So, I’ve been in Fargo, North Dakota.

My uncle — my mother’s younger brother — died suddenly, so my mother and her sister, my two cousins and I all traveled back to Fargo for the funeral.

I wish I’d remembered my camera, but I didn’t.

I grew up spending every summer of my life there, mostly at my grandparents’ lake cottage just over the border in Minnesota, so in a certain sense it feels more like home than anywhere.

My grandfather was one of nine who all grew up in Fargo. He and his three brothers inherited the family construction and hotel empire and stayed in Fargo, while his five sisters all moved away, mostly to St. Paul. I love their names. There was Francis Urban, Thomas Lawrence, Joseph, and Edward Patrick. The girls were Elizabeth, Eloise, Ann, DeRicci and Ruth. Now that my uncle is dead, only one of the third generation lives in Fargo, my mother’s cousin Young Eddie. Eddie’s daughter, little Ann, and her family live there, and from the looks of it will stay, and there are other cousins not too far away, mostly, again, in “The Cities.” My great-grandfather’s construction company still exists, although I don’t think anyone in the family still works there. My Uncle Joe did, but he is long since dead, and Eddie did, but he’s long retired.

The story is that my great grandfather came to Fargo as a bricklayer from St Paul right after a huge fire wiped out most of the city and from that built his construction company. Most of the buildings downtown, in that upper midwest way, are made of dark brick.

Strangely, also, the downtown, which was really dead 20 years ago, is hopping again. The town feels prosperous — or comfortable, anyway.

Lilacs were blooming everywhere.

My uncle, it turns out, had made a sort of specialty of selling houses for people who lived way out in the small towns — mostly for older people who were selling and moving into town. It seems that no one else was really interested in doing that, but he was in no particular hurry, and didn’t really need much money, so he would do it. He lived a pretty modest life, in a small apartment with some of the Roman posters from our old lake cottage on the wall, and the two leather armchairs that used to flank my grandparents’ fireplace in his living room, and a lot of camera equipment. He took a lot of pictures. He was a sort of quiet guy, and that’s pretty much what he did.

Eddy told me about my uncle’s life. I mean, I’ve known him all my life, but he was a very quiet guy. Eddy was the wild cousin who drove cars too fast and drank too much. They weren’t close, he said, although they were pretty close in age, but they would call each other every week or so. Eddy told me about Larry’s real estate business with some respect and said, “He had a very very lonely life.” I get the impression that while there were benefits to being one of my mother’s and Larry’s and Eddie’s generation, there were things about it that weren’t so great.

I remember going back when my grandfather died, which was about 25 years ago. My Great-Uncle Joe was quite ill at the time, lying in a hospital bed in the sun room. Unce Joe and Aunt Kate had a marble floor in the dining room of their little Fargo house, which incensed my grandmother. As long as I’d known him he’d had very white hair and a round pink face. We went to see him. I don’t even know if he knew who we were. He was crying, and quite upset, and he kept saying, quite loudly, “I’m the only one left. I’m the only one left.” He could not be consoled.

It really ought to be a novel

heading home . . .

Moonstone update:

Rachel behaving very oddly.
London detective suspects her, in concert with suspicious housemaid Rosanna Spearman.
I happen to know (due to insatiable curiosity and bad reading habits) that it IS NOT RACHEL.
I know part of who is it, but not the actual who.
I am very curious.

It also so clearly follows the actual case of Road Hill House, a real incident which is described in The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, about a flower-loving successful londond detective, who was, I guess, the first detective and the sort of model for the first detective novels. But things like people in a house, the town nearby, a soiled nightgown, a laundry list . . .

Really, I recommend it.

Reader not a writer, pt. 2

The Rules: (This story virus comes to me from Necromancy never pays)

Here’s what I would like to do. I want to create a story that branches out in a variety of different, unexpected ways. I don’t know how realistic it is, but that’s what I’m aiming for. Hopefully, at least one thread of the story can make a decent number of hops before it dies out.

If you are one of the carriers of this story virus (i.e. you have been tagged and choose to contribute to it), you will have one responsibility, in addition to contributing your own piece of the story: you will have to tag at least one person that continues your story thread. So, say you tag five people. If four people decide to not participate, it’s okay, as long as the fifth one does. And if all five participate, well that’s five interesting threads the story spins off into.

Not a requirement, but something your readers would appreciate: to help people trace your own particular thread of the narrative, it will be helpful if you include links to the chapters preceding yours.”

The Story

The ground crunched beneath my feet. Besides my noisy footsteps, I heard only the sound of the gentle crackling fire behind me. Its faint orange light lazily revealed my immediate surroundings. Beyond the glow, there was total blackness. I whistled. I took the small rock I had been carrying and whipped it away from me, expecting a thud, crack or plop — but a soft yelp of a cry answered. (Splotchy)

“Crap! I forgot all about Monster,” I realized. “I must be drunker than I thought,” I spoke aloud to no one in particular, though an owl answered my drunken slur. Ever since my neighbors have been giving me grief for the way Monster chases their cats and poops in their lawn, I haven’t felt comfortable staying in my house. I’m pretty sure my landlady is thinking about evicting me, so I’ve decided to lay low for a while.

