Life’s Luck: From Lemons to Sour Grapes, Mine is Weirdly, all Fruit Related.

Last month sucked. I mean really, really came out looking like an ugly puckery lemon.

I smashed a finger in between two 75lb boulders (yeah, while trying to do that rock wall myself—from last month’s blog).

I got a wicked thrashing from a wrathful, hell-bent-on-sparing-no-one poison ivy plant.

I got diagnosed with a second basal carcinoma (treatable skin cancer that plagues many pasty white Midwesterners who are unfamiliar with this thing local people call summer).

I broke my lawnmower.

I was stung by a wasp whose last dying wish was to leave a flesh wound and memorial to himself the size of an award-winning walnut.

And I got a UTI.

Okay, none of this stuff actually happened last month. That was a lie.

It happened this month.

Month and candor aside, the reality of so many calamities all at once did not bode well under the “Thank God, I got my Covid vaccine—it’ll sure be great to get back to normal” mindset I was cultivating.

Those thoughts ultimately tanked, and in their place crawled splints, bandages, skin grafts, physicians, lab techs, prescriptions, pills, ointments, potions, and spark plugs.

It was often hard to keep track of what went where, and on one miserable afternoon I found myself visiting the library to pick up a book I was hoping would take my mind off my miseries.

I was in line, waiting in the lobby for my turn to come in and approach the desk, when I heard someone triple tsk from behind me. I turned to see a woman as wrinkled as an old crabapple, her white hair braided and wrapped into a bun, held together with what looked to me like a couple of birch twigs and a meat thermometer.

I smiled, nodded politely, and turned to face forward again, only to hear her sigh and utter, “Dear me,” under her breath. She tapped me on the shoulder and when I turned, pointed to one of the many bandages wrapped around my arms and said, “You really should let that breathe.”

“Let what breath?” I asked.

“Your poison ivy.”

I looked down at the book she was holding in her arm. Kitchen Witchery: Spells, recipes, and rituals for something something magical something enchanted something something. I narrowed my eyes at her and tried to ascertain how this witch had discovered one of my ailments. “How do you—”

“You haven’t quite covered all your blisters,” she said matter-of-factly.

“Yeah, I really got walloped this time.”

She shook her head. “What did you do, roll in it like a dog in a cowpie patty?”

“No, I was weeding, but I bet my dog had a hand in spreading it.”

“Do you hug your dog?” she asked, pointing for me to move forward in line.

“All the time. He’s the best dog I’ve ever—”

“Stop doing that.”

“Exactly. I know. The oils on his fur transfers to my skin …”

“Not where I’m going. Stop doing it because dogs hate to be hugged. It makes them feel like they’re being devoured, and they’re helpless in that arm lock of stupid humans.”

“Oh.” I stared at the floor for a second before catching sight of her book again. “Well, I’d have to say that I truly feel like I’ve been cursed with something these last few weeks. Just one thing after another.” I looked up at her with a crooked smile. “Any hex breaking spells in that library book of yours?”

“You’re hoping some magic wand will wave away your poison ivy?”

I shrugged. “And my rock-smashed finger, wasp sting, skin cancer—anything that can alleviate those scourges?” I pointed out the ailments around my person.

The old woman studied me for a second or two, opened her book, thumbed through a few pages, and then slammed it shut with a crisp snap. “The book suggests not so much any incantation or elixir, but it is very precise on one specific action.”

“Oh?” I felt my eyebrows raise with hope.

She rolled her eyes. “Stay inside.”

I felt like an idiot.

She looked at me like I was an idiot, so I suppose my feelings were justified. “Ah, well. I suppose most of those wonky spells are simply drivel and gibberish. Are you just reading the book for fun?”

She glanced down at the book again and then spread it wide open to a page with a black iron caldron holding a bounty of vegetables from the garden it sat within. “Nope. I wrote this little beauty—there’s only one copy, and I convinced the librarian to put it here on the shelves. The problem is, I lost the original recipe for my mother’s tomato soup, and every time I want to make it, I have to come back and check out the book. Now that,” she pointed at the page, “is a cure-all for just about everything.”

