Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween!

The only possible way I can open this email is to say, "thank goodness it's Friday."

It's not that it's been a long week. It actually hasn't been that bad, actually. It's more just a question of me not getting enough sleep this week topped off by the horrible fact that I might be coming down with the flu. I'm desperately hoping that it's just because I stayed up too late, ate the wrong thing and didn't sleep well but today is definitely one of those days that I had to fight to get out of bed.

Naturally, today is also a day when there's no way to miss work. I have three long meetings today, meetings that aren't the type of meetings I can miss. It means I'm going to be counting down until 4:30 p.m. this afternoon so I can get out of here and go home.

It's mostly my own fault. Last night, I went to see the touring production of "Rent." Yes, again. This was actually my third time seeing this tour with Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal, two of the original leads from "Rent" from almost 15 years ago. Ironically, while I love the show, I'm really not as much of a groupie as saying I've seen it three times makes it sounds. It's just that I have friends in L.A. who love the show like me and I happened to see it while I was there. I also have best friend in Washington D.C. who loves the show and so we saw it while I was there. This time, I mentioned to a coworker who's seen the show 12 times already, although not this particular tour, and she wanted to go. I figured that it'd be a good chance to check out downtown Cincinnati as well as enjoy the show again.

It was a good show. It always is. Anthony Rapp continues to amaze me with his enthusiasm and ability to play his role. The problem that both he and Adam Pascal have is that everyone who's ever heard "Rent" has, most likely, heard the original soundtrack in which the two actors are forever framed in their roles. Thus, it's impossible to see them both without comparing it to that Original Broadway Soundtrack. I can't imagine how hard that has to be, that almost 15 years later they're reprising their roles and they've become legendary because they created the roles and are forever going to be the standard that everyone sets for them. Anthony Rapp, the original "Mark" in the show is flawless. He still plays the role as though it's new to him. He still surprises me with how strong and familiar his voice is. Adam Pascal, on the other hand...I think it must be hardest for him. Somewhere in the past 15 years, he's gone from being a raw-edged rock performer who happened to get a job on Broadway to being a Broadway singer who tries to sound rock. It's not that he's bad, per se, it's just that he sounds like he's auditioning for "La Boheme," the show on which "Rent" was based, for a large percentage of the show. It's like watching Eliza Doolittle go from being a fiery little cockney to being a somewhat more dull polished lady.

Still, it was a great night. I had fun. We stopped for dinner at one of those fancy upscale Mexican restaurants that tries to make every dish sound fancy. Since I'm the Food Network junkie that I am, I saw the opportunity to try pork belly tacos and I took it. Pork belly is one of those things that doesn't sound appealing but it seems like it's one of the most ubiquitous meats for chefs because of it's flavour. I've never tried it so I thought I would. The tacos were delicious, a mixture of a bacon flavour with tender pork in the middle. It's probably not something I'd try often, mostly because despite my new 'foodie' status, I'm also not planning on turning into a beach ball. However, I'm glad I tried it.

Unfortunately, I wasn't so glad when I woke up at 2:30 a.m. when my stomach was disagreeing with me. Pork Belly tacos are much better on the way down. I think it was mostly just the richness of my food not agreeing with me.

So, by the time my alarm went off, I was groggy and really, really wanting to use one of those precious PTO days. Unfortunately, since two of the meetings are with my boss and my boss's boss, it wasn't like I could not come in.

It didn't help that I woke up in one of those slightly fuzzy moods in which I had a horrible song stuck in my head and it buzzed around and around like a fly that would not be swatted. I think they call songs like that "ear worms". Do you ever wake up like that? Where you wake up with a song in your head, an idea on your mind, a phrase in your mouth that won't go away no matter how much you try to replace it with something else? Well, that's what happened to me. The song I had stuck was, "Under the Milky Way Tonight," that song by The Church that was popular in the '80's. I like that song. The only problem was is that I had that diabolical version used in the Lincoln car commercial that's on at the moment. I hate that version. It's sung by one of those women who try to sound both edgy and sensitive, sort of Avril Lavigne meets Feist while trying to dance on a stripper's pole and be sexy.

So, waking up with that song in my head did not make my day begin well. Then, when my alarm went off, Coldplay was on. I mostly dislike Coldplay. I like that song, "Vida la Vida" but I don't like their whiny, dreary, rainy Sunday afternoon sound. I find this a shame because I rather like Chris Martin, the lead singer, in interviews. He's nice and English and has a dry sense of humour.

Then, when I turned on the news, Mr. Weatherman did his typical, "it might rain today!" thing. Except instead of being Mr. Weatherman, he was Mr. Bare Bones. It was still his voice but the TV station had animated a skeleton who could present the weather to celebrate Halloween. I quite liked Mr. Bare Bones but it would have been better if it wasn't Mr. Weatherman in disguise. Especially as Mr. Bare Bones was as vague and unhelpful as Mr. Weatherman.

So, I begin this Friday not feeling like I want to be here. However, since that's pretty much the way I begin every day, I don't feel that bad. Also, the very fact that it's Friday, that it's Halloween tomorrow and we get an extra hour to sleep in as of Saturday night means that today is automatically better, no matter how much I don't feel like eating or how that annoying song gets stuck in my head.

I even have a Halloween Party to go to so that's even better. I've never been to a real Halloween party before. I was invited last year but I got rear-ended on the day of the party and didn't feel up to going. This year, it's got an '80's theme. I'm bound and determined to go because I have my hideously '80's costume all lined up. I grew up in the '80's. I was also a child through most of them so my view of the '80's is a bit skewered but then again, I am Captain Monkeypants. Would you expect anything else? It should be a fun time. I'll let you know on Monday.

See? So even though I could be in the foulest mood thanks to rich food, annoying songs, Bare Bones Weather Reporters and work, I'm still thinking positive. That's the way I planned to start the week and since I'm ending it in the same way, I would say it's been a rousing success. Even if it is all relative.

Happy Friday and Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Kit-Kat Wars and (Hopefully) Quiet Days....

It's a bright sunny day today. It's supposed to get up into the seventies this afternoon. For October in the Midwest, that's rather nice. I did think about writing the next installment of Humberto the Strawberry of DOOOOOM but I'm going to hold off on that just because today doesn't feel like a good Humberto day. Some days just don't feel like good Humberto days.

I did get my apple peeled yesterday, you'll be happy to know. I managed to do it in one long coil. Then I ate the peel. My coworkers were a little baffled as to why I'd peel the apple and then still eat the peel but the thing is, I like the peel. It's tasty. I don't always peel my apples but sometimes it's just fun but I'm not going to waste the peel. I'm not sure what today's creative project will be but I'm sure I'll come up with something. Yesterday, I ended up having two meetings. The meetings are a little monotonous but the nice thing about meetings at this time of the year is there's always chocolate and sweets in the meeting room. Someone is always bringing in one of those bags of miniature chocolate bars. I don't always want chocolate but sometimes, it's just nice. Especially when it's the only thing standing between you and a power nap while your boss is talking.

Yesterday, my meetings were with the President of our company. He's my boss's boss. When he's in a good mood, he's a lot of fun. When he's in a bad mood, we hide. Fortunately, yesterday he was in a good mood. I'm glad because when we both discovered the was one Kit-Kat hidden in the bottom of the candy jar, we almost came to blows. Fortunately, I won. I suppose I should have done the polite thing and given it to him but I like Kit-Kat's. He did say that the person who gets it quickest can have it so I simply snatched the jar, emptied the entire contents out, took the Kit-Kat and returned the rest of the chocolate to the jar and offered it to him.

He sighed and took a Snickers bar. I did offer him one of the sticks of Kit-Kat but only after he'd seen me put my fingers on it. I knew he'd refuse.

Sadly, I think that was the highlight of my meeting. I didn't even get to doodle because I had to actually pay attention. That is a sad thing.

I'm not sure what's on the table at work for today.I have no meetings so that's good. Of course, since I've been in the office, I've managed to discover one of our servers is down again and I'm the liaison between the developers and the users. It's funny- I don't do this kind of thing very often anymore but it's what I used to do all the time in my old job at USC. Back then, if I could figure out the problem, they'd let me fix it. Here, there are very defined roles as to who does what. It makes for an easy fix...I just tell someone something's broken and that's it. I like to fix things myself. Of course, I did have to resort to using an ice-cream scoop to start the decaf coffee this morning so maybe I shouldn't say that. Yes, sadly, my handy trick of simply hitting the button didn't work so I had to wedge it with an ice-cream scoop. I can no longer mock my coworkers for doing the same thing.

It seems like it's going to be a fairly quiet day here. Then again, none of our days are particularly loud. For one thing, we get told off if we get too loud. For another, there's not much going on aside from the every day stuff. Now we have our move date, there's a strange sense of anti-climactisim going on. Up until now,e very meeting we had as a company, someone would ask
"When are we moving?" and we'd here. "We don't know but we know it won't be before"

Now we technically know when we're moving. We also know, technically, that we're going have to work at home for a day or two while our stuff is moved. Since it's the week of Thanksgiving, I have the urge to say, "Does it have to be my home?" I mean, that would be rather lovely to be able to work from my parent's house since I'll be spending Thanksgiving with them anyway. But, alas, that's not allowed. Of course, given that my house is ten minutes from the new office, it's not like I'm complaining. The people who are complaining are those that will now have to commute when they've had the luxury of working ten minutes from home. It's like the office has been flipped: the people who live closer to the new building- the majority of the office- is getting excited. The local people who live near where we currently work are all crotchety and complaining about the drive. Some of them are even indignant that they have to drive because that wasn't part of their condition in being hired; they took this job so they wouldn't have to drive. The same people are trying tactics such as including the drive time as part of the work day. To that, I say, "don't be ridiculous!"

I feel sorry for them, I do. I bought my house closer to where we will be working than where we're working now. I've been commuting for three months now and there are times when it's a pain in the neck. It was nice to be able to leave the office and be home in ten minutes. It was nice on days where I'm tired and sluggish and I just want to go home and it was nice if I forgot something and had to run home at lunch. Now I live 45 minutes away, it's not so convenient but it's also not so bad. I've taken to listening to audiobooks, as I've mentioned. It's nice to see the beautiful scenery. It's also a good way to decompress if I've had 'one of days.'

I can see why the people in the office are upset because they don't want to have to drive. I just think some of them are acting rather immature about it. I've heard fits of quiet venting to one another. I've heard snarky comments uttered aloud in meetings. I've heard rather a lot of venom in regards to the subject. Overall, it's not a popular decision among the locals.

As for me, I'm going to miss my audiobooks but I'm not going to miss the $30 I'm spending in gas each week. Once upon a time, a tank of gas lasted me two weeks if I drove to work and made the odd trip out of town to shop. Now, I'm lucky if I can get seven days out of a tank. It also means I'll soon be having a little brown, rather longish dog named Sausage coming to live with me. I promised he'd move in with me as soon as the commute to work ended and so soon, he'll be an Ohio resident.

My other coworker just came in. She's in a foul mood, it seems. She's already sighing and typing quickly into her instant messenger. She does that a lot. It usually means something's wrong. I probably should ask but...I don't want to. She'll tell us if there's drama. She always does.

Maybe the day won't be so quiet after all.

Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I'm Not Sure This is What they Meant When they said "Creative Thinker" Required....

It's the middle of the week. Some people like to call this "hump" day. I've personally never really liked that phrase. It's not even because it sounds a little rude and a bit animalistic, it's actually more because I've never viewed the week that way. I suppose Wednesday is the turning point of the week, the day in which we go from being stuck in the drudges of the workweek to being able to see the glimmery hope of the weekend shining ahead. But I never really see the week as having a hump in it.

Still, it's definitely a move towards the better. It's another wet sort of morning here. I went to bed last night with the sound of rain pounding against the window. It was a delicious sound.

Now I'm here in the office. There aren't many people here yet. This means I had to make the coffee. I don't mind that too much. I actually think it's a bit easier. The cover that sits over the power button on the decaf coffee pot recently fell off. Having made coffee a couple of times this week, I've had no problem getting the coffee pot to work. Just because the cover fell off, doesn't mean the power button is dead. However, on the days on which I haven't made coffee, I've walked into the kitchen to watch coworkers doing complicated things to get it to work. They used a knife and a lot of tape to rig it up so it would work. Yesterday, I discovered someone attempting to push in the power button with an ice-cream scoop. I find this amusing but not quite sure why they're making McGyver attempts to make coffee when I've found it fine to just hit the button. Still, it's quite fun to watch.

We finally found out when our office is moving. Yesterday, we got the date. November 23rd is the day the movers come to take our stuff to our new building. That happens to be the week of Thanksgiving. I suppose it's good we're finally moving but it seems like an odd time to choose. Ah well, again, I state, I am not a manager. If I were, I probably wouldn't have scheduled a product release on the day we're supposed to move, especially as we all may have to work from home that day and that will make it slightly hard for us working on the product release to communicate.

But I'm keeping my positive attitude. Besides, yesterday, I had a really good fifteen minutes in my office. Yes, I actually took an official break and carved the mini pumpkin I've had on my desk. It was given to me by a manager who was not my own. He was giving his staff little mini pumpkins a couple of weeks ago as a gesture of 'team spirit' and to 'celebrate the season.' He had one extra. I happened to be nearby. I was given the gift of a mini-pumpkin. I think it must have been just to celebrate the season since I'm not on his team. It was nice of him though. It's been sitting, faceless and uncarved on my desk for a while and I thought about drawing a face on him and then, yesterday, after lunch, I realized I was holding a knife.

Yes, your reaction to that phrase is probably similar to that of my cubicle mates when I declared, "I have a knife!" with excitement. They looked a little wary. They've discovered, you see, that Captain Monkeypants has a wee bit of a dark streak and likes the creepy side of life. Thus, because this is an unfamiliar notion to them, they therefore think I'm a little scary. I suppose, looking at it from their point of view, when someone declares, "Hey, I have a knife!" in the middle of the office it might be a little alarming.

Anyway, I had the knife merely because I'd used it to eat my persimmon at lunch. I'd been so excited to find persimmons at Jungle Jim's on Saturday. My friend's family in L.A. had a persimmon tree in the yard so around this time of year, there were persimmons galore to enjoy. Here, however, they're a bit more of a delicacy and not as easy to find. I did find them on sale on Saturday. They're a little nutty tasting with a firmer consistency than an apple and a slightly pear-y taste. I love them. The best way to eat them is to slice pieces off with a knife and eat them.

Thus, this is the reason I had a knife. My declaration of excitement in saying "hey, I have a knife!" because I'd looked at my mini pumpkin was apparently not terribly obvious to my coworkers because they didn't share my glee. Which leads us back to where we were before I started rambling about persimmons. I simply decided that I absolutely must carve my mini pumpkin since how often do I have a sharp enough knife in the office?

So, I spent a rather fun fifteen minutes carving the little blighter. It came out quite well- a very typical Jack O'Lantern with triangle eyes, a little nose and scary looking teeth.

I was sad when I was done. It was the most fun I had all day. Actually, all week. Last week, I discovered the highlight of my week was the meeting I had at the end of the day on Friday in which I freely got to doodle. I came up with some interesting new little doodles. I drew Camembert the KangaSnail, Pumpkin O'Clock, The Improper Starfish, Nanosaurus Rex and the Christmas Tree of SILENCE!!!!! And yes, I drew the exclamation points.

I have decided that my next writing project might be to put together a series of stories based upon my doodles. I think I'll call it Adventures from Doodletown. It will feature the Strawberry of DOOOOM, his inevitable vanquishing by the formerly dull raindrop who became the RAINCLOUD OF DOOOOM and many other rather odd little tales.

On the plus side, at least I'm finding a creative outlet at work. On the negative side, I'm not so sure it's why they're paying me. Still, I figure until they tell me to cease and desist my artwork, pumpkin carving, original origami and paperclip sculpture-making, I'm going to keep on doing it. Although, I have noticed that any time I attempt to get creative with my job, people get this wary look in their eyes. Then they ask my coworker to help them brainstorm creative ideas in a meeting. Literally. This happened again yesterday. I'm not exaggerating, either. This is what happens every single time a new project comes along. I'm really, really trying not to take it personally. It's actually working at the moment. I'm choosing to believe that it must be because I look so focused on my work and so very good at it that they think they can't disturb me from the exciting world of software testing.

Of course, if they'd seen me carving my pumpkin yesterday, they might have changed their minds. Sadly, they didn't. I think I'll explore Adventures in Apple Peeling today since I have a knife again. I'll let you know how that goes.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Alligator in the Sewage Ditch!

I'm trying to wake up this morning; I went to bed far too late last night and woke up this morning feeling less rested than normal. As usual, I got ready while listening to the news and, as usual, the weather report did not help me much. I did learn that in Iceland, they're closing all three McDonald's restaurants that exist in the country. Apparently, the price of a Big Mac has gone up to over $6 and due to a financial crash in the country, the restaurant chain is unable to stay open.

I find that startling. I's McDONALD'S! It's one of the most ubiquitous companies in the world. Those poor Icelanders; now they're going to have to wait until they leave their country to have their Big Mac's. Of course, I must admit, in my imagination, when I think of Iceland, I think of an entire country covered with a thick coating of ice. The residents always wear eskimo type coats and they ski from place to place. It's hard to picture McDonald's in the middle of all that. Of course, I do know that it's actually a lovely place when it's not covered with ice- that it's green and beautiful but I can't help it- you call a place "Iceland," it does evoke a certain frozen image in people's minds.

I also learned that a man in Falls River, Massachusetts managed to capture a five-foot alligator. Apparently, it was spotted in a dirty drainage ditch by several people and the man who eventually captured it received a text from his brother telling him about the alligator sighting. Rather than, you know, doing what most of us would do which is to say check the newspapers to see if it a.) ate someone or b.)was captured, he decided to take matters into his own hands. He went looking for the alligator and captured it by clamping its jaws together with electrical tape.

I have a couple of questions. First of all, electrical tape????? Any good taper knows it's duct tape that you need! Electrical tape is not necessarily flimsy but the minute that stuff gets wet, there's no stick left. Given that the alligator was living in a drainage ditch, I'm not envisioning it being terribly dry. Also, it's a ALLIGATOR! Who goes after an alligator with a roll of electrical tape?

Secondly, uh, why? Well, actually there is an answer to that particular question. It turns out that our brave alligator capturer is a compassionate soul who felt that if the police managed to capture the 'gator, they'd kill it because they'd be afraid. What a silly notion he had! I mean, why on earth would the police shoot a five-foot alligator, I'm sure they come across those every day!

Unfortunately, despite his hopes and efforts with his handy roll of electrical tape, he had to surrender his rescued alligator because he didn't have a permit. Did I mention that he's a pet store owner? In addition to the alligator, it seems that our brave hero also rescued a five foot boa constrictor from the same area just two weeks before. I think we may have found a successor to the Crocodile Hunter. Of course, being that he's from Massachusets, I don't think he'd say, "Crikey!" Wouldn't it be more like, "Wicked good!"?

I guess this leads me to yet another question. What kind of place is Falls River, Massachusetts that it seems to have some rather large reptiles just sort of hanging out until our Alligator Hunter comes along to rescue them? According to the news report, the pet store owner has a traveling educational exhibit that features a 90 lb tortoise and a six foot iguana. I can only hope he didn't rescue those from Falls River, Massachusetts too.

Aside from the Alligator Hunter and the sad demise of McDonalds in Iceland, I also heard about a proposition on the ballot next week that would keep our libraries open in Cincinnati. I already knew about the proposition but I heard the first commercial today in support of the proposition. I'm happy that there are people lobbying to make sure people can continue to read for low or no cost but the commercial stated that the libraries are for the children, the elderly and families to go and read.

