Our Assistant, Doge

Identity theft is not funny, Jim.

So my daughter is a big Office fan, and got me to watch several seasons. My favorite scene is Dwight finding Pam crying in the stairwell and immediately puffing up to shank whoever hurt her; my feelings on any fictional character have rarely taken such a complete 180 as they did in those few moments of screen time.

Before, Dwight irritated the crap out of me. After, I was ready to pick up a baseball bat and follow him into battle.

Anyway, the Princess brought home some hilarious themed pillows during lockdown, and this was one of them. We can’t decide if it’s more or less funny that the “to the” is hidden. Doesn’t Boxnoggin look proud of his new title?

Actually, he’s a little put out, because he knows he’s not supposed to eat pillows and this one was deliberately set near him for a whole thirty seconds. It was whisked away once she got the shot; Boxnoggin was petted and made much of, told he was a good boy for refraining to savage the poor pillow.

Progress, right?

It’s a Friday that still feels like a Monday. I’m going to ask the local Assistant (to the) Regional Manager if we can just knock off early today.

I mean, look at him. Do you think he’ll disagree?

The Jerry Situation

So this, my friends, was the Asshole Crow Condo that Jerry didn’t bother using. We left it out all night and I finally broke it down the next afternoon. In the rain. Cursing Jerry all the while, even though I was super glad (for my daughter’s sake) the raccoons hadn’t found and trashed it.

For the curious, the Original Jerry Watch 2021 Situation Thread is here, the update is here, and the finale–such as it is–here. It took a week for Jerry to show back up; I’m pretty convinced either his tailfeathers or some version of corvid drunkenness (there are compost heaps with no shortage of fermented stuff everywhere in the neighborhood) was to blame for the entire incident. He could have been a fledgeling, true, but he was pretty big–as one can see by the size of the box we chose for his (supposed) recovery.

Poor Jerry. I won’t deny I was bloody well relieved to see him again. He does seem to be having some trouble with flying still, but Carl and Sandra are looking after him and there’s plenty of food in the backyard.

He seems to have learned his lesson about taunting Boxnoggin, too. And I perform a Jerry Check upon the yard before letting the dogs out. Miss B doesn’t really care–the most she’ll do is eye the smear she can only indistinctly see but can smell just fine and wonder if she should be herding it but it doesn’t smell like a sheep, so maybe she shouldn’t? But Box is very committed to Backyard Safety, by which he means yelling his fool head off at everything that moves before taking off at top speed to catch it.

Me? I’m just here to witness the hijinks, apparently.

Have a good weekend, my beloveds.

Beautiful Mischief

It’s a grand thing, to commit some beautiful mischief.

Now, “beautiful mischief” is not pranking or practical joking, neither of which I’m very fond of because they can easily (and relentlessly) be used by abusive jackwads. Many’s the time a toxic person has pulled something horrific as a “prank” or “practical joke” and used “well, it was just a joke” as cover, and I dislike that right down to the ground.

I know a lot of people love board games and card games and plenty love practical jokes, but after seeing all three weaponized so often while growing up, I’m not a fan. Other people can do my share.

But beautiful mischief is something else. For example, if you know your bestie is writing a book or story centered on a circus, you could set up an entire three-rings-plus-ringmasters on her desk (most in brightly colored wind-up plastic, bless you, Archie McPhee) in the dead of night, and wait for her to find it. Or you could throw a Zombie-Tiki Surprise Party for someone who enjoys that sort of thing. Or you could do something like the Great Sock Monkey Incident(s). Or you could conceivably Tuckerize a friend into a limited-edition story about an undead woodland creature and clacking bronze testicles.

