Playing With Fire

As you might remember, I recently started my own online literary magazine called DarkWinter Lit. It’s going really well, and I’m getting some incredibly good submissions, but one of the things I’m really proud of is that 99% of the images that I use to accompany each piece are original, chosen for each unique story or poem—either taken by me or Ken. I’m fortunate that I work in an antique market, where I can easily find fur coats, weird statues, and driftwood horses. Sometimes though, I need to create a specific scene that I have in mind. And last week was one of those times:

Me: I need a picture of a gold coin covered in water, with a backdrop of fire.
Ken: I don’t have anything like that.
Me: I thought you were a PHOTOGRAPHER, KEN. Do you at least have a butterfly I can use for something else?
Ken: Ooh, yes, I have lots of those!

So it was up to me to create the photo that I needed, at least for that particular story. But then it struck me—we have a burn pit in the side yard surrounded by rocks and it was full of wood. I could prop a loonie (the golden Canadian equivalent of a dollar) on one of the rocks, start a small fire, then spray it all down with water before things got out of hand. It was a terrific plan…

I brought the loonie, some newspaper, and a bbq lighter out with me, and placed the loonie in what seemed like a great position. I crumpled up the newspaper and held the lighter to it. It immediately caught fire but then started to go out, so I tossed some dead grass in there for good measure. I sat back on the dry lawn (we hadn’t had rain for weeks) and contemplated the sad state of the gardens, suffering from lack of moisture as well. When did we last have rain? I thought to myself. It seemed like it was a while ago.

Suddenly, the grass, paper, and the dry wood in the fire pit all ignited at once and I quickly found myself seated next to a raging inferno. Where the f*ck is the hose??!! I screamed silently, berating myself for having forgotten an essential part of the plan. I ran to the porch, the flames getting higher and closer to the dry lawn, and I dragged the hose over to the burn pit.

Do you know what happens when you spray a large fire with a large amount of water? It creates an even larger cloud of thick smoke, a cloud that drifts over your entire neighbourhood, terrorizing your neighbours, at least one of whom belongs to the volunteer fire department. And at this point, Ken poked his head out the door:

Ken: What are you trying to do—set the neighbourhood on fire?
Me: I just wanted a photograph of a gold coin drenched in water in front of a backdrop of fire!
Ken: Did you at least get the shot?
Me: It’s a little smoky but yes.
Ken: Well, that’s one thing. I’m sure the fire department will take it into consideration when they hand you the fine.

I managed to extinguish everything eventually, thanking the universe for the fact that our burn pit is hidden by trees and the guy who kept driving by looking for the source of the smoke couldn’t see it. But imagine the conversation:

Firefighter: So let me get this straight. You set your lawn on fire because you were (checks notes) “trying to get a photograph of a wet coin in front of a large flame”?
Me (whispers): Yes.
Firefighter: And you thought this was a good idea in a month where we’ve had very little rain?
Me (whispers): Yes.
Firefighter: Wow. You’re dumb.
Me (hangs head and whispers): I know.

The things we do for our art.

How It Started
How It Ended
The Final Product

In other news, you may recall that recently, I got my license renewed and faced a barrage of disturbing questions about having my skin flayed off for science right before having my photograph taken. Well, the license arrived in the mail yesterday, and here’s the reaction on my face:

Now, you may think that’s just the way I always look in driver’s license photos, but here are other examples from 2007 and 2016:

I think it’s pretty clear that I won’t be getting any speeding tickets until 2027 when I no longer look like I’ve seen horrors that no sane person can contemplate … And the worst thing is that, along with the license, there was a questionnaire asking me the same questions that the woman at the license place had asked me PUBLICLY. I could have done all of that IN PRIVATE. And looked prettier in my photo.

