On writing blocks and killing mice

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I am having a hard time writing and by that I mean I am not doing it at all. I don’t want to join the ranks of those miserably irritating writer/blogger types who wine incessantly about their writing blocks, but ugghh if it’s not a block it’s a definite jam and it is sorely felt. The issue is that I really don’t want to write about nothing, so I am looking for something to sink my teeth into. Prattling on about the daily minutia of life is just not doing the trick right now . I am still mostly entertaining thoughts about nothing, i.e. Kim K’s butt, Kim K’s front, fat people eating Mcdonalds, Iphone vs. Droid, a virtual celebrity death camp app that I would like to develop, how I want to name all my future children “Todd” etc. etc…..Yesterday I did spend the better part of an hour thinking about the holidays and what they mean to people, especially those people who are without people; a short but meaningful inner monologue took place in the adult corner of my mind about relationships and how sad it is that so many seem to fall apart over just sex. That last one I might be able to develop into a sufficiently scandalous and substantive write up, but I am not holding my breath. In the end nothing cohesive materialized, brain chatter subsided and settled all dew like at the floor of my cranium. Can’t drink dew.

I am trying now to start writing again with a mind to stumbling onto something that is more than nothing and perhaps actually worthy of a few semi thought out sentences and their readers.

So, the other day I somewhat accidentally killed a mouse, my subsequent efforts to revive it proved in the end to be utterly futile and perhaps more harmful than not. I think I may have inadvertently prolonged its suffering and exasperated my own distress. Mice are the scourge of barns and tack rooms everywhere, and despite my best efforts to recognize all animals as innocent and deserving of life, I am prejudiced against them in the context of stables. As a barn person, I find it hard to see mice as anything more than galling, scurrying, pooping, manducating machines, undeterred by doors, walls or threats of violence and imminent death. My favorite sweater for example, that I still wear but only at home, had suffered complete disfigurement for their indiscriminate chewing, after I haphazardly left it on top of my tack trunk for a single night. Much of my tack, including pricy leathers and bridles had fallen prey to the insatiable appetites of mice invaders any time it was not properly stored or hung up. And actual feed? Forget about it, forget you know its name. Purina? Bran? Gold Standard? They will chew through every bag, every box and tunnel past most other containments, which wouldn’t really be that big of a deal, were they able to control their bowel movements. In case you didn’t know, they are not. They defecate it seems while eating, walking, sleeping and, I imagine, plotting. Mice are in this way just like babies… but don’t start me on babies. There is always mouse poo to be found ON my saddle, but this is only just gross and it merely vexes my delicate sensibilities. The poop they leave in the feed is a whole other issue, it renders the feed contaminated and often beyond use, it’s a real problem. Anyways, you can imagine how my relationship with barn mice is at best strained and certainly fraught with enmity, still my commitment to nonviolence means that I would never intentionally harm them or seek to displace them.

Long story made shorter, I found two mice in a bucket of feed, one jumped out and ran away the other ran in frantic circles around the inside rim of the bin, I deduced that he would jump out later, and if not, well I figured it wasn’t my problem and left him. When I returned 3 days later I found him still in there, he was apparently unable to find his way out like his buddy, maybe he was younger or white and unable to jump. For lack of water and excess of food he was in a terrible state, barely able to open his eyes or move. My heart sank, I did this and there he was such a pitiful thing, clinging to life. “God” only knows what he had gone through over the past few days. I imagined his dehydrated suffering, perhaps his fear, the dwindling of his hopes, and, honestly, became deeply sad. I don’t mean to dramatize. I realize that he was only a mouse, who was more likely to fall prey to a mouse trap or a barn cat than to live out his days into old age and retirement, but this seemed like the worst kind end for any living thing.I scrambled to get him out, scooping him up into a bowl, put a little water over his body then sat him down on a damp towel with his face resting on a little dish of water I fashioned out of an orange juice cap. I then put a tiny mountain of very wet feed right next to his face and covered him partially with a piece of cloth, hoping that he might feel more secure for it. When I came back in a few hours he had moved a little and was sitting a few feet away from where I left him. I was hopeful as his eyes were now half way open. I put him back into the safe zone with the water and the food and left for the day. The next day he wasn’t there. I thought, in my foolish optimism, that he had recovered and found the strength to rejoin his brethren, but a barn hand informed me that he had found him dead under a chair earlier that morning. My futile efforts to revive him probably only caused him more suffering and fear. There is something oppressive to any pointless loss of life. It’s like when you catch a glance of road kill or those skulls and bones in old paintings-the memento mori’, small but jarring reminders of how fine the threshold is between being and not being, how all things that are living must get dead. Life is always just a visitor who brings a gift, a gift which turns to dust when she takes her leave. I was there when he was so alive with a future ahead of him; there were many a bridles he could have laid tooth to, much feed to waste, maybe even baby mice to produce with Missis Mouse. I could have helped him out of that bin and spared him the suffering and the dying, but, for no particular reason, I just didn’t. 😦 I think the fact that I didn’t intend to kill him, but kind of did, is what’s actually upsetting here. I had never killed anything before via inaction, and I can tell you that it’s the worst and with an after taste of evil. Baring responsibility for that outcome without the preceding conviction or intent makes for an unexpected burden, miserable and surprisingly abject. Poor mouse.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

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Part 3: On lonely girls and broken hearts

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Read Part 1 & Part 2 here

How do I squeeze into conventional terms a completely unconventional love. It feels a bit like trying to explain to an orange what it’s like to be a shrimp. Regardless, one important note I’d like to make is that I’ll be using the word “love” in this story differently from its usual application. The love I’ll be talking about is not amorous in nature; it is not fraught with romance, physical attraction, sex, vows, obligations, promises, valentines, commitments or hopes of some future together. It is a different kind of love, irreverent, somewhat indescribable and quite punishing in its end.

I ran into J again years later, completely at random. I was around 23 by then. To my Mother’s extreme jubilation I ventured north for a second date with a plastic surgeon, a Jewish one at that. Following our first lackluster outing conducted in my neck of the woods over a salmon kale salad and a hefty serving of decidedly bad jokes, the doctor invited me to join him on a yacht in his lovely homestead of Santa Barbara. It was a kind of a sailing fete hosted by some of his fancy doctor friends and, if nothing more, it meant for me an exceedingly picturesque drive up the coast. Scantily clad in my nautical best; stripes, shorts and of course top-siders, with Mother cheering at my back, I set out on my adventure into proper maritime society with an optimistic hope of, at the very least, a very merry time.

Two hours later I was almost there, driving into town. A car cruising in the apposite direction caught my attention and I spun my head around trying to get a better look at its driver. Although I barely caught a glance of his profile, instant pangs of nostalgia filled my stomach. I thought I saw J. But what were the odds really? It couldn’t have been him, so I shooed the idea away and moseyed on. A few minutes later, I finally arrived at the designated address, parked, hung my feet out of the car door and, as per my custom, surveyed my surroundings. Once again, my heart jumped, this time, unbelievably and indisputably, J was getting out of a car right across the street from me. I yelled out, he turned his head, our excitement to discover one another in this way was palpable. Laughter, hugs and all around gaiety were quick to follow. Our reunion was rousing but brief as we were both en route to other appointments. I scorned him a bit for falling out of touch, he protested, I gave him my email address and we dispersed, filling the air between us with promises of fast reunion.

From day one I knew in my gut exactly who J was. I knew to dispense with all expectations in regards to him, unless I wanted my heart broken and scattered in his wake, along with all the others.  I knew this because he was to me what I had on plenty of occasions been to others. He was aloof and inconstant and there was a part of him that few, if anyone, could reach; a kind of karmic taste of my own medicine. Years ago I had taken the necessary, conscious steps of steeling myself against him. Although I wasn’t completely successful at wrangling my attachment, I did manage to will my heart into a formidable check, so his departure didn’t much affect me then. Now i had to once again remind myself, that although he could mean everything to me on one day, he would as easily be gone the next. This had already been lightly confirmed by our history. Furthermore, I had to consider that despite the numerous, excited promises made on that sidewalk, I wouldn’t hear from him again.

But I did, I heard from him right away. Here is an excerpt from that email, it is the only correspondence of ours that I was able to find, luckily it’s just right. It set the tone for J & M version 2.0, our ill fated reboot.

“I’m living in LA and YOU are officially my only friend there— this entails for you a number of abject responsibilities, like hanging out with me regularly and pretending to adore me.  My old email address got overrun with vaguely pornographic adverts re: enlarging the penis, shrinking the dating pool, so I abandoned it years ago– guess I threw the M out with the bathwater. I traveled, then I went to Berkeley, then I lived in San Francisco and worked as the definitively MALE host at a transgender restaurant/bar, spent my time preening and flirting and being pretty obnoxious I suppose, indulging in different forms of wickedness… this stint eventuated in something crisis-like and I left the bar and city and scampered back to Father in the Pacific Palisades to be an innocuous, aerobically inclined non-smoker who doesn’t pay rent and eats well… I work for dad flexibly as a verbally adept pseudo-para-paralegal with almost no responsibilities and vast groves of free time. I have been reading more than writing but always with a view to writing– I’m going to take some writing classes at our paltry Santa Monican Alma-Mater this summer, one in fiction, one poetry workshop.  In the Fall I’ll apply to PhD programs in literature and, depending on my productivity this summer, maybe MFA programs. Most importantly, I’m in L.A. indefinitely and you simply must be my friend– I’ve missed you (you who stands out from and over a boggled vastness of less resonant memories and persons from my earliest twenties).  Anyways, i have to insist that less time separate our last meeting from our next, less time than our custom would have it– if you’re exceedingly busy, too busy for idle socializing, I’ll commission some tennis lessons.  Warmly, moi ”   

