Saturday, June 13, 2009


I'm a little behind the curve when it comes to our garden, due to timing issues. I usually try to plant by the end of May, but that's when we were working on getting Ken's mom moved, then we had to get the beds built and the plastic down...anyhoo, we've got two beds ready, and while Ken was sleeping today, I went out and bought tomato and pepper plants, along with zucchini (green and yellow--I'm craving stuffed zucchini), pole bean, and cucumber seeds. Then it rained most of the afternoon. Tomorrow is supposed to be nicer, and I can get out and plant. I hope the tomatoes will be okay...they looked pretty rough, the downside of buying this late in the season. I think once I get them in the ground, they'll do fine. (Next year, I’ll start seeds again. Those were definitely the best pepper plants I’ve ever had, and most of the tomatoes also did well.) I missed having a garden last year, so I'm looking forward to getting at least a few of my favorites planted! It put me in a good mood just to be at our local gardening center (I love Lowe's, but I really like going to the smaller, locally owned places for vegetable plants...just supporting our local growers!), and to choose my plants. I chatted with a lady who was also looking at the tomato plants, so I'm not the only one a little behind. She came up to me later and said she'd found a spot where they had other tomato plants that looked really healthy, but did I know what the "Amish P" variety was? I didn't at first, but then I remembered seeing the variety from gardening catalogs--I think it's Amish Paste, which is a cooking tomato (used to make sauces, etc.).

Man, I love Garden Talk! If anyone would like to discuss Verticillium Wilt, please email me. I have a problem with VW in the garden, and I'm hoping that putting down some composted manure this year will help. My poor tomatoes...they grow like crazy, produce a bunch of tomatoes...then the dreaded Wilt sets in, and they succumb. It's very sad to see a young, healthy tomato plant cut down in the prime of its life. *sniff* And don't get me started on tomato worms...grrrr and YUCK!

Serendipity On another subject, isn't it great when you can turn a negative into a positive? That has happened to us recently, when we regained contact and renewed a friendship with someone from our past. We had a mutual bad "experience," shall we say, and in reconnecting, we found that the three of us were able to commiserate and maybe even help each other a bit with information and just being able to say, "I know exactly what you're talking about." If nothing else, it's certainly been entertaining to exchange "war stories!" Happily, it is more than just that, and we have many common interests besides the bad "experience." If you get a chance, pop over and visit our friend Simon. He's a wonderful writer and a fantastic photographer, and I'm happy that we have renewed our acquaintance, and have found something positive in what began as a mutually negative association!

I'm not a subscriber to the "everything happens for a reason" line of thinking. I think life is much more random than that. I think it's more a matter of consciously choosing to make something of nothing, to find that silver lining, to find the good or the potential for good in a situation. Sometimes you have to look really hard, but it's usually there, even if it is infinitesimal and needs a little nurturing to make it grow. (Pretty good callback to the garden, if I do say so myself!) I find that serendipity is often the result of our own actions at an opportune moment, rather than mere dumb luck. I don't want to be the person who goes through life waiting for things to happen to them, rather than making things happen. Even worse is the person who believes that they have no control over their own destiny, that every wrong that has happened in their lives is the result of others' actions...that they bear no blame or responsibility for the path that they have chosen. The Eternal Victim...everyone is out to get me, it's never my fault, I am an innocent lamb who has been attacked and cheated by others! Bleahhh. I find that sort of attitude as repulsive as those nasty tomato worms, bloated and fat and green (usually with envy).

Much better to exert control over your own life and say, "Even if I have to deal with bad things--random things--it's my decision as to how I'll react, and my choice as to whether I will make the most of a bad situation." It's been my experience that those who are the most controlling and micro-managing are those who actually feel in the least control of themselves, their emotions, and their actions, and feel the most insecure and inadequate. Maybe it's a matter of thinking that being ultra-controlling with those around you will compensate for what is lacking in other areas of your life and in your self-esteem. Instead, it just makes you another victim--in this case, of your own inadequacies. How boring.

I suppose that's enough philosophical/psychological pondering for the day. I'd hate to make my brain hurt.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Do I have to?

Letterman I'm reluctant to write about this Letterman/Palin brouhaha, because I see it as a no-win situation. Those who found the remarks offensive will still find them offensive; those who thought they were funny will still find them funny. I'm not going to change anyone's mind either way, and that is not my intention. However, you all know that I'm a Letterman fan (we're fellow Ball State alum), and I'm a Palin...not-fan, shall we I can't really pass up the opportunity to write about this little "feud." I've made no secret of my dislike for Palin, so this will undoubtedly be biased. Fair warning has been issued.

