The plan was, your letter would post in the night and be there for you first thing, Mother’s Day morning. Look, I missed it! This is how you know this letter is really from your daughter. I look at my letter to Jane, and I know you would never ever have forgotten your mother in law’s birthday or posted your own mother’s letter at the last second, scrambling with html to make the images not be weird at 6 am. We are different, you and I. You have a clock in your head and perfect manners. I have a discombobulated scrambling crazed white rabbit in my head, and sketchy manners, and regret.
I don’t look like you all that much, either, which is a pity. I have always had the most beautiful mother, whatever room we were in.
We are not passionate about the same things. You love to garden. “I want to go dig in the dirt,” you say, and I could do without plants altogether if it wasn’t for the oxygen and food.
Meanwhile, I fill my house with spoiled, hairy mammals, and you boggle at each new stray I collect. You smiled for the sake of the children, but the aquarium full of incestuous gerbils on the kitchen counter ALMOST did you in.
I love horror and sci fi and fart jokes and you like F. Scott Fitzgerald and NOT fart jokes. I think SPOILERS are a high crime against art-manity. You flip to the end of a book to see how it comes out—and Mom, I am pretty sure that people can be sent to hell for that.
I don’t have all your gorgeous red in my hair—but oh, I have it in my temper. Irish, you and I. We both have that.
But here is what I got from you:
I got how to be a mother. You taught me that, because you were the best mother who ever was and is and yet shall be.
We were so LOVED, my brother and I. Even when you were furious with us, even when we were awful, that bedrock absolute firmament of love was underneath us. If a truck rolled onto me, I knew that you would lift that truck. Period.
You showed me how a woman loves her babies every day of my life. It took me less by surprise than it might have, when Sam and Maisy came out of me, and I found myself wondering how it was possible for a person to keep breathing with her heart outside her body. It isn’t possible, actually. The world is too dangerous and terrifying. But because of you, I knew how to lean into the impossible, instead of away.
The thing that amazes me most is this: you invented it. You invented motherhood. You made your house by walking it away from houses you had seen and known and lived in, and made your own up differently. You made yours how you always wished a house could be. You and daddy invented what your family would be like together; it was my great gift to be born to you.
I will say, with no details and also no apologies, that you did not have good role models. No one showed you. No one even gave you a book. How did you know to do that? How did you know how to be the woman and the mother that you are? What a rich, bright mind you have, and what a good heart, to imagine such beautiful mothering into being.
Today I want to tell you this—You got it right. You got it all right, all the parts that matter.
People meet you and they are surprised at how delightful you are, because in my books, many times, the mothers are monsters. My fictional mothers are often failed or absent or cannibal-hamster-mamas, eating their own young. And yet in almost every story, I write about the fierce glory of invented motherhood—that weird choosing of a love that is beyond reason. The miracle of how you invented motherhood is the heart of my work, and also the heart of my much filthier, less organized home.
Look, I am not a perfect mother. No one is. I am not sure WHICH thing I do or have done that will put my kids in therapy, but I am still doing or already did it. But this is what I DO know, because of you:
Love fills the gaps. Whatever I do wrong, whatever I misunderstand or bork up or mishandle, if I love my kids in that unceasing, bedrock, no-matter-what way you showed me, love will fill the gaps.
This is what we call faith, and you invented that for me, too.
Thank you, Thank you. Thank you. You are my dearest and my best mother, and I love you,
I am a mother. SO. I know: I was not the girl a mother dreams of for her son.
I hope my Southern good manners will stretch to cover my worry should Sam one day bring home a tatty, googley-eyed, egocentric, mouthy object with a questionable sense of humor, especially if she is prone to fits of Irish temper and zoning out into imaginary universes in the middle of conversations. Let’s throw in un-domestic, undisciplined, unreasonable, unthoughtful, and with no clear grounding in space and time—like, really, none.
Digression: In my family, the joke is that Sam was born the day after my birthday because God wanted his mother to remember that he HAD a birthday.
I often forget YOUR birthday, which is AWFUL of me. I am genuinely sorry for every time I’ve forgotten.
Does it make you feel any better to know I can’t remember my own wedding anniversary—THAT is a day when I can reasonably expect PRESENTS! I LOVE presents! And yet…best I can do is to tell you that I think it was this month. In other words, it isn’t pure narcissism. You can assume you are dealing with a genuine lack of calendar savvy when it often runs counter to the lacker’s own interests.
I am sure it didn’t help that you knew way too much about me. Scott and I were friends—best friends—for years and years. He told you quite a few stories about me as his crazy friend that he NEVER would have told you had I been his girlfriend. Edit: Let’s just pretend he told you ALL of them. Heh.
You knew I was the one who kept him out until 4 am stealing an old toilet and turning it into a house for a wounded crow I’d adopted. Because what wounded crow does NOT want to live in an old toilet?
