May: Feral Wonders

Last month, the big news was the kittens being born. Ms. Squeaks never trotted them out for me to see, so I had to steal glances when I could. I knew where they were, but I wasn’t going to let on, because I didn’t want her to move them again. At least, not because of me. At one point, I had to cut the grass, but I made sure I left a large enough space of tall grass (and weeds) so they’d still have a hiding spot.

About six weeks went by. I saw the kittens fairly regularly by that time. They would be running around and playing in the tall grass. The “helper” cat was usually around them. Ms. Squeaks would be doing her thing, lounging on the patio.

Before I go on, I should say a few things about Ms. Squeaks. When she first came around the property, she was a horribly skinny thing. She always glared at me from a distance. She also seemed to have a hard time eating the dry cat food: taking a few bites, looking like it was difficult to chew, and then leaving it alone.

So, I, being the soft hearted guy I am, started feeding her one can of wet food a day. This bridged the gap between us. She started to enjoy getting her head scratched. And, unfortunately, she would start scratching at her in a big way. The kind of way where she would growl as she really dug in there.

This worried me, and I always wished I could get a vet to do a house call. I would have tried to get her in a carrier, but I didn’t want to stress her out, as feral cats tend to be when confined. So I let it go, and felt bad.

During this time, she developed a kind of relationship with Nazboo, the indoor cat. I would open the front door and she would stare inside, until she saw him. Then she’d get close to the door and the two would boop noses together. And then they would both turn around and that would be that. Later, the nose booping would turn to her giving him affectionate looking head butts. She went from never entering the house (except once, when she took a tour of the entire place), to coming inside long enough to rub against Nazboo. Who would then look at me, like had no idea of what was going on.

So, these cats aren’t strays, as they tend to stay on my property or my noisy next door neighbor’s property. But they aren’t house cats so, to my mind, that makes them feral. Especially since it takes a lot of time and effort to work up a trust. As an example, the helper cat still does not like to get close to me, even though he now shares wet food with Ms. Squeaks. But, I also think it’s not its job to be friendly. It’s there to make sure the kittens are safe when Squeaks is otherwise engaged.

Helper Cat, not looking friendly

One morning, then, when I was leaving to go grocery shopping, I was surprised to see Squeaks, the helper cat, and a tiny kitten on the porch. I looked at the kitten, and it looked like it’s eyes were stuck shut. I didn’t think that was normal, since the others had big, wide eyes, that stared at me from beyond the grass line.

Afflicted Kitten

So, again, me being me, I start calling veterinarians. I started with the closest ones and was told there was no availability, but I could make an appointment for one to two weeks out. I didn’t think that would cut it. One suggested I bring it to an animal shelter. I didn’t that would be good, either. Finally, I found a place about an hour away. I explained the situation to them and they said, “Hey, bring it in. I’ll give the doctors a heads up.”

Relieved, I went and got the carrier and brought it outside. I opened the front door and went to grab the kitten. She was a feisty one, but not being able to see gave me a slight advantage. She would still wriggle a lot and get loose. Being afraid of hurting her, I held her low to the ground and didn’t grip to hard, so that wasn’t getting me anywhere. I opened the top of the carrier, reasoning that I could let her drop into it and she’d be okay, since, well, she was a cat, but I also had padding in there. So I scooped her up, let her wriggle her way out of my hands and right into the carrier. I closed the top and started to close the front, when Ms. Squeaks walked right on in to the carrier. She nudged the kitten a bit, then laid down next to her.

I was surprised, but not surprised enough to look a gift horse in the mouth. I closed the front of the carrier and carried it to the car. Surprisingly, Ms. Squeaks didn’t panic. She seemed interested in the ride, and would nuzzle the kitten when she started getting squirmy.

Even at the vet’s, she didn’t seem at all disturbed. She just laid there, taking it all in. I was told it would be about two hours and they brought the carrier into the back. I didn’t see the sense in leaving, since it would be an hour going home, anyway. So I hung around.

In the end, it took four hours. I don’t blame the clinic, though. I saw it go from nothing going on, to all kind of emergencies happening at once. I know they were busy at times. The end result was, everyone was impressed with Ms. Squeaks behavior. And she got a clean bill of health, aside from some ear mites. There’s nothing wrong with her teeth or jaws, so it just might be that she doesn’t like dry food.

The kitten was a bit more dire. A bad eye infection. They sent me home with eye drops and antibiotics. I hope to God I did the eye drops correctly.

Anyway, I got them home and Squeaks took off to tend to her other kids, while I took the kitten inside. I didn’t really know what to do with her. I couldn’t let her run loose because her eye infection could have been transferred. I couldn’t keep her in the carrier all night. In the end, I took a spare room and put some cat toys in there and cleaned it up of the more dangerous things. I went to the store and got a small litter box and some kitten sized bowls and set them all up for her.

Her medicine required me seeing her at least every eight hours, but I tried to drop in more than that. Not that it mattered. The girl would wedge herself behind a box and not come out. To give her the meds, I had to move a giant box and pick her up. Then I put it back so she’d have a place to feel safe.

A Safe Space

I also felt that it would be nice if Ms. Squeaks would visit. That way, they would both know that the other was still around. Getting Ms. Squeaks inside wasn’t that difficult. I opened the door, she strolled in and started calling for her kitten. I led her to the door of the room and opened it and the two met, somewhat happily, I think. Maybe too happily, because momma tried to walk out with her kitten.

Mom and Daughter breakfast

Eventually we all got the hang of it, until I made the mistake of feeding Ms. Squeaks her canned food in the kitten room. I thought it was also a good idea, because it would show the kitten what could be eaten, which included the canned food and the kitten dry food I had gotten, because Ms. Squeaks is a voracious eater. What started with having the two cats have their head in the same bowl, eating the same food, turned into momma cat eating the food and the kitten trying to nurse on Squeaks.

