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Wednesday, July 28, 2010 4 comments

Showers of Projects

Things happen on their own time at FAR Manor, even maintenance projects. I have to gather my motivation, gather tools and materials, then find time to actually get the work done. So it is with the hole above the shower.

When we last left this particular project, it was January and DoubleRed had given me the key to making the water leak go away. Mrs. Fetched had carefully stowed away the insulation pulled out of the ceiling (i.e. tossed in the garage where it wouldn’t be bothered), so it was just a matter of getting a piece of sheetrock and putting it in the hole. The sheetrock came home about a month ago, and it was a couple of weeks waiting for Mrs. Fetched to retrieve the utility knife that we usually keep here but was (of course) at the chicken houses.

Hole above showerIt would have been nice to just cut a piece of sheetrock and patch it in, but as you can see there's too much mold and water stain to make that a reasonable fix. Fortunately, the boundary is not too far beyond the hole (going toward the left), but goes all the way across the ceiling the other way (about 7 feet).

Now comes the very best part of any of these projects: the part where I get to take implements of destruction to FAR Manor, and even rip out chunks of it with my bare hands. First, the crown molding comes out. Where I couldn’t get the pry bar under it, I just rammed it through the ceiling then pulled it down.

Next step, the grungy sheetrock itself. By taking some care with my happy trashing, I was able to not rip out any hunks of the sheetrock that shouldn’t get ripped. I used the utility knife to finish things off along the edge. Here’s what I ended up with:

widened hole

I measured the hole, measured it again, sketched out the dimensions on the back of an old business card, measured everything again and made sure I didn’t have it backwards. With everything in hand, I took a chalk line and tape measure and cut the replacement piece. Then I went back inside, stuffed the insulation back into the ceiling, and chiseled off the glue on the rafters that the original builders used to hold up the sheetrock while nailing it into place.

Sheetrock in placeI decided the glue was a good idea, and Mrs. Fetched had a $25 gift card from Home Despot, so we went to pick up that and a few other things.

Of course, I had to check the fit before gluing anything. Amazingly, I only had to make a 1/8" cut along the shortest edge to make it fit! Knowing it was going to work, I applied the glue, slapped the sheetrock up, and nailed it into place.

There was more of a gap above the door than I would have liked, but I didn’t realize that wall bowed out just a little bit. Oh well, I’ll just putty it up and the crown molding will cover it. I’ll have to put a thin coat of plaster over the replacement sheetrock, as it’s not quite as thick as the original piece. Big deal.

Wallpaper partly removedOf course, projects at FAR Manor never stop at just one thing. Since the wallpaper was peeling, Mrs. Fetched decided we should replace it while we already had the shower room half-shredded, and Daughter Dearest took care of business a few days before I attacked the ceiling. Of course, there was a second layer of wallpaper underneath, and (as you can see) it’s peeling too. We’ll have to tackle that next. Let’s hope it’s soon…

Monday, July 26, 2010 3 comments

White Pickups, Episode 45


Thursday, October 20, 2011

The kids talked among themselves, sitting on the front porch of an empty house, waiting for Jason to arrive. They kept their voices low so the others couldn’t hear.

“So Tim’s been staying over since Tuesday,” Ashley said. “I guess he’s gonna be my new dad.”

“Wow, you’re lucky,” Ben said. “You’ll have a mom and a dad. Tina’s nice, so’s Kelly, but…” he shrugged.

“You think they’re doin’ it?” Sheldon asked, smirking. Lily blushed and tittered, Ben and Caitlin snickered.

“Yeah,” Ashley said, rolling her eyes. “They keep it quiet, but sometimes you can hear ’em.”

“That’s why Jennifer moved us out of #107,” Caitlin said, looking up and putting her hands on her hips. “‘Jeez-zus Christ you two,’” she said in a good parody of Jennifer’s voice, “‘it’s not gonna kill you to give it a rest.’ I heard Jennifer say lots of stuff like that before we moved. I guess Cody and…” she trailed off. Nobody spoke for a few moments.

Lily broke the silence. “You still love Cody, don’t you?”

Caitlin blushed behind her freckles. “No I do not!” she bit off each word.

“If he asked you, would you do it with him?” Sheldon leered.

“I don’t know!” Caitlin sputtered. “Maybe when I’m older —” she clapped a hand over her mouth and looked over toward Cody, talking with the grownups across the way.

“We’re gonna move into #116,” Ashley said, rescuing Caitlin. “Me and Caitlin will have a room, and I guess Tim and Sara will get one. Jennifer will get the other one. I think Tim and Sara are trying to have a baby. I heard them talking about it.”

“That sounds cool,” Ben said. “That’ll be like having three parents. Four, if Jennifer gets a boyfriend.”

“Four parents?” Sheldon shook his head. “You’d never get to do anything!”

“We get to do lots of stuff,” Lily said, “and it’s like everyone’s our parents now. We don’t have school like we used to, and this is kind of cool, getting to do real stuff like helping with the gardens. Cody’s teaching us how to skate, Kelly’s teaching us basketball, and we don’t have to worry about getting run over in here. I just wish mom and dad were here too.”

