Tag Archives: books

Sixty-One — On Keeping Track

I joined Goodreads last year and then forgot about it. Every few months I log in and tell it I’ve stopped reading whatever book I was reading the last time I logged in, and take a minute to laugh at how it’s not really possible that I could be reading a) just one book at a time and b) the same novel for six months. In this way I guess I am ascribing motives to Goodreads that it doesn’t have; it just knows what I tell it. Maybe people I know who are on Goodreads think I’ve been reading the same novel for six months. Or maybe they never check in either.

It’s funny how there are certain websites or services that you join and use, use, use. Until you’re lost without them. And then there are others where you use, use, forget. Forget forget. Use. Until it becomes one more password, one more place your picture is, one more result that comes up when you search your own name.

There is probably a similar website for writers to log what they’ve written, what they’re working on, how far they’ve come, what they think of what they’ve done so far, what their goals are. I wouldn’t use it, but it probably exists.

Last night I finished a book called Heft by Liz Moore. It was a totally absorbing read; sad and sad and sad and then hopeful. I knew the hopeful part was coming, that was one of the reasons I was so absorbed. (also, characters and beautiful prose, etc.) I needed to get to redemption.

One thing I enjoy about dysfunctional lit (Dyslit? Dysfunlit? DysNOTfunlit?) is it makes me feel so much better about my pokey little life. In the case of someone whose life is comparably dysfunctional, it might not be so much a comfort. I wonder if people with dysfunction rampant in their lives might read more romances.

Just making that observation makes me feel like a tool. And like I’m asking for poop to rain down on my house. Good thing the book I stopped halfway through so I could read Heft in three days is a very light –though thick– beach book called — wait for it — Azur Like It. Let’s all groan together, shall we?

Fifty-Nine — The Banishing of Ghost Pee and Other Useless Things

Overnight was cold and blustery and this morning both kids slept until 7 am. There is something about a grey day that makes you sleep, or at least feel like sleeping. None of that bright sunlight assaulting your eyes I guess.

They went to play with Neighbour Friend at 9 am and I puttered around the house. I found a box upstairs that has been sitting in the same spot for so long I wasn’t even seeing it any more, except to move it away from the cupboard door, and back again, as needed.

I brought the box downstairs to be examined (and now I DO notice the space upstairs where it used to be). It was an old paper box full of Things to Be Given Away. The nursing bra that was still in really good shape (I don’t know..is that gross? I wouldn’t personally buy a bra at Value Village but I think people should have the opportunity) and an old black taper candle, still wrapped in plastic that I decided I didn’t want and a white pillar candle and holder that I decided I did want, after I looked at it again. Several puzzles, none of which had all their pieces. One puzzle which did have all its pieces. A pair of snow boots, size 9.

I sat down on the floor and sorted the puzzles. I found myself at the same crossroad I’d apparently reached the last time I tried to get rid of this stuff. The puzzles are incomplete, so I don’t want to give them away to charity. But they’re still puzzles, so I don’t want to throw them in the garbage. But they’re incomplete. But they’re puzzles!

Five years later, here we are.

Yes. I threw them out. Except for the complete one, which I put in a plastic bag and sealed with an elastic band so that it will still be complete by the time it makes it through the sorting process at the donation plant factory warehouse place.

Candle, snow boots, nursing bra: in a giveaway bag.
Garbage: to the garbage.
Box: flattened and put in recycling.
Bookshelf: examined for books the children have hoarded but plan never to read.
Books: put in giveaway bag, under nursing bra, so’s not to be pulled out by curious children and replaced on the shelf.

Satisfied, I prepared to stand up. There’s that smell again, I thought. The pee smell.

Now, in a house with two small children and a cat, it could be anything that smells like pee. It would be more accurate, in fact, to ask “what DOESN’T smell like pee.” However, this particular pee smell has been haunting us for a few days. We suspected the couch but it was not the couch. The other day I even sniffed the carpet but the carpet did not smell of pee (hoorah!) It (the smell) almost seemed to be coming in through the window on the breeze. How was this possible? we wondered. Are raccoons arcing their legs and aiming their pee at our window? Maybe.

Ghost pee. Ooooooohhhhhh.

Turns out the pee smell was coming from the blue bathmat we were using as a buffer between our giant bookshelf and the wood floor. Turns out the cat has been peeing on it. Probably for some time, I realized as I took a big sniff of the bathmat and then was in a coma for three hours.

