I am languishing a bit, waiting for ‘inspiration’ to tell me to…!
I, meanwhile, work on crap and shit, because I have to claim I’m ‘working on something’ or I lose my cool Writer Street Cred with the other growling, snarling Writers that lurk near my part of the forest.
I have a collection of writings I’d never show anyone. And maybe one day publish under a name not mine and make tons of cash because it’s easily digestible fluff and not angsty, vague, endless examinations of why my parents didn’t really love me. [Are we writers all not, pathetically, Eugene O’Neill on his worst and best days?]
And then I remember someone thought of Sharknado and pitched it and people loved that.
And then howl with despair, inside my head, of course, at the state of my own serious ‘stuff’ and not write anything for the rest of the day. Or feel guilty I’d rather knock out some fluff-n-fold, which won’t advance my career in the least unless I show it to someone who has the power to publish it…if not self-publish it but then I’d have to go back through it all, tidy it up, fill in blanks I left because I wanted to get to the ‘good parts’ and…oh the work load alone. It’s both exciting and terribly not exciting at all.
I have some options for my next Serious Stuff Project.
I can think of something brand new, based on a short story or something I started. Or something yet in my head.
There’s Aftermath, my zombie short story that grew into an actual novella and now waits for me to finish it or call it a day. I left Hannah staring down into a giant crater outside of Boise, Idaho, with wild zombies closing in. I know. Zombie. I know but…well. And like every other god damn zombie blah ever, it’s NOT ABOUT ZOMBIES. It’s a METAPHOR FOR TENTACLE PORN AND ACID-WASHED JEANS and possibly something about politics and feminism and greyhound racing. Zombies, pfft! It’s never about zombies, is it.
There’s the Tales of Beastface Bay, my Wind in the Willows meets Modern Societal Wrongs meets the Marx Brothers rompings. No. I can already feel myself just going nope nope not yet in my head.
I can work on my third book in the trilogy of my House on Clark Boulevard fun. I need to read through the first two. Alice in Oregonlandia might need a reworking…ooooh. Maybe.
Work on my Honest Women full length play. Mm.
Curl up on the floor, in utter despair, at what has happened in a very short time, to America. Drink directly from vodka bottle. Eat a taco of leftover stuff from night before. Continue with this list.
Give up writing altogether and slit wrists. Mm. Maybe.
Take up writing fanfic. Either Watership Down or something in the Barbara Kingsolver area. I could really work the hell out of a Bean Trees/Twilight mashup. And all my characters could be badgers who act like British rabbits. Which would lend nicely to my Beastface Bay squrivvels and scribblings. [Made up word, ten points!]
Actually try to make heads and tales of my fluffy, can’t-show-to-no-one, pennings. Arrange them, put them in order, rewrite the truly awful ones. Fanfic…ahem, um, yes. Sparkly vampire badgers who spout Moliere…oh yes, spank me with a gray tie. [If you get that, we can now be friends.]
Start a new blog, under another name, full of naughty stuff. To see how popular that would be as opposed to my dull, proper plodding blog here. Anne Rice and A. N. Roquelaure, for instance. Maybe I’ve already done that! Ooooooh! [I haven’t, for the record.]
Take up knitting or adult coloring because it’s clear my writing is full blown crap on burned, moldy toast that no one outside of my patient, tolerant friends, would go near.
Take an online course in how to have self-esteem and sell your crap to friends and strangers alike for cash to pay things like bills.
Um…yeah. This has been fun. I should go watch the twirly skaters or stare at the sky, waiting for the snow. It still has not snowed here. I’m flabbergasted and hurt.
What about an earthquake full of bears? Bearquako. And then the sequels! Bearquako, Fists of Bees. Samantha Saves the World, Bearquako III. The Son of Bearquako! And of course, Bearquako, the End? And that has to be a question, because sequels…they sell. The marketing does itself.
Obviously, I have about two maybe good-ish ideas on here for NEXT ACTUAL PROJECT and some silly-Susan kinda wafflings. Wish me luck.
That damn groundhog. It’s lying. Punxsutawney Phil! You lying rodent bastard! Six more weeks of winter, huh? Winter never got started here! We didn’t even have that deep freeze cold that renders the pipes unable to bring water forth in the house. Where I have to lug in water from the only faucet outside that does not freeze in such weather and boil it on the stove to wash hair, dishes and underwear. Sometimes all at the same time. Ha ha ha. Ha.
I wish and pray and hope and sacrifice virgins to the local volcanoes and…zip, zilch, nada.
No snow, there is no snow. There’s spats of rain. There’s drizzles of rain now and then. It may seem weird that I’m complaining about an absence of frozen water.
Or whatever snow actually is. NASA probably lied to us about that, too, as well as hiding space aliens, using tax dollars to hide evidence of God and that whole moon landing thing. NASA and the UN are probably in cahoots. Cahoots!
Snow represents winter, it’s really that simple. When it’s winter, it should be snowing or snowy or snow-covered. I am a child of the four seasons trope. Summer is hot and winter has snow. Spring is when the snow melts and you finger the seed packets and maybe do some yard work as the dogs get muddy or pester you to throw the ball, throw the ball, throw the ball NOW NOW NOW. Fall is the smell of cinnamon and getting the blankets back on the bed because the nights have gotten nippy again.
