The dog went to the vet on Saturday. He behaved exactly how you would expect him to. He barked at everyone when I left him in the car so that I could get the paperwork sorted. He honked the horn at me. Oh, he was tickled and surprised to pull that off. Then, he peed on the vet’s floor. He acted like a complete wild nincompoop. They had to lift him up so his back legs were off the ground to keep him from squirming away while they vaccinated him. He sniffed some other dog’s junk and tried to lick it. Perhaps even succeeded.
And then he took a huge dump right outside the vet’s door.
And he’s on a diet–2-3 cups of food a day (two in the morning and, if there’s none in the bowl in the evening, he can have a third cup, but, if there is food in the bowl, no adding to it), only one treat a day, and no people food. Strict no people food orders. He has to get down to 100 lbs.
He has worms. He has the “a mosquito bit you” kind and the “you eat poop, don’t you?” kind.
When the Butcher went to pick up the medicine for the worms, they advised him to wrap the pill in cheese.
“Isn’t that a ‘people food’?” my smart-ass brother asked.
So, there’s a conceit in House of Windows, that the narrator (which is kind of a loaded term in that book) can kind of feel the house around her, and thus feel when it becomes misshapen. It works because I think people do have a sense of the space they’re in. And places can seem happy or sad, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. I mean, the weirdest thing, for me, about the Hermitage is that it’s clearly a loud place. Like, when you’re in it, you just know it should be filled with noise. It’s not surprising to learn that there were always children–adopted, nieces and nephews, etc.–knocking around or that it was filled with slaves (ten in the house). The hush, the reverence–that’s the unnatural thing.
And yesterday, I got to meet the Butcher’s new girlfriend and her kids. I like her. I will write next to nothing about her kids, because that would be weird, except to say that they’re really well-behaved. But man, the whole house was happy with them there. I don’t quite know how to explain it. It was just really pleasant.
Plus, the Butcher cleaned the fuck out of the house before they showed up, which was really, really nice.
Okay, so I have to tell you that there are things you do with people you’re not related to and you think nothing of it. If a hairy, shirtless dude wanted you to rest your head on his chest, of course! But when it’s your brother, because you’re listening for any weird noises that shouldn’t be there…
You guys, I just cannot get the heebie jeebie memory of his chest hair tickling my ear out of my head!
I try to think about the pleasant chest hair tickles of days past, tickles made by hair that shared no parents with me.
I try to think about maybe the dog leaning against me.
But it does no good.
I’ll also say that the decongestant I bought him to try to alleviate the whistle I heard in his chest was not fucking around. The Butcher took it at 7 p.m. and he pretty much slept until 7 a.m. Considering the dose is once every twelve hours, that works out.
But he’s looking much better today. More like a man who’s getting over something.
In unrelated news, I think I’m going to break down and read Absalom, Absalom. As prep for my haunted house.
On the one hand, it looks good. On the other hand, I need another skein.
I teased the Butcher too much this morning and hurt his feelings. And now I feel like a cad. But he’s always telling me that I ruin my meanness by not sticking the landing, so I don’t know.
We’re having a fight because he thinks the dog is getting fat, so we need to feed him less. I don’t think the dog is getting fat, but I think that, if we’re concerned that he is, we could take him to the park more and switch him to a higher-protein less-grain food. And stop feeding him pizza crusts.
But I’m being unreasonable.
I did accuse the Butcher of having Doggie Dismorphic Disorder, but our fight was really about my ongoing midlife crisis and my feeling like he has a life on my dime while I sit at home and fret about how to keep things together. Because I feed the dog and, lately, have been the one walking him. So, I feel like the Butcher is accusing me of not taking proper care of the dog while he does nothing to take care of the dog.
Which is objectively not true. But it’s a fight about being trapped together during a long winter.
So, you know, ugly stuff.
And I don’t really want to be a more outgoing person. But I’m jealous of the ease at which he meets people and how there are always people who want to hang out with him. And I want things to happen for me, but I feel instead like a big old weirdo just spinning my wheels.
I asked the Butcher to make sure that I didn’t leave this house until I had this thing done. His strategy for making that happen seems to be to have left in my car for… I don’t know. I did laugh, though. The fridge is filled with Dr. Pepper and he’s gone.
