Creative Wednesdays – Feasting Upon The Bones

I’m not one to ever make New Year’s resolutions but I did a thing on New Year’s Day that kind of counts as one–I submitted the short story collection I’d been working on for over a year to a publisher. Then, last week, like a bolt from the blue, I got an email from the wonderful people at Potter’s Grove Press, telling me they had accepted it and would be publishing Feasting Upon The Bones this year! I was so excited that I started to cry when I showed Ken the email. But the best part is that Potter’s Grove is super-efficient and have already created a cover mock-up which I’m excited to share. And they were also lovely enough to allow my daughter Katelyn’s original cover concept to be used as artwork for one of the section divider pages. So here’s the cover mock-up and the synopsis for my first short story collection–I think it’s gorgeous and I hope you do too. 

“Step into the world of the unexpected, where things aren’t always as they seem. From disturbing jigsaw puzzles and portentous stones to mysterious notebooks and ghostly encounters, Feasting Upon The Bones is a collection of twenty-seven short stories that delve into the themes of love and loss, revenge and retribution, and mortality and immortality. Told with imaginative flair, and the occasional touch of dark humour, this intriguing series of twisted tales has something for everyone. Time’s a-ticking, as Mr. Death would say, so open the cover and wander around.”

The Shane Of It All

On Tuesday morning, I was getting ready for work when my phone rang. I wouldn’t normally answer an actual phone call that early (or any time really unless it was family) but it was a Toronto number and I work with several people who live there. So I put down my blush brush and said, “Hello?” A woman’s voice answered: “Hello, I’m calling from Doctor ____’s office for Shane Brien.”

And there it was. Like an elusive ghost from the past, Blazefordayz Shane had suddenly reappeared.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Shane hasn’t had this number for a few years.”

The woman sounded confused, but said, “Okay, thank you. Goodbye” and she hung up.

For those of you who haven’t been here long enough to know the saga of Shane Brien, let me remind you quickly. I received a company cell phone about 4 years ago. Almost immediately, I began getting text messages about Soca parties, Facetime calls from Shane’s mother, messages from Shane’s jealous girlfriend (“You better not be with that Angela”) and invitations from his friends to play soccer, go to Vegas, and smoke weed, as well as various job offers from temp companies. In fact, one of my favourites was the time I was offered a ‘warehouse’ job, and after a certain amount of contemplation, I offered to get a team together and requested the blueprints to the warehouse (you can read all about this in My Week 226: All About The Bordens). The response was a confused “What do you mean?” and I realized I may have misjudged the situation.

Over the years, the calls and messages have continued sporadically. I tried to hunt down Shane, but to no avail. Unfortunately, there are several ways to spell both ‘Shane’ and ‘Brien’, leading to about nine permutations, none of which matched anyone on social media that I could see. But I did find out tidbits of information first from a jewelry chain, who had the number associated with a Shane Brien in Brampton. He also had a Canadian Tire Points Card, long expired. And now this—a doctor’s office calling for him.

It made me very concerned. After all, Shane and I go way back, and at a certain point, I began to feel quite motherly towards him. But after all these years, people STILL don’t know he changed his number and they’re STILL looking for him? And then I had a terrible thought: What if Shane had been murdered?!

In case you’re wondering why this escalated so quickly, I started watching a crime show on Netflix about a hotel called The Cecil where people have died or disappeared from. In the very first episode about a Chinese student who went there and was never seen again, I immediately, after an aerial shot of the roof, announced, “She’s in the water tank.” Ken looked it up online, and she was, indeed, found in the water tank, obviously because ‘putting bodies in water tanks’ is the new ‘tossing them into a dumpster’ in the world of crime dramas, and I’m REALLY good at solving mysteries. But it got me thinking, What if…

So bear with me: Shane Brien, a popular young man, goes to a jewelry store to purchase two gifts, each an engraved bracelet. One is for his fiancé, and the other is for a woman named Angela whom he is seeing ‘on the side’. After a heavy night of drinking and Soca dancing, Shane inadvertently gives the wrong gift to the fiancé, who is understandably furious. Little does Shane know that ‘Darla’ (that’s what I’m calling her) is the type of woman that you should never scorn. She begins to plot and plan. She goes to Canadian Tire and drains Shane’s points account with the purchase of an air fryer to establish her alibi—she couldn’t possibly be responsible for Shane’s impending disappearance—after all, she just bought an air fryer to make him chicken wings for f*ck sake! (Darla swears a lot when she’s nervous).

But she’s a small woman—how on earth will she exact her revenge on the duplicitous Shane? Then she has a brainstorm—she calls a ‘temp agency’ which is really a front for a criminal enterprise and asks to hire a ‘cleaner’. And as everyone knows, if a ‘warehouse job’ is a money heist, then a ‘cleaning service’ is obviously who you call when you want someone disappeared.