Beautiful mischief must be something that won’t upset or creep out a beloved person. It must not cause a problem for them to solve, either–all cleanup must be handled by the mischief-makers. It must show careful attention to the beloved’s likes and dislikes. It must be a surprise, and it’s best if one can enlist a whole group to spread both the cost and the enjoyment. Not that the cost need be prohibitive! Beautiful mischief can be as simple as texting pictures of garden gnomes or owls you know the other person will get a chuckle out of, or as complex as a multi-month wrangling of several moving parts for party planning or art commissioning. It could also be, say, a velvet painting of a certain fandom figure. (Or a glittery Sailor Moon tumbler. Hm. Someone I know could give THAT a good home…)

It’s delicious to keep a beautiful mischief secret and wait for the discovery. There’s nothing quite like it. I love both the secret, personal arrangement of beautiful mischief and facilitating it with an entire group. I think I like the facilitation best though, because then I can completely disavow any knowledge or responsibility. “What, me? I’d never, whoever did that must be a genius though…”


Ideal, of course, is the beautiful mischief nobody ever finds out one has committed, leaving it a loving little mystery. They can suspect, of course, but, “Don’t thank me, because it wasn’t me, it must just be that you’re so cool the universe itself has arranged itself to give you something nice, which I wholeheartedly concur with because I think you’re awesome…” is my favorite way to finish off a bit of beautiful mischief, right next to letting someone else take the credit–though it must be credit; if there is blame for mismanaged mischief, step up and take it like an adult.

Fortunately, by obeying the rules of cleanup and non-creepiness, I have never had to take blame. I have, however, been fortunate enough to dodge a great deal of credit, which suits me roundly. It makes everything even more hilarious.

Anyway, I love doing this sort of thing when I’m a bit down. It’s even better to do it just-because, for no earthly reason at all. Striking without warning is the very essence of love and warfare, isn’t it?

Very soon–well, maybe not soon, given the vagaries of international shipping–I will hear a deeply horrified as well as utterly admiring “JESUS CHRIST NO WHAT THE HELL WHO DID THIS??!?!!” ringing across a whole-ass ocean. Then I will smile, knowing that lovely mischief has been managed, and get ready to blink with baffled innocence when accused of perpetrating or facilitating some hijinks of a deeply hilarious and caring nature.

And I will already be planning my next great scheme. Because I perpetually, solemnly swear I will never be up to any damn good.

*evil laughter fades into the distance*

Laundry Games

So there I was, sweating and shaking next to my bed in the middle of the night, prepared to do battle in the dark.

…maybe I should back up.

I washed my sheets yesterday, in between starting revisions on The Bloody Throne, thumping school administrators once again (it’s turned into a saga, my gods, why can’t these people just do their jobs?), and various other chores.

Now, to understand the rest of this, one must understand that we try to be eco-conscious here at the Chez. We recycle, we compost, we do our bit even though the filthy corporations outweigh our meager efforts by several orders of pollutive magnitude. This extends to laundry.

Anyway, I was distracted while making my bed. For one thing, the dogs wanted to “help” and getting them out of the room so I could get the job done in a reasonable length of time was impossible, since they would simply snuffle and make sad noises under said door, leaving me feeling like the absolute worst monster in history. And when I open the door, there’s usually a mad scramble to plunge into the room, convinced it has somehow changed and needs to be circled twice at high speed in order to settle into its usual contours.

I don’t even know. Dogs, man.

Alternately, they leap on each other in a stunning display of gymnastic though completely playful aggression, making so much noise I’m surprised everyone in the house doesn’t have hearing damage. Said yipping, yowling, growling, and snapping echoes down the hall, which has a hardwood floor perfect for bouncing soundwaves.

Besides, there’s the problem of getting them outside the damn door. One of them follows my urging while the other slips back into my bedroom, and Miss B is sometimes fond of hiding in the master loo in such cases, and it’s just a three-ring circus all the damn time. Often, I just work around them, on the principle that it’s more efficient to deal with canines underfoot than spend precious minutes ushering them out or listening to the sad snuffles or mock-combat.

Look, I was just grateful to get the damn sheets on, and the coverlet as well. The day went on, as days tend to do, and I was exhausted by the end. Revisions take a lot out of one; dealing with administrators who just won’t stop being nasty ill-tempered petty Napoleons does too.

Anyway, I settled in bed, stared at a book on the Battle of the Bulge for a short while, then turned off the light and passed out.

