The distinct smell of rain this morning. Last night we had a thunderstorm move through. Actual rain. The ground is yet wet this morning. Normally, storms here that produce any rain last about five minutes, if that. The ground seems a sort of polka dot vista before the dryness wins again. It’s nearly true that when it rains here in Eastern Oregon, that you can actually walk between the rain drops. I’m not talking about the mountainous regions, of course. I did hear that Sumpter, Oregon, got two inches of rain and then some, in short measure this past eve, which prompted flooding worries. Flooding. When the heat has baked us into fire-exploding potential fuckholocausts from end to end.
I have been busy submitting, trying to ‘get my stuff out there’. That’s my vague yet precise goal, after all, as a writer. Getting my stuff out there for rejections galore or the rare acceptance.
It’s humid, I’m not used to humidity here and it’s befuddling me as I wring sweat from my shirt. Heat, fine, whatever, I can deal. I LIVED IN LAS VEGAS. I know heat! I also lived in SoCal, cheek and jowl against the Mojave. Heat, pavement, Joshua trees, oh yeah, baby. Humidity, no thanks. I’d like to speak to the manager in my most Karen of ways, please.
Submissions. It rained. I have lots of cucumbers and my pumpkins are ripening. I prepared one already for fall pies and such. I discovered my local PBS station GOT RID OF THE GREAT BRITISH BAKING SHOW because it’s gone. It’s not in the usual 4PM slot on Saturday. WTF is happening?? Oh the humanity! Yes, I know it’s streaming on blah blah, go slap yourself with a catfish. It was something I looked forward to every week. A little lovely treat, a visual delight. It’s seemingly replaced by some travel show. You have enough shows on travel, PBS. Bring back TGBBS. How dare you???!! It’s popular and kid-friendly, hello. I know, compared to real troubles and the world at large, this is a tiny nonsensical wail. But it seems that everything that makes life even a bit bearable gets canceled or ended or ruined or stopped or…Yeah, that’s just life, okay. Okay.
Started the FX series, the Americans. I’m enjoying it so far. Reached season two. Enjoying it is maybe not the right phrase. It’s pretty grim, serious, layered and complex. You have to pay attention. There’s also all the 80’s stuff that seems relevant now or always. Escalation with Russia, who’s got a nuke, who’s a real American, mouthy teenage kids. I’m really impressed with the two leads so far. Also some applause for whoever did the wigs for that show. It should be called Americans in Wigs.
I’d go into the return of masks but fuck me, it’s exhausting. The left needs to work up a public campaign that makes it seem that wearing a mask, getting the vaccine will own the libs like there’s no tomorrow. A 24/7 campaign, as relentless and tireless as anything from the right wing garbage-spewing factories. Facts and logic and reality, no. Tricks, psychological warfare, bribes, yes. That’s where we are now or have always been. People do no operate on logical, realistic lines. People who claim to do that…BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Please, just don’t. Have you met people? Go hang out on Twitter for a bit. Or peek at the comments section under anything.
Rain , submissions, no Great British, masks back, wigs on the Americans are outstanding.
Oh, also, on that show. Martha. She drives me batshit bonkers. Hate her. I hope she dies in a Russian industrial accident. But I adore Claudia, or Margot Martindale. More of her, please. She’s fantastic, fun to watch. I just want a show of her and Kerri Russell exchanging threats over plates of scrambled eggs. And then they solve crimes or something because you can’t build a series over two characters doing that, right? Right?
Oh hey, I have two short stories about to hit the indifferent public spheres. City Full of Rain, by LitMag and Blood and Bread will appear this October in Hellhound Magazine.
As some of you might have discerned, I am a bit of a rockhound. Which is just a fancy elitist word for someone who likes rocks. My area is a rockhound heaven. Obsidian to petrified wood to all sorts of fun stuff just layin’ on the ground sometimes. I can pick obsidian off the side of the road here.
