Voyage of Discovery

Well, it’s been another exciting week here in the house. Last week, I spoke of being like Magellan, and once again, I’ve been on a voyage of discovery:

1) I discover a solution

After 15 years of having a small sitting room, which is a misnomer in that it only seats three, and which is completely useless since anyone who visits us always comes in pairs, I looked around it on Tuesday and said to Ken, “You know, if we turn the loveseat so it’s perpendicular to the fireplace instead of facing it, sell that big-ass armchair no one ever sits in, buy a smaller chair, and move that wing chair over here, we could seat 4 people in this room.” Ken turned to me with the long-suffering look of a man who has suffered too long from impromptu furniture rearranging schemes. “Sure,” he said, “but all the stores are closed. Oh well. Maybe in a month.”

“But wait,” I said, and his long-suffering look turned into one of resignation, the resigned look of a man who knows that his wife has been perusing the local Buy and Sell sites. “I just saw the perfect chair on Facebook Marketplace. We can sell ours and buy THAT one.”

And that’s exactly what we did. The whole scheme was accomplished using social distancing, of course, which meant that the old couple who bought our big-ass chair refused any help as they staggered down the 100-foot long walkway to the sidewalk carrying it, and loaded it into their SUV. It was snowing and I felt awful, but they waved off any offer of assistance and then e-transferred me once it was safely stowed. Then Ken and I drove to a neighbouring town where the newest member of the family room awaited us on a porch.

“It’s beautiful,” I whispered.

“It’s heavy,” Ken answered.

Nevertheless, we/Ken got it loaded up, drove it home, and it now resides in our sitting room, filling me with the kind of joy you only feel when you’ve been locked inside your house for weeks. The new (pre-owned) chair is the one on the left. I don’t know about you, but I have no issue buying furniture second-hand—in fact, we got the loveseat in the picture from the Habitat For Humanity Restore Store for 80 bucks, and Ken and I made the coffee table out of an old pallet we found. 

2) I discover an impossible task

When I was a child, I suffered from a nasty skin condition called dyshidrosis that only affected my hands. The causes of dyshidrosis are still not-well-known today, but for some reason, 50 years ago, dermatologists thought that the oil in orange peel was one of the triggers and as a result, I wasn’t allowed to touch oranges. I’ve talked about my obsession with orange things before, but the one thing I never mentioned was my undying adoration for canned mandarin oranges, you know, the ones that come in the syrup. I long ago realized that orange peel wasn’t really a problem, so usually at work, I have a bag of mandarins in my office so I can have one with lunch every day and avoid scurvy. But then I was at the grocery store a couple of weeks ago and I realized that you can still get the canned ones, only they aren’t in cans anymore—they’re in these plastic cups with peel-off lids. I was super-excited, and at lunch the next day, I took one out of the cupboard and started to peel off the lid, which resulted in mandarin orange syrup squirting out all over me. “I’ll have to be more careful tomorrow,” I thought to myself, undaunted.

Tomorrow came, and again, despite my care, the syrup shot out. I’d learned my lesson and had it pointed away from me, so it ended up all over the floor, much to the delight of Titus.

Me: What the f*ck?!
Ken: You’re squeezing it. Don’t squeeze the cup when you peel off the lid.
Titus: You should totally squeeze the cup when you peel off the lid. This is yummy.
Me: I’m not squeezing it! And stop licking the floor!

The last part was for Titus, not Ken, just in case you’re worried that the furniture rearranging had finally sent him over the edge. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. There is no possible way to open a Del Monte Mandarin Orange Cup without having the f*cking juice jet out of it. But it’s still delicious.

