Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Giant End of February Everything Post

With so many things to address, I'm not gonna piece-meal.  So here’s what’s up with everything relevant at the moment.
Nicholas Nickleby is not an easy read.  I know that I’ve defended Charles Dickens in the past from those who claimed that he was entirely too verbose to earn their respect and although I’m not done defending him (or being a fan of his, in general) I must say that I REALLY get their point now.  Great Expectations is shockingly short in comparison to many of his other tales, so we’ll leave that out of the comparison.  But David Copperfield was a long read by anyone’s gauge and I found it much easier to get through for some reason.  I’m not sure why, but this book has made me achingly aware of how long it is, how the majority of the sentences contained within its pages are a paragraph long and contain more commas than I think should legally be allowed in a single sentence, how unnecessary some of the details are and how damned long it’s taking me to get through.  I’ve been reading everyday and I’m still close to 200 pages off from the end.
But this challenge is about reading a classic, not sticking to the rather arbitrary rule of doing it in the shortest month of the year.  And I console myself that if it had been January I’d still have 3 days left to finish this thing.  So I’m gonna keep reading as much as I can during my free time with the aim of completing it by Saturday and assuming I finish it by then I’m gonna count it as a win, even though it’ll technically be March.  Stay tuned for the review.
So we got the biopsy results on Tuesday.  As I said before, we were pretty confident they were going to be negative; our thinking being that if he actually had this there would have been some other symptoms to verify that.  So when I got a voicemail from the surgeon saying “everything looks good” I naturally interpreted that to mean “His liver is healthy” and “he doesn’t have microvascular dysplasia" (henceforth referred to as MD) and whatnot.  Dave and I had a brief sigh of relief over lunch during which we discussed what timeline we should pursue in terms of taking him off the special diet and planned to happily return to life as it was before the seizures.
Imagine our surprise when we called the doctor to discuss things in more detail and heard that he does, in fact, have MD.  There was a brief moment of “what, now?” during which we had to throw out our list of questions and come up with a bunch of news ones, primary of which was “Wait a second- he does?!?”  While reassuring us that MD is an extremely common (among small dogs) and easily manageable condition which should in no way negatively impact the health of our little guy, he failed to clearly explain to us how results showing that he definitely has a certain disease equate to “good”.
It wasn’t until our regular vet (who is way more attentive and on top of things than any doctor that’s ever treated me, a human) explained it to us in layman’s terms that we felt better.  She stated that yes, it is extremely common and that most dogs never show any signs of it and you’d never even know they had it and only a few need special medication or diet or have negative health problems because of it.  If not for the seizures, she said, we never would have even identified it.  And although the diet is the plan du jour it is by no means guaranteed to be required- we might still try to take him off of it at some point in the future and see how he does; cause chances are decent that he won’t even need it.  And while they’ll have to be aware when treating him with medications that’ll be processed in the liver in the future, that’s really the only special precautions we should need to take.
She also said that while we had been operating under the belief that the ultrasound we did when this all went down had been definitive in ruling out a shunt, this biopsy was done largely for the same reason so “good” meant “he doesn’t have a shunt”- which we thought we already knew.  Oy.  At any rate, while deflated, Dave and I are hopeful that once our poor little guy gets his stitches taken out and we can finally remove the cone (which he hates more than anything in existence) he’ll be back to normal and since this is all done he shouldn’t need surgery again- ever.  We’ve told him that everybody gets one and he’s blown his so now he’ll just have to shut up and be healthy.  (Being a dog, we’re concerned he didn’t quite understand what we were saying.  But we’ll keep trying.)
More Stress
Friday was a rough day for me.  With Buddy in surgery for most of the morning/early afternoon I was glued to my phone, anxiously awaiting updates from the vet.  While I refused to believe in even the possibility of Buddy not coming through it just fine, I was still pretty anxious to see that he did.  I had a brief but momentous sigh of relief upon hearing that he was ok which was shattered by the phone call home to tell my parents of this.
“Don’t freak out,” my dad said, “but mommy’s in the hospital.”
Don’t freak out?  Sure, no problem.  It’s not like I’ve been on edge all day anyway. 
Now, my mom had told me that she thought she might have a slight case of food poisoning when I’d spoken to her on Wednesday but I really didn’t think much of it because she’d told me that she was feeling better and thought it was done.  It wasn’t food poisoning and it wasn’t done.
We never technically found out what the hell it was- tests they did in the hospital came back negative for E. coli, salmonella and all the other big names in serious gastro-intestinal illness.  But IV fluids and liquid diet were useless in slowing down the vomiting and diarrhea.  She was admitted to the hospital Thursday night and wasn’t discharged until Tuesday.  TUESDAY.  That’s 8 full days of illness, 5 of which were spent in the hospital.
My aunt is a nurse practitioner and one of the smartest people I know.  Every crisis, every serious medical illness and every new diagnosis she’s on the phone with us talking about it, letting us know what cases of it she’s treated and how people dealt with it, e-mailing us information and helpful web sites and explaining what the doctor told us in clear terms that we can understand.  She is a saint.  And she called me to let me know her hypothesis: that this was one of 3 “super bugs” that were going around wreaking havoc on people’s digestive systems.  While some people get sick for a day or two with little impact on their ability to function, some people, like my mother, get really sick.  A perfect example of this is the fact that my father came down with similar symptoms on Sunday but was already starting to feel better by Monday night.  And because it’s a virus there’s not really all that much you can do other than wait for it to run its course.
When I first heard all this I was fully prepared to leave Dave in charge of Buddy and drive up to New York to see her.  My mother told me- in no uncertain terms- that Buddy needed me more than she did.  Thank God, because it seems quite possible that I could’ve gotten whatever she and my dad (and now my brother) had.
At any rate, this all served as a pretty big scare that ultimately amounted to a reminder of how dangerous these things we regularly get exposed to can be.  I wish there was some other lesson that came out if- like how to avoid contracting it.  But I suppose all you can really do is know that there’s the possibility of these things, and to not hesitate to seek out medical attention if you’re really sick.

So that’s been the week.  Crazy stressful, not the best for finishing a book, and overall something I’ll be very happy has passed once it’s done.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Home Bound

Buddy is home.  The surgery went well, he's recovering nicely and I am so grateful.  The dental work took the bulk of the time with the internal stuff being completed shockingly fast by comparison.  But the doctor said his liver looked "grossly normal"- the medical term for "there's nothing wrong with it"- upon examination and the vet techs reassured us that he was "resting comfortably" overnight.

When we picked him up he was still pretty out of it and of course he's absolutely miserable (as we knew he would be) with the cone on.  And he makes these heart breaking little noises when he shifts his position on my lap that make it sound like he's in pain.  But, we've been giving him what I assume is a relatively heavy-duty pain killer once a day and his puppy eyes staring off into space seems like a good indicator that it's working.

And every day he gets a little more active, a little more eager to run around and play.  Which isn't entirely good news because we're supposed to keep his movement pretty restricted while he's healing- a task that will become increasingly difficult as time goes on.  But it's reassuring to see him alert and more like himself. 

And while trying to give the puppy as much lap time as possible whilst convalescing I've been catching up on my reading- only a few more days to finish Nicholas Nickleby for #NaNoReMo.  And there's no place he'd rather be, and no place I'd rather have him, than right on my lap.

Thank you, so much to everyone who's been sending him well wishes.  I am so grateful and so blessed to have my little guy home.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What's On My Mind

Disclaimer: I try not to write too much about my personal life on here, mainly because I can’t imagine that anyone really wants to read about it.  But there are times when the current events are important enough to me that I feel the need to share them here, for whatever reason.  This is one of those times.  So if you come here strictly for the fiction or creative endeavors, feel free to skip this post.  But if you have any interest in me or if you're a dog lover, keep reading.

Back in May, my teeny, tiny little puppy scared the sh*t out of my boyfriend and I by having two seizures in one night.  They happened out of nowhere and have not occurred since.  At the time, we rushed him to the vet ER and spent what was to be the beginning of a boat load of money doing tests in order to figure out what the hell had happened.  While they ruled out a shunt to his liver (arguably the most common cause of seizures in otherwise healthy dogs), there was no conclusive diagnosis reached.