There’s this festival held every year, in Nyssa, Oregon, called Thunderegg Days. It’s basically booths, food, entertainment. But you can buy rocks. And jewelry made with rocks, hand-made, really cool items. It didn’t happen last year, cause, yeah, but it was back up again this year. Now, last time I went, it was held in front of the high school. Nyssa is tiny. Little town. So, I bop over there, and can’t find the festival. I even consult my phone. It directs me to the park…where nobody is. I ask the guy working on something electrical, he doesn’t know, either. But lo and behold, before I slink out of Nyssa, a City of Nyssa employee, in a big fancy rig, tells me the festival is at another park and do I know where the A & W is? I sure do!
So, yes, found it. My phone was completely wrong. It was not held at that park, you stupid freaking phone.
So, hey, at least this time around, no booths for Jefferson, the state far right radicals want to make out of the top of California. Or booths for Greater Idaho, where far right radicals want to gift MOST OF OREGON to Idaho. I think a chunk of Cali was also included in that, um, indecent proposal.
I walked around. It was mid-morning, so getting hot, but not THE HOT that has infected the entire West. I think I spent less than ten. I enjoyed myself. There was not too many people there, yet, but enough to make it iffy. I am vaccinated, however. I do now want to take the hike into the Owyhee’s that this one group offers, with a talk about rocks and formations and so forth and so on included. Wheee!! My car’s muffler is sick, so gonna have to wait.
A thunderegg, by the way, is the nickname for geodes. There. Ya learned something today. Oh yes, the thunderegg is also Oregon’s state rock! Hurray for knowledge!
It’s been over a week of record high temps. I do mean well over a hundred for most of June. I recently traveled to La Grande, to meet with a friend of mine who has family in the area and is traveling further to Lincoln City, Oregon. Hot. It was hotter than those inedible Takis burn holes in your tongue snacks. La Grande is in the mountains. I do not recall my undergrad town being almost too hot to go outside, not even once. In June. Or any other summer month. Unusual weather we’re having here in the West.
So, here’s a poem. I have no idea where this one arrived from. But here it is. Maybe it’s a bit of nostalgia. My family would gather, both sides, during holidays. My grandfather loved loved loved Fourth of July. Both did, actually. But my dad’s dad would order fireworks, then delight in shooting them off or having one of us light the fuse. Roman candles, those ones that spin and fly, bottle rockets, everything illegal that would set giant fires, woot woot. Maybe I am missing the sense of celebration, family now scattered or passed on…maybe maybe maybe. That careless ignorance that such gatherings would never stop. Of course they do. Time marches like a savage merciless army through everything and everyone, after all.
So, here’s the opening to a novel of mine that might see the light of day eventually. Who knows. I do not. Gingerly tiptoeing away from THAT TOPIC RIGHT NOW.
NFOTA showcases young Candle who finds a newborn baby beside the Malheur River, near Vale, Oregon. She takes it home to her grandmother and hijinks ensue when the grandmother decides the baby was sent by God to give her a second chance at, well, everything.
from NAKED FARMERS OF THE APOCALYPSE, Chapter One–River Bank Kinda Rank:
Candle Santiago let the smell of the Malheur River soak into her nostrils. Fetid rotting carp and soft rotting cottonwood branches. She moved closer to the stank little river, sniffing back a snootful of snot. Her allergies had come back for a visit. Springtime had come to Malheur County like a sullen bride walking down an aisle covered with dog shit. Candle waited for Tiff to show up; they would smoke a joint Tiff would steal from her mom’s new boyfriend, Mike. It’s good stuff, Tiff had promised. If I let Mike touch my titties, he gives me a joint. It’s totally worth it. Considering that Mike was over forty and Tiff was way under eighteen, no, it really was not. But Candle had her own problems and Tiff seemed fine with an old pervert slapping her tiny boobs or whatever he did.
