Rip Van Rodent and (Not Tony) Hawk, the Final Battle

So there I was, being dragged a pee-soaked dog, my hand nearly broken because the leash was wrapped around it twice, staggering southward towards what was certainly a tragedy but would only become even weirder if I got involved.

At least I wasn’t shoeless (yet), which is how these things most often end up.

However, my quandary paled in comparison to Rip Van Rodent’s. The lazy little arboreal menace was not sleepy now, no sir. In fact, I would wager he was WIDE AWAKE, for finding oneself under a hawk’s claws upon a sunny summer afternoon will light a fire beneath even the most unrepentantly indolent critter. I still wasn’t sure if I was screaming or if the squirrel was, but one thing was for sure–Boxnoggin had found both his sea legs (so to speak) and his voice.

For the dog was making more than enough noise to cover both that horrified shrieking (honestly, I cannot tell if it was me or Rip, even after a few days’ worth of thinking about things) and the sound of buffeting wings as Not-Tony Hawk attempted to get what he thought was an easy, slothful snack off the ground.

Maybe it was the adrenaline, maybe it was the sudden sonic assault. In any case, Rip Van Rodent’s pride had gone before a helluva fall, and he appeared both panicked and grimly determined. I still don’t know how he avoided being murdered on the first stoop or carried skyward; I can only think a flinch of the sort prey creatures often perform is responsible for the former and sheer dumb good luck for the latter.

I want to take a moment here to fully soak in the situation. There’s a hawk just going about its hawklike business, grabbing something from the corner deli. There’s a usually torpid squirrel whose hubris had been fed to gargantuan proportions, learning that eluding sixty-plus pounds of canine strapped to a resisting human is altogether not the same thing as dealing with a hungry, well-practiced bird of prey. Coming from the northern end of the yard, at the end of a leash and straining every muscle, is said sixty-plus pounds, urine-dripping, drooling, and emitting Hound of the Baskerville howls to boot. And finally, there’s your humble narrator, holding onto the leash for dear life and attempting to dig her heels in somewhere near the Venerable Fir.

The thing that flashed through my head was, I kid you not, I am going to have to think of something once Boxnoggin gets to that bird.

And then, my beloveds, there was a literal bolt from the blue.

Longtime readers (especially on Mastodon) will remember The Jerry Situation during a particular hot, smokey summer evening, in which there was a downed crow in our backyard, I thought I was hallucinating big-band music, and I wished for full protective hockey gear despite the weather. Carl (the reigning crow matriarch) and Sandra (the young juvenile male sticking around to help her with the young ones) often accompany Box and me on morning walkies if we get out the door in time, gravely escorting us to the edge of their murder’s territory–and occasionally taunting the dog, because they’re corvids and that’s good clean fun.

Poor Jerry is…well, he’s kind of special, for a crow. There are always a few family members around to help keep him out of trouble, and he had more than the usual difficulties getting back to flying while his tail was…Christ, whatever had happened to it, I certainly don’t know. (He’s no Bartholomew of the Legion Corvidae, 501st, Neo’s Fist, that’s for sure.) Jerry’s tail is no longer fucked-up, but he still has the pale patch on his side. Which was, at the particular moment I’m telling you about now, very nearly a streak upon the air as he plummeted from heaven.

Backup, in other words, had arrived.

Crows don’t like hawks–though they do not hate them nearly as much as they do owls, which is a whole ‘nother story–and if you remember, they had been setting up a racket warning all and sundry one was in the neighborhood as Box and I sashayed outside. Apparently Not-Tony Hawk’s presence was known unto Carl, Sandra, and the gang, but Jerry was first on the scene. And boy howdy, but that particular corvid makes up for his rather dim intelligence by pure enthusiasm.