Possible diagnostic labels included “he just ate something” (still a possibility), “it’s the beginnings of epilepsy” (very unlikely since it’s been so long without incident) or microvascular dysplasia.  Microvascular dysplasia, for those who are interested, is a condition wherein the blood vessels in the animal’s liver are malformed at a microscopic level such that the liver is unable to do its job properly.  Because it’s a microscopic problem, it can’t be corrected surgically and the only method of treatment is medications and special diet- for life.

Since this seemed the most likely cause, he’s been on a special healthy-liver diet ever since and we’ve been told that there’s a chance the reason he hasn’t had any more seizures is because of that.  This diet, while not harmful to him long-term, is prescription only and therefore very expensive.  If there’s a chance that he doesn’t have this liver issue, we’d sooner find out for sure so we can have him go back on regular food and not live in constant fear of him randomly having another seizure.  So, tomorrow, we’re finally going ahead and having him get the liver biopsy we’ve been considering since last May.

But that’s not all.  Buddy is a toy poodle.  In addition to being prone to shunts and microvascular dysplasia, this tiny breed of dog is also prone to holding onto their baby teeth.  True to form, Buddy is a tiny little tooth hoarder, still holding on to five of his baby teeth.  This is, needless to say, problematic because they crowd his adult teeth, make little gaps for food to get stuck in and increase the risk of gum disease by about a million-fold.  And because of them his breath is now at the point where, if you get a good whiff of it, your gag reflex reacts.  Not good- he has to get them taken out.  And since all dental work requires the dog to be put under anesthesia, it makes sense to go ahead and do that while he’s out for the biopsy.

And as if all that weren’t enough, my tiny little dog still has his tiny little balls.  Now, in all honesty, I would love for him to keep them.  He’s not out and about with female dogs that he might impregnate (and even if he were I don’t think it’d be an issue since he’s scared of all other dogs).  He doesn’t have any real aggression caused by too much testosterone.  And honestly, he’s prissy enough as is that I feel bad taking away the one semblance of manhood he has left.  But the vets all say that the risks of prostate cancer, testicular cancer and other issues are so much higher with dogs who have them that we feel compelled to have them removed for health reasons. 

Apparently it’s a much lower risk to put the dog under for longer to do more than it is to put them under several consecutive shorter times to do less.  So tomorrow’s surgery will be a sort-of blow out event of removing bodily organs, pieces of organs and teeth from our tiny little dog.  (And when I say tiny, by the way, I mean that he’s 3.5lbs soaking wet.  So it’s not an exaggeration.)


Now, as you can guess, we’re pretty attached to him.  Not just because he’s our little Buddy (hence the name) but because he is freakishly adorable and therefore we do what all other owners of adorable dogs do: we worry, fret over and coddle the hell out of him.  Add into this mix all my maternal instincts since I don’t have real kids to direct them towards and you’ve got the makings of a very, very concerned puppy parent.  Tomorrow is gonna suck.

We’ve been getting increasingly anxious about it as the day approaches.  We’ve been feeling increasingly guilty for the fact that he’s going to wake up in a strange place with strange people and strange dogs and a host of strange smells drugged out of his tiny puppy skull and in pain for reasons he won’t know of or understand.  We’ve been questioning whether or not all this is the right thing to do and second-guessing the hell out of ourselves.  (And seeing as we’ve been mulling this over for so long that’s rather unsettling.)

But, as my mother attempted to console me last night, this too shall pass.  Yes, he’ll be in pain and yes he’ll be scared but he will come home.  He will be cared for (overly so, I’m sure).  He will recover.  And God willing, we’ll get good results from the biopsy, he’ll have a healthier mouth and we’ll never have to worry about testicular or prostate or any other cancers again.  And we’ll be able to live in peace with our little Buddy, seizure free and healthy, for a long, long time.

I’m not religious so formal prayer is not something I usually engage in.  And while I do believe in a lot of spiritual concepts I don’t really connect with any formal systems for practicing them.  But at times like this I can’t help but feel the need to perform some kind-of ritual for the purposes of asking for Godly support in my puppy’s speedy recovery.

Whether it’s kharma, positive energy or just thoughts I will be spending my morning (possibly afternoon depending on what time they actually get him on the table) engaged in the concentrated focus of wishing my little guy health, strength to get through everything, and healing powers to recover.  And I’ll be doing my damndest not to have a mental breakdown until I get that phone call saying that he’s out of surgery, alive and on route to being well.

As always, I ask for any well wishes, good thoughts or prayer you may wish to send in the direction of my little guy.  And I offer my thanks, as insufficient as that seems, in return.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Writing: How It Works For Me

My dear friend John wrote about his writing process recently.  He talked about how he gets all these ideas, all hours of the day, from conversations, from books, from tv or video games, from everywhere and he just wrote them.  Reading this, I got this sensation of needing to express these ideas.  Like they were just bursting out of him and he felt pressured- like a volcanic buildup- if he didn’t get them out.  So he did, every day, every time.  No genius, no brilliant, glistening epiphanies- just writing.  It seemed so simple.

And I felt so angry from reading that because I related to it in so many ways.  A billion ideas in my head: every minute of everyday about just about everything.  I have that.  And honestly the ideas, the ideas themselves, can be just as creative, interesting and story worthy.  But I always, always shut myself down before I can write them.

That inner critic of mine is like a God with a huge, booming voice that’s raining down judgment on all of my fragile little ideas.  And unlike Noah, I don’t have an arc.  So all my tiny little (possibly brilliant) ideas drown as I conclude that it has been done, that it is stupid, that there is no way I could possibly execute it well enough because I don’t have the talent.

It’s a full-blown superiority complex- the belief that every other writer is better than me, more innately talented, more educated about the process of writing and therefore more able to translate their ideas into these amazing pieces I read every Friday.  And I try to console myself by saying that I’m just not a writer like they are- I’m just not meant to write.  But I still have all those ideas.

It’s my own form of OCD.  I obsess about writing thinking that I should write, that I need to write, that that brilliant idea I just had needs to be written.  I feel compulsed to write.  So I do.  And then, inevitably, the story is not good enough.  That brilliant idea is now a crappy piece of writing nowhere near as amazing as it seemed when it was still just in my head.  And I feel horrible; I hate myself, I hate writing, I hate everything.  So I close my computer in disgust.  And sometimes this leads me to withdraw completely from everything- I stop reading the new flash Friday pieces, I stop reading John’s blog or any of the others I follow, I avoid twitter and even my computer for sometimes weeks or even months at a time.

But the obsessions build, the compulsion to write grows, I feel guilty for having not written for so long.  So I do.  And the process repeats itself.

But here’s the thing- and here what John’s post reveled to me- those ideas are still ideas.  They’re not stupid, or over-done, or any of the others things I may conclude they are.  The only difference is that John and Tony and Icy and Chuck and Adam and Danielle and Helen and all those other amazing writers WRITE.  That’s it.  It isn’t a gift from the Gods, or a muse that has chosen to gift them with brilliant insights on a regular basis, or intelligence so far superior to mine that my feeble little mind can’t even comprehend it.  It’s the simple act of writing.  And if I wrote my ideas like they do, I could be just as good as I think they are.  Not to myself, obviously.  But to someone else reading my blog.  (I know, I know- you’re thinking “Haven’t you been told this since the dawn of time?”  But that’s how insight works- you have to get it the hard way.)

My favorite band in the world is Ben Folds Five.  Do you know them?  If not, you absolutely MUST watch this:
Yes, that is Red sitting on Ben Folds' shoulder.

That song is from their new reunion album and it’s one of my favorite songs they’ve ever done (And I got to see them do it live *sqee!*).  And I’m sure you can see why it relates. 

Because if I can write that idea down, and if I can hold back the deluge of judgment just long enough to hit the post button- people tend to like what I wrote.  Even if it isn’t that brilliant, sparkling, wonderful idea it had been in my head.  It’s still ok.  Maybe even good.  Maybe even great on very rare occasions.  And because it exists- because I didn’t drown it in criticism- I’m better off for it.  Do it anyway.  That’s what’s been working for me lately.

So, towards that end, I’m making a determined effort to expose myself more.  Expose my writing more, expose myself to more writing prompts, get connected to other writers and other writing communities.  And so here I am, writing about writing for #amwriting.  And it is my hope that by letting the world in on my madness I’ll see how right I am by seeing that you all relate to what I’ve shared.  Because lately I’ve been realizing how not alone I am in this struggle, and it’s felt really good.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Heart For My Valentine

The teacher said he had to give a Valentine to everyone but Suzie Jenkins was the prettiest and he had a special present in mind for her.  His uncle had raised an eyebrow when he asked him, but he’d explained that it was for a science project.  His mom had been suspicious of the large lump of tightly wrapped mystery food in the refrigerator but his desperate dive to cover it from her reach had convinced her that whatever it was it was best left undisturbed.  Each day had ticked by slower than the last until finally, wonderfully the day had come.

Young Tim Morris was one of the first out of his chair when they announced that it was time to hand out the valentines.  He’d grabbed the first box off the shelf when his mom had taken him to buy them and was now wishing he’d granted them at least a glance as he slid girly Hello Kitty cards into the lunch bags fastened to the front of each desk.  Tommy Wikowski was going to make fun of him for months for that.  But he didn’t care.  He only had eyes for Suzie.

She had the prettiest hair and her pink headband with tiny red hearts only served to accentuate the curls.  She had eyes like sapphires- or emeralds.  He couldn’t remember which stone was which color.  But the blue ones, those were her eyes.  They were, like, sparkly.  He found himself staring into them as the face around them shifted into a confused expression.

“Tim…?” Suzie asked, a grin developing in the corner of her mouth as she asked.

“Huh?” he asked, still staring.

“Are you ok?” Suzie asked, then chuckled.  He heard the high-pitched giggles of her friends and suddenly remembered himself. 

“I-uh-“ he hesitated, not sure what to do.  All he wanted to do was run from the classroom and not stop until he hit Kolkata which his father had recently shown him on a map and he remembered because he liked the name.  But his feet seemed to be glued to floor.  “Uh…” his mouth couldn’t seem to form the words and he was struggling to think past the increasing number of embarrassed giggles.

“Is that for me?” Suzie mercifully asked him.

“Oh!  Uh- yeah, yeah this is for you!” Tim said, jumping at the memory of the precious cargo he had to deliver.  “I got this for you, Suzie,” he said as he gently placed the package on the desk.

“Oh, um… thank you.” she said, though she poked at the wrapping suspiciously with the eraser of her pencil.

“Happy Valentine’s day!” he shouted more than spoke, then ran back to his desk before she could say anything else. 

“Ok, children- open your Valentines!” Mrs. Archer announced, waving her hands at the class.

The classroom erupted with noise as everyone grabbed their lunchbags off the front of their desk and began exploring the contents.  Some, like Tommy Wikowski, dumped the contents on their desk and searched for the cards with a lollipops or chocolate taped to the front.  Others, like Betsy Rosa, sorted through each one in a slow orderly fashion.  But all Tim could see was Suzie.  She had pushed his gift to the corner of her desk to make room for her Valentines.  He looked down at his desk, feeling defeated.  He grabbed his own bag off the front of his desk angrily and pushed the cards out onto his desk, uninterested in them until he spotted Suzie’s handwriting.

He grabbed it up in a jolt of excitement- the small heart over the I in his name letting him know it was from her.  He tore open the envelope and pulled out the card with his heart beating like a hummingbird’s wings which, he had just learned, beat up to 80 times a second.  He looked at the image of a brightly-colored bug with hearts on the ends of its antenna and big cartoony eyes.  The scripted letters written on it’s tummy- which bugs so didn’t have- let him know it was a “Love Bug”.

He flipped the car around, praying for there to be a message on the back.  All it said was “Tim” with the same heart over the I.  He looked over the shoulder of Levi who sat in front of him and saw the same heart over the I at the end of his name.  He watched as he pulled an identical card out of his envelope and his heart sank to the pit of his stomach which was impossible, of course.  But that’s what it felt like.