Listen, between you and me? Every girl he dated was a straight up loon. Loon is his go to. Loon is his type. He just didn’t TELL you how bonkers THEY were. I met them all, his girlfriends, and between us, let me assure you that you were going to get a loon for a daughter in law no matter which way he jumped. But you knew things about me that you never would have known about those girls. And yet you were lovely to me.
Thank you for kindness to the moderately horrifying girl I was. Thanks for not letting the worry show, and throwing us a lovely rehearsal dinner.
Your family and the Jackson clan operate very differently—thank you for being patient with my foreign, weird Jackson ways.
Thank you for being such a dear and loving Nana to our children.
Thank you for your integrity. You raised an honest son with a good, good heart. Because you are kind, he learned to be kind. Because you have a slow burning temper, he balances my flash fire rages with his reason. Because you were patient with him, he is patient with EVERYONE.
You gave your boy some really good genes and even better values, and he has made my life a joy for 21 years. He has made even the most awful things endurable, the bad things better, the good things wonderful. He makes the BEST kids. Thank you for making him, for raising him right, and most of all, thank you for letting me have him.
He is the best one, and there would be no him without you.
We went for Lydia’s SHINE SHINE SHINE One Read even at Auburn. I did it last year. This is a GREAT event, and Chris and Ashley and the Friends are AWESOME. Look, Ashley always does an amazing book-specific display. Lydia’s lit up and featured a lot of WIGS and WIG HEADS.But while we were in Alabama ANYWAY, we rented a little cottage and stayed to write and soak up images in a nearby TINY town. I got three chapters drafted.
We drove over from Auburn, and this is my face when I saw it: A movie rental store. Not a kiosk in The Pig. A genuine MOVIE RENTAL PLACE. Hello, 1995! That said, there is full on 2015 Wifi happening all around the town. Still, fast computers capable of streaming and unlimited fast WiFi are expensive.
This place has a population of 3000 folks with an estimated median household income of about 30K a year. That 30K must get stretched butter-scrapin’ thin, especially if it has to cover a kid or two. Add in a lot of retired older folks on fixed incomes with fixed ideas about technology —Scott’s mom JUST got rid of her phone line modem thing that makes a grindy noise. (I am one to talk. I will never get, say, SNAP CHAT. I just think—WHY? I BARELY want to talk to people I adore most days, making chit-chat terrifies me, I am so hypersensitive that I am SURE the insta-rejections would leave me questioning my value as a human being, PLUS I might have to see surprise genitals? WHAT? No. NO, THANK YOU.)
Also? A pretty big population whose HAVING A DECENT JOB potential is GREATLY harmed due to meth. We saw a LOT of folks with very Meth specific problems.
But even so – Netflix is cheaper? I cannot explain it.
I am not sure it could survive, even in a small town, if it didn’t have other income streams. For example, you can TAN there.
See on that front shelf all the tanning gels and accessories, and in the back is a door you can go through and emerge either sleeker and more gloriously pecan colored or…kinda orange. Depending on how it goes for you back there.
Since the back room has become a Tannery, the, um, other income stream had to move to the front. *cough* Pr0n corner *cough* There, ll the DVD boxes are plain red gel. There is a tape barrier up and an ADULTS ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT sign. It is alos RIGHT at the front of the store. If you go there and get porn EVERYONE KNOWS you got porn and even THE KIND YOU LIKE. Small towns, man.
We rented BIG EYES (not great, in spite of two of my favorite actors and a gifted director whose work I usually love) and WHAT IF (purely delightful in every possible way). We did not, I promise you, rent MISSIONARY POSITION IMPOSSIBLE 7 or AMERICAN BOOTY 3—but we DID notice a couple of patrons circling the aisles, as restless and as intense as sharks. PORN Sharks, is my guess.
I think they were waiting for us to GO so they could BOUND into PR0n corner, grab one of the mayyyybe 150 dvds—-all shame-faced in with only spines showing—-and flee before some more Mom-style possibly Baptist ladies came in;
We went to Dollar General because Lydia forgot her bathing suit and it was SO GLORIOUS and warm and sunny that we wanted to get in the LAKE. She found one, and I saw what I thought was a pair of PERFECT fantasy pants. You remember I like to write in ENORMOUS SOFT FLOPPY pants that are so roomy and forgiving that you could get into them with me and the waistband would allow us to stand a socially comfortable distance apart. ALAS, “I” was not pants. “I” was a jumpsuit, and my label was quite excited about this terrible fact.
I cannot manage a fantasy jumpsuit.
The small town Dollar General was an interesting cross pollinating population. Here black folks and white folks mingle more than they do in the churches—you look at the church websites and you see all black staff or all white staff, and the congregation pictures are nearly as absolute. But they all come here and smile and tip heads at each other and at us, all of us buying our Cheez-Its and conditioner together.