The quickest way to a lonely girl’s heart is through a perfectly crafted sentence that tells her how significant and singularly special she is, how she is not to be forgotten. This knowledge is not to be misused, as lonely girls are an endangered species, and playing with their surprisingly squishy hearts is not only ill advised but also strictly against regulation. To be fair though, no heart should be played with, as most are quite breakable and none, in fact, are toys.

J and I met that very night for coffee, the fire flickered from its artificial coffee house pit, words swam in streams, more fervent than before; we had both grown some and not at all. It was as if no time had passed between us, and once again, against my better judgment, I found myself teetering dangerously close to his edge.

To be continued in  Part 4..…….

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Chapter 9..or..The chapter that tripped me up

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“Who is it?” I asked surveying the treeline.

“Not sure, usually we get some stalking rights, a little time to check things out, haunt if you will, but this one is an unscheduled drop in.”

“Were you watching me long?”

“Since you got off that plane.”

“That’s a long time, that’s days!” I exclaimed, surprised at the idea that as I was getting off of the plane, blissfully ignorant, this pair had me in their sights.

“It’s not the longest we had, but it’s nice for us you know, technically we are working, but really it’s more of a loitering situation…in which we eat hot dogs and milkshakes, no such thing in this place.” He motioned around himself with his tiny doll like hand.

“So do you know anything at all about this person?” I really wanted to understand what and whom to expect.

“He won’t be like you, he is an “intentional” He looked at me meaningfully “It’s going to be a rocky arrival.”

“They call it suicide, Dog” chimed in Peotr.

“But it’s a man?” I wanted to keep the conversation on track, before it veered off on another of their bickering tangents.

“Yes, what’s with all the questions, give it a rest will you.” The kid waved me off like an annoying fly, but over the days I had gotten used to his lack of patience and bouts of moodyness, so it didn’t discourage me. I had more questions, I redirected them more specifically at the dog. The animal had become as common to me as a tree, I hardly noticed his uglyness anymore, and the fact that he functioned more like a grouchy uncle than a dog had ceased to rattle me.

“Dog, can you please add anything.”

“We rarely have more than one charge at a time, it has happenned exactly two times so far, but nothing in this realm happens by accident, there must be a reason they want you to meet, there is a lot of pain with this one, a lot….but lets just wait and see.” This channel of information was closed as well now. It was as if in the hours before the arrival of this mysterious person, the dog and the child had gone into a trance, they hardly stirred at all come sun down and sat motionless, staring into open space. A warm wind started to blow some time after we stopped talking, it lifted a web of leaves off the ground, but curiously rather than getting blown away, they swirled around and above us in what appeared to be a kind of halo. Heat picked up shortly after, followed by an intensifying humidity. Within a few hours the climate had changed drasically. Becoming unbearably hot and humid, it closely resembled a sauna or a steam room or Florida. Breathing in that hot, dense air, I could taste the granules of salt landing on my tongue. An opaque wall of dust and leaves formed around us, drowning out much of the light, still my companions remained calm. I tried again for an explanation.

“Is this normal?” But my words died as soon as they exited my mouth, the space around us was no longer conducive to the circulation of sound. It was quite like being under water. Stubbornly, I raised my voice and yelled out as loudly as my physiology permitted. My words floated slowly but steadily, reaching my companions with a palpable delay.

“Not really, this is unusually bad, I had not seen this sort of thing……..” Dog paused and glanced at Peotr as if not sure whether he should continue “….. since Peotr’s arrival.”

“Does this mean anything?”

“Anguish I think, usually the weather phenomenon is a reflection of the one it carries with it …..” Mumbled Peotr under his breath, and even though I couldnt hear his voice, I heard him.

Thunder cut through like a giant slapping enormous palms together right on top of our heads. In a moment everything went quiet and all the wetness in the atmosphere seemed to have been pulled together to form a giant floating sphere of liquid. It hovered above our heads menacingly. I sat paralyzed with my head thrown back, watching it complete awe. The sphere floated off slightly to the north and suddenly, like a balloon pricked with a needle, it exploded. Its contents came crashing into the earth with a resounding boom. When the dust settled, I found my surroundings had gone back to completely normal, if you don’t count the newly formed lake just off to the right. It was lovely and still, its glossy surface bared no evidence its tumultuous creation. It resembled very much the lake I woke up next to just a few days earlier.

“Wow.” I exclaimed.

“Shhhhh.” Peotr put his hand to my mouth and whispered.

