Monthly Archives: October 2012

If You Can’t Say Something Stupid, Don’t Say Anything At All

Through the course of my pet-sitting business (and my life, it would seem) there is always the client (or friend, or co-worker) that I inadvertently say nothing but stupid things to. While I somehow appear to be a veritable genius to some, there is invariably that person whom I regularly come off as a drooling idiot in front of. Case in point: while working at an animal hospital in Menominee Falls, Wisconsin, I for some reason could not do nor say anything right. “I’ll get your surgical tools,” I told the doctor/owner once to which he replied: “They are called instruments. I’m not going to fix a motorcycle.” At this I laughed nervously but inside felt like a moron. I knew they were called instruments yet I’d blanked for some reason. And then there was the puppy with the deciduous canines. I knew he had baby teeth that had to be pulled but in front of a co-worker (and a client) I said: “The little guy has a set of doubles.” Like that makes any freakin’ sense! They both looked at me as if I should immediately crawl under the nearest bridge and take up life as a troll. To my credit the little guy had been neutered recently and, while undergoing that procedure should have had the teeth pulled, but for some reason hadn’t. I assumed (most asininely) that he was meant to have them.

And so it was with my pet-sitting business there was Andrew. He was a great guy, very generous, had a wonderful wife, I loved the hell out of his dog, but I forever said the dumbest things around him. It was like I had a chronic case of diarrhea of the mouth. If I meant ‘up’ I said ‘down’, if I meant ‘right’ I said ‘wrong’. I once said: “Getting those puke stains out of the carpet will be like shooting fish in a barrel.” As if it would be easy to get cherry Kool-aid stains out of white shag. Jesus, what the hell was I thinking? Obviously the little hamster running on the wheel in my head was asleep at the switch.

I will confess right here and now that I used to smoke marijuana with some regularity. This wasn’t a problem with Andrew; he and his wife smoked everyday and encouraged me to help myself to the Ball jar of weed they kept in a kitchen cabinet. Maybe I helped myself too much, or maybe his strong demeanor intimidated me, I don’t know which. Whatever the case I was constantly a source of hilarity with my garbled phrases and stupid questions. Marijuana had been a problem regarding my questionable intelligence when I was younger, no doubt there. Just ask one of my various bosses at one of my menial labor jobs, they’ll be more than glad to confirm. When I was seventeen a manager at a restaurant I worked for had a meeting with the dishwashing crew (of which I was one of four) and told us to hold the silverware by the handles only, for sanitation purposes. I simply couldn’t wrap my stoned mind around it. When I thought of ‘handle’ I thought of a doorknob, or a lever or, maybe in my most brain-dead hour, as what Charlie stole from Aqualung and henceforth the train it wouldn’t stop going nor could it slow down. Please don’t ask me to explain that reference. I simply couldn’t place a ‘handle’ with a fork or knife. To quote Keanu Reeves: “Whoa!”

In the earliest years of my pet-sitting business I smoked weed about two to three times daily, so this could have been a factor. Honestly, it took several years of not smoking to clear out the cobwebs that had accumulated in a brain I’d mostly allowed to be on vacation for the majority of my life. It wasn’t easy to quit, but after a few years I felt my IQ increase by several points. For this reason alone I wanted to make sure I never fell back into the habit. I realized I was a fairly intelligent person and I didn’t want to blast my mind back to the Stone Age.

I eventually realized it wasn’t weed that caused me to say such stupid things, though; I found that even after I quit smoking I’d still come up with some doozies. He and his wife had a 4th of July party one year and I’d been invited plus a guest. I knew a girl I wanted to take but I also had a friend who wanted to go because he was broke and knew they’d put out a mighty fine spread. His belly was rumbling just thinking about it. So I emailed Andrew and said something like “If I can only bring one guest I’m gonna bring a date.’ This said because I wanted to show Andrew and his wife that I was capable of attracting a female’s attention (I’d been single the entire time I knew them and was starting to think they believed I was a closet homosexual). So the chick stood me up and I showed up with my buddy and upon entering I said something like “This is the person I was telling you about,” forgetting entirely about the email I sent. He and his wife looked at each other and an almost imperceptible nod passed between them. Somehow I’d confirmed their suspicion…