Thrifty Baptists with tidy hair and shopping lists cross paths with the meth addicts here, too—one to get a good price on fruit snacks for the kiddie lunchboxes, the other to buy expired Chips Ahoy from the sales bucket. We saw one woman in FILTHY zebra striped sweat pants, her skin and her teeth testifying to her addiction, and all she had was four or five JUMBO packs of off brand baby wipes. I looked at her and started praying there was not a baby. Meth and parenthood is a terrible combination. Meth actually can’t be combined with ANYTHING good or hopeful or healthy or nice — it is purely terrible, start to finish. I could see her life in the pick-holes riddling her skin, and she broke my heart.
And yet the the cold writer in me was sizing her up in that photographing way. I have a piece of brain whose job is to remember, to report, and a worse piece, farther back and down, with a worse job. That cheese-skinned, dead-eyed sorrowful object of a woman got buried in the rotty pile of composting horror at my brain base where this book is cooking—where all the books have cooked, basting themselves in that rich gooey fecund stinking slime.
AND ALSO—My writer brain wants to know: WHY ALL THOSE FREAKING WIPES? Had she — killed someone? Was she thinking that with ENOUGH wipes, she could get the blood out of the lino well enough to thwart luminol; if so, she’s been high every time she watched CSI. Or can you somehow GET METH out of baby wipes? Does anyone know or have a better theory? WHY WOULD A METH ADDICT NEED THAT MANY WIPES????
Yesterday, touring Alabama after a morning well-spent writing, we had to stop for gas. I didn’t notice until the needle was in the red, and we were rocketing down a kudzu soaked two lane highway. My windshield was painted yellow from driving through so many plants in full-on orgy mode. A gratuitous number of plants, already, making more more more more more.
Lydia: Look! A gas station!
Me: Yes, but it is Tiger Themed. Creeps me out. I read Prince of Tides too many times. I look at that and I think, Callanwolde! Callanwolde! even though I know it’s because the owners are Auburn fans.
I hold down my iPhone button to get Siri to tell me if there is another gas option close, but Siri tells me she is not available. Siri doesn’t even exist yet, I realize as we exit. We have driven into 1982. If there is a grocery store here, it will be The Pig. If we turn on the radio, we will hear Cyndi Lauper.
We pull off onto a narrow, crumbling road into a piece of Alabama that is still inside my childhood, the asphalt so old it is a soft, chalky-pale grey.
The tiger place has a threatening, stripey awning and smells strongly of diesel outside and boiled peanuts inside. They carry RC Cola. They carry Moon Pies, and not with the kind of Hipster Irony of the Ace store near my house or the nostalgic Old Timey fond remembrance of the Cracker Barrel we passed earlier.
These Moon Pies sit in dusty glory next to other old and dusty snack cakes, with no subtext at all. They are as sincere a product as the motor oil or the Snickers.
We wait by the single locked unisex bathroom for a worryingly long time. We hope no one is pooping in there, especially since we have each separately tried to enter, rattling at the door. I always feel so sorry for anyone who has to poop in a gas station toilet and comes out to find a line. Pooping in a gas station toilet implies some kind of extremis. Perhaps the person does not have a home. Perhaps they are very very sick from eating wrongful meats. It is somehow a shameful thing, I feel bad when the person has to exit and walk past me, as if I am witnessing a human downfall.
More time passes. Now we hope no one has died in there. It finally occurs to me: We need a key.
A woman with bangs pulled directly from 100 photos in my high school yearbook chews a cud-sized gum wad and regards us phlegmatically.
Me: Is there a key to the bathroom?
Her: Yuh-haw. S’ryechere.
I take the key and walk off and Lydia, who was raised in Detroit and who now lives in Virginia, says in earnesty, “What language was that?”
I say, “Alabanglish.”
I speak Alabanglish. Fluently. Yaw-huh is yes, the natural opposite of Nuh-uh. S’ryechere lands cleanly in my ears as, “It is right here.”
The bathroom is all brown and khaki and browned-out orange: Lino from the seventies, a khaki-colored toilet and a sink stand in harvest gold and brown. There is a condom machine on the wall with three varieties. The first boasts that is has “Hundreds of rubber stubs, for her pleasure!” The second promises to “surprise her” with one of four exotic flavors. Including Blue Raspberry. I do not know a woman who thrills to the idea of hundreds of “rubber studs.” I know no woman who wants to be surprised by a Blue Raspberry penis. The third has some sort of terrible attachment that looks in the illustration like a foamy hedgehog or some other rounded, odd, headless animal. It’s like a wad of spongy spikes near the open end. I do not see how this would be effective at making sex more pleasant OR contraception.
They all cost 75 cents. With a CENTS sign, you know? The c with the line it in it. In 2015, nothing costs cents. Even if they do, they are marked with a dollar sign and a decimal, like $.75. Right now, for example, I cannot find a cents sign on my 2015 keyboard to show you.
