‘Salvaged’ by Madeleine Roux

I’m typing this up on my phone on a plane while a baby the size is for an avocado does flips and bounces on my poor, beat up bladder, so bear with me.

I just finished the second book that features fungus as “the bad guy”, so that seems to be an emerging theme in sci-fi. This fungus is much more exciting, however, as it gradually seizes control of your brain and turns you into a collective, psychic zombie. In space. It turns out about as well as you can imagine, though the story focuses on a small crew who somewhat manages to fight off the voice in their head that turns into their mothers.

While there were some descriptions in this book that I, usually pretty immune to squeamishness, found hard to get through, overall it’s an excellent space who done it horror story. The fascinating part is how hard some fight to stay human, and how easily others give in to groupthink, or being controlled by a fungus.

A good, mildly thought provoking read, but don’t eat with food.

My Voice, Part One

Every attempt I’ve made to maintain steady blogging, especially post college, has slowly petered off and eventually abandoned. Unlike some friends and almost friends that also blog who manage to keep one single blog going, every time I return is more starting over, new name, new fonts, a fresh face that follows the same pattern. I’m not committing to anything this time around (even though I paid for WordPress again), but with everything going on in the world and my personal life I still feel that itch to get my voice down on paper or through the keyboard.

I have noticed that the blogs I enjoy reading the most have a more or less coherent theme, whether it be about books, long form essays, or horses. For myself, there’s two main things I want to write about; I have my own horse now (for the first time!), so there’s a ton to explore and keep track of and learn there. But, back to the whole “state of the world” thing, I want to toss my voice into the void about such fundamental things as the state of our democracy, the world I want my son to grow up and become an adult in, and where my life and choices fit into that larger (and undeniably privileged) framework. Plus random other things like book reviews, fumbling attempts at cooking, navigating home ownership, setting up my rig for horse camping…things I want to share without FB owning and playing corporate games with my stuff. Sounds like two totally separate blogs right?

Being only one busy lady and based on my past attempts, keeping up blogging is an uphill battle between my time, my desires and everyone in my life I jiggle around, so we’ll see how this one goes.

Pretty horse photo cause blogs without photos aren’t as fun usually

To start with the second topic (since I’m travelling for work and stuck in conference rooms 700 miles from my horse), my boss and I grabbed dinner after an 11 hour day for both of us. I support my company’s EHS team, which is heading our response to the corona-virus outbreak (we have customers and therefore employees supporting those customers in Wuhan), so that’s led to long days with no signs of slowing for my team. My boss tossed me into the daily meeting with folks whose titles are no less than two to three levels above mine for, quote, “Being the most reliable and up to date on this stuff.” His confidence helps mine, but man can it get rough!

Decompressing at Claim Jumpers over bourbon and a mock-tail, respectively, we touched on such light, work appropriate topics as our families genetic history, career plans and trajectories, and of course politics…but not about the current impeachment clusterfuck or specific policies.

My high school boyfriend had a karate teacher who was friends with an akido instructor who had a huge influence on how I deconstruct arguments and what points I dig for in such discussions. Even as a teenager I picked up not to go after the fluff of things or get overly sidetracked by tangents, but to dig until the root cause or point was found. Debating with him over email on such topics as religion and politics helped immensely, and I remain grateful for those conversations to this day.

Not to say I didn’t go through the typical teenage and young adult growing periods of false logic, grasping at straws and taking uninformed or ill-informed stands, but we all have to go through that so I try not to beat up myself too much for those much more idealistic days.

Last night with my boss, I wasn’t going after the fluff-my questions (in part informed by this recent series by ‘The New Yorker’), were along the lines of “Can a true, fundamentally fair democracy thrive with a capitalist economy?”, “How do we move on from a two party system?”, “How do we teach our kids to debate and disagree without hating the other person or group?” The point wasn’t to stump each other or argue for one side or the other, but to inch towards that last point; disagreeing without relegating the other side as a bad person.