And then I went one further and asked if I should run down to the corner market and pick up some refreshments for the party. A twelve-pack maybe, or a bottle of wine. Andrew looked at me with the most singular expression of distaste I do believe I ever witnessed. This party he was throwing? He’d invited over a hundred people and the man (unlike Ted Knight) was definitely no slouch. He had not one but THREE kegs of imported beer and enough booze and wine to keep the marines at Camp Pendleton drunk until the next decade. And here I was asking: “Should I go and grab a twelve-pack,” like I was being generous or something. Why didn’t I just put a ‘Vacancy’ sign on my forehead and get it over with? Now, another side-note in my favor: I simply wanted a drink. After that comment I needed something to dull the pain and I didn’t know where he kept the booze stashed. My question was intended to fish out the location of said beverages so that I might enjoy one, like, pronto.

Even long after I no longer pet-sat for he and his wife (their dog, most regretfully, had passed away) I still managed the occasional stupid question every year or so. When the earthquake hit Japan in 2010 and the debris and nuclear waste and so on was supposedly headed for the California coast, I fielded a phone call from an old pot-smoking buddy of mine who warned me that I had to get out of California immediately. According to some radio station lunatic he listened to there was supposed to be a cloud of poison gas or radioactive waves or some calamitous shit immediately forthcoming and it would be in my best interest to head for the hills. Without even consulting the Internet or the local news or some other, informed source, I called Andrew to ask him what I should do. I left a message that went something like: “Hey Andrew, long time, hope you guys are doing well. Anyway, I guess there’s supposed to be some fallout headed our way from the earthquake in Japan and I was just wondering what you two are going to do about it. You think I should get out of town, maybe head to the Mojave Desert? Just wondering. Call me if you get a chance.”

Can you imagine my embarrassment when I later found out my old dope-smoking buddy had been listening to some crackpot on Channel Zero? Andrew did call me back, and he explained patiently that there was no need to evacuate; if there had been surely the local news would have let us know. I thanked him and, after some small talk (how are you, how’s the wife?) I hung-up and thought ‘Christ, It’s never going to end. Whenever I talk to this guy I’m always going to say something stupid!’

So, no offence Andrew, but that’s why I haven’t called in a while. Congratulations on the book by the way, best of luck with it. And tell Julie I said ‘high’…ah shit, I mean…oh, forget it…

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Posted by on October 31, 2012 in Uncategorized



Lulu’s Revenge

Bleary eyed, I twisted the handle on the shower and in an instant cold water sprayed in my face. It took approximately three seconds before I fully understood what was going on, and by that time my shirt was soaked. I turned off the shower, enraged.

“You stupid bitch Lulu!” I hollered, but it wasn’t her I was yelling at, it was me. She was nowhere to be seen, of course; it was just the dog and I alone in the house. But this had to end, and soon, before I strangled this lady.

What had just happened had already played itself out two times previously: while cleaning the guest bathroom Lulu strategically aimed the adjustable showerhead to be facing to the side instead of forward, like it should be. Thus, if someone (invariably me) turned on the shower without looking, they would get sprayed in the face with cold water. Why this continued to occur was because I didn’t live at this particular residence, I was merely the pet-sitter. Therefore I couldn’t remember from one month to the next that she was lying in wait ready to sabotage me as such. This wasn’t the only passive aggressive trick she employed, no, it was one of many. And why would the cleaning lady be doing this to me? you might ask. Well…

It all started in 2011 when I first started pet sitting at this house. They were a retired couple that enjoyed traveling but also had a five-year-old dog that needed caring for while they were away. Like the majority of my clients, the reason they chose to hire a pet-sitter instead of having their dog kenneled was a matter of the dog’s demeanor. He was prone to panic attacks when locked in a cage for many hours at a time and wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t sleep and would chew himself silly (bloody) in the meantime. He was a very good dog but he simply did not like being locked up. Who would, right?

So I was tasked with his care, and we got on famously. I’d been running my pet-sitting business for several years by that juncture (a job that allowed me ample time to work on my novel The Gyre Mission: Journey to the *sshole of the World), and pretty much knew the ins and outs of what to expect from house to house. Yet one thing I always ‘forgot’ to factor in was the contingency plan for the other help. The gardeners, the cleaning lady’s, the pool cleaners and so on. The outdoor help didn’t require I be around for their visits because usually they didn’t need access to the house, but the cleaning ladies did. Some had keys, some did not. Here is where Lulu comes in.

She did not have a key to the house and the dog did not like her. Therefore, whenever she was scheduled to clean while I was at the house I had to let her in and stay with the dog in another room or put him in the backyard while she cleaned. No big deal, right? Wrong. I kept a very busy schedule of regular clients, dogs that needed walks, cats that needed feeding, medication, playtime etc. I needed her to arrive at a specific time so that I could let her in, take care of the dog and then tend to my other clients. Lulu, simply put, could never show up on time. No matter what time we’d agreed to, she’d never be there at the appointed time, sometimes not even close. I would call her on her cell and she would make up some excuse, say she was on her way, and then arrive two hours later. I’d then complain to the owner and she would sympathize but somehow no reprimands were ever made. Because of this lackadaisical attitude on both their parts (clearly a lack of respect) I’d simply leave when I had to and if the house didn’t get cleaned, so be it. After doing this twice Lulu complained to the owner and the owner decided to talk to me about it! The nerve! I suggested that Lulu not clean while I was staying there, or maybe she be given a key, but the owner said she talked to her and it would not be an issue anymore. So, to be fair, I allowed that we could try it again.

Yeah, Lulu blew it. She was over an hour late. The most infuriating thing was she never did this when the owners were home (a trend I’d come to recognize at almost every house I stayed at; cleaners, gardeners, maintenance workers etc simply came and went as they pleased because the owner was gone). So I lost it. I rescheduled the dogwalk and waited for her, and when she arrived I was ready to pounce. I really laid it on (without resorting to profanity, I might add) and by the time I was done she could not look me in the eye. She went about her chores and left without saying goodbye. After that, whenever I took care of that house, she was never scheduled to clean. She’d talked to the owners and told them she refused to come if I was there. I though that was just fine.

But Lulu’s presence was made known even in her absence, as I’ve already said. I’d been soaked by the showerhead three times, got a rash from the sheets on the guest bed once, stabbed in the big toe by a large needle hidden in the shag rug of the guestroom and, most horribly, drank what I suspected was urine in a bottle of lemon/lime Gatorade from the guestroom refrigerator. And did I report these shenanigans to my employers? No, I did not. But one of these days I’ll think of some way to get her back. You hear me Lulu? I’ll think of something, trust me on that one…

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Posted by on October 25, 2012 in Uncategorized



Ghost Dog

I’ve always loved the supernatural, have been a fan of both real and fictitious ghost stories for as long as I can remember. My new novel, The Gyre Mission: Journey to the *sshole of the World, is not a supernatural tale per say, although it does contain some elements of the genre. It is my intention to write one in the future, although my next novel isn’t either.

Being of a creative bent, my mind has always been open to things otherworldly, such as ghosts or aliens, different time dimensions and so on. When I was ten years old a cousin of mine and I thought we saw a UFO; it was a large ball of light in the sky that changed colors from red to green to white. We even went so far as to make a bunch of long distance phone calls (my parents were not happy about this when they got the bill), trying to find an expert we could report it to. No one took us seriously, which is good because it made the phone calls shorter. As I got older, I came to realize that what we saw was probably a satellite or a weather balloon; it wasn’t unusual enough to truly make me believe we’d spotted extraterrestrial life.

But although that wound up being more a product of my overactive imagination, I will state here with serious conviction that I have seen a ghost. There is no doubt in my mind that what I witnessed was truly of a genuine supernatural nature, none. Several friends and family members have discounted my tale, owing in large part to the fact that I enjoy the occasional beer now and then, but in this instance I was not under the influence of anything other than a mild hallucinogenic drug…just kidding. Yeah, on mushrooms I once saw the creation of the entire universe, from the Big Bang Theory on up, but I must assure you, this was not the case.

I was in Blackearth, Wisconsin, visiting a friend of a friend. The name of the town alone is enough to confirm suspicions of rampant ghostly activity, perhaps a local serial killer or two, but in fact was irrelevant. I only mentioned it because it seemingly lends credence to eerie happenings.

This person my friend and I were visiting was a stranger to me; I knew absolutely nothing about he or his family, except what my friend had told me regarding his character. Jim was a brash, often outspoken individual who was a bit conceited. Upon arrival to his home the first thing he wanted to do was show it off to us. I admit it was quite large and roomy, although it wasn’t exactly going to be showcased on ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ anytime soon. After the grand tour he took us outside to the backyard, an expansive two acres on which he’d erected an elaborate playground for his children and a great wooden deck for barbequing and entertaining guests. We walked the length of the yard and I noticed that it wasn’t fenced in. When I asked him about it a look of discomfiture came across his face and he told me it was something he intended to do but hadn’t got around to it yet for financial reasons. Owing to the fact there were no neighbors nearby, it currently wasn’t an issue.

I was smoking a cigarette (lousy habit, I know, hate to even admit it) so it was for this reason I stayed outside after my two companions went back in through the sliding glass door on the deck. As I smoked I looked about the yard without really seeing it, thinking my own thoughts. We’d brought along a twelve pack of bottled Miller High Life (also hard to admit because, quite frankly, we’d probably be better off swilling horse piss) and I was drinking my first of the evening, sipping it really, when suddenly I felt a strange sensation pass through me, a curious sort of fear that had no reasoning behind it. At once I wanted to get inside, as I felt there was something out here with me, what, I didn’t know. I hurriedly put out the cigarette and fumbled for the door, stepping inside and quickly shutting it, still facing the backyard.

That was when I saw the dog, a giant German Shepherd, sitting right outside the door, eyeing me with what looked to be a request to be let in. I stared silently, wondering how I didn’t notice this dog before, and as I began to turn my head and ask if the owner of the house had a dog it vanished, simply became my own reflection in the glass. Goosebumps rose all over my body, and I backed up slowly.

“Do you have a dog?” I asked through anesthetized lips, and when I turned to look at him I saw for the first time the tombstone leaning against the far wall. A single name adorned it: ‘Jasper’.

He looked at me strangely and excused himself, told us he had to tuck his kids into bed. My friend waited until he was gone and said: “Why did you ask him that? His dog just died a month ago and he’s still pretty shook up.”

“Was it a German Shepherd?” I said and my friend looked at me with honest surprise.

“How did you know?”

“How did he die?” I asked, ignoring his question.

“Well, Jim still feels bad because he thinks it’s his fault-don’t tell him I told you this-but he let him out to go pee and went to bed and forgot about him. It was still cold outside, almost freezing, and Jasper fell into an open trench in the farmer’s field beyond their property. He probably broke one of his legs and couldn’t get out. Jim told me that throughout the night he thought he heard Jasper barking but he was so drunk he didn’t go out and check. In the morning his kids found him, frozen to death.”

I was so creeped out that I slammed the bottle of beer in my hand and proceeded to polish off another three in rapid succession. To say the least it was a very long evening, and I didn’t go back out on the deck to smoke, instead used the front porch. Even out there I felt uncomfortable, in fact didn’t feel any better until my friend and I were driving away.

My friend believed me when I told him I’d seen Jasper. He told me that a couple weeks previous he’d thought he’d heard the sound of a dog crying when he was in the backyard smoking and it sort of freaked him out.

“It’s because he killed him,” I asserted. “That’s why his spirit is still lingering.”

“Maybe,” my friend allowed.

Believe what you may, dear reader, for you are certainly entitled to your opinion, but I saw that dog plain as anything, and to this day a chill passes through me when I think of the poor soul, trapped and injured, shivering and whimpering, just begging for his master to heed his impassioned cries and come and save him…

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Posted by on October 16, 2012 in Uncategorized