Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Moonlight Chase (Short Story)

A Moonlight Chase - a short story by R. Thompson

     Down through the streets, hooves pounding, breath, small gasps of cloud expelled into the air, racing, heart beating within a chest; it wouldn't be long now.

     No....they will catch her soon.

     She raced down the paved streets, ducking into a yard, across two grassy plains that held nothing of interest to her if she had been hungry, no, this was artificial turf, she should not have come this far into the land of those who hunted her, who sought her, who wanted her for what she could never be for them.

     The sounds of her pursuers faded away as she crossed another lawn, leaped a fence, ran over another road, the sound of her hooves sounding too sharp on the black top, too loud, they'd find her for sure...  But the footsteps were gone now, all she could hear was the sound of her own breath, of her own heart, the hooves on the grass now, it faded away, she could fade away now, there was a small stand of woods here, but it wouldn't be able to hide her during the daylight, only this moonless night would be able to hide her slick, white body and the magic that it held within.

     She was a unicorn.  Probably not the last, she had seen others like herself far, far, to the north.  She had heard stories from the humans that there were so few of them now that no one believed they existed.  Well, perhaps most didn't.  Some wanted to believe, and she'd seen enough t-shirts and posters and small, porcelain figurines to prove that, but she doubted they would actually think she existed.  It was okay.  The humans who once hunted her no longer did.  They wouldn't believe what they saw, blinking twice, the vision of the lovely unicorn there and gone, only a blink of the imagination, really.  She didn't mind.  It wasn't as if she missed them...

     No, that was a lie.  She did miss them.  She missed the small girls with their flowing hair and the flowers they braided together into her mane.  She missed the laughter of the young boys as she took them for rides in the forest.  She missed the old women who would ask her help with curing the sick.   Those were the days she missed the most, and it was the reason she came here, tonight, of all places, to see, if perhaps things had changed enough to go back to those days.  But, they didn't see her.  Not all of them, only a few...this man with a rifle being one of them.

     What were those weapons he held?  Did he think he was seeing what he saw?  Or did he think she was an albino deer?  Probably the later, she mused.  He sent one shot up into the air and it missed her.  Not that it would have stopped her, the weapons of mankind had long ceased to hurt her.  She was immortal, a whisper, a light breeze, a ghost perhaps.  But not so effervescent as to float away into nothing, but not substantial enough to be hurt by a mere bullet.

     He had given chase, and she had allowed it, not so much out of fear but out of the chase, of the game. The horseman chasing the fox in the woods.  Although they had stopped that long ago as well.  The only proof of the old hunt was in the ancient tapestries that were woven so long ago.  Were these the same humans that used to capture her kind for luck?  There were terrible stories, but most of them were false.  Her kind wasn't so easily taken down, taken apart, and sold for it's magical items, although the rhino...  They had seen better days, their magic stripped away and for what?  A piece of fingernail?  Nothing.  Her ancient ancestors would weep for the poor creatures who had long since lost their magic.

     The unicorn brushes through the small stand of trees and came out into yet another small neighborhood.  These dwellings for humans were compact, house next to house with barely a patch of inedible grass in between.  Some had fences, others did not, but they were stacked next to one another like so many dominoes.  She felt sorry for them.  They had forgotten what it was like to live in the woods.  They had forgotten how to grow things, to feed themselves, to see one another as special beings.  There were no voices speaking to one another around communal fireplaces, no happy singing their children to sleep.  Instead, there were murmurs and flashes of lights from televisions.

     She started to turn, noticing the moon was now rising in the East.  If the hunter was still out there, he would surely spot her white hide when the moon rose.  But a sound in the thicket surprised her.  She turned back, wondering of the sound, a snap, a murmur, and then a purr.

     "Who goes there?"  She asked, not sure if the creature understood her language.

     She needn't have feared a lack of understanding though, as the creature came into the moonlight, sulky and black as a shadow.  The cat brushed up against her hoof.  "It is I, your majesty.  What brings you to a place like this?"

     The unicorn blinked her pale, violet eyes, seeing the cat better now as the moon rose.  It was solid black but for a few white hairs upon its chest.  "I'm no majesty, small creature.  But I am a traveler who has run into a bit of a chase tonight and hoped to find some place where I might sleep.  Do you now of a place nearby one such as myself could nap in peace for a short time?"

     Rumbling now, the cat intertwined itself around her foreleg, then the other and then replied, "I can do better than that, I could show you a place, but you would need to give me a ride, as I do not travel as fast or as far as easily as one such as yourself."  It stopped circling and came to sit, looking up at the unicorn, eyes slowly blinking in interest.

     "I do not see why not," the unicorn replied, "Jump upon my back and tell me where to go."

     But cats are still magical, and the moment she said it, he disappeared.  The unicorn stomped her hooves, turning around herself, looking for the beast, not feeling it upon her back, nor sensing its presence.  "Darn beast..."  She muttered.  "Cat!  Where did you go?"

     There came no reply, and not a rustle of leaves within the small wooded area, nor sound of the creature running away.  The unicorn sighed, knowing that besides having the nine lives that humans always swore cats had (they did) but they also could, what did humans call it?  Teleport.  Yes, but it was more like they could hop out of time and into time and reappear somewhere else.  Humans only glimpsed this from time to time when they thought a cat was in one room and it appeared in another, or perhaps they wondered how a cat could escape and they would see it outside even though they just knew it was inside.

     Unicorns occasionally partnered with the creatures, but depending on their age, how many lives they'd had, and how wily it might be, they couldn't always be trusted.  However, the unicorn felt that if it had even bothered to speak to her at all, there must have been some chance that...  there, there it was, up ahead.  She tilted her head forward and walked toward the creature, "Is that you, cat?"

     "Yes.... it's not safe here..."  The cat ran quickly back up between the houses where it had disappeared to, and then hopped lightly onto the unicorn's back.  "Head straight down this road, fast as you can, use the front lawns, it will keep your hooves from making too much noise."  His claws dug into her shoulders as he braced himself for the run.  "Now!  Quickly!"

     A sound...a new rustling behind her... the unicorn leaped into action, running as the cat directed.  She turned at the end of the road, his claws in her shoulders directing her which way to go.  She could feel a deep hum at the base of her neck as the cat purred it's excitement.  And ever so often she could feel a twitch of the tail as he looked back behind them.  "Quickly now, jump over this fence!"

     She no longer felt the cat upon her shoulder at this moment, it must have hopped off as she jumped, but she landed softly into a peaceful little garden.  The cat was beside her now, standing by her side on a small stone wall.  "Now, get down, as low as you can, we will have to wait here for them to go by."

     The unicorn did as she was told, kneeling to the ground until she was hidden behind the short stone wall.  She could hear voices as well as some sort of vehicle.  Humans ran by the fence, not seeing her, they were in the shadow of the house, no moonlight could reach her here yet, it was too low.  And the small wall and fence hid her from sight.  The cat paced the stone, disappeared for a time, and she could hear more voices of humans, "You've got to be kidding me.  Let's go home, there's no deer out here..."