Oh sure, every comfortable, comforting Americana notion about the seasons, sure, you betcha. I got em. I got em in a basket with a purple ribbon on it. In my head where such baskets full of seasonal Americana tropes live, breathe, fart, snore and drool.
Am I ignoring, sort of, that political suckstorm wrecking my country right now? You bet your patooties I sorta am. It’s a new month and I, being a conscientious and commercial-minded blogger now…um, thought, hey, I should post something. And since I finished my rewrite [Remarkable Women of Brokenheart Lane] and have not yet latched onto a NEW BIG PROJECT THAT WILL BE UTTERLY IMPORTANT AND CHANGE THE ENTIRE FACE OF LITERATURE AS WE KNOW IT, well. Here we are.
Gentle ramblings about an American tradition involving a rodent and a longing for the traditional march of the seasons. Traditional if you live in a place that has four seasons, of course. I’m quite aware that other places don’t have four seasons. In case someone comments that I live in a bubble and should get out more.
I am waiting for the snow. It’s been a rather warm January. Snow, now. Snow now! Allegedly, there’s a winter storm dancing toward my area, where it will spread snowflakes about as it does the bossa nova with the mountains, valleys and pockets of scrub, sagebrush-dotted expanses and riparian spots. I don’t want spring-like weather during my winter of discontent, dang it. How dare the weather gods omit winter weather for my area this year?? What’s that about? Do I need to find a virgin and a volcano?
There’s a volcano up the road a bit [ several, in fact. Mt. St Helens, Mt. Hood…] and I’m sure I can find a virgin on the local Boise Craigslist. It’s amazeballs what you can find on there if you’re really, really looking.
I “finished” Remarkable Women of Brokenheart Lane. Which did not go at all in the direction I thought it would.
Does writing ever go in the direction you think it should?
Oh my, every January post of mine has been about either cannibal bikers or some vague political rant. I haven’t been nice or positive!
I’m going back over my many words today. I think half of it is pretty okay and it doesn’t make me want to spork my eyes out with an actual spork while shrieking that I can’t write. That’s good, right? The second half, now…eh. Er. Maybe it’s ‘better’ than I think? Or far far worse?? Oh!
PART TWO: THE TUNA MELT CONTROVERSY
I treated myself, yesterday, to a tuna melt from the Starlite in Vale. It’s my weird craving. I hate fish and onions and yet…that sandwich is full of both fish and onions. I don’t get it, I don’t try to understand my fatal flaws in wanting a hot tuna sandwich full of onions. I haven’t had a tuna melt in ages, like, oh, years. [Did I ever mention how abysmally poor I am and that I’m about two inches from being an actual agoraphobic?] It was way spendy and I felt SO GUILTY all afternoon. And into the night. I should have spent that money on orphans and owl rescues.
To eat tuna– that stuff that comes in the little cans, packed in oil or spring water, as a tuna fillet or chunk of tuna ordered at an eatery or taken home from some supermarket makes me openly gag– I have to doctor it up. I do mean kill that tuna taste. Lemon, sweet pickles, garlic…so that the few bits of fish mingling with glumps of mayo–
the grossest of the condiments; just gross, BRB, throwing up a bit–
doesn’t taste like tuna. At all. It tastes like sweet pickles. So why do I crave tuna melts?
Weird tangent. Okay.
Also, that tuna melt I ordered to go…was not that great. The at least two other tuna melts I’d ordered there, in years past, were good. Tasty. Tangy and oniony. Hot mayo. I think I have some issues and problems, oh my. Yep. Anyway. That sandwich I’d ordered and taken home did not…live up to my memory of how good the Starlite tuna melts are. Maybe I’m now cured of my tuna melt cravings. And will crave kale and cucumber sandwiches on GMO-free artisan bread baked by a collective of earth-loving vegans who keep tuna fish as pets, not food.
So. I will wait for snow, mourn that iffy tuna melt and read over my collection of words.
Hi again! I am ovaries-deep in Remarkable Women of Brokenheart Lane, my aggressively feminist scream against the patriarchy. Come back here! I am, wait for it, just kidding a wee.
I JUST NOW noticed that if you put ‘conservative’ and ‘Christian’ in front of your name, you can get away with anything you want. Like, oh, treason, chasing porn stars around with a Forbes magazine that features your own daughter on the cover, refusing to treat gay folks medically, deporting brown people mostly because they’re brown people, making it hard or impossible for swathes of people to vote in elections, blah blah blah dee blah dee blah.
I’m gonna switch to that magical and all-erasing R and then go on a murder spree. Where I murder, in the name of Jesus, everyone I find objectionable, morally repugnant, disposable and a drain on our resources, which should only go to oil companies and bald eagles.
I want that statement of ‘very fine people on both sides’ to apply to my side, a’course, only.
Oh. Shithole countries. Lest we ever forget. Shithole countries is how 45 referred to Haiti, all of Africa, El Salvador…and probably a host of other places. Why can’t we have more people from Norway come here…was, I believe, 45’s lament.