“OH NO,” I screamed, and I am 100% certain that particular yell was mine, because it pierced Boxnoggin’s baying and made recognizable words. Plus it was exactly what I was thinking–if Jerry got injured again I was going to have to set up another crow condo in the backyard and deal with Carl and Sandra (not to mention the others) getting snitty with me while I nursed the poor little weirdo back to some variety of health. This fresh fear acted as a tonic, I surmise, because I finally got my heels dug in, my center of gravity dropped, and hauled on the leash like a demented Ahab getting a grip upon a certain white whale.

The leash snapped taut. Boxnoggin was yanked to an unceremonious halt with an ulp! noise that might’ve been funny under other circumstances. At the same moment, Jerry–yes, Jerry the simple, Jerry the weirdo, Jerry of “FUCK YOU JERRY!” fame–began absolutely beating the shit out of Not-Tony Hawk.

We’ve all seen that point in a movie where the plucky underdog starts dancing around, peppering their big, lumbering opponent with mighty blows, right? It was like that. I swear to the gods, if there hadn’t been so much noise (including my own yowls of despair) we might have heard boss music. Because Jerry was kung-fu fighting, his kicks were goddamn fast as lightening–and you know it was, while not exactly a little bit frightening, certainly thought-provoking.

In short, Jerry spanked that hawk. They tumbled into a bank of lemon balm, and as they did a few more bolts descended from the blue, blue sky. There was Carl, sleek and buxom; there was Sandra, who is no longer as lean as he once was and had a businesslike gleam in his eye that day. A couple others–Nasty and Simone, I haven’t had time to tell you lot about them–put in an appearance, and what had started out for Not-Tony as a trip to the corner store ended up with a five-on-one in the lemon balm alley.

I stood, jaw hanging and Boxnoggin still straining at the end of the leash, watching this display with wonder. In short order Not-Tony decided a bag of Rip Van crisps and a forty weren’t worth it, used his wings and claws to good effect, and managed to get some air. Once he was able to clear the fence (buzzing the clematis on the way, I really should trim that shit) he could get a little more height, and he vanished along the side of the house, pursued with great enthusiasm (in Jerry’s case), deadly efficiency (in Carl and Sandra’s), and bright-eyed interest (in Nasty and Simone’s).

Yes, yes, I hear you. What about Rip Van Rodent? I’m getting to that, keep your collective hats on, jeez.

So sudden was the air strike that Rip was just as stunned as Your Humble Narrator. Yes, the squirrel was still alive. No, he did not appear wounded, though at that distance I could not tell. But, my friends and (digital) neighbors, here’s the kicker.

The damn squirrel was luckier than he had any right to be, and maybe he knew it. In any case, the danger had retreated for the moment, and instinct had him in her merciless grip. What does a squirrel do in an unfamiliar, uncomfortable, or simply unappetizing situation? That’s right.

He runs for the nearest tree. Which just happened to be the Venerable Fir.

Which I was standing right next to.

And which, in order to reach, he had to run past a slavering, barking Boxnoggin driven into an ecstasy of excitement by the last few seconds–not even minutes, for it takes far longer to tell you the tale than it did to happen.

Rip Van Rodent was, in fact, hearty and hale enough–or simply adrenaline-soaked enough–to stagger-bolt straight under my poor piss-soaked dog on his way to the Venerable. Upon later reflection I realized he didn’t want to run for the fir near the compost heap, which was the direction the battle’s frontline had audibly moved in. Nor did he want to run for the lilacs, because there were boulders, garden boxes, a giant rosemary, and a statue of Kuan Yin in the way.

No, now that I think about it, the Venerable was the only choice. And if he had to run under a urine-splattered beast to get there, it was a price Rip Van Rodent was willing to pay.

Anyway, he darted under Boxnoggin, zoomed past me so close I near felt the wind of his passing, and scrabbled up the trunk with lightning speed. For once, the little bastard didn’t look sleepy at all.

What did Box think of this, you might ask? Well, he performed a stiff-legged jump like a cat finding a snake or cucumber on the kitchen floor, nearly colliding with me. I staggered back, my ankle turned on a hummock, and I saved myself from a pratfall only by dint of cussing like a sailor finding out shore leave’s canceled.