Besides, that, though, the kitten opened up. She would start coming out of hiding when I opened the door. She’d play with me as I tossed various toys around. By the end of the week, I had become a human playground for her to crawl all over and bite.

At one point, I bought a new bed for her and Nazboo. Same bed, slightly different colors. I’m happy to say that they both use their new beds. It’s always satisfying when that happens.

Nazboo and Angel (the kitten) don’t interact. Most of it is because I keep them apart, on account of the eye infection. There was one time, though, early in the week, Angel ended up underneath the futon in the living room. I was trying to get her out, when Nazboo showed up behind me. Angel, I guess on seeing another cat, ran out from under the futon and right at Nazboo, who was surprised by this little missile. He jumped and hissed. And this started the falling apart of Ms. Squeaks and Nazboo’s relationship. They no longer have a friendly thing going.

In other news, as of yesterday, the kitten has been bolting out of her room when I open the door. She gets out of the room, and walks around for a little bit. This morning, she saw Nazboo and walked towards him. Nazboo… ran away. Angel took a few hesitant steps toward him again, but he hissed at her and tried to run into his ‘jungle gym’. This frightened Angel enough to send her running to her room. Poor thing. She hasn’t tried to leave it, except for maybe a foot outside the door, since then.

In a few days, Angel goes back to the clinic. Hopefully, we’ll find out if she’s still contagious or not. I’m also hoping that something can still be done about her right eye, which hasn’t healed as well as the left. Then, I have to decide what to do with her.

April: Baby Showers

Due to personal issues, I wasn’t able to post this the other day. So you’re getting it now. Isn’t that exciting? Of course it is.

Animal Farm

It seems like a long time ago that I found the expired opossum. I’m happy to say that another one has moved in. I guess. It’s entirely possible that the dead one was just passing through. I don’t know. Maybe I should start tagging these critters. Anyway, there’s still an opossum around, and that makes me happy for some reason.

The big news, of course, is that Ms. Squeaks had her babies. She’s allowed me to see them once, so far.

You can see ’em if you look close

I’m a little insulted that she hasn’t trotted them out for me to see, but I guess that is a prerogative of motherhood to let people poke at your babies. They were born on April 5th, so they’re almost at a month old.

The poofy looking cat has been spending a lot of time around here. If I’m outside for a while and not moving, it will come kind of close but even looking at it will send it running off to get some distance. Unless I open the blinds. Then the thing will run from wherever it is to the window and try and look inside. Drives me nuts.

I haven’t wanted to cut the grass in the area of the newborns, so it’s looking pretty wild. God only knows what else is living in that mess.

June bugs have started terrorizing the populace. Every morning, the patio is covered in dead or dying June bugs. I don’t know much about them, other than they fly around and die. Thankfully, the neighbor’s chickens have been coming by and Hoovering them up. By early evening, they’re just about all gone. Well, that’s how it had been working. For some reason, the chickens did not come by the last couple of days.

Internal Decisions

I haven’t done anything about the leaking sink, yet. Things have gotten complicated, in general. But I hope to get that fixed soon. I could try to figure it out myself, but I would prefer it to be done correctly.

However, I did finally buy a bed. All by myself. I’m quite proud of that and am now feeling as if I can conquer the living room furniture, too.

In addition to the bed, I made some changes with smart light bulbs and created a HomeKit scene where saying, “Hey Siri, it’s sexy time” will cause the lights to come on, turn red, and put a Barry White song. I’d upload a video, but my freebie plan doesn’t allow it. It’s really neat. Too bad nobody will ever see it.

Not really my bed

Also, the cat likes it. So, there’s that.

Life In The Kitchen

Oh, food. Last month I was really bad at keeping track of what I was making, so I’m not really sure how many interesting things I’ve made. The only thing that really stands out to me is something called “Swiss Chicken Casserole.” This is supposed to be four chicken breasts, covered with Swiss cheese, then covered with stuffing. I cut up the chicken breasts this time around and liked it a lot more than when I made it using the breasts whole.

I’ll try and keep track better in May. Maybe even start sharing the recipes that I use.

That pretty much wraps it up for April. Hopefully, this month, I can get some pictures of the new kittens.

March 2022: A Mold Runs Through It

Spring is here. The trees are flowering, the flowers are blooming, and the bees are making it difficult to walk past the porch. The weather has been, well, mostly nice, I guess. Except for the day when five tornados went whizzing around. And the night when the wind really picked up. But, in general, it’s nice during the day and cold at night.

Where The Wild Things Was
One night I was looking out the window and saw the opossum eating. I liked watching it. It was almost zen. I knew that, afterwards, it would drink some water then wash its face and, afterwards, trundle off to where it was that opossums go after a fine meal. So I didn’t watch it finish, as I had things to do. I’m a busy man. Stuff needs to be done. I lowered the blinds and did my thing.

The next morning, while I was pouring my first cup of coffee, I realized I was standing in a puddle. I opened the doors below the sink and found a lot of water. And a lot of mold. It wasn’t the best way to start a Sunday, I thought. After I got the first coffee down, I decided to take a good look at what I was dealing with. I turned on the lights and then opened the blinds to the closest window.

Something caught my eye. I looked down at the grass and saw the opossum, laying there, almost curled into a ball. It looked kind of dead. But, you know, opossums play dead. They’re famous for it. “Maybe,” I thought, “it got frightened of something last night and now it’s playing dead.” I decided to investigate the sink, then check again in a few minutes.

I couldn’t see anything immediately wrong with the plumbing. There was no water streaming out of anything. I placed a pan under it and left it to check on the opossum. It was still laying there. “That’s an awfully long time to play dead,” I thought.