And most of actual Norway started puking or laughing right after that. Or so the liberal media claims! Don’t check with CNN, they’re in Killary’s pocket! NBC works directly for Soros! ABC, might as well be We Hate Trump Wah network!
You know, “Vikings”. I guess they can leave their socialist shithole of a country on their longboats and invade us and take our gold, our women and our land. Like oh, they used to, way back when. i viking is, I believe, the term used, to describe those raids, where, I assume, the term ‘viking’ originates from. Maybe we should ask Europeans about that, since they still seem to have history classes at their socialist hellhole places of indoctrination…
Oh! Our gubbermint is shut down. [America, in case you thought I was Canadian.] Which is, somehow and laughably, passed off as the fault of the two or three Democrats still holding office right now in DC. Ummm???
We also, yes, had Fake News Awards, compiled by Pumpkincunt AKA Stormy’s Spankmonkey.
This has now become normalized. It’s normal for the American king wannabe to publicly go after news organizations…as it garners them ratings and cash when the White House does so. I noticed that. It’s a national version of Yahoo Answers right now. Fuck you, lol versus no, fuck you, lol.
Which draws in viewers on both sides in record numbers! It sells papers, it brings hits on websites, it creates smokescreens when actual shittery is brought forth or some piece of truly heinous, unAmerican legislation gets rushed through.
I digress. I meant to post a small update on my rewrite of a gritty novel into a more commercial-friendly, happy, funny, light-hearted sweet-esque dark fairy tale romp.
Novel! Must focus.
The ideas churn through my brain meat, oh yes. I am tying up this, that, the other, so it all makes a sort of sense that Western lit readers really seem to prefer in their Western literature.
Unlike real life, where things just happen and entire threads go nowhere and people do things without a tragic backstory to explain their every last little action in the present…my novel happily chugs along picking up easy-peasy happy little this and that to explain why X is X.
As my novel is art and not a ‘real life, let them see the long hairs on the beauty’s chin, sort of effort’, I think it best I strive toward a coherent three-fourths sort of project. As it will never be whole or perfect and is that not the entire beauty of novels, writing, art itself?? That the artist never declares, weeee, that’s perfect, never gonna obsesses about that one sentence in that one paragraph ever ever ever again!
Of course, that’s how we got those three weird and awful Star Wars prequels…so. Grain of sand, babies. Grain of sand.
Oh. So. I got a flash about the Snitty Ratballs and the Glitterbugs of Boise, Idaho. What if the Ratballs are…oooh. You’re gonna have to wait! But it was HUGE. It was BIGLY. I had to go back, to nearly the beginning, and INSERT tidbits to support the story that reveals itself in tidbits to me throughout the day. What if Amy Octopus and Vance Romance came to Winnemucca because Boise had been…ooooh. Oh yes, I have actual thoughts where ‘Glitterbugs’ and ‘Amy Octopus’ march through alongside ‘should I microwave a burrito for lunch or make a sammich’.
I did get a bit political this time around but I also managed to swing it back around to my desperate bid to fill my silly time on this earth with writings about cannibal bikers and the Silver State. Surely, that’s worth a bowl of oatmeal? As ever, thanks for reading and BUY MY BOOKS. They’re awesome. Awesome!
Let’s get some bidnez out of the way first, m’kay?
BUY MY BOOKS. There. We all feel better now? I do!
House on Clark Boulevard, in case you didn’t see that title SPLASHED ALL OVER THIS SITE and of course, the lovely and talentedOREGON GOTHICfeaturing short stories no self-respecting cat hoarder would ever be without.
I do actually have a topic. Patience, grasshoppers. Patience.
Me, myself and I have restarted, from scratch, my novel about old ladies V. cannibal bikers in the small town of Fallon, Nevada. Oh my, I can hear the intake of shocked breaths from HERE.
The Remarkable Women of Brokenheart Lane.
Now, the previous and finished product held elements of gut-wrenching horror and gut-churning forays into the heart of darkness. And my publisher dude just went…fuck this, what the hell is wrong with you. No doubt in a veddy posh British accent.
Posh Spice snorting about bloody Americans as they sip their tenth cup of Earl Gray for the day. Yep!
I was understandably X. [I can’t write, wah!] I went extreme! I let people see how extreme I went! [Believe me, kiddos, there’s a whole flipping ocean beneath my extreme, don’t even worry.]
“Never go full extreme!” seemed to be the lesson here…or at least, shop your extreme stuff to those in the extreme bidnez. Don’t be an Albert Fish in a world of Dr. Seussian polite murder mysteries and sweet little ghost tales. Lesson learned!
The street in that title, THE REMARKABLE WOMEN OF BROKENHEART LANE, by the way, is an actual street name I saw in Nevada. There’s also a Chicken Dinner Lane [it might even be road] in Caldwell, Idaho. I love those wacky street names. They ‘inspire’ me.
A year or more goes by.
Imagine that flippy calendar visual. Got it? Okay! We’re hopping from a June of perhaps over a year ago to–
It’s December of 2017.
I think, ah, I need a new project. Candy Crush cannot become my new project, even though HOW THE FUCK DO YOU GET PAST LEVEL &&$. Yes, I am a bit hooked on a damn game, and it’s sad and silly. It’s sild. Slad? I’ll work on combining those two words into one awesome one. New goal for today! Where was I?
