Off Social Media For A Bit.

I need to self-care for a bit, and social media isn’t helping me.  I’ll be back.  Might be an hour, might be a week, might be a month.

Take care of yourselves, k?

What Polyamory Is.

How’s next Tuesday for you? No? You’ve got a date with Jessica. No, I can’t do Friday, Bryan’s coming in for his biannual visit. And the 17th is out, that’s Father’s Day…

Can you just look at my Google Calendar, find a free day, and pick it?

——————-

I’m sorry, I really am. I didn’t mean to cook her my special pasta carbonara – yes, I know I did that for you on our first date, but I do that on every first date, it’s my go-to dish –

Oh. You think that’s our dish now.

You are okay with me being dick-deep in someone else, right? Yeah, the boinking other people is still fine, great. But now that sex isn’t the thing that defines us exclusively, man, isn’t it weird how the most bizarre things trigger jealousy? Remember when I got hung up because you went to the butterfly house with Mark, and I thought that was our special place, and –

Right. You’re still upset. Let’s negotiate and determine whether we’re pasta-amorous.

—————-

How’d my date with Denise go? I mean, good, yeah. We had a good time. It was the good kind of, uh, goodness.

No, I’m not being defensive. I’m just… not sure how many details you want on this whole “outside date” thing. Does it, uh, turn you on to hear what kind of fooling around we did? Or are you more of a “as long as the sex was safe, it’s all good” kinda person?

Oh. You wanna know the emotional velocity of this date. Well, how’s that work? Do you wanna know whether I’m falling in love with her, or a blow-by-blow of what we talked about, or a bead on whether I think the two of you could be friends?

Ah, you wanna know how experienced she is with polyamory and what her dating history is like, so you’re braced for incoming problems! Okay, yeah. It’s that sort of post-date debriefing. Let’s go.

——————

Of course I know Valentine’s Day is coming up. What do you mean “Who gets it?”

Ohhhhhhh.

——————–

Whoah, yeah, Paulo shouldn’t have said that. He was way out of line. But at the same time, he’s been super-stressed and all, what with his overtime at work and his son being sick, and cutting him some slack right now then discussing it later might be the best course.

…when did I start going to bat for your boyfriend?

—————–

What? No. Alex is just a friend. I have those too, you know.

What’s that? You envy me, because I’m polyamorous and you’re not? Why?

Oh. “Because polyamory’s all about hot sex and new partners.”

Sure. That’s what it is, all right.

Wanna look at my Google calendar?

The Final, Potentially Magical, Days Of My Old Car

“How much would you pay for this car?” my friend asked us.

“I dunno,” I said, because we weren’t in the market for a car, and I never paid attention to car prices anyway. I jokingly named what we had in our savings account at the time, which wasn’t nearly as much as the car – a two-year-old Saturn SUV with all the trimmings – was worth.

“Sold,” said my buddy, to my surprise. He was looking to get rid of the car because his new kids meant he needed a minivan, and he’d rather this car went to someone he liked.

So we had a car. It had everything: heated seats, satellite radio, big space. We loved it.

Our old car, coincidentally, died irreparably three weeks after we sold it to someone, even though it had been in good shape when we left it. We joked that it loved us so much it couldn’t bear to be with anyone else.

The first thing we did with our new car was the thing we did with every new car: we put my grandmother’s angel clip in it. The angel clip was not at all unique: my grandmother bought them by the box from Avon. She loved giving away bric-a-bracs, so much so that when we moved her into the nursing home we realized that her bedframe had collapsed and her mattress rested entirely upon a platform of Avon soap-on-a-ropes, which she would hand out on every occasion.

But she’d given it to me and said, “This angel clip will keep you safe.” I clipped it to my car sun visor, where it may have protected us from roadsize hazard but it was a razor-sharp piece of metal at temple height when you pulled the screen down.

Still. My Grammy gave it to me, and it was nice having a piece of her in the car. When she died I’d sometimes touch the angel, knowing a part of her went with me wherever I drove.

Yet fast-forward a decade and 120,000 miles, and our beloved Saturn felt like a dying pet. It had always had trouble with its wheel bearings, grinding them out every eight to fourteen months like mangled clockwork, so much so that our garage had a standing order for replacements.

But this time, they told us that the whole transmission was going. We had about four months left, at which point the repairs would be about $5,000 dollars. They said, and I quote, “Do not put another dollar into this car.”

So we went car shopping, excruciatingly aware that our car was on a countdown. And as the days piled on, with the grinding of those traitorous wheel bearings getting louder, it felt like watching over a dying pet.

Because the car was trying, it truly was, a magnificent effort – you could feel it chugging to life when we stepped on the accelerator. Three weeks after the diagnosis the air conditioning died in the summer heat, but it didn’t just die – you could feel the car wheezing, trying hard to produce cold the way it used to, coughing sporadic bits of freon in your face.

The dealer said they’d probably sell it for salvage, which hurt my heart.

So on Sunday, I cleaned out the car to pick it up for trade-in. We’d had it for a decade, so it had all sorts of things stashed in it – CDs we’d never played since we figured out we could connect our iPhones to it, mysterious keys to bike racks we’d long sold on Craigslist, and of course the angel clip.