I’m about to board my flight home (woot!) So more on this vein later!

So many questions

I’m a terrible blogger, but here’s something that’s been floating around many of the horse blogs I read. Actually stolen from Haiku Farm!
1.   Why horses? Why not a sane sport, like soccer or softball or curling?

There are so many facets to this answer, starting with “it’s in the blood” and constant early exposure thanks to my mom, and the enduring love of dirt encrusted fingernails, hay in the bra, slobbered covered shirt and miles in the saddle.

No stirrup November!

2.    What was your riding “career” like as a kid?
 
A bit scattershot, I did some horse camps, 4-H, but couldn’t keep my grades up or focused enough in the noise of high school sports. I’m making more of an effort with my kid though!
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Be still my heart!
3.   If you could go back to your past and buy ONE horse, which would it be?  
I don’t think I actually would. There was one spookily smart, shark fin withered Arab I worked with at the summer camp I taught at during college, but I wasn’t and still am not ready for the huge responsibility and financial burden of a whole horse. A kid, house, dog and husband is enough!
4.  What disciplines have you participated in?
Key word there is “participate” not “competed.” That list is thankfully wide and varied, though it could always be wider! I’ve driven every type of horse and hitch from a single Belgian to four in hand Fjords, driven carriages on Mackinaw Island, trotted a giant Appy down an endurance trail, dabbled in jumping, taught basic English and Western, and worked horses from ponies to drafts in the woods and the fields.
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Bobby and Tucker, the best team ever (not biased of course!)
5.   What disciplines do you want to participate in some day?
This next year will be about trying different things with Raymond, trail obstacles, some cow work, mounted archery…I want to dabble and try new things!
And I still want to do the Cross-State Ride–maybe 2020?
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6.   Have you ever bought a horse at auction or from a rescue?
Nope! That’s a project I don’t see myself well set up for for years, if at all.
7.   What was your FIRST favorite horse breed – the one you loved most as a kid?
The kind that talks to you in your head and convinces you to be a better version of yourself just by virtue of being super magical and blue eyed.
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8.    If you could live and ride in any country in the world, where would it be?
Money not being on object, both Australia and New Zealand. Gorgeous mountains, bays, deep back country, different wilderness and wildlife (brumbies!), and overall a lot less people!
9.    Do you have any horse-related regrets?
Mostly I wish I’d had more time with them as a kid. My parents did tell me if my grades were high enough, they’d keep driving me out the barn for 4H, and I might have if I’d been involved with OHSET or something a little more exciting than plodding around a ring on a wet Oregon winter’s day, but as a kid I couldn’t see that!
10.  If you could ride with any trainer in the world, ASIDE from your current trainer, who would it be?

I’d take a bit from everybody, but I’d love to go back and take a lot more lessons from the old farm owner I worked with in college at Briar Hill Farm; she’s doing mounted archery with her Fjords and Dales now and she’s an amazing lady all around!

 

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Fjord mare named Dasha (if I remember right), the first horse I was allowed to train to drive at Marcy’s farm
11.  What is one item on your horse-related bucket list?  
Riding in every state and Canadian province.cropped-img_59431.jpg
Much more of this!
12.  If you were never able to ride again, would you still have horses?
Yes! My time in college exposed me to a lot of different things you can do with horses. I once met a 75 year old Mainer from the backwoods with Parkinson’s still working Percherons in the sugar bush. I may be a lot slower but I’d still have them!
13.  What is your “biggest fantasy” riding goal?

Ride either the Gobi Gallop across Mongolia or Race the Wild Coast in South Africa (or both!)
 
14.  What horse do you feel like has taught you the most?  
They’ve all taught me so much (what horse person can’t say that?
I would say Pete the Belgian logging horse overall; he really taught me to take a deep breath and really listen to what they say, especially when they know the job better than you!
Tucker on the left, Pete on the right at my alma mater, Sterling College in Vermont
15.  If you could change one thing about your current horse/riding situation, what would it be?

