You may remember a few weeks ago, I wrote about how the owner of the antique market where I work had hired a cleaner, and he looked exactly like a ‘cleaner’, which is to say, someone who cleans up after assassins and whatnot. He’s been cleaning one day a week ever since, and he does a very thorough job, almost like he’s used to a VERY DEMANDING CLIENTELE, if you know what I mean. He doesn’t speak much, just the normal good morning, or “where do you keep the Windex” and up until now, I haven’t had any actual conversations with him, which I realized last week was probably a good thing.
I usually take my lunch around 1:30 in the small breakroom we have for staff, and last week, as I was beginning my lunch, The Cleaner was finishing his. I sat down at the table and we exchanged pleasantries. I started eating. And then he started talking:
The Cleaner: So do you think Covid is over? Me: Huh? Oh. I don’t think so—I know a lot of people are still getting it. The Cleaner: Do you believe that it was created in a lab overseas by the governments of the world so that they could kill off a lot of the world’s population? Because the world is very overpopulated. Me (chewing food): Uh…no… The Cleaner: There’s a large proportion of the world’s population who are old, and this way the government could kill them and then they wouldn’t have to pay them their pensions. Me: That sounds like a very complicated and strange conspiracy theory. The Cleaner: It was definitely created by the world’s governments. Me: I don’t believe that. Anyway, do you think it’s going to rain later?
And while the conversation was bizarre, the weirdest thing was that the whole time he was talking, he was staring out the window, like he was lost in thought and musing, almost wistful. And then he smiled, and he only had four teeth.
In other news, right before Ken and I went away, I needed to buy more underwear, so I went to Winners, a fairly big department store, and wasn’t I thrilled to find not only a 6 pack of really nice underwear but the brand was LUCKY BRAND and every pair has a 4 LEAF CLOVER embroidered on it, so now every day is a lucky day.
And in other, other news, I guess the lucky underwear panned out, because I’ve just accepted the position of ‘Summer Writer-In-Residence’ for our local county library system, dividing my time between four different branches this summer, running writing workshops, hosting guests, and mentoring other writers. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and it really is a dream come true. Thanks, Lucky Brand.
I was driving home from work one day last week, and I called Ken. This is a feat unto itself, as I have to yell “Kenneth” into my steering wheel and then contend with the voice-calling woman who inevitably says “Did you say ‘Kenneth’?” and it doesn’t matter how many times or how loud I say it, I always have to reassure her that I did, indeed, mean Kenneth. So while I was waiting for the phone to connect, I was stopped at a red light and I happened to glance over at the car next to me just as Ken picked up.
Ken: Hey, are you on your way home? Me: OH MY GOD!
Because in the driver’s seat of the car next to me, there was A CAT. And it was the cutest cat, a little orange tabby, and it was sitting on the lap of the woman driving the car, but the way she and the cat were sitting, it looked like the cat was DRIVING. The cat was staring straight ahead like it was waiting for the light to change and whatnot, and as I was staring at it in full worship mode, the cat turned to look at me out the driver’s side window. So I did what any normal person would do—I smiled my best smile and waved to the cat. The cat smiled back, although it didn’t wave, which is normal because everyone knows how important it is to keep both hands/paws on the steering wheel at all times, a rule that I don’t always adhere to when there ARE CATS. But the woman upon whose lap the cat was sat DID smile and wave back, which confused me because I wasn’t waving TO HER. But then I realized that she was obviously friends with the cat and if I wanted to get in good with the cat, I should probably be nice to her, so I nodded to her in a congenial way then turned my attention back to the cat and mouthed, “Hey!” And then the cat kind of meowed in response, at which point I realized that Ken was talking to me and was very worried that I wasn’t answering. Because I was TALKING TO THE CAT, KEN.
Then the light turned green and we drove off, and then I was really sad.
Me: I’ll never see that cat again. Ken: But you made a good impression. Me: I hope so.
In other news, I was recently searching online for a floor lamp (they are literally impossible to find, and I have this giant stained-glass lampshade that I got for free so if I can find a lamp base for it, I’d be so thrilled) when I came upon this bizarre ad.
The owner of the doll is definitely not too old for dolls, considering that the spelling and grammar are those of a six-year-old—in fact, I think the problem is that the doll is too old for HER because it looks like it’s lived a very long and complex life. And the pictures—seriously, isn’t this the kind of doll that would murder you in your sleep just for sh*ts and giggles?
“What’s that hiding in the tree?”
“Oh, that’s Marnie—she wants to cut out your tongue and eat your liver, but don’t worry—she can’t run very fast, so you can get a good head start.”
