31 Things In 31 Days: Day Two

Pets aren’t family members.

Snooky is a dog. Snooky is my pet. Snooky wasn’t there when I was learning to walk, or ride my bike. Snooky didn’t teach me how to read, or sneak me a half cup of spiked eggnog behind the couch when my mom wasn’t looking. Snooky wasn’t even born until I was well beyond puberty.

But Snooky also doesn’t give a shit about money, or houses, or suntans, or whether or not we remembered to bring home 1% milk instead of 2% milk from the store because the 2% tastes cheesy.

Snooky wasn’t there when I was in the hospital.

Snooky didn’t show up till after. When I was finally discharged, and my mother and my sister fought about who had to drive me home while I sat there in the wheelchair, one fingernail digging dirt that wasn’t really there out from under another fingernail, contemplating pretending I was in a drug-sleep again so that maybe they’d stop pretending they thought I couldn’t hear them and we could just get out of there because dammit the fluorescent lights hurt my eyes. When my mother had hugged me and wished me a safe trip home (because she’d used the ultimate maternal argument-bomb of “I gave BIRTH to you both…”) and hurried out the rotating glass doors, leaving my sister to nearly dump me out of my chair before she figured out how to kick free the brake and push me out to the car. When she got me back to my apartment and stood there on the sidewalk staring at the half-flight of stairs down to my basement apartment and muttered something about how I should get the super to put in a ramp or something, and fell on her ass under the chair in the process of wrestling me down them and don’t think for a moment I didn’t hear her cursing as she stomped back up, then down again to dump my purse in my lap, leaving me to fumble out my keys and lurch through the doorway myself.

When something else lurched, in the darkness, scraping against the cheap linoleum floors. Snooky showed up then, bolting in through the open door out of nowhere, barking and snarling and snapping. I was muzzy and muddled, trying to get my chair turned around, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t enough light coming in the open doorway to let me see the body that fell to the floor, one tendon shredded off the back of the ankle. I would have been able to see if it was bleeding, but it wasn’t. It reached out, exhaling, and grabbed the edge of the doorway to pull itself forward and out onto the cement landing, leaving nothing in its wake but a weird slaughterhouse stench and Snooky, little white ball of dirty barking fluff, barking like she thought she was an Irish Wolfhound protecting her ancient home. Damn little thing got her paw up on the door, her weight enough to push it closed but slowly, as I watched the figure roll on its side, remnant of a face leering.

The door clicked gently shut. A moment later there was the sound of footsteps, followed by a thud, and screaming. My sister, I knew that scream. It usually sounded angrier.

I waited until Snooky stopped growling at the door before rolling close enough to try to open it; it was nearly night, but I could see my luggage. Duffle bag, really. I could see the dark pool that looked like it had waterfalled down the steps. I saw Snooky, darting out to sink her teeth into the bag and dragging it, ruffing muffledly through the fabric, into the apartment.

Snooky’s always here, now. Growls at the door sometimes, or leaps into my lap when we hear steps and screams. Sometimes I open the window, and Snooky darts out, coming back with a bagged loaf of bread that hasn’t yet gone over thanks to preservatives, or a can with a missing label. One day Snooky spent the whole time dragging back scrap wood, and then a packet of nails that must have come from one of the buildings that had been starting to get renovated before I went in the hospital.