I gave her a wary look. “How about a urinary tract infection?”

She cracked a smile and spat out, “Ha! That, my friend, is just a curse on all womankind. And no amount of kitchen witchery can make much of a dent in its presence.”

I shrugged. “I guess sometimes we’re just unlucky.”

“As I see it, your dog is going to get a bit luckier with no more hugs. Although sadly for you, I’d say it’ll be some time before anyone is going to want to wrap their arms around your bandaged body.” She searched the ceiling and then said, “Maybe try a bottle of wine.”

“Hug a bottle of wine?”

“No. Drink it. It won’t cure anything, but it’ll sure keep you from being cranky while Mother Nature deals with all your ailments.”

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

Otolaryngologists: They Sound too Good to be True

“Pardon me?”

This was phrase I was uttering with more and more frequency. Along with huh?, what?, and For Pete’s sake, speak up!

I knew something was amiss. I used to pride myself with the fact that I could hear a truck coming up my mile-long driveway before my dog could. I used to consider unplugging the refrigerator, two rooms away from my desk, because its electrical hum was hugely bothersome. I used to be able to hear a mouse pass gas at fifty paces.

But it all came to a meteorically headlong halt, upsetting my world and disrupting my work.

And by fast, I mean over the space of about 3 months. But it seriously felt like lightning speed if I don’t pay too much attention to the fact that I refused to pay too much attention to it.

This is what I told the otolaryngologist when I first went to see him—the part about sudden deafness being a near overnight happenstance. The fact that he raised one eyebrow clear up to his hairline makes me think I was less than convincing, but we’d never met before, so it’s likely he was unfamiliar with my “fiction author”-like ways of creating more tension in fairly bland scenarios.

Wording is everything.

But so is hearing, because without it, I must use my third eye—or third ear—to metaphysically conjure up the sound of those sweet words I love.

“It’s not too bad when I’m on my own and the world is quite silent, but the second any sound is a part of the landscape, I’m keenly aware I’m going profoundly deaf.”

The doctor narrowed his eyes at me.

“It’s a massive challenge to read people’s lips on any good day, but it’s near impossible to read my dog’s lips now as he’s way behind on facial grooming.”

Again, the doctor said nothing, but his own pursed lips spoke volumes. He motioned for me to lie back and turn my head so he could investigate one ear. After a muffled bit of rooting around, he grabbed one of the smallest vacuum cleaners I’ve ever seen and deftly earned his fee.

I sat up, wide-eyed and thrilled.

Sound is amazing after you’ve lost most of it. Everything is distinct, crystalized, and heightened. Likely I would welcome the hum of the fridge once I got home. But we still had one other defunct ear to attend to, and I also had questions.

“I’m actually really glad I was forced to come see an ENT, as part of what I do for work is teach people about aromas and flavors, and we spend a fair bit of time discussing my favorite part of the body—the olfactory epithelium.”

“Really?” he said, as he motioned for me to switch sides for the second ear.

“So, as I’m here, I was wondering if you could tell me what you would say are the most important things the average person would find interesting about this organ?”

He leaned down to peer into my ear and said, “That … is a wonderful question. I would definitely make sure they know—”

And then I heard nothing but the sound of the world’s tiniest Hoover.

I panicked a little, as this was my one chance to chat before being rushed out of the building so that the physician could continue seeing the long line of people fearing they’d gone deaf, all pacing the waiting room.

I tried lifting my head just a smidge, and he suddenly paused the Miracle Ear Electrolux. “Did that hurt?” he asked.

“Nope. I just missed what you’d said.

He chuckled. “I said—”

The doll-sized Dyson started back up again.

Surely, he’s doing this on purpose, I thought. Perhaps he feels his service fee should not include a month’s worth of his schooling crammed into a five-minute lecture.

He sat back and gave me a smile. “Did you get all that? There’s some marvelous science to share, for sure.”