     "I swear I saw one... albino I'm sure of it."  The voices continued away, and she heard a drift say, "I've heard of them up north, maybe they've made their way down..."  Then all was quiet.  She could hear her breathing, her heartbeat, the sound of frogs, and the moving of the earthworms in the grass.

     "So...was that your trouble?"  The cat said after a time.

     "Yes, I suppose it was, and I owe you thanks."

     "You'll owe me, alright...but I don't need another favor from a unicorn.  I've already lived more than nine lives due to the last one, and I think I'm almost ready for heaven."  The cat said, jumping back up onto the wall from wherever he had been hiding moments before.  "You can stay here probably, for awhile, it's a safe place I've found in this strange place that humans call the suburbs.  The humans are good, and they don't own a gun.  They feed the birds and they treat the young ones within well."

     With the phrase 'young ones', the unicorn's ears perked.  "Children?"

     The cat laughed.  It sounded bright and filled with mirth.  "No, no, kittens, my kind.  On their first lives, the lot of them.  Although in my previous life I lived with one of them.  I check on her from time to time.  But no... children are a strange mixture of terror and hatred nowadays.  They fear every little bump and scratch, but they hate being coddled, but they don't know any better.  They aren't raised to learn anything of the land, parents fight, children become filled with disdain and don't understand magic."  The cat settled down, hiding its paws from the chilly evening.  "I'm sorry, unicorn, but your kind is just a fairy tail now as much as my nine lives are."

     "So, why here?  Why do you stay here if you hate what they've become?"

     "I don't hate them.  They give good scratches, and I've been around long enough to know that things could always get better.  There's still hope."  The cat turned its eyes to the house where a light had turned on and a woman walked to the window and looked out into the back yard.  "Because of people like that one.  She was good to me once, back in another life.  I think she believes that it's me in one of the young cats in her care, but it's not.  Very few cats seek the magic that we once used to cling to, that which keeps us alive.  But, that's not for now.  What are  you doing here?  You should return to your forest, to your peaceful ways."

     The unicorn watched in fascination at the woman in the window as she turned and stroked the head of a cat that was on the table within.  "Because...I wanted to see if anyone still wanted to ride a unicorn."  She turned her eyes back to the cat once the light inside the house went off again.  "I wanted to remember what it was like to be appreciated again.  But, I suppose it's too late for that.  I have lost my magic, or at least the magic they believed I once had, and now it is just me, and humans only want me because they think I am something I am not.  It's okay, I was bored, really, immortality is a long, sad, journey."  She set her head down on the ground before her and the cat jumped down onto her back, kneading with its paws and then settled.

     "Anyway, I thank you for helping me find somewhere to stay, albeit temporarily.  Once the moon sets again I will leave.  You have been surprisingly helpful."

     The cat purred, and then said, "You are welcome."  It yawned, and then with a tail twitch said, "I think I may have decided what you owe me in return."

     "Yes?"  The unicorn asked, not lifting her head as her eyes were heavy and she wanted to sleep.

     "I would like you to take me with you for another ride."  The cat said, now closing its eyes as well.  "I know how long eternity feels, and if you should like the company, I am old, and my last life is nearing its end."  The purr turned into a rattle, and for the first time the unicorn realized it wasn't long for this last life.

     "Okay, cat, after this last nap."

     "Yes, that would be acceptable," replied the cat.

     And the moon rose and the shining white hide of the unicorn almost seemed to turn to crystal.  A tired woman peered out through the darkness down at her garden.  There's that cat again, she sighed, the one that made the cats she owned pee all over the house.  Hopefully it didn't come up to the porch and pee all over the door again, she didn't think she could handle cleaning up another spray fest.  But her weary eyes noticed a shimmer... something else out there in the yard.  It sparkled in the moonlight, like faint bubbles, fading away before they popped.  Was the cat curled up on something?  The woman strained to see...  But she closed her eyes and rubbed them.  It was late, she should go to bed, her husband and cats were waiting upstairs.

     "Good night cat..."  The woman whispered.  "Good night..."  She smiled slightly, the moon had risen, giving more form to the shape in her yard.  It couldn't be what she thought it was...but it had to be, there wasn't any other explanation.  But she was older now.  Not young enough to be a child, but not old enough to need the help of the unicorn that slept there.  She wasn't a maiden.  But that was okay, because no one would believe her anyway.

     The unicorn smiled, as well as a unicorn could.  Maybe there was hope for them after all, like the cat said.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Rant: "Big Brother" is "Big Business"

     Today's rant has been brought to you by....  well, no one, no one is paying me to talk about their companies, so if anything, it's been brought to you by me, no paid sponsors and no reason but that the subject has been on my mind the last week or so since my last rant.
     In today's rant, I will be speaking of my opinions about "Big Brother" - the government, business, and other things that are constantly spying on us.  And also brushing into the fact that many of these "Big Brother (from here out referred to as BB)" businesses are also giant, crushing monopoly-like monsters.

     Now, to begin, I'll post a picture of a thoughtful gorilla.  This is your last chance before I go into this weird rant (which is actually pretty positive today even in a worrisome sort of way).  I'm not entirely sure the name of this gorilla at the Columbus Zoo (it may have been the one who died on her 60th a few months later, if so it would make a whole lot more sense that she was contemplating her life as a great-great-great-great?-grandmother.)  Either way I figured this might be a fitting photo.

     We thoughtful gorillas -ahem- humans (I really hate the idea of being distant cousins although I believe those evolutionists actually put us closer to chimpanzees rather than their larger gorilla cousins) have spent a very long time breeding, expanding, creating, and making our lives better for ourselves and the other creatures that live on this planet.  However, unlike those creatures on our planet who get by eating, breeding, sleeping and repeating; we use forms of currency to trade our labor for goods.  And when someone gets really good at trading that labor for goods, they no longer have to labor, they have others do it for them.  They still have the goods, they just don't have to work any more, and the current generation (some Millennials and a few of the newest generation which doesn't seem to have a name yet) seem to believe that money is just out there, and anything can be yours if you have a magic plastic card in your pocket.  They don't seem to question where that ability to use the plastic card came from (someone working to put money on it to use) they just use it until it's all used up and then they would get another one.