So I told my mother about it. She suggested calling various wildlife places because those types of people liked to check dead possums for babies. After some false starts, we found a place. But they wouldn’t send someone out to check and haul away the body. No, I was told that I could go out there and check the dead body for a pouch and babies. Or, if I didn’t want to do that, I could put it in a box and bring it them.

If you know anything about me, you know I get really attached to animals. Even ones that aren’t, strictly speaking, mine. It’s more than attachment, though. Sometimes I feel as if I owe the animal something. For instance, I started putting food out for the cats, not because I wanted to attract every feral animal for miles around to my patio, but because I felt an “offering” was due since I presumed the one black cat (at the time) was doing his due diligence and keeping rodents and stuff off the property.

I looked down at the opossum. The first thing I thought, then, was that it couldn’t be dead because I had seen it just last night. It looked fine! The picture of health! I hoped that when I touched it, it would spring to life and hiss at me. But it didn’t. As soon as I touched the little body, I knew that it had shuffled off this mortal coil quite some time ago. It probably ate, drank, washed its little face, then started to walk back home. Maybe, then, it felt very tired and thought to curl up and take a short nap, before continuing on to its den. If they have dens. And it never woke up.

I felt, at that moment, it deserved something more than being tossed into my neighbors yard. I knelt down, picked it up, and placed it as carefully as I could in a box. Then I put the box in the trunk of a car. Because I was still hoping, in vain, that it would wake up. And if it did, I did not want to be locked in a moving two ton metal box with a confused and wildly hissing opossum.

To wrap up a long story, I drove it to the wildlife place. They told me that the opossum was male, so no babies. Gave me a description of his condition, because I asked for a possible cause of death. When it’s dark at night, I feel it’s a good idea to know what kind of deadly things may be roaming around. They were very nice and probably didn’t understand why this large man seemed very sad at the passing of a wild possum.

In other news, the cats seem to be doing fine. Ms Squeaks looks more and more with child. She still loves her head scratches and is sure she gets them, at least once a day. Several times she looked like she wanted to come in, and I’m fine with that. When it was freezing cold during the nights, I tried to coax her inside once. She wasn’t having it, though. Lately she stands at the door and will poke her head and, maybe a paw, inside but then quickly turns around.

The two grayish cats only come by occasionally since it started warming up. Poofball cat, though, is here pretty frequently and has finally stopped running away when I go outside. Now it just sits there and glares at me, much like how Ms Squeaks used to do. There’s also a new cat I’ve only seen twice. It’s white with a gray face. There’s also the black and white cat (with a heart on its side) that comes around in the evenings. So, still full up on cats.

My neighbor got a surprise, though. One day he didn’t close his gate in a timely manner and ended up with a stray horse in his yard. He had to call the sheriff’s office and have them try and figure out where it came from. They came by the next day and picked it up.

Oh. And then there was the spider. I opened the blinds to look to see who was lounging on the patio and a small, furry, black spider with a white dot dropped in front of me. I went and got my Spider Container and came back. It fell to the floor, so I lowered the container and the thing practically jumped into it. I closed it, walked out into the yard further than I did last time, and dropped it off. I’m almost certain it’s the same spider I had to get off my monitor a few weeks ago. I expect it’ll show up again, because I saw it on the patio the other day.

I guess that’s it. I don’t remember too much else going on. Just been busy. And now I need to be busier because the grass is growing out there. Time for lawn maintenance and all that. Maybe it would be easier just to buy some sheep or goats or something.

February 2022 – Chilly Today, No Tamales

Entropy Acres

The shortest month, and, generally the coldest. This year we didn’t get a big snow storm or anything. Just a lot of cold days. And some warm days followed by cold nights. Miss Squeaks is more than happy to spend time in her little house. The other house is vacant, and I can’t convince anyone to take it. The kittens have moved from staying wherever they did stay during the nights, to sleeping on top of one of the padded bistro chairs. It kills me, seeing them huddled together there during the sub-freezing nights, but if I even try to open the door, they both run off to the edge of the patio to see if I’m going to go out.

The grey/white cat has been around more often, lately. As has the black and white cat, who brought a kitten of her own, once. The black cat, too, has been around the last couple of days, which is causing the black and white cat to stay at a distance. Oddly, Miss Squeaks has sometimes gone after the black cat. Sometimes she doesn’t. I’d pay good money to have Dr. Doolittle’s skills.

I spent around twenty minutes one night just watching the opossum. It wombles up, eats from the bowl (with difficulty, thanks to that long nose), drinks from the water bowl, then spends time washing its face. It, too, doesn’t trust me. If I go outside, it disappears. But I like the critter and have no quarrel with anything that eats ticks.

Spiders I don’t mind, so long as I never see them. It was a surprise one day, then, when a medium-sized black one climbed up my monitor while I was working. I don’t necessarily like to kill ’em when I seem them, but it takes a lot of nerves for me to capture them. In this case, I went off to look for something to trap it in. When I got back, it was gone. I looked everywhere, shining a flashlight behind things. Looking at walls. Looking at ceilings. I couldn’t find it, so I sort of let it go. And then I saw it, on the ceiling on the other side of the room. I kept a close on it, because I couldn’t reach it, but it stayed put all day and through the night.

The next day, it started moving, slowly. I checked it, periodically, keeping track of it’s slow trek across the ceiling. It was headed towards one of the vents, or, maybe, the door leading outside. So I watched, and watched, and watched, and then it was gone. Just gone. I looked at all the ceilings, all the walls, and couldn’t find it. I figured maybe it crawled up the vent and that was pretty much it.