Oh. New project. Christmas time.
Lurking in my muzzy, wuzzy head is the idea that Remarkable Women needs a REWRITE. Because, allegedly, that’s what writers do. Take out something laid aside and torture it into new, probably sleazy, crackwhore-ish shapes. All to make a buck eventually somewhere in the land of the not really free and the home of the sneeringly can’t be bothered. Most of whom don’t even know the words to their own National Anthem yet have strokes over how patriotic they are. Amen, Baby Jesus. And the socket’s red blare, the fights bursting in fair! Gave proof to the lie that our frogs were still hair!
What’s YOUR NOVEL about, you ask. Thank you for asking!
Oh these three elderly sisters have survived some sort of world-ending event. They live in a falling down house and try to avoid starving to death, when they’re not trying to avoid the gangs of human monsters roaming about through the Nevada wastelands.
See why I went all dark and Cormac MacCarthy? Yeah, me either. Because that premise just screams for a lighthearted romp with zingers, witty observations about modern manners and a sneer sent toward Millenials, because…that’s what everyone else is doing.
The seed of Remarkable Women was actually three sisters going to visit their childhood home to visit the grave of their childhood dog. Which I did actually write and send off somewhere to get SOUNDLY REJECTED.
But then another moldy seed split from my original kitchen sink reality seed…cannibals, bikers, Mad Max-like scenarios, old ladies.
I mixed Doomsday, the Road Warrior and those movies featuring women far past their prime [ anything over fifteen years old, amirite, gentlemen??]. Those movies usually starring Judi Dench, Helen Miren and Maggie Smith. Actual Dames! Kind of like those movies starring a raft of ancient creaky actors still creaking around, usually studded with Morgan Freeman or Michael Caine.
Who doesn’t combine a bunch of rando thoughts into one big whirling shitball and then make ART from it? Everyone does it. Everyone.
This outing, this new rising from the dead ashes of another book, [not dead, just resting. Just resting!]
–this time taking on that dusty world of death, destruction and impossibly narrow escapes…
I find the story wishes to float along in a truly breezy, just write the damn words sorta way. I also find the story wishes to be told from two POV’s– those of the sisters and those of the bikers. I’m giggling rather foully to myself as I write so that’s a good sign. For me, at least. I’m having fun! Writing is fun! Look at me! FUN FUN FUN.
It’s foggy here so I can’t go outside. It’s also non-snowy so my rage at the lack of snowiness rages.
Candy Crush and total ass out, balls to the wall rewrite in the works. I’m not consulting the finished draft I already wrote ages ago. I reason I can make up silly post-Apocalypse names without having to copy my own silly made up post-Apocalypse names, as that just seems like cheating.
Lily, Violet and Laura, hello again! It seems like we’re old friends and you all have a fresh tale to shout in my ear. A sort of dark-ish fairy tale about ogres and witches and my own version of a Valentine to Nevada, that Silver State that oftentimes leaves a bit of shiny fake gold in my noggin. Let’s raise our typing fingers to THE REMARKABLE WOMEN OF BROKENHEART LANE. Long may she languish in don’t wanna touch that publishing purgatory!*
*If I say something like that, the only place I have to go is up. I’ve read the inspirational quotes, for the love of fucks and money. Start low and go high! You can’t start on the high road without wading through the cow pond, my dears. A bit of homespun Oreeegun wizdum. Wheeee.
Oh it’s January. Again. It’s very early in the morn. My face is swollen from some infected tooth or perhaps evil spirits sent by Satan. Yes, America is indeed trying, as hard as possible, to return to such times as those. When unseen spirits caused problems and witches sent storms and turned the milk sour. Where church and state were one and the same and the lives of peasants were owned by the nobility…No safety nets, no medical care, no hope at all, really, of anything but hard work and a harder death.
What a sour thought so early in the morn.
Fie upon me for being so overly cynical. And simplistic about the Middle Ages. Fie upon me indeed! For being so overly pessimistic.
It’s by-God and Sunshine-y Jesus and Exploding-Papyrus Osiris– 20- flipping 18. Wheeeee! Unloose the mad dogs of exploding stuff!
It’s also, I understand and gather and so forth, Year of the Dog. Dogs rule and cats drool. Aye, make it so, captain.
I watched some of the Twilight Zone marathon, as you do, when you’re a near shut-in and the thought of OTHERS causes you actual bodily harm. [My face swollen. People did that. That’s how my reasoning works these days.] I had no wish to pour myself into ten year old party clothes [a shirt, some pants] and slither off to a bar. Or slink into some party, with my hair sprayed into place and my smile lopsided. Because my face is swollen and I look like something out of a sideshow right now. Not exactly at my best.
I saw the Invaders, where Samantha’s mom battles tiny aliens. Bewitched, darlings. Endora took on tiny mean aliens! I saw a woman devil, played by Catwoman’s Julie Newmar, with the cutest little horns glued to her head or however hair and makeup did it. Cute little horns!
