Thursday, August 27, 2009

The New Feline

Our new cat, Koi, is a yowler. He's getting a little pot-bellied already, at about 4 months, because we tend to feed him just to shut him up. That of course will have to change--at some point, anyway. He's also a wanderer of beds at 1:00, 3:00 or 5:00 in the morning. I've been somewhat sleep-deprived for at least two months now, both because of the heat and because of Koi's nocturnal nomadic ways. For a time he was generally sleeping shut in with Andrea, but at 5:00 or earlier starting his yowling at the door, whereon my somnambulistic daughter would stumble out of bed and let him out for me and her mother to deal with.

Anyway, at last he's slowly getting used to spending time in the garage, where the other cats have been spending their nights for years now. Pino, the male going on seven years, and Jolie, the female of 3-4 years, both hiss and slap at him, but that's mainly because Koi makes a valiant little pest of himself and thinks he can take them both on--size and age no issue.

Koi is white with sandy-gray patches. The fascinating thing about his markings is that some of the patches have stripes running through them, as if it were one of those mock-up building facades where a fake crack is painted--usually on stucco--with brick showing through. I've never seen the like of this, and in fact it was those unique markings that drew me to Koi in the first place. So, we have our third cat. He'll never replace Niza (whom I eulogized in an earlier entry here), but he fills his own niche, I guess.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Back to status quo

Another day, another dollar. Another chance to live in squalor. Sorry--I was born sarcastic.

This work-week will be a short one, since I had both Monday and Tuesday off for my inscrutable purposes. The Fourth of July parade is a thing of the past, and was such an abysmally shameless panorama of propaganda that if Idaho Falls is really a self-respecting town it should consider cracking down on that aspect. Too bad I live on the parade route, and if I'm at home I will have to deal with the rampant degradation every year.

In other news, the basement finishing is slowly going forward, though the chaos remains. Good thing no one lives there now (our temporary renter having flown the coop in mid-June). I'm keeping up with the weeds and watering to some degree. The rainy spell appears to have past, and the smothering heat of a standard southeast Idaho July to have settled in, good and hard. I'll have to start getting up earlier to accomplish my home improvement/yardwork projects.

More later.

Crabface (Short story from a couple of years ago)

Good Morning, Crabface:
A Story of Love and Consequence

In the aftermath of breakfast, Crabface stared dreamily out the kitchen window. It was a cloudy day, and her faint reflection stared back at her—blond-haired, dark-eyed and not really living up to the implications of her name. In other words, she didn’t have the visage of a pincered crustacean, no matter what her husband might say. But she might as well pretend she did. Maybe it would be easier.
Crabface sighed. Her arms, up to the elbows in sudsy, lukewarm water, had not moved in the past seven minutes. She supposed she should be following through with her domestic duties—the dishes, then the kitchen floor, then the bedroom. But, although after three weeks she was reconciled to the sentence passed down by her lord and master, the weight of it had worn her down a little. She stared some more.
The phone jangled. Lackadaisically drying her hands, she caught up the receiver. “Hello. Crabface speaking.”
“Julie!” came the scandalized, ultra-familiar voice. “Stop that! I think you’ve done enough penance by now.”
“Mother,” she said patiently, “I’m sorry, but the name is still Crabface. Ben thinks we should make it a full month before we go back to normal, so that the message will really sink in.”
“Ben, Shmen. He should go soak his head in soy milk—it might smarten him up.”
“Oh, Mom. Just let me deal with this in my own way, all right? After all, I am the one who wrecked the car.”
“Julie, I just don’t know about you.”
“Sometimes I don’t know about me either, Mom. But I’ve just been inspired. Maybe by washing the dishes, I don’t know. I have a feeling that it’s all going to be just fine.”
“Stop being such a cross-eyed optimist.”
“Mom, I think the song says ‘cockeyed’—“
“It doesn’t matter. Just wake up and smell the . . . the dishwater, for heaven’s sake. Your Ben is an arrogant son of a polliwog.”
“Oh, he just needs a little educating, Mom. My time will come.”
Having hung up, Crabface reflected on the conversation and wondered if she wasn’t being overly optimistic. She and Ben had just come back from their long-awaited South American vacation, and she had landed a much-needed teaching position, and everything had seemed the next step up from hunky-dory—until a little miscalculation in the Riteway parking lot on her part changed not only the complexion of her little world but her name as well. Two and a half more weeks. Just two and a half more weeks as Crabface. Somehow the thought failed to comfort her.