There’s no clearer “You have no excuse not to write” signal.
I pulled this sweater right out of the dryer this morning and it smells just like a diaper. Not a dirty diaper. Like a clean, cloth diaper, like the diapers I used to put on the Butcher when he was a baby. And, because it’s smell, it brings back those memories so hard–how soft the skin on his face was, how his black hair was so wispy, the little crooked ls his legs made, how it felt when his fingers curled around mine.
It’s weird to think that he doesn’t remember any of that. That these memories, which I’d forgotten I even had, are a way I know him that he doesn’t know himself.
On the other hand, I’m not that exited about regularly smelling like a diaper, so maybe we need a different detergent.
I don’t even know what happened after I went to bed, but I woke up to a different cat than the one that was in the house, poop in the tub, a knocked-over cactus, a distraught dog, and the Butcher’s phone smashed to smithereens. These things probably aren’t all related, but it makes for one hell of a crime scene.
I went over to St. Thomas to have my boobs squished, which meant there was plenty of Jesus and calming hymns playing in the waiting room (so, word to the wise–if you find that stuff appalling, don’t go there). But that thin veneer of “A man is always watching you, and loving you, but watching. Jesus is always watching and caring deeply about everything you do.” could not mitigate the fact that getting your boobs squished at St. Thomas is an experience utterly devoid of men. There were no men in the elevator with me, no men in the waiting room. Two hilarious older women checked me in, a woman gently squished the shit out of my boob.
It felt really powerful. Not the mammogram, but the feeling like I’m in a place where my body is utterly known and familiar and ordinary.
I had this thought as I was walking back to the dressing room, that our society is set up in many ways to prevent women from regularly having these kinds of experiences of women of all ages caring for you.
But here was the weirdest part. At lunch, they called to pre-register me and the woman asked if the emergency contact person was still my brother, and then she paused, and said “Bartholomew” and then she laughed. I said, “Yes, but you can call him ‘Bart’,” and she went “‘Bart?’ That’s worse!” and laughed some more. Then she said. “Oh my goodness. I’m so sorry.” And she wasn’t being an ass or anything. I think “Bartholomew” just genuinely struck her as a funny name. But she works at St. Thomas–Jesus’ friend–and she’s surrounded by images of Jesus and His mom. Of all the places in town where the name “Bartholomew” shouldn’t strike someone as weird, you’d think a Catholic hospital would be it. Yes, Bartholomew, like Jesus’ other friend. He also is a saint.
There’s an Episcopal church in town called St. Bartholomew’s.
I was telling the Professor that I go next week to get my boobs squished for science. It’s my first annual mammogram. (Is there any word that sounds older than “mammogram”? “Ma’am”–woman older than you. “O” starts the word “old.” “Gram,” a pet name for a grandmother. You don’t even have to know what a mammogram is to know it’s for old women.) And then I thought–It is my first annual mammogram. I know many people get annoyed by “First Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest,” but I think “first annual mammogram” is right. It’s like the exception that proves you should normally use inaugural.
Oh, speaking of things that go with “inaugural,” I’m working on my October thing and I was telling the Butcher about it and I was like “And then a buzzard with the head of Abraham Lincoln shows up” and he was like “seen it.”
How is this possible?
Is there anything in pop culture the Butcher hasn’t already encountered?
I had a really good talk with the Professor last night about how I’m not exactly bummed or anything about turning 40. I mostly just, if I’m being honest, feel confused by it. Like, oh, okay, so nothing’s going to happen? And the Professor has this theory that we don’t really have realistic role models for how not to be like our parents, because, growing up, we saw our parents and their friends and then, anyone who wasn’t living like that was on TV, somehow changing the world. But here we are, 40, and maybe we don’t want to change the world or we realize that our ability to effect change is really limited, but we still don’t want lives like our parents’ so we have to figure out what it is we want from life instead.
I also was able to talk through with her my feelings of guilt and discomfort with the fact that I live so decadently. Like I do really have this internalized idea that there’s something shameful about deciding to just go ahead and be weird. And yet, what else can I do? I want to be happy and this is what makes me happy. So, I just have to keep on acknowledging that small voice and then ignoring it.
On my way home today, though, when I lamented to the Butcher my fear that I’ll never get a book contract, he told me to shut up because I’d already made more from my art in my lifetime than Van Gogh had made in his, so what more did I fucking want? Which made me laugh.
