Friday, October 31, 2008


Our gap-toothed pumpkin face is carved and lit,
A witches' squadron rides our windowpane,
As vampires, devils, ghouls, in counterfeit,
Seek treats or trickery at our door again.
My children hold me tightly by the hand,
As I escort their Halloween debut;
They shrink from every boisterous beggars' band
Because they fear the trumpery is true.
So I explain and soothe and hold them close
And show them all is clever-made deceit:
Each Frankenstein, a playmate grandiose;
Each ghost, a neighbor child wound in a sheet.
But yet a sound, a touch, a shadow--hark!
I glance behind my shoulder in the dark.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fully Accounted For

The man walked carefully down the dark street. He had been out with friends and was still a little drunk, so they had dropped him off a few blocks from home to walk it off. Even after midnight, his neighborhood was notoriously safe.

He marked his progress by the halogen streetlights that gleamed periodically through the slight haze. His door was only three short blocks away and the cool wet air felt good in his lungs.

Another figure emerged from the dark ahead of him--a woman, he thought. He strained his eyes to make her out. She looked vaguely like his mother, he realized. No, more like his ex-wife. His daughter? His girlfriend? The waitress at the corner cafe? She seemed familiar but he knew he'd never seen her before.

The woman was almost on a level with him now and he openly stared at her. Her face was slack and expressionless, her eyes unseeing. Dark hair hung lank to her shoulders. Who was she? What was she? A feeling of apprehension swept over him.
Suddenly, never slackening her pace, she swerved into his path. "Are you fully accounted for?" she asked in a hollow voice.

"What?" He slowed for a second as his mind replayed what she had said. What did it mean? His heart started pounding loudly and a frisson of fear shook him.

The woman glided by him with no sound of footsteps and he knew without looking that she had turned and was now walking only a few feet behind him. He picked up his pace a little, but not too much. It was important for some reason not to show fear. After all, only two more blocks and he'd be home.

Another figure materialized out of the mist and he was somewhat relieved. Safety in numbers. He smiled. The sidewalk was unusually well populated tonight.

His blood ran cold. It was another woman, similar to the first--in fact, identical. She swerved in front of him as before and repeated in a voice from the tomb, "Are you fully accounted for?"

"What do you mean?" he sputtered. But she didn't answer, just glided by, and he knew she had joined her sister behind his back.

He walked even faster and another woman appeared out of the mist. My God, what was going on? Was he being stalked? Why? Who?

"Are you fully accounted for?" she asked, turning her pale head in passing. He felt her join the pair behind his back.

The pack was gathering, he thought. Were they vampires? Their mouths seemed strangely cavernous and gaping, but there was--as yet--no attack. He rolled up his collar as he walked. Maybe it was all his imagination. Maybe he was still drunk, drunker than he had thought.

Another woman appeared out of the dark. "Are you fully accounted for?" she asked, then passed him by to join her sisters.

Why were they all the same? Was he going crazy? Haunted by quadruplets? What had he done to deserve this? Why him? Another woman joined the throng, and another, each with the same cryptic question.

What was he supposed to answer? Would they leave him alone if he answered? Why didn't he turn around and confront them?

He was almost at a trot now, but the women were coming thick and fast, as if to match his pace, and each one with that same damnable question. How many were there behind him? He'd lost count, but he knew they were there, like a tribe of madwomen.

Ah, he was safe! There was his door. He felt in his pocket for the key and had it ready as he mounted the stoop.

This was the bad part, having to stop as he unlocked the door. Damn, it was the wrong key. He could feel the women gathering around him. They seemed to suck all the air up. No, don't look up! Don't acknowledge them! He went through his key chain, finally found the right one, then inserted it in the lock. The door opened smoothly and he swung it open, turning to give the women a triumphant grin.

The street light twinkled onto an empty street. He breathed deeply and stepped into his dark, quiet house, flipping on the dim hall light as he did so.

From the end of the hall a female figure materialized. Her lank hair framed a pale face. Her eyes were shadowed and her mouth seemed cavernous.