I won't do any background, because unless you live under a rock, you know about the jokes he made, and the Palins' response to them. I didn’t think that the jokes were particularly funny. When I heard them, I sort of groaned and gave a horrified chuckle, a sort of, "Oh, Dave, you so baaaaad" kind of thing, a "Did he really say that?" response. The joke was pretty tasteless, but it was designed to shock. Many times, that is the goal, especially with late night shows and comedians.

Palin wink The Palins responded with a statement that said it was tasteless to talk about their 14-year-old daughter that way (getting knocked up). Dave responded with an admission that the jokes were in poor taste, but that many of his jokes are. He became a little more serious when he said that the joke was obviously intended to mean the 18-year-old daughter, and that he would never make jokes about harming or abusing a 14-year-old. That probably should have been the end of it, but the Palins weren't done. Todd issued a statement condemning Letterman for joking about "raping" his daughter, and a Palin spokesperson issued a statement that the Palins would not be appearing on Dave's show, and that it would probably be best to "keep Willow [the 14-year-old] away from him." This morning, Gov. Palin appeared on the Today Show and when asked about that statement--did they really mean to imply that Letterman is a child molester?--she said, "Take it however you want to take it." She went on to say that family should be off-limits, that his comments were degrading to young girls, and equated his attitude with being part of the reason young girls today have low self-esteem.

Here's my take on it. Strictly my opinion. I don't expect everyone else to agree, and as I've already warned you, I'm biased anyway.

  • Dave is a talk show host and a comedian. It was a joke. It was in poor taste, which he admitted, but it was still a joke.
  • It was obviously meant in reference to the 18-year-old, Bristol. You know...the one who got knocked up? Ma and Pa Palin, out here in "mainstream America," we still use that phrase to describe what happens when teenagers, like your eldest daughter, get pregnant out of wedlock. It may be crude, but it's commonly used.
  • Twisting the joke into Dave talking about "raping their daughter" is pretty ridiculous. Implying that Dave is a child molester goes too far, as Dave's joke probably did. However, branding someone as a child molester is a very serious charge. By the way, if they're so concerned about the crime of rape, perhaps Gov. Palin should address the problems in her own state, which has the highest rate of rape in the country, and help the victims rather than charging them for the rape kits used in the investigation of the crime. A wee suggestion.
  • Why isn't anyone defending A Rod for doing the hypothetical rapin'? Just askin'.
  • Mama Grizzly can talk all she wants about family being off-limits, but she was the one who paraded the whole fam damily onstage during the primaries and election, including the then-fiancé of the knocked up Bristol. Levi looked like he wanted to be anywhere but there, holding hands with his preggers GF, in front of the entire country, but you and the campaign wanted him there.
  • I don't think Dave's stupid joke or any attitude behind it is the reason for low self-esteem among young girls. I would place the blame more on a less-than-ideal family life in which girls are not raised to be strong in their sense of self-worth or self-confidence, or on the media which promotes their own almost-unattainable ideal of beauty, or on teen singers who are overly sexualized for their age and make young girls want to look just like them. But that's just me. I don't think you can pin that one on Dave.

You've probably all guessed that I have strong feelings about women's rights. I suppose Limbaugh might call me a Feminazi. I'm far from militant and/or shrill about it, though. I was raised to believe that I could do anything I wanted to do, unimpeded by my gender. I never questioned whether or not I would be allowed to do something because I'm female. I just assumed that I would do it, and that's how I've lived my life. My point is that even feeling as strongly as I do about such things, I didn't find Letterman's jokes to be misogynistic or indicative of a broader attitude of anti-feminism. It's just reading too much into a stupid joke.

This whole mess should have stopped after Dave admitted that the jokes were in poor taste. The Palins chose to escalate it and keep the story afloat. It's good publicity for them, although I think it may have backfired a bit when they implied that Dave was talking about raping their daughter, and then that he shouldn't be around 14-year-old girls. Frankly, it's also good publicity for Dave. In that regard, maybe it's a win for each of them, and an irritant for the rest of us. As always, I remain unimpressed by the Palins in any way, shape, or form, and if I may be so blunt, I would use the phrase "media whores." SSIS!

