Elf vs. Orc, Part 9

The bit about the goblins has an actual story behind it, significantly pre-dating Elf vs. Orc, which is about half done and may or may not ever be finished or see print.

To summarize, a unit of goblin soldiers, known as the Whinin’ Nineteenth, wound up in his neck of the woods, largely by accident. The goblin war was primarily with humans, and not at all important to elves, so he had none of the qualms about helping them that he had with Celadon. They wound up saving a human village under peculiar circumstances we will not detail at this time, which was the final domino in ending a war that was already stupid and fairly unpopular. While Sings-to-Trees was always adamant that the goblins did all the work, he was admittedly much more photogenic (not that anyone had photos) than the Whinin’ Nineteenth. However, he was highly resistant to any sort of glory, suspicious of any attempts to lionize him because someone had to stick around and feed the gargoyle, and people who came out to visit him generally found him shoulder deep in livestock, and went away feeling vaguely dissatisfied with the whole thing.

It’s worth noting that he never did anything violent to anyone at any point, and the goblins certainly never offered any violence to him–it was rather more like they were all stuck in a horrible experience together and muddled through as best they could.

He has several medals, which are in a small box shoved in a corner where raccoons can’t chew on them.

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Hey, gang!

Need a quick suggestion–my Dad is hoping to set up a website that includes a shopping cart system for on-line ordering. (He and my stepmother sell miniatures, for dollhouses and collectors and whatnot. From what he tells me, miniature shows are as bizarre in their own way as any other convention, leading me ever closer to the belief that We Are All Weirdos In This Together.*)

While James will be the guy who probably decides what to recommend, being the computer savvy one of the family, if there are any easy and mostly automated systems for on-line ordering that any of you have experience with–or, by contrast, if there’s anything that you want to warn people away from like death, please post and let us know!

*Also, he was once on a “miniature cruise” (yes, yes, I know) which was a full-sized cruise with a lot of workshops about making miniatures. Along the way he was in an elevator with a guy who looked really really familiar. Some hours later, he discovered they were sharing the boat with a hard-hard-right-wing convention, and he’d been in an elevator with Newt Gingrich. I would love to know who was responsible for booking on that particular cruise line…

I am proud of Athena.

She’s not exactly showering him with kisses, but she’s not backing away in terror any more–in fact, she’ll pass within a few feet of him (with much growling) and will turn her back on him, and can watch him from ten feet with only an occasional hiss. (Athena is the only cat I know that occasionally hisses wrong and snorts instead. Then she coughs and looks faintly embarassed, and it takes a minute to get the hiss started again. Hissing is apparently like drinking milk–sometimes it accidentally comes out your nose.)

I hadn’t planned to let them in contact this soon, but I opened the studio door and found Athena right there. Ben promptly fell over on his side–“Auggh! They got me, pardner!”–and Athena glared and hissed, walked off, came back to make sure he was still there for her to disdain, hissed again, and stormed downstairs in a huff. She was much calmer than she had been when watching him through the door, though, and after a few minutes, I think I figured it out.

See, from Ben’s point of view, he’s just trying to get out the closed door into the fun and interesting house. From Athena’s point of view, however, a strange enemy cat twice her size is pawing his way through the door to get at her. She must have thought she was in a kitty version of The Shining, and her humans, who are so valiant about slaying wicked bugs and disposing of mice when they cease to be amusing, for some reason weren’t doing anything. No wonder she was freaked out.

Once they were allowed to meet on her turf, where she was in her Happy Place (i.e. James’s chair) she calmed down a lot. Ben’s tendency to mostly ignore her, and if cornered, fall over on his side and look off in another direction, seems to help. She still growls if he moves in her general direction, but she’s not spastic.

We’ll keep seperating them at night, and when I’m not able to keep an eye on them, but it’s a good first step.

Okay, that was creepy.

I went to Staples to grab some ink, and they had to go into the back to get it. So I was standing around the front counter, with the cashier, who was a very small, bird-boned girl in probably her late teens, although when you have that kind of build, you can be nearly thirty and still look twelve, so take my guess with a grain of salt.

This guy comes in. He resembles a balding Santa Claus, dressed in a black cordouroy jacket covered in…stuff. A magpie nest worth of charms and oddities were pinned to this jacket.