The ‘cleaning service’ is expensive, but Darla has access to all of Shane’s accounts as well as his passwords. She arranges to have them send Shane a text message advertising a rooftop SOCA party. Party of ONE, but Shane doesn’t know that yet.

“I’ll meet you there,” Darla says with a sweet smile. But she doesn’t. She just sits at home eating chicken wings (those air fryers are pretty goddamn awesome), waiting for the call telling her the ordeal is over. The ‘cleaning company’, in the meantime, has lured poor Shane up to the rooftop of a local hotel with the promise of sweet Soca music, and deposited him in the water tank. He’s never seen again.

Darla, of course, has the password to his cellphone account, which she cancels, although she continues to text Shane to establish a solid alibi and also throw suspicion onto ‘that Angela’. But the one thing she didn’t count on was that Shane’s cell phone number would be passed on to me, a crime drama afficionado. I hope I’m wrong about all this, but I rarely am.

Of course, there could be a much simpler explanation—Shane got a new cell phone and forgot to tell people he’d changed his number. But somehow, I doubt it…

Also, check back here on Wednesday for Creative Wednesdays—I have a big announcement!

Tested To My Limits

So last week, I had the MRI I was telling you about, and unfortunately, I didn’t sprout forklift arms. Not even fork hands, which would also have been cool, although somewhat of a step down. But I quickly got over it because this week, I had to have a CAT scan on my head to try and figure out why I haven’t been able to breathe out of my left nostril for a very long time. Thankfully, I didn’t have to do anything special for it, except for show up at the hospital early yesterday morning.

I was sitting in the waiting room when the radiologist came to get me. He called my name and introduced himself and my blood ran cold. “Yello,” he said. “My name is Sergei. I vill be doing your CAT scan. Come vis me.” Yes, he was Russian. Now, I have absolutely nothing against Russians, but several years ago, I almost caused an international incident with our Soviet comrades when I said the following as part of a post about giving up some of my organs to science:

“Just the other day, I read an article on an actual legitimate internet site about Russian researchers who are on the brink of being able to do a head transplant. They even have a patient lined up for the procedure, believe it or not. This, of course, led me to wonder though–under what possible circumstances would you EVER need a head transplant?! How the hell did you manage to get yourself decapitated in the first place? And if it were possible to re-attach a head to a body, wouldn’t you want your OWN head back? Where would you even find a body that had also lost its head so you could put the two of them together? Kate says that it’s for people who are quadriplegic, so that they can have more mobility, but in that case, wouldn’t it be a better use of medical research to figure out how to fix a spine, rather than aspire to be Dr. Frankenstein? Trust the Russians to do things the hard way—this is why they lost the war. Which war, you ask? Take your pick. I did some internet fact-checking because as we all know, historical accuracy isn’t one of my strengths, and it turns out that they lost almost every war they’ve ever been involved in. Sorry, Russia. They DID win the space race though, so hats off for that.”

Then a few days later, I was looking at my site statistics and realized that someone from Russia was reading my blog. So I did what any rational person would do under similar circumstances: I freaked out and called Ken:

Me: I think I’ve just caused an international incident.
Ken: What are you talking about?
Me: Remember last week when I was dissing the Russians for losing a lot of wars? Well, someone from Russia is reading my blog. What if it’s the KGB? What if they want my head?!
Ken: HAHAHAHA
Me: It’s not funny. If I go out for groceries and never come back, you’ll know why.
Ken: I’m sure no one is coming all the way from Russia to kidnap you and steal your head just because you said they were bad at war.
Me: YOU DON’T KNOW THAT, KEN!

So I spent several months afterwards worrying constantly about being reprimanded by Justin Trudeau for violating some kind of peace treaty, as one does, or having my head affixed atop a figure skater. I finally stopped thinking about it and assumed the Russians had forgiven me. But just when I thought that I had nicely dodged not only an international incident AND potential decapitation, I found myself at the mercy of Sergei, as he directed me to lie down on the bed and commanded “Tip your chin up, pliz.” I was just on the verge of yelling out, “No one is going to want my head—my mind is like a cross between a Monty Python sketch and a jukebox that never stops playing! It will make whoever you donate it to go crazy! Also, I said ALMOST all the wars–I’m sure you’ve won a couple, but history is not my strong suit!”—when I heard Sergei’s voice in the speaker above my head: “You’re all finished,” he said. “Have a nice day.”

“Spasibo,” I answered, just to be on the safe side.

I’m including the picture below because I know a lot of people have been feeling down lately, and after I took it, I said, “This looks like a beacon of hope.” Of course, that could just be me all tired and sentimental after a week of medical testing, but you have to admit, it’s peaceful and pretty.