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Silver Squirrel AwardBefore I get to that, congrats to Jim of Skelligrants, who was the first to comment that it was Rob and Laura Petrie (and Richie) who lived in New Rochelle, New York. Good job, Jim, and the Silver Squirrel is yours. "The Dick Van Dyke Show" remains in my top five TV shows of all time, and I still think it's funny. Didn't you just love it how they were always doing some type of benefit show, or how the gang would come over to Rob and Laura's and do skits, sing songs, etc.? Yeah, it's cheesy...but also kind of cool, in my opinion. People just don't do those sorts of cocktail parties anymore, where the entertainment was the guests. No, I don't want to bring them back, and we won't be having a shindig like that at Nutwood anytime soon. But it's fun to imagine, and as long as there are reruns, I can live vicariously through the Petries!

Well, it's official. The WHO has declared H1N1 a pandemic, the first in 41 years. Seems to me it was a pandemic a while back, especially once it made its way to Australia, but who am I to say? Hey, get it? WHO am I to say? Wow, I am on. a. roll. Anyhoo, this shouldn't change things too much, and I think developed countries have already been operating in pandemic mode. A lot of people are concerned that for developing countries, this could inundate and overwhelm their healthcare systems. I would say that's a legitimate concern, and that's why organizations like WHO are so important.

Influenza pandemic[Click picture to enlarge] Please don't take this the wrong way, but it's almost kind of exciting to have a pandemic. Simmah down, simmah down now...of course, it's terrible that so many people have gotten ill, and that some have died. That's the tragic side of all infectious diseases. But I'd be lying if I said that it didn't fire up the microbiologist in me. This is the first pandemic that I remember. Fortunately, it has been a relatively mild one in terms of mortality. The concern is that when it comes back in the fall--and that's probably inevitable--it may have mutated into a more virulent form. That's what happened in the 1918 pandemic.

I hope that won't happen, but that's why planning for a pandemic is so necessary. So far, we've been fortunate; however, the rapid spread of this should give fair warning that any sort of communicable disease will be easily and quickly transmitted around the world. In a way, this was a dress rehearsal for possibly a much worse scenario. The closing of schools and other public places may have seemed to be a big to-do about nothing, but that's exactly what will need to happen if and when this reoccurs. This has also pointed out the need for greater surveillance of illnesses in animals. That is more than likely where the next pandemic will originate.

Fascinating stuff. Now is a very good time to be a virologist.


Random blog sighting! While reading an ultra-conservative blog I had never come across before, I saw this phrase: “The story doesn’t jive at all.”

See anything wrong there? They were trying to point out a discrepancy in some news story coming from the administration, trying to show that there were conflicting reports. They kneecapped their own outrage and attempts to ridicule the administration by, instead of pointing out the conflicting report, saying that the story just didn’t swing, Daddy-O. I’ve been chuckling to myself about it all day, and I think I have a new phrase. If something doesn’t move me, make me want to cut a rug and shake my tail feathers, if I just plain don’t dig something, I’m going to say, “Hey man…that doesn’t jive.”

The word is jibe, people. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Great afternoon for reading!

Ken had to stay up until noon because of a conference call, so I spent the afternoon sitting out on the deck and reading a Repairman Jack novel. Very pleasant, and I'm enjoying a purely fun read, after finishing a book club was a good book, but it's fun to experience a little escapism and get caught up with Jack (one of my favorite fictional characters). I'm plowing through it, too! I also spent a little time thinking about the characters in the short story I put up here, how I might flesh them out a little bit, what they might be to think about. I managed to do a load of laundry in there, so the day wasn't a total wash. Hah! Get it? Laundry? A total wash? That was an accident!

Silver Squirrel Award Silver Squirrel Alert! I had a blog visit from someone in New Rochelle, New York. A Silver Squirrel to anyone who knows what fictional TV family made their home in New Rochelle.

When you get a chance, I hope you'll stop by and visit Doug's blog, Running2Nowhere. Doug is Cousin Shane's friend, and I do believe we have become friends, too, although we have yet to meet. Doug was in the Navy and spent time in Afghanistan as a photojournalist. Some long-time readers may remember when I put up a picture of him and then-Senator Obama, who Doug got to meet when the Senator made a trip over there. Doug is now a reservist, and decided to start a blog to get some thoughts out there. He's a fine writer, and I look forward to seeing what he has to say (and to meeting him at some point). Pop on by and say hi if you're so inclined!

