To Death

At a certain indefinite point, I became, and remain, wary whenever someone invokes someone else’s name in relation to my memory of that person:

“Do you remember X?”

Yes, or no. Maybe?

“They died.”

This keeps happening: I learned my mother’s cousin died this way. I learned a friend died this way. I learned two former co-workers died this way. And another friend; they died this way.

One way or another, they died this way:

“Do you remember X?”

“They died.”

I learned a stranger’s friend died this way while she was speaking to another friend as we all rode the streetcar together:

“Do you remember X?”

Yes (in this case, yes).

“They died.”

I say wary. Wary, yes, but not offended, or indignant, or upset. Just primed now, for the inevitable.

***

There are, I suppose, other ways to learn that someone’s died, but they seem to be lacking in conviction (if not intentionality):

I have some terrible news. There’s something I need to tell you. This isn’t going to be easy, but…

Maybe not conviction, then, but something closer to certitude, declaration…substantiation. Status. All of these things and not one of them.

They died.

Alternatively:

They’ve passed. They are no longer with us. They’ve been called home.

Again seems lacking; again seems beside the point.

(Are you sure?)

(“Home.” There’s that word again. Home.)

They died.

If there’s a better way to say it, I’ve not heard it.

 

 

 

 

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Dog Days

Louis recently had 14 teeth taken out in a procedure that quickly became a marathon operation, complete with dramatic skips and beats in which he, in his fright and confusion and special doggy frustration, tried to fight his way out; in which his breathing became abnormal (though it stabilized at just the right critical point for the work to continue); in which his teeth, while seemingly normal from the outside (and thus, primed primarily for a cleaning) were actually abhorrently rotten on the inside (hence the transformation of his dental work from standard to complex to troublesome), and in which the resultant financial cost went from the low $$ to the high $$$.

Yet, it was nothing, this being his 4th major procedure (2 back surgeries for herniated discs; 1 for a snapped ligament) in his 14 long years of doggy life. He’s since recovered, as he has 3 times before. He acts as if nothing had happened, though there is less and less of him for anything to happen to as time goes by.

Dog Days

The absurdity of this dog. The absurdity of it all – all of it, our life together.

In a 1972 letter to Jane Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut mediates on the nature of death, having perused the copy of Markings, Dag Hammarskjöld’s memoir, that Jane has sent him:

“I open it at random, and I find a lot about dying meaningfully, and about sacrifice and pain and mysterious destinies…Are you really tuned in to this sort of stuff? Should I be? Well – I’ll try, but it’s not my style. I, for one, am glad I didn’t die in Africa, although that opportunity was mine. I still believe that a dog is going to kill me, and it scares me – and it pisses me off” (2012: 192).

There are fates worse than death, just as there are a million ways to die. Vonnegut’s is the closest that comes to mind as being, if not right, if not justified, if not even true in its most tangible sense, than fair.

Harsh, but fair. More than fair.

This dog is going to kill me.

 

 

________________________________________________

Vonnegut, Kurt. (2011). Letters, ed. Dan Wakefield. Delacorte Press: New York.

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Books, Death, Dogs, Health, Pets, Philosophy, Relationships

Open Secrets, Vol. 8

– Cheese it (every time)!

– Actually, that is exactly who you care.

– Hot Take vs. Cold Open.

– Just bury it in the news cycle.

– The lesser of two evils is only the devil you know.

Kill it with: kindness, love, fire.

– Bad News vs. The Worst News.

– Few or not many makes little difference.

Hard times: ahead, behind us, now.

– Found Objects vs. Lost Causes.

– Butter makes it better; extra butter makes it extra butter.

– Mild Ambitions vs. Wild Aspirations.

– Your kids; my dog.

– Miserable Truths vs. Beautiful Lies.

Better to be: interesting(?), loved(?), present(?).

– Leader but not boss.

– Nice vs. Nice Enough.

– Skin deep is still just a little bit deep.

– Eat your cake, and have it too.

 

 

 

 

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Everyday Decisions

There’s an election on now in Ontario.