3) I discover something new to worry about…

…because I don’t have enough things to worry about already. Anyway, I’ve been spending a LOT of time in online virtual meetings, on-camera most of the day, which is fine because I only have to look fancy from the waist up. From the waist down (no, I’m NOT naked!) I’m wearing pajama pants, fuzzy socks, and slippers. So I’m like a modern-day mullet: business up top and Netflix down below. Time has currently become a noun for both Ken and me:

Me: I’ve got a 9 o’clock.
Ken: Me too. Then I have a 1 o’clock.
Me: I’ve got an 11 o’clock, and then maybe a 2.

But on Wednesday, my 3 o’clock was cancelled, which gave me a chance to grab a snack. I had my phone in my pocket and I was on the way to the kitchen when the doorbell and the phone simultaneously rang. My reaction to this sudden ominous turn of events was to yell, “What the absolute f*ck is going on here?!?!!” as I went to answer the door at the same time as I put the phone to my ear. There was a man backing away from the door who called out, “It’s just your Staples order” as I heard people talking and laughing through the phone. I smiled and waved at the man, then took the phone away from my ear and realized to my horror that I was on a VIDEO CALL and that instead of seeing my face, everyone had a great close-up shot of the INSIDE OF MY EAR. And now, on top of everything else, I have to worry about whether or not the insides of my ears are clean, which I would hope they ARE, but how the hell would I know?! So in consolation, I opened my snack, wiped the mandarin juice off my pajama pants, and sat in my new chair.

As a postscript, I’m happy to tell you that my publisher has finally made both my novels available as Kobo e-books, which is great news because for the last two weeks, The Dome has been showing as “Currently Unavailable” on Amazon.ca and has disappeared completely from Amazon.com since somehow the title has been changed to “Dome” and the search link is broken. The word count for both Kobo e-books is completely wrong and less than half the actual words I wrote, unless a) Canadian words convert differently to American, like kilometres and miles or b) over half the words are actually missing, which will make it a real treat for readers to try and follow the plot. Here are the links in case anyone is interested:

The Dome: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/the-dome-11
Smile: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/smile-57

Creative Wednesday – Dryad

I know it’s late but it’s still technically Wednesday and I’m kind of excited about this. A couple of weeks ago, I posted a poem here for Creative Wednesday. I’d never done that before, being kind of a closet poet and not very confident about my skill in that area. Your response was so wonderful and supportive that I thought, Why not? So I submitted a couple of pieces, and the wonderful people at Mineral Lit Mag accepted one of them. It’s called ‘Dryad’ and you can read it here.

I couldn’t have done it without all of you. You’re better than Chardonnay. But since you’re not at my house, I’m drinking the Chardonnay.

Why Fi?

This whole social distancing thing may or may not be making me a little punchy. A few days ago, I set out to buy groceries, and prior to the last few weeks, I had never “set out” like I was f*cking Magellan looking for (she googles “Magellan” to find out what the hell he was looking for) SPICES, although I DID need some turmeric. Something that used to be so easy and pleasurable has become quite the ordeal, especially in Canadian False Spring, which is to say that it’s technically Spring according to the calendar, but according to everything else, it’s still Fool’s Winter, which is when you are a FOOL and don’t dress for the actual weather. And that was me, standing there shivering and wearing vinyl gloves instead of mittens, lining up to get into the grocery store like it was a goddamned roller coaster—in other words, a very long wait, but without the reward of 60 seconds of exhilaration—unless bacon is on sale.

Anyway, I was fine in the store, and got everything I wanted, despite the media hysteria about how we’re all going to be starving and poop-assed. But on the way home, I drove through the same small town that I usually drive though and as I got to the section where the speed limit lowers, the warning light at the side of the road began to flash my speed as I started to slow down. It was a 50 km/hour zone, and for my American friends, I have no idea if that’s like a gazillion miles per hour or (she googles “How many miles per hour is 50 kilometres?”) THIRTY-ONE POINT ZERO SEVEN. And the damn light kept flashing red, even though I was going 54, as if I was Baby Driver or whatnot, and I yelled, “I’m doing my BEST, you passive-aggressive piece of SH*T!! F*ck you!” and I gave the flashing light the finger.