Of course, I’ve been watching that show Yellowjackets, so now I’m suspicious of anything that looks like a teenaged girl, and Marnie reminds me of ALL OF THEM. And although I’ve dubbed her ‘Marnie’, her name, according to the ad, is Ginger Hair Baby Doll, which is kind of a stripper name when you think about it, like “Please welcome to the stage—Ginger-Hair Baby Doll! And remember folks, she possesses demon powers so make sure you tip big!”
And now that I’ve posted this, I have to get ready to take Kate to a city several hours away where she’ll be moving in with her boyfriend and starting her new career as a veterinary technician. We have a 15-foot U-Haul and two cars full of stuff–I just wish we had a cat who could help with the driving.
Last week, the building where I work was visited by a couple of ghost hunters who have a Youtube channel. They did a walkthrough and pointed out several areas that they felt were haunted. For example, one of the women pointed to the freight elevator and claimed that it was haunted by a worker who had fallen down the shaft. Now, I’m no skeptic, but as someone who is terrified of elevators and who is forced, on occasion, to run the freight elevator, I did extensive research on whether or not this was actually possible, and it’s not. The elevator won’t move if any of the doors are open, and you can’t open any of the doors unless the elevator is right there. So sorry, ghostbusters—that one was just your imagination. They also claimed that a vase in a booth on the second floor was haunted—they speculated that the person who had owned the vase was super-pissed off because her possessions had been sold and left to languish in a dusty old factory, BUT…she was also thrilled to be noticed. I can’t prove that one wrong, except to say that if anything IS haunted in the building, it’s the life-sized animatronic Hallowe’en character Michael Myerswho, when plugged in, swivels around in time to the movie’s music and slashes the arm carrying his knife up and down. But that’s not the scary part. Even when he’s not plugged in, his eyes follow you EVERYWHERE, and I regularly hang a pink handbag from his arm and put a Barbie tank top on him, but the next time I see him, THEY’RE GONE. And he looks even madder than when Laurie poked out his eye with a coat hanger, because he likes to be pretty in pink.
But the best part of the whole spooky ghost adventure was they claimed one of the most haunted spots was on the second floor, in a booth called Fox and Feather Vintage. And do you know why I believe THAT? Because that used to be MY booth before I moved downstairs to the main floor! And that explains why I never sold anything out of there—too many bad vibes, I guess. And the bad vibes have continued because I was talking to the vendor who rents it now and she said her sales have been terrible. Not surprising. But now that my suspicions have been confirmed, I want that booth back, if only to sell stuff like this that I found on Facebook Marketplace:
Haunted frame? Why not? In fact, my only question is why is there a brown Crayola marker next to it? Is it for scale? Or is there a more insidious reason, like that ghost lady enjoys arts and crafts? I know—arts and crafts are not necessarily insidious—depending on what exactly the ghost is drawing. And the condition–“Used-Fair”? Not “Used-Possibly Dangerous”? I really want to buy it just to find out whether or not it’s really haunted, because it seems like the person who owns it isn’t sure, like they’re hedging their bets with “possibly” haunted, instead of “goddamn right it’s haunted house down boots”.
In other news, I’ve decided to start my own press, as an extension of DarkWinter Literary Magazine. It’s going to be called DarkWinter Press. I won’t be publishing my own work, but as soon as I get it set up, I’ll be looking for some projects. First though—if anyone on here has some experience with how to format things for Kindle Direct Publishing (eg: what program to use, how to do covers and images etc.) I’d be happy to touch base. I already managed to set up my account thanks to D. Wallace Peach of Myths of the Mirror and her support, but I know there’s still a ton to learn. Regardless, I’m as excited as a ghost in a vase or Michael Myers in a Barbie t-shirt.
Also, I recently competed in The Evil Squirrel’s Nest Annual Contest of Whatever and the Squirrel has posted all the entries prior to the final judgement. You can read them here!
Also, also–Happy Easter to those who celebrate it!
A couple of weeks ago, the owner of the antique market where I work came in. I was with a customer, and when I finished, he called me over. “Come here, Susan,” he said. “I need to talk to you.” I immediately went into panic mode, thinking I was going to get fired for writing a short story about the antique market (it’s called ‘Revenge of the Juggernaut’ and you can read it in At The End Of It All, which is a totally shameless plug for my new short story collection) and he must have realized that I looked like I was about to run out of the building, because he followed up with, “Don’t worry, it’s good news.”
Good news? Was I about to get a raise whilst at the same time my hours were being reduced so that I could work less and make more? Was there a secret office hockey pool that I hadn’t known I’d entered that I had just won? And if you know anything about me at all, you know that I know nothing about hockey at all, but I still managed to do incredibly well in my last office hockey pool, even though I picked my players solely on the basis of them having cool last names (I’m looking at you, William Nylander, whose name rhymes with Highlander, and as legend tells us, there can be only one). But no, I hadn’t won anything, and then I got even more nervous when he told me the news.