But Monday wasn’t done with me yet. Oh no. At some point last night I rolled over, and I felt something that shouldn’t be there.

It wasn’t a dog. It wasn’t Khan the Teddy Bear. It wasn’t even a toddler–though both kids are well into adulthood, sometimes I half-wake in the middle of the night expecting a tiny child having night troubles to climb over me, elbows and knees sinking into every internal organ I possess, to get comfortable taking up three-quarters of my bed despite their (seemingly) small size during waking hours.

I even had a half-moment of thinking it was poor Odd Trundles, back from the grave and happy to see me. But it was not, alas, the ghost of my poor dear deceased bulldog.

Now, it’s faintly heartening that my reflexes are still good. The chain went something like this:

  1. Blissfully sleeping, dead to the world
  2. Rolling over, sensing something not quite right
  3. Lunging out of bed, my hand flashing for…
  4. …a weapon, in its handy spot I have trained myself to reach towards
  5. Ending up on my feet, sweating, shaking, and COMPLETELY AWAKE…
  6. …while both dogs snore.

The house was dead silent. It’s been a long time since I had a panic attack in the middle of the night, and this didn’t quite qualify. For one thing, I wasn’t having trouble breathing; for another, I was unnerved but not, well, panicked.

My room was its usual nighttime self. Miss B slowly raised her head, licking her lips. Boxnoggin was dead to the world. Absolutely nothing was out of place.

I was about to mutter what the hell but that might wake the dogs up further and give them the impression that Mum was Doing Something Fun, and that aforesaid Something Fun might Need Canine Supervision. So I simply made a circuit of my room, armed and ready, and even stood at the closed door, listening intently in case something in the house had triggered my alarums.

But the dogs, who would have been up and at ’em, as the saying goes, had there been an intruder or any other kind of distress, were peacefully snoozing. Either they were Falling Down On the Job, or I was simply Being An Idiot. Evidence was heavily stacked in favor of the latter.

As usual, I might add.

Consequently I got a drink of water, put the weapon back in its place, and snuggled back down into bed, half certain I’d never get back to sleep.

And then I felt it. Something nubbly and solid, where nothing but mattress and pillow should be.

I damn near levitated, making the bed squeak and waking both dogs up for realsies this time. And then I realized what it was.

You see, being eco-conscious here at the Chez, we have dryer balls. (I snicker every time I refer to them, too, because I am twelve inside.) Most of them are hard plastic with nubbins, though I’ve made others out of leftover wool yarn.

Somehow, in making my bed, I hadn’t noticed a plastic dryer ball in one of the pillowcases. I’d just jammed my pillow in, shaken it once, tossed it onto the bed, and continued merrily. In my defense, I was also dodging two very interested canines and thinking about revisions at the same time, as well as muttering baneful imprecations at school administrators.

My bandwidth, as they say, was fully utilized.

Furthermore, I hadn’t even noticed the damn thing while reading in bed, since it had migrated to a pillow-corner. I’d turned over onto it in the middle of the night and, in a fine display of paranoia, scared myself half to death, not to mention leapt from my bedding ready to do battle.

With a dryer ball.

The dogs weren’t quite sure why I was twitching or why I was laughing. I fished the offending article out, set it on my nightstand, managed to convince Miss B that no, it was not a toy or a snack or anything else deserving of her attention, convinced a sleepy Boxnoggin that he did NOT need to stamp all over me while denning back down again, then I lay in the dark almost vibrating with adrenaline for a good hour or so before sleep decided I was safe enough to visit.

At least the whole episode didn’t mean an entire night of insomnia. That’s what’s called progress.

Currently the dryer ball is on my nightstand. I’m probably going to forget it’s there, since carrying the damn thing downstairs requires a whole-ass trip I don’t want to make. I could put it in my office next to my bag so that the next time I have to leave the house (whenever that is) I see it and take it down.

