Wedding Eve

Today we’ll be decorating the church and working out last minute details and welcoming family. I guess I’ll also clean the bathroom. Maybe vacuum.

I am happy and teary at the same time. I’m going to miss the shit out of the Butcher, but he’s also just up in Gallatin. I’m assuming. I guess there’s a 50/50 chance I’ll wake up on Monday and his whole small family will be crammed into his room here.

Ha, kidding!

I hope.

New Things

The Butcher’s wedding looms. They’re trying to do a low-key thing, like afternoon wedding with cake and punch afterwards. It’s like they’ve never met our family, which should make the wedding super awkward, with all these opinionated strangers standing around.

I told the kids this weekend that I was going to be their step-aunt. They were more excited about having step-cats. Which, you know, fair enough.

I’m really happy for the Butcher and kind of excited to have the house to myself. And I’m sure it will also be lonely, but man, the dryer will be empty whenever I go to use it.

I think I’m going to win the cat argument, but it’s kind of a bummer because I think the reason I’m going to win it is that it’s sinking in to the Butcher how old the cat is. He didn’t get up to walk with us this morning and didn’t get up to get breakfast. He’s still asleep in the Butcher’s room as we speak.

Oh, god, I hope he’s not dead. Ha ha. I mean, I’m sure the Butcher checked before he left.

Logistics

The Butcher is moving out soon. Soon-ish. They need to make some space for him up at The Butcher’s Soon-to-be-Wife’s house. But then he’ll be up there. I thought I would be sadder, but it’s just up in Gallatin and I like seeing him happy.

I don’t know. I guess as it becomes more real, it might be a bummer. But for right now, I’m kind of looking forward to it.

I did broach the subject of him leaving his cat here. He was not happy with my suggestion, but the cat is seventeen years old. He likes it here and he knows here. We’ll see. I just think you shouldn’t uproot an ancient cat unless you have to.

It Happened!

The Butcher is getting married! The Butcher’s Wife sounds like a New York Times Best Selling Novel. Or the nickname of a mysterious assassin. “The Butcher’s Wife killed three of our agents in Moscow and we still don’t have a good picture of her.”

Ha.

It’s Happening!

So, the Butcher did get a ring from my grandmother, the provenance of which is unknown. The family story has always been that somewhere along the line my grandma lost her solitaire and her mother’s solitaire. But then she had a couple of solitaires for the Butcher to look at, which were supposedly the “replacements” for the solitaires she lost.

The Butcher got one of those rings. When he took it to the jeweler to get it resized, the jeweler was like “You know, this setting is easily over a hundred years old. It’s not going to resize well and it’s already lost a couple of diamond chips. The cost for you of me bringing this setting back into shape or you just resetting it into a new ring are not that different.”

So the Butcher went with a new ring in the right size. But I remain confused by the jeweler’s pronouncement that the setting was so old. I mean, I don’t doubt him. It looked really old. And the diamond’s cut also looked very old-fashioned to me, with more of a rounded top (it’s almost like looking in a very tiny marble. It does have some facets on top, but they’ve very, very subtle).

If this is the ring my grandma bought to replace my great-grandma’s ring, why is it so old? My grandma continues to surprise me, but of both of my grandmas, she strikes me as the least likely of the two to go into a pawn shop. And if my grandma lost both her ring and her mother’s ring at the same time (unless I’m misunderstanding the story), that had to happen during World War II, after my grandma got engaged–otherwise, she didn’t have a ring to lose.

So, in the very earliest case scenario, she got engaged (I think in 42, right before my grandpa enlisted), lost the ring and her mother’s ring, and went to a pawn shop and got two old ones? Why would she have had her mom’s engagement ring then?

But in the more likely scenario, she got her mom’s ring when her mom died after I was born. Thus putting the loss within my lifetime and I can damn well tell you that my grandma in my life was not going to pawn shops. So where did she get a ring that old?

My guess is that she didn’t lose her mom’s ring, or at least, not the ring that the Butcher ended up with, but over the years got confused and believed she’d lost this ring, when really, it just sat in a pile of junk in her house, safe and sound.

