Measures Learned

We’ve been in coro self-isolation for a week. Not really isolation, but coupling. (Yeah, it’s not as sexual as that sounds; we’ve been married over forty something years.) I’ve gone out for walks; my wife and I shopped together twice in that period (keeping six feet away from others, not touching our faces, wiping down the shopping cart handle, wearing gloves), replenishing products and adding new items as we map out a longer term strategy and sort what we have. Some small matters have been learned.

I struggle to write fiction at home. I’m married to my walking-coffee shop-writing process. Like an old married couple, I feel it when the other isn’t present. A vacuum ensues.

I need to bridge it, and I’m working on that. Interruptions are the issue (which I’ve always known): cats visiting, wanting attention (sure, just shut the door, right? Ha, ha!), and the spouse speaking to me to share news or ask questions. Besides that, I developed the WCW process, deliberately training myself to shift to the writing mode.

I’m muddling through, sorting energies and times, trying to make my writing side work. I’ve wondered, though, if the muses haven’t also gone into self-isolation.

Beyond the writing issues, things are working out well. Our place isn’t gigantic, but it’s big enough for a couple and four cats (three residents and a perpetual visitor) that we’re not always on top of one another. We also have the yard, and can escape to it.

In many ways, we’re enjoying ourselves. The coro has united us in focus and intentions, providing structure. We’re working on a jigsaw puzzle together (it’s a good one) and have fun with that. We were doing that before coro struck, though.

I reflect on how our isolation is different from other times. I’ve gone through typhoons, where we stocked up but had a general idea that it would last only a week. Tornadoes were shorter and much more intense. We prepared for earthquakes (we have a disaster kit for fleeing) and wildfires (have N95 masks on hand) (and wish we could donate them to the med professionals because of the mask shortage, but they’ve been in our home for at least a year). We went through several years of drought here where we cut water use, and stayed inside (or went out for limited periods, wearing a mask) because of wild fire smoke. We lived through water rationing on Okinawa, and gasoline rationing in America.

This period, in fact, reminds me of our early married years. I was a young, low-ranked enlisted person. With little money, we were on a strict budget. We never ate out and saved money for treats (HoHo’s could be purchased for one hundred pennies in those days). We didn’t have a television (or a telephone) in the first few months. VCRs (and DVDs, etc) and the net, with its streaming options, didn’t exist. It was just us (with one cat) in the house, entertaining one another with card games, eating simple, inexpensive meals, and reading books.

So, this situation is somewhat better, if you discount the threat of getting sick and dying. We have the net. We have a phone, and several televisions (yeah, way too many, but when you buy one, getting rid of the previous is difficult; I’ve given away many working televisions…but anyway), and streaming options.

And we have money! And an extra freezer! And rooms! And toilet paper! And coffee! (And some wine, beer, brandy, and a few other things.)

We’re damned fortunate to have these things. (Yeah, nice not being poor and having a decent cash cushion.) (Sorry, not gloating just stating facts.) We have the net to entertain us (like reading others’ posts) (and writing my own) and a multitude of news sources (and entertaining animal videos). I love the humor I can find on FB and in posts (like MyDangBlog and “Signs of the Apocalypse”.) People’s comments on my posts, especially about Floofinition and floof rock, divert and amuse me. I love that they address these matters with the same tongue-in-gravity that I apply to them, building on the ideas and adding new material.

Although, alas, there’s not much good stuff to stream right now. Going from source to source last night (Prime, with access to HBO, Showtime, STARZ, etc), Freeform, Hulu, Acorn, and Netflix), it struck me that most streaming services are just like the old cable system that we fled. Lots of old reruns and syndicated old television shows on, and not much new (that we we enjoy) (yeah, we’re picky).

We also have a phone, and email. Jokes fly on email. So does good info. We hear from our extroverted friends and relatives, trapped in their homes, looking for an outlet. My wife handles those calls, except for my family.

Not bad, so far. Yeah, it’s early days, innit it? Hunker down, children. Fingers crossed.