     Okay, maybe some of that trouble arose before the Millennials, because the biggest credit card debt problem actually arose back around the time before 9-11 and continued through the early 2000's until the recession in 2006/2008.  But I'm not here to talk about debt, even though it's a really good topic to get into at some later date.  What I am going to talk about is how those people who have grown up in a world where anything can be bought on the internet really has changed the way things work today.
     If you are currently reading this, you've participated in the grand internet advertising scheme that is out to get your money.  Not me, I don't ask for money and you won't find advertising on this page since I pay for you to see it without ads, but you most likely came here through Google or Facebook and those two companies are the biggest money grabs out there.  And yet, it's okay, right?  They don't charge anything to use them.  I won't go into the logistics of how they make their money because there are plenty of articles and YouTube (another one!) videos about it out there (advertising and games of course).  But I do want to make a note that they are definitely some of the closest things to a "Big Brother" that we have today.
     The BBs of today are mining information.  They are doing it at the most steady rate imaginable.  In fact, I don't think we can imagine the rate that they collect our information.  They know our names, our birthdays, things we like, people we talk to, work we do, vacations we take, places we live...well, you get the idea.  They have facial recognition to know what photos we are in; isn't that horrifying?  You could be in a background photo of someone and Facebook could know who you are, even if you weren't even supposed to be there.  It reminds me of when I was skipping out on a band concert in 6th grade and lied that I was sick when I actually was going to a bowling tournament award dinner, and I'd written it on the back of a paper which I'd accidentally left behind in the classroom...and my teacher found it.  It's like that, only so much worse.
     But, I digress because I'm sure the internet would know that at some point too if it tried to find that information.  The BBs also know what kinds of things we buy and advertise to us with websites we've visited and items we've viewed.
     If you've spent any time Google searching sponsored ads and then gone into Facebook a bit later, you'll find ads from those companies showing those exact items you just looked at.  I kid you not, it's creepy.  But you get used to it and move on because most likely if you didn't already buy the item, you aren't going to, and the ad isn't going to sway you either way.  And also those websites get it wrong sometime because maybe they think you're of that age and should be having babies so it'll start sending you ads for diapers and I'm like - heck no - you'd better stop THAT right now.  It's not perfect, but they're perfecting that advertising a little more every day.
     Then there's Amazon, and you can get just about anything from there, and if you can't get it there you can get it from one of China's copy-cat websites because there's sure to be a lead-soaked replica of whatever it is you wanted from there.  They advertise just as heavily and will pop up in your Facebook and Google feeds too, also in side-ads on websites that carry news and information.  Ever go to your favorite News website and see an ad for that thing you just looked at?'s everywhere, they feed off the "cookies" that your computer tracks and the history too.  It's all very invasive and sort of creepy.

     HOWEVER....  I'm okay with it.

     Why?  Why should I be okay with all of this invasion of my privacy?  Why should I be okay with Amazon and Google and YouTube and Facebook knowing about me at every moment of my life?

     Well, in part, it's so darn convenient.  And also because I sure as heck don't do anything bad that would cause that information to come back and bite me.  I don't look at porn, I rarely swear (unless I get really heated) and I don't engage in illegal activities - don't touch drugs, don't steal, haven't gotten a traffic ticket and there's probably a bunch of things I can't put on this list because I haven't done them to even think of them.
     And as for the convenience of it, isn't it nice to go on Amazon and suddenly there's an ad for the next book in a series you've been collecting?  Oh, it's out today?  Sweet, let me order it today.  Or oh look, Google is suggesting a new restaurant I haven't tried yet but all of these people who visited other restaurant I like also liked it.  Or oh look Facebook just showed me that I did the exact same thing 5 years ago that I did today...weird.
      Then there's things like the Amazon Echo where you can call up any music you want to listen to (for a monthly fee at least) or ask for a monthly news briefing.  And sure, the Echo is listening to everything that is being said in the room at all times - but what's it going to hear?  Nothing that will incriminate me of criminal activity, because I'm not doing anything like that.  And from what we've seen, so far, these large companies are keeping their information to themselves for the most part.
     We've already seen how Apple refused to unlock the I-Phone of a terrorist even though there could have been information on it.  And also that Amazon kept the recording of a home that had a murder happen within it to themselves.  Both eventually did get out (but I believe both didn't really have any information that helped in these cases) but all the same, these companies are protecting themselves from the government.

     And that's really the biggest issue with BB.  In the book 1985 and Animal Farm and so many others, the government was really the bad guy.  They were monitoring everything that was going on and using it against people to keep them in line.  And yes, the government is monitoring us at every moment too.  They listen to our telephone conversations, they can dig into our internet histories, they know the things we were doing; but not to the extent these private companies are.  And these private companies are doing this for one reason: to advertise to you to buy stuff.
     We're probably going to buy that stuff anyway, right?, probably not.  Maybe at some point, but not to the extent we are at the moment.  And it's making them into huge monopoly-like giants.

     This is where things get sketchy in my mind.  Because I like shopping on Amazon a lot.  I like giving Google information about the restaurants I visit and I like using Facebook to share things about myself with my friends.  But they've all but killed their competition over the last ten years.  Before when you wanted to buy an item you typically went to that website of the item and bought it from there.  But now if you go to Amazon since they're so big they have lowered the price, so you get it from them instead.  The original company doesn't see direct profits from it, and eventually they lose out.  I do see a smaller sect of private business springing up and managing okay on their own until some bigger rip-off company selling on Amazon steals their designs or artwork and then they too get overwhelmed unless they decide to go the legal route to sue.  But that's darn costly in itself.  So now you've got Amazon and all of these big companies taking all of the money.
     The big companies of yesteryear are slowly falling into oblivion because they can't keep up with this powerful "monopoly".  I can't say they're exactly a monopoly, because that would imply that Amazon could stop others from doing what they do, and even though they can to some extent, they can't legally do it.  So I can't call them it straight out.  But there are a lot of other large companies out there right now that basically own everything.  And if they don't own it yet, then they don't see it as competition yet.  Google buys up everything they see as useful, Amazon, Facebook, and so too telephone providers, internet and cable providers and all of those food businesses like Tyson, Pepsi, Coca-Cola and General Mills...I could go on forever, but if you look up just about any big name you'll see dozens of businesses under them.

     My opinion on this is that as big as the government is, it's not the powerhouse these BB companies have become.  Is it something that effects me?  Sure it does.  I don't work directly for a big one, but it was bought by a bigger one that owns a few other larger chains.  I buy from huge chains and am watching as the little ones either get sucked up, or killed by those chains.  It hurts to see a store you once loved disappear.  But will I be able to find the same items I used to buy there?  Sure.  Maybe it won't be quite the same, but that's okay, we'll move on.

     What I really wonder, however, is what will this all mean for us in the long run?  I don't mind spending my money at Amazon, but I know that to an extent it killed my favorite bookstore Borders.  But that bookstore had killed my local Young & Welshan's which was a smaller, locally owned bookstore.  They'd moved into a new spot a few years before next to a coffee shop and had opened the wall between them only a year or so before.  It was the first bookstore/coffee shop I'd ever been in outside of the Borders I first visited in Maine a few year's before.  But then Borders came in across the street (almost literally, although about down a half mile) and suddenly Y&W was gone.  Then Amazon started taking over as well as Barnes and Noble (about a mile away) and both of them had an internet presence but Borders did not, so they were gone within ten years.  What do I do now?  I still visit B&N, although the closest one is 15 miles or more away, so usually I just order on Amazon.  I don't even have a smaller local bookstore to go to because the few we did have also have closed in the past five or so years.  The ones that still exist are even a further drive.
     What does that mean to me?  It means that I'll continue to participate in buying stuff from these larger companies.  Why?  Because there's not much of a choice.  And it's convenient.  Do I wish I could go back in time and wish that those bookstores would come back?  Sure I do.  But would they?  Probably not.
     Why don't I hate businesses more that drive other businesses out?  Maybe because I know that change is definitely inevitable.  If we don't keep up with it we'll be swallowed by it like those little businesses do.  BUT...I won't refuse to participate in helping smaller businesses either.  I don't refuse to going to the privately owned places, but I really do hate getting attached to them.  Even if my $20 a month helps them out, I can't be the only one otherwise they'll disappear like so many others have.  It's really depressing to get attached to a business only to see it fold over time and then I have to still seek business elsewhere.  I'm not sure what the answer is to that.
     Maybe the only real answer is if these larger businesses start helping the little ones.  I'm not sure how that would work, but I could totally see Amazon going "okay, we want an extension business so we want to help you do what you do..."  And even though I have seen that with smaller businesses using Amazon Marketplace...I'm not entirely sure if it's really helping or harming these businesses.  I just don't know enough to speculate.