Owner: I wanted to tell you that we hired a cleaner. Me: (air quotes) A ‘cleaner’?…What kind of ‘cleaner’? Owner (befuddled): Someone to clean. Me: Clean WHAT exactly?
Maybe I’ve watched too many mob films, TV dramas, and John Wick movies, because to ME, a cleaner is someone who cleans up, like, dead bodies and whatnot. And I was pretty sure that we only sold antiques at work, but maybe THAT was just a front for something much more insidious, which would explain why my young boss quite often gets hedgy when I ask him questions like, “What happened to that vendor on the third floor?”or “What were you doing here so early this morning?”
But the owner quickly (maybe TOO quickly, which is exactly what a mob boss would do) clarified that he had hired a person to clean the bathrooms, vacuum, mop the floors, sweep the stairs and so on, and he would be coming every Wednesday. “Isn’t that wonderful?” he said. “Now you don’t have to do it any more. Of course, there will still be weekly maintenance but the majority of the cleaning will be done on Wednesday, so you don’t have to mop the floors or scrub the toilets any more.” And he said this like he honestly thought I had EVER scrubbed the toilets. I have, however, probably once a week, mopped the floors in the bathrooms, so it was a pleasant surprise, even though I had literally just finished mopping the floors and now all I could think was “Damn, if I’d only waited until Tuesday.”
Nevertheless, on Wednesday, we were all very excited for the cleaner to arrive. Which he did. And almost immediately, one of my co-workers leaned over and whispered to me:
Co-Worker: THAT’S the cleaner? Me: Apparently. He looks like…a cleaner. Co-Worker: I know, right?! What do you think he cleans, when he’s not cleaning here? Me: I couldn’t begin to say, but he definitely looks like…a cleaner.
And what we meant was, we had never seen a person who looked more like a person who cleaned up murder scenes and mob hits in our lives. If there was an epitome of someone who ‘cleaned’ for a living, that was this guy, who looks kind of like Chazz Palminteri’s cousin. We spent the morning expecting to see large white trash bags, or at least rolled-up carpets being hurried out of the building by a team of his henchman, but sadly, all he did was wash down the toilets, vacuum up all the rock salt from the carpets, mop the floors, and sweep the stairs. And he did an amazing job–almost like he was a…PROFESSIONAL.
In other news, my Canadian publisher recently sent me the cover mock-up for my new novel, the sequel to The Seventh Devil, called The Devil You Know. And I couldn’t be happier about it. The book won’t be out for a while–I just got the printer’s proofs to check, but here’s the cover if you haven’t seen it on Facebook or whatever:
On Fridays, I go to a physiotherapy clinic for shock wave therapy. I always have to explain to people that it’s not ELECTROSHOCK therapy—it’s a jackhammer-like treatment that pounds your skin so deeply that calcium embedded in your tendons disintegrates. Or so they say. I’m not sure how exactly it works, and I tried to look it up on the internet but it basically defines shock wave therapy as the thing that it is, to wit: “Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) is a non-invasive treatment that involves delivery of shock waves to injured soft tissue” (Mayo Clinic). None of this is enlightening in any way, but it does help to differentiate it from having high voltage electricity pass through your brain. And here’s a slight tangent—at the physiotherapy clinic that I go to regularly, they insist on calling me Susan, no matter how many times I correct them. And the other thing is that in every room, there’s a three-shelf trolley on wheels with different kinds of equipment on each shelf. On the bottom shelf of every trolley is a sticker that says BOTTOM SHELF, and I’m pretty sure the people at the Mayo Clinic are responsible for that one as well. But my question is “Why label it?!” Is there the slightest chance that if the sticker is removed, someone is going to flip the trolley upside down and send all of the equipment flying around the clinic? The wheels would be ON TOP, THUS DEFEATING THE PURPOSE OF A WHEELED TROLLEY. And if you know me at all, you know that the real problem here is that I’m desperate to find out if the other shelves are similarly labelled, like does the middle shelf have a sticker that says MIDDLE or does the top shelf say TOP? Except the top two shelves ALWAYS have things on them. Every week, I keep hoping that the physiotherapist will suddenly exclaim, “Oh Susan, the pizza has just arrived so I need to step out!” and then I can take a peek for myself. But SHE NEVER LEAVES.
