Friendly Roses

ketchup

A rose is a rose is a rose. This one is on the ketchup-and-mustard bush, planted in our side garden for the Princess’s best friend. They are said best friend’s favourite type of roses, and the bush is stubbornly refusing to go dormant. Instead, it took advantage of the warm first half of November to bloom again, in utter defiance of good sense or caution.

The Princess says this is only to be expected from her best friend’s rosebush. Her friend is bold and fearless, whereas the Princess serves as a cautionary voice. This is incredibly amusing, because my own bestie is my cautionary voice. (And she refers to me as the devil on her shoulder, so it’s all even.) It’s hilarious to see genetics flip so thoroughly.

Friends are good. Take care of them. Send them pictures of their roses, too.

Holly

holly

How blood-red is the berry, against the holly’s mantle. A tree that bleeds on its own spikes.

I never liked hollies, but I’m growing to understand them more nowadays.

Fall

Grape leaf in rain Today is all about Marked copyedits. Publishing is always festino lente, and even though the kids have today off, there is no rest for the wicked or the writer. Even though my major focus is the CEs today, I’m going to alternate between them and Harmony. I started the latter as a gift to my agent and a way to keep myself occupied while waiting for a publisher or two to evacuate or get off the pot, so to speak, but it’s…growing.

It helps that gray skies have moved in. I’m more productive in the autumn, most productive in the rainy Pacific Northwest winter, middling in spring, and the summer is generally a sweat-soaked interval of beating myself over the head for diminishing returns. When the leaves start to turn and the rains sweep in, something inside me unfolds. Snowy winters, I think, wouldn’t do me much good. But the rain…it taps, it soothes, it whispers. It makes me glad to have a roof, of course. It is an immense luxury to come home from a run, sweat-soaked and miserably streaming with cold water, take a hot shower, put on dry clothes, and settle down to write.

Socks, especially. There’s just something about a good pair of socks on a rainy day. Of course, as my writing partner always gently ribs me, I’m overly concerned with my feet anyway. Dancing made me hypersensitive about my feet, my knees, and a few other things.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to more gray days, to the leaves falling, to comfortable temperatures, to thick sweaters and hot tea in the afternoons. Odd Trundles, of course, is surprised each year when the water starts to fall from the sky, and requires an adjustment period. He somehow forgets, during the summer, that such a thing as damp air exists. It’s both hilarious and a little saddening to see him high-stepping to shake his paws off, especially when he gives me a look of such mild, baffled dejection, as if suspecting I’m somehow responsible for the weather and have turned it upside-down just to mess with him.

I keep glancing out the window and seeing the clouds, the green of the cedars washed clean of summer’s dust. I know there will be at least one more torrid week or so, false summer ripening the last tomatoes, but there’s relief in sight.

School, Quiet

schoolbus Well, school has started for one-half of the children a la Chez Saintcrow. The Princess is graduated, so it’s just the Little Prince September-scrambling to get every duck in a row. Fortunately, we have enough leftover school supplies to equip a whole army of teenagers. Except a binder. A one-inch binder. I didn’t happen to have one lying about, so it was ambling through the doors of the office supply store at opening this morning to pick one up.

On the way I saw a man vomit a truly amazing volume of liquid onto the parking lot. I would have stopped to ask if he was all right, but he wiped his mouth and walked away quickly, in a straight line. So…I’m guessing he felt better?

Today there’s a long run–Miss B will be upset because she’s not allowed to come along–and a few emails I’ve put off sending. Then it’s more work on Harmony, which I will probably finish in spite of myself, and give to my agent as a gift. I spent a pretty productive hour yesterday, while waiting for the Princess who was in a job interview, sketching out the Harmony compound and listing the different people involved in the group. That sort of noodling adds depth and richness to one’s imagined world, but it’s so very easy to mistake that effort for actual writing work. One can end up with binders full of ephemera and no book. There’s no substitute for doing the damn work.

The neighborhood is very quiet since the kids have gone back to school. Especially in the evenings. I am unsure whether the incidence of broken glass on park paths will go down. Half my regular running routes are unsafe for Miss B’s paws. I’m not quite shaking my cane and yelling “YOU DAMN KIDS,” but it’s…close. Oh, how time flies.

