I have a writing ritual. Just as a warrior straps on his armor before heading into battle or a policeman dons his uniform and checks his weapons before hitting the mean streets, I also have a specific routine before sitting down to write: whole pot of black coffee, two “Namaste” yoga routines, shower, moisturize, blow-dry and then pull on the uniform: a particular blood-red tank top, a particular owl pendant that sits right at the throat chakra, and either black or leopard print panties.
Yes, I write at home.
That’s my uniform for whipping up all the chaos and folderol in my subconscious and distilling it into something that will hopefully challenge, validate, amuse or infuriate, and when I’m really on my game, all of the above.
Today is not one of those days.
Oh, I had topics in mind, oh yes. Female Viagra and the vilification of feminine sexuality dating all the way back to Eve; the two losers who had “get arrested stealing something from Walmart” on their bucket list (so help me Goddess if I’m making that up) — and then did; or maybe a full-on WTF-is-this-now over “Prancercise” — and that, my friends, is something you must Google.
All are potentially juicy columns. For some other week.
This week? I’m still working on my pot of coffee, and the only stretching I’ve done was reaching for my cup. I am unshowered, unmoisturized, and my teeth aren’t even brushed. What sort of heathen attempts to construct sentences, nay, entire paragraphs, with unbrushed teeth?
Ah, the depths to which I have sunk.
And if I were feeling saucy today, I’d have written, “The depths I’ve sunk to” and just slapped that preposition right on the end of that sentence like a big middle finger to the rules of grammar, because I can. I’m a columnist. Rules are for English teachers. But not today. I just don’t care about flaunting my disregard for grammar and style. And punctuation? Psssshhh.
It gets worse.
I’m not even wearing my armor. My panties are happy, namby-pamby stripes of pink, mint green, white and a cloying cornflower blue. These aren’t panties for ripping into 2,000 years of religion-fueled misogyny. These are panties for contemplating kittens or lollipops, or kittens licking lollipops.
Not only is my special owl pendant still just sitting on my dresser, my tank top is green. Green. Who wears a heart chakra color into battle? How ’bout we all just group-hug until we die of boredom? I’m not prepared for battle today. There will be no craftsmanship in this column, just a loose, foul chain of free association.
And why? All because of one animal. Yes, one simple four-legged beast shattered my writing mojo last night like a wine glass on a tile floor: my neighbor’s very large dog and its incessant barking, barking, barking that surely translates into “Let me in, let me in, let me in!”
The message was not received. And yet, that plucky pup never gave up on the transmission.
Is it wrong to fantasize about lobbing a cyanide-laced Milk Bone over the fence?
Don’t be too quick to judge until I’ve pled my case.
I accept that I’m not lucky enough to live out in the hills where the nearest people are a blessed mile away. I realize living in town means tolerating all sorts of random and chronic aggravation, whether it’s a three-day backyard bounce house jamboree, or never having parking space for guests because everyone owns more vehicles than will fit in their own driveways, or merely screaming, shrieking children and sometimes parents.
I get it.
But the barking dog thing. Why are dog owners the only ones who don’t hear their dogs barking non-stop? Do they just tune out the endless jackhammering on their auditory nerves as they do the putrid smell of dog poop marinating on the lawn on a hot summer day? Or maybe barking is their white noise and makes them sleep like the dead?
Sleep. What’s it like? Will someone tell me a story? I don’t really know what sleep is. It’s not my natural skill, and noise is a pea to this princess. And yet, last night, I made a valiant attempt at sleep and tried to ignore the barker, which is like trying not to scratch an itch, and just after midnight, my tolerance shattered: BARKBARKBARKBARKBARKOMFGIWANTTOKILLIT!!!!
However, I stifled my canine-ocidal impulses, and called the police dispatch and asked them to send an officer over to counsel my oblivious neighbors.
At 2 a.m., I called them back. The dispatcher said the officer went by the house and didn’t hear anything. I begged her to send him again.
Around 3 a.m., I called again. The dispatcher said, once again, the officer heard nothing. I pleaded for one more attempt. At 3:30, an officer called me and said he finally heard the barking. He’d pounded on the door but no one was home. And — the dog wasn’t barking just then! Aha, I told him, when the dog hears your car, he stops barking because he’s hoping someone will finally let him the hell inside.
“Can you just stay there all night?”
No, he had to go investigate a break-in.
“Take the dog with you! It’ll scare the thieves!”
He said he couldn’t do that either.
“Well, couldn’t you just shoot it?”
As he drove off, the barking picked up where it left off, and continued until 4:30 a.m., when I finally passed out from sheer exhaustion, just in time for the alarm clock to go off. I hit the snooze button about 75 times, until I could stall no more. It’s Friday. My column is expected by noon. Drag your sorry, sagging butt out of bed and get on with it. It’s a Nike morning — just write it.
And I did. Because I am a professional. I am a warrior. Even in a green tank top.
— Email Debra DeAngelo at firstname.lastname@example.org; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.edebra.com