For whatever reason, this guy registered with me as soon as he came in the door–my brain was aware the guy was there, in the way that most people don’t. It wasn’t the clothes, per se–I’ve seen much weirder. I’ve worn much weirder. I think our brains register when someone is a little…off…on a largely subconscious level, though, and somewhere in my hindbrain somebody sat up and said “Yeah…let’s make sure we know where this guy is at all times, shall we?”

A few minutes later, he came up to the checkout. Since I was waiting on my ink, I stepped aside so the cashier could help him instead, and loitered at the end of the counter.

“So…” he said, leaning forward, “do you girls have your Halloween costumes ready?”

I made a non-commital noise. The cashier said “No, I’ll just do something at the last minute.”

“Do you go trick-or-treating?”

My creep-o-meter’s needle had been twitching, and now started cruising upward.

“Errr…not really…” she said.

“These days I mostly just stay home and hand out candy,” I said.

He dismissed me as of little interest and turned back to the cashier. “Do you have any…stuffed animals?”

The creep-o-meter needle shot upwards, and I say this as a woman with what is probably the largest private collection of stuffed wombats in North America.

“Sure,” she said, in a tone indicating she was not very sure at all.

“What you do,” he said, starting to get more animated, “you get a pillowcase, right, and then you cut holes for the feet and then you tied the stuffed animals around your waist–all the dragons and dinosaurs and puppies and kitties–and you pull the pillowcase up like a basket, and you go as the pick of the litter!”

She laughed the polite laugh of customer service. He looked at me. I said “Err. Heh.”

“Do you have a boyfriend?” he asked her. The needle skittered towards the red.

Lie, I willed her silently, lie.

“No,” she said. I sighed internally.

“Girlfriend?” he asked, excited. We were definitely in the red, and picking up speed.

“I have friends, yes,” she said stiffly.

“Invite them over!” he said. “We start at six pm, and it’s lights out at eight!” The needle was past the red and into the little stripy section that says “Security Breach! ABORT!”

“Err,” she said, throwing me a silent look of “Oh, god, help,” to which I could only do that slight lift of the eyelids that hopefully expresses Yes, this is just as fucked up as you think it is.

And then:
“At my house, the parade starts at 7 pm!”

The creep-o-meter needle, had it been anything but metaphorical, would have exploded off the dial at that point and buried itself in the wall. I could almost hear the ping of overheated metal.

(When relating this story to James, he said “What kind of parade!?” I protested that I hadn’t been about to ask, and he threw his hands in the air. “But I want to know!”)

“Now, you have my address in that computer, right?” he said, waving his credit card. “You just come on over!” He glanced at me, visibly thought it over, decided I was not of interest, and exited the store.

We both exhaled. More or less simultaneously, we uttered some variant of “Oh my god, that was REALLY creepy.”

It was almost certainly just a guy with poor social skills who really liked Halloween, but good lord…that was disturbing.

Although now, like James, I’m sort of wondering about the parade and you don’t want to know the kinds of things I’m thinking. Hell, *I* don’t want to know the kinds of things I’m thinking…

Following these instructions from the shelter, we’re switching who’s in the spare room for brief periods, so that the cats get used to the smell of the other cat in the area. I dunno if it’ll work, but it sounds like a good idea–once we let Ben and Athena out at the same time, it’d probably be best if Ben’s only worried about Athena and not about his surroundings.

That’s the theory, anyway–in practice Ben seems completely unworried about anything.

Ben went through the house the first time and cased the joint like a professional burglar.

The second time, as I sat working on Digger, a Very Large Beast suddenly appeared on my desktop. He examined the surroundings, walked over, stepped onto my lap, draped both paws over my shoulder and head butted my cheek, kneaded my shoulder once or twice, then got back on the desk, examined my stamps and CDs, got down, and went off to investigate the washing machine.

I’m guessing this is what the shelter meant by Ben liking to hug people. It was very cute, if a bit startling at first. Ben is big. When he jumps down, it’s a thud like furniture hitting the ground.

I wonder what he weighs.

Cat vs. Cat — Day 2

I know, I know, you’d rather have Elf vs. Orc, but it’s been a busy few days, so you’re getting cat vs. cat for the moment.

Ben was cheerful this morning, stood on my knee and rubbed his head against my face. He doesn’t like to be picked up–the offender gets a gruff miaow and a mostly clawless flail–but he’s very into the head-butting. (This is not surprising, really–Athena’s the only cat I’ve known in a long time who genuinely loved to be picked up, and many of them are much nastier about it than Ben.)