Until a few days later when it showed up on my monitor, again. This time, though, I was ready. I grabbed the container and pinned it to the monitor. Well, trapped it on the monitor. Then I spent a long time trying to convince it to get off the monitor and into the container. I tried it with a piece of paper that I would slip between the glass and the container lip, trying to knock it down. Eventually, I succeeded. I righted the container and slapped the lid on it. Then I spent a good chunk of time looking at it to make sure I did, in face, have it trapped. Then I took it outside, released it to the wild, then spent several minutes making sure it was not still in the container. Because I’m paranoid that way.

So far, I have not see another, but I make sure to check my headphones before I put them on.

Kitchen of Entropy

What happened food-wise this month? I tried making a Tex-Mex casserole. It turned out to be, basically, a dry chili. It wasn’t all that exciting. I also made a meat loaf, which was pretty good, but wasn’t anything exciting.

No, the exciting things were the “Chicken Lettuce Wraps“, which turned out pretty nice. It reminded me, though, that what I really wanted was Moo Shu Pork. I researched what it would take to make the pancakes and decided it was too much work. Even using the ‘simple’ way of using pre-made won ton wrappers seemed too involved. So, I didn’t go there.

Eons ago, I watched a Red Dwarf episode where the Cat slaps around a cooked chicken and catches it, saying, “Too slow Chicken Marengo! Too slow for this cat!” Recently, I re-watched the entire series and finally got around to being curious about what a ‘Chicken Marengo’ was. The short version is Napoleon needed some dinner and the cook took whatever he could find and put it together: chicken, tomatoes, crawfish tails, mushrooms etc. So I found a recipe for it. The recipe calls for cremini mushrooms. I checked my store’s website and saw no such thing. All I could find was “baby bella” mushrooms. So I did some research and found out that button mushrooms and Portabella mushrooms were the same thing, just at didn’t parts of the life cycle. Baby Bellas, then were right in the middle of that life cycle. So, there ya go.

In addition to that, I made something called “Slippery Shrimp” that looked interesting. I’m going to be upfront here and say that I fried the shrimp, perfectly. Then I burnt the shit out of the sauce. It was still good, though. I know I keep swearing that, for Asian-inspired recipes, I’m going to double the ingredients for the sauce. I also know that I keep not doing this, and regretting it. Perhaps if I had more sauce, I would not have burned it. That being said, I have no idea why it’s called “Slippery Shrimp.” They weren’t particularly slippery. Considering the sauce contains sugar, I wasn’t really expecting them to leap from my chopstick’s grasp and go flying out the window. So, take that as you will.

It’s still cold, right now, and I’m looking at a lot of soups. March will probably start warming things up, then, if I devote a lot of time towards soups.

January 2022 – New Year (Eats & Cats)

Hey there! It’s a new year. So, let’s have a look at how the first month has gone.

Entropy Acres – The kittens look to be doing well. They’re usually out in the evening, playing on the patio. They’re getting big, as kittens do. White cat is still around. Black cat comes around, sometimes, but he ain’t happy by all the extra cats. He doesn’t even want the head scratches anymore. The gray cat used to watch over the kittens, but she (I assume) has been distant lately, disappearing for days at a time and only showing up to eat. There’s been another cat, a black and white one. It’s so skittish that, if I look out the window at it, it takes off. The most amusing thing, though, was when it was chilly outside and I was trying to entice the kittens to come in. They weren’t having it, though. Just then, a big opossum walked right in front of me, trundling off to do whatever it is opossums do at night.

This morning was pretty good, though. Ms. Squeaks, the kittens, and Black cat all came running towards me. The food bowls were both empty. But the Black cat didn’t bother the kittens, so that’s all right.

Kitchen Entropy – I haven’t been doing much exciting, food-wise. Mostly, I’ve just been making soups that will last for a few days. They’re easy (throw stuff in boiling water) and good for cold weather.

If you know anything about me, though, is that I like to watch old TV shows and if an old TV mentions some sort of food I’ve never had, then I feel like I have to make it. I watched an old episode of The Bob Newhart Show where Bob, Howard, and Jerry get drunk and order Moo Goo Gai Pan. I’ve never had Moo Goo Gai Pan. Also, I can no longer get Chinese food delivered here.

Moo Goo Me!

So I made it. It was really good and I have to wonder why I’ve never ordered it before. Or, maybe I did but I don’t remember doing so? I don’t know. Either way, I can make it myself if I want it so badly. I still haven’t gotten around to figuring out how to make fried rice, though. Also, I may need to get a wok some day.

For the most part, I try and stay away from things that are complicated. They tend to increase my prep time (something that claims to take 15 minutes will take me two hours), and cleaning time. But, sometimes you see something you just gotta have. Especially when the temperature outside is about to plummet, again.

So I made chili colorado con carne. It’s not terribly complicated, it just involved buying dried chiles on the Internet (there weren’t any local) and then liquefying them in a blender or food processor. Somehow, the forty minute prep time turned into three hours. Actually, I’m going to blame a part of that on my stove because one of the burners is stuck on “Hellfire.”

Picture of chili Colorado con carne, a hearty stew
It’s a hearty stew

It’s quite filling, and I recommend making it for those cold wintery months.

And that pretty much wraps it up for January. Nothing written (except this). No photos, except for food. Nothing major going on, so that’s about it.

December Fur

I went outside early this morning. A black cat (but not the black cat)went running off. It’s been around the past couple of days, but doesn’t stick around very long once the door is open. I’ve never been able to get a good look. The grey cat was around, though, and waiting for food. Surprisingly, there was also a white dot that was moving around, quick as can be.

Once the food started being poured, the grey cat went to find his position. The white dot bounced around, much like the grey cat does when he wants food but doesn’t want to get close. I thought, at first, that it was Miss Squeaks, but she’s never that active. Especially not on cold mornings.