The Art Of The Deal

It’s been yet another one of those weeks where the days seem to blur into each other, and where the highlight was receiving a conference call before 7:30 in the morning from a colleague who had butt-dialled the entire team. Cue several confused voices all worried that something major was going on, but all we could hear in the background was the sound of someone getting ready for work. Because I’m me, I posted a gif in the team chat a while later that said, “When you pocket-dial the entire team…” with a picture of Hugh Laurie from House going, “Oops” (I didn’t say butt-dial in the team chat because I’m a professional, dammit). Later, I noticed that everyone but the culprit had reacted to the gif, so I got suspicious and messaged him:

Me: Did you like the gif I posted?
Colleague: Yes, lol.
Me: You know why I posted it, right?
Colleague: No, why?

At that point, I may or may not have led him to believe that it was a video call, and he was momentarily horrified:

Colleague: What was on screen?!
Me: Well…
Colleague: Seriously? Omg???

I finally put him out of his misery and assured him that it was audio only. I can’t be too judgmental though—I’m the one who answers video calls by putting the phone to my ear, which I’m sure my co-workers appreciate.

At any rate, this week I was looking for cheap jigsaw puzzles and happened to be on Facebook Marketplace. Some of the ads are quite interesting as I’ve discussed before and, based on what I’ve seen, it occurs to me that I could make a fortune at helping people market their crap on there. So here are my four tips to making a great sale:

1) Truth in advertising

If you’re trying to sell something, it’s important that you’re honest with your customers and this advertisement is demonstrably inaccurate. There is no old ass in this painting anywhere—no elderly politician, no giant donkey, no wrinkled butt to be seen. The only ass in the picture belongs to the boar and it looks remarkably youthful. I was expecting something completely different based on the description, as you can well imagine. Also, it’s become de rigeur to set a price of $123 if you have no clue how much something is worth, yet below it says, “Sold at auction for €3000 euros which is like $4600 Canadian”. So the painting is already sold? Is this just someone bragging? Instead of sending the polite auto-message that says “Good afternoon, is this still available?”, I really wanted to send, “WTF is this?” But then I checked the profile picture of the seller, which featured a young couple who looked as though they imbibed frequently on certain mind-altering substances, and suddenly the whole thing made sense in a drug-fuelled fantasy kind of way. Still, the truth is important and this old ass painting has yet to sell.

2) Clarity

While this ad is accurate—there ‘is’ indeed two of them—the question remains: Two of WHAT? And the question remains unanswered in the description below, which simply reiterates, “There is two of them”. Did the person who posted this ad really think the picture speaks for itself? Because the only thing it’s saying to me is “There is two of them.” After that, I’m at a loss. Clarity—because none of us are f*cking mind readers.

3) Don’t get too fancy

I’ve never been to Antigue Dispaly, which I assume is one of the minor islands off the coast of Antigua. And I also don’t know how many styles of cabinets they make there, but I’m assuming at least 16 based on this ad. But is all of that really necessary? Do you really need to dazzle potential customers with your exotic Antigue wood? IT’S A CABINET. No one cares where it comes from, Bob. If it was that rare, you’d be asking a hell of a lot more than $175 so take it down a notch.

4) Be willing to compromise

This ad is a perfect example of someone who truly understands marketing. First, it’s completely accurate and honest. The ad description says “Sold” and it’s a picture of the word “Sold”. Second, it’s very clearly written and easily understandable—nothing convoluted here. Third, it’s not fancy—there’s no swirly font, and it just screams simplicity the way it’s on a piece of lined paper and whatnot. Finally, Debbra knows that her audience appreciates a good buy and has dropped the rather hefty asking price by 50% for a quick sale. This is what it’s all about, people.

I hope you appreciate my sound marketing advice, and with that in mind, I leave you to guess what this ad featuring Sir Turdalot is for (hint—he’s not for sale).

Jumping The Shark

OK, so this week has been pretty busy, I’m exhausted, and around midnight last night, I had still had nothing in mind to write about. Then, just as I was drifting off to sleep, a voice in my head said, “Sharks are so cool.” I woke Ken up and said, “In the morning, remind me that I need to write about sharks.” He was like, “Sharks. Right.” But then I wrote it down myself because I knew he wouldn’t remember; in fact, I just asked him a minute ago to remind me what I told him last night and he said, “Glass. You were going to write about glass.” Unfortunately, I am nowhere near as obsessed with glass as I am with sharks. And I know that sounds weird, living nowhere near an ocean as I do, but I’ve had a thing for sharks ever since I was little and we were in England, where we watched some fishermen inspect their haul and throw all the dogfish back in the water.

“What are those?” I asked. “They’re so CUTE!”

“They’re dogfish,” my mother said. “They’re like tiny sharks.”

