Monday, March 31, 2014

Day 8: Full Disclosure

Day 8: Full Disclosure Prompt: They toured the house with the real estate agent. "We love it," he said. "Is there anything we should know about the house's past?" The agent looked down.

******************************************************************************************************

They toured the house with the real estate agent.
“We love it,” he said. “Is there anything we should know about the house’s past?”
The agent looked down. “Ah, well. There was a suicide here a few years ago. That’s the reason it’s such a steal.”
Nika’s head turned with a sharp motion. “What happened?”
“Nobody really knows the full story. Right after the house was built, an out-of-towner bought it. The neighbors never saw her, it was like she didn’t live here at all. They assumed she worked really long hours, or something like that, because many nights they wouldn’t even see any lights on. One day there was some problem with her alarm—they never did figure out what had tripped it--and when the police came to check it out, they found her. She had killed herself several days before.”
Carl came over to stand by Nika; he knew how this would affect her. “Where did they find her?”
The agent looked away again, and cleared her throat. “In the master bathtub. She’d taken an overdose of pills.”
Nika turned on her heel and walked back to the bathroom. She searched the surface of the luxurious bathtub, and then sat on the edge; she placed her hands at the head of the tub, and closed her eyes. The surface felt cold to her touch, and smooth; it warmed slowly and began to vibrate gently. She lifted her hands slightly, so that her skin was barely in contact with the glazing; the vibrations moved with her, and intensified, as if reaching for her, like thousands of small strikes of lightning on her fingertips. She continued to focus, waiting, and felt the energy begin to come.
She felt the woman’s emotional pain, but only as the start of what had haunted her. The pain had been replaced by resignation; not a decided-upon acceptance, but an inability to fight any longer. The woman had fought continually, fought for so long, and then the desire to fight had drained from her. There was no moment when it had left; no minute, or day, or even a given week when it abandoned her. It had leaked away, one drop at a time, steadily, until there simply was no more left.
Nika concentrated. There was something here that was different from any other spirit she had channeled. What was it? She’d felt many people’s will drain when they had died slowly of a painful disease, of cancer, of AIDS; that wasn’t new. But this was something else. She drew in the energy, let it wash over her body.
She felt an ache grow in her chest, as though someone were squeezing her lungs. She felt anguish flood through her mind. She leaned into it, tried to experience it with every cell of her body, so she could identify it.
Heartsickness. The woman had been heartsick. Nika could feel repetition pounding through her: over and over, again and again, her heart had been broken, by family, by friends, by her lover. One piece at a time, her hope and her faith had died.
Mariah. Her name had been Mariah. And she needed help. She hadn’t received it in life, but Nika would see that she received it in death.
Nika broke the contact and straightened up. She walked back to the kitchen where Carl stood, distracting the agent. They turned at the sound of the approach.
Carl examined the expression on her face, and then turned to the agent and spoke.
“We’ll buy the house.”


© Michelle M. Chouinard 2014 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

DestructoLog

DestructoLog, Cat Date: Meorw, 8014

So far, operation Mommy Insanity has been unsuccessful. On day 1, we planted a mouse under the floorboards in the bathroom. When the boards were torn up during this hellish construction project, the mouse popped out, right in front of Mommy. When she wasn't scared or angry, and only made a joke out of it, we knew we had to bring out the big guns.

So yesterday, we designed what we thought was the perfect plan. We released another of the mice that we'd previously trapped, directly out into the dog's cage. When the dog behaved in her predictably annoying canine fashion, we deployed our coordinated ambush. We scattered fiercely around the room, taking out any and all strategic targets that we could reach--we even exceeded our grandest hopes and exploded our prime objective, her Starbucks mocha. I was particularly proud of Agent 004, who left behind a path of urine as the ultimate final insult.

Yet still, she retained her calm, and refused to release us from our cruel imprisonment; we rotted in this tiny room with her until dinner time.

I'll admit it--we started to despair for a time. If she was going to remain steadfast in the face of even that destruction, what chance did we have?

We stayed up all night trying to brainstorm a new plan. We sent Agent 001 to sleep with her, so she wouldn't be suspicious of us. Then, right as the sun was coming up, Agent 002 came up with a brilliant idea, tactically nearly as old as Catkind itself: we would use her Achilles' Heel to take down the rest of the her, bringing the beast crippled to its knees, and our imprisonment to an end. She would have to surrender to our demands.