I didn't turn on the news all day, and was shocked and saddened to hear about the shooting at the Holocaust Museum. Apparently the shooter has a website that is highly anti-Semitic, is one of those fucktards who claim that the holocaust never happened, and has affiliations with various neo-Nazi groups. (He is also a Birfer.) For the life of me, I will never ever understand that sort of mentality, and frankly, I don't want to. I've been to the Holocaust Museum twice, an incredibly emotional and heart-rending experience, and have read many accounts from survivors. How anyone can deny the fact of the holocaust is beyond me, and I believe such denial is another form of hatred. The Nazis were excellent record keepers as well as efficient murderers, and there are multiple examples of their horrid practices.

This shooter is yet another example of how hateful rhetoric can drive unstable people to terrible deeds. People read such rhetoric, become obsessed by it, and if they've already got mental problems, it can lead to disaster and death, as took place today at the Museum. I'm so sorry for the family of the museum guard who died after being shot, and my heart goes out to them. This brave man was another victim of hatred, over sixty years after the occurrences that resulted in the museum he guarded.

In my opinion, it's also another reason to be disturbed by Gingrich's comment the other night, that he is "not a citizen of the world." I know that this will seem naive, and I know that in many ways it is naive. It also makes sense. (Besides, my naiveté is part of my charm. So there.) It seems to me that if we all start understanding that we are citizens of the world, there might come a time when we want to stop killing each other. There will always be nutjobs, but is it necessary to fuel the fire? I wonder what causes people to be drawn to such extreme views? I have strong opinions (don't be shocked!), but I would never think of harming someone because of their political or religious views or sexual preferences. Opinions are one thing; wanting to harm, and harboring such hatred as we saw embodied today, is something else entirely.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

New arrivals

I'm starting to see young birds of various types now, and it's always funny to watch them. They just look sort of clueless. The other day there was a young robin (Holy Audubon, Batman!) on the deck, and he hopped onto the little fireplace we have out there, and just looked around and chirped. I imagined him thinking, "Okay, here I am. Now what do I do?"

Today, there were several young starlings and their parents raising a ruckus on the deck--man, they're loud! One youngster was hopping on top of the squirrel baffle and pecking at it as he slid down its slope. I watched him for a while, wondering when he'd figure out that the suet feeder was underneath the baffle. He finally did figure it out, and I felt absurdly proud of him.

We also have other youngsters making an appearance. As I sat here last night, I heard some of the wind chimes tinkling, although the wind was minimal. They hang from a hook on the deck railing, and if I hear them on a still night, it's a sure sign we've got a critter of some sort out there. I flipped on the light and saw this:

Raccoon babies

Yes, three baby raccoons. They were in a tight little pack, walking on each other and pushing against each other.

Raccoon babies2

They didn't seem too disturbed by me, so I took my camera out onto the deck and walked right up to them. I could have reached out and picked one up. They were adorable enough that I kind of thought about reaching out to touch one...but Mama didn't raise no fools, and I know that no matter how cute, they are still wild animals and not to be messed with. For their own protection as much as mine.

Raccoon babies3

I love the above picture, because see that third guy sticking his head up over the railing? When I walked out, he scrambled down the railing to the deck floor, but after a bit, he made his way back up. I just kind of hung out and watched them for a while (braved a couple of mosquitoes to do it, too), until they decided it was time to move on. They formed an orderly line and the three of them made their way down the deck railing to the other part of the deck. I wonder if they'll be back tonight? The seed feeders are empty, as they were last night, so there are no goodies for them, but it wouldn't surprise me to see them again.

I like to name our critters, and Moe, Larry, and Curly would be a natural, but the baby groundhogs got that a few years ago. I think I'll name them after one of my favorite trios, The Police. Guys, your names are now Gordon, Stewart, and Andy. Wish I could tell you three apart! By the way, I know that one of you (is it Rebecca?) does not care for glowing-eye animal pictures. My was not intentional, and I couldn't avoid it.

I might be scarce for the next few days. I'm in full reading mode (finished one book, a couple of mags to get through, then another book to start), plus I'll be out getting plants into the garden this week, if the weather cooperates--it sounds like Friday should be a nice day. Yay!

Wait! I'm not done! I have to comment on something I heard on the news. Maybe I should just not watch. Hahaha! Of course, I can't do that.