My beloveds, I painted the air blue with Language Unbecoming, and to top it all off, one of my untied sneakers was left behind. So I ended up half-shoeless but definitely screaming, which is entirely–but entirely–par for the course.

The rest of the afternoon was relatively quiet. Boxnoggin got a session with the hose to clean off his little accident, which he enjoyed–he hates baths but will chase a sprinkler-stream or a hose-blast all damn day and half the night if you’ll let him–and his harness is none the worse for wear. The corvids are back on guard duty; for the time being, I will still be yelling the traditional “fuck you, Jerry” every time I see that little weirdo, but it will be in a highly affectionate tone henceforth, like greeting an old drinking buddy with a hearty hey you, motherfucker!

And no, I have not seen Not-Tony Hawk again. The only remaining evidence of his trip to the corner is a single feather left upon the backyard grass.

There were others, but those got stolen by different backyard denizens.

But really, what of Rip Van Rodent, I hear you ask somewhat anxiously? Oh, don’t fear for him, gentle Readers. I think he’s okay–I’ve glimpsed him upon the back fence, attending to squirrel business. I suppose it’s too much to hope that he was chastened by the entire experience, though, because he’s back to taunting Boxnoggin…

…but that’s (say it with me) a whole ‘nother blog post.

The End

…until some-damn-thing else happens…

Rip Van Rodent vs (Not Tony) Hawk, Part II

So I let out a “JESUS CHRIST” Graham Chapman would have been proud of, which was lost in other noise.

I’d seen a hawk stoop before, naturally, but usually from a safe distance. Though there’s a lot of drama packed between the fences, our backyard is relatively small; I was unprepared for the sound of a feathered predator going about its business. There was a snap of wing-braking, a puff of feathers–you know how when the Twilight movies first came out we were making jokes about FURSPLOSION? It was kind of like that, only without shredded clothes flying everywhere.

It was, as I said, a hawk–probably the very one hanging around lately, playing with our crows and no doubt looking to expand some territory since the hunting ground along the highway has been torn up for expansion. It looked huge, puffy, dangerous, extremely intent on business…

And very, very hungry.

I don’t think Boxnoggin knew quite what to do at that point. His head cocked but his front paw–lifted in order to make him a very handsome statue, it must be said–remained aloft. The explosion of flapping continued, wing-snaps very loud despite the fact that birds are hollow-boned and lighter than anything of corresponding size. By the sheer racket being made, it doesn’t seem Not-Tony Hawk (such I christened them in the heat of the moment, for sometimes a name just appears unto us word-miners) knew they were supposed to be light and thus, logically and relatively quiet.

There was a scream. I’m not sure if it was Rip Van Rodent, because heaven knows he had reason, or Yours Truly, because I don’t know if a squirrel can produce that kind of sound. I don’t remember screaming past my original horrified expostulation, but that’s no indication.

All right. So let’s hit pause on the screen here, and take a look at what’s going on.

That blur of brown, white, and gleaming beak is Not-Tony, a surprisingly large hawk engaged upon lifting up a hubris-laden snack from the grass. The smear of brown and fluffy tail is Rip Van Rodent, who might have avoided the claws through sheer luck but is probably not going to have such beneficence from Fortuna much longer. In the northern half of the yard amid the garden boxes there’s me, with my mouth hanging open–either yodeling like King Arthur faced with a Vorpal Bunny or just plain letting out a horrified, wordless cry. And that black and white inkblot is my poor, dear, dumb dog, caught mid-vibration as he’s about to erupt into motion.

Okay. Unpause.

Boxnoggin did not know what the hell. Of course, he never knows what the hell, but the dim intimation that perhaps he should take some manner of action had worked its way between the two (count ’em) neurons he has firing at any given point inside that thick, surprisingly capacious skull. (They rattle like dried peas in there.) For Box, “taking action” consists of a relatively limited set of options.