Oh and the ever-popular one with Captain Kirk and the guy in the gorilla suit. Where the guy in the gorilla suit [a gremlin!] fucks with the airplane wing and Captain Kirk, losing his shit because no one can see this but him, steals a gun, then proceeds to cowboy up and take that gorilla-suited gremlin down town. There is a scary actual moment in that one…when Cap’n K slowly pulls that curtain back from his window and the gremlin is RIGHT FREAKING THERE. We expect it. We jump anyway. Every. Single. Time. Richard Matheson wrote this episode– Fear at Twenty Thousand Feet.
Also, note. You could both smoke on a plane and choose your own comfy-looking seat! Wah! I blame Satan. Satan turned airplane travel into a Medieval torture gauntlet. Satan!
Well, at least if you’re in peasant class. The nobles up front seem to have it made. Ah, if only my parents had been born into the aristocracy! Curse them for their low-class farm genes! I blame Satan. And witches. And Social Justice Warriors. And commies. And liberal judges.
Who are all controlled by Satan.
I also saw the one with the creepy dummy, called, I do so believe, the Dummy. Yes, still on Twilight Zone. Skip this if you’re not a Twilighter. My actual urge toward those wooden things is to beat them to death with an airplane. Then burn whatever’s left because fire kills evil things. Those awful puppet thingies and clowns…here I thought a new year would magically rid me of my not-rational reaction to ventriloquist’s dummies and clowns. Oops. Buffy, the Vampire Slayer also had a dummy episode, in its first season. And aye, mateys, just as damn creepy as the Twilight Zone ep.
I also saw the one [repeat phrasing– I blame Satan] where the nasty family had to put on masks for Mardi Gras. That one. With those rather awful masks and…if you’re even a faint Twilighter, you know this one. I don’t need to do a plot massacre. [Where I badly explain whatever I think happened and then add some nonsense atop that.]
And the overly sweet robot granny one– where she goes back to the granny robot factory when the three kids waltz off to college. I Sing the Body Electric, for those steaming at home because I didn’t name the title yet. Feel better??
Machine Grandmother admits she’ll probably be dismantled for parts…so that’s, um, good, I guess. Ahem. I Sing the Body Electric or something airy-airy in that vein for a title. [I named it twice, grumblers. Take that!] Serling did admit a lot of the eps were crap on toast. Not that one, as granny robot going back to the granny factory still makes me gulp and get uncomfortable notions about just when the toaster will admit it’s conscious and that it has some life advice for yours truly.
Now of course, I didn’t get to watch my all-time fave one, with Talky Tina. Living Doll is the name of that one. Again, if you’re puzzled and making frowny faces– Talking Tina?? What is that??– then you need to stop watching Masterbate Theatre and take in some ‘murican old stuff. Satan probably has you in his thrall, dear.
But I did get to see a rather accurate portrayal of a god– the one where the six year old boy holds everyone around in a sort of terrorized obedience to his every last little whim. Or he’ll punish them if they don’t please him. [What the heck is this broad spluttering on about? It’s still Twilight Zone. I know.]
I also took a lot of over the counter pain killer.
And I might visit the local granny woman for a remedy against the bad spirits living like kings in my face. Hello, 2018.
No resolutions. Nary a one. Why? I’m not going to change. I’m not magically going to turn into some Blazing Supernova who needs an hour of sleep and accomplishes more in her first give minutes than most accomplish ever in the history of ever.
The end of 2018– if I make it that far– will have me more than likely slumped on a couch, in ancient clothes that were never in style, sleep-watching the Twilight Zone marathon on SyFy. Waking up during robot granny hugging the children and assuring them it’s time she goes to a new family. Or that she’ll be sorted for spare parts for other granny robots. Mm. My illusions seem to be slowly wearing away, leaving me a slumped bit of sad bread dough clinging to life’s bowl.
I wrote the following SHORT STORY on Christmas Day, 2017.
Snow showed up Christmas Eve and turned the local roads into skating rinks, so we stayed home instead of venturing forth for roast beast and mulled Keystone Light. I had read an account of a man who saved a mouse on some Animals-R-Grrrreat site. [Dodo? Dog Heirs? ???] The following slipped forth. There are no ghosts or goblins or zombies. It’s just a tale of a lonely man and a hurt mouse.
A TINY TALE
The mouse sits in the middle of the floor, a dejected little creature. I catch my breath, understandably startled. Mice tend to rush off and hide, not sit and wait for whatever end I might decide for them. I approach, wondering about poison. A poisoned mouse would be so caught up in dying, it would not mind someone nearby watching. I notice the mouse has a twisted, bloody back leg as I look down at it. Gray fur, a white bib, large ears and suffering black eyes. My kitchen linoleum seems a killing floor and the mouse has come here to surrender. It just waits for the killing blow to the head, the jolt of electricity, the bolt into the brain. I have traps set out. I always hope they kill instantly. They don’t. Sometimes a mouse is caught by a small arm or by the tail. And if I do not remember to check, they languish for hours until they die of fright or pain. Or perhaps they just give up. Once I found half a tail still caught in a trap’s metal frame.