Something caught Candle’s attention. A splash. A faint little cry. Some animal caught in the act of drowning. Candle walked toward the heavy brush. There, a grungy pink bundle and yes, a tiny human hand extending from it. A baby. She bent over the filthy blanket full of a tiny child, which looked like a small wrinkled monkey. “Hey, what the hell.” A glance about but it seemed the baby had just been left there. Like that Moses baby in the Bible her grandmother loved to read. He floated down the Nile and the Pharaoh’s daughter scooped him right the bibbidy up. Except this baby didn’t look clean and cared for. It looked like shit. There was blood and goop on it. It didn’t seem hurt. Fresh born? Jesus on toast, as her dad liked to say, which made her grandmother lower her truly caterpillar-like eyebrows and mutter about Mother Mary, forgive my son. Candle picked the baby up and then nearly dropped it. It wiggled and went stiff and wiggled some more, and then sobbed. She had never held a real baby before. Her sister, Doreen, was a lesbian. Dora had told the entire family, at Christmas not two years before, that she wasn’t having no fucking kids, ever. Candle, then ten or so, had been too young to trust with Aunt Irina‘s brand new baby girl. Nobody was allowed to hold the little freak, who had been born with only one arm. There was also something messed up inside and everyone had acted real sad when Kaitlyn had died in the night. Just one of those things, Esme Santiago had moaned out. Just one of those things. Candle’s mother, Cris, had not been there. She had been down in Pasadena or Thousand Oaks by then. Now and then she sent post cards to Candle. I live here now, one had said, with a picture of something pretty on the front. As Cris did not have any money, Candle assumed she lived in a shithole and took the buses to get around.
“I got it…what the fuck is that? Oh em gee, it’s a baby,” Tiff came up behind Candle, wearing her favorite pair of sweat pants, stamped with the Florida Gators and already holding out that joint, which she put behind her big ear. Tiff would have been somewhat pretty if only God hadn’t given her giant elephant ears. Tiff also had a strong stench of pot. But her mother had plants. Candle really didn’t pay attention to all that pot talk; it bored her into tears. “Whatcha doing with a baby?”
“I found it. What do we do with it? Cops? Hospital? It looks real young,” Candle let Tiff peek at the dirty, squirmy little life.
Oh….kay. Am wishing on stars and selling my soul to the devil at the crossroads at midnight. Cause. Why not. It can’t hurt and it might help.
Got through the second round of [bleep] and am WAITING OH MY LORDY DO YOU IDIOTS THINK I AM PATIENT OR SOMETHING? Just tell me. Ugh!
Tom Petty, you were right. The waiting is the hardest part.
It’s my b-day tomorrow. I’m old. Considering getting myself some Midori and watching movies all day. I have a trip coming up so don’t need to chance the local wilderness on a Friday, with the crazed shithouse rats that live around here and near here all competing for a spot in their vans down by one of the rivers.
I did manage to write this week. Got Army of Flamingos polished up and sent forth into that weird novella territory. I didn’t number the pages but I don’t normally do that for a book-length anything. I hope in the NINE FREAKING MONTHS or that one eternity later, from Spongebob, that it doesn’t detract from the wonderment of my tale. It did say nine months to respond. But. There are a shit ton of submissions to read. I get it. I get it!
My garden has some splendid spots. My tomato plant is a BEAST. I love it! I don’t even like tomatoes. But. I can do things with fresh ones. And can freeze them handy enough. Punkins are percolating. Peppers are peppering along. Flowers are preparing to bloom. I’ve been drying my sage and oregano, need to tackle the cilantro. As in dry it or figure out how to preserve it.
So yes. I have books out. On Amazon and elsewhere. Aftermath: Boise, Idaho is a sentient zombies fun romp. The Remarkable Women of Brokenheart Lane is sort of Doomsday meets Mad Max meets a Judi Dench and her friends movie meets the Brothers Grimm. As in their uncensored tales, with cannibals and mothers beating on their dead children to make them behave and…uh huh. Make me a happy birthday person and pick one or the other or both up. Read them on your Kindle and leave me a review! Yay!
I know there’s no such thing as jinxes. I know this. My brain know it. The rest of me, eh, no so much. I am always wary of speaking or writing of something before it happens. Like a job interview. Do not tell anyone or even admit you have one before the interview. Otherwise, IT WILL GO BADLY.
Anyone else have this one? You don’t talk about something important or just ordinary [like a job interview] before you get the results or it will GO BADLY.
Anyway! Yes, I have a job interview or rather, a process to get to a job. A series of steps, as it were. I’m on step two. If I get through [this next task], it’s on to other steps. Hurray. The good thing is: I can do this job from home. I don’t have to deal with anything but equipment going nutty. Or a bad internet connection that day. As the internet works most days here, not really concerned that way. My computer works fairly well. I can even hook cameras and headsets up without much trouble. Go me! Normally I am such a Luddite. But it’s just plugging stuff into the USB ports, so…yeah. I can totally do that. I am the master of plugging stuff into USB ports. You betcha.