Image-ination; I Get Read

It’s been a hectic week and I didn’t think I had much to write about, but then I remembered that I hadn’t told you about my new tattoo. You may remember that over a year ago, I promised that I would get all my books tattooed on me, and I’d made a good start but then I got sidetracked. Until finally, three weeks ago, I finally got an appointment with my favourite tattoo guy, Nathan S. of New Rise Studio. He did what he always does—I arrive, he says “What were you thinking?” then I say, “A steampunk pocket watch with the words ‘Time’s a-ticking under it”, and he says “Okay”, then he draws something fantastic on the spot. Here’s the end result:

I’m super-happy with it, because the image commemorates Feasting Upon The Bones, my first short story collection (Potters Grove Press), featuring the character Mr. Death and his catchphrase “Time’s a-ticking.” I’ve expanded that character and he also now appears in a couple of other places, which you’ll hear more about down the road. But for now, Feasting is immortalized on the back of my calf.

I was scrolling through the pictures on my phone, looking for something interesting to go with a story that was going to be published on DarkWinter Lit (I only use original images, taken by either me or Ken, except in rare circumstances, because I like to customize a unique image to the individual story or poem), and I came across this image, which you might recognize:

Yes, it’s from WordPress and it’s the image you see when a post has no comments. I’ve seen it hundreds of times, but I only looked at it closely the other day and then I was really confused. Seriously, what the hell is it? Here are two options:

a) A girl carrying a giant tennis racket, accompanied by a boy awkwardly holding a small oar. Are they attending the world’s weirdest summer camp? I went to summer camp once, and all I remember is shooting arrows at targets and crying because I got stung by a bee in my ladyparts. Needless to say, I hate camping to this day, especially if it involves playing tennis in high heels or rowing a boat with one hand. Or bees.

b)  She’s a detective with a magnifying glass the size of a hula hoop and he’s her trusty sidekick, ready to gather evidence in his crossbody bag. Someone at the summer camp died, and now they’re looking for clues. Maybe there’s one behind that mostly invisible plant. Actually, THAT would be a summer camp I’d go to—a murder mystery adventure camp where the counsellors are all robots, and it would be called MurderCampWorld, kind of like WestWorld but without the sex, violence, misogyny, and racism. Okay, there’d be a little violence but it’s just the one murder.

Regardless of what the image actually is, I have no idea why it’s the one chosen to encourage people to post comments, and if I were customizing an image for this page, I’d encourage discussion with this cute little guy that I found on Facebook Marketplace. I’m not sure what he’s supposed to be, but I’m certain he would make people really want to open up:

In other news, I had a tarot card reading the other day on Zoom, done by my good friend and fellow blogger Willow Croft, Bringer of Nightmares and Storms at willowcroft.blog. It was fantastic and fun, and her insights have really helped me center my energy around the things that matter the most to me. I highly recommend her—she charges a small fee, but it’s completely worth it, and she can do it over Zoom, telephone or even email. If you’re interested in supporting a fellow blogger, you can contact her at croftwillow@yahoo.com for a full reading, or if you’d like to try it out, use the code mydangblog in the email subject line for a $5 USD three-card reading.

Getting Thrifty With It; Tiger Lily

I’ve always loved thrift store shopping. When I was younger, it was the only place to find the vintage clothing that my friends and I, 1980s club kids, favoured. When I got older and money got tighter, it was a cheap way to look nice. And now that Ken and I have re-instated the antiques business and I’ve opened a second booth at the antique market, thrift stores are a wonderful place to find trinkets, odds and ends and whatnot that I can resell. The other day in fact, I was at a local thrift store, Goodwill, and found some good deals–a vintage action figure for a buck, a few pieces of ironstone and a depression glass rooster candy dish for 4.50. It’s from the 1930s, in excellent condition, and worth a heck of a lot more. So imagine my excitement when one of my co-workers at the antique market mentioned that there was a Goodwill ‘outlet store’ not too far away.

Me: OUTLET, you say? A place where things are even cheaper than at the regular Goodwill?
Co-worker: Yeah, it’s pretty cool. You pay by the pound. We’ve gotten some good stuff there.
Me: Where is this mecca of good deals?! I must know!
Co-worker: Just up the highway. Here are the directions.

I was super-excited, imagining a store lined with shelves of beautiful china, glassware, and other assorted sundries, and me with a shopping cart, just filling it up with things that didn’t weigh too much. Finally, last week, after days of anticipation, I was able to go there.