I know, it's a bit nitpicky but to quote Ben Linus from Lost, "what about me?!"

Once again, the plight of the singleton is brought to the surface! We are invisible! I'm not a child, I have no family, I'm not elderly. Can't I appreciate the library too? Why do they have to be so specific? Lots of people like to read! I'm one of them.

I realize that, at this point, I was probably splitting hairs. Fortunately, the Substitute Weatherman distracted me. Our usual 'poetic' weatherman had the day off so we had a sub. He was actually rather bland compared to our usual Mr. Wrong. Of course, the weather report was typically vague. It might rain! It might not! If we see rain on our windshield, we'll know its raining. He actually said that. What's next? If we stick our head out and get struck by lightening, we're having a thunderstorm? Or if we look out and see white flakes, it's snowing?

Still, for a morning's entertainment, you can't beat the local news. Obviously there were less trivial, more serious stories on the news but I choose not to blog about those merely because sometimes it's more fun to concentrate the lighter things in life rather than focus on the doom and gloom that surrounds us. Though, I'm sure if I were a random pedestrian in Falls River, Massachusetts and I came across a five feet alligator that was staring me down, I might feel a little doom and gloom. Of course, now I know to keep a roll of electrical tape in my pocket for just such an occasion.

Happy Tuesday.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Paranormal Activity and Hopeful Thinking....

It's Monday morning and I'll skip all the whining about how I wish the weekend was longer and how much I hate Monday mornings. This is no exception; the very first thing I discover when I get to work is that a project that I was told would be mine is, once again, now under the management of my coworker. I know I should probably be glad that this means I don't have to work as much as she does but when I go to your boss and tell him repeatedly that I really, really want more projects, it's very frustrating to NOT get new projects. I'm also trying not to take it personally but...well...we know that's not going to happen.

Thus, I'm going to continue with my attempt to be positive today even though the day has started a little on the sour side. It's not my coworker's fault: Either I'm too incompetent to be allowed to work on projects or she's just such a superstar they can't do without her. I'm going with the second option. It allows me to spend the time working on projects I can create myself. I don't need any guidance, right? It's all up to me. Uh, yay?

I did have a nice weekend, however. On Saturday, I decided to go to the movies. It's been a long time since I last saw a film in the theatre and that used to be my main form of entertainment. Since it's near Halloween, I saw, "Paranormal Activity." It's one of those Blair Witch type movies that's filmed with a "home" video camera and acts like it's all real. The reason I saw that one was because I haven't seen a really scary movie in a long time and that one was being hyped as 'terrifying'.

Well, I admit, there were some moments in the movie that were genuinely creepy. It's basically about this young couple who live in a really, really nice house. The girl is a student and the boy is a day trader. I don't know what kind of day trader he is but they live in San Diego and that kind of house is EXPENSIVE. Anyway, the girl has been hearing things in the house and strange things have been happening so the boyfriend goes out and buys a camera so they can record it. Because, you know, that's what you do when you think you're being haunted. You buy a camera. You don't, you know, contact Ghost Hunters or anything and watch them squeal with terror, even though they're supposed to be the experts. The whole movie is pretty much what they capture on camera, particularly while they sleep. As the movie progresses, more and more creepy stuff happens.

The problem I had with the movie is that it's the slow, small things that happen that are the creepiest. These things are doors moving by themselves, keys appearing in the middle of the floor...that type of thing. Yet, as the movie goes on, the creepy moments get bigger and grander and when you find out what's causing them, it's almost laughable. The couple are the only characters except for a psychic who comes in and some random friend of the girlfriend's. As the creepier things get bigger and more obvious, the boyfriend tries things like putting powder on the floor to see if there's footsteps or using a Oujia board to talk to whatever's causing the disturbance. Not, at any time, do they consider NOT sleeping in the house until the very end. NOT at any point do they consider calling someone who can help until they're at their most desperate. NOT at any point do they say, 'this is weird!'. I mean, they can see what's happening when they play back the video but even though the girl acts scared, she doesn't really seem THAT bothered. If she was, why does she wait until the last minute to try to get help?

The movie concept is that this is a real couple, not actors. This REALLY happened to them. It's creepy, I admit but, at times, it's just plain silly. As soon as I found out it wasn't just an ordinary haunting, I felt like the movie was ruined. I suppose they were trying to build the movie using classic structure- build up, action...climax. Except, I think it would have been more effective if you never found out what it was, it would have been more realistic if they made it more 'real life' and less "we're gonna scare the crap out of you." I don't know about you but there are often little moments when I've been in a house, apartment, wherever and I notice a door open that i don't remember opening or a light on that I don't remember turning on. Given my overactive imagination, that's enough to give me the creeps. I don't need some silly explanation or some major drama, a good old 'real' ghost is enough.

I'm trying not to spoil the movie in case you want to see it. I could comment about the silliness of the footsteps, for example or the Ouija board scene. I will say that, at one point, the girlfriend says, "it's no good! It can do whatever it wants!" or something to that effect. It does seem that the paranormal activity CAN do what it wants. The thing I wanted to know is WHY was it doing what it was doing? If what it wanted was what happened at the end of the movie, why the heck didn't it just do it in the beginning? What on earth did it gain from what it did?

I suppose, as I said with the zombies in an earlier post, I like to know why something does what it does. I just like my creepy creatures and phenomenons to have a purpose. Even if it had been to drive the annoying girl and her annoying boyfriend crazy, that would have been enough but, alas, we don't even know that much.

Anyway, aside from that, I spent the weekend carving my annual pumpkins and watching "Harry Potter," because that's what you do when you watch "Harry Potter." I did three this year since I found three different sizes and decided I needed a pumpkin family. I have a daddy who has a moustache, a mummy who's a vampire and the baby who has his dad's eyes but his mother's fangs. It was fun to carve them.

The rest of my weekend was pretty uneventful. Sometimes they're the best ones. I did, once again, secretly hope that something would happen and they'd have to close the office today but, alas, that did not happen. I do, however, live in hope and hope is positive and I'm trying to be positive. So, it all works out rather nicely. At my head.

Happy Monday!

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Wet End to the Week....

It is a really rainy Friday today. When I woke up, I could hear the pelt of raindrops on the windows and the drip of the gutter on my back patio. The news reported that there were a number of accidents on the roadways and that I should leave extra time for my morning commute.

It was all I could do to make myself get up and ready for work.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Days like this are made for staying home, for staying in bed, for being allowed to appreciate the natural world around us and know that it's nature's way of saying, "I don't want you to go out today."

I tried to listen to nature. The dreamer in me wished that my boss would send a message saying that we didn't have to come into the office today and I could have a free day off. As I said, it was the dreamer in me. The realist knows that my boss and his boss would NEVER do that, they'd never fathom the possibility that they could do that. I thought about taking a day off but when it comes to Paid Time Off (PTO), as I've mentioned, my company is not generous. I'm down to five days and given that winter isn't even here yet with its steady threat of the flu and other viruses, I have to save my time. When you're only accruing one day a month and there's no differentiation between sick time and vacation time, you have to save it for when you really need it, not for a rainy day.

So, I dragged myself out of bed. I'm still not so sure it was a good idea. As I was making my toast, I managed to drop the lid of my butter dish onto the floor. Naturally, it was made of glass and, naturally, it shattered. I only had time to sweep it up and check for splinters, butter my toast and dash out the door.

It was raining and it was raining hard. To make things worse, they've finally finished construction on the interstate that I take to get to work. It was previously down to two lanes with those orange barrel thingys and concrete dividers shutting off the rest of the road. Two days ago, they reopened all the lanes. I'm still not used to my entry ramp shooting me out into a new lane that wasn't there before, especially in the mornings when it's dark. They haven't put any reflectors down yet and the only thing separating the lanes are sparse broken white lines. On a non-rainy day, it's not quite as bad because you can see out of the windows to figure out where the rest of the traffic is. Today, however, my window wipers were at their fastest speed and my car couldn't shake off the raindrops. The road was saturated, covered with deep pockets of water. Making out the lanes was a nightmare.

I think I might have been one of the only people who felt this way. Drivers started whizzing around me, clearly irritated that I wasn't going fast enough. They'd pass me and then pull out in front of me, forcing me to brake a little harder than I would have liked to stop myself rear-ending them. I wasn't about to drive faster, however. I may not like being bullied on the road but I also know when safety is more important.

By the time I was off the interstate, I breathed a sigh of relief. The rest of the drive wasn't so bad. When you're down to a two-lane highway, it's a little easier. The only other danger that lay ahead was the results of the season itself: The fallen leaves.

Because the rain is so heavy, the colourful leaves that have been clinging to the trees to show off their splendour have had to give up the fight. They've tumbled down, creating a thick carpet of leaves on the roads, pathways, cars and in people's yards. As a pedestrian, they can be hazardous to walk on; the rain makes them as slick as ice.

The town in which I work has cobbled streets. They're cool to look at, a nightmare to drive on. They're bumpy, uneven and when you enter the 'cobbled zone' there's a huge bump between the asphalt road and the cobbles. If I get stuck at the light right before the cobbled road starts, I literally have to gun my poor little Corolla so it can climb over the ridge. Today, they were almost invisible, thick with wet, soggy leaves. I slid at least a couple of times even though I was only driving 15 mph.

I finally made it to the office only ten minutes late. Everyone is feeling like I am; they wish they'd stayed in bed and are grumpy because it's Friday and if they'd stayed home, they would have had a three-day weekend.

Yet we're here. It means that our Friday is underway and we're edging closer to the weekend. I'm hoping it rains through the evening merely so I can appreciate the fact that I'm home and can stay there for a while. I just hope it lets up for the drive home.

Thanks, as always for reading. Have a great weekend.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Humberto Strawberry and the Laser of Doooooom...

Once again, my good friend, Ms. P, has suggested another story idea for the blog. Due to the questions I've received from people who are intrigued by the Evil Strawberry of DOOOOOM, I decided that it will be easier if I let you read about him for yourself. The story is the beginning. The conclusion will be the end. Obviously.

