April 2006

Slice of Life — Automotive Division

James: “So I saw the coolest thing at the grocery store!”

Ursula: “What was it?”

James: “It was restored and everything!”

Ursula: “What was?”

James: “The thing!”

Ursula: “What thing?”

James: “THE THING!”

Ursula: “…you mean the car?”*

James: “Yeah!”


Ursula: “You planned out just how you were going to phrase that, didn’t you?”

James: “For the past two and a half hours, yes.”

*Note for the younger generation–the VW Thing was a breed of car, now nearly extinct in the wild, vaguely resembling a cross between a jeep and a hypercube.

Wearers of Weaselskins!

Another day, another run at technique. Tried combining inking and scribble together. The combo actually is not entirely without merit, and I may have to try it again at some point–inking flattens things, but the depth and texture of scribble returns some of it. Will have to keep foolin’ around with it.


Today I’m working on the 300th page of Digger.

And y’know, I feel kinda proud about that. Proud, and a bit baffled. I keep looking around and going “Wait…what? How did that happen?”

And I can sorta see the end from here. Oh, not for awhile yet. I’d be rather surprised if we didn’t hit 500 pages by the end, frankly, and since I’m verbose as hell, there might be even more. But there are certain…mmm…mental landmarks in the narrative, for lack of a better term. As rambling and unplanned as Digger is, the best explanation would be that I’m wandering along, but off in the distance, I see this point in the story, and I know to amble in that direction. The oracular slug was one such landmark, and Murai having a nervous breakdown in the village, and the rats flying, and the encounter at the bridge, and the cold servants emerging from the hole in the floor.

Some of the best bits aren’t planned, though–I didn’t know the Shadowchild existed until it came out of the bushes, and Ed’s mythic interlude and discourse on the nature of evil surprised me as much as anybody. (Ed is definitely the character most likely to surprise me. Which is funny, because Ed’s the one character I know the most about.)

But anyway. I know that I have to get to those landmark points, so like mountains on the horizon, I head in that direction. And once I hit one, I line up the next one, and start heading that way. I can generally see quite a few off in the distance, although sometimes new ones’ll pop up. I knew about the cold servants coming out of the hole after the first thirty pages, although I didn’t know what they WERE for another hundred and some change.

And now I can see the landmarks at the end of the line. They’re a long way off–maybe even as far as the cold servants were when I first submitted my proposal to Graphic Smash so many moons ago–but I can at least SEE them. And I feel kinda good about that, too.

The house next to us has been for sale, and has sold, and in theory therefore, the lady living there will be moving out.

She had eight cats.

Most of them are outdoors.

I am praying with every ounce and fiber of my being that she is taking the cats with her, and not merely going to dump them irresponsibly here, because if she does A) there is a special place in hell and B) Ursula will have to go cat trapping, and there’s probably nothing more guaranteed to ruin your day. Plus I might get one of the other neighbor’s cats. I don’t mind those two, since they’re friendly, fat, elderly, and evidentally when they can be roused to move at all, they specialize in voles. I have not heard any reports of crashing vole populations nationwide, so that’s probably fine. It’s my songbirds that I feel strongly about. (Yes, yes, someone’ll say it, it’s NATURE. Well, if a feral domestic cat is “natural” then by that logic, so am I. And I am willing and able to muscle in on that particular food chain, with extreme prejudice and the hose.)

The other problem is that one of her cats is a wailer. And a wailing cat is worse than a barking dog. A barking dog is a pain in the ass, but it’s a pain in that ass that eventually turns to white noise, if you’re lucky. But there is an excruciating, penetrating quality to the “meeWOWWWOWWWOWWWAAGGGHH…” of a cat that seeps through doors and windows, a piercing, horrific “I AM MISERABLE PAY ATTENTION” that cannot be equalled by anything this side of the Ninth Circle of Hell. I am fully convinced that somewhere in the dark Dantean depths, where Satan stands hip-deep in a frozen lake, perennially paddling the buttocks of Hitler and Judas Iscariot*, the background noise is the wailing of cats. Interspersed with Christmas carols. ALL YEAR LONG.

