Wanting to Kill

reddog This is my mother. I recently visited her in the nursing home that has taken charge of her. We went to buy her some clothes, and my uncle found this toy dog to give her. She loved it. Talked of nothing else for an hour. Look at the teeth, she said. See the teeth? This dog has great teeth. Have you seen this dog’s teeth? Look at these teeth.

My mother is eighty. She has alcoholic dementia.

She was a genius, once. Literally, over the top brilliant. She made it hard to learn anything from anybody but her. Now look. Nothing much left to learn from her, I think. She’s done. She’s very much done. And it’s such a shame. Continue reading

Look! It’s a Begonia!

This is an experimental post of sorts. Having nothing in particular to say, I am blogging about one of my plants. This is an Angel Wing Begonia. I have a lot of plants, and if this goes over well, I may post future plant articles.

Angel Wing Begonias are striking to look at and very easy to grow. I never intended to have one, but there you go. Sometimes these things just happen.

angelwing2A woman I worked with said she had this really pretty plant and offered me cuttings. She didn’t know what kind of plant it was. Soon enough she comes with a few little slips of Angel Wing. I stuck them in a pot and put them in my kitchen window. That was then, you know. Back when it was three inches tall. But Angel Wing is a Cane Begonia, and as you may have guessed, it is no longer three inches tall. It outgrew that little spot in about two weeks. I’ve shifted it from place to place since then, trying to find a good spot. And all the time, it grows and grows. It was nearing six feet high last year before I cut it back. I took the cuttings and gave them to a woman who blogs about plants here in town. (While I waited for her to arrive at the coffee shop, people mobbed me with questions about the cuttings. Quite a conversation starter; who knew?) Continue reading

Some Things

flagThere are some people one street over with a flagpole in their yard. When the war on terror began, they put the flag at half-mast.

I drive past their house very often, and at first I thought that was quaint. The flag was quaint, having it at half-mast for wartime, that was quaint. The little kids playing catch under it, so quaint. I wondered what the kids thought of that, the flag being so much closer than usual. I wondered what their parents had told them about the reasons for it. I wondered if they had brothers or uncles in the service. That was back in the day, you know. That was 2001. Continue reading

The Year of Cupcakes

cupcakeWhen I was younger, I made resolutions like the rest. Lose weight. Don’t bite my nails. Improve my posture. Quit smoking. That kind. And I’d be planning it a month or more ahead of time. So the net result was an increase in the behavior for two months, because I was about to quit, then quitting for a few days…and then going right back to normal. I’m going to quit smoking soon anyway, so I can smoke more now. I’m going to start doing situps next month, so it’s fine if I lie around doing nothing this week. Yeah? And then you try and fail and your year is off to the same old start. Damn, fucked it up again. Maybe next year. Continue reading

That Was Then

She opened the curtains and looked out. No snow.

“No snow, Betty. Too bad, eh? Well. Too bad for everyone else. I guess good for you, though.” There was no reply, and Mary went on. “Good, right? You don’t want snow. You want some breakfast?”

Betty only turned her head.

“Oh, come now. It’s Christmas, right? Christmas! What shall we have? I think I’ll make some eggs, and some bacon. You like eggs. Right?”

Still no response. Mary moved around the bedroom, tucking hair into barrettes, feet into socks, shirt into pants. “These pants. Dammit, Betty. Look at these. I’ll have to change. Something.” Distracted now, wiping the pants, and knowing Betty wouldn’t answer. “I can’t go out like this, can I?” Continue reading

Getting Rid of the Elephant

I’m writing a book. That’s nothing new, really. But I’ve been struggling with it. I have this scene I was trying to get to, a scene I had envisioned months ago. I built steps to get to this scene, I planned it out. I put in references ten chapters ago that would become relevant here in this scene. I looked forward to getting there. I finished the last two chapters in a bit of a hurry, saying “Oh, I’ll go flesh that out later, I need to get to that scene!” I finally sat down a few days ago to write it…

And it didn’t work. I mean, at first I thought it was maybe just a little tweak I needed. I sat back and thought about it. I talked it over with some people. I gave up for the day, and right before I went to bed I got an inspiration and scrawled a bunch of notes. Went to bed thinking: ok, relief. It works now. Tomorrow, I can write it that way.

But I woke up at 2am, knowing better. It still didn’t work. I lay there for hours, rotating it in my head. He has to get there… she has to say this… he can’t do that… so he does this… no, that means… no. No, no. nonono… And before too long I was pretty upset. This wasn’t working in a lightweight, gee I need to tweak this a little way, but in a great big, ohmygodthisdoesn’tworkwhatthefuckwasIthinking sort of way.

