It’s been a while

It’s been a while

I promise I didn’t intend to just walk away the way that I did—a number of things suddenly came up and got in the way.

To be fair, though, I did intend to take a break. The last story I published wasn’t a story at all, it was bits and pieces cobbled together from a novel I’ll never write. I was a bit bummed when I hit “Publish” on it because it wasn’t any good, but then I had my schedule to keep so I did. It was time for a break.

I hadn’t meant to stop right away, but then my chickens died. I learned later that an outbreak of highly-contagious avian influenza (“really bad bird flu”) in this region. My poor free-range chickens must have been infected by some random bird that stopped in my garden on the way to or from Lake Victoria. One of them was sick on Sunday, and by Tuesday all were dead. A veterinarian advised me to euthanize them once it became clear that they had all been exposed, but I wasn’t sure I had the strength, physically or emotionally, to do it quickly and cleanly. Instead, when their seizures hit, I scooped them up and stroked their backs and whispered to them to keep them calm while their little hearts gave out.

I wasn’t really able to do much of anything else that week.

When that was over I was notified that I had been awarded a new contract. This one was far more demanding than my last one and suddenly my days weren’t mine anymore. I have to wake up super-early now so that I can squeeze in some exercise before getting dressed and going into the office—a real office, with cubicles and fluorescent lights and a coffee machine in the break room—and then sit and do things until it’s time to go home. (Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I just wish it didn’t take so long.)

For all these reasons my fiction writing really hit a snag, and I couldn’t summon the time or energy to post anything. I did find moments here and there where I could read over what I’d written in the previous year. I sorted my stories into three piles: ones I’m proud of, ones I’m not ashamed of, and ones best forgotten. I edited the ones in the first two piles as best as I could—typos, missing sentences, sometimes character names that changed in mid-story—and bound them in a little vanity press edition for myself. That was satisfying. It looks like a real book, and sits nicely on my shelf. (The vanity press even let me put it up for sale in their bookstore, though I undercut my sales potential by about a hundred percent by giving a free copy to my mom.)

So that is the state of myself as I head into the summer. Tonight I’m boarding a plane and heading back to the U.S. for a little vacation. Over the next six weeks I hope to get back to my novel and maybe even finish itat the rate of a thousand words a day I should at least get close. I hope everyone sleeps in so I can write in peace.

I ordered a big stack of books that I want to plow through, too. I don’t even remember which ones, because with the magic of the Internet I can sit in my cubicle in Uganda and send books to my parents so I don’t have to waste a precious second of my vacation time waiting at the bookstore for the cashier to ring me up.

I’m also excited that I bought a new camera. I haven’t used a “real” camera in years, not since I abandoned my film camera. At the time I couldn’t afford a DSLR so I got a cheesy point-and-shoot, and then replaced that one with my phone. It does seem silly, though, to tell people that I seriously think I can do justice to the beauty of East Africa with my iPhone. I look forward to playing with my new camera tomorrow. Who knows, maybe some of my best shots can end up here.

And when summer ends I’ll pack my bags and come back here, to my pretty little house in the hills, re-energized and ready to start everything up again.

I’m even going to get new chickens, because I miss my little ladies and the garden feels sad and empty without them.

The Girl With the Flaxen Hair

The Girl With the Flaxen Hair

My father grew up in a two-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor of a six-story building on Jane Street in Greenwich Village. The apartment had been purchased by his father in 1944, and nobody was ever able to explain how a Steinway Vertegrand ended up in the living room. It had come with the apartment, and the sole attempt to remove it, sometime in the early 1950s, led to the discovery that while it could fit just fine through the front door, there wasn’t enough room in the hallway to turn it around so it could go down the stairs. Some giant could probably lift it over the railing and onto the stairs, but between our landing and the exit to Jane Street there were seven hairpin turns, and the piano would have to go up and over the railings each time.

The potential buyer had his money returned and the piano was shoved back into its space, where it was covered with muslin and used to display pictures and houseplants in front of the window that didn’t lead to the fire escape.

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Assuming I stick to my schedule, this Sunday I’ll publish my 100th post. (Actually it’s my 101st, but there was a post that I deleted before anybody could read it because it was stupid, so it doesn’t count.)

I think now is as good a time as any to take a look back, and think ahead about the future.

I started this blog almost a year ago, basically out of spite. I was mad at my boss and decided to show my displeasure by no longer coming in an hour early to catch up on email before the morning meetings. (I also stopped attending the morning meetings, because I was catching up on emails. So take that, Boss! Even better, I still won an award for my good work, and the one time someone asked me about my attendance at morning meetings I threw such a fit that they never asked again, so really it was a win-win for me all around.)

Continue reading “Milestones”

Kaitlin’s Chinese Courtyard

Kaitlin’s Chinese Courtyard

On their second day in the new house a couple of things happened that, while noteworthy at the time, took on a special significance in hindsight. The first was the trio of apple cores placed in the mailbox to ooze apple juice onto the circulars.

“Maybe a squirrel put them there,” Kaitlin said. Yvonne raised an eyebrow. “Maybe it was an accident,” she tried again. One apple core might–might–get swooped up in the mail and deposited accidentally, but three? “Maybe some kids put it there. Maybe they’ve been using that mailbox as a convenient trash can for a long time. They might not know anyone lives here now.”

Yvonne didn’t say anything but kept her skeptical eyebrow arched as she carried the apples and mail to the kitchen. The mail was all junk anyway. The apples had more juice in them than any apples she’d ever seen before, though to be fair she was never really fond of apples. She was about to toss the cores into the trash when Kaitlin chirped, “Compost!” Yvonne carried out them back to the compost tumbler. Along the way she wondered if she could compost the mail, too. It was just paper, after all, though probably mixed in with some deadly-toxic chemical that saved the printers a few pennies per pound.

Continue reading “Kaitlin’s Chinese Courtyard”