And I was like, if this is how adorable a TINY shark is, imagine how majorly awesome a HUGE shark would be!! So this week, in honour of sharks, here are my top 5 Shark Moments, in chronological order:

1) When I was around 9, my grandmother offered to take me to the movies in another city, which involved a very long bus trip. This was in the days when the cinemas were on Main Street instead of in a strip mall or a ‘cineplex’. When we got there, there were two movie theatres on the same block. One was playing “Blazing Saddles”, the G rated comedy she was SUPPOSED to take me to see. The other theatre was playing “Jaws”. I begged her instead to take me to see “Jaws”, although I didn’t have to try to hard—my gran was one of those ‘laissez-faire’ English people, and her response was “Whatevs. Don’t tell yer mam.” If you’ve ever seen “Jaws”, you’ll know that by the end of the first minute, I was absolutely terrified. But after a little while, the terror turned into fascination, and by the end of the movie, I was kind of cheering for the shark, especially after that woman slapped Sheriff Brody, and I was like, “It’s not his fault—maybe you shouldn’t have let your kid swim in shark-infested waters—it’s not like he didn’t TRY to warn you. And don’t be blaming the shark either—he’s just doing what sharks DO.” By the time the movie finished, when the shark makes its first real appearance, I was in love. Later that week, I saw in the TV guide that there was a movie on about a shark, and I begged my mom to stay up late and watch it. She was confused but reluctantly agreed. Then the movie started:

Me: When will we see the shark?
Mom: What shark?
Me: The movie is about a lone shark. Like Jaws.
Mom: (laughing) Uh no—it’s about a ‘loan shark’. That’s a man you borrow money from, and if you don’t pay him back, he breaks your legs.
Me: What?! I’m going to bed.

2) The next year, when I was 10, my brother and I were absolutely fanatical about this novelty record that had just been released called “Santa Jaws”. It was a collection of Christmas carols, all rewritten to include sharks. Our favourite was “God rest ye merry gentlemen/You’re not so merry now./The seaside signs said not to swim/But you swam anyhow.” It was brilliant. I just looked it up, and you can listen to it on Youtube (here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELZGHmrF9pA )

3) When Kate was little, I somehow transferred my love of sharks to her. When she was about 5, she had her heart set on dressing up like a shark for Hallowe’en. But try finding a shark costume anywhere—apparently the costume people think it’s OK to dress up like vampires, zombies, or culturally inappropriate Indigenous princesses, but sharks? They’re just too scary. The best I could do was find a dolphin costume, to whose mouth I stapled sharp, cardboard teeth. Kate was only 5, so she didn’t know any different, but I was like, “Aw man—that dorsal fin is all wrong. I hope the other kids don’t make fun of her.” She still got lots of candy, despite the dorsal fin debacle.

4) A few years ago, I bought myself a shark puppet. It was on sale at the local store, and I brought it home and named it Marcelle. Whenever our previous dog Titus was getting too hyper, I would put it on and speak to him in a deep, sharky voice:

Titus: There’s food! Food on the coffeetable! This is the best day ever—wheeee!!!
Marcelle: SIT DOWN.
Titus: Whuh—who are you?
Marcelle: I’m your worst nightmare. It’s time to be a good boy. Now, SIT!
Titus: (sitting) I don’t think this is ecologically accurate—
Marcelle: No food for you!

Eventually, I gave Marcelle to a colleague’s little boy. He was just too hard on Titus. I eventually replaced Marcelle with a small stuffed shark that I named Brian. Then we got Atlas:

Atlas: Mine!
Me: No, you can’t have him.
Atlas: But I want him. I will eat him.
Me: Not if he eats you first, buddy.

So I had to put Brian on a high shelf out of Atlas’s reach, for his own good.

5) I saw Sharkwater, that documentary about sharks, and it made me cry. Then I went with my parents to Turks and Caicos, and my dad and I went snorkeling. The tour took us out to a place called Stingray Cove, where they had a lot of little stingrays that for some reason, they wanted you to hold and kiss. So we did, suddenly, the tour guide yelled, “Shark!” And I was like “Ooh, where?!”  Turns out they were small lemon sharks, who grow quite big and can be very aggressive towards stingrays. I thought it was the best thing ever, but the tour guides were all upset because they make their livelihood taking people out to kiss the stingrays, and didn’t want the sharks to hurt them.

So there I was, standing waist-deep in water with my underwater camera, trying to get a picture of a shark, with these local guys all yelling at me to ‘Get out of the water!’ and ‘Stop encouraging the sharks!’  and ‘You’re going to get bit, crazy Canadian lady!’ I DID get a blurry picture of one of them before it suddenly occurred to me that, despite my tremendous sympathy for them, a shark might not know the difference between my leg and a stingray. And they already have a bad enough reputation without the headline “Ungrateful shark eats Canadian shark ally.”

Anyway, there you have it. Sharks. Because glass is dumb.

