Intruder Alert

A few days ago, I was driving home from work and decided to call Ken. If you may remember, I was railing a while back about my car phone lady, who can never recognize Ken’s name. But this time, when I said, “Call Ken,” she right away responded with “OK, calling Ken.” Or at least that’s what I thought she said. But when the call got picked up, a very deep, very suspicious male voice said, “Hello?” and then I looked at my phone control panel and realized it said ‘Cam’. And I was like, “Who the f*ck is Cam?!” I don’t know ANYONE named Cam except my 12 year-old nephew, and he doesn’t have a phone, and also, how after ALL THESE YEARS of the car phone lady not recognizing the name Ken, is she suddenly able to understand CAM?!

So I mumbled something weird about trying to call my husband, sorry wrong number etc., and he hung up on me. At which point, I remembered that I’d changed Ken’s contact to Kenneth in a futile attempt to make my life easier, which it HAS NOT, but I called him anyway after several moments of conversation with the car phone lady during which she peppered me with questions like “Did you say Karen? Did you say Nancy?” until I finally got through to Ken.

Me: Do I know anyone named Cam, aside from our nephew?
Ken: I have no idea. Why?
Me: Because my car phone just called some rando named Cam, and I don’t remember putting anyone with that name in my contacts.
Ken: Did you ask him?
Me: No. I think he thought I was from one of those duck cleaning services and he hung up on me.
Ken: Duct.
Me: If I’m going to be a telemarketer, then I’m definitely cleaning ducks.

And I still have no idea who Cam is. I tried reverse look-up on the number but all I could find out is that it’s a cell phone in Toronto, so the mystery remains unsolved.

Then things got even more mysterious and a little scary on Thursday. I’d been out all morning thrifting and scored some fantastic deals. I walked up to the door of the house with my arms full of stuff, and sniffed the air because it smelled strongly of freshly brewed coffee, which to some of you might seem heavenly but to me, who despises coffee, all it meant was that Ken had come home early from volunteering in the food tent at a tractor show, as one does, and had snuck in a cup behind my back. So I opened the door, fully expecting to see him in the kitchen savouring his brew, but he wasn’t there. Atlas seemed very pleased that I was home, but there was no sign of Ken anywhere. Then I noticed that the door to the family room, which I’d closed before I left, was wide open. Maybe Ken was outside. But no. Strange. I started organizing my thrift shop finds when I realized that there was a noise like running water coming from the back bathroom, so I went to investigate. The hot tap was running. So I got a little nervous and texted Ken, and while I was doing that, Atlas suddenly took off upstairs and started running around up there like he was looking for something. When I called him, he refused to come down right away and stood at the top of the stairs like he was worried, which made me feel even more nervous.

Me: Hey buddy, whatcha doing?
Atlas: Jus’ lookin’ around.
Me: For what?
Atlas: Things. Peoples.
Me: Can you come back down?
Atlas: Did you say ‘Cam’?

Then Ken responded that one of our neighbours had called him a little while ago, but he couldn’t take her call because he was busy frying onions or something, and all I could think was that she’d seen someone lurking around, someone with a large cup of coffee perhaps, and that she was trying to alert us, and then I got REALLY SCARED. Ken offered to drive home but he was half an hour away and up to his elbows in onions and whatnot, so I did what any normal person would do. I walked across the street to the church that’s being renovated and asked the very nice man who owns it (you may remember him from the porta-potty escapade) if he could come back with me and help me search my house. And I can only imagine how a request like that might be perceived, like “Hi, you don’t really know me but I think there’s a psychotic coffee-drinking killer in my house, so could you be a dear and flush him out for me?” But I really was almost in tears at this point, and he immediately followed me back. I put Atlas outside, much to his dismay, and the very nice man and I went through the place together, opening all the closets and making sure the attic and basement were locked, much to my relief.

After the very nice man was gone and it seemed like we were safe, Atlas and I looked at each other:

Me: That was quite an adventure.
Atlas: Can I come in now?
Me: Did you say Cam?

Cam?