We keep to ourselves, Snooky and me.

~~~~~

This was written as part of the 31 Things In 31 Days project, being run on the page of the same name on Google+. For more information or to participate, go there.

Day Two’s prompt:

31 Things In 31 Days: Day One

“That’s it?”

“This is it.”

I frowned doubtfully, looking down at the little plant she pinched tenderly in the fingers of both hands, held gently before her midsection in a way that made me think of a bride, though I couldn’t think of a bride I’d ever seen so blithely calm with what was before her, or with such poorly kept nailpolish, the red chipped and in some spots clearly deliberately scraped away. It was… well, a dandelion, really. Small, simple, a burst of yellow ragged-edged petals atop a thin, tough green stem.

“It’s not what you were expecting?” she prodded gently, and I could hear the muted runnel of laughter under her words, her amusement mostly suppressed for my benefit, though not entirely.

“Of course it’s not!” I declared throwing my hands up for a moment in agitation. “I mean, LOOK at it – it’s just a flower!”

“It only looks and feels and smells and sounds and tastes like a flower-”

“Tastes?”

“…yes, tastes, but don’t interrupt me like that. It’s rude.”

“I’ve always thought dandelions would taste like crap.”

“Why? People make salads and wine from dandelions.”

“That doesn’t mean it tastes good.”

“People don’t usually make habits of eating things that don’t taste good.”

“Are you kidding me? Of course they do! Caviar. Kimchee. Chain coffee.”

“Fair enough. But dandelions don’t taste like crap. Well, not entirely, the stems are pretty gross. But we’re getting off the subject.”

“Sorry. It’s just… I was expecting something bigger. Something more. Something not so thing-I-always-try-to-uproot-from-the-front-lawn.”

“That’s sort of the point. It isn’t ever going to be what you’re expecting, entirely. That’s what makes it fun. Now there’s the old one, just next to your foot. You nearly trod on it, actually.”

“Oh shit!”

She didn’t bother to hide her peal of laughter as I backpedaled away from it so fast I nearly fell on my ass.

“It’s more resilient than you think, chill out. Just be ready, because it’s almost time. Do you hear them?”

“I can,” and I could distantly, countless voices counting backwards in a hundred languages, and I knelt next to the white puffball she’d pointed out, while she crouched with the flower.

“Why a dandelion? Why that flower specifically?”

The chanting dropped into the single digits, and I hunched with pursed lips while she drove a finger into the dirt, and began to settle the new flower in while I exhaled the stream of tufted seeds into the air, and she murmured, “It just seems right, for a new year; it looks like their sun.”

The last few seeds floated up and away into the air, while she patted the dirt into place around the flower’s stem and roots. “Anyway, next year it will be your turn; you can certainly choose something else, if you want.” She lay her head upon the dirt, and began to crumble into it, form becoming dark, rich loam to feed the coming days, and I nodded, watching one seed drifting down to settle into it near the flower.

“Next year is mine, this year was yours.” I ran my fingers through my hair as I stood, and looked thoughtfully at the nails. A bit of polish wouldn’t look half bad. Maybe it might even make it through the year intact.

~~~~~

This was written as part of the 31 Things In 31 Days project, being run on the page of the same name on Google+. For more information or to participate, go there.

Day One’s prompt:

Aside

Hollow Way of Living

Prison-caught,
lashing out, anger-hot,
the shape of it is wrong.
Too much width between the walls
The ceiling low
Call the contractor – not as expected!
No sympathy to screaming.
“No better than you deserve,”
No one ever said exactly
     except with the looks
     derision-drenched pity
     if even noticed at all.
Nothing can be done.

Prison walls spread but never give
before the beating on their insides.
The shape of it is wrong.
The prisoner does not fit.
The letters, they do nothing.
No amount of time in the exercise yard
can stretch the supports
or raise the rafters.
Sometimes it only gives the walls time
     to slide
     too slow
     to where they had been.
The sentence stumbles on.