That afternoon, Crabface went out for a light luncheon with her friend Bibi. They ran into Bibi’s friend Allison, and Crabface duly introduced herself.
Allison stared. Of course. “What was that again?” she asked.
Crabface repeated it.
Snorting, Bibi jumped in and clarified, “Her name is really Julie, but her husband’s being a real twit since she crashed their car.”
“We have an agreement,” said Crabface. “I get to be known by Crabface for a full month, because I did a pretty good number on his Porsche. But if—and he thinks it’s a really remote ‘if’—if he damages something that I value as much as he did the car, the shoe is on the other foot. Then I get to think up a name for him. Of course, he’s very smug about it all. But we’ll see.”
Allison looked dubious. “Hm. Well, I wish you the best.”
“On to more uplifting topics,” Bibi said. “Julie, why don’t you show Ally your wonderful new acquisition?”
Crabface said steadfastly, “Who’s Julie?”
“Oh, knock it off,” Bibi fumed. “He’s your husband, not your lord and master.”
“But I’m a purist,” Crabface explained. “I have to adhere to our agreement and introduce myself that way to everyone, or I won’t feel as triumphant when I get to turn the tables.”
“All right, then. Crabface, why don’t you show my friend Allison your thing of beauty, which, being as crabbishly deformed as you are, looks all the more beautiful when shown by you?”
Crabface reached in her purse and unfolded an exquisite white confection. It was in the form of a flattened flower, with intricately tatted designs that looked like flower-children taking refuge within the petals of the flower-mother. It was large enough to use as a tablecloth for a medium-sized table.
“Ah,” said Allison. “That is beautiful. Where did you get it?”
“Paraguay, in South America. Ben and I were there just the week before last. It’s called nanduti lace—that translates to ‘spiderweb,’ or so I was told. But what a lovely, lovely spiderweb.”
There was much oohing and ahhing from Allison until the lunch order arrived. Just as Crabface was about to put the lace away, however, Allison pointed out, “Oh, but there’s a little stain on it. There on the side.”
“I know,” said Crabface. “I got it at a better price because of that. I’m confident of my abilities to get the mark out, since you’re looking at the Laundress Extraordinaire, but I haven’t had much time lately.”

“Good morning, Crabface,” said Ben. He kissed her just under the left eyestalk.
“Hello, dear,” she said. “Off to work so soon?” He was spit-polished and bushy-tailed.
“Even so,” he beamed. “It’s great to be the boss’s pet.”
“Go get ‘em,” she said. “Here’s an apple and a yogurt.”
When he was gone, she stared into space for a while. She started her new job next week. How could she introduce herself as “Crabface” to the students? Actually, she would be “Mrs. Rundle?,” wouldn’t she? Problem solved. Until she started dealing extensively with the faculty. Maybe it was one of those formal-style schools where everyone called one another ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.” It certainly hadn’t seemed such, though, back when she’d had her interview with Principal Gooding, who had invited her to call him “Foozle” because most people did. Of course, Crabface was only a notch or two beneath Foozle in lack of dignity, so maybe she’d survive the month . . .
Today, meanwhile, she had her precious nanduti lace to occupy her attention. She would take that stain out, and it would look wonderful on the living room coffee table.

Ben Rundle came home early, whistling. “I have a special meeting with the boss,” he announced.
“Good for you,” she returned. “When will you be back for dinner?”
“Around seven. Meanwhile, I have a few details that need looking after. Can you do a little laundry for me? My two white shirts are dirty.”
“Not right now. I have to run to the dry cleaner’s and pick up your suit, remember? I’ll try to wash later. In the meantime, don’t touch that washing machine. Okay?”
He turned his attention to the day’s mail, whistling the next bar of his happy tune.

Crabface returned from the dry cleaner’s—and walked straight into a triumph. Ben was standing in the kitchen, looking absolutely aghast. “Uhhhhhhh . . .” he said, clear as usual in his communication.
“What?” she asked.
“Uhhhh . . . your Paraguay lace, Julie.” He held up a bedraggled looking piece of what couldn’t possibly once have been someone’s exquisite tatting. “I figured I’d get a jump on things and wash my own shirts. You had this in the machine, and it was white . . . I thought it wouldn’t matter if I changed the settings just a little.”
“You ruined my nanduti lace,” Crabface said very carefully. “It was only soaking in the washer, Ben. And it might be just a few threads to you, but to me it is—was—a gem of perfection. I may never own anything that magnificent again.”
The significance slowly sank into his expression. His complexion actually paled.

Late that afternoon, they went into Masterson’s department store to set up a credit account. The clerk was a balding redhead with smooth-as-silk manners and only a slight lisp. “How may I thurve you?” he asked.
Well into the process, the clerk asked if it would be a joint account.
“Yes,” said Julie Rundle. “This is my husband.”
“Your name, Thir?”
“Uhhhhhh . . .” He cast an agonized look across at her. “Uhhhh . . . Buzzard-breath. My name is Buzzard-breath.”

