Microfiction: Squeak

Tippy kept a home for the ghosts of small pets. When the Jehovah’s Witness knocked on her door and saw Boogers the rat run through her ankle, he passed out cold.

She brought him inside, and, shooing away the ethereal birds from the couch, set him down. He woke up to a cup of tea, a biscuit and a surly specter guinea pig named Horace.

“I don’t understand,” he said, as a non-corporeal boa tried to wrap around the sofa leg. “Why…?”

“It’s easy for little lives to be forgotten,” she said. “Someone needs to remind them of their importance.”

5 Best Things from 2014

It’s still January. I’m allowed to do this. 2014 was a hell of a year, right? Here are the most awesome things that came out of it.

2014 copy
1. Izmee the Hippo: after 5 years of waiting for someone to give me a hippo, I took matters into my own hands. Since then, Izmee has become a constant companion in my adventures. She’s there at new restaurants, she gets to check out the digs at hotels, and she reminds me not to be so serious.

2. Rats: in December, we welcomed into our home three fuzzy brothers who have grown into delightful additions to our family. Chip, Moby and Oreo are like tiny puppies: they lick our faces, they want to interact with us, and they are constantly playful. I’m 100% converted to the way of the rat.

3. The Jane Hotel (NYC): this one is very specific. When I booked my room at the Jane, I was mostly intrigued because it came off as an affordable, private hostel. Now, though, as I reflect on it, the Jane was one of the most inspiring places I’ve ever been. It captures the Manhattan feel of old movies, with its boat cabin rooms and distant view of the Statue of Liberty. I can’t imagine going back to New York and not staying there.

4. Food: 2014’s food was amazing. No kidding. My husband and I did a lot in 2014 to expand our culinary horizons. I baked bread from scratch for the first time. Instead of going out for Valentine’s Day, we had a 5-course dinner at home, including duck confit (pictured here). Looking at cooking as a creative endeavor has changed the way I look at food everyday.

5. Travel: I can’t express how pleased I am with how much traveling I managed to do in 2014. I chose pictures from only a few of my outings, including DC for the annual cherry blossoms, Houston, Philadelphia, Detroit and Virginia Beach (local to where I grew up but my first time at a beachfront hotel). I also visited New York City twice – once by train! – Columbus, Cleveland, Baltimore, and several cities around Pittsburgh during my summer staycation. And I am ready for more!

What were your favorite parts of 2014? I’d love to hear about them!

Tiny Heart

Before I knew anything about you
I knew that compared to the length of anything
The time we would have would be
A passing thought
A single hair
A dust mite suspended in light.

In our last hours
I traced the curve of your spine
The barest nothing of your leg
And under the thin veil of skin
I could just feel your heart.

Your breaths, slow
Your eyes, blink
And I am towering over and above you —
I am the world and you are
A stone.

And for all the might of a god
I am struck by the significance of
What would be a tiny drop of blood
Pumping through a pea,

Your heart
That I loved more
And miss more
Than a hundred like it.

On Getting Bit (And Still Sticking Your Hand Back In)

It’s tough going from owning guinea pigs to owning mice.

Guinea pigs are sort of like big, furry bricks. You can pick them up, place them in your lap, pet them and then return them to their habitat. That’s the big draw to those big-lipped bundles: you can handle them with relative ease. Wanna cuddle and watch TV? Cool. Snuggle in bed? No problem.

Not so with mice. Even domesticated mice are running on 110% fleeing energy, operating under the fair assumption that anything and everything is trying to end their short lives. When I first got my two mice last year, I thought that I could at least enjoy their presence in the tank they shared. One day, I reached my hand down with a few pieces of food. Virginia – the more sociable of two at the time – was cool with that. Milk-and-cream-colored Sylvia, however?

“She freakin’ bit me,” I told my husband, showing him the red pinch mark on my hand.

“Yeah…what did you expect?”

I didn’t want to admit it, but I expected some White Fang shit. I expected some initial wildness that would melt to warm love between me and my tiny furry friends. But after a few more times, I got tired of the itty bitty bites, so I left them alone to their happy, mousey lives.

Fast-forward about fifteen months. After a brief bout with a dime-sized tumor, Virginia passed away. I struggled with the idea of getting Sylvia a friend (“You’re going to end up the crazy cat lady of mice if you get into this cycle,” I was warned) but she was mostly pleased with having the tank to herself. However, I didn’t want her to get depressed or bored, so I decided I would try once again to make our friendship work so she could stay stimulated.

Everything I read explained that to win the trust of a mouse, you have to make sure they have a strong sense of security. How do you do that? By slowly getting them used to you. How do you do that? Sticking your damn hand in the tank again.

“This isn’t going to work if you keep taking your hand away,” my husband explained as I pulled my doughy digits out of Sylvia’s line of bite. I hated the thought of the little bugger getting her teeth on me. Again.

I read a topic in a book on rats about using soft foods to keep the rat engaged as they become accustomed to your presence. I decided to give this a try. Why not? Turns out Sylvia loves peanut butter, and she quickly got to liking it being given to her on a spoon.

It took a lot of courage to get to the next step: putting peanut butter on the tip of a finger. Every voice in me was like, “This is not going to end well. You know that, right?”

But as that little mouse came up and happily started licking my finger without so much as a pinch, I can report that no bad happened.

How often do we pass up opportunities because we’re afraid of getting hurt again? It’s easy to just say, “I’ll find a better way to occupy my time.” The things that really matter, though – the things in life that bring real joy – may require taking a risk and defying everything that tells you it’s safer to stay back.

I’m glad I tried again. Wouldn’t you?