A printed sign on the wall says: Please wash hands after using the bathroom or any other probable contamination.
I do not want to think of what the other probable contaminations are, but it is hard not to, what with the sign right by the condom machine.
Not four miles later, the kudzu and the trees abate, and all at once we are in the Alabama of The American Now.
There is a Shell station, a Krystal Burger, a Kroger store, even a Home Depot.
Two middle school-aged teenagers sit on the bench outside the grocery, peering deep into their phones, waiting for a mother. One is wearing Chucks. They have choppy layered haircuts, definitively un-Mulleted and current. They are probably texting each other or settling some argument via Google.
It is disorienting. Here we are, and yet old Alabama is alive in shady hollows, secreted in pockets all around us.
This is the actual lake where I am writing my actual book. It’s truly going now. I am finding the voice. It helps that it is 1982 here. Lydia says I am wrong. She says it is feels more pre-1978. Maybe, yeah. This is the American South where I came of age. It still exists.
There are meth houses with rusted metal Confederate flags planted in the yard. A BEWARE OF DOG sign advertises the inevitable pit bull. He is always chained to the porch. He has a pendulous ball sack and an alligator mouth. Just down the road we come upon a cluster of tidy, vinyl sided Mee-maw houses. One has a pansy bed. One has heart-shaped cut outs on the shutters. You KNOW that inside that one, someone is making jam. YOU KNOW.
It is beautiful and full of nature. We have seen geese (6), fat fuzzy bees (2), a fishy splash that may have been a turtle(1), a shadow that may have been a deer (1), entitled ducks(3, all mallards), and we have heard but not seen sex-obsessed springtime perverted frogs (Umpty). The murderous sex cannibal count is still at 0. SO FAR.
The ducks are irked because I am off grains and have no bread. They cluster around the dock, making disapproving tutting chuckle-y sounds low in their throats. I like the musical duck-muttering, though if I spoke duck I am pretty sure they would be calling horrifying curses down upon my breadless house, yea unto the seventh generation.
Me: Maybe we should give them some lunchmeat.
Lydia: Would they eat that?
Me: Ducks are omnivores, I am pretty sure. I feel like they eat bugs and minnows and such. Once at a duck pond in Atlanta, I saw a duck sidle all innocent toward a picnic and then run off with a piece of fried chicken, but it upset me.
Lydia: Yeah. I was thinking we could give them the fat off our rotisserie chicken, but then that upset me, too.
Me: It’s a little too cannibal-y.
What if we fed the ducks the chicken skin, I am thinking, and one of them LIKED it. What if one of them…OVER-liked it. He might look at his relations and make the same connection Bagel made between the wildlife of my yard and That-Which-is-Delicious. He would begin preying on the other ducks, unable to help himself. What if he ate HIS BEST FRIEND? WHAT IF HE ATE HIS MOTHER? He would be the saddest, sorriest duck cannibal in Alabama. I don’t want to carry that, you know?
We put the chicken skin in the trash.
ASIDE TO YOU I SAY: I know I am blogging a lot about cannibalism and other instances of eating inappropriate things, Oh my Best Beloveds, but I am on a new food regimen trying to create for myself something like a immune system. I am HUNGRY with this specific cookie-wanting HOLLOWNESS that all this God-forsaken, blighted #&^&$)#&*@@_#ing FRUIT I am poking down gullet is not going to fill.
My LORD, but I love this state. This LANDSCAPE! The greens of Alabama are the greenest and most lovely greens. The dirt is black with old blood, it smells rotty and loamy and feels like crumbled velvet in my hands. It almost makes me want to garden, this Alabama dirt, and you know I hate gardening. Gardens are where they keep the bugs.
But this land makes me want to till. I want to dig and gauge and turn this rot that makes the lushness rise up.
Every time I come here I know that I am home, but I could never live here. I would need SO much therapy. Rural Alabama is the beating heart of my ambivalence about my homeland. When I come here, I am inside a double pulse of love and despair.
It happens so fast. Yesterday we pulled into this gravel drive. I got out of the car and breathed in, and it started. Later, I paused while unloading the car. I knelt and put my fingers in this dirt, and I knew —I still know — that the book is here, both in the decay and the green smell of new things rising.
This is not the cabin where I will be murdered by sex cannibals.This is just a picture of a cabin by a lake that I found on Wikimedia Commons. However, it does look an awful lot LIKE the actual cabin where I will be murdered by sex cannibals. More on that in a minute.
First, I want to say that you guys are the best. THE BEST. That’s just a true fact of science.
Let me clarify, on the skunk thing. I am not SAD. I am not drooping. I am ridiculously blessed. My ears are still up and I am very…interested. Interested in the narrative.
But yeah, as lot of you pointed out, my kids are becoming fully realized adult humans, and they own a lot of the stories that are happening in my family now.