AND IT WAS THE MOST TERRIFYING EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE.

I arrived shortly after 10:30 in the morning, having followed my GPS instructions like a pirate with a treasure map. I pulled into the parking lot and the red flag should have gone up right there. It was PACKED. People were double-parked and cars were squeezed together, but luckily my car is quite tiny, and I managed to find a spot partly on the grass. I grabbed a couple of reusable shopping bags and walked through the door…into a giant open room. It was full of large, wheeled bins surrounded by people, who were going through them, tossing things up in the air, digging through to the bottom, and pulling things out. I was hesitant, and took a tentative step forward to peek into one of the bins, which was full of what looked like broken CDs. Then I noticed in the far corner, there was a line of tape on the floor, and behind the line of tape, there was a line of men, standing shoulder to shoulder, fidgeting, rocking back and forth on their heels and looking desperate and hungry. A store worker went by:

Me: Excuse me. That line-up over there—is that where I’m supposed to wait my turn or something?
Worker: Oh no. You can look in all the bins over here. Those guys are waiting for the new bins to come out. You have to stay behind the line until the new bins come to a complete stop and the back-room workers have had time to step away. Then we give a signal and you can dive right in.
Me: Maybe I’ll just watch for a bit.

After a minute, the doors to the warehouse suddenly flew open. The air bristled with anticipation and the men in line started cracking their knuckles and bouncing up and down on their toes. The bins were wheeled over to the corner and parked. A man began to move and a woman shrieked, “NOT YET!! STAY BACK!! The men muttered in frustration while the carts were positioned, and then the workers let go and backed away quickly as a whistle sounded. The line surged forward and everything became pure chaos. Arms disappeared into the bins, then reappeared holding perceived treasures. A cry went up as one man triumphantly brandished a coil of copper tubing. Two other men tussled over loose hockey cards, and another ran back to his shopping cart (I realized they all had carts lined up against the back wall) with a Coleman cooler. It was like feeding frenzy time at the shark tank, with vintage radios and glass vases as chum. Then, as quickly as it had begun, the men tossed their finds into their respective carts and ran, as a unit, to the opposite corner, where ANOTHER LINE FORMED. Apparently, the new bins were placed in alternating corners, and sure enough, a minute later, a set of full bins arrived, and a fresh round of shrieking and digging commenced.

So what did I do? What do you think? I tucked my reusable shopping bags under my arm, got the hell out of there, and drove like the wind to the calm oasis of Value Village.

In other news, I had the tremendous honour recently of being asked to write the foreword to my good friend and brilliant poet Susan Richardson’s latest compilation titled Tiger Lily, to be released on August 19. The collection is an ekphrastic collaboration between Susan and artist Jane Cornwell, and it’s just brilliant. You can pre-order it here. And here’s a sneak preview of one of my favourites, Mermaids Are Real:

In Memoriam: James Douglas Whytock

It’s been a tough week. Last Tuesday, Ken got a call from his mom that his dad, who’d been suffering from Alzheimer’s and had been in a nursing home for the last couple of years, had stopped eating. He’d been on a steady decline and if any of you know anything about Alzheimer’s disease, you’ll know that’s pretty much a signal that the end is near. And it was. Ken’s father, a lovely man, passed away peacefully on Thursday night at the age of 87, surrounded by people who loved him very much. And while the last two years of his life were incredibly sad, as we watched him drift further and further away from us, I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about him.

James Whytock was a kind, hard-working man. He had to quit school and take over the family dairy farm at the age of 16 when his own father passed away very young. He and Ken’s mom built a good life for Ken and his siblings, and I know they all look back on their childhoods with fond memories. One of my first experiences with Jim was when Ken and I had begun dating and I would go with him to the family farm. In the morning, our chore was to feed the calves while Jim milked the cows, and he would razz me about being a ‘city girl’, even though I’d grown up in a town that really wasn’t much of a city, but to Jim, anything larger than the 1000-person town he called home was a metropolis.