We waited patiently as she started her day, and as she worked through the morning. She saves her work often, so we had to work out the timing carefully to be sure we would cause her to lose as much work as possible. We took turns being both cute and mischievous, thereby keeping her totally off guard. After about 3 hours, we saw our moment, and we sent in Agent 002 on what might have turned out to be a suicide mission.

Agent 002 crawled up on her lap and looked lovingly in her eyes. She nuzzled up to Mommy's head, and then snaked about her neck to the other side of the chair. She jumped up on the desk, and reached over to give Mommy a butterfly kiss. Then, ever so nonchalantly, she wound her way around the back of the laptop...and then SPLOOSH! She knocked the Starbucks mocha over the laptop keyboard with admirable precision.

There was no great joy in watching Mommy scream, and jump, and run for a towel. There was no happiness in watching her dab furiously at the keyboard, trying to soak up the liquid before it was too late, knowing that she would never be successful. We took no pleasure in it. But you see, sometimes in war, you have to take casualties. You have to break some eggs if you want to make an omelet. And when it comes right down to it, we didn't start this war--she only has herself to blame.

First, her touchpad went out, and she realized that something was very wrong. Still she kept dabbing, and then the screen filled with static. Her face filled with horror as she realized her motherboard was shorting out.

When she was on her knees, shaking her fists toward the ceiling and sobbing 'why, why, why??', we knew that we'd won. But we did not rejoice.

I must stop writing now, because I hear her footsteps coming to surrender, and to liberate us. So I will sign off now, refusing to gloat in my triumph.

Wait, what's happening? She's doing something on her smart phone...she's posting an ad on Craig's List...if I could just...make out what it says...wait...

"Four cats seek loving homes. $50 per cat--we pay you."

NNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!


[Human note: This is a dramatization of a TRUE story. Well, except for the Craig's List part. But yes, my computer is dead, and I have to buy a new one. I love my cats. I love my cats. I love my cats...]

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mama said there'd be days like this...

Do you remember the Tasmanian Devil? The one who hung out with Bugs Bunny and when he got annoyed he'd start going 'bbllrrabbbllllrrraapppprrr!!' and turn into a tornado?

I want you to keep that image in your  head. We'll be coming back to it.

I'd love to say that the day started out well, but it didn't really. Today is day two of my pipe-replacement journey, and for the second day, I woke up at 8 am. Now, for those of you who don't know, I am a night owl, and I tend to be up working until at least 2am. Most often, I'm up until 3. So before you get all judgy and play the tiniest violin in the world for me, realize what that means--it means only 5-6 hours of sleep, at the most. If you get up at 6 am, imagine having to get up at 3am, and that's the equivalent. Yes, both nights I tried to go to sleep earlier, but I wasn't able to fall asleep earlier, and I just laid awake unable to fall asleep until it was actually farther past my bedtime than normal. So, to sum up, I'm a little sleep deprived. And I don't wake up well on a good day, when I've had plenty of sleep--I used to have a mug that said 'Just hand me my coffee and back slowly away.' You get the picture.

I got up, and prepped the house. What that means is, the dog has to be out in her dog run, and the cats have to go into a room with me, because 1) they can't be allowed outside, and 2) they'll get in the way of the workers. So I brought them into my 'office' with me, where I sat down to get some work done.

I was excited today because I was going to attend a webinar about writing. I made sure everything was all set up, I had my coffee, and I even had a cozy blanket wrapped around me. Ah, the benefits of working from home. Then the seminar started, and I began to listen. I think these things always start out slowly, which was good, because I hear the workers talking about how the stuff we ordered to put the bathroom into place again won't fit, and new stuff has to be reordered. I don't even have to know how or why, I just know it's going to be expensive. Ah, well, c'est la vie. You have to have working pipes, and that bathroom has to be reassembled afterwards.

I turned my attention back to the webinar, and ignored the chatter. Suddenly, the dog started to bark about something. I don't know what--maybe she saw a cat or a possom or a raccoon in the yard. Maybe some bird was taunting her. Maybe that episode of Cosmos she heard in the background the other day finally registered and she was suddenly hit with the vastness of our universe and the absurdity of life when seen from that context. Who knows.