On the one hand, I’m going to be so happy when the Butcher’s car is fixed. Because this waking up at a quarter to six when I’m used to waking up at twenty after is doing me in. It doesn’t seem like it should be that big a deal, but it seems like I’m missing some crucial last part of a sleep cycle or something.
But on the other hand, I like having a half an hour a day where we just talk about shit. Not that we don’t do that at home, but… well, no, not really. We’re watching TV or each doing our own thing.
Anyway, I wrote this thing for Pith. What I’m mulling over is that we tell history like it is just one great person popping up, island after island, like Hawaii in metaphorical terms. But you can’t look too closely at any particular person without seeing all the ways they’re tired to the people who came before them.
Last night I dreamed Paul Rudd and I were having dinner at Cracker Barrel, where he proceeded to break up with me. I said to him, “Paul Rudd, I got a blue Mustang for you.” As if that would mean that he couldn’t break up with me. And then I said. “Paul Rudd, do you know how hard it is to get a horse to stand still while you paint him?” And then I winked. Like that was the most clever joke Paul Rudd was ever going to hear, and thus would win him back.
So, this morning, I told the Butcher that I had a dream Paul Rudd broke up with me and he said, “Why would Paul Rudd break up with you?” which I thought was a really lovely compliment. Why, indeed? Some brothers, perhaps even this particular one at an earlier point, might ask why Paul Rudd would possibly want to date me.
But then I told him the dream and the Butcher said, “Oh, well, that explains it. How weird would it be to date someone who constantly called you by your first and last name?”
One thing that always amazes me about the Butcher is that, though he’s not the most ambitious person in the world–in other words, if there were a 5 ton boulder in the back yard, he wouldn’t move it without being asked. But, if you go to the Butcher and say “I need help moving this 5 ton boulder,” he’d be up for it.
Which I guess is my way of saying that I’m feeling completely overwhelmed, but he’s just like “We’ll just do it. We’ll do it like this as long as we have to and then we’ll do it like that once we get a little money.”
He had a political thing on Saturday. I couldn’t go because I can’t work on his campaign because of work. And I don’t want to get into it with work about what constitutes “working.” But he went with our friend, T., and apparently he rocked it.
And I’m really happy. He is awesome. And I’m glad he’s seeing that.
The previous situation fizzled out. And oh, the stories I could tell. But I’m trying to be thoughtful about the notion that sometimes the Butcher gets weirded out by how much of his life ends up here.
But he’s started a new job today, with a set schedule and a pay rate that doesn’t fluctuate based on arbitrary decisions made by consultation with the spirits. And the new engine for his car is almost here, which means he will soon get his car back.
So, that’s a relief.
He’s got his petition to qualify to run against Lamar Alexander. And, I admit, I’m kind of impressed that he’s gotten this far with it. But I also always wondered who these people are who run against a guy like Alexander. And it’s the Butcher!
He doesn’t expect to win, but I think he’s learning a lot about things just by trying. Even as weird an attempt as he’s making.
I wonder at what point his run becomes serious enough that it affects Pith?
I told him that, if Alexander bothers to spend even ten minutes doing opposition research on him, he should consider that a victory.
“No one has ever loved me as much as this dog, who’s only known me for a month, loves me.”–The Butcher
I think it must be wild to have a baseline of so much money that a couple hundred bucks arriving at Christmas isn’t a guarantee that your car will break down or you’ll need to hire a plumber or the whole back of your yard will break off and go floating above the Fontanel and get you sued for blocking their view.
But, here in the real world. money ahead is money spent on a problem you just don’t know you have yet.
The Butcher’s car broke down on Briley. He is, apparently, out of oil. Which, you know, is no good. But the weird part is that there’s no evidence of a leak. Our driveway harbors no oil slick. The car doesn’t smell like it’s burning oil. The oil is just gone.
And whether the car can come back from being run without oil?
I’m a little trepidatious, I have to admit. There’s no way to prepare the cats. They’re just going to be pissed for a while. But I was also not able to sleep all night, like a little kid who knows that Christmas is right around the corner.
The Butcher said last night, “I am glad to have a dog again.”