And yes, I am quite aware that this is a silly story but, well, sometimes, you just need a silly story.

Once upon a time, there was a strawberry named Humberto. He was a fairly ordinary strawberry. Actually, Humberto knew he was a very ordinary strawberry. Some strawberries rose to greatness but, from the days in the strawberry patch until he was released into the world to make his strawberry way, Humberto knew he was never going to be great. He had been protected. Several of his siblings, born in earlier crops, had met messy ends, going out into the world to seek their fortune but becoming victims of anything from heavy objects to large birds who preferred to eat strawberries above any other fruit. Humberto was not allowed to leave until he was ready, until he'd been schooled in the ways of Strawberry Self Protection. By the time he left, Humberto knew it was too late to be great, he had lost his chance to be an Individual Strawberry and had become institutionalized into the ways of Patch Life.

You might think it strange that Humberto knew anything at all, being that he was a strawberry. However, in Humberto's world, it was perfectly normal for strawberries to walk and talk. They even were born with tiny strawberry feet that became more steady when they put on their enormous shoes that would help them balance.

Humberto's best friend was Boomer Blackberry. He'd been born in the neighbouring blackberry patch to Humberto's birthplace. Together, when their time had come to leave to make room for the next crop, they bravely ventured forth into the big unknown world. At first, it had been terrifying. They'd spent many an hour cowering behind anything that would cover them from the terrifying sight of swooping birds, fruit-sized traffic and anything else that could potentially cause them harm.

In their world, there were no humans. This is a good thing because both Boomer and Humberto had heard scary bedtime stories about worlds in which humans not only lived but also ate fruit as though it were an every day thing. At least in their world, there were only the birds to fear.

One hour, as they were relaxing in a shadowed spot out of the view of swooping birds, they heard a strange sobbing sound. Curious, they bravely investigated. In another shadow, hidden under some grass lay an enormous yellow banana.

"I'm sad," he said to them, wailing again.
"Why?" asked Boomer.
"No idea!" said the banana and, once again, he started sobbing.
"What's your name?" asked Humberto.
"They call me The Sad Banana," he said, wiping his eyes.
"That's a good name," said Boomer. "Do you mind if we just call you Banana?"
The banana shrugged. "Ok," he said. He stopped crying. "Can I join you?"
"We're going to Fruit City to find the meaning of life," said Humberto. "Are you afraid of birds?"
Banana smiled. "No," he said. "For I am a good weapon against them."
"Excellent!" said Boomer and they journeyed along.

Banana was a good weapon. He was very efficient at stiffening up and allowing Boomer and Humberto to swing him at them to scare them away. It worked and soon, they found themselves in Fruit City.

It was a bustling place. Before long, they were separated by the paths that were fated for them. Boomer found a wife and a job as a mailman and they raised a family in their little brambly home. Banana found himself a job as a secret agent for the Fruit Coalition of Crime. The problem was, he forgot that he forgot about the secret part and told everyone. Soon enough, he decided that the life of crime prevention wasn't for him and became a poet, embracing the sadness within and, once more, using his full name of The Sad Banana.

As for Humberto, well, his tale is a strange and peculiar one. He, too, found a wife. Her name was Sally. He became a census taker, keeping track of all the fruit that resided in Fruit City. They started their own little strawberry patch in the garden shed and soon had several baby strawberries. Humberto was happy.

That is, of course, until he knocked on the wrong door to ask his census questionnaire.


It had started as an ordinary hour. Strawberries (and most fruit), you see, lived their lives by minutes and hours rather than days and years. Even without the outside dangers of birds and being squashed, they had short life spans. The worst thing that could happen to an ordinary fruit was The Rot. This only happened to unaware fruit, however.

In the hour, Humberto had already done several other questionnaires. He'd talked to a family of cherries, three families of grapes and a couple of plums. Now, he was about to talk to a pineapple. He was a bit nervous about this. Pineapples were notoriously dangerous, often forming pineapple gangs and causing havoc in the city. So, as he knocked on the door, his heart was pounding.

The door opened a crack and a strange pair of bespectacled eyes peeked out. "Hello?" said an elderly voice.

Humberto peered in. "Census," he said. Everyone knew that when the Census Coalition came round, you had to let them in.

"Oh," said the Pineapple. The door closed. Confused, Humberto waited. It opened again. The pineapple had taken off his glasses and now the door was open, Humberto could smell a sickly, familiar, decaying smell.

He backed away. "Oh, no!" he said. "They didn't say you had The Rot!"
"Never fear," said the Pineapple. "I'm not contagious. Not for you, anyway."
Not comforted, Humberto followed him inside. The door locked behind him. His strawberry heart pounded. He had no choice but to stay...for now.
It was a strange pineapple home. The couch was pink and frilly. There were pictures of kittens, puppies and baby fruit dressed up as animals all over the walls. It did not seem to suit the rotting pineapple.
"My name used to be Torrance," said the pineapple. "Now I'm The Rotting Pineapple."
The name seemed familiar to Humberto who racked his strawberry brain to remember why.
The Rotting Pineapple was already mushy in the behind and he smelled foul. He watched Humberto. "You don't like my living room," he said, sad.
"Of course I do," said Humberto. "It's lovely."
"Perhaps you'd like to come into my kitchen," said The Rotting Pineapple. His tone was purring and strangely gentle and enticing.
"Ok," said Humberto.
As they went into the kitchen, another door closed behind Humberto. The kitchen was not really a kitchen but a room filled with odd instruments. There were twisted forks and straws everywhere. In the middle of the room was a strange telescope-like object.
"Do you like it?" asked The Rotting Pineapple.
"What is it?" asked Humberto nervously.
"It's my Laser of Dooom!" said The Rotting Pineapple.
At that moment, something twisted inside Humberto. He knew now why the name of Torrance sounded familiar.
"You're Terrible Torrance!" he said, his voice shaking.
The-Rotting-Pineapple-Formerly-Known-As-Terrible-Torrance looked sad. "I used to be," he said. "Now I'm rotting, I'm not him anymore."
Humberto remembered the slew of articles that had appeared in the Fruity Times about the evil deeds of Terrible Torrance. He was most notorious for his experiments on fruit resulting in Fruit Zombies, frozen Fruit and a variety of Pickles. He backed away but the door was locked.
The Rotting Pineapple smiled. "I need to pass along my evilness," he said. "I've been waiting for someone like you to come along.
"I can just leave," said Humberto. "I never saw anything." He knew if he got away, The Rotting Pineapple would be too far-gone with The Rot to find him.
"You could," said The Rotting Pineapple. "But I won't let you."
Instantly, Humberto felt himself being pushed against the wall by a strange robot made out of toothpicks and coathangers. He couldn't move.
"It won't hurt!" said the Rotting Pineapple. "It's just that I have a legacy of evil and no children who I can impart my knowledge to. Fruit City needs evil to make it interesting."
Humberto couldn't argue with that. He had enjoyed some of the exploits of Torrance the Terrible.
"Also," cooed The Rotten Pineapple, "You can choose the type of doom you bring upon the city. You're not held to my standards!"
Humberto considered it. He had always hated being ordinary. Besides, he couldn't move at all because of the Toothpick Robot.
"Close your eyes!" said The Rotting Pineapple.
Humberto obeyed. There was a flash, a crash and a smell of sweetness pervading the air. He felt a jolt pass through him. He opened his eyes. The room was filled with smoke, noise, chaos and mayhem. The Rotting Pineapple was laughing maniacally.
"I christen you The Evil Strawberry of DOOOOOOOM!" he said with a cackle. He began to decay at that moment, his face becoming a melted pile of soggy juice.
Humberto stood up. The robot had released him. He flexed his fingers. He felt different. He felt evil. He felt...good.
He looked down at the bag he still had slung over his strawberry body. It held his questionnaires and other Census essentials.
"Guess you won't need to answer my questions," he said to the pile of goo on the floor that used to be Terrible Torrance (also known as The Rotting Pineapple).
And he went out into the world, looking exactly the same but feeling entirely different. He was Humberto by day and The Evil Strawberry of DOOOOOOM whenever he got a chance.
He had many adventures and committed many terrible acts of DOOOOM but those must be saved for another day. Just know that evil is never rewarded; it can be ended easily with some extra strong chewing gum and accidentally being rolled over by a steamroller.

But, again, that's a story for another day.

Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Woe is Me" types of days....

My bad mood never quite left yesterday. By the time I actually went home, I was almost ready to scream from frustration. It was just one of those days in which I couldn't get much done. One of my coworkers kept talking. Then she talked more. Then she talked even more. It's hard to focus when there's that much jabbering happening. My meeting was fun and exciting. And yes, that is sarcasm. I couldn't even get any good doodling done as I was expected to participate in the discussion.

But the day did finally end, thankfully. Today is a new day. It's supposed to be sunny and warm and I'm hoping that my mood remains non-bad.

I think today was really just one of those days where you discover that just getting out of bed was a bad idea. Nothing terribly bad happened, just little tiny things. It was the kind of day in which cars pulled out in front of me without seeing me coming and I had to slam on my brakes. I didn't hit anyone, fortunately. It was the kind of day in which I brought spicy roasted pepper soup to work which made my nose run and I ran out of tissues. It was the kind of day in which I spilled my soup in my lunchbag and it smelled like cold soup for the rest of the day. It was the kind of day in which, as I was making chicken Florentine for dinner, I managed to drop my entire Sodium Chloride Containment Unit (i.e. a fancy little salt seller with a lift up lid courtesy of Mr. Alton Brown's "Good Eats") into my spinach and onto my cooktop. I managed to rinse off most of the salt from the spinach but I had a mess on the cooktop to clean up. It doesn't help that while I'm not generally superstitious, spilling salt and thinking it's bad luck is one of the superstitions I do tend to follow. The chicken Florentine turned out pretty tasty but the spinach was oversalted. If I were on "Top Chef," I'd probably have been in the bottom three.

