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Sintigo soy nadie

2016 is my year to learn Spanish. That’s where my free time is going these days. I actually don’t study much, but I do spend a lot of time reading in Spanish, watching videos, writing, etc. I really should study more, or, like, move to Spain, but neither of those things is going to happen. My Spanish will never be perfect, but I’m hoping to make it presentable.

So maybe I’ll write a little bit about that. Relax into English once in a while.

I think it’s cool that is Spanish there are special words for “with you” and “with me”: contigo and conmigo, respectively. Those are just phrases that have more meaning as one word than two, you know? There’s technically also “consigo”, but you don’t see it much.

But there’s no “sintigo” (without you), and that’s really a shame. I could see this as the title of a corazón song for sure.

(Back up. About three quarters of the songs sung in Spanish involve crooning “co-rrra-zohhhhn” somewhere in them, often more than once. Sometimes much more. I call these corazón [heart] songs, and do my best to find music that does NOT have this word. Just another little thing to make life more challenging.)

Anyway, if the Real Academía Española (Yes, there’s a royal academy dedicated to overseeing the purity of the Spanish language… DON’T try this in English, folks!) happens to see this, I hereby propose “sinmigo” and “sintigo” as real words.




Mike the People Cat

Mike occupying the backpack, possibly hoping to come along to work.

Mike occupying the backpack, possibly hoping to come along to work.

Mike came to us through Friends of Ferals, and he’s always been a personable cat. His original name was Aaron, but I changed it because he just looked like a Mike to me. We adopted him and his sister, Ariel (renamed from Jenny) when they were just kittens. Anyway, they called her his sister, though the rescuer we talked to suspected she was really part of an older litter or his mother. In any case, Ariel was pretty well set in her feral ways and disappeared long ago. Mike howled for her, but she never came back, so he eventually gave up and made friends with Scarlett, our older cat.

As Scarlett got old, Mike seemed like he was aging right along with her. In the last year of her life, Scarlett had all kinds of physical problems and spent most of her time sleeping by the heat vent. If Mike wasn’t outside, he’d mostly be curled up too, either with his buddy or somewhere close by. He’d let her have first digs at meat soup and saucers of milk, which she needed because she got dehydrated and constipated, as if he knew they were meant for her.

Now that Scarlett is dead, though, Mikey has turned all kittenish again. Chasing around rubber bands, messing with my boot laces, pouncing on bungee cords, licking bare ankles. I can’t let him go outside anymore because he’s a flea magnet, and the bites give him a nasty skin condition. There’s just no medicine strong enough to keep fleas off that cat, so no more prowling around the back yard. Now that the weather’s getting warmer, I’ve got to intercept him when he tries to bolt out the door.

But he’s doing pretty well indoors now that he’s on his own — really becoming a people-cat.

Wonderbook Exercise

I’m working my way through Jeff Vandermeer’s Wonderbook, and had fun with this exercise. You’re given the beginning of a story and asked to finish it. The part in gray is the given beginning, the part in black is my ending. THIS PLACE IS FULL OF MONSTERS I wrote another story late last night. It’s a tiny little one, and it’s very shy. It fits in the palm of my hand and it’s shaky on its legs. The story has large eyes that can see in the dark. It is covered in green fur. It has really large teeth for something so small… Now I’m thinking maybe I’m wrong and it’s not a story at all. The story gnawed its way into my belly and then crawled up into my head, and now it’s making me navigate my way down the street, giddy and disoriented, shouting, “Make way for the Story! Make way for the Story!” The tiny story that turned into a creature and invaded my brain sprouted out of the top of my head in a riot of wildflowers and weeds. It was uncomfortable but somehow it felt right. Even the bumblebees circling my head like a halo. The field of wildflowers and weeds that had sprouted atop my head… this field that had once been a short story… now gave root to a sapling. I soon realized as I tried to balance despite this latest intrusion that the weight would soon be unsupportable. In the meantime, I would need a shoulder crutch that rose into a trellis lashed to the sapling just to walk around. I contemplated wearing a very tall hat to cover it… and then thought tall hats be damned! Let the neighbors see the full glory of my story! The story that had sprouted from my head in the form of a sapling was restless. So I took long hikes in the woods so it could be amongst its own kind. Me, the sapling, and the shoulder brace with head-trellis that helped support the sapling. But still it grew, and still it wanted more wilderness. So I….


This is no good. If I go this way, whatever can happen? I can’t just rush into the wilderness without a plan. Maybe that’s an option for a tree, but it won’t do for human beings. I need food, water. A place to sleep.