The Corner of Concentration

I was just settling into place, unpacking my laptop and stuff at the coffee shop corner community table. (Saint Seata had rewarded me again — thank you, Saint Seata. Now, if the muses will cooperate (yeah, they’re even required when editing and revising.)

A young woman approached. “Are you expecting someone else or saving these seats?”

“No, join me.” I indicate the rest of the table.

“Thank you. I like working at this table.” She’s unpacking her computer as she speaks. “I get a lot of work done here and it has a plug.”

Yeah, people call it a plug, but it’s an outlet, innit? Whatever; she’s young. I reply, “Yes, I notice that people who work in this corner tend to be focused. I call it the corner of concentration.”

“The corner of concentration, I like that,” she says with laughter. “You have a good vibe. I like it.” Before I can do anything more than smile, she says, “I’m a writer.”

“What are you writing?” I ask.

“A cookbook.”

“Oh, cool.”

“It’s for women and will have recipes for women to help them manage their energy for different situations.”

“Sounds like an interesting idea. Good luck.”

“Thanks. What’re you doing in the corner of concentration?”

“I’m a writer, too.”

“Oh, what do you write?”

“I’m working on a novel.”

“Is it fiction?”

Isn’t a novel by definition a work of fiction, I don’t say, because I’m non-confrontational and I don’t want to spoil my good vibe. “Yes.”

“What’s it about?”

“It’s a speculative novel about life and memories.”

“Interesting. I think I want to write a novel someday.”

She goes off to get her coffee. I sit down, take my first sip, and settle in.

Time to write like crazy, one more time.


They’d been doing together since they were wed forty-two years ago. “Everything that we can do together, I mean, of course.” She felt some things weren’t possible, “But we tried to do everything together. We were never apart from one another for more than a day or two, maybe three, tops.” She’d been a nurse, but was now retired; he’d been, and was, a doctor.

Travel was required for her to visit her father. “Dad’s really well for ninety-three. It’s easy to forget he’s ninety-three because he looks so good and does so well. But he is ninety-three, so I worry about him. Especially since he’s down there and I’m up here. He’s a retired engineer, and very particular about his habits. Everything must be done certain ways. He eats the same foods for the same meals at the same times every day,  breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There’s no variation.”

But this was about her husband. “He didn’t want to go with me to Southern California. Dad always watches Fox News. He’s completely apolitical, he’s not a Trump supporter, doesn’t have a MAGA hat, or anything like that, but he watches Fox News all day long. Henry just didn’t want to go, and cited that as part of the reason. So I flew down there alone.

“I’d been down there for a week when I received a phone call from Henry. He was frantic.”

“I’m out of clean underwear,” he said.

“Well, wash some.”

“I would, but I don’t know where the detergent goes.”

“It goes in the drawer.”

“I can’t find the drawer.”

“When I thought about it, I realized that it was the longest that we’d ever been apart.”

When she returned, she discovered his clothes in the washer. They were moldy, wrinkled and almost dry. She thinks that Henry just tossed the soap on top of the clothes, wasn’t satisfied with the process, and just quit.

They haven’t spoken about it, yet, but he does have some new underwear.

A Crooked Path

Well, how was he here? How?

He’d been feeling really good, like AAA bond good, a comparison that he’d picked up from his late stepfather (stepfather, yes, but the only person who’d ever successfully plugged in as a father). (Don’t even get him started on the two previous impostors, which included his biological father.) (He was still getting over his stepfather’s death (from brain cancer after a long illness) two years ago.)

First, he’d finally got out of debt, which was good. His veteran’s disability amply covered his nut. Moving closer to Mom helped, too. He’d hooked up with a good support group and therapist, and was on the right meds. Things were so looking up. He’d found a nice little apartment for him and his cat (Sam, just Sam, a sweet young black cat) (not far from Mom’s house, where he could go do his laundry). (And socialize!) (And eat, yeah.)

Where had the hole come from, then?

Yeah, the shower, yeah.