Boxnoggin’s Options

Go Blind

There was no window to yell out of and no other dog in sight; since those are generally prerequisites for yapping, #1 was right out. He had unloaded himself of solid effluvia at the regular time that morning, leaving him with (so to speak) no pylons to deploy, so option #3 was out as well. There was no time to go blind, so #4 could not happen just yet. Which meant he was left with peeing (option #2) or the final and most attractive prospect (Mambo #5), chasing whatever had drawn his attention.

And, multitasker that he is, the dog tried to do both at once.

That’s right. Sixty-plus pounds of lovable furry dumbass lost control of his bladder and at the very same moment decided he was gonna get a piece of whatever action was occurring in the southern half of the yard. But he had forgotten one crucial detail.

That’s right. His front paw was still up.

So my dog peed himself, tripped at the same time, and landed flat on his face while someone (either Rip Van or me) was still mid-yell. Not-Tony Hawk paid no attention, for slow-lumbering earthbound giants are, to Family Accipitridae, largely irrelevant unless they leave behind something to feast upon. Boxnoggin scrabbled, splattering pee in every direction, and finally got his paws coordinated. He dug in and took off like a freshly untethered jet engine while I was still staring at the hawk, and the leash snapped taut.

I had the leash wrapped twice around my hand, but that was clearly not enough. Bones crunched together, I staggered, and the thought that maybe I should tie the damn dog to my waist like I do every day for walkies went through my head, tiptoeing through the quiet of shock. It hurt like a sonofabitch, but only later.

Because now I had a pee-soaked dog (almost) unloosed upon the unsuspecting world, Not-Tony was using their wings to buffet and daze their prey, and Rip Van?

Well, the squirrel wasn’t quite dead.


To be continued

Rip Van Rodent vs (Not Tony) Hawk, Part I

All I know is that this squirrel is luckier than even my own ridiculous self.

…maybe I should back up.

Picture it, Sicily, 1920–no, no, wait, I’m not a Golden Girl. (Yet.) The time was just a few days ago, location the Kingdom of Backyard, the temperature scorching–last night’s thunderstorms broke the heat wave, but we’re still looking at 85F+ days. On that bright sunny fry-an-egg noon, Yours Truly was desperate to get back inside and take shelter in relative coolth, having just closed the windows and turned the air conditioning on.

True to form, that particular bit of climate engineering constituted a Change in Boxnoggin’s ever-humble opinion, and since Any Change Is Bad, he had to make his nervous displeasure known. Consequently we had to go outside and look for a spot august enough to receive the fruits of his bladder. Though only one or two spots are so deserving in our small kingdom, still he must investigate every corner, because who can tell when a certain bit of grass or sensitive plant I’d really like not to be killed suddenly requires a baptism? He is a creature of Maximum Inconvenience, our dear Box, and takes his responsibilities in that area extremely serious-like.

Also, the crows were setting up a racket. I didn’t pay much attention since Jerry wasn’t stuck in the fence and they weren’t dive-bombing me and the dog; I was too laser-focused on getting said canine’s bladder serviced without melting. So Box dragged me all over the northern half of the yard, sticking his nose everywhere with no real interest, only a desire to draw out the occasion as long as possible.

I might have missed the ensuing drama completely had the dog not stopped, head upflung and one paw lifted, the very illustration of a pointer. His tail perked, his ears nearly stood out from his head, and he stared at the (much sunnier) southron half of the yard, where the herbiage has gotten a little longer since I can’t be bothered to mow just yet. (We all know what tends to happen when I clip the herbiage.) I followed the line of his gaze, and took a firmer grip upon the leash.

For lo and behold, there upon the sward lingered Rip Van Rodent, busily ignoring the crows’ stadium-yells and the fact that just uphill there was a monkey and sixty-plus pounds of quick, determined, rat-hunting predator. No, Rip could not have cared less. He was busy burying something snackable, or excavating it, or fucking around with I-don’t-even-wanna-know. Tail high though his gaze was just as sleepy as ever, he moved with stately precision. He bounded over a clump of gooseweed, passed under a disintegrating patio table, and sashayed out into golden sunshine.

