Batter Up!

Recently, Ken has taken a part-time job at the local gas station. It’s a great gig—it’s a thirty second walk from home, he only works four hours a day, and most people pay at the pump so he’s not run off his feet. In fact, the only downside is that his shift is 5:30 to 9:30. IN THE MORNING. Now, he loves it, being an insanely early riser and all, but it’s been hard on me. You may remember that our house has been experiencing strange events, from doors being left open, to taps running, to the dog staring at the basement door and growling—and while things have gotten slightly better, which is to say that I haven’t needed to enlist the neighbours in a house search lately, I and especially the dog are both a little jumpy. The other morning, Ken left for work but forgot to close the door to the family room, which meant Atlas was free to roam the house. He decided to pay me a visit and announced himself by leaping onto the bed and staring into my face:

Me: Huh? What’s going on?
Atlas: Nothing. Just came for snuggles.
Me: Okay. Be quiet though.

Then five minutes later, he suddenly lifted his head, started to growl, and ran out of the room barking. He wouldn’t stop, and it was making me really nervous so I finally had to get out of bed and found him at the top of the stairs, hackles raised:

Me: What are you doing?
Atlas: Noise. Downstairs.
Me: Go look.
Atlas: No, you go look.
Me: YOU’RE the dog. And YOU started this. Go see!
Atlas: Hard pass.

At which point, exhausted and fed up, I went back into the bedroom and grabbed the baseball bat I keep under the bed. And why do I keep a baseball bat under the bed? For the exact same reason I keep a hammer in the drawer of the bedside table. I also have both a hammer and a baseball bat in the bathroom, and a hammer in the family room, as well as two large oars in my office. I don’t have either a hammer or a baseball bat in the kitchen because in the kitchen THERE ARE KNIVES. And all this is because I am the Queen of Worst-Case Scenarios. In fact, one year for Christmas, I bought Kate a book called “The Little Book of Worst-Case Scenarios”, and I forced her to read it so she would know what to do under different circumstances, for example:

a) Being chased by a bear (make yourself look as large as possible and scream loudly to let the bear know you could take it in a fight. Don’t run—unless you’re with someone who’s obviously slower than you).

b) Accidentally driving a car into a river (find an air pocket, wait for the car to be submerged, then open the door and swim to the surface). Kate was like “I’m seven years old–why would I ever drive a car into a river?” I DON’T KNOW, Kate. But if you plan for these things, you might SURVIVE them).

c) Playing in a bouncy castle that suddenly becomes untethered and begins to float away (which apparently happens more often than you think, prompting our local school board to ban them from school property. They also banned dunk tanks. Because of all the dunking).

And Kate has learned her lessons well, because a few weeks ago, she came home for the weekend, and after she left, I went into her room to re-make the bed (because I’m weird and like things a certain way). As I was moving the pillows to one side, I found a knife under one of them. I smiled, put it back where I found it, and said to myself proudly, “That’s my girl.”

Anyway, I have assorted weaponry in the house just on the off chance that Atlas is correct for once and there actually IS an intruder in the house.  Here’s the scenario:

We wake up in the middle of the night to strange noises coming from downstairs. Ken offers to investigate. He puts on his housecoat and goes down with the dog, who is clearly agitated but too much of a chicken to go see by himself. I wait, wracked with fear. There are shouts, commotion, then nothing. The intruder has tied up both Ken and the dog, and is taunting them as he steals our stuff, mainly clocks and paintings of Paris because he’s a robber with good taste. I quietly get the baseball bat out from under the bed and sneak downstairs. The intruder has his back to me. Ken sees me, but luckily, he’s gagged so he can’t do what he would normally do and say something like, “Why do you have a baseball bat?” At this point, I swing, connect with the intruder’s head, and down he goes. I free Ken and Atlas, put back my clocks and paintings because I’m weird and like things a certain way while Ken ties up and gags the intruder, and then we call the police. Ta dah.

But to make a long story short, I went downstairs with my baseball bat in hand, but as usual, there was no reason to sound the alarm. I came back up, slightly unnerved from the experience to find Atlas fast asleep in my spot. He’s the worst guard dog ever, but he’s very warm and snuggly.