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Correction to my original post:

I've been married seven years, not five. The mistake probably lies in the fact that for roughly the first two years of our marriage, my wife and I lived in separate countries. I was in Idaho, she in Peru, both awaiting the slow and ponderous turning of the government cogs that would churn out the magic papers allowing her to come here and take up residence with me. Our seventh anniversary just passed, in fact. Congratulate me.

Well, this week, thus far, has been a little nightmarish. Life in a government office: Fluorescent lights and crackling keyboards; a Babel of voices spewing governmentese; an endless march of claims, attached to faces, attached to names . . . thirteen years now, and it's getting old. But at least I have a job.

One day, I'll land a writing contract. My Stryorr, or my Feymarryn, or my Surraphoi will take off and soar. For now . . . may I endure.


Friday, June 26, 2009

For my six-year-old cat, who died October of 2008

My darling Niza,

I loved you
Love you—
Will love you:
That gray-sand nimbus that was your fur,
Those green-gold jewels that were your eyes,
Your irritating habit of staying up past your bedtime,
Your fence-walking ways,
Your nuzzling affection,
And your squirrel-fighting valor
Heretofore unknown among your kind.
I remember those moments
Atop the trampoline,
You nestled on my chest,
Content to stay all night,
Me content for a little while,
But waiting for the pounce
That would allow me
To safely tuck you away
In your garage-palace.
If anyone were to tell me
That you had no spirit,
And that I would never see you again,
My first inclination would be
To lay them out flat.
But on second thought,
I would simply pity them as fools,
Because if I have ever known anything,
I know that cats have spirits
And an Afterlife
As much any human being does.
So, yes, we’ll meet again.
Meanwhile, I miss you in my patio
And I’ll be looking forward to the day . . .

Teaser from an eventual novel, intended to be a sequel of sorts to "Disciples of the Wind"

Outlaw’s Cross
Chapter 1: The Hunted

He rode up into the foothills of the San Juan Range, north from southwest. His queer green eyes were those of a panther—vigilant to the point of obsession. But then, as a panther harried by a neverending succession of hunting-hounds, he would have been a fool to let his alertness lapse.
His right arm hung in a sling, one that was encrusted with the crumbling Indian-red plaster of old blood. Even after three weeks and the care of a woman who professed to hate him, the deep wounds he had taken broke open periodically under his new exertions. Infinite miles behind lay the deaths he had caused, the savage swath he had cut across the Nevada rangeland—and the grave of the man he had considered his one true friend.

Hearing the faintest whisper of sound, the rider wheeled his night-black stallion, the well-oiled Peacemaker arcing up in his left hand.

Topaz eyes watched from an embankment a dozen yards off. They belonged to a rangy, winter-shaggy wolf, and peered out of a ragged-edged umber mask which set off nicely the animal’s ash-gray pelt. The wolf continued its scrutiny, wary but unfearful. It was a male, and from its size, its stance and the condition of its coat, it was in the very prime of life.
The man met that calculating, warm-and-cold gaze, considering. There was still a bounty on wolves. He could use the money, most certainly . . .

They remained like that for some minutes, in mutual contemplation, as the high-country wind rippled the man’s neckerchief, the wolf’s neck-fur. The rider even went as far as to ease back the hammer of the Peacemaker. The faintest click sounded, and the wolf stirred almost imperceptibly.
No, the rider decided. It wasn’t in him to bring down this beast for a handful of blood-stained coin. From one predator to another, the message finally passed: Let life stand, for whatever life was worth.

No doubt it was worth a lot more to the wolf, the man decided, holstering his pistol. What little he had left hardly seemed to justify the expenditure of effort in getting to his feet every morning.

(Note: This will be the story of villain-turned-protagonist Sandoval (San) Cobra, who was the near mythic rival of Jake and Jason West in "Disciples of the Wind" and "Reapers of the Wind," both written by my brother Kirby and me.)

My life view encapsulated


I may never be a millionaire in this life (and I wouldn’t care to be)
Yet I am infinitely richer than the millionaire who has never:
Used a dog for a bedwarmer
Started a cat’s motor and listened to it idle
Been entertained by the acrobatic antics of a squirrel
Admired the velvet elegance of a horse in motion
Stood in awe of a tiger’s sleek and massive grace
Or watched a spindle of wild geese weave its
flight-pattern across a loom of sky.

The man who never steps outside his world of
Blank faces over three-piece suits
Relentlessly revolving clocks
Data-soldiers deployed on a computer battleground
And dollar signs marching down gray-matter corridors
May get richer by the minute
But will grow poorer by the second.

There is no poverty more profound or more shameful than the failure to use our five senses.

There is no conceivable slum worse than a slum of the spirit.