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Persistence

Hope. Damnable hope.

For most of my life, this has been my Achilles Heel. I simply cannot stop hoping. For things to turn around. For things to get better. For luck to change.

Four years ago (!!) I wrote “The Book of Solomon,” a short story, and started sending it out to markets. After a year an a half of submit-reject-rewrite-resubmit, I called it a day and put the story in the trunk.

Except I didn’t. Continue Reading »

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Just a Cat

She was just a cat. Just an everyday cat, a cat like a million others. Nothing special. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just a regular American domestic shorthair, black, with green/gold eyes.

She didn’t like people. She had an indelible antisocial streak. Old friends who visited didn’t believe we actually had a cat, thought the beds and toys were there just for show. Whether they stayed for the evening, or visited for a few nights, they didn’t see her. Our cat sitter never saw her. Not once.

She was a denner, a hider in small places. Above all, she wanted peace and solitude. She’d retreat to a closet to sleep on sweaters, or crawl under the bedcovers and cocoon in a lump. When I came home for the day, my first stop would be the bedroom. I’d go up to the tent I’d made that morning out of pillows and the counterpane, and whisper my greetings to her through the quilt. My reward was a purr and, sometimes, as I stroked her though the fabric, a paw would reach out and press against my fingertip.

She didn’t trust anyone, not completely, not even me. It was feet she feared most. It took me years to figure this out, to understand why she always shied away from me as I approached. It was my feet. As a black cat, so black that she was devilish hard to photograph without it coming out looking like a picture of a black hole, she was easy to miss. She was a shadow, a spirit barely seen, a haunt, and she got caught by the occasional misstep as one of us came around a corner and didn’t spot her. It wasn’t until I understood this that our relationship changed. As I walked toward her she’d stare at my feet, but if I stopped and wiggled my toes, she knew that my feet “saw” her, and it was safe, and she would look up at me. She would allow herself to be carried or held for short periods, but would always be looking down, waiting for us to betray her and drop her, even though we never did.

She would stomp down the hallway. She wasn’t that big, either by size or weight, but when she came down the hallway, with every step, she planted her front paws with a resounding thump. Maybe it was her way of announcing her arrival, to warn away the feet that were waiting around each corner. Maybe it was to scare up spiders or other prey. Maybe she just liked to do it, queen of her demesne.

She was afraid of the outdoors. While many cats are intensely curious about the world beyond the front door, she was not. No enticement could encourage her to join us on the front stoop, and even the sight of the open doorway would make her slink away on legs shortened by fear.

Yesterday, after seventeen years of living with her, we said goodbye. As cats often do, she gave no warning, living her life on her own terms until she could do it no longer.

She was just a cat. Like any other.

Variable. Complicated. Unique.

Just a cat.

k

*

Gimme that!
No!
Thud!

*

Today, at work, I began to clean out my desk.

Yes, after being an employee of this firm for over ten thousand days, the company has asked me to leave.

Sort of.

Continue Reading »

In the center of my front room is a table. On that table stands a single vase with a single stem on which is a single bloom.

A rose, the first rose of the summer that is yet to come.

From purple to cerise to pink, the outer petals open to reveal their brethren, rank upon rank, unfolding like Mandelbrot origami, endless, hypnotic to the eye.

A single rose, a flower that can fit in the palm of my hand, and yet it fills the room, side to side, top to bottom, three thousand cubic feet, with the scent of honeyed apricots, sweetened cream, dappled sunlight, and the longing of ancient empires.

The Crash

It happened.

To be honest, I expected it earlier.

Usually, The Crash first hits me at around 10,000 words. This time, it waited until I was at 25,000 words. Foolishly, I thought I’d avoided it.

But I hadn’t.

Sneaky old bastard waited in the dark corners, hiding in amongst the musty, cobwebbed bric-a-brac, watching me wander hallways I’ve not walk down for years, letting me chuckle with pleasure at my own confidence. It let me think that this time, things were different, and they really did feel different.

But they weren’t.

It was all the same, just delayed.

Continue Reading »

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of an upcoming vacation, must be in need of a week’s worth of chaos.

I don’t know why this happens, but it does. I’ve got a week’s vacation scheduled, I remind folks at work that it’s coming, I give ample warning about tasks A and B that must be completed before I can do task C, and then, as if it’s all a big surprise, everything crashes down in the last week—pandemonium, panic, hair-on-fire memos from management asking why task C is “suddenly” at risk—and I’ve got to pull a rabbit out of . . . somewhere . . . to ensure that we do meet our deadlines.

Toss into that week the unending cyclone of Fire and Fury. North Korea. Gaza. Iran. Pruitt. Cohen. Mueller. Net neutrality. Tax code reform. Immigrants. Amazon vs. Seattle. Trump vs. everyone. Even effing volcanoes.

Mix thoroughly, sprinkle it all with a layer of pollen the proportions of which have been absolutely biblical, bake at 350°F for an hour, and serve warm with a generous side of agita. Pairs well with angostura, over-brewed coffee, and tannic reds.

Every. Damned. Time.

Luckily, my irises, after extensive negotiations, have decided to bloom.

And I love my irises.

I grow the beardless, or Dutch, type of iris. They remind me of the Douglas irises of my youth, old friends well-met while hiking the back-country trails in the Point Reyes National Seashore, tramping through the hinterlands, munching on miner’s lettuce and sourgrass, breathing in the mixture of coniferous humus and salt-sea air like a tonic. Not normally one for flowers without fragrance, I make an exception for these happy flowers. In their deep, saturated colors and elegantly curved tricorns I find serenity.

I was upset by their unexpected (and inexplicable) delay. The mild winter? The effects of a changing climate? I don’t know. What I do know is that the blooms of late March/early April, those upthrusting spears surrounded by a spray of thin tapered leaves, they went on strike in February and did not come back to work until this week, when they all decided to show their colors and burst into static fireworks of cool purples trimmed with heady gold.

I never cut my irises for bouquets. I leave them where I love them, in the garden. When they get sad, I pinch them off to encourage a second bloom, and I sometimes trim the bent, broken, or yellowing leaves, but mostly I leave them alone and simply enjoy the fortnight of their display.

Perhaps they knew of my upcoming week of vacation and, knowing the week prior would be a hell, held off until now to help me go the distance without committing murder or career suicide (or both).

Regardless the cause, I’m glad they’re here this week. I need ’em.

k

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