I wish the barn I lease Raymond at was just a little closer! If I go out now, I’m going to ride, not just “hang out” and I do miss that critical part.
 
Kade set up these obstacles for me all by himself!
16.  If you could compete at any horse show/venue in your home country, where would it be?

I wouldn’t. Competitor at this point I’m not! But my overall goal is to ride in every state, and I’ve only ticked off….9 so far!
17.  If you could attend any competition in the world as a spectator, what would be your top choice?
Again, not huge into competitions, but probably the Vermont 100, how did I miss that ride when I lived in Vermont for five years???

18.  Have you ever thought about quitting horses?
Nope. My life is an ongoing, never ending scheme to spend as much time with them as possible.
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Jokker the giantest and goofiest Appy ever! No horse makes me laugh like he does, though Raymond comes closer every ride!
19.  If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the horse industry, what would it be?

Take away money prizes for all events.There, I fixed it.

(That was Aarene’s answer and it cannot be improved upon).
 
20.  What’s the dumbest horse-related thing you’ve done that actually turned out pretty well?

Watching a winter woolly, slightly bug eyed, shark fin withered Arab hop and spin off the trailer with 20 other camp horses just off their winter range in Nevada a week before campers showed up and picking him to be my partner for the summer. He turned out to be the smartest horse of the bunch, and when we rode drag for the trail rides no one could keep the fat, hungry ponies going like he could!
 
21.  As you get older, what are you becoming more and more afraid of?
Gravity sucks but it’s not the worst thing yet. As someone who catch rides and leases, I’m most afraid of loosing someone else’s horse in the wild or broad lands where I ride most of the time.
Funny story, it did almost happen on the PCT this summer. I was riding Raymond bareback at the trot and slid off in slow mo (more core strength needed damnit!) and he started heading back to camp without me (there’s a nightmare vision right there!)
Luckily, I had a carrot in my pocket and Raymond never turns up a treat. I snapped it in half when he was about 50 yards from me, he heard it and did the fastest U-turn ever!
About half a mile before Carrot gate!
22.  What horse-related book impacted you the most?
Probably one of Mark Rashid’s.
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23.  What personality trait do you value most in a horse and which do you dislike the most?

Uncontrolled speed is my least favorite right now; I don’t mind speed (Raymond has the huge Quarter horse acceleration that makes me whoop like a cowgirl every time!) but it’s nice to be able to direct it at will.

I love a horse that knows his job (whatever it happens to be) and doesn’t get ruffled easily.

More core strength+shorter stirrups=enjoyable rides versus scary ones!

24.  What do you love most about your discipline?  
Miles in the saddle! Seeing beautiful scenery you otherwise might not, and building that critical, awesome relationship over long hours moving down the trail.
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25.  What are you focused on improving the most, at the moment?

Myself, always myself. The depths of winter are sprinting closer, so it’s a good time for No Stirrup November (my goal is to be able to canter without them!) and more strength workouts, since that’s what’s really holding me back currently.
Okay, everybody else, it’s your turn!  

Copy the questions, paste in your own answers, and ping me so I know where to look.  Wheee!

A stumbling start

A super quick post cause the dog and I are waiting in the truck together for the kid to finish his swim lessons.

Behold, hear ye hear ye, read all about it….My start to NaNoWriMo 2017!

The Aliens Are Spying On Us

“Red sky at morning, sailor take warning. Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.”

I hummed the old ditty to myself as I watched the endless sky light up in every shade of red the human eye can encompass, deepest blood red to faintest pink. The trouble was it was noon, and the weather report had called for a clear day’s sail. The nearest weather of any sort was 100 nautical miles away, not nearly close enough to build such a sky. I pondered the rippling, flowing red sky, noting the shade of pink of my niece’s first birthday dress, the red of the heart shaped love letter I’d had tossed in my face a few weeks ago, the catalyst of this trip.