He rested his head on his hands and waited for the torturous exercise be over until the loud questions “What is that?” stood out from the general noise.

He looked over and saw Betsy standing in front of Suzie’s desk, her hand pointing at the package.  He watched as Suzie reached for it and began undoing the tape that held the plastic on.  He thought that maybe he should run over, snatch it up before she could see.  But then he sat back and watched, unable to look away.

Suddenly a loud scream erupted and a crowd of children flocked to the desk, blocking his view.  He ran over and tried to push his way to the center to see what was happening.  Mrs. Archer walked over and pushed the children aside, saying “What’s going on?” as she did.

Tim shoved Ian Lombardi out of the way and finally saw the gift- the cow’s heart he had gotten from his uncle’s butcher shop sat in the mess of plastic and deli paper it’d been wrapped in.  The blood had stained the paper black and the heart looked wilted, almost like it’d been left in the sun for too long.  The arteries leading out had lost their distinctive shape and the colors had darkened.  His uncle had warned him that it wouldn’t stay ‘fresh’ long, but Tim had never expected this.

“Who did this?” Mrs. Archer asked, the thread of anger in her voice letting him know there was magma under the surface.

He retreated a step but bumped into the person behind him.  There was no escape.

“I- I did-“ he said, tentatively raising his hand.

Mrs. Archer looked at him, a shocked expression settling onto her features.  “Timothy?  Why would you do this?”

“It’s a heart!” he blurted out.  “I got her a heart for valentine’s day!”

His classmates all laughed like a pack of hyenas while Mrs. Archer frowned at him, that disappointed frown that killed him every time he saw it.  “We’ll talk about this after class,” she said, taking the offending display off of Suzie’s desk as she retreated to the head of the classroom.  “Back to your seats, everyone.”

Tim hazarded a glance at Suzie and instantly regretted it.  She was staring daggers at him and her eyes were definitely not sparkly anymore.  He limped back to his desk with his head rapidly shrinking into his shoulders.  He wished he could pull it all the way inside like those giant tortoises Mrs. Archer had shown them the video of.  Then he could wait it out and emerge when the danger had passed.

There was a tap on his shoulder and he turned in his chair to see Jessie Beeman smiling at him.  “I thought it was really cool,” she whispered.

He’d never noticed it before but she had the prettiest eyes behind her big glasses.  They were light brown- the color of those giant Sequoia trees he’d seen in those pictures.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

#NaNoReMo Update: Heroes and Villains

Imagine if a select minority of people, for no particular reason, were telepathic.  Not because of radioactivity or an alien ring or anything seen in comics, but just by birth.  They wouldn't look or necessarily act any differently then you or I, but they’d read everyone around them, know their motives and navigate accordingly.  Some people would undoubtedly use this power for good, others for evil, and others probably wouldn't know what to do with it.  But they’d all see the world very differently from those around them.

Well, that is the world of Nicholas Nickleby.  Save that instead of telepathy, our heroes and villains have what was once mistakenly described as common sense.  They see the world around them for what it really is, they can judge people by their actions rather than their appearances and they use these judgments to attempt to navigate the world.  At this point, there’s only a select few who clearly have this power- the book’s namesake, of course, his sister, their uncle and an associate of his who is somehow simultaneously more real and more mysterious than any of the other characters thus far.

Let’s begin with the book’s namesake, since he’s obviously our hero.  While shrewd, Mr. Nickleby is a very young man and therefore his powers of observation and sound judgment are tempered by his inexperience.  While quick on the pick-up he misses a lot when it comes to new situations, women and the business world.  However, he’s proving to be a quick wit so far and seems increasingly capable of changing his appearance depending on the context of the situations in which he finds himself (a talent aided by his time in the theater); so I assume we can expect a very interesting arc from him as the story progresses.

Next up is Mr. Ralph Nickleby, our primary antagonist and uncle to our hero.  While portrayed as a somewhat heartless man there’s a fierce practicality to him that actually has me preferring him to some of the other supposed heroes of the tale.  This comes from a difficult upbringing, not unlike what our hero experienced, which imparted Ralph with an unshakable belief that money is the only thing in the world that maters.  This belief has led him to lead a rather solitary life (since relationships are the one sure-fire way to lose money) and to avoid interactions which don’t directly serve a business-related purpose.  Although he often causes great injury to those around him I appreciate the logic with which he does it: it’s calculated, thought out and concluded best based on his belief system and this automatically puts him worlds ahead of those who injure for the sake of injury.  I’m looking forward to seeing how his arc progresses.