"Are you fully accounted for?" she asked as she glided past him.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fio's Pen Name?

Fio has to think up a pen name for when she hits it big as a romance writer.

What a trip! It's like when she was a little girl and would make up fantasies in her mind, the heroine of which always had a wonderful, beautiful name, like Theodora or Penelope or Victoria Anastasia.

To be able to name oneself is the ultimate power. Our parents named us when we were infants, little knowing what we would become--priests, serial killers, or naked movie stars. As adults, we know who we are, or at least who we want to be, so supposedly we can rename ourselves appropriately.

Hmmm.... how about Victoria Anastasia?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Crash Magnet II

As my experience goes, it's not unusual to have the same sort of auto accident a certain number of times in a short time period. Several years ago I was hit three times within a month--when my car was parked! About five years ago I was hit three times during the Christmas season--all of them by people backing out of parking places at stores.

And then there were a few periods, better forgotten, when I did the hitting--three times within a couple of months.

My automobile luck seems to work by the Rule of Three. Since Husband's vehicles have been rear-ended twice this week, let's hope his luck works by the Rule of Two.

Ooops! Late-breaking news: Husband's rental car was scraped on the side earlier in the day, which fulfills the Rule of Three. He's in the clear from now on.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Crash Magnet

Husband was just rear-ended on Burnet Road this morning. The woman who hit him said she was looking down for a second and didn't realize the traffic in front of her had slowed. The same thing happened to him earlier in the week, with a different woman, on the freeway.

Usually I'm the one involved in auto accidents. My last one was a year ago, when I ran a stop sign and hit a brand-new SUV. I didn't do much damage to the SUV, needless to say, but my little MX-5 was very nearly totaled. I couldn't figure out why I had missed seeing the sign until my peripheral vision was tested--I was about 33 percent occluded.

Now, thanks to eyelid surgery, I am bright-eyed, literally, and bushy-tailed, figuratively.

Meanwhile I have told Husband that I understand his magnetic attraction, but, in the future, would he please keep these forward women off his tail.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Take your toys and go away--
Fio does not want to play
Because she is depressed today--
What about she cannot say.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Masks and Tails

I think every book is, in essence, a mystery novel because the way to keep a reader interested is to throw out hints of things to come, things the reader wants to know the answer to. If nothing else, what in the world is going to happen next?

For instance, in "Little Red Ridinghood," we wouldn't have a story if the wolf hadn't approached Lil' Red early in the game. The mystery is what the wolf will do next. Or, even more basic, why in the world did the author introduce a hungry wolf, and how will the leering lupine satisfy his horrible hunger in a way that involves our hooded heroine?

Ooops, --do I feel an erotica coming on?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Dead Man's Chest

His ship is a-sinkin' so John is a-thinkin'
What might happen in nuclear war--
Which reminds us of Palin, so John, keep on bailin',
But I don't think you're gonna reach shore.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I don't doubt that Ritchie wants to dump Madonna. She looks very uncomfortable to live with--all bone, sinew, and embalming fluid. Whatever possessed her, a fifty year old woman who looks seventy, to wear her hair down around her cadaverly-sunken face in golden ringlets? And all the kohl in Egypt outlining her eyes?

Wise up, woman! Reinvent yourself! Try for a little class this time. Put on a few pounds; zaftig is in. Cut the red string. Whack off the hair and dye it a more natural color or let it go stark white, if it will. Remember how good John Kerry's wife looked at age sixty-three? Take her as your role model.

And don't adopt another baby. There's no way you can convince us you're still ovulating.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

God Bless Dogs

A student once told me one of the hardest things about living in the country was seeing the dogs people had dropped off waiting day after day near their drop-off point for their owners to return. A friend recently told me how her newly-adopted dog would whimper in anxiety every time she turned down the street to the shelter to which she had been twice-returned after fostering.

Tears prickle behind my lids at even recording these stories. Then I look over at our Wendy Dog sprawled across her brand-new dog pillow in happy slumber and my eyes overflow.