It was right about the time a booming shock wave knocked me on the ass of the deck of my boat and a huge wave crested and broke over the bow that I decided it was time to rouse my brother from his mid-day cat nap, with the ship’s cat aptly named Dickhead (short for Moby Dick). I needn’t have bothered to have the thought, my twin brother being as much as of a sailor as I. I had barely picked my now dripping self up to eye a suddenly becalmed sea when he burst out of the hatchway stairs, a set of parallel scratches on his bare chest to show where the cat had launched off at him when the ship bucked.

He took in my rather soaked state and the shade of the sky, his wide eyes reflecting the darkest shade of red. I watched his lips form the W sound, when I realized I heard nothing. Not the steady hum of the desalinator, the soft slap of waves on the hull, the faint whir of the wind turbine at the top of the mast, or my twin’s question. Thought what else could it be than “What the fuck?”

I shook my head and turned back to the wide expanse of ocean, which should have been relatively empty in this massive stretch between Hawaii and Tahiti. Instead the near horizon was filled with something massive and dark, sleek with the turquoise water of the Pacific spilling off it’s sides. Our beauty of a ship was not insubstantial, at a sturdy 85 feet long, but we were suddenly, utterly dwarfed by whatever took up the view to the south.

My twin’s hand gripped my shoulder and I jumped, bursting out “They don’t say what red sky at noon means!” At his wince I guessed I’d shouted in his ear, but at least I could distantly hear his response of, “You still haven’t answered my ‘What the fuck’, sis.”

Shaking my head, we looked out over the utterly still ocean to see something detach itself from the impossibly huge dark shape, heading right for us. A million possible courses of actions flitted through my head, and with the ease of the Navy’s long training I decided that waiting was the best course. Anything that appeared in a blaze of fire out of the sky wouldn’t be easily outrun, and since we were the only ship for a few hundred miles as far as we were aware (present company excepting) clearly we’d been targeted. Running away from someone who was gunning right for you was folly without more information.

My twin left my side briefly, only to reappear after a short stint below deck, now fully dressed albeit in his sailor style of board shorts and a blindingly yellow sun shirt. We stood on the starboard side and watched the shape head for us, my short Columbia dress already mostly dry in the high noon sun of the Middle Pacific Ocean.

We couldn’t quite make out the shape, other than to tell there was one, which seemed odd that I couldn’t put a word to it. Rectangular? Not quite, yet not quite round. Somewhere in between, but it had to be sleek based on the zero wake left behind it.

