I’m hosting the Torquere Social live journal tomorrow. I’ll be talking about my work, asking and answering questions, maybe posting some teasers and even attempting a prompt fic or two. So c’mon down. Help me to not bore everyone half to death.
I have always found it very hard to promote myself or the things I do. But in the last couple of years I’ve started to realize that very few other people are going to do it for me, so I’ve decided to stand up and say “HEY LOOK AT ME!” I’ll die of embarrassment privately later.
Today’s HLAM moment is the publication of an anthology called Cherry On Top in which my story, ‘The Bad Boyfriend Club and How I Left It’ appears. It’s an anthology about first times. First time lovers, first time with some kink, first time… whatever. There are nine stories and each one of them takes a different look at the idea of the first time.
I’d also like to remind you all of the three short stories I have over at Torquere Press which are all part of The Micah Darcy Chronicles, a series about soul-hunter Micah; his lover, Satan; and how strange the world can be when you’re dead.
- Heat — The first of the chronicles explaining how Micah got the gig as soul-hunter and ended up shagging the devil.
- Snow — Micah’s foray into Chaos, to recapture the soul of Jack the Ripper
- Home is Where Your Story Begins — Micah starts wondering why his death is the way it is.
And don’t forget to look at the other offerings at Torquere. I think you’ll like what you see.
Back in the mid-nineties when I was in my early forties, my mother injured her back. It was a stupid, freakish accident — she bent over to pick the cat up off the bed — but over a period of several weeks it nearly incapacitated her. She soldiered on though, she had to; she was the social chairman of the local women’s club and they were closing the chapter after 90-odd years in existence. Naturally there were a lot of final events, and a lot of work for Mom, so she gritted her teeth and did the work.
The result was that a couple of days after the club closed down, she ended up in the hospital because she could barely move. The enforced rest did her good, and she came back home with strict orders to keep still, which she pretty much did. But Mom was in her early eighties at that point and her body had a lot of unpleasant surprises waiting for her. Somewhere along the way, she developed a hernia and it was back to the hospital for surgery.
People in their later years frequently don’t do well with sedatives and anesthesia, and Mom didn’t fare well. When she was in for her back, she got confused and the nurse found her wandering the hall in the middle of the night looking for me. After the hernia surgery, the confusion became a more common event, though pretty minor, all things considered.
So we kept on keeping on. My father, also in his eighties, still worked seven days a week from about eight to four in spite of congestive heart failure which he’d suffered from for over a decade. Mom was diabetic and the accident and hernia together brought her to the point of needing insulin instead of just oral meds. She was philosophical about it; her mother had been diabetic too. I already knew how to do blood tests, but I learned how to give her injections because it was simply easier for her to have me do it. I learned a lot about diabetes in those early days, knowledge that has served me well.
Eventually my father’s arthritis took its toll and he decided it was time to retire. He sold his store, he and Mom made plans. They were going to travel, see a bit of the world. Dad had been in the navy in WWII, and had said that was enough traveling for a lifetime, but in later years he thought he might like to see Europe, or maybe just spend a few days in New York. Either way they had a good time talking about where they’d go and what they’d see.
And then two days after he retired, the day after Thanksgiving, Mom fell and broke her hip. It was a bad break. She had to have bolts put into it to hold it together. Another round of anesthesia played merry hell with her memory. She developed congestive heart failure and became dependent on a walker because her hip had never knit properly.
My father, who had never quite given up on the idea of travel, dutifully helped Mom do her exercises, which included climbing the stairs a couple times a day. One afternoon while I was getting supper ready, I heard a terrible noise, and my mother calling for me. My father had fallen backwards from the top of the stairwell. It’s nothing short of amazing that he didn’t break a single bone, but he spent a month in the hospital, and when he came out he was never the same. He began to complain that he couldn’t remember people’s names. I said that it wasn’t a huge problem; after all, he wasn’t in business any longer and didn’t have to remember things like that on a daily basis. I think I told him that as much for my own peace of mind as his.