I felt my face arrange its features into a bleak visage. “Nearly,” I tried to say convincingly.

He turned to his assistant. “Go grab the packet, please.” The doctor then turned to me as his assistant slipped out the door. “No worries. I’m having Charles bring you one of our anosmia sourcebooks. It’s a fat pamphlet full of everything I tried to tell you, plus some remarkable scratch and sniff pages that help identify whether you’ve lost your sense of smell or taste. You’ll love it. Everything you need and a ton of stuff you’ll want to share.”

I smiled, thrilled. Both because I could mostly hear now and because I was getting a free bucketload of captivating science. Scratch n Sniff! I couldn’t wait.

Charles returned and happily handed me the packet. “We’ve only got one left,” he mentioned to the doctor.

The doctor reclaimed my prize. “Pardon me,” he said apologetically. But now I was positive he was enjoying the tease. “Maybe next time, as this packet is hard to come by.”

I sighed. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Ah!” he patted my knee as he moved swiftly toward the door. “A pun! Very good!”

And then I knew I had my sharp-eared sense back because I could hear the sound of my own eyes roll skyward.

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

Who Do You Think YOU Are?

Now that we’ve all gotten through that first (and some might say unbearable) month of the year, it’s a grand (and some might say painful) time to take a quick looksee backward to collect a few points of data.

I call this month the time of RECALIBRATION because with all the frenzied excitement of December’s last week, which is stuffed full of well-meaning (some might say drunken) promises we nearly tattooed to our skin with the bulldozer determination of rebranding ourselves into the new shinier 2015 version, it can get overwhelming.

Some might say paralyzing.

I see no need for any of us to shrink away from our former selves, or the vows we made to our former selves. Like campaign promises, circumstances change: real life slaps us upside the head, supporters who swore they’d have our back are getting crabby because the timeline is too slow, we’ve finally had a moment to sit down and read the fine print, and in some cases, we discover that Lincoln’s historic and exclusive bedroom smells like Lincoln’s socks are still stuffed beneath the bed. All the hype ain’t quite what it was cracked up to be.

So now is a good time to take a deep breath and practice this phrase:

I used to be …

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NO GUILT!

‘I used to be’ can be just as cleansing as it is clarifying. For example, I used to be determined to rid myself of the seasonal Jack Frost Flab until Polly Polar Vortex burst through the door and hollered hello.

I have changed my mind. I am now simply always on the ball with early winter prep.

Another illustration might be, I used to be resolute in my goal to sing a duet with Frank Sinatra, but then he died.

I never gave up on this goal, I just came to realize it is doubly difficult to sing two part harmony with a corpse.

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There are myriad examples that may be just as revealing, but a little less disheartening like:  I used to be young, but now I am … not as young.

But each day that has passed has brought something my younger self did not have:

EXPERIENCE.

Hard won, effortful, exhausting, mind-numbing, hair-curling, wouldn’t-trade-most-of-it-for-the-world experience. (Some of it I would trade. Some of it I would pay people to erase from my memory and the memory of all the others involved, and then I would be at the mercy of those folks for as long as they would allow me to serve them.)

Or how about: I used to be a student—and go figure—I still am.

I used to be a student in a small classroom, then a large classroom, then on a massive campus. Now I am a student, but one without walls. My math assignments are the bills, the budgets and the taxes. English reports are my books and my blog. History is learned from the library. Science is a rich alchemy occurring all around me—from the stove top to the utility room, from the distilleries I study to the labels in my medicine cabinet. School is ever present, and I will always be a student.

At this point in my life, it’s almost as if behind every door I open, someone is flipping on a light bulb, and a small, but vocal collection of brain cells all join together and belt out a beautiful chorus of an aha moment.

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I pray their efforts don’t diminish. I hope that one day there will be an ongoing work of symphonic status performing up there.

And I implore science to hurry up and double their labors at successfully creating that special pill/implant/gene therapy that will ultimately improve my concentration, increase my memory, and boost my intelligence. I promise to do great things with it. I promise not to hack the financial industry, or mess about in the tech corridors, or commandeer the world’s defense divisions.