I am damnably sure, though, that wherever I put it, I’ll have a moment of staring while wondering what the hell is that doing there at some point in the future, because that’s just How I Roll. I am also dreadfully sure I will be weirded out by its sudden appearance, and for at least half a moment I will suspect either that it’s become sentient and is attempting escape or that I’m losing my damn mind and leaving little articles all over the house at random.

Either, frankly, would not be much of a stretch around here.

And that is how I scared the stuffing out of myself with a dryer ball, and ended up standing in the dark next to my bed fully armed, hyperventilating, and sweating.

Never a dull moment, my friends. Tuesday promises to be just as fun as its predecessor. At least my instincts are still working. That’s something, I suppose.

Over and out.

Finding Bunny

It’s Friday, and that means a Friday Photo post! Before we get there, though, I know many of you are aware of yesterday’s JERRY WATCH 2021 SITUATION. The original thread is here; this morning’s semi-update here.

…I cannot believe this is my life.

Anyway. I thought this was going to be the weirdest thing happening this week. BOY WAS I WRONG, but this is what I got a good picture of, so it’s what we’re doing, I guess.

This is from Tuesday? I think? (Time is blurring together like it did during lockdown.) In the foreground you will see Boxnoggin, so alert he is quivering (you can tell by the faint blur around his ears) and positively straining against his fancy-dancy escape-proof (we hope) harness. I am, of course, holding the camera and my breath, because the harness leash wraps around my waist and he’s sixty-plus pounds of Very Interested Doge.

Miss B, for the curious, is in her usual place to my right and slightly behind me, snoot-down in a fir tree hanging over the kerb which contains one of her usual daily walkies sniffing-spots.

And may all the gods help us if we do not stop in her usual spots. Habit and ritual are Very Important to Elderly Statesdogs.

Now, if you follow Boxnoggin’s ardent gaze (and imagine him making a soft, throaty, whining little ohplease ohplease ohpleeeeease noise), you will no doubt see ONE tiny brown feral bunny. And at first I thought that was all we had to deal with so I greeted said hippity-hop cheerfully with a bright, “Bonjour, Monsieur Lapin.”

I don’t know why, but I always address rabbits in French. I think it’s the ears.

What I did not realize was that Boxnoggin was also quivering because he was presented with a good old-fashioned dilemma. There are, in fact, two rabbits; I didn’t see the second one at first.

Guess that camouflage thing really works.

Boxnoggin might’ve attempted liftoff, dragging me after him, but he could not…quite…figure…out which rabbit to aim for. So, he was vapor-locked. I began to drag him away, sensing that soon the stasis would break, and Street Bunny (the clearly visible one) decided it was time to (ahem) hightail it.

Poor Box lost his ever-loving mind, but one of the beauties of the harness is that I can drop my center of gravity and he is brought to a halt. It’s just like the old days of running with B. Now, of course, I have a harness and waist leash expressly designed for the maneuver instead of just a jury-rigged collection of stuff.

Modernity is wonderful.

Anyway, I did catch this photo before the eerie calm was shattered, so here’s the Friday game: See if you can find Bunny #2.

Good luck!

Parenting and Toes

I’m glad to have coffee. It’s almost ridiculous how glad I am to have coffee.

Last night’s dinner was spicy rice noodles, and of course the conversation was several different flavors of hilarity. I often do threads of Things Said At Dinner, and last night’s was particularly amusing. That’s one thing parenting manuals don’t mention–kids are hysterically funny, especially if you extend the courtesy of treating them like human beings.

It’s amazing (and maddening) how many adults won’t. I used to think a steel wall descended once people reached eighteen or twenty-one, and they forgot what it was like to be a kid. Of course, I say “my kids” as if they aren’t legally adults now.

My gods, where does the time go?

In any case, the big question under discussion last night was, “How many toes are too many?” and that, my friends, is the kind of question that needs more details in order to properly answer. My answer, of course, was dependent on whether we were talking human toes, whether the toes were upon a human foot, whether said human washed said foot regularly, and the answer arrived at (assuming all the previous answers were yes) was that as long as they were washed at least daily (give or take) I didn’t care how many toes there were. There could, I asserted, be a damn infinity of toes as long as the aforesaid conditions were satisfied. The Princess concurred, with the codicil that she didn’t want to know how many toes anyone had, seeing as how that’s Personal Information.