Anyway, on the way to physiotherapy, I drive by a business that has a very large sign out front, and the sign regularly says some very strange things. A few weeks ago, I did a double-take because it proclaimed, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” Apparently, Napoleon said that, according to Google, which I doubt because Napoleon didn’t speak English. But still, it’s a strange thing to put on a sign. And then on Friday, I drove by and the sign read, “Private Sign: Do Not Read”. And while both sentiments are weird, the most bizarre thing about the whole situation is that the business in question is a VETERINARY CLINIC. And all I can think is what kind of f*cking veterinarian believes either of these things will draw in new customers? I could see if the sign read “Dogs and Cats Welcome” or even “Our Bark Is Worse Than Our Bite”, but suggesting that the people inside the clinic are enemies and are each hoping that the other will make a mistake, potentially on YOUR SICK ANIMAL? That’s the craziest thing I’ve seen in a while. I googled Funny Quotes For Veterinarians and found a bunch from a variety of different Animal Hospitals, and here are ten of the best ones:
1) What Do You Feed An Invisible Cat? Evaporated Milk
2) What Does A Lazy Dog Chase? Parked Cars
3) What Do Cats Do In A Fight? They Hiss And Make Up
4) What Do You Call A Pile Of Cats? A Meowtain
5) What Do You Call A Dog Magician? A Labracadabrador
6) We Like Big Mutts And We Cannot Lie
7) Why Can’t Dalmations Hide? Because They’re Always Spotted (that one’s for you, Chris)
8) Your Pets Will Love Us, We Shih Tzu Not!
9) Your Doggone Cute, I’m Not Kitten
10) Happy Mardi Gras, Show Us Your Kitties
See? It’s not hard to come up with funny sayings to put on signs that will entice people to bring their pets to you rather than terrify them.Although, to be perfectly honest, the only sign I ever want to see outside anything is this one:
In other news, last week at work, a guy came up to the counter to pay for some random computer game:
Guy: Cocaine is amazing. Me: What? Guy: Cocaine. It’s the best. Yummy yummy cocaine. Me: Did you want to buy this game? Guy: Yes. Cocaine is awesome. Did I tell you that already? Me: Sigh. That’ll be $13.56. Have a good day. Guy: Oh, I will.
Cocaine. Because why the hell not?
In other, other news, the book launch for my new book At The End Of It All was yesterday afternoon. Whenever I have an event, I always worry that no one will come, but people always do, and yesterday was no exception. A huge thank you to the many people who attended in support of me and my writing–it was a blast!
I love reality shows. I’ve loved them ever since I was five years old and I was on a children’s reality show called RomperRoom. It was one of the most popular shows on Ontario television, and it consisted of a different group of children each week just playing and doing activities under the supervision of a kindly, teacher-type lady. At the end of each show, Miss____ (there were several women who played the role—mine was Miss Grace) would hold up a magic mirror, and say, “I can see Johnny, and Sarah, and Ian, and….” Kids across the province would sit fixated, desperately hoping to hear their name. I don’t know why my parents decided to put me on the show, but two incidents cemented for me the fact that reality shows have only a tenuous relationship with reality. First, I kept jumping up and down, prompting the director to tell me to stop. “You’re TOO excited,” he said. But I was excited. A SUPER f*cking excited 5-year-old, and I had to stifle my real enthusiasm because it was TV. Second, they taped all five episodes for the week on one Saturday, and I kept getting into sh*t for contradicting Miss Grace when she would start the next segment with “What day is it today, boys and girls?” Everyone was supposed to say ‘Tuesday’ or whatever, but I yelled “Saturday!!” every time. Once again, the director had to talk to me about how we were only “pretending” and to just play along. Yep, that’s me—a non-conformist pain-in-the-ass from an early age.
Still, reality shows are the best, especially building shows. And I’m very lucky because:
a) There’s a renovation going on across the street from us, turning a church into a family home. And while I can see updates on Facebook, I literally have a bird’s eye view of the deconstruction AND reconstruction process from my window. Whenever I’m bored, I can just look out and it feels like I’m watching TV. And here’s where it gets really meta—the renovation is actually being filmed by a network in the States and it will be on TV when it’s done. How cool is that?Also, if you’ve read my new short story collection, At The End Of It All, there’s a story called Twist of Faith which is loosely based on the opening of the cornerstone last year at that very church.
b) I work at an antique market which could very easily be the subject of a reality show, a cross between Hoarders and Storage Wars. For example, the other day, a new vendor showed up. His name is Bob and he’s like 90 and he makes birdhouses. Bob’s Birdhouses. The intention was for him to display his birdhouses on a shelf above the till but everyone forgot to brace the shelf. So he arrived, and one of my co-workers had to immediately start cutting wood for braces because Bob was PISSED. And then my co-worker had to go find a drill. He found four of them in the basement. None of them worked. But we didn’t throw them away because if we did, the owner would dig them out of the garbage and make us put them back. Then we all—me, Bob, and Bob’s wife, watched my co-worker screw the braces into the shelf, which made him very self-conscious and irritated, especially when Bob kept inspecting the braces, and I kept saying, “You should be using a Robertson bit, not a Philips.” I know this because I WATCH REALITY SHOWS, DAN. In fact, I watch so many reality shows that I should pitch one of my own. Thus, I present to you several ideas for fantastic reality shows, starting with…
1) Cubicle Wars
Host: Hello once again, and welcome to Cubicle Wars, where each week, two co-workers compete to see who can create a stunning office space with little more than a $50 gift card to the Dollar Store and their own imaginations! Let’s meet our challengers! This is Jill, a temp worker with a fondness for frogs, as you can see by the many, many statues and stuffies that she has on her desk. Tell us a little bit about yourself, Jill!