The point is, she went nuts barking, and then, BAM! There's a huge crash against the side of the house. Perhaps it was the cat or possom or raccoon escaping. Perhaps it was a canine suicide attempt in the face of deep philosophical questions about why we're all on this planet.

Whatever it was, it scared the booboo-jeebies out of the cats, who all jumped simultaneously. Keep in mind that my cats are ninjas, and when they jump, they don't just jump--they leap up walls and furniture. So, when they jumped at the scary noise, the fear was reinforced by the sight of three other cats leaping around them in their peripheral vision. So they each understandably tried to run away from the other cats that were leaping and jumping around them.

Okay, now is when I want you to call in that visual of the Tasmanian Devil.

There were  four cats, all trying to out-run each other, and all doing it up at the top of the room. From the top of one bookcase to another, off the lamp, off the top of the desk, banking off walls, off the top of the shoe rack hanging from the back of the door, all faster than the eye can see and the brain can register. Knocking everything down that was stupid enough to be in their path--pictures, printer paper, the shoe rack and all the shoes, small tchotchkes, magazines, my phone, and most important of all: my beloved Starbucks mocha.

I waited for a few seconds assuming they'd each find a spot of sanctuary to hide behind, before realizing that nope, this tilt-a-whirl was self-sustaining. While each thought the other three were chasing them, they were gonna keep running. And leaping. And destroying.

I should probably mention that this is a pretty darn small room, and I am sitting in (roughly) the middle of it, while four cats are dashing around my head at hyperspeed, claws extended, freaking out. And all I know is that if I move a muscle, I'm most likely going to be shredded. Or peed on. Or both.

Let's pause for a moment to do a little math. Each cat has four paws, each of which has five claws. There are four cats. Four times four times five = eighty. 80 claws, all whirling around my head. I've never been so glad in my whole life not to own any polydactyl cats.

I have no idea why I thought this would work. In retrospect, it was probably a fairly stupid thing to do, but you know how it is at the spur of the moment. I put my hands up and said sternly, in a loud voice just below a yell: CALM. DOWN.

And they did.

Holy crap, they actually did. 

They each went to their metaphorical corners. I looked at them, and they looked out at me with accusatory faces, like I'd been the cause of the whole thing, and I owed them an apology. They looked around, and I swear if they'd been able to speak, they would have said "Damn, what a huge mess! You better get to cleaning this up!"

And they did have a point, so I got to cleaning. I sopped up the mocha, started picking up all the things they'd knocked over, and realized that one of them had voided their bladder while in flight. There was a series of little puddles all around the edge of the room, like the trail of bread that Hansel & Gretel laid down to find their way back home, but only if it was incredibly disgusting and led directly to the depths of hell. For the next half hour, I fell in love all over again with my old friend, the Lysol spray can.

After that, I pried one of the cats off the far corner of the bookcase where he'd tried to become one with the wall, and attempted to bring him out of his dissociative fugue state with a can of his favorite yummy noms. Bupkis. He stared at me like I was the devil and he wanted to shred my face. He is still, at this very moment. It's very disconcerting.

What's the moral of the story? I believe it's this:

Thank goodness the webinar was free.


© Michelle M. Chouinard 2014 All rights reserved.




Friday, March 14, 2014

Black Widow: The Prequel

The following was originally published on another platform on April 29, 2007. After I posted my other spider story, I had a few requests to elaborate on my previous experience with black widows...so I did. To be clear: yes, this absolutely 100% happened to me.

Enjoy! :)



***


Black Widow: The Prequel

I’ve had several requests for me to tell the story of the black widow in my garage that pre-dated the spider in my fireplace…So here goes.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (the California Bay Area; a land normally blissfully free of black widow spiders), Brian decided it was time to buy a new car. After much thought, he picked out the car of his dreams and decided that he wanted the car to be teal. Unfortunately, there was only one of the model he wanted in teal—and it was in a land even farther away: Redding.

So, the dealership drove the car down from Redding, and Brian and I picked it up. It was beautiful beyond words, and we stood staring at it in wonder, holding hands and thinking back to simpler times when life itself was as enchanting. Because it was so beautiful, we parked it inside of the garage; no way were we going to let the elements beat down on its perfect, awe-inspiring body. 