I’ve tried this before, what sort of job I’m trying to land now. I failed so miserably at it. Ugh! Could not get the equipment to work. But this time, I am ready, more or less. I’m being vague because of the whole jinx thing.
I have books out. Aftermath: Boise, Idaho deals with sentient zombies and our intrepid, pragmatic heroine, Hannah. The Remarkable Women of Brokenheart Lane pits three elderly, but thoroughly fabulous sisters, each in their own way, against a beat-up cannibal bikers. The Werewolves limp into what’s left of Fallon, Nevada, after their own epic showdown with a rival gang, the Glitterbugs. But wait, there’s a third gang of law and order church ladies looking to restore everything called the Snitty Ratballs. There’s also a lion roaming around, double and triple crosses and alliances formed to fight a common foe!
I had a lot of fun writing both of those. I tried to balance between the absurd, the comedic and the horrible. I think I did okay. Both are available on Amazon, Goodreads, etc.
June! 2021 already feels eight miles long, if ya catch my driftwood. Geez. Alrighty.
I have been rewatching an HBO series from the early 2000’s called Carnivale, about a showdown between good and evil played by the chosen ones of God and the Devil. At least, that’s what I garnered from it the first time around and pretty much this time, too. It’s all set against the Great Depression, pre-WWII, post WWI, the ‘war to end all wars’. It ran two seasons. 24 episodes. Very well done, quality stuff here.
It featured Clancy Brown and Amy Madigan as a squirrelly brother and sister team, where he’s Brother Justin and she’s the alleged submissive elderly spinster takes care of the house and does a lot of church work drone. Of course, we get intimations early on that Brother Justin ain’t the godly sort, that he might be working for the Other Team. We also find out the sister ain’t so, uh, yeah. No spoilers if you haven’t found this odd little gem of a series yet.
Of course, the carnival itself. Colorful characters! Freaks but no geeks. That’s where a man or woman eats a living creature, usually a chicken, as an audience watches. It’s just as gross, heartless and terrible as it sounds and yes, actually took place. We have the family of whores and chooch dancers! Boy howdy, does mama Rita Sue, Cynthia Ettinger, have the goods. She’s actually fleshy, earthy and exudes real actual sexuality—a sort of Marilyn Monroe type twenty years before MM was a thing. Maybe she’s a Mae West-ian type? Okay! She’s also one of my faves from this show. Stumpy, her hubbie and father of their two dancing daughters, is also a fave. He’s walking a knife edge between wanting to keep on feeding himself and his family and walking away from what he clearly thinks is emasculating him in the eyes of everyone. And it’s fascinating to watch all the dynamics at play in this family, which faces a tragedy pretty early on.
There’s also the snake dancer, played by the fantastic Adrienne Barbeau. There’s a bearded lady, who’s in cahoots and in bed with the blind seer, Dr. Lodtz. Who’s a treacherous bastard in the manner of Littlefinger from Game of Bones, er, Thrones. But oddly, lacking the real charm that Littlefinger had and the subtleness that so underlined one of the archvillains of King’s Landing.
Suffice it to say, there’s a great cast here with some truly fun parts. And hoooo boy howdy, is a lot of that just enjoyable to watch. Carnival folk struggling to make ends meet during the Dust Bowl years. That would have been a great series. Just real people fighting and scrapping to fill the kitty each night they got the whole shebang set up in some field or outside a town.
Now, I am not against all the magic-mystical-religious overtones in Carnivale. Because they’re graphic, sexual, ghastly, bloody, beautiful, strange and at times head-scratching.
So now let me go over the lead character, Ben Hawkins as played by Nick Stahl and one of the featured females, Sophie, as played by Clea Duvall. As they seem to be one and the same character.
