Wrangling Turkey, Redux

Shirley.

Hey guys, you can get the first six chapters of my upcoming September release, Incorruptible, for free right here. Enjoy!


Well, I’m awake.1 The good thing about taking time off is that even a half-day lets me recharge. The bad thing? I get itchy, and resentful that recovery is taking so long, so I do silly things like go for a run, push myself, and get injured. Or read true crime for a few days straight and freak myself out.

So, when I left the story last week, I had resorted to bringing a two-foot plastic penguin to the coop. I propped Shirley on the concrete stepping-stones along one side of the coop, and Turkey Boy was so incensed at this new arrival he forgot all about me. I was able to fill chicken kibble and collect a few eggs unmolested, and was quite cheerful at the thought that the problem had been solved.

Now, a dog might be intelligent, but turkeys are downright crafty. Turkey Boy, despite being fine and feathered, could not stand the interloper at the coop even though she stood quietly outside the fence, turned in profile so she was regarding them mildly in the manner of another prey animal. Of course, distracting him was the whole point, but I’d forgotten about one thing.

Namely, the Goose Girl.

I’ve dealt with geese in flocks and singles, and they’re filthy but wonderful beasts. They’re stubborn, smart, bad-tempered, and sacred to Juno–what’s not to love? Plus, they can only pinch you with their beaks and have no spurs. They’re loud and nasty-tempered, but relatively harmless. Relatively.

And they have very long necks. But that comes later.

One hot, bright morning2 I set Shirley down in a slightly different spot, changing it up to keep Turkey Boy interested. I wasn’t sure whether his gobbling was akin to Tormund seeing Brienne for the first time or a string of raging obscenities, so I nipped into the egg room to perform my tasks at high speed and ignore the rats at the same time.

What? The rats? Don’t ask, just know that when you have chickens, you’ve got rodents, too. The scratch grain takes care of that.

Anyway, I had just gathered most of the henfruit when the entrance to the coop yard darkened. I glanced in that direction and saw a familiar snood poking through, but I got the shovel-head over the opening in time.

Which just meant, really, that Turkey Boy finally had something within reach to vent his feelings upon, and he appeared to need it.

In short, he flung himself at the shovel-head blocking the entrance so hard he almost ripped the handle out of my fingers, and I may have let out a Graham Chapman-worthy “Jesus CHRIST.” It was a trick of both stretching and agility to get the remaining henfruit into the kibble can, and if a rat had come along then it would have found me seriously distracted. Thankfully, one did not, but I was faced with a quandary.

You see, I had the kibble can in my left hand, loaded with eggs. I had the shovel-head blocking the entrance to the coop-yard, the handle clasped firmly in my right, and the door was behind me.

Quite a bit behind me, as a matter of fact. Now, the coop is basically a medium-sized shed, but that’s still a lot of territory to cover when one is being pursued by a maddened, spur-crazy Meleagris.

I had no choice but to conduct a fighting retreat. The threat of the shovel kept Turkey Boy mostly at bay, and I managed to get the door flung closed and braced with the bucket of oyster shell.3

He hit the door twice, not bothering to gobble. Turkey Boy meant business, and he had discerned that Shirley’s presence might mean that I was sneaking about, gathering eggs, and daring to feed him and his cohort.

That, apparently, could not be borne.

It occurred to me that I could place Shirley on some stacked wood or a yellow rain barrel, and the novelty of altitude might overcome Turkey Boy’s native cunning for a short while. Of course, it occurred to me standing in a dark antechamber amid cans of chicken feed, while the eggs in the kibble can rattled a bit. Whether they were settling from my recent burst of motion or my hands were shaking, I shall leave you to imagine as pleases you.

So I loaded the eggs in plastic bags for transport to the house–where they would be washed, dried, and put in cartons for anyone I could unload them onto4–and closed up the coop annex, then came around the corner to collect Shirley.

I rounded said corner, in fact, just in time to see Goose Girl stretching her neck through the fencing, determined to get her beak close to this new interloper. I whisked Shirley into a saving embrace and sighed, while Goose Girl retracted her sinuous neck and honked a few mad words at me. She visibly realized my presence outside the annex meant the trough inside was full of kibble, though, and hurried away to take advantage of that before her midmorning bath.5

Turkey Boy, however, had scurried through the tiny coop-yard door once more, and came at the fence meaning business. The thought that I was either going to have to fend him off with a plastic bag of eggs or Shirley herself crossed my mind in a flash, and I dropped my center of gravity slightly, prepared for whatever may come.