Now, I am of the opinion that Rip was feeling the squirrel version of hubris. After all, he was two points ahead of Boxnoggin and clearly the better player. The fact that I am holding Lord van der Sploot’s leash at any given moment while outside could even be seen as further insurance for squirrel victories–I am a civilian authority, if you will, restraining a general who wishes to drive upon the capital city of his foes. Rip Van Rodent was at the top of his game, on a hot streak and doubling his chips each time.

He might even have thought the crows were cheering him. They really were making an awful racket, and as I figured out what Box was looking at I took a moderately deep breath. I was about to remark, “oh, look, your little friend,” to Boxnoggin, possibly with an edge of gentle sarcasm and deep amusement. But what actually came out of my mouth was much different.

In fact, I let out a, “JESUS CHRIST” like King Arthur seeing the Vorpal Bunny take a bite out of Sir Bors. Because over the sleepy-eyed, highly confident squirrel loomed a growing shadow, and in that moment I figured out what the fuck the crows were yelling about.

It was a hawk.

To be continued…

Rip Van Rodent 2, Boxnoggin (Still) 0

I almost got it, too…

I woke up with Sam Phillips in my head, and got dragged under the deck.

…maybe I should explain.

So I rolled out of bed humming that very lovely, lyrical song, slithered into running togs, and prepared Boxnoggin for the morning ritual. Every single blessed day he requires certain observances, from the ceremonial pets and crooning right before I open the bedroom door (mostly to give the cat time to amble downstairs so she is not harassed by his big yappy self) to the rearrangement of chairs under the dining-room table so he can go under it to reach the sliding glass door.

He could go around the table, sure. It’s perfectly physically possible and he is more than capable, but it is not his routine and our Lord van der Sploot is a dog of habit above all else. I don’t even question why he wants to go under the goddamn table anymore. It’s not worth it.

Anyway, I stepped into a pair of unlaced trainers, got him buckled into his harness–because he can’t be trusted even in a fenced yard, for reasons of anxiety or exuberance–and opened the door. Apparently that was my first mistake.

I heard the scutter-scuffling, of course. Didn’t pay much attention, because yon Kingdom of Backyard is full of such sounds on spring mornings. Boxnoggin stood upon the threshold, peering out into the day, which is another habit. I think he wants to make sure it isn’t raining, or register his displeasure if there is some kind of water falling from the sky. You’d think he’d be used to it by now, having lived in the Pacific Northwest for how many years?

But I digress.

There I was, rubbing at my eyes with one hand, the other securely wrapped with leash, waiting for the damn dog to make up his mind and come outside for his morning unloading. One might presume the pressure in his bladder would give him some impetus toward timeliness, but alas, my dear Reader, one would be utterly wrong. And that scuffing sound was growing closer.

Claws. On bark.

Rip Van Rodent appeared on the trunk of the fir nearest the deck. Now, I say nearest the deck but it is in fact the only tree adjacent that structure, rubbing up against the railings in damp weather and granting a mere centimeter or two of space during dry. He peered through the railing slats, yawning, and wouldn’t you know I felt the need to yawn as well? (Goddamn social cues.)

“Oh, Jesus,” I said, while my lungs and jaw were cooperating to make me look like a dork. “Why don’t you just–“

Boxnoggin saw Rip, and sashayed forth from the door at a high rate of speed. In fact, dear old Box damn near teleported through, reaching the end of the leash and, coincidentally, my arm. It did not quite dislocate my shoulder, but I did breathe a term of Language Unbecoming, which will surprise exactly no-one who has met me for any length of time.

Rip Van Rodent clearly grasped that the dog was not given full freedom to pursue his inclinations, for the fluff-tailed menace took his time ambling up the fir-trunk until he reached the top of the railing. There he paused, looking over one meaty shoulder–the somnolent critter is rather hefty–and I could swear to the gods he dropped a cheeky wink, finishing his yawn, before scrabbling upward around the trunk, vanishing from sight.