Nicholas has a sister, Kate, who is shockingly similar to him in disposition.  She is naturally sweet, terribly naive but also very aware of the people around her.  Like her brother, she is able to mimic the appearance expected of her, to a certain extent.  But unlike him, she is boxed in by the limitations of her sex in that time period and therefore must rely on the assistance of men to get what she needs in life.  Being true of heart she never purposefully manipulates, but speaks honestly (if a little dramatically) to those she encounters.  A characteristic which, needless to say, gets her into a lot of trouble.  I have to say that despite her true-of-heart nature I find her rather dull and am not terribly interested in what she’ll end up doing; especially because I imagine it’ll just be to marry a nice guy eventually.

Last but certainly not least is Mr. Newman Noggs.  Newman is Mr. Ralph Nickleby’s assistant and therefore ends up bearing a lot of bad news to his associates.  But he never hesitates to intervene when he deems such bad news reckless, deliberately hurtful, or extreme (which is often the case when it comes to Ralph's family).  Thankfully his employer seems to be oblivious to all of this meddling so he’s able to do a lot of good without consequence to his station; but he is greatly limited by that station and therefore confined to meddling rather than grand heroic acts.  He’s had the least on-screen time of any main character so far but these glimpses of him have only served to make the mystery that much more intriguing and I’d have to say I’m most interested in seeing how his story ends.

Although this is just a tiny portion of the many characters in the story it does represent a rather complete view of those with the power of discernment.  Everyone else I’ve seen to this point is rather clueless or one-dimensional.  They’re either lower class individuals foolishly worshiping, mimicking and discussing the upper class; upper class individuals defined by their possessions, mannerisms and money; ruthless villains that play like caricatures rather than people; whimsical actors defined by their craft or clueless followers with very little going on upstairs.  Yes, they serve up the majority of the humor, action and mechanisms of plot- but I doubt I’m going to remember any of them when the story is done.

I suspect I’ll meet one or two more individuals with this power as the plot progresses and they’ll have their own part to play in the overall arc.  But for now, those are the major players.  And I’ll have more to say on the writing (verbose!), the style (satire) and the settings in later posts.  In the meantime, I hope you’re all having fun with your own reads.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Everyday Miscommunications

He made a joke.

She took it personally.

She said a sarcastic remark.

He wondered what she meant by it.

He mentioned a past interaction, simply because the memory popped into his mind.

She thought about the past.

He changed the topic.

She snapped at him.

He stumbled, shocked by the impact of the sting.

She misinterpreted his silence and was sucked into the quicksand of her own doubt.

She launched a full-out attack at his perceived assault, in defense of her own shortcomings.

He shut down.

She continued her tirade.

He made an excuse, said he had to go.

She started to cry.

He said he was sorry, then added that he didn’t know what for.

She hung up.

Another stone was built into the wall between them and neither one knew why.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Upside of Death

"I think dad's a vampire."

The second he said it, he wished he could take it back.  But there it was, out there.  The words just filling the small space of the car.  He felt like a dog caught in front of his own accident waiting to have his nose rubbed in it.

But instead Jack just said "...ok?"

It was dubious but not nearly the reaction he'd been expecting.  It somehow gave him strength to push forward.  Or, more likely it was the six beers he'd consumed back at bar, but regardless he was pushing forward.

"Just hear me out.  The first thing, obviously, is the cancer.  I mean who goes from stage four unresponsive to chemo to... sprightly?"

"Sprightly?" Jack chuckled at him.

"Yeah- I mean one second he looks like death warmed over and I'm waiting for the call to let me know it's time to rent a suit and the next mom tells me he's checked himself out of the hospital.  I came home expecting to find him on his death bed, like hospice or something and he's practically..." he searched for the word in his vocabulary but found the thought becoming increasingly fuzzy as the beers reminded him that he should be significantly more relaxed than he was.  Had it been seven?

