Oatmeal Smoothie

Last year, sometime before the spring equinox, I bought a bag of oatmeal from Costco. Our household prefers steel-cut long cooking oats, so when I saw steel-cut on the label, I dropped it into the cart. Well, this stuff turned out to be some kind of super special organic, gluten free, vegan oatmeal. Apparently, that means it was hand picked by Birkenstock wearing, water goddess praising, yurt-living hippie nuns who lovingly harvest this stuff during a full moon. It also means that no matter how long you cook it, it comes out tasting less like porridge and more like little pellets of under-cooked wood shavings.

This morning I decided to try it in my probiotic/spinach/kale smoothie. (Don’t make that face, it’s good stuff.) Knowing the consistency issues, I cooked it first, then lovingly cooled it in my post-spring equinox snowbank. Then I let it blend for a good long time. Long enough that I started to smell burning wood. (Not from the oatmeal, but from the piece of oak that the hubby used to fix my blender with.)

We drank and chewed, drank and chewed. It was still pellets, even after being steel cut for the second time. It was still tasteless and I still have ten pounds left in the five-pound bag.

Me: So, what do you think?

Hubby: Chewy.

Me: Yup.

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Watching a Movie with a Seven Year Old

The following is a (mostly) true and accurate transcript of watching Iron Man with a seven year old (Everitt) and a grown-assed man (Hubby).

Ev: What’s he doing?

Me: He’s getting into his private jet.

Ev: Is he rich?

Me: Very.

Hubby: Shhhh, watch the movie.

Ev: Who’s she? Why is she dancing?

Me: She’s a stewardess.

Ev: What’s a stewardess?

Me: She’s a person who brings you food and drinks on an airplane.

Ev: Why’s she dancing?

Hubby: Shhhhhh!

Me: Because she’s drunk.

Ev: Oh, like drugs.

Me: No like booze.

Ev: Who’s that? What’s he doing?

Me: He’s a….

Ev: Look, POW! Bam! Crash! How come that blew up? Why are they shooting? Did he die? No, no—look his eyes are open. Why is that guy there?

Me: Because Tony St…

Hubby: Shhhh…

Ev: Who’s that? Who’s that? Is he a bad guy? Look it crashed. What’s he doing? Look, look…KA-boom! Haha. Good idea Stark. Hey what’s he doing? Is that fire?

Hubby: Be quiet. Watch the movie.

Ev: Look, look at that? How can he fly? How? It’s heavy and it should deaded him. Look at him? Hey it’s the bad guy? Is he dead? He crashed? Is it hot there, or cold? Wow! Is it the other guy…hunh…hunh? Is it? That guy, is he the good guy? Is he trying to save him—or maybe no? Where’s he now? Oh my GAWD! I never seen that before. Why? Did he start it? Why is she crying? Are they going to kill her?

Hubby: For crying out loud…BE QUIET!

Me: Well…

Ev: Why are they clapping? Hey, who’s that? I think that’s his dad. Is that his dad? Is he a good guy? I think he’s a good guy. Is she a good guy? Is Iron Man…I mean Tony Stark sick? Oh, oh, oh….he’s falling out of the sky. Why is he falling out of the sky.

Hubby: Arrggghhhhhhh…Everitt!!! Watch the movie.

Ev: Hey, where are you going?

Me: I’m just going to pop into the other room and slit my wrists.

Hubby: You want me to pause it?

Me: No—I’m good.

Ev: Look, look, he’s going to kill him. That guy is bad. I don’t think it’s his dad. He is a bad guy. Wow, wow, wow. That’s dangerous, right? Is that army guy his brother or his friend? How come he’s going to a party? Is that his girlfriend? Hahahaha, she’s mad. Is she mad. Look, it all fell apart. How come it fell apart………………….

Dance or Paddle

I was hoping for Men or Women. Girls or Boys. Even Bucks or Does, but all I saw was Dance and Paddle. The signs left me scratching my head, Dance or Paddle? There was no time to waste, I was already doing a pee dance, so I opted for paddle.

When I burst through the door, there in the middle of the floor, sat four ducks bobbing about in a child’s small blue wading pool. “Quack, quack, quack,” they said.

“Wack, wack! Quack, wack!”