I put the angel clip in a pile in the backseat as I cleaned, the pile marked “Transfer to new car.” And I whispered reassurances to my car, feeling foolish, but thanking it for all it had done for us, we were grateful, we didn’t want to sell you but it’s time you rest.

Monday, we stepped into the driveway, knowing this would be our car’s last trip with us.

It wouldn’t start.

We sat there dumbfounded, hearing the clicking noise in the ignition, then burst into laughter. Touche, car!

“I guess it really doesn’t want to be with anyone but us,” Gini joked. We got out our car charger, hoping it was just a dead battery.

“Oh!” I said, going back into the house. “I forgot my Grammy’s angel clip!” Because the first order of business once we signed the paperwork was to put Grammy’s love into the new car.

I looked through the pile of “Transfer to new car” stuff.

The clip wasn’t there.

Confused, I checked the pile three times, then wandered out to our old, trusty Saturn. And sure enough, the angel clip had fallen off the pile, wedged in the corner of the back seat, where it would have gone to the junkyard with the rest of the car.

The car started up shortly after that.

I’m a skeptic who realizes that the universe may be arbitrary and cold, but I choose to believe in certain stories. And what I believe is that my Grammy and the car both refused to go until my Grammy’s angel clip was safe and ready in my hands to go to the new car, the passing on of generations.

Anyway. We now have a seaglass-green Prius, which will hopefully last us long and fruitfully.

And yes.

My Grammy’s clip was the first thing we did.

Our old car, having broken down in our driveway literally as we were driving into to trade it in at the dealer. Touché, car!

Our new car, a Prius. Smug alert!

Aaaaand there’s my Grammy’s angel clip. We couldn’t leave it behind. Literally.

Gender Confusion.

So my sweetie Fox is non-binary – they do not identify as “he” or “she,” but rather “they.” So it shouldn’t be surprising that they hang out with other non-binaries, which occasionally causes confusion for this dense cis-dude.

And we were having a conversation about Fox’s sweetie Jim*, and I said something like, “He must have been happy.”

“They,” Fox corrected me.

“Hmm?”

“They. Like me.”

“Well, of course they like you!” I protested. “They’re dating you, aren’t they?”

Amazingly enough, Fox is still dating me, despite my periodic obliviousness.

* – Names changed to protect the people who didn’t ask to be in this essay.

Why Hereditary Actually IS The Scariest Movie Of 2018.

In Call of Cthulhu, the infamously terrifying roleplaying game, the players are usually giggling nonstop.  It’s not that they’re not scared – they are.  But they are fully aware that this kindly old man is probably a cultist bent on their evisceration and this locked door to the abandoned basement should never be opened – but the characters they are playing do not know that.

So they giggle wildly as they tiptoe towards their inevitable destruction.  It’s whistling past the graveyard, really.  They’re locked in to a grim conclusion, and laugh manically because they know everything they do is doomed, that every paranoia they have is utterly justified, and yet they go through the motions because the true horror of Call of Cthulhu that sane people acting rationally will be ground to bits.

I thought I would never hear that laughter outside of a horror roleplaying game.

But last night, during the showing of Hereditary, the theater was awash in constant, unstoppable giggling as everyone realized that the family in this film was smart, and flawed, and acting on every bit of knowledge they had available to them, and these poor fuckers were still doomed, doomed, doomed.

The problem in describing Hereditary is that “scary” is the only positive word we can associate with a horror movie.  The true description of Hereditary is “dread full,” because there’s not much in Hereditary that’s jumping out at you.  It traffics in dread, that soaking sensation that something bad is going to happen and you don’t quite know what but when it arrives it’s going to be worse than what you thought it would be, and goddamn if it isn’t.

Because Hereditary is actually a slow drama, one that focuses on what happens when a family unravels due to the weight of death.   There are long, aching moments where you wish for zombies, because honestly a good solid monster scare would be preferable to watching everyone quietly blame each other.  And unlike some horror movies, which have long slow shots only so you can scan the background for creepy stuff in the background, Hereditary has long slow shots where it will not let you look away from someone’s pain, where they’re trapped in grief that they will never escape because death is permanent, and so when the creepy stuff comes in it is genuine and earned.

I thought I knew where Hereditary was going, but those plans flew out the window early on, and from then on I was with the audience.  Giggling.  Braced for impact.  And then the impacts came, and kept coming, and kept coming, and maybe the ending went on a bit too long but when I thought about it – and I did think about the ending, I couldn’t stop thinking about it – it all fit together.

Hereditary isn’t perfect.  But it does one thing perfectly – dread.  That sick anticipation of knowing that bad things are about to happen, and maybe they won’t, or maybe they’ll be even worse.

They’ll be worse.

That’s Hereditary.

Needed: Beta Readers For A Story About Madness

If you’ll recall, I’m writing a story for the upcoming “Unlocking the Magic” anthology, tentatively called “Madness Is A Skill.”  And as I always do when I write new fiction, I’m looking for beta readers to give me feedback on this early draft.