I promise. I can assuredly say that I used to be honest is not a phrase I will ever utter.

I really just want the extra brain juice for a few household experiments like figuring out a cost analysis for the most efficacious and least expensive wrinkle creams, or for what speed my make and model of car would consume gas most efficiently, or whether cryonics will be a sound decision for my hound at some point because I cannot imagine finding another animal as perfect for me as he is. And I will wait for whatever cure veterinary medicine doesn’t have available just yet for some ailment he may nearly succumb to in the future.

That’s what I’d use it for.

I promise.

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And how ‘bout this one to leave you with? I used to be afraid to try new things.

I still am. But I never let it stop me. Except when fear equals wisdom. Best not to ignore that little pearl.

Now you look at your life. How many ‘used to bes’ is it filled with?

It takes a significant element of courage and energy to commit to become something. That something that was important to us for a minute, a month, or a lifetime. Identifying your used to be is not a list of your failures.

It is a record of your efforts and accomplishments. It is a sign of movement and momentum. It is a mark of evolution.

~Shelley

(This post was inspired by one of my favorite authors and thinkers: Seth Godin.)

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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This is No Laughing “Matter”

Two weeks later there are seventeen staples.

That’s the punch line of this joke. Except, it ended up being much more of a punch in the gut, than a good giggle. Still, as with every adventure I experience, there is a constant narrative running in my mind. I cannot stop it.

I share it with you.

~~~~~~~~

“Come on, buddy. Dinner time.”

Um, no thanks.

“Suit yourself, but the bowl stays down for only about fifteen minutes. Then I’m giving your table reservation to the next handsome hound that walks through my kitchen door.”

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~~~~~~~

“Alrighty. Take two, my prized pooch. Dinner is served.”

Think I’ll pass.

“What? Is it my cooking? Gone off my culinary craft?”

*shrug*

~~~~~~~

“Round three, my finicky fussbudget. Surely your point has been made. Tonight, I even warmed up your dinner with my best chafing dish.”

Something is wrong.

“Did you break a tooth? Swallow a toad? Has the cat been casting black magic spells in preparation for her shift on Halloween?”

Something is wrong.

“My pride in preparation says there’s a lack of gratitude, but my gut instinct says it’s time to call for a second opinion. Hold on, bud. Let me get the phone and make an appointment.”

~~~~~~~

“What seems to be the problem here, Shelley?”

“Well, Doc, the first is my wholly insufficient knowledge base in veterinary care. The second is the plummeting communication skills of my hound.”

“Dogs cannot articulate beyond their most basic needs.”

“Ordinarily, I would agree. I have raised many animals that have mistaken their brethren for tree stumps, and have made a lifetime goal of achieving the title ‘Most enthusiastic pooper scooper.’ This guy is different. And he has gone radio silent.”

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“Hmm … And his symptoms?”

I sigh. “Refusing my food. He’s become one of my kids.”

“Might he have eaten something other than your food? A sock? Household poison, perhaps?”

“No. The only way he would have eaten a sock is if I gave him permission to do so, and the only way he would have been poisoned is if the cat had done it. And I’ve not caught her mixing elixirs in her lab for months. The fumes make her eyes water, plus she’s taken up online chess.”

The vet looked at me, as all vets do, wondering if I’d actually stopped off at the wrong clinic. “Okay, well, how bout I bring Haggis back with me and give him a thorough going over.”

“I doubt violence will make him talk, Doc.”

“I meant I’ll examine him in the back.”

“Examine him in the front too. The tube runs from one end to the other. Plus, you guys charge a fortune. I’d like to get my money’s worth.”

Something is wrong.

“I know, buddy. We’ll sort it out. Be brave. I’ll see you soon.”

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~~~~~~~~

“We’d like to do some x-rays.”

I look up from my spot in the waiting room, twisting the hound’s plaid leash through my hands. “Is that coming from you, or did he ask for that? Not having eaten for three days can make him impolite and cranky.”

“All me.”

“Okay then. Remind him to hold his breath. We’ve practiced that all summer in the lake.”