Now, I don’t really believe that an inanimate, solar-powered traffic light can actually be passive-aggressive. I mean, it’s not like it’s a husband who, when you chide him for taking his SECOND nap of the day, later posts an article on Facebook about how great naps are and how people should have at least two every day and no one should criticize them for doing it.  No, it’s not like that at all. And it’s not like it’s a wife who, upon discovering that her husband has spent the afternoon secretly watching a movie that they both wanted to see when he was supposed to be outside gardening, says “Oh, I see. That’s fine. I’m glad to know that the next time I want to watch something that we were both interested in, I don’t have to let you know. No problem.” Noooo, it’s not like that at all.

But my point, and I DO have one, is that people give their wifi extremely strange names. This point may seem to be a complete divergence from what you have just been reading about, but bear with me. As you know, I’m working from home. Last week, I had to change the password on my work computer and when I did, my whole system locked up. I was on the verge of a breakdown, having lost access to just about anything, and I’d been on the phone with one of our lovely secret agency IT guys for over an hour. We were trying to reconnect my VPN and he suggested using my phone as a personal hotspot. “Open your wifi and see if you can find it in there,” he suggested. My phone is known as “Suzanne’s Iphone” which seems pretty human and normal, but then a bunch of other wifis came up and I was like “WTF? You’re allowed to NAME your wifi?!” We have a central router in our house and then three boosters, but they are all just identified by numbers like 560 or 770 (those are fake numbers just in case my neighbours are reading this). But when the list came up, there were things on there like “2BoyzIntheBigCity” and “JaysPad” and I thought for a minute that my life had become a hip-hop video. Who ARE these people? I live in a very small town, and I haven’t seen any funky fresh folks around lately, but those wifi names suggest otherwise. I was intensely curious about this:

Me: Is there anybody in our neighbourhood named Jay? There’s a wifi on here that says “Jayspad”.
Ken: I don’t think so. What’s the name of that new guy across the street? Maybe it’s him.
Me: He doesn’t look like a Jay. I doubt that he has a nice pad.
Ken: What?
Me: You know, like a bachelor pad. My Jay has a funky fresh pad. I’ll bet his living room is all decked out in animal prints and he has a sheepskin rug and a wetbar and those swirling disco lights—
Ken: Ipad. Jay has an IPAD.
Me:
Ken: IPAD.
Me: Stupid Jay.

And then I was sad, because if I’d known I could give my wifi a personalized moniker, it would be known as Player One, OBVIOUSLY. Apparently I could change it if I wanted to but (she googles “How do you change your wifi’s name?”) it’s way too complicated. As for 2BoyzIntheBigCity, I’m fairly convinced right now that it’s the two teenaged brothers across the street being ironic, which I admire them for, almost as much as I admire whoever named their wifi “Nachowifi”. Can I use your wifi? No, because it’s Nachowifi. Passive aggressive, am I right? Yeah, it’s a tenuous link back to the beginning. Fight me.

Creative Wednesdays – Resurrection

It’s Creative Wednesday! If you have a moment and you’d like something short to read, one of my flash fiction pieces is currently featured on Spillwords Press. It’s called “Resurrection” and you can read it by clicking here. If you like it, maybe you could give it some stars. Thanks!

Wigging Out

Last week, I mentioned that Ken had worn one of my wigs to a meeting and that I was planning to wear one during a virtual meeting to which my friend Elaine from Elaine’s Blog asked to see me in it. I did indeed wear it for “Wig Wednesday” where I encouraged my team to wear wigs for our daily check-in (some of them did—it wasn’t just me, you know). Here’s how I hoped I looked:

Here’s how I really looked (difficult to be cute when all your best reading glasses are back at the office):