Thoroughly unlikable shits that get chance after chance after chance for some reason. I mean, after a while, shouldn’t people listen to Ben Hawkins telling them to leave him alone and, well, leave him alone? Or figure out that Sophie isn’t likely to feel anything for you, Jonesy but a contempt? Move on, Jones! Jesus Christ, move on. It’s also a creepy relationship, as Jonesy is a grown man in his thirties who played with Sophie when she was a kid yet…mmm. Now he’s hitting on her and wanting to get in her panties. She’s it for him, as he confessed to our resident lady with a lot of gentlemen callers. Why?? Sophie, as written, has no redeemable qualities and is pretty much a lesbian. She showed more want and desire for Libby, daughter of Mae West-ian earth mama, than she had ever displayed for lovesick Jones.
Now, Ben is allegedly the hero here. The reluctant savior type, as he’s called by Samson, the little person who’s second in command. Samson takes orders from Management, who seems invisible and might be God? Mm. Management tells Samson that Ben is important, they have to take him with them. This is after we see Ben not save his own mother with his magic healing powers. He’s a gruff, ungrateful, thoroughly repellent character as written and played. Is this deliberate? Are we supposed to warm up to ole Ben? Cause. Yikes. I had this same problem first time I watched this. I grew impatient and then numb to whatever Ben was going through or had to do or was forced to do or whatever. Fuck off, Ben. I kept wondering why these savvy carnie folk didn’t shuck him like a bad oyster already. So what if he’s the savior-chosen whatever. So? Apparently this same fight has been waged since ever. It’s not like it’s unique. Drop Ben like a bad habit, Carnivale denizens!
To me, if Ben and Sophie had been culled early, I’d not have missed them. I was far more interested in the life of a circus performer set against such a harsh backdrop. Sure, you can throw in some magic and whatever, but oh my God, make the main character a bit more rounded than LEAVE ME ALONE I’M SUFFERING HERE. Fuck me running. I started to root for Brother Justin, played almost note-perfect by Brown, to win at whatever game this was. Blow the whole world up, you crazy bastard! Totally Team Justin here. I also wanted Sophie to meet her end so Jonesy could move on, steal Rita Sue from Stumpy and…yeah.
All in all, it’s a pretty good watch if you’re up for it. You might like Sophie and Ben more than I do and hey, that’s fine. I just found them both so utterly repellent on every level. Be warned, it’s HBO so there’s nudity, cussing, rape, violence, drug use, a scene where rabbits are beat to death and some other assorted stuff and things that might not be your cup of dust. Get it? Dust Bowl? Cup of dust??
Howdy. Here’s Chapter Two, the Rustle of Papers, from Aftermath: Boise, Idaho. Happy Memorial Day, America.
PART TWO: THE RUSTLE OF PAPERS
“Hannah? Hannah, wake up.” A soft female voice in her ear, the rustle of papers, the typing one heard from laptops and computers and devices, the hum of bored voices, the ring of several phones. Hannah sat up at a corner desk, a computer before her, and a file open: letter/fundraiser/Halloween. Nothing yet written—not even a date or an address or anything. The blinking curser waiting for her to start the letter. A picture of her, with short fluffy hair, next to a tall man who looked like he had just stepped off a movie set. Someone had drawn a heart around her and that strange man.
A woman stood by Hannah as she struggled to wake up, wearing a sedate hunter green dress and a blue paisley scarf, her golden-brown hair in a sedate updo secured with a large barrette. “Late night? That letter needs to be finished by five. What are you doing? Get it finished.”
Hannah blinked, looked around. She sat at the very back of a giant room full of other desks. Others working. Others. Behind her, a giant window overlooking a street; other tall buildings, trees. She wore dark brown slacks, a light raspberry-colored sweater, and a fake string of pearls! No zombies that she could tell. What was this? No. No, be smart, be careful. “Yes, late night. Do you think you can help me with this letter?”
“Oh, well, sure.” The woman pulled over a chair, sat, smelling of peaches. Peach perfume or peach shampoo. Something faint yet pleasant. Everything in this office—a big wide space of many desks with mostly women working at them—seemed very clean. “Jodi wants two points hit, right? It’s for a good cause and you can win prizes. Keep it the same bullshit as always, is my advice. Feckos don’t like change. They like order and things to go a certain way. Jodi should run everything here, she’s so wonderfully organized.”
Feckos? Hannah looked at the calendar on the desk. It said September. But what day? What year? “Oh sure, Feckos don’t like change. Jodi’s so organized, sure.”