Ah well, as I said, today is a new day. Also, I'm not competing on a reality cooking show so salt disasters only affect me and I'm not being judged. These are things I'm using to think positive. A good friend reminded me last night that no matter how miserable my job, it's not who I am.

Sometimes I need that reminder. Lately, at work, I've been feeling like the invisible employee. I shouldn't complain; I'm earning a paycheck, am able to pay my mortgage and can manage my own projects at work. In some ways, it's a dream job. I'm just not sure it's my dream job. In fact, I know it isn't. In my year at this company, I've sort of been left to my own devices and everything I know, I've had to teach myself. I don't usually mind because I am a self-starter. It's just that I wasn't really hired as a self-starter and often, it results in vague comments that imply I need to be doing something else except...there's no follow-up.

I was at my parent's house last Friday. They watch Medium on CBS. I never watch it when I'm home but it's a watchable show and don't mind catching it with my parents. The main male character on the show is hired for a job in which he thinks he's going to be able to contribute, to work on things he loves. He discovers that the owner of the company is a control freak who only works by himself, he only hires people because he has to use a percentage of his budget on employees, not because he needs them. Thus, the employee is told he gets to sit there all day, work on whatever he likes or not even work...he'll still get paid. He just won't be doing anything for the company who's paying him.

At first, I thought this sounded like a dream job. I mean, who wouldn't like to show up at an office, pick up a nice check and do whatever he liked all day long? Then I thought about it. Technically, I could use the time to write novels. Except...I realized, that's not how I like to write. Assuming I'd applied for the job in the first place, the company would be doing something that had interested me. Knowing I was getting paid to NOT work for the company would probably drive me potty after a while. I have a work ethic issue, you see. I tend to think if I'm earning a check, I should be doing something.

I am doing something for my company. I'm just not sure they know what it is. Even if they do, it'd be nice if someone would tell me how I was doing. I've been told that if they don't complain, assume I'm doing fine. That's nice and everything but I'm a creature who likes feedback, especially if I've been working on something I'm unsure is useful in the first place.

Ah well. I'm lucky to have good friends in my life. They're good for reminding me that I'm not invisible. They're also good at pointing out obvious things that I tend to forget when I'm having a "Woe is Me" type of day. For example, I was reminded last night that while I might not have a career with a point A to point B path- i.e. Nursing leads to being a nurse, Medical School leads to being a doctor or something similar...I am a writer and just because I'm not getting paid for it yet doesn't mean it's not worthwhile.

I hate that I need that reminder and yet I'm very grateful for it. Isn't it strange how easy it is to fall into a pattern of negative thinking? I know that's a bad habit of mine but sometimes it's hard to stop.

I'm determined to stop it this time. I can't look at the bad in my life and not see the good. Besides, one of my cubicle-mates is in early and she's muttered, "shit, shit, shit!" under her breath a few times already. That's never a good sign.

Also, I have chocolate eyeballs on my desk. While this might disgust many a person, I personally find them intriguing. Halloween candy is rather fun. Last week, I ate a zombie-finger made out of chocolate and crispy things. I also had a zombie toe. I like the eyeballs. When someone is looking at me and talking, I hold my chocolate eyeballs up and make it look like they're staring. People find it disconcerting. I find it entertaining.

It's the small things, no matter how juvenile, that make an otherwise dull day more fun.

I also have a mini pumpkin on my desk that someone gave me. I'm thinking of giving him a face with my Sharpie marker. I did think about carving him but I know that would make a mess and, also, I lack sharp objects with which I could carve.

Oh, there goes my coworker again with her swearing under her breath. Generally, this is a result of things that do not go exactly her way. She "shit, shit, shit!"'s for everything from a typing error to a full-blown Microsoft crash. You never can tell.

Yes, she's not having a good day. She has my sympathies. I'd give her a chocolate eyeball but she doesn't eat chocolate. Also, she prefers not to eat eyeballs.

She's a little strange.

Thanks for reading.

Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Evil Strawberries of DOOOOOM!

It's not so cold this morning. As I was coming in to the office, I saw three deer scamper off into a nearby field. I miss the deer. I used to see them all the time in my apartment but now, living in a more urban area, I never see any. I see plenty of squirrels and the occasional bunny but no deer.

I woke up in a bad mood this morning. Don't you hate that? I've been trying to be in a good mood but it's the type of day where I just feel like sniping and being crabby. It'll wear off in a while, I hope. I just can't help it. Sometimes, we just wake up in bad moods. I realized I was in a bad mood when I was yelling at my toast for popping up too soon even though it was my fault I hadn't adjusted the darkness level. My toaster is not a good toaster. In order to get the bread to pop up, you have to turn the dial all the way to the left. This is fine until you make toast again and you forget to readjust it. It means soggy toast. Soggy toast doesn't make me happy as crispy toast.

It's still toast, however and I am not a Monkeypants who turns down toast, even the soggy kind.

I am going to try to pull myself out of my bad mood. The problem is that I stay up too late. I plan on going to bed early and then when it's time, I realize I had intended to get a lot more done with my evening so I don't end up going to bed for at least another hour. Nevertheless, it could have been worse. Fortunately, I don't have any meetings today so I can stay at my desk and be bad moody by myself.

Wait, correct that...I do have a meeting. Bugger. Oh well, I'm always complaining I never get invited to meetings while my coworker, supposedly my 'equal' goes to about five or six a week. She's the one that gets put on the project teams. Me, I get to stay at my desk and make sure everything else gets done. Not that I'm bitter.

Oh, who am I kidding?I am bitter today. It's a result of my crotchety mood. I don't even get to go to this meeting today by myself; my coworker is going to join me because heaven forbid I actually get to do anything on my own to show that, you know, I actually have skills.

Still, I quite like meetings. I've taking to doodling and making origami. Yesterday, I made a large pencil topper origami thingy that I called the quadopus. It's an octopus with only four tentacles. Hence the quad part. That's the latin word for four, right? It actually more looks like a circus tent but in my mind, it's a quadopus. I think the origami might have been a bit distracting so maybe I should keep to my doodling.

Lately, my doodlings have been odd. It started with a little picture of fruit that I called "The Evil Strawberry of DOOOOM!" I then drew a sad banana that I labeled, "The Sad Banana." I also drew "Boomer Blackberry." For some reason, I seem to enjoy doodling fruit. I'm not sure why. Yesterday, I drew "The Great and Awesome Pumpkins", "The Raincloud of DOOOOOM!" and "The Squashed Strawberry." Clearly, the strawberry had done something in my mind and had passed off its dooming mantel to the raincloud. Don't ask me, I just doodle.

It's ok until my boss asks me what I'm doodling. I think he thinks I'm not paying attention. The thing is that if I don't doodle, I can't focus. I need to be doing something like that so I can listen. I rarely take notes in meetings anyway unless I deem it necessary. If I doodle, it streamlines my brain so that I can actually listen to the exciting talk of WAR files, API's, server switching and XML files that really doesn't affect me that much. I showed my boss one of my doodles the first time he asked. It was a picture of the Kool Aid Jug Man as a vampire. My coworker was wearing a shirt with the Kool Aid Jug Man on it with a caption that said "Oh, yeah!!!" Apparently, this is something I should know but the only exposure I've had to the Kool Aid Jug Man is on "Good Eats" with Alton Brown on the food network. He was making some disgusting frozen pickles that he flavoured with a 'drink mix' that he wasn't allowed to name for license purposes. However, he gave us a 'clue' by having a Jug Man crash through a wall and say "Oh, Yeah." I figured it was Kool Aid but I had to Google it to see what the "Oh, Yeah" thing was about. I'm still not sure except it was part of the advertising campaign way back when.

I seem to make a lot of things monsters in my doodles. Aside from making the Kool Aid Jug Man a vampire, I made a pine tree into a Frankenstein. In our conference room, we have one of those paintings with Indians in it (meaning the Native American kind, not the Asian kind). They're on a trail in the snow and there are pine trees all around. So I drew a tree and it turned out crooked so I made it into a Frankenstein.

I suppose my corruption of normal-seeming objects into monster-type things speaks of some psychological misfire on my part. I'm not sure. All I know is that it's quite fun to draw Evil Strawberries of DOOOOM! Actually, it's just fun to say DOOOOOOM!" which is probably why I always label my Dooming objects.

I'm not sure what I'll doodle today. I'll let you know if it turns out interesting. I consider it a stream of consciousness thing. I rarely plan my doodles. I just go with the flow. Which, now that I think about it, might not be something I should really admit because that may make me seem a little twisted.

My boss just came by to see how things were going. He does that from time to time. He's not in the office much lately; he's too busy trying to get our new building up and running. We just found out that we'll now be there by the first weekend of December. Two days ago, it was "definitely by Thanksgiving." I know our lease in the current building expires at the end of December so we have to be out by then. As long as the weather cooperates, I can live with it.

My boss is gone now, obviously. He doesn't really have a clue what I do. I think he tries to but he'd rather do the more technical stuff and I can see his eyes glaze over when I tell him what I'm working on. Also, he doesn't really know how to talk to me because he thinks every thing I say is sarcastic which, actually, is not true at all. Still, he doesn't seem bothered with how I spend my time as long as I am working. For the most part, I am. I just think I need to get in a better mood.

Maybe I'll doodle some more evil fruit.

Happy Tuesday.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Frosty Mornings and Suicidal Hats

It's a freezing morning out there, literally. The frost is covering the ground and is glittering in the sun. Ironically, I just looked back at my blog archive and on this exact Monday last year, we had our first major frost...just like today. That's pretty exciting.

What's more exciting is that a year ago, I was scraping my car and feeling guilty because she's a California car. My fingers were freezing and I was pledging to buy a new ice scraper because I'd been reduced to using a piece of cardboard. Now, a year later, I'm a spoiled suburbanite. I have a garage. I get to go out to my car in the morning and back out of my driveway with nary a lick of frost on my windshield.