In this instance, I’m looking for two styles of readers:

  • People who suffer from chronic mental illness, so I can see whether my story rings true to them;
  • People who suffer from no mental illness, so I can see whether my story makes sense to people who don’t connect personally with the struggles of people with depression and potential psychotic breaks.

What am I not looking for?  Proofreaders and people who are really good at spotting typos.  I’m going to take out 15% of the words and read everything aloud to check the flow of the prose before I’m done – and assuming my editor likes it, we’ll have professional copyeditors and proofreaders sniffing this sucker like a bloodhound.  So I need no copyeditors.

No, what I want are attentive, verbose, and discerning people who can tell me four separate things:

•         The things that confuse you (“Why would $character do that?” or “Why did this magic not work this way?”)
•         The things that throw you out of the story (“$character wouldn’t do THAT!” or “Factually, that’s so wrong!”)
•         The things that give you ass-creep (“I got bored here”)
•         All the things that make you pump the fist (“This moment was truly awesome, and unless I tell you how awesome it is, you might cut this part out in edits”)

So if you think you can do all that for a 4,800-word story in three weeks or less, do me a favor and email me at theferrett@gmail.com with the header “FERRETT, I WOULD LIKE TO BETA-READ YOUR MADNESS.”  (People who cannot follow these simple instructions will not be entrusted with my fiction.)

What does beta-reading get you?  In this case, alas, the debatable pleasure of reading a story early, as unlike my novels, there’s no acknowledgements to be had – and the potential to maybe beta-read my future novels, if that’s your jazz.  I will most likely get filled up on people, but if I do, I’ll put you on the list for the next revision, if there is one, which there will probably be.

Stay sane, everyone.  It’s a heckuva month.

She Would Have Been Ten Today.

I wrote this four years ago:

You realize that a child is not a child, but an arc soaring out into time and space, a potential to be fulfilled, and somewhere within her skull is an eyeball-sized mass that may grow to squeeze her brain until it literally forgets how to breathe. Except this child is a child. This child may only ever be a child, and then dissolve into a tangle of theories. What would she have liked? What would she have seen?

You look down at this beautiful wide-eyed girl, grinning like she has all the secrets in the world to tell you, and you can’t hold it all in your head. She’s alive here, and over here she may not be. You swing your flashlight between those two possibilities, trying to capture them both, but the beam is too narrow. Alive. Dead. Alive. Dead.

You hold her so hard, pressing her skin to yours, hoping to press her memory into your flesh forever.

But you can’t.

You know you can’t.

———————-

I couldn’t.

———————

It’s her birthday, and I can no longer plot the trajectory of where my goddaughter Rebecca would have been by now. The Christmas after, I was still pretty sure she would have liked the Annie movie, which starred a plucky girl who looked a lot like her – or she would have hated it because I wanted her to like it. She was like that.

But now? She would have been ten.

I only got to know her until her sixth birthday, when she left us.

There’s a thousand things I wanted to know about Rebecca that I never got to see. I don’t know what songs she’d be singing now. I don’t know how she’d be getting along with her brother Josh. I don’t know what plays she’d have been acting in.

And all those extend out into all the other unknowns I hoped to see: who she’d have crushes on. What career she’d choose. What sort of grown-up she’d be. Whether we’d stay in touch as she forged her own life.

I saw all there was to see.  The whole damn show.

I wanted more.

————————

My faith tells me that she’s been wrapped up in the arms of a loving universe, some essential part of her preserved and treasured the way I would have preserved and treasured her. I remember praying, begging God to take my life for hers, then slowly realizing that there was no bargain to be struck.

As an honest man, I must confess that there are days my faith wavers and I wonder if it’s all bullshit. It might be. But it keeps me going a lot of days when I’d collapse otherwise, so if I don’t force it on anyone, well, I’ve always been a big fan of whatever works.

But there’s that residual bitterness. We tried everything we legitimately could think of on Rebecca, every advanced medical treatment we could get our hands on in the time that we could – and everything the world had to offer wasn’t enough.

She would have been ten.

She got to be six.

I get to stand by a grave sometimes and look at this tiny piece of rock, embedded with a thousand other rocks at the Jewish cemetery, and feel the sweep of time passing, of humanity’s importance diminishing, of all the billions gone and forgotten and knowing that Rebecca’s done all she could do as her own entity.

I miss her.

I hope that means something.

But as an honest man, I must confess that some days I wonder if that’s bullshit too.

———————

There was a firefly last night. I saw it once, cradled in the branches of the tree in my front yard. Rebecca’s father was working in my woodshop, as was her favorite uncle, and I was hauling out some trash.

I looked around. I didn’t see it again.

The fireflies came early for Rebecca, swirling in the yard as the doctors hauled her body out to the van. I remember seeing them, feeling they were tiny green angels come to see her off, glowing and sparking before any firefly had a right to be out.

Sometimes when I think of Rebecca fireflies appear, and I wonder if that’s her way of comforting me. And I admit it’s probably bullshit. I endured a great loss.  Little lies about fireflies may be how I survive.

I just wish Rebecca had survived.