     So, in conclusion... Well, there really isn't a conclusion.  I think it's O-K to buy things from the big stores.  They do give a lot of people jobs, even if those jobs might be terrible.  They do make things convenient even if it costs other smaller companies their business.  And I think that to a lesser-extent some businesses do benefit from them because there's advertising and if I can't find said item on Amazon (for instance) but it's right here at this little store (or maybe it's cheaper here or the same price and I can have it now) I'll buy it there.  And it's hard to tell what the future will bring and how much all of this information gathering will effect us in the future.  But I don't think it's all that bad, so I'm not just going to start boycotting because as a middle-class American, I really can't afford to spend my time on it.  Gotta work to pay for the goodies I'm buying, even if that is a whole other matter that may need to be blogged about in the future as well.

TL;DR:  I think it's okay to shop at Amazon and use Google even though they might know more about me than I do myself and sell me stuff that's killing smaller businesses.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Rant: A Serious Discussion About the Politics of Abortions & Capitalism

     Before I begin, please look at this cute picture of Nendroids (face cases) with the varying expressions of how I have been feeling these past few months since the election.  Perhaps, you too, have had these expressions and feelings as well.  If you have, instead, had expressions of relief, excitement, joy and pleasure, than perhaps you may not want to read any further into this blog.  Instead, if you have had feelings of fear, sadness, rejection and anger, than perhaps you'll understand what I've been feeling and get a gist of what the following blog will be covering.  Maybe you just want to get a better idea into the inner workings of my brain, and if that's the case, feel free to read on.  However, if you are close-minded, bigoted, or a troll, please stop now and save us both time and resentment.  I'll understand and won't hate you in any way.

     Now, for those of you who are still reading this, please keep an open mind.

     I mean it.  OPEN YOUR MIND.

     I am a Liberal.  I am also a Born-Again Christian.

     Yes, they can co-exist, but I also believe that my kind is the quiet minority who are afraid of speaking up because we will be drowned by the majority of non-religious Liberals or the majority of Conservative Christians.  We keep our mouths shut, we plod along, we try to do what's right when the circumstances call for it, but we don't do it loudly out of fear that we will be squashed by both sides that we represent.

     It's darn scary to be someone that is hated by both sides.  Doesn't matter that I'm a white female, because I enjoy rights and also have inherited the problems that all females endure.  Being raised a Christian means that women are to be seen and not heard, are baby-factories who cannot think for themselves, who should not be educated, who cannot be feminist, should stay at home to raise children and cook dinners for husbands.  I was raised by a mother who worked, but then was able to raise her children from home.  She didn't have many hobbies of her own, her whole life revolved around being a wife to her husband and a mother to her children.  That was how she was raised and that was how she lived her life.  (Don't get the wrong impression, I was told that I could be anything and do anything that I wanted, so I wasn't raised as conservatively as I could have.)

     I will not say that is a bad thing, because it's not.  It's sort of the "American Dream of Woman" that came to be after World War II when the men came home from the war.  The women had been busting their butts working in industry so that their husbands could go and fight in Europe.  They scrounged, they saved, they did what they could to keep the country afloat.  When their husbands returned, I'm pretty sure they all wanted to just relax and go back home and allow their husbands to make money and take care of things.  Every person, man or woman, after working for many years and having it rough would want this at some point.  Sure, they might get bored of it after awhile, but I'm pretty sure as the men needed something to do after the war, they probably said, "Nope, it's our job to take care of things now, you just stay home and we'll do the heavy lifting."

     Sure, those women who marched for suffrage, those women who worked hard at the factories and in the war, I'm sure they didn't want to be shut down, but I have a feeling the vast majority of the country probably said, "Oh well, let's just give ourselves a break."

     Now, I didn't live in those times, but you can see a direct shift in the 1950's and 1960's when this mindset occurred, and then Vietnam happened (and hippies) and there was another shift to the idea of women staying at home having babies when we returned to the 1970's and 1980's.  I was raised in that time period and know for certain that was the mindset of the American Conservative Male in that time period.

     We are not here to complain about the "American Dream of Woman".  I had it too when I was growing up because no one told me that I could go into engineering, no one told me that technical school could have been an option, no one told me that women could work in the computer field.  We could 'do whatever we wanted,' but we were not told about everything there was we could be. Women  in the work force were nurses and teachers.  I didn't want to be either one of those, I wanted to be a writer and I wanted to be a historian.  I actually really wanted to be a Paleontologist, but the guidance counselor I was issued didn't know that was the study of dinosaurs.  She never investigated Science, she just simply followed her path.  Either you go into nursing or teaching, get married and quit - or you keep on doing those things and never get married.  Whatever, that's how it was meant to be.

     We are also not here to complain about women having children.  I think my distance from children really came simply from not being around them as much as my mother and many of my friends were.  I didn't get into a serious relationship with a man until well into my 20's and didn't get married until I was almost 30, so by that time I accepted that children might not be something in my future.  I only babysat for one child because the neighborhood I grew up had all children my age and then all that was left were the older generation.  I simply didn't know enough about children to actively aspire to be a parent.  But I know that there are many young and older women who want children but cannot have them are out there and also many young and older women who simply do not wish to have children.    It really shouldn't be an issue.

     What we ARE here to talk about is that it still IS an issue because recently it overshadowed a very important event that happened this last weekend (I'm speaking of the women's marches that happened all over the world).

     Abortion.  Or rather, the choice to have or not to have children.

     It seems simple enough, so let's look at the sides:

     Christians follow one simple philosophy:  Go forth and multiply.
     (King James version of Genesis 9:7 "And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.")

     Okay, so we're talking, we need to have children and we need to spread over the Earth.  Okay, that makes sense even to the non-Christian counterparts in the world.  By even an historical standpoint, when this was written there could be a plague to wipe out a quarter or even a half of the population at a time.  Whole cities could be killed off by a single disease.  This makes sense whether you are talking about God or if you don't believe in a deity at all.  Let's continue the human race because you never know when some war, plague, etc, could happen.