God bless dogs.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Theoretical Snippets

I'm not sure one political party is any better than the other. But it does seem that when any one party is in power too long, it starts concentrating more on aggrandizement while the other party starts getting more in touch with the people. Yep, time for a change.
I have a theory that light and sound are basically the same thing, but maybe sound is slower. The reason I think this is that until I took a music theory class and had my ear trained, I could not tell if one pitch was higher or lower than another; my ear was quite good--I could discern quarter tones, but I perceived the differences between the various pitches as differences in colors.
Another of my theories--not especially new, I guess--is that time does not always move in a straight line. Thus I think deja vu is actually a flash to the future, seeing the present as past. And think about those weird times when we actually know what is going to happen next, like when I stood at the door of a neighbor's house and suddenly knew I would win all the Tupperware party games--and I did.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Shoo, Fly

We're down to one fly now, and I think it has a little Jeff Goldblum in its genetics. It's a wily one. Its five brothers and sisters have all been successfully swatted, but this one seems to have--well--eyes in the back of its head.

Last night I tried to lure it with a dab of butter on the kitchen island, but it saw through my simple ruse and refused to light. This morning, when I went into the kitchen, it was perched on the business end of the fly swatter, probably breakfasting off the squashed remains of its siblings. Needless to say, it got away.

If the machines don't take over the world, the insects will.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Tarantula in the House

Oh sh#t, oh sh#t! They've spotted me! And I was staying so still, hoping they'd think I was just a dark shadow in the corner.

The short one is shrieking and running for the fly swatter, but the tall one yells at her to open the patio door. She veers from her path toward the kitchen to fling open the sliding door, then heads toward the fly swatter again. As she grabs that instrument of evil off its hook, the tall one quickly scoops me up in a curled magazine and hurries to the open door. I scoot up and down his arm briefly in thanks and leap to life and freedom in the great outdoors.

I'm grateful to the tall man for saving my life-- and very happy that it is in his house all my babies will grow up.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cold Turkey

I am going through computer withdrawal. How did I, a dedicated Luddite who doesn't even know how to operate her own vacuum cleaner, end up being so dependent on a machine? The only thing that is keeping me going at all is my methadone--the system Husband has rigged up whereby I can still write Fiorella on his computer, although I have no idea whether or not she is hitting the airwaves.

Of course, I had been telling him for a couple of months that my computer was sick unto death, but he refused to believe me, saying it must be something I was doing or not doing. In all my pain, at least I can utter those sweetest of words: "I TOLD YOU SO!"

Friday, October 17, 2008

Auf Wiedersehen, Kenley!

Kenley got cut.

That was the whole purpose of watching the last episode of Project Runway, to see Kenley, blaming and complaining all the way, get cut. Loved Leanne and Korto, but Kenley was the star. A dark star, to be sure, but the star.

In order to continue its high ratings, Project Runway has to come up with a different plot each season, and this time it was a nasal-voiced egotist whom we kept wanting, week after week, to get "offed."

Well, Kenley finally got her come-uppance. Leanne won the big prizes, Korto will get loads of job offers, and the TV fashion world is safe from Miss "I don't pay attention to what other designers are doing" for now.

What plot will the show come up with next?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Back to Basics

The television, computer, and automobile are down, all at the same time. It's obviously a conspiracy. Without access to the ARWA loop and and Project Runway, I can no longer postpone doing the laundry, cleaning out the workroom and my study, and washing my car.

But if it gets any worse, we're going to have to start living off the land. It's a good thing Husband has Boy Scout training and I collect flint.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I don't understand about prayer. We are enjoined to pray constantly--and I do: I pray, I ask, I beg, I promise, I plead.

But we are also told that God is omniscient, knowing our needs and desires even before we do.

Why, then, do I pray?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mechanized Attack

It's happening as moviedom predicted--the rise of the machines--right here in my own house.

Last night, after a couple of months of erratic behavior, my computer went down. This edition of Fiorella is like an SOS in a bottle. I don't know if you will ever see it, or if it will float forever in the ether, lost to eternity.

The television screen has been going black at decreasing intervals and I have to continually leap up and push the power button on the front of the TV to get the picture back.