What we didn't realize was...it had a hitch-hiker in it.

We went about our business, doing the things that life demands. A few days later, we went in the garage to load up the car for a trip.

Have you seen the movie ‘Arachnophobia’? In it, there is a scene where a woman finds a huge 20-foot spider web hanging ceiling to floor in her barn. She is stunned by its beauty, and takes pictures of it. Only later does she discover the web was made by a monster-death-spider from hell intent on killing her and her entire family.

(Source)
When we went into the garage, we saw that web. From the top of the garage, to each side of the garage, to the floor of the garage, all around the car, touching various parts of the car: a huge, intricate, intense, 20-foot web.  

I looked at the web and said “Holy S***. I don’t EVEN want to KNOW what made THAT web”. Brian, ever the practical one, said “Um… I think I DO want to know what made that web.”. So, we began to trace the web to its most dense point; this turned out to be the passenger-side wheel-well of the car. Brian took a flashlight and looked into the wheel well. He said ‘It’s a black widow’. I said ‘No way, we don’t have those here. Let me see’. I bent down, and he told me to look where the light was. “I only see a white pod-like thing”, I said. “No, he said, to the left of that.”

I don’t remember making a decision to leave the garage. In fact, I don’t even remember actually leaving the garage. All I know is that the next thing I knew, I was standing in farthest end of the backyard, screaming “Kill it!!! KILL IT!!!!!”. (To this day, Brian says that he’s never seen me move that fast, ever. Even when it involved chocolate.)

So, Brian got some bug spray, and gave the black widow a shot directly in the face. It didn't. Even. Phase her. He gave her another shot, and that didn’t phase her, but it broke the web that she was standing on, and she dropped to the ground, and started to crawl away. Her big mistake was crawling out from under the car; as soon as she did, Brian stomped on her, squishing her little poisonous body.

“Yay!”, you’re thinking, “Brian rules all! He has defeated the dreaded monstrous Shelob-like black widow!!”.  And that’s what I thought, too. Until Brian took a second look at that white pod-like thing. It was a nest…and it was broken open: the babies had hatched out of it. With a feeling of intense horror we stood up slowly and started looking around. Sure enough, there were hundreds of little tiny white spiders walking along the never-ending web that had been spun all over our garage.


(Source)
From the backyard, I found myself again yelling. This time it was ‘We have to bomb the garage and the car! We have to bomb the garage and the car!!!”. Brian said he was worried that the bug bomb would ruin the new paint on his new car. I said he had a choice to make—he could stay married to me or he could keep his car bug-bomb free. Thirty minutes later, after he’d made the pro-con list for each option and come to his informed decision, he decided to bomb the garage and the car.

Since then, we have had no black widows in our Bay Area home.

But fate, with her infinitely dark sense of humor, has sent me to the Central Valley, where black widows roam free, and graze upon the angst of lost souls. Son-of-a-B****.



© Michelle M. Chouinard 2007 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Day 3 writing prompt: Beware of mysterious cookies...

Today is day 3 of my writing prompt boot camp. Today's prompt is this: "One day you come into work and find a cookie mysteriously placed on your desk. Grateful to whoever left this anonymous cookie, you eat it. The next morning you come in and find another cookie. This continues for months until one Day a different object is left—and this time there’s a note."

Okay, so here's what I wrote for my fictional exercise:


For months now, I have been coming into work to find a cookie mysteriously placed on my desk. This is odd for the following reasons: 

1)      I am a freelancer, and I work at home.
2)      I live alone.
3)      I have an alarm system.
4)      My dog instantly eats any form of food that gets left out unattended for more than three seconds.

Despite these suspicious circumstances, I have been eating the cookies each day, for the following reasons:

1)      Cookies are awesome.
2)      Free food doesn’t have calories.
3)      My new interspace yogi has been on this kick lately, continually stressing the importance of recognizing the gifts that the universe sends to me.

See, the old me would have never eaten those cookies. I am a highly paranoid obsessive compulsive with various anxiety disorders, and my previous self would never have even considered putting something into my body unless it was hermetically sealed and came from a fully-researched source. But about a year ago I decided I need to make some changes when the following all happened simultaneously:

1)     My boyfriend left me for refusing to have sex unless he could guarantee there would be no transmission of any bodily fluids.
2)      I got fired from my job for going through 6 gallons of hand sanitizer in a single week.
3)      My psychiatrist threatened me with an intense horse tranquilizer + chlomipramine regimen if I didn’t stop calling his office 3 times a day.