     Springing forward to 2,000+ years later however, and we have medicines, we have hygiene, we are spread over the world to every corner, even parts that our ancestors would never have imagined.  And many humans are predicting we may need to expand outside of every corner of our world into others.

     My question today is, so why is it that we still believe we must continue to multiply?  Is it because of our intimate fear of being wiped out as a species?  Or is it a fear of our blood lines being ended by one infertile child?  If these new DNA testing methods show us, our blood lines are so intermingled now that you can find every single race spread throughout the planet (except, perhaps, for a few small tribes out there).  So is it instead about the fear of our ancestors still spreading down through us that our species must continue on?  Or is it instead the fear that we will displease God if we don't continue multiplying until the Earth can't support us any longer?

     Why would God choose to do that to us?  Why would God tell us to keep having children until the planet He created for us couldn't support us any more?  Is that truly something a loving God would do?

     Okay, so now you're starting to wonder, "What's your point?  Are you a Pro-Choicer?"

     Well, maybe.

     But not for me.  I'm Christian, after all, and if I became pregnant or would become pregnant in the near future, I'd keep the child.  But I'm not going to tell someone else that they can't make the decision for themselves.  That wouldn't be fair to them.

     And for the record, Liberals don't call for Abortion.

     We call for CHOICE.

     So stop acting like every single Democratic Liberal is out there picketing hospitals telling pregnant women to have an abortion because IT DOES NOT HAPPEN.

     And if you've read this far, you should probably continue on reading because I'm about to make a really MIND-BLOWING point here.

     It is FREAKIN' EXPENSIVE to have children.

     Liberals see this, we're educated in this and understand, so let me drive it home to you as well.

     If you, who read this, are a die-hard Christian who believes that God wants everyone to have children, and they voted for Trump because he's a Republican and he's going to stop all of this money from the government from paying for abortions, please hear me out.

     Why are you telling women 1) you can't have birth control and 2) you can't have abortions?

     Because they are "killing babies" right?  Both kill babies.  Am I right?

     However, if you've raised a baby, you know how expensive raising a child can be right?  Maybe you're wealthy and you never had trouble with feeding a child or sending it to a private school.  Or maybe you've always wanted a child but can't have one and there's not enough babies in the adoption system so you can have one of your own.  Or maybe you did have children when all you could feed them was Kraft Mac & Cheese and you barely ate anything but it was worth it because someday those children will grow up to take care of you someday.

     But isn't that selfish?

     Okay, I've been called selfish for not wanting children.  "You're being selfish, because you could give your love, attention and money to a little child instead of keeping it all for yourself."  Yes, sure, maybe it is.  But am I also selfish for not wanting to bring it into a hatred filled America where people can't decide on what's wrong and write and the education system is declining into oblivion and the prison system is filled with people and jobs barely pay for food and shelter because no one understands building, farming and basic need-fulfillment anymore?  And an American where we're about to have another economic collapse at any moment?

     If you have a baby this year, you will spend between $3,000 and $30,000 on medical and hospital bills if you have insurance.  You'll probably spend a few more thousand dollars are feeding and caring for that baby.  You'll spend nearly a quarter million dollars to raise that child until it is of the age to go to college.  (I can't even imagine how expensive it would be to go to college in 18 years so I'm not even going to guess at that right now.)

     Minimum wage is $8.15 where I live.  IF you were able to actually make that full time you'd make $16,000 or so a year before taxes.  (NO, I'm not going to talk about taxes being lowered so stop - America is already where it is because of the tax situation.)  An inexpensive apartment in a decent size city might cost $400-$600 a month to rent - let's say with utilities and insurance that's rounded up to $1,000.  That would leave someone with $4,000 to pay for food, autos/transportation, clothes and other necessities.  Where would a minimum wage person get the money to pay for that kid after all that?

     I'm not talking about raising minimum wage either, so stop whining.

     I'm talking about women living under these conditions and getting by without a child to worry about.  Maybe they try to find someone else to live with so they can share that burden together.  Maybe they make a mistake in that man they find and they have sex and she becomes pregnant and he leaves her.  First these Conservatives say she can't have birth control (or should avoid sex all together) but they also say, but that's your duty as a woman to have children - so now she's pregnant and now she's facing this burden of that child and the money it will cost.

     These Christians won't pay for this woman's medical costs, will they?  Maybe if the woman is lucky she will find someone who wants to adopt and will help her out, but I'm pretty sure that mostly happens in the movies.  I don't have actual numbers on that one, but I feel it's probably pretty rare.  But also, now that it's happened, why can't she abort it?

     An abortion costs less than $1,000.  It's usually a pill and it's done.

     I'm not condoning abortion - so STOP YELLING AT ME.

     I'm just saying, if you were in this situation, you know you'll never find someone who will help you pay for all of the medical costs associated with having a baby, you don't want to be in debt with the hospital for the foreseeable future, and you still have time to take a pill and be in debt for a shorter amount of time, would you really go through and have the baby if those were your choices?

     Oh, and Planned Parenthood is out of the picture because the government wants to stop them from helping women actually plan to be parents, because they're too afraid these places are abortion factories.  FALSE.  These places actually give formula, birth control, and advice to women no matter what side of the issue they are on.  They help women get through having children as well as helping them prevent, but no matter, that won't be around much longer if the Republicans have their way.

    So, again, remember, I'm a Liberal Christian.  I feel like I can believe the way I believe but also believe that everyone else has their right to believe the way they want to believe.  I'm quiet because I know that being vocal would mean someone is going to think I'm trying to impose my belief upon them and that's not how the world should work.  But Christians also believe on spreading their belief to others.

     Where should I draw that line?  I believe that women should have the choice whether they can afford to have children.  I believe a man should not be the one who dictates this.  I also believe that another woman should not be the one who dictates this.  And if one of them feels they should, then maybe they should put their money where their mouth is and help said women have said child and if they can't afford it either, they should probably shut their traps and let the woman do whatever she feels is best in her situation!

     Wouldn't that be much easier than spreading hate and anger?  Wouldn't that be the Christian thing to do?  Wouldn't that be like Jesus wanted in loving thy neighbor?  How about the story of the Good Samaritan?  Have us as Christians gone backwards so far that we're willing to ignore all of the Bible's teachings just to focus on one thing: multiplying?  Or maybe the other focus, "Thou shall not kill."

     That's the brunt of it, isn't it?  Murder?

     I won't argue that stopping the life of a child from being born is a questionable topic.  It could mean murder.  Maybe it doesn't.  I'm not sure.  I won't know for sure until after I'm dead and I can ask God directly what His thoughts are on the subject.  Doesn't say in the Bible anywhere because they didn't have abortion back then.  It does, however, say that life begins with the first breath, (Genesis 2:7) which could be interpreted as soon as a baby is actually born.

     I'm not going to argue though.  Look it up for yourself and decide.  If you've read this far than I'm sure you're intelligent enough to make decisions on the topic for yourself.