Also, I think my voice has changed because—well, I am in the second half. Things change in the second half. One key change is, people start dying. Not “shockingly dying way too young,” not dying in tragic accidents as anomalies and aberrations, but just dying in their due course. Dying as a regular part of The Big What Happens.
In the first half, it was all rushing about meadows, making babies, building careers, accumulating goods. It was a good part. This half is all about launching things, releasing things. This is a different part, but all the parts are good.
The main thing making me sad today is that I am going to die in a lakeside cabin, probably by Tuesday, which will make this a VERY short second half.
Lydia Netzer and I are going on writing retreat, and I chose a VERY VERY small, very very WELL RESEARCHED Alabama town.
I wanted to go to a place that had a population of less than 3,000, but more than a dozen churches. A real, small Alabama town, not near city center, not secretly a suburb. The small town south has changed from when I was growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. Back then, the “real” Possett felt like it was still in 1965. I just need to get the smell of it back in my nose for this book I am writing. I wonder mainly about what the internet has done. What parts will now be like 2014, homogenized, regular American, and what parts are Old South? There are some wonderful parts to the old south, and some absolutely horrifying parts. What’s still alive? I am going to find out.
I did a BUTT TON of research. I started with about twenty towns and narrowed down and narrowed down, and finally CHOSE one, picked a nearby rental and PAID for it. Non-refundable.
Then yesterday I stumbled across a MIND BOGGLING statistic, buried on an obscure website. This particular town? THE ONE I CHOSE? Has one of the highest PERCENTAGES of REGISTERED SEX OFFENDERS IN THE WORLD. The ratio is crazy. Practically every other person we see is BOUND to be a sex offender. And as Lydia pointed out—THOSE ARE JUST THE REGISTERED ONES. So.
My CHEERFUL theory is that there is a peaceful gentle hippie-dippie nudist colony nearby and a nudist-hating judge is in a war with them—kind of like FOOTLOOSE with wieners instead of dancing. My LESS CHEERFUL theory is that Lydia and I are going to a place populated wholly by murderous sex cannibals who specialize in The Dismemberment and Cooking of Ladies of a Certain Age.
I’ll let you know how it turns out, assuming I am not baked into some kind of Saucy 50 Shades of Casserole.
Here is what you do not know: Between 2008 and 2010, Bagel enthusiastically caught and held 3 or maybe 4 more An A Bunnies. We would hear Ansley trumpeting out triumphant barkings, and we would run to the yard to see Bagel standing mystified and weirded out with a rabbit in his mouth.
The rabbits were to a Lapin all fainted and damp and sure they were dead. We would go peel the moistened little fellows out of his face, and they would blink and drunkenly hop away, not understanding how they were alive. They were like the rabbit versions of THIS guy:
But. Alas. Then. One day. During the “snatching up An a Bunnies in his maw” part. The Inevitable happened. Bagel accidentally…pierced one a little.
Now, Bagel is literally the stupidest animal alive. Inside his head is white noise and joy, and that is all. He is like moss with feet.
But when he accidentally pierced the an a bunnies, he came to understand that the running thing he’d felt so compelled to chase and grab was actually a form of very fast food.
This was just a TERRIBLE discovery. TERRIBLE.
I remember the first time Ansley came panting and foaming and capering and leaping to the back door, barking and wagging, SO PROUD. In dog whole body language she was saying: I PROCLAIM THE MIGHT AND WISDOM OF MY ALPHA! FOR HE HATH CAUGHT THE RUNNING FOOD, AND LO, IT IS FOR EATING! SOON IT WILL BE MY TURN! COME AND SEE THE GLORY, THE GLORY OF BAGEL.
So we went out to see what had Ansley all lathery and smug, and the scene the flashlight picked out of the darkness was of course very terrible. One bad part was the dear and stupid worried face of Bagel. He was absolutely PANICKING. And GUILT SOAKED.
HELP ME, his desperate face said. HELP ME I CAN’T STOP EATING THIS AND SOMEHOW I KNOW IT IS WRONG TO BE EATING IT HELP ME I CANNOT STOP. All the while, Ansley capered and gibbered around him OUT OF HER TINY MIND with delight, completely unrepentant and eager for a go. I shall draw a veil over this and simply tell you that I went inside. Scott helped him stop eating it.
Now I will provide you with some information, mercifully using NO imagery, with NO attempt to paint a word picture. It is simply a single sentenceworth of information that you someday may find useful, though I hope for your sake and the sake of small furry innocents everywhere that you never need it. Ready? Here it is:
IF your dog eats the better part of a yard rabbit, then right around three am, you can expect to see said rabbit—or parts of it, anyway—appear IN YOUR BED and ON YOUR PERSON in a new and horrifying form. Here endeth the information. Do with it what you will.
I never TOLD you this for a very simple reason—It’s awful. This story begins with dismemberment and ends in SPECTACULAR diarrhea. Who wants to read that?
