Something happened to me today, and I’m concerned. Partially about the world I live in, partially about the person who did it to me and partially about the whole of reality.
This is not facetiary. (If that’s not a word, it should be. Facetiousness? Get right out of town.) Either somebody I love dearly is losing their mind or the universe I thought I lived in has been swapped out for one where up is down.
So I put it to you, denizens of the internet.
Is jello with mayonnaise a thing?
Because if it is, then first of all, GROSS, and second of all, I don’t think I can live on this planet anymore.
And if it’s not, I have some very difficult decisions to make about my loved one.
I know this because my dog is the dumbest dog living.
Our neighbors are having a yard sale this morning. Lots of cars coming and going, doors slamming, muffled voices from the driveway.
These are all signs our dog (naturally) associates with my wife and I coming home from work. And our dog is the quintessential Attention Whore Dog (AWD for brevity ahead). She has to be in the same room with us at all times. If we step out on the back porch, even just to take out the trash or hose out a litter box, so must she. Going to the bathroom? She’s coming with you (though thankfully she’ll dutifully stop before coming in, and wait with her nose on her paws for you to come out). Headed to the kitchen? She’s on your tail with hers wagging. Cleaning house? She’ll follow you from room to room, simultaneously keeping you in view while keeping her distance from the vacuum cleaner.
All of which is to say that when we come home from leaving her alone all day, she’s a little keyed-up to see us. She greets us at the door, bounding all over the place, sniffing at our crotches, bashing her nose into our low-hanging hands. And she knows to do this when she hears the sounds that indicate we’re coming through the front door: cars grinding to a stop. Doors whumping shut. Muffled voices from the driveway.
And like I said, the neighbors are having a yard sale today — so she’s been hearing those sounds on repeat all morning. So she’s been in a perpetual state of getting revved up to see us without the payoff of actually seeing us so she can let it out and calm down.
But that’s understandable. She’s a dog. She doesn’t know the difference between strangers making those noises and us making them. Here’s why she’s dumb.
When she gets hyped up or stressed out, she doesn’t do typical dog things. She doesn’t chew up our shoes or shred couch cushions or pillows (and I guess we should be thankful for that). She just runs around. She darts from place to place, shoves herself into the tiniest spaces she can find (under the dresser, into the back of the closet, behind the toilet, etc), stays there for about five seconds, then finds a new place. And she forgets how big she is during these forays. So she’ll knock over chairs, rattle glassware on counters, upend lamps.
And for some reason, she’ll dig into her food bowl and just spread it all over the place.
I don’t understand this. It seems like it can only inconvenience her. But it happens every time she gets stressed — we find kibble all over the kitchen, and I do mean all over the kitchen. It’s like she’s playing puppy shuffleboard with it. Or canine curling. (Oh man, just picture it.)
So, needless to say, I found the kitchen just swamped with kibble when I got back to the house this morning.
Fortunately for her, she’s too cute to kill.
What do you think? Is your dog dumber than mine? You’re wrong, but I’d love to hear about it.
Rain hammers at the windows as outside, a lance of lightning splits the sky. The rickety Cessna’s every seam rattles in the ensuing thunderclap. It’s been through its share of storms, but every storm is different, and this one is a humdinger.
Flashes of lightning sporadically light up the faces of the passengers. There is screaming terror, dumbstruck panic, horrified weeping. Some are praying, rocking as they mumble in their own tiny space. Some look ready to vomit at any moment. One, at least, has already done so.
There’s a BANG and a shudder rocks the plane. It’s impossible to say exactly what, but something has come off. In the spasmodic flashes of lightning, smoke is now visible out the windows. The wind tosses the craft around like a toddler with its favorite toy.
The scene in the cockpit is grim. A pilot mops sweat from his forehead, wrestling the stick for control of the plane — it bucks and thrashes in his hand like an angry python. Dimly he hears the screams of the passengers, but he’s much more concerned with the wind and the lightning and the looming mountain. Not enough altitude. The wheels clip the tops of trees, branches scraping the bottom of the plane like the grasping fingers of restless corpses. Another lurch as the wheel on one side is wrenched away.
But over the top of the hill — there, the landing strip. A faraway, flickering oasis. The engine coughs and stalls. They won’t be making it that far.
The doomed craft careens through the sky, passing low — too low — over farmhouses and fields toward the airfield. It wobbles drunkenly, smoke streaming from one engine like it’s a coal power plant before anybody ever heard of the EPA. It dives, banks hard to one side, dives again, and banks back, like a baby bird learning to fly on broken wings. It clips the top of an abandoned barn, blasting away part of the rotted roof in a shower of splinters.