     However, keep in mind that what is happening in the United States right now is scary for some people.  They are worried about the future of women and their rights.  We have made many strides forward to getting women equal rights.  We have called out the fact that women make less in every field than men do.  But more women are starting to get into the fields that were typically for 'men only'.  But chefs in restaurants were always men once and now women are there.  So eventually women may get into scientific and engineering fields that men have dominated and we can make the pay they do and the playing field will level out.  Men are already starting to get into the jobs that were once dominated by women - teaching and nursing - so maybe it will.  But should we really take a step back now that we're getting this much closer to equality?

     Wouldn't God want us all to be on equal footing?  He made man and woman.  

     So, in these times as I watch so much hate on all sides, I have sit back and cried.  I know something bigger is going on in this world and something is about to change.  I'm not sure if it's for the better.  We already had one recession in the past ten years, and they're calling for another.  I can feel it happening already as people march on Washington, D.C. and around the world.  As everyone is focusing on Donald Trump becoming president - they are so focused on what he's doing, they either focus on the good or bad to the extent they aren't seeing what's really happening.  Trump, perhaps, is taking our focus off what's really going on in the U.S.A. right now.  Maybe the whole election between him and Hillary Clinton was to stir up Americans to the point of riots (which happened) and point their focus away from what's really going on.

     After all, the subject of abortion has been a hot-topic for over 60 years.  It hasn't gone either way yet, so what's going to say that something will change in four?  But maybe putting that topic at the forefront will stop us from looking at what's really going on.

     Even ignoring the wars and terrorism that are running rampant through an over-populated planet, let's go back to the heart of American Capitalism for just a second.  (And then I'll be done with this rant for today, I promise, just bear with me a bit longer).

     Capitalism, which is what Americans focused on after World War II, making America work for itself again, bringing industry and advancing our country, that's really the focus that Trump made in running for office, right?

     So, if that's his real focus, why have so many business started folding in this new year?  What's really going on then?

     The balance of money has started to tip too far to recover without consequence.

     It's the reason these poor women can't afford to have these babies, after all.  The 1% may soon become the .5%.

     When that happens, when the monopolies have taken over, we will see a huge falling-off that we didn't see in the past recession.  The lower-middle class suffered during the last recession.  Now the upper-middle class/lower upper class will suffer even more.  We're already seeing this in the closures of stores across the country.  Those who have the money are putting the squeeze on companies to pull back the reins.  I've seen this already in two companies in Ohio: The Andersons and Bob Evans.  In the case of The Andersons, the retail side of the business was suffering so they pulled back to focus on production.  Same for Bob Evans, however, they're managing to sell off their retail restaurants as opposed to closing them.  Both of them had investors who wanted to go another direction.  Maybe this is part of the Trump plan, get people back to production - but where does that leave those who have come to rely on retail as a means of supporting ourselves?  (Those wait-staff and cashiers whose livelihoods exist only because of jobs since spending money was always the focus?)

     Well.  I'm not sure.  I do feel, however, that this is not the end.  More businesses will shift their focus, many will shutter doors and shut off the flow of jobs.  Maybe new businesses and jobs will arrive as these businesses change focus, but will it be fast enough?  Only time will tell.  But it's majorly scary for someone who has worked in retail her entire life.  I like selling things.  But I also like making things, so perhaps things will start to shift for that again, who knows?

     All I can say for a fact, is that Americans, whether Liberal or Conservative, Christian or Atheist (or Muslim or whatever religion or not) need to come together and help one another.  We need to look out for one another.  We need to stop criticizing one another.  We certainly need to stop bending the details to our side and start focusing on the truths.  We need to start helping to build up one another so we can withstand this storm that's coming.

     Americans will be nothing if we cannot start helping each other and stop hating one another.  We need to focus on healthcare, education and rebuilding our infrastructure.  We need to buckle down, every single one of us, to build a garden, create a business, work on rebuilding and teaching those children that we do have how to take care of themselves when things get bad.... and they WILL get bad, and soon, unless we stop focusing on these petty differences that haven't been solved in 60+ years and start focusing on things we can make a difference.

     {And for damn sure: stop focusing on stupid inane shit!}

Feel free to comment below if you've actually read this far.  And if you DID read this far, I really appreciate you as a human being, because now you know a bit more about me than you probably knew before.  Thanks for being cool.  ^_^  Here's an adorable picture of a cat:

tl;dr:  Women's rights and abortion issues are hiding bigger problems that are growing in our Capitalistic society. 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Last Day of 2016

So, 2016 has been a roller coaster for most of us (including me).  Some really great things have happened, and there's also a lot of things that were bad.  I'm not entirely sure if 2016 was exactly bad for me though.

At the beginning of 2016 I had been in my 'new' position at work for about six months, doing the same work I had the year before but for almost 2/3 less pay.  I was miserable.  I didn't have to deal with the regional manager as much, but things were falling apart at work and I was on a job hunt, trying to find something else that might make me happier.  I was depressed for a good portion of the beginning of the year.  Eventually spring hit and things got a wee bit better and I spoke to my doctor about the possibility of taking medicine.  What I discovered though, was that a lot of my bad mood was between medicine I was already taking and the lack of creative things to keep my mind busy.  So during the spring/summer I was still sort of miserable, but learning to cope.  I got into following the political race and watched the news regularly and started to learn more about things that were going on around me.

Mind you, I was also stressed out about a ton of things and it was still mostly miserable, but I coped, I got through, and even though my candidate lost the election, I felt like I tried and that was good.  On the plus side, we still had Obama through 2016, so in reality, 2017 will probably be worse.  But I digress....

Life did get better or maybe worse at the end of 2016.  I got my 'old' job back, but with less pay, but with the option of eventually making that same amount again given enough time.  I lost a bunch of co-workers (including the regional manager) so things changed quite a bit.  The stress of Christmas and the holidays still weighs on my shoulder as we try to get over the hump and get going on our next season, but I've found I can work at fighting my depression a bit better than I had at the beginning of the year.

Looking on the bright side of things, since Pokemon Go came out I've walked a whole lot more.  The summer was a pretty fun time for me and I met a lot of people out on the streets.  Not so much now, but that's okay because I got out and walked.  Even now that it's cold outside, I'm still walking.  I'm down 16 pounds from spring and I can see a definite change in my photos from a year ago.  I still have a long way to go, I'd still like to lose another 20 pounds and see what it feels like to be 'skinny' and I'm planning on starting up my exercise routine again come the new year.

I'm not making it a resolution though, I'm making it a 'health decision' as 2016 has thrown a number of things at me such as sore wrists (from something like carpal tunnel) and also a bad elbow (most likely arthritis) and a bad heal (bad shoes...can't seem to get that one right yet) and a hernia in my lower intestine (which I have a plan to talk to my doctor about in the next couple of months) and this strange heart murmur thing when I have gas buildup in my stomach (thanks acid reflux!) so I'm not even 40 years old and it feels like my body is already saying 'enough is enough!'  So that's why I think getting into something low impact like yoga and my Pokemon Go walks is the right way to go.