"Practically what?" Jack prodded as he turned the wheel, lazily directing the car through the darkness of the woods on route 71.

"He's weird!" Chad announced.  It hadn't been the word he was looking for, not at all, but it conveyed the sentiment well enough.  "I mean he's laughing and making jokes and he looks a thousand times better- I mean, he looks paler but paler looks way better than that yellowish tint he's had-"

"That could be the chemo," Jack said.

"Huh?" Chad stopped short, nearly tripping over his tongue as he clipped the sentence.

"The paleness," Jack said as he glanced over at him, "Chemo."

"Right but the giddiness?  The animated stories?  I saw him pinch mom's butt in the kitchen while she was chopping up vegetables, for christ sake!"

"I'm still not seeing how any of this equates with vampirism.  Joy over being alive, sure.  But blood-sucking undead?  Not so much," Jack laughed.  He seemed more confident than Chad remembered him, more self-assure somehow.  His powers of observation seemed to be fading as his body settled into a state of inebriation.  Maybe it had been eight?

"Ok- well how about this, he didn't want any diner!"

"Again, chemo."

"How the hell does a dying man have that much energy when he's not even eating?  And- you know what?  Even without the whole dying part he’s 73!  Even without the cancer he shouldn’t be so… whatever.  And it’s not just me- mom’s freaked, too!”

“Well, he’ll bring her over soon enough,” Jack said off-handedly. 

Chad’s mind caught on the statement, a knee-jerk reaction pulling him out of the haze.  “What?”

“I mean around- he’ll bring her around to his way of thinking, make her see how this is a second chance and all that.” Jack flustered. 

Chad felt clearer than he had been since he first got into the car, a sudden burst of adrenaline making him paranoid.  “You said over.”

“Chadley, you’re drunk,” Jack diagnosed, placing a hand on his shoulder.

As soon as he touched him the dashboard in front of him seemed to go lop-sided and he found himself leaning into the supportive hand as struggled to keep himself upright.  “Yeah.” Chad acknowledged.  “How the hell did that happen?”

“Um, I believe they call it beer,” Jack laughed.  It was a crisp, clear sound.  Like he was assured of his wit.  So unlike the Jack he knew.  It had been years since he’d seen him for more than a dinner at Christmas or some other occasion, but still.  This confident, charismatic Jack was not the awkward, perpetually uncomfortable boy he’d grown up with.

“You’re being paranoid.”  He heard it more than thought it but a look over at Jack let him know he hadn’t said anything.  He felt himself loosing his grasp on reality, withering.  Jack’s hand on his shoulder suddenly seemed like more a hindrance than a help.

“But where were you?  You tell me we’re going to a bar to talk and then you disappear to the bathroom for… I don’t know, a long time.  What was that all about?” he asked, trying to push his hand off his shoulder.  He felt so weak.

Jack didn’t say anything at that, just took another turn and led the car down a bumpy gravel road.

“Where’re you takin mee..?” he could barely get the words out.  There was no way he’d had enough to be this plastered.

“Ok, so let’s just say that dad is a vampire and let’s just say that mom soon will be, too- would that really be the worst thing?  I mean think about it- no more cancer, no more arthritis, no more imminent death.  They could finally take that cruise.  Really, there’s no down side,” Jack argued, his voice lilting as if he were listing the ingredients of a cake.  He put the car in park and undid his seat belt.

“No,” Chad said.  He wasn’t a thousand percent sure what he was saying it to.  But a voice in his head was screaming at him to get out of the car, get away from him.  His body wasn’t moving.  He pushed himself with his last ounce of strength and his head lolled to side. 

Jack was bent over him, his shoulders rising and falling in short little bursts of motion as he emanated sucking noises.  The fog in his head seemed to clear and even as his life started to fade he was certain of one thing.  “Vampire,” he whispered.

Jack straightened himself, wiping his mouth on his sleeve.  He smacked his lips and then bit into his own wrist.  Chad saw blood welling forth from the wound as Jack brought it towards him.

“You’re more observant I thought,” he smiled.