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We in the Drought Belt are used to the 100+ degrees now, 60 days and counting. Dead and stunted crops can be found in all directions, and the brown grass crunches like kindling when you walk on it. There is no talk of planting, only surviving. We get nervous when the south wind comes up strong. Grass and timber burned in seconds. 33 homes and a church now gone. "Maybe Katia will bring us rain," a neighbor mumbles as we watch black smoke rise. It's repeated among ourselves like a fervent prayer, unheeded.
They say that it will be cooler next week, but there is still no chance of rain. A tropical storm that is expected to hit Louisiana might bring us some moisture though it certainly won't be enough to stop the effects of the drought. Hay prices continue to climb, and the lines just to get a dozen bales of hay continue to grow at the feed stores. There's been talk of trying to get hay from the northern states even though diesel prices continue to climb. And yet the only thing the rest of the country cares about is football.
100words still isn't fixed, which is rather odd. I'm guessing that it has something to do with the long holiday weekend. I briefly entertained the thought of opening a Twitter account, but then common sense reappeared and I forgot about it. I could just write on 750words, I suppose, but I rather like having the option to write a little or a bit more. November is fast approaching, however, so I suppose I'll need to get ready for NaNoWriMo again before I know it. Are we going to go straight from summer right into winter out here? I sometimes wonder.
I'm kicking myself for not remembering to ask for vacation this week. Work tends to be hell on my birthday. I should have remembered that. I came home from work today to find that Annie had chewed apart one of my running sandals. I don't even know how she got to them since I put them on a shelf above the recycling bin. I guess it's a good thing that I ordered a new kit from Invisible Shoes earlier this week, although I had planned on having two pairs to choose from as opposed to the one. Makes running difficult.
Work wasn't quite as bad as I had anticipated, although it would appear that the only family member who remembered today is my birthday was my father. That's amazing, considering how poor his memory tends to be. My boss did call me down to the main dining area to have an ice cream cone towards the end of the shift with the patients, which is pretty cool. I topped it off with a stop at Taco Bell. Ah, the birthday dinner of champions. Okay probably not, though it certainly beats cooking. For the first time in months, it's 75 degrees.
The closest I have come to getting a birthday present this year came from an unlikely source. Annie decided to take off for the neighbor's place down the road this morning. I lost track of her for a few minutes until she suddenly reappeared in the eastern pasture. She sprinted towards me with something in her mouth that I could not identify. I could only see that it had several strips of bright cloth. When she finally arrived at the front door, I could see that it was a toddler's sandal.
At least she didn't actually bring me the kid.
I Am Not A Runner
by A Corgi
I know you think it would be fun to frolic in a cow field and see if I could still give chase. Your human mind still lacks knowledge about my ways. My bursts of energy were greatest years ago; to this day you recall the exploits of my youth the best. There is nothing wrong with me, one who feels it necessary to nap 18 hours a day, with a few short breaks so I might complain at the parrot, the school bus, and the trash truck for darkening my calm. I. Am. Old.
The hallucinations have come early tonight. Steadying limbs over a flexball occurs with hands in uneven positions. The legs try to rest on the ball when I close my eyes and see Egyptian columns rise on my right, and bright white sand is strewn across my short dark carpet. I look up to see rows of bookshelves become laden with sand and scrolls. Is taking a sedative before circuit training ever supposed to be like this? I rise to stand and float in half-steps to the nearest chair as the columns crumble and the sand falls beneath carpet.
What should you say when your neighbor confronts you with the following question: "Did you know your white dog keeps stealing from my yard?"
Should I answer, "You call it stealing. We prefer to think of it as part of the neighborhood beautification effort."
Or: "I'm sorry. I should go put quaaludes in the dog's drinking water before I forget."
Perhaps I should ask her if she wants her own big fluffy white puppy. Maybe she won't think of it as making off with ill-gotten goods if she keeps the dog who keeps stealing and eating everything in sight.
It's been years since I have competed in running at any distance. Five, to be exact. 'I don't know why or how that happened,' as I reach down to tie my new running sandal. Back then, I thought I would have already competed in a 100 mile ultramarathon at long last, or at least a 24 hour race. Funny how time gets away from you if you let it.
The race director clearly hasn't managed a 5K before. She moved the starting line an hour ago and forgot to announce it, and she's using a few iPhones to time us.
