Driven Me To

Yes, my darlings, this is what lockdown and fascist coup have driven me to: sobbing into Keep Calm and Carry On tissues while drinking my emergency can of wine. (This was last Friday, if I’m being strictly honest.)

This week, we do have a D&D game. I have a murder himbo to hire, a date between our ranger and a dwarf named Gracie to cheer on, and a party to attend. My cleric has a new dress, the rogue’s gnoll toddler has a babysitter, our half-orc barbarian has a new zoot suit, and our paladin has no idea what she’s gotten herself into.

So instead of sobbing I’ll be laughing maniacally, chewing on a burrito, and maybe downing an edible or two while being the in-game equivalent of a chaos generator. I’m looking forward to it, and I hope you have a nice Friday evening planned too, my beloveds. But first I’ve got to get through the work day. Dogs need walking, there’s a run in the pouring rain to get done, and if I work myself to the bone today I will feel absolutely no guilt about knocking off early to play with my friends.

Take what joy you can. We’ve survived another week. I think we all deserve a pat on the back and something fun.

A JoCo Day, Calloo, Callay

A half-pony, half-monkey monster would be a distinct improvement over a lot of what’s happening right now.

…maybe I should back up. I’m listening to Skullcrusher Mountain this morning, since I woke up with Code Monkey playing inside my head. (Long story.) Pretty sure the day’s going to be all right, especially with that soundtrack.

It’d getting more and more difficult to crawl out of bed in the morning. The dogs need brekkie and loo breaks, of course, and that’s pretty much the only thing that dragged me forth this morn. It just doesn’t seem worth it to resurrect on my own account; suffocating myself with my pillows has rarely seemed so enticing.

Life goes on, of course. It could hardly do otherwise. There are books to write and a box of author copies arrived yesterday; I should open it today and see what lurks within. The dogs have had breakfast and a loo break, but they need their walkies like I need a daily run. The children need their mother, no matter that they’re adults now–and isn’t that strange?

I thought motherhood as a job–not an emotional state, which is constant–would be over once the kids reached a certain age. It’s somewhat of a relief to find out they still need their mum, albeit in different ways, as they embark upon adulthood. More relief springs from the fact that they actually seem to like their mother, and are not frantically attempting to escape me by chewing their own limbs off as I did at my son’s age.

Finding out I’ve raised a brace of adults who actually like their parental figure and actively want to spend time with me is a deep gift, one I’m absolutely grateful for. I suppose there really are things to get out of bed in the morning for.

Go figure.

Maybe it’s time for a rousing rendition of Re: Your Brains to get the day truly started. Boxnoggin has interrupted the typing of this post at least four times now, excitedly informing me of such things as a leaf blowing down the street or someone walking a trio of dogs near our mailbox. Both events send poor ol’ Lord van der Sploot right over the damn edge.

He needs a walk; I suppose one wouldn’t do me any harm either. At least the smoke has cleared out again, and we’re looking at enough rain to extinguish the local forest fires. Small mercies; eventually, the rain always comes.

Exeunt, humming Code Monkey think maybe manager want to write goddamn login page himself“, pursued by politics…

Today, Comic Relief

There was some clearing last night, and I was ecstatic at the prospect of maybe, just maybe, being able to run this morning. Alas, I woke up to more dense smoke and the air quality advisory extends until noon. Pretty sure we’ll get to noon and said advisory will shift to “lol u thought we were done? nope.”

I have coffee, so my mood will almost certainly improve… but not soon. At least the caffeine will make me a little less cranky. And tomorrow there’s rain in the forecast, which will be a boon and a blessing–if it actually happens, of course, meteorology being what it is. Weather is a highly complex system, and the tiniest invisible thing can throw a forecast wide of the mark.

I’m pretty sure my role today is “comic relief”, and that’s best performed with an edge under one’s humor–well hidden, like a straight razor tucked in a pile of folded silk. The important thing is that edge must never, under any circumstances, punch down–you must always employ it at least laterally (at your own privilege) or ideally upwards (at those more privileged).

The dogs are unhappy with only a block’s worth of walkies each day instead of a proper ramble. I start coughing as soon as I step outside–another reason why I’ll probably climb onto the treadmill even though I’m absolutely aching to pound some pavement–and it can’t be good for their lungs either. But they don’t understand things like air quality, climate change, or elections. To them, I am the sole goddess of the world, and though my ways are strange they do not question, merely complain.