This did not please Boxnoggin. In fact, a dim realization was working its way through ol’ Box’s thick skull. Clearly he was stopped by his leash and harness from going further in that particular direction, and just as clearly he could not climb the tree–he had attempted to do so from the deck once, and the results made an impression even upon his normally forgetful self.

So he cast about for options. Lo and be-sold, his gaze lighted upon the stairs.

In short order he had pranced down said steps in a nearly silent, businesslike streak of fury, and set off for the fir. Once he arrived at its base, however, he was at somewhat of a loss to determine what next, for the squirrel was Long Gone. Ergo, Lord van der Sploot did the only thing his terrier half could think of, which was to go nose-down and search out his prey that way. By all indications he found a veritable highway of scent leading under the deck, where Rip Van Rodent (his “van” is capitalized, for Reasons) was apparently engaged in burying (or disinterring) shenanigans for quite some time this fine cool spring morn.

But you haven’t forgotten the leash, dear Reader. I know you haven’t. And if you are wondering what I was doing during this moderate-speed chase, I can tell you.

The speed of the chase was Moderate instead of Extremely High because I was hanging onto the other end of said leash for dear life, staggering down the damp stairs hoping not to slip and tumble, and ended up being dragged under the deck as all sixty-plus pounds of dim, lovable, absolutely unhinged Boxnoggin attempted to find any ghost, no matter how faded, of that sleepy little arboreal menace. I narrowly avoided clocking myself on several parts of the lumber underside, and while I was not shoeless I was definitely producing blue words at a rate and volume approximating three-quarters of a scream, only muffled by lack of caffeine and the desire to keep neighbors from waking up to a cavalcade of cussing on a Tuesday.

But I did not let go of the damn leash. Which I’m reasonably proud of.

Having searched all under the goddamn deck for any sign of Rip Van Rodent, Boxnoggin proceeded along the side of the house at (again) moderate-to-high speed, and while I pleaded with him not to crush a columbine that has sprung up despite almost being killed by last summer’s heat dome he merrily proceeded to do so, then lift his leg and pee all over it, since he had belatedly realized his bladder was packed with an entire overnight cargo and the sudden morning activity made it rather imperative to lighten the load.

With that done, he was amenable to returning inside. I got the door closed and his harness off, while he shivered with glee and anticipation of a breakfast he has since ignored. Naturally, I must fill his bowl and set it down right after we come back inside or there will be heck to pay, in full Miette fashion, but he will not actually eat anything in said bowl until I have my own brekkie.

But as I was working my trainers off and attempting to restore bloodflow to my near-dislocated arm, I happened to glance out the sliding glass door. And there, sitting on the railing right next to the fir, Rip Van Rodent had reappeared. The little bastard yawned again, twitched his tail, and was by all indications just waiting for me to notice his presence, for he gave a leap of surpassing grace and authority to the fir trunk again, and was in no time lost to sight.

Don’t ask me, I don’t even know. Apparently this squirrel has awakened from a slumber centuries (or a single winter) long with the desire to taunt a creature whose head is bigger than his own body, and only pain (my pain, that is) and hilarity (once I’ve calmed down from what-the-hell) will result.

I can’t wait. But now I need breakfast, and to brace myself for whatever damn-thing-else will ensue once we have to leave for walkies…

See you around.

Rip Van Rodent 1, Boxnoggin 0

Pre-caffeine, stumbling around the backyard, waiting for Boxnoggin to deign to pee. He startled a yawning squirrel–one I’ve christened Rip Van Rodent, because he always looks half-asleep–who promptly fled while Box quivered at the end of the leash and I whispered, “Jesus Christ you lot, not today, I haven’t even had coffee yet.”

I was not shoeless, so I suppose there was no reason to scream. Anyway, Rip Van went up the Venerable Fir while Boxnoggin ambled back and forth, caught upon the horns of a dilemma. On one hand, his terrier instincts were screaming to chase the arboreal rodent; on the other, it was the first loo break of the day and there was correspondingly high pressure upon his bladder.