It's a big change. It's also amazing that it's only been a year and I own my own house. I'm still not sure that fact has sunk in. I had to put the heat on for the first time last night. My heating/cooling system is pretty solid. It's also old. This means that when it's on, it's loud. Really loud. Still, better loud than freezing.

It's cosy in my house in the evenings. Last night, I sat down and drank pumpkin-spice flavoured tea as I sat down in front of the television, my electric fireplace flickering. It's a lovely way to hibernate.

Of course, if I were truly hibernate, I wouldn't have to had to drive to work today. Actually, I wouldn't have had to get up this morning. Mondays are always the worst morning to have to get up, as I've stated in many a previous blog. Having a good weekend makes it harder, I think.

For my weekend, I decided to go visit my parents. That's always a nice idea. I still love the fact that I can do that instead of having to book plane tickets to visit. This time of year is my favourite time in which to drive to Northern Indiana. The trees are absolutely amazing. I can't stop looking at them. There are so many hues in the leaves that it really is like looking at a patchwork quilt. The leaves have yet to begin their torrents of falling so the trees are displaying their decor proudly, each one trying to outdo the rest. It's a pretty drive.

I think my mother probably thinks I'm a little strange. I keep pointing out the leaves to her. She's not as impressed as I am. I think partly it's my time in L.A. in which I missed the fall colours of the trees. I also think part of it is that I actually love Autumn and my mother does not. My mother sees the season as little more than a passage to what she sees as the misery of winter. Me, I see it as a season filled with beautiful colours, pumpkins, spiced tea and the smell of leaf fires in the air. Then again, I love winter too with its vicious snowstorms and unpredictable nature. All I have to do is say the 's' word (snow) and my mother cringes. It's the psychological equivalent of poking her with a stick. She's a spring/summer person obviously. She can't see the beauty in a snow-covered landscape.

Still, aside from the chilly evenings, this was a beautiful weekend to be in Indiana and I made a point to try to get my mother to appreciate the leaves. I'm not sure it worked but I gave it a try. We spent a fun Saturday exploring a new grocery store, one of those Whole Foods types with nothing but the best ingredients. We both adore a good grocery store so we spent far too long admiring the produce. I personally like stores like that because, as a singleton, it's much easier to shop for one person. They have a meat counter where you can buy just enough meat for a meal. The chain grocery stores generally package meat for families or even couples. I usually have to buy a package of meat and separate it so it's frozen in individual portions.

Aside from that, I had a lovely Saturday night watching movies with my parents. We watched "The Proposal," the recent Sandra Bullock/Ryan Reynolds romantic comedy. It was entertaining as most Sandra Bullock movies are. The only thing that really annoyed me is that I'm a fan of another of her movies, "While you were Sleeping." In that movie, she's about to marry a man under false circumstances and she confesses at the wedding, telling how much she adores his family and can't hurt them anymore because they let her be part of their lives and showed her what it was like to have a family. I should warn you, I'm about to spoil "The Proposal" if you haven't seen it. However, just picture the exact same speech/circumstances only in a much prettier backdrop.

Sorry if I ruined it. It's still a cute watch if you haven't seen it and, anyway, if you can't predict what's going to happen in the first place, I have to ask you, what planet are you from? I mean, it's a romantic comedy. It's got Sandra Bullock in it. Not exactly a shocker when it ends.

When he rented "The Proposal," my dad had wisely called to run it by me. This sounds horribly arrogant but generally speaking, I know a lot more about movies than my parents. I'm a pop-culture nerd. Even if I haven't seen the movie, if I've heard of it, I usually know something about it and can say whether I think it's worth seeing. I'm usually right (which is the arrogant part.) Now, my father has this amazing ability to go to the video store and pick a DVD up that I didn't even know existed. Usually, these movies are horrendous. I confess, a few years ago, I was even more aware of the movie scene than I am now. Even the little independents didn't escape my notice, even if I hadn't seen them. Nowadays, I know the major independents but some do slip by, nothing more than a blurb in Entertainment Weekly that slips out of my mind.

Such was the case this weekend when my father returned from Blockbuster with not only "The Proposal" but another little gem called, "The Merry Gentleman."

I think I might have heard of "The Merry Gentleman," but I'm not sure. It's directed by Michael Keaton who is also the star. Let me tell you, my father did not disappoint me in his talent of finding an utterly awful movie. "The Merry Gentlemen," is...bad. I'm not sure. Sometimes, I think it was supposed to be funny in the style of a black comedy but it really wasn't. There are these endless periods of silence especially at the beginning that made me wonder if my father had outdone himself and found us a mime-movie. Sadly, it wasn't a mime movie. That, at least, would have been entertaining in a twisted way. No, "The Merry Gentleman," was just...quiet sometimes. No miming.

The premise is this girl with an inexplicable Scottish accent gets beaten by her husband and runs away from somewhere to....somewhere. We never find out where which I think was probably intentional but ended up being rather irritating. She's a nice girl who immediately finds a good job that helps her get a nice, if sparse, little flat. She sees a man on a roof one night who she thinks is suicidal. Turns out she saw Michael Keaton, a contract killer, after he'd just made a hit. We're never sure if he was suicidal in that scene or he was just admiring the view. He's suicidal in a couple of other scenes, you see. He finds out about her and goes to kill her but finds her trapped under a giant Christmas tree that she's tried to drag to her flat. Naturally, as every single man in the movie seems to, he falls for her. They become friends. There's also a rather chubby policeman who also likes her and who conveniently always seems to be the cop who attends to her woes. I can't help but wonder if there are any other police in the city. He's a bit scary with his persistence and eventually discovers she's hanging around with a hit man. She gets scared and runs away from the policeman. The end of the movie is very climactic: Michael Keaton lets his hat try to commit suicide but then rescues it only to walk off into the distant scenery.

I think the ending is supposed to symbolize that Michael Keaton, in rescuing his poor suicidal hat, can't turn away from who he is. There's a rather riveting scene in which he and the girl discuss his hat and how much it must have seen, you see. Thus, I know the hat is symbolic.

The best thing about the movie is that it's quite short. I kept waiting for something to happen.Nothing really ever did unless you count a Christmas tree falling on top of our heroine. This is one of those movies that tries for depth in little vignettes, scenes cut together to represent a passing of time in which the characters interact. Unfortunately, their interactions involve a lot of staring and a lot of silence. Also, there's not much daylight in the movie.

Unfortunately, my dad didn't turn this movie off prematurely. He has a habit of this, you see. Quite often, we'll all be watching a pre-recorded TV show or a DVD and towards the end, it stops. My dad thought it was over and he's decided to turn it off. Sometimes, he puts it back on. Sometimes he doesn't. With "The Merry Gentleman," I kept hoping he'd turn it off but we had to watch it right up until Michael Keaton walked off into the distance. Actually, I think he really kept it on because he, like my mother and I, were surprised that the movie was over. We were still waiting for something to happen, you see.

Still, overall, bad movie aside, it was a nice weekend. Sometimes the best weekends are those when you have nothing planned and just take it as it comes. That's how mine was. I hope yours was good too.

Happy Monday.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cookies make Awkward Social Gatherings Better!

At long last, it's Friday. As far as weeks go, this hasn't seemed as long as other weeks. The time went much more quickly than I anticipated. I'm very glad of that fact. There have been times when I have needed to hide sharp objects from myself because the week has been so long and so tedious.

One of the reasons it went by so far may be due to the fact we had one of our Awkward Social Events yesterday at work. Oh, excuse me, I lunches. It was originally supposed to be a barbecue but then the managers decided to order out from a barbecue place, thus removing the need for the grill we store in the office's garage. Then when the weather proved to be grey, damp and rather chilly, we moved it into the conference room. So...not so much a barbecue as an inside lunch.

Naturally, silly me, I figured when I found out it was going to be catered, I thought it meant it wouldn't be potluck. Silly Captain Monkeypants. We got the meat bought in but we all signed up for sides and dessert.

Normally, I bring in a savory side dish since I prefer the idea of cooking to baking. I think it's because I'm an impatient creature. Baking requires those exact measurements, proper stirring technique, timing and a really good oven. I lack all those things. While I try to measure exactly, if there are more than 5 ingredients to my baking recipe, chances are I'll probably screw it up somewhere. So, in the past, I've brought in Buffalo Chicken Dip, Guacamole, Salsa Verde and Sausage rolls. All of these things require chopping and prepping but, in the end, can be made simply and easily and usually turn out well.

This time, I decided to be bold. I'd watched an episode of Everyday Italian on the Food Network in which the hostess, Giada De Laurentis, made this cookies called "Chocolate Ganache Cookies." They used store-bought sugar cookie dough, dark chocolate, cream and sugar and that was it. So, when we had to sign up for dishes for this past Awkward Social Gathering, I decided to sign up for dessert. I was the second person to sign up on the list and when I did so, the other person was bringing in something savory.

Well, when it came to cookie-baking time, I once again came to the realization that Giada De Laurentis is magical. I mean, the woman NEVER gets messy. I don't know if they cut her show so that she can wash her hands between each step of cooking/baking but she never gets messy fingers, never smears chocolate on herself and never squirts herself in the eye with a lemon. I find that amazing and slightly irritating. When I'd watched her make the chocolate ganache cookies with her niece on the show, they managed to do it it moments, cheerfully taking a melted chocolate/cream mixture, rolling it into neat little balls and wrapping the sugar cookie 'logs' around it.

Well, I'm Captain Monkeypants, not Giada. It took me about 30 minutes to roll out the 'logs' of sugar cookie. That chocolate mixture of melted dark chocolate and heavy cream got in my hair, under my nails and all over my kitchen. I tried to roll the balls the way I'd seen Giada do it and I ended up with brown smeared hands and had to wash them between each ball.

All in all, the 'quick cookie recipe' took me approximately 2 hours to complete and that's not including the time it took to cool down the ganache in the fridge.

I will say that the cookies were delicious. I know because I ate several when they were warm from the oven. I don't even care for cookies that much usually but these were rather tasty and delicious.