At A Certain Angle

I was very excited this week, well, for a little bit anyway. My publisher had arranged for me to do a virtual author event at a very big conference. There haven’t been many opportunities to do ANY kind of promotions thanks to stupid COVID and the never-ending lockdown, so I was pretty pumped, and had what I thought was a great time slot. Then, yesterday morning, I was scrolling through Facebook and found an article about a TV show based on a book that had just been cancelled due to some major controversy about the show’s director. But the name of the author who had written the book in question seemed familiar…and sure enough, it was the writer who was doing a virtual session in the SAME TIME SLOT AS ME and no one will be coming to my event now if they have to choose between a well-known writer embroiled in controversy and a little-known writer who just says F*ck a lot. My heart sank faster than—well, I was going to say the Titanic but people died when that ship sank and I’m just sad—so let’s just say ‘faster than a really heavy rock’. But the rock was VERY heavy and I was VERY sad, so I did what any normal person would do—I bought a clock. And if you know anything about me at all, you’ll know I love clocks and that I have, currently, 45 clocks of which 16 actually work.  I didn’t actually NEED another clock, but this one was so pretty and such a good price that I couldn’t resist. I’ll resell it as soon as the antique market where Ken and I have a booth reopens (it’s also currently shut down thanks to stupid COVID and the never-ending lockdown), but for now, I have it by my desk where I can admire it.

And then I had to go and cancel out the joy that clocks bring me by also buying a small Persian rug from a guy for a very good price. But how could buying a rug possibly lead to an absence of joy, you ask? Well, here’s the difference between a clock and a rug: when you put a clock somewhere, it doesn’t move. The hands might, if it’s a working clock, but aside from that, it pretty much stays in one spot. Rugs, on the other hand (or should I say ‘on the other foot’, bwah hah hah) are a double-edged sword. I adore them, but they also have a nasty tendency to shift around when people or dogs walk on them. And the other thing you probably know about me is that my OCD, which is usually fairly mild, flares up when I’m stressed out. It isn’t bad most days—in fact, you might not even notice it, unless you look around my house and realize that all objects of décor are organized in specific patterns, or you’ve watched me put groceries on the conveyer belt according to size and shape and with one inch of space between all items, or you’ve seen me in the bathroom washing my hands simply because doing that fills me with a sense of profound relief, or you’ve noticed my dermatophagia.

But lately, I’ve been under a lot of stress. I also suffer from what I call “Straight Line OCD” or what experts call “an Extreme Need for Symmetry and Exactness”. Do you have any idea what kind of torture it is to simultaneously have an extreme need for symmetry and exactness as well as a house full of rugs that are constantly out of place? Why don’t you get rid of the rugs, you ask? Because it’s an old house with pine floors, and we need the rugs to stop the floors from getting damaged, muffle the creaking of the floorboards, and stop our feet from getting cold. Plus, when they’re nicely centred on the floor, they’re very beautiful. Why don’t you get those rug gripper things, you ask? I have them under every damn rug and they don’t work!

But I don’t blame the rugs. I mean, it’s not like they’re deliberately askew-ing themselves. No, I blame Ken, who walks on them constantly, and especially the dog, who likes to run through a room at top speed, sliding on them and misaligning them. So I literally spend all my time straightening rugs. And if, right now, you’re like “Why don’t you just leave them? Who cares if they’re on a weird angle?”, WELL, KEN, IT MUST BE NICE TO BE YOU.

I feel bad for the dog though. His favourite game is something we call “Boogedy Boogedy” wherein he has a toy, and I pretend I want it, so I chase him around the kitchen island and then suddenly change direction, confronting him as I yell Boogedy Boogedy, then he takes off into the family room. There are, unfortunately, four rugs involved in this scenario.

Atlas: Ma! Do you want my toy?
Me: I most certainly do. I’m gonna get you and when I do, I’m gonna eat you!
Atlas (running) Hee hee!
Me: Boogedy boogedy!
Atlas: Wheeeee—wait…why are you stopping?
Me: I have to straighten the rug.
Atlas: Are we done playing? ‘Cause I’m just going to mess it up again.
Me: I know.

The most exhausting part of the game isn’t running after the dog—it’s having to constantly stop to straighten the rugs.

And I thought I was off the hook earlier in the week. I was supposed to pick up the rug, and when I got to the guy’s house, it wasn’t where he said it would be, which was rolled up in a bag behind his garage. I messaged him and he was confounded. “I put four rugs out, each in their own bag, labelled with people’s names,” he said. Later, he messaged me that he’d looked at the security camera footage and saw that someone else had taken ALL rugs, instead of just the one they bought. And I was like “Oh, that’s OK, and also I wasn’t dancing while I was waiting at your door, I was jumping up and down from the cold.”
(Narrator’s Voice: She was indeed dancing, having been unaware that there were, indeed, security cameras.)
But then on Friday, he messaged me that he’d gotten the rug back, so what choice did I have? So yes, another rug to straighten. But between that and chasing the dog, I’m staying in shape and no matter what angle you look at it from, that’s a good thing.