But Turkey Boy stopped short of the fence, knowing from other attempts that it would resist his foul (ha ha) plans. He regarded me sideways with one beady little eye, wings held down, not stomping or gobbling, his tail fan-high and his snood turning crimson at its tip.

He wasn’t angry, that posture said. Rather, he was thinking.

“Uh-oh,” I told Shirley on our way up the hill. “Maybe we should get you some tinfoil armor.”

I forgot about the suggestion almost as soon as it was made, but it might have been better if I hadn’t. Because the next day, the goddamn turkey used a goose as a tool.

To be continued…

Wrangling Turkey

Thunderstorms swept through at about 3am today, which meant the dogs were off and on my bed, shaking and pressing close to me before overheating, hopping down, and padding into the loo to sprawl on the tile and cool off.

Which means I’ve been up since three, and am on my second jolt of coffee. I could have had a bit of a lie-in if I wasn’t wrangling all sorts of livestock for friends on vacation.

Speaking of which, I have decided I dislike turkeys, but I’ve also found out how to whistle a small herd of goats into behaving properly. (At least, for a while.) Imagine my surprise when I found out goats prefer Ennio Morricone spaghetti western music to any other.

…yeah, it’s been that kind of week. The turkey1, though. My gods.

It wasn’t so bad when he was younger, but said fowl has just arrived at two years old and autumn is the beginning of mating season. So, he’s feeling his oats (such as they are) and while he’s happy to be hand-fed by his regular human, he decided after a few days of my visiting the coop (to take care of him, the geese, and the chickens) that he was called upon to defend the egg room from my depredations.

Said depredations included putting chicken kibble in the trough and collecting eggs. For some reason, the newly adult turkey was unwilling to countenance that, so he came at me in the close confines of said egg room.

Now, he had been getting a little aggressive even with his usual human, so she’d warned me to arm myself. Which is why I had the shovel.

Regular readers will note that it was not the Serious Bizness Shovel featured in SquirrelTerror, but a similar shovel used for coop cleanup and scraping. In short, the Coop Shovel is a serious bit of business in its own right, and he got the back of it when he flew at me in the egg room, his spurs out.

The fellow got cursed and whomped for his pains, and herded out through the door with said backside of said shovel. Now, please note I did not strike even close to hard enough to harm him in any fashion, I just wanted to get him down out of the air and hustled out of the egg room.

But it was a defeat, and like Napoleon, this turkey did not take defeat well.

As a result, I’ve had to think one step ahead of this goddamn fowl for about two weeks now. At first menacing with the shovel in his general direction was enough, but then he figured out I didn’t want to hurt him (because it would make his human sad) and started getting frisky again. I finally arrived at changing up the sequence of feeding at the coop in order to throw him off, but he solved that problem by lurking in the egg room for as much as ten minutes at a time, laying in wait.

That was when I brought in Shirley.

Back when my writing partner owned the bookstore, I would often cruise the Archie McPhee catalogue and find things the place couldn’t do without. Like Clara, the big rubber vulture, or a whole cavalcade of sock monkey merchandise (long story, don’t ask).

Anyway, one of my most amazing finds was a two-foot-tall plastic penguin. I figured her size and strange coloring would keep the turkey’s interest–and ire–for a while, and that would mean I could get the kibble down in peace.

Shirley in her natural habitat. She came to live with me when the store closed.

And it worked. Sort of. For a while.

But then… the turkey got wise.

To be continued…

Body Detente

So I wrote out the end of the Battle of the Rhodies yesterday…and WordPress promptly ate it. No amount of weeping or digging through caches would find it. Autosave isn’t a selling point if it doesn’t work.

Suffice to say the entire thing went through Dame Barda!Squirl losing a bit of her tail fluff, Boxnoggin falling on Miss B not once but twice in the process of chasing her, and me having to hold a squirming B in my lap while I picked out bits of squirrel hair flossing her front teeth. And, true to form, I was barefoot, screaming, and uncaffeinated. (Yesterday’s post was a lot funnier, but after losing 900+ words of squirrelterror, I’m just not in the mood.)

I ask you, have you ever picked wiry rodent hair out of your dog’s teeth while she grins, well pleased with herself, and tries to wriggle away? It’s one of the gods’ little joys in life, apparently1

Anyway, that set the tone for the entire day. I managed to get seven Poison Prince scenes revised, so at least there was that. As soon as I get that book off to the editor, I swear I’m going to spend a weekend doing nothing but staring at the walls–just like last weekend, I guess. I’m in a pattern of burning myself down to wire and then re-wrapping my insulation, over and over again.2

It gets the books done, though, so I can’t complain. At least, I can’t complain much.