Screams of defiance fade
but hope, mad hope never fades.
The shape of it is wrong,
and one day there will be a prison break.
They will weep over the crumpled flesh,
pale, insensate, voluminous.
The prison will be broken.
The prison will be abandoned.
The shape of it was wrong,
and she was never meant
     to be
     too short
     too heavy
to fly.

~~~

Prompt words provided by +C. Corey Fiskprison / insensate / fades / nothing / flesh

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Because it’s the Right Things to do

Yesterday I was Panera for my morning writing session. I walked in and there was one woman at the counter. As I stood behind her, it quickly became apparent that the card she’d handed over to pay wasn’t working, nor was the second card working. I’ve seen that happen, having worked in retail; I have had it happen as a customer, usually when there’s a line of people behind me.

Stepping in closer, I leaned in behind her and said, “I’m going to buy you breakfast.”

She was raw, unvarnished shocked when she looked at me, her dark eyes all wide. Her mouth was open, and she was silent before she said, the essence of eloquence, “…what?”

“I’m going to buy you breakfast! I’ve had that happen to me and it’s always embarrassing because you KNOW you have the money there-”

“It happens all the time, the machines are weird,” chimed in the girl behind the counter.

“Right! And it’s a pain. So I’ll buy you breakfast.”

“Oh no, no no, you can’t! Really, I’ll just go to the ATM. But thank you, that was really nice of you!” She hugged me, grinning by now, and I hugged her back. “Nobody does that any more, thank you!”

“I do that,” I said, smiling a litte wryly. “I guess I’m a bit weird.”

She laughed, and off she went in search of the nearest ATM. I ordered a coffee and a bacon-egg-and-cheese-on-cheddar-and-jalapeno-bagel. It was delicious.

BlissFacts – Disagree With Me

I don’t get terribly easily offended.

I’m shockingly okay with people disagreeing with me on the internet. I like to talk about things when people disagree with me and vice versa. Sometimes I learn things. Sometimes they learn things. Sometimes I change my mind/opinion. Sometimes I don’t.

I just want you guys to know that I don’t expect you all to think the same as I do about everything. I don’t expect us to share all the same opinions. I actually have quite a few people circled whose active posts are their opinion on things which are in direct opposition to my own opinion – and I don’t block them or decircle them because we don’t agree. I read what they have to say.

I learn. I consider.

Sometimes I change my mind.
Sometimes I don’t.

But someone having a different opinion than my own is not a reason for me to get mad.
Someone looking at something differently than me is not inherently offensive.

I don’t get easily offended. I have sometimes ended up becoming friends with people attempting to troll me.

I am okay with you voicing your own non-agreeing opinion in response to my posts. I especially like if you do so respectfully, because just as I assume that people who disagree aren’t doing so with the intention of offending me, please know that my expressing of an opinion different than your own is not an attempt to offend you. What I write is a function of my life, my education, my personal context, my privilege.

I don’t get easily offended.
I welcome folks who will respectfully disagree with me.
I don’t try to offend people.
I will try to learn from you.
Sometimes I will change my mind.
Sometimes I won’t.

But that doesn’t mean that we need to fight about it.

We’re different – and that’s okay with me.

A matter of Great Loss

Yesterday was American Thanksgiving. I spent it in the company of a few of my many loved ones. I ate a lot of really tasty food, including sweet potato with marshmallow which my sons are calling Marshmallow Lasagna. I indulged in much win, and sipped cranberry liqueur. I ate apple pie and chocolate pie squished together and topped with whipped cream. I made a mocha with whipped cream.

Naturally I expected a bit of a jump in the scale this morning. In my wildest dreams it remained constant. What I did not expect, natch, is what happened – it dropped.

For the first time in five years, I am below 190.

Despite how much impact it has had on my self esteem, you probably won’t see me post about my weight much. There is far too much focus in my culture on weight and appearance, tying it to our worth as a person. I refuse to consciously contribute to that kind of superficial judgement.

Weight matters to me for health reasons, though. I take after the male line of my father’s side of the family. His father had a heart attack at 40, adult diabetes, and other health concerns. My father has diabetes. My maternal grandmother has diabetes.

I don’t feel that I’m sitting on a medical time bomb, but the hereditary factors are clearly there. Even at my highest weight my cholesterol has been great, but I had a brush with gestational diabetes while pregnant with my first son. Weight is acknowledged as a contributing factor to diabetes. So when you see me posting about this kind of thing, I want it to be clear that this is something that matters for my ongoing quality of life.

I have, without consciously trying to, lost thirty pounds since this time last year.

This morning I am somewhat puzzled – but greatly pleased.

Living On The Edge

Note: This post dates from 11/22, was lost (or so I thought) in a frustrating glitch, and has just been recovered from Drafts. Enjoy!)

The frost has come well and truly to Blisstopia.

The width of melting point

The yard, still trying for greenery, is rimed with frost. Ice fae painted the car windows and danced upon the leaves. Stepping out of doors, the bare skin crawls under the cold, causing one to hunch, to try to cover more with the suddenly insufficient coat.