To the surprise of no one… (Freida Bee)

The night turned darker. A storm blew in. It was, in fact, a dark and stormy night. Too drunk to worry about Monster’s rock-inflicted head wound, I stumbled back to the campfire, where I found the ghosts of John Fante and Charles Bukowski roasting hot dogs, drinking whiskey and singing sad songs about women. The ghost of Fante whispered in my ear, tales of love and loss, and I found myself walking slowly down the trail to the river, where I suddenly found myself…(Lass)

Falling down an embankment. Instead of rolling into the river, I landed on what felt like a raft. I crawled around it, the storm pelting down on me, adhering my thin clothes to my body like a second, very wet, skin, and discovered that it was indeed a raft. I could feel the huge humps of the logs (smooth and barkless, unlike Monster, the cur!) that had been lashed together with a waxy hemp. A pretty decent job, from the looks of it. Not that I could see anything; the storm had rendered the night blacker than the farthest corner of a monster-filled closet. If I could find where it was tethered to the shore, I could cut it loose, leave this place and all these drunken hallucinations for good. Hell, I could even…..(FreshHell)

…float all the way down to New Orleans! I chuckled softly to myself at the idea of floating all the way down river. I ran my hand over the raft. It seemed sturdy enough. The lashings were so tight I couldn’t even slide my fingernail underneath. The raft was made for real work. Maybe it wasn’t such a crazy idea. “But I’ll need a pole,” I said out loud. Monster whined from the top of the embankment. I scrambled off the raft and back up the steep slope. “C’mon, Monster!” He froze for a moment than followed my zigzag path back down the hill. I spotted a dead tree, not too tall, not too big around, I thought I could just about handle. I grabbed the trunk about shoulder height and leaned forward on it, walking my feet up the bottom of the trunk until I heard it crack and jumped off before I fell on it. It took some hard twisting and turning, but eventually I freed it. Dragging it down to the raft, I turned back to look at Monster, who was snapping at the branch end. “Laissez les bons temps roulez, Monster.” I picked him up and put him on the raft. He sniffed around for a minute, then walked around it three times and lay down right in the middle. I leaned my tree pole against the raft, felt around in the dark for the rafts’ tether, unhooked it, and climbed on, pulling the pole on behind me. I was suddenly very, very tired. “G’night, Monster,” I said, curling up next to dog’s warm body. He thumped his tail once before we were both asleep.

It seemed like only a minute later when I was jolted out of my sleep by a loud crack. I opened my eyes and saw…(Harriet M. Welsch)
Monster, all 95 pounds of him, ascending into the sky at a very fast rate. Then I heard a second crack and felt a rushing wind all around until, WHACK! I landed against a metal grate. I felt Monster’s coarse fur under one hand and then suddenly the wind died and we slid from the metal grate onto a smooth, warm surface. I looked up into the face of…uh, could it be? The face was unmistakably that of a young Elvis. “Greetings” he intoned. “Welcome to our ship. Come this way.”

I followed his gyrating hips through a doorway and into… (Jeanne)

what looked like a giant industrial freezer, which was odd because the air was warm, fetid even. We walked through hanging plastic freezer strips into a larger room, dimly lit except on the sides where, again behind plastic freezer strips, what appeared to be large plants were growing. It smelled like peat moss, or a butterfly room, or the jungle. Monster had gone before me, and I saw him, teeth bared, looking at Elvis. Or what had appeared to be Elvis. As I watched, Elvis’s face and then his body split in two, cracking open like a cocoon to reveal a strange creature, like a stalk of wheat which opened out, as I watched, into a 4 foot leafy bush, except it was a bush covered in fur.
“Monster, no!” I cried, as barking wildly, the dog advanced on the creature.
“Do not worry.” I felt the words, like warm syrup, pour into my head. I realized I had not heard them. Effortlessly, without appearing to move, I could only believe that it was the plant creature that caused the 100 pound Newfoundland dog to become encased in a glowing irridescent pod, which covered first his head, growing quickly down his body until it closed in his tail, which I could still see, quivering, between his two hind legs. I saw, through the pod, as he barked once and then closed his eyes.
“What do you want?” I cried in horror.

I’m tagging The Coffee Lady, Lynn, and Eleanor. If anyone else would like to participate, leave me a comment and I’ll happily add you.

A somber memorial day

Okay, so I didn’t wash the kitchen floor.

I did plant a whole flat of thyme along the side walk, weed the front, mulch the front and attack the huge nest of blackberry vines hiding in the nasturtiums under the pineapple guava, unearthing four rosebushes in the process.