Worse, once Bagel learned that the an a bunnies was A FOOD – well. He understood that ALL yard animals are for eating. Rabbits, squirrels, deflated little moles, he has caught and killed and eaten UMPTY of them. A month or so ago, I watched him dash across the yard, take a twisting leap, and EAT A WHOLE SMALL BIRD right out of the air. It was like the dog version of THIS:
But—other than making sure his shots are VERY up to date—what can I do? It is his nature. He can’t NEVER GO OUTSIDE. Outside is where he poops, best case scenario. And, on nights when he eats a fat yard rabbit, the yard is ALSO where he sleeps.
I tell you this awful story now for two reasons.
First, so that you know how the skunk story ended. I solicited your advice, and indeed, we were going to call a skunk whisperer to relocate the fellow. But. Well.
Bagel— who is too stupid to have learned anything from having his face near-blasted off by foul gland fluids in his first skunk-encounter—relocated a goodly portion of the skunk to his belly and the rest of the skunk to various locations in and around the yard. It was terrible! Terrible! Terrible! on MANY level, not the least of which was that the skunk managed to thoroughly re-soak the dog in Smell as a protest.
Second, it’s a metaphor for why the blog has been so quiet thepast few years. As you have gathered, my life has been a little fraught with skunk stories. I have had more skunk stories than miraculous An A Bunnies stories, that’s for sure. I feel like in some ways I have lost the voice of the blog. There is a giddiness, an optimism, an odd certainty in the older FTK entries that I think may well be over now.
I am not sure how to find that voice again, or even if I should. Maybe the blog needs to evolve? Maybe it’s okay for the voice to change? Or maybe it should be a less frequent blog that I write when I CAN find that old voice, to try and preserve it? I am not sure, but I am open to responses.
I can tell you that I miss being here. I miss hearing from you, Oh my Best Beloveds.
So yesterday I went out for lunch at a Mexican place in a strip mall. The kind with combo plates, you know? Like 1 burrito, 1 enchilada,1 taco with rice and beans, and the sodas come in big red nubbled transluscent plastic cups and they stealth calorie you to death with an endless chip basket. You have been to this place or its clone, I am sure.
The food is inexpensive and good, but NOT innovative or surprising in any way. You know the guacamole will come in a little fried corn basket made to look full via a tired slice of tomato and some shredded iceberg. A place like this cannot, by ANY stretch of the imagination, be described as HIP or HAPPENING or NOW or ON TREND. It’s just lunch.
So when I tell you that the lunch special was a Kale Quesadilla, you know instantly that kale is officially over. It’s like 2002, when the PTA president came to gardening club in a toe ring, and suddenly you realized toe-rings were mom-tastic. Only people with minivans really sport them now.
Kale is like that. It has reached maximum cultural saturation and will now begin to disappear from high end restaurants and fancy-pants grocery stores, cool-trickle-down will happen in reverse, and in a few years, kale will be as a leafy-green fever dream that happened in the early parts of the 2000’s.
Upside: You can now eat it all you want without looking like you are trying for The Food Cools. Yes, my fellow dorks and other brands of regular humans, it is open season on kale for non-hipsters.
Upside two: The other day at the YMCA farmer’s market, where I was buying, yes, KALE—-
DIGRESSION: I needed it to make this truly awesome crustless quiche thing with ricotta and artichokes from Kalyn’s Kitchen. Two thumbs up, will make again. END DIGRESSION.
—-I ran into a hipster who had not gotten the KALE IS OVER memo, and she cornered me by the kale basket and smugtured* for a good four minutes about how kale requires one to MASSAGE THE LEAVES to release the OILS and TAME THE BITTERNESS, and as she smugtured, she proceeded to rumple at the leaves of my kale in this creepy way that was both condescending and WEIRDLY SEXUAL, so that as soon as she looked away I swapped out my defiled kale for an unmassaged bunch from the kale basket. I NEVER WANT TO SEE THAT AGAIN, and if Kale is over, then I likely will not.
Downside: I really LIKE Kale. It is very delicious to me. But at the strip mall lunch place, I could not escape the knowledge that in six months, Wendy’s will have a Kale Burger, and by 2018, you won’t be able to find it anywhere except The Rainbow Food Collective for Hippies Who Don’t Care About Trends and Just Want to Eat Things That Are Vegan and Macrobiotic.
Kale is going the way of prosciutto wrapped figs. Remember 1994, when you couldn’t STEP into a restaurant without tripping on a prosciutto wrapped fig? And now you can’t find a prosciutto wrapped fig ANYWHERE. Or – I am trying to think of more food trends, but they slip out of the culture and I forget.
I REALLY should have a 90’s food trend pot luck, to remember the hip foods of yore… HELP ME THINK OF SOME! What used to be THE eating thing, and now it is gone, baby gone?