So then it was morning and time to get up. I headed to work. But I was distracted by this, mulling, chewing on it like an old bone. All day. I get to work and am faced with a heap of fabric. A previous effort has fallen down, literally, onto the floor. And now, we have the elephant to consider again.

Photo by ArranET

Photo by ArranET

See, my boss is redecorating a room in her house. We’ve been working on it for some weeks now. Last week we bought fabric to hang on a wall. She had a batik elephant (beautiful thing) hanging there on the near wall, and we struggled to find things that went with the room, the situation… and this elephant. Not that fabric, clashes with the elephant. No, that goes with the elephant but not with anything else. This goes with the elephant if we get rid of those pillows. These go with the elephant if we remove this table. It went on and on. Last week, we thought we had it licked. Yesterday morning, not so much. On top of my failed writing, it was really wearing on me. Simple creativity is lost and lost. I am old and cannot function. Did I think I could select fabrics?

Did I really think I could write a book?

And then she says to me… it’s the elephant.

I nodded, but didn’t hear, worrying. She said it again: It’s the elephant. That’s the problem.

The elephant.

She was right, too. There was no reason not to move it. The moment we knew it, we knew it completely; we moved the elephant to another room and opened the world up for this wall. Much easier. Much, much better. And I stood there, thinking… duh.

Of course I can write this book. Of course I can. It’s not the book that’s stopping me. It’s the damned elephant.

So tomorrow, I’m going to delete my failed effort on this scene and move on to the next one. I am sure it will go much more easily now.

God, I hope so.



Sizing It Up

I just bought a watermelon. I could barely lift it.

They’re breeding everything for size anymore. Whatever size it is usually, that’s no good. If it’s usually small, bigger is better. If large is the norm, then the goal is smaller. Grapes the size of strawberries. Strawberries the size of apples. Apples the size of grapefruits. Horses the size of dogs. Dogs the size of kittens. Cats the size of… well, sort of large cats. They haven’t really gotten around to sizing cats much yet, I guess. Maybe cats the size of goats would be considmelonered dangerous. Maybe they’ll eventually make cats the size of mice. Then we’ll see who catches whom. Until they make the mice the size of lentils. They can do it, I know they can.

None of the improved fruits taste like much. They’ve bred all the flavor right out of them. But the one that’s really getting me down is the ghastly thing they are calling watermelon lately: Tiny “personal” watermelons that have no seeds and no flavor. Finding a normal, large (30lb) plain old-fashioned watermelon chock full of seeds is a rarity. Something I never thought I’d have to worry about: whether fruit would continue to be delicious.

I just bought a watermelon. I could barely lift it.

That made me absurdly happy.

Wanting Shrimp

So I wanted shrimp. Call me crazy, right? I had a craving for two weeks. Shrimp, shrimp, shrimp. But getting shrimp is problematic for me.

Orange Coconut ShrimpI’m afraid of the lady at the grocery store. Which lady? Well, I’m afraid of all of them. Walking up to the butcher counter and asking for a dozen shrimp… well. It just doesn’t happen often.

I went last week and saw the shrimp on sale. I walked past the counter seven times, eyeing it. But when someone asked how they could help, I shook my head and sprinted away.

Yesterday, I vowed it would be different. It almost wasn’t. I went by the counter six times, saw the lady there that I fear the most of all of them, and I gave up. I went to the produce department and looked at the plants for a while. I cried some. And then I drew a deep breath and went back.

I went back! And when the most-feared butcher lady asked me, “Whaddayaneed?” I closed my eyes, pointed and said in a near-whisper, “Can I get twelve of these?”

I almost passed out, and I had tears in my eyes…but I got the shrimp!

I dipped them in flour and egg and then coated them with coconut and deep fried them. For dipping sauce, I heated a half cup of orange marmalade with four tablespoons of Thai hot chili sauce.

Everyone at the store thinks I’m a lunatic, I’m sure. I cried all the way home.

But man… they were delicious.

Albuquerque Wildlife

Wildlife (and not so wild) in the Rio Grande Valley

Good morning. While Cass is busy writing, I thought I would post some pictures of the area in which we live. New Mexico is not all desert you know.

Susan Finlay Interview

Interview — Susan Finlay

Susan FinlayWhen did you decide to become a writer?

The stories have always swirled around in my head, even when I was a little girl. In school, English (reading, spelling, etc.) was always my best subject, too, so it would have been natural for me to start writing when I was young. But creative writing wasn’t taught in my schools and wasn’t encouraged. Instead, my creativity came out in artwork—mainly pencil drawings of people–and in playing dress-up and make-believe with friends.

Continue reading