Where will I be a year from now?  I'm not entirely sure.  I hope 2017 will find me in a good place, but I may have to just drop off from following politics for awhile and sort of ignore the world for awhile.  Maybe 2017 will be a time for ME and getting myself centered as a person.  I felt that I was always a happier person when I'm creating things, so working on that might be the way to go.  At least giving myself meaningful projects (I was given a dollhouse to work on this year) might be something that I can work on to keep my mind busy.

As the sun sets in about an hour or so, and the last few hours of the year draw closer, I do hope that I can make a good attempt at enjoying my year in 2017, and I will wave farewell to 2016 and hope that it doesn't prove to be a better year than we had thought.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

My Life With Anime Figures - Part 9 (Nendroid Snow Miku 2014)

My obsession with Nendroids started a few years ago when they first came out with a few characters from Sword Art Online (Kirito and Asuna).  After that my husband and I started collecting random ones from other series that we liked, only here and there, because even though these little characters were cute, I wasn't quite taken with their chibi looks and giant heads.  If you look at some of the early Nendroids on the Goodsmile website, you'll see that they have gotten cuter with more detail and more possible poses.  We had about five or six of them by the time I got my first Hatsune Miku.  Actually I got a set of mini Nendroids pretty early on, and then a friend of mine ordered me a Miku in a kimono for a birthday, and suddenly I wanted more of them.

Hatsune Miku (a Vocaloid) has really captured my attention over the last few years.  She doesn't really have a 'story' she's really just a computer generated diva.  And there are so many Hatsune Miku Nendroids that I started finding myself wanting to buy one after another.  The first one that I took great pains to get was the Halloween Miku from 2014 and ordered her straight from Goodsmile.  And I passed up getting Snow Miku of the same year but ordered her from Crunchyroll.  I regretted that decision after I didn't get her until July of the next year (2015).  I was really looking forward to getting some outdoor shots of her with snow and flowers in the late winter, but seeing as though I got her in the middle of Summer, there wasn't much I could do with this little gal without setting up an indoor stage.

But, I can't stand putting so much effort into staging when I have a perfectly wonderful backyard!  So winter of 2015 finally came...but the snow didn't.  It was finally in late winter, in the new year of 2016, that a light fluffy snow finally fell and I had time to take this sweet little Nendroid out for her first snow photo shoot!

This photo to the right is one of my favorites since you can see her clear pigtails, and the snow is just light and fluffy and fresh.  I also got to take her base out and bury it in the snow, so that was fun.

The trees were coated too (although this snow would literally last one day and be melted off the next morning by a warm rain), so I had to act fast that morning.  The sky was bright enough that her pigtails just glowed in the tree and the snow glittered.  I wish that were better captured in this photo, but I liked it anyway.  This Hatsune Miku, after all, is supposed to be something of a snow fairy, so having her up in a tree was sort of a natural setting for her!  Her bunny friend didn't make it up into the tree though, he was waiting patiently below!

Now, unfortunately, even though it snowed so late in the winter that it was getting close to spring, I don't have access to snow drop flowers.  Actually, if you Google "Snow Drop" flowers you'll notice there's a problem with them...they don't look like Miku's flowers!  However, if you look up "Lily of the Valley," the flowers are actually closer.  But...unlike snow drops, lily of the valley don't bloom until the middle of spring.  So, I had to wait longer.

My patience finally paid off!  I planted lily of the valley years ago, probably about four to be exact (long before my Miku was created).  The first few years I barely got any blooms, but this year the flowers sprung up in a big way and had tons of little blossoms!  I was super excited to see them and hurriedly rushed my Miku outside today to finally get her photos with these pretty little flowers.

I decided to take her leaf umbrella out with her today and since she has little water droplets everywhere, I did a little staging and squirted the area down with the hose so there would be other water droplets around.  Unfortunately it didn't make a huge difference in the final photos, but the idea was solid.  This first photo I tweaked only slightly (a few stray water droplets I didn't want) and you can see her clear pigtail.  And the lily of the valley are so cute and small.

For giggles I got a few more shots and decided to tweak the colors a bit.  (Above is in the original colors)  This photo I just liked how green the lilies looked when Miku's hair was blue.  I also liked how tiny she looks hiding among all of the flowers.

Miku's shawl is removable as well, so it fit for the warmer weather and giving her a chance to walk outside in the spring without overheating.  I debated tweaking the snowflakes off of her since there isn't any snow, but it was cute nonetheless.

I will finish up today's blog about anime figures with the last photo from today's shoot.  I really liked this one, and tweaked the color up to show the yellows a bit more.  Hatsune Miku just looked very sweet hiding in the grass as a little winter fairy will do.  She seems pleasantly pleased by the weather and her work on the flowers! I hope you enjoyed today's blog!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Walking the Cat (Short Story)

Walking the Cat
A Short Story

     Mraow!  Mraow!  Meeeeoooowww!  The sound reverberated through the house and the small cat bounced off chairs and over the couch and landed squarely on the rug in front of the door.  Out!  Out!  It seemed to say, no, she did say, as she bounced back the way it came as I walked toward the back door where her leash was.  I'd had the windows and back screen door open all day and after just a few attempts to scale the screen mesh, the little bouncy creature had mostly left the door alone.
     But now, now that I had my shoes on, she wanted out.  I reached for the leash and then went through the motions for the next few minutes of chasing the little cat around the kitchen until I could finally grab the thing, little gray hairs flying all around us as I scooped her up and wrestled the harness over her head.  "Gotta put it on if you want to go outside."
     The rules were the rules.  Too many idiot drivers out there to let the cat go out on her own.  First moment she'd step into the street and she'd probably become a cat pancake.  Just thinking that thought, and it was punctuated by one of the insane drivers out front barreling down the street with an engine that sounded like it came from an old Army Jeep that had too many miles on it and not enough oil changes.  It passed around the corner of the house and I could see the Jeep in question, covered in mud, revving around the neighborhood just to make noise.  He came to a sudden stop, turned around, and sped off down the road again.
     "See?  You could have been a pancake just now."  I plopped the cat, newly harnessed, onto the floor and opened the screen door to the back porch.  MRAOW!  Freedom!  She took two steps, plopped down onto the paver stones and rolled around.  Got up, moved another few steps, plopped over, licked the harness, stared up at me as I closed the back door and meeeeeoow!  I'm outside!  Yay!
     And I followed the little shedding beast through a similar routine for the next five minutes or so around the back patio.  Plop, lick, meow, roll, walk, plop, lick, meow... over and over until she finally decided to venture into the dead winter grass.
     Only on days such as these where it reached over sixty degrees, and today it had gotten to at least seventy, only a week into March... no, global warming...never.  El Nino, maybe.  My mother kept quoting the one newscast she heard sometime early during winter, "It's a strong El Nino this year," she mused, "Didn't even get much snow up here in Michigan until January, 'cause of El Nino."
     Didn't matter much to the cat though, she just wanted to be OUT.  Didn't matter what the temperature was, but I didn't like to stroll along behind her when I could lose the feeling in my nose after a minute or two.  We didn't exactly cruise around the yard at top speed or anything.  A leisurely -5mph maybe, if she didn't decide to backtrack.
     Already she was headed around to the gate, so I headed her off, opening it before she'd slip through the slats and we went up to the front yard.  Quiet night thankfully.  Trains and loud cars tended to cut our walks short.  Didn't the first year, she didn't seem to mind the train at all, but something spooked her on year two and since then she'd stare out the windows of the house at the first sound of the train horn and just stare and stare... like at any moment that loud beastie would come right off the tracks for her and get her.  Nope, on days when we walked and that train would blow its horn, I'd have to dash after her as she high-tailed it to the nearest door to the house.
     Quiet today.  She only stopped about five or six times to roll around on the driveway before making it to the sidewalk, then only another ten or so times down the sidewalk until we made it to the long stretch around the house.  Eventually cutting over and walking back down the fence line to the back of the house.  Made it, only had one or two people notice that I was walking my cat on a leash.
     Kid on a bike said something like, "Nice," and another car passed by, but I don't think he even noticed the cat.  I would have thought after two summers of regularly walking my cat around my yard that someone would have said something about me, that maybe I'd be mentioned in the neighborhood social group that there was some crazy lady who walked her cat.  But, nope.  Not a word.  A few kids noticed from time to time, either welcomed by my cat for pettings, or shunned as she would poof tail and head toward the nearest exit, aka. the back yard.  No one walks cats, right?  Dogs, sure, tons of them, every breed in this neighborhood, but not one cat, except mine, of course.
     Safety of the backyard again and we cruised the patio, watched the birds at the feeders, trailed off to sniff at the cat poop in the backyard - from one of those neighbors who didn't care if their cats became pancakes - and then down the other fence line.
     At first I didn't even realize what I was hearing.  A few neighbors screamed at each other regularly, so I was rather used to that sort of thing, I suppose.  Screaming.  Maybe a loud TV.  Maybe something... my cat stopped dead in her tracks and so did I.  I came out of my thoughts; which weren't a whole lot seeing as though you can't really think about much while walking a cat.  Screaming.  A woman's voice.  Then dogs barking.  Babies crying.  My eyes lifted from the fence line and my cat, the foot I'd just stepped down onto the pricker plant that I'd have to weed from the lawn, I stepped on it with my foot and was thinking about when I came back out again, and oh I needed to scrape the bird poop off the fence too, it was piling up in little hard mountains where they'd sit between raiding the bird feeders.
     "OH MY GOD!!!"  And then it came again, "OH MY GOD!"  And again...again...over and over.  Screaming.  Blood curdling baby cries.  Dogs barking.  Some out of fear of the screaming, some from something else...were there two dogs?  My attention snapped up to the house next door to ours.  They were always quiet, always calm, barely making any noise or even talking to us much at all.  We'd seen the husband, and seen him with his wife.  He used to have a dog, a pretty spotted thing, white and black.  But then they'd had a baby boy, and the dog disappeared.  And then they had another boy.  And then someone, not sure who, moved in.  And then a regular visitor who had scrubs.  And a black dog that she'd throw his poop away in the trash container that now permanently resided between our houses.
     More screaming and I picked up my cat and thought to walk back into the house.  Didn't need to hear this...did I?  Yes, sort of, I did.  I hear more screams, baby crying, and suddenly the voice turned into, "I need help!  My dog bit my baby!"  An address, oh, called the squad or 9-1-1.  The dog's barks had calmed down but the baby still was crying.  I knew now why, but how?  I wasn't sure.
     It was an odd situation, these neighbors.  They seemed to be our age, but not very friendly.  The first 'wife' we'd seen with our neighbor was definitely different than the one with the babies, and this one just looked different.  But who owned the dog?  Couldn't have been the one with the baby...or were their two babies?  A second one from the woman with the dog?  I wasn't sure, I'd never be sure.  I went inside and told my husband about what I heard.
     We waited to hear sirens.  A paramedic showed up and two men went in to attend to the baby.  I thought about what I would have done with a baby bit by a dog.  I unharnessed my cat who MRAOWWWW'd her dissatisfaction with our short walk.  She followed me around the house as I watched to see if they'd send out animal control or something to take the dog away.  I realized that if my dog bit my kid, if I'd had a kid, I probably would have just taken him to the ER rather than calling for a paramedic.  Just imagine the bills...  No one came, no dogs were taken away, but no one else showed up either.
     I sat down at the window, wondering if the guy who was watching someone down our street would show up again.  He was there yesterday as I sat at my computer with my cat in my lap, then off my lap, then on my desk, then plop, lick, mraow, back down on my lap again, fur everywhere, and I wondered about this man out in the car in front of our house.  I could only see his hands and occasionally a phone and then a notebook.  That was yesterday, and today there was a different truck out front, that one had tinted windows and I couldn't see anyone in that one, but when I opened the windows I could hear the engine running.  It drove away and was replaced within a minute by the original guy.
     The first guy had shaggy blondish hair to his shoulders.  Did he have facial hair?  Maybe.  I wasn't sure, the glimpse I got of him was brief.  He did the thing with his phone again, grabbed his notebook out, and then sat with his hands on his legs as he watched someone down the street.  I hoped it wasn't my house.  I wouldn't know what it would be about, but ever since my own brother had been the object of surveillance outside my mom's house when we were still living there, I was paranoid about stuff like that.  The government wants you to think that they can't watch you and dig into every aspect of your life, but they can.  I remember seeing that dark car parked across the street with that little red light and ever so often someone would light up a cigarette and flick it out the window.  And I wondered why the heck someone would be watching our house because we were the whitest straight family...
     At least until I'd moved out and the year I got married the FBI busted down my mom's door and dragged my brother off to prison for 25 years over child pornography.
     I was still paranoid that something could be happening under my nose and I'd never know it.  So what was this going on now?  Drug ring?  Pedophilia?  Illegal immigrants?  Something else? They guy drove off long before I was willing to take the cat out for her walk.  If I were a different kind of person I probably would have gone out to ask him who he was watching.  Maybe he even would have driven away before I finished approaching the car.  But I didn't take the chance.  I wasn't that kind of person.
     I was the kind of person who would rather have cats than kids.  I was the kind of person who freaked out when my cat fell down off a shelf and limped for a week, and took her to the vet to have her checked over.  But I was also a person who probably would have blamed the kid for stirring up the dog to bite him.  I would have scolded him, wrapped up his wound, and taken him to the ER myself if, and only if, it was deep enough I would have thought it needed stitches.  But that crap is expensive, insurance or Obamacare or not.  Band-Aids and Neosporin, that was the way of it.  And if the kid would be afraid of dogs for the rest of his life, good!  At least then he wouldn't stir the stupid thing up into biting him.
     My cat looked up at me solemnly from the rug by the front door.  "Not going back out there again tonight, too dark," I told it.  She MRAOWed, not happy, made some kind of meow-grumble sound as she walked out of the room and I grabbed a cookie out of the container on the counter.
     I was the kind of person who took my cat for a walk outside on a leash.