I still couldn’t see from the landing, but I began to get a sinking sensation, because the claws-on-metal sound had returned, and the only thing in that quarter was…

…the shed.

Our shed.

I peered around the fir, and my worst fear was realized.

It was Canary!Squirl, and she was atop the sheet metal roof. Perhaps she’d fallen from the overhanging cedars, or just wanted to explore. In any case, now she was there, and stood with squirrel-arms akimbo, and two things occurred to me at once.

First, Miss B was going to flatten the lavender, and already Emphysema Joe was cussing.

And second, I could see how Canary!Squirl had dropped onto the shed, but I could not, for the life of me, see how she could possibly get down.

…TO BE CONTINUED