Still, my sapling’s existence made its own case. We compromised on a city park.

I took my spot on a bench facing the museum, to one side a trash bin; to the other, at a small distance, a public washroom. A place of field trips, a place of senior pigeon-feeding and hastily consumed urban lunches. I pried through the trash, found cardboard, scrawled: “Donations please help,” and set it at the foot of my bench. Hoping, at best, for a life of living off handouts and stretching out every night for a few hours of uncomfortable sleep. My new life turned out better than I expected. Tourists begged to get their photo taken next to me, and in return showered me with all kinds of gifts: money, subway tokens, cinnamon buns, a small pistol. What was useless to me personally I bartered with the other bums. Homeless and jobless I might be, but I was surviving. One day a pack of stray editors came around to read my little story. Their chief stood on a ladder and read from the leaves, while the others clustered around the bench in rapturous attention. It was the first time I had heard the whole story myself, and I had to admit it wasn’t bad. Rather literary for my tastes, but still, I felt satisfied. When it was over, the editor-in-chief climbed down and stood beaming, to the wild applause of his minions. A few passers-by had even stopped to listen. I’d never been prouder in my life. My little tree was, at last, bearing its own kind of fruit. I picked up my donation box, holding it out with trembling hands. But the editor-in-chief only looked at me sadly, shaking his head, so that his uncut and unwashed hair flopped over one eye. “We regret that we cannot afford to pay contributors at this time. This is an exposure-only market.” I may have been left penniless, but all the attention went to the little story’s head like sunshine and spring rain. Soon it could no longer be called a “sapling,” and I could no longer fit into the doorway of the public loo. No matter how I knelt and bent and tried to wedge myself in, the doorway was simply too small to encompass all those enthusiastic and self-congratulatory branches. Now, as the last November leaves drop around me, all I can do is sit in my own filth. For obvious reasons, tourists no longer seek me out. Even the skeletal pensioner who used to come every morning with a bag of day-old bread for the waterfowl, as well as a crust and bit of gossip for me, has found another spot to haunt. I may be the first amateur writer ever to die from Exposure.

Sick Kitty

Scarlett’s been yowling a lot lately. A lot of MEOWWWWWRRR after every meal, and sometimes at random times too, like, on the rare occasions when she’s awake. She sleeps a lot, eats a little, and yowls. Before, we took care of this by treating her for constipation — lots of pumpkin and water in her canned food, some milk, cat treats coated in olive oil. That did the trick for months, but now it doesn’t seem to be enough.

I don’t want to call the vet, because I’m afraid of what she’ll say. Scarlett’s already on meds for seizures, which the vet says are caused by some kind of growth in her brain that’s not going to do anything but get bigger. Fortunately the phenobarbital works, and she hasn’t had a seizure in weeks, but it doesn’t do anything about the underlying problem. Plus, the cat is just plain old.

When Greta died, she just kept slowing down until all she could do was lie in the sun. Breathe, or not breathe. At some point, the question stopped being important. Scarlett, though, was always a pissy little thing.


I’m afraid of a lot of things, but I’ve only got one real phobia. It makes all kind of sense to be scared of falling off a roof or drowning or getting hit by a car, and these things do indeed scare me. Still, I’m able to get on with it.

Not when I’m on a high place with something moving around underneath me, though. I call this “pierophobia” because I first felt it when I’d walk out on a pier over the ocean, look down through the slats and hear the water breaking against the piles. I’d get so scared I couldn’t move. My parents and brothers would try to talk me out of my fear, saying things like, “Come on, those holes are only an inch wide! How do you think you’re going to fall through them?” But that’s the thing about phobias — they don’t much respond to logic.

When I was a kid, there was one place we went regularly on vacation where you had to climb down a rock and wood stairway down a cliff to the beach. We went there every year for a while. Going up the steps wasn’t too bad, but I was scared to death of going down them. As I got older, my fear actually got worse. One time as I was inching down, one step at a time, keeping one hand on the cliff for some sort of security, and I came to a place where snakes were slithering down the cliff face right next to me. After that I always walked a quarter mile down the highway to the beach’s main parking lot, so I wouldn’t have to go near that spooky staircase.

Nowadays the phobia gets me when I’m crossing a bike/pedestrian overpass. I hear the cars under me, see and feel their movement, and sometimes it makes me so scared I freeze.