Jill: Frogs are amphibians and can speak 7 different languages. Host: Only one of those things is even correct! Welcome, Jill! And now here’s our other contestant, Josh. Josh is an engineer, so no one knows what he actually does! Josh: That’s not true. I—I… Host: Exactly! Now here are your $50 gift cards. See you next week, you crazy kids!
One week later…
Host: Let’s see what Jill and Josh have accomplished. Our live studio audience will then announce the winner! Audience (which consists of a panhandler that the host found in the lobby): Does anyone have spare change for coffee? Host: After the show, Stinky Pete! First up is Jill! Jill: I used my $50 to buy aromatherapy candles and placed them strategically around my cubicle. Host: That’s it? How many candles did you buy? Jill: 50, obviously. It was the Dollar Store. Manager (passing by): You can’t light those, Jill. I told you, it’s a fire hazard. Jill: FINE, STEVE! But don’t come to me when the power goes out, you fascist! Host: All right—let’s see what Josh has done. Ooh, a tiki bar theme! Very nice! I particularly like the inflatable palm tree. Josh: Thanks. I’m very pleased with the way it turned out, although I’ve been getting a lot of side-eye because of the torches. THEY’RE CULTURALLY APPROPRIATE, STEVE! I’M NOT A NAZI! Host: And now it’s that moment we’ve all been waiting for. Audience, who is our winner?! Stinky Pete: Is there any whiskey in the tiki bar? NO? Then I pick the candle lady. Host: Congratulations, Jill. Your prize is that you get to keep all the candles! Jill: I just want my frogs back. Marcel was teaching me French. Host: See you next time on Cubicle Wars!
I really think this show has potential. And while I was fleshing it all out, here are some other show ideas I came up with:
2) Souped Up! (a cheaper version of Top Gear)
In this show, two guys take cheap cars and try to make them look cool. With VERY limited resources.
Host: Tell us about today’s project, boys. Gary: It’s a 1988 Ford Tempo, base model, beige, with rust accents. Mitch: We got it for fifty bucks at a yard sale. The upholstery smells like cheese. Host: And what are your plans for this car? Gary: No spoilers! Host: Oh, sorry I asked. Gary: No, dude—we’re not putting a spoiler on it. Spoilers are pretentious. Mitch: You’re goddamned right they’re pretentious!
The next day…
Host: Wow! What a transformation. Tell us what you did! Mitch: We found bigger wheels at the dump and put them on the back. Now it’s slanty! Gary: We used duct tape to make racing stripes. I probably should have used a ruler. Host: Um…did you put a tow hitch on the back of this car JUST so you could hang a fake scrotum ornament off it? Mitch: You’re goddamned right we did! We made it ourselves out of two oranges and one of Gary’s granny’s old kneehighs. Both (highfiving): Our car has balls, b*tch! Host: All right then. Join us next week when Gary and Mitch transform a Pinto into a fancy lawn tractor! Both: Unsafe at any speed!
3) 19 and Counting: Feline Edition
Voice-Over Intro: “Meet Meredith, a ‘cat lover’, who roams the streets of her town at night, looking for more cats. She has a LOT—maybe more than 19 but who’s counting? None of them are actually hers; she stole them all from her neighbours. Her house reeks of urine, but she insists she’s ‘not crazy’. You be the judge!”
4) Cooking With Wieners
This show is simple. It’s just hot dogs. Every week. Audience of at least one (Ken) guaranteed.
5) Flip That Port-a-Potty!
While you might be thinking that this is a decorating show where people take old portable toilets and pretty them up, you’re wrong. This show is about Bobby “Flip” Johnson, a real douchecanoe who waits until people go into port-a-potties, then he sneaks up and tips them over. He’s killed in episode 3, and the remainder of the season becomes a detective show, where a slightly Asperger’s detective and his madcap female sidekick investigate Bobby’s murder. Kind of like Jackass meets Elementary. Will we ever find out who killed Bobby? No spoilers!
Last week at work, one of the vendors came in and approached me for some help with bags. I took them from her and as I did, she wiped her nose with the back of her hand, sniffed, and said, “Ugh, I feel so crappy.”
And I was like, what the actual f*ck?