Over the next seven years I watched them deteriorate. My mother developed a great many alarming symptoms, the worst of which was a mental disintegration that was unlike anything I’d ever known. She wasn’t just forgetful, her personality changed. She became childish and difficult, she hallucinated, she said inappropriate or just plain horrible things. Her eyesight began to go, too, and with it her last pleasure. She couldn’t read, couldn’t work her puzzles, and towards the end, I doubt she could see the television. She kept us up night after night demanding attention, hallucinating, screaming and carrying on because I wouldn’t let her get out of bed and wander around all night. My poor father did what he could, but his sight was getting worse, and he was tired all the time. His ‘help’ often made a bad situation worse. He was in chronic pain, his heart grew worse, and he became reclusive and difficult.
And me? I got crazy. I gained a hundred pounds in one year alone, became diabetic, lost a hundred and fifty pounds, and spent my time screaming at them. I’m not going to make any excuses here; I was horrible. Being around the three of us was a nightmare, and there were few people who were willing to do it. My parents’ devoted housekeeper stuck with us, but I could see that even she was dreading having to be in the house. I wanted to say it was okay, that I understood, but I couldn’t. I relied on her way too much. I got people in to help, but it was pricey, and I was afraid to have them in too often because there was a limited amount of money and I had no way of knowing how long they’d live. My great grandmother died at one hundred and one.
One day my mother kicked me in the stomach and I slapped her. Hard. The thing that horrified me the most was that I was holding back. I wanted to punch her. I wanted to deck her. I hated her. I think for a moment I wanted to kill her. When my father saw me crying one day, he asked me what was wrong and I said something about how tired I was. He said “What d’you mean? I do everything. What do you do?” At that moment I hated him, too.
I did eventually put them into a nursing home because I knew I was teetering on the brink of actually doing them or myself harm. (I used to lie in bed and think that it would be nice if there was a big carbon monoxide leak that would just kill all of us at once.) My father died within months of going into the home, my mother lasted two more years, and by the end barely knew me when I came to visit. At the end, she stopped eating and drinking, and I had to make the decision to not have her tubed. Her doctor almost came out and accused me of murder. Let me tell you something: No matter how many people tell you that you’ve done the right thing, you will never, ever believe it. You can know it, but you will never feel it, and it will gnaw at you, especially in the dark hours when your demons come creeping out.
Demons… Oh yeah, I know about demons.
What I mean to tell you is that at some point along the way, I began to watch Buffy. I hadn’t before, I don’t know why. But I began to catch it on reruns at five in the morning, when Mom would sometimes quiet down for a few hours. I mostly didn’t sleep in those last years, and watching Buffy seemed to make it all easier.
I laughed a lot when I watched it, and I badly needed to laugh. I watched Buffy lose the people she loved, and I cried for her because I was watching the people I loved most in the world fade away. I watched ‘Band Candy’ and saw a clever parallel to what I was going through, watching my parents become children again, children for whom I was responsible, but over whom I had no real authority.
Mostly though, I watched Buffy slay demons and I understood that it wasn’t really about vampires and werewolves, it was about life, and all the horrors it can throw at you. I understood that it was about what makes or breaks us, and I honestly believe it helped me to not break.
I think Buffy helped save my life in those years, and every time I watch another episode, I say a silent ‘thank you’ to Joss Whedon for creating the allegory. And for making it smart and funny and so engaging that for a couple of hours each morning I forgot where I was and what I was going to face that day.
Joss, you’re my hero.
More or less anyway. Dawn and I spend a lot of time outside these days, at least on days when the heat is bearable. My mother always said it’s twenty degrees cooler in the garden, but if that’s still registering up in the mid-90s, it hardly matters, does it? When you can’t work because there’s sweat constantly pouring in your eyes, creating a film of agony, then maybe it’s time to go inside, turn on the a/c and think seriously about autumn.
We had a nice 4th, though. Pam and her mom came over for a cookout and brought Annike, their dog. We had burgers, corn, potato salad… you know, the typical 4th of July sort of spread. And for the first time that year we used things cut from the garden. I made a salad of our Swiss chard with raspberries and hazelnuts, and added dill and chives also from our fruit and veggie bed. You don’t get a whole lot fresher than that.
Then on the 5th, we went to Linda’s for a cook out. It go so hot outside, though, that once we’d finished eating, everyone went inside to her aunt’s kitchen, and sat around eating fruit and enjoying the a/c. Between all the corn we had over the weekend, and all the elotes we bought throughout the last few weeks, I’m utterly corned out right now. Much as I love it, the idea of eating more just now kind of makes me want to urp.