This morning Husband's car battery went dead.

And did I mention the black plastic thing my laptop has sprouted from its side? I think it's an arm bud. Arnold, save me!

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Inevitable

I don't mind growing older. I just don't want liver spots, sagging skin, thinning hair, crabby handwriting, faulty vision, diminished hearing, raspy voice, aching joints, shaking hands, bobbling head, unsteady gait, chronic insomnia, embarrassing incontinence, and . . . and . . . I don't remember.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Danger, Will Robinson!

My trusty laptop seems to be dying. I've suspected it for a couple of months now. First it objected to me opening something I had just written, saying it was a for-observation-only file. Then it would flip me off to a blue page, the clutches of which Husband would rescue me from. Then it would stick on various things, like the New York Times info page when I wanted to check out funny news items about Sarah Palin. Then I had a problem transferring stuff from my files to Fiorella.

This evening, the computer stuck on a "welcome" page and lost all my profile information. Husband spent about half an hour jerry-rigging a connection for me, but I will be first in line at the computer repair shop on Monday morning. The repair people may need to keep my baby for a while so don't be surprised if Fiorella temporarily goes off the air.

In the meantime, think about it. A new computer costs about a thousand dollars, which is a lot more money than it was a year ago. Can we all afford spending a thousand dollars every two years on a regular basis?

I cannot believe that I am so dependent on something so undependable.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Five Things

I've never been the housekeeper my mother was. On the other hand:

1) I drive--and my car is in my own name.

2) I designed the house Husband and I live in.

3) I have friends who are French, British, India Indian, and--lo and behold--Canadian.

4) I've visited Mexico, England, and Scotland.

5) I scored a good maid.

Friday, October 10, 2008


The ground is hard, the brown-branched trees are bare
The sobbing wind alone disturbs the air
And shrieks aloud its grief, unreconciled,
Thus Ceres searches for her missing child.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Wednesday Evening

How interesting it was to see
The competition cut to three--
Leanne, Korto, and Ken-lee.
What a gimmick, what a call--
A female final, all in all.
So next week we will see which
One will survive the final stitch--
The sweetie, thinker, or the bitch.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bye, Bye, Birdie

Almost every day I hear the thunk of a bird hitting one of our windows. Often I peer outside and spot the injured avian, out cold on the concrete floor of our back porch. I keep the dog inside for a while, and half an hour later, the bird is gone--I assume to fly another day.

Maybe the birds are addled by their own reflections in the sunlit glass. Or maybe it's the same bird each time, its brain turned to mashed potatoes by serial concussions. Or maybe it's just stupidity--after all, they are relatives of T-rex.

Which gives you another theory as to the reason dinosaurs disappeared off the face of the earth.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Zombie Driver

After I started my car last night, it took over and drove me halfway to Austin before I got control of the wheel and backtracked toward my original destination. Yes, my little MX-5 has a mind of its own.

Usually it does a very good job. I can travel all thirty-five miles to Austin without even being aware of it until suddenly I'm there. My baby car stays on course, keeps in its lane, dodges semis, and adjusts itself to the traffic speed, all without me being conscious of it.

When you think about it, driving is a very complicated business. Unlock and open the door, ease into the seat, shut and lock the door, check the seat and the mirrors, fasten the seat belt, insert the key into the ignition, step lightly on the accelerator, turn the key and hope the engine catches, then release the brake. Next comes pressing the the button to open the garage door, putting the car in Reverse, backing out slowly (veering slightly to left to avoid knocking the side mirror off again). Once out of the garage, close the door, cut back sharply to the right, pause to move gearshift to Drive, then cut to the left and turn in order to head down the driveway face first. Along the way, adjust the air conditioning and recheck the mirrors.

Sometimes I mentally click off all the steps--1,2,3 . . . .

It's very complicated maneuvering that is second nature to any experienced driver, but nothing compared to highway driving, which is nothing compared to city driving. The signs, the traffic lights, the ebb and flow of the vehicles around us--we rarely register them consciously, because our cars automatically know what to do.