~~~~~~~

“Well, it appears he’s got some matter in his stomach.”

“Is that a vet term for ‘something-the-matter’ with his stomach? Because that’s the diagnosis I gave you when we first arrived without the aid of x-rays.”

“Nope. Something’s in there and it’s not moving.”

“I hope it’s not the cat. They do fight something awful occasionally.”

“I think we’ll keep the dog here with us. You should go home and I’ll repeat the films in the morning. Then we’ll know if we have to operate.”

“Maybe you should do it now in case it is the cat.”

“Go home.”

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~~~~~~~~~

“He did just fine. He’s resting and sedated. I’ll show you what we pulled out of his stomach.” The vet puts a Ziplock bag on the exam table.

“That does not look like the cat.”

“It’s grass.”

“Could it be Italian parsley? I sometimes garnish with that.”

“It’s grass.”

“I would never garnish with grass.”

“He’s been eating grass.”

“I have always said he looks more like a sheep than a dog. Could we do a genetic test? That might be the issue.”

“You can take him home tomorrow.”

~~~~~~~~

Something is wrong.

“You bet your grassy ass there is, bud. It’s called lack of sleep. I have a medical regimen assigned to me that would give an entire hospital ward a run for their money. I’ve got alarm clocks set to wake me nearly on the hour to coax some pretty pill down your gullet. I’m zonked.”

Something is wrong.

“If I come over there and your breath gives off the slightest whiff of fine fescue, it’s curtains, got it?”

~~~~~~~~

“This time we’ll do an ultrasound.”

“Will it cost less if it’s done ultra quick?”

“Go home.”

~~~~~~~~

“Okay, Shelley, let’s try this again. Here are some more meds. Try to get him to eat.”

“Do the meds count as eating?”

“Good luck.”

~~~~~~~~

“Here. Try this, Haggis. It’s peanut butter.”

It’s pills wrapped in peanut butter.

“How bout this? Big beautiful red tomato?”

Tomato hiding pills.

“Alright, fine. Oooh, this looks yummy.”

Smells like pills.

“Look at this, buddy. Even my mouth is watering. I bet’ll taste like chicken.”

Pills.

“Ugh.”

Something is wrong.

~~~~~~~~~

“I’ve called in an internal specialist. She should be here soon.”

“Are you telling me there’s something more internal than his stomach?”

“We’re running some more tests. There’s some swelling, fever, gastroparesis … we’ll know by morning if we need to operate again.”

“Any chance we can get one on the house? After all, we are frequent flyers.”

“Go home.”

“Coupon card? Customer loyalty discount?”

~~~~~~~~

“Okay, call us if you have any concerns, and here’s one more medication he needs to take.”

“On top of the other eight?”

“Five.”

“Feels like eight.”