Once I finished with the food, the white dot took off towards the fence. I went back inside and that was that.

Later, after the landscape had lightened up a bit, I looked out the window in the door and got a better look at the white dot. It was bouncing around the grey cat, taking nibbles from the bowl then bouncing around Grey cat, then nibbling, then bouncing.

I figured it wasn’t going to take long for the bowls to be emptied, so I went and re-filled the container. When I looked out the window again, they were sitting on the stoop.

Low light + Dirty window gets you this

Unfortunately, it took off once I got the door open. As I watched it bound off towards the fence, I saw another grey-like kitten take off after it. The other Grey cat watched, and looked like it might go after them, but then decided not too.

I peeked in the house and say Miss Squeaks firmly tucked away in the back corner and it didn’t look like she was ready to come out anytime soon.

Still November

For the past few mornings, I’ve had the pleasure of having all three cats waiting for some food. The white one stays up on one of the bistro chairs, the black one hangs out right in front of the door and then meows incessantly until I give him a scratch on the head and move towards the food bowls. Then there’s the grey one. He’s smaller than the white one, and I’m pretty convinced she’s his mother. I’m assuming it’s a he, it may not be.

The grey cat seems young and isn’t quite up to speed on who the giant is that dumps food for them all every morning. So, he wants to stay close in order to get to the food, but he doesn’t want to be too close, because I am a human. So he ends up zipping to and fro, trying to stay close and far away at the same time. It’s a neat trick that doesn’t actually work. I only see the little guy when it’s dark; when it’s light I turn into a whole different monster (one that doesn’t drop food) so he tends to stay away if I know he’s there.

The chickens have been coming over quite a lot, lately. Usually they stay close to the fence, doing whatever it is chickens do. I don’t mind, as I’ve said.

Buck Buck Buckuk!

The other day, I looked out the window and saw the grey cat wandering around the patio. I took this to mean that the bowls were empty, since he doesn’t like to hang around during the day. I grabbed the food container and opened the front door. I was greeted by an enormous amount of noise as I disturbed a group of chickens hanging out right outside my door. It scared the shit out them and they took off towards the fence in a flurry of feathers and wings. That set off the grey cat, who jumped up on one fence and zipped through the gap in the fence to the neighbor’s yard. It didn’t do me any favors, either, but I went ahead and topped off the bowls.

Getting Comfy

I’ve always wondered where the chickens crossover from next door into my yard. I was pretty happy with the explanation that they got through the fence, walked down the street, and then up my driveway. But lately I’ve been keeping the gate closed on account of stray dogs coming around.

It turns out, they come and go the same way the gray and white cat do (or used to, in white cat’s case). They jump up on the one fence and then either fly over the other fence or squeeze through the gap. Well, that explains how they leave, because I saw them do it, but I’m still not sure how they get here. I assume it’s the same path, but I could be very wrong.

NaNoWriMo 2021 (Day 11: 4,605/50,000)

It’s been a few days, hasn’t it? I’m afraid that’s my fault. My sleep schedule has been blown wildly off course the last few days, including that one night I fell asleep at 6pm and woke up around midnight. I’ve still been writing, I just haven’t been updating the blog here. Which is going to cause me some issues in a few minutes while I try and remember where I was at.

Not surprisingly, I ran out of ideas for who should get the pen next, so I had to switch to my “B” roll. This is a re-do of a story that a friend of mine asked for and that I wrote part of, if I remember right. The strange thing is, neither of us has any part of that story. And I’ve looked through a mountain of old USB keys, external hard drives, and internal hard drives, not to mention scouring old, old emails.

So, let’s see where we got for that adventurous pen.

Norm wiggled his beer bottle. “You want another?”

“Naw,” said Lenny. “I got to get back home and I’ll end up missing the last train if I don’t head out.”

“All right, buddy. See you tomorrow.”

Lenny hauled himself out of the booth and out the bar door onto the city street. It was fully night but lights from the shops and street lamps kept things bright. It was a little chilly and Lenny breathed the night air in. Maybe his job was in jeopardy, maybe it wasn’t, but right now he was glad he was where he was. He always felt the city got a little more magical the cooler the weather turned. 

He took a seat and watched out the window as people moved about doing their things. It seemed odd to him, right at the moment, that there were millions of people, all living their own lives even if he knew nothing about them. It almost seemed easier to believe that they stopped existing once they left his field of view. Lenny wondered, then, if that was some sort of mental illness and if there was a psychiatric term for it. There probably was. 

The train next to his started to move out and he could see more of the station. There was a coffee shop there that he hadn’t noticed before. It wasn’t very crowded right now, but there were a couple of people sitting at a counter. The place wasn’t very big and that was about all that could fit in there, but there were some tables and chairs set outside of it. An outdoor cafe in an indoor train station. Lenny decided that he would have to stop there, at least once. Maybe the next time his train was late, which happened fairly often.

A man came through the train door and dropped a briefcase, a newspaper, and a candy bar on the seat in front of Lenny. Then he sat down opposite of him. Then he stood up again and took off his London Fog trenchcoat and placed it over his things. He sat down again. For a moment, he looked like he was thinking of standing up again but decided he didn’t need to. He was situated, as they say.

Reaching under his coat, he pulled out the briefcase and placed it on top of the coat. He flipped the two latches and opened it, pulling out some papers and a pen. Then he closed the briefcase and put it on his lap and used it as a desk, reading through the papers and marking things down with his pen.

To Lenny, he seemed a bit disorganized and flustered, as if that was his normal state of being. The train started to pull out of the station and he looked out the window again, watching the coffee shop disappear beyond his sight. Leaving the station, the buildings of the city could be seen again, towers of light reaching the heights of darkness. Eventually, they, too, would be left behind and the train would move through darkness.