The Prince blurted, “Eighty-two”, and was immediately challenged.

“That’s just random,” was the objection. “You aren’t really thinking about it at all.”

Whereupon he inquired if he should write a paper upon the subject, and through helpless laughter I told him to certainly do so, and furthermore, that he should post it on the internet since it was a question clearly deserving a serious and specific answer.

“Oh, hell no,” was his utterly serious response. “I’ll send you the PDF and you can post it on the internet.”

I think it exceedingly unlikely that he will ever write said paper, being far too occupied with real schoolwork. But the idea is extremely amusing, and should he produce an extra-credit effort in the toe field I will let you guys know.

A great many parents view their children as ego extensions rather than human beings. Likewise, a great many teachers view their students as objects to exercise petty power upon–please note that most teachers are extremely dedicated individuals, so that isn’t a blanket indictment. I’ve just dealt with so many of the bullying type, both while in school and while shepherding my kids through; it leaves rather a bad taste.

So many problems are solved by simply treating others like human beings. There’s always a few bad apples, and of course they spoil whole barrels. But on the whole, being reasonable is its own reward.

Not to mention it also gives one a great many chuckles along the way. Toes, my gods. There was a slight detour into the subject of tapir toes, another on whether or not centipede/millipede legs counted as toes, and at one point the terms “human” and “centipede” were placed in close proximity and all involved beat a hasty retreat from that particular conversational line.

There are some things even we don’t mention at dinner.

Anyway, I have to think about what I’m making for dinner tonight. And brace myself for what on earth the kids will bring to the table next.

I can’t wait.

Dustbin Guard

I was out rambling the dogs before the snowpocalypse, and someone had a Very Large Dustbin before their domicile. It was almost full, too. I don’t know what was happening, but this fellow was standing guard at the door.

Boxnoggin, of course, considered him a Very Large Threat, straining at his harness and flinching every time the breeze made the intruder sway. True to form, Miss B was mildly interested until she decided the whole thing was boring1 and what really needed to happen was supervision of Boxnoggin, which meant she nipped at his hindquarters to get him to shut up.

He interpreted this as an attack from the big hanging thing, there was a fursplosion, and I had trouble hauling him away because I was laughing so hard.

Normally I would have stopped for a conversation with the fellow, but we couldn’t be heard over the dog(s) and it looked like he had a Serious Job anyway, guarding the bin. One doesn’t taunt or torment a poor soldier on duty. I’d’ve offered some refreshment, but by the time we saw the bin again after the snow it was empty and he had moved on. I hope he’s standing guard somewhere else.

But the dogs remember that there was a Thing there, and even when the giant metal bin vanishes they will be absolutely certain that slice of pavement holds something foreboding, and will have to stop and investigate it every time. Then they’ll forget something used to be there and merely halt because it’s habit, it’s what one does at that particular place. It’s amazing to see the process play out; there are places we absolutely, positively must stop on walkies because Something Forgotten Once Happened Here.

The Princess often remarks that we are to dogs what Tolkien’s elves are to humans, which is alternately hilarious and depressing. It makes me want to narrate their morning rambles in high fantasy style, with historical references2 but then I get sad thinking of how brief my furry little companions’ lives are.

It’s probably best to focus on the funny bits. I won’t be able to help myself, after all; I’ll mutter Boxnoggin, what does your dog nose smell? and start laughing like an idiot, humming a kazoo-laden rendition of Taking the Hobbits to Isengard. The dogs, of course, are used to me laughing at random things, and are just content to share my joy.

Happy Friday, my beloveds. It’s been A Week, even considering the year of lockdown. May we have calmer waters ahead, and may we find comfort in rituals. And please, dear gods, let the bin go on its merry way soon so Boxnoggin can stop freaking out every time we get within a block of it.

Over and out.