The car sputters, grinds, coming to hesitant life only after a few tries, and fingers that clutch the scraper to clear the windscreen scream for a hot cup around which to wrap. The smell of winter, damply crisp and heavy with the promise of snow, winnows into the nostrils, a taunt of what is to come.

But the sun creeps across the lawn, easing away the time to restore the greenery, beckoning to be played upon even just once more. The car warms, an oasis of heat with steaming hood.

And a warm cup is soon to be had.

When We Die

My younger son, who is four and a half, piped up on the way home from dropping off his brother at school:

“When people die, mom, they leave their house behind! And they leave their blood behind, and the pipes their blood flows through too.”

“They do? And then what happens to them?”

“Their body gets digged way down, and their blood gets digged way down, and their bones get digged way down and buried.”

“That’s what happens to the body? What happens to what made them a person?”

“They hear a big *boom*!!! And they die. And their body gets buried, and they vibrate. Then they go into a story.”

“So when someone dies they leave their body behind, and vibrate, and become a story?”

“Yes mom. That is what happens when you die.”

“Thank you, sweetie.”

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My First Time (tasting coffee)

I like coffee.

I like it a lot. I remember the first time I had coffee. I was only 7 or 8, and my dad gave me some money from the till and sent me to the little convenience store nearby (crossing two busy streets and rounding a corner, but less than 40 yards away) to get his coffee. One coffee, milk, no sugar. The girl behind the counter was used to me or my siblings showing up for my parents’ coffee by now, but I always felt the need to specify it was for my dad, not for me.

Coffee was a grownup drink. Coffee was mystical; it smelled of wet earth when it brewed, and like some Druidic potion it’s faint acidity would call my parents to rise from the bed. I was a hero in high school because the hour required I rise before them, and I would brew for them. The pot of clean water into the machine, gurgling. The crinkle of the filter, the shhhh of scooped grinds sliding across each other into it, in a nearly peaked pile. The gargling sound and puff of steam as water hit the heater, and the patter like a tiny morning rain of the first drops trickling into the glass carafe.

But that was years later. My first time, I was seven.

I had taken the money and looked both ways until I could cross Country Way, walking past the tire shop, the travel agency, the small local bank on the corner where I had my passbook savings account at the time. Then I crossed the bigger road, large enough to have a turn lane. I ran across it, stuttering back to walking when I hit the sidewalk on the other side. Superstitious, I stepped over the disused and mostly buried rails of the railroad (which got rebuilt and is now in service as a commuter line into the city) because what if some errant bit of electricity found me to complete a current if I stepped on it? I followed the sidewalk around the corner of the building and stepped up into the store. I got the coffee, and I headed back. I held that white styrofoam cup like a chalice, in two hands before me, and the steam seeping out as it softly sloshed. I walked with care, not wanting to spill. The lights were in my favor until I was about four steps into the road, and it seemed simpler to dash forward than to turn around with the cup of coffee in my hands.

I ran, and as I did the coffee slopped and sloshed; some spilled out the top, most catching in the rim but a little falling upon my naked hands. The first pain sacrifice of an angry god, and I was sniffling when I gained the sidewalk in front of the bank. I licked my wound quite literally and then examined the spill trapped atop the flimsy lid. It had to go or risk another burn, but I couldn’t pour it off.

Feeling a thief, an interloper, an infidel partaking of some great holy rite forbade to the uninitiated, I slurped it.

It was still hot, singed my tongue, and I felt that pain more than tastes what I drank, but the flavor lingered as I finished my walk back to put coffee on the counter and the change in the till. The magic words, Milk No Sugar, became mine that day, and while it was many years before I performed the ritual myself, it stays with me still.

 

Nightmare Fuel: Day 21

Last night I had that dream again. I have had it nearly every night for so many nights now, and I do not know why it keeps happening.

In this dream, I am walking through the garden, and I come upon the apple tree, and it is heavy with fruit. The apples are red and rich and sway faintly in the breeze, and I draw close and they are so pretty that I reach out to touch one.

When I do, the skin of the fruit splits beneath my fingertips, peeling open to reveal not the flesh of the fruit, but a fanged and toothy mouth with a long tongue that laps a taste of my finger before I can pull my hand away. It has the taste of me then, and begins to shudder and shake upon its branch until its stem snaps free, and it throws itself toward me. I turn to run but I cannot, and the fangs sink into me; different places each night, and last night it was the upper curve of my calf.

It bites deep, and it hurts. I cry out, and I fall, and it releases, only to land upon my waist, biting a deep chunk from my side. I cannot even roll away as it bites again and again – my buttock, my shoulder, my cheek, my breast, my thighs, my thumb, my ankle, my spine. Biting away at me bit by bit and piece by piece until all that is left of me is pain and tears, and only then do I wake.

This morning I told Adam of the dream, and he hugged me and told me it was nothing. Even so, today I will go to the Tree. Just to be sure.

~~~

This piece of Nightmare Fuel was inspired by this picture, by Burning Shark of DeviantArt.

For more info on the Nightmare Fuel project, click here.