Then the really hot weather hit, and poor Dawn actually let the boys come downstairs to enjoy my a/c for a while. I got them for two evenings. Tommy enjoyed it but Buckaroo ultimately didn’t much care one way or another and went back upstairs. Finally on Friday Charles took us to Home Despot to get a big a/c unit for Dawn’s dining room, and got Abe to put it and her bedroom unit in. So now I don’t see my Phews at night. But what I learned was interesting. In spite of their being here, I had no real desire to interact with them, and that suggests to me that I’m not really interested in having any more cats. At least not for the time being. Funny, isn’t it, for someone who hasn’t been catless for more than a couple of months in the last 45 years?
The garden goes on a-growing.
And then when I’m not outside, I’m writing. I’ve reformatted a novella to publisher specs, done a lot of research and note-making, and finally resurrected my NaNoWriMo novel from last year, so I can finish it. When I’m not doing either of those things, I’m watching the new TV season or reading. It’s too hot to do much else.
Jim was here on Sunday and we went to Caputos to pick up some supper. Then we ate on the sun porch and watched it rain, moving to the living room at eight to catch the new Masterpiece Mystery, ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ which turned out to be an enormous disappointment to me. Suchet was wonderful, but the writing was terrible. They changed so much that they managed to break most of the bones of the mystery, turning it into a kind of moral lesson instead. Bah, I say. I’m currently reading the book again to get the bad taste out of my mouth.
Really, there’s been a whole lot more going on, and I realize that my account of the things above has hardly been scintillating, but I’m so hot and crabby right now I basically just want to fling things around the room and insult people. I should go back to my writing. At least that’s working out pretty well.
Yes, we name everything. This rose came with the house. It survived several harsh winters without any protection, and when the time came to dig up the yard, it got tossed in a corner and covered with damp cloths for about a week before I managed to put it in a pot with the other rose that had been dug up.
The second rose didn’t make it, but eventually we got this one into the ground and clipped it to a small trellis. Then we hoped for the best.
We got it:
I did manage to find half of one of those little aseptic packages of milk, which amounted to 4 oz or less, and I made myself iced coffee for breakfast which I was finishing when Dawn got home with a half gallon of milk from Target, and a couple of packets of Chessmen, so we hied ourselves outside for iced-coffee-and. We spent most of the day out there, too, doing some yard work, nearly drowning the purple rose and generally amusing Rain-Bringer with a bit of bawdy-ladies-next-door humor.
We did end up spending a couple of hours indoors waiting for Peapod and for our supper which we ordered from a (new to us) barbecue spot up near Northwest Highway and Bryn Mawr. I have to say that the barbecue was very good. The pulled pork and brisket sandwiches were just heaven, and the ribs were good but not the kind I like (A little chewy instead of the fall-off-the-bone type that I favor.) The sides were very good, too, so we ate indoors and watched Lewis Black, then went back out with some fizzy water because by that time we’d snarfed up all the coffee and made a good dent in the milk she’d bought.
So this is the kind of neighborhood we live in: We’re sitting in our garden and neighbors from two doors down stopped by to sit and talk, and invite us to their cook-out on Monday. He’s in his 90s, she’s about our age, and they have a little old dog who barks a lot and wants to make both Dawn and myself his girlfriends, if you get my drift. We call him “Barkin’ Bernie.” So they hang out for a while and John tells us about how he was in the medevac corps at Guadalcanal even though he could barely speak English at the time. And his daughter invited us along to the fireworks display they were going to on Sunday night, and Bernie tried to hump our legs.
Then they left and Rain-Bringer gave us about half a pizza left over from their supper, and he and Mrs. Rain-Bringer wished us a good night because we’re crazy kids and stay up past, oh like nine o’clock. So while we’re sitting there talking about what nice neighbors we have, we hear the back gate open and suddenly Dawn says “There’s someone in our garden.” And I, who am facing in the other direction, think she’s talking about someone we know so I say “Someone we know?” and she says “No.” When I turn to look there’s this kid of about 11 or 12 crawling down the sidewalk. He says “Sorry.” gets up and runs out the front gate.
But the way we figure it is the folks three doors west of us are having a huge birthday bash and the kids are getting everywhere and shrieking like someone is setting them on fire, which as Dawn says is the Birthday Suttee, a custom that never quite caught on in this country. I brandished the barbecue lighter and said if anyone else crawled through I’d set them on fire, too. But it wasn’t that big a deal except that he wasn’t all that old and the kids shouldn’t have been that far from home at 10:30 at night in our opinions.
Still, at least he came into a yard where no one would hurt him. Except maybe to chase him with a barbecue lighter.
Yes, it’s been an interesting day. But we haz pizza!
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This morning I was roused out of a sound sleep by the UPS guy ringing my bell, and as I stumbled towards the intercom to say “Hanh?” I realized I’d been having a dream about watching gay porn in which there were stealth Elizabethans. I dreamed that I said to Dawn, who was also watching, “Hey, there are Elizabethans hiding in this thing!” and when we checked the cover of the DVD — which was cartoons instead of photos — down in the corner was a little tiny Elizabethan guy with a word balloon that said “Thyne hands, oh thyne hands!”
So I told Dawn about it.
Dawn: How did you know they were Elizabethans? By the ruffs?
Me: *makes an Elizabethan ruff gesture* Ruffs and nothing else.
Dawn: Like little garden stakes.
Me: So instead of reading what’s planted, they could tell us.
Dawn: “Prithee, madame, what may’st I do for thee today? What information shall I impart, forsooth?”
Me: “We calle these ‘love apples’ but you do calle them ‘tomatoes.’ I know not why.”
Dawn: Your brain is so strange.
True that, but at least the extra weight got taken off of it yesterday. I finally went and got a haircut. Yes, I really needed one. Dawn was so tired of me complaining about it that she had started threatening me with scissors and a bowl. So I walked up to a local salon and we worked at it until I got the ‘bed-head is my friend’ look I wanted. Dawn’s comment on seeing it? “Thank God, now you’ll stop whining.”
When I was walking back I stopped at the Romanian deli up the street from us because I was hoping they’d have milk. I was out and I wanted iced coffee. Alas they didn’t, but I did pick up a couple of things, and as I was checking out, the owner said “Do you have a grill?” I said we did and she said she wanted me to try something. She gave me a package of six sausages and told me how to fix them, so Dawn and I barbecued last night, and I have to tell you they were very good sausages. Very garlicky and spicy. They stayed stubbornly red inside in spite of having no preservatives but when we tasted them we decided it had to be paprika. We definitely want to go back there and try other things now.
We also did the naan on the grill thing and again it was amazingly good. We made a piece each with the sausages, and when I made a slap-up package of spiced pineapple for the grill, we did two more. We had a glass of wine each left in the bottle and just enough fizzy water to get us through the meal. We also passed sausages and pineapple across the fence to the Rain-Bringer and his family, so maybe they’ll go up and try some of the stuff at the deli, too. Then we turned on the lights, made a bit of iced coffee with what was left of Dawn’s milk, sat back and enjoyed the heck out of the garden until well past 10.
Unfortunately yesterday I missed Charles who called to say “Put your hair on, put your teeth in and let’s go to Dairy Queen!” So I’m hoping he’ll be around today because I could murder some ice cream. We had elotes yesterday afternoon (And seriously, if you’d told me 20 years ago that I’d be eating corn with mayo, margarine, cheese and hot pepper, I’d have told you that you’d gone off the rails. I think there’s crack in this stuff.) but we let Mr. Montoya go by without buying ice cream last night. It’s so weird, around here it’s all adults who chase Mr. Montoya down the street. Yesterday when I went out to get cones for Dawn (who was in her jammies, and hovered at the front door) and myself, I ran into Hoovie from next door and we both giggled a little. When we got to the truck there were a bunch of adults hovering around it, clutching their money. All of which sort of segued into a long discussion with Carlos Jr. about street food wherein Dawn told him about Flirty Cupcakes which sort of made his eyes light up.
I’m about 2000 words into a new story inspired by watching the world cup, and I have a nice, clean print copy of “Suffer the Little Children” to pore over in preparation for doing the (I hope) last edit before I start sending it around.
Right now? Breakfast. God I wish I had some milk… Dawn’s gone to Target but she won’t be back any time soon.