Or there was (by the time you read this the election will have occurred and outcome decided).

The choices, such as they are (or were):

  1. Person who’s not been very much liked for quite a while and now, it seems, has lost the ability to inspire much trust, or failing that, much faith in their leadership prowess and (therefore) their party’s efficacy;
  2. Person who has ridden the pony express to political provincial power via an all too familiar path of self-aggrandizement on behalf of an amorphous and ill-defined “people,” whose uncouth charisma in these lacklustre times (a heady mix of perceived business acumen, feigned compassion and calculated aggression) seems very much to compensate for their lack of a party platform and experience as leader of anything;
  3. Person who’s been a presence in Ontario politics for a good while, a good long while, but who has always seemed to come off more as an acquaintance seen from across a crowded room rather than a viable candidate for premier, whose party gives off the impression of the last person standing after cooler heads have prevailed, good intentions be damned.

Not exactly what you would call a bumper crop of candidates. Not all that much to fill the streets or scream from hilltops. A lot to lose, perhaps, but not all that much to gain. It reminds me of something…

Wag the dog, but if a dog chases its tail for long enough, will it die of exhaustion?

What’s inevitable and what just isn’t?

There will be no winner, not after the votes are tallied and the results declared. There are no winners here, no sense of solid victory or sound accomplishment. Simply the sense of having lost a little less than what could have been, democracy, in the end, having been processed, one way or another.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Politics, Ritual, Routines, THE FUTURE, THE PAST

Plant Life of Varied Assorted Types

So far, in my garden, I have planted a tomato plant, a jalapeño plant, a butternut squash plant and two mystery plants I got from the store: they were not labelled, and I didn’t ask what they were because it didn’t seem to be anybody’s job to tell me.

The store isn’t one where you’d expect plants (to be there for sale), a varied assortment of which were plopped down by an unused register. The register seemed not to be being used so that a small collection of mystery plants (a varied assortment of which) could be plopped down by it.

Red price tags glared from the plants: $1.99 they flashed.

The mystery plants varied, from ones with board, squash-like leaves to ones with pointed bits and ends to ones that were little more than scraggily vines. Some looked edible, others did not, a few…who knew? Probably.

It wasn’t like it was anybody’s job to tell anyone else, including me. That’s how it is with plant life of varied assorted types sold in a store not specifically geared to selling plants.

What more can you possibly ask for?

I bought the plants with the board, squash-like leaves: 2 @ $1.99 (plus tax). They are very green, very strong, likely edible.

Feels like a bargain. Feels like the price of admission, willingly paid. How often does that happen?

The cashier placed the plants in a see-through plastic bag and gently handed them to me.

That, too, was not unexpected.

 

 

 

 

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Direct Quotes, 2

Ophthalmologist Opinion: “There are more lopsided people than symmetrical.”

Direct From the Kitchen: “Such a meaty concoction!”

The Morning After: “Extra low we are today.”

Wardrobe Malfunction: “There are not enough butt pockets.”

Parenting Sage: “Newborns can’t make this smell.”

Back in the Day: “Also we used to say ‘brutal’ to mean ‘cool.’”

Ominous: “You’ll regret that choice when white comes into fashion again.”

True Compliment: “Omggg what a lil poot!”

 

 

 

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Filed under Body, Fashion, Food, Health, People, THE PAST, Words

Experiments On Reality, 1.0.

Fantasies are experiments on reality. One of my running fantasies is one in which I have to run. Get away. Go. Find a safe or better place.

The jig is up!

They are coming. Finally!

(It was only a matter of time.)

“Who are they?” Stephen often asks. As if it matters!

(It doesn’t matter.)

It’s they. Them. The ubiquitous They. What more can or needs to be said?

I think about Essun from Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. I think of Mulan, Imperator Furiosa, Stray Cat Rock‘s Mako, and Louise Belcher. People who ran, when they had to, who would not be caught up in fates not of their choosing. People who were ready, even if it’s not what they wanted. People who have had enough, already.

Who wants to be chased? It’s not about the chase. It’s about the ability, the capacity to run, to deal. The wherewithal to have runny-sacks; maps, fake IDs, loose cash. A stolen War Rig. Your father’s sword. Cocktails (molotov)! All of it at the ready, or ready for the taking. It’s in the daring, or the will. The need.

(I will neither confirm nor deny the existence of a bindle of likewise necessities somewhere on the premises – cell phone, wallet, keys will not suffice.)

If and when They come, I want to be ready. They are not going to get me. Or at least, I won’t make it easy.

More: one way or another, they will be sorry they tried. They will regret what they started. No matter the outcome.

Now.

How’s that for fantasy?

 

 

________________________________________________

Jemisin, N.K. (2015). The Fifth Season. Orbit: United Kingdom.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Books, Change, Characters, People, Plans, Routines, THE FUTURE, THE PAST

Open Secrets, Vol. 7

– Certitude is not security.

Gross: incompetence, negligence, bathrooms.

– Bragging = largely confessional.

– They’ve already done it.

Funny: business, ha-ha, that.

– Muzak vs. NOTHING

– It can still be new to you.

Deceptively: simple, complicated, boring.

– Everything is inevitable.

– Security vs. Safety.

– I’m with you.

– Failure is an option when it’s an option.

– NOSTALGIA est. 30 years ago today.

The greatest thing: under the sun, since sliced bread, you’ll never see.

– Jesus flipped the table.

– They vs. Them.

– The ubiquitous “They.”

 

 

 

 

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Fish Story

1. Storm Waters

The pond was located not too far from my cousin’s house, just behind the park, close (but not too close) to the highway.

“We’re going fishing,” she said, bucket and net in hand. She was a year older than me and, therefore, wiser by ages. I was in charge of the fish food: a full canister of blue and yellow and pink flakes that we had procured from her parents’ vast inventory.

Hers was a family of fish breeders. Her parents, my aunt and uncle, breed and raised fish and showed them competitively, sold the rest. Not a profession, just a hobby. But one they took very, very, ever-so seriously.

The storm pond water was murky and littered with patches of thick-grown, brown flecked green scum that rode the motion of the overflow as the pond lapped at our flip-flops.

“Ready?” She filled the bucket with some of the water, careful not to collect too much of the scum. Then she opened the canister, popping the foil seal just so (releasing its freshness), and held the net at the ready. “Now!”

We tossed handfuls of the fish flakes onto the water’s surface, rich fragrant snowflakes among the assorted waste of the storm waters.

“Wait.”

It didn’t take long. One by one and then in groups and then in droves came the fish. Fish of all shapes and colours – anything, really, that you could imagine from your local pet store. Murky water turned a riot of gold, white, red, black mixed with blue, yellow, pink. Tails swished, fins broke the filmy surface, bodies churned the murk it into a frothy mess from which bulging, unblinking eyes glared at us like spotlights. Open mouths; so many open, toothless mouths.

Poor, abandoned creatures. Tossed away (discarded, dumped, flushed) by people who I imagine had once been enamoured by their charms, by the prettiness of their delightful hues, clever contours and cute underwater antics, which were now all rendered grotesque. Life in the storm waters had caused the fish to change, to grow to monstrous sizes and into unseemly proportions. Into ungainly, ugly masses; living breathing tumours. Absolute freaks among freaks.

“When we have enough, we can go home,” my cousin said matter-of-factly. With practiced strokes she began netting the fish, the weight of them bending the pole into a most unnatural angle.

I never asked her how much was enough. It would not have been the proper question to ask, at that time. It was a lot.

And I never asked what the fish were for, what she intended to do with them.

 

2. Over Turned Bucket

Here, catfish aren’t exactly good eating, and I remember my dad holding a particular distain for the uncouth creatures – all eyes and slick mottled skin and barbs you could not convince him weren’t somehow dangerous. But luck is a fickle thing: we caught so many fish that day, and all of them catfish. Perhaps he felt that he needed to salvage the day somehow, redeem ourselves as best we could. In perhaps the only way we could.

The garage was the only place my dad was allowed to clean and prepare the fish we caught. Mom, ever fearsome, made sure of that, and it’s hard to blame her. The stink of fresh water fish, no matter how freshly caught, no matter how much my dad insisted he’d get it all, had a way of lingering long past due.

The preparing of the fish was always a solemn affair. Dad talked little as he worked, and we either watched him or we didn’t. Talk little, work fast, that’s all that mattered. Be there with him or no, dad would do the work regardless.

I crept into the garage, careful not to make unnecessary noise. Dad was at the worktable, effortlessly sliding a big knife lengthwise through the body of a particularly girthy catfish. Its head was missing, its fins and tail soon to follow.

“Don’t get too close to the knife,” he said, not bothering to take his eyes off the fish. “Move.”

I did as told, accidentally knocking over the metal bucket I missed seeing on my way in. It hit the concrete floor with a soft bang, overturning its burden so that it was undeniable. There was no looking away from them.

The heads. That’s where dad put them. The squirming, gasping, wide-eyed heads. The twitched, they spasmed, they stared right through me as they whispered unheard words with wet fish lips. Curses, for all I know. Wicked incantations, gulping greedily at the air, seeking purchase.

One, two, three…five, seven, eight. All the fish we had caught that day, though even now I could swear to you that there were so many more than that, fish be dammed.

(Later I’d learn that it was an automatic nervous/muscular response, the fact of the heads moving after decapitation).

But tell that to the child who for all I know is still there, counting heads, unable to do much else. Unable to be of much use to anyone.

 

3. The Osprey

Years later. New house, new backyard patio. A birthday BBQ featuring my dad’s famous pork chops, chicken and quail. A most sumptuous repast.

My cousin wasn’t there. We are, for all intents and purposes, estranged.

So I wasn’t thinking of her as I let my head fall back on the cushion of my chair and gazed at the impossibly blue sky.

It had been years since I’ve gone fishing with my dad. But I wasn’t thinking about that either.

I wasn’t expecting to see the bird or much, really, of anything.

Osprey are fishers. People at the dog park near the river sometimes freak out, seeing an osprey hovering above them and, more to the point, their small dogs. There is a part of me that wants to tell them not to worry, to reassure them that everything is, in fact, OK: this particular bird of prey will do no harm to them or, more to the point, their dogs. But then I wonder how much good it will do: people also do so love drama and the dog park, indeed, is a rather sleepy one.

The osprey that came into view above my head as I sat in my chair on my parents’ patio during my dad’s birthday BBQ flew low, struggling to keep hold of its massive catch.

The fish held in its talons was easily bigger than the bird by half. But then, maybe I’m exaggerating, for dramatic effect. This much is true: the poor thing gleamed gold-orange, gold-orange-gold, huge scales protruding off its belly, which was so engorged it seemed likely to explode in the heat of the sun as the fish twitched and spasmed, struggling to free itself.

Of course, we laughed: some ridiculous person in my parents’ ridiculous neighbourhood had lost their ridiculous fish from their ridiculous (that is to say, exquisitely landscaped) backyard pool.

But now I find myself thinking of my cousin and of the storm waters and wondering what, exactly, the osprey had caught, and where, and also what my dad would have done if the bird had dropped the fish in the middle of his BBQ.

 

 

 

 

 

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Open Secrets, Vol. 6

– Fallow’s not all bad.

– No contest.

– Hell vs. Fresh Hell.

– It’s, like, a metaphor.

– Try counterclockwise first.

Fancy: extra, too, that.

– Glee is hard.

– Tough vs. Tough Enough.

– Guilt gawks.

THE WRIT HAS DROPPED.

Waterfalls: Niagara, Kentucky, don’t go chasing.

– Greatly Offended vs. Offended Greatly.

– Fate is what happened after the fact.

– Interchangeable is often just easier.

– Balding sometimes worse than bald.

– No, contest.

 

 

 

 

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