In a speech at a Republican fundraiser last night, Newt Gingrich riffed on President Obama's comment last year that he is a citizen of the world. Newt said:

I am not a citizen of the world. I think the whole concept is intellectual nonsense and stunningly dangerous.

[sigh] Really, Newt? Really? (with a tip of the hat to Seth Myers) You think that isolationism is a solution to what ails us? I've been preaching writing here for some time now that we are inextricably part of the global economy. Beyond that, we are part of the world because we are part of humankind. At least I am. Last I checked, I was still an earthling. This sort of narrow thinking and inability to see the long view is what disturbs me the most about people like Gingrich. Chest thumping nationalism and jingoism is much of what got us into the trouble we're currently in on the world stage, and led us to the point where there are many around the globe who harbor extreme hatred for our country.

Wanting to be a part of the global citizenry, Newt, is neither nonsense nor dangerous. It's being human. "Intellectual nonsense"...I maintain that the lack of intellectual curiosity that you seem to possess (the same as that of your party affiliate, Sarah Palin, with her anti-fruit fly bias--that one was for Milwaukee Dan #1) about our world, other nationalities and cultures, and other religions, is the true danger in our midst. Knowledge is power, Newt. The rest of the world isn't going to just go away. There is a reason that companies and governments teach their employees and agents about customs in other countries. We need to be respectful of their cultures in our business and diplomatic dealings with them, and we are all ambassadors. Gingrich makes me think of some sort of mad Ptolemy of the political solar system, believing that the U.S. is the center of everything, that no one else matters. As Stephen King wrote, the world has moved on. Try to keep up, Newt.

I'm Beth, and I am a citizen of the world. You're welcome to join us anytime, Newt. It's a pretty big tent.

Earth Day

Monday, June 8, 2009

Blog Blog Baby

Wow, I'd forgotten about that parody, and what an awful song the original was! What a blatant ripoff of Queen’s “Under Pressure.” I think this clip was on "In Living Color." Recognize that guy? It's Jim Carrey. Now that I've stopped laughing, I'll move on to my topic, which is blogging.

I know, I know, we've all talked about it before, nigh unto death, but some interesting new statistics have come to light. Also, Cousin Shane's friend Doug (Hi Doug! [waving]) wrote to me and said that he wants to start a blog and would like to talk to me about it. We had a nice conversation, and talked about different platforms, ease of use, etc. So it's on my mind today, and I have to say that I was quite surprised to read some of the statistics.

My friend Dan (Milwaukee Dan #1...Hi Dan! [waving]) sent me a story on Facebook from the New York Times concerning blogging. Follow the link to read the entire article, which was quite interesting. According to the article, blogs have a higher failure rate than restaurants. For anyone who has ever thought that it would be "fun" to own a restaurant and did a little research and found out just how hard it is to maintain a steady clientele and income, that comparison is shocking. Restaurants drop like flies (although that's probably an unfortunate metaphor) every day, so I would think it would be hard to have a higher failure rate than that! Not so.

According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled.

Writing 95%?! That's astounding to me! What's even more astounding is to realize that those of us that update regularly constitute only 5% of the blogs on Technorati. Doesn't that make you feel a little bit special? It does me. I've said before that I send a salute to all bloggers who are able to keep it up and keep going. Of course, real life gets in the way, and not everyone has enough time to make regular entries--I'm fortunate in that regard. The article also mentions the popularity of MySpace, Facebook, and most recently, Twitter (which made the cover of Time this week, believe it or not). I think that those of us who made the transition from AOL Journals to Blogger have definitely noticed the drop-off of some regulars at AOL, and I think that some of that has to do with microblogging sites.

I like to mix it up a little. I still love writing here, but I love connecting with work friends and blog friends who use Facebook--I also love how easy it is to share articles or videos there. I never got into MySpace, although I have an account there, and I'm not quite as enamored with Twitter as so many seem to be at the moment. (Fame is fleeting've been warned.) I do sort of like posting random thoughts (à la Jack Handey), but I still prefer and need to expand a little more upon my thoughts. Maybe the next au courant site will consist of one word updates. Twitter is fun for stalking following the famous and semi-famous, and my latest acquisitions (makes me want to read The Collector again) are Russell Brand and Jason Segel (after watching "Forgetting Sarah Marshall"). Russell Brand is quite the enigma. But I digress. Back to the article.

