She cracked the safe. They told you it couldn’t be done, knocking into each other, shoulder to shoulder. “Unless you got some magic we can’t see,” they said, laughing all the while, “that safe, she’s holding fast.”
Don’t count on it, is what you thought but didn’t say, unconvinced but courteous as was your wont. You got it home, got it set, set your mouth in a hard grim line, and waited for the inevitable.
Early morning. Broad daylight. She wasn’t like the rest. She never needed shadows or subterfuge. You never needed to cut your losses.
I have been writing more often than I let on but a lot of the writing I do is for a game called WOLF. I actually received Member of the Month for May.
Since I already have several uploads and posts to catch up on, I decided to post some snippets of things I have written for my main character so that I can look back on this one day, cringe at my flowery verbosity, and laugh. It bears mentioning that Coelacanth is the inspiration for the artwork that I use for INKDOG.
Seelie is my life’s mascot, and maybe my totem. ♥
In the WOLF universe, Coelacanth is a wolfdog who looks impossibly like her purebred Belgian Groenendael ancestors but for the narrower keel of her hips and chest, her bright cerulean eyes, and her tufted ears. The wolf blood is mainly because without her being 50% wolf, I couldn’t join a pack with her.
takes place after weeks of solitary confinement
Coelacanth was a wisp of shadow among other shadows, and not even the violent trembling that intermittently wracked her vividly gamine frame gave away her position. It was only when she opened her eyes, startled into doing so by the different sort of silence Atshen’s heavy-boned presence wrought, that she could readily be seen. Perhaps she startled him in that moment, bright Neptune globes winking suddenly through the dark, but if she did, she couldn’t tell. She hadn’t really been sleeping — the line between the nightmares both sleeping and waking was so finely drawn they were practically one and the same — but it was easier to keep her eyes closed. She felt invisible then. It was simple coincidence that she very nearly was.
Suspicion had her whipping around, a skittish, spindle-legged blur of ink. He was here — the orange-eyed, pale-bellied behemoth — and she feared that the gray phantom, too, might be regurgitated from the bowels of the Wolfskull as he had been once before. Her slimly tapered muzzle swung toward the impenetrable dark as she skittered backwards, pressing against the wall, the belly of the Wolfskull to her left and the maw to her right. Her lips drew taut but did not quiver or curl — she had learned via the fangs of other tormentors that such behavior was not to be tolerated. Tufted ears flattened against the gentle curve of her skull as she made herself infinitesimal, tucking her small body as tightly as she could, the tip of her tail a frenetic flutter as her spine arched impossibly to fold in on itself. Why had he come?
What have I done?
takes place when she first gets kidnapped
Betrayal of this magnitude was a new and harrowing experience for Coelacanth, but the hurt it engendered echoed a long healed hurt from the tiny Groenendael’s earliest memories: the first betrayal. For just as Lotte had nipped at Seelie’s feathered heels to drive her toward her captors, so too had Selkie nipped at the heels of her infant children to drive them away from Nanaimo. Oh, she hurt! For the first time in hours — days, maybe; she didn’t know how much time had passed — Seelie stirred, a thready whimper trembling upon her lips. Her gamine frame was littered with bruises and punctures, but as far as she could tell, she was generally sound. Dainty paws shifted as she gingerly took stock of her injuries, unfolding the tight bud of her fear-knotted musculature to explore her dimly lit surroundings on tenterhooks.
She appeared to be in a cave that smelled of old blood and the fetid stink of terror, its ceiling and floor infested with ugly, serrated fangs. Yellowed with age and spattered with rust-colored stains whose origins she had no care to discover, they seemed almost sentient in the tenebrae — and she flinched involuntarily at the sight of them, tufted ears flattening and Neptune eyes squinting as she sharply recoiled. The empath felt quite plainly the panic and pain of the Wolfskull’s previous victims, and the grim miasma was intensified by the fact that she was literally backed into a corner. As a rule, Coelacanth was decidedly unfond of cages, caves, and corners — and she did her best to flee, nimble paws darting fleetly between the macabre weave poles like a little black pinball. She moved with instinctual swiftness, reaching the Wolfskull’s maw in record time.
Open air filled her lungs, billowing out the fragile swell of her breast, the parameters of which were clearly delineated by the scalloped gradient of her rib cage — but with only a single pawstep lying between Coelacanth and freedom, she froze. Tufted ears piped alarum as she looked intently down at her catlike paws, tipping her delicate head first to one side, then the other. They stood in sharp contrast to the sallow floor of her prison — and they served as a chilling reminder of everything that had led up to this very moment. She had no reason to expect rescue or respite — she could do nothing but endure. In a spectacular display of learned helplessness, she drew her rose blush tongue anxiously across her lips and issued a shaking whisper-whine of indecision, her ears crumpling like black silk and her carriage folding in on itself as she backed away from the promise of freedom and moved deeper into the cave of nightmares.
There, Seelie curled herself into a little dog doughnut and settled down, waiting for the pain.
It was not long in coming.
If anybody out there enjoys games like WOLF and would like to join, I do have a character up for adoption as well. Part of what I worked on for WOLF involved drawing up a background and profile for that character, whose name is Ixchel.
NOTE: I am going to be posting videos and writing and things for the days I missed, but for day eleven I am going to instead tell a story about proper dog etiquette and how not to do it. I am veering recklessly out of order, and I will not apologize!
[I am a little sorry, though.]
So, I just saved a lady’s life, like, seven times.
This is a slight exaggeration.
I took Kennedy to Aqua Dog today so I could give him a bath and check out his skin. One of the nicest ways to do this, I’ve found, is with the magical dryer. It gets rid of his undercoat tufts, too, which is a nice bonus. The good news is that he only has two little reddish areas that appear to be healing well and one little skin cyst that I should probably have rechecked. It’s like a weird recurring pimple. Dr. Gomez from NorthStar VETS did some FNAs on it long ago and told me that it’s benign but that it’ll probably keep occurring. That experience is the closest I’ve ever come to receiving a psychic reading.
Anyway, for Kennedy, having only two red spots and his tiny bump friend is awesome. [That’s why it’s good news.]
The bad news is that whoever works there now is not the lady I remember, and unlike the lady I remember, this lady knows zero things about dogs. I’m going to be judgmental about it just because I can — but I’m pretty sure that even people who don’t have pets will be able to forgive me for my elitism, because this ought to be common sense.
Let me start by saying that even when I am judgmental and thinking caustic thoughts, I try to be really nice to people. Maybe this doesn’t manifest well online but I swear it’s true. We’ll call this person…Blueberry. [Because I’m eating dark chocolate blueberry thingies.]
Blueberry walks up to me with a chipper expression and proceeds to tell me what a handsome dog I have. I preen, because, I mean. Have you looked at Kennedy? He’s dapper. He’s dapper af. “What’s her name?” Blueberry asks, and I tell her his name is Kennedy. [She continues to refer to my dog as a female for the next hour or so, and I don’t correct her because a. Kennedy doesn’t care, b. I don’t care, c. I want her to stop talking to me, d. Kennedy is sort of effeminate, especially when he’s all sleeked down and has sea lion face going on.]
She then proceeds to walk directly up to my dog [WRONG], briskly stroke his shoulder [WRONG], and then CUP HIS FACE IN HER HANDS [REALLY WRONG] AND KISS HIM ON THE NOSE [ARE YOU TRYING TO DIE?]. Thankfully, at this point in his life, Kennedy is floating on Cloud Trazodone and is so relaxed by the scrubbing and massaging that he doesn’t really care that she’s basically putting on the moves without even buying him dinner first. Or, like, asking if she can buy him dinner. At no point did she ask me, “Hey, would it be okay if I pet your dog?” or, “Is he friendly?” or even offer her hand to him to sniff. She just straight up latched onto his face, and I’m not going to compare her to a Facehugger because I love HR Giger and I don’t love Blueberry.
Fortunately, she goes away, and I think, “Oh, good. Maybe she’ll do some real work now.” [Like emptying the trash buckets, all of which have hair in them. I’ve worked briefly at an Aqua Dog. I know what your job description entails. Go away, Blueberry.] It doesn’t take her long to circle back to me and try to make small talk, though, so I paste a happy expression on my face while she chatters at me. She asks about Kennedy’s breed and says that he looks a little like a Border Collie mix, which she should get bonus points for, but she’s already in negative points for trying to face kiss a dog she’s never met before. She then asks me if I need shampoo. At this point Kennedy is covered in lather, so I don’t…know…why she asked that, but I figure she’s just being nice, so I thank her and say Kennedy has allergies and that I have a special shampoo for him.
“He has fleas?”
“We have flea shampoo, too! We — ”
“No, um, he has allergies. Like…if he eats anything except his prescription food, he gets itchy. Because he’s allergic to them.”
Blueberry wanders away again and I get back to scrubbing my dog. At this point my head is in a perilous place — what I like to call “The Danger Zone” — because I’m scrubbing his hindquarters and I’m trying to look for other red spots while I’m scrubbing. She comes by again and I hear from above me, “You look just like an otter!” I assume she’s not talking to me because I’m pretty sure I look like…a walrus or a beached baby whale or something, half-slung over the lip of the tub while I appear to be listening to my dog’s butthole like he’s a seashell and I’m hankering for the ocean. “Do you want a treat?”
WH — WHY WHAT WH — I LITERALLY JUST SAID —
“Oh, please don’t feed him!” I say, popping up and getting smacked in the face with Kennedy’s soapy tail in the process. “He has food allergies. He can’t eat anything except his special food.” I swap out “prescription” for “special” because he’s on a limited ingredient diet, not a prescription diet, but also a little bit because I’m not sure Blueberry listens to sentences that exceed a certain number of characters. She doesn’t take the hand with the food away and I say again, slowly and politely, “Thank you so much; he really appreciates it, but he’ll get sick if he eats it.” At this point I’m considering trying to mime what I’m saying, but at last she tucks the treat back into her pocket. I’d like to point out that she was holding the treat against my dog’s lips. This is the third or fourth time I have saved her life. Maybe it’s both, because if Kennedy didn’t eat her, I would have bludgeoned her for setting me back in the Kennedy allergy game that I’m pretty much always losing anyway.
This is already quite long, so I’ve summarized her next visits in bullet points:
“You look just like an otter.”
“Oh, he’s so well behaved. [face grab]”
“Make sure his feetsies don’t get too wet.” [He’s in a tub. His “feetsies” are going to get wet. I promise they are. I’m literally picking them up and washing them.]
“Do you need me to show you how to work the dryer?” [I used the dryer when I first got in.]
“Oh, man, this song is by Madonna!”
“Whoa, this song is by…who’s it by? Do you know who it’s by?” [I didn’t.]
“You’re wearing scrubs. Are you a nurse?” [I’m a veterinary nurse.] “Oh, you work with animals?” [No. I’m a veterinary nurse and I work with automobiles.] “You know, I used to be a human nurse, but then I decided I wanted to just play with doggies all day like you guys.” […don’t. Just…the highway is really close and I heard there’s a shiny object out there in the traffic. Go find it.]
Somehow I survive long enough to rinse and towel dry my poor fluffy child. Kennedy is still floating in the ether that is Vitamin T, so he pads meekly down the bathtub steps and up the drying table steps. I then start the incredibly long process of blow-drying him. Kennedy has an undercoat like a shepherd or a husky. Drying him takes a ridiculously long time, but if I don’t take enough time to make sure he’s absolutely dry he’ll get gross moist dermatitis in certain areas. The back of his neck and crest of his shoulders aren’t really problem areas, so to save him the anxiety I usually skip them, but anywhere on his undercarriage needs to be meticulously cared for. I usually use a slicker brush because that’s the best tool I’ve found to help break up clumps of wet hair. So I’m drying him and he’s relaxed; I have the towel kind of draped over his shoulders and ears to muffle the sound of the dryer.
All is going well, and then Blueberry comes back. “He’s OLD, isn’t he?” she asks me, making a moue of sympathy, her question dipping down at the end as if she’s just heard he’s going to die sometime within the next five minutes. My voice is probably clipped as I respond that he’s ten. She then comes out with an absolutely brilliant statement. “Well, he’s lived a good life.” What the fuck, Blueberry? He’s having a bath, not being murdered. [I mean, if you asked non-drugged Kennedy, he’d tell you one is just as bad as the other.] She then notices that he has long nails. Now…I’m an okay pet owner. I’m not a great pet owner, and I’ll be the first to admit it. Kennedy hates getting his nails trimmed. I hate trimming his nails. We both put it off as long as we can [and it’s just about that time] but he and I have both gotten a lot better at it. Anyway, she proceeds to exclaim over the sound of the dryer, “Oh, his nails are LONG, aren’t they?” and then she reaches out to TOUCH HIS FOOT [WRONG] which has his half-lidded, glassy eyes flying wide as he immediately shifts an inch or two away.
“Please don’t,” I say. “He doesn’t like his feet being touched.”
Blueberry is already not listening to me, and she gives me the spiel about the Dremel. It’s a good spiel. It’s a great tool. She then gets out a pair of nail clippers and approaches my dog. “I’ll show you how easy it is,” the blithering idiot says. “Here, you just — ”
“PLEASE DON’T!” I say, a little frantically. “He doesn’t like his feet being touched.”
She still has the clippers out and is inching them toward Kennedy’s feet when I step in, gently cradle his head and try to just edge my shoulder in there so she’d have to walk around me to violate him further. I wait a few seconds — annnnnd there we go. It kind of clicks into place. Maybe.
“…oh, he doesn’t like his feet being touched?”
“No. I’m sorry, but he really doesn’t.”
“…oh, he’ll bite me?”
“Probably? You’re a stranger to him, so…”
“Oh, we’re not strangers now! We’re friends!”
“Yeah. Okay. He’s still not going to let you cut his nails.”
[adopts a faux Morgan Freeman voice] I wish I could tell you that Kennedy fought the good fight, and Blueberry let him be. I wish I could tell you that — but Aqua Dog is no fairytale world. After the nail situation, she mostly left us alone — and as patrons began filling up the other side of the facility [the part where the groomers work] she was away more, which was nice. Shortly before Kennedy and I were done, though, she resurfaced the way a spider on your wall makes itself seen just before you go to sleep. “Hey, you’re using a bristle brush?” she asks me.
“The slicker brush.”
“Oh, yeah, the bristle brush.”
[They are not the same thing.]
“Well, here,” Blueberry says excitedly, digging through her basket of tools. One of the tools is the nail clipper, and Kennedy eyes it with immediate mistrust. “Try the rake.”
“Oh, thank you, but I really — ”
“The rake is what you want. It’ll help pull out his underfur.” She proceeds to run the rake from Kennedy’s shoulder down to his leg, and I just about punch her in the dumb mouth as Kennedy stiffens. It’s at this point that I notice Blueberry has an open, bleeding cut on her hand that looks like a dog bite puncture. When we first arrived at the place, she was trying to cut a dog’s nails. I’d heard a scuffle but didn’t realize anyone had gotten hurt.
The amount of surprise I feel that she got herself bitten is zero. Zero surprise.
“We’re just about to leave, actually, but thank you. I’ll give it a try,” I say, trying to get her to leave by taking her dumb suggestion.
Fortunately, that WAS the last we saw of Blueberry until we checked out.
The morals of the story:
Don’t face kiss, brush, or pet dogs you don’t know, unless the owner says it’s okay or you’re directly in charge of that dog’s care [e.g. a stray or found dog, if you feel comfortable enough].
Don’t offer treats to dogs with food allergies.
Don’t try to clip a dog’s nails if you don’t know the dog, especially if the owner asks you multiple times to GTFO.
If you’re incapable of seeing a dog like a child, try to think of them like phones. You wouldn’t face kiss, brush, cuddle, or feed a child without asking his or her parents, would you? [I don’t know; I have virtually never wanted to do any of those things to a human child with one rare exception.] Likewise, you wouldn’t grab a stranger’s phone and just use it and start flipping through their photo gallery without asking, I hope.
Thirty-two years ago I was put on a plane bound for John F. Kennedy International Airport with nine other Korean children. Eight of us were born in 1984, from October to December. One girl was born in October 1972. Our flight’s 막내 [“maknae” — the youngest person in a group] was born in January 1985, which means that she would have been considered a Rat like the rest of us — and I really do mean the rest of us. Coincidentally, all ten of us were born in the Year of the Rat. 1972 is a Water Rat year and 1984 is a Wood Rat year. Had we grown up in the culture we were born into, we nine could’ve called each other 친구 [“chingu” — same age friends] and we might’ve called Miss 1972 언니 [“eonni” — a term that means “older sister” and is used by younger females to address an older female they are close with; also romanized as “unnie”] or 누나 [“nuna” — a term that means “older sister” and is used by younger males to address an older female they are close with; also romanized as “noona”]. I’m going to put a list of the names of my fellow passengers here on the off chance some of them are out there in the void:
The above mentioned case is the birth mother was unavailable at the time of intake. We received this child from the Head of Clinic after the natural mother disappeared from her recovery room. Therefore, no one has any information about the birth mother and we have no possible way to locate the mother. Thank you.
Sincerely, Mrs. Choi Chief Information Department
This is the first Airplane Day I’ve experienced since the rift between me and my parents became utterly insurmountable. This time last year I was still soldiering through, still trying to go along to get along, still choking on retorts whenever various events from my past were inevitably brought up in “casual conversation” — events that painted me as the villain to my own tragedies. There’s probably some truth to that, but there’re at least three lies for every truth when my parents tell a story. Maybe it’s cowardice on my part that lets me write publicly about them when I have not spoken with them since I sent them a text message on July 31st, 2016 asking them to leave when they arrived uninvited at my door at 10:15 p.m.
Here is an excerpt from something I wrote that day:
I have not been answering my parents’ phone calls or text messages recently as a matter of self preservation, so tonight they showed up at our apartment uninvited and spent the past fifteen to twenty minutes banging on my front door [which was not locked; thankfully they did not try to open it out of curiosity; I am still not sure what I would have done in that case, but things probably would have become physically violent] and yelling and calling out to me. At some point my mother began theatrically weeping and wailing. “Don’t you feel like what you’re doing is evil?” they asked. “Don’t you feel that turning against your parents is evil? You can’t possibly feel good about yourself after what you’re doing. You can’t possibly feel good at all. You can’t possibly feel good as a daughter or a person.” My door is not soundproof; it was easy to hear them talking to each other and to my dog — “go get Mommy, Kennedy; go get Mommy and tell her to open the door; Kennedy, where’s Mommy?” — and I am going to refrain from posting the things I heard because I am ashamed and hurt and infuriated by them and because I don’t want anybody else to have to house this vitriol.
When I was younger, I never thought I would ever in a million years want to meet or even know about my birth mother. Today, though, just for a little while, I admitted to myself that I do. That not knowing sometimes hurts. I still don’t know for sure whether excommunicating my adoptive parents was the right thing to do. I know that my depression and anxiety are my things and not necessarily linked to them, but I also know that life without them is easier. I know that I feel healthier.
I’m not good at burning bridges. The fire hurts my eyes, burns my fingers. Everything I am is equipped for putting them out instead of starting them.
Anyway, enough of that. Airplane Day is always a bittersweet day, but I’m going to end this post on a sweet note. What’s important to me is connecting with my culture and connecting with people who share it and can teach me about it. On June 5th, 2016 I received my Ancestry Composition Report from 23andme.com and was able to confirm my Korean blood; on June 13th, 2016 I connected with a second cousin through the same website whose parents were born and raised in Busan. I have joined Facebook groups for Korean-American adoptees and have joined the Portland Korean Language Meetup Group. I haven’t been brave enough to make real life contact yet, but I hope I will gain more confidence soon. ^^;;
I’m also keeping up with KEDIM, even though by the time I publish or upload anything it’s a day late. As long as I stay motivated, it’s okay. Right? ㅠㅅㅠ