I stood in a parking lot before the sun ever bothered to rise, shivering and wondering where the hell the event staff were. Other runners stood around wondering too, since there were no lights on or signs anywhere. With 20 or so minutes left to go until the race was supposed to start, we learned from the girls' cross country coach announced that the race organizer and support staff were at a local park downtown. We scrambled to our cars to get to the new starting line. I decided that this was the least-organized race I have ever seen.
Having blown the warm-up by driving to the start (and having to re-register because the staff lost my registration form), I stood with other runners around what we thought was the starting line... until a volunteer came along and directed us to the real one. If you ever ask a cop if he knows the race route and his answer is a simple shrug, followed by "I'm following you guys!" then the only thing left to do is find a runner who looks faster than you, keep them in your sights and hope they don't get lost.
The only upside to a race starting off like this is that there is no time to stand around and be nervous. You just wait for the gun to go off (or the whistle to sound) and away you go. I picked my gazelle and kept him in my sights as we went up a hill. "Good way to start off a damn race," I would have said if I had been awake enough. Since it was a loop course, however, I knew that the finish line had to be downhill-- or so I hoped as we continued on.
I have come to realize that I live with two very different dogs. Mischief, despite his name, is really only guilty of fairly minor offenses committed mostly in his youth (stealing chili, munching a webcam, shredding a paper towel, having some margarita, that sort of thing). Annie, on the other hand, is the canine equivalent of a criminal mastermind- or at least an aspiring one. Vandalism, reckless behavior, trespassing, disturbing the peace, and theft. Do they have a detention center for delinquent pups out there somewhere? I'm fairly certain that even Cesar Millan would be of no help to us.
"How much longer do we have to wait?" I asked Mr. Otteridge.
He clicked his molars as he shuffled through some yellowed parchment. "Let's see," he wheezed. "The current owner seems to be in good health overall, light smoker..." His voice trailed off as he punched a few numbers on an old calculator. "Fifteen more years, at this rate." He looked up and responded to my scowl with, "I'm sorry, but Ol' Mortimer can't be rushed on this sort of thing."
Tess leaned forward and asked, "But the house *will* be ours after that time, yes?"
Mr. Otteridge nodded.
"Fifteen years," Tess murmured. "It just doesn't seem right. We barely had it for ten as it was. And now... we have to share it with *her*."
Mr. Ottinger nodded sympathetically and coughed once. "There are reports that the economy could take another tumble in the next few months, but beyond that... I'm very sorry. Now if you'll excuse me, I have another client to attend do who is dealing with a terrible medium." With that, he vanished.
It's hard enough sharing a house with one person. It's harder still to do so with someone who's still among the living.
"So, what's there to do around here?" I asked an old Indian after we'd been given a tour of Grayland Estates.
"I'd say play poker and pop up once in a while to scare the living, but really, the one thing I learned is this: don't let yourself fall into a routine. You see those ghosts on TV, the ones who kept doing the same things over and over again?"
I nodded. Or I tried to. My neck was still broken out here in the Beyond.
"Those are the ones who were too scared to let go. Now they're stuck."
I decided that the rules of the Beyond were a lot like those among the living. Obvious exceptions abound of course. But the main one was not to get attached to anything; you definitely couldn't take anything with you once you reached your end. Pity. I liked the old cat.
Tess still worried about the house. Could she get stuck here? I thought about contacting Mr. Ottinger about that, or rather I had planned to until I saw the new tenant applying makeup in the bathroom mirror. I got a little more nervous with each application of blush and powder.
I'm wondering about Netflix CEO's sanity after finding out that they are splitting into two services, and one of them has a very dumb name. "Quikster?" What focus group told them that was a good idea? Heck, they couldn't even spell it correctly.
I'm currently waiting for surprise guests to arrive. Y'know, the kind who tell you they are spending the night mere hours before they show. I'm sure Annie will be full of herself when they arrive about thirty minutes from now. In fact, I can virtually guarantee it considering how she is now constantly trying to trash the house.
"We going for a run yet?"
"'We?' You seem to think that the leash is a chew toy and squirrels are cause for 100 yard dashes."
"But they *are*! Besides, you're slow."
"I run ultras."
"'Cause you're slow."
"If I take you along, you aren't allowed to run onto the neighbors' yards. Even if there are squirrels taunting us with their spastic tails."
"You're never any fun."
"Yeah, I've heard that before."
"Slow *and* boring. I wonder why I put up with you."
"Because I feed you."
"I can feed myself!"
