Virtual Reality

(Before we begin this week’s trip into lunacy, I was thrilled when I found out yesterday that one of my pieces of short fiction would be appearing today in The Ekphrastic Review. Click here to read it!)

So this week, I’ve been busy researching other jurisdictions as part of my job, and I have to tell you, there is a HUGE uptick in sites devoted to armadillos. I was on one website that had an environmental slant, and it was literally cartoon armadillos everywhere and all I could think was “Who in their f*cking mind is going ALL IN on the armadillos? Are they like the next (and at this point, I asked Ken for something that was really popular and isn’t anymore so that I could include a clever analogy, and he said, “Pet rocks” and I said, “Something more recent—duh” and he said, “The bucket challenge?” and I was just about to ask for a divorce when he said…) “The woman yelling at the cat meme?” so I guess I don’t have to look for another husband yet. At any rate, I learned more about armadillos than I ever thought I would need to know and apparently they’re very cool, eat a lot of larvae and are also a good indicator of how well the environment is doing. But then I was like, “What do armadillos really look like?” so I googled some images of them while I was about to start a virtual Zoom meeting. Did you know that they’re actually very cute in a weird and sassy way? And at the same time, I was desperate to do what everyone else I know has been doing, and that’s to have a virtual background on my Zoom screen, and I finally figured out how to do it, but as the meeting started, I didn’t have anything except the picture of the armadillo that I’d just googled, so I USED THAT.

Me: Good morning everyone!
Team: Good morn–
Me: I finally figured out how to use the virtual background!
Colleague 1: Very nice. C’est un peu distracting.
Me: Look! If I reach around like this, I can pet it!
Colleague 2: It kind of looks like it’s sitting on your shoulder…
Me: I KNOW, RIGHT?!

But later, I had to have a meeting with our Chief Operating Officer, and as much as I love armadillos, I realized that I should probably have a virtual background that was more normal like everyone else who had tropical beaches or snowy forests. Unfortunately, my default was a gallery of Baby Yoda cookies from when I was doing a Zoom with my family. While it looked quite adorable and yummy, that was no good either. So I quickly found a picture of the garden house that Ken built for us, and then everyone was like “Wow—it looks so cute!” so I guess I don’t have to look for another job yet.

On Wednesday, Ken and I decided that it was important for us to get some fresh air at the end of every day, and because we live in a small town, we don’t have our own mail box—we have to go uptown to a bank of community mailboxes. It was a lovely day, and as Ken opened our mailbox, I looked up at the sky, smiled and said, “I feel like things are going to be OK” and then Ken pulled out the only piece of mail that we had, and it was a letter from the Purple Shield insurance company offering us a FREE WILL-PLANNING KIT and I was like “Sigh. Never mind.” And I don’t know if I’m more concerned about a company taking advantage of a pretty dire situation or the fact that now I have to think about things like “How To Ensure Your Wishes Are Honoured” because the other day, Ken and I went for a drive and we went past a cemetery with a mausoleum and I said, “Ooh, that’s what I want!” and Ken laughed and said, “I’m cremating you, sucker.” OK, Ken didn’t actually say it like that, but every time I say I want my casket to be interred in a mausoleum, he snickers derisively and I JUST KNOW that my last wishes will NOT be honoured. But I warned him that no matter what, I would haunt him and his new, younger wife by dipping their toothbrushes in the toilet and not telling them.

On Wednesday, Ken said to me, “Hey, where’s that wig you have?” I found it for him and he put it on for his team meeting. I was a little perturbed because the first time I wore that wig, he said, “I don’t like you with bangs” as if it was my permanent hair and I had just given myself an ill-advised trim. But I could hear his team laughing hysterically at the sight of him in my wig, and now I’m determined to wear it next week, and also buy a bunch of even nicer wigs, because if we have to work from home forever, who’s going to know whether or not my hair grew, or changed colour or whatnot? And then I don’t have to wash and style my hair every morning for the camera—I can just throw on a wig. This is the one I really want:

But I’m also willing to settle for something less glamorous if Prime can deliver it in 24 hours.

 Lastly, I went back through my notes and pictures to see what I had considered writing about this week and I found this:

Why do I have a picture of this?! I don’t remember taking a picture of this and I have no idea what it means. I am NOT from Chicago and I don’t know anyone who is. I have NEVER called anyone except Ken “Bitch” and only in that fun, drag queen-ish kind of way. Are there armadillos in Chicago? Because it seems like something an armadillo would say. 