Yes, compulsive list-making is a part of my problem. And no, I haven’t made a lot of progress yet, and I think that’s a little rude and presumptive of you to say, frankly. I mean, okay, you're right, I haven’t really managed to make any changes but one--the cookies. But my yogi says that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step right? And it takes about a journey of a thousand miles to burn off one chocolate chip cookie right? And when the student is ready, the teacher appears (my yogi says that, too). So when the cookies began appearing, I began a-eating.

So far so good. Until today. Today there was no cookie. When I looked at my desk, there was a remote control and a note. I haven’t read the note yet, I’m too excited! What could be next for me? Twix bars? Cake?? Do I have to use the remote on some magical bakery box?? So many possibilities…I just can’t wait any longer. I’m going to take a look at it now:

“Dear Earthling—
You are the first of your kind that has willingly eaten the nanobot technology disks we’ve been leaving for you. Our deepest thanks! As of yesterday, you have ingested the necessary number of nanobots for us to begin synthesis. Around 5pm tonight, we will deploy the last of the engineer protocols, and launch final fusion. From this point on, all of your bodily functions will have to be orchestrated with the use of the attached remote, until we are able to beam you onto our ship, at which time we will take over all of your physical and mental functioning for you.  You needn’t worry about any discomfort; at the earliest opportunity, we will arrange for a basic neurological reprogramming for you. After that, we will return you to earth, where we will control you remotely from the ship. We will use you to learn all we can about earth, and to begin infiltration of your species and colonization of your planet.

Thank you so much for helping us with our experiment! Future generations of our people thank you for your sacrifice!”


Wait, what? Nanowhat? Infiltration WHAT?

Oh fuck this, and fuck my yogi. Where are those damned horse tranquilizers?

© Michelle M. Chouinard 2014 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Break-up Letter to Writer's Block

My whole life, I've been a writer. I had a short story (very short) published in the newspaper in a children's competition when I was in elementary school. I've won essay contests. I've always loved to write in some form, even if it was just in my journal at times.

But for most of my adult life, my writing has been professional--when I was in school it was academic papers for classes, and then it transitioned into journal articles, book chapters and finally a book (albeit a short one) as a research psychologist. Even during those times of purely non-fiction, professional writing, I had personal blogs and other creative outlets on the side.

I've always wanted to write a fiction novel, and I had an idea for one come to me a couple of years ago. I wrote a tiny bit here and there, but the life of a professor is a busy one, and a novel is no small undertaking, so it remained mostly a 'someday' sort of dream for a long time, until I discovered National Novel Writing Month in 2012. I committed to doing my best that year, knowing I probably wasn't going to make the full 50,000 words, but determined to use it as a tool to get as far as I could. I ended up just a few words shy of 25,000 words, and ended the month without my 'winner' certificate, but with a new-found confidence that I could and would write my novel.

My work responsibilities continued until I left my then-job in August of last year, which allowed me to put a lot of negative forces in my life behind me; interestingly, I'm more busy now with my new responsibilities than I was then, but I seem to have so much more time and energy for writing, because the toxic aspects of that situation are no longer a weight on my soul (those sorts of things shouldn't have such an impact, but they do, don't they? Ah, well, that's a story for another time and place). The point is, as I transitioned into the groove of my new responsibilities, I made sure from the start to carve out an area in my life for writing. That set the scene for NaNoWriMo 2013, where I was able to write my 50,000 words, and more--at the end of the month, my novel was nearly 90,000 words long. I cannot recommend NaNoWriMo highly enough--it's a blessing for people like me who need to a way to shut off their 'internal editors' and just get words down on paper.

I've continued on strong since then, and have finished my first draft, which I've been advised I should set aside for a few weeks before I start my revision process. In the meantime, I've also been advised to keep writing every day. As part of this daily writing, I've started a series of writing exercises with a writing buddy, to help me work out those fiction muscles that have been in the background of my non-fiction professional writing for so long.