Me: Are you okay? Vendor: Yeah. But don’t worry, it’s not covid, I tested. It’s just a bad cold. Me: Yet you’re here, and you’re not wearing a mask. Vendor: Well, it’s not covid so…
Don’t worry, it’s NOT COVID? Since when is that a thing, that it’s acceptable to spread your germs to other people as long as it’s not covid?! Why on earth do you think I want to get a bad cold any more than I want to get covid? Because I DON’T. Yet—I did get a bad cold, thanks to this person and their communicable disease. So I spent the last week sick as a dog—but don’t worry, it’s not covid, I tested—and had to lose three days of pay as well as cancel my mom’s 81st birthday party because, even though it WASN’T covid, I didn’t want her and my dad, and my co-workers and the myriad of customers who come into my workplace to catch whatever sh*tty virus I had.
I honestly thought at this point, after everything people have been through, that they might be a little more considerate when they’re sick, but I’ve actually heard that phrase “Don’t worry, it’s not covid” more than once from people with colds, flu, or stomach bugs. And I remember pre-covid, when people used to stagger into work, hacking and sneezing and sharing their viruses with everyone around them, and we all just thought it was par for the course. But can we not do that anymore? Because after almost two years of not getting sick, I’d forgotten how awful even a bad cold can be, and how incredibly grumpy it makes me. And what the hell is wrong with my immune system that I’ve eluded covid for over two years but can’t fight off the common cold? Of course, I only have myself to blame really, because I wasn’t wearing a mask. Apparently, I am now going to have to wear a mask for the rest of my life because a) people can’t be trusted and b) I am very un-fun to be around when I’m sick, like the other night when Ken and I were watching Drag Race Belgium:
Ken: I didn’t know chicory was a Belgian national food. Me: Well, apparently it is. Ken (looking it up on his phone): Did you know that chicory is not only used as a coffee substitute but it also can be used as a sweetener? Me: No, I didn’t know that. Ken: The chicory we have here in Ontario has blue flowers but it’s different from this kind of chicory, which is technically Belgian endive. Me: Uh-huh. Ken: Ooh, you can also use it in some kinds of beer, like Belgian– Me: Okay, Trivial Pursuit, can you stop rambling on about chicory and just WATCH THE GODDAMN TV SHOW?! Ken (whispers): You’re so mean when you’re sick.
And then, to make matters worse, a couple of days ago, there was a news story about bird flu and how people are getting it now, and I was like, What new hell is this?! Why do birds hate us? Although frankly, I don’t blame them, and if you’ve ever had an encounter with a Canada Goose, the evil lake chicken that is our national mascot, then you’ll know I’m right. But the newscaster was like, “According to the WHO, the situation is worrying but the risk to humans is still very low.” And I don’t believe that for a moment:
Me: Are you okay? Vendor: Yeah, but it’s not covid, I tested. It’s just the bird flu. C-caw!
See, this is why the zombie apocalypse is an inevitability. I’ve been watching The Last Of Us, which is basically The Walking Dead meets The Mandalorian, and in it, the world is infected by a mutated fungus. And just like everything else, the fungus spread because, although it was initially in the food supply, it kept going until most of the people on the planet were zombies. Why? Because a lot of the people on the planet are jerks:
Me: Are you okay? Zombie: Yeah, but it’s not covid, I tested. Just a little mushroom thing. *tries to eat me*
On Thursday, I went out shopping. Thrift store shopping because this month is ‘Cabin Fever’ month at the antique market, which means most of the booths, including mine, are on discount to encourage people to come out even when the weather is crappy. Sales have been good—or I should say, stock has been moving, because between the commission the market already takes combined with the discount of 20% that I agreed to, I needed to do a little buying. So I headed into town to Goodwill. It was absolutely pouring rain, in keeping with the ‘weather is crappy in February’ theme (three days before it was a blizzard), and I ran into the store, soaking wet. After taking a turn around the metalware section, I headed for vases. A few months ago, I found a vase at a different thrift store, and recognized it as something I’d seen at the market before—turned out it was a Chinese vase from the late 1800s and I resold it for $300—not bad considering I’d paid $5 for it—AND had a coupon. So I’m convinced that the same thing will happen one day, just like I’m convinced every time I play the lottery that I’m going to win, but I never do and I’m always disappointed. And on Thursday, I was not only disappointed but also disgusted. Why? Because I was looking through the vases and turning them over to see it there were any interesting makers marks, as one does, when I picked up a small urn that looked like it might be satin glass. As I flipped it over, suddenly my hand felt…wet. Something had dripped out of the vase and onto ME. And it wasn’t water. No, it was some kind of weird oil. AND IT SMELLED. I immediately went to the cashier, holding my hand in the air:
Me: Do you have any paper towels? Something just dripped onto my hand from that vase over there. Cashier: No, sorry. Me: Nothing? Like Kleenex or wet wipes? Seriously? It’s BURNING.