Which leaves us free to dial up the world on our cell phones.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Runway Revisit

The lure of Project Runway is that of an old-fashioned serial: Pearl Pureheart has been tied to the railroad tracks--will Tom Trueblood get there in time to save her or not? Will my particular darling survive the cut this week?

It's the same lure American Idol uses, but Project Runway adds two other dimensions--the actual construction of the fashions and the interaction among the contestants. Heroes and villains develop before our eyes. To hell with their fashion designs--we all love Korto and Leanne, who've depicted themselves as decent human beings, dislike Kenley, who's acted like a real skank, and feel ambivalent toward Jerell, who seems somewhat ambivalent himself--amorphous, really.

Of course, our viewpoints of the contestants have been formed entirely by the clips the director chooses to show us. Hmmm- I wonder if Kenley is actually a mole, an actress hired to make this season more interesting. Maybe she was inserted into Project Runway for much the same reason Sarah Palin was planted into the Republican presidential ticket.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Visiting Dad Again

Dad is usually asleep when I arrive, lying on his back with his toothless mouth agape. He looks like a corpse. I check his breathing--it is shallow. I identify myself and try to wake him, but he does not hear--he is almost entirely deaf. Even if he does awaken, he cannot really see me--he is almost entirely blind. He rarely speaks because he does not remember words--he has Alzheimer's.

I sit beside him for a while and hold his hand. I notice that his hair has finally turned gray.

My strong, vital father is a frail old man. He will be ninety-five on his next birthday. I no longer pray that his life may be long.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Debate Take

Okay, people, what's all this nonsense about Biden and Palin acquitting themselves equally well in the debate? Biden answered questions, discussed topics, and spoke knowledgeably. Palin didn't fall on her face.

Come on, everyone! There has to be more to a candidate than mugging shamelessly into a camera!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Plastic Surgery Postscript

One more note and then I'm through--
I just realized I hadn't told you
That although my eyelids are red in hue
I now can distinguish between black and blue!

Yes, people, I could never tell whether something was black or navy blue before the eyelid surgery allowed the sunlight to shine in! It's a whole new world!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Leanne and Korto and Jerell and Kenley

I, who have not worn size two since I was two, can hardly wait for the next installment of Project Runway tonight.

Why am I watching this crap? It has nothing to do with my life--I live in shorts and tees. The last time I wore a dress was to a memorial service.

And yet I watch so faithfully every Wednesday night that I can even recite the designers' names. It's down to Leanne and Korto and Jerell and Kenley now, and I think Kenley has to go. She's a one-trick pony, as everyone has been saying, and she's been rude to Tim.

And yet, I know I'm being manipulated by the director's choice of candid clips. We didn't like Keith much, remember, but we liked Terri less for the way she treated him on their "joint" project. What if we had never seen those clips? Would we have been indignant at Terri being booted off?

Would I be as eager to see Kenley booted off if I had seen everything that happened, not just those damaging clips?

Three hours later:
It's all moot anyway. I just watched the show and no one was booted off. All four will design collections, though only three will show. I'm still rooting for Leanne and Korto and Jerell. Anybody but Kenley.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Neanthderthal Granddaddy

The other night I watched a two-hour National Geographic television presentation on the most recent developments in the study of Neanderthals. There is new evidence that Neanderthal genes might have entered the Cro-Magnon bloodline.

When the Cro-Magnons came out of Africa, they encountered several pockets of indigenous humanoids--mostly (or all) Neanderthals, apparently--in Europe and Asia. The previous supposition has been that either the Cro-Magnons annihilated the Neanderthals or that the Ice Age wiped them out, but recent discoveries have pointed to some degree of assimilation.

This is all well and good and interesting, and the results of the ongoing Neanderthal DNA studies should make another enthralling television presentation. But I was left with another question which had never occurred to me before--where did the Neanderthals come from? How was it they were scattered over Europe and Asia before the Cro-Magnons ever set foot out of the Dark Continent? Were the Neanderthals an earlier, hardier migration? Or did their evolution happen somewhere else, outside of Africa?

National Geographic, please appease my inquiring mind.