He loved to tease people, but never in a mean-spirited way. He was quick with a one-liner and had a variety of sayings for all occasions. He was the skip of our family curling team, and I still laugh when I remember the time we were winning but the other team was gaining points—he leaned over to me, winked, and whispered, “Now the cheese is starting to bind!” It made me laugh so hard that I could barely sweep, but we won the tournament–and some bacon. Even once the dementia got hold of him, there were still glimmers of the old Jim—every once in a while, he’d crack a joke and it would let us know he was in there somewhere.

He was an incredibly creative person. When, at the age of 62, he and Ken’s mom sold the family farm and moved to town, he finally had more time to devote to all his favourite hobbies. He was a talented photographer (in fact, he was the photographer at our wedding and did an amazing job). He also worked with glass. He taught me how to do stained glass, and we shared ideas and designs. He had a glass kiln as well and made all kinds of things out of fused glass, including my favourite set of checkerboard “Alice In Wonderland” coasters.

He collected all kinds of things, notably coins and diecast tractors. Kate inherited his love of coin collecting, and when she was younger, they would discuss coins—she was always impressed by how knowledgeable he was. And not only did he collect tractors, he also customized his own collector vehicles, one of which sits proudly on a shelf in Ken’s office—a gift from his dad.

James Whytock leaves behind a family who loved him very much and who will miss him terribly, and an enduring legacy as a man who always saw the positive side of things—I don’t think I ever heard him say a bad word about anyone, and my last image of him this past Father’s Day was the smile on his face as he ate the chocolate that Ken’s mom brought him. Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease and I’m glad he’s finally at peace.

My favourite coasters
A lamp made by Jim

Skin Game

Last week, I had to renew my health card. For those of you who don’t know what a health card is, it’s the card you show at the doctor’s or the hospital or whatnot, and then you don’t have to pay for anything. Everyone in the province gets one at birth and it’s funded through income tax paid by residents and businesses. And for some reason, it’s one of the few things that can’t be renewed online anymore, which meant I had to go into a Service Ontario office (similar to the DMV) and stand in line. I went in the afternoon, and when I walked in, there were only 5 people ahead of me, and the three at the counter were finished quickly. But the next guy in line didn’t know what his exact mailing address was and insisted on looking at Google maps and stood at the second counter calling three other people to figure out the best place to mail him something, and then the woman at the third counter just WALKED AWAY. Which left one poor woman available for the rest of us. But still, she was very efficient, and about twenty minutes later it was my turn. She looked at my health card and said, “No problem. Your driver’s license is coming due at the same time—do you want to renew it now as well?”

And that seemed like the smart thing to do since I was there anyway, so I said “Sure.”

She filled in some information on the computer and then looked me straight in the eye and said, “Do you want to be an organ donor?” And I was really taken aback, having an actual person ask me this, instead of just ticking off the box on the back of my license, and I froze.

Me: …No?
Woman: Really? Are you sure? OK.

And then I felt terribly judged and also remembered that I’d had laser eye surgery and now my eyes were pretty good and might help someone else, and also that my kidneys and liver had passed their last tests with flying colours, so I said, “Wait! I changed my mind. Yes, I’ll be an organ donor.”

She kind of sighed, and said, “It’ll take me a minute to get back to that screen. Hang on.” Then, after a few minutes, she asked this bizarre follow-up question, and my blood froze. “Do you want to donate only for life-saving procedures or also for medical research?”

MEDICAL RESEARCH?! Like I’d be one of those cadavers that medical students experiment on? Would they give me a terrible nickname like Gangrene Greta or take selfies with me? No thank you, ma’am and I told that woman the same in no uncertain terms, but while in my head I sounded determined, it came out a very whispery “Just the first one.”

Woman: OK, no medical research. Now, are you good with everything, or do you have any exceptions, for example, would you like to exempt your eyes, your lungs, your kidneys, blood plasma, your bones, or YOUR SKIN?
Me:
Woman: Great. Now I need to get a picture so stand over there and don’t smile.

