To bait the fruit flies, all we need is apple cider vinegar mixed with Dawn dish soap poured in the bottom of a glass, fitted with a paper funnel, wrapped with tape. The fruit flies appear at the edge of the funnel looking down, then make their way through the bottom, but can’t remember how to get back out of the hole. That’s it. They collect in a ring around the edge and in the morning we toss them in the grass. And it becomes a crude model of addiction I think, driving home from a long day at work when all I want is a beer and my lawn chair under the tree, out back: just me and the birds and the bugs and later, the bats, groups of ducks and geese headed south…the sound of distant cars swooshing like the tide going out, scraping me out, waiting for the first stars, the frogs…and later with the moon, a choked owl hoots, the sudden scream of death or longing that could be a coyote…something trapped, giving its last gasp…and I elbow Dawn, did you hear that…?

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October 14, 2018 (Sunday)

Sadly, I let myself get too annoyed often and it cut into my enjoyment of life. We rode in the Pilot to the pumpkin patch, all six of us, and I reminded Loren and Lily to look up from their phones for the views: country scenes on a sunny Saturday afternoon, small towns with names like Carnation, Fall City. By the end of the week we were all compromised and tired and starting to feel the tug of the Northwest that makes it hard to motivate this time of year. We set traps for the fruit flies and cleared them out every morning. I let the last of the blue cheese sit out under glass for two days and then I finished it off with a toasted bagel, mustard, Canadian bacon, and raw onion. I complained about the kids triggering the sensor on the plastic bat by the back door, that’s a good two feet tall and makes screaming sounds when it goes off. I got annoyed with Loren’s six-year-old when he didn’t thank me for toasting his almost-vegan marshmallow, insisting he wanted to do it himself. I went inside and pouted and made myself another drink. I completed my first full-length project at work, a messaging framework for a tech marketing campaign, finding the right words to evoke emotion from the driest of content like finding one grain of sand on a beach that sparkles if you catch it at just the right light. I felt the past pulling away, on my walk with the dog around the block. I felt it being replaced the way sand shifts when the tide pulls out and it looks just like it did, before. All the houses in our neighborhood have the same problem with zombie infestations as they did last year, with tombstones and hands coming out of the ground. I thought for a moment I understood the James Joyce book Ulysses, but then it passed. Something about a whole life compressed into a small space of a day, if you look at it right. And I thought, what does the distance do to our hearts? Does it make us stronger or weaker, or just more comfortable with the cold.

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The smell of freshly cut grass in mid-October, summer’s scent, a lover’s fragrance. The clouds more like spring than fall, texture of sheep’s wool. The grass is wet and the cat walks upon it daintily. I spilled half my beer into it, imagined the earth just grinned a bit.

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In the last 24 hours, my blog has been targeted by a bot following attack. At first it seemed like a good thing, all these new followers. They come in batches of five or so every hour, about 200 in the last couple days. But as I dug deeper, I realized they all map back to a lifestyle blog about cooking.

Funny enough, the names and thumbnails of my new followers are all plausible. They’re young, white women with on-trend names like Reagan. When I click on the parent site it takes me to a bunch of recipes for Belgian beef, gelatin-based stocks, and so on—with step-by-step instructions, terrible misspellings, photos with hands and spatulas. It’s how you’d imagine robots trying to talk about cooking, with English as a second language.

Part of me wants to go there and say stop following me, but another part doesn’t want to attract any negative attention. In fact I keep finding myself returning there, tempted to follow…

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Song for the undoing

How the days went by like the poets said they would, like wild horses over the hills

or worse: indistinct and unnoticed, unremarkable, not lived.

Let the days be seen for their own worth,

wild as horses, mysterious as the shape of clouds, wrapped in the world of our own wonder, and what we can see in it:

living a whole life in each one,

in this small space.

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October 7, 2018 (Sunday)

In the den with the fruit flies on the couch I lay listening to the tic of the clock, the dog shifting, the sound of a jet outside, and nothing else worth noting. We are each of us in our separate rooms this Sunday burrowed in like bugs with our comforts and our things. We are back to the season of journaling, of sketching trees, and drawing baths. I start at the top of this notepad realizing it was October last year I began, looking at myself then, a year younger—notes, grocery lists, beef chili recipes and comments about the frogs outside. We really don’t change much over time. We are like stews ourselves, either improving with age or about to go off.

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More animal

By Carstian Luyckx (1623–1657)

Pouring boiling water down the sink drain to kill the fruit flies. The look of them in the dark as it spills through, this everyday violence. Remembering what my arm looked like when I cut it as a 5-year-old, running through a glass window. A trifecta of really bad wounds that summer of ’76 that ended with me falling out of a tree onto a freshly cut limb, how it poked a hole in my stomach and looked like a mouth. Reading Stephen King for the first time, as a child. Why this fascination with gore and the macabre, that starts so young. A collection of stories called Night Shift, with a bandaged hand on the cover and eyes poking out of the palm. The story “I Am The Doorway” about an astronaut who contracts something in space and brings it back to earth. It starts as an itch in his hand, and soon sprouts eyes. Then one day, his arm just shoots up in the air and a bolt of lightning comes out of the hand to kill a small child at the beach. It ends with the itching starting on his chest...

Dreaming about Roxy getting eviscerated by a bob cat. They say bob cats will have their way with house cats, and that’s what she looked like when she came in, like she’d been compromised. In the dream, she’s on the pavement by the back stoop dying with her eyes pressed shut, and it’s clear she’s at the end, but needs my help getting there…

This undercurrent of violence that feels so pervasive, it’s always with us. The torture scene towards the end of 1984, the psychological violence in the everyday conditioning that dehumanizes us. How they turn the characters against each other, in favor of the state. And make us less human, more animal. This desire to control us through fear.

But haven’t we always been this way, more animal in our desires and brutality? Or is it that we’ve just gotten better at concealing it.

This post is a plug for my friend Walt Walker’s annual Halloween call for content. Also inspired by the horror film that is American politics, all of them witches.

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