The first of those exercises, a part of Writer's Digest's Writing Prompt Boot Camp.  In this exercise, you're supposed to write a letter breaking up with writer's block that starts with the prompt "Dear Writer's Block, it's not you, it's me...". The exercise put into words the lessons that NaNoWriMo helped me learn, advice that I've found echoed in the advice of a number of successful writers since.

Here, for your general amusement, is my official break-up with Writer's Block.


***


Dear Writer's Block,
                It's not you, it's me. For a long time now, I've done things your way. I'll sit in front of my computer screen, and second-guess myself until I'm frozen like the arctic in winter. (Wait, are there seasons at the north and south pole? I don't think so...dammit, I knew I should have paid attention in my college geography class). See, there I go again. I'll start to write, but before I finish a sentence, I'm already going back and second-guessing every word I wrote. I hear the voices in my head telling me that what I'm writing is stupid, and that I'm choosing the wrong words, and really, do I want to write it like that, and OMG, how ridiculous was that last phrase? So I delete. And then I start again, and before I'm halfway done, the voices start up again. So I delete again. Until I sit, frozen. Tapping my finger on the keyboard, but not pressing any keys.
                Then I decide that the problem is my idea--it sucks. Nobody would ever want to read anything on that topic, so why am I wasting my time? What is the point of sitting here writing about crap that nobody will ever read? No point, none at all. Why not just go play Candy Crush until I get a real idea, for heaven's sake?
                Or, I have a decent idea, or at least I think I do, and I sit down to write, and then I realize: how am I supposed to write without having everything plotted out? I don't know how this is going to end. Or, I know how it's going to end, but I don't know how to start! Or I know how to start, but I'm not sure how to get to the end from there. No, what I need to do is, plot it out in my head. And while I'm plotting, probably the best thing to do is...play Candy Crush.
                But see, I've come to realize, I'm better than that. I don't mean I'm a better writer than that. What I mean is, I might be the worst writer in the world--but I'm not going to let that stop me.  I read a quote today from an famous writer who says, in essence, that in order to be a writer, you have to be brave enough to write badly. I take that to mean that if you aren't brave enough to just sit down and let yourself write without being afraid that your word choice or you sentence structure or your idea is horrible, you'll never write anything. If you aren't brave enough to start writing out what plot you do have because you're too worried you'll never figure out the rest, you'll never get any sort of plot put down on paper at all. I've got to be brave enough to just write what I write, and take the chance that it will suck. Because if I do that and I end up with a bunch of pages that suck--I can fix them.  But If I write nothing at all...well, I'll have nothing, and nothing gives you very little to work with.
                So I get now that it isn't you that's getting in my way--there is no writer's block. There is only my fear that what I put down onto paper won't be good enough. And once I strip that away, the words will start to flow. And then I'll have something to work with.

Sincerely,

Michelle

© Michelle M. Chouinard 2014 All rights reserved.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Spider Mis-adventures...

[This was originally posted on a previous, now-defunct blog of mine on April 23, 2007. Enjoy!]
*** 

Who's married to the moron?

My husband is. 

In case you didn’t already have it, here’s proof that not only am I a moron, I am a special brand of moron.

When I got home tonight, I noticed what looked like a black widow spider near my fireplace. When I went over to it to see if there was a red hourglass on his nasty little black body, he ran away, under the fireplace, where I could no longer see him, nor crush him into oblivion.

(Source)
For those of you who have not heard of my arachnophobia-esque black widow horror story, and for those who don’t know I’ve previously found 2 black widows in my Central Valley garage, I should probably explain my spider philosophy. I love spiders, I think they are great, they eat all kinds of little pesky bugs, and so I generally leave them alone. However, if the spider is black with a red hourglass or brown with a violin marking, well, then, one of us has to go.

I ran through my options. The aforementioned crushing was out. I couldn’t lift the grill and squash him, because that sort of thing (putting your fingers where a black widow might be) is exactly what gets a black widow pissed off, and guarantees a bite. I couldn’t spray under the fireplace because it uses both electricity and gas (don't ask me to explain, I can't), and I don’t need it exploding and blowing up my house just to take out a black widow (although I did consider this option very seriously for about 5 minutes before rejecting it). So, I came to the conclusion that we’d just have to live in tentative harmony. Black widows usually don’t seek people out anyway, so, live and let live, right?