 

 

T And A+

You may recall that, a few week ago, I got a congratulatory letter in the mail regarding a certain colon test that I’d had. This week, I got ANOTHER letter, again giving me kudos for taking good care of my health. “Thank you,” it said, in fact, “for taking good care of your health. Your results are amazing.” OK, it didn’t actually say ‘amazing’ but it should have, because that’s how I felt when I read that my results were normal. And what test was this? This was the test that makes every woman cross her arms over her chest and sigh in painful anticipation. Yes, I had a mammogram. Now, there’s nothing to be alarmed about—this was just a routine check, unlike several years ago when I had to have one because my doctor thought I had an ‘anomaly’. THAT was scary, but I came away with a clean bill of health. I hadn’t had a mammogram since, but Linda Rabenek, the Chief Cancer Care Prevention Officer in Ontario seemed so pleased with me last month, and I didn’t want to let her down by ignoring the numerous notices that I’d been receiving in the mail. So I booked the test, along with a dental X-ray and a massage. No, they weren’t all at the same clinic, although that would have been convenient, but I had carefully mapped out the day so that I had enough travel time between each event. So I scheduled the x-ray for 2, the mammogram for 3 and the massage for 4, realizing that I was going to NEED a massage after having my B cup assets in a clamp. I won’t bore you with the X-ray, which took approximately 2 minutes and gave me plenty of time to go shopping.

Then I headed over to the medical centre and again, lucky me, they took me right away. “Just put this gown on,” said the nurse, “and come on back.” I never know if those things are supposed to tie in the front or back, so I slung the gown on and just kind of clutched it around me as I made my way to the mammogram machine (by the way, I just googled “what do you call a mammogram machine” and the answer was ‘mammogram machine’ or ‘special x-ray machine’. Also, the plastic plate you have to lay your boob on is called a ‘plate’ and the paddle that comes down and turns you into a human pancake is called the ‘paddle’ and I thought it would all be fancier than that BUT IT’S JUST NOT).

Anyway, she made me drop the gown and stand in front of the machine, then came a series of manipulations that were highly personal and I won’t discuss them at all except to say that I wished I was a little taller and maybe a man because then she was like, “OK, hold still” and the paddle came down. For the first fraction of a millisecond, it wasn’t so bad but then the paddle KEPT COMING DOWN. And I kind of screamed, and she said, “Oh, does it hurt a bit?” but I couldn’t answer because the breath had literally been sucked out of me, so I just whimpered quietly.

After a few more seconds—or was it an eternity?—of torture, the paddle released. “Good job you didn’t pass out,” she said, and she kind of laughed when she said it, and I’ve never wanted to throat punch someone so irrationally and so badly in my life. And for the men reading this who can’t fathom how a mammogram must feel, I’d like you to imagine that you’re sitting on the floor of your living room with your legs spread apart, and your pet elephant walks over and stands on your testicles, compressing them between his foot and the floor. Then your elephant laughs at you and tells you not to pass out. That’s what a mammogram is like.

(Slight tangent: the above analogy engenders more questions than it does answers, I realize that. For example, why are your legs spread apart? Why do you own an elephant? Why is an elephant’s foot simply called a foot and not something fancier, like a verhoofen or a gargantupaw? Do elephants really talk, and what’s more, do they mock people who are screaming in pain? They always seem so friendly on Facebook.)

And as if that wasn’t enough, then she did the other side, which, unbelievably, hurt even more, and I was additionally terrified, thanks to her bringing it up, that I MIGHT pass out, but if I did, I wouldn’t be able to fall to the floor because my boob was in a f*cking vice, and I would just dangle there like some kind of bizarre, Trent Reznor-esque performance art piece. Finally, and to my blessed relief, the whole ordeal was over, and I don’t have to go through that again for at least 2 more years and by then, I will have forgotten how much it hurt.

But it was all worth it in the end, because now I can advertise myself as being high quality, and I have the papers to back it up. Like say I apply for a new job or something, and they ask for special skills and qualifications, I can proudly put “Certified healthy from top to bottom by the Province of Ontario”. Or if something happens to Ken, and I start online dating, I can include “A-Plus T&A” on my Tinder profile.

Seriously though, get a mammogram when you’re supposed to. Don’t let it be the elephant in the room—that job belongs to the mammogram machine.

Also, I just found out that my flash fiction piece “Magpie” was nominated for Publication of the Year (Non-Poetic) by Spillwords Press. If you want to vote for me, you can go to this link. If you’d like to read the story, find it here !

Where’s The Fire?