But I’ve always loved wigs. I grew up in an era where it wasn’t unusual for women to wear them frequently, and every department store had a wig department, with all kinds of exotic looks that a young girl could fantasize about. My mother had at least two wigs that I remember, and my brother and I used to put them on, jump on the beds and pretend we were rock stars. And by “rock star” I mean Donny and Marie Osmond, who were very popular at the time. Being the eldest, I always insisted on being Donny, relegating my 5 year-old brother to the role of Marie. But he had a great singing voice, and it was a hell of a lot higher-pitched than mine. My brother has a very nice baritone now, but I still sound like a bagpipe-playing duck caught in a trap. We were too young to listen to actual rock, of course, whose musicians all looked like they WERE wearing really bad wigs. I remember going with our mother to visit one of her friends who had an older son. He took us to his bedroom and showed us a KISS album. “This is the best band ever,” he informed us solemnly.
“They look like girls,” we giggled.
“You’re a fag if you don’t like KISS,” he told my brother. We didn’t know what that exactly meant, but it sounded like he was being insulting so I defended my brother the way only an eight year-old can. “No, he’s NOT,” I said, and we left him alone with his precious “men wearing wigs and make-up”. And I’m glad I live in an era now, where your sexual orientation is no longer the fallback for musical criticism. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

Back to wigs. In retrospect, I’ve had a lot of wigs. When I was a teenager, I had a long ponytail hairpiece that I wore on fancy occasions. As an adult, I’ve had more than one hairpiece that made my hair, which is thin and fine, look like it had a substantial bun at the back (not unlike the hairpieces that hipster guys used to give themselves the dreaded “man bun”). Then, I branched out into “musical theatre”, which is to say that I began to take part in the Christmas assembly at the school where I used to work. Every year, the staff there lip-synched the songs of contemporary or well-known music stars. The first year I did this, I played the role of—guess who?! The lead singer from KISS. Full face make-up and a curly, long black wig, complete with a black leather costume and platform boots. It was an exhilarating experience, and now I know why KISS did it for so many years. Then we were sent home due to a terrible snow storm. I got my car stuck in a snow drift a block away from my house and flagged down a pick-up truck to help push me out. When the guy got out of his truck, he stopped and stared at me kind of fearfully, at which point I realized that I’d taken off the wig, but was still in full KISS make-up. “I was in a play,” I tried to explain, but I think I would have been more believable if I’d been wearing the wig.

Over the years, I’ve donned a long brunette wig to play Lorde, the blonde wig seen above to sing along to Taylor Swift, and “gotten my wig on” for Hallowe’en on several occasions. But I’ve never actually bought a full wig just to wear. Until a couple of years ago, that is. I’d gone out for dinner with a friend, and we may or may not have indulged in the $5 drink special more than once. On the way back, we went into the underground shopping mall near my building to get some wine. Then we passed the Wig Store. We were window shopping and talking about how much fun it would be to try on a couple, when the owner came out. “Come into my shop! I have something that would really suit you,” she enticed us. Well, being as tipsy as I was, I wasn’t hard to convince. The next thing we knew, she was pulling hair off plastic lady heads, whipping out hair nets, and getting us to try on all kinds of things. When she popped the “Cleopatra” over top of my own short hair, I was sold. Of course, “Cleopatra” is a bit of a misnomer, unless the Queen of Egypt had blonde highlights, but I knew I had to buy that wig. And I did. “What are you going to do with it?” my friend asked. “I’m going to wear it home on the train on Friday and surprise Ken!” I said, which seemed like a great plan at the time.

On Friday, at the end of the day, I was starting to get a little nervous about my plan. Would it be obvious? Would people think I was weird? I took Cleo into the bathroom and maneuvered it onto my head. It was a little harder to adjust than when the wig shop owner had done it, but I finally got it looking symmetrical. When I came out to get my bags, a few co-workers were still there. “Wow!” said one, “It looks so real!” “Your husband is going to LOVE it!” said another. This made me feel a little better and not quite so self-conscious. On the train, when the drink cart came around, the female conductor did a bit of a double-take, mostly because I order from her every week. “I’m wearing a wig today,” I whispered. “That’s OK,” she said, like I was asking her permission, but she did assure me that it looked very natural. So I tipped her, which I don’t normally do, because technically she’s not a waitress, and because the train is such a big rip-off in the first place. 