Loudly, in some cases.

In any case, I’ve drained my coffee cup, and yesterday’s work in The Bloody Throne was late but satisfying. I’m at the point where planned scenes can be thrown merrily out the window because the final shape of the book is now visible, and all that’s necessary is to fill in the blocks left over. The book isn’t quite ready to break free and gallop for the finish, but it’s only a matter of time.

I’m ready. I wish I was back at my pre-lockdown productivity rate, but I’m having difficulty switching between projects for the first time in my life. Something in my innards has broken, and I’m not quite sure how to keep us all fed (not to mention the lights on) if I can’t work at least at 75% of my norm. At least I can sit cross-legged while writing now, and that is making my back ever so much happier.

So today I walk the dogs, climb begrudgingly on the treadmill, and find some humor amid the pile of wreckage. The last bit will save me, I suspect; if I can laugh, I’m some version of all right. My sense of humor tends to be pretty mordant and bleak anyway; today, however, there’s going to have to be some slapstick amid the smoke.

We’re on the downhill slide, almost done with the week; soon we’ll stagger past Friday and be able to celebrate another small victory.

I can’t wait.

Alien, Victorious Us

I was at the supermarket the other day, saw this fellow, and burst out laughing because I’m writing an alien romance (in all my copious spare time, naturally). I would have picked him up if he’d been on clearance, but I’m going to have to wait.

If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.

It’s Friday! We survived another week. I’m very nervous–the skies here are apocalyptic, and stepping outside means trying to breathe through a LOT of smoke. We need rain, badly. I’m going to have to run on the treadmill, which isn’t really a hardship, but still… the anxiety is living in my chest, making itself comfortable in a trembling tight-curled ball.

At least it’s D&D night, which means I can let my id out to play. I think we’re planning an owlbear rescue operation. Our group is about two things: animal rights and seducing, with a healthy dose of killing the rude and/or the evil.

If you’re thinking “that sounds hella therapeutic” you are 100% correct.

Have a good weekend, my beloveds. Be gentle with yourselves. This is all awful, and like I keep saying, survival is a victory.

A toast, then. Here’s to victorious us.

Dungeon, Dragon, Lockdown

The wind is pouring through the Columbia Gorge; yesterday afternoon it bore smoke on its back, darkening the sky in the space of an hour and turning the sunset into a lake of blood. This morning most of the burning is gone, though I can still taste a tang or two as the wind shifts. It sounds like the sea, and the trees are flinging bits of themselves away with abandon.

It’s a nice day to be back at work, a nice day to walk the dogs, and a particularly nice day to write fanfic of our D&D campaign. I can’t do the last until I finish actual work, but I can long for it all I want.

Our weekly game was started during lockdown; our DM takes morale during uncertain times very seriously and, after a small starter campaign that almost broke us (it wasn’t designed for our play style, but we muddled through anyhow) we are now embarking on a homebrew. I haven’t played since high school, and am surprised by how much fun it is with adults.

We have the half-orc barbarian whose sartorial sense is only rivaled by his backhand and his cooking skill, a sylvan half-elf ranger obsessed with weapons and linguistics, a rogue with several past marriages and a gnoll toddler (both things unrelated to each other), an elvish vengeance paladin who keeps muttering oh my goddess, not again, and my own character–sort of my id let loose–a very young elf cleric whose last major act was biting some jerk’s nose off in a tavern.

We are a lot of fun, if you haven’t guessed. The entire session is a cacophony of laughter, in-jokes, moaning or cheering at dice rolls, lunatic roleplaying, and the DM throwing up her hands and sighing “Y’all need Jesus,” at least twice a session.

The first “Y’all need Jesus” is always celebrated with much glee.

Honestly, if I’d known it was this fun, I would have started doing this ages ago. But my initial experiences with the game were… well, it was a bunch of teenage boys who didn’t like a girl playing, so that was unpleasant. And I’m told we’re not the usual group–seducing the catfish is our preferred method, although when the murder starts we’re frighteningly good at it. The homebrew campaign is going to be a sort of mafia-wars thing in a Waterdeep-based city, and our first night in town we made a gigantic enemy who will probably kill us all.

And we regret nothing. Even the whole “steal from the banshee and almost die” affair.