"Dead skunks don't count."
"Does my Brittany have an 'off' button?"
Dear Querant: I do not know the circumstances in which you have found your Brittany, but in all likelihood your dog does not have one. This means that you, too, will get to experience many more months (if not years) of your damn- I mean precious angel- counter surfing for pizza, landscaping your entire neighborhood, chewing holes in literally anything (s)he can get his/her jaws around, inspecting contents of the garbage, and bringing out your undergarments for your guests' amusement.
That said, if you find said button, PLEASE let us know!
It's a hell of a night to be without the sedatives. Maybe a shower will help me sleep, but I doubt it. How is it that somebody can run and dance for nearly two hours (in addition to everything else I do) still be so damn wide awake? I miss being a teenager for one very simple reason: I knew how to sleep, goddammit. I wonder sometimes if the puppy rubs off on me more than I am aware. I have seen her snore away for 45 minutes after a run and just get up ready to go again.
New girl. New venue. New city. The introductions make me feel like we're back in the locker room in high school. "Up next is the new girl, Caustic Agent." What isn't said is what I can almost hear anyway. "She doesn't look like much." "I doubt she's fast." "Bet she's already had her nose broken before." I'm sure at least some of it's true, but my ability to take a pounding and give a few right back can't be measured in here. And yet that's all we do, we make assessments on strangers and wonder why we stand at impasse.
I'm trying to hold it together. I know I shouldn't be swerving while I am driving. So. Damn. Tired. I can do this. I can drive while I am awake. I can get to work alive. Fuck it. I want to sleep by the side of the road. Eyes close, open again and the trucks in front of me blur in small squares of red as dawn grows around me. I wish I could levitate, become transparent. Then I could slide through the ether and not be confined to a little green metal box. I could leave the shell behind.
The lesions sometimes rupture and burst, causing light yellow pus to form in rivulets which run down my legs. I try to clean it up with paper towels, which only stings more. I can't escape this. I think back to the myriad drugs that the specialist wanted me to go on and know none of them would make me feel better. Hell, I'd probably feel worse and I am barely functioning right now. Two cold showers a day, just so the needles of water can splash the skin and bring both relief and yet more pain, numbing pain, briefest relief.
The puppy comes to me for comfort and reassurance, even pressing her weight against my shins. I keep telling her that she's too close, I can't handle the pressure, and I feel like an asshole for doing it too. How could she understand what this illness is doing to my body? She likely only smells the swollen, angry flesh on my limbs and that it as put me in a hell of a mood. Still, in her calmer moments, stroking her forehead and rubbing her belly calms me, it lets me forget about the war being raged beneath my skin.
I see silver wheels spinning in my head, bits of cogs attached to brass that spin. Walls behind them spin slowly toward another, then collide, and the ghosts of exes walk between then, glaring at me and my obvious faults. A wall grinds slowly towards the right, and reveals a winter scene I wish I could join, though I expect I would know the ghost standing there, waiting in the shadow of a swiftly-moving wheel. I try to turn my head to the left, and see large eyes of owls turn on me in scorn. I yearn for sleep.
The screaming that began as a dull red roar in the cracks and valleys in my skin shifted and grew louder, causing pathways along each nerve pathway to become hot and burn intensely. One might call it dignity, others pride, that I try to conceal the outcome of this war by the use of strategically placed clothes. I briefly considered putting bandages over them, but I did not want to draw still more attention to my enemies, my unwanted guests. For one who thought nothing of being seen with green hair, I find it strange that I hide my skin.
It's been a calmer day. Somewhat. I want to run, to take my mind off of the body, but some of the lesions on my legs have become large, black and purple. Since I appear to be dealing with a hostile company of flesh-eating bacteria to passing strangers, it's better to be shut in. At least until it comes time to get the puppy, who is determined to stalk the resident coyote. I keep telling her that this is a bad idea, so I had to stumble in the wet grass barefoot after her, seeing two Annies the whole way.
The captain found what he was looking for on the dock at the southern end of the wharf. He raised his hand in greeting. The wraith-like creature mumbled in reply. "We need safe passage to the Seychelles," he said abruptly. "With about three minutes to spare."
The nyardi's face shifted. "I am not sure that is possible," it finally said. "My people have been dying. Something blocks our passage in the slipstreams. I am now the oldest of my clan, and I manage arrivals any better than mere seconds before the events occur."
He nodded. "Do your best."
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