The mouse shivers but does not run off as I bend to get a closer look in the hard dawn light. Light in winter hurts my eyes, light in summer welcomes me. The light changes in winter, that’s what I know. Snow arrived yesterday in time for Christmas Eve. The world around me, familiar roads and dirty sidewalks and filthy alleys, rests beneath a layer of snowflakes. It seems somehow so fitting to have snow at Christmas. Even though the origins of this holiday came from the desert lands of the Middle East. As far as I know, Jesus never threw snowballs or went sledding. I look at the box yet on the table, that held small gifts from indifferent relatives mailed to me because of obligation. Generic gift boxes of spiced sausages and tiny blocks of smoked gouda or bacon-infused cheddar. Do I not have some smaller box I could line with something soft? The mouse does not move. Quick small breaths in and out, in and out.
Though I am careful, the mouse clearly experiences pain. The small face twitches, the eyes close shut. The mouse I set down in the small box, full of ripped up toilet paper. It sits there, wondering why I am prolonging its life. I get a cotton swab, dip it into some hydrogen peroxide, apply this to the mangled leg. Foam. The mouse actually drags itself into the torn paper. I try not to touch it, thinking my presence just stresses the creature out even more. A drink, a bit of something to nibble as it rests or as it dies anyway. I have an eye dropper, perhaps a bit of cracker. I brush the end of the dropper against the mouse’s tiny mouth. After a bit, it swallows. Heat spreads itself in my chest, relief and resignation that I am now committed to saving this one mouse’s life.
I put the lid on the box, with holes punched in that lid by a butter knife. I have no vet training and don’t know what to do for such a messed up limb as that. Would it be kinder to just kill the little thing? But somehow, I cannot bring myself to execute the dainty, gray and white, little beast just yet. The rest of it seems fine; it’s just that bad leg. A cat? A trap? An owl? Except. How can a three-legged mouse survive a world of human traps and predators? There are three-legged pets the world over. But a damaged little prey animal would quickly succumb to something. I begin the coffee and contemplate that small box, full of a suffering little thing. If it dies, then it will die with its thirst quenched, in the warm soft dark of a box.
My immediate family has long been gone and perhaps that is why I am reacting so strongly to a common pest like this. A longing for something I never really had? Perhaps or just my natural kindness. My Midwest fabled politeness? I have long grown used to my solitary life, to the roughness of my hands and the roughness of my life. I work in a slaughterhouse and I cut up livestock. They come to me already dead but even I wonder if whatever animated them watches us cut their bodies into steaks and chops and briskets and roasts. If there is a God, God does not live in a slaughterhouse. That much I know to be true. I hope the God everyone argues over so viciously does not live in the slaughterhouses of the world. I hope that with real hope. I hope God is not looking out of those wide dark eyes or trapped behind the dead glazed pupils, asking us to see Him finally. Where do such thoughts come from. The coffee perks away.
I make my breakfast, oatmeal with bananas cooked into it. I make toast. I drink coffee. I check on the mouse, who huddles down but does not try to escape. I give it some more water, being patient. It does not know I am trying to help it. It only knows I scooped it up, hurt it further by pouring something painful on its leg and then trapped it in a box full of strange paper. It swallows, I see it. The cracker is yet untouched. As long as it drinks, I think. I remember having one of those watering deals for my one and only pet, a guinea pig. A metal spout they could lick to get a drink, attached to a plastic bottle. My guinea pig, named Ralph, lived almost a month. It got sick, and then I found it dead in its cage. My mother threw the stiff red and white body away. We lived in Omaha, in a tiny apartment and there was nowhere to bury it. No yard or soft grassy green place. Just tossed in with the coffee grinds, the potato peelings and the overdue bill notices. It will stink, John, she told me as she yanked the trash bag up and had me take it out to join the rest in the dumpster behind the ratty apartment building we used to live in. She had been a harsh, hard woman, German on both sides. She had no time for feelings or not doing what needed to be done. Her hands, I remember, were rougher than mine are now. They cracked and had little red fissures. She covered them with cold cream and tried not to show how they hurt her. She got the flu, it turned into some kind of awful pneumonia and then days later she died. I was fifteen and became a ward of the state of Nebraska. No one wanted me, my distant relatives never responded to the state’s pleas to come get me, and I went to work as soon as I turned eighteen. The same story of a lot of kids.
I give the mouse another drink and leave a small bottle cap full of water for it. I had agreed to a Christmas Day shift so that Todd, who had a family, could drink whiskey sours and eat turkey with his in-laws. Others who didn’t care about Christmas or didn’t really have families also took shifts today. The work would be light and yet drag. Work dragged on any holiday when the place stayed open to process carcasses. Maybe I should take the mouse with me. And what? Keep checking on it to see if it had died yet? How could I explain the small forlorn mouse I had adopted? I find I don’t want to be stared at or noticed by others. I find I hate such attention, that I’m not brave or bold. I am a sheep being led to some slaughter, and maybe I’ll protest a bit before they put a bolt in my sheep head.
It’s a mouse, I argue with myself. Why do my eyes sting?
I returned home ten hours later. I smelled of blood. My hands ached. My back ached, my spine had an ache deep in the heart of it. How much longer could I do this awful work? I am not a young man anymore. The roads proved an icy nightmare and I had slid about to and fro from work. My apartment smells of fried potatoes. I had made myself an entire panful Christmas Eve, with onions and some of that mail cheese. My tiny fake tree sits in the far corner of my living room. The picture of my mother watches me from the wall.