And now the Butcher has that diamond and is about to put it on his girl’s finger.

I’m really thrilled. I like her a lot and I like how happy he is with her. But, shhh, it’s a secret for now.

Is the Dog Getting Smarter?

This week, the dog has developed a really annoying thing where he stands near the couch and barks at the Butcher like he needs to go out, but then when you put him out, he comes right back in.

I mentioned as a joke to the Butcher that maybe Sonnyboy just wants him to go outside for some reason.

But my god, people, today the dog barked at the Butcher and barked and it was super annoying and the Butcher got up to brush his teeth and go to work and the dog just stole his space on the couch!

I think the dog has been trying all along to trick the Butcher into getting up so that he can have the warm spot on the couch! But, before this morning, the attempt always ended with the dog outside and not near the couch.

Today, though. Today it worked.

I would be more frightened, but last night our neighbor came over to deliver a misdirected package and to get us to sign a petition and the dog was so shocked to see him at our house–the man who lives right next door, whose yard the dog has to examine thoroughly before we can go on our walk–he fell out. The delight! The yard runs both ways! If the dog can get there, the neighbor can get here! How does it work? What magic is this?

So, even though he’s clearly learning to brain, he’s not at evil genius levels yet.

Living the Dream

One of the local parks–one of the big rural ones–is off-leash in the early mornings. Today Sonnyboy and the Butcher went there and Sonnyboy chased deer and made big circles in the field and still, somehow, came back to the Butcher when he was called.

The thing about a dog is this. Or maybe it’s a thing about everybody. But a dog can’t learn unless you put him in situations where he’s previously fucked up. If you want him to come when you call him, you have to put him in a position to come when you call him, which means letting him back into the circumstances where he has not come when you called him.

Today, he did it.

I am a little sad to have missed him bounding after the deer. I know how much he loves to chase things. But I never would have let him off the leash, so there we are, anyway.

I’m glad the Butcher could do that for him.

Butcher Appreciation Day

Ha ha ha. He hasn’t been a butcher in a million years. But what kind of nickname would “Guy Who Does Some Crap I Don’t Quite Understand And Goes on Trips” be? Nicknames, once given, shall not be updated.

Anyway, while he’s out of town, I’m coming to appreciate all he does, like keep the cats entertained, the dishes, filling the dog’s water bowl every evening, going to the grocery store, getting the mail, rolling out the garbage, bringing the cans back in.

I’m just like, my god, there’s another basic thing that needs doing in this house all the fucking time. And I’m not doing the litter box. Those jerks can just poop outside like regular animals.

I haven’t been doing something for the book every day he’s been gone, but I have gotten a lot more done for the book than I have most of the summer. That feels good. I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again–writing is one skill. It is hard but, if you read a lot and know what you like, you can flounder toward writing something you’d like to read and, eventually, write something that you enjoy reading. You can share it with your friends. They may also like it.

The submission process is a whole other equally as difficult skill set. I mean this for both short stories and this damn novel. They’re often conflated into one thing–like if you just write well enough, the submission process is a minor technicality, nothing to worry about. But folks, no. It, too, is hard and requires skills you don’t know you need until you’re crying because you don’t have the skill and you’re not sure how to cultivate it on such short notice.

So, I guess what I want to say is that I was a little fucking snobby about people not being real writers if they’re not submitting. But I also want to acknowledge somehow that this second part means something, too, and has weight and leaves scars. And for most of us, it’s an ordinary, tough, part of being a writer that is mostly invisible to outsiders.

Also, last night, in the dark, I stepped on mouse entrails. I heard the new kitty singing. I knew what it meant. I still did not tread carefully.

People Food

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.

Kids

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.

Chest Hair

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.

And I Don’t Have Enough Yarn for My Scarf

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.

Nose to the Grindstone

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.

Baby Butcher

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.

Poor Butcher

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.

Bewbs

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.

Well, whatever.

First Correct Use of “First Annual” in History?

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?

The Butcher and the Professor

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.

Times Like This

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.

In Which I Break Up with Paul Rudd

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?”

Fair enough.

The Butcher

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 Butcher is Back to Work

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.

The Butcher has Become a Crank!

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.