I shook my head but charged toward the first stall. Three baby ducks paddled about in the toilet bowl. “What the hell?” I slammed open the door and ducked into stall number two. (See what I did there?) Thankfully it was empty, and in about ten seconds, so was my bladder.

When I flushed, four baby ducks popped to the surface. Where did they come from? “What the…?”

“Quack, wack,” they said.

Well, there was nothing to do but scoop them up and transfer them into the wading pool. I did the same for the three in the other toilet. “Home sweet home,” I said.

“Quack?”

Soon the occupants of the pool were having a conversation about the new arrangement. “Quack, quack, quack. Wack, quack, quack. Hornk, quack, quack.” I imagined they were discussing the quality of the water and what an inconvenience it was to have seven new additions, albeit, seven very small additions.

I filled my palm with the neon industrial strength soap provided; it smelled of ChemX, I ran enough water to get myself a good lather going. Then I began to sing Happy Birthday as I washed.

A mallard fluttered onto the counter. His ebony eyes glinted in the fluorescent lighting, then he turned his gleaming green head sideways, once, twice. “Quack?”

“Wack, wack,” I replied. “It’s not really my birthday, but when I was a child my mother taught me that my hands weren’t really clean until I washed them for as long as the song lasted. Then I searched my brain for any duck trivia I might know. “I heard ducks have corkscrew-shaped penises,” I said.

“Quack,” he agreed.

As I finished up and dried my hands, the door burst open and a wild-eyed woman hurtled inside, she took two steps, then her foot froze in mid-step. Her mouth dropped open and she blinked.

“Quack, quack?”

I saw a shudder run through her body, nature called, so she turned and ran for a stall. Her pants flapped around her knees before she’d even had time to close the door. I heard a tinkle and a sigh of relief.

“Make sure you transfer the babies to the wading pool after you flush,” I called.

“Quack?” the mallard said. Obviously, a few more babies would not be welcome. I shrugged.

As I left the restroom, a woman stood scratching her head and reading the signs on the doors.

“There’s a free stall in this one,” I said, then moved past her and down the hall. I patted the tiny lump in my pocket. Oh boy, I thought. I’m already regretting this. What am I going to do once I get back to work? There’s no pool. Ah, but the janitor has an extra bucket.

“Quack,” said my pocket.

“You’re right, there’s an extra toilet bowl as well.”

Feeling a little stabby…

Holy pootknackers! Trying to explain to the hubby that midnight on Monday is actually Sunday night is making me twist.

Me: You have to go pick him up on Sunday night.

Hubby: No, he says he’s arriving at midnight on Monday.

Me: Yes, I know. But it’s a two hour drive. You leave here Sunday night…

Hubby: NO! You aren’t listening, he says he is coming home at midnight, on Monday.

Me: I’ll print off the itinerary. Don’t wait until Monday to go pick him up…

Hubby: But he said Monday…

Me: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten…eleven

Hubby: You said Sunday, but he says Monday.

Me:

Hubby: Well, which is it?

Me:

Hubby: Well?

Me: I printed off the itinerary, figure it out for yourself.

Hubby: Okay…hey this isn’t any good, all it talks about are baggage claims.

Me: Read the next page.

Hubby: This isn’t any good, there are no times listed…hey what are you doing…don’t take it…you always do that.

Me: (Circling the information and thrusting it back into his hands.) Be very, very careful what you say to me in the next few seconds.

Hubby: Look, it says right here that he’s leaving Sunday night…you told me Monday at midnight…

There isn’t a court in the entire world that would convict me.

Men, are they for realz?

As I may have mentioned, it is winter here on the ranch. On the east coast, that could mean almost anything from minus fifty degrees Celsius, with seventy-three feet of snow, to plus thirty with a drizzle of rain. Currently, it is +2 Kelvin, with icy pellets the size of small squirrels. (Oh hang on, those may not actually be ice pellets, I think they are squirrels…or maybe rats.)

Basically it is shitty out there. The biggest reason that humans invented central heating and the great indoors. Had we not, we would now look like human sized frozen turds covered in a thick layer of ice. Our bodies would be found anywhere we fell, because it is too fucking slippery to even stand up.

Hubby: Well, I think I’m going to grab my chainsaw and go cut down trees.

Me: You’re kidding?

Hubby: No. Why would you think I was kidding?

Me: Have you seen it out there?

Hubby: I let the chickens out this morning.