Take Me To Church, Lady

I’m getting frustrated with my car phone lady. The voice recognition system has no trouble with very complex names like Donna-Louise Martin, Suzanne Work, or Jeff Goldblum (yes, sometimes he texts me, and it’s really him, it really is), but when I say ‘Ken’, this inevitably happens:

Car Phone Lady: Ready.
Me: Call.
Car Phone Lady: Please say the name or number to call.
Me: Ken.
Car Phone Lady: Did you say ‘Karen’?
Me: No.
Car Phone Lady: Did you say ‘Joe’?
Me: NO! Ken. Call Ken!
Car Phone Lady: OK. Calling ‘Maria’.

So I edited my contact so that Ken’s name shows up as ‘Kenneth’, thinking that it was the one-syllable thing that was confounding her, but it made no difference. Every single goddamn time, it’s “Did you say ‘Kenneth’?” until I’m yelling “OBVIOUSLY, YOU ROBOTIC WENCH! IT’S ALWAYS KENNETH!!”

Aside from that, the only thing that happened last week was that last Tuesday, around two o’clock in the morning, Atlas woke up and started losing his sh*t, barking out the window. Ken and I woke up and Ken rushed to the window overlooking the church across the street that was recently sold and is being renovated:

Ken: It looks like someone’s trying to tip over the porta-potty from the construction site across the street!
Me: Tipping it over?! At this time of night? Are they drunk?!
Ken: I think they’re actually trying to steal it! They just loaded it onto their flatbed!
Me: Should we call the police? Wait—did you say ‘flatbed’? What kind of people drive around with a flatbed looking for porta-potties to steal?
Ken: They’re…driving it around the corner and unloading it. I think they’re just moving it.
Me: I should call the police on them just for being a-holes. Two o’clock in the morning—seriously?

Of course, the next day, I saw the guy who’s renovating the church, a very nice man, and he was shocked to learn that the company he’d hired to bring the potty, and who had already put it in the wrong spot a few days prior, had chosen the wee hours to relocate it. But this wasn’t the first time there have been shenanigans at the church across the street.

We live kitty-corner to two churches—I call them the “Platform Diving Jesus Church” and “The Other Church”. As you may guess, I don’t attend either of them. I got their names from the fact that a few years ago, the doors of the church directly across from us were painted with an angel on one side, and Jesus on the cross on the other, both in gold paint. It looks very nice up close, but from far away, it looks like Jesus is about to dive off a cliff or whatnot.

Am I right?

Anyway, from my bathroom window, I could see five men standing around a piano which was sitting on a flat cart on the church walkway. It looked like they had just unloaded it from a rather small mini-van—a feat unto itself, I would imagine. I could hear yelling, so I opened my balcony door. The men had surrounded the piano and were having a very loud discussion in what sounded like German. Were they an angry yet musical Saxon mob intent on a good sacking? After a few minutes though, it seemed like their intention was to put the piano INSIDE the church. And I say ‘seemed’ because they kept just wandering around the piano, staring at it dubiously, and talking a lot. I had nothing better to do, and it was a beautiful sunny morning, so I went out onto the balcony to watch.

After a lot more Germanic discussion, the youngest-looking guy ran over to the mini-van and brought out a long strap, which he looped around the piano. ‘Here we go,’ I thought. Nope. They all just stood back and stared at the piano again. I wanted to yell, “Just push the damn thing, for Christ’s sake!” which seemed appropriately church-y, but then the guy ran back to the mini-van. He reappeared with what looked like a gas can and at first I thought maybe they were going to set the piano on fire and claim an angel spoke to them from within it, like a ‘burning bush-type scenario’, so that they could blame God for not getting it inside the church. However, it was only a toolkit. The young guy took out a hammer and started hammering at something while the rest just stood around. One of the other men put his hood up, like he didn’t want to be recognized, and frankly I don’t blame him because I was at the point where I just wanted to march over and push the piano through the doors myself. Then the one with the hammer ran back to the mini-van and grabbed what I thought was a blanket of some kind, but it was just his coat, which he randomly donned, then he looped a harness around his shoulders and waist.

‘Aha!’ I thought. ‘He’s going to hook himself to the piano and pull it in like a team of oxen’ but again, I was disappointed. And then I was really confused because they started pushing the piano down the walkway and I had a moment where I thought they were going to take a run at the door with it, but again, NOPE. They wheeled it back towards the mini-van and I was like “What? Don’t give up Hans, Karl, Kristoff, Otto, and Gunther!” (which is what I had affectionately started to call them in my head), but then they wheeled it PAST the mini-van and kept going. Down the street. I watched until they were out of sight, then I quickly got dressed and hopped in the car to see where they went, but they, and the piano, had disappeared like some kind of biblical miracle. But then I had a terrible thought–what if I had just witnessed a crack German heist squad, not unlike the villains in Die Hard, actually ROBBING the church?! So I tried dialing 9-1-1, and the Car Phone Lady asked, “Did you say ‘Kenneth?”

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.

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

Interview With Bad Juju, I Have A Clean Face

This past April, I joined my friend Jude Matulich-Hall, author of The Eversteam Chronicles, as a guest on the first episode of her new video podcast called “Bad Juju & J Bone Presents…” I was her first guest last year on the original iteration of the show, called Titles, Talk, & Tipples, and you may remember that we had a lot of fun, thanks to the tippling, although we did talk about books. This time, the show has expanded quite a bit—here’s the synopsis:

“In this episode you’re going to see some incredible photography by Suzanne’s daughter Katelyn Whytock, hear some poetry and excerpts from Suzanne’s written works, and get a peek into her new books coming out in an interview I recently had with her. Storytime isn’t just for kids! You’ll also get some adult storytime with Bad JuJu as she reads Suzanne’s short story “What’s My Name?” from Feasting Upon The Bones (Potters Grove Press), see a vintage film by Georges Méliès, another short film with Bad JuJu & J Bone, and some creepy, kooky fun interspersed throughout.”

Just like last time, it WAS a lot of fun, especially seeing Jude as her alter-ego Bad Juju reading my story accompanied by Gnossienne 1 by Erik Satie, a piece of piano music I’m completely obsessed with right now. So if you have some time, watch it and give it a like and/or subscribe—I know she’ll appreciate that as much as I appreciate her promoting my work. Here’s the link–I didn’t embed it so that she’ll get the views on her channel:

https://youtu.be/Ykswsj6m3Pk

As I’m writing this, sweet little Ilana is lying on the chair next to me, basking in the sunshine. Sadly, sweet little Atlas is in the kitchen behind a baby gate because he still doesn’t know what to do with her. We’ve been keeping them separated, giving Ilana the run of the upstairs, but the other day, she was sitting in our bedroom window enjoying the spring air when Atlas suddenly appeared (somehow the gate downstairs got moved). He rushed in and before I could do anything, he tried to jump up and sniff her, causing her to freak out. By the time I had yelled to distract him, she’d managed to rip a large hole in the window screen in her desperation to escape, but was able to retreat to her own end of the house before he realized she was gone. It was time for a conversation:

Me: Look what you’ve done!
Atlas: Not me.
Me: Well, if you hadn’t charged at her, it wouldn’t have happened. Leave her alone!
Atlas: But is squirrel. I chase squirrel.
Me: She’s not a squirrel. Squirrels are black.
Atlas: Is black.
Me: She’s black and white. She doesn’t look anything like a squirrel. Stop chasing her.
Atlas: I love her.
Me: You have a weird way of showing it.

And speaking of weird ways to show admiration, the other day one of our more “quirky” customers was standing at the counter. Suddenly, he looked over at me, where I was helping a woman decide on a ring, and yelled across the store, “Hey! You have a clean face!” I kind of muttered “Thank you,” and he followed up with, “Are you married?!” at which point, my young boss told him very sternly to stop harassing the staff. Clean face? I guess that criteria is as good as any other…

It’s A Small World After All

Many years ago, I was sitting and watching Kate’s kung fu practice when the woman next to me, the parent of another student, struck up a conversation with me. The small talk quickly turned to pets. “I have a yellow Lab named Saxon and a Golden Retriever named Bets,” I said.

She paused. “You have a yellow Lab named Saxon? I used to have a yellow Lab named Saxon.”

I was intrigued. “Did you used to live in New Hamburg on XX street?”

“Yes, about seven years ago. We had to give our dogs up when we moved to England. We just came back last year!”

Turns out, I had bought her dog. I didn’t even remember what she’d looked like back then, because I was so fixated on the dog herself, and if you know anything about me at all, you’ll know that if you think I’m saying hello to you, I’m actually talking to your dog, so it’s not unusual that nothing about the woman would have rung a bell. But it was great to show her pictures of Saxon, and she felt really good knowing that she’d made the right decision and that Saxon was well-cared for. At the time, I said to myself, “What a small world.” And last week, another incident happened that reminded me it truly is.

About a month ago, I bought a small black dresser at a thrift store out of town. I didn’t have any space in my booth, and it needed a little paint touch-up so it sat in the corner of our family room for a while. But last weekend, I got ambitious and repainted the top, then decided to take the drawers out and give them a freshening up as well. But when the drawers were all out, I realized that there was something in the bottom of the dresser. It was a driver’s license. I pulled it out and then got a flashlight to check for anything else—sure enough, there was a college student card in there as well. They both belonged to the same girl. Her name (which I won’t tell you here) sounded really familiar, but I didn’t recognize her—I mean, why would I? The address on the ID was from a particular part of Toronto where I’d never been, and the ID was ten years old. And of course, if you know anything about me at all, you’ll know my mind went immediately to SERIAL KILLER. As in, a serial killer murdered this girl then donated, as serial killers do, some items to a charity shop, forgetting that his trophies were in the bottom. I was determined to find out who the mysterious young woman was, and perhaps solve a crime! The program she was taking at college was on the student card, so I went to LinkedIn, assuming that she’d continued in that profession. Nothing. Until I added the name of the college to the search. Tada! It came up with a picture of what seemed to be the same girl but with a different last name. But she hadn’t posted anything for over a year, and the website link on her profile had been de-activated. The plot thickened.

“I’m pretty sure she was murdered,” I propounded to my 21-year-old boss at work.

“Or maybe she had a baby and she’s on maternity leave,” he replied. Unlikely, but I wasn’t going to argue with the kid who signs my pay cheques.

That night, I had a brainstorm. I would try to find her under the new name on Facebook. I began the search, and she came up right away, because WE HAVE A MUTUAL FRIEND. And we have a mutual friend who’s a former student of mine because she used to go to the high school where I taught over 17 years ago. AND I TAUGHT HER SISTER.

So I messaged her, hoping that saying “Hey, I found your ID in an old dresser that I bought at a thrift store—do you want it back?” wouldn’t be creepy AF. I did preface it with the fact that we had a mutual friend, and that I taught at her former high school. Still, she was a little hesitant when she replied, asking me to send pictures of the ID, so I did, as well as a picture of the dresser, and then she was delighted. Apparently, she’d had that dresser as a teen and loved it—her mom had recently donated it, and she didn’t know how the cards got in there, but could I mail them back to her? Also, she was on maternity leave. So mystery solved. What a small world indeed. And the best part is, I can incorporate my original serial killer version into my new novel, The Devil You Know (the sequel to The Seventh Devil), which I’m only four chapters away from completing.

In other news, we now have a cat. Kate applied to adopt one of the school cats (the students are allowed to do this at the end of each year) and she brought her back this reading week for a home visit. She’s an absolutely adorable, tiny tuxedo cat, but until she’s no longer the property of the college, I can’t post pictures of her on social media. Then prepare for the deluge. As for Atlas, he’s completely befuddled because we have to keep them separated until they get used to each other so in lieu of a picture of the kitty, here’s my sweet boy:

Lend Me Your Ears

About a month ago, Ken was looking inside Atlas’s ears, as one does, when he noticed that they looked dirty. He cleaned them but it didn’t seem to help. On Friday, when Kate came home from school where she’s studying to be a veterinary technician, we asked her to examine him.

“MY ears!” he proclaimed, wriggling around.

“Hold still,” she said. “Hmm. It looks like either ear mites or an infection. Better take him to the vet.”

So we did. Atlas, of course, goes mental with excitement if you ask him if he wants to go for a car ride, but the bloom was soon off THAT rose when he realized that it wasn’t a fun trip.

“MY EARS! MINE!” he insisted, shaking and peeing all over the examining table when the vet took a look, but he calmed down when he realized she wasn’t going to do to his ears what she did to his testicles. Yes, it was some kind of yeast infection. And after two weeks of ear drops, and two subsequent visits to our vet (free-of-charge follow-ups), the verdict was in. “No table scraps or treats for at least a week. He’s only allowed to eat his kibble. That way we can rule out food allergies.”

“Liver treat now,” he told her.

“Sorry, buddy. Not today.”

When Kate and Ken brought him home, I was aghast. “How am I supposed to go a whole week without giving him treats?!”

Because I am the WORST dog mom in the world, and I spoil him completely. He immediately recognizes “cookie”, “treat”, “Krispie”, “special”, “yogurt”, “chewy”, “strip”, “stick”, “delicious” and numerous other words that denote foods that NOW he was unable to have, and which I was unable to give him. At lunch that day, I poured out his kibble, and he came running in the kitchen and stared at the refrigerator.

Me: Eat your lunch, sweetie.
Atlas: Special, please.
Me: No special today. Ooh, look. Yummy kibble.
Atlas: Meh.

Just kibble?

So the food stayed in the bowl until dinnertime. Atlas sat where he always does, kitty corner between me and Kate, hoping that someone would give him “summadis”.

Me: Can I give him just a little bit of salmon skin?
Kate: Mom. He can’t have anything but his kibble.
Me: But his kibble is ‘salmon and potato’ flavour. This is just like his kibble.
Kate: Here’s a rule. Every time you want to give him something, ask yourself, “Is it his kibble?” If the answer is No, then you can’t give it to him.
Me: What about a potato?
Kate: IS IT HIS KIBBLE?
Atlas: Kate is mean.
Me: Yes, she is.
Kate: Do you want him to get better or not? Hey! Did you just give him something?!
Me: No! I was wiping his drool off my pants!
Kate: You BETTER have been wiping his drool off your pants, Mother.

Can I have summadis?

And it was the worst week. At first, he went on a hunger strike, leaving his dinner in his bowl overnight and refusing to touch it in the morning. When he realized that wasn’t working, he started to play on my emotions:

Atlas: Ma. Some yogurt for me?
Me: I’m sorry, baby. I can’t give you any.
Atlas: Was I bad? Don’t you love me anymore?
Me: You can lick the cup. Don’t tell Kate.

But then I realized that if I didn’t abide by the vet’s advice, not only would I face the wrath of Katelyn, but his ears wouldn’t get any better. I started hiding in the bathroom to eat breakfast, and at dinner, we were steadfast. After a few days, he was eating his kibble regularly but he was still mopey, so we went out and bought him some stuffies—a hedgehog, a fish, and an alligator that was advertised as a “tough toy”. He doesn’t normally get things like this because he immediately rips them apart and tries to eat the stuffing out of them, but this time, he was so overjoyed at being given SOME kind of treat that he carried the hedgehog around with him for a couple of days before attacking it and shredding it. Same with the fish. But by the time he’d massacred the alligator (tough toy, my *ss), the week was up. Kate and Ken brought him back from the vet appointment with the joyous news that his ears were all cleared up, and that he could have some treats, but nothing processed, no chicken, and no wheat. I don’t know who was happier:

Me: I put the salmon skin in the freezer for you. You want some?
Atlas: Special!!
Me: You certainly are.

Happy boi

All Critters Great And Small

We live in a 115-year old home, which means occasionally, we get a critter or two in the house. They rarely come into our living area, being mostly confined to cupboards or in between the walls where they’re pretty quickly discernible and easily caught in live traps then relocated. This past week though has been a disturbing combination of visible and invisible creatures, and I place the blame fully on Kate who, reveling in the joy of her Veterinary Technician program, is like a young, female Dr. Doolittle:

Kate: I just learned how to restrain a dog using the Lateral Recumbency method. Watch. C’mere, Atlas.
Atlas: I don’t think so.
Me: Let her do it. You’ll be fine.
Atlas: Okay, but NOBODY is cutting my nails.
Me: I promise….is he restrained now?
Kate (holding him): Yes.
Me: Ken, get the nail clippers!
Atlas: Betrayed once again!!

Don’t feel sorry for him—I distracted him by feeding him treats while Kate performed the nail-ectomy. And then last Friday, she came home for the weekend super-excited and waving around a…

Me: Is that a vial of…blood?!
Kate: Horse blood. I drew it myself.
Me: I thought you hated horses.
Kate: Not any more.
Me: Well, just don’t use it for any rituals.