Where the pee was.

Where the pee was.

To get the soiled blue bathmat out from under the bookshelf, of course, I had to move the bookshelf. To move the bookshelf I had to first remove all the books and DVDs and VHS tapes and my squirrel snowglobe and a bunch of Lego and you get the idea. Then I had to unbolt the bookshelf from the wall.

At some point, Eli came in the house and said, “Oooooh! RenoVAtions!” That kind of made it worthwhile.

Then: washing of the floor with Murphy’s Oil Soap, the re-bolting of the bookshelf and the reapplication of four hundred books.

The middle third of our bookshelf.

The middle third of our bookshelf.

Ah well, it’s good to dust every once in a while.

At noon-thirty the kids came running in STARVING HUNGRY for lunch so I fed them.

“This day is odd,” Eli said as he ate his fourteenth bowl of cereal.

“How so?” I asked.

“Whenever you move the couch or other stuff, like the bookshelf…it makes the day odd.”


I don’t know. Seemed like a pretty normal day to me.

Fifty-Eight — Repetition is Comedy. Or Not.

I went looking for something in my old blog last night and found a post I wrote three years ago on the same topic as a post I wrote just a few weeks ago. This unsettled me. It felt like I might be a boring old show pony with only three tricks. Neigh! It can’t be avoided, though, the concept of repetition, since I like to worry things until there is only the smallest chunk of bone left. I’ve apologized to my biographers several times in the past few years about how repetitive my journals are.

In other news, this evening 5 asked us to play some screamy music so I put on a System of a Down song he used to run around the house to last year. I followed it up with Ministry. I also took some video, and this is that. As you can see, Arlo got a new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book from the library today. Also he’s not such a huge fan of screamy music.


I’ve been exploring mindfulness, thanks to the excellent website Raptitude and a particular post of his that explained how to stop worrying what people think of you. He (Raptitude’s David) refers to a book on mindfulness and meditation called “Wherever You Go, There You Are,” by Jon Kabat-Zinn which I immediately sought out at the library, despite the title which reminds me of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, which in turn reminds me that I used to be a person who cared so much what people thought of me that I sat through that whole movie. (I might have fallen asleep at some point.)

It’s an entrancing book. At first I had trouble jumping in but now I’ve made space for it in my day and I carry it around with me and one of the things Kabat-Zinn says is to resist the urge to talk about and analyze and brag about your mindfulness practise so I will not!

I have come to realize that writing is a manifestation of mindfulness for me, at least the writing I do in the morning, and in the past two months, the writing I do here. I expect nothing of either space other than that I should be able to occupy it until I am finished.

It’s why I keep coming back, I guess.

Eli found this balloon on the street today and brought it home. It's a fundamentally true balloon.

Eli found this balloon on the street today and brought it home. It’s a fundamentally true balloon.

Forty-Six — My Relationship with (some) Books is Complicated

All of a sudden, my library books were all done and gone and I had only the same books on the bedside table that I’ve kept there for years. What is it with the books I own, is it that they sit too long and I put other things on top of them, prioritize around them, neglect them and then when they are all that’s left, realize I hate them for the way I’ve treated them?

On this table I have three parenting books, four novels, and one book of poetry. I keep the poetry there because I love it and I might need to look at it at a moment’s notice. That’s how it is with poetry. It’s Lorna Crozier’s Everything Arrives at the Light and it’s been in my possession for almost twenty years and I love it dearly. I have read it many times.

I have read the parenting books too; How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk (BRILLIANT) and Liberated Parents, Liberated Children: Your Guide to a Happier Family (DITTO) and More Speaking of Sex (FABULOUS).

But the novels. I just can’t seem to do it. Songdogs. The Book of Negroes. The Cellist of Sarajevo. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. All these books, acclaimed and loved, acquired on purpose. I bought two, borrowed one and was given the fourth. And I want to read them! But I don’t want to read them, or I would have read them by now. I have read the first few pages of each and then I put them down and reach for the latest library book and if, like the other night, I realize I have no library book, I read one of the parenting books again, or just go to sleep.

It’s not that they’re all depressing. I read depressing books all the time. It’s not a problem.