 

Creative Wednesday – Spillwords Publication of the Year

Well, I haven’t won yet, but I found out early this week that my flash fiction story ‘Resurrection’ has been nominated for Spillwords Press Publication of the Year (Non-Poetic). It previously won Publication of the Month, thanks to all your support, so if you would like to vote for it again for Publication of the Year (you have until January 31st), here’s the link: https://spillwords.com/vote/

And if you haven’t read ‘Resurrection’ yet, but want to, click here. I hope you enjoy it!

*If you do vote for me and let me know, I’ll name a character in a future short story after you, although I can’t guarantee you’ll have a happy ending–a lot of my stories are pretty dark (rubs hands together and laughs maniacally).

*Also, I know it’s not Wednesday but I forgot to do this yesterday because I spent all day yesterday thinking it was Thursday. I’m not even sure what day today is.

 

 

A Magnetic Personality

It’s been a fairly busy week, and what with the lockdown, I haven’t done much outside of work. I DID watch a few things on Netflix and rented a couple of movies, which were kind of hit and miss. Now, this isn’t a movie review site but I’m happy to give you a very succinct lowdown of some of my viewing choices:

Wonder Woman 1984: Pile of crap
Tenet: WTF was that?
Bridgerton: Oh yeah. Damn.

I was excited to find out last night that the second season of Blown Away, the glassblowing competition show, is now on Netflix. And while that doesn’t sound very exciting, there’s a surprising amount of drama and tension, especially since the contestants are working with fire and molten glass—I definitely recommend it. Ken once did a glassblowing course and here are some of his pieces. He also made the wooden vase on the right:

But one of the highlights of the week was finally having a virtual Zoom appointment with an orthopedic surgeon about my shoulder. I deliberately wore a tank top underneath a baggy cardigan in case he wanted to virtually examine it. But he didn’t—he just asked a bunch of questions, then said he was sending me for an MRI. His next question really flummoxed me:

Surgeon: Do you have any metal in your body?
Me:
Surgeon:
Me:
Surgeon: Suzanne? Are you frozen?
Me: No, I was just thinking about it.

And if you know anything about me at all, you’ll know that two things were going through my mind simultaneously.

1) DO I have any metal in my body? How would I know that? I did a mental catalogue and came to the following conclusion: I have fillings in my molars that look kind of silver-y, I have earrings but they can come out, my toenail polish has glitter in it and that can easily be removed, but this is JUST WHAT I KNOW. I mean, I could have metal in my body without even being aware of it. When I told Ken this later, he laughed and asked how that would even be possible, but here’s a scenario:

Dude 1: And after the anal probe, the aliens left metal in my body.
Dude 2 (gasps in horror): That’s awful!
Dude 1: I know, right?
Dude 2: Now you can never have an MRI!

I mean, I don’t believe in alien abduction, mainly because I don’t believe that any alien life form in its right mind would travel hundreds of years across several galaxies in multi-generational ships just to stick a camera up Bob’s ass. But there are other ways you can unknowingly have metal in your body, like did I accidentally swallow a penny when I was a kid and it’s lodged somewhere in my intestines? Also, I’ve had several surgeries—did one of the doctors leave something behind? And then I talked to my dad, who’s a former machine shop teacher, and he said that when he had an MRI, they made him get an eye scan in case he’d ever gotten a metal shaving in his eye and hadn’t realized it. So see, you can never be sure about metal—it’s sneaky.

2) The other thing that went through my mind at the same time, obviously, was what it would be like to ACTUALLY have metal in my body, like what if my arms could transform into forklift arms or something, like a Wolverine, you know? I’d be walking down the street and hear a cry for help and see an old lady (well, older than me anyway) lying trapped beneath a stack of wooden pallets that had just fallen on her, and my forklift arms would shoot out and rescue her by removing the pallets one by one. It would be a slow rescue, but it still counts.

And then Kate just read that over my shoulder:

Kate: Forklift arms? That’s a terrible power. Go to Professor X with that, and he’d show you the door.
Me: No, he wouldn’t. It’s just as good as Wolverine, I mean what’s his power? Spikes shoot out of his hands? You can’t lift sh*t with those.
Kate: He’s also immortal. And you don’t need forklift arms to lift stuff when you HAVE ARMS.