Don’t SMILE? You just told me that when I die, someone is going to flay me and then steal my skin and bones. The license hasn’t come in the mail yet so I haven’t seen the picture, but I’m sure I look absolutely horrified in it. Like, imagine this scenario:

Cop: Do you know how fast you were going? Can I see your license and registration please?
Me (gives him my new license): Sorry, Officer, I—
Cop: (returns my license and backs away): I didn’t mean to add to your trauma. Have a nice day. (whispers to himself) Poor woman.

When I got home, I was really disturbed and told Ken what had happened. “I didn’t know what to say! She asked me in front of everyone and I didn’t have any time to think about it. But I don’t want them to take my skin! Don’t let them take it!”

And I know I sounded like a big baby but Ken laughed and reminded me that as my survivor, he had right of first refusal over all my body parts.

Ken: Besides, there’s no need to worry about it. You’ll be dead.
Me: YOU DON’T KNOW THAT, KEN!! And don’t forget, if you let them have my skin, you can’t have me stuffed and put me in the living room.
Ken: I wasn’t going to do that anyway.
Me: You’re so mean.
Ken: It’ll just be one small empty urn on the fireplace mantle…
Me: You better hope I die first.

In other news, 3 weeks ago, we switched from our long-term internet provider to a cheaper, faster company. And three days ago, that company’s nation-wide network went down, leaving us with no internet. I’m posting this using my phone as a personal hotspot and hoping I don’t run out of data before it goes live. Stupid Rogers. So if I don’t engage too much today, you know why…

Flushed Away Again

One of the things I have to do at work, one of the things I dislike the most, is that I have to clean the bathroom on my floor. It’s technically a ladies’ bathroom, and it’s used mostly by our female customers. I used to think that women were much more hygienic when it came to toilet stuff than men, based on my experiences many years ago at the donut shop where I worked in my late teens to make money for university tuition. The men’s room there used to be so disgusting that the only thing that would really help would have been a flamethrower. But now that I have to clean this particular bathroom regularly, I’m beginning to wonder if I was unfairly stereotyping the guys. Personally, I’m fairly straightforward when it comes to using public washrooms—I go in a stall, sit down, do my thing, wash my hands and leave—but apparently I’m an anomaly when it comes to using a public washroom and I have some questions for the hypothetical woman who regularly uses the bathroom at work that I have to clean.

1) Why do you put the lid down?

I know that people complain ALL the time about men leaving the seat up, but that’s an easy fix—I just use the toe of my shoe to pull the seat back down. But putting the actual lid down before you leave the stall? What the hell for? You flushed, didn’t you? (see Question 5) So what are you trying to hide? I enjoy taking a “safety go” right before heading home, and seriously, the number of times I’ve had to lift the lid so that I could sit down is ridiculous. And you can’t use the toe of your shoe for THAT one—you have to touch the lid WITH YOUR FINGERS. Do you do this so the germs from the toilet flushing don’t invisibly splash on you? Well now my hands are covered with them, so thanks for that.

2) Two-parter: a) Why do you line the toilet seat with toilet paper?

So you don’t want your butt to get dirty? Honey, you’ve already touched all kinds of sh*t before even sitting down, and you’re worried about your butt? I hate to break this to you, but going to the bathroom in and of itself is a process that is rife with germs. A thin layer of toilet paper will not protect you. Of course, the alternate to the toilet liner is to simply crouch and mist the toilet seat with your urine, which makes things even more disgusting, especially for the next woman to enter the stall.

b) If you do insist on lining the toilet seat with toilet paper because somebody else was spraying like a tomcat, why don’t you flush the damn stuff when you’re done instead of leaving it on the floor where it fell after unsticking itself from your butt? Now it’s MY responsibility to sweep up all your ass-paper.

3) How do you manage to get water spots all over the mirror?

I mean, are you having a splashfest in the sink? Are you just waving your hands around, doing the chicken dance or something? The mirror at work is at least two feet above the sink but it constantly needs Windexing to get rid of all the droplets that have managed to land on it from your exuberant handwashing. Oh well–at least you washed your hands.

4) Why is the garbage full of V8 juice cans and an entire empty tray of butter tarts? Were you having a picnic in there?! (This happens more than you think). And please stop leaving your empty Red Baron beer bottles behind the toilet at 10 am. No wonder you have to pee so much.