More and more, I find myself not re-reading old favourite books, not revisiting anything I’ve got on the shelf. I go to the library, I read new (or new to me) stuff, I take it back. Is it a switch to the culture of temporary? Resistance to what I “should” be reading? Am I a library addict? (I feel certain there are friends of mine who would scoff at such a label.) That is, in part, why I started writing down all the books I read this year, as well as a few paragraphs about each one. I didn’t want to forget, or let the books just slip out of my brain when I am done with them and they go back to the library.

These books sitting next to me while I sleep, waiting quietly for me to pick them up and love them, they exert too much pressure. Tonight I will put them away and if I don’t go looking for them within a year, I will give them away. Resentful books can’t exist in a happy home.


Whoops, I missed a day and I’m about to miss another one. Don’t panic. Here are some pictures to sustain you.

Three tiny heads in the lake.

Three tiny heads in the lake.

We went to the lake yesterday and it was cold outside but warm in the water, so that’s good enough for my crew.

This is how we encourage early literacy.

This is how we encourage early literacy.

It is easy to read one story to one child but add another child and you end up with butts.

Oh what a feeling. Balloons on the ceiling.

Oh what a feeling. Balloons on the ceiling.

Have a happy Friday and a swell weekend, see you Sunday night!

Good Days Come to Those Who Wait

It all came together today. You know how it does, when it’s Friday, and sunny and everyone in the house is healthy and going to school and you get two-point-five hours to yourself and even though you have two-point-five days’ worth of things you would like to do, you whittle it down and prioritize (sidenote: whenever I say or write ‘prioritize’ my mind also says ‘priorize’ because I used to work with someone who said that) and everything is just fine. Just fine.

First we took Arlo to school and he was between first and second bell (I think there’s a second bell…I’ve never heard it, but how else do you know if you’re late?) and then I took Eli to preschool and it was pyjama day so all the children were more adorable than usual.

OK, there has been one off-note to the day. I’m wearing this very confusing shirt. I rescued it from the discount bin at Superstore the other day. It’s comfortable and drapes well, is a good colour, 3/4 length sleeves. Big open neck. Just the kind of shirt I need and enjoy. But at the hem, there’s a seam that makes a sort of pocket but just on the right side of the shirt. And I’m wearing it and enjoying it, and then I see the pocket and it’s weird. Did the sewing machine make a mistake? Or am I supposed to look blousy? It kind of looks like a tumour pocket. Forgive me. It does. Here’s a picture:

Here. Another:

I’m not going to stop wearing it–from most angles I think it’s quite attractive–and I can’t take it back because it was final sale and $5, but it’s weird, right? Do any of you fashion-forward types know what I’m supposed to do with the tumour pocket? Did I miss a trend last season?

After preschool drop-off, I got groceries and chatted with the check-out lady about how nice it is here compared to her home country where it’s 33C and very humid. There was much singing along in the grocery aisles as the muzak played the best mix of Debbie Gibson/Lionel Ritchie/Chicago and of course Kokomo. What a terrible song! I haven’t heard it, like really HEARD it, in years, and it’s just awful.

Liquor store next, where the music mix was much more modern. Beer was acquired.

My final stop during preschool time was the library. My intention was to return my three books and then sit in a sunny corner of the study area and revise a short story I’m working on. I can’t revise unless I have a paper copy and pen and I don’t have a functioning printer so I

make a lot of excuses? Yes. And also

had to ask SA to print it for me, bring it home, sit down and read it, etc.

First I walked into the library and was accosted by the New Release shelves. Can anyone resist the New Release shelves? Librarians, how often do you have to restock them, because I almost always take at least one book right as soon as I walk in the door. And I feel bad because it leaves a hole on the shelf, which irritates my sense of symmetry but on the other hand, it’s a library and it’s the books’ jobs to appeal to me and then come home with me, right?

I got a novel called “Tell The Wolves I’m Home” by Carol Rifka Brunt. And “My Leaky Body: Tales from the Gurney” by Julie Devaney. A copy of Best American Short Stories 2009 because those collections are like boxes of delicious chocolates. And a book on running because yesterday I signed up to run a 5K fun run in May and I have no idea how to actually train for a real run with free t-shirts and everything.

Oh, right, I wasn’t going to take out any books today because I still have two from the other library, plus my book club book, plus three I got for Christmas and haven’t started plus two I bought before Christmas. Ha! HA HA!

I am weak in the presence of paper with words on it.

Finally got sat down in a sunny corner of the library, pulled out my short story and them rummaged unsuccessfully through my purse for a pen. A while ago I stocked my purse with pens the way they stock rivers with fish, but I guess I’ve been fishing too much and not restocking because I had NO PENS AT ALL WHAT?

Fine, I read over the story, which is good to a point and then bad at the end. I end stories the way I leave parties: abruptly and by sneaking out the door. Analysis forthcoming.

Picked up Eli and told him I’d bought lemons so he could make lemonade. He squeezed them carefully and mixed the juice with water and sugar and then took the seeds outside to plant in our dirt area* and hope for lemon trees to grow.

*not a garden, much as we all might wish for it to be so.

Birds are chirping and the sky is blue. A happy weekend to all of you.

Human V Butterfly

We survived the book fair. The book fair days (2) coincided with early dismissal and parent/teacher interviews so on day one of the book fair, we killed 45 minutes looking at books, then I had my fifteen minute interview (Kid: Awesome. Teacher: So young.), and then we came home with two extra children for a playdate. Wow! Was that ever a day when I felt like moving to a desert island with a big bottle of Malibu.

Of course that day I forgot my wallet, so we had to go BACK to the book fair the following day. I figured this would be easy peasy; the kids had already looked at everything the day before so they would each be able to pick a book quickly — ha ha stop me if you’ve heard this one before!

No, book fair day two looked just like day one except most of the books were sold out, and I had already read everything and chatted with everyone I knew. Fresco picked his book quickly but Trombone. OH DEAR GOD. The child loves books, always has. And now he can read, so he loves them even more. He went through the place and picked up every single book and looked at the back and the last page and the first page and then put it down again and moved on to the next.

It was like last Christmas when I got a gift card for a local giant mall. What a great gift, one I really appreciated. SA got one too and he went to Chapters and spent it in ten minutes. I spent two months with the damn thing. Do I get three t-shirts? A pair of shoes? $50 worth of Body Shop hand cream? A very expensive face lotion at Kiehls? OMG OMG OMG. Watching T at the bookfair was like that, except I was not getting anything for myself, so even less compelling.

We spent some time browsing and discussing which things were books and which were not (stickers: not a book! Spy kit: not a book! Captain Underpants: A book!) and I strongly suggested some books to Trombone and he made noises like “yeah whatever” at me.

That was when the librarian’s daughter, who was about age 3, started a show. She was this adorable, curly-haired reincarnation of Shirley Temple and she had a little singing and dancing routine that ended with jazz hands and a repetition of “I’m a princess now! I’m a princess now!!” We clapped and I asked Trombone if he was done yet and he said no and I said OK five more minutes and then little Shirley started her next song, which went like this, with great pathos,

“The butterfly! Eats the human! The butterfly! Eats the HUMAN! The butterfly! Eats the HUUUUMAAAAN!”

At first I wondered if she was the soul sister of Megan’s daughter who .. well it’s hard to explain here but a) she’s adorable and b) she would sing a song like that. Then I just laughed and laughed until tears fell to my feet and formed a giant puddle. Verse two:

“The HUMAN eats the BUTTERFLY! The human! Eats the butterfly! The Human! Eats the BUTTERFLYYYYYY!”

Jazz hands. Spin. Bow.

“Trombone,” I said. “That book in your hands. Pick that one.” So we did. And we lived happily ever after; princesses, butterflies, and humans all.

Selling Books to Children. Those Devils.

My first interaction with Scholastic books was when flyers came home in our first year of preschool. The preschool gets books for free! the Scholastic parent rep crowed. Buy books for your kid(s)!

I wasn’t sold. I buy a lot of books anyway, and also we are given a lot of books, plus we use several libraries heavily yes, we are heavy library users, and we were already giving to the school with our fees and fundraising attempts. Oh chocolate almonds, how I loathe you.

Oh, all right. I just plain resented being asked to buy books from a particular retailer. I don’t know why. The Scholastic flyer’s tendency to describe books the way Columbia House described its tapes and CDs didn’t help. New book from author of More Pies! You’ll love it!

I don’t hate the company. I think they distribute books and help organizations get more books and I love books and it’s fine. I just don’t particularly want to support them. I think it’s because I either never got Scholastic flyers when I was a kid or my mother hid/burned them. I don’t have any nostalgic connection to them at all. Whatever. Books come from all kinds of places.