When we finally got to the train station, I saw Ken through the window. I couldn’t wait to see the look on his face. And sure enough, when he saw me, he looked away, then back in confusion, then surprise. And then he frowned.

Me: Do you like my new look?
Ken: What are you doing?
Me: I wanted to surprise you.
Ken: Oh…
Me: What do you think?
Ken: Yeah, I don’t like it.
Me: You get that it’s a wig, right?
Ken: I like your hair short, though.
Me: It comes OFF. It’s a WIG. My normal human hair is still underneath.
Ken: Oh. It makes you look really different. I don’t like the bangs…
Me: Never mind.

I understand Ken’s reaction because he does the same thing when we’re out shopping. If I see something cool and ask him if he likes it too, he always says “No”, even if he does like it, because he’s worried that if he agrees with me, I’ll buy it. It’s taken 30 years to get him to understand that I just like to window shop. So I think he was concerned that if he said he liked the wig, I’d never take it off. We’d be like 90, and in a retirement home, I’d still be wearing “Cleopatra”, and all the old guys would want to “play Bingo” with me because I had the best hair. At any rate, I kept it on until we got to the store where K worked. Her reaction was a little more favourable—she laughed pleasantly, hugged me and said it “looked good”. And then we got home, where Titus met me at the door.

Titus: You’re home! This is the best day ever!
Me: Do you notice anything different?
Titus: Is that Swiss Chalet chicken?! Can this day GET any better?!
Me: So nothing?
Titus: Your hair grew. Give me some french fries!

Virtual Reality

(Before we begin this week’s trip into lunacy, I was thrilled when I found out yesterday that one of my pieces of short fiction would be appearing today in The Ekphrastic Review. Click here to read it!)

So this week, I’ve been busy researching other jurisdictions as part of my job, and I have to tell you, there is a HUGE uptick in sites devoted to armadillos. I was on one website that had an environmental slant, and it was literally cartoon armadillos everywhere and all I could think was “Who in their f*cking mind is going ALL IN on the armadillos? Are they like the next (and at this point, I asked Ken for something that was really popular and isn’t anymore so that I could include a clever analogy, and he said, “Pet rocks” and I said, “Something more recent—duh” and he said, “The bucket challenge?” and I was just about to ask for a divorce when he said…) “The woman yelling at the cat meme?” so I guess I don’t have to look for another husband yet. At any rate, I learned more about armadillos than I ever thought I would need to know and apparently they’re very cool, eat a lot of larvae and are also a good indicator of how well the environment is doing. But then I was like, “What do armadillos really look like?” so I googled some images of them while I was about to start a virtual Zoom meeting. Did you know that they’re actually very cute in a weird and sassy way? And at the same time, I was desperate to do what everyone else I know has been doing, and that’s to have a virtual background on my Zoom screen, and I finally figured out how to do it, but as the meeting started, I didn’t have anything except the picture of the armadillo that I’d just googled, so I USED THAT.

Me: Good morning everyone!
Team: Good morn–
Me: I finally figured out how to use the virtual background!
Colleague 1: Very nice. C’est un peu distracting.
Me: Look! If I reach around like this, I can pet it!
Colleague 2: It kind of looks like it’s sitting on your shoulder…
Me: I KNOW, RIGHT?!

But later, I had to have a meeting with our Chief Operating Officer, and as much as I love armadillos, I realized that I should probably have a virtual background that was more normal like everyone else who had tropical beaches or snowy forests. Unfortunately, my default was a gallery of Baby Yoda cookies from when I was doing a Zoom with my family. While it looked quite adorable and yummy, that was no good either. So I quickly found a picture of the garden house that Ken built for us, and then everyone was like “Wow—it looks so cute!” so I guess I don’t have to look for another job yet.