Then, somehow, when by all rights the thing should be ditching in a cornfield, it levels off. The engines whine and sputter back to life, belching out gobs of black smoke, but giving it a burst of altitude. It just clears the power lines and rumbles toward the a clumsy touchdown like an eighth grader stepping onto the dance floor for the first time in his life.
Pandemonium as it touches down. The one wheel smokes while the un-wheeled leg gouges a terrific gash in the thin asphalt, gravel and tar scattering. The plane wobbles, fishtails, and finally flips over. One wing decides it’s had enough and sails off into the night. The tail crumples as the plane rolls over and over, flinging luggage and clothing across the tarmac.
Groaning like a tranquilized bear going under, the airplane topples to its side and lies mercifully still. One wing pointed toward the sky, the wheel a useless strip of deflated rubber spinning on its axle.
Then, sounds of life within. Traumatized groans and wails and exclamations of amazement as the passengers kick the door away and tumble out into the darkness. The pilot follows after them, cut and bruised and wild-eyed, but unhurt. They stumble across the runway clutching tightly to one another like starved refugees crossing the border.
And then the plane explodes. A glaring, angry fireball turning night into day.
This, then, is hell week in the theatre.
Every little thing is a crisis, every argument or misfire a question, seemingly, of life or death. An actor gets laryngitis. Another twists an ankle. Costumes don’t fit or can’t take the strain. The patches you put on the set to shore up the damage it was taking now have patches themselves. Literally every item of clothing you own is covered in flecks, if not splotches, if not gouts, of paint. The whole production, which you’ve spent months rehearsing, seems in danger of coming apart at any moment. You question every life decision which brought you to this point. Yet somehow the show survives. Somehow it crosses the finish line and everybody’s in one piece.
And, stranger still, some part of you wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s show week. Which means basically all of my daily fargoes are given over to making sure we put on a good one, which further means very little time or energy leftover for things like writing novels or posting to websites. Regularly scheduled programming will return once we are sure what is normal anyway.
Anyway, I woke up today feeling shockingly calm. Shockingly calm especially in contrast to my recent wakeups, which have been more and more dread- and panic-filled. The mad run-up to opening a high school musical will do that to you, what with teenagers wearing sneakers instead of character shoes in dress rehearsal, the sudden inability to make it through a scene which has gone off without a hitch in practice for weeks, or the near-constant flareups of arguments between friends, deepening of grudges between already-established enemies, and the IV drip of emotions that high school students have coursing through their systems at any given moment.
It’s been a rough several weeks, is what I’m saying.
But, like I said, calm this morning. And I didn’t know why, until it struck me — there is nothing more that I can do for the show. No more time to coach the actors. No more time to run the scene changes. No more time to “fix” anything. At this point, if it’s broken, it’s going on the stage broken, and while that’s not in and of itself a happy thought, it’s at least a sort of peaceful one.
Like a javelin in flight or an e-mail you forgot to proofread, it’s out there now. It’s sailing through the ether and it will either hit its target, or not, and well, whatever will be will be.
Of course, I’m also fully cognizant that this is the eye of the storm. We open tomorrow, and that will bring its own stress and panic to bear.
But for today — or, I should say, for this moment — I’m calm.
It’s funny how I made it through just about 20 years of life basically indifferent to — and uninterested in — Sherlock Holmes, and spent the next (almost) 20 years with Sherlock Holmes and his myriad derivatives being my favorite kind of superhero.
It started when I watched Monk sometime in college. Tony Shalhoub played this detective with OCD — a totally understandable dysfunction for a detective to develop, actually. He was a germophobe, perfectionist, and kind of a genius. He couldn’t shake your hand, but he could figure out where you’d been when your neighbor said you were over for crappy grilled cheese sandwiches by the grease stains on your shoes.
Thus began my fascination with the character who sees what the other characters don’t. In the intervening time, some of my favorite stories have been House (a doctor show based on Sherlock Holmes), Criminal Minds (a detective show where everybody has superpowers for determining truths about psychopaths based on their preferred method of decapitation and/or sexual abuse — a pretty messed up show, actually), and a host of other shows based on the character who had that vision for the thing misplaced, the nose for the detail that didn’t fit. Oh, and of course I went back and read the entire Sherlock Holmes catalogue (loved it), watched the newest iteration of Sherlock Holmes movies (loved the ones with Robert Downey Jr., despite the knocks against them. Hated the one with Ian McKellan as Holmes … so boring), and then there’s the brilliant Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch (which is the funnest name to screw up ever — Flumbybums, Drumberdroops, Pookersnoots), which belongs in your life if it isn’t already there.
So it’s no surprise, I guess, that my latest protagonist — even in a novel that is decidedly not a detective story by any stretch — has a bit of that vision.
Funny how the right story can unlock your brain.
I’m gonna have to think about this more at a time when my brain isn’t as fried as it currently is.