Last year was our first year of elementary school, and there was a Scholastic book fair. The books come to town for TWO DAYS ONLY! and you can BUY THEM IN PERSON in the LIBRARY! It’s like the kid-equivalent of U2 coming to town. My then-kindergartener was very excited about a FAIR of BOOKS, and we went and looked at the books, all displayed beautifully in the library, and I bought him and his brother each a book because how could I not. How. Seriously. The prices are not terrible and they’re right there, in person, in the library.

A year passed.

I had actually forgotten all about the book fair; if it wasn’t for my internet friends who live in cities further East than me talking about volunteering for and running the Scholastic book fair I would have totally let it pass me by — but wait, no I wouldn’t have because the book fair is a very smooth machine. I have to say, if schools ever started selling Avon or crack or things not as morally superior as books, they would be able to pay for millions in improvements and playground equipment.

I imagine the Scholastic Training for Schools goes like this:

Two weeks before book fair: Put up posters. Talk about book fair at weekly school library visit.

One week before book fair: Send home catalogue (flyer!) of books available at book fair. Remind children of book fair. Send home notice to parents telling them about book fair. Send email to parents reminding them to check the backpack for the notice telling them about the book fair.

Two days before book fair: Reminder notice about book fair. (I am imagining) Announcements over the PA system on the hour talking up the book fair.

Day before book fair: Take children to library for regular weekly visit. Do not allow them to take out books because all the books are blocked off by the book fair display. Do allow them to make a “wish list” on a piece of paper and tell them to show their parents later. Mention in passing that certain books are “already sold out!” – this creates more demand.

Day of book fair: Kids line up outside the library to get in and freak out about books. I have been told.

I know. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with it. Books! Kids + books! It’s not a NINTENDO fair. It’s not a sloppy pants and ugly tuques fair. What is my problem.

But when I mentioned to another parent the so-very-businesslike propaganda of the book fair, she nodded (her child is in 2nd grade) and said, yes, it’s weird. The “write stuff on your wish list and take it to your parents” thing is weird. Very smart. But weird. So it’s not just me.

(I remember reading four hundred blog posts by smart parents about Scholastic when my kids were babies. I don’t remember what they said. They probably said something like this post but smarter.)

My kid is so excited about the book fair that he can’t even talk properly. He’s counting down to book fair day. (It’s tomorrow. FYI.) He’s vibrating. All this, of course, depends on me agreeing to buy him a book.

We bargained down to one book. Originally he wanted five.

That’s the part I don’t like. I don’t like being manipulated. Who doesn’t buy their kid a book! “Don’t you LIKE books, Mommy?” *tears*

I resent the implication that this is my Big Opportunity to buy books. And what about those families with less money, who really can’t participate. How do those kids feel. How do their parents feel? Annoyed, probably.

But I can’t muster a really good froth of rage about this. I like books too much. I’m stuck at sort-of-annoyed. However, I will be reminding my kids to save their allowance for next year’s fair.


(I wrote this back in September.)

Tonight Saint Aardvark went off to his beer club meeting (no, really, it’s a club, not just a bunch of people drinking beer) and I did the long shift with the children: 7 am – 7:30 pm. When I do the long shift, I reward myself. I cook food for the kids that they will like and food for me that I will like. Tonight, for myself, I made a frozen macaroni and cheese (1 kg!) in the oven and added extra garlic and red peppers and some slices of salami all crisp and salty on top. After I tucked the kids into their beds, I came downstairs and doused a bowl of macaroni and cheese with Sriracha sauce and sat down on the couch, remote controls in hand and ready for some trashy TV.

Of course we don’t have cable TV any more so I was going to watch Pan Am or Damages on Netflix. Those are the shows I am watching on Netflix lately.

Except Netflix didn’t work. I restarted the Boxee Box and it still didn’t work. You will trust me that these things are supposed to work, right? If you are reading this from the future or from a place where a Boxee Box is a container of delicious food that you get from the deli? In this case, that is not what a Boxee box is. A BB is supposed to make Netflix happen on my television while I sit on my ass and eat mushy things and get old.

Netflix didn’t work. My macaroni and cheese bowl was getting cold so I came over to my computer and tried to read some things. I don’t like to just eat, you see. I know I should just eat. I have read all the things — some of them I have read while eating, some not — that say you should appreciate your food and be in touch with the flavours and feel the feelings but I say this is frozen macaroni and cheese and I just want to shovel it in my mouth and do something else until my stomach is full. Heck you don’t even have to chew it. It’s practically pre-chewed.