So, in the new quiet, I’ll run, and breathe. And marvel at time flowing ever onward, as one is wont to do when one has survived multiple years past one’s expectancy.

Over and out.

Crawling Along

Snail Rider Last week I made the great mistake of running in the heat. I got out the door late, thinking that my route was shaded most of the way, so it wouldn’t be too awful.

WAS I EVER WRONG. I had to reel home in the heat, several times almost stopping to sit down and put my head between my knees. I knew, though, that if I stopped, I probably wouldn’t be able to get back up, and since there is nobody who would come get me, well then. There was no choice. I was glad I hadn’t taken Miss B, both because of the temperature and because she would have been completely overstressed by trying to herd me home. At least I managed to get a solid half-hour in before I almost passed out. The thing that stopped me from losing consciousness was twofold: one, I felt like throwing up, and I will not do that when I’m about to pass out; and two, I am hideously afraid of falling and chipping a tooth. Why that, rather than a broken bone or road rash, should be the thing I fixate on, I have no idea.

So, Miss B and I were both itchy this morning, and since the ungodly icky-hot has largely broken and I was getting out the door at a Reasonable Time, I took her along. An easy six kilometers, just to shake things out. It’s at the top edge of Miss B’s range nowadays. A few years ago she would have salivated at the prospect of a 10K and we could have trained for one together, but as she’s grown older, it would be cruel to ask that of her. She’d run until her heart gave out, my darling Aussie.

Dogs don’t make good decisions. It’s part of their lovable charm, to some extent, but it’s also why owners have to protect them. I am, of course, MEAN and CRUEL to leave Miss B behind on days when I’m running longer or faster. She just can’t comprehend that it’s to save her from her own exuberance.

So, she’s sacked out asleep just outside the office door as I type this. I could tell, somewhere around 4.5km, that the excess had been drained off and she was getting down to Serious Work. She still lunges at schoolbuses (they’re practicing their routes for the first day) and bicyclists (what the fuck would she do if she CAUGHT one, I’d like to know) and motorcycles, not to mention her pulling and oh-god-PLEASE sounds when she spots another dog. Some things, I gather, will not change, no matter how elderly a statesdog she becomes.

Another symptom of encroaching age is her separation anxiety. It’s getting worse, no matter how often I come back. Even if the kids are home with her, even if Odd Trundles is present for her to boss around, she still loses her shit when I leave. We’ve done all the training to show her I always come back, she has items of my clothing to snuggle, and she’s almost never left alone in the house. Even when Odd goes to the vet, she comes along to remind him to breathe. *eyeroll* But none of that matters, apparently. If her nose isn’t right up my rump all day, clearly she is in AGONY and must TELL THE WORLD.

Poor thing.

Anyway, we turned in a good time on today’s run, and since she’s been worked, she’ll be livable for the rest of the day. Tomorrow morning, though, she’ll be spry and bouncy again, ready and waiting to go jaunting about. She won’t know that I’m dialing back because she’s older, she doesn’t know I watch her carefully during every run just in case it becomes too much for her. As long as I keep her active, the vet says, she’ll keep going, even with the issues she has from puppyhood malnutrition and too-early breeding.

I won’t lie. Sometimes it irks me to go slower, to stop early, to dial every run down. If that’s the price for keeping her happy and active, though, it’s a small one. We have them so briefly, these lovable, furry idiots, it’s worth a few adjustments.

Squirl Overheat 4: Poor Norbert

oh youre back I’m pretty sure the squirrel didn’t mean it, but it happened just the same.

I tumbled down the deck stairs, empty watering can in hand, and ran along the concrete path. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to catch Miss B or Kowalski!Squirl the Recently Beshat, but I had to do something, right? Miss B, glad to finally have a clear-cut problem with what she deemed a simple solution before her, achieved warp speed just before Kowalski!Squirl found himself faced with a bit of a dilemma.

Kowalski!Squirl: STELLLLLLLLAAAAAAAUGH!
Miss B: HEEEEERD IT!