5) Do you not understand how a toilet handle works?

The handles on two separate toilets were literally snapped off last week. How hard are you trying to flush?! Oh well, I guess it’s better than not bothering to flush at all, which you do on a regular basis. No wonder you put the lid down.

If I seem a little grumpy today, it’s because I am. There’s still a skunk somewhere on the property, and it refuses to take our delicious peanut butter and cat food bait, but insists on spraying several times a day to the point where I can barely breathe! So here’s a picture to cheer us all up:

Princess Toilette

Wiener Fest!

Well, it was quite the exciting week. After relocating skunk Number 1, we caught a second little varmint later that same night. In the morning, Ken went out to check on him and returned, saying, “He has two friends visiting him in jail.” So the fencing stayed up and the trap was re-baited with peanut butter and cat food, which seems to be the entrée of choice for the discerning skunk. By Wednesday, 3 and 4 had been relocated, and Ken and I were breathing a sigh of relief, although the breathing was still tinged with eau de skunk, thanks to Atlas. Then, around 8 pm, Ken came into the room with a glass of wine, and handed another one to me:

Ken: I’d like to propose a toast.
Me: Really? That’s so sweet. To what?
Ken: To five.

Me: My fifth book?
Ken: Nope.
Me (confused and a little worried that I’d missed yet another anniversary of some kind): Five what?
Ken: Skunk number five.
Me: Oh my god. (Downs wine in one shot). How many more can there be??!!

Turns out there were SEVEN. Yep. Seven skunks. At least I hope that’s all there are, because I don’t fancy battling the final boss, and so far, there’s been no mother in sight, just a lot of kits. Apparently, a group of skunks is called a ‘stench’, and I can certainly see why, because our cargo trailer might just permanently smell like raunchy weed. The problem with skunks, especially the young ones, is that they’re so damn cute but you can’t hug them, and I really hope they have a family reunion in the forest where we dropped each of them off.

Aside from Skunkapalooza, not much happened this week, except for the funniest misunderstanding at work I can think of. I took Kate’s shift on Saturday because she was in an e-sports tournament, and around lunchtime, a woman came to the counter:

Woman: We’re just heading over to Wiener Fest. Is it okay if we come back with a couple?
Me (hesitates): I suppose, as long as you don’t get ketchup or relish on anything in the booths.
Woman (confused): Oh. All right…

Later on, a group came into the market with a pair of dachshunds. We have a policy that dogs are fine in the building as long as they can be carried or put in a cart (the exception is service dogs, which are fine no matter what). So my boss got them two carts lined with cardboard and they went around happily (the dogs, of course—I have no idea if the people were happy because the second I saw the dogs, their humans ceased to exist. I once got on an elevator and there was a man with a golden retriever. “Hello, gorgeous,” I said, to which the man replied, “Thanks.” Imagine how sad he was when I told him I was talking to his dog.). Anyway, the dachshunds were adorable—one was even wearing a little bow tie—and they seemed to be having a great time. Eventually, the whole group came to the counter to check out, and I realized the woman who had asked about eating hot dogs was with them.

Woman: I’m so glad we were able to bring Roxie and Moxie inside. Wiener Fest was so hot!
Me:
Woman: I know you weren’t sure about it, but they’re so well-behaved.
Me: When you said wieners, I didn’t know you meant dogs. I thought you were going to a barbeque!
Woman: Ha ha! Is that why you were talking about ketchup and mustard? No wonder we were both so confused!

Then I hugged Roxie and Moxie and told them if they were ever in the neighbourhood again, to be sure to drop by. Whether they bring their people or not, that’s up to them.

The only way I take a picture of a skunk trap is if the skunk isn’t in it.