Now that sounds disgusting, but it’s comfort food. You understand.

I read a couple of articles, quick ones, and followed a link to a third and when I did, the computer seized up and did that thing where it feels like it’s half-closed its eyelids and is having a spell and will soon be in need of smelling salts. The screen went grey and hung there, while I read the same paragraph several times and shovelled several mouthfuls of rapidly colder macaroni and cheese into my mouth.

“OK,” I said. “OK. I guess I should just restart.”

I did. I restarted and it took two tries and I got mad and cursed at god and everyone and then finally looked over at my bookshelf and grabbed a book. It’s called Prisoner of Tehran: A Memoir and it is about a woman who was taken prisoner in Iran when she was sixteen years old. It’s an excellent book, very gripping.

That’s when I heard the noise. It was a low buzz, like a dragonfly. I know about dragonflies because in the summer I was in Ontario and I thought the noise I was hearing was a giant mosquito — don’t laugh, it could have been — and it was instead a dragonfly all low and hologram-blue vibrations over the lake. Tonight when I heard the noise my first thought was “Dragonfly?” My second was, “This computer is dying now.” My third was, “A noisy car outside.” Then, out of the corner of my right eye I saw a small item flying through my living room, landing on the thin shelf attached by bracket to my wall.

I looked down at the cat, whose head was cocked and eyes were wide.

I looked back at the shelf, where a large insect now rested.

Was it a wasp? A bee? Where had it come from? The nights are cool, we keep the windows shut and the one window that’s open has a screen. Because I don’t like bugs in my house.

I got up from the table and slowly walked towards the bug. It was a beetle. It looked like a larger version of the beetles that used to come in our house at the end of summer, a couple of years ago. Large, beetle, that flies. A shiver ran down my spine and I came back to my table and tweeted about it.

I was hoping for commiseration but no one was paying any attention to me on twitter that night.

After some hemming and a great deal of hawing, I decided to stare at the bug and maybe take its picture. I tried to zoom in from a few feet away but the photo was boring and did not capture the full excitement of the bug’s size and peculiar attributes, namely being in my living room, having appeared from nowhere.

Or was it nowhere, I thought, looking behind me at the open clamshell container of organic grapes on my kitchen counter. Could a live bug have been resting in a container of organic grapes and just woken up and taken a buzz around my living room? Was it a tropical bug? Was it going to BITE me?

The shivers down my spine turned into ripples. Something would have to be done. Luckily the bug did not keep me waiting but took a short, exploratory flight to a flat surface, the wall. I went quickly to the plastic container cupboard and took out a sandwich container, then clapped it over the bug before I could lose my nerve. It dropped to the bottom of the container with a sickening crackling noise and I nearly dropped the container but did not.

I slid a canvas of my child’s artwork against the container to trap the bug (many sheets of paper within my grasp having been discarded for this purpose for being too small, too thin, too likely to wobble and let the bug free again) and brought him over to the table so I could update twitter.

The bug stayed still. I was not without empathy, after all if he *was* a bug from a tropical grape forest, who knows how long he had been in that clamshell full of grapes. Who knew how cold he was, or whether he could even see anything. My empathy stopped short, as he was still a creepy looking beetle. I am not a bug-phobe, obviously or I would have run outside and waited for Saint Aardvark to get home, but I do not much care for things with more than two legs. Especially if they are strange to me, and can fly, and also look like beetles.

Which really makes no sense; after all, a spider would be likely to bite, and a wasp would sting. A beetle just crackles along and sounds like it’s wearing tiny high heels and maybe it’s the resemblance to cockroaches. Maybe. I used to live in a cockroach infested apartment and I am not fond of beetles.

Anyway, I eventually garnered the courage to take the bug outside, where I placed the canvas on the stoop across the sidewalk from my patio and then removed the plastic container, as though I was a fancy waiter revealing a mouth-watering dish to a hotel guest ordering room service. The bug didn’t move. It was a great deal colder outside than inside, and that much colder than where those grapes had come from.

The bug just sat there, under the light. I knocked the canvas with the plastic container and he slid off, into the dirt.

Back inside, I drank a bit of rum. And then picked up Prisoner of Tehran again and went to bed.