Richard Jalichandra, chief executive of Technorati, said that at any given time there are 7 million to 10 million active blogs on the Internet, but “it’s probably between 50,000 and 100,000 blogs that are generating most of the page views.” He added, “There’s a joke within the blogging community that most blogs have an audience of one.”

Again, astounding. How cool is it to build up a little following, to know that there are people out there who want to know what you have to say? It's way cool, that's how cool. It makes me very grateful that I get feedback from you all, and to have people reading this other than family! I am very happy about that, and I thank you all.

To Doug I say "safe passage and bon voyage!" I look forward to reading what he has to write, and if he chooses to make his blog public, I will definitely put up the link here. He's a wonderful writer who was stationed in Afghanistan and recently opted out of the Navy and returned home. I suspect he might have plenty to say!


Michelle Obama and Bruni One more topic, and then I think I’m done for the evening. I’m not letting this one go by without rebuttal. I read something today in which the writer included this picture of Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni at the D-Day tribute in France over the weekend. They interpreted it as Mrs. Obama having “issues,” and took it as some sort of indication of nastiness or hatred on the first lady’s part. The general attitude was that it was typical of her.

Oh, for God’s sake. And people wonder why I find such writings ridiculous, counterproductive, irrational, illogical, and foolish. Did I leave anything out? Oh yeah…stoopid.

I’ll tell you what. Let’s say we have…oh, how about a hundred? That’s a nice round number, although it’s probably much more than that. Let’s have a hundred photographers from all over the world follow you around at, if not every waking moment, every time you appear in public. Let’s say that each of those hundred photographers takes a hundred pictures in the space of an hour—again, a very conservative estimate, because most photojournalists will take many more than that. Let’s then say that you spend five hours in the public eye, with those hundred journalists taking one hundred pictures per hour. [picture me wearing a green visor, an armband, and punching in numbers at an adding machine]

By my calculations, that is a conservative estimate of 50,000 pictures.

So you’ve got 50,000 images of every expression you make while you’re out and about. Every grimace of pain as a pebble works its way inside your shoe. Every sideways glance you make. Every squint as the sun proves to be a little too bright, and since it’s impolite, you can’t wear sunglasses at certain times. Every time you get a wedgie because your panties creep up on you. Every moment that you aren’t smiling. Every time you feel a muscle twitch or experience a pain in your neck or back because you worked out a little too vigorously the previous day. Every time you experience all the little aches and pains and twitches and irritations that we all experience every fucking day, you’ve got someone there snapping a picture of you. Think about what sort of pictures might be captured of you.

Cut it out, people. This is bullshit, and you know it. If any of you want to say, “But Beth, you put up pictures of Sarah Palin’s office, and talked about that!” Yes, I did. That is a physical space, a reflection of her philosophy and her environment, and not a split-second snapshot of her face interpreted as something sinister. Putting up such a picture and portraying the first lady as angry or elitist or feeling contempt for other first ladies or for ceremonies honoring those who have served in the military is foolish, it’s hateful, and it’s an incredibly stupid argument that shows nothing of substance, only the contempt and hatred you feel for the President, and apparently for his wife.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A million more thanks

Wow, thanks everyone for your kind comments about my story!

You've encouraged me to think about it a little more...either expand that story, or write others. At the moment, I feel like I've shot my wad, but I hope that won't last. I have some thinking to do. I have to say that writing it was scary and fun at the same time. Once I got going, I didn't want to stop, and I was up until almost 5 AM. I was more than a little consumed, and that was quite a I'd like to repeat.

But probably not tonight.

This is what happens when Ken works nights

The girl stood at the window, gazing out at the quiet, empty street. It was a warm day for early May, and the curtains moved lazily in the scant breeze. It was a Monday, and she should have been in school;  she'd developed a very sore throat over the weekend and was running a fever, so her mother decided to keep her home. Her parents ran the grocery store downstairs, so they could come up and check on her occasionally. She felt better, anyway, and had grown bored with laying in bed. Of course, there was really nothing to see from her window, other than the abandoned gas station across the road.