Writing Prompt: Answers

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     It should have shocked the breath from her, stolen her thoughts for just a moment. She was braced for it, eyes squished shut, full surfer’s wet suit tight against her, making her feel vaguely stifled as always. Instead she slipped into water which caressed her through the black suit, a soft welcome to an alien world.
     A rough grayish shape brushed past her right side, and she instinctively grabbed for it, her movements strangely coordinated despite the weight of the water. As she latched onto what she knew was the dorsal fin of a bottle nosed dolphin named Kevin as soon as she touched him, another part of her brain started muttering, “Since when can I breathe underwater?”
     She felt there were two of her, a woman who caught rides from dolphins named Kevin as a matter of course, and her landlubber side who rarely swam outside a chlorinated pool or hot tub and was still reaching for air where there was only water.
      :Of course you catch rides from me, every Saturday at this time. Why else would I be hanging out by a human pier?: She heard the words in her head, felt a strange burble of concern which was not her own, as half of her self was struggling with the not being freezing and choking for air, while the other half hung on as the dolphin, Kevin, dived deeper, heading due West away from shore at an easy clip for him.
     That corner of her self still trying to guess up from down as the light faded around them decided this was clearly too much, the last straw, chucked up her hands and went on vacation. She distinctly muttered to herself, “And don’t let the door of reason hit your ass on the way out!” which made less sense that she was mind talking a dolphin. Named Kevin, of course, what else would a talking dolphin be called?
     :Are you alright, Ambassador? You seem unduly confused.: Kevin’s voice placed in her mind again; curiously, the words seemed to have an orange tinge to them; alarm, she guessed. She opened her mouth to answer, sucked in a metric ton of water, and began to thrash, dropping her hold on Kevin’s fin, convinced she was about to drown.
     A moment later she gasped and snorted, tears and snot pouring down her face as the long rays of the evening sun caressed her face. She took a long time to just breath- actual air!-before realizing they were far from land. All her eyes could see once they cleared was the searing brightness of the sun washed ocean, stretching all the way to the incandescent horizon.
     The soft shimmer beside her in the cobalt blue waters turned into a dolphin’s blunt grey nose, one eye peering at her closely. The one shred of her mind still hanging around swarmed with questions, so she reached out and grabbed one at random.
     “How much magic are we talking about, here?” strangely relieved to hear her own voice, thin and reedy against the vast rolling ocean as it was.
      :What is your last memory of the ocean, Ambassador?: Kevin side stepped her own question entirely, but that dark round eye drew an answer from her. The truth was almost startled out, she didn’t have to think about it.
         “I grew up in the desert, hundreds of miles from any ocean. We visited a few times, last one was when my uncle died,” her voice trailing off at that bit, the thought a sore bruise she wanted to ignore, a strange tang of metal filling her mouth.
       :Oh dear, the Council warned us of this possibility.: He nudged her gently, concern seeming to radiate from him, a gentle purple in her head. :Let me take you home, the Council must be appraised and your Aunt Ursula summoned!:
     She was so startled by the incongruous appearance of a child’s villain’s name from the dolphin, she replied without thought. :Ursula? What does an evil sea with have to do with me? With all of….: she burst out before that small part of her thinking brain broke in, “Of course this involves an evil sea witch, why wouldn’t it?”
     :I’m sorry you believe Ursula evil, there is much to fix if this is so. Shall we continue, Ambassador? There is less time to waste, now.: Kevin turned into her, bumping her hand so she again grabbed him out of reflex, a move that felt oddly familiar and comfortable all at once.
     “What, go where? How do I…” she sucked her breath in and decided to go with the flow, having no option as Kevin barely waited for her grip to settle before he was diving again. She held on with purpose this time, she’d get her answers, even if she had to deal with a telepathic dolphin and a sea witch, possibly evil and possibly not, to get them.

This is Halloween…


Welp, it’s November people, and that means NaNoWriMo is upon us. If you think I don’t blog much normally, November can be…empty. But it’s a good place to ‘report’ on my goals (my blog! me!) so here goes, as I sit on a really squeeky morning train: 

  • Only ran once last week out of the three I was aiming for, trudging around the little dirt track at Kade’s school while he found every puddle he can. Right now I’m at a slightly hard fought 16 minute mile. Ha!
  • My novel for the month is a slightly different version of what I’ve been working on, about ex-military vets and their lives and animals and relationships, despite not being ex-military myself I want to train dogs someday so it’s a good chance to do some deep research into the topic and stretch out of my mommy-work-mommy zone.

  • New job is still going awesome, in the thick of billing and reporting and being part of the ‘Party Planning Committee.’ Also the boss gave me permission to work from home when Kade has a day off, so whew! Since he has 8 days off in November….
  • Halloween was epic! Kade got to trick or treat twice, once with his cousins while Tom and I drove home and once with us just around our awesome neighborhood. Kid’s loaded with candy so now I get to play candy monster and dole it out in no rational or consistant fashion. Life lessons kid.
  • Tom’s home for good for awhile, so I’ve forgotten how to cook again but I don’t sleep alone so that evens out pretty well.
  • Happy writing all!

Flash Fiction Challenge

I’ve been trying some basic but fun creative writing techniques, here is an example below, a flash fiction challenge from a blog I follow. Enjoy!
From the Terrible Minds Blog.