The others nodded, even Sheldon. “When’s Jason gonna get here?” Sheldon asked.

“Sooner or later,” Ben said. “I’m not in a hurry anyway. Maybe he had another dream and it kept him up.”

“Have you guys had any dreams since that one with everybody in it?” Caitlin turned back to the others. “The one where Cody threw his shoes?” The others shook their heads. “Me neither. Not those kind of dreams, anyway. It’s spooky, how we all were in each other’s dreams like that. You think we’ll have more?”

“Why don’t you ask Cody?” Sheldon said, without the leer. “All the grownups think he knows everything about the trucks.”

“That’s just dumb,” Caitlin said. “Why would he know more than anyone else? I mean, he’s smart and all, but he didn’t make ’em.”

“Hey,” said Ben, “here comes Jason.”

Jason looked over the gardening crew: all five kids, Cody and Sondra, Tim and Sara, Palmer and Stefan, and Kelly as the only singleton over age ten. The kids and teens were regulars, pulling gardening duty three days a week as a break from more traditional schooling; the adults were volunteering. Sondra divided her time between gardening and learning what Rita taught about first aid; Johnny was helping Rita as well, but he smiled as he thought about Johnny’s true intentions there. Of all of them, only Jason and Johnny did any gardening before the Truckalypse, but the others were learning. “Anyone remember the motto?”

“Nothing goes to waste,” Ashley said.

“That’s right,” Jason replied. “You pull a weed, or a dead plant, it goes in the compost. If we were mowing grass, it would go too. But we’re gonna be raking leaves pretty soon. Why is that important?”

After a moment, Kelly spoke up: “Grass clippings, weeds, and leaves provide carbon. Kitchen scraps provide nitrogen. You need both to make compost.”

“Right. So why is compost important?”

“It’s like…” Sheldon twirled a finger in a circle. “Stuff comes out of the ground — uh, the soil — and compost puts it back in.”

“That’s not the whole story, but it’s good enough,” Jason smiled at the kids. “And it’s nutrients that come out of the soil, in the food we grow. Well, let’s get started.”

Jason watched the crew, moving from group to group to check on their progress and thinking about how much work they would have to do next year. Even with Ben’s confidence about foraging, and Johnny Latimer’s stated intent to “do some huntin’ now that it’s cooler,” growing enough food — and more important, enough nutrition — was going to take more effort than any of them realized. Before, barely six weeks ago, a crop failure in the garden was a disappointment and meant a few extra trips to the grocery store. A year from now, it might mean starvation and some hard decisions…

Especially with mating couples forming up. Palmer and Stefan couldn’t reproduce, but Jason figured that Cody and Sondra — not to mention Sara and Tim — would be expecting before the winter was out. Johnny and Rita too, if Johnny had anything to say about it. A new generation would be important, but feeding them would be just as important.

“What’s this?” Lily said, picking up something soft from under a tree.

Jason looked it over, then looked up at the tree. “Oh… a persimmon tree,” he said. “It’s a fruit, but you have to wait for a frost before you eat them, or they’ll be really sour. We’ll probably have a frost in the next week or so. Good find — and a good reminder to not look just at the ground. I’ll bet there’s an apple tree or two around, too.”

Lily picked up another persimmon and sniffed. “They smell good,” she said. “What can you do with them?”

“Most people make preserves with them. I guess you could make a pie too, but I’ve never heard of anyone doing that.”

“Oh.” She ran to join the other kids in the garden.


Friday, July 23, 2010 No comments

Rest of the Week Roundup

All the other stuff that happened this week…

Yesterday came the last step of that little procedure I had last Monday — in other words, they took the stitches out. Once again, this went smooth as warm butter: I hardly felt it, even when they warned me to “let us know if this one hurts much.” Of course, it’s right in that part of my back that I can’t reach, so I still can’t scratch it when it itches. They told me there might not be much of a scar, which is kind of a bummer; scars are part of my history, reminding me of things that happened. “Yeah, this one is from when I was 7; I was riding my bike down the dirt road by my house and I hit a loose patch of dirt and went into the ditch.” (and so forth)

Some (ahem) twit took out the name LibTardBot on Twitter and attached it to a skr1pt. Basically, it scans the public timeline for tweets containing the word “teabagger” and retweets them with a pre-programmed insult. At least, I think it’s a script: with teabaggers, it’s hard to tell. Either one spouts their talking points on cue, and neither one can actually learn anything — it’s all programming.

Mason is getting better… actually, he’s pretty much over the ear infection and other sickness. The amoxicillin started helping almost immediately; by Saturday night he was wanting to get down and play a little instead of being clingy all the time. But he was still fighting an infection, and between that and trying to be his usual busy self, he was waking up ravenous in the middle of the night. He’s starting to get that back to normal too, fortunately… he slept all Wednesday night and only woke up once last night (and The Boy & Snippet got him). He’s also doing what The Boy used to do at that age: point at stuff and go “dat” (as in, “what’s that?”). He loves pulling wires, pushing buttons, and so forth… yup, geek in training! He figured out the OFF button on the TV this week, much to my amusement (nay, delight) and everyone else’s chagrin. I applauded him and Mrs. Fetched said, “No, he’s not supposed to do that! I popped his hand last time!” So when he went to do it again, I tried to tell him NO but was laughing too hard.

He has fat little feet, like the people on the Axiom in “Wall-E.” I’ll try to get a picture soon. As much as he runs around, I’m stunned that he has any foot fat at all.

The Boy & Snippet were nearly handed a perma-ejection this week. Personally, I’d have gone ahead and done it; I have no clue why Mrs. Fetched gave them Yet Another Chance. Daughter Dearest is a little cranky about the whole situation, and has threatened to move out a couple of times. Maybe the only reason she hasn’t is that I’ve threatened to move in with her. Meanwhile, M.A.E. and Moptop are still here, but they now have a firm departure date — two weeks from today. She lined up various public and private agencies to help her out, and she signs the lease on her apartment on Monday. Yes, she’s had a lot of help from Mrs. Fetched and others, but she’s taken a lot of initiative, found a job, talked to the various aid people, and basically made a lot of things happen. If The Boy and Snippet put half that kind of energy into getting their act together, nobody would have a problem.

Mrs. Fetched has been on me for a couple of weeks to pull some stock out of my account to raise some moolah for DD’s college (and, I hope, kill another credit card or two). I farted around for a while, then couldn’t get into my account. As it turned out, the delays were good because the price went up a buck & a quarter in the meantime… so I got to keep 40 or so shares that I would have otherwise had to give up to raise the same amount of money.

What kind of oddball things have you seen this week?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010 2 comments

You KNOW It’s Monday When…

OK, imagine for a moment that you work behind the counter at a certain Moe’s, somewhere in Sector 706 of Planet Georgia. A middle-aged couple comes in just ahead of the lunchtime rush and places their orders. As you’re wrapping their burritos, a truck driver comes in. “Hey,” he says, “I got your delivery. I wasn’t sure you wanted it though, I heard this store is closing tomorrow.”

deer in the headlights

“I gotta talk to my manager!” she says, in one word, and dashes down to the cashier. They talk quietly for a moment, then she returns and finishes the order.

That was either a mean joke, or the exact w0rNg way to hear about your impending job loss.

That was last Monday, shortly after I came out of the doctor’s office. Yesterday, I glanced down at the walkway rimming the office and saw:

Dead woodpecker (yellow-shafted flicker)

He’d had the worst kind of Monday, the kind that isn’t followed by a Tuesday. My bob-sister Christina tells me it’s a yellow-shafted flicker, a kind of woodpecker (he got shafted, all right). This isn’t the first bird I’ve seen lying on the walkway after trying to kamikaze the office building — it happens a few times a year — and often they’re just stunned. I’ll scoot the stunned ones off to the side where they can collect their wits without getting stepped on… but this one was beyond scooting. You can see the line of tiny ants marching in for the buffet.

May your Mondays contain no unpleasant surprises.

Monday, July 19, 2010 2 comments

White Pickups, Episode 44


“Sure,” Tim said, and Cleve took the cheap plastic chair next to Tim; it squeaked a little under Cleve’s weight. “Maybe you’ll have an idea.” He pulled a beer out of the styrofoam cooler and handed it to Cleve. “Not ice cold, but it’s been sitting out here all evening so at least it’ll be cool.”

Cleve stuck the can in the holder on the arm of his chair and scooted the chair around to face Tim. “Red… is this about the dream, or something else?”

“Both, I guess. These truck dreams — everyone’s having the dreams together, right?”

“Yeah, as far as anyone can tell.”

“So if Sara… in the dream…” he trailed off. “I want to believe I’m seeing what I think I’ve been seeing, but—”

“Sheee-it,” Cleve laughed, popping his beer. “You finally wakin’ up?”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m gonna tell you something, Red, something I wouldn’t say if you weren’t my best friend. More than that, my brother in arms…” He took a long swig of cool beer.

“What is it?”

“Just this: we both want the same woman, and she only wants one of us. And it ain’t me.”

“So — she —” Tim drained his can and waved his arms.

“Yeah, she —” Cleve waved his arms in mockery, sloshing his beer a little. “But she ain’t gonna wait forever for you to make up your mind.”

“Yeah.” Tim stood, weaving a little in the chilly October air. “Can you believe it’s not even been two months since this all happened? But sometimes, it feels like years. Sometimes I try to think about Rebecca, remember what she looked like, and — and all I see is Sara. Cleve… thanks. I owe you one.” He walked back into the townhouse.

“Damn right you do!” Cleve laughed, not sure if Tim heard. He turned his chair back to the wall and watched the waning moon through the thinning leaves, pushing through a few wispy clouds over the roofs of the houses. “Well, Mr. Moon,” Cleve said, putting his feet on the railing, “I just threw away a long shot at love, but at least I did the right thing by them both. And maybe I’ll get some sleep now.” He hoisted his beer can heavenward then drank.