And my parents are being adorable about this. My dad is all insisting that we take a letter of recommendation from the owners of the Butcher’s dog friend. I am not doing so, but I will have my phone with me which has pictures of Sadie on the couch and being adorable and sleeping with the cats and all the stuff that we hope another dog will want to do. Come, Rufus, fill the empty spot on our couch.
As for “Rufus,” I’m not in love with it. But I can live with “Roo.” And the Butcher likes “Rufus” a lot, plus it’s what the dog is used to being called. We’ll probably just roll with it. No idea yet what he’ll be called here. But we’ll see.
I set a timer to wake me up every three hours. And I learned that, in my sleep cycle, the three hour mark has me deep, deep in some hard sleep. But I got up and got the dog out and we had a successful pee-in-the-bed-free night! But man, I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. I have no idea how new parents do it.
The Butcher got home way late last night.
A couple of the texts he sent me yesterday have me nervous that he’s not convinced that this is the right course of action.
But then, he didn’t wake up to find him and her sleeping in her piss two nights in a row. He didn’t have to clean up accidents during the day two days before that. And the way you can run your finger in the hollow spot between her back rib and whatever is supposed to be just under her rib is new, from yesterday. And he’s got to see for himself how she shakes when she breathes in, like it hurts her.
I’m glad, then, that I scheduled it for Thursday, even if it means a couple more nights of shitty sleep on both her and my part, because clearly, we turned a dreadful corner while he was gone and he needs to see that there’s no coming back from it.
But I really hate that for him. What I learned early Sunday morning, he’s got to learn first-hand today.
It’s a terrible business, waiting around for Death.
The Butcher and I went to Gabby’s for lunch. They were getting their application for Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives together. I said to the Butcher, “You know we’re going to have to take Mom & Dad here if they get on TV.”
“They’ll make us take them here if they just hear they’re trying to get on TV,” the Butcher said. “So, I hope it’s good.”
It was good! And, even though they tell you to clean up after yourself, they cleaned up after us.
I like hanging out with the Butcher. On our way home, we were talking about how, if you’re going to be a place with a line, you have to keep that line moving fast or we’d rather be at a place with a waitstaff. And I floated by the Butcher my theory that Nashville’s willingness to stand in lines is a public ritual grieving the death of Opryland–like you may take our beloved themepark from us, but you can’t stop us from recreating the queues from that themepark all over town in memorium.
The Butcher thinks it’s more that people in Nashville like to be seen and how can you be seen if you’re not standing around outside?
And then we lamented the loss of the IHOP that sat at Broadway and 21st where we used to eat lunch together when we first moved to town, which was the friendliest and sunniest and just, in general, best IHOP ever.
The Butcher and I went to Two Boots Pizza for lunch. It’s not set up for how Nashville eats lunch, but if you want someplace where you can eat by yourself, this is the place for you.
We were just shooting the shit, which was nice, and I realized that one of the things I most missed while he was gone was feeling like I had someone who was right there, on my side, in any fight.
Not that I have many fights.
But both my brothers, in their own ways, have my back.
I’m lucky about that.
The Butcher has Hand, Foot, and Mouth, which is a virus that causes a painful rash where the name states. Normally little kids get it, but sometimes adults get it and then spend the weekend moping around on the couch because they’re miserable and they’ve already watched all the documentaries about happiness on Netflix.
So, it’s weird. And it means I’ve had to cook him dinner, feed him, and take his dishes to the kitchen. And do the dishes. And the grocery shopping.
Basically, it’s like when he was gone, but with more rashes.
The Butcher made beef and noodles for dinner, which were delicious, even though I burned myself on them three times–doing the noodles for him, spilling my dinner on my lap, and then touching the bottom of the pot while putting the noodles away. So, that wasn’t fun. But then I had the best sleep I’ve had in ages.
But I had this really vivid dream that Mayor Dean turned downtown Nashville into a historical reenactment place, like Colonial Williamsburg, and we were all required to work there, but I didn’t have money for costumes, so I decided to open a historical brothel, figuring we could all be naked. But I couldn’t find a landlord who would rent to us or, if they did, who wouldn’t harass my girls.
So, I rented a cart, piled all my girls in it, and went around town trying to find new places while the tourists cheered us.
I woke up in a panic because I had no way to pay for the rented cart.