My Randomized Title: Seven Days of Warning

I was born on the first day of warning.
This should have been an omen, a clear sign to my parents, but they were always too involved with each other to remember me, or really the rest of the world. Other parents would have noticed how quiet I was that first week, how I didn’t make a peep, never fussed or bawled or even whimpered.
To this day, I’m still unsure how I survived the first week. I can tell myself all the stories I like, of mysterious ghosts, angels, fairy godmothers, stories of helpers from all the regions of the world who might look out for a helpless newborn, but the truth is undoubtedly far more basic. My parents remembered to care for me just enough, to wonder at this new life that, had they been different people, would have changed their lives forever, just enough for me to survive.
It’s hard sometimes to wish I hadn’t, to wonder if they hadn’t fed me just enough, or changed me often enough, or put me down one more time during those seven days, if I wouldn’t be stuck now. On the seventh day of the seventh month, at the top of the seventh hour, the seven days of warning begin. And as I had the whim to be born at that exact time, 14 years ago, every year the town’s attention is riveted on me for a week.
It’s bad enough I’m stuck in this tiny, crippled body. For the majority of the year, I’m mostly left to my own devices, and those devices are tenuous enough. I don’t believe anyone could dread the beginning of the warnings as much as I, for I’m expected to bring the signs, to show some portent, some idea of what the next year will hold. How am I, a crippled nameless orphan, supposed to have any clue?
But each year comes, & the mayor orders me cleaned up, dressed up & put on the pedestal in the town square, promptly in time for that fateful clock tick. I suppose I shouldn’t complain, it’s the only time of year I eat well, am fully warm & clean. But to be stared at for a solid week, like an animal in the those faraway zoos I read about, well, you fill in the blanks, if you aren’t too busy worrying about those damned seven days.
I supposed the main question to answer is, have I ever been helpful? For 14 years that week has come, the town stares for the requisite seven days, & then everything returns to normal. Normal for everyone else, at least. Well, things were especially exciting my seventh year, after all, all those stupid sevens. I don’t know which is worse-the buildup to my seventh year, or this year. Possibly this year; I was still a bit too young to really know why last time.
But last year, someone finally broke the rules and told me. It wasn’t who I was expecting to go off the rails, either! If anyone was going to disobey the mayor besides me, everyone thought it would have been my aunt, my mother’s sister, which is why she’s kept well away from me. Which should be hard to do in a town of 500 people, tucked as we are high in this tiny mountain valley, but as walking is not high on my list of things I do well, it’s proven surprisingly easy.
No, the person who told me what the seven days of warning are was the mayor himself. I suppose it’s easy to break your own rules if no one’s going to call you on it. After all, who would believe me if I told? I’m still not sure why he did tell me. Maybe 13 years in ignorance is long enough, & he’s banking it won’t change anything.
Still just over a week to go until the first day, and all I have to do is sit and worry and peel potatoes. Or so the mayor and everyone else thinks, anyway. Just because a girl can’t walk, doesn’t mean she can’t think. I’ve had 13 years to plot and plan and dream, after all, pretty much uninterrupted except for those seven days each year. Other people might be terrified of my plan, after all, no one has left the village in my memory, just the tinkerers and traders coming through each year. But they’ve let just enough information slip for me to guess that life isn’t like this in the lowlands, being ignored and ignorant, then put on show for those seven days. I’m banking that my threat to leave, & the plan to back it up, will be enough, just enough, to get some change in my life.
I could put my plan into action today, or really any time. Maybe the mayor knows my plan after all, and his rule breaking was a way to keep me here just long enough. Well, point to the mayor then, because I’m holding my tongue another two weeks.
Maybe it will work this year. Maybe all the sevens will finally line up, and the seven days of warning will bring no bad news upon our heads, no more disruptions to the village, maybe the monster of fear will fully slumber this time. After all these years, there’s that one reason everyone still hopes, still takes perfect care of me for one week straight.