Lenny stared out the window for the most part, aside from handing his ticket to the conductor. The trip was mostly dark, but every once in a while it passed through some town or another and lights could be seen. The train slowed down a bit during these crossings and Lenny was able to see some of the houses or shops, if it passed right through the town. He thought that he should get in the car one day and drive to these towns and check out the shops or restaurants, just to do something different. He wouldn’t, though. It was one of those things he’d think about, but never do. He wasn’t sure why; it wasn’t like he had a family chaining him down to his apartment. He was free to come and go as he chose. Not having a family also meant being able to afford jaunts like that. He sighed heavily. One day. Before he died.

He noticed, then, that his seat mate was writing on a form and then shaking his pen vigorously and looking at it as if it offended him. Then he’d try writing again and do the shaking routine. Finally, he opened the case part way and tossed the pen in there and then shuffled things around, probably looking for another pen. He looked up at Lenny.

“Say,” he said, “could I borrow your pen?”

“I don’t have a –“, he started. Then he patted his shirt pocket and remembered the pen from the bar. “Oh, yeah. Sure.” He handed the pen over to the mousey man.

The man took it and looked at the chain curiously.

“You have a thing against banks?”

“Uh, no, why?”

“Looks like this was taken from a bank. From one of those little tables they’re usually chained to.”

“Oh. I don’t know, I picked it up at a bar.”

“Well, someone liberated this fellow. His compadres are probably jealous of this guy’s freedom, wondering what he’s been up to and what he’s doing.”

Lenny looked at him and wondered if the guy was a few floors short of a skyscaper or just overly imaginative. “No doubt,” he said. “That pen probably can’t believe its luck, having seen things very few bank pens get to see.”

“It must have been very excited; it peed in your pocket.”

Lenny looked down at his shirt pocket and saw a black blob of ink at the bottom of his pocket. “Son of a…”

“Don’t blame the pen. He probably couldn’t contain himself. And it still writes, so that’s good luck.”

“Good luck, yeah,” said Lenny, not really seeing any good luck.

His seat mate went back to writing on forms. Every once in a while he’d stop and think about something, and twirl the pen around causing the short chain to whirl around like a helicopter blade. Lenny went back to staring out the window and wonder what he was doing with his life.

Soon enough, the familiar sights of his home started appearing. His stop would be up soon. He put his satchel in his lap and waited for the train to start slowing down.

The fellow across from his noticed this.

“Do you want your pen back?” he asked.

“No,” said Lenny. “You should keep it. If it comes with me, its days of adventuring will be over and it’ll be stuck in a drawer.”

The man laughed. “I’ll try and keep the legacy going, then. Have a good night.”

“Yeah, you too.”

Clem stepped down off the train car. It was late, it was dark, there was a slight chill in the air, and there weren’t a lot of other people around. The parking was well lit, though, so that was good. He walked over to his car

Bill lay on the cot and listened. It was mostly silent. He thought it was weird because he knew that, not far away, massive machinery was in motion. He should be hearing loud groans, squeeks, and screeches. Instead, he only heard the the hissing and gasping of his air supply. He knew why he couldn’t hear his ship re-configuring itself for mining duty: there was no air outside of his habitat. 

“Habitat” was a generous word for what he was sleeping in. It was barely more than a tent, although it was supposed to be a lot tougher, to withstand things micometeorites and whatever else could go flying through the vacuum of space. It had the fold-down cot, which he was now laying on, and a kitchenette of sorts. 

There was no concept of ‘day’ or ‘night’ here, with ‘here’ being an asteroid that he hoped would have a decent run of precious metals.

And there it was: he way laying on a cot in a tent on an asteroid. In space. That was something he never even considered a few years ago. During all those job interviews, he never once answered that, in five years, he’d be trying to sleep on a small dead rock in the middle of nothing. Well, not really nothing; he was in an asteroid field, so there were lots of other asteroids about. They weren’t very close, though. It’s not like he could walk out his habitat and wave at a neighbor passing by on their own asteroid. That would be pretty cool, though.

He picked up his PEA and brought up the timer. There were still several hours to go before the ship finished the configuration change. A red banner across the top of the screen informed him that he still did not have a connection to the sub-space communications net. He wouldn’t be able to watch anything or talk to anyone. He didn’t have anyone to talk to, so that wasn’t a big deal. There were people he missed back home, but he wasn’t sure they missed him. 

It was obvious he wasn’t going to be able to sleep right now, so Bill got up and looked out of the plastic window facing the ship. It didn’t look like much, just a mostly square lump. Most of the changes were happening on the inside. Ever once in a while, steam would vent out and disapate. Flood lights illuminated the area around it, but it was just flat grey landscape. Bill was glad the computers handled the landing because he was sure he wouldn’t have been able to land the massive craft on the small circular area by himself. 

“You want to do what?” asked Fred, incredulously.

“I want to mine. An asteroid,” said Bill.

They were having lunch at a bistro in the station. Bright white tables and chairs on a bright white floor, with bright white lights everywhere. Fred was wearing a jumpsuit of the style that was so popular recently. Everyone was wearing the purple grayish things these days. Bill had no idea why, but he figured they were easy to print out and, since there was nothing endearing about them, easy to toss in the recyclers at the end of the day.

“Have you lost your mind? Why?”

Bill pushed his lunch around with his general purpose utensil. He wasn’t sure what it was. Maybe noodles? Maybe dumplings? 

“It’s different,” he said.

“Different, all right. You can get killed doing that. Do you know how many miners get ejected into space when something goes wrong?”

“No. How many?” Bill asked, curiously.