“Good luck.”

~~~~~~~~

Something is wrong.

“What? Seriously. Could you not have spoken up while we were still on the premises with the giant red cross on the window?”

Look at me. I don’t look like me. Something is wrong.

“Of course you don’t look like you. You’ve had a procedure to vacuum out your insides. One to sew your stomach to the lining of your abdominal wall, four sets of x-rays, two ultrasounds and a partridge shoved up your pear tree more times than I’ve had hot dinners.”

I look like a poodle.

“Yes, well four sets of IVs require some creative shaving.”

I’m missing half my body hair.

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“Yep, you know how your appetite can plummet just from getting hair in your food? Getting hair into one’s body cavity has the same effect times ten.”

And the seventeen staples? Why not stitches?”

“That was my request. I wanted to discourage anyone from heading back inside again.”

I’m hungry.

“You’re back! God, I missed you, buddy.”

Where’s the cat?

“Leave her alone. She’s upstairs online with the Russians.”

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Not for long.

*sigh* “It’s good to have you home.”

~Shelley

 

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

 

 

How bout them apples?

The dog and I both adore apples. We eat one nearly every day—usually slathered in peanut butter at the dog’s request. At one point I was young and naïve and easily convinced of the old aphorism that An apple a day …

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Now that I am older and … older, I now know that statement to be pure bunk. An apple a day does nothing more than deplete the jar of peanut butter in the fridge. It also creates an incredibly distracting background track of canine lip smacking for about ten minutes after breakfast while I attempt to focus on writing, but as he is a living example of ‘good to the last drop,’ I try not to find fault with him and get on with the business of work.

Regardless, I have found the apple myth a frustrating one, as with each year that passes, I find myself in more waiting rooms, examining rooms and pharmacy lines than the collective number of hanging fruit in an entire orchard. And I know I have eaten the suggested serving—and then some.

The dentist–after his five second, “Let’s have a look-see,”–says to me, “Looks great! See you in six months!” And then whispers to the nurse on his way out something unintelligible. She then informs me that, “Dr. Q says things look lovely apart from the two antique fillings that need replacing and that itsy bitsy root canal that needs to be done. So as you’re paying up front, make sure you get on the appointment calendar ASAP. Have a good one and don’t forget to floss!”

Of course those appointments can’t be done in one fell swoop. They must be broken down into three 75 minute procedures. And by then it’s time for my next cleaning.

The ophthalmologist I see once a year, but I see the members of his staff in charge of handing out supplies–every three months. Somebody in my family wears contacts and rarely remembers to pick up her stockpile. After the third *ahem* polite reminder phone call, I go get them.

My OBGYN and I are pretty tight, as anyone you give permission to poke and prod all your bits and pieces should be with you, but I’d have to say I’m even closer with the nurse practitioner who apologizes profusely just before she stretches some of those bits and pieces halfway across the room prior to slamming them between two encyclopedias. She cries a little at this, and I feel bad at the weekly therapy she likely pays for—an expensive repercussion of her concern for women’s health.

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My General Practitioner likes to see me every year to do four things.

1. Make eye contact with me in order to have legal permission to continue calling in another year’s worth of all the prescriptions she’s written into my chart as “age appropriate” and “preventative.”

2. Have me pee in a cup. *shiver*

3. Draw a gallon or two of blood. I’m serious. I have a lot of blood in my veins just waiting for the chance to pop right out of my skin. No nurse practitioner ever takes me or the note in my chart seriously when hearing or reading the words Careful. She’s a gusher. People have to go home and change uniforms after lab work with me.

4. Prescribe one more thing that either the medical profession or Prevention magazine has universally recognized as the next “age appropriate” and “preventative” wonder drug.

Which then brings me to the pharmacy line and my friendly neighborhood pharmacist, who at this point can barely keep up with my weekly order. We’re thinking about putting some of my meds on tap for easy access and refill.

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But it’s not just me and my appointments that fill up my calendar, there’s also all the physicians who care for the kids, the dog and cat, and my car. They’ve all got nose to tailpipe care that must be scheduled as well.

Skimming through a journal whilst waiting for somebody to walk back through a door marked “Patient Care,” I came across an article that discusses the latest finding about apples and lung health. Apparently, according to the study, eating four or five apples a week is linked to slightly better lung function. I rolled my eyes and threw the periodical across the waiting room.

The next day I was folding laundry and heard the hound begin to bark. I guessed someone had pulled up to the house. He and I both abhor visitors so I let him go to town with his efforts at raising the alarm. The doorbell rang and the dog ratcheted up his labors to a fevered pitch. By the time I rounded the corner and reached the door, whomever it was had decided to split.

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“Well done, bud,” I said to him. “You’ve driven away another unwanted caller.” I walked past the fruit bowl and tossed him an apple. “That was some impressive lung function.”

I’m not fussed because I finally found some truth to that tired saying: An apple a day keeps the doctor away. And you can bet it was a doctor, as they’re basically the only people I know.

~Shelley

**Gotta Have a Gott**

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. Click here to see the cartoons in competition and to cast your vote.

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles