29 October 2009

Another Short Story Because I'm Not Coherent Enough to Write Something New

I just deleted a dumb post about pooping at work. I swear it seemed clever (for a poop post anyway), but after banging out two paragraphs, I realized that it was NOT clever. It would seem that I lost the point between conceiving of it in the bathroom (I wasn't the one pooping) and getting back to my desk and opening up Blogger. Instead, I'll post another one of my short stories. This one has a more obvious fantasy bent than the last one.

Rechette looked at the piece of chalk in her hand, then down at the floor, and realized that she didn't have the first clue what she was doing. She was so screwed.

"Well? Get on with it!" The woman's voice was impatient.

Rechette tore her eyes from the mess of chalked markings on the floor and reluctantly met the gaze of the speaker.

"This isn't like a controlled lab experiment. I don't put chemical A into flask B and bubble through gas C to get a predictable result. This is partly about feeling and intuition and intent." Rechette was lying through her teeth. What she was attempting to do went so far beyond the boundaries of her knowledge, that they weren't even sharing a time zone.

The woman stepped in close, her gray eyes a dirty frozen pond. "I intend to hurt you in wonderfully inventive ways if you don't feel like this is working." Her ivory skin stretched tight over her cheekbones as she bared her small sharp teeth in a vicious smile. "Is that enough incentive for you?"

Rechette swallowed audibly and made a valiant attempt not to vomit. While the terrible gray-eyed woman would enjoy the fear she inspired in Rechette, she would no doubt be extraordinarily pissed off if Rechette puked on the woman's Manolos. "OK, I get it. One summoning, no waiting."

"Good." The woman stepped back and folded her arms across her chest. Rechette pushed a handful of brown hair out of her eyes and took a deep breath. She squatted next to the squiggles and hash marks on the floor and made a few seemingly random marks amid the mess already there. "That, ah, that should do it."

"Demon spawn, come forth to do the bidding of-" Rechette broke off the incantation and looked at the woman. "What's your name? Your true name; a false one won't work." Sure, that sounds good, she thought.

The woman flushed slightly. "It's Sissy."

Rechette smothered her wild urge to laugh and began speaking again. She was pleased that her voice barely shook at all. "Demon, come forth to do the bidding of Sissy. I bind your powers to her. You will be subject to her will, you will be eager to carry out her orders." She paused. "And you won't smell too much like brimstone or anything. Demon, I summon you!"

Rechette and the woman both looked into the haphazard circle. Where nothing at all was happening.

"Why isn't it working?" The woman stared daggers at Rechette. "You said you could work great magic!" She took a slow step towards Rechette, moving across the circle. "Make it work or I will make you suffer."

"Let's not be hasty. Maybe the casting takes a while to work its way through the different levels of Hell. Your custom-ordered demon could be winging its way to you as we speak." The woman took another step and moved fully into the circle. Which began to emit a sullen red glow between the chalk marks. Wavy lines like heat haze shimmered over Rechette's fake demonic summoning symbols. Rechette took a large step back. Two, in fact. With no more fanfare, a demon popped into existence behind the gray-eyed woman.

"WHO SUMMONS ME?" The demon's voice shook dust from the rafters. The woman whirled around, her initial look of shock morphing into satisfaction. She drew herself up. "I summon you, demon. You are here to do my bidding."

The demon, seven feet of impossible topped with a thicket of horns, cocked its head. Its eyes were a surprisingly pretty human blue, its nose was a gnarled lump. Some sort of acidic drool leaked from the corner of its fang-filled mouth and sizzled on the floor. Its eyes flicked over to Rechette and then returned to the woman it shared the circle with. "You summoned me?" The demon's voice was much quieter this time.


"Hmmmm," the demon looked thoughtful. It reached out a hand and drew a pointy yellow fingernail down the woman's cheek. "You are very bold."

Rechette gnawed nervously on her thumbnail. She wondered if now would be a great time to escape. Considering she wasn't expecting to be able to summon a fart, much less a demon, she didn't see what other purpose she could serve. Besides as a post-summoning snack for the demon. She took another step back and felt the wall behind her. She edged slowly towards the door to her right, eyes glued to the pair in the circle.

The woman twitched back from the touch and turned gray. The demon smiled widely, its pebbled skin darkening from pale red to black. It leaned in closer to the woman and inhaled deeply. So deeply, in fact, the the woman was pulled even closer. She moaned and pushed at the demon's chest. "Humans," it purred in a bass rumble, "so small and tender." It looked over at Rechette and she quickly lowered her gaze to the floor. "So ignorant as to what really hides in the dark." Its blue eyes focused back on its prey. "So arrogant to think that they can control what they summon." It snorted a small greenish flame. "Better magicians than you have tried, Sissy."

How the hell did I summon that thing? Rechette was frantic. Her only hope at this point was that the demon was contained within the circle and would vanish once it was finished tormenting Sissy. She took a deep breath and prepared to make like a rabbit. Too bad she felt more like a deer-in-headlights.

"Rechette." Her name was gravel in the demon's mouth. She tried to maintain her gaze on Sissy's fancy shoes.

"Um, yes? O denizen of Hell?" To Rechette's immense surprise, the demon threw back its head and laughed. It was disturbing how normal it sounded. Against her better judgement, story of her life, she looked the demon in the eyes.

"Oh Rechette, I wish I could take you to Hell. I think you would be very entertaining." The demon now had Sissy in a one-handed grip by the neck. The woman had fainted and hung limply from the twisted, many-jointed fingers. "Unfortunately, I can only take the one who intended to control me. You," it pointed at Rechette, "are safe." It licked Sissy's cheek while never looking away from Rechette. Even in the depths of her swoon, Sissy whimpered at the contact.

"Ah, demon, sir? Am I like, safe safe? Or safe until you're done with Sissy safe?"

The demon chuckled. "Oh, the innocence of this one! You are safe as long as you stay out of trouble. I have no control over what other nonsense you may get yourself into. And I smell bad choices all over you, Rechette. Perhaps you and I will see each other again." With that final pronouncement, the demon disappeared, taking Sissy and her Manolos with it. Rechette promptly collapsed on the floor. She drew her legs up to her chest and stared at the smeary chalky mess on the concrete. Hints of the sullen red still peeked through but even those faded within half a minute. After five minutes, the chalk marks were scoured away by an invisible hand. Rechette decided to start making smart choices, pushed herself to her feet and ran like hell.

28 October 2009

A Little Change of Pace

Because I have enough ego to believe that people want to read my stuff, I'm going to be posting some of my short, short fiction. This first piece, which I know many of my 3 readers have already read, is one I submitted to a contest on NPR. I didn't win. Or place. That doesn't mean it wasn't good though.

The nurse left work at five o’clock. As he was walking out the ER doors, a tall man rushed inside, almost knocking the poor tired nurse off his clogs.

“Sorry, sorry!” The man shouted over his shoulder. “I have an emergency! Please, help me!”

The nurse hesitated at the door, about to turn around and lend a hand, when another nurse hurried up to the tall man. “Sir, please calm down. Take a breath and tell me what’s wrong.”

The nurse sighed in relief and continued out the doors. He wasn’t cold-hearted, but it had been a long day and he needed a beer and a shower, possibly at the same time.

Back in the ER, the other nurse, a female, was attempting to calm the extremely agitated tall man. “Sir!” The nurse’s patience was strained. She too, had put in a long day and wanted nothing more than a beer and a shower, possibly at the same time. She shot a filthy look at the back of her rapidly retreating coworker. Then her attention was wrenched back to her panicky patient.

“Nurse, you have to help me!” The tall man, who had very dark brown hair and wild wide eyes, was tugging urgently at the sleeve of her scrubs top. The nurse desperately wished she could skip triage and pawn the tall man off on a doctor, but there was procedure to follow. Anyway, the only doctor she saw was walking rapidly away from her. Figures, she thought, it’s like how there is never a cop around when you need one.

The doctor pushed through the doors of the ER and entered the hospital proper. He knew that he’d be getting a page shortly about the tall, dark-haired man, but he’d be of no use to anyone if he didn’t get some coffee in his system. He fed a dollar into the coffee machine and took the paper cup full of liquid that claimed to be coffee. The doctor suspected that the grounds were cut with compost and antifreeze to keep costs down. He looked into the dark, oily depths, took a deep breath and chugged down the cup in several long swallows. A shudder traveled down his body. “Bleah!” He threw the empty cup in the trash and walked back to the ER just as his pager began to chirp at him.

He was about to push back through the doors when they burst open and the tall, dark-haired man ran out with the nurse in hot pursuit. The doctor attempted to dodge the tall man, but was run down. The air was crushed out of him as the tall man, followed closely by the nurse, landed heavily on his chest. The doctor lay on the floor, struggling for breath. He shoved at the people on top of him.

The tall dark-haired man raised his head and looked the doctor in the eyes. There was a second of confusion and then the tall man was pushing frantically away from the doctor. The nurse, who had managed to regain her feet, was knocked back down as the tall man recoiled from the doctor.

“NONONONONO!” The tall man was screaming, his dark hair standing out in all directions. The doctor made a mental note: get a psych consult. Before anyone could react, the tall man shot off back to the ER and out the door into the evening light.

The doctor and nurse looked at each other and shrugged. The nurse reached down a hand and helped the doctor up. He squeezed her hand gently. “Buy you a coffee?”

27 October 2009


It can't be a good sign when you get all excited about a program you use adding a "save & exit" option. And by you, I mean me. This seems wrong somehow. It is much more convenient, though.

26 October 2009

The Rest of the Trip

I already covered the Ferris wheel, so here's a summary of the other non-food related things we did in Chicago.

Learned (sorta) to take the El. It doesn't work the same way as MTA. It's actually much simpler, but we still managed to take the wrong train a couple of times. My dad had some minor hissy fits, but it all worked out fine.

Went to Shedd Aquarium and saw a super corny show with a sea lion, belugas, dolphins, penguins, and (weirdly) some hawks. One of the hawks went AWOL and ended up sulking atop one of the trees surrounding the giant pool. Managed to be snarky to the dude talking about Alaskan otters. Those things are beyond adorable, BTW. Like fat, snub-nosed ferrets. Also saw a balance-impaired sea turtle named Nickle. Unfortunately, we went late in the day and didn't have time to cover the whole place. Oh, I almost forgot about the 4-D movie experience we had. It was mostly irritating as they squirted water in your face and poked you in the back. Good for the kiddies, I suppose.

Did a fair amount of browsing along the Magnificent Mile, walked the Navy Pier and along Lake Shore Drive. Took an architectural boat tour, in the rain, and learned that there are no private use buildings along Chicago's waterfront. Oh, and Mies van der Rohe was very fond of linear buildings. We wanted to do the Segway tour, but the weather was against us. Saturday night we went to the observation deck of the Hancock bldg and did the audio tour. And, it a brilliant bit of accidental awesomeness, we were up there when they did the fireworks at Navy Pier. It was a nice way to cap the trip off.

Chicago is a nice city. More friendly than Philly and cleaner than NYC. The streets smell like chocolate and the subway smelled like oranges - really. Very fond of revolving doors there. There's a fair amount of it that's "underground". You could be walking down the street when it would abruptly end, and you would have to seek out a stairwell and go subterranean. I definitely suggest you bring a raincoat and a hat because they aren't kidding about that Windy City thing. Also, there's no smoking within 15 feet of public buildings. Just an FYI.

Oh, and I was entirely wrong about the flight time - it's about an hour and a half. I got an aisle seat both ways, and got ass rubbed all over my arm and shoulder. People have very little sense of space. I also got whapped in the noggin by a dude waiting to deplane. He apologized, I let it go.

Heh, this has nothing to do with Chicago, but the driver who got us at the Philly airport looked a bit like a shorter Tahmoh Penikett and had a Russian accent. I wanted to bite him.

One Last Chicago Food Post

I'm sure everyone is rather bored with foodie talk, so I'm going to wrap it up.

Friday dinner was at a vegetarian place called the Green Zebra. I was sad that the decor did not reflect the name at all. Mostly bamboo and cream colored walls. Nice subdued lighting and a not intolerable noise level. Started off with a cocktail called "tea blossom". Tea-infused vodka, lemony junk - very tasty. The deal at the Zebra is you order several small plates. My dad went with the chef's tasting menu, 4 plates plus dessert. My mom and I went ala carte with 4 plates each. My dad asked our server, Ichabod (not really, but he had that look), for wine recommendations, and Ichabod said he could do a wine tasting with each course. We went for that option.

I'm not going to do a plate-by-plate breakdown, but here are the highlights. Parsnip and leek soup - divine. Smooth, creamy, awesome. My dad's housemade fusilli managed to suggest italian sausage without a speck of meat. My mom and I had a apple and onion tart with camembert that could have used more cheese (duh), but was still veryvery good. Dessert was a cheese plate with a 12-year old cheddar that made me all swoony...and more wine. I was not quite sodden when we left, but I was extraordinarily glad we weren't walking back to the hotel.

And lest you think I forgot, we did experience the Chicago hot dog. We went to Portillo's Saturday night, and I know there are people out there who would sneer at our choice, but it was a) convenient and b) fairly well recommended. The set-up is a wee bit confusing but the place wasn't crowded so we could do the clueless toursit bit without getting shit on. After reading about Chicago dog for weeks, I was more than ready for the experience. While I noticed a lack of celery salt, it was overall pretty damn good. Nice meaty hotdog and somehow all the toppings work together. It is a bit difficult to eat a hot dog with tomato, relish, a pickle spear, onions, sport peppers, and mustard on it, but I acquitted myself, if I do say so. Which I do. Obviously.

Chicago is a good eatin' town. I'm glad we walked a lot, or I would have needed and extra seat for the flight home. Which I could have used anyway, but that's the next post. Damn, I could eat another dog right now.

23 October 2009

The Blackbird Experience

If you are looking for an unbearably hip, "we want to be west coast", allow me to chop up your endive salad type of place - go to Blackbird.

The place was packed. The space is narrow and austere; nothing at all on the walls besides paint. There is a banquette along one wall with far too many tables lined up along it. And they were full. There is a short bar directly to your right when you come in with about 15 people behind it. Blackbird doesn't lack in the server/foodrunner/random people all over the place department.

The kitchen is partially visible. Our table was right next to it, and I got a view of the chefs - mostly from the chin up. My dad remarked that there must be some sort of requirement that the chefs have beards and wear glasses. And, as I said, the place was packed, but I didn't witness any meltdowns. So even if they were in the weeds, they weren't advertising it.

The drinks and wine menu wasn't especially extensive. My dad had a whisky souresque drink that was NOT pink. My mom and I drank sauvignon blanc. More about my mom and her wine in a moment. First, about the chopping of the endive salad.

My dad and I both started with the endive salad: endive, pancetta, dijon, poached egg, potato basket. It came out with the lettuces and everything arranged in a wicker-looking potato ring. The server then hacks it to pieces in front of you. I don't know why they feel that the servers are less likely to fling bits of egg and vegetation all over, because my guy managed to get potato in my lap and endive went squirting off the plate. It wasn't a huge mess, but it definitely wasn't any neater than I could have done. My mom declined an appetizer and had a second glass of wine.

There was quite a lag between appetizers and entrees, about 25 minutes. Presentation was a bit precious. My dad's mushroom schnitzel was clustered to one side of the large round plate with the veg. The rest of the plate was artfully swirled with some creamy honey sauce. My mom got a whopping 2 diver scallops with snow peas and sunchoke. Sunchoke has been on lots of menus here in Chicago. Must be the trendy ingredient du jour. I got rack of lamb with tomatoes and melrose peppers. It was beautifully cooked and the veg was super tasty. My mom gave my dad at least 3/4 of a scallop, which left her with 1 1/4. Mind you, she was on glass 3. That's right kids, Mom was tipsy. Very little protein, about 4 bites of bread, and some veg were not equal to the challenge of absorbing 3 glasses of wine. She wasn't embarrassing or anything, but she was a bit unsteady on her feet.

We all passed on dessert and stuck with coffee and tea. I had an omg delicious rooibos tea. I only wish I could have drank all of it, but by the time I got through a cup, it had brewed too long and wasn't as good. Plus we still had to take 2 different trains to get back to the hotel.

I'm not sorry we went to Blackbird, but I wouldn't go back. Too many people for that size space, menu was a bit too, and for the number of service people flitting around, I didn't feel especially well cared for. Don't get me wrong, they were nice, and aside from the potato in the lap, perfectly competent. I'm sure they get great whacks of cash at the end of the night and I can only hope the place stays trendy so they can pay their rent.

22 October 2009

Eating in Chicago

That dark picture over there is Sepia, the restaurant we ate at last night. Despite being about 8 minutes late for our reservation, we still had to wait a bit for the table. We went to the small lounge/bar area. My mom ordered some drink with ginger beer in it, and my dad got a pink concoction with gin in it somewhere. I stuck with a glass of Syrah.

After about 10 mi
n, our table was ready and we got seated in a nice cozy little corner. we were eating fairly late (8:30) but the noise level was still pretty high. Sepia is obviously a fairly "hip" place. The cuisine is, well, I guess gourmet Bavarian about covers it. For starters, we had salad (me), housemade sausage with lentils (Dad), and white bean soup with pork (Mom). The lentils were cooked with bacon and the soup had a pile of shaved marrow on it. Verrrrry rich. The bread was multi-grain rolls that had an unfortunate resemblance to poos. Tasted fine.

For the main course, we had short ribs with red cabbage and spatzle (me), flat iron steak with bone marrow beignets (Dad), and a beautiful pork chop with arugula and peaches (Mom). After sharing tastes, we agreed that I had made the best choice, but that bone marrow beignets are awesome. My mom was unable to finish off her chop (it was massive).

Aside from the noise level, which did drop as it got later, my biggest complaint would be the saltiness of the food. Yes, I know I'm Ms Anti-salt, but both my parents agreed. Otherwise, the service was super friendly and efficient and I would recommend Sepia to anyone with a slightly adventurous palate.

Lunch today was Topolobampo, one of Rick Bayless's restaurants. It shares a (noisy) bar with Frontera Grill, Bayless's other restaurant. The cuisine is Mexican/South American.

Starters: Tortilla soup with chicken, housemade sour cream and cheese for me and mom, the half-size Grand plate for my dad. The Grand plate came with half-a-dozen oysters and 2 different ceviches. One was tuna and apricot, the other was Hawaiian sunfish. Both were delicious. The soup was perfect as the nice weather of Wednesday abandoned us and it was rainy and gray and windy. Y'know, Chicago.

That dish over to the left is the seafood and black rice dish my mom ordered for her entree. I didn't have any, but she ate every last scrap, so I would assume it was full of yum. My dad got a potato dish with three different types of taters; yukon, fingerling, and purple. The was smoked and mashed, crunchy chips, and tiny purple potatoes scattered around. It was served with a nice roasted tomato sauce and a creamy cheesy sauce. I had Chichurron de Queso, which is basically a giant fried cheese wafer that was served with a mixed greens salad (tasty lime-serrano dressing) and chicken, avocado, and some bit that I'm fairly certain were peppers.
Here a picture of my meal, with my dad's potatoes in the background:

I also had agua de jamaica, which was a beautiful magenta color and was sweetly fruity with a good tea taste to it. My dad had another pink concoction, this time with hibiscus. The server said it was rust-colored. I would have tipped extra just for that.

Tonight is dinner at Blackbird, so I'm gonna go get dressed. If I'm not stuffed into stuperousness, I'll write about it tonight.

Pictures from the Ferris Wheel

My mom managed to coerce my dad, who has a dislike of heights, into taking a ride on the Ferris wheel at the Navy Pier. It was a cloudy-ish afternoon, so the pictures aren't fantastic, but I think I did OK. Especially considering I took them with my phone.

16 October 2009

"What's the matter with you guys? The sight of blonde hair knocks you three rungs down on the evolutionary ladder."

A funny and mildly disgusting thing happened at work today. For some reason, I decided to leave my hair down for a while. Don't quite know why. I wasn't even thinking about turning it into one of my little social experiments, a la the make-up experiment. Regardless of my reasons, I of course got some reactions since I leave my hair down about as often as, well, I just don't.

There I was, sitting at my desk, chatting with some coworkers, hair just right out there, when Stoneface walked by. And I got one hell of a double-take. Which made me cackle. The mildly disgusting part comes courtesy of jr who said that I should seduce him. My response? Blergh! His apparent appreciation of, or utter shock at, my unleashed tresses does not make him remotely attractive to me. But I guess it's nice to know that some people really are that simple.

Completely unrelated: Phaedra is still alive and well. She lost one of her leaves, but I think it was dead before I got her home.

14 October 2009

Workplace Etiquette

We all know that I'm not the most business-like person on the planet. I don't wear suits and heels, my language isn't always on point, but for the most part I comport myself as a reasonable facsimile of a responsible, level-headed adult. Not so for some of my coworkers.

Last night, I was sitting quietly at my desk, reading my Iain M. Banks, when I heard agitated squawking coming from the row behind me. I have no idea what she was angry about, but it made her loud. Yes, it was late in the day and the office was mostly empty, but A) you are not supposed to talk on your cell while on the call floor (a rule I abide by), and B) don't be yelling on your cell when other people are on the phone doing work related things, and C) really? I don't need to know about your personal life. I don't need to know that your friend, boyf, sister, mom, au pair, won't let you finish a sentence. And while I agree that it isn't very nice to call someone an asshole, you certainly were acting like one. Then, just to cap it off, she proceeded to log out of her (work) phone and storm off outside without consulting the supervisor. Which brings me to...

...the Sleazy Supervisor. He's one of the newer supervisors and is a completely unsubtle checker-outer. I've not experienced any sleaze first hand, but have spoken with people who have. I think part of it comes from the fact that he'll wear a polo and has his chest hair sprouting out of the collar. But that has nothing to do with this. I bring him up because he was manning the desk last night and did NOTHING about my irate cowoker. Didn't say "Get off the phone" or "Take it outside" or even "Keep it down". Nada. It is your job! Do something! You're sleazy Mr. Bossman now - you can't overlook shit like this all the time. You don't get to be the friend. At most, you can be the cool supervisor, but I don't think that's going to happen.

Please don't think that I am personally offended by my coworker's behaviour. She's still young and is inclined to be a bit hot-headed. I mostly wanted to shake my head sadly at her and remark that she'll never get respect at work if she continues to act like a child. Not that she may want respect, but still. Something to think about. It's a cliché, but you have to grow up sometime.

05 October 2009

A New Addition

I have a new feeling of terror. It blossomed on Saturday night when my dad approached me, hand held out. He shook my hand and proclaimed, "You are the proud owner of an orchid."

Well shit.

This is my orchid, Phaedra. Isn't she lovely? I won her at the silent auction portion of the Blue Moon auction (benefits Planned Parenthood). I was so taken by her bold pink blooms and broad green leaves; I couldn't NOT bid on her.

I know, I know. Those of you who are aware of my tendencies towards herbicide are wondering just what the fuck I'm doing with a delicate tropical plant. Especially after my psuedo-litho, Rocky, hurled himself to his death rather then live on my windowsill. Here is my theory: I'm practically incapable of sustaining a plant (cacti, bamboo) that requires relatively little intervention. Though, in my defense, I think the bamboo was destroyed by the introduction of cat pee into its environment (read: my, or possibly my former roommate's cat, pissed on it). I thought that maybe a plant that needs more attentive care (and cost $60) would force me to learn about plant care.

In any event, I spent a good fraction of last night learning about orchids. I'm fairly certain that Phaedra is a phalaenopsis, but this is based solely on comparing her to pictures I found online. I learned that the leaves aren't supposed to be wet. I promptly went over to her and blotted the droplets of water off her leaves. They like strong, indirect sunlight. This was a slightly more complicated issue to resolve, but I think I found a home for her on the end table. Unfortunately, my apartment has no south-facing window, which is supposed to be the ideal location. I hope she'll be happy sharing a table with my modem.

And yes, I named my orchid. I also talk to her. I want her to be happy and to thrive, or at least to survive. I will stroke her leaves. I will diligently check her moisture levels. I will obtain a fluorescent light (if I must) to supplement the natural light that may or may not be sufficient for her. I have no plans to make a showing at the Flower Show or anything; I just don't want her to die because I refuse to believe that I am capable of tending to a plant. And I really hope my cats don't eat her.