But I still want forklift arms, despite the mockery. And of course, the other big question everyone asks when you tell them you’re having an MRI is “Are you claustrophobic?” I started to get worried because from what I understood, the MRI machine is a giant magnet that they stick you in. Last night, I woke up around 3 am as per usual, and lay there thinking about it, and when I imagined myself in a tight cave, I did get a little panicky. But then I googled pictures of MRI machines and they look more like very thick donuts, and you lie in the hole. So as long as I can get out either end, I think I’ll be fine. Then the best part, and I’m being completely sarcastic here, is that they called and my appointment is at midnight. Midnight? I don’t have to worry about feeling claustrophobic—I’ll be asleep. Unless the giant magnet triggers a hitherto unknown genetic mutation involving forklift arms…

 

Things That Are Like Other Things

This Christmas, Ken put something amazing in my stocking. We’ve always given each other stockings full of socks, chocolate, wine, and other small cool stuff, and this year I was excited to receive a pen. That might sound less cool than I’ve made it out to be, but wait! It’s not just a pen—it’s also a screwdriver, a level, and a ruler. It is, in fact, a “4-In-1 Pen Tool”, and if that isn’t the best thing that is like another thing, I don’t know what is. Now, no matter where I go, I can measure something, check if it’s level, repair it, or write down an interesting fact about it. Because multi-tasking is an art, and things that are like other things are a multi-tasker’s best friend.

 

For example, if you’ve been here before, you know that I LOVE gummy vitamins. They’re multi-coloured, taste just like gummy bears, and are the best of both worlds. The first thing I get to do when I get up in the morning, even BEFORE I eat my yogurt, is have some candy. And it was recommended by my doctor! I NEVER used to take vitamins before, on the grounds that they tasted bad (except for Vitamin C tablets, which taste like oranges, or just like the baby aspirin they had when I was a kid. I used to sneak baby aspirin every so often because they were so delicious–I could fall off my bike and bleed half to death because my blood was so thin, but it didn’t hurt at all), and I didn’t really care about thiamine or niacin or dioxin or whatever. But now, I take vitamins every day because it’s fun AND healthy.

And that got me thinking about a) things that are like other things that make me happy, and b) things that SHOULD be like other things. So here is my list:

1) My newest favourite thing which is like another thing is ‘Pants That Are Pajamas’. Now that I’ve been working from home for almost a year, I have several pairs of these. Some people call them ‘Yoga Pants’ but I don’t do yoga, unless you count a vigorous stretch to grab a wine glass from the cupboard. ‘Pants That Are Pajamas’ allow me to easily transition from Business Casual to Nightwear with very little effort at all.

2) If you’ve ever flown, you know that your seat cushion turns into a flotation device. Which begs the question (which I think I heard first from Jerry Seinfeld) ‘why doesn’t the plane just turn into a cruise ship if it lands in the water?’ I know this is totally possible, because my next favourite thing which is like another thing is a bus that turns into a boat. We went on a bus tour in Ottawa a few years ago, and after we’d driven around for a while looking at the Parliament buildings and whatnot, the driver suddenly announced that we would also be cruising the harbour. Then we drove down a ramp, STRAIGHT INTO THE RIVER. I was totally freaking, but Ken was like, “Don’t worry–the wheels turn into propellers and there’s a ring underneath that inflates.” I responded very calmly with “Liar! We’re going to drown!” and Ken said, “They ADVERTISED this. Why are you acting all surprised? Don’t you remember?”, but I reminded HIM that first, I thought they meant we would get OFF the bus and get ON a boat, and second, I may or may not have been enjoying a very nice Sauvignon Blanc the previous evening when he pulled out the brochure and was waving it around, saying, “Ooh, this will be fun.” But you know what? Once I got used to the idea that my bus was now a boat, and the bus driver was now a sea captain and I could refer to him as ‘Skipper’, I really enjoyed the whole experience. Kate, of course, remained calm throughout the entire tour. Or maybe she was bored. Mainly because the tour consisted of just looking at buildings. But still, the Bus-Boat was very cool.

3) Canes that become swords. Okay, technically, they don’t BECOME swords, they just have swords in them. It would be awesome to be hobbling around, all decrepit-like, then suddenly whip out that sword like a superspy ninja when the need arose. I also love canes that double as flasks for alcohol, because who DOESN’T want to crack that bad boy open when no one’s looking? It would have made my Bus-Boat trip a hell of a lot more interesting once we were on the water, that’s for sure.

4) Sporks. This is two handy things in one–a spoon and a fork. Take it one step further by sharpening the plastic edge, and you have a sporfe: a spoon, fork, and knife all in one, which I just invented. Actually, this might have already been invented, most likely by a prisoner, who stole a spoon from the canteen and turned it into a weapon to shank his cellmate with first, then ate the guy’s pie and ice cream after. Wow, that got dark kind of quick for a fun plastic utensil.

5) Closed Captioning. This allows you to watch TV and read at the same time, so all those people who think reading is a more intellectual pursuit than Netflix can get stuffed.

Okay, so I’ve listed some things that are already other things, so here are some ideas about things that I WISH were other things:

1) Protein shakes that taste like Bailey’s Irish Cream. Wait, does Bailey’s have any protein in it? If so, we could just cut out the middle man, drink the Bailey’s, and then go work out. Many years ago, I had a recumbent cycle, and I used to pour a big glass of wine, turn on the TV, and cycle for a few kilometres. It was hardly like exercising AT ALL, and I broke even on the calories.