He grabbed me a couple of tissues and passed me a pump bottle full of hand sanitizer. And as I cleaned myself off, I realized that the smell was kind of perfume-y, but not the good kind of perfume. The smell was more like if you said to an AI, “Design me a perfume that smells like maple syrup and gingerbread” and it gave you a bizarre approximation of what it THOUGHT that was. Or like when you walk past the Yankee Candle store in the mall, and the mixture of scents is initially sweet then REALLY off-putting. And I had to keep shopping with this weird, expired candle/moldy syrup smell on me until I got home.
Once I was home, I washed my hand very vigorously with soap. I dried off and checked but it was still really pungent. I took off my rings and washed them too, but it didn’t help. That night, I had a long bath, and when I got into bed, I shoved my hand in Ken’s face.
Ken: What are you doing?! Me: IT STILL SMELLS! Ken: Yes, it does. Please get your hand away from me. It’s like a candle that no one wants burning in their house. Me: I KNOW!!
On Friday, the scent was still very strong, despite me having washed my hands several times and soaking my hand in wine, which is totally something that normal people do. And then I had a bath again on Friday night, but every time I waved my hand near my face, I could still smell the combination of old gingerbread and expired maple syrup. Sure, it was getting fainter, but how the f*ck was it still lingering?! Was it the cockroach of smells? On Saturday afternoon, Ken and I were out, and I held my hand up to his nose:
Me: It’s still there! Ken: Get it away from me! Me: You are SO mean. “Meh, don’t make me smell you!” What a baby. Ken: Is this going to be a forever thing? Like, you will always smell this way? Because… Me: That’s not very nice. Ken: And neither is the way your hand smells.
I have scrubbed it and scrubbed it, and even as I write this, if I put my hand up close to my nose, I still get a faint whiff of that oil. But I don’t feel quite so bad tonight though, because Ken just made coffee and it smells even worse. Maybe if I rub the grounds into my fingers…
Here’s a picture of Ilana in a box because a picture of my hand is nowhere near as cute:
In other news, my new short story collection At The End Of It All came out last Tuesday, as you might have read, and I was completely floored when I saw that it debuted at Number 1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases Chart. And it stayed at Number 1 for most of the day before being supplanted, so despite reeking like the corpse of a gingerbread man who has been embalmed in maple syrup, I was pretty excited. I know a few of you have started reading it—I hope that if you like it, you can give it quick review.It would mean a lot.
As you may or may not have known, I haven’t been working at the antique market since before Christmas. I didn’t really specify why—it was mostly because I haven’t had much time to write, and I had a new novel idea brewing in my head that I really needed to get done. So I took a six week leave. Well, I asked for a leave and they told me I’d have to just quit, so I did, but then a couple of weeks ago, I was asked to come back. And I am. On Monday. And not a moment too soon, because on Friday, I finished the book. I initially felt like I powered through this one, but I worked on the last novel pretty much once a week until it was done. So technically, this one probably took me the same amount of hours, except that I wrote about 2000 words almost every day since January 2. It’s called Charybdis—yes, like the whirlpool monster from Greek mythology and it’s a gothic thriller. I’m super happy with it. I like to finish a chapter or two and let Ken read it first for feedback, but this time, as I got close to the end and started explaining to him what was going to happen, he said, “Stop. Don’t tell me. I want to read the rest of it in one chunk and find it for myself. I want to be surprised.” And that was fine, but then the other day, I was driving on the highway and the weather was shitty, and it suddenly occurred to me that if I crashed my car and died, he would NEVER KNOW. And it would haunt him for the rest of his life. So I started trying to summarize the rest of the book in my head VERY succinctly, so that I could whisper it to him as they were loading me into an ambulance or whatnot.
But then, after I had finally come up with a pretty good synopsis of the ending for him, I started struggling with the plot a little, trying to make it both suspenseful, twisty, but logical. I literally lay awake in bed for hours, trying to put all the pieces together in a way that made sense, and once that happened, I completely changed what I’d thought I was going to do (because I’m a pantsing plotter), and then I had to re-summarize the whole ending AGAIN just in case I got hit by a forklift or something. So as you can see, I’m exhausted. If only there was a place where I could sit and rest…
Seriously. Was there no thought AT ALL put into this sign? If I’m sedated, why would I BE DRIVING?!
And here’s something really weird that happened last week. I looked out the window at my balcony, and I yelled for Ken. He came slowly ambling in (because no matter how much I yell, he never runs), and I pointed at several small pieces of blue and green paper:
Me: How did that paper get up here? It wasn’t there yesterday. Ken: That stuff is all over the neighbourhood. It’s like someone shot off a confetti cannon. There’s a gold paper star right in the middle of our back yard. Me: AWW. That’s kind of nice. But strange. Ken: Maybe they all flew out of a recycling truck that drove by very fast. Me: I think you’re reaching. Let’s just call it magic.
