Defenestrations


  1. The most recent visitor to my patio … a young armadillo.

    The most recent visitor to my patio … a young armadillo.

  2. Godalming: No Vacancy

    jayarrarr:

    “All these rooms are occupied. My task — and I’m assuming yours, at some point — is to observe. You record your observations and ultimately those are collected together in the massive record books in the libraries upstairs.” Daisy pulled a small notebook out of her pocket and flipped the cover open as they walked.

    “But how? When I came in last night, it didn’t look like anyone had been upstairs in ages. All that —”

    “Oh no, no one ever uses the front stairs. Or the front door, really, for that matter. I haven’t even been out there since I first came here. It does give quite an impression, though, doesn’t it?”

    “I suppose. I mean, I was a bit afraid I was going to be handed dust rags after breakfast,” Phoebe said.

    “That’s a totally understandable conclusion to reach,” Daisy said. “But don’t worry — you weren’t brought here to help with housekeeping. I know what he saw in you.”

    “That’s what I don’t understand,” Phoebe said. “I mean, okay, all of this is strange and confusing — except you, I guess, you’ve been … lovely. But last night … he said he knew what I was. That I was safe. Or would be safe. If I came with him, I guess. I don’t —”

    “I see it too,” Daisy said, rather like she’d simply completed her original thought than that Phoebe had spoken. “Here,” she said, motioning to one of the doors. “Take a look.”

    “Wait,” Phoebe blinked and looked at the window in the door as though seeing it for the first time. “How is that — is that a porthole?”

    (Read from the first)

    © 2014 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

  3. Godalming: No Vacancy

    “All these rooms are occupied. My task — and I’m assuming yours, at some point — is to observe. You record your observations and ultimately those are collected together in the massive record books in the libraries upstairs.” Daisy pulled a small notebook out of her pocket and flipped the cover open as they walked.

    “But how? When I came in last night, it didn’t look like anyone had been upstairs in ages. All that —”

    “Oh no, no one ever uses the front stairs. Or the front door, really, for that matter. I haven’t even been out there since I first came here. It does give quite an impression, though, doesn’t it?”

    “I suppose. I mean, I was a bit afraid I was going to be handed dust rags after breakfast,” Phoebe said.

    “That’s a totally understandable conclusion to reach,” Daisy said. “But don’t worry — you weren’t brought here to help with housekeeping. I know what he saw in you.”

    “That’s what I don’t understand,” Phoebe said. “I mean, okay, all of this is strange and confusing — except you, I guess, you’ve been … lovely. But last night … he said he knew what I was. That I was safe. Or would be safe. If I came with him, I guess. I don’t —”

    “I see it too,” Daisy said, rather like she’d simply completed her original thought than that Phoebe had spoken. “Here,” she said, motioning to one of the doors. “Take a look.”

    “Wait,” Phoebe blinked and looked at the window in the door as though seeing it for the first time. “How is that — is that a porthole?”

    (Read from the first)

    © 2014 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

  4. Godalming: Passerine

    “You certainly know how to raise a fuss, don’t you?” Daisy laughed, squeezing Phoebe’s hand. A small mockingbird had asserted himself behind them and was poking about at some leaves. He looked up at Daisy and cocked his head in response. “You’re never going to catch anything like that,” she scolded. “You’ve got to learn to be a little quieter.” The bird bobbed his head forward, once, then took a tentative hop forward.

    “There you go,” Daisy said. “Now why don’t you forage somewhere else, eh? You startled my friend.” The little bird took three hops to the left and then flew to the branch of a neighboring tree.

    Phoebe took a deep breath and let it out, her arms still tingling, face burning. “I can’t believe,” she said, shaking her head. “Do you often talk to animals?”

    Daisy laughed. “Oh, I promise he didn’t understand a word I said. Although it did seem that way, didn’t it? I just distracted him long enough to let whatever he was chasing get away, sadly. Probably a little skink, there’s loads of those around here.” As if on cue, Phoebe saw a thin, electric blue tail flick and disappear under a rock.

    Phoebe realized she was still clutching Daisy’s knee, and jerked away. Then, thinking that probably looked more awkward even than simply leaving it there, she set it down on the rock between them. “So is this what you do all day, then? Feed fish and talk to birds?”

    Daisy smiled. “You make me sound like some sort of princess in an animated film,” she said. “I assure you this is the most glamorous stuff I do — aside from bathing, but that’s obviously a more intimate, understated sort of glamor, don’t you think?”

    Phoebe couldn’t help but recall the sight of Daisy in a towel, detangling her wet hair. “Well … I … sure, bathrooms are inherently intimate places.”

    Phoebe rolled her eyes and stood up. “I’m just trying to get a rise out of you, honestly. You make it so easy. But I can tell you’re just chomping at the bit to find out exactly what’s expected of you here — and that’s a good thing. I don’t know what was really planned for you today, but I’m about to do my morning rounds, so you can shadow me if you’d like.”

    “Rounds? Like a doctor?” Phoebe thought back to all the long white halls, to all the doors. Sending a silent goodbye to the koi, she followed Daisy back toward the house.

    “Oh, I’m not a doctor, but yes. I suppose you could say it’s something like that. Forgive me, but it’s a bit difficult to just explain. It’s kind of something you have to see to understand.” She held open the door and Phoebe stepped back inside the house.

    (Read from the first)

    © 2014 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

  5. Good Home Cookin’

    There’s something about my mama’s green beans. I don’t know what it is. I can prepare the same beans the same way she does, using the same recipe, but they still don’t taste  like hers — and they probably never will. That probably explains why I helped myself to seconds at dinner tonight.

    Don’t get me wrong, my mama’s not some great chef. In fact, she’s at best only a marginally good cook, and she’ll tell you as much herself. All of her recipes are handed down from her mother, and if you compliment a dish of hers she’s quick to tell you it’s not as good as the way her mama made it.

    I’ve eaten similar dishes in restaurants that were better than mama’s, and so has she. We were eating at a restaurant once and mama quipped that if her meatloaf were as good as the meatloaf at that restaurant, she wouldn’t have spent 40 years of her life teaching. There’s no ego in mama’s kitchen — she has no problem admitting something’s better than hers, and if you tried to tell her otherwise she’d laugh you right out of your chair.

    Of course, mama was never interested in being a great chef — she was just interested in putting food on the table to feed her family. Great chefs may go to fancy “culinary arts” schools to learn how to cook, or they may learn as they go by working under someone who’s already established a reputation as a great chef. But however they go about it, they spend years learning and perfecting their craft — and they’re always learning, and their craft is never perfected.

    They may study everything there is to know (which is to say, everything that someone else has previously discovered) about foods and flavors — but to be a truly great chef, you have to surpass that training. You have to think creatively, attempting combinations no one else has ever done. The goal of any chef who aspires to be great is either to perfect something created by a great chef who came before, or to create something wholly original themselves.

    But just like my mama, no chef who aspires to greatness wants to be told their food is just as good as anything Wolfgang Puck has ever created if it’s not — primarily because he’ll know it’s empty flattery at best and he’ll resent you for it. I mean, if you ate something I’d cooked and declared it the best thing you’d ever eaten, I’d assume you were starving — because I know I’m not a good cook.

    Nor do I try to be. I’ve not taken any cooking classes at all, and apart from passively watching cooking shows on TV occasionally I’ve not attempted to learn in any other way. Nor am I a picky eater. If it’s edible, I’ll eat it. That’s not to say that I don’t know when I’m eating food prepared well and when I’m eating something mediocre, but I don’t need to eat gourmet every time I sit down at the table. There are some foods I dislike and some I love, but I don’t necessarily have the most discerning palate, and I realize this.

    The greatest chef in the world might cook something I detest, but my opinion won’t change the quality of her preparation. It may be critically lauded as the greatest dish in the world, but if it’s liver and onions, I’m not touching it with a ten-foot pole. That’s my taste (actually, if you can make me eat liver and onions, you probably are the greatest chef in the world — but you’d have to lie to me about what it was first). People’s palates are an amalgamation of their lives: their culture, their history, their training or education, their socio-economic status, and their personal preferences. But what goes into quality preparation of the dish is separate from that — it’s still a well-prepared dish if you don’t like it, and it may be a mediocre dish even if you do.

    My mama’s green beans, though — so good you’d think they were an analogy.

    © 2014 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

     

  6. For your reading pleasure, I present the first story I ever had “published” — a book I wrote and illustrated for a school project in second grade called The Stinky UnicornI will tell you what little I remember about this project: we had to write a story using particular words, which each of us were assigned by selecting pieces of folded paper from a box that was passed around the classroom. One of my words was “bubblegum,” which is why there was a character in the story named “BG.” Artistic license, amiright?

  7. A rare photo of the writer in her childhood habitat, which has since been transformed into a suburban guest room/storage space, complete with oppressive fake floral arrangements.

    A rare photo of the writer in her childhood habitat, which has since been transformed into a suburban guest room/storage space, complete with oppressive fake floral arrangements.

  8. Since You Asked

    Let me tell you about 300 miles
    of cracked asphalt rolling
    under chain smoke, under snatches
    of classic rock wafting too loud,
    under words like miss and yearning
    too loud.

    They’re rebuilding the bridge, baby —
    but the water, the water — too deep
    for slick feet and head
    set to fall.

    Let me tell you about 300 miles
    east and same under blue
    skies, under overheard conversation
    in the language like home,
    under words like c’aint and ne’er
    like home.

    They’re fixing the tunnel, baby —
    but the cliff, the cliff — to steep
    for slick feet and head
    set to fall.

    Let me tell you about 300 miles
    closer. The air is cool
    and thin, while I am thick
    and warm with thoughts of you,
    with words like tomorrow and yes
    with thoughts of you.

    They’re repaving the road, baby —
    but the delay, the delay — too long
    for slick feet and head
    set to fall.

    Let me tell you about 300 miles
    past. Maybe you can convince me
    not to go 400 miles more.

    © 2014 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller

  9. Y.C.: Listen. There is no use writing anything that has been written before unless you can beat it. What a writer in our time has to do is write what hasn’t been written before or beat dead men at what they have done. The only way he can tell how he is going is to compete with dead men….

    MICE: But reading all the good writers might discourage you.

    Y.C.: Then you ought to be discouraged.

    Ernest Hemingway, writing as "Your Correspondent" [Y.C.], in Hemingway on Writing (Larry W. Phillips, ed.)
  10. I’m going to be visiting my family for the next few days to celebrate my niece’s first birthday. The last couple times I’ve seen my parents, I’ve had some technicolor shade of hair. Yes, I’m an adult. Yes, I work on the internet and can have whatever color hair I want. But sometimes, I know how to pick my battles — and the “what have you done to your hair?!” battle is not one I wish to fight this week. This visit isn’t about me; it’s about my niece.
So I picked a nice, subdued burgundy shade and put it right over top of my old purple (which had faded to a bright pink). It’s still mostly purplish — with some little pink highlights here and there that I actually kinda dig. This qualifies as “natural,” right? (Don’t answer that.)

    I’m going to be visiting my family for the next few days to celebrate my niece’s first birthday. The last couple times I’ve seen my parents, I’ve had some technicolor shade of hair. Yes, I’m an adult. Yes, I work on the internet and can have whatever color hair I want. But sometimes, I know how to pick my battles — and the “what have you done to your hair?!” battle is not one I wish to fight this week. This visit isn’t about me; it’s about my niece.

    So I picked a nice, subdued burgundy shade and put it right over top of my old purple (which had faded to a bright pink). It’s still mostly purplish — with some little pink highlights here and there that I actually kinda dig. This qualifies as “natural,” right? (Don’t answer that.)