She'd asked her parents about it once. They told her that it used to be a busy place when the main highway came through town. When the new interstate was built about a mile away, business for the gas station dried up, and although the owner tried to sell the place, there were no buyers to be found in a town that had maybe a tenth of the traffic it used to--and that was on a good day. It seemed to be happening to a lot of the businesses in town. Mr. Crum's cigar shop closed up a few years ago, and the Lechleitner sisters' millinery store closed not too long after that. She was 12 now...not too young to notice the uneasy glances her parents exchanged and the hushed tones that they used when going over the books for their store, or to realize that she did not see as many customers in the store when she helped out with cleaning and restocking on the weekends. She hoped they wouldn't end up like the gas station. It was a sad place.

Tattered curtains It had been empty for as long as she could remember, and in the time since it had registered in her girlhood consciousness, the place had become increasingly forlorn and weed-choked. A large family of barn swallows had set up camp underneath the stucco canopy, and the dirt-filmed windows allowed no glimpse into the mysterious interior. She wondered sometimes what might be inside; shelves full of mysterious cans and bottles? Strange equipment hulking in the corners? Or was it empty, save for floating dust motes and the explosive smell of old motor oil?

None of her schoolmates shared her fascination with the gas station; they thought it was just an ugly old building. Of course, they didn't live right across the street from it, or see it every time they looked out their bedroom window. She didn't even mention it much anymore, because children can be cruel, and she was sometimes ridiculed for her interest in the station. How to explain to them the feeling she got when she looked at it? The feeling that she was transported to another time, when the place bustled with activity...the ding ding as the cars drove in, one after the other, and the attendants ran out to fill 'er up, wash the windshield, and check the oil. The cars filled with families from other places--maybe even exotic places she'd read about like New York or Florida--on their way to unknown adventures. Maybe some of them even stopped at her parents' store to buy bread and sliced ham and cold Coca Colas for a picnic down the road.

This happened before she was even born, but instinctively she knew it to be true. Even at 12 years of age, she had a lively imagination. When she was bored, as she was today, she liked to gaze out at the station and make up stories about her imaginary travelers. Sometimes she pretended that she was the girl in the back seat, on her way from one exotic locale to another, passing through this small town in search of adventure...although adventures were few and far between in this little burg. As she looked out at the station today, a slight movement caught her eye. She squinted her eyes against the glare of the sun, certain that it was a trick of the light, or of her still-feverish mind. There it was again, and there was no mistaking it. The side door had opened a crack, and as she continued to watch, it opened inward over two feet. Her eyes widened, wondering what manner of creature might step out of the shadowed depths. She placed her hands on the windowsill and leaned her head out of the open window to get a closer glimpse....


"Dad! STOP!"

The man in the driver's seat--Dad--slammed on the brakes, sending them all into a violent forward lurch, followed by a backwards slam against the seats.

"What? What is it?" he asked his 12 year old daughter, who was now crouched against the front seat, shaking the arms of both her father and mother.

"I saw someone!"

"Where? Did I almost hit someone? Did a kid start to run out in front of me?"

"No, not in the street. Up there."

"Where? In that building?"

"Yeah, up on the second floor. At that window. I saw a face. And it looked like an arm, too."

The father gazed over at the building to their left. His wife leaned over and lowered her head to look out his window. They exchanged glances. Their daughter had a very active imagination, often describing the faeries she saw sitting on rocks in the forest, or the large, not unfriendly monster that stood watch in her closet and kept the rather unfriendly monsters under the bed out of mischief. They were used to this.

"Punkin, that building is all boarded up. It looks like no one's been in it for years. For Pete's sake, I thought you saw someone run out in front of me." He drew a shaky hand across his forehead.

"No, I told you, up on the second floor. It's not boarded up up there."

The slow breeze picked up a bit, and caught a bit of tattered curtain in the broken window on the second floor.

"See, honey, you just saw that curtain, that's all. I can see how it might look like a face, or an arm, but it was nothing but curtain. You can tell no one lives there."

"But Dad, what if someone needs help?"

"The building is boarded up--no one lives there, honey. Maybe that window isn't boarded up, but everything downstairs is. How would they get in and out? Listen, if I thought someone needed help, you know I'd stop. But no one lives there. It's an abandoned building."

He put the car back in gear and they moved slowly onward through the quiet town. He glanced over at his wife. "You didn't see anyone, did you?"

She hesitated, perhaps a moment too long, but said, "No. It was just the curtain. I'm sure of it." It had been a long day of driving after a bad pileup on the interstate had forced them onto the old road, and they were both anxious to find a motel, preferably one with a pool. It was unseasonably hot for early May. She also wouldn't say no to a cocktail.