The shower clogged. He’d told his landlady ’bout it, but she was eighty, and forgot. He waited, though, but he couldn’t use the shower, so he couldn’t shower, so he didn’t shower, waiting for it to be fixed. He was just going through clothes, though. Changing clothes every day (he’s not a friggin’ animal), he wasn’t able to go over to Mom’s house to do his laundry because he’d not been able to take showers, and now he smelled bad (geez, his hair was getting matted) (and his beard was a mess).

Without being able to shower (and do laundry) and without clean clothes, he’d quit going out. He missed his support group meetings and then had run out of meds. He couldn’t get out to get more meds because he was filthy and embarrassed. (And he was running out of food and household goods, and losing weight.)

Christ, it’d taken just two months, two months from being triple A good to being in a shithole of despair.

What was that whole thing about, for the want of a nail?


The Neighbor’s Cat

An old, sweet callie, she seems in pain, and tired. Our neighbor for fourteen years, sShe’s a frequent visitor, singing at doors until we let her in, letting herself in if the pet door is open, and then launching an opera about getting fed until she’s paid for her efforts.

This morning, I’d let her in, fed her, and returned to bed. After a bit, I felt a cat get on the bed, an effort noted for the sounds of climbing up the duvet. I thought it was her because of the lightness of being that tread across my legs and confirmed it with a glance. This was a first for her; she’d never visited us in bed before.

She began a purring lullaby as she came up the bed. Stopping by my face, she greeted my nose with a soft tongue touch and amped her purring to eleven. Going on, she visited my wife’s face for a few minutes. Then she went onto my wife’s pillow and sat down by her head, purring all the will as she gazed out into the room.

She didn’t stay long, perhaps ten minutes, always purring, and was waiting for me with a chirping request for a second breakfast when I climbed out of bed. Her request was fulfilled.

Puzzle the Fourth

We started building a new jigsaw puzzle on SuperMonday, so we’ve been working on it for several superdays. 

This one is used (always a worry, because what if pieces are missing?), purchased from the town Goodwill for $1.49. Depicting a village green with a growers’ market and shoppers in front of a row of shops, it offers a variety of color.

A big ‘un for us, fifteen hundred pieces, over three feet long by almost two feet, the puzzle sprawls across the dining room table. Some many pieces must be appraised and sorted that we’ve added containers. Detainees for specific sections — “Oh, wait, that’s part of the flower cart” — “This belongs to the watermelon guy” — are set aside until we can get to a point where they can be added.

We’ve worked out several categories of pieces during our process.

  1. Edge Pieces. The edges are important for us. We like working from the outside in. None of those edgeless puzzles for us, thanks.
  2. “Eureka!” Pieces. Also known as “Found” pieces (“Hey, I found it!”). these are pieces for which a hard search has been going on. Usually we search, then search again, and again. We typically grouse, “We’re missing a piece. I’ve been through all of these pieces and I can’t find it.” Hence, it must be missing.
  3. “I know this…” Pieces. The color is sufficiently unique that you recognize where it’ll belong, but you can’t put it there yet.
  4. “WTH”, or “WTF” Pieces. Bizarre colors that mystify you as you stare at them (“Do I have my glasses on?”) (“Yes, it’s better with my glasses off,”) these pieces drive you to pick up the picture and stare with furrowed brow until your eyes sweat and your butt falls asleep.

As this is an ‘interlocking ;uzzle’, no weird shapes exist. That’s good. We’d developed a vocabulary for pieces during past efforts (“I’m looking for an angel with black blob feet.”), but my partner prefers straightforward shapes. Unusual shapes annoy her.

Jigfloofs have been diligently employing a paws on approach, often walking among the pieces and on the puzzle in progress to give us their help. While their help is welcomed, of course, we generally remove them from the actual work space with gentle words (“Damn it, get off, I can’t see, stupid cat!”) to the chairs, where they curl up and sleep until a need for them arises again.

The puzzle is coming along. I estimate it to be sixteen point three percent completed (accurate, ain’t I?). We should finish it in time for next year. Meanwhile, optimists to the bone, we’ve been searching local stores and the net for our next project.

Someday, we’ll get a life.



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