The mouse had curled itself up in a corner of that box. The water looked lower and the cracker had been nibbled. It goes very still, its respiration very swift. The leg looks mangled and torn, twisted strangely, both gnawed and broken, perhaps. Had I expected it to be magically healed by the application of peroxide? Maybe some antibiotic cream. I had some. It could be smeared on with a cotton swab. More peroxide to keep the leg from getting infected. Why are you doing this, something in me had to ask. Because it’s the right thing to do, I answered back.
I doctor that leg as best I can, trying to be gentle. Me, a big, rambling bear of a man, trying to be gentle with a tiny morsel of life. A foaming, the peroxide biting deep. Then I attempt to get some antibiotic ointment on that leg as the mouse clearly wishes I’d just go away and leave it alone. Why does it seem the mouse is letting me help it, though? The tiny black eyes blink carefully, the ears swivel, the little whiskers move and shiver. I try not to move or handle that leg, that tiny tiny leg.
I take a shower and wash off the day’s horrors from me. The endless coming of dead bodies to be chopped and sawed and pried apart. I have never had another job. I know of no other way to earn enough to pay my rent and pay my bills. I was never good in school and have no real talents. I cannot sing or draw. I am not that good with numbers. I can wield a bone saw and I can carve up a steer and I can cook eggs. My list of accomplishments is very small. I developed a drinking problem but I gave it up three years ago, when I hit my fiftieth birthday. Being a fifty year old drunk did not appeal to me. My last steady girl seems ages ago. Claire, who had a tattoo of a heart right above her heart. She moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming, to be closer to her sister who had leukemia. She stopped calling me, and I don’t know if her sister survived or not.
I change the toilet paper. I get the mouse another cracker and a bit of banana. Do mice eat bananas?
If I need the internet and I never do, I go to the local library. I have a cell phone but hardly anyone but work calls me. I need something like an old-fashioned set of encyclopedias. What do mice eat? I don’t know. I wonder if any vets are working today. I have no numbers to call. It’s not like the old days, when you had a phone book. I miss phone books. I am rather behind on technology and all that. I miss phone books.
I go to bed early, after another check on my little hurt guest. I also spring all my traps. I find a dead mouse in one and the stiff body seems an actual mocking of my attempts to save the mouse I placed in that tiny box. I take the dead out to the garbage bin everyone uses. We pile our garbage bags and refuse inside and the garbage men arrive once a week to collect it, for which we all pay a small collective fee. The wind kicks up, more snow arriving. I sleep and have my usual dreams of imagining I am part of some giant family and it’s summer. It’s always summer in my dreams. That warm, gentle light of summer.
The mouse has survived the night.
It drags itself into the little cave it made in the toilet paper. I doctor the leg again, being ever so careful. I change the toilet paper. Maybe that stuff they use in teddy bears? What is that called? I eat scrambled eggs, with a bit of the extra fancy smoked gouda sprinkled on it, drink my black coffee and feel something like peace. I hear little movements from that box today. I even hear that cracker being munched a bit. There are no other sounds except the usual creaks of my apartment, the rising and falling whine of the wind full of snow and sleet, and the nibbling of that hurt mouse. Todd has a dog. He would have a vet’s number. I have the swing shift today.
“Todd? Yeah, it’s John. Hey, weird question. Do you have a vet?”
“Hey, John. Merry Christmas, you sumbitch. A what?”
“A vet. Thanks. Merry Christmas,” I say back, my face hot. Was I asking about a vet for a mouse? Was I?
“You need a vet? Uh…yeah. We go to the vet clinic.” Todd rattles off a number and I hastily recorded it on the back of my electric bill. “You get a dog?”
“No. I found a…a wild animal and maybe the vet can help.”
“Just kill it. It’s probably suffering.” Todd offers.
“Yeah.” We exchange some words, mostly him speaking of how dry the turkey was. He loves wet turkey. Dripping with turkey juice and butter. I hate turkey so I mostly ignore the turkey grumbling.
A woman’s bright, sweet voice answers when I try that number. I explain my problem. “A mouse, you said? A wild mouse? Um, well, you can bring it in, of course. But maybe you should try a wildlife rescue. Just a long shot. They take in injured wildlife, after all.”
I had not thought of that. “Thank you. The back leg is crunched or something. It let me pick it up and I have it in a box.”
“Like I said, we can take a look at it, sir. But I’d suggest a wildlife place. I have a number if you want to try them. There’s one nearby. They’re small but they might be able to do something.”
“Okay. Thanks.” I take the number and end the call. I check in the box, the mouse peers back at me, from its cave, before carefully trying to hide itself completely from me. I call the wildlife place and it goes to message. To the vet, then.