“No, they sure don’t like change! They like tradition and order. Who doesn’t? Jodi says tradition and order win every time, no matter what. It always comes back to tradition and order.” Why did the peach-smelling office drone seem so stuck on this Jodi? “God, Lana at the meeting this morning! I about choked on my coffee. She’s hell-bent on naming names, you know? You should avoid her. Not take rides from her. Or Phil.” The woman had clear brown eyes. And an agenda. Mystery! It felt so nice to have such a harmless little mystery to solve as this woman and her office shenanigans. “Oh hey, just pull up that other fundraising crap from Christmas. Copy and paste what you need, slap a new date on it, change some details, there ya go! Do you still have them? It’s what I do, for the updates. I just copy and paste, it’s not like there’s changes at our level. Oh hey, did you hear? The wall got breached over on the Oregon side. Eatery Feckos got through,it was a mess. Nora has to deal with that PR nightmare. She’s in tears over it. Henry will probably fly up from Winnemucca if she fucks it up. And you know she will. And Henry will want to … you know.” The woman rolled her eyes as Hannah searched for a Christmas fundraising letter. There—a Christmas file and yes, a list of fundraising letters and events. The woman leaned forward a bit, nodded. “That one. Try that one, about the Holly Ball. That was the auction one, that’s kind of like the Halloween thing for this year. Yep. Just copy and paste what you need. The Feckos like their auctions. But we’re not supposed to know about the ones where they buy kids. Yuck. We all know about Salliana but we don’t know, you know? Just copy and paste what you need. It’s what we all do.”
“Thank you. I seem to have lost my notes for this fundraiser. And the name. I so spaced off or something. Salliana, yeah, that’s so gross,” Hannah said with a giant goofy smile, her brain ticking away furiously. What the hell was all this? Was she in hell? Had she been sent to hell to write fundraiser letters? She did not have office experience of any kind. No magical spate of knowledge on office letter writing came to enlighten her, either.
“That’s not like you. Are you okay? Is it Kevin?” The woman looked around, then leaned in, her breath reeking with coffee and spearmint gum. “Don’t let that pretty boy distract you. Keep your eye on the prize. You know what happens if you get distracted here.”
“Sure. Yeah, Kevin … he’s very distracting lately. We’re fighting.” Hannah said and the woman nodded. “So, it’s the 19th today, right?”
“What is? Oh crap … there’s Jodi. Just get that done and sent to her. And no more napping. Maybe call in sick tomorrow. Kevin is not worth it. Don’t fall apart now.” The woman pushed the chair she had taken back into the empty desk beside Hannah’s. She walked back up the aisle, toward a messy desk piled high with wrapped boxes. A woman in a navy silk pantsuit stopped to speak to her and at that point, Hannah noticed this navy pantsuit woman … was a zombie. She moved slowly and carefully, she wore an obvious wig the color of moldy carrots. Hannah had the letter opener in her hand, which had a Bureau of Humans on its silver handle. Zombies. They were in hell, of course they were. She’d have to fight her way free… Why was no one else screaming and running? No one seemed to care an actual zombie moved among them, and the zombie seemed oddly intent on pretending to be a boss or a supervisor. And then that zombie shuffled toward Hannah and Hannah came to her feet, her bladder hot and heavy and ready to let go down her leg.
The sensation crawled down Hannah’s spine that someone watched her. Studied her. Someone besides this zombie bitch about to … to attack her, of course. That’s what zombies did. They were famous for it.
“Hannah. Is that letter done yet? I need it.” The zombie came right to Hannah’s desk, stood there, oblivious to the fact that she was a zombie or that she should be trying to rip Hannah’s face off. It was unnatural. This was an unnatural zombie. “Hannah?” There it was, that smell, masked only slightly by heavy floral fumes that someone had tried to perhaps label a perfume. Filmy gummy eyes, a light silvery veil actually worn, that hooked behind the droopy ears. Maybe a Muslim zombie? Don’t laugh, don’t ask!
“Fine. Good. About done.” Hannah mumbled out, her voice tight and high. Jodi the zombie stared at her, then stepped closer as Hannah stepped back, the wall meeting her back, her hand a fist around that letter opener. Those gummy eyes went to the letter opener, then to Hannah’s face.