“Tim? Are you okay?” Sara whispered at the figure at her door.

“Hi, Sara,” Tim said, using the door frame for balance. “Yeah, I’m okay, I guess. I’ve just been doing a lot of thinking…”

“Hi Tim,” Ashley said, peering around Sara. Tim thought her fuzzy pink one-piece made her look even younger. “What’s up?”

“Ashley, I know you don’t want to sleep, but Tim and I need to talk for a minute, okay? Go back to bed.” The girl shrugged and walked away.

Tim smiled. “You two doing okay?”

“Yeah. I think that dream last night’s about the only thing that ever got to Ashley. The girl’s like a rock sometimes, it takes a lot to get her off-balance. Jennifer and I are talking about taking over #116, you know; it’s that three-bedroom place up by the street that nobody wanted. We think it’ll be good to have the girls together, and there’ll be plenty of room.”

Tim nodded. “Sara, I — I’ve been wondering for a while —” he reached for her.

Sara stepped forward and took his hand. “It’s about time,” she smiled. “But from the smell of you, you’ve been doing more than thinking tonight. You come back tomorrow when you’re sober, and we’ll see where we want to go from here.”

Tim’s beer-flavored whew about knocked Sara down. “Oh… thank God. I was hoping I wasn’t just imagining it.”

“Go on back, Tim,” Sara said. “We’ll talk tomorrow.” She kissed his cheek before he had a chance to react, and closed her door.

A nudge brought Tim out of a restless sleep. “Cleve? What’s up?”

“Not Cleve,” Sara whispered. “You better?”

“You mean sobered up? I guess so. You okay?”

Sara sat on the bed. “Yeah. Ashley finally gave up and fell asleep, then I couldn’t rest. I put her to bed and made sure she wasn’t gonna wake right back up before I came up. It’s five o’clock now, I hope that’s okay.”

“It’s always okay for you, Sara. I hope you know that.” He worked an arm out of the covers and reached for her; she took his hand.

“I do now. I kept wonderin’ if you’d ever come around.”

“I was… afraid, I guess. I didn’t believe that you’d go for me, with the other guys around here.” He put his other hand on her back and rubbed up and down her spine.

“Mmmm. You can do that all night.”

“I had something else in mind…”

Sara chuckled and kicked off her slippers, then slid under the covers. “Yeah, me too. But there’s two things I want to make sure we get straight first.”

“Uh-oh,” Tim laughed. I’ve already got one thing straight, he thought, putting his arms around her. They kissed briefly.

“I don’t want you sayin’ nothing about never being with a black girl before,” Sara said. “We all got the same parts, and they all work the same way.”

“Just a different paint job, right?” Tim said. “What’s the other thing?”

“We’re not using condoms.”

Tim laughed again. “I can’t get away from the Catholic women, can I?”

“I’m not Catholic, Tim. But I’ve always wanted children, and with the way things are now… people need to be having kids. Cody and Sondra will probably be having a baby sooner or later; Jennifer moved out of #107 because she got tired of hearing them goin’ at it ’most every night and she didn’t want to have to explain it to Caitlin.”

“Yeah… okay. If it doesn’t work out with us, I’ll still help raise our kids. That’s only fair.”

“I was hoping you’d say that,” she said, and kissed him. He returned the kiss, and they wrapped themselves around each other for a few minutes. Sara reached up to unbutton his pajama top; he unzipped her flannel.

“Too much stuff in the way,” Tim said, tugging at the sleeve of her gown. She pulled her arm through, then her other; he pulled off his pajamas. Naked, they came together again, kissing and groping. Tim rolled onto her and thrust inside, trying to be gentle about it; Sara moaned and wrapped around him, pulling him in all the way. They rocked together a long time on the bed, kissing, moaning, gasping, grasping.

“Come with me!” Sara gasped. And he did, hard and deep.

For a while afterward, neither moved, except for the occasional twitch, nor spoke. “I’ve got to get back,” Sara said finally, gently rolling him off her. “I don’t want Ashley to wake up and not know where I’m at.”

“Can I come with you? Ashley will have to get used to me being around anyway.”

She kissed him, then shrugged her robe on. “Why not?”

Tim threw his pajamas on, found his slippers, and followed Sara back to her unit. They made love again, more quietly but just as satisfying, before falling asleep.


Sunday, July 18, 2010 No comments

Bummer of a Drummer

An old friend of The Boy — from B.B. (Before the Blog) has come back into the picture. Not living here, thank God, he wouldn’t live very long. He was really not much of a prize back when they were in high school — for example, he scratched “I LOVE MEN” into an antique headboard on The Boy’s bed — and when we moved The Boy into the private school they sort of lost touch. Over the intervening years, the kid cleaned up his act then let it get… not so clean.