A Pointed Stick

After having had a brutal heat wave last week, the weather here turned much cooler, so on Friday morning, I decided to weed the front flower beds. I was having a great time, yanking out wild carrot and crabgrass from between the daylilies when I bent over and (if you’re the slightest bit squeamish, brace yourself) I was stabbed square in the left eyeball by a dead hydrangea branch. I didn’t see it coming and had no chance to close my eye before it stuck me, and I jumped back in both horror and pain, much to the amusement of the construction crew working on the monster house next door. They watched (or at least I think they did because I couldn’t see anything), as I staggered around the yard, my hand over my eye, tears streaming down my face, and yelling profanities. This is the view they get when they cut down the trees next to MY house. At least I wasn’t naked, and a good thing too because who knows where that stick might have ended up otherwise.

I was eventually able to get back to weeding but as the day wore on, the pain increased, and I got worried. I had an old bottle of antibiotic eyedrops and I used them before bed, and that only MADE THINGS SO MUCH WORSE. And to top it all off, this happened:

Ken: So you know how we thought we had a skunk in the backyard under the deck of the shed?
Me: …yeah…?
Ken: it’s pretty small and kind of cute. Atlas thought so too for a minute. And you know how we had that fence up but then I moved it a bit and forgot to put it back?
Me: …YEAH…?
Ken: Atlas got through it. The skunk wasn’t very happy about it.
Atlas (walking into room): Was cat.
Me (sniffs the air and comes to a horrifying realization): That wasn’t the cat, you dummy!!
Ken: In fairness to Atlas, the skunk and Ilana DO kind of look alike–
Me: OH MY GOD, why is he in here with his skunk-sprayed head??!! Stop rubbing your face on the blankets!!

Not a skunk

So on top of everything else, I had one eye watering from being impaled and the other one watering from the stench. I barely got any sleep and woke up the next morning feeling like there was sandpaper in my eye and skunk ass in my nose. Atlas, on the other hand, was in fine form, ready to tackle the morning, and the skunk if he saw it again. We’d set out a live trap with peanut butter, wet dog food, and a few other things, but apparently this skunk is very finicky and didn’t appreciate our smorgasbord efforts. After two days, the top of Atlas’s head is more reminiscent of sesame oil than really cheap marijuana, so things are looking up. I found the recipe for skunk odour remover that we used on our last dog, so here’s hoping the combination of peroxide, baking soda, and dish detergent rids us all of it for good. As of right now, my eye is feeling slightly better, and I keep thinking about that Monty Python sketch, “How To Defend Yourself From A Man Armed With A Banana”, where one of the unruly students in the self-defense class keeps asking about pointed sticks. Let me tell you, I’d much rather have been attacked by a banana.

In other news, I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve just signed a publishing contract with Potters Grove Press for my second short story collection, At The End Of It All: Stories From The Shadows. It might be out by the end of this year, so put it on your Xmas wishlist!

It’s A Raid!

If you remember, a few weeks ago, I wrote a post called All The Pretty Dead Things, in which I discussed the plethora of bones, dehydrated animals, and other suspiciously taxidermized items at the antique market where I work. They sell like crazy, and over the last few weeks, I’ve had to ring dried rabbit ears, cow ribs, hawk legs, and even a whale vertebrae through the till, much to my dismay, because I don’t believe for a second that a whale vertebrae was ‘ethically sourced’. But apparently someone else agreed with me, because when I dropped Kate off at work the other day, there were several official looking men speaking with the owner. AND THEY HAD WARRANTS. They were from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and if you don’t know what that is, imagine the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and then pretend they’re Canadian. Because the NRF has just as much power as the ATF and are also allowed to carry guns, although none of the guys who were at the market were armed.

The MNR showed up unannounced, based on a tip from someone who had been in the market and was taking pictures of things that they deemed illegal. Their first stop was a booth run by a friend of mine which happened to have a vintage stuffed and mounted fish, which generated much consternation among the Ministry agents, despite the fact that the fish in question had been caught approximately 40 years ago. So I just now googled “Can I sell a stuffed rainbow trout in Ontario?” and the answer was a) ABSOLUTELY NOT and b) terrifying because according to their website, even if the fish is long dead, if you get caught, you can face fines up to $100 000! And I’m so happy I didn’t know that when I sold Frank, the stuffed and mounted fish that I found at the side of the road and sold for ten dollars at a yard sale over two years ago (the post where I wrote about it was called One Man’s Junk, in case you’re interested).