When I took them in to the "Barbecue", it turns out that it was more like "dessert with a side of meat." Normally, we have maybe two or three desserts. Yesterday, there were no less than seven. My cookies were ignored in favour of Chocolate Eclair Cake, Pumpkin Spiced Muffins and Hershey Pie. Needless to say, I was terribly thrilled. I was pleased that the people who did try my cookies ended up eating about three of them because they enjoyed them. I just don't like being out-desserted by Hershey's Pie and Pumpkin Spice Muffins. Especially since I signed up first.

Ah well, some potlucks are like that. It is nice to bake when the weather's chilly outside and the smell of warm chocolate fills the air as the cookies bake. I might have to try it again. This time, I'll try to be more Giada-like and not paint the kitchen with chocolate. What I am finding is that now I actually have a kitchen with space for cooling racks and baking sheets, it is a little easier to bake without fearing disaster. Of course, this does mean more surfaces to mess up but it's a trade off, right.

As for the Awkward Social wasn't quite so awkward. Being a software company with a large amount of geeky males, we apparently have two flat screen TV's and two video game systems. Thus, we spent about two hours listening to people caterwaling on the "Rock Band" game and beating the crap out of each other on boxing on the Wii. It was more fun that working although given the ratio of video game controllers to employee, there was a lot of standing around watching people play. I have always thought there's little more boring than watching other people play video games when all you really want to do is rip the controller out of their hands and have a go but it did beat sitting at my desk contemplating my next project as I'd normally be doing. All in all, it was definitely one of the better Social Events we've had in a while. Even if it was still a little awkward.

Still, the cookies helped.

Happy Friday. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When Zombie-Squirrels Attack!

I've been blogging for a year. It's a strange realization but a good one. I tend to look at some blogs like a vanity project, a way for people to make the minutae of their life seem important. In truth, I suppose that's what this blog is in its own way. Yet, looking at it from another point of view, this blog is fun for me. I love the idea of having a writing assignment every weekday unless I'm indisposed. I love having a forum for which to let my imagination and mind ramble.

Most of all, I love having a place to ramble about my life and my writing and have people read it. For that, I thank all of my readers. It's fun to have you around.

Yesterday, I asked for suggestions from readers as to blog topics. A good friend of mine gave me a suggestion based on my zombie blog from yesterday. Why not write a story about zombie squirrels?

Naturally, I immediately thought this was a good idea. Being the Monkeypants I am, I knew I couldn't spend any time thinking about the story. I had to just write it. I do my best writing on the fly, flinging it down on paper and letting the words form their own story. Thus, in honour of Ms. P, my friend from Texas, I decided that for my first year anniversary, I'd do something different. I'm always talking about writing fiction but have never done it here. Not unless you count my rants as fiction.

Which I don't. Naturally. In my mind, I am completely right and justified in my opinon.

Thus, I present to you a cautionary tale, a tale of many squirrels who found a way to take over the world, just as I always imagined they would. Please note, this is a work of fiction. I take no responsibility for the behaviour of actual squirrels. The characters in the story are completely fictional. Or, you know, I sort of based them on someone I knew and changed their name hoping that they don't recognize themselves. It's a bit longer than usual so I apologize for that but I hope it's a fun read.

Without further ado, I present to you...

Staged Attack: Squirrel Zombies from Hell!

It began on an Autumn day. There had been signs of it, of course, but no one had noticed except Fiona but that was only because squirrels had always irritated her. She thought of them as rats with giant tales. Most of the people thought they were cute but Fiona knew better. Ever since the squirrel had tried to steal her lunch one day as she ate in the park as a young girl, she knew they were sneaky little creatures. One moment she had been eating her sandwich and the next, a furry bodied creature had hurled itself at her little lunchbox, rooting around until he found something it wanted. It had taken her pretzels. She’d had grapes in there too but the squirrel who’d robbed her clearly wasn’t concerned with his health.

On this particular October, day, it was sunny. The suburban street upon which Fiona lived was starting to look more like a forest with the ground obscured with fallen leaves in all shades of reds, browns, yellows and greens. She had left for work a little later today since her boss was going to be out of the office. As she backed out of her garage, she heard a very small thud, muffled by rubber. She felt a bump as she rolled backwards; clearly something had been in the way of her tire. Curious, she backed up a little further and stopped the car. Apprehensively, she got out only to discover that somehow, she’d hit a squirrel. It must have scampered by just as her car was rolling over the same spot.

Somehow, it had escaped a state of being wholly squished. It still looked relatively whole, just a little flatter. A pool of thick-looking blood lay under its head and its teeth were bared almost in a frozen grimace. Fiona sighed and contemplated shoveling it up. Since she was already running late, she decided she’d have to wait until later. Instead, she gently kicked it off her driveway onto the grass so that she didn’t make more of a mess of the corpse. She’d put it away tonight. That was the last she thought about it until the evening.

She made good time that night, pulling into her driveway and remembering the dead squirrel as she did so. She parked the car, went into her house and decided to dispose of the corpse now before she could get too comfortable and put it off again.

She pulled out her shovel and grabbed a grocery bag and then she headed to the spot where she’d kicked the squirrel.

It was gone.
She looked around, confused. “Lost something?” she heard someone call. It was her neighbor, Matt. He was an odd little man, twitchy and small. She called him The Dog Whisperer in her mind because Matt and his wife had three dogs that would constantly yap and bark whenever she went outside. She’d been living there for a while now and kept waiting, as promised, for the dogs to get used to her. Matt’s solution was to scurry out of the house and grab one of the yappers, hold it up to the fence and try to get Fiona to pet it. Fiona was fed up of petting the dog because it did no good. Matt wasn’t exactly chatty so it resulted in Awkward Neighbour Moments.

“Yeah,” she said. “I hit a squirrel this morning and was going to clear it up but it’s gone.”

Matt was silent while he regarded her. He did that a lot. He stared a lot but said little. “Well,” he said, “Maybe a dog ate it.”

“Ew!” she said without thinking.

“My dogs eat squirrels all the time!” he said, a note of resentment in his tone. “It’s not that disgusting. My wife and I have tried making squirrel stew too.”

Fiona felt her stomach churn a little. It didn’t surprise her but it wasn’t something about which she wanted to hear more. “That’s nice,” she said, politely. “If the squirrel wasn’t gone, I’d have given it to you.”

He looked regretful. “Yeah, that is too bad.”

She looked around one more time, feeling Matt still watching her. “There are a lot of squirrels around at the moment,” he said. “Maybe you’ll hit another one.”

“Uh-huh,” she said.

Just then, Matt’s wife, Gloria, pulled up, always home later than her husband. She got out the car and cast a suspicious look at Fiona. She often did that, particularly when Matt talked to Fiona. “What’s up?” she asked them.

“Fiona lost a dead squirrel,” said Matt. Gloria looked surprised.

“Huh,” she said. “You know, I hit one this morning.”

“A squirrel?” said Fiona. “Really? That’s what happened to me.”

“Honey, did you clear it up?” said Gloria to Matt.

Matt shrugged. “Nope, didn’t see it.”

“That’s weird,” said Gloria. “It was pretty squashed.”

“Weird,” Fiona agreed, not knowing what to say. “Maybe a dog ate yours too?”

“One of the dogs ate a squirrel?” Gloria glared at Matt although it was his fault.

“Not one of ours,” shrugged Matt.

“Matt said you made squirrel stew once,” said Fiona. The words came out before she could stop them.

Gloria glare turned murderous. She slapped Matt on the side of the head. “Don’t tell people that!” she said.

Fiona backed away. “Alright then, well you both have a good night.”

“You too,” snitted Gloria. Fiona went inside, feeling sorry for Matt who cowed now in the wake of Gloria’s wrath.

She didn’t think anymore about the squirrel until she was making dinner. Usually, there were squirrels in her yard, chasing one another. Instead, she saw something that made her stomach flutter, just a little bit. Outside her kitchen window, on the sill, were six hickory nuts, perfectly aligned, equal distance apart.

Nervously, she went outside to look at the nuts. She often found them in various places, hidden around her yard. She knew it was the squirrels who left them, storing them for the winter. These ones weren’t placed in secret places like behind her propane tank on the grill or under a flower pot. These were in the open. It was uncanny how straight the line was.

Suddenly Fiona felt as though she were being watched. She turned and began to imagine the worst so she hurried inside, checking the back door was locked three times before she was satisfied.

Through the course of making dinner, she’d convinced herself that there was a crazy serial killer hiding in her shed and the hickory nuts were a sign that she was marked to be his next kill. She knew she wasn’t going to sleep well that night because her imagination would get the best of her.
Of course, she didn’t sleep that night at all but she wasn’t to know that then.


She was watching her favourite television show when she heard an ear-piercing shriek from outside her front door. Her first thought, though she knew it was a horrible one was, “good! Maybe the Hickory Nut Killer killed someone else instead of me.”
Then she immediately realized how mean that was. She had her curtains pulled and rather than open them to see what was going on, she opened the front door.

Immediately, she knew something was deeply wrong. Outside, on the street in front of her house, it was chaos. She wasn’t the only one peering out to see what was going on. She watched her neighbor from across the street bravely wander down his driveway to find the source of the scream. Immediately, a hundred oddly shaped objects flung themselves at him and he drowned in a sea of furry bodies. Fiona watched in horror as she realized they were squirrels. They moved…oddly, lurching as they scurried. In the darkness of the night, the darkness of the streetlights was not enough to provide much illumination.

Fiona kept the screen door pulled tight against the door frame, her nose pressed against the glass as she clung to the handle. Suddenly, something darted in front of her, seemingly swinging from the beams of her porch. She fought back the urge to squeal. Still holding the screen door handle, she reached over and turned on her porch light. Immediately, she had a gurgled chattering sound, almost like a hiss. The sound was familiar but also…distorted.