In other news, I just found out that my first novel Smile is under contract with my Canadian publisher to be translated and published in Georgia. And every time I tell people that, they say “Great, y’all!” No, not Georgia the state, Georgia the country. And what language do they speak in Georgia? Georgian, of course. It’s due to be released this summer. Maybe I should buy a confetti cannon.Now that I’m going back to work, I can afford one.
Recently, I started tutoring to earn a little extra money, now that I’m no longer working at the antique market. I still have a lot of teaching resources, including children’s books, in one of the guest bedroom closets, so I went through the stack of books the other night, looking for something that might interest one of my new students, a child in grade 2. I found a couple of cool I Spy books and some other fun reads, and then I found a book called Dinosaur Bob And His Adventures With The Family Lazardo. I couldn’t remember ever buying it or even reading it to Kate when she was little, and I started flipping through it. Here’s the gist of the story: An American family named Lazardo goes on safari and finds a dinosaur which they bring back to the States and it causes a lot of issues but in the end, (spoiler alert), the dinosaur helps their town baseball team win a big game. And that explanation is only slightly longer than the title of the book. But that’s not the weird part. The fact that they go on an AFRICAN SAFARI with their small children and find a dinosaur isn’t even the weird part. No, the thing that absolutely confounds me is this. On the cover of this book, which was written in 1988 by the way, and on almost every page, there is a man wearing a regimental uniform and a turban. He is briefly described on the first page, when the family initially encounters the dinosaur thusly: “Jumbu, their bodyguard, said nothing.”
Okay, first, why the hell does this family need a bodyguard?! And why is he some kind of Sikh warrior? But then things get even weirder because based on the illustrations, it turns out that he’s not really their bodyguard—he’s actually their MANSERVANT, and on the second page, the Lazardos are lounging on the dinosaur’s back in their swimsuits while Jumbu is in some kind of ceremonial beachwear and he’s SERVING THEM ALL DRINKS. This book was published by Scholastic and can you imagine the pitch meeting?
Author: So there’s this white family and they find a dinosaur… Scholastic: Like, dinosaur bones? Author: No. A real dinosaur. And they bring it back to the United States to play baseball for their hometown team. Scholastic: Interesting. Are there any quirky unexpected characters? Author: Well, they have an East Indian manservant– Scholastic: Manservant? That might be perceived as racist. This IS 1988 after all. Better call him a bodyguard. Author: Oh, okay.
Throughout the entire book, no one talks to him, no one mentions him, even though he’s on almost every single page serving drinks to the family, playing catch with the kids and whatnot, and no one even thinks to ask “Hey Jumbu, you’re a bodyguard, right? Do you think it’s safe to bring a dinosaur back to the Unites States to play baseball?” Because I’m sure all the chaos could have been avoided by letting Jumbu do his damn job. The only time we hear about Jumbu again is on the last page where the family is celebrating the big baseball game win and “Jumbu brought out the musical instruments” so the family could sing and dance. But then it felt like there was some ominous foreshadowing because right at the very end, “Jumbu smiled.” I’ll bet he did. And the sequel to this book is called, Jumbu Gets Even.
The other thing that completely befuddled me the other day happened when I went into the cannabis store. That’s it. That’s the story. No, I’m kidding. I went into the cannabis store, because I live in Canada and we like weed so much that we have government-licensed and regulated places where you can legally purchase it. I don’t smoke it or anything—I use CBD gel caps to help with my shoulder pain. I ran out of pills, and walked into the cannabis store to buy some more. On the counter at the till, there were two jars. These jars are TIP JARS. Every month, this store and others like it, have a question that prompts you to leave money in one of the jars. Last month, the question was “Is the Earth flat?” and terrifyingly, there was almost as much money in the YES jar as in the NO jar. Like, how stoned ARE you if you think that gravity, physics, and every explorer who circumnavigated the globe are just LYING TO YOU? But this month the question was “What TV show was better?” and the choices were Friends or Seinfeld. However. The questions are NOT the point. The point is, Why is the staff in a government licensed and regulated business asking for tips? First, they get paid $15.50 an hour at the very least because that’s the minimum wage. Second, it’s not like they cooked me food or brought me a drink—like, all the woman in the store literally did was open the locked cabinet that I pointed at and hand me a bottle of pills. And she wants a TIP for that? But I guess people are very grateful to cannabis store workers because there were a LOT of tips in those jars. More tips than I bet Jumbu ever got anyway.
Living life with a chronic illness is definitely not easy. But I do my best to push through all the barriers this illness puts in front of me! In my heart and mind, I believe maintaining a positive outlook on all situations in life will carry us through to much better times! I hope you find the information that I provide both helpful and inspirational!