But she’s moving. And because I am an optimist, I will assume she is taking them until proven otherwise.

*Unless he’s up in heaven sipping lattes, as recent archaeological fan fic may indicate.

Wow. I went to this Garden Center place in Cary today, and…wow.

“Do you need any help?” asked the nice woman, as I staggered through the aisles of bizarre, wildlife-attracting, never-heard-of-it-before-but-god-it’s-pretty perennials, gibbering softly.

“Don’t mind me,” I said vaguely. “I’m just having a plantgasm…”

Whether she was convulsed with amusement or horror, I don’t know, because I was distracted by creeping vervain. And campion. And catchfly. And beardstongue. And stuff I’ve read about but never actually seen in a garden shop before.

I have discovered an interesting fact about myself. If the tag says “Attracts Butterflies” or god forbid, “Attracts Hummingbirds,” I will buy it, no questions asked. You could slap a label with a happy butterfly onto a nuclear reactor, and I would begin looking for a place in the yard to put it. It’s like my Achillea heel. I am a plant junky.

So now my big front bed has another set of individual plants. It’s just about good to go. It will be a bizarre patchwork specimen bed this year, though–the seeded sections are the only thing that might come in in a mass. Otherwise it’s one campion here, one salvia here, one thrift here, one weird thing left over from the previous owner here…

Meh. Plants are like plates. It’s boring if everything matches.

Veni, vidi…um….veggy?

Well, anyway, I came, I saw, I gardened!

Did I say I liked lemon balm before? Ignore that. Obviously I was dangerously insane at the time. What I meant to say was that I hate lemon balm with the burning passion of a thousand dying suns, I wish it exterminated, excoriated, exsanguinated, and perhaps excommunicated. Yes. That is obviously what I meant.

I stink of bruised lemon. But, as some Chinese poet or other once said,

When I return from trampling flowers
the hooves of my warhorse are fragrant.

Just substitute “crazy woman with a trowel” for “warhorse” and it was sort of like that. And–ha!–I still have space in the bed! There is open space! Space that MORE PLANTS can go in! MUAHAHAHAH! This is a glorious and fearful thing.

Did not get much art done, other than finishing a Digger. Must go take a shower and then make art. That would be a good end to the day.

I am dividing today between art and gardening.

It’s statements like that that make me realize my life is wonderful.

Granted, the only sunscreen in the house appears to have curdled, and I don’t know if expired sunscreen becomes Deathly Poison or acts like a magnifying glass and thus will result in developing third degree burns just from the glow of the monitor as I write this–but hey. These are small considerations.

Today, I plant in the bed that has stuff that we don’t know what it is, which means I’m throwing down seeds–echinacea, black-eyed susan, gaillardia, and coreopsis–which will hopefully make it the sort of unruly naturalish planting where any random good plants from the last owners that flower will look fine. We can’t turn over the bed without disrupting what appear to be a lot of bulb plantings, so I’m just chunking in seeds this year. Next year, if we hate it, we’ll gut the whole bed, but this year, hopefully we’ll get something butterflies will like.

My nasturtiums are establishing well, which gives me hope for seeds.

But first, I must wage a war of liberation against the lemon balm. I require secure borders against the lemon balm. Preferably terra cotta ones. If someday this leads to tiny seedlings gathering ‘mongst the containers and chanting “Mrs. Gardener…tear down this pot!” I’m prepared to deal with that.

I saw a lizard today! A little skinky thing, which the field guides online say was probably a ground skink. It was very very tiny, only about two inches long with the tail, but I suppose it could have been a baby of some other species. Definitely skinkish though. I’d love to encourage him to stick around, but while I have an okay handle on bird and butterfly attraction, lizard attraction not so much. Leave out hot rocks?

I always liked the name “Skink” but was unable to use it for an RPG character because I knew they’d be branded “Skank” within about four seconds of introduction. Oh, well…

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