She tentatively tried to peer out of the screen door to see what was making the noise but then, without warning, the something that was making the noise swung down, the noise growing louder. Fiona couldn’t help it, she screamed. Dangling in front of her from the beam of her porch was the ugliest squirrel she had ever seen.
It hissed, it chattered, it screamed at her. With horror, she realized that the moving objects that were still on top of her neighbour were also squirrels. There were red ones, there were brown ones…grey ones. So many squirrels that they looked like one object, moving up and down like a quilt billowing in the wind.

The squirrel in front of moved closer and then she saw what was wrong with it. Its eyes were white, not the usual black pits she usually saw. He looked squashed as though he’d been…. She stopped herself for a moment, gulping, now afraid.

He looked as though he’d been run over by a car. Her car.

“Shit!” she said. “I’m under siege by a zombie squirrel.”

She wasn’t the only one. In front of her, neighbours were coming out of their houses. Some were ducking and soon she knew why as a large, hard, green ball was thrown at her window. It was a hickory nut!

“You put those on my windowsill?” she asked the zombie squirrel. He responded by hissing more at her. As far as she could see, he was alone.

She heard the thud of nuts hitting her windows. She wasn’t the only one. Other people were emerging and, each time, a posse of lurching squirrels moved towards them. Unable to watch, Fiona slammed her front door closed, hoping the sound would be enough to scare the zombie-squirrel away.

She leaned against the door, not wanting to move. Her window was still being pelted by hickory nuts.

Then, she head a crashing , splintering sound outside. Falling to her knees, she crawled along the ground and raised herself up just long enough to open the curtains. She fell back to her knees with a scream as a hickory nut landed exactly where her head would have been had the glass between the nut and Fiona not existed. Fiona looked out of the window. She couldn’t believe it. A car had been tossed onto its roof. She watched in fascinated horror as an army of zombie-squirrels turned over another one. Their tiny bodies lacked the size to do it alone but as a group, they were numerous enough that the car toppled over as if it weighed nothing.
Her phone rang and she squealed again. For a moment, she had a horrible vision of a pack of the demented squirrels dialing her number. Then she snapped herself out of it. Strange things were happening outside but she didn’t think the zombie-squirrels were able to dial the phone.

She grabbed the phone. It was Matt from next door. He and Gloria had her number because she’d kept an eye on the house a few times while they went on vacation.
“Hello,” she said, her voice shaky.

“Fiona, it’s Gloria. Are you seeing this?”

“Yes! What the hell is going on?!”

“I talked to Connie who lives on the other side of me and she talked to Thelma from down the road. Apparently, it’s happening all the way down the street.”

“Did you see what they did to Glen?”

“Yes! Did you see what they left of Glen?”

With horror, Fiona peeked out of the window. Where Glen had once stood lay an inanimate object, his head half chewed off. “Did they eat his brain?” she found herself asking Gloria.

“YES! That’s what I thought too!”

“Are you ok?”

"For now. But there’s one on my porch. It’s all squashed and bloody.”

“Does it look like the one you hit with your car?” Fiona asked.

There was a pause. “Oh my God!” said Gloria. “Yes, it does! Do you think it’s the same one?”

“Yes. Call Connie. See if she hit a squirrel. Then call me back, ok?”

“Ok!” Gloria hung up quickly.

While she waited for her phone to ring, Fiona crawled towards the kitchen. She flicked on the light without standing up. Immediately, there was the sound of crashing thuds. More hickory nuts, she thought. Damn.

She bravely crawled into the kitchen and hesitantly flicked on the back porch light. It was far brighter than the front one. Immediately, she screamed with terror.

Outside, on her lawn, just staring at her, lurching slightly as they stood in ranks were thousands upon thousands of zombie-squirrels. Some were bloody. Some had brains leaking out of their eyes, some had limbs that were crushed. They all looked…dead.

Her phone rang and she turned off the light. Maybe not being able to see them wouldn’t be so bad.

“Gloria?” she said.

Gloria’s voice was trembling. “Connie hit one yesterday. She called Bert from down the street. He hit one the day before. Both times, they went missing.”
“I think I found them.”

“What do you mean?"

“Be careful but look out the back of your house.”

“Matt,” Fiona heard Gloria say. “Go look out the back.”

There was a pause. “Holy Fuck!” Matt’s voice, usually quiet and timid, was raised in a bellow of horror.

“Guess they’re in your yard too,” said Fiona. “Is it just here?”

“Let’s turn on the news!”

“Good idea!” Fiona turned to a local channel. In the background of her phone, she heard a simultaneous tone and knew Gloria had selected the same station. Her heart sank. The newscaster looked shell-shocked and was in the middle of speaking:

“ seems that the entire U.S. is under attack except Hawaii and Alaska due to the lack of squirrel populations in these regions. What we’ve pieced together is that these “Undead Squirrels” staged a plot in which many of their numbers were ‘killed’ or ‘murdered’ over the past few weeks. They did it in shifts so as not to raise suspicion. The remaining squirrels have found a way to resurrect their dead who return to life, infected with Squirrel Flu. In these rodents, this manifests as a state of being dead without….actually being dead. It also results in the strange need for squirrels to eat human brains. The Flu is deadly to humans and spread by a squirrel bite. In addition, it seems to give squirrels ridiculous strength and deadly cunning though we believe now that this may have been existent before the spread of Squirrel flu as evidenced by this planned attack. Experts suggest avoiding being bitten by squirrels.”

“Oh, SO not helpful!” said Gloria from the other end of the phone.

“Agreed. What I want to know is WHY they want to eat brains?”

“What kind of question is that?”

Well, I’ve always been curious about zombies. Why do they eat brains? I mean do they taste good? Is there a nutrient in them that they need to stay zombified? Why?”

There was another pause. “Fiona?” said Gloria. “Now’s probably not the time to ask that.”

“You’re right,” sighed Fiona. “Besides, squirrels can’t talk. We finally get attacked by zombies and they turn out to be squirrels. Not that I’m surprised.”

“I am,” said Gloria in a small voice. “I fed them and everything. I bought them peanuts!”


“I think they’re cute.”

Fiona groaned. “They’re evil. This proves it!”

“You always did say that,” said Gloria. Her voice was still tiny. “So, what do we do?”

“I don’t know,” said Fiona. “What’s going on out the front? Maybe we can make a run for it.”

Fiona sided up to the front window and looked out. The street looked like an apocalypse had hit it. On the overturned cars sat more of the zombie squirrels. There were little fires surrounding the cars.

“Think you could get in your car?” she asked Gloria.

Gloria’s swallow of fear was loud even over the phone. “No,” she said. “No garage. They’d get us before we went out.”

“I could try to get mine out. I think I can weave between debris. I can sneak out through the garage, get in the car and drive. If I unlock the doors, you and Matt can try to dive into the backseat.”

There was a pause. “Honey,” Gloria said to Matt. “Fiona thinks she can get her car out and maybe we can run for it.”

There was a crash. “They broke the window!” screamed Gloria.

Fiona knew it was now or never. “I’m coming!” she yelled.”Be ready to run!”
“Ok, hurry!” yelled Gloria. “They’re coming!”

Fiona didn’t hesitate. She grabbed her keys and ran to the garage, making sure to turn on the light to make sure there weren’t any zombie-squirrels there. There weren’t, thankfully. She sidled too her car and, with trepidation, reached back and unlocked the back doors. Nervously, she hit the button to open the garage door and then, not waiting until it all the way up, slammed the car into reverse and hit the gas. Skidding out, she felt bodies crush beneath her tires and her heart triumphed at each bump.

She saw moment from Matt and Gloria’s house and suddenly, the couple ran out of the front door, Matt swinging his baseball bat and trying to fend off the growing battalion of zombie-squirrels.

Gloria, protected by Matt’s swings, darted towards Fiona’s car. She threw open the door and dived in. Matt, however, was not so lucky. None of them had noticed but an ocean of squirrels had been building behind him and in one swift, coordinated lurch, they dived on him.

“MATT!” screamed Gloria. “NO!”

It was too late. Matt’s brain was already visible through a chewed skull. “Close the door!” screamed Fiona. Yet the hesitation was just long enough. Suddenly, the car was covered with furry bodies, flinging themselves wildly at Fiona’s car. Gloria heaved the door closed but Fiona could no longer see where she was going.
“I got bit.” Gloria’s voice was hoarse from the back seat. “One of them got me.”
Fiona turned. She couldn’t drive anywhere, anyway.

“I think we’re too late.”

"Where are we going to go anyway? They’re everywhere.”

“Maybe we can wait it out until morning?” asked Gloria. “Maybe they were wrong about the Squirrel flu.”

“Maybe they’re already working on a vaccine.” Fiona tried to sound hopeful.

“My husband just got eaten by squirrels.” Gloria choked on the last word.

“Zombie-squirrels,” added Fiona, under her breath.

“What are we going to do?” Gloria whined.

Fiona tried to focus but it was hard when every moment meant yet another cloud of zombie-squirrels was flinging itself at the car. She tried to drive but she was blinded, her windshield a cloud of reanimated corpses.

There was a crash. “We hit one of the cars,” she said.

From the backseat, Gloria didn’t respond in human talk. Instead, the air was filled with a demonic chattering.

“Crap,” said Fiona. She looked back. Gloria was writhing in the seat, her face twisted in pain, her hands poised as though she were holding a giant hickory nut.

For a moment, Fiona contemplated running for it but there was nowhere to go. She knew that now. Yet she couldn’t die here, not imprisoned by zombie-squirrels with a human-squirrel on the backseat. Instead, she opened her door. Immediately, the sound of the swaying, undead squirrels filled her ears. She kicked out at them blindly, her feet striking cold but animated bodies. “Bastards,” she said.

She closed her eyes and tried to run. The darkness and the squirrels were ready, their devouring teeth…waiting. In her mind, she made it to her house, to the safety of her living room.

In reality, she didn’t even make it to the porch.

And, though to a human ear, it sounded like a wild chatter, the sound of the zombie-squirrels wasn’t incomprehensible. If a human had stopped to listen…really listen…they would have been able to make out the sound.

It was laughter.

Copyright 2009, Captain Monkeypants.