Newfoundland cross

The dog — an ugly Newfoundland Dalmation cross who came to us with the usual paperwork (though we determined early on that she was a non-practising Coptic Catholic) — became so attuned to our daily peccadillos that she died the day after Christmas.

Shoshana objects to the holiday reference. [Must you always make it about you, Cotton?]

How so?

[Referring to a holiday that only you celebrate. Not me, not the dog. Ah, well done, you’ve put me in parentheses again. The square ones.]

They’re called brackets. Also crochets. Don’t presume it means anything.

[Splendid. Now could you take them] off me. Thank you.

The dog — formally named Augustinia, but lately referred to as Marigold — is beside the point. She is not our official pet. We have no official pet, because Shoshana and I are not an official couple. She is almost divorced, I am married elsewhere. Our living arrangements are abstract and erratic. Marigold is, I think, a name meant to be ironic. Will someone please kill irony? It’s become a tacky ‘70’s wallpaper.

I called her Marigold because of that splash above her eye. Didn’t it look like–

It’s a silly name.

And Augustinia is pretentious. 

It’s dignified.

Did you ever even look at her? The slobbery jowls, her wet, sad eyes? How did that word even beam into your head when you looked at her? She wasn’t a bit dignified. She was sweet.

She was a functioning poop machine. She peed in geometric patterns across the carpet and pooped in chaotic lumps.

Cotton, she was a dog, not your [wife, not that little sycophant Charlie who wipes your nose and poops in the corner whenever you side-eye him. Marigold was… ah, well, yes, here we are again, exiled in your crotchless brackets.]

Crochets.

[Grow up, Cotton.]

It’s like being chided by Oscar Wilde.

[It’s like being judged by Miss Piggy. You’re being bitchy today, Cotton. This is about Marigold — excuse me, Augustinia.]

Augustinia. Yes. Why such a large dog, Shoshana? She was a mastodon.

She was sweet. She had a gentle presence. Even when she was breaking vases and pooping in the shower. Her eyes.

She killed my favorite shoes. Do you know how much I paid–

Yes, you’ve told me. Many times. And now she’s gone. You can buy new shoes.

 Mastodon.

Yes, she was. But she was ours.

Not officially.

But in all probability.

Cotton?

A tear?

The dog — an ugly Newfoundland Dalmation cross who came to us with the usual paperwork (though we determined early on that she was probably not quite as ugly as we first suspected) — may have become so attuned to our daily peccadillos that she died the day after Christmas. Her heart was very large. Unfortunately large. I wish we had known.

[You miss her, don’t you? Cotton? Dammit, Cotton, not] again.

Unofficially, yes. I miss her a little.

My words

There are some days when I am so tired of the words. My words. Their  looseness, their tightness, their clutter, their chatter, their aloofness and evasiveness, their show-and-tellness, their hip-hoppiness. They’re  too unrefined, too shiny, too abstract, and they float like blots of snow in a Rankin/Bass Christmas cartoon. I want them to be sweeping, I want them to be respectful, I want them to weep and soar, I want them to be dramatic piano notes, each. one. a. slow. plink / plunk. and. then. echo
down
a
dark
stone
corridor
and
scald
all 
the
walls
with
their
beauty.
AND THEN 
I WANT THEM TO

BURSTOPENSOLOUD

like BUBBLE wrap, and startle children and small animals, and then I will put them in the corner because they know what they’ve done AND they won’t stop giggling. I want to dress them in jeans and a paint-splattered T-shirts, in expensive tuxedos, in riverboat finery, and I want to retire the old ones, fuss over the new ones, and dig a big hole in the backyard and discover all the dinosaury ones. I want to invent brand new words that open up brand new ideas and I want them to line up for a proper photograph wearing their bestest-best smiles and show everyone how friendly they can be. But mostly I want them to let me rest. I am so tired and they always want to play with me. I want to save them in a big glass bowl and chew on them one at a time when my chewing teeth are ready and I want to swim with them on fresh white paper or on creamy parchment and tickle them with ink when the lights are just bright enough to glow upon each one of them and then. walk away. and just let them. SLEEP. for just for a few minutes each day.

But then, what would I do, what could I do with no words to renew or paragraphs to imbue, what would I do? What could I do? And what, I shudder, would they do, I wonder, suddenly broken into pieces asunder? I wonder and I wake them up as fast as I can just in case they want to stop playing, or forget what they’re saying. This is no time to rest, I guess, no time at all.

There are some days when I can’t keep up with the words, can’t catch them at all. My words, plunk / plink, and that’s what I think.

Almost the sexiest man in my car

An updated autobiothingy

A thing that will never happen:

I’m standing at the Pearly Gates and St. Peter says: “I know you’re a good man, George, with your charity work and that to-die-for profile, but I’m going to give you a pass. ‘Batman and Robin’? What were you thinking? And bat nipples? Dude!”

And I say, “Sorry, St. Peter, but I’m not Clooney. But don’t worry about it, I hear it all the time. Easy mistake.”

and the gates swing open.

***

Okay. A daydream. No one’s really going to mistake me for George Clooney. I’m a short bald guy with black-framed bifocals, and waist-deep in middle age.

People Magazine will never proclaim me “Sexiest Man Alive” or even “Sexiest Man on My Road”. Maybe “Sexiest Man in My Car, if Rod Stewart Isn’t Playing on the Radio.” Or “Sexiest Man in a 16-year-old Subaru on My Road, at 7:30 in the Morning. On a Tuesday”.

Clooney drives, what, an ’06 Econoline? Pfft… close enough.

But do I care?

No, not really. Sort of. But no.

I’m a writer. (George has screenwriting credits, but please give me this, okay?) I write novels, mostly, but other stuff, too. Poetry, short stories, flash fiction, and more!*

*maybe not be more*

So what? you say. Everyone’s a writer these days. Even Woody Harrelson! You can’t swing a dead Pokemon without hitting a writer.

Yeah, but, umm….

When I’m writing, I can be anyone I want to be: a swaggering pirate, the King of Nebraska, a shirtless painter with paint spatters artistically spattering his painted chest with paint. Indiana Jones (no, wait, that’s another story). I can be anyone. So why not Sexiest etc.?

Because I’m humble. Truly.

I can’t market myself as a sexy, come-hither writer because eventually I’d have to produce the evidence. Not that appearance has anything to do with success. Look at Stephen King. I love the guy, but come on. Still wearing those T-shirts from your Rock Bottom Remainders days, Steve?

But I digress, because that’s a fancy word I can use when I forget the point I was trying to make. (It’s in the dictionary, I checked.) Image isn’t everything. I have nice blue eyes and I can wear a Wal-Mart hoodie like nobody’s business (see above photo, the one without the bat ears. No, the OTHER one).

So sexy? Why not? And furthermore–

Honey, can you PLEASE scrape the chicken crap off your shoes before you come in?”

Yes, dear.”

Sexy!

(Batman photo copyright by Warner Brothers Studios. Steve photo copyright by wife Angela)

Honey…

Honey, she whispered in her charcoal voice,

The dog ate another squirrel, there were guts on the porch. Someone cut the brake line of your Ford, and the IRS called, they want to know if that’s your real name. Something’s wrong with the TV, we can only get Nick at Nite, the babysitter has Trump bumper stickers on her Subaru, what do we do now? We have an ant infestation under the kitchen sink, the cat’s pregnant again, and I lost the MasterCard somewhere between the couch cushions and my ex-husband’s apartment (don’t ask). And your sister emailed me, says she’s not really your sister, she’ll explain later. The town manager dropped by, said we might technically be living above an Apache burial ground, the basement’s flooded and I think I smelled gas (can you check?), Oh, and your mother called.

My mother?

In sickness and in blah

 

blah and

It’s been a morose few days, with very little writing or editing accomplished. We (and by ‘we’, I mean my wife and I, not the imperial, ‘Franz, bring us our seltzer water and pour it down your trousers, as we are inadequately amused’) …

Where was I going with this?

Oh, right. We’ve both been under the weather for the past week. Not quite nausea, not quite coldy…. just a gray sense of ‘blah’. That, and Monday was our 14th wedding anniversary and we almost forgot it. We endured a celebratory but unenthusiastic leftover turkey dinner sans leftover pie, and danced the dance of Imodium to the rhythm of rain flooding the front porch. And by ‘dance’ I mean fell asleep in front of the TV. In sickness and health, right?

We are not amused. Eventually, we’ll get our groove back and laugh about this. I supposed we’re now officially an old married couple. And I think the traditional gift for the fourteen is seltzer water… the gift that keeps on giving. Won’t she be surprised.

What’s in a name?

Since moving to Virginia almost eight years ago, I have never heard my surname so mangled, maligned and misspoken. Granted, it’s not a common name around here, and spoken with the varying Southern accents — from Hillbilly on up — I usually answer with a shrug and a gentle correction. Sometimes even my first name is misspelled, which happens. I don’t know which of the two is more common — Steven or Stephen. People I correspond with on a daily basis at work, through email, often spell it Stephen, even though the proper spelling is in each and every signature of each and every email I send out. But never mind. Call me Steve and we’ll be fine.  Continue reading “What’s in a name?”