Last Saturday, I was doing a book signing at our local Chapters Indigo store. The weather was lousy, but at least it was just rain, not the freezing rain and snow that had been forecast. I was there for three hours, and I sold quite a few copies, but still three hours is a long time to just stand next to a giant sign featuring a post-apocalyptic Toronto skyline without any distractions. Then suddenly, a fire truck with its lights flashing pulled up outside the store. OOH! And I wasn’t the only person who raced to the window, and I’m also sure I wasn’t the only person who was more interested in seeing the firefighters than actually finding out why they were there. Ultimately, nothing happened—they didn’t even come into the store, much to the dismay of women, men, and small children alike. And it reminded me of the last fire drill we had at work:

I was in the elevator and two guys got on. “Don’t forget about the fire drill tomorrow,” one of them said to the other.

“Oh,” I said. “Is it in the morning or afternoon?”

“Afternoon,” he answered. “Stay close to your coat—it’s supposed to be chilly.”

So that was a great heads-up, except that I almost immediately forgot about it until the next afternoon, when suddenly, the fire alarm went off. Everyone looked around nonchalantly, but then an announcement came over the PA system: “A fire alarm has been activated on Parking Level 2. The fire department has been dispatched. Exit the building immediately.” Then people started to get a little panicky. “Don’t worry,” I said. “I heard two guys talking about a drill yesterday in the elevator. I’m sure the announcement is just a trick or something.” But that didn’t seem to make people feel better, and then everyone started walking quickly towards the exit. Notice that I said “exit” singular, and not “exits” plural. Because, even though my office is in an 18-story building, there’s only ONE way out. Down the stairs. Along with EVERYONE ELSE who works in the building. And after meandering slowly down numerous double flights of stairs in a huge crowd of people I didn’t know, I commented to my co-worker, “This is crazy. If there was a real fire, we’d all be in serious trouble.” She replied, “Why the hell didn’t I change out of these heels?” which was a completely legit question, since our secret agency meeting place was on a side street two city blocks away. I suppose that’s in an attempt to disguise our identities, you know, like we’re just a group of tourists who happened to stop for a chat behind the grocery store. Like, nothing to see here; just move along. Ignore the man carrying the encrypted laptop. But then things got a little worrisome. Not because of the fire—at this point it became very clear that it was, in fact, a drill—but because there was no sign of any firetrucks. A ripple of dissatisfaction ran through the crowd.

“Where are the firefighters? We were promised firefighters!”

“If I had to walk down 15 flights of stairs, there should at least be firefighters!”

“What’s going on? Does anyone hear sirens?”

“This is ridiculous! You can’t just lie about calling the fire department! It’s not fair!”

And this wasn’t just the women. Men like firetrucks too, you know. But after a little while, we were all distracted by a colleague in Human Resources, a very dapper guy who was now wearing not only his suit and tie, but a rather bold, red ballcap with the words, “Fire Marshall” on it. We flocked to him to have our names checked off (to ensure none of us had perished in the fake fire?) and also because he was the closest thing to a firefighter that we had, and then we sadly returned to our building. The elevators were back in service—4 elevators for an eighteen-story building. It took a little while, but we finally squeezed on at the ground floor, cheering and laughing. Then the elevator suddenly stopped at the sixth floor. We were all puzzled until the doors opened:

“Marcel!!” we cheered. There was Marcel, one of our French co-workers, with a huge grin on his face. “I t’ought ze best t’ing would be to go up ze stairs partway. And ‘ere you are!”  With that, we welcomed him aboard and went back to work.

This might seem inconsequential or anti-climactic, but I tell this story to illustrate a point. That, given the state of some parts of the world right now, I am always grateful when the worst DOESN’T happen, when it’s a drill and not a tragedy, when the door opens and it’s a friend on the other side, when I get to spend time with people who see the humour in things, and when “another day at the office” is a good day. Even if there weren’t any firefighters.

Notice the lack of firefighters…

My Flash Fiction in The Sirens Call

Just a quick mid-week post to share that I have a new piece of flash fiction in the latest  The Sirens Call anthology. It’s a spooky little story called “The Visit” and it’s on page 94—I can’t link straight to it but here’s the link to the anthology if you’d like to read it: The Sirens Call Issue 48. Happy New Year, everyone!

Gallery

On Writing Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Suzanne Craig-Whytock

I don’t normally post anything mid-week but I was interviewed by Paul Brookes about my writing and he did such a lovely job that I was compelled to post it!

The Wombwell Rainbow

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Suzanne Craig-Whytock

is a writer from Ontario, Canada. Her first two novels, Smile and The Dome are published by Bookland Press (www.booklandpress.com). Her short fiction has appeared in Slippage Lit and is upcoming in XRAY Literary Magazine. She also writes poetry, and funny/weird things on her website mydangblog (http://educationalmentorship.com).

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write?

I’ve been writing in a variety of genres for as long as I…

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