Me: And how long did it take you to get back into the house? The dog had to drag you most of the way back.

Hubby: So, what’s your point?

Me: Chainsaw. Ice. Injury. Death. Ice pellets. Plus we have enough wood for two years.

Hubby:

Me: Danger, danger Pat Robinson!

Hubby: You’re always so overdramatic.

Me:

Hubby: (Puts on his Paul Bunyan clothes and heads out the door.) See you later.

Me: I’m not coming to get you.

Five minutes go by and hubby is back.

Me: What did you forget?

Hubby: I changed my mind. It’s fucking crazy out there.

 

I must be married to Sherlock Holmes.

 

Ah, the honeymoon stage.

The hubby just asked me if I wanted him to put some wood on the fire before he went outside.

Me: It’s 144,000 degrees Kelvin in here.

Hubby: So, do you want more wood on the fire or what.

Me: I’m sweating like a sumo wrestler at high noon in Calcutta in the middle of summer.

Hubby: So…that’s a no?

Me:

Hubby: You know, it really wouldn’t hurt you if at least one time in your life you just answered a question with a yes or no.

He’s right. I know that. But seriously, what fun would that be?

Snow? What the fu…

January seventeenth and it is snowing. In my opinion, that’s just a tad bit too early. Sure, people in these parts will tell you that when they were children, they would walk to school barefoot, in snowdrifts ten feet deep, while fighting off Yetis, in July. But this is no longer the ice age.

As I may have mentioned, we live in the boonies, this means that our tax dollars are only worth a tenth of the tax dollars paid out by people in the city. This means that when it snows, we are the last to get plowed out. And of course, this means we have to hang around at home, drinking coffee (me), sleeping in (hubby) and generally wile away our time eating bon-bons and purusing YouTube clips of cute German shepherd puppies being dorks.

Or, it could mean dressing up like said Yeti and dragging our carcasses outside, carcasses that now weigh an extra hundred kilos from all the bon-bon eating and Yeti dressing, and go and shovel three thousand acres of road and driveway.

I know you are shocked. Three thousand acres of road and drive, you must be rich! Ha-ha…yup rich, rich, rich.

You see, once upon a time, when we first moved here, we had 300 meters of driveway to plow, and a goodly chunk of driveway. It was enough. In fact, it was a lot. A lot, a lot. We have a plow attachment on the quad, a snowblower and many shovels. When we got a good amount of snow, it took a few hours to clean. But that is not enough for the hubby. Oh no.

You see, he has something wrong with the way his brain works. It’s a condition. We’re still trying to figure it out. His brain tells him that if there is already a lot of work to do, you have to make yourself a lot more. Like a LOT more.

Somehow the process has gone from a few hours of snow removal to days and days. Lawns and fields and forests and the lake all have to be cleaned. And somehow when the drive and the road have been cleared and I leave him to his insanity, I become the bad guy.

I’m waiting for the day that he decides to haul his quad onto everyone’s roof to plow. At least it will make for some interesting pictures.

We Have ‘Lectricity!

Well shit fire and save the matches, the storm done blowed itself straight out. The power is finally back on, and our spell of hardship is over. And believe me, when I use the term hardship, I’m doing it ironically.

Here on the ranch, hardship means brewing our coffee over the fireplace. Cooking on the fireplace. Overheating the house because of all the fireplace usage. When the power first went out…and I shit you not…we made soup and sandwiches for supper. Gulp, it was devastating.

So we spent a couple of sweaty days using candles for lighting, hanging out and reading, listening to audio books and munching on leftover Christmas chocolates. It was harsh. As time went on, we were forced to fire up the generator so the stuff in the freezer and refrigerator wouldn’t go bad.  And when I say we, I mean the hubby. Three cheers for the hubby.

There was plenty of warning about the storm, which meant our bathtub was full of water as were all the kettles and jugs. And things that have a tendency to fly away were put away, while hubby ran into town to fill all the spare gas and diesel tanks.

The wind hit like a freight train, breaking up the newly formed ice on the lake and battering the shit out of the house. It wasn’t long before we were sitting in the dark and listening to the howl of banshees outside. This got me thinking, as things like this normally do, it got me imagining what it would have been like for our early ancestors, or for people living in less than ideal conditions today? There’s a story in it (there always is). But there is reality too. What if a person can’t get the warning, what if they have nowhere to go, what if they don’t have battens to hatch?