A word or two is necessary here so you understand what I’m about to relate. The south end of my yard contains, from left to right:

* The shed, full of gardening implements and a tarp just in case;
* A small built-it-yourself greenhouse, set alongside the shed;
* Emphysema Joe‘s home among the lush lavender greens, tucked behind said greenhouse;
* The vegetable garden, which is bisected by a railroad tie;
* The compost heap;
* Open space in before the fence and the apple tree.

The vagaries of pursuit meant Miss B was coming in from the left, arcing out a bit to come at Kowalski!Squirl from the side. If you’ve seen a dog herd sheep, you’ll know what I mean. Kowalski!Squirl, heat-drunk, smeared with dog droppings, and more than a little crazed, consequently veered right.

Yes. Straight into the vegetable garden. Right up the middle, right up the railroad tie that serves to separate the garden rectangle into two almost-squares.

The railroad tie that comes to an abrupt stop. With a post. A post at the end.

The post Norbert, our cranky gargoyle watchdog, leans against since his resin base is cracked. Was cracked. I mean, it’s still cracked, but…

Kowalski!Squirl: STELLAAAAAAAAAA!
Miss B: HEEEEEEEEEEEERD–
Me: –ohnogodpleaseno–
Norbert: WHAAAAAAAAA–AUUUUUUUUGH!

POW.

The shitty-assed squirrel plowed right into Norbert, maybe thinking to climb the post behind him. But what Kowalski!Squirl did not know was that Norbert, hollow and made of resin, was a bit more…erm, friable, I suppose is the word? More friable than he looks.

That’s right. The goddamn squirrel shattered my gargoyle. He clambered up the thin pole and leapt for the fence, almost getting caught in the lilac hedge. Thankfully, he avoided the bush Stanky Thing Squirrel got tangled in. Further thanks are probably in order to the fact that Miss B didn’t hit the lilacs. No, she just dug up the left half of the vegetable garden on her way through, all but uprooting a poor tomato plant, sailed over the potato box (now there’s a story for another time) to land neatly on the walkway next to the hedge and began barking, furiously, at the fence as Kowalski!Squirl, in an ecstasy of fear-laden relief, screamed down at her.

Miss B: OHPLEASEOHPLEEEEASE COMEDOWNCOMEDOWN IMMAHEEEEEEEERDYOU!
Kowalski!Squirl: %$#&! $#@*&! #@$%*&^%$#%#@*!
Norbert: AUUUUUUUUGH!
Emphysema Joe: *peering through the greens* OH, MAN. OH, MAAAAAN.
Me: FOR FUCKSAKE!

While all this transpired, Odd Trundles was barking at the north end of the yard, excited but without a clear idea of why, since his short flight in that direction had knocked every other consideration clean out of his huge, wrinkled, very hard head.

Odd Trundles: *snortwhistle* MOM! MOOOOM! I’M ALL ALONE! MOOOOOOM! WHAT HAPPENED? MOOOOM WHERE ARE YOOOOOOOOOU?

Miss B leapt at the fence and its cargo of ordure-smeared rodent. Kowalski!Squirl decided discretion was the better part of valor and took off, numbly hopping along the top of the chain-link, leaving brown smears. He made it to the back fence and vanished into the cedars, while Miss B tracked him along the fence and, losing her prey, decided to show her athletic prowess by running a few laps of the yard at high speed, barking all the while.

Odd Trundles: *trotting vigorously in her wake* WHERE ARE YOU GOOOOOOOOING?
Miss B: *pouncing on her favorite digging hole* HEEEEEERD GONE, MUST DIG MUST DIG.
Me: *clutching empty watering can to my chest* OhmyGod, Norbert
Emphysema Joe: OH, MAAAAAAAAAAAN. THAT’S NOT GROOVY.
Norbert: *coughchoke* WHAT THE FUUUUUUCK?

Yeah. The squirrel. The goddamn shit-smeared squirrel broke Norbert.[1]

I HAVE HAD BETTER DAYS.
I HAVE HAD BETTER DAYS.

I dropped the watering can, scrambled into the garden, and went to my knees. The heat was amazing, Biblical, and I was sweating freely.

Me: Jesus Christ. Oh, Norbert. I’m so sorry.
Norbert: THIS IS…UNDIGNIFIED. OUCH.
Me: Yeah, well…squirrels.
Norbert: I SAW HIM COMING. I JUST…OUCH. MY BACK. UGH.
Emphysema Joe: *clears throat* PSST. HEY, BOSSLADY. CAN YOU…CAN WE TALK FOR A SECOND?
Me: I’m kind of busy–
Norbert: NO, GO AHEAD. I NEED A MOMENT.

There followed a whispered conference in the lavender, while Miss B dug and Trundles, feeling extremely lightened in the back end but with a certain pressure in his bladder, burp-barked his way across the yard, trying to find a place to pee and reach me at the same time. As usual, when presented with two options, his brain froze, so he would stagger a few steps, squat, decide to raise his leg, almost fall over, look up to see me crouched by the lavender, and stagger another few steps towards me.

Emphysema Joe: YOU’RE NOT GONNA DO IT, RIGHT? PLEASE TELL ME YOU’RE NOT GONNA.
Me: Do what?
Joe: *significantly* YOU KNOW.
Me: *holding onto my temper, hand over my pounding heart* No, I don’t, or I wouldn’t have asked, dammit!
Joe: SHHH! LOOK, OKAY, WE ALL KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU BREAK.
Me: When I–
Joe: NO, WHEN WE BREAK, BOSSLADY. NORBERT’S BEEN THINKING ABOUT IT A LOT LATELY. BECAUSE, WELL, HE’S FALLING APART.
Me: *finally catching on* Oh. OH. Jesus, Joe.
Joe: HE CAN COME LIVE WITH ME–
Norbert: I CAN HEAR YOU, FOR GOD’S SAKE. IT’S FINE. I’M READY.

I shook my head and went back to the garden, crouching in front of Norbert and attempting to get him, as it were, all in one place. It was hard–each time I picked up a piece, it would crack and fall apart.

Me: Look, Norbert–
Norbert: I UNDERSTAND. DO IT QUICKLY.
Me: For Chrissake, shut up a minute. I am not throwing you away.
Norbert:
Me: I am not throwing you in the rubbish bin while you’re still alive. That’s not how I roll.
Norbert:
Me: Who’ll look after the garden if I do that?
Norbert: I CAN’T SCARE THE BIRDS LIKE THIS, MA’AM.
Me: Norbert, for God’s sake, you can scare anyone you want. I am not throwing you out, and that’s final.
Norbert: I APPRECIATE THE THOUGHT, BUT…I CAN’T LIVE LIKE THIS.
Me: …fine.
Emphysema Joe: NO, MAN, YOU CAN’T–
Me: Shut up, Joe. Norbert, I am not throwing you away. *wincing a bit, rubbing sweat from my forehead, suddenly noticing I’m probably kneeling in squirrel-spread dogshit* It’s really simple.
Norbert and Emphysema Joe, in unison: IT IS?
Miss B: *finally stopping her digging* MOM? MOM WHERE ARE YOU? *trots over, self-importantly, and decides to stick her nose into Norbert. WHAT’S THIS?
Me: It’s super simple, guys. Get out of there, B.
Odd Trundles: *tripping over kale, finishing the destruction of a tomato plant, and landing on the empty watering can* WHAT JUST HAPPENED?

I arranged Norbert’s, erm, pieces, as best I could, carried the watering can back up to the deck, checked Odd’s hind end and my knees for any, um, effluvia, and dragged both dogs inside. The kids wanted to know what happened, but I could only shake my head and whisper “…squirrel.” At least I had shoes on, right? Inside, there was air conditioning. I also poured myself a glass of wine, because by God, I felt like I’d earned one. The dogs both flopped down on the tiled kitchen floor and congratulated themselves.

So that’s the tale of how a heat-drunk squirrel rode a bulldog, fell in poop, almost killed my gargoyle, and oh God, GOD HAVE MERCY, I’m going to have to go to the craft store.

Because Norbert, my friends, needs a new body.

Which–oh, come on, say it with me–is another story.

HERE ENDETH SQUIRL!OVERHEAT. (For now…)

[1] Note: picture taken the morning after the Event.