Ironing Out The Bugs

On Thursday, Ken and I went away overnight. We didn’t need to—it wasn’t a special occasion or anything, but we’re planning a bigger trip in May, and here’s the thing: We have never left Atlas alone for more than one night, and up until now, either Kate or my parents have looked after him. But now Kate’s in school to become a veterinary technician and she’ll be moving to another city when she finishes this semester to do an internship, so SHE’S not available. And my parents are wonderful, but Atlas is a very active young dog, and when he tries to hug my mom, he literally knocks her down. So we were kind of stuck. But then Ken and I went to a banquet right before Christmas and became acquainted with a young woman in town who…TADA!…does dog and house sitting. She came over a couple of weeks ago and she and Atlas got along like a house on fire, ending the visit with him lying across her lap. So we hired her for a trial night and got ready to leave town.

Atlas: What you do?
Me: Just putting some old clothes in a bag. Nothing to be concerned about.
Atlas: Why does bag have wheels? Is toy?
Me: No, just easier to wheel out to the car. Don’t worry. Here’s a cookie.
Ken: See ya, nerd!
Atlas: What? Can I come for ride?
Me: We will only be gone for 5 minutes. Here’s a cookie. Go to sleep.

So we left him lying in his favourite chair, unsuspecting as he was. We drove down to a lake town, stopping at a couple of wineries along the way, and I was feeling pretty happy about the whole thing. Wine has a funny way of helping you avoid picturing your dog crying and whimpering while the sun goes down and he realizes he’s been abandoned. Am I being melodramatic? Obviously.

Anyway, we checked into the hotel, a very fancy and luxurious place that I still had money on a gift card for. Our room was beautiful with a huge king-sized four poster bed and a lot of weird Victorian era paintings like “Portrait Of A Man Standing In Front Of A Fireplace”–and he was. Within minutes of settling in, I got a text message from “Ivy, my virtual concierge”, who promised to help me with any and all needs I might have. So I texted back, “How do I make dinner reservations?” because I wasn’t sure how to call the hotel restaurant. I waited for a response. And I waited. And waited. Finally I texted back, ‘Ivy you’re not doing a good job at assisting me” at which point I received a very terse reply: “Call 65320 for dinner reservations.” But then, as Ken and I were trying to relax, I noticed several very large bugs on the ceiling, walls, and THE BED, so I texted her again with a picture—“Ivy. What kind of bug is this in my room?”

Well, before you could even say “I’m actually not an AI but a real person who is extremely flustered right now”, the response came: “It is called a brown marmorited it is a common harmless bug i will Maintenance come and remove it for you. I am sorry he made his way to your room.” And IMMEDIATELY after the message, there was a knock on the door. I didn’t know what to expect, but when I opened it, there was a guy standing there with a ladder and a roll of paper towels. We gave him the bugs, which we had carefully wrapped in toilet paper, and instructed him to let them outside. He looked at us like we were out of our minds, but nodded and left.

Then, fifteen minutes later—more f*cking bugs. We put them in a coffee cup and instructed Ivy to have someone come by and pick them up. The message? “I’m so sorry for the trouble. Would you like a bottle of white wine for the inconvenience?” And I was like, “You don’t have to ask me twice, you considerate quasi-artificial weirdo—send it on up.” So at a certain point, we were bug-free and wine-full. If only the pillows hadn’t been hard as rocks, it would have been idyllic.

I didn’t sleep much and finally woke up to a lovely message from the dogsitter, that Atlas had had a good night, sleeping on our bed, but had played, eaten, done his business, and was now sleeping in a chair, awaiting our arrival. So most of the experiment was successful.

When we got home, he was still asleep:

Atlas: You back so soon?
Me: Yes. Did you miss us?
Atlas: No.
Me: That’s actually ok, buddy. Have a cookie.

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.

A Pointed Stick

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

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

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

Not a skunk

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

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

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…

That’s Not My Name

The other day, I was standing at the counter at work with my colleague, the Wiccan healer. She had just returned from a two-week absence due to covid, and was quite anxious to know if my recent mammogram had, indeed, revealed the issues that she had predicted. They didn’t, as you’re aware if you read my last post, and she was bummed out over the whole thing, but brightened up when I told her I was pretty sure that there was an old cast iron fireplace in a back corner booth with a nasty aura. She was just about to go cleanse it and perform a smudging ceremony (no, she’s not Indigenous and actually uses an aerosol “smudging” spray that she gets from a Chinese importer), when the anti-masker/anti-vaxxer/Flat Earther who works on the third floor walked by the counter. And as he walked by, he looked at us, made a flappy gesture with his hand, and said this: YO YO BITCHES!

Now, I’ve been called many things in the workplace. For years when I was teaching, I was Mrs. Craig-Whytock. Then when I went to the secret agency, I was Suzanne, or Boss on occasion. I’ve been called Sweetheart, Hon, or Honey by those I know better than others, and currently, one of my employers tends to forget my name and calls me Susan. There was also the time that a student got really mad at me for kicking him out of summer school for being stoned and called me a f*cking *sshole. But never, I mean NOT ONCE, has a person I’ve worked with ever called me a b*tch (at least to my face). I stood there speechless, while the Wiccan laughed.

Me: Did he just call us “bitches”?
Wiccan: Yeah, haha. What a guy.
Me: I have no words.

Then, about an hour later, the same guy walked by us again, and this time, he mimed tipping his hat, and said, “M’Ladies” and I’ve never been so confused in my life, but I guess that’s par for the course when you work at a minimum wage job in customer service? And now I have to come up with a clever comeback that works for all occasions. I’m thinking about screaming, “Yass Queen, come through!!!” at him unless any of you have a better suggestion.

In other news, now that Kate’s cat Ilana is officially adopted into our household, I can finally share pictures of her with you. She’s two years old but tiny as a kitten, and absolutely adorable. She’s very affectionate and super-purr-y, especially if you give her treats, which I do all the time, and which she’s grown to expect, so now every time I go in Kate’s room, she comes running to ‘Nana’ and tries to climb up my leg to get a Frisky. Atlas doesn’t quite know what to make of her—his only experience of animals as small as Ilana is squirrels in the backyard, which he chases with gusto. Luckily, the squirrels can escape to the trees and Ilana has her cat tower. We currently have the house divided up with baby gates—hopefully, they’ll get used to each other soon.

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: