July 25, 2012

Way. Too. Hot.


People think I’m kidding when I say if I have to choose, I’ll take cold and raining.  I’m not kidding.  I was thinking about it today as I examined the latest crop of mysterious evil toxic bug bites, scrapes, scratches, bruises and gouges, that I don’t actually like wearing shorts quite aside from the fact that wearing shorts means that it’s HOT:  I frelling damage too easily.  Also the bugs are getting worse.  This is the second time I’ve had one of these red-haloed purple doohickeys and they last for weeks.*  And the nettles, because of all the rain, are extremely fierce and juicy.  They’ll burn you through heavy jeans denim—they’ll burn you at twenty paces in shorts.** 

               It was a particularly bad day for off lead dogs too.  I knew walking by the river was going to be fraught but the idea of climbing into Wolfgang and driving somewhere in temperatures of 112°F (nearly) was pretty loathsome.  And most of the river trail is shady.  Today it was shady and covered with wet lolloping off lead dogs.***  Arrrrgh.  Fortunately most of them were friendly but most of them were also gigantic, and ran in packs.  Listen, you bloody human morons, being mobbed by five or six thugs individually twice your size counts as harassment, okay?  Even if there isn’t any snarling. 

               Our best encounter, however, was the last, after we’d left the riverbank and were headed back toward town on one of the little one-and-a-half-lanes wide back roads that don’t have a speed limit which means you can do sixty and some people do.  I do not plug into Pooka on these roads.  There was body language on this particular dog that even I could read—from farther away than I could tell if it was on lead or not.  We got a little closer and—relief—it was.  I still cranked hellhounds in before I really needed to because this thing was making me nervous even on lead.  And then the UNBELIEVABLE TWO LEGGED HALFWIT, no, QUARTERWIT on the other end of the lead as we drew abreast smiled vaguely and said hello AS THE FRELLING DOG BROKE FOR MINE AND HE DIDN’T MAKE ANY ATTEMPT TO STOP ITI think the only reason we didn’t have serious blood on the pavement in this case is because Chaos, for a wonder, agreed with Darkness’ view of the situation and lunged forward with his brother—McKinley shoulder muscles here going AAAAAAAAH but holding—barking and snarling right back, and, like so many bullies, I don’t think their opponent† was expecting resistance—or quite up to taking on two of them at once.  Nasty quick little beggars, sighthounds.  Anyway in the melee, and somewhat conscious of my bare legs, although hellhounds were out in front of me clearly prepared to take on all comers, I was mainly interested in getting out, which in this case meant backing up into a morassThose used to be pink All Stars.  And there was this large, complex, affectionate bramble.  Arrrrrrrrrrrrgh.

               At least the excitement seems to have given Chaos an appetite.  He’d eaten two of six†† meals in the previous forty-eight hours, to his human’s despair.†††  He ate lunch today!  He ate dinner!

               . . . I’ll let you know how supper goes. 

* * *

* Last time I had one was . . . the last heat spasm we had.  May?  I might assume it was the same one hideously re-revealed but it’s on the other leg.  I think. 

** Too much information alert.  And then there’s Darkness, who has a strange fetish for crapping in tall stands of nettles.  If he restricted himself to indulging this curious behaviour when we’re out of town I wouldn’t mind.  Fishing around by the side of the footpath with nothing but a plastic bag for protection. . . .^ 

^ Even more too much information alert.  It’s perfectly true that there are way too many irresponsible slobs of dog owners who look the other way so they don’t have to pretend to pick anything up.+  It’s also true that town councils are chronically short of money, including for things like public green space upkeep.  I don’t want your two-year-old falling down in dog crap either.  But there’s not always a lot the anxious, trying-hard dog owner can do about picking up efficiently in long grass.  And if I limited my poor hellhounds to freshly-mowed landscape there would be days when we never found anywhere they could use.  And I’ll teach my hellhounds to employ a litterbox just as soon as the legislation is passed ordering people to keep their frelling cats in their own gardens. 

+ I’ve got a great idea that I’m sure would make my fortune if I could figure out how to market it.  Filled Dog Crap Bags.  I’d need to find a source of some cheap, inert substance that can be broken up into globs of roughly the right size and weight . . . and then I start putting globs in dog crap bags and knotting them closed with the convenient plastic tie handles, and then I sell the frellers to the creeps out there who want to look like they pick up after their dogs without actually having to do it.  There would need to be several sizes too:  it would never do for a Rottweiler owner to be swinging a Yorkshire-terrier-sized bag . . . or vice versa.    As I say, I’m sure these would go like copies of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY# if I knew how to find my buyers.  I think the full page ads in USA TODAY, the SUN, and YOMIURI SHIMBUN## might not reach enough of the right people.###  There must be a way.  Discretion absolutely guaranteed.  Orders sent out in plain envelopes and no database will be created.

# All other comparisons are, of course, iniquitous. 

## http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yomiuri_Shimbun 

### I may be missing a trick.  Perhaps it should be full page ads in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL and the GUARDIAN. 

*** I think I’ve told you my guys are not the least interested in getting into the river.  They can be panting like bellows and draaaaaaagging on the ends of their leads and they still aren’t interested.^  I can stand in the river and call them and they will remain on the shore, waiting for me to come out before they trot up . . . and start licking my wet legs in a there-there-you-poor-soggy-thing sort of way.  Feh. 

^ Our native hell is a cold, raining one. 

† Border collie crossed with something bigger.  Alsatian, maybe. 

†† Little and often is the rule for sighthounds anyway, because their extreme undercarriage design makes them prone to gut trouble.  Times 1,000,000 in my hellhounds’ case.  So they get three little meals a day.  When they eat them. 

††† Both of us went to bed in a bad mood last night. 

             Eat, you crummy rotten animal!   You’ll have a stomachache tomorrow morning if you don’t!

             I’m not going to eat, leave me alone!   I won’t have a stomachache!  I won’t!

             Like all those other stomachaches you haven’t had when you don’t eat!


             —Darkness, in another corner of the kitchen, having eaten his ration, whistling through his teeth and looking innocent.

KES, 29



At the end of Chapel I turned right again on Pohl.  Pohl had a parking garage, a very 70s apartment building slightly humanised by all the laundry flapping on the balconies, and an accountant, humanised not at all by the aspidistra in the window.  An accountant would have an aspidistra.  At the end of Pohl I turned right again and . . . well, imagine that, I was on Bradbury, and there, two blocks away was the Eatsmobile.  

A nice cup of tea, that’s what I wanted, out of a warmed mug from a pot with a cosy.  I hauled myself up the steps by holding onto the railing.  Somehow my knapsack had got heavier since I signed the forty-six hundred contract copies for Rose Manor.  It was probably the blood loss.  It was probably the invisible life-force shunt that all ongoing contracts involve, doubtless including house rentals.  I knew a lot about ongoing contracts.  But then perhaps the fact that mine required frequent personal contact with vampires and evil magicians and other risky social misfits put me in the wrong frame of mind.

The lunch rush was over, so I thought I might get away with nailing a booth.  I slid out of The Knapsack and fell in after it.

“Well, hello there,” said Bridget, Mistress of Tea.  “Haven’t seen you in at least four hours.”

“I tried to stay away as long as I could,” I said.

“I know,” said Bridget.  “We have that effect on a lot of people.  Tea?”

“Yes please,” I said humbly.

“And a nice jelly doughnut?”

I hesitated.

“If you listen you can probably hear the sizzle from here.  Ryuu is squirting the jelly in the first batch.  Raspberry, boysenberry or crabapple.  He dips them in sugar while they’re still warm, you know?  So the sugar melts some.  Then after he sticks the jelly in he dips them in sugar again.”

I was drooling.  “All right, all right.  And a jelly doughnut.”

“Which kind?”

I thought about it.  I stopped thinking about it.  “If you make me choose I’ll have to have one of each.  And then I’ll need to buy a new pair of jeans.”

“Zenna’s has good jeans.  Two blocks away, on Sturgeon.”

“You’re not helping.  Boysenberry.”

“Wise woman.” 

Wise.  I doubted that.  I reluctantly opened my knapsack and pulled out my laptop.  Turned it on.  Discovered that the Eatsmobile had free wifi.  I was going to dedicate my next book to this place.  Although I’d better check first that this wouldn’t get me banned.  Not everyone would want something entitled FLOWERHAIR THE INDOMINABLE dedicated to them.  Especially if my or my editor’s hand slipped and the art department, unhindered, produced a cover with a lot of orange and pink and some extravagant nipple protectors.   Opened my email program and ran my eye down the list.  The top name was Norah’s.  Hmm.  There were, in fact, several from Norah.  I opened the newest:  IF YOU DON’T ANSWER THIS BY THE TIME I LEAVE THE OFFICE I AM COMING UP THERE AFTER YOU.  WHEREVER THERE IS.  YOU’VE GOT YOUR PHONE TURNED OFF TOO??  WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?  TALK TO ME.

Best friends.  Every recently divorced woman who has run off into the unknown because she doesn’t know what else to do should have one.

Bridget reappeared with a tray and slid it on to my table.  The mug was gorgeously warm.  The tea cosy had a slender long-legged black dog on it.  I looked at it nervously.  Then I turned it around.  The other side had another slender long-legged black dog on it, only now she’d turned her head to look at me reproachfully.  I sighed.  I poured my tea.  I moved the sugar bowl in front of the teapot and its cosy, but I could still see her eyes watching me.  I started trying to write to Norah.  I’ve got a house.  It has Yog-Sothoth in the cellar and a tower with a madwoman in it but I will be well protected by my dog and the big black old iron stove whose name is Caedmon.  I’m moving in tomorrow.  I stared at this for a while.  Norah usually rolled with my eccentricities pretty well—she had been known to say that I was fun to watch—but I thought possibly not in the present circumstances.  I deleted it.  I sighed again.

Bridget came back with the jelly doughnut.  It was so good it almost made me cry.  I was licking my fingers when my tea cosy caught my eye.  I thought the dog was now looking more hopeful.  “You’re not going to be a beggar, are you?” I said, but the sugar bowl was in the way and I couldn’t see if she wagged her tail or not.  I looked up, and there was a young man sitting at the counter, grinning broadly at the woman talking to her tea cosy.  Gah.  I tried to write to Norah again.  Wait till I get moved in and buy a bed before you visit.  Two beds.  I’m renting a house called Rose Manor, isn’t that a hoot?  It’s big enough for house parties though.  And a dog.  Okay.  I could send that one. 


Hot Bells


It is now hot.  Two days ago it was cold and sheeting and it is now HOT.  My blood—as well as my brain—is still in Thick and Cold-Resistant mode.  Hellhounds are all over me as I put my shoes and their harnesses on and then we walk outdoors into Wall of Heat and . . . they turn and look at me reproachfully.  Again.  There was a lot of reproachful looking two days ago with the cold and the sheeting.  There was a lot of reproachful looking for weeks, there, with the cold and the sheeting.  They’re going to lose faith in me.  If they weren’t dogs they would ALREADY have lost faith in me.*  Dogs:  the only love, and against-all-evidence confidence in your omnipotence, that money can buy.  It’s not necessarily a good bargain.  Siiiiiiigh.

            It has not been a great day overall.**  It’s too HOOOOT and when I went up to Third House to view the situation for practicalities beyond sufficient compost and rose food because we have people coming to stay the end of the week, I found I’m out of things like soap and paper towels—how does this HAPPEN?  Do basic household supplies MIGRATE or something?  Cheez.  And all the roses need deadheading, but I knew that.***

            And then Niall and I went to Curlyewe tonight.  We’d been due to go a few weeks ago and then Niall’s car was run into by a deer.  Sic.  He did not run into it, it ran into him.†  Ex-deer and ex-car.  We went to Curlyewe in his new car tonight.††  We blundered through the usual suspects (ouch!  Oof!) on handbells†††, and then tower practise . . . the big kids got stuck on trying to ring a touch of Cambridge, which kept breaking down—cue heated discussion on who got what wrong and why—and then they’d try it again and something/someone else would go wrong.  After this by the time they’d dragged their assortment of beginners through a great many plain courses of bob doubles it was time to ring down again.  Feh.  But I got a lot of knitting done.

            Tomorrow could be better.  Maybe I’ll try to get up earlier so we can hurtle before hellhound melting point is reached. 

* * *

 * If they weren’t dogs, they wouldn’t be thinking I control the weather anyway.  When cats turn and glare at you after you’ve opened the door on meteorological extravagances they don’t approve of, you have the feeling that they aren’t surprised.  They’ve always known you were a broken reed.  With dogs it’s like every day you’re taking the ice-cream away from the four-year-old child who idolises you just because you can.  The sad, forlorn look.  The ‘what have I done wrong that you treat me so cruelly’ look.  AAAAAAAUGH.^ 

^ Although . . . hellhounds.  Speaking of AAAAAAAUGH.  Hellhounds are their own little demonic subgroup within the vast complex enigma that is dog. We are continuing to struggle through an anti-food period.  It’s not as bad as it was, but I’m still not having a good time.  Lunch today, for example.  They hid frantically in the back of the dog bed while I was putting it together and when I came after them with it they gave me the whole collapsed-subsmissive-enormous-tortured-eyes thing.  It’s difficult to concentrate+ when you have to get out of your chair every ten minutes or so to move hellhound bowls and chirrup at them in a friendly and encouraging manner:  ‘Eat your lunch, you monsters of prandial depravity before I turn you into rose fertilizer.’++ 

            They did, eventually.  Eat lunch.  All that moving around gave them an appetite.  About half an hour later I decided I’d better cut up the chicken for their supper, because Niall and I were going to Curlyewe, which is too frelling far away, and I had asked Peter if he’d feed them before I would get back.  Suddenly I am besieged by a seethe of eager scrap-begging hellhounds.  What the frell, guys?  Eating makes you hungry? 

+ I have only JUST had an important bit of frelling plot machinery delivered.  FOR GODSSAKE YOU STORY COUNCIL GUYS, GIVE A WORKING WRITER A BREAK.    I’m through the last draft, I’m at the final tinkering stage—the making sure the heroine’s second cousin’s boyfriend’s dog is a Dalmatian on both page 47 and page 213#—the plot was obviously The Plot and I had decided that this particular aspect of it was supposed to remain mysterious.  Okay, I can do mysterious.  I’d quite like to know what’s going on myself but . . . okay, okay, I don’t know, it’s not going to be in the story, whatever, fine, it’s not my decision, it’s never my decision . . . AND THEY SEND IT TO ME NOW?  THEY SEND IT TO ME NOOOOOW?  Frelling frelling frelling frelling FRELLING FRELLING FREEEELLLLLLLLINGGGGGGI mean, no, it doesn’t change the story—for which I am devoutly grateful—but it sure casts some heavy srggghffdblugging atmosphere, we’re all a little rocked back on our heels here and our eyebrows are lightly singed.##  Adjectives.  I need some new adjectives.### 

# Okay, you don’t meet any of Maggie’s second cousins, let alone their boyfriends or their boyfriends’ dogs, but you know what I mean. 

## Even Mongo.  

### Frelling does not appear in SHADOWS. 

++ http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/jul/22/gardens-dan-pearson-roses-david-austin?newsfeed=true

In the hard copy version of this article, which I only read about an hour ago, there is a page opposite the text, of photographs of nine roses.  On line you have to squirrel around for another link:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/gallery/2012/jul/23/growing-roses-best-varieties-in-pictures#/?picture=393471114&index=0   This begins with a photo of Pearson’s own garden which, if a professional gardener can’t do any better I feel he should stick to close-ups of individual blooms.  Anyway, I wanted to say, off-handedly, that I have seven of the nine he recommends# although this wouldn’t be my top nine list.  I have very mixed feelings about orange in an old-fashioned rose.  I have Lady of Shalott because . . .well, because I had to have a rose called Lady of Shalott, and I had to have Benjamin Britten for the same reason.  The Lady of Shalott is pretty . . . frelling orange, and I don’t know what to call Benjamin Britten:  she’s a sort of very dark burnt orange with a heavy pink overlay.  It’s interesting but I’m not sure it’s a rose colour.  The two I don’t have are Lady Emma Hamilton because . . . well, orange, and The Alexandra Rose who doesn’t really believe in leaves.  I know about mixed borders to hide your roses’ deficiencies, but I feel there are limits about this.  I grew TAR at the old house but she’s not one of those that I miss enormously.  Those I miss enormously tend to get wedged into a corner here somewhere. . . .

            Oh, and that’s a terrible picture of Graham Thomas, who is a glorious pure vivid yellow.  This is better:  http://www.rhs.org.uk/Gardens/Hyde-Hall/About-HydeHall/Plant-of-the-month/June/Rosa-Graham-Thomas-(-Ausmas-) 

# Yes.  They’re all David Austins.  Yes.  I keep saying that Austin roses are overrated.  They are overrated.  They’re just so sodblasted ubiquitous.  And some of them are very nice indeed. 

** See previous footnote, about late deliveries. 

*** I was also scowling at my wisteria which is, I think, four years old and HAS NEVER PRODUCED A SINGLE FLOWER.  I know wisteria are like this, but this is supposedly one of the ones that flower in the first year or two.  This one is reverting to its Palaeolithic ancestor which flowers on its fortieth birthday.  It’s already got a purple clematis growing through it.  Maybe I’ll plant another purple clematis.   

† Deer are like this.  As some of you probably know.  

†† It is very shiny.  I am keeping it away from Wolfgang.^ 

^ And the MGB is dusty. 

††† No, no, the shiny new car is fine.

Several Aspects of Sunday Ringing



I wait breathlessly for the decision on the MGB. I realize it would be more practical to get rid of it…but practical isn’t much fun. 


…my vote’s for fun now. Driving to the Abbey for ringing in an MG would be…enormously helpful to the writer’s mood. 

Diane in MN

Because the hellhounds won’t fit in the back seat! I said.

In our young days, my husband had a Fiat 124 Spyder ragtop with one of those pretend back seats in it–the kind someone’s two-year-old child might fit in if she was small for her age–and we had a Lab/Shepherd mix and a Great Dane who BOTH rode in it. That would have been, oh, 200 pounds of dog. And they couldn’t squirm around, which was a very good thing. You may need to rethink the bit about the hellhounds.*

Yup! I vote for fun now, as well. You’re still amazed at yourself ringing at the Abbey every time you approach it – without any disrespect to the loyal and faithful Wolfgang, wouldn’t it feel even better and more exhilarating to be driving to the Abbey in the MGB?! 


practical isn’t much fun.

AGREED. Also, I looked up pictures. It’s a PRETTY car. I’m just saying. 

About a dozen emails:



1.  My All Stars are deeply practical.  They are also fun. 

2.  EMoon, you ratbag, you are a writer so you know these things.** 


4.  I thought about this.  There is that spectacular view as you come over the hill into town.  But the thing that really caught my feeble and easily distracted attention is the idea of parking in the close.***  Generally speaking only archbishops and the queen are allowed to park in the close.  But us bell ringers are also granted special dispensation.  Hmmmmm.  Descending gently through the maze of the old town and penetrating at last to the, you should forgive the term, cloistered abbey grounds . . . as I said, hmmmmm. 

5.  It’s a very pretty car.  It looks a lot like this:  http://www.oselli.com/items/226?back=%2F   There’s a reason they’re a cult car.  Aside from the excuse to wear motorcycle leathers without driving a motorcycle.

            Not that I’m against motorcycles, although I think it’s unlikely I’ll ever have one again.†  An MGB will still cruise happily at speeds that the cops will pull you over for, and the boot may be small, but it’s bigger than panniers on a motorcycle, big enough for a haul home from supermarket/garden supply/old bookstore.†† 

And, speaking of bell ringing, as I so often am . . . I seem to have rung twice today.  This is one of those things that I promised myself (and possibly my husband) that I would never develop a habit of doing:  ringing more than one Sunday service.†††  Well, it’s not a habit . . . yet.  But I knew that Penelope was away, and Penelope is one of the core group of New Arcadia Sunday ringers.  So I went along again this week.  And  . . . as I was strolling toward the tower in plenty of time I was thinking a little drily that if I’ve stopped not going, if you follow me, I’m going to hate sitting in the kitchen drinking tea on a Sunday morning I’m ringing in the abbey in the afternoon just as much as I’ve hated putting a pillow over my head and pretending to go back to sleep these last six or seven months.  Feh.  I got into this whole mess again after I quit ringing twelve years ago when the ME knocked me over because I’m now two garden walls over from a bell tower and can’t frelling HELP hearing them ring.  Okay.  I’ll worry about the habit thing later.  Next week.  Or the week after.  Or the week after that.  Edward is away for three weeks, so they’re going to go on being short. . . .

            Oh, and it’s our first beautiful day since about . . . March.  And as I was driving into the abbey I was thinking it would be a great day to be driving the MG.  Robin, will you please think about something else?

            And on our first beautiful day in about a year and a half we had a turnout of twelve which is very good for a Sunday afternoon.  We rang Grandsire Triples for me‡‡ (seven bells plus tenor-behind) because the peons need to be kept cheerful (so they’ll keep coming back) and then the fancy guys rang Stedman caters (nine bells plus tenor-behind) which is almost beyond my tiny mind to grasp the implications of, if I ever really ring Stedman triples (seven bells of this twisty volatile nightmare method with tenor-behind) I will be very happy, and then we rang plain hunt on all twelve because that’s the only thing their twelfth ringer—me—can ring on twelve.  And they put me on the treble.  I hate trebling‡‡‡ for a lot of bells.  It brings out all my frelling performance anxiety.  But Scary Man was on the two and he didn’t yell at me . . . much . . . maybe he was tired. . . . 

* * *

* Diane in MN continues:

 GODS. The things one does when one is culpably young and even more culpably stupid. This was before I discovered single malt, however.

And if your youth was like mine, it was before you could AFFORD single-malt, too. 

YES.  Remember Thunderbird?  Ripple?  Cold Duck?  Ewwwww.  It amazes me my attitude toward booze wasn’t permanently ruined by these early experiences.  And I’m pretty sure I’ve told the blog that I was put off champagne for about twenty years by a traumatic encounter with cheap rosé.   

** One of the things I found myself telling Colin on Thursday was that while driving was and still is the ordinary daily activity that is probably the most conspicuously restricted by my ME^, one of the things I remember the most vividly about the summer of the year after I started getting up off the sofa again after the eighteen months of acute horizontality, was wandering around the back roads of Hampshire, at about 20 mph, in the MG, with the top off.  Clearly it was a better summer that year.^^ 

^ which is really more to say that it’s harder to disguise with smoke and mirrors.  I’m good at smoke and mirrors—my old friends who also read the blog might call it more Jekyll and Hyde—but driving/not driving is not terribly susceptible to guile and subterfuge.  

^^ Although I still have the heated gloves and the Harley Davidson black leather chaps+ from my one winter of bell ringing with the MG.  Put the top back on?  What would I want to do that for?  As soon as you put the top on it’s just a car.++ 

+ I’m failing to find a good on-line picture.  But mine are the proper full length kind:  legs with a belt to hold them up.  They zip up the sides.  They are very cool.  If you’re into retro biker chic.  With the pink All Stars an onlooker could injure him/herself laughing.  There are ladies’ leather chaps# but twelve years ago when I was looking the only full-length ladies’ chaps were really cheezy.  This is mysterious to me:  a woman connecting with a road surface at high speed needs good quality leather between her and it just as much as a bloke does.  Anyway, for other reasons concerning heat retention, I bought blokes’.  

# I’ve even seen a rumour of pink ones 

++ Also the claustrophobia, when you’re used to the top off, is kind of extreme.  Headroom in old MGs is not too generous.  

*** I’m not sure abbeys have closes.  But it’s a close-like space, and since the Dissolution I daresay closes have grown up around ex-abbeys.  The early 1500s is a long time ago.  

† Although I totally fancy a Vespa.  http://www.uk.vespa.com/#/vespa/UK/uk/Model/Vespa-LX/Vespa-LX-125-3V ^ It’s probably a good thing they don’t come in pink. 

^ I don’t really see the point of a 300cc Vespa.  If you want a real engine, why don’t you buy a motorcycle and get it over with? 

†† We are not discussing the transportation of hellhounds.   

††† Of course there are loonies in places like London where it’s cough-cough feasible, who spend their Sundays sprinting from one tower to the next and knock off half a dozen before going home to the Sunday roast. 

‡ All else being equal, which it never is, if I were doing her up to sell her, I could probably afford it.  If I’m doing her up to keep her . . . 

‡‡ Scary Man has this infuriating habit of shouting Listen to your bell! when I start going astray.  If I could frelling hear my frelling bell I would be a much better ringer.   

‡‡‡ The treble is first.  It all begins with you.  There are various arguments about who ‘really’ sets the pace or the rhythm.  The stronger argument is that the tenor does for the simple reason that it’s the biggest bell and the rest of us have to make space.  But the treble is still first—and totally exposed.  Ugggggggh.

KES, 28



I left Homeric Homes in a daze and—despite the weight of my iPad-and-laptop-containing knapsack—decided to have a stroll around New Iceland before I went back to the Friendly Campfire and, you know, faced anything.  If I worked up an appetite (which still didn’t seem very likely unless Extreme Sport was rapidly introduced:  bench-pressing Hayley’s car, perhaps, or jogging around town by leaping from one parking meter to the next.  No, that would be boring, there were only about three parking meters in this town) I could put off the contents of my inboxes till after lunch.  Or I could get lost.  That was the easy option.  Even if New Iceland was only about five blocks square I could probably fail to find my way to anywhere for at least an hour.  Unfortunately all my tech had toggles that would pull in things like the contents of inboxes from the insubstantial air of anywhere.  I could sit on the curb in a sad, hopeless, mislaid way and still read my agent wanting to know yesterday what I thought about the cover for the first Aldetruda omnibus or whether I liked this other unknown but ambitious artist enough to accept $1.79 for the rights to do a graphic novel of FLOWERHAIR THE RECKLESS.  (Answer:  Aldetruda was not a seven foot tall size two with a rubber fetish, and no.  $2.79 at least.) 

            . . . I found myself involuntarily remembering how, when I went to conventions and things, Gelasio used to send me little silly email notes.  Sometimes they just said things like ‘Miss you.  Can’t you cut the panel on Shaping Your Stake for Maximum Penetration (!!!) and come home sooner?’  Sometimes they said things like:  ‘Watch out!  There’s a minotaur behind the chair, and he’s in a bad mood!’ and I’d look behind some chair or other in my hotel room and there’d be a vase of roses standing on the floor, or a package from Godiva.  I wasn’t thinking about Gelasio, who was in San Diego with a floozie.  A floozie with six PhDs from UCLA in various aspects of computer science I didn’t even know the names of.  Maybe she was a size two and had a rubber fetish.  Gelasio had always had a soft spot for Aldetruda.

            I wasn’t thinking about Gelasio. 

            I hitched my knapsack farther up on my shoulders and rolled forward, letting the weight of it decide my direction (this method, frequently employed, might have something to do with my propensity for getting lost).  I did the running-ahead-of-falling-over thing to the corner, swung right onto Chapel Road and stumbled to a halt.  I didn’t want to get out of town—not only did I dislike the prospect of walking on ordinary lumpy ground rather than (relatively) flat pavement carrying seventy-two tons of knapsack, there were cows out there beyond the town limits.  I was pretty sure I was even more afraid of cows than I was of crickets.  No, I was safe.  There were still shops on this street:  a hairdresser, a florist, office supplies with optional kitschy greeting cards . . . oh.  And a used bookstore.  A used bookstore with a storefront and everything, where (presumably) you could go in and fondle the merchandise, and breathe the indescribable perfume of paper, silverfish and damp.  MacFarquhar, make a note.  Either New Iceland was the secret omphalos of old-fashioned booksters or the proprietor was mad and had an independent income.  I’d check the possibilities later, preferably when I was not carrying seventy-two tons and four foot square of swingeing, bookshelf-destroying knapsack.  

             I did pause, however, resting The Knapsack on the sturdy metal top of a public trash bin, eyeing the storefront.  USED BOOKS, the banner over the door said briefly.  There was a sign on the door that was probably opening hours, unreadable at this distance.  Probably ten to noon on alternate Tuesdays and 7 pm to 7 am every full moon.  The still luridly bright paperbacks behind the sunny glass suggested at least regular front-window turnover. 

             I couldn’t be sure from here but I was trying to decide if I recognised a particularly unfortunate reissue of PRINCESS OF MARS which involved a lot of pink and orange, and (if I was right) a hero with well-defined musculature clearly indicating non-human genes, and a babe wearing some truly remarkable nipple protectors and not much else, when something else caught my eye.  I turned my head.  It was mostly houses on the other side of Chapel, punctuated by the occasional drugstore and a Thai take out.  A low, but not all that low, trotting shadow was just disappearing down an alley, turning off behind a row of houses.  I recognised that shadow.  No I didn’t.  MacFarquhar, don’t be any sillier than you have to be.  I told myself this very firmly, to squash the absurd sense of disappointment:  she lived in one of those houses.  Nothing to do with me.


               I hoisted up The Knapsack and went on. 


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