The storm has abated, the temperature has dropped, the damage to our particular area consists of a few missing shingles and a plethora of tree detritus. I have a hot shower I need to take and some thought to give about those of us who are less fortunate.

Storm Surges and Silliness

We are battening down the hatches here on the east coast. Wind, rain and flooding is what we can expect. Unless it’s wind, snow and ice. In either case, right this minute it is nasty. Very.

The hubby actually went to town before the worst of it started, a part he had ordered before Christmas came in and was sitting in the post office (we are too far in the toolies to get packages). I’m sure it was the most amazing part ever to be called a part in the entire world of parts. What with having to place your life on the line in order to pick it up right this minute.

Hubby: How long does the post office hang onto parcels?

Me: Two or three weeks. Usually you get a couple of notices.

Hubby: I should go get that part this morning.

Me: It just got here yesterday. Maybe you should wait until after the storm.

Hubby: But its a howitzer, and I need it for my nomenclature.

Me: Are you going to work on that today?

Hubby: Probably not. Haven’t you noticed, it’s fucking horrible out there. So, wantta come to town with me?

Me:

Hubby: So, is that a no?

Me:

Hubby: Okay, see you later.

Men be crazy.

 

I don’t normally do this (lol…as if I’ve been doing this long enough to be regular or normal) but I figured the storm story I wrote while he was away would be a good epilogue to this piece. Mainly because it actually has nothing to do with it. Enjoy.

Land’s End

Two men stood at the tip of the escarpment, lands’ end. Dark waters boiled into grey-white foam and clawed at the tumble of jagged rocks beneath. “She’s dead,” said the tallest of the two, his thick jowls were bright red with the cold.

“How ja know that then?” the short squat fellow by his side asked. He coughed into his hand then wiped a runny nose with his sleeve. “She codda made it. I heared she was a good swimmer.”

The tall man turned his gaze from the swirling mass of liquid death and peered at his partner. “Idiot, can’t your eyes see? Even if she didn’t smash her head in, or break her back, the icy waters will have finished her off in minutes. It’s been a half hour and we ain’t seen nothing.”

The shorter man shifted uncomfortably, pulling his thick woollen jacket close. “Spose.” But he didn’t look convinced. “Still say you shodda let me stick ‘er afore we chucked ‘er in.”

The tall man sighed and turned his back into the biting wind. “And when they found the body? A knife wound doesn’t exactly scream accidental death, does it?” He began to pick his way through the long grass, making sure not to leave footprints.

“Spose.”

 

***

Lily had lost feeling in her hands and feet long ago, it was like walking on blocks of wood. Naked and blue from the cold she continued to make her way along the uneven ground of the jagged coast. The occasional spray of ice water burned her skin whenever the bitter wind picked up. Blood streamed from cuts on her arms and legs, turning the water pink whenever she stumbled through a puddle. She’d almost forgotten why she was moving forward, it would be easier and less painful to hunker down out of the wind and die.

But when she looked up, the small cottage was closer. Either someone would be at home and she might live, or the owner would find a frozen corpse on their steps. Fog, thick as clotted cream, began to move in. She felt warmer. Not a good sign. Death nipped at her heels. Out in the mist, only meters away from shore, she could just make out the tip of a fin. It was black and had the cold smooth appearance of flint. Death shadowed her, even out there. She lowered her head and took another step forward, her blood had quit dripping.

The smell of wood smoke aroused her from her agony; she lifted her eyes to a grey saltwater-scoured door five feet away. Yellow light, warm and lifegiving, oozed out around the jamb, she stumbled forward.

 

Sinews and Moonshine, Tales of Blood and Squalor

As of today, November 20, 2017, I have a new story in an anthology about dirt and grime and poverity and horror, and possibly some bleeding and death and chicken feet. All and all, a fun little read. You should totally check it out either on Amazon or The Dark Cloud Press.

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_book_10?ie=UTF8&text=Gab+Halasz&search-alias=books&field-author=Gab+Halasz&sort=relevancerank

http://darkcloudpress.com/Buy_Tales_of_Blood_and_Squalor.htm

 

Tales of Blood and Squalor

Cover illustration by: L.A. Spooner / Carrion House Illustrations