“Be quiet, it’s harder with men, they punch at their fears, it’s important we tread softly”

I undetstood. It made sense that while women maybe ran or screamed or swooned upon discovering themselves in a strange wilderness with an eerie child and a talking dog, men just started swinging. So there we were, sitting about forty feet away from the lake, in open sight, waiting. We didn’t have to wait long, within minutes we heard coughing and spitting, a figure of a man limned itself on the other side of the water, he was crawling out of the lake on all fours. When he had finally made it to dry land, he tried to get up, but his legs shook, giving in at the knees. He collapsed onto his side groaning.

“Oh, good, he seems very impaired, this is the best kind, you two already have something in common Charlie” snickered Peotr, getting up off the ground. I looked at Dog questioningly, as I had come to do whenever the child was dispensing information in his typically snide, cryptic fashion.

“It’s common amongst drinkers to arrive here significantly weakened.” offered Dog

“Alcohol is the only substance which can travel here in your blood “

Peotr began making his way around the giant puddle towards the man, who was still scattered on the ground, groaning. We followed. When we walked up to him, I expected a scene, a panic, screaming, maybe running, but to my surprise none of those things happened. He sat up, holding his head in his arms with his elbows perched into his knees, and surveyed us from under his brow. He seemed indifferent. Peotr extended the water flask to him. The man took it without a word and drank greedily until there was nothing left. When the man was done with the flask he let it drop to the ground. Peotr flinched and broke the silence.

“Oh come on, seriously, what happened to common courtesy, hand the flask back.”

The man stared at him for a second with tired bloodshot eyes, as if he couldn’t quite grasp the meaning of what was said, then picked up the flask and handed it over to the child.

“Sorry.”

There was another period of silence interrupted only by the scratching noises of Peotr trying vigorously to clean the sand off of his flask. I took the moment to examine the stranger. He was a man in his mid thirties, medium height, he had that strong stocky build which often lends itself as an advantage to shorter males, compensating for lack of stature. He had an open face with a pronounced jaw line. Half of him was covered in a thick layer of wet sand, the rest of him was just wet, still there was a boyish handsomeness to him. I was embarrassed to have noticed.

Having finally cleaned off his flask, Peotr broke the silence, evidently he was still quite irritated.

“No, you are not dead, yet…no this is not hell…blah blah blah”

The man continued to stare at us indifferently, oddly the expression on his face did not change much when Dog finally decided to interject.

“Stop, vermin, go sulk somewhere if you can’t do your duties properly.” Thusly scolded, Peotr glared at us, then turned around sharply and stomped away into the bushes, with all the conviction due a pouting child.”

The dog spoke to the man much as he had spoken to me earlier. Our guest started to come to, I caught him glancing over at me questioningly, as if looking for comfirmation that indeed there was a dog talking to him. I nodded lightly, realizing, that in a way I was the only thing there, that wasn’t somewhat absurd or unreal. He took in the information remarkably well. I thought it was commendable that he stayed so composed in the wake of such jarring news, but later I realized it was more of an indication of how down he was, rather than how adaptable. I always found sadness could be akin to madness, it seemed that he was a perfect example of a man so profoundly hurting, that he was capable of accepting everything and cared about nothing. Nothing could surprise him, impress him or bother him. Having made his introductory speech, Dog turned around and following in Peotr’s footsteps, disappearing into a bush. The stranger and I were left alone for the moment.

I sat down next to him.

“I don’t know what to say, that could be helpful” I exhaled…..”I dont know much about any of this, until now I thought this was all a hallucination, it still very well might be….”

He maintained silence. I got back up, reasoning that maybe he would benefit from a bit of quiet, but as I made a step away he stopped me.

“Last thing I remember was driving, I think I am dead?”

“I don’t know, the way Dog said it we are not dead, we are in between.”

Again silence.

“Last thing I remember was drinking a lot and taking some pills.” I shrugged. He said nothing.

“You wanted to die?” It wasn’t really a question, more of assertion, he said it with some relief it seemed.

“No, I can’t say that..but I think I almost did, by accident…I just wanted to forget. You wanted to die?”

“I do.” He said it in the present tense.

“Why?”

He shook his head like it didn’t matter, with resignation. His eyes turned up to me, they were a clear blue, almost translucent, tears were brimming on the edges of his eyelids, ready to overflow their confinement. I knew the answer. I could feel it. Grief.

Our companions had reemerged from the bushes and walked back over to us. Peotr tapped at the top of his right wrist with the fingers of his left hand, as if he had a watch there.

“We have to go” He said.

Unquestioningly, the man rose from the ground, and without bothering to shake the sand off, started walking behind the boy. His head hung low.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Aries.” He didn’t ask mine, so I volunteered.

“I am Charlie.”