Today is all revisions, all the time, with only short breaks for a run, a shower, and the constant need to feed and coddle this body of mine. Said body has carried me, mostly uncomplaining, for a number of years now, and though I didn’t treat it well in my youth, I’m slowly beginning to approach a detente with it. My frustration at having to stop working to fill it with fuel or dump excess waste is sharp and total, but rarely lasts long.

I’m getting to the point where I resent anything taking me away from the work. Except the kids or the dogs, they get a pass. Otherwise, I’d rather write than eat, sleep, or any number of other things humans are forced to do at regular intervals.

Ah well. Sooner or later I’ll shed this coil like a butterfly, and perhaps there will be books where I’m going next. If not, then by the gods, I’ll make them.

Over and out.

Intermission, Poor Rhodies

I’ll continue the Battle of the Rhodies tomorrow; suffice to say this is a part of the bush in question. The flowers are beautiful, and so bright. The little valley in the greenery you can see at the top of the photo is where Barda hit. Poor thing, she tumbled all the way through; there is a lone tuft of squirrel hair buried in branches near the middle of the clutching branches.

But that’s another story. Have a lovely weekend, my darlings.

Battle of the Rhodies, Part I

Seems like May has one or two nasty surprises left for me, but by the goddamn power of Greyskull and caffeine, I shall prevail.

If you’re looking for the newest book, check out the Harmony page. You’ll find an updated listing of where to buy it. I also have a surprise coming in June, so that’ll be nice.

It’s a cloudy morning and I have to get out before the sun burns off the marine layer. Getting heatstruck robs me of several days’ worth of working time, and the dogs aren’t fond of too much sun either. Oh sure, they’ll bask–but Boxnoggin has such a slick dark coat, he soaks up heat like a sponge. B’s undercoat traps air and keeps her relatively cool, but still, it can only do so much.

Anyway, I am lingering to tell you about something that happened this morning. And yes, it involves an arboreal rodent.

Picture your lovely Narrator, pre-caffeinated and blinking, taking the dogs out for their post-sleep unloading of bladder, bowels, and any other passage that requires it. They rocketed down the stairs into the yard, I stayed on the deck and tried to achieve consciousness through the fog that is Before Coffee. I heard a faint scratching but ignored it, all my attention on the fuzzy little assholes choosing just the perfect spot to evacuate.

It wasn’t until Boxnoggin paused in the middle of the yard, one paw lifted (he is a very catlike dog) and stared up at the deck that a vague unease penetrated my usual morning stupor. I thought he was looking at me for direction, and beckoned him to come up the damn stairs for breakfast.

Then I realized he wasn’t looking at me. Well, he kind of was, but mostly, he was looking past me, and up. And up, and up.

I heard that faint skritch-skritch again, and turned with the slowness of a woman suspecting a nightmare.

There, perched upon my roof, was a squirrel. She was a big bitch too–I say bitch partly with admiration, for reasons you, dear Reader, will soon discover and partly because it’s technically correct1.

She had her head turned sideways, watching me with a prey animal’s peripheral vision, and I stared for a few seconds, my brain struggling to catch up. Finally, I gathered my wits, and said, “Good morning.”

Look, I was perfectly polite, especially considering my history with the Knights of the Nut Trees. Unfortunately, I think Lady Barda–for so I have christened this fine dame–was a bit startled at being greeted directly, because she took off across the roof to my left with a scrabble of claws and a flick of her tail.

If that had been the entire interaction, we both would have considered ourselves lucky. But Boxnoggin chose that moment to burst into frenzied motion, barking and heading up the deck stairs in a flurry of fur, nails, furiously wagging tail, and INCREDIBLE NOISE.

I think that may be why Big Barda decided the wide open acres of the roof would not provide safety. She’d probably dropped there from one of the firs and was looking for a snack in the gutters–they hide everything in there, the little fuzzy bastards–but she had neglected Rule One of assassinations and squirrel antics:

ALWAYS KNOW YOUR ESCAPE ROUTE.

She didn’t have many options–vertical gutterslides, but those are hidden from the roof itself; the chimney, but that’s a dead end unless she wants to end up in my fireplace (Christ please no); the apple tree, but that’s a big leap even for a flying rodent. And then there was what I realized in retrospect was the only choice.

The rhododendrons.

There are some in front, of course, but she was on the roof’s reverse slope, so artillery and the front bushes were safe from her depredations. The two in the back, however, were a long but not impossible leap, and have the added benefit of leaves and flowers to provide cover. When you’re startled in the middle of a wide expanse, of course you start running for the treeline.