He settled for dead-eyeing Rip Van Rodent while watering a particular fern–one of his favorite loo spots, the poor thing. Rip Van hung out on the fir trunk, comfortably above Boxnoggin’s grasp (not mine, but then again I don’t think the blasted squirrel sees me as a particular danger) until Box, having relieved one imperative, decided to go for the second one and bolted for the Venerable.

Fortunately I was ready for this, as it seemed the most inconvenient thing which could possibly happen and therefore, the thing most likely to occur with both dog and squirrel in the mix. So I was braced and ready, Boxnoggin reached the end of the line and quivered inside his harness, and Rip Van sneered before scuttling further up the Venerable, his point presumably made.

This does not bode well.

There are library books due today, and I can finally turn all my engines to revising Riversinger and Minnowsharp. I would already have turned this book in, but proof pages for the previous one in the trilogy landed so I was forced to reshuffle. I’m not quite annoyed–such is the nature of publishing, after all. But I am a little peeved, mostly because these books are having such a difficult parturition. It’s not precisely anyone’s fault, and it’s frustrating as all fuck.

It also seems like we’re going to have ninety-degree weather this upcoming weekend, which will be horrid I’m sure. I’ve enjoyed the damp grey spring despite the slugs, snails, and constant dumping of stagnant water so mosquitoes don’t get a foothold. It’s certainly better than the alternative. But I guess the sprinklers will have to go on soon, to keep the roses–and the things planted along the back fence, hopefully to provide a bit of privacy in a few years–alive. Gods, I miss the cedars.

So. Monday and I are glaring, each daring the other to make some move, but at least I have coffee now. Boxnoggin is never allowed outside without a harness these days, as he simply Cannot Be Trusted Not To Hurt Himself, but he enjoys being the cynosure of a human’s gaze while gravely choosing bathroom spots and furthermore will get a long walk to tire him out for the rest of the day. In a few more gulps of coffee he’ll arrive at my office door, expectant. I don’t know how he knows when I’m about to finish caffeination; it’s one of those canine mysteries.

I just hope Rip Van isn’t waiting for us outside. Oh, and I should tell you guys what Carl and Sandra (and Jerry, FUCK YOU, JERRY) are up to these days, but that’s (say it with me) another blog post.

Off I go.

Squirrel, Ten Percent Off

I keep being surprised by just how much green is burgeoning. This doesn’t happen every spring, natch; I think I’m just astonished to have survived the past few years. (For whatever value of “survival”, I guess.) I don’t have trouble with change the way Boxnoggin does, but events since 2016 could put a dent in even the most flexible.

I’m well into revisions on Sons of Ymre #2 now, and finding with relief that I might not absolutely hate the book. This is one of the better parts of the process; the shift halfway through when I start liking a story again relieves a lot of internal pressure. Of course I’ll feel hateful and petty during copyedits, and weary unto death by the time proofs roll around…but the active this story is shit, I’m shit, it’s all hopeless is ebbing. Each time it happens I’m utterly grateful.

Boxnoggin had to go all over the yard before finding a place to void his bladder this morning. I don’t blame him–it’s relatively warm, cloudy, and the birds are singing. Plus the fence along the back is finished (thank the gods, and wasn’t that a saga) and there was something odd at the bottom of the Venerable Fir for him to investigate.

I think it’s the very end-tip of a squirrel tail? It certainly appears to be, though I’m at somewhat of a loss to imagine just how it came to be lying there. Boxnoggin huffed it like Tony Montana facedown in nose-sugar, his eyes all but rolling back in his head, but thankfully he didn’t try to consume the damn thing outright. I think I’m just gonna leave it there. I hope the rest of the poor squirrel is okay, but who knows? It might even be a memento from the little bastard who crossed the road in front of us while I was taking poor Box for walkies t’other morning, the one hopping along parallel to our route switching his hind end while the dog kept looking at me in amazement.