“Is there a problem?” The voice, gritty and low; the voice of dead things that should not be speaking. “Did you and your boyfriend have a tiff?”
“No. Fine.” Hannah made herself casually drop the letter opener, near an actual letter. “I’m fine. Fine.” “Uh huh. Please get that done in the next half an hour. It should have been done this morning. Don’t let cute boys distract you, dear.”
“Fine.” Hannah could not stop repeating that word. Cute boys? Had she heard that? “Today’s date?”
“Yes, the nineteenth. Use the Winnemucca address at the top. We’re including our whole territory this year. And the Boise one, of course. I’m pondering whether or not to extend to Salt Lake, but I can put in that address if I do, so don’t worry about that. Thank you, Hannah. You’re a good worker, and I know it will be done and well written. You manage to improve even a copy and paste job. Take Sunni as your model if you need guidance.” Jodi moved off and Hannah sat slowly, then noticed she really had to go. Her bladder had turned into a throbbing monster. Bathroom. Or she’d squat and pee on the ugly dark gray carpet like a bad dog.
After a careful look about, she got up, wearing low heels that pinched her feet and pantyhose beneath her slacks. Pantyhose. That were a bit too small. Hannah walked up that aisle, trying not to gape at everything. It seemed everyone knew her and that she worked here. Wherever here was. A gigantic white square clock said it was past two. Afternoon, had to be afternoon. The sun shone through that big window. White walls. Insane asylum? Inside of a white whale?
“Hannah, instead of potato salad, can we go halvsies on a cheese and cracker tray?” a Mexican-looking woman said to her as she went past, heading toward the big glass double doors. Hannah stopped. “Jodi just said she’s bringing her potato salad. We can’t have two potato salads.”
“Sure. Cheese and crackers.” It seemed important to just agree with whatever was said to her. Food. There was food nearby yet her stomach did not seem empty. No raging thirst. No trots from sipping dirty water. It seemed there were bigger actual offices outside the glass doors, with nameplates screwed into them. Zombies lurched in and out of these offices … wearing nice clothes. Zombies dressed up like bankers. God damn it.
“Han? Are you getting sick? You’re pale,” the woman said, tapping away at a laptop—some kind of numbers report. “You need a Skeezie?”
“Sure, yeah. A Skeezie.”
The woman reached her hand into a desk drawer, her fingernails painted beige. Those beige-tipped fingers brought out a small opaque bag and this got handed to Hannah in a secretive way, rather like she was being handed a tampon. “Just take what you need! Take one right before you go home. Otherwise, you’ll, well, you know.” The woman made gusty wind sounds and waved her hands a bit, then laughed.
“Thanks, Susan,” Hannah threw out and the woman snorted, then pulled up something else that had even tinier, insufferably smug, collections of numbers and columns.
Hannah saw a memo with the name Katherine at the top. “I’ll just take one for later, Katherine.”
“Katherine? What? Maybe you should take one now and just go home. Just put that bag in your top desk drawer, I’ll get it later.”
Another memo, with Ophelia on it. Damn it. Hannah was getting too unnerved and chickenshit to try another name. Then Ophelia, not Katherine, looked over at the woman who had helped Hannah with her fundraiser memo. “You’re friends again with Sunni? After she hit on Kevin? You’re a saint, Hannah. Though, you should let her have him. He’s trouble.”
Sunni, the woman in the hunter green granny dress. Okay. Jodi, the zombie. And now Ophelia. And Kevin, the man in the picture. Okay, got it. “I like trouble,” said Hannah, her face trying to smirk. No, no, you don’t know these people or what’s going on. “Forgive and forget. Thanks for the Skeevers.”
“Skeevies. Uh … you want me to go with you?” Hannah wasn’t fully listening. She was gawping at a very tall, gaunt zombie draped in an eye-watering poison yellow suit, paired with a blood-red tie. “What? Oh yeah, Harrison, he wore that yellow suit yesterday. He looks like a giant canary.” Harrison spoke to Jodi, hands moving slowly, gray hands… He had gray hands. “Don’t stare at them, they hate that. Fectos, they want us to pretend they’re normal. He’s such a perv. They all are. We’re not supposed to notice. Or care.”