“Well, I don’t know. A lot. Probably. You should look that up, maybe it’ll change your mind.”

“Don’t you ever get bored? All the white around here. Every day it’s the same thing.”

“White means clean,” said Fred. “And being the same means nothing unexpected. Nothing dangerous. Like, you’re not going to be blown out into space because something exploded when it shouldn’t have.”

“Sure, but nothing else is going to change, either. I’ll be doing the same job with no chance of doing something else or making more money.”

Fred dropped his utensil on his white plastic plate. “Oh, so you think you’re going to get rich? You think you’re going to strike a vein of, what, gold? Platinum?”

“Maybe. It could happen,” said Bill. “I’ve got a better chance of finding platinum out there than I do here.”

“How are yo going to get a ship? Mining equipment? It can’t be cheap to get all that stuff.”

“I’ve got savings. It’s not like there’s a lot of stuff around here to spend it on.”

“You should find a woman, Bill. That’s something to spend your money on.”

“Women don’t want anything from me,” said Bill. “I’ve had lots of time to prove that.”

And that’s where I’m at. With, you know, hopefully more tonight. We’ll see how that goes. Providing I don’t fall asleep at my desk at 6pm or something stupid like that.

NaNoWriMo 2021 (Day 04: 2,523/50,000)

Tough day at work, but good day for writing. I still haven’t written 1,666 words in one day, but I liked what I wrote and it was fun, so that make everything better. When writing isn’t fun, it’s really not fun. When it is fun, words just keep flowing and you don’t really want to stop.

Today’s writing was done while listening to Evol Walks.

Lenny watched the couple leave the bar and take another booth. He wished he was sitting with a pretty lady but, instead, he was sitting with Norm. Where Lenny was rather large, feeling the booth table cutting into his girth, Norm was skinny. If they weren’t as old as they were, Norm could’ve been sitting with his legs up on the booth seat and still have room to be comfortable. 

But, they were as old as they were so that wasn’t happening. Lenny cleaned his glasses with his tie while Norm built a small house out of a stack of cardboard coasters. Lenny put his glasses on and was pretty sure he had just scratched up the lenses.

“They’re going to lay us off, Norm,” Lenny said.

Norm was placing two coasters together at an angle creating a room corner. “You don’t know that,” he said.

“No, you’re right. They could fire us.”

“What’s the difference?”

“Being laid off or fired? If they don’t have anything against you, you get laid off. If you fucked up, then you get fired. No boss has ever pointed his finger at someone and said, ‘You idiot! You’re laid off!'”

“What makes you think we’ll get either?” asked Norm, placing the other corner of his room against the previous one. He was almost up to half a room. A foyer, Lenny guessed.

“Because we’re nobodies.”

Lenny and Norm, when asked what they did, usually said, “Work in computers.” People assumed, then, that they were programmers or web designers. What they actually did was fix the computers of people who had no idea of what computers did, or how they worked, even though they used them every day. 

Unfortunately, those people were dying out. Now, younger, hipper, kids were entering the workforce and they’d been using computers their whole lives. They weren’t as easy to fool. As it was, Lenny and Norm could make out like bandits by, say, disconnecting someone’s monitor. Then that person would call the help desk and Lenny or Norm would show up, tut tut over poor workmanship over there in China, and order a new monitor. Then they’d replace it and take the old one home, if it was better than what they already had. This worked out because nobody knew what happened to old, broken hardware. Not even their bosses. 

But now, with these new people, they check things like that first. And usually fix it on their own. If something is legitimately busted then it didn’t do Lenny or Norm any good and the part when into the storage closet that, while large, was beginning to bulge. One day they would have to figure out what to do with all that crap. If they didn’t get laid off first. Or fired.

“I gotta headache,” said Lenny. He reached into his satchel and pulled out a bottle of aspirin he bought earlier. Or acetaminophen. Or whatever it was people were taking these days. When he was a kid it was always aspirin, and that was always good enough. He struggled to open the cap and, when he got it off, he was presented by a silvery covering over the bottle opening. “Jesus,” he said. He pressed his thumb into it, which made a dent but stretched underneath it. He tried again with different fingers, wishing he hadn’t trimmed his nails at lunch. 

“What the fuck?” He slammed the plastic bottle down and took a gulp of beer.

Norm looked up from placing a roof on what appeared to be a ground level master bedroom. “What’s up?”

“This tamper proof crap. It’s indestructible. They should make bullet proof vests out of this crap. If hymens were like this, nobody would ever have kids.”

“Go get a knife. It’s a bar, someone is gonna have one.”

Lenny looked at the table where there was no silverware. He looked over at the bar. They had to cut limes and stuff, surely there’d be a knife over there. He squeezed out of the booth and approached the bar. He tried to get the attention of the bartender, but he was busy making nice with some blonde chick. In frustration, he drummed his fingers on the bar top, hitting something.

He looked down and saw a pen with a small bit of silver chain dangling off the end. A pen could work. He picked it up and walked back to the booth where Norm was busy adding a two car garage to his house.

After squeezing into the booth, he took the pen and violently stabbed the silver membrane with the pen, making a hole. After that, it was easy work to grab pieces of the material and tear it away from the mouth of the bottle. Subconsciously, he put the pen in his shirt pocket.

Lenny shook two pills out of the bottle and washed them down with some beer.

“Uh, I don’t think you’re supposed to do that,” said Norm.

“Do what?”

“Take medication with alcohol. It should be water.”

“Beer is water, mostly. And it’s not medicine, it’s aspirin. Or something like it. Whatever. I’ll take my chances.”

NaNoWriMo 2021 (Day 03: 1,666/50,000)

Here it is, day three. I didn’t post last night because I didn’t write a lot and it was my birthday, so I felt entitled to not post anything. What I did write I wasn’t particularly happy about. It was just part of a boring conversation that didn’t go anywhere. But words are words, right?