Everyone really thought it would happen my seventh year, but it didn’t. Little things still came those seven days, enough to count, but nobody died. It was enough for the mayor to order a completely new reading of the prophesies, starting from scratch. Such is why the new number became 14, and the signs of everyone holding their breath, holding their worry and loved ones close by have already begun. Because if it’s not this year…and so the thought hangs. Why keep me around any more, if there’s more this year, or worse, a death during those seven days?
But there’s still hope, so the priests say. Which is why the mayor told me I’m treated the way I am, why there’s so much fear and hope and desperation flying around those seven days of warning. Before I was born, during the warning days, near chaos would reign, and someone would die…and then life, minus one, would return to normal. There was no stopping it, no changing it, no saving that life fated to die, or even to tell who or when. There was only the certainty of fear, worse than the howl of a winter blizzard. People are expected to die during a blizzard, if one is stupid or slow or clumsy. The seven days came from nowhere, and there’s no preparing for them or fighting them, until yours truly slipped quietly into the world.
It wasn’t my parents who figured out when I was born, or what I might be capable of, despite all appearances. It wasn’t even the priests, whose job it is to try to know things. There’s a reason the mayor has been the mayor for 15 years now, and it’s me. He knew, though he won’t tell how, of why I should be saved from certain death at the hands of my uncaring parents. Of all the things in all the world, I made the seven days of warning less chaotic, and no one has died during those seven days since I was born.
I suppose, if you’re reading this, you wonder why I’m not the town darling, pampered and loved in every way, secured and cared for. Well you, dear reader, must live in a more rational part of the world. No one wanted to break whatever magic and protection I brought with me by changing my circumstances any, beyond what is needed to keep me alive, at least the first seven years. Every scrap of comfort and knowledge I’ve had to fight for myself until I was seven, when people loosened up a little, except for those seven days. It’s not that it’s an active thing; no one kicks me as I go by. But no one reaches out to pat my hair either. Everything people in the village do in regards to me is to stave off the death during those seven days.
Can you really fault them for it? No one has died during those stupid seven days in 13 years. If the baker had slipped me a fresh loaf, the tanner a new apron, the smith given me a warm place to sleep, might that have changed someone’s fate? I will say it’s been easier since I turned seven. A half burnt loaf placed so I could reach it, a few extra sausages hidden, a ratty old blanket left hanging on the line. Two years ago, when I turned 12, became a woman & still no one died, well the best thing of all happened. I woke up on the eighth day, not in my normal hidey hole, but in a tiny, freshly built cottage, complete with tiny everything-stove, bed, chair, wood pile, & trunk with my few little treasures neatly laid on top.

It was the first time I was thankful that no one was near to pay attention to me, as I lost count of how much I cried that day. It wasn’t that the village hated me, or feared me; they feared the unpredictable death more than they loved me, but this tiny, well built cottage proved something, & it took me a long time to figure out what.

People are human, they like things orderly, predictable, normal, routine. But the seven days of warning had thrown that to the dogs, for a generation before I was ever born. I suppose this explains my parents. Why would they bother to care for an unformed newborn, when the love of their life was right there, right now, & could die at any moment in the next week, or next year? Even after it became apparent no one was dying after I was born, & the mayor announced this, my parents remained completely wrapped up in each other. I suppose that’s why they didn’t notice the first spark from the dirty, clogged up chimney. Would I have noticed? I would have tried to save them, if anyone could, they were my parents. But that choice, as were so many others, were never in my hands.

But to stay, & continue to be mostly ignored for a year & put on show for those seven days, or to leave & see if anything, if everything could be different anywhere that’s not here-or at least threaten it-that’s a choice that’s still up to me, now that I’ve figured out how to move around. It wouldn’t have been possible without my little cottage. After all, how else could I hide a dog, & what I was teaching him to do?

But this year, my 14th year, I find myself more on edge than usual, caught up in the fever of the village. There’s nothing we can do to stop it, save whatever magic is somehow attached to me, and wait.
My birthday is coming.