“Yeah, Fectos. Fine.” Hannah forced herself to walk through those glass double doors and walk past Jodi and the zombie canary man. She saw two restrooms—male and female an a unisex one—plus a break room, with the door open and two men seated at the big table, coffee cups before them, heads together. They nodded at her as she went past and she nodded back. Once in the ladies, she sat on a toilet, which had a bowl full of clear bright water. The air smelled of roses from the air freshener left by the third sink. She took deep, head-swirling breaths, trying to calm herself.
Off came her slacks, simple pull up ones, and then those damn pantyhose got torn off. She stuffed them in the little wastebasket, and covered them with toilet paper. Actual toilet paper—not leaves or her own hand. There were used tampons, wrapped in shielding layers, in there as well. When had she last had enough to eat to be able to shit something out? Or have her period? The little bag Not-Katherine had handed her held six black pills. They were stamped with an S and were long pills, not round. The black coating smudged her fingers. Skeezies? Skeezers? Skeezawhatevers? She took one, put it into the pocket of her slacks. Then sat again, not ready yet to face going back out there.
Where the zombies were.
What was going on? What was that name the two women had used? Fecto. Festo? No, Fectos. Both had casually said it, as if they used that term for zombies all the time. What did it mean?
Someone came into the restroom, went into the next stall. A series of astonishing farts and whistles, then a long sigh as plops sounded. Hannah clamped her hand over her lips, the smell of fresh human shit so oddly welcoming. Just so normal. It was just so normal here except for the odd boss zombies slumping here and there.
“Sorry! I couldn’t hold it anymore.” The woman next to Hannah said, a cheerful grandmotherly voice. “When you gotta shit, you gotta shit.”
“Absolutely,” Hannah said, flushing her toilet, leaving her stall. She washed her hands, the soap in the dispenser a bright violent pink that smelled of roses. Cheap roses. Her reflection showed she did seem pale. Her face was her face—her little round chin, her snubby nose, the winged eyebrows she had always liked—but there was no giant scar from plunging through a barbed wire fence as three zombies tried… No giant scar. She was not starving or filthy. Her hair had somehow grown back and she had somehow added blond streaks to it. Her gray-blue eyes had been rimmed with brown, her lashes clumpy with mascara. Silver eyeshadow smeared on her lids. But she had never been good at applying makeup. More plops and sighs from the woman taking a monster afternoon shit. Sensible shoes, thick ankles, thick legs encased in dark hose. Hannah left her to it.
That very long hallway, with big offices and the break room and the main room full of worker bees… Bright overhead lights. Big windows that looked down on a city street. This was still Boise. She was still Hannah G. Gray. She looked at her left wrist. A faint scar ran from her wrist to her elbow, a jagged faint pink line. She remembered the blood pooling, the smell of hot crushed pennies. She did not remember this office or these people.
I took the three dogs and drove toward Owyhee State Park here in Eastern Oregon. It was a truly GORGEOUS day. And there were oodles of people. On a Thursday. Fuuuuuuuuudgepops!
The back way to the park also had road construction. With detours. Fine, whatever, I know the roads are laid out like a grid, can’t stop me, state of Oregon. Woot woot, gonna get where I wanna go, baby.
Yes, I collected some red lava rocks and didn’t find anything spectacular or shiny or magical. I let the three dogs romp in the river, I threw sticks for them, I let them sniff and hunt a bit, as dogs are wont to do. My favorite spots sported tents and sullen campers setting up camps. Fudgepops!!
I also saw some buffalo, as they raise them around here and a field full of sassy, darling goats.
On the way home, same detour…except I had to drive almost to Nyssa to get on Clark Boulevard to get back home. Ah yes, the same boulevard featured in my second novel– House on Clark Boulevard. I even think I saw the old house where I used to live so long ago and in a time of far away. It’s run down, looks deserted but a car was parked there. But that has to be the house. It’s on the correct side of the road, there’s the space where the pasture used to be, the house itself has the same shape I remember. But no chicken coop or other buildings left behind the house. The trees are gone or pulled down or have fallen. Is that the house? Is my memory right or very very wrong? Mm.
But anyway…had to take the very long and winding way back home with three wet dogs. What a lovely smell a wet dog has. But I also had some new rocks. Good day. What a good day that was.