Medical (Ghostly) Mishaps

I knew I was in trouble the day I could no longer do a cartwheel. I was on the front lawn with Kate, about 10 years ago, on a beautiful summer day, and I decided to try and impress her by showing off my cartwheel skills. The next thing I knew, I was curled up in a ball in the grass, wondering what the hell had happened. And it’s been all downhill from there if this past week has been any indication:

1) The shoulder procedure that never happened

I have calcific tendonitis in my shoulder, and I’ve been waiting six months for a procedure using ultrasound and a very long needle to smash up the calcium. I finally got to the hospital and the surgeon (you may remember him from a previous post, the guy who had an issue with tattoos) took one look at the ultrasound and said, “There’s too much calcium. I can’t do it. I’m going to give you a cortisone shot instead.” I would have lost my sh*t and reminded him that I had an ultrasound in June that showed EXACTLY how much calcium—

(Okay, my house is definitely haunted. I’m sitting here writing after finally getting the dog settled and convincing him that there’s nothing upstairs when I just heard someone whistle. If I go into the other room and find Atlas staring and crying at the basement door again, I will run out of here screaming. And of course, Ken isn’t here—he’s following a miniature train around town collecting food for the Thanksgiving food drive. And now the dog is making woofing sounds under his breath from the other room and I don’t have a baseball bat or a hammer in my office, just a collection of oars and two tennis rackets, and yes, I know that’s a weird collection to have and probably ineffectual to attack a ghost with anyway.)

–I had in my shoulder and he might have let me know it was too much before I had to TAKE A DAY OFF WORK but I didn’t say anything because yet again, he had a giant needle stuck in my shoulder. Of course, the cortisone has already worn off, so I’m back to square one.

2) CAT scan for kidney stones

As far as I’m concerned, it should be common medical practice that there is a cat in the room when you have a CAT scan because a) it’s named after a cat and b) when they tell you mere moments before you go into the room that your scan will be done using intravenous dye, someone needs to give you a cat to hold so that you don’t freak out—

(Speaking of freaking out, the house is suddenly VERY quiet except for the clattering of my laptop keys and an intermittent thumping noise that seems to be coming from the basement…)

–especially when the information pamphlet they give you states that “very few people have ever died from this procedure and if you do have any issues, you are in a hospital and we are very equipped to handle medical emergencies.” And that is NOT as reassuring as they think it sounds.

I have scanned you and you look fine.

3) Emergency Ophthalmologist

On Monday morning I woke up and thought that I was having a migraine aura because I kept seeing flashing lights out of the corner of my eye. But then that stopped and then it seemed like I was looking through gauze so I called my optometrist. He thought it might be a retinal tear so he sent me to an emergency ophthalmologist. My appointment was for 3:10. The office was huge and full of people who kept arriving and being taken into exam rooms immediately while I just sat there. At 4:10, I asked the receptionist what was going on–

(and what’s going on here is that the dog just ran into the living room, jumped up on the couch and is now staring into the kitchen)

–and she said, “You’re an emergency case so you have to wait until all the other scheduled patients are seen.” Which is the most ludicrous statement I think I’ve ever heard and I don’t think she understands what ‘emergency’ means in this context. At 5 o’clock, one of the doctors turned the lights out in his exam room and ran past me, high-fiving HIMSELF and exclaiming, “It’s over! I’m outta here!” I finally saw someone close to 5:30 who diagnosed me with a posterior vitreous detachment–

(the dog is now in the kitchen growling at something and I am holding the smallest of the oars and typing with one hand)

–which isn’t as serious as a retinal detachment but still means that it seems like I’m looking through Vaseline in my left eye a lot of the time which is really annoying. The funniest thing about it is that my boss at work was horrified when I told him and asked, “So your eye could just FALL OUT?!” and I had to explain that it was a detachment INSIDE the eye, not the things that attach your eyeball to your skull or whatnot.

What are you staring at?!

And I don’t know whether I should just stay in here typing where it’s safe, or take my oar and go into the kitchen. Then again, after this week, how much more damage can a ghost do?..

Also, this is part of my insides. Apparently, I’m a Tesla.

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.