So she did. She hopped the gutter and pushed off from its far lip, sailed like Supergirl in a graceful arc, and crashed into the biggest of the rhododendrons with an explosion of twig-snapping and flower-shaking.

Squirrel!Barda made the jump, which was great.

Unfortunately, the noise alerted not just Boxnoggin, who turned himself inside out reversing course to scrabble down the stairs he’d just climbed, but also Miss B, who was across the yard and had just finished her morning wee.

In other words, B was feeling considerably lighter, and the noise had warned her of an intruder. She clearly didn’t know whether it was fire, flood, or invasion, but her elderly self was certain, in one blinding instant, that she had been called upon to ride to Gondor.

And all I could manage was a faint, “Oh Christ no…” as Boxnoggin reached the foot of the stairs and took the hard right towards the rhodies. B’s haunches rose, and she took off like a bullet.

It still might have turned out all right, if not for one small problem.

Barda is a very large squirrel, and that much mass at that much velocity was too much for her chosen landing-branch to take.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Advent Madge, and Clarence, Too

Gallow & Ragged

April was difficult. Between recovering from several birthdays, late celebrations of said birthdays, freaking out over approaching epic fantasy deadline, and worrying about everything under the sun, it’s a wonder I didn’t lose what little sanity remains to me.

I did wake up today with Jody Watley and Glenn Campbell duking it out inside my earworm space, so at least there’s that. And I have, courtesy of a bead show, some new chandeliers to try earring designs with.

There’s also this beautiful lady:

Her name is Madge. I did some work for Dee’s Darlings, and Madge decided to come work for me for a bit as a thank-you. She is adorable and gets along well with Veronica and Isabelle. (You’ve met Veronica the Office Oracle, Isabelle is…difficult to explain. Maybe later this week.) Veronica in particular is happy to have an amanuensis, though Madge’s shorthand is impossible for anyone but her to read.

Veronica: CHICKEN SCRATCHES. AND I’VE NEVER SEEN A CHICKEN.
Madge: YOU CALL IT SCRATCHES, I CALL IT JOB SECURITY.
Isabelle: YOU TWO AREN’T FIGHTING, ARE YOU? WE ALL NEED TO GET ALONG.
Veronica: NOBODY’S FIGHTING, IZZIE.
Madge: *scribbles furiously*
Isabelle: ARE YOU SURE? BECAUSE I COULD BRING YOU SOME FISH–
Madge and Veronica, in tandem: NO FISH.

…yeah, things have been interesting around here lately. I should tell you guys about Clarence the Squirrel. It’s more of a title than an actual name, because Clarence is “the squirrel what’s actually got the peanut, you see,” and dinner hour a la Chez Saintcrow has gotten really strange since the kids love to put out a handful of peanuts while we eat, then wait for developments.

Anyway, the Clarence is the mug what’s got the peanut, and Ralph and Jeff are the mugs what don’t, and the deck has become the scene of a dinnertime drama almost Lynchian in its feverish intensity. (I almost made a Blue Velvet ether-sniffing joke the other night and caught myself just in time.) Clarence constantly wishes to keep their find from Jeff and Ralph, and the instant one of those picks up a peanut they become Clarence. (It’s kind of like Olsen Twins, who, being older no longer vibrates at such a high frequency.) Jeff and Ralph usually team up against the Clarence, and once a squirrel loses a peanut they become a Jeff or Ralph.

Understand? Good, because I didn’t for days and the kids had a sort of “Who’s on first” routine they were running. And poor me, with my head stuffed full of preindustrial technology and travel times, not to mention worrying about the damn mortgage, didn’t quite catch up with the train for a bit.

Parenthood, man. It never stops being a complete and total trip.

I even got some gardening done this weekend, which only brought home how much more there is to do. Maybe I’ll just grow nasturtiums this year instead of turning over the veggie garden.

In any case, it’s time for a run, and if I play my cards right, I can finish the zero of The Poison Prince this week. It would be nice to get that corpse on the table so it can be revision time instead of “I keep stabbing this book and it won’t DIE” time. Of course once I do, it’s time to get the zero of HOOD‘s Season One out. Then there’s revisions on Harmony, and and and…

…so, just as usual, my chickadees, I bid you a fond farewell until tomorrow, and vanish, cackling, in a cloud of scented smoke.

Peanut Blackmail

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you. The Princess brought home a big bag of roasted, unsalted peanuts, and is leaving handfuls on the deck.

For the squirrels.

“Maybe if we’re nice to them the hijinks will stop?” she said, when I raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, my dear sweet springtime child,” I said (for she is), “blackmailers never stop if you give them what they want.”

Time will tell who’s right, but I have a weapon standing ready by the back door.

Just in case.