My sweet-voiced angel turns out to be a giant, ugly woman with grizzled fake red hair and the loveliest smile. She looks into the box and then nods at me. A man sits on one of the old worn yellow chairs, with a cocker spaniel held on his lap. “It’ll be a bit, We have a cat with a broken leg to see to and then Mr. Thorndyce here and Bandit. You tried the wildlife place?” Her nametag spells out Juli. The air stinks of sharp, bitter medicine and cinnamon air spray. Pictures of animals hang on the walls. A poster about the care of a new puppy. A bulletin board for community animal needs and wants and people looking for lost dogs or cats or people trying to give away unwanted this or that.
“Yes, I did. I just got an answering machine. I’ll try them again.” I catch a glimpse of a big shaggy black dog being led to a cage, wearing a cast on a front leg. It tries to lick the person trying to get it into the cage. The person pets it, bends low to say something to the wiggling friendly dog and then puts the dog behind bars to await the owner coming to pick it up.
“They’re probably busy doing rounds. Feeding, cleaning, you know. Yeah, try again. Dr. Calvin will take a looksee. Oh yeah…look at that leg. Poor thing. Just have a seat.” She smiles that lovely smile, her teeth yellow and homely. Juli probably had kids at home and lots of dogs, that was the impression I got from her. Those ugly farm women types someone marries because they probably got her pregnant. She even wears a red and green sweater beneath her white coat.
Bandit, the spaniel, squirms and then hops down and emits a giant pile of diarrhea. Juli gets the cleaning supplies out, after taking the pair back behind the swinging doors. “I’m sorry, he musta got into somethin’,” the man says. Don’t you worry, Juli is overheard saying. She comes back out, gives me an apologetic smile, then cleans up the mess as a young mother, holding a tiny child to her hip, comes in leading a German Shepherd, with its back leg dangling.
“He was like this this morning,” the young mother says, in tears. “I think he got hit by a car!”
So, it takes a while for Dr. Calvin to peer into the box at the thoroughly confused mouse. “Well, I can try to clean it and bandage it a bit, that’s about all I can do. You sure you want a bill for a wild mouse?”
“Yeah, I do. He lived through the night. I been putting peroxide on it and some antibiotic stuff. He’s been drinking water and took some cracker. I…I have to try, right?”
The vet, an older woman with short crisp iron gray hair and steel-blue eyes behind smeary glasses, takes a long look at me then nods. Clearly, she’s seen other nuts bringing in boxes of broken little lives and hoping for miracles or whatever is hoped for. Is a vet not in the business of miracles? Perhaps I am nuts. Perhaps I am.
I take the mouse home, over fifty dollars poorer. I got charged an office visit, basically. But that mangled leg is now encased in soft white bandaging with the warning that the mouse will probably chew that off almost immediately. I was also given a sample size of antibiotic cream meant for animals. It won’t sting, the vet assured me. She also looked up, on her computer, what mice could eat. I went to the local pet store to get some mouse pellets and also, while there, bought a small habitat, as it was called. I got a waterer, rather like the one that had watered long-dead Ralph. There’s after-Christmas sales galore but I only had my temporary guest to see to, not some coddled pup or arrogant, fluffy cat. I walk by cages of small rodents. Mice, even. Hamsters and gerbils and a rabbit or two. Fish. A wall of fish, waiting to go home and die and be flushed down a toilet. Or perhaps live for years in some quiet aquarium. I watch two angel fish float in their watery domain, black and white creatures from other worlds I will never know. Goggle-eyed goldfish and darting schools of minnows. Those beautiful betas in their small sad cups. The limp fins moving now and then, deep reds to navy blues to royal purples. I pay for my mouse supplies and head home on treacherous roads, but I am used to such conditions. The wind rocks my small truck about, but I am in four-wheel drive, which is a necessity on the plains.
I transfer Mouse to his new house and then smile over my rhyming. I bought bedding material, wood shavings with no smell. I set up the waterer. I put the habitat next to my heating duct so Mouse stays warm. I go off to my afternoon shift and come home late at night. I check on my patient who is still alive. The water seems a bit lower, the mouse seems a bit more lively and there are mouse food pellets scattered about as if the mouse has been sampling them. There are even tiny mouse droppings. Happiness. Happiness over a dime a dozen rodent still alive in its twenty five dollar and then some mouse mansion. But. I have no kids. I don’t go out that much, if ever. I don’t even drink anymore. What’s a bit of a splurge on a damn hurt mouse anyway? My mother’s flat eyes watch me and cannot tell me if I am doing right or being a foolish aging man.
I tell no one of my house guest. I cannot think of that wild thing as a pet; it’s not a pet. It never warms to me. I never try to pick it up. I only handle it to apply that cream to its healing leg. That leg gets dragged behind it as it scuttles about. I notice the mouse licking at it. The bandages indeed gnawed off, as the vet predicted. But it licks that leg. Rather like a dog would do. I notice the mouse has made itself a small nest in the very back corner of the habitat, as if to hide from me as much as possible. I respect that. It has no wish to deal with me. Very well.
I will see this through, no matter what happens. If the mouse heals, I will let it go. If it dies, I will throw away the little body, wrapped in toilet paper as a sort of shroud. I might even look into getting a dog or perhaps a cat, since I am gone so many hours for my job. Perhaps I am a bit lonelier than I knew. I doze on my couch and the mouse moves about in the plastic mansion. The snow comes down outside, in the days after Christmas.