Athena still doesn’t like the idea of Ben. She sat outside his door and hissed for a bit last night, and when we open the door a crack, she backs away hissing and growling. It’s a measure of what a nice cat she is that she hasn’t tried to take a chunk out of me at any point, even when I’m holding her and she’s growling and obviously stressed.

Ben watches all of this with an expression of polite interest on his face. Not a hiss, not a snarl.

Granted, he’s been in a room full of other cats for two months, so the sight’s not nearly so alarming, and this is Athena’s turf, so she’s gettin’ territorial. Still, we’re definitely doing this for Athena’s benefit, not Ben’s–he’s as casual as if strange cats sat and hissed at him every day (and now that I think of it, they probably did–it was a pretty packed shelter.)

He very much wants out of the spare room–he paws at the door, and he is extremely strong, even given the overscaled strength-to-size ratio of cats–but he doesn’t offer anyone violence. Even when James was holding the door open a crack, and Ben was systematically peeling James’s fingers off the door, he was careful to keep his claws in. I appreciate that.

Once I finish working on Digger this morning, I’ve got stuff to do in the studio, and I’ll take Ben in with me so he gets a little more contact and a chance to explore a new room. Athena is curled up in James’s chair, probably planning her next assault, which will no doubt involve more hissing, and perhaps running away.

That’ll show ‘im.

edit: Yesterday was also a good day because I saw a black vulture for the first time, surprisingly low over the road. Conveniently I had my Sibley Guide with me, and could ID him on the spot. So it was a good day all around, except maybe for Athena.

Enter Ben, Stage Left

There’s a new actor on the stage, and his name is Gentle Ben.

He is appropriately named. The first thing I said was “Man! That’s a big cat!” He’s not at all overweight, but he’s a solid, muscular, big-boned beast. He’s a liver-grey tabby, with gorgeous green eyes and a spotted belly.

He’s very friendly. Sit on the floor, and he headbutts your hands and demands petting. He’s not really a climb-into-your-lap cat, but very much a pet-me-damnit cat. We met several very nice cats at the shelter, but Ben came up to the front of the cage right away, nuzzled everybody, played with a catnip mouse, then fell off a table and got lost in the play tube thing. Ah. Big, friendly, enthusiastic, good with other cats, not terribly bright–obviously he was made for us. We watched him exit the tube, butt first, with an expression of bafflement on his big face, and said “Okay, where do we sign?”

His history is unknown–he was obviously owned and socialized at one point, since he came in neutered, and he has faint collar-creases on his fur–but was a stray when he was picked up. He got loose in the rescuer’s hatchback and hid, and when the volunteers came out to find him, he popped out and gave her a bear hug, hence the name.

While generally I name cats after gods–well, Gentle Ben looks like a pretty appropriate name. Hopefully the law of feline perversity will not require him to turn into a regular grizzly.

He’s currently hangin’ out in the spare room–we wanted to give him an hour or two to collect himself after all the excitement and new surroundings. Then I’ll take a book in and see if he wants some company.

Athena currently believes that we are seriously deranged, but she’ll get over it, I’m sure. We picked her up to snuggle her, and she was only interested in getting back down so she could watch the crack under the door in case it got any ideas.

A few days ago, I innocently followed a link to a YouTube video–one of the not-uncommon variety where someone choreographs their WoW characters to music. Some of them are scarily well done.

This one was okay, but the song they picked was “Too Fat Polka,” a horrible–and horribly catchy!–tune of the 40’s.

For three days I have had “I don’t want her, you can have her, she’s too fat for me…” stuck in my head like an icepick.

I link only because people would ask for it if I didn’t. Flee, people! Flee! The tune, it BURNS! Save yourselves!


Went to a Halloween party tonight, and had to have a costume. So James and I got a coupla tubes of makeup and went as zombies. Some very convincing head wounds, although they started to slide south after two or three hours, but nice while it lasted.

While my makeup was probably better executed, (hey, I’m a painter…) James’s worked a lot better. This is because he happens to have absolutely gorgeous almost-waist-length hair. It is hair to make teenage girls weep. It is hair-band quality (although James is rather more metal.) Generally it’s in a ponytail, but he took it down for this.

I turned around, saw him, and uttered a phrase no one should have to utter–“Oh my god, I married Rob Zombie.”

Or, as a friend said at the party, “You have the potential to terrify a lot of small children with that…”

So that was a hit. And now my skin is as dry as the Sahara, and I may never get the putty out of my eyebrows.