I was very surprised Boxnoggin didn’t take off after it and attempt to drag me along wholesale, but while he’s in the harness he generally tries to behave himself. Which makes the squirrel’s taunting that much more eyeroll-inducing. After all, the leash could snap at any moment, or Box’s instinctive longing to chase and shake break through. But the little jerk just kept…hopping along, and I swear before he finally vanished into the shelter of a very large holly the squirrel looked over his shoulder to give us a cheeky wink.

The dog, of course, gazed up at me like can you believe this bullshit, look at how good I’m being. He got extra treats, pets, and praise for that one, but I really don’t think such behavior speaks well of that squirrel, whoever he was.

And I also don’t think we’ve seen the last of that fuzzy little troublemaker. If he shows up with about ten percent taken off the hind end, we’ll know for sure. As it is, I’m leaving that tuft right under the fir, and if the way the birds are yelling, “WANNA SMASH?” this morning is any indication it’ll soon be picked up to line a nest or two.

The coffee is still hot and I’ll be looking over the day’s work before walkies. Today will be the big push to get as much of the revision out of the way as possible. All sings indicate a productive session or two, especially since I’ve now got the geography of Book 2 figured out and all the bloody monster names written down. I really should have a better system for the latter, but since this is the last book I suppose that’s neither here nor there. And once this revise is done and sent off there’s an outline to take a stab at, then the Riversinger and Minnowsharp polish to do, and and and…

Anyway, happy Monday, everyone. Let’s hope we’re all doing better than the squirrel who had to leave behind a bit of themselves.

Deepened With Waiting

It’s been very chilly for this part of the world; yesterday the Prince insisted he knew how to split wood. I found the axe, he rolled out the cedar chopping-block the guys were kind enough to leave us (more about that in a moment), and by golly and garters, he split wood. He used a rubber mallet to wedge-and-maul a lot of it, I am told, and he was so proud. This achievement matched that of the Princess, who built her very first fire from scratch (instead of using a Duraflame log) while I was busy battling the hordes at the grocery store.

We have the firewood because of the cedar that came down in the backyard during that awful windstorm. The neighbor across the back fence got the rest of the cedars taken out wholesale (barring two small survivors to the north of the fir tree) a few days ago, and now when I glance out my window there’s…a house, instead of the green screen of beautiful trees.

This is not ideal, but given that the whole row went into shock when he had some fly-by-night grifters–who had no clue what they were doing, and overpriced as well–come out to “trim” some of the cedars years ago, it was inevitable. His bad choices have had consequences, and despite that I’m being gracious.

For now.

There are still a core of reasonable people masking up in public places, and for that I am grateful. Masked folks are allowed much further into my personal space than disease-breathing naked-facers, and I hope some of the latter have been shamed by my visible (even behind my own mask) disgust with their complete lack of sense.

I finally got to the attack on the elvish city yesterday; it was a good day’s work. I do think I have to go back and rethread the final bits of it, since I want a particular person to find the narrator as she stands watching doom approach. But that’s easy enough, and I know precisely what happens for the next eight thousand words or so. I’ve been looking forward to this, especially the section titled Naciel’s Run, for well over a year. I like letting things marinate, sure, but I was actually unable to work on this book due to stoppage at the publisher end instead of the usual reasons.

I can only hope it will have deepened with the waiting.

It should warm up to the usual damp winter chill by tomorrow, but we’ve one more frigid day. I suppose once Boxnoggin is walked I’ll clean the fireplace and get another blaze going. The cedar smells lovely, even if I would rather have the trees, and it takes a lot of pressure off the heating system. The dog, of course, was extremely hesitant about a change, but soon realized he could bask in his nice cushioned bed, radiant heat bathing his every hair, and has grudgingly decided this is acceptable as long as the humans are closely supervised while poking at the warmy-box.

Imbolc has passed and the light strengthens. My office is far too bright; hopefully we’ll get something else planted as a privacy screen once the fence is repaired. If it’s not one thing, it’s another–and now my coffee is finished and Boxnoggin needs his walkies.

Onward to Thursday. Here’s hoping it’s a quiet one, I have the ruin of a city to write…