Just to clarify, she drew the blood as part of a practical class–the instructor asked for a volunteer so she put her hand up, determined to get over her fear of horses. And while we’re super proud of her, her enthusiasm seems to be radiating out into the animal world because we’re becoming a haven for tiny creatures. Last weekend, we invited the family over to celebrate my parents’ 60th anniversary, so I decided to get fancy and pull out a nice tablecloth. But when I went into the sideboard in the living room where I keep them, I was puzzled by the presence of what looked like red peanut skins. I dug a little deeper and found more skins, and then some peanuts. And while the old sideboard doesn’t have a back panel, it’s still pretty close to the wall, and it’s an absolute mystery to me how a squirrel could have been sitting in there eating peanuts without anyone noticing. And how long was it in my house? Was it still here, hiding somewhere? And more importantly, where the hell did it get the peanuts from? Ken had other ideas:

Ken: It was probably a chipmunk. I think we would have noticed a squirrel.
Me: And you don’t think I would have noticed a CHIPMUNK carrying a grocery bag full of peanuts into the sideboard? And where did it go?! Was it waiting behind the kitchen island for me to open the door and it rushed out when I wasn’t looking?

Then things got worse. Kate called to us from her bedroom saying that she could hear loud scrabbling sounds in her bedroom ceiling, so Ken and I went up into the attic to investigate. We didn’t find anything, but when we came back down, she told us that while we were up there, a mouse had come through the very tiny hole in her ceiling where her internet cable came in. It climbed half-way down, then saw her and hightailed it back up into the ceiling. It was hard to believe that anything could have squeezed through that hole, but Ken shoved some steel wool into the opening as a deterrent. In the meantime, I went into the guest bedroom next door to discover to my horror, a singular piece of mouse poop right in the middle of the guest bed quilt. I shook my hand at the ceiling and cried out, “This means war!”

So Ken set up the live traps, and I couldn’t wait to catch the little sh*t that shat on the bed. And when we checked the next morning, sure enough, there in the trap was…the most adorable little baby mouse I’d ever seen. It had big ears, and big eyes, and tiny little feet…

Kate: Awww…
Me (sigh): We can’t keep it.
Kate: But—
Me: Take it out to the field. Fare thee well, Peanut.

But as everyone knows, there’s never just ONE mouse, and I’ve been busy designing tiny Hallowe’en costumes, so the trap is still set up, and every day I check it, but so far, no luck. Darn.

And just to make the week even more disappointing, the church across the street is up for sale, so the local Heritage Society asked Ken to come over and take pictures when they opened the time capsule that had been in the church’s cornerstone since 1876. I was intrigued and immediately wrote a short story about a church group that opened a time capsule only to discover it contained, among other things, a severed finger that was apparently put in there to save the town from ruin. So, as you can imagine, I marched over on Tuesday, breathless with anticipation, along with Ken and a group of Heritage Society members. The local stonemason was on hand with a bunch of tools, and the cornerstone was finally pulled out and the time capsule extricated. We all crowded around to see the contents, and let me tell you that I wasn’t the only one who was let down. I mean, I wasn’t REALLY expecting a severed finger or whatnot, but the only things in it were a decayed annual report from 1876 that was falling apart, and a few old coins. And I know I wasn’t the only one who sighed, said, “Meh”, and left. Darn.

Raise A Glass

So I had my first official day of retirement last week. And it was lucky it happened when it did, because things were rapidly devolving as I got closer and closer to the date. The week before, I’d been talking to one of the bigger bosses when Atlas, having decided that he was bored in the absence of Ken, launched himself onto my lap. Which would have been ok except that one of his big, slappy paws grabbed the neckline of my sweater, pulling it and my bra down far enough that it was quite the show. Fortunately, my male colleague was looking at his other monitor, giving me time to shove Atlas away and rectify the wardrobe malfunction. And then the next day, I had to rush downstairs to meet with my direct supervisor who had called me early for a meeting. I hadn’t quite been fully dressed when she messaged to see if I was available, so I threw on a top and ran to the computer. After the meeting, I went into the kitchen:

Ken (laughing): Why are you wearing a fancy blouse, plaid flannel pajama shorts, and your slippers?
Me: Impromptu meeting.
Ken: No bra?
Me (shimmies): Obviously not.

As you can see, all the signals were there. So, you ask, was your first day of retirement as gloriously awesome as everyone says it should be? In short, NO.