In the last few weeks, The Boy has been trying to form a new band (I guess it’s harder to get kicked out of your own band) and this guy has picked up on it. I’m not sure what the deal is there; the drummer from the older band (Ether) has been hanging out too and I think he’s a better drummer (I think he’s doing the vocals). I’m not sure why The Boy has brought him over; he knew this guy was banned for life over the headboard incident. But since he’s been around, he’s hit on every female around the manor except for Mrs. Fetched (DoubleRed hasn’t been around). I would love to see him try to hit on Mrs. Fetched… the carnage would be glorious.

So, assuming he’s not re-banned shortly, we shall refer to him as Horndog from here on out.

Saturday, July 17, 2010 No comments

While My Grandson Gently Sleeps

A little update while Mason’s napping…

My stitches itches. But that’s pretty much it. Except for a tiny stinging, it hasn’t hurt at all. I’m supposed to get the stitches out on Thursday, and then I don’t have to worry about scratching it anymore.

Daughter Dearest went to Savannah with her roomie-to-be this week. The roomie’s mom does a lot of traveling, so they make an extended outing of it. It’s been really nice for DD, it’s a few days away from the cRaZy and time to do some girlie things. We picked her up last night and brought her home…

… to a very dark house. Some storms came through, and the power went out around 9 (about an hour after we left). J, Kobold, Brand X, and Evil Lad NOT were up here for some reason. Snippet rounded up a few candles and lit them up so they could navigate. We have plenty of LED flashlights in the bedroom, so we got ours and were able to move around pretty well after that. Somewhere in all that, one of The Boy’s friends decided to drop in around 11 p.m. You have to wonder sometimes… Mrs. Fetched told The Boy to send him home ASAP, and he left after ten minutes or so. The power came back on around midnight, and everyone went to their respective homes and beds.

Mason’s more than a bit under the weather at the moment. The Boy and Snippet got sick with this early in the week, and Mason decided to catch up. He started not feeling good Thursday afternoon, as that’s when he started getting clingy. He had a fever on and off much of yesterday. Mrs. Fetched called the doc yesterday evening and they were booked for the day, so this morning Snippet and I went looking for a place that would look at him. The “family care, minor emergency” place up at the freeway doesn’t see anyone under 3, and opened about 20 minutes late, so we went up to the hospital were Mason was born and took him into the ER. They were amazingly quick about getting him in; I stepped out to use the bathroom and the ER doc was poking and prodding him (which he objected to at full volume) by the time I got back. He has an ear infection, which some amoxicillin and some infant acetaminophen should take care of.

Oh… and DD’s new roomie is OK, and so is her vegan mom. Her brother asked her out last night. Wouldn’t be a problem, except that he’s 32. He’s a big guy, recovering from a parking lot accident in which he had a leg and shoulder broken up pretty badly (the car that hit him was totalled), so at least she could put some distance between them if necessary. But it’s a little disconcerting.

And that’s all I got. New White Pickups episode goes up, as usual, Monday morning.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 2 comments

My Little Cyst (with photo!)

A while back, I mentioned in passing that the doc checked out the Eternal Zit on my back and told me it was a cyst. I got the appointments confused and thought she was going to yank it the next day, but it actually happened on Monday of this week. I figured (correctly) that they would use a local pain-killer on me, but I had no idea how I’d feel when I was done, so Mrs. Fetched offered to drive me. No problem.

So I got there, and a brand-new medical assistant intern put me on the scales… and promptly kept sliding the slider the wrong way. (Yup, she’s blonde, but I figured it was first-day jitters.) They hauled me into a corner room I’d never been in before, and I shucked my shirt and emptied my pockets.

“Hey, you brought us your pocket knife!” one of the nurses said. “We won’t have to use ours!”

“Knife?” I replied. “I figured you’d just drill the stupid thing out!”

Having never had this done, I was a little surprised at the numbing process: they stick you several times, around the cyst, because poking the cyst could make it more difficult to get out. The second shot is the one that hurt most; after that, I have no idea how many times they stuck me because I was pretty well numb. In came the doc, and she got to work…

“That was easy!” she said, “I thought it would be bigger.” She laid her prize on the table. It took her less time to do the work than it did to prep me.

“Looks like a blueberry that’s not ripe yet,” I said… and it did. It even had a stem at that point. My initial squeamishness went away fairly quickly.

“You must have some around your place,” she said, cutting some suture. “I planted some, but they all died.” She sewed me up and slapped a bandage over it. The admonishment to take four ibuprofens in the afternoon wasn’t needed; all in all, there was very little pain and a little more itching.

Being around all the weirdness at FAR Manor has rubbed off, because I had to get a picture:

Removed cyst

The little round dark thing right of center is the cyst. It got knocked around a little bit and the stem went away before I could get the picture.

Monday, July 12, 2010 3 comments

White Pickups, Episode 43


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nearly everyone got a slow start to the morning. Many seemed to simply go through the motions. Cody left a cold Pop-Tart half-eaten on his plate while Sondra stared at an empty coffee cup.

Cody finally shook his head, trying to clear it. “I’ll make you some coffee,” he said. “I might try a little myself.”

“Yeah. Thanks.”

He started the camp stove, on an end table under the living room window, and opened the window a crack for air. He put the kettle on and sat back down. “You had the dream, too.” It wasn’t a question.