Yeah, that lasted for about 10 minutes, until I started to have visions of black-widow spiders crawling up my bedspread in the middle of the night and biting my face while mumbling ‘think you’re gonna scare ME into hiding under the fireplace b*tch?!’. These visions of course began to play over and over in my mind, on a seemingly endless loop.

So I called my go-to-guy, and asked him what to do. He told me he had bought some special bug stuff that you spray around the bottoms of walls and such to keep insects from coming in, and I should just spray some around the bottom of the fireplace. 

Genius. Sunshine and happiness reigned over all. *Cue choir of angels.*

Off I skipped...I got out the bug spray, and was impressed by how cute it was—it was a big ol' container, with a hose coming out of the side of it, and a little spray nozzle attached to the end of the hose. I carried it over to the fireplace, pointed, and pulled the trigger. 

Nothing happened.

“What do I do now?” said I. Um...Oh yeah. Probably reading the instructions might be a good idea.

Derp, I forgot to lift the release mechanism, and to twist the nozzle in order to open it up. So I lifted the mechanism, and then looked at the nozzle so that I could see how to turn it. Then I turned it, and it definitely opened up—and sprayed me directly in the face with a full shot of bug pesticide. Right IN THE MOUTH.

Luckily I don’t go around with my mouth hanging open (usually), so the pesticide didn’t go inside, only on the lips and the surrounding area. But still (I’m thinking), that can’t be good.

I went to the bathroom and washed my face 10 times. Now when I opened my mouth I tasted chemicals, but I didn't know if what I was tasting was the pesticide chemicals or the soap chemicals, because I was so panicked that I used the hand-soap to wash my face, and I wasn't familiar with what that tastes like. So I brushed my teeth, and rinsed with Listerine™. Now all I was able to taste was the Listerine™, so I didn't know if the pesticide was gone, or if it was just being covered up with the freakishly strong taste of the Listerine™. Son-of-a-four-legged-prostitute.

As an academic, I place high stock in the written word, so, I went to read the warning label on the bug-spray. The bottle had all kinds of stuff about what to do if you get the chemicals in your eyes, but nothing about what to do if you ingest them. All I could think was, "Wait, huh? There’s ALWAYS at least one warning about ingestion on everything! WTF??"

So, I called the emergency hot-line number listed on the bottle. They were closed for the night: apparently, if you have an emergency after 8pm EST, you’re on your own.

Now I started to feel a panic attack coming on. In my mind, I could feel the chemicals burning my mouth, and I could sense them being absorbed into my bloodstream. How long did I have before my veins started to collapse? How long before my heart shut down? Did I have enough time to send an e-mail to all my loved ones telling them I wish I'd spent more time with them? Would it be a painful death? Or would it come on silently as I slept?

Just as I was about to throw the phone across the room, the phone voice says ‘if you’d like to be connected to the poison control line, press one’. Do I? Do I?? Whoo-hoo! I’m saved!

Luckily, the main poison control line has this cool thing where they can look up the UPC of your product and tell you if you’re going to die in your sleep because you sprayed it in your face. So I gave the guy the number and told him what happened, and to his credit, he didn't really laugh very much at all. In fact, he told me it’s pretty common for people to leave the bottle out and have their dog come along and eat off the nozzle and ingest the pesticide. 

(Wait, did he just tell me I’m about as smart as a dog? Couldn’t he have pretended that some other human has done this?). 

He also told me that I’m not going to go into convulsions at any minute, and all I have to do is wash my face and rinse my mouth. And I’m pretty sure that I only imagined him saying ‘Hey Lou, you gotta come hear this one!’ as he was hanging up the phone.

Crisis averted. What a relief! 

Funny, going through something like that can really make you come close to peeing your pants. Okay, maybe only if you're an anxiety case like me. The point is, I had to visit the ladies room, now that my life had been saved. 

And that’s when I discovered that my toilet was plugging up.

I decided it might be smart to hold off on trying to fix that tonight.


***

[Addendum: When I first posted this, one of my friends posted a comment in response that said 'Congratulations! Your life is a scene from an episode of the Simpsons!' For your viewing pleasure, I have linked a few seconds of that scene for you here. I've been assured it's much funnier when you haven't lived it. ]

© Michelle M. Chouinard 2007 All rights reserved.