Amusingly enough, with three paying projects on the burners and the alien romance tapping its foot and waiting impatiently, I’ve started doing quasi-writeups of our sessions as well–suitably altered for fiction, of course–because it’s hilarious, and it gives me a version of the fun feeling the game does. It will probably remain unfinished forever, or its finished version will eventually bear absolutely no relation to the game, but for the moment it’s therapeutic as fuck.

The biggest thing for me is a few hours each week where I don’t have to be myself, and further don’t have to perform emotional labor for everyone in range. There are consequences to actions in-game, of course, but very few outside, and that is utterly liberating. The feeling of pressure slipping away when Friday afternoon rolls around is luxurious. It’s been one thing keeping me sane through lockdown, and the story is just a bonus.

I suppose it wouldn’t work quite as well if DM, rogue, cleric, and ranger hadn’t been friends for almost a decade. The communication strategies evolved during long-term friendship have stood us in good stead, and there’s a deep comfort to doing outlandish things with people who understand your weirdness.

Not only that, but the DM created an NPC for my cleric that tickles all my narrative kinks. If that’s not saying I love you, I don’t know what is.

Happy Tuesday, my beloveds. I’m beginning to think I might get through, you know, all this. (Imagine me waving my hands wildly, indicating the entire world on fire.) At least I’ll go down laughing, if I must fall at all.

Over and out.

Boxnoggin, Travis, and the Venerable, Concluded

At least the fence is still standing. That’s something, I suppose.

I promised you the conclusion to the tale of Boxnoggin, Travis, and the Venerable yesterday, didn’t I. When we left our fair heroine (that would be me) she was attempting to teleport to said fence, though she had used up her one teleportation ticket for the day on attempting to grab her fool dog before he could launch himself for a spinning squirrel. Said fool dog had just shaken off the daze-effects of hitting the fence and was hauling himself, somewhat drunkenly but at a high rate of speed, after a spitting, cursing squirrel who sounded like a shaven-headed New Yawk cabbie.

So. One dizzy squirrel, making directly across the yard for the Venerable. One just as dizzy dog hard upon his heels. And then there was yours truly, my darlings, who had not only hit her hip on the table (gaining a quite magnificent bruise) but managed to get around the Venerable, which meant…

…which meant, O my beloveds, that I was in Travis’s way.

I skidded to a stop, almost turning my ankle on a fallen fir cone. At least this once I was wearing shoes–a small mercy indeed, because I was in the path of a cussing squirrel and a dog-sized tornado.

This was, to put it mildly, not an optimal position. But I compensated for it by digging my heels in and clapping my hands over my ears. I have no idea why I did the last, unless the combination of Travis’s torrent of obscenities and my own–what’s that?

Oh yes, my dearest Reader. I was producing a fair amount of blue words on my own account. Travis has nothing on me when I get going; when provoked, I am capable of language that not only would make a sailor blush but would also drop my sainted grandmother into her grave twice over if that redoubtable lady was not already occupying hallowed ground. And my grandfather would be at once pleased and mildly chagrined, suspecting that I inherited the propensity for breathtaking obscenity from him. (He might even be right.)

ANYWAY. This is the conclusion, so I’d best be swift. Or swift-ish.

You know how, especially in sports or action movies, everything slows down–even the dialogue, which produces a weird distorted rumble–as disaster approaches? I stood a very real chance of being flattened not only by fleeing squirrel but by my own dear, dopey, absolutely determined dog. It occurred to me, in one of those crystal-clear thoughts that go through one’s head during a disaster, that a squirrel looking for high ground might mistake me for a sapling and attempt to scale the redoubt, so to speak.

And Travis… well.

Travis bulleted past, and I am telling the bare honest truth: his tail brushed my throbbing, almost-turned ankle because he was still zigzagging somewhat.

I stopped cussing to scream like a cartoon elephant upon discovering a mouse on the floor.

Boxnoggin, on the other hand, was not so lucky. He clipped me hard on the shin as he went past, and I almost went down. Perhaps it was Physics’s final blessing that I deflected him a fraction from his course, or he might well have gained himself a squirrel snack.

But Travis had reached the Venerable, which seemed singularly unmoved by events. (It’s very phlegmatic, even for a tree.) I mean, the Venerable had witnessed the approaching disaster, been hit by the YANKEE SQUIRREL FLIPPER DEATHRIDE 5000, and furthermore–being firmly rooted–could do absolutely nothing to dodge any further trouble, hijinks, or shenanigans.

That poor tree. Odd Trundles used to headbutt it all the time, too. I keep thinking I’ll wake up one morning to find out it has, with a supreme effort, moved a foot or so in any direction to try to avoid one of those long-ago disasters.

Anyway, I am… pleased? Is that that word? I suppose it must do. I am pleased to report Travis reached his goal and climbed up the Venerable like a pole dancer determined to gain a championship trophy in the district finals. I am somewhat less pleased (again, I suppose that will have to be the word) to report that poor Boxnoggin forgot himself for a moment and tried to go up the trunk right after him, fell back on his ass, and let out a “yipe!” that shook me to my core.

Don’t worry, he’s fine. Only his pride (such as it is) was lightly damaged.

I expected Travis to hang safely out of leaping distance and treat us both to a torrent of abuse, but apparently he had suddenly remembered he had other places to be, for he went up the trunk without stopping and vanished in the Venerable’s canopy. And that, my dears, is pretty much the end–I won’t trouble you with a catalog of bruises or bumps suffered by the human involved in this small tale.

Except it’s Friday, which means there must be a Friday photo. And there is one more small thing to report.

Normally Boxnoggin is not a dog much troubled by memory. (He occasionally forgets how to go up stairs and must be patiently re-taught.) But that afternoon made a deep impression upon him, so much so that when he’s let out now, he attends to whatever pressing business, bladder or bowel, that needs doing and heads unerringly for a spot just to the south of the Venerable, where he throws himself down and stares…

…he stares, as I said, longingly at the back fence, and makes a throaty little sound. It’s the same sound he makes when he wishes to pursue a cat, rabbit, or any other small creature. And if you listen closely, you can hear what he’s saying.

Come back,” he moans. “Come back and play with me, forever and ever and ever…

And every once in a while, just to be sure, he cranes his neck to the left, examines the Venerable, and makes certain to check the hanging bird feeder.

Just in case.


The End


until some-damn-thing-else happens, of course.

Boxnoggin, Travis, and the Venerable, Ultimate Edition

For a moment, I thought the squirrel had simply slid through a hole in the fabric of reality and vanished.

…maybe I should back up.

So, when last we spoke, Boxnoggin was hanging in midair, I was staggering backwards with a dog collar in my paw, and Travis was spinning rapidly on the bottom of the almost-horizontal YANKEE SQUIRREL FLIPPER DEATHRIDE 5000.

And then poor Travis did the only thing he could. Namely, he let go.

Boxnoggin landed with an oof several sizes too big for him, cushioned by soft turf. He even rolled on impact, since he’d been twisting in midair to get at the wildly spinning snack. I almost fell off the end of the sidewalk and onto the huge boulder just beside the hop vine, the boulder bedecked with what had been a very nice cuppa Earl Grey before I dropped said cup on my way down the bloody stairs.

And Travis… flew.

Now, during the original SQUIRREL DEATHRIDE 5000, another squirrel went flying to the right, and hit one of the garage windows. (You’re probably not going to find that post since I did some cleanup around this-here website lately; however there is a backup and if I do another SquirrelTerror book, it’ll be revivified JUST LIKE NEO.) That was back when Odd Trundles was alive, and I was, truth be told, dismally expecting something of the sort.

But I was wrong, my beloveds. For the YANKEE SQUIRREL FLIPPER DEATHRIDE 5000 is new, improved, and battery-powered. Which meant it was breaking new ground and, yes, flinging squirrels in an entirely new direction.

Namely, to the left, towards the back fence.

This meant Travis passed behind the Venerable, and for one mad moment I thought he’d outright vanished. Except–and this is a big exception–I could still hear him cussing.

“YOU FUCKIN LOOKIN AT MEEEEEEEEEEEEE?”

The cry trailed across the yard. Boxnoggin staggered upright while it was still echoing, and Travis must have hit the top of his arc behind the Venerable, for he was descending when he came into view again.

The problem was, of course, he was descending into the fence, with inimitable style but at very high (gravity-assisted) speed.

“OH NOOOOOO…” I yelled, as if by sheer volume I could halt the inevitable, or even postpone it.

Boxnoggin’s own momentum had not been shed, so his claws dug furrows in the grass, and he finally came to a halt, defeat snatched from his victorious jaws. He had expected to land with a mouthful of squirrel, and was sorely puzzled that he did not seem to have achieved that benchmark.

“YOU FUCKIN LOOKIN AT FUCKIN–” And then, my darling reader, Travis hit.

Now, the fence is a relic. It’s quite probably as old as I am, and held up by a hedge of oft-whispering cedars–except for the ones on the north end that our silly neighbor had taken out and hasn’t replaced yet, though I keep hinting. (Yet I forgive that man a LOT because he wears a mask when his friends visit and insists they do the same while sitting six feet apart on his deck. You do you, Back Neighbor!)

Anyway, there was a thump far too big for the evident size of the arboreal rodent striking it at speed. But if there’s anything we’ve learned about these squirrels, my friends, it’s that they punch far above their weight class.

The fence shook and shuddered. I dropped the collar, which landed with a forlorn little jingle in a pool of tea. Boxnoggin, shaking his fool rectangular head, turned in a complete circle looking for his escaped friend. The YANKEE SQUIRREL FLIPPER DEATHRIDE 5000 did not fly off its hook and into the wild blue yonder, but rebounded (Physics was certainly earning her cookies on this one) and smacked the Venerable Fir a good one on the side. (Quality construction, my friends. Quality fuckin’ construction.)

And Travis might have been all right, if he hadn’t kept opening his damn mouth.

The squirrel clawed at the fence, leaving fresh gouges in weather-stained wood, and I can only think he was a little dizzy from his carnival ride because he didn’t climb, as one would think he’d instinctively do. No, sir. Travis is not the type of squirrel to do the obvious, the safe, or even the reasonable thing.

No, he headed down.

Now, I can understand wanting some solid ground underfoot after all that. Honestly, in his position I’d probably stagger for somewhere reasonably level and commence vomiting just to put a capper on the whole experience. But I am decidedly not a squirrel, and who knows what was going through his tiny little mind?

He reached the lush violets between two large ferns and staggered, holding his wee head, and because he’d regained his breath he did exactly the worst thing he could–but honestly, who expected anything less?

“THAT’S RIGHT, YOU FUCKIN’ FUCKS, YOU TALKIN TO ME? I’LL FUCKIN FUCK YO’ SHIT UP, JUST FUCKIN’ SEE IF I FUCKIN’ DON’T, AND IMMA FUCKIN DO IT AGAIN!”

And, with unerring precision, Boxnoggin–though no doubt dizzy and breathless from his own vastly shorter carnival ride–turned in that direction, got his long legs under him, and launched himself afresh for the source of this new ruckus.

“FOR GODSAKE NOOOOOOOOO…” I screamed, and tried to throw myself in that direction too, having some hazy idea of maybe getting there first. But the table was in the way, and though I’m (relatively) fast over (very) short distances, I’d sadly used up my teleportation for the day.

So I barked my hip on the table and almost went down. Boxnoggin leapt after Travis like Pepe le Pew finally getting within range of a stripe-painted cat. And Travis?

Travis apparently had no clue what was heading for him. He was still busy holding his tiny squirrel head, and I am all but certain he defecated into the violets. At least, he crouched, still chittering obscenities conjugated into every part of speech, and I had visions of trying to pry a twitching squirrel corpse out of Boxnoggin’s gleeful mouth.

But then Physics, who had viewed all this with a great deal of amusement, played her final trick upon us three tragical characters.

That’s right. Boxnoggin must have still been too dizzy for proper aiming, because he launched himself for Travis…

…and missed.

Reader, he hit the fence instead.

That poor fucking fence.

“YOU FUCKING FUUUUUUUCK!” Travis screamed, and took off. He didn’t bolt for the east side of the shed, where he could go along the wall and nip through the southern fence and reach safety. Nor did he take off northwards, where he could perhaps outrun the dog on level ground. Nor did he take the safest route and go diagonally up the back fence so he could vanish into the cedars.

No, sir, that would have been too simple.

Instead, the dumbass, breathless, probably still dizzy in his own right from his carnival ride squirrel took off vaguely north-by-northwestward.

Towards the Venerable, and the now-gently swaying YANKEE SQUIRREL FLIPPER DEATHRIDE 5000.

Whether he wanted a rematch or just couldn’t get his shit together was academic, for Boxnoggin slid down the fence and landed in the violets Travis had just vacated, dimly aware his prey had escaped once again and rolling onto his side to see said prey scampering off.

Now it was a footrace.

Yes, the last one was penultimate, and this one the ultimate; there’s only the falling action after today’s climax to tell. So, to be continued–with a fresh photo–tomorrow. Take that, dramatic structure!