Their daughter sat in the corner of the back seat behind her father, looking out the window as they quickly passed through the little town and into wide expanses of prairie grass. "I know what I saw," she whispered.


The woman opened the side door of the station and stepped out into the warm spring morning. It was awfully warm for early May, and the slight breeze was very welcome. Business had been down lately, and she was hoping it would pick up today, with the warm weather. Everyone loves to hit the road when it's warm and sunny.

As she stood outside the station and took in the breeze, she glanced around her adopted town. She wondered how long the town would survive, because it seemed to be shrinking day by day. The station was a labor of love, the product of months of cleaning and renovation. When she bought it, the interior contained a heaped mound of trash, fallen plaster and drywall, tangles of wire, and old automotive equipment. The odor was a combination of years of accumulated dust and dirt, wet plaster, mold, and an almost explosive smell of old motor oil. A lot of cleaning supplies and elbow grease later, she had herself a shiny showplace on the old road, and although some days were good and some were bad, she didn't regret a moment of it. It was something she'd dreamed of since she was a little girl, taking road trips with her parents. Perhaps a strange thing for a young girl to dream, but she was far from the average young girl. Her parents still talk about her active imagination, and although she laughs, she's secretly pleased by their pleasure in remembering her flights of fancy.

She is fairly certain that at some point, she and her parents passed through this very town. It's certainly off the beaten path, but they drove everywhere on their vacations, and some of her fondest memories are of those trips. When she told her parents of her plans to buy the old gas station and renovate it, they weren't entirely surprised. They are quite familiar with her love of travel and especially her love of the old and forgotten (her father likes to joke, "That's why she still loves us so much!"), so it seemed to be a natural, if ambitious fit for their dear daughter. When she told them the name of the town, her father said they probably had gone through there at some time or another, but couldn't recall for sure, or when that particular trip might have taken place. She asked her mother if she remembered the town or anything about it, and her mother merely shook her head and would say no more about it. A strange reaction from her normally talkative mother, who also usually has an excellent memory, but she knew better than to press.

Tattered curtains2 She steps closer to the street, which is empty for the moment, and glances to the right. A dog, tail lowered, walks down the sidewalk and vanishes between two buildings. She glances to the left, and sees a crow fly over the street (as the crow flies, she thinks) and land on the roof of the building that used to be a cigar shop. "Busy day in town," she mutters. Her gaze turns forward, to the abandoned building directly across from her station. It's been boarded up for years, although some of the boards are leaning now, and one has even fallen most of the way off one of the downstairs windows. The concrete steps that led to the front door are long gone; someone has placed a concrete block in front of the stoop, although no one has entered or exited the building for years. The brick façade has begun to crumble as of late, with small pieces littering the sidewalk beneath. She wonders how long it will be before the building is condemned.

Considering her fascination with the old and forgotten, she has wondered about this building, going so far as to do a little research at the county library in the next town over. For some reason, she seems to have a special affinity for the building, and her eyes are drawn to it several times a day. She has a definite feeling that she has seen it before, but she often feels that way about old buildings, and believes that it is probably just her famous imagination at work. Public records turned up very little, only that it was a grocery store for many years, thriving when the old road was the only road, and like so many other businesses here, drying up when the interstate passed the town by. Not an unusual story at all, one that was repeated in many towns across many states.

The locals were able to fill in only a little more information. The family that had owned it last were able to make a good go of it, although things became tight when the interstate was built. They were still doing good enough business when their only daughter became ill and died of rheumatic fever. After the loss of their beloved girl, they didn't seem to want to carry on with the business, or so the locals said. It wasn't too long after she was in the ground that they packed up and moved away, unable to stay in the store or the living quarters above, as it was too raw a reminder of their girl's too brief life. The recounting of this tale is always accompanied by a sad shake of the head, and a somber “Tragic…just tragic.”

The woman glances upward, to the second floor of the abandoned building. The breeze catches a bit of yellowed and tattered curtain, and it flutters out of the broken window, looking almost like a pale, beseeching arm. She gazes at the window for a moment, then turns and walks back into the station, closing the door behind her.


A big thanks to Laurel for posting the picture taken by her friend's what fired my imagination and made me think of this story. I lay awake for some time the other night, thinking of the possibilities and logistics, and once I got going tonight, I couldn't stop! Good grief, it's after 4 AM here! I hope you enjoyed my amateur foray into some creative writing. I know I had fun writing it!