On Wednesday, Ken and I decided that it was important for us to get some fresh air at the end of every day, and because we live in a small town, we don’t have our own mail box—we have to go uptown to a bank of community mailboxes. It was a lovely day, and as Ken opened our mailbox, I looked up at the sky, smiled and said, “I feel like things are going to be OK” and then Ken pulled out the only piece of mail that we had, and it was a letter from the Purple Shield insurance company offering us a FREE WILL-PLANNING KIT and I was like “Sigh. Never mind.” And I don’t know if I’m more concerned about a company taking advantage of a pretty dire situation or the fact that now I have to think about things like “How To Ensure Your Wishes Are Honoured” because the other day, Ken and I went for a drive and we went past a cemetery with a mausoleum and I said, “Ooh, that’s what I want!” and Ken laughed and said, “I’m cremating you, sucker.” OK, Ken didn’t actually say it like that, but every time I say I want my casket to be interred in a mausoleum, he snickers derisively and I JUST KNOW that my last wishes will NOT be honoured. But I warned him that no matter what, I would haunt him and his new, younger wife by dipping their toothbrushes in the toilet and not telling them.

On Wednesday, Ken said to me, “Hey, where’s that wig you have?” I found it for him and he put it on for his team meeting. I was a little perturbed because the first time I wore that wig, he said, “I don’t like you with bangs” as if it was my permanent hair and I had just given myself an ill-advised trim. But I could hear his team laughing hysterically at the sight of him in my wig, and now I’m determined to wear it next week, and also buy a bunch of even nicer wigs, because if we have to work from home forever, who’s going to know whether or not my hair grew, or changed colour or whatnot? And then I don’t have to wash and style my hair every morning for the camera—I can just throw on a wig. This is the one I really want:

But I’m also willing to settle for something less glamorous if Prime can deliver it in 24 hours.

 Lastly, I went back through my notes and pictures to see what I had considered writing about this week and I found this:

Why do I have a picture of this?! I don’t remember taking a picture of this and I have no idea what it means. I am NOT from Chicago and I don’t know anyone who is. I have NEVER called anyone except Ken “Bitch” and only in that fun, drag queen-ish kind of way. Are there armadillos in Chicago? Because it seems like something an armadillo would say. 

 

 

Creative Writing Wednesday – What Remains

I normally don’t post mid-week, but I thought I might start doing it once in a while. You all know I write this weird-ass blog, and that I write novels. I’ve posted some of the short stories I’ve had published in the past in different literary mags, but what you might not know is that I also write poetry. It’s not very good poetry, and I don’t submit it anywhere because it’s not really what the lit mags are looking for, I don’t think, but I like doing it anyway. So today, I’m posting this piece I wrote over the last couple of weeks. I hope you enjoy it. I showed it to Ken and he said, “…Interesting” and then I showed it to Kate and she thought it was about fish migrating. IT’S NOT. Anyway, take from it what you will.

What Remains

We speed along the black river
The wires on shore buzzing
And cutting into our flesh
Across the distance
Full of secrets.
We hide on the water
Tight to the bank
Where the towers can’t see us.
You tell me to slow down
“The faster we go
The more noticeable we are.”

 We race along the black road
Through pine and spruce
And hard rock
Whispering our names.
The tar sticks to our tires
Melting the treads.
Up ahead the wires spit
And crackle out a signal.
You tell me to veer left
“This way is safe.
Drive until dawn.”

 We sift through the black sand
Not on a beach
But in a desert
Hidden under an ocean of stuttering stars.
With desperate hands
We pull conch shells from its depths
And then bones.
They are our bones
The bones of our parents
And the bones of our children.
You tell me to gather them up in my arms
And fill my pockets.
“We’re home.”