That’s what happened this morning, on the way to the dentist. I got up the ramp okay, but as soon as I came onto the bridge over the highway I had to get off my bike and walk. It doesn’t matter that there’s no way anyone could fall off. The chainlink goes up far over my head; you’d have to go at it with a sturdy pair of wire cutters for about half an hour before you could possibly make a gap big enough to fall through.

Still, it scares the bejesus out of me. I don’t know why.

I hate plumbing.

All my life I’ve heard complaints and jokes about plumbers making too much money. I say, if people are willing to pay it, there’s a reason. Nobody wants to mess around under a sink. Even Dan, who was handy-and-a-half, hated to fix plumbing. I remember him grunting and swearing and having all kinds of problems when he replaced the kitchen faucet.

I thought I’d just need to change a washer, but when I got the sink handle apart, I could see the whole thing was a mess — all rotted away and crumbly. So I bought a nearly identical faucet and watched some YouTube videos.

It took me three days to get that old kitchen faucet all the way out. There were these plastic nuts on under the handles, holding them tight on the sink, and I had to lie on my back in the cabinet to unscrew them. Unscrew them, ha! They wouldn’t budge. The YouTube videos said to use a little lubricant if they were tight. I squirted WD-40 all over them and they still wouldn’t move even a little. I made a little progress by banging on one of them with a hammer, but even after an hour of that, it wasn’t any looser. Getting them all the way off at that rate would take days.

I called the local do-it-yourself plumbing house. “You can heat up a screwdriver and melt through the plastic, then pull it right off.”

“Heat up a screwdriver?”

“Yep, a hot screwdriver. It’s not real pleasant, but it works.”

“Hot screwdriver?”

We went through a few more rounds of me stupidly repeating “hot screwdriver” before giving up and thanking the man. How do you heat up a screwdriver? Wouldn’t it make a big melty plastic mess? Maybe get stuck worse than ever? I didn’t know. All I figured out was that if you say “hot screwdriver” too long, it starts to sound like a porn film.

So I turned up a burner of the electric stove full blast and set the metal ends of three screwdrivers on it. Back under the sink. Little chunks of lime flaking off the bottom of the sink basin, falling all over my face, into my eyes. Flashlight in one hand, weapon in the other, shoving that screwdriver into the plastic nut. Something — maybe plastic, maybe water — made a hissing sound when the melting was going particularly well. Made me feel like a dragon slayer.

I had to burn four gaps, two per plastic nut, then use the biggest screwdriver to chisel the things off. They didn’t come away easy. Even when just a quarter of a nut was left, it held onto the bottom of the sink. The smallest screwdriver, heated, pulled up a corner of it, then the biggest screwdriver jammed into it repeatedly until it flew off. I’d work at this for maybe ten minutes, then get out of there to wash all the flakes of lime off my face and get a drink of water. One fleck of lime got wedged into my eye and wouldn’t come out. But finally the last bit of the last nut came off.

After turning off the water valves and unscrewing the little hose thingies that go up to the faucet, I pulled the whole thing out of there, like a Medusa head trailing a couple really long snakes. The next day I took it down to the do-it-yourself guy to buy new hose thingies. Pulled that sucker out of my backpack, plopped it on the counter. Everyone who saw it looked pittyingly at the thing. The water spout held together with duck tape, the hose thingies two-parters that were way too long and covered with all sorts of colorful crud.

“Looks like somebody sat on it,” one guy said.

“Why are the hoses so long?” Do-it-yourself plumbing guy asked.

“The hot and cold water valves are on the wrong sides, so these have to be long enough to cross over.”

“Ah.” He just kind of shook his head, and said he couldn’t stock hoses that long because they’re against code, and sent me over to the hardware store.

Anyway, I finally got the faucet replaced, four days after I started trying to take it out.

Squirrel Walking Weather

We’ve had the loveliest summer until now, with highs most days in the upper seventies. Yesterday was the first time it was hot enough that the squirrels refused to scurry. I definitely saw squirrels walking down the street.

Of course the squirrels are as spoiled as we humans are; everyone’s griping about the heat, when all it’s doing is getting into the upper eighties. I feel sorry for Rowan, though. She’s one of our substitute psychics, and she has a a genetic disease called TRAPS which gives her severe flu-like symptoms in hot weather. So severe she ends up in the hospital. She can’t hold a regular job, and about half the time when she’s working at the store she either calls in sick or has to go home early. That must be awful.

Well, I finally did it: threw out a mostly full package of sanitary napkins. I haven’t needed them for about five years, it was just hard to throw away something perfectly good. They’re individually wrapped, and I only used a couple, but it seemed kind of weird to give them to somebody, and you can’t very well donate an opened package to a food pantry. Maybe I could use them to clean up spills, but if I haven’t done it in five years I don’t think I’m ever going to. I thought of leaving them in a public ladies’ room, but couldn’t think of a good candidate where they wouldn’t just get thrown away by the cleaning staff. So I finally just chucked them in the trash.

Oh, give that here and let me do it.

There’s a thread at Codex called “When do I give up on writing?”, but it’s lame. It turns out to be all about not quitting. About dealing with adversity, and perseverance, and putting on your Big Girl Pants and giving it one more try.

One post says to stop writing if you have something else you’re more passionate about doing. Lord knows I do. I want to watch television and drink. It won’t be easy. I have to get a TV. It’s complicated. I think you can’t anymore just buy one and plug it in; there’s some little box thing you have to use if you don’t have cable. Probably I should just get cable anyway. Then you have to decide what to watch, but that’s easy because I remember about the drinking part from when I was younger. Jack Daniels and Bacardi were both pretty good. Tequila too, unless maybe Bacardi is tequila? I don’t think so. Oh yeah, and Korbel. Korbel was good. Anyway, start pumping those down and you can just turn on the TV and be good with whatever. There’s also this show called Breaking Bad which is a relatively new thing, only I think not so new that it isn’t already over. I could watch that. But I’m sure there are all kinds of shows that are still on that would be better than writing. I could buy a TV Guide, if they still make those. And if none of that works out, pretty soon it’ll be football season.

If you google “quit writing,” there’s really nothing. Good reasons to “quit” writing they talk about are things like giving the story time to settle, or taking time for friends and family. Bullshit. That’s not quitting at all!

Even has that motto, “Keep writing!” Expressed, preferably, with lots of (((hugs))) or whatever. Just another imperative to control you, like “Show, don’t tell!” or “Cheer up!” or “Stop picking your nose!” You nod your head guiltily until no one’s looking.

No one needs to keep writing. There’s bazillions of good reasons to stop.

– Everybody writes. People who don’t ever read are all like, “Hey, guess what, I’m writing a book!”

– Writing is very, very, very, very, very hard work, and at the end of it you’re lucky to see a cent.

– Nobody really gives a shit what you have to say.

– Underpaid/unpaid slush readers really don’t need another manuscript of yours to wade through.

– Form rejections shit all over your self esteem.

– Those other writing people deserve a chance. Writing less does them a favor.

– Writing is old-school. Pretty soon we’ll all have holographic glasses.

– Books and stories have no value. Anyone who, for some reason, still likes to read can get all the reading material they want for free. Here in Madison, for example, we have Little Free Libraries. Not Little Free Gas Stations, or Little Free Jewelry Shops, or Little Free Pizza Parlors. Only books are so worthless.

– What kind of hobby serves no purpose but to inform you how badly you suck?

– The world is full of thousands of better and less selfish things.

I can’t do this anymore. I can’t stand it anymore. Any word I write is just another banshee shrieking through my brain.

Crack of Doom

Today I served a woman with a cigarette lighter poking out of her cleavage. Another regular stashes a roll of hundreds. Lots and LOTS of women buy crystals destined for the twin towers. (“Would you like a bag?” “Nope, don’t need one!” [Plop!])

Kind of makes me wonder if anyone just uses their bra for boobs.

Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin

There are three men banging away at my roof right now. They’ve been at it for two days, and it doesn’t really look like they’re going to be done today either. This is obviously going to cost more than they quoted me. It could be a lot more. One of them, the leader, has a really scary mouth. His gums and lips are red and puffed up, so swollen they merge into each other. He says there’s a lot more wrong with my roof than what they’re fixing. He makes a red smile when he says that, even though it looks painful.

It’s very noisy – lots of banging, sawing, and strange noises I can’t identify. At one point I heard a crash, and it was a glass light fixture in the dining room falling on the floor. I don’t know why it didn’t break. I’m just glad I wasn’t sitting at the table when it happened.

At least they didn’t laugh at me about the roof repair that guy did last summer. I deserve to be laughed at for hiring that loser. That was so stupid I should lose my job, get kicked out of both Codex and Wyrm, and have my children taken away from me. If they weren’t both adults, anyway. But someone should come and take away my cats. Maybe impound my bicycle.

I kept working on store stuff for an extra hour I won’t get paid for, because I can’t concentrate on anything I really want to do with people up there. I know it’s stupid, but I just want them to go away. I don’t like strangers on my roof.