Go me!

We also managed to eat dinner! We grilled porkchops and ate them under the apple tree. The first outdoor eating of the summer — very appropriate.

And I did the laundry.

I was so extremely productive that I think I need a little nap now. Sadly, I’m at work.

Maybe coffee.

I’m feeling very fit and gardenery — I think every muscle I have (not very many) hurts from digging and fighting with blackberry vines, which are not only prickly but extremely tenacious and wily. Also, I am now noticing that my fingernails are not quite clean. Hmmm.

Also, I planted a nine-bark shrub, which I think will be nice.

coffee . . .

Plans for today

Today I really am going to wash the kitchen floor.

I suppose this means I really should clean the kitchen first.

This is turning into an all day project.

Maybe if I start right now I can be done by noon.

Don’t mind me — I’m just talking to myself.


(I got the garden arch up. I did just cut off the offending piece. I don’t see what else I could have done. Anyway, the birds enjoy sitting in it. AND I think the bird story is that they are chickadees, including some youthful chickadees whose parents are chasing them around trying to feed them. It’s funny. Also, when I’m watering, they seem to want to fly near me. Does this make any sense?)

Okay. That’s all.

We also seems to have some goldfinches and then some reddish birds. Red finches? I don’t know.

Perhaps I’ll sit outside and read for a while before attempting this herculean task. It’s cold, so I won’t be too long I think.

Moonstone update: Rachel inherited the cursed gem, wore it to her party which caused things to go wrong, insisted on keeping it in her room and now it has been stolen.

Who can have done it?


I am currently trying to put together a garden arch.

It should be simple, except that one of the pieces is bent. I am currenly contemplating just cutting it off.

Actually, I don’t know what else to do. I’ve tried banging on it with a hammer which did nothing.



K has finished some horrible job (well, perhaps not horrible, but time-consuming) and is home, which is unusual, and poking around here and there. I asked him what he was doing, and he said, “Testing things. Testing things and throwing things out. Batteries, headphones.”


K’s sense of order is odd — a small pile of papers in the middle of the kitchen table would not be considered unorderly — but it does exist. Soon, we will have all the headphones in the house collected and tested. Woe to the person who left her headphones sitting somewhere in plain sight. They will be scooped up and sorted.

It’s a cold day, and M is out with friends — probably freezing, now that I think about it.

I got my pushmower back from the repair man. It’s amazing. It actually cuts now. It used to just twine the grass up around its drum and get stuck. Now it goes snip snip snip and bits of grass fly around. It’s amazing.

There have been bird wars in my backyard. The hummingbirds get very angry and divebomb the other birds, but the pineapple guava tree is in bloom and it is too great a temptation for birds and squirrels. They cannot keep away. There is also a very pretty dark bird with a white breast and a pointy beak who’s been sitting on the clothes line. I though he was a nuthatch, but he might be too big. There’s a whole flock of some other small bird — maybe they are nuthatches — who are so small they can sit happily in the rose bushes. They’ve been swooping around and around lately, and they don’t seem to mind me at all. There are probably 6 of them, and they’re usually together.

Then there are some robins.

N is coming home soon, and I suppose I ought to get the jackets and snowpants out of her room. It is nice to have an extra room to stuff things in. It will be great to see her, although I worry that she will be very very bored living with the old people here . . . It’s quite an adventure getting her and her belongings down to my mother’s house. My sister-in-law and my 8 year old nephew are going up to get her. Actually, he is a lot of fun. Hopefully N will show him around. I am sure there will be something interesting going on. Maybe he’ll go to B. Actually, I think it would be a pretty good fit for him. As much as one can tell with an 8 year old. Well, you can tell a lot, I think.

I am in the middle of The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins, which is quite good. Rachel is about to inherit the cursed gem. . . . I wonder what will happen.

Anyway. Now I’m going to go eat. I am famished.


It is very late.

I’m the last one in the office, and it’s really past time to go home.

We’ll have to gnaw on sticks tonight, because I have absolutely no plans for dinner.

It’s nearly summer.


No news

N is off on a 4 day field trip.

My mother, who has agreed to pick her up from school in June, is very worried about all the details, and when they can pick N up and then what they will do.

It does seem to me that there’s time enough to worry about all that, but then, I have been known to be somewhat loose with planning, generally.

I wonder if, as seems to be the general pattern, this will change as I age.

I bet not.

M had a three day weekend and is back at school. She came downstairs last night and said, “I’m so bored. I’m so bored I have to think of something to do or I’m not sure I can go on living!” I think it was the Latin. Dido is about to kill herself, which one would think would be somewhat interesting, but apparently not. Anyway, she watched an episode of Sex and the City and then seemed to be all right. Probably good that the weekend is over.

Here where I work the general consensus seems to be that the university is about to go under. I’m hoping that’s not quite true.

I guess I’ll know soon enough.