Sondra nodded, then gave him a thin smile. “I didn’t know you could throw a shoe that far. Remind me to only piss you off when you’re barefoot.”

He grinned, took her hand, and stared at his Pop-Tart.

As it turned out, everyone in Laurel — perhaps everyone in the world — had the dream. Most of them talked about it through lunch, filling each other in on details one or another had missed, then stumbled back to bed for a nap. Last night’s sleep was anything but restful…

They are all seated in a huge stadium. Other people — thousands, perhaps millions — are there too, all of them talking among themselves.

“I think this is everyone,” Charles says to Johnny. “All of us who didn’t drive away.”

The racket is deafening, but somehow Johnny hears him clearly. “Best watch for the bashers, then.”

Take care that ye not be deceived!” another voice cries from some rows ahead.

“That sounds familiar,” Tim says to Sara and Cleve, seated on either side of him.

“Yeah…” Cleve begins, but a gigantic screen that nobody noticed before lights up before them. Music begins playing. The hubbub dies down a bit, but not entirely.

It’s fast-paced, like an infomercial, but with black and white imagery and a soundtrack straight out of '50s educational films. It begins with a line of white pickups rolling past the camera; the boos in response are good-natured at first.

“Why walk, when you can ride?” the cheery male voiceover says. “Join our survey crew!”

All over the stadium, the boos take on an edge. A forest of middle fingers sprouts from the crowd, swaying in the still air.

“Your friends, your family —”

“Not my family!” Kelly screams, Charles and Tina on either side of her.

“— are all enjoying the freedom of the open road!”

All the kids hold their guardians tight, crying. Sara pulls Ashley into her lap and buries her face in Tim’s shoulder. “Tim!” she cries. “I can still see it!”

Tim puts his arms around them. “It’s okay,” he says. “They can make us watch, but they can’t make us join.” He closes his eyes, but he too can still see and hear.

The voiceover continues, persistent and inescapable over the roar of opposition: “As a valued member of our team, you will be freed from all physical issues, including eating, sleeping, bathroom breaks…” the video cuts to the inside of a truck, showing a series of vistas through the windshield: freeways, suburbia, cities, lakes, wilderness. “You’ll never get tired, never get uncomfortable, never get bored. Your emotions, your addictions, your urges… you’ll be freed from it all!”

Cody steps into the aisle, kicks off a shoe, and throws. It seems like miles, but his shoe sails all the way across the stadium and bounces off the screen. Cody’s area erupts in cheers as he throws his other shoe. A middle-aged man across the aisle stands, turns his back, and calmly moons the screen. More cheers; the man pulls up his pants then he and Cody high-five before sitting down.

Over the raucous jeers, through the averted and closed eyes, the covered ears, the images and sound persist: “Not only the things you see as part of our team, but the experiences of your entire life — even those you have forgotten — will be preserved… giving you the gift of IMMORTALITY!” The word unfurls across the screen as the narrator speaks it.

A large group begins chanting as one, “NOOOOO! NOOOOO!” Others take it up; the roar is ear-splitting but cannot drown out the soundtrack playing in their minds.

Sondra stands and empties her revolver; the bullets strike the screen but seem to bounce off like Cody’s shoes. The air fills with shoes, pocket knives, and other belongings. The roars of protest are impossibly loud. Many men, and even a few women, moon the screen.

The final image shows a single truck, filling the screen. The cheerful music builds to a crescendo; the driver’s door opens as the voiceover concludes, “So why resist? Climb in! Get on board! We’re waiting for YOU!”

Some of them remember, just before waking up, a voice shouting “Our souls, Beliel! And what of our immortal souls?”

The kids were up later than nearly everyone else that night, their fear of another dream greater than their need for sleep. But what kept Tim awake was not the dream itself. He would leave #214, the two-bedroom unit he shared with Cleve, walk up and down the dark and chilly hallway for a while, then return, sitting on the balcony and opening another can of beer. As he was working on his fifth can, Cleve opened the door between the balcony and his bedroom; he wore a black robe over a grey sweatsuit.

“Trouble sleeping, I guess,” he said to Tim. “You wanna talk?”


Saturday, July 10, 2010 2 comments

Pictures, Food and Fights…

…but not pictures of food fights. We’ll start off with the pictures…

Mom and MasonMom and Mason

Decorated golf cartsGolf carts on parade…

Mason meets his first clownMason meets his first clown. He did quite well.

Mason eats the daisyAfter contemplating the daisy for a few moments, he attempted to eat it (of course).

And, now to the fights. For an evening there, I thought M.A.E. was going to go back to her cheating a-hole of a boyfriend. Well, that now seems to be inoperative. He doesn’t seem to think he’s done anything w0rNg, and thinks that M.A.E. is the one with the problem. But now he’s pulling the control-freak card, threatening to take Moptop (fat chance with a felony drug conviction there, d00d) and making veiled threats (“you’re about to have a very bad week”) and a not-so-veiled threat to get her fired from her job. So she just got her smellphone number changed and who knows what will happen next there? Stay tuned… soap operas aren’t this weird.

