What I Did On My Summer Vacation

A long time ago, I used to be a high school teacher which meant I got summers off. Of course, I never REALLY got the summer off—I was either taking courses, getting ready for the new year, or for the last few years before I switched jobs, I was a Summer School principal (you can search “Summer School Stories” if you want to know more). Now that I work for the secret agency, I get 21 days for the entire year, plus statutory holidays. These days are like gold, and I try to ration well because they have to see me through from January to Christmas. I took a few random days at the beginning of the year. And this past week, I took 5 days in a row. That is the extent of my summer holiday right now because I thought I needed to bank the rest for later. I had set another five aside for a cruise in December, but then everything went to sh*t and we had to cancel it—who wants to be on a floating can of plague? Maybe there’ll be a cure soon though, and then I might need them, so better to be safe than sorry. Anyway, I had five days right now and needed to be as productive as possible. Here’s what I accomplished:

1) I taught my puppy to stop biting me

He’s a fantastic little guy, except for one thing. He was biting ALL the time. My arms looked like a war zone—I couldn’t sit down on the couch for five seconds before he was jumping all over me and chewing the sh*t out of me. We tried several tacks, based on what I read on the internet:

Me (squeals very loudly): ‘OW!’
Atlas: You’re a terrible actress. We both know I didn’t bite you that hard. (Bites me again).

Me: Gentle. Be gentle. BE GENTLE.
Atlas: I have no frame of reference for that. (Bites me again).

Me: Here! Chew on Teddy instead!
Atlas: Teddy tastes like sawdust. On the other hand—on both your other hands–you’re delicious.

Finally, I’d had enough. I said to Ken, “None of this crap is working. From now on, if he bites, I say “No” and walk away. If he’s good, he gets a cookie.” See, I’d forgotten that he was a Lab and that the sole motivation for the breed is food. So on Monday, I sat down on the couch with a jar of little treats. Every time he got nippy, I said “No” and took my hand away. When he was calm, I gave him a little piece of his kibble and praised him.

Me: You’re a very nice boy.
Atlas: I AM a nice boy. And this food tastes even better when you handfeed me.

It took two afternoons of focused training, and he hasn’t bitten me since then. As long as I keep dog food in my pocket, I’m golden.

2) I wrote three and a half chapters of my new novel

I’ve been working on a new project for a little while, and at the beginning of July, I sent the first ten chapters to my current publisher to see if they had any interest in it. They do, and now I have a mid-August deadline to get the bulk of it complete. According to my plan, it will top out around nineteen chapters, which means about five and a half to go. Good job I still have some vacation days left. The new book is called The Seventh Devil. Here’s the synopsis:

“20-year-old Verity Darkwood and her mentor Gareth Winter travel across Canada in an old pickup truck and fifth-wheel trailer, exorcising ghosts and demons for people who’ve answered their ad in The Echo: A Journal for Lovers of the Macabre, edited by the eccentric Horace Greeley III. All the while Verity continues the search for her younger sister Harmony, who disappeared when Verity was 14. As she gets closer to discovering what happened to her sister, she and Gareth cross paths with the mysterious and dangerous John Berith. A confrontation becomes inevitable if Verity ever hopes to see Harmony again.”

I’m excited about it. If you have any good book cover ideas, let me know.

3) I watched Ken work on the gazebo

He finally finished the roof, and started working on the railings, benches, and stand-up bar this week. I now have the most ostentatious mansion for my blow-up hot tub possible. You’d expect something with this much architectural splendor to house the Statue of David or something, but no, it’s just a large vinyl container of hot water. Still, it’s glorious.

4) I went clothes shopping for the first time since March

My office in the city is right across the street from the best Winners store in Canada. I was over there at least once a week, because they always have fantastic clothes, a great clearance section, and it’s the only place I can buy the good vegetable spice. This spice is made by Gourmet Kitchen, and during the worst of the plague, I tried to order it from Amazon. I normally pay 6.99 for a jar at Winners; Amazon wanted thirty-five dollars US, which is around fifty Canadian. My potatoes would have to roast naked for that price. But there’s also a Winners about 20 minutes away from my house. It’s not at the same level as the downtown store, but still…And not only was I able to get the good spice, I bought three tops. Obviously, I don’t need to buy pants until I’m working in an office again instead of doing virtual meetings where people can only see me from the shoulders up.

5) I discovered that we get a channel called A&E. A long time ago, this channel used to show almost exclusively BBC series and documentaries. Now, it’s like the National Enquirer. On Mondays, you can watch marathons of Hoarders, which is the most insane show on the planet. On every episode, one of the psychologists says, “This is the worst hoard I’ve ever seen” but the next episode is ALWAYS WORSE, like the old man who slept in a tiny nest of garbage in his living room surrounded by mountains of more garbage, or the woman who had 117 cats—43 of them were alive and the rest were in her refrigerator. One episode had a guy who had stacks and stacks of magazines in one room, which hit close to home:

Me: See that? It reminds me of your office. You’d totally be a hoarder if it wasn’t for me refusing to let you keep crap like that.
Ken: Says the woman who has 27 clocks that don’t work and 12 seashell jewelry boxes with NOTHING IN THEM.

On Friday nights, you can also binge watch a weird show called Storage Wars. The premise is simple—we follow a group of *ssholes as they try to outbid each other on storage units so that they can make a profit on the junk inside. And they really are *ssholes, whose sole motivation is to screw each other over. Every episode, at least one of them says, “I don’t want this unit but I’m going to bid on it anyway to drive the price up so that Barry has to pay more than it’s worth.” None of the people on this show have anything likable about them, and I don’t understand why I watched 6 episodes on Friday night.  Oh well—I’m on my holidays.