So, as a recap, I’m trying to write for an hour every day. Whatever I get in that hour is what I get, and I should be happy about it. This means I’m technically behind. In fact, I have about a day’s worth of writing in three days. This… is actually better than I thought it would be. So that’s a plus.

The negatives are, FocusWriter is not working for me. It would be fine, except for two things:
1. I can’t increase the size of the text. Normally, this is not an issue. However, if I’m working in full screen I’d like for the text to be larger so I don’t have 90% of the screen just blank.
2. The “smart” quotes seem to be causing an issue. I can’t use single quotes. This makes typing things with contractions look like this: How”s it going? And that just annoys the shit out of me.

So I ditched FocusWriter and switched to GhostWriter. It’s a little better, once I figured out how the colors worked. And, as a QA person, the color selection thing is shit. But single quotes work and I can increase the text size, so that’s good. I’ll continue on with it. Other than that, Haiku on my Atari computer is working out just dandy. So, on we go.

Alice sat in one of the plastic chairs, next to another woman who was looking at something on her phone. Alice took her own phone out and started checking messages and emails and browsing the web until she got bored. The chair was uncomfortable. She began to question why she was there at all.

“Do you come to these things often,” asked the woman next to her.

“What? Oh, no,” said Alice. “I`ve just started, really. You know, trying to figure out if this is what I want to do. What about you?”

The woman smile, “Yeah, I keep trying and hoping I get a part.”

“Have you ever gotten one?”

The woman shook her head. “No, not yet. But I`m hopeful. It`s what I`m meant to do.”

“How many of these have you been to?”

“Oh, about a dozen or so.”

“That sounds like a lot,” Alice said. “My name is Alice, by the way.”

“Patrice,” said the other woman. “It`s nice to meet you.”

“Same. So, how do you find out about these things? I”m only here because I saw an ad posted on a bulletin board in a coffee shop.”

“I have a whole network set up to let me know when auditions are being held. Contacts, email lists, alerts. You name it, I get it. Oh! There`s another one after this, if you`re interested?”

“Aren`t you afraid of competion?”

Patrice chuckled. “Not at all. It`s a number game, really. See, they`re looking for someone specific. Maybe it`s me, maybe it isn`t. I won`t know, though, until I show up.”

“What do you mean by someone specific?”

“Oh, like, they’re looking for someone specific. Like, a specific look or attitude. And you either have it, or you don’t.”

“Ah, I see. So, the more I go on, the better the chance of being ‘it’ I have.”

“That’s right!”

“In that case, sure, what’s the one you’re talking about?”

“Do you have a pen?” asked Patrice. 

She pulled a square of Post-It notes out of her purse. Alice gave her the pen from her purse. Patrice looked oddly at the chain for a second, then shrugged and wrote something on the top sheet of Post-Its and handed it back to Alice.

A door opened and a head poked out. “Patrice?”

“Ooh, that’s me. Good luck, honey!” She stood up and hurried over to the door.

Alice checked her phone for a few minutes when the head came through the door again. 

“That’s it folks, we’re done for the day. Go on home.” 

She gathered up her purse and started towards the hallway door. “Shit,” she said. “She took my pen.”

The light in the bar was dim, despite the abundance of neon signs that lined the wall. A vintage Rock-Ola jukebox was spinning tunes from the 1970s. It was pretty early, so it wasn’t very busy yet. Patrice sat at the bar, holding her phone to her ear and sipping a martini.

“Just grab some people and come down to The Big O,” she said. “No, this time I’m celebrating. I got a part! Yeah! No, it’s a small thing, but it’s something. No, it’s not a tampon commercial. Don’t be crass.”

She put the phone down on the bar next to her martini glass. She was excited and there was no one there to be excited at. There was nothing to do but sit there, antsy, waiting for her friends to show up. That could take a while because they all had jobs.

But she had a job now, too! Granted, it wasn’t steady work and it didn’t pay a lot, but it was a stepping stone on her way to a career. And it wasn’t flipping burgers or being a waitress. Not that she had anything against those jobs. She like hamburgers and eating out as much as anyone, it just wasn’t something she wanted to do. Besides, she’d already done her time there. 

Patrice ate the olive off the toothpick out of her martini. She didn’t really like martinis, but they came with free food. She wasn’t particularly fond of olives, either, but she wasn’t aware of any drinks that came wih pineapple chunks.

A body sidled up next to her. “So, you’re an actress, huh?”

She glanced over at the guy. He was average looking but dressed nicely. 

“Do you always eavesdrop on people’s conversations?” she asked him.

“No, but you were talking kind of loud.”

“It’s that damn jukebox,” she said, gesturing over her shoulder with her thumb. “It drowns everything else out.”

“All I heard was that you got a part,” he said. “Nothing at all about it not being a tampon commercial.”

“One day I hope to make it up to one of those,” she said. “This is actually my first gig.”

“Congratulations,” he said. “Are you worried about being able to memorize your lines?”

“Not in this case,” she said. “I don’t have to say anything.”

“Huh. Did you have to read for it?”

“Nope, just had to stand there. It turns out, I had ‘the look’.”

“Hey, whatever gets you there. So, can I buy you a drink?”

“Do you know of any drinks that come with pineapple?”

“Ah, I do not,” he confessed.

“Then I’ll have another martini.”

He flagged down the bartender and ordered another round of drinks. 

“Would you like to hang out in my booth over there?”

“Yeah, all right,” said Patrice. She picked up her phone and dropped it in her purse, but it didn’t go all the way in. She took out the pen that was obstructing it and placed it on the bar before heading off to the booth.