2) A bookshelf that is a door. I’ve been bugging Ken about this for a while now, trying to get him to think of a place in our house where we could put a bookshelf that is, in reality, the door to a secret room. There are a couple of spots where we could do it, but Ken thinks it would be really complicated to build. What a baby. I mean, I’m no engineer, but I do have a 4-In-1 pen, and I think it’s definitely possible.

3) A pen with a Tide White Stick on the other end. This is great for people like me, who are fairly clumsy and wave pens around for emphasis, inevitably getting ink on their clothes. But see, with my invention, all you’d have to do is flip the thing around, erase that blob, and you’re good to go. Combine it with the 4-In-1 Pen and you wouldn’t be able to keep them on store shelves—they’d be snapped up faster than toilet paper in a pandemic.

Ultimately, I am the QUEEN of multi-tasking. Whether it’s eating, drinking, working out, or just relaxing, I’ve got a pen for that.

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

We’ve had Atlas the wonder dog for almost 7 months now, and over that time, he’s accrued a variety of nicknames. When he’s being sweet, he’s Puppy Dobkins. When he’s being rambunctious, he’s Killer MacGee. Under a variety of circumstances, he’s Buddy, and then of course, right before Christmas, he was, for a brief time, OHMYGODYOUJERK when I discovered that he had somehow gotten my car key fob off the top of the cabinet by the door and had chewed it up so badly that it no longer worked. I had to replace it to the tune of $130, and didn’t they all nod knowingly at the car dealership when I told them how it happened? But sometimes, just for fun, I’ll say to him, “Hello, Georgie. Do you want your boat back? Would you like a balloon? We all float down here,” and he just looks at me questioningly and goes back to barking at the recycling bin or THAT poodle from down the street. I am, of course, doing a very fine impression of Pennywise The Clown from the movie IT (played by Bill Skarsgard, not Tim Curry), based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. It’s such an excellent impression that when I did it the other day when Ken was in the room, and once again, he didn’t laugh or even comment, I got quite frustrated.

Me: What the hell, Ken!
Ken (innocently): What?
Me: Why don’t you EVER laugh when I do that?
Ken: Do what?
Me: That’s a really good impersonation, and you never laugh!
Ken: Who were you impersonating?
Me: Pennywise The Clown!
Ken: I think you think your impersonation is better than it is.

A little while later, Kate came down, and we (I) insisted that she listen to my very fine impression of Pennywise and give her opinion. After I demonstrated it for her and finished with a flourish, I asked her what she thought.

Kate: How candid would you like me to be on a scale of 1 to 10?
Me: So 1 is totally honest and 10 is a complete lie?
Kate: Yes.
Me: What would 10 be?
Kate: You were amazing.
Ken: (*laughs hysterically*)
Me: Well, Atlas thinks it’s awesome.
Atlas: I don’t, but you always give me a special cookie after you say it.
Me: Sigh.

Because I do a lot of good impersonations. When I was still teaching, every year for the Christmas skit, the teaching staff had to take on the personas of different musicians. One year I was Lorde performing Royals, another year I was Taylor Swift and had to sing Love Song, which I did to thunderous applause.

See? I look exactly like her. I still have the wigs from both performances, and every time I hear either song, I’m transported back to the stage. My favourite impersonation, and I’ve told the shortened version of this story sometime in the past, was the year I got drafted into a group doing KISS and was nominated to play the role of Paul Stanley, the lead singer. I went out and bought a curly black wig, some cheap leather gear at the second hand shop, and found some platform boots at the back of the closet. Another staff member did my make-up and the resemblance was remarkable as I lip synched my way through Rock and Roll All Nite with other staff members looking equally KISS-ish and awesome.

Then, just as we had finished our set, the snow started coming down like crazy, and since it was the last day before Christmas holidays, all the students and staff were sent home early. At the time, I had a very sporty low coupe, and it didn’t have winter tires, so as I was rounding the corner towards our house, I suddenly got stuck in the snow. I couldn’t move forward or backwards, and while I was literally half a block from home, I couldn’t just leave the car in the middle of the road. But then I saw a pickup truck coming so I got out and waved it down. The truck stopped and the guy got out and stood by his front bumper, looking very nervous. “Oh hey!” I called out to him. “I’m stuck. Can you help push me out?”  

He just continued to stare at me, and that’s when I realized that, while I’d taken off the wig, I was still in full KISS makeup. I had to explain to him that I’d been doing a KISS impersonation and the whole time he was pushing my car out, he stared at me suspiciously. And I think that’s because he was convinced that I WAS Paul Stanley and wanted my autograph. Because I’m THAT GOOD AT IMPRESSIONS, KEN.

And then, in a strange turn of fate, Ken just showed me the most bizarre video I’ve ever seen of a clown that looks just like Pennywise singing Royals by Lorde. It’s like my life has come full circle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBmCJEehYtU&ab_channel=PostmodernJukebox