Today is a day for a Backdate Quaint. Clever folks who read Wednesday’s blog about the Very Smelly Not A Bunnies may realize that this particular Backdate Quaints is preparation for News…
It seems like a weird title, but there is no singular form of the word bunnies at my house. When Sam was little, he called all rabbits, A Bunnies. In honor of his long gone babyhood, we still call single rabbits “A Bunnies.” Groups of rabbits are ALSO called A Bunnies, and the phrase is like FISH. It can be 1 A Bunnies or 75 A Bunnies, it is all still A Bunnies to us.
A, you understand, is part of the proper name, not an article, so it is grammatically correct to say, “Yesterday, we saw an A Bunnies in the yard.” Or if more than one, you say, “We saw some A Bunnies in the yard.” We would never say, “We saw a bunnies in the yard.” That would be like saying “We saw tractor in the yard.”
Last week, my dog told me a lie. This is unusual, first because his brain is made of four separate cells that sit too far apart in the darkness of his skull cavity to ever be rubbed together, and I did not know the dog had the intellectual CAPACITY to lie. It was also surprising because Bagel is SUCH a diffident animal. He doesn’t have an alpha dog bone in his body. I suspect his spine is made of taffy.
He practically genuflects when my one-eyed massive pirate cat walks by, and he is SO submissive that when we FIRST brought him home, he had a healthy, “SIR, YES SIR!” style respect for a large wrought iron pig that sits on the hearth by the fireplace. He would run through the den and as he passed the pig he would go all LOW BELLY and shoot it a worried glance as he slinked and bobbed past it. He wasn’t sure if the pig was ALIVE, but just in case it decided it WAS, he wanted to make absolutely sure the pig understood its authority was not being challenged.
But the KITTEN, Boggart the Dreadful, is another matter. The wrought iron pig has seniority, clearly, but Bagel was here BEFORE the kitten. He sees the kitten as a peer and they REALLY enjoy each other’s youthful, sproingy company as they bound through the house and wear each other out playing fun games like, “Let’s Ruin All the Furniture!” and, “Can This Be Eaten? (Yes!)”
When we first got Boggart, he was about the size of Bagel’s left ear-flop. NOW he is about the size of Bagel’s head, so he plays with Bagel as if the head were the entire dog. Sometimes he plays with Bagel as if the TAIL was the entire dog, but he doesn’t ever try to take on all 50-some pounds worth of hound. Bagel, chock full of good stupid goodness, agrees to forget the existence of whatever portion of himself the cat is not using for the sake of not accidentally killing my kitten.
THEN LAST WEEK, Bagel told me a lie. The lie was, “I RILLY NEEDTER GO TER THE BATHROOM.” Usually when Bagel needs to go to the bathroom, he creeps up to me sideways and, in a sorrowful and apologetic manner, makes the canine equivalent of a gentle throat clearing. It is a barely audible whispery ahem noise in the back of his throat, coupled with sad down-tilty hound eyes that telegraph how VERY sorry he is to be a bother. He repeats this endlessly until his bladder explodes and he dies, or until someone notices and takes him out to use the lawnly facilities.
Last week, he came tearing up and LIED TO MY FACE that if I did not take him to the bathroom IMMEDIATELY, me and my carpet would suffer many vile indignities. I was in the middle of drafting a scene in the new book, but he lied with SUCH vigor, threatening all manner of indoor biohazards, that I hit save and marched him forthwith to the backdoor. The NANOSECOND I cracked the door, he EXPLODED out of it, banging me out of the way and tearing down the deck stairs.
That was when I saw an A Bunnies was in the yard. It was a small brown A Bunnies, with its slump shouldered little back firmly toward us, eating up the long grass in the center of the yard. It heard the clatter of dog nails on the wood, and it looked behind it, and it saw 50 pounds of A Bunnies Destroying Befanged Evil bearing down upon it like a slavering train. ALL A Bunnies had to do was run under the back gate, not 20 feet away, but Alas! POOR A Bunnies lost its total crap.
A Bunnies panicked. It took off in an entirely incorrect direction, trapping itself in a corner of the tall fence. I then lost my total crap, picturing my backyard as a R’abbitoir: I saw four of the world’s most luck-free paws scattered to all the main points of the compass, a detached ear flopped into the azaleas, the head mysteriously golfed away or eaten, red entrails making a gruesome Christmas in the long green unmowed grasses that had called poor A Bunnies in the first place.
I started screaming, “NO BAGEL NO BAGEL NO BAGEL NONONONONONO.”
Bagel was deaf. Bagel was blind to all but an A Bunnies trapped in the corner. Bagel did not slow nor did he veer. He charged straight up to poor, paralyzed an A Bunnies, and, gentle reader, I am sorry to report, he MOISTENED it.
See, this is the world’s most diffident dog, and he regularly plays with a kitten about the same size and shape of an A Bunnies. He basically scooped up an A Bunnies in his cavernous, maw, careful not to bite down, and joyfully SUCKED HIM LIKE A LOZENGE for a damp moment before gently rolling an A Bunnies across the lawn.
