The Magical Tale of a Tail

The world is full of random flukes, right?

We’ve all experienced a flush of good timing, poetic justice, or quirky happenstance. Something we look back on and say, yeah, that was weird, but seriously, how cool.

As a writer of fiction, I know I can drizzle a bit of curious coincidence into my stories, but I treat it as though it was a ghost pepper hot sauce—a little goes a long, long way. And too much will kill my reader’s appetite for any more of my story.

I mention all of the above because my life would never be considered believable fiction.

My editor would toss it back and say it was filled with way too many unexplainable flukes. Events that appeared for no reason, simply to push the narrative arc along. It’s too farfetched, too fortuitous, too implausible.

And yet … this is the contents of my life.

I write about magic in some of my books. In one it is simply sprinkled about, in several others it is the main focus, widespread and thoroughly researched. As authors we are encouraged to write what we know. But I wouldn’t say I know magic per se, I’d instead phrase it as I experience magic—or what some would define as magic—nearly every day.

And I don’t mean magic in the sense of ‘wand-casting-turn-you-into-a-toad’ type magic, nor would I lessen it to the side of the spectrum which might be confused with abundant gratitude. As in the warm rush of excitement at seeing a rainbow, or a water funnel, or a squirrel escape unharmed from the opposite side of your moving vehicle as it dashed out in front of you.

No. My magic is more the serendipitous kind and mostly the unexplainable. Unexplainable, as far as science is concerned. And I do believe science will one day have an explanation for my wonky situations. That chapter just hasn’t been written yet.

I don’t have rational answers for why, when visiting religious sites, or landscapes of great historic relevance, I am overcome with a physical dis-ease so great it can send me to my knees. Someone theorized that perhaps the pseudo-science stating the correlation between ley lines and magnetic fields might be an influence—and my body simply has an abundance of iron that interferes.

*shrug*

I have no reasonable explanation as to why I am forever running into self-proclaimed witches, soothsayers, mystics, and wizards. This week alone the tally is already up to three.

Surely, you think I jest.

I certainly would.

And it’s not like I belong to any covens, Wiccan moots, or regularly visit Renaissance festivals. These individuals just find me. Or, as I have heard explained to me numerous times, I find them. But I take issue with this declaration, as the last one I “found” was literally fifteen minutes ago—someone who marched up to my front door to say hello as I’ve been working on this article.

*sigh*

I know. It’s supremely absurd.

I feel like erasing this entire confessional essay, except that I’m writing to tell you about one of my most beloved repeating serendipitous occurrences: meeting my favorite people.

(The reveal is coming up, so hang tight.)

I was recently away at a massive book festival in Tucson, Arizona. Over one hundred and thirty thousand people attend this three day event each year, and I was lucky enough to be invited to participate.

A bazillion flights, ubers, panels, and tacos later, I lug my bags across the threshold of my home, my luggage filled with the contact info of countless authors, publishing reps, moderators, and book sellers.

I toss it all up on the kitchen counter and glance out the porch door where movement catches my eye. A wretched face glances up at me, curled up upon my swinging rocker. Two large chocolate colored eyes effortlessly convey the message of I’m cold, I’m hungry, I’m lost.

Unlike the countless other things up on the mountain where I live, this animal has no desire to fight me back for territory taken, and only wishes for a quick solution to his mounting problems.

I rush out to greet the sweet and gangly-legged hound and usher him into the warmth where aid is in abundance. “Sammy,” as his tags indicate, is one of the most grateful tail wagers I’ve yet to lay eyes on.

He tells me, in a way that only animals can, how the water has never been so thirst-quenching, the food has never been so filling, and yes, please scratch right there until I tell you to stop. I adore animals and their gratitude for simple needs met. I wish more people were so.

I quickly make contact with Sammy’s owner—a doppelganger of me, had I been on the receiving end of the phone call: thrilled, desperate, relieved. She is on her way.

Sammy and I find the warmest, sunniest room in the house to await her arrival, and many attempts at my poor human-to-dog speak message of, “I promise, she’s rushing here to get you,” prove unsuccessful. His eyes still say, Make my two-leg appear, please.

And minutes later when she does, I can see in her eyes the same urgency as was in Sammy’s, and my “chatty Cathy” habit is getting in the way of reunification.

Paula is clearly a perfect match for her companion—warm, gentle, intelligent, personable. It’s almost as if she was a …

“What do you do for a living?” I ask her.

“I’m a school librarian.”

I drop all pretense of politeness and inhibition. I hug her.

“You are my favorite kind of people!” I look at her hard. “Did you somehow know that I run a campaign to erect monuments to all librarians? Because I write that on the jacket flap of all my books!”

She shakes her head. She did not know. And eyes the door.

I thrust three of my books into her hands. “For your school, if you want them.”

We will be friends. I’m sure of it. I will make it happen. And I will try to tone down that unnerving affection.

But it comes naturally when you’ve been surrounded by all this wonky magic your whole life. I may look askance at all the other lunacy that regularly shows up, but I will never question fate or the three siblings in charge of it.

And if Clotho, Lachesis, or Atropos—the three Sisters of Fate—should toss a librarian onto my front door’s welcome mat, I will treat her the same way I would any lost and loved puppy: with open arms and great goodwill.

Also a big spoonful of peanut butter.

~Shelley

Sammy was lost in the forest for two long winter days. And because of his perseverance and suffering, I suggest he receives a spot at Paula’s feet within the mold of her bronze cast—once her school raises enough money from bake sales. Come on, Western Albemarle High School. Get baking!

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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.

 

 

 

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.

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