Finally, food. Mrs. Fetched said “After I’m done at the chicken houses, I’ll bring some chicken up from Mom’s and we’ll do something with it for lunch.” This is code for, “I’m going to run way overtime, so you might want to fix something if you don’t want everyone here to starve to death.” There were a couple of steaks from last week’s grillin’ in the fridge, and I found some other stuff to make…

Steak Parmesan Pasta Salad

1 16oz box macaroni
8 oz grilled steak, sliced thin
1 cucumber, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 med. onion, sliced thin
1 20oz can corn, drained
1/2 c parmesan cheese (grated)
1/2 c vinaigrette

Prepare macaroni according to package directions. Rinse in cold water and drain well. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and chill for 3 hours (preferred) or serve right away.

Everybody liked it — but they were hungry.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010 3 comments

Dust and Fallout

As the dust begins to settle on vacation, we also ponder the fallout of The Boy and Snippet. As usual, they pushed things right to the limit while we were gone. I made a deal with them that they could use my laptop, and I'd leave it logged on for them, if they didn’t have any visitors staying overnight. They managed to stay within the letter of the agreement, even if they trampled the spirit thereof: one person slept in the detached garage (but not in the house!), and Lobster (who is banned from the manor permanently) came to visit. M.A.E. and DoubleRed were both here and their stories pretty much agree. Now The Boy and Snippet are planning to move out since they don’t think we’re being fair. But Mrs. Fetched has an ace in the hole, and I will talk about that if and when the time comes.

Mason holding a daisyAs you might have surmised from the vacation post, Mason is doing a pretty good job of walking — and he’s getting better at it. He’s also waking up at night a lot; I think he’s so active right now that he’s not getting enough food to fuel the legs and needs that midnight snack.

Of course, I have to include a photo — especially since it’s so cute. I think I should get an award for this one, don’t you?

Oh, M.A.E. (and Moptop) are still here. They were going to move in with Big V, but M.A.E. didn’t really want to do that — see, I told you she was smarter than she gives herself credit for! Seriously: if Snippet made the effort that M.A.E. does to raise her kid and improve her lot in life, she’d be doing pretty good right now and she wouldn’t have any friction around here to complain about.

While I was on vacation, my iPhone really started to act up: when it gets warm, the entire unit resets itself and comes up to the “plug me into iTunes” graphic. This happened even when I removed the SIM and/or put the iPhone in Airplane mode (which turns off the phone), so that kind of put a cramp in my whole Skype-phone scheme. While I’m completely on Skype now, phone-wise, if I want to have a wifi phone I need to carry the iPad (if I don’t have $200 for an iPhone 4, I certainly don’t have $300 for a newer iPod touch). Fortunately, work isn’t blocking Skype so I can leave the app running on the work computer. The home and work MacBooks pair with a Jawbone I have laying around, but there are some strange audio issues going on there — I haven’t had a chance to try messing with it just yet.

If I get a chance, I’ll do a vacation photo-post this weekend.

Monday, July 05, 2010 3 comments

White Pickups, Episode 42


Nearly everyone came out to watch, until Cleve and Tim protested. “We only need three others,” Cleve said. “Nothin’ for you guys to see out here anyway.”

“You be careful, Tim,” Sara said, hand on his arm. “We’ve lost enough people to those things already.”

“I’ll be fine. We’ve got big guys to hold our leashes. Besides, it’s Cody doing the hazardous part.”

“Where is Cody?” Sara looked around.

“He and Sondra went to get some rope from his old place,” Charles said.

“Yeah,” Max chimed in. “Maybe they won’t stop for a ‘layover’ or anything.” Everyone laughed at that.

“Nope,” said Cleve, “They know it’s time for business. Besides, here they come now.” He pointed down the street toward Laurel, at the couple biking toward them. Each had a coil of rope slung over a shoulder. Most of the crowd was walking or riding the other way.

Cody and Sondra joined them at the intersection, in the empty lot across from the QuickFill. A “NO PARKING - TOW AWAY ZONE” sign stood above the weeds, a relic from the old world of last month. Trucks went by in all directions, under a sky that promised rain but not right away. The holdouts had a crude barricade, knocked together out of scrap lumber, and adorned with a STOP sign borrowed from inside the development. Cleve, Max, Charles, Tim, Big Ben, and Sara stood around it.

“Here’s the rope,” Cody said, handing his coil to Tim. Sondra handed hers to Max, who hung it on the end of the barricade. She shook her right arm; outside the truck-free confines of Laurel, it tingled and sometimes went numb.

Tim paid out the yellow nylon cord. “Not ideal,” he said, “but good enough.” He cut off about ten feet and wrapped it around his waist and each leg, tying it behind his back and leaving several feet of “tail” dangling. “Homebrew safety harness.” He cut two more lengths and wrapped one each around Cody and Ben, then tied a length of remaining rope to their tails.

