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Monday, August 27, 2012

Fiction Happens

Whether it writes itself, or has to be scraped out of the inside of your skull with a serrated grapefruit spoon, whether squeezed from the very bottom of your tube, or lured with bribes and threats... stories do come out of people and fiction happens. 

The alchemy of 26 letters + time + effort + other mysterious, unidentifiable ingredients... eventually equals a story where nothing previously existed. 

Libraries, magazines, on-line journals, newspapers, bed side tables, drugstores, bookstores and bathrooms are so full of these stories that we don’t take their existence as surprising or improbable.  In fact, we’re so blaze’ that we’re not even tempted to burn their creators as witches for having called these fictions up from the nothingness.

As readers we either like or do not like these stories, similar to the casual way that dogs either eat or do not eat the dead. We’re perfectly comfortable praising and castigating, scorning, dissecting, recommending and reviling other people’s creations. 

But when you have finished writing a story, or even a draft of a story, and it looks up at you, arms outstretched to be lifted from its crib, you can’t help but feel amazed at the perfectly impossible and miraculous thing that has so mysteriously occurred.  


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Slug vs Crop

Naked Eggplant
When my tomatoes suddenly vanished along with every leaf off my eggplant and cucumber plants, I figured the same cheeky squirrel who polished off my peaches was to blame.

My husband faulted our new dog Wally for not taking his squirrel-chasing duties seriously enough, unlike  dearly-departed, dedicated-crop-defender, Sweetie-the-Dog, our old black lab.
Historical Bad Guy

But then a friend in the know, knowingly said, “I bet you’ve got slugs.”  

We peeked under a planter and discovered a globular, wad of gooey matter stuck to the bottom of the pot.  Yep, slugs. Lots. Ew. 

Realization #1. I am a furist, defined as: One who finds annoying but pardonable behavior at the paws of the furry, way less adorable when the perp is slimy. And maybe I’m also a boniest, in that I prefer those with at least a bit of skeleton.

I posted a confession of my newly discovered personal bias on facebook, but friends assumed I was looking for The Final (Slug) Solution.  One recommended I try sluggo. Another suggested fobbing them into the neighbor’s yard as she did her snails. A third suggested beer, saying the wee lushes were drawn to the smell, and drown drunk and happy.

I called a house meeting.  
  • Husband, himself a big fan of the beer-cure for most ailments and conundrums, reserved judgement. 
  • Non-red-meat eating daughter said, “No killing. Period. No discussion necessary. Slugs are sentient, cucumbers are not. The end." 
  • Her visiting friend said, "Slugs are not indigenous so we should feel free to kill them." I did not ask his stand on immigration but pointed out that neither our family nor our tomatoes were from around here, either.
  • Philosophy-major-son wanted to discuss the ethical, moral ramifications /justifications of any killing.
And someone pointed out that we can’t really know that drowning in beer is a painless death. Isn’t it entirely possible the alcohol would sting their weird slippery skin?

Other questions were raised: How badly did I need my tomatoes? asked the child who does not like tomatoes and wonders why I persist in growing things she hates, such as vegetables. 
And: How much protection do we owe the plants we plant? Aren’t they entirely dependent on us? 

Slug One
We decided to have a look at the culprit. We upended a planter and scooped a small, muddy, slug out on the tip of a leaf. It curled slowly away from our prying eyes. 

We brought out a bigger slug. Much easier to see the details, the gill hole, the blue feeler-things. It crawled around on the leaf, fat, and slow, like the sainted, Sweetie-the-Dog. Son pointed out that it had a Fu-Manchu mustache.

And it had a face.

Realization #2. Having a face (slug) trumps not having a face (tomato).  

And that was that, Faceists all. So much for my time and attention, my water, my fertilizer, my compost, my grubby fingernails and salad dreams. My gardening adventure comes to a sluggish end, and it's the produce section at Ralph’s here on in.