The MNR was there all day, going over each of the almost one thousand booths with a fine-toothed comb, and ended up confiscating not only the stuffed trout, but a variety of other animal products, including half the inventory from the booth that sells exclusively jewelry made from animal bones and terrariums containing desiccated barnyard animals. Ironically, they DIDN’T take the whale vertebrae, because apparently that’s not their jurisdiction. So I guess we’ll be receiving a visit from the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries soon—do you think they carry guns or harpoons?

Hand over the fish!

Building A Better Mousetrap

Last month, I came downstairs and Ken was staring at the kitchen counter. “Did Kate do some baking last night? There are crumbs everywhere.”

I looked more closely, with my reading glasses on. “Those aren’t crumbs—that’s MOUSE SH*T!!”

The infestation had begun. We immediately got out our trusty old live trap and set it up that night with a tasty assortment of cheeses inside it. The next morning, sure enough, there was a tiny mouse shivering in the trap. “Never mind, little Mickey,” I told him. “You’re going to a lovely field to live out your days.” And that’s not a euphemism—Ken really did take him to the park and set him free to frolic in the long grass.

That night, before we went to sleep, we set the trap up again in case Mickey had a Minnie. But in the morning, instead of another mouse curled up in the trap, there was mouse poo all over the counter—and the cheese inside the trap WAS GONE. “Are these mice learning from each other’s mistakes?!” I asked.

“Don’t worry,” said Ken. “I have an idea for a better mousetrap.” So he put together a contraption with a seesaw made out of cardboard and doweling and positioned it over a large wastebasket. “See,” he said, “when the mouse walks out to get the cheese, the cardboard will tip and it’ll fall into the basket.”

And it worked! The next morning, there was a wee rodent in the bottom of the wastebasket. “Minnie, I assume,” I addressed it. “Don’t worry—you’ll be reunited with your other half soon.”

That night, we set up the basket trap again, and again in the morning, the cheese was gone and there was mouse poo all over the counter. “What the hell!” I exclaimed, infuriated. “How did it get the cheese and not fall in?!”

“I guess it’s a smarter mouse than the last one. Do you want me to just buy a snap trap?” Ken offered.

“No!” I exclaimed. “Unless you do it without telling me and then don’t tell me what happens. You know how much I hate killing things. You have to promise to keep it a secret.”

But before we resorted to a kill trap, Kate decided to try her hand at building a better mousetrap. It was the same principal as Ken’s but with the addition of a toothpick to securely hold the cheese so that the mouse couldn’t just reach out and snatch it from the safety of the counter. Of course, the first night, she got involved in an online game and forgot to set it, but the NEXT night, it was in place and ready to execute our clever plan. Unfortunately, as clever as we thought we were, the mouse was smarter. The mouse had absconded with the cheese but left behind an extraordinary amount of poo. “Should we let Ilana out of Kate’s room at night?” Ken suggested.

“But what if Atlas finds out? He’ll try to eat HER before she eats the mouse.”

It seemed we were at an impasse, then Ken went out shopping and came home with something called The Tomcat. Its claim to fame was the following:

Ready To Use
Child Safe
Captures Up To Ten Mice At Once

The side of the box equally sang the praises of its sleek design that “blends into surroundings”, its “reliable, highly sensitive trap door”, and the fact that it was “strong and durable” as evidenced by the accompanying picture of someone dropping a can of peas onto it.

“Phew,” I said. “I have full confidence in the Tomcat. I shall sleep well tonight.”

And in the morning, I rose with a smile on my face, ready to greet several of the tiny evil geniuses that were causing me to bleach my counter on the daily. And what did I find? An empty Tomcat with a hole chewed through it, no cheese to be seen, and mouse poo everywhere. So much for strong and durable. Maybe they should have tested it on actual mice instead of a can of peas. And as much as I hate to do it, unless any of you have a better mouse trap idea, Ken will be keeping secrets from me for a long time.

Hole-y mousetrap, Batman