The Beginning

Ken had an early morning balloon launch, so he left me to have a luxurious sleep in. But at around 7:30, I was lying there, all cuddly and warm, when I heard a sudden noise. Atlas was in the back room where he stays when Ken has to leave early, and I knew it wasn’t him. So I did what any normal person would do—I grabbed the baseball bat that I keep by the bed and snuck out of the bedroom to peer down the hallway. Nothing. I kept going, realizing that if anyone actually WAS in the house, Atlas would be going apesh*t, and when I got to the back room, sure enough, he was curled up on his chair looking sleepy. “Come on, buddy,” I encouraged him, and he followed me back upstairs where we settled back into bed. Less than 5 minutes later, his head suddenly popped up and he started to growl under his breath.

Me: What is it?
Atlas: Is noise.
Me: What kind of noise?!

And with that, he started barking and took off downstairs, leaving me alone in bed. At this point, I was more fed up than panicked, and I grabbed the bat again on the premise that, if there WAS someone in the house, I was going to beat them senseless for ruining a perfectly good first morning of retirement. When I got downstairs, Atlas was staring out the window at a squirrel. “You know I’m retired, right?!” I asked him, but he was too intent on the squirrel to care.

The Middle

I took a load of antiques to my booth, then spent some time wiping my company phone, deleting any files that didn’t need to be moved into a shared drive, and signed out of my work computer for the last time. It seemed a little anti-climactic, so I decided to make a ceremony out of it by wheeling my office chair out of the house and putting it at the side of the road. Then I realized that I was kind of boxed in, and spent the next twenty minutes rearranging furniture to maneuver the chair through the living room. By the time I’d finished the whole exercise, I was exhausted and just sat in the chair next to a hydro pole drinking Prosecco and yelling, “I’m retired!” at the neighbours.

The End

Ken was out AGAIN ballooning, so I made dinner for myself and opened a bottle of wine. I turned around to grab a stopper when the bottle hit the counter, fell out of my hand and onto the floor, sending shards of glass and white wine everywhere and freaking me completely out because I HATE broken glass. I was right in the middle of cleaning it up when Ken messaged me to see what I was doing:

(Transcript

Me: I just dropped an entire bottle of wine on the floor and it broke everywhere. Glass is everywhere (crying face emoji). I am very unhappy and also afraid of glass.
Ken: Come to pub for wings.
Me: I am cleaning up glass. Next time (smile emoji). When things aren’t so glassy.)

I finally got everything clean and dry, much to Atlas’s relief, since I’d locked him out of the kitchen.

Atlas: I come in and help clean.
Me: Not a chance. I’ve taken glass out of your mouth before, you dummy.
Atlas: But wine.
Me: But wine, indeed.

Later, we were in the kitchen when Ken yelped.

Ken: What the hell! I just stepped on a piece of glass!
Me: I did the best I could! I was all by myself, Mr. BALLOONMAN! I AM retired, you know! When is this going to get FUN??!!
Ken: Are you missing work?
Me (sighs): Yeah.

Epilogue

It’s been three days. I guess I’ll get used to it. Cheers.

When The Novelty Wears Off

A few weeks ago, we had a neighbour come over to visit. We had just redecorated our bedroom, adding some architectural columns and whatnot and she was interested in seeing the end result. I proudly escorted her into the room where she looked around and complimented me on the new design, but I thought she seemed a little lukewarm and anxious to leave. Then, on our way out, I glanced over at the bed and gasped internally. Ken had wrapped one of Atlas’s tug toys around one of his big rubber bones, and from a distance, it looked very much like something you would find in an “adult” store. I wanted to run after her as she hurried downstairs, holding it aloft and exclaiming, “It’s for the dog!!” but I don’t think that would have helped matters any, and may, in fact, have made them worse. But then I got looking around my house and realized that a LOT of Atlas’s toys look like they may have come from The Stag Shop, which is the most common sex toy franchise around here. So with that in mind, I have a quiz for you: Sex Toy or Dog Toy?

Number One:

Number Two:

Number Three:

Number Four:

Number Five:

Here’s the answer key: All of them are dog toys. I will never have anyone over to my house again.

(Except for today, because we’re having a party for Kate’s birthday last Tuesday and Ken’s birthday tomorrow, so I’ve hidden all Atlas’s dog toys. And his vibrator.)