“I guess I’m ready,” said Tim, picking up the DSLR camera they found in one of the abandoned houses. He turned it on, checked the battery, opened the flash, and removed the lens cap. He set the focus and exposure, then looked through the viewfinder for a moment. Ben picked up his camcorder and nodded.

“Let’s do this,” Cody said. Cleve picked up the rope attached to Cody, ran it around his back and wrapped the end around his arm; Max and Charles did the same with Ben’s and Tim’s ropes.

“You be careful too, Cody,” Sara said. She and Sondra took up each end of the barricade. “Don’t be no hero.”

“Right,” Cody said. He shook his head, and his hair fell across his face before he swept it back. “If it looks like I’m getting in…”

“Yup,” Sondra said, patting her holster, “I shoot out your legs and hope Rita can fix it. You ain’t getting away that easy!”

The women checked the street, then carried the barricade out. Ben was already recording. They set the barricade at the edge of the intersection, then hurried back to the side of the street. Shortly, a truck rolled up, silent as always except for the hum of tires on pavement. It slowed and stopped.

“Let’s go!” Cody yelled, running out to the pickup while Ben and Tim took up positions at the passenger door. Cleve and the others braced themselves while Cody yanked the door open, tilted toward the interior for a moment, then jumped clear and hoisted both middle fingers at the truck. Tim held the shutter down; the camera kept clicking, although the flash quit after the first few shots. Ben zoomed in and out.

“We’ve got what we’re gonna get!” Ben shouted after a minute. “Let it go!”

Cody kicked the door; it shut with a chuff as Sara and Sondra dragged the makeshift barricade out of the street. As soon as the way was clear, the truck rolled away. Cody sat down in the grass, puffing and smiling as he and the others untied their harnesses. “That went okay,” he said.

“I felt it pull you,” Cleve said, winding the rope. “Dunno how I stood without trying to yank you back.”

“It pulled us too,” Ben agreed. “But it wasn’t that bad. We could have done it without the ropes.”

“Yeah, but who wants to take chances?” said Tim. “Let’s get on back and have a look at what we got.”

Everyone crowded around the big-screen TV in the Laurel Room as Ben hooked up his camcorder, chattering among themselves and peppering Ben and Tim with questions. Cody stood off to the side with Sondra, arms around each other, watching the others. “I don’t have any idea what the video quality’s gonna be like,” said Ben. “It was kind of dark in the viewfinder. But we’ve got the stills from Tim’s camera, and the first few had flash, so we probably got something.”

“Roll the tape!” someone called in the crowd.

“It’s all on a flash card, there’s no tape!” Ben laughed. “But let’s see what we got.”

The video began with Sondra and Sara carrying the barricade into the street, then Ben panned around to watch a truck approaching. The view jumped as Cody shouted “Let’s go!” and Ben and Tim hustled forward to the door. Cody jumped into the frame, yanked the door open, lurched forward for a moment, then jumped back. Ben zoomed in, rocking a little as the truck tried to pull him in —

The screen showed a woman sitting at the wheel and a little boy strapped in next to her. Both were bone white — skin and hair — but from their features, they may have been black before driving off. The woman’s purse lay on the floor in front of the child. Neither turned toward the people outside; the only sounds were the men breathing and Tim’s camera clicking. Ben shouted, the door slammed shut, and Ben once again panned to the women, this time dragging the barricade out of the way. The truck rolled away; several people laughed at Cody giving it the finger one more time before walking off-camera.

Sondra stepped forward to break the silence. “It stands to reason,” she said, raising her right arm. “My arm got bleached when I stuck it in one, why wouldn’t it bleach the drive-offs entirely?”

“They didn’t even look at you,” Kelly said. “It’s like they were zombies or something.” She shivered all over.

“How are they eating?” Johnny said. “You ever see one of them things stop for more than a few seconds at an intersection? Besides the ones waiting for the rest of us, I mean. It’s like they never sleep or nothin’.”

The TV flickered as Tim connected the DSLR. A still frame displayed the woman and her child in more detail. Most of the interior was washed out from the flash. Tim stepped through the next two, to the first photo without a flash. The interior appeared to be a uniform grey, perhaps vinyl, but with no texture.

“You remember it looking like that?” Cody whispered to Sondra. “When you stuck your arm in.”

“No. I was trying to keep it from pulling me in, I didn’t bother looking at it.”

“It seems we’re left with more questions than before,” Charles said. “Well, we’ve learned something anyway. Maybe it’ll turn out to be useful later on.”


Friday, July 02, 2010 2 comments

A few random vacation pics

Having a good time, except that Mason is waking up at 6:45 every morning so he doesn't miss out on all the stuff going on. He loves to chase Mom's kitty all over the house:

Mason and kitty

Yesterday, we put some shutters up on the back of the house. Much "fun" was had, mainly by Wicked Stepfather going UR DOIN IT RONG constantly. Mom held the (plastic) shutters while I screwed them up in:

Hanging shutters

I keep threatening to do this to Mrs. Fetched, so Daughter Dearest did it to me. Yup, I raised her right!

My butt

More to come, probably when I get back home.


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