There was a brief frozen moment where an A Bunnies, ABSOLUTELY SURE that he was dead, sat in a saliva-coated, unharmed heap. And then he realized he was FINE and he went leaping away, in the correct direction this time, and goozled under the back gate and was gone.
Bagel came bounding back to me with fur breath and asked to go back inside. I said, “You are a big liar pants. You did not EVEN need to go to the bathroom.” But by then he had already forgotten the whole thing and had NO idea what I was talking about. He also had NO idea why I gave him an ENORMOUS lick of peanut butter off a spoon, but I know why. It’s because he is awesome.
See the double fold of neck flesh under Bagel’s chin? We call that his Throat Butt.
THE SCENE: In about fifteen minutes, a dozen people are descending upon my house for dinner. I love all these people, but I am a nervous hostess. I tend to over-do. I panic. I froth. All my upholstered furniture has cat-shreds on the corners and I have no true gift for domesticity and I am sure this says terrible things about my character. I would say I was at def con 4 except I am not sure how many def cons there are and if they are bad when they go up or bad when they go down.
I better do Old School Trek: I was on Yellow Alert.
Digression: I never understood Red Alert. The captain would order it, and a God-awful, nerve-tearing, WHONK! WHONK! sound would begin. Immediately, a whole slew of panicky looking red shirts and big-eyed yeomen would gallop up and down the corridors of the Enterprise, each in a separate lather. HOW DOES THIS HELP?
All I learned from Star Trek was, when things get bad, I should run in circles screaming until Spock fixes it. (The good news is, I MARRIED a Spock, so at my house this is an effective solution a shocking percentage of the time.)
So, back to the scene: the oven is preheating, the pans of lasagna are sitting on the stove-top, and it is juuust about time to put them in, my house is as clean as it EVER gets. Good? Good. And THEN (cue ominous music) from the backyard, Bagel the Big Dog makes his polite throat-cleary sound that means he has completed his business and wishes to come back inside.
I open the door. Ansley comes in. Bagel comes in. And with them…THE SMELL COMES IN.
The Smell is terrible. The Smell is terrible beyond description.
It is like if there were trolls and trolls had a butt and you had to go live there, in the butt. It’s like if you killed a whole room full of people, stacked a lot of unpasteurized French cheese on the corpses, and then left for a week. It is like if a fart became sentient, did a lot of evil, died, went to hell, rolled in sulphur and then clawed its way back up to earth through layers of poop. It is an oily, biological, pungent, evil ENTITY of smell.
In short, oh my beloveds, it was Skunk.
I have smelled Skunk in passing on the highway, a faint whiff of some poor hapless little fellow who wandered all entitled under the wheels of a noseless truck. ONLY noseless trucks would DARE to hit a skunk. The smell is so…immediate.
And Bagel’s WHOLE FRONT, his legs and chest, his shoulders and the folds of his throat were all sprayed and coated in that OILY, GLANDULAR Repulsifyer. And people were coming in 10 minutes, WHOLE CROWDS. And the Lasagna was not in.
So I went to red alert and ran in circles, the smell SO bad I was gagging on screams with my eyes bleeding. Spock was still on his commute, due to arrive at the same time as our guests.
So I SPOCKED UP and threw money and teenagers and Lysol at the problem. While I blasted all the air molecules with the scent of Fresh Linen, Sam and Maisy got Bagel on his leash and walked him up to PetSmart with my credit card and orders to ask them to FIX it.
AND IT WAS FINE, except, ya’ll, there is a SKUNK. And he has moved in UNDER THE SHED and Bagel is as stupid as a noseless truck, Lord love him, and even just letting them in and out to pee, Bagel has already re-skunked himself. THAT time we cleaned him ourselves as professional deskunking costs a MINT and it was four gagging hours of my life I will never get back. We used SO MUCH hydrogen peroxide that Bagel is VISIBLY A SHADE BLONDER.
And yet I have no faith that he has learned ANYTHING. Bagel is SO dumb. Ansley gives the shed a wide, respectful birth because she is a genius, but Bagel…He does not associate ANYTHING with, well, anything.
Bagel lives in an eternal NOW. “Oh LAR LAR LOOKY! Thing under shed. Must get thing. Now a Smell is stunged me in my eye. Now a terrible endless bath is happen. HO DE DO! LA DE DA! LAR LAR LAR!” None of these events are connected in his 4 brain cells by even the remotest INKLING of cause or effect.
He WILL go see what that skunk is doing again. And skunks are SUCH entitled animals. They trundle along, secure in the knowledge that HELL RESIDES IN THEIR GALNDS and NO ONE is going to fuss